Sunday, September 9, 2018

February 5th BUY IT!



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Monday, September 3, 2018

Consequences

I'm parked at the cemetery. "Consequences" by Camila Cabello has been running on a loop, unintentionally, for the last fifteen minutes. Something about the words triggered a very raw, emotional reaction. It smells like coffee. My purse, my keyboard, even my hair, it all tends to hold onto the aroma long after I've left my cozy nook. 

I shit the bed. Recently, someone taught me the less-than-eloquent phrase of "shitting the bed," which is perfect in this context. I shit the bed with my choice of life partner, that part is obvious. And for a while after the paperwork was finalized, my thought process about it was skewed. In my head, that was it. I had my shot at marriage. I would never have that kind of love again. No one would ever choose me - they already did and threw me back. The idea that someone else could was unbelievable, scary, daunting, anxiety-inducing even. The loss I was having felt like a death. Until I had to actually deal with death. 

Now, I know there's a possibility that it could happen. Someone could choose me. Someones have chosen me since, and I them, as least for a moment in time. And for one reason or another, I'm sitting in this car, writing all of this down, and thinking about this song. There really are consequences to loving someone, because one way or another it's going to end. Relationships all end. Whether they end in death, argument, silence, when you invest yourself into someone else, there's a consequence to that. The harshest reality of all though is all of those people you love will eventually die, before you or after you. That permanence is heartbreaking. 

I was always scared of this happening. So much so that I was 27-years-old with tears in my eyes saying to my on-the-way-to-becoming ex-husband, "But you're the one that's supposed to be with me if something happens to Mom or Dad."

Through tears he responded, "I can't be that person. I never could have been." 

I can remember being worried about dying as a young child. I was labeled as "gifted" throughout my 2nd-grade year and most of the time that translated into "weird" or "eccentric," as most of my closest friends now describe me. And as I've learned from my gifted peers and friends, there's a healthy amount of us that struggle with worrisome thoughts, especially when it's an "unknown" or something that cannot 100% be explained with proven data or conversation. Death was one of those things for me. Sure, I've had my faith, but being presented with my brother and father in front of me with a body that doesn't "work" anymore offered up unexplainable feelings and questions.

My experiences with death and breakups are now so closely intertwined. A very compact two years left me with mountains I didn't ever wish to climb. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined having to suit up and start the trek so young, so quickly, and feeling so extremely on my own either. I'm purposefully putting myself in front of new obstacles. They're uncomfortable and scary as well. But the good kind. They're the kind where you grow and develop and in the end you may have sweat and cried a lot, but you come out a far better person in the end. 

Has any of this deterred me from diving into new relationships - of any kind? No. Have those consequences made me second guess my vulnerability to others? No. My friends think I'm a little insane. I'm certainly more cautious than I ever have been before. I try to be smarter. But, I'm still giving people the benefit of the doubt even with the tinge of bitterness that has started to come off of my tongue.

These consequences are what scare a lot of people inside of relationships. The inevitable hurt at the end is what makes them run, or leave before being left, or worse, act like a complete asshole because the effort involved isn’t worth the inevitable-ness of it all. And that’s why I’m the insane one. I will take the hurt anyday for the moments of connection or having someone who cares on the receiving line of your life. That’s really the beauty of it all at the end of the day. That I felt so deeply about such a variety of people that when it ended, I hurt. If it wasn’t so beautiful, it wouldn’t have hurt so badly to lose them. 
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sincerely

To the Renaissance Nashville Hotel Family,

I was four years old when I walked into your hotel for the first time. The name outside read Stouffer’s and there were ashtrays in the lobby, filled with sand that had been stamped with the fancy “S” logo. My dad had come to help out, and I was privileged enough to create a home away from home inside its walls.

Mr. John Fleming was my father. A hotel manager by day and a goofy, grinning daddy by night – that’s how his closet was separated too; beautiful suits on one hand and then, on the other, hundreds of white tube socks, vacation shirts, and sweatpants that he wore on his morning trip to grab a newspaper and coffee on the weekends.

Nervous and always on my best behavior, I wanted to make him proud every chance I got to visit you all. I didn’t want to embarrass him. He loved the men and women he worked with, and I wanted to make sure that I made a good first impression, second impression, a lasting impression still to this day because that’s what he did. But now, mostly, I want to make an impression that says, “She is appreciative.”

Dad gave me so much at home. Together with my mom, they offered a life to me that so many people don’t get the opportunity to have. From the intangibles to a room full of everything I could have dreamt of, my siblings and I had it all. Now after sharing such an emotional experience together, I know how much he gave to all of you too.

At the funeral, everyone kept thanking us for sharing Dad with them. What’s amazing is I never felt like I was “sharing” him. He worked long hours, and he would occasionally travel, but he still made everyone in his life feel special. I was never gipped of time with my Dad while he was here. Instead, I gained better insight and advice from him because of the team he had built at the Renaissance – which was all of you. I must confess, though I’m terribly angry that I do feel my time was cut short with him for one reason that keeps swirling around in my head. In fact, it’s how I began the letter I wrote to him – the one I tucked under his sleeve on March 9th, 2018, hoping that he’s able to receive snail mail in heaven.

“I wasn’t done learning from you Daddy,” I printed out on paper from an old journal. I bet a lot of you feel the same way.

Dad, Mom, Nick, and Donna had already traveled and lived around the country before I was even a blip on the radar. I didn’t get to experience living in Mobile, hunkered down at the Riverview during the hurricane, or watching Dad make his mark on The Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. Instead, I was given the gift of making Nashville my hometown. I never felt like I missed out on anything that came before 1989 though, no matter how many times Nick or Donna wanted to remind me that I was late to the Fleming party. And that’s because of how Dad’s team made my family feel every time we stepped inside the lobby of the Renaissance, settled on 611 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee.

The chocolate eggs and bunnies showcased near the elevators at Easter, the Kids’ Café parties that I tried really hard to be excellent at face-painting for (so many children asked me to give them a reindeer and they’d walk away with a very sad cat on their cheek instead), the renovations, the Mother’s Day brunches, there are so many of my childhood and milestone memories locked away in that hotel. I turned 21 there and had my first appletini. And most recently, my high school class and I celebrated our 10-year reunion there – with details so perfect and food so delicious.

As soon as we walked away from Austin and Bell on March 10th, 2018, I felt the need to do what I always do when I’m feeling things that I don’t quite understand. I write. That memory of those ashtrays kept coming to mind, and I knew that no matter how this letter or gobbledygook ran out on paper that I needed to get it to all of you. It’s the best way I know how to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you for being a part of my Dad’s life. Thank you for being a part of my family’s life. Thank you for being a part of my own life. But mostly, thank you for loving my father and thank you for providing a home away from home for him for the past 25 years. He wanted to get back to you. He was sad that he felt like the chance had been taken from him with the latest diagnosis but going back to work, in his words, “wasn’t being taken off the table just yet.” I need you all to know that he wanted to get back to it. He wanted to shake your hands and goof around and be your leader – if only for a little bit longer – and finish his career on his own accord.

Again, thank you for loving my father. And thank you for showing it in a way that he deserved because he deserved it all.

Sincerely and with so much love,

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Clean Slated Summer

Have you ever seen a beetle on its back? Its legs are moving frantically in all directions trying to get back on the ground to scurry away and survive the moment's trauma. Sometimes you put it out of its misery. Sometimes you'll see someone kneel down and use their index finger to flip it over and let it run free. Other times you see its struggle and keep moving past it.

I felt like one of those glossy insects fighting to stay afloat plenty of times within the last two years. And I had people from all nooks of my life pass me by or use their index finger to turn me over. Others just tried to squash me silent. When you're alone and quiet, you see everyone and everything with so much more clarity than you did when you were living under a shiny mask.

I'm turned over now. And my mask came off over 104+ weeks ago. I've learned a lot of lessons since I was 27. One being, you can't plan life. Everyone will have opinions on how you should be living it. Everyone had opinions on how I should handle the divorce. Everyone has opinions on how I should parent Claire. Everyone has opinions on how I should handle grief, and everyone has opinions on how I should have/had/be handling newer, worse heartbreak.

But I cannot make everyone happy. I can make myself happy though. I can make myself excited for life every day. I can become fulfilled in more than someone else's happiness. And if I'm that kind of woman; a woman who is confident in herself, acts on her sense of adventure, and has the courage to use her emotions as strength, that's what Claire will learn. She'll be proud of her mom one day.

I get caught up in sentiment. A calendar date. A name. A note written on a napkin. A song. A symbol. I put meaning to inanimate objects or untouchables. It sticks with me.

November 16. July 17. March 5. December 17. January 19. March 17. February 5. April 12.

These dates give me whiplash.

Obviously, this isn't a trait that only I have, it's all part of being human. A smell, a touch, a photograph ... it can take someone back to the best, the worst and all kinds of memories. But I'd venture to say that I get a bit deeper. I can lock myself inside of it and never budge.

I love James Bay. He used to be on repeat. But now, I can't stomach his voice. It takes me right back. I'm sitting in my Jetta with Chaos and The Calm on repeat, driving to spin class and completely drowned in feelings that I couldn't pinpoint or explain yet. I was still crying in corners and under the covers. I wasn't okay. I was composed and that album was my safety. It helped me sort through the worst, the toughest and the saddest of thoughts and emotions. I prayed to never feel that way again not knowing that it would only get worse. And no matter how much I love James Bay, he's erased now. Because I can't stomach him.

But now, when I hear Garth Brooks, I get weak. I get weak because the last time I saw my brother alive was at his concert. And they played his song at his funeral. And I spent the weeks following his passing listening to his greatest hits CD on replay trying to forgive myself for not doing something else for Nick. 

And that trickles over to a lot of other things as well. I don't want to be stuck on anything or anyone anymore. I'm heading out to Chicago this week to start a summer full of adventure and a clean slate. It includes sentiments that don't matter because they pull me down. It includes bad thoughts about myself. That clean slate includes men too. Relationship jumping isn't healthy. And although the man I thought I loved started anew before I told him to pack his things, at least I know who I am. I know what I want. I know how to get it. And I'm not scared of it.

I love being a sentimental person. It speaks a lot about what's important to me and, even more importantly, who is important to me. But I'm not going to let the bad feelings drown me or have me lying on my back anymore like those beetles that come out in the spring. I don't want anyone looking at me while my arms and legs are trying to hold steady. I welcome them to look at me with a magnifying glass though. I welcome everyone to see the imperfections. I welcome everyone to see the mess ups and the screw-ups and bedroom transgressions. Because all of that is real.
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Monday, May 21, 2018

He's Back

I surprised him. It was around eight in the morning. He was bright-eyed and I was still a little glossy. He thrives in the morning and I can't coherently do much until around noon. He was running errands and I came up behind him. 

"Haven't seen you in a while," I whispered in his ear. 

I felt the stubble on his face. I was on the very tip of my toes and could barely reach high enough to cover his blue eyes but I felt his cheeks move. He was smiling. And when he finally turned around I realized how genuine that smile was. 
 ... 

I wanted to grab a drink before we took the drive home. He waited for me outside and I got a lemonade because I knew it was his favorite. He just sat there and stared while I stood in line. 

I had only kissed him once since the new year rolled in. I skipped out the doors and started pulling him by the waist of his pants toward me. I startled him a bit and he laughed. 

He was trying to grow out a beard and he was a little sloppy. Nevertheless, I was still incredibly attracted to him. And he was still hiding his sweetness. He was years younger than I but he tried desperately to act older, wiser, and more nonchalant than his maturity level spoke for him. But I didn't care. He was fun. And I respected the fact that I scared him. What I respected more was the fact that he didn't run from the fear. 
 ... 

We were walking when a man across the street yelled in my direction. 

"Hey! Hey, sweetie," he continued. 

I didn't necessarily know that he was yelling at me but his voice made me uncomfortable so I didn't turn my head. 

"Hey! Meghan Trainor," he yelled again. 

That's when I knew it was for me. And that's when he grabbed my hand and tugged on me to go faster. 

I started laughing, "What's wrong?" 

"I don't like it," he replied. 

"Like what," I asked, "that wasn't a big deal. People say I look like her all of the time." 

He looked down at me and said, "You didn't see the way he was looking at you. I didn't like it." 

"Well, you don't really have any say in the matter. Whether you're still holding my hand or not, I'm not yours," I explained and pulled away from him. 

"You like reminding people of that," he scoffed and turned to walk away. 

 I could feel my cheeks redden, "No, I don't," I said while I scurried to catch up.
 ...

I loved the way his hand felt on my lower back. He'd guide me up the front porch steps or out the door with its steadiness. But sometimes it felt wrong because I knew we could never be anything more than these short moments. I was living for them though.

My head found its way onto his chest everytime the lights went out. The texts he would send me asking me to not ever fly alone again. But once he was indulged, just a bit, he'd turn it off. He'd go back to the games and not caring. I knew better though. I knew better from day one with him. It was all fun and games but there was some emotions sliding in from left field that I was uncovering at the same time that I was throwing dirt on the pile to cover it up. 

I couldn't have feelings for him. No matter how black his hair was or how blue his eyes were. No matter how tall he was or how peeking at that one tattoo of his brought me back to that first night together. No matter how much we liked to talk about our dreams and decipher their meanings. There was nothing about us that would ever fit. And I was completely okay with that. I accepted that when we first met. I just hadn't accepted the fact that I would eventually develop some sort of actual care for him.

 ...

I climbed into his lap and faced him. My legs wrapped around his back and my head rested on his shoulder. 

"Look at me you idiot," he said.

I popped my head up quickly, "Excuse me?"

My attitude spiked and I unlocked my legs to try and get up.

"Don't move," he demanded.

"Well, what's your problem," I asked.

He rolled his eyes, "Nothing Grace. Sometimes you just need to be called an idiot to keep yourself in check. You just aren't as observant with yourself as you are with other people."

I looked back at him confused all the while I felt his rough hands find their way up the back of my sweatshirt.

"No matter who I end up with, she will never have those eyes or that crease in her bottom lip and I will always want her to," he said.

My stomach dropped. There were so many ways I could deconstruct that sentence. There were so many different ways I could process it. Instead, I responded in the worst of ways.

"Yeah, they all say that about my eyes," I said as I took a turn rolling my own.

He was silent. I could tell he was mad.

"Grace," he began, "you ruin all moments. It's not even that you can ruin just one moment, you literally ruin every moment." 

I replied quickly, "I know." 

I felt the tears coming. And I was nauseated. And I really wanted to jump up from his lap and run into the bathroom and turn the lights off and hide in the tub. 

"I'm going to try this again," he continued, "No matter who I end up with. I'm going to end up with someone else because by the time I am able to settle down you will have found someone worthy of you and your daughter. I'm hoping you have another child by then. But no matter who it is, she won't ever have those eyes that every man that's kissed you loves so much. She won't have that sexy crease in her lower lip. I will want her to. I will think about you from time to time and I will wish she had those two things."

I sighed.

"Don't ruin it," he said.

So I just stared at him instead. I didn't know what to say because every thought that came to mind was incredibly inappropriate. 
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A Divorcee's Playlist




365 days separated two drastically different lives. In 365 days I had my heartbroken, I got divorced, I became a single mother, I got my first STD test, I began wearing jeans again, I started spin class and tried kickboxing, I kissed other men, I got more tattoos, I put together new furniture and chucked an old sofa out the front door, I went to therapy, I got a job in the city. There were 365 days between the day my husband walked out the door and the day I was sipping on hot tea at the Royal Palace Tea Room in Sydney, Australia. A lot can change in a year. 

Here's the soundtrack that got me through that change. Each song also happens to coincide with every chapter of the book. 
 “Don’t Panic” by Ellie

 “Better Man” by Little Big Town

 “Let It Go” by James Bay

 “What If” by Adam Friedman

 “Your Guardian Angel” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

 “Can I Be Him” by James Arthur

“I Could Not Ask For More” by Edwin McCain

 “Learning To Let Go” by Corey Crowder

 “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber

 “In Fire” by The Workday Release

  “Everywhere” by Fly by Midnight

  “Obsessed” by Emblem3

 “Bird Set Free” by Sia

 “Autumn Leaves” by Ed Sheeran

  “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

  “No Promises” by Cheat Codes ft. Demi Lovato

 "Future Looks Good” by OneRepublic

 “Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga

 “Cold” by Maroon 5

 “Best You Ever” by Michelle Branch

 “Wild Love” by Elle King

 “Follow You Down” by Matthew Mayfield

 “HAPPINESS” by NEEDTOBREATHE

 “Don’t Be A Fool” Shawn Mendes

 “Style” by Taylor Swift

 “Hold On” Chord Overstreet

 “Liability” by Lorde

 “Go” by Boys Like Girls 
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Chapter 22: Divorce Diets Work


Currently Listening To: “HAPPINESS” by NEEDTOBREATHE
March 2016 – September 2016
My vagina was taking a beating. But the guy in the corner I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Even in the midst of the pain radiating from my crotch and my concern about not being able to walk the next day, I kept glancing over to him mid sweat wipe. Where were the endorphins to get me through these last 15 minutes? Where was the cushioned seat I had read about on the Internet? This man in class though, if my pelvic region was on fire, how were his balls doing? I couldn’t get them out of my mind. Did he have any? Did he tuck them away somewhere? Was he wearing dude Spanx to keep them in a safe position? Maybe a cup? We were up and down so much on the bike that my downstairs was nearly rubbed raw that first session. There’s no way that this man wasn’t feeling it every time his testicles slapped the seat. I was worried. Would he be able to have children?
Once class was over and I had made it through, I asked the teacher, “So, what’s the secret?” 
She answered, “Just get through a few classes and you’ll get used to it.”
And she was right. Spin class, amidst the sweat, the perfect asses that would cycle away in front of me and my upchuck reflex that would come alive when I ate too close to starting time, became my solace. It became my safe place. It became my Zen. I loved it. I loved the drive downtown. I loved how much of a badass I felt like once I got back in my car after a 50-minute session. Admittedly, I also liked when I would bribe a friend to come along. More specifically, Maddison, who would go through Steak’N’Shake drive through with me ordering patty melts, sides of cheese for our fries, and turtle nut milkshakes afterwards. It was our reward. We’d eat in the car as to ensure that no one saw that my eyebrows had melted off. And we’d pour the crumbs from the fry bag right into our mouths without shame or onlookers. They were the best nights of that summer.  
I was already down about thirteen pounds. I was eating normally again. And being able to slide into a pair of jeans and wear them in public feeling confident after a solid three years of hiding them away in the closet felt incredible. I had been teetering on the lines of a size 14 since I got married but I was finally back to a size 12 and confident in it. I graduated high school about thirty pounds lighter but that’s also the size I wore when I threw my cap into the air and hit the road to Disney World. I’m not completely sure why women’s bodies are so weird. 
My hair had grown out too. The previous Thanksgiving, the last one I had shared with Norman, I had donated about ten inches to Locks of Love. He was creeped out by the chopped off ponytail I had brought home and sat on the bench in the dining room before packing it up to send off. I was getting it all back though. It had become so much more bouncy and wavy since pregnancy and I was embracing it. I could tell I looked better than I had since I was 16-years-old. I was making myself over from the inside out, top to bottom. I was healthy and I was regaining my confidence. 
I had a dream that I had gotten a few new tattoos too. I saw myself sketching them in a small notebook I kept in my pocket. So, I decided, since I hadn’t gotten one since I was 18 that it was time to do that too. I scouted out a few new places but it wasn’t until I ran into someone with an umbrella tattoo on his pinky finger that I felt like I had found the right person to do the job. 
Mom and I pulled up to the local coffee shop in our hometown. It’s nothing fancy, its name is literally “The Coffee Shop,” and they only have one giant-sized iced coffee you can order but it’s delicious. The young man at the drive-through window had a ton of ink. Sleeves and small pieces throughout his hands, but it was the umbrella that caught my mom’s eye. Although she isn’t a huge fan of talking to strangers, she struck up conversation with our new barista. He told us all about Flash City Tattoo in West Nashville and that’s the same day I made my appointment to get the first design I saw in my dream. 
I’m not sure if it’s the most popular thing to do, but I went to the tattoo parlor on a Monday morning with my 21-month old and my mom in tow. They sat in the waiting room while Claire looked through questionable magazines as I received a small tattoo under my left collarbone. It read, “clarity,” and ended with the “y” cascading into an umbrella. If there was one thing I learned throughout all the mess, it was that I always had the power of clarity. I couldn’t let the denial muddy it. All you need is an umbrella to help you see through the rain, and Claire was mine. She helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 
I was trying really hard not to become bitter. I didn’t want to be bitter about love or relationships and I surely didn’t want to end up becoming bitter about marriage. Inevitably, I still wanted that. I still wanted a completed family. I wanted more children too. I wanted it for Claire even more. So, when I decided to apply for a job at Arzelle’s, a bridal store downtown, the irony completely surpassed me. 
Waiting for the divorce to become finalized was daunting. I didn’t feel free. I felt like I needed to walk on eggshells. I was afraid of flipping a switch with Norman, causing him to plot some type of revenge plan by making the legal process harder than it needed to be. So, I tried to think of ways to get my mind off of things. Since I work from home, I felt even more stifled. I needed to breathe outside of the walls that I shared with him. That’s why I decided to apply to Arzelle’s. I had been writing about weddings and wedding gowns for years. I always toyed with the idea of one day having my own bridal store, so I thought, “Why not spend some time learning the business?”
I didn’t go about it in the most professional of ways. Instead, I was completely honest and upfront. I e-mailed the owner:
Hi there!
I'm just popping in to see if you have any job opportunities happening at Arzelle's. 
Since I graduated college in 2011, I've been a full-time freelance writer - mostly in the fashion realms and particularly the wedding genre. One nook that I never had the opportunity to experience was working at a bridal boutique, interacting with brides and just being around something I enjoy so much.
And I'll be completely honest; right now I'm going through a divorce (one I was blindsided with no less) and have become a single mom overnight. I'm not looking for a full-time job, as I'm still writing my days away. Instead, I was looking for a new and fun opportunity and an experience I would love to have, shake up my routine a bit, get out of my head, the whole shebang!
I remember coming in to Arzelle's and shopping for my own gown several years ago - now a bittersweet memory - and I loved the experience there so much I even sent in an e-mail praising the day, although I didn't even purchase my gown there. 
Although this may be a shot in the dark, I didn't see that you were hiring or anything like that, I thought I would shoot you an e-mail either way. Even if it was just a 1-2x a week opportunity, I'd love to dive in!
My resume is attached.
Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
She called me in for an interview a month later and I landed a position. It wasn’t until I was at counseling with Charlie did I recognize how ironic the situation was. 
“You’re getting a divorce so you decided to get a job as a bridal consultant,” he asked.
“Well, I didn’t want to be bitter,” I explained. 
He told me that he was really proud of me. And for some reason, when a therapist says they're really proud of you, it feels different. This was around the same time I started going to spin classes and tried a round of kickboxing at a local gym. I was proud of myself for beginning to feel better, especially because I was also working really hard on trying to find the humor throughout my days again. Life isn’t as bad when you can laugh and, sometimes, real life is far funnier than situations that you could make up in your head.
For example, a few months after I started working at Arzelle’s, I was chatting with Drew. She was a young, scatter-brained sweetheart that I quickly fell in love with. It’s like she was the little sister I always needed to have around and I was her older sister, showing her the ropes and giving her advice she’d never take but always wanted. We were headed into the fall and my feet from my new black booties were aching so I sat on the bench and grabbed the iPad to check the e-mails rolling in. I went through some sales pitches and jotted down new appointments when I recognized one of the names in the inbox. “Rose Casey: Job Inquiry,” it read. 
I started laughing. Imagine my surprise when I saw the name of one of the girls my husband cheated on me with show up at my work. I hated to think that I’d run into her again. She may not have realized how her actions helped to perpetuate the ending of a marriage. As such a young girl, she may not have realized that being picked up from your parents’ house by your boss was terribly inappropriate and unprofessional. She may have never realized that when she was hanging out with my husband I was at home caring for a baby cutting four teeth. She may not have realized that he planned to marry me within the first month of dating. She may not have realized that he planned to have a baby with me either. She may not have realized that I put off getting my master’s degree, the master’s degree I could have gotten from Johns Hopkins University to do it. I was accepted there without having to the take the GRE because my GPA was so high, higher than her's I noticed from her resume. I read her e-mail silently correcting its grammar and hoping she had one hell of a summer with my husband. While she played kickball with him at night and went out drinking for Irish-fest, I was at home, taking care of the baby we so carefully created together. Claire had RSV that night. I wanted him to bring her Pedialyte but he chose her instead.
“Sure, come work with me,” I thought, “We’ve already shared so much.”
The same week in autumn that Rose reared her ugly head again, I had another Tinder debacle. He was tall with a bald head and a scruffy beard. I saw that he worked at Vanderbilt as a nurse. He looked semi-nice, so I decided to swipe right. We instantly matched. And then he instantly messaged. I messaged back a total of three times before I figured out that I wasn’t interested. Then I deleted Tinder altogether. Later that evening a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of Norman’s new and “secret” Facebook. We noticed that he had been tagged in a post by someone we had never heard of. We clicked on the name and quickly realized that it was the latest Tinder guy, who had been hanging out with Norman the night before downtown at 2AM. I nearly vomited. 
The poor guy had no clue that he was hitting on his new buddy’s ex-wife. The adorable little girl in my photos, the one that he commented on and said how much she looked like me, that’s his daughter! I never once thought that it was all a set-up. Norman didn’t have anything to gain from that. Instead, the scenario just proved to me that he was acting as though we never existed. I did learn that his new buddies had really great taste in women though, so there’s that.  
           All of those funny scenarios gave me another little boost of confidence though. I was realizing that the divorce diet was actually working for me. It was a shame that I had to have something so horrible happen to my family for me to feel so much better about myself. I was knocked completely to the floor and was able to build myself back up again, whichever way I felt like fit best.
I discovered James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm album during this time too. The irony of it is that I knew most of the songs from riding in the car with Norman. He probably was already planning on going to the show at the Ryman. I hoped I would run into him there. Because I knew the day he ran into me he’d remember. The day that we would spot each other from across the room, his knees would go weak, and his stomach would drop and he’d remember. I’d be with my friends feeling a bit more carefree than I’d had been in years, dressed like the girl he fell in love with when she was 17, and he’d remember how much he loved her. But it would be too late for him. Because I never forgot about the boy I fell in love with when he was just 19-years old with a crooked smile. Most importantly, I didn’t love the man he became a decade later.
When he did finally remember though, I’d be ready to date again. It may be weeks after the divorce is stamped and final. It may be months. But I know that when it’s time to make out that dating profile – we all have them – it’ll read:
I refuse to date those of you who wear scarfs or ankle pants. It’s still to be confirmed as to whether or not my ex-husband is gay. And I’m not taking any chances this time around.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Blue Eyes Always Take Hold of Me

"They'll have to live with the trail of evidence for the rest of their relationship," Brad said.

I nodded.

"Seriously though, no matter when they 'come out of hiding' or go public, everyone around them will know what the actual story is. Parents will question it. Hell, the head coach should question it. I'm into gross things," he smirked, "but there are just a lot of lines that were crossed here."

I nodded some more.

"He went to church with her, and the next day came to talk to your mom about marrying you, that's insane to me," he continued to shake his head, "and this chick knew about you the entire time."  

He paused for a moment and then asked, "What happens when they break up?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Exactly, he'll run," he continued.

I replied, "That's what Ian said."

"I don't know who that is but he's right. It's shady as shit. It's bizarre that he's already around someone else's kids. These two people aren't right in the head, and you need to be thankful you got out of it before there was a ring on your finger. And look, I'm on your couch so perk up," he smirked again.

"Oh, I'm perked," I laughed. 

He grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me toward him, "Then act like it."

This time we weren't standing up near my front door or behind his sofa. This time I sank into the couch and felt the weight of him on top of me, finally. I gave in to his sly smile and broad chest. I'm always taken back by his height, always comparing him to another. The freckles across his cheeks and nose don't take away from his handsomeness. He's older now. And his earthy musk mixed with leftover cologne, he smelled like a man. There was no hint of beer to his taste this time either.

His favorite thing to do is to trace my tattoos. He lifted my shirt up and took in a full view of my newest addition. 

"So, you're getting another one Thursday," he asked.

I nodded as Brad kissed the spot on my ribs that I used as a placeholder for new pieces of art. His mouth eventually trailed back up alongside my neck and found its place on my own. 

I really was okay. The history behind my ex that was uncovered had been making me physically sick. Knowing that he had been with multiple women within one year's time and never single, each relationship flowing right into the next, made me nauseous - but also extremely grateful that I made him get an STI test before anything ever went down between the two of us. Breaking up with his pregnant girlfriend to begin a relationship with someone nearly ten years his junior, made me want to rip off my own skin and replace it with something, anything, he had never touched before. When I was told that his signal for finding a new girlfriend was that he'd go into his room at his parents' house, and sift through yearbook pictures, I was slightly scared, concerned, and I could feel the regurgitation in my throat.

I was still in the process of separating who he actually was into who he pretended to be with us. I was still coming to the realization that this person I loved was just a phony. But I was okay because I had decided that I didn't want someone who "acted right" just for me. I wanted someone that was a good man, through and through. Love can change someone for the better but I wanted him to walk into my life with the type of character that God was already proud of. I was tired of being someone's "fix it." I wanted an equal. 

Those thoughts faded away within the night though. With Brad's hard hands up the back of my shirt and the slight danger that someone wouldn't be happy to know what I was doing, I forgot it all in the midst of his warm lips and slight stubble. He has blue eyes too. And it never fails, blue eyes always take hold of me.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

I'm A Keep It Together-Er


"Love Your Bungee Cord"

Bungee cords. They keep things together. And I just made the connection.

My dad used to give me pet names. 

"Goodnight doo," he'd say.

Or he'd welcome the day with a, "Good morning baby." 

"Hey knuckle sandwich," would fly out of his mouth when I turned the corner from the kitchen.

"Whatcha doin' bungee cord," was his most frequented and silly phrase. He always circled back to "bungee cord," and it never made any sense to me. I'd just giggle. 

I had a bookmark engraved for him years ago, and Mom found it for me. And it clicked.

He used to tell me that I kept things together around the house. And later, when I was older, he'd sneak in ways to tell me how thankful he was for me - for just being me. He told me that for the last time in late February.

"Thanks baby," his text read.

"Why daddy," I asked. 

"Just being you. Keeping things together for everyone." 

That's what bungee cords do. We keep things together. But I am struggling. I'm struggling so much, and I'm having a very hard time keeping it all together. 

An hour long phone call with the third mark of my hurt right now even told me, "You don't have to keep it all together all of the time, Grace." 

Dad isn't coming home. Nick isn't coming home. This isn't just a temporary situation we have to deal with. It's a life change. It's three big, hurtful events. It's three traumatic experiences all tied together with a string that I cannot begin to unravel. And every time I think about the feelings associated with the loss of my family I find myself thinking about my ex, the one who told me that we'd get through it, together, because he was never going anywhere. 

When I think of the permanence. When I think about how two of my three people can't even come back. When I think about how the third had a choice whether to leave or not. I want to pick up the phone and understand. But I won't understand because I've been reduced to nothing. It's not a safe place to emote anymore.

Rationally, I know that's not the case, well, the nothing part at least. But I bet there are so many women and men out there that understand that hurt. And that hurt was taken a step further because it wasn't, "Oh hey I woke up today and decided that our life together means nothing to me, so I'm out."

It was more like, "I loved you yesterday but joke is on you, I'm going to go play this game in another house with another family instead." 

And that's the circle.

My brother died. And I feel guilty about a lot of the circumstances surrounding that situation. Then I pushed that grief aside while we tried to get Dad better. But then Daddy passed away and before I could blink, BOOM, "our boy," as Claire so tenderly refers to him, disappeared. That's the cycle in my head. 

Loss forever. Loss forever. Loss because we are nothing.

It's not a sensible situation where rational thinking outweighs the irrational feelings or hurt. It's layers upon layers of feeling as though pieces of me have completely broken apart. And I cannot completely break apart, I'm a bungee cord, and I need to keep it together. 

Speaking with him yesterday was both comforting and excruciating. Because I do not know what is real. I cannot adequately describe to him the pain or the feelings. And he doesn't want to hear my anger. 

"I had no intention of ever doing this to you," he said. 

I didn't ask the simplest question though because I knew that he didn't have an answer. I didn't ask, "Why?" 

And if he gave one it would somehow include fear, responsibility, commitment, or the so frequently used, "I'm not good enough for you," excuse. 

That's what they are, they're just excuses for ruining a good thing, for all three of us. They're just excuses for not being a man in a time that his girls desperately needed the security. They're just excuses for staying within the confines of mediocrity because a mortgage, a ring, a commitment without the option of looking elsewhere was about to take precedence over his life. I know this all to be true. I know that's the reality behind it. But, it doesn't take away the feeling of being nothing.

But then I see that bookmark and I'm reminded that I'm a "keep it together-er." I've got to keep it together even when I want to just completely fall apart. Even though Dad called me his, I really think he was mine. 

Which brings me to my next point, which I've spoken about before (in 2016) but it's still incredibly relevant today and, I've updated it just a little with the italicized makers:

I am tired of being too much but I don't ever want to be not enough. 

Will I always be the one in the room that is "too much," of something? 

I don't want to be the harder choice but when comparing apples to oranges I feel like I've been the one that you have to trench through the Alps for instead of just heading into the backyard and snatching the fruit from the tree. But who wants something so easy? I guess a lot of people do. 

One of my best friends sat in my office with me two nights ago. She just sat and she listened and she cried and what she told me in the end made so much sense but then made none to me at all because I don't experience myself as someone else. I'm just ... "Grace." 

She said, "You have a way of making those around you want to be better. And sometimes that is too much for people. Those people are selfish though, they'd rather be comfortable than better."

"But I never asked for anything this time. I was happy," I answered.

She continued, "You don't have to ask for it. It's innately in you. You have a way of making those around you want to be better. And that's a great thing. He didn't, he couldn't, be better, and he knows that." 

I think too much. I know too much. I share too much. I'm too loud. I'm too intimidating. I expect too much. 

None of that is true, yet all of it is. 

I do think too much. I overanalyze situations and they set up shop in my head until the issues are resolved. I have a dreamer's mind so while I'm picking apart my current situation, I'm concocting new ones in my head. It's a magical way to live but it can be lonely and disappointing too.

I can know too much. I'm overly observant and smart enough to retain it all. It being a broad range. But this is something that I am proud of. I don't want to suppress my curiosity, intellect, or vocabulary to make someone more comfortable.

I obviously share too much. I trust quickly, so I get disappointed a lot. And I'm not one that has her guard up. Maybe I should learn to hold up a shield, but you'll know what's on my heart and mind. It will never be something you have to guess. It shouldn't scare you.

I do expect a lot but I don't think I've ever expected too much. I expect people to keep their word. I expect people to tell the truth. I expect people to dream and work towards their goals. I expect people to be kind to one another. I expect people to communicate. I expect people to remain loyal.

You may get too much with me. But no matter the type of relationship, you have all of me. You have loyalty. You have a faithful companion. You have someone that's proud of you. You have someone that supports you. You have someone that was too much for someone else when that someone else decided to settle for someone easier. And who wants easier? Easier isn't happier or better, it just takes less effort. I'll be sticking with those that want to give me that.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Monday Revelations


I had a genuinely bad Monday. Hours I spent in my little nook at Starbucks with a continuous stream of tears rolling down my face. Alice didn't want to watch me cry, but she did anyway. The tears weren't over a man who isn't a man but many layers of my life. And hours after I left the shop with my hair and bag smelling like coffee, I could feel my eyes still puffy and at the slight mention of any of their names, I was a goner. 

My biggest revelation from the past two days? 

I would feel better if my Dad were here. 

His advice, his safety, just the comfort of knowing that one piece of my foundation wasn't missing would really help me push through the turmoil and the pain that I'm currently experiencing. And that pain is over everything and everyone, not just one man who did me and Claire wrong and, "hey, Grace, get over it," is what they're cackling about in their hideaway home. It's all of it, together, all at once. Do you understand? 

I keep being told that I'm "strong," or "you're tough as nails," but I don't feel that way at all. Okay, so I have some guts to post and write the things I do. I have enough self-worth to expect what I deserve, and I have enough confidence to speak the truth whether it's within the tapping of my keyboard or, to someone's face. But, I feel wilted. I don't feel like "Grace," at all. And I'm tired of not feeling like that woman we all know - some of us love, a few of us loathe, a lot of us don't understand, and a couple of us are scared of. 

Last night I went to dinner with Ian and Jennifer. I was holding Claire as I walked to the table and that's when I spotted the two boys. Immediately, I felt that nauseating pit in my stomach, and I tried holding back the tears.

"Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry," I told myself as I walked over. 

"Where's Dyck," one of the boys asked. 

I just looked at him trying to think of what to say through everything that was bubbling up inside of me.

"Oh, don't you know," is what I managed to counter.

They both looked confused, nearly worried.

So, I told them the truth. We weren't together anymore and their look of "why," had me spill it. The why and the who else shortly followed.

Shock and disappointment painted their face, and I wanted to crawl under the table and disappear. Knowing that the new job and relationship were all mixed together didn't sit right with them, and that says something, they're only teenagers. 

I left their table for mine and felt sick. I didn't feel like I handled the situation appropriately. I was overly-sensitive and couldn't think straight before the words came out. So, I went back and apologized. 

"I am so sorry for just dumping that on you two. Like hey, actually your coach is an ass so," I began.

"Do not feel bad at all, seriously," one of the boys started.

The other continued, "I would have said it way worse." 

I felt terrible hours after and planned to reach out to make sure to give a more clear-headed apology. But instead they reached out first with a message on Instagram.

I got home that evening with a sweet note tied to my doorknob. It simply stated that they were there if  me or Claire needed anything, we were in God's hands, and they were sorry that the situation had ever happened. And then the knock at the door came. I opened it to find the two of them standing there with flowers and cookies. The sweetest of gestures, making me proud of my hometown all over again. It's really sad when teenage boys are apologizing on behalf of a 30+ year old man for his actions. 

Claire tried to flirt with them for the few minutes they were inside. We talked a bit about the situation and the one comment that stood out to me was:

"You came along and we all were like, he's about to get married!"

"Yeah," I said, "I think everyone thought that. Everyone kept telling me that he was so different with us." 

"Well yeah, he was," he replied, "didn't y'all just go to Disney?" 

I feel guilty for their realization and their disappointment, but never bad for the truth being told. Obviously, I could have handled it with them better from the very beginning. But I also feel like it happened for a reason, another reminder that outsiders saw what the close circle, and I, all felt. It was a completely perplexing blindside. 


What I forgot to mention to them was how I found out about the other woman, because a teammate's father had spotted them together at church - the Sunday before Easter. The same Sunday he sent that "heartfelt" text message to my mom about loving and missing us. The same Sunday that came before the Monday when he came to talk with my mom, for hours, about marrying me, and how much he loved us and our future together. So, when his story is that he was broken up with me by that time, it isn't true. Because we were still very much together, his things were still very much at my house, and the "I love you's" were still spilling out of his mouth like hot butter. 

Want to know another revelation I've had?

I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with someone that I felt like I needed to keep a tight leash on from day one. I wouldn't want to question every word, every action, or feel the need to go through his phone at night or in the morning. I wouldn't want the anxiety of wanting to know who he talked to that day or played around with on Twitter. I've felt those things inside of a marriage before and it tore me up mentally and physically. I wouldn't want to be the one on the leash either because one day, I'm going to want to break free.
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Monday, April 23, 2018

Everyone

I remember thinking, "I get myself into the weirdest situations," before I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around and was greeted by a very tall man with a broad chest and blue eyes. Normally, he'd have blonde hair but it was buzzed, probably for his job. An army paramedic with a silly, romantic sense of humor, I was instantly entranced.

We spent a good amount of time talking about death that evening. He had seen a lot of it but I had only seen a small dose in comparison, the difference was that it was two people that I loved. To which, he had a hard time comprehending, the death of someone he cares about.

"Do you want to know what the saddest sound in the world is," I asked.

I could feel the tears sting the sides of my eyes. It sounded incredibly pathetic, but it was true, what I was telling him.

He nodded.

"The echoes from your own cries. The ceilings are pretty high in my house so if I ever have a breakdown, late at night, alone, they fill the space," I explained.

"And what were you crying over," he asked me.

"Everyone," I answered.

He grabbed the back of my neck, tenderly, and gave it a light squeeze, "I would too. What you've experienced is fucking brutal. But the fact that you will always relate your family's deaths with him, that's just human. That's not your fault. It's harder to detach from all of it because you feel like you're going to be detaching from your brother and Dad. I'm not sure he realizes that, but it's obvious he realizes that he is only as good as he will ever be. And you've already surpassed him."

"I know," I replied, "I rationally know all of that. I don't even want someone like that within my life, or my circle. It's not that I want to reverse anymore. It's that I want to forget, and I never will. He will always be the one that was there when Nick and Dad died. I could never fathom someone doing what he did. And that's the replay I have. It's not getting over him. It's getting over what he's done and the fact that he does not care."

He stopped me, "People do what he did all of the time because people are shitty and selfish. But the timing, it was cruel and deliberate. He hit you at your lowest when you were completely out of control of your emotions and knew you were suffering. That's cold and he probably gets some type of disgusting thrill out of it. He needs help, Grace."

"You are a stranger and you've figured it all out," I stated.

He laughed at me, "Just because I'm a stranger doesn't mean I'm an idiot or I don't care about you. That's my job, to care, to save lives. But we're all human."
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Friday, April 13, 2018

I Love You, Just Kidding


July 15, 2017 

Unbelievable to think

Maybe I’m truly happy

Beneath all the broken rubble

Right in front of me

Everything is taking shape

Listening to her words intently

Learning everything I can

About the woman under the umbrella
- written by him

 ....

During sex, he whispered in my ear, “Could you make love to just me for the rest of your life?”


I nodded, breathlessly. The question caught me off guard but not in the usual way that I would respond which included nausea. Instead, it was a clear answer, “Yes, absolutely, that’s what I want.” 

…. 

We were up really late one night laying on the floor of my living room. The only light in the entire house was the glow from the television. My head was on his chest, and I was rubbing the side of his face where his stubble was settling in. He grew out his beard and shaved his little soul patch because he knew how much I liked the look on him. 

I wonder now if he’ll shave it all. 

“I’ve never,” he began but paused. 

I could tell it was important and he was trying to choose his words wisely. He often did that. When it was a big deal he would pause every two or three words to make sure he was conveying what he actually felt. But maybe that was where he was so good at his games, he knew how to tug at my heart strings and act accordingly. 

“Yes,” I replied. 

Tears were forming in his eyes as he started, “I’ve never really been proud of who I’ve been with. But with you, I want everyone to know.” 

“Is that why Ian called you when you changed your relationship status,” I asked. 

He laughed, “Yeah, I’ve never done that before.” 

…. 

The first time my heart was broken the hardest part was the paperwork. Claire was too young to realize what had happened and although I vividly remember sitting on the couch in the living room crying and saying, “I’m so sorry,” to the back of her head while she played, she didn’t realize that someone was missing. But this time, the questions are excruciating and I feel guilty. I thought I did everything the right way. 

I keep going through the timeline. I keep replaying all of the times that I made sure he knew where the door was. Every time a promise was made I would reiterate his words and say, “You realize what you’re saying right now is a really big deal.” 

He’d reply, “Yes, I’m 100% confident.” 

Despite what his new side piece tried to give me advice about. He was asking for all the responsibility and accolade, I did not "make him my husband before he made me his wife," he was jumping through hoops to get me to even entertain the thought of us being serious. 

He was so confident that he was telling me how confident he was in our future just two days before I found out that there was another woman involved, with children of her own. 

He pushed me. I was very clear from the beginning with a handful of things which included. 
  • My name is Grace Fleming. 
  • I am a mother. 
  • I write about my life.
  • I am independent.
  • I don’t need you.
  • Don’t fuck with me. 
  • There’s the door. 

He pushed me nonetheless. He pushed me into allowing him to move in. He sneakily stole the spare key from the basket one morning, and came back after work to find me and Claire still snuggled up in bed. 

“How did you get in,” I asked. 

He grinned, “I just grabbed the key.” 

I rolled my eyes and let him keep it. I knew he loved us and I knew he was just too shy to say anything yet. 
…. 

The first time we had sex we did it on the living room floor with a condom left over from my previous relationship. I didn’t find it gross, I mean, it was new and in the wrapper of course. But I did find it ironic and that, I enjoyed more than the sex. 

…. 

In December, my best friend received a text from him. Out of the blue he decided to tell her that he realized that he loved me. He wanted to marry me. They exchanged thoughts on rings through Instagram and I received wind of the realization a few weeks later. But like I said, I knew he did. I could feel it already, I didn’t need to push him to say it. 

…. 

I was kind of a hard ass. He would talk about the future and I’d say, “Well, yeah, if you’re still around,” and snicker. But he persisted. 

He’d tell everyone that he wasn’t going anywhere and that I’d be his wife one day. 

…. 

Then his talk of marriage turned more serious. Around Christmastime, I was complaining about my house. Too many bad memories were inside and I wanted to break out. 

Eventually he told me, “I want to be married and out of this house within the year.” 

“Oh okay,” I thought, “I better get on board with this or I’m going to miss the train.” 

…. 

February 5th came to call and he planned an elaborate “redo” of that terrible day of mine. Dinner with a gift card leftover from my marriage – I enjoyed the irony here too – and dessert at The Melting Pot. He was so excited he told one of his closest friends about his “scheme.” 

On the way home, he blurted out his first “I love you.” 

I giggled, “Well, where did that come from,” in return. 

I teased him a bit and then made him stop the car. I pulled him towards me and kissed him, “I love you too.” 

He had a sweet, surprise on his face. He didn’t expect the return. But I did love him. I loved his snaggle tooth and the fact that he’s insecure about it. I loved how he would tiptoe across the hardwood floor if he didn’t have socks on. I loved how he pouted his lips when he slept. I loved how his winks made him look like he may have Tourette’s syndrome. I loved that he loved to show us off. I loved how he would look me up and down like I was something new to see every day. I loved how he would tell me that I smelled delicious, or how his hands would sneak under my shirt and glide over my shoulders at night when he wanted a kiss. 

…. 

Valentine’s Day was another sweet surprise. Rose petals traveled from the living room back to both my own and Claire’s bedroom with treats for each of us – including wine train tickets for us to conquer in August. He fully expected a life together and he was planning for one, until he got a second look from someone new. 

…. 

The night before our relationship unraveled we had sex for the last time. Of course, I didn’t know it was the last time then, but it was different from any other toss in the sheets because of what he was doing. 

Spreading my legs and getting himself adjusted inside came with deep sighs and a growling, “I love you” in my ear. It was probably the quickest session we had ever had. 

…. 

There was no reason we should have been late to my own father’s funeral. There was no reason to give me a hard time about being emotional and anxious. But there was a reason, and he’s sitting at her house right now. 

He never got the chance to ask my dad for his blessing. That’s what he said he was waiting on too. He wanted Dad to get better. Instead, in the mix of this new life unfolding, Dad passed away. And a week after we buried him, he left for a basketball tournament and never came home. I waited up. I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if he’d been in an accident. And quite frankly, half of my family had literally died within two months, I was suppressing a panic attack thinking the worst. Instead, I was told the following morning that he had decided to sleep at work. And that’s where two weeks of a personal hell began. 

I hadn’t even started to grieve for my dad. I pushed that to the backburner as I began to scramble to salvage a beautiful relationship. One with stability, security, and what I was naïve enough to think was a solid foundation. I barely had any communication. There were a lot of things I needed in the wake of my dad’s death and it certainly wasn’t for my partner to become MIA. What I did receive was a story that included being overwhelmed from what had just happened to my family, a bad dream, fear of change, an unknown feeling, but, and I quote his words, “My feelings for you have never wavered. I love you and I love Claire. I want us and our future, no doubts. I am 100% confident.” 

He wanted to go seek some counseling. He wanted to “fix it and come home.” That’s what I continued being told. We gave him the benefit of the doubt but I had my suspicions. And, he came home after two days. I woke up with a text that included, “I need to see my girls,” and “These past few days have really opened up my eyes to how much I’ve missed y’all.” 

My thoughts were, “Well, thank goodness. Come home and we’ll figure this out together.” 

So he did. He came home. We fell asleep kissing as I was curled up next to him. And then he got up and got Claire ready for school the next morning, because that’s what she wanted. But when he shut the door to my car as we jetted off to school, that’s when he walked out of our lives for a second time. 

Throughout those days I wasn’t told where he was staying, I wasn’t told where he was or who he was with. The communication was cut and I was onto to something that smelled a lot like bullshit. 

When push comes to shove, the truth always comes out. And fortunately, it unraveled far quicker than I could have imagined. The Sunday before Easter, he was seen at church with who someone else had perceived as his “new girl.” Which was quite startling considering the text message he sent my mom that same morning, which read: 

I do love them, of course I don't want to lose them. That's all I've been doing is thinking about them. I can't stop thinking about them. I'm tearing up now typing this because they are always on my mind. Which I think is one of the reasons I've been "avoiding" because I'm upset and sad. And I know she is too obviously. I don't know how to fix it. I feel like the only way to fix it is to fix myself. I miss them like crazy I really do. They are the best thing to happen to me and I know I'm ruining it. And causing a bigger issue. 

Later in the evening on that same Sunday, he told me that he had to see me and Claire. He missed us so much and needed to come home. The next day he came up after work and talked to my mom for hours. She grilled him. She listened to him. And the outcome was, that he loved us and wanted to get back to normal. He was so far in his head and the fear of change, marriage, and growing up had become too much. 

But as he said, “there is no future without you and Claire,” and I loved him so I was going to help him through this rough patch. I’d take care of myself once my feet were steady again and he was home. 

We had a talk of our own after he finished up with my mom. He explained his visit with a counselor. He wanted to pounce on me and make sure that all of the body parts he loved of mine so much were still intact. 

“It’s all yours if you come home,” I reminded him. 

“I kiss you for 30 seconds and my peen gets hard, that’s ridiculous,” he giggled. 

He left to go tell his mom that we were on the right path, back on track, and stay the night with his parents from there on out. And that’s when I knew the lies were real. 

He never stayed with his parents. I learned about his church date on the Wednesday after it had happened – two days after our little rendezvous in the basement. 

He denied it. 

“We’re just friends. Her name is irrelevant,” he defended on the phone. 

I reiterated, “If it’s irrelevant and she’s just a friend then give me her name and prove it. And if you don’t get your ass up here I am going to sprinkle all of your shit on several lawns around town. It’ll be like a treasure hunt.” 

He was already in the car. He was telling me he loved me, and wanted to marry me while making the drive. But when push came to shove he couldn’t rummage the proof and I had to tell him to take his things. And that’s when the story changed. 

“Baby, I love you. But I just can’t do marriage. I know I want to marry you. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, you’re the best person I’ve ever met. I just can’t do marriage. I can’t do it ever,” he cried. 

“Okay well, I never asked you to. You put that pressure on yourself,” I rebutted. 

All the way out the door he was telling me he loved me, that everything in him feels as though Claire is his little girl, I’d always be his baby, and my favorite quote of the night, “There is no one else and never will be anyone else.” 

There was only a small flicker of doubt that I had when he left that night. Thankfully, my friends are great detectives. The process of elimination exposed her name and addresses are public record. And thankfully again, his car was at her house at the right time for me to find it on the evening of Easter Sunday. He told his mom he was going to a co-worker’s house to sleep the day away but his car was seen parked around back of his new girlfriend’s house. 

So what did I do? I told our friends and family in a way that exposed his true color. On Facebook I wrote:

PSA: I need a date to two weddings in May.

Book #2: Leave Your Jordans At The Door (especially if you're a cheater)

And that vague piece of information rocked my inbox for a week. People were reaching out to me that I hadn't spoken to before. His best friends were offering me their support. There were so many things I had been blind to or lied to about the past. But mostly, the consensus was clear: they all wished they had warned me in the beginning, but they really thought he had grown up and changed with us.

He called me the next morning. But calling to pacify me wasn’t going to work. And changing the story again to pacify himself wasn’t going to work either. The timeline is clear. The proof is real. And whatever version of the story that will be told to friends, family, or his new girlfriend can be burnt in an instant which are one of three: 

“Marriage was brought up and I started ring shopping and I got cold feet and left.” 

FALSE. I kicked you out when I found out you were a cheater. Also, marriage wasn’t “brought up.” You started talking about it. 

“I knew it wasn’t going to work but then her brother died and then her father died and I felt bad.” 

FALSE. You were head over heels for me, baby. So you probably shouldn’t have been so vocal of that throughout text messages, public conversations, and social media if you wanted people to believe that. 

“I basically talked myself into loving you.” 

FALSE. See the above proof for that one. But this is also my favorite, this is what I was told personally after blasting his true colors. Trying to hurt someone after they’ve been through multiple, impossible situations makes you cruel. Fact is, I was naïve enough not to ask more questions. I was naïve enough to let you use me like you’ve used others. And fact is, I realize that I was a novelty; a prize to you and Claire was your toy. But fact is, you picked the wrong one to do it to. 

Those are what he will tell family and friends. He won't speak of the new woman to any one else. Instead, she has become an irrelevant part of the story. Or is she? 

....

April 12, 2018 

"It's what I told you before, I outkicked my coverage with you," he said. 

"Then why can't you be like, damn, I'm a lucky son of a bitch and hold onto me," I asked. 

 He had tears in his eyes, "I'm undeserving."

"I haven't even deleted your photos off of my phone. I can't do it," he divulged. 

He then proceeded to explain that he felt it. He felt different and happy. He felt like he had become a better version of himself. But then, his old ways started to creep back in. He said he knew that I had the power to hurt him, so he ruined us instead.

"This was different though. Usually, in the past, the girl would do something that would trigger it, but you did nothing wrong," he continued. 

I walked away from the conversation in pain, I felt it in my chest and in my head. Because although he kept saying the problems came from him, the only thought rolling around my mind was, "I'm not good enough to stay, again."

....

April 13, 2018 

My hands were shaking but I didn't feel angry. I felt hurt. I felt like I was on the precipice of completely breaking, until I metaphorically gave myself a slap in the face.

"I am not stooping to this woman's level," I said on the phone to Alice.

I took the advice from some friends and reached out to the "other woman." I needed to get my closure in the form of facts. Was he really telling her all the mumbo jumbo he was telling me? Because, if that was the case, surely she wouldn't be so keen to allow him in her bed. She needed to know and so did I.

But she did not like the facts. She saw them as a threat, and I cannot be sorry for that. I am not sorry that she threw a temper tantrum providing her "truth" in a way that maybe made her feel better about the situation for the moment. To belittle me into feeling "less than," while he tells me and others that he actually didn't feel like he could ever measure up, I wasn't going to go that route and hurt her when she was clearly hurting as well. She can make fun of me and provide me with details of their "instant chemistry," which, unfortunately, was a line that was used in the beginning of our relationship as well. 

I'm confident he'll be able to spin his truths and sweet talk his way into her bed again. He's extremely good at that, although, he can't do it to any of us anymore. Maybe one day she'll wonder why his friends turned their back on him. 

But, I'm not only changing the locks this time, I'm changing the whole damn house. 


To her,
Do you know that it eats him alive to know that I've kissed someone else since him? Do you know that he checks on me throughout the days, curious as to what I'm doing? Do you do this a lot? Do you allow men into your home, into your bed, that came directly from another life with another woman? Do you know that he feels as though he wasn't good enough for me but he's good enough to climb into your bed at night? Do you know that he feels like this is the biggest mistake and regret of his life? Do you know that he isn't over me yet? Do you know that I tried to warn you? Do you know that I would have had your back if the tables were turned? Do you know that he's a liar? Do you know that if you had reached out to me in the beginning I would have respected that? Do you know that I would have never tried to purposefully hurt you more with words? Do you know that I am not mad? Do you know that I was just destroyed over the period of three months and you could have thrown me a bone? Do you know that your temper tantrum gave me the closure I needed? Do you know that when you did that I had the realization that he was right, he isn't good enough for me or my daughter? Do you know that he has a pattern? Do you know that you're a part of it? Do you know that he won't ever be able to give you a ring? Because that ring will always have been meant for me, a second runner up to the one that got away.
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