Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Room to Grow

I really hope we're finished with this horrifying asset-division. It's time and past time for our interactions with each other to be over. As best I can tell, Dave and I will meet two more times: once to give him a check and again at divorce court. My guess is that both will occur in the next week or so, but scheduling is out of my hands in both cases.

Here's my dining room.
If you want to come over, you should bring a chair. Or be prepared for a picnic on the floor. I know the dining room furniture I want -at least part of it. But it's not as though the table I want exists at a furniture store. It will involve a crawl through antique stores, which is fun but time consuming.

It feels a little (but only a little) like the beginning of this process, when everything familiar and known was stripped away. This is not that kind of violation; I wanted the "stuff" of our married life to go away. But still... there's nothing in my dining room! That table where I fed babies and friends, where I cut out countless yards of fabric, and helped children learn to read... it's gone. The memories weren't in the table, for heaven's sake. And yet...

The disorienting dilemma of being suddenly and ruthlessly single led to this - a life that scares me frequently, challenges me always, and that I am learning to love. I'm starting to fly. I think I fret and muse about my house, my furniture, and my food because they ground me. They root me in a particular place and identify me in time. Without them, I am a little less clear who I am.

Which leads to kind of a lot of pressure to choose the right dining room table ;) What if I get somebody else's table by mistake? Here's the general idea.

It's not quite this, but the idea is a round table, with a pedestal, that has leaves so that it expands to seat more than four people. So I guess it would go from a circle to an oval. Questions? Comments?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Proof That I Still Have a Kitchen

...and I know how to use it. This being alone thing is hard to get organized when it comes to cooking and eating gracefully. I've struggled. I've ranted. And I've gained a boatload of weight from eating poorly. OK, we tried that. It didn't work. Let's move along.

With Mary's help, I've gradually re-located my kitchen and started to actually use it. More importantly, I've started to enjoy using it. I still prefer to cook for other people, but I'm even getting the hang of cooking for one.

But today, I got to bake for other people. Happy birthday to my co-workers, Donna and Melissa. And here are your cakes! The real things will be at work in about 45 minutes!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Now I've Really Lost My Mind ;)

I signed up for a kayaking class. The last time I went kayaking I ended up on a river with monster rapids, where I had no business being, and fell out of the kayak and had to be driven back to my car in disgrace. And with some pretty impressive bruises, to boot. The kids and Dave, it need hardly be said, made it down the river without incident. Such is my life.

I like doing athletic things. (I can hear my sisters laughing in derision. No really, I do.) It's just that I don't learn them quickly. I took the belay class for rock climbing twice. I didn't fail the test the first time -although I probably should have. But I was NOT a competent belayer until I'd taken the class more than once AND practiced with a back-up belayer. I was just so nervous. Believe me when I tell you that this is not false modesty. I was a dangerous belayer until I had taken the class a second time.

I'm not exactly sure how that metaphor is going to extend itself to kayaking, but I'm sure that it will. I'll roll over and not be able to roll back up. I'll roll over and not be able to wet-exit. I'll.... screw up in some monumental way. I'm okay with this, as long as I'm making progress and not holding the class back.

Moreover, I have extended myself forty ways from Sunday this semester. I have observed that I am better when I'm busy. I may well have crossed the line to stupid-busy. First clue... my house is an ASTONISHING mess... between a remodeling project, packing Dave's stuff up, and having no time to clean. Let's see.... dust? Nah, I think I'll sign up for kayaking. Perhaps I'm not firing on all cylinders here.

But the class is here, and hasn't been offered for six years. It's an opportunity and I'm through with missing opportunities. And I have a thing about water. Oceans, rapidly flowing rivers... they soothe me. I can literally feel my blood pressure lower. So I'm going to be stupid-busy for five weeks. I'll get it all done. And I'll have another option for fitness and fun when I'm finished.

Assuming I don't crack my stupid-busy head open, that is!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Making Space

This is my living room, all packed up and ready to go to Dave's house. I'm keeping the picture on the wall and possibly the floor lamp. That's it.

And I'm okay with this. Other things are disappearing too, but this and the dining room are the only rooms being completely emptied. I realized several months ago that I almost never ventured into these two rooms. Only when talking about it did I also realize that everything here was a gift or a hand-me-down from Dave's family. Coincidence? I doubt it. I have absolutely nothing against Dave's family -quite the contrary, actually. But the gifts have a weight. They belong to the couple that doesn't exist, and barring that, they belong back in the family.

Moreover, with them still in my house there was no space for the new things. The...ummm... new things I haven't quite figured out what they are yet. But the right things will come along, I'm sure. I can start with repairing the floor and the walls and then painting. All of that will be easier to do when the room is empty. Then new curtains.

OK, I get it. Objectively speaking, it looks more than a little dismal. But it feels more like a weight being lifted. I am really okay with this part. Stuff I've never liked is being eliminated, pushing me gently (because the pacing is of my own choosing) toward making what I do want actually happen.


No, no... this is good.


It really is good, actually :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Tomes of Our Lives

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go. ~ Dr. Seuss

I'm old enough -or of such an inclination, perhaps- that books are almost sacred things. I am insulted by the suggestion that I might learn from bouncing powerpoint displays. I can be introduced to something by video -have my interest piqued, perhaps- but to really learn something, I need to read about it. And then, I keep the books in case I need to refer back to them. I have books from my childhood. I have books from high school and college. I have books given to my by earnest boyfriends, inscribed with youthfully (painfully) intellectual declarations of undying love.... I even have a few books that I so inscribed for another person. One doesn't get rid of books. It simply isn't done.

Except of course one does, and it is. As I've said, we're dividing the marital property. Of course, even John Ruskin (surely a bigger book fanatic than I am) agrees that there are books of the moment and books for all time. It hasn't been hard to part with the Physician's Desk Reference from 1982 or the beach-reading books. But, sometimes the weirdest stuff is wrenching. Is this my copy of Thucydides or yours? Who gets the battered copy of The Poky Little Puppy, without which Victoria could not sleep when she was a toddler?

And, oh dear heavens, who gets the photo albums -quite literally the tomes of our lives? Here's the thing. It's written into the settlement that they would be copied, Dave would get the digital copies, and I would get the originals back. We would share the expenses so that we could each have a complete set. Perfectly rational and sensible. I thought I wanted that.

Books are things of incredible power. They can make you laugh and cry. They can blow your head apart by exposing you to new ideas. And they can -apparently- slice your heart right open and leave it bleeding on the floor. I can't look at those books. How far back do I have to go to be sure he wasn't lying then? How can I look at pictures where I was having a good time -and thought he was too- but now know that he was definitely lying?

I have proposed that he take the photo albums. I'll want it in writing that he will preserve them for the children. Perhaps I'll ask that we keep the possibility of digital copying available into the future. But if I know they're safe, I think that's enough for me.

Dr. Suess is certainly right. There's something to be learned from almost any book ("learned", as distinct from "believed" to make a quibbly point). I just don't think I can endure the lessons in these books. I need to keep the covers closed on that record of fractured dreams.

Unless you tell me I'm acting like a deranged person again, that is.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sleeping Around -Making Room for Adventure

I'll just sit here for a minute and let the picture that's in your head settle in ;)

Okay... what I'm really talking about is something a little different. A while ago, Michael posted a meme about where you rested your little head last year. Sleeping around, get it? My list is pretty lame:

Birmingham, Alabama
Hummelstown, Pennsylvania
Porter, Indiana
Chicago, Illinois

I think that's it.

Next year will be better. I'm trying really hard to make room for small affordable adventures. In two weeks, I will be going to Orlando. OK, it's for work, but there's an ocean close by, and I intend to see it. The kids and I are going to the Wisconsin Dells in February. In March, I'll be heading back to Alabama. In September, the sibs are going to Tallahatchie Flats in Mississippi to commune with our Delta roots. I'm going to camp a few times this summer; there's the Tuscany trip. I'm taking a kayaking class starting on Monday, and another small trip will probably result from that. I might get to do some traveling to present a paper -cross your fingers about that one.

I don't want to do frantic "get on the bus" traveling, but I do want to stretch my boundaries. I think people travel in order to get lost -to feel what it feels like to be "not at home". By doing that, you learn what's important about home. Or possibly, you learn what's not serving you at home.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

I hate to disagree with the bard, but...well... I do. Names are important and here's how I know. (Settle in for a story. It's always a story with me.)

I know I've been quiet lately, and my mother will tell you that when I disappear, it's not usually because there's good news. As I approach the actual, legal, sign-here, end of my marriage, the tasks become difficult again -and scary -and feel like a violation. As at the beginning of the process, though, when everything was terrifying and disorienting, the only thing to do is the next thing. Take the small step. Just keep moving. Perhaps because each step is so overwhelming, you can only realize that you have learned something important when you have a minute to look back. Or when something happens to cause you to turn around and look at what has happened without your paying a lot of attention. The situation is at least an order of magnitude less terrifying than those early days, but the process seems similar.

I've mentioned that I'm changing my name back to my birth name. It's not legal yet, so sometimes I get mail or must identify myself with my married name. Most people, though, have switched to using my birth name. I realized the other day that, without my paying attention really, hearing myself called by my married name felt really odd. Wrong. There was no sadness about not having that name any longer. Quite the contrary, I wanted that person to get with the program and call me the right thing. I've stepped into my new skin, apparently, and I want people to recognize that. This development feels very healthy. (Of course, it also means that pretty soon I will need to detach this blog from that name, and I don't want to lose you guys, even temporarily, so I'm dragging my heels about that.

The second thing is that I've been rethinking my house, as you also know. Rooms will be "re-purposed", re-thought, and re-decorated. It's no longer a house that needs to be child-centered; it's no longer a house that needs to be couple-centered. It's my house. It can be changed whenever and however and towards whatever end I like. At first I felt awkward calling, say, my son's old bedroom my office. It's Nicholas's room, for goodness sakes. But soon now it will be my office. (The new floor is being installed next week!!!) The former music room (where the piano and V's harp live) is now oh-so-pretentiously the morning room. It's really only habitable in the mornings, so that's where I sit for my morning reflection and write in my journal, channeling Jane Austen all the while ;) The former office will be.... something; for now I'm calling it the family room.

I realized that this naming of rooms was more than simple identification when I needed to communicate with Math-Fink about the division of the marital property. To facilitate accurate communication I needed to identify pieces of furniture as located in a room whose name he knew. It felt awkward and wrong and like I was referring to some almost-forgotten time and place. Even the house is stepping into its new skin ;)

So what, you ask? (And one could hardly blame you.) I'm starting to think that the outside is a manifestation of the inside. I've commented that things become easy to do when the time is right. But it's also true that simply sitting around waiting for the time to be right is a poor strategy. Rather, the interior work has to be completed, and then the exterior changes. When I really believed myself to be a new person, then a new name was gladly accepted and felt comfortable. When I believed that I could maintain, tend -and afford- this house, then changing it to reflect my needs and hopes simply made sense. Any reference to the old way just felt dated and clunky to my ear.

What's next? Andrea as for-real participating scholar? Andrea as healthy, fit person? Andrea as ..something I haven't even named yet??? I can't wait to find out. Naturally, I'll only recognize whatever it turns out to be three months after the fact, while accidentally looking backwards. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I can't breathe

These past two years have taken a toll on my body. It's stiff. It aches. It is significantly heavier than it ought to be and than I would like. I've done my share of whining and fretting about all of that. Yet, at the same time, I clearly wasn't ready to do anything about it. I cop to never having had a healthy body image. Never. But really, even by my standards, things have been pretty dim around here. It sounds facile -and maybe it is- but I wonder if I just figured I WAS unlovable so I might as well look that way.

The thing is I've watched myself start to heal from other aspects of the demise of my marriage. What I've learned through that is that my path is the only one I can walk. Things happen -even become easy- when the time is right. That path has been slower and quirkier than I would have predicted and has taken longer than I could EVER have imagined. But I've learned that the next-right-thing is all I can do. It doesn't matter if I go slowly or stay longer at one point or if my recovery looks very different from someone else's. After all, I have to grow my own life, not someone else's.

And in that spirit and for whatever reason, it now seems possible that I will start exercising again. Why now and not two months ago? I really couldn't say. I figure, though, that it might make some sense to chronicle my return to fitness in general, and yoga in particular. I know it will happen. My muscle cells aren't any different from anyone else's. They will get stronger when they are repeatedly asked to work hard. My connective tissue works just like other people's; it will eventually give way when invited to and will allow for the return of some lost yoga postures. It will all take longer than I will like, because I'm that kind of girl. But it will happen.

So here's the baseline. I can't breathe. I did the easiest of the easy yoga videos last night: Barbara Benagh's Power Yoga for Every Body. There is no reason for it to be called power yoga, so let's just dispense with that right away. Rather, it is slow and precise and very gentle. In the old days, I used this DVD on rest days or when recuperating from an injury. Last night I couldn't even get the breath right. My breath would literally get stuck in my chest and then I would start little non-scary gasps. I was lying on my back at the time, so exhaustion is probably not the explanation ;)

So, forget the fact that I can no longer -for now- tangle myself up in fun pretzel-y knots. I can't even breathe. But I'm starting from here, and walking my path.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Just when you think...

... you've made your peace with not going to church, along comes a counter-experience.

This weekend, I snuck away for an overnight at the Beloit Spa and Retreat House. OK, it's really my friends' house, but between their welcome and my tiredness, I treated it as though it were a spa and retreat house. You have to love friends who will let you impose like that. On Sunday morning, we took their three grandchildren to Mass at the local parish.

It's just a parish. It's lovely, but it's none of the things you would think I'd crave. It's not particularly liberal. It's not particularly intellectual. It's just a parish -a community of people who care about each other and try to live out the good news. But that little glimpse of what church can be rekindled all my "should I go back to church" angst.

I respect -and certainly believe- that church is, for some people, a repository of painful memories and nothing more. And sometimes even these people, with every justification in the world for leaving, miss church when they have walked away. But for me, church is mostly about happy memories.

There's the austerly lovely chapel at my old elementary and high school. I can remember how it smelled and how it sounded when one was alone in there. I can remember the vibrant (if somewhat self-important)campus ministry at my college. I can remember the "gym Mass" for Catholics who weren't quite sure they wanted to be there and who wanted to be sure their voices were heard at my first real parish in Chicago.

All positive memories.

And then there was Fr. M.A.P. (Misogynist Asshole Priest -notice the lack of a link. Oh MAN, was I tempted.) as we took to calling him, because we didn't want the children of the parish to start calling him that too. I eventually stopped going to church when he became the pastor. The hatred that he had for women and plenty of other groups of people(and no, I'm not exaggerating) poisoned the place and the experience for me and many others. And the parish hasn't recovered, even though he's gone. There are three qualified and rational, if somewhat uninspiring, priests there now. Compared to Fr. MAP, they are a godsend. Literally. But for some of us, the pain is still there. I can't quite figure out how that pitiful excuse for a man and a priest could overwhelm all the happy experiences I've had of church, but such is the power of hatred. It just exhausted my inner resources for hope of a better day.

I was fine with using Sunday mornings as family time and as personal retreat time. I was using that time to identify my core beliefs, to set boundaries between me and painful experiences that can teach me nothing new or important, and learning to cultivate sacred space where I find it. And then there was the Beloit Spa and Retreat House ;)

Darn it. Church can be wonderful. And it's just too, too painful when it's not.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

There is a time to dance. It's good to be reminded that there are good churches, where the members work to be authentic church for each other.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Aphasia??? Me??!!

OK, it's not aphasia when you have too many words! I need, for quirky reasons of my own, a single word that will help me to dedicate this year -a word from which I can act and toward which I can aspire. It needs to be a good word. No clunky, chunky words, even if they mean something good. ("Duty" might be such a word -a good concept, but a word that doesn't send you forward with a song in your heart, you know?)

Last year's word was "awakening," and I think I did all right in that department. For this year, I want a word that's about moving on and growing and being creative and graceful and not being bitter or angry but, rather, hope-filled. I want confidence and certainty, but not rigidity.

I wrote this last year about my word choice:
...the project at hand is something like being more active... claiming some power....not being a broken, rejected, unlovable wreck but also not having anger as my only tool for avoiding that.

So, no to rejected wreck.
No to flaming bitch.
Yes to ...something in the middle that's strong and yet graceful. Got a word for THAT, anyone?



Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Dreaming Big or Tempting Fate?

I can't decide.

For the past few days I've been working on my goals and resolutions for the new year. I may be the only person left on the planet who finds this exercise fruitful. Last year, I concocted an 18-month plan, which is well on its way to completion. There are a few spectacular hold-outs in the completion department, but mostly I did pretty well.

So, out came the colored pencils and the calendar and my journal and... all my planning toys. I've figured out (sort of) the categories in my life. I know -in broad strokes- where I would like to be in each of those categories in five years. It's easy enough to work backwards and get to a one year plan, and backwards still further to a 90-day plan. Of course, I could come up with an hour-by-hour plan, but my obsessive-compulsive nature doesn't extend that far, you'll be glad to know.

But as I put papers into folders last night, I started to worry. Life's what happens when you're making other plans, and all that. By getting so precise with my goals and plans am I just begging the gods to throw back a few beers and have a good old laugh at my expense while they completely screw with me? Or... are there worse things than tempting fate? Tempting sorrow, perhaps. Or tempting disappointment that I never got around to pursuing some goal or another?

And of course, there's the ever-present possibility that the planning itself becomes the project. One must, eventually, put the colored pencils aside and start working the plan -which I mostly think is fun, too (unless the goal says something like "confront the fact that you are living in a messy house and FIX THAT." Housework. Blech.)

Balance....balance... where's the balance point? I have such trouble with that concept!