vacation planning

About a year ago…

I was SO stressed out! The children knew we were getting a divorce and I was counting the days until my husband would vacate our home. Winter was raging. I needed a break!

With some trepidation, I approached my boss:  “I’m thinking of taking a two-week vacation with the children while my husband moves out.”

To my surprise, she was very supportive. “Do what you need to do,” she said.

So it was decided. I looked for and bought airline tickets, made plans with the children’s teachers, reached out to friends and relatives on the coast and began to form a plan. Max, of course, was among my friends in the region we’d be visiting.

To my surprise, he was the first to respond with an email, “I think you need to come and stay with us. We have an extra room for you.”

Wow! I was intrigued, titillated, flattered and VERY hesitant.

I confessed the news of Max’s offer to my coworkers in the morning as we met for coffee. “Absolutely not,” my boss advised. “That is a horrible idea!” The other gals agreed that it was quite sweet for him to offer, but sympathized with how difficult it might be for me.

My life was turning into one big swirl of crazy:  one of my girlfriends was leaving her husband for another man, another married girlfriend was exploring her sexuality outside of her marriage, and yet another friend suggested, “Maybe Max and his wife are in to threesomes.”

All this weirdness drove me straight to my counsellor’s office, where I told her every last detail about what was going on in my life and all around me and, of course, about Max…with whom I was pondering staying for part of my family vacation.

Finally she remarked, “It sounds as though you and Max have developed a good friendship. Staying with him and his wife could be very good for you. Being around the example of a healthy, loving relationship may be just what you need.”

Whew! Finally I could confess that I had come to the same conclusion. It would be good to spend time with Max and his wife and children. And having my children there as well would provide remarkably solid guard rails against any temptation I might have.

Still, I felt I had to call Max to discuss:

“Thank you for your generous offer to let us stay with you,” I began. “Have you discussed with your wife?”

“Of course,” he said. “She’s looking forward to seeing you.”

“I hope you’ll understand if I take some time to think about it,” I went on. “It might be kind of difficult for me emotionally, and I’m not sure I’m feeling that strong.”

“Okay,” he said doubtfully, as though he couldn’t possibly understand how this might be an emotional dilemma for me. “We’d love to have you. And the children are eager to make love new friends.”

“I’ll let you know, ” I said and said good-bye.

I suspect men have a lot more practice being friends with women who they find attractive. Personally, I don’t recall having much experience having platonic relationships with men I’ve been drawn to physically and emotionally. Determining how to just be friends with Max was a new challenge for me. And I had no confidence that I’d be any good at it.

there goes the neighborhood

One day last winter, I logged in to a social networking site to find that a married male friend’s status update indicated that his wife — I’ll call her Sally — was leaving him for another man.

Given that Sally was also a friend of mine, I was a bit shocked by this news.

So I did what women do:  I called a mutual friend and screeched, “Oh my God, girl, have you been on facebook!? Did you know anything about this?!”

This mutual friend admitted that she had heard, just days earlier, about Sally’s blossoming affair. Such drama! And amongst our quiet, family-friendly circle!

“I don’t know what to say!” I exclaimed.

This girlfriend then told me straight, “I think you need to call Sally and tell her that.”

“Good point,” I said. Gulp! Avoiding the impulse to analyze and delay, I hung up and immediately dialed Sally.

“Hello,” she answered, a knowing tone in her voice.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said.

“I seem to have that effect today,” she replied. “Never before have I rendered so many speechless.”

“You beat us to the punchline,” I retorted, referencing the fact that my husband had agreed to move out…but hadn’t yet. And we hadn’t even told the children at this point.

“I’m taking the low road all the way,” she deadpanned. And then she briefly recounted the unraveling of her marriage, the failed counseling, the meeting of her new beau, what they had told the children…promising to fill me in on details at another time.

We all knew Sally and her husband struggled, just as everyone knew that my husband and I were struggling. But I certainly didn’t anticipate such an abrupt and dramatic finale. They had appeared, at least to me, to communicate and relate in a such as way as to have the potential to salvage their relationship…until now, in any case. Sally’s husband’s broadcasting the news via social media was clearly a cry for the sympathy vote, and a rather low one, at that.

The ultimate effect of this drama for me, at least, was that my divorce would be neither the first nor ugliest amongst our group, relieving some of the pressure and fear I’d had about the steps we’d yet to take. I no longer felt so uniquely conspicuous, and my children would now have friends who had experienced similar family upheaval.

Somehow, all this cause me to feel just a little relieved.

a lesson in abundance

I was turned on to a recording by Dov Baron the other day, and one of the concepts he talked about was so simple, so memorable and so powerful that I felt compelled to share it with my children, and now with you:

Imagine you’re here with me in my living room. I’m pulling money out of my pocket. I take a bill and hold it up. You see that it’s a $100 bill.

“How much is this worth?” I ask you.

You say, “one hundred dollars.”

Right. So, I ask “How much would it be worth if I took it to the bank?”

You answer, “$100.”

And I ask:  “How about if I took it to a restaurant? A clothing store? To Target? To a gas station?”

It’s still worth $100.

What if I threw it on the ground and stomped on it?

$100.

What if I crumpled it up? What if I cupped the crumpled mess in one hand and used my other fist to hit it? What if I yelled obscenities and insults at it?

It’s still worth $100. Its value hasn’t changed.

That’s how our self-worth must be. We are all worth every bit as much as that first moment we came into this world and our mother and/or father looked into our eyes with love and awe.

So, whether we’ve been hurt, called names, insulted, physically abused, verbally abused, no matter what our boss or co-workers or friends or enemies or neighbors or family members have said, our worth and our value in this world has not changed. We are still precious, miraculous and worthy…and to live with this knowledge is bliss!

Of course, at the end of this lesson, I asked my children how much they are worth.

My son replied knowingly, “Two thousand and three dollars,” for the year (“moment”) of his birth.

I assured him he and his sister are worth much, much more.

me or Max, misunderstood

About 14 months ago…

It was actually before we broke the news to our children that their father was moving out that I had a “lovers’ quarrel” of sorts with Max. Of course we weren’t lovers, and it was more of a misunderstanding that went something like this:

I misinterpreted a joke (I took it too literally) and thought, with disgust, “Who does he think I am? Does he really think I’m that stupid?!” I probably should have responded with this thought, but I’m sure my reply (I no longer recall exactly) was something more passive-aggressive in nature.

He replied with a text, “One of the things I always liked about you was your sense of humor.”

In a haze of loneliness and hormones (read PMS), I escalated, lashed out and started a drama cycle that lasted from one evening through the next morning from text to email and back again. I confess I spent a few hours in tears for, during this “spat,” three things happened:

  1. I recently mentioned a conversation about being alone with a divorced colleague who asked me if I’d ever feared being alone for the rest of my life. Well, this emotional crisis, this exchange with Max took me there. Somewhere in the midst of it, I experienced that horrific fear that maybe, just maybe, I would be alone for the rest of my life. I had connected with another man, but connecting with unavailable men was only going to get me to where? Alone.
  2. I realized how emotionally dependent I’d become on a man who was not available to me. And then I realized this was my pattern. Many of my relationships had been long distance, I had crushed on too many fellas that were gay or already in relationships or, for whatever reason, were not going to be able to commit to me. And, as part of this realization, it dawned on me once again that…
  3. I don’t want to be anyone’s fantasy. I want to be a wonderful man’s wonderful reality. And if he’s not in a position to commit to me and be in a relationship and create a real life together, then I want nothing to do with it! I mean, I can flirt and play, but I’ll be in control and I’m not going to let myself get attached to or involved with another man who sees me as a distraction, a daydream or fantasy. The men can fantasize all they want, but I’m going to keep myself from being emotionally drawn into it.

And with these realizations, I knew that my relationship with Max could not go on as it was, that I needed to be less dependent on him. As much as he and his attention had been gifts and had helped me to reclaim my intuition and confidence, our flirtatious friendship — or, rather, my reliance on it — was now doing me as much harm as good. To him, I may have been an intelligent, beautiful, attractive woman with whom he shared chemistry and mutual crush. But no matter how much he respected me, our relationship could never be one of equals, because he was going home to his wife and step-children each day, while I was sleeping alone.

alone…forever?

About 10 months ago…

I was chatting with a colleague at an after-hours event, when he asked me how things were going. He was divorced, and I knew he was asking about my personal life.

“Ah, it’s all right,” I moaned. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

He looked at me and asked, “Have you ever been afraid you’d always be alone?”

“No,” I replied. “But thank you for introducing that suggestion into my impressionable mind.”

“I remember one night when I was home alone, shortly after I’d moved out . . . it suddenly dawned on me that I might be alone forever. It was a terrifying realization.”

Truthfully, this thought had never occurred to me. As I explained to my colleague, I have my children and my friends, and I always just assumed that life was going to be better once he was gone. I mean emotionally better, lighter. How could I possibly fear being alone when I was lonelier in my marriage than I can ever remember feeling before?

Sure, I had plenty of fears — I had been terrified of telling our children, our close-knit neighborhood and family members. Being alone wasn’t one of them…yet.

positive progress

It’s been almost a week since I “left the building.” Having found my former work environment somewhat stressful, I’ve noticed and actually started writing down some of the changes.

Since I quit my job, I’ve begun:

  • sleeping through the night (without waking at 4am with racing thoughts)
  • having more frequent bowel movements
  • desiring healthier foods (and not craving unhealthy foods)
  • drinking green tea (rather than lattes)
  • feeling more energetic

People around me have been asking if I’ve lost weight (does 3 lbs. count?), or done something different with my hair or fallen in love — apparently the twinkle is back in my eyes. And my chiropractor found me much easier to adjust than previously.

So even though I know it was crazy, and there’s still a part of me that feels tremendous fear about not knowing what’s next, I feel confident that I made the right choice for me!

telling the children

about a year ago…

We sat down in the living room on a snowy Saturday morning to tell the children that we didn’t want to be together anymore, and that Daddy would be moving out. It should have been obvious to me that he would throw me under the bus:  he clarified, “this is what Mommy wants.”

My younger was emotional; my older merely shrugged. The discussion was over almost before it began, and I later wondered why I had held so much fear about this moment. It was certainly something I had never wanted to do. I never wanted to have to tell my children that what they knew as a family could no longer remain intact. And yet somehow, at least my oldest, had known it was coming.

The children and I put on our wraps and went out to play in the snow. My older child, my daughter, was met at the playground by her best friend who, upon hearing the news, lamented, “That is so sad. My parents promised never to get a divorce.”

“Yes,” I said. “It is very sad.” I explained that I never would have wanted this for my children nor for myself. “You see the way your parents treat one another:  they talk with each other, touch and laugh together. Your parents are best friends. I would have loved that kind of partnership. But, as you’ve seen, we didn’t have that.”

Children have such a beautiful and authentic way of expressing themselves. I did my best to match that authenticity in sharing with my daughter’s friend, and on a level that all three children might hear and understand. In so doing, I was immediately reassured that the three of us, my children and I, would be all right after all.

I knew there would be difficult conversations, hurt and pointed questions from my children. What I did not anticipate was my own confidence and clarity in speaking to them. My own honesty and directness in this and other teaching moments has been a pleasant door open to trust and dialogue.

I’ve become a cliche

I haven’t posted for a few days, partly because I’ve been making some major transitions (in real time), which I’ve alluded to in recent posts. So here it is:  I left my job. Wednesday was my last day. And I haven’t written since earlier in the week because I’ve struggled with what to say about that.

To briefly recap the past year of my life:  I got divorced, turned forty and quit my job. On the surface, this may appear to be a mid-life crisis. I am officially a cliche. Ewwww!

And another funny thing about this is that I’ve been jumping back in forth in time and, in telling the story of my failed marriage, I haven’t even gotten to the part about my fortieth birthday. Man, good luck following all this!

I’ve seen so many people do this:  they get divorced, and then they realize that everything else in their life rubs them wrong, as well. It’s like they need to shed their skin or other things in life become like a proverbial rash. They redecorate, job hop, screw around or whatever seemingly immature or crazy things they need to do to lash out.

And now I’m realizing that maybe, just maybe, all those fools I’ve seen behave in this cliched way simply decided that life is too short to be unhappy. Yes, this is also a cliche. I seem to be full of them today. So once they’ve made the step of deciding they don’t need to be unhappy in their primary relationship, they begin to look at the other aspects of their life that are causing them grief and make changes in those areas, too.

For me, my ex finally got a job. It’s a small step and a small job. But I’m hoping it leads to him regaining his confidence and becoming the force of talent, skill and creativity he once was. This man has a lot of gifts — unfortunately, he undercuts himself all the time. But the point is, he got a job and can, ostensibly, provide a small amount of child support to me and cover the children’s health insurance and that lifted just enough weight from my shoulders so that I no longer felt confined.

I’ve actually been working, on the creative level, at finding a new job for several weeks. I was noticing how many people seem to have more balance and more income, and I’ve decided that I can be one of those people. They are not inherently smarter or more educated than I am — it’s simply a matter of re-packaging my transferrable skills. And I wanted to give myself the time to really focus hard on the type of opportunity I’m seeking, rather than rashly jump into something thinking of it as a foot in the door.

So I jumped ship. I am blessed to be able to manage for a couple of months before I need to do something desperate. And I’m likely to be more open and available to spot broader opportunities by giving myself this space.

Send positive vibes! And send contacts if you know of mentors I should talk to or connections I should make. I’m both terrified and thrilled for this next chapter in my life.