Living Happily Ever After

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You Never Know…

You never know what’s going to come your way in the unexpected life. But I continue to marvel and the wonderful opportunities I continue to be blessed with and the many amazing people it’s my good fortune to meet.

Like the opportunity to speak to many different people and groups on a variety of topics. One of my favorite events I feel so fortunate to have been asked to be apart of was the recent conference of The Togetherness Project.

Tune in tomorrow for excerpts from the speech I shared with participants.

I had a lot to say…

“My wife has a slight impediment in her speech. Every now and then she stops to breathe.” (Jimmy Durante)

Just A Journey

So, that’s my story.

A four year journey I never asked for or ever, EVER expected to be forced to embark on. But what do you do when you’re handed an unexpected life? You live it.

You take it, carry on, over time learn to embrace it, and eventually you conquer it! And along the way you learn to enjoy the journey–keep your eyes open and marvel at the many unexpected adventures that come your way as a part of it.

After all, “Life is just a journey.” (Princess Diana)

The Rest of…the Trip

“That ends this strange eventful history…” (William Shakespeare)

I was in Colorado  less than 48 hours. But I conquered all the major hurdles:

1. I drove the streets of Denver, Aurora and Centennial, Colorado (all the areas of my old stomping ground and life) and I felt great! I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there, I didn’t have an urge to cry…I just felt like I was in a place I knew very well and enjoyed. I felt welcome!

2. I drove to my former home. And I felt…nothing. I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel loss, I didn’t have an urge to cry… I felt nothing but peace.

3. Although I didn’t get a chance to see a majority of the friends I would have loved to have seen, I got to see several people I love and have missed.

4. I even had the privilege of seeing and speaking with a few victims of my former husband. They could not have been kinder or more gracious to me. (There are some really good people in the world!)

5. I realized that I can, and want, to return for a visit again someday. (And I want to bring my children, too!)

And then, all too soon, it was off to the airport again and a quick flight back to Salt Lake City. I arrived home–everything looked the same yet everything was completely different. I went to work the next day–everything looked the same yet EVERYTHING was different.

I was different. I had conquered the last hurdle from my unexpected life. Consider me recovered!  But I’ll refrain from adding “The End” to this story. Because there never is one to…the unexpected life.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill)

Sitting (or Standing, as the Case May Be!) Happy

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

What happened next is kind of…perfect; completely fitting for a first return to the state I’d left four years ago in total shock, grief, fear (even though I tried my best not to fear) and yes, complete humiliation.

First stop after DIA was to a restaurant for dinner.

As we drove, I was surprised to feel so calm and normal. I must have expected to feel the last feelings I’d had in Colorado (shock, grief, devastation, horror) or even worse, at this stage of life, to feel homesick for the city, state and life I’d loved so much (knowing that chapter of my life has closed and a permanent return to Colorado will never be a possibility) or worst of all, to feel like I didn’t belong there any more. I mean, Colorado had been my home since 1974. I was terrified to feel out of place there because if I didn’t feel I belonged in my home state, where would I EVER belong?

We had a nice dinner and at the end of dinner, I stood up to leave and instantly felt a freezing cold blast across my…nether-regions, looked down to determine why I suddenly felt so cold, only to see my maxi skirt puddled on the floor!

There I stood in a restaurant, on a Friday night, wearing–from the waist down– only my underclothing! I quickly bent down, pulled my skirt on again, and exited the restaurant!

Believe it or not, I could not stop laughing.

Leave it to my unexpected life to come full circle in the most unexpected of ways: depart in embarrassment, humiliation and mortification and  the VERY FIRST THING that happens to me upon my return most would consider embarrassing. (Except, I realized, me. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty difficult to be too embarrassed about anything given the “embarrassment”–revelation of crime, loss of everything, demise of family, divorce, and all of it played out on a very public stage– I’ve lived through! Haha)

Consider me filled with character. And sitting happy with it all. In my unexpected life.

Who EVER could have imagined that?

Not even optimistic, filled-with-hope, determined-to-create-and-live-a-happily-ever-after, little old me!

A New Philosophy

“I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.” ~Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz)

The airplane tickets were booked. I was committed. And the second the deed was done, I began to regret it. I felt SICK inside!

I didn’t talk about the trip. I tried not to think about it. And the closer it got, the sicker I felt inside. And, I confess, I started feeling a little bit resentful of my husband for “making” me go. I wasn’t thrilled with any part of it. Not even the whole “it’s our birthday weekend and we’re going to Colorado to celebrate it!” aspect of it.

I wanted to cancel the trip, back out, wished I could get food poisoning or something, ANYTHING, that could excuse me from a return to my home state. But no such luck. Too soon I found myself ascending from the tunnels at DIA.

Denver.

I was home.

And I felt o.k. about it all.

And then I left the airport and actually headed to where I used to live. A very strange sensation.

“…That sensation, that’s what I want.” (Picabo Street)

Uhhh, no thanks. My new philosophy was in full force.

Don’t Think…Do

I called a Colorado friend to report my husband’s insane suggestion. Instead of agreeing with me she said, “I think that’s a great idea! Are you coming?”

I should have known to call someone else–this friend had suggested I visit several times since I moved. We hung up, I shook my head, and thought the matter was closed.

But my thoughts wouldn’t let it be.

The hate mail and nasty emails have dwindled. It has been several months since I’ve received anything from anyone in that regard. The used Subaru I’d driven away from Colorado in is no more (what can I say, it was old and very used.) One of the two dogs I’d driven away from Colorado with had died. Two of the four children I’d brought to Utah with me are now “grown up” and “gone”–one is living in Spain, the other has moved out and is in college. I’m working at a different job, for a different organization, than the one that brought me here. I’m remarried to someone else. It has been long enough that the events of 2009 almost don’t even feel like they happened to me, but to someone else.

Why not?

Isn’t it ABOUT time?

So I told my husband I’d go. And before I knew it, he’d booked airplane tickets.

I tried not to think about it.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy…You simply must do things.” (Ray Bradbury)

 

It’s Really About Moving On

“Life is really about moving on.” (Oprah)

The unexpected life moves on.

And eventually becomes…your life.

This summer marked four years living mine: four years that I have lived in Utah, four years since I began living in a completely different world than the one I inhabited before, and I confess, I’ve spent four years looking out my window at the beautiful mountains of Utah County, admiring their rocky and jagged beauty, remembering the comfort and strength I took from them as a college student and taking those same feelings about them into the life I live now. A part of me has even considered them my personal barrier of safety from the horror I left in Colorado.

And then, a few months ago,  I realized it has been FOUR YEARS. Unconsciously or not, I’ve spent the past four years on this side of those mountains. Safely and far away from “terrible” Colorado. I didn’t tell anyone that’s how I felt or that that’s what I was doing, but it was. I haven’t set foot in the Centennial State I left it in the rear view mirror of my used Subaru July 13, 2009.

I’ve been invited to visit. There are people there that I love and miss. But there has been NO WAY I would ever return to the hard things I endured before I moved to Utah. I’ve stayed WELL away.

And then one day my husband looked at me and said, “Lets go to Colorado. It’s time you go back.”

I was stunned.

There is NO WAY I would ever go back.

Or is there?

The Small-Minded…And Me

“For people who have…had curve balls thrown at them, it is easier to digest change… in other people. Change only scares the small-minded. The small-minded and me.” (Casey Affleck)

I’ll never forget the time I (literally) had a curve ball thrown at me.

My husband had installed a pitching machine and batting cage in our backyard and a friend came over to test it out. Not knowing anything about said equipment, I actually got in the cage WITH HIM to watch him bat. What I also didn’t know was that my husband had cranked the pitch speed from 30 mph to 90 mph.

The machine released the first ball and my friend tipped it…straight into my nose! I’m happy to report it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it sounds like it would, but it was successful in breaking my nose.  My previously pretty decent nose was crooked and had a new bump. And then the debate began: do I fix my nose or not?

I mean, the damage to my septum was done. Straightening my nose wouldn’t fix that. And since I’m pretty much a coward when it comes to undergoing medical (and dental) procedures, I wasn’t sure I wanted to undergo a medical intervention for vanity’s sake–just to have a straight nose the rest of my life–until a friend said this: “We’re getting older. We can’t do anything about that, we can’t stop the wrinkles or gray hair, but a crooked nose is something you CAN do something about. You can fix it. So at least you won’t be looking in the mirror every day at a crooked nose AND wrinkles!” We had a good laugh over her rationale…but I did end up straightening my nose. And one year later, all aches, pain, and tenderness associated with that curve ball had gone.

And then 2009 hit. (Who knew there was a lesson for life in my broken nose?) When I got thrown a VERY UNEXPECTED curve ball as a result of my former husband’s lies, secrets and crimes, there was SO MUCH  I couldn’t fix or do anything about. But I did understand the importance of fixing what I COULD fix. So I got out of bed every single day (even though I sure didn’t want to!) I pasted a smile on my face (although I wasn’t very successful at looking happy, the grief and shock were a little too fresh and huge back then.) I faced every day, and the new and terrible challenges that came daily with a curve ball like that, and eventually, like my nose, things straightened out again and the pain went away.

Call me small-minded, I mean, it’s difficult to embrace change–especially when you don’t choose it or didn’t do anything to “deserve” it. It can be scary. But you can do it. I believe you can triumph over ANY challenge. Fix what you can. And choose a life of happiness and joy. Regardless of the crooked developments, and curve balls, that may temporarily derail your peace and joy.

And live.

Embrace.

And don’t fear.

The unexpected life.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Sit Home

My recent job change has reminded me of one key to success in living an unexpected life: don’t sit home and think about it! Do what you have to do. Carry on.

A few weeks ago, the night before my first day at my new job, my daughter asked, “Mom, are you afraid?”

Her question surprised me. No, I wasn’t afraid–I hadn’t even thought to be! (Quite a different experience than the last time I began a new job: 2009. And it made me realize, yet again, how far I (and my children) have come.) The last time I began a new job, I had been thrust into the middle of a giant nightmare of which probably every fear I’d ever had (rational or irrational), or that had been a part of a nightmare as I slept, or that was the worst-case-scenario from fictional Hollywood movies, were my sudden reality. (If I’m going to be honest about that time…I was afraid of practically everything! Including, even, my own name. Every time I said my name, Andrea Merriman, I  feared someone would recognize it and judge me just based on that.)

But I’ve never believed fear is permission to quit or give up, however tempting that may be. (And thankfully I had four children to provide for, to keep alive, which helped me rise above the temptation to hide!) Fear just adds to the challenge of carrying on and of living. But you still have to do it.

So I faced my fears every day. I got out of bed and went to work, no matter how difficult; and many days, it was incredibly difficult–a sick pit in my stomach every Sunday night knowing another work week lay ahead; an inability to sleep at night worrying about the coming work week and wondering how I was going to get through it; crying all the way in to work; managing to get through the work day and then crying all the way home from work; and walking in the door to begin another “full day” of work as a single mother during the evening hours, catching up on everything I’d missed during the day while at work, helping with dinner, dishes, homework, laundry, housework, reading to a child and a few attempts at new family memories as well. I confess there were nights my 3 year old didn’t go to bed until 11 p.m. and I would later fall into bed, exhausted, at 1 a.m. or later to arise a few hours later, at 6 a.m. to begin it all over again!

But I guess the point is…that we did it. We got up, we faced our fears, and eventually we triumphed over them. And at some point, the sick stomach went away, eventually I was able to sleep at night, at some point I was able to get my youngest in bed at a decent hour, and I not only did my job, but had professional success which resulted in a new opportunity. Most of all, however, I somehow “forgot” to be afraid.

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy.” (Dale Carnegie)

It worked for me.

New Job

“At one point I took on a new job, and I just didn’t have time to do anything but work.” (Sharon Olds)

Yes, that’s what happened to me, too. But I’ve been at my NEW JOB for 6 weeks now, I’ve settled in and…I’m back.

Change! In the form of…a new job! At Brigham Young University!

It’s really true: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn)

Go…cougars!