On Starting Over

September 15, 2018

“I was old enough, and I'd messed up enough already, that I just said ..

Photo Credit – Instagram – @markseliger

‘You know, I realize this is a lucky break.  I was unlikely to get another .. and so I made very careful choices in that environment.  Was very determined not to f<> up again'”   ~ Anthony Bourdain

— —

It began in May, with a phone call

All the late nights, the wonderful people I'd worked with along the way, the nearly twenty-year career.  I listen as if eavesdropping on the conversation of someone else, thinking, of course, it couldn't be me who was losing their job.

I was wrong

I fumble through, offer my home address where further instruction was to be sent.  The puppies sit nearby .. wide-eyed as I hang up the phone, put my head in my hands, and begin to cry.

It is not yet 5 pm

I summon all of my courage, call my husband and apologize profusely for what, I'm not sure.  He assures me it's not the end of the world.  People are laid off every day.  We'll be fine.  You'll be fine.  I corral the dogs into the car and go for a drive, stopping at the grocery for avocados, bananas, bread.

A splurge on kombucha for a treat

Back home, I fuss with their leashes and hit the button to open the back door.  The distinct sound of a dense plastic bag rolling, overturning, glass and kombucha exploding onto the driveway below

“What's with today?”  my neighbor asks from across the street

— —

Two weeks later it was my marriage

The look in his eyes as he told me to “Get Out”  The disbelief as he points to the door.  The panic that sets in as I realize that without a job I don't have many options.  The profound anxiety that comes when your home, your refuge, is taken away from you

The sadness and disappointment of not having someone to lean on .. at a time when I needed him most

“But don't you understand?  Life is full of lots of beautiful moments and lots of not-so-beautiful moments,” I say to myself

— —

It doesn't take long before neighbors start to look the other way

A part of me understands because I'm not sure I'd know what to say to someone in my situation either.  Many fitful nights of sleep, the morning-after-feeling when you wake, remembering you're jobless, homeless, marriageless, and nearly friendless

“What's with this summer?”  I say to no one at all

Fireplace @ The Big House – 2007

My first husband and I built a house once, or rather, I should say, my father was the brains behind the entire project and kept it afloat

There was a fireplace in the living room and aside from the big bathtub, it was my favorite spot in the entire house.  I'd searched high and low for the perfect gas insert with a rounded top and a natural looking flame.  It was at least four times over budget and to this day, is one of my favorite things I've ever owned

I was put in charge of installing slate tiles on the front, which were exceptionally heavy.  Every morning I'd wake to discover most had fallen off and I'd have to start again

One of the last times I sat in front of it, was a few days before someone decided to make an offer.  It was late afternoon, maybe early evening.  A few days before Christmas.  My father was standing in the doorway, one shoulder against the frame.  We'd been keeping each other company for weeks fixing odds and ends .. but mostly saying a long goodbye to something we'd both come to love

I was tired and nervous, preoccupied with how much was left to do and how little time there seemed to be.  “This is too hard” I announced, slumping over my thighs

All I could see was my fear of leaving the place I'd called home, afraid of leaving what was familiar, afraid of the unknown, afraid of being a failure

“Well, my dear, you'd better get used to it.  Life is hard.  That's just how it is”  

I looked for the telling smile.  The twinkle in his eye. It wasn't there.  A weird, crackling silence filled the room.  He shoved off the door jamb and busied himself somewhere in the basement

My father was in his young 60s at the time.  He's always been in good health, had yet to retire, and was living in the house that he and my mother completely renovated, one board at a time.  He never once fell apart or ran away when times got tough.  He was happy, in spite of silently dragging along all of the aches and pains and piles of personal garbage that a human accumulates over many decades of living

I've learned it's best to believe him, even if I don't want to.  His words have stayed with me

I wonder at them sometimes, bat them around, tug at them like the hair tie I keep in my pocket.  I always think of him in the midst of Big Life Things: marriage, birth, death, divorce, wayward children, and now job loss.  The moments, when life feels too big to hold all by myself

The times I ask God .. “Why do I have to start over, yet again?  Will I get to be ok?  For how long?”

Photo Credit – Instagram – @corrine_t

After a couple of months, I was offered a new job and moved to an apartment on the eighteenth floor of an old, historic building in downtown Des Moines.  Outside of the year before I married my husband, I haven't lived alone

I can hardly let myself think of the puppies I had to leave behind because most apartments only allow dogs that are little.  Whose cheesy eggs does Harry steal off of their breakfast plate in the mornings?  How is the family of bunnies that Sally always checked on when we were out for our walks?  It's strange not to vacuum twice a day

My two kitties were able to come.  For the better part of a first week, Lucy was beside himself.  Meowing directly into my ear at all hours of the night.  “I know big guy, I wish we could go home too .. ”  

After a couple of weeks now, the strangeness has started to give way to something different.  It's still strange but strangely less awful.  I've made it through all of the moving boxes and started to make the space my own.  My parents came to hang curtains and tackle some IKEA put-together projects.  We celebrated with beers at a local brew-pub.  That was a good day

The apartment has huge windows that let in the most beautiful light.  I'm deathly afraid of heights and it was a number of days before I could even get close to them, but now it's a lot better.  At night, I lay in bed and look out at all of the lights until I'm able to fall asleep

Downtown Des Moines – September 15, 2018

Sometimes I wonder how long it will take to feel better.  My soul feels weary.  Still underwater.  But every day I get out of bed and do my best to create a new normal

A nap.  A bike ride.  An afternoon at the library.  Tea at a new coffee shop.  A walk around the lake.  A phone call to a friend.  Dinner at a new restaurant.  Saturday mornings at the farmers market.  Cautious steps into a new and different life, even in the smallest degree

And this, one of my grandson's favorite jokes that I framed and hung by my bed

— —

Will you remember me in a year?

Yes!

Will you remember me in a month?

Yes

Will you remember me in a week?

Yes

Knock knock

Who's there?

See?  You forgot me already!

— —

A whispered prayer that we don't

— —

ps:  Thank-you to everyone who has reached out over the past few months.  I'm humbled by and so very grateful for your kindness.  I've missed writing more than I can say.  Many days my heart was too broken to find words and the energy I did have was directed toward finding a new job

I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to repay you and/or pay it forward one day .. thank-you so very, very much

xo

 

(Featured image photo credit – Instagram – @bymariandrew)

Filed Under: Favorite Posts, Life

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39 Comments

  • Reply Isabella September 15, 2018 at 8:19 am

    I love your writing so much Ali, thank you! It feels like a nostalgic, family filled hug of real life with a kick and smile. Keep going in life. Thank you! x

  • Reply Pauline September 17, 2018 at 1:47 am

    Being made redundant I can understand,but for a partner to kick you out of the home while this was going on I do not. So sorry for your treatment by him. Stay strong because when one door closes another opens and you have already achieved so much.xxx

  • Reply Surekha September 17, 2018 at 3:32 am

    I was wondering few weeks back thicking I don’t see your feed anymore. I meant to send an email/dm but totoally got distracted. So sorry you had to go through all this. I hope you are doing fine! Sending you hugs and all the positive vibes. Stay strong. You got this
    Ps: You are gifted writer, you should start writing a book

    • Reply Ali September 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      Thank-you .. my sweet friend. xx

  • Reply Natalie September 17, 2018 at 4:31 am

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for a long time (about six years now?) My own divorce and life changed up my routine several years ago, and I stopped reading my beloved blogs. But I came here today to check up on an old friend, the one who gave me such-and-such recipes. I wondered what you were up to, and this touching post was so much more than I could have anticipated. I needed a good cry. Best of luck to you as you find a new normal. Thank you for sharing your writing.

  • Reply Kate September 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    ❤️

  • Reply The Panicked Foodie September 18, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    I promise it will get easier. I just went through a similar transition. After a fairly easy life, I had to make the decision to leave my last job to get better, which means I also lost my home. Slowly but surely, I am finding myself and getting a little bit better each day. It’s through tough transitions like these, that you will find your greatest strength. I hope things look up for you soon 🙂

  • Reply Kemi September 18, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    I know so many long for your recipes (which are fabulous), but it is your extemporaneous recipe for life–pulling from past, present and future–that brings me to The Veggies each week, hoping to feast on a sumptuous repast of emotion distilled into words. You are a gift, Ali.

  • Reply Karla September 20, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    You are one of the most eloquent writers I have ever read, and I read….a lot. Thank you for letting us deep into your personal life journey. Keep posting.

  • Reply Ana Ojha September 20, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    Hi Alison,

    Can’t believe that you had to go through all this! Sending you a hug and prayers. May God gives you all the strength to tackle with your hard circumstances. Always remember, nothing is permanent and these hard times will pass away soon. Stay brave!

    xoxo Ana

  • Reply Elizabeth O September 21, 2018 at 7:17 am

    You have been on my mind a lot and I had wondered where you were…. I am so sorry to read about the challenges and want you to know that I am here for you. Life is full of curve balls and the grace to see us through. Holding you up. Stay blessed and encouraged. <3

  • Reply Nina September 21, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Re: making your house your own. I remember after my first husband moved out I installed a towel rack in the bathroom. All by myself. Exactly where I wanted it. God, it felt good

  • Reply Garf September 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    So sorry what you had to go through. Stay strong, life will get easier soon. I agree that life is hard.

  • Reply Eileen September 22, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Oh Alison, I am so sorry you had to go through all these things! Please hang on to your faith and you’ll see things will get better soon. I am in a not so good situation right now (my mom and husband both suffering from serious illnesses at the same time). Today, I said, “I can’t believe God thinks I am that strong to handle all these! I guess he has that much confidence in me.” Sending you love and light to comfort you and angels to guide your path back to happiness.

    • Reply Ali September 23, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Oh my goodness, Eileen .. thank-you for your kind words. I’ve been following the story of your family and you guys have really been through the wringer this past year. I can’t even imagine. What I do know is they’re both incredibly lucky to have you and that God never gives us more than what he’s sure we can handle. Big hugs, my friend. xx

  • Reply Karin September 23, 2018 at 1:56 am

    THIS: “But that thing he said has stayed with me, and I wonder at it sometimes, bat it around, tug at it, like one of the hair ties in my pocket.”

    I love this. So much.

  • Reply Monidipa September 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    I live alone, I’m 25 yo. I don’t have a family. I know the pain of loneliness and now I’m afraid to make friends leave alone love, people leave and that’s the truth, which I have learned in a hard way. You are such a lovely writer. Keep writing. You will find solace in it.

  • Reply Melanie September 24, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Life is really what happens while we are busy making other plans.
    I just found your blog, this post, and so love your writing style.
    I’m currently living in the UK, (I’m Canadian) helping my daughter with her three littles, ages 9, 7 and 5 – I’m in charge of the cooking. I found you via some of your recipe posts while searching for some new ideas for this Nana to make for three huge appetite eat eating lovelies!!

  • Reply Adam September 25, 2018 at 11:53 am

    Very touching post. Honesty and authenticity like yours feels rare these days. Without commenting too much on the difficulty of your personal situation… let me just say that the way you shared it here is inspiring. Thank you and bless your heart. You are inspiring people to accept life at face value and have the courage to look for the beauty in it all.

  • Reply Melissa September 25, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Welcome back. I’ve missed you and your beautiful writing.

  • Reply Echo September 26, 2018 at 9:08 am

    You get to be happy. Happy just shifts and changes more than we were taught to expect, I think. The forms of happy grow with us and growth spurts are hard to predict after adolescence.

    Fingers crossed for your happiness, Ali. xoxo

  • Reply Mel September 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I started crying immediately after I read the Anthony Bourdain quote. Knew it was going to be one of those posts and I am here for it. You are wonderful and I wish you all the happiness in the world.

  • Reply Catherine September 28, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Oh Ali…
    Your post reminded me of my father .. I lost him 4 and a half years ago ..he would have been 67 now … I was 26 back then ..
    I realize more and more every day how hard it is for me to start my “adult life” without him by my side .. He left me when I needed him most and that just makes me ache .. Your dear dad was right … Life is hard

    Today I made your ginger apricot cookies, can’t wait to have some with a glass of milk first thing in the morning. Whenever I feel bad I find myself in the kitchen baking something delicious while reading food blogs, in particular, yours.

    Sending you hugs all the way from France!
    Cheers
    L

  • Reply Nidhi September 28, 2018 at 5:55 am

    That’s so beautiful. You truly touched my heart. Keep shining and writing

  • Reply Cia September 28, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Fabulous, are we all just making it up, trying to do the best? But some of us might be more honest about that.

    Such beautiful writing

  • Reply Hannah Swancott October 1, 2018 at 3:20 am

    Oh Alison. So beautiful. Sending you all the love.

  • Reply John Sallie October 1, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    It is my personal belief that the toughest and strongest souls choose the most difficult paths so that they might grow and learn at an accelerated pace. Be proud of yourself and always remember, you are divinity.

  • Reply Maggie October 2, 2018 at 3:21 am

    I’ve never been married, but we can all relate to trying and failing. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” <–important to recognize in the human experience

  • Reply Renata October 2, 2018 at 6:04 am

    I was missing your posts – and now I sadly know why. Sending a hug your way. And: The view from the flat is very cool – very urban style – like it a lot <3

  • Reply Helena R October 2, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    I love your writing, you’re a great storyteller. I feel you with the days when it’s hard to find words and the energy to do anything. I find that writing and sharing is almost therapeutic.

  • Reply Laura Dove October 2, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Oh I am so so sorry to read this, I have missed your posts and often wondered what was keeping you. Much love to you, welcome back to us and allow us to share in your journey xxxx

  • Reply Lexa Fish October 3, 2018 at 8:18 am

    I love your writing style and perspective. I’m 20 something, never been divorced, but I have been homeless, jobless, etc and felt so alone. But we always have our family, and you also have this great big blog family as well! You’re so strong to publish your journey, keep going!

  • Reply sabrina barbante October 3, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Setbacks can always be a great opportunity for those who never give up and who give the right importance to things: as long as we are fine, backed with the people we love, surrounded by them, we can’t truly be sad, we have all we need to start again! Happy new moment of your life!

  • Reply Kate October 4, 2018 at 1:35 am

    Thank you for the personal story and sharing your past, we all go through our troubles and hard situations, it’s important to motivate each other by showing we all have struggles and we will make it.

  • Reply Karen Monica October 4, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I am so sorry to hear what you have gone through. I hope and pray that things will be better for you. I believe that God gives his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers. Never give up, Starting again is never easy but it open doors to better opportunities and adventures.

  • Reply Dr. K. Lee Banks October 4, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Hugs and prayers to you for comfort and strength. I can’t imagine going through so much in such a short amount of time. I can somewhat relate, because when I lost my Dad 16 years ago, my ex thought it would be a great idea for me to move out of the house and go live with my Mom, so he could move back home with our two remaining teenagers at home (the oldest two had already moved out).

    It was more of a “this is what you’re going to do” statement, and I was too devastated at the time to realize he was manipulating me – again! I also had to leave my dog behind at the time. Things did get better eventually when I met the true love of my life and after a few months, he invited me AND my dog to move in with him – and we’ve now been together for 15 years and married for 12 of those years. It certainly takes time to heal, but seeking the comfort of a support network of people who genuinely love you and care about you can help you get through these raw, overwhelming times.

  • Reply David Elliott October 5, 2018 at 12:45 am

    First of all, I have to say that’s an amazing black and white photo of Des Moines. It’s peaceful in a strange sort of way and yet also could make one restless. I know you have had to go through a lot, more than one could even imagine at times. And you have had to deal with life taking you down with everything all at once. But you still have the sweetest spirit. And you are still surviving. It’s a beautiful lesson for everyone.

  • Reply Cassandra Rose October 5, 2018 at 12:48 am

    “But that thing he said has stayed with me, and I wonder at it sometimes, bat it around, tug at it, like one of the hair ties in my pocket.” This really resonated with me. I love reading your recipes and would have never guessed at all of the struggle you are going through. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been going through a rough time myself and reading your words makes me want to be more open as well.

  • Reply Elena October 5, 2018 at 2:04 am

    I have been through so much pain in my life, and to be honest I do not remember much of it, just bits and peaces. And if someone tried to say to me that everything will be better, I wouldn`t believe them…but now it is. I feel like I have so much to live for and I enjoy every single day.

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