Relationships Sadness/Anxiety

Things are Breaking

In the middle of December, I pilfered some of my son’s leftover Halloween candy; I had been craving sweets, and his box of purple NERDS looked strangely enticing. I dumped the entire box in my mouth and proceeded to chomp down on the little pellets, which turned out to be grape-flavored rocks in disguise.

Seriously, those things were friggin’ ridiculous.

I had hoped for sweetness – and initially, they were sweet — but I was utterly unprepared for the unyielding, rock-hardness of those tiny artificially flavored stones.

I felt my teeth crunch against something unnaturally hard, but my sweet tooth was unrelenting.

At some point, it occurred to me that my particular pack of NERDS had come from somebody’s leftover Halloween candy from one maybe two years ago, and I just so happened to be the unlucky recipient of that box.

Nevertheless, I kept chewing until every last bit of tart purple goodness had been devoured.

Later, my husband came home after an unseasonably warm day. The world was clearly confused. There was no snow. The sky was blue and tiny flowers were trying to bloom in my garden.

My husband asked me if I had heard that The Pretty People had separated.

I hadn’t heard.

photo by Jordan Gillespie

I opened my mouth but there were no words.

“What’s wrong with your teeth?” he asked.

I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my teeth, or rather, the now missing parts: the pieces that had been there but that had disappeared at some point along the way without my even noticing it.

I started to weep.

Partly for my broken teeth, but mostly because of The Pretty People.

Early the next day, I made an appointment. I couldn’t wait to see my dentist so he could get his gloved hands all up in there and make things right again; it didn’t seem like it would be too hard.

But it was.

My appointment lasted over an hour during which time I lay back in the chair and listened to the dental assistant go on about another employee whose dog had recently run away, how devastated she was to have had him unexpectedly wander out of her life.

When the dentist finished shaping and bonding, I had two new teeth: nearly as good as the originals – but not exactly the same. I kept looking at them.

“Will they last forever?” I asked my dentist when he finished.

“They’ll be good for a while,” he said, “but once something has broken… well, all fixes are temporary.”

I thought of The Pretty People.

I’ve always assumed every marriage has cracks and weak spots, but that these minor imperfections are things we can excuse in our spouses. Short of infidelity or abuse, I’ve believed most grievances are petty things that we can forgive in each other because we all possess our own heinous fault lines.

I mean, on any given Thursday I want to strangle my husband after I have punched him in the throat and given him a Super-Atomic wedgie.

But Lord knows, my husband is a patient man.

It is January now, and I can’t stop thinking about the impermanence of things.

I can’t stop thinking of friends who are wrestling with health related issues; another friend whose son had to be airlifted from Bolivia to Miami to receive treatment for something doctors have not yet diagnosed. I am thinking about the dental office worker whose puppy ran away. And I am thinking about the Pretty People – their children, their home, their lives.

An eternal optimist, I’m hoping the best for all of them. I’m praying that a Divine Spirit will cure my friend’s tumors, that my friend’s son will miraculously turn around so that his father can stop worrying about diarrhea and measuring urine output. I’m hoping that The Pretty People will rediscover what they once saw in each other after a little time away from their daily routine. I’m hoping that dental assistant’s puppy will find his way home.

Also, I’m hoping that my new teeth will hold.

I know nothing is solid, but I suppose in matters of the heart I prefer the illusion to reality.

Up until that December day, my biggest worry had been getting my sugar fix.

Who knew I had it so sweet?

What has rocked your world lately?

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60 thoughts on “Things are Breaking

  1. My break-up with GE last year gave me a flooring worse than any I’ve felt. Because I wanted to try so hard for her – for us; but I couldn’t. Because I had failed her. And of all the people to fail her, I was the worst. Because I had given her hope. And then torn it away.

    I don’t know whether I will find someone; I don’t even know if that’s the point of the story. All I know is that I totally agree with you that we all have our fault lines. (Brilliant phrasing by the way!)

    At Christmas time, I watched a Leonard Cohen DVD with my parents. A song I heard for the very first time was called “Anthem”. I was particularly struck by that one line “There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in”. One of those cosmic moments; if you go for that sort of thing…

    I will also pray for your friends if you don’t object (and really, I’m pretty sure you don’t) and I’m sure that your teeth will be fine.

    1. Hi Christian:

      It’s been a particularly difficult start to the new year, I must say — watching so many people struggle.

      Break-ups blow. I am sorry about GE. I’m sure that will sting for a while. Maybe always.

      Thanks for thinking of my people. And my teeth. 😉

  2. This is beautiful (and I did not miss the use of my favorite word, ‘heinous’). Although I have a fear about things like that happening to my teeth (seriously. Nightmares), so I was really hoping it was a metaphor at first.

    Making plans with near-strangers has rocked my world lately since it’s forced me to get outside my comfort zone!

    I really love this post.

    1. Thanks Jules.

      My grandmother had troubles with her teeth her whole life. I see now why she stressed the importance of taking care of mine.

      Plans with strangers can be really anxiety producing. I’m looking forward to going out with some people we never go out with socially this very weekend. It will be cool. Or weird. Probably one of those. 😉

  3. Candy is dangerous…but delicious enough to risk it, right? I went to see a friend last weekend who’s experiencing first hand the shock of losing a marriage she thought would always be there. As an almost married lady myself, it shook me up and made me sad. I think my perspective on marriage sounds a lot like yours, that nothing can be so big a deal that it can’t be worked through. But seeing people not work through it is devastating.

    1. Hi Tori:

      My fingers are crossed for my friends. Marriage is weird. You never really know what is going on behind closed doors: if people are truly happy or truly miserable. I just know it is like anything else. If you love it, you have to take care of it or it will die.

      I’m really sorry to hear about your friends.

  4. Like you, I was peacefully eating a piece of chicken about three months ago when the post on my crown on my canine tooth snapped and I lost the tooth (crown). I have to have an implant. The procedure is taking forever and costing a fortune but it’s in the front of my mouth so what can I do? Tomorrow They will finally start the new post work and [preliminary crown work. The other thing that rocked my world was to hear that my good friend in Albany who had been my daughter’s guidance counselor had passed away from kidney disease. He was my age. He had been battling this disease for ten years. I too have kidney disease and I made me think about my own mortality. Two things to think about.

    1. Maire: I’m sorry to hear about your tooth. It’s amazing, really. We have these tiny little things in our mouths that we hardly pay attention to — and when they break we are positively sunk.

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend from Albany. Kidney disease is awful. And it’s slow.

      The death of friends always makes us think about our own mortality, and also ask why. I have lost too many friends in the last 5 years, and still no answers that have brought much comfort.

  5. The Pretty People? Off to google. I must be out of the loop….

    I chipped a tooth on a “pitted” kalamata olive. Now I squeeze all of them before putting them in salads.

    Life and relationships can be fragile. Just when you think you can trust someone, they can turn out to be only looking out for themselves. There are so many selfish people out there. I tend to be the polar opposite, so I get taken advantage of…Luckily, I am not much of a grudge holder so I just keep motoring upward, forward, and onward…I try not to let them rock my world at least not more than just a day…

    1. Susie:

      The Pretty People are not famous folks. They are people that I know here in town. In fact, they are an amalgamation of several couples I know who are going their separate ways.

      They are all beautiful people. And I’m just devastated over the news… which isn’t so new. It’s just Hubby and I have a way of learning things pretty late in the game. I am keeping my fingers crossed for everyone, but I know that sometimes people grow in different directions and, if that is the case, staying isn’t good for anyone.

      I wish I had that “roll off the back” gene. My husband has it. For some reason, I’m like a giant glue stick.

  6. This is beautiful writing, Renzay. Starting with a detail and expanding it to say something universal, and then a callback to the detail.


    The lines that always go through my head when I feel out of control are from Yeats’ poem: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer, / Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold…”

    Substitute the puppy for the falcon…

    Sorry to go all English Teacher on you.

    1. I was summoning Yeats’ — thank you very much for busting me.

      And I know that nothing is solid.

      “Things fall apart. the centre cannot hold…”

      But I don’t have to like it, do I?

      PS: I love when you get all English Teacherishy on me. That’s the way we roll. 😉

  7. Ah, beautiful post. Well-written and thoughtful.
    And who knew–SuperAtomic Wedgies go down at YOUR house, too?! LoL!

  8. This was a really well written post. Something we all can relate to, I’m sure.

    My husband is always telling me not to take other peoples’ pain so personally, but I’m an empathetic person – I don’t know any other way to be. It’s how I care for people. So I totally get where you’re coming from.

    1. Christy:

      “My husband is always telling me not to take other people’s pain so personally.”

      My husband would be best friends with your husband. So I’m thinking we would probably get along really well. Does your husband golf? If so, we have a lot in common and should probably meet for coffee.

      Or cake. 😉

  9. Next time you get a sweet tooth, let me know & I can mail you a poundcake. It won’t break your teeth! Loved “fault lines” – very true…….

    1. Oh Kelly.

      I do know that you, too, have had a bad time. It’s been a tough start to bring in the new year. Let’s hope all that is at our heels now, eh? Less anxiety and more happy happy joy joy.

      Thanks for stopping in.

  10. We have our own set of pretty people breaking up here, too. In fact, they’re so freakin’ beautiful everyone assumed they were perfect.

    He was our best man, she a bridesmaid. They set us up on our first date. Although we’re not related, our children call them aunt and uncle.

    Their children spend a lot of time at our house now.

    My own kids don’t know the extent of the brokeness. Yet. And it breaks my heart to be the one to tell them.

    But someone has to tell them.
    While somehow managing to convince them that we are still whole.

    1. Julie: I do not envy you. One of my friends says we’re supposed to accept that things are not supposed to remain static.


      But I’ve never minded static. In fact, I’ve always found it. Kind of fun – especially when I find a sock stuck inside a shirt or something.

      Le sigh.

      Feeling for you. And wondering about the telling, how that will feel and be received.

  11. I lost a filling a couple years ago via some post-Halloween Mary Janes. After sitting through the dentist’s lecture, I realized that not only had I lost my filling but also part of my youth. With each passing year I realize there’s a few more things that don’t work like they used to on my body.

  12. On Halloween, my mother committed suicide.

    I guess you could say it rocked my world right off its axis.

    Still working on getting it back on its axis and resuming forward motion.

    I get it eventually.

    1. Oh sweetie. I had no idea. I’ve only just met you. This hurts my head, just thinking about it. I guess we have no choice but to press on, but I imagine that no one has really said the right thing.

      I won’t try.

      I’ll just say I can hardly imagine it, the many levels of it.

      I hope she is at peace. And that you can find some too.

  13. This is a beautiful post, Renee. So utterly moving.

    I’m still making sense of my grandmother’s unexpected death in October, my brother’s marriage after dating only 6 months, and all the ways our family has changed because of those two things. I do feel hopeful as 2012 unfurls but I completely relate to the impermanence of life.

    1. Leigh! Thank you for coming over to share your most personal words. I’m so sorry that you, too, have suffered losses recently. They really give us the old one-two right in the gut, don’t they?

      I know that life on earth isn’t eternal, but when big things and little things start going wrong all at once, I start to feel my own fault lines.

  14. This is so sadly beautiful. Quiet, contemplative. In my small hometown, a 33-year-old father died on Christmas night, after putting his three young children to bed. A week later, his parents’ home caught fire.

    That, more than even my own brother’s passing, has rocked my sense of balance and “all-happens-for-a-reason” mentality. In this instance there is nothing – no blessed reason, that any of us can see, for K. to have left his family, so beloved.

    Mostly, I have been offering God some terse observations about the people He chooses to bring Home and letting him know how very, very unfair it all is.

    1. Oooh, Liz. Those are hard stories to hear. And it is hard to make sense of those things. I’ve kind of stopped trying. In the last few years, I’ve lost so many friends — young men and women with families, children who will never know one parent or another. And I try to take heart that everything seems to be working out.

      So maybe there is a plan.

      And maybe we don’t have to understand it.

      Or even like it.

      And I’m trying to believe that, but if this growing older thing means I’m going to lose more and more people…well, I’m not going to like this growing older thing.

      To hell with my teeth, let everyone stay healthy and happy until the end of their days.

  15. Good good good bloggie!

    Where to start…where to go….

    So many moments and events have rocked my life…some more than others.

    But this IS life and even in the crumby places we (I) can choose to stay in our (my) center, hold love for others, hear the birds, smell the scents, taste the food and let pain wash over us(me). If we (I) are (am) having a wise moment, we (I) know that, yes, this, too shall pass and we (I) will be stronger for having the experience.

    In our (my) weaker moments…there may be whining, moaning and self-pity 🙂

    The marriage thing…I was IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL. I was just going to do what was necessary to make it work. And then I had a profound, illuminating thought at a very critical (scary) moment…”I don’t have to stay.”. That had NEVER occurred to me before…it had not been an option in my mind. And then it was. Because it needed to be an option. It would be the only way my soul would survive.

    But my teeth are good ;-D


  16. Big things can happen and I can handle it. Then something smaller will happen and everything tumbles down and I see everything that has tumbled around me. I guess it’s those times we see the “temporariness” of the fixes.

  17. Knock on wood as I type this but finally I feel as it is good things rocking our world. E is finally mobile in some way, KSP took a new job, I am starting my own company (although did have some moments there when I was outted before I was ready) and Q is ever growing and mastering his toddler tendencies. After nearly 3 years of my world being rocked on a regular basis and having no sense of permanence, I finally feel like perhaps there is a bright future ahead and we can finally breathe a bit.

    I am so sorry about your teeth!!! I am so that person that would go after the Nerds and not give up. I am glad the repairs are in place and I hope your friends little one gets the diagnosis they all need and your pretty people are able to sort it out. I hope your friend will beat her tumors and that all this impermanence will right itself to bring answers and positive results and that only the negative things will be temporary.

  18. What has rocked my world? The thought that if my MIL can no longer live alone, she’ll have to find a new place to live. No matter where we choose, it won’t end well.

    I’d better make sure I’ve got a drawer full of big girl panties. I’m going to need to wear them every day.

  19. Perhaps that is the reason I love ice cream. Kind of hard to break your tooth on vanilla ice cream.
    My mother’s death in Sept rocked me, more than I thought given it was not unexpected. All of a sudden I realized I was an “orphan” and that just doesn’t feel right.
    My husband is my “rock” and I could not be getting through this without him.
    I feel bad for Pretty People all over (although sometimes it is for the best) and only hope that the Pretty Children do not get dragged into the middle. I admire those who manage to keep their kids as their priority over their personal feelings.

    1. I’m so sorry about your mom. I know she was the glue in the family and that you all loved her very much. Losing a parent counts as one of the biggest stressors. And I’m sure you think of her all the time.

      And yes, I’m thinking about the Pretty Kiddies, too. I hope everyone keeps thinking about their needs.

  20. Oh wow, Renee, this is amazing. So poignant. I like how you can bring meaning from eating Nerds. I have recently been through some of the most difficult days of my life with some tragedy of sorts in my family. I understand that thought of once something is broken, it’s never as good as the original. I think that’s what makes it so difficult for us sometimes to go deep in our relationships with people who are grieving – we think they’re too broken to keep it together and we don’t know what we’ll do if they completely fall apart. I can’t make much of my brokenness, but I believe God can. He molds me and reshapes me. He picks up the pieces and makes my life into a beautiful mosaic, as if it was what I was meant to be all along.

    1. I think it is wonderful that you have such strong faith. Things like this — when they happen with such frequency, when I feel bombarded — really rock my world and rock my faith. I keep trying to find something solid to hold onto only to be reminded that nothing is solid. I might lean on you a little, if you don’t mind.

  21. I have some very dear friends who are getting divorced now. They aren’t the first of my friends to go down that path but they hold a “special” place in my heart/memory.

    In part it is because in the days before kids we used to tease them about their overactive hormones. They were constantly going at it (don’t ask how I know this, oy) and I am sometimes surprised that they don’t have 27 kids.

    Anyhoo, 18 years later they are on their way to whatever comes next. It is a bit surreal.

  22. Hi fryber. I’m trying to catch up after my necessary disappearance from everything these last couple weeks. I get this, the whirlwind of disasters that seem to consume us at times. Things break because we live in a broken world. It’s true that most fixes are temporary, but I would appeal to the eternal optimist in you–and the truth seeker–by saying that some fixes are permanent.

    I have a rock on my bedroom dresser. In black sharpie I wrote this on it a couple years ago: “…lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2. It’s my reminder that there is Someone to lean on who is much bigger than me, hope for stability.

  23. I guess the constant changing of things is part of the adventure. At least I try to look at it that way. Sometimes the adventure takes us through dark, deep caves and sometimes we stand on mountains.

    Love this post. Sorry about the teeth…and now I must be off to tend to my screaming 3-year-old. He’s a pickle sometimes.

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