I laid in bed two nights ago and I cried. I’m staying in a hotel in St. George I’ve stayed in multiple times. And it hit me. I feel more at home in this hotel than I do anywhere else in the world. I feel more myself in this place than I do anywhere else. I feel more secure, confident, and safe than I do anywhere else. I feel more calm and peace here than I do anywhere else. I’ve been thinking about this constantly over the last 36 hours. Why do I feel all of these things in a place I’ve visited only a few times? Why does my current home not feel like home? What does feeling “at home” really mean for me? How can I feel this way everywhere else? The thoughts just keep coming.
My first trip to St. George was over two years ago. My ex, who was then my husband, and I headed down here for a short family getaway. I still remember stepping outside the car for our first hike to Jenny’s Canyon in Snow Canyon and instantaneously falling in love with a place I had never been before. The boys immediately took off running down the trails as we got Holland situated in her backpack carrier. The warmth from the sun and the warmth from the peace I felt in my heart instantly spread through me. My husband and I walked together. We enjoyed each other’s company. We felt connected – invigorated. That entire trip was so peaceful. We talked about making a move down to St. George. We talked about the lifestyle we wanted for our kids, and how the warmer weather helped me overcome seasonal depression. We set in to motion the beginning of the plan for him to transfer down this way for work. We had been in our house barely two years, but this place was calling. We went home and it stayed on my mind.
A few months later, Brock and I took a solo trip to Las Vegas. My request – let’s stop in St. George on the way and do some of the longer hikes we couldn’t do with the kids. It was my favorite part of the trip. Really, the only good part. We hiked. We felt closer than usual. We talked. And then we left for the rest of our getaway. The rest of that trip ended up being terrible, leaving scars that have taken me the last year to recognize and start the healing process for. But at least I had St. George, and the accompanying peace I felt.
Our next trip down, September of 2018, was supposed to be amazing. I found a tiny house rental and had it set up in Snow Canyon. I knew the kids were going to love it. We were going to have a great vacation because vacation was the one time I really felt like we were all happy. But then it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. The first night was so hot. We weren’t able to run the AC, and it was in the 80s in our little tiny house. Brock decided to sleep outside on the hammock, leaving me tossing and turning with three little bodies doing the same all night. He seemed distant – constantly on his phone. I was annoyed.
I was frustrated over something stupid (where to park the car I think) when we got to Zions. My immature frustration sent him over the edge, and the rest of that day was a waste. It’s sad now to look back on the pictures from that trip. He was miserable. I was lonely. Vacations in the past were ALWAYS good for us, but now the last two had just created misery and confusion. I found out just a few weeks after this trip why he was so distant, and why his phone was constantly attached to him. That trip would be our last as a family. But my heart was still in this place.
My next trip to St. George was just three and half months later. But this time, I went as a newly divorced woman. I planned a trip here on my own. I needed space. I needed clarity. I needed sunshine. I needed peace. I scheduled myself a four-wheeling tour. I planned to get a massage. I brought my journal and scriptures so I could meditate and study. I felt good when I got down here. The first day, I went hiking by myself. I sat at the top of a mountain and was able to just be present in the moment. That was a huge deal to me because I couldn’t do that at home. No matter how many meditations I tried on my own, panic almost immediately took over and prevented me from doing something as simple as breathing intentionally. I posted about it on my instagram.
“I came down to St. George to clear my head and try and find some clarity and peace in this chaos.
I feel blessed. Blessed that I’ve had 4 good days in a row. I’m starting to feel normal. I’ve found answers and a direction for treating my trauma. Blessed that I’ve made progress in co-existing in a world with my kids’ dad. And that I’m starting to understand that I need to show myself a little grace and love.
💔My heart has shattered into a million pieces this last three months. And I’m very much at the beginning of putting them all back together. I’ve made wrong choices WAY more than I’ve made right ones. I’ve experienced heartbreak from multiple places. I’ve felt more alone than I knew was humanly possible. I’ve let myself down and at times was completely unrecognizable when I looked in the mirror. I’ve felt sorrow, complete and terrifying darkness, fear, loneliness, worthlessness – all of it. It’s been the darkest time of my life. ☀️ But I feel like I finally hit rock bottom and can start to climb out. And finding hope, light, comfort, and most importantly peace, has reinvigorated my soul. There is a really long and rocky road ahead of me. I’m not naive to that.
My therapist had me imagine for a minute the woman I will be when I get to the other side of this. I’m anxious to become that person. But I know it will take a lot of hard work to get there. But at least lately I feel like I’ve found faith in myself to do it. Divorce is so hard. And reinventing myself is terrifying and amazing all at the same time. I’m excited for my next few days down here so that I can continue to purposefully see God’s hand in my life.”
I got a call from my ex that my kids and him were on his way down to join my vacation. I didn’t know what to do. I struggle constantly, as do most women, with knowing the balance between being my own self and being a mom. It’s hard to put myself first over them. I knew I needed this time, but I didn’t want to say no to them and their opportunity to feel what I feel here. I reluctantly said yes and waited for my little army to arrive. I’m not sure what happened to get us to the point we were at, but essentially my ex came down with the thought that we could make our family work. He had just broke up with his girlfriend, and I felt like he was trying to “prove” his commitment to me by doing so. When I let him know I was not interested in reconciliation, he immediately went back home to her and left the three kids with me on my vacation. It was strange to say the least, but they were here and we were going to enjoy it. It was different having three small kids by myself on a vacation, but we made it work and we all enjoyed our unexpected time together.
The next trip down was just a couple months later, and it was purposely a trip down here with my kids. We needed time together. We needed the space to be us. While going through a divorce and the healing process after, I’ve felt at times like I have a million eyes on me watching every decision I make. It’s suffocating. It’s easy to get trapped into feeling like someone is constantly watching me, waiting for me to make a mistake that can be used against me in court. It’s the worst feeling when it comes to parenting. I still feel this almost every day, and cried to my mom just a few weeks ago asking if it ever changes. She’s also divorced and has been a step-mom in two different families now. Her answer – “not really.” But when I can get away from our normal routine, I feel it so much less. When my kids can get outdoors and run and play and breathe much better air than what Cache Valley winters offers, St. George is the perfect place to do it all. We stayed in the same hotel as the previous trip, hiked all our favorite Snow Canyon hikes, swam a bunch, and met up with some of our friends who moved down here. It was the perfect way for us to re center and feel loved all around.
My next trip down a few weeks later was good. I came down with someone I was dating at the time. We both needed the fresh air, the open spaces, and the silence. One moment in particular stays with me from that trip. We had hiked up to some small caves where we sat for a while. I had learned at one of my therapy sessions about grounding myself and being present in the moment. For me, putting my hand over my heart, closing my eyes, and listening to my breath instantly grounds me almost every time. As I sat in that cave and put my hand over my heart, the tears started flowing. After shocks from the divorce were starting to get worse. I was constantly overwhelmed. My ex incessantly called and text me every day, making me feel like he would always have a thumb on me. Child support and alimony slowly decreased, and then stopped coming all together. Finances were more than tight – I had to start asking family and my church for help to get by. I had applied and got into a graduate program at SUU, but I couldn’t figure out if I could afford to do that, keep running my business, and pay for daycare so I could do it all. I felt like I was depleted everywhere – emotionally, physically, spiritually.
I sat there, hand over my heart, and felt the weight of it all. But the thought I remember so clearly hit hard. “How can I possibly tuck in three kids by myself every night and make sure they KNOW I love them.” I thought about this question for a while. I came to the conclusion that I can’t. I cannot physically lay down with three kids at the same time in their own beds every night and tickle their backs, sing them songs, and lay there until they are asleep. We’re in a two bedroom apartment – the three of them all share one room. So separate bedtimes isn’t an option. So that was it. I can’t do and be everything I want to be. Not right now. But I CAN do other things. I can make sure they know throughout the day how much they are loved. I can rotate (or try to…. Holland is a back scratches and mom cuddle hoarder) between the kids. I can scratch their backs at other times during the day. I can tuck them in and give them a kiss every night. I can do my very best, knowing that God knows me, and more importantly, knows them. And knowing that our army of angels led by my dad has my kids when I can’t. I left my little cave feeling a little less overwhelmed and a little more love from God for the tender mercies that come – not to take away the pain and burden, but to ease it just enough to keep going.
That leads me to this trip – about eight months later. I’m only a couple days into it, but that first night hit me hard. I laid in bed feeling more at home in this hotel than anywhere else. I thought about it a lot yesterday. To say life has been chaos this last 14 months would be an understatement. Very few things remain in my new life that were constant fixtures of my old one. Really, the kids, some family, a few friends, and my business are what have made it through this transformation. I’m completely different. I don’t think I’ll ever be even close to the same person I was 14 months ago. Some of that is good, some of that is not. I’m down here with my boyfriend. It feels weird to call him that. He’s so much more than what I feel like that word means to me. We talked about this yesterday – about my draw to be in this place. It’s not somewhere we can live any time soon, and I thought a lot about that, too.
I ultimately came to this conclusion while writing this all out. This place is my refuge. This is the place when life gets so hard, when things get so confusing, when I feel like I can’t go another day – I have a place I can come. I can come here and feel free. I can feel peace. I can feel God. I can feel rejuvenated. I can feel capable. This process is not pretty. I’m getting the sense that it’s not something that will ever have an “end.” I long for a day in my every day life that feels normal, stable, and real.
I went to Yoga at 6 am yesterday. That’s not something I ever do – but I’m in St. George. So I went. The instructor asked us all to think of our mantra for 2020. Of course the tears started flowing again as I thought of what 2020 is going to look like. But it was easy for me to think of one. “Be content. Be at peace.” Really, what that means, is be able to feel like I feel when I am here. I am so grateful that I can get a taste of what I really am wanting to have every day. I know what I’m working towards. I can’t help but feel that my draw here is a great gift from God. It’s His way of telling me that if I can feel what I feel here, I can feel it eventually anywhere.