I missed you. Have you changed your hair? You look totes gorg.
I lifted the laundry basket and heard it clink to the edge, teetering there a second before falling to the floor. I stared at it, laying there on the carpet. I picked it up and held it in my palm, its weight much lighter than my own heavy platinum band. For me only platinum would do. But, for Chris, white gold was just fine. He would take less so I could have more.
I fingered its hammered edges, stunned that he so carelessly discarded it somewhere. How could you be so careless with your wedding ring? And a voice in my head immediately responded "How could you be so careless with your marriage?"
The truth is we'll never know if it was carelessness that ultimately crushed us.
Or money problems.
Or our age difference.
Or that we both come from divorced parents.
In the end, it doesn't matter. Because we're not trying to fix it anymore. We've been rowing against the current for so long - struggling, pushing, forcing - trying to get even a glimpse of land, that it's almost a relief to stop. A relief to look at each other - breathless, exhausted - and with a resigned nod finally let the oars slip out of our hands.
To finally stop fighting the inevitable and give each other a sad, knowing smile. And say with our hearts "I know. Me too."
And drift off into the sunset.
I turn in my desk chair to the sound of his voice. It's 1997. I'm 19 years old and it's my first week on the job. You must be the infamous Lena. I look up at him, his eyes sparkling as they lock on mine. Another admirer.
It's 1998. We talk for hours at the bookstore, refilling coffees and asking, answering, searching. One night, he brings my hand to his lips. It's like coming home.
I lay on the couch of my tiny apartment. He stands in the doorway in his coat. The baseball game we completely ignored ended hours ago. I should go. You should go. He comes toward me instead.
It's 1999. His ex-wife won't sign the papers, is begging for a reconciliation. He's emotional, honest, confused. He drops me off at my car, canceling our date. I crawl along the hallways of my tiny apartment wailing. I sit on the porch all night, smoking cigarettes, hiccuping.
It's 2000. He's not himself. He's distracted. He stops at the bank on our way to the beach. While he's gone, I lean across the seat and feel around inside the pocket of his door. My fingertips touch the tiny velvet box. I pull my hand back, gasping.
It's 2000. My veil blows behind me in our convertible. Passing cars honk and wave. Everywhere we go, we bring happiness.
It's 2001. We make a baby one sunny Sunday morning. We eat pancakes after.
It's 2001. We're scared. The doctors are scared. We pray for God to save me. To save her. To save us. When good news finally comes, Chris hangs his head and quietly cries.
It's 2003. The realtor hands us the keys. Chris takes pictures of me in every room.
It's 2005. He's gone, I say over the phone, I don't have a dad anymore. I drive as fast as I can to his waiting arms.
It's 2007. I thought it was us against the world. I thought...we...?
It's 2011. I won't lose you, he says. He picks me up and runs with me down the path behind our house. We laugh. We cry. This is a start.
It's Today. He texts me "I miss you so much". I respond "So do I". Somehow it's not enough.
I dream. I stand on the edge of a cliff, the fog rising up, obscuring the depths below. The wind pushes at my back. I close my eyes and fall forward. I pray I have wings.
So, this is not about why I haven’t been writing. And this is not about depression.
Except that it is.
I started blogging almost six years ago, only half of which were actively (guess which half!). For the last couple of years I’ve been doing the blogging equivalent of “I’m fine. And you?!”. Posting sporadically and then continuing to let you talk. But, I wasn’t fine. I was far from fine. I was being turned inside out, emotionally, financially, spiritually. I chose not to write about the worst of it. My honesty would hurt too many people – my husband, my mother, my in-laws. And maybe one day my daughter.
Some days I just didn’t want the internet to see what I’d become. I wondered if there even was a place for dark thoughts anymore in blogging when it seemed the whole community had exploded into a Vegas Strip of giveaways and pithy photo captions.
Other days I thought I was too good for blogging. After all, I was back in the corporate world, managing an office in spikey heels. I didn’t have time to come up with witty repertoire about throw pillows and granola bars. Please! I was too busy moving numbers around.
So, I chose to struggle through alone. To find my way in a world where I was no longer insulated by money and faith and a perfect marriage and a perfect baby and great writing gigs. And good blog traffic.
But, I continued to write privately. And it saved me.
It’s true what they say. Pain leaves in its wake a greater capacity to love. And a greater appreciation for happiness. In moments where I’m happy now I recognize it. I stand in it. I find myself laughing with a friend and stop to think, “I’m happy right now”. And I truly appreciate it. More than I ever have.
Yesterday, I caught myself humming in the shower and was so relieved it was still possible that I almost burst into tears.
I hug my daughter more. I listen to my husband. I seek out my friends. A lightness is back. The heaviness has left. Not lifted. Left. Gone. I can sense it. Like a haunting that’s decided to move on.
The world has color again.
Because I’ve stopped trying to be her.
I spent the last two years trying desperately to feel like the old Lena. And when I realized I never will – I can’t go back - I mourned. I felt cheated. I felt like I’d been promised that things wouldn’t change. Ever. Yet, they had. And my resistance to moving forward was killing me inside.
Until I had dinner with a friend last month.
“Don’t you think I’ve changed a lot since we met seven years ago”, I asked her.
“You’re a completely different person now.”
My eyes welled up.
“I know I am”, I cried, “Don’t you miss the friend you used to have? With all that money and hair and body and laughter and a total lack of humility? Wasn’t that just so much fun?”
Tearfully I rambled on about who I used to be.
“Not for me.”
I looked at her, stunned.
“Lena, you were hurtful. You were clueless. And selfish. You are a completely different person now. I love you more now than I ever did then.”
She started to cry.
“I know you’ve been through a lot. But, I wish you could see that you’re better now.”
At that moment, it clicked.
The truth is, I’ve never been better. I’ve been completely deconstructed. I’m not the Lena I was in my 20’s. I’m not that wife, friend, mother, or daughter.
Where there once was innocence there’s experience. Where there was insecurity there’s now confidence.
Where there was fear, there’s now knowledge. And where there was judgment, there’s now compassion.
There’s something so freeing about surprising yourself. You should try it sometime.
Kate is happy about becoming Queen. I am happy about my hair.
You win this round, Kate.
Without writing, the only thing that has kept me sane throughout my life, I've had to deal with these nearly insurmountable problems without my resources, without my security, without my therapy.
I look in the mirror and see a woman who has not only lost her innocence, but also her way.
Finding my old diary was a gift. An awakening. I know that happy, loyal, trusting girl still lives inside me. And I am determined to write my way back to her.
I feel like I'm finally facing in the right direction, so I'm just going to take a first step.
I'm working on a post worthy of much applause and fanfare once I figure out what it is. In the meantime, here is the light of my life careening down a sheet of plastic covered in soap. Very possibly the highlight of her summer. Mine was wearing a bag hat on my head after trying to open a wine bottle with a key in New York City. So, I think we're even.