unmarried. a blog
"Tell the truth about what it's like to be human."
- Cheryl Strayed
After twelve years of a lackluster marriage with a dismal sex life, I came to the conclusion that affection and intimacy were no longer negotiable. Usually, at least in my experience, it’s the man who complains when the relationship lands in the sexual desert.
Nope, not here.
It was actually me, the woman, who was parched with no quenching in sight. Therapy couldn’t fix us nor did the attempts at dating. And, I’d come to a point where I was okay with moving on.
Once the courage was mustered to make such a bold decision, my nerves went into high-gear. At the time, I didn’t know it, but said nerves were setting off all sorts of stress signals to various body parts.
Instead of fantasizing about a new life on the horizon, I was googling pressure on my lady parts wondering if it were stress-induced. All that came up were diagnoses with reasons that included intercourse being the number one culprit.
Sitting across from another specialist, I listed the symptoms. “Doc, it literally feels like someone punched me in the vagina. Please tell me you’ve heard about this before and it’s not some sick penance for finally admitting what I really want--need—in life.”
She blinked at me; the space between us growing increasingly uncomfortable as my brain confirmed what the medic wasn’t saying.
“But I haven’t had the relations mentioned in any of the information listed online!”
When the urologist continued to remain silent, I secretly arrested myself and decided to shut the hell up.
“The results indicate,” she began, flipping through several pages of scans and tests.
Indicate what? That I’m Madame Bovary? I held my breath.
“You have something called OAB,” she said.
This time I did the blinking.
“Overactive Bladder. You have an overactive bladder.”
“That’s it? My bladder is spasming? So, my vagina’s not broken?”
The urologist closed the file and stood, clearly done with me. She handed over a print-out outlining the foods and beverages I should stay away from to calm the affected organ.
“Wine? Chocolate? Coffee?”
The medic rolled her eyes. “They’re stimulants. You need to limit them not eliminate them.”
Suddenly, there was a tingle in my nether regions as if to remind me why I was there in the first place. Yes, that’s right, we’re still intact! Clutching the paper, I followed the doctor out of the room, pumping a quiet celebratory fist at the libidinous news.
Post-divorce dating is not for the faint of heart. At least for me anyway.
During one of the most craziest times in my life, I found the love of my life.
And it scares the shit out of me.
While I'm enjoying all of these feelings and experiences, there's this little nagging voice in the back of my head that repeats the same three lines:
Do you really think you deserve this?
Who, exactly, do you think you are?
What if he goes back to what he had?
Because with divorce, you always hear that people go back to what they know or are familiar with.
And so, I scare myself into believing this is going to happen. Even when I know very well that I, for one, will NEVER go back. And yes, I'm putting this on record as a permanent stamp of that belief.
It's the familiar and what I know that keeps me AWAY from the return.
But somehow, and in some twisted way, I think I'm not deserving of all the efforts I'm putting in to make the forward-facing leap.
Do you really think you deserve this?
It's like a record stuck in the same rotation.
The irony here is that if a friend came to me with these same fears, I'd yell, "Nonsense!" I'd wax poetic about the person's amazing qualities. I'd fill their cup to the point of overflow. And then I realized something.
That's what Erik
After I wrote yesterday's post, Here are the Reasons I will (Probably) Never Marry Again he immediately sent me a text countering every point with words of encouragement. And, to quote a portion of those words:
I am your probably.
It was such a rush to be on the receiving end of this message. To read what I feel deep in my soul actually being reciprocated is something I'm still pinching myself over.
It took 44 years to get here, to find my probably, and I'll be damned if imposter syndrome or any form of self-sabotage will destroy it.
1. I give my all and expect my all in return.
*I know this is not fair as not all love is perceived and delivered in the same manner.
2. I trust no one. Because I’ve watched people self-destruct (myself included) without the precursor of one or the other.
3. I am suddenly too needy when in love.
4. I’m automatically too independent to believe someone else “has me.”
5. I’m a walking contradiction.
6. I believe there is another shoe that’ll drop. After all, most everyone has two feet.
7. I’m scared.
8. I haven’t reached that personal nirvana of I’m good enough.
9. I will unconsciously over compensate for the both of us.
10. I will believe at some point (or after several) that you can do better.
On the morning of an April day in 2023, I was struggling. Mentally, physically, and overall I was not in the right head to accept anything in celebration of me or my productivity. Because it was a low point. Nevertheless, I believe this story deserves the recognition it rightfully acquired and so I'm posting it now in honor of one of my favorite people. I will always love and miss my Aunt Lydia.
Danish Pancakes (in) Brooklyn
"There's an L around you—Laura, Linda, Lydia…"
I gasped. "Lydia, yes, she was my Godmother."
The cadence of my heart shifted to a gallop. I'd never been to a medium before, but the ache to talk with my favorite aunt, the only person with whom I felt truly understood, was coming through from the beyond.
"Lydia says to eat Danish pancakes."
"Danish pancakes?" I stared at the everyday-looking Brooklynite sitting beside me in her Bay Ridge walk-up, her tank top and jeans befuddled. “Why Danish?”
Aunt Lydia, my mom’s sister, was born and raised crosstown in Canarsie. A preschool teacher with pizazz, she was considered eccentric, “woo-woo” as my dad had put it, and reminded me of the character in my favorite storybook series, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
Her home was the prettiest on the otherwise rugged East 98th Street and she welcomed everyone despite age, race or gender during the ‘80s, a time when too many people just wouldn’t.
Most of the visits with Aunt Lydia were only when Mom (the complete opposite of woo-woo) threw us in the car on a random Sunday morning for the hour-long trek across the stretch of the Belt Parkway, which was an obligatory trip for her, but exciting for me. My nerves would dance as we sailed the highway, kites flying gallantly in the air along the water, to Aunt Lydia's part of town; adventure awaiting reminiscent of the bricked yellow road for Dorothy.
“Do you know why the pancakes have to be Danish?” I repeated to the psychic.
She blinked at me equally puzzled (probably because everything in Brooklyn is understood to be Italian, or at least stereotypically so), then changed the subject. But, I knew my aunt was trying to tell me something.
After the reading, I raced to the car and called Mom for some clarification or, at the very least, a clue.
“Well, Aunt Lydia loved French food,” Ma said.
“What does that have to do with Danish cuisine?”
Even over the phone, I felt her shrug.
I ended the call and resorted to a little search engine tomfoolery.
“Danish pancakes are also known as crepes,” the internet said.
As I was about to leave Google, an email notification sounded.
You have been selected to chaperone our students’ upcoming excursion to Europe to study the path of World War II.
“Holy shit, that’s it!” I squealed and fist bumped the steering wheel, then quickly dialed back Mom. “Hey, guess what?” I didn’t let her respond, but instead continued, “It was Aunt Lydia! She knew that I was going to be accepted for the international trip with school. She knew that I was going to France and she wanted me to try crepes!”
My mother was quiet for a moment, partly because I talked in an anxious ramble or possibly because she was feeling what I felt was happening: my Godmother, an absolute treasure in our family lineage, had communicated a message to me, to us.
I now felt honored and on a mission: I was going to eat a handmade crepe in the heart of Paris, paying homage to a woman whose life was cut short by a battle that was not yet rendered an epidemic in women when she was ill-stricken, but who deserved all the joy.
Aunt Lydia, who died at 42, an age I was getting eerily closer to, had never visited France. Through Julia Child and various other experiences, she found French cooking to be exquisite; a tasty home-felt meal.
On February, 19, 2018, on the street adjacent to the grand entrance of Notre Dame Cathedral, I fulfilled her request. Oozing out of a warm buttery shell was the liquidity goodness of Nutella and slivers of a ripe banana; the mother of all snacks. I had purchased the crepe on the street parallel to the church and it was delicious; my students were quietly munching on theirs beside me.
My aunt, who’d always praised my miniscule accomplishments as big deals, was guiding me through a top-rated life experience via food. With every bite was an explosion of sweetness; her continued cheerleading of my efforts regardless of the absence of her presence. I felt consumed with every morsel; I felt her warm hugs. Aunt Lydia’s zest for adventure resonated in me, her message clear: engage fully in life’s magical moments while you can and partake in the indulgence of Danish pancakes.
There is something that will never change for me despite any best effort and that's the shower of "vulnerability panic" after being brave.
I have this habit of acting in the name of bravery, enjoying the process and the high that being brave affords, only to then wallow in the vulnerability that ensues.
For me, bravery looks like publishing a piece of writing. Or stepping onto a stage or into a bookstore and doing a public reading. Or getting up in front of high school students (in all of their judging glory) and deliver content they know nothing about.
Bravery could also be announcing life events on social media.
I love doing all of these things and will never stop.
But I need a better handle on the vulnerability beast.
Once the piece goes live (as they say in publishing), once the reading is over, once the lesson is delivered, the act of bravery morphs into vulnerability.
Vulnerability has many faces.
It's so easy and cool and incredibly convincing to say that I don't care what other people think. But that's not my reality.
I do care.
Just recently the news of my current relationship "went live."
Many people gushed/are still gushing along with me; so many supportive and loving. And there were a select few who reached out to express "a bit quick?" or "are you sure?"
At first vulnerability began rearing its ugly head: racing thoughts, galloping heart, sweaty palms.
My initial (and very instinctual) reaction was to ponder their inquiries. Until the maturity of being 44 kicked in.
A beautiful friend of mine named Denise died a few years back after a rapid cancer diagnosis; would she'd have thought my happiness were too quick?
And to recollect the conversation I had with Alanis back in 2014 about criticism and bare-naked exposure, she replied:
Dawn, many people will love you, many people will hate you, and many people will be indifferent. It's what you're willing to give and receive that's your business.
Yes. That's my business.
And so, after stepping off the stage of announcing the next new phase in my life, I've come to take the approach that I'm going to enjoy what is happening right now. In this moment. And I'm going to share it. And, if it doesn't work out for whatever reason, I'll share that too. Because failures are also part of being brave and vulnerable...
If we don't start living life now, then when?
On 6-4, I'll be 44.
Birthdays have become a reflective practice. It wasn't always this way. I used to party upon their arrival. I'd later dodge them. Now I reflect.
There's been so much change. So much shift.
But more importantly, I'd like to point out something that has been a continuous thread.
My writing has been the only constant throughout this life-ride however exhilarating and tumultuous. It's been a pathway to enlightenment, controversy, connection, celebration, and love.
It's because of my ability to better articulate myself through written text that I have been able to turn an art form into something that actually works. Not only for me, but for others.
Not many people know I started writing before I knew how to actually write.
At age four, I would tell my mother stories that she'd transcribe onto index cards that were later illustrated with crayons.
In second grade, Mrs. Koenig loved my "ugly witch" story and later Mrs. Magnotti captured my talent with publishing parties and a full range of open-mic opportunities at the measly age of ten.
She championed me from fifth grade all the way up to her death in my late 30s.
But, it took the death of one of my own students to process life. It was published in the New York Times.
And it took the birth of my own child to understand postpartum depression that was later published in Salon.
It also took many foolish dating fails to celebrate ignorance then featured in New York Magazine, YourTango, and countless other media outlets to understand how the coupling game went.
I wrote about being a wife.
That experience birthed a book and television exposure.
When writing about my marriage struggles openly at the onset of the 2023 year, I received more feedback than any published piece in any famous outlet.
But all correspondence aside, I spotted a note from a childhood friend.
At first I chalked it up to another pity email. Certainly polite, but certainly not wanting to dive deeper into what I was going through.
Or so I thought.
But his check-ins became constant.
His check-ins became everything.
He genuinely cared about what was happening to me.
And this gave me further permission to understand that what I was going through wasn't residing only in my head.
When he later revealed he was going through something similar I was surprised. But only because his razor sharp focus was on me; he was selfless.
His persistence to be an amazing friend.
His persistence stemming from being an amazing father.
His persistence of making sure those he cared for were cared for.
His persistence became something I wanted to be a part of.
In my case, the arena currently consists of three life events happening, in concert, simultaneously: divorce, new job, new house.
Yes, I'm ready for a nap. And a vacation to a very distant land.
But, not yet. I'm still surveying the playing field in the arena.
The arena? Yes, the arena.
As in the place people go to duke it out and fight. Except...I'm not fighting anyone. I'm simply in the ring to battle personal demons, nay-saying thoughts, and ultimately, fear.
I read somewhere that if you want to do something but you're in fear, do it anyway despite being afraid.
Afraid? I can be afraid.
Coincidentally, the concept of afraid doesn't scare me as much... I guess because my whole life I was fending off "being a p*ssy" because being that meant being what I was: a girl.
That's a whole other post.
Well, I'm learning that if there's ever to be change in one's life, we must step up, step INTO the arena, and be brave enough to face uncertainty.
And, for me, there's PLENTY of uncertainty to go 'round.
But, also for me, that's A-okay.
Because, really, settling for what WAS was just that: settling.
And, like you, I'm not hardwired to simply settle.
If you're a Gen X-er like me, you started working around the time of 9/11 when you graduated college, then got married and had a couple kids sometime later, only to experience a global pandemic mid-career. And, if this doesn't ring true for you, you're simply here for the ride and the story.
Either way, you may proceed.
Because why wouldn't world terrorism and a planet-wide sickness be interesting?! It's borderline dystopian and, quite frankly, it's worthy of popcorn.
At any rate, I digress.
Honestly, even after the uphill battles since the world's changes in 2001, I've been trying not to quietly quit altogether.
What is Quiet Quitting you ask?
Although quiet quitting is known as a job reference, I can't help but think of how it's spilling into everyone's everyday being.
I mean, recently I experienced someone else's quiet quitting when I went to Panera Bread and was greeted by an employee with a, "What's up."
I turned around, thinking the millennial saw a friend standing behind me, but no.
He was greeting me.
"Do you mean, How can I help you?"
He looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. (Little did he know, I was about to.)
This was my first experience with quiet quitting.
But now I get it!
So many Gen Xers were taught a stolid hardcore work mentality. But now I wonder, for what? And, the more pressing, why?
As much as I don't want to quiet quit my existence, this frame of mind has me questioning my unrelenting work ethic. The wages suck, they've always sucked, and do not warrant the back-breakingness of our being.
I think the quiet quitters are teaching us not to kill ourselves for the almighty dollar. And they're right. Although I don't agree on mincing integrity on the job when I'm there (there will NOT be a "hey, what's up" greeting from my lips), but I will recognize my on-the-clock-hours from the time that is not clocked in.
This ^^^ was something I actively sought after in my teens and twenties.
This ^^^ was something I cried about not having in my thirties.
I crave that ^^^.
Being alone and being lonely are NOT the same things.
Actually, for the most part, I've been a pretty solitary person. I steered clear of sororities in college, maintained friendship circles without any deep commitment, and always made time for myself.
Since the age of 19, I've vacationed by myself. I've taken myself out to dinner, to the movies, concerts, you name it.
AND I CAN'T EFFEN WAIT TO DO IT ALL AGAIN!
Recently, a person whom I thought was a friend (a mom who had a daughter in the same grade as mine) and who's house I'd been to before, had befriended me on Facebook, then deleted me on Facebook, then sent me another request, only to delete me again. At first, I thought, hmm, that's odd, maybe The Book deleted us by accident.
Fool me once...
After the second deletion, I laughed. I literally guffawed at the screen when I saw a third request about a month or so later.
I'm too old for this sh*t.
I'm also too old for the "friends" who say they "champion" your success, but do absolutely nothing to actually champion your success.
Snore. Go back to bed. Bye Felicia!
Being alone is a privilege. I enjoy my own company. I am my own best friend.
After the divorce, my plans include taking myself on a honeymoon. No lie. I have made this an absolute priority.
Because being alone and being lonely are not the same things.
And befriending your self is the best gift you can give yourself.
Surrender isn't giving up, it's giving over.
Read that quote again.
Let it sink in.
Then, after about three more times, read this:
"It isn't about letting go of all of your options or giving up your dreams, but rather giving over your agenda, your timeline, your control, to the presence of the Universe."
My agenda. Ah, yes. The very timeline that runs my life day in and day out. Sometimes to positive effects, oftentimes to a self-created misery.
When experiencing a divorce (which is the slowest break up humanly possible even when both parties are amicable), all of your next steps resemble that of getting on a treadmill only to find that the forward-moving button is broken.
So, as you stand there, you try to remedy the situation, maybe pushing the button several more times, but the pace you want just isn't happening. And, if you're like me, this is where you *might* resort to smashing down on the button with every effort to get moving.
With divorce, this looks like me patiently waiting for calls, emails, smoke signals from lawyers. With selling a house, this looks like me frantically cleaning the house for showings and waiting, again patiently, for calls, emails, smoke signals from real estate agents. With buying a house, this requires all the necessary paperwork that's contingent on all of the above.
AND I HAVE NO CONTROL.
Then this quote pops into my life and the synchronicity is uncanny.
I must surrender the agenda, the timeline, the control. Because, really, this entire process involves many moving parts that are simply out of my jurisdiction.
So I'm giving the situation over to the Universe. Let the process play out the way it has to. As much as it's driving me bat shit crazy, I know it's my only option.
In the meantime, focusing on other important things (there's always a laundry list of something that needs tending to) will be the focus.
It's not giving up.
It's giving it over.