Saturday, June 30, 2012

Officially Separated

I can hardly believe that it actually happened.

Two of my closest girlfriends came today and we worked from 9am to 5pm, taking trips back and forth, unpacking, setting up beds, etc.  If they hadn't come to help at my request, he still wouldn't be moved out - I have no idea how he planned to do this move without help.  Still, the big stuff is done.  The kitchen is functional, Katherine has a room all set up with new bedding and a new dresser and her old bed; she has a new Snoopy toothbrush in the toothbrush holder.

Can I vent that he didn't pack one thing for his daughter?  That it didn't occur to him that she'd need toys, and books, and bedding, and a dresser, and a desk?  And clothes, and hairbrushes, and a toothbrush?  I managed all of that, and it's a good thing I did.  Katherine is really happy with the results.  And he was grateful for my help - a pleasant surprise.

The whole thing is bittersweet.  I am free to live my life, to figure this out....but at the same time, it's frightening to be truly on my own.  How will I handle this big house?  There are projects to tackle, but today I kept it small.  I started cleaning downstairs, moving things around and getting them back into place.  With less furniture, it actually looks pretty good, much more spacious.  It'll take a while to feel settled, and there is still a bunch of junk to move out, but bit by bit it will feel like "mine" and I will take good care of it.

This evening my friends and I drank wine and ate bread and cheese and chocolate.  I lit candles, and we sat in the living room talking and laughing.

A good beginning to my new life.

Friday, June 29, 2012


This is really happening.  Tomorrow he moves out.  There are boxes everywhere, and it's all chaos and mess (most of the boxes aren't closed and things are spilling out of them), and Katherine doesn't yet have many toys going there, but tomorrow at 8:30am two of my friends will arrive and we'll get this moving.  Tomorrow night, he will be out.

And he (gasp) took a shot at cleaning the bathroom.  It won't take nearly as long to do it now - of course, it still needs a good scrub, but it no longer needs an atomic bomb.  Yipppppeeeee!

Katherine is doing remarkably well.  I am incredibly proud of her.

Looking back

I've been thinking of this post for a few days.

My entire relationship with Bryan wasn't horrible.  There were good points, and there were kindnesses along the way.  The reason that I feel sadness is that I saw the potential in those beautiful moments, and wished for a lifetime of them, and the marriage ending takes away that possibility.  I didn't marry Hitler, and though I'm very certain that it's a good thing the marriage has ended, it wasn't always awful.

And today I'm acknowledging that. 

Here's a little list of favorite moments with Bryan - a reminder that sometimes it was good, that he is not the devil incarnate, that I married him for good reasons, that though it is time to move on, he was an important part of my life, and I want to honor that, too.

- The first time we had sex, it was mind blowing.  He was thoughtful and attentive in ways I'd never experienced before, with a dose of creativity thrown in, and it was fantastic.

- When he proposed, he'd thought through so many details, and he made it special and memorable.

- Our wedding day was just about perfect.

- We went to Paris one December when we were first married, and it snowed.  Walking back from a concert (a quartet playing in a medieval church) late at night, wearing my long black wool coat with a velvet collar, holding hands under the streetlights as it started to snow.....was magical.

- He comforted me when my beloved grandfather died.

- The day Katherine was born, we didn't know the gender, and we'd agreed he was to tell me as soon as she was birthed.  I looked at him, and with tears of happiness in his eyes, he whispered, "It's Katherine!" and the joy I felt at that moment was intense beyond anything I'd ever felt in my life, and I loved sharing that moment with him.

- One Christmas my parents were stressing me out immensely, and he helped me to feel calm and happy again in a way I don't think anybody else could have.

- Getting our dog together was a joy.

- The one cancer moment when he handled things perfectly was right after my mastectomy.  I was high on painkillers and I was terrified that he'd never find me attractive again.  I wanted the moment of showing him to be over, so while I was still in recovery, with tears in my eyes, I pulled back my gown, to reveal my flat, bandaged chest.  He kissed the bandage softly, and said, "It's beautiful.  It's beautiful because it means you don't have cancer any more."  I will never lose my gratitude for that moment.

- Laying in bed listening to "rain, falling on a tin roof" (the Norah Jones song line) at our favorite cabin.

- Katherine adores him, and he adores her.  They watch Stooges together and howl with laughter, and she looks at him with love in her eyes.  Whenever they do something together, her whole face lights up.

- He is being incredibly reasonable about child support, and has told me he will do whatever it takes to have me keep the house, because he knows how important it is for Katherine to have that stability.

It wasn't all bad.  This weekend, as we close the final door, I'm taking this little moment to remember the good, not just focus on the bad.  It's like putting these things in a memory box, in my own way, or like saving old love letters from a relationship long gone.  When it was good, it was good, and today I'm honoring that.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


At this point, I may have done more work on Bryan's move than he has.  Today Katherine and I went shopping for her new bedding.... because he forgot (they had planned to do it earlier, at my insistence, and Katherine was really looking forward to it, but he doesn't have time now so I stepped in, just like I always do).  And I started packing her toys and clothes and books and art supplies, and finding an extra set of sheets, and her extra hair brush, and a million small things that will make their home more comfortable.  I got him a couple of bags of groceries, because Katherine wants to spend the first night at his place, and of course he hadn't thought through that she might get hungry (sigh).  I didn't do anything special, but I got milk, eggs, cereal, salt, pepper, chips, salsa, and some convenience foods....there will be enough to get started.  I organized some of his other items to prep them to move.  I'd already figured out dividing the kitchen and then done that.

I am aware that this looks like enabling, but I no longer care.  I want him out, I want Katherine's needs to be met, and I just want my house to myself.  Whatever makes that happen is fine with me.

I peeked in that dreadful bathroom, too.  It really is dreadful.  I usually use environmentally friendly cleaners (baking soda, etc.), but I'm thinking BLEACH for this one.  I don't think that the shower will ever lose its discoloration - won't that be appealing for guests?!  I poked around a bit downstairs, assessing how much work I will have to do to get the place in shape, and it's not great, but it's doable.  I will scrub him out of my house, and at least that will be satisfying.

But today I treated myself to fresh new plush white towels, using the money from my own paycheck.  Amazing feeling, doing that.  And I bought a new DVD player that will apparently turn my ten year old TV into something that can stream Netflix (really?!), and I bought Katherine a bean bag chair, a cheap one from Target that I may regret later but she really loves it and it is a "cheap and cheerful" solution to the fact that the only thing left to sit on in the family room is a loveseat.  I am repossessing my home, claiming my space, with these small statements.  It feels like I am bleeding money and I'm terrified I'll bleed out, but I knew there would be some expenses up front, and I don't anticipate buying a lot more random stuff.

I'm exhausted.  There is a lot of work left to do, and much of it will fall on me.  Katherine is excited for her new room with a big closet, and I'm trying to be really upbeat for her.  I know I have days of cleaning ahead, that he will leave heaps of things here that will either trip me or I'll pack them and deliver with a smile, even if it makes me grit my teeth to do it.

I'm counting down to Saturday night, letting my beloved girlfriends care for me in my own home.  They will know how to manage things, and whether I feel like laughing or crying, it will be okay.  Knowing that I have some self-care (I'm very glad I organized that) built in just might keep me sane.


I would prefer that this blog be a thoughtful discussion about issues surrounding divorce, rather than a diary or a full on vent, but today, it's really just a whiney list.  I think that there is a time and space for everything, and today, what I am capable of is a whiney list.  I'll try to be more thoughtful soon, and to reflect on all of this in a more meaningful way, but right now it's one foot in front of the other, and I'm okay with that.  This too shall pass.


Mediation went surprisingly well - Bryan gave me more child support than I asked for.


We are early in the process, and things will undoubtedly change, but we are making it clear with one another that we intend to be fair, that will will be Katherine-focused, and that we want what the mediator called a "durable" agreement, one that will look just as good a year or more from now as it does when we sign it.  I'm trying to be really pragmatic about this, non-emotional and thoughtful.

Several friends and family members have noticed that Bryan seems happier than he has in ages.  Though I joked with a friend, "If he starts traveling the world with a hot girlfriend and comes home to a newly remodeled place with a view and I'm struggling as a single mom and my dishwasher is broken, I may not be totally graceful about that...." I really do want him to be happy, and it is a giant relief to see that he might actually be feeling hopeful about his own future.

I never wanted to go down in history as the woman who ruined his life, even if that was only in his own imagination.  On my good days, I hope that our divorce frees each of us to be the person we were intended to be, and that we will both reach our full potential when we are separate in a way that we couldn't do together.  On my good days, I think he will be happy, and I will see his eyes twinkle again, and that feels like a burden lifted from me.

So, rushing around trying to get things ready for the big move.  An extra set of sheets, another broom, a lot of organizing.  Additional chaos at home, but I've taken the next week off work to be with Katherine and to do some serious nesting at home, to get our lives in order.

And I'm obsessively budgeting in Excel.

And I'm trying to plan an amazing road trip with Katherine for August, within that budget, because we need the wind in our hair and we need to explore the world.

I will help with the move on Saturday, and then in the evening I will have a couple very close girlfriends over to help me to either celebrate, cry, or both.  The plan is for wine, cheese, and chocolate.  They will know how to reach me, no matter what I'm feeling, and I take great comfort in knowing that my first night alone will be filled with laughter, even if there will be tears.

This is my new life.  I will make the most of it.  I still feel low energy but I also feel hopeful.  Getting closer!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Almost time

First of all, thank you so much to those of you who reached out to ask me to keep blogging.  I received emails as well as comments, and your words have moved me to tears.  I am so grateful for your support and kindness, and you are appreciated.  I am filled with gratitude.

I will keep blogging.  I will try to be thoughtful in my choices, to be respectful, but also to be truthful, and to share not only my PollyAnna optimism - which is very real, and a deep part of me - but also my fears and struggles, because it would be simplistic to think that I could get through this without them.

My goal is to live my life with integrity and compassion, towards myself as well as others.  I'd like the blog to reflect that, although it is a lofty goal, and one that I may not always reach.

To those of you who have encouraged me in that direction, again, I say thank you.  I am grateful.


This is the week, and I am days away from Bryan moving out.

He has not packed one box.

I have Thursday and Friday off work, and I am prepared to run around getting boxes and packing materials, and filling in my own gaps for the house.  I will be in charge of Katherine, too, and I am fearful that I won't know how to give her what she needs, because I am feeling very self absorbed right now, and very quiet.  My brain is awash in fear - no, not quite fear, more like anxiety.  There is so much going on, and I am fighting for my Zen house, not this house of chaos, but I feel low energy, and anxious, and I really do wish I could go to bed and wake up when it's all done.

I will rent a carpet cleaner for Sunday, and I will spend at least two hours cleaning his bathroom on Sunday.  Yuck.  No wonder I want to fast forward until next week!  Plus, moving is stressful under any circumstances, but this move is so disorganized, and he hasn't asked anyone to help, and I'll be his main person helping, which will likely lead to frayed tempers on both sides.  I have promised myself to be perky and focused on Katherine and to do whatever it takes to get the job done....but I'm so scared of the whole business, because it's so much work and so stressful.

I've been focused on "stuff" this week in a way that surprises me, but today I think I realized that I'm focusing on stuff, not emotions, because it's tangible.  I can't control how this move goes, and if it's a disaster, then it's his disaster, and he is responsible, because I am not in charge of him, the move, or how he handles things.  So, I've transferred some nervous energy into silly things - will there be enough bedside lamps to go around?  What will I use as a bedside table in the guest room?  I need to get Katherine a bookcase!  I must have a toaster!  (Not of the $10,000 variety, either.)  Now, I probably make toast once a month, so obsessing about a toaster is....odd, to say the least.  But somehow I've found myself worrying about little things like that, knowing full well that if Katherine has stacks of books in her room for a few weeks she wouldn't care, and that if we can't make toast it doesn't matter, but I've been focusing on things like that anyway.

Today is Tuesday.  He's supposed to move on Saturday.  It's going to be a long week.

And my body is responding by my face breaking out (seriously?!) and my arm lymphadema flaring up; my arm isn't swollen but it's throbbing, which is the precurser to swelling for me.  Damnit.

I don't have anything wise to say today.  Today is not a day for deep introspection, or for lessons, or for humor, or for wisdom.  Today, and this week, I just want to do what must be done to get through to the other side.  And I want to get out of my own head enough to be a great mom, not merely a sufficient one (which is how I feel right now).

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Anonymity, Online dating, Moving, Money

I have a lot on my mind this week.  The worries make me dizzy.

A friend let slip about my blog, and about my profile, accidentally outing me to a dozen people.  Bryan doesn't know about either the blog or my desire to date (though he must wonder), and I'm filled with fear of him finding out about either the blog or dating, because I'm working so hard at maintaining civility with him, and I don't want to jeopardize that.

It's made me wonder: should I keep a blog?  Am I really doing this with integrity?  Is this a healthy place to vent where nobody gets hurt, or am I just airing my dirty laundry in public?  Do I offer a service to other women going through divorce by sharing my story, or is it self-indulgent?  How does one walk that line?  (Advice on this always appreciated.)

I do know that I love blogging here, that I enjoy the feedback immensely, that I feel so much less alone when others share their stories.  However, today I'm wondering what to do.

And I'm realizing that I threw away $50 that would have been better spent elsewhere (even on a new pair of shoes) than on, because I am just not ready to date.  I'm too tired to be vivacious right now, I have too many worries to think about flirting, and even if I was filled with energy and desire to flirt, I just don't have time.  Work is busy, my home needs a lot of work, I really want to connect with girlfriends in my down time, and Katherine needs and deserves most of my attention (and I want to give it to her).  I had a vision of walking down a boardwalk, sipping an iced coffee, wearing a pretty sundress, and flirting with a tall handsome man, passing away part of the summer....but I realize that instead, I want to walk down the boardwalk with Katherine and our dog, that I want to eat ice cream with her, and then swim in the ocean with her, and not care about anyone else in the world, or how witty I am, or making a good impression.  The time will come to date, but I'm not there.  (sigh)  I think I was trigger happy - I was lonely, and jealous of my happy friends, and wishing for quick fixes, but I know that will not get me where I want to go.  I need to work on myself right now, not dating.  (another sigh)

And yesterday I spent the day with my inlaws - all thirty or so of them, including brother and sister in laws, nieces, nephews, etc.  There was a family wedding, and they made sure I was included.  When it was time for a family photo, I panicked - what should I do?  I was prepared to bow out gracefully with a smile, but they ushered me over and told me that was nonsense, family was forever, come on over.  Bryan, Katherine and I stood together in the group, family.  This small moment blows my mind; it is what I want for Katherine, but so awkward and strange that I barely know what to think.

But these things are far overshadowed by the fact that this time next week Bryan should be moved out.  I will really be in the next phase of life, the one I've been preparing for all year.  Katherine will have two homes, and she will officially be the product of a broken home.  (An expression I loathe, for many reasons, but there it is.)  I will lose control over parts of her life that I currently have control over.

I will have two weekends a month by myself in this house, as well as Wednesday nights.  When I come home from something on one of those days, I will not be greeted by Katherine asking for a snack or a bedtime story while Bryan does something else by himself.  I will both love the downtime and hate that I am not there for her.  I will try to focus on taking care of myself, and giving her space to develop her relationship with her father, instead of the emptiness of her room, just down the hall from mine.

This week, either Bryan will pack himself, or I'll pack him, but either way, he's moving next weekend.

Please pray for us, keep good thoughts for us, hold us in the light, wish on shooting stars for us.  Hope that I can keep biting my tongue, that we can do this move smoothly, that Katherine can feel some enthusiasm for having two rooms, for a bit of independence walking back and forth, for the cell phone she's about to receive so that she can talk to whichever parent she is not with.  Please hope that Bryan will embrace his new location, finding some of his lost passion for living, that he can be the person he wishes to be.  Please hope that Katherine feels loved, and safe, and hopeful.  Please hope that I will behave with wisdom and integrity, and that I will find the strength and energy to craft the best possible life for Katherine and myself.  Please hope that many beautiful things come out of this change in our lives, and that the beauty that follows overshadows the grief at what is lost.

It all comes down to this.  Two homes, the end of an era, a change for all of us.  I am allowing myself to grieve, and still trying to focus on the good that lies ahead.

And money.  Oh, Dear God, the money.  I'm working on spreadsheets, playing the numbers, trying to figure out how to survive.....and I want to thrive, not only survive, and I have to figure that out.  It makes my head hurt. 

We have a meeting with a mediator tomorrow.

Thank you for your support this week, more than ever before, because I need it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Calling all divorce bloggers!

I got a request in a blog comment for links to more divorce blogs.  Readers, if you're blogging, can you leave a link posted here?  If there is a divorce blog that you enjoy, could you post it here, too?  Include a few words about the focus of the blog, or about the blogger, if you're so inclined. case you missed my earlier post, I'll repost the info here.  I was contacted by a "major television network" to do a show about divorces where the exes live in the same house.  I can't do it - I need to stay anonymous here - but if you'd like to, they're looking for referrals.  I checked out the name of the person who contacted me, and it does look legit, but I make no promises.  I don't know much about television....except that I'm going to spend my fifteen minutes of fame elsewhere.

Happy Friday, everyone!  I look forward to seeing what blogs you post here.  (Even if you're a regular, consider posting your link here, and maybe you'll find some new readers.  Let's share the love!)

Countdown & Television

In about a week, Bryan moves out.

I feel a bit shaky.  No, I'm not going to miss him.  (And now that our dishwasher is broken, I'm going to miss him even less!  I need to do a minor kitchen remodel to get a new dishwasher, which means that for the next few weeks I'm hand washing.  Dismal!)  But I am on. my. own. And very aware of it.

I don't know that I'm lonely - I'm too tired and busy to be lonely.  But I am just so painfully aware of all the work that must be done, and financial obligations, and I'm scrambling to take care of them.  I'm trying to arrange a nanny-share for next year for Katherine, but I don't have it figured out yet.

And not one box has been packed, and I have a feeling it's either going to fall on me or I'm going to be tripping over his things forever.  I'll manage this: I want Katherine to feel a sense of home from his place, so I'll make sure that there are glasses in the cupboard, that she gets to help pick out some new bedding for her new room, etc.

The to do list looms over me like an axe.


I can do this.  I am doing this.  When I asked for a divorce, frankly I had no idea what the future held, and there was a bit of a concern that I'd be moving into my parents' basement.  (Nightmare!)  But I've got my career moving steadily forward, going better than I dreamed.  And Katherine is doing better than I dared to hope for.  And Bryan and I are getting along, even if my tongue hurts as a result.

I just need to get through the next couple of weeks, get my nest back into working order.  I can do this....I've got this.

Deep breaths.

But there is one funny that makes me laugh a belly laugh.

I was contacted by "a major network" to do a TV show - a reality show? a talk show? I'm not sure - about divorcees living with their exes.  I seek my 15 minutes of fame elsewhere, and the idea of being on reality TV talking about my divorce in front of America, Bryan, and my mother makes me fall to the floor in a fit of giggling.  But if you're reading this, and you'd be interested, contact me here and I'll send you the casting person's contact info.  She sounds lovely (and if she's reading this, hello!), and she's looking for other people to bring on board.  For the right person maybe it's an incredible opportunity....but boy is it wrong for me.  (If she pays you millions of dollars to do the show, and I'm struggling to fix my kitchen, you can say "I told you so" as you laugh all the way to the bank.  We didn't talk money because I didn't want to know, and maybe it's unpaid, but likely a trip to L.A....)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Surely I've lost my mind

Bryan is back on the bench at work, which means that for the next 11 days we'll be sharing a house.

11 days until he moves out.  This stresses me out more than I can say.

So what did I do? 

I signed up for three months at .  But wait!  I'm not ready to date!  But wait, I need to focus on Katherine this summer!  But wait, I'm too busy to date!  Didn't I say that it wasn't for me?  Didn't I say that I didn't want that in my life right now?

Maybe it's Cuckoo Mama's rekindled romance.  Maybe it is that in my divorce support group, out of ten women, four have found really fabulous relationships in the past few months, and they're having the time of their lives.  Maybe it's that my boss has the best relationship ever with her husband, and witnessing it makes me long for something like that.

Or maybe it's just that I've lost my mind. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Biting my tongue: example

Three posts in one day!  If my regular readers were popping in to see the latest, you're in for a triple-treat.  Hello, readers!  (Three posts is what happens when it's my weekend without the girl, and I spend most of it working on separation issues, and I am too tired to accept invitations to go out with friends.)

Lest you think I am living in happy la-la land, let me describe something about Bryan's fatherhood.

He only has her two weekends a month.

He's off the bench and working out of town, so he doesn't see her AT ALL four to five days per week.  I have her two weekends a month, so he has her two weekends a month. 

That means he has her four days per month.

He had her this weekend.

Friday night, he got in at 7.  They hung out for an hour - yay, Daddy! - watching a video together on the sofa, and then he came upstairs and said, "I'm tired and going to bed so you need to put her to bed."

Bite tongue.  I did not mention that I'd been doing double duty all week, that I was tired, that it was his weekend, that his daughter had been counting the hours til his return. 

Saturday he booked an appointment to get his glasses prescription renewed.  Fine, I'll watch her.  Then he got her a playdate.  Which lead to a sleepover.  He did join them for about two hours for dinner, but the spent most of the day and all that night and part of the next morning apart.

So this morning they hang out a bit.  We go to our daughter's end of year event.  We come home.  He naps. I arrange playdate at our house, she plays, he naps.  They go out for dinner.  They come home, and he says "I'm going to the neighbor's for a beer." (Yes, the neighbor of the tree incident, the one who isn't speaking to me.  Poetic, isn't it?)  He flies out tonight.

By my calculation, that means that of the past 14 days, of which he gets Wednesdays (but he's gone), and Friday night through Sunday night, he spent a grand total of about 16 hours with his daughter.  He managed to reduce his short time with her by greater than 50%.

Bite tongue bite tongue bite tongue.  OUCH.  Bite harder.

I want to yell, "How dare you give our daughter so little!"

I want to scream "You selfish lazy bastard!"

But I bite my tongue.

And this is how we get along.

I'm going to go read Anne of Green Gables to my beautiful daughter.  I will hold her and snuggle her extra.  She deserves it.  And I didn't need any Netflix time anyway.


Edited update:  Katherine cried when he left last night.  She misses her daddy.  She doesn't understand why he doesn't look for a job in our town, instead of leaving so much.  I held her and agreed that it was no fun at all, and stroked her hair, and read extra chapters, and let her be sad, and let her love her dad.  I tried to give her extra of myself, but what she really wants is him.  (She has plenty of me already - she loves us equally, but she doesn't have us equally.  Even when he's there, he's not there.)

A good divorce?

Two posts in one day, because it's Sunday morning and Katherine is at a sleepover and I woke up early, and so I have time to think, uninterrupted, which is a form of bliss.  Hello again!

I've mentioned Constance Ahrons' book The Good Divorce on this blog before.  If you are contemplating divorce, if you're in the middle of divorce, or if you're already divorced, and you have kids, this is the book to read.  The book outlines ways parents can approach divorce in the least-damaging ways possible for their children.  It's not a divorce law book, it's not a dating guidebook, it's not a justification for divorce book.  This is a book about parenting through divorce, and helping kids, and I think it's thoughtful and wise.

Notice that I said least-damaging, not blissful.  The book doesn't pretend that everything about divorce is wonderful and that the children will come out scott-free.  Instead, Ahrons paves the way for approaches to divorce that make the best out of a bad situation.  The general premise is that parental behavior impacts children as much or more than the divorce itself, and Ahrons suggests ways parents should behave in divorce.

I've taken the philosophies of this book to heart, and I'm doing my utmost to model my divorce on Ahrons' suggestions.  No matter what Bryan does, or how he behaves, I am in control of my own responses, and I am aware that anything that I can do to lower conflict between Bryan and myself will positively impact Katherine.

I bite my tongue a lot.
(Do not Google images of biting your tongue.  Gross.)

I think my tongue is covered in deep welts and scars, actually.  When Bryan told me on Friday night that he was too tired to help Katherine with her bedtime ritual and he was going to bed, I smiled at Katherine and said, "Get in your PJs so we can read stories," instead of snapping at him that he hardly spends any time with his girl and I've had a hard week too....although that is what I deeply wished to say.

And it's paying off.  I can not believe how much, but it's paying off!

Katherine is doing better through all of this than I even dreamed possible.  When she found out that her dad had commited to an apartment, I held my breath, fearful that this new stage of reality would freak her out, but instead, she seemed to experience actual joy.  I stared at her for a moment, I was so surprised by her response, but I think I get it now. 

Katherine is doing okay because Bryan and I have followed through on our commitment to make this work for her. 

The apartment is two blocks away, walking distance for a nine year old, and we've promised that she can go back and forth as she pleases, regardless of whose "day" it is.  When Bryan announced he'd booked it, I immediately said, "Oh, I'm so glad it's so close!" and smiled at Katherine.  Various people have said, "Ugh don't you want more space between you?" and while there is a part of me that feels that way, I mostly feel genuine enthusiasm for its proximity, knowing how nice it will be for her to just pop over to see her dad, or to come back here to get a favorite shirt or toy.

When Katherine was in a little play at church (ironically, about responding to change) last week, it was on "my" weekend, but I made sure that Bryan was invited, and we sat together to cheer her on.  My mom came, too, and afterwards she invited all of us, Bryan included, to lunch.  We all went, and we played nice.

Katherine doesn't say anything about it, but she sees it.  And she MUST notice how the tension is falling around here.  The tension is less than it was when Bryan and I were actively trying to stay married, as a matter of fact.

I'm packing all of Bryan's household stuff; he can't appear to get off his duff to do it, and I'd rather do it an hour here and an hour there than all in one mad rush (I really do dislike chaos).  And I've refrained from badgering him about it, and I've actually been pretty pleasant to him, despite the fact that it's a royal pain, and blatantly unfair (I have my own massive to-do list, and I'm doing his, too).  Katherine sees this, and I think she notices.

The funny thing is, Bryan is noticing too.  He has been much more pleasant to be around lately, and he has snapped at me much less than usual.  The tension is so much less, I actually told my mother "I think I like Bryan more now than I have in five years!"

Make no mistake: this is not a like of the "maybe we can make it work" variety.  Actually, the thing that makes it easiest for me to like Bryan right now is the idea that I no longer have to be married to him.  His problems are no longer my problems: I do not have to care about his mood swings, or his laziness, or the fact that he expects me to pick up his slack.  He has lost most of his ability to hurt me.  When there is some emotional distance, I simply don't care what he does, because it doesn't impact me nearly as much, and I'm not invested in making him be the kind of person I'd want to partner with.  We have little in common, but it doesn't matter any more.  We are not partners any more, and this frees me to like him in a casual way, from a distance.

What Katherine will see is that I will buy him a housewarming present.  She will see that I will help him move.  She will see that I bought him a nice Father's Day card.  She will see that I am not arguing about possessions - I would honestly rather give him every last stick of furniture than fight any more, and fortunately he's not choosing to fight over "stuff," either.  She will see us side by side, cheering for her.

I have coached my friends and family to accept him, too.  I have called them and told them that they have my explicit permission to socialize with him, to call him, to support him, because he's Katherine's dad, and excluding him would exclude her.  I have asked my family to include him in holiday events, because it's good for Katherine.

If we did not have a child, I would try to divorce on a handshake and walk away, possibly never seeing him ever again.  I've got anger and sadness in spades, and I'm not confused by that....I do not always feel Zen about our divorce.  But we do have a child, and that makes us a family, and family is forever.  Our marriage is over, but our family is not.

And it's working.  Katherine is doing better than I could have dreamed.  Her grades are higher than ever, and she's become an amazing reader.  Her counselor has said we can scale back on sessions because she's doing so well.  She's doing well with her friendships.  She's sleeping well - not too much or too little.  With the notable exception of the one giant fit (blogged earlier), her behavior is utterly normal.

My life is complicated, and I struggle daily.  Being a single working mother is exhausting, and the financial ramifications of this make my head hurt.  I have no idea what the future will bring, and while I'm filled with hope, I also have fear.

But maybe I will get my good divorce.  Divorce was not my dream, but as divorces go, maybe I can make this one as good as they come.


I am a nester.  My home is truly my sanctuary, and no matter how much I like flitting around in the big wide world, I'm always glad to come home.  At the end of an adventure - be that travel or simply a workday - I love walking up my front steps and coming into the familiar that is my home nest.

Which means that things have been a bit taxing lately.

I have a rather large desire for calm in my life.  Given that life is usually more chaotic than calm - deadlines! school projects! sickness! - I have always carved out time to come home and just "be" in my home.  Out in the world, people blow smoke as I walk down the street, and there are car horns, and there is so much rushing about, but in my own small sanctuary there are dishes lined up neatly in the cupboard and a pretty quilt on the bed and that little piece of art that I just love so much, and these small things add up to an oasis that I depend upon to keep my sanity.

Splitting up our house and its oasis-qualities is messing with my sanity.

Right now, things are in piles.  There is giant pile in the basement of kitchen items ready for Bryan to pack.  There are stacks of framed pictures.  There's an extra dresser, picked up for a song from Craigslist, halfway blocking a hallway.  There are half empty cupboards in spots.

Not cozy.  Not Zen.  Not an oasis.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day dealing with beds.  Bryan loves the style of "our" bedset, and since I don't, and I don't really want to sleep in "our" bed, he's taking it.  This, however, leaves me bedless.  And Katherine needs beds in both homes, and so needed a second bed.

A lot of problems can be solved by throwing money at them.  I can not tell you how much I have longed to go online, point and click, and then have somebody show up at my door with my desired items - including beds - in hand.  No such luck.

Instead, I've been hunting around Craigslist for suitable items.  Katherine requested bunkbeds, and though this doubles the cost (double mattresses, double bedding) of getting her a bed, and though I don't particularly relish climbing a ladder to change her sheets or read her stories, I recognized this as an opportunity to give her what she most desires, a positive outcome of the divorce (in her mind; she's wanted bunkbeds for ages but I kept telling her she had a perfectly good bed) in a sea of negative changes, and I agreed to it.  It turns out that bunkbeds are the most popular item ever on Craigslist, and I've spent a week sending messages to listings and not even hearing back because they're gone within minutes.

But finally, a friend of a friend came through - they had bunkbeds they were selling.  I enlisted my parents' help, and their truck, for hauling the beds.  And since I had them, I scrambled to find a bedframe/headboard on Craigslist for myself.  I couldn't bear used mattresses, so then we had to figure out cheap solutions to that problem.

Yesterday, my father and I disassembled beds and piled them in the basement next to the other piles.  I dealt with the under-bed dust bunnies.  I learned how to build bunkbeds.  I discovered that the bedframe I'd just purchased for myself was incomplete, and then spent some time spinning in circles trying to fix it. (Not fixed.  My boxspring is currently sitting on the floor, and last night I just hoped that the headboard didn't fall on top of me, because it's just leaning against the wall.)  And then I spent more money, because Katherine needed an extra set of bedding for the extra bed, involving heading out again to go to a handful of stores.

My nest has been a wreck from all of this chaos.  The basement looks like a cyclone has gone through it.

And my dishwasher broke, and suddenly I'm hand washing everything.

And there appears to be a leak by the chimney.

I am not managing this well.  I'm tired, and grumpy, and I want to have a tantrum.  Make it right!  Fix it!  Give me back my order and calm!

Bryan moves out in two weeks.  A month from now, we'll both have calm, because I will run around getting things done to make it happen.  I will keep reorganizing cupboards, I will collect hand-me-downs from friends to fill in the gaps, I will spend money buying necessities where there are no hand-me-downs.  By mid-July, it will be orderly again.  In a time of life that is chaotic, I cling to my small bits of order to keep me afloat, and I'm craving mid-July.

Praying I can hold on that long!

PS  Adding to my nesting troubles is the fact that ever since the great tree issue, my neighbors haven't spoken to me.  The city announced that even if I wanted one they would not grant a permit to remove the trees, and now the neighbors studiously avoid looking in my direction.  Not sure what I'm going to do about this, but it does make it awkward when we're all in our yards!  I'm very glad to keep my trees - ah, looking up to admire them now - but not happy about continued neighbor drama, even of the stony silent variety.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Time to revisit "Why I Want a Wife"

I remember the first time I read the essay, "Why I Want a Wife" by Judy Syfers.  It was published in Ms. Magazine before I was old enough to read, and I didn't read it until a high school English class.

(For those who don't wish to click through but haven't read it before, the basic premise of the essay is that if women had someone to care for the children, cook and clean, etc. then they'd be very happy to go to their nice offices and get paid.  It is a classic feminist essay, incredibly humorous and readable.  Oh, don't take my word for it.  If you haven't read it before, you should, so go click on it and then come back and keep reading here.  And if you haven't read it in a while, go re-read it.  It's better than you remember, worth your time.)

I brought home my hazy photocopy to my stay-at-home mother, waving it in the air and practically shouting at her.  "Look at this!  You need a wife!  Isn't this great?"

My mother was not amused.  She, rightly, felt that I was criticizing my father and their relationship together. I was critiquing her choices and judging them severely.

It is surprising to me more than anyone that some twenty-five years later, here I am, just as in need of a wife as my mother was.

Yesterday there was an article on The Huffington Post entitled Alimony for Cohabitators, Still, in 2012.  The article, by Elizabeth Benedict, examines the problem of women who receive alimony, and then use that money to fund their lifestyles with a new partner, whom they do not marry because then the alimony will end.  The article itself is relatively thoughtful: I agree that the problem she's pointing out is real, and that alimony reform makes sense.  But the comments to that post are what are inspiring this response.

The comments to the post contain a great deal of venom towards women, of the variety "She stayed home having fun while I want to work and then she left me, and I'm washing my hands of her, no way should I have to pay one red dime once we're divorced!"

As a former stay at home mother in the middle of a divorce, all of this impacts me....greatly.  We haven't worked out our finances for the settlement yet, but I fret over them every minute of every day, and not because I want to drain my ex dry (I don't), but because I'm struggling to make it work.

In my marriage - which one commenter has pointed out might be an anomoly, and was certainly sexist, and from the 1950s - he went to work, and I stayed home.  That meant that when Katherine was little, I was the only one who got up in the night to care for her, because he needed to be rested for the next day.  It meant that I did the cooking and cleaning, that I ran to the library and the dry cleaner and the grocery store.  It meant that I did all the school volunteering.  It meant that when our daughter was sick, I took her to the doctor, and learned how to clean myself up when she barfed on me, without ever setting her down because she wanted me to hold her.  He came home every day to a clean house, freshly folded laundry, a fridge full of food (his favorites, of course), a hot cooked meal from scratch, a happy child.  This freed up our evenings to hang out, watch TV, read, go for a walk, and have a good time.

Being a stay at home mom has its advantages.  I got to snuggle our daughter more than he did.  I was my own boss, deciding when to do what (but still getting the job done).  I got to push her on the swings, read her more stories, and enjoy her company.  I got to invite other moms and kids over, and laugh with them.  There is a lot of drudgery in being a stay at home mom (my ex didn't clean a toilet for a decade, but I certainly did!), but it also has joys.

The commenters pointed out that fathers are wage-slaves, and they painted a dismal picture of fathers' lives.  I call false (you can use the other word if you want) on that one.  I've been a working person, too, and it has plenty of advantages.  White collar workers who have gone to college, as is the case in my demographic, pick their careers.  They are not breaking rocks, or listening to the whine of a loud factory, they are sitting at desks or around tables, talking to colleagues about a topic that they are highly skilled in.  There are lunches out, conversations at the water cooler, shared jokes and camraderie.  There is praise, and there are raises.  There is intellectual stimulation, and the possibility of advancement.  When a project gets boring, an individual can go out and seek a new project or job.  It's not perfect, and there's lots of churning numbers in spreadsheets or annoying bosses, but it's not all bad.  Parts of it are pretty darned good.

So, in my book, up until now, it's a fair sum game.  Working has its advantages, and staying home has its advantages, and both have their disadvantages.  Together, it makes for a pretty nice home life: good food, more free time for everyone.

And then, where there is divorce, it gets ugly.

While I was at home cooking and cleaning and breastfeeding and then, later, helping with homework (with a lot in between those two!), my husband was slowly earning more money, gaining more experience that made him more valuable in his field.  My own career was backsliding.  I have a handful of college degrees and certifications (all paid for out of my own pocket, not his), and had the same income potential as my husband when I left the workforce to raise our daughter, but this has changed.  Now, nine years later, I am practically having to start from scratch (or so it feels).  Thank goodness for my great education and fabulous network, thank goodness for work experience, even if it's from long ago, because I was actually able to get out there and find a decent job.  But I'm starting from way behind.

When my husband leaves the marriage, he takes his earning potential with him, and over the years, he's gotten ahead.  I am way behind him now.

Now, I could go on and on about how unfair it is that he expected me to cook and clean even on weekends and vacations, and saw no issue with laying on the sofa napping as I ran around caring for our daughter and lives.  I won't talk about the Christmas when we (yes we, both of us) invited his family for the big meal, and he napped for two hours in the morning and two hours in teh afternoon until I woke him up in a panic and said "Come on!  I need help!  There is a lot of work to do for this dinner and you're still napping!" and he said, "But it's Christmas!"....because it never occurred to him that it was Christmas for me, too, and that I had been cooking and caring for our daughter the whole time, even when he was napping.  No, I'll let you read Why I Want a Wife and let that essay make the argument for you.

But even if our marriage hadn't had blatant sexism built into it, even if it hadn't been so unhealthy, when he leaves this marriage, he has more than when he started, and the ability to sustain his own lifestyle.  I work just as hard, for just as many hours, and I earn much less, because of the time I took off.  I'm not fond of the idea of taking his money, because I'm fiercely independent by nature (yes, I know, my marriage doesn't reflect that, but I'm making up for lost time now) and I wish I could do it all on my own.  But unless I remove our daughter from her school, move to a different neighborhood, and uproot HER life, I can't make it without some help.  I don't want alimony, but I need it, and I've earned it.  Our decision to have an at -home parent and a working parent was entirely mutual, and I will not willingly be the only one to bear the cost of that decision.

But aside from alimony, I really do need a wife.

When I come home at the end of the workday, I've had a very different day than his was during our years when I was a stay-at-home mom.  First, I have to get up super early to take care of the dog, the house (throw in a load of laundry, etc.) and get myself ready and looking professional for work, before I wake our daughter up, make her breakfast, prepare both of our lunches, and get both of us out the door.  (My got up leisurely, drank the coffee I made, and left me to manage the rest, caring only for himself in the morning, stopping at his favorite coffee shop to read the paper a bit before heading to the office.)  During the day, I carry my cellphone everywhere, because if the school calls, I need to answer, knowing that I'm the one on duty.  (He went to work knowing that she was taken care of and that I'd handle whatever came up.)  Like him, I spend a day at work, and some days are great, and some aren't.  After work, I go straight to pick her up on the way home, walking in the door with her to immediately clean up the breakfast dishes and make dinner as I get her settled with homework, without a chance to change my own clothes.  (He walked in the door, where our daughter and I were waiting for him, and said 'Hey I need a few minutes to get settled', knowing that I'd manage things.)  I make the dinner, I serve the dinner, I clean the dinner, I fold the laundry, I return the phone calls, I wonder how to get her to the well-child check up without missing work.  (He enjoyed the dinner, then had some down time before bed.)

He has elected - his choice - for limited time with our daughter, seeing her mostly on weekends.  Our daughter is worth all of this work, and I am glad to have her with me as much as I can, but still, my reality is very different than his.

If I had the life my husband had during our marriage, I would jump up and down with gratitude.  The idea of walking in the door to a happy child and a hot meal is almost more than I could bear: the beauty would be blinding.

The good news in all of this?  I'm told that in 2012 there are men who cook, and who know that cleaning a kitchen means that you have to not only put the plates in the dishwasher, but the glasses and silverware too, and that the pots on the stove need to be cleaned as well.  I'm told that there are men who don't mind sharing duties on weekends, and don't expect a woman to do it all even when she's working.  I'm not bashing all men here, I'm sharing my experience with one man, and I look forward to the day when I find myself an entirely different kind of man to share life with.  Household chores aren't the only thing I want in a partner, but they'd be a nice piece of the puzzle, don't you think?  (Hot sex, hand holding, a hiking partner, and a good conversationalist are also on the list, just in case you're wondering.)

I'm PollyAnna, optimist.  One day I will find a partner who doesn't expect me to put more effort in than he is willing to make, and will appreciate me, just as I appreciate him.

But until then? sure would be nice to have a wife.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Summer of Joy

It's pouring rain.

I'm still sad.

But I'm not called PollyAnna for nothing.

This is where I pick myself up, and make a plan to make it better.  I sent out email to my close friends yesterday detailing that Bryan actually did go out and find an apartment, and that Katherine is super excited because it IS in walking distance of our house.  I told my friends that I am feeling intense sadness, but that I intend to find my joy, and that I needed their help.  I told them that I intend to have parties here all summer long - impromptu ones with watermelon and kids in the sprinkler and dancing in the kitchen and drinking wine and grilling food and movie nights.  I told them that I need to fill my house with laughter and people I love, to get rid of this aching sadness.

One dear friend responded, "I'm in!  Sign me up for the summer of joy!"

Have I mentioned yet how much I love my friends?  How good they are to me, how they hold me up when I'm falling?  How when I lose my faith in the world and in myself, their kindnesses restore that faith?  How, when I know I can not take one more step, one of them steps in for me?  It is no surprise that a friend gave me this gift, these kind words that are a declaration of intent.  Summer of joy!

I hereby declare it the summer of joy.  I will reclaim my space, and I will breathe deeply, and I will wear sundresses and dance barefoot in the kitchen.  My problems won't go away, but I will still live in joy.

I have a bit of work to do to get there.  But now I know what I'm aiming for.

Summer of joy, here I come.

PS  In the northwest, summer starts after July 4.  It just is that way.  If you haven't lived here, you might not understand....but if you've lived here, you get it.  I have a couple of weeks to figure this out.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stages of Grief

This week I started separating out the kitchen items.

I went back into my spreadsheets of finances to update them.

I started making lists of home repairs that I was just going to have to deal with, whether I wanted to or not.

I contacted my friends with a list of items I need for post-split: like most households, we have one blender, one toaster, one vacuum, etc. and we're going to have to figure out how to double these items in the next three weeks.

Work is busier than ever.

Katherine is struggling to accept these new changes.  Except for the one giant fit - transference of every anxiety she has into something small and petty, but perhaps it was good for her to let it all out, even if it hit me where it hurts - she is doing well, but I see the small shadows around her eyes.  She's worried.

And I'm in a new stage of grief: depression.  I think I like this stage least of all.  Denial has its advantages, after all, because I'm pretty good at pretending all is well.  Anger is at least energizing.  I spent most of my marriage in the bargaining stage, so it worked for at least a decade.  I thought I was in acceptance - ah, blissful acceptance - of where I am: I have been thinking it through, planning, imagining a better future....

But right now, I'm just sad.  My family doesn't work.  Our finances are broken.  I'm exhausted.  My daughter hurts.  The word "overwhelmed" feels like it is tattooed on my forehead.

This is to be expected.  How could I divorce without deep sadness?  And now that things are put into piles, his and mine, how could I not grieve the life that might have been? 

I'm trying to live with this sadness.  I grieve for the death of the fantasy of the happy family; I grieve for the hopes that I thought we shared; I grieve for the life I've lost.  I grieve for our daughter.  I grieve for myself.

Readers, how do you manage your grief, sadness, depression over a divorce?  Any suggestions as to how I can both accept that sadness is a part of the process....and move out of sadness?  I learn a great deal from your stories and suggestions, and I welcome both.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Transference or the world's meanest mommy?

Currently, my beloved daughter is in her room, down the hall from mine, sobbing noisily and with effect.  My attempts to soothe her have been greeted with angry words.

She is mad at me because she missed a school social event - my least favorite of the year, one that many of the parents/kids skip, but apparently this year it's a major deal simply because we're not going.  I have been informed that I "never" let her do anything fun.  She had piano lessons tonight, and it's almost the recital, and her best friend ALSO skipped the school evening social event in favor of piano (their lessons are back to back), AND I had a playdate at our house today after school...

Dear readers, please pray for my sanity.  I want to yell "SHUT UP!" at the top of my lungs, something I have never done to her and never intend to do.  I want to yell "THINGS ARE HARD ENOUGH WITHOUT ALL OF THIS!"

Most of all, I want to join her in noisy sobbing, because things are not the way I wish they were, either.

And I'm not talking about piano lessons or school events.


She has recovered.  That was one hell of an hour.  I wish I liked drinking more, because if I did, I think I'd drink liberally tonight.  I can not wait to go to bed.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Giving it our all

I find it very hard to do anything halfway.  I'm either in, or I'm out.

This is very true for me in divorce, too.  I fought hard for my marriage.  I told myself repeatedly that we could work through our problems, that I could try a little harder, that my husband was a good man and so surely we could make it work.  We had problems, even serious ones, for a decade before I even used the "d" work, even in my own mind.

Reading things on the internet and in the media, I sometimes wonder if I'm an anomoly.  I know I'm not alone, certainly (thank you, dear readers, for sharing your stories with me), but I read something like this:

...and I am profoundly lost.  I can not relate to the author of this series much at all.

Have you read it?  It's called "Diary of a Separation" and it was a series in The Guardian (UK).  For about a year, a woman chronicled her separation, including telling the children, moving out, adjusting to the new life, dating, and the rest.  I can't read enough about separations and divorces right now - I desperately want to understand, to feel connected - so when I found this series, I read it from top to bottom, beginning to end.

And I don't get it.

The author of the series seems ambivilant.  She seems to want a fantasy life that is interesting and far from mundane, so she leaves her marriage, only to live a life that isn't particularly interesting and has plenty of the mundane (starting with the house she rents, which she describes in such gray, sad language).

The series ends abruptly, and I want to know what happens next.

Did she go back to him?  If she did, would he take her?  (Her life got more cluttered and confusing; she made his seem at first bleaker, but then, possibly, much better than it had been during marriage.)  Did she meet someone new and decide to stop blogging about divorce?  Did she lose interest in the topic?  Did she enter therapy and decide to work it out less publicly?  Speculation won't answer the questions, but I do wonder.

But most of all, I wonder about this: how come she was so uncertain in her posts?  How on earth could anyone go through all of the pain of divorce, the financial hardships, the wear and tear on the children (dear God that is an understatement), if there was no abuse, but also no real, concentrated effort on making it work?  What about therapy?  What about talking to a pastor? What about going to mom and dad or some other older couple and asking about marriage?

Did I miss something here?

I gave it my all, and my all wasn't enough.  I was as "in" to my marriage as I could be, until the writing was on the wall.

Every divorce has its story.  The anonymous poster in The Guardian series has hers, and I have mine.  I found hers interesting, but I just don't get it.  Perhaps I don't get it because it's more Bryan's side of the story than mine....he didn't give it his all, either, and he wouldn't put the work in to try on our marriage.  He showed up to counseling because I dragged him, but that was all.

What is it that makes some give it their all until the bitter end, and others barely participate in their own marriages?  What am I missing here?

If anyone can shed some light on this, I'd love to hear your theories.  And if you don't have answers, read the series that I've linked to, and let me know what you think.  What do you make of it?

Thanks, readers.  Have a great day.  After yesterday's emotional roller coaster, today's post is less personal, because I am still completely, utterly wiped out from from yesterday's heartache.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Does Daddy really have to move out?

Another busy day.  Work, work, work, run to get child, come home to dog (unwalked) and house (uncleaned) and no dinner.  Make dinner.  Tidy up breakfast dishes.  Sit down to hot home cooked meal (late but I did it, tasty and balanced), feeling like maybe, just maybe, I can do this...

And then the question, like four thousand bricks flying at me, hitting my body, bruising me, knocking me down, suffocating me with their weight when I fell.  Accompanied by Katherine's flushed cheeks, and tearful eyes the color of the sky in summer, it was hard for me to breathe.  My own eyes filled with tears immediately.

"Yes, baby, he has to move out.  I am so, so sorry that I can't make our family work together.  I would do anything to give you a great life..."

"Then Mama, can't he just stay in the basement?"
(More tears.  Mine.  I was powerless to stop them.)

"No, baby, it's time for him to move out.  It will be really hard at first, but we will all adjust, and I'm just so, so sorry that it has to be this way.  This is not what I dreamed of for any of us, and I wish it didn't have to be this way, but your dad and I aren't good together.  We weren't good for each other, and that is not how we want to teach you to have a marriage.  In good marriages, people have fun together, and they don't yell at each other, and they work hard together.  We just weren't good at that, and we tried, but we couldn't do it..."

Silence.  I tried again.

"In some divorces, the parents just yell at each other and it's hard for the kids.  We're trying not to do that to you.  When you're with me, you can visit Daddy just down the street whenever you like as long as it's not bedtime or something like that.  I want you to love Daddy, and he wants you to love me.  We don't want to put you in the middle, honey, and we want to give you a great life.  We will try to make this as good for you as we can."

She just sighed.  And changed the conversation.

I still feel sick to my stomach over it.

I didn't say "Daddy shouldn't have yelled at Mama" and I didn't say "Daddy wasn't trustworthy" and I didn't say "Daddy tried to make Mama do all the work" and I didn't say "Being with Daddy made me feel more lonely than when I was alone."  I'm giving myself a gold star for that.  Two or three gold stars, actually.

But I don't want gold stars.  I want to make my daughter's life lovely and beautiful and I don't want her to feel any pain.  I especially don't want to be a source for her pain.

Divorce hurts her.  I was never under any illusions about that.  No child hopes that their parents will have such a bad relationship that it will lead to divorce, and she is no exception.  When he moves out, it's going to hurt her like nothing else in her life.  (My cancer hurt her, but she was so little, she has forgotten so much of it.  This is a blessing.)  I can not protect her from that pain.

I can not protect her from that pain, and it's all I want to do.

I believe that ultimately divorce will help her by teaching her to stand up for herself, and by my modeling of strength and compassion.  She will draw her own conclusions about her father.  She will also draw her own conclusions about me.  I will do everything in my power to model of life of integrity, to lead us both to joy, to be a pillar of strength, to create a beautiful life for myself and for her....but I will not have the proof of my decisions, good or bad, for many years.

I believe, in head and heart, that I am doing the right thing ultimately for her as well as myself.

But please don't mind if I cry myself to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This is really happening

When I had cancer, after the initial diagnosis I was required to have three surgeries (two large and one small) before I started chemo, and then I did two sessions of chemo before I started to really lose my hair, about two months after the initial diagosis.  I chose to get my head shaved, rather than having it come out bit by bit, leaving a trail around the house, because it completely unnerved me to touch my head and have a handful come out.

Being PollyAnna, I turned it into a bit of a party.  I got my closest friends to come, and my hair stylist hosted us at her salon early on a Saturday before it really opened.  I didn't want to see myself half shaved - I've never been a punk rocker - and so I faced away from the mirror, towards my friends, as she shaved me.

Finally, it was done, and they asked me if I was ready to see myself.  I took a deep breath, and they slowly turned my chair around to face the mirror.  The words that flew out of my mouth at that moment shocked me, because what I said, with tears streaming down my face, was, "I have cancer!"

I knew I had cancer.  I had plenty of proof that I had cancer already.  But there was just something about seeing my bald head that drove the point home in a whole new, painful way, and it was at that precise moment that I finally understood that this was really happening to me, that it was not a bad dream, that my life was forever changed.

I feel like the next stage of my divorce might be similar to that moment of seeing myself in the mirror.

After much resistance (a topic for another post), Bryan has finally agreed to go out and get an apartment on schedule for his July 1st move out date.  In so many ways, this makes me happy: when he's here, it is awkward in the extreme, and I never know if he's going to be nice or snap my head off with sharp words; I am always certain that he will leave a trail much worse than breadcrumbs that I will have to clean up.  But the biggest reason of all, is that it allows all of us to move forward, to start the next part of our lives rather than this really difficult living in limbo.

We have been exchanging lists of what to keep, what to give up.  We've got a plan for Katherine's room (and I need to go furniture shopping for a new bed for her).  We're divvying up the kitchen things, and I have a shopping list for that, too.

But despite the fact that for more than a year we've lived separately in this house, that we have had a child custody schedule of alternate weekends, that we are very open with friends and family about the divorce, that many life changes have taken place to move us closer to divorce (including my working outside the home, and him working out of state during the week)....I'm pretty sure that the day he moves out and there are spaces where his things used to be, it's going to be a bit of a shock.

I have no regrets about the decision to divorce.  I gave it everything I had, I played by the rules, and as hard as I tried, I couldn't make the marriage work.  If Bryan begged to have me back - a VERY unlikely scenerio - I would not be tempted, because I know that our marriage was not good for either of us.

But still, some days, it's hard to believe that this is happening, that this is really my life.  Sure, I'm a capable woman who is taking charge of her future....but this is scary stuff.  Sometimes I wonder how I'll make it through.

And I'm really dreading the moment that I look in the mirror in a half empty house, and see the face of divorce.

Note: I will address the parenting aspects of this major change in another post.  Tonight, that just feels like more than I can manage.  Katherine is doing great, but I am not a fool, and every time I think about the changes in her life I feel my heart breaking.

Does this make sense to anyone, or am I truly looney to feel this way?

What has made your divorce feel more real and tangible? 

Do you ever feel like this (divorce, or other difficulty) isn't really happening to you, that somehow this can not be your life?

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing your thoughts.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

With rest, hope returns

Last week was, I believe, the hardest I've had since deciding to divorce.

An armed gunman within blocks of my daughter.  I don't have answers for that one, and I'm not sure I can even bear to ask the questions.  There could have been an alternate ending there, too.

No, I won't go there.

But last week was hard because I was tired.  Not "oh I had a restless night" tired, but "it hurts to open my eyes and my thinking is muddled and if I drop something then the effort of having to bend over to pick it up makes me want to cry" tired.

I have followed through on my promise to myself, and I've done precious little this weekend but care for myself.  On Friday I had that dinner with friends, and though I didn't cry (I worried I would), I did crawl onto their sofa and pull a blanket up around myself, and they let me.  They cared for me in a way I needed, more than I can say.

And yesterday I slept in.  I puttered around the house, tidying the things that had been bothering me all week but that I'd been too tired to manage.  I went for a walk with a friend, my dog joyful to put miles under his feet.  This friend's words and wit always act as a balm for me, and being with her was restful, even as we exercised together.  We were in nature, and that helped, too, and I got to see where the great heron feeds.  I turned down invitations to go out with friends, and I curled up alone, first in a hot bath, and then with my laptop and blog, before going to bed at a decent hour.  It's nearly ten in the morning, and though I'm on my third cup of coffee, I'm still in my bathrobe.

Ahhh.  Rest.

With rest, I feel the return of my sanity.  I was losing it last week, and it didn't feel good.  Some of it couldn't be helped (an armed gunman?  really???!), but some of it could have been.

This is where the realist part of me helps the optimist in me.

I let myself believe last week that my life was on a long track to feeling that bad all the time, that being separated/divorced meant that I'd never catch up, that I was going to be wiped out forever.

Ridiculous.  I'm peeved at myself for allowing myself to wallow like that.

The reason that last week was so hard is because I made it harder than it needed to be.  Yes, being a single mom is hard, and yes, events in my community were horrible, but still, I made some mistakes last week, and I'm going to try to learn from them.  It didn't need to be that hard.

I wasn't overwhelmed last week because I was separated, or a single mom, or a working mom.  I was overwhelmed because I didn't manage myself well.  Readers, please, don't think that I'm beating myself up and wearing a hair shirt over this, because I'm not: it is surprisingly liberating to make this realization.  It's not that everything is spiraling out of control, it's that I just need to take control back.  PHEW!  There is hope in that, a great deal of hope.  Identifying the problem allows me to tackle the problem.  What a relief!

Yes, there are still big problems out there that don't have resolution.  Money.  Time.  The car.  (The car deserves its own post.  I'm not ready to go there.)  Loneliness.  Sex.  But I'll get to those, one by one, and keep on going.  Right now, I'm just so unbelievably happy that I don't have to repeat last week's fatigue every week for the rest of my life that I could do a little happy dance, and I'll tackle those other problems later.

So, here it is.  My mistakes, and what I can do to make them better in the future.  Oh, yes, I'll screw up again, but at least if I know what to do, I won't screw up as often.


1.  I came home too late from my little vacation.  We weren't in bed until after 11, on a night before school and work, and that meant that we had to start the week from behind.  Lesson: ALWAYS home by 8 on a school night.  It makes the next day so much better, and if it's the beginning of the work week, it makes the whole week so much better.  Starting from behind is not a good idea - too much catch up.

2.  One night I couldn't sleep, so I let myself stay up until 1am watching shows on Hulu.  I knew better.  I really need sleep to function (and I have a self imposed bedtime of 10pm), and shortchanging myself this way wasn't good for me.  The short term benefit of veging out and getting some time by myself was in no way compensated for by the way it made me drag for days afterwards.  (Want to read more about happiness and sleep?  Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project has a great article here.)  Lesson:  In bed by 10pm.

3.  Because I was tired, I didn't get up early to exercise.  Not only did this make the dog sad (I don't belong to a gym, it's usually the dog and I walking/jogging/running/hiking), and make me feel a tad guilty, it actually made me feel worse.  Being out under the sky, moving my body, and getting that early morning alone time to start my day makes me feel alive and good.  Crawling out of bed late, unexercised and rushed, just makes me feel bad.  Also, when I exercise, I sleep better.  Maybe if I'd exercised, item 2 wouldn't have been an issue.  Lesson:  Get up, put on running shoes, grab dog, and go.

4.  I was tired, so I ate like crap.  No home made salads with spinach and avocado for lunch.  Dinners that I barely remember.  Too much cheese.  This made me feel....worse.  Lesson:  Fruits and vegetables.  Lots of them.

5.  I let the house fall apart last week; I was pulling my undies from a laundry basket, not a drawer, and I really, really hate living like that.  I feel peaceful when my home is orderly, and last week, I let it fall apart: the pile of unopened mail, the unvacuumed carpet, the smear of toothpaste in the sink, the tornado that is Katherine's room, and those big baskets of laundry all made me feel "off."  If I'd spent two miserable hours at the beginning of the week dealing with them, I would have felt better for the entire rest of the week.  Lesson: When my house is tidy, my brain feels tidy.  It doesn't have to make sense, it just is, and working with it makes everything better.

6.  I had some big deadlines for work, but I was mentally tackling some of the move-out logistics for Bryan.  I got nothing accomplished by worrying by thinking of the move-out issues, but it weighed on me and made me slower at work, which made me feel worse.  It would have been wiser to set aside time to actually DO something (my new plan: pack a box a day for the rest of the month) than to think about it obsessively while doing nothing, freeing up my head for full focus on work.  Lesson: Obsessing hurts.  Taking action helps.

Live and learn, and here I am.  I am determined to take action to make this week better.  I tried the lazy way - moaning "but I'm just so tired!" - last week, and it ended up being a relatively horrible week, where I felt at the bottom of my own ability to cope. 

This week is a new start.  This is not the most exciting weekend in the world, but it was the one I needed.  I'm not leaping into lakes, or attending gallery openings, or hosting marvelous parties, or taking a class, or changing the world, but I am restoring my soul, and if that allows me to have a better week next week, with its long to-do lists, then so be it.  I'll do those life-affirming things later, too...just not this weekend.

Readers, what do you do that makes your life harder?  I know I'm not the only one who knows better but makes mistakes anyway.  What are your default mistakes when you're feeling worn down?

What do you need to do to make your life run more smoothly?  What do you recommend that I do to make my life run more smoothly?

Do you, like me, find that everything just feels pessimistic and frightening when you're tired?  What do you do when that happens?  How do you manage?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Alternate Endings

I celebrated my cancerversary (the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis) last week, in the middle of an already rough week.  It's hard to relive those particular memories, and all of the pain associated with the diagnosis and subsequent years of treatment.

I posted a note on Facebook about how many years I'd been cancer free, and received a lovely series of replies from friends and family congratulating me on my good health.  One of those was from the husband of a friend of mine. His wife was diagnosed a year and a half ago, and she came to me when she got sick, looking for information and inspiration.  Last year, she stood up in front of my church congregation and thanked me publicly for my inspiration, using the words, "You are a hero to me," and it caught me so off guard that I sobbed.

She died six months ago, leaving behind two young children.  One of those children is close in age to Katherine, and the other is so young that he will never remember his mother.  Her husband's congratulations were among the most gracious I have ever received, because though I know he's glad for me, he'd likely trade me in a heartbeat for his soulmate's life.

And that's not all.

Today I bumped into the friend of a friend who has been fighting cancer; the mutual friend and I were diagnosed around the same time and went through early treatment together, with the notable difference that I got better, but her cancer metastacized.  Her cancer is throughout her body, and she's been on chemo nonstop for seven years.  Her time is coming, and there is no way around it.  She was hours from death recently, and hospital interventions saved her, but the end is near.  Our mutual friend wept as she told me.  She asked, more dumbfounded than cruel, "How come you are healthy and she is dying?"

These stories sit in the marrow of my bones, along with others like them.

It could have been me.  It could have been you.

Seven years after my cancer diagnosis, and my hair touches the brastrap across my back - longer than it was before I got sick.  I have several feet of scarring related to cancer covering my body, but the scars are no longer bright red, and some of them have faded so much that it's hard to find them.  I lost two breasts, and while I still miss them, I have two new very perky breasts in their place.  I used to go to the doctor five or ten times per week, and now I go a couple times per year.

But it could have been very different.

My daughter knows who I am, and even if I died tomorrow (not in the plans, thank you very much!), she would remember me, and she would remember how deeply I love her.  I have made sure of that.  Every time I kiss her goodnight, it is a victory.  I nearly missed ever reading the children's classics to her, but we've read the Little House series and Pollyanna together, we've read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm together, we're reading Anne of Green Gables.  There was a time when she was a baby that I looked forward to reading things like that with her, and there was a time when I thought we'd never get to do that together.

I do not have the luxury of taking these things for granted.  Every time I show up for a class graduation, every time we go camping, every time we sit down to dinner, there is a part of me that is aware that I nearly lost it all.

Why is it that some live, and some die?


I look at happy marriages and think "That could have been me."

I recently read a post on Big Little Wolf's Daily Plate of Crazy about What Makes Men Tick.  The article was interesting, but it was a comment by someone named Zammo that had me spinning.  (Take a moment, check it out.)  He gave a list of what "all" men wanted from marriage, a formula if you will for a successful marriage.  It made me want to scream, because *I followed the forumula and it didn't work.*  If Zammo was right, then my marriage would be happily skipping along right now, because I did everything that I was *supposed* to do....but the damn marriage failed anyway.

I wrote a point by point refutation of what Zammo said, proving that he was wrong by the example of my own life, and then I deleted it.  I realized there was no point.  My life is what it is.  It defies simplistic logic.

I recently spent time with two different families; functional, lovely families.  I watched how they worked together, how they played together, how they parented together, how they laughed together.  I watched how they watched each other when they thought the other wasn't looking.  I saw admiration, love, respect.

It could have been me.  I wanted it to be me.

Katherine was with me, and I saw her watching, too.  It could have been us.

The longing of those moments still feels like a tightening in my chest and water in the back of my throat and a tensing of my neck.  It's a physical longing.  It is the feeling of sobbing, without tears or movement, but that gasping tightness.


I wore lingerie.  I kept our home beautiful on a shoestring.  I asked about his day, and meant it.  I did without, so that he could have more.  I kept myself attractive.  I encouraged sex.  I held my own outside interests.  I encouraged his interests.  I encouraged him to pursue his dreams.  I asked for little. I made time for the two of us, outside of family life.  I managed the home.  I was frugal.

And it wasn't enough to save our marriage.


We all know that every story might have alternate endings.

What if I'd died from my cancer?
What if I lived in a third world country?
What if I didn't have an education?
What if I was older, or younger?
What if I'd never had a child?
What if I was rich, instead of broke?
What if I had majored in creative writing, instead of economics?
What if I'd married the man who wanted to take me on his yacht around the Aegean?
What if I'd never have married Bryan?
What if I wasn't an optimist?

The questions are unanswerable.


I do not know why I got cancer, even though I was height weight proportionate, exercised, breastfed my baby, ate organic, slept in a dark room.  (The counter to each of these is a breast cancer risk, according to some.)

I do not know why I appear to have survived cancer, as I watch others die from it.

I do not know why my marriage had to fail, when it might have thrived, when I willed it with every fiber of my being to thrive.


There are no answers, of course.

I am alive, and I have friends that are dead or dying.  There is no good explanation for this, and if there is, I dare you to tell it to a woman on her deathbed.  Why me, and not them?

I am divorcing, despite all the love, care and attention I tried to give my marriage.  I've seen others who don't work nearly as hard at their marriages as I did, and yet those marriages are thriving.  Why them, and not me?


I don't know why I didn't get the alternate endings, good or bad.

But I do know this.

I am going to suck the marrow from life.  When it comes time for me to die, I will say that I have lived.

I am not going to waste my second chances.

I will be more fully myself than ever before, because I am alive, and I get that chance.  I will live my life with more love than ever before, because my painful marriage ended, and so I get another chance.  I will develop more fully, because of the pain I've lived through.

I'm alive.  And I am so damn grateful to be alive, despite it all, that I can't frame words around it.  It is GOOD to be alive, and I don't forget it, even when I'm tired, overwhelmed, frightened.


And because I love it, and because it says more about pain than any other poem I know, I'll leave you with this last thought before I ask for your input.  Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.


Readers, what alternate endings do you think about?  How do you explain why things went one way, when they might have gone another?  How do you make peace with a world that is so topsy-turvy?

And most importantly - how do you reconcile the fortune of one person with the misfortune of another?  How do you live with the fact that the Indian is dead at the side of the road, while you ride the bus?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts; I look forward to hearing them.