This I Promise You

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
-Yoda
If someone asked me to name some of my all time favorite movie lines this particular Star Wars saying would clock in at number two on Mary Anne’s list of epic movie quotations (a close second only to the Hospitaller’s religion speech in Kingdom of Heaven). In fact, I like this quote so much and am such a Star Wars nerd that I had this phrase engraved on the inside of my wedding band.
Really, if you think about it, it’s actually pretty good advice. If you are going to commit to someone or something do it whole heartedly or not at all. I mean is it really worth doing if you are going to do a half-assed job of it?
Marriage is kind of like that- all or nothing. You are either in or you are out. You can’t really be in a committed relationship while you are still sitting on the fence about whether you want to be in it or not. Combined with the promises you make to each other in a wedding ceremony I think this is what makes marriage, and the ending of a marriage, so difficult. It takes something very messy (aka relationships) and attempts to tame it into something black and white. Throw in the guilt you feel during a divorce over broken vows and viola! You end up with a marital Molotov Cocktail of remorse and shattered dreams. I am sad to say this is something I have obsessed about over the last few months.
I firmly believe a person is only as good as their word, that if you can’t trust someone to follow through with their promises, you can’t trust them at all. I am sure by now you can see my catch 22. 
On May 16, 2009 I made a very specific promise to love and cherish for all the rest of my days the man, who at the time, was my sun and moon and stars. For the last three and a half years the whole of my being has been focused on following through with that promise, and for the last three and a half years I have been frustrated beyond words that I was failing miserably at it. Now I find myself staring down into divorce’s beady little eyes and I find myself wondering “Did I really fail, or did society’s expectations fail me?”
As I’ve gotten older, and particularly in the last few months since I started the whole divorce process, I have come to view vows and the advent of marriage a lot differently. Society and popular opinion tend to romanticize marriage to an extreme. As a little girl I was bombarded with the message that you grow up, find your “prince”, have a fairy tale wedding and then live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends. What they don’t show is the arguments over what channel to watch that night, Prince Charming getting pissed because Cinderella’s too tired after cleaning all day to put out, or cut throat negotiations over crock pots once the relationship ends. There is a lot of emphasis on “marriage is forever”, and maybe in an idealistic world this is possible, but in the real world the reality is that half of all marriages fail. What does this mean? It means fifty percent of Americans are breaking promises all the time, and now I have joined the club.
And let me tell you folks, that alone makes me feel pretty shitty. All I could think of for the first couple of weeks was “I am breaking promises to my husband, my family, my friends, hell, I am even breaking my promise to Yoda and he’s a fucking Jedi Master! I’m a horrible person…” However, I have since realized that maybe I am not a bad, untrustworthy person after all (Whew!), that maybe I just made an unrealistic vow and need to be more careful the next time. After all, how many people really know what they want for the rest of their life when they are 22 years old?
It is for this reason I find it slightly ironic that I am completing the breaking of one vow by making another one. This last weekend I committed myself to a full year of self reflection during the Three Cranes Grove Samhain ritual. While I don’t necessarily identify as pagan anymore, Three Cranes has always loved and accepted me with open arms and has become the closest thing I have to a religious family. As a result, I knew I wanted to make my vow in front of my Crane-kin. Since there is no bible to swear on (obviously) the Cranes use a blunted scythe instead. I am sure there is some meaning behind this tradition I am just not sure what it is. You can choose to make your vow by placing your hands on the scythe, OR you can choose to have it placed around your neck. I always say “Go big, or go home” so I made my promise while Mike, the grove priest, held it around my neck. I would like to say the whole thing went without a hitch, but in reality it went more like this…

Me: “On this day I commit myself until October 31st, 2013 to… *gag* geez Mike, ease up on the scythe you are choking me…”

Mike: “Well, this is serious business.”

Seamus (the other grove priest): “Yeah, and besides that’s too long of a phrase to be a good safety word.”

Me: “Oh, sorry. How’s this? BANANA! BANANA!”

Mike and Seamus: “Much better!”

Laughter ensued and then I finally got to finish my vow, which in its entirety is as follows-

“On this day I commit myself until October 31, 2013 to turn my focus inward and reflect upon the values necessary to further my development as a wise and compassionate human being. I also vow to document and share my journey in the hopes that it may inspire others to lead a more fulfilling life, as well as aid in their own personal development.”

So there, it’s official. I’m all in and there’s no turning back now. In a couple of days I start my year of adventures and self improvement. I have no idea what is in store or how any of it will turn out, however, I am starting to realize that maybe that is half the fun of undertaking something of this magnitude. It’s going to be a big project, and every once and awhile I find myself worried that I won’t be faithful to this vow either, but I know I have lots of friends who will kick my butt if I don’t follow through with it and that alone will help keep me on track. My hope is that when everything is said and done I can look back and say “I’ve done a lot of good work this year.”

Besides, the only other alternative is to crash and burn in a blaze of glory and I really don’t think I could bear to let Yoda down a second time…

Mike looks like he’s enjoying this way to much, and I am having second thoughts…

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Prologue Part 3: The Hailstorm

Hola my friends! Glad you could make it back. If this is your first time on my blog make sure you catch up on my first two posts here and here, so you get the whole story.

I left off last time talking about having better health, losing weight, and an awesome new job. Things were really looking up for me…and then the shit hit the fan so to speak at the end of August.

For the longest time I had thought that my job was the source of my unhappiness, that if I could fix that I wouldn’t feel so discontent. Now I had this new, exciting job opportunity and I was still feeling stuck and frustrated. After a lot of soul searching I came to realize that the problem was the one thing I had always relied on over the last eight years, namely- my marriage.

My husband and I had had our fair share of ups and downs, we fought and made up just like every other couple, trouble was we were just so different. It was to a point where we were essentially living separate lives and I realized I didn’t want that anymore. Making the decision to end my marriage was (and continues to be) one of the most difficult and painful things I have ever done.

By no means do I want you to think my husband is a “bad” person. I wouldn’t have shared my life with him for eight years if he was. We were really young when we first started dating and had just grown apart over time as we both worked towards becoming the people we were meant to be. Hard though it is, I truly believe that real love sometimes means saying “I care enough about you not to put you through this anymore.” There are still days where I am wracked with guilt and an overwhelming sense of failure, but I know in my heart (and my husband agrees, whether reluctantly or not I don’t know) that this is what is best for both of us. If we had tried to “stick it out” another couple of years I don’t know if it would have ended as amicable as it is right now.

Since this all came out about a month ago I have been busy looking for an apartment and packing up my belongings, as I made the choice to move out of the house that we own together. If all goes according to plan I should be able to move into my new apartment on November 10th. The idea of being on my own and alone for the first time in… well ever, is completely and utterly terrifying, but I am also so thankful for it gives me the time and opportunity I need to heal from such a great loss as well as get to know myself again.

Since that fateful day in September when I told my husband I wanted out, I have thought a lot about why my marriage didn’t work and what role I personally played in it’s ending. What did I need to do for myself and what did I need to do to be a better partner the next time around?

This is where we FINALLY get to the fun part!

It is no coincidence to me that all of these life altering changes are coming to a climax right before Samhain (“Sow-en”), the Celtic New Year (or Halloween for those who are not well versed in Celtic holidays). While I practice my own special brand of spirituality, I borrow heavily from Paganism and have a lot of Pagan friends who I hang out with. At Samhain people tend to make “oaths” or take “vows” for the following year, almost like a new year’s resolution, and I had been tossing around the idea of taking a vow to work on myself for the next 12 months. Trouble was “working on yourself” is kind of vague and I didn’t have much direction on where to go with it until I stumbled across a book at the library called “Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor” by Jana Riess. The basic premise of this particular memoir is that Riess commits to a new spiritual practice each month such as fasting or meditation. Bingo! The light bulb clicked on and I had a brilliant idea.

So here is the gist of what I am cooking up for the next year…

In all of my introspection over the last month or so I had made a list of things I wanted to improve about myself. Out of that list I picked one characteristic to correspond with each month for the next year. My theme for that particular month will determine a lot of the choices that I make and the activities I engage in with the idea that I am going to write about all my adventures (and misadventures) along the way.

Here is a teaser of some of the ideas I have for the next 12 months…

  • A random weekend road trip to swim in the ocean
  • Learn glassblowing
  • Audition for a play
  • Adopt a family at Christmas
  • Attend services from various religious traditions
  • Go bungee jumping or sky diving (Come on Groupon I need a discount!)
  • Enter artwork into another show
  • And finally- bare it all emotionally (and maybe physically too, bet you can’t wait for that month!) right here on my blog. 

Sharing this experience with all of you, I think, is the most important part of the process and here’s why- When I first came up with the idea of a year long transformation I fully intended to journal about it (as I have been an avid journal writer since 1995 believe it or not. Some of those early journals are hilarious…) It wasn’t until my friend John said “Hey you should write a blog about this” that I made the decision to create this site. The way I look at it is this, while I am doing this for me, I know there are so many people out there who are going through similar experiences or who are just meandering through life with the “same shit different day” mentality. If my experiences can inspire others to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life then putting myself out there will be totally worth it.

    I kick off my adventures on October 28th when I take my vow and then the year officially starts on November 1st with “Gratitude” as my focus for the month. I invite you all to be my partners in crime so be sure to check in frequently to stay up to date with my all my crazy escapades and the low down on each month’s theme. Don’t be fooled by gratitude, some of the later months are going to be pretty wild!

    Buckle your seat belts my friends, I have a feeling we’re in for a quite a ride!

    Prologue Part 2: The Continuing Story

    Welcome back! I am sure you have all been anxiously waiting with bated breath to hear the next part of the story (and yes I am being facetious) so without further adieu…

    Where was I? Oh yes, we are now up to the middle of May and I had just scheduled my first appointment with Columbus Acupuncture and Wellness Center (shameless plug number two!). My first appointment was…well, weird. I had never had any sort of Eastern medical treatment before so I had absolutely NO idea what to expect. Muscle testing seems really strange if you have never had it done before. Fortunately, not only did Chris do an excellent job of explaining the whole process in stupid people terms, but I’ve hung around with some really weird people over the years (and I love you all dearly!) so I am no stranger to bizarre new experiences. After I got my results back Chris helped me come up with a specialized plan to treat all the craziness that was going on in my body which, I might add, was definitely NOT an ulcer. For me this meant a complete overhaul of my diet and a regimen of whole food supplements.

    Giving up fast food and taking vitamins… I could do that, right? I felt pretty confident until I had my consult with the dietician and discovered I wasn’t allowed to have any sugar, (ok, not good for you anyway everyone knows that) no grains, (too many carbs can be bad for you as well) AND no dairy (WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?!). I am not going to lie, I almost threw in the towel right then and there. I am well known amongst my friends as  being a cheese snob. Heaven on earth for me is a place called “Heini’s Cheese Chalet” located in Amish country where they make like 200 different types of cheese and offer samples of all of them. Not to mention no dairy meant no ice cream either, which seemed like a cruel joke considering Handel’s down the street had just reopened after a year and a half hiatus and I was looking forward to a summer full of chocolate cake batter ice cream cones (I swear they put crack in their ice cream it’s so addicting). However, as a testament to how shitty I felt I was willing to give up even dairy and try this crazy Eastern medicine stuff if it meant there was even a chance I might actually feel like a human being again. So I said “ciao” (or “chow” ha ha that one was for you John) to cheese and dove head first into the new diet.

    Here’s the funny thing- within just a couple of weeks (keep in mind I had been dealing with various health issues for almost a decade) I started to notice a change. I wasn’t tired all the time and I had a lot more energy. I had all this free time because I wasn’t napping two or three times a day! Also, another fun fact- apparently when all you are eating is good quality cuts of meat and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables you drop weight like it’s HOT! (Who knew?) Within three months I had lost almost 40 pounds and 4-5 pant sizes. For those of you who actually know me I have always been curvy, but never overweight. Before I started the program I would have loved to have lost 5, maybe 10 pounds, but 40? That’s a lot, and while I am not complaining in the least it’s taken awhile to get used to my new “twiggier” body.

    Meanwhile, fast forward a couple of months to the end of July. Physically I felt better than I had in years, but emotionally I still felt restless and stuck. One day I was complaining about it to Chris at one of my weekly checkups- all the ridiculous crap they were changing back at the office, how much harder they were making it to do my job and how I essentially hated it and wanted out. Chris, being the kind and infinitely patient man that he is quietly endured my bitching as he had every other week for the last several months, so imagine my surprise when I finish my angry tirade and he says “How would you feel about working here?” Ummmm… first of all- I am surprised my craziness hadn’t already gotten me fired as a patient, and secondly- YES PLEASE!!! Which is ironic because not too long before that I had actually thought that working some place like CAaWC would be really cool. Turns out Chris had been looking for a client advocate to help expand the practice, and with my background in social work as well as, (I’d like to think) my sparkling personality, I apparently fit the bill. Funny how things work out sometimes.

    So now I had all this new found energy, a new skinner body, and a potentially awesome new job. You’d think that would have been enough right? Wrong. Turns out I was simply in the eye of the storm, the biggest challenge was yet to come.

    Stay tuned and check in later next Wednesday for Prologue Part III: The Hailstorm- the third and final installment before the real fun begins!

    Prologue Part 1: In the Beginning…

    “Life is made up of the little moments…do one [small] extraordinary thing a day and you will live an extraordinary life.”

    Who uttered that little pearl of wisdom you might ask? That was me on June 6, of this year. I stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago when I was re-reading one of my old journals. It really stuck with me and I have been thinking about it a lot ever since.

    Trouble is, (despite everything that has happened in the last four months) I don’t feel like my life has been all that extraordinary. In fact, I would venture to say it’s felt downright mundane. And to top it all off I am becoming a statistic. I will soon be joining the all inclusive club of 50% of American marriages that end in divorce. This is pretty significant, obviously, but before we get to that you need to know where I was and how I got to this point. To give you an idea- here is me almost a year ago…

    December 19, 2011

    “The holidays are getting closer and closer and I keep trying to get excited, but find that I can’t. I don’t really care about anything. I am starting to realize I haven’t been doing the stuff I normally like to do. I haven’t been eating very well and sleep sometimes is hard… I feel emotionally numb, like I feel absolutely nothing at all. That’s a little scary for me… I don’t want to live like a zombie. I want to enjoy life, but sometimes I don’t think I know how. I keep thinking ‘If I get a new job, if I figure out my spirituality, if I do this and do that I will be happy.’ I think that’s a lie. [We] are always chasing ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe whens,’ and sometimes when we get them they aren’t any better. And then we start all over with something new.”

    I paint a cheerful picture don’t I? Sad though it is, these were the conditions from which I had been operating under for a long time. For many years I had had an overwhelming sense that there was more to life and I was missing out on it somehow. However, things hit an all time low and then really started to change this spring.

    In March I had been having a lot of problems with stomach pains and nausea and had to have an ultrasound done to make sure my liver, gallbladder, and appendix were functioning properly. When that all came back normal my regular doctor concluded I had an “ulcer”. His treatment was to give me some prescription strength antacids and send me on my merry way. That, quite frankly, really pissed me off. So I sent up a prayer to the universe for help and healing and started looking for other options.

    They say ask and you shall receive! Literally two days after my desperate plea for help I woke up to a Groupon email sitting in my inbox with the feature deal being an initial consult and several follow up sessions at Columbus Acupuncture and Wellness Center (shameless plug for you Chris!). One of the teachers at a school where I counsel has always waxed poetically about how amazing acupuncture is and how it can treat allergies, sports injuries, infertility, digestion issues, migraines, save the rainforests, stop global warming, solve world hunger etc, etc. So I figured, “What the hell? Having tiny little needles shoved in my body can’t possibly make things any worse right?” so I took the plunge and made an appointment.

    This was one of those little moments, a tiny little action where you look back later and say “HOLY GUACAMOLE BATMAN!” if I only knew… But I didn’t know, I was completely clueless that making that appointment would be the catalyst, my first small extraordinary step that would end up changing everything and turn my entire life upside down…

    And that my friends is where I leave you until Saturday when I post Prologue Part II: The Continuing Story.