Monday, April 30, 2012


I am pretty sure I have said, in a number of ways, in a number of places, that I'm not ready to date.

Or am I?

I'm about to find out.

Last fall I set up an account on a free dating site, "just to see."  I did end up going on one date, and I was so nervous that I'm sure he was just shaking his head in disbelief at me - I wasn't exactly a great conversationalist.  (When I told my girlfriends about how nervous I'd been, and how I was at a loss for words, they howled with laughter.  I am not known for being at a loss for words.)

I feel like I'm in a different place now, so though I'd canceled the account, I decided to go back.  This time, I think I know a bit more about what I want, and how to date, and I'm ready to dip my toes in the water.

I've been getting some nibbles on those toes.  (Oh boy.  Now Google is going to point foot fetishes here.  Ah, whatever.)

Online dating cracks me up.  On the one hand, it makes perfect sense: we essentially place an order about what we'd like in a date or partner, and plug in our own information, and it spits out a list of people who match our order.  On the other hand, it's full of crazies, and the people that find me are often not even from the same universe as myself, let alone perfect matches.  There are the crass hook up requests (no thanks, even though 1% of me would find it a total relief - hello! - the other 99% can't do it); there are severely desperate men who are timid and insecure (shudder); there are ultra-conservatives who come across as homophobic, chauvenistic, crazies (why oh WHY have I been contacted by several from this group? NO, I do not believe that feminism has caused the downfall of western society!).  And let's not forget the guys who take pictures with no shirt on, or posing in front of their cars.

And then there are some normal guys.  Fewer and farther between, certainly, but interesting.  Of course, ultimately I'd like an extraordinary guy, not just a normal one, but I'm not quite ready for extraordinary, as I wouldn't know what to do with it.  I'd just like to go out with a guy who knows how to treat a lady, who will give me an excuse to dress up a bit, who will make me laugh.  Is that too much to ask?  I want to keep it light, but if I don't blow off a LITTLE steam, I might implode.

Well, last week one of those guys contacted me.  A nice, normal guy.  A working professional; a dad; a guy with a sense of humor.  Our online conversations have been easy.  I don't feel a spark, but I don't know if sparks fly in these situations.....I just know that he's fun to talk to, that we have some common ground, that he seems like a nice guy.  He asked me out, and I said yes.
And funny enough, his living situation is just like mine.  Whaddayaknow.

(Follow up, 5/5/, I said no..we had scheduling issues and I let it drop, though I've received a couple nice follow up notes. He IS nice. And a bit timid. I just can't do timid right now, or maybe ever. I wish him well, but no date.)

I may be crazy to date right now, or it might be just the right thing.  We'll see.  It'll be at least a week until I learn if this guy is worth a second date, because scheduling between two working parents is a feat in and of itself.

Dipping my toe in the dating pool.....hmmm, it's not too bad......maybe I'll wade just a little.

In (ex) laws

I married into a really nice family, and deciding to get a divorce was wrenching for many reasons, but one of those reasons was that I knew I could lose all of my inlaws.  I was leaving their son/uncle/brother, after all, and I didn't expect them to embrace that.

This photo from the internet bears a shocking resemblance to actual
back yard family photos with the ex.  Wow!

But they did.

As soon as I knew that Bryan had told them that we were getting a divorce, I emailed each one of them with a similar message telling them how important they were to me, that I would try to honor Bryan even in divorce, that they were always welcome in my life, that I would encourage Katherine's relationship with each of them, that I was sorry it had come to this.  I got back beautiful responses from each of them; responses that made me sob with relief and joy.  They still love me, and I love them.

I have stayed in touch with them over the past year, but have only seen a small handful of them.  Bryan doesn't stay in close touch with them either, so that means that Katherine has limited contact with them, too, and I don't think that's good for her.  She's losing her nuclear family in one home, she doesn't need any more loss.  I promised myself that I would encourage her relationships with extended family, and I meant it.

So, I planned a girls' weekend with the exlaws.  (What to call this group?!  Though technically they're still my inlaws, they must have another name for post divorce.  Exlaws will do for now.)  A group of us got together this weekend in a town a couple hundred miles from where Katherine and I live, and she and I road tripped.

Since there were several of us from out of town meeting, Katherine and I stayed with her oldest cousin, who is married and pregnant with her first child; Katherine had been her flower girl.  I slept on the sofa, Katherine got an air mattress, and it wasn't deluxe but it was fun and frankly reminded me of college days.  (I will not complain about my back or the loud neighbors who came in at 1am and talked in the hallway, because then I will sound like an old lady.  So I'll just be quiet.)

We ladies went to a tea house together, and then we shopped in the cute little local stores.

We went out to a Mexican meal with the men of the family who were in town.  We hung out in one of their living rooms and talked.  Katherine got to play with a cousin's American Girl doll.

It was lovely, and it makes me choke up a little just thinking about it, because there are no rulebooks for this, and I very easily could have lost all of these people from my life.  I don't think it's typical that ex-wives seek out ex-laws to get together for tea.  I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

The Dixie Chicks have a song, "I never seem to do it like anybody else...." and that's become a theme for me lately.  I definitely have been taking the long way around.

I had a good candid talk with two of the women in the family.  I told them a bit about my marriage and why it didn't work, and they both wept and said, "We're sorry."  I asked them to try to connect with Bryan because I worry (more than I can say) about his depression.  I told them that I wanted real love in my life, the kind each of them has with their husbands, and that one day I hoped they'd come to my wedding when I found it.  (They both hugged me and said they wanted that for me, too.)

I'm pretty sure that this isn't typical stuff.  I never seem to do it like anybody else....

And Katherine played, and snuggled with aunts, and chatted with cousins, and got spoiled by Grandma, and ate more sweets in a weekend than she usually gets in a week.

I admit it, I'm a little smug about it all, because it's so good.  It could be very different, and yet here it is.

On the way home, Katherine and I stopped at a state park and did a little nature walk, just the two of us.  I listened to the birds singing, we surprised a (harmless) garter snake sunning itself and then giggled at our own reactions to it, we admired the beauty we were in, and we got a little exercise.  Road tripping, we sang to music in the car, we listened to "Vinyl Cafe" on podcasts, we talked.

On days like that, I think, "I can do this.  And we can have a beautiful life.  There is nothing broken about this home!"


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Part I: My Life as a Stay At Home Mom

I was a working professional when I had Katherine.  I took maternity leave because I thought I'd go back to work when she was three months old, maybe, or maybe six months old.
I resigned from my job when she was six months old; I went back to work when she was nine years old.
First, there was this crazy mother love that possessed every fiber of my being so that I could not bear to be without her even when I thought I would lose my last shreds of sanity if I spent one more minute with her.  (I told you it was crazy.)  Then, there was breast feeding, and the fact that she was able to outsmart every single person who tried to give her a bottle, for months on end.  (She never did.  Eventually, she drank from sippy cups as she was weaned, but never a bottle.)  And then I was so incredibly tired, all the time, that I could not imagine working.

When she was six months old, I begged for more time.  We were still nursing (until she was just over a year), and I begged Bryan shamelessly.  I wanted to be there with her, and I couldn't imagine leaving her with strangers.  I wanted to see first steps, I wanted to feed her home made baby food (yes, I was one of those mothers), I wanted to enjoy her after the first crazy year of crying nights had passed.  We agreed on me staying home until she was two or three, and I was happy with that.
When she was two, my marriage was falling apart.  I am a feminist, and I thought I was married to a feminist, too, but we had really distinct gender roles that no longer made sense.  It made sense for me to get up with a baby when I was the one who had to nurse her, sure, and I was okay with that.  And it made sense for me to make her breakfast while he was getting ready for work; he needed to go to work, and he didn't need food smeared on him, whereas I could stay home and get a shower if I needed one.  And it made sense for me to generally care for the house and make meals, because I was there, and that would allow us time together in the evenings.
Outdated version of motherhood.
But the rest of it didn't make sense to me.  How come I always got up with her on the weekends, while he slept in?  How come he got to go for bike rides (all day events, because he would have to work on the bike, then drive a couple hours somewhere, then bike a couple hours, then have a meal somewhere, then drive back home, then clean up his bike, then shower.....and then he was really tired from his "long day" so didn't want to do anything) while I was expected to be available for our daughter all the time, barely escaping for an hour here or there every few weeks?  How come on weekends, I was still cooking and cleaning, and he wasn't?  I felt like a second class citizen, and my gentle promptings to discuss it were met with a brush off.  He basically ignored me.  Then, I wrote him a letter explaining how hurt I was by this behavior, and he was SHOCKED.  "How could you be shocked?" I asked, "When I've been trying to tell you for two years that this bothers me and hurts me?"  He said, "I thought I was a good husband and dad, and you've totally destroyed me."  He was angry with me for saying that I needed something I wasn't getting.  We went to counseling.  He was angry that I wanted counseling, told me that it made him feel like a failure.  (sigh)  I said "Is this because you want me to go back to work?" and he said, "That has nothing to do with it!"  I had doubts, but he denied that my working had nothing to do with anything.

And then I got cancer.  Uuuuuuuuugly cancer.  Needless to say, I couldn't go back to work.  I was a cancer patient as a full time job for an entire year, sometimes doing ten appointments a week.  I saved any energy I had for Katherine, and when I was bald, sick, and facing further rounds of surgery, it was clear I wasn't returning to work any time soon.  It took six years of cancer treatments and surgeries, with a series of setbacks, even when my hair grew back and I looked normal-ish (in clothes, anyway).
I hate getting MRIs.  Ugh.
A couple of years ago, I said, "Look, I don't think you're being direct with me.  You say you don't mind me saying home, but you act angry around me, and I think this has something to do with it."  He denied it.  I said, "I'm willing to go back to work.  I liked working, and Katherine is older, and in many ways I'd enjoy it - colleagues, using my brain, making money, all of that.  But I'm not willing to do everything around the house that I do now if I'm also working; I'd need help.  Would you be willing to help with housework and do dinner two or three nights a week (out of seven!)?"

He said, "No."  I had to say, "Are you kidding?" because my denial was deep, and it didn't occur to me then (or now) how that could be a sane answer.  I said, "I will not work, then come home, make you dinner, serve it, clean it, do all of the homework projects with the girl, vacuum, walk the dog, etc.....while you watch TV."  He got mad at me (huh? isn't that backwards?) and walked away.

It is one of the few times in our marriage I showed a backbone, refusing to go back to work under those circumstances.  I knew that if I DID return to work, and he still expected me to do everything, it would be the final straw for our marriage.  The only thing that made it "okay" (definitely quotes around that word) for me to do everything with our daughter and house was that he worked and I didn't.

So during all this time, I did the stay at home mom thing.  I am a great cook, making food from around the world, from scratch, on a budget, using mostly organic, local ingredients.  I grew vegetables in a garden that I tended by planting, weeding, watering, mulching, and we ate those veggies.  I kept the house clean and tidy, to the point where girlfriends who came over would comment "How come your house is always clean?!"  I did the grocery shopping, the clothes shopping, the household minor repairs.  I entertained family at holidays.  I managed our social calendar.  I volunteered - at Katherine's school (class librarian, tutor, field trips, teacher's helper, etc.), at church, at a homeless shelter, at a GED program for teen moms, and I did fundraising for cancer charities (a LOT of fundraising).  I did odd jobs, including working as a patient ambassador for a major drug company, speaking to cancer patients.  I cut coupons (for some a joy, for me a miserable job) and remembered to use them.  I ran a "green" household, using vinegar and baking soda as cleaning agents.  I did birthday parties not only for Tessa and Bryan, but for friends and family members.  The list is much longer, but you get the idea.

In short, I did what a lot of stay at home moms did, and I did it well.  I worked hard, and yes, sometimes I went for a walk with a friend, and sometimes a mom or two would come over at 4pm for a playdate with their kids and the ladies would open a bottle of wine and relax together.  But I also worked hard.  Really hard.

Stay tuned for part II: Life as a Working Mom.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY?

I really want to be zen.  I really want to sound like Molly from Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce.  She seems to genuinely like her former husband, and she doesn't appear to feel a lot of rage.  I'm not fond of rage, but I'm feeling it.

Two examples:
Today I came home from work; Bryan had picked up Katherine at school at my request, from her after school activity, so they'd been together less than two hours when I got home.  (Remember, he's on the bench, getting paid to do nothing but sleep and play video games all day, which is all he does.) I arrived home full of determination to be sunny and kind, and since the weather was still sunny I said, "Hey!  I was thinking we should get take-out and head to the beach for a picnic; would you like to come with Katherine and I?"  This is much more polite and kind than I feel, but I'm working on a fake-it-til-I-make-it attitude.  He said, "No, you go."  Phew, relief.  So I got the girl, said, "Grab some flip flops and let's go!"  She said, "I'll put on a swimsuit," and I laughed and said, "No, no swimming...." and before I could continue, Bryan said, "Aw, come on, let her swim," and I said, "It's APRIL.  In the NW.  It's not that warm, it's just sunny, and I think swimming isn't reasonable."  Katherine joined Bryan, "Mom, can't I?  Please?"  I repeated, "No, it'll just be a quick picnic, it'll be nice to be outside, but it's not warm enough to swim."  Bryan went on, "Come on, let the kid swim!"  As a matter of fact, he went on, and on ,and on, in front of Katherine.  I finally got Katherine in another room and said, "Bryan, right now this is my call, and I say it's too cold for swimming and I'm not up for a freezing kid, I just want a quick dinner.  I would appreciate it if you would not contradict me and argue with me right in front of Katherine, especially because it's my night with her and you're not even coming."  He said, "I don't see what the big deal is."  I said, "I don't believe it's good parenting to have conflict in front of her, and as you're not coming or at all involved with this situation, can you please stop arguing with me, especially in front of her?" to which he said, "Why don't you just let her go swimming?"  ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

Not sure if this represents cold beach Katherine, or me.  You pick.

It was 64 degrees out and breezy, the sun was setting, we hadn't had dinner yet, and the ocean here is COLD.  He wasn't coming, he wasn't going to get her through the bath when she got home all sandy and salty and seaweedy, and he wasn't going to deal with chattering teeth or cut feet from barnacles.  My nice little spontaneous picnic - me in my work clothes, high heels and trenchcoat off, replaced with a jean jacket and flip flops over my work dress because I didn't have time to change - felt tarnished.  Now, why did he have to do that?!  Katherine and I had a great picnic anyway, with her running around in the grass, the dog getting picnic scraps, the sun setting over the water.  So there.  (insert head toss here)

Sadly, I do not own a single corset-topped dress. But you get the idea.

And the other example, this one really gets me steamed.  But not in a steamy hot way, in a fuming way.  You know what I mean.

Katherine was in my room watching a funny cats video on my laptop (oh good grief, but it was only three minutes), and I was putting on my pajamas.  Bryan walked directly into my bedroom, to which I said, "WHOA!  I'm changing!" as I literally backed into my closet.  He came in anyway!  I said, "Hey, a little privacy!" and he snapped, "I just want to kiss MY daughter goodnight."  I had to send him a terse little email called "boundaries" in which I reminded him that it was inappropriate for him to enter my bedroom, and UTTERLY inappropriate for him to do so when I was undressing.  He wrote back "Understood," to which I refrained from saying "Then why are we having this conversation AGAIN?!"

I'm sure that both of these little exercises are him proving to me that I'm not the boss of him.  I can not tell you how relieved I am that I am *not* the boss of him, but these little outbursts of his test my patience.

And since I'm on a roll, I'll share one more little passive aggressive piece of nastiness.

We got our tax refund - nicer than we expected - and so this weekend I said, "Our vacuum really isn't picking up the pet hair; I just vacuumed and look, the carpet looks terrible.  Since we got our tax refund, and since we're going to need a second vacuum when you move out so that we each have one, I thought I'd got to Costco and pick one up.  What do you think of that idea?"  To which he replied, "It doesn't matter what I think, you'll just do it anyway."  I said, "No, that's why I'm mentioning it, do you think it's a good idea?" to which he replied, "You don't care, you'll just do what you want," to which I replied, "I'm trying to understand what YOU want, are you saying you think it's a bad idea?" to which he replied "I didn't say that, but it doesn't matter what I think....." and that conversation could have gone on for another hour, I think, if at that point I didn't realize its futility and walk away.  (I didn't go to Costco, or buy the vacuum.  Still not sure what I should do on that count.)

In my sweet fantasies, the less steamy ones, The Guy would either say, "I think that's a great idea, go for it!" or "I don't think we should shell out the money right now," but either way I'd get a direct response.
Gratuitous picture that simultaneously makes me gag and reminds me what I want.  I'll bet they're having a nice, reasonable, SANE conversation on that white sand beach.

So here's the deal, to sum it all up:  I am fully aware that he is not going to change, and that unless I walk away from these weird exchanges, they would just continue like that until the end of time.  It doesn't matter if I set boundaries, or try to agree upon a parenting style, or hold reasonable discussions about household expenditures, he will find a way to undermine me and blame it on me.  I am walking away, because I don't want that in my life, and because I don't think it's healthy, and I don't even think it serves him, and I know it doesn't serve me.  But living together, I just don't know how to get around these exchanges, and it sucks the bliss straight out of me.

All day, I thought, "I'm so glad I like my job!" and "I'm proud of the work I'm doing," and "It'll be so nice to picnic with Katherine," and "I love the sunshine," and "The salad I made for myself for lunch is delicious and healthy" and "My boss is a lovely woman"...and I was a right proper PollyAnna.  I came home prepared to do chores, manage homework, clean up after Bryan without complaint or thought (because it's easier to do that than to have a repetitive argument about it).....but these little things just throw me over the edge. 

I'm working on my good attitude, I swear I am.  Maybe tomorrow I'll do better.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today my mind has been spinning off into fantasy land.  Sometimes it's sweet and sunny and fantasy land, and sometimes it's steamy, hot, and luscious.

Let's just say that it has been a while since anything hot and steamy occured in my life; it had been a while when I decided to get a divorce a year ago, and needless to say nothing has happened since then.  There was a guy on OkCupid* who initiated some steamy talk, and I realized quickly that he didn't interest me and that therefore it gave me the heebie jeebies more than a rush.  (Heebie jeebies ruin a fantasy faster than I can tell you.)  I went on one little tiny date where I was so nervous, and uninterested, that it didn't end with a kiss let alone something steamy.  And mostly, I've been busy, introspective, mothering, job-seeking, job-working, and simply trying to get life moving, that there's been no room for steam.

But today, well, something's in the air.

As it was Bryan's weekend with Katherine, I had time to myself.  This morning when I woke up, it was gloriously sunny, uncharacteristically so, and I put on a sundress and walked to our farmer's market.  All that light, and those tender made me a little misty eyed after a winter of rain, dark, and gray.  There was live music.  There were smiling people.  And there was The Hot Dad that I've noticed for a couple of years.

The real hot dad is hotter than this.  I promise.

The Hot Dad is the father of one of Katherine's friends, and he's divorced.  He's tall, dark, and handsome, with a smile that is alternately goofy and warm and, well, hot.  He was at the farmer's market, and something inside of me snapped wide, wide open.  Hello, springtime.  Hello, Hot Dad!  We exchanged a few words of small talk, and then I hightailed it out of there before I made an ass of myself in front of him and his daughter.

Sweet fantasy.
I came home and worked in the garden, working up a sweat in an entirely different way than the one that flashed through my head when I saw Hot Dad.  I plucked weeds, I dug holes for strawberries and lettuce and rhubarb, and I moved my body.

While gardening, I looked like a combination of these three.  Uh huh, yes, sure.
But in the bright light, by the damp earth, getting all hot and sweaty, I'm not sure my mind was entirely on gardening.

Hot fantasy.

Which is a problem, because I've told myself I am Not Ready To Date, and I mean it.  When I date, I want to bring my whole self, not my "well I'm not actually divorced and he lives in the basement and well I'm sort of financially dependent on him...." self.  *I* wouldn't date someone in my shoes, and I don't want to date the people who would want that.  So I've made myself that promise.

But apparently I'm not dead, you know, in that way, and it's suddenly looking like a long year ahead.  A very, very, very long year.  I'm not sure if it's a good idea that today I woke up, or that the reason I woke up is actually a person that I know in real life.  Next time I see him I'll probably turn bright red and run, because what I've envisioned the two of us doing is pretty damn inappropriate for two people who don't know each other well and have kids in the same class.  Inappropriate, but hot.

PollyAnna self: Good to know I am not a total old lady yet!
Not-so-PollyAnna self: Damn it was easier when that part of me felt dead - don't wake up the tiger!

* I met one really nice guy on OKCupid who actually looked great on paper: attractive and interesting, and no heebie-jeebies.  But it was at that moment that I realized I wasn't ready to date, and decided to cancel my account.  When I'm ready, I'll go back, but I need to take care of things in my life first. Every day I'm tempted to go back, though.  It would be so very, very good to find a guy to woo me, to light my fire, to hold hands with, to ignite the steamy fantasy into reality.  But every day I resist, believing it's not good for me.....yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movies Imitating Life

This evening I went to a movie viewing of 50/50 at a friend's home.  There were seven of us watching, all of us cancer survivors.  I was hesitant to go at first; I like to believe I've put cancer behind me and I wasn't sure what watching a movie about a guy with 50/50 odds of living or dying was going to do for me.

I laughed, I cried.  No, really.  Parts were predictable and silly and light hearted (yes, there are parts of cancer that are funny in the right light, but only someone who has had cancer is allowed to say so!), but the parts that got me the most were the relationship parts.

In the movie, the main character has a lousy girlfriend who lets him down in multiple ways.  There is a scene of him going to chemo by himself on a bus....and it hurt to watch it.  It hit way, way, way too close to home.  And there are tender scenes where the best friend is truly there for his buddy, and those made me cry a bit thinking about my lovely girlfriends and how they'd been there for me, but it was those scenes with the girlfriend that just made it hard to breathe.

Bryan did not know how to support my cancer.  Somehow, it was all about him, and its effects on him, and no matter what I did, I did not get praise from all just seemed like an imposition.  I know what it feels like to take a bus to chemo because my girlfriends were all busy rushing around making me meals and taking care of my toddler, so I felt like they were tapped out, and I couldn't ask
them for more.Plus, I was too embarrassed to ask for help when he was sitting at home.  Denial isn't pretty that way.

I am working hard at putting that stuff in the past, but it's not easy.  The film brought it all up for me, and I guess it's good to process it...but "good" isn't the same as "fun."  I'm working hard at being the person I want to be, not bitter and angry, but the bitterness and angriness isn't that far below the surface.

In the movie, the guy ended up with a great girl.  He had the strength to kick the lousy girlfriend to the curb, and doing so opened up space for a great new relationship.  Given that, and that he lived, it was just the right kind of happy ending.  I love a good happy ending, and I'm working towards mine.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back from Vacation

This evening Katherine and I returned home from vacation; a blissful week not all that far from here geographically, but somehow worlds away.  We are far too broke for vacations (the finances of all of this deserve several long posts, by the way, delving into what it means to have given up my career for nearly a decade, his inability to manage finances, and what it means to be living with your ex husband when you still can't support yourself 100%) but fortunate in having several friends with beautiful vacation homes.

This particular vacation home is my favorite. I've been there more times than I can count, and there is something just so right about it.  When I'm there, I can think, and relax, and somehow everything seems clearer.  When I'm there, anything is possible, but I don't feel a need to rush around.  It's a simple cabin, not too big, not too small, and I love it.  There is no WiFi; there isn't even cell reception.  I'm usually pretty connected, and the lack of connectivity itself is fantastic.  The trip was wonderful, and I really came back feeling refreshed.

I had been back in the house all of two minutes, complete with gift from daughter to ex (my idea, because I'm trying to be nice, see?!) to hear "I hope you brought milk with you.  I ran out yesterday."  Little statements like that make me absolutely crazy.  He's been home, nothing to do, and can't even buy his own milk?  And feels a need to mention it within a minute of my arrival?

I did have milk in the cooler.  Good thing, because in the morning if I don't have my coffee with milk I can not function.

(This is not what I look like while I drink my morning coffee.  This is not what I look like, ever.  And my coffee cup is about 5 times that size.)

Seconds later, he spotted the chocolates that had been given to me by a friend, and he lunged for them.  "MMMmmmm I like those" he said, and I snatched them away like a toddler, doing everything but yelling "Mine!"  Oh dear.  My vacation zen can wear off pretty quickly if I'm not careful.

While I was gone I came up with the brilliant idea of forgiving him for everything that's come between us.  I have this idea that he is a broken person, struggling in the world, and that he is doomed to be unhappy unless he changes, but that I have a great capacity for happiness, and that is enough for me, and I should just forgive him.  There is no "just" in forgiveness, I think it's a longer process than that (possibly millenia, actually), but I do like the idea.  It would be easier if I didn't come home to piles of things, a bad smell in the kitchen that wasn't there when I left, and the damn milk.  Breathe in, breathe out.....

It's going to take a lot of breathing for me to get past these little irritations, because after too many years of marriage, the little tape that plays in my head (or is it an MP3?  nah, mine's a tape) says:
How can he expect me to manage every little detail even when I'm gone a week?  Why can't he get off the sofa, even for his OWN coffee?  How on earth will he care for Katherine when I'm not in the background taking care of this stuff?  Why is he lazy?  Why do I have to do everything?

And then the other voice says:
Stop being judgemental.  Move on.  You're getting divorced, and it isn't your problem to solve any more.  Be an adult, don't dwell on the little things.

And the first voice replies:
But it's driving me CRAZY!

Clearly I have some work to do to attain forgiveness.  I know.  I'm working on it, okay?

But on another topic....

I have a massive love of orca whales.  There is something mysterious and beautiful and wise and playful about them - they're like mythical creatures to me, I find them so astonishing.  Well, I live in a part of the world where they live wild, and I've seen them, but only rarely.  Somehow, I got it in my head that when things were going to be okay in my life, when I was going to figure out the career and the finances and the divorce and find The Man, I would receive orcas as my sign.

On the ferry, there was a pod of orcas.  We were with them for at least twenty minutes.  I got pictures.  And I wept, because they were so beautiful, and so unexpected, because I loved seeing them so much, and because I thought, "Really?  My sign?  Right now?"  The orcas did not come bearing checks or a man, but they were no less sublime.

I don't know if it's a real sign.  I'm aware of how cuckoo I sound just for admitting out loud that I think it was a sign, and I don't know if I believe in signs...  But sign or no sign, seeing them was a gift I'm unlikely to ever forget.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Man of My Dreams

The man of my dreams is meant literally, in this case.  I had a dream about a week ago that has really stuck with me, and it’s a nice little token to carry around with me – a talisman to rub between my fingers during the hard times.

I had a dream that was really short – almost like when you’re taking a picture with a digital camera, and you realize that you accidentally had it on the movie setting before you turn it off…..just about three seconds of video, enough to capture some movement, but no story.

In my dream, I was on a sailboat.  (I am far too broke for a sailboat right now, and I have never owned a sailboat.  I grew up on power boats, not sailboats, but lately I’ve been intrigued by the idea of their slow quiet.)  Katherine was behind me, seated in the stern with two other children, and all three had their heads back and they were laughing uproariously at something.  I was walking towards the bow, and he was coming towards me, passing me, and he looked at me and caught my eye and smiled a deep smile that said, “I see you and I love you and I know who you are” and his eyes twinkled and sparkled and his dark curls blew in the wind….
And then I woke up.  I could still smell the salt air, feel the breeze on my skin, see the bright, clear blue sky…..and I could still see his face before me.  I could still hear “the kids” – and somehow I knew that they were “ours” – his two plus Katherine were now “ours” – laughing.  And I felt deep, peaceful happiness.

You can see why I might want to take that dream with me wherever I go now.  It’s positively lovely, and it feels good just thinking about it, even a week later.

I’ve made myself a promise not to date for a year, probably summer 2013, because I want to work on getting my life in order before I try to meet someone, and because I don’t want some guy with a knight-complex to come and rescue me.  I want to be loved for who I am, and as things are “complicated” right now, I think that I could only attract someone who was also complicated (which I’m not willing to take on), or someone who was looking to rescue someone instead of liking me as I REALLY am – and I am a strong, capable, smart, funny (usually accidentally, but it counts!), together woman.

I crave dating.  Actually, I just crave The One – the person who will be my partner, who will hold my hand when I’m scared, or just when we’re walking to the bookstore.  I’d love to have sex with someone who loves me, who I find wildly attractive (mmm, yes, yes, I’d like that…. A lot.).  I’d like to sauté as he chops and we listen to NPR together on a Tuesday night; I’d like to have beach picnics with him under the stars.  I’d like to go for long walks with him in places filled with nature (beaches, forests, meadows..)  and I’d like to take a family trip with him and the kids.  I’d love to learn to sail with him.  But until then, I’ll just keep that dream with me, like a photograph in my wallet to remind me of a happy time.  Never mind that the time hasn’t happened yet…..I’m hopeful.

 I know my marriage was a train wreck, more unhappy than happy, and that I’m not even out of it yet.  But I believe that I will learn my lessons, and that the second time around is going to be FANTASTIC.  I  now I have to wait, and I will, but when it happens, well, it’ll be like shooting stars and whales breaching and a newborn baby’s first breaths and the aurora borealis and the taste of June strawberries from my garden, and I’m looking forward to that more than I can say. 
My dream was so clear that if I saw Sailboat Man on the street I'd know him in a heartbeat, and I'd probably fall over from the shock of seeing him.  I don't know if it was a real vision or just the hoping of a lonely-in-love-lady, but it doesn't matter.  I choose to believe in him anyway.
It’ll happen, and knowing that it will makes me glad.

Happy Easter Sunday

I am holding back on writing about how much effort I put into Easter and how little he did.  I’m aware of it, but not going to dwell on it.  I think that’s progress!

This morning, the three of us went to church together. Katherine  and I attend our Unitarian Universalist church pretty regularly, and Bryan used to come with us about half the time, but since I asked for a divorce he rarely comes.  This weekend is “his” weekend with the girl, and I was glad he was willing to go to church with her.

But it felt very, very weird.

Because it’s Easter, we all dressed up, and Katherine and I wore great big hats – out of character for each of us, but fun for once a year – with our dresses.  I am determined in our divorce to put her needs first, and I think it’s good for her to be with both of her parents sometimes, especially on holidays, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy.  It’s not easy.  We are a family-not-family, and there are no rulebooks.
We drove together, and when we came in I saw lots of friends, and distracted myself with chit chat while he was in another part of the room.  Katherine and I sat with some friends….and he sat with us.  I guess this is just what I wanted for her, but there was a tiny, spiteful little part of me that wished he’d go sit in the back.  Still, PollyAnna won out, and I was grateful we could publicly keep it together for our girl.

At the end of our service, everyone holds hands and sings the fivefold amen.  It’s lovely and joyful and makes me feel a connection to everyone in that community….but this time, the person next to me was Bryan, and so I found myself holding his hand.  It was a bit surreal: this man with whom I shared a bed and my body for more than fifteen years is such a stranger to me now that holding his hand was awkward and strange.
I lived, and so did he.  I don’t know if Katherine noticed it or not, but I hope that we are teaching her something about resilience and kindness and integrity; I hope she saw how grownups can behave.  I’m proud of us for that small moment, and despite it’s awkwardness, I’m savoring it, because I like it when I do the right thing, and I think it was the right thing.

I'm glad I can do the right thing.

Why Being PollyAnna isn't all it's cracked up to be

PollyAnna, April 1, 2012

I first read PollyAnna by Eleanor H. Porter (published in 1913) when I was a child; I’m not sure if I read it first, or saw the movie version (starring Hayley Mills) first, but in any case, the book and movie both struck a chord with me.  I admired PollyAnna greatly, and I wanted to be just like her.  I saw her as the ultimate loveable person: so positive, so kind, so….so….so…. perfect!  She was perfect.  Even her admitted imperfections just made her more perfect to me.  She was delightful and kind to everyone, bringing sunshine and joy just by being herself, despite the hardships of her life.

For those of you not familiar with the story, the short version is this:

The title character is named Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live in Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game", an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we didn't need to use them!"

With this philosophy, and her own sunny personality and sincere, sympathetic soul, Pollyanna brings so much gladness to her aunt's dispirited New England town that she transforms it into a pleasant place to live. 'The Glad Game' shields her from her aunt's stern attitude: when Aunt Polly puts her in a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures, she exults at the beautiful view from the high window; when she tries to "punish" her niece for being late to dinner by sentencing her to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant, Nancy, Pollyanna thanks her rapturously because she likes bread and milk, and she likes Nancy.

Soon, Pollyanna teaches some of Beldingsville's most troubled inhabitants to 'play the game' as well, from a querulous invalid named Mrs. Snow to a miserly bachelor, Mr. Pendleton, who lives all alone in a cluttered mansion. Aunt Polly, too— finding herself helpless before Pollyanna's buoyant refusal to be downcast—gradually begins to thaw, although she resists the glad game longer than anyone else.

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna's robust optimism is put to the test when she is struck down by a motorcar while crossing a street and loses the use of her legs. At first she doesn't realize the seriousness of her situation, but her spirits plummet when she accidentally overhears an eminent specialist say that she'll never walk again. After that, she lies in bed, unable to find anything to be glad about. Then the townspeople begin calling at Aunt Polly's house, eager to let Pollyanna know how much her encouragement has improved their lives; and Pollyanna decides she can still be glad that she has legs. The novel ends with Aunt Polly marrying her former lover Dr. Chilton and Pollyanna being sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again and is able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled.

It’s a dangerous book, though.  Put in the hands of the wrong person, this book has some really terrifying messages.  Put in MY hands, that is.  Perhaps I am the only person in history to twist this sweet story the way I did, but here’s what I took away from it:

-          It’s okay for the rest of the world to be “troubled” and “querulous” and “miserly”, but it is the job of nice girls to be “sunny, sincere” and “sympathetic,” even while the adults around them treat them poorly.

-          Little girls have the power to transform nasty folks into delightful people, and with just the right touches, such changes will happen.

-          No matter what crumbs one receives, one should be grateful.

-          Nice little girls do not complain.  They just work harder at being good.

-          In the end, one’s goodness promises a happy ending.

There are clearly some advantages to being a PollyAnna – it is delightful to be able to find the good in people and things.  It is a gift to contain light and kindness.  The world may be nasty and unkind, but we can add kindness, and that does give joy to ourselves as well as others.

Here is why it is NOT a good idea to base one’s marriage off a PollyAnna story:

-          Sometimes grouchy people are just grouchy, and no amount of sunshine can change that.  As a matter of fact, sometimes shining some sunshine on someone is a very good way to annoy the hell out of them.

-          When grownups say “Oh thank you so much for the tiny crumb you gave me!  It’s so wonderful – you’re delightful!” they send a different message than gratitude.  When a wife treats her husband like a king for taking out the garbage, sometimes the husband starts to expect that treatment.  When small kindnesses – crumbs – are treated like glorious gifts, sometimes instead of inspiring further kindness, it sends the message, “All I need are crumbs.”  Once you’ve taught someone that all you need are crumbs, when you ask for a whole slice of cake, they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind.  (Trust me on this one.  Years of experience here.)

-          Kindness and a sunny disposition are great, but without boundaries, they make for a really great doormat.  PollyAnna let people walk all over her, and maybe she had to because she was a child with no control, but when grownups just say “no problem” to things that are actually great big problems, they are teaching others to dump problems in their laps.

-          Taking care of an adult someone all the time, without getting care in return, is exhausting.  When you are a grownup and you have a breakdown, like PollyAnna did at the end, you are still expected to run the house and care for the child(ren) and be glad for the opportunity.

So, here’s what I’d like to say to that little PollyAnna Whittier.  I’d like to say,

“Come here, little one.  Climb up beside me.  I’ve got a nice cup of hot cocoa, made just the way you like it, with a little vanilla mixed in.  You are a beautiful creature, and the light you have brought our lives is a joyful gift, and I’m so glad you’re here….but I know you have some sadness.  It’s okay to cry sometimes, sweetheart.  Let me hold you….it’s okay.  I’ll bet you miss your mama and your daddy until it hurts, but I am here for you.  It’s okay to miss them, love.  I would do anything to bring them back for you, and I’m so sad that I can’t do that for you.  All I can do is tell you that I love you, and I will do everything in my power to honor them in the way I love you.”

Like PollyAnna, my early life wasn’t perfect, and like PollyAnna, I thought it was my attitude about it that mattered most, and not how others treated me.  I taught my husband how to treat me, and what I taught him was that I didn’t matter.  But you know what?  Every little girl matters.

Maybe I should have read A Little Princess more often instead!

The Big Long History: My Marriage

I’ve started following a number of divorce blogs, and in doing so I’ve learned that many people start their blogs in the middle, and leave the readers curious about all that stuff that lead up to the divorce.  Here’s the short version.  Okay, it’s really long, but I’ve left out a lot anyway.

A note: I am really trying to live looking forward, not back, but I want to learn from my history.  My goal in blogging is to focus on my present and future, but I do want to make sure that I take the lessons of my past, just not the bitterness and anger that they come with.  A tough road to follow, and I’m open to advice!  Still, I think that the history is important, so here it is.

When Bryan and I first met, I was a tender 23 years old.  I thought I was worldly; I had a job at a major corporation, I’d completed my degree, I’d done some traveling, and I was feeling pretty sassy and independent.  When we first met, I felt no chemistry whatsoever.  Now, tell me, shouldn’t that have been the first warning sign?  I thought he was a nice guy, but not dating material.  We became friends, good friends, and didn’t go on a date for two years after we met.

And then we didn’t date, we fell into bed.  Our first date wasn’t a date at all, it was two friends hanging out and then suddenly we slept together with no discussion or forethought.  At that point I thought, “Oh, he knows me as I REALLY am so maybe this will be a great relationship!” and he thought “Friends with benefits – cool!”  Needless to say, the disconnect was painful.  We spent six months drifting in and out of this, with me wondering why my dear friend didn’t want the whole enchilada with me, and feeling the fool.  This should have made me pay attention, but I was too busy trying to prove that I was worth having to even remember that I hadn’t felt chemistry with him and that any guy who didn’t realize what a catch I am wasn’t worth his salt…..but that kind of understanding was still close to 20 years away for me, and all I thought is, “This hurts!  It will feel better if he wants me!”

Eventually, he decided he did want me, and we officially began dating.  Perhaps I wore him down, which isn’t the same as craving me, cherishing me, but it had the same result: we were officially dating.

I tried to break up with him multiple times during the few years we dated: first, when he was treating me like crap, even though he was known amongst our friends as “such a nice guy!”, but when I told him it wasn’t working for me he begged forgiveness and promised to change his ways; then, when I realized that he never, ever, ever cooked or even made me a sandwich, and that being with him would mean a lifetime of cooking for him and not receiving anything in return (he made one meal to prove he would, and basically didn’t do that again, but I was convinced by the one meal that he WOULD understand….); and then, the big kahuna, he didn’t want to get married or have kids, but I did, so I suggested we date for one more year then part as friends….but at the end of that year he proposed.
Still with me?  We were just dating, the easy times, and there were some pretty big incompatibilities.  But I convinced myself that I was in love, and that settled that.

I was already in the process of switching career tracks and applying to graduate schools when we got engaged, and he decided to quit his job when I did.  I was startled by this – what would he do?  He told me he needed time to think about that question in order to answer it.  I said, “When I’m in grad school, if you sit around eating pizza and playing video games I’ll find it really unattractive and I will be very angry,” and he said, “Of course I wouldn’t do that!”  Guess what actually happened?  I started grad school a couple weeks after we got married…..and he spent the next eighteen months with pizza in one hand and a controller in the other.  When I confronted him about this, as gently as I knew how, he got mad and told me to leave him alone.
Uh oh.

I am a real go-getter, always on the move, lots of ideas swimming in my head, constantly dreaming up plans, organizing friends to get together, doing little projects, volunteering….and I was now married to a guy who really liked to sleep until noon, watch a lot of TV, play a lot of video games.  And eat.  He gained progressively more weight, going from a bit overweight to really overweight.

I convinced myself that it was just like the freshman 15; I was such a good cook he couldn’t resist my mad kitchen skills.  I tried not to think about the fact that he rarely wanted sex any more.

I finished grad school, we moved back to the big city, and we both got full time jobs.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief – the strange time was over, and he’d be his regular self again, motivated and energized.  For a while, I was right.  Things looked good, and we bought a house together.  My dreams were coming true – the guy, the house, the job…..looked good!

Not too long after moving into our new home, I got baby fever.  There was room in the new house, and I was in my early 30s, and I wanted a baby more than anything.  In hindsight, I talked him into it, but at the time I just thought he wasn’t as vocal/passionate as I was (another incompatibility?) but that he was on board.  When we got the positive pregnancy test, I was trembling with ecstasy – and he completely froze.  I actually had to ask him to respond, at which point he said, “I thought this would take six months to a year.”  Oh dear.

I gained 28 pounds in pregnancy.  He gained 40.  Not a deal breaker, but not a good sign.
After our beautiful daughter was born, for the first time since I’d known him, he became a workaholic.  Our daughter was colicky (is that what you call screaming nonstop and rarely sleeping?!), and he sort of disappeared.  I remember saying to him, on the telephone, “You haven’t even seen her in three days…” and he said, “What does she care?!” and I whimpered, “But I’m so tired, and I haven’t seen you either…”  I was classically overwhelmed, and the transition from working woman to stay at home mom was a tough one, and I felt like I was doing it alone.  I was breastfeeding, and he was working, so I did all of the nighttime care….and most of the daytime care, even when we were together.  He loved our daughter, but he wasn’t terribly engaged with her, or with me.

I felt alone, and isolated, and confused.  Where did my loving husband, my friend, disappear to?  I tried to talk to him, and he shut me down.  I tried to explain how disconnected I felt, and how I wanted him, loved him, needed to be part of a team….and he shut down.

When our daughter was two, I wrote him a letter telling him how unhappy our situation was making me, because he wasn’t helping me out with childcare or the house, and I didn’t feel like we were doing this together at all.  We weren’t going on dates because he appeared not to care, and he didn’t want to have sex with me (even though I was initiating).  Ding, ding, ding, that’s a lot of warning bells!  He was devastated with the letter.  He was shocked by it.  I said, “But I’ve been trying to get your attention all along….” But he couldn’t respond.  I asked for counseling, he was insulted.  I started looking up depression symptoms on the web, and he had many of them….I printed them off to show him, begged him to talk to his doctor.  He told me the doc said he was fine.

A couple of months later, at age 35, I found a lump in my breast.  A whirlwind of doctor’s appointments later, it was confirmed: I had invasive breast cancer, and I’d need intensive treatment, including a mastectomy, chemo, and radiation.  Our daughter was two and a half years old….and I was fighting for my life.

My oncologist assigned me a psycho-oncologist (a therapist who works with cancer patients).  I begged her, “Just tell me how to keep my family together!  Cancer is hard on families, help us to be strong and to grow together!”

Bryan was beside me, silent and stunned.  I asked him to take notes from the doctor’s meetings, to read up the research with me to help me make treatment decisions, to help with our daughter.  He was too stunned to do anything.  I called in my friends and family, and they surrounded us with love and care and meals….and he didn’t do much.  I was in too much pain and fear to really notice at first – I was used to ‘doing it all’ and thought maybe we were just handling things differently, and that he’d come around.  After the first couple of doctor’s appointments, he stopped going with me.  (I would sometimes go to ten appointments in a week, for months on end.  I did many of them alone, some with friends….but not with him, because he was unavailable to me.  Eventually I blew up at him and cried and yelled and said helpful things like "How dare you!" and he started coming with me, but he would stare at me and refuse to connect or talk, as I did chemo, and say, "What do you want from me?!"  It was worse when he was there, actually.)

I had the mastectomy, but they found more cancer than they were expecting, so I had to have another surgery to remove even more tissue (lymph nodes).  By this point I was seriously spinning – my prognosis was worse than before, and I was terrified.  And still not getting a lot of support from Bryan.

The day after this second surgery, I was at home, with nasty drains hanging off my body, difficulty lifting my arm (tough to change a toddler’s diapers like that, by the way), and on painkillers.  Bryan came home and said he was feeling suicidal, that work wasn’t going well, that he couldn’t cope.  I went off the painkillers cold turkey, called my psycho-oncologist, arranged for an emergency meeting between her and Bryan (I didn’t know who else to call!), and took charge.  She told me that she couldn’t treat both of us because of the conflict of interest, and I said, “Take care of him!  Please!”  I stayed on suicide watch.  He was so restless that his legs were flailing in his sleep, so I slept on the floor beside the bed….drains, stitches, wounds, pain, and no painkillers, because I was terrified that our daughter would need me in the night and he couldn’t help, and I was even more terrified that he would need me and I’d need to be clear headed.

He took weeks off work.  I called his bosses, I arranged his leave, and I took care of him.  I started to heal from the surgeries, and that meant it was time for chemo.  I sat him down and said, “Look, we need to figure this out….I am terrified and I need you to be present for me.  I want to help you, but I need some help, too.”  He told me that it was “all about me” in my head, and that I was selfish and only cared about myself, not him.  I pointed out that I’d been caring for him for weeks, and he said, “Yah, and now my time’s up.  NICE!”  I said, “But I have cancer, and I’m starting chemo, and I’m worried I’m going to die….” But apparently my arguments weren’t good enough.  He was angry, and felt unloved.

He eventually went on anti-depressants and began seeing a therapist, but he refused to tell me anything about what he was thinking, and I was on the outside.  From the outside, it looked like his depression was getting worse....he wasn't behaving as if he was suicidal, but aside from that he looked miserable.  I begged him to ask for help with his depression, to change his meds to something more effective, to talk to his therapist about how things were really going....and he told me, "You just want me to be a zombie!"  Uhhh, what?  No, I want you to be happy....but he told me that I just wanted him to be on drugs that made him a zombie.  (Sadly, in the seven years since then, his depression has only worsened as far as I can tell.  He continues to have unhealthy behaviors, self-medicating with food, alcohol, and video games.  He sleeps during the day, he's lost touch with close friends, and he's withdrawn from many people.  This makes me genuinely sad for him, but I am not able to help, for reasons I still don't understand.)
The rest of my treatment was a wreck for our marriage.  He got fired.  He disconnected further from me.  I still managed the house and most of the childcare, and he would stay at home and sleep, while I got friends to watch our daughter so that I could go to chemo.  It was pretty ugly.  It’s hard to write about.
It was hard to talk to friends about it, too.  I put a happy face on, and I told people that I would be okay, and that it was a tough time, but that I loved him and he loved me and that's what mattered the most.  I read my blog posts from that time, when I was not being anonymous (I've learned my lesson: this is anonymous because I want it to be deeply authentic, no "putting on a happy face" when that's not true), and I sound so chipper and upbeat that I envy the person that wrote those posts, because surely it wasn't ME - I was terrified, and I felt so alone, and the blog makes it sound like things were going swimmingly between us.
But PollyAnna kicked in, and I said, “We can beat cancer, and we can beat depression.  Let’s fight to get through this!”  We went to counselors – three of them, actually, for about a year each.  We burned through all of our savings, and borrowed money from my parents and racked up a credit card debt that is still crippling.  He still refused to cook, so if I was too ill to cook, he brought home take out or went to a restaurant.  Debt piled up.  He found a new job, and got fired again (for sleeping in client meetings.....seriously?!).  He told me that I was unsupportive and to blame for his problems.

My cancer treatment involved six months of chemo, three months of radiation, and a total of 15 surgeries over the course of six years.  I did many non-chemo drugs in that time, including Herceptin, Zometa, Femara, Aromasin, and Tamoxifen.  I had two major scares where it looked like the cancer had metastasized throughout my body (many, many scans later, finally surgery showed they were benign – hallelujah!).  I had years where I had pain - side effects from cancer drugs and surgery - that made it difficult to get out of bed each day, but I continued to do what I could....which was a lot.  I think those were my Martha Stewart years: I made gourmet meals, kept a lovely home, took our daughter to the pool or the park or the beach or the library, made cookies from scratch, hosted holidays for family and friends, and tried to prove to myself and the world that I would not let cancer define me.  But when I look at how hard I worked, well, I am exhausted just thinking about it.  Those were some hard times.

I still believed we could work it all out.  That I could try harder, that I could be the wife he wanted, that he would want to go on dates with me, work with me as a team, have the fantasy life.  Writing this, I realize how incredibly foolish that looks, but I wanted it so badly, and I was prepared to do anything to fight for it.  I thought if he got past his depression, he would be the guy I thought I fell in love with: funny, smart, lots of integrity.  (That’s who I *thought* I fell in love with….)

He got a new job, and I was hopeful.  He got fired again.  I told him I was willing to go to work – difficult when I kept having surgeries and I was wiped out from treatment – but only if he was willing to promise to help with food and housework, because I couldn’t do it all.  He refused.  For once, I didn’t yield: I told him that I wouldn’t work unless he was willing to help out, because I was working hard for the family, and I wouldn’t do two jobs while he relaxed and watched me work.

I still might have stuck it out, because I’m stubborn and foolish and believe in the marriage vows we made to one another, but there was another twist.
Like some foolish fifties housewife, I’d turned over the finances to him.  My excuse for this is that when we went through it together we’d argue, and I hated that, so it was easier just to have him say, “here’s the budget” and to go with his ideas.  Somehow, though, it never worked, we were always short on cash, even when he was working, even when I was cutting every corner I could, even though he made good money, even though we didn’t take vacations or do home repairs, even though we drove an old car.

He kept getting packages in the mail, and I kept saying “How do you afford them?” because any pocket money designated as mine was going to groceries because we were so broke, and he was getting packages every day.  He would snipe at me “I get bargains,” and “I can’t believe you don’t trust me!”

Well, one day I saw a receipt for something for him on our account – when I’d been cutting corners and doing without (I know a LOT of beans and rice recipes!) – and I was peeved.  I pulled up the account, and it had thousands of dollars in spending.  I pulled up the credit cards….same thing.  He’d been telling me I was spending too much on groceries, but he’d been supporting his hobbies in style.

I confronted him.  I was more upset about his lying – he’d been lying to my face, directly, for ages, blatantly telling me that he wasn’t spending our money! – than the money (though I was plenty upset about the money).  I said, “Shape up or ship out!”  He promised to change.  Back to counseling.  We took a marriage class.  We read books.  We got mentors, a couple with a great marriage who promised to coach us.  And I had such hope that finally, we would start again, and get it right this time.

It didn’t work.  He yelled at me, more than ever before.  He didn’t do his marriage homework (assigned by the class….the class that he told me was a great idea).  He stormed.  He sulked.  He flew into rages, and though he never physically hurt me, he frightened me.  He yelled at me in front of our daughter, even when she begged him to stop, even when I said, “You’re scaring Katherine; can we please talk about this when you’re calm?” and even when I refused to yell back.

And by now, I was angry.  Really, really, really, really pissed off.  I accused him of behaving like a child, not a man.  This did not improve the situation.

And one day, almost out of nowhere, I realized that I didn’t want to fight any more.  I realized that I didn’t care if he did change, that too much had happened, that I was too tired of fighting.  I realized that I didn’t feel loved, and that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt loved.  I didn’t want to remind him that he promised to make an appointment with our counselor and that he hadnn't, I didn’t want to keep dealing with his spending issues (which he initially fixed, and then fell back into), I didn’t want to try to break down his stonewalling techniques, and I didn’t want to have to beg for sex (which, by that point, I didn’t want at all anyway).  I didn’t want to be yelled at.  I didn't want to do all of the work, while he napped, only to have him criticize me when he awoke.
What did I want?  Peace.  Joy.  Partnership.  Respect.  I wanted to be cherished, deeply loved, and I wanted a man I could respect and cherish in return.
At our next counseling appointment, I turned to him in front of our counselor, and said my rehearsed words, “I need to say something.”  I asked for a divorce.  I told him that I didn’t want to fight, I just wanted to move on.  I told him that maybe we could like each other again if we weren’t married.
And then our marriage was over.  I was terrified and relieved, all at once, but I was certain.

But there’s  a twist.

Because of all of our debt, and the fact that I’d been a stay-at-home-mom-cancer-patient for years, we can’t afford two households.  So, since May of 2011, we have been not-separated: our marriage is over, but we continue to live in the same house, separate but together.  He has a room downstairs (and also the family room and a bathroom), and I stay upstairs; we share the kitchen and main living space.  There is, however, a heck of a lot of overlap….an uncomfortable amount of overlap. 
Because we have a daughter, our lives are tangled together forever.  When I asked him what parenting plan he imagined, he said, “I’ll take alternate weekends and Wednesday nights.”  This is great for me, because I love being with our daughter and the idea of having her only half time was really hard for me.  I’m delighted to be the primary custodial parent….but at the same time, I ache for our girl that he is willing to offer her so little.

I continue to cook and clean, to grocery shop and do laundry.  I am the parent who does the homework projects, walks the dog, cleans the kitty litter, weeds the garden, organizes the birthday presents, throws holiday parties, manages our daughter’s social calendar, takes her to the doctor and dentist.  I get up and get her ready for school, and I make sure she’s in bed on time with her teeth brushed.

I’m working now.  I’m learning that I *can* do it all, because I have to.  It is deeply satisfying – I’m starting to provide for myself and our girl financially, and I’m still able to keep the other balls in the air.  Once again, I am deeply exhausted....but I can do it.

He is on the bench (consulting), and not working.  He spends his days playing video games, reading, watching movies, and surfing the net.  He participates with our daughter on his days, and sometimes reads her a story or takes her out to eat, but mostly they watch movies, or she entertains herself while he goes into another room and plays online.  (That is what is going on right now; it's his weekend with her.)

I’m working on figuring out why on earth I would have agreed to this life of mine, why I let it get so bad, why I thought I wasn’t worthy of more.

I am very glad I’m getting a divorce.