Category Archives: My Wasband

mad, now sad

I’ve shared that I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of six to eight weeks feeling sheer, murderous rage… No, I didn’t hurt anybody, and I’ve moved on: Now I’m sad. Not depressed…but genuinely, deeply sad.

I credit all this to my ex who passed (or committed suicide, one sip at a time, depending on how you look at it) six months ago and the relationship that blossomed and disappeared all within two months of that…and then my workload doubled, my child got a concussion and my last remaining grandparent died, yada yada yada. This is life; I get it… but could the shit storm of it end for a few months, please?! All I’m asking is for a brief reprieve of ease, abundance, and good times — or a lotto win — to heal, to get beyond thinking about Lee every. single. day. Biggest mindfuck of my life! And biggest heartbreak.

As grateful as I am for a rich and rewarding life, my feelings are swaying me harder than they have ever before. I am able to get up and exercise, coach and manage others, move forward in life, behave as though everything is normal…and yet I ache. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this much…or allowed myself to. And it sucks! Is every breakup worse than the one before?

The ridiculous thing is, I’ve been — off and on, when I’m feeling most emotionally healthy and balanced — meeting new people. I’m of two minds about this:  One is in no way am I emotionally in a place where I should be looking to start a relationship. Two is that no other cure beats getting back on that horse. Ugh. What strangeness it is to feel so broken and, at a macro level, so incredibly ready to find my life mate!

As my therapist would say, “hold the tension.”

Here’s the deal (in case the universe is listening — please tell me you saw the Bill Nye / Amy Schumer video about the universe!):  I’ve made my peace with being a single woman — I’ve learned to love single life, to live independently, to enjoy rich relationships with my children and girlfriends…and I. AM. SO. DONE. I want partnership. I’ve wanted partnership. I’ve stopped looking in the wrong places. I’ve stopped getting distracted by the latest bright, shiny object. I’ve found the balance between too many filters and not enough. I’m ready.

And I’m premenstrual. And, you’ll be glad to know, I’m starting grief counseling (along with my children) in two weeks.


closing the chapter

A great deal has transpired since I learned that my ex and father of my children had passed. Finally, six weeks later, a lovely memorial was held in his honor. Family and friends talked about his humor, his great looks and his incredible talent. And his depression and alcoholism.

It was a great turnout. Many people came from every aspect of his life — former co-workers, former neighbors, all of it…

I was grateful for the turnout and support and the kind things they said about him. I was grateful they didn’t shy from away from his disease and mental health. I was grateful my children were completely included in every aspect of the weekend while my ex’s extended family was in town.

Aside from that…

I was hurt. And I was pissed!

My children were schlepped away by relatives for an entire day to participate in family events. Allusions were made around calling me to join for a group activity or meal later. But the only contact I got was to pick up the children after dinner.

I understand that I am not really a member of the family anymore. I get that not everyone was happy when I kicked my ex out. But I am the mother of the only two minors involved, and no one was there to look out for their interests, to set context.

As an example, my daughter came home and told me about “one of daddy’s friends” who she didn’t know, who’d spent time chatting her up and giving her a hug. This felt weird and awkward to her. The man was her uncle. Maybe begin with some basic introductions, folks…think about setting context and what that might mean for my children, the only surviving / remaining minors.

There was another party with them at the cemetery — my ex’s first wife and the mother of my children’s half-siblings. It struck me as strange that she’d want to be there, but I’m not here to judge anyone’s grief. Yet again, my children found it awkward and no one was there to set context. When they came home and told me about it, I told them to always be grateful to be surrounded by so much love.

I began to understand what had happened when a former step son, the one with who I’m closest, told me he’d been looking through his father’s belongings for photos and videos and it was all documentation of our life together. Apparently he’d expected to find a complete retrospective of his father’s life, including his own childhood, even though I’d told him that all the photo and video assets were “ours.” The only way you’d have known I was ever involved in the family was as a mother of the children and in the slideshow my stepson put together, in which I was over-represented to a degree that I found amusing.

Anyway, I hadn’t expected things to go any certain way. Certainly I’d hoped to spend more time with the family — my former in laws, nieces and nephew, and step children. But they were not in charge of how things went and, if their loyalties were anywhere but with their mother and closer relatives, it would only cause more strain. Still, as I’ve said, I would have liked to believe that there would be greater consideration for my children, who will likely not suffer any long-term damage from the experience…at least nothing they can’t work through with a therapist.

All along, I carried myself with composure and grace. And then I got sick — too sick to move — for three days. I’m better now. And, for better or worse, this chapter is closed.


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.


everything is better and worse all at once

I could hardly wait for spring break to come:  I was going to drop my children off at their father’s for the weekend, spend a morning with the friend in hospice I told you about (Tom), enjoy a pedicure, pack and get ready for our trip west…and then sunshine!

I didn’t hear from the children’s father on Friday. My daughter volunteered at the popcorn stand in the bingo hall at the local church fish fry. My son and I met some friends there for dinner.

Saturday morning, I was nearly sick with anxiety as I drove to hospice to see Tom…I had absolutely no idea what to expect. But he had been texting and asked for a latte, so I stopped to get us coffee and treats. I walked quietly into the room where he was sleeping and, as he woke, he recognized me immediately. We sipped our lattes and nibbled on muffins while he asked me about my children, life and work. He enthusiastically empathized with my parenting stories, saying “Oh, I know!” as though he’d raised a half-dozen himself (he is childless). Not long after he’d excused himself to clean up, a skiing buddy stopped by…and then a friend from high school…and then some family members. His room was like Grand Central. And I was both uplifted and comforted, knowing that he was surrounded by love and laughter — and that he was still very much able to enjoy reliving his many adventures.

Then, having connected with my ex, I dropped the children off that afternoon for an overnight with him. Minutes later, my daughter called, upset:  there was dried blood splattered all over the kitchen. I drove back and went in. His place was messier than usual; he seemed a little more disheveled than usual…but he convincingly argued that everything was fine, that he had merely fallen down, that he would clean up. My daughter was overly tired after a sleepover. He urged her to take a nap and me to go about my day. I left again. My daughter called less than an hour later, hysterical: her father had fallen and hit his head, she had called 911 and the paramedics were there. I rushed back to collect and comfort my children, then called my ex’s eldest and met him at the ER.

Sunday we visited the hospital again, as my ex couldn’t maintain his balance, seemed disoriented and showed signs of a brain injury. Aside from visiting, there was nothing more I could do:  no one would share details of his injury or treatment with me, the non-family. I cornered a compassionate nurse and told her of his sudden, steep decline over the past few months and the symptoms I’d observed. It was a terrifying blur, and I felt helpless and heartbroken.

And the next day, I took my children on our best vacation yet! We stayed with my ex’s son, played with my children’s new niece, lay by the pool, ran on the beach, ate sushi with my ex’s daughter — and the children loved their time with their half-siblings. I am perhaps all too conscious that these former step children of mine don’t have to be so welcoming as to invite me into their lives and homes, yet they are — if not familial exactly — then warm and generous in ways that continue to surprise me. And they love my children, their younger siblings. The time we spent together as a sort of family was an unexpected blessing and I am comforted to know that this family culture, not my ex’s disease nor his slow, one-sip-at-a-time suicide, will be their family legacy.

I have begun settling into the notion that I am now a full-time single parent, with no likely reprieve nor partnership in parenting on the horizon. This may be the new normal. It is heartbreaking and wrenching to grasp that he is no longer the fun-loving father he once was, much less the man I once loved. I am at a loss for how to make sense of all this to my children. I don’t write this to elicit pity or sympathy; I state it as fact. Facing their father’s coming death, whether imminent or prolonged, is no easy feat. Imagine! This is the man I once loved.

Acceptance and peace for these new circumstances is slowly dawning. I have purpose; I know clearly my true north. I will raise these children to be compassionate, loving, functional adults. And I will not do it entirely alone, as I see how their older siblings rally around and love them. And my family and friends, too. Regardless what happens to their father, regardless of what he is doing to himself, they will be raised in a loving, stable home.


sell me something good

I kinda like to be sold, now and again. I want to be convinced why one car is better than another, or this vacuum works better than the other, or why a particular mobile plan should earn my business, etc.

Given the advice I received at happy hour the other day, it seems we should explore this from the dating perspective:

A co-worker suggested that I may want to see if I can target my dating strategy to go out with salesmen. Sales guys, he went on, tend to be motivated, earn well, know how to dress and entertain, must be able to carry on a conversation — and they generally like nice things. (You can begin to understand some of what motivates this particular co-worker if you read between the lines.)

“You might get played a time or two,” he cautioned, to which I replied, “Meh, it’s probably my turn anyway.” Not that I’m excited by the prospect of getting played, but I’m wiser than I once was, and I tend not to fall so hard so fast.

I think, in many ways, my co-worker is right. A sales guy could make a good match for me. After all, my last boyfriend was a sales guy. He sure sold me — and often it was more of a hard sell than necessary. “Don’t tell me the kind of man you are,” I would say to him, “show me.” But I loved that a certain amount of his energy was spent trying to impress me. And I loved that he enjoyed dressing well and going to nice restaurants, varied forms of arts and entertainment, and more.

Contrast such behavior with that of my wasband, who seemed to aim for something short of baseline for nearly any partnership, marriage or parenting-related hope or presumption:

  • Once, while in couples counseling, I expressed that I thought honesty should be the standard for a committed couple. He looked at me with an expression that showed just how ridiculous a notion he thought that was. (I didn’t get much back-up from the counselor, either, by the way.) How asinine of me to think he should have been honest about his finances, schedule — or anything else, for that matter.
  • When it came to providing for his children, I suggested to the courts that he could earn a moderate income (much lower than I believe he’s capable of earning) by continuing to do the work he’d done for most of his career. Sure enough, he promptly went out and got a job — not in his field — that paid less than half of what I projected he could earn.

Back to sales guys, though:  I think — no, I know — I would like to be in a relationship with someone for whom motivation is not an issue.

Yet I suppose there are potential downsides to a more traditional sales mentality. For example, might he be tempted to say or do things for the sake of expediency, going for the easy payout, rather than do the right thing? I suppose this may be what my co-worker means about “getting played.” Even if I didn’t get played, but such a way of thinking had become part of his professional character, I’m not sure I could appreciate that. And I’ve met a few salespeople who are downright smarmy!

So, what do you think? There have got to be many good ones out there! Any experience dating a salesman? Married to one? Where would I find one? Or should I even look?


wasband fail

I’ve had the kind of morning (on my day off, no less) where the heavens have opened once again illuminating the brightly shining truth that my ex is an even bigger jackass than I thought. I need to vent, and I’m not sure who to turn to but my community here. Thank you in advance.

Eleven years ago, for Mother’s Day, he bought me a motorcycle — a beautiful, used classic bike. Now, I’m no tattoed, leather-wearing woman and I certainly have nothing against those who roll that way…but I was an expectant mother at the time, five months pregnant with our first. I had grown up with minibikes and motorcycles and have a fondness for putting around local streets and the idea of running errands with them — neither speeding down freeways or taking long road trips to Sturgis or other places.

Wasband wouldn’t let me ride the motorcycle because of my pregnancy and because it needed some work. He also failed to bring a title home with him — the seller was going to send it once he found it.

Various times during our marriage, I attempted to get him to have it fixed up — it was always too expensive or something (keep in mind I was the sole earner so, while we had little, I was inclined to think I should get some say in what “too expensive” was).

Finally, I am in a place where I have some free time to ride (every other weekend) and a cash flow that will support something a little beyond the bare necessities, so I’m raring to get this bike fixed, registered, my license, etc. I had planned to go down to the government center and begin the process of forcing the title. But, first, why not call?, I thought.

Then the voice over the phone gave me some very, very bad news. The registration shows up in “the system” from many years ago, so they can’t begin with “no proof of ownership.” Thus, my only hope is to track down the complete stranger from whom my ex bought the bike in order to have the title transferred. Apparently a decade is not enough to force such actions.

The voice ended the call with a cheery “okay?” to which I could only reply, “No, this is not okay.” It’s not okay to receive a gift that is little more than a heap of useless metal taking up space in my garage. I’m sure I could come up with yet another way to make this tale a metaphor for our entire relationship, but…

The day is sunny and I’m in no mood to give up — I’m going to get cute, run down to the government center and see who I can sweet talk in to some leads and options. Wish me luck!


we were married to the same man

Over the past two years or more, I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “Sounds like we were married to the same man!” I found women at work, women at the salon, and friends I’ve known for years who all expressed the same sentiment.

I guess what it comes down to is that there are a finite number of reasons that relationships don’t work out. And, as it happens, I’ve found several women who share a story not entirely unlike mine. Several, it seemed, had some sort of midlife crisis and then…

In one particular example, a high-end builder with an exclusive clientele just decided he didn’t want to do that sort of thing anymore. After bumbling about for a few years, taking some classes and trying to figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up, he ended up in retail. Because he was more mature than the high-schoolers reporting to him and had a bit of know-how, he was quickly promoted to supervisor. Cheers to the family dental plan…and a couple of hundred dollars a week in income! Sure, it was a contribution, but nothing like supporting a family with the income to which they’d become accustomed.

His wife was a trooper throughout this transition, but finally opened herself to the possibility that she didn’t have to be responsible for him financially or emotionally or otherwise. He had become another child to a woman weary of parenting.

Another woman’s husband spent much of his time lying about on the sofa watching the television when he was meant to be looking for a job. He racked up credit card debt and lied about money issues.

Here’s where the relationship rubber hits the road. We’re here to love and support one another in ways, as long as we agree to what those ways are. (Most, but not all of us, know what we’re getting into before we marry.) We’re not here to parent our spouses or support behaviors that don’t nurture us or our commitments. We’re not on this Earth for another lesson in co-dependence.

Long (years) after I’d asked my wasband to go back to work, he was still protesting that “we’d agreed that he would stay home with the children.” In truth, we’d “agreed” because he’d lost his job and it seemed like our best option at the time. Like a toddler on the verge of a decade-long tantrum, he’d dug in his heels and was not about to budge from his position. He changed his internal script to, “I gave up my career to be home with my children.” And he seemed to believe it!

Relationships must change and evolve. They require communication. Agreements made must often be renegotiated. And it takes two committed adults to embark on that sort of work.


Mack Truck logic

While in a committed relationship, decisions must be made, compromises reached, peace kept, etc. Standard methods of give and take don’t always work, especially when both parties feel particularly strong about something…permanent birth control, for example.

I’d given birth twice, didn’t want to be on the pill and wasn’t in to the idea of having some sort of surgery to prevent another pregnancy. He didn’t want his junk messed with.

We had several civilized discussions, including with friends and neighbors, about the topic… one of them went like this:  A girlfriend stood in our front yard and gestured with her hands while saying, “Oh, come on! She’s pushed a head the size of a cantaloupe out a hole this big — twice! — and you can’t even have a minor outpatient procedure?!”

I thought we had reached agreement…yet the appointment was never scheduled. So I resorted to Mack Truck logic, which goes something like this:  “Look, you have older children and ours. If I get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, regardless of whether you re-marry, you’re done having children. If you get hit by a Mack Truck tomorrow, I might meet someone and want to have more children.”

Fast forward to dinner at another couple’s home weeks later. The other gentleman is talking about his vasectomy:

My husband:  “So did you have to shave yourself?”

Me:  “Oh my god, is that what this is about?! You’re afraid of shaving?!”

The next day I scheduled an appointment for him with a urologist by the name of Dr. Hackett. Poetic, no?

I’m not sure Mack Truck logic will work with every man or in every situation. But it made sense to me!

Try it. Let me know how it goes.


to hell in a handbasket

Mostly I’ve been feeling great lately — confident and optimistic — so it’s been frustrating for the past couple of days to full stuck in the mud, overwhelmed…as though this place is going to hell in a handbasket.

Yesterday, I came home to towels and sand everywhere and a messy kitchen (thank you, nanny!). Naturally, as I tried to clean up, the disposal crapped out. Suddenly, I felt completely overwhelmed…both tactically and financially! I don’t have the time to accomplish all I need to, nor the resources to hire it done. I’m paying for a car and a new roof for the house and the garage, full-time summer childcare, I’m trying to find a way to take the children on a road trip, and I just don’t need any more stuff to go wrong right now. Between working full-time and parenting full-time and scheduling the oil changes and dentist appointments and haircuts and planning a vacation and the weather, when in the hell am I going to cut the grass, much less fix something I don’t know how to fix?!

I hate feeling this way…and, worse, I hate myself for allowing myself to feel this way!

It is at this point (in my self-pity) that I realize that there is a part of me, deep inside, that resists trying to solve this problem. I simply expect a man to come along and fix it. That’s what my father always did. And that was certainly a part of what I expected of my mate…who is no longer my mate, of my own volition. I am a run-of-the-mill, Disney-variety damsel in distress, a caricature! (Enter more self-loathing…) It was not always entirely this way…I was all about diving in to ownership (in every sense of the word) when I bought my first condo…

I am nothing if not resourceful, I tell myself, so I reach out…My social networks tell me to try hitting the reset button on the bottom of my disposal and, if that doesn’t work, get an allen wrench and try to give it a crank to see if it gets unstuck. Reset fails. There are several sets of allen wrenches in the basement, I’m certain, yet I can’t find a single one, much less an entire one of those handy-dandy sets I know I’ve seen down there before. And I do mean plural…my father has seen to that.

And now, though I asked him to leave, this is when the anger and resentment at my ex percolates back up:  I am alone without my male rescuer. The basement is a complete mess, and he just left it that way. I can’t find anything! I don’t know what he’s left here or what he’s taken with him. I blame him for allowing the children to take over the “workshop.” I blame him for the disposal not working. I blame him for my being in this completely overwhelming project of a fixer-upper house…this was the house he wanted above all others, while I wanted to keep looking. There, I said it. Clearly, despite efforts to that end, I have not yet purged all of the baggage of “us,” and I have not entirely accepted full responsibility for my life. I am a victim. (Ewww…that feels so gross!)

Yes, the self-pity came on strong. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and say, “I can’t do this!” And then, maybe, through releasing the fear, doubt and hopelessness out into the atmosphere, it would dissipate and the fearless woman in me would prevail…

As I happens, I made a healthy dinner, got a start on the lawn, a helpful neighbor fixed my disposal and I gave the roofer a final check for his work, which will be complete tomorrow. And, while I can’t be entirely sure that check won’t bounce, my outlook is so much sunnier now!


the D word

In the interest of transparency and authenticity, I have another confession:

I’ve been writing about the D word, divorce. In truth, I was never legally married. My ex and I were together for more than a decade; we owned a home together and had two beautiful children; I wore a ring. We were a post-modern couple, unsure that we needed a certificate in a world of domestic partner benefits, hyphenated names and all kinds of modern families.

By the time we’d decided it was time (I’d processed through a slew of misgivings and beliefs about marriage and its meaning, which is one of the reasons Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed resonates with me so), we determined that remodeling the kitchen was more likely to have a positive and profound impact on our daily lives than a marriage certificate. While we could have just gone to the courthouse, I wanted a ceremony; I wanted to get married on the beach with friends and family standing in support of us.

We believed the conventional knowledge that “common law” was seven years. In my mind, we should have married before the seven-year mark for it to really mean something. Yet, by then, I was beginning to see the signs of all this unraveling… (As it happens, there is not common law marriage in this state.)

Still we called each other husband and wife and described ourselves as married in most (though not legal) situations. It was more than shorthand, it was what we felt. I was fully committed. My ex thought he was fully committed, though I would not have described his participation as such. He believed that staying, being there, co-existing was commitment. I believe commitment means partnership, co-creating a life for our family, and a vow to work at regular communication and presence.

And so now I write about divorce as though I’ve actually been divorced, and some may make judgments about that, just as there were judgements about our non-marriage. In fact, I hired a lawyer, there were legal documents and processes relating to joint property and custody and child support, hearings, paperwork and heartache. True, I didn’t have to gut my retirement account, but I suspect everything else — the emotional turmoil and pain, severed or strained friendships, etc. were of the same magnitude. And so I don’t use the term lightly or intend anyone offense by its use… it’s simply the best way for me to name what I’ve been through.