Friday, November 30, 2007

Personal Pleasures

Have you read that book by Rose Macauley? Really, you should. In it, she has short little precis about things she loves. And she doesn't shy away from loving mutually exclusive things; "getting up" and "sleeping in" are on facing pages.

There's a connection here. Wait for it. My heart is still broken into a jillion little pieces. Last night was a bad night, in that Dave and I had a destructive, confusing, bitter e-mail exchange. One thing that's slightly better than it was a few weeks ago, though, is that I now realize that there are still good things about my life. I've gone on and on about my amazing friends and family -and I haven't done it enough, even now.

But I also realize that I need to chronicle the small things that are pleasures. Maybe there are even pleasures that were unavailable to me when I was married. (Well, technically, I'm still married, but that just seems to be a matter of time now.)

Sleeping with my socks on.

Yup. I've been doing that and it's lovely. In a probably vain effort to avoid complete frumpiness, I never slept with my socks on when I was sharing a bed with someone else. I just had visions of the middle-aged wife with her hair in curlers, green goo on her face, a flannel nightgown.... a vision of allure and sexuality. NOT! So I didn't want to go there, and socks in bed seemed like a good place to draw the line.

Who cares now? I crawl into my bed, slather green goo on my feet, put on my wool socks, and sleep warm and cozy all night long. Well, until 2 or 3:00, but I don't think there's a pair of socks that will fix that problem. It's amazing how warm I can be, even without a husband to warm up my cold feet. So there you are, a personal pleasure. I'll try to think of more as the weeks go on.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Ten Best Books of 2007

Well, they're the ten best books of 2007, according to the New York Times -and they say all kinds of strange things. The sad thing is that I have read not a single one. That's got to be a first. Here's the list. Should I read any of these, oh wise ones, or just start over in 2008?

  • Man Gone Down; Michael Thomas
  • Out Stealing Horses; Per Petterson
  • The Savage Detectives; Roberto Bolano
  • Then We Came to the End; Joshua Ferris
  • Tree of Smoke; Denis Johnson
  • Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
  • Little HEathens: Hard TImes and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression; Mildred Armstong Kalish
  • The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the SUpreme Court; Jeffrey Toobin
  • The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History; Linda Colley
  • The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century; Alex Ross

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rounding the Corners

There's a metaphor here. It may be a little painful getting there, but I'm going to give it a shot.

I had coffee with my friend Elizabeth the other day. For four hours, the poor dear listened to me blather on about my sad life. (Note to self... pull it together or drink less coffee. Those are your only two choices.) Anyway, in addition to the monster/classic scary movie stuff that you see when you follow her link, Elizabeth and her husband are arborists and amazing gardeners.

Around here Dave has always done the gardens and, really, they are lovely. But Elizabeth pointed out that they are aggressively rectilinear. There is no curve or soft edge anywhere in the rather large yard. Sometime in the spring, she and her husband are going to come out here, and we're going to take a shovel to the gardens and round the corners. That promises to be a fun and exhausting weekend.

And it got me thinking. Perhaps that's exactly the task -or part of it, anyway- that is before me. I need to/want to "round the corner" in the sense of softening some of the edges that have developed over the years. In the house (which is a classic four-square -again, quite angular), in relationships with people, in my own thinking about the world... maybe I need to stop thinking in boxes and straight lines and start thinking in spirals and swirls. I need to soften.

Of course, the temptation under the circumstances is to harden and be tough and stand my ground. And maybe I'll need some of that as separation and divorce proceed. OK, certainly I will. Boundaries need to exist, but in some ways they are over-rated as defense strategies. For now, I'm going to see where softening the edges takes me.

Of course when I try to get down to specifics I get a bit muddled. We can add curves and height to the garden. I can soften many of the hard edges in the house, over time. Textile-girl that I am, I can probably figure that out. I can call friends who have been boxed out, because Dave isn't crazy about entertaining. I can -oh dare I say it- try to get out of my own head and my own troubles- and see if I can soften someone else's troubles.

More ideas?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I'm Becoming My Mother

If you've ever met my mother, I suppose you know that it was just a matter of time. But here we are.

My mother has a ritual that soothes her. It's a little peculiar, but it certainly doesn't harm anyone and it makes her happy. She is kind of obsessive about her bed. Making the bed is a huge big deal. She irons the sheets (and not just the top edge that shows, thank you very much). There are two dust ruffles. The pillows are just-so. The mattress pad is so tight that this tiny little woman has to kneel in the middle of the bed and tug to get it to go around the corners. Yet, once she's done all that, she sleeps better. (No kidding. She probably wore herself out. But just wait... I'd best not be casting verbal stones.)

So, I moved back into my house over the last few days. I still have stuff strewn across the country, but I'm sleeping in my very own house. I went upstairs to the bedroom and saw the huge king-size bed that we have because Dave is so tall. I stopped dead in my tracks. WAY too many memories there for a good night's sleep! So I slept in my daughter's bed (she doesn't live here... it's not like I kicked her out or anything), which is where I've been for the past few nights. It's been quite comfortable, actually.

But then I remembered that there is an antique bed that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. It's up in the attic; we couldn't use it because Dave wouldn't fit in it. But I can use it now! And I can have a girl-bed. I want to have a girl-bed, complete with all the silly pillows that no one is actually allowed to sleep on. I want to take that king-sized bed out of that room and turn the room into my space.

So yesterday I bought a mattress. It will be delivered on Tuesday. Now I get to go shopping for girl-sheets. But if I start ironing them, you'll know I've crossed a line. Feel free to stop me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Biggest Mess I Ever Saw

My babies and their cars

I don't know what came over the renters. Heaven knows, I'm no Suzy Homemaker. But I have never seen such a mess. Who knew bugs came in so many varieties? :(

I guess that once they agreed to move out, cleaning became unimportant. And they're young, and I suppose these things are less important when you're young. They certainly were to me.

And I was never so glad to see a mess in my life! Clean would have been better, I suppose. But I spent the day cleaning, and polishing, and rearranging, and undoing... and in a strange way, that made the space mine again. Now I'm almost back to where I was four months ago.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Check #8742

It's a day of tasks required to disentangle my life from Dave's. This morning I wrote check #8742, closing a bank account we've had for 21 years and opening a new account in my name only. A forensic accountant could track a whole adult life with those cancelled checks. Back in the early days of that account, we paid for everything with checks. (Remember those days?) There are checks for the diaper service and baby food, and ballet lessons and hockey sessions and harp lessons and college tuition and family vacations. The next-to-last check was to the divorce lawyer, and the last one was closing out the account. So, that story ends.

But the next story begins, I suppose. I have my big-girl bank account, and a credit card in my own name, and we talked about a home equity loan to buy Dave out of his part of the house and to purchase a new furnace. I could feel almost grown up and independent. That's not the primary feeling, God knows, but there's a little glimmer of strength and pride, way down deep somewhere.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Aggression, Stupidity, or Something Else Entirely?

I would have told you that I took everything of mine from Philadelphia when I left. Of course, I was in a bit of psychic disarray, to put it mildly, and it soon became clear that I had left a few things behind.

More than a few, it turns out: three boxes of things, from the important (bike helmet and swim bag) to the completely unimportant. Dave has mailed them all to me. And of course it's not his place to decide the importance of my things. So if it looked like it was mine, he put it in a box and mailed it -at considerable expense of time and energy, to his credit.

But in the latest box was some of my food from the cupboards. In particular, a box of grits. Now I know that he will not eat grits, so it would have gone to waste there. But it was an OPEN box of grits, which he didn't put into a ZipLoc bag. He just put it in the box -and now there is grits in all of my winter clothes (which of course, in my permanent state of denial about winter, I had left behind.) Grits won't ruin clothes, so there's no harm done.

But really... who does that? There was also a cauliflower in the refrigerator, which I'm sure he didn't use. Why didn't he send that? Or what about the open bag of flour -or is he suddenly going to take up baking? Why choose the grits at all? Why not grab a bag to put it in? What on earth is this about?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Launch Party

Here's the background. Some of you know it, but in broad strokes here's what happened. My husband knew he wanted a divorce, but waited until I had left my job, my friends, rented out our house, and traveled with him to Philadelphia to actually tell me that. So, when I left in despair, I was unemployed and homeless -to say nothing of heart-broken. Try as I might to be charitable (he continues to be the father of my children and they sometimes read this blog), the best thing I can say about that behavior is that it was cowardly and not consistent with his best self.

However, there is some good news. The tenants in our house have agreed to vacate the lease as of December 1. So I can move back into the old homestead. At least one source of fear and frustration will be eliminated from my life. I don't know if I can afford to keep the house forever. Or even, really, if I have the skills to keep it; it's a 100-year-old bundle of needs. I'm considering my options there. But for now, I will have my own space.

Therefore, I'm having a launch party. You know how publishers have launch parties for new books? That's the idea. It's the old house, but we're dedicating it to its new purpose. I'm launching a new life in this cozy, welcoming old space. Please come help me do it.

Friday, December 14.
6:30-ish until we wear ourselves out
If you're coming from out of town and want to spend the night, just let me know.
If you don't know where the house is, send me an e-mail.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

You Find Out Who Your Friends Are

To my mind, it shouldn't have been such a wild and crazy out-on-a-limb assumption that my husband was my friend. But apparently, it was an assumption that couldn't be made.

Nonetheless, I've learned that I have an embarrassment of riches in the friend department. People have opened their hearts, their homes, their ears, their arms... and let me know not only that I'm not alone but that I am loved. The biggest, darkest risk (it seems to me at this moment) of this divorce process is that it makes me feel humiliated and small and unlovable. But stacked against that is the other evidence -that people (some of whom have only "met" me on-line) are unfathomably generous and loving.

It's a little (okay, a lot) hard to be so abjectly on the receiving end of a friendship. It's not a bad lesson however. I could, for example, stop feeling unworthy and start saying thank you. What a thought.

Tom and Terri
Sharon and Richard
Jeff and Jody
Dave and Elizabeth

And I'm sure I've forgotten someone -and as soon as I remember, I'll update the list. But really... how can a person feel totally down when there's a list like that? I love all of you. I am tirelessly grateful to each one of you.

And there's going to be a party December 14. I'll keep you posted, but save the date!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another Day; Another Dullard

I'm still here, struggling to make sense of my life. Which must get astoundingly boring to read about, so I'll spare you the details. I would have thought I'd have made more progress by now, but there seems to be a steady stream of assaults on my equanimity. But I'm here. I'm coping.

I went to yoga last night and that was wonderful -and probably helpful (along with the steamed milk and honey that I tried) in finally sleeping through the night for the first time in a month. Today I got a major reinvention haircut. I'm a little freaked out about that, but I think I'll like it before long. There's some modest hope that I'll have a job before the end of the week. Please think good thoughts about that. Think them hard, if you don't mind.

So, all in all... I'm putting one foot in front of the other. but not much more than that.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Living As If

I realized today that I'm living as if things mattered. They really don't seem to actually matter, but I'm acting as though they might. Everyone assures me that the important things will matter to me again, but that's hard to imagine. It's sort of like not being able to imagine feeling healthy when you're really sick. There's only an intellectual assertion of the possibility of health, not really a memory of what that felt like.

So, I go to the gym. I swim. I look for a job. I tend to the sad tasks of disentangling my life from my partner of 26 years. And I knit.

Knitting soothes me. I bought some happy blue, green, and yellow self-striping sock yarn and am making a circular baby blanket for my brother and his wife's baby-to-be. (What kind of nut-case makes a baby blanket on size 2 needles??? I'm pleading temporary insanity.) I'm knitting for something. There must be something good happening in the future, and these stitches are marking the passage of time toward that good thing. As long as I'm knitting, hope has a place in my life.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Ring that Doesn't Fit

I don't know what any of this means.

On the last horrible day of living with my husband, I was e-mailing my siblings about every half hour. What do I do about this? What should I do here? Please keep me moving. That kind of thing. One of the questions I had was, "what is the wedding ring protocol in situations such as these?" Leave them on the table in an essentially unproductive fuck-you gesture? Take them with me but take them off? Keep wearing them as a sign of hope and commitment? They came through, the sibs did -as they always do. I was encouraged to keep the rings; they were a gift to me. Take them off, if that felt better. But the rings belong to me.

So, I took them off and got on the road. The strange thing is that I don't feel the rings when I wear them. But I felt their absence, and it was just another in an apparently endless string of painful experiences. Then I remembered that I have a ring of my very own.

When I graduated from college, my mother gave me a ring that had been hers and her mother's -and possibly her mother's. Stories become apocryphal fairly quickly in our family. However many generations, though, the idea is that the oldest daughter inherits this ring. (When Victoria graduated from college, she started lobbying for the ring, thinking that the "rule" was that it was a graduation present. But that can't be right. Not all those women went to college, much less graduated. So I haven't handed it over yet.) It's an amethyst, in a beautiful old-fashioned setting. As a little girl going through my mother's jewelery box, I always loved this ring.

So, to deal with the "phantom-ring pain", I started to wear this ring. Maybe somehow, I reasoned, I could channel the strength of those formidable women. The thing is... it doesn't fit. This is looking like a very bad omen. On my left-hand ring finger, the ring wobbles around and I'm afraid it will slip off. And the setting is fragile and the stone is a little weak, so this is NOT a ring you can wear while you clean the bathroom -as one can with a diamond. If I put the ring on my right hand, it's way too tight. And believe me when I tell you that I have channeled no formidable strength.

So for a few days I put my wedding rings back on. That felt comfortable, physically, but it hurt my heart to see them. I don't want the symbol of being married, for heaven's sake. I want to BE married. So, the amethyst has come back out of the jewelery box.

Not surprisingly, it still doesn't fit. Maybe I'm just not a strong woman in this lineage.