The Last, Last Time

On September the 10th, 2005 at 11:15 in the morning, Dave and I were married in front of 150 of our closest friends and family. We drank sangria and danced with our loved ones until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating our union.

Today, December the 31st at 11:17 in the morning, Dave and I were divorced in a courtroom filled with absolutely no one we’d ever met. There are no cakes or balloons, no flowers and excited friends, no dancing, and certainly no sangria. No divorce party awaits me when I’m off work. Hell, I don’t even get a cookie for the years I put into the marriage.

Today, I woke up married and will go to bed divorced.

I don’t know if there will be tears or if I’ve cried them all out. For me, grieving the loss of the dream of a happy marriage began three and a half years ago (four?):

Me (rolling over, going to sleep): “I love you.”

Dave: (nothing)

Figuring he was asleep – the man could sleep through a tornado being serenaded through our house in by the world’s largest marching band – I wanted to make sure he heard me. “I love you” This time, a bit louder.

Dave: (nothing)

Jokingly, I said, “what, you don’t love me anymore?”

No,” he stated as flatly as if I’d asked him if I could pave the driveway with cheese. “I don’t.”

With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.

I laid awake, eyes wide in the dark, until the sun began to peek through the shades.

There it was, the awful truth, all wrapped up in absolutely no pomp and circumstance: my husband didn’t love me. As someone who’d already deemed herself probably unlovable, this crushed me. It was my fault, I guess, in that sense. He didn’t love me anymore. We (obviously) separated shortly thereafter. Turns out, there’s not a whole lot of places to go when the ugly truth is spoken.

I was, understandably, devastated. While I plastered a smile onto my face and went about my business as usual, there it was in the back of my head: “I should get the dishes unloaded and reload the dishwasher and oh yeah, Dave doesn’t love me anymore. Wonder when we’ll get divorced,” and “maybe if I pluck my eyebrows, I’ll look less like a sea hag and oh yeah, my husband doesn’t love me anymore. It’s probably time for a divorce.

I couldn’t escape those words and what they meant no matter where I went.

I’d try to talk about divorce to my married friends sometimes, which proved a lesson in futility. They’d either minimize it, “Well, you can be married without loving each other,” or avoid me like the divorce plague was catching. Not sure I blame them on that one. What do you say to someone who’s husband doesn’t love her? I don’t know. Like, “I just got divorced 12 minutes ago,” I don’t know that there’s much that can be said.

I don’t know what we intended to have happen during our separation. Maybe he’d somehow learn to love me again? Maybe we’d wake up one day and this would all be a dream? Maybe a separation doesn’t mean divorce? Maybe I’d be able to live with knowing that, at one point, my husband didn’t love me? Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seem?

They were.

And separation didn’t, obviously, help.

The D Word was thrown around. Dave had already made a “special friend” by the time I moved from the home I’d once jokingly stated I’d have to be pried out of with a crowbar on October 1, 2012. I now reside in my beloved tiny apartment a mere 6 minutes from the home I once tenderly loved my flowers, my children, my husband in. The family, the dream I’d desperately wanted, within walking distance – light years away.

I may no longer mourn what might-have-been’s but I can’t help but wish that I’d paid more attention to those last times. It’s funny, when you’re married, you begin to make presumptions about the future; there’s always time to make more happy memories, the last time is the last time for now, tomorrow is another day.

Like the last time you see your baby crawl before she starts walking like a big girl, you don’t know it’s going to be the very last time you see a child of yours crawls. You don’t know that the last time you make love to your partner of ten years is going to be the last time. You don’t know that the last time you sit, eating dinner and shooting the shit around the big table you spent weeks of your life polishing will be the last time. It simply doesn’t register as something that should carry any more weight than it did. You don’t think to memorize the details, the way the food tasted, the way his body felt, the giggles of laughter during conversations around the table. There’d be other nights, other dinners, other conversations.

Until there aren’t.

What I wish, more than all, is that I could go back in time and re-experience those memories. I’d watch my husband dance with our daughter before her surgery because, “he was her legs because she couldn’t use hers yet,” knowing that memory would be one I’d cherish for the rest of my days. I’ll never again laughingly serenade Dave with my best (terrible) Rod Stewart impression while he does the dishes. That’s over. Those were the last times. Ever.

Oh, how I wish I’d have taken the time to recognize those moments as fleeting, soon to be only a memory stored under “Happyness,” in my brain. There are always new good times to be had, for sure, but never again will I be able to be proud to call someone “my husband,” so excited, so proud to use that term for someone who had simply been “my fiance,” mere months before.

But today, for the first time in ten years, I can say that I am totally and completely a single woman. There will be no cakes or parties tonight, only a quiet recognition of the way things are.

Now.

Week Five: And I Promise You, I’m Doing The Best I Can

Shortly after the whole nervous breakdown/divorce/get the nuts out of my house debacle, a friend of mine took my tearful ass out to catch a cup of coffee. Over coffee, he asked me simply: “What do YOU want?”

I sat there stunned, holding two packets of Equal, googling at him as though he’d suddenly grown a head from his shoulders.

“What I want?” I sputtered when I finally could make my vocal cords work again.

“Yeah,” he replied. “Becks, what do YOU want?”

Slowly, I shook my head side-to-side. No one had ever asked me what I wanted, unless they were looking for an answer like, “An Uncrustable,” or “John C. Mayer’s head on a platter so it cannot sing “Your Body Is A Wonderland EVER AGAIN.”

I didn’t answer him; I couldn’t.

Not because I didn’t want to respond to the question, but because I hadn’t thought about what I wanted in many years – that’s part of being a parent, a writer, a wife, the caretaker to many – you don’t have the option of putting yourself first. It’s not a dig at any of those roles, it simply is. How can you possibly nurse a migraine in a dark room with an icepack on your head if it’s going to lead to resentments from your partner or simply impossible – thanks to a gaggle of kids who’d prefer to poke you in the eyes and ask the same question 10382 times? The answer is that you can’t. Not often, anyway, and certainly not without a glistening pile of guilt.

I’ve been living on my own for a full month now. I have enough to pay rent (although that bitch Sandy is going to sorely affect my ability to freelance, considering NYC apparently looks like a zombie apocalypse has swept through it), which makes me beyond proud. I did it. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it alone, but I was wrong – the fear is a lying liar who lies.

In one month, I’ve spent more time thinking about the future I want to have, The Happyness I need to find, and what happens next than I have in 9 years. I’d put all plans for having my own life on a shelf, just out of reach, once I got married to a workaholic, popped out two more kids, and began blogging as a way to find the community, the friends I so desperately craved.

It was a full life, but it was a lonely one.

That’s not to say I have regrets – I don’t. But I’m left grasping at straws and rediscovering who Becky Sherrick Harks really is, beyond a mother, freelance writer, leader of a non-profit and blogger. Certainly these jobs I cherish, but we all know, Pranksters, that there’s more to be done. I don’t want to be an old woman, sitting on the porch, wishing she’d taken that risk, chased that dream, followed her heart.

So I won’t.

Divorce doesn’t mean that my life is over; that I’ll never find love again, I’ll be stuck in front of the TV night after night watching Dexter reruns, pretending to be married to men from television. Divorce doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly going to become a crazy cat lady or hoarder or a recluse who collects her pee in jars. The things that have changed are those that needed to be changed in order for the next part of my life to begin. It’s time for me to find those dreams left trapped in a jar (clarification: not pee-filled jars) on a shelf somewhere, dust off the cobwebs and figure out what, exactly, I want to do with the next chapter of my life.

This is my life to live. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week. I don’t have any way of knowing if the dreams I once had will have stood the test of time. If they have, I will chase my heart. If they have not, I will find a new dream. Life has a weird way of working out like that.

I can hardly wait to see where it takes me.

P.S. Giving away a copy of my book here.

Anticip…

…ation

No, not the Carly-Simon-song-turned-Ketchup-Commercial, although I guess I could get a bottle of ketchup out and try to make it drip onto my non-existent cheeseburger.

After a long battle with move-in dates, packing, and other various and sundries, I woke up this morning, stomach churning with anticipation, rolled out of bed, and pulled on one of the two shirts I had yet to pack. I considered wearing my prom dress, but decided the apartment people would think I was nuttier than normal. Which, not the impression I need to make. NOT YET, at least.

On the drive, Mötley Crüe came on and was crooning about home sweet home, which I took as a good omen.

I walked into the apartment complex, nerves finally settled, and prepared to sign yet another lease, hoping, at the very least, that this would be the final lease I had to sign for a year. I’d stuffed a few things in the back of the car on the off-chance I’d be getting my keys today, figuring that wouldn’t really work out so well, considering the way things have been going, which I should specify as “not bad,” simply, “not easy,” which is why I want one of those THAT WAS EASY buttons. But for real, not just something that SAYS it.

But whatever. No one said this shit was easy.

PROBABLY.

Tentatively, I asked the apartment complex if’n I’d be able to pick up my keys as I signed my year away, figuring they’d ask me to come back tomorrow or Friday or some other inconvenient time.

Nope.

After I packed up a bunch of papers with my new address, she returned and handed me these:

anticipation divorce

Pranksters. I finally did it. I have my own place.

I have no words for how this feels.

Some Things Are Over. Some Things Go On.

I’m not very good with things ending. Or change. Or wrapping anything in bubble wrap, because, while many have suggested I attempt to live in a bubble, you can clearly see why this is not feasible for someone as “graceful” as I:

some things are over some things go on

That was last night’s performance of “Why Becky Should Never Touch Anything, Ever.”

When I was pregnant with Alex, a new Mexican restaurant opened up nearby, much to my delight. Somehow, barfing up Mexican food was easier than, say, Italian, which meant that once I’d been there, I was hooked.

The next time we tried to go, the place was closed. Out of business? Afraid of scary pregnant ladies who want extra! salsa! and meat? I don’t know. But I do know that I spent the next few days SAD about it – it was good, nice family owned place (which I love) and the food was amazing. Chicago and the food we have, man, it’s incredible.

There’s just something about saying goodbye, or being unable to say goodbye to something I once really liked that makes me sad in the pants.

Watching the ash (ass) tree in front of my house be slowly killed by the Emerald Ash Borer (Ass Boner) was horrifying to someone like me. “Why can’t they put it out of it’s misery?” I’d sit out my window and wonder. If only I’d managed to start spraying for a bug I had no idea would be causing a plague on our (houses) trees back before they’d known the Ass Boner would be destroying the trees lining my street, maybe I could’ve saved it. Or, at the very least, I could’ve tried, and known that I’d done my level best to deal with the dying.

I didn’t because we can’t prepare for these sorts of things.

I grow roses, because I’m a nerd and, well, it runs in my blood. The roses, not the nerddom, although one could make a case for either, I suppose. I spend an inordinate amount of time preparing my roses for the plagues on THEIR houses, and still, I’ll go out and shake my fist at blackspot, before I wander back indoors – annoyed – to get my gardening tools and other sundries.

The tree is gone.

Last week, or perhaps it was the week before, the tree people came and took the branches, half-dead, down, chainsaws whirring, while I sat back in my chair, working on this or that, and felt a peace wash over me.

I’d said my goodbyes to the tree and I knew that it was time.

Time to move on.

The sadness I’d felt over the loss of my beloved tree, over the things that are over, they have been replaced by a new feeling, a reminder of sorts: while some things are put to bed, forever lost, others will go on. New places. New people. New experiences. New life.

I may never be the sort of person who celebrates the death of something I love. I may always find change to be overwhelming and scary. I may never be able to easily say goodbye without weeping. But that’s okay.

The things that are over are gone forever.

But others, so many others, they go on.

some things are over some things go on

Even walls fall down.

Losses And Gains

losses and gains“Losses can be real or perceived,” my perky psych nursing teacher told the class. While the rest of the class dutifully scribbled that statement down in their notebooks, I simply looked up from the back row, where I was playing my game of Bejeweled, shocked.

I’d never thought about losses like that before.

To me, losses implied the death of a person or animal or something was once living and now 6 feet under.

I’d never bothered to consider losses in any other manner.

That statement has been playing on my lips a lot lately, along with my I Hate Artichokes mantra, as I think about the new chapters I’m to write after this particularly dreary chapter of my life ends.

If I don’t like this ending, the story is far from over (and I decidedly do NOT like this ending). I must continue moving forward so that I can write the next chapter of my life.

I knew that with every major life change – birth, death, weddings – came a series of losses and gains. While I’d known that this was likely going to happen with the dissolution of my union, I was unprepared for the types of things that happen when one gets an “internet” divorce.

The rampant gossip and speculation about why my marriage was ending. The certainty that when a marriage ends, someone must be to blame. The friends, who once stood at my back, promising they’d catch me if I fell, turning their backs. The guilt of losing my home. The shame in asking for help. The loss of a dream. The shame that I somehow failed.

With the losses, though, I’ve found so much more than I’d have expected. I have several boxes that you, my Pranksters, have lovingly sent me, of items I can use in my new home, for my new life, because you know that starting over, that dissolving a nearly 9-year union, that comes with a lot of pain. And every little thing, every email, every comment, they all matter so much.

For every friend I’ve lost, I’ve gained two new friends who know me and love me anyway. For everything I must leave behind, I have something else to take – words, love, encouragement – to remind me I’m not alone. In the darkest of dark moments, when I honestly don’t know how I’ll survive – if I should bother trying – the next three seconds, there have been whole minutes in which I can see clearly that I’ll be able to thrive. Maybe not today or tomorrow, or even next week, but someday.

And that is enough to carry me through.

So thank you, my friends, who have steadfastly answered the phone when I call sobbing. Who don’t pass judgement because I do sometimes need help, and know I loathe asking for it. Who text me to make sure I’m okay, and stay up until all hours, driving around with me in silence, just to feel like I’m not alone in the world. Who have been so kind, so thoughtful as to send me things. Who have loved me in spite of me.

You’ve carried me through.

And I don’t know how to repay that kindness.

—————

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Grief and Grieving In STC

When my friend Stef passed away several years ago – cause of death: cirrhosis of the liver (PSA: DON’T DRINK, KIDS) – leaving behind her two young sons and a funeral so full that it was standing room only, I remember being completely rooted the spot, my grief making the decision “do I have to pee?” as challenging as “Can you repeat the Fibonacci sequence in under 10 seconds?” I couldn’t make a decision to save myself and I could barely function for weeks (if you can call what I do “functioning.” Her death was so sudden, so unexpected, a gigantic piece missing, I could hardly handle brushing my teeth without bursting into tears.

I’d like to say that it’s different now, that I don’t still think of her and tear up, but it’d be a lie: she’s gone and she’s not coming back. So why can’t I delete a phone number she’ll never again answer? I suppose my best guess would be that it’s too final, too real, and it closes a door that can never be reopened. If I deleted the number, I could put it back, but then I’d be the creepy chick putting my dead friend’s phone number in my phone.

I’ve been thinking about her death a lot lately, since the book in which I was a contributor was published. In it, I told the story of Stef in words I could barely choke out; words that weren’t enough because there will never be enough words to capture who she was.

After she died, someone said to me (Dr. Phil? Maury? Oprah? Jerry Springer?) that we don’t lose people in one fell swoop; we lose them over a long period of time, and pop-psych as it is, it’s true.

Maybe it’s a whiff of their deodorant caught on someone walking by in the store. Maybe it’s the way their hair is adorably mussed each morning before a shower. Maybe it’s that one restaurant you went to and laughed for hours over the absurdity of life. Maybe it’s a smile seen in the crowd, so similar, or a turn of phrase you both once used, an inside joke that kept you chortling for hours.

I thought a lot about grief and grieving this weekend.

It’s taken me awhile to began owning up to the idea that I’d soon be moving from my home, and as such, I’d need to find those small inconsequential items; the things I’d never considered needing yet again.

That would be why I found myself stuck in place at Goodwill, looking at silverware organizers, while people desperate for a bargain I! might! steal! from! them! pushed their carts into the back of my ankles trying (nearly successfully!) to mow me down.

I nearly cried, not out of pain or the indignity that someone would actually consider that I’d want a Precious Moments knock-off, standing there and holding someone’s old silverware container, examining scuff marks and wondering – for a good long while – if this was something I should purchase new or not. It was then that it hit me what I’d be losing.

Sometimes, a cheap silverware container is more than that. Sometimes, it’s a reminder of the doors we close and the doors that are closed for us – some shut for good, others left ajar. (go ahead make the joke, I’ll wait here)

….

….

….

That’s when a door isn’t a door.

(when it’s ajar)

I’ll wait while you groan and roll your eyes wildly at my awesome joke.

….

….

….

Done? Good. On to more of my pithy (and low-calorie!) tripe.

I’m sure I’m not the first or last person to burst into tears in Goodwill, which helps a little with the embarrassment of crying in public (being an ugly crier means that public crying makes passers-by look at my wrists for the restraint marks – as if I’ve escaped from the local mental hospital, if there were such a facility close by. Plenty of Pantera’s but no psych facilities. We yuppies need our deliciously overpriced sandwiches on ARTISAN motherfucking BREAD more than we need proper mental health care, but alas, once again, I digress), because if I want to wail on and on like a psychopath about Justin Beaver having a girlfriend, I’d prefer to do so in the privacy of my own home.

HE’S JUST SO DREAMY.

It was there in that dusty store, being jostled from all sides by bargain hunters looking for that perfect tchotchke (or used candle, as the case may be), that I felt the pieces of my old life gradually begin slipping away. I’m not mired in grief muck the way I was after Stef passed. Her death was sudden phone call interrupting an otherwise cold, beautiful February morning in Chicago, whereas I’d watched the slow disintegration of our union once we’d decided to separate over a year and a half ago. I was reminded, standing there holding someone’s grimy old fork holder of grief, of grieving, and of loss.

However right for both parties a situation like divorce is doesn’t make it easier.

I know (some of) the challenges that starting over will bring. The losses I won’t feel until I’m out of the house; an interloper in a life formerly known as mine, someone starting over again. There will be times I’ll have to talk myself through a single moment at a time, reminding myself that it will, in fact, be okay – maybe not this moment or the next, maybe not this year or the next, but someday, I’ll wake up and realize that it is okay.

Because it is. Or, I should properly say, it will be.

There’s not a doubt in my pea-brain that will take a long time to process the complicated emotions (turns out I have an emotion beyond: “I’m hungry.”) associated with the dissolution of a union, I know this. There will be reminders of the good times and the bad that hurt anywhere from:

<->being punched in the armpit<->prick<->wasp sting<->arm tattoo<->natural childbirth and back again, while raging confusion will wind from:

how can orange be a color and a flavor?<->what kind of cell phone plan should I buy?<->who the hell reads tea leaves anyway?<->how can I survive the next three minutes?<->is this REALLY my life?

There will be tears and triumphs in this new life of mine, of this I can be certain. There will be the things that blindside me and leave me gasping for breaths while other things, things I’ve feared, will be as smooth as a baby’s dimply ass. Such is the nature of grief

Such is the nature of life.

———–

Howdy Pranksters! How was your long weekend? Do you do shit for Labor Day? I want to be the person who’s all, I DID AWESOME SHIT, but really, it was a nice simple weekend with friends, antics and a healthy dose of debauchery.

Do please forgive these occasional things inside the posts – I’m simply trying something out (also kinda coveting those shoes)(I DON’T NEED MORE SHOES, BAD AB, BAD!), which I’ll explain sometime when we’re all very, VERY bored.


grief and grieving

ALSO THIS:

(Um. I have a new addiction. It’s right there)

Things I’ve Learned While Searching For Jobs

Dear Pranksters,

It’s hard to follow a post like Swan Song up with anything. Everything I’ve managed to come up with sounds too trite, too stupid, too (as a former troll called me) “navel grazing*”

So I’m going to do just that. Write a post that is entirely naval grazing, entirely stupid and entirely trite. Why? Because obviously.

I thank you for your love on the last post – I’m sorry I gave you guys the Sads. It took me ages upon ages to write and when I did, I feared the outcome. This IS the Internet, after all. But I was overwhelmed by your comments. They’re beautiful – thank you.

A couple of you have asked if I’m okay, and the truth is that I’m not. I’m aiming for okay. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll wake up and not feel the weight sitting heavily on my chest. Until then, I’ll continue with therapy and finding My Happy – which, thanks to you, Pranksters, I feel whenever I see the things you’ve sent me – your old towels and sheets. Paper towels. The things a very small apartment needs.

I’m carefully labeling them with your name, then mine, and when I am done with them, I will send them on to the next person who needs them, under the promise that when they are done with them, they too will send them on, once they’ve put their name on the item.

I’d call it the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but we all know that my pants have a terrible temper and, upon occasion, run off to Vegas without me.

Got any better names for this project, Pranksters?

Love Always,

Aunt (motherfucking) Becky

(the “motherfucking” is silent)

Most of you know that with The Big D comes the need to work – more than I already do. If you’re not aware, I already write for a number of places, including The Stir (the comments are amazaballs, and by “amazaballs” I mean, “cruel,” so I don’t read ’em – better for my overall sense of self-worth that way). I’ve spent countless hours working on Band Back Together, but, of course, that’s not paid work. Which means I have begun the job search.

The job search finds me with an odd skill set – I’m a nurse, but I haven’t practiced in so long that I’d guess dust would pour out of my fingers when I started an IV or shove a suppository up someone’s bung. And to be honest, it’s not that I didn’t like being a nurse, it’s that I LOATHED it – and frankly, I don’t have recent enough skill set for anyone to hire me (that’s not to say that I won’t do it – just that it’s not as simple an answer as it sounds)

I’m a writer – a versatile one – and that’s what I love to do. I’m not above trying something new – shit, with all the changes going on, new is no longer synonymous with bad. Imma embrace change if it kills me. (and it may)

My odd skill set non-withstanding (non-profit, BSN-RN, writer of Navel Grazing crap), I’ve been job hunting. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new job farm to check out. Which means I have to, once again, pull shit out of my ass to sound like a fully functional adult.

This is what I’ve learned on my job search:

0) Spraying your resume with Cool Water before handing it in to HR is a must – it let’s HR know that you’re flirty, yet casual (and probably NOT a date-rapist).

1) Adding things like, “Anus Bandit” under “skill set” is a good thing because you can simply say, “It’s Latin,” which makes you sound WAY smarter.

1) Make sure your email address stands out. Rather than the tame “becky.harks@gmail.com” send them the more flirty: “sex_kitten23@hotmail.com.” Everyone knows that Hotmail spells “classy.”

2) Make it very clear on your resume that you consider “office hours” to be “whenever you roll out of bed and no sooner.” Shows that YOU have the upper hand and know what you want outta life.

3) When setting up an interview, insist that it’s with “The Big Big Boss,” (even if – ESPECIALLY IF – he’s overseas and needs to be flown back in) and not some stupid HR slacker – you’re the best and you know it.

5) If you happen to spill coffee on your resume, remind the HR person that it shows that you’re a “multi-tasker.”

8 ) It’s not like anyone ACTUALLY checks out whether or not you have a degree – I mean, you can print one of those motherfuckers out on your computer! See?

things I've learned job hunting

THAT looks motherfucking OFFICIAL.

13) Bring a burly friend with you to interviews. Have him stand menacingly at the door with sunglasses on – if asked, say, “He’s my bodyguard.” If you want to REALLY stand out, launch into an off-key duet of “I Will Always Love You.” Bonus points of you can choreograph a dance scene involving the person interviewing you.

21) While choosing interview attire, choose one of those t-shirts you can make at Walgreens – preferably a picture of yourself giving the thumbs up. Like this:

things I've learned while searching for a job

(that’s frosting on my fingers)

34) Always include a link to your personal blog, especially if it’s something classy like, “Mommy Wants Vodka,” so potential employers can see just how stupid you are.

————–

Apparently, I’m going to have to ratchet it up a notch if I really want a job. Pranksters – do you have any jobbity-job idears for me?

———–

Also: what is my list missing? I feel like I’ve left out a veritable treasure-trove of awesome.

——————–

*riddle me WHAT you’d be grazing out of your navel *shudders* and I’ll give you a pony**

**probably***

***okay, that’s a lie, I’d keep the pony and put it on roller skates in my backyard

Swan Song

My Dave:

The ancient Greeks believed that the Mute Swan, the Cynus olar, who remained silent throughout her lifetime, in the moments before her death, sang at last, a hauntingly beautiful song.

My darling, the father of my children, and my biggest supporter: this is my swan song for you.

swan song divorce

I’d never planned to be married. The very notion of marriage made me heave and hide in the nearest closet – I’d seen Heartburn (one of my mother’s favorite movies) too many times to ever believe that marriage could actually work. I equated marriage with loss of self, and I, all 120 pounds of me – soaking wet with a backpack on, well, I had big plans for my life, and really, I’d had always figured I was destined to roam the world on my own, my young son by my side, making mischief and learning as we went. It’s something I both expected and wanted.

Inexplicably, I met you. While I told you blithely on the train, the first time we hung out that, “being set up never works,” I should’ve known better. By the end of our first non-date, I scampered out of the car, before we could do the awkward “are we going to kiss?” moment. I knew then that I liked you. I simply didn’t know how much – but it didn’t take long to find out.

You were the first person that didn’t look at me as a 22-year old unwed mother still in school, trying her hardest to make her son proud: you saw me as I was – someone almost entirely unlike you, but someone who cared deeply for you; about you. In turn, you refused to let what others would call “baggage” as anything less than wonderful.

As I woke up in your bed, the morning after our second date, I looked into the living room, while you snored softly behind me, and it hit me like a punch to the gut. My Eye said, without question or hesitation:

I was going to marry this man.

A year and a half later, I did.

I won’t say that it was the “happiest day of my life,” primarily because it was 190 degrees out and I had pneumonia, but I do remember that the entire church wept as you said your vows first to our son, then to me. While I may not have been a happy bride, I was a tremendously proud wife.

In those early days, back before the chasm, I tried to cook – to much shock, dismay and horror to the rest of our condo building, until your schedule became unpredictable enough that I could never expect you home at a certain hour. Our first Christmas in our new home, lovingly, I put together ornaments with our then-four year old son, Benjamin. Carefully, I wrapped each package, in the way only someone who deeply cares can. And I did care – so very deeply.

I didn’t know that someone like me could be; deserved to be so lucky.

Soon, we were expecting our first son, a boy, who we named Alexander Joseph, after my father. My pregnancy was fraught with prenatal depression – something I didn’t recognize until I found myself, one day, weeping over our broken ice-maker. When it came time to birth our second son, you were so nervous in the delivery room that you vomited while I lay in labor, trying to watch the tiny wall-mounted television that appeared to get reception only if the moon was half a degree to the right on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of January (it was March).

But once your second son was born, you grabbed that baby on up and twirled him around. I’ve never seen a prouder father. For all of the discomfort and sadness I dealt with during my pregnancy, I was, at long last, happy. I’d spent the years before hoping, planning, wanting another child; a sibling for our firstborn. This was my dream come true – I don’t recall a moment happier than that day, March 30, 2007.

What came next was a series of unfortunate and ill-timed events.

Unprepared for a life that didn’t resemble as a Norman Rockwell painting, you began to turn yourself off emotionally –  you worked more, harder, and better to try and “fix” the “unfixible.” Alex, being the colicky sort, while he has grown into a wonderful child, he was no easy child. While our firstborn would rather fix his gaze upon his mobile than be touched, our second son wanted nothing… but me. For a whole year, I fed that baby, twirled him, loved him, and got up every 1-3 hours with him, before he began to allow you to care for him.

This became the beginning of the chasm.

We lost our ability to be a couple, between our autistic firstborn and our difficult newborn, the chasm, which began as a few cracks in the foundation, began to show. I was exhausted, depressed and trapped with a baby to my breast while you were exhausted, depressed, and trapped with a job that hung as an albatross around your neck.

Still, we soldiered on. It was the thing to do, and still, we loved.

Shortly after Alexander turned one, I found out that I was unexpectedly expecting. It took a couple of hours for us to get over the shock of a positive pregnancy test, but by nightfall, we were elated. I knew that if I didn’t have another baby – and soon – I’d remember the nightmare of a baby Alex was and decide to remove my uterus with a butter knife before reproducing again.

The following morning, I awoke to blood. Lots of blood. Immediately, I called my OB and hurried to his office to get a shot of Rho-GAM and to see what was up with my uterus. Labs showed that I was experiencing a chemical pregnancy. While the doctor apologized profusely for the loss, I was, for the most part, okay. Until the hormones dropped precipitously and I began weeping. I don’t think I stopped for a breath for weeks.

Inexplicably, though, we managed to fight through the tears and the following month, I was, again, pregnant. For a couple of days. I didn’t even get to tell my Pranksters that I was expecting before, once again, I had another chemical pregnancy. This one hit me harder than the first, so it was a huge shock to learn that, for the third month in a row, I was expecting.

Rather than FedEx you a silver baby rattle from Tiffany & Co or hire a singing telegram (as if they’d be able to get through the security in your former place of employment), I simply called you and said flatly – “I’m pregnant. Again.” Rather than jump around with joy, you replied, “I’m training someone right now. I’ll call you back!” Since I hadn’t expected the pregnancy to last, I made a quick announcement on my blog – I wanted to hear “congrats!” before I heard, “I’m so sorry,” again.

I began waiting to bleed. After two consecutive miscarriages, who wouldn’t?

It didn’t begin until approximately six weeks into the pregnancy, when we learned that, a) I was, indeed, pregnant with something that appeared to look like a gummy bear and 2) my progesterone level was at a six, which, according to the doctor, was very, very bad. It was then that I began to use progesterone suppositories, which made the pregnancy hormones even worse.

My prenatal depression was intolerable, I know, and I’m sorry for the mood swings. You, darling, are one of those people who remains fairly stable day after day. Before the pregnancies, I had been too, and I know I bewildered you. I bewildered myself. The cracks widened – your once-stable wife had turned into someone who spent her days consumed by fear. For nine months.

Concurrently, after much discussion, you’d accepted a management role at your workplace, which we’d assumed meant a boost in pay. Instead, it meant longer hours, the same pay, and greater responsibilities. You were home less, and when you were home, you were on call 24/7. And because you’re a “fixer,” you dove headfirst into work, knowing that while working, you could solve the problem. I, on the other hand, was a whole different breed of wife; the sort you had no idea how to handle. Hell, I could barely handle her.

Finally, on January 30, 2009, we drove to the hospital nervously, ready to meet our last-born, a daughter, whom we’d chosen to name Amelia. I’d spent most of the pregnancy terrified that there was something wrong with the baby, but ultrasound after ultrasound showed nothing beyond a daughter who liked to grab her junk in utero. I don’t know how many times you reassured me that she was fine; perfect, but it had to have been somewhere in the thousands.

We drove to that hospital at the ass-crack of dawn, the big fat snowflakes peppering the window of our SUV as we drove grimly through the night. There wasn’t much to say – we were both terrified, bewildered and exhausted. The tears that fell from my eyes plopped down onto my jacket, as I stared out the window, marveling at the beauty of the morning, trying to keep my anxiety at a normal level.

It was daybreak when we reached the hospital; the sunrise on the horizon, dripping as soft as honey, coating the freshly-fallen snow with a thick layer of honey-colored sun. I waited for you in that tiny vestibule while you parked the car, knowing, in my heart of hearts – just as I’d known I was to marry you, no question – that things would never again be the same, the next time my footfalls, once-again, echoed these hallowed halls. I simply did not know why.

Silently, I grabbed your hand like a drowning person as we made our way to the maternity unit, as we had when Alex was born. Same drill: up the elevator and into the bustling maternity ward, where I was checked in, given some Pitocin, and told to stay in bed – the baby was still “too high” in my womb, and (the unspoken truth) they didn’t want a prolapsed cord. Unhappily, I obliged. When the nurse left the room, I began to weep softly, as I bore through the contractions, wiping my face occasionally on my gown, occasionally rubbing my eyes with the hospital-grade sandpaper tissues. Gently, sweetly you stood at the head of the bed, wiping away my tears and reassuring me that “everything was going to be okay.”

It wasn’t. No matter how I wished it had been, it wasn’t.

Several hours later, our daughter was born with a previously undiagnosed neural tube defect; an encephalocele, which protruded mightily out the back of her head. While the NICU whirled and twirled about our daughter, I laid in the bed, delivering the placenta and weeping, the precipitous drop in hormones not helping an already-terrifying situation. You remained with our daughter, as I’d begged you to, as I was still mired in the bed.

The chasm, something that could’ve been mended during this crisis, only widened further, as you approached our daughter’s (soon-to-be-diagnosed) encephalocele with an analytical mind while I was an emotional wreck.

The following weeks are a blur.

Weeping, I sat on the couch, holding my poor daughter; the girl smaller than the Turkey we’d roasted the previous Thanksgiving, who’d have to undergo neurosurgery at a whopping 27 days old. While I come from a medical family, you, darling, do not. Which means that I knew the risks we were taking; I understood that this wasn’t a “blip on the radar” but something far more sinister.

The one and only thing I can recall during those days, is the memory of you, love, holding our new daughter, singing and twirling her around. When I asked what you were doing, you simply said: “she can’t dance – so I’m her legs.”

I cried. This time because it was beautiful.

While our daughter, our warrior girl, the one with curls like a halo, went on to kick neurosurgery in the balls, I sunk. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to leave the home without panicking. I relied too heavily upon you to be my support, even as you yourself floundered. I didn’t seek the care I so desperately needed – determined that I, myself, would be able to “fix it” on my own. I deeply regret not seeking help sooner, maybe then our marriage could’ve been saved.

The cracks turned into chasms we could barely walk over without the fear that we’d be sucked into the nothingness below.

The daily migraines made it all the more dire – I could no longer drive if I had a migraine – it wasn’t safe. I spent day after day alone in the home, terrified to go outside my own doors and live my life. I was stuck. We were stuck. You turned to work. I turned to writing.

Here we sit today, the chasm between us so wide neither can yell across to the other. While I’d once hoped that “where the sidewalk ends” a “road would begin,” it became evident that “where the sidewalk ends,” became “where two separate roads began.”

While I know that this is the very best thing for us – for our family – it doesn’t make the hurt go away. I’m so very lucky to have known you for ten wonderful years. I’m fortunate that I was once able to call myself, “your wife.” You’ve taught me so much over the years; about myself, about the world, and about myself.

If I’d never known you, I’d never have the two bundles of joy currently wrestling about in the other room, like two adorable puppies. Our eldest would never have had the structure he so desperately needed to thrive. Without you, we’d never have had a home.

Without you, I’d never have thought of myself as a “writer;” this blog wouldn’t exist, I wouldn’t have found the courage to take my internal pain and turn it into a safe place for others – it simply wouldn’t have occurred to me. Without your encouragement and countless hours of technical dedication, I wouldn’t have founded The Band Back Together Project, a place where we kick stigmas squarely in the taco, a place that has grown so much, inspired so many, and provided comfort to so many. Without you, I wouldn’t have found my missing piece – words.

I know that we’ll both walk away from our marriage with grace and dignity, with the hope that given some time and space, we can once again travel the same road.

This time as friends.

When I am hurting most, I will look forward to those days tremendously.

Dave, you’re a wonderful person and I wish you everything. Thank you for believing in me during a time in which I didn’t believe in myself.

Love Always,

Becky

No Mermaid

We went down to the edge of the water,
You were afraid to go in.
You said there might be sharks out there in the ocean,
And I said I’m only going for a swim

-“No Mermaid”

Sinead Lohan

I awoke Monday morning with something gnawing in my guts. Assuming it wasn’t a tapeworm or other types of parasitic organisms, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I tried to ascertain why, exactly, I was panicking.

Oh right.

It’s Monday.

And while I don’t particularly care for Monday’s one way or another, I remembered it was D-Day. The day in which I would tour the apartment complex I had once lived, many lifetimes ago. Sweetly nestled into the banks of the Fox River, surrounded by trees and flowers, the park within walking distance, I knew that if I was going to move out – to create a sanctuary for myself – it would be to this complex. Having lived in the area since I was five, I knew which apartments were good and which were not. These, it turns out, were the best in the area. A quick 3 minute jump across the river from my house, I knew that this was to be my next step.

However, I was still scared shitless.

Never having lived alone before; knowing that I’d be able to make rent as well as keep up on things like “the phone bill,” well, no one said I was born with great common sense. See also my old phone:

no mermaid

(Enlarged to show the AWESOME)

Visibly shaking like an overgrown Chihuahua, I waited for my appointment at 1:30 to tour the property and see how small this unit truly was (answer: not too shabby). I chattered on like I do when I’m nervous to the lady who was showing me the property, explaining that I was going through a divorce and moving out. I fist-bumped myself when I realized I’d only cried once. It was like some kind of record for me.

Back in the manager’s office, I began the arduous task of filling out a mountain of paperwork. It was then that I realized how lazy I’d gotten – I was so accustomed to TYPING that trying to write by hand with my awesome fireworks blister on my index finger on my right hand made my penmanship look as though I’d filled out the application with my toes.

I was all, “Damn, I’m good at filling out shit. Lookit ME knowing the answers and stuff! I should win an award of AWESOMENESS for my right answers! I bet they’ll give me the apartment just for my awesome answers!”

Until I got to That Page.

The one that asks you about your employment history.

I slumped in my chair.

While I do have my own company and a sparkly shiny name for it, I’ve always operated at a total loss – it’s hard to show paystubs when you’re a freelancer who occasionally gets paid by PayPal.

Before that, I was a stay-at-home parent.

I asked the kind lady with sweet eyes what I should do.

“Hmmmm,” she said, thinking. “Can you get a letter from someone saying they’ll vouch for you and pay your rent if you’re short?”

“Yep,” I said, figuring that I’d be able to ask one or two people to help me out by signing a silly piece of paper. If I came up short on rent, I’d rather take out a Craig’s List “fifty dollars a hand-i-job” listing to make up for any amounts I’d be missing* than ask these people for the money. I’m stubborn and my pride often gets me in trouble – which is why I so rarely ask for help. While I *know* what can happen; the scary shit out there, I am no mermaid. I’ve lived a fearful life a long-ass time, and figured that taking this plunge; this path, would help with other stuff along the way. You know, “if” “then” equations?

I digress.

The two people who I asked to sign a stupid piece of paper – not a cosigner, I should add – didn’t quite feel comfortable doing it. They each had their reasons, most of which boiled down to, “we don’t trust that you’ll make your rent.”

Ouch.

Ouch.

OUCH.

Now, I understand the reasoning and that I can be classified as a risk, but I took their (in)actions to heart – maybe I really wasn’t ready for this. Maybe this was a BAD idea. Maybe I’d not be able to make it on my own. Fear took over and I began the process of doubting everything from my ability to wipe my ass to whether or not I’d forget to pay the electric bill.

Monday was an ugly day.

Tuesday morning, I awoke, dropped off some more stuff at the apartment rental office and headed out to therapy. I’d given it my level best, and if this wasn’t the path I was to take, well, I’d find another way somehow. It was entirely up to me, a both terrifying and awesome feeling.

I explained how I was feeling to my therapist, who promptly asked, “why are you basing your self-worth on those people?”

“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t,” I replied.

But it reminded me of the girl I used to be – the girl who took risks, said, “fuck it, why not?” and didn’t give a shit about whether or not someone approved of her actions. That’s the girl I was. That’s the girl I will be. That’s the girl I am. I may be scared shitless, but I am still that girl.

I know this because this morning, at ass-early o’clock, I got a phone call from the apartment complex.

I have an apartment.

I can do this. I know I can.

If, for no other reason than I love being able to prove motherfuckers WRONG.

no-mermaid

I may be living on the river, but I am no mermaid.

Not when I have my army of Pranksters behind me.

*Lies**

**PROBABLY

 

It’s A Crazy, Mixed-Up, Beautiful Wild World

If you’re interested in helping or have no idea what the nuts I’m talking about, here you go.

While I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to sit around during what I like to call the “crying hour,” moping, feeling sorry for myself, listening to Cat Stevens song, “Wild World,” while sobbing into my Diet Coke, and bemoaning the current series of unfortunate events, I’ve also realized that what I’m about to be doing comes with some upsides.

Going to NashTucky was when I first realized what a big fucking world we live in. Due to a number of circumstances (PTSD, needy children, and throwing myself into Band Back Together like I was actually getting paid for it – which – HAHAHAHAHAHA! YEAH RIGHT, MOTHERFUCKERS)(HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?) *sways arms around all Southside* I’d forgotten what a big, crazy, mixed-up and wild world we live in. The beautiful imperfections of others. The sunsets that seem almost magical.

wild-world

I’d spent so long, sequestered away in my home, living a very quiet life, away from the wild world. When things got rough, I gritted my teeth and bore it. When I was struggling, I tried not to let on. I mean – there are people WITHOUT motherfucking LEGS! How dare I be upset by being “lonely” or “sad” or even “broken-hearted?” Talk about First World Problems, yo.

And they are that. First World Problems – I’m entirely aware. However, they are MY First World Problems and for all the pushing them aside I’ve done, all the throwing myself into anything; everything to keep my mind off of my “stupid” problems, it led to one thing – a nervous breakdown.

I can’t do that again. No, that’s not it – I won’t do that again.

Instead, I will count my problems as blessings in disguise and remind myself that while I may (for the moment – July isn’t over yet) have two functioning legs, I am allowed my feelings – whatever they may be; that even at my darkest, I will always be able to find the light – even if it’s a light off in the distance. And if I cannot find the light myself, that’s what I have Pranksters for – there is always a solution to be found.

I’ll fill my nights doing things I’ve never before done – going to Ravinia to hear live music, visiting the local Farmer’s Market, learning that in this crazy wild world, there is so much more to be seen; done. And now I can do it all – nothing is stopping me.

I know that my new life will be rife with struggles. Struggles to find work. Struggles to pay the bills. Struggles with using the microwave. But the path I’ve chosen, I now see that I do not walk alone. I know that I will find a way – my way – and do it with grace and dignity. And when I lose my way, I know that I have the support to find my way back. For that, Pranksters, for showing me I am no longer alone, that means everything to me.

I look forward to, once I have settled, repaying the kindness that you, my Pranksters, have bestowed upon me. Someway, somehow, I will.

Because you have reminded me time and again, that I will manage, and I will, in a new life, be able to, once again, start over. I consider that, while so very hard, an incredible blessing. Not many people get an opportunity to start over.

So I will count my blessings, one by one, and remind myself that there’s an entire world out there, just waiting to be explored.