Dear Friend.

This letter that I could never send was written in August 2014. Sharing it tonight with gratitude for life, and all of those I share it with. 

Hi you. I’ve been drafting this letter for days, putting off sitting down and telling you what I need to say.

To start, did you know that Robin Williams died? I imagine you do. Through the miracle of Twitter, it took me 36.4 seconds to learn that 1. He’s dead, and 2. He killed himself. It was like a punch to the stomach. All I kept thinking was, “But he made me LAUGH!”

In the week following, you kept crossing my mind. To be fair, you crossed my mind often enough anyway. Most ex-boyfriends can be tracked down via Facebook without much of a to-do, but you’d remained a mystery since I finally said “enough”, and shut the door on us.

I needed to do that, by the way. I’ve wrestled with it time and again, the way that I cut you out of my life with an app that would block your messages. We’d had that last horrific night, where we slept in separate rooms. Or more accurately, where we occupied separate rooms, both wide awake and fighting the inevitable that would come with the sun. Around 5:00am, a friend of mine responded to my texts, the ones I’d sent between choking sobs the night before to tell her that I was still there, still stuck in your apartment, and stuck in your grasp. She told me to get my things, and walk away. I tried. My hands were shaking, but I slipped my shoes on and closed the door behind me, trying to make it quick.

I got about halfway to the elevator before you followed me out, asking if I was just going to walk away like that. And there we were—tears in your eyes, and streaming down my face. I shrugged, and followed you down the hall, back through the door. And until noon, we gave it the old college try. We tried to put a happy face on goodbye. You were going to drive east to be with your kids for the summer. I was going to get on with my life. And it was for the best, you kept saying. Somewhere on some intellectual level I knew you were right. You were too old, I was too young. You were sad and lonely and missing your babies. Me, I wanted to have babies someday, and you were not interested in becoming a father again. You told me I’d find some amazing guy, and it would become clear to me that we were never meant to be. My brain agreed, but my heart was broken. You were my first love. Did you know that?

You told me that morning that you’d always be grateful for the time we spent together. That of all of the acquaintances and friends you met on the west coast, I was the only one who knew you, and soon enough, the only one who’d know you were here.  We decided we’d remain friends.

After three days or so of being friends, I realized what you’d always said was absolutely true. We were like gasoline and a match. I’m not sure who was who in that scenario, but it was perfectly accurate. We couldn’t just be friends. Not then, anyway. And every text or call that passed between us, as well as my first visit to a counselor confirmed it: I had to make a run for it. I had to break away, or I just wouldn’t survive it. Loving you was this gaping wound, and there was no keeping that wound clean long enough to heal unless I just let you go. So once again with shaking hands, I sent that last text telling you that I needed my space. You replied with an, “ok kid- I understand”, or some equally gracious response and that was that.

Looking back now, and only now, do I realize the impact that choice must have had on you. I was your best friend, your confidante, your person, and I shut you out. Please understand that I don’t beat myself up over this, or hold myself responsible for the pain you felt. But I am sorry you had to feel it.  I understand fully, as I know you did then, that it was absolutely what I needed to do. That I was too caught up in you to see my next steps clearly, if I could see them at all. I don’t feel guilty, but I am sorry. I’m sorry that no one else was there when I couldn’t be.

As much as I (still) hate to admit it, it turned out you were right. You were right a lot. I guess with your advanced age came wisdom. I’m not going to put a smiley face here, but I think you’d sense my inherent wit here. Once you were not an option, healing came in like a hurricane. It was as though God said, “FINALLY!” and poured blessings all over me, like He just couldn’t wait another day to get my life moving again. The right friends, the right job, the right experiences—they all just showed up. And then, one day in late September, the right guy showed up too. And it was just like you said. There were no fireworks, no flashing neon to alert me, but I knew. My searching was done. Driving home from my first date with Ryan, I pulled over and prayed. I thanked God for putting him in my life, even if I never saw him again. But all along, I knew. He’s everything you told me he’d be. He’s my best friend, and my partner. We share everything good that I had with you, but, well, better. He dreams with me. He fights with me and for me. You were my first love, KAG, for certain. But he…he’s love I never even thought to ask for. Just like you said he’d be.

We got married on March 16, 2013. You weren’t there like you said you’d be the day I saw you last. Which come on, what a cheesy thing to say—we both knew you’d never be at my wedding. Holy shit, how awkward would that have been?  Anyway, we had a gorgeous wedding. I’ve never felt more love in a room. We’re navigating marriage, and after a trip to Europe in the fall, I’ll be looking to have those babies I want so badly. He’s going to be an amazing dad.

To be honest, because I learned early on to always be honest with you, this is not the letter I intended to write. But my mind has been filling with all of the things I never got to say to you. So I wanted to, you know, get you caught up.

Now that you’re caught up, back to Robin Williams. He’s dead. Killed himself. You should just SEE Facebook these days. Everyone’s just heartbroken about it. I’m a little heartbroken about it too. It made me sad that someone who brought such joy to so many could feel such pain.

And then I thought of you. I thought of how sad you’d get when you’d come back from visiting your kids. I thought about the hurt and bitterness you felt toward your wife, your parents. I thought about your medicine cabinet and all the ways you tried to kill the pain. I realized I never knew the extent of it. With those thoughts came the same curiosity I’ve felt about you for years—wondering how you are, what you’re doing, if you got a new job. The same curiosity came, but with a twinge of dread. So I typed the keywords: Your name and “obituary”.

Oh, sweetheart.

(Well, crap. You know, I thought by this point in the letter I’d know what to say here)

All that digging for information answered one question, and prompted a million more.

I won’t ask them.  You can’t answer them.  Even alone with my own feelings, I can’t quite bring myself to be angry with you. I always thought that if someone I loved took their own life, I’d be blind with rage. But I’m not. I’m also, unfortunately, not terribly surprised.  So, great—I know what I don’t feel. What I do feel is another animal altogether.

How do you mourn someone you thought you’ve already mourned? I grieved the loss of YOU in my life years ago. I felt every stab of loneliness, the MISSING that comes with losing someone significant. But while I didn’t have you anymore, I had the hope that somewhere you were happy, and you were safe. I used to think we’d run into each other at an airport someday. Why an airport? I don’t know, don’t ask questions. We were going to run into each other in an airport. You’d be with your lovely and age-appropriate second wife, and I’d be with Ryan, perhaps adorably pregnant or maybe with a cute little toddler in tow. We’d hug, share some quick catch-up small talk, make the necessary introductions, etc. And then we’d share a glance, just the two of us. Everything we wouldn’t say in front of our spouses would pass silently between us: “We had something great…I’m so glad you found something better for you. I am so happy you’re happy.” We’d share that glance and a smile knowing that even though we’d moved on, those memories and that sweetness still existed somewhere in time and still belonged to us.

THAT is what I’m mourning now. I’m grieving the comfort of believing you could be out there and thriving. I’m staring down reality in the form of a brief, graphic news article telling me how your story really ended.

And I’m sad. There! A feeling! SAD. I’m so sad for you, my old friend. I can’t believe you were alone. I can’t imagine what was going through your head, other than darkness I can’t fathom. I can’t believe you pulled the trigger, though once you’d set your mind to something, that was usually that.  I can’t believe you were found by a stranger, and mourned by so few.  It is so spectacularly unfair that I just had no clue. You were this force to me—you showed up out of goddamn nowhere. You shook my hand, and shook my life. But when you took your leave from this world, it just kept on turning. You MATTERED to me, SO MUCH. I’m so sad and so sorry. I’m sorry that my world didn’t stop turning for you, even for just a moment. I’m sorry I didn’t get to go to your funeral, if there was one.

I could go on for hours, but more than anything, I’m sad and sorry that you will never get to meet my babies and my husband in the airport. That you’ll never get the second chance at happiness I always wished for you. But if you don’t mind, I think I’d like to keep hoping for that. I don’t know if you’re in Heaven. I don’t know if you’re free.

But I hope so. Because beyond all the sad and sorry, I need you to know that I am thankful. I’m thankful that you pursued me and you loved me better than anyone before you. I learned what being lovers AND friends could look like. God, you made me laugh. You just…got me, and I hadn’t yet met a soul who read me like you did. You knew enough to know that you weren’t it for me, and you pointed me in the right direction. For all of your dark, you shared your light with me.

I am thankful, to say the least.

So since you ditched me here, I’m going to keep going.  I will, God willing, get older. Older than you will ever get to be. And I’ll see the world, love my husband with all I have, and rock my babies to sleep. I pray I’ll die a wrinkled old woman, with a lifetime of memories and unshakeable faith to carry me to the other side. And even then, I’ll be grateful for you.

Anyway, sorry about all the rambling, though it wouldn’t surprise you much. It’s just that you are woven into my heart, into the stories I tell. I needed you to know that. You have not been forgotten.  I will always love you. I will always know you were here.

So Goodbye, You.

All my love,

JDP (formerly JDR)

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Date Night

Last Sunday, after fighting naps with vigor all day, Sadie finally crashed at around 4:00pm. Fully expecting her to wake up in thirty minutes or less, Ryan and I turned to Netflix for an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  When it ended and she was still asleep, we figured…another?

Finally, at around 5:45pm, as our viewing was turning into a full-on binge, we ventured downstairs to make our dinner. Once in the kitchen, we turned on our actual favorite show –better known as “Our Daughter in the Video Monitor.” We cooked together, and then ate together, all while our princess slept. For a few minutes there, it was reminiscent of the “old” days. You know, when it was just the two of us.

At one point, we looked at each other and marveled out loud, “We have a CHILD. We are PARENTS.” It’s not that we’d forgotten about our daughter in the two hours she’d been asleep, or lost all awareness of her existence. Make no mistake; we’re crazy over that girl. But in that moment it finally clicked for us that we aren’t just us anymore. Cooking and eating dinner uninterrupted is now the exception, not the norm. Binge-watching away rainy Sunday afternoons is not really an option for us these days, as one or both of us is consumed with the feeding, snuggling, entertaining, and lulling to sleep of our tiny person.

I wouldn’t trade our new life as a family, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that I don’t sometimes miss when it was just us. I feel horribly guilty to even feel that way, let alone admit it out loud. Sadie is the greatest gift I’ve ever received, and I am grateful for her every minute of every day. But somewhere in the crazy mess of lactation consultants and pediatricians, pumping and feeding, onesies and diapers that have made up Sadie’s first weeks of life (all happening at every single hour of the day, mind you) that “us” Ryan and I used to know faded. Instead of asking him how his day was, I tell him all about hers (he listens with enthusiasm, every time). Questions about weekend plans have given way to a nightly discussion of diaper contents and, “Feel her forehead! Does it feel warm to you? It feels a little warm to me!”

When we do manage to begin a conversation that does not directly involve our daughter, I rarely finish a sentence. I could attribute this to baby-related interruptions, such as acknowledging a sneeze with a “Bless you!” or removing Sadie from her swing when she squawks her disapproval at being left in there too long (“For God’s sake, woman, HOLD ME!”) But the fact is I’m no longer a reliable transmitter of thoughts from my brain to my mouth. There’s a disconnect somewhere along the way that prevents me from getting my message across in less than three tries.

We stopped being Jessica and Ryan and became Mommy and Daddy. Promotions, if you ask me, but there is a part of me that misses being his “Hon” and him being my “Babe”.

In what seemed the nick of time, my mom offered (or rather, insisted) to watch Sadie on Friday night so we could have some time to ourselves. Evenings are not Sadie’s strong suit, so I was already wringing my hands by the time my mom arrived.  And in a stroke of extra bad luck, something startled or scared our sweet girl into a complete fit of hysterics before we even left the house. I’d never heard such sounds coming from her little body. Being Mommy and therefore Magic, I knew I could swoop in and save the day, but I also knew I needed to step aside, knowing she was in the best of hands. Mom and Ryan had her calm again by the time we left, but I teared up as I buckled my seatbelt in the garage. The idea of my baby being that distraught for hours on end was too much to bear. But dammit, we were going on our date. So I asked Ryan to say a quick little prayer for Sadie. He obliged, both of us aware that the prayer was not so much for Sadie but her neurotic mother.

And then we were off! I had texted my mom before we even found a place to park, and again before I finished placing my drink order.

(It should be noted here that I lightened up quite a bit after said drink arrived.)

Once mom confirmed that all was well and Sadie wasn’t on the phone booking her first session with a therapist, I relaxed a bit. We ordered our food, and we talked. When the plates landed on the table, I had to restrain myself from frantically shoveling my meal into my mouth for fear that I might not get to finish it. As we ate slowly and chewed completely, we talked some more. By some miracle of climate change it was warm enough for us to sit on the restaurant’s patio, and as dusk turned to darkness, we felt like us again.

We didn’t stay out long…we picked up a pint of ice cream at the grocery store for dessert and headed home. Our girl greeted each of us with a smile, clearly nonplussed that we’d abandoned her for two hours. Dodged the therapy bill bullet this time!

We got to be Ryan and Jessica again. I know someday not far off, we’ll be more accustomed to our new roles, and being parents won’t seem like such a foreign concept. Instead it will just be a part of who we are—the most important part, really. For now, we are still figuring out how to be Mommy and Daddy…time for “us” will just make us a little better at it.

On Blogging.

Back in my college days, I kept a blog similar to this one. Except I updated it darn near daily, and its content was less “Oh, look at the cute baby!” and more, “Ugh, that douche bag I was ‘dating’ cheated on me and I’m really surprised.” Like, on loop. But in between all of the posts detailing my Groundhog Day of a dating life, I would occasionally write about things I did…weekend recaps and the like. And although 90% of its content is pertaining to men and drunken misadventures, I like to look back on the remaining 10% as it details the things I did that were somewhat noteworthy. Examples include graduating college, skydiving, and bungee jumping. I wrote about my travels—the year 2008 alone brought trips to Las Vegas, Norway, Mexico, Korea, and Thailand. 2008 was so momentous, in fact, that my best college friend and I have it tattooed on our bodies in Roman numerals.

10 points if you can guess during which trip that particular body art was acquired.

Anywhoo, the point is, I had a ton of adventures and got to experience some amazing places and things, and did a fairly decent job of documenting it all. I got to thinking today about why I stopped writing about the goings-on in my life, and it occurred to me that in my blogging heyday (actually, blogging’s heyday, period) from about 2004-2009, I never worked full time. And, as evidenced above, was never involved in the kind of serious relationship that takes up a significant portion of one’s time.  I look back on those old blog entries often, and have found that not only are they more frequent, but they’re better written (written better? SEE!) than anything I’ve posted as of late.

Apparently all that extra time made a significant difference. Case in point: I had to pause typing this to try to put Sadie back to sleep after her twenty minute nap. That was three hours ago.

But the thing is, in the past five years or so, it’s not like my life has stopped being awesome. Sure, there is significantly less vodka involved, but the adventures remain—and now I have a husband and daughter to share them with. In those five years, I’ve gone from seeing writing as a fun hobby to share and record my experiences, to a potential career path. It’s hard to type that “out loud” without cringing a little, as I’m well aware that there are thousands, possibly millions, of writers out there who are more skilled and engaging. Hell, I’m Facebook friends with a couple of them! Approaching blogging from a place of “This post BETTER be good” seems to have backfired on me, just a bit. I’ve lost a whole lot of the raw and honest messiness that used to characterize my writing. More importantly, I’ve lost the means to record the brilliance that is waking up every day and living this life.

So all that to say, I’m hoping to do a better job of writing to remember, not writing to impress. Life’s too short not to take some notes every so often, you know? When Ryan read my last post, the letter to Sadie, he put down his phone and prayed out loud to remember. When we are older and grayer and with any luck, wiser, we both desperately want the ability to recall this life we’re living together. I want to start now, to make sure nothing is missed, forgotten…lost. So I’m doing my part here to keep our memories safe.

But that will have to be all for today, October 9, 2015. There’s a baby waking up down the hall, and I’m needed for snuggles.

(I want to remember that, too.)

Dear Sadie: 2 Months

Dear Sadie,

Oh, my girl. As I type this, you are two months and four days old. It is early evening, a time when you are not a fan of being put down. So I’m wearing you in the Ergo carrier, and as of today, you no longer require the infant insert that goes with it. You’re also wearing 3-month clothing, and for the first time, don’t appear to be swimming in it.

In other words, my darling, time is moving way too quickly.

In the past few days, I’ve recognized how much you’ve grown, and am so grateful.  Grateful for your life, that you arrived safely and are a healthy, growing, THRIVING little one.  I want nothing more in this world than for you to keep doing just that—growing and thriving, every single day. Really, baby. Full speed ahead, and don’t you look back.

But I will. Earlier this week I was cleaning out your diaper bag, and wedged way down into one of the pockets, along with a crumpled-up Lara bar wrapper, was a newborn-sized diaper. My heart skipped a beat at how completely miniature it looked, especially compared to the size 1 Pampers you’re rocking these days. It appeared to be made for a doll (wasn’t it, though?) but my fingers so clearly recalled fastening those yellow tabs around your precious belly with so much room to spare that they overlapped in front. I thought about tossing it- it was only one, and not worth giving away. But I just couldn’t. It’s still sitting on a shelf in your closet, because you will never be that tiny again.

Sadie-girl, I’ll confess it now:  There are moments when I wish you were bigger. When I long for a time when you will sleep through the night in your own room, when your daddy and I can eat dinner together without passing you back and forth in an attempt to keep you from fussing. Sometimes, when I’m exhausted and lonely (because cute as you are, you aren’t much of a conversationalist yet) on a Wednesday afternoon, I daydream about a time when you don’t need to ride in your much-loathed car seat anymore, and every solo drive I take with you won’t leave me wracked with anxiety over your red-faced, hiccupping screams.

But then I think of each morning, sometime between 2:00 and 3:00, when I can hear you start to stir in your Pack n’ Play, just feet away from our bed. When I undo your swaddle and you arch your little back and stretch your chubby legs, eyes closed and lips pursed. I think of picking you up and the way your head finds the space between my chin and my shoulder. The way that head smells as you burrow your beautiful face into my chest. And when you finally surrender to being awake, the gummy smile you give me when you look up at my face.

You light up my whole world.

And suddenly I’m not ready for you to leave my arms, let alone my bedroom. Instead of wishing away these days, I find myself working to memorize them—from the sound of your cry to the feeling of your forehead on my lips.

I guess that’s the big challenge of parenthood (as if there was only one!) You want with all of your being for your child to grow up healthy, happy, and strong. But in the same breath, you want to pause, right here, forever.

Sadie, I know it’s your job to grow. God willing (oh, please God) you will grow and live an amazing life, full of love and wonder. I know it’s my job to help you along your way, but never stand IN your way. I’m sure I will struggle on both sides of that coin, my darling.

We’re on this road together, baby…you, me, Daddy, and the MANY people who love you. We will hold your hand as long as you permit it. And when you’re all grown up and ready, we’ll let go. But tonight, as your whole hand wraps around my thumb, may I make one request, little girl?

Take your time. I promise I’ll let you.

Love You Forever,

Mommy