Tonight I return to Austin after a harrowingly busy and obnoxiously emotional two and a half day trip to the valley I call home. I spent time with my original Super Crew; the women who embraced me as a new mom in a new town and helped me forge my post-motherhood identity; the one that birthed my MomsWearCapes project. Damn it felt good to hug and kiss those sweet faces, and, of course, especially their kids’ faces.
This weekend wasn’t exactly a family reunion, however. The purpose of the trip was to clean out my marital home for the second and final time this year so that renters can assume residency in a couple weeks. So, yeah… there was some super heavy shit to lift this weekend. Boxes and boxes of it.
Following this 56-hour whirlwind weekend, I sat down during what feels like an exceedingly long layover (while gorging myself on Rosemary sourdough bread and oil, my standard DIA move) and assumed that once I touched the keyboard my fingers would type furiously and my heart would race with the Big Magic.
Not so. I’m totally not feeling the magic right now. I feel neither a positive nor frenzy nor a maniacal, negative need to decompress all the aforementioned heavy shit. In fact, much to my surprise, I don’t have the heart-pounding desire to decompress anything at all, really… despite the fact that in this very short amount of time I cried more tears than I easily have in the past several years.
I cried to hug and kiss babies that were born within weeks of my leaving. I cried to hug and kiss Hunter’s best little friends; wishing desperately that he were there playing with them at my feet. I cried to hear about not one but two dear friends’ separations from their husbands. I cried for things that were mine to cry about, and things that weren’t ever really mine to cry over; which made me cry even harder.
Still despite the tears, I’m leaving after just 56 hours at “home” with tons of peace. Peace that puzzles even the most devout around me. “Huh…” I ponder aloud as I write this journal entry. I guess I’m kinda shocked right now. At myself. At the peace that surrounds me. I suppose I subconsciously assumed I would feel exhaustion, despair, or perhaps even failure after this weekend. Divorce is all too often associated with those very terms; especially when coupled with a move.
Okay, so let’s unpack this. I’ve cried my eyes out all weekend and yet I’m sitting here with peace.
There was failure this weekend, to be sure. I failed to grab a case of Plumpjack that I was legally entitled to take from my wine cellar (#epicfail)… but found the energy to scrounge about in junk drawers in search of every precious rock or geode that I’ve ever bothered to scavenge from Arbaney Kittle. I failed to recover some toys, clothes, and other items I thought were critical to the happiness of my Austin life, but managed to send “home” copies of some books I was in the middle of that I can’t get electronically. I failed to close some experiences that I thought were paramount to my happiness on this trip; but unexpectedly stumbled into other moments and interactions that I probably needed a hell of a lot more. I failed to spend time with one of my dearest friends on this trip due to an illness that’s plagued her for two years; but found myself spending hours leaning on another friend in Austin as I hiked, traveled up and down the valley in the car, and cried in my hotel room over the weight of this weekend.
I wouldn’t say I’m returning from this trip a fundamentally different person than when I took off; I feel more or less the same as I did 56 hours ago. But due to the heaviness of the weekend, I recognized strength that I haven’t been forced to recognize in myself. Some of it frankly shocked the hell out of me.
It’s totally a bitch that heartache forges some of our greatest periods of growth.
Anyway, this weekend I cleaned out my marital home for the final time.
I was paralyzed with heartache when I walked in and saw that the colorful foam mats with ABC’s and my son’s basketball hoop had been cleaned out of the living room to make room for tenants who will inhabit the home in a few weeks’ time.
I was reticent to look at the river pulsing through the backyard just 25 feet from the back door; for as long as I’ve lived in the house one of the most magnetic things about the property has been the river in June. Sometimes it rages so menacingly that I fear it’s going to drown me in my sleep. I guess that’s one of the reasons they don’t build houses that close to the water on the Pan anymore?
I was especially scared to glance at the steps made of wide, flat rocks where I sat nursing a newborn baby for dozens of hours. Or where Hunter and I have spent even more hours throwing rocks, goldfish crackers, and wilting flowers into the river.
I refused to even peek at the bridge suspended over the Frying Pan by the frames of old train cars that connected me to neighbors I loved for the past three years; neighbors who cooked me spaghetti when my ex traveled or stood around and distracted me from the interminably long and lonely days of new motherhood. (Yeah, I said it. New motherhood is tough as shit and I’m not afraid to admit it.)
I didn’t look at the panoramic view east looking out over Cap K ranch where I could often see hoards of Elk or Bighorn Sheep in the right seasons. I didn’t glance into the trees where eagles perched in the winter mornings, sometimes seeming to follow my son and I from the workout room to the kitchen as we ate breakfast while they hunted for theirs.
I tried not to step into my son’s room except to grab a few items that were given to me when he was a baby from family in Chicago. I didn’t dare glance at the rocking chair where I easily spent 7% of my waking hours during the past two years. I’m not typically a nostalgic person but I’ll never forget the way the soft cloth clutched my skin and the grooves my body etched into it as I rocked first a newborn and eventually a squirmy, nursing toddler who’s always really sucked at sleeping.
Nope, no nostalgia as I cleaned out that house. I furiously plowed through room after room and took the essentials. Photos. Books. A couple great knives. And honestly an obscene amount of shoes. Why the hell I have so many shoes, I’ll never know.
And now the really weird part; as I plowed through the rooms, uprooting the cabinets and drawers I’d once organized with Tetris-like precision, I wept; but not for the house. Not even for the divorce. Not for the fact that I’d never sit on the floors with my son, the rocking chair in his room, the backyard bench in front of a fishy honey hole we’d fondly called “mine”, or my favorite chair ever again; where I wrote my first full-length postpartum book just last year; kicking off a new career ministering to new moms who, like me, felt like in gaining a second heart they were oddly faced with a searing loss in the original.
This was basically my fourth move since March 1st… of 2017. Reread that if it didn’t make your jaw drop.
From the outside, this is the biggest shitshow of a life that anybody has ever lived. Even as I sit here with a mediocre glass of Pinot Noir in an equally unimpressive airport restaurant, a friend and trusted elder has called to express her relief that we never have to pray me through the roller coaster of my husband leaving, returning, leaving, returning, and leaving once again … ever again. She’s happy for me. And funny enough, I really am happier than I’ve ever been. Many struggle to comprehend that. And perhaps I really don’t understand it, either. Perhaps I’m deliriously happy because I’m naive. I’m calloused. I’m a bitch. I’m a bad mom. I’m so many other things that people want to call me right now. Bring it on. I’ve never been closer to one of my most foundational life verses; “once you’ve ruined your reputation you can live quite freely”…
Anyway I’m basically deliriously happy; falling asleep grinning ear to ear most nights.
Of course, this day didn’t have to be as hard as I made it. I reached out desperately to take hold of things that weren’t mine to quell the pain. To numb it. Several years ago I grew out of numbing the pain with wine or drugs; so I reached out to people; some of whom brought energy that I would have been better off not inviting at all. I pathetically texted a young man I met in Austin asking for lewd pics, knowing that leading the poor kid on was unfair to him and uncharacteristic of me.
I grabbed personal effects like photo books and canvas prints and pictures scattered around the valley and also discarded many I thought I’d keep for a very long time.
I found myself on my favorite hiking trail about an hour or so after I cleaned out the house. I picked up a couple dozen pink rocks; a few geodes which was so often the highlight of my day when I was a new mom and completely without purpose in my world. I smiled at the Juniper trees and inhaled their sweet smell.
Some deals I didn’t have to sell hard to close. While on the hill talking with a girlfriend on Saturday night she challenged me to manifest a perfect evening for my life, and that led to meeting an engaging older person at the hotel bar who had stories and wisdom I needed to hear. And still other deals I sold hard to no avail.
Where many would say I’m at rock bottom; I’m feeling like this pretty much rocks.
I cried when I thought I’d be laughing and felt numb to things that would have normally made me cry. I drained every ounce of energy and gave 100% of my heart and life force on day one; so much so that I sat for a full 26 minutes lifelessly in my car before embarking on a hike I’ve done at least two hundred times in the past three years.
For the past twenty-seven months I dreamed of hiking alone but this weekend I desperately longed for my squirmy, fussy son on my back; pulling my hair, begging for milkies, prying to escape the backpack in a fierce way.
I spent the loneliest nights of my life in an otherwise fantastic hotel with an otherwise dreamy environment.
I’ve moved three times since March 1st. Yesterday was the second time I’ve packed up my marital home and the fourth time I’ve loaded up a moving truck.
Even this close to yesterday, I can say with certainly that the seemingly crazy life isn’t because God has been unclear. In fact, He’s been so clear that my peace eludes even the understanding of even my most devout confidants.
I’m a woman without a home. I don’t know if when I land I’ll need to summit the hill to the long-term parking at the Aspen airport where my car has spent so many weeks over the past few years or if I’ll be ascending the elevator to my 18th floor Austin apartment. I’ll be equally happy in both “homes” right now. I don’t know when I’ll return home to the Valley, or if I’ve already arrived home in Austin.
These bittersweet tears may stop for a day or even a year. Coparenting will go smoothly at times and at other times I may be tempted to take the “easy” road and go back to a hard, lonely life with my ex. My business is going to be the greatest lover on the planet at times and an insolent little bitch at others.
My son is going to delight me so much that my heart skips beating for several moments on end; and other times I’ll look at him and honestly wonder why I ever let anyone impregnate me.
With this I’m off to sip my pinot, stuff down another bite of sourdough bread, close my computer, and have a long, luxurious post-cry smile.