Wednesday, April 21

Things I Loved About My Marriage

If you guys can't make it, is there hope for any of us?

To many, we were the perfect couple. We were always seen together, we talked openly about how much we loved the other, we always won the newlywed games because we knew each other so well, we were never caught fighting or rolling our eyes at each other or saying anything negative about one another, and we always sat next to each other, held hands or were touching each other in some way. News of the divorce was a shock to many.

There are many reasons why our marriage failed but there were also many things that we did well. I even told our marriage counselor the day before the Decision that I didn't feel like our marriage warranted a divorce. And I know had there been kids involved or any ounce of desire on his part to work on things, we'd most likely still be together. I know it was the best decision to split but looking back, there really was a lot that worked for us. I've discovered that you can learn from both the good and the bad, and so, as odd as it may sound, here's my list of things I loved about my marriage:

1. Communication

When there was a problem, we talked about it. When someone got hurt, we discussed what happened. We talked about what we needed from each other. We talked about insecurities and fears as well as hopes and dreams. If anything, it was that we talked too much about stuff and made bigger problems out of small ones but I'm focusing on the good so I won't go there.

2. Comforting

One night when I was particularly hurt over something and I just wanted to cry myself to sleep, he just sat there and held me. Then he started talking about all of our favorite memories together like our first date and how he ended up pantsless with me wiping his butt because he had sat in Cafe Rio dressing trying to stop the truck from rolling down the hill while we were stargazing in the back. I not only stopped crying but I started to laugh again. It was perfect.

3. Physical Touch
I had never been huge into touching people or showing affection--just wasn't part of my nature. I learned to love touching, hand holding, hugging, back scratching, spooning, cuddling, playing with hair, any kind of physical touch. It was touch that bound us together even during times when we may have been somewhat emotionally distant.

4. Expectations
My cousin Julie told us that we should start each day by asking one another, "What are your expectations for today?" I can't tell you what amazing things that one sentence does. There wasn't much opportunity to let each other down or be disappointed when expectations were clear and talked about.

5. Budget-Friendly Fun
We were committed to staying out of debt and knew that in order to do so we had to limit our entertainment spending. We spent one night writing down a ton of things we could do for under $5 and put them in a jar. Each night that we had to spend together we'd draw a slip of paper and do whatever it had written on it--from dying someone's hair to playing on the merry-go-round at the park to baking someone cookies and delivering them. I never knew how much fun nearly-free could be!

6. Agreeableness
Some say that fighting in a marriage is a good way to measure how much love is present, meaning that if two people fight, they do it because they love each other. Though fighting may be indicative of strong emotions, I don't agree with the unspoken implied statement that if there isn't fighting, there isn't much love. We hardly ever fought. There were just few things we disagreed on... okay and maybe it had a teeny bit to do with him being so agreeable and me having strong opinions but still, when we would disagree, we were able to talk it out without raising our voices and there was never any name-calling. It was refreshing to have so much peace in our home.

7. Romance
Boxes of notes, flowers, mixed CD's, cards, paintings, home-cooked dinners, opening doors for each other, decorating cars, homemade gifts, adventurous dates, surprise parties... it seemed like we were always trying to one-up each other when it came to demonstrations of love. It was exhilarating.

8. Gratitude

Every once in a while we'd be cuddling and one of us would start a thankful session where we'd take turns saying what we appreciated about the other person. We'd go back and forth usually until someone fell asleep. It was so easy to forget the bad when focusing on so much good.

9. Social Hub
We made our house a home and welcomed friends and family to visit often. I love our home and what we made it represent. I love that we were known as the social glue among our married friends and that everyone could count on having a good time at our place.

10. Togetherness
If one of us signed up to clean the church, we were both there... and neither of us had to talk the other into doing it either. We wanted to be with each other. I can only think of one time he did something without me--he went snowboarding and I didn't go simply because I didn't know how to snowboard and we didn't have the money at the time for me to learn. We really liked being with each other.

11. Support
We only talked to family or close friends about relationship problems when we were looking for an outside opinion on things. We never got involved in spouse-bashing. We hardly ever said anything negative about the other person and if we ever found ourselves having to take sides between us and family/friends, we'd always back each other first.

Postscript:
Upon talking to a friend about this post he commented, "I'm not sure if I feel bad for you having gone through what you did or jealous that you experienced something that I long for." It was humbling to hear it put that way because from both perspectives I feel so blessed and indeed have learned that without the darkness I would not have been able to appreciate the light.

Monday, April 19

High on Love

I haven't learned how to explain this well in a way people understand. They seem confused when I tell them that my divorce was one of the most spiritual experiences I've ever had. It was. I had countless, COUNTLESS tender mercies and miracles graciously given to me.

I think most of us are guilty from time to time questioning, "Why me?" when experiencing hardships but I didn't consider what I was going through hard at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite. And yet I still found myself questioning, why me? Why was my experience so seemingly easy when it seemed like so many other much better people suffer the consequences for so much longer? I felt guilty for feeling so happy. I was embarrassed to talk to people who I knew had had tougher experiences. I even went to our marriage counselor asking him what was wrong with me, why hadn't this process been harder, was there something I was missing? He told me that there are quite a few who feel similarly, like a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

For me it wasn't really like a weight had been lifted. It was more like a weight had been lifted and I had been shot up 10,000 feet into the air and now was walking on clouds. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is a divorce out there that can be called easy or consequence-less. There have been many painful moments and hard lessons to learn that I continue to experience because of the divorce. But during this time, I had never before felt closer to God or more secure in my relationship with him. I felt protected. I felt strengthened. I felt like he had picked me up off the downtrodden thorn-and-thistle-filled earth, cradled me in his arms and was holding me like a baby.

When life feels that good especially when you're expecting the complete opposite, it's hard not to expect things to quickly take a downturn. But I soon forced myself to stop anticipating the hard parts, the consequences that would certainly start to show face, and the grieving process to begin and to just freely receive all the blessings I was getting.

The lesson:
It hit me as I was brushing my teeth one morning. You would've laughed had you walked by my bathroom seeing my mouth full of toothpaste foam with a huge smile and tears streaming down my face.

Some time ago I had erroneously learned that love was something you needed to work for. Something as good as real love could not possibly come without a whole lotta effort. I had also learned that life was given to us to learn and grow and I found that the majority of my growth happened during difficult times. So I liked difficult times because I knew they would most likely make a better person out of me. But that morning brushing my teeth thinking about all the love I had felt over the previous 6 months, I realized that Heavenly Father was teaching me a couple more things:

1. Life is not only about learning but also about loving--both in the giving and receiving of it. I didn't need to constantly struggle in order to feel like I was living.

2. I didn't have to work for love. I didn't have to prove to be someone strong or smart or beautiful or exactly obedient in order to earn love. That this love I had been feeling wasn't a temporary benefit from being faithful or serving a mission or from any other spiritual achievement. This was His unconditional, LASTING love--free of charge. A love that existed before I could even walk or talk and a love that has always been there, waiting for me to accept it.

I know many people have given me unconditional love but until this point, I don't think I had ever learned to receive it as freely as it had been given to me. The lesson couldn't have come at a more perfect time as I stumbled wandering trying to regain my footing, needing to hold onto something steady like the absolute love from a perfect parent.

Wednesday, April 14

Part Two: Inspiration for the Place Between

Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
Helen Keller

We are extending our arms around you during this tough time as I know many arms are holding you up also. Know that we send all our love and our prayers for you that you will pull through this. Let your family and friends keep you busy and share their concern and love for you. You are a strong woman. You are a capable woman. But you are also a soft, tenderhearted woman who needs love in her life and I know in time you will find it again.
Candy

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do. He reveals to you who He is.
Oswald Chambers

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses... for when I am weak, then am I strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10

When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and we take a step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe one of two things will happen--there will be something solid to stand on, or we will be taught to fly.
Martin Edges

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."
Helen Keller

Thou art never at any time nearer to God than when under tribulation, which he permits for the purification and beautifying of the soul.
Molinos

As you wage your personal wars, part of the strength to 'hang in there' comes from some glimpse, however faint and fleeting, of what victory can be. If your eyes are always on your shoelaces, if all you can see is this disappointment or that dilemma, then it really is quite easy to throw in the towel and stop the fight. But what if it is the fight of your life? Or more precisely what is it is the fight for your life, and your eternal life at that? What if beyond this disappointment of that dilemma you really can see and hope for all the best and right things that God has to offer. Oh, it may be blurred a bit by the perspiration that keeps running river-like into your eyes; but faintly, dimly, and ever so far away you can see the object of it all. And you say it is worth it, you do want it, you will fight on. Like Coriantumr, you will lean upon your sword to rest a while, then rise to fight again.
Jeffrey R. Holland

Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you. Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.
Florida Scott Maxwell

Tuesday, April 13

Part One: Inspiration for The Place Between

I am a quote junkie. I don't know what it is about words but I've always been fond of them. The following are quotes and letters people sent me while I gathered strength, hope, and courage:

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore
From someone who has been there before, I probably know a little of what you're going through. And I know it literally feels like hell. I'm sure there have been lots of tears, and there will be more to come--believe me. At random times, too. BUT, it gets better. A lot better. It will take some time, but I think you'll find that once you reach a certain point, each day is better than the next and you'll emerge a new person. So hang in there.

Ryan
It's not so much that we're afraid to change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear. It's like being in between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to."

Marilyn Fergeson
Sorrows are our best educators. A person can see further through a tear than a telescope. If you train yourself to rejoice in suffering, if you think that everything is done by God for one's own betterment and uplift, if you welcome pain as a messenger of God to make you remember Him...then pain will not be pain anymore.

Sivanda

The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.

Abraham Lincoln

Ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in how own hands and prepared for you; and ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along... I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left... and mine angels shall be round about you, to bear you up... The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

Doctrine & Covenants 78:17-18, 84:88, 78:18

People who pray for miracles usually don't get miracles any more than children who pray for bicycles, good grades, or boyfriends get them as a result of praying. But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. They discover that they have more strength, more courage than they ever knew themselves to have.
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 12

Unplanning Life Update

So I just got back from a very unplanned trip and had the time of my life. It's Friday, 2pm, I'm at our Friday Lunch Bunch and a friend proposes the idea of waking up tomorrow morning in California. So I say, why not?

So we hit the road at 5pm and drive out to Sacramento and now I have a few more things to add to my list:

56. Gambled at every stop with a casino in Nevada along I-80 making an 8-hour trip a 10.5-hour trip.


57. Over-corrected, spun out, and hit the center guard rail head on going 65mph flipping my car around to face the opposite direction with 2 semis headed right toward me... and didn't die or total my car.


58. Went to Ghirardelli Square (how many times have I been to San Francisco and never been there??)


59. Ordered my very first meal with fish in it - supposedly the best clam chowder in San Francisco


60. Flipped a coin to see about getting married in Reno and being in love in Wendover - turns out I am in love, just not enough to get married.

61. SAW WICKED!!!!

Thursday, April 8

Unplanning Life

I used to plan my life. I can't tell you how many times the Big Guy has tried to teach me to stop spending so much time planning and start living. Side note - there are only two types of references to "plan" in all of the Good Books: God's plan and the evil, secret, cunning plans of really bad people. So what do we learn from that? Leave it to God to plan - he's better at it anyway.

So I decided this was my year to stop being so anal. I wasn't going to let an opportunity to make some memories pass me by. I wasn't going to worry about if I had money or time or if I really should stay home and clean my room or put away Christmas decorations - I've decided to leave that for April's spring cleaning.

Living my life this way led me to experience so many things I had never done and has contributed to one of the best years I've ever had. Here is a list of 55 firsts I had in the past year:
  1. Saw Broadway's The Lion King - thanks, Mom!
  2. Learned to Zumba - loved watching the men stop their weightlifting routines to stare at all the women swinging their hips and shaking their bon-bons
  3. Went to Moab
  4. Hiked to Delicate Arch - one of the most breathtaking sites I've ever seen
  5. Rafted down the Red River - took on a huge rock, the raft went up 90 degrees and flipped most of us off the raft
  6. Played Things, Bananagrams, and Sedarahc - and have never laughed harder (see Things game with the fam below)
    video
  7. Had some wild kissing adventures on roller coasters - no further details available for the public
  8. Went to a Kelly Clarkson concert - so fun to hear a whole crowd shouting my name
  9. Got a promotion - became a director
  10. Had my hope renewed and fell in love again - and again...
  11. Lost 30 pounds I'll never see again unless there's a baby involved
  12. Rode the Alpine Coaster, the Alpine Slide, and the Zipline in Park City
  13. Went to a Jazz game and got put on the Jumbotron
  14. Got internet on my phone - though I still wouldn't have it if I were paying for it
  15. Spent the night in Flaming Gorge - and went on the biggest dam tour in Utah
  16. Speed dated - and actually ended up with a good one!
  17. Went to a horse race at the gorgeous Del Mar fairgrounds
  18. Bet (and lost) on a horse race
  19. Danced at a Zombie prom
  20. Went to a Real game - almost convinced me to buy season tickets on the spot
  21. Saw Broadways' Legally Blonde - trying to hold back from going blonde again
  22. Rode a Harley
  23. Burnt myself on a Harley
  24. Played bocce ball on the beach at Coronado Island
  25. Watched my aunts and uncles on The King Family Show on TV - PBS, baby!
  26. Put on a Christmas fireside
  27. Learned to play Roulette
  28. Learned to play Craps and won $280 - secret is to press it and let it ride
  29. Lost $600 playing Craps - lesson learned: do not do what your "expert" teachers do
  30. Bought skis
  31. Learned to snowboard - and though I was called a "natural" by my instructor, I have quite a few bumps and bruises that may prove otherwise
  32. Said goodbye to Aunt Vonnie who taught me to live a colorful life and to be diligent in making important memories
  33. Participated in a TV show rating audience - be grateful that the show we reviewed will not air based on our ratings
  34. Sang karaoke at a bar
  35. Threw an Oscar party
  36. Visited Oregon
  37. Visited Washington - decided I need to travel more this year
  38. Went to a Bee's game
  39. Rode in a Hummer limo and a diesel-powered GMC limo
  40. Got glitter toes
  41. Saw Cirque du Soleil's Ka
  42. Went to Monster Jam - got put on the kiss cam
  43. Saw Reel Big Fish in St. George
  44. Went to Disney On Ice - well, the second half of it anyway
  45. Signed up to play on a soccer team and played my first soccer game
  46. Got an airbrush tan
  47. Got eyelash extensions
  48. Had some hair removed by laser - it's fine if you like feeling like rubber bands are snapping all over
  49. Canoed on Utah Lake
  50. Went to a piano bar and danced on a piano
  51. Shopped for an engagement ring - twice!
  52. Saw a film at the Sundance film festival
  53. Ate shrimp, lobster, and sushi - hated it all
  54. Got into hiphop - don't worry, I pay no attention to the lyrics
  55. Saw Michael Buble - and fell in love
And 10 more things I'd like to do before 30:
  1. Wakeboard - DONE! 6/14/10
  2. Go on a cruise - Scheduled to the Caribbean 1/16/11
  3. Go to Hawaii
  4. Get scuba certified and go scuba diving (in process...)
  5. See Wicked - DONE! 4/10/10
  6. Run a 5k in an organized race - 1/2 marathon in September
  7. Complete 90 days of P90x (done 12 days...)
  8. Join a book club (start on Monday!!)
  9. Go to Lake Powell - DONE! 5/30/10
  10. Go to Italy - though I'd settle for Colorado or Seattle until I save enough $ - Did Colorado and Seattle 5/10, 8/10
What have you done this year?

Monday, April 5

Thank You, Facebook

The absolute worst part of the whole transition was reinventing my social circle. I had spent the last three years developing awesome friendships with married folks. I don't have much family out here so they became my backbone. They were what helped my body get out of bed. They were so good at it in fact, I was ready to move out of Married-Single Limboland within a matter of weeks.

But where to begin? It was like being the new kid all over again. But this time, I felt more alone than ever. I was one of the last of my single friends to get married so there was hardly anyone I knew that I could call up and go to the movies or lunch or church with. Again, tons of offers from married friends but now our lives were so different. They began talking about their babies and husbands and I had nothing to add or talk about--I mean, besides standing in line at the Social Security Office to get my name changed, calling the bank to change accounts, packing up the rest of the stuff he left, taking down once-beautiful wedding pictures and throwing out old love letters and other mementos--stuff I'm sure woulda been GREAT conversation starters!

So, I spent a lot of those first few transition nights alone. Facebook became my best friend. It had open doors 24/7 and lots of people inside. And I didn't even have to feel alone because no one had to know that I was even there. I could handle sitting on my couch at home by myself but feeling alone in public is one of the worst things the human body can experience in my opinion.

Facebook let me say what I wanted to. It didn't have any expectations of me. It didn't need me to entertain it or carry on a conversation. I didn't have to smile when I saw it. It didn't need me to be interested in wanting to know about its life or what it did for a living or where it was from. Not that I was against doing that kind of stuff with real people it's just that that takes effort, energy, and COURAGE--things I wasn't sure I had back yet.

Facebook made me laugh at funny things people would say. I could comment or, requiring even less, "like" something someone would say and that was that. Not much energy or effort expended there yet it filled my need for laughter and to connect with something.

Facebook also let me stalk profiles of people my married friends wanted to set me up with--a whole new modern-day dating technique that I would soon learn is the norm in today's Singledom. It was the stepping stone to putting myself out there again. I learned how to flirt again through Facebook's chat. I reconnected with single friends and former crushes. I learned how to tell my story to strangers. I was able to stay updated and keep in touch with my married friends yet without having to feel so awkward about being with them as the 3rd, 5th, or 7th wheel.

As I slowly regained my social energy and began meeting people, I soon found myself adding some of the most awesome people I've ever met. People who make me laugh yet don't need me to entertain them. People who let me say what I want. People who only expect nothing more than for me to be willing to have a good time. People who want me around and who will also be there when I need a shoulder to cry on.

I admit, I probably don't need to use Facebook now as much as I actually do (understatement of the year) but it has certainly been there for me when I needed it.

Thank you, Facebook.

Friday, April 2

Stick-to-it-iveness

I hated fifth grade.

After earning high test scores, I was accepted into the Gifted and Talented Education program. In my little egocentric 9-year-old world, I felt like a million bucks--neither of my older brothers had been accepted or any of my friends. I felt special. I felt like being smart was my talent and now I had proof! I was certainly going to gain a lot from this experience even if it meant going to another school.

Not once was I worried about feeling stupid in a class full of super smart kids or feeling like a nerd at this new school knowing that the rest of the normal kids knew we were the "GATE Geeks." At recess watching hundreds of other children playing dodgeball and Chinese jumprope and four-square, I didn't realize how lonely not only being the new kid but the smart new kid would be. Not once did I think about missing my friends that I would leave at Crestmont Elementary. Or the amazing teachers I had loved so much. I didn't think about how lame it would be to NOT learn normal subjects like math, science, and reading, but to spend nearly all day every day learning about stupid spaceships and NASA.

I felt all those things.

I came home from school crying many days begging my parents to let me go back to Crestmont. I remember one day in particular crying on the stairs by the front door once again trying to negotiate with my mom. She held me and let me cry. She didn't try and stop my tears nor did she say silly things like, "It will get better" or, "It's not as hard as you think," or even, "Let's focus on the good stuff." She didn't offer to see what she could do about transferring schools or doing anything else I had wanted her to do. All I remember her saying as she held me is this: You committed to going to GATE so let's stick it out for this year. At the end of the year you can make the decision on whether to continue or go back to Crestmont.

I should've hated her for that, especially because waiting til the end of the school year for a fifth grader is like licking to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie pop. But her calming voice, her embrace, and her love comforted me for the moment. She did all she could the remainder of the year to help ease the pain I felt. She went on class field trips, she volunteered herself to create and head up a huge musical production that only our class performed for the rest of the school (which in turn made me one of the most popular girls in my class because, who wouldn't love my mom?), she sent me to school with love notes in my lunchbox and made 5th grade much more manageable.

I didn't recognize all the lessons I learned that year from her actions until 20 years later. It finally hit me in all its profoundness a few days after I made the decision to get a divorce. The messages I received from friends and family who had heard of my decision were echos of what my mom gave her 10-year old daughter that day on the stairway. Nobody took away from the pain I was feeling. No one tried to protect me from it, though many wished they could. But they made it much more manageable with their open arms and unconditional love. It was surprisingly reassuring to receive validation that this was going to be hard. Maybe because I knew what a great support system I had--that I knew I wouldn't be alone. People immediately stepped in with notes and plates of cookies and visits and phone calls and text messages. They listened and they let me cry. Many even cried with me.

It certainly is ironic that I would recall a lesson of learning stick-to-it-iveness at a time when I was ending something, moreover something sacred like a marriage. I had felt so guilty about even considering divorce that I tried to avoid all talk of it. I had a very spiritual experience a few days before I made the decision to get divorced wherein I learned that I indeed had given my marriage everything I had. There were a lot of times I came home crying not knowing what to do but because of the character my mom helped me develop, I stuck to it, trying everything I knew how to make it more manageable. But it was the end of the year and it was time for me to make a decision.

I am beyond grateful for the many lessons I have learned from both my marriage and my divorce. I am even more grateful for earthly parents who taught me the harder lessons--the ones that would require a lot more pain and suffering but would bring the most joy in the end.