Forgetting

I seem to keep forgetting, or maybe just not remembering, so much lately. Not everything, but too many things for my comfort. It’s my age, I know it is, it’s just a stage I’ve read and I’ve heard. And I hope.

But that doesn’t help me while it’s happening. Daily.

And you would think that the most frustrating thing about forgetting things would be the things I keep forgetting. But that isn’t always the case.

It’s the things I wish I could forget but can’t. It’s knowing so many little details about my life, and the life of so many others, but I can’t remember something I need to use almost daily. Sometimes important information that keeps the wheels on this bus of life moving, going from stop to stop.

Why can’t I remember my password to the school picture site, to place my long overdue order of my youngest in his last year of elementary school – for that matter, why can’t my computer remember?! – but I can remember the first time I ate fresh blackberries picked from the tree in the park, down the street from our apartment, after I climbed the fence to reach them…when I was 7?

Why can’t I remember my latest license plate number, that I have now had for almost a year, but can go into minute detail about my birthday forty years ago, when it was 70 degrees and sunny in November in Chicago, and I walked with my best friend to go to the strip mall wearing our famously tomboy ensemble of flannel shirts and jeans with Chuck E. Taylor gym shoes.

It makes no sense. But that’s what happens.

So many memories, so many details, swirling around my head bringing back vibrant pictures like my own personal movie. It can be provoked from a song, a scent or someone I pass by that looks like someone I used to know.

But can’t remember their name, of course.

And if I’m now in the stage of forgetting, why can’t I forget the ugly times? If I’m going to forget things, you’d think those would be the ones my brain would weed out. But it doesn’t seem to work that way. No, those memories are just below the surface, waiting to be reignited and fanned into huge engulfing flames.

No, I just forget the things I truly need when I need them most. My passwords are the worst, it makes banking and running my life more of an Olympic sport. Or maybe more like an episode of Jeopardy. I’ll take password hints for $500, Alex.

And don’t ask me to try “forgot my password” to reset it. I have tried, and tried…and tried again. Most times the email never shows up, or I try having the link sent by text, thinking I can outsmart the system, but that goes into a black hole where passwords go to die. If it does actually show up, and I am able to “use the link provided”, by the time I can finally come up with a password I haven’t already used (don’t you just love that?) I’ve forgotten what I’ve typed in!

I’ve created a cheat sheet in my phone, against all recommendations and suggestions about the possibility of being hacked or having my identity stolen. I figure if the person who finds my phone can figure out my password, they’ve earned that reward.

Maybe they can email it to me?

First love

It creeps up on me periodically, that memory of my first love.

No, it wasn’t/isn’t my ex.

First love happens much younger, much easier. When you’re young, and naive and thinking that the answer to any problem or challenge is just love. It’s secret notes, stolen glances, butterflies in your stomach and nervous laughter. It’s simple, and yet feels so complicated at the time.

Life will prove us wrong eventually.

He pops into my brain every once in awhile, for reasons I can’t even explain. It used to happen more often, sometimes daily during the more challenging times in my marriage, wondering where he was and how he was doing, wondering if he ever thinks of me too, or if he can feel my thoughts. Asking the “what ifs”. But as time goes by, and life’s rough edges smooth out, the memory of our connection gathers dust in the back of my mind.

I met him when I was 13 years old and he was 12. Crazy to think, but true.

I knew almost immediately that I would love him, meeting him the first time as the new neighbor of my best friend, and wanted so deeply for him to love me. And he did, in his own preteen boy way, that lasted for the next decade or more.

I could watch him all day, just watch him move, and it was enough. He played basketball, and would practice jumping with ankle weights, shooting hoops in his backyard to jump higher. He was so driven and determined, so focused, it was captivating.

I can still see him in the highlight reel of my mind.

We would talk on the phone for hours, back in the day when phones were hung on the wall and used “units”. A time well before cell phones and texting. You had to plan a time to call, to make sure that person would answer and not their irritated parent who could not believe someone would call after 9pm!

But that was the best time to talk. Didn’t they know anything?

Over the years, we went beyond the basic teenage talk of “what’s up?” and “did you watch that show last night?” and other conversations about who likes who and what was going on this weekend, just to stay connected. We dug deeper into our hopes and dreams, our plans for the future.

Talking late into the night, sitting in a dark kitchen or hiding in a back room out of earshot, cast just enough of a shadow to make us feel protected enough to share our deepest thoughts. His love of antiques and rebuilding things, my dreams of being an artist and going to college, what type of life we wanted, always with the idea that it would be together.

Once we talked for hours, while I was babysitting overnight, and agreed that we both wanted a big family. Eventually entertaining the idea that it would be so big that we could name a child after each letter of the alphabet! We spent the next few hours coming up with names, for each letter, for a boy and a girl. Twenty-six names, from A to Z, times two.

I wish I still had that list.

I dated some of his friends during high school, usually after a break-up with him or another ruined attempt at reconciling our relationship, anything to stay within his orbit I suppose. Deep down wanting to make him jealous, wanting him to interfere somehow, but instead he would hang back and wait me out.

Maybe he knew too that it was only a matter of time before we would make our way back to each other?

Our love attraction lasted for years, on and off between new relationships, and sometimes during. The saying “like a moth to a flame” describes it perfectly, the more unavailable we were to each other the more we were drawn to one another. I could not stay away from him, or get over him, no matter how hard I tried, or how distracted I became with someone else. It was just a gravitational pull that I couldn’t escape.

I always came back.

Beach days, carnival nights. Sneaking out of the basement bedroom window in my cut-offs to walk the streets with him and his buddies. Sneaking beers or a bottle of blackberry brandy to walk through the woods. Nervous and exciting, innocent and naive. Flashes of those teenage summers still run across my mind, the holiday breaks too.

And all of the times in-between.

For some reason, I always assumed that we would end up together, happily ever after, just like they show in the movies. I think some of our friends, and maybe even family, assumed the same. Sure, we would date other people and have other experiences, but we were meant to be together.

We shared a history of “firsts” and goofy teenage stupidity, we took chances together taking on the world and new ideas, we made some of our best memories together. We shared a thread, from the beginning, that was woven deeply into our fabric and connected us.

In my dreams for my future, we would eventually get married, and have beautiful brown-eyed babies with his perfect teeth, broad shoulders and hearty laugh.

We would build a perfect life together with flea market Sundays, and lazy, lingering weekend mornings in bed wrapped around each other, or exploring the world together and taking on new challenges. Making each other better versions of ourselves everyday.

Laughing at the same jokes and telling the same stories to our children about how we met and the crazy things we egged each other into doing, sharing common memories that date back to that awkward stage of our lives. Stacks of photo albums filled with pictures of us, our families, and the friends we shared from so many years back.

Back to the beginning. When I was 13 and he was 12.

We would be comfortable with each other, in a familiar way, by the time we joined together. Years of growing together, parallel sometimes, would be a gift that would secure a beautiful future. Being with someone who has known you since you were thirteen, watched you grow up and become the adult you will be and love you is a rare gift.

So very rare.

But love isn’t always enough, or maybe first love isn’t strong enough to endure what life has in store. It’s all much more complicated at twenty three than it ever was at thirteen. Other people cross our paths, unexpected events happen, diverting our expected direction and changing our plans to create a new future we never dreamed of or imagined.

But you don’t know that, at the time, with your first love.

We were so very young. I was willing to believe in fairy tales back then.

Life gets in the way

It was a long year, last year.

Just when you think the wrinkles in the road have smoothed out, the roadblocks have been removed, life takes you off road into the gravel, into the bumps and ditches, and shakes things up. It tests your seatbelts and airbags and the road comes up at you.

Life gets in the way.

As often as I have a running commentary going on inside of my head, almost daily, writing down those thoughts has become just one more thing to take care of on my “to do” list. Another responsibility, another job, another thing that takes up space in my already busy and overfilled brain. It’s too much some days, most days really, to think about so many things that in the end aren’t helping you keep the car on the road.

The end of 2018 did not go out quietly or without a “to be continued” ending. (don’t you hate when that happens?)

No, 2018 ended with many loose ends and unfinished plot lines.

If I didn’t call or text you after August, I’m sorry.

If I didn’t send you a birthday/Christmas/anniversary card, I’m sorry.

If I missed your banging Halloween party, your housewarming, baby shower, bridal shower, gender reveal, art show, musical performance, divorce is finalized party, again I am sorry. So very sorry.

Life got in the way.

That was the theme of the last quarter of 2018 for me. I know, everyone is busy – I just read recently that being “busy” is the most overused response when we are asked how we are. And it shows a lack of consideration for the person asking about you too, because believe it or not, we’re all busy.

Good point.

So maybe I wasn’t constantly busy, physically. I will admit to that. I can definitely remember, more times than my usual practice, sitting on my couch – or any couch – completely giving in to a binge watching session of Master Chef, Top Chef…or Rick and Morty because I do have other interests, and just blowing off my to do list or any other non-lifesaving activities.

I also slept a lot, since October if I had to guess.

Sleeping in until the last possible moment, testing how much time I really needed in the mornings to be ready and functional, before I had to get up and tackle another day and it’s almost guaranteed new surprises. Sleeping in and ignoring the promise to myself to workout regularly, to lose the twenty pounds that are beginning to feel all too comfortable, even after a two week stint of “getting back on track”. I was even going to bed earlier than usual most nights, which most people would translate into not having enough to do, or just plain laziness, but I was feeling exhausted and worn out no matter how much sleep or how many lazy days I took on the weekends.

It’s not like I was training for a marathon, or an Ironman, or even a 5K. I wasn’t building a house, planning a life changing event (I won’t even pretend to pretend to plan another wedding in my lifetime, so don’t hold your breath!) I wasn’t taking classes for my masters, starting up my own business or even traveling for business or pleasure enough to keep me from living the normal life I used to have.

No, I was just living the life that the universe was handing to me.

And some days, the universe had high expectations of my mental stability and physical energy levels. Some days, I began to question if the universe had forgotten about other people in the same orbit, and had acquired some weird, imbalanced focus on me, for reasons unknown. Kind of like that time I thought my high school U.S. History teacher had it in for me, calling on me constantly to make me feel stupid or put me on edge, only to eventually be told (by him during an almost tearful conversation at 7:30 in the morning when I couldn’t take it anymore) that my seat was in his line of vision, nothing more than that.

Maybe I need to change seats?

My hopes for a somewhat normal existence were more of a wish for boring, uneventful, regular life stuff. I just wanted to have a routine. A get up and go to work, come home and make dinner and talk to my kids about their lives kind of routine. No earth shattering turn of events, no challenges, no new players in this game of life. I didn’t want to take on anything new, or anybody new for that matter. I wanted the challenges and craziness of the last couple of years to take a break, to stop coming at me, and give me a breather.

I just wanted to coast for awhile.

By the end of the summer, my two oldest boys had somewhat launched, one went off to college five states away, and the other moved out of state to begin his new career. Leaving me with one newly minted teenager under my roof, and I was cool with that idea.

Down from three to one, this should be a piece of cake!

There was a bit of excitement in this idea of my children going out into the world, further than a stones throw away from home. The thought that I may actually have the house (almost) to myself for a weekend or two, if I planned things right, made me almost giddy!

I love my kids, and I adore their friends, but let’s be honest – there are weekends when you just want to be alone in your own house to drink coffee, read the paper and putz around without having a basement full of video playing/Netflix binge watching teens coming in and out, throughout the day and night, eating you out of house and home while leaving a mess behind that looks like a cyclone went through your house.

An array of power cords missing their plugs, single unmatched socks, drink rings on the coffee tables, debris of crushed pretzels and popcorn kernels across the carpet, assorted Nerf darts and Nerf balls strewn about and between the cushions, and always (always) an empty toilet paper roll in the bathroom with an actual eight roll package of paper sitting within reach.

And that’s just the basement..

No, the house would be quiet now, and tidy for the most part. There would be a new normal and I would go to my new job where people expected me to show up everyday. I would have new things to talk about, grownup worldly things, a new place to go that would pay me for being there. My days of volunteering, giving my skills away fro free, were closing down. This was going to be awesome!

But then…life got in the way.

My college son started off well enough, excited about his new school, and new state. We had a wonderful three day road trip together to move him out there. At the end of the week, I left him with a sense of accomplishment and proud to say, very few tears. I felt good about leaving him, certain that he would do well and flourish.

I even gave myself a “good job, mom” talk while boarding the plane.

Three weeks later I got a call that he had rolled his truck down the side of the mountain he was “off-roading” on with some friends. Luckily, he was fine, but the truck was basically totaled.

It wasn’t a luxury vehicle, it was a pickup truck that he fell in love with last spring. He had painted it, with the help of his aunt and uncle, the perfect color of flat military grey before leaving for school, and had added a lift kit making it nearly impossible for me (or his very petite girlfriend) to climb up into without a running jump. He drove it with two of the biggest American flags he could find hanging off of the back end. One American flag was a police support flag, with the blue line in the stripes, that one he loved the most. He loved everything about it, and drove it with the biggest smile on his face everyday.

And now it was gone.

Luckily we had already planned to go out to visit him before this happened, and his brothers and I were there a week after the accident to console him and check up on him. To say that it was shocking to see the crushed in cab of his truck is an understatement. He’s 6’3″, I still cannot explain how he walked away from it without snapping his neck or crushing his skull. God was watching out for him.

Before we could board the plane to get to him, my oldest called me to tell me that he’d finally gone to the doctor, for what we thought were swollen glands, believing it to be strep throat. He’d been sick for a couple of weeks, feeling exhausted and run down, running a temp off and on, and what we assumed were his glands that were swollen were the size of a golf ball. He’s my workhorse kid, he doesn’t stop for anything and he rarely gets sick, but this made him sick enough to take a day off of work just to sleep.

He called me that Thursday afternoon, when he knew I would be home, because he didn’t want to “bother” me at work. The doctor had just told him, over the phone that morning, that he believed he had lymphoma. He wanted to do a needle biopsy, an ultrasound and a CT scan – could he do that on Friday? It’s best to move quickly when treating cancer.

Lymphoma?

He had gotten that call at 10:30 in the morning, while at his relatively new job, and miles away from home and his family, but waited until I was home from work to call me because he didn’t want to “bother” me. He had been sitting at work when the doctor made that call, then he had gone home and sat there alone until he thought it would be a good time to call me with this earth shattering news.

I can’t even begin to explain how this broke my heart. And still does.

This was on the Thursday before we were all flying out on Friday morning. I was ready to cancel the entire trip and drive to him to begin the battle against this monster diagnosis, but he insisted that he still wanted to go.

He needed to go. The cancer would still be there on Monday.

The long story of this knee-jerk diagnosis, leading to the realization of the unbelievable misdiagnosis, is filled with many dark moments. Too many to name or write about, they’ve all been shared with friends and family as it was happening and it’s still to hard to believe.

I will say that I have never screamed so much into the emptiness, cried so hard alone, or made the deals that I was willing to make with God and the Devil in exchange for other people’s lives ever before. I was in full momma bear mode, and I was going to take people down, push them down even, if they got in my way or delayed us.

I was definitely channeling ‘Terms of Endearment’ Shirley Maclaine.

Two weeks of scheduling doctors appointments and waiting to be seen. Two weeks of trying to balance normal life, with a new job that barely knew me, while I went MIA to be with my son. Two weeks of questioning the medical professionals and health insurance providers, pushing for the tests and the answers to happen now, not later.

Two weeks feels like a lifetime when you’re told you have cancer, it feels even longer when you’re told your child does.

How could a twenty year old kid do this on his own? He can’t.

Suddenly all of the normal distractions we all have in our daily lives, melted away. All of the plans I had been making, all of the new beginnings I had begun, came to a screeching halt for the foreseeable future.

I was in survival mode now. Life had gotten in the way.

By Thanksgiving, we had gotten through the truck accident, and the cancer scare, and even added in a bit of oral surgery for the youngest, because why not finish the trifecta? I’m finally feeling good, feeling blessed and lucky to have the life I have, where my kids are healthy and happy. The reality check of possibly losing it all is still fresh and vivid in my mind.

Like a wound that is slowly scarring over, you still protect it.

The holidays were around the corner, I was back to work, having a normal life again. I was making extra money now that could be squirreled away for “fun stuff”. I started planning a trip to Cuba in February and a spring break trip to Punta Cana with my youngest. How about doing something fun, as a family, next summer or over the Christmas holidays? Maybe even a new refrigerator?? Life is good!

Then, the floods came. Life got in the way.

Ankle deep water in the basement, a week before Thanksgiving – a week before I was cooking and hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, why not?

It was a poltergeist. The water was just rising up from the center of the house, and nobody knew why or how.

After two months, three waterproofing companies, a cleaning company and multiple plumbers scratching their heads in confusion while drilling holes in my walls, the problem has been fixed and the basement is on it’s way back to being usable (fingers crossed)

Goodbye Cuba trip, goodbye Punta Cana, goodbye new refrigerator – one of the things on my list for a reason to go back to work in the first place.

Someday, just not today. Life got in the way.

As it was all happening – the accident, the cancer scare, the flooding – it was a never-ending story, a story that had the hook of “but wait, there’s more!”. Just when I thought I had made it through the darkest part, or the toughest challenges, there would be more. Testing me, pushing me, stretching me to my limits sometimes.

I lost a part of myself along the way. I just didn’t have the room, the time, to take care of myself and do the things that I know are good for me. I didn’t have the mental space, the energy, at the end of each day to push myself for me, because that energy needed to go out to my family, like the branches of a tree taking the energy from the roots and the trunk.

I am the roots, I am the trunk, and the last few months I have dug deep for nourishment to keep this tree alive. And it has been hard work. Exhausting work, some days. But so very worth it.

We make plans, we have dreams, and we do the best we can to make it all happen, all while attending to the details that define ours as a full life. We try to balance it all – friends, family, work, play, our health – but sometimes, life just gets in the way. It takes up too much space, too much brainpower and emotional weight, leaving us depleted and unable to attend to some of those details.

And that’s okay, it will be there when you’re ready.

If it’s not? Then maybe it was an unnecessary detail, an extra stone in your pocket that you can drop on the road and keep moving forward, knowing that you’re only taking with you what you truly need and love.

Those things will constantly change, sliding up and down, switching tracks and changing direction, causing you to recalibrate and reexamine your choices, and maybe even take a time out, because that’s what life does. It pushes back and takes up space. Life sneaks up on you, like a jealous lover needing attention, blocking the door so you can’t leave and demanding to be seen, to be heard, to be felt.

Maybe just appreciated.

While you’re busy making plans, life gets in the way.



Don’t believe it

When our divorce process was just beginning, the separation phase, the shock and depression phase, I read as many books on the subject as I could muster. I googled my ass off, poured over Goodreads and Amazon reviews of divorce books and read into the night.

Reading and insomnia go hand in hand.

That’s how I handle most challenges in my life usually, I study the problem to wrap my head around it and hopefully find a solution or plan of attack. Sometimes reading about it gives me solutions, or at least ideas of how to cope, other times it just helps ease my mind to know that I’m not the only one.

And isn’t that what we are all hoping for, not to be the only loser in the room?

It didn’t take me long to notice the trend in divorce books and articles were skewed towards women – are there any divorce books or articles for/about men? I wonder. It sure didn’t seem like it during my research.

What I also noticed was a running theme, across most books and articles aimed at women, that most women getting divorced, over the age of 40 like myself, were well past their prime. They are on the other side of the hill, washed up and dried out, and can only expect to live a life slightly above miserable because they are no longer young, sexy and desirable. They need to buckle up for the bumpy ride to the finish line.

And part of the reason that we are now divorced is that we have let ourselves go during our marriage, obviously. We have become fat and frumpy, sour and lame, and now life will suck. We focused too heavily on our kids all of these years and have let our love relationships slip through our fingers.

Now we must deal with the fallout from giving up on ourselves, and our marriages, and hang our heads in shame while we plug along through the muck of the rest of our lives.

We don’t moisturize, we don’t exercise, and our brains have turned to mush from raising children and taking care of our husbands, because we also don’t have any career goals or real outside interests of our own that mean anything.

In other words, that anyone else finds important.

We have to accept that men our age are “only” looking for much younger women – of which we are no match for, obviously. We don’t have the energy to get back into the game, even if we wanted to. We’re much too enmeshed in our craft projects, charity volunteering, HGTV and stuffing our faces with comfort food while we pull on our stretch pants and big t-shirts with butterfly appliques while we wait to die…alone.

We’re too busy cutting off the crusts on organic sandwiches for our tweens, planning the next prom theme with the PTA or caring for our aging extended family while ironing (his) shirts and rsvping for the next corporate gala function supporting the latest charity interest. We’re busy!

Much too busy to consider finding love again, or even a willing partner to look our way.

And how could we even expect to find love again when all of the men we’re “allowed” to be interested in (within a reasonable age range, of course, usually a bit older because they still like them younger even when they’re riding into the sunset of life) they are either still married (by some stroke of good luck) or are now dating women who could be our daughters??

You know what? Enough.

Why are we continuously expected to accept this narration of what a middle aged divorced woman is supposed to be? Why are we viewed as the hopelessly lonely spinsters of midlife because we’re divorced now?

Have you met a middle-aged divorced woman lately? I have, and believe me we’re not all throwing in the towel and accepting that we’ll never have sex again and die lonely. Get married again? Well, that’s a fifty-fifty shot, most women choose not to get remarried after a long-term marriage. That’s a real statistic, look it up.

Can you blame them??

No, midlife divorce is crushing. It’s depressing and humbling, it’s a waterfall of emotions while at the same time a slow drip on your soul likened to Chinese water torture (usually thanks to your ex, what else is new?). It’s painful in ways you never thought you could hurt, and would never wish on anyone. It takes your breath away. It takes away your identity and pulls the rug out from under you. It takes, and takes, and takes.

But it’s also a gift.

It’s the gift of a do-over when you have the maturity and experience to hopefully know what you want and need this time. A lesson well learned by now with any luck, and maybe with a bit of therapy for good measure. It’s the gift of not having to live the rest of your life in a hollow shell of a relationship, biding your time, thinking that this is just as good as it gets because surely everyone must feel this way.

They don’t.

Some do, of course, but not everyone. No, it’s not normal and it’s not okay.

It’s the realization that you now have the ability to create the life you want, the way you want it, without anyone else having an opinion that you really have to consider. It’s taking steps in a new direction that you may have never considered, or maybe you have considered it in the past but always managed to tell yourself that you couldn’t because…fill in the blank. You couldn’t because you wouldn’t be supported in your decision, you would be shamed for even thinking of pursuing it, you would be tormented for taking time away from what was “important” in someone else’s opinion.

It’s freedom.

Sure, this isn’t the way it was supposed to turn out. Nobody gets married with an expiration date printed on their marriage license, or written into their vows “I take you for the next twenty years, then we’ll renegotiate the terms of our relationship”.

Maybe we should have?

But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a happy life with a happy ending. Your happiness is based solely upon what you choose it to be. You. Nobody else. And age has nothing to do with it.

I love the saying “I ain’t dead yet”, because it is so true and it’s real. You’re not, if you’re reading this. We’re not dead yet, so stop counting us out.

And truthfully, we’re not really old. Remember when 40 was considered old? That’s when people died before they turned sixty. People live to be 80, 90, sometimes over 100 years old now. Get over yourself, put away that AARP card, and go make the life you want the way you want it to be. Nobody can tell you not to now.

With whomever you want it to be with, older or younger, or on your own. It’s really up to you now. You have choices. Stop letting the world tell you that you’re too old to start over again, stop listening to the commercials that it’s time for you to slow down and give up.

Don’t believe it.

That’s my book, my article, my advice. Short and simple.

And it’s good for women and men, because I’m a rule breaker.

Crossing paths

Unexpectedly I found myself in the sites of a happy, fun, outgoing ball of energy who’s enthusiasm was contagious and intoxicating.

He was the type of person who can get an entire bar singing together, instantly take over the lead for a group of people and make things happen, he was the mayor of wherever he happened to be. When he smiled his eyes twinkled with just a touch of glee, and he smiled a lot, especially when he laughed. When we danced, he lead with confidence and joy, spinning me on a crowded dance floor that felt like our own personal world. I couldn’t stop smiling, or laughing.

It was a whirlwind!

It wasn’t about pickup lines, what he did for a living, or how many drinks he could buy. It wasn’t about the car he drives, the degree he has or if he was wearing designer clothing.

We laughed, we danced, we sang. We connected.

He saw me. He truly looked at me, not through me as if waiting for something more important or entertaining to come along, he actually looked into my eyes when we talked. I was in the center of his field of vision, the world felt so far away…

…and it was intoxicating.

He was traveling, alone with a buddy, across Europe with multiple stops planned for their trip. I was traveling alone, across Europe as well, with multiple destinations on my agenda. But we were both here, in this very bar on a pub crawl, in this obscure country, at the same time.

Coincidence? Fate? It’s hard to decide.

When he finally kissed me, it was electrifying. I could feel his energy almost transfer into my body as soon as he touched my face, and my endorphins released immediately. It’s the only way I can comprehend how to explain it. Like magnets, drawn together without any warning, that spark.

I was starry-eyed…for the first time in a very long time.

I felt twenty years younger.

Do you remember those early days of young lust? That quickened pulse, dilated pupils and almost swooning when he held your hand or put his arm around you? Just the intensity delivered by a kiss alone? The electric energy sizzling all around you, even while you danced and sang to 80’s music in a crowded bar, remember?

I had forgotten.

Forgotten maybe, but it was not lost. It was all still there, just buried under layers of self-doubt and low self-esteem, from years of training and practice. I was no longer the young woman of my youth getting gussied up for a night on the town, complete with makeup and a form fitting party dress, ready to take on the world and anyone in my way.

No, this was a completely different version, a version that I never expected to be when I was in my twenties, but here we are 25 years later. Older, wiser and just a little bit jaded. Add in  splash of “who cares?!” with a dash of “fuck you” and that’s what your fifties look like.

No makeup, jeans and a t-shirt, fresh from the geothermal spa (without a hair brush) and carrying bags from souvenir shopping with my wet swimsuit sitting in the bottom. I didn’t plan for my day of adventure with any concern for my appearance. I was a mess! I had stopped thinking about myself that way lately, attractive or desirable, stopped considering that I may have the opportunity/option to meet someone while I was enjoying one of the many fine drinks along the pub crawl way. It was a stopover, not a destination.

I was all about being functional, not fabulous.

Definitely not on the prowl or looking for a love connection, just trying to make the best use of my nineteen hour layover. But isn’t that the way it usually happens? The less effort you put into it, the less you care about the results, the better your return? It sneaks up and surprises you, out of nowhere.

Because you’re relaxed. You don’t care, you don’t have expectations and that makes you open to opportunities that you never realized were possible.

We truly enjoyed each other. No pressure, no deep conversations or confessions. Easy.

After closing time, which was nearly daylight, while the crowds filled the streets before wandering off in all directions, we wished each other well and went our separate ways, to our next destination. Two nomads, exploring the world while taking in the cultures of each stop along the way, crossed paths to spend a few hours in each other’s orbit of happiness and discovery.

Single serving companions, for one night only, a limited time offer.

A magical moment in time, and the time was up. It wasn’t the love story of the century, it wasn’t even longer than a few hours on a pub crawl, but it re-energized me and made me see myself in a new light. I felt lighter, happier than I had in a very long time, and confident.

I could appreciate who I am, and how I want to live my life, I can dream big and go boldly on my own to meet my future self. The universe was speaking to me, it was assuring me that the world is big, so big, and so very full of interesting and amazing people, the opportunities and possibilities are endless!

There must be someone out there just like me, who embraces life the way I want to, exploring the world and the people in it with the same fascination and appreciation. Someone that will see me, understand me and want to be a part of my orbit. In fact, he’s probably on a plane right now, heading to Zimbabwe, or the North Pole, and eventually we will cross paths and hopefully our paths will merge for the rest of the journey.

I’m willing to explore the world to bump into him someday.

Please don’t take away my girl card

I have never been a girly girl, as much as my mother tried.

And tried, and tried.

I can dress up like the rest of them, with my makeup and high heels, when the occasion calls for it. I can sit still long enough to get my nails done, mainly because of that amazing massage chair that the salons offer and a Starbucks coffee nearby. And I do like to be pampered once in awhile, with a full body massage or an acupuncture treatment to calm my body and mind.

But that’s about where it ends.

I am more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, with sneakers, or my most favorite Birkenstock sandals that I’ve owned for over 15 years. I put on makeup each day before I leave the house now, but that only began during my divorce. I suddenly realized that I could run into people who may know both of us, or even his new arm candy of a wife, in the grocery store or around town and the report back would be that I looked like an old, haggard troll doll on a bad day.

Not happening.

I am a boy mom, not a girl mom. So the pressure is off to be the girly girl. If anything I learned to embrace the boy culture almost too easily. It spoke to me. It was hard wired inside of me since the second grade when I realized that dresses were nice, but a lot of work around boys with curious eyes. Plus, they were cold to wear in the winter!

You have to suffer to be beautiful, I get it, but cold? No thanks.

Now in my later years, my midlife years, I have realized that there is yet another girly DNA segment that I am missing. The gardening gene. Most women my age love to garden. They love plants, how to tend to them and how to talk to them. They love it so much that they make entire groups out of the idea, meeting up to talk gardening or sell gardening items and plants to raise funds for charity, which is admirable.

I have even been invited to join a garden club once or twice along the way. I’ve also been encouraged to take cuttings from someone’s home to nurture into a plant for my own yard or home. My own mother is a green thumb type and has tried (once again, really tried) to entice me to show an interest in what types of plants are in my own backyard, and in her backyard. Maybe swapping cuttings or talking about fertilizer over coffee.

I can’t tell you the names of half of the plants that are currently growing in my yard.

I can tell you what colors I have, and which ones I adore most for their colors and shapes. I love lilac bushes, rose of sharon bushes and hydrangeas in blue and purple, but please don’t ask me to make a seasonal ornamental planter for my front porch. Or to plant annuals to add color to my front window.

You mean I’d have to do that every year??

It’s not from lack of effort, I have tried to embrace the idea of caring for a yard full of green life now that I own my own home. I have weeded and cleared areas, cut the grass and used the weed wacker. I actually enjoy cutting the grass, believe it or not. I attribute that to using a large machine to do the job and the look of the lines across the lawn when it’s complete. It’s beautiful and symmetrical.

But somewhere along the way, after a day of full on energy diving in for four or more hours, I lose interest. For weeks.

It’s worse than cleaning a house that you know is just going to get dirty again. The weeds grow back, sometimes faster than they grew to get there in the first place. What the hell?!

When we had moved into our first home together over twenty years ago, I made the most foolish mistake of agreed upon labor division I can now imagine. Knowing that landscaping and gardening were really not my thing, I agreed to take care of the inside of the house if my soon to be husband would take care of the outside. I would clean, do the laundry, do the grocery shopping, cook and tend to any other homeowner type of care within my abilities. I didn’t want any responsibility for decision making or care for the outside – because it wasn’t my thing. And he had worked with landscaping during college summers, so he was basically a pro compared to me.

The reason it was foolish? Lawn care has a season, or two if it’s a warm fall. Inside home care is all year round.

Just because it snowed didn’t mean that we didn’t need laundry done, or that the house didn’t need to be cleaned. There is no “season” for housekeeping. Adding to that, I usually ended up shoveling the driveway, during the worst months in our midwest winters, because that was “busy season” for his line of work. My career was year round busy, for the  most part, with crazy hours sometimes but I made the deal didn’t I?

Women’s work is never done. Preach it, sister!

So is it any wonder why I have no real desire or zest for yard work and gardening now? I am full on with the housekeeping care, keeping kids and pets alive, why did I think I would suddenly embrace this female link for gardening now?

Maybe because I am now over 50. Isn’t that what women my age are supposed to do?

Just add it to the growing list of how I don’t fit into this girl club, never really have and most likely never really will. But that’s okay. I still love a good project, like cleaning out the garage, and getting dirty. I still enjoy the reward of a well organized basement or spare room, and the multiple garbage bags dragged to the curb or dropped off and donated.

I still get dressed up with makeup and perfume when the occasion calls for it, I love to cook and bake, and I can sew a patch onto a scout uniform – with my sewing machine (finally) – without too much of a challenge. I love long baths, red wine and outdoor concerts on the lawn. I can make a mean cheese and sausage platter, too.

Hopefully that’s enough to let me keep my girl card.

I will miss it

It’s an odd time of life when so many things are coming to an end, all converging somewhat unexpectedly at the same time, and you are left standing still blinking into the unknown.

Wait, what just happened?

Many of us grow up, get married, have children and pursue careers and passions. The entire orchestra of life coming together with its many different instruments playing the background music of our lives.

Some days are a bit off key, the notes making us cringe or turn away, shielding our ears. Others are exciting and invigorating, giving us hope for the future, and promise of better things and times ahead.

But there are those times during the concert when part of your orchestra moves on, they choose another performance hall with a different audience. Or maybe a new audience chooses them?

It’s hard to tell.

Life is full of new beginnings and endings, some are positive and exciting while others are almost too painful to digest and deal with. Death, divorce and moving sit at the top of the list for most people, on both sides of the emotional pendulum, depending upon the timing in your life. You can have directly opposing reactions to the exact same situation just because of the timing or the ability to choose the timing or situation.

This next life change is not about choice so much as it is about growth and new chapters. It’s always been expected, but expected or not, it still kind of sneaks up on you when it happens.

Two of my kids are moving on to the next phase of their lives.

The first one moved out to another state, only a few weeks ago, to begin his first job in his chosen field. He put in the work at school for a year straight – without a spring break or summer break and not many holidays – even with a two week stint suffering through a horrible virus that gave him a 103 degree fever for eight days straight, he did not miss one day of school and graduated with honors. He did the training for another four months out of state and graduated at the top of his class, again with honors. He’s a dedicated and hard worker. He found his job without much input or coaching from me. He found his own apartment, too! I could not be happier or more proud.

My second son is leaving for college in a few weeks, also in another state, a state that takes over twenty hours to drive or two flights to get there. It’s the typical summer before college feeling like most families, I’m sure. He’s busy working and spending time with his girlfriend and friends, not home very much. Even when he is home he has someone over to play video games or he watches endless hours of “South Park” in the basement.

Some days it feels as if he’s already left, he slips in and out of the house repeatedly each day, but then I find the gallon of milk with a swallow or two of milk left in the jug sitting in the fridge or look into his room at the clothes strewn floor while he sleeps in until noon on his days off, and realize that he is indeed still home. But he will be gone soon.

By the end of this summer my house will be less busy, less full, less messy, less loud.

And I will miss it.

I will miss the family dinners, I will miss the talks in the car, I will miss saying good morning and good night to each of them with our usual kiss and “mmm” hugs (that’s a family thing, too hard to put into writing, you’ve got to experience it) I will miss the inside jokes, the laughter, the boys working on cars in my driveway, their friends all hanging out in my basement watching movies and eating me out of house and home most times.

I will miss being a mom of boys. Plural.

I know, I’m still a mom of boys, but not an actively engaged mom of boys really. It’s a game changer, and it shifts the balance of my life in a way that I never imagined. It redefines who I am, once again, which at this point I couldn’t even begin to tell you where that leads.

Divorce was a game changer and redefined me in ways I never knew were possible. This feeling is part of the fallout from the divorce. The gift that just keeps giving.

I didn’t expect to become an (almost) empty-nester alone (almost because I still have one more child at home to kiss and hug currently) I expected to still be married after our kids moved on. My “job” duties would change of course, but not completely, because I’d still be caring for a husband and a house and all of the responsibilities that go along with it. I’d still be taking care of all of the details of our lives, making plans, handling projects, running errands just like I had been doing for twenty years.

We would be moving our boys into their first apartment or dorm, together.

And maybe, just maybe, we would have made more time for each other and taken advantage of this new stage of freedom? Isn’t that part of the reward for raising and launching your children into grown up life, regaining your own grown up life together? Rediscovering your relationship and each other?

Then again, that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. Let’s be realistic.

I didn’t have this timeline, or status, in mind while my kids were growing up. My first two are only two school years apart, that would still give me a breather in-between goodbyes. Time to get used to one less sitting at the dinner table, and walking by an empty room each day trying not to let it bother me. I raised them, and expected them, to leave eventually and go off to college or start a new career. That’s what you’re goal is supposed to be as a parent. To raise them to be functioning adults.

But I expected them to leave in order, one at a time, with time to get used to the changes.

And I know how lucky I was this past year or more. I was lucky that I had that extra year with my oldest at home, commuting to school, before he moved away for a job. It was a blessing to have him with me during my toughest times, to feel that while everything in my life was changing and I couldn’t stop it, some things were not. My boys were still around me, buffering the ugly world for me sometimes, giving me a sense of purpose and reason to keep functioning. I needed some sense of normalcy and familiar patterns these last two years, some control, while my life was turned sideways and upside down.

Thankfully I was given that gift.

That doesn’t make it any easier. If anything, it just makes me want to hold onto it more.

I need more time.

Don’t we all? It sounds cliche, but it’s true, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. But I did know what I had. I had a beautiful and loving family that I helped create and shape, and I loved it.

I do know what I will be missing. I really do.

I have held back from being “that mom” during this time. You know the one, “this is our last time to…” fill in the blank while she takes pictures of everything you do together or plans some crazy road trip or treats every weekend like it’s a new holiday. I’m not her.

You’re welcome (to my kids)

No, I prefer to turn it inward and soak it up secretly. I appreciate the moments that we do have together, the days that I get to spend time with each of them one on one are the best. I look at them and marvel at the adults that they are becoming and my heart swells with pride. They are good people, they are people I not only love but I truly like.

That’s something I can use to look towards this new future, a future where they are successful, functioning adults and I get to enjoy the show from the best seats in the house. Change is hard, even if it is good change, but it gets easier as it becomes the new normal. And it can also lead to other changes, changes that you never expected or thought you would welcome, but it all comes together eventually. Doesn’t it?

It is a time for celebration, and a pat on the back for a job well done – look I didn’t ruin them! If that’s not a reason to celebrate I don’t know what is.

It’s a new chapter, maybe even a new book with new voices to author it, and one I am looking forward to being a part of even if I will miss the one we are living now. But isn’t that the sign of a good book, you can’t put it down and you don’t want it to end?

This has been one of the best books of my life.