Saturday, December 29, 2007

And...she's OFF!

Starting today, the image of a launch is actually a good one. I'm crazy, deranged busy starting this morning. In fact, I shouldn't be sitting here with my coffee -and certainly not in my bathrobe! My new job starts tomorrow. Yes, on a Sunday that is New Year's Eve. And my yarn shop job is today. And I'm back at home, having spend a week with my family (of origin), and I now have nothing but dirty clothes.

Some breezy observations...

My brother talks tough. (It's the military brother that I stayed with over Christmas). You are SO VERY busted, bro. Anyone who chops up carrots to feed Santa's reindeer, because his 10-year-old son desperately still wants to believe in Santa -and then spends way too much time in the middle of the night picking the carrots up out of the yard, so that the child CAN believe... well, "tough" isn't a word that comes to mind. He was very careful with me, teasing but never over the top, keeping me plied with just enough alcohol so that I could sleep, talking sense to me when I was getting sentimental about what might be possible between Dave and me.... Truly, if you've ever hit the psychological wall and need a place to be cared for, call him.

Baby Thomas is seriously the cutest little thing. He's TEENY. He's almost 2, in every possible way, except height. (I'm familiar with the height problem, dude!) So, he says no, he grouses about his nap but still definitely needs his nap, he will only play with the REAL and most expensive cell phone in the house... And he snuggles, and lets you read him books (while he eats the pages), and blows kisses, and draws pictures.... We did good work there. My brother and his wife think they did most of the work, but we were on the case too. And he is seriously one of our better efforts.

I think I may have psychologically turned a corner. I know there will be ups and downs for me, but there seems to be an opening in the clouds. Literally, that's what it feels like. There is now room in my head to think about other things besides my own troubles. The key moment might have been on the plane last night when I thought... "do you suppose all along, HE hasn't been good enough for ME????" Wouldn't it be funny if that were true? So I have to think about what is going to take up the newfound space in my head. Nothing good can come from keeping it empty ;)

But right now, I have to run. No one wants to learn to knit from a crazy lady in a frumpy bathrobe.

Happiest of New Year's, dear ones. We deserve a good one, this time around.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Locking My Door vs. Locking My Heart

When we lived together as a family, we never locked the house or the car. It started out as a social justice statement. We trust our neighbors, and we trust the community. We were willing to risk being hurt rather than deny the neighbors something they might need from the house. Besides, there are no more ditz-brained people when it comes to keys than Dave and I are. So, leaving the house and the car unlocked was just plain easier.

But lately I've been locking the door. In fact, I changed the locks, and I lock the door. I've even been locking the car, and I assure you no one wants to steal my car. I still trust my neighbors. I'm still, on some level, willing to make the social justice statement of leaving my house open.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that my project these days is to learn to protect myself. I don't want to lock my heart as well as my house; that way lies bitterness and a different kind of pain. Yet, part of being the grown-up in my own story is to ensure my own safety. Locking the door is really only a symbol. Every time I leave the house, I have to think to flip the lock and grab my keys -reminding myself that it's my job to keep me safe. Every time I arrive back home and have to fish my keys out of my pocket, it's the same reminder in reverse.

This could absolutely go too far. Some vulnerability is probably a good idea, although that's really a little hard to imagine these days. But, a mistake I without question made was to trust that the people who (used to) love me wouldn't hurt me, at least not on purpose. I settled back and let Dave take care of me way more than was appropriate. When he decided to stop doing that, I lost everything. I haven't lost sight of the fact that I took care of him in some ways, too. (He has lost sight of that, but that's another story.) But I'm trying not to care how he's doing. My job right now is to take care of myself.

Why is there so little joy in discovering that the joking statement I've so often made, "It's all about ME!", is for right now true? Oh well. Be careful what you wish for, I suppose

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh, forcryingoutloud

Does the man have a sixth sense? Does he know when I'm having a good day and decide to do something to flatten me? Or is it just that he gets that random thought, and the fact that it flattens me is a sign of the residual power that he has in the "relationship"?

I have really good news. It's made me a happy person. If you don't know what it is, call or e-mail me and I'll tell you. Dave and Teresa-the-wonder-lover have been occasionally reading this blog (did you think I wouldn't know?) and I want to be in control of the flow of information there.

But then, I get this business-like letter from Dave all about how he's going to consult with lawyers and bankers and realtors while he's in DeKalb. Well, merry Christmas to you, too, hotshot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To Give and Receive

Okay, dear ones, here's what I'm thinking. This year is almost over. It's pretty much going to go down in the books as the year from hell. Realistically, next year isn't going to be wonderful, either. At some point, barring a miracle (and seriously, only God could redeem this mess), the doorbell will ring and it will be the process server serving me with divorce papers. That's going to be a bad day. And others will follow from that.

But for right now.... this minute... I'm riding a little air current of strength and positive thoughts. Knowing that will change doesn't mean that I should fret and stew about what's ahead. I intend to just go with it for as long as it lasts -which could be only another few hours for all I know.

I'm deeply aware that I haven't earned this little up-tick. It's taken the collective care of a whole boatload of people to bring me to this moment. While I'm feeling strong, though, it's time for me to do the thing I do. (The thing I do when I'm fully me, that is) It's time to start thinking about social justice, living an ethical life, making little changes that turn this planet into a better place.

I can't promise to do it every day. I know I won't. And I do think that reflecting on this relationship crisis has the potential to be instructive, anyway -to me, if to no one else. And besides, when I hit the inevitable low points, writing here is the thing that keeps me from ...well, I don't know what.... but from something bad. But it's time for me to give something back and time for me to reclaim a little bit more of who I really am. Being the grownup in my own story is a lot of work, but I think it's going to turn out to be worth it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Hearth Runneth Over!

Last night was my launch party. Oh my lands!

You know the scene in Emma...I think it's the Coles' party. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong. But the basic idea is that everyone arrives early to help, so the party starts early. Well, that's not exactly what happened, but I had so much wonderful help it was stunning.

People willing to vacuum, decorate, and go in a friend's attic without protective gear.... those people are true friends.

People willing -at a party- to traipse out in the snow to fix a sump pump hose... those people are worth their weight in gold.

People willing to see(and pretending to be interested in) my new bed project, those are generous souls.

Internet buddies who travel long distances to come see me, and then making sure my son doesn't sit quietly bored somewhere in a corner... those are sweethearts.

People brought housewarming gifts -to a house that I've lived in for 20 years, but need to make new. I was stunned.

My kids for being willing to come to what could have been for them an awkward enterprise, those are amazing dears!

My heart is bursting from absorbing all the love and good wishes. Pictures are coming, I promise.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ms. Crankypants Returns

I've been trying to be nice. Mostly I've been succeeding, (with a few spectacular lapses). But I've just freaking had it. I was up fretting about this all night and it's DUMB.

Dave's going to be here with the kids at Christmas. I assume they're going to use the house. (He's going to notice that he doesn't have a key to the new locks. I wish I could see that, but alas... I'll be in Alabama.) He has concocted a scheme where he drives me to the airport, uses my car for a week, and then drives himself to the airport on the other end, leaving the car there for me to drive home. This is a total "married person" strategy, and I said yes, weeks ago.

Now I'm thinking "what the freaking hell was on my mind when I said yes to that???". I'm told that every single interaction with me for years (literally, he said every single interaction) has been destructive and non-productive. And he wants to borrow my car? And have me trapped in that car with him for an hour and a half while he goes over that material again? I should do him a favor because....why?

So, do I tell him that the car isn't available after all? Do I just say I'm leaving at...whatever time. Be here 5 minutes before that if you want. Otherwise, I'm fine driving myself in to the airport. And then set rules in my own head about how much I'll take from him? I'm perfectly willing to pull over to the side of the road, and offering him the choice of behaving or walking home -and there would be some serious satisfaction in that. Do I tell him why I'm rethinking this?

On the other hand, if there is ever going to be a reconciliation (whether or not it involves being married to each other) we do have to be in the same room at the same time, I suppose. It doesn't do any good for his hardness of heart to be matched by mine.

Oh hell.... here I go again. Talk about rehashing the same material over and over again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Empowering Women

If I had to pick two words to describe my life mission, those two would be very close to the top of the list. They might not be the very top, but darn close. But see... it was always something I offered to someone else.

Yet, so often lately, I'm on the other side of the metaphorical desk. Actually, it's kind of wonderful in its way -to see how generous people are with their knowledge and kind hearts, and to learn new things.

There's Trixie, who co-owns Gordon Hardware who explained to me how to do some repair work in the bathroom. Her calm certainty that I could safely undertake these tasks, and even hold out some hope for their success, overcame my near-hysteria when it comes to using tools that plug in. (Knitting needles are tools, after all, but seriously, how much damage can I really do with those?)

My brothers and sisters, who have not (where I can hear or see) laughed at me for not knowing the insanely basic things that I don't know about home maintenance. We didn't have a truly sexist upbringing. I'm sure our parents would have taught me these skills if I had shown the remotest interest in them. But I didn't, and no one insisted that I learn them in spite of my indifference. So, I'm learning them from my brothers and sisters rather than our parents. My one brother even told me what I so frequently tell new knitters. "Your first effort won't be perfect. What's going to happen? The police won't come!" True enough.

My fitness buddies who encourage me to get off my backside and get back to working out. They know I love it. They know I want to do interesting things in this area of my life and that there's training to be done before that can happen. They know I'll be disappointed in myself if I don't train. But more than that, they know that I can. They're holding onto the confidence that I can do it again, even though (or because) I can't hold it myself right now.

And all my friends whose generous, loving attitude is "his loss", when I start frothing about how I've been done wrong. I can't quite believe that yet, either. I've so often told social work clients and students and children... "my job is to hold onto the certainty that you are an amazing, talented creation. If you can't quite believe that yourself, just come check with me. I'll remind you." And now, people are doing precisely that for me.

I'm almost to the point where I believe all of you. Just hang on a little while. I'll catch up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sturm und Eis

The ice storm isn't nearly as bad as they were saying it was going to be, but it's plenty bad enough for my Southern-belle sensibilities. Last night the radio report was that we should prepare to be without power for as much as a week, and for driving to be unsafe for about the same length of time. Now how do you prepare for that, for heaven's sake?

I charged my cell phone. I made a big pot of soup and some bread. I made sure there was water in the fridge. I found the flashlight, some books, and a bottle of Scotch. What else can you do? I should have bought sand or salt for the walks, but I didn't think of that in time.

I am finding that my attitude towards some of these home-ownership issues is changing. Again, refer back to the Southern belle sensibilities. I fondly imagine (although aggrieved parties would probably disagree) that I have pulled my weight in the home-making department. But by and large, I have chosen to do that with the tasks that are typical for my gender. I cook. I clean (under duress, but I do it). I do the laundry and make the bread and bake and ... you get the idea. Mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, fixing the leaks, moving the furniture.... those tasks were for someone else.

Even last year, when I was alone, I resented and under-performed on those tasks. I felt like the person whose tasks they were was going to come home and assume responsibility for them again. (Silly me.) So I just had to mark time, get by, and all would be well soon enough.

Now, though, there is really no one else. While it is perfectly acceptable, in my world view, to accept help or to contract out for tasks that I simply can't do (e.g. anything that involves electricity would be a bad idea for me to undertake, I think), there's something empowering about doing some of this stuff. I don't particularly like being out there in the cold, scraping what felt like several tons of ice off the driveway. But I like having done it. I like the fact that my driveway and sidewalks look like a good neighbor lives here. I like tackling something I thought I couldn't do.

Shoveling slush is hardly rocket science. But it's something I thought I couldn't do. It's something I thought I wouldn't do, avoidance being one of my preferred coping strategies. But I am doing it. I have done it. If nothing else happens today, the driveway is shoveled and that feels good.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Burden of Story-Telling

I have always maintained that people (especially extroverts) make sense of disastrous or even wonderful but hugely-life-changing events by telling the story. Sometimes, you have to tell it over and over and over. (Ever listen to a woman who just had a baby? You have to hear about every single labor pain. It's unspeakably boring, but essential to her process, somehow.) I'm discovering, though, that there's another side to this.

I do keep telling the story of this relationship disaster over and over, hoping to find some sense in it. To Dave, it apparently feels like I'm trying to remind him of his "sins", but that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to understand. It still doesn't make sense, and I have a perfectly adequate mind. If there were sense to be found, I think I could have found it by now.

But I never thought about how much pain can be involved in the repetition. This is a small town. I keep running into acquaintances. Friends already know the drama, of course. But what about all those people I've known forever, maybe even been to their house for dinner, but we aren't really close friends? I see them at church, the gym, the grocery store, restaurants.... Naturally, they want to know when Dave's coming home, what our plans for Christmas are.... And it's once more around the block with the sad tale.

How many times do I have to say (using more neutral words, of course) that I've been kicked to the curb? My friend Terri wisely pointed out that it helps just to get out there; fairly soon the rumor mill takes over and does some of my work for me. But there are still people who don't know, and that's starting to weigh on me. But the telling of the story weighs on me, too.

And there's a little bit of aggravation that the burden of this, too, has fallen to me and not to Dave. What price is HE paying, one wonders? (And would it even help if he were suffering, too? Probably not, I suppose.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Parenting is a Funny Thing

Now doesn't that just beat all in the "amazing insight" department? Insert eyeroll here.

But here's the thing. A few years ago, I realized that my grown-ish children were starting to take care of me. It's a very odd feeling. It started like this.

Back then (a few years ago) Nicholas didn't have a car of his own, so we were sharing mine. Sometimes we had to do complicated things so that we could both get to our obligations. One evening, the deal was something like "I'll drive to my thing. You'll take the car from that parking lot and go to your thing. I'll walk to my second thing and you'll leave the car in the parking lot of that event and walk home." My events were all happening on and around the campus where Nicholas lived, and I was getting confused as to who was going to be where when and where I would find the car. So I just suggested that he drive to his apartment when he was finished. I'd walk up there and retrieve my car.

He said no. He didn't want me walking alone at night in that neighborhood. The words went in, but they didn't compute. I'm the mom. You're the baby. (over 6' tall, but a baby nonetheless). If there's a risk to be taken, I take it. End of story. But somehow, we did it his way. And really, it was a thoughtful, sweet gesture. (But I still insist... if the neighborhood is unsafe for me -which is debatable- then it's unsafe for him.)

Now, to Victoria. Victoria is my extrovert child. She knows everyone. When she was about three, she introduced me to the mailman with his name. She knew the names of the kids and moms in the playgroup way before I did. I remember wondering how a three year old could have a social life I didn't know about. I still haven't figured that out.

So she and I were talking about my upcoming launch party; she asked who was coming. I started to name names.... lots and lots of names. She knows many of the people coming, of course. But, there will be plenty of people she's never met. Knitters, on-line buddies, new friends. Her comment was "How can my mom have a social life I don't know anything about?" Hello???? (Never mind that there's plenty of parental evidence -and not from me- that it's entirely possible to have secret relationships. But I digress.) Can it be that my child is supervising my friendships?

Well, of course she's not. Nor is Nicholas really concerned that I can't walk three blocks to his apartment. The thing they've absorbed and learned in their bones is that you take care of the people you love. We don't always know how to do that well or effectively, but the impulse is sound. More than sound. It's a joyous, life-giving thing. Bless their big old hearts.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Gong Show

No...wait... that's not nice. It's actually called a gong bath. I went to one last night at the local yoga studio.

It was fascinating. The deal is that somebody figured out the frequency with which each of the planets vibrates and then somebody else, presumably, tuned gongs to match those frequencies. That part is cool. The sounds and the intensity and the musical experience were really, really interesting. It sounded like I imagine outer space travel would sound. (Hush... I know there can be no sound where there's no air. Work with me here.) It's even true that there were physical sensations to correspond to the sounds. Warmth, cold, some intensity in the chest/heart area. I can work with that. A bath is a really good metaphor, actually. It did feel as though the sound were washing over me.

Moreover, I noticed variations in intensity and power of the experience as I changed position. Savasana for an hour is a hard thing for me. I'm the most sway-backed person on the planet, I sometimes think, and my back starts to hurt. So I rolled over onto my tummy. Prostrations work as a meditative posture, I figure. And in this position I was more protected from the sound's intensity; there were no more intense feelings in my chest/heart. All interesting factoids.

But it gets weird when you start to talk about vibrational healing. The deal with this gong is that it's tuned to Pluto -alas, no longer even a planet, but still vibrating, apparently. And mythologically speaking, Pluto is all about dying to one thing and being reborn to another. And Pluto is a tough character. He doesn't particularly care if you're ready to deal with the stuff that needs to be moved on from (from which you need to move on... a thousand apologies for the preposition there).

So, I figured... who among us needs to die to one thing and be reborn to another more than me? Who among us has greater abilities to deny that need and repress the information that something is dying? Ummm... that would be me. So a hard-assed little mythological sprite who will churn up the repressed stuff could be just the ticket. Gong away, Pluto.

Alas... nothing. Maybe I'm immune to healing. Maybe I'm immune to new-age-y healing metaphors. Maybe I'm just not ready and haven't healed yet. Or maybe I'm just tougher than Pluto and someone should tune a gong to ME. Wound up as tightly as I am, playing that gong could be quite the experience ;)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Last Year at This Time

I didn't know that my life had already begun to fall apart. I was anxiously awaiting Dave's return home from his fall semester sabbatical. I was waiting to get a tree until he was home and until Nicholas was finished with his semester. We were going to be a family again.

Of course, Dave had already begun another relationship and had (apparently long since, to hear him tell it now) decided that he would be better off without me. I was worn down with home care and trying to survive on my own, but there was an edge of hope and a little bit of joy that we were going to live like a family for a little while.

This year I've done no decorating and we won't be a family at Christmas -in the same way- ever again. I'm going home to Alabama, and Dave will be in Illinois with the kids. I don't know what they plan to do. The kids and I will celebrate our own Christmas later, and I don't know what that's going to look like either. I'm thinking perhaps we should go on a trip together, but I haven't talked to them about that idea.

There is much that is good here. I've realized again and with new intensity how wonderful my siblings how, what fantastic friends I have, and how truly amazing my grown children are. But I want my family. I want the four of us sitting by the Christmas tree. I want the old thing, and my heart is just broken that I can't have it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

She Knits Not

OK, that's not true. I've been knitting a lot. I've got this for my brother and his wife's not-yet-born baby:

And this -for the same baby:

And this (this picture isn't me or mine -mine is in the "almost done" phase):

And several pairs of these -for friends' babies:

But nothing for Christmas. Nothing. I think this year I'm giving myself the pleasure of knitting for other people on my whim. Of course, if I'm not knitting, I ought to be buying presents, which I'm also not doing. But that's another story, and it will be rectified, I promise!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sleeping Like a Princess

Last night was my first night in my brand new/yet antique bed. I felt like a princess. I'm getting a new bedspread, never fear. For right now, that's the only one in the house that fits that size bed.

It doesn't show in the picture, but the bed is really high. I have to kind of launch myself to get into bed. So, I felt all regal and special -like a little girl must feel when she gets a canopy bed with a pink dotted swiss canopy. And the mattress is new and not lumpy and worn, so that part was yummy too. All in all, a good night.

I need to finish this project -flannel sheets, a new comforter, a dust ruffle, girl- pillows. Then I'm going to move on to new bedroom curtains. That could keep me occupied for a month. Dave never wanted curtains. They block the light. But he's not here, and I'm tired of getting dressed in the bathroom so that I don't traumatize the neighbors with a view of me in my undies. I never really resented that compromise, but there's not much point in continuing to make it, now is there?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Am I Invisible?

I feel like I've fallen off the planet. I haven't gotten any mail -NONE- in almost two weeks. Not a Christmas card, a netflix video, a credit card offer, or a Wal-Mart flyer. Nothing. It's kind of surreal.

I called the Post Office, and they expressed some confusion. "OK, you were at the this address. You moved and told us you were staying in Philadelphia for a year, but in 6 weeks you were back in DeKalb -at a different address. You told us you didn't know how long you'd be at that address -possibly until June. And now you're back at the original address? Your mail could be pretty much anywhere."

I wanted to suggest that if she thought the mail bit of this was confusing, she should try living the whole scenario. But I didn't. Basically, I'm just supposed to wait, and my mail will catch up with me. So, if you've sent me something, please know that I'm not ignoring you. I probably don't know yet that you sent it.

Two things can get weird about this situation. First, there's a feeling of isolation. What's going on out there that I don't know about? What bills are coming? Where are my pretty new checks with roses on them? But, my friends are doting on me, in real life and my invisible friends on the internet, so isolation's not a huge issue.

The other problem is the phenomenon that with social work clients I call the "but first" tasks. These are the barriers between you and the thing you know you need to do. I need to apply for jobs. But first, I need to set up my new printer so that I can print my CV. But first, I need to get a new USB cord. But first, my new credit card needs to come in the mail. See?

Of course, there's usually a work-around. I can get in my little car and get money out of the bank and go buy a USB cord. It's not a big deal. Nonetheless, the "but firsts" can become pretty overwhelming when there are too many of them. And right now, there are a lot.

I'm grumpy.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Quasi Compos Mentis

I feel almost competent this morning. Last night, we had a terrible ice storm -which is way worse than a snow storm, for you lucky people who live where the weather is nice. I know exactly where my car scraper is -in a closet in Swarthmore. This isn't the competent part, in case you were wondering. It took me and my friend Joan about an hour to get our two cars into drive-able condition.

Once I finally got home, the power went out with a big bang. The whole town went dark -which is kind of neat and eerie. But I found my phone, a candle, AND A FLASH LIGHT!!! Be impressed. It doesn't sound like much, but there are boxes everywhere and the tenants put things in different places than I would put things. Not bad places... just not where I would instinctively look. I took a warm bath, put on my warmest pajamas, wrote in my journal by flashlight (images of summer camp here), and went to sleep.

I didn't call Dave. Even though I've learned that taking my phone into the bedroom with me at night (which seems to make sense) is a bad idea in that department. So there. Baby steps.

And today -along with probably half the town- I'm going to Target and getting another car scraper. Maybe one of those silly ones that has a hand warmer thingie on it.