May 23, 2016

What you lost

My brother and one of my sisters sent Noah a wonderful surprise box for his birthday. Among the birthday treats and new clothes was an envelope for me, small but bulging at the middle. I opened it up and read: "To start replacing what you lost…" Taped inside was a flash drive.

I thought it was a kind gift, but didn't immediately register what she meant by it. But a few hours later, sitting at dinner with all our guests, it suddenly clicked, and I gasped. My heart felt incredibly full - this was the greatest gift I could have possibly received.

When we got home, I got my son cleaned up and off to bed, and let the family socialize in the living room while I retreated to my home office to plug the drive into my computer. I was right: here, on this little piece of technology, were thousands and thousands of music files.

Flashback to probably about a year and a half ago now. My husband was supposed to be watching our son, but the toddler wandered into my office and started tapping and banging on the computer, pushing and clicking whatever he could reach. Later, I went to make a playlist for a car ride, and an error message kept popping up. In however many unsupervised clicks, my son had okayed the message I kept dismissing to reformat an external hard drive, erasing it completely.

My stomach sank. There was no back up … this was the back up. My computer had died a few years earlier and we had managed to save the hard drive out of it, turning into an external and keeping it safe until we were able to find a new computer.

I'd had my dad's hand-me-down computer for only a few weeks, and had only barely started the process of copying files. So pretty much everything was gone. Some text files, papers I'd written at various points in my academic career - those were safe. But 15 years or so of pictures were gone, and as many years of collected music.

Losing the pictures was heartbreaking, although we were lucky that we hadn't saved any pictures of Noah directly to the new computer. They were on Matt's laptop, we had those safe at least. But my senior prom, my adventures from college, grad school in Chicago, all of my weight loss progress pictures, my year in California ... vanished. And that was a hard pill to swallow. I'm lucky, again, that I have so many pictures on Facebook or posted to blog posts - it's not everything, but it least a few images can be retrieved.

But the music ... that was devastating. When the computer died in 2012, the music wasn't completely lost, but it was inaccessible. I did my best to fill in the silence with my partner's music collection, but he was picky about letting me use his computer (for reasons I found out later). Drives were either silent or narrated by NPR news reports, which are informative but get very old very quickly on multi-hour car rides.

But now, I've got music again - my music. It's not everything, but it's a beautiful start. And I think that receiving it so close to the one-year anniversary of being on my own was extra meaningful: when he moved out a year ago, reclaiming the noise in the car was one of my first victories. Silence without tension is a beautiful thing, and to finally set the radio stations to ones I preferred in the car I'd been paying for for a year and a half was liberating.

I have struggled so much the last few years with my identity - figuring out who I am and what my best life is (and navigating the path to that best life), and standing as strong as I can when big things get tossed my way. I don't think I realized how closely tied music was to my identity until I lost it all. I've always been so in love with music. Whenever I was up late working on projects or papers in college and grad school, there was a soundtrack. Almost every minute spent at a gym or on a running path or in a race had music streaming through earphones. The greatest company I had during my profoundly lonely and complicated year in California was playlist after playlist of songs. There have been so, so many changes in my life, but the consistency of having my music collection has always helped me feel home.

May 17, 2016

The first day of my life

Well, here it is.


A year ago, my husband spent the day with his friends and his son, ran a few last minute errands. He rented a car, packed it full of his belongings, kissed our son goodnight, and tearfully said goodbye to me before he drove off into the night, heading back north to Chicago.

The poem I wrote that night:


I didn't cry that night, or the next morning. It took a while for me to feel anything other than relief, to be honest. I don't know if I've missed him at all since he's left - him specifically, that is, or if I have just missed company, adult conversation, and an extra set of hands to help with raising a child.

It's been a year, but it felt like a decade. I feel like I've aged a lot more than just a few hundred days. I feel more mature in a lot of ways, and I feel very strong - I've had so much thrown at me this year, I feel ready to handle nearly anything. But I also feel weak, and I feel afraid, and I feel very anxious about what happens now: the closure, and the resolutions to come.

I feel very different from the person I was five years ago, before I met him. It was such a brilliant time in my life - I was the healthiest I'd ever been, and my confidence was through the roof. I looked good, I felt great. I was on top of the world. And then I met Matthew, and I knew immediately he was wrong for me, but still, I felt drawn to him. I loved him so much, and that's the most painful part of looking back: seeing all that love, and finally realizing how one-sided it was. And now, the consequences: responsibilities, of course, but also - the anxieties and scars I'll need to explain to any future partners. I'm worried about letting anyone get close - if something wrong could hurt this much, imagine the recovery from something that felt right! And I worry that I'll never trust anyone again. He hurt me so much, I begged him to stop, I asked him why he would keep doing things after I told him how much pain it caused me. He never had answers, and the apologies were unbelievable since they weren't accompanied by plans to do things any differently.

I hope it'll be a lot easier to explain to someone when they're actually scars. Right now, even a year removed, it's still very much an open wound.

I've done a lot of processing lately on why I stayed with (and why I came back to) someone so completely wrong for me, and even though it doesn't change everything from the last five years, it's helping me get on a better path with a clearer vision for the future.

No more selling myself short.

No more settling.

I didn't make my weight loss goal of being at or under 299 by today. I held myself together while he was in town, then had a string of very difficult days in a row once he left - he got back to Chicago and started calling, demanding, arguing. Lots of stuff related to the impending divorce, and it triggered me. I'm down from where I was a year ago when he left, though, which is what matters most to me. That after a year on my own, even with a few very difficult months and a large regain, I managed to pull myself together, dust myself off, and get back on the path to my healthiest self.