Reflections From Year One

Today marks 1 year since a judge signed my divorce petition and my marriage was legally dissolved after 33 years.

Yep, 33 years. Not all bad, some actually good, but the reality screams that with all things considered, the end should have come at about year 20.

Do I want to re-hash the good, bad, and ugly of all of those 33 years? Not here, not now. I’ve done that already. Do I want to reminisce, or blame, or post some sort of list on the “what-if’s” and “why nots” and “how comes”? Nope. I do have some reflections though.

I know the man that I am no longer married to. I know just how much he struggled in life, and continues to struggle because of the circumstances surrounding his life. I know that he never had the ability (or perhaps even the real desire) to move beyond those circumstances. I also know that I married this man for the wrong reasons. Did I love him? Yes, I did. The love I experienced was not false, but it also was not the correct reason to marry. I married the image of the man I believed he could be. Despite what many believe, love was (is) not enough. I believe I loved him more for the potential I thought I recognized than for the real person he is. Marrying someone for the person you believe they are, or for the person you believe they will become, is fraught with all sorts of issues. Marrying someone when you are still unsure of who you are, or who you will (or want to) become is also not the best recipe for success.

I chose to overlook a lot. I chose to believe that I had some ability to mold, change, or guide this man into the person I believed he could or should be. I was wrong. And because I did not have the ability to achieve those goals for him… goals that he didn’t even know existed… I became filled with doubt, self-blame, regret, anger, and finally over time, a deep loss of respect for both him and myself.

Please take note of that line: “because I did not have the ability to achieve those goals for him…”

Yep, I was completely invested in helping him achieve goals that I believed he needed, wanted and would buy into. The problem then, only realized by me much too late, was that his interest in these goals was riding at almost zero. And yes, I believed that my role was to bend over backwards to help him achieve something he didn’t know he wanted. The sun would shine, rainbows and unicorns would fill the sky and life would be perfect. If only…

The inevitable if only I could enable him…change him…perfect him. Create a perfect man.

Have you heard this story before? How many of us, as women of a certain era truly believed this “I can change him” garbage? How many women or men of today still believe this, still put all their hopes and dreams into the ideal that we must take responsibility for shaping someone else? How many humans feel that the only way to validate themselves is to lose your core self by focusing solely on achieving the perfection (the fixing) of another?

Those delusions of grandeur are not attainable. They are not even highly recommended as viable in my opinion. An adult must “adult” for themselves. They must take responsibility for themselves. I’m not saying that an adult cannot change. I believe change is possible, if one wants change. I am saying that one adult cannot and should not feel responsible for bringing about change in another adult. The man that I was married to is a human who will allow others to be responsible. He will advocate for change in others, but facing his own challenges and then making attempts to address them was never something he desired to do.

I certainly am not blameless. I am flawed. I have my own past and circumstances. However this idea of responsibility has loomed large in my world for as long as I can remember. Somewhere I learned that I had to be responsible for myself. I know that conceptually I believe that responsibility begins at home so to speak, within the individual. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that I allowed that belief to be almost completely overshadowed in my marriage. I allowed myself to take on the responsibilities of another capable adult. I have used excuses to justify my actions…

His job takes him away so often…

I just can’t always wait for him to get this done, or take care of that project, or make that decision…

He isn’t here enough to really take part in all the kids activities…

It’s just so much easier, faster, better if I just do it…

I allowed the patterns developed early on in my marriage to continue year after year, right up to the time that we agreed to divorce and I once more took on the sole responsibility to get the job done and move the divorce ahead. As I write this now, I am truly embarassed to admit that even in those final months my role did not change. I can easily use the excuse that I simply wanted everything to be over, or that I wanted things to be done right or that I feared that the process would drag on or run into issues if I didn’t handle it all. We did agree that we wanted to avoid lawyers and their fees if possible, but rather than expect him to step up and handle half of the process I jumped right in with both feet and did it all, and he willing let me.

Why take responsibility when you have been taught that someone else will do it for you?

On the morning of July 21, 2017 I watched a judge sign a paper that in essence was to legally give me my freedom. Once signed however, I turned and walked out of court knowing that I must respect myself enough to take back what had been mine. The weight of responsibility for another adult was gone. Freedom to be the person I should have been all along waited on the other side of the courtroom door.

As I reflect on this past year, the image that has headed my blog since I decided to divorce in late 2016 cannot be more true.

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I really don’t know what the future holds. I do know that my life is much less stressful. I know that my responsibility lies only in making decisions for myself. I know that distance is imperative and healing and welcome. I know that there is no reason to continue to look back. I know that I am strong.

As I move past the end of this first year, if I was to say anything to my former husband, it might be these words, also by Iain Thomas:

You were a dream. Then a reality. Now a memory.

 

 

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Self-Renewal

I am relishing the fact that spring has come to my part of the world. The sun is out, the temperatures are verging on hot, at least during the daytime, and my entire outlook is bright. Oddly, even working the same amount of hours and spending the same amount of time on errands and other things that I have to fit around my schedule, these last few days seem to be endless. There is a sense of calm, a sense of relief, a sense that not just the plants are awakening, but that I am as well.

The amateur psychologist within me is wondering if I might have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). So of course, I googled it.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that:

“To be diagnosed with SAD, people must meet full criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons (appearing in the winter or summer months) for at least 2 years.”

I checked the symptoms of major depression and added my personal analysis:

Symptoms of Major Depression

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day — Not at all
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless — Nope
  • Having low energy — Well do get up at 4:30 AM and often chase a 2 1/2 year old around so…
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed — No
  • Having problems with sleep — I’m nearing 60. I think I read that it’s common to wake up at night, and take naps during the day. Also see the low energy answer.
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight — No, and my weight has held steady for quite some time now. A nice surprise at my last medical checkup.
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated — This one’s a no as well.
  • Having difficulty concentrating — I can concentrate just fine, I just don’t always remember things after I’ve concentrated on them.
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. — I will admit that hearing that Barbara Bush just passed at 92 years, and that the Queen of England just turned 92 has made me quite aware that I am closer to those numbers myself, but I plan to stick around for some time yet.

I would have to say that I don’t really qualify for the major depression diagnosis. As to the winter symptoms associated with SAD (plus answers again):

Symptoms of the Winter Pattern of SAD include:

  • Having low energy — I think we covered that one above.
  • Hypersomnia — While I have never fallen asleep while driving, or dozed off while screening a baby, I can easily fall asleep during toddler nap time after lunch.
  • Overeating — Don’t think so, but where does having a strong desire to visit the snack chip aisle in the grocery store fall? I admit to giving into that urge a few times too many. By the way- Lays Kettle Cooked Olive Oil and Herb chips are excellent!
  • Weight gain — No, really I have not gained weight so I think you need to stop asking.
  • Craving for carbohydrates — I always crave carbs. Winter, spring, summer, or fall I do not differentiate with any season regarding my carb craving… ever.
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”) — Maybe when the thermometer says 20 degrees, but I got a nice new down jacket this past winter so I was pretty toasty warm.

Apparently I appear to be fairly stable in the depression arena, and based on subjective opinion, may or may not have some of the symptoms of the winter disorder, but given the definition above, I don’t think that I qualify.

Perhaps seeing my garden bloom, the birds flying past my window, planning out delicious recipes that highlight all the upcoming spring and summer vegetables, looking forward to getting outside more with the granddaughters, and sipping some chilled wine while relaxing on summer evenings on the front lawn means nothing more than my life is normal. It is falling into place. I am settling in and settling down while moving forward. Perhaps the residual stress of that long journey that I was trying to endure at this time last year is really no longer a part of me.

The road ahead is open and I don’t think that I have to look back anymore.

Momentous Day

You all know that I’m not here much, writing anyway. I read your blogs without fail, and comment on most on a regular basis.

Because I am so random in the writing portion of this blog, I have also become incredibly lazy when it comes to checking most everything to do with my blog. All the background stuff like those hilarious spam comments trying to sell me Viagra or sex toys, or even my stats-which to be honest I don’t care about in the slightest because that’s not why I blog.

It seems that I will garner two or three new followers every few months or so, usually around the time I actually publish a post. A fellow blogger just noted that he has been getting some new email subscribers with the possibility of some sketchy addresses. Nothing like that here, but that issue led me to zip over to my admin pages and do some looking around.

I have, for years, desperately wanted WordPress to allow bloggers to remove followers. The trolls, the sites trying to sell you something because you happen to have a tag that relates to their product or company, the new bloggers who follow everyone but never make an attempt to engage. Even those who have been a part of the loyal followers group, but who haven’t blogged themselves in years and have almost assuredly let their blog die.

What a glorious surprise (thank you WordPress) when I opened my followers statistics and saw that WordPress now allows me to remove followers. When did that happen??This is a grand day indeed and I quickly set about clicking remove with abandon. Just like with stats and views and all that, the number of followers I have is irrelevant to me. Click after click after sweet click quickly took my 450+ followers down to 42. Yes folks, those are the people who engage, who comment, who at the very least like a post every so often. Those are the folks I am keeping in my list. Goodbye to all the rest.

Please know, that if you find yourself suddenly not in the newer, greatly compacted following group, but really, really REALLY want to be, then please click that follow me button again. I may have inadvertently clicked you away in my zeal. But if you have never engaged beyond your initial follow click (and you are likely not reading this anyway) you are no longer on my list. Thanks for stopping, but you just took up too much space for my sensible, organized brain.

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http://love.catchsmile.com/stop-following-me/

I will now also excuse WordPress from trying to maneauver me into paying for their services with email after email telling me how great my blog “could be” if I gave them money. I can overlook their promotions a lot easier now that they have finally listened to me. I have power, and I am deeply enjoying that control.

As Flat As A…

Today was mammogram day. It’s been a few years. I know for many women this procedure isn’t pleasant. I’ve always assumed that unpleasantness might have something to do with size of, or type of breast tissue being squeezed into a pancake shape. Other than the increasing pendulous nature of my 5 decades old breasts, I’ve never really found a mammogram to be unpleasant or painful.

It’s never really been difficult to make small talk either, while I stand nonchalantly waiting between images with my chest exposed, my blue cape casually swept back over my shoulders in something akin to a strong superhero about to lift off into the sky, while the breeze begins to pick up the edges of the material and lift me up and away.

Of course the eyes of the technician never go to my chest. They never dip below my chin, unless she is in the midst of lifting and settling and adjusting one breast after the other. This is the unwritten mammogram rule and my technician was extremely professional. Also, the tech today added a new word to my mammogram vocabulary: Smoothing. Smoothing involves making sure all of the flappy chicken skin on my arm is not going to interfere with the image of the breast while the more vertical image is taken. Ladies you know this one—your arm is allowed to drape casually over the machine in a friendly, but not too intimate hug while your breast is lifted up and over towards your sternum before being squished unnaturally while the nipple elongates toward the back of the machine.

I had to reason that since this was my first time with smoothing, my flappy arm tissue has only recently become a mammogram nuisance. I’m holding this as a positive. It encourages me that I have reached almost 60 and only now encountered this new feature.

As I was instructed to “hold very still” I let my mind wander back to my first few mammograms. I vaguely remember being self conscious enough back then to actually believe I needed to try to hold my stomach in so the muffin top would be less obvious over my jeans. Now the muffin top, and stomach, make a comfortable rest area for my breasts to sit upon as the technician and I chat. I was actually enjoying the freedom of being allowed to take my bra off for even a brief few minutes in the middle of the day. I consider that luxury.

Also, for the very first time ever, I was offered a deodarant pad when the images were finished. We all know that wearing lotions and deodarants during a mammogram are a big no-no, but never have I had an imaging center actually offer deodarant as they send you back to your cubicle to take off your superhero cape and strap your bra back on.

I left the clinic with a smile on my face, ready to tackle the rest of my day off, smelling like nothing more than the fabric softener on my clothing rather than armpit sweat. Did this post have a point? No, not really but as my days are generally pretty boring, mammogram day was a high point so I thought that I would share.

I will leave you with this: Don’t fear your mammograms ladies. Embrace them for the potential they offer you to accept your body in what ever form it takes. Chat up the technicians while you stand exposed because you just might brighten their day as well as your own. Lastly, wear your capes proudly, all the while knowing that you have a choice to face the world without post-mammogram underarm odor thanks to some convenient little packets of freshness.

 

 

OMG

Perhaps I should subtitle this post Label Me A Nitwit…

You may, or you may not remember a post I wrote about my panic and terror as winter was approaching and I had the displeasure of trying to figure out how to use my baseboard heating system. Even if you don’t remember I’ve decided not to link the post. At this point it’s old news, and with a very recent discovery, I imagine should be completely irrelevant.

Before I reveal my amazing news I just want to assure every one of you that I really, really have tried to make this home as insulated as I could. I invested in my own weatherstripping and put new and thicker material all around my front door. I hung thermal curtains over the existing blinds. I got thick draft blockers for my doors and even my horrid single pane window frames. The non-carpeted floors seem to reflect the chilly outside temperatures. I’ve invested in various rugs and tried to place them strategically.  I have judiciously used my heaters, trying not to turn them on unless necessary. My two front windows get full sun on the days that it makes an appearance. If given the chance, that sun does a nice job of providing warmth during the day.

However, November around here was damp, dark and getting progressively colder. I layered socks. I layered clothing or used sweaters. I ran the heaters only as needed and not at all at night, even in my bedroom. My electric bill, while not extreme, did rise quite a bit between mid October and mid November. Since Thanksgiving it has been getting even colder. I have been feeling a sense of dread looming as the temps at night have been sitting below freezing and I can’t seem to keep these rooms heated.

A few days ago, as the temps dipped lower and my anxiety started growing I even resorted to attempts to keep the heat from the baseboard heaters from traveling right up under the curtains and out through those front windows.

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Yes, that is blue painters tape holding the thermal curtains securely to the wall so that the heat cannot escape. Please don’t judge me. I felt as if I was running out of options.

Then today, as I was crawling around by the front door/dining room doing some crevice cleaning I was being blasted over and over by a persistent draft. Now I’ve stood near my front door since I placed the new weatherstripping. That made a huge difference. The landlord had already placed one of those rubber strips on the bottom of the door, both inside and outside, which also helped to block drafts from under the door. I really thought that the door situation was okay, until today when I crawled up to the door and placed my hand above the rubber strip, and above the metal plate that holds the rubber strip on. A gale force wind was blowing in and it felt like ice.

The rubber on the outside is not as tight as the rubber on the inside, which actually scrapes the floor as the door moves. Cold air was coming under the outside rubber and shooting it’s way up behind the attachment plate and directly into my house negating any heat the baseboards were putting out. Everything suddenly made sense, like why, when I sit on my couch, I always feel a cold draft on my neck. My neck is directly in line with the blasts of frigid air coming under the door.

Lacking the financial, or legal means to 1) place better weatherstripping on this old door, or 2) actually get a new, better door, I used what I had on hand and the results were instantaneous.

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Notice dear readers that you can see the metal sill. You can see the gray rubber tucked nice and tight to the sill. You cannot see the metal band that holds the rubber onto the door. Why? It has now been sealed over with duct tape. Yes, it is tacky to look at but the gap that existed is now covered and that is more important to me than looks at this moment.

How do I know this is the answer? At this moment it is 32 degrees outside. I have one, and only one, baseboard heater turned on to a fairly low setting. My floors are warm. My feet aren’t cold. There is no draft swirling around my neck. My hands are warm. I am WARM with only one damn heater on!

A 4 foot by 1/4 inch gap has been the bane of my existence for the past month and all I needed was a little duct tape and Voila! Eureka! Holy Cow! Life is GOOD!

I will gladly live with some duct tape on my door.

Revelation

Nothing major, but something that has been growing on me since about mid-September.

I like my job.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I said that. Likely it was years ago when I was teaching childbirth classes. I loved that job. That job felt right. I probably used the word like a few times during my dental assisting career as well, although I suspect that I liked the doing of the actual job more than I ever really liked where I worked.

I also don’t really know why this admission strikes me as rather incongruous. I suspect that we can all find something about our work to complain about. The commute, a co-worker- or two or three, overtime, workplace drama, etc. I would be surprised to find anyone who would say that their career, and the inherent aspects that surround doing that career, is perfect, but I do assume that many/most of us like the path we have chosen or the career we have ended up in. Yet again today, as I spent time educating a father about what I was doing and why, the revelation popped quietly into my head: I really like this job.

Those extra shifts that I picked up when we lost one of our screeners haven’t been a burden at all. I could literally do this job five days a week. I don’t remember feeling this way when I worked at the same job five years ago. Just like the dental career, I liked the doing, but the place and people- no connection, no sense of belonging.

New parents haven’t changed. I meet them when they are bleary-eyed, sleep deprived but high as the sky eager and anxious and terrified humans contemplating the new person in their lives.

Babies certainly haven’t changed. The babies are the most predictable aspects of my job in so many ways…most of the time…until they aren’t. Babies will surprise you when you least expect it. They will force you to adapt and to think on your feet. Their job is to challenge and I am finding that amazing and humbling.

The job really hasn’t changed with the exception of a few procedural differences. Autonomy, self control and responsibility, the aspects that I craved last time around, still give me a sense of purpose, and self-worth, and feelings of capability and ownership in my work.

So with so much the same I wonder why I am so much in like with my job. Could it be because the facility is smaller with a calmer atmosphere, or that the staff is simply more welcoming and so I feel more grounded; more of a team member; perhaps even more valued. I remember always feeling intimidated when I had to enter the NICU to check on or screen a baby. Now, with my desk just 4 feet from the NICU, I am building a rapport with the nursing staff who feel like colleagues rather than strangers. I am greeted regularly by the housekeeping staff and nutrition staff delivering breakfast. I even got a physician (maybe anesthesiologist) who is always there on my shift, to finally smile and tip his head in greeting.

I’m sure that all of this is a factor, but I also wonder what’s different this time around with me. Five years ago I had just ended my career in dentistry because of arthritis. Five years ago I was beginning my role as grandma. Five years ago I knew that my marriage was over, although I had no idea that I would actually come to the decision of divorce. Five years ago it was difficult to take a job that had me working weekend evenings, even though I was beginning to welcome being out of the house more and more. I think in some ways guilt led me to take that job five years ago. I felt a need to still contribute, maybe even to prove something about my place in a marriage where it was becoming clear that my not working was frowned upon, and the reason I stopped working was implausible in the mind of my ex-husband.

Today, I hold this job for myself. I still feel a need to contribute, but the contribution is to my own sense of self, my own well-being, my own desire to learn from and interact with other adults. Of course, I am also contributing to my finances, and I won’t deny that the extra money every 2 weeks is a bonus! Selfish reasons maybe, but there is no burden of proof that is owed to anyone anymore. I get up and go to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings because I want to. Because I like to. Because it is necessary for me to forge a sense of ownership about myself. Because I do not have to think of how my days and nights are, or are not, making someone else happy or content.

I do this job for me, and that makes all the difference.