Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sam's Afghan

My grandmother -like all self-respecting grandmothers of a certain generation- crocheted afghans. She made me (and both of my sisters, I think) afghans when we went away to college. Mine is green and I still have it. I still use it, for that matter. The week before Victoria was born, that grandmother died. Of course that was a sad thing for so many important reasons. However, a small thing that no longer happened was that there was no one around to make afghans for the brothers who still had to launch themselves.

Now, of course, two of her great-grandchildren are already finished with college -armed with afghans, never fear. And Sam (Baby-Sam. I'm QUITE sure he was a baby just yesterday.) has graduated from high school and is launching himself off to college.

It takes no great mind to have predicted this date. I know when he was born. I know how long it takes to get through school. I can do the math. And yet.....

When I agreed to knit him a blanket to take away to school, it all seemed safely far away. And then the invitation to his graduation party arrived. Last Wednesday.


That day I ...ummmm.... bought the yarn. Hey... it's not nothing. I had to choose five colors! That go together. For an artistic boy-child. That is WAY not nothing. And now I've started.

Sam dear, it's going to get bigger. I'm just going to have to keep you posted. There are two blues and two greens and white. It's made of yarn you don't have to baby. It can keep you warm. Or it can be a picnic blanket at the beach. Whatever. Auntie Andrea is now hard at work on Afghan: The Second Generation. Hang in there!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Search is On

Last night on the way home from work, I started to feel sick. Just a little, but definite. By 9:00, I figured, what the heck, and went to bed.

Now... flash back to college and that one time (ahem...) that you drank way too much. WAY too much. Remember how when lying down, it seemed like the room was spinning, and passing out would have felt like a blessed mercy? That's what happened, although I hadn't had anything to drink at all. I'll spare you the details, but I spent the night in the bathroom, wrapped up in the sheets from my bed. I must have had a fever, because the sheets were all clammy and gross this morning.

So, I called in sick. Unfortunately, no one who needed to know got the message. Apparently, the shelter residents were worried about me and went to one of the directors who was around.

Where's Andrea?

She's ALWAYS here at 10 minutes to 8. (It was probably 9 or 9:30 at this point.)

So, the director in question called my house. I was, it need hardly be said, in the bathroom and didn't answer the phone. Now, she's worried too.

One of the residents has a friend who works for the state police. When I didn't answer the phone at home, he immediately called his officer-buddy to see if there were any accidents between my house and work. (No, was the answer.)

Soon, I saw that work had called -and unaware of course that now the police were looking for me!- returned the call. I was brought up to speed about the residents' concerns and immediately went to get showered and dressed for work. Seriously, that kind of concern merits my showing up, even if I feel somewhat the worse for wear.

I tell myself that it doesn't matter whether or not the homeless guests like me. They shouldn't have to bother; I don't go to work to be liked. Of course it does matter, but as an ideological position it's still right. No one there owes me connection or gratitude. Of course the days when I feel actively disliked are hard, and those days happen, unfortunately.

And just when you think, #(*! it! I can be hated and earn more money. I'm going to leave and be a ....... something else. I'll change my name and go sell margaritas on the beach in Cancun, that's what I'll do. The plan is somewhat fluid, as you can see. It's possible that it needs a little tightening up before it's useful ;) But trust me, there are the days when you want to turn in your keys. And then... someone cares enough to call the state police to watch for your car, because they don't want you to be dead in the ditch. It's a profoundly touching gift to be cared for like that.

But I'll be driving the speed limit tomorrow morning, just in case the police are still watching for me :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

You Have to Do It To Do It

In the "stop dithering and get it done" department, we have this:

and this:

and reservations here:

The tent is different from the one I showed you before. I decided it was worthwhile to get a tent that I can stand up in. It makes getting dressed so much less annoying. It's actually two "rooms", but the room divider comes down. I'm a little nervous about being able to be warm in a big tent like that, all by myself. The obvious strategy is not to be by myself, but...alas... alone it is. (And really, that is as it should be. I just like to make ribald suggestions. Heaven knows why.) Hence, the mummy sleeping bag. I did some shopping around and poking around in camping discussion groups and opted for a child's bag. My size pays off here, since I get a good bag for not much money. I considered -I really considered- the kid's bag that had glow in the dark constellations on the lining. But I decided that would get old sort of fast.

And the campsite is Starved Rock State Park, which is sort of a cliche if you live around here. I considered Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin, which isn't far. But this is a sneak-away-before-anyone-notices overnight trip. Starved Rock is closer, so it won. And it's gorgeous, it really is.

And the thing that made me decide I really should do this? Thallia. Remember her? The lovely green bike? We're going camping. There's a little voice in my head, that really belongs to snarky Dave in "let's find fault with Andrea" mode, saying that a good person, a worthy cyclist, would ride to Starved Rock. He's done it lots of times. Well, you know what? He didn't do it after working an 8-hour day, with tragically, relentlessly-needy, mostly mentally ill people. I'm trying to shut that voice up -in so many ways, I'm trying. I'm going to ride my bike around Starved Rock, sleep in my new tent, see the waterfalls (not on the bike), drink coffee at the Lodge, and then go to work late the next day. And I'm going to remember the smile that came spontaneously to me as I thought of those activities and not dwell on my certainty that, even in recreation, I don't live up to Dave's standards.

Really. I'm trying to let that go. As I said, I hate days off. Too much time to brood.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Hate Days Off

I don't really. I need them and sink into them like a nice cozy pillow. But there is one thing I hate. There's way too much time to think.

I have to think about the legal stuff, the financial stuff, the division of the property, the name change issues, the job applications I haven't heard about, the scheduling frustrations for my life, my fears and worries and frustrations -and my need that's just not going away to be a particular person's partner. There's too much NOT to do and too much time not to do it in. So I end up doing nothing, which is wrong all the way around.

I haven't accomplished anything I ought to or even anything I want to today. I've nothing to show for myself. At least when I'm working I can say with some honesty that some good came from my efforts. And I justifiably avoided the hard stuff. A win-win ;)

In a few weeks, my life is going to ramp up to another level of crazy-busy. I think that might have been a good decision, but it might also have been a way to even more efficiently avoid looking at difficult issues. So... I'm committed to the craziness and to the place that the crazy-busy-ness takes me (with any luck and a certain amount of stamina). But I need this to be more than an expensive and time-consuming and energy-demanding strategy for avoidance. (Seriously, Andrea.... a nice trip to the beach could be avoidance, too!)

In that spirit, what is the next right thing to do? Tomorrow, it's back to work. How have I moved myself forward today. Will I go to bed safer or stronger than I was this morning?

OK. After I finish breathing into this paper bag, I'm going to look at the papers on my desk and deal with them. I'm going to make sure I have clean clothes to wear to work for the rest of the week. I'm going to figure out an e-mail to a potential employer. I'm going to knit a bit on my nephew's afghan. And I'm going to exercise. That'll take me through to bed time, that's for sure. And then I can go back to avoiding my hard stuff because I'm at work saving savaged humanity. I mean... please... surely that's a good enough excuse. (Don't look too closely to see if I'm actually saving ANYONE except myself. You'll blow my cover.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Mother's Hands

I remember, as a teenager, when my mother looked at her hands one day and said with some dismay, "I have my mother's hands". I was young enough that I was not astonished that my mother's hands looked old. I mean, seriously, wasn't she born old? (She was probably all of 40 when this story happened. I was an insensitive teenager, it need hardly be said.)

Well, karma's a bitch. I don't have my mother's hands. I have my GRANDMOTHER'S hands. My mom has always had beautiful manicures and rock-hard nails. How she managed this, with all the kids and dishes and work, I have no idea. But my rock climber-manicure-free-snaggly-cuticle hands probably figure in her nightmares. I can't quite remember what my grandmother's fingernails looked like, but I'm not getting a long-fingernail vibe from my memories.

And this morning, I noticed that my hands have FREAKING SPOTS on the backs. Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph, this getting old thing has no attendant dignity. I should probably be honored to be taking my place among the women with interesting, hard working hands. Ummmm...... not so much with that. I want to take my place with those women, right enough, but I want to LOOK young when I do it. Alas....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Is there a way to make this work?

Camping, I mean.

I can already read my sisters' posts. Why sleep on the ground when there's a perfectly lovely bed at the Ramada Inn? A point not without merit, I have to say.

Should Dave read this blog, I can hear his comments. You never liked camping. Why would you do it now? True enough, I never did much care for camping the way we did it as a family. I stopped going on those trips as soon as I could get away with it.

But I have this thought that won't quite go away. I want to sleep outside on the solstice. I think I might want to figure out a way to camp alone-ish -like maybe go with my friends or the kids or something. Or maybe alone. But there must be a way that I can do this. (Think Bridget Jones Goes Camping.)

I am categorically ruling out sleeping on the hard ground without a pad. I am categorically ruling out a tent that takes an advanced degree in tent-making to set up. I categorically rule out hikes that resemble the Bataan death march. I categorically rule out gross coffee made over a campfire or any food wrapped in foil and tossed in the ashes to cook. What a vile idea.

But I could rule IN things like sleeping outside and feeling the breeze, a gentle stroll through the prairies, sitting in the woods somewhere and getting some writing done, yoga under the trees. I could wrap my brain around paddling around somewhere in a canoe. And when I get hot and uncomfortable, I'll either go swimming or go find some air conditioning. I could pack food and wine in my new (garage-sale find) picnic basket. I could drive somewhere for Starbucks in the morning. How hard can this be?

The thing is... I have to buy a tent and a sleeping bag and all that stuff. Dave took the stuff we had on his last jaunt to Argentina. Does it make sense to buy it (anew) if I'm not sure I'll use it again? Am I dithering about nothing?

Here's the tent I'm thinking about: Andrea's tent. I have no intention of camping in the winter, so it should be fine. I'll probably just borrow a sleeping bag and pad from the boy-child. Should I start like little kids do and camp in the backyard ;)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's Enough to Wear a Girl Out

I'm tired all the time. I don't succumb to it, or anything. It's not as though I spend days in bed -although I wish I could! But it's definitely keeping me from doing all the things I want to do and from some of the things I need to do.

In social work, we do a quick run-through when people report excessive fatigue.
Are you exercising enough? Of course not. Next question.
Are you overweight? See above.
Are you worried and stressed? Read the blog!
Are you depressed? Probably a little.
Have you had an emotional shock? Ummm.... yeah.
Do you expect too much of yourself? Well, if I did wouldn't I be accomplishing more?
Do you work at nights? Yup
Is there stress at work? Yup
Do you drink more than 6 cups of coffee a day? Yup

And I've had this same cold really since February.

Ok,so I have an excuse or two. But that doesn't change the truth that there's a lot to be done. Excuses don't matter. Nonetheless, I'm kind of (excuse the sad word play) tired of plodding through my days in a combination of dreading the legal/relationship discoveries and just plain exhaustion. And, I'm adding the fun of a summer class to the mix. Is someone going to find me in a dark closet sucking my thumb? Or is the activity going to be an antidote to the exhaustion?

Remedies I've considered:
a short retreat at the Cenacle
a day trip to the Indiana Dunes
a mental health day sometime very soon
today I skipped rock climbing in favor of puttering around the house (reducing further still the amount of exercise I get, so maybe that wasn't wise)

What do you do? I need some help here!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Who Am I? -Revisited.

Oh! You thought I knew the answer??!! Seriously, what were you thinking? This is a big question, and it did sort of get thrown at me.

Some of you have been following the evolution of my profile to the left of this post. It's a work in progress, to be sure, but it's getting there. And I've made one more decision. I'm changing my name back to my birth name. This is going to be a confusing transition for all of us. I've had my married name for longer than I had my birth name, but we'll figure it out. We're nice smart people.**

Here's my thinking. I have only a little anger toward Dave and none toward his family. But they are not my heart's home, as fine as they are. My siblings, on the other hand, well, we're gifted with each other for life. If someone needs a kidney... If someone's ex-partner needs a serious ass-kicking.... Pretty much no matter what, siblings stand up. Mine certainly did. So, I'm saying in a fairly maudlin way, actually, "these are my people" and leaving a family that didn't stand with me -never even knew me, really. (Of course, not all my siblings have the same last name. The argument gets a little wispy, but work with me here! We're talking symbolism.)

There's also the claiming the new me. I'm not that former person who let someone else define her. I'm this new chick who wants to be brave and idealistic and ...all those other things. So maybe taking a new name will symbolize that.

The kids are okay with this plan, but only okay. They're not crazy about it. I'm trying to figure out a way to help them understand that there is no name change that will affect the ferocity of my love for them. A kidney wouldn't begin to cover it ;) And since that's so unshakable, maybe they need to relax and work on their sibling-ness. They're very close, as it turns out, but all relationships need nurturing. (Are you paying attention, Dave? Lesson #1) I'm here. My name only matters to me. Run off, now, and be sibs to each other. As persuasion goes, it lacks a certain elegance, but that's the gist of the idea.

**It's Buford, by the way. Welcome to the world, grown up girl!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Gift of Being Seen

These reflections might well become so tangled up as to be, not just useless, but indicative that I am in need of some serious help. We'll have to see. The unrelated thoughts that started me down this road are these...

We had a memorial service at work yesterday for the people who died. I met and expressed the traditional condolences to one of the families. I was talking to the sister of the deceased. The thing she didn't know is that I didn't know her brother. She of course assumed that I did, and there was no reason at all to correct her. The point is that I didn't deserve her effusive praise of our efforts to save her brother. "You knew him. You understood him. You SAW the real him", she said. I have every confidence that the shelter staff who did know him did exactly that.

And what a gift that must have been for a person most people not only overlook but exert effort not to see. The seeing would have been a quiet thing, with no fanfare or announcements of "I see you and know you to be a valuable person. Surely your life will henceforth be changed." It was more of a quiet "namaste" -the divine light in me honors the divine light in you."

So we have quiet, profound seeing -or envisioning, to make it sound more important- and that allows a person to name their own dignity, perhaps.

The second thing that happened is that I realized a few days ago that I had to work hard to be as deceived as I have been about my marriage. Effort had to be expended in order NOT to see the data that were right in front of me. Which doesn't make the demise of the marriage or the deception my fault, but I did more than make it easy for him. I helped. The bone-chilling thought that occured to me is that my efforts might have been so intense that I missed his betrayal of the kids. What if he betrayed his fatherly role as profoundly as his husbandly role? Since "Oh he would never do that" has fallen completely out of my vocabulary, I felt like I had to ask. I didn't so much want to know what Dave had done, but what I had done. Had I failed to see something that was vitally important? (The answer seems to be no, thank all that is holy.) I'm not sure I could have recovered -or that the kids could have- from such a spectacular failure of vision on my part.

They both report, by the way, that they never talk about important things with their dad. He sends them money -which he can do and I can't, so that's a good thing. But how is he ever going to see them as interesting and nuanced individuals if they don't talk about important things? But I'm trying not to own that sadness. It isn't mine. The point is that questioning and listening to the answers ought to be an important part of the kind of seeing that can help a person become their most authentic self.

And finally, I'm wondering if Dave and I failed so spectacularly to see each other that we actually lost sight of our own identities. I certainly lost mine. I had to work so hard to be the person I thought he would like -and he didn't like her either, as it turns out- that the real me just plain wandered off. Is being authentically seen part of knowing who we are? You have to claim the real version of yourself and act on it. You have to allow the authentic vision of the other person. And those two things are intertwined in some way that I haven't figured out yet.

So, if I'm on the right track, authentically seeing someone is a life-changing gift that involves:
quiet reflection
-and probably more reflection just to round things out. And besides, it's just good to know that there's someone who knows how you take your coffee. Someone has noticed that you're on the planet. That's not nothing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Godspeed -and May Our Hands be Blessed

Four homeless guests of our shelter died this weekend. They weren't together when it happened; we have four separate events. As far as I know, there was no violence or mayhem, but four of the "least of our brethren" are dead.

It's easy to think that this is a sign, somehow. I mean... seriously.... FOUR???? OK,we're paying attention. What are we supposed to learn here? It's easy to think that we missed something, overlooked something, avoided something that might have helped us prevent these premature deaths.

Did we do too little? Of course we did. We might have done all that could be done. Probably, that's true. Nonetheless, we did too little.

Did we do the wrong things altogether? That's possible and more disturbing.

Or, was this inevitable, and we offered some solace and comfort and a smidge of dignity to their last days?

I just don't know. We scramble and scrape and pull more than a few rabbits out of hats in order to relocate the inherent dignity in our clients. We see their worth before they do, but that's just a function of the human condition. Most of us can see someone else's dignity more clearly than our own. Now we're faced with -not for the first or last time- the task of crafting a dignified death and memorial for people who have no experience of that.

Peace to Terry McBrien, Dennis Jones, Dave Smith, and Jim Blomberg. We will miss each of you and all of you.

It also occurs to me that as we offer the basic necessities, a little focused attention, and some hope to our homeless brothers and sisters, we can be really hard on ourselves. I can not be okay with a "you win some, you lose some" attitude here. We have to grieve the losses. We have to challenge ourselves to be more effective, more gentle, and all-around better models of a just world. Yet we also have to be gentle with ourselves about those losses.

We do a lot with a little. We take our work home. We agonize over our mistakes. And we go to bed every night knowing that we're safe and cozy and blessedly self-determining, while others are under bridges or safe-but-harried in the shelter. We have to get up in the morning and do it all again. People's needs are relentless.

So... homelessness finally broke these men. We couldn't stop it. That doesn't make them -or us- weak. It just means that injustice is a formidable foe. And we have to figure out some way -many ways, no doubt- to be sure that it doesn't break all of us.

Godspeed to these men, and may our hands be blessed for the work still to come.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hope as a Spiritual Practice

A monastery where I've found some peace and some spiritual direction burned to the ground at the end of April. Doesn't that just figure? That's what my cynical self asks -or suggests. The place I find solace burns up; my power to attract negative energy apparently knows no end. (insert eyeroll here... I don't really believe that.)

But they're rebuilding. I don't know what their meetings are like. I don't know what their individual reflections are like. There must certainly be moments of despair and darkness, particularly for the person who's single-handedly financially supported the monastery. However bleak those moments are, though, they're choosing to rebuild.

(If you want to help them, go here: John Michael Talbot)

One chooses -they're choosing- to act as if they're certain that there is goodness in the world, that given the opportunity people will do the good thing, that the universe will support any effort to bring good into the world.

I know, in a way I never knew before, how much courage and faith that takes, and I stand in absolute awe. I've spent the day putting my phone away where I can't reach it. I've wanted to talk to Dave -the one I used to know- so badly today that I can hardly stand it. The thing I have to do, the grownup-Andrea-thing, is not do that. I have to remember that no good ever comes to me from that. There is no hope there. I don't mean hope for a marriage. There's been no hope there for a long time. I mean there's no hope that he is who I want him to be -that he is the man he ought to want to be.

Work was hard -and I'm bloody TRYING to bring good into the world. The legal stuff was hard, and I'm trying to do that gracefully and without too much malice. Is it wrong or naive to want to talk to someone -to talk to my husband- about that? Of course I know it is. But I'm thinking that the universe should jolly-well step up to the plate and support the people who try to bring good to the world. So how do I reconcile these two things -the courage to believe that the universe supports the good and the courage I need -to believe that this particular person will take advantage of the fact that I'm trying to be and do good? Or am I just failing to live up to the possibility of hope as a spiritual practice, and I ought to act differently?

Here's all I have right now. Their fire and my trial-by-fire... it all does the same thing. It strips away all the stuff you think you need -the buildings and the history in their case, the relationship and the history in mine. It teaches you who you are. It teaches you that you can live with terror and even move through it, slowly and carefully if need be. It teaches you to hope for the right things.

They might wish that their buildings and artifacts had never been burned. I might wish that my life hadn't been ransacked. But so what? Wish all you want. What you have is right in front of you. Deal with that. Move forward from that. The right hope is in the belief that you can.

Right this minute that hope -for me- is feeling as fragile as it felt in the beginning of this process.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Anger and Dignity

My wise sister (which doesn't narrow it down; I have two wise sisters) suggested that I dig deep and find my anger toward Dave. Yeah, yeah... I've tried that. In some desperation, she suggested that I pretend that the things that have been done to me were done to one of my sisters or brothers -or one of my children. How would I feel then?

All of it...

the infidelity
the renewal of the wedding vows with no intent at all to live up to them
leaving me homeless and unemployed and 800 miles from my friends
begrudging me financial support while I reclaim my life
hiring Lady Voldemort the attorney, to publicly belittle my life choices
leaving me vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases
trying to take my house...

You've heard the litany of his sins; it's longer than this. How would I feel if these things had been done to Victoria or Nicholas?

WHITE..... HOT.....RAGE....

That's how I would feel. And you BET that anger would power me toward action. So that's what I'm going to pretend. A strong, angry woman would stop letting things happen to her and take charge of the process. I may not fully be that person for myself, but I certainly would be her for my children.

So, I think that action starts with another phone call to my attorney. I know that she's protecting my interests and is as interested in defeating Lady Voldemort as any group of Hogwarts wizards could ever be ;) But we need to step it up here. I'm not going to be pushed around.

And when I forget, remind me please.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I'm smiling at my green and black lanyard, made for me by the boy-child, and I'm reminded yet again of this Billy Collins poem.

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly -
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift -—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even

And this -the original reason for Mothers' Day, from Julia Ward Howe
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Friday, May 09, 2008

How Can This be True?

A month or two ago, I posted about the importance -to me- of forgiving Dave. Everybody said that I should cool my jets; the time is not yet right. Elisa said the most prescient thing -that there was probably more stuff to accumulate that I would have to forgive, so I should just hold on.

Seriously guys, I don't think I'm doing this whole divorce process right. I keep finding more things that are plain hateful -or unspeakably cold and dismissive, to put a nicer spin on it- that Dave has done. Yesterday was a slam of horrifying information. It was mostly discovered accidentally, so I wasn't prepared for it.

And I'm STILL not mad. I just become more and more beat-up. How can a person DO that -simply not care that his actions are this destructive? I don't mean this to turn into a "let's support Andrea" thing. I'm really more curious about him. How does it feel to sit in that big apartment in Swarthmore and plot these things? And before he ever went to Swarthmore he was plotting. (That's part of what I learned yesterday.) I've had to learn -yet again- that he is willing to leave me literally homeless, so he can have his life of freedom. I feel like every time I start to get my feet under me, I find out something new and I'm flattened again.

Does he think it's fun? Does he think it's not important? Don't tell me he doesn't know how destructive he's being. His children know, and he visits this blog almost every day. I couldn't be so dismissive of a person I didn't even know, much less a person I lived with for so long. I have a fine mind and I just don't understand what could be happening here.

Or, to turn it around, was he always this way. If that's the case, I should be posting something like "How could I have been so dim as not to notice?". It's all just so sad.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Feathering My Nest

As I said, it's time to divide the property, so that means we have to get the house appraised. So, today and tomorrow, his and hers appraisers are coming over. Which, in turn, means that I've spent the morning tidying up. I'm not here very much, so you'd think there wouldn't be much mess. I don't know who's breaking into my house while I'm gone and leaving little piggy piles, but I'd be grateful if that person would cease and desist!

But as I run around and put things away and dust the surfaces that then reveal themselves, plans start to form in my head. This end table could go here instead of there. Why do I own this gruesome couch at all? I think the porch curtains should attach to the rods the way a shower curtain attaches... wouldn't that be cute? Or maybe fabric shades would be better out there???? On and on and on...

I have always maintained that it must be a very dull person who can't think of ideas faster than she can implement them. By that measure, I am fascinating ;)

Apparently, this is a common phenomenon. It's not just retail therapy as a strategy for healing, because I'm cleaning not buying. A quick browse through cyber-space suggests that there is "divorce decorating" and even "revenge decorating." Divorce decorating is the gradual (or not, I suppose) purging of the signs of the other person. His books off the shelf... his knick-knacks gone... the things he insisted on removed... that kind of thing. It can be liberating to decide what I want, how I want to use rooms, how I want to inhabit this house. Revenge decorating seems silly and sad. It's when, say, he hated florals and you dump a chintz factory over your house after the divorce. He's not going to see it, forcryingoutloud!!!

I think I'm doing something different from either of those. I do want to fully inhabit my house, my planet, my life, and learning how I want to live here is part of that. On the other hand, the revenge decorating just seems ridiculous. Of course, I have been unable to even summon anger, so revenge seems like way too much energy to spend on someone I can't even respect any more.

I think this nesting process is actually a form of crisis management. I almost lost myself earlier in this process. There is no hyperbole there. My interior certainty about my identity was just plain gone. When you're walking around in a fog like that (hopefully dressed appropriately and without mascara running down your cheeks from crying), friends and loved ones will offer suggestions as to who you are. "You're strong, capable, smart, important...." ....whatever they can think of that used to be true. These affirmations are essential. But there's a dangerous tendency for the lost person to just tiredly agree. "OK, I guess I'm that" and then wander off, again living someone else's vision for her life.

I don't want to suggest that those affirmation are wrong. On the contrary, they're an essential touchstone. But the grieving person still has to re-locate her own center, and that just takes time. I'm not finished, heaven knows, but it's coming together. Remember that feeling in college when you saw how big the world really is...the possibilities, the ideas, the places, the enormity of the options? I'm starting to feel that way again -just a little bit and just sometimes.

So, having the house I want, no matter how gradually it evolves, is part of that claiming of opportunities. I want light and color and warmth and maybe just a little bit of wit. I want soft textiles and comfortable chairs and good smells coming from the kitchen. I want to be the house where people say "let's pop over and see what's happening at Andrea's." And metaphorically -if you strain your brain and squint a little- you can see how those things could be broadened to show me part of who I am at my core.

But if I don't go dust a few more things, nobody's going to want to come over!! But just for fun, here's a little gratuitous house-gorgeousness:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Next Stop: Divorce

In my mind, I thought I wanted to write about how this feels. We're done, except for dividing up the property and walking away, never to see each other again except at our kids' weddings, I suppose. I wondered how that realization would feel.

In this process, I've admitted to the mistakes I've made, only to get back agreement that I made mistakes and no parallel offering from him. I've begged. I've sobbed. I've been told I was undesirable and unloveable. I've walked away. I've become stronger. I've started to glimpse way off in the future how this could turn out to be a good thing for me. I've started to feel like a little bird, standing on the edge of the nest. No, more than that. I was pushed out of the nest and damn near hit the ground. But somewhere just before disaster, I learned to fly.

And it turns out that's what I want to write about. I'm starting to think that Dave's self-esteem depended on my being nobody. And through his force-of-nature stubbornness, he made that happen. Probably subconsciously, but very effectively.

I'm loving stupid little things, like deciding what brand of laundry detergent I want, buying 2% milk instead of skim, and hanging curtains in the bedroom. (OK, Jeanine did that part.) I'm loving riding my bicycle the way I want and not having to apologize or feel "less-than". I'm loving rock climbing and not caring that I don't dyno up insane climbs.

I'm loving feeling really good at my job and like there's a visible career path again. I'm loving the feeling that I have a contribution to make.

I love that when I hang out with friends I no longer have to worry that Dave's sullenness about socializing will damage the evening. My friends and I choose each other, care for each other, forgive each other as needed, and stand together as called for. That's what friends suit up for.

Next stop: divorce. Indeed. It's still sad that this couldn't all be true with us together. But I paid too high a price for too long. It's time to fly. And you know what? I'm going to be good at that!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Pain of the Medical Procedure

I have a friend who is very ill, so I've been spending most of my non-work hours at the hospital. It's one of those things where you have to be there, but you aren't doing anything. The phrase "hurry up and wait" must have been invented for this situation. How can there be urgency and boredom at the same time?

But I promised her she wouldn't become blog fodder, and I have to keep that promise. It's just important for you to know the back story. I'm at the hospital and I'm stuck here for a bit, and with too little to do.

Now we're going to turn this story around to be ALL ABOUT ME. Now there's a surprise. Sigh. But I'm hoping there's something to be learned here. Cross your fingers.

I thought at the beginning of this marriage debacle that Dave had left me for another person. He'd found someone he loved more, I figured. That seems not to be quite the story. What seems to be true is that he left me for a series of no-strings-attached liaisons. I don't know how many there have been. Nor is the timing completely clear to me. But we were certainly still married, and with no talk of divorce, when the first one happened.

Gradually it dawned on me that I had had unprotected sex with a man who had multiple partners. I don't know how or if he protected himself and these other partners. But imagine the look of pitying disbelief if I had gone to a health care professional and said "My husband has recently been unfaithful, with at least one and probably more people. We haven't used protection in over 20 years, and he continued to have sex with me during that time. But I don't need to get tested for AIDS or other STDS; he would never jeopardize me like that."

But by not getting tested I was acting as though that was exactly what I believed. For crying out loud. So Sunday's "pull up your big girl pants and do the thing you have to do" task was to get tested. I was at the hospital anyway, sitting around doing nothing. The question that rattles around in my head all day every day -"what can you do to move yourself forward?"- had a simple answer. Roll up your sleeve and let the nice girl test your blood.

I don't have the results yet. I did learn that I have to get tested for three years. Who knew? And I sort of wish that insurance hadn't covered the cost of these tests. I would LOVE to send Dave the bill; it's only fair that he pay for them. And of course I'm very aware that a bill might come due that he can't pay. He was clearly willing to put his needs before my health.

Yet, I'm oddly not freaked out about waiting for the results. There's more on my mind than that, these days. Other people and processes have the prime "worry spot" in my brain right at the moment. But maybe I'm also not freaked out because I know I can handle the news, whatever it is.