Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The end of this one rocks, at least...

In re-reading my previous post, I realized how completely "boo hoo...whoa is me" the first half of it sounds. In reality, I guess that is a good representation of the thought process I go through--first feeling overwhelmed or injured by things, and then rationalizing and realizing that I do have a very blessed and wonderful life. So, I hope that is not misunderstood by my whole 2.5 readers (or less) that still read this blog.

After purging all of that whining, something kind of good happened--even if it is with regards to something very negative--talking to our youngest about the shootings. I had a quick impromptu call this morning from my ex and he was wanting to update me on what he'd told her, which basically may hear some things at school and do not worry. We will talk about them at home tonight. We both had been on the fence with talking to our third grader about it. Do you sacrifice your child's security and cause them mental anguish, when as parents we are supposed to make our younger children feel safe and loved?

So, What is so amazing in all of this? With as many differences and as much tension that has developed in what started out to be such an amicable split between us, my ex vented the exact same frustrations I have had and had the same opinion that I did in how and if this should be relayed to our kids and to what level.

I texted him later and told him that despite everything lately, it gives me great comfort in knowing that when it comes to our kids we remain completely in line with one another. We still share the same beliefs in how to handle something as delicate as talking about these shootings. This aspect of our marriage was always something that was a huge positive.

It was the one shining moment of connection I have felt with him in the past year. And, that was enough for me to know that we will be OK. We will calm down again. We are still the same people in some ways as when we were married, even if in other ways we've grown and changed immensely in others.

So, there is that silver lining in the midst of all of this mess and chaos. 

And, here is another positive...

I just found the PERFECT white elephant gift for my company exchange tomorrow....

The PEZ "Kiss" gift set. ROCK ON, PEEPS!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Down the road I go...

She accidentally called me by her name the other day.

My daughter was trying to tell me something, and called me by her step-mother’s name on accident.

She immediately corrected herself and explained why she made the mistake. And, I smiled and said without missing a beat, “No big deal. What was your story?”

But, inside, I cringed. I’ll admit it.

Only a few weeks before, she’d described how she has a new friend who is like her—“She has two moms too, actually.” She’d said. And, I’d thought to myself…but she’s not your Mom. I am! It sounds so selfish as I write this. But, this is what went through my head.

After the tragedy in Connecticut, like most parents, every fiber of my being wanted to hold my children. My children were with my ex-husband and his new wife this weekend. And, when texted a few times to check on them, the ex acted unsurprisingly annoyed. That’s how he acts now—like he must tolerate my existence. I am the thorn in his side, and what did I want again?

After picking up and taking my son to confirmation class this morning, I asked him how his trip with his Dad to put together bikes for kids in need went this weekend. I knew this was a new tradition my kids’ father had started a few years ago, and I supported it wholeheartedly. My son said, “It was really great, Mom. The whole family was there.”

I quietly mumbled, “Well, not the whole family.” I knew I should not have said those words aloud. I really didn’t even know they were coming out of my mouth until I did. I truly have to learn to keep those thoughts only in my head. And, I look forward to a day when I don't even have those thoughts anymore.

The past few years have taught me so much. I’ve learned about what real friendships look like and, how a great majority of the time people may not be there for you in the way you expect or need. I have chosen to let go of the bitterness of that.

I’ve let go of the hurt feeling of being so quickly and easily replaced with my former family. I own the fact that, after years of counseling and trying, I was a part of the decision to end the marriage. I grieve for that, even though I hold no regrets and actually have new understanding of why that was necessary and justified.

I hold tight to the hope that I mean something to my children, but I also realistically know that there is a new mother figure in their life as well. I told them that it just means there is more love for them in the end. In my heart, I did believe it when I said it, but that doesn’t mean there is not a parallel fear that runs through me of losing the two things that mean the most to me in the world.

This past few years, I’ve lost a lot. Financial security. Half of my family. For a time, even my parents were not there. The comfort of tradition. A great chunk of my friendships (which were not friendships at all, I've realized.)

I could sit here and focus on that. The loss. There are rare occasions when I let myself feel it. I have a good cry, and I move on. And, I did that some this week, I’ll admit.

But, I have gained so much in the past few years too. I’ve grown in my faith with God. I’ve learned that I can and will make it on my own. I’ve learned that I don’t need someone else to complete me, but I’d also like very much to find a companion one day. I know now though, that if that is not what God has in mind for me, that I can still be happy.

I have learned to count my blessings and to focus on the positive. I have learned to recognize and appreciate my very blessed life, and pray for those less fortunate, because they are all around me. I have learned to let go of hurt and anger. I can now sit in a completely quiet home and have peace inside. Good friends who have watched me on this ride say that I seem much calmer in general now-content even. It is an accurate assessment, I think.

We do not always know or understand the road we find ourselves upon. I never saw myself as ever being divorced. I never thought I would be starting over at 40-years-old…that I would face a feeling that I could lose everything that matters most to me. I hug my kids tighter now. I tell them I love them multiple times a day. I never let them question how much they mean to me. I do all of this, not for the return hug or the hope that they love me too. Of course, I want that always. But, I do this because I feel it and they need to know they are important and meaningful to me.

In such a week when so much has been lost and we are having our faith so strongly tested, I have to trust that the road God has put my feet upon is the road I am destined to walk. I have to let my feet shuffle and stumble, when the path gets worn and rocky. I have to pick myself back up when I fall and keep looking ahead. I look off onto the horizon and know that the sun still sets in the same place and rises every morning in the same way. And, I know inside that many blessings lie ahead of me, once I have learned the lessons of today. And more lessons are to be learned along the way. Most of all, I know that my life has a purpose and a meaning, even when that meaning isn’t obvious to me. God has a plan for me. I just have to keep walking down this road…

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting back to it...

It has been about two and a half years since the end of my marriage and a relationship that lasted 20 years and through the birth of two children. In the shakeout of that divorce, which was as much my decision as his, I have changed in many ways. I have had two relationships since, one more serious, and another that was quickly and easily recognized as being destined to fail.

I've grown, changed, learned to be alone, and that it is OK to be lonely too. I have learned that my world does not end if my house is devoid of little bodies running around and the normal business that I am used to with having two kids. I have learned to live a week without seeing or talking to my children, though I still struggle with it. I can be content without a partner. The fear of that has now dissolved.

So much has happened, that I could have written my way through several books by now. And, yet, for around three years now, I have found myself unable to enjoy two of my greatest passions--scrapbooking and writing. And, yet, without these two outlets in my life, life has moved on. But, I have felt urges so often to go back to my writing life. I have missed my careful crafting of photos of my family and friends as well.

I don't know how to start back to this. I don't know how to bring the words back and have them flow in the same way they used to flow. Maybe they just can't flow anymore.

Through all of it, I still lean on my words. I still need to write out when I struggle or when I realize something about myself. I just have lost some of the will to share that publicly, I suppose. When the spotlight comes on you as you go through a divorce, and you feel the stares, you want to sometimes retreat and save your words for only yourself. Because, in some ways you learn that when it counts, you need to lean on God and yourself only, because you cannot always depend on others to lift you up.

I do miss writing and sharing though. I read a great blog post and I think, wow...I miss that community of women writers of which I used to feel so much camaraderie.

So, I will write here when I can. When I think of it and when words do come. And, maybe one day I will get back to my writing and my scrapbooking. And, if I do? Oh, I going to have a LOT to say!

Monday, October 29, 2012

If You Give a Louse a Cookie...

At just almost the stroke of midnight, my daughter threw up and then shouted my name, waking me from what must have been a dream about Gerard Butler showing up on my doorstep and vowing his undying devotion. 

It’s now 12:46 a.m., and I have the choice of lying awake and listening to her stomach gurgle next to me (yes, she needed to get in my bed), wondering when the next episode will begin, or I can get up and do something. I have so many different thoughts whirling in my brain tonight, I might as well blow the dust off of this old blog and try to do that crazy thing called writing again. I hope I can remember how this all works…

So, the 40s, apparently, are all about figuring out your own shit. I know I have heard this before, but I really didn’t buy into it. But, I am here to say that maybe there is something to it after all. Because the past six months have been jam-packed with the most random-yet-profound realizations about myself. Blog gold, I tell you!

Tonight, hours before the up-chuck heard 'round the world, my daughter and I went to a skating party with her girls' organization that sells boxed bits of sweetness, whose members wear brown patchy vests. You know the one, right? 

At the rink , I bought our tickets and walked in, ready to strap on my wheels and get down to a little One Direction action, when I bumped into a few moms that I knew. Each had the awkward glance at my ticket, followed by the same question for me, “Uh, are YOU skating too?”

I felt like dorky at this point to admit it. But, it had never occurred to me NOT to skate with my daughter. A few told me that they didn’t trust themselves to not break their neck out there. Another told me that her daughter had emphatically forbidden her to go near the skates at all. I guess I considered myself lucky that mine hadn’t acted this way at all—she was genuinely excited that I wanted to come and skate. And, so I did, until I felt like she'd transferred enjoying skating with her Mom to her pals more, and then I faded into the background like a good little Mom.

During this fading, I was approached by her leader, who also happens to be the closest person I have ever had to a nemesis in my life. I am not one to make many enemies or have volatile relationships often. I have a lot of general friends, and a very few close friends. When one of those closer connections falls by the wayside, I have always been the one mourning the loss and wondering what happened. After going through a divorce and the weird shake-out that happens with friends post-split, I have realized that I need to let go and appreciate the friendships I still have and the people who chose to stay. The others are gone for a very good reason and I no longer worry or think about them...much.

But, back to the nemesis (let’s just call her Nemi, for short). This is a person who has actually wished me ill-will. A person who has bad-mouthed my children when they were younger, and then turned around and hugged them as they ran to her--so happy to see her. (I am not exaggerating here. I could write volumes on all that transpired. It got freaky weird, people. Trust me.) Years ago, when all of this came to light for me, I thought…wow. Evil. Evil and not someone I care to know at all. the...bye.

But, proximity and the friendship of our kids seemed to keep throwing us back together. Now, almost a decade later, we are only in contact because of this one activity. This group happens to be a really lovely group of girls and equally lovely mothers involved. The only hitch is that Nemi is in charge of the group…which has always given me pause. I have several friends who know of all the things Nemi pulled years back, who marvel that I still have contact at all. But, my daughter truly loves the group.

Lately, I have noticed Nemi has being overly attentive and complimentary of both my daughter and myself. Each time, I have felt that nag of knowing something was coming down the pike. Then, she chose that moment at the skate rink, while I was sitting alone, to make her intentions known. She asked me to be in charge of the most significant activity a group of girls in brown vests participates in for this organization. The one that everyone knows about, because everyone has a box or two of those thin things hidden in their freezer for late night noshing and moments of extreme PMS when nothing else will do? The one that runs from now until next Spring and involves hours and hours of work?

Yes, I got the fully recruitment pitch…the girls would not be able to do it if I did not take it on, and why she absolutely can NOT do it. Yadda, yadda. Even when I mentioned that I work fulltime, she came back with that all the moms do in our group do now…and that was a lot of the issue. But, I knew the job from having been popcorn mom for my son's troop for three years, etc...

Unbelievably, as I sat there, I actually started considering taking the job. I thought about my daughter and her friends not getting their patches this year, and how much they’d be disappointed. I almost let Nemi talk me into it. I even told her that I would think about it.

Flash forward this evening and a late night call with my mother once the kids were tucked in. I told her about the conversation and she laughed. “Well, you’re not doing it are you? I mean, you can’t seriously consider taking this on too, can you? Not for that woman!”
Moments before this, my mom and I had chatted about a few of the more narcissistic family members in our clan. She’d commented that she guessed being the complete opposite of self-absorbed can be a problem too…then kind of paused.

I knew why she was pausing. 

She had just described me. At least, the old me. OK, maybe still me. After all, I had taken on volunteer duties with my professional group after swearing that I was going to take a break from years of service to the group. Just this one event, I thought to myself. And, just that very day, I’d volunteered to co-teach a class in my church the next fall, helping others through divorce.

However, each of those things, I’d willingly wanted to do. The short volunteer commitment to my organization was a great way to cap off years of service and a fun event to plan. The church thing was something I’d been praying on for weeks, and I truly felt God was calling me to help with this ministry.

But, after actually considering if I could take on even part of the task to head up this major fundraiser for my daughter’s group? All because someone who had done nothing but be vicious and gossip about my family for years, was asking me? And, tell me again why I hadn’t laughed in this woman’s face? What in the heck is wrong with me, I wondered!

There are times when you realize things about yourself that change you forever. This was one of those times.

I seriously needed to give UP this “over-giver” side of me and fast. I was getting way too old for this sort of ca-ca-doody.

I realized that, while I wanted to help my daughter and that some level of guilt over the divorce still hung over me, taking this on would only be taking time away from my children. I only have my kids for half of each week as it is, due to split custody. And I would only be helping out the ONE person who had been openly and unapologetically cruel to my family.

So, as I lay awake this evening, trying to go back to sleep while listening to the gurgle of my daughters sick tummy, I instead began to compose my email to Nemi declining the request to take on the job.

I’ll admit, my brainstorming emails were way better than the one I will send simply saying, “I have so little time with my kids as it is, and I just can’t take on another job. Sorry. And, I hope that you find someone.”

No, the message that I send will not include the phrases, “Listen here, you manipulative and conniving gossip-monger. You will NOT use me for this. You will not play upon divorce guilt to talk me into doing something for you that you will later use against me somehow because you have no life and you are a pathetic excuse for a person!” I will also not include the phrases, “You have a lot of kahones, Nemi,” or “Give me a f-ing break! I hope you choke on all the PB patties.”

But, it sure was fun to think about it. Strangely enough, my friends, that is how I wind myself down and back to sleep...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Time for some home improvement...

It is funny how life observations and realizations can come to a person at the most random of moments. Today, my moment formed as beads of sweat gathered on my forehead and my arms grew weary from scraping away the old caulk in my shower.

It dawned on me that relationships in your 40’s can be a lot like home improvement projects. Take re-caulking, for example. A year ago, I caulked my shower. It was the first time I’d ever tried to do it, and I was pretty proud of myself with the end result. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than it was before and it felt good knowing that I took something in my new home, and I made it better. A year of learning to manage my life and my children’s lives completely on my own had not been easy, but like the shower, I was better that day than I had been previously.

And, now I find myself a year later, taking off moldy remnants of my previous work, cleaning out the gunk, and starting over. I shake my head as the parallels to dating life come to mind.

Each time we try again, we find ourselves looking at things anew. It’s like walking into your new home after signing on the dotted line. The slate is clean, you feel a surge of optimism at the thought of this new place and all the new possibilities. This excitement can be dangerous for the hopeless romantic type, which I must admit that I am. You imagine the “what if’s” entirely too far in advance. But, in some ways, that can be fun. It makes the exploration all the more exciting as you enter those first few months of getting to know that someone special and new.

But, over time, you see some of the cracks in the new person’s makeup, like noticing the various flaws in the home you’ve just purchased. You see scars from past relationships. You look to the person to decide, is it going to be worth dealing with these things to see if this is the real thing?

And, by the same turn, they look to you. They begin to see some of the less desirable things left from past hurt and relationship failures. Like molds, those things can grow until they become a problem. You can let those past life experiences take over, to the point that you can’t see this new face before you. You only see the last face. The one who left you hurt and changed. You feel unprepared to tackle what needs to be done to start again.

But, the hope that I hold on to, perhaps foolishly, is that once you dive in and scrap away the residue from the past hurt, you find something nice, something solid and worthy of your time and energy. You see the person for what they are—human. Just as you are human.  You throw your arms around them and love them, hoping to clear away the past hurt and make way for something more meaningful and new. You take that chance.

With every new try, you could just give up. You could leave things as they are, and not try to find a way through it. You could just walk away from the job entirely. Maybe it is not worth it to you at this point in your life.

But, the there is another option. Sometimes you can look at the person standing before you, and you can let all the past go. You can try to re-caulk a line this time that will not leak or break away during life’s trials. You can take what you’ve learned from the past, and instead of letting it immobilize you, you can let it teach you how to build something stronger this time.

You can try again.
And, again.

Each time you forgive yourself for your mistakes, and you see yourself getting better at knowing what you need to do. Each time, you build something stronger. One day, you hope it will be worth it. And you will look into the person’s eyes and know, you came through all of this to get to this place. This place that is so much better than any other place you have ever been.

My morning was filled with disappointments and missteps. And, so I threw myself into this work to try and forget.

I look at my shower….still a work in progress. Something tells me that whether this go-round work out or not, I will be OK. I will be stronger. I will learn something and know what to do better next time. And, most of all, I know, that I will try again and again. Until I am to that right person and that better place. Because, I refuse to give up on myself.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Unexpected reminders...

It's funny how you can feel like you're past something so certainly. You can feel yourself moving on, and you give thanks for that. You even start to get excited about the possibility of the future. That's when you know you have grown and healed from the hurt of a love that was lost.

Then, unexpectedly, one thing can hit you so squarely in the jaw that you find your mind spinning all over again as if it were the first day you knew it was over.

By the light of morning, I can reason it away. I can see that maybe it was God's way of showing me something that I can look forward to in the future. But, in the moment I read his letter, I felt devastated all over again.

My first love after divorce, may have been my truly first experience with that heart-racing thing that most think of as new love. It may sound sad to have not experienced this, because I was married for almost two decades to someone who cared for me deeply. But, it isn't that there wasn't love there. It just wasn't THIS kind of love.

Things ended poorly with this one, unfortunately. In comparison, I am good friends with my ex-husband and we work daily to support our kids together. He is moving on and about to be remarried to the woman he began dating just weeks after I'd moved out. And, I am truly happy for him and have told him as much. No, this most recent love ended abruptly with hurt, mean words thrown back and forth like weapons leaving marks as they passed through us. I was left very jaded and confused as to whether this man ever really loved me at all.

Last night, I found a letter he wrote me and gave me the first time we met in person. You see, we met online and talked for months before we ever saw one another in person. And, it was a strange and amazing thing that happened there....the connection we had just from words on a phone, texts, and shared photos. I had forgotten about how powerful the connection had been--until I read that letter that had been tucked in the back of a nightstand in a plain white envelope for me to stumble across one day.

The letter was an explanation of a CD he'd made me of love songs and songs that reminded him of me or that meant something powerful to him. Each song, introduced and explained in his amazing way. And, at the end, he spoke about this rare connection we had, and how excited he was about our future together. I could feel his happiness and anticipation in the words. A rush of what it was like came back to me, like a gust of wind that takes you by surprise on a fall day.

I took my breath in as I read the ending that I'd long since forgotten. He told me he loved me, even though he'd never laid eyes on me in person before. And, I remembered distinctly how it felt to read that--to feel so unconditionally loved for who I was as a human being. My marriage had not been like that. I'd spend most of our relationship feeling like my ex was never happy with who I was, always trying to change me into what he thought I should be. But, this had been different. I had been truly adored and loved for my heart and my mind, before a kiss had ever been placed on my lips by this dear man.

I wish I could have felt last night what I feel this morning---the sentimental realization that maybe that feeling will come to me again in a new relationship. Maybe THAT relationship will last forever and I will be able to read a letter like that to him as we laugh and remember how we met.

But, I didn't feel that way. I felt sucker-punched. I felt cheated and angry and confused all over again. I felt panicked about my future and wondered if I'd made a mistake by ending that relationship when the problems became bigger than the love. Today, I know that it was the right thing to do. Last night, I was desperate and heart-broken all over again, cursing myself for not putting the letter away with other memories I'd stored of our experience together.

This morning, when I awoke, I took in a ragged deep breath and realized that maybe I needed to find that letter right now. Maybe instead of leveling me, I should let it remind me of how it can be when you first fall in love. Maybe it is my reminder of what I deserve in a relationship, so that as I make my way through life as a single woman, I will be selective and not settle for less than knock-your-socks-off, simply amazing love...