Sierra's online journal

New love, forever love August 30, 2020

Day 19: Discuss “first love.”

“I’m having a midlife crisis.” The handful of people I’m closest with have had the distinct privilege of hearing me utter these words, usually amid heavy sobs or in a manic frenzy or while brooding about life in general. But am I really? Maybe, maybe not. There are so many days when I can do nothing but look around me and feel thankful for and proud of the life I’m fortunate enough to call mine. The life that I helped orchestrate through a series of careful choices and maybe a couple of reckless chances. And I’m in no way trying to detract from all the love and light and goodness around me. It’s there. I see it all. But despite all that, there are some days when I’ve got an acute awareness that many of life’s biggest decisions have already been made for/by me. Roots put down. Life cemented in place. More doors closed behind me than open in front of me.

This post has been about two years in the making. I’ve given it a lot of thought. Kicked the idea around in my head at all hours of the day and night. Searched for the right words that don’t make me sound ungrateful. Tried to formulate a coherent string of sentences that may help identify myself to others feeling the way I am. Unfortunately, this is as close as I’ve come. So here goes: On those really tough days, “midlife crisis” feels like the only descriptor adequate enough to define the profound feelings of…loss? Loss of youth. Loss of choices. Loss of opportunities to experience life’s big moments (and all of the feelings that are wrapped up in those experiences) just one more time.

One of those big life experiences is falling in love. And before I go on, it’s important to me to interject here and say a few things, beginning with that I am happily married. There is no doubt in my mind that I married my match and will live the rest of my life loving him. But this post isn’t about him. (If you want to read about him, you can do so here, where I gushed about him for our tenth wedding anniversary in 2018.) This post is about trying to find words to describe the differences between the love we have now versus “new love.” Because they are undeniably different.

The most succinct way I’ve ever seen the differences summed up came in a novel I read last fall, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. After reading, I jotted a quote, my biggest takeaway from the story. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me even more as time goes on. Here’s the quote:

“She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship…was the ultimate, the feeling they’d always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong. That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne. Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best–well, that sort of a love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”
excerpt from What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

There’s something to be said for new love, absolutely. For me, it starts with a spark of attraction that spreads like wildfire until a kaleidoscope of butterflies is flapping wildly in my gut. There are first dates and first kisses, tentative reaching and finding a comfortable rhythm. There’s giving and taking, yinning and yanging. There’s talking and listening and figuring each other out. An all-encompassing, breathless wanting. An I-can’t-get-enough need. My…sparkling mineral water certainly does quench a thirst, doesn’t it?

But no matter how exciting new love feels, those bubbles, that fizziness, it all eventually dissipates. Tattered, broken, unshiny parts are revealed. True colors poke through as if the harsh house lights have just flicked on after last call. And if you’re lucky, as I’ve been, you find the right tempo and the waltz truly begins. One two three, one two three. Count by count, all that feels good and right is boxed in. Fiercely protected. You lead each other through to the other side where love morphs into something more. A higher form. The French champagne.

And just as there’s much to be said about new love, so, too, is there about the kind of love we’ve got now, over twenty years after our first date. The forever kind. Love with the depth and breadth to encompass two lifetimes in one swooping arch. That kind of love is reliable, safe, comfortable, even easy after as long as he and I have been together. But when I use these terms to describe it, he turns up his nose at me, somewhat regretful that he’s no longer responsible for the butterflies and fizz. But it’s important to note that you can’t get to here, where we are, without having lived through the newness and beyond. Our love has gone through breakups and fights and more hard conversations than I can count. We’ve celebrated greatness, endured losses, faced hardships. We’ve created life and navigated parenting. We’ve supported each other in decisions that felt impossible to make, some with consequences that felt impossible to live with. And through it all, we’re still each others’ number one. And there’s no world in which I’d ever dare to replace or dispose of that. Ever.

Instead, I’ll close this with the valediction that he and I end every email, card, or letter to each other with. A phrase ripped from love letters between my paternal grandparents and inscribed on our wedding bands.

Always and all ways.


30-Day Writing Challenge


30! August 8, 2020

Filed under: Daily Writing Prompt — sierrak83 @ 2:05 pm
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Day 18: Share 30 facts about yourself

The task seemed easy enough at first glance. But then I numbered thirty lines and am now staring at a blank screen, unsure what’s interesting enough about me to be deemed a fact worthy of sharing. Maybe they’re not all going to be winners. Maybe some of them will be boring or surprising or downright weird. But here goes. All thirty of them.

1) I. Love. Music. No, I can’t sing. Nope, I’ve never played an instrument. I know nothing about the technical aspects behind making it or arranging it or even describing it. I just know what I like. And I like to know what others like, too.

2) I’m fairly quick to admit (and apologize) when I’m wrong and find it infuriating when others don’t show me the same kindness.

3) I have tried and tried but cannot whistle.

4) There’s not much that I regret in life, as I’m a big believer in that everything happens for a reason and all experiences shape who we are. The one exception to my “no regrets” is that I didn’t have my dad walk me down the aisle.

5) Someday, I will publish a novel. (If it’s on this list, it’s a fact. And if it’s a fact, it’s got to happen. That’s how that works, right?)

6) Disorganization adds to my anxiety.

7) I used to love driving. Now, I’m much happier as the passenger.

8) I moved out of my parents house (and moved in with my sister) one week after junior prom night. I didn’t move back home for about a year. That time “on my own, with training wheels” was a formative time in my life and I’d not change it for anything.

9) Technically, I graduated high school in the top ten of my class. But in actuality, I was failing math and should’ve been held back. I’m forever grateful for the sympathy C that Mr. Austin gifted me in calculus so I could walk with my class.

10) I loathe being the center of attention. This becomes more true as the years pass.

11) I miss being a student. I don’t think I’d necessarily want to pursue another degree, though who knows? But I hope to someday be in a classroom again.

12) Here’s a list of things that I don’t consider at all when choosing who to surround myself with in life: race, gender identity, sexual preference, political affiliation, religious beliefs, ethnicity, level of education, economic standing…. In fact, it’s easier if I list the thing (singular) that DOES matter. Are you an asshole? Then I don’t like you. Literally everyone else is welcome in my life.

13) I stumble through parenting with this illogical, irrational fear that everything I say or do is somehow damaging my daughter’s psyche.

14) My mom, with whom I was extremely close, passed in 2006 at the age of 48. I was 22 at the time and feel like I was robbed of having an adult friendship with the greatest woman I’ll ever know.

15) I’ve got six years each of French and Spanish under my belt but don’t feel confident enough to speak either. However, I sometimes use one or the other to narrate in my head, just to test myself on how much I remember.

16) During pregnancy, I developed a taste for mint and mustard. (No, not at the same time. I just mean they’re two flavors I didn’t like before.) During the same time, I developed an aversion to most tomato sauces.

17) I feel physically the best when following a keto diet, but man, do I love carbs!

18) I fear stagnancy and change equally. Life is a balancing act and I don’t always have it just right. But I’m working on it.

19) I don’t have a favorite color. Most people don’t like to accept that response so when pressed, I’ll sometimes pick randomly.

20) While I’m a generally happy person in the mornings, I consider myself a night owl.

21) I used to buy nonfiction books with good intentions but rarely actually read them. (This includes The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, which I’m pretty sure makes me a bad feminist.) I’m still, holding out hope that I’ll read Becoming someday.

22) I am ruthless in Scrabble. It took me many years of practice with my mom before I finally won. And since then, I’m pretty much undefeated. Except for that one time when my husband played “djinni” and I challenged. (I’m still not convinced it’s a real word… He cheated!)

23) My first love passed away almost three years ago now. And though we’d not been together since we were practically babies, his loss still hurts me to this day.

24) I’ve always known I have trypophobia. I just didn’t know there was a word for it until I was in my 30s.

25) Trashy reality TV is my guilty pleasure. Love Island, Big Brother, 90 Day Fiance….gimme all of it!

26) My eyes are blue, despite the fact that my husband will try to convince you that they’re grey.

27) I’ve not eaten meat (including seafood and poultry) since I was about 12 years old. But I wish I could bring myself to enjoy chicken.

28) My top five favorite scents are, in no particular order: that moment when the rain first starts on a hot summer afternoon, warm fresh-from-the-dryer laundry, patchouli, anything citrus, and bleach. I said what I said.

29) I prefer my showers at night and hot enough to melt the skin off of me. Even during the summer.

30) My favorite day of the week is Thursday because sometimes the anticipation of Friday is better than the Friday.


30-Day Writing Challenge


Star Sign August 4, 2020

Disclaimer: I stalled on my 30-day writing challenge because the next assignment is to write about my star sign. And I don’t buy into all that so writing a non-fiction piece about my horoscope seemed like an insurmountable task. Which led me to the decision to mingle some fiction into my blog. So, I present to you a short scene from my someday-book. Who knows? It may be the first of more-to-come fiction pieces here. 


Ben – February 2000 – Spring semester, sophomore year

“Is this seat taken?” I asked, a calculated choice. I’d seen her around before. And by “around” I mean here, at the coffee shop. A bit mousy by most peoples’ standards, in appearance and in mannerism, she was not suited to be a barista. Not bubbly enough. Not outspoken enough. Maybe not pretty enough, to some. Instead, she seems to have been hired on to do the background tasks. Mopping the floors. Picking up errant straw wrappers. Refilling the plastic bins of wooden stirrers and cardboard coozies and multi-colored paper packets of sweeteners. Sanitizing tables when patrons had finally folded up their newspapers or paperbacks or notebooks of lecture notes and left. The jobs that nobody thinks of until they’re not done, suddenly a blaring problem in their not doneness. But to me? She’s never been a background player since the first time I saw her.

She glanced up from her laptop, eyebrows raised as if they were solely responsible for her ability to see over the top of her square frames. I pretended not to notice when she cut her eyes to the empty tables on either side of her. I didn’t want those tables. I wanted her. I had played out this scenario in my mind countless times over the past few months and not once had I considered that she may rebuff. Until now, that is, as I hovered, clutching my textbook to my chest and waiting for her to say something. Anything. But she didn’t. Instead, she pushed her glasses up with one finger placed on their bridge and pushed the chair across from her out with her foot, a silent acceptance of my presence.

Lowering myself onto the pine, I observed quietly as she focused her attention back to the screen before her, its bright reflection gleaming in the surface of her glasses. Her hair, the color of burlap and usually pulled into some semblance of bun at the nape of her neck, fell to her shoulders today. I never noticed its wave before. Or the way she gnaws on her lower lip when she reads. Two tiny slashes appeared above her eyebrows, dimples that screamed, “Hush! I’m trying to concentrate.” But I ignored them by talking anyway. “Day off today?” I asked, grasping at anything to strike up a conversation. I had anticipated a much warmer welcome. When she didn’t respond, I repeated myself, a bit louder, which finally got her attention. “Hmm?” she asked, chin raised. “Oh, I was just asking if you had the day off today.” She shook her head and returned her gaze to her screen as she mumbled, “No, I tend not to wear my uniform on days off. Just getting some homework done before I have to clock in.”

Uniform, right. Idiot. “Ah, so the Common Grounds polo shirt isn’t what you wear normally? Outside of work, I mean,” I grinned. She shrugged one shoulder and without looking up from her screen again, replied, “The shirt, yeah. Just not the nametag.” I stretched my spine taller to peer over her laptop to read that aforementioned nametag, pretending like I hadn’t already read it a thousand times before. “Ana,” I pronounced, then asked, “Or is it Ana?” changing the leading sound to a softer A that sounded more like a yawn.

“That’s you,” she said impatiently, glancing up from her screen finally. “I’m sorry?” I asked, leaning forward as though being closer to her would somehow help me understand her better. She motioned over my shoulder to the counter where, when I turned to look, I saw the barista holding a large paper cup and repeating, “Ben?” I turned back to face her, Ana (yawn) or Ana, and took a moment to flash her a cool smile before scrambling up to collect my coffee. On my way back, my toe hit the chair leg and made the seat clatter against the table loudly. She chuckled softly and shook her head but didn’t avert her eyes from her work. “Am I bombing at this? I don’t usually bomb at this,” I laughed good naturedly as I sat myself down again, cradling the cup between my hands, thankful for its warmth.

“It’s neither. It’s Analisa but the manager said that wouldn’t fit on the nametag,” she replied, sidestepping my embarrassing question by reverting to the question before it. (Like a yawn, by the way.) I took the lid off my cup, letting the steam escape, and blew on the surface of the caramel colored liquid. “Well, Ana works, doesn’t it?” I asked, sipping more cautiously than I was speaking. She shook her head, glancing at me briefly to say, “My friends call me Lise. But nobody asked me before printing the nametag.” Setting my cup down on top of my textbook, I pressed on. “That’s shit, isn’t it? Why not say something? Ask them to make you a new one, Lise.” Without skipping a beat or looking up again, she sniped, “You and I are not friends, Ben.” It caught me off-guard. How do I respond to that? “Right. So, please, call me Benjamin,” I smiled back at her.

She reached one hand up, its fingers slender as bone, pale pink polish chipped almost completely off, to close her laptop. Success! I thought. “Well, Benjamin,” she said, emphasizing the last two syllables of my name. “If by ‘this’ you mean interrupting a study session before a girl’s got to go to work, then no. You are very much not bombing at this. You do this often?” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair, waiting. It was unnerving. Her watchfulness. Her coldness. None of it was expected. I stared back at her, letting myself break into a wary smile only after she relaxed and set to fastening her hair back with the elastic that had been lying in wait around her wrist. “Look, Analisa,” I began, pausing for a sip of coffee. “I’ve bided my time pretty patiently. So, I’m sorry if you feel I’m interrupting something here. But I didn’t want to let another day slip away without saying hello.” She finished pulling her hair into its signature bun and leaned forward on her elbows. I’ve got her now, I thought, invigorated by what her change in body language conveyed. “Let me take you to dinner Saturday,” I blurted.

“Tomorrow? No can do, Benny boy,” she shrugged. “It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ve already committed to dinner with my parents.”

“Happy birthday,” I acquiesced before adding, “That explains so much.” She gazed at me somewhat quizzically until I said, “You’re a Pisces.” Her demeanor changed then. She tapped a finger on my textbook and taunted, “Tell me. What’s a boy who carts around a book called The Fundamentals of Political Science know about astrology?” I replaced the lid on my coffee and sipped it through the spout. “Well, Pisces tend to be a little closed-off, preferring to be alone. So, this cat-and-mouse game really couldn’t have been avoided, could it? It’s in your DNA to be cautious,” I asserted.

She scoffed, “I’m closed-off just because I’m busy tomorrow?”

I locked eyes with her, flirting with nothing more than a glance and a smile. “But Pisces are also an empathetic and generous people so really it’s only a matter of time before you appreciate that I’ve put myself out there and give in to letting me take you out.” Her smirk was the only indicator I needed to seal the deal with one final blow. “I’ve also heard that Pisces are mind-blowing lovers. And I intend to find out.” She chuckled softly then, shaking her head with derision. “What about Sunday?” I asked.

“I’ve got plans on Sunday,” she beamed back.

“Yeah? What have you got going on then?” I asked.

Something changed in her face just then and I was almost ready to concede to not having been able to crack her open. But then she went and did it. She lowered her chin and her voice by an octave to said, “I’m working until 5pm and then having dinner with Ben.”

I nodded once, rising from the table and picking up my coffee and my book. “I’ll pick you up here at 5:00, then, Lise.” And I turned to the door before she could change her mind.


30-Day Writing Challenge