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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.

Bouncing back and living forward

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we can’t always date who we want.

I’ve been both the rejector and the rejectee – and even if it’s mutual, it’s still the pits. Blame it on timing or distance or one person deciding that they’re just not that into the other; whatever the circumstance, love can knock the wind out of you.

I’ve grown really hesitant about writing about singleness online, mostly because sometimes it brings up some well-meaning but largely unhelpful responses (not from YOU, my compassionate friends. But from The Others). For example:

  • Love will find you when you’re not looking. I would wager that 95% of couples I know were “looking” when they found each other – cab light on, antenna up, and putting out the vibe.
  • Just be content with God alone – then he’ll bring you a husband. As if marriage is a reward for the very most devoted. Super lame formula.
  • Maybe you should try online dating. It’s 2015 – of course I’ve tried online dating! A bunch of times. And while I know plenty of people who have had great success with it, I hate online dating more than I hate pickles, which is a lot, which is why I don’t do it anymore. It just doesn’t jive with me. If this decreases my “odds,” so be it.
  • I can’t understand why you’re single. While I know this is usually meant as an encouragement, it insinuates that there must be a “reason” I’m single. What if there’s no reason, except that I am? I can’t give a reason.
  • You should enjoy this time. I am enjoying this time. I am traveling, spending and giving money the way I deem best, investing in friends both male and female, pursuing some passions, learning, moving where and when I want to, and reveling in the delicious silence of living alone. Silence is a gift. Someday when babies are screaming and – God forbid – Caillou is blaring, I will shoot up my veins with the stored silence of these quiet days. I am taking full advantage of this relatively uncomplicated life and living well, as best as I know how.
  • You’re just too intimidating. I can’t tell if that’s an insult or a compliment, but either way, I am drawn to men with guts.
  • Here’s a rough one: Pity.
  • And finally, my favorite flurry of contradictions: You should flirt. You should play hard to get. Stop being picky. Keep your standards high. Look for a guy at church. Look for a guy at a bar. Look for a guy on the top of a mountain. Put yourself out there. Just pray about it. Try harder. Just stop trying.

May I gently suggest some alternative things to say to a friend who happens to be single and hopes to someday not be?

  • I think you’re a catch. That is, if you really do think that. If the person is a schmuck, well, I suppose you’re allowed to say that too.
  • I’m sorry that this feels hard today. Regardless of one’s relationship status, I think we can all agree that some days are great and some days suck.
  • I am so hopeful. This one is especially good when the other person is tired of hoping. I’ve found it really nice to occasionally let someone else carry the hope for me, like a really huge backpack, until I know I can take it back.
  • You’re doing a good job. Period.

These days, I can honestly say that most of the time, being single doesn’t make me sad – because in so many ways, I love it! Even when I experience false starts. When the guy I’d been on three dates with and decided that I really liked texted me when I was at Home Depot to say he thought we should just be friends, or another guy called me before a first date to tell me that God had told him not to take me out (?), or even in the wake of a recent romantic bummer, I’m bouncing back and living forward – which is the healthiest thing to do, no matter if one is single, dating, or married.

We can’t always date who we want. We can’t engineer our lives to manipulate our futures. We can’t speed up time, and we can’t predict what’s going to happen next. We can’t control another person. We can’t “If You Build It, They Will Come” love – unless you are building a brewery.

But we can still choose to be happy. And I’m getting pretty good at the choosing.

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Hootenannie’s Dating Tips

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

I’ve heard that activity on online dating sites soars after the holidays.

As one who currently does not have a profile on any dating site (despite having spent some quality time on every available platform in the past – and probably will again in the future), I say good on you. If you’ve declared 2015 the year of finding love, I wish you more of Cupid’s arrows than you know what to do with.

By no means am I a dating aficionado. That very thought deserves a literal LOL. But in 2014, I went on my fair share of dates – maybe more than any other year in my life thus far. And I learned a few things. And because I am known as a Lady of Wisdom (again, literal LOL – and why can there not be a Sarcasm font?), I am here to bestow on you Hootenannie’s Dating Tips. LOL. LOL.

  • Get a puppy. Instant conversation starter. But…
  • Do not go out with men from the dog park. You need that place too much to want to avoid it later.
  • If someone is sending you mixed signals, it’s actually just one signal: run for your life. Mixed signals are the equivalent of multiplying by zero: no matter how positive, times it by zero and you wind up with nothing.
  • Do not spend the better part of a year emotionally entangled with a person who has no intention of dating you – even if he is the best texter you know. Listen, I grew up in church youth group, which means that at age 14 I made a “Husband List” (just to keep the LOLs rolling). And I’m here to tell you that not even googly-eyed teenage girls put “good texter” on their List.
  • If he doesn’t want to date you, do not listen to “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on repeat while drinking wine and envisioning your bleak future of solitude.
  • If she doesn’t want to date you, don’t send her snarky texts in the middle of the night and defriend her on Facebook before she’s even awake for the day. Take it like a man, because God knows I’m trying to.
  • A breakup is like a broken bone: set it, and then don’t mess with it.
  • Confidence will get you further than looks. Just look at Tom Petty.
  • Never, under any circumstances, assume that the man is her cousin.
  • No matter what, keep hoping. Because just like Fievel says, it helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star.

Now go forth and date. Be your wonderful self, and don’t settle for someone who doesn’t make you laugh. But maybe be open to someone shorter than you imagined when you wrote your Husband List. I’ll be here on my couch with Foxy cheering you on.

DatingTips

Best Cousin Ever

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

I met my friend Nicole several years ago at the wedding of mutual friends. We bonded over gin & tonics, and stuck close together since we didn’t know many other people there. In the four busy years since we met, we’ve managed to get together a few times a year for drinks and gossip – and for being someone I see so infrequently, she’s still one of my favorite people.

A few weeks ago, we were texting back and forth, just catching up on life. Nicole mentioned that she’s dating someone, that she’s had a recent career change, and that since I’m single and fabulous (obviously), she wanted to set me up with her cousin. I trust her judgment of men, so I gave her the green light. She said she’d make the introduction.

Fast forward to this weekend. Nicole and I had made plans to meet for brunch, and as we texted about the time and place, she mentioned, “I know Chris wants to meet you too. Can we work him into the plan?” So on Saturday morning, I walked to Sassafras to meet Nicole and her cousin.

Nicole is the kind of person who sets everyone at ease, and Chris immediately struck me as the same. Conversation between the three of us was easy and pleasant, and I had the thought, “Everyone in their family must be so nice.” Nicole told me that Chris had moved into her house, which sounded kind of fun – because as a woman, what better roommate to have than your male cousin? He could reach the top shelf in the closet and lift the heavy things. They even bought new couches together – a true sign of a combined life, probably because Nicole is sweet and generous and wants him to feel at home, I thought. Chris told me that ever since moving in with Nicole, he’s become a runner; Nicole and all of her friends are marathoners, and if he wanted to join that group, it made a lot of sense to me that he would take up the same hobby.

Admittedly, I had never known cousins this close. It sounded like they do everything together, which felt a little odd. But just because I’m not as tight with MY cousins doesn’t mean that others couldn’t be – so I just accepted the fact that they’re best friends and ate my eggs.

Chris was good looking and interesting and quick to smile and so, so nice. But I wasn’t really feeling any kind of vibe between us, which was fine since we were all just having a casual brunch anyway. I was happy to have found a new friend, if nothing else.

About an hour into conversation, I realized I hadn’t heard about Nicole’s boyfriend yet. So I turned to her and asked, “Hey, aren’t you dating someone?”

She looked at me blankly. “Dating?”

Pause. Wrinkled forehead.

And then, with a quick shake of her head, like she was trying to rattle her thoughts into place, she gestured to Chris and said, “I’m dating Chris. This is CHRIS.”

And in that moment, all of the air sucked out of the room.

I looked down at my plate. When I lifted my eyes, Chris and Nicole were staring at me completely flummoxed. There was no getting out of this one, no way to gracefully play it off. Time to face the music.

“I’m sorry, I’m so confused,” I awkwardly blubbered, the red creeping up my cheeks. “I… I…”

“Oh my…” Nicole broke in, eyes wide, the realization suddenly all over her face. “Did you think this was my cousin?”

And we all died. Right there in our chairs, every one of us died a thousand deaths. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so hard – while simultaneously wanting to, you know, crawl underneath the table. While Nicole had been introducing me to her boyfriend, now she knew I had been SCOPING HIM OUT FOR MYSELF. No wonder I wasn’t feeling a vibe – the only vibe at that table was between Chris and Nicole. Who are not cousins. I wanted the chef to hit me over the head with a frying pan; please put me out of my misery.

Revisiting Nicole’s text, I realized that she had never said her cousin was coming to brunch – she said Chris was coming to brunch. And isn’t it just like a girl to make that mean whatever she wants it to mean? We then relived every twist and turn of the conversation up to that point, all of which added up to a weirdly intertwined cousin relationship, including a trip to Mexico – which I assumed was a family vacation? We laughed so hard we cried. And maybe I just cried.

Chris and Nicole say they’re going to get T-shirts that say “Best Cousin Ever.” As for me? I’ll go with “Moron.”
best_cousin_ever

In which I display a severe lack of cohesion (sorry)

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Some exciting news at work: new co-workers, new snacks.

Why is this cracking me up so much?

I’m flying to Kansas City tomorrow to 1) help my mom move into her new house, and 2) see him, him, and him.

I wish this was the appropriate place to talk about dating.  I might have to start a secret blog.

So many of my favorite clothes are wearing out – the staples.  The jeans.  The black pants.  The basic shirts.  I’m Raggedy Annie these days, threadbare and frayed.

I’ve decided to not be vegan (surprise, surprise).  It was a good experiment for a bit, but I think that the biggest take-away is just to eat more real food – which means cooking more – which is actually going to be great.

Tom Petty is coming to Denver?  WHO IS COMING WITH ME????!?

If this is true, let the record state that I predicted this long ago.  So cliché.

Ending well

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

When I wrote this, I thought I was writing just for me. But today, I kind of want to share it.

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For some time now, I have been in… a relationship? Perhaps not the right word.

Something special. Something that burned fast and bright, like a bottle rocket — but after a short time, burned right out and fell from the sky. Something that, like so many beautiful things, was fleeting.

While the ending of it was sad, our parting conversation was honest, warmhearted, and generous — to an eavesdropper with no context, we may have seemed enamored. We expressed care and respect for one another, demanding nothing in return, gracefully letting each other go.

I have never experienced such a healthy goodbye with a man.

We successfully cared for, and received care from, each other. We successfully opened our hearts and dropped our defenses. We successfully took a risk. And in the end, for legitimate reasons, we successfully walked away, shoulders back and selves intact.

For me, this is a victory. Just because it hurt did not mean that I was losing — the hurt actually meant that I WON. It meant that I had allowed someone in — something that I find difficult to do.

I experienced a relationship ending well — and it’s one of the most radical things I have ever done.

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There are few things in life as wonderful as a good man.

Take heart. They do exist.

Still out there

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I just found out that a Denver friend-who-shall-never-be-named was recently – hypothetically – matched with Sword Man.

Not-so-guilty / non-pleasures

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Not-so-guilty pleasure
I’ve had my eye-rolling moments in the past, but I have to admit: Taylor Swift is getting better and better.  On her latest record, “Speak Now,” her songwriting has exploded, without forsaking the catchy hooks she’s so known for.  Judge if you want, but I can’t stop listening.

The only thing that I don’t understand is her dating life.  From the songs that she writes, roughly 50% of her time is spent kissing boys on the sidewalk in the rain.  The other 50% of her time is spent locking eyes with boys across the room at parties with twinkling lights.  Is this what my life should look like?

I AM A MISERABLE FAILURE.

Guilty non-pleasure

Last weekend, I finished the “Twilight” series.  It took me over a year, because the entire process was so painful.  I don’t know why I kept reading – mostly because I just decided to, and once I decide to do something, it’s hard to convince me otherwise.

There are so many things that bother me about these books, the least of which being the “heroine” (can we call her that?), Bella Swan.  A vapid shell of a girl, she offers nothing good on her own – and Stephenie Meyer allows the hot, capable, super-powered Edward to be her only saving grace, literally.

It’s totally pathetic.

Then again, I contributed $10 for each of the 4 paperbacks to advance the vampirific cause, so I guess I should just shut my mouth.

Hypothetically

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Let’s pretend that there’s a girl. She’s a nice girl with a lot of friends, and at least moderately interesting. She has hobbies. She has a creative mind. Some might even find her pretty. She is independent, a la Kelly Clarkson and Destiny’s Child – a rent check in one hand and a glass of Pinot in the other.

She has been making her life spin on her own for a good long while now. And while she might like to meet a good man someday, in theory, she would rather be alone than wish that she was.

However, hypothetically speaking, let’s just say that out of curiosity, she decided to try online dating.

And hypothetically, she was matched with this man.

And while she is sure that he is a very nice person, in this make believe scenario, thus ended the completely theoretical experiment.

Please tell me.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

You know how some married people, when asked, “How did you know he/she was the right one?” answer, “I just knew”?

What does that MEAN?  What are they (you?) referring to?  And should single people be holding for it – whatever it is?

Or is it just a completely bogus statement, fabricated to placate the general relationship-befuddlement that seems to expand and swell the further we get from college?

I’m curious.