the pity party’s over

Admittedly, I was feeling like a bit of a brat earlier this week. The moment I got over my bad mood, my focus turned to other tasks at hand…namely, some baking and other preparations for an event to benefit a neighborhood family whose son has cancer.

In other words, I am reminded once again that I am blessed beyond measure. My children are healthy. I am healthy. And that is enough for me to be content.

Independence Day status report

Today, Independence Day to be exact, seems like as good a day as any to report on the status of my own independence…and I do have some good news to report:

Today I felt that old, elusive feeling…the feeling I recall feeling at thirty (a decade ago), after I’d purchased my first condo and luxury car, knowing that I was self-reliant and could allow myself abundance. I felt a glimpse of that in-the-flow, abundant feeling, completely fulfilled, with no need of anything more than what I have here; complete in and grateful for all that I am and all that I have.

Wow! Seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way, and recognizing it brings the realization that I’ve spent too much time in the past couple of years feeling inadequate, damaged or lonely… in a word, like a failure.

The hidden message or blessing in this is that I don’t feel like I need a man in my life to be complete. At some point, I’d love to find a co-conspirator and partner, but right now I feel happy to be single me, happy to be a mother to my littles and simply filled with joy at being present.

Sure, I’m still dealing with some lingering pain, loneliness and resentment…but even acknowledging that is an act of further letting go, further allowing myself to heal.

And here’s where I come back to the dating thing. At this very moment, I don’t care if I date any time soon. Sure, I’d love to go out and have some fun — and to have someone fun with whom to have fun. But I do have those people — I have girlfriends. Many of the men I’ve met online have proven flaky and seem to not have taken the time to heal themselves. I’m not saying that as a judgment, because I’ve been pretty wishy-washy, too.

What I am saying is “do the work, people!” It’s worth it to heal yourself and be whole before you try it all over again.

independent, with nagging doubts

Happy Independence Day! It’s an incredibly beautiful day here, and I’ve spent the first part of my day enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze, chatting with neighbors, puttering about doing some household projects, and reflecting on all I have to be grateful for this long, holiday weekend to myself.

This weekend, my daughter has gone with a friend to their family cabin. This is her first long weekend away with anyone other than family…and it kind of scares me.

While the girls have been discussing this potential for some time, I had cautioned my daughter that I hadn’t yet connected with her friend’s parents. First, I would have anticipated a call from them inviting my daughter to go along with them. And then I would have anticipated detailed information:

  • Where is the cabin?
  • At what number can my daughter / they be reached?
  • Who will be there?
Because I hadn’t heard from my daughter’s friend’s parents, I assumed they had made a decision that their daughter would not be bringing friends along for this “family” weekend. (Let me add here that I have at least met the parents, though I don’t know them well compared to other families of my children’s friends.) When my daughter brought it up during the week, I told her she needed to call her friend and begin the conversation. She never did.
Still, I suppose I should not have been surprised when my daughter tearfully called late Friday afternoon saying that she and her friend were still conspiring for this weekend trip. I expressed my concerns with my daughter and with my ex, who was “responsible” for the children for the weekend. While I allowed for him, my daughter and the friend’s parents to make this decision, I gave him a list of information to acquire in the process. He, of course, protested that I should have called the parents and gotten this information during the week. However, to my earlier point, I assumed the friend’s parents had no intention of including my daughter — and how weird is it to call someone and say, “So, are you planning on taking my child to your cabin this weekend? Because I have some questions…” It’s like calling someone and saying, “So I heard you’re having a party; am I invited?”
I have since heard nothing. So, while I would feel more responsible if I called my ex and asked him if he got all that information I’d asked for, just thinking about it makes me feel like a nag. And I’ve never considered myself a nag, never wanted to be a nag and have only occasionally found myself driven to nag under circumstances such as this, where there was no communication nor action. And I shouldn’t have to. My wasband should be as concerned for our daughter’s welfare as I am, and he should have the decency to fill me in on the details.
So, while I enjoy the weekend, I also occasionally stew, wondering if I should have been a firmer parent and just said “no” and being irritated with my ex for his lack of follow-up. Meanwhile, I trust in my daughter’s solid sense of self and her excellent memorization of my phone number.
At some point, we have to let go and trust that we’ve taught them well, right? I’m just not entirely certain I was ready for this yet.

…and I thought this was going to be funny!

So…when I began writing about all this divorce and dating garbage a few months ago, I somehow imagined that I would be having all kinds of interesting relationship experiences that I could write about, and that I would encounter lots of different men and have countless hilarious tales to tell about these meetings…

And that has not happened.


Well, it’s dawning on me, as it may have also on you, that working full-time and parenting the other full-time consumes a hella chunk o’ time. And there’s not much left for dating or meeting people or romantic or ridiculous encounters of any time. And, frankly, the filtering part of online dating eats up so much time that I’d just as soon spend some QT with my gals.

So, aside from the whole Chi-guy situation, which is funny on general principle alone, and the humor in which has very little to do with the way I tell the story, I have to face facts:  I am just not that funny! Not that funny anymore, at any rate. Sure, the bright side is that I’m blessed with a full range of emotions and that, overall, writing about all this stuff has been rather cathartic.

Yet all this makes me think back to more frivolous times, when I was light-hearted and delightful and embodied all manner of other characterizations inclusive of lightness, frivolity, fun and laughter…and I wonder, am I not there? What has happened to the witty, vivacious me?

I realize that, at home each night with grammar school-aged children, it’s easy to be silly. Silly is one thing; funny is quite another. And I used to be funny!

Of course, I am thinking about all this because I’ve discovered The Blogess who, as you might have already guessed, is Funny with a capital f! She does, naturally, have a relationship to write about…so no end to the potential for humorous fodder.

Oh, I know that I’m in there (here) all right. The irreverent, playful ol’ gal comes out to play at least every other weekend and sometimes more often. In recalling her (me), I am reminded of how much fun it was to come home to another playful adult during the times things were grand and we were, indeed, mirthful together.

Funny comes much more naturally when it has someone to bounce off of.

(And, yes, I’m fully aware that I should not be ending my sentences with a preposition, Bitch!)

advice from friends

Most of us could be a better friend to ourselves. By that I mean we allow our internal dialogue to run on, focused on our failures, our shortcomings, our fears and our doubts. If we actually confessed these same thoughts to a friend, he or she would say…well, probably something like the below:

From Max:

“Stop thinking about your marriage or life in terms of the failure. Instead, look at all that you’ve accomplished and gained in the past decade — you have a home and two beautiful children and more career and life experience. That’s a lot to be proud of.” He was right. Looking at my life in this way took some of the pressure off — it’s not as though I’m starting my life over from scratch, renting an apartment, my biological clock ticking as I desperately search for a mate.

Girlfriend Candy gave me this nugget:

“You are making all your dreams come true. You’re more than a writer; you’re a published author. Look at your blog and how it’s touched your readers — and you’ve made enough posts with enough content to fill a book!” That’s great perspective, too. Embarking on this blog has been cathartic emotionally, a great way to connect with some new people, and a way to discipline myself to regularly publish (which is difficult for my abstract-thinking, perfectionist side).

I am blessed to have surrounded myself with love as I go through so many challenges and changes! And, with all this support, I am learning to become a better friend to myself.

post-feminist dating

I was a staunch feminist in college and beyond. My serious papers took on sexist language and such things. I’ve been called a femi-nazi on more than one occasion. So let’s relate this to dating…

If I don’t come across as particularly adept at dating now, you can imagine what an idealistic (in all the wrong ways) fool about it I was in my twenties. One of my more memorable boyfriends lived hand-to-mouth. Much of the time he didn’t have a dime to his name — but when he did, he was sure to buy me gifts or treat me to an amazing night out. I went dutch with lots of guys, too. I remember reading an article that promoted the notion that couples should contribute equally to relationships, and should strive to date at the level that the lower-earner of the two can afford. But let’s get real:  very few couples are composed of equal earners or equally motivated partners.

Frankly,  I now wonder whether not allowing a man to buy dinner when dating could have landed me in a decade-long relationship in which I supported an entire family. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much self-sufficiency. And I’m through supporting a perfectly capable man!

Contrast my past approach with a sassy widow I know. She recently revealed that she asks men who ask her out to pay her sitter.

Damn, girl! The last time I was in the dating game, it was common to split the tab. It was only the older, wealthier men who you knew with confidence were buying dinner. Either that, or I was just too dumb or too feminist. (And, no, I don’t believe they are the same thing.)

At this point in my life, I’ve developed an appreciation for receiving male attention in many of its forms, including gifts, meals, etc. In other words, it’s pretty unlikely that I’m going to pull out my wallet on the first couple of dates. Still, I’m not sure how that conversation goes…

He:  “So, wanna go out for a drink sometime?”

She:  “Sure, if you’re willing to pay for my babysitter.”

Which brings me back to my point:  If we get what we expect, then I’m okay with expecting a lot. I’m a successful woman; I deserve a successful mate. But I have yet to master the language of high expectations — i.e. the language of asking or negotiating for something I know I can provide for myself.

My friend puts it this way:  “We pay for the manicure, pedicure, brow wax, facial, we get made up and do our hair — look at the investment of time and money we’ll put into looking and feeling good for a date! And all he’s gotta do is pay for dinner and a movie?! No. I let him know that if he wants to go out with me, this is part of it. Maybe on the second and third dates, I’ll split the cost of the sitter and, if I like the guy after that, I may leave my children with my mom or sister. But my reality is that I have children, and he might as well understand that now.”

This woman has set the bar high. I can respect that. There are some dating experts out there who might refer to this as “Degree of Difficulty,” as in, a woman should have a high DoD in order to attract a guy who is willing to work hard to make her happy.

In any case, if she can rock it, I’m gonna learn to rock it, too!

reflections on the one-year milestone

My ex moved out a year ago today.

Thinking about that still hurts my heart just a little. There’s a tender spot as I reflect on the heartache and pain I suffered (and just as likely caused for another) in my marriage, as well as the failure to provide my children what I believed was so important to give them — a solid, secure and loving family environment.

(As I write this, Dusty Springfield has rotated into my iTunes playlist with I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. Would you call that ironic?)

The melancholy in reflecting on this stems from two sources:  First, that I loved so much and so deeply and yet didn’t know how to love, as surely causing pain to object of my love as he did to me. Second, that I chose so poorly in the first place. It’s difficult to accept that I knew so little about myself or was blind to so many signs that I picked a partner who would draw out so much pain and anger, forcing me to deal with them and grow (while he simply pointed fingers). I can’t help but believe there had to have been a kinder, gentler way to learn these lessons.

(And now Joan Armatrading’s Willow — “I said I’m strong, straight, willing to be your shelter in the storm…”)

I still remember the first day of it being just us:  my two elementary-school-age children and me. I explained to them that, without Daddy here every day to do things for them, they would have to help out by making their own school lunches, among other things. I assured them I would step in to help when needed, and that we were all capable and would be fine taking responsibility for ourselves and helping each other.

This is when my son teared up, “I don’t know if I can do it, Mommy.” He is a tender-hearted young soul, and so generous with his empathy and feelings! He continued to stress through the evening and even as I tucked him in to bed. My daughter, on the other hand, was excited about being given more independence and responsibility.

The next morning, everyone got up just a little earlier and pushed through the morning tasks of dressing, eating breakfast, making lunch, etc. just a little more diligently. We all got out the door on time, successfully. My favorite moment was at the end of the day when my son remarked, “Mommy, I guess I didn’t even need to worry.”

These past twelve months have also brought a number of lessons and much growth. I recall feeling that taking out the trash and recycling wasn’t really adding to my workload. And I also remember discovering other areas where my ex picked up more slack than I ever realized or gave him credit for. It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been plenty of hiccups along the way — my ex appears to be declining to communicate with me right now, as an example. Yet I can’t help feeling that we’ve come a long way.

My children have gained patience, self-reliance, a greater understanding that their parents are merely human and the capacity to be more helpful and responsible than I might have thought possible for their ages. (And still I work to balance this with their need for innocence.)

As for me, I am gaining confidence in making the choices and life decisions that nurture me. I am seeing more clearly what happens when I neglect to do important things that I’d prefer to ignore (the banking, taxes and money management, for instance). I am growing stronger, more clear and determined in my life path. And I am learning how empowering it is to commit to my own happiness, even if it requires making choices that once seemed impossible.

(Citizen Cope If There’s Love)

So I keep going back to my son’s wise words:  “I guess I didn’t need to worry.”

true story: the gift that kept on giving

Every so often I get a call from an old friend to tell me a truly heartwarming story…about a car. I know this sounds really weird, but bear with me.

There was a time in my late twenties during which I lived in an apartment, owned two cars — a luxury model my friends dubbed “the golden slipper” and a sports car — both of which were parked on the street. And I got tired of maintaining them both — trying to wash off the tree crud and wax them and insure them both. It seemed a little ridiculous for a single gal. And, as much as I loved my responsive little Mazda RX-7 and manual 5-speed transmission, I was ready to let her go.

Some background:  I had purchased the RX-7 from my mother and stepfather. It was originally a California car, in pristine condition, never exposed to road salt or the elements. I don’t recall the year anymore — only that it was deemed one of the best years in terms of design. I paid $3,000 in $500 installments, unloading a Ford Taurus in the process.

I loved and babied the car, storing it during the midwest winters. Eighteen months after I’d purchased it, the RX-7 and I were caught in a hail storm. The insurance company deemed it a total loss and assigned the fair market value at something approaching $5,700. After deducting the salvage cost, I drove my car home with a $3,800 check in hand — on the white finish, you could barely see the hail dents.

A year later, I realized it was time to sell one of my cars. I was ready to let the RX-7 go. I took some photos and cobbled together the kind of flyer you see posted on bulletin boards, with tear-off phone numbers along the bottom, and sent these along to work with several friends. A few days later, I had a message from someone who worked with my friend Joe. He came with his 17-year-old son to look at the RX-7. I cautioned him:  she wasn’t a car for a teenager, she should be stored in the winter, a young kid with no experience driving a stick shift could get in trouble with a high-revving responsive car like this. The more I cautioned them, the more determined they seemed. I suddenly didn’t want to sell my car, at least not to a 17-year-old boy, yet I eventually let her go for $3,750.

And that’s how a boy named Evan drove off with a car that captivated his interest and imagination. The RX-7, with its Wankel rotary engine, quickly became his passion and obsession. He was able to give the car more love and attention than I had, and he reached out to online forums and groups to chat, learn and explore everything there was to know about the car and its engine. He worked to make payments on the car and for his insurance, and bought parts to replace any that were no longer pristine. Regular updates came to me from Joe, who heard these things from the boy’s father. Evan’s older brother had turned to drugs, and their father was positively convinced that a car, my car, had saved his son’s life.

After graduating high school, Evan moved to Arizona and opened a mechanic’s shop, specializing in his passion for RX-7s and the rotary engine. He had an online presence and sold parts. He was doing very well for himself and his father was proud to go visit him.

It’s been the better part of a decade since I’ve heard updates from Joe on his co-worker’s son. So it was fun to hear recently, out of the blue, what Evan’s up to now:

He acquired an RX-8 when they came out and began playing with that, too, replacing, upgrading and customizing. He shared his work on YouTube. And Mazda saw what he was doing and asked him to do some work for them.

I don’t know the details. I only know that it feels so good to hear that someone’s life can be touched randomly, when they find that one thing that sparks their passion. And it’s lovely to think that an object, a possession, might be truly special — special enough to give me back more than I paid for it twice, and special enough to alter a young man’s life permanently. His return on investment must be much, much greater than mine. That car was charmed, I swear, and I am grateful to have been a steward of her magic, even if for such a short time.

And, in the same way that hearing the latest in this story warmed my heart earlier this week, I hope you got a warm, fuzzy feeling reading about it. Personally, I needed a little something positive today.

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.

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.