— Seth Godin, “On Finishing Well ”
These days I’m covered in a soft underbelly. Wearing my insides on the outside. Swept up by changes that roll me like an infinite tidal wave. Humility a young muscle I’m only now learning to flex.
Zan and I were supposed to last forever and now we are done.
For some time this single fact has threatened to swallow up the entirety of our story. Wasn’t it only months ago that I was offering self-appointed “love guru” advice to a friend and now I’m reassuring bank tellers that “our split is amicable” as I close our joint accounts?
But I’m dangerously too dehydrated to continue crying about it so I’ve decided to do what I’ve learned to do — write it out.
We had a solid beginning, to be sure, the stuff rom-coms are made of. “We met when I hired him,” I loved to joke, “and I’m still the boss,” I’d delight in adding.
I remember his first day at work. He nonchalantly hung his Appalachian Trail poster on the wall and shared dreams of a thru-hike and, oh yeah, his plan to live to be 140, bionically if necessary.
Weird but whatever. As long as he agreed to let me quit first I didn’t care — I never intended to stay in the South and was ever entertaining other offers. It was high time to pursue my personal art career.
He was slow and steady while I ached to escape to bigger things. I was intrigued but undeterred.
We quickly proved to be a good team. We started winning design awards and playing full-contact, beachball soccer in the office. He talked about raging campfires and I shared my favorite “artsy” (read: NSFW) websites. He was, without a doubt, like nothing I had ever seen before: genuinely innocent and uncomplicated. No pretense or games, pure magic.
And that was my undoing.
Once I surrendered to the inevitable, the years unfolded effortlessly. I eagerly stepped away from my computer and followed him into nature. I trusted him implicitly and we had more fun and sex in public than was certainly legal.
Eventually we bought houses and built businesses but whenever the scales grew too heavy with work, we would criss-cross the country or jaunt around Europe or retreat to idyllic islands in winter.
But — and you knew there was a but — those early dreams still haunted us.
And though we remained synced for 20 solid years, we continued to hum at different frequencies. He became the “speed bump” in my life while I was a walking to-do list.
So we did our best to navigate the chasm dividing our predispositions. I stepped back from obligations, quit my company and challenged my preoccupation with forever. I adapted my language and swapped “we” for “me,” no longer wanting to speak for the two of us.
I left him to his own devices, to define his own boundaries, so that I might rediscover my own. I dove head first into my preoccupation with commitment and the conundrums we face once personal ambitions trump synchronicity, when miscommunications compound, temptations arise, and dreams diverge. Sound familiar?
Like most big shifts, this came slowly then all at once. But still, it’s taking me a minute to accept that WE. DID. NOT. FAIL. Twenty good years is kind of a big deal.
And so here we are, quite literally, back to our beginning. Next Spring Zan sets out for a long, long walk while I, in turn, have reoriented my life back to art.
And while many couples lament that marriage has hollowed them into unrecognizable shells of their former selves, I am proud to say that we emerge from this union — a bit battered from disappointment, to be sure — but better still for having held one another so long and so hard.
There are days when the idea of trusting another human seems fundamentally hazardous, or when I’d do unspeakable things for a lover’s warm embrace, but I take comfort in the belief that I will be and do and know better the next time. Until then there are marks to be made, mountains to climb and buckets of popcorn to eat like my life depended on it because somehow, in the thick of this rebirth, I’m starting to think it actually might.
To Zan, thank you for enduring a life with me that was often more public than you would have liked and more intense than you would have chosen. Yes, I was the kind of woman that turned your favorite dessert into a business venture. Chocolate as love letter, the irony is not lost on me. Sorry not sorry. I will learn to celebrate your magical, new beginnings and your equally beautiful endings from afar.
To friends and family who noted the machinations of my heart before I did — you felt the intensity of my time away and embraced tricky conversations — thank you for mitigating my mania and for sharing your stories. Thank you for supporting my work, for telling me how it touches you and that it helps you find your own path. I am grateful AF for the new collaborations you offer me, for a transition to a new CLT home so that I might make some noise in (what feels like) a new city and retreat quietly to the desert each winter.
This is for you.
I know that these posts have a life of their own so while I’m not trying to tell you to do anything or be anything or leave anything, I hope it challenges you to lean in a little harder to your life and those you adore and endure.
And when it’s time, to finish what you’ve started.
And to begin. Again.