The D Word

For about 6 weeks, I’ve been considering what my life might be like as a single woman. Not because that life is one I want, but because I’ve wanted any life but the one I’ve had. I have been intensely unhappy. Brett has been unhappy. We’ve been unhappy separately and together. This sentiment has been rolling around in my body and working its way into my soft tissue.

Following an early departure from drinks with friends (caused by an awkward confrontation that felt juvenile and humiliating), I informed Brett of the following: I couldn’t think of a single reason for us to stay married that didn’t include the fact that we’ve simply always been together and furthermore, (I didn’t actually use the phrase “furthermore” but grandstanding is one of my preferred offensive strategies so it bears clarifying here) if we separated, I could hardly come up with a short list of things I would lose.

The human heart is a dark thing.

For several months Brett and I, for separate but similar reasons, have been working with mental health professionals. In the poker game of family genetics, anxiety, depression, or alcoholism might not be in our particular hand (unless they are), but the cards are certainly in our decks. We’ve got to be prepared if or when they appear. Consequently, medication is part of our care routine. This is complicated business. Anti-depressants rarely manage “it all” on the first attempt and side effects are weird. Excuse me, that’s an understatement–side effects make you feel like someone else is at the steering wheel of your brain.

During these months, we’ve been on deeply personal journeys, re-opening partially healed wounds, digging our heels into the belief that we are worthy of our better selves. It’s emotional puberty – growth is so prevalent it’s physically painful. If you’ve known us, you might not believe me when I tell you this couple, these two people dedicated to reflective, introspective, intellectual exploration, are doing inner work we’ve never come close to before.

We do everything together. We thought we were doing this together too, but I was the first to realize we had actually been alone for months. We hopped on two separate tandem bikes at the same time. Well, fuck.

For 6 weeks, any time Brett needed my generosity or empathy or compassion, my mind generated a future where I was free; not of him, necessarily, but of his need for me. I started to consider if I was an obstacle to Brett’s healing. I began to link both thoughts together. And like water rising, these thoughts eventually overflowed and outward to him: “I can’t think of a reason for us to stay married. I wouldn’t lose a single thing if we didn’t.”

It was as awful as you think it was. But worse because I was there, and you weren’t. And I said all the horrible things, and you didn’t. We fought all night and slept in separate rooms and woke up gutted and ignored each other all day.

I volunteered at a local butterfly garden the next morning (because I am Amanda all day, every day) and afterwards, while sobbing in the McDonald’s drive-thru waiting for my lunch, I had a horrible realization: I had absolutely no one to call for help. I needed a friend so desperately but couldn’t think of a single person I was close enough to that would understand.

Because I have billed myself as Mrs. Marriage. Mrs. Marriage cannot call you and tell you she is contemplating divorce.

I’ve officiated 3 weddings. Brett and I have been together for 10 years. These are lovely things and I’m proud of them. But I’ve created a ridiculous ethos for myself with regard to relationships and marriage – I’ve dressed myself up like some sort of sage; as if I have access to special knowledge. Come to me for answers. It’s complete bullshit.

I had ice skated into the center of the pond, doing triple axels the entire way while proselytizing about it. Now, I was out in the middle and realized not only was the ice under my feet dangerously thin, but all my friends were couples skating on the thickest, safest ice in the pond. If they could even hear my cries for help at all, they wouldn’t understand me.

Through all my efforts of transparency and authenticity and vulnerability in the hopes that I might help someone else’s marriage, I had completely failed to find a sage of my own to turn to. Shit.

I have one mode of processing: verbal. In the absence of a confidant, I had one person to whom I could turn. Brett. This did not start pretty, friends. It felt a great deal like picking a scab, actually.

Here is a short, edited transcript of the conversation:

Me: “What the hell?”
Brett: “Go to hell!”
Me: “Fix all our problems.”
Brett: “I’m not the only cause of all our problems.”
Me [VERY unhappy this is clearly true]: “Fix something anyway.”
Brett: “You’re being pretty damn mean, don’t you think?”
Me: “Yes, I’m being mean on purpose because I am very hurt and angry.”
Brett [VERY unhappy this is clearly true]: “Stop it!”

These are, obviously, the highlights. Toward the middle/end of the furious parts, Brett lobbed a fastball into the center of the strike zone: “You’ve made your love conditional.” This gave me pause because the truth, even when you are angry, is still the truth. And the truth is a pathway to healing. If you are brave enough, when the truth shows up in your relationship, you can get naked and show up beside it. I don’t know if this ever gets any easier, but I do think it can happen with less resistance the more you practice. Showing up naked next to truth looked like this for me:

“You’re right. I’ve been in so much pain lately. I wasn’t prepared for the impact your mental health journey would have on me and I should have sought support immediately. I spoke out of malice, so I could hurt you and that isn’t fair or in alignment with my character. I deserve happiness in this marriage, but that’s not how I want to find it.”

Brett can tell you what showing up naked next to the truth looks like for him sometime himself, if you ever want to ask him.

Being a healthy person is hard as hell. Being married is hard as hell. Doing both at the same time is damn near impossible. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.

I do not want to divorce Brett, but I did want to scare him into loving me better. Brett doesn’t want to burden me but does need tremendous support to manage his mental health. But know this – your partner does not have infinite capacity to hold space for you. We are not infinite vessels, even in the context of unconditional love. Great partners create this illusion, but you must be a conscientious steward of it. Your bad behavior has consequences, even if it takes place on the path toward wellness. We build up collateral in our relationships with impact, not intent.

How do we carry on? I, for one, aim to find the tools I am not equipped with. I need to find a new therapist and schedule more regular visits. I need to read some old love notes and remind myself what being with Brett has always been about. I need to find someone who has been married for longer than I have that I can call when shit gets bad (currently accepting applications). Brett has an agenda of his own.

I believe in the healing power of vulnerability. Without a strong foundation of emotional expression, I’m not certain Brett and I could have navigated through (let alone to) this particular challenge. To that end, I’m recommitting to this blog as another tool for restoration and a strategy to invest in myself as well as others. I hope someone, least of all me, knows themselves a little more intimately as a result.

I wrote this post prior to Kate Spade dying from suicide. It feels more important than ever to share my family’s journey with mental health with our friends, family, and neighbors, and to remind anyone who might read this, to know – you are not alone if you have felt badly, if your marriage or relationship is far from perfect, or if tomorrow seems like it will be the very same as today. There is help available to you, now and always.

We had a bad morning.

I say this in case for some reason you have been caught up in our #mosersonparade world and are under the false impression that Brett and I are living in an Instagram filter all day.

We are not.

I love to share the fun stuff because it makes me happy. It helps me remember. It reminds me what’s good and what my gifts are. But there are a lot of things that aren’t fun too. A lot of that is private and really personal. But it’s important too. And talking about it helps Fight Perfection. Presenting authenticity is part of my Why. I love doing life with y’all and I want you to trust me and to know me well.

Today Brett and I got in a fight about a poop joke. I wish I was being silly, but I’m just not.

(I thought about writing this post without going into details. But I just couldn’t. It didn’t seem right. I’m sorry.)

It was like this: Brett made some off the cuff remark about me hitting up the bathroom twice this morning (IS THIS MY BAD KARMA COMING BACK AT ME?!) and I made some snarky joke back and the next thing you know, he’s sulking and I’m calling him out and he’s hollering and I am like WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO I SHOULD HAVE MOVED TO SPAIN AND NEVER GOTTEN MARRIED.

I’m going to share something I’m not proud of: I go for the low blow 100% of the time. If the shot is available to me, I take it.

Brett: “I just feel like no one ever takes me seriously.”
Amanda: “No one takes you seriously because you whine like a little bitch all the time.”

I am, truly, a garbage person.

But it gets better. We get to work, hop on Google Chat, and KEEP FIGHTING.

Brett calls me a bully. (He’s right) I call him a coward. We are both being just the worst. We finally back down and get tired and realize that things have gotten a fuzz out of hand. We’re both mad at each other for not letting it go and giving the other person a pass. Sometimes we are okay at this. Other times, we really drop the ball.

It’s tough to live with your best friend. Knowing everything about them often means you have all the ammunition to kick them when they’re down. My standard relationship advice is “Be patient and be kind,” and I was neither of those things this morning and it sucked. Nothing is at once more terrible and more satisfying than hurting the ones we love.

We tend to be extra gentle after a round of emotional boxing and we bought lunch and ate at a park and talked about Airplane! and our very favorite Little Debbie’s snacks (Oatmeal Cream Pies-Amanda, Cosmic Brownies-Brett). We bought a plant for my office. We probably won’t fight again for weeks. We will say Hey I love you a lot and go to the movies and send each other cards and hold hands on the couch. The good stuff. The #mosersonparade stuff.

I want to give you this story because I want to tell you that you are not horrible. You and your partner aren’t fighting more than any other couple in the history of the world ever has. You are not missing out on happily ever after because you’re single. Life is hard work and the maintenance is unbelievable. I love to share about the real stuff in person with my friends when I can because we are all just learning together, but in case we can’t sit on the patio with a glass of wine, I wanted to tell you. The Mosers are painfully human.

I hope the sun is shining when you read this because that’s a gift to everybody. So is being honest and broken but looking for moments of redemption. I love you. Happy Friday.

Unsolicited Advice for Brides to Be: Part Two

Back with the second half of my wedding reflections!

3. The Internet is your best friend and your worst enemy. 

Getting married in what I can only refer to as the “Pinterest Age” created a unique set of circumstances. Pinterest provides a wealth of resources and insurmountable challenges.

We’ll start with the bad news:
The fact is you can only have one wedding. So each time you visit a blog that features a beach wedding, a farm wedding, a blue and yellow wedding, a Hindu/Jewish fusion wedding, an urban wedding, and so on, you fall in love with it and you have to kill the other wedding you were already planning in your head.

Brett and I imagined the following weddings:
-A wedding at Red Barn Farm in Kansas City
-A rooftop wedding at the Kansas City Public Library
-A wedding in a loft in Downtown Kansas City
-A wedding on the beach in Dauphin Island, Alabama
-A wedding at my grandparent’s house

I also imagined decorations running the gamut from deep jewel-toned Moroccan flair to Dr. Seuss inspired bright colors and fantastically shaped centerpieces. The wedding we ended up with? One with a rustic, antique decor at my parent’s farm. But the cascade of ideas didn’t stop there! Hay bales for seating or chairs? Escort cards? Centerpieces? Altar?

A little inspiration is good. A lot is bad. Very bad. Your wedding won’t look as good as the gorgeous ones you see featured on blog after blog. It will look better, I promise. It will turn out better than you ever imagined. That’s the good news.

My advice regarding sites like Pinterest is to harness its energy in a controlled way. Limit your time just browsing for “inspo.” Let your style and good taste guide you. From there, use Pinterest and wedding blogs as a tool. Want to make your own invitations? Search “DIY Invites” and focus your time on that project. Too cheap to use a florist? (Me too.) Pinterest helped me find a tutorial for coffee-filter flowers that was easy and saved me a ton of money.

My final piece of advice is the most important. If you forget the rest of it, please remember this:

4. Plan a marriage, have a wedding. 

Note how this is remarkably different than planning a wedding and having a marriage. Your marriage is not a by-product of your wedding. It’s not a consequence. It’s is the foundation, the gas, the lifeblood. A wedding isn’t a party for you. It’s not a party for your soon-to-be spouse. Or your parents, or families, or friends. It’s a celebration of a lifetime commitment. If you spend the duration of your engagement focused on the wedding day without spending significant time considering what comes after, you’re doing it wrong.

In past incarnations of my life I have been a lot of things: bossy, demanding, dramatic, bitchy. I wanted my wedding to be an opportunity to be the best version of myself- focused, considerate, gracious. I consider my family and friends to be my A-Team. These are the people on whom I know I can call when things are not always as magical as our wedding day. When Brett and I inevitably experience the valleys of life, it is on this support group that I know we can lean.

Because I expect so much from them (we had our wedding guests make a vow of commitment to us during our ceremony…) I wanted to give them the best of me as well. Put your relationship(s) front and center during this process. Be a kinder, more patient, more forgiving person. Do this for your spouse, your friends, your parents, and yourself.

It isn’t about not being a “Bridezilla.” It’s about cultivating the blessings of deep, committed love. Dig into it. Invest in it. I already know how valuable the returns really are!

Unsolicited Advice for Brides to Be: Part One

Coming fresh off planning a wedding and better yet, getting married, I thought it might be prudent to write down a few of the nuggets I uncovered during my journey. I know a gal or two who are getting ready for their own weddings (I’m looking at you Sarah!) so I thought I’d share what I’ve come to know.

I read a lot of articles before I walked down the aisle, hoping to prepare myself for what was to come. Some of it helped, some of it didn’t, and there was still a lot that caught me off-guard.

Reading my tips won’t help you avoid mishaps any more than anything else, but perhaps it might offer some auxiliary guidance! I learned a little about planning the big day and some about experiencing it as well. I’ve narrowed it down to four thoughts, and I’ll share the first two today.

1. If it’s a detail no one will notice, don’t spend any emotional energy on it. 

I think this was the biggest lesson I learned during the planning process. There are a lot of details to be decided and each one offers opportunity for frustration- if you let it. 

I implemented this rule when we were printing our invitation envelopes. Knowing that we couldn’t afford professional calligraphy and not wanting to burden any of my friends with nice penmanship, I considered handwriting the address myself. Then, realizing that was an absolutely insane idea, I opted to download a pretty font and print them from our home printer.

For the life of me, I couldn’t get the addresses to align in the center of the envelope. I changed the page size, I printed from a pdf, I changed the font size- all useless attempts. When I called for back up and even Brett couldn’t figure it out, we decided, in so many words: “Screw It.” These envelopes are literally going in the trash.

And so our mantra was born: if no one will notice, we aren’t allowed to worry about it. Remember that no one else is in on the planning process (except those you chose to involve) so they won’t know that you really, really wanted brown gravy, but your caterer only offered white. They’ll never know they had any other choice.

2. Don’t underestimate your ability to forget. 

Even if you are a list maker, a reminder-setter, a Grade A organizational all-star, you’ll forget something  on your wedding day and you’ll forget something big. If it’s important and you want it to happen on your big day, tell someone else. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it. You’ll forget about that too, but no one else will notice anyway. This goes back to number 1.

I really wanted to stop as my dad was walking me down the aisle and give a big hug to my godfather. Knowing that I would already be a bundle of wild nerves, I made sure to tell my dad, our officiant, our usher, and the entire wedding party. I think just telling other people made me remember it.

However, I did end up forgetting our checkbook at the hotel, fabric markers for our guest quilt, forks for our cake- these things had to be brought to us later. We also completely forgot about the marriage license until our officiant had already left the reception! Our witnesses remembered to sign it only right as we were leaving the farm.

I would suggest not letting these things bug you, but there’s hardly a chance in the world that they will. You’ll probably be so over the moon seeing all your friends and family at once and trying your hardest to hug each and every one of them, that you won’t remember what you forgot until a week after your wedding. Then it won’t even matter. (Unless it’s your marriage license. That matters. Deal with that.)

Back tomorrow with more wedding tip goodness!