Monthly Archives: December 2011

10…9…8…

New Year’s Eve is a funny holiday.  On the one hand, it prompts drunken debauchery and hedonistic partying in a kind of frantic send-off for the departing year.  On the other hand, it is embraced as an opportunity for rebirth and reflection, a time to break old habits and make new ones, a time to openly and diligently define and pursue a new and better version of ourselves and the world around us.

My year ended today with a period at the end of my relationship with James.

My friend Annie is having a New Year’s Eve party tonight, and soon I will rise and dress and join the celebrations for all that has past this year.  But first, I sit here this evening, bundled in clothes and wrapped in a blanket, for I’ve been unable to get warm all day.  I have every light on in my little house in an attempt to drive away any creeping shadows that might undermine my wobbly composure.  The television and iPod have both been banished, lest they heartlessly deliver some reminder of what is no longer.  I munch my way resolutely through a slice of pizza, the first food to pass my lips in over 24 hours.

7…6…5…

It would seem, from our conversations of the last couple weeks, that James and I want different things from a relationship and have different ideas about where that relationship should ultimately go.  Relationships are a constant work in progress — tweaking that a bit, enhancing that a bit, taking more care with that a bit… — and ours was perhaps more contentious and dramatic than most.  But I loved him and was committed to that love because I thought we were working on it together, toward a common goal.  I thought, particularly after our last reconciliation, that we wanted the same things and felt mostly the same ways and that we just struggled with the details.

But apparently I was wrong.

At some point, I want to be a family again.  He’s not sure he does.  He acknowledged that he might just be passing time with me, seemingly without any intention or desire for us to ever be more than we are. I discovered this week that the wonderful Christmas I thought we’d shared was actually something he felt I’d forced on him; not something he’d wanted with me or my children.  Ouch.  It’s bad enough that I’d offered myself on Christmas, but apparently I managed to drag my sweet daughters into the intrusion.  I’m so ashamed for that; they deserve better than to be felt a burden on someone else’s holiday.

It is a difficult thing, this idea of family, and one that I thought we’d shared.  I don’t want to marry again, but I do very much someday want to be important to someone in that way, and vice versa.  I want my children to have a solid home when they’re with me, that includes a healthy adult relationship.  Beyond the first months, I have no interest in a long-term, casual-but-exclusive relationship that serves a purpose only until something better comes along.  I suppose in my next relationship I will be more guarded on this one.  For the sake of my children, I’d better be.

I want to trust my partner and be trusted in return.  James doesn’t trust me and probably never will, as plainly evidenced by some recent, painful events.  And this week, hints have emerged that perhaps I have been foolish to have been so trusting of him.  It’s now a question I don’t need answered.  No sense in  more pain.

I want to be really, truly known, I don’t want to hide pieces of myself or my life from someone I love.  But James conceals so much from me, and I think he does it without even realizing that other people do not.  I think he is so used to hiding parts of himself that he doesn’t even know how to be open and be comfortable with it.  Or perhaps that’s only ego talking, and he simply can’t be real with me.   Maybe when he truly falls in love with someone, he won’t need to hide so much.  Or maybe when he truly falls in love with  someone, he won’t have so much to hide.

I want someone who likes me.  I was crazy about James.  The thought of him made me smile and I always felt like I was lucky to have found him.  I can’t speak for him, of course, but I don’t think he felt the same way.  I heard quite a bit about what doesn’t like about me (and the list is a long and serious one), but only once did I feel like he had a similar list of things he liked about me.

I want to love someone freely and without reservation.  And I did.  And it was wonderful to feel that again and be able to give that to someone.  But it seems that it was also unrequited.  I guess that’s the risk we take when we give someone our heart.

4…3…2…

So I will begin 2012 sifting through my regrets and attempting to learn whatever I need to from my multiple missteps in this relationship.  I want to own the stuff that’s mine, without taking on his personal issues, too.

There was plenty wrong in our relationship and so much external drama and crisis from his ex-wife that I suppose I should feel relieved that I will no longer be a part of all that.  And yet, one of the things that I’m good at is sticking through the tough times with someone.  Running when they need me is not something to which I’m accustomed.

I will miss so much from this relationship.  I will grieve it deeply.  There were obviously things about it and him that I valued with my whole heart.  I suppose I could call him up and sweep all this under the rug and carry on as if I didn’t need any of those things I’ve just written.  But it wouldn’t last, and we’d be right back here again.

So, instead, I’ll usher in the New Year with some friends and a bit of champagne, and hope, like so many others, for new beginnings in 2012.

Happy New Year to you.  Please be safe and healthy and happy.  See you on the other side of midnight….

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Filed under dating, love, relationships, sadness, single mom

Christmas deja vu…

My ex-husband, “Bryce,” and I have a rather unusual co-parenting situation.  Two years past our finalized divorce and we’re still spending special occasions together as a family.  Sometimes this is as simple as us, our children, and our significant others sitting together at school functions.   Sometimes it takes the form of throwing joint birthday parties for our girls, with everyone pitching in to help and make it a special day.

But Christmas is the pinnacle of our post-divorce cordiality.  Our divorce decree dictates that we are to exchange the girls at noon on Christmas day, but each year so far, we have continued to get together at the crack of dawn to see the girls discover Santa’s schwag and open the treasures under the tree.   We make Russian tea and light breakfast snacks, take photos, and generally have all the semblance of an oddly-extended family.

Life after divorce is certainly a series of “aha” moments — when the past and the present converge to illuminate something that seems so clear and simple that you can’t believe you never noticed it or understood it before.  This Christmas, Santa delivered me just such a moment.

Christmas morning I awoke early and set about readying the house for the arrival of Bryce and his girlfriend, “Debbie.”  I lit the fire and the candles, put the breakfast casserole I’d prepared the night before in the oven and the tea on the stove, and turned on the Christmas music.   The stage was set for a lovely and merry celebration.

As we moved through the motions of gift-opening and ooh-ing and ahh-ing, I observed my family, as if from a distance, with the memory of the weekend’s celebrations with James’ family still fresh in my consciousness.   I saw Bryce’s impatience with the girls’ giddiness, and his refusal to eat any of the food, including the banana bread Debbie had so thoughtfully brought over.  I saw his stiffness and forced smile.  I saw Debbie trying to keep things running smoothly (wait a second…  why does that look so familiar…?  oh, right… now I remember….).  I saw the children’s almost manic exuberance, as if they were intent on forcibly infusing joy into the very proper and formal proceedings.

Slowly, it dawned on me that there was something very off about the tableau playing out in front of me…. There was nothing horribly wrong or dysfunctional about the morning…  no nasty arguments or discourse….it simply lacked any warmth or lightness or connection.  Small, kind comments were exchanged, some sincere expressions of gratitude were made, but it didn’t feel fun.  Honestly, there wasn’t anything fun about it.  It was like the equivalent of a first date in which the food is fine, the wine is fine, the conversation is fine, and yet you’ve forgotten his name by the time you get home.

And suddenly, as I sat by the fire that morning and sipped my tea and soaked it all in, the epiphany arrived:  this Christmas was not this way because we’re divorced and things are awkward and Debbie was there for the first time.  No, this Christmas was this way because it was always this way.

Bryce and I tried.  Sincerely, I think we both tried very hard, in our own ways, for all those years, to create something special on those mornings.  We did what we knew to do — all the same stage settings I did this morning.  But I remember, over the years, looking across the room at him, as our girls tore into some much anticipated present, and having his eyes lock with mine for only a brief moment, before his gaze darted away, the connection broken almost as quickly as it was made.  And I would be left feeling dizzily detached on a morning that I’d always anticipated would be pregnant with intimate, shared family moments.

I feel certain that we both wanted it to be different, but didn’t know how to make it so.  I think we had a mutual vision for a Christmas morning that was fun and relaxed and warm, but we never quite got it there.  And, frankly, lacking both the skills and the raw materials within our relationship to truly create that connection, our efforts were likely doomed.

Later that morning, as I lay on my sofa and watched my girls play with their gifts, I pondered our previous shared family dynamic and how it has affected our current dynamic.  It occurred to me that maybe the very nature of our marriage is the reason we can be good to each other after our divorce.  Maybe it was the formality and distance within our marriage that has enabled us to remain mostly cordial to each other.  Maybe it is because our relationship has been merely altered, rather than seismically shifted, that is the crux of our current “success.”   If Christmases had been close, connected affairs, overflowing with our love for each other and our family, it might be impossible to comfortably fake our way through it as a divorced couple.  But there was little appreciable difference between today and a Christmas morning 10 years ago.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, an acquaintance mom approached me at one of the holiday school functions and laughingly told me that she and some others felt that Bryce and I should be voted “Best Divorced Couple.”  This is especially amusing if you’ve read this post, detailing my horror at being informed by my best friend during my marriage that Bryce and I were the infamous “Jones'” couple that everyone is always comparing themselves to at a disadvantage.  Apparently, Bryce and I are destined to be the prom king and queen of whatever relationship status we occupy.  It’s a little bit ridiculous, isn’t it?

My Christmas epiphany brought me a sense of gratitude.  Rather than seeing the nature of our marriage or our current relationship as something sad or unfortunate, I am instead feeling appreciative of it.  As I am no longer in the marriage, I see no point in wishing it had been something other than it was, and I think it may serve us very well as a divorced couple.  No, our shared Christmas mornings will not be lively or intimate, but at least we’re able to have them, which continues  be important to my daughters.  And if those mornings were lively or intimate, how might that actually feel to me?  What regrets might that prompt?  As it is, these mutual occasions serve as a very firm reminder of what our marriage was and why it no longer exists.   So, maybe for all of us, that’s the best possible thing.  The rest of the holiday celebrations the girls and I shared were very merry occasions indeed, and if our daughters want us to simultaneously share Christmas morning with them, how much of a sacrifice is that really?

So, while my little epiphany was a tad melancholy in the moment, with a bit of introspection, it was also reassuring of both my decision to leave, and the path I’m on currently.  I am grateful to Bryce that we can find some mutual understanding of cordiality for the sake of our children; that our love for them is still preeminent.  And I am grateful for the sharp contrast between that morning and the holiday celebrations that we shared with James.  There is much to be learned from that contrast — about me, what I seek for myself and my girls, and the choices I’m making now.  Funny how a somewhat sad Christmas morning can take on a positive shine when viewed from a distance.

It seems the only consistent thing about this journey is the surprises along the way…. but I guess that’s what Christmas mornings are all about, right?

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Filed under divorce, marriage, relationships, single mom

the best gift ever

I have a pumpkin pie about to come out of the oven and herald the end of a very long, busy day.  I am exhausted but I know that I won’t sleep for some time.

My head and my heart are full to bursting.

After my kitchen timer sings and I remove my bubbling pie from the oven, I suspect I will go upstairs and lay with each of my daughters for a few minutes, listening to their soft sleeping noises and feeling their peace. They are dead to the world… physically tired and emotionally drained from their own joy and excitement.

We spent the first of two Christmas evenings with James and his children — me, my two daughters, my mother, James, and three of his four children.  It was the kind of evening that I might have hoped for but never expected….

At dinner, I looked down the table.  The children, so easy and comfortable with each other, teasing and loving on one another.  My mother, tipsy from her martini and relishing every bit of the family experience.  And James.  I looked at him and wondered how it managed to come together that we should be sitting across from each other at Christmastime….

Life is sure funny.

I never meant to be divorced.  Never thought it would ever happen to me.  No sir, I was way too smart to end up divorced, to do that to myself, my children, a man I’d once promised to love forever.  But there I was tonight:  having a “blended family” holiday dinner.

I realized that I am, perhaps, well-prepared for this time… that, just maybe, life has given me exactly what I need to navigate this whole chapter of my journey.  I’m adopted, so “family” has never been dictated by DNA for me.  Had I relied on that “flesh and blood” measure, life would have been pretty lonely, indeed.  No, to me “family” has always meant those people that you love and love you back.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I wonder if that is why James’ children have so effortlessly stolen my heart.  I worry about them much as I do my own children.  I am as affectionate with them, as strict with them, as attentive to them as I am to my own children.

Also, my own mother was a single mother, so I have lived many nights like tonight from my children’s perspective.  I remember meeting other kids and wondering if they might, someday, be my sister or brother….  I remember feeling sometimes exhilarated and sometimes mortified at the possibility.   I no longer remember the names of most of those children, but I do remember some of the day trips and holiday meals we shared together.  I wonder if they remember me similarly, those near-siblings of mine…

Maybe life has provided me with exactly the background necessary to have a truly successful blended family experience?  Maybe the quirks and struggles of my early childhood were all so that I could make a successful go at this whole “blended family” thing — one of the most difficult socio-emotional structures of our time?  Who knows.  What I do know is that it felt so very nice and right tonight, to be there.  All of us.  Together.

I spent many, many years hosting and attending Christmas gatherings that had all the earmarks of  a Norman Rockwell moment… and yet I felt empty.  I would often look around me and wonder if anyone else felt the same sense of futility, of desperation, of sadness, with which I was wrestling.  More than once, I retreated to the bathroom to fight back tears while staring at my reflection in the mirror and wondering why this wasn’t enough for me.  What was missing?  Was I crazy? What was wrong with me???

There were no tearful bathroom moments tonight.  Instead, I watched the little girls’ “fashion show” and giggled hysterically at their creativity.  I smiled as James’ 11-year-old son attempted to explain an X-box game to my 72-year-old mother.  And when James pulled me close in the kitchen for a kiss, I sighed and felt dizzy.  The beautiful gifts James gave me, as expensive and well-chosen as they were, were nothing compared to those precious moments.   Regardless of what the future holds, I will treasure those people and those moments forever.  They showed me — concretely and unequivocally — what was missing all those years.

And that was the absolutely best gift ever.

P.S. I wish each of you an equally wonderful present this holiday.  Whatever you dream of or your heart secretly desires… I hope that wish comes true for you!

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Filed under dating, divorce, healing, love, parenthood, personal growth, relationships, single mom

creating your own “new normal”

Hmmm…..

I have never written an follow-up to a previous post.

I made a conscious decision when I started this blog that it would not be a diary or a serial of related episodes, but rather one stand-alone post after another.  There have been many times when I have sat in front of my laptop and wanted to pour post after post out about my daily travails or thoughts or happenings, but I have actively resisted it.  I fail to find my life fascinating enough to presume that anyone would actually want to read the mundane details of it, day-in and day-out.  And so, my posts jump around from topic to topic and situation to situation.  Some readers might find this frustrating, as they try to track the storyline of my life, but others seem to enjoy the discrete, digestible bites of musings that I serve up — just enough to provoke a little thought, not so much that it feels voyeuristic.

But my last post — which I had intended as nothing more than a joyful little ditty commenting on the passing of another of life’s chapters — has finally prompted me to write my first-ever follow-up post.

Because, wow, did I get some great offline feedback….

First — because I obviously didn’t say it clearly enough in my original post — let me state plainly:  Recovering from divorce is not a competitive sport.  Everyone does it in her own way and in her own time.  It doesn’t matter if you’re taking two steps forward and one step back or three steps forward and two steps back.  The point is that you’re moving forward.  Period.  Whether you get “there” before me or after me is immaterial (at least to me) because we’re all pretty much just doing the best we can.  Every day.

Second, I’m definitely not any kind of expert on getting over divorce, and nor am I “healed” and it’s all over and done with.  I am simply in a much, much, much better place than I was two years ago.  My “new, new normal” is not the crossing of a finish line, but merely the segueway into a yet another, different chapter.  Six months after my separation I realized that my girls and I (and my ex-husband, by extension) had finally settled into a new routine.   Life developed a new rhythm as our broken family worked through the details of living and functioning in two separate households.  Even at that time, I recognized that we’d pulled out of the confusion and chaos of the initial separation and moved onto the next chapter of a post-divorce life — a “new normal.”  I was aware that I’d finally broken away from Separation Hell.  The same is true now:  By hitting my “new, new normal,” I haven’ t reached some magical Happily Ever After; I’ve simply pulled out of Post-Divorce Purgatory.

Third, my “new, new normal” is not necessarily going to be your “new, new normal.”  I say this because I believe that, while our post-divorce stories are often alike in many regards, our dreams for our lives after divorce are often very, very different.  My friend Annie asked me last night if I could imagine a happy new normal that didn’t include a romantic relationship. My response was that such a happy place would indeed be possible, and if I didn’t have James in my life right now I’d probably still be feeling optimistic and hopeful, but I wouldn’t have this sense of having crossed into another chapter of this journey.  I wouldn’t feel happy and settled and content, and it’s those feelings that make it feel normal and right.  Without James, there would still be a blank in my life.  I would still feel like something was missing from the picture because, for me, part of that post-divorce dream of happiness does include a good, healthy, rich relationship with a guy who curls my toes and makes me laugh.  It simply does.  If a nice home, a fine parenting partner, a fulfilling career, and a couple of great kids was the sum of my dream, I would have been happily married.  If my heart didn’t yearn for an intimate connection with a man on a truly soulful level, I would have been happily married.  But that’s not me.  It took me more than a dozen years to realize and accept that, but now that I have, I won’t apologize for it or try to deny it.  Instead, I’m doing everything I can to make my life what I want and need it to be.  For me, being truly happy includes being happy in a romantic relationship. That has been my goal, but it might not be yours.  And that’s okay, too.

I’m not sure when it became unfashionable to admit that most of us are romantic creatures.  When did we decide that personal emotional strength was best demonstrated by being alone?  Perhaps it’s our fear of being needy?  But neediness is about settling.  It’s about having someone — anyone! — rather than being alone, and that is entirely different from acknowledging the importance of a romantic connection in your life and doing the things necessary to create a life that supports and nurtures that connection.  I think that plenty of women create a whole lot of stress for themselves by feeling that they should be happy alone, and the fact that they want a heart and soul connection with a man somehow makes them weak.  Here’s a newsflash:  it doesn’t make you weak.  It makes you human.  Stop feeling bad about it.  I’m not saying that temporary solitude can’t be useful and productive; those periods have been enormously so for me.  But long-term?  I’m not convinced that for most people that’s a happy place.

But there are always exceptions. I do not doubt that there are some people who, post-divorce, seek nothing more than peace and solitude and the opportunity to focus on their children or work or friends or hobbies.  I suspect that if the marriage was particularly grueling due to addiction or abuse or chronic infidelity or some such problem, the relief of simply making a life on your terms with your own company could be exactly and all that you need.  And that’s okay with me, too.

The fact that our dreams may be different was illustrated for me yesterday by a high-school acquaintance with whom I occasionally correspond.  He dropped me an email to check-in and we got to discussing (again!) the challenges of rebuilding a life after divorce.  I mentioned that I really don’t see another marriage in my future; it’s simply not part of my dream at this point.  He told me that he couldn’t imagine life without being married, that, for him, getting married again was always a pivotal part of his post-divorce life goals.  He did remarry a few years ago, just a couple of years after his divorce.  He is more content than I have ever known him and seems to be very in love with his wife and his life, and so I am very happy for him.  It’s wonderful and affirming to see people move through places of such pain and despair and into openness and hopefulness and love again.  I don’t feel that our separate dreams, however disparate, diminish the other’s in any way.  They are simply different.

My rambling point is, I suppose, a simple one:  decide what your personal dream for your life is and pursue it.  Make it your next new normal.  Don’t assume that anybody else’s is or should be yours.  Fill in the blanks of your life with things you’ve always wanted to have or do.  Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and what you need to do to invite that into your life.  One of the few silver linings of being single at middle age is that you get a do-over — you’re not bound to the conventional ideas of what a relationship or a family or a woman has to be.  You get to create it yourself, and it doesn’t matter if it suits anyone around you.

Okay, enough of my proselytizing.  Time for me to go take my own advice.  Life is waiting….

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Filed under dating, divorce, general musings, healing, love, marriage, personal growth, relationships, single mom

the new “new normal”

This time of year is stressful for a lot of reasons, but especially for families going through or emerging from a divorce.  Single parenting, dating again, holiday traditions can all feel overwhelming when mixed with the emotional compost of a new divorce.  Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and feeling a kind of second-hand stress about the holidays.  At first, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t stressed out — Was I being naive, thinking that I was doing well with my shopping and baking and planning and decorating?  Was I foolish to think that my kids and I were going to have a nice Christmas?

Then it hit me:  we’ve moved on.  We’ve reached the next “new normal” on this journey.

This month marks two years since my divorce was final, 33 months since I moved out and into a new home, 19 months since I started my first full-time job in almost 6 years, 15 months since I started dating James.

Wow.  Time sure flies when you’re knee-deep in emotional transitions, doesn’t it?

I realized this weekend that my life is no longer defined by my divorce.  For those who have never been divorced, that might sound a little odd, but it’s kind of like realizing, some long time after the loss of a loved one, that life has moved on and the sharpness of the pain is gone…. the weight on your chest and your heart has been lifted…. the fog of conflicting feelings, regrets, “what ifs” has dissipated. Temporal milestones have been passed, and, finally, life has assumed a new normal.  You don’t think about it everyday, and when you do, it usually doesn’t hurt anymore.  This realization usually occurs, as it did for me this weekend, not as a dramatic rite of passage — “Hey, my new life just started!” — but as a recognition that, at some point in the recent weeks or months, your life has moved into a new space, adopted a new texture, achieved a new balance.

This weekend was nothing too out of the ordinary.  I spent Friday evening hanging out with my girls, working on Sabrina’s history project.  Saturday, my daughters and I went Christmas shopping and had a really lovely time of it, and that evening, the girls, James, and I went to my office Christmas party.  On Sunday, Bryn woke James and me up at 8:00 by climbing into bed to cuddle us.  Then, as James and I laid in bed talking for another hour, the girls came in and out to visit or show us things.  When we got up, I made a big breakfast for everyone.  Later, it was off to the theatre for the girls and me to see Tom Sawyer, while James headed out to watch Tim Tebow save the day again with a friend.

Nothing special.  And yet, so very wonderful in its ordinariness.

There were so many moments this weekend that struck me gently as being easy and soft and so not fraughtThey felt normal

Again.  Finally.

Normal does not, of course, mean perfect.  James and I will certainly argue again; we’re too passionate not to.  The placid relationship I’m enjoying with my ex will be disrupted at some point, for some duration.  My girls will go through the usual ups and downs of childhood.  I will have bad days at work and challenges with friendships.

But that’s all life.  Plain, simple, normal life.

During and immediately following a divorce, life seems to run on adrenaline.  Mentally, you learn very early in the process that your carefully constructed house of cards could come crashing down at any moment for nearly any reason — you see your ex happy with someone else, your children openly grieve the family breakdown, your forlorn bank account cries out for sustenance — and every small achievement you’ve racked up in the previous days or weeks evaporates.  The crushing realization of your new reality smacks you in the face.  Again.

But it has been a very long time since I’ve had that experience.  Mostly these days, I move through my life caught up in the same kinds of mundane, normal concerns I had before my divorce — Did the kids do their homework?  What will James and I do this weekend? When will I make time for grocery shopping this week?

I remember other times in my life when major transitions necessitated the development of a “new normal” — when I moved to England and again when I moved to the American West, when I had my first baby, when I became a stay-at-home mom, when I started my own interior design company — they were all wrenching in their own ways.  Even good transitions are stressful and require lots of adjustment and flexibility; difficult transitions (like divorce) require even more so, along with seemingly endless emotional reserves.

When I first moved out, I was conscious of trying to create a “new normal” for me and my kids.  This involved trying to integrate all the parts of our previous life that we needed to bring along, while making new patterns that better reflected my new priorities, choices, and environment. Achieving that “new normal” was a much-anticipated and celebrated benchmark.

I read blogs and articles about divorce now as if from a distance.  I can recognize and appreciate tales of “getting through one day at a time,” but the experience seems far, far away now.  I hear stories of  first holidays alone and observe tentative dating excursions with a kind of glum remembrance.  This is no longer the texture of my life, I realize, with no small amount of relief.

When I first started writing, nearly everything I wrote was pretty raw stuff about my divorce.  Now, almost nothing is.  Even when I do write about my divorce, it feels (and likely reads) as more even and less emotional.  Time is indeed a wondrous healer.  When I re-designed my website recently, I consciously dropped the tagline referencing my “post-divorce life.”

I don’t think of my life as being “post-divorce” anymore; it’s just my life.

Plain, simple, normal life.

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Filed under divorce, healing, parenthood, personal growth, relationships, single mom

meet the modern American family

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time lately with my ex-husband, Bryce.  No, we’re not grabbing beers together after work or hitting the tennis court for a doubles match.  We’re attending informational meetings, open houses, and promotional tours for local middle schools in the hopes of selecting the best fit for my elder daughter, Sabrina.  It is a choice we will make jointly.

Now, for those of you who are not from this area and are already scratching your head, our school district is somewhat unique in that you can “open enroll” your child in any school in the district.  You are guaranteed a place in your local, neighborhood school, but if you’d like to enroll in a different school, you may do so through the open enrollment system.  Essentially, with open enrollment, you toss your child’s name into a lottery system for that school, which determines their acceptance or not.   So, there is a lot of school shopping in my town.  Sabrina is a very bright kid with some special needs  at the talented and gifted end of the spectrum so we’re visiting four different schools, all of them more than once, to make this decision with her.

And tonight, quite unexpectedly, I found myself facing one of those surreal divorce moments that always seem to sneak up on me….

I was sitting in an auditorium, with Sabrina on one side and Bryce on the other, when one of the elementary school moms I’d once been friends with walked in.  Our eyes met briefly, then I saw them sweep and take in Bryce and Sabrina, and finally determinedly look elsewhere.  I couldn’t help but grin.

For this was one of a handful of women who stopped speaking to me altogether when word hit the grapevine that I was leaving Bryce.  She didn’t know Bryce — I’m pretty sure they’d never spoken before — but she was instantly judgmental and appalled at my gall.   She and her friends haughtily and publicly insisted that I was making a big mistake and would regret it in short order.

Except that I wasn’t and I haven’t.

And frankly, I’m not sure which aspect of my present life confounds and annoys them more…

  • Is it that I didn’t crumple under the weight of guilt and regret and become a frumpy and pathetic divorcee?
  • Is it that I have made a life — however modest and humble — of which I am proud and with which I am content?
  • Is it that my standing within our community has not been altered or affected in any appreciable way?
  • Is it that Bryce and I have (at least on the surface) a very congenial and mutually-supportive friendship?
  • Is it that we have both found happiness with others and have accepted those other partners?
  • Or is it that they were so damn wrong and can’t figure out how or why???

I know that after the divorce, I was supposed to slink around town looking guilt-ridden and glum, but I didn’t feel that way and wasn’t about to play that role for anyone’s benefit.  I know that my relationship with Bryce — the fact that we sit with each other at soccer games and school functions and community events — is surprising and confusing to those who don’t know us and our commitment to our daughters.  I know that my sincere acceptance and welcome of his girlfriend Debbie makes some people just plain uncomfortable.

But you know what?

They need to just get over it.

Because it’s actually pretty simple:  Bryce is not a terrible person; he just wasn’t the right partner for me, nor me for him.  Debbie is a very nice, sweet, friendly woman whom I have absolutely no reason to dislike.  We are all doing our mutual best to support and raise my daughters.  For the life of me, I will never understand what is wrong with this picture.

I had a phone conversation this week with a guy friend I’ve known for 27 years, during which he told me that he thinks it’s “unnatural” for Bryce and Debbie and me to attend the girls’ events together.  Now it was my turn to be confused.  “Unnatural”??  Seriously?  What exactly are we “supposed” to do — take turns loving them?  Maybe I should only love them on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that Bryce and Debbie can also get their days?  Or perhaps we should do the time-honored thing and shove them in the middle of some acrimony so that they can get the more traditional divorce experience?

So here we are now, reviewing and considering schools, discussing pros and cons for Sabrina and trying to make the best choices possible for her, and I am reminded — once again — that even in our attempts to do what is best by our girls, we are somehow different.

I have made my peace with different.  I am proud of where we are now and what it’s taken us to get here.  I am glad that my children are not embarrassed by our behavior, nor do they feel torn between us.  There will be arguments and hurt feelings and maybe even legal battles down the road, but we are establishing a good, strong precedent for working together for the sake of our children. We are integrating new partners and trying to support each other in our new lives.  We are the embodiment of the modern American family, for better or for worse.

And we’re not going anywhere.

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