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Grief, forgiveness, and love

Monday, August 28th, 2017

A few months ago, my life was completely upended when a man I deeply loved betrayed my trust and broke my heart. While the details matter to me, all I’ll say is this: I was planning to move to Nashville so we could be together, but it didn’t happen. The relationship was serious enough to warrant me selling my house and putting a down payment on another — but when a man tells you there’s someone else, you do not follow through with a move across the country to be with him.

I have hesitated to write about this, because in doing so, I can only share my own experience. This person is living a now separate narrative, and despite the pain that his choices have put me through, I am not out to demonize or villainize anyone involved. He meant more to me than that. I’m just sad.

I want to be honest about what I’ve gone through, what I’m still going through. I am not writing from a place of resolution or remedy; the heartache is still very much in process for me because I lost so much. I lost a man who had become my best person. I lost a relationship I had been led to believe was “it.” I lost a dream of a future that had made so much sense — even felt confirmed and ordained by God, to be honest. I lost not one, but two houses. I lost any sense of direction or home. I lost the ability to trust. I lost 15 lbs and a whole lot of money. I lost everything we had been building toward. Cruelest of all, in some moments, I lost all hope.

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How do you hold the conflicting emotions of heartbreak, anger, and the remnants of love all at the same time? It’s an unbearable tension. But here is what I’m learning.

GRIEF
To experience grief in all of its awful fullness is human and healthy. To sidestep it, whether through alcohol, travel, social media, shopping, sex, or tattoos, is to cauterize our humanity. It’s best to lean straight into the pain; if we don’t, it will seep like oil through a bed of dead leaves, poisoning life from the ground up. Numbed-out grief leads to anger, anger leads to depression, depression leads to a critical spirit and a lack of peace.

But grief? We are promised that grief leads to comfort. Beauty. Dancing. I want to be a person who looks my pain in the eye, regardless of what it costs me, and then rest in knowing that there is still goodness ahead — eventually.

FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is not primarily for the one you are forgiving. It’s for you. Choosing to forgive sets you free from the bondage of what was done to you, the pain that was inflicted upon you. It doesn’t change it, it certainly doesn’t excuse any of it — but it loosens your chains and allows you to move forward, inch by inch, breath by breath, day by day. When you release the grip on your right to harm the other person, you get your hands back. You get your life back. Slowly.

It doesn’t happen all at once. I’m finding it’s something I have to do over and over in the hopes that one day my heart will match the choice. It stings like a death; a grave is involved, the burying of a perfectly good hatchet.

Nothing about it feels fair. Nothing about it feels justified. But isn’t that the point?

LOVE
You cannot love without risk. There is no such thing. The pain I’m in comes from the love I felt, because I was brave enough to show up as my fullest, truest self and enter a relationship that mattered. And when you truly love someone, you don’t get to be in control. To force, to clutch, to cling, to do whatever it takes to get your way — that is not a picture of love. That is a picture of fear. Fear is a liar, and the opposite of love.

This may have ended in disaster for me, but I will never regret opening my heart to hope and allowing myself to be known by another. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done, and a testament to strength, not weakness.

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I am not “recovered.” This experience has altered my insides in ways I struggle to articulate. I was left heartbroken and homeless, and some days I’m still so sad, when I walk around I swear you can hear my heart rattle in my chest. Time truly is the only healer for something so brutal, and unfortunately, there’s no way to fast-forward. But I’ve made it through these first few months; here I raise my Ebenezer.

You may be wondering where I am. I obviously had to move out of my Minneapolis house in July, gutted and reeling, suddenly with nowhere to go. But thanks to my amazing friends and family, I’ve found places to go. Foxy is with me, of course. We’re being taken care of.

I have missed sharing my life in a virtual way. It didn’t feel right for me to carry on posting like nothing had happened, because racking up likes and comments is a false balm. The pain of this betrayal has been potent, and it’s been important for me to honor it by bearing the full weight of what I’ve lost. But I’m still here.

The path I took to get here has washed out behind me. The way forward isn’t yet clear. But I’m gathering the broken pieces in hopes of building something new. It’s not the future that I wanted, but it’s the future that I’m going to get. And somehow, I want to live it well.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon, grief and forgiveness and love intermingled, moving forward and holding on to hope for dear life.

Huge thanks to my amazing sister-in-law Ashley Parsons for capturing this image. You’ve helped remind me that I’m strong in a season when I’ve felt anything but.

On the move… again

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

This little dream house… I can’t believe it, but I’ll be handing the keys over to someone else in July. My two years in Minneapolis have been abundantly sweet, rich, and healing — and now it’s time to go.

I will miss the amazing friends I’ve made, my perfect fence, and the cheese curds. I will grieve the loss of my trails every single day (although the projected Southwest light rail was going to ruin them eventually anyway, ugh). I CANNOT BELIEVE I’ll miss the chance to rent this house through Airbnb for Super Bowl LII. But I will always, always be grateful that I had the chance to live here. Minneapolis was never on my radar until I started flying here for work in 2012, and I fell in love with it. Everyone should be so lucky to get a chance to live here — not just despite the winter, but even because of it. It makes you tough, it’s pretty darn beautiful, and even if you hate it, the summer makes up for it all.

As for where I’m headed, well… see you soon, Nashville!

A spacious place

Friday, August 12th, 2016

About a month ago, I stubbed my toe so mightily I broke it.

toe

This is not an unusual occurrence for me. I suppose I walk with a lot of force? And into things? Is there honestly a better explanation for why one frequently stubs toes?

Last night, I was heading to the living room to watch Michael Phelps win all of those gold medals when I slammed — slammed — my right pinky toe into the foot of the couch. It might as well have been a sledgehammer to the foot. Pain shot up my leg like an electric current. I collapsed onto the couch and SCREAMED INTO A PILLOW, no words, just one long primal shriek muffled by a cushion from Target.

Remembering it this morning I giggle — because sheesh Annie, overdramatic much? It was one of those moments that made me grateful I live alone; no one should be forced to bear witness to such hysteria (although I will say that it did hurt like a mother-truckin’ cuss word). Foxy came running down the stairs and looked at me, then turned around and retreated back to her safe corner in my bedroom.

Today while out for a walk, one of Foxy’s feet collided with a large landscaping rock. I heard the hit, it was so hard. She stubbed her toe! We both froze, and then she curled her paw up underneath her, refusing to put any weight on it. She looked straight into my eyes, a big fat “What just happened?” and when I reached down for her, she willingly jumped into my arms like a toddler.

I carried all 40+ pounds of her for several city blocks, and wished for some giant to do the same for me.

Life is barreling forward — I’m wrapping up my job, heading into an unknown future, and while all I want to do is watch the Olympics and read my stack of books and have someone lift me up and carry the load, I’m moving too fast and running into things and screaming into pillows, a dog my only witness. It’s like the walls of my life are pressing in on me, the clutter tripping me up.

In many ways, this past year has been difficult. It’s been crowded and messy. The Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” comes on the radio and I want to cry, because is there any better cure for spiritual congestion than space?

A week from today, Foxy and I are going to hit the road for a while. We’re going to drive around and go on some hikes and share a string cheese every day. I’m in search of space, both physical and mental, landscape and soulscape. By the time I get back to Minneapolis, I plan to have an answer to the “What’s next for you?” question.

In the meantime, I’m taping this verse to my steering wheel:
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” —Psalm 18:19

Live frugally on surprise

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Write in the middle of it.

That’s what someone told me to do. As an introvert, my inclination is to wait until things are settled, processed, and sorted before sharing news in any kind of broad way — but I’m realizing that it might be awhile before things are settled, processed, and sorted, so OH WHAT THE HECK.

A year after moving to Minneapolis (Sunday was my Minneversary), I’ve decided to leave my job, the one I moved across the country for. There are a lot of factors that went into this decision, and it was not one that I made lightly. That said, I have a lot of peace about the decision itself, even though it leaves me staring into a future I can’t yet see.

From a job to the city in which I live, everything feels very much up for grabs right now — and while I’m experiencing a sense of possibility and potential, every idea I explore has a cost, a rub. My friend Leigh Kramer once wrote about the “jar lid click” — the moment when everything lines up — and so far, none of my ideas have led to that intuitive sense of alignment.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I am not the “leap and the net will appear” girl. I am a planner, a preparer, a “that’s not in the budget” pragmatist. The fact that I quit a job without a new plan in place is so out of character, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about myself. (What if I start liking board games?)

But you know what? The best stories of my life have been the things I could never have predicted or manipulated into happening — like once writing a song about a snack bar that landed me a job, or buying the first and only house I looked at (happened in both Denver and Minneapolis), or meeting people I had no idea would change my life (I’m looking at you, Keri Alexander, Kari Medina, Katie Freeze, Carin Towne, a whole slew of folks in Nashville, gal pals in Denver, my nephews, Foxy Brains, and, okay, EVERYONE).

Here is an idea I like:

day282_lowres

I don’t know what’s coming next. But I’m going to try living frugally on surprise, the rhythm and simplicity of the unknown, and see what happens.

Or I might buy a bed & breakfast. (I’ll add it to this list.)

Matters of the Fox

Monday, August 17th, 2015

If you know me even a little bit, you know that Foxy is my favorite thing in this whole world. For as much as a dog can fill the role, she’s the love of my life.

So it breaks my heart to know that she is sad.

This transition has been rough on my pup. We were separated for a month before she made the cross-country move, and then we stayed at a friend’s house for a week before moving into our new house. Since I had been working from home in Colorado (thus around all day long), she’s having a tough time adjusting to me being gone at an office during work hours. For the first few days, she would be anxiously excited when I would get home – now, she won’t even come downstairs when I open the door.

She is mad at me.

Foxy_stairs

When we moved into the house two weeks ago, she went on a hunger strike; she didn’t eat a thing for over four days. Her food just sat there in the dish. I tried to tempt her by sprinkling it with cheddar cheese or chicken grease, but it made no difference. Eventually she cracked (of course she did), but this dog is sensitive, and she’s never had an issue proving her point – especially when it comes to eating.

Some dogs are motivated by food. Foxy is not. With the exception of rotisserie chicken skin and the occasional bite of cheese, she’s just not interested. Even if I give her a dog treat – supposedly a tasty little morsel of joy – I’ll usually find it later dropped in a corner. (As someone who wants all the food, all the time, I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.)

And when it comes to kibble, forget about it. I’ve tried a variety of well-known, grain free, highly recommended (and rather expensive) brands, and it’s always the same: Foxy Brains don’t care.

So when Solid Gold contacted me to see if Foxy would be interested in trying their products, I figured it was worth a try.

When I worked for LÄRABAR, it was always easy for me to evangelize the brand because of two things: the simplicity of the bars (2-9 ingredients, just fruits, nuts, and spices), and the taste (delicious). In a world of processed foods, it’s nice to find options made of recognizable ingredients that still taste good – and wouldn’t you know, for as much as one can find it in a kibble, that’s what I’ve found in Solid Gold.

From their website:
Our mission is to create the kind of nutrition that will change pets’ lives in mind, body, and spirit. That’s why, for over 40 years, we’ve scoured the earth looking for simple, natural ingredients that unleash the very best in your pet, which we call their “inner gold!” We are interested in much more than just a healthy, natural diet – we strive to provide a way of life that allows each pet to fulfill their destiny, while looking and feeling great! There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your pet happy inside and out.

Happy inside and out – that’s all I want for my dog.

Foxy has been on Solid Gold’s Barking at the Moon formula for the past week – and the first time I scooped it into her dish, she walked over, sniffed it, and ate the entire bowl. I couldn’t believe it – this, from the dog that sees food as nothing but an expendable nuisance. In the days since, she has continued eating at least one meal a day – not up to the two meals that the vet recommends, but consistently more than she usually eats.

Barking at the Moon is grain free and gluten free, and made with beef, eggs, peas, carrots, pumpkin, apples, blueberries, cranberries, and other wholesome ingredients. And like all Solid Gold products, it’s made in the USA, with zero ingredients sourced from China.

barking_at_the_moon

I’m off work for the next two weeks, sticking around Minneapolis to work on some house projects and take care of all of those dumb life-change details like finding a dentist, filling out my 401K paperwork, and weeding my flowerbeds. Mostly, I just want to spend some time with my dog. Yesterday we went to the Minnehaha off-leash park, and Foxy ran along the Mississippi River and chased a German Shepherd named Molly in and out of the water. She ran like crazy and dug in the sand, and for an hour, I saw the happy dog I know and love resurface.

It’s too early to know if Solid Gold will make a major difference in her energy and mood – but right now, she’s eating. And that’s a great place to start. I’ll keep you posted.

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Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post, but I did receive a sample for my (and Foxy’s) review. I am not a scientist or a veterinarian. Opinions expressed here are my own.

It’s my blog, and I’ll emote if I want to

Friday, July 10th, 2015

What a week.

You guys! I live in Minneapolis now! Wait, let me amend that statement: I live in Inver Grove Heights, which is due south of Saint Paul and a half hour from work. I’m staying with Roger & Judy (you [might] know them, you [definitely] love them) until I close on my house – the house that is ONE AND A HALF MILES from work – on July 30. I’m beyond excited to move into my new abode, but until then, I’m over the moon to be living large in the ‘burbs. My gracious hosts have given me a guest room, a private bath, coffee every morning, and hugs when I walk out the door. Part of me thinks I’ll stay forever.

I can’t believe I live in Minnesota. Sure, it’s been over two months since I accepted this job (and thus, my northern fate) – but those first two months were spent in List Mode. I made said List, and then I executed it: wrap up job, list house, sell house, move out of house, rent a truck, drive north, empty truck into storage unit, fly back, PARTY, and then, finally, head east on I-80 and north on I-35 and arrive at my new vida loca.

After months of chaos, one day I woke up in Minnesota and thought, “Wait… what?”

I mean, really – how did I get here??

But it’s been wonderful. I mean, I know I’m only one week in, but so far, so good. And honestly, if we can say that about our lives – so far, so good, in whatever stage – we’re doing JUST FINE.

Plenty is still yet to be written, but here is what I know for sure:
• My co-workers are great.
The office is gorgeous. You will die a thousand deaths when you come to visit.
• For all of my fears of the humidity and bugs and heat, this one week has been one of perfect weather.
• Minneapolis is a city of bicycles, beer, fitness (the second fittest city in America), and delightful weirdness. No, it’s not Portland, Austin, or Louisville. But it’s Minneapolis, and thus full of music, theater, food, and all sorts of progressive shenanigans, for most of which I’m gung-ho (conservative friends, you know I’m with you on all things fiscal) (and yes, I still love Jesus).

All in all, I am energized and vitalized and feeling like I’m 100% where I’m supposed to be.

In Minnesota. Who would’ve guessed.

The inevitable emotional emergency

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Well, it finally happened. I freaked out and lost my mind.

Back in January, I applied for a job that I was eventually offered in May. This means that for the past six months, I have lived with the possibility (and now plan) of leaving Colorado – and even after making the decision, it’s felt like a whim. Oh sure, I’m moving across the country, I’ve thought. Everything will come together. I’ve had the poise of Kate Middleton, if not bigger thighs, and moved through my days with a serenity that, as it turns out, I am not qualified for.

I’ve been sailing off into the sunset, only to wake up this morning and panic that THE EARTH IS NOT ROUND I WILL FALL OFF THE EDGE.

I am still three weeks away from starting my new job, but I will only sleep at my house for four more nights. On Friday, I’m picking up a moving truck and loading all of my worldly possessions into it, then driving to Minneapolis alone. I’ve hired men to help me unload my stuff into a storage unit, where it will stay for over a month while I fly back to Colorado, go to a wedding, celebrate my mom’s birthday in the mountains, leave my dog with my dad, drive all the way back to Minnesota, temporarily move in with friends, start my new job, and eventually, hopefully, close on a new house – which will result in a reunion with my dog and a second moving of all of my stuff at the end of July.

In the meantime, I am hemorrhaging money, picking at a rotisserie chicken carcass for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an empty kitchen, and wishing for everything to be different. Easier. Safe.

But like Mary Engelbreight reminds us:

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.12.36 PM

(I promise never to do that to you again.)

In all seriousness, risk is risky. Adventure and discomfort go hand-in-hand. But aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know what might happen if you just step out into the unknown? For all of the mystery, I would rather walk forward into the unmapped and uncharted than know exactly what tomorrow will bring. (Because after all, it’s probably rotisserie chicken off the carcass.)

When it comes down to it, come August, I’m going to be unpacking my clothes into a closet with Foxy at my feet, and readying a guest room for you to come visit. And if you need further persuasion as to why Minneapolis is worth a look-see, help yourself to these articles:

“The Miracle of Minneapolis” – The Atlantic
“Minnesota’s New Cool Image as ‘The North'” – The Wall Street Journal

It’s going to be great (she says, after a good cry, some frozen pizza, and 20K+ steps on her Fitbit).

North

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

If you know my sister Becca, you know she’s all about dogs. She always has been; her first word was “woof-woof.” In addition to running a dog rescue (whence came Foxy!), she has three dogs of her own – and they’re like her kids. So when she and my brother-in-law decided to go to Seattle, they called in only the best.

Annie the Dog Nanny.

Foxy and I moved into Becca and Michael’s house on Saturday night, and it’s been the Wild West ever since. I’m playing defense against a collective 200 pounds of canine. Things I will need to replace before they get home: Bulleit and a lot of chocolate chips.

In the midst of it all, I am wrapping up my job, selling my house, and looking for a new place to live – because I forgot to tell you:

I’m moving to Minnesota.

Two weeks ago, I gave my notice at work. I am leaving what has been a gift of a job for what is sure to be a challenging, soulful adventure of a next chapter: I’m moving to Minneapolis to work for my favorite public radio show, On Being with Krista Tippett.

For over eight years, this has been a blog mostly about my feelings – so don’t think I’m going to stop now.

What can I say about my 5 ½ years in Denver? They have been the toughest years of my life, minus 6th grade when all of the girls turned mean. Cancer brought me here, divorce made me stay. I watched my family disintegrate, and a few relationships of my own. I’ve said such horrible things to God, it’s a wonder he still loves me. I’ve lost hope, battled depression, and numbed the pain with all sorts of soul novocain.

Denver made me write this song. (And as always, forgive the guitar.)

[UPDATE: Song has been taken down. Maybe you’ll hear it again someday.]

But it’s not lost on me that the hardest years were spent in the most beautiful place. It’s like someone knew I would need the beauty.

I’ve walked thousands and thousands of miles. I’ve climbed mountains – I’m up to 35 14ers, with 19 to go. I spent 11 days on a solo backpacking trip, digging deeper than I knew I could dig. I’ve learned to own my finances, my career, a dog, and a house. If Seattle is where I became Annie and Nashville is where I became a woman (gross, sorry for saying that), Denver is where I became an adult – a reluctant transition, but true nonetheless. I’ve made a handful of incredible girlfriends, the kind that make it hard to leave. I’ve been to counseling – gracious, have I been to counseling. I’ve stopped blaming my parents for everything that’s wrong in my life.

As it turns out, I am sad to leave Denver – but not as excited as I am for a new adventure.

I will miss my perfect tiny house and my friends and the weather and the mountains. But I know that there’s something for me in Minnesota – lakes and forests and people and meaningful work. And mosquitos. And snow. But I’m choosing to believe that richness awaits. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I can’t wait to learn it for myself. I might even start going to church again.

Until then, I am frantically wrapping up my time with LÄRABAR/General Mills. Yesterday I wrote a “manual” for how to do my job. So far it’s 17 pages long. I’m getting my ducks in a row to sell my house, and looking for another in Minneapolis (tell me, is 40% of my income too much to spend on a mortgage?).

And I’m dog-sitting for my sister. Maybe these dogs will come visit me in Minnesota.

My roots are up, and I’m headed north. There is so much to be nervous about, and so much to be grateful for. Thanks for sticking with me, no matter the gap between posts, no matter the city in which I live.

See you soon, Minneapolis!

Minneapolis

Heads and tails

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

For me, Nashville is a safe place to land. It’s a city that always welcomes me back and tells me that I belong.

After spending last week with friends, holding new babies and touring new homes, being surrounded by people who know me and accept me, talking about life, love, and other mysteries (not this), I found my heart creeping back to that place that it always goes: Do I want to move back?

But I know that the question is bigger than that. It always is. The real question is, Is my life what I hoped it would be?

And for the entire 17-hour drive back to Denver, Foxy curled up in a ball on the passenger seat, I turned that question over and over in my head, an existential coin toss.

I don’t live in Nashville – tails. But I do live in Denver – heads.

I don’t get to see these people on a regular basis – tails. But I do have them as friends forever – heads.

I’m not independently wealthy – tails. But I do have a job that, most days, I really love – heads.

I don’t have a guest room – tails. But I do have a charming little hut just big enough for my dog and me, with high ceilings and skylights and an interior brick wall and a gas stove and a clawfoot tub – heads.

I’m single – tails. But I am single – heads.

Sometimes we choose our circumstances, and sometimes they choose us, and sometimes the only choice we have is to choose them back.

Fox

All things new

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Just the other day, I was reminiscing with my mom about 2011 (i.e. The Worst Year Ever) – and while she said that she has blocked out a lot of those memories, to me they’re still vivid, still shocking. Cynthia Monahon calls trauma “the occurrence of the unthinkable,” and if we’re using that definition, 2011 was traumatic in so many ways. While the events of that year aren’t as viscerally painful as they once were, sometimes I still can’t believe that they happened.

In early 2012, I remember praying that God would “throw me a fucking bone,” because God doesn’t mind an honest swear, even if some people do. And while I don’t necessarily credit that prayer with the change, I have to admit – today, things are different.

2013 was good, so good, in so many ways.

I made it through two sisters’ weddings, as well as the remarriage of my father. I experienced four different managers at work. I bought a house. I lost a beloved dog, and gained another. I found myself in Los Angeles, Nashville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, a beach in Florida, the summits of Colorado mountains, cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic, the shore of Lake Superior, and the seat of a bicycle (of all places). There were hours and hours of walking, hours and hours of silence, hours and hours of friendship, and many bottles of wine. I barely went to church, but I read my bible more than ever before. I chopped off my hair, and started the long, slow work of growing it back. I played my guitar. I met so many new people.

It was a rich year – not without heartache, but somehow without heartBREAK. And that was a welcome change, a gentleness I’d forgotten was possible.

Today, as I retire my 2013 calendar to the bookshelf that holds 10 years of its companions, I look ahead to 2014 – and I’m so excited. I’m just so excited for what’s on tap for this year. I can’t wait to see what the time brings – because despite my sparse church attendance this year, if there’s any promise that I love, it’s that all things are being made new.

new_year