Category Archives: General

holding tension

My ex died of alcohol-related causes. Maybe it was his hemoglobin, maybe his heart stopped, could have been too much blood lost from internal bleeding. Doesn’t really matter; it’s not a mystery how he got there.

So now comes the work of contextualizing this for my children, ensuring they know they’re not alone in this experience, giving them a narrative and providing the resources they need to move forward. And the context part of it may be hardest of all to do…

For my children’s sake, I assert that their father died of a disease. Indeed, he was very sick. And yet, it is difficult not to also see that he was on a path, a path that appeared deliberate and premeditated. While on this path, he was given many opportunities to accept help, to leverage the multitude of resources available to him. He chose not to. When alcoholism  / addiction takes hold, what appear to be choices are not real choices. Addiction lies — and it took his life.

Thus, I must ensure my children do not go through what I went through:  believing that I somehow wasn’t enough, that their father continued to choose a bottle over me.

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reeling

Just over a week ago, one of the former step kids called. I’d just shared our spring break itinerary via email, so I figured the call was about plans. Boy, was I wrong! My ex’s dead body had been found in his apartment.

Let me backtrack a bit… I’d known this moment was coming since around a year ago, when I’d had a bizarre exchange with my ex that left me questioning his sanity. I remember wondering if he had early-onset dementia. Since then, his health has declined steadily; my daughter once had to call 911 after a fall and the last time the children had spent a weekend with him, he was emaciated, weak and visibly unwell. He suffered ulcers, internal bleeding and dangerously low hemoglobin.

For as long as this moment was anticipated and for as long as we’d been apart, I was completely shattered. I had to gather, tell and comfort my children, and then start telling others. I think I thought the worst would be supporting my children through their grief. Wave after wave of staggering grief washed over me. I reached out to friends, allies and colleagues, and lashed out at Brad, who responded (like everyone else) with grace, compassion and concern.

Those first days of taking the children to school late, checking them in at the office, talking to the counselor, answering the door for flower and food deliveries, telling colleagues I was unavailable… are a blur. Breathing was a struggle. For mothers who’ve just given birth, it’s like those first days of feeling completely upside down — my body felt as though it had been hit by a train, I was extraordinarily exhausted but couldn’t get enough sleep, time stretched out and compressed like an accordion, and could be measured only in “before” and “after.” For surfers, it’s like being pearled — underwater, disoriented, finally figuring out which way is up but not being able to reach the surface or catch your breath.

After a day and a half of weeping, I woke up, vomited up the previous night’s dinner and discovered I’d gotten my period. At that point, I knew things could only get better.

I have never been so grateful for the outpouring of support and love from friends, family members, co-workers, colleagues, my boss, neighbors, ex-boyfriends and, yes, even new beaus. Mr. Meltsmyheart checked in every single day. Brad has been kind, too. In the past, when others I know have lost loved ones, I’ve always felt my words, hugs, cards were feeble expressions — they never seemed enough somehow. But now I understand how much those small expressions of sympathy can mean.

I am now really, truly a full-time single parent. Full stop. This is certain to further complicate my future relationship prospects.

What’s next? Well, there are school trips to plan for, shots and doctors appointments with which to carry on, orthodontia, sports… good heavens! When am I going to schedule counseling sessions for these little ones? And how do I ensure the story they tell about their father serves them?

All this and more are yet to come. But for now, I’m still reeling.


a right blessing

Forgive me for the double entendre, but I’ve swiped right on a couple of fellows who have become friends and I’m going to share a bit about one of the more unconventional of these…

We met for lunch one weekday when I was already fairly certain things with Brad were headed toward an actual relationship and, furthermore, I don’t get too excited about these first meetings anyway. We greeted one another, sat down, ordered curry and he immediately let me know he was married.

Which it did not say on his profile.

And quickly followed with how he was merely looking for friendships and had his wife’s permission to use the site, blah, blah, blah… I didn’t think much of it and wasn’t sure I’d see him again after lunch. But he was insistent I bring the children and join his family for a go-karting party one day. So we went and had fun. And then another lunch, followed by brunch with his family, afternoon trail runs, and so on.

He is from what we still refer to as a third-world country, as in there’s still not typically electricity on for 24 hours a day. And, while his family was prominent and lived well, he has made his home in the suburban midwest with a white wife and modest lifestyle. He has said many times that he was “sleepwalking through life” and wanted to meet vibrant people, substantial people, to help him learn how to live a more fulfilling life.

Like many men his age, he is a bonehead — smart and focused in his field, a reasonably good earner, and yet so, so dumb when it comes to happiness and fulfillment. He once texted me with a conundrum:  He had yard work to do, but his wife wanted to take the children to the apple orchard. I told him to listen to his wife, give her what she wanted and offer his presence to his children. The yard work could wait. Another time, over a glass of wine, he invited my family to lunch at their home adding, as an aside, that it was the day after his wedding anniversary. I asked him what he was doing to celebrate. He hadn’t thought about it. So I admonished him to make dinner plans, rent a hotel room downtown and send the children to their aunt’s for the night. It was as though he’d had a revelation! The lightbulb over his head went on and he exclaimed, “I would never think to do something like that! And my wife mentioned she’s always wanted to spend a night together in a hotel.” Then I admonished him again for not listening to his wife, as she’d already given him the road map, and told him I would not accept his lunch invitation for that day.

With nothing to lose in this strange new friendship, we are brutally honest with one another. My boundaries are firm and clear. I am full-on, unfiltered me. And he is wildly smitten in the most innocent of ways. He admires me, values me and wants the best for me. He appreciates when I chastise him and tell him to treat his wife and family as his primary priorities. His wife has even thanked me.

The other night, we Tindered together. That is, I resisted swiping out of boredom for a couple of days so that I could show him what’s out there. And it was fun to see how much more choosy he was for me than I am for myself (I figure it will net out in the conversation, if these fellows endeavor to start one.) He swiped left on anyone who wasn’t fit, good-looking and college educated. He swiped left on anyone from a certain college that wasn’t up to his standards. He swiped left on photos of children (as I do –a dating profile is where you state that you’re a parent, but don’t show pictures of kids). He approves of the software company CEO who “super liked” me, and wants him to have a jet, because I deserve it. In other words, I should probably be swiping right more selectively, as he does.

And, in any case, it’s wonderful to have someone who not only thinks I’m worthy of a great and generous love, but who also translates my relating of relationship needs and wants into ways to serve his wife and family. In this way, swiping right on him has been a tremendously rewarding blessing and it seems appropriate to express that gratitude this Thanksgiving.

May you all feel the joy of gratitude this weekend!


reflections on californication

Probably one of the factors involved in the emotional discord I felt over the holidays was binge-watching one of the most depressing television shows I can imagine:  Californication. I freely admit to being hopelessly behind the cool kids, as I’m not willing to pay for that much cable and am, therefore, relegated to catching up on Netflix. I was intrigued by this show because of my undying love for the X-Files’ Fox Mulder, because revelations about David Duchovny Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me’s personal life made me wonder whether this was life imitating art or vice versa, and because I’d heard it was funny.

Instead, I found it sad.

Certainly there were funny moments. I, too, fell in love with the captivating Karen, although I couldn’t imagine the soft spot in her heart for Hank would not have hardened over in a more resolute manner over more than 20 years of his refusal to behave like a grown man. Sure, he possessed a certain amount of chivalrous charm, but no woman’s gonna cling to that for two decades. It simply failed to suspend my disbelief, the most fundamental tenet of fiction. Perhaps that’s because the affable man-child reminded me so much of my ex and father of my children, whose juvenile behaviors have caused me no end of misery for the past couple of months (never mind the entire decade before that).

I was struck also by the similarities between his character and that of Mary Louise Parker in Weeds. Clearly she played the role with more depth, but they were two narcissists who could not seem to help themselves from making the same self-defeating decisions over and over again. My feelings for Duchovny now veer toward ambivalence, and I may have to revisit the X-Files to recapture the fondness I once felt for him — luckily for me, FOX just announced it has ordered six new episodes!

But my feelings for the entertainment industry and their persistence in creating an endless supply of drivel glorifying men who fail to self actualize (see also Mad Men, The Hangover series, etc.) are of frustration. Yes, I chose to watch this depressing and wretched series through to the end; I freely admit it. I consider it a bit of education in weeding out such types quickly in real life. But surely, there must be something interesting or entertaining about men who are faithful, loving, devoted, nurturing or mature — think of the characters in Parenthood, for example, or Downton Abbey… I’m sure there are more. These are fellows I’d be more likely to give my time — both on Netflix and in real life.


and, now, I can properly grieve…

A few days ago, I learned that a man I’ve known (very casually) is dying of a brain tumor. Let’s call him Tom (not his real name).

When I left one corporate job (right around the time I started this blog), a friend and mentor recommended I network with Tom. We set up a coffee appointment, talked about my experience, what opportunities or possibilities he saw based on his connections, and networking groups I should attend. Tom was excited for me, positive about my very broad skill set and encouraged me to think big.

We saw each other a few more times for coffee over the past couple of years:  the last time would have been over two years ago when he had left a job and asked me to return the favor. I shared some connections and helped him understand the organizational structure of the company I work for and see where there might be opportunities that aligned with his passions. He told me he’d take me out to dinner to thank me as soon as he’d landed the next job.

It was a year before I ran into him again, this time in our corporate cafeteria, where he was clearly having an interview lunch and didn’t have an opportunity to talk. And it was late autumn: buzz of a hiring freeze meant he wouldn’t be hired until at least the new year. What I didn’t know was that, in the meantime, he’d been diagnosed with and treated for a brain tumor.

Fast forward to this past fall, when I realized we were now working at the same company. In fact, Tom had the same role and leader as the object of my affections that I wrote about a couple of posts ago — you know, the one I haven’t managed to get over in two years… I reached out to Tom and suggested coffee or a happy hour, and he told me he’d been having some medical issues and would be back after the new year, at which point he’d reconnect.

Over the past few months, I checked every so often to see if Tom was online, but he wasn’t. I tried texting and social media, with no response. So I reached out to my unrequited love interest — you know, the one whose contact information I deleted for the sake of self preservation — who told me Tom had been out for awhile; that his tumor had come back, he was being treated and expected to be back in February. We vowed to let each other know if we heard news. Tom was the strong, athletic, vibrant type we knew would come back!

Except that he’s not. A few days ago, I heard from the same friend and mentor who’d introduced me to Tom in the first place that he’s declined rapidly and in hospice. I’ve felt gutted and raw and unsure how to grieve someone with whom I was never really very close; Tom was little more than a casual acquaintance and possibility to me. Now, not only did I have to share what I’d learned with my old flame, but the two of them are linked in my mind.

And that’s how I found myself grieving both of them last night:  I grieved for Tom, who I’ll never get to truly know, and for the man for whom I fell so hard and who didn’t return those feelings. Once again, I found myself wondering when I’ll be able to release that energy, that longing, that heartache and move on… I cried over it for the first time and, suddenly, I realized something:  this man, for whom I still care a great deal, was a near daily presence in my life for two years:  he was like a best friend. And I realized that the loss I feel is not for the love that never was, but the loss of my best friend.

It was a cathartic release and realization. I am still unsure what to do with this new perspective, but I am now confident that I can properly grieve these loses for what they were and are.

The other thing about perspective is how well it plays as a cartoon:  There’s me, with this huge thought bubble filled with everything you’ve read in this post and several others about the guy who should probably have a nickname or even a category on this blog because he’s played such a big part in my consciousness about men since we met. And then there’s him, with a thought bubble over his head that says something like, “Huh. Yeah, I know her…”


besieged by emotional earthquakes

Not earthquakes, really; more like tremors. A shaking and unease where there ought to be some foundation. Anxiety about the mountains of work awaiting after the holiday, overwhelm about the housework, too much time cooped up in a house with only my children with the weather too cold to go out and enjoy it.

Seems I feel this way every year in the interim between Christmas and New Years. Not sure why, really.

This year I had insulation put into my walls — a messy proposition. The interiors of every exterior wall of our home had holes drilled every 16″ between the studs and insulation blown in. Then workers filled each of these holes with a styrofoam disk and slathered them in drywall mud.

After two days of dust, noise and workers, I was left with my belongings piled in the center of each room and covered in plastic covered with a thick layer of dust, patches that required sanding and some re-patching and sanding again, then priming, painting, cleaning and more cleaning. I’m still painting and putting things back in place.

The good news is that several consecutive ten to twelve hour days of cleaning took my mind off the existential tremors of insecurity about my work, my life, my finances, my future, etc.

Next year, remind me to go to Mexico instead.


early imprints

I didn’t mean to come back only to be absent again for nearly two weeks. Truth is I was a bit distracted by a funeral for a family friend last week, and it affected me perhaps more than I anticipated.

You see, the gentleman who passed was a contemporary of my father’s, the same age, and someone who was as close to me as an uncle for many of the formative years of my life. Several of those who stood up to talk at his funeral described him as unfailingly kind, loving, open and generous. And it dawned on me then that, while I thought he always treated me as special as a child (we joked about my being the only daughter he never had, because he sired only sons), he treated everyone else with the same kindness as he treated me.

I remember getting to ride in his Corvette as a young girl, occasional gifts and even calling him to borrow money as I was just beginning my adult life:  Too proud to call my own father, I asked for a loan of $500. He overnighted a check for $750 and then, after I’d paid back the first two payments of $250 each, refused to accept any more. He once loaned me a box truck from his business to move apartments. And his wife of 45 years once took me shopping and attempted to buy me a beautiful pink Angora sweater…at exactly the wrong point in my teens, when it would have been colossally uncool.

But those early memories made a big impression on me about success, having enough and what it all meant. I was reminded of how much I strive to be like him:  to provide for my family, while always being generous with what I can; to keep an open mind and heart; to live well and do good. Beyond the connection I shared with him, I am in awe of the 45 years he and his wife shared, and of how poised she was as she talked of their 45 years of partnership. It takes a gentle soul to achieve that…two gentle souls.

So I came home after that and tried to explain to my boyfriend of a few months how much this man had meant in my life and how much it meant be reminded of all those wonderful things about him, and I told him I wished that for my own life, too.

I wonder if it’s something we’ll embark on (or continue, I suppose, depending on how one views it) together?