Tag Archives: midlife crisis

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!


am I over-analyzing all of this?

It was recently suggested to me (by an attractive man) that I might be over-analyzing all of this relationship stuff… I suppose that could be a fair supposition for a reader to make. Here, I’ll share part of my response…

“Indulge me as I share a story:

When I was pregnant with my daughter and began (around the 7th month) to feel the sheer panic that comes with the realization that this lovely little floaty bubble of bliss would, at some point burst, and then a head the size of a cantaloupe was going to come out of (and would likely tear to shreds) a much smaller hole / passageway…I went to the birthing classes and watched the reality birth stories on TLC. One thing I observed was that so many women would, in a moment of contraction agony, utter:  “I can’t do this.” And I remember thinking they were ridiculous! I mean, we’re women, our bodies are MADE for this! I had my doula, my (drug-free) natural birthing plan, my body had been in the best shape of my entire life when I got pregnant, and — even though I was occasionally visited by the sheer terror I mentioned earlier — I was confident that I would be champ at labor and birth.

Fast forward to several hours into labor, when the pain got ahead of me and I could no longer ride it like a wave, and I could no longer relax or rest between contractions…this is the thought that came into my head:  “I can’t do this.” And I thought it for a bit, meanwhile putting on my brave face and trying not to clamp my jaws together on the nearest arm and finally I, too, like those women on the shows, uttered those words, “I can’t do this.” Predictably, everyone around me jumped in with, “Yes you can!”s and other encouragement…but words or encouragement weren’t what I needed. What I needed was to speak my doubt aloud, release it of its power and move on…

I guess my blog is kind of like that. I don’t over-analyze everything…I think it, write it, release it and move on. Yes, there are areas of my life in which I’ve tried to be intentional…and then released those thoughts out into the universe. I’m probably more introspective and self-aware than many, likely more honest and bare…and that’s what I needed to do with this — I needed to explore being honest with myself, being completely vulnerable and to commit to writing all the time. (Frankly, I’ve had enough of this failed relationship introspection already — I’m ready to get out and live again!) Meanwhile, this space is also a great venue in which to cop a bit of a diva attitude that I rarely display in real life. So…if you’re going to read it, please try not to read too much into the very limited view it might offer…

While there are certain things that I’ve shared here that remain true — e.g. I do, at some point…maybe a few years in the future… want to be in a life-affirming, committed relationship — what I think I’m ready for has changed constantly since I began writing about it. One day, I think it would be peachy to find a lover who is willing to explore and share new heights of pleasure, and who might also be a confidante. Another day, I find I’m holding back my natural sensuality because I don’t want to lead with physical attraction, I want to find an emotional connection. And at another time, I think the most lovely thing in the world would be to enjoy a conversation, maybe hold hands, maybe smooch a little (okay, not gonna lie, a make-out session sounds spectacular!). I want adventure! Or a little candlelight and some romance! I’m making peace with all of the different aspects of myself and integrating my energy. I feel lighthearted and playful and whole in way that I can’t claim to have felt in years. It’s wonderful…I’m living in the present moment. And I feel amazing!

My entire adult life has been lived in shades of gray, sometimes with too few guard rails… After being pretty lost for a bit, grasping for anything that seemed solid, while being conscious about what I’m trying to create, I am wide open to allowing things to unfold, to “let go to the mystery”…in fact, I’d prefer to be surprised. At this moment, I have no pre-conceived notions about what my next relationship might be like or how long it will last…I can only suspect (given my parenting schedule), that it’s likely to unfold slowly. And that’s okay with me. I’m navigating moment to moment… Whatever I think I might want in the long run, the only way to move forward is to take small steps — meeting people, going out, having fun…”

Then I wrote that I have fun with him…and to please not mistake reading the blog for experiencing / knowing the woman who writes it.

What do you think of that, my kind readers?


book report: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve been trying for a long time to review or comment on or find some way to share with you the delightful gooey yumminess that is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed:  A Love Story. It’s been out for a while now and, having appreciated Eat, Pray, Love and had my own reservations and struggles with the whole concept of marriage, I was really eager to dig in.

And yet I cannot make sense of this book for you. I mean, I can tell you that it’s a study of the history and issues around marriage from the perspective of a reluctant bride. Yet there is no way for me to boil it down into a condensed and sensible takeaway because, frankly, there is just too much amazingly juicy history, research, revelation and personal drama — and that’s just in Chapter 4, Marriage and Infatuation. I’m kidding; there are many great chapters. But, in the paperback copy I bought at the local discount retailer (you know the one with the big red bullseye), pages 96 through 134 cover so much — from enlightenment to infatuation, chemistry to philosophy, addiction to personal revelation, vasopressin receptor genes, walls and windows, prenuptial agreement and confessions.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Aristophanes mythical story of why humans so long for union with one another.
  • “I can no longer do infatuation. It kills me. In the end, it always puts me through the wood chipper.” Who wouldn’t appreciate this oblique reference to the Coen brothers’ Fargo?
  • Oh, the wisdom and revelations of the older and wiser on her second time around! The maturity with which the (very necessary, in my opinion) prenuptial agreement is discussed!
  • The listing of her own most deplorable faults, which she shared with her fiancée (as if he didn’t know) to ensure he knew what he was getting in to. I may attempt to do this myself here in this blog.
There is so much more in this book that makes it worth the read, particularly if you’ve tried and failed, particularly if you’ve struggled with the very notion or institution of marriage, particularly if you’ve ever felt bare, broken or vulnerable.

how to write goals with feeling

Awhile ago, I read a great article in O about goals and creating.

Author Martha Beck advises writing down what you think you want. For example, “I want to lose 30 pounds.” Or, “I want to start a business.”

Then ask yourself how you think you’ll feel when you’ve accomplished your goal. For the first it may be, “I’ll feel fit, energetic, confident” and for the second it may be “I’ll finally feel in control of my life, freedom.”

Sometimes there’s a disconnect between what we think we want and the way we want to feel. For instance, many people who start a business feel anything but free or in control — in fact, they may feel as though they’re always working and that life is more stressful than it was before. And for some, a weight loss goal may seem overly daunting.

So the author recommends using adjectives to help you re-write your goals, beginning with how you want to feel. If you want to feel “fit, energetic and confident,” your goal may seem more specific and achievable, and you can support your goal with smaller and achievable steps like “eat more vegetables, exercise regularly, take a pole dancing or burlesque class.” And, if you manage to take those small, manageable steps toward feeling the way you want, you may find yourself on your way to losing 30 pounds after all.

So when it comes to feeling more in control of my work-life balance, income and freedom…well, I haven’t figured that one out quite yet.


what changes once it’s final?

Today…

As usual, I checked in with Facebook in the morning before I left for work. Status updates from Chi-guy tend to be few and far between, so I noted with interest his comment about the cold, rainy day being an appropriate backdrop for the kind of day he had planned. I wondered if this was it…

Divorce is something I’ll never really find a way to rejoice. Even if it’s absolutely the right thing and the best thing for all parties, there is no way for me to view it wholly as a win-win. It’s a moody or melancholy occasion at best. And so I made a mental note to call and check in this evening. (Again, “super friend” mode…)

As it happened, we texted back and forth a few times throughout the day, and he confided his newly (legally) single status to me late in the afternoon. Does this change anything? Not really. We still live in different cities, find each other attractive and flirt. But nothing’s really different, right?

He acknowledged that it’s been an emotional day. He was comforted by having his daughter with him for the evening and overnight. And he generally seemed in good spirits having had, as he pointed out, “some time to get used to the idea.”

So maybe it’s his candor and openness, or his sense of humor — we seem to laugh a great deal together — but those are things we’ve shared for months. It seems they’ve always been there. Perhaps it’s that he’s genuinely available now in a way that he wasn’t before.

Whatever the case, I’m telling you one thing for certain:  this man has never been so sexy!


waking from a magnificent dream

This morning, on the verge of sleep and wakefulness, I dreamt / saw this vision:

I was at the edge of the arctic, standing on what I thought was solid ground. I placed a stake in the ground, and suddenly realized that the apparent earth I’d been standing on was a floating chunk of ice, drifting out to sea — like the hungry, solitary polar bear you’ve seen in a documentary.

There was a moment of panic as I realized I would be lost, cold and alone, adrift on the frigid sea. And then, a mere breath later, as I found my balance on this gently rocking ice raft, I looked around and realized the sea was full of people like me:  I was drifting into a community of free-floating individuals, none of whom looked cold, alone or afraid. In fact, they were smiling.

Another deep breath…and then I knew I didn’t need to be afraid, either. I felt welcome.


my shit, your shit

My ex used to describe me as Teflon; nothing sticks. He wanted to push blame and responsibility for everything wrong in our relationship onto me. He also described my personality as swinging wildly between Deepak Chopra and Leona Helmsley. Frankly, I’m actually somewhat proud of that description — it makes me sound such a unique combination of serene and fierce!

Through it all, I developed a great sense of clarity when it came to “his shit” and “my shit.” We all bring it in to relationships, and the best of us own our own baggage.

Yes, I screw up. I don’t always do things right. But if you’re willing to point out to me where I’m going astray, I will happily take stock and try to do right. My ex wanted a mind reader. I went about my business assuming I was being a decent partner until he blew up about my not arriving home before six each evening or some other offense that I might have remedied eons ago, if only I’d known it bothered him. Truth be told, I would have liked to learn how I might have been a better partner to him. It might have helped me in future relationships, as well.

He made interpretations about me and my actions that were so far removed from anything I said or meant or intended that it was crazy-making! In other words, he heard my words or saw my expressions through a filter that had nothing to do with me, but then assumed that meaning was fixed, forgetting that there is intent and tone and nuance to consider.

I was reminded of all this over the weekend, when he picked up the children, criticized my housekeeping and told me I hadn’t created anything in 15 years. It was tempting to tell him about the 130 odd posts here on this blog, among other things. But let him learn the hard way or remain blissfully ignorant. He may still get a rise out of me, but I’m able to care a lot less about it than I used to.

Bottom line:  I’ve got plenty of shit. I uncovered a lot of it all by myself. But I sure wish I’d had a partner who could have helped me see, heal and shovel more. And I’m sure hoping I can find someone more encouraging and life affirming, who will let me know directly when I misbehave, with whom to share my future!


what happened next (part 15)

Four – six months ago…

If you’ve followed all this bizness about Chi-guy, you already know that I had developed some feelings for him, that he was a hot mess and that, despite a mutual multi-year crush, we never got it on. And even thinking about what happened next makes me want to slap myself!

I became the über friend, the counselor and confidante. We had discovered that our situations were remarkably parallel in too many ways to ignore:  he had lost his job and was the primary caregiver for his daughter while his wife was the breadwinner, just as in my household; he had been using alcohol to numb his pain, just as my ex did; even our (and by “our” I mean mine and his ex wife’s) roofs leaked following the same winter storm (despite several hundred miles between us).

“You know that’s your fault,” I teased.

“Yes, I’ve been told,” he replied.

He told me he didn’t understand why. I told him (as I’ve now written twice) that he should stop asking, because he’d never get a satisfactory answer. He asked me how her life could possibly be better now, without him there. And I told him that it’s not; it’s hard having to be the full-on single parent, especially when you’re hurting emotionally, and to take on all the other tasks that were once shared. Yet the stress is different because the emotional weight is gone. We even discussed Dr. Phil’s philosophy on what women need from men — to provide income and a soft place to land (emotional safety).

I sent him emails and texts and even small gifts. I dreamt about him — dreams that were too real and projected my fears about my own ex onto him — and then worried that those dreams might be real. I called from time to time, and I was there when he needed to talk.

I loved (and still cherish) the closeness, our conversations, his authenticity and candor, yet I hated what had become of us. I didn’t want to be his friend or his counselor; I wanted to be his woman. I wanted to feel that intensely feminine way that I’d felt when I was near him. I wanted to sit across a table from him, listening while he talked, but mostly smoldering inside as I fantasized about crawling across the table, opening him up and licking his sexy brain.

Sometimes we were flirtatious, yet emotional support or commiseration ruled our conversations. After the holidays, he updated his profile photo on Facebook. I could see immediately that he’d turned a corner. I relaxed. I let go of my need to worry about him.

When I caught myself yearning for him or, more accurately, that feeling I had when I was with him, I stopped and replaced the thought of him with “him, or someone even better for me.” I forced myself to create a list of characteristics that my ideal mate would have — even those things in direct conflict with who Chi-guy is now. And I created an online profile and opened myself to dating.

You see, it wasn’t that I thought I was in love with him. Rather, I believed (and still do) that we have a unique connection, a potential of some kind, and we were (are?) missing the opportunity to fully explore whatever it might be or wherever it might lead.

Maybe this is all we get. Maybe we get to have supported one another through a transition. It’s been strangely rewarding (even if not satisfying). But sometimes I still wonder how our story is going to end…


what’s your wacky divorce story?

I’ve heard some truly bizarre stuff in talking with friends and colleagues about divorce. Seems once you put it out there, everyone’s willing to share a story.

Take, for instance, a local friend:  He’s not originally from these parts, and he was offered an opportunity to come and work here, in this lovely midwestern city, by a friend — his best friend. My friend bought a house, met a woman, got her pregnant, got married and is now divorced. My friend always did the bulk of the housework, brought in the bulk of income and did the lion’s share of parenting, as well. Since the split, he’s learned that his very best friend goes over to visit his ex, shovel the walk and babysit their child — without telling him!

Or another male friend:  Just over two years ago, his wife’s sister was going through a divorce. At the time, he remarked to his wife how stressful and sad that must be, and asked:  “I mean, if you were having feelings like that about me, we’d be talking about it, right?” Six months later, his wife’s brother was asked to move out / for a divorce. Six months after that, my friend was asked to move out and was on his way to a divorce. Six months after that, his ex-wife’s sister’s ex-husband and his ex-wife’s brother’s ex-wife are dating. Did you follow that? The in-law’s exes are dating. And then my friend’s ex-wife’s father made a feeble suicide attempt with a bottle of sleeping pills and a cry-for-help note. As I told my friend, “It’s not you. Clearly your ex and everyone in her family needs drama.”

When I was going through the worst of it, feeling emotionally unstable and questioning my sanity, stories like this kept me going. Like watching any of The Real Housewives franchises, it was incredibly grounding; I realized I wasn’t all that crazy.

So what’s the most bizarre divorce story you’ve heard? What crazy cues did you draw on to assure yourself of your sanity?


the midlife crisis explained

I took a workshop by Dr. Joe Dispenza one day recently. He talks and writes about how we can use brain science to transform our lives. He is also a chiropractor and practices yoga. What I love about him is that he takes a concept so many people think of as New Age or woo-woo, explains the very real brain science behind it and makes it practical.

So, imagine my surprise as I’m eagerly waiting to do a guided meditation exercise, when he brings up the midlife crisis. Apparently, there are real reasons for this phenomenon!

He highlighted the outer manifestations — people getting divorced, quitting their jobs, deciding to circumnavigate the world in a sail boat. Most often, it seems, we are able to see what others are shedding, releasing or giving up. We rarely understand the reasons for this or what new beliefs they are bringing into their lives. Most often, we look at these people and ask, “have they lost their minds?!”

The answer, according to Dr. Joe is YES! And that can be a good thing:

You see, by age 35 or 40, our brain is 95% completely formed. Connections are in place, we’re often married, working and parenting by this time. We are socializing with people in groups that may have been formed based on our children’s school associations or through work or merely by where we live. And suddenly we realize that the outward vision of what others see of us and how we feel about ourselves are completely different. We may not even like the people we’re working so hard to impress!

Often, there is some feeling of fear or anxiety or lack of self-worth that we’ve failed to process or deal with along the way and, often, we’re not even conscious of this. But for those of us who have or are going through it, we know something is wrong and we act out in one of two ways:

  1. We drop out. We begin to make changes by releasing what is no longer serving us, whether it be relationships, jobs, careers, our home (the illusion of stability). We are willing to give up everything to find something more authentic and meaningful and true to us.
  2. We try to fill the gap between how we feel and how we’re perceived. This is where the sports cars, trophy mistresses and jewelry and such come in — sometimes creating tremendous debt. Or we may try to fill this gap with alcohol or other substances which, because they don’t effectively work on any authentic level, require more and more over time, becoming addiction.

I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well, and I highly recommend you buy the new Dr. Joe Dispenza book when it comes out or, better yet, attend a workshop. He gave me so much to think about!

And, of course, at the next break I rushed to the front of the room to proudly proclaim that “I am this cliché you were talking about! I just got divorced, turned forty and quit my job, and I’m so excited about the opportunities out there for me, because I know I can create something better!”

Dr. Joe gently held my arm, began nodding his head up and down, and said, “When you’re saying that, make sure your matching it in your body. You’ve been shaking your head from side to side as you said that.”

Busted! My body was saying “no” while my mind was screaming “YES!” Now to get my body to catch up with my brain…