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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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.

My Patients

I haven’t shared too much about my job here on the blog, but this is a story about my patients.

I can tell you that very often my patients are grumpy, or down right angry. They even cry uncontrollably and unexpected. Most of the time they sleep, right through my prodding them and talking to them. They don’t seem to find it especially important to thank me when I call them beautiful or compliment their long, dark hair and chubby cheeks. They do make interesting faces and most of them have the ability to go from a grimace to an angelic and peaceful repose within seconds.

I know that they wouldn’t want me to share that they burp quite often, or even have a tendency to gag and spit readily. Some just can’t help themselves and fart or poop while I’m with them. Sometimes stuff like that just happens, especially when you aren’t really adjusted to so many changes and hospital rules.

Even though they don’t have much to say I can always tell who is going to be totally bored with my visit, or just as easily the ones who are already wide-eyed and following my every move. I always think that those are the ones I have to watch out for, that those patients will be the ones to purposefully and obstinately refuse to listen. Then they surprise me and I find myself wishing I could spend more time with them as they dismiss me and settle in for sleep.

Some of them try to be helpful. They want so badly to help me detach sensors or ear hugs and it often takes a lot of explaining to them that no, I really do have to tuck their hands back inside their swaddle blankets, but I so very much appreciate all their efforts.

I really can’t tell, even anonymously, any funny or whimsical stories that I hear from my patients. Most of them are just trying to comprehend how their world has turned upside down and why they can’t go back where they came from just hours ago. They’ll have stories for sure, but I won’t be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories.

Those are the patients that I visit in a quiet room with their loved ones close by.

Some of my patients are alone. I meet them in a large, sometimes noisy, space. Their freedom is tested because they are attached to machines. Many of these patients rarely notice when I stop at their bedside. Of course they hear me remark on their beauty and strength just like all the others. Some will show their displeasure for me with the occasional frown or soft high-pitched cry, but I move forward with my work.

These patients are almost always asleep. If they aren’t they twitch, and appear jittery. I move them about, touch them only as much as is absolutely necessary and watch them startle over and over again. There are some that I come to visit and I have to stop. They tell me that it is too much, too soon and they begin to scream in pain. These are the patients that are telling me their stories over and over and I see at least one every day that I am at work. These are the patients that don’t get to go home wrapped in loving arms at 24 or 36 hours.

These are NAS patients. Rather in severe withdrawal, or on a monitoring hold, these patients were born to mothers who used opiates during pregnancy. Those in withdrawal are given morphine. I work in a small facility. Our NICU can house six patients routinely with overflow for 1-2 more. Very sick babies are transferred to a Level IV facility. Most NAS babies stay with us until they are well enough to go into foster care. Since I began work on September 1st, there has only been one of my shifts without an NAS patient.

The work that I do with most babies is rather routine, and predictable in many ways. However, it will never be routine for me to stand in the doorway of the NICU and see a baby, only hours old, being given another dose of morphine. I could never predict how much an infant can tremble, and twitch and startle, never seeming to find peace and quiet.

I can only wonder what these babies stories will be, what their future will hold. I will not be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories, because to assume otherwise is too painful.

A Heartfelt Reminder

This is Cece Mae. She turned 2 on Thurdsay.

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On Friday night, instead of playing with her new toys, she was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to be monitored for 24 hours.

Cece found a pill on the floor, inadvertently dropped by a visitor to her house. That pill, a diabetes medication used to control blood sugar, was chewed and swallowed before anyone could stop Cece.

Her big sister tried. At 5 years old, Miss G knows that pills are not candy. Pills and medicines that are not given by mom or dad do not go in your mouth. Pills that aren’t meant for you can hurt you. Miss G tried to get Cece to spit out the pill, but it was too late. Miss G ran to tell her mom and dad what Cece had done.

Cece and her family will be back home tonight, thanks in part to Miss G’s fast thinking and her parents fast response. Had Miss G not seen what the pill looked like and also reported to her mom and dad immediately what had happened then Cece, on her way to bed, without anyone’s knowledge of what she chewed up… well, we are all thankful that we didn’t have to face that what if.

Besides the IV in her arm, and the hourly finger sticks to test her blood sugar, Cece is taking this whole experience like a trooper. We imagine that she won’t even remember the past 24 hours.

So readers, my plea to all of you, especially if you take medications, vitamins, herbal supplements and happen to be in the home of a small child-

Never assume that your medicine is not of interest to a small child.

Never assume that a child will not find, look for or make attempts to reach that interesting bottle or gummy-style looking “candy.”

Never assume, no matter how many times you say not to, that a child will remember not to put anything into it’s mouth, no matter their age.

Never, ever assume that all your pills actually make it into your mouth when you take your dosage, especially if you are one of those people who can, and do, swallow multiple pills at one time.

If you are in a home with small children, always check the area where you just took your medication. Counters, beds, tables, the floor. Any place a child can see and reach may have a harmful surprise waiting for little hands to find it.

And finally, if an accident happens with a medication, please know what to do, right away. Call your Poison Control help line, or if your community doesn’t have one, call 911. It is imperative if you know a child has ingested anything that you do not wait.

 

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.

 

 

Not a day over 40

I am 58 years old today. That doesn’t seem possible. How is that in two years I will be sixty? I swear to god that just yesterday I was graduating high school. Only a few years after that I was a brand new dental assistant, already coming to understand what working for a sexist a**hole was going to mean.

My children are adults, like real adults, not just beginning the “newly out of college phase” but actually marking their own year by year climb up the age ladder. Okay, I have to give Alison a little leeway- she’s only 24 so still just a toddler in the adult world. I can remember every moment of labor with each of them. How can I be almost 60 and remember those events, but forget where I put my phone only seconds after setting it down?

I have two grandchildren. Aren’t grandma’s supposed to be all round and cushy and wearing a full head of white hair while carrying around lined faces and crepe-skinned necks and saggy jowls and chicken wing arms? Alright, I will admit to a degree of round, but hey, I carried and birthed 3 children remember. I do have some crepe-ish skin, somewhere under my drooping eyelids, and I will admit to a few fine lines, but those are mostly on my well-worn hands. Chicken wings for arms–yeah, it doesn’t take much to get some flapping to occur under my arms, but white hair- no way! Garnier Nutrisse 5RB will never allow me to look like a snow queen.

I wonder, on the day I turn 68 and realize that at that time I am just two years shy of seventy, if I will finally be able to acknowledge feeling mentally the same age as my body tells me I am. My head consistently tells me, on these annual birthdays, that I am somewhere around 25. I used to say 18, but that’s pushing a bit these days. I’ve had too many life experiences to claim to be the mental age of a naive 18 year old.

I wonder when the mental clock will finally catch up with my chronological age. Perhaps we always imagine ourselves to be younger. Maybe it’s some sort of self-preservation mechanism, a way to stave off our mortality. If that’s the case, then today I’m going to hop back to about 40. I think that was a pretty good year.

Am I the only one who experiences this? How old are you- in your head anyway.