Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On a Wedding, Fear, and Second Chances

As I type this, I am staring at a stunning diamond ring, a circle solitaire Tiffany's rock that sparkles like nothing I've seen. And it is still somewhat surreal...

Two weeks ago I got engaged to the man of my dreams. I say that not to sound like the protagonist of a lame romance novel, but because it is actually true for me. He asked me to be his wife during the best dinner of my life, which capped off the best day of my life, and the best part of it all is that I was completely surprised. As you can see for yourself here.

I can honestly say I've never been happier. I realize these moments are, and will forever be, some of the highest highs in my journey. I've been relishing them and thanking God for all of this goodness I get to experience, and for the man I get to marry. My life wasn't always so sweet and satisfying, which I realize makes my joy that much deeper.

But with this joy has come some unexpected pain. I've spent the past 10 days solo (Vic is away for work), and I've had a lot of space to reflect and write. It's been an exciting, yet surprisingly difficult, time as I think ahead to the wedding and all that it symbolizes.

You see, I've done this before. This is not my first wedding, this is not my first marriage. And I have felt and am working through a spectrum of unexpected emotions, from shame and guilt to grief and fear.

Shame because suddenly I see myself as the girl who was married, divorced, and engaged again by age 30. Does anyone else see me through that lens? Maybe. But that's irrelevant. This is my life; not theirs. It's my path and my story to make. My goal the past 2 years has been to rise from the ashes and live boldly and authentically, to listen to the truth I know to be real, and to aim to care less about others' perceptions. Do I miss the mark on these goals? Absolutely. But now I know how to speak truth to these lies when they rear their heads.

A niggling guilt, as if I'm betraying my first promise to forever, even though that has been put to bed—for me, this is the strangest of all of my recent reactions. I see people's Facebook brags about hitting the 5- or 7- or 13-year mark with their spouses, and I've felt this pang of guilt, as if I am less of a human because I couldn't cut it. 

Griefbecause I'm reliving the memories of 22-year-old me planning a wedding and expecting it to be the first day of the rest of her life. I'm once again mourning the loss of innocence because I'm being confronted with it. And that's OK. Those are real memories attached to real emotions. I'm learning to make myself feel what I feel, sit in these moments, and then move oneven when all I want to do is distract my mind and dull my emotions.

And fear. I was convinced 8 years ago that I would be married forever. I had no doubts, no second thoughts. So much changed through the years: How do I know the same won't happen  again? How can I guarantee a lifetime of healthful, growing, committed, loyal, loving marriage? Well, I can't. But I can choose to fully embrace the goodness and love in my life today. I can choose faith above fear. Faith in my man, and who I know him to be. Faith in our relationship and what I know to be real. And faith in myselfthe power I've reclaimed, and the new-found understanding that happiness is mine to take.

Because even as planning a wedding and preparing for marriage brings my past to the forefront, everything about my current relationship is different and new: I’ve experienced daily life with him, loved him fully and been loved back. I’m living the reality of my dreams—dreams I didn’t envision until I was an adult and knew who I truly was and what I really needed in my partner in life, my teammate. This time it’s not about the wedding—the event I fantasized of for years as a kid. It’s about the marriage. It’s about the days I get to spend with him, the lifetime I will live with him.

This time I just feel lucky. I’m so proud to be his girl; I can’t wait to be his wife. And I am grateful for this second chance, relieved that I chose faith over fear every step of the way. So I will continue to do so. 'Til death do us part. Amen.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Other Woman

Last weekend I saw The Other Woman. It was quite amusing and often hilarious (in my opinion). Of course much of the humor was over the top, but I expected this. What I did not expect, however, was the beautiful depiction of the power of female friendship in the midst of a life-changing crisis. I was holding back tears during one scene when the wife came to terms with her husband’s betrayal, and her best friend sat by her side, holding her hand as she accepted the unacceptable. Sometimes the silent presence of a friend is the sweetest salve to unexplainable pain.

All week I’ve been thinking about my “other women.” One in particular contributed to the deepest pain I’ve experienced in my 30 years. Whether intentional or not, she was part of a series of actions that changed the course of my life forever. I wonder if she knows that. I wonder if she cares. I wonder if she gave one thought to me, or if she was blinded to my existence altogether. I used to think about her quite often, first with anger, then with pity. Today my thoughts could best be described as “dumbfounded.” And that goes for all the mistresses out there.

I know every relationship is different, every situation unique. I do my best not to cast judgment on anyone for the choices she makes because I prefer others show me the same respect. And I’m not singling out women because I have more grace for men; rather, I have higher standards for the female gender.

Ladies, we’re on the same team. We’re in this thing together. Relationships are hard work, love is a battlefield, men can simultaneously be annoyingly simple and absurdly confusing. The friendships we strike and the support we provide one another is powerful. Please, let’s put each other first. Let’s think beyond ourselves. Those intoxicating emotions telling you a taken man is fair game? They are not sustainable. That scenario you’ve rationalized as supposedly “different” in an attempt to free yourself from guilt? It’s not. You are playing with fire; back the fuck off. This road leads to pain—and rarely does he get a share of that grief. It’s usually the shes who are left betrayed and broken. Both shes.

Thankfully there’s another side to the “other women” coin. It’s the women in my life who have stood by me through unspeakable grief. Women who cried with me, listened to endless rants and emotional vomiting, and helped me to laugh in the midst of it all. These ladies depicted loyalty in moments when trust was an empty, meaningless concept. These friendships are one of the greatest reasons I am proud to be a woman.

Ladies, let’s stay on this side, together. Let’s look out for each other by honoring the boundaries in play. Let’s uphold loyalty above lust and show each other the respect we deserve. Let’s love fairly and love fully—we are worth it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Water Consumption and Happiness

As I was paying my (higher than usual) water bill last month, I took a quick look at my H2O consumption during the past year. And the above graph posted on my online account made me laugh out loud.

If this were a scientific study, my hypothesis would be: My water consumption directly correlates with my level of happiness.

The first few months of 2013 were dire, friends. (What the hell was I doing in January? Not showering or washing my clothes?) There was a gradual growth of agua intake mid-year as I gained a new beau, followed by an impressive spike in December and January as I hosted a few parties and many out-of-town guests.

Moral of the story: I like where these bars are going. And I want to keep that trajectory alive. (So come on over and take a shower!) ;)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Good Man

"This is precious love, precious love
No I can't let it go
It's this precious love
And it's teaching me everything I need to know
This is precious love, it's precious love
No I can't get enough
Oh I'm down on my knees
Begging you please
Gimme some more of that stuff."

(The following is not for the "love Grinches" out there—you've been forewarned.)

I had a carefully crafted vision of what my new life as a single woman would look like. I figured I would live in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment that I could barely afford; join Match.com and go out on a bunch of terrible first dates with a variety of questionable guys (at least I'd get some free dinners and great stories!); and consume vast amounts of wine by myself while watching soul-killing trash TV such as Real Housewives of Something Or Other and The Bachelor.

But something (someone) happened, and I decided to course correct—to give this unexpected turn of events a real shot and allow myself to live in and savor the moment.

I met a boy, and he turned my whole world upside down.

Even as I write this blog post, I feel like I am outside of myself, watching someone else embrace days full of sweet affection, light-hearted romance, and Xes and Os (yes, sometimes even written in text messages). The former me would have made fun of the PDA, the shared love ballads, the sitting on the same side of the restaurant booth (it was a big table). She was a disenchanted cynic, so I don't blame her much. But I'm glad she made room for the new me—who feels more like the "real" Ann, the girl I yearned to be.

Now the  walls that I built in my heart—gradually constructed throughout the years for protection and survival—have been knocked down, and new light and life is coursing through my veins.

Now love songs actually make sense to me, as if I have finally been let in on a big secret that I never understood. James Morrison, Michael Buble', Ray LaMontagne? I can't get enough.

Now each month, holiday, and season feels fresh and raw, like I am discovering it for the first time.

Now the sky is bluer, the grass greener, and the air crisper. Just kidding! (Kind of.)

Perhaps what I'm experiencing is quite normal for much of humanity. It must be, since many poems and stories are written about it, songs sung to express it, and movies made to depict it. But it's new to me, and I'm relishing every moment.

And the simplest, daily moments are the ones that make me feel most full and rich and lucky: receiving thoughtful text messages from him throughout the day, running for miles beside him (or slightly behind him at times), meeting him for a cold beer after work, spending hours on a lazy Saturday watching a Newsroom marathon with him, holding his hand while walking through Target, seeing his handsome face and killer smile after a long day (and getting those butterflies each time).

I feel like God has blessed me with these experiences, and is showcasing the beauty and goodness of love and healthy relationship through them—and at a time when I am ready and able to appreciate and suck the life out of them.

At the same time, I'm not so far gone that I fail to see the whole picture: that the honeymoon period in any relationship—romantic or otherwise—brings exciting emotions that are not fully sustainable. But even looking beyond fleeting feelings, I realize what I have standing in front of me.

He is kind, generous, thoughtful, patient, sincere, honest, helpful, and gracious. He is ambitious, hard-working, disciplined, innovative, clever, trustworthy, and creative. He is handsome, smart, funny, witty, silly, supportive, affectionate, loyal, and loving.

He is one good man. And I am so lucky, so happy, to be his girl.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thirty and Thriving

When I was a kid, age 30 sounded old. I figured I'd be married with at least 2 kids by the time I hit my third decade.

Well, I'm not married, and I have no kids. But I'm not old. In fact, I feel young, healthy, and happier than I've been in years. Turning 29 was more difficult than this historically depressing birthday—probably because a year ago discontentment and inner turmoil were constants in my life.

So much has changed in just 12 months. I feel like a different woman—more grounded, strong, and courageous; less anxious, indecisive, and uncertain. I have found my voice, I know who I am, and I am learning how to be present in every moment—those full of pain, and those full of pleasure.

If this is what "growing up" is all about (at least for me), I'm ecstatic to say good-bye to my 20s. There were many good moments, and those years paved the way for who I am today, but truthfully, it can only get better from here.

Last weekend my closest family members and friends from my past and present—spanning each decade of my life—joined me to celebrate this rite of passage. Their ongoing loyalty, support, encouragement, "interventions," and love have kept me sane and centered. I feel completely undeserving, yet incredibly grateful for the people who have been and are in my corner. As I have been reflecting on where I am at age 30, I realize that not everyone is as lucky as I to have such rich relationships, and I thank God for the goodness I have known through the depth of my community.
I have also realized that life is about the moments. And how one chooses to react to circumstances both within and outside of her control in each of these moments is what makes her who she is. We ALL have choices, big and small.

You can choose to get up at 6 a.m. and run in sub-30-degree weather to train for an upcoming race, rather than stay under your toasty comforter and snooze for an hour. (Honestly, I'm not always sure which is the better choice.) :)

You can choose to go after the challenging job opening at your workplace rather than remain bored and stagnant in your current position.

You can choose to let go of a destructive, one-sided relationship that you clung to for far too long because of foolish loyalty and fear.

While in the past year I have made a couple of momentous and life-changing choices, I know that I have only just begun. I want my 30s to be a decade of continued growth, during which I gain greater confidence in me, and live with more intentional generosity, thoughtfulness, and love for others.  

Because regardless of your age, you can learn new things, achieve new heights, and evolve into  a different (better) version of yourself. For me—my God, my "people," and my own realized power have gotten me here. And there's so much more to come.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I recently participated in a webinar for work on the topic of positivity. Research shows that an individual's happiness is tied to three factors: 50% to one's family of origin/genetics/upbringing, 10% to one's collective life experiences, and 40% to one's personal choices.

My family is pretty great, and I had a very happy childhood.

For the most part, my life experiences have been positive, enriching, and trauma-free.

But I was pretty damn unhappy for far too long. And I finally...very gradually...realized that I have choices.

If you've followed this blog for any length of time, I'm sure you could read between the lines. In addition to my personal writing, this space existed for me to process my thoughts, emotions, and experiences when "the separation" began. I kept so much of my daily reality closed off, both to protect my privacy and as a means of survival, so publishing bits and pieces of it all publicly provided a sense of relief. While the posts have ebbed and flowed (and halted during the past few months) as I've been adjusting to some pretty major life changes, I finally feel ready to "say it like it is." To stake claim to my reality, and emerge from the shadows of ambiguity.

I got a divorce.

Certainly this is not the future I envisioned for myself when I said my vows at the ripe old age of 22. That girl would have told 29-year-old me she was crazy if she were warned of such an outcome. But I have no regrets. All of my life experiences and decisions have led me to where I am now, and it's a beautiful place. A difficult place some days, but a good one. For years I grieved, prayed, hoped, agonized, and finally...let go.

Today when I think about my marriage - the history, memories, good moments, and ugly times - I feel sad. It has been a gradual process to grieve the death of a relationship. And I'm not sure if that sense of "wistfulness" will ever disappear. The degree of sadness will, with time, but perhaps not entirely.

Today I am at peace. I am happy. The future is bright. And so is my present reality—and that's what really matters.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's My Time

"After The Storm," Mumford & Sons

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

Night has always pushed up day
You must know life to see decay
But I won't rot, I won't rot
Not this mind and not this heart,
I won't rot.

And I took you by the hand
And we stood tall,
And remembered our own land,
What we lived for.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

And now I cling to what I knew
I saw exactly what was true
But oh no more.
That's why I hold,
That's why I hold with all I have.
That's why I hold.

And I won't die alone and be left there.
Well I guess I'll just go home,
Oh God knows where.
Because death is just so full and man so small.
Well I'm scared of what's behind and what's before.

And there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.

That time has come.