Dear Former Husband,
On this day that honors you as a father I want to thank you. Not for the pain and heartache I am gradually releasing from the slow death of our marriage, which now seems like more of muscle ache than the broken limb it was several months ago. Rather I want to thank you for recognizing we were severed beyond restoration, and having the courage to let me go.
I would have continued holding on. I’m fiercely loyal. I wanted so much to have something back that retained an iota what we ‘were’, but no matter where I searched for it I came up empty. You asked me so many times if ‘we’ were what I wanted, and I always answered yes even when I wasn’t sure, because I was convinced at some point that some of the magic we initially found in each other would return. It’s why the wedding ceremony we had two years ago, that we would have celebrated this past week, was so important to me: I felt that maybe the ritual of saying what we hoped would happen as we recommitted to each other would manifest itself as a new beginning. But it’s also why I didn’t want a reception, or a party: I didn’t want to invite people to congratulate us if I wasn’t sure myself that we would survive.
You can’t repair a marriage on wishes. I recognize now I could have put in more time. By that point, I already had one foot out the door but didn’t recognize it. I made excuses for not trying harder, not going to therapy together, for not being more present. I became part ghost in our marriage, and didn’t realize I had already surrendered my heart to its demise. For that, I am truly sorry. We both deserved more, and I certainly hope you find it.
I love you so much as a person. And I love you more, in some quirky way, for deciding for us what I couldn’t bear to finalize. I know you didn’t feel you were a good husband to me, and there were times when you weren’t. Yet, there were many when you were sublime in that role. I thank you for gifting me those memories, and for letting me know what that kind of love can feel like. I as much thank you for showing me what I don’t want, and what things shouldn’t be.
I would hope you would be happy to know how happy I am. Not without a bittersweet pang, because watching anyone we once loved deeply thrive without them is not without its sorrow. The weight of our relationship was so heavy to drag, and I feel a lightness and joy that I haven’t known in so long. And while I couldn’t find it with you, I am so grateful that you pushed me to this place, even if it went against what I thought I wanted. It turns out you knew me so well that you knew I needed something you didn’t have to give. My life has become a radiant sea that I didn’t know I could have, and would have never said I wanted, because the thought of hurting you felt like too much to bare. But in the end, by digging in my heels, I did that just the same. I hope one day you can forgive me for causing you any pain.
Lastly, I want to thank you for being such a damn good father. Whatever deficiencies our relationship carried, you have always been such a commendable human being for our children to look up to. I am in awe of how well you parent, and that you are so protective of their hearts. That we created such amazing people together helps to ease the sadness, helps me remember that ‘we’ were not in vain, but necessary for their creation. That alone makes everything we endured palatable. They are such beautiful, remarkable people.
You deserve every ounce of happiness and love the world can give, and I hope you find it as soon as possible, as soon as your heart feels ready to take it in.
Happy Father’s Day…
Your Former Wife
Women are badasses. Women are survivors. We take the shittiest circumstances and turn them into our greatest advantages, often without realizing it. We are so used to just doing it, to handing on and hanging in, that when the world around us crumbles, we manage, and we do it with grace and aplomb.
I got news today that I passed the exam to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. The journey to this moment has been long and challenging: 4 years, returning to school, 14 required academic courses, 90 hours of lactation education, and 1000 clinical hours. Then, and ONLY then, could I sit for the test.
I’ve worked my ass off. Studying night and day. Taking an Anatomy class over 8 weeks in the summer to accelerate, which I would never recommend to anyone with an ounce of sanity. Countless weekends at the hospital I now work for as a peer counselor for WIC, being paid crumbs as an independent contractor. Time away from my family, time I couldn’t lavish on myself. I was finally able to register last September to sit for the exam in April of this year.
I began studying right away. Reviewing power points of modules, starting a 906-page curriculum guide, as well as another text that was 966 pages. And, of course, the visual guide that I had to inhale because half of the exam is usually questions based on photographs. I worked full time, generally 42-45 hours a week. I volunteered to plan and coordinate events for the dance department at my kids’ high school to raise funds for summer scholarships. And then I traveled to Kentucky in November for my first graduate school residency, which I felt I could no longer put off without giving up on that dream, where I was expected to return home and write 50 pages of creative material and essays every three weeks.
Despite all that craziness, I felt like I could do it, because I had a spouse who supported me. Then on Christmas Eve, my marriage fell apart like a rag doll who had seen too much rain. And I found myself not only immersed in all these overly ambitious commitments, but also looking for a new home, navigating custody, and preparing for my sister’s wedding in March where myself and my children were all part of the bridal party. And doing it alone, without the person I had considered my best friend for 10 years, and with whom I could barely hold a conversation lasting more than four sentences.
The pressure was so great at times, that I would pretend to need something at a store just so I could sit in my car and fucking cry. Not just sliding tears, but rivulets, moaning, and feeling like everything I had built in my life was slowly crashing down around me and I was powerless to stop it. It was the most crushing and dark time I had experienced in years, and it took me everything to keep it together most days so I didn’t look like a complete, exhausted mess in front of my children, who were constantly asking me if I was okay. I hated the notion that I could make their already stressed and confused lives worse because I was falling apart from the inside out.
I was fortunate to know strong women going through similar circumstances whom I could lean on, share, and vent. They propped me up when I couldn’t walk, and they carried me through the wreckage of my marriage, and got me safely to a place where I no longer felt it was the center of my life.
I threw myself into everything else just to stay afloat. I wrote a 60-page television pilot that I’m extremely proud of. I helped raise $7000 to give to students so they could attend summer dance intensives. I got my kids to school or dance on time, and I found a place to live where we could settle in peace and begin to rebuild.
But studying for the exam was so fucking hard. I couldn’t sit still, and my mind would wander, swirling the words of the text as I was carried off by some thought of something else I had to do that was more interesting, or pertinent. I would think of my dead marriage, my husband, and try to rewind the past 10 years in my mind to understand how the fuck I ended up a single mother of four at 40. It felt like nothing was sticking, and my mind was a sieve.
When all six of us went on a planned-for-over-a-year family vacation for my sister’s wedding in March, I thought I could use the down time from work to study and read. But I couldn’t stand to be in the hotel in D.C., staying in the same room with my former husband, who made it feel like speaking to me was an act of torture. It was excruciating. I found things to do at night with my teenagers, exploring Georgetown and P Street. By the time we got to Pittsburgh for the second half of the trip, and we went our separate ways for several days, I was emotionally vacant, and just wanted to sleep the nightmare away. After a few days, I was finally able to settle enough to power through some reading, and finish one book.
We returned to Santa Fe after the wedding on a Monday. I finished moving out that week, and that same Sunday, I drove to Albuquerque to spend the night to make sure I would arrive for my exam at 8:00am sharp the following morning. In the hotel, I crammed as much as I could in, staying up much later than I planned, and waking earlier than expected, because my nerves refused to settle. I arrived at the test center shaking, my stomach slowly sliding into the ground, because I had no adrenal support left to prop me up. They took away my sweater, which was my only comfort, and after an exhaustive set of rules, led me back to a room of computers with ten other people busily working on various tests. I almost threw up on the kind lady who explained how to begin the $660 exam that I was positive in that moment I was going to flop, which terrified the overachiever in me. After all, my marriage had suffered a slow, painful defeat. Why would this be any different? Was I not just a very competent failure who put on a brave face to the world when things were rotting at its core?
As the exam progressed, I couldn’t tell how well I was doing. I often felt I maybe got a question right, but with some there were multiple possibilities. Was I using enough reason, and being deductive? Or was I simply fucking up what felt like the one area of my life where I thought I had managed to keep it together the most?
Of the five other women who sat for the test, I was the first to finish. I walked out into the sunshine and speed walked to my hotel so I could throw on a swimsuit and immerse myself in the indoor pool. I wanted nothing more than to float, feel the room fill with silence, and have a mere thirty minutes where the world demanded nothing of me because I had run out of anything to give.
I’ve been sweating these results since I took the test on April 3rd. Worrying. Terror. The certification is a requirement for my current job, which I love. If I didn’t pass, what the fuck would I do? When I got the message today, I stared at it for five minutes without moving. It felt surreal. I was so convinced of my failure that I had not dared to dream what would happen if I passed.
So now, I can call myself an IBCLC. I can work across the globe in various capacities. I will be licensed by the state of New Mexico. I have officially achieved this great, wild, wonderful thing that I worked myself to the bone to attain. I somehow, and somewhere, pulled out this Amazonian capacity to persist when barely able to rise. I took the biggest fucking lemons the universe could throw at me, and during a moment I still can’t pinpoint, decided I would make the most amazing lemonade I could possibly muster. I survived an unforeseen moment in time that shattered my world and left me the impossible task of gluing it back together.
So, I’ve decided that when people ask me what an IBCLC stands for, I will tell them I’m an International Badass Certified Lactation Counselor. I get to own what I have accomplished on my terms after despair, heartache, and loneliness tried relentlessly to convince me I wasn’t worthy. Because this achievement has been the longest and hardest to gain, and I am crazy proud of myself. But mostly, it just sounds so fucking good.
He wasn’t extraordinary, nor a man you would ignore, but rather he blended into the background of the world, khaki, and unassuming. Yet, he caught her eye from across the room, and there was intrigue in his glance, the kind that sends a small shiver to the brain, signaling something below the surface that did not fit the façade. His body was average, tall and thinly built, and his head swam in pale ginger hair that made his eyes seem even clearer, more direct. Angles roamed across his face, balanced by soft curves that gave him a youthful appearance. He wore simple sand colored pants and a blue button up shirt that mimicked the sky at first dawn. The shirt matched his eyes, and emphasized their intensity.
She could feel his glance slowly drinking her in, and she couldn’t help but shift her eyes in his direction, catching his eyes glimpsing as she sauntered across the room and sat down. Around her, the party was abuzz and active, people laughing and tilting tall glasses to their lips with abandon. Her rocks glass of Four Roses sat barely touched in her hand, so intrigued she was by this average man with subtle distinction. What attracted her the most was his mouth, its oval shape and ripe, meaty lips that opened to a textbook smile. She wondered what it would be like to join her own mouth to this stranger, and blushed at the image that sprang in her mind.
Her eyes averted, and when they snuck away to find him again, he had vanished, only emptiness remaining where his body once stood. She frowned, wondering where he disappeared, and if he would return. He was the only thing of interest that captured her attention. A friend sitting by her elbow threw a question in her direction, and when she turned in her seat to answer, the stranger had manifested. From her seated position in the wing back chair he appeared taller than expected, less lithe with broader shoulders. He filled out his suit well, as though it were a second skin, not too loose nor tight but tailored with care for his form. His eyes directly caught her own and she felt the slightest burn in her core, as though someone struck a match to warm her from the inside.
Her friend introduced them, and she lifted her hand to greet his own, his long fingers wrapping her palm with warmth and silky skin. Again, a flare to her core with his touch, and she felt the heat of her body rise ever so slightly, her heartbeat running a tad bit faster, and a pang in her gut. His name was less important that the shape of his lips as he said it, the pushing and pulling smooth and sensual. When he smiled at her, she decided she desired him.
He sat next to her and they began to talk, the words swimming by, floating between them, inciting laughter and connection. His voice was mellow and warm, and she liked the way it rang in her ear. Time passed and their bodies shifted closer, and she watched his hands dance as he spoke, as she longed to fill the gap of the space between them. Eventually, their knees came to rest against one another, and his hand gradually floated to her thigh with delicacy as his fingertips came to rest upon her flesh for two seconds before flying away.
He said something she didn’t catch, so she leaned her head toward his own, and he lowered his mouth to her ear, so close she could feel his heated breath warming her neck. Goosebumps erupted on her skin, and she ran her fingers along her forearms to settle their outburst. He continued to talk, but leaned in further, resting his index finger in the valley below her thumb, and she felt groin stir ever so slightly.
She raised her eyes to meet his own and could read their intention. It was a mixture of knowing and curiosity, and his eyes flickered and glowed in the low light with a dark wanting. It was time. She leaned in and asked him to walk her home, and he smiled in agreement. Gradually, she bid her friends farewell, working her way across the room to say goodbye, all the while feeling his eyes burning as he traced her every move.
They exited into damp, soft air, the silence between them feeding anticipation, their heels clacking and echoing on the pavement. The walk was silent, and as she approached her door, she slowly spun to say goodnight. She fingered his tie, and he stepped into her, his hands finding her waist, bending down to graze her cheek with his lips, first the left side, then the right. His eyes probed her own, and he asked gently, “May I?”. She nodded, shut her eyes, and waited as his mouth settled on her lips like a down feather. They parted for a moment, then came back together, and she felt his lips stroke her own with greater fervor. Her lips parted ever so slightly, and his tongue inched inward, tasting, feeling its way into her mouth. It felt silky and sultry, and he explored slowly, with tepid flutters that gained intensity, and she felt her belly smolder with increasing desire.
To Be Continued...
This return felt empty
I endured your absence
when I stepped off the plane,
lengthy arms no longer there
to coil me
The desert felt blacker
I couldn’t see
the landscape’s curves
through the veil of night
You are nothing more
than recollected memories
that refuse to quietly fade
You are everywhere I turn
and nowhere at all
Daring is the phoenix
who bravely lifts herself from the smoky ash
She spreads her scarlet gold wings
of reborn feathers
To touch the balmy kiss
of the climbing sun
She soars above earth
drifting on cloud dust and air stream
And drinks in the glory
of floating and flying free
She leaves behind a scorched sea
where a sad heart ignited her destruction
Flying forward toward a new horizon
with the promise of every tomorrow
One blazing sunset, struggling to soar
under the weight of new heartache
She returns to the same fiery lake to
erupt once more into crimson and tangerine flames
She burns to embers, leaves nothing behind
but a pile of silken, ebony soot in her wake
Then, come morning, the sun lazily ascends,
tender rays rippling across the water’s skin
And because Daring the phoenix
is brave, fierce, determined, confident,
Passionate, powerful, and strong
She hoists herself into daybreak on ruby wings
And ascends to a fresh dawn.
I had forgotten the grace of the desert
How it's unforgiving terrain reaches
Arms up to anchor the sky
Holding it firmly in its grasp
I had forgotten about you, and us,
And your unrepentant hands
Letting go of mine, and me,
And everything we once were
How to spread myself
Amidst the landscape
Lying coast to coast
Within the earth
I want to be in every place at once
I want to live in so many people it hurts
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...