My house has been on the market about six weeks. Up until last weekend, I’d had a lot of showings and two offers (which I know is fantastic for such a short time), but nothing had panned out. Meanwhile, the Midtown rental environment was consistently bleak for my preferences and price range. Anything good I saw got snatched up immediately. I’d toured one apartment that could work, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. A week ago, on my daily check of all the housing websites, I felt so bummed I decided to browse the properties for purchase. Maybe I’d find something that someone was willing to rent out to a responsible tenant.
The first property that caught my eye was a two-story townhouse that looked vaguely familiar. As I scrolled through the pictures, all I could think was, This is perfect. Everything was exactly my style, and the complex was completely remodeled a few years ago. No impending large-appliance breakdowns. No garage door to collapse (yes, this happened to me). No worries about the roof. No decor disasters needing immediate attention. There was a patio and a balcony (I’ve wanted a balcony all my life). But the sticker price was a lot higher than my current home. Sighing, I forwarded the link to two friends, adding, “Check out this amazing place I can’t afford!” Then I ran the mortgage calculator on the website, and to my amazement, the theoretical monthly payment would actually be less than many of the so-so rentals I’d seen. (The value of low interest rates: something you don’t know if you bought your first and only home in 2006.) From day one, I’d been dead set against buying again anytime soon. I wanted flexibility and a break from the whole homeowner thing. But none of my current homeowner concerns applied to this townhouse, and it’s in a neighborhood that’s only going to increase in value. If everything was as it seemed, I decided I’d be stupid not to do it. So I asked Lexie, my Realtor, if we could see it on Saturday.
I was supposed to look at another apartment on Saturday morning, but ended up running out of time before meeting friends in the area for brunch. I decided to do a drive-by of the townhouse on my way over. It’s in a historic district, on a street I’d never driven down before that was designed to be one of the loveliest in Memphis. The street is lined with spectacular homes and huge trees that are just beginning to flower, and ends in an actual cathedral (which, incidentally, has a lot of personal significance for one of my best friends). I was crying before I even saw the townhouse. Just the possibility of living in such a beautiful, perfectly located place was emotionally overwhelming. Then I looked at my phone and saw a text from Lexie: We are going to get a cash offer from a retired single lady. She wants to know how quickly you can move. I got chills. I knew in that moment that this was probably happening.
After brunch, I met her to tour the townhouse. It lived up to all my expectations. The next afternoon, we came back with my parents (my dad, who’s been displeased by this whole venture, did an immediate 180 at the words “mortgage” and “gated community”). 48 hours later, I signed papers accepting the cash offer on my house and purchasing the townhouse. It happened that fast. I don’t recommend changing your long-term plans and making multiple huuuuuge decisions and financial commitments within such a short time. Doing this alone has been an intense battle, I’ve melted down several times, and my sister’s multiple daily calls to say I’m doing a good job have kept me afloat. But though I’ve had some terrified moments, I really believe this is what I’m meant to do. The timing and other signs are too obvious to ignore.
I had low expectations of my new life, housing-wise. I figured I might have to live somewhere a little dumpy, with some inconveniences, and I wasn’t thrilled about being beholden to a landlord again. But that seemed like a small price to pay for the change I desperately need. I never thought I’d get to own a place that’s perfect for me, with all the creature comforts I’m accustomed to, exactly where I want to be, exactly when I wanted to be there. I almost feel guilty about it. I feel spoiled. It’s too good.
My friend Myla was one of the first people I told what was going on, and she said, “This is good because it’s proof you can still be surprised by your life.” I love that. I’ve been plenty surprised by my life before, but the overwhelming majority have been tricks, not treats. I’ve been telling God a lot lately how much I need Him to come through for me in some way, that I need to change my life and I can’t do it without Him, but I’m so worn down I honestly had no expectations that He would. When my parents got so excited about this possibility, I dreaded having to deal with their crushed hopes on top of my own. The evidence of years has led me to believe that, for whatever big-picture divine reason, I’m marked for disappointment. I’ve felt like Charlie Brown, running up to the football over and over on the faint hope that maybe this time Lucy won’t pull it away. Well, it looks like I’ve been allowed a kick at last, and it feels like a field goal that could change the course of the whole game.
And: remember how I said the townhouse seemed familiar to me? Lexie figured out why. A month or two ago, the current owner posted it on his Facebook, and a friend saw it and tagged me because she knew I was hunting. I told her thanks, but I wasn’t interested in buying and it was way out of my price range anyway. And now here we are. Life is funny. More to come.
PS: In addition to going through the house-selling and moving process, I’m in the midst of a crazy time and big transition at work. This (plus my Memphis Type History gig) has left me few brain cells with which to tend to this blog, and for the sake of my health, I’m choosing not to force it. Thanks for sticking with me while I take a little break. I WILL be back full force eventually.
As I headed home from work on April 27, 2011, I heard on the radio that a large tornado, probably an EF5, had just hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was on its way to Birmingham. When I got home, I turned on the Weather Channel immediately and watched, transfixed, as they filmed the tornado’s approach toward downtown from a hill outside its path. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, live, while the sun shone outside my own window.
Later, my sister called to report that my brother-in-law’s hometown of Cullman had been hit by another large tornado that afternoon. Thankfully, all of his family members were okay and had minimal property damage. With the intense coverage of the Tuscaloosa tornado, I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the earlier Cullman storm until I was there for Thanksgiving that fall. Lance’s mom swung by downtown to show me the damage, and sure enough, even in the dark, six months later, you could see the tornado’s path clearly. I noticed on that trip that many households in Cullman were displaying the same professional photo of the tornado with its two funnels, blacker and more ominous than any clouds I’ve ever seen in person. Maybe they wanted a constant reminder of what they’d survived, from what they’d been spared. I probably would.
Kim Cross’s What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley is a chronological retelling of the largest tornado outbreak in recorded history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Cross follows legendary Birmingham weatherman James Spann and his staff; a group of University of Alabama students and roommates in Tuscaloosa, and their families and friends; and multiple witnesses and first responders. Her research is thorough, her interviews are compassionate, and she explains the technical weathery details in a very understandable way. At times, the writing felt excessively dramatic to me… but so was the event itself. Plus, describing a tornado’s destruction poetically in 20 different ways must be no small feat.
Although sad, What Stands in a Storm is a fascinating, suspenseful read that gave me perspective on what the people of Alabama endured that crazy day. I hope this tornado outbreak stands alone in history for a very long time.
Recommended for: fellow weather nerds, Alabamans
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
We’ve had several ice and freezing rain events in Memphis this winter, but on Wednesday night, we finally got a few inches of snow (on top of an inch or so of sleet). I know you Northerners are already laughing at me, but Memphis hadn’t had more than an inch of snow since December 2011, so this was a big, exciting deal!
It was an especially pretty snow, light and fluffy.
This was the view down the middle of my street at about 9 am before I settled in to work (thankfully I have a laptop and the option of working from home in these situations). So I couldn’t go four-wheeling, build a snowman, or sled down my driveway, but I worked at my dining table so I could enjoy the snowy view. It was a luxury to have time to make myself a real breakfast, too.
And of course I popped out into the yard a couple of times.
In the afternoon, the sun came out, but the snow remained. If we had snow on the ground all winter, making everything look crisp and clean and the sunlight brighter, I’d probably find winter more bearable.
I had high hopes of spotting my yard rabbit in the snow – I saw him at the bird feeder about a month ago, so I know he’s still living under my shed. If he ventured out, I didn’t witness it, but I’m pretty sure I saw his tracks! (And several others’. The size of some animal tracks close to my back door was a little alarming. Maybe a stray cat?)
The rest of the wildlife was out and about, though.
Toward the end of the day, I found Peach purposefully having a moment of summer. So I joined her.
This morning as I opened the blinds, I noticed a beautiful full moonset in the west. I threw on my boots and a coat and ran out to look at it in my pajamas. Crunching through the snow in the early light made me feel like I was at a ski resort instead of in my own neighborhood.
If winter is smart, it’ll leave now on a high note!
Milestone: I no longer feel weird calling myself a writer. Even out loud. To strangers. Even when they follow up with, “Oh, what do you write?” and my response is “I have a blog” (though I can now add “…and I write for Memphis Type History,” which sounds slightly more accomplished).
Because writing was never really presented to me as a valid (read: secure) career choice, legitimizing my own writing took me many years. I used to think that since I didn’t have a published book on a shelf, wasn’t being paid to write, and had no guarantee that either of those things would ever happen, there was no point in truly pursuing writing. That would be embarrassing proof that I cared too much about my silly, selfish hobby and, even worse, believed other people might care too. But a few years ago, I started taking halting steps toward progress. The dam broke in 2013, when I took a Story 101 course that addressed wounds and fears I never even knew I had as a woman, Christian, writer. I cried a lot and then I was finally ready to take myself seriously.
While authenticity and humility are really important to me, I think some degree of “fake it till you make it” is unavoidable when you’re first starting to own your calling. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have started. (Some days that’s still true.) I had to fake a confidence I didn’t feel. I had to choose to turn my back on the Regina George-like critic in my head, eternally rolling her eyes and saying, Stop acting like this matters. All you’re doing is talking about your loser feelings and epiphanies. Noooooo one caaaaaares.
Now I can shut her up about 75% of the time. I can approach my writing as work. Good work that I want and even need to do for my own wellness, but work, because it has weight. It means something. It takes a lot of guts to believe this day-to-day, because it repeatedly raises the challenge, Who do you think you are? You can’t believe in the work you were made to do until you know and believe in what you are. I know in my bones, in a way I didn’t a few years ago, that writing is my ministry and what I was made to do. Even though it’s not perfect, God can still use it. Even if I never earn a cent from it, it’s my job. Even if I never have a significant number of readers, I am here to talk to those 50 people. Even when people say my vulnerability is stupid and I should stop caring so much about things, I will brush myself off and continue on. Because writing is my main vehicle for my increasingly sure purpose: to be a voice for the voiceless. Not on a save-the-orphans, end-world-poverty scale, but on an everyday human scale. For those who are still too afraid to speak up and open up (as I was for much of my life). In my experience, isolation and shame are the devil’s greatest tools. We pretend everything’s great and life isn’t hard because we want to look like we have it all together. We struggle with so many of the same things, but we stay alone in the dark because we’re too afraid to talk about them. If I can give someone the courage to bring their own junk out into the light and find hope and healing there, I’m willing to look a little foolish. As the great philosopher Miranda Lambert once said, “Somebody’s gotta walk into the night, and I’m gonna be that one.”
Whatever your gifts are, you don’t have to use them on a huge, impressive scale for them to matter. They already matter even if the only recipients are your family and friends or even just yourself. You can start developing them and taking them seriously right now. You’ll be surprised by the sense of confirmation and fulfillment you will feel. And if anyone asks you, Who do you think you are? or Who gave you permission?, tell them to come talk to me.
Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter (4.5 stars)
Things are finally sort of normal for Kat, Hale, and their band of teenage thieves after they’ve pulled off two of the greatest heists of the century. Then Hale’s grandmother dies suddenly and leaves the family’s vast business empire not to his father, but to him. When the family butler smells a rat and hires Kat to investigate, she’s torn between finding the truth for Hale’s own good, and protecting her still-new relationship with him. These books are definitely exciting, but I love them most for their picture of what real family is, wherever you might find it.
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (4 stars)
This novel about a group of friends from college is more like a collection of interwoven short stories. Each woman has her turn in the spotlight: Isabella, the romantic who starts over in a new career; Abby, the child of hippie parents, who falls in love with a classic prep; Lauren, whose “temporary” waitressing job drags on for years; Mary, who finds a great man with a seriously overbearing mother. These stories are funny, touching, and relatable, and Jennifer Close’s prose is just a joy to read.
Next to Love by Ellen Feldman (4 stars)
In a small Massachusetts town in 1943, three best friends marry three men who are about to go off to war. By the end of the war, all of their lives are in pieces. This novel is about how they rebuild (or not) over the next two decades. I felt like Feldman tried to cover too much at times, which came off a little forced and rushed (especially at the end), but overall, the story is well-done.
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (3.5 stars)
Another entry in the “Next Fault In Our Stars” sweepstakes, this YA novel follows Amy, a bright, funny girl with cerebral palsy, and Matthew, a shy guy with OCD, through their senior year of high school and beginning of college. To help her learn about making friends, Amy requests peer aides for her senior year instead of the adults who have always helped her through her daily tasks. She specifically requests Matthew, by whom she’s been intrigued since he challenged her overly-sunny attitude the previous year. Soon their relationship starts taking turns that surprise them both. While some of the plot twists were pretty crazy (I actually saw the main one coming and thought, “Oh, please don’t go there”), I liked Amy, Matthew, and their friends, and appreciated a glimpse into the lives of people dealing with these difficulties.
Books for February: 4
2015 year to date: 13
Here in Memphis, February has been a month of endless winter. We’ve had one ice and sleet event after another, finally culminating in actual snow on Wednesday (although nothing stuck north of the Mississippi state line). My SAD is in full force and I can no longer remember the feeling of sun on my face or what my arms and legs look like under their two or three layers of clothing. Spring, please come soon.
I listed my house for sale on February 13! I’ve had six showings and (update!) one offer, which I didn’t feel good about and decided to decline. But I’m still encouraged to have this much interest so quickly during a time of bad weather, and I still have a strong feeling that I’ll be on my way before too long. Fingers crossed.
I went to Paoli Peaks, Indiana to ski for the first time in 19 years, and I didn’t die!
My first post at Memphis Type History went up! I have another one pending, and a lot of ideas in the pipeline – it’s just a matter of people getting back to me.
Tiger basketball season is winding up. With one more home game remaining, we’re 17-11. Rough year to be a fan, although I probably needed a break from my Jimmy Fallon-in-Fever Pitch-level obsession.
My page count was comparatively low in February. My favorite read was Perfect Scoundrels, the third book in Ally Carter’s series about teenage professional thieves. Love.
My friend Ashley and I saw American Sniper as part of her impressive pre-Oscar cramming weekend (she went to four nominated movies in two days). I’m still sorting out my thoughts about it; not to diminish Chris Kyle’s bravery or patriotism, but from a gut level, I saw it primarily as a story about addiction. I’d love to discuss with a group.
The only new music setting off my radar this month was Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” which I heard for the first time on the Grammys because apparently I live in a cave. But I can’t replay it excessively like I do most songs I love – it’s too swoonworthy for my tender heart right now. If I ever get to dance to this with a man I love, I will die happy.
As usual, you can listen to my ever-expanding 2015 playlist on Spotify.
I shared a shorter clip on Instagram, but here’s the full video my brother took of me skiing!
My parents and I took our traditional President’s Day weekend trip to visit my brother in Evansville. Before going skiing, we ate at Larry Bird’s restaurant, 33 Brick Street, in French Lick, Indiana. (What better place to be on Valentine’s Day??) The food was delicious, signed jerseys were everywhere, and my Tigers were even playing on TV!
One night, my parish (small group) ate dinner at Trolley Stop Cafe and then went to an art show at Crosstown Arts where one of our guys was exhibiting. It was a great, Memphisy evening. I fell in love with this piece by Yancy Villa-Calvo.
I learned to fit a non-fitted T-shirt and cut a scoopneck from a too-tight crewneck (here’s a second tutorial), and now no shirt is safe from my scissors. I had a little fun with an old-school shirt my friend Myla Smith gave me from a Valentine show she played YEARS ago. It was perfect for Singles Awareness Day!
I decided it was time to buy a second, more fun pair of glasses, so I ordered some green cat-eyes from Zenni Optical. In the end, they cost about $50 because I’m practically blind, but that’s still not bad. I like them and they’re much more lightweight than my Warby Parkers.
Having run out of the Almay foundation I’ve used for a while, I tried Rimmel Stay Matte mousse foundation and like it a lot! I’m excited to see if it holds up as well in more humid weather.
My complexion has gone rogue, so at a friend’s recommendation, I picked up an activated charcoal face soap from Bartlett Soap Company in my neighborhood. It’s made my face feel much better (although I’m still breaking out a little. What gives?). They also gave me a wonderful citrus soap for being a new customer. I’ll be back!
♥ My brother surprised me with these canvases he designed. One photo is of my grandfather’s canal in Miami and has random words inspired by my post about deciding to move into the city. The other photo is one he took in Alaska several years ago, with lyrics from a song they sing at his church. I’m so touched that he wanted to do this for me.
♥ Allegiant Airlines announced this week that they’re coming to Memphis and bringing a nonstop to Ft. Lauderdale starting at $66 each way! I seriously almost cried tears of joy onto my Twitter feed. This could be life-changing for my South Florida/Memphis dual-citizen family. If the prices hold, we can practically go to Miami any time we want. No more hedging over $500 fares.
♥ I renewed my passport and am now free again to leave the country at a moment’s notice. I’m working on going to Greece in the fall!
♥ I watched the Super Bowl at Alanna’s and thoroughly enjoyed Katy Perry’s halftime show.
♥ My pastor has been on sabbatical for three months (about half the time I’ve been attending my church), and he returned last Sunday. The rest of the staff has been killing it in his absence, but I’m still excited to have him back.
♥ House showings are a great excuse to indulge in flowers. Peach likes them too.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
Right before listing my house, I posted the final before-and-after shots from eight years of renovations.
For fun, I shared about how I put together my new Filofax planner. I got my ideas from another blog post, so I figured other organizational geeks might enjoy it!
I’ve felt extra sensitive and weary of my singleness this month. I talked about it right before Valentine’s Day (resulting in such a vulnerability hangover that I almost decided to take the post down) and discovered that selling a house and being single produce some similar emotions.
On the faith front, I talked about my Lenten commitment to start practicing a daily Examen. I also addressed our tendency as Christians to assume God is always teaching us a lesson. I’m trying to overcome this.
Posts I Loved:
♥ My friend Lindsey gave men some great tips about what not to do when dating over 30 (especially online)!
♥ My friend Becca kissed Facebook goodbye, and now she’s back with fascinating thoughts on her reasoning and experience.
♥ Amena Brown Owen at Storyline: What to Expect When You’re Least Expecting. This was very timely for me, and I plan to write about the same topic soon.
♥ Glennon Melton and her friend Amy requested letters from readers about their deepest fears and pain. Throughout Lent, they will read these letters to bear witness to people’s stories, and then burn them – the theme is, cool ashes can’t burn us. This moves me deeply. I know I link to Glennon a lot, but she’s quickly becoming one of my role models. One post at a time, I feel like she’s giving me a vocabulary for my purpose in this world.
♥ Random thoughts from Ashley Hackshaw on writing and living well: When Life Opens Up.
♥ Elisabeth Klein provides the exact advice I would give to any woman who came to me with this question: Should I Stay Married or Can I Divorce?
♥ LOL of the Month: Leigh Kramer’s If Your Life Was a Hallmark Movie. Spot on.
My house has been on the market for about ten days now. When I prepared the house for photos a few weeks ago, I felt so satisfied and proud. I could see that it was at its best. Even as I tried to keep my expectations realistic, I was overflowing with optimism that someone would fall in love with it, quickly. It also pleased me to think about giving someone a great moving experience. All the major repairs are done, so the new owners will have nothing to dread or worry about. I’ve kept excellent records and can tell them exactly how to care for (and enjoy) the house and its quirks. I can even leave some things I’ll no longer need, if they want me to. They’ll be happy, and so will I.
The sign went up, the house started showing, and I was introduced to a little thing called feedback. So far, everyone who’s toured my house agrees that it is indeed very nice. A couple of them even liked the price. But they’ve all rejected it over small things that I can’t help – the road is too busy, or they need more space. I fully respect everyone’s right to choose important things based on whatever’s important to them, even if it seems insignificant to others. But it’s near-impossible not to take it personally. The worst is when someone gives a 5-out-of-5 rating, then states that they are Not At All Interested. Those situations leave me staring up at my ceiling at night. Wondering what I could have done differently, aware that the answer is nothing. Looking for a logical explanation that will enable me to check a box and move on, aware that it will never make sense.
That’s okay, I thought after the first weekend. This house is perfect for someone and will make them very happy. These people just couldn’t appreciate what it has to offer. They’re clearing the way for the right buyer, who is on the way. I also reminded myself that the weather has been awful, four showings the first weekend is great under any circumstances, and selling a house takes time. Still, I felt weirdly rejected and downcast. Pretty soon I realized why it all feels so familiar and painful. I’ve been going through this emotional cycle for years… about myself and my singleness. And at this point, it looks like the “right buyer” exists only in my own imagination, a fairy tale I tell myself to keep some sort of hope alive. I know my house will sell, even if I eventually have to compromise or drop the price to make it happen. But a little part of me already feels foolish for believing that everything would come up roses here when it hasn’t elsewhere.
I know God wanted me to see this correlation, and to be honest, it irritates me. Really, God? I haven’t dealt with this enough? You wanted me to experience it from a whole new angle? So I’m praying that He wants to show me a different, happier ending to the story. Otherwise, it just seems like rubbing it in.
[image by Schicka via Unsplash]
When I participate in Lent, I try to choose an activity or sacrifice that will help with a specific spiritual problem I’m having. In Lents past, I’ve given up shopping and chocolate. For the last couple of years, I banned myself from internetting or social media after 8 pm (which was very refreshing). These were all good things for me at the time.
This Lent, I am tired. Physically and emotionally, I feel better than I did a couple of months ago. I no longer feel defeated before I even get out of bed. I’m happier and more energetic. I don’t cry on my evening commute. But now that I’m above the baseline, my spiritual weariness is more obvious. I’m suddenly aware that even though I’m spiritually thriving in some ways, in a deeper sense my faith has been on autopilot for a while. I’ve been too exhausted and discouraged to challenge or examine myself much or even practice private confession on a regular basis. At some point I forgot how to do that in a productive way that doesn’t heap more boulders onto my load, so I put it all in the empty spare room of my heart and shut the door on it. But closing that door has contributed to lingering feelings of disconnectedness from God and an extremely subpar prayer life. Actually, even these are only symptoms of my overall problem, which is I flat-out don’t trust God that much, which is too big and recent a revelation to get into right now.
Anyway, until yesterday I thought I was just going to skip out on Lent this year. I didn’t feel a particular pull to give anything up. I didn’t want to take on anything. Then I read a post by Ed Cyzewski at Cara Meredith’s blog, about how the daily practice of Examen has changed his life. I’ve never participated in Examen before, but apparently it involves reflecting on what encouraged and upset you that day, and when and how you experienced God. It requires a few minutes of stillness and quiet, which I definitely need.
Most importantly, as Ed said, it “isn’t necessarily prayer. It’s that essential first step before prayer.” Until my late 20s, I sat down with an itemized prayer list almost every morning of my life and Took Care of Business like the good girl I was. But I don’t think those days are ever coming back. I’ve tried more prayer cards and prayer systems and journals than I’m willing to admit, but in the end, I can only pray in the moment and from my heart. Sometimes I can’t even pray words – I sort of feel things at God and trust the Holy Spirit to translate it. (Yay for that.) I don’t believe this is necessarily bad or wrong, but it sometimes means I don’t pray very often, or feel so lost I can’t even remember how to start. It means I actually need a first step before prayer to help me find the path again.
So I downloaded the Examine app he recommended, and I’m starting tonight. Here’s hoping I’ll see a difference in six weeks.
Are you starting any new spiritual practices this season? Share your Lenten thoughts!
On Valentine’s Day, I did something I wasn’t sure I’d ever do again in my life. I SNOW SKIED.
In 1996, my family and I took a ski trip to Beaver Creek, Colorado with some generous family friends. I was sixteen and had never snow skied before, though I’d been waterskiing for several years. From the first day of ski school, I had trouble. They taught us the classic “french fries and pizza.” My serious attempts at pizza were really painful to my knees (and mostly ineffective anyway). Only a few months out from my senior marching season, I was afraid of doing lasting damage that might make me unable to march. So basically, I could ski, but I couldn’t stop. And as we all know…
On the last day of our trip, I agreed to take a green “cinch” course with the rest of my family. It allegedly involved a lot of switchbacks and was very easy. Well, “easy” is relative if you’re unable to stop and are therefore absolutely terrified to build up any speed. It took me (and thus, unfortunately, my dad) three exhausting, tearstained hours to make it down that mountain. I assumed I would never go near a pair of skis again.
As the years have passed, I’ve increasingly wanted a re-do of my ski experience. I’m not the person I was at sixteen (who is?). I’m braver, stronger, and, weirdly enough, in better shape. I’ve disliked having this massive failure on my record that’s trotted out and laughed at a few times a year. I’ve felt pretty sure I could do better if given another chance.
My parents and I always go to Evansville to visit my brother over Presidents’ Day weekend. We always discuss the option of Paoli Peaks, a manmade ski resort a couple of hours from his house. (Kevin goes sometimes with friends.) This year, I told them I really wanted to go. So on Valentine’s morning, we hit the road.
I remembered using long, skinny, unwieldy skis in Beaver Creek. The wider, almost kid-sized ones I got at Paoli reassured me right off the bat. My mom, Kevin, and I did the practice slope a few times to get my legs under me. Then Kevin said I was ready and led me to the start of the green slope. It started with a good-sized drop, but he assured me the course flattened out further down. The hill was crowded. I wasn’t sure I had the control to avoid people. I stared down that slope for about ten minutes before my brain finally convinced my body that it was doing this whether it liked it or not. Then I took off. When Kevin caught up with me in the middle, he was thrilled at first. Then he noticed I was having a mild panic attack (something I didn’t realize until he retold the story later). I was short of breath, shaking uncontrollably, and pretty much felt like I was about to die, but I assured him repeatedly that I was fine. After we went down the second drop, which was steeper than the first, I knew the hardest part was over because now I knew I could do it. I HAD SKIED. And the more times I skied the course, the more I had fun!
One day wasn’t enough time for me to learn to stop or turn very well. As of now, I have one speed: fast. The key to skiing was overcoming my instinct to fight the speed. I stopped trying to stop and just let gravity do its thing. That’s great, but it’s also why I didn’t progress to more advanced slopes. Kevin and I went to a blue, but I decided to pass because taking it head-on would have been crazy fast. He skied it by himself and came back saying, “Yeah, you wouldn’t have liked that one today.”
At the end of the day, we finally convinced our mom to ski the green slope with us (she’d happily remained on the bunny slope all day). I was proud of her for trying it. As soon as the three of us got on the ski lift, Kevin said “I’ve been waiting all day for this,” busted a grill out of his pocket, and took a selfie.
Call him George Foreman, ’cause he’s selling everybody grillz
Skiing is probably no big deal to many of you, but to me, it was a HUGE deal and a personal Day of Victory. Special thanks to Kevin for coaching me along, and to my parents for taking another chance on a known flight risk.
I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day regardless of my relationship status. None of my coupled Valentine’s Days were particularly stellar, so I almost prefer the freedom of being unattached on the Day of Love. There’s no pressure or expectations either on or from me. I can just have fun being a Valentine elf to my friends and family, and celebrate the abundant non-romantic love in my life.
So I was surprised in January when Valentine date recommendations and chatter on social media made me cry – more than once. When I realized I was actively dreading the day and wanted to hide in a cave until it was all over. I’m not that girl. But apparently, this year, I am.
I have been single for nearly five years. I mean single single. After my divorce, I didn’t even want to think about dating for at least a year – I was too heartbroken and exhausted. But I had faith that whenever I was back on my feet, God would restore the years the locusts had eaten. I had worked hard for so long to honor Him in a lonely marriage. Everyone told me I had done well. I knew that despite the end result, I was made for partnership, and had a deep capacity for love and a lot to give someone. I know it still. I was confident God wouldn’t let that go to waste. More than that, I was confident He had something so much better in store for me. He wouldn’t leave me sitting in the blackest of romantic ashes. He would bring an amazing man into my life and redeem the whole shebang. It was the only possible way the story could end.
Since then, I’ve watched countless other people get divorced and remarried, or otherwise go from meeting to marriage, in less time than it took me to go on one date. Only recently have I been blessed even with real male friends (for whom I’m thankful). For the most part, I’ve been kept at a cootie-safe distance by the majority of single men I’ve known, and indiscriminately hunted down by many of the others. Disappointing doesn’t even begin to cover it. Nor bewildering. Sure, I’m a mess in some areas like everyone else, and my looks are never going to stop traffic. But I’m a smart, fun, independent, sports-literate, self-aware Christian woman in the best shape of her life. I don’t understand why I am so obviously and decisively Not Girlfriend Material.
What hurts the most is that I want such simple things. I don’t want to be married tomorrow – I just want to be asked out on a real date by someone who gives me butterflies. I want to feel special and chosen and also safe. I want the fun and excitement of getting to know an interesting man who thinks I’m interesting too. I want to kiss someone I really want to kiss, even if it only happens once. I want the luxury of enough time to let my guard down, to make educated decisions. I want the freedom to feel my feelings openly instead of trying to smother them. I don’t feel like these are overly demanding requests.
What hurts the most is that I’m a healed, whole individual, but I still lack the healing that only good relationship experiences can bring. Love gave me some wounds that only love can bind up.
What hurts the most is that after five years, my ex-husband’s opinion still stands as man’s last verdict on my worthiness. The good women in my life can tell me all day long that I’m enough. I can tell it to myself. I can believe it. But none of it can silence the little voice saying, See, no one you would want will ever want you. How much more proof do you need? If I’m not enough at my best for a good man to see and choose me, am I enough, really? If I fall in the forest and no one’s around, do I make a sound?
I know better than anyone that it’s better to be single than unhappily coupled. But it’s devastating to think that those are my only options. I will always need lots of different relationships and people; I don’t expect any one person to be my all in all. I’m starting to feel hopeful and happy about where my life is going in general. I know I can survive however things play out.
But I am sure in my soul that I’m not “called to singleness.” I’ll always have a phantom limb. The instinct to love the right partner with everything I am, and the desire to be loved back, and the knowledge of how good that could be, will always be pent up in my bones. I have no promises or evidence that I’ll ever have the chance again, and after almost half a decade, I’m ready to stand up and say: It’s not okay. I’m not okay. It will never be okay.
That’s where I’m at this Valentine’s Day.