Say sorry. Don’t be an asshole. Or one of my biggest lessons of the last few years.

I was chatting with a friend last night, talking about our respective divorces, and we asked each other biggest lessons learned. For me, learning to communicate in a healthy and open way has been my most important takeaway. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always so open with my heart. When tension would arise in my marriage, I would push it down until eventually it would explode in a hideous way, or create an atmosphere of ongoing resentment. I didn’t do myself any favors.

As a result of my divorce, and now three years of intensive therapy, I’ve learned how to address problems and pain in a more direct and healthy manner. Having these uncomfortable conversations can be, well, uncomfortable, but ultimately fosters trust and support. Ladies and gents, this is where I remind you that it is never okay to break up with someone via text. And by the way, guilty as charged. But it also leads me to another very important point: you don’t get to decide when you’ve hurt someone.

People are built differently. Some of us are more sensitive, some of us are teflon. Regardless, we all have a breaking point, and I challenge you to name one person who hasn’t, at some point, had their feelings hurt by another human. When that happens; when you’ve hurt someone, you don’t get to decide if it’s valid. Spoiler alert: it’s valid if they say it’s so. So what to do?

Apologize. Even if you think their reasons for being hurt are silly or unwarranted, apologize. Saying your sorry that you made someone feel like crap doesn’t make you a lesser person. It doesn’t even mean you’re in the wrong. It means you are compassionate and sensitive to the fact that your words or actions wounded someone in some way. And by acknowledging this, you open the door to healthy discussion about how you can do better and how you can prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

Pride is an evil little monster, and can seriously annihilate productive relationships. Put it to bed. It takes some getting used to, but I swear, the more you can look at any situation from the other person’s perspective and try to understand the source of their pain, the better you’ll be as a romantic partner, friend, parent, daughter/son, sibling, colleague, etc.

This is a little truth talk from someone who recently had her feelings hurt and is still waiting for acknowledgement of that — which I also recognize I may never receive. It’s also truth talk from someone who has hurt others and likely made them wait an unreasonable amount of time for an apology.

It’s a beautiful thing to validate someone’s pain, and if you’re the source of it, no matter how silly it may seem to you, say you are sorry for whatever made that person feel betrayed, less than, whatever. You can’t know how important that acknowledgment of pain can be.

Take care of one another. We’re all we’ve got. XOXO.


The long and winding road…to Huntington, Indiana.

One of the things intense anxiety has robbed me of is my enjoyment of road trips. Man, I used to love to drive.

When I was a college student at Taylor University, Fort Wayne (an important distinction), my friends and I used to get in a car and drive Highway 69 to any random rest area and get shitty cappuccino just for the sake of driving, caffeinating, and listening to our favorite music. Sometimes we’d smoke cigarettes too, even though it was expressly against the life together covenant we signed that said we agreed not to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or drugs, fornicate, or dance. Yeah, I signed that contract. That’s neither here nor there. The point is, I loved getting in the car and driving aimlessly.

I spent years making the long road trip from IN to PA, sometimes beginning the journey in the middle of the night, by myself, with a pack of smokes, a few cans of Coca-Cola, and a package of NoDoz. I’d drive through the night, music blasting, singing along to my favorite tunes, and just embracing every last second of “good god, the open road and its majesty.”

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced with anxiety is a fear of driving. I don’t even know why, except that several people I know and grew up with in my small Pennsylvania town have died in car accidents. For whatever reason, anxiety has instilled in me some fear of being behind the wheel, and silly as it sounds, I miss the freedom that comes with driving — anywhere/no where for no reason at all. I miss the windows rolled half way down, music at full volume, the front seat of my car transforming into a veritable karaoke stage. It was magic.

These days, when I have to drive to a doctor’s appointment on DuPont Road, the north side of Fort Wayne, I labor over the stress of it all for days. Not kidding. So many times, I think about what it would be like to jump in the car and just go — drive to Chicago or Detroit, or hell, to Pennsylvania, and not think about meeting an early demise along the way. The fear that comes as a result of anticipating a trip like that is crippling.

So tonight, when my best friend’s car broke down in Huntington, Indiana, 35 minutes from my home, and she called and asked if I could pick her up, I was scared. But if there is one thing that has always taken priority over self and fear, it’s helping and supporting the people I love. “Yes, I’m on my way.”

I drove to Huntington to pick her up. I listened to music I loved on the way. I sang. Loudly. It felt amazing! And it was a small milestone, but one that holds great significance. She got it too. And it was the smallest, but best little taste of freedom and empowerment I’ve had in some time. I can do this. I need to do this. Today, Huntington. Tomorrow, the world — or at least the parts of the world to which I can drive.

On Pity, and the things that scare me the most.

My therapist recently asked me to think about the things I fear most. I suffer anxiety which manifests in the form of fear of death — not afterlife, just death. I’ve been digging deep to get to the root of that fear. And in a session a few weeks ago, I had the revelation that my fear isn’t about suffering, but partially about pity. Bear with me here.

I told her that I’m not afraid of cancer, or some extended illness taking my life. I’m afraid of instantaneous perishing. But why? I’m not the kind of person who hides her feelings. Hello, heart on sleeve. So I don’t have loose ends. I tell my people love them. I act upon what I know to do. I take risks and I live my life fully. I’m not saying it’s all neat and tidy and the bucket list has been completed, but I don’t feel like I have unfinished business. So what gives?

Pity. Right after college I dated a guy who, let’s just say, wasn’t in a position to be a good and faithful partner to me at the time. The betrayal I experienced in that relationship was damaging, but what I feared the most at the time was the possibility of others feeling pity for me. I’ve carried that fear with me into middle age, and I’m not going to lie, it owns me sometimes. When I got divorced, I started blogging, putting out messages of strength and empowerment, so hopefully no one would feel sorry for me, but rather marvel at my resilience.

I’ve had a string of not so successful relationships(ish) over the last few years, the last of which left me pretty broken, and more than a little sad. And each time it doesn’t work out, I worry that you or you or you will look at me from afar and think, “poor girl.” God, the thought of it makes my skin hurt.

I don’t want to die without being able to assure my people that I’m okay. I’m not a person to be pitied. My life is really quite fantastic. I don’t want to die, and have a group of friends sharing whiskey in one of our haunts taking about how the last few years were hard and if only she could have experienced XYZ before she bit it. This terrifies me.

It helps to make a list of all the incredible things and people in my life. The list is so, so long. But who am I making the list for? Why am I jotting down what I already know to be true? Courtney has a hell of a life — cool friends, supportive family, a great job, a cozy home, and really, the best partner for the journey, my little man. I have far more than I could have ever imagined, and maybe I even more than I deserve. No pity here. You probably already know this. And you’ve probably never pitied me at all. The trick is allowing myself to believe that you know it. Or better yet, to not care one little bit if you do or not.

I’m curious. What scares you the most?

Crack your heart wide open. Why not?

A guy wrote me this poem once. A guy I met when I was a young girl working at church camp in Pennsylvania. I would fall in love with this same man three times in my life, but the relationship would never come to fruition for many reasons: first distance, then an unexpected pregnancy (not mine), and finally, because marriage vows said to another meant more than anything we could imagine creating together. But I have pages and pages of his words. I haven’t talked to him in ages, rightfully so, and I probably never will. I was thinking about him yesterday though, and decided to dig out some old poems. It got me thinking…

Relationships are complex. I used to believe in black and white; wrong and right, but the heart is an intricate little beast, and it must sometimes be tamed, I suppose.

I have put my heart on the line more times than once, and it hasn’t turned out the way I hoped it would. After all, I’m still here, writing these words. But it hasn’t been for naught. I’ve learned, through each heartbreak; through each failed relationship; through each death — there is life after, and good god, if you seek it, so shall it be. You can relish the moments, the poems, the adventures, and know that it all starts over again with you — in a better place, stronger and able to give more this time than the last. You can know, that love has a way of rearing its head and finding you when you least expect it to. How cool is that? That you are able to fall in love more than once, and keep giving. And how cool is it when you finally slow down on the giving enough to say, “I’m ready to accept too.” And know that the universe is not so cruel as to keep your heart from breaking open with, and for another human again.

Fall in love, a million times over. And write about it. You won’t be sorry you did. How can we ever say, “I wish I hadn’t loved that person so completely.”? Hemingway, thank you for the reminder. And friends — love, write, love, write, love, write. All of it matters, I swear it. XOXO.

On acceptance and listening. 

I’ve had several friends reach out recently and ask if I’ve been writing. Blog posts become fewer and farther between as I continue to evolve. There’s a common thread I think, that all my favorite writers share, and that’s heartache. It’s universal, and no matter the kind of loss or pain you’ve experienced, knowing that you’re not alone is paramount to healing. Or at least it has been for me. 

For the past several weeks, I’ve typed and deleted, and typed and deleted again. I want to write, but a.) I’ve got no news to share, and b.) I keep finding myself drawing on the strength of others rather than telling my own tale. If I’m being honest, I’m wading right now. 

I’ve spent the last 6 months in pretty intensive therapy building some serious tools to draw on in darker times. It’s been incredible, and I only feel stronger for it. I’ll keep pushing. I just will. But I have to give it to you straight, because I’m nothing if not 100% honest. Right now, I’m struggling with many of those old demons that have haunted me for years. I’m lonely. I’m not enough. I’m anxious. I’m sad. 

The difference now, is that I know that the narrative I have in my head about being less than just isn’t true. And the feelings I’m navigating as a result of that false narrative are fleeting. They are valid, but they aren’t forever. I must lean into them, acknowledge them, honor them, and work like hell to overcome them. 

I’m nursing a broken heart. I’m accepting that many things — relationships and projects — things I’ve poured my soul into, they aren’t going to materialize in the way I hoped they might. I’m quietly trying to find silver linings and a better path forward. I’m counting my damn blessings (gross), because there are so very many. 

That’s all I’ve got, friends. But thank you, thank you to those of you who have asked for more. I’m not finished. Who among us is, really? But I’m just listening right now. It’s exactly where I need to be.


Words and (otherly) worlds

I went to Europe you guys. I did it. It was spontaneous. So much as a trip to Europe can be — planned just 5 weeks in advance. I expedited a passport, boarded a plane alone, and flew across an ocean to have the time of my life. And I did. 

Okay, this might not seem like a big feat. I mean, people travel abroad all the time. But I had a moment with the Eiffel Tower; a giant steel structure staring me down. I nodded to her, and she lit the damn sky, and I felt more alive than I have in years. I cried. Just a little bit. I cried because a little more than two years ago, I thought my world was done for. I questioned if I’d ever feel whole again. But in this moment, this one brief rendezvous with a giant pile of metal and flashing lights, I knew somehow, without a doubt, that I was okay — that life still has way more to offer me than I could have ever imagined — that I’m better off for being in this place, and for having experienced total devastation and loss. I felt  hope, I guess, and damn if it didn’t transform me in some way. 

Two days later I would find myself wandering the streets of Bruges, Belgium by myself at midnight crying my eyes out in a totally different way. Bruges, by the way, is the most magical city I’ve ever seen, and even if your heart is breaking, there is promise on those cobblestone streets. I highly recommend a soul searching mission, or just a really romantic vacation there. Go! You won’t be sorry. 

It was surreal to feel totally lost and totally at home, at once. To have no idea what lies ahead, and yet, to feel completely at peace with that notion. I felt it. I breathed it. I took it all in — cathedrals, and museums, and parks, and baguettes, and wine, and goddamn waffles and French fries; love, and heartache, and healing and strength; mourning, and self-cheerleading, and hope. It was a lot to absorb, and it was damn near perfect. 

I realized I missed words, even though I was surrounded by them, some of which I couldn’t understand, though mostly Europeans are so kind to American tourists. I wanted to write so badly, but time did not permit. I was soaking it all in, this other world; thousands of miles from home, and I couldn’t wait to write about it. But when I tried, words escaped me. This is as good as it gets. It’s all I can muster. Go! Do that thing. Go to Europe or Alaska or Japan — whatever is calling you, do it. Because life is so very short, and we have so much to learn, and even more to simply feel. I want to feel all of it. I hope you do too. You should, and then let’s talk. I can’t think of much else I’d rather do. 

Dear kid.

Dear kid. My kid. My fierce and wild Z. I have a lot to say to you, as I suspect I always will, but tonight you led me through a range of emotions I’m sure almost every parent can relate to. In the span of just 4 short hours, from school pick up to the moment your eyes grew heavy and your chest began to rise and fall at a steady rate, I felt frustration, and joy, and fear, and pride, and absolute unbridled love. All of that in 4 hours. How do you do it? 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about your future, as you embark on a new adventure next week – preschool. I’ve been worried about your transition and how you’ll adapt to a new environment with new friends and leaders. I’ve thought about all the transitions to come and how your life will be remarkably shaped by friends, lovers, mentors, colleagues, and mostly by me and your dad. How will we serve you in a way that makes you confident, strong, compassionate, aware? Because that’s what I want for you. 

Sometimes I close my eyes and I picture your graduation day, or the day you marry your best friend. I picture you traveling this great, great world, seeing and doing all the things your heart desires. It makes me proud just to dream of these things. And I think to myself, “don’t set expectations for a life he may not desire. Just be there. Walk alongside him, or a few steps behind – whatever he needs. Be to him whatever will make him the best kind of human he can be.” God, but how? There’s no rule book. There’s no instruction manual to review in the moments when I feel like I’m not quite getting it right. There’s only love, and that has to be enough. 

Dear kid, you are deeply loved by many people, chief among them, your dad and me. But there’s this vast tribe of kind and adoring souls looking out for you – grandparents, aunts, uncles, your dad’s partner, your baby sister, and the ridiculous collective of friends I have somehow been lucky enough to align myself with. They treasure you, even those who aren’t of your blood; they want the very best for you, and isn’t that something! Isn’t it? Don’t we all deserve to be so very lucky? 

Dear kid, I saw a solar eclipse today. I’m mean, I saw it through a pinhole in a cardboard box, but I saw it nonetheless. And I thought about all the amazing things you will see and experience throughout your life. I thought about your first natural phenomenon, and the first time you kiss someone you love; I thought about the first heartbreak that will simultaneously destroy you and absolutely shape who you become; the first time you stand in front of the ocean and feel smaller than small; when you have a major victory and feel larger than life; the feeling you’ll get when you know you’ve done something to help another human; or when you face absolute defeat; your first road trip behind the wheel, music moving every bit of your body, mind, heart. It’s going to be great, and it’s going to be awful, and I’ll be there through all of it — either by your side, a phone call away, or in some spiritual realm shining over you. I can’t wait for you to know how great it feels to be alive. Who knows, maybe you already do.

Dear kid, I love you with all of me. Being your mom is the best gift I have ever been given. Nothing can top it. Absolutely. Nothing. As you head off to school in just one week, go knowing you are capable of great things. And great things don’t have to be the stuff of legend. Sometimes great things can be as simple as being a kind person, a friend to the broken, a person of deep compassion and love, just muddling through and learning and learning and learning. Stretch toward goodness and love. It’s all we’ve got, really. 

Dear kid, you make me proud. 

Dear kid, go get ’em.