Month: September 2009

om om om good times

Randomly remembering some good times, and no, not in a eulogistic kind of way!  I do yoga and have for years, I wasn’t one of those people who joined the “pioneers” of what became the new fitness craze of the late 90s, early 2000’s, but I found it after Mr. Ex was on an extended gig for work flying home only on the weekends from Miami, the customer site.  A good friend of mine, K, told me I better find something to calm me down (I was a little wound up taking care of 3 “babies” by myself week after week,) and she suggested yoga.  I had been doing this other stuff for years, (calisthenics, aerobics, lots of sit ups,)  and it was good, but it wasn’t emotionally soothing by far.  So I tried yoga, how hard could it be?  Well, who knew.  After a couple of weeks mastering basic yoga, I jumped right in to power yoga/hot yoga and found muscles, and cardiovascular systems, and physical parts of my body that I never knew existed.  If you do it right you are working out areas of your body you never knew weren’t working before…and on top of it, it was really, really cathartic for me.  It was like a drug.  I can’t describe it any other way, I was completely deeply emotionally and physically transformed by yoga on a daily basis.  (Still am.) 

My friend K was doing it too, as well as pilates, she really digs pilates, but she’s already pretty emotionally advanced so she didn’t need to master the transformative spiritual part of yoga. (And by spiritual I don’t mean religion in any sense of the world, I mean a universal consciousness thing.)  Assuming you read from the “bottom up,” (ie day one of my blog,) remember how I used to start my day, I’d have coffee talk with my best bud K and then we’d work out in our separate homes, or vice versa–workout then coffee talk, and I would get my daily dose of yoga and her wisdom on life which simultaneously carried me through each day.  She was like my life support.  Yoga and K got me through each day. 

This went on for a long time, a few years, then I had to move to Virginia with Mr. Ex.  That story was a different post (See “Who are you and where do you live?”) and right before we moved back home K and I decided to go to a national yoga conference that was being held in Boston with all the big yoga gurus of the world.  We practically had all of their videos (a lot of VHS tapes, this was sort of on the edge of the invention of the dvd,) and we could now go to this big convention and do yoga all day with these famous yogis and stay in a great hotel in Boston, get away from our families for a couple of days and get some “girls night out” time in too.

So Mr Ex, children, and I move home into the house of structural ruin, including no heat, no well, things collapsing around us, and…I have viral meningitis.  Two weeks before the conference I was in the hospital feeling like I was dying after moving home where I wanted to be and so looking forward to our big yoga weekend.  (This was a real go with the flow opportunity.)  We paid big money and it was non-refundable so the pressure was on.  I got out of bed and forced myself to go to the conference and it was worth every ounce of exhaustion, aches, pains, did I mention exhaustion (who can do yoga ALL.DAY.LONG just coming off of viral meningitis…ok who can do yoga all day long anyway?)  We had a blast.

It was really funny because we were a couple of fit and hip gals who pretended they were super yogic and tried to blend in…and we got to people watch, no judgment in yoga, but it’s a whole different world when you’re at a conference with thousands of “yoga people.”  I am chatty (remember I’m from the Midwest,) and was not afraid to talk to anyone about whatever, and she is quiet and reserved (true New Englander,) and I got the biggest kick out of how I would say, “We have 3 kids,” meaning we EACH were moms of 3 kids, and she would quickly qualify that we were separately married to different men and bore 3 children each with our respective mates….I don’t even think of stuff like that, I just talk fast and chit chat about whatever…nothing really matters in the yogic world. Truly.  It’s not about the perception factor, it’s about getting real with yourself.  Yoga is about individuality and true self expression of the soul while getting a pretty good workout along the way.

Did I mention the amazing comfortable beds at the hotel?  And the really soft sheets and towels?  How about the room service and the view of the city.  Even better, we would ride up and down the elevator with some of these wildly famous yogi’s…it was like star-gazing.  One of them (can we say real names on blogs?) who was like our hero looked right at my friend K and with a big smile on his face, perfectly white teeth, and his long black hair in a pony tail, said to her, “That’s a really big suitcase for 3 days!”  Did she just die and shrink into the corner of the elevator or what.  I, of course, chimed right in and said “Hey we have the same insurance!”  Dork.  I saw him on the back of a magazine that comes for my financial company which happens to be only offered to the military (my father was in the air force for a brief period before I was born,) and turns out that this big yoga guy also has this same financial company (his father was in the military too,) and I just had to share that with him because, well, that’s what I do.  Find a commonality with a superstar and then try to be his friend. 

Later on in the conference I saw him in the bookstore and approached him and reminded him I was the insurance magazine gal with the friend who had the giant suitcase in the elevator and asked him to autograph one of his videos for me, which he did so happily, politely, and he was even funny…made a few jokes…we laughed…I asked him out for coffee JUST KIDDING.  (about the asking him out part. But I will say even Mr. Ex thinks yoga guy has good hair.) 

Sidebar:  several years later I got an invitation to be part of a video he was making for PBS, and actually went to the taping, sat in the small audience, and got a big headshot in the video…now who’s a superstar?  Don’t think he remembered me but would like to pretend that he did.  I am after all, one of his biggest fans. 

Anyway…good times. 

Namaste.

Who are you and where do you live?

Let’s talk about selling the house.  I know I hate change but what got me into this house mess that I now want to change, is that I was so desperate for change that I ended up letting that control some decision making that ended up working against me.  Several years ago when Mr. Ex’s job during the dot-com crash in the early 2000’s (how weird does that sound, early 2000’s,) necessitated our move to DC (well, northern Virginia, where most who relocate to the DC area move,) we ended up buying this nice big house in this beautiful neighborhood, complete with community pool, clubhouse, tennis, it was a gated community, but not “locked.”  Picture-perfect.  Hated it.  The greater-DC area is nothing like New England, it was pure culture shock.  People come and go, they move in and out frequently, they don’t “settle in,” and it’s a virtual and cultural melting pot of race, creed, color, and circumstance.  It’s no wonder I had trouble there, I don’t do change very well and every day things change in Northern Virginia.

 The first thing that surprised me was that nobody really welcomed us into the neighborhood.  I didn’t understand why until I had lived there a little bit and realized that nobody really lives there for too long anyway.  We had this great-and beautiful, state of the art I might add-recreation, fitness and aquatic center…(that’s what they call it-an aquatic center–big fancy name for olympic-sized swimming pool and hot tub.)  It offered everything a family would want to meet their recreational needs, including classes, programs, and services for adults and children.  I eagerly signed us up for everything, it was the most impressive and seemingly welcoming place on earth, back dropped by beautiful perfectly landscaped scenery of mountains and rolling green hills.  So I take my youngest (who at the time was 2,) to some “mommy and me” classes, and well, nobody talked to me.  I talked to them, they barely talked back.  Everybody just kept to themselves, even the leaders of the classes.  What is that all about?  Week after week after week, nothing.  No “true” interaction. 

Then there was the church.  Let’s get involved and active there, that’s where our little one was going to preschool, that’s where the other 2 offspring were in CCD (it’s not called that anymore, nor are we Catholic anymore,) so let’s get going.  We will meet people, we will become part of a community of “friends.”  People will like us.  We will have them over to dinner and create a new circle, a new group.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  Tried and failed.  Was it us?  What is wrong with us?  Why did people look at us funny when we talked to them and tried to get to know them?  Were we imagining this? 

When Christmas rolled around I baked batches and batches of my annual cookies that I have distributed to those near and dear for as long as I can remember, and I made plates for the neighbors and it shocked me when one immediate neighbor said to me, “Thanks for this, but who are you, and where do you live?”  That did me in.  One year of this and I was ready to go home.  Back home where I felt safe, secure, where I had laid down roots, where people liked me and I liked them.  Where people stayed and where people made sure there was “community.”  Part of the culture of New England.  It was in me and it was staying.

After a lot of crazy, creative mishaps of how to get us out of there that I will spare, we loaded up the moving van, drove away and never looked back.  That change did not work out so well after all.  After attempting to buy our old house back (hey why not try,) we found a different house to live in in the greater Boston area.  Little did we know that we were embarking on a journey down to the bottom.   This was the beginning of  the theme of our lives:  Nothing is really as it seems, nothing is really as it appears, and so was the case with this house.  The house was (and still is) beautiful, but we didn’t know that structurally it needed more work than the Greek ruins.  We lost every penny and then some renovating it.  Before it was the right house in the wrong place.  Now it was the wrong house in the right place.  See what trying to control things did for me?  Got me into trouble, and I dragged my family along with me. 

I’m told it’s important to look for the good.  There was good that came out of Virginia, my good friend M, who was the one person who stuck with me down there and has stuck with me since (maybe he likes dysfunction,) and I’ve learned a lot from him.  He is the epitome of going with the flow, although he prefers to use the choice words, “Just say F*** it.”  He finds freedom in that and there may be something to it, but that would require me letting go of control.  And another good friend C, who in her seemingly perfectly charmed life, is “real,” and very supportive.  She lets things roll off her back too, she just goes with it and takes it for what it is.  They don’t know each other, they both still live in Virginia, born and raised there actually (I think they are the only 2, everybody else is a “transplant.”)  And they are happy.

So maybe that’s it.  You just do what you have to do to be happy, no matter how much or how little control you have over it.  Maybe you just accept that having control is only an illusion anyway and your house will sell when it sells no matter how hard you try, your Mr. Ex will or won’t recover no matter how hard you try to help, your life will go how it flows no matter what.  You rely on yourself as best as you can…knowing that for some, it takes a village.

Afraid of Change

Beware:  the following is stream-of-thought consciousness.  I’ll be honest. My head is a whirlwind.  Not really sure how to get it to stop.  As my youngest said the other night, “I can’t write my book report, my brain is tired.”  I dig that.  The kid needs to give himself a break.  Wonder why I can’t do that for myself?   Kind of an easy answer—because I’m a control freak and can’t really go with the flow.  Character flaws that are gripping me like a good pair of Spanx. 

 My friend J went to one of the big wholesale clubs today, the one that starts with a “C,” I go to the one that starts with a “B, ” and we always check to see if either of us needs anything from alternate wholesale clubs, and I had her running up and down every long aisle with my short list, but she ended up getting me nothing because I DON’T LIKE CHANGE.  I don’t like changing brands of toilet paper, or laundry detergent, or paper towels, or really any stock household items (that B store carries and C store does not.)  And forget sweating the small stuff like what kind of toilet paper we use, I also don’t like changing routines, changing the clocks twice a year, changing friends, pets or spouses for that matter.  I really just don’t like change.  

 Which is ironic because I equally love and crave some change like changing linens (nothing like the crisp, cool feel of clean sheets, except when you are not sure if you should change them when your Mr. Ex moves out,) I love changing clothes, socks, underwear, furniture arrangement, and the change into fall weather.  (There is that the cool, crisp feeling again, just like the sheets.)  But even in those changes there is predictability.  And control.  Well, other than the weather…but there actually is security in knowing that we can’t control the weather…does that even make sense? 

 Whoever said change is good?  Really?  How can that be?  It is disruptive, it isn’t predictable, it isn’t secure, it is the unknown.   But I do need to make changes, like the house we live in and now apparently my life itself. 

 What necessitates change?  What precipitates change?  Maybe the fact that we don’t really have control over what life brings us day-to-day so life decides for us.  That’s a hard concept to grasp for me, so I cling to what I know, what feels comfortable, and why?  Because I’m a control freak. Why do some people embrace change?  Because they go with the flow?  Everybody has their own opinion on what I need to do and how I need to do it to get on with the changes of my life.  But it’s just not that simple. 

 That’s why my head is bubbling over with chaos.  I had no control over Mr. Ex’s addiction to gambling, over his secrecy about it, over the huge life-changes that are occurring because of it. 

 Did anybody say do-over?

Hi, I’m Libby, I’m a control freak

Making the best of our who knows what/when/where path, I decide to venture along with Mr. Ex to a support group.  That was quite an experience.  Boy if that’s not validation, I don’t know what is.  I thought I had the market cornered on managing a therapeutic support system (having a son on the autism spectrum,) but there is a whole world out there of “Anons” that can 12-step you right to “insert personal problem of choice here.” 

So post-meeting we ended up at a very famous java joint deciding a mocha latte was about as addicted as I get to anything.  While I’m pondering the great questions of life that were topics of discussion that night, I decide to call my real estate agent and take matters into my own hands.  (Did I say somewhere previously I’m sort of control freak?  Is there a 12-step for that?)

I’m just kind of tired of the house not being sold YET.  Must formulate a plan to feel as though I’m in control even though we know that is just not the case.  After telling her how to do her job (I think she’s getting tired of me now,) I finish my latte and go home to juggle the less deep matters of life, including laundry, dishes, checking school backpacks, tucking in kids and  watching my new favorite show.  I’ll give you a hint:  it’s about a group of MEN in the 1960’s who are advertising execs on MADison Avenue in Manhattan.  Rhymes with Bad Pen.

Whew that Don Draper is hot.  Who wouldn’t want to be married to someone who lies, cheats, drinks and smokes constantly?   (Hmmm.)

God, grant me some serenity NOW  or I’m going to have to get it myself.  <sigh>  Do I have to do EVERYTHING?

See Libby Juggle

So at the advice of my very expensive lawyer after a conversation that cost, um, $7.50 per minute, my lawyer says, “I never advise this except in the most rare and bizarre circumstances, but you should stay married.”

HUH??

After I takes a minute (for $7.50) to catch my breath, I listened to all the legal jargon crazy talk my very expensive lawyer says and decides to…say it with me…GO WITH THE FLOW. 

Apparently Mr. Ex and I cannot afford a Big D and have to live happily ever, confusingly ever, and crazily ever after.  Or at least live together in peaceful coexistence until finances do us part.  Lottery ticket anyone?  (oops no gambling allowed.)

But really,  being the spiritually progressive mortal that I am, I decide to leave this one to the powers that be and pray for peace, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

The kids were happy to see Mr. Ex The Dad move back in, and unfortunately the house sale did not work out yet.  Everything is YET.  YET:  what does that mean?  The house is not sold yet.  The finances haven’t improved yet.  The gambling addiction isn’t cured yet.  The magic wand hasn’t arrived yet.

But life is changing, as much as it is staying the same, it is changing.  I am learning to go with the flow.  I am learning about self-autonomy.  I am learning to juggle feelings, facts, fiction, fantasy, and fortitude. 

Life has a crazy way of taking you where you don’t need to be just yet.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Oh my Fairy God Mother.  I am so tired.  What a long week.  I didn’t sleep and sort of didn’t eat.  Between finding out Mr. Ex’s secret identity, moving him out of the cottage, figuring out how to be a single mom, getting some emotional and financial aid, selling the cottage—that’s a whole different story.  It’s not like I waved a magic wand and sold our 275 year old-fully renovated- looks like out of a country magazine-antique school house, but I tried to get the job done myself.  We had a huge open house and barn sale and we had a lot of eager house hunters come by.  I turned on the charm, the coffee, the pumpkin bread and cookies, and I’ve sold my other houses myself, so I’m not a novice.    

We’ve been on the market for a year now (go figure we have to sell it in the worst economy since the Great Depression to pay somebody’s gambling debt,) so when an offer came in this week we were happy.  I have gotten up every day, sent kids off to school, put the house in order, cleaned, turned on jazz surround sound, and have done that on top of meeting with lawyers, therapists, financial advisors, talking to supporters, squeezing in yoga (to calm down of course,) cooking, cleaning, networking, looking for a job, running the children to and from all of their activities, and writing a blog.  Tah dah!  But the offer sadly came in very low, and sadly nobody budged.  We’re did not go down, they did not go up.  Not to worry, more showings and more offers pending. 

In the meantime, at the end of this very long week of not sleeping, barely eating, and managing all of the above, I was looking forward to not hearing an alarm and getting a few extra zzzzzz’s.  Instead what do I get?  The scent of fresh-brewing coffee and toast.  HMMMM.  In a half-daze I wonder who is in the kitchen, and wait—is that the washing machine I hear?  Surely it’s not the kids, they would never do that.  Could I be dreaming?  Or is that just my neighbor H’s early morning scents wafting through my ever-so-slightly cracked bedroom window from the breeze of cool, crisp, fall air? 

With one eye slightly cracked, blankets tight around my curled up, cozy body, my fat, furry, calico cat sticking her nose in my face and pawing me for milk, I see him.  No, not the Calvin Klein underwear model, but Mr. Ex, cup o’java in hand, smile on his face, and a good morning in his step.  REALLY?  He had been staying at some other single guy’s house for the past few days after he removed himself from our premises, and there he was whispering good morning to all of us who were still tucked in.  Well how about that. 

Have you ever been so emotionally and physically exhausted that you don’t really care that it’s not an underwear model but instead the one person who you can just be yourself around no matter what horrors you are living?  No need to mention the word “dysfunction.”

How do I go with the flow?

I find myself swirling in a vortex of emotional and financial chaos!  I don’t go with the flow very well…never have.  I tend to like being in control, despite frequent life-happening opportunities encouraging me to relax.  But for some reason I just don’t do it.  I’m a list-stick-to-er.  I make lists, and I stick to them.  And when life happens and I can’t stick to them, I get a little cranky.  I love routine, and when I don’t get my daily dose I feel a little off-balance.  Embracing uncertainty?  No thanks. 

Today Mr. Ex told me he isn’t going to go to our divorce attorney, because we can’t afford to pay the retainer.  Not a surprise, flying by the seat of our financial pants has been our life story. Money has been a point of contention with us from the beginning.  He has been a great provider, no matter what, he has always done what he has had to do to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs.  But he likes spending, he likes buying things he wants, and enjoys the finer things in life, regardless of the long term cost.  I, on the other hand am pretty tight…cheap…not a spendthrift, and get my thrills from finding the best bargain, getting the biggest bang for my buck and saving for emergencies and our future.   

I’m taking some responsibility here, I opted to be a stay at home mom, a “volunteer” of sorts.  My volunteer work includes taking care of my family’s every need, cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, everything “house,” shopping, and all administration including bill paying, basically everything except being employed for money.  Mr. Ex even admits that my “job” has always been much harder than his job.  But now what.  I’m not a self-reliant, self-sufficient “provider,” and I have to figure out HOW TO DO THIS.  I thought I was in control, but surprise. I ‘m really not. 

When I started thinking about needing to get a “real job” now it scared me.  What will I do?  I haven’t worked in almost 20 years.  Mr. Ex-being the good provider of roof/food/clothing that he is–has taken on a second job to try to pay off some of this gambling debt.  He’s working at an organic, natural food store, and I thought, ok, I love that store, it has a good discount and decent benefits if you work full time, why not go work there with Mr. Ex.  The Ex’s work together.  Separately together, like back to school night.  Maybe not.

Growing up I fantasized about the life I didn’t have–a happy, loving, normal home (who really has that anyway?) complete with a loving husband who came home for dinner, happy, secure children, a perfectly decorated and clean little house (does size really matter?) and living happily ever after.  Surprise.  That didn’t happen, not even close.  I had a dream and had no clue…that was the part that tripped me up, the having no clue part.  So now I’m a self-taught, life-taught, pessimist turned optimist turned in between-ist, scared out of her mind, but starting to “get it.”  Get what?  That some of us face manageable challenges, some of us don’t, and most of us get smacked around by lost dreams, and poor choices?  Add lost hopes and no control over any of it and you’ve got the perfect recipe for prohibiting going with the flow. 

So now what?  We can’t afford our divorce, and this whole “life going in another direction” thing is what I’m really having trouble with…although forgetting about pre-conceived notions and expectations might be a little, tiny bit intriguing.  Maybe.  But stepping out of the comfort zone requires energy.  Guess I better start taking vitamins.

Lost Dreams, Poor Choices, and Back to School Night

Mr Ex and I went to Back to School Night at our oldest son’s school.  It was odd, first because this was my first outing with Mr. Ex, together but separately.  I hadn’t seen him since he moved out.  But also because almost every staff member at the school knew the whole sordid tale, yet Mr. Ex and I walk in together, smile and act like everything is fine.  Fortunately I had a lot of practice “pretending” that life is good when, well, it’s not.

Handshakes, fake smiles, and “pretending” worked out well though…after all that’s the stuff that fairy tales are made of.  Mr. Ex and I really had a night not too different than most other nights, joking and laughing about the teachers, the other parents, whispering during class, sharing private jokes, knowing each other so well that it felt ok in all of its weirdness…but it got me thinking.  As I looked around the room I wondered who is married in here?  Who isn’t?  Why?  What are other marriages like?  What is a normal marriage?  Is there such a thing?  What if…..oh wait, there are no “what if’s,” there only “is.” 

So why am I so hung up on this whole marriage thing?  Is it the concept of marriage?  Sanctity?  Security?  I haven’t really had any of that all along…sure Mr. Ex has always kept a roof over our heads and has provided for us, but what about emotional security?  Wonder what that’s like.  I haven’t really had that my whole life.  Sharing…intimacy…all I strived for, all I wanted (and still want,)  my best friend, through the best and the worst, the shared journey for more than half of our lives, the thought of him with another woman eventually?  Another Mrs. ME?  And what about the ring and all it stands for?  I’ve got a pretty big diamond ring that screams I’M WAY MARRIED.  Nobody has a ring like this for anything short of a lifetime commitment. 

So I sighed.  We got in separate cars and went separate ways.  That was sad, and yet I knew it had to be that way.  We had a good night.  We talked, we laughed, we didn’t really have to pretend with each other, but now begins the rest of the journey separately.  I realized that all I can control is what I do, not what others choose to do, and learn to accept their choices knowing those choices really have nothing to do with me.  I will feel all kinds of feelings flicker, fade, only to regenerate, and hopefully will learn to live happily ever after again. 

So when I got home I tucked myself in to my clean sheets to dream about the stuff dreams are made of.

What’s Real?

Once upon a time there was a girl named Fibby.  She was nick-named that because when her boys were little she used to make up excuses why she couldn’t volunteer at their schools.  Fibby loved those few hours to do whatever she wanted to do–stay in her pjs, sip her morning coffee, read the paper, do quick cardio and have daily morning phone chats with her best gal pals.  After her busy morning she would get on with her day–cleaning and decorating her house, watching her soap opera, and tending to her family’s needs.  Fibby was happy.   Her family would argue that she complained a lot, and she did, about nothing in particular.  But really, Fibby was very happy. 

Let’s back up a little bit.  Fibby’s childhood was less than perfect but her parents strove to make it look that way.  She grew up with a beautiful home with a lovely in ground pool, hot tub, parties day and night, excellent vacations, and the appearance of the perfect family unit–mom, dad, daughter, son.  In reality her father was homosexual, her mother an abusive alcoholic, her brother dabbled in drugs.  She learned early on how to fib to make her life work.  They were nothing more than little white lies to hide her reality.  Fibby dreamed of a life that didn’t hide the truth about what was really going on behind closed doors, a life that was happy by default, a life that was real. 

So right out of college Fibby married Mr Ex who appeared to be able to offer her the life of truth, peace, and happiness.  She had never met anyone so kind, so loving, so nice, so seemingly real.  He made her laugh and he loved her in spite of everything.  They went through cancer and infertility and had babies, they had a nice house, they had parties for every occasion, they took many family vacations.  But Fibby was very tired.  She was happy, but tired and she didn’t know why.  Her doctors told her it was because she has babies at home, and eventually fibromyalgia.  No matter what, she was tired, but still happy as she lived the life she thought she had always dreamed of.  The problem was that her grown up life wasn’t real either.  She just didn’t know why.

One day Mr Ex told Fibby in order to save his job they would have to move out of the home they loved in the town they loved, from their beloved New England, to the nation’s capitol.  Fibby pretended this was going to be an adventure, the promised land, and was filled with hope and dreams of better income, bigger houses, and the fairy tale life she was still searching for.  Problem is you can’t search for a fairy tale life when you already have it and just don’t know it…or think you have it but really don’t.

Time proved that the relocation did not work out very well, so Fibby and her family moved back home…and that’s when her fairy tale started to unravel.  The irony of it is that her nickname really wasn’t suited for her…all of those years being called Fibby so she wouldn’t have to volunteer at the school library during her free time, when Mr Ex was hiding his secret identity as an addict and behooving his own fibs right into her would-be fairy tale. 

Fibby changed the sheets on her bed today.  And she’s changing her nickname too.  Because isn’t today the Second First day of the rest of her life?

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