Red Nails and Retail Therapy – Guest Post – Brook Cottage Books

Check out my new guest post on Brook Cottage Books site….it’s all about “Red Nails” and retail therapy!

Brook Cottage Books – Red Nails & Retail Therapy

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The Ring

Just like the one I had thrown into the lake so many years before to symbolize that I no longer chose to be shackled to the person who had abandoned me, there was the ring.  As I sat late at night looking at everything imaginable on an auction site, I saw a vintage, tarnished version of the English poesy ring I had given my husband for our tenth anniversary.  Inside it was inscribed with “All I refuse & thee I chuse”.  I had chosen him over all of my dreams.

When he left our house, I felt I had nothing left to give.  My life was nowhere to be found.  The one I had dreamed of before we met had been scattered to the wind like fallen leaves swept up in a whirlwind of cool Autumn air to be covered by winter’s first snowfall.  Buried beneath countless snowstorms, my  life lay waiting to be uncovered.  To me, it was lost.

As I sorted through things during that long, snowy winter, a silver object rolled out onto the tile countertop.  He had not taken it with him.  The ring had meant nothing.  He had seldom worn it and I remembered asking him on special occasions if he would wear it.  To me, it meant that I chose no one else over him.  To him, it must have meant that he was enslaved in some sort of prison.  The truth was that he had chosen to be married.  His mind must have been turning at this point and I had no clue about his thoughts.

I picked the ring up and tried it on.  It was too big on my fingers.  Into my case it went for the future.  Of what?  I didn’t know yet.  As the years passed, I forgot about it.  One day as I was attempting to make things fit into my safe deposit box, I found it again.  I put it into my pocket and knew what I wanted to do with it.

As darkness descended upon the harbor, I walked out onto the dock.  I took the ring into my hand and threw it as hard as I could out over the water, watching it descend and splash in the cool stillness.  I was giving it to the place I loved the most where I had found myself again.  I chose the place that felt like home.  It was where I wanted to be.  The ring was a gift to the lake that had infused my heart with hope and my soul with life.  I hoped that it would always lay beneath the beautiful waters of Sunapee.  If it was found someday, I hoped it would be by someone who had a true love to give it to and one that would last forever.

I placed a bid on the tarnished ring on the screen before me.  Why would I do this?  To me, it was a sign.  It had been someone else’ ring.  Not mine.  Not his.  Perhaps, it held stories of true love and they would be passed to me.  A few days later, I heard a beep on my phone.  I had won the ring for only $4.25.  Much less than I had paid for the original ring so many years before.  Another sign?

As I sorted through the contents of my post office box, I found a small package.  Inside the plastic envelope was the ring.  It was very tarnished and it looked as though it had been well worn by someone.  After I returned to the place I was living, I dropped it in jewelry cleaner and counted to ten.  Out came a brighter ring of silver.  A polish cloth did the final trick and it looked almost new except for a bit of a scuff on one side.  I slipped it onto my finger beneath two other rings so that it would not slip off.  And, I decided it would stay there.  I thought that maybe I’d be able to give it to someone with a truer heart that would want to wear it and would stay with me no matter what.

Love.  I always hoped it would find me again.  It hasn’t appeared yet but I know it’s possible.  I only have to remove my heart from its prison and let it fly.

A Letter from Ireland

I had lived alone for a year in the house we built together after my husband left to find the grass beneath the snow.  In the end, I gave up my stake in our home because I knew it was all he wanted.  It hurt beyond words that it was all he cared for…a pile of sticks albeit a pile of beautifully crafted sticks.   He loved this piece of wood more than me…in the end.  It became the love of his life or, perhaps, it always had been.  So, I left and wandered aimlessly from relative’s homes, apartments, condos and hotels.

In the year after I left, I decided to go on a trip I had always dreamed of…..I leafed through a manila folder filled with magazine pages I had ripped out over the years.  The last page in the folder featured an article about a beautiful castle hotel in Ireland.  I knew right away it was where I was meant to go.  I made my own reservations for a regular room and bought a ticket through a travel agency.  Started a new job and had to change the time which was ironic.  The week I chose in the end was the same as my wedding anniversary would have been.  A way to make things right or something good out of something that had been life altering and heartbreaking to me.

Every part of the trip was magic.  I drove to the bus terminal and arrived at the airport four hours early.  Strangely enough, the white haired gentleman at the counter at the same time I stood there ended up sitting near me.  We were lucky enough to have a seat between us to stack jackets and things.  Somewhere along the way I fell asleep over the Atlantic.  When I woke, he said I had slept for a long time.  I kept thinking back to the hours I spent waiting near the airport gate watching the people pass by.  At one point, there was very tall, elegant girl who had to be a model trailing behind her what looked to be a Louis Vuitton suitcase, headed for the door to the VIP lounge.  And, there I sat on a plastic seat with my carry-on case filled to the brim with everything but the kitchen sink just waiting to get on the plane and away from my old life if even for a week.

As we flew over Ireland in the early morning darkness, I could see tiny fairy-like lights brilliantly shining from all of the cottages and homes below.  Wisps of fog floated in the air.  Magic.  Over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced we were being re-routed to Dublin as Shannon was fogged over.  Oh My God.  What was supposed to be a 7:00 AM landing turned into a 10:30 AM sit-and-wait on the tarmac with craziness galore inside the plane.  Finally, they allowed us to disembark and attempt to find our luggage.  In the midst of all this, the kind white-haired man told me that my driving service would not be waiting and I would need to contact the castle to avoid the long haul bus shuttle back to Shannon.  I cannot say how grateful I am even now at his advice.  But, then, he was a native who lived in Boston and knew his way around and probably knew I was a naive girl who’d hardly ever been out of New England her entire life.

After letting the main service desk at the airport know of my plight, I dragged my heavily packed suitcase into the bathroom.  Much to my delight, the stalls were large enough to accommodate suitcases on end.  It was unbelievable.  Nothing like that in the good old USA or not to my knowledge.  As I sat eating a grinder, my name was called.  I threw it into the trash and ran for the escalator.  Meeting me there was a nice Irish man who took my suitcase and out to his van we went.  He entertained me with stories.  The most amusing was about a famous rock band he had driven around Dublin the previous month who he said looked as though they had “big heads mounted on little sticks”.  He was kindly referring to their size and it was funny as on stage they look larger than life.

On the way across the entire country, he stopped and bought ice cream and I fell asleep.  He woke me as we arrived near the castle gates.  OH MY GOD again.  I could not believe my eyes.  A real castle.  I was disoriented from being up so long.  My trip had begun early the previous morning and now it was late afternoon the following day.  Even with the time difference, I was a bit out of sorts.  I was so happy to be there, I could have kissed the ground, much less the Blarney Stone.

I was ushered into the lobby and properly registered.  My suitcase had disappeared.  I was taken to my room and there I discovered that the tie strap was still in place.  No locks were allowed after 9.11 and no TSA locks existed then.  I quickly returned to the beautiful wooden elevator and back to the lobby desk where I asked for a pair of scissors.  Never did I think I could have simply called down and had them brought to me.  I was in love.  Just as I had fallen in love with my beloved Sunapee, I was in love with Ireland.  A bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates sat on the table next to a writing desk equipped with beautiful stationery and pens with the embossed castle address at the top.  That night as I sat in the dining room half asleep, I made a note in my mind that I would put it to good use.

The next morning I sat at the desk and wrote a letter to my ex.  It was written from my heart with no ill intent.  I wanted so much to share such a beautiful moment with him.  Little did I know that he was involved with another and had her living with him in “our” house.  The joke was on me I guess.  But, back to the letter.  I cannot remember everything I said but I did say I wished he could see the beauty that was before me.  I was not sad as I wrote it.  It was the anniversary of our wedding date.  It seems it was my way of celebrating it on my own.  I still had not let go and as I write this I wonder if I shall ever be able to completely let it go from within my heart.  Tears always come to me when I think of this.

I spent each night eating course after course and was so happy with myself that I gained five pounds in one week.  I met wonderful Irish people who made me a part of their family who gathered at the castle to celebrate.  I rode on the buggy that John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara were seen on when they were courting in the movie, “The Quiet Man”.  It was surreal.  I walked on the beautiful pathways and each morning I woke to see the beautiful loch before me.  When I returned one morning to get my jacket, an Irish girl with red hair was singing in the room as she tidied it.  It seemed to be all so unreal to me.  To top it off, a woman played a harp in a place called the “Dungeon Bar” every night.  Heaven on earth.

The evening before I left, I cried as I packed.  The next morning my Irish friends had already departed and there was only me left with my thoughts.  I vowed to return one day with someone to share the experience.

In the next month, it will be twelve years (What am I waiting for???) since that fateful trip and still I have not returned because of moves, jobs, etc.  I am still alone.  I have decided to go again before the end of the year and hope that this time I might meet a beautiful man who lives in a castle who will fall in love with me and I will finally have my “happily ever after”.  One can wish, can’t one?  We will see.  It’s not too late…..yet.  But, then there is Daisy in “The Great Gatsby” who said…..”All of the bright precious things fade so fast and they never come back….”   I will find a way to prove her wrong, I hope…..with the help of the forest fairies and leprechauns!

Seasons

As Autumn approaches, I am reminded of how there are changes with everything in life.  If we are fortunate or lucky enough to survive each season, whether it is the weather or a phase of a marriage or relationship, we come out of it with more awareness and realization of how precious life is and how wonderful it is to have someone to weather the storms with, figuratively and literally, in life and living.

I am a survivor of divorce but not a survivor of my marriage.  If only I could go back.  But, then, what difference would it make?  If someone does not realize there are seasons as neither I nor my husband did, how can there be a chance?  I miss the Spring when we moved forward and were so excited to build a home, change jobs or experience a new challenge.  Eventhough Summer is almost unbearable to me if it is too hot, I miss the Sun shining with new hope.  As for the Fall, it is my favorite season.  But, in a marriage it could be the time when we fall to our knees wondering how to get through to that person or beyond a disagreement.  Winter brings hibernation and it is the time when we closet ourselves away with a diversion so that we don’t face what may have to be dealt with in connection with our relationship.

The end of my marriage started at the end of Summer when the sun stopped shining as much and he fell away from me by Autumn.  Winter brought devastation and an end when he was driven from me by the storms that existed within his head.  Mortality was key in his mind.  Death.  Fear drove him from me with a myriad of excuses dreamed up in the heat of the Summer sun.  You might wonder how I can say this.  After many years of searching within myself and asking questions and learning the truth, it is the reality of how the fairytale-like love I felt and envisioned for the rest of my life came to a nightmare end.  The signs were in front of me but I was so busy I refused to see them.  The sun was dull, the leaves swirled in the wind and the snow fell.  No new growth was on the horizon with the person who now existed in my marriage.  I had lost so much of myself over the years and, in the end, he was not the person I had fallen in love with and I was not what he wanted me to be.  I was not perfect.

Before Spring, my husband ran away to new adventures looking for the grass to spring up from beneath the cold, white snow on the ground while I stayed behind to weather the storms alone.  A hurricane of destruction made its way throughout my life and he was not spared from the outcome.  Along the way he dived off cliffs of desperation in his frantic attempt to find someone to replace me.  I remained alone finding glimpses of rainbows and wildflowers to show me the way to the end of what I thought was forever.

In the years that have followed, I have seen and experienced places and people I never thought possible or did not know existed.  He has moved on with another in the same place.  I still wonder if there is someone out there who will weather the storms and beautiful moments that life has to offer with me.  I will keep hoping and, if it happens that I meet that person, I will be who I am and only expect them to be who they are as we face the seasons together.  All is not lost.  It can be found.  Seasons change and hope always remains for those who believe.

Green Leather…..

There are days when I miss my marriage and I cannot keep the tears away.  I may be riding in the car listening to the radio and a certain song blares at me.  One of many.  A shocker is when the song that was played for our “First Dance” comes on and I listen to the words yet again.  They foretell a tragic ending.  It makes me wonder what we were thinking.  At other times, in the middle of the night, I may be watching a movie.  The list goes on and on.  And, the longer I am single and stay away from even looking for a new man in my life, the more lonely I feel.  I don’t have to have a man in my life but, so often, would love someone to share things with and who doesn’t want to be loved?  As for green leather, it is one of the strongest memories I have of who the person I married really was and one I was not aware of at the time.  I remember the day I arrived at the house we had built together after nine straight hours of being strapped to a desk to find my husband waiting for me in nothing but his underwear and a bright, slime green leather snowmobile jacket.  I wondered why he had bought it as he didn’t have a sled to ride on at the time.  Another story.

He took it off and handed it to me and I nearly fell to  the floor it was so heavy.  I could not lie.  I could not tell him it was beautiful.  He looked good in anything but the jacket was cringeworthy.  I just skirted the issue and started cutting up vegetables.  In the meantime, he sat on the clay tile floor in the kitchen and actually sulked over the fact that I was not drooling over the $350.00 jacket, while cradling it in his arms.  Back in that day, it was a lot of money, especially when you were still sleeping in a bedroom with a plywood floor.  I believe I did make a remark about the tone of the jacket’s color and that just finished him off.  He cried.  I felt horrible but, at the same moment, spotlights (not lightbulbs) went off in my brain.  How could he be so caught up in this murky colored jacket?  And, did it matter what I thought?  I guess it did more than I knew.  Was it one of the things that led to the downfall of my marriage?  To anyone on the outside, they might think me uncaring that I did not lie about how I felt to make him happy?   Or, was he so insecure that he needed me to tell him he had made the right decision over a piece of clothing?  Was I wrong to be concerned about the cost because we were spending every penny on the house…..and this had been his decision.  I had gone along with everything he ever wanted to do so, perhaps, it was my fault he expected my faultless opinion on everything?  It is still a mystery to me.  If you have any answers for me, please respond.  I would love to have new insight on this and hear your thoughts!

9.11 and Me

As I hid beneath the warm covers this morning, I was reminded of the disaster that happened fourteen years ago yesterday and how it had been the beginning of the end for so many people.  And, for me too.  Even though my ending was not as permanent, it felt like death.  I thought back to what happened that day and how it affected everyone in a different way.

I dragged myself out of bed to write.  I remember that morning.  I had started taking classes again to get a degree I had wanted my entire life and was milling about in my home.  Never did I ever turn the television on in the morning but something dragged me to it.  I was shocked to see smoke billowing out from buildings behind Peter Jennings on the screen.   As I sat staring, one of the buildings just seemed to go down in smoke.  I yelled at Peter telling him to turn around to see what was happening.  Finally, he announced in a very emotional voice that one of the trade towers had collapsed.  And, that wasn’t the end of it.  It was a tragedy for the nation, the people and the world and nothing we will ever forget.  Nor will I forget how that day was the beginning of the end for my marriage.  Or at least the time I can link in my brain to what happened afterward.

I remember calling my husband where he worked to tell him to turn to a different radio station in his classroom as he was unaware of what was happening.  I wanted to be with him in that instant.  Years after I heard that people either divorced or had babies in connection with their own sense of mortality as they experienced such heightened emotions after the tragedy that happened that day in 2001 involving planes, buildings and so many people that were loved by so many hearts.  Such loss fueled more loss or more love.  In my case, it fueled one of the most painful losses of my life.

My husband became distant and I wanted to feel closer to him.  Three months later, he was gone and I was alone.  Just over a year later, I had divorce papers sitting in front of me and still did not understand how it all would affect my life so deeply.  The people who had any connection to 9.11 know what this means more than most.  But, we were all deeply affected in some way even if we did not have a direct link.  Everyone in the world was connected.  In my own little world, I felt so alone and apart and disconnected.  My husband had feared his mortality and was hell bent on escaping the memories of all of the hard work and hardships we had faced which were nothing in the face of what had happened to those unknowing victims, families and heroic rescue teams on that fateful day.  I thought, “….if we could only go back and be able to change things…”   Even if we come up with every imaginable way to do this, it just can’t be done.  We can only move forward.

Here I have been molting in my present circumstance for over three years…..and fourteen years since the beginning of the end.  I feel lost.  But, I am not.  I just need to make another decision or take another step.  Action.  I need to take a step forward and not be afraid just as those people did on those planes that day or the people who helped others get out of the buildings or the rescue teams risking their lives.  In my case, I am risking what is left of my life staying where I am.  It should be easy to just move forward.  As they say, it is all about perception.

After experiencing another anniversary of 9.11, I know it is up to me to just get out of this bed every morning and do something.  Anything.  To reclaim my life.  To find someone out there who will love me for who I am and to find someone who will find my writing interesting or find someone who will hire me to do something.  It’s my belief and action that will change everything.  Just as it has for all of the people who were affected by a tragedy that will forever affect so many lives.  Out of such tragedy, hope is born and multiplies beyond any dimension we can imagine.  In my little world, hope is all I feel that I can hold onto at the moment.

My heart goes out to all those in the world who have lived with the after effects of any loss and, today, the day after 9.11 to those who are all living with their memories and have moved on to find hope and happiness again despite still feeling the depth of sadness that still resides in the aftermath.  And, to all those that feel held back by the past as I do at this very moment, step outside your door today and breathe.  Something will come to you as I know it will to me.  There is always hope somewhere out there.

A Letter to Myself on My Wedding Day…..

This post was inspired by the divorce section of The Huffington Post.  I was inspired to write a letter to myself after reading an incredible “letter” written by a woman to herself on her wedding day after her divorce.  I had to try it for myself even knowing there were many good things from the past but I wanted to see what would come out of writing such a letter if I was completely “straight out” with myself.  Here it is……

A Letter to Myself on My Wedding Day

There you are….   Why did he have to send you that rose and a card with a smiley face on it so you would smile on your wedding day?  Is it nerves?  I don’t think so.  Why is it you didn’t want anyone to see the ring the day after he gave it to you?  Why is it you freaked out inside when you were wearing his jacket on Valentine’s Day eight months ago when you felt the velvet box in the pocket?  You had had your first argument and I bet you can’t remember why.   Why did you say yes?  Was it because he was so attentive?  Or, was it because he was so attractive with beautiful, dark wavy hair?  No, it was because you thought it was the right thing to do.   You finally consummated your love after he gave you the rock – on his birthday.  Two weeks after the argument.  And, now you feel stuck because of all the beliefs you grew up with.

I know you have a plan.  You were going to wait until you were at least 27 to even think about marriage.  You were going to pack up your little flowered suitcase straight out of high school and take off for the Big Apple.  You had so many dreams…..   Did you forget about how you wanted to be a fashion designer and travel the world?  You can still do it.  Just get back into that limousine and have the driver bring you back home, take your honeymoon suitcase, and leave!  Now!
You are ignoring the warning signs.  This is not the right time for you.  You don’t even know his family.  What if they are not what they seem to be?  I don’t want to give too much away but they will make you cry more times than you know.  The truth is hidden from you right now.  You are not trusting your gut instincts.  Yes, he seems to be a beautiful, caring person.  But, he doesn’t even know himself.  And, more, you don’t know who you really are.  Get out in the world.  See the world before you make such a serious decision.  He asked and you just went with it.  The ring did not even fit.  What more can I say?  Details, details.

Right now, maybe you think you are in a fairytale?  But, what you don’t know is that it will turn out to be a nightmare you never imagined.  That princess dress you’re wearing?  It doesn’t even fit quite right and wasn’t even what you truly wanted.  You never tried any dresses on.  Just picked out a pattern someone else wanted you to have and had the dress made.  And, it doesn’t make you happy.  Perfectly said?  He wasn’t what you picked out.  Someone else picked him out for you and shoved him your way.  You never dated hardly anyone else!  Does he make you happy?  Doesn’t look that way….  That glass of wine you just had before you left is the only thing keeping you smiling, isn’t it?  Oh, yeah, and your father just stepped on your dress and a flower just dropped out of the bouquet.  Signs to run?  Oh, and I’d better warn you that the ice cream that falls all over the front of your dress at the reception never comes out.

He keeps telling you that you’ll travel and have fun before making any other decisions.  You’ve agreed to have several children and build a great home for them.  Two weeks after the honeymoon, he is going to tell you that everything is on hold and until the house is perfectly done, there will be no children.  Fast forward fifteen years and he will tell you that he is leaving you because you don’t have any, among many other things that do not fit in with “in sickness and in health” and “for richer or for poorer”.

You will spend fifteen years working, cooking, building and cleaning.  Dreams will be lost in the clouds.  But, his dreams will come alive because of you and your devotion.  He won’t know how to help you when you most need it.  You will be on your own.  Eventhough you will have a few incredible moments of happiness, you will have so many regrets in the end.  No children.  No home.  Lost in the world.
When he leaves, you will feel as if a dagger has been put through your heart as you sit in your tower looking out over the heart shaped pond.  No joke.  A true nightmare.  But, your survival instincts will kick in almost immediately and you will survive.  He will be shocked at what you can do.  And, so will you.  Didn’t he ever know you at all?  You will keep wondering about that.  And, you will wonder how you can do what you have to do.

Months and then years will be spent wondering what to do with your life because your life was given up the moment you said “I do”.   As you sort through everything the year you live alone after he has left, you will cry tears of sadness that make you feel as though your heart is breaking into a million pieces like shattered glass.  You will keep getting up and falling down.  Over and over.  You will reconnect with a friend who helps you find yourself in a way you didn’t expect.  You will communicate with him on the internet as someone else and come to know yourself more than you could have while you were together.  But, in the end, all you get out of it is a book.  It’s a book you will shelve for years and finally publish.  And, it won’t be easy.  But, in the end, if you try hard enough……you’ll make it to the top.

There is so much more to say but I don’t want to keep you from living your life.  You will find your way, along the way.  No matter what, don’t give up.  Keep surviving.  This divorce that is coming in the end will feel like a black nightmare but it will make you stronger than you could ever have been before.  And, someday, you will meet the person you were always meant to be with….I promise.   Just keep getting up, putting on that red nail polish and breathe.  Just breathe.