Thursday, January 31, 2013

PollyAnna, Baby.

DEEEP breaths.  I'm PollyAnna.  I am strong and brave and optimistic, even in the face of adversity.

Ultrasound tomorrow, then we will rule this out as fat necrosis or something else that is boring and non-malignant, and I can move on.

I am busy living my life.  I have things to do.  This is not my new cancer life, this is my fabulous life where cancer and divorce are behind me.  Right?  Right!

Thank you for your continued prayers.  That little spot under my right breast (in the survivor world we call them foobs - fake boobs; I had a double mastectomy) is NOTHING.  I will it to be so.

And I'm praying.  Thanks for your continued thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I'm home from the oncologist.  There's a weird spot under my "good" breast, and I need follow up.

Bring on the panic attacks.

It's "probably nothing."  But when you've heard that before and then you have 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 33 rounds of radiation, fifteen surgeries, and a LOT of side-effect-inducing scary meds for six years, well, "probably nothing" isn't enough to bring my blood pressure down.

So, I'm scheduling an ultrasound.  If you pray, please pray for me.  If you don't pray, consider it.  I also take white light, thoughts, karma, candle-lighting, and good wishes.

It is hard for me to function when I go down this path.  I've been down this path before.  Sometimes it ends with surgery (twice so far).

There's a lesson in this, there's something for me.  Okay, life, I'm listening.

I'm so tired.


Yes, I'm back to breathing exercises.

Today is my annual appointment with my oncologist.  Walking in the building makes me shake slightly - and I don't mean that as a metaphor.  My heart races, and when they take my blood pressure they will say "WHAT?!" and I will have them check my chart, because the chart will show that my blood pressure is high every time I go there, but not when I go to the endocrinologist to get my thyroid checked, or to my G.P. to have my annual exam or whatnot.  The building where I had chemo and radiation puts a pit in my stomach.

Today it's a bit harder than usual because after my appointment I'm going to sit in the chemo area with a friend of mine who was diagnosed recently.  Today is her second chemo treatment.  It makes me ill to think of what she's going through, and as I typed that sentence my stomach lurched. 

Deep breaths.

Work is a bit crazy right now and it's up to me to rein it in. All is well ,but a lot of balls in the air, a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of work to be done.

Deep breaths.

This weekend I'm going skiing for the first time in more than a decade, and introducing Katherine to the sport.  I'm excited - this is what I want for us, physical activity outside, gaining skills, having fun, being with friends - but frankly I'm so worn out that the idea of just packing the car for the trip makes me want to cry!  I'll get there, and I'll figure it out....but it's wearing.

Deep breaths.

And I'm taking a little break from dating.  I went on three dates in just over a week, but I cancelled the next one, because it's all taking too much energy.  I was right and Mr. Chocolate sent me the let-down message, and in his message he confessed that he'd sent me mixed signals and that he was "really crappy at communication and stuff" and I felt a huge sense of relief because I'd dodged that bullet.  I don't want an man who needs to be taught how to communicate with the world, and he was right, mixed signals galore and terrible communication.  A good guy, but proof that he's not my guy.

Deep breaths.

So, off I am, going about my day.  Tired.  Worried.  Busy.  I did my morning run.  I got my girl out the door.  I wore my new dress, that feels so good when I put it on, so that when I walk into that chemo ward I will be tap tapping in my high heels, and it will be clear that I DO NOT BELONG THERE.  My long hair brushes my brastrap, and my outfit declares I AM A WOMAN WITH CONFIDENCE AND STYLE, and not I'm sick and hurting.

Deep breaths.  Off I go.

Monday, January 28, 2013


All these posts in one day....

This evening I am contemplating rejection: both giving it and receive it.  I'm feeling like Mr. Chocolate's lack of response today is likely a rejection (especially because I logged into OkCupid and saw that he was online, but I haven't heard from him), and I've also handed out some rejection myself.

I've gotten used to rejecting strangers to the degree where it's not too hard: the creepy guys get ignored, the cut-and-paste intro messages get ignored; the thoughtful guys that still don't interest me receive a direct response that thanks them for their message, tells them it's not a match, and wishes them well.

But today I had to reject a nice man that I'd met in person - Mr. Vanilla.  He's one of the good guys, will likely make some woman a very nice girlfriend, but he isn't for me.  Some of it is timing - he's mourning the results of his divorce, and maybe it would be different for me if he were in a different stage of things.  But some of it is just pure chemistry, of which I felt none.

What is it with chemistry?  I can just feel it - before a word is spoken.  And I don't just mean good looking people or sexual's something else.  I've had chemistry with ordinary looking men, and I've had no chemistry with handsome men (although of course chemistry with a handsome man is very nice).  It's either there, or it isn't, and nothing I can do can create it if it doesn't exist in its own right.

(Case in point: Bryan.  I felt no chemistry whatsoever when I met him.  I created it.  Look how that turned out!  Great kid, terrible relationship.  I'm done having kids, so I think it's safe to keep to the guys who have chemistry now.)

I suspect that the silence, or even the hesitation, from Chocolate is that he's not feeling chemistry.  That's too bad, because he's the first person I've met in person where there was still chemistry, and it was very pleasant - not mind blowing, but pleasant.

But this post - bringing it back - is about rejection, and I have decided that chemistry and rejection are directly related.  I have turned down multiple "nice guys" because there just isn't chemistry, and I've been turned down online (and now perhaps here, in person, with Chocolate) because they don't feel chemistry with me.

And here's what I'm leading up to:

It's okay.

I would love it if everyone flocked to me and I got to pick anyone I wanted and have perfect chemistry, but let's face it, that would be very time consuming and I don't have that kind of time.  Chemistry is elusive, and that is what makes it special. 

I believe that rejection is just built into the process, and it eliminates the guys who do not see how wonderful and amazing I am.  Every single person on the planet deserves to be deemed wonderful and amazing - "a catch" if you will - and if a guy doesn't see me that way, then I don't want him in my life.  I don't want to date guys who think I'm "nice", I want to date guys who feel like I'm something really special. 

So, when someone rejects me, or I reject someone, the message isn't "you suck and you don't deserve love."  I think the message is, "I'm not the one - the chemistry isn't there.  Hold out for someone with whom you create sparks!"

I'm holding out for sparks.  A whole bonfire, actually.  No, the sun.  Supernovas.  Meteor showers.  Aurora borealis.  I want it all, and if I don't inspire anything close to a flame in someone, then they're doing a favor if they back off, because they're freeing me to find what I really want.  And when I "reject" a nice guy, I'm not dismissing his worth, I'm freeing him to find the girl of his dreams.  I know it's not me, because I'm just not that into him - and the girl of his dreams should definitely be into him.

Nobody likes to be rejected.  Not me, either.  But there really is something powerful and amazing in a rejection, as it's so much kinder than being strung along or accepting less than one deserves.

So, tonight, no Chocolate for me, and I've said goodbye to Vanilla.  Both of them stung a little - I'm not used to telling good guys that it won't work, I'm used to making things work with what I'm given - but ultimately, I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track.  It feels right....and that's its own kind of chemistry.


I got a message from Mr. Chocolate saying he has to postpone, and my gut says that he's getting cold feet.  But I got a message from Mr. Vanilla saying he'd like to see me again.

Ah well.

Mr. I-don't-know-yet and I are supposed to get together soon to go to an art museum. 

But frankly I'm kind of worn out from all of it, and feeling a bit of a need to duck under the covers and rest a bit.  All is well, I'm not sad or depressed or upset.... all of this is just tiring me out!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clearly insane

I can talk the talk, but tonight I struggle to walk the walk.

Mr. Chocolate hasn't contacted me this evening, and my mind goes to the worst.  He was just being polite, and there wasn't really a connection.  And that means that nobody will ever like me and I will be alone forever and I will never have sex again because I'm horribly unattractive and unlikeable.  All this for a guy I talked to for an hour THIS MORNING.

Umm, right.  That is the kind of crazy I'm talking about here.  The kind of thinking that, if my daughter said it, would send me through the roof with frustration because it's crazy talk.

So, the good news:
I have no intention of texting or emailing him to check in, possibly repeatedly, because that's a horrible idea.
I went ahead and made a date with someone completely different, even though part of me wants to explore the possibilities with Mr. Chocolate and set aside others, because that's crazy talk, and the new guy looks interesting, too.
I'm remembering that guys don't define me, etc. etc., even though these crazy thoughts are goign through my head.

Seriously, am I hormonal?  I'm behaving like an adolescent girl?  Well, not quite....I'm only THINKING like an adolescent girl.  Fortunately, I'm still behaving like a woman in control.  (Except here, where I tell you everything.  But you won't tell on me, will you?  Thanks.)

Chocolate and Vanilla

Date number two was vanilla.  Very pleasant, and I had a nice time.

Date number one might have been chocolate (my favorite, but not a reference to race or anything other than delicious desserts).  It left me wanting more....

And we made plans to see one another again on Wednesday for dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This will be my first second date since re-entering the dating pool.  He was more attractive in person than in his photos - now there is a first!  But he's also kind, thoughtful, and interesting.  I fear I babbled on (and on and on and on) but it felt comfortable anyway.  I am awaiting his next move, with locations etc. on email, and we'll see where it goes from there.

And there is a third gentleman who has come on the scene, who has invited me to visit the art museum with him.

I'm baaaaa-aaaack!


Silly ego boosts aside, I don't forget a few things:
1)  I need to move slowly.  I've learned a lot over the years, and I can't throw it all out in a rush of hormones.
2)  Anything could happen, including nothing.  Only time will tell.  He could get cold feet, or the second date might reveal his penchant for wearing women's underwear, or who knows what.
3)  I am not what these men think of me, positive or negative.

Feeling happy.  :-)

I'll keep you tuned.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Double dipping

Okay, pardon me for laughing, but I can't stop.  I've got the giggles, actually.

I have not one but TWO dates tomorrow.

Me!  Two dates.  TWO!

Just coffee.  But both guys seem like good people, generally suit what I'm looking for.

It's good for a girl's ego, I tell you.


But tonight I also tackled a giant stack of paperwork, paid bills, checked out my bank balance and my budget after studiously avoiding them for a while.  A quiet evening at home is just what I needed, and my house appreciated a little TLC, and I'm feeling more on top of my business.

I am feeling pretty darned good.


Two dates.  In one day.  Who would have thought it?!

Boy Crazy

I am having an awful lot of fun being boy-crazy lately.  But my forty-something boy-craziness is very different that the boy-craziness of my youth - I think mostly because I have a sense of humor about it, and because none of my self worth is tied up in the results.

As I've mentioned here before, when I was younger I would agonize over men's responses to me.  If they didn't like me, I was sure that it was because I was flawed, unattractive, and unlovable: I thought I was unworthy of love, and that the fact that some guy wasn't into me was absolute proof of that.

Yuck.  And would you want to date someone who felt like that about him/herself?  I'm sure that the signals I sent out were needy....and worse.  I talked the talk, but I didn't walk the walk.  I chased after guys that I didn't even really like that much, because it made me feel good about myself (or at least less bad about myself) if they changed their minds and decided that they liked me after all.  Needless to say, that didn't create rock-solid foundations for relationships!

Worst of all, I had no idea I was doing it that way, and I would have argued  all day that I wasn't behaving that way.  I would have been wrong.

So, fast forward twenty years, and things are different.  I've had some pretty serious tests in my life, cancer first among them, and I know a thing or two about myself.  I wouldn't recommend cancer as a way of finding yourself, but I suppose that it's better than not finding yourself at all.  Cancer brought out all kinds of things in me, and I started to hear - round the clock, even when I wasn't doing anything to prove anything to anyone, merely trying to fight for my life and be there for my daughter - that I was an inspiration.  That I was strong and courageous.  That I was amazing.

After a while, I think I finally started to see it in myself.  It was that belief in myself that ultimately allowed me to walk away from my broken marriage, even though I didn't have a job, even though I wasn't sure how I was going to make it work.  I believed in my own abilities, and knew that I had what it took, even if I wasn't sure what "it" meant.

And it turns out all those things I learned about myself along the way are directly impacting my dating life now, and it's almost comical how the little light goes on in my head - self-knowledge - and how the world seems to notice it right away, and how things happen as a result of that.

I walked out of my divorce feeling twenty pounds lighter.  (I jokingly say 250 pounds lighter, corresponding to my ex's (over)weight....)  I didn't change anything on my OkCupid profile, but suddenly, corresponding to my feelings about dating, there are men all over the place.  Yesterday I got ten - TEN! - OkCupid messages, and several of them were actually from interesting guys.  (Attractive men who didn't leak all kinds of baggage across their profiles; literate men who appear to have interesting, together lives.)  I've been on the site for about a month, and never received that many messages in a day (excepting perhaps the first week when I was fresh meat on the website, and all the sharks smelled the blood in the water), and not from such high quality men.

Last week's coffee date didn't go anywhere, and I'm okay with that.  He was cool, as in not warm, in his interactions - didn't smile enough, didn't have any sparks, even though he was a really good man.  We exchanged a couple boring messages afterwards, and we both let it drop.  He sent the last message, and I didn't reply, because I don't need to chase anymore to prove anything to myself about my worth.

But my pheremones must be getting through the internet, because there really are plenty more fish in the sea.  I have a date tomorrow, and the possibility of two more on the horizon.  I don't hold much stock in them, and I have no expectations other than this: I'll learn how to talk to men.  I'll keep my dignity.  I'll try a new coffee shop or restaurant.  I'll learn a bit more about how people tick.  I'll have a good time, no matter how it goes.  If it clicks?  Wow - that would be cool!  But if it doesn't?  That's a-okay.

If I never meet Mr. Right, I'm still going to have a fantastic life.  And if I meet him?  Oh, that would be bliss.

So, right now I'm a little boy crazy.  I'm having so much fun checking OkCupid to see who has been checking me out, and reading their profiles, and choosing which messages I wish to reply to.  I'm a bit giggly about my dates, because it's just plain weird to be dating at this age, but my giggles are out of both the absurdity and the fun of it.

One day, I might meet someone worth a second date.

One day, I might even have sex again!

So pardon me if I'm just a wee bit boy crazy right now.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Part II: Life as a Working Mom

Last April I wrote Part I: Life as a Stay At Home Mom, and I told you to stay tuned for Part II: Life as a Working Mom.  Well, finally, here it is.

My friends and family have always told me that I have a lot of energy.  When I got sick and entered chemo etc., some people joked routinely that now I was behaving like a normal person in terms of how much I got accomplished.

Well, I don't know if that's true.  All I know is what needs to be done, and it seems like the list is never ending, and that my energy levels have nothing to do with it most days.  I don't allow myself to check in with my own energy levels most days, because it doesn't matter what I feel like doing, things have to be done anyway.  Denial is a very powerful tool!

Here's what my day looks like most weekdays:

4:30am - Alarm goes off.  Feed cat, feed dog, make coffee, empty dishwasher, put on workout clothes.
5am - Friend(s) arrive to work out.  Go for a run, yoga in basement, etc.
6:15am Guzzle coffee.  Jump in shower.  Put on a dress or skirt and blouse, do hair and teeth etc.
6:45am Climb into Katherine's bed - a challenge, given that she has bunkbeds and I'm wearing career attire - and read to her for 15 minutes to wake her up at a pace we can both manage.
7:00am - Make breakfast while Katherine gets dressed.  Prepare lunches for both of us (I bring a salad to work every day, while she prefers tortellini and a piece of fruit).  Get her to record the previous night's reading in the reading log, etc.
7:50am - Out the door together.  We walk to the corner together, then she turns one way to get to her school bus stop, and I go the other way to get to mine.
8:30am - 5:30pm - Work.
5:30pm - run for the bus, hope I'm not late
6:00pm - get home (sometimes this is 6:10 because of the bus, and so my first words to the nanny are "I'm sorry!").  Walk in the door with aching feet in high heels, kick them off, remove coat, set down laptop bag.....say hello to Katherine and goodbye to the nanny.  Katherine's first words to me are usually "What's for dinner?"
6:00-6:45 - clean up breakfast dishes (if the nanny didn't) and make dinner.  I aim for something healthy, fresh, and cheap.  (Tonight it's leftovers of chicken vegetable soup made earlier in the week, so all I have to do is reheat it - wahoooo!  Katherine won't love it but it won't kill her, and I love it.)
6:45pm - Eat, seated at the table with my girl, talk about the day.
7:15pm - Katherine's "free time" while I clean the kitchen, look at the mail, etc.  (She clears the plates/loads the dishwasher.)  Check in about her homework, make sure she did it while the nanny was here, help her with anything that didn't get done or she had questions about.
8pm - Start getting Katherine ready for bed - bath or shower, PJ's, etc.
8:30pm - I get in my PJ's too, and we both read for a half hour
9:00pm - lights' out for Katherine.  Sometimes I run a load of laundry, pay bills, etc, sometimes I read or surf OkCupid.  Sometimes I fall asleep with the lights on.

Wednesday nights Katherine is with her dad until 7:30, but he often brings her home at 7.  That means that I get a whopping 45-60 minutes to myself, and I usually run an errand downtown or come home and eat something microwaved and then vege in front of the TV for 30 minutes....watching about half of a TV show, usually.

I can not believe how regimented our routines are, and how if they get bumped by 15 minutes everything falls apart.  If we get to bed late, even a bit, Katherine moves slower in the morning and is crabby with me and then we risk being late for our buses.  If I'm fifteen minutes late coming home in the evening, we're both crabby because we're hungry and tired (and I have to pay the nanny more).

Friday nights I try to do something with friends at one of our homes - order takeout here and the kids watch a movie, or potluck something, etc.  Saturdays I try to have fun, even though sometimes all I want to do is sleep, but that's my main day to go hiking or snowshoeing, or go to an event, or get together with friends, or host a party.  Sundays I clean the house, make next week's menus, and go grocery shopping and do any other shopping (my girl keeps growing out of her clothes and there are always birthday parties etc.) that needs doing.  Plus I teach Sunday school at our UU church in the mornings.  I try to be done by 3pm with chores etc. so that I can have some downtime in the evening, and then it's my movie night with Katherine and feels like the only night we don't have a million things to do....but often this is interrupted by real life, such as my parents coming over for dinner or something (and then I feel like the whole week starts from behind).

Every other weekend I don't have Katherine with me, and so instead of pumpkin patches or the science center or sledding I fit in a more adult hike or snowshoeing, or seeing live music, or going to a play.  I'm supposed to go skiing this Saturday, but I'm wondering if I should stay home and try to get a bit more organized around here, or possibly just sit in my PJs until noon instead.

If you've made it through this list, then congratulations, because it's not terribly entertaining.  It is, however, my reality.  It's not glamourous or romantic in the slightest.  I don't know how to fit in doctor's appointments or anything even remotely spontenous.  I try to fit in writing - either here, in my journal, or even (gasp!) more thoughtful pieces to work on my craft....but it doesn't happen more often than it does.

I have traded feeling like a second class citizen for being in charge of my own destiny.  I no longer have much of a garden, and my volunteering is squished to the edges too (the Sunday school thing, and I did the giving tree again, and I'm spending a half day on the school play helping out, and I'm doing the 3-Day this year and must fundraise for that...) instead of being front and center, and there is usually a giant basket of laundry that needs folding and I often hear "mom I don't have any pants" to which I have to say "honey look in the laundry room" and I have outfits that I don't wear even though they're favorites because they need ironing and I just don't have it in me to add ironing to my list (and I don't want ot pay for it at the cleaners).  I see my friends more on Facebook than I do in real life.

But it's still worth it.

I'm exhausted, but I'm happy.

For Katherine's birthday, it took every iota of energy in my being to get the presents, wrap them, decorate with streamers and banners, make sure the house was clean for the party, host all those little girls, and feed all of them.  Yesterday's after-work dinner was nearly the death of me, but I did it, and she loved it, and that is what matters.  I got the cupcakes made (by skipping the workout yesterday) and delivered them to school, and they were a hit.

I don't know how I'll date with a schedule like this.  I don't know how I'll feel after years of this - I've really only been doing it full time for less than a year.

But I'm doing it.  And I'm proud of it.  And it's worth it, even though it's difficult.  And I AM finding time for fun, even if it's not as much as I'd wish.

Not glamourous, but it's my life, and I'm glad for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

For the greater good

First: a tribute.  Today is Katherine's tenth birthday, and I just want to say for the millionth time how incredibly much I love, admire, respect, and cherish my daughter.  She is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I have no idea how I got so lucky as to have her.  She is kind and compassionate, thoughtful, loyal, and has more integrity in her pinky finger than most people have in their whole bodies.  She is a hard worker, and she is incredibly persistent.  She is the best friend in the world, and the close relationships she holds are beautiful to witness: there is no backbiting, no gossip, only a pure type of love that is rare and beautiful.  Once she has a friend, she keeps her forever - she's retained the friendships she's had since infancy, and they are more precious than ever.

She's incredible, and I am blessed.

Which is how I am getting to my second point.

My ex is not someone I trust.  When he talks to me, he is often rude and almost always abrasive.  He's quick to fly off the handle, even when I am doing backflips to be accomodating, and he doesn't care about throwing little temper tantrums in front of our daughter.  He still lies to me - small lies, sometimes meaningless, but I can't count on him.  He says he never saw the email, even though he replied to it directly.  He says I never told him, even though it's on our mutual calendar.  He shows up late to pick up our daughter, and delivers her home early.

Just typing that makes my stomach hurt.

Today, for her birthday, Katherine requested a dinner at our home with both of her parents.  I didn't hesitate and immediately told her that I'd love to do that for her.  (Okay, first I said, "Are you sure you don't want to pick a restaurant?" but she was clear, she wanted both of her parents in her home.)

And today I am feeling anxious and sad about it.

My ex is going to be in my house, and who knows what snarky rude things he will say to me.  Our daughter has requested dungeness crab - her favorite, and a veryveryvery rare treat - for dinner, and I can imagine him making snide remarks about the price, or complaining that I serve garlic butter instead of lemon butter (or vice versa), or taking all of the claws for himself.  I can imagine him helping himself to things from my kitchen, not just what I serve.  I can imagine that when I sit down he'll start requesting things from me.  I can imagine that when I say something intended to be pleasant, he will say something hurtful in response.  If I ask him how he is, he might say it's none of my business, and if I don't ask him, he might tell me that clearly I don't care about him.

It's a vicious cycle, and one I'm all too familiar with.

What's worse, is that it brings back so many bad memories dating to when I was pregnant and then the day of Katherine's birth.  I won't dwell on it, only say that he hurt me badly then.

Today he posted pictures of himself and our daugther, taken over the years, on his Facebook page in honor of her birthday.  The pictures are all very sweet, and I believe that all of them were taken by me.  They all show a smiling father and his beautiful child.  But people who see them don't know the back stories like I do: the one in a Santa hat that he appears to be so proud of was the day we got our Christmas tree and he didn't want to go and he thought the hats were stupid and I felt like I was two inches tall and I just wanted a happy Christmas experience and he kept snapping at me; the one on the hiking trail where he sulked and refused to walk with us and actually disappeared for two hours when we were by the lake and Katherine kept saying "where'd Daddy go?" and I didn't know and I was starting to wonder what I would do if I got back to the trailhead and the car was gone; the one at the Fourth of July Parade when it was too crowded and he was mad at me and he once again left and we didn't know where he was and he wouldn't pick up his cell phone and then when he did locate us he yelled at me and I cried when Katherine was out of earshot.  But nobody seeing the pictures would know that.  And they wouldn't know that I took those shots. 

A few people have told me flat out that having him come over is too much, that I'm crazy to let him into my life like that.  Well, on my own account, they're right.  There is a part of me that would like to tear nto him and give him a piece of my mind; there is a part of me that is crafting cutting retorts to his rudeness.

But I won't do it.  I will invite him in, I will smile, and I will serve him wine and crab and Caesar salad and garlic bread that I have purchased and prepared.  When he complains that it's taking too long and he's hungry (remember, he doesn't work, but I will be the one rushing home to turn these ingredients into a special meal after work) I will smile and say "would you like cheese and crackers while you wait?"  If he snaps at me, I will redirect my attention to Katherine and say "Tell me about your day at school, honey.  Did the class sing to you before the cupcakes?"  (The ones I made last night, frosted at 6 this morning, and then delivered before work to her school.)  I will dish up the crab on each plate from the kitchen, so that he will not take three of the four claws for himself.   (Katherine will get two because it's her birthday, he and I will each get one.)  If he gets really bad, I will look at him directly and say, "It's our daughter's birthday, and I refuse to ruin it, and hope you will make it good for her as well."

This turning the other cheek thing isn't for sissies.  It's at the exact moment that I want to slap the rudeness off his face that I need to lower my voice, and turn to view my daughter with loving eyes.  I am doing this for her, and for my own integrity, and not for Bryan.  He's enough of a fool that he won't even realize how hard I'm working at not taking his bait, and he will not be appreciative of my kindness to him.

Today, he comes, and as a gift to my daughter, I will feed him, serve him, clean up after him, welcome him, be kind to him, make smalltalk with him.  And I will do it as graciously as I am capable of doing so that it doesn't look forced, and so that I eliminate as much tension as possible.

Because that girl of mine?  She deserves it.

But I thank God that after dinner he will leave and go to his own residence, leaving me at peace in mine.

Happy Birthday, Katherine.  I hope that I honor you today, sweetheart.  May you never read these words, never know the extent of my anger, frustration, and disappointment in your dad.  And should you ever learn, may you know that my love for you is a thousand times bigger than my feelings for him, and you are worth it, every last bit of it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Crazy, Brave, or Something Else?

This weekend I threw a sleepover party for Katherine's tenth birthday.  Ten friends plus my daughter spent an afternoon, night, and morning together.

My friends' response to this was nearly unanimous: they said either "you're crazy!" or "you're so brave!"

I may be crazy, and I may be brave, but this is proof of neither.

I absolutely love that my daughter has such rich, deep, meaningful friendships - she's known many of these girls for her whole life.

I absolutely love that these families trust me with their children.

I absolutely love that my home can (barely!) fit such an abundance.

I love that in a world of consumerist craziness, my daughter's idea of heaven consists of a row of sleeping bags sandwiched together in a basement, lots of giggling, and home made birthday cake.

I love that I am not sick, and so I can find the energy to host such a gathering.

I love that I have my own relationships with each of these children, and so they listen to me.  Some came up and asked to help make breakfast (chocolate chip buttermilk pancakes, sausage - vegetarian and meaty, fruit, juice) and they measured and chatted and sang along with Brandi Carlisle with me as we cooked.

I love that my house is decorated with streamers, balloons, and happy birthday banners (one of which has been used every year since Katherine was one - it used to say "Happy First Birthday" and I cut out the word "First" to keep using it).

I love that I was able to say "Yes" when my daughter asked for a sleepover party.

I love that I am fully capable of doing it on my own. (Never mind that I'm on my fourth cup of coffee just to survive.)

I love that when the parents showed up for pick up and drop off, they said things like "My daughter has such a great time here" and "your home is so warm and inviting."  My house is not among the nicest in my friend group (it may be in the bottom half), but somehow....we always end up here.  I love that.

I love that one of my dearest friends, whom I have known since college, who does not have children of her own, came to help me with dinner and companionship, helping me to dish up tortellini and make caesar salad, because she has a special relationship with Katherine, too.  Another friend popped in after her date with her husband, and we shared some wine and conversation and laughter.  Wonderful.

I love that I felt strong enough to invite Bryan to come by to celebrate with our daughter.  I love that he said that he had no desire at all to attend....and that his refusal reminded me that it is actually easier to do these types of things without his growling presence.  (If he'd have come, I would have been pleased at the support that he was offering our girl.  His loss.)

I love that my life looks like these simple pleasures, that I have not lost sight of it in the midst of the pain of cancer or divorce.  I love that I know how to suck the marrow from life.  I love that I know how to enjoy a crazy sleepover, that my home was filled with laughing children, that my daughter has that kind of joy in her life.

It's not about bravery or insanity, it's about joy.  And I love that best of all.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cute, smart, and together


This morning I had a coffee date with someone I started talking to online about a week ago.  My first really-and-truly-I'm-divorced-now date, so I believe it sets the tone, and....

It was great!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not hearing wedding bells and I don't plan to drop my panties.  (Oh Lordy, what have I done?  Now if someone Googles "drop my panties" this site will come up.  Well, they'll be bored and they'll leave soon enough.)  But after a few real dud dates - guys that could not hold my interest for two minutes - it's absolutely lovely to meet someone and think, "Okay, this is the kind of person I can attract."

He's smart.  Kind.  Politically similar, similar world views.  An active dad.  Fit and healthy appearance.  Attractive.  Has his life together.

I'm going to wait to see if he contacts me again.  We didn't have sparks, as we stuck to "getting to know you" conversation, and at 8:30 in the morning over lattes for an hour it would be hard to know what might come next.  I know that I held my own, that it wasn't awkward, that I liked the way I presented myself.  I'm thrilled to think that maybe now I'm on the right track.

If he calls, he calls.  If he doesn't, he doesn't.  I will be okay either way, and this is not a make-it-or-break-it.

But if he calls, I'd go out with him again....for dinner!
(And, because the Universe likes me today, I also was contacted by another interesting looking gentleman.  Things are!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A time to be born

Spring is here!

Despite the frost and fog, I have reached a spring in my heart, and it is my time to laugh, to be born, to mend, to seek.


As of 2pm yesterday, I am officially divorced.  My girlfriends and I waited for my turn, and we actually got shushed in the courtroom, which was just perfect, because it made me feel like a giggly fourth-grader.

The divorce itself was very anticlimactic - a small handful of questions, perhaps two minutes in duration total, and the deed was done.  It took longer waiting in line to get certified copies than it did to actually get the divorce completed.

I stepped outside the courtroom, and felt free.  I celebrated with those beloved girlfriends, and we toasted to Bryan's future (may it be filled with all good things) as well as my own.  I bought a bottle of champagne to share, we ate French food, we admired the views, we laughed.  Two of us even went to see live music afterwards, and it was fantastic.

I have reclaimed my name (although the name changes at every institution I work with will take ages, at least Facebook and Gmail know my real name now).

It's behind me.  And I am well.  I'm on the first page of the next chapter of my life, and thrilled to be here.  How will the story unfold?

Well, I know how it unfolds this week.  Busy at work, lots of projects going on.  And this weekend is Katherine's sleepover birthday party at our home.  Perfect: I can focus on my beloved daughter and her silly friends, and the house will be filled with laughter.  No ghosts of sadness will be able to linger, because there will be too much joy for them to stick around.

Oh, and I have a coffee date tomorrow before work!  No expectations, just coffee.

My heart is light.  Wishing you, whereever you are, no matter how lonely, that you find your place.  Today, I am in mine, and it is a gift.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A time to weep

To everything there is a season, and today it is my time to mourn, weep, and rend.

We're finalizing all of the paperwork, making sure we haven't missed anything, and Bryan has been so sharp and rude to me (and if I'm honest, I'm also feeling particularly vulnerable and susceptible so his usual barbs hurt more than usual) that this morning before work I shed a few tears.  I'm trying so hard to be gracious and compassionate, and it looks sometimes as if he's not trying at all, and it still hurts.

After all this time, it still hurts.

The child in me wants to say, "But aren't I being good?" even though the woman in me knows that such pleading will get me nowhere, and that my own sense of self is the only reassurance I should be seeking.

Today, I am allowing myself to feel the sting.  Today, it hurts.  Yes, I'm crafting a brilliant life, filled with love, joy, peace, integrity, friendship, nature, health....but today, I'm facing down the failure of my marriage.

Today is the last full day of my married life.  Today is the last full day that I carry this name.

Today is not a day to remind myself that the marriage wasn't a failure if it brought forth my glorious daughter.  Today is a day to mourn.


Tomorrow I'm going running (yes, I've kept it up since November, and I'm getting stronger daily - I work out a minimum of four times per week now, often six times per week, once with a trainer and the rest mixing up running, yoga, small weights, etc.) and I intend to go faster, farther, harder than I've gone yet.  Usually I run and chat with my friends, but tomorrow I'm going to run ahead of them with my headset on and pound the pavement and listen to loud girl-power anthems.  I'll finish the run with "I will survive," an anthem of break-ups and cancer survivorship.

Then, I'm putting on my new outfit and getting it done.  I bought some fabulous, fabulous shoes and a knockout dress - one that makes me look like my body is nearly flawless (!) with curves in all the right places, but is still ladylike.  I will work a few hours in the morning, and then walk a few blocks to the courthouse to meet my friends, and complete the deal.  Tomorrow, I intend to be strong, powerful, feminine, and optimistic.  Tomorrow, I will be born again.

But today, I mourn.


To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers, light, and support.  It's a hard day.  I didn't want it to be hard any more, but there is no way around it.  Can't go over it, can't go under it, have to go through it.  Deep breaths...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

One Week

In one week at this time, I'll be walking to the courthouse to meet my girlfriends, those ones closest to my heart that have stood by me through all this, good and bad.  We will do whatever it is that one does to get a divorce on the actual day - I suspect, sit on benches, feel uncomfortable, and wonder how long it is going to take.  From everything I've heard, it's mostly a formality (albeit a very important one).

I am worried about the pain of being there, and I expect to cry a smidge.  But just a smidge.  I am working so incredibly hard at creating this brand new life for myself, and I'm not running away from my marriage, I'm running into the arms of my life, embracing it, spinning it around.  I'm going to squeeze that life of mine so hard it will gasp, and then we might just cry again.  We're alive! 

And then those beloved girlfriends of mine and I are going to keep going, wipe those sad and happy tears and help me fix my mascara, and then we're going out to a chic French restaurant.  French, of course, because I'm going to France this year (my first overseas in over a decade!), and I'm celebrating that.  Chic, because my life was very un-chic before, and I'm working on it now.  Progress!  High heels, pencil skirt, red lipstick.  But also tailored blazer and pearls, because we don't want anybody to get the wrong idea.  ;-)

And I've lined up two possible dates, with different men.  I am not sure yet if I'm going to go, but it's nice to have offers from decent guys.

And I've got Valentine's plans.  Dinner in, with the red tablecloth and white linen napkins, the china and silver and crystal.  Maybe lobster tails.  And incredible dates - oh, not those two men, but my daughter and a dear friend of hers.  The friend's parents will go on a "real" date, and I'll entertain those beautiful girls, and it will be a bit campy too, with paper heart doilies and maybe Frank Sinatra.  (Or One Direction and the Austin and Ally soundtrack, if my girls have anything to say about it.)

One week 'til D-day.  I can't wait to get it behind me.  I hope nothing happens to derail it.  I hope that I don't get waves of memories - on the beach in bare feet and a big white dress on our wedding day, moving into "our" house that is now "my" house, watching him hold our daughter for the first time - that make me break down and sob.  It could have been so very, very, very different, and now we'll never know.

But I can't stay there, mustn't dwell.  I've got Life waiting - and we've got a date.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Katherine is the most amazing person that I know.

Last night at dinner we were talking about our goals for the next year.  We discussed our upcoming trip to Paris.  She told me she wants to make things to sell on the internet to raise money for animal shelters.  (Anyone have a clue how to set up Ecommerce for a ten year old?!)

And I offhandedly said, "Well, since last year wasn't our favorite, this year will be better."  And then, fearful of her response but needing to know anyway, I said, "Was the day we told you that we were getting divorced the worst day of your life?"

"Hmmmmm," she replied, "That was bad.  But the worst day was every day in the second grade in the afternoons when I had to sit at that table with those horrible boys who kept distracting me and making it so hard to get my work done!"

I was skeptical.  She's emotionally intuitive - perhaps she was protecting me.  "Are you sure?" I asked, giving her that "Mama knows!" look.  She laughed at me.  "Oh, Mom, you worry too much.  I'm fine.  Why do you always worry about me?  And those boys were SO ANNOYING!  That was much worse."  And then she changed the subject - back to how to help the animals.

When I think about all of the things that have happened to me in my life, good and bad, this incredible child is at the top of my list.  I have certainly tried to model resilience to her, but this, this is beyond my hopes.  My heart is bursting with pride, amazement, and such dreams for our future together.

I really believe that she's okay.  Her dad has only been moved out for six months, and she is thriving.  She is joyful.  The is hopeful.  She's firmly grounded in the present, and she's got plans for the future.

Ahhh, that makes my heart sing.


On another note, interesting community-college-professor-dad and I are off the table.  We are on opposite kid schedules, and that isn't going to change.  Dating in my forties sure IS different than dating in my twenties!  What's more, I feel like I'm bored to death with online dating already, and I haven't even gotten started.  Ah well.  I like that it's low stakes for me, so no matter what happens on the dating front, all is well.  :-)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Online Dating

I remain at home with a stomach bug.  Disgusting - so not how I want to spend my time!

So, bored and restless, here I am.

I'm also hanging out on OkCupid, which is predictably boring during work hours.  But that place, while mend-bendingly weird, is also kind of fun for me.  I haven't had this much male attention since....well, it's been a while.  A long while.  And I'm fully aware that pixels do not a relationship make, and that none of this feels particularly real.

But here is a list of dealbreakers for me.  Gentlemen, avoid these pitfalls, and you might actually get some responses to you messages.

The easy ones, the cliches that are the joke of dating sites:
- The picture in the bathroom mirror.  Please. Just.  Don't.
- The shirtless ab photo.  If I wanted to see naked abs on guys I never intended to meet, I'd hang out on the Abercrombie website.  It just makes me think you're shallow and terribly unaware of what women want.  Well, what I want, anyway.
- The text-message style illiterate.

But here are a few more, just to amuse you:
- If you live on a different continent, I don't intend to date you.  Or get you a Green Card.
- If you are looking for a girl who believes that men should be the heads of household and that contraceptives are immoral, then why are you contacting a self proclaimed lefty liberal feminist?!
- No, you may not lick my feet.  Thanks for saying "hello" before you asked, but no.
- One message said, and I quote, from beginning to end, "your cute larry."  Actually, Larry, you're not mine, and you're not cute.  (Were I to have replied with that, I don't think Larry would have understood my joke.)
- Cut and paste messages or the word "hi" don't exactly get me all atwitter.
- In my profile I mentioned that I was a cancer survivor.  But the line in an intro message to me, " I want to eat your cancer when you turn black," was really, really creepy.  What does that mean?!
- Any message that tells me I'm sexy, hot, beautiful (usually with at least three adjectives) and nothing else is not getting a response from me.  Does that work on anyone?
- One gentleman contacted me and said he was too old for me (true), but he knew how negative men on these sites could be, so he wanted to tell me I had a nice profile.  Was this an attempt to give me sympathy?  Uh, sorry, but I've got plenty of attention here, I don't need your sympathy.  (Besides, Larry likes me, and some guy wants to lick my feet. So there.)
- Where on earth on my profile did I show a cougar?!  Guys almost 20 years  Same goes for guys 20 years older.  I'm sorry, I'm apparently not that open minded.
- I am happy for you that you and your wife have an open marriage.  But I don't want to be a part of it.
- I am sorry that your wife isn't good in bed.  I'm glad that you like her.  No, I will not sleep with you.  Please give me your wife's number so I can call her, I think there is something she'd like to know.

And this just in:  not a deal breaker but it cracked me up.  One question is about your relationship to your parents, and in the guy's response he said he liked to immolate his parents.  I'm pretty sure this is a spelling error and not a crime, but it made me laugh.

The good news?  There are nice guys out there.  Guys whose profiles do not scream "I am psychotic!" or "Heeeeey baby wanna doooooo it?"  Guys who are single fathers, who have jobs, who have outside interests.  Guys who are stumbling around trying to find joy, and peace, and meaning.  Guys who have their acts together, guys who show a picture of themselves hiking or waterskiing or on their snowboard, and a picture of themselves with friends around a table, and another on a travel adventure, and maybe one at the pumpkin patch with their kids.

I've yet to me the guy that curls my toes and makes me want to take it to the next level - I am just not having the "oh, he's cute" reaction to profiles.  There's one guy I've been "talking" to for a couple of days - a community college professor, a dad, a world traveler.  I can't decide if there are sparks.  But if there are, there are, and if there aren't, there are more fish in the sea.

I have to say, it is veeeerrrrrry different dating now than when I dated 20 years ago.

For one thing, this online thing is very handy.  There is no way I'm going to college parties, and the parties that I go to now often have a movie playing for the kids somewhere, and I'm the only unmarried there.  I have never been a good bar-girl - I'm highly suspicious of meeting inebriated strangers.  (Maybe I was listening to my mother after all.)  And searching for soul mates while home with the stomach flu and wearing my bathrobe - well, it's pretty convenient!  I can screen out the guys who say they're looking for casual sex - now that is really convenient - and the ones who profess great love for television shows but not actual life.  I can screen for politics (really, if you didn't vote for Obama, twice, then we are a very bad fit), and religious fanatics.  All very helpful.

But the rest of it is confusing.  How will I find time to date?  Still haven't figured that one out, and community college dad is on opposite weekends from me with his kids, so I may not be figuring out with him.  And how can I screen without being super shallow?  I get to see a couple of pictures, but I can't tell how real they are (last weekend's tea date was clearly showing me old photos - much thinner, younger photos).  I care about more than looks....but should I really screen out everyone under six feet tall?  I'm tall, and I am attracted to tall guys....but where do I draw the line?

Maybe I'll be able to meet real men one of these days, and maybe I'll figure out online dating.  But the beauty of all this -besides bathrobe flirtations - is that I am under no illusions that this has anything to do with my self worth.  When I get picked up on by lots of guys, it doesn't mean anything, and when I get ignored by someone, it doesn't mean anything.  My self worth has nothing to do with what random strangers on the internet think of me, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing to know.

Divorce: A How To Guide, Part II

I rattled off yesterday's post quickly before going to work, with my top of mind thoughts, and left out a great deal.  Given that I'm now home with the stomach flu (yuck!) I'll take my "bonus" time to expand on those thoughts.  It's a bit preachy (maybe a lot), and I recognize that my divorce is new and unproven - and yet I feel certain in my marrow that I am onto something here, and that within these ideas lies some deep truth.

Here goes.

I think that the reasons I'm feeling successful in my divorce are the following:
1)  I am committed to following my bliss, no excuses
2) I am working incredibly hard at creating that feeling of success
3) My feelings of success are not tied to my ex's actions

Following my bliss:

They don't call my PollyAnna for nothin'.  My best talent is my ability to find happiness in most situations, to find the silver lining and give it a good polish.  I have certainly worked hard to cultivate this talent, but still, perhaps it comes easier to me than others - I have no idea, knowing only my own experience with it.

Here's how I do it: I seek - over and over and over - experiences that will bring me joy, and I look hard to find joy in the tiniest of things.  I believe that finding joy is a skill like any other, and that practice makes it easier.

For example, I've made a routine of morning coffee that is simple, but deeply joyful to me.  When I wake up in the morning, I push aside the "oh no I have to get out of bed!" thought that comes first, and replace it with "ooohhhh I love coffee."  I brew my coffee, and close my eyes for a moment to inhale the aroma.  I choose my favorite cup every morning (I wash it daily of course), the one that feels great in my hand, that was a gift from a friend, that is my favorite color.  I force myself to get out of bed early for the pleasure of sitting in my favorite chair and drinking it in the quiet.  And the whole time, I focus on that simple pleasure, keeping my thoughts close at hand and not planning my day or worrying.  Five minutes to get the day started, doing something that doesn't require anything "special" but sets the tone for the day that follows. 

It is hard to be unhappy when one is sitting there reveling in a pleasure, when one starts the day with such a pleasure.

Of course, my "bliss" is a lot bigger than coffee in the morning - I am not lacking that much imagination.  I dream of travel, beaches, forests, art museums.  I dream of romantic love, too.  But I am focused on being happy in the here and now - in the music I listen to on my headphones as I bus to work, on the delicious avocado that is my favorite part of the spinach salad I bring to lunch daily. In the soft warmth of flannel sheets.  In the little snippets of information that my daughter shares with me, and the way her hair looks when the sun shines on it.  In beaches covered in frosty logs in the early morning.  In occassional girls' nights with wine and conversation.  In weekend trips to fall leaves or alpine lakes or snowshoeing, even if they're only for a few hours.  In fifteen minutes of reading in bed at night before I fall asleep, light on and book on my chest.  There is so much joy everywhere, waiting to be scooped up, and I am focused on finding every last bit of it.  At any given moment I could rattle off a long list of what is making me happy, because I have so much practice at cultivating that list. 

Today I am home with the stomach flu.  I threw up so hard I got a nosebleed.  (TMI, I know, sorry.)  But I'm so grateful for an understanding boss, for a cozy bed, for a dog that lays at my feet, and even for unexpected downtime.  I wish I felt better - I have such a long to-do list at work! - but there is even joy in the stomach flu if you look hard enough.

No excuses.  Go out there and grab your joy.  Follow your bliss.  Even if you have the flu.  Seek out every single reason, no matter how small, to feel joy.  All those drops of joy add up to an ocean.....unless you stop looking.

(Posted on Facebook today through "The Optimism Revolution" - a page I subscribe to.  I thought it hit on my message today, so I'm including it here.  My burning, big "yes" is joy.  Everything else needs to take a hike!)

Working Hard at Success:

My success is defined by my own personal combination of integrity and joy: if I feel like I am living my life with integrity and joy, then I'm successful.  I suppose everyone has their own definition of success, but that's mine, and it works for me.

And every day, after getting up before dawn to enjoy my coffee, to work out, and to get ready for the day; after spending the day working my rear end off at the office; after coming home to make dinner and sort the mail and help Katherine with homework and sweep up the tumbleweed dust bunnies....every day, as I fall exhausted into bed, instead of pining for more time and less responsibility, every night I am grateful to the tips of my toes that I'm able to pull this life of mine off.  I am PROUD of myself, and that is the dominant emotion.  Sure, I'd like a housecleaner and fewer hours in the office and time for a pedicure....but though those things might come one day, they do not get in the way of my joy NOW.  My pride is a great source of joy - I'm busting my butt to get the life I want, and though I wish I didn't have to work quite so hard, I know I have more than enough.  I know I am giving it my all, and it feels good to me.

My ex and I are opposites in just about every way, and perhaps this helps me to see my bliss more clearly.  He is unemployed, and has all the time in the world.  He never has Katherine on a school day, so he never has to get up early to pack her lunch etc.  He doesn't appear to care about housework or making healthy meals (he eats fast food).  He doesn't work out.  And I see how desperately unhappy he is, and how though he has the time I crave, I wouldn't trade places with him for the world.  Time and money don't create happiness - oh, they help, but they're not enough.

Katherine is not a morning person.  Actually, in the morning, she is a horrible grump, and no matter how early I wake her up or how long I let her sleep, she moves so slowly that we are almost late every single morning.  I fought this for years without success, and we would depart for our buses on grouchy terms with one another - me filled with frustration, her grumpy because I'd get snappy with her.  But instead of accepting this, I set my alarm back yet another 15 minutes, and now I wake Katherine up by climbing into her bed (already dressed in my work clothes - and let me tell you, a pencil skirt is not designed to climb a bunkbed ladder, but I've mostly figured it out!) and reading to her for the first fifteen minutes of her day.  I'm not a morning person either, and I'd love that 15 minutes of extra sleep, but it's worth it to me to put int he extra effort to start my day with my daughter on the right foot.  It's not easy....but it's easier than being grumpy.

I am putting in 110% at work because it helps me towards my dreams.  I'm putting in 110% of myself into my daughter, because nothing matters more to me.  I'm putting in 110% and getting up at 4:45am each day to work out at 5am because I care about my health, and because it makes me feel good to have accomplished it each day.  I'm putting myself 'out there' for online dating, even though I don't feel certain of that world, because I know I eventually hope to find true love and I must start somewhere.  I continue volunteering because I believe it changes the world, even if it's only in tiny increments, and because I believe it shows Katherine how to live our values.  And yes, it's hard work, and yes, I sometimes groan "what was I thinking" as I head to my responsibilities.  But I go anyway, because that hard work pays off with feelings of success - happiness.

And I put 200% in to being cordial with my ex.  I have to put extra into it because it does not come naturally to me any more, because he doesn't behave at all the way I wished he did.  But I know our daughter needs him, and she needs me to put in the effort.  If you think I wanted to serve my ex breakfast on Christmas morning, you're crazy!  But I served it, I smiled, and I cleaned it up again. ( I also saged the house the first opportunity I could after he left and when Katherine was elsewhere.  I don't feel positive about things when he's in the room, though I try.  The sage symbolically helped me to rid those feelings.  I had to take action of some kind - working hard to feel positive again.) 

It isn't easy.  I think the reason most people give up on joy is because it's so damn hard, actually.  It is "easier" for people to state the facts: they're tired, and lonely, and it's all horribly unfair.  Well, yup, true for me, too, as much as I hate to admit it.  But giving in to those facts doesn't serve anyone, least of all me.  I'm fighting them with everything in me: working out to get more energy, seeking friends and even dates to stave off loneliness (all the while accepting it....sort of), acknowledging that it isn't fair.  But in all that hard work, I find the other truth: that life is rich and meaningful and filled with possibility, that I am capable of true happiness, that today is more lovely than awful.

I do have an advantage, of course.  I've already been through cancer, and that was pretty unfair, but I lived through my worst nightmares and am here to tell the tale.  But I also lost friends who had tiny babies - friends who died of cancer before their children were old enough to even remember that they had a mother.  So that's pretty damn unfair, and I guess I'm the lucky one, and I should get out there and live the lives they didn't get to live.  I certainly have that perspective, and it's deep in my marrow.  Once you have stared your worst fears in the face, and done the impossible, doing other impossible tasks seems a bit easier.  (Silver lining of cancer.  Go figure!)

Getting divorced is a lot of work.  Finding joy is a lot of work.  Keeping integrity is a lot of work.  Do not use that as an excuse to get out of living your best life.  It's hard, there are many obstacles, and it's worth it.  Work hard to get what you are seeking.

My joy and integrity aren't tied to anyone else's actions.

I am responsible for my own behavior, no matter what anyone else does.

My ex yells.  He lies.  He denies.  He stonewalls.  He "forgets."  He has pretty much every unhealthy behavior in the book with alarming frequency.  It would be pretty easy to blame a lot of things on him.  I have lots of sympathetic friends and family members who wouldn't blame me for yelling at him or taking him for every penny or cutting him out entirely or something like that.

But that wouldn't hold integrity, and so I won't do it.

I could sob that I have to work so hard because of his screw ups - we had such a potential for a beautiful life, and he squandered it!  It would be true.

But it wouldn't give me joy to live in that mindset, so I won't do it.  (Okay, I've done it.  But I decided to stop.)

Nobody will blame you for holding anger at your ex, for blaming him for the problems that he clearly dumped into your lap.  You are likely quite justified.  He screwed up, and it left you stuck with his mess.  It sucks, no question about that.

But once you've had your pity party and sobbed, "It's so unfair!" get over it, and don't let his mess dictate how you live.

Smile at him.  Include him in communication.  When he yells at you, communicate calmly that yelling isn't okay, but don't engage.  Bite your tongue until it bleeds if necessary, but hold in that cutting (but so true!) comment.

Let him do what he must do.  Don't let it dictate what you must do.

Financially, work hard towards financial independence.  My ex is financially unreliable and has been for years.  Though I need his assistance still, I'm also determined to live so that I do not.  I'm working on my next raise, working on keeping my expenses low, so that if he bails on me, I'll be okay.  Easier for some than others but a worthy goal for all.  (Again, I'm grateful for my skills, education, and network.  Amen.)

And choose the life you want.  Choose happiness.  Anne Frank said, "Despite it all, I believe that people are good."  Viktor Frankl said a million things on the subject, but I'll close with this one:

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Viktor E. Frankl


(Really, read Frankl.  He's brilliant.  Here's a smattering of his ideas that might help you through the tough times.  If he could hold these attitudes through concentration camps, perhaps I can hold them through divorce.  Comparably, my life is a cakewalk.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Divorce: A How To Guide

A friend of mine is in a bad marriage that makes her feel small, powerless, and angry.  She wants to get divorced, but she feels stuck: she's been a stay at home mom for years, there are elementary aged children involved, and she doesn't know how to get out.  This post is dedicated to her. 


I believe that I am having a very successful divorce.  My definition of success is this: even though my ex has not changed (he is not suddenly reliable, reasonable, etc.) in the divorce process, our interactions are more positive now than they were when we were divorced.  Our daughter is thriving.  I've pulled myself up by my bootstraps and I'm managing my finances.  Most of all - I'm happy.  So, well aware that it was difficult to get here, I'm sharing my lessons, the ones I learned the hard way, in the hope that they will help others to ease their journeys.

So - here's how I did it.  If you're stuck, like my friend, here's what I recommend you do.  It worked for me!

1.  Learn everything you can about creating a sane divorce.  My favorite book on the subject is The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons.  Dr. Ahrons is clear that divorce is not good, but some divorces are better than others.  Her book is geared towards parents who wish to offer their children the best in a bad situation, and I think she is a calm voice in the often antagonistic world of divorce literature.  Want to learn how not to divorce?  Go to The Huffington Post's divorce section and read the comments for just about any post.  It appears that 99% of the people there are miserable about the state of humanity in general.  Listen to what they say, and decide to do the opposite of that!

2.  Get very, very, very clear about what you want.  I decided that I wanted to live in integrity and joy, and that every decision I made had to be based in those two things.  Yelling at my ex, for example, is neither full of integrity or joy.  Biting my tongue for the sake of our daughter does have integrity, and the resultant feelings it evokes in her give me joy.  You think this is easy?  Just try it - it's really, really hard.  But the rewards are worth it, and it does get easier over time.

3.  Learn how to communicate clearly, with healthy boundaries, and no attachment to your ex's response.  This means keeping your voice calm, stating your needs very clearly ("When you do not show up on time to pick up our daughter, it hurts her feelings and also inconveniences me.  Will you agree to be on time in the future?")  Do not lecture (say one sentence clearly, then stop) and do not worry about their angry response (I often hear "You never asked me!" or "Nobody told me that!" when he flakes out; this, despite the fact that I have proof in email - with his responses - that this is not the case.).  State your need clearly, then walk away.  Know that their response is about their relationship to the world - they yell because they hurt or are angry in general, not because you're a bad person.  Refuse to get sucked in to the drama.  Refuse to play the game with passive aggressive responses, withholding information, your own surly tone.  Be clear and reasonable.

4.  Live in total integrity.  Model to your ex how it is done.  Be gracious.  Make sure you reach out and inform him/her about details of your child's life.  Smile and exchange pleasantries.  Say nice things about your ex to the child/ren.  Show up on time, communicate clearly, do what you say you are going to do.  Give or receive appropriate child support, but do not ask for more than is reasonable, and don't forget to pay.  Absolutely refuse to be petty.  Do this for yourself if you can't do it for your ex.

5.  Teach your friends and family how to manage your divorce.  Refuse to ex-bash in public.  Tell your friends and family that they are welcome to keep your ex in their lives, and assure them that as the mother/father of your child, you do not want them to become outcasts.  Reach out to your inlaws and tell them that you are sorry it has come to this and that you will honor their son/daughter/brother/sister despite the marriage ending, and that you want them to be a part of your child's life.  Tell them that you will be flexible about family birthdays and such because you want your child/ren to keep in close contact with extended family.  CC: your ex on emails to teachers and doctors, and say directly "We're divorced but we like to work together for the sake of our child, so please include both of us" and smile as you say it.  Don't put others in an awkward position, and show them you can handle it.  It's good for you, trust me.

6.  Help your child/ren do nice things for your ex.  Buy birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day/Father's Day gifts or cards, or help them make gifts.  Do this with a smile on your face, and plan it in advance.  Be excited for your child/ren when they do something cool with your ex.  "Dad took you to your favorite restaurant?  Oh, that's great!  Did you get a milkshake, too?  Lucky girl, I know how much you enjoy that.  That was sure nice of Daddy."  Do this for your children because they deserve to show love for BOTH of their parents, but also do it for yourself, because it feels so good to see the relief and openness on your child's face when they realize it's still safe to love both of you.

7.  When your ex totally loses his/her cool with you, say, "I can see you are very upset.  When you want to talk calmly with me, I will welcome that conversation," and walk away.

8.  Get out there and live your joy.  You are getting divorced because your marriage made you miserable, so REFUSE TO BE MISERABLE.  This is your life, so go do something about it.  Get good sleep - it's incredible what a difference it makes.  Eat healthy food.  Get outdoors.  Move your body.  Reach out to friends.  Do some volunteer work (nothing will humble you more, and nothing will fill your soul more - this is particularly true when you feel like your own finances are in shambles and your own life is impossible - give to a cause you believe in with your time, include the kids if you like, and you will be amazed at how much you get from the experience and how it will pull you out of your icky mindset).  Go see some live music (or invite friends to create some together).  Make art, whether it's paper snowflakes or a grand sculpture.  Find a spiritual community (church, synagogue, meditation center, etc.) and get involved.  Join a sports team, a sewing circle, a bookclub, or whatever floats your boat that makes you feel alive and connected.  Notice something about my list?  Nothing on it costs money.  Stop using excuses as to why you aren't doing those things and how your life is too busy.  All of our lives are too busy, but we choose what to be busy with.  If you can't do the things that bring you joy, then ending your marriage isn't going to help you at all, it's just going to trade one set of misery for another.

9.  Take care of your physical self.  Wear the cute jeans, the t-shirt that fits well.  Get some exercise to get your blood moving.  Get a new haircut, or a pedicure, or some sexy underwear.  Step up the way you dress a bit (I've grown fond of wearing heels for the way they make me feel feminine).  A little attention - a door held open, a smile - from the opposite sex goes a long way on a bad day.  A little bounce in your step from knowing you look your best will do wonders for your mood.  Put in a bit of effort.  On days when you just can't gather the energy to put in the effort, do it anyway, because those are the days it helps the most.  Do not do this for anyone except yourself - you're not doing it to please others or to lure a new mate, you're doing it to feel good.  And you have to feel good to keep the courage up to get through this.

10.  Decide how much you are willing to give up to live your authentic life.  I have a friend who told me that the day she realized that if she had to move into her parents' basement with her kids it was still worth it was the day she realized she needed a divorce.  She is still happily living in her nice home with her kids (and she's divorced now), and never had to move, but her willingness to give it all up and to take a risk ultimately allowed her to move towards her best life.  What do you want more: the Nordstrom card or your independence?  The nice house, or a healthy life?  What's more important to you: modeling healthy behavior, or signing up your kids for ski school?  Make your decision and stick to it.  It will hurt.  But it will also pay off.

11.  Take a leap of faith.  If you know that your marriage is over, that you are utterly done, then end it.  I told my ex that our marriage was over when I hadn't worked a full time job in nine years, and we were broke, and I had no idea how to move my life forward.  I suggested living in the house (upstairs/downstairs) for 14 months, and we put a date on the calendar for him to move out.  We started telling people we were divorcing, and that I was going back to work.  It took me 10 months to figure out stable work (not without some ups and downs), and then the last 4 months I saved 100% of the income from my new job; he got half of it to move out, I got half of it to get my end of things together (buying some things to replace what he took, etc.).  I had some heart attacks along the way, I was so scared that I would never figure out my life, and I certainly imagined living in my parents' basement, or working in a minimum wage job (humbling because of my education and work history)...but it didn't come to that.  And having a date on the calendar sure lit a fire under me...I knew I *had* to figure it out, and so I did.  A little dose of fear is a big motivator!

12.  Remember that it gets better.  If your marriage is ugly, as mine was, then you're already living in a form of hell.  To get out, you have to trade one version of hell (the bad marriage) for another (the fear and uncertainty of change, financially and for the children)....but the difference is, this new version is temporary, and offers hope on the other side.  Divorce IS hard.  Sometimes it feels impossibly hard, actually.  There were days, weeks, and months when I thought I'd never make it, and from what I hear, that's pretty normal.  But the truth is that people make it all the time, that divorce is NOT the end of the world, and that you can come out on the other side filled with joie de vivre and hope, and that your children can thrive.  If you think that the change is hard, you're right....but staying in an unhealthy relationship is harder, if you ask me.

My finances are okay.  My daughter is well.  I love my job.  I have hope for the future, and the present is pretty damned good too.  If I was married, I don't think I'd be okay at all.  So, you tell me, which is harder?  I am so glad that I took that leap of faith, that I let my hope be bigger than my fear, and made the changes necessary to my happiness.  It's not perfect, there is still much work to be done....but I'm well on my way.

If you are struggling with the decision of how to leave, what questions do you have?

If you are divorced, what advice do you have to give to someone who is fearful of leaving even though the marriage is truly over?

I'd love to hear your responses.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


This morning I woke up and it was gloriously sunny outside.

I love a good metaphor.

Like so many others, the new year is a time of reflection for me.  And this year, more than any in recent history, I have so much to reflect upon!  What a wild ride it has been.

This time last year, there was a grumpy man in my basement, I was unemployed and uncertain as to my next steps, and my daughter was in counseling for divorce-related anxiety that looked a lot like OCD.  My house was breaking down, and we were flat broke.

I couldn't see a way out.

This year, I am wrapped in hope.  It is shocking how much difference a year can make, one way or the other, and I am so hopeful that my current path will continue.  Katherine is thriving, giggling, excelling at school, and released from counseling because she's doing so well (and that OCD handwashing etc. is a distant memory).  My job is wildly successful, and paying my bills with enough left over to work on my dreams.  My basement is used for movie nights, guests, and yoga....because nobody lives in it.  My divorce is final in about two weeks.  I have a trip to Paris on the horizon, a girls' weekend planned.  My house is almost put back together (I suppose there will always be a few projects in an old house, but the big ones have been taken care of).

I dream of a love for the ages in 2013.  I was born a romantic, and I really believe in that kind of love, and in my ability to find it.  I'm a regular on OkCupid right now, and though most of the messages that I get are more amusing than anything else (no, you may not lick my feet; please tell me that your wife-beater shirt in your photo is ironic) there are some genuine guys mixed in with the crazies.

But here is the thing, and it's HUGE:  I don't need anything to change in order to be happy.

I do not need to lose weight. 
I do not need a lover.
I do not need a house on the water.
I do not need to win the lottery.
I don't need to be published.

If I found myself five pounds slimmer, in bed with my hot lover, in our waterfront home, with a million in the bank and a check from my publisher on the way, I'd be ecstatic.  Of course I would.  But the truth is that if none of that happens, ever, I'd still have a fantastic life.

The body of water that I run by every other day or so is magnificent.  My little job is satisfying.  I'm writing a bit here and there.  My beautiful, compassionate, amazing daughter is happy and healthy.  We do little adventures all the time.  At the drop of a hat, I can fill my house with friends and laughter.  I'm a member at an art museum and a science center, and I have so much fun going there.  The mountains around here call to me to visit them....and I do.  I'm going to Paris - how amazing is that?!  And my humble home is warm and welcoming and comfortable - it may not land in Architectural Digest, but there is something about it that is truly lovely.

Last night I went to a friend's home for a party.  I talked to new friends and old, I had a glass of wine, I laughed.  I wore high heels and a sparkly top.  And I left early to come home to bed, because all this early morning stuff makes me tired at night.  And I am so proud of that - because I didn't need to prove anything to anyone,  listened to my body, and I had a great time.  I left the party in full swing, but I left with a full heart.

2013 is my year. I can hardly wait to live it out.  I do hope for big, amazing, incredible love, with fluttering butterflies and tingles and soft sweet kisses on my neck that make me weak.  I am hopeful.  But I will not forget that even without butterflies and weak knees, I am blissfully happy, happier than I have been in at least a decade. I will not squander that happiness by trading it for longing for something out of my control; I will revel in it, accept it as the gift it is.

Happy new year to you.  If you are in the painful throes of divorce, if you are hurting and wondering how on earth you can claim your life in the midst of chaos, please know that if I did it, you can, too.  Keep swimming!