Match this

I have been divorced for almost two months now, but I have been separated from my ex for over a year. After being part of a couple for twenty five years, always having to consider someone else’s feelings, needs and schedule, being alone for one year seems odd. You forget what you were like when you were single. How you met people, what you did back then, what to do with your time without having to consult with another person.

What made you, just you, happy.

And let’s remember, online dating, texting and FB messaging didn’t exist when I was dating so long ago. We talked on corded phones, cell phones were just beginning, and had to hope to meet someone, somewhere, in person to be asked out on a date.

It’s a whole new dating world now. I’m like the ‘Man Who Fell to Earth’. An alien.

The idea of getting out there to date is not at the top of my to-do list, I’m still trying to get my future life together and take care of my kids so they don’t lose their minds while the ground shifts beneath them. But, I began to doubt myself after the holidays, now that the divorce is final, wondering if I was waiting too long to try out my new found freedom. I’ve heard of women dating while going through their divorce, not waiting, some getting married again within months of the ink drying on their agreement.

Married again? Are you kidding me? Let’s not get crazy.

But maybe I was ready to dip my toe into the shallow end of the dating pool? Maybe it would be good to see if I’m even “marketable” now that I’m single. I mean, it’s been twenty five years since I dated, and the goods are not as fresh as they used to be. Not to mention the “divorce twenty” that I’ve added to my waistline this past year. (that’s totally a thing, trust me)

The ads for dating sites kept popping up on my computer screen while I checked email, and I finally just had to know if there were actually single men, my age, that looked as good as they advertised “in your area!”. And would they be looking for a woman like me?

They can’t all be male models, can they?

On a whim, I clicked on the ad. I maneuvered around the site for a bit, not completely horrified not quite impressed, but still extremely curious. I texted two friends and asked what they thought. I’m not going into this alone or without a wingman, even if it is a virtual one.

I signed up for a six month membership, as I was coached by my experienced friend to do, because this will give me time to sort through the “crazies and scammers”. (That’s encouraging.) I made my profile and searched my laptop for decent pictures of myself. (Not to self: Get in front of the camera and not always behind it! I need to be in more pictures, that’s for sure. Should I use that photo from five years ago at the mudrun??) Time for a selfie or two.

I hit “done” and waited.

Suddenly…a wink. Then a “like”. Then a message. I was grinning like an idiot, relieved and excited. I was Sally Fields at the Oscars, “you like me! You really, really like me!” I responded to messages, did the flirty texting thing that I was way too out of practice with,  and was getting more curious by the hour, by the day. I had a few “scammers” right out of the box – one looked like a male model. I think he was a catalog photo from LL Bean.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been on a couple of coffees and one lunch so far.

And I’m done.

Done. For now. The excitement I had in the beginning began to turn into terrifying reality. An uneasiness was creeping in with each message and text. A few of them are obviously looking for a real relationship, a life plan with someone. They were all nice, one or two a bit creepy, but…they kept wanting to talk to me. They wanted to see me again. They called me “beautiful” and sent messages first thing in the morning and at night before I went to bed.

What is wrong with these guys? Why do they want to keep talking to me and want to see me again?? Don’t they know that I’m a complete mess? I don’t have any friends, I’m a loner, I’m no fun and I suck the fun out of everything – at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Obviously, I’m not ready. And I’m okay with that idea. I’m more than okay, I’m glad that I know it now and the mystery has been solved. I was upfront and honest, sending messages to a few explaining that I’m just not ready and really don’t have the time (or brain space) to begin this journey. Then, I cancelled my subscription – five months ahead of time.

More therapy, more time alone and with my kids, more time all around before I consider it again. I’ve been a serial monogamist since I was 13, maybe it’s time to just be on my own and enjoy the peace, find out what truly makes me happy.

And then, maybe I will meet someone doing something or being somewhere I enjoy. We’ll talk and laugh and realize we have things in common. He will ask me for my number and we will talk on our cordless/cell phones to get to know each other better, and he will ask me out. We will take it one step at a time. I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.

 

Set free

It was a long summer, and an even longer year, since this all began. The highs have been very high, sometimes even giddy, and the lows have been even lower. My life is not a rollercoaster, no it’s something else. It’s more like an EKG reading, with large spikes followed by a series of smaller, less noticeable ones.

I had stopped planning or getting excited for a new path and a new home by the holidays. I’d stopped talking about the future with my kids, because it caused too much anxiety and disappointment.

I was in a holding pattern. I was chained to this unknown master of my fate.

I have learned, the hard way, that you need to look at all of the angles and think like a thief. What can I give up? What will it cost me, cost my children? What part am I missing? Is this really in my best interest? I learned not to trust anyone.

People can, and will, let you down.

The “process” was a long and tedious one with a stubborn, selfish man on the other end always pushing, always demanding, never giving. At least not without a fight.

It was very costly, too. Both monetarily and emotionally. For all of us.

But, the hard part is over, right? Now we can move on to our separate lives and begin anew! Find that true love, discover our true self, find our happiness without each other. Like an advertisement for detergent, “whiter, brighter and stays fresh longer!

We’re free!

That’s all well and good to say, and even to try to believe, but we still have to continue to interact, communicate and cooperate on some major decisions in the future. We have kids.

Sharing in our children’s lives, for the rest of our lives, creates a sense of never truly being set free.

I want to be set free, I want to shrug off this heavy cloak of self-doubt and rejection and move on to a world that only brings me joy. I am ready to carve out my own life and my own future, and not to continue living in someone else’s reality, trying to fit into their version of who I am supposed to be and never quite measuring up. And I know that I am ready, truly ready, but I wonder if it’s completely possible with this invisible weight that holds onto me. Tugging at me. Making me doubt myself.

It’s an imposing shadow that clings to me, a constant worrying whisper in my ear, reminding me that I can’t change who I am, or who I’ve been. That person I’ve been for the last twenty five years? or most of my life if I’m honest, she can’t do this alone.

She’ll never make it.

But I feel it in my heart, in my soul, in my bones that I am ready to move forward and discover who that person is inside and what she’s capable of doing, of becoming. There once was a young girl, not that long ago, that was unafraid of the future and only saw opportunities, new experiences and new discoveries. She embraced the world with a smile and determination. She didn’t doubt her worth, or her intelligence, or her strength.

I want to meet her again.

 

 

Officially official

Our divorce is officially final, our court date was scheduled right before Christmas (it came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags!) the gift that keeps on giving.

Who could ask for more?

Standing before a judge, seated high in his chair behind a big desk, in a small courtroom with what appeared to be pews behind us – I know that they weren’t, but it still had somewhat of a church quality about the whole thing – we were now declaring that our marriage was officially over. We were asking permission to get divorced.

Permission.

The last time we stood before someone in a robe on an elevated altar, and made a promise, was the day we were married over twenty years ago. A declaration witnessed by our family and friends, sitting in pews. I couldn’t help but notice the comparison, the irony of it all.

My soon to be ex-husband stood on the other side of our two lawyers, staring stoically toward the bench, but with an emotional look on his face. Eyes tearing up, a look of fighting back emotions, trying not to cry?

Not me.

I answered the questions with a firm voice, head held high, confident. This was not the time to replay the happiest moments of our past lives together, in a slow motion Kodak commercial. This was not the time to mourn the severing of our bond, to express regret. That time had passed, the moment was gone. It was officially too late.

We walked out separately from the courtroom, my ex took a seat in the lobby area. I said my goodbyes to my attorney, thanked her, turned on my heel and left. I didn’t cross over to say goodbye to him, or exchange a look to connect. I felt a twinge, an almost magnetic pull towards him out of habit, but I ignored it. Nobody gave me the rule book, or the “etiquette of exiting divorce proceedings”, beforehand.

Should we shake hands? Hug? Such an awkward moment.

Oddly, it felt good to walk out of the courthouse that day. I felt lighter. Happier. The sun was shining brighter, the world came back into focus. I could breathe. Suddenly, there was promise of better days. A sense of freedom. Relief. Is this how it’s supposed to feel?

Probably not.

As I drove away, I turned the radio up and smiled, heading down the road to my new life. An open road on all sides. It was mine now, completely mine.

 

Precious time

I’ve been going through a lot over the past year since I began this painful journey towards divorce. Many emotional, mental, even physical challenges have come up and put me to the test. But, I have kept my head down, eyes on the finish line gritting my teeth, pushing forward, for most of it. Focused. Determined.

And while it was the only way I could get through it at the time, my method for dealing with an upheaval of my life, I realize now that I’ve missed so much along the way. I’ve let things fall by the wayside, redirected my attention and energy away from “less important” tasks and responsibilities so I can direct all of my energy towards this process.  I’ve put more than a few things on the back burner, trusting that I can pick them up where I left off and hoping that nobody will really notice. They won’t notice that I’m not paying close attention to life’s events and deadlines, I’m not even completely engaged sometimes, and they won’t remember that I checked out a bit and let it slip through my fingers.

I’ve been skimming the headlines of my life basically, using my previous Evelyn Wood speed reading training to get me through another day, week or month. Conserving my energy for the real battles. Promising myself that I will make it up in the end.

I will be a better friend, mother, family member, volunteer. When this is all over.

But yesterday, I had a reality check. I’ve had small ones lately, needling me to get my attention, now that I can see the light of day again. I’ve come back to my “normal” life, blinking in the clear, bright sunlight like a coma patient finally waking up and asking “what year is this?” So many things have changed around me, people have shifted, in ways that I hadn’t noticed until just this week.

An older friend of mine, in his late 70’s, had a heart attack the other night and is in the hospital now. It happened as he was waking up one morning, lucky for him. The doctor said had he not woken up at that time he probably never would have.

We have been promising each other that we would go out for an authentic taco dinner, with our families, since summer camp this year. We still haven’t gone.

Another good friend of mine, in his mid 50’s, was diagnosed with stage four cancer, over the holiday break. He’s an active, funny guy with a twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh. He’s a good ole boy, driving his pickup truck and listening to country music but able to rebuild or reprogram your computer in a heartbeat. He’s been a sanity saver, a shoulder to cry on, a clown to make me laugh many times during this tough time in my life. He helped my son work on his classic car to get it ready for my brother’s wedding, to the point that he would come help anytime my son called with a question or problem – even at ten at night, in his pajamas! We bought a bottle of good vodka (his drink of choice) and have had a thank you note waiting for him since mid-October, but my son wanted to take him for a ride in the car before officially thanking him with these gifts. But the car keeps breaking down, ending up in the shop, and hasn’t seen the road for more than a day at a time so far. The ride hasn’t happened. The bottle is still sitting on my counter.

When I heard about both of my friends yesterday, yes I found out about both at the same time which was more than overwhelming, I hung up the phone and cried. Cried from the deepest depths of my heart. I hurt for them, and I hurt for myself. I hurt for the activities and the people that I have put off until “this is over”. I cried for the guilt of checking out in other areas of my life to make things easier in this area. I cried for the dates not kept, the promises not met. How many more are there? How much have I missed? Who else have I lost?

Am I too late?

I woke up today with a new sense of time, a new appreciation for my relationships, a renewed sense of purpose for my involvement in my community, my friends, my human connections and how precious it all is. And how much we still need all of it even in our darkest moment. I wish that I could have balanced it all better, that I could have compartmentalized it and dealt with it all in a more ideal way. But I did the best I could.

We always tell each other to live life to the fullest! Live each day as if it is your last!

I’m telling you, don’t just talk about it, do it. Make the plans, share that bottle of wine, go to dinner, make that call, connect! Connect now to the people you love to have in your life, and not later, connect now. Not “when this is over”. Not “next time I see him”. This may be the only time, and there may never be an end to your trouble or to your challenges.

It’s all too precious, too fragile, and you never know how much time there is for anyone.

 

 

 

Breathing

It was suggested to me, by my therapist, to journal my feelings when I am feeling upset/anxious/depressed. Write three pages, she said. Three? How about an entire book?

Also, practice “square breathing”. That’s where you take a deep breath in for a count of four, hold it for a count of four, release it for a count of four and hold that for a count of four. I guess you forget what’s upsetting you after awhile of counting to four repeatedly. If I practice these techniques, I may quiet the voice in my head that replays every negative experience of this holy grail of suffering, and possibly find release from the never ending ruminating that I tend to do.

But instead, I’ve decided that maybe I’ll just up the dose of my antidepressant and see where that takes me.

I’m already in therapy, talking about my feelings and how this all affects me and my kids. That’s enough of an exercise for me, for now, thank you very much.

I have days where life is finally turning the corner, the sun is brighter and the sky is bluer. Then, I have days that are dark and sad and feel so heavy that I can’t move. That’s the rollercoaster, I know. That’s “normal”, I get it. I just wish this ride was over and I could go to a new park, with better rides, and happy people that are nice to me.

Is that too much to ask?

I thought that I didn’t hate him. Turns out I was wrong. I hate him everyday.

I hate him for everything he’s become, for bullying me into going along with a fixed game that I am always on the losing team, for being so incredibly selfish and self involved.

Honestly, I don’t hate him as much for the things that he has said and done to me, I hate him for his total disregard and dismissal of his children. Of our children. That we, as a couple, made the choice to bring into the world.

I hate him for his complete dishonesty, the cowardly way he omits from the conversation what he does with his free time on the weekends. The weekends that he is only 45 minutes away from his kids. The weekends he flies in on his company’s dime for his  “commuting package”, only to spend six hours a week with our boys. (I wonder if they know just how “dedicated” he really is to his children? I wonder if they realize that he is whooping it up in the city, with expensive dinners and night clubbing, that keep him busy until Sundays at noon when he finally sees his boys?)

I hate him for his sickening performance of “how hard this is”, (“this” being not seeing his kids on a regular basis because he now lives in California) while he gets choked up and teary eyed in front of our lawyers and mediator, and anyone who asks or will listen, yet makes no effort towards his children.

He texts them once a week. Once. A. Week. And it’s the exact same text to each boy, “how’s it going son?” as if he’s forgotten their names.

This whole “midlife crisis” idea is absolutely fucking ridiculous. Be a fucking grown up!

And it’s not about our marriage being over, I think I accepted that pretty quickly. Almost with a sense of relief, to be truthful. It’s about his relationship with his children, or lack thereof, and the challenge it creates for me to try to shield them from his selfishness.

Honestly, it’s like watching the same film from my childhood replaying, but everyone has cooler stuff and better clothes. He’s become my father. And that makes me sick.

I have made it my mission in my life to protect my kids, to shield them from ugliness, like any good mother would. I don’t want to see them hurting, I don’t want to see them disappointed, or feeling unloved or unwanted. I want them to feel safe, and loved entirely.

I know that they feel it from me, that they know they are loved and are vitally important to me like the air that I breathe, but it will always be half as good. There will always be an empty space that he was supposed to fill, but won’t.

 

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A girl’s story

Beautiful and sad, and yet full of hope. There is always something tiny, sparkling, left inside of each of us, even if it is only in the dust.

Breaking Moulds

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Maya Angelou

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was given a heart to call her own. It was the prettiest thing she had ever seen: large and bright and made of something like glass. She was very happy and she had lots of adventures, and with each adventure her heart sparkled brighter.

One day, the girl met a boy. They were very happy when they were together, and they went on lots of adventures. The girl realized her heart sparkled more than ever before whenever it was near the boy, and so she decided to give it to him to take care of. And the boy promised to share his heart with the girl as well. They got married and moved overseas for their grandest adventure yet.

But about halfway through their time overseas, the boy had an injury…

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What to wear…

Tomorrow is “the day”. After almost a year, we are meeting in a courthouse to sign the final marriage settlement agreement – or MSA for those of you in the know. And that’s truly a good turn around by all accounts that I have heard, and read. Our intention was to “be done by August”, but you both have to agree on what “done” will look like for that to become a reality, and we haven’t been doing much agreeing lately.

A courthouse, not the way it all began, but the way it will end. Two people who have spent half of a lifetime together, facing it’s many challenges, raising three boys and moving and traveling around the world.

And all I can think about is “what should I wear?”

Odd, but true. What does one wear to their divorce hearing, to pull the plug on their marriage? Should I dress up in something fancy, like I would for a special occasion? We do that for funerals, don’t we? And it’s often been said that divorce is like a death, so it seems fitting.

Or, should I dress like my regular everyday self, in jeans and a casual shirt or hoodie, with gym shoes or boots? But, will that make me look as though I’m not taking this seriously? That I am not moved emotionally by the gravity of the event?

One glaring fact, that is making this decision process even more challenging, is the idea that almost nothing in my closet fits me at this point. After a long year of stress, struggle,  depression (and lots of alcohol and carbs) I have added a little extra “padding” around my middle – about twenty pounds, honestly.  And of course, I have convinced myself that I will lose it once this is all over and I can think clearly enough to eat healthy and exercise like I used to do in my old life, in my married life when I thought I knew what the future had in store for me. So, I refuse to buy a bigger size because that would be like admitting defeat, giving up. And I’m no quitter.

Unless you’re talking about my marriage, obviously.

I think I know what he will be wearing, though. He has two styles of public “uniform”. It will either be a well-pressed suit, shirt and tie to show the court (and anyone looking) that he is indeed too cool, too smart and too fashionable to be shackled with this troll standing beside him. He’s on his way up and I am just dead weight without any style, or personality, that has been holding him back.

Or, it will be the casual polo shirt and designer jeans with his new low-cut Chuck E. Taylors (that has been his divorce uniform for our mediation meetings the last six months, because, I guess he’s now 25…) to show he’s just a regular guy trying to do the right thing and not lose his life’s work and savings to this gold-digging shrew of a wife standing next to him.

But this isn’t about him, it’s about me and my fashion crisis. Who knew that divorce would be this difficult to dress for?