I love television. It’s my escape into different worlds. But every now and then I see something so profound that it pulls me out of the make believe and back to reality.
Today, I am deep into the last season of Orange is the New Black. Piper, a recently released felon, speaks to the impact one small piece of life can have on you. 18 months in prison was only 4% of her life, but it was enough to change absolutely everything.
Divorce. Divorce is fucking hard. And my divorce was amicable, timely, and, overall, pretty damn easy. The process of separating, moving apart, and finalizing our divorce took a total of 11 months. At the time my divorce was finalized that was less than 4% of my life. But while that seems like an attainable number to move past- the culmination of my relationship, marriage, and recovery is well over 40% of my life.
Why break it down like that? Because this is me. This is my story. And my experiences have affected every single interaction I’ve had since I got divorced- good and bad alike. Over the last three and a half years I have learned to, enthusiastically, embrace my story. It’s almost always one of the first things I share about myself. So let me show you, and myself, how I’ve grown.
February 2016 - I didn’t eat; I hated my body; I lost almost 20 pounds in the TWO WEEKS after my husband came out. My relationship with my body had little to do with my crumbling relationship- but it enabled me to fall into old, repetitive patterns of self-hate.
July 2019 - My relationship with my body is much like a marriage. There will always be work to be done. But I love my body. I have gained weight, of course. And because of that, I sometimes let that voice of hate creep into my mind. But what I have learned is - my body is strong. It has carried me through divorce, starvation, chronic illness, and more - and I can still paddle board with my best friend, using my muscles to propel me. I can still kayak with my family in the ocean - racing my niece to see who can paddle fastest. I can rack up 20,000+ steps on event days while crushing career goals and leaning on those around me. I am strong - in so many ways.
March 2016 - I loved my job, but everything else in life was one big fat question mark. Do I risk leaving a job I love... to explore my self-worth outside of my marriage, my job, and everything else that defined me? I found myself leaving that job and jumping into a position back home without ever even meeting my soon to be team. I was starting a new job - how exciting! But I was a mess everywhere else.
July 2019 - Here I am, at that same organization, but two promotions later. I am working my ass off with a team I am beyond proud to be a part of. I never could’ve imagined that the shot-in-the-dark administrative job I got while living over 800 miles away would blossom into the amazingly fulfilling career I have now.
July 2016 - I wrote a gut-wrenching letter to my ex-husband explaining that we couldn’t be a part of each other’s lives for a while. I needed to heal... and social media, casual conversations, and mutual friends was making that impossible. I will never forget- in therapy together before I moved home- my husband looked at me and said “I can’t imagine my life without you- I feel like someday your kids will call me uncle.” I’m not even sure if he remembers that. But the decision to stop communication wasn’t easy, but necessary. We needed to learn to be apart after almost nine years together. And our friends and families needed to learn of us apart too. There's something they don't tell you - childless divorce affects more than just the two people involved.
July 2019 - While I completely smile ear to ear at the prospect of my kids calling him uncle...let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Ha! I’ve learned to take things one step at a time. My relationship with my ex-husband has grown leaps and bounds since then- we’ve gotten drinks, we’ve played board games, we’ve had phone calls. All important steps to a fulfilling friendship. Don’t get me wrong- there’s been many bumps along the way: drunk phone calls, right-now pup photos, money conversations, divorce legalities and more. But moving forward, we embrace the bumps and we work together to define our weird-ass story. Because at the end of the day, the two of us are the only ones who truly understand the journey we’ve been on - and I’ve learned that’s actually a really beautiful thing.
There are so many more examples of growth. There are examples of regression. There are examples of tears, laughter, anger, mistakes, and madness. But this is my story.
And while I hear often that you should not let your past define you- here is what I say to that- why the hell not? I CHOOSE to take the good parts. I CHOOSE to learn from my mistakes. I CHOOSE to be willing to fuck up again. And I CHOOSE to let my past define me in the ways only I can decide.
4% of your life. It can change almost everything. But it’s up to us to decide what to do with the change. Do we embrace it? Do we fight it? Do we learn from it?
Why can’t we do it all?
Please stop making jokes that I "turned my husband gay"...
In the three years since my husband came out to me, I have encountered a rollercoaster of reactions. I have heard every line in the book -"That pussy wasn't good enough, huh?" Yes, I really had someone say that to me. "Wow, so you couldn't keep his attention?" Again, yes...someone really said this to me. While, these people thought they were making a joke...what they didn't know is what they thought was "all in good fun", was real life for me.
First let me tell you what is wrong with this from the side of the LGBTQ community. When you insinuate that anyone one person can be "made" gay, you instantly diminish the agony, thought, and reflection that one goes through in the process of coming out. It is not easy. And this type of jack-assery only perpetuates the fear that closeted individuals have for coming out into an un-safe place.
I was recently listening to an advice podcast. A young lady had written in asking for advice on how to come out to her boyfriend. She wanted to maintain a friendship, but was fearful if she was honest...that he would think it was his fault. That he wasn't "man" enough to keep her. WORLD PLEASE LISTEN WHEN I SAY - the LGBTQ community is sometimes just as afraid to hurt those they love as they are to be themselves. This is why so many people stay hidden for so long. Create safe-spaces for your friends, family, ...hell, even strangers!
Now, let me tell you what is wrong with this from the side of a loved one. Anyone who has every been in a heterosexual relationship and had a partner come out unexpectedly has already thought about the million and one reasons "why." When you joke that I "made" my husband gay, it immediately implies that I was never enough to be loved in the first place. That something I did, made my husband repulsed by woman kind*. Seriously, grow up.
I know you think its a good ice-breaker when you find out I'm divorced. It's not.
I know you think it's funny and I should be able to take a joke. It isn't.
I know your heteronormative brain can't begin to fathom that I actually had a good relationship. I did.
So, PLEASE, think before you speak. C'mon...that applies to everything.
*a therapist once told me my husband could've never been attracted to me because all gay men are "repulsed" by the opposite sex. HA! Oh my gosh. THIS WOMAN HAD A DEGREE. Needless to say, I did not return to that therapist. If you want more information on sexual fluidity - take a look at this handy image from the Trevor Project (an amazing nonprofit, btw.)
How do I feel?
See that’s a tricky question. You over analyze but I over feel.
You see danger and the possibility of hurt.
I see conflict, but then undeniable resolution.
You see, in “situationships,” as you say, I don’t automatically take the out.
I find the tiniest crack to keep me in. How can we fix it? What can we do better?
Divorce was never a part of my vocabulary.
Don’t you see? I had no choice.
But now, when I have a choice...I will chose love.
I can’t live in a world of what ifs because my what if’s turn into...
What if we have a kid, what will we name him?
What if we survive, whose house will we live in?
What if we find love, what will it look like in this unforgiving world?
See, my what ifs are extreme.
Your what ifs are important too, but I can’t live in them. That has to be you.
You see all the worst possible outcomes, but I see the best.
I want to live in a world of joy.
I want to live in a world of wonder.
I WANT to live in the unknown, but the good unknown. Like...
What adventure will this weekend bring us?
What happiness can one single daffodil bring to my day if it’s given by the right man?
Will it drive you crazy if I lightly trace the outline of your lips with my hand?
Trial and error, my love.
How else will we know?
But now, now is the time we have to decide.
What are we willing to fight for, and what are we willing to push aside?
Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows that my favorite place on earth to be... is at home. I have ALWAYS been a homebody. Growing up, our house was the place everyone came to hang out, my parents have always loved hosting, and I have always felt most comfortable in my own space. As an adult, this has carried over. I'd much rather be at home watching a movie than at the theatre; I'd much rather be at home drinking than at the bars; I'd much rather be at home doing a puzzle than out at a casino gambling. Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes a night out with my friends is just what the doctor ordered, but it isn't my default nature.
SO. Here are 3 reasons why I love being a homebody.
1. My house.
This one is pretty simple. I worked hard and paid a lot of money for my house. So you bet your sweet ass I am going to enjoy it. Buying a home was something I've always wanted to do and taking that leap was terrifying, exciting, and exhilarating. I am so proud of what I have worked for, so I will bask in it for a minute...thank you!
If you're new here you might not know this, but I have chronic anxiety. Many times, my therapist will ask me in stressful situations - "what do you do to unwind?" It's almost always the same thing. Something along the lines of this - pick out a movie, put on my pajamas, get a bowl of ice cream, and curl up on the couch. It's my happy place. And yes, I realize that it sometimes makes me seem like a lazy POS...but I'm okay with it. I have to do what makes me happy...and if that is junk food and trashy TV in the comfort of my living room...so be it! I like being home, I like being comfortable, and I like being happy.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, I like to be home for my pup. Yes, I can take him with me places. Yes, I can leave him home alone and he is fine. BUT he also is happiest when we are both home and he is very important to me. At the risk of sounding too dramatic - Newton played a large roll in saving me. At one of the darkest moments in my life, he gave me something to love. I didn't love myself, I didn't love my life, and I was starting over. He showed me unconditional love and he did it while also teaching me responsibility again. WHO RESCUED WHO, AMIRITE?!
So friends, you know where I'll be...
Guys...seriously. Most of the time I hate that saying - what the heck does it mean? "New year, new me!"
BUT here is what it means for me -
It was recently pointed out to me that I only really write when I am sad. And that is absolutely true. I have always used writing as an outlet to get myself through tough times. But I really think I have more to offer than that, so I was encouraged by a very good friend of mine to write more. SO we made a deal, naturally.
My end of the deal is this - In 2019, I will be posting a MINIMUM of once a month. I have blogs that I have written, but never posted. I have ideas, that are just scribbles on a napkin. I have notes in my phone with endless possibilities.
I can't wait to share them with you. Stay tuned.
All my love.
As I am deeply enthralled in Seasen 4 of DragRace All Stars...I thought I would pull out this blog post I wrote over the summer about the finale of Drag Race.
Three things I learned from watching drag race with my seven year old niece
Let me preface this with the fact that I was watching the finale and she just hopped in bed and started watching with me. I did not put it on for her or tell her in any way what I was watching. I explained very little throughout the episode because I wanted to witness her honest, true, and innocent reactions. ALSO - this was a censored version...she didn't hear any cuss words, or inappropriate language throughout.
Let us all learn from the wonders of childhood...
1.The innocence of a child is awe inspiring.
What she saw, which she referred to as a beauty pageant, were beautiful dresses on women walking the runway. She used she/her pronouns and drooled over the gorgeous accessories (namely Miz Crackers Black cape - because she looked like maleficent and her favorite color is black right now). She did not, in her mind, worry about the complexity of the unforgiving world we’re currently living in. So all this leads me to say - discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and the like are LEARNED behaviors. We, as humans, are not innately bad. Which only means that we are the ones who can change the future for the better.
2. We are incredibly blessed as a family to be (for the most part) open minded.
We all absolutely have room to grow in this category, but who doesn’t? Here’s what made me tear up a little- in both a happy and sad way: When Kameron Michaels grandmother came on the screen supporting her grandchild, it was incredibly heartwarming. Kameron then explained that being raised in a conservative family, it was never certain if her grandmother would accept life as a drag queen- saying that it is so good to know she loves Kameron anyway. To which my niece replied “well, duh! Why wouldn’t she?!”
The flood gates open. I was so happy to know that my niece fully understands that she is loved, accepted, and cherished by every single member of our family. I was sad to then have to explain to her that not all families are like ours, and unfortunately unconditional love is not always present in a familial structure. She echoed the sentiment that it was sad, but i don’t think (and I hope she never will) she completely comprehended that.
3. I wish we all had the quick and nearly immediate acceptance of children.
There was only ONE time in the entire finally that she suspected one of the queens was a “man dressed as a woman.” And let me tell you- it didn’t matter to her at all. She still wanted the dresses, liked the dancing, and fully enjoyed the light-heartedness of the competition. She immediately determined her favorite (Kameron Michaels) and rooted her on in the final lip sync (although Aquaria was her second favorite- so she was cool with the end result). This not only made me realize and appreciate that my niece is growing up in an ever-changing world, but helped me to see that it is possible for our future to be accepting. We just have to nurture the upcoming generation to be so.
All my love.
I haven't written in a long while. Like I have said, writing helps me get through hard times...and I have been living it up and feeling good! But, in honor of a very good friend of mine starting a new position at Ele's Place...I wanted to share a story to highlight how amazing, wonderful, and necessary this organization is. Ele's place is one of my favorite nonprofits, as they help grieving children and families through unspeakable heartache. I don't normally talk about the story I am about to recount, because I honestly feel that it isn't always my story to tell. But I will give you the timeline through my point of view.
**I have two older brothers. I will refer to them as "older brother" and "oldest brother."
Let me start by saying that my oldest brother, who is almost seven years older than me, has always been my protector and my hero. Being the baby of the family, and the only girl, I always looked up to my brothers. My oldest brother was my lifeline - when I couldn't sleep...he would do shadow puppet shows for me, we had a knock language when our rooms shared a wall, and he was always my security blanket when I was sad. So growing up, I thought he was invincible. I have such a strong memory that I fondly look back on - I was probably around 7. I had some friends over and we were in the back yard telling ghost stories, or something equally weird that had us all freaked out. So I said something to the tune of "don't worry, my brother will protect us" then proceeded to go over and tap on the living room window where he was and asked him to flex. He obliged for his baby sister and with his strong sportsman arms, instantly absolved my friends of their fear. He was, and still is, one of the strongest people I know. Which is what made April 16, 2002 that much more difficult.
On that day in April, my dad was coaching a JV lacrosse game across the state. My oldest brother was at Varsity lacrosse practice. And my mom, older brother, and I were all at home with dinner on the table waiting for my oldest brother to return before eating. It was getting later and later, and no sign of him - this was in a time before every kid, person, and dog had a cell phone. Our landline eventually rang, which resulted in my mother collapsing to the floor in grief. Somehow, I already knew what had happened. The next few days were a bit of a blur, but here is what I remember...
(Comic relief - my older brother was wearing boxers at the dinner table that night. The first words that came out of my mouth after the phone rang were "GO PUT PANTS ON!" It is still a memory that I look back on and smile - simply for the fact that it is a small bit of light in an otherwise dark story. And that is why I love my older brother so much - I can always count on him to make me smile.)
My oldest brother was 16. A good friend of his asked him for a ride home from lacrosse practice. A friend who lived at a left turn, at the top of a hill. My brother took the turn without seeing the truck that was just below the ebb of the incline and he was hit directly in the passenger side door - where his friend was sitting. The way it was later described to me was that the passenger side of the car was so crushed, that the only space that would have been left was the size of a small cube. In what was already a nightmare situation, my brother was then told that his friend didn't make it.
April 16, 2002 was a Tuesday. I remember because I woke up Wednesday morning on my own and wondered why I hadn't been woken to get ready for school. I walked downstairs where my parents were waiting to fill us in on what had happened. My older brother and I were 11 and 8 respectively, so clearly there was only so much we would understand. But here is what I did know - My invincible, strong, loving, hero of an oldest brother was in an accident, he was hospitalized with internal injuries, and his friend had died. That day I got to see him in the hospital, but my parents only allowed us to be there for a short time. I think they were trying to shield us from the hurt and devastation that often happens within the walls of a hospital. I didn't see him again until he was discharged, which seemed like, an eternity later.
In the weeks following his accident, my family had a lot to do in terms of putting back together the puzzle pieces of life. (Side note - we had SO MUCH casserole. Casserole for DAYS.) With a funeral to attend, insurance to tend to, children to care for...my parents had a lot going on. BUT one thing that was at the top of the list - grief counseling. My entire family attended counseling in some form or fashion to help us work through what had happened. I remember attending counseling with my parents and then again with just me and my older brother. My oldest brother, at only 16, also attended counseling. He, understandably and expectedly, was working through the most.
Ele's Place Grand Rapids was not yet prominent in 2002 when my family was going through our hardship. But I am thankful every day that my family had the resources available to seek out counseling. Whether you visit an organization like Ele's Place, talk with a trusted family member, or seek professional help elsewhere...counseling and therapy is a necessary lifeline for grief.
That is why I am so proud to support the amazing organization that my good friend works for. And why I am, and always will be, the biggest advocate of therapy.
P.S. My oldest brother is also a writer! Check out his blog here. He shares even more about his struggles with grief and his turn to therapy - "Through therapy I came to terms with the guilt of my friend’s death. Through self control and determination, I stopped turning to alcohol has a bandage. There are relationships that I’ve broken beyond repair, but I’ve learned from my mistakes."
P.S.S. If you are interested in finding counseling or therapy, here are a couple really great resources...
Find online counseling here. Find a therapist near you here.
Recently, at work, we were talking about maiden names and name changes after marriage. For me, that also includes a name change after divorce. I don't ever plan on changing my name again, and let me tell you why.
First, everyone is different. What is right for one person, isn't for the other. So this is absolutely not an advice article. I was head over heels in love, and changing my last name to reflect my husband's was a simple, expected, and welcomed step in my marriage. I never thought twice about it. However, once I was going through a divorce, I started to think about my name a lot differently.
After John and I separated, I immediately wanted to change my last name back to Mills. For those of you who know John, his last name is long, contains a lot of vowels, and is pronounced wrong nearly 90% of the time. But, to be honest, that had little to do with why I wanted to change my name back (however, it was a welcomed perk.) I had become so enveloped by being John's wife, that after I lost that title...I felt like I had lost myself. My identity was no longer clear.
BUT...changing your name is a REAL pain in the ass. I briefly considered keeping my married name, just to avoid the hassle of changing it. However, after the crippling pain that is divorce, I had to make some decisions for myself...no matter how much hassle it caused. SO, I went back to Mills. I began building my career with that last name; I began rebuilding my life with that last name; and I began finding myself again. And that is the real reason I don't intend on ever changing my name again. But hey...never say never, right?
So...if you want to be Mr. and Mrs. Smith...or Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones...or just Ms. Jones...Don't ever let society or anything else pressure you. Do what your heart tells you and choose your own identity...it will liberate you!
All my love.
My last post was about my unapologetic happiness. And I am still so happy, but bad days still rear their ugly head sometimes and that's okay.
Yesterday was a bad day for me. I think it was a combination of things: I had worked 13 hours the day before, I hadn't been feeling well, and my emotions were getting the better of me. But the biggest unknown for me when I have a bad day is...how do I make it better? That's the dreaded question...right?
My friends can tell when I have an off day, I'm just not myself. But I never quite know what I am going to need. A night in watching movies? A night out drinking with friends? Dinner and a movie? Wine in bed? That is the hardest part...I never know. Therefore, when I am asked what has gotten me down, I usually chalk it up to "a hard day at work" or "just not feeling right". Because in my anxiety ridden head - "there are still somedays when I hope I wake up and it's all just a dream" seems a tad too dramatic to say out loud. So I don't.
I often struggle with not putting the burden on other people. I have had anxiety most my life, but after clawing myself out of some of the darkest moments in life...I still have a voice in my head telling me I should be okay all the time. And I am here to tell you...that is not the case. No matter what you've gone through in life, THERE WILL BE BAD DAYS. It is natural, it is expected, and it is okay. It's a hard lesson to learn and one that I am still learning.
Keep on keepin' on, friends. Lean on those around you- they don't see it as a burden. They love you. Have bad days; embrace them and learn from them.
All my love.
The photo on the left, in black and white, was taken just weeks after John and I separated. I remember so vividly taking the photo; I had just gotten back from work and Daisy was extra snuggly. I firmly believe she knew something was changing and she could sense the tension in our house. I was initially crying, thinking about having to leave my sweet girl behind, but I so desperately wanted everyone to think I was okay. So I wiped away my tears, smiled, and I posted that photo. I remember changing it to black and white thinking it would hide the circles under my eyes better...but you can still see them...oh the magic of filters and phones.
The photos on the right, in full color, were both taken within the last couple months. You can see the physical change in my facial expression. My smile isn't strained, I'm not forcing my puffy eyes open, and I am radiating happiness. Because guess what...I'm happy! Right now, in life, I am unapologetically me and it feels fantastic!
Looking back, I wish I had allowed myself to be more open about my grief and healing process. It wasn't easy, and there were mostly bad days at the beginning. And even now, I still have hard days; I always will. BUT time is a beautiful thing and each and every day I progress further into true happiness. To everyone in the midst of any sort of grieving process...it is OKAY to be vulnerable. To anyone in a situation similar to mine, it is OKAY to be alone. It is hard at first, but it is infinitely rewarding to know who you are apart from another soul. Find yourself, so that it is that much better when you find the missing piece.