Bakery Closed Until Further Notice was a writing project with a timeline.  It ended on April 17th, 2011, exactly as planned.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped writing.  I’ve shifted gears and started a new blog over here.  Please follow me, if you’re so inclined.

Or, if you’re new to Bakery, stay a while and surf the back-entries.  This project helped me immensely; I hope it can continue to be helpful to others as well.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Marie

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Understanding and acceptance

If things had worked out differently, my baby would be two today.

Incidentally, my maternal grandfather would be 98 today.  I never met him, either.

But things didn’t work out differently.  I lost that pregnancy on account of a blighted ovum in my eleventh week, and my grandfather died of a heart attack when my mom was twelve years old.  Things don’t always happen the way we think they should, and then it’s up to us to learn and grow and work with our reality.

Back in August, I asked only one thing from this project: healing.  Now, after learning that healing (in the black-and-white, magic potion, erase-the-past sense of the idea) is impossible, I know I’ve gained something even better: understanding and acceptance.

Understanding:  I started writing because I felt like I was carrying around this huge weight of an experience, and I couldn’t explain it well enough to suit me.  I wanted the right to be a little disappointed at friends’ pregnancy announcements, to refuse invitations to baby showers, to roll my eyes and complain about pregnant women wearing horizontal stripes or otherwise making something that was already in my face, that much more in my face.  And I wanted the right to do these things without having to explain myself every. single. time.  I decided to put my hurt out there into the universe, so that at least the people that knew me well would read and understand and cut me a little slack.

And acceptance: Another of my initial goals was to learn to love the life I was in, instead of mourning the life I had lost – something I’d been trying and failing to do since the day I miscarried.  So here, on days when I was not describing my pain, I tried to focus on the joy of the things going on around me: my relationship with Doug, with my family, with my friends, with Dawn’s babies.  I’ve tried, to the best of my ability, to make this an everyday practice, and I think for the most part I’ve succeeded.  I can honestly say that I spend more time in the moment these days than I did two years ago – even nine months ago.

One last bike-ride-as-a-metaphor-for-life story.  Yesterday, Doug and I went on separate rides.  He and a buddy decided to ride 70 miles in the 100-degree desert – San Diego County’s second-hardest cycling route, most of it climbing.  I went with my dad and brother, half that distance on a far easier course.

I fight with my bike all the time.  For me, the ride is rarely worth the pain.  I often feel too slow, too weak, too unprepared.  Doug, on the other hand, is a great rider.  He has the strength, the endurance, and the thick head one needs to travel great distances on pedal-power alone.  On almost every ride we’ve been on together, I’ve been miserable, and Doug has been known to say such helpful things as, “God, I love big hills!” and, “C’mon babe, you can do this, it’s easy!”

Well, yesterday’s ride broke him.  He was unprepared, he was out of his league, and the heat certainly didn’t help.  He called me from the finish, gasping for breath.  When he got home, he admitted how much he’d been hurting, and admitted that he’d had to sit out for one four-mile loop of the course to gather his wits and refuel.  He told me that, had that been his first cycling experience, he would’ve thrown the bike away and quit right then and there.  Then he said, “I’m sorry for not understanding how you must feel on rides that I think are easy.  After today, I think I finally get it.”  Understanding.

Meanwhile, Dad, Martin, and I were cruising up and down the coast, on familiar roads with familiar hills.  It wasn’t easy – at some points, I ended up 40-50 yards behind the guys, mentally cursing them for not riding at my pace, or at least being aware that they were losing me – but it was manageable.  As my dad told my mom later, I never gave up and walked, not even up the big hill leading to my parents’ house at the very end of the ride.  And I realized: this is where I’m at.  I don’t even want to try the courses that Doug expects to conquer.  For me, 35 miles with my family is a perfectly acceptable ride.  It’s good exercise and good company, with good coffee somewhere in the middle.  It’s challenging without being defeating.  I shouldn’t be mourning the hills I can’t climb or the speeds I can’t attain.  This is where I’m at, and it’s plenty good enough for me.  And acceptance.

We didn’t end up planning anything to commemmorate today – nothing ever felt like the “perfect” way to celebrate.  And then, last night, Doug told me what he wanted to do.  He suggested that we turn everything off, and just spend a quiet evening at home together.  When we decided not to try again after my miscarriage, it was under the pretense that we hadn’t gotten enough “us-time.”  So, he explained, why not make a point of having us-time now, while we still can, before the wedding-crazy and the baby-crazy really take over?  And what better night to start than tonight?  To give you (well, him) a taste of what’s coming next, I’m even going to cook.

That all being said, I think it’s only right that I end this story the same way it began: by peeing on something, and getting excited about it…

So there you have it.  My name is Marie.  Today, on the would-be birthday of both a baby and a grandfather I never got to meet, I am 28.75 years old, divorced, and child-free.  But I have a great family, wonderful friends, an amazing boyfriend, and an incredibly bright future.  I can’t wait to see what it brings.

I’m here: nervous, excited, a little sad to say goodbye.  But so, so ready.

Posted in family, friends, future, love, perspective, positive thinking, present | 20 Comments

“Dear Journal… Hi, it’s me Doug…..”

(Ten points to anyone who can name that cartoon!)

This blog project ends in 24 hours.  My girlfriend has spent nine months sitting in front of a computer everyday, expressing thoughts, feelings, and insights about a time that wasn’t wanted, but happened anyway.  Some healing took place, some friends were made, some laughs and tears were shared.  This is not a closing blog (Marie gets to figure out how to do that tomorrow), this instead is a thank you.  An award acceptance speech, so to speak.  In today’s go-fast-to-go-faster mentality, sometimes a little gesture as a formal thank you gets overlooked.  So I’m taking it upon myself to make sure it doesn’t get overlooked this time.  With that being said….

Thank you Isreal, Canada, New Zealend, Northern Cali, Colorado, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, and Del Mar.

Thanks for reading, thanks for being a part of this.  Thanks for saying the things that I couldn’t bring myself to say, thanks for saying the things I didn’t know how to say.  Thanks for laughing, thanks for crying.  Thanks for the friendships.  Thanks for the comments, the insight, the thought.  Thanks for putting up with my last post, and this one.  Thanks for the chocolate (pop rocks in chocolate, who knew – thanks in advance for sending more of that……I’ll send CLIF bars.)  Thanks to the guys of the these amazing women, who let me know it’s ok to talk.   Thanks for putting up with the short posts, the long posts, the silly posts, and the time-filling posts.  Thanks for the memories. Finally, THANKS FOR THE LOVE.

I can go on, but really it can’t be put into words (or maybe it could, but I’m no Marie when it comes to writing).  From the bottom of my heart, I hope that this blog these past nine months did as much for all of you as it has for us.  I hope that one day we will all be in the place we want to be.

Thank you again,


Quailman & Patty Mayonnaise, Halloween 2009

Posted in friends, love, writing | 10 Comments


I set this thing up, from its very conception (note the word choice) to be a gestation.  I gave it an eight-and-a-half-month timeline, with a clear date of when I could expect it to be over.  As I’ve mentioned before, I stole these particular dates from my own failed pregnancy two years ago (August 7th, the day I found out I was pregnant, to April 17th, my projected due date), but as it turned out, the dates themselves bear no meaning on what I’ve experienced here.

What I’ve experienced has been, in so many metaphorical ways, a pregnancy.  I don’t think I knew this going in; I only knew that I was making it span roughly the same amount of time as a pregnancy does, because I needed it to have a beginning and an end, and I felt like being clever.  But a pregnancy is what I got.  Let’s look at the timeline.

Late spring/early summer 2010: planning ahead.  I decide that, after all I’ve been through and all the ways its affected me, I am finally going to commit myself to healing.  I have a vague idea of “starting a blog,” but instead of calling it a blog, I’m calling it a “healing/writing project in blog form.”  I start asking my friends with blogs for advice: blogger or wordpress?  How do I get the layout I want?  Do you think anyone will find this interesting?

Late June 2010: conception.  I set up my wordpress account.  I am excited, but not quite ready to share with the world yet.  I come up with a name: “Bakery Closed Until Further Notice.”  It’s perfect.  I tell myself to wait to announce my plan to the world until August 7th.  Which means that for almost two months, I sat and waited, excited, fearful, anticipatory.

Late July 2010: heartbeat.  I meet up with a friend from my high school journalism/yearbook days, and ask her to take pictures for me – for publicity, for a header, or maybe just for me.  I finally realize that this is really happening.  I am committed.  No turning back.  I am in this for the next nine months – and I don’t even know how to feel.

August 7, 2010: the announcement.  I publish my first post.  I learn that I can get my posts to publish themselves to facebook.  Huge relief, as now I don’t have to figure out how to tell the world about my project – I can just focus on the project itself.  I look at the 254 days ahead of me and take a deep breath.

August 2010-October 2010: the first trimester.  Still not really sure what I’m doing, I take it one post at a time and try to get used to the idea that I am now a blogger.  I am blogging daily, and therefore I start to look at my life in relation to the blog: if I go to this dinner, will I have time to post?  If I have too many drinks, will I be coherent enough to post?  What story should I tell next?  What moments from my daily life will make good blog posts?  I have a few readers – my close friends, Doug, my dad, and some old classmates who stumbled across my facebook links – but for the most part, I am still going solo.  This is about me, and although I’m fascinated by the fact that other people are interested, and welcome the comments I do get, I’m mostly focused on myself and my journey.

November 2010-January 2011: the second trimester.  Things really start to pick up as more and more people begin to know me as a blogger.  I get some random comments from women I’ve never met, saying, “Hey, I know how you feel,” and I suddenly realize that this is not all about me.  I am not the only person out there going through this.  This realization makes me both ecstatic (someone understands!) and devastated (it’s so unfair!).  I continue plugging away at my daily posts: it feels like I’ve been doing this forever, and that I will be doing this forever.  It’s as much a part of my life now as eating, sleeping, or going to work.

February-March 2011: the third trimester.  The end is in sight, and I don’t feel ready.  I start wondering what will become of me once “Bakery Closed” is over – I’ve gotten so used to this part of my life, and am so in love with the friends I’ve made because of it.  I seriously consider trying to keep it up forever, but have an inkling that that’s not what I really want, either.  I start making plans for what will happen to me after my blog ends, and try to ignore the countdown ticking away in the back of my brain.

April 2011: the final few weeks.  I am so ready for this to be over.  (The phrase, “Get this thing out of me, now!” comes to mind.)  I am ready for the next step, even though I still don’t really know what that will look like – another blog, another project, another chapter for which I am only slightly prepared.  But I’ve taken this as far as I can take it; there is nothing left to say, and obviously I can’t exist in this state forever.  I wanted to grow, to heal, to move forward, and I have grown, healed, and moved as far forward as I can within the confines of these pages.

April 17, 2011: due date.  Yeah, I have no idea.  But it’s two days away, and I’m ready to be there.  I’m ready to meet my life after Bakery Closed.  I’m ready to wear a different necklace.

Posted in future, past, positive thinking, present, talismans, writing | 7 Comments


This week will be the second time in my life I’ve done some kind of a body cleansing/detox program.

The first time was a few weeks after my D&C, because the pregnancy hormones in my body had thrown my whole chemical balance off, and I was getting stomach aches daily.  My mom’s chiropractor recommended a seven-day program that he was familiar with, and I signed up.  Besides my body needing a restart, I think I wanted some sort of emotional closure, some sort of way to regain control.  So I followed the program explicitly.

For seven days, I drank this disgusting cleanse formula that tasted like apple-walnut-licorice juice, and peach-flavored protein shakes that tasted like chalky soy milk.  With the exception of a small meal on days three, four, and five, the only food I was allowed to have was a salad made up of celery, cucumber, and green bell pepper (dressed in lemon juice and chili powder, if I wanted more flavor) – I could eat as much of this as I liked throughout the course of the week – and a small handful of raw almonds each day.

Now let me tell you.  I do not like raw nuts, but when you’re denying yourself almost everything else…  That handful of almonds was the best thing ever.

As much as I hated the two drinks, and as much as my stomach aches got worse before they got better, the detox worked.  By the end of the week, I was no longer in any physical pain, and was therefore allowed to focus on my emotional pain instead.  Actually, I could focus on my healing journey, which I believe was beginning even then – it was just such a long and drawn-out process that I couldn’t see it taking shape.

Anyway, back in January, when I realized and/or decided that my IUD was giving me similar stomach aches to the ones I had during and after my pregnancy, my plan of action was two-fold: first, I would have the IUD removed.  Then, I would do another detox to reset my body’s chemical balance.

This time, I got a different seven-day program, from the doctor’s office where Amanda works.  It only has one required drink – a shake powder that, when mixed with water or non-dairy-beverage, assumes the consistency of cake batter – and eating is totally allowed.  The idea is to eat “clean” (like my gym-crazy brother does when he’s “shredding”): fruits, veggies, nuts, lean proteins.  No gluten or dairy.  No caffeine, alcohol, sugar, or processed foods.  Lots and lots of water.

Compared to the last detox, this one sounded like a cakewalk.  So Doug decided to do it with me.  The problem was that we had a lot of football to watch in January – and you can’t watch football without beer.  And then it was Valentine’s Day.  And then we had bikes to ride or something.  I dunno.  There was always an excuse.  And my stomach aches had stopped pretty much immediately after I got rid of Mirena.

So we finally decided to do it this week.  Because this week seemed less inconvenient than next week, or the week after that.  We started today, and let me tell you…  When you can’t eat the chocolate maltballs being sampled at your work, black beans and brown rice start to taste like the best thing ever.

Actually, I think it’s appropriate that I’ll be in the middle of cleansing and resetting my body on Sunday, the last day of this blog.  It’s time for a fresh start, time for something new.  The same things are, and probably always will be, going on in my world and in my mind – people are getting pregnant, I’m jealous – and I wonder if I can’t apply the same comparison to this situation as I can to eating while detoxing.

When you spend your days knowing you can’t (yet) have the baby you want, but somehow resisting the urge to whine about it, maybe you can make the things you do have – the relationship, the friends, the moments of joy and peaceful solitude – seem like the best things ever.

Posted in birth control, friends, miscarriage, past, perspective, present | 5 Comments

To answer your question…

In honor of April being National Infertility Awareness Month, I thought I might attempt to answer the one question I’m being asked a lot lately…

Q: You know you’re not infertile, right?!

A: Yes, I do know that.  However…

I do tend to forget that I don’t actually fall into the “infertility” bracket of the blogging community I’ve landed in over the past few months (ALI: adoption, loss, and infertility – I qualify on loss alone).  There’s a lot of outside influence from the amazing women I’ve met here, many of whom have been classed as infertile, and together we feed into this mob mentality of doom.  The general mood/message coming from any one of us (myself included), on any given day, goes like this: “I will never get pregnant, and if by some miracle I do get pregnant, I will automatically miscarry.”  Of course, there’s a lot of positive things to be said for this community and the amazing people in it, as well.  I’m just saying that if I forget for a moment that I’m still fertile-until-proven-otherwise, it’s because there’s a lot of empathetic fear-sharing going on here.*

And yes, “fertile-until-proven-otherwise” is the term I’m going with.  I have that pesky PCOS diagnosis to contend with, and one of the drawbacks of PCOS is that the irregular ovulation it brings can make conceiving difficult.  So far, given my one experience with pregnancy, I have proven myself to be, in fact, fertile.  The magic number to net you the infertility label is 12 months of unsuccessful trying, and Doug and I were only having unprotected sex for eight or nine before I got pregnant.  As for what happened with that pregnancy, PCOS has no effect on one’s ability to grow/keep a baby.  Some huge percentage of first pregnancies end in miscarriage, and as far as anyone knows, I was simply part of that statistic.  There is no reason for me to believe I’m going to be a repeat miscarrier, even though there is that tiny little reason for me to believe I could one day end up with the word “sterile” rudely scribbled in my medical chart.

I am pretty hopeful, though, that I will one day be able to coerce my ovaries into producing at least one good egg in a timely manner, and will then be able to sweet-talk my uterus into carrying at least one baby to term.  I do carry around a lot of fear, and I do only have that one disappointing experience to base my fertility-self-esteem off of, but all in all…

I believe this will work out for me.  I believe that my place in the ALI community will forever be carved out by that one traumatic loss, and nothing more.  Maybe it’s naive to sit here, still a long ways from even trying, and announce that everything is going to be fine, but at this point in my life, I truly believe that it will be.

Yes, I know that I am not infertile.

And I am so, so grateful for that.

*This is the main reason that I have to get out for a while, stop writing on this topic and find something else to write about.  So much exposure to other people’s fears and losses, while constantly focusing on my own loss, is not going to be good for my sanity long-term.  I need to take some time to be who I am right now: young, unmarried, uncertain.  Then, once I am ready to try to conceive, I can jump back in with both feet, knowing that I already have this great support network waiting for me.

Posted in friends, future, miscarriage, past, perspective, positive thinking | 9 Comments


Today in therapy, we were supposed to talk about the impending end of this project, how I feel about it, what it means, what happens next.  Instead, I came in with a migraine (which I still have, five hours later) and didn’t feel like being assertive and guiding the conversation towards anything meaningful.  So we didn’t address the end of this project at all.  We talked about random things instead, just sort of filling the hour with whatever, while I wished my hand would stop tingling and my vision would return to normal and my head would stop being fuzzy and painful.

I’m going to just do the same thing for the duration of this post, if that’s alright.

  • One of the things my therapist and I talked about was my place in the world as a quiet exhibitionist.  Quiet, in that I’m shy in large groups and with strangers, and in my spare time, I prefer to do things like read and write over things that actually require movement and action.  Exhibitionist in that I have no secrets (see blog), and often take, or have others take, scantily-clad pictures of myself (see blog header).  When I told my therapist I was involved with a local Rocky Horror Picture Show cast for a few years, she was blown away.  I can’t even bring myself to have a dance party in my living room or yell during therapy – how is it that I felt comfortable dancing on a stage and yelling at a screen?  We concluded it must stem from the same place as my choirgirl roots: if the people around me are doing it, I can feed off their energy to motivate my own.  Not quite a mob mentality, more like teamwork.  Still, I wish I was able to motivate myself to have that solo dance party, instead of always choosing the hot bath and the good book.
  • My friend Yumi confessed to me today that she’s actually a little jealous of me and the life I have.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  “Your future is pretty sure/certain,” she explained.  “You have a way to execute your career goal in writing, you found ‘the one,’ you know you want kids and will have them.  You want/have that stable life.  I want to know for sure whether or not I want kids or if I will succeed in my career or if I will get married.  Uncertainty sucks, especially for the control freak in me.”  How funny that she sees my life this way and I see my life as being rife with uncertainty – career, financial, children, otherwise.  All I did for the sake of my inner control freak, I told her, was come up with a plan and then declare it to be certain.  Whether or not it actually works out that way remains to be seen, but I hold onto that plan because I have to hold onto something.  There are no guarantees in life.
  • This morning, I got a taste of my future housewife project.  Doug went to work before dawn, and I woke up at a decent hour to do laundry.  I even folded and put away all my clothes after they came out of the dryer (this has previously taken me weeks to do).  In between loads, I emptied the fridge, took out the trash, and loaded and started the dishwasher.  At the end of the morning, I felt accomplished.  I also had a headache, which has yet to go away.  So let’s hope it’s not housewifery causing my headaches, because if it is, the next few months are going to be miserable.
  • Doug has been hypothesizing as to why my head hurts, too, and housewifery is not on his list of potential reasons.  “Maybe you’re just so smart that your brain is too big for your head,” he offered.  “Maybe you need to sleep more and eat better,” insinuating that the combination of yogurt, peanut butter toast, and M&Ms does not a healthy diet make.  “What’s stressing you out?”  (Nothing, other than the fact that I have a headache.)  He had some more dental work done this afternoon and is in a fair amount of pain himself, now bemoaning the miserable waste of this evening that we’d planned to spend quietly together.

My apologies if this has been a miserable waste of a blog post as well.  I feel like I should have picked one of the above bullet-points and expanded on it, rather than giving a little dim sum platter of everything going on in my head today.

Oh well.  I’m going to go eat watermelon (which will surely balance out the toast and the M&Ms) and maybe watch a movie.

Posted in love, negative thinking, present, therapy | 7 Comments


A week after I started this blog, I went to Disneyland with Dawn and her family.  Yesterday, a week before I’ll be ending this blog, I went to Disneyland with Dawn and her family.

This may not seem that special, being that I go to Disneyland all the time.  But Dawn doesn’t.  As far as I know, Dawn has been to Disneyland twice in the past eight months: once, a week after I started writing, and once, a week before I stopped.

Naturally, once I realized this, I started comparing the two trips.  And the truth is, not much has changed.  I mean, the parks are basically the same (with California Adventure under permanent contstruction), Doug and I are basically the same, Dawn and Joe are basically the same…

But the babies?  The babies are significantly older.  Andrew, who was hard-pressed to articulate the words “big wheel” on our last trip, formed a whole sentence – “Only take one piece” – while sharing his popcorn on this one.  Lilly, who mostly just slept and cried and pooped unexpectedly back in August, is now silly and playful and has enough hair for pigtails.  Leave it to very small children to remind us how long eight months really is.

Compared to when I started this project in August, Doug and I are now that much closer to 2012, the year of marriage and babies.  And while it may not be as noticeable as the changes Andrew and Lilly have made, I think it’s safe to say we’ve progressed as well.  We’ve each gotten a raise, and have built ourselves an emergency savings fund.  Doug’s teeth are beautiful.  I am finally (almost) open to the idea of planning another wedding, and – I hope so anyway – am able to take pregnancy announcements in stride a little better than I could before I started blogging.  I have a strong support network that didn’t exist before I opened myself up and asked for one, and I feel like there’s very little left for me to say, that hasn’t already been said, on the subject of my pregnancy, my miscarriage, and the effect the whole ordeal had on me.

Looking at myself and my life from the outside, which is where I mostly look, I feel like I’m in the same place as I was before I started writing.  I mean, I’m not famous.  I’m not rich.  I’m not married.  I’m not so healed from my PTSD that I’m begging my friends to all get pregnant so I can plan their baby showers.

But inside, if I really take the time to examine the difference between my August self and my current self…  I am calmer.  I am more self-assured.  I am more confident about what happens next.  I am more able to identify things that are upsetting me – and identifying them makes them so much easier to get through.

Disneyland and I may be permanently under construction, but eight months is actually kind of a long time.  The proof is in the pudding:

Lilly, 14 months, and Andrew, three-years-minus-four-days, sitting on Mickey Mouse's house, 4/10/11.

Posted in family, friends, future, perspective, positive thinking | 4 Comments

Harsh truths, part 2 of 2

A continuation of this post, responding to an article my mom printed out for me several years ago.

5. Getting your way is usually not as important as finding a way to work together.

Reading this truth, I keep thinking of the time my ex and I spent taking ballroom dance lessons, first in a class setting while we were living in Wales, then individually in California, with one of my close friends’ parents who happen to be instructors.

I am not what you’d call a natural leader – I lack the outer confidence, and the skills of an extrovert.  But I do wholeheartedly believe, most of the time, that I know what I’m doing.  (The flip side of this is that, when I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m miserable.)  So naturally or no, when my ex and I were taking dance lessons, I would wind up leading.  And because he was unsure of himself and his dancing ability, and because he had a tendency to cowtow to me in situations where he was unsure, he would either let me lead, or would tell me to stop leading, without really being able to step up and lead himself.

For all the things we had in common – sarcastic senses of humor, fluency in French, good singing voices, appreciation of academia and quietude – we were, by all accounts, horrible as dance partners.

Doug and I, on the other hand, started out with nothing in common except our place of employment and the city we grew up in.  Doug is athletic, a great cook, and a natural leader.  His abilities are all very physical, and he is a born charmer in large group settings.  I am book-smart, a great writer, and a natural at empathizing.  My abilities are all intellectual, and I thrive in smaller groups and one-on-one interactions.

We see the world and act in the world so very, very differently, that one could easily assume we butt heads all the time.  But it isn’t true.  We’ve almost always been able to balance each other out, to become interested in each other’s interests because we are interested in each other.  He reads books because I read books; I ride bikes because he rides bikes.  We don’t compete in these areas because each of us knows how unfair a competition it would be; instead, we encourage each other to help create a sort of grey area of shared interests, so that, say, while we are on a bike ride that might be a little too hard for me, we can ride side-by-side and discuss a book that might be a little too hard for him.

A coworker/mutual friend once told Doug that, with respect to his interests and activities, he “could do better” than me.  I was a little insulted, but surprisingly, not all that insulted, because in a way, she was right.  He could find someone – anyone, really – who is more like him; I could find someone more like me.  But I wonder whether the same harmony would be there in these “upgraded” relationships.  Somehow I doubt it.

6.  A great marriage doesn’t mean no conflict; it simply means a couple keeps trying to get it right.

I feel like this goes back to what I was saying in the “relationships take work” section: in my first marriage, my husband and I had no desire to fold to the other’s opinion.  He wanted me to be a docile housewife, who had no male friends and no single female friends; I wanted to embrace the side of me that had spent a few years acting in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, getting half-naked on stage and flirting with strangers every weekend.  In the three years we were together, we never reached a compromise, because neither of us really felt like giving an inch.

Doug and I have conflicts that creep up in our day-to-day lives.  Occasionally, he’ll say or do something childish, irresponsible, or offensive, and I’ll wonder how, at 25, he hasn’t outgrown this bullshit yet.  Occasionally, I’ll be making fun of him in what I think is a playful way, and suddenly realize I’ve taken it a step too far, and have crashed into the wall of hurt and disbelief that I also occasionally run into with my mom.  Our fundamental differences in nature and talents mean there are lines we can cross, sometimes too easily, with regards to how we view the world and how we treat each other.  The best either of us can do is keep making notes of where those lines are, and promising to try to stay behind them in the future.

Which brings me to…

7.  You’ll realize that you can only change yourself.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come up with a description of our ideal partners, then have that person materialize in front of us?

Well, no, not really.  Because at the time that we got together, my ex was my ideal partner: he respected me, he fawned over me, he told me I was beautiful.  This was everything I could have possibly wanted after a few on-again-off-again college relationships.  But it turned out not to be right.  What I first saw as respect and fawning was actually my ex putting me up on a pedastal, as this perfect woman he’d created from the clay I was already made of.  I woke up one day, years later, wondering how to get the hell down – but it wasn’t the version of me on Earth that he wanted. 

Likewise, when I met Doug, he was perfect for me inasmuch as he was the polar opposite of my ex-husband.  That is to say that his youth, his immaturity, his slightly malicious sense of humor, were exactly what I thought I wanted.  But those aren’t necessarily things one wants over time.

Yet, for all my “Douglas!”es, all my attempts to reprimand him for an off-color joke in public, I know that I am never going to erase the part of his personality that acts this way.  (It’s genetic, after all; he gets it straight from his dad and his favorite uncle.)  What I can change is how I feel about this side of him.  I can remind myself that his youth will keep me young, that his irresponsibility will show me how to relax in the face of stressors over which I have no control, that his bad jokes will…  Well, they’ll get me to snap “Douglas!” at him, and possibly hit him lightly on the arm or the thigh, a reaction which somehow always seems to net us both a smile.

8.  As you face your fears and insecurities, you will find out what you’re really made of.

This is the one that most affects me going forward.  Because my first marriage failed for reasons I should have seen all along but didn’t, I am constantly looking for signs that my relationship with Doug is doomed as well.  Not enough sex?  It’s the beginning of the end.  Arguing over who’s spending too much time doing what?  We must be en route to a break-up.  Enjoying the time I get to spend without him?  Time to figure out how to tell my parents I’ve let them down again.

Of course, none of these signs really marks the end of my relationship, as I’ve spent the last two posts examining.  But recognizing that this is my biggest fear – that the unknown elements of the future are my biggest fear, really, both within and outside of the context of my relationship – means I’m more likely to do what I’ve just done here.  I’m more likely to look at all sides, to ask myself (and my partner) the crucial questions about what may or may not happen, and to try to determine whether my fears are grounded.  And hopefully, should I ever discover something actually wrong, this pre-emptive tactic will give me plenty of time to get in there and rectify the situation before it’s too late.

For the time being though, every time I submit my relationship or my life to this kind of intense scrutiny, I come up with the following: “You know, I think it’s going to be okay.”

I know who I am, and I know what I’m capable of.  I’ve spent the last nine months 28.75 years working hard to figure all that out, learning to embrace the good and show some compassion for the not-so-good.

I don’t know about the snoring kid in the bed next to me, but I am, for better or for worse, as prepared for the next step as I likely ever will be.

Posted in divorce, future, love, marriage, positive thinking | 2 Comments

Harsh truths, part 1 of 2

I’ve had this article hanging out in my piles of papers for months now – maybe even longer, according to the date my mom printed it for me: 11/19/2008.  It’s a Redbook article that was featured on WebMD: “8 Things No One Tells You About Marriage” by Ylonda Gault Caviness.

My mom printed it for me, I’m sure, to show me that as much as my first marriage didn’t work out (at the time of printing, I’d been divorced for a year), I shouldn’t expect my eventual second one to be all rose gardens and glass slippers, either – and that that’s perfectly okay.  For the record, I believe that when my mom sees these marriage tips and thinks of me, it’s her way of letting me know that she’s open to and supportive of the idea that I will one day be married again; her way of letting me know that she does believe in a happily-ever-after for me.  And this particular article lets me know that she believed in me even after I’d squandered my first chance, even if she wasn’t able to articulate it out loud at the time.

In her article, Caviness lays out her eight “surprising, enlightening and sometimes hard truths” about the reality of marriage, and then talks about what they mean and what they have meant in her own union.  And since I’ve been holding onto this article for two-and-a-half years now, having read it already but not been able to dispose of it, I think it’s about time I looked at my own marriages, past and future, through the lens of her list.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it?  Forever?

I have done this, specifically.  I did it with my ex, and I occasionally do it with Doug (particularly when the reason I’m awake and he’s not is because he’s snoring loudly and stubbornly, and I can’t roll him onto his side).

The difference between Doug and my ex is that I no longer have a concrete idea of what I would like instead of the person I’m with.  When I was with my ex, and I would step back and wonder about what I had so obviously settled for, there were all these examples present on TV and in life, of men that I was more attracted to, men that were more romantic, men that seemed to be better matches for me chemically and sexually.  (I’ll get to that last one later.)  I held onto and flirted with my exes from before him, because somehow they made me feel like more of a woman than my husband did.

With Doug, even though he isn’t exactly attractive lying on his back with his mouth hanging open and his jersey-knit boxers bunched up around his waist like an ill-fitting loincloth,* it’s not him I concern myself with when I ask, “Is this it?”  If I fantasize about how my life could be better, it’s because I am worried about our financial situation, or disappointed by the size and state of our home, because I feel like we deserve better, and maybe we aren’t doing everything in our power to get what we deserve.  (Or maybe we are, and life just ain’t fair.)  If I see attractive men being romantic on TV, or playfully flirt with someone in real life, they only serve to remind me of how lucky I am, how unrealistic TV is, or how I need to step up my romance-and-flirting game with the amazing man I share a bed with.

2. You’ll work harder than you ever imagined.

This Valentine’s Day, I saw a card in Target that said, “I don’t know why they say relationships take work…”  I scoffed, and later told my friends about it, insisting that it was obviously meant for someone in a new relationship.

I did not work at my relationship with my ex-husband.  That relationship required no work at all, because I was completely unwilling to put any into it.  I rationalized that it had started out “perfectly” (which, if you read this, you’ll see wasn’t even true), and therefore the perfection should continue.  So I made my ex do all the work, expecting him to conform to what I wanted, while I stubbornly kept doing the things that drove him crazy – claiming these things were inherent parts of my personality that he should have known about and accepted from the get-go.

Actually, it’s possible that those things were inherent parts of my personality, and that we just weren’t a good match to begin with.  Regardless, I was stubborn, and so was he, and I don’t think either of us was very invested in putting in the work to reaching a compromise.  So instead we just made a bunch of demands and pissed each other off all the time.

Doug and I, on the other hand, work at our relationship every single day.  Because I love him and have an interest in keeping him around, I have learned to use “I” statements about things that upset me, instead of blaming him for my feelings and demanding that he fix himself.  For example: after our argument outside of Costco the other week, Doug and I agreed to spend more time together – actually present in a relationship with each other – instead of him having a relationship with his bike and me having a relationship with my blog.  So Thursday morning, when we were walking through our neighborhood, and toward the end of the walk, Doug started telling me about his future bike rack options, I wanted to scream.  Instead, I said calmly, “I’m feeling like maybe you didn’t hear me when I asked you not to talk about the bike so much.” 

I braced myself for another Big Discussion, but instead Doug threw an arm around me and apologized.  “I’m sorry, baby,” he said.  “I didn’t even realize I’d started talking about it.  How did we get on this subject anyway?  Let’s talk about something else.”

Granted, he tends to be less abrasive and/or explosive than I am in general, but I was really, really surprised that my being so calm and so genuine netted me exactly the response I was looking for.  So it appears that, not only do relationships take really hard work, but the work pays off.

3. You will sometimes go to bed mad (and maybe even wake up madder).

Toward the end of my first marriage, my ex and I would go to bed mad all the time – primarily because arguing in the evening makes me really, really sleepy.  Like fighting, for me, uses more mental energy than anything else (maybe not calculus or open-heart surgery, but I’ve also never tried those things).  So we’d be mid-screaming-match, and I would just kind of fall asleep.  Maybe it’s my body’s way of keeping me from saying something I’d really regret?

These days, I feel fortunate inasmuch as Doug and I have never gone to bed angry.  Sad, yes; disappointed, maybe; but not mad.  Then again, we don’t fight as much in general as my ex and I did, so I guess the odds are in our favor.  Still, should the day come when we’re arguing at midnight, chances are, I will fall asleep in the middle of it.  I just don’t subscribe to the theory, “Don’t go to bed angry; stay up and fight all night.”

4.  You will go without sex – sometimes for a long time – and that’s okay.

I have gone without sex for a long time.  My ex and I chose not to have sex before we were married, so technically, I went without sex[ual intercourse] for almost three years.  And, as I unfortunately confirmed on our wedding night, my ex and I were in no way sexually compatible, which is a hard thing to learn when you’re denying yourself sex.  So even after we started having sex, we didn’t have much.

The peaks and valleys of activity in my sex life often remind me of that one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, where Izzie is talking about her sex drive as a sleeping beast: when it’s not being fed, it doesn’t know it’s hungry; but once it’s awakened… watch out.

My beast, as it turns out, can be kind of lazy inside the context of a long-term relationship, and I’m still coming to terms with the “and that’s okay” part of this.  I don’t always want sex, but I want to want sex.  I want the closeness it brings, and the adrenaline and the seratonin.  I get frustrated when Doug asks and I don’t want to, but I get equally frustrated when Doug fails to ask at times when I would say yes.

I guess what it comes down to is that, during the first few months of a relationship, we have lots of sex because we’re still learning about the other person’s body and how it may or may not work with our own.  Later, as we become more comfortable together, this insatiable need for the physical tapers off, but the sexual education of the relationship doesn’t stop.  Instead of learning about each other’s bodies, it becomes about learning to navigate the dance of when and how and how often, learning what sacrifices to make in order to make time for sex at all (because once it’s lost its priority status, it can be hard to squeeze in to a busy lifestyle).  It’s about learning to embrace the peaks and forgive ourselves the valleys – a process which, it seems to me at least, will probably continue for the next 50-60 years.

So much the better.

To be continued…

*People have asked me how Doug puts up with me posting all this personal information about him and our relationship all the time.  For the record, I have never been concerned about the way anything I’ve said here might affect him, until writing this blunt description.  I’m hoping that all the nice things following it will give him the grace to forgive me.

Posted in divorce, family, love, marriage, sex or lack thereof | 7 Comments