Day 1171

Packing is exhausting. It just is. I pack up my life several times a year to travel to new places. New contracts. New characters. Theatres. Possibilities. And as exhausting as that packing may be, it’s the exciting kind of packing. The “adventure awaits” kind of packing. My boyfriend will tell you that I am an over packer. This trait of mine affects him because he often finds himself carrying the heaviest of suitcases that I have over packed. I like to be prepared for any occasion. I like options. I like shoes.

I wonder how many times I’ve had to pack for an extended time awa? How many times have I packed to move to a new location? College. New York Apartment #1. New York Apartment #2. New York Apartment #3. Etc. All of those times bringing the exhilaration of the mystery of the future. A slight “high” of elation. Packing to leave your husband does NOT bring that feeling. 

It’s funny, because looking back…4 years ago, I was worried about all the wrong things. I didn’t want to be tacky. TACKY! I didn’t want to take a DVD that might have meant something to him. I stressed over whether or not it was appropriate to take the kitchen table. Which wedding gifts were mine and which where his? *Spoiler alert: I finally grew some balls and took all the wedding gifts. I spent an agonizing amount of time deciding what to take and what to leave. Even though in my heart I believed we could still find our way back to each other, in my head I knew I had to be practical. How could I ever restart my life without him? I had to arm myself with blenders and toasters and crock pots in case I was alone forever (Also, I do not cook. Why I was concerned about a crock pot is beyond me). In my head, I had to be the perfect packer because this would directly affect how the rest of my life would pan out. 

My sweet boss helped me save boxes from the restaurant I worked for and even took the company van and drove the boxes to my apartment to help me out. Isn’t that the nicest thing? He hand delivered dozens of boxes to my home. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you live in New York City, you can imagine how helpful this selfless act of kindness was to me. Every day I would slowly pack up pieces of my life. I had a system. I worked my way around our tiny Upper West Side apartment. I went through drawers and cabinets and memories and years of our relationship. I boxed it all away. I overpacked.  

Mostly, during these times I remember the aloneness. No one can really help you pack. You have to do it yourself. You make the choices about what stays and what goes. What’s important. What is valuable. What you can and can’t live without. What is necessary. You hope you haven’t forgotten anything essential. You focus on the significance of things because you can’t bear to fully acknowledge what you can’t take with you. What you must leave behind. A person. A marriage. A relationship. Pieces of your soul. The person you used to be.  

People leave people every day. I wonder how difficult it is for them. In my business the only true constant is the constant coming and going. The packing. The unpacking. The hellos and goodbyes. What is worth packing. Who is worth traveling with. The big question is always, “When will you unpack for good?”And my response is still the same one I had four years ago. God has a plan. The one who has never forsaken me, the one who leads me, the one who traveled with me then and travels with me now..he has a plan. He knows the desires of my heart and I will always try my hardest to answer his call, pack up, and follow. 

Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” 

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My Third Divorceiversary

Time is an interesting way of measuring emotions. Maybe that’s one reason why I love dates so much. I like being able to say “Oh, on February 3, 2015 I crawled inside a dressing room at my mother’s dance studio and cried on the phone to Cheyenne…but on February 3, 2018 I am closing a show that has brought me great joy and then I get to journey into the sunset with my boyfriend.” Sounds nice, huh? I sound “healed.” Reformed. Cured. Don’t you wish it were that easy? That someone could give you a specific date that grief would end. A precise moment in time when the hurt would ebb and the pain would disappear. I remember thinking, those many years ago, “If someone could tell me when this agony would stop I could make it. I can hang on if I just know how long it’s gonna take.”

The downside to giving yourself a time limit for suffering is that different parts of you will heal on different schedules. This is not something I fully understood for a very long time. First off, there is the practical side of healing. The part of you that must get out of bed in the morning because the world doesn’t stop turning just because you are dying on the inside. You must feed yourself. You must shower. You must go to work. This will take more energy than you ever imagined, but you will complete these mundane tasks because you must and before you know it, they won’t seem so difficult and voila!…a small part of you has mended.

Then there is the “learning curve” part of healing. You must learn to complete tasks you haven’t had to do before. Filling up air in your tires, getting the cell phone bill put in your name, even learning to make choices on your own instead of letting another human make them for you. This healing is especially lovely because you feel accomplished at the end of each new mission you undertake. I, personally, wanted some kind of medal saying to the world “I’m doing it! I got this!” It should also be noted that during this period of your life the most wonderful souls will appear to help with your new “education.” Special shout outs to Duane Snyder for filling my car tires with air, Craig Smith for writing me a small novel about where to go with car questions, Jake Delaney for providing me with a way to make my own coffee, and Giovanni who got stuck helping me at the Verizon store. I am a better and smarter woman because of the “good men” who have helped along the way.

Obviously, the hardest and most time consuming healing exercise is healing your heart. Unfortunately there isn’t a marker to tell you when this undertaking will be complete. I think it’s an ongoing process. Most worthwhile accomplishments are. Which means, no end date. Ever changing. Always evolving. In many ways I am super proud of my progress, but in many ways I thought I would be further along than I am. I think the key is to continue to grow in love. Self love. Learning to love the “new you.” Worldly love. Learning to allow yourself to love others. And, most importantly, learning to continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ, the author of love.

I suppose this post is as good a marker as any to assess how healed my heart may or may not be. And hopefully will serve as my own reminder to constantly increase in love.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

Day 1081

“Divorced” is this odd label I feel I have written all over me. One day I wasn’t, and the next day I was. Sometimes I wonder if I avoided my inevitable divorce for so long simply because I didn’t want to be associated with the label. Even now, almost three years since my new title became official, I cringe at the world. This is clearly a “me thing.” I know plenty of people who don’t think twice about it when I sheepishly admit I am divorced. I don’t know why it has this affect on me. It’s my truth. My reality. It’s a part of my life, of who I am, and I still wish it wasn’t. This doesn’t mean I’m not happy that I got divorced. I am ridiculously proud of myself for getting out of my marriage. I guess I’m still living in the land of “I wish I’d never met him in the first place.”  

If there is ANYTHING I have learned from the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”, it’s that you meet the people you meet for a reason. I still have my fingers crossed that marrying my ex-husband was in some way a decision that will eventually lead to something wonderful, but I haven’t seen a sign of that hope coming to fruition any time soon. The upside in my divorce is that when I walked away I was able to close the door on so many unhealthy humans in my life. There isn’t a trace of him in any of my current friendships or family members or colleagues. If you met me today and never knew “married me” you wouldn’t see any remnants of my married life. They’ve all disappeared. Which means a clean slate, but also leaves me wondering, “What was the point?” 

I know other divorced people who can see tangible signs of why they were supposed to marry their ex-spouse. I don’t have that. And I desperately want that. Not so I feel like less of a failure at marriage. I think, in many ways, I’ve moved past that. I want it so I can better explain to people why I am the way I am. The effects of my divorce still linger in my life. I joke with my boyfriend that I need “constant love and affection.” But we both know it’s not a joke. I do need that steady reassurance that everything is ok. I’ve thought my life was ok before, and it wasn’t. What’s to say disaster won’t strike twice. Troy shouldn’t have to make up for someone else’s mistake, but that’s part of the “divorced” label. Worrying about every life decision, fretting about finances, weighing myself constantly, learning to make back-up plans for the back-up plans. These are products of my divorce. I have absolutely nothing positive to show for my marriage. And that makes me angry. I want the devastation I went through to have meant something. I want to find purpose in the pain. 

To be frank, it pisses me off that I have to wear this label with nothing to show for it. This label of shame. Shame that I couldn’t make my marriage work…and shame that I didn’t see the signs beforehand and married the chump anyway. Shame that I’m a 34 year old woman and can’t shake the insecurities left to me by my ex-husband. Shame that I still wear this label like a scarlet letter across my body. 

But I also think that’s why I write this blog. To acknowledge the shame in a world where we are constantly supposed to show how happy we are. It’s exhausting to hide the shame. It’s freeing to say “This is how I feel and some days it sucks and I don’t always deal with things well, but I’m trying.” We filter our lives so much these days, in so many ways. Maybe the good to come out of this tragedy, of any tragedy, is honesty. The honesty to clearly show our imperfections to the world so others can say, “Thank God. I feel just like she does. And it’s ok. And I’m not alone.” Honesty. That’s a label I’d be proud to wear. 

2 Timothy 2:15 – “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 

Day 981

I’ve been back in New York for almost two months. It’s hard not to look around at times and remember how I escaped from here three and a half years ago. I’ve thought about not telling the full account of leaving New York, because it just doesn’t matter anymore. But, it’s part of my story and I’ve been reminded recently that being honest is part of being brave. And, if nothing else, I want to be brave.

Once a human decides to “save herself/himself” in a marriage, it does not mean that the love stops or lessens. It simply means that a change must occur. This is important to know and own. The grief, and hurt, and despair do not automatically subside. In fact, maybe they get worse. I think, for me, once I decided to leave…the pain was almost unbearable. I had no idea how bad it would get. You see, once I decided to leave, my ex-husband used my departure as an excuse to truly treat me like trash. And he made it my fault. “Well, you’ve given up on me…how do you think that makes me feel?” “You’ve stopped believing in us.” Or, my personal favorite, “It’s so hard for me to watch you pack, you’re the reason I don’t want to come home at night.” 

Side note: Just so we are clear, his adultery was NOT my fault. Period. End of story. No way in hell I am ever going to own that. 

My decision to leave our apartment (not leave our marriage) gave my ex-husband the perfect excuse to truly let loose. This meant a lot of sleepless night for me. I’m just going to give one example because golly gee, even three and a half years later, it doesn’t feel good to remember this night. A female friend of his from college was in town on business. He was meeting her after work for drinks. I had met her before. You know that feeling you get when a girl is into your husband? Yeah, I’d had that feeling from her, so I asked to tag along. No dice. I’m home alone, waiting up. It keeps getting later and later. I call. I text. He isn’t responding. So, finally…I text her (does this sound crazy? I didn’t think so at the time). Finally, she texts me back. She explains they both had a lot to drink and so he is just going to stay over in her hotel room. You MUST be kidding me. 

Better solutions: 

1)We are in New York, use the subway

2)Call a cab 

3)Tell me where you are and I will come get him

I offer up solution number 3 and she avoids me. This is when I lose it and text her the following: “I know you are going to have sex with my husband. It is completely inappropriate for him to stay in your hotel room. I am begging you to please think about what you are doing. I am his wife. Please don’t sleep with my husband.” Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have to beg someone to not sleep with my husband. She never responds. 

I stayed up all night. I cried. I prayed. I called my friend, Cheyenne and she stayed up and talked to me. I pleaded for God to make the pain end. Make me just not care anymore. It was a terrible night that wouldn’t end. He came waltzing home around 7:30 in the morning, looking a mess. And then he yelled at me for texting her. Said that I embarrassed him. It’s not that I am a weak woman, it’s just that I had no fight left in me. So, I just took it. I wish I could tell you that I had a speech prepared which I eloquently gave about how disrespectful he was…but that’s not how this part of the story ends. I let him yell at me and degrade me at 7:30 in the morning and then I silently took a shower and got ready for work. 

I showed up to work late. Not too late. Maybe half an hour or so, but my boss knew something had happened. And y’all, when things are just plain terrible…look for the little drops of mercy. This is what will save you. My boss said “I try not to worry about you. But when you’re late I know things are bad.” And then I blubbered out everything that had happened the night before. He sat beside me and told me I had to eat and that I was dehydrated from all the crying. He sat there and watched me eat and made me drink water, then he told me to go home. I was appalled at myself and refused at first. He finally convinced me to go back to my apartment and rest. 

That evening I had plans to meet up with my friends, Tiffany and Brittany. Bless their hearts. Yet again, they had to sit through a dinner with me telling them something awful that my ex-husband did. I sounded like a broken record, but they still sat and listened and supported me and loved me and believed I’d be ok again someday. They are two of the best people I know. And then we went to a movie and for a little while I felt like a normal girl who has dinner and a movie with her girlfriends. It’s those moments of mercy that will help anyone survive a loss. I am so thankful for the many moments of mercy given to me. 

Looking back, the beauty of it all is that so many people who helped me didn’t even truly know how much they were helping at the time. I’ll never forget the release I felt when my boss let me cry and made me eat. I can still remember laughing outside the movie theatre with Brittany and the true look of concern on Tiffany’s face as she sat across from me and took in everything I was telling her. I don’t want my story to be a story of divorce and failure and sadness. I want my story to be about these moments of mercy. These opportunities life gives us to bring goodness to any situation. These reminders that God is still in his heaven and holding us tightly, until we are ready to be brave again. 

Hebrews 4:16 “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne and grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

Day 948

There are dates that hurt. Dates that are stamped in your memory. Dates that mean something different to you than they mean to anyone else. And, I think, you know you are healing when those dates come around and instead of pain, you simply feel reminded. This small change in emotion is a victory. Four years ago today I found out my ex-husband was having an affair. For the past three years, this date has brought my heart the heavy weight of grief. Today I don’t feel that way. I merely feel reminded. For three years on this date I suffered in silence (ok, maybe not complete silence), but my soul certainly hurt more than I let on. Today, after a full and thorough check on my emotions…I feel ok. I feel hungry (per usual). I feel pressed for time. I feel stressed about finances (also per usual). But mostly I feel ok. September 8 has turned into a date where something bad happened, and although I can still remember every detail about that day…it’s just a day that I lived through. And I’m ok. 

The huge problem with the memory of those hurtful dates, is not the reminder that they happened, but the whole “moving forward in faith” after the fact. You have to keep moving. You have to heal yourself. You have to regain control of your life. You have to. You must. You have to face the many new fears you accumulated. Fears you never thought you would have. You have to own them and conquer them. Most people will assume your fears have to do with a new relationship, and while there are MANY fears associated with that whole aspect of my life, that is not my greatest fear. I don’t fear learning how to trust another human again. I have a very open heart. Trust and love and joy come easy to me. It is the best part of who I am. I fear learning how to trust myself. I’m a smart girl. How did I get it SO wrong before? Why didn’t I see the red flags? How was I so blind? Why did I stay so long? Why did I waste so much time? Time that I can never get back. How can I trust myself to make the right decisions for my life when I have failed so miserably in the past? 

Re-learning how to trust my gut instincts, my intuition, my “hunches” is a daily struggle. Sometimes my heart says “no”, but then my brain says “that’s just your fear talking…you can do this.” I’m currently back in New York City and every day is terrifying in a different way. Does that mean I don’t belong here? Or is this just a fear I haven’t faced yet. I can justify just about anything (that’s basically what being a non-union musical theatre actress is all about), but which way is right? Or could any choice be right as long as I’m keeping my eyes fixed on the Lord? I don’t lack faith in the Lord. I don’t lack trust in the people in my life. I lack those qualities in myself. That is the conflict. That is the hurdle to cross. That is the mountain to climb. 

I’m not throwing myself a pity party, or trying to play the martyr. I’m saying that these thoughts and feelings are normal. I’m saying it because I don’t think it’s said enough. I’m saying it because sometimes you need permission to be uncertain. I’m saying it because hiding behind a brave face can become exhausting. I’m saying it because sometimes it’s the honesty about our fears that unites us. I’m saying it because although I am flawed…I am ok (and hungry). And you are too. 

1 Peter 5:10 “And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 

Day 924

I don’t know specifically what “day” it gets easier. I can’t tell you the moment I knew I was no longer in love with my ex-husband. I’m not sure of the instant when I realized I just didn’t care how he felt about me. And I don’t know the hour when I clearly understood how happy I was to not be married to him any longer. I wish I could pinpoint these rare pieces of time in my brain, in my soul, but I can’t. I can remember asking others in my similar situation when the pain would end. I remember feeling that if I knew the exact date, I could endure the despair more easily. I just urgently wanted to know when I would feel “normal” again. When would I feel like myself again? When would I like myself again? When would I be able to love again? When would I be whole again? 

I can’t tell you dates, but I can give you examples of milestones. I am home. I am home for several reasons, but mostly I am home because the time had come when I needed to go through the life I left behind. When I left New York City (three and a half years ago), I boxed up all my belongings and put them on a truck and sent them to Tennessee. They have been in storage ever since. The universe aligned itself so that I would have two weeks off to be home and to go through all of these boxes. The time had come to purge. 

When I explained this to people I got the normal “Well honey, if you haven’t needed it in three years, then it’s time to let go.” Yes, I get it. If I haven’t worn it in three years, then give it to Goodwill. But we aren’t talking about just clothes and shoes and scarves (who knew I had so many scarves). These are boxes upon boxes of memories of a life I used to lead. Leftover wedding invitations, engagement photos, anniversary cards, save the dates, etc. I saved it all. On one hand it showed how my precious little heart believed that my marriage could be saved. On the other hand it is a reminder of the biggest failure of my life. Staring up at me…box after box. 

I’ve been trying for a few days to put my feelings on this process into words. There is a song in the musical A CHORUS LINE called “Nothing.” And for the most part, that’s how I felt. I felt nothing. I felt nothing as I threw away photos and cards and momentos and leftover wedding crap. I didn’t feel angry (to be fair, I rarely get angry). I didn’t feel regret. I didn’t feel sadness or pain or fear. All of the emotions I learned to live with for so long didn’t come rushing to me. I remember briefly thinking how odd it was that someone I married felt like a stranger. I threw him away easily. As easily as he had thrown me away three years prior. There were no tears. No shortness of breath. No hate filled words. I was a woman on a mission. A woman with a job to do. I unemotionally trashed what was left of my marriage. This is huge because I am truly an incredibly emotional person, so to do anything without emotion is unlike me. I couldn’t work fast enough. What I had planned two weeks to accomplish, I did in 5 days. And just like that, it was over. I did it. No big deal. 

I can’t say that all of it was void of emotion. I remember looking at myself in an engagement photo and feeling so sorry for that girl. That girl that I don’t really know anymore. Poor thing. Little did she know what was ahead of her. Somewhere she is still a part of me, but she has changed so much. The important thing to know is that there was NOTHING wrong with that girl. She was lovely. But I am not that girl anymore. This girl that I am, she is ok too. But she is different and she can’t go back to who she was. She can’t unknow what she knows. And that’s life. It’s tragic and beautiful all at the same time. 

The other reaction I had to these five days was exhaustion. When I wasn’t purging, all I wanted to do was sleep (and eat). It is exhausting to have your past thrown at you. It is exhausting to realize that your life can fit into boxes. It is exhausting to have to ask yourself, yet again…was it me? To look at yourself that clearly takes a lot out of a gal. At some point I felt a pull at my heart and I desperately wanted to call my friend Galloway and ask “Was I ok then? Am I ok now? You know me. I need you to tell me the truth!” But there comes a time when you have to learn to like yourself and not constantly ask for the approval of others. So, I threw on my big girl bow and dealt with it. 

The positive points to those five days are mostly practical. I got rid of a lot of stuff. I feel cleansed. I feel proud. I like being able to realize in any way possible that I am growing as a human. I have less weighing me down. Literally and figuratively. I laughed. I didn’t cry. And my mom had a grand time cutting my ex-husband out of pictures.  

This story is a simple example that it will get better. It will. It will take time. But you will heal. And this is just one story. There are others I could tell. When I knew I liked being on my own. When I knew I didn’t need a man. When I first felt proud of myself. When I knew I was ready to date again. When I knew I could love again. When I knew I was in love. And when I realized I didn’t need anyone but myself to make me happy. This doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have divorce PTSD. It doesn’t mean I won’t text Galloway for validation that I’m ok. It just means I won’t text him as much. It means my boyfriend will have to patiently love me through my “crazy” times. It means I will smile more than I will frown. It means my prayers will have more gratitude than requests. It means I will live with the understanding that I am already a whole person. God created me already put together. And no man will tear me apart again. 

Psalm 139: 13-14 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” 

Day 905

In a world where we are able to constantly whine and complain about the atrocities of life and put those complaints straight out into cyber world at the touch of a button, we sure do love ourselves an awful lot. We tweet, post, and message every thought that comes into our pretty little heads (most of the time while being grammatically and politically incorrect) without blinking an eye. We assume that anyone and everyone actually cares what we look like while we are taking our “car selfies” and hope that our newest snapchat filter gets a bazillion likes. This is where we are at. Don’t even try to deny it. The reality is that through all these new forms of social media, our main goal is to gain approval. I’m not exactly sure whose approval we are seeking, but if we get more hearts and smiley faces I think that’s supposed to be a good thing. I do it too. I desperately want validation from the Internet land for my divorcedyetdevoted Instagram posts (see how I snuck in that ad for my Instagram?)and when I post on my personal account I spend a fair amount of time trying to find the filter that will make me look like a skinny goddess while also hiding my acne and wrinkles. 

But it’s more than social media. We blame social media, because poor ole social media is the easy scapegoat. We are searching for glory. Personal glory. Personal satisfaction. We are seeking personal happiness. Fair enough. Who doesn’t want to be happy? But what is the barometer for happy? Are we looking at our neighbor or co-worker or friend or relative and trying to attain the level of happiness we perceive them to be at? Do we have a goal in mind for ourselves? If we complete a check-list of five major accomplishments, does that equal happy? Will 100 likes on Facebook help us obtain “happy?” What about 200 likes? 300? What if we only get 50 likes? Does that mean we fail? Anything below 40 likes basically means you have no friends and no one likes you and you are destined for gloom and despair for the rest of your days. Are those the rules now? 

This is perhaps (I said perhaps, which means I may be wrong) my biggest personal mountain to climb. I am beyond guilty of seeking a fulfilling existence by selfishly striving to accomplish MY individual set of life goals. I strive to erase the failures I feel from my divorce by being my version of the perfect girlfriend, daughter, actress, friend, etc. I have my own set of rules for what is “right” and if I check all the boxes, then maybe, just maybe I will be able to wash away this scarlet letter from my past. I find myself troubleshooting possible problems in all of my relationships just so I don’t fail again. I am seeking acceptance from those who already love me. I am seeking approval from the world. I am seeking validation that the woman I am is a perfectly fine woman to be. 

When did I stop seeking God’s glory? When did that stop being first and foremost the desire of my heart? How did I fall so far from the very truth that has kept me moving forward for the past three years? My terrible confession is that I stopped believing that God had a plan for me. I thought that he had saved me from a disastrous time in my life and I suppose that’s all I deserved. Other people deserve to feel safe and beautiful and loved and secure. I wasn’t allowed to wish for anything more because God had already done so much for me. I had run out of pixie dust. It would be selfish to ask for more. 

And then, about 4 days ago (Thank you, Jane) I was reminded to keep seeking HIS glory above all else. I sat in front of a desk in a little cottage I am living in during my time in Missouri and held out my hands as I wept. What a fool I am. A woman who writes a blog about God’s overwhelming grace…who had so quickly forgotten how God’s grace works. I know I am strong. I know I am smart. I know I am brave. But I also know I am nothing without God’s grace. His magnificent grace. When did I start to allow anyone else to attach a worth to my soul? The answer in how to get through this beautiful life we have been given is not to “double tap” random moments, but to allow God’s grace to rain all around you. By learning to seek HIS glory first and foremost, we simply step into grace. 

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”