He’s not the guy

I’ve dabbled in the dating world this year, and realized all too soon that I just wasn’t ready.

It happens, I know. Some people can jump right into it after a breakup or divorce, they need to find someone to ease the discomfort, or they crave affection and attention, human touch. Sometimes you just need to know if you’re still ‘marketable’, attractive enough, to attract someone new…that isn’t a freak or total creep, preferably.

But that’s not me, obviously. I need time to figure out where I belong, how I fit in, and what I truly want for the next phase of my life. I need to know that my kids are secure and ready for another possible change to everyday life. I need to feel that the time is right for all of us, it’s not just about me.

It was so much easier when I was in high school (sigh)

So, I’ve made it clear to anyone who will listen, that I am not looking for anyone. To date or otherwise. I am focusing inward instead of outward, marketable or not.

I had this conversation with a new friend recently, who is also a hired consultant that has helped me forge this new path in my life. She has been really enlightening and supportive, and I don’t know how I would have survived all of this upheaval in my world, intact with my sanity, without her guidance and expertise.

A short while after my divorce was final, we were meeting about whatever, she asked how I was doing and how the dating world was treating me. I explained that I was no longer in the market. It was too overwhelming and disappointing. I was getting out of the game before I was too battered and bruised to want to play anymore. I just wasn’t ready. She understood, she was encouraging and supportive of my attitude, and agreed with me that sometimes it just takes longer than you think.

But…I should let her know when I was “ready” because she has the “perfect” guy for me.

All I could think was, ‘and so it begins’. The sitcom set-up that I’ve watched play out a million times on TV. Blind dates and stiff introductions set-up by well-meaning friends and family, grinning at you both like idiots because you are ‘so perfect for each other’ and they knew it! They know a guy from the office, from the gym, from their cousin’s friend. They truly just want to see you happy, smiling and excited with pep in your step, and with something positive and uplifting to talk about.

They want to see you whole again.

I politely explained that I was really not ready, and probably wouldn’t be for quite some time. My focus had changed, and it wasn’t all about me feeling good about myself, through someone else’s eyes, finally. She nodded and said that she understood, but just to let her know when I was ready because she didn’t want to ruin this perfect match with poor timing.

That was a couple of months ago.

We recently met again about other details of my new life, she sent an email that morning explaining that she was bringing her partner along to meet me and to help answer my questions. It was unexpected, but I didn’t think anything of it.

The morning that they came to my door, I was in jeans and a hoody from the Hot Chocolate race and simple makeup, my basic everyday attire. Her colleague was pleasant and friendly, a clean cut middle aged guy, nothing out of the ordinary. It actually made me a bit nervous to have a man join us for some reason, usually the two of us worked on my stuff while we talked like girlfriends. I liked it that way, swapping stories of our lives while planning my future, it didn’t feel so “necessary” then. Now there was a guy with a crisp white shirt and tie standing at my door, his leather satchel slung over a shoulder, smiling but in a business like manner.

This was serious. There wouldn’t be any girl talk this time.

I was a bit bummed, but shook it off. Every meeting shouldn’t be a coffee klatch I told myself. I didn’t hire her to be my friend…did I?

As the morning went on, and we talked about my accounts, he easily took over the conversation as the expert on the subject, and not only answered my questions but asked them of me too. He was teaching me how to look at it all, more than directing me, which I liked.

He was complimentary about my grasp of everything. I felt more confident.

Sprinkled into the conversation were personal details about himself, tossed in from my friend. He was divorced, from a narcissist, and he agreed with the adage of “if I knew then what I know now” with a chuckle. He’s a beekeeper as a hobby, and loves it, stings and all. He said beekeeping was therapeutic and relaxing, he also cans his own honey.

Being the thoughtful hostess that I am, I offered something to drink along with the cookies that I had baked the day before. I also offered the Italian lemon cookies that I pick up from the farmers market each week, joking that I “knew a guy”. That lead us to the talk of farmers markets in the area, which markets we visit and love, and the idea that I often buy local honey, usually with nuts mixed in. We must have talked about this for fifteen minutes. He asked to see my jar of honey, and was so interested in the idea of it, that he took a picture of it to use as a reference later.

As the conversation moved on, he mentioned his talent for betting on horses as a way to compare financial risk taking – then went on to say his good luck with betting on them comes from the fact that he owns horses, and has always loved them. He was a new age kind of guy, in my opinion, white collar work with a farmer’s love of nature.

An urban gardener type, unlike most of the men that I had recently met, and I liked that.

Suddenly I realized that I found him much more attractive than I had when I first opened the door, only an hour before. I now noticed that he was cute, easy to talk to, had a personable way about him. We had things in common that I never would have guessed.

That’s when the thought occurred to me, was this the guy that she wanted to set me up with?

My mind began whirling, trying to piece it all together. This was a sneaky way to make the introductions, not what I was expecting at all, but I wasn’t that upset about it. I started thinking about the idea of going out with him, or someone like him, and it didn’t scare me. It felt right and fitting. He was funny, honest, personable, interesting and smart. He was the best of both worlds, white collar job with a love and appreciation of nature. It was like finding a unicorn sitting in my kitchen!

I began to smile a bit more, with a slight flirt in my voice, and it felt good. Natural.

Once they left, after our two hour meeting, I shook my head and smiled some more. She was sneaky, I had to admit, but she knew me better than I had ever imagined. I didn’t expect anything that morning, so I wasn’t nervous or overthinking, and I was dressed like I always am – not trying to impress. A great way to meet someone, definitely more organic and less pressure. Her instincts about this match seemed pretty dead on, too – how did she figure me out so quickly?

I was impressed. And a little excited, I will admit.

I waited to hear from her, maybe giving me a little hint about what I had already figured out, patting herself on the back for being so sly, and yet so right. But I didn’t hear from her.

I figured that she must be busy, the weekend was coming, etc. Or maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t nearly as impressed with me, as she had promised him he would be? Maybe he didn’t think we had as much in common as I did, or I just wasn’t his type? And why would she share someone else’s disappointment with someone who didn’t even know there was a motive to meeting them to begin with?

Better to leave it unsaid, making it easier to go on with a professional relationship.

As the day went on, I couldn’t stand not knowing if this was the setup, and if it was did it go as well on his end as mine. Did he even ask about me? So I texted her and asked, “just out of curiosity, is he the guy that you wanted to introduce to me?” I didn’t want to seem too excited or give her too much credit…yet. I was playing it cool.

She responded almost immediately, “No, it was Jeff :)”

I stared at the message for a minute, sitting with the small disappointment in my gut for a moment. He wasn’t the guy. This guy that sat at my kitchen table today, seeming to possess all of the qualities that I would be interested in, surprising me with my level of interest and tiny hope that he felt it too, that guy.

He wasn’t the guy?

He wasn’t the guy.

‘Jeff’ had better be pretty amazing when the time is right, since he’s ‘the guy’. The bar has been set high now, maybe too high. And I didn’t even know I was picking up the bar.

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What if…

Such a common thought, for most of us at some point in time…”what if?”

I’ve had too many to count of these unsettling commentaries running through my mind over the past year or two. If I’m honest, I’ve had that commentary running through my mind for years, always looking for the hidden answer, the deeper meaning or secret message.

Like a game show, I always wonder ‘what was behind door number three?’ What did I miss?

The internal conversations of “what if” range from small scenarios, maybe tiny bits of conversations that went wrong, or smaller actions that became something bigger and harder to live with than I had ever imagined or expected.

What if I had done it differently? What if I had said yes instead of no this time?

When the idea of getting divorced was first brought up, said out loud in an almost business like way as a solution to our stalemate, it seemed surreal. The room seemed to get bigger and I felt smaller, quieter, my brain was filled with cotton dulling the sounds and senses of it all. I was numb. It felt as if it wasn’t really happening to us, I was just witnessing a movie or a scene from a play from another seat, in another room.

Maybe it was all a dream? Or a nightmare?

It didn’t seem like something we would really do, considering our level-headed decision making history. We had done so much together over the last twenty five years, experiences that challenged us beyond our imaginations sometimes, and still managed to stick it out to figure out solutions together, as a partnership. This was just an idea, right? It was a test for both of us, a game of chicken really, wasn’t it? Was it really so broken that we couldn’t fix it this time? Were we really that far apart in our goals and future plans?

Shouldn’t someone say something, back pedal, stop us from doing this? But nobody did.

Once the big decision had been made, agreed upon in theory, my mind began to spiral around the events that lead us here. The most current events, not the long list of small slights and disappointments that built up our resistance to one another over the years, like bricks building a wall.

That’s when a new set of “what ifs” began.

What if… I had just agreed to make the move for his new job? All that I had researched about the new location – the housing, the schools, the neighborhoods – proving to me that it was not the right fit for us as a family, put in a box in the corner of my mind, ignoring the deep gut feelings that I had about how our kids would (or wouldn’t) adjust to another move because the timing was completely wrong for all of them.

What if… I had disregarded the disappointment and hurt that would come from my extended family to find us moving away again? What if I had just thrown it all to the wind, blindly trusted, and jumped in with both feet?

What if… I didn’t think about anyone else, not even myself, and just did it?

What if… I had done what I had always done in the past, just trusted that it would all work out for the best, for all of us? What if I had just chosen our marriage, our partnership, over the perceived well-being and happiness of our entire family? Would it have saved our marriage? Would we be blissfully happy in our new location, glad that I was talked into it, with everyone seemingly well-adjusted by now?

What if… I was wrong about my theories, my research, my fears?

Did I put too much stock into some of the reasons not to go, some of it just fear of another change, did I devalue the importance and weight of our marriage?

What if… after that ugly night, when he told me all of the things he hated and disliked about me, I had gone to him and tried to “fix it”? What if I had told him that I would try harder to be a better partner, to be the kind of wife he wanted and deserved, and I would do whatever it would take to keep us together. Even if that meant moving.

What if… I had accepted his offer that we could continue “doing this” for twenty more years? No apology offered, no excuse for his ugly rant tearing me apart, just accept it as our way of life and love and moved forward to the finish line.

What if… I put it out of my mind and pretended that it didn’t really happen?

What if… I had accepted his now obvious peace offering on Christmas day, a trendy designer workout bag and matching top, as an unspoken apology and just moved on? What if I had continued to shop for a Christmas gift for him even while hurting, and gave him a similar fence mending gift?

Would that have been enough to stitch us back together? Would we just pretend that he hadn’t said any of those hurtful things, and just kissed a bittersweet thank you on Christmas day to move past it all, both of us accepting it as one bad night brought on by stress, travel and work.

Would he have continued to commute for us, his family, as a peace offering until we were ready to move?

What if… I had told him from the beginning, from the earliest days of our slowly growing apart, exactly how I felt when he treated me like I didn’t count? What if he had told me how disappointed he was with me and my apparent shortcomings then?

What if… we had figured out how to really communicate with each other years ago? Would we have stayed married this long because we could work things out and understand one another, or would we have divorced years ago realizing that we weren’t really right for each other?

Maybe we would have come to the conclusion that we had different expectations of marriage earlier on, and acted upon it, before we spent twenty years trying to hold it together.

What if… we had just broken up at the end of that first summer or first year?

We never would have gotten here, to this ugly place of broken dreams and unfulfilled promises, and maybe we both would have had happier marriages with other people? Maybe we would have taken completely different paths that made us each happier, and feeling more secure, more fulfilled, more loved. Maybe not.

But, what if…?

 

 

Writing my way to sanity

The question has come up more than a few times since I began writing a blog, with regards to why I am writing about my divorce experience for all of the world to see. Why can’t I just write it in a personal journal, to keep to myself? Isn’t therapy enough of an outlet to clear my head, and my heart, on a weekly basis?

Why do I need to air my “dirty laundry”?

I’ve been called classless and destructive, defaming and selfish, add in a thoughtless and uncaring parent, and I’m pretty much a social media monster.

At first I felt incredibly guilty, so sure that it was all true because someone else felt that way and had said it, or written it, to me. That’s always been a weakness of mine, believing another person’s opinion of myself over my own.

But then I remembered, just because they say it or feel it doesn’t make it true.

When I first began blogging a few years ago I was looking for my voice, for a way to hone my writing skills, and maybe find a new outlet for my creative brain. I had tried so many other outlets over the last half of my life: aerobics, bootcamp, scrapbooking, camping, school volunteering, crossfit, etc. but none had ever addressed the running commentary going on inside of my own head.

No, I wasn’t hearing voices, just my own.

My own view of the world, the events that affected me and my family and friends. I was almost constantly internally narrating, like an episode of the “Wonder Years” or “A Christmas Story”. My mind a constant screen playing the continuous film reel of my life on scratchy, jumpy 8mm film without a soundtrack.

Okay, maybe a soundtrack sometimes.

One day, a few years ago, it occurred to me to write it down. Get it out of my own head and into a space made for such things. I started off with the desire to write a book. Why not? Isn’t that what all writers aspire to do in their lifetime? That’s the only way to become a “real” writer, isn’t it?

I tried to make that happen for awhile, the outline was completed and I just needed to fill in the meat of the stories, but it was more overwhelming and challenging than I had ever imagined. So many directions to go, where to begin, how to end? I read about “building characters” and plot lines, I even joined a writing challenge to motivate me to get it done. I thought you just sat down and started to write!

I had no idea how wrong I was.

Plus, it would be  time consuming, and as the mother of three, I couldn’t justify carving out the time needed to put my whole heart into it.

Wanting to write a book was like realizing one day that other people were eating and enjoying pie, not just a piece but a whole pie. Pie is good, and I like pie, so I should eat pie, too. Not just a piece of pie, to make sure that I like that kind of pie, no I would get the entire pie, like everyone else had, because I was certain that I would enjoy it as much as everyone else did. Who wouldn’t like to eat an entire pie??

Me. An entire pie is too much pie if you’re just starting to eat pie. Make sense?

So the next best thing was to blog, to write “episodes” of my life instead of an entire made-for-TV movie. Start small and see if it fits. It was a test, really. Can I really write something that other people will read and relate to, or do I only sound interesting inside of my own head?

I stumbled along with the blogging idea for awhile, not really knowing how to hone in on any one area of my life or interest to write about. There are so many possibilities! I was so excited when I had two followers, the thought of having many more than that was beyond my imagination. Who would want to read what I had to say about anything? What made my life so interesting that anyone would care to read about it?

But then life presented a topic.

A topic that affected so many areas of my life, my world, my family and my friends. I began reading articles, books, and blogs on the subject, to understand more about it, but noticed that nobody was really talking about it the way I was narrating it inside of my own head. Not every experience is the same, not every narrative is the same, obviously.

Not every divorce is the same.

I also began to realize that my experience was a slowly growing trend. Friends and acquaintances began approaching me with similar stories once they had heard that I was going through a divorce, looking for support and guidance, someone to say “me too” so they wouldn’t feel so alone. And for some reason nobody was really talking or writing about what was really going on in these divorces, from this point of view or experience.

They felt scared, embarrassed, lost. They felt used and mislead.

Divorce has been around for quite some time, I know. My parents divorced when I was  nine, so it’s not something I had never encountered. But midlife divorce, or what is now coined as “gray divorce”, is a fairly new idea and not one that most people even think about. Once you make it past the twenty, fifteen or even ten year mark you’re solid, right? It’s an easy road from there, you’ve put in the hard work years, sacrificed and raised children together, now it’s smooth sailing and fun until the end of time. Now you’ll travel, take long walks on the beach, grow old together.

Nothing is guaranteed.

So, I began to write. I began to express the voice inside of my own head, my own dialogue, to clear my mind and heart. I also wanted to be a voice for those women in a similar situation, and to let them know that they are not alone. They are not the problem, or a bitch, for feeling this way.

It’s not completely their fault. And it’s okay to have the feelings they are feeling.

I want all of my friends and acquaintances, who are at all of the various points of this process, to know that while it is hard and hurtful, it doesn’t have to destroy you. It can make you stronger, it can make you appreciate who you are and create an entirely new and happy life – now and in the future.

But it will take time.

You can live again, and you will. You can love again, even marry again, but you don’t have to. You just have to find the best version of yourself for yourself, nobody else.

But it will take time.

You have to do what works for you, what fits for you, what makes you feel whole again. Screw the haters, the judges of your life choices, and the stiflers of your voice. Everyone is entitled to their own story and how they choose to tell it, and to whom they choose to tell it to. Privately or publicly, as long as you express the truth, nobody can tell you not to.

But it will all take time. And that amount of time can only be determined by you.

So, I write. It’s part of the process of rebuilding for me, it’s part of the “time” I need. Eventually my plot line will take another turn, new characters and other life events will fill my blog, plus opinions and views that I have on it all…and other people will be upset and judge and hate on it. But that’s okay.

They should write their own story.

A different filter

About a year and a half ago my oldest son broke his phone. Not a new occurrence when you have teenagers with phones. They forget they have them in their pocket as they jump into the pool, or try to tape it to their handlebars to take an action video and inevitably it goes flying off during one of their “tricks”, or any other simple to avoid circumstance that they just didn’t think through. It also gets lost, or stolen.

It happens.

When it happened this time, I was not as willing to get him a new phone. This was the second (or third?) time within his contract period, he was able to repair it the last time, and it was beyond frustrating. So, I “punished” him with my old phone, an iPhone 4s. Yes, I know, the horror! I could have dyed his hair pink and it would have been less offensive to his teenage ego.

But he took it.

This made the most sense at the time, it was definitely cost effective, who doesn’t agree with “free”? Plus, we were still paying off the previous (broken) phone. We agreed that he would use my old phone until the contract was paid in full, about six months. A painfully long time for him, I’m sure.

He assured me that he would wipe the entire phone of my personal data; texts, contacts, email, etc.

Word to the wise: take it somewhere that does this as part of their business. Never, and I mean NEVER, trust your teenage son to do this type of thing for you. It’s bound to disappoint. And possibly instill incredible fear into your heart and soul.

He got his new phone about a year ago and has been happily using – and protecting – his new updated connection to the outside world. But just today, I happened to come across my old phone sitting on the family room table. It looked so small, so out of place, that I didn’t even recognize it as being mine. It had 6% battery life.

Not really realizing that it was indeed my old phone, I opened the screen to check the contacts to get an idea of which one of their friends it belonged to. Imagine my surprise when I found my list of contacts, and then looking at texts saw my old texts from two years ago.

At first I panicked, wondering if he had read through my texts or my email. Not that I was plotting or planning anything illegal or immoral, but some of my text exchanges with friends can be a little “colorful”. Not really meant for my kids to read, you know?

As I scanned the list of texts, I came across a set of old texts between my ex-husband and myself. I winced. What would I read there? Would it make me feel hurt, upset and raw like I felt during that long year of our divorce process, or happily vindicated in our decision, glad to have moved on, relieved?

They were texts from only two years ago. It was a crap shoot in my mind, the sequence of events and timing not nearly as clear at that moment.

I scrolled through, holding my breath.

There were texts from the early days of him commuting to his new job, plans for wine and pizza when he arrived home, asking what he wanted me to get from the grocery store for an upcoming fishing trip. Communications about plane delays, weather reports, car repairs and family gatherings being planned. Updates about our kids.

Jokes, intimate only-we-can-understand type of jokes. I could feel the smile that I must have had back then reading his messages, the eye roll I must have done in response to some of his sarcastic comments. And there were “xoxo”s mixed in among the few emojis, usually at the end of his texts.

I could feel the love.

At that moment, my heart ached. And I realized that it was real at some point, or at least we did have some pretty good stretches of “good” in our marriage. Maybe it was better through text and over the phone? Possibly.

Another mark on our permanent record for poor verbal communication skills.

What happened to us? Where did that go? I realize now, that those were the things that kept us together for so long. Those small things. The little stuff that makes you smile, makes you feel connected, and forget that that other person can really annoy or upset you on any given day.

But the small things couldn’t fight off the big things in the end, could they?

It made me sad. It made me miss that part of us, the part that bound us together and made us a family with our boys. At that moment I looked past the sad, the bad and the ugly from our marriage. I changed the filter and saw only the soft edges and warm light. I saw the film reel of the highlights playing in my head. I heard the music of our laughter and the language we shared.

And I missed it.

If only for a moment, for a few minutes, I forgot all about the ugly words we had exchanged over the last year or so. In person, by email.

In texts.

I pushed aside all of the resentment, the hurt, the bitterness and only felt what I thought we had all along. A solid foundation to build on, to hold onto in the hard times, the challenges we took on together and came out on the other side even stronger. A partnership beyond the basic necessities.

Love. Somewhere, deep inside of it all, there was love at one time.

And it made me mourn for both of us. We both went into our marriage with such hope and promise, dreams and plans. So many years invested. All for it to implode almost instantly in the end. How did that happen?

I don’t have the answer, still. I play the reel of our marriage over and over in my mind, I look for clues and hints, but nothing really stands out as “the moment” that it went off the tracks, unable to be corrected. The little things pop up like spikes on a Richter scale, most of them small, barely registering, with a few larger ones over the entire marriage, but nothing of such magnitude that it should have crushed our foundation. At least I didn’t think so at the time.

It doesn’t really matter now, it’s done. It can’t be rebuilt. It won’t be rebuilt.

Finding my old phone, and old texts, made me aware of how the filter that I choose to look through can change everything. It can make me feel a completely different way if I let it. I do like the feeling of this soft focus filter, the warm fuzziness of it all, at least for the moment, for a day.

It gives me a welcome rest from the sharp clarity of my memories, and my everyday real life.

 

 

Unpacking the boxes

One thing that seems to reappear repeatedly over the last six months, is the idea that once you are divorced, and “enough time has passed” that you should be “over it” and get on with your life. The amount of time is a sliding scale, depending upon who you’re talking to, it can range from six days to six weeks to six months or more. Getting over it can relate to anything from the idea that you still cry sometimes for no reason at all, you still cannot speak his name without feeling sick, or the crazy idea that you haven’t started dating yet. What are you waiting for??

Why are you so stuck? they wonder.

At least that is what the message feels like in most of these instances. People mean well, I’m sure…or at least I hope. That would just be one more insult to this entire injury. They really do want what is best for you, what will make you feel better and make you happy once more. Divorce is often compared to death of a loved one, the grief is almost the same they say, there are stages and no two people experience it the same. The only difference is that the so called loved one is still around, alive and well, just not with you.

But I think it’s more comparable to moving to a foreign country, without knowing the language or the customs, and being expected to jump right in and feel at home almost immediately. And you’re expected to not only understand it all, but accept it as your new normal life without any further expectations or allowances. You can handle it, right?

The only problem with that scenario is that moving to a foreign country is not the seamless experience we’d all like to believe, or hope, it to be. And neither is divorce.

First, when moving to another country there is most likely a language barrier. Before you move, or even accept this journey, you realize that there will be a new language to learn and navigate. Of course, you’re usually assured by many caring souls that “everyone speaks English, you’ll be fine!”

Well, that would be lovely if it were only true.

And I think we can all agree that working with a room full of lawyers, paralegals and other divorce professionals, there will be language that will be more than confusing and anxiety inducing. It’s not your regular run-of-the-mill grocery list or coffee chat, is it?

Then there are the customs. Some countries expect a kiss on the cheek when you greet people, others expect a kiss on both side of your cheeks, some shake hands with their left hand, others with their right. Some bow, or avoid eye contact all together. There are so many possibilities, and so many nuances, to each set of customs that it can all feel overwhelming when you are first learning the ways of the culture.

It doesn’t come easy.

The same can be said for the journey through divorce, really. You go into it thinking you know how it’s going to go, how people are going to behave, believing that you will all be in agreement for the most part, and understanding where everyone is coming from basically. You will work together because you know each other and you think you share the same customs and values. But it’s not that easy, at least not usually. It may begin that way, and last for the first couple of months, but somewhere along the line you realize that you both have entirely different expectations, and the people guiding you have a completely different playbook than either one of you possess.

You all have different cultures with different customs. And you need to agree somehow.

Oh sure, there are those incredibly amicable couples who basically make up their own agreements, sign them, take a selfie with their divorce document and then go have a drink afterward to celebrate…that’s more than moving to a foreign country, more like moving to another planet! But let’s be honest, that’s not the norm by a long shot.

Then the big part comes, the unpacking.

If you’ve ever moved, which I have numerous times including overseas, you remember the never-ending packing and unpacking that goes along with moving.

Packing those boxes is easy enough. You fill each one until it’s full, tape it up, label it and move onto the next one. You carefully place the delicate items together, wrapped in paper and bubble wrap, to protect them. Sometimes you even hire professionals to do the packing, to make certain that it all gets to the next destination intact (this isn’t always a guarantee, of course, as I’ve learned too many times to count!)

But then, once you arrive in your new destination, your new foreign country, you now have the herculean job of unpacking it all and placing it where it “belongs” in  your new home. Sounds easy enough, sure. Just put it…somewhere. Of course you need to make some decisions along the way; which room, what shelf, which cabinet or drawer. It takes organization, and patience.

And time.

Usually, the normal timeline for one of our major moves was about a year to completely unpack and feel “at home” in our new location. It sounds like a long time, doesn’t it?

It’s not. It sometimes flies by, and sometimes drags by, all at the same time.

Because you still need to learn the language and the customs of this new place while you are unpacking. You still have to go on with “normal” life, grocery shopping and taking care of household details, figuring it all out as you stumble along in this new world. Your phrase book clenched tightly in your hand, panic rising in your throat almost daily, hoping to meet someone who understands you.

There is a lot of unpacking to do after a divorce.

Not just the material things from the life you have just untangled, but the memories and the moments you shared. As a couple, as a family, with your friends. They’re in boxes. Not always physical boxes, but boxes in your mind and in your heart. In the dark corners of your memory, too. Some are unlabeled, others are dusty from being ignored for so long.

In the end, you need to unpack and place it all. Sometimes you give some of it away, or pitch it entirely. Other things are too sentimental to get rid of, but too painful to keep. Those things end up in the basement, or crawl space, to be found at a later time by someone else.

After you die, if you’re lucky.

It takes time, sometimes more time than you ever expected. More time than other people expect, most definitely. Sure, some people are great at unpacking and hanging the curtains and artwork within days of moving. They’re hosting luncheons and cookouts within weeks, they’ve painted, decorated, joined clubs and planned the next holiday almost immediately. They’ve made it a “home” without missing a beat, without missing anyone or anything from their previous home. They adapt easily.

Others of us need more time. We unpack carefully, place and buy furniture thoughtfully, to make sure we will like it for a long time. We are not hasty decision makers, we don’t hang just any curtains to cover the windows or buy just any couch to furnish our living room. We take the time to research it, shop for it, compare it, to find the best fit.

We need to be sure. We want it to be right, to be exactly how we want our home to feel.

And just when you think you’ve unpacked it all, the boxes and the wrappings have been removed and everything is in it’s new place; you’ve started to smile and laugh again, you feel lighter and more positive about your future…you stumble upon another box. It was hidden in the back corner, under a rug or a blanket. It’s small, easily overlooked because it’s been buried for so long. You didn’t even think you moved it with you, or remembered that box being there.

You have to open it though, you know you do.

This box is a memory, or a scent, or a photograph that’s fallen out of a book. It’s a number in your telephone that you come across as you scroll through your contacts, it’s a wrong service call to your house instead of your ex’s, it’s a song on the radio, a name on a street sign. It’s simple, unassuming, and yet so complicated and heavy.

For such a small box it carries a lot of weight.

This isn’t the only box you’ve missed or forgotten, there will be more unpacked boxes along the way, boxes that will open whether you choose to or not. Some of these boxes just burst open, completely unexpected and take your breath away. Blur your vision, get caught in your throat, stop you in your tracks.

Pushing you back to the starting line.

Some you just stumble across accidentally, others are opened by family or friends without any realization that the contents could be toxic, unwelcome or even hurtful.

There are so many boxes that you don’t even know exist. Until you do.

So, the next time it is suggested that I should get over it, move on with my life, start dating again to find someone new, or hear suggestions that enough time has passed why am I still so hung up? I will have only one response to offer.

I’m still unpacking the boxes.

 

Good enough

Something that has come up more than once over the last year or two is the idea of “good enough”. And not just in one area of life, in many. I guess that sometimes we just get tired of trying so hard to be the best, the brightest, the most thoughtful, the most loving…that it’s time to relax and just be good enough. Still get the job done, just not with all of the bells and whistles. And that’s okay. Sometimes.

But, good enough can also transform from more than a moment, or a period, of your life. It can become your life.

Become your career, your parenting style, your relationships, your marriage. Instead of seeking out better or best, or trying to improve it or fix it, it’s so much easier to just float along, letting the waves take us out further, and be good enough.

But is it really enough? And is it even good?

I think I began this habit of accepting good enough pretty early on in my childhood. We weren’t wealthy, or even middle class in the beginning, so we learned to just not ask for, or expect, more than was considered good enough from anything or anyone.

Some people use this childhood experience as a catalyst, or a motivation, to get more of everything that they’ve ever wanted as adults, but were denied as children. They live for their high-powered careers to take them on their amazing destination vacations and to wear the latest designer fashion trends. They collect tokens of success, totems to show the world that they have achieved a higher level. They need to show the world, and their inner child, that good enough was never good enough for them, and now they are in control and now it will be more than enough.

Others of us became trained to not only accept good enough, but to expect it without question or argument, and to live our lives that way. I’m sure most people from my generation – and definitely the ones before – had this hard wired into our brains from the generations before us.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not blaming my parents or grandparents for any type of brainwashing, nor am I whining that I should have been pushed more to stand up for myself or to excel in school to have a super fabulous adult life. I am not making excuses for my poor choices, or lack of voice, that led me to ignore what I truly needed or wanted out of life and my relationships. It’s only an observation of what lead me to this epiphany, the realization that I have been living ‘good enough’ in too many areas of my life.

The entire premise of ‘good enough’ becomes a slippery slope over the course of a lifetime. It starts off with the small things that you accept because really, what does it matter in the end? It’s such a small thing, it’s not going to have much impact in the long run. It may even relieve you of some frustration, or lighten your load of responsibility a little bit, let you off the hook basically. And who doesn’t want that sometimes?

But then, the small things slowly get bigger and bigger over time, and your expectation of what can be excused or shrugged off as “good enough” becomes more elastic, more forgiving. And that idea spreads to those that are close to you, they accept that you accept good enough often, so it must be okay.

And pretty soon, good enough isn’t just a school project or a work report. It’s not getting your meal served luke warm in a restaurant and eating it anyway. It’s no longer just skimming over the small details to save the peace and a little time anymore.

It’s your everyday life. It’s your career, your relationships, even your marriage.

You start off wanting so much from all of these areas in your life, expecting nothing less than greatness. Pure and real, you will work hard at all of it to be successful, determined that you will be more than good enough now because it’s about time.  You’ve accepted good enough long enough. Now you deserve to get what you really want, what you feel you truly deserve, because you’ve read the books and watched the movies that tell you exactly how it should all play out. You are ready to speak up and make demands.

You’ve witnessed all of the wrong ways to go about it, family and friends being the examples to learn from, so naturally you won’t be making those mistakes.

But your expectations for great accomplishments in all of these areas meets up with good enough along the way, because you can’t prepare for what you don’t know or what you haven’t witnessed or experienced before. You can’t guess what will happen, see the future, because you are only one part of the equation. There are so many other people, and events, that bump into your expectations along the way taking you off course – sometimes only a little bit, other times much bigger detours – that the possibilities are endless.

The only choice we really have in the end is to regroup, retrain, and begin again with new knowledge and new expectations. Accepting that we didn’t really know all that we thought we did. We couldn’t have predicted how other factors, people or events, would come into play or how they would affect the plan that we truly believed we had prepared for ourselves.

And everyone’s idea of “good enough” is always a little bit different, so what may seem good enough for you may fall very short for someone else. Or quite possibly it may be more than they hoped to receive. It is the difference of our experiences that can bring us together and separate us all at the same time.

It’s a wild card. A wild card that keeps reappearing throughout our lives.

And with any setback or disappointment there is always a lesson in there, if we are willing to pay attention. If we are willing to accept it and learn from it, accepting that our good enough was obviously not enough, maybe it will keep us from settling for or expecting good enough next time. Hopefully it redirects us to a better path and better choices.

Life isn’t meant to be lived “good enough”. Your job, your friendships, and definitely not your marriage, they deserve more effort. They deserve more of your time, your care, you attention. You deserve it too, whether you’ve been told so or not. And so do the other people in your life.

 

 

Why Is Bringing Up Divorce Considered to Be Awkward?

The days of the ‘Scarlet Letter’ regarding divorce should be done and over with, but sadly, they are not it seems. It’s a part of life and relationships and we all need help to navigate new territory, why should divorce be any different?

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

The headline on my news feed grabbed my attention.

Kelly Ripa Wraps Up First Week Back to ‘Live!’ With Awkward Divorce Comment to Michael Strahan

The names didn’t garner my notice – I haven’t seen Kelly Ripa since she was a newbie next to Regis and I had never even heard Michael Strahan’s name at that point.

What drew my eye was “awkward divorce.” And so I clicked.

And grew confused. I have not seen the clip, but from what I have read, the comment didn’t seem to merit the backlash it has been getting. The, “How dare she bring up his divorces?” As though the mere mention of divorce is taboo.

Fueling the stigma and feeding the shame surrounding divorce.

Maybe I’m just desensitized from years of teaching middle schoolers who randomly shout out things like, “How old were you when you first kissed a boy?” in the middle…

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