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.

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.

 

 

Stick A Fork In Me…

Do some of you set down to tackle a post but then find yourself contemplating rather to actually post it? Perhaps you tuck it away in the drafts folder and sit on the idea for a few days, or months. Perhaps the post is controversial, or deeply personal, or maybe you just wonder if anyone will really be interested in reading about Great Uncle Fred’s prostate surgery.

This readers, is one of those posts. I have been stewing over this for some time. I need to write about the issue, the aftermath, and then let it go. I apologize in advance and caution you that if you don’t want to read another of my “post divorce” stories, stop now and move ahead with your day.

Not so long ago, in this post actually, I mentioned an issue that had been centered on the ex-spouse, because… aren’t all my real issues somehow related to him. The gory details include the fact that he was told that he was being laid off from his job of many years, likely right around Christmas. I was informed of this by him in a panicked phone call whereby he felt obliged to let me know that once the layoff occurred he was very uncertain about how he would provide our agreed upon alimony.

“Uh, how about getting another job…,” although I didn’t really say that to him.

I had to hear about how he was going to have to change his lifestyle, cut some things out -like his nearly $200 per month cable bill- and how he might just decide to retire. That idea apparently sent his CPA into near cardiac arrest and then into uncontrollable laughter and then into dismay when he realized that the ex truly didn’t understand why retirement at 60 wasn’t really an option.

I chose to keep my opinions to myself at that point, because really why bother. I did start planning however, and taking stock of my own finances. I was even able to find a bit of humor in the fact that the ex somehow assumed that I would just take his need to stop paying his court ordered alimony as a given. He truly seemed to believe that his only responsibility was to ask me to stop depending on the agreed upon amount we had set up every month. That readers is a hallmark characteristic of this man. Toss responsibility onto everyone else.

I’m sure he was caught wildly off guard when he learned that the only way to change a signed court order was to go back to court with a lawyer and attempt to get a judge to change or withdraw what was established in the divorce decree. As he chose to totally allow me to handle the entire divorce, (we filed an uncontested petition) and never had any intention of even showing up for the final hearing, I had little worry that a) he would even consider hiring a lawyer, because that meant paying someone, b) he would have no idea how to attempt any sort of changes himself, and c) he would find some means to continue the ordered payments while bemoaning his plight and the unfairness of it for the next 3 1/2 years.

His layoff notice was received in mid October. I saw him on Christmas day while the granddaughters opened gifts. I barely spoke to him and chose not to ask about the layoff, but assumed it was imminent or had already happened. He never brought the issue up to me.

In early January, in a conversation with my oldest daughter, I felt that it was important to mention that, given the fact that her dad was now not working, and had left me with the clear indication that somehow he needed our financial situation to change, she and I needed to have some discussions about my future as the granddaughters caregiver. Her reply to me, “I’m confused… did you not know that they rescinded his layoff?”

Clearly the answer to that question was no, I had no idea, even though he had apparently learned that his employment would continue somewhere back in November. Let me just stress here- I saw the man at Christmas. He said nothing to me. Nothing. No mention at all that the once looming unemployment was no longer an issue.

So I have sat with this news for the past two weeks. I have, just as I have done for so many years, even attempted to convince myself that perhaps he had just forgotten to mention that financially our world will not be turned upside down. In his initial rush to tell me just how his layoff would impact me by straining his ability to live comfortably he must have simply been so relieved to find he could keep his cable service that telling me just slipped his mind.

Old habits die hard readers, isn’t that what they say. Silly me to continue to find myself giving him the benefit of the doubt. Naive me to hold onto even a smidgen of hope that he would realize that I had no idea of everything that had transpired, that he might even manage a small apology for not telling me sooner. Stupid me to believe that perhaps he has come to understand that he must be responsible for his actions, or inaction.

I decided that in some way I had to end this, because I knew he wouldn’t. I sent this email to him last night, and yes…it is a bold lie…but I had to see how he would respond.

“Been wondering about your ongoing plans surrounding the layoff, as I assume that it has become official by now. I know you mentioned that you would likely be looking to use severance pay and unemployment for some time but would appreciate knowing how/when you anticipate changes and what you might be planning those to be–such as changes to the alimony order. 

I have been diligent about watching the amount of my spending since learning of the layoff, but quite frankly I depend upon the alimony amount each month, even with a part-time job. My hours from that are minimal. I need as much notice as possible (as will C and my ability to be with the girls)  if income considerations are to change with the process of a new court order assigning any changed amounts each month. Obviously this is something we need to discuss in person, but as I haven’t heard any updates I needed to touch base at least.”

This was the reply I got a short time ago:

“My layoff was rescinded.  I should be good.”

HE should be good. Isn’t that great to know. The best news ever. HE is gonna be fine. HE hasn’t had any worries since Thanksgiving when they stopped the layoff process. HE has known for 2 months that there were no more issues or concerns.

“I should be good.”

Four little words that have allowed me to finally let go of the silly, naive, stupid me who held onto that teeny, tiny smidgen of hope that a 60 year old man had any potential to learn even a minute amount of responsibility.

I. Am. Done.

The answer is clearly a resounding no.

Apartment Life

I haven’t lived in an apartment since roughly 1979. Back then I was young; a new dental assistant, relatively poor, and just happy that I didn’t have to live at home anymore. My paycheck covered the necessities and that’s about all.

In fact, funny story before I go on: My boss took the office (all 2 staff members plus himself) to San Francisco for a short weekend seminar. He paid for airline fees and hotel thankfully. I literally had $50 cash in my purse for the weekend. That was all my bank account could muster. The first night we had dinner in a fancier restaurant. I was panicked that I was going to have to pay for my dinner and that my wallet would be empty. I was trying to figure out how I could sneak seminar food back to my room to have something to eat until we left on Sunday. He (again thankfully) paid for that dinner, but I was still uncomfortable for the entire weekend wondering what else might come up that I would either have to find an excuse not to attend or how I could tactfully choose nothing more than an appetizer as my meal.

My situation is not quite that dire anymore. Now that the financial situation with my ex-husband has been controlled for the time being I can live in relative comfort with my income. That definitely has something to do with the fact that I purposefully chose to rent an older, semi-renovated but clearly older, apartment.

I have fixed this new home up quite nicely and everything, while being modestly priced and/or bargains and/or mine already, suits me and this place well. I have no real need for anything. However, and I am cautiously blaming this on the fact that I have been a home owner since 1983, I see projects surrounding me and it’s driving me crazy that I don’t own this place and cannot do anything legally to change my surroundings.

I don’t want to knock out walls or add an upstairs. Nothing like that. I am a fixer, and a doer and (yes, I am whining) when I see something that needs to be done I am used to doing it, within reason. Of course, the landlords will actually repair things that come up, like my kitchen sink that only allowed for a trickle of hot water. I got a brand new faucet when I reasonably asked what the problem might be and mentioned the things I had already tried to fix the issue.

I’m talking about those little projects, that when you own a home, you notice and say to yourself, “It’s time to update XYZ,” and then if the price to update XYZ is reasonable, you do it.

My current XYZ project, if I owed this home, would be to replace all the knobs and drawer pulls in my kitchen. They are original, I think, and without a doubt have seen better days. They’re some sort of coppery, brass-bronze devices that look a lot like a satellite dish. Most are chipped and water marked. No, I have not tried (yet) many of the do-it-yourself ways to clean copper, but that’s mostly because I’m not really sure what these things are made of and don’t want to make them worse. I also don’t really like these knobs either. This is where my homeowner wisdom kicks in and the local Lowe’s or Home Depot or even Amazon begins to whisper to me…”Just get some nice new knobs. The kitchen will look so much better, fresher. Go ahead…”

I have landlords that would likely give me the okay if I really did want to go ahead and change these things out. They would simply tell me to send the receipt along with my rent and deduct the cost of the knobs. They did that graciously and with (I suspect) much relief when I asked them about installing my own window screens last summer after moving in.

The real question though seems to be, “Where will all this lead?” I don’t own this home. I borrow it in a manner of speaking. Will I live here forever? If so, then it might be worth giving in to the voices. Is it wrong to want to put a little of myself and my own preferences into this home, especially when these wants are relatively minor? If I’m here even 3, 4 or 5 years it seems like the enjoyment of changing a few things still outweighs the legality of being a renter.

Obviously asking permission, instead of just doing, is something I am struggling with. I am also struggling to remember that this space is really not mine. I have to find a way to overcome the owner mentality of the past 30+ years.

Should I just be grateful that I have a home and stop fixating on changing things. It’s okay to tell me that I sound a bit spoiled, or to tell me to stop sulking and whining.

What would you do?

Blame It On the Dog

Cece Mae turned two in October. That’s her there sitting on Santa’s lap with big sister Gisella.

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Cece has a strong personality. Cece has perfected the word NO! and the phrase I DON’T WANT TO! Cece clearly understands what we say to her. We know this because she can, when she chooses to, actually converse in long sentences and sometimes even paragraphs. We love Cece, but Cece will look directly at you and do exactly what you just told her not to do.

Cece has started down the long and arduous road of potty training. Her parents are having no more luck than I do, although I think they are resorting to bribery to get her to practice. She loves to read the potty book, but is she impressed enough with the baby in the book tossing aside his diaper, grinning from ear to ear as his proud parents applaud his obvious tinkle, tinkle, toot into the potty? Nope. Is she encouraged by wearing “big girl panties” rather than diapers? Nope.

Today grandma decided that we would be a bit more diligent about the practice. Pants came off, big girl panties came off, and Cece got to run around with a naked bottom to make things that much easier for getting onto the potty. Success? Nope.

Cece and I went downstairs for lunch. She gobbled up her taco salad and it became evident (to grandma anyway) the the squirmy bottom on the chair was feeling a certain urge. Climbing down off of her chair Cece ran off to the other room while grandma tossed dishes into the sink. My intention was to head Miss Cecelia into the potty. It was awfully quiet out in the front room and just as I turned I was sure that I noticed a tiny little naked bottom squatting down near the front window. In my head I uttered “oh crap” and out loud, using my grandma voice I had just started to say, “Cece…what are you…”

“Grandma, dog poop on the floor!”

“Cece Mae! Coco is outside. Did you poop on the floor?”

Entering the other room (which thankfully is not carpeted, I was greeted by both a spreading puddle of pee and also Cece’s “dog poop” gift.

After cleaning up I truly regretted not having taken a picture to send to mom and dad at work although I have no doubt that Cece will give me more opportunities for pictures before she finally accepts that the toilet is the place that big girls go potty.

And that it’s not very polite to blame the dog…