Month: January 2010

Passing Phone Call

After a long day of trying to sell the house, a hardy face-to-face discussion with Mr. Ex about some of our divorce logistics,  and the usual end of the weekend busyness,  I sat down to write. 

I was going to blog about how surprises lurk around every corner, how life is a mystery, and the gifts that can come out of uncertainty, when the phone rang.

My father, who I assumed was calling to see how I was doing during my life change, says, “I just have a quick question I have been meaning to ask you for months.”   He went on to ask me when he dies, if I would mind if he had his body donated to a university anatomical education program.

OH.  Never saw that one coming.  The man is healthy.  Talk about a surprise. 

He quickly went on to explain that they will retrieve his remains, use the body for teaching purposes, cremate it, file the death certificate, place the obituary in the paper, and pay for everything including the funeral service.  Essentially no cost to the family?  No objections here. 

As if that wasn’t enough, he told me before he decided to do this service to mankind, he had already bought a drawer in the local cemetery mausoleum so we could just put his urn of educational ashes in the drawer. 

REALLY?  This is how my day ended today?

My father and I have had a very interesting relationship since my birth.  He was not at the top of my favorite people list as I was growing up, we never seemed to see eye to eye on much of anything, and I was the child of an unhappy marriage (familiar theme.) 

When I moved out I didn’t have much contact with him and it wasn’t until years later, when he insinuated his way back into my life after I had my own children, that I grew to love him in a mature father-daughter relationship way.  We ended up being much more alike than I ever realized, and we share similar perspectives on many things.  This helped form a better bond than I had with him growing up and we now have a lovely, respectful understanding of each other.

I suppose that’s what happens as you age anyway, you either make the most of your familial relationships or you simply accept them and find peace.  No point in staying latched on to negative childhood memories, at some point you have to grow up and let go. 

Not a bad philosophy in general actually–not staying latched on to negativity and letting go.  Why live with suffering when there is an alternative?  I wish I had learned that earlier in life, things may have gone differently with a lot of things.

My father has opted to offer himself to others to ease suffering, a choice he has made during life, and will continue to even with his passing.  J.K. Rowling said, “It is our choices, far more than our abilities that show who we really are.”    I tend to agree with that, even when I’m taken by surprise.

My Castle

503 days, 2 real estate agents, 4 failed offers, 2 mortgages, 2 job losses, and one impending divorce later, our house is still for sale.

This is a little ridiculous.  I’m tired of having this particular piece of the American dream.  Our fourth home, an antique in the countryside, rich in history and charm, and full of a lot of unhappy memories, I just want to sell it. 

It’s a beautiful house, it’s been in magazines, newspapers, on historic registries, house tours, and even captured on note cards.  But I don’t feel the love.  I drive into the driveway and feel no connection.  I walk into the house and don’t feel at home.   I look around the rooms and can’t see the beauty like I did the day I decided to buy it.  It’s been clouded by too much turmoil.  Poor house, it doesn’t deserve to not be loved by its owners.

It almost doesn’t even matter why I feel this way anymore.   We bought it at the end of the housing market boom, we have been trying to unload it during the crash, and for the first 100 days I was optimistic, it spoke for itself.  I sold my other houses without real estate agents and got cash deals, so I thought I was ahead of the game by hiring a broker this time, well two actually, I fired one.  But here we still sit.

The phone rang the other day from buyers who did not call our agent first, and they want to see our house tomorrow.  I decided to show it myself and not bother our faithful broker, so I spent today day working to get things in order.  In the midst of trying to adjust to life as a single parent, independent woman, and juggle all that entails, I painted the bathroom ceiling, stained the scratched pine kitchen floor, reattached fallen insulation to the basement ceiling, cleaned out the barn, washed porch furniture, baked cookies, arranged a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase, and tossed pretend love around my house enough to make the potential buyers feel like they have walked into a happy haven.

I was fairly proud of myself doing it all by myself, but it made me realize that I’m ready for a break from all of the duties of home ownership.  At least by myself.  Learning to go it alone is enough for the moment. 

This blog princess continues to pick herself up and dust herself off, but is still stuck in an available castle surrounded by a moat, further surrounded by an unfamiliar forest.  As she looks out the turret, she awaits the white horse to rescue her and her unicorn named Fluffy, while she knows that it is really she who must wave her magic wand to freedom.   Maybe tomorrow’s buyers will find the forest enchanting, the moat crossable, and the castle extraordinary.  We can only hope the wand is working.

Oh It’s Definitely Over

Where’s the begging?  Where’s the pleading?  I certainly wasn’t prepared for this.  They don’t give you this information in Divorce Handbook 101, page 28.  “Your spouse may whole-heartedly embrace that he wants to be divorced from you.”  What?  Are you kidding me?  

I was talking with Mr. Ex about the kids and their adjustment to our situation and how things were going and it led to a dip into our own feelings about our impending divorce. 

I think it went something like this:

Mr. Ex:  “You are going to have to admit someday that you were done with me a while ago.”

Me:  “Well, what do you want me to say, I knew that we could not meet each other’s needs, there was too much damage, and I realized that it just wasn’t going to work.”

Mr. Ex:  “Yes, but we have to rebuild.”

Me:  “I know but how can you rebuild something that just wasn’t there, let alone the lack of trust?”

Mr. Ex:  “No no I didn’t mean us, I meant the kids!  We’re done and we have to rebuild for ourselves now.” 

READ:  Oh God no!  I’m good!  We’re done!  No No No!

I had to laugh, because for just a minute I thought Mr. Ex had a thought about us rebuilding, as I had heard so many times in the past, and so many times in the past we did try to rebuild.  Over.  And over.  And over.   So for a split second, as he thought that, I was saying to myself the same thing he was:  Oh no!  We’re done!  No thanks!

But still.  Not what you expect when you have just decided to un-marry your spouse.  I thought there would be some kind of regret on his part.  Look at what he was losing—Me!  Without any hesitation or second thoughts he just goes? 

It’s like when he ended up here for dinner the other night and we sat down as a family as if it was a natural post-divorce decision occurrence.  It was like any other family dinner we had previously had, and I was looking around wondering what the hell?  Isn’t anybody getting that this is NOT normal?   Hello?  We are getting divorced.  Where is your show of emotion?  Where is your pain?  Your misery?  Your sadness?  And wait, I want the upper hand here, after all, I am the one who finally said it was time to call it quits.  I want to see some unhappiness dammit!

Nope.  Nothing.  Ok then.

No handbook can prepare you for the frequent changes of divorce emotion…from sadness to anger to relief to guilt to fear to melancholy to definitiveness to pain to quiet to peace and all around again.   I never wanted to be part of the divorce statistics, but I never wanted to be in an unhappy marriage either. 

I didn’t mention regret in my list of emotions because it almost sounds callous, but I regret not doing something sooner about our disconnection and unfulfilling union, and falling into the habitual daily grind that lacked true love.  What good does it do to regret.  All we can do now is rebuild.  Separately.

With This Ring I Thee Un-Wed

I always admired the beautiful diamonds and thick gold band on my left ring finger.  Comfortably there for the last 20 years, they were worn as a symbol of my unavailability.  Like being the member an exclusive matrimonial club, I had dreamt of that finger having those rings since I was a little girl. 

It was what the rings represented, that I was married.  Something I had wanted to be, something I knew I would be, and something thought I always would be.  I don’t know why the symbolism of the rings was so important to me, to some who are married and don’t wear them they mean nothing.  To some, they come off and on like a pair of socks.  To some, they never come off until death do them part.  For me, they helped me feel safe, secure, and not alone.

I didn’t realize how attached to the concept of marriage I really was until I looked at my rings and realized they are coming off.   Mr. Ex and I were young when we got married, we were needy, we were naive, we were sure that what we were feeling was the real thing.  It seemed like the right thing to do—we had just graduated college, we had jobs, we wanted a family, we got married.  We didn’t really think it through.  What did we know?  Wisdom comes with age and hindsight is 20/20. 

We also didn’t know who we were.  I was a girl who needed to be married.  He was a man who thought he was doing the right thing by the girl who needed to be married.  He saved his money, got three credit cards, and bought an expensive diamond to put on my finger, which later grew into three shining gems.  It was an investment after all.

But what was the investment?  The diamond?  The marriage?  The lifetime?  The belief it was the right thing to do at the time?  Did we not really know who we were and what we really wanted?  Were we too afraid to ask, or worse, too afraid to find out?

So the ring went on many years ago.  A symbol of what I hoped to have and now a symbol of what I do not have.  Today the ring came off, and I am having the three diamonds that represent past, present, and future, re-set.  I have three boys, and they are diamonds in my heart.

A Tribute to My Friends

I don’t know how I will ever thank all the girlfriends through the years who have made an undeniable impact on my life.   During this time of great change, I frequently pause for reflection feeling joy from all the support and love I have received.  I am coming out of the storm and need to share my thoughts and thanks with these women, the village who has shaped and molded me and the life I am living.  (In chronological order.) 

My friend JL.  From when we were little girls dancing in tutus and playing hide and seek in the church steeple, to when she dated my good friend in college, her radiance touched my soul and stayed.

My friend JGM.  She held my hand during every Brownie meeting, every school play, every playground escapade, while reading Judy Blume books, and made me feel strong and loved in the glow of her angelic beauty that exists to this very day.  Lost and then found, our spirits have stayed connected. 

My friend CH.  Her strong, sweet, and a little bit sinful nature carried us through the treacherous years of middle school, laughter of high school, and beyond.  She taught me how to dance in the rain before the storm passed, and she still holds the umbrella for me even today.

My friend D.   The sister I never had.  The one who has shown me love, faith, enthusiasm and joy no matter what, and always will be there for me, no matter how much time has passed or where we live. 

My friend K.  Her guiding light during my darkest times taught me how to live from a place of optimism while persevering with strength and hope.  She never gave up on me and her years of daily, loving support helped transform me into who I am today.  She carried me when I could not stand up. 

My friend J.  She came into my life like a gift from the heavens.  A breath of fresh air, which with her calm presence and shroud of mystery makes daily life interesting, intriguing, enjoyable, and completely bearable.  She has welcomed me into her family as if I am her own.  Her generosity is endless.  Her support is everlasting. 

My friend S.  She is truly my happy sister of travelling lifetimes.  Our connection is unique and strong and comes from where, we don’t even know, it just is.  We have been together and will stay together through all of it, this life and into the great beyond. 

My friend H.  I have never met anyone like her.  This strong, raw, smart, beautiful woman exudes character and spice and points out what can be found in a world where things are often missed.   She wears her truth on her sleeve and makes me do the same.  She keeps the real real while adding a splash of fantastic.

My friend CM.  Her quiet, serene strength boggles my mind.  When faced with debilitating issues, she glides through them with ease while offering peace to everyone around her.   In the midst of her difficulties she always chooses to comfort me with the gift of her compassion and friendship.

My friend LB.  Her words of encouragement and wisdom are remarkable.  Her insight is astounding and her articulation of that as it applies to our everyday lives is like soul-food.  Her entrance into my life was a turning point that showed me when one door closes another one opens and we walk through together. 

My friend BND.  This woman has survived things no wife or mother should and has lived to tell about it offering nothing but encouragement to everyone around her in spite of it.  She’s a gem who remembers long stem red roses, a lacy gown, and brushes away lost years and tears with a caring hand. 

My friend M.  This woman exudes more staying power than anyone I have ever met, and offers her wisdom, guidance, and love freely through humor and modesty.  She is the most beautiful example of fearless optimism. 

My friend GM.  She came to me through M and offers me encouragement, support, and peace even when she is dealing with her own arduous life stressors.  She smiles with her friendship and reminds me to keep believing.

My friend B.  This woman’s wisdom, intuition, guidance, and support is like a beating pulse that keeps my heart and my mind in sync.  Her presence in the world and in my life is a pure privilege that I will never ever ever forget. 

My “adopted” mother A.  She is the other mother intended to be a treasure of solace in my life in the only way mothers can be.  Her unwavering, soft, loving gentleness breathes life into my spirit daily. 

And then of course my mother. My strongest supporter, my lifelong friend, confidante, and guardian angel through everything, past, present, future.

I am so blessed to have these women in my life.  They are ties to the past, roads to the future, and connections to peace.  Thank you dear friends.

Not A Match

It’s sad.  It’s a loss.  It’s not easy.  But I actually mourned the loss of my marital union quite some time ago.  I held on for dear life and it didn’t work.  It was broken, there was no fixing it, we weren’t meant to be together anymore, and we just aren’t good for each other.   At one point we may have been, but looking back, hard to say.  We grew in different directions.   And I am ready to let it go.

There are regrets of what should have been, there are no regrets of what now has to be.  There is guilt from the situation, and there is guilt from the relief.  There are memories, good and bad, that are stirred when there is a reminder, a song, a photo that rolls across the computer screen.   How did we even get here? 

Roles were established early on, he went to work, I stayed home to take care of the kids, make a perfect home, that 1950s mentality, and I’m not even a ‘50’s kind of gal.  As much as I pretended to be that, and thought it was right, I relinquished too much of my own power and had little belief in myself.   That’s really what I gave up in this marriage.  I believed in our marriage, in him, the kids, and never thought I could or should have anything different from the life I was living.

What was I hanging onto?  I relied on him for everything both financial and emotional, and we failed.  I failed.  Why did I allow this to happen?  When did I forget about me?  Did I just get stuck in a relationship I didn’t know how to get out of?  Habit?  Fear?   Disbelief?  Whatever the paradigm and the reason, it didn’t work, why waste more time wondering. 

Yes, I stayed in it, and now I have turned around and am alone.  Sure there’s some fear of being alone, of making it on my own, fear of change.  But the happier I am, the better for me, and for my children.  It feels a little selfish to say it’s my turn for happiness, this will be the first time I have thought of myself in a very long time. 

I’m ready for a life of empowerment, strength, and I feel optimism and hope and belief. Yes, it’s still very hard.  But I always throw myself in head first and I make it happen.  Whatever “it” is.  The waiting for it is the hardest part. 

It’s all on the horizon.  It’s an adventure.  It’s change.  It’s clear.

A Stormy Wake

In the dead of winter when the sun rises cautiously and sets eagerly, when the temperatures are bone chilling, and the snow stands tall, we can count on the predictability of the season like following a good roadmap.

But today was a dark, stormy Monday filled with torrential rains, hurricane force winds, humid warmth, and a foggy mist enveloping everything. The familiar was foreign, much like my life. Mr. Ex does not live here anymore and when I opened my eyes on this first Monday morning I heard the storms outside, and in the discomfort of my warm bed, was smacked with the reality of life as I now know it.

Still trying to see through my tired eyes in the darkness of this morning, when I turned on my computer I noticed a comment on yesterday’s post (The First Day…Again,) from a fellow blogger who said “Congratulations!” At first I was not sure what to make of that sentiment, after all I’m still raw and disoriented. I go from moments of regular routine to ultimate surreal living as I try to maneuver through all the emotions and logistics of this situation. “Congratulations.” Interesting.

Before I realized that the comment was from a very articulate, veteran divorcee with a wonderful blog, I immediately thought one recently removed husband, Mr. Ex, wrote the comment. He has been fairly unpleasant to me in the past, so I unfairly accused him of sending me a sarcastic and nasty remark.

I try not to get lost in the evil events of our marriage, but sometimes it’s hard to forget what has left our family with unhealed battle wounds. The scars of addiction, betrayal, distrust, and emotional torture exist right at the surface of our daily lives. A wake of destruction.

The recent job loss brings up a chain of emotional reaction starting with the anger that if there was no gambling addiction we would not be left here drowning in debt and now unsure of any financial stability, let alone security. Our lives, our children’s lives, our family was destroyed in years of wasted misery. I hate thinking about it, talking about it, living it, but it exists. Even now, with the dissolution of our marriage, it exists.

Today’s angry weather exemplifies my life. The flooding, the power outages, the traffic accidents, the crowded emergency rooms, all byproducts of the elements…the shredding, the tears, and the pain, all byproducts of a marriage filled with many recent storms and devoid of true love.

As I move from the illusion of a happy marriage into the reality of the death of an unhappy one, I will learn to embrace the congratulations I received on this bleak morning of painful unfamiliarity. What we can really only count on is the weather changing. Feelings changing. People changing. And life changing.

The First Day…Again.

After waking up on the “first day of the rest of my life” again–remember we did this a while ago when Mr. Ex moved out the first time then moved back–I took some deep breaths and put my feet on the floor, unsure of what was next. 

I decided to make pancakes for the kids, something Mr. Ex did every Sunday morning.  But before that I checked my inbox where I found an uncountable number of supportive emails about one of the biggest changes my life is now facing…separation leading to divorce.  Mr. Ex isn’t coming back this time, last night we finally said out loud that we are not going to live happily ever after. 

Sort of afraid to be in my head with my thoughts, I called my friend S who reminded me why this needed to be and how much better it will be for everyone involved.  After all, this so-called journey is just that—a journey that offers us opportunities to make our lives better even though it takes some pain to get there. 

Then I changed the sheets on my bed.  Did that the last time too, but this time it was easier.  I moved swiftly, threw the dirty linens into the washer, put the coffee on, and told the kids they were having frozen waffles.  I just couldn’t make the pancakes.  The house was quiet.  Different.  Not bad, just different.

I felt an ongoing wave of emotions from courage to fear, from strength and fortitude, to wonder and worry about what will happen next, to accepting that I can’t do more than one day, one hour, one breath at a time.  (I think I’ve said this before.  Don’t I read my blog?)  I cried as I read the outpouring of support that flooded my inbox, tears of sadness, but also tears of relief, knowing that this was inevitable, and grateful for all the heartfelt words to help me through.

Then I talked to Mr. Ex.  He apologized for not having the courage to “release us” both sooner when he realized that we did not have the right marital foundation, and went on to say that our life together has not been a waste, we learned a great deal from one another.  I apologized for continually trying to fix what I could not fix and for not admitting until now that we did not have the true love that we both deserve.

After that, 40 minutes of yoga…15 minutes to unclog the toilet from teenage boys…an hour of errands…one burned pizza in the oven…lots of deep breaths…and trying to not think about tomorrow.  

It was a full first day.  But for the first time in a decade of darkness, I feel like there is light.  That must count for something.

The Honest Truth

It’s over. 

I noticed Mr. Ex left a bag in the front hall, and my first instinct was to call him and tell him, so I did.  He realized he had forgotten it when he was almost to his new place.   At the time I noticed the bag, I happened to be on the phone with my friend J telling her that my husband and I just had a life changing conversation.  I asked her to hold on while I called him from my cell phone. 

“Hi, did you know you left a bag here?”

“Yes, I realized that when I was too far away to turn around.”

“Do you want to come back to get it or what?”

“I’ll come by and get it midweek.”

“Ok I’m on the other line with J, can I call you back in a few minutes?”

“No, I’d rather you didn’t.”

“Why?”

“After everything we just talked about you want to call me back?  I really prefer that you didn’t, unless it’s an emergency.”

“Oh.  Ok then.”

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow sometime.”

“Ok.”

Click.  Disconnected. 

It was 8:08 on Saturday night.  Mr. Ex and I just had our last real conversation as a married couple, or even maybe it was actually our first.  We have been skirting around the issue for months, and if I’m truly honest, for years and years.  It took guts for both of us to say it, but I was tired of burying the issue, even though I already knew the answer.    

I asked Mr. Ex if he loved me.  He hesitated and said he didn’t know. 

We’ve both known for a long time that what we have shared was based on need, what we thought we wanted, and what we thought would turn out to be something.  But what we shared were children, routine, history, habit, and disconnection.  We would do a back and forth dance of trying to get close but one of us would put distance between us.  Together.  Apart.  Together.  Apart. 

I worked hard to try to fix it, and of course believed that in time things would be fine.  But it was a continual seeking of what doesn’t exist, not finding it, and the letdown from it just not being there.  

We both knew that we did not want to go through our lives like this, we knew that changes should be made, we just weren’t sure when or how.  So we both hung in living with empty hearts.

While this isn’t a surprise, I’m still in a little shock.  We both admitted that we don’t have the feelings for each other that we used to or maybe never had.  We have both said a lot of things over 20 years, some nice, some not so nice.  There have been good times mixed in with everything else, but it has now come to a close at the end of the week.

I was standing in the doorway and he was loading the car while we had this honest conversation, real and surreal.  I then closed the door as he drove away.  Although I know it’s for the best, it’s still dark.  A spotlight of truth on a stage, where I am standing alone.  Everything else fades away.

Uncomfortable Unknowns

The house of cards keeps tumbling down.  One minute I’m in a very relaxed place of deep yoga peace, the next I am jolted and shocked by a phone call from one now unemployed Mr. Ex.  He was laid off from his job today…after just moving out of our home a few days ago.

The changes keep coming, faster than imagined, and certainly without predictability.  I began this week realizing that Mr. Ex’s recovery and the rest of the family’s ability to heal could not happen under the same roof.  I learned a little bit each day about what that meant and how that feels, nothing I had ever experienced.   

Then before I could even settle into that change, at the end of this already difficult week of serious happenings, he unexpectedly lost his job.  Not exactly what I planned for.  But we aren’t always given warning when the curve balls of life come out of left field.   

It’s the unknowns that can be a little unnerving–the discomfort in the not knowing.  This is especially tricky for somebody who tries to fix things, who seeks resolution, who needs answers and predictability, something to cling to in the moment to get through to the other side. 

But that’s not always possible.  Sometimes we have to hang around with our discomfort, and find peace in that.  In yoga it’s referred to as comfortable discomfort.  Holding poses until you think you can’t hold on anymore, then just going for another minute, another breath.  I have practiced this for years, I should be used to it by now. 

But it’s not easy, living with uncomfortable unknowns requires strength, patience, and remembering that the unknown is opportunity in disguise.  One leap of faith can change everything.  Unexpected news can actually get you going, propel you into a better place, into a change that makes sense, that makes a difference. 

I’ll cling to that as I live through these uncomfortable unknowns, and let them enlarge the future.  The stars are aligning and what is in store will be revealed, and it will be all good, and right, and peaceful, and fulfilling.

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