Joy is the best makeup

“Joy is the best makeup” – Anne Lamott

 They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.


This is me at age 20. I was engaged to a different man than the one I would marry 3 short years later. I was a pre-law student; a year later, I would take the GRE instead of the LSAT, and apply to graduate programs in education, instead of law school.

The girl in this picture? She doesn’t know herself at all. I’m not sure many of us do at 20.  I am now of the personal opinion that as few major life decisions should be made in our 20’s as possible.


This is me at age 30, with 3 kids, 4 and under.

I don’t remember this woman, or this year, very well. Bless her heart. I want to give her a hug. And then a nap and a shower. They say “don’t wish it away” and “it goes too fast” and “you’ll miss those days” but ten years later, I don’t miss those days at all.


This is me at age 34. I remember this day very well. We were off to attend a wedding of one of my then-husband’s co-workers. There were several things “off” about that day that, in 20/20 hindsight, all make sense.

That’s all I will write about that day.

Sometime, some day, somewhere, in between those two pictures, my marriage was already gone. I know this for sure.

What I do not know for sure, what haunted me for the first few years after my divorce, is if it was all lies even before then. I spent hours in the aftermath of my divorce, studying pictures, looking for clues.  Looking at the smiles, the eyes, looking for hints and shadows, for unhappiness that simmered under the surface, unseen in the maelstrom of full time jobs and sleepless nights and toddlers.  My therapist said it was not uncommon, pointed me to articles and books that talked about trying to process long term deception.

Then there are the family albums that are put away, too painful to revisit. The expensive canvases of my children, stacked in hall closets. The annual lake house pictures, girls’ night out pictures, holidays, birthdays. To this day, I do not revisit those photos. The years of photos of me, and the woman who is now my children’s stepmother.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.


I know what you’re waiting to hear. You want to read that after all the heartbreak, the devastation, the divorce that I didn’t see coming and didn’t want, that I found true love. That I magically transformed from the post-partum, overweight ugly duckling into a joyful, glowing princess because my knight in shining armor rescued me from my PTSD nightmare.  The fairy tale love story.

This is a love story. It’s my love story. The one that took me 40 years to write.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happily married, madly in love, grateful on a daily basis for the wonderful man who came into my life. It is a good marriage. A happy marriage, one that I believe is based on honesty, fidelity and commitment.

I believe that. But I know that my belief does not make it *true*. It can be taken away from me. I have learned that. That knowledge makes me appreciate it more, which, I hope, makes it that much more likely to last.

What cannot be taken away from me, what is the true love story, is the love I found for me. The love I was only able to find after hitting rock bottom, after feeling utterly and completely worthless, after not just surviving, but thriving in, a horrible, unimaginable, situation.

I do not confuse happiness with joy. I am still angry, and sad, and bitter, more than I want to be (but less than I should be). Unlike pictures that I can lock away in a closet, I cannot inoculate my life from the behavior and choices of others. It will be several years yet before I can turn that corner.

I am not always happy. But I have found my joy.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.




5 responses to “Joy is the best makeup

  1. You are amazing! You look beautiful, joy radiating from within.

  2. Honest, relaxed love. It looks good on you.

  3. You look gorgeous and so very happy! So happy for you!

  4. LOVE this post! So proud of you!

  5. SO happy that you have found yourself and your joy!!! That is priceless!!

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