On Endings and Beginnings

Two years ago today, I was walking down the aisle toward the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Everything about the day was a dream – the dress, the venue, the photos, our wedding party. Despite the best efforts of his father and stepmother, the wedding went off without a hitch.


Today is (would be? would have been? was?) our second wedding anniversary, and I am sitting in the corner of my favorite coffee shop, sipping a pourover and reading over my divorce paperwork. Tomorrow I’ll see Eli to close on the sale of the home we bought together last December. The home where we were going to raise our children, build our dreams, live our lives together.


Besides informing family and a few close friends, I’ve been mostly quiet about the divorce. The clues are there to piece together for those who care to sleuth– I moved to Grand Rapids by myself, I haven’t posted about being married in months, I quietly changed my last name on social media.


There’s no juicy gossip, and no one hates anyone. Eli and I are on good terms; we talk often; and both of us are pursuing our dreams. I’m thrilled for him and the opportunities he has found in this season. I cried tears of happiness for him when I found out he was going to school for zoology, and I can’t wait to see how he grows.


The thing I’ve been asked the most often is “are you okay?” And the answer is simultaneously “no, not at all,” and “yes, almost completely.”


The last nine-ish months have been full of screaming, fighting like hell, crumpling naked on the bathroom floor after an hour to sob until I vomit, therapy, panic attacks, crying myself to sleep, staring blindly at walls/the road/my ceiling, sleeping for 18 hour stretches, weight gain, being a bitch to the people who love me the most, and way too much midnight pasta. There have been days I physically couldn’t get out of bed, and days I called my mom hyperventilating too much for her to understand me.


But they’ve also been full of so many good things. New friends, spontaneous road trips, honesty, learning who I am, letting myself feel after 25+ years of chasing away the feelings. Jocie’s family adopted me, no questions asked, and let me spend evening after evening sitting on their couch and eating their food. My support system has tripled, and I finally feel like myself.


I’ve learned how to ask for what I need and get what I want. I’ve laughed from the deepest part of my soul and been wrapped in the arms of those who have my back, no matter what. I’ve negotiated new relationships and gotten a scholarship for grad school and gained confidence in my talents. I have a job I love and an adorable little house with fantastic roommates. I’ve learned to set boundaries and ask for help when I need it.


In the words of Sleepless in Seattle, “I’m gonna get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out all day long. Then after a while, I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.”


Or as those good, good brothers would put it — I’m just going to keep eating that recovery sandwich.


The One Where I Use an Obvious Metaphor

It’s dusk, and I’ve been working in the garden all evening. My hands are covered in dirt; my forehead has a streak of mud across it where I accidentally rubbed the back of my hand. My husband and our dog are outside, too. The husband is helping, digging, lifting. The dog is watching. Like our plants, we are growing our roots. We are spreading out and digging in to a life we’ve only begun building together.

When Papa Baker came over for dinner last week, I told him that I thought I inherited Nana’s love for gardening, that I’d much rather weed than do the dishes.

“She’d rather be outside than in, that’s for sure,” he said. Tears danced in his eyes as they often do when we talk about Nana. “She sure did have a pretty garden. Pretty face, too.” At this, he chuckled and grinned his crooked grin.

So many of my memories of my mother’s parents involve gardening in some way. Nana filling her apron with fresh produce, Papa planting rows of corn with his ancient planter. The two of them, kneeling at dusk in the chicken-coop-turned-garden. Pulling weeds, pruning, watering. My wonder at the Four o’Clock plants and my joy when Nana let me take home some seeds from them.

When I work in the garden at dusk, I go back to those roots.

Last week I had to transplant all of my precious plants due to an issue with my raised garden boxes (The issue was that they had no drainage and sagged and cracked at the first rainfall). The dirt shook off of the roots as I carefully dug up each small plant and carried it to its new home. Roots dangled in the air, unable to find purchase.

That’s how we feel, lately. We are simultaneously digging into our old roots and trying desperately to plant new ones. We’re rooted but dangling. Building new traditions and customs.  Longing for community, authenticity, friendship, with couples in the same place we are. Dreaming about the future. Looking for a church that shares our ideals in a geographical area that, largely, does not. Laughing late into the night and snuggling and talking in our own dumb language. Setting boundaries when those who are supposed to love us well choose not to do so. Rooting, dangling, growing, searching for purchase in something solid.