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 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.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mile 26

Oh, hi.

Recently I compared this stage of my life's journey to a marathon and said I was at the 18th mile. Well, I think I just hit mile 26. 

It only took me seven months.

I've got 0.2 to go, folks. 

And they may take another seven months.

In my experience, the last .2 miles seem like the longest leg of a race. You can see the finish line, are surrounded by hundreds of screaming bystanders, and feel relief flood your body as you begin to taste the victory of completion.

But your legs ache. Your throat is parched. Your stomach is churning. Your sweat-soaked clothes are rubbing and reeking in the worst ways. Oh, and you have salt face. 

You just ran 26 miles. Why does the final .2 feel interminable?

Because you're so're almost there. Those words become your repetitive mantra. You hold your head up high, remind yourself of the strength and stamina that got you safely to where you are, and put one foot in front of the other.

And before you know it, you're crossing the finish line. In all of your hard-fought, long-suffering, well-earned, beautiful glory.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Hi, my name is Ann, and I am a therapy junkie.


Don't worry - I haven't reached a What About Bob? level of dependence, and don't plan to. But I have logged quite a few hours on the shrink couch within the past year. (Thank God for good health insurance.)

I know everyone has her own opinion of counseling. On one extreme, some people are fanatics who consider weekly sessions religious experiences and their therapist their spiritual guide. On the other are those who write off counseling as a self-help crutch for the weak, or necessary only for those with "real problems." (Or perhaps they're just scared to confront their personal demons.) Today I lean more toward the former than the latter, which wasn't always the case.

I grew up attending church regularly, at least twice a week when accounting for small group Bible studies or youth group. Going to a Christian college only doubled my church/chapel/small group quota each week. And then marrying a youth pastor perhaps tripled it. (I think I ODed on church.)

Although today I am not a church-goer, I still believe in the power of community that healthy churches can create. For me, one of my favorite aspects of church was the connections I made with other people when we shared honestly about our lives and took the risk to be vulnerable about what was really going on in our heads and hearts. Unfortunately, I think such authenticity isn't easy to find in many church communities. Too often fear of raw doubt and real questions stands in the way, and pat, cure-all answers from Scripture take the place of active listening and empathy. 

And thankfully, in the absence of church community, I have maintained and developed friendships that are my lifeblood and provide some of the truest community I have known.

But in my experience, church - and even my dearest friends - can't quite touch me the way an hour of rigorous personal examination guided by an objective, insightful third party does. It can't move me the way questioning long-held beliefs about myself and the world around me, unveiling misconstrued assumptions, and slowly transforming old behaviors and patterns of thinking can...and has. Truthfully, individual counseling has helped me to become a more mature, healthy, and whole version of myself. 

It's OK, you can be skeptical. I was, too. When my counselor invited me to join a women's support group, I nearly laughed. "Me? In a support group? Aren't those for addicts and abuse victims?" I thought. As If I am better than they. (I'm not.) Despite my pride, curiosity got the better of me, and I went for it. And I went back again. And I'm going to keep going.

Because it's nice to know that I'm not alone. It's inspiring to talk to three other women with a variety of life experiences and personal struggles, again led by the questions and outside perspective of a caring and trained individual. It's encouraging to know that although we're each very different, and our baggage comes in different shapes and sizes, we're joined simply by our humanity: the desire to love and to be loved, to know lasting joy, and to suck the life out of life...and not allow ourselves to get in the way of realizing the achieved moments of those pursuits.

We all have our issues, rocks in a bucket that we carry around with us throughout our days. We can blame these on our tramautic childhood, failed relationship(s), or unfulfilled career dreams. Most likely circumstances beyond our control have added some weight to that collective baggage. But I've learned that it's what I decide to do with my "stuff" and how I choose to live through it and beyond it that will make me or break me. 

Counseling has been a "make me" experience. So for now, I'm sticking with it.

How about you - thoughts on counseling? Good experiences? Bad?

(By the way, if you need a good therapist, let me know.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Turning 29

I turned 29 three months ago. So this post is a little delayed. It's been sitting in my draft box for weeks, and I'm finally taking the time to get my thoughts on "paper." Get excited. ;)

Your 20s are a decade when you're "finding yourself" - finishing school and entering the real world, figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life, and discovering what it means to be an adult. And in the midst of all of that uncertainty and change, you still feel young and invincible, as if you've got all the time in the world. You're enjoying the freedom of living life for yourself, carving out a little piece of the world that you call your own. You're beginning to make decent money and buy nice things and take fun trips with friends. You feel healthy, energetic, and carefree.

And then you turn 29.

At least that's what happened to me. I know 30 is traditionally a tough birthday for most. But I had my "I never thought I would be this old" epiphany on December 7, 2012, when I realized this is the last year in my coveted 20s, the last year it is socially acceptable for me not to have my shit together.

Suddenly I feel old. Because the older I get, the more my life seems to unravel a bit at the seams. At times I feel like I'm living life in reverse when compared to my peers, and then I get a bit panicked. But I have to remind myself that this is my life. I have to own every decision and step I've made along the way because those choices and moments have made me who I am today. It's all about the journey. And I'm really starting to get that.

So this journey continues, and days and weeks and months go by, and all of the sudden I'm 29. If I told 15-year-old Ann where I'd be at 29, she may have laughed in disbelief. Twenty-two-year-old me would probably say, "Get your shit together." Ha. She was so young and naive.

And that's when I not only feel older (as in I have more wrinkles and my skin is losing its luster and I get a hangover after three beers older), but I feel wiser. When I compare who I am today to who I was five years ago, I see a marked maturity, a shifting perspective, and a crossing of the threshold into adulthood. With this rite of passage comes some dashed dreams, a loss of innocence and idealism, and the mourning of the end of an era. But there also comes a fresh and seasoned view of the world and people and a deeper understanding of the beauty of both grief and joy, pain and hope.

Because I'm beginning to realize that as difficult as it is to say good-bye to my 20s (clearly I need 12 months to do this), I think I'm gonna love my 30s. I already feel more comfortable than I ever have in my own skin, I know who I am and what I want out of life, and I don't care (as much) what other people think of me. I also better understand my strengths, and equally my limitations. And I'm OK with both. I can "own" those characteristics and be honest with myself - and others - about them.

So as traumatic as it was to turn the big 2-9, I'm beginning to dig this getting older thing. I may have been in bed before 10 p.m. Saturday night, and St. Party's Day weekend no less (to my credit, I did run a half marathon that morning), but I wanted to feel good the next day, and not hungover and useless...

...Wow, I'm old...

...But also so much wiser. :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New PR!

I'm ending this blogging hiatus and bringing a little something "lighter" to the table than some of my posts of late. I've written about running several times before on this little online space. I chronicled my first race four years ago, and more recently shared how much I appreciate my running community. Yesterday I set a new milestone in my running "career." I finished my third half marathon and PRed (by less than a minute, but I'll take it!). So 1:56:08 is the time to beat.
The DC Rock and Roll Half was less than stellar, in my opinion. It was fun to run through the city, but the race was disorganized and understaffed from start to finish. We waited in 15 minute lines for gear check and more than 30 for porta potties. This put us at the back of the pack, in the last corral, which was 10 corrals behind where I was supposed to start. I had trained for this race and was hoping to PR, so dodging and weaving the entire 13.1 miles was not ideal. Also less than ideal were the water stations, where often runners were forced to fill their own dixie cups or wait in small lines to get those coveted few sips. But every race has its unforeseen circumstances, so no excuses! :) I felt like I gave it my all, and my legs are aching today, which is confirmation of that.
And just as much as I love to run, I love my "running friends." In fact, I don't think I would keep racing without them. I'm a loner when it comes to running, but racing is a whole other ballgame. It's opened me up to a community of people who motivate and inspire me to set goals and keep training. And beyond that, these people have added such joy and cherished memories to my life.

And these are the moments that make up the good life: a memorable race, dear friends, and a cold beer (even though Mich Ultra is not real beer).


Thursday, January 31, 2013

When the Fight Is Gone

"Love; it will not betray you
 Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
 Be more like the man you were made to be.
 There is a design, an alignment to cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be."

—"Sigh No More," Mumford and Sons

Does such love exist? I've felt some pretty awful pain recently and have seen some of my dearest friends hurt deeply as well. I just feel so utterly disappointed in the human race. And  I wonder if there is anyone who is truly righteous, upstanding, and good...or who at least makes intentional choices toward that end. Even Crosby on Parenthood (Season 2) couldn't keep himself from the ultimate act of betrayal. (I know the show isn't real life and the characters aren't real people...)

Yet when I hear this song, my heart soars because I believe in love. I always have, and I hope I always do. And I desire to know love that liberates me to be who I was made to be. To love how I was made to love. I understand that real love isn't an emotion; it's a commitment, a choice. I get that it takes work, and sometimes that work is hard.

But should it be this hard? I feel like I've fought a good fight. I think I've loved well. For so long I didn't really allow myself to consider surrendering. I thought I would stick with it no matter the cost. Yet something in my heart severed along the way. And now I'm conflicted, and I'm scared. And I'm so fucking tired.

I've always been a loyal person, maybe to a fault; making decisions that put my needs and wants first took a backseat for a long time. During the past six months I've come to know myself again—"adult Ann," and what she wants out of life...and love. So where do I go from here? I (think) I know what will make me happy. And I'm quite weary of fighting for that happiness in places where I may never find it.

I feel like I have so much love to give. And I just want to be free to give it.