On loss, depression, and the reigning terror of a tiny four-legged creature

Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

I find it difficult to pick my top pet peeves as I have so many of them, spread across categories ranging from the serious to the mundane. For example, I hate watching people eat corn — does it always have to look like the eater is ferociously attacking a poor, golden stalk of a vegetable? I cringe when I hear people order in a restaurant by asking, “Can I get the salmon?” Sure, you can get it, but can you ask nicely?

These examples pale compared to what I feel when I hear people carelessly use language that define real…

A middle-school perspective

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

I met some of my oldest and dearest friends in middle school, when the four elementary schools that educated my town’s youth merged into one modern, unwelcoming monolithic structure. The school I had attended up until that point was in an old, rambling brick building, with hidden nooks and colorful gardens and a basement we believed to house a dungeon from ancient times. This new building was hard and angular, sprawling over a slab of concrete with a few sad, forlorn trees. …

Reflections on Identity

Reframing the trauma of divorce

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Here’s the dirty little secret about being divorced in mid-life: it’s fantastic. Once you endure the trauma of your marriage’s demise — and I don’t use the word trauma lightly — you have an opportunity for reinvention. I suppose it’s possible that you can reinvent yourself within your marriage; since my marriage got cut off before my fiftieth trip around the sun, I don’t want to pretend I’m the authority on it. …

Reflections on Identity

When the quiet finally comes, the grieving begins

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Having quiet time to myself is a rare luxury, with kids coming and going at all hours of the day and night, houseguests dropping in for a night or two, my mother staying in my daughter’s bedroom so she is not alone to grieve the death of her husband of 45 years. I am a social creature but also one who requires daily doses of alone time, a delicate balancing act that if not done correctly leaves me itchy when I am with people or feeling isolated when I am alone.

The arrival of the pandemic eradicated the carefully constructed…

And other things that unhinge me as I wait in line

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I am tired of listening to complicated orders when I am on line at the coffee bar or bakery. I’m a simple girl with simple needs: large coffee with whole milk. All I ask is that hot coffee be hot and iced coffee be icy. I’m not an artisanal coffee snob, but I also don’t like the stale, watery coffee poured from a deli’s percolator or a sidewalk coffee cart.

This past Sunday morning, I waited in line at a new coffee bar near the beach at the Jersey Shore, where I was spending the weekend. It is owned by…

Reflections on Identity

On how divorce brought me the wholeness I had expected from marriage

Photo by Mariano Rivas on Unsplash

By midlife, many of us arrive at the realization that the notion of happily ever after exists only in fairy tales. Note my use of the word notion, as we are never actually shown evidence of the happily ever after; we are privy to the magical kiss or grand wedding that signals the start of this eternal happiness and are then abruptly cut off from the story. We probably also realize how flawed it is to desire the classic fairy tale trajectory in the first place. Have you ever read a fairy tale that is not fueled by violence, misogyny…

Reflections on Identity

How a simple gesture reminded me of what I had wanted

Xavier Mouton Photographie

On the beach today, I watched a little boy toddle back to his father, holding his mother’s hand. His face was mottled with artificially bright colors, courtesy of an ice pop that likely started dripping the moment it was released from its cartoon-festooned wrapper. The father instinctively reached for a bottle of water, and I heard the mom casually instruct, “make sure you get his neck too, some of it dripped down there.”

I held my book on my lap, watching them intently. All I had wanted was this day: the healing heat of the sun, the soothing lapping of…

Reflections on Identity

How I Stayed Myself Despite It All

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

For many years, my life was consistent and predictable, and I liked it that way. There were the usual ups and downs: the deaths of my in-laws, broken bones and illnesses and surgeries, renovations and moves. But in my corner I had my husband and our three kids and my parents; my identity was intact. I was a mother and a wife, a daughter and a sister. I knew the names of the ships on which my ancestors had traveled when they set sail from Russia and Belarus, stopping for a government-issued name change at Ellis Island and continuing to…

Reflections on Identity

An homage to ginger ale, my comfort beverage of choice

Six weeks shy of my fifth birthday, my mother arrived home in the dead of night and accidentally woke me up when she popped open the metal frame of the trundle bed so that she could sleep on it. She was bunking with me, having given my grandparents the master bedroom while they stayed with us for a few days. She murmured an apology and whispered for me to go back to sleep, but I heard strange animal sounds, like a mewling cat, coming from the other room. …

Reflections on Identity

Divorce, Death, Moving, and Career Change

A lone ship in a vast ocean, photographed on vacation in the “before” times

My daughter spent the days following her grandfather’s death making a video montage. It was moving and beautiful, an epic poem of his life from his childhood in Brooklyn to his years in the Peace Corps in Iran to his five children and eleven grandchildren spread over two marriages, the longest one being to my mother for 45 years.

My daughter chose a song to play over the video by the band Train, the first lines rising above the black and white photos of his youth: when it rains it pours and opens doors and floods the floors we thought…

Laura Friedman Williams

Author of AVAILABLE: A Memoir of Sex & Dating After a Marriage Ends (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21).

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