there were things I hated, too

I wrote awhile back about how much I loved simply co-habiting and sharing the daily stuff of life with a partner…

Well, as it turns out, I was having coffee with another divorced, single mother in a similar field…and we got to chatting about our personal status. She shared how much she liked having her home, routines, closets, television remote and bed to herself, and said that she not only did not miss her ex-husband, but also had no real desire to let anyone else in to her life in the same way. And then I confessed how much I loved living with someone, and we continued this conversation about benefits and shortcomings of space sharing…until suddenly the stuff I hated about living with my ex bubbled through the surface and out into the open.

For example:  his retreating immediately to the living room after dinner, lying across the entire sofa with a transistor radio and headphones in his ears, listening to god-knows-what programs about UFOs and conspiracy theories and the like…

The woman across the table from me cracked a smile, which became a cackle and then a guffaw as we both began to laugh aloud, our bodies shaking, and I saw in stark relief, for the first time, how freakin’ bizarre this scene was! And I realized that, in fact, I did not love everything about living with another person, at least not when he was so emotionally checked out and disinterested in relating.

So let me revise my initial treatise to confess that I loved living with my partner…when he was a partner. Time’s passage must have colored all my memories rosy, because I seemed to have forgotten how hard it was, at times, to accept and forgive when he’d shrunk a favorite sweater in the wash or broken my grandfather’s China while doing the dishes. And it especially sucked to watch his escape into the crackle and faraway voices of a transistor radio, a stupid little hand-crankable, battery-powered device, as its allure replaced any desire for my company, closeness, unity or intimacy.

I am describing what I believe is some sort of undiagnosed, untreated mental illness…nothing extraordinary, possibly just your run-of-the-mill depression. To see it and face it is difficult enough; to suggest or cajole that a loved one seek help is even more potent; to watch as it slowly erodes any hope for a positive future is devastating. And I’m sure it’s no different from anyone else’s experience of realizing that their relationship is doomed, that the end is near and that they are utterly powerless to do anything to save it. But living with that sucked!

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…

alone in my room (part 9)

About seven months ago…

Chi-guy had just left me at the front door of my hotel…

As if in a fog, I found my way to the elevator and pushed a button. The very first coherent thought in my head was, “I must have spent four or five hours on grooming — and for nothing!” It was true:  my hair, brows, toenails, legs and bikini area were groomed to perfection in anticipation of this very night.

Wow! I had not seen that coming! We had been flirty and suggestive for about a month now. How had I so completely misread this situation? Clearly we were not vibrating on the same level!*

Back in my room, I plopped onto the bed and turned on the television. Tension pumped through every cell of my body. I had been so ready for…for…for, I don’t know, something more. Honestly, I would have been happy to hang out and talk more, to lie near each other fully clothed, to simply make out, to hold each other and cry…anything.

My mobile buzzed with a new text message. For an instant, I hoped that he had changed his mind and was rounding the block to park.

“Got a parking ticket while saying good night,” it read.

“Bummer,” I responded.

We texted about the pathetic movie selection on cable and he made reference to the statistic about how long on average a porn movie is watched on pay-per-view in hotel rooms. I think I made one last-ditch attempt to express what I was thinking:  that two people in very similar circumstances, neither in a position to think of entering a relationship, might be uniquely available to provide comfort and touch in a way that could be healing, nurturing and fulfilling for both.

I washed my face and undressed. My body would not relax, settle down or allow me to sleep.

How did I get here? To this place where I had hoped and anticipated so much and was now feeling so incredibly rejected, unwanted and desperately alone? I mean, this was a guy that I liked well enough to contemplate putting his junk in my mouth! And I kind of thought he was into me, too.

It was too late to call any of my girlfriends.

“Really need to talk. Are you available?” I texted Max, thinking that, far left of here, there was a chance he’d still be awake. But there was no answer.

After tossing and turning for another hour or so and sobbing uncontrollably for a bit, I turned on the light and picked up a pen and notebook. I wrote some of what you’ve read over the past few entries, as well as these thoughts:

  • I completely respect that he must honor where his head and heart are at right now.
  • Does he not get that having this conversation has already changed everything? That our friendship can never be the same?
  • I get that flirting, like talking smack, is a bit of a game and liberties are taken. However, when our flirting became more directional or explicit, I was genuine in letting him know that I’m available. And I feel misled.
  • This whole thing about “liking me” is weird:  we live in different cities and each have children that will keep us there and we’re both in the process of ending relationships, so there is no potential for anything real…nothing to ruin or jeopardize. Where does he think this might go?
  • p.s. it is now 3:17am and I haven’t slept a wink.

I set my pen and notebook down, turned off the lamp and continued to toss and turn until I had no choice but to get up and begin my day.


*reference to the Law of Attraction, which states that like attracts like.

the divorce playlist, part 3

phase three:  hope, or songs for turning the corner

Rather than try to come up with a lot of songs that matched my mood in this particular phase of “recovery,” I wanted to write a few thoughts about why I so love these two so much. These are the kind of songs that balance precariously atop the fence rail separating mournfulness from hope.

Bob repeatedly sings, “It’s not the end of everything, it’s just the end of everything you know.” I once texted this sentiment to a friend who was going through a divorce. He responded, “Wait, was that supposed to make me feel better?”

Good question. While on the surface, the thought of everything we know ending seems scary, but it can also be tremendously hopeful. When what you’ve known is heartache and unhappiness, it’s nice to believe that there’s a world of unknown people, experiences and even feelings that have the potential to be sweeter and more beautiful than even the best memories. Considering the vast pool of everything, I’m willing to bet that my knowledge and direct experience is fairly limited — like the notion that we only use 5 – 10% of our brain power. I take great comfort in the idea of what I don’t know — or use — and its possibility. I’m holding out hope that what’s to come and what I will create is going to be a sight more blissful than what I’ve put behind me.

As for the second of these, I love Paul Thorn’s hang dog, glass-half-empty way of expressing the small improvements and minimal progress along the road to recovery from heartbreak:  “I have a good day every now and then; I count my blessings on one hand. I start believing the sun will shine again…” I love the way he lets the listener know just how awful things got with “I ain’t missed a day of work in two whole weeks now. I didn’t drink last night. Looked at your picture and shed just one tear before I turned out the light.” Somehow through the bleak funkiness of this tune, Thorn manages a mournful hopefulness, which is just what I need when I’m feeling that bad myself.

What songs let you know you’re not alone in your misery and give you hope?

See phase one and phase two.

there goes the neighborhood

One day last winter, I logged in to a social networking site to find that a married male friend’s status update indicated that his wife — I’ll call her Sally — was leaving him for another man.

Given that Sally was also a friend of mine, I was a bit shocked by this news.

So I did what women do:  I called a mutual friend and screeched, “Oh my God, girl, have you been on facebook!? Did you know anything about this?!”

This mutual friend admitted that she had heard, just days earlier, about Sally’s blossoming affair. Such drama! And amongst our quiet, family-friendly circle!

“I don’t know what to say!” I exclaimed.

This girlfriend then told me straight, “I think you need to call Sally and tell her that.”

“Good point,” I said. Gulp! Avoiding the impulse to analyze and delay, I hung up and immediately dialed Sally.

“Hello,” she answered, a knowing tone in her voice.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said.

“I seem to have that effect today,” she replied. “Never before have I rendered so many speechless.”

“You beat us to the punchline,” I retorted, referencing the fact that my husband had agreed to move out…but hadn’t yet. And we hadn’t even told the children at this point.

“I’m taking the low road all the way,” she deadpanned. And then she briefly recounted the unraveling of her marriage, the failed counseling, the meeting of her new beau, what they had told the children…promising to fill me in on details at another time.

We all knew Sally and her husband struggled, just as everyone knew that my husband and I were struggling. But I certainly didn’t anticipate such an abrupt and dramatic finale. They had appeared, at least to me, to communicate and relate in a such as way as to have the potential to salvage their relationship…until now, in any case. Sally’s husband’s broadcasting the news via social media was clearly a cry for the sympathy vote, and a rather low one, at that.

The ultimate effect of this drama for me, at least, was that my divorce would be neither the first nor ugliest amongst our group, relieving some of the pressure and fear I’d had about the steps we’d yet to take. I no longer felt so uniquely conspicuous, and my children would now have friends who had experienced similar family upheaval.

Somehow, all this cause me to feel just a little relieved.

dedicated to my ex

I’m in a crabby funk of a mood today. And so I’m going to share a poem I wrote for my ex:

you are lying next to me
near, yet far away
I lie here sleepless, thinking
that even your snoring
is shallow.


I long dreamt of becoming a writer. Even while I studied Communications and Business in college, I audited creative writing and poetry courses to feed my passion.

You could call me a late bloomer. I wrote short stories in my twenties, struggling with characters I felt were incomplete and immature. It took me until after I had my second child to grow up in many ways. That’s when I began to find my voice, so to speak…er, write.

It’s also when my ex began to come across my writing (on his laptop) and criticize it. So this is the last poem I’ve written, probably four or five years ago now. But I have a feeling I may soon be churning out a whole lot more!

descend the vultures

People are vultures — drawn, circling, to the wreckage. Sometimes without even realizing it.

At cocktail parties, public gatherings, all kinds of social occasions, people want to ask me, press me about my divorce.

“Are you okay?” one of them will ask meaningfully, leaning in close to suggest a safe haven in which for me to confide, despite the fact I’ve neither seen nor heard from said personage for at least the past year.

“Yes,” I reply. “I’m fine, thank you.”

“No, really…?” one will surely persist, as if he is my very best friend, and has endured relationship challenges of comparable magnitude, and this public place is an appropriate venue for this type of intimate discussion.

“Yes. It’s a transition, of course, but we’re adjusting,” I’ll say, offering up what I hope will be enough information so that I can change the subject directly. Blah, blah, blah…I have talked with genuine confidants until my face is blue and have no further interest in this topic. Truly.

Others around us are laughing, sipping, glasses clinking. This “friend” will continue to push with various probing questions or statements, e.g. “It must be really hard, what you’re going through,” until eventually, a glassy tear pools in the corner of my eye and my face begins to crumple into what I can only imagine is the same contorted, pained expression I’ve seen countless times as I’ve looked, weeping uncontrollably, into the bathroom mirror, wondering to whom that miserable reflection could possibly belong. I am fighting to stem the tears, fighting a losing game.

And then this well-intentioned fool will pull out the comforting words and pat my arm or embrace me, full of the triumph of finally getting through to me. “I’ve never seen you cry,” he will say, as if my tears are a trophy. He’s won.

Jesus, I’ve spent half of the past fucking decade in tears! Breaking down in public places, among strangers, in a conference room with my boss, when a co-worker makes a generous gesture. And I’d really like to be done crying, thank you. Or at least to spare myself some embarrassment by limiting breakdowns to the privacy of my home. If that’s okay.

People are vultures. They’ll circle the wreckage looking, waiting, watching, craning their necks to see what they can of the wreck, hoping for a glimpse of blood or severed limb.

funny little failures

As the year comes to a close and I begin to think about what I’d like to create – now that I am the sole leader of the family, the uncontested head of household – for the coming year, it’s a great time to look back and see what I failed to accomplish in 2010:

  • I didn’t get in great shape or lose a lot of weight.
  • I didn’t get a new car.
  • I didn’t get my house and garage re-roofed.
  • I didn’t fall in love; I didn’t even begin dating again…not really, anyway.
  • I didn’t stop being a stronger, better version of me.
  • I didn’t say only politically correct, appropriate things.
  • I didn’t go into debt.
  • I didn’t lose the privilege of parenting my children daily.

Whew! Thank heavens for small failures! There are only a few things on this list that I might have liked to accomplish anyway. Maybe I’ll plan those for 2011.

While we’re here, let’s take a moment to recount the successes of 2010:

  • I own my own home – no liens, no co-signers, just me and my bank and my first mortgage and my fixer-upper.
  • People around me comment on the positive change in my energy and the energy in my home.
  • My daughter seems to be coming out of her shell in ways that show what a strong and determined woman she will grow to one day be.
  • My son is learning resilience and growing stronger and more self-assured.
  • We are managing all this, my little family of three.
  • I’ve started my writing again. (and I can’t seem to stop!)

What apparent failures turned out to be blessings in 2010? What magnificent successes will you celebrate?