Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ode to a marriage and to the pits in our stomachs

I've started this post, then deleted, then re-started, then paced a lot, then deleted and re-started this post a million times. I can't decide if it should be a post of epic length or if I should keep it short then run away fast.

I disappeared for a long bit, yes, and in a blogger that is usually the sign of something sad -- or of just being over the blog.

I'm of the sad sort. I could never quit you happily, blog. It just felt disingenuous to continue writing about Alaska, or about the regular ridiculousness of life, without addressing the biggest thing. Yet I wasn't quite ready to address the biggest thing until right now, wasn't sure I would do it justice with words, and wanted to make sure I could honor everyone involved before I sat down to write it.

But boom, here it is. Alex and I separated after the Alaska trip. Boooooom.

It's been nearly six months since Alex moved out. I'm not going to get into how hard our past year has been, how hard, honestly, it's been since we returned from Mexico. There was a pit in my stomach every day since then, with many reasons why. But I knew something had gone way bad, something had changed, and that my ability to live with Al, my partner of over 20 years, had been taxed to the point of no return. I won't go into details here out of respect for all of us. The details are between me and Al and shall remain that way.

Alex is my friend. I hope he always remains my friend. He moved into a loft apartment nearby, within walking distance, and he and I are sharing time with the kids, sharing life in a different way than before, yet still sharing it.

He comes over once a week for family dinner and has the kids every other weekend. We've taken trips together since our separation. Here is a very awkward family photo we took in Vancouver, BC at Christmas --

We just wanted to help Coco become King of the World
at the Titanic exhibit
but it turned out weird. 

I'm not sure if it's the right thing, seeing each other as often as we do. Maybe we're too afraid to sever our daily ties for real. It feels scary sometimes out there without our backup of 20+ years. We are meeting up again for a part of Spring Break at the tail end of another of my ambitious road trips with the kids. I cannot wait to hit the road because hot damn I need some long stretches of road right now.

I think it's OK. And I think it will change. Al and I won't always need each other this way. With time, our relationship will naturally grow more distant. Mindy and Alex have been a thing since 1998. It's hard and devastatingly sad to move on but it has to happen. Someday I will have no idea what he does with his days. And he will have no idea what I do with mine.

We were trying to look badass
but I'm not much good at that.

Alex and I knew we would separate soon during the Alaska adventure. I am so grateful we still took the trip. Al and I had some great laughs throughout. One long drive on the Kenai Peninsula stands out in particular. when we laughed so hard we had to get out of the Winnie B and run up and down alongside the road taking videos of each other being assholes. What a drive. Sometimes we would just look at each other in the middle of a beautiful place, and feel the tragedy of it, and hug for a good long time. The kids took this as regular everyday affection between parents and rolled their eyes but they had no idea it was one in a long series of goodbyes.

Al and I had a good cry together the Saturday morning we told the kids. The kids were off watching TV as we sat at the kitchen counter, grasped each others forearms and wept silently, bracing ourselves for the conversation to come. We were about to change everything for them. That was as hard a day for us as a family as we've ever had. When we finally stood up and called them to the family table, the kids were surprisingly not surprised. Lucien said later he was a little relieved to know what was going on, that he "knew it." Sometimes kids feel pits in their stomachs, too, but don't have words for it.

Our baby Coco girl in France.
Our semi-disastrous summer trip to Picardie in 2010.
Because Lucien was bleeding profusely ten minutes after arrival
and required stitches.

The kids are good. It has been many months of processing and talking, often late into the night, fielding their sad or angry feelings and hugging and saying "I'm so sorry" a lot. Lucien has a therapist now, per his request, because he was having a hard time. He's doing better now and is his usual optimistic funny self most days. He still sees the therapist. He's also still obsessed with ants, is growing his own colony with a long-saved-for queen ant and her handful of workers. Bobo is still alive though moving very, very slowly. Lucien is 13 and in seventh grade and dealing with all such issues contained therein. He is still quirky and funny and smart and awesome. Not a day goes by I don't admire and adore that warm-souled child.

The Loosh with Daddy at Versailles so, so long ago.

Coco is good, too. She's younger, and may not fully get the bigger picture of what all this means. She says "Daddy traveled and worked all the time anyway so it isn't much different he's always somewhere else." I've told her it's OK if someday if feels more sad, more different, than just the usual work travel schedule.

I've often told her the best part of my day is the very early morning when I wake her up. She's a reluctant waker, my Coco girl, and I get to kiss her soft sweet face a million times before she starts batting me off with, "Mom, STOP IT!" Coco is not a morning person, you see.

She is in the drama club now, and is passionate about the environment. She's traveling with her environment club to Olympia to give testimony before the Washington State Senate about climate change and saving our local endangered Orca pod, and raise some hell about how they'd like an Earth hospitable to their growth and well being well into the future. I am so proud of that pistol.

I am often in my kitchen. The above picture is the wall in my kitchen. I stare at it every day while doing dishes or making dinner and depending on the day I am full of sadness and/or full of joy. All of the pictures on this wall happened because Alex and I met long ago and got married and took each other on in all of our imperfect glory. It wasn't for nothing, our marriage. It was for everything.

I am relieved to have reached a friendly plateau months after the initial upheaval. Alex and I get along better now with space between us, and the kids have settled back into the rhythms of their lives and seem cheerful as usual. They tell me they're OK when I ask how they're doing, that they've gotten used to our new schedule and are happy we can still all spend time together as a family. I hope that's true. Al and I are absolutely committed to doing the best we can by them.

Sometimes there is crazy love. And then sometimes. far off in the future. for whatever reasons, that love fades and it's just over. I never thought it would happen to us and didn't want to acknowledge its presence for a long time but sometimes the pit in your stomach starts getting fidgety, trying to break out of you so it can jump up and down in front of your face and shout, "Helllooooooo? What are you even DOING?"

The pit is gone now, the one I lived with for a long time, desperate to make everything OK and keep it together and make things work. Sadness is in its place, and fear sometimes. But the pit is worse than all that, a nagging thing that constantly reminds you you're stuck in limbo and something isn't right. The body sometimes steps in and says, "Woman, this isn't working, you gotta change this shit up" until it eases and says, "Woman, it's hard as hell but you are on the right path."

The body knows even when the mind is in denial.

Alex and the baby Coco girl in Switzerland

Even knowing what I know today, I would still marry Al way back when, with full knowledge of how it all ended up. It has been such an incredible journey with this man. The best adventures, the most stepping outside of myself, the having of the most amazing of children. Even absorbing how sad I am now, I would do it again. He was my companion on the journey for a good long time even if he wasn't my companion until the very end.

I love you, Al. I'm so sad for where we ended up but thanks for it all.
Now let's raise these kids up right good

Marriage may not be forever, mes choux, but love is.

PS. Now that it's out in the open and I'm breathing regularly again, I just may be back here soon writing the rest of Alaska. And writing about my foster puppies (I'm on number four now and she's a doozy). And the beauty that continues on the regular in the raising of kids and living amongst the best community of friends a woman could hope for. It feels like the 40s have not been kind to any of us lately but we're getting by with a little help from our friends.

Plus... I'm about to hit the road again in a few days. Who loves a road trip tale on top of a road trip tale? Hopefully everybody!


  1. Mindy, I am so sad for you and Alex. (I was not stalking 🙂--your page was open from a few days ago and I just went to close it). Please know that you are all in my prayers. Susan P.

  2. Oh Mindy, I'm so sorry for you and Al. This was beautifully written, I think it's great that you took the time you needed to be able to get to the space where you could write such a loving and respectful tribute to your marriage. It's very difficult and painful to prise apart lives that were once so entangled, even when there are good reasons to do so. There will be sad days, and lots of doubt with generous sprinklings of guilt, but also lots of healing. I know you will be tackling it all with the amazing sense of spirit and humour that your family has in abundance. Much love to you all!

  3. I approve of this post. Not easy. Kudos.

    I feel compelled to offer the sage advice of my dad, who in hearing over the phone the distress behind the words I was awkwardly trying to form into a coherent sentence in the midst of a parenting crisis offered, "This too shall pass." And it did.

  4. Mindy, I've been overwhelmed with sadness since reading this beautiful, sorrowful, and genuine post in my email... Yes, I remember well the hilarity of the Alaska posts and photos from last year--and of course some of the other trips and adventures, in and out of town, from this Seattle foursome. The journey has taken a very different route now. As I'm absorbing the sadness of this news, know that my thoughts, prayer, and love are with you, Alex, and the kids. ~Tuan

  5. MJ if I was close even on your side of the country -I would be at your kitchen door right now-just to hug you-and maybe rock you back and forth a bit and even though you know it will be alright to tell you it will be I hate when people say that to me and here I am saying it to you … I am crying ….the hardest post I have ever read but with admiration and love and friendship I embrace you - I am sorry- an empathetic sorrow - thank you for summing up all it took to write this-- for the one who comes out with it how many more are sitting there in the same agony - I know the pit all to well-in the belly - and the pit of hell too but there is the other side...even if it is in the distance-I remain your faithful reader and again embrace you from the other coast-

  6. Mindy, I've come here to check on you so often and was so worried as you had hinted at something big in one of your last posts. Thanks for trusting us with your story and your life - you are a brave, beautiful mama. Your posse is still here for the journey.

  7. MJ, I'm so sorry. I wish nothing but the best for all of you. Thank you for your beautiful post. Please take care, and enjoy that road trip!

  8. MJ - I cried when I read this: for your heartbreak, and for the ending of things, and for choosing a thing even when it's the hard thing. I've been following your writing since the Paris days. Then - a decade ago - I was a 20 year old American au pair in France. In the interim, I fell in love and was with the mist incredible man for eight years. Last year, as a 29 year old, as things do, he and I fell apart. It was tragic. We used to read your posts! Because you're writing is so warm and hilarious we could both relate. We didn't have kids, but we did have a life - our life. And he's the only one who would truly understand why reading your specific words made me sob.

    I don't have any words of wisdom other than to say that in my darkest moments of panic I turned to this column. I miss him so intensely I can't breathe. I also know that pit was not to be ignored. Best of love to you.

  9. Thank you for your courage at opening your heart and telling your sad truth. So many would not, would simply disappear. You have allowed those of us who have listened to your funny,anxious,warm and/or hilarious stories over the years be privy to this, and in doing so have reminded all of us that sorrow, too, is part of the real story. If you continue to share, know we shall be listening.

  10. I tried to send this comment when you first wrote this post. Who knows what happened..
    Everyone else said it all, and more beautifully than I could. We grieve for your pain and admire your seeming strength, though inside you probably haven't always felt strong. What you're going through has to be one of the hardest things in life.
    Your posts make you feel like a friend, even those of us who have never met you except through your writing. We feel a strong bond and care about you very much.
    You and I are very different in age and experience, but I have followed you since early Paris days, and have enjoyed it all. At first it was the Paris thing because my husband and I spent 5 weeks just a couple streets over from you (Rue des Grands Augustins) and I walked past Lucien's preschool every day (recognized it in a photo). Also I am a Seattleite. When you came back to Seattle, I still enjoyed the posts about the houses and the kids growing up and your road trips, and the time in Mexico City. All have been pieces of life, different from mine, but interesting and warm and humerous. Experiences I could enjoy vicariously and learn about people.
    This is all to say that I appreciate your writing very much. You have a skill at connecting with people (whether intended or not). Thank you for sharing all of this. I wish you and your family all the best and look forward to what comes next. Laura

  11. Hey Mindy— I came here because I started to read the post you just posted today, and realized I’d missed something big. So I came to read this post. Really, I just want to wrap you up in a big hug and say, “I get it.” All of it. I’m also truly sorry as it’s such a hard thing to go through. My marriages didn’t last 20 years, and my two kids are from different dads. There are differences. But the similarity is the loss of a relationship in which both people made a commitment, and for whatever Reasons (there are always so many complicated ones), the commitment is ended. It’s sad.

    It’s not easy to co-parent in some ways, but in others it is easy because you both love the kiddos that resulted from the union. I wish you both the best with it. All I can say is that it helps to be flexible, and I know you guys are going to do a great job with it. Lots of love to you. I’m here, if you need to bounce around any divorced lady stuff. I’ve got insider tips. ;) xoxo Karin

  12. I thought I commented earlier but perhaps it was eaten. Anyway, I was concerned something like this was going on when you were silent for so long. As you describe so beautifully, this doesn't mean your marriage was a failure, just that it ran its course. I envy you the love and closeness in your family. Sending you all best wishes.

  13. I found your blog so long ago while you were living in Paris even before you had Coco! Not sure why, but randomly crossed my mind today so googled to see if you were still around doing your thing. I am sorry for the end of your marriage--but hopeful for all you and this new beginning. I'm glad you know you didn't fail. Relationships change, marriages end etc. You have 2 great kids and I am sure many good memories. I'm off to read the bits I've missed!

  14. Miss your posts like they say time heals everything.How are you guys surviving with Covid and all the recent Seattle protests?