I don’t live there anymore.

Grass was always a little too long in Salt Creek. People worked too much and weekends were reserved for overtime, errands, and family activities. It wasn’t uncommon for yards to look overgrown in the summer or to hear the mowers going early in the morning. I woke up to the sound of grass being cut so many times in my youth. But the neighborhood was silent when we drove away yesterday. The sun was coming up, earlier than it does in Arkansas, and a light fog settled between the rows of houses. Those houses that featured in so many of my memories. Houses I’d walked pass, run through, laughed in, hid behind. Those houses that hold strangers now, families creating new lives and new memories.

I’m no longer a part of the neighborhood, just a visitor. Soon my parents will be gone as well and the life I lived will only exist in my memory. My time in that neighborhood seemed to last forever when I was young, but now it seems as though I only visited for a moment in my life.

As we drove away, I knew I was saying goodbye. I won’t be back to Salt Creek for a long time. We have no plans to visit Indiana again this year. My parents are trying to sell their home and move. Soon Salt Creek won’t have a home for me. I don’t live there any longer. The tears I cried leaving my parents’ home stung more than they had in the past. Our entire trip to Indiana was emotional for me. As we drove around to places I’d been a hundred times before, my memory failed me. Was it this road? Was that the turn? Hell, I missed the turn. Because I don’t live there anymore.

My certainty in being home again was washed away within hours. My place in Indiana was gone. The people I couldn’t live without were still living and so was I. The places I frequented still stood even though I hadn’t walked through the door in over a year. I watched the world I swore I couldn’t leave keep on spinning and I realized, I don’t live there anymore.

As we drove away, my heart ached. I missed home. I missed the comfort of knowing my place in the world, of being able to see and touch every place that held special memories. I missed not having to try, not having to work, not having to struggle to have a place in the world. I missed home in all its misery and glory. I cried for so many reasons. I cried because goodbyes kill me every time. I cried because I wanted to stay. I cried because I hadn’t cried during the wedding. I cried because I didn’t want to leave my mom. But, mostly, I cried because I didn’t live there anymore.

I will never not love Indiana. I will always consider it my home, my safe haven, my touchstone. Salt Creek, especially, will always be dear to me. But I think now I understand something… I think now I’ve accepted that I wasn’t meant to be there for the rest of my life. That doesn’t make it easier to leave and it really doesn’t make it easy to stay away. Nothing about being states away from you family is easy. Nothing about starting over is easy. Nothing about letting go is easy. But I have. Or, at the very least, I’m starting to.

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Home. 1987 or so.

 

three years

I talk about my first marriage if people ask, but typically I don’t share the worst details of it. It has been four years since I left my ex-husband and to this day I don’t think badly of him. He was (and is) a good person, but our marriage wasn’t good for me. And while there are numerous reasons for my divorce, the biggest reason will always be the emotional abuse I suffered at the hands of my ex-mother-in-law.

This morning, Facebook reminded me that it has been three years since my divorce hearing. That means it’s been three years since the last time I had any interaction with her. Three years is a long time. I’ve found my own identity in that time, fallen in love again, moved across the country and gotten married. In many ways, my life with that family is a distant memory and I rarely think about it. But, emotional abuse is tricky. When you least expect it, the trauma from your past rises up and you’re right back where you were years before.

It took a long time for me to admit to myself that I had been emotionally abused. I had no scars to show as a testament to my abuse. I wasn’t a weak person so there was no way this shrew could possibly have done anything to me. I wasn’t abused, I just had a shitty mother-in-law.

Except…

I was scared to answer my door for nearly two years and always checked the peephole first.
I avoided an entire city just to lessen the chance that I might run into her.
I agreed to divorce terms that were hardly fair just to settle my divorce faster.
I nearly threw up any time my ex would call or e-mail me, convinced that I would have to interact with her again.
I thought that I was a horrible wife and miserable person because she had said it for years.
I blamed myself for the demise of my marriage for a long time.
I wouldn’t leave my car if I was out somewhere and saw someone I thought might look like her.
I built up walls so thick and heavy that it took a very, very special person to breech them.

For the better part of a decade, a woman went out of her way to belittle, insult, demean and abuse me. Even now, even years after I escaped, I struggle with not writing “I let her abuse me.” Because when it is emotional abuse you feel as though you’ve allowed it to happen. That by staying in that marriage I was consenting to being treated in such a horrible way. I have been wary of my new in-laws, not because of who they are, but because I am convinced that at any moment they will pull me into a room and tell me at length why I am a bad wife and horrible person. I am certain that the lies will start up again and that I’ll be excluded from family functions all because of the words of one person.

For ten years that was my reality and it has taken everything I have to trust that I’m free.

People can be emotionally abused by friends, lovers and family members. It can happen to the strongest of us or the weakest. Unlike physical abuse, there are no outward signs that it’s happening. And it is so easy to write off emotional abusers as being bitches or assholes, but it’s more than that. Their treatment of their victims lives in the victim for years and those internal scars aren’t easy to heal.

I survived years of emotional abuse and that is why on this day every year I don’t remember my marriage ending. I remember the day I knew I was finally free from that woman and I remember the sensation of joy and unmistakable freedom I felt walking out of the courthouse and back to my car.

 

 

missing the nothing.

Big life changes have impacts on our lives. When I moved away from Indiana and set up a new life in Arkansas I knew it would mean being away from everything I knew, starting a new life as a mother and soon to be wife and being away from my family and friends. Even if I couldn’t plan for all the changes in my life I could brace for most of the changes. I told myself I knew they were coming and I could handle anything.

Then this week it occurred to me that I don’t know the next time I am going to hang out with my best friend and do nothing. One of the joys of having a best friend is being able to exist in the same space with nothing planned and being perfectly happy. Lazy weekends or weeknights where the highlight of your time together is having food delivered to your door. There is a level of intimacy that comes with doing nothing. Two people don’t have to worry about having conversations or keeping each other entertained. When you are able to do nothing together it is saying you’re able to accept another person completely. It is why I am only every lazy with the people I love the most.

My two best friends in the world leave 16 and 12 hours away from me. Traci and I are use to forgoing the nothing in favor of THINGS. We see each other so rarely that when we do get to spend time together it’s all about doing THINGS and going PLACES and TALKING and LAUGHING and by the end of our short trips we are tired, broke and sore. Still, we long for that nothing. We dream of the day we are close enough that we can sit on a sofa and binge watch Netflix until hours have passed and neither one of us have moved. We fantasize about not having to wear bras and being able to simply be together.

Robyn and I took our days of nothing for granted. I don’t think either of us ever expected to be apart. From the day we met we both knew that this was the sort of friendship that would last forever. And while that hasn’t changed, the way we spend our time together will never be the same. I don’t know the next time I will be with Robyn and not have other people around. I honestly don’t know if it will ever happen again. The friendship we had for nearly 5 years is irreversibly changed. Now we are family, even more so than we were before. Now I am the mother she visits on holidays and she is the daughter I see a few times a year. While that doesn’t change how much we love each other it does change the dynamic of our friendship in ways I hadn’t planned for.

I love the life I have now. It’s filled with laughter and joy and I am never home alone on a weekend wishing I wasn’t going to bed alone, but there are days where I long for that nothing again. I miss sitting on a sofa, cuddling with my best friend and not saying a word. Or maybe I just really miss my friends.

I will never know. 

I will never know what racism feels like. 

I will never know how it feels to be persecuted. 

I will never know what bias feels like. 

I am not a minority. I am a white middle class Christian woman. I do not fear being passed over for a job based on the color of my skin. I don’t think for a moment about not getting every opportunity out there. I do not fear being arrested. I have never worried about being killed simply for existing. 

As I sit here in my bed I am struggling to understand how so many people in this country must feel tonight. There are people who must be worrying that this could happen to them. And I know that I will never worry. That thought is keeping me awake. 

In this country we have a race problem. There is no point in denying it. The media can try to say the attack in Charleston was an attack against Christians. It wasn’t. The media can say this was one person with mental illness. It wasn’t. This attack was the result of a racist culture that is going unchecked and ignored. 

And as a white woman in this country I will never know. I can only strive to speak out against racism when I see it. I can hope that by trying to understand and continue the conversation I can help to affect change. Because while I will never know how it feels to be a victim of racism that does not mean I can ignore it. 

the day I became a parent.

Today I became a parent. I honestly and truly became a parent today and that means I should write about it. Because today is the day I want to remember. I want to look back and go… yes, yes I remember that day and I remember feeling that way.

Being a step-parent is a rough gig, but that’s a topic for another blog. Being a step-parent is one thing, but today I dropped the step portion of my title. I am a parent. And that means I get to be frustrated and angry and annoyed and tired and stressed and still somehow happy. Tonight was hard and I feel my head throbbing and my blood pressure up. I shouldn’t be happy after this. I should want OUT or at least a glass of wine and sushi, but instead I’m happy.

So, lemme explain what happened.

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In the happy, silly moments before the world descended into madness.

Tonight was Family Night at school. The kiddo wanted to go, so naturally, we went. And if you tell me that you actually enjoy going to a humid gym that smells like feet while shouting kids run around then you’re either a) lying or b) crazy. Scott and I didn’t want to go. Who wants to go to that hell? But, still, we went. We did the book exchange and made the paper crown and played a rhyming game and… well then all hell brook loose.

Kiddo decided she was too scared to play with the other kids. And that’s fine. I’m not frustrated because she’s scared. I’m frustrated because her fears are holding her back from doing things I know she’ll enjoy. Bravery and stepping outside of our comfort zones are something we are working on. (In other words, this isn’t about asking for advise, so don’t offer.)

Scott and I.. well, we had a talk with her. We talked about respecting your parents when they do fun things with you. We talked about not letting fears hold you back. We talked about communicating feelings and how we can’t help until we know what’s wrong. We talked and she cried and she laughed and she cried and by the end of it all I was certain of only a few things.

1. I sound like my mother.
2. Parenting is really fucking hard.
3. Holy shit, I’m helping to create a person.
4. I needed a drink.
5. I can’t imagine anything in life more fulfilling in the world.

When something frustrates you beyond measure and you want to pull your hair out and scream and take a drink and yet you still want to do it... then yup. You’re a parent.

I’m a parent.

Fuck.

Desperately Seeking Someone

When I was a little kid it was easy to make friends. If someone sat near you at school then odds were you’d become friends. But, now, as an adult, making friends seems impossible. If someone sits next to me I immediately want to scoot away and I assume they are a creep.

I have oodles and oodles of pocket friends. From IGGPPC to my old LJ friends and my other geeks scattered around the globe, I always have someone I can text and talk to. And I have a bunch of friends in Chicago and Indiana who, if I were back in Indiana, would be more than willing to go grab a cup of coffee with him or do some shopping.

But here? Nearly a month after moving here? Nope. No friends. And I realize that I have no idea how to make friends.

I’ve gone to a book club and the women there were lovely. I’ve struck up a conversation with a sweet woman at the store. I know that when I go back to school I’ll be interacting with more people. But right now, in this moment, I’m struggling. I’ve started a Meetup.com group for local geeks and have a meetup set for next month. Scott and I have a date night coming up and I cannot WAIT for that. I know that I’m doing everything I can to make friends and set up my life here, but, man, I wish it were easier.

Maybe I should take out a billboard.

THIRTY-SOMETHING GEEK GIRL LIBERAL SEEKING SAME FOR COFFEE, POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS, DOCTOR WHO VIEWING PARTIES AND A BIT OF SHOPPING.

I miss shopping. It’s such a silly thing to miss because I don’t really need anything right now, but, oh, I miss going to the stores and chatting as I look through the racks. I miss grabbing a bite of lunch. I miss having plans on the weekends.

I know. I know it’ll change soon. I know I’ll start meeting people and be so busy that I won’t be able to remember this point in time. But for now…

Anyone want to come visit?

two weeks later…

As of tomorrow morning it will have been two weeks since I uprooted my life from Valparaiso, Indiana and settled down in Alma, Arkansas. It was only two weeks ago, but it feels like months. I’ve already forgotten what cold weather feels like. I’ve already accepted that my car will never been clean. I reluctantly accept that I am the lone Libertarian in this county and I’ve even come to terms with knowing that I have to cross a county line if I want to buy a bottle of wine.

Those were all the easy bits to accept. The rest? Well, it’s a lot fucking harder.

It’s hard not seeing my best friend every day. I miss her. I traded a long distance relationship with Scott for one with Robyn and it hurts. She was (and still is) my rock for the last four and a half years. Having her 12 hours away feels like a part of my soul is missing.

I miss my mom. You never appreciate your mother until she isn’t around. I know there are people who don’t see their mother very often, but I didn’t think I’d become one of them. And I’m surprised at how easy it is to let days go without calling her. I get wrapped up in my family that it honestly slips my mind. Hold on. I’m going to call her now while I’m thinking of it. … And now I’m crying. Funny how all your emotions pour out once you talk to your mother.

I’m a stepmom now. I honestly never expected to be a mom. Having kids was one of the things I’d long ago erased from my life’s to-do list. And now I have this amazing little girl and I get to help raise her. She is funny and brave and stubborn and kind and helpful and smart and tiring all at once. I didn’t understand how you could love another person this much, but now I get it. And, to be honest? It scares me. I have a person to help take care of. It goes beyond getting her dressed and making sure she eats her vegetables. I am part of a parenting team and we all have a hand in helping this beautiful little girl grow up to become an amazing woman. I worry that I’m not going to be good enough. I worry that I’m being a friend and not a parent. I worry. A lot.

And for the first time in three years, I am living with a man again. It’s such an adjustment. For years I lived alone and my stuff and my mess were all mine to deal with. I didn’t have to share covers. I didn’t have to share my space. I find that I love having him close all the time, but it’s new for both of us and it’s easy to misstep at times. But, we’re good. I feel so safe and loved in this house and with Scott. He’s amazing and he is the calming voice in my current turmoil.

But even with Scott and The Kiddo, I feel lonely at times. I don’t have friends. I don’t have my family close. I am a stranger and I’ve never been a stranger before. I lived in Valpo for my entire life. No matter what day it was I could bump into someone I knew or go see an old friend. Now I am just meeting people and hoping to find a few that really get me. But I fear that won’t happen until I enroll in school.

So… yeah. There it is. Two weeks in and I’m utterly happy with sprinkles of loneliness and topped with worry. Hopefully it gets better soon.