I was married once before–for about five minutes. I joke about that time in my life in terms of how I “married my drinking buddy.” He was a fun, good-looking guy who you wouldn’t mind sharing a pint with, but probably not ideal parenting material or the person with whom you would want to split a mortgage. But these aren’t the sorts of things I thought about too much at 24, and when all the people in my life started pairing up, moving on, adulting, I thought it was the same thing I wanted, too. I found a willing participant, I guess you could say.
I knew within months of our marriage, maybe even within the first week, that I had made a horrible mistake. For so many very private reasons, I knew I had married the wrong person, but I tried to be happy and make it work. Nothing in this world is perfect, so why should I assume marriage would be? It was fine. Everything was fine.
But it wasn’t fine.
And one day, I decided that I deserved to be happy and with someone who made me happy. On a cold morning in late November, we had our last, final confrontation while I was getting ready for work. I sat on the edge of the bathtub and looked up at my ex-husband and asked the question that changed both our lives: did we make a mistake? The look on his face told me everything.
Divorce is such a huge, epic, public failure. The worst part of divorce was not the divorce itself. That was a relief! It was calling my mom and saying, “I was wrong. I thought I knew myself, but I had no idea who I was or what I wanted.” Being wrong about something so big as marriage made me feel such incredible shame. I felt this deep impulse to apologize to her, to everyone. And yet, my mom showed up with so much unconditional love in that moment, affirming to me how much she just wanted me to be happy.
And that was so amazing about this moment in my life, and is a true testament, I think, about what happens when we choose happiness. People start showing up. Lots of people. People you didn’t expect. One of my friends lent me her couch while I got back on my feet. Other friends cooked for me. And the phone calls! Everyone calling if I needed something. More than anything, I couldn’t believe how many friends showed up to help me move out of my house and my terrible living situation. And they didn’t do it out of guilt or feelings of obligation. They did it because they wanted me to be happy. That was it. The only reason.
A couple of years ago, I went through another profound life change–the decision to start writing novels. Oh, it started innocently enough, but it soon snowballed into something bigger than myself. Within four days of writing what would become Through the Veil, I looked up from my laptop and thought, “I am so happy. This makes me so, so happy.”
But I was scared to tell the world, to show other people, so I made jokes about writing to hide the fact how much I so desperately loved doing it. I was terrified of what people would say or how they would see me, and I felt, yes, a little ashamed. I had just invested an incredible amount of money into a PhD, I was a wife and a mother of two, a serious scholar of the nineteenth-century Irish novel. What the hell was I doing writing ROMANCE?
And yet, when I started sharing my love for my book, people started showing up. My wonderful parents would not leave me alone until I let them read a draft. My friends from an online mother’s support group, including Jenna who would later create this lovely website, took so much time to give me pages and pages of feedback. Friends “liked” my word count status updates on facebook. They wanted to hear more about my book at parties, and they let me talk while I prattled on endlessly about my editing process. My doctoral advisor even gave me a great idea for Book 3. My colleague and now friend swapped drafts. Of course, all of these people had always been there, but having them occasionally pop into my life and say, “Hey, this thing you’re doing? It’s cool. Keep doing it” gave me a tremendous amount of strength.
And so I kept going and more people showed up in my life: incredible critique partners, my twitter homies, my genius of an editor, my kick-ass marketing person. And all this because I said, “Fuck it. I’m going to do what makes me happy.” I’m so glad I did.
So thank you for showing up for me in 2015. Thank you for every like, retweet, share, kind word, beta read, blog comment, high five, and (((HUG))). I hope I can find a way to show up for you in the new year.