Wait. What??

There are so many thing that I need to learn about this new road. So many moving parts and surprises that I never had to think about before. The latest is health insurance and life insurance, along with all of the other budget items that are necessary and important.

Health insurance is something that many of us take for granted while we are married, especially if we are not the employed spouse and need to rely on the employed spouse for coverage in the partnership. Something you really don’t think about until you really have to, oddly enough. You tend to take it for granted, and expect it to always be there.

I was referred to a health insurance counselor – how many more people do we need to get involved in this debacle before we are done?! –  and she pointed out some very astounding numbers and ideas with regards to my health insurance. There are so many scenarios!

He can decide to keep me on until the new year, or until the “open enrollment period” of November-January, or he can totally cut me loose at any given time. Of course, it all depends upon his company and what they allow, but in the end, he is holding the reins on this horse isn’t he? He has control over my health future.

Then there is the issue of life insurance. I’ve already mentioned the last conversation, where I sat in the room while everyone around me quibbled over whether or not I actually NEEDED life insurance, and at what cost. Now that I’ve had that conversation with a professional, I feel that I should have a policy, but there is a new wrinkle in that plan. It was suggested that I choose a beneficiary – who could that be, if not my ex-spouse?? My parents are obviously much older than I am (no kidding!), making the possibility of them out-living me a slim chance, so who do I choose? Someone fiscally responsible, who will protect the future of our kids in mind.

I was told, I should think of someone that will keep their best interest in mind when they inherit thousands of dollars, someone who will invest it in their best interest and help them pay for college or other life changing/deciding moments. I asked if I could choose our oldest son who is already 18. The answer is “yes” but I need to feel that he is mature enough and will handle the responsibility of thousands of dollars for his brothers and himself well. Will he blow it all at the riverboat casinos? Or trick out his classic car?

I truly think he was born “mature” but you never can tell when money is involved.

Then the reality hit, I was told I should write a letter to each son explaining my intentions for their inheritance. The consultant put it as “last letters” to the people of importance to you after your death. This will help them make better, more responsible decisions with the money you leave them.

Wow. Really? How do you write a letter to your child with the idea that you are no longer there? And how do you direct them to spend it wisely from the grave? What do you write? Will it be with a Darth Vader type of voice or Mother Nature?

Her suggestion? Write it alone, have a box of Kleenex and give yourself time.

Like I don’t have enough reasons to have a good cry already. I think I’ll hold off on the life insurance for a bit and just focus on keeping the health insurance for now, less tears.

Cry until I can’t anymore

They told me there’d be days like these, but I thought I was tougher than that, stronger than this.

I’m not.

I have been fighting it, holding it in, pushing it down for the most part for the last six months. But I am tired, I am beaten up and feeling depleted and exhausted. I am giving up trying to hold it together. I need a time out. From life.

This summer has been the summer of overwhelming mental paralysis, tempered with moments of happiness and celebration. Some days I can barely form full sentences, the words elude me and I can’t remember my point. I have no drive to do anything productive or take care of anything or anyone above the bare minimum. Other days, I am happy and optimistic, chatty and smiling, crossing off my “to do” list of tasks, looking forward to a new chapter in my life that I can write my own story without a live-in editor or critic. Looking forward to a happy future.

Does that make me manic-depressive? Or just crazy?

I know that “this too shall pass” but seriously, that idea isn’t cutting it for my day to day life. I am snarky, mean, hurtful and demanding one minute and then I feel horrible for being that way and I cry. Honestly, I am crying everyday for one reason or another. And sometimes more than once. I don’t cry long, just often.

My kids probably want to run away from me by this point, and really to be honest, I wouldn’t mind it if they did. I could use some down time without having to think of what everyone else needs, or how they feel, for a little while. I would welcome my phone not ringing, my email going blank and my calendar sitting empty for just a little while.

I feel as if the walls are closing in on me and I can’t escape, I can’t breathe. I need it all to stop for just a little while so I can remember what it’s like to have a somewhat normal life with normal distractions. Not filled with lawyers, therapists, realtors, doctors, brokers, and any other professional that I have had to contact or work with the last six months.

I know that divorce is never easy, but I had no idea what it would do to my mental wellness. I am overwhelmed with so many different feelings that somedays I find it difficult to express just what I’m feeling. Or what I’m thinking – there is so much going on in my mind, day and night. But I think the biggest feeling is resentment. I resent the idea that he is still doing pretty much whatever he wants to do, or feels like doing, without any accountability while I am still taking care of the details of our lives and our family.

He chose his job over his family, it’s as simple as that, but somehow the message I keep hearing is that I should be more cooperative and collaborative, more understanding. I have to consider his feelings and how this is affecting him. It’s so stressful that he can’t see his sons very often, that he lives so far away, and the travel on weekends is really exhausting…really?

All the while, I have to prove my financial needs for a family of four, at a table full of people with pens in hand to scratch off or adjust my numbers, while he offers that he already knows what he can afford so there is no need to put it on paper or be held accountable. He wants to get on with his life, so he tells me in heated discussions, and yet, not enough to work out a reasonable settlement. He is a spoiled child that wants it all his way, at any cost.

I need “these days” to be over. I need my kids to go back to school so I can be alone with my disappointment and resentment, and to just cry until I can’t anymore.

 

Guilt. It’s the new black

I’ve been trying my best to be my best self. I wanted to be the good person, the strong one, level-headed and sane. I wanted to be amicable, reasonable, helpful, courteous, kind (must be my Boy Scout training) and not lose my mind. I wanted to be supportive, happy for others, available and open. I want to come through this all without any damage.

Somehow, I don’t think it’s possible to balance it all. At least not everyday. Maybe not even all day for one day. And I can only try damage control, giving up on the idea that I can do this without losing part of myself along the way.

This summer has been a struggle, to say the least. I was so looking forward to having a good, relaxing summer with my kids. Giving up the daily scheduling that comes with school, sports, jobs and activities. Taking the time to go to the beach, to take impromptu road trips, to sit on the patio by the pool and cookout for our dinners. I wanted that luxurious, slow, sunshine filled summer to just take in all that I am thankful for and love, and to savor one last summer of having all of my boys home together. Our oldest graduated this year and will be moving on with his life all too soon, I am sure.

But, that slow moving summer was not meant to be thanks to this ugly chapter in our lives. We barely cooked at home, much less barbecued. We didn’t take the usual road trip, or go to the beach (I haven’t been once, oddly enough, and I love the beach) We didn’t just hang out by the pool together. Actually, many days I was too busy, my day chopped up with appointments. Yes, busy with appointments. In the summer.

Not just the meetings with the lawyers, but the house search with the realtor, the meetings with a mediator, doctor’s appointments and the therapy that I now need to purge my deepest fears and worries to keep myself sane and functional.

I’ve had days that I didn’t even want to leave my house, let alone actually “do something”. I feel guilty, a lot. And I’ve become consumed with guilt for so many reasons. Guilt about our marriage failing, guilt about allowing this crippled relationship to continue for so long, guilt that we have ruined our children’s childhood, guilt that I didn’t better prepare myself for the “what-ifs” of a possible life on my own (When did I give up my independence? When did I hand over the wheel and become a passenger? When did I stop believing in myself?)

Then there’s the guilt I feel when I leave my youngest to entertain himself for hours, on many days this summer, while I look for a house, or meet with a “team” to help us get divorced, or attend one of the many appointments that I have to make and keep.

And let’s not forget the guilt that plagues me, almost daily, that I am also not the same family member or friend that I was before this all began. I don’t have the energy, or the concentration, to put forth the effort that I used to worrying about the details and making sure that everyone feels loved, heard and important. I have so much on my mind, pulling me in so many directions, that a missed birthday party or broken plans or promises are almost meaningless right now. It’s all background noise, and seen through a blurry lens.

I am broken and unable to put the pieces back together.

Just guilt everywhere. Spread like a thick layer of peanut butter, that sticks to everything I touch. In every facet of my life, no matter what I am doing or who I am doing it with or for. I cannot live up to my usual expectations, or commit my time and energy to the same areas.

Guilt. It’s the new black.

 

 

Right kind of happy

I can’t help but replay so many things over and over again in my mind; memories, conversations, sweet moments from the last twenty plus years of our life together. Some days they barely cross my mind, I keep busy with the day before me and the demands of my regular life, but most days they invade my space like a dark shadow creeping in behind me. We were happy once, weren’t we?

It’s hard not to look back and wonder. Question. When did it begin to crumble? Was it always this way and we chose not to see it? Were we clinging to an ideal that we thought we could create, when in reality it was never meant to be? Were we ever, ever truly happy?

I have to believe that we were happy in the beginning, and at many points along the way, but was it the right kind of happy? I’d have to say no, it wasn’t.

It was happy to fit with someone else, happy to belong to the crowd of pairs surrounding us, happy to find someone out there that wanted the same things out of life and had similar dreams for the future that we could work towards together. 

The happiness we had was more like finding that great job. The position is one you dreamed of, the pay is good with hope for a better future. You get along with the boss and the people in the office, so each day gives you something to look forward to. But you don’t “love” the job, it’s a good fit and it gets you what you want out of life. It’s not always ideal, but it also doesn’t suck. You’re happy, for the most part. It will have its rough days, but it will pay off in the end.

But we were missing something. We weren’t completely, perfectly matched. We negotiated, made sacrifices and plotted our course together the best we could. But it became more difficult with each change and each move. It was no longer the great job we had expected, it was becoming “just a job”, with no real return on our investment of time and resources. We were trudging along, waiting for that “big promotion” that would bring us back to that excitement of our first days. Hoping that it would get better in a new location or with new experiences. Starting over again and again, only to realize that we had basically made a lateral move with a few new perks.

I’m not that unique

I am still in the early stages of my divorce experience, but I have already come to the sad conclusion that I am not that unique. I am not the embarrassing failure at relationships that I had convinced myself I was, nor the individual snowflake in the divorce world that some websites would have me believe. It’s not that new, or different, after all to get divorced after twenty or more years these days.

Sad, isn’t it? I warned you.

No, it’s not that different from many other couples. It doesn’t only happen in certain neighborhoods or with couples that you would usually expect it to. It’s happening in my town, on my street and with many of my friends, near and far, that I would never expect.

I used to joke, to my husband of all people, that “you can’t swing a cat in this town without hitting a divorced or divorcing couple” every time we shockingly heard about another family breaking apart. Looking back, I was so smug. So conceited, and honestly, secretly self-righteous. 

“Why can’t people work it out? 

Marriage is hard, suck it up.

Life with another person isn’t perfect, you have to roll with the bad to enjoy the good.”

So certain that we had it all figured out. So convinced that we were smarter and stronger than those that fell apart.

We had endured many challenges, many moves, and taken on many projects that would test any marriage along the way, and we had come out the other side still intact. I really thought we were a “forever couple” and we would beat the odds.

Coming from a family of divorce in the 70’s, when it was all pretty new and not quite normal, I was rooting for us. I wanted to feel that I had learned to communicate better than my parents, could work through our problems with a level head, and that I had married the right partner overall. I wanted to believe that if I tried hard enough,  worked at being a good wife and loved with all of my might, I would be rewarded with happily growing old with the man that I had created a lifetime of memories and raised three children.

But that wasn’t the case, and looking at it now, I should have seen it coming for a long time. I should have realized it early on, truthfully. Maybe I did, I just wasn’t ready to accept the idea. 

But we’re not supposed to look at the flaws or find the cracks in our relationship, are we? If you’re looking for a problem, you will find one. Better for you not to look too closely, not to question or compare, to save your belief system and get through another day, month or year.

Instead of doing the right thing for myself years ago, and most likely for my husband too, I did the acceptable thing for everyone else that I believed would suffer or be disappointed. My kids, of course. But there are so many other people that influence our decisions and actions, usually without us even knowing. Our families, his job, our friends. And the scary questions of how it will all play out, what will the future hold, how will I do this on my own?

And I know now that I am not the first, I sure as hell won’t be the last, and I’m not unique in any of this. I will cry, I will curse, I will blindly hate and I will feel blissfully satisfied at key points. Some days will be better than others, some a whole lot worse.

And I also know that I am not alone. I am not an outcast because I didn’t ride it out until the end. I am not a failure. 

I am learning more about myself everyday, and I am making strides to regain the most important and special parts of myself along the way. I will not only get through this ugly, disappointing chapter of life, I will come out stronger and will finally love and accept who I am.

Friends?

How do we manage our way through the dark tunnel of a divorce to come out of the other side as friends? Is it possible? 

Is it necessary, is my bigger question.

From the beginning, I have been told that we should aim to make this as amicable as possible, so in the future we can be friends. The example always thrown onto the table usually goes something like, “you want to know that you can both be at your child’s wedding someday, and not shooting daggers across the room, from resentment of a bad divorce settlement. You want your kids to know that you can still get along, and be friends.” 

Or the best one for me, listening as my soon to be ex (with any luck and hope) say, with a catch in his voice, “I’d like us to still be friends when this is over.” Cue sad, deeply emotional music. Cut in for a close up, and capture those teary eyes. He’s expressing feelings! 

Friends? That’s what we’re shooting for, huh? Wow.

Odd for that to be a “goal” on our flipchart of ‘goals and concerns’ during mediation. (Which by the way, is a whole other world for our marriage, seriously) Isn’t that ‘goal’ usually the consellation prize in most breakups? You remember those early days of young love, don’t you? When you’d let him or her  down gently, by assuming the blame – it’s not you, it’s me – and promising that you “can still be friends”.

And why should I feel pressured to be his friend in the end? In case nobody has noticed, we weren’t really friends during our marriage. I wasn’t in his circle of trust and chosen companion to share in his fun times. I was his maid, his nanny, his travel agent, his pack mule. I was his Wizard of Oz hidden behind the curtain, taking care of the gritty details of our family life. I wasn’t his friend, no matter how much I tried.

And if I recall, I was told ever so bluntly, that I don’t have any friends, we have nothing in common or common interests and that I hate people. But now, by the grace of divorce, I am ready to make a friend. I am ready, or should be ready, to open my heart and accept his friendship. I suppose getting divorced is now our common interest?

Here’s the thing, I don’t care if we’re friends. Ever. I am an adult and I can conduct myself in a mature adult way, to get through any social situation including our child’s wedding day, for a day or more if necessary. I’ve been doing it for years. I’m a damn good actress and an even better liar when necessary.

And telling me that I need to, should be, want to be his friend for the sake of our family, smacks of telling me to play nice. Don’t be difficult. Don’t push too much, you could make things uncomfortable. 

Be a good girl and get along.

Guess what, the ‘good girl’ has gotten her teeth knocked in and her self esteem assaulted for the last time. She’s played nice too long and it’s gotten her into this mess of a marriage.

The good girl is dead. 

And this girl chooses her own friends, thank you very much.

We were a good team

Getting divorced isn’t the easy process that I expected it to be. I know what you’re thinking or even saying out loud to yourself, why would you think it was going to be easy?

What were you thinking?!

I was lulled into the idea that we were a good team and worked well together to solve problems the last twenty years, so why should this be any different?

We are both level-headed adults that have overcome some pretty crazy obstacles and challenges in our life together. We’ve moved internationally a few times, attended more funerals for loved ones and friends than I care to count, struggled through some major medical issues with our boys and lived through at least three major remodeling projects. He is a figure head, a linear thinker and a demanding boss personality, while I am a research oriented mind that builds rapport and draws people in. We balance each other.

We are a good team.

Along the way, we have learned from each other. He has become more open to strangers, actually having conversations on the plane or train, and learned to finesse people over the years a bit to get things done. While I on the other hand, have learned to toughen up, demand results, speak up for what I want and not take crap from people. I was a bit of a pushover in the early days, I admit it. Maybe that’s normal growth in any relationship, but I’d like to believe that we sort of rubbed off on one another creating better versions of ourselves along the way. Softening the rough edges for each other.

So, now that we are parting, I don’t think that I am too crazy to think that we could handle this situation practically and with grace. We started off saying that we will have the oddest divorce because we will work so well with each other. “People will be stunned!”, we laughed. “This will be easy, we’re good at working together”, we said.

We had no idea what was in store, or what to expect from one another when the chips were down.

It’s not working out the way we expected, wide-eyed and so trusting in the beginning, odd but true. (stop rolling your eyes and mumbling “no shit”, I get it!) It’s all taking longer than we agreed to, or wanted it to, in the first place. There are more people involved now than  I ever expected. Who knew that it takes a village to get divorced?!

And it’s not going to be pretty when it is all said and done. It will take a long while to heal.

I guess our real personalities surface when we’re up against the wall, fighting for what we want and what we think is fair. One thing he may not have counted on when he was influencing me to be more tough and self-advocating, forcing me to adapt to new situations and be more independent because he was too busy to be there to support me. I’m stronger, I’m smarter and I’m not afraid. I learned a lot.

And, I learned from the best.

Borrowed chair wisdom

Sitting in my borrowed chair with a book in my lap, in the northwoods of Wisconsin, I realized a personal truth. I am doing what makes me happy, without worry or guilt, and it feels good. I am in my ‘happy place’ on the verge of living the life I’ve wanted for so long.

I had an inkling for years that I was holding back, making excuses and embarrassed apologies for doing what made me happy in so many areas of my life that it had become the norm. I could see it, feel it even, that shadow of doubt each time. An almost shy embarrassment when I talked about my interests or passions. And for some reason, I had come to believe that there was something  wrong with me. I was the oddball. Somehow I was not living up to other people’s expectations or putting my energies into the “right” things that would make me socially acceptable or worthy.

Not so long ago, I was a very independent, outspoken, expressive woman. I didn’t worry about what other people thought, or if I didn’t fit in, or if I wasn’t spending my time in any certain way that was deemed worthy or acceptable by anyone else. I did what I wanted and what made me comfortable, even if that was working the dirty job of fast food as a teen, or talking to a stranger and being that ear for someone who needed a friend on a bus or train.

I was the most honest version of myself, out loud and without apologies.

The last few years (or ten…or fifteen), I have slowly let that part of myself slip away. I’ve let that independent woman sink into the background and only peek her head out when it was the “right time” or with the “right people”, for fear of not living up to a standard set by other people. I’ve quieted the inner voice that would speak up before, and tamped down  the joy that would bubble inside of me when I did what I truly loved. I have slowly restrained, and retrained, my soul to accept these terms while I live a life of quiet disappointment.

But this past week, something clicked. I felt satisfied, proud, happy, and at peace with where I was and what I was doing. I was camping with Boy Scouts as an adult leader, helping the boys along with the challenges and celebrations of each day. Some days I helped a lot, I shepherded boys to the health lodge in the early hours of dawn, coached them in their activities and games or pointed them to their merit badges and tasks of the day. Other days I stayed in the peripheral and just observed, happy to watch them just be boys and make up their own social web. Admiring the leadership of boys leading boys.

I was exhausted each evening, but only physically. I woke up with purpose and looked forward to each day with a smile, and appreciated the beauty all around me. I was happy.

I met other adult leaders that were as passionate, some more so than me, about what we were doing. I swapped troop stories with other leaders, listened to the life stories of the young staffers and got to know our scouts better than any weekly meeting would allow me. I had not only found purpose – I have that every day with my own boys at home – but I was comfortable in my own skin, surrounded by people who accepted me and encouraged me, even when I hadn’t showered in two days or put on makeup!

I was in my happy place, and it felt peaceful and warm. I could feel the stress melt away with each passing day.

Sitting in a borrowed chair under a tree in Wisconsin, surrounded by boys running, laughing, playing and looking to me for guidance and acceptance, I found myself again. I found that girl, that woman, that did what she loved and shared it with the world. I smiled more, I laughed more and I slept deeply. I felt lighter. I felt happier than I had in awhile.

A spark has reignited and I plan to fan the the flames until that inner voice becomes my outer voice, and I live the life I imagined on my own terms. A phoenix lives in my soul, rising over and over during the course of my life, putting me back on my true path when I have wandered or gotten lost. It’s time to let that bird soar.

 

 

Boxing lessons? Maybe.

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I know that this entire experience is life changing for my entire family. Believe me, I’ve been there as a child, so I get it. Divorce, while painfully common these days, still sucks.

And I understand that with that idea comes attitude changes, adjustments, figuring out our new ‘normal’ – there will be good days and there will be dark, ugly days. Or weeks…

I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to give each one of our boys the space, the understanding and the love that they need each day, even when I just don’t have it in me.  

But I’m struggling lately. Really struggling.

Maybe I should blame it on summer vacation? Maybe this would all feel easier, less overwhelming, if I could fold it all into a tightly organized schedule? Then I could only allow so much time each day to dwell upon it and only so much of my attention to be caught up in it. Blocks of time to deal with bite-sized pieces. I wouldn’t have the luxury of free time!

And my boys would be busy, with school and activities, so they would have less time to think about things and ruminate on details that they truly have no control over, making them all a bit more pleasant and not nearly as combative.

It’s not just one of them either. Oh no, they’re a tag team of resentment, disappointment and frustration each and every day. Just when I think we’re in this as a solid team one of them goes rogue on me and let’s me know that I’m not the magic, cool, entertaining, wonderful mom they thought I was – nor do I have complete control of our lives as they previously believed. It’s as if I killed off Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all at once.

It’s a let down, I know. I thought I was all of those things too, most days. But lately, I’m just feeling beat and exhausted. Beat up, beaten down, sucker punched, any way you can imagine to describe the feelings of pure ineptitude. On a daily basis.

Maybe I should just get everyone boxing lessons, and take myself out of the ring for awhile? I think I’m punch drunk.