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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A time to remember

I thought this year would be different. My house is decorated and I sent holiday cards. We baked cookies and I’m hosting a small Christmas Eve soiree at which I will wear a mistletoe headband. There were end-of-semester dinners, a work party, and walks down Christmas Tree Lane with cups of hot chocolate. We delivered a sack of Matchbox cars to UCSF Children’s Hospital and I have five weeks of vacation from graduate school.

I’m happy. I’m busy. I’m in love. Yet, my stomach twists and gurgles and the minutes are long in the darkness of my room each night.

Maybe it has something to do with this time of year. Maybe it has something to do with separate houses, split accounts, and legal matters. Maybe it has something to do with the words pre-cancerous cells and the subsequent surgery I had last month to remove them. It might have something to do with the pages of medical records I thumbed through and the details I unearthed this semester that will make my book fuller, but make my heart tighten. It might have something to with the interviews I conducted and then painstakingly transcribed that rehash months in the hospital and remind of an uncertain future.

In the dark of my room, I have also thought about my grandparents' house, the one I went to every Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas for 18 years when I lived in Lockport, NY. And I wonder if my brother thinks about it too. I have thought about my 90-year-old grandmother, a woman I passed in the hallway at her nursing home because I didn’t recognize her. I have thought about my parents and their divorce. I have thought about the dogs I don’t have, the house I don’t live in, the years and circumstances that unraveled my marriage, and the family I no longer exchange presents with (or get Christmas cards from).

I have thought about fear, communication, transparency, respect, trust, following through, and walking away.

Fortunately the nights are offset by the days when I see him smile and hear his laugh as he decorates gingerbread cookies. I watch him as he continues reading long after the timer beeps and his 15 minutes are up. I hang his drawings of taxis and trains and baseball fields on his bedroom walls and admire how much his art has changed. I listen as he proudly plays Deck the Halls on the piano and smile as he unconsciously sings I hear those J.I.N.G.L.E. B.E double L.S. I radiate as I tuck him and his brother into the bed that they share after they tell me that they love me.

I have also thought about the future, as I wonder how long I get to have this life. And I wonder what I’ll look back on when I’m old. I hope I find that writing the book was worthwhile. And I hope I find the baking and singing and piano-playing and laughter are prominently featured and not all that other stuff that keeps me up at night.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In case of emergency

There wasn’t anything unusual about the white form attached to a gray clipboard at the doctor’s office. It was all very standard, you see, nothing out of the ordinary.

There were questions about my family medical history. My medical history. The first day of my last menstrual period. There were lots of boxes to check, things to circle, a lifetime of illness to disclose since it was the first time I visited that particular office. Then I landed on a question that evoked a physical response. My stomach quivered, my vision clouded, and I needed a deep breath to steady myself even though I was seated.

A blank line needed the name and telephone number of my emergency contact.

Stumped was how I felt, even though it was a question I’d answered dozens of times in the past 15 years. A question that never evoked any kind of response, outside of a slight hesitation as I wondered the street address of FIC's office.

I dug through my purse for a tissue, but ended up using the sleeve of my favorite sweatshirt to dab away that feeling that left a salty residue between my nose and cheek. My eyes shot a glance around the mostly empty waiting room to see if anyone caught my emotional response to the black on white of medical paperwork.

I thought I’d gotten through all the tears. I thought the hard part was over. All those decision … You keep the bunk beds, but I want the 80-pound wooden frog we saved from the trash in Westboro, Massachusetts in 1996. You get Rogue Wave concerts and I get the silver reindeer with the antlers that hold tea candles – that holiday decoration I always joked our grandchildren would make fun of. You get Easter, I get Thanksgiving, and we’ll alternate Halloween and Christmas. But clearly, I hadn’t dealt with all of the ramifications and emotions of divorce.

Then I shook it off and realized it’s just a name. It’s just another change I didn’t know needed to be made, sort of like my address with the DMV (still haven’t done that).

I penciled in my mother’s name, her out-out-state cell phone number, and was grateful that I have her helping out with my kids when I’m in school. When I need to go to the gynecologist. Even with her name on the paper, there was a sadness. I don’t think it was a longing for my marriage, but rather a longing for the stability that comes with a long-term relationship. Of knowing without a slight hesitation, who will be there if there’s an emergency.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Curb appeal

It’s the perfect street in San Carlos: It’s called Christmas Tree Lane come December. That’s the street we walk on our way to and from Riley’s school. It’s perfect with its sidewalks and picket fences and grand homes and handsome husbands and beautiful wives with fat diamonds. It’s perfect with its nuclear families that have 2.3 children and dogs that look like Lassie or Air Bud.

As a single mom, walking that street gives me an upset stomach.

I used to be in one of those so-called perfect families with the grand home and the handsome husband and the fat diamond, minus the picket fence. Perfect on the outside. But nothing is perfect. No family is perfect. No relationship is perfect. But when I walk down the street and I see the neat yards and the dogs and the arched front doors and the clean cars and the basketball nets here and the bikes leaning against the front porch there, it’s easy to believe that those marriages, their lives, are somehow better than my single status, my life.

But I don’t know anything about those families. I only know the shiny exteriors. There is probably depression, addiction, and divorce. There are probably failed marriages, loveless marriages, sexless marriages, affairs, and nontraditional families with step kids in there too, but there are no such labels on their mailboxes. I only see what is visible from the curb.

In this bedroom community, the single parent is rare like a strip mall without a Starbucks. Walking that street twice a day creates a longing in me, a longing to be settled in a way that I haven’t been in years. I want the security of a committed relationship, the comfort of waking up every day with my lover (who is also my best friend), the sense of peace that comes from sharing the minutia of cleaning up the kitchen together after putting the kids to bed, the wholeness of a routine that doesn’t include the words your days or my days, the simplicity of a relationship that doesn’t include ex-husbands and ex-wives.

After years of hating Disney and its princess franchise, I find myself wanting the fairy tale. I want the magic of Christmas that hangs from the trees on that street each December. I want it, even though I know that come January, it gets boxed up and forgotten until the following year. I want it, even though I know that Santa is just a dude in a fat suit. I want it, even though I know if I settle into a committed relationship, wake up in my lover's arms, and enjoy the little stuff together for decades to come, there will always be exes, different houses, custody schedules, and imperfections.

I also suspect, however, that when the things I crave are a reality, the houses and picket fences and seemingly-perfect families will be much less noticeable.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There isn’t supposed to be any talking. Just bodies and the language of movement. But he bent down to whisper in my ear after our song ended, our bodies untangled. “You surrender so easily,” he said. I suspect he meant that I’m easy to dance with. That I’m good at knowing how to follow.

But I can’t seem to let it go. I’ve been thinking about what surrender means. Since I felt the warm breathe that planted those words in my ear, I’ve been searching my brain to identify other places where I surrender. Because I see the dance floor as a microcosm.

I watch and anticipate what comes next. I’m good at it--on the dance floor and elsewhere in life. I think it is part of being a parent. Anticipating what a child needs before they can speak. Anticipating others' needs is a worthy skill, up to a point anyway. Until anticipating my kids’ needs spiraled outward into other relationships and my identity was slowly scraped away like a heavily used piece of sidewalk chalk. Eventually all that was left of me was a drawing on the ground: you could see my outside, but on the inside, I was blank. I was completely defined by others. I had completely surrendered my own needs. I had to send myself to therapy last time that happened.

Things are better now. Being on my own for a year and a half has given me shape and substance. It forced me to figure out how to color inside that line, to define myself. I like dancing. I like taking pictures with my big camera. I like rollerskating in Golden Gate Park. I like indie music AND Top 40 dance music (and the latter doesn't make me a bad person). I pay my bills. I pack lunches and take my kids to school. I go to class and do my homework. I keep food in the fridge, toilet paper in the bathrooms, and gas in the car.

I sleep alone (most of the time).

I learned how to live on my own. I learned how to be by myself. I learned that it gets easier over time. I learned that it’s okay to cry a lot. I learned how to pick myself up and comfort myself. I learned that staying home is harder than going out. I learned that distracting myself doesn’t make a problem go away. I learned that going to the movies is a good thing to do by myself on a Friday night. I learned to forgive myself for being imperfect, for the mistakes I've made. I learned that I deserve to be happy. I learned that I’m pretty. I learned that I will not settle. I learned that whoever I end up with is a lucky man. I learned that sometimes I need to be selfish. I learned to love myself.

So if I’m all of those things, and I’ve grown so much, what does it mean that I surrender easily?

Even if his idea of surrender just applied to dance, it has prompted me to revisit the world I’ve created and the balance I believe I’m maintaining. As a result, I’m thinking about boundaries and the give and take in my relationships. It’s good to make sure I’m still taking care of myself and not drifting towards old, familiar habits. I guess I don't like the word surrender because it means giving up. And I have no plans to do that. In fact, I'm just getting started.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Senior year

School started today. It was the first day of my second year of graduate school. I felt a lot of apprehension.

I don’t need graduate school for the same reasons I needed it last year. Last year, it was a focal point amidst chaos. It provided order with its schedules and assignments and deadlines and reliability. It was something to direct my attention to when I was flailing. When my marriage was crumbling. When I was living in with my kids part of the week and by myself in a little room near school part of the week. When I was alone and lonely. When I walked confidently along San Francisco’s streets even though my insides were wobbly.

It filled the time when I was away from my kids, my broken family.

But I’m not wobbly anymore. I’m not flailing. And while my family is different than it was last year, I don’t consider it broken.

So even though I don’t need graduate school to provide stability in my daily life anymore, it still has a reliable--ahem, substantial--amount of schedules and assignments and deadlines. While those things are worthy and valuable as I strive to finish my book, those things take time away from my kids, my friendships, and other extracurricular activities. Things I have the energy and desire to be fully engaged in, in a way I couldn't be last year.

My hope is that once I’m back in the routine of school, the apprehension I feel will fade. That I’ll embrace the familiarity and focus. If I manage to do that--and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I will--I suspect I’ll become a student consumed with regular thoughts, like the number of days until graduation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A day of opposites

I stared at the ceiling today and thought about marriage.
And divorce.

I thought about sickness.
And health.

I thought about grief.
And joy.

I thought about seriousness.
And silliness.
Fortunately, I choose appropriately.

I thought about endings.
And beginnings.

I thought about expectations.
And reality.

I thought about hanging on.
And letting go.

I thought about what’s best for my kids.
And not what’s best for me.
Fortunately, I know the difference.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I will dream new dreams

I rolled onto your side of the bed last night. It was cold, empty. Why I still think of it as your side of the bed, I don’t know.

This isn’t your bed. You never occupied any side of this bed. Even now I’m looking at the space beside me, the blankets ruffled, the green sheets exposed and I can’t imagine your frame stretched beside me. Your slim body and scabbed up elbows and scarred knees. Your damp pillow.

For 14 years, this was my side and that was your side. Our giant bed with a ridge down the middle identifying two distinct spaces.

And while you’ve never been in this bed--or even this room in my little house--here you are, taking up space. If anything, it is Carter’s side of the bed or Riley’s side of the bed. It’s where they climb in on the mornings that they sleep at my house. Their little bodies, their pointy elbows and sharp knees.

Tonight will be different. I will close my eyes over there. I will sleep on that side. I will begin to dream from a new perspective. I will reclaim that space as my own.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The kite

With so many scenic streets to choose from, I didn’t realize I’d been avoiding Alamo Square.

It wasn’t until a friend wanted to see the San Francisco skyline from that famous hillside that I realized I’d been unconsciously walking along east and west alternatives. While I wanted to offer her a rational reason for skipping the view that day, mentioning a kite trapped in treetop didn’t seem like one such reason.

If I were to go there, no matter how hard I would try to avoid it, I knew I would have to look up to see if the kite was still there, still wrapped in the braches, around the branches. As soon as I thought of its black wingspan, I remembered the first time I saw it so many months ago. That day I wandered the city, trying to be loved by the buildings, the sidewalks, the storefronts, and cafés serving up company in a cup.

Even though it was just a wayward kite stuck in a tree in hilltop park, its presence punctured the ballooned-up emotion I discreetly carry around like a gut filled with gas. That kite is permanently trapped--like me--entangled with the distress of a single day that changed its course. I didn’t want to see it again, still there, still stuck, still dealing with the ramifications of the day the wind was too powerful or its owner was too careless.

While its nylon fabric has likely been brittled by the hours of a hundred sunrises and sunsets, what it meant to me remains solid, intact. My friend and I walked along Hayes Street instead that day. I'm sure I told her that I just didn't have the energy to climb the hill. I didn't tell her it was an emotional one.

Monday, May 03, 2010

An emotional intervention

“Hey, wait,” said a voice from behind me. After 180 minutes of concentrating on beats and music in my Monday night dance class, the sound of vocal chords seemed oddly out of place, even when wrapped in crispy Mountain View air. I pirouetted towards the sound and saw one of the guys I’d danced with. His voice was foreign. But his dark eyes, his oval face, his thick nearly-black coarse hair, the heat of his arms was familiar. "Do you want to go get some tea? There’s a place on Castro that has pearl tea. You know, the stuff with the tapioca?”

I hesitated and then asked, “Does it have caffeine?”

“Come on,” he said waving me towards him. “I’m sure there is at least one that doesn’t.” We started walking and the giant blister on my left foot made me limp. He offered to drive us, even though it was only two blocks away. I agreed, even though getting in cars with men I don’t know wasn’t something I typically do. But he seemed safe. Like I already knew him.

We both ordered the Taro tea. We sat at a round café table that wobbled just slightly. Across from me was a man whose eyes I had stared into for 10 minutes. Whose arms had twisted with my arms, whose hands had been on small of my back. But now sitting three feet away from him, I felt strangely uncomfortable.

His water bottle tipped and my reflex grabbed it and returned it to its upright position. “What was that all about?” Defensively, I said: “Motherly instinct.” I outed myself as a mom. And I knew instantly that our conversation was about to go down a difficult path with two choices, and I hadn’t decided yet which one I would take.

“How many kids do you have?” he asked, smacking the water bottle with the back of his hand to return it to it sideways position.

“Two.” My right leg crossed over my left started bouncing in that self-conscious way. My eyes darted around the café and settled on the exit sign.

“Tell me something about you. Something other than that you’re a single mom. I already got that. And why you’re so uncomfortable.”

“I’m uncomfortable because I don’t open up to people I don’t really know.”

“I don’t like small-talk. And you already know me. I’m just like you, like everyone. I want to be loved and accepted. I want world peace. Food for everyone. A safe place to live. Happiness. A long life.” And after a moment of letting all of his hopes settle around the room like dust, he said, “Your turn.”

Iced with fear, my mouth didn’t work. I looked around the café. I noticed the couple in the corner with their laptops and silence. I noticed the man with the black fedora reading a magazine. I looked at my tea and wonder why the tapioca is black. I saw the potted tree in the corner and wondered what kind of tree it was with it’s twisting trunk and bushy green top.

His eyes were sharp with intention. It was like being in therapy with a therapist that I hated. My sweaty clothing lay damp against my chest, chilling me. And I started to shake. I suspect it wasn’t just from the cold. I can only assume that when he said your turn, he wanted more than just a list outlining my basic human wants and desires, a list that mirrored his.

I took an inventory of my choices. I could run away, but I feared that leaving would ruin my Monday dance class. I could stay and not answer his questions. I could confront my fear of opening up and just tell him about me. About my son. But that would mess up my separation of Church and State: the separation of dancing from parenthood, from hospitals. Externally, anyway. He repeated the question: “What do you want.”

I took one last look around the café and shivering turned into convulsions. My eyes went back to his penetrating gaze and I tried to hold it so that he would hear my tiny voice: “I can’t ever have what I want.” My hands went to my face. My head tipped towards my chest. I stopped trying to not cry. I stopped pretending that my life is regular with regular worries about money or my divorce or health insurance and whether I remembered to pay my credit card bill.

I keep hoping that I’m going to discover that everything in my life doesn’t come back to hospitals and heart defects and surgeries. But everything in my life does lead back to it. Even when I think I’m getting along just fine. I’m surviving. I’m living. I’m in school studying and writing. Mostly happy. But everything I write, every story I can imagine circles back to his birth seven years ago.

It’s crushing. It’s disappointing. It’s exhausting.

I always thought that eventually, living with uncertainty would just become part of my wardrobe. It would be that old pair of jeans that I don’t like but can’t seem to donate to the Goodwill and every so often I'd be forced to wear. But that isn’t like it at all.

My son’s medical problems are like razor blades under my skin. And anytime anything grazes against me, I get cut from the inside. And the wounds can scab over and appear to be healed on the outside, but on the inside I’m always bleeding and the potential for pain is everywhere and constant.

“Is it is okay if I come into your space?” he asked in a softened voice as he pull a chair up and straddled my shriveled body. His arms came around me and I sank into his chest. “I’m not going to say it’s okay or that it’s going to be okay. I just sensed a sadness in you and I thought you might need some help getting it out.”

“I didn’t ask for your help.”

“Sometimes we don’t know we need help,” he said.

We stayed there until the guy with the broom told us that the café was closed. As I sat up and looked around, I noticed the guy with the fedora was still sitting in the same place, the couple putting their laptops in their cases. I wondered what they thought of my public emotional break. If they thought anything, they probably thought my boyfriend just dumped me. I got up, grabbed my purse and then he put his hands on my face and held my gaze a moment longer. Then we walked to the car, me still limping from the dance blisters.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Instinct and denial

Instinct instructs my hips and torso in that room with music and tiny glinting lights. Soft skin on cold hardwood floors. Rhythmical sound summons motion. For two and a half hours I am only a body moving around that group of 40 arms, 50 chins, 60 wrists. Talking is taboo. Only swaying. Only spinning. Only jumping. Only dancing. It’s a glorious window without guilt. A comfy cushion without thoughts of harsh hospital waiting rooms and organ transplants. That musical room is bliss, a wondrous gift, my sanctuary.

At 9 o’clock, it stops. My throat constricts as last bits of music drift out of that gymnasium and my mind finds his portrait. Thoughts start flowing right away. My son is again pulsing through my brain. His lungs working hard. His lips not pink. That vital organ thumping too fast, working so hard. I want his 7th birthday. His 18th birthday. His 21st birthday. I want many classrooms and running and picnics and icy surf tapping our limbs. I want him to study, to obtain a diploma, a family of his own. I want Christmas without IVs. I want clocks to spin and a thousand months to pass. With him.

That still room thins out. I wish for additional hours of savory sounds twisting my hips and arms with anonymous shins and warm limbs. I want dancing again so that I can fully dismiss our truth for a bit, his story—facts that blow wind from my human form and grays my hair. But not today. So I stand and walk to my car and I snap into my world. It blurs my joy as rain soaks into dry sand—thoroughly and wholly.

(Note to reader: With the exception of the title, this piece was written without the letter "E" ... inspired by an assignment for grad school.)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Taller than I used to be

I’ve been wearing taller shoes. Boots with heels. Shoes with considerable amount of material between my heel and the ground. Shoes that are less clunky than what I’m used to. Grown-up shoes. Women’s shoes. They’re sleek. Stylish. Sophisticated. Bold. They are a stark contrast to the shoes I’ve typically worn. My regular foot protectors could--and have been--described as clunky. Or bulky. Unfeminine. Comfortable. Sensible. They could be all of the above. And I’ve never cared.

Until recently.

The catalyst? I originally thought those taller shoes were attributed to the fact that I had spent many hours with an age- and height-inappropriate man (his words, not mine), and I wanted my eyes to be closer to his eyes, his face, his presumed wisdom. But I know there is a much better reason.

To be clear, I’m not getting rid of all the old shoes. They are still stacked in my closet and lined up near the door. But I’ve just noticed I’ve been picking those other shoes more often and that there are more of them to choose from.

At 5’7”, it’s not like I need the height to make me feel, um, tall. So perhaps I am just teetering with the idea of finally becoming a grownup, leaving my girlish and clumsy shoes in my old life.

There really is something seductive about hearing the click of my heels on the sidewalk. There’s something about the confidence that sound exudes. There’s something about experiencing the world from a whole new elevation. But maybe it’s just one more way I’m trying out the new me. Embracing the woman I’ve become. The women I’m turning into. A woman who is confident. Sleek. Stylish. Sophisticated. Bold. And also just a wee bit taller.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1 in 100

In February, hearts are everywhere. We see them at the drug store, on greeting cards, decorating classrooms. But to me, seeing hearts means something besides love, and friendship, and Hallmark. Seeing hearts reminds me of my son Riley.

One in 100 kids is born with a heart defect. Think about that for a minute. How many kids do you know? How many kids are in your child's preschool? Your kid's class at school? In your son's art class? Your daughter's music class? At the childcare center at the gym? Chances are you know a family who has been affected by a heart defect.

My son Riley was born with a complex heart defect--a single ventricle heart with dextrocardia, heterotaxy, TAPVR, and asplenia. In plain English, that means that instead of having four chambers, his heart has only one. It is also on the wrong side of his chest, and many of his organs are in the wrong place. As part of his complex condition, he was also born without a spleen, which is very important organ for fighting infections (who knew?). There is no fix for his heart. Rather, a series of surgeries have created a way for his blood to move oxygen around his body.

Five open-heart operations, several hospitalizations, and a couple of scares later, we are not done dealing with heart-related issues. Really, for kids with heart defects as complicated as my son's there is no fix. There are ways to stabilize him. There are ways to help him life a normal life for a while. But his life, and our lives will never be normal.

What can you do? Donate to research institutions and organizations that provide support and financial assistant to families. Here are a couple I recommend:

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children: specify pediatric cardiac research and care

UCSF: specify pediatric cardiac research and care

The Congenital Heart Information Network

The International Children's Heart Foundation

(I do not recommend the American Heart Association because only 25 cents of every dollar donated actually goes to research. And no one at the AHA has been able to give me an answer of how much of that research money goes to congenital or pediatric heart research.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Me at last! Me at last!

I was thinking about Colorado today. And to be clear, “Colorado” is not the code name for someone I’ve dated. I was thinking about the actual state of Colorado, home of Red Rocks Amphitheatre and credited with having more microbreweries per capita than any other state. And more specifically, I was thinking about my state of mind when I lived there, a mere 1,983 miles west of Northeastern University where I was enrolled as an undergrad. The year was 1995.

My memories of that time remain vivid: the electrifying but silent lightening storms in the distance, the clouds that closed over the evening sky the way eyelids close over tired eyes at bedtime, and the solitude of not knowing a single person when I arrived at Denver International Airport.

I lived in Boulder for six months while I worked at the ABC affiliate in Denver my senior year. That job was all part of NU’s cooperative education program where students alternated stints at real jobs for a semester or two with classes. The idea is that at the end of five years, students graduate with about two years of actual job experience. It was one such job opportunity that led me to Colorado when I was 21 years old.

In addition to getting actual journalism experience as I assisted reporters on a variety of stories, I also worked at Nature’s Nectar, a juice and smoothie bar in Boulder just off the Pearl Street Mall. As a result, I downed countless shots of wheat grass juice and smoothies loaded with bee pollen, spirulina, and wheat germ. I sipped pints of beer and ate vats of artichoke dip at Oasis Brewery. I smoked a cigar on the roof deck of the West End Tavern. I ate a lot of deep-dish pizza at Old Chicago and learned that the best way to eat the crust was with honey drizzled on top. There was Josh & John’s Ice Cream on the Hill. The Rusted Roots concert at Red Rocks. There was the SCOOT shuttle bus that looped riders around town for a mere 25 cents. There was live music at the Catacombs Bar, nighttime hikes in the Flatirons, and numerous salads from Alfalfa’s grocery store. There were also gallons of strawberry chardonnay in the storage unit of my rental on 22nd Street at my disposal. My absentee roommate who was learning the wine business in Valarde, NM told me that I could drink as much as I like. And I did.

Those were probably some of the happiest months of my life. Even though I was alone. Yes, I was sometimes lonely. But I was, without a doubt so very, very happy. I made new friends, explored the state's vast natural landscape (which was a sharp contrast from Boston's city streets), I embraced the laid-back lifestyle (which included unshaven legs, smoking pot occasionally, and realizing that the joy is the journey). “The Best of John Denver” was often playing on the CD player and “Rocky Mountain High” became my theme song. I altered the words a bit and sang them often and freely:
I was born in the summer of my 22 year, coming home to a place I’d never been before. Left yesterday behind me, might say I was born again. Might say I found the key to every door. When I first came to the mountains, my life was far away. On the road, hanging by a song…

While I was alone and single, I was able to prove to myself that I was a strong, independent young woman. A capable woman. A good person. Those were all things I questioned about myself after exiting an emotionally abusive relationship that lasted three years. I was learning to be me again as I navigated through an unfamiliar town. I was relieved to learn that I was very able to keep myself busy, safe, content. I was me at last. Me at last! Me at last! Thank God Almighty, I was me at last!

Living in San Francisco for those nine months last year remind me of that time in Boulder. As I ease into live on the Peninsula full-time, once again—15 years later—I’m given the opportunity to begin again as I inch away from my broken marriage. To leave yesterday behind me. To be find the key to ever door in my life. To open those doors if I choose to do so. I begin this next step of singlehood with my very own place. My own space, filled with my own things, offering me a personal sanctuary as I move through the next phase of this massive life transition. Social Worker Friend has gently reminded me that the only way to get past a difficult life event is to go through it.

That is exactly what I’m forced to do. Go through it. I’ve realize that living in San Francisco for eight months served as a respite, a break from the immediacy of the split with my ex. But it really didn’t offer a chance to heal. I didn’t go through my transition. Living in San Francisco in my little rented room was a diversion. A glorious diversion from the trauma in my personal life. I relished the opportunity to be in denial. Each Saturday I drove away from my problems and went into the city for company. I gripped its energy. I gazed at its trees. I sipped its decaf soy lattes and danced down its sidewalks. I dated its single men and studied in one of its universities. And then on Tuesdays after class, I returned to the broken home I shared with my children and the bulk of my ex’s belongings.

It was like a comma in a sentence, a slight pause in the enormity of the separation. But I wouldn’t have done it any other way. So, if my time in San Francisco is the life-equivalent to a comma, then my new rental in San Carlos is the equivalent of hitting the return key. A fresh line in my life, in my story. A opportunity to discover myself once again, just as I did in Colorado. A beginning. A clean page, free of typos. At least for now.