On the night of my 50th birthday, I received a text from my best friend. It was three weeks early, as an apology for the delay. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I just wanted to tell you how your mom died,” a friend wrote. “I lost my mom when I was 19. I’m fat.” It was a private message, and when I read it, my stomach dropped. I still remember the reaction of my husband. “What is it?” he asked. It was a question. A really good one. The answers to questions are always the answers. They are just as important as the questions themselves. In my previous relationship, we were very open about the fact that we were in a long-distance relationship. It had been two years, and we were still unable to be intimate. We were not in a place where we could do anything physically that could cause embarrassment. We simply had no desire to be in the same place with someone just so withdrawn from us that we couldn’t even get close to know if we ever would be. On our second date, we went back to her house and sat on a couch that faced the pond that was where we first met. We ordered more wine, and I tried to give him a hug. He was wearing a pair of khakis that were nearly knee-high. “Well, that’s a bummer,” he said. “But I don’t want to complain.
I think I’d feel more at home in my comfy boxer shorts.” He laughed it off, but I knew he were right. We were sitting on the steps of a home that was still standing. “Your mom did a good job caring for us when I was young, and she did a great job with me when I was young. I’m sure they’ll both have great weddings.” He said those words with such certainty that I had to ask myself if I was happy in that place of certainty. I was. Two weeks later, I was at a family gathering with my parents, and my husband and my kids traveled for work. But I still hadn’t told them. On the day that my son went back to school, my sister called my phone. Her daughter had died. I could hear her on the other end, saying, “What are you doing?” I couldn’t answer. I was so furious that this could happen in this day and age. I was furious that I couldn’t get him to understand that this was a decision that I had made, one I was prepared to make, one I was even sure would work out. I was furious that I would never be able to say, “You made a mistake, and I respect you for changing your mind, even though I don’t believe that you changed your mind.” I was furious that I would never be able to say, “I love you, and you made a mistake, and I’m sorry, and I will work with you to make sure this never happens again.” I was angry that I would never be able to say, “I love you, and you made a mistake, and I’m sorry, and I will work with you to make sure this never happens again.” I was supposed to grow up, find a man who would want me, and have a family of my own. Instead, I was sinking deeper into an anger I couldn’t control, an emotional darkness that had no name, no boundaries, no source. I was a bad daughter, I was a bad wife, I was a bad mother, I was a bad daughter. I was a bad woman.
I thought I was going to die alone. Then I found myself standing on this new earth, this new planet, not that different from the old earth. Here, there was life. There was love. There was someone I could have been. There was the hope that comes to those who wait. Here, I was standing on my own two feet, proud of who I was, but proud of where I was going, too. Here, I was standing on two legs, but proud of how far I had come. Here, I was standing on two legs, but proud of how far I had come.
The old earth is a pale reflection of the paradise that was my new earth. The paradise I was going to get myself a garden-variety luxury life. The reality is that I have to work my ass off and be resourceful to get what I need from my relationship with the earth. I had a lean-start lifestyle before I got married. I had to save, economize, and be strategic with my income. I paid my bills on my own before I got married. I paid my electric bill on my own before I married. I paid my water bill on my own before I got married.