Monday, March 31, 2008

An End Date for this Pity Party

A week from today it will be six months since I left Swarthmore. Given the fact that I literally hadn't the slightest idea that my life would be ripped in two even a week before that day, I think I've done all right. Even though nothing is all-the-way settled, and I still have "how can this be happening" moods, and fear can rule much of my day if I let it, it's time for the pity party to be over.

Victim-hood happens, and it happened to me. And it takes over and defines your life -sometimes forever. It also puts you at the center of a little firestorm of a drama; you become the star of the show for a little while. The danger of course is that the drama becomes its own story, especially if it had been a long time since the victim was the star of anything.

So, yes, I can acknowledge that the end of my marriage will probably always be a watershed moment in my life. But I can reframe victimhood into something more powerful. (Well, I suppose almost anything is more powerful than that!) And it's time for other people to be the star of the show for a while. Or we can all share the lead roles. Or something ;)

One more week of fretting (with any luck, quietly) and then it's off to the next phase of recovery. Victimhood will become...creativity? Crafting the life I want in the next phase of my life? Knitting my heart whole? Those are metaphors that might work for me. Or maybe I'm looking for something stronger-sounding, bigger-feeling. Flying? Building? Word choice is important to me, but I guess you knew that already.

But whining and rallying the troops in support of poor victimized Andrea -that's definitely over. But just to be clear, you can still send whatever karmic vibes you like toward Professor Entitled ;)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tell Me Whom You Love...

...and I'll tell you who you are.

It's an old Creole proverb. Well, that's what it is in the version I learned. A quick google search suggests that many cultures have essentially the same proverb.

I had a dream last night. It's a recurring dream, but it had a twist this time. I dreamed that Dave crawled into bed with me, begging forgiveness, asking to be taken back. Please know that this is not something my rational mind expects in the slightest. It's not even what my rational mind wants, but I can't control my dreams.

The twist is that this time I kicked his sorry self out of my pretty bed and sent him on his way. I guess my subconscious is finally catching up with the rest of my brain!

So, is the converse true? Tell me whom you DON'T love and I'll tell you who you are? Because today, I'm feeling strong enough to say that I deserve better than what he was offering all those years. Take a hike, big guy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How Do You Do It?

This is a serious question, because I know deep in my heart everyone is doing it better than I am. By "it", I'm afraid I don't mean anything interesting. I mean get it all done -live in something slightly better than squalor, work out, work, hang out with your friends, do whatever you do for solace and creativity, tend to your spiritual life, tend to your long-term plans....

I'm so deranged about this question, I actually read a 2-month old time management article in Woman's Day while I was at the dentist yesterday. (Bear in mind that I had had five full doses of anesthesia. I was a smidge loopy.) Their ideas were all stupid. "Learn French from CDs on your morning commute." Yeah, great. What I need to do is learn to wash underwear while on my morning commute, thank you very much.

I know this could be worse. I could be a single person with a big house AND have, say, toddlers. People do that and live to tell the tale. I have nothing to whine about. Yeah... whining happens anyway ;) During the work week, my serious reality is that I do no housework that involves anything more than pushing a button. I start the washer and dryer. I run the dishwasher. I push the button on Pink Floyd the Vacuuming Robot. That's it. Maybe I start the crockpot, but not all the time.

Come on, oh wise ones. What are the real tricks? Forget learning French on the morning commute. We're talking basic here. How do you make sure that you have clothes to wear to work, remember where your glasses are, and don't run out of toilet paper EVER??? Bonus points for being able to open the door to unexpected company, rather than saying "I'm so glad to see you. Let's go to the bar." and closing the door FAST!

I'm a desperate woman.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Oh my GOD, my DAY!!!!

So... I go to work. After work, I stop by the Costco which is on the way home from work. I stock up on stuff, since I need to feed youngsters this weekend, walk to my car, load it up... and my purse is gone. I can not find it. I tear the car apart, thinking I might have buried it with the groceries -not outside the realm of the possible.

Eventually, though, I have to give up. It's gone. I file a police report -with a very kind police officer who is the age of my child. But he's kind and helpful and gentle. And then I drive home and I don't even put away the groceries. I have to borrow my neighbor's phone, since I don't have a landline anymore, and I start canceling credit cards. Somewhere in the process, I call the kids to tell them that I don't have my cell phone anymore and they should e-mail me if they need me.

And yes, throughout the whole process, there is some resentment. THIS is the kind of thing it's nice to have a partner to help you with. I can't blame Dave for the fact that my purse was stolen, but.... I want to, and that's the truth.

However, I have good experiences with all of the credit card companies. Everyone is kind and thoughtful and suggests reasonable courses of action.

Then, Victoria shows up in my office, announcing merely "I know where your purse is." What???? Apparently, my phone was found and the finder scrolled through my contacts until he found "mom". He called my mother in Alabama. The mind reels a little trying to imagine this conversation. She kept trying, apparently, to call my cell phone to tell me my cell phone had been found. Eventually, she gets it and calls Victoria -who tries to call my cell phone to tell me my cell phone has been found. The poor man is probably wishing he'd just thrown the thing in the river at this point.

But she drives over here to give me the news. My credit cards are all canceled, but the old ones haven't been used. My phone has been found. And I might even have my new red purse, when all is said and done. The guy works about three blocks from my office, so he's going to meet me there, because he didn't want me to be uncomfortable meeting a strange man in a strange place.

Certainly I'll offer him a reward, but mom says she heard kids in the background. I think I'll drop off little Easter baskets too. It's been a death-resurrection sort of day.

And tomorrow, I'll call about getting a landline, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Heart Opening Postures (??)

My dirty dark secret of the past few months is that I've rarely practiced yoga. Yoga has been an important part of my life for years and I just...let it go, somehow.

Well, the "somehow" isn't a big mystery, actually. There are several pieces to it. As we all know, I was miserable in Swarthmore, but didn't know why. I would practice yoga daily in a vain effort to bring some equanimity to my life. My life changed in the blink of an eye, one day in October (and yes, I know the date). I practiced yoga one evening -a backbending, heart-opening practice- popped up from savasana, went over to the computer, and discovered my husband's infidelity.

As it happens, only little bits of his betrayal got through to my brain, which is probably a good thing. But plenty enough got through to shatter my world -or what I thought of as my world at the time.

The weird thing is that somehow in my murky psyche, I must have linked yoga to distress and pain. Every time I practiced since then, I would have a completely non-fun PTSD kind of response. Who needs that, particularly when there are entirely enough struggles in my attempts to reclaim a life? And besides, how annoying would it be if the person on the mat next to you in class started to shake and cry and gasp for air? I totally didn't want to be that annoying girl. So, yoga drifted off into the fringes of my life.

Another piece of this is that for weeks and probably months after returning to Illinois, getting on with the business of life meant fortifying myself. Pretend you're not in pain...put on your clothes....go to work... help other LET NO ONE IN. LET NO REAL EMOTION OUT. My heart was oh-so-very-not open. I dared not engage in a heart-opening practice. Maybe a spine-strengthening practice would have worked. Or a fear banishing practice. But yoga teachers frequently want to do more ethereal "open people up" practices, and I was very busy closing down.

And finally, right as I drove into town in October I realized that the temptation would be to re-create my old life. Somehow I knew, though, that was a bad idea. I did little things like join a different gym, find new things to do with old friends, change patterns of socializing... whatever I could think of that was different. The old familiar yoga practices with their (probably nonsensical) talk of releasing toxins and opening chakras seemed trite and pointless. Yoga seemed like part of the old life, and it had to go.

But here's the thing. My body started to hurt. My heart has hurt non-stop since the fall, but it started to hurt physically. My back got creaky. My always-annoying knees got downright obnoxious. I'm too old not to do yoga.

So tonight I went to yoga class. And wouldn't you know it, it was a heart-opening class. I'm still very cautious about opening my heart. Why would a sane person DO that??? But I gave it a shot. I'm tight everywhere -and flexibility has always been my "thing". I can bend every which way, or so I think in my little mind. Not so much with that, tonight. But I did the practice. I modified everywhere. I cried, but quietly and only during savasana. No gasping for air. No shaking.

We'll see how I feel tomorrow. But part of me suspects that reclaiming old familiar things can be as important as letting other old things go. The connection between yoga and pain is false -made up by my fragile psyche. If I let the important parts of yoga fall away from my life, it's a completely unnecessary loss. Surely I can find the fortitude to stand up for the healing that yoga offers.

I started tonight. One class done!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Just Someone I Used to Know

Ok, Dave's gone. I'm back to my regular life. I certainly had no expectation (or desire) that he would come over to the house. I didn't want to run into him by accident. There was no need for us to do something together with the kids. My fervent hope was for no contact, and that's what I got.

But I did wonder what he was thinking while he was here. I did wonder if he would come to the house while I wasn't there. It is technically still his house too. He might have been curious about maintenance issues or some such thing. I did wonder if he would ask the kids or mutual friends how I was doing. Nope. By accident, I'm pretty sure the truth fell out of my mouth. I said "I'm just someone he used to know."

We lived together for 25 years. I had his babies. But, I imagine, he spends exactly no time thinking about me. The relationship is over not just in a legal sense, but in his mind. Needless to say, I suppose, I haven't achieved that level of closure. Of course, he had longer to think about the end of the relationship- to plot and plan for it, and not clue me in. So I suppose there's little wonder that he's ahead of me in the process.

But truthfully, I can't imagine ever being quite at that point. Closure I can imagine. I can't imagine, though, that he'll ever be gone from my psyche in the way that I'm apparently gone from his. I just don't throw people away like that. And the experience of being the "thrown away one" is certainly new to me. I've been dumped by guys before (in the dim dark past), but not many, thank you very much. But that's not the same thing as this, for heaven's sake.

Then I look around my work. Here are the people who can teach me how to survive that. Homeless people know what it's like to be thrown away. It happens to them all day every day. Hell, I was homeless too, thanks to the kind efforts of my former lover. I was spared the brutality of the full experience due to the kindness of friends, but homeless nonetheless.

There's no need to romanticize homeless people or homelessness -and no point in it, anyway. They frequently make decisions that are short-term smart and long-term weak. They frequently (statistically speaking) resort to mental illness and substance abuse to deal with the mind-breaking pain of it all. But sometimes even that is an act of power. And sometimes, some of them grab personal power more effectively, stand up for themselves, and metaphorically make the statement that they are not worthless garbage.

And shame on the people who threw them out like trash.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Here she is, the new love of my life:

From a different perspective:

It was a relationship meant to be. There was a "secret sale" (which I'm sure they sent out 4 jillion invitations to) at the bike shop about a month ago. I was a good consumer. I used my coupon for sensible things: a red flashing light for when my ride goes past dark, a new shirt, a carbon dioxide cartridge for fixing flats quickly..... But then I saw the bike. I gasped out loud. This is one gorgeous bike.

But I didn't buy it. I came home and thought and plotted. Could I afford it? Is it too much bike for me? Maybe I shouldn't? But in two weeks I was still dreaming about the bike, so I just went back and bought it. You have to do it to do it, as we say.

I've blathered on about adding adventure to my life -me-style adventure, not the kind I've been living for the past year! And not even really the kind that defined family vacations for decades, where the rule seemed to be that the activity had to be more dangerous and more uncomfortable than last year, no matter what. Blech!

Biking is really good for me. (Rock climbing and yoga can do the same thing -and do, from time to time.) It's relentless but fun. You meet straight-on with your own "I can't do it" thoughts. You get to learn when and where and why they show up. And you get to learn that they don't matter. If my "I can't do it" thoughts become seemingly relentless and I'm still an hour from home, what am I going to do? Sit on the side of the road and cry? I have to make this particular pedal stroke -the very next one. And it brings me closer to home. And eventually I get home. I really could do it.

And I get to think of ways to craft a compelling and exciting vision of my own future. Maybe I'll do the Charleston to Savannah ride someday. Or maybe I'll ride my bike in Ireland. Or maybe I'll rent a bike when I go to Tuscany and ride around the vineyards. Or maybe I'll just ride around the farmland in my county. It's all beautiful in its way.

And there are days when the wind is blessedly at my back and I'm flying along on my new bicycle, wearing my new lavender bike top, just crying from the joy of it.

This is why spinning your wheels can be a good thing ;)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Game On!

Dave's in town. I thought it was going to be horrible. And for a little while it was. This would be cleaner for both of us if he would just stay far, far away.

But then, my new strong self kicked in. I had yesterday pegged as the potentially difficult day. Wednesday is the most open day of my week, and DeKalb is the size of a good-sized shopping mall. There was a definite possibility that we would cross paths. So, I had coffee with one friend and then went to the gym. I went shopping and out to lunch with another friend. Then we went to a new upscale bar in town (this town? upscale??? It's a weird juxtaposition of words, that's for sure) and had TWO glasses of wine. Before 5:00. Bad asses, that's what we are ;) And we flirted outrageously and harmlessly with the bartender, just to demonstrate that those muscles aren't entirely atrophied.

Dave's been to town twice before this. The first time I fled in nothing short of abject terror. He had been to Chicago for a tryst with the AMW* and I was not in any shape to see him. Period. The second time was slightly less abject. It was Christmas, and I knew I couldn't arrange for anything fun for the kids. So I made a different plan.

This time, it's time to stand my ground. Which I can do with all my friends sort of holding the ground around me. It turns out that this is my turf, these are my friends, and this is my life -and he should bloody well stay out of MY way. It's a nice turn of events.

*Argentinian Math Whore

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Letter to my Body

Blogher has launched (a while back, actually) a Letter to my Body Initiative -the idea being, of course, that we should talk tenderly, respectfully, carefully, and lovingly to our bodies. And women DO talk to their bodies, apparently.

So, I'll show you mine if you show me yours ;)

Dearest body,

I know we haven't always gotten along. I've never abused you or hated you, but that must be cold comfort. Surely you deserve better than benign neglect! Well, you do deserve better than that. I've treated you as nothing more than a way to get my brain to meetings.

The truth is, I have much to thank you for. Mostly, you've withstood being ignored with very few complaints. You've responded and learned everything I've asked you to do. You've done back flips and swan dives, jumped out of airplanes (don't worry, we won't be doing THAT again!), danced until dawn, gone for bike rides that felt like flying, and learned the occasional yoga posture. Really, you're a wonder. You've healed when healing was difficult. You've birthed two babies. OK, so you needed a little help with that last one; he was a big old thing ;)

So in this time of reinventing myself, how do you want to be different? Healthier? Prettier? Stronger? What can I do for you? How can you and I (the brain that you carry so willingly to meetings) be a little more integrated?

I think that little twinge in my upper back means that you need some yoga and massage. OK, I'm on it. I want to climb, ride, dance, love, explore. Maybe I even want to run; the jury's still out on that one. But I've said these things before -and even mostly followed through.

There's more. There's some self care that I just need to admit that I want and need -and bloody well deserve. I can go to a spa once a year. I can get my teeth straightened. I can throw myself at Sarah-the-wonder-hairdresser's mercy. This isn't self-indulgent, anti-feminist claptrap. Well, it's not necessarily those things, anyway.

And mostly, I can talk to you carefully and gently. I don't have to like the stretch marks, and scars, and little puddles of fat that ought not be there. Nonetheless, the fact remains that you are beautifully made. I will try to catch myself when I revert to negative and destructive self-talk. At the very least, I will focus on my aspirations rather than my limitation.

Dear one, if I do all these things at once, I'll probably melt from the worldview shift. But I respect you. You've done more than your fair share over the years. It's time for me to show you a little kindness.

And if it seems like I'm forgetting, make that little twinge less little. That will get my attention!

Love always,

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Free Rice

And the more verbally facile you are, the more rice. If you follow this link, Free Rice, you play a word game. For every word that you define correctly, a few grains of rice are donated to hungry people. When you define the word you have correctly, your next word will be harder.

I got 100 words right, and got a little bored, it must be said. So.... go.... beat my record ;)