adventure or agony

Beauty over pain. Adventure over agony. Life is what you choose to see. – Andra Watkins

I don’t often write about my life before I met MTM, but I was an adult for fifteen years before we married. At twenty-two, I believed I ‘should’ be married. I engaged in a six-week courtship with a preacher-boy, said yes when he proposed, and married him five months later. Warnings screamed from all quarters, but I ignored them. This man was everything I believed a husband should be. I knew he’d make me happy.

But life with him was an exercise in crossing lines. He told me who to be, what to wear, how to behave, who my friends could be. And when I rebelled against his vision of me, I paid in ways I won’t recount (though you’ll probably read scenes from my former life in various novels someday.) I never knew agony could shred me to my marrow. It almost destroyed my soul.

When I finally found the courage to end it, I embarked upon a new opportunity. At twenty-seven, I could finally determine who I was, what I wanted, how to be happy. An adventure yawned before me.

Instead, I chose agony. Being alone meant I failed as a female, and what would people think? I fell into a relationship with another controller and spent almost four years trying to be the woman of his dreams. A woman who wasn’t me, because he dumped me in glorious fashion in the wake of my thirty-first birthday.

For two years, I railed against my aloneness. My rejected state. I watched other women fall into relationships and hated them for finding the one thing that eluded me: true happiness with a man, because of course a man meant happiness.

And because I couldn’t find a man to love me, I was forced to set aside my agony. Sometimes, I actually lived. I found restaurants I liked and cities to explore and art I appreciated and a home of my own. Oh, I still sobbed on my bedroom floor because I didn’t want to be alone. Agony was my old bedfellow. It wasn’t easy to let him go.

Somewhere in my stupid wanderings, I figured out happiness isn’t another person. It doesn’t live in the next thing or the next friend or the next meal or the next whatever. Happiness is an adventure every single day, because I can wake up and BE it.

I pen this post after spending part of an evening discussing happiness with someone I’ve known almost two decades. I love this person, even though she sometimes drives me insane. We want the people we love to make good choices, to gravitate toward edifying things, to avoid suffering and agony, misery and despair.

And maybe we endure those things so that when people come to our door, broken and agonized, we can hug them. We can tell them we love them. We can challenge them to embark upon the grand adventure called happiness.

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This is part of a series of pictures about making memories. If you liked the story why not share it with your friends? Let’s meet on Facebook or Twitter. If you prefer pictures you will surely like my Instagram. I’ve collected inspirational things and more on Pinterest! Any comments? Write them below!

life is what you choose to see

You got to treat people like they matter. Like they’re the only thing in your world. ~ Roy Watkins

My first husband will always be special. We were married for a month in sixth grade. I was Claudia to his Pilate in a Christian school Easter play, and I DID NOT want to play his wife. Chuck was gangly and nerdy, but what eleven-year-old boy isn’t?

I didn’t want to be his wife, because he was so much more gifted than I was. He occupied the space and commandeered the audience, leaving my woeful lack of skill apparent to everyone. For the rest of my life, he will be one of the most talented, creative people I will ever know.

He died this year.

Those words catch on my tongue. I still can’t get them out. He left a wife and a son and so many people who miss him, because he treated people like they mattered. In high school, he put together a series of hilarious skits set to music, and he knew which classmate would be perfect for each role. At work, he organized functions and events to bring people together and build community. At home, he was a model husband and father, AND he created gourmet food he couldn’t eat for almost five years. Less than a year before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer, he attended my book event at his local library. He was gritty and tough and destroyed and brittle and amazing.

When he knew he was dying, he got out his computer and put together a series of photographs, scenes that mattered to him from his too-short life. In most of his pictures, he was with others, sharing their victories and cheering them on. Chuck treated others like they were the only things in his world.

I hope my good deeds carry his essence. I hope humanity remembers him long after others are forgotten. I hope I see him again someday.

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This is part of a series of pictures about making memories. If you liked the story why not share it with your friends? Let’s meet on Facebook or Twitter. If you prefer pictures you will surely like my Instagram. I’ve collected inspirational things and more on Pinterest! Any comments? Write them below!

treat people like they matter

build your life

A life is built as much by what you say no to as what you say yes to. – Cate Blanchett

According to some people, I probably say YES too much.

MTM: Can I buy this custom vintage racing bicycle, even though I have you-don’t-know-how-many-others and it’s a thousand dollars?
Me: Yes, even though it’s called ‘The Widow Maker.’

Organization: Will you do a kickass program for no money?
Me: Yes, I’m desperate for enough readers so that I can actually say I make minimum wage.

MTM: Emirates has JFK-to-Milan tickets on sale for $400 if we buy by midnight. Would you like to go to Tuscany again this year?
Me: Yes, though I haven’t a clue where we’ll get the money.

Dad: Andra! Bring me some toilet paper! A LOT of toilet paper!
Me: Yes, I’m on my way.

Friends: I know you’re on deadline, but I haven’t seen you in forever. Want to grab a drink tonight?
Me: YES!!! MORE THAN A DRINK!!! LET’S HAVE THREE!!!!!

I hear the word NO multiple times a day, meaning I know how it feels to the hearer. My lips refuse to wrap around it. In fact, my tongue freaking rebels.

My problem with NO found me in the car when I should’ve been finishing my novel. I didn’t have time for my errand, and I’m mortified to admit I approached it with dread. I don’t like hospitals, especially when the letters I and C and U are strung together. And I REALLY can’t stand to see anyone I know stapled to a mattress with machines. One wrong step, and that person could be me.

On a random Sunday, I said YES to an errand I detested. I found my way to the ICU, and I sat in a room with a friend from high school. She didn’t know I existed, never saw me there. But in those minutes, I knew why I say YES so much. I’d want someone to care enough to sit in that room with me, even if I was oblivious. We all want our existence to matter, don’t we?

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This is part of a series of pictures about making memories. If you liked the story why not share it with your friends? Let’s meet on Facebook or Twitter. If you prefer pictures you will surely like my Instagram. I’ve collected inspirational things and more on Pinterest! Any comments? Write them below!