|Where I write.|
What I wrote that day was my intention to really consciously live this last year of my twenties and reflect on this decade. I like reflecting. I'm a storyteller and I often retell myself the stories that make up my short history, looking for meaning. It's a hobby. I want to tell myself an accurate story and I'm always really proud when Eric tells me that I'm self aware, because I'm sure to many people I'm a bull just crashing over everyone's feelings totally oblivious of my weaknesses and the rubble in my wake. I want to know who I am the whole time that I'm me... that might seem silly, but how many women do you know who start finding themselves in their forties, or after a divorce, or after the kids are grown (or ✓ all of the above).
Nearly every time it was quiet and there was a road in front of me I filed through my favorite moments, the forks in my road, my war stories, pictures, music, movies, writings... stitching together the short stories and mementos. That is what this is. It's more for me than anything, but I have to put it somewhere.
There are no pictures of my twentieth birthday that I can think of.
There are engagement pictures from that fall, but I don't remember much else from that time.
To me planning a wedding was an obvious, fairly unexciting process. I was accused of being under a lot of stress, maybe because I was hospitalized for anxiety. I don't remember any magic or excitement in it. If you remember me excited, tell me about it. I do remember being worried that I hadn't found the ribbon to go around the handle of my bouquet... which would arrive dead on my wedding day anyway.
One of my professors tried to talk me out of getting married. Not in general, to my fiance specifically. I was proud of who I was marrying if I was at church, or at a show, or around campus... but she and I knew he lacked ambition and follow through and I think she thought that would make me hate him or drag me down. It didn't.
When I was eighteen I loved falling asleep at the foot of his drums at band practice and being in awe of his blonde hair that he wore as a black mohawk. At twenty I was trying to recapture that awe and make us make sense forever. I became incredibly interested in arranged marriage and falling in love with the person you have made a decision to marry for practical reasons. Interestingly, when I wrote about marriage I used analogies of dying in war... I know I was focusing on honor and commitment, but I had only been married a matter of months and there was no talk of love. I had already lived through the terrible honeymoon and I suppose this was me falling on my sword for the good of a stable society.
Not the figurative honeymoon by the way... the actual terrible honeymoon in Canada, where I drained my anti anxiety prescription as I tried to figure out how to get my new husband to want me.
Note... I hold nothing against Canada.
Our song was Out of the Woods. It's an awkwardly long song to play in a wedding ceremony.
The first time I drank while with my first husband he cried. I was 19, wasn't married yet and kinda flying off the rails being the novel engaged virgin at all the parties as I tried to figure out what I wanted.
Somewhere between then and my twenty first birthday alcohol wasn't so taboo with him anymore. I do actually have pictures of my twenty first birthday... pretty much all with people who hate me now. Let's reflect.
|Someone should have told me that when you've been drinking since high school|
the cool part of being 21 is going to a BAR and drinking.
|I got my first tattoo, in our apartment, around midnight.|
I miss this shirt.
|Was "my wife" ... we don't talk... it didn't end well.|
|And then I married her ex-husband. Not awkward.|
That's what I have from my twenty first birthday. Some people burn pictures and rip chapters out of books but I refuse... no matter what I was doing to my bangs. There were a lot more people at this party and over the next year or so nearly all those relationships crumbled with my first marriage. I mourned them for a long time. Honestly, I'm not sure I could say I was ok with that chapter until last year... but no reading ahead.
I hope that when I get to whatever age will be my last I can look back and say that I was never again as bitter as I was when I was 21. Nine months of that year was spent on a sinking ship, that was also on fire, with pirates gutting everyone on board. I gripped the wheel though. I was angry, I felt cheated by my husband (and sometimes God) and I took out every ounce of that disappointment out on him, sometimes publicly. Sometimes I also played the martyr in my own head (see dying for country above)... and the in between times I did still love being "The Drummer's Wife" which remained my myspace profile name until the bitter end.
And it ended. Not by me. Those final months I probably was guilty of dumping gasoline over it all but I never touched a match. I was going out, flirting, looking for some validation that I wasn't getting at home... but all along I didn't want to go elsewhere for. The night before I found the divorce searches on our computer history I was out dancing with a guy that I felt like was miles out of my league and it all just baffled me. Someone saw me and texted "Where is your husband?" I stood on a chair in the bar to try to figure out who it was. I still don't know. One of the great mysteries of my life.
I never signed divorce papers.
I took long drives down the coast for hours crying and screaming into the windshield living one of my favorite scenes in Alfie and listening to Blue October.
I cried so hard into my phone one night that it got water damage.
I went to church a lot. Before and after church, I sat in coffee shops in Santa Cruz and wrote.
I fell asleep to Kate Walsh most nights.. usually Goldfish.
|Oh and I was blonde.|
I spent my 22nd birthday at the Penny Farthing with many of the same people with whom I spent my 21st, minus my husband. It was a surreal night, it ended in some guy's garage with many of my very adult friends acting like experimenting high schoolers. I felt too old to be threatening to take someone's keys.
|I had pink hair and took pictures like this.|
|I got another tattoo.|
|I traveled whenever I could, even if it was just up to the city.|
Very soon after my 22nd birthday I was driving home from San Francisco, winding down the coastline after staying the night with a guy I didn't have sex with. That morning he said goodbye at the car and added that the night was a mistake, lets not tell anyone about it. I had just taken a running start at a different life and kinda panicked when I think I was supposed to leap. Wolf In Me was on the radio as I had a talk with myself about what kind of girl I was.
I decided that I was the kind of girl who had all the boys.
Did I mention that?
|I wonder if he hates that tattoo that is my art.|
I still went to shows. One time my husband stopped a show until I left, so I didn't go anymore. Though these were still my people and I came to parties anyway. One night a group of us were supposed to go to a MC Chris show together. Somehow it ended up being just me and Eric, who my friend had recently left after seven years of marriage. Eric didn't talk much, ever. On the drive to Santa Cruz he played Megan by the Smoking Popes. He was still my friend's husband to me, but I wanted to know more about a boy who played songs like this for girls... and find one of my own.
When we saw the singer of that song at a solo show a couple years ago I wrote that story on an envelope and gave it to him.
For Christmas I went to England by myself.
|I had never seen a phonebooth, had to take a picture in it.|
|Old churches and short skirts with tights.|
I stayed with my old youth pastor and I wanted him to tell me why the road I was on was bad. I didn't feel bad. I was happy. If you have been a high schooler in church you have probably seen the flower petal skit where you give away a petal at a time until there is nothing left for the person you care about or you've heard "there's no condom big enough for your heart." Well now I wanted an explanation. Maybe I wasn't speaking clearly, but all I remember coming away with was "do you have a question or do you just want to hear yourself talk?"
Christmas morning I got drunk in a pub with a random English guy who invited me to his flat and played Snow Patrol while we drank Brandy. He said flat instead of apartment... and he was English... and I was obsessed with Love Actually. What do you think happened...
Oh ps... Brandy is gross.
I shared everything with Eric because I shared everything with whoever I was around at that moment. It's interesting to know now how that made him feel. Not jealous, more like I deserved better. We have had many conversations after our marriage about why I didn't deserve better, I was getting exactly what I wanted. Of course we couldn't have those candid conversations then. Eric was like my Jiminy Cricket that was way too shy and had a crush on me.
Sometimes I thought Eric was flirting with me, and I liked the attention, but it was confusing. There was one time we were staying in a trailer and it was freezing cold. I was complaining and he said I could come stay in his bed with him. An epic battle in my mind ensued as I tried to figure out what that meant. I asked him recently if he would have made a move and he acted shocked, "No! You just were cold!"
He's so pure.
On one of the last days of 2006 I was at Eric's apartment, where I was often now because he had broken his leg and he had no one to help him out. We started talking about God, which was weird because even though I was at his apartment almost every day, we didn't talk much. When I posed questions about the Bible to pastors I usually was accused of having a head faith and not a heart faith. I came to take this as "I don't know, but I'm going to make this about you and not me."
Whatever I asked Eric that night, he had an answer, and handed me a little 80 page book on the topic. I spent New Years Eve pouring over Greek and Hebrew translations trying to prove him wrong.
We bonded over movies and music and doctrine, never our divorces. One time I made a negative comment about his first wife because she was my friend and sometimes made me mad... and he stopped me mid-sentence and said he wouldn't talk negatively of her. We still sat on separate couches and never hugged hello or goodbye but now something was there. One time after a date with some guy I asked Eric why I couldn't find someone like him. I meant it. I liked Eric and all his integrity and mystery, but couldn't imagine how a relationship wouldn't destroy all our friendships and of course his band.
|I couldn't destroy this!|
The day before our divorce was final my still husband showed up at my work. It was weird. I had fought so hard to get him to stay... and suddenly he was crying and asking if it was too late and telling me how good I looked and a huge part of me just thought "fuck... I have to say it's not too late... I'm his wife." I also felt scared and wounded, and a little nervous and hopeful.
I told him it wasn't too late and he asked me to come to his apartment that night, he'd call. I went to Eric's to wait. We both waited. He didn't call.
On our first date Eric held my hand for the first time and kissed my palm. One of my close friends told his first wife, who I still felt close to, that we were together, which actually wasn't true. Someone with a fake myspace account told me how terrible the whole scene in the bar was and how terrible I was for causing it to happen. I have never been able to figure out who that person was either. Eric's sister-in-law texted him to ask if it was true. I was with him. I wanted to know too. He told her and me that we were not together.
If something was going to happen here, I wanted to handle everything with integrity. I didn't want to do or say anything behind anyone's back and I thought that as long as I was honest everything would be ok. I get how socially unacceptable this all was. Friends' exes are off limits. However, when we finally had dinner and talked about this potential relationship, she gave me her blessing. She said it was weird, but it was ok with her. I agreed it was weird. She was one of the first to know of our engagement and congratulate us. I thought we had beat the system and all conducted ourselves like adults.
We still lost most of our friends. It was a very small wedding that fall.
But it was perfect.
We got married in my aunt's backyard after getting engaged four months earlier. I had caught the bouquet at a wedding in Vegas. Eric blurted out that he loved me.
I had said I didn't want anyone to say that they loved me until they were ready to marry me. His proposal was kinda an accident but it worked out.
|That one time I was tan and had time to workout two hours every day.|
|I walked down the isle to Valentine by the Smoking Popes.|
Our recessional was What a Wonderful World covered by Joey Ramone.
|We danced to Kate Walsh's Your Song.|
... even though Eric doesn't have blue eyes.
|I don't think we had ever had an argument, we had never lived together,|
never had sex. I definitely remember the last one.
|Happily Ever After.|
I mourned the losses of those friendships for years. There were no fights, no explanations, they were just gone. It was not until a phone call last year from my once friend who took it upon herself to blow the whistle on a relationship that didn't even exist yet that I realized that I had no idea what had been said behind the scenes. I had been on a Small World ride where everyone got along, defied social norms, and we peacefully went off to live our happily ever afters... Eric's first wife was also in what seemed to be a happy relationship. Everything should have been perfect. I saw only a glimmer of the campaigning that probably was happening all along one night just after Eric and I were married. His first wife called, screaming and furious, I'm not sure what over. Eric didn't mean for me to hear, he was very calm and let her talk... but I heard myself accused of doing and saying things that never happened. I was shocked, devastated, and the calls continued over several months. I wanted everyone to be ok, and everyone wasn't. I spent six years hurt and confused, mourning those losses, and my friend that I so badly didn't want to hurt. When I saw Something Borrowed, that scene on the street with Rachel and the dry cleaning and running into Darcy... it ripped my heart out.
There was still no doubt I had made the right choice.
Eric's band went on with a new drummer, I was in the process of opening my own tanning salon and we were looking at buying a house. Grown up life.
|My 23rd Birthday.|
I'm much less creative when I'm happy. I'll totally take happiness over being a prolific writer. All that kinda died off in a way and that's ok I guess. I left college and we bought a house and traveled.
|Tanning salon convention in Vegas.|
|Backpacking in Klamath.|
We of course had our first big fight and we both cried and almost missed one of these trips. It was different though. Everything was so different. Even when we were angry we were safe with each other.
I got to know the guy who was so quiet. I learned his secrets and he learned that I didn't have any, and would probably fail to keep any we created. If he forgot that, he's probably remembering right about now, and we are only three years into the decade.
And then I wanted a baby. When we were engaged I told Eric I wanted lots of babies. He was like... maybe one. I was like... six babies and a farm... final offer.
|My 24th Birthday. Those nachos... I remember them like they were yesterday.|
Nothing makes you want a baby like going off of birth control and not getting pregnant, which is exactly what happened. Turns out, I wasn't ovulating. We just happily traveled and enjoyed our life together while we waited... but waiting was hard. Fertility drugs and monthly blood tests was not how we imagined starting a family.
|Vegas for the Punk Rock Bowl.|
It took many months, but two years after Eric held my hand for the first time on Valentines Day, I put this in his.
I thought he would hug me and be thrilled, but he just asked if I was sure and if I took two.
We spent 2009 being pregnant. Well not the whole year, but a lot of it. Nothing else mattered. I got incredibly fat. Eric's band went on an east coast tour. Mostly I was just pregnant.
When I was six months pregnant I brought Eric to a family reunion. He was still like... "maybe one kid." And obviously I'm like... "there's definitely one kid." The reunion was of my paternal grandfather's siblings and offspring. He was one of five. At the end of the weekend I asked Eric if he had a good time. He had. Eric is an only child with almost no family. I told him all those people would not be here if someone hadn't decided to have those five kids. I don't think we ever needed to discuss how many kids we would have again.
|With my grandfather.|
Milo's birth was hard and scary. I don't know how long after Milo's birth Eric shared this, but he said it was his favorite moment with me. Not meeting our baby, but those last moments when I could only bury my head in his chest as I pushed and I asked him if he thought I could do it and he said I could and that's the only reason I did it. I didn't believe anyone else. He said I was so vulnerable and trusted him so much, and I really did. After the baby was born I was still only there with Eric.
We did eventually notice there was a baby.
Milo was born exactly a month before my 25th birthday. The song I chose for his birth was Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez.
|My 25th Birthday. I really don't need much on my birthday, I just want to|
walk around someplace and get clam chowder.
In writing this it's amazing how different the first half of my twenties were from the second half. Now we were parents, we loved it, and we were good at it.
Milo was also an incredibly easy little baby. Too easy, I guess we had too much alone time because it really didn't take long for this...
I was becoming more passionate about natural birth and I looked forward to giving it another shot. I never stopped believing in natural birth. I didn't blame my body or my goal for my complicated medicated birth, I blamed a medical system that made it so difficult to achieve a normal birth. When I was pregnant with Milo I had decided that I wanted to teach childbirth classes, but first I needed to experience a natural birth. Eric and I both again applied ourselves to that goal. This pregnancy went much more smoothly.
One thing I learned from my early twenties was that you can never judge a relationship from the outside. I still catch myself doing it from time to time, but it's really not possible. The happiest couple you think you know might be miserable behind doors... and the most mismatched pair might be the love story that makes it til death do they part. I don't keep up appearances for others. I refuse. If something has upset me and Eric and I need to deal with it, it is dealt with right there where ever we are no matter who is there to see it. It's made for some awkward moments, but we go to bed happy and I don't hold grudges.
I know what it's like to fight with a spouse every month, every week. And what it's like to go six months without an argument and then for that argument to be over $700 shoe insoles (that still makes me kinda mad).
When my cousin got married we played a game at the bridal shower. We were all given a word, and we had to give her advice based on that word. I cannot remember what my word was, but I remember one part of my advice was that somehow her husband would challenge her in the one way that would be hardest... but that I think that is part of the design of marriage. That we are paired with with someone who will make us better, but that will probably be hard, and at some point will hurt. I don't think I was projecting, I think this is true... I'm open to it not being true though.
Don't invite me to your shower and ask me to give advice if you want warm fuzzies.
When I shared that I was thinking about a morning a few days before my twenty sixth birthday, a year before. I found out Eric had lied to me about something and it devastated me. Everyone else who had ever hurt me had a long history of hurting me... but not Eric. The one thing I needed was to always believe him. If I could set my compass by his word everything would be ok. Otherwise the world was a chaotic, scary place that I wasn't sure I could handle.
My twenty sixth birthday was apart of a string of very dark days, and I didn't know what the coming days or weeks would look like.
We celebrated my twenty sixth birthday with a gender reveal party. No one, not even Eric or I, knew if we were having a boy or a girl. We all thought it was a girl.
Not a girl! Another little boy!
I don't want to be hurt, and I don't want to hurt people, but many of my favorite movies and songs reflect that theme. Eric doesn't love them along with me, he likes a happy ending, and for people to not fuck each other up. For example, I love Closer. When I was single I totally imitated Natalie Portman's character, Alice, in real life scenarios on a few occasions. I think I modeled my flirting style after this scene. I just love her.
However, unlike my favorite movies, I thought we would somehow manage to never hurt each other, but we did. That was four years ago and every once in a while, usually when I'm pregnant, I have to replay what happened, why, and I need to be reassured that I'm not being lied to now, which is the single most terrifying scenario for me (other than our health or lives being threatened of course).
I feel like I wouldn't be sharing our whole story if I didn't share that. Eric has still proved himself to be patient and understanding, which I sometimes meet with skepticism... but no tearing out chapters...
Ashley Caleb was welcomed naturally in March. Eric was again, amazing. I've often wondered what I would do if he died while I was pregnant. There are a million ways in which him not being here would be... beyond terrible... but this is just one thing that I think about when I feel like torturing myself and making myself cry for no reason.
I'm glad this is something we do together.
Some years are just fun and simple.
|My 27th Birthday.|
When I was twenty seven we traveled, went to parties, and enjoyed our growing family.
|Christmas party turned surprise wedding.|
|We still go to shows, and take blurry selfies at them.|
|Backpacking in northern California.|
And then I got pregnant... because that's what I do.
|We went to New York.|
|And I went to Texas to certify as a natural childbirth educator.|
And our babies grew.
I think we just celebrated my 28th birthday on Thanksgiving. We do that sometimes.
|My 28th Birthday.|
My birthday is on the 28th of November, so naturally it's one of my favorite numbers (other favorite is 14). So I was pretty excited to turn 28. This year was spent preparing for a new baby, then birthing a new baby, and then living with a new baby.
I started teaching my natural childbirth classes. I don't even know what to say about that, except that I think it's exactly what I'm meant to do. I love it. I meet the most amazing people, I get to share about a topic I'm passionate about, and I get to help them make informed decisions about their baby's birth.
Our babies became kids!
And we made time to just be a couple.
And this is where we started. On a cold November morning on my 29th birthday on a run, writing this story in my head. That night we celebrated with Thanksgiving... because my birthday fell on Thanksgiving.
I think that I succeeded in consciously living this last year of my twenties. Eric and I lay in bed at night just talking about how happy we are to be together and how much we love our babies... which is good... because they just keep coming.
|My pregnancy announcement. That is Indy dipped a phone in yogurt.|
This is real life.
|I asked Eric to buy me a test... he got four.|
|Hi Baby Four!|
This year was spent like the last several years. Working when there is work. Enjoying our hobbies. Feathering our nest (ie, remodeling) as we prepare for another baby. Traveling and taking the kids on adventures whenever we can.
So today I'm thirty.
I have loved my twenties. I have loved living my story and writing it whenever I can wrestle the pen from the universe. I love sharing my love story with Eric with anyone who will listen. I think we have an incredible one and I'm lucky to be half of it. I love sharing my divorce story too. I hate cliches like "I have made mistakes but they made me who I am" but I recognize how incredible it is to make it through terrible times. I don't feel merely shaped by my experiences, I'm more than clay. I think I made a lot of good choices when I haven't been able to deal the cards myself... and I made some bad choices but for very interesting reasons. No one has to live my story more than I do so I may as well find it entertaining.
I know my thirties will look nothing like my twenties. I'm calming down, caring more for other people, and having and raising our babies. My all nighters look different. Love looks different. What is new and exciting looks different. Everything will forever be different. Sometimes that is something I have to mourn a little. Sometimes I miss the drama and excitement of my early twenties. I miss having no idea where a night might end. I miss those early months with Eric when everything took my breath away. There was also so much uncertainty. And I know so much of that journey was with what I'm living now in mind.
So thank you younger me for knowing when to say when. I have a lot right now for it.