love letters

Dear Ex-Husband,  

When there’s a chill in the air, the way it felt in the end, in our perfect, corner-lot home, I wear your flannel shirt. You joked that I shrunk your laundry on purpose because I wanted to make what was yours my own. I was never good at housewife things.

When you asked me to marry you I thought, this is the beginning.

I wanted to dance to Van Morrison just because it was a Tuesday, because the snow floating onto the deck chairs looked so beautiful and the fire felt so nice. I’d hold my glass of wine in one hand, turn up the volume with the other and sway in front of the speakers. The dog’s eyebrows shifted back and forth as he watched from the couch; me watching you stand across the room, letting me dance alone, the artwork rattling against the walls. It annoyed you that I craved to simply be in the moment, untethered to expectations, peacefully content and enough for ourselves–enough for each other–safe from the pressure and the pain and the cruelty outside the cracked glass panel of our front door.

I wanted to sell all of our things and go somewhere new. I wanted to experience the world with you by my side. Let’s get in the car and see where we end up; throw our phones in the glove box and sleep under the stars.

 When you told me to divorce you I thought, this is the end.

The American Psychological Association says 50% of Western marriages end in divorce. It was September when our love story, like half of our lovelorn peers, turned into a antiseptic, bold-faced statistic on a crystal white page. We stood awkwardly–heartbroken and tear-stained–unsure if it was acceptable to still hold onto each other while the walls we built crumbled around us. I never truly felt the presence of your heart until the day I decided to eradicate mine.

I don’t know why I am writing to you now. Maybe because the leaves are changing again. Because I feel the tip of my nose go numb when I stand on my front porch and stare at the moon. You never wanted to stop and stare at anything. I know you fell in love again, but did you finally find a way to fall in love with the sky?  

Maybe if I put my heart on the page one more time, your flannel shirt wrapped around my waist, tears of rage creeping behind burning eyes, I won’t feel you creep into my mind; the way you’d sneak behind me at the cutting board making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I tell you how you broke me; how when I squint tight I can still faintly see your cold stare past my shoulders, while I begged you to look me in the eye. As if a year later, a wine-sodden Dear John letter could wash it all away.


Dear You,

 I regret to inform you that we are through.

I look fondly back on our nine years together, and with sorrow on our one year apart. I am writing to say, formally, we no longer have any business occupying the spaces of one another’s hearts.

Please remove my image from your memory promptly, and allow me to do the same.

I wish you the best.





Remember how we sat around the table with my dad and sister, telling them we’d decided to go our separate ways. We smiled over stiff cocktails, cracking jokes like nothing would ever change. We said we’d remain friends; we’d divvy our things amicably, share the same lawyer, exist with separate lives peacefully, lovingly committed to our respect for the other and what we once had. Funny what difference a year can make.

I started smoking again. Last time I quit because of you, Ex-Husband; flicking my last butt onto the asphalt, watching it dance in the road like our small-town firework shows; your coat over my back with your body just behind.

Remember when we leaned against the falling-over deck rail and swapped stories, chuckling over our shared fondness for Marlboro Smooths. Encompassed by smoke and beer breath we tumbled ass over teakettle into each other’s broken hearts. We had a special way of helping each other toward the things that felt like magic while they filled our insides with tar.

I bleach my hair blonde now; like when I was tow-headed and bright eyed; before I knew the power of love outside the strong arms of my dad. We’d set our snacks aside to dance on the living room rug with the Disney princesses singing behind us. I’d twirl until my skirt floated around my waist and I felt my belly tickle my throat. You always said you didn’t like blondes.

I write all the time now; as if my heart rupturing obliterated the overgrown weeds I’d so long let flourish, leaving behind a marked trail to my true, clear voice. I’ve spent a year peeling  back my mask, finally feeling the full beauty and sting of the sun and the wind and the rain. What a year it’s been, huh.

Maybe I’m writing to you to say thank you.

Thank you for not being like the one before you.

Thank you for keeping me safe.

For loving me the best way you knew how.  

Thank you for holding me upright on my twenty-first birthday.

For taking the trash out when it heaped over the can.

For building the fire as I sat cocooned on the couch, the dog nestled between my thighs.

Thank you for not letting my wine glass get empty.

For heaping seconds on my plate and telling me I was beautiful as I felt my pants squeeze tight.

Thank you for giving up on me.

For deeming me too much, too little, too everything.

For finding the love I couldn’t give in your simple, perfect-on-paper, so beautiful belle.

 Love will never be enough, you told me; your brow furrowed and your heart tucked deep in your saferoom, protected from the world’s hazards, too obstructed to love.

But you were wrong.

I laugh from my belly now, Ex-Husband. And I cry from my soul.

I dance to Van Morrison in my underwear and stand, mouth agape, awestruck, in love with the night sky. Sometimes my wine glass gets empty, and I feel my heart twinge when I swaddle myself in your flannel; because some things are just too good to say goodbye.

 But I kiss like I mean it and write until my eyes cross. I tuck my phone in the glovebox and book last-minute flights just because. When you decided it was the end, it was actually the beginning–the place where I rose from our ashes, Ex Husband; where love, for myself, was enough.

 Thanks for the lessons. Thanks for the love.


Fondly & No Longer,



rites of passage: the dresser

Once a week I haul my dirty clothes to the laundromat a few blocks down the road in a routine I’ve unexpectedly grown to appreciate. I wheel my things from one machine to the next, carefully packing them back into their basket, only to be stuffed away carelessly when I return home.

When I fold my laundry my mind races–head down, foot-tapping, headphones drowning out the buzz of a dozen dryers. My hands stay busy and my brain has all the room to roam. I often wonder if the other patrons around me are navigating the intimate corners of their minds as well. It looks like we’re awkwardly folding our underwear in a shared space, but we’re in the thick of it together–working to solve life’s mysteries one roll of quarters at a time.

We dig deep into our stories, minds and hearts ripping wide open, with each turn and fold.  

Months before I slid up and down the hallway–my mismatched socks, his flannel shirt, plastic basket on my side. I tucked our belongings away; his nestled next to mine­. Our wedding photos shook and the silk poppies of my bouquet quivered as the oak drawers of our old chest of clothes slammed shut. Dresser drawers burst with stacks of weathered band t-shirts, while my heart burst for him.

We decided to get divorced on a work-night. I collapsed on the kitchen table and he turned away, wrangling his weeps behind tired eyes. I woke up to the sound of the dresser’s handles thumping as his calloused, oil-stained hands let it go. For seven years I’d heard the squeak and thud of those drawers before his pick-up rumbled down the driveway. I’d pretend to sleep while he kissed my forehead and tucked in my feet.

 I love you, Bear, he’d say.

I love you, I’d whisper as I rolled to steal his pillow and smiled.

We slept as a pair–two bodies together, two hearts ripped apart–for the last time that night. Before the sun came up, the metal handles chirped their familiar tune; he left for work and I emptied my drawers.

My new apartment felt hollow–a two-bedroom, one-bath I begrudgingly worked to furnish day-by-day. The movers threw my new mattress and box springs across the bedframe, propped lonely between four stark-white walls. I stretched my sheets over the corners, unwrapped my new blankets and leaned my pillows at the headboard one-by-one.

Two for me.

Two more for no one.

I consciously built a disposable world around me. I lived quietly, surrounded by simple things I could peacefully turn the lights down on and never look back. I kept my clothes stacked in bins in the closet and a mirror leaned against the wall. I’d sweep the dust-bunnies away and sit cross-legged on the hardwood, hair-brushes and makeup cluttered at my sides.

For an entire year I needed a dresser, and for an entire year, something inside me resisted. Somewhere beneath my grief, I held a simple bank of drawers in a wildly symbolic, unfavorable light. I’d walk through furniture stores and flea markets–inspecting, testing, measuring–only to find myself once again perched at the end of the bed, wide-eyes glued to the blank wall where the damned dresser belonged.

I’d dig through my mind for reasoning. It’s too big, too dark, too lavish, too broken, I’d tell myself, knowing my resistance sat much deeper than the polished wood surface I leaned my weight on.

I’d learned divorce feels like a war. Memories from the beautiful and images of ugly swirl around you as you hold your head between your knees and beg the Universe to make it end.  

I love you. I hate you.

I loved you. I’ll never stop hating you. 

You cling desperately to whatever feels steady, filled by an unshakeable fear that if you dare to let go, you'll surely float into space. You see a never-ending stream of destruction and brawl with the certainty that it’ll never change. You trudge through the wind and the rain, day after day, fighting for your new life one battle at a time.

Get out of bed.

Wash your hair.

Change your name.

Sell the rings.

Forget how he smiled at you.

Remember your pain.

You sit silently among the carnage, fighting to convince yourself you’re not going to die–not tonight. You make enemies with the furniture, desperate to release your tormented rage.

I sat with my pain and road the waves of heartache–for him, for me, for the tiny, flickering flame in the distance I prayed meant I’d feel love again. I had good days and dark days, manic days and sad days, and it was still the dresser that brought me to my knees. I was suffocated by an inexplicable weakness to tuck my new life into drawers.

Months passed, and I loaded my new-to-me dresser in the back of the truck with a friend, still unconvinced it had a place in my piecemeal home. We lugged it up the stairs and pushed it into the empty wall. I loaded my things into the drawers watching my reflection move methodically in the matching mirror. My wool socks and sweatpants mocked me, cradled in their new home.  

This is where we belong now.

It was weighty– a substantial mass of energy standing sturdy like a boldface period at the end of my tragic, romantic tale. I looked at it across from my bed, the space beside me empty, with jaded eyes. My things sat comfortably unobstructed by another. T-shirts and sweaters once harassed by diesel-soaked Levi’s lay blissfully in their lavender-scented abode.

I twisted my lip under my teeth and imagined smashing the drawers, setting the dresser ablaze in a fit of heart-broken madness. I’d watch my things light like kindling and blow all the feelings away. The neighbors would hold back their children, fearfully observing my silhouette fan the raging flames. I held my fingers in my ears as my ivory-painted drawers looked straight through me–past my pain and my pretending–and breathed softly.

It’s time to stop running now, they said.

Their brass handles clinked quietly against the drawer face as I opened them to tuck my clean clothes inside. My sweatshirt pocket sagged with quarters for next week’s laundry, and my heart did the same. For a year I’d been at odds with my world, wearing the bloodshed from my battles, hoping quietly, with hidden desperation, that I’d at last found the end.

I watched the petite, carved legs rest delicately on my bedroom floor, confidently supporting the weight of my baggage. Before, in cluttered suitcases and boxes, I’d declared myself a gypsy–unrestrained and unscathed. My clothes and I could be lost–together–without a home. Displaced and braced for our next stirring–a vagabond soul and her disheveled basket of things.

Now, everything had changed. Roots crept beneath my dresser, deep through the hardwood into the foundation, past my resistances–through my armor for fighting the darkness felt in an empty home.

I lay still in my bed, feeling the sun from the window and hearing the distant trucks humming by. My tired eyes fluttered open as I peeked over my blankets toward my bank of drawers. I reached for the other pillow–cool from a night in the moonlight–and tried to eke out a smile.

This is where we belong now.

The handles sat silently; drawers undisturbed. They burst with tired garments, worn and ill-fitting on my post-divorce frame. Teeming with fear, and also with freedom, I reached toward the ­­­­­­­­drawer pulls and started my new day.

the empowered woman

My historic railroad home sat nestled between a nearly-abandoned lot of waist-high weeds, storage crates and an automotive shop. The porch sat almost below the crumbling viaduct, connecting downtown to the west side of town. When the bridge came down, it took only a few short days. One morning I walked below it, past the broken Budweisers, toward my office and the next I found myself standing wide-eyed against the chain-link, staring blankly at the piles of rebar towering above me like curled ribbons.

Somewhere in the stacks of concrete was a tagged traffic sign I’d established an intimate routine with. Its words had greeted me with a comfortable cynicism each day since I hauled my belongings into my new, post-divorce nest; wiping clear my story of what once was in pursuit of everything new. I’d nod as I shuffled my feet home from days of too much work, too little food, just enough vodka to dull the pain. Do Not Enter Love, the sign read. It’s dangerous there, babe, it reminded me.

The town celebrated the shiny, new bridge–four sturdy lanes of traffic winding through newly landscaped terrain, rich with opportunity for development. Walkers and cyclists buzzed back and forth under the lights, gawking at the new perspective of the distant mountains. I sat on my porch, struck by the clear view of what was once obstructed, clutching my heart for that sign.

Love and I had a complex history. I’d always known it was there, bubbling below my chest, rich with gifts left ungiven, but I also knew how dark and cruel and ugly it could be as it threw me against the drywall, declaring my worth between my legs, manipulating, mistreating, and calling me by name as it stabbed me in the belly. For a lifetime, my performance in love for others was clumsy; in love from others; cataclysmic; in love for myself, laughable.

I’d lived as a self-proclaimed whipping post–born undeserving of grace, ease, or abundance. I was thrashed by the blows of others, but above all, a victim of my own hand. Love, inward and outward, was a ploy for power, best dimmed and withheld.

My career was my security–the only place that felt safe. I’d failed as a wife, but I could soar as a professional. I attached every ounce of my worth to my job roles and strategically built the identity I believed was the antidote to my broken heart. Each time the magnet of my nametag snapped onto my jacket, the curtains were drawn. I smiled and laughed, stroking the egos of my peers. I prepared for meetings with purpose and precision–in my mind and in my skirt length. I sat across tables from the troops of middle-aged men–arrogant in their starched slacks–and I performed. They were impressed by my mind, but that’s not why they kept my seat at the table. I sat at the table anyway.

The train whooshed below us and I sought comfort between his arms. Between them I felt safe– blocked from the sting of reality. I felt a heart pulse against mine and let it beat for the part of me that lost its own rhythm. At the time I thought this was the solution. He gave me the warmth I didn’t have. He held me up so the world couldn’t see my struggle to stand. But I was a temporary fix for his own broken heart–a vodka-soaked bandage to take the edge off the dark, winter months. His feelings for me were as real as mine for him, but I knew I wasn’t enough to extinguish the inevitable ahead. I clung to him anyway.

I chased beautiful things with desperation in my eyes. Our love language was material, and each curated corner of my world was a little girl’s plea to gather love. These flowers on my desk have always meant work is great. These matching curtains have always meant I’m doing fine on my own. These leather boots have always meant I’m happy now, mom. She was as broken as I was and knew it wouldn’t ever be different. I cried for her love anyway.

Whole chapters of my life were manufactured in the shadows of self-loathing. For 28 years I’d tapped my hand on my cheek, provoking the world to swing at me the way I deserved. And then, as if the clock struck twelve, the sparkly, smiley, and small existence I’d pretended to carry to keep my keepers happy, shattered. For the first time, in the heaps of my own catastrophe, exhausted from the care-taking and the pretending, a tiny voice in me whispered, How can I love myself now? My body, exhausted from holding it all inside, collapsed into the pain and the release. I stood stripped of everything I’d built around myself–naked, afraid, and ready.

I’d spent a year with my reflection methodically picking at the blemishes in my life until they grew into craters, void of anything familiar, exposing the real and the raw beneath the tight mask I’d so proudly worn for decades. My world, once comfortable, safe, stable, wasn’t enough anymore. My marriage, mortgage, and security were collateral damage. I let the houseplants die and the neighbors talk as I ripped apart my desirable existence with a teary-eyed grin. Then the work began.

I dreamed of the beautiful, adventurous, and meaningful. I wanted love that made my breath steady, experience that made my heart zing, work that changed the world–a world that felt safe, by my terms. I wanted to feel empowered.

I looked to society’s curation of the empowered female. Instagram tells us we are bold, in our words, in our style. Celebrities tell us we speak up, confidently, unapologetic. We speak our truth, declare our worth, support our sisters, take up space. We gather for conferences, luncheons, and summits. We eagerly read and write with fervor. We wear our stories on our chest and preach the sermon of strength. We rush city halls, demand equality, place our perpetrators in the cuffs they deserve. We love ourselves with an unshakeable love–steadfast and strong.

The empowered woman is confident.
The empowered woman is able.
The empowered woman stands at the top of the mountain, arms open to the sky, grateful for the life she’s built herself–wind in her hair, smile on her face.

I built my new life piece by piece, grasping tightly to the image of the woman I could be. Letting go of expectations allowed me to create a simple sanctuary in my oddball, downtown rental. My belongings became tools for functioning, not symbols of my happiness. I lost myself in racks of vintage, filling my closet with pieces from decades past, imaging the story of the woman before me–a process I’d adored since childhood but abandoned years ago. I ate my meals in bars and cafes, laughing loudly when I wanted, somberly ruminating when I needed. My scarlet letter marked me a failed housewife and I pinned it to my secondhand sweater without shame.

I said yes to everything. Last-minute road trips, middle-of-the-day hikes, Christmas in the desert, drinks with friends, conversations with strangers. I spoke the truth without hesitation. When I felt love, I spoke it. When I felt pain, I spoke it. When I felt anger, I spoke it.

Women told me they thought I was strong. You’re so brave, they’d say with stars in their eyes, as if I was the image of their modern-day heroine. I questioned if this is what brave feels like. I don’t feel brave, I’d tell them, but maybe I am.

I parroted society’s plan for the daring, born-again woman with precision, but my smile was weak, and my heart was hollow. I’d cracked the door open to a new world, and it wasn’t until things fell even further into the unexpected that I flung it off the hinges.

I bobbed through the San Juan Islands listening to the raindrops bounce off my hood. The locals stayed inside the ferry, hands wrapped around their coffee, while I stared a thousand-mile stare. The wind and rain whipped my hair across my face and gave me permission to be broken. I didn’t have to pretend to be okay here.

The opportunity arose for me to submerge myself in a treatment program–a soul-filling sanctuary of love and beauty and peace. I ate three meals a day for the first time in years. My pants squeezed into my waist and I didn’t care. My smile stretched further across my cheeks each day as the weight on my shoulders crumbled down my back, freeing me from the chains I’d cast around myself. I painted rainbows on my toenails and walked barefoot in the grass.

Here, on a funny little farm, miles away from my reality, I crossed swords with myself. I combed through the unwritten rules I’d lived by, called my inner-critics by name and redefined what it meant to be me.

I screamed to my abusers, You broke me.
I cried to my deserters, You betrayed me.
I raged to the Universe, You destroyed me.

Pushing my hand into my chest, rooting my toes into the ground, I loved myself with the love I deserved but never felt. I held my hand as I forgave myself for being cruel and forgave the world for making me that way. My sobs washed away my armor, my cynicism swept away in the wind. It was different now.

I returned to my real world, confident in my worth and eager for change, but my newfound empowerment felt lonely. It didn’t look like before. It didn’t look like the others. My eyes were open wide to every facet, and it seemed as if everything was on the line to be tossed upside-down. My grief grew, shadowing my hot, summer days, and I felt a steady pressure of rage pulse behind my eyes. I’d plunged into the muck of my own healing, yet my world looked vastly different from society’s image of the healed.

I roamed through crowded streets and sat in buzzing bars, on the surface the same being I was before. Below it, I was unfamiliar–my emotional scaffolding, strengthened but diverging.

Strangers grabbed my shoulders, winking as they slid into the stool beside me, stopping me as I worked, pushing their bodies into mine.

I didn’t feel ugly or dumb or small anymore. My confidence brought me peace in my physicality– something I’d never felt before–and that same confidence invited my harassment. Accepting myself lifted a weight off my chest that allowed me to hold my head proud and my gaze steady. I was finally released from my own biting provocations and immediately whiplashed into the faces of tormenting strangers. Confidence was a gift I’d given myself that, unbeknown to me, came with a dark side.

I sat across the familiar conference tables and thought about the suits in front of me and their six- figure salaries. They swapped golf stories and puffed their chests like brutish creatures behind the zoo glass. I’d avoided the simple math to discern my hourly rate, because I knew what it’d show me. Between stories they scribbled notes as I spoke. In ninety minutes I volunteered my ideas to cushion their status–their benefits, their legacy–and I ninety minutes I didn’t make enough to cover the lukewarm coffee that sat between us. My value was at the top of my mind now, and my awareness magnified the facts I’d shrugged off before.

My world and the people in it stung my skin. Like a new baby, I was tender to it all. I’d ripped the layers off one-by-one, tossing the hardened protection I’d built aside and exposing my everything to the elements. The hurt I felt from my relationships, my failures, my decades of suppressed desires for something different was amplified–no longer deflected by my masks or met with a welcoming embrace by my self-imposed identity as the Universe’s sacrificial lamb. I had clarity now, and it was clear that it was time for change.

Gone were the days of indulging the narrative that I am un-loveable, undeserving, unfit for the big, bold, and beautiful. I knew I deserved different now, and it was me who had to roll up my sleeves. I trudged below society’s portrait of empowerment–the peaceful woman on her mountain. She smiled for the scenery around her and I set mine on fire.

My eyes were open to my worthiness and I felt the discomfort of the blows I’d once welcomed with open arms. The actions I previously coveted now brought me to my knees. I found myself trapped in the canyon between the past-life I’d built to beat me and the new-life I’d found the courage to rebuild. I’d blown the cover off of culture’s image of the strong and I knew with unwavering certainty that the empowered woman does not actually stand blissfully with the sun on her chest.

I was the empowered woman now, and the pain was consuming.

The world roared clearly to me now.

Empowerment is not peace.
Empowerment is not joy.
Empowerment is not victorious arms thrust toward the sky, marking the end of the climb.

Empowerment is, in the face of your wrenching grief, feeling your heart thrash below your skin, purposefully shattering your world into a million tiny pieces so you can learn how to put it back together again. It is ignoring the magnetic pull to abandon yourself in your greatest time of need and sitting quietly with your pain. It is turning your face toward the heat and pushing through the flames, giving yourself permission to feel it all

The empowered woman goes to war with her world every day.
The empowered woman is scarred.
The empowered woman is tired.
The empowered woman does not pose proudly, pleased on the peaks above us.

The empowered woman walks through a valley–winding and unpredictable. Through the sun and the shadows, she keeps moving through her grief, away from the familiar and toward what she deserves. Her eyes look ahead–not behind, not around. Her mind is afraid, her body is steady, her hand is on her heart. The empowered woman sits with herself, loving fiercely through it all.

The empowered woman lets love in. The empowered woman lets love out.

The jackhammers buzzed through my bones as I walked past the bridge’s rubble on my way back home. Do Not Enter Love, my sign cried quietly from a distance, crumpled and discarded in a bed of now-obsolete trash. It’s dangerous there, babe.

The sun, once blocked by thick barriers of concrete, beat on my shoulders as I shuffled past. I walked toward an entirely new reality–eyes open, soul unbarred. I felt tired and lonely and afraid, but I smiled, hand on my heart, and I entered anyway.

and maybe now it's gone

The hot water rushed over my head while I fought to steady to my breath and find peace in the quiet moment–alone, uninhibited, totally allowed to turn everything off while the stranger sat in my hotel room.

As we walked into the room he glanced at my books sitting on the bed. He told me he didn’t like the ending of one, and I told him to keep it to himself. I don’t want to talk about fucking books with you, I thought. I don’t want to talk about anything of substance with you.

Even in my 2 AM haze I couldn’t turn off my brain. I knew I could sleep with him, but I didn’t desire to–not the way a body craves closeness, even the shallow kind, with another body. Yet, I wanted to sleep with him, just to show that I could. I wanted to have a night that meant nothing with no one in a different city, far, far away from my reality. I wanted to prove that my heart was stone and my body was mine and I could do whatever I damn well pleased. I wanted to say: See, you aren’t hurting me. You didn’t crush me. Not only am I okay, I am desirable. Look at what I can fucking do.

The shower brought it all back. The hot water and I had a history–burning my skin until I couldn’t stand, crying until I ran out of breath. When the moments crept up  and I thought about my husband and the girlfriend he found in the town he worked in while I waited at home, my body turned to ice. The only way I found to cope was to stand in the shower–multiple times a day, every day, until I killed my heart with heat.

Turns out it’s a common reaction to betrayal and infidelity–to seek comfort in hot water. I wasn’t alone in my habit, but I was in my marriage.

Years later, there I was in the wet, familiar heat, forcing my heartache down the hotel shower drain, fighting the pain from a different romance and the romance of the past and the one before that, and my fragile heart and the stupid things it lets me do.

We spent the night in places filled with beautiful women–women dancing on bars, swinging from the ceiling, laughing with friends in their skin-tight dresses and sky-high heels. The guys claimed “their team” for the redheads and the blondes and the tattooed girls–whoever their preferred genus of woman happened to be–and I sat back and watched. He pulled me aside as he smoked his cigarette and said, the beautiful girls I go for never have anything good to say.

And I thought:

No shit.

The girls like me, without the perfect body and the beautiful dress and the sex appeal from across this miserable fucking bar–we have plenty to say. 

We have brains that dive deep beyond the shallow conversation you’ll find here. We have hearts that give and give and give. People like you desire it all, but you’re too goddamn afraid of the thoughts in your head and the aching in your heart to look past the shape of my dress and the shape of hers.

I just smiled and shrugged as if I didn’t have a solution to his dilemma.

The next morning I felt the soul-crushing weight of the night before. My frustrations swarmed my brain and I pulled at my hair, so sick of feeling heartsick.

I didn’t sleep with him. I didn’t want to, because my heart was tied up elsewhere. Even with the vodka and the hot water and as we laughed in the elevator and I reminded myself of all the freedom I had, I didn’t want to.

I let him out of my room before the sun came up the next morning. My dull headache was a quiet hum compared to the screaming pain that buzzed through my body as the reality of my situation crashed through me. I realized in that moment, sharing my space with a stranger, that despite what I’d been telling myself, my safely-kept heart had been ripped open, after years of tucked away from the hurt, once again.

I looked back on the months before, the moments where I fought so hard to maintain control in order to prevent this. I tried so hard to build a cushion around me to stop the hurt, but instead, I cracked wide open, allowing the real me spilled out too quick for me to catch it. I fell deep into an attachment that was dangerous. I allowed myself to relish in the gift of vulnerably connecting, but as the reality caught up, it felt an awful lot like it did to watch the beautiful girls swing from the ceiling in their lacey bodysuits in my jeans and messy bun.  

I didn’t give a shit about the man in my room hours earlier. I cared about the one weeks before. The one who left me alone, again, unsure of what had happened between the two of us, and what, if anything, would ever happen again.

The reality of the situation crashed over me. It was over. All the good from the whirlwind months before–the deep conversations, the soul-baring confessions, the real, not for the cameras, smiles, the heart fluttering, rollercoaster stomach, skin touching skin, breath synched with mine, perfectly broken, unexpected, beautiful thing–was done. It was over.

The familiar script showed itself.

I’m not enough.

I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not smart enough.

I’m not good enough.

I’m not loving enough.

I’m not enough to be cared for.

I’m not enough to be respected.

I’m not enough to not betray.

I’m not enough to not beat down.

I’m not enough to deserve happiness.

I’m not enough to be understood.

I’m not enough to get what I give.

I’m not enough to love.

I choked back on my tears and fought the pain with anger.

I got mad at myself.

Why did I let myself do this? I knew better. Why couldn’t I just let myself stay safely alone?

I got mad at him.

Why did he do this to me? Why did he open the doors to a room that he planned to set on fire?

When my marriage ended my husband looked at me. “You over romanticize everything, Jess,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find a life as good as you want.”

I watched the fog lift over the city from the edge of my hotel bed.

This statement from what felt like a lifetime before today rolled around in my head–the way it routinely had since I walked out of my perfect, 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with my giant diamond ring tossed in my glove compartment.

Maybe I’ll never get the life that’s as good as what I want.

Or maybe I will.

Maybe I did.

And maybe now it’s gone.

spoken shame + dirty laundry

Brené calls the shame triggers we harbor deep in our being our shame gremlins. They whisper in our ear, “you’re not good enough,” and giggle under their breath as they watch us shrink. They hold us back from speaking up, opening our hearts, and telling our story. They are as debilitating as they are ugly, and we all have them­­, adopted from our upbringing and escorted into our own adulthood.

When we speak shame, we cut it off at the knees, Brené Brown says.

Our palms sweat, hearts race, stomach drops, and we feel flooded with emotion. From here, maybe we run away, keeping our secrets to ourselves, we appease, attempting to mold into whatever we think the world is looking for, or we fight back, lashing out, putting up our armor in an attempt to protect our hearts.

Last Saturday I found myself sitting in my local laundromat—a place that has developed incredible symbolism for the state of my heart and mind as of late. My apartment doesn’t have accessible laundry facilities, so I drag my basket of dirty clothes to the land of coin-operated machines a few blocks from my house on a weekly basis.

When I fold my laundry I think a lot, likely because my hands are busy and my brain has all the room to roam. I often wonder if the others around me are navigating the intimate corners of their minds like me. It looks like we are awkwardly folding our underwear in a shared space, but really we are in the thick of it, working to solve life’s mysteries one roll of quarters at a time.

Brené calls the shame triggers we harbor deep in our being our shame gremlins. They whisper in our ear, “you’re not good enough,” and giggle under their breath as they watch us shrink. They hold us back from speaking up, opening our hearts, and telling our story. They are as debilitating as they are ugly, and we all have them­­, adopted from our upbringing and escorted into our own adulthood.

As I sat in the laundromat, head down, foot-tapping, headphones drowning out the buzz of a dozen dryers, two familiar faces walked in the door. A few moments passed and I felt them standing over me. My palms sweaty, my heart racing, my stomach in my worn out Chuck Taylors.

They were colleagues from my ex-husband’s former employer—the employer that fired him months ago, which sent us out of town, which ultimately led to the routine carting of my laundry to a public place, too poor for a house with a washing machine, divorced. They handed me a roll of quarters as a part of the company’s “Random Acts of Kindness” marketing campaign. I didn’t want to take the quarters. I wanted to slide under the chair and scream. My gremlins came together in harmonious laughter, watching me shrink and shrink and shrink.

The shame-resilient have characteristics that allow them to recover from shame, stopping it before it spirals out of control, Brené teaches.

·      They can recognize their gremlins when they show up.

·      They can reality-check the messages that are feeding these triggers.

·      They reach out for support to tell their story.

·      They speak their shame.

Shame exists in our lives, regardless of how hard we fight it. It’s our responsibility to become familiar with it. If we desire to live wholeheartedly, we must know when to recognize when shame’s at the table, because, without a doubt, it will find its way there on occasion.

As the laundromat customers doted over the kind-gesture from the men with the quarters, the floodgates were opening. I thought about leaving the quarters on the table. “I don’t want their fucking money,” I steamed. I thought about abandoning my clothes, jumping in the car and going until I didn’t feel anymore.

When we speak shame, we cut it off at the knees, Brené says.

I grabbed my phone and texted my best-friend:

Doing my laundry in the laundromat makes me feel like I’m trash. It makes me feel like I can’t support myself. It makes me feel weak.  I’m 28 years old, living in a rental house, with a roommate. Being seen with a pocket full of quarters, surrounded by my own dirty clothes, makes me feel shame.

When he was fired from his job, I was so angry. We worked so hard in our careers to be the best, probably because we were better at being the best for work than for each other. Knowing that they know he was let go makes me feel shame.

I couldn’t keep my own marriage together. I don’t know how to love, and I don’t know how to be loved. I’m alone and I am heartbroken. Being seen without him, with a new name, back in this town makes me feel shame.

I went back to my pile of clean clothes. I folded the bathrobe we stole from the hotel he proposed to me at, I thought about the work I’d put into my career over the years, building something from nothing, I thought about the night I had before, smiling like a boy-crazy teenager in the company of a new man. I looked at the wide grins on the faces of my laundry-comrades, armed with rolls of shiny, new laundry-change, and I took a breath.

I cut it off at the knees. 

what my 2 days on tinder did for me

Finding the guts to do this thing that scared me, and to be seen as me—not the broken half from a pair—was incredibly uplifting.

arlier this year my husband and I separated.

We all—my now ex-husband, my friends, my family, and I—immediately began the Tinder jokes once the news of our split was out. Here we were, two millennials, single and totally disjointed from the dating world as it looks today. It was hard not to poke at our inevitable futures.

After weeks of joking and a little physical force from my sister, I finally downloaded the app to see what my prospects looked like. Then this happened.

I had to swipe left on my ex-husband.

(This is also what I’d like to title my future BuzzFeed story on the incident because I think it could be a real winner for all of us.)

What the frick. So, after literally yelling at my phone and a whole 3½ minutes of being on Tinder, I deactivated my account and deleted the app.

Then I went to Vegas for a client’s conference. It felt like the one and only time that I could ever give this newfangled dating technology a fair shot without the risk of ex-husband trauma. So, I reactivated my account and dove in.

I feel at this point of the story I should offer up some important points.

  • I was TERRIFIED of anyone even so much as finding out that I was single, let alone publicly announcing my desire to make a connection with someone on an app. I actually thought I was going to die when I made my profile live. (Spoiler: I didn’t.)
  • I was not actually looking for someone to date in Las Vegas. That would be ridiculous, and while I am a ridiculous person, that would be a bit much even for me. I also wasn’t looking for someone to sleep with, but the feminist in me believes that even if I was, that’s my prerogative, folks.  What I was looking for was the answer to a burning question, "What can Tinder do for me?"

So, back to me in Vegas scrolling profiles of 25–35-year-old men while drinking $14 vodka sodas in a bar by myself. (Jealous, yet?)

It was here that I discovered the unexpected. Once I got into it, I walked away from my experiment with what I feel like were some solid, positive, life-enhancing takeaways.

Here’s what my 2 days on Tinder did for me:

It boosted my confidence in a time where I was feeling pretty freaking low.

Getting divorced makes you feel like the biggest failure on the planet. You lose your sense of worth in every facet of life.

In the months during and after our separation, I felt my voice get smaller and smaller at home, among friends and family, and the worst for me, at work. I felt like I couldn’t tell my clients about my situation because surely they’d think, “this girl can’t manage her relationship, how can we trust her to support our business?”

I felt like everyone immediately lost sight of me as me, and only saw a broken woman, shrinking from stress. I felt like their heads swarmed with questions about what was going on and every ounce of available room in their brains was filled with shit I didn’t want to talk about or think about each and every time they saw me.

Finding the guts to do this thing that scared me, and to be seen as me—not the broken half from a pair—was incredibly uplifting.

It made me think about who I want to be as a person.

It feels silly to say, but Tinder helped me rediscover my own identity. It made me realize that whether I’m just sticking myself out there on an app for people to judge based on my looks or I’m negotiating with a potential new partner for work—I still have an identity that is mine and only mine.

I bring my own unique story, passions, quirks, warts, and all to the table, and some sorry sucker out there will dig that, some future client will relate to that. My people are out there in the world and I am not alone.

With this, I also realized if I feel compelled to say that I live a life filled with travel and food and exploration, I better keep living life that way. I only have this one life to live and I think every human should live the life their Tinder profile says they live.

It made me feel desirable.

This one’s simple. Most every woman on the planet spends their time thinking about what they’d like to change about their bodies and not thinking about the fact that someone is into them just the way they are.

Even if it’s just some frat dude at a bachelor party looking to get some in Vegas, getting matched with me, I don’t care. It made me feel like, “Okay. The nunnery does not have to be the next stop, Jess.”

And I legitimately, deeply, so badly needed that.

It made me smile when I really needed to freaking smile.

Not to sound like a drugstore coffee mug, but smiling is such a great gift in life.

Turning a shit situation around can be as simple as finding a video that makes you chuckle, a cookie that tastes like absolute heaven, or a beautiful hunk of a man who swiped right on you who you’re certain is entirely out of your league.

To the men of Las Vegas, thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.

And last but not least...

It made me feel like everything was going to be alright.

I didn’t know that I was going to be alright.

I didn’t know that I was going to figure out the financial stuff and learn to kill the spiders and find a way to remember to get my oil changed and ever feel beautiful or loved or whole again. I just didn’t have an ounce of confidence that this thing that was happening to me wasn’t going to kill me and my spirit forever.

Now, thanks to Tinder, I know.

Moral of the story: If you're getting back in the game, feeling low and maybe a little curious about what the wonderful (and weird) world of online dating has to offer you, you should go for it. Even if all you take from it is a couple of smiles and a renewed sense of hope for your singlehood. 

do not enter love

Everything I study tells me to change my story—to boldly stand up, declare what I deserve, allow myself the space to heal and courageously enter relationships with a legitimate belief that two people can be trusted to care for one another without fists or flings with pretty girls in dive bars, while everything I’ve lived screams:

It’s dangerous here.

When I’m afraid to feel, I drink. It’s a family gift—an impeccable capability to hide ourselves and hold our liquor.

In the moment it feels like handfuls of pretzels and belly-laughs, my legs tucked under me on the barstool, going drink-for-drink and joke-for-joke with the boys. With enough vodka and bar-talk, no one will know what’s really happening behind my glazed eyes.

But before I take my first sip of coffee the next morning, inevitably what I’m running from catches me. Seven AM doesn’t offer a sweaty glass and a flirty bartender to stop it in its tracks, and I’m forced to sit with it, cotton mouth and all.

Last night I did the whole song and dance—dodging the bombs I’ve buried for months. I shouldn’t have been surprised by what this morning had in store.

Pink and red hearts are plastered across the coffee shop windows for Valentine’s Day. You won’t find me singing the praises of the season of love any year, but today the theatrics are really adding insult to injury. I’m thinking about exactly what the candy hearts and teddy bears want me to be thinking about.

The coffee is kicking in. My brain is just getting started.

t’s his birthday. I ran away unannounced to be with my best friend the day before. For 22 years she’s had the power to ease my aching by simply occupying the same space as me. The Arizona sun starts to heal the tension built in my body from weeks of sleeping on a cot in my office. I can’t believe this is happening to me.

It’s Thanksgiving. I’m  gripping the skin over my heart, certain the pain is killing me—the loneliness, the shame, the fear of starting over, the frustration of figuring out how to get my goddamn flat tire changed in the middle of nowhere-Wyoming.

I’m perched on my therapist’s couch—smiling, nodding, keeping myself composed as the words swarm around me.

“You weren’t kind-of abused. You were abused.”

“He didn’t kind-of cheat on you. You were betrayed.”

She has to spoon-feed me my emotional trauma because I’m too stubborn to say the words out loud. I hide behind the smile and talk in circles, avoiding anything declarative.

“Your heart was broken, over and over again, and it hasn’t healed.”

Living by the logic of my 28 years, I’m protected from the pain if I refuse to speak of its existence. If I don’t give it a name, I don’t have to do the hard work. I can sit comfortably, aware of my brokenness, tip-toeing around any conversation that blows my cover.

Get another round. Crack another joke. Smile and nod.

I watch the couple sink into the chairs across the room from me. They’re young. They probably think they’re in love. She leaves to order their food and he creeps into her chair to grab her phone, taking his moment alone to scroll. I knew what he was doing.

What a jackass.

He whispers in her ear, kisses her cheek, squeezes into her chair. He knows what he’s doing. She cocks her head when she smiles at him. She’s losing her footing—slipping further into her bliss, flushed cheeks and tingling knees—positioned perfectly for catastrophic heartbreak.

There’s graffiti on a “Do Not Enter” sign in my neighborhood that say “Do Not Enter LOVE.” I smirk at it every time I walk past, hanging onto the idea that some force in the universe is getting a kick out of this game we play with each other.

I wish I had it with me to flash at these two.  

I was 19 years old when I gave up on love.

I locked eyes with myself in the mirror as I tapped concealer on the broken blood vessels around my temples. He’d pin me against the wall—elbow in my chest, hand on my neck—pushing his thumb into my throat until I stopped fighting. He had to watch me give up before he’d fall apart.

He’d always fall apart.

And I’d always clean up the pieces.

At 23, my claim to fame was that the man I married didn’t abuse me like him.

Two years in, I darted awake, troubled by a question I couldn’t loosen my grip on. The next night I cornered him in the kitchen while he cooked dinner and asked, “Was there someone else?”

He didn’t stop cooking and I didn’t cry. We poured two more glasses of wine and I stared into space. Lucky for him, the belief that a man could love me exclusively, keep me safe, and respect me was choked out of me years before.

I didn’t take care of the relationship the way I was supposed to.

I wasn’t enough.

Of course he found some girl to supplement my love.

It always crashes, and I’m always ready.

Everything I study tells me to change my story–to boldly stand up, declare what I deserve, allow myself the space to heal and courageously enter relationships with a legitimate belief that two people can be trusted to care for one another without fists or flings with pretty girls in dive bars, while everything I’ve lived screams:

It’s dangerous here.

We’ve done our research and we’re certain this place is far too unsafe for your sensitive soul.

Sweet girl, don’t you know you’re broken?

Do not enter love.

I constantly waffle between the idea that our hearts were meant to be protected and that hearts, like the rules, are meant to be broken—challenged and cracked open in order to grow bigger and better. If I keep mine locked away, cloaked in heavy armor, it will stay unmarred. It will be efficient, focused only on maintaining life, beating away without interruption. But, if I throw it to the wolves, challenging it to keep up, leaving it vulnerable to attack, presenting every opportunity for it to wear itself to its own demise, it stands the chance of becoming more than it once was.

Do we stay safe and small or do we accept the uncomfortable that comes with growth?

I know what the tacky, doily valentines want us to believe: Love is a gift. Love is beautiful. Love is pretty flowers and candlelit dinners and sexy underwear and Lionel Richie and sticky-sweet Instagram snaps.

But that’s bullshit.

The cynic in me says love is dangerous. Love is standing naked and open to the elements. It is being seen­ in your entirety­—handing your weapons to the person in front of you with careful instruction of how to destroy you. It’s unpredictable and ruthless. It wraps you up, gives you a warm, safe place to lay before it stabs you in the chest and watches you die.

But that’s bullshit too.

Perhaps love is the ultimate vulnerability.

It is standing naked, allowing another human being to see you and love the shit out of you for who you are—for your mind and how it works, your heart and how it nurtures, your scars and how they’ve shaped you. Love is laying down your weapons and walking, unguarded, into a human experience, accepting risk and allowing for the unexpected to happen. Love wraps you up, provides a safe place from whatever may be threatening you, nurtures your spirit and brings you joy. It breaks whole and happy hearts, yes, but it heals broken hearts.

Love is wild. Love is breaking the rules.

If a life of the wholehearted is what we desire, whether in the spirit of cupid’s wily bullshit or a legitimate pursuit of authentic happiness, we can’t cherry-pick our vulnerabilities. We either enter love with reckless abandon or we don't enter at all.

leaning into lonely

Feel it. Hurt. Drink the wine, eat the guacamole in bed, listen to the song that hits you in the gut over and over again, cry, yell, stomp the ground, and sit with it, because it’s real.

I’ve never known a life outside of my introverted, loner tendencies. Eating a meal alone, hunkering down for days on end, solo-road trips—I can do it all. However, I’ve recently become intimately familiar with the soul-crushing loneliness that accompanies singlehood.

I find myself craving affection, desperately desiring the closeness of another human. Not romantic dinner dates. Not sex. Not flirty text messages. Not someone to share my bottle of wine with. But the unspoken, inexplicable feeling of comfort that comes from snuggling close to someone on the couch. The flutter in your belly when someone touches your shoulder as they slip past you in the kitchen. The little moments that you don’t realize make your blood rush as you occupy the same space as another person who desires to occupy that same space with you.

This feeling of closeness is so overlooked when it’s there, and when it’s gone, it’s easy to feel like there’s no possible way to combat the hurt that comes with the want to have it back.

Today all I can tell you is that the feeling is uncomfortable, painful, and hair-ripping frustrating, and maybe the best way to solve it, is to not. Instead of seeking the solution, lean into the lonely. Feel it. Hurt. Drink the wine, eat the guacamole in bed, listen to the song that hits you in the gut over and over again, cry, yell, stomp the ground, and sit with it, because it’s real. It’s so freaking real.

What good does trying to fight it bring to you? How does pretending your body doesn’t ache make the ache go away? It doesn’t.

If you are here with me, know first, that you are not alone, and second, that you are allowed to feel this way. You have permission to be uncomfortable. This is where you are right now, and it’s where you’re supposed to be—not because you don’t deserve to feel the things you desire, but because it’s not time yet.

Just as we open ourselves up to all the fantastic possibilities that life has for us in work, in love, at home, at play, we must open ourselves to all the possibilities to grow. Glennon says that pain is not a hot potato that we pass off as quickly as it is handed to us. Instead it is a traveling professor that knocks on our door. We must ask him to come inside, sit at our table, occupy our heads and hearts, and not allow him to walk out that door until we’ve learned what we need to learn.

I can’t take away the hurt, and you can’t will it away. What I can tell you is this:

You will not feel this way forever. Everything is temporary.

The dark exists to help us be braver, stronger, bolder, and smarter—not to torment us in these quiet moments with ourselves.

There’s a better version of you on the other side of this. I promise.

girls' guide to surviving divorce

Today I am writing to you straight from the heart, first offering my sincere support as you go through whatever you’re going through, because, as I write this I’m going through it too. Second, I’m busting into the raw stuff and spilling my guts to share every ounce of success I’ve discovered in publicly navigating my own divorce.

This stuff isn’t glamorous you guys but it’s real.

I can’t take away the pain, but I can offer you this.

Have your elevator pitch prepared

Despite your deep desires to keep life separate from work, you’re going to bring this stress to your desk with you for a while. You will undoubtedly find yourself in situations where you have to explain what’s happening.

Maybe you’re attending functions solo for the first time, disappearing from the office to visit with lawyers, changing addresses on your invoices, or transitioning to a new last name. It will come up and it makes it easier on you if you’re prepared to address it.

Some folks will ask you questions, while others will whisper behind your back. More often than not, they’re not trying to hurt you. They’re uncomfortable too. Provide them with the facts. Keep it simple and you’ll avoid the drawn out awkward conversations and emotional rambling.

Here’s mine:

You may have heard, but I wanted to let you know that ___ and I have decided to separate. It was a mutual decision and though it has been tough we are both doing OK. I hope you understand and know that we hope to keep things amicable as we work through this transition. With time, things will get easier for all of us.

The end.

Accept that it’s going to get awkward

For me this has probably been the most frustrating part.

I quickly discovered that people felt more awkward with my news than I felt sharing it with them. Yes, I was right in the heart of the pain and agony of it all, but I was ready to put my head down and just push forward. At home I sat in the red-hot pain, at work and at play, I desperately tried to push it aside.

I quickly started referring to the whole phenomenon as “sad eyes.” Everyone around me gave me the same, pitiful look as they fumbled over their words and asked how I was holding up. I appreciated their support, but I just didn’t want to do it.

The workplace in particular was the hardest. My professional world has always been my safe space. I can do my job well. Marriage, obviously, not so much. Take me for a drink and let’s get into the muck of it all, but while I am on the clock, let’s just not.

In the end, letting go of this frustration was the only way for me to keep my chin up. People are people, and given the opportunity to be weird, they’re gonna get freaking weird.

  • Someone is going to offer you marriage advice when you’re really not looking for it.

  • Someone is going to offer you divorce advice when you’re really not looking for it.

  • You’ll find yourself calmly comforting someone as they break down over your heartbreaking situation.

  • People will pray for you whether you want them to or not.

  • Family will talk trash on you.

  • People will ask wildly inappropriate questions.

  • You’re gonna get hit on.

Taking any of this personally does nothing for anyone, so armed with some patience and understanding, do your best to let it all roll off your back. This time you’re in, is for healing. Focus your attention on that. Everything else can wait.

Have a support system

When our hearts are breaking it seems easiest to just hide. Today I am shouting from the rooftop: do not hide. Find your people and fiercely rely on them.

When they ask you how you’re doing, tell them truth. When they ask you to come over for wine, do it. When they offer to help you move furniture into your new place, say yes, please and then thank you.

When you find yourself drowning in the loneliness late at night, think about your people and how grateful you are for them. They’ll be your lifeline over and over and over again, but it’s your job to grab on to them before you drown.

Celebrate your wins along the way

As is true for accomplishing any goal, baby steps are your only assured way to success. Let go of the idea that you’ll wake up tomorrow feeling thirty, flirty, and thriving.

You may wake up tomorrow and actually have the appetite to eat before 3 PM. That’s a win. Celebrate progress and let go of perfection. It isn’t going to happen overnight.

If you feel compelled to go out with your friends, put on a bra, create a Tinder profile, flirt with that guy who you think might, maybe be giving you butterflies—freaking do it and celebrate the fact that you’re doing it.

Tomorrow you may cry before you even get your hair washed, but it’s just one day in a long line of days that will get easier with time.

Take control of your calendar

 You need something to look forward to, even if it doesn’t feel like you could possibly look forward to anything right now.

One of the best things I did in the heart of my divorce was pick dates on the calendar to host brunch at my new house. I was not at all emotionally prepared to host my friends, who’d spent years making memories in my home with my husband and I, at my new bachelorette pad. On top of this, I didn’t even have any freaking furniture.

Sounds like a nightmare, right? “Hey guys, come on over! Let’s eat some food, maybe I’ll cry, and we can sit on the floor since I don’t even have any chairs.”

Setting those dates gave me a deadline to make a home fit for company, which means I also had to make it fit for me. When your heart is broken the last thing you’re thinking about is comfortable seating and soft hand towels. But the truth is, when you’re heartbroken, soft towels and a cozy couch have the power to make you feel a little more warm and safe in the dark, sad, messy world around you.

Pick some dates, schedule something that makes your heart full, draw circles and hearts and smiley faces around the calendar and hold on to it. It’s small, but it makes a difference.

What you’re going through is hard.

I can’t give you the key to finding relief and peace and confidence and comfort and joy as much as you can’t give me the same. I can’t put my hand on your shoulder when you clutch your pillow and feel the emptiness of the four walls around you tonight. I know no matter what kind of face you put on today, it will still hurt—maybe tonight or tomorrow or the next day. I also know that each day will get the tiniest bit easier and with each agonizing rip and tear your heart will grow stronger.

Don’t give up the fight, girl.

You’re doing hard things. I’m doing hard things.

But it’s here, in the front lines of battle with our pain that we become the better versions of ourselves. As G would say, first the pain, then the rising.

Now it’s the pain.

Tomorrow we rise.