Category Archives: sadness

elevator wisdom

My mother has a boyfriend.  It seems odd to say that of a 73-year-old woman, but what else do you call a man she’s dated for the last 10 years, but isn’t married to and doesn’t live with?  So, “boyfriend” it is.

But really, he’s a member of our family.  I’ll call him “Ted.”  Ted is a wonderful man:  kind, generous to a fault, patient, gentle, but also a “guy’s guy” who has slowed down athletically only because time has insisted upon it.  Ted is like a father to me and a grandfather to my children, and my ex-husband admitted that he was sad to lose Ted in the divorce.  I’d have been, too, if I were him.

Every year, my girls and I vacation in Cancun for a week with Ted and my mom.  It is Ted’s gift to my family, and we all look forward to all year long.  Coming from a land-locked state, my girls have grown up with those white sands and turquoise waters as their beach, and I have relished the giving them that experience.

Ted and I had an instant rapport.  We have some obvious commonalities — similar education, being an only child, same sense of humor — but, more importantly, we just seem to “get” each other.  There is an understanding there that has bound us together for many years now, facing my mother’s health crises, my divorce, his daughter’s addictions.  Despite our difference in age, we give each other advice, and respect it more than either of us does from most people.

One day when we were in Cancun a year and a half ago, I was struggling.  I’d awoken that morning from difficult dreams highlighting the hard choices I’d made recently with regard to my marriage, my children, my work… I felt lost and wondered if I was rushing headlong to disaster.

We were all sitting by the pool late that morning, when Ted announced that he was returning to his villa to retrieve his sun hat.  I took the opportunity to accompany him inside and check my email at my own villa.  As we stepped into the elevator, Ted turned to me, looked me squarely in the eye, and began speaking as if he were resuming a conversation we’d just paused in.  He said this:

Here’s the thing.  My dad wasn’t the smartest guy about some things, but every once in a while, he was pretty wise.  And he used to tell me that once a choice is made, there’s no going back, only forward.  Any choice can seem like a bad one in hindsight, and any choice can seem like a good one.  It depends on how you’re determined to see it.  The trick, he’d say, is to stop thinking of it as a choice once it’s made.  The guessing, the thinking, the analyzing, all that is over.  The choice isn’t a choice anymore; it’s a decision.  Treat it like a foregone conclusion or a mandate from God or however you have to think of it, but don’t look back, only forward.  Seek the opportunities hidden in it and remain open to the possibilities.  Second-guessing will only slow you down, and you’ll especially need the forward momentum if it really was a bad choice.  No matter.  It’s done.  Just look ahead and keep moving.  Okay, here’s my place.  See you down at the pool.

And then he exited the elevator, and I was left, mouth agape, wondering how in the world he’d known what I was struggling with that morning.

Ted was right, of course, and I’ve thought about his words often in the time since.  It’s so easy to play the “what if” game with the benefit of additional information and experience and wisdom, but where does it get us really?  Reflection from a distance can be useful, definitely, but not when it stalls our progress.  Not when it mires us in self-doubt and uncertainty that is likely borne more of fear and insecurity than of a truly rationale evaluation of our earlier decision.  If a decision was truly wrong, we usually know it immediately and can correct our course in that short timeframe.  Revisiting an old decision is usually nothing more than a way to give power to our fears.  Most of us make good decisions, for us, for that moment.  They may not take us where we’d thought they would, but they probably take us where we need to be.

Ted’s advice was exactly what I needed to hit my internal reset button and push past the moribund wallowing in which I was engaging.  Relinquishing the weight of self-doubt and second-guessing frees up so much energy and stamina and clarity to identify and tackle the good stuff that might be just around the corner.

Plus, it gives me time to try and figure out how Ted managed to frame and solve my emotional crisis in the span of a 5-floor elevator ride…..

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

the dream house that nearly was

I spent the day today with a friend who is looking for a new home for himself and his kids.  The home he currently lives in is very beautiful and suits him perfectly, but he was forced to sell it in his divorce settlement, so at some point in the not distant future, he and his children will need a new home.

Property in our area is quite expensive, so our scouting expedition took us practically the entire length and breadth of our county, plus some short forays into neighboring counties.  We climbed roads accessible only by 4×4 vehicles.  We rode switchbacks that made me carsick.  We got out and walked through high prairie scrub to views that were truly breathtaking.   And then we’d get back in the truck and keep looking.

Last month he had a contract on a house that, almost as soon as I saw it, I pictured him comfortably in it.  He withdrew the contract because the house — once owned by the infamous “Marlboro Man” of advertising history —  is seriously dilapidated.  Too unique and perfect in some regards to simply scrape, it would require mountains of cash and construction expertise to rehabilitate.  Even so, there is something about the property — the  house, the barns, the trees, the views all the way to the Back Range of the Rockies — that makes me think he may yet wind up there.

The interesting thing about making these drives with him is that I have watched him building new dreams, post-divorce.  The house he lives in now was a boring, dark ranch-model home when he bought it for his then-new family.  He lovingly turned it into a dream house, complete with a man-made freshwater pond in the backyard for swimming and a giant deck for entertaining.  But that home is no longer his, and his family is no longer what it was.

Over the last year or so since we’ve been looking at properties together, I’ve watched him become increasingly comfortable with the idea of letting go of his current home and starting afresh.  I watch him survey a prospective piece of land or house, his arm arching the sky, describing what he’d build and how it would look.  I can see the memories he’s imagining that he and his children will make in each place.  I observe him moving forward, onward.

On our drive today, we passed a large farmhouse that is probably close to 100-years-old.  It sits solidly on its flat lot East of the foothills, facing the looming mountains across its fields.  The trees surrounding it are large, probably nearing the end of their lifespan, and the house itself has seen better days.  But it is solid.  It has, as we like to say, “good bones.”  As we motored past, I stared at it wistfully.  Renovating an old farmhouse was something I’d always dreamed of, and it was one of those dreams that seemed attainable, especially after I started my own interior design business.  I think I always kind of thought that someday my ex-husband and I would do that together, and then grow old in that mythical house, with grandchildren running about the yard.

But it turns out that Bryce never really liked home improvement projects much, and so that work fell to me.   And now, given my markedly different financial situation, the likelihood of my ever having a little farmhouse to renovate is decidely slim.  That dream  is yet another casualty of my divorce.

Rolling along today in the sunshine, I experienced a moment of deep melancholy.  Perhaps that is the most difficult part of divorce — relinquishing dreams that you held so dear, some of which were so close, but only just out of your grasp.  Some of those dreams are huge and profound — like the idea of celebrating a 50th anniversary with your partner for life — while others are simpler and smaller — like being able to sit together as one family at your daughter’s wedding.  But big or small, they are the dreams that we pin our hopes to, hitch our stars to, and throw ourselves headlong into life in order to —  just maybe! —  grasp them.

I think sometimes we don’t even realize that the dream is gone, until it suddenly hits us on a sunny spring afternoon, with the truck kicking up dust on the unpaved road.  As I craned my neck to look back at the farmhouse, I silently said goodbye to yet another small dream from my hope chest that slipped quietly away when I was wasn’t looking.

It’s easy to hold too tightly to those dreams that evaporate when we divorce.  We could spend years, or even a lifetime, looking back on what was lost.  But in doing so, we lose all possibility for creating new dreams and chasing those down. I had to remind myself of that as the road turned and I lost sight of that old farmhouse today.  There’s no use looking back and pining for what might have been.  Not when I could use that energy to manifest dreams that are possible on the road in front of me.

I asked my friend once if he was going to be sad to leave the house he’d built as his dream home for his family.  He was quiet for a just moment, and then he said, “Sure.  I’ll probably cry like a baby.  But then I’ll move on.  Because that’s over, isn’t it?”

Indeed.

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Filed under divorce, general musings, healing, relationships, sadness

precariously lost

pre-car-i-ous, [pri-kair-ee-uhs], adjective:

  1. dependent on circumstances beyond one’s control; uncertain; unstable; insecure: a precarious livelihood.
  2. dependent on the will or pleasure of another; liable to be withdrawn or lost at the will of another: He held a precarious tenure under an arbitrary administration.
  3. exposed to or involving danger; dangerous; perilous; risky: the precarious life of an underseas diver.
  4. having insufficient, little, or no foundation: a precarious assumption.

It’s no coincidence that I named my blog after an Emily Dickinson poem.  And if you’ve been following me for the last year, you know how apt a name it is.  But I have been feeling particularly precarious of late….

There is nothing wrong, exactly.  In fact, there is plenty that is right.  As I sit here and contemplate my life, I can tick off nearly every aspect that is just about as good as I could possibly hope.  But something is definitely wrong.

Work right now is amazing.  I am spearheading a project for which I have no past experience, no staff, minimal training, and minimal resources.  Should I mess it up, the repercussions would be serious and long-lasting, generate terrible negative publicity, and could (possibly but not likely) result in expensive lawsuits.  But my colleagues seem to have unwavering confidence in me, and that is enormously gratifying.  I have attacked the project with a focus and determination I had nearly forgotten I possessed.  I have found myself calling on knowledge and skills I haven’t reached for in 10 years or more.  And so far, I have it in hand.  It has been a wonderful reminder that there are some things in my life that I truly do well.  And if that wasn’t enough on the professional front, I even received an award last night.  At a community dinner in the small town in which I work,  a “community champion” award was bestowed upon me.  How’s that for external validation?

At home, I have sunk myself into my children in the last two months.  We three girls have played more games and painted more nails and done more cooking than usual.  We’ve had more heart-to-heart talks and cuddles on the sofa and shared jokes.  I have felt closer, more connected, to my children than at any time since right after my separation.  They have confided things to me and asked me tough questions and engaged with me in ways that have made me feel like I must be doing something right in this whole mess we call parenting.

I have been putting my house in order, quite literally; ticking items off my to-do list and re-visiting projects that I abandoned in the chaos that was late December.  I have been running on my elliptical.  Doing yoga.  Reading for pleasure.  Re-connecting with friends.  Going to my favorite church. Puttering in my little yard.  Writing in my journal.  Getting sleep and taking vitamins and eating well.

In short, I am doing all the things that a person should do to feel grounded and safe and connected. But I don’t.  Not at all.

I feel, lately, as if I am merely moving through my life, rather than really living it.  I’m apparently doing an excellent job moving through it, though, for what that’s worth.  I suppose that, in much of life, just showing up is the point.  And I am definitely showing up.  No balls being dropped over here.  No mistakes or flubs or crises in my life right now.  Oh no, I’ve got it all under control, thankyouverymuch.

Except that I have found myself quite often teetering on the brink of tears for no apparent reason.  I sleep well and deeply and have pleasant dreams, but awaken feeling sad and… stuck.  I no longer have certainty in some of the cornerstone ideals that have guided me my entire life.  New, less promising and less optimistic futures play about in my head and create fears I have never, ever known before.  And something about this last break-up demolished my confidence in my appearance; I can barely stand to look in a mirror these days and the thought of getting naked in front of a man leaves me cold.  This is true, despite the fact that I have actually lost weight in the last two months and bought a smaller size jeans today.  Go figure.  Finally, and perhaps most disconcerting, I have started and abandoned a handful of posts for this blog… the words, the ideas, the concepts are not there.  And when I run out of words…. well, that is a bad sign, indeed.

There have been multiple times in my life during which I have felt as if I am holding it all together through the sheer force of will, and looking damn good while doing it.  I remember, in particular, a time in law school when I felt as if I were faking my way through every single day — juggling a full-time courseload at a rigorous university with a nearly full-time, incredibly demanding job and some vague semblance of a social life.  I felt like an utter fraud, because each and every day I wondered if it would simply all fall apart.

I feel that way again now.  Collecting my award last night was surreal.  I was acutely aware of what my image is to my colleagues and the townspeople, how they perceive me and respect me and experience me.  As I returned to my table and handed the award to my daughters (who promptly began fighting over it), I wondered at how much we conceal in our hearts.

Were I less encumbered with children and financial obligations, now would be the time that I would make a drastic change in my life to shake myself out of this place.  Something on the scale of moving to another country.  As it is, I am not certain of what to do next.  In fact, I find myself, for the first time in many, many years, quite frightened by the thought of what “next” will look like.  My greatest fear is that it will simply look like more of “now.”

My brain knows that this is not possible; that the only constant in this life is change.  Whether you’re happy or sad, you can be sure that it will change.  So, presumably, at some point, change will come again, and possibly it will be good change that chase away my feelings of mild melancholy.  (I am well aware that it could also go in the other direction and change could come in the form of a major health crisis or terrible emotional loss or financial ruin, but we’re going to pretend that those possibilities do not actually exist.  Just because I want to.  So humor me, please.)

My touchstone these days is this: A small patch of crocus and tulip and narcissus bulbs that have begun to push through the top soil and reach for the weak sun that bathes my courtyard.  Each day, I go out and check on their progress, for they are my harbingers of change, a tangible representation of what I so desperately need right now:  life in bloom. I allow myself to imagine that by the time they are actually blooming, things might be different in my heart.  Perhaps my soul will have recovered its old buoyancy.  Maybe my faith and hope and optimism in the future will have returned.  Or maybe I will have learned to be contented with some new version of my future that presently seems scary and foreign to me.

Time, in its inevitable march, will surely tell.

And until then, I’ll keep moving forward.  Precariously.

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Filed under general musings, personal growth, relationships, sadness, single mom

sucker punch

I took my labelmaker (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has a labelmaker) to work this morning so that our receptionist could label some things around the office.  But after only one label, it ran out of ribbon (yes, it was that kind of morning).

Arriving home late in evening after helping a work friend with an errand he needed to run, I headed to my craft box and began pawing through it, looking for the extra label ribbon that I knew was in there (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has extra label ribbon).   I couldn’t find it, so I took the box to the dining room table and dumped the contents across its surface.   Then, poking through the markers and paints and glues (aha!  I knew I had extra label ribbon!), my hand froze on a tube of paint, I felt the air sucked out of my lungs, and the memory washed over me….

It was Christmas Eve and I stood in front of James’s hearth, fingering the Christmas stockings hanging from the mantle.  Five identical stockings, plain and  unadorned.  I looked across the room at James and pointed to the stockings.  He crossed the room and explained that his ex-wife had taken all the stockings when she’d left.  “Well,” I said, “When Christmas is over, you need to let me take these and decorate them, personalize them.  This looks sad.  I’ll fix them up!”  He shrugged.  “Okay, sure.”

And so, in the days immediately after Christmas, still on a happiness high from my amazing holiday weekend, I went out and bought tubes of paints in Christmas colors, plus puffy white paint to mimic snow, and silver glittery paint to make them festive.  I found an old t-shirt and spread it on the dining room table and starting practicing all the letters in their names, drawing snow flakes and holly leaves, ornaments and gifts.  I was determined to make those stockings perfect.  When the kids arrived at their dad’s next Christmas, they’d find pretty stockings, decorated with love.

But I never decorated those stockings.  By the end of that week, my relationship with James was blown apart, all my hopes for shared holidays to come, dashed.

I don’t remember cleaning up the paints or the practice t-shirt.   I must have done it when I was still numb with pain.  I had forgotten about all those colorful tubes, about my silly plans, about my offer to James to help make things special for his children.

Until tonight.

It’s so unfair how life can sucker punch you.  There you are, moving along pretty much okay, trying to just put everything behind you, letting go of what you never really had, and WOOMPH!, a sucker punch from left field ushers in all the grief and loss all over again.

I wish that I had decorated those stockings.  I wish that those children had some tangible token of my love.  They would likely never realize, or probably care, who had decorated them or why, but I would know.  I would know that each Christmas, a little tiny piece of me would be there, loving on them still.

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Filed under healing, love, parenthood, relationships, sadness, single mom

the mother figure

I got home late from work, tossed the mail on the counter and was still taking off my coat as I grabbed the phone to pick up the messages indicated by the blinking red light.

When I heard the voice, I stopped.  Moving.  Breathing.  Thinking.

It was the sweet little voice of James’ 9-year-old daughter, Chelsea, calling from her mother’s home, across the country.  “Hi Miss _____,” she said softly.  “Or Bryn or Sabrina or whoever picks up this message.  It’s Chelsea, and I miss you so much.  I was just talking to my daddy and decided to call you and tell you how much I can’t wait to see you over Spring Break and the summer.  I wish I was in Colorado with you.  Call me back sometime soon.  I miss you.  Bye.”

By the time the voicemail clicked onto the next message, I was sitting on the floor of my foyer, coat half-on/half-off, with damp cheeks.  How I love those children of his…

Dating with kids is a dicey prospect at best.  In previous posts,  I have written about how much it hurt me to say goodbye to his children, and how upset my daughter Bryn was when I told her that James and I had broken up.  They are innocent passengers on our dating journeys, buffeted by the ups and downs of relationships they can’t begin to understand.

Just a short time ago, I was worrying about his three children as if they were my own.  Their mother is pretty chaotic and unstable, and unfortunately more interested in partying and drinking than in them.   The children don’t trust her or feel safe with her, and their reports of  physical and verbal abuse between her and her fiance had James racing to his attorney to evaluate his legal options.   They are smart, good kids caught in a difficult and sad situation.

My time with James’ children meant a lot to me, but I realize now that it was good for them, too.  In fact, I was probably one of the best things to happen to those kids in a long time.  Unlike their own mother, I know how to love completely and without conditions or manipulation.  Even when they pushed me away, I was steady and committed to them.  I cared for and about them without asking for anything in return.  I listened to them and supported them and showered them with affection.  And I offered a role model to the two little girls that they didn’t have anywhere else in their life.

And now I have to let them go.

James always said that the kids came first.  If that’s true, then the best thing he can do for those children is to create a safe, stable family for them.  I hope that he goes out and finds a good woman he can truly love who will love them and nurture them.  I hope that someday he models for them a healthy romantic relationship so that they will have some idea of what one looks like.  I hope that those precious girls have a woman in their life to guide them to their fullest potential, because they have so very much.  I hope that his son will have a mother figure who helps him understand that not all women will make him feel inadequate and helpless.

Is it too much to hope for?  Maybe.  But it’s all I can do now.

So, I picked myself up off the floor, shrugged off my coat, and sent a quick text to Chelsea letting her know that Bryn would call her over the weekend.   Then I said a silent prayer for all of them — that they be happy, healthy, and protected.

It’s all I can do.

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for Lisa….

This morning I was introduced to a woman whose eyes took me back three years in time.  This post is dedicated to her and all the other “Lisas”….

“Lisa” and I met awkwardly and unexpectedly, in a waiting room, through a mutual friend.  Our friend wanted me to meet Lisa because she is struggling through the end of her marriage, and our friend thought my blog might help her.  I reached out my hand in hello and Lisa took it, but when she turned her eyes to me, my heart broke.

The tears were about to spill over, when she asked me, in a soft voice, “It does get better, right?”

Oh boy.

I remember those days.  I remember the fear and the helplessness.  The near desperation and the loneliness.  I knew no one my own age who was divorcing or had been divorced.  I felt like I was alone in a sea of people making different choices from me.  I didn’t have anyone to point to and say “THERE!  That’s what I want to have!  That’s what I’m aiming for, too!”  I remember saying to Annie, before she had left her marriage, “I need to see a divorced woman who has made it to the other side.  I need to see someone who is happy and content and past all of this.  I need to see it and I need to see it NOW because I am afraid that it doesn’t actually exist.”

When your marriage is falling apart — whether because you are leaving or he is — you’re awash in doubts and regrets and uncertainties.  It seems that every time you find something you feel certain about, another wave of doubt washes over you and you’re floating in ambivalence again.  The pain of the broken dreams and smashed hopes is palpable; it’s true:  depression hurts.  And the whole time, you’re grasping for a lifesaver that you can ride to the other side.

What has amazed me (and my friends who came through it after me) is how similar the process is for most of us.  No matter the reasons for the marriage’s failure, or the proportion of guilt assigned, the process of moving through those feelings and struggles is very, very similar.  True, some people stall at one point or another, and some are more extreme in the expression of their feelings at particular places along the way, but, overall, the journey is very similar.

And thank God for that.

Because, Lisa, there are lots and lots of us who have been where you are.  Who have had the same fears and sadness you are facing.  Who have had to pick up the pieces of lives blown apart and start anew.  Small steps…. little victories… until we begin to create a life that is whole and good and hopeful again.

In fact, hope might be the defining feature of these new lives.  Not the feigned or desperate or false hopes you’ve experienced time and again as your marriage has unraveled, but the true, buoyant hope of possibilities grounded in the certainty of your own strength and knowledge of your own needs and desires.  I have had my heart broken twice since my divorce, but it was an entirely different kind of pain.  It’s not the pain of being stuck or of being hopeless.  It’s the pain of being alive.  And that distinction is real and true and makes all the difference.

Moving through a divorce is not easy, and anyone who claims it was for them is either lying or delusional.  Building a new life is never easy, and when you’re weighed down by the guilt and fear and doubts that you carry out of a broken marriage, it’s doubly hard.  But nothing truly worth having has ever come easily.  Nothing.  And when you reach the other side and realize that, somewhere along the way, you have put the guilt aside, overcome the fear, and cast off the doubts, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of a life you hardly recognize but can claim as your own.

I remember reading the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to my daughters when they were small.  It’s the whimsical, lyrical tale of a family that sets off on an imaginary bear hunt (only to, quite comically, encounter a real bear).  The part of the book that I loved, and stressed to my girls, was the refrain the family chanted every time they hit an obstacle  — “Can’t go over it.  Can’t go under it.  Guess we’ll have to go through it!”  And so the family does.

Divorce is like a bear hunt.  There is no easy way around it or over it or under it.  You’ve just got to square your shoulders, straighten your back, set your focus, and go through it.   That’s the only way to the other side.  Sitting in your misery and expecting it will change of its own accord won’t do it.  Neither will hoping that someday you’ll have the strength.  There’s never a “good time” to get a divorce.  It’s never going to hurt less.  It will suck.

But then, one day, it won’t.

One of the first men I dated after my separation told me about his divorce recovery from his first wife.  He spoke about how he had simply put one foot in front of another for what seemed an eternity but was probably about 6 months.  He told me how he’d begun to wonder if he’d ever be happy again….  And then, one day, he was running errands on an ordinary Saturday, and he went into the bank to make a deposit.  He came out and the sun was shining. He stopped for a moment and let its warmth touch his face, and as he did, it hit him.  He was okay again.  In fact, he was kind of happy again.  He said he stood in the bank parking lot and cried silent tears of gratitude.  He had made it.  He had made it to the other side.  Life was beginning again.

I think most of us have similar moments we could relate.  They are precious and they are sacred, and, if I could, I would box them up and deliver them to you, Lisa, to carry you through the days ahead.  But since I can’t, you’ll just have to have faith that yours are awaiting you.

One small step after another.  It’s the only way any of us got here.  It’s how you’ll get here, too.

And someday, you’ll feel the sun on your face and the hope in your heart.  Again.

P.S. — There is an email button on this website.  Feel free to use it.  🙂

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Filed under divorce, healing, marriage, relationships, sadness, single mom

why I won’t hate blog James…

… but I could.  Boy howdy, could I ever.

But I won’t.  Not really.

It isn’t for lack of material, that’s for sure. He has provided ample fodder of late.  I mean, I could write scathing posts about how he was asking someone else out while we were still supposedly exclusive.  Or really let him have it for trading texts on Christmas Day with a girl who was stripper.  (Classy, no?)  Yes, indeed, I have some draft posts that would scald your eyes to read them.  But they will never be published.

Nope.

This is all the cyber world will hear of his transgressions and failures.  These tidbits of vitriol, in this short post, is all that I’ll publicly hurl at his well-deserving reputation.

Don’t worry, I’ve let him have all of it.  Okay, not all of it, but close.  I told him that he’s made me regret loving him, regret being so good and kind to him, regret having ever met him.  I told him to stay away from me and my children.  And I meant every word.  My blinders are off and the truth is like a hot white light in my eyes.

In my quiet moments, I have silently raged at him for not living up to the potential I saw in him.  I have hated myself for my silliness in believing that we’d shared anything remotely special.  I have chastised myself for the loving words and delighted posts dedicated to him on this blog.

But here’s the good news:  I am almost worn out of it.  I can feel the shock and anger and disappointment and disgust spinning off and away, as if down some metaphorical drain to join the sludge of relationships drowned in deceptions and lies and mistrust.  I can feel it all sliding off of me and leaving me tired and calm and clean again.  Ahhhh….

I have taken every step I can to insure that he is nowhere near my life, this man whom I loved such a short time ago, and yet didn’t really know at all.  I have determinedly turned my back on him and our past and have begun quietly re-ordering my life so as to fill the spaces left by his departure.

There will be ample time for reflection, and — knowing me — I will likely do more than is necessary.  But for right now, I am simply being.  I am working and mothering and resting and dreaming of the days when my heart will be more consistently light again.

My decision to end the James portion of my blog and my life here and now has nothing to do with him.  I am not protecting his reputation or privacy.  I am definitely not trying to curry favor with him or give him any hope that I might still respect him.  No, this is entirely about me.  Foolish as it was, I loved him, and I did so for as long and as well as I could, purely and completely and without guile or an agenda.  I accepted his flaws that I knew about and defended him to those who attacked him.  I worked really hard at the relationship and treated it with honor and integrity.

And I’m not going to ruin that now.

I refuse to demean myself by casting all the stones my broken heart would so sorely like to hurtle.  I refuse to abandon the good breeding my parents instilled in me.  I refuse to diminish what I thought we had just because he was too stupid and undeserving to value it.

So, with that I will end my James story.  Surely his name will surface from time to time, but I am reclaiming the part of my life that he owned.  I will not allow him to take anything more from me.

I’m done.

Goodbye, James.

Hello, Rest of My Life.

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sorrow pays a visit

I awoke this morning to a pillow wet from my own tears.  Tears I was not aware of having shed.  Tears that had fallen as I slept fitfully, tortured by self-recrimination and regret.

Sorrow is so powerful, she takes my breath away, and I’ve no idea how to battle her.

I remember when I was 14 and my first real boyfriend and I broke up.  I was spectacularly devastated.  I hung up the phone with him, threw myself on my bed, and sobbed until I had no tears left.  My mother sat beside me, stroking my back and urging me to “get it all out.”  When I was done, I rolled over, looked at her, and said (quite dramatically, I’m sure), “I’ll never fall in love again.  This sucks.  I’m never going to hurt this way again.  Ever.”  She sighed and replied, “Yes, you will.  Yes, it does.  And honey, it never gets easier.”

I hate it when my mom is right.

It seems that no matter how old I get, or how much I learn, or how hard I try to be guarded, I end up holding the shards of my heart in my hands, confounded by how they got there.  Again.

I remember being in my 20’s and wondering aloud to my friend Katrina if maybe it did get easier as you got older.  I mean, it had to, right?  In every other area of life, you learn a lesson and apply it the next time to your benefit, avoiding that pitfall.  Surely, as you went through relationships, you must learn enough lessons that the intensity of  the pain subsided and you finally reached a place where you could say, with a large measure of equanimity, “Well, that just didn’t work out,” and move on without Sorrow taking you behind the woodshed for another beating.

Right?  Right???

Wrong.  Sorrow buries me alive every time.  It doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times I cry or how many times I’ve loved or how many times I’ve thought it was going to have a different ending.  It doesn’t matter whether I end it or he does, whether someone behaved horribly badly or love just died of old age, whether I have another set of arms to run to or not.  Every single time I’ve had my heart broken, it has felt just as bad as that first time, and sometimes worse, if we’re being honest.

Last night, at Annie’s New Year’s Eve party, I spent a fair amount of time talking to a man I’d never met before.  Our conversation ranged widely, and fairly quickly our discourse passed from the mundane — “So, how old are you children?” — to the intimate — “Do you think you and your ex expressed love in the same fashion?”  At one point we were talking about sorrow and this idea that it doesn’t get easier.  We agreed that we’d both thought that the end of our marriage had to be the worst it would ever get.  Surely anything after that would feel like a mere bump in the road compared to the complete devastation of the divorce cyclone.  But again, we were wrong.  It doesn’t get easier.  It just doesn’t.

Sometimes, if she’s feeling particularly malicious, Sorrow will bring her friend Regret along for the visit.   Regret is a brutal teacher.  She brings me to my knees again and again and again.  She reminds me of the dangers of being open and taking risks. She whispers how stupid I’ve been to have trusted.  And now that I’m a mother, she blasts me for dragging my children through my idiocy.  Fortunately, I am enough of a Pollyanna that Regret usually tires of me quickly.  But her short visits are cruel indeed.

So, this morning I woke up in bed with Sorrow.  Regret, seeing that I was awake, began her tirade in my head.  I shooed them both away and picked up the phone and called Katrina.  But they will undoubtably be back again before this pain subsides.

Eventually, their work here will be done for now.  Hope will reappear and send Sorrow and Regret packing.  And I will once again start down that long road, in search of the exit that will take me to a place where I’ll never, ever have to see them again.

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

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

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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Filed under dating, divorce, marriage, parenthood, sadness