Looking back at 1/2 of 2017

Wow! It’s the first day of December. Fun fact, a month from now I’ll be writing the same thing, only then it will the first day of a new year.

New years, elicit so many emotions ranging from icky and dread to excited and hopeful. I feel good about bringing this year to a close. I have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot of firsts to celebrate.

Thanks to momentumdash for today’s inspiration: “You got this. Make it happen,” Danielle LaPorte. I’ve accepted flying solo, and today is a good day to reflect on my progress and how many firsts I have conquered the first half of this year.

January, the best first of the month was using a snowblower! I’d shoveled snow dozens of times in my life, but January was the first time I used a snowblower. Alison gave me a green machine for Christmas, an electric snow blower that didn’t weigh a ton and did the job. But the best first was the Women’s March. Joining millions of other women across the world was the first step I took toward owning gender equality as my most important policy priority.

Women's March Chicago, photo by Karen Craven

February, the worst first was the divorce, in spite of the legal action being a second for me. We ended our marriage one day shy of our 14th wedding anniversary. I stood in physical pain and tears as we finalized the terms before the judge. It was an incredibly sad day in which words fall short. Within hours we spoke so we could come together with our daughter one last time to assure her that our love and concern for her was steadfast.

The best first of the month was the Saturday afternoon spent with mom. My mom was joining me for my first book club ever. My friend Rachel was hosting, the book was a collection of poems, Wild Iris by Louise Gluck.

The Wild Iris – Poem by Louise Gluck

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.

My mother nor I had finished reading the collection. That afternoon we read poetry aloud to one another. It was intoxicating. Short of her sharing in my daughter’s birth, that afternoon will stand as one of the best, most intimate, loveliest moments with my mom. Later that evening, she did it again, reading the poetry to a group of women, who were strangers not an hour before. I was reminded of the first time she took the pulpit and read from the Old Testament at St. Thomas More. Her grace, presence, and ability to project every nuance of those readings had me wanting to tell the whole church. “Hey, that’s my mom.” I felt the same way that night. And like many experiences this past year, I believed that book, and every poem bathed in Gluck’s own pain derived from her own divorce was meant for me to read and to listen to.

The most insane first of the month was bringing home our new family member, Ruby. It was the first time I would housebreak a puppy alone (absent a second adult). Bridget and I weighed fostering a six puppy, and instead adopted Ruby from PAWS. Ruby was a rescue from Tennessee. She and her six siblings were the cutest little bunches of love that we ever saw. Ruby warmed our hearts.

Ruby Craven, seven weeks old, by Karen Craven
Ruby Craven, eight weeks old, by Karen Craven

The second best first was the 6 a.m. Yin class at Essencia. This was hands down, one of the best decisions I ever made. I love waking up to share yoga practice with my usual suspects.

March, no lie, I was feeling batshit crazy thanks to severe sleep deprivation courtesy of a new puppy. It was a busy month of firsts though. I purchased a new washing machine, cleaned the gutters, traded in my Honda Pilot for a new car then returned it, got back my Pilot, traded it in the second time when I purchased Subaru Forester. I managed to use one garbage bag when within minutes of each other I delicately extricated a dead mouse from Chloe’s clenched jaws and then immediately did the same, only this time it was a dead bird in Ruby’s mouth.

The hardest first of the month was the night I had dinner with two of my old City New Bureau alums at Elske. It was the first time I told friends that I had divorced (outside of those I see often). The dinner was amusing, the food divine, and company so perfect, non-judgemental, and lovely. It was the first time I left Ruby for more than three hours, and one of the first times I did something social on the weekend since he left in November.

Toward the end of the month, I had the first real powerful and cleansing cry of all cries. Once I started I couldn’t stop. Everything came to a head and the weight of my new reality as the primary parent set in. I wanted someone to take care of me, and relinquish all responsibility. I called my mom in Florida and I was completely hysterical, inconsolable. I begged her to come home. This desire to be taken care of was rooted in a very raw truth: I never had that security in either marriage and the realization had me yearning for someone to just take care of me.  Within 24 hours, I got it together. And with my therapist, we continued the work: accepting my role as a mother (and sometimes the bad cop); as a single woman (divorced twice); as a business partner (who felt completely inadequate); as a sibling (the black sheep); and the constant feeling that I was a total and complete failure.

April, Friday mornings at Essencia were officially a ritual. I don’t know that I ever created a ritual before, but Jeannine, Essencia’s owner, said I made it happen, so I’m owning it! What started with me filling a carafe of coffee resulted in me finding my first community since moving to Glen Ellyn. I was wonderfully grateful. My coffee was complemented by muffins and more. Over food and coffee, our hearts were warmed, as we shared confidences and laughter. My Friday morning friendships will be constants until I die. This group of people helped me own and work through my disappointment and anger.

May, was really monopolized by my Dad’s health, and a hospitalization. It’s hard to remember much of month, but looking back on my calendar, I managed to develop two proposals, neither of which panned out to work, but I did enjoy the exercise of building out the strategy again. It was either April or May when I first attended West Side Improv, in Wheaton.

June, I felt like things were taking a turn for the better.  Two friends joined me for a special yoga practice at my aunt’s. My friendship with one started to flourish. She talked to me about her own divorce and was my support as I dove head into the world of online dating. My first date was a concert, a second a hike at a state park, a third breakfast, on the forth I ate alone when I was stood up, and then after three separate dates, I shut it down. I wasn’t ready for it after all.

That’s a lot of firsts for six months, and there’s more that I didn’t even include. And the second half of 2017 is even better. It’s fair to say that in this timeframe, I started to live in the present, which is a first in a great many years, and the most important change in my life.





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