when life hands you a shit sandwich…

Lately a lot of people have been asking me how I’m doing:  they know my ex has been struggling with health problems; they know my boss is certifiable; they know I’m a full-on single parent with a demanding job and hellacious commute and children’s activities and more than too much to try and squeeze into a day.

I tell them, “I’m fine.”

I am a liar.

The truth is that I’ve been struggling. For months. More than ever. And it hurts. I’ve never been in a place where my herbal antidepressants seem so ineffective, my endless optimism is so drained, my outlook — regardless of what I may tell my friends — is so bleak. I exercise and it is not enough. Summer is not enough. I am able to have fun; I am able to function; I can experience joy, but there’s a ceiling on this joy — an upper limit I don’t recall experiencing before. And my heart is broken.

Broken for the man I once loved and for the decline even our children must now observe. Broken for the friendships and full, rich life I once had and those who no longer call now that I’m a single parent. (What?! Do you think I’m somehow a threat to your relationship because I don’t have a husband? My life is still full and rich…so there!) Broken for my friend with a brain tumor, dying slowly or maybe less so after a lengthy seizure about a week ago.

There is a word for how I feel…lonely. I am constantly surrounded by friends, co-workers, children and people who want nothing but the best for me. And none of that is the same as being loved fully and unconditionally for who I am by a lover and mate. So I naturally poured my heartache into the fantasy of my one unrequited love, making so much more of that crush than ever really was…about whom, by now, I must have written a dozen times. Without ever even trying, the man completely lay me bare, left me defenseless. And I loved it because I loved me in the context of him:  I loved the me who cared for a man because he was good and kind and competent and caring — and not for any superficial reason.

He had passion for me, too, in my dreams. I’ve woken at least a dozen times in his loving arms…I mean, it seemed like I had until I really woke up.

“I want to meet him,” says my friend and co-worker, Char. “But I think I’d probably slap him.” Char was raised by a single mother and, therefore, assumes that I am a stronger and better woman than I am. She thinks he’s crazy. (I do, too.)

Pouring my feelings into longing for someone with whom I’ve never had a relationship must somehow be easier than having to deal with the fact that my ex is an alcoholic and that my children have to watch his decline and all the other garbage that I won’t even go into right now. Heavens, it gets old to dredge up this shit!

So I swing between this genuine pain I am feeling, because I truly feel as thought the spate of difficulties is perhaps more trouble than I deserve just now, and the rational, Peppermint Patty voice inside my head telling me to “buck up” and, frankly (even though I’m not Catholic), guilt about feeling as I am when I know full well most of these are first world problems.

I surround myself with happy, positive people and am blessed to have this rich group of friends. Except, right now, it seems as though they’re all looking around pointing at rainbows and, the second I turn my head to look, thunder claps down around me. And I’ve been self isolating, which is never a good sign.

I don’t waste time wondering why. I do wonder how on earth I might find time to take forward steps…dare I say, to put myself out there, to date. Alas, I have no time to offer another person. I’m not even sure I have the time to be a good parent!

So when I took a walk with my therapist friend recently, she echoed what she’s heard from me for months and gently asked whether I thought it was time to try a different course of action. Yes. And what did I plan to do?

(That’s a good friend right there!)

I committed to a plan. And I spent more time in the sun and worked out and started meditating again and, for the past week or so, I have felt better. My head seems to be on straight again. My heart does not feel noticeably broken. And this, too, shall pass.

I have a jeremy, and his name is jeffrey

I read this Modern Love essay months ago, and it continues to resonate:

“He’s the guy we never really dated and never really got over.”

“I think maybe you’re addicted to the memories, in love with a person you’ve idealized who probably isn’t real.”

My Jeremy’s name is Jeffrey. And, unlike the essay’s author, I am not in college and am, in fact, twice “college age” and I ought to know better. I do know better. Yet I can’t seem to help myself.

It’s baffling that an otherwise successful, intelligent adult woman who keeps my financial house in order, my parenting on point (I think, for the most part) and my professional life progressing, can’t seem to properly contextualize, process and move on from a relationship that never actually happened. I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s a little crazy. And yet, this is what I’m doing.

It’s as though to avoid dealing with some of the emotional processing, grieving and other emotional self work I must do to deal with my ex’s issues (and the real possibility he may leave my children fatherless in the not-too-distant future), my friend’s progressing cancer, my grandmother’s decline and a certain measure of dysfunction in the workplace, I’ve decided to create a mental loop wherein I’ve poured all my unfulfilled hopes and pain into longing for an imaginary relationship scenario that I know, intellectually, is not a real possibility.

Yet the heart wants…

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.

run screaming

It’s been awhile since I last posted and, for that, I apologize. For a while, I was in the midst of a crisis, which overlapped with a several-day internet outage that may have, in part, triggered said crisis.

When I say “crisis,” I mean I was completely stressed out, exhausted and wanted only to turn around and run screaming from each and every commitment in my life:  my job, my home, my boyfriend. Not my children, of course…well, maybe for a couple of weeks.

Suddenly, the pressure seemed overwhelming at just about the same time as my body began under-performing (which is to say that my elimination system can’t keep up with my hormones and I was terrifically exhausted) and I began panicking about whether I want to be in a relationship or am ready to be in a relationship or if I want to be in one with him, all of which was minor compared to my work-related pyscho-drama. Goodness! I’m finally earning pretty well, feeling as though I’m managing, and a few hours of work not achieved on my connected-less weekend threw me into a fit of panic.

What I witnessed in my own mind during those several hours was not pretty. It was if a box deeply hidden in my psyche had released all my secret irrational fears and out-moded mental scripts at once:

  • “You’re not worth it.”
  • “You’re a fraud.”
  • “You’re not doing this very well — everyone else is better.”
  • And more.

I recently read a quote by Demi Moore (or was it some other recently-single celebrity) and I will do my best to re-create it here (without actually trying to look it up):  She basically said that our (her?) greatest fear was to get to the end of her life (or the day?) and feel alone and unloved and unworthy and find out that she is fundamentally flawed. And it was nice to read that someone who’s made movies and lived glamorously and been married to Ashton Kutcher felt that way, because I sure have at times.

Through all of these recent extreme feelings, I knew that they weren’t the truth. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who felt those very same things. And I sensed somehow that, by facing this fog and moving through it, these old scripts, old beliefs and feelings of fear were being released on some deeper level and that, if I could just get past them, they would never again have such power as they did in those few intense hours. Or — it must be said — maybe I’m just getting my period.

At any rate, my eyes are no longer bugging out, I’m hanging in there just fine, thank you, and I haven’t run screaming from any of it. Perhaps I’ll get further if I slink quietly…

spiritual soul mates

I'm a bonehead
Just because...I'm a bonehead

I’ve often heard tell that the spiritual definition of one’s soul mate is the person who will illuminate (i.e. bring to the surface) the stuff one needs to work on most urgently.

If that’s the case, I could likely be described as my beau‘s soul mate. I seem to be a catalyst for all sorts of things he needs to work on, which might help explain the photo. It seems I am regularly busting his ass about something — in a gentle and loving way, of course!

One has to wonder, with all that soul mate juice going on — all the passion and intensity and feelings of closeness and emotional resonance — is there really room to find something long-term and sustainable and true? I think the answer lies in taking time and communicating. We’re both pretty responsive when the other calls us on our “stuff,” and we’re both pretty accountable for cleaning it up. But will there come a point when this willingness runs out?

I suppose there’s no way of really knowing whether this might become something enduring, or whether I’m preparing him for someone else (in which case she damned well better be grateful!)…so, rather than get ahead of myself or dwell on the unknowns, I’ve decided to enjoy it for what it is right now.

baggage my ex left

I learned a lot in a decade of marriage to my ex. I developed several positive habits, and I loved the feelings I would get early in our relationship when I realized some wonderful change my husband had brought about in me. Love transforms. And that’s beautiful.

But relationships can also wreak great damage and destruction.

We all come with baggage, expectations or perspectives imposed or imprinted upon us through our upbringing, life experiences and major relationships.

Following are examples of the emotional baggage from my marriage that I need to shed:

I’ve let myself go and am undesirable.

I’ve come clean about the fact that I’ve put on a few pounds (like nearly 30) since having a second child or turning 35 or whatever reason / excuse I give myself. My ex used to tell others (I learned after I ended our marriage) that I “had let myself go.” He constantly judged others based on their weight. He made a joke of taking photos of me only when I was eating (as if to show that was all I did). And his lagging libido didn’t exactly make me feel desirable, either. One way he could feel good about himself was his body — he was sexy and fit and attractive, even at more than a decade my senior.

Truth is, I am well-proportioned and attractive — I come from good stock, and my DNA allows me the blessing of being able to wear a few extra pounds better than most people can. I’ve had more than a few guys (and a few gals) indicate that they find me sexy or attractive. Sure, I’d like to release some extra poundage, but I don’t let that stand in the way of living to the fullest. I accept myself for the sexy, curvy woman that I am, while working to create positive, healthy change from here.

I’m materialistic because I want things.

Another of the ways my ex made up for his own insecurities (he was not a good earner) was to scorn me for having wants and desires. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not a bigger- or more-is-better kind of gal. I live lean and green. I like having things around me that are nice, that function, that are beautiful and give me feelings of comfort, peace and security. I want a new car not because my old one is not good enough, but because it’s falling apart and I don’t feel safe. I’d like to take some road trips, and I’m not comfortable venturing outside of the city in the current state of my jalopy. I like receiving gifts because I feel considered. I like wearing nice sunglasses because I’m more likely to keep track of and take care of them than I am a drugstore pair, which ultimately saves money in the long run. I like to travel internationally and consider the experience an investment.

My ex never cared to understand or accept these things and tried to make me feel small for my innate tendencies. And now I have to learn to let go of his judgment and allow myself to want things, and to know that it’s okay to have wants, and to share my wants and desires. Because I feel pretty sure there are others out there who will help me in my path, rather than stand in the way.

I suspect there are more ugly bags that I’ll find and release over the next months, and probably some that I won’t locate until I’m in another relationship. I hope, by then, that I’ve developed the wisdom and insight and tools to manage to clean them up in a way that’s mature and respectful. But in the mean time, I think I’ll use a sledgehammer on these old, worn-out beliefs…if I can only figure out how to do it!