a whole new world of weird

It’s interesting that I feel so grounded and centered with so much weirdness around me:

Someone material to me has just made one of the most unmitigatedly, colossally poor decisions of her life:  she has allowed her ex to move back into her life and into her home. The ex is certainly narcissistic, quite possibly a psychopath, who was fired from his job for screwing an intern (in his office) who called him “Dad.” This is while married. The divorce was ugly; she has struggled to manage a large house and finances since. And she’s willing to take the philandering douchebag back… Ugh. Sadly, the woman in question is my mother. Containing the fallout will surely mean my relationship with her changes, as will the relationship she has with my children. The manipulative man formerly known as my stepfather has no place in my life.

Meanwhile, I’ve shared this news with my ex, whose response was that — if she could forgive and take him back — perhaps there was hope for us to reconcile, as well… Um, no.

Despite the drama going on around me, I’m managing my boundaries…so far, so good anyway.

special kind of sadness

No, I’m not in LA….

Actually, I’ve brought the children on what, to some, might be the vacation of a lifetime. But it’s not our first time in Orlando…

Traveling with them, I want them to feel joyous and excited. I want to feel relaxed. I think they are content and happy here. We exist mostly according to their whim and schedule. One resort employee even remarked that, together, their conversations and negotiations resemble as much an old married couple as two grammar school-aged children.

But for me, there’s a sadness…a grieving for the vacations we used to have: two-bedroom suites on the beach, so many firsts, grandma or other extended family members on hand to share child-care, travel arrangements and stress that I now manage by myself. Mostly I miss giving them the experience of all this as an in-tact family unit. Somehow I feel as though I’m giving them a lesser vacation by asking them to wait until I finish reading a chapter before joining them in an icy pool.

I know my ex is grieving our vacations, too, by the wistful replies he sends to my emailed photos of the children and his voice on the phone when he calls to talk to them.

Someday, I will get beyond the belief that two parents equals twice the vacation. I’m working on that.

Two days in, I’ve started to relax and enjoy just being in my children’s sustained presence. By tomorrow, I’ll be rocking’ this. And, with any luck, we’ll all arrive at home feeling refreshed, relaxed and full of new, happy vacation memories with our little family.

there you have it

I think those of you who follow here can tell that I’m fairly real and genuine. One moment I think I’ve forgiven and moved on; the next I’m behaving badly out of lingering blame and resentment.

These are realities for the divorced, and these are the things I choose to share here. I don’t dwell in them. It’s not my whole life. But it’s the sliver of me you get to see for visiting here.

not my finest moment

My daughter is a highly social creature and is often a sought-after playmate. (She’s ten, and I mean all of that in the most innocent and child-appropriate way possible, for any of you readers new to this site.) For any of you experienced parents, you know what a child is like when she returns home from a sleep-over, and my daughter was no exception this past weekend:  she was crabby and belligerent, pouty and generally unpleasant to be around.

After about the fifth, “why can’t we have a nicer house?” or “I wish we could turn our basement into a rec room like theirs,” I lost my cool. And I broke a cardinal rule:  I sandbagged my ex, threw him right under the proverbial bus. Why? Because I’d lost patience, I was sick of hearing about it and, truth be told, I was feeling many of the same resentful sentiments. That’s right — I caught the “lack bug.”

So my poor children got an earful of what they probably didn’t need to hear — that I’d never expected to be a sole provider; that, if their father had been a decent spouse and earner, we’d have a nicer home and so on and so forth. It wasn’t pretty. Nor was it appropriate. I’m not proud. In fact, I feel a bit ashamed about the whole thing.

Later I apologized and told them that he’s always been a loving father and has many excellent qualities, which is why I fell for him in the first place yada yada yada…

And then we went back to the basics of not comparing ourselves to others, being grateful for the awesome little family that we have and living well with the resources at hand. Which, as it turns out, was a pretty ingenious strategy, because my daughter immediately started cleaning up the messy little spots around the house and enlisted her brother to do the same. Because living well means living in a tidier space, obviously…or taking a little more pride in our home…

Whatever it was, it was contagious, and we were all energized to spiff up the place a bit. And then I think we all felt a little better after that.

As for me, I know succumbing to the residual resentment and blame of my failed marriage is no way to parent, nor is it any way to live. (In my defense, can I at least claim PMS?) So I’ve recommitted to living well regardless of resources; to taking responsibility for my choices, my family and my home; for rejoicing in and being grateful for the abundance in my (our) lives; and for living as the best woman / mother / mate I can be.

another brilliant dream

OMG, this morning I woke from another incredibly vivid and brilliant dream, this one vastly different in nature from the last. It was about revenge:

I heard strange noises early in the morning and heard a key in the lock — someone was entering my house. I was petrified; I couldn’t move. I gathered the strength to get out of bed and then went to the window and looked out. Trucks were dropping large lumpy bundles, like big canvas bales onto the yard.

I watched as my ex carried my sleeping daughter in his arms to a waiting minivan. It was her birthday, and I think I saw her cousin with them in the van. As I watched from the window with curiosity, wondering what was going on, the truck drivers began unrolling the enormous bales, revealing generators and inflating a veritable carnival of jumping, climbing and sliding attractions in the front yard. (This of course, could not be really my front yard — it doesn’t have the room. Rather, my “dream” home was the house in which I grew up as child.)

I ventured downstairs, still in pajamas, bed head and bad breath, and saw several large envelopes with notes in my ex’s handwriting displayed on the dining table. Each contained a rental agreement for the inflatable circus of which I’d just been thrust into the center, all charged to my credit card. Worse, there were already dozens of strangers wandering throughout my house and yard.

THIS is a positively brilliant example of what hell might well be like (if it exists at all) and, in my dream, my ex was genius enough to create it. I actually remember feeling a certain amount of awe before the overwhelming irritation at some complete stranger with small children looking around my house for a bathroom took over. Something like that should never happen before 8am!

At any rate, I then woke up, awed at my second incredibly vivid dream in only a couple of days. In my dream, I had given my ex the ability and initiative to make something spectacular happen — perhaps even turned him into the kind of man I could respect, the kind of man who might have proven equal to me in marriage. Even while dreaming, I had been impressed with what he’d done, presumably to simultaneously surprise my daughter and peeve me.

Even now, more than 12 hours after waking, I still feel lingering amusement, a bit of (perhaps unearned) respect for my ex and, yes, maybe even a deeper level of forgiveness.

“my” night

Sunday night was always “my” night, the one night a week that I claimed for myself, the one night that, when married, I was not the one to tuck the children in to bed, the night I controlled the remote. A typical Sunday-evening routine might include a few self-pampering activities, such as a clay mask, foot soak and pedicure.

Some very cheesy, melodramatic television selections were often a part of the evening, too. Nearly always, some contrived, yet touching moment would bring me to tears. And that was the idea. I needed to cry. I had to dissipate the stress of Monday in advance of its arrival.

I find I no longer need this routine. I still prefer a quiet Sunday evening at home to the alternatives and, now that The Good Wife has moved to Sunday time slot, I still enjoy watching a little (good) television, as well. But I no longer need the tears, the release. Sure, Monday mornings can be stressful. When you’re a single parent, every morning can be stressful. Revise that, when you’re a parent — even if there are two of you and you’re loving and supportive of each other — mornings can be stressful.

So after I put away this laptop, I’ll get out my official work laptop, take a look at what’s coming at me tomorrow, and do my best to prepare…without the tears. I might even squeeze in a pedicure.

overwhelmed, again

I have had a horrible day. I have never once believed that such a thing as Murphy’s Law existed but, for the first time, it seems to today. It seems to be one calamity after another around here and, if it’s more than I can manage to simply keep things somewhat picked up, then how on earth am I to manage the upkeep, maintenance and repairs of things, as well.

A few days ago I entered one of those silly internet games, a Dead Pool, in which people place bets on which celebrities will die in the coming year. We may as well place bets on which part of my property will go next…recent months have taken a clothes dryer, car, garbage disposal, garage door opener and refrigerator. Count the air conditioner and furnace in recent years and, of course, the roof…and then ceiling. Lord, how I somedays wish to dump this place onto a younger, more willing couple, fresh with energy and just starting out. Because it all seems to much to deal with anymore.

Yes, I am overwhelmed.

Many times I have thought about selling. Yet it will take tens of thousands to get in selling condition. And my children would declare mutiny, I’m sure. They are fond of this money pit in this charming and friendly neighborhood. It’s the only home they’ve known.

Well-meaning folks have said things like, “There’s a lesson in this somewhere.” Which is a good way to get my ire up. If there were truly one more goddamned lesson to be mined from the pain and heartache I’ve been through, I’d like to think I’d have durned well learned it by now!

Sometimes I become embittered and think, “If only things had been different…” By things, of course, we are discussing my wasband’s lack of income generation. We bought this home thinking of living here a few years and moving up to something better. But with a single income and two small children and a market which seemed to have peaked before we were ready to sell, there’s been no moving up…only a constant toiling. So I suppose if things had truly been different, we’d have sold and split our equity in a nicer home and I’d be back in something more modest. Something probably a lot like this!

flinching

I started writing this post well over a month ago:

Every so often, I still catch myself in that contracted state of responding from a place of fear or lack, as though I’m in a full-on life flinch, constantly anticipating another of life’s right hooks. And then, moments later, when I realize what I’m doing, that the proverbial perceived threat was only imagined, I relax and wonder at this baffling behavior…

Often this realization hits me while doing the most mundane of all activities, such as grocery shopping. I’ll neglect to buy ingredients for some fabulous meal I’d love to make because my children wouldn’t appreciate it, or it’s too much work for just one, or for some other reason that ends up sounding much more like an excuse. Banal example though it may be, it’s symptomatic of the recent phase in my life spent focused so much on making others happy that I’d forgotten to take care of myself.

Sometimes this divorce-recovery stuff seems like a slow climb out of the bomb shelter. Imagine me stepping up and out cautiously, feeling a bit leery, eyes squinting against the brightness of daylight.

Today, I can happily report that I bought old favorites like Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard and more while grocery shopping. I intend to make the foods I like and, if my children won’t eat them, I’ll take the leftovers to work. I also enlisted some help and cleaned a bunch of junk out of the garage. For the first time in nearly a decade, I can actually park my car in it!

In other words, I’ve successfully taken another leap or two in relaxing into this new position of President and CEO of my own life.

 

about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.

a different tune

It’s interesting how completely different the messages I’m getting from my current beau are from the ones I received from my ex.

I hear:  “You’re a really good communicator” and “You’ve got to tell me what you want, Lady!”

This sort of feedback is so completely refreshing after a few years of tension, silence and walking on eggshells! So…is it me who’s different? Or is it that these men are so completely different? Or is it that we create each other in relationships?