I respect the sanctity of Tuesday night writing binges, so I’m perched on the same white wicker love seat that supported three and a half years of processing life and love through garden analogies and teaching metaphors; I don’t want to write tonight, but what example am I setting for sixteen year olds with writer’s block if I don’t honor this commitment. I sit stiffly, typing to the tune of the cicadas and crickets, stiffening at the first thought I’d rather dismiss again. I don’t write about my love life anymore.
I have one – it’s just non-traditional. The story Charming and I were writing with our lives was exciting and adventurous. For a few years, I was a princess in a fairy tale. It’s disquieting now to recall the epic Cinderella proposal, complete with horse and carriage. It’s been just over a year, but the warmth and joy of that day couldn’t survive a scorching summer after separation. He was incredibly good to me, and I’ll always cherish the way so many of our friends came together to make the moment happen and share it with us. The love I felt then still lives in the memory, despite the way things ended.
Charming was my love life, and writing about our dates on King Street in Old Town was typically a safe choice. These past few months, I’ve processed life here every Tuesday, but I’ve been avoiding the most common theme. I haven’t been entirely true to my voice. I’m supposed to just settle in on the blue paisley cushion and write whatever comes to my mind. In recent weeks, I’ve dismissed a few first thoughts, and though I still experience “writer’s growth”, I wonder what realizations I haven’t arrived at because I’ve been afraid I’ll drown once I dive in.
To some extent, my relationship with Charming ended when I began questioning faith, meaning, God, and tradition. Grams lived a full ninety-plus years, but her death still shook me. She was the matriarch of our family. I don’t understand how my obsessive thinking came to center on questioning those values and beliefs most central to Gram’s ideology… and three generations to follow, all gathered around her casket in the rain. I’m not angry at God. I’m not rebelling. I just don’t know if I only believe what I believe because Grams did, then Dad, then it was only naturally for me.
Maybe this is a mid-life crisis. People like authentic. It wasn’t something I could name in high school; it was just a feeling I got from some people didn’t like me. I had a family name to keep polished and Christian example to uphold. I saw my mother get up for quiet times every day to spend time with the Bible and in prayer, so I did, too. Every day for dozens of years, I spent a quiet time with God. The peace and comfort I know my mother found in those quiet times evaded me. No, ours upstairs in my bedroom was stiff and distant, structured and scheduled.
I spent time with God because I knew I was supposed to, and I do well with some impassable structures and routines in place, not unlike writing night every Tuesday. In thirty years of living life as a proclaimed Christian, I never experienced a deep and abiding friendship. I was always struggling, striving, seeking forgiveness. My family is grieved that I’m not walking a righteous path, and understandably so given our heritage. I’m still open to God, only I see a desperate urgency to figure out who I am, independent of deep family roots, so that I live fully, authentically and peacefully. I don’t know how to explain life’s existential questions without the lens Biblical Christianity always provided.
Charming was my love life before, when God was still real to me in a personal way. Now, I’m collecting love in unsuspecting places. With strained family relations post break-up, I found support in my existing community. People that I’d met up with at raids for Pokémon Go have some of my closest, most reliable friends. I still have a love life; it’s just non-traditional. I love the game, my Pogo partner, and spending time with friends who love it, too.
I find love in my nieces and nephews. The twins are in Pre-K, and tonight I got to join the family at the school’s open house. I saw their hand prints and their desks and their “All About Me” posters. Tessa’s boasted she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, like her mommy. I smiled. I could remember making a similar poster when I was little. Tessa took me to the board and read me the word “Scissors” while her teacher explained to Mommy how Katarina plays the, “I don’t know how to do this. Will you help me?” card when she’s disinterested in doing something she can do. I smiled. I could remember a similar strategy when I was little. They’re not my children, but they are precious to me, and a hug from one of them is like a love tank instant refill.
I find it most lately in stolen moments with Leia when school’s not in session. Friday night, we just sat in her back yard and talked into the darkness. The crickets and cicadas weren’t so persistent. The whole world disappeared into the suburban skyline and we laughed at each other’s self-effacing humor, determined to be happy right where we were. Her girls have always called me auntie, and I’m starting to feel like one. It’s not a traditional picture, but I’m happy with Leia and her kids.
When Charming proposed, there was this outpouring of love from friends and family that made an impression, and though there are some different faces in the circle now, I’m surrounded by love everywhere I turn, even at my new school. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married, but I still want to be a mom. My juniors were talking about how to avoid making the same mistake twice, and I found myself thinking about my biological clock. A year ago, I never would have considered motherhood without the male silhouette in the perfect family frame. I’m open to it now.
When I was with Charming, he was my love life, and that was restricted to the weekends. Most days, I’d see no one from the time I left the gym until school the next day. It was easier to be a workaholic when friends weren’t dropping by, announced or unannounced, when the china gathered dust in the dining room hutch, when the only cushion getting used on my front porch was this one. I love loving people, and I get to do that in everyday ways. It’s not a traditional love life, but I’m happy.
I don’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay. I make mistakes and try to avoid making them again, like my juniors will do. I get writer’s block too, and I can and did write through it to arrive at some nugget of truth. The story I was writing with God and Charming was a lot easier because I knew where I wanted the plot to go. My writer’s growth is dependent upon my willingness to go places I don’t want to go. I didn’t drown in the despair. I’m still here, typing to the tune of cicadas and crickets.
And even if I don’t feel like it, I’ll be back next week.