Sunday, June 30, 2013

The STBEX is in the house

I can't stand being in our home with him. It's a visceral hatred that I feel. How could I hate someone that I've loved this much. It takes every ounce of decency to not curse him and tell him to F off and so much else. Breathe. Breathe. He's only here a few minutes to pick up the basement cat and say goodnight to the boys. Please leave now!!!!

Change and Power

It's amazing how refreshing and satisfying even a small change can be when we are in control of it.  Knowing that we are going to list the house very soon is making me look at everything with a different eye.  I have a huge task ahead of me to get the house looking even remotely market ready.  So I started today by taking down all the boys' artwork from the wall of cupboards in the kitchen, and getting rid of the excess stuff on the counters.  I moved the breadbox from the corner where it has been for 10 years to a different spot and liked it so so much better in its new spot.  It made me remember how as a kid I would frequently rearrange my bedroom, often in the middle of the night, pushing furniture across the floor with my back to it and my butt and feet shoving against the floor.  Such a little thing as moving the breadbox felt so satisfying.  When we are in charge of change, it can feel so empowering and cathartic.  Even something so insignificant as moving a breadbox to a different spot on the counter feels like saying "yes" to life and new perspective and possibilities.  So why is it that unwanted change thrust upon you is the very opposite.  It's having your heart ripped out.  Of course, the obvious answer is that the change that was thrust upon me was having my heart ripped out and certainly having the man that you love and have loved devotedly for 10 plus years decide that you're not worth being married to is a much bigger deal than moving a breadbox four feet down a counter. But scale aside, I get that the challenge here is to be able to embrace that refreshing feeling and sense of possibility even when you are not the active change agent but rather the receptor.  I guess it goes back to the old "you choose your mood" motto that I was raised with as a child.  Even when the change is scary and unwanted, if I can remember that good things come out of change, if I can channel that sense of satisfaction I've experienced in chosen changes in the times when I can't see anything good about a forced change, I might open myself up to more of life's possibilities.  I can hear my therapist now reminding me to honor where I'm at with the hurt and pain.  And I know that's so true as well, but I think the trick is not to see it as an either or.  Just like I've shared repeatedly with my eldest, you can have and honor the big hard hurt feelings, while also looking for the positives.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Who am I trying to impress?

STBEX is coming to be with the younger two boys tomorrow morning while I go to a bat mitzvah with our eldest. Then the boys and I are going to run some errands and steer clear of the house for awhile so that he can have some time to move stuff out of the house. It's nearly 11 pm on a Friday night. It's Shabbat. And my house is a mess. How I wish that I would always have a neat and tidy house before Shabbat started. Perhaps with the new school schedule next year it will be more likely. Anyhow, it's far from neat and tidy. It's nearly 11 and I just started a load of laundry and the kitchen's a mess (yet again) and there's pick up to be done everywhere. I can't stand the thought of him seeing it like this. And then I ask myself, why the hell do I care what he thinks of how I keep the house? But I can't free myself of it. Not yet anyhow. Never mind that when I've been to his house it's far from tidy. I still find myself wanting him to see me as praiseworthy. Sick. Why do I give a shit? I'll say it's for myself (which it partly is), and I'll get to that kitchen now and do 15 minutes of pick up. That will make a big difference. To me.

A dog on the bed and a cat in the basement

I feel like I'm pretty aware of my good qualities and my challenges, but now it's confusing, because the very things that I feel like have been my admirable qualities, the things that make me a good partner, are perhaps detrimental.  I know that there's a balance to be found, but right now, it's hard to imagine how to paint with shades of gray.  I've thought that I was a good partner because I am flexible and accommodating and patient.  I'm not in any way spineless and I certainly have no shortage of opinions, but I'm also those other qualities when I believe things to fall under the "small stuff one shouldn't fuss about" category.  And yet, by being constantly accommodating and flexible I allowed myself to be walked all over too.  How would it have been different if I had been less so?  I don't think it would have been any more positive.  I don't think the end result would have been different.  Except that perhaps it would have ended a lot sooner and I wouldn't have my three boys.
Two examples come to mind.  I'm still caring for his feral cat in the basement.  I've asked multiple times for him to get the cat out of the basement.  Actually, it was two cats, but he finally after three months took the pet one.  There's always some reason why he hasn't been able to take the feral one yet.  So, I brought it up in mediation yesterday.  Get the cat out of the basement.  I don't want to care for it anymore.  He agreed to do it yesterday.  He got the trap from work and was going to set the trap when he brought our eldest home from rehearsal at 9:00 last night.  He came, and he had the trap, but he had a understandable reason why it wasn't a good time, why the weekend would be better.  "Ok," I said. "I understand.  That's fine, as long as it's this weekend."  And afterwards I realized the pattern.  That's what I always do.  Let it go.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  Isn't that a good quality in a partner?  Would it have been better to have thrown a fit and said, "You said you were going to set the trap tonight, so do it.  I don't care why that's a challenge for you tomorrow"? How stressful to live that way, being so inflexible and confrontational.  It's not like I really care, three, four more days doesn't really make a difference in the end, right?  And yet, how does that accommodating behavior create problems in the end?  I don't know the answer. 
And then there was the dog on the bed.  We never thought we needed a king size bed.  We were such snugglers.  Until the end really.  Spooning at night even through all of it.  Or most of it.  Or more than most would have.  God, who knows.  But we learned that while the queen size bed was plenty big enough for us, it was awfully scrunched when you add a child or two (or three) and a dog.  Often one or even two boys would join us for the last hour or two of sleep in the early morning hours. And for the last few years, the dog was always on the bed.  I never liked having him on the bed.  He didn't start out there for the first 5 years, but he ended up there because my STBEX wouldn't train him.  If he wasn't allowed on the bed, the dog would wake him up in the middle of the night to be let out to pee.  If he was allowed to sleep on the bed, he could sleep through the night.  It doesn't take an animal behaviorist to understand that the dog was manipulating him to get what he wanted.  Sure enough, when my STBEX was out of town, the dog would sleep nicely on the floor by my side of the bed all through the night, never needing to go out to pee or asking to get up on the bed (despite extra room).  But even though for two years I complained almost daily that I didn't like having Murph on the bed, that it cramped up my legs and I wasn't able to sleep as well and I wasn't able to spoon as easily, he just made one excuse after another and continued to allow him on the bed.  Again, I was accommodating and flexible and understanding and I didn't get cared for in return.  I was less important to him than his dog. Did I cause this by constantly letting go of things that weren't important?  Or would it not have mattered? Would he have treated me the same and eventually left me the same regardless?  It's not like he was abusive or cruel.  There was affection.  There was good sex. There was shared laughter. There were kindnesses.  There were presents.  It's not like he was a monster.  I wouldn't have put up with a monster.  I felt like I was putting up with a human being. Recognizing that we all have our strengths and challenges and limits and that no one's perfect and loving him for all that was wonderful in him.  So, ok, I don't get my way about everything.  That's life.  I'm not going to stop loving him.  But then he stopped loving me.  How are these things related?  Or are they not.  Is this just where I have to step back and say for the thousandth time, this is not about me.  IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.  He was a ticking time bomb of emotional problems that was bound to implode or explode one way or another regardless of what I did or didn't do.  RIGHT?  
So in the future, how do I keep hold on to qualities like being flexible and accommodating (which I have to believe are desirable in a partner), and yet, still make sure that someone cares for me in return?  And is it really a matter of me having to rework who I am or did/do I just need a better partner, someone who put me first now and then? (Ironically, he felt like he was "dying in the marriage" because he was just "facilitating my life.")  Is the only way to get that kind of partner to be inflexible?  I don't want to believe that.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I was managing so well and so cheerfully earlier today that my therapist remarked I seemed stronger or something like that. Did she really say stronger as a positive? Am I just remembering that wrong? Would she have said that to me, given our previous conversations about that very thing? Hmm. Now I'm wondering. Anyhow, less than four hours later I was paralyzed on my bed, overwhelmed by all the details in my life that need attention. I can't even go pee without thinking of or seeing something else that needs my attention, like a dirty bathroom or a reminder that my girlfriends told me I should buy a keegle exerciser if I'm worried about the state of my kutabachi after three babies. Add that to the list, far far down below all the other more pressing responsibilities like laundry, putting the garbage out on the curb, answering pressing emails, getting my house ready to put on the market, figuring out a child support budget for mediation, reading another parenting book that I held out as a carrot on a stick to the STBEX who wants more parenting time, WORK, planning the entire summer camp that I'm months behind schedule on and is in just THREE WEEKS, and on and on and on and on. I've had so many big thoughts that I've wanted to out down here on my log, but I can't even find the time for the intrapersonal work that I long to do. Then I realized, thanks to my sis, that this stupid private, personal blog has even become a emotional to-do list item. As if it has an audience! Ha. The only ones reading this blog tucked away in the lost and forgotten box in the collective human attic that is the Internet are some spam fishing web engines who want to find ways of infecting other people from Russia or Brazil. This is for me! No one is reading this! IT DOESN'T MATTER IF I KEEP IT UPDATED WITH MY PROGRESS OR RECORD ALL MY THOUGHTS IN A BALANCED WAY OR GET IT ALL OUT OR LIVE UP TO THE NAME "grateful butterfly" or anything else. It's a fucking tool, JUST FOR ME, unedited, unplanned, complete only in its utter incompleteness. I can't begin to put this whole experience into words. There aren't enough hours in the day even if I wasn't mom to three demanding boys, in charge of a school and a summer camp and trying to manage a 3,400 sq foot house that I will soon need to make presentable for market. As my sister helped remind me, I'm simply NOT going to get even most of it done. I need to accept that I'm going to fail at some of it right now and for awhile to come.
Ok. So with that, I've now gotten eight things done on my to-do list of hundreds this evening and so by order of my sister, I'm now going to say fuck it to the rest of my responsibilities, eat some ice cream and watch another episode of Downton Abbey.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dinner time

It is so satisfying to have my boys home with me. We had a pretty good afternoon and evening for the most part. Some nice game time with the older two while the little one slept and then a trip to the grocery store before dinner. Depending on the moment, if someone could be a fly on the wall, s/he would have seen me elated, affectionate, demanding, cross, creatively cajoling, or exasperated. They manage to take me through a lot of emotions in a short span of time, but I love them so. Dinner time definitely felt like a victory tonight. I made us a healthy dinner (spaghetti and meatless meatballs, roasted broccoli, salad for me, and garlic bread), and they helped set the table and then afterwards they assisted (with a lot of threats and nagging, but eventually compliance) with clearing the table, unloading and reloading the dishes, and generally cleaning up the kitchen. There were baths for everyone and then grapes and blueberries for dessert before story time. Pretty successful evening given how much those three boys can (and were sort of trying to) sabotage any potential positive rewards. 

I met with my attorney today and we brainstormed some strategies for getting the STBEX to agree to less than 50/50. She had some good ideas like making some conditions that he read certain books like Mom's House, Dad's House and report back a summary of the book. Great idea.  Perhaps I'll also ask for a meal report. Is he managing to feed them healthy well-balanced meals regularly?  She also suggested having a custody evaluator work with us to figure out what would be best for the boys. I feel like I'm armed with some strategies for Wednesday's meeting now, so that's helpful. 

Coming Home to an Empty House

Just returned back from the most amazing trip to Nuevo/Puerto Vallarta with my college girlfriends.  I've missed my boys a lot.  It was very hard to be away from them back to back for two long spells like this, but the trip was really what I needed with the exception of that part. (When we planned the trip of course, I didn't anticipate being separated from them for a long spell before my trip as well).
It's seriously depressing to come home to an empty house, with no one waiting for me and no one to even know if I got home alright or not.  It's really the first time in my life I've lived alone.  I either lived with my birth family, or roommates, or my created family (my husband and boys).  Even in the Peace Corps when I technically had my own house, there was absolutely nothing remotely private about anything where I lived, so the whole community knew when I came and went and my "neighbors" were more like housemates than most housemates in the US.  So to come home tonight to a dark house and no one to welcome me was really hard.  I realize this is not the last time that will be my reality now.  
It's going to be a challenging week with meetings with the attorney and our mediator.  Another counseling appointment, a ton of stuff to do for work, and most importantly, I feel a strong need to have some good quality time with my boys after being away so much.  So, I should put this aside and go to bed, now.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Poetry versus Prose

Where to begin. So many thoughts as I'm flying to LAX to meet up with my girlfriends to head to Mexico.
Slept just an hour and thirty minutes last night, not because I couldn't sleep but because I had too much to do still in preparation for the trip.

I still have a a whirlwind of thoughts from yesterday's therapy session I want to get down... But I'll work backwards. I got in the car to go to the airport at 4AM and decided to put my music on shuffle to see what would come up. What's the theme of the day I thought, mostly joking. Of the hundreds, maybe thousands of potential songs that could have popped up, it was The Cave by Mumford and Sons, my theme song from the first few weeks after his departure. That song spoke to me so powerfully in that first week. It still does, but I just don't find myself needing that kind of defiant confirmation of my strength and affirmation that I will move through this experience towards a better place as I desperately needed then. I still need it, just not like needing food. I lived on that song for awhile. I feel like every word of it so perfectly describes the situation. How could it have been written about my life?  How did they know?

"The Cave"

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

His heart is empty, like a sieve. He doesn't know how to feel the love that was surrounding him. He is walking away from his faults and fears rather than wrestling with them. He is willing to give up all this, destroy our lives without trying. Of course, he says he tried, but he didn't. Didn't read a single book, didn't write more than two pages in a journal (that I know of), wasn't willing to try exploring issues with me, or even really with himself.  He just chose the easy path out.  In fact he doesn't even have to deal with moving out of his house. I've been doing most of that for him. I've always thought if we had to move it would be a nightmare to sort and deal with all the stuff that has collected and been dumped in our enormous house and the basement that I've called "manland," not to mention two garages. Now it's indeed all my nightmare. He doesn't even really see why he needs to get his stuff out and separate it. This will be a topic to cover with the mediator next week for sure, including the feral cat living in the basement that I'm still caring for. But I digress.

The harvest left no food for you to eat

You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see

But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

I love this line about the harvest. He had a beautiful life. Perfect, no, but beautiful, and it left him un satisfied. He was so unable to feel love that despite a loving wife and family, loving in-laws, and a whole community thinking he was an upstanding mensch (except all those that have told me since that they didn't really like him), that he felt so unsupported and hungry for love that he turned to another woman for confirmation.

But I will hold on hope

And I won't let you choke

On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I'll know my name as it's called again

I held onto hope until the bitter end. It wasn't even hope so much as an inability to see any outcome other than a hopeful one. How could he walk away with a love like mine?  So willing to conquer this rocky territory with him, to emerge into a better place. But after he left, I knew that I had to hold onto a new hope. That I would indeed emerge in a better place and that I wouldn't have to feel like the noose around his neck. He was "dying in this marriage."  I take that line rather sarcastically, fine, walk away, I wouldn't want you to die from this life sentence with me. Instead, I'll gain that strength from pain. (Which is what I need to reflect more about after yesterday's therapy session, but that will have to wait, I want to get the thoughts down about this song because it's been so pivotal for me.) So, only by accepting my new reality can I move forward so that I know my name when it's called again. To me that means that I need to heal myself and cherish myself, which he hasn't been doing for quite sometime, so that when the time is right love can renter my life. It's hard to fathom now, but when it does come, I want it to be someone who truly understands and values me and is ready to reach out for me assertively cherishing me for what I bring into his life, rather than depending on me in a co-dependent way. (All this is summed up in the idea of my name being called.  Ahh, the power of poetry over prose sometimes.)

Cause I have other things to fill my time

You take what is yours and I'll take mine

Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

Other things to fill my time, yes, a defiant, screw you tone here, but I needed someone to sing that for me as it was too hard to say or even think on my own. But I do. I have a beautiful life to live and I can do so fully and with satisfaction without his misery infecting my every day. If this is what he wants, I'll not just accept it, but damn if I don't find moments to embrace it emphatically.

And then there's the line about dividing up stuff. Obviously for me, so related to splitting up a life together. You take the living room furniture, I want to stay in the house, etc. etc.

Let me at the truth... The past three and a half months have allowed me to see with new eyes just how dysfunctional our relationship was. Of course, I see it differently than he does, but I see it now where I was unwilling to focus on it before. Just how resistant to growth he has been. The passive aggressiveness, the unwillingness to really bend at all for me, the lack of support in parenting, the narcissism, oh, the narcissism. I've read a bit about that diagnosis in the last few months and I have a new and more nuanced understanding of it. It's not just being full of yourself (my previous working definition). Indeed he never acted very full of himself, but many of his traits do indeed bear the mark of a narcissist. So, armed with this new truth, I feel released in a sense. I tried so hard, but there's nothing I could have done. He was a ticking time bomb. He had so many unresolved issues and they just kept festering until he saw no choice but to implode, crumbling his family with him.

So tie me to a post and block my ears

I can see widows and orphans through my tears

I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

This verse resonated with me in two ways. On one hand I felt like I was joining a modern community of widows and orphans. Not in the literal sense as he's very much still here, but in grieving the loss of my husband and interacting with my children's father in the same way as before. It's an enormous grief. In many ways I believe it would be easier to have lost him physically. I feel horrible saying it, but at times I just wished he would have died instead. Then we could have celebrated all that was good in him, held on to that and moved forward. There would be no wrestling with parenting plans and whatnot. I wouldn't have to put on a happy face for my boys and pretend that I think their father is a nice person just to save them from the truth. The other interpretation that kept coming to me is that I can see pain around me. Yes, I'm highly optimistic and positive by nature, but I'm not blind to the pain and suffering around me either. He doesn't have the corner market on sadness. And in fact, he's been so consumed with his own sadness and insecurities, I believe it has limited him to see both the pain and the beauty in life.

I do know my call. I do know what I need to do. I'm scared. I'm far from perfect, but I will accept this as my journey and God knows I will tackle it with gusto, doing the best I can.

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands

And see the world hanging upside down

You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

The cave reminds me of Plato's allegory. We can't possibly understand that which we have no experience with.  That, combined with the idea of seeing the Maker's land makes me think of how I look at the world versus how he generally looks at the world. I see beauty. I see God in our lives and all the inner connections. He feels so alone and only sees suffering, mostly (but not just) his own. I feel like he needs to emerge from his cave and become more fully actualized as a human being. To see how he's connected to life around him in a beautiful albeit challenging way.

So make your siren's call

And sing all you want

I will not hear what you have to say

Siren's call. I was trying to find the strength to know that even if he came back and said, "I'm so sorry, I messed up, let's give it a try," that I wouldn't just fall back into the same problems. I wouldn't listen to it. I know in my heart that even if he asked me today, I would give it a try. I don't know that it would be possible to get back to enough of what we had and forward to enough of what we were missing to satisfy me, but how could I not try?  

Cause I need freedom now

And I need to know how

To live my life as it's meant to be

But of course he hasn't asked. So I don't really need the moral support that comes from these lines as much anymore, but in those first weeks, I needs to know that I was strong enough to set the course for my happiness even if he tried to manipulate the situation again. He wasn't going to win me back simply because I was weak. I do need freedom now. I need freedom from his emotional dysfunction. I need to start taking care of my own needs, rather than being constantly wrapped up in trying to see things from his perspective.  I feel like I've been doing emotional gymnastics for him for a long time.

And I will hold on hope

And I won't let you choke

On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I'll know my name as it's called again

So that was the first song that can on. And then the second was Like I Love You by Amy Grant. The first verse is so painful, I nearly turned it off. 

Why do lovers drift apart
How does love fade away
When do pieces of a broken heart mend again
You've been crying in the dark
And you've been feeling alone
Don't be scared of what you'll find
When you turn the light on

Since March I've been skipping these types of songs; they're just too painful now, but I decided to listen to it this time. This time I took it as a confirmation of all that I tried and all that is good in me rather than in what didn't work. He was crying in the dark. He was scared and alone, even though I was trying so hard to be there for him. I was so willing to try harder and harder to figure out what he needed to feel loved. Though I did also recognize that he had a cup that I couldn't seem to fill. It feel like his cup had holes in it.

Why do lovers drift apart?  Ouch. When will my broken heart mend?  The questions are too hard.
I know that Amy Grant wrote this song while she was still with her first husband. I don't know much about the lives of stars. I don't follow such news, but I remember learning this way back long ago in my old life when I used to love Amy Grant music, 20 years ago. According to memory of the media at the time, she tried really hard to make a marriage work with her Christian music, drug-addicted husband, but eventually she called it quits and married some other Christian music singer. That's about all I remember. I hadn't listened to any of her music in a decade or more, but a couple of months ago I pulled out a couple of her CDs that I still had (long forgotten about in the back of a closet). So many of her songs from that era so perfectly expressed what I was feeling from November to March. "I love you, this is hard, we'll get through this, etc. etc."  I didn't even let it stress me out to remember that she wrote all these songs and then her marriage didn't make it after all. I couldn't see that at the time. The songs just represented someone so willing to love and try. That rang true for me.

I shared this at some point with him (my STBEX). Told him that the songs really spoke to me at this point and he made me feel like crap about the fact that I was listening to Amy Grant. Actually, it was the other order. He came home to hear it on the stereo and turned it off with some slight disparaging remark. Then I told home that I knew he wasn't an Amy Grant fan, but that the songs held a lot of meaning for me right now, and I'd like him to know how they represented my feelings so accurately, but he made no effort to understand that or showed no interest. At one point I even put all the lyrics in a word document and was writing about how I felt, but when he didn't show any interest after a couple conversations, I never shared it with him.

Ain't nobody gonna say goodbye
Ain't nobody gonna walk away
This time, baby, I'm learning how to love you, love you
Ain't nobody gonna make you cry
Ain't nobody ever really tried to love
Like I love you

What sad memory of yesterday
What terrible scar
Keeps you gathering pieces of
Your shattered heart
There was once upon a time
When hope was living within
I know there will come a time
When you can believe again

How long have you been feeling lost and lonely
How long have you been sad and blue

This time, baby, I'm learning how to love you, love you
Ain't nobody gonna make you cry
Ain't nobody ever really tried to love
Like I love you

This time, baby, I'm learning how to love you, love you
Let me love you, like I love you

I would have done anything (anything that was productive and healthy that is) to salvage our marriage.  I have to know that in my core. Nothing can take that away from me.

Thank goodness I was headed to Puerto Vallarta to spend some precious time with my college girlfriends.  The best thing about it... I don't have to feel guilty about leaving Cary with the boys while I go off and play now.  Of course I still feel guilty, because I'm missing the boys a lot and it's so hard having just been away from them for four days, to turn around and be separated again.  I would have never timed it like this if I had know how things would be.  But, they'll survive, and hopefully in the end they won't hate me for being gone for 5 days.    

Monday, June 17, 2013

Like I Was Saying

We found out today that our eldest got into the Music Man with a very quality musical theater company in town.  (This is a boy who actually dressed up as Professor Harold Hill as a preschooler for Halloween two years in a row.)  Actually, my STBEH (soon-to-be-ex-husband) found out, since he's the one that took him to the audition Saturday morning and he texted me.  It's utterly ridiculous how much his "Me too!" comment filled me with a momentary sense of connection, shared purpose and joy.  I felt this glimmer of hope and promise for a second all because of that damn exclamation point.  Then I realized what a stupid idiot I was for letting two completely un-intimate words and a little punctuation feed any hope.  Stupid, stupid. The only shared future is that I have to figure out a way to put my pain aside and effectively co-parent with this man for the next 16+ years, while making sure our boys never know just what he's done or how badly he's hurt me.  We get all the work of co-parenting, with none of the shared joy.  Sucks.  Damn him.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Must keep all interactions utterly detached!!

He posted on Facebook this afternoon that he was thankful for his sense of smell which alerted him to a burning wire nut which could have easily brought the whole house down in flames. (His house, the house that is in his name only, but that I helped him remodel with sweat equity, including but not limited to building roof trusses by hand with him, laying shingles, painting the entire thing, building a loft, and a whole slew of other projects.) The picture of the plastic yellow nut burnt to an unrecognizable state was certainly enough to make one gasp. And I feel sorry for him that only a very small handful of "friends" commented or "liked" his post.  It made me realize how much people are completely avoiding giving him positive attention. His house nearly goes up in smoke and only 4 people have any visible emotional response for him.  Sad. It made me wonder and so I compared his recent posts to some from several months ago or last year. He consistently is getting only a handful of likes or comments instead of the dozens he got in the past. I think people are giving him the cold shoulder on Facebook. Yes, he deserves it, but though it makes me feel strangely validated and supported in a silent way, it mostly just makes me sad for him that he really has no one.  The few comments or "likes" are from long-lost connections that he hasn't seen in years that have no real idea what's happening in his life.
It's such a shame. Such a pathetic waste.
So, I hemmed and hawed and decided to send him a short text letting him know I saw about the near fire and was thinking of him. He answered back with an abbreviated "thx," and I was instantly reminded how crucial it is to keep all interaction purely logistical, not even remotely emotional. I realize I'm not being fair here. There's probably nothing he could have possibly said in response to my text that wouldn't have been disappointing in some way. He didn't do anything wrong in this scenario. And yet I was disappointed. Why, I don't know, other than there was no emotional response back and it was an opportunity for some kind of emotional interaction, and one that has nothing to do with our crisis. He could have replied with a "yeah, it was really scary," or "no kidding, thank god I was in the house at the time," or any of a thousand other responses that would have offered more interaction, but all I got was "thx."  He's really not to blame here. I'm not picking on him. It was an appropriate response, it's just that any emotional interaction (or in this case, the lack thereof) is still so very painful. When will that cease?


I'm missing my boys desperately.  They've been with their father since Wednesday morning.  Four days is a long time.  I got up at
5:30 this AM to drive home so that I could get them as soon as possible this morning.  I'm back in town and texted him, but he said, "how about 10?"  Seriously?  I just want to wrap my arms around them and smother them with kisses.  I know that within a short time I'll be eager for a little break, but a little break is different than four solid days of not seeing them.  And it wasn't just not seeing them, it was a painful first.

They've been at the beach with their cousins.  The same cousins that I have made quilts and other hand-made presents for over the years.  The niece and nephew that I have had more of a relationship with than he has.  Granted, that's not saying much, because we never see them since they live across the country, but even if I haven't been as connected as I could have been, I've still been more connected with them than he has.  I've been the one pushing to go visit them.  I was the one encouraging them to come out, and I was the one answering more correspondence about dates and options, even though it was his sister.  But then everything changed, and I wasn't part of the equation anymore.  I'm the missing person in this stolen Facebook picture.  How happy they look.  My soon-to-be ex-husband actually looks happier than I've seen him in a long time. And that pisses me off. The worst is that I inadvertently extended the time away from them, AND I'm going away from them again this coming week.

His sister has been kind to me in the last few months, texting and checking up on me occasionally, trying to make me feel like things are going to be better.  I was under the impression that they were going to be in _____ (the nearby large city), and when I had the opportunity to be there at the same time to help my sister's company at an expo event, I thought, sure, I'll go and help my sister and then I'll be there at the same time so hopefully we can connect for an hour at a playground or something.  That was my entire reason for being willing to drive two hours each way and spend two very long days working an expo.  And then I heard that they weren't actually going to be there at all, but two hours away from there in a different direction.  And then I learned that my boys were actually going to be home by Saturday midday, but by then I had promised my help (with no one available to replace me) two hours from home until Saturday night, meaning that I wouldn't get to see the boys until this morning.  So I get up at 5:30 this morning (not insignificant for this night owl), so that I can be back at home and available to pick them up by 8, but he says, "how about 10?"
I respond, "If you're willing to have me come earlier, I'd like that.  I got up at 5:30 this morning so I could see them as soon as possible.  Otherwise, I'll be there at 10."  No response.  That was 40 minutes ago.  

It's a long two hours of waiting.  And the worst is that I have them for less than three full days and then I leave for five!  I've been so excited to take this long-awaited trip to Mexico with my college girlfriends, but now, it's the last thing I want to do.  When I planned this trip I didn't think I would be coming off the heels of not seeing my boys for 4 days.  I could have never foreseen this.  So, yes, I'm glad to be going, and with some of the best friends a woman could ask for, but I sure wish it was a month from now instead.  And, since I'm being a complainer and whining about utterly ridiculous, privileged first world middle class women's problems... let me just add that I would normally want to get a bikini wax and a pedicure before an adventure like this, and I don't see how I can do that in the next three days, and have quality time with my boys and go to work and take them to baseball and have a therapy session.  Something's got to give, and if I take the time to go get waxed and pedicured, then I will be sacrificing my boys.  :(  That doesn't feel right given the timing of these two absences.  This is completely crappy.  If I hadn't spent all day Friday and Saturday working for my sister, I would have had plenty of time just for me to spend on such things.  But in my typical fashion, I put others in front of myself and am left shortchanged.  I don't normally walk through life feeling shortchanged.  More often than not I feel blessed and satisfied with all that I have, but I am learning that this is a pattern.  I generally put other's needs in front of my own (don't most of us women?), and yearn for someone to put me first for once.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thank God for Old Friends

I had the pleasure (a rather heavy cathartic kind of pleasure, but there's no other word I can think of for it), of spending the evening with my oldest friend.  We met in 8th grade and instantly became best friends.  Now, 27 years later, we go months without talking, a sometimes even a year without a good in person visit, but when given the opportunity to be together, we slip immediately into the kind of authentic conversation that mark the best friendships.  She's my only friend I've maintained any kind of a relationship with from my youth.  She's known me through it all, adolescence, young adulthood, marriage, kids, now divorce.  Like everyone else, she told me tonight that I was the last person she could ever have imagined getting divorced.  I just wouldn't, she said.  Our greatest strengths being our greatest weaknesses (something we both believe in), she said my stubbornness and unwillingness to give up on anything I believed in would have prevented it given any scenario other than this one.  The one where you realize it really does take two and if one person decides to walk out that door, there's really nothing you can do about it (despite what I tried to tell myself for the four months we were "trying" (i.e. I was trying) to salvage things.

Good friends can make you cry on purpose, not in a hurtful way, but in a kind, therapeutic way by asking the tough questions.  They know far more history than any therapist and can challenge you to look at a lifetime of patterns.  I'm so grateful that I have a healthy supply of them, and particularly one that has known me for more than a quarter of a century.  And next week I get to see my four college girlfriends.  Though I've only known them for a mere 22 years, they fall into the same category!  So, yay for friends.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On being strong

The therapist asked me today to ponder if I'm afraid of not being strong. We talked about my yearning to be cared for tenderly. Actually it started by my saying that I think I'm coping pretty well despite my grief. She asked what it would be like to not be doing well, and if I was scared of that. We talked about that for a bit. I don't know how to not do well. I've wanted to have a complete breakdown, but I don't. Not completely. I pull myself together eventually. A few times I've had to reach out for help, like the day my executive director came up to my office and helped me stand up and move about because I was so paralyzed with grief. But I usually know the tools to use when I get in that place, and if I don't remember the tools at the time, I remember to get help from someone who can remind me.
But she wants me to explore that concept. Am I afraid of not coping, of not being strong, or not handling it all?
I told her I get exhausted from it. Far from being afraid of it, I so desperately wanted to not be coping that I tried to become anorexic in the winter just to prove it, but that didn't last. Why would I be anorexic? It's not good for my body or anything else, I told myself, and besides, I love food too much! So, yay for the 18 lbs I lost and for my new size 4 and size 6 clothes, but I'm afraid even grief can't keep my hand out of the cookie jar forever, I started eating again just fine.
So, I don't think it's fear of not being strong so much as not knowing how to be any other way. And then of course I see how I've always been the strong one. Oldest child, oldest grandchild, I had to be strong when my parents went through their mess and my mom was in the hospital over it. Thirty-some years of patterns are hard to break. It's not about fearing so much as not knowing any other way.

Carrying my weight

As I made a to do list this morning, my thoughts quickly and unexpextedly slipped into that cesspool of self-doubt. Looking at all I had to do I wondered if he left because he felt like I wasn't carrying my weight. Almost immediately I realized how ridiculous that was, because anyone and everyone that has known us had seen that I was carrying more than my share of the weight. But as soon as I reminded myself of that, I thought well, why did he leave? What about me wasn't working for him? And then I got angry all over again.

He never even gave me or us a chance. Not once in ten years of marriage did he tell me that something I was doing needed to change. Whenever we got in an argument he would protest that he "never asked (me) to change." That he didn't have anything about me that was frustrating to him. Any complaint on my part about how things were functioning was met with a major defensive posture and the return that he wasn't critical if me. In his quiet passive way, he refused to change behavior that was creating tension in our lives, refused to work with me on making things even better than they were, and turn it around and make it look like I was overly critical and he loved me so fully that he could find no fault. And then he claims that he was "dying in our marriage" and it was hell and he had to go find himself in the arms of someone else. He never once said to me, this pattern, this habit, this issue has to be dealt with, will you work with me on this... Even in the four months between the bomb drop and his departure, when we were supposedly "working on things," he didn't. Never. Then he left.

Of course, I know why he left, and it wasn't even totally because of a slightly younger model if myself with no kids who thinks he's fabulous. After all, I thought he was great too and showed him. I get that she was just the vehicle for his departure. And I understand that he didn't actually leave because of me. He left because he didn't know how to be in a real authentic intimate relationship where you love and work and grow together. That was too uncomfortable for him when he doesn't love himself enough. But even KNOWING all that, my heart and all the angst in it, often slips into that place of self-doubt and self-pity. How many thousands of time will I have to tell myself, it's not about me. It's not about me. It wasn't about me. See last night's post, there was nothing I could have done.

Knowing for myself

I asked my therapist to talk with our couples counselor to get a sense about what he would say about our interactions, in theory, to know if there's anything I can learn from this pain and this experience. That is (both on the surface and deep down) why I want her to talk to him.  If I have some growing to do that could have prevented all this, if I could have been a better partner in some way, I want to know, so that someday if I get a chance to love and be loved again, I won't make the same mistakes (if I was making mistakes).  But in between the surface and the core, there's a murky middle ground, where I recognize that I'm just looking for validation that I did everything I could have possibly done to be a good partner and to hear people (especially experts) tell me that there's nothing I could have done to prevent this from happening.  In the weeks after he left I began to realize he was a ticking time bomb.  He was bound to implode at some time, it was only a matter of when (Thank God, I think, that I got all three of my boys before it happened, instead of only one or two.),  but then I flip flop from that perspective and lose my morale, wondering if I'm just being prideful and unwilling to learn from my mistakes. Where's the balance?  I don't want to err on one side or the other.

I was sharing all this with my insightful mother (who knows me better than anyone in the whole world, as a mother might), and she made me realize how I'm looking for validation from the therapists, and even if they give it to me, I won't be satisfied, because I think they don't know me (or the situation) well enough to judge it.  So it doesn't matter if I get their seal of approval, it's my own that I need to earn.  "$100, please," she said with her hand out and a smile as the tears ran down down my face.  "I  know, I know," I said.  (As an aside, I thank God for insurance, because I think my therapist is more like $200/hour, which is just crazy.  She may be fabulous at what she does, but why should she make $200/hour.  I too have a master's degree and am quite good at my job, but I only make about $16/hour.  Where's the reality in all that?  Never mind about that though.) The point is that I'm my own harshest critic, and I need to accept for myself that I did everything anyone could have possibly done.  No one telling me that will satisfy the hole in my heart until accept it for myself.

I watched a clip from an Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong today.  Actually I watched it three times. I was moved by his eloquent description of God and religion and glad that someone else was able to put my own inner musings into much better words than I could. Rather than staying like we are as children, we need to grow up, he argues.  To which I'll add, what is our purpose if not to walk through this life being grateful for all the beauty and doing our part to contribute to it by helping alleviate the suffering around us.  And there's so very much of both.  I believe it's our calling to become fully actualized, authentic human beings, in tune with life and all its interrelationships.  I went to see the movie The Quartet this evening with a friend (since the boys are at the beach with their father and his sister and family). Though perhaps most people wouldn't have come out of the movie with this in mind, I saw the movie as a vivid picture of the work that we are given the opportunity to do in our lives.  It is about an assisted living facility/retirement home for musicians in England.  The aging characters clearly each have their personal journeys they've been on.  As I watched them, it connected to the Bishop's Spong's statements about growing up and becoming more fully human.  Indeed, what's our purpose but to figure out how to balance our gifts and our ego, to leave the world a brighter place and help others.  They aren't easy lessons, and many of us are still struggling with them as we head into our 70s, 80s, and even 90s.  My beloved grandfather is turning 97 this summer.  He's an amazing man, who's lived a fantastic life, but even he may still have some learning left to do. My mother and I hypothesize that perhaps he's not quite ready to go (even if he thinks he is) because he still has some forgiveness to work through.  Anyhow, the film and the brief clip by Bishop Spong,  reinforce my beliefs that our purpose is to use life to become our best selves, making the world a better place as we go along. I believe that marriage is the most powerful opportunity to do that.  Through intentional long-term commitment to one person, you are challenged, tested, and given tremendous opportunities for personal growth.  I suppose it's my steadfast belief in that that makes it all the harder that my opportunity (my marriage) was wrenched from my hands without my permission.  Not only did I lose my husband, and my image of a happy nuclear family, but I lost the opportunity to become my best-self through the experience of a marriage with him.  It's much easier to be your best self when you don't have to really do any compromising with a spouse, when you can forge your own path, make your own choices.  Sure, I have my children to consider, but largely I can do what I want, how I want now in accordance with the undesired freedom that I've been granted by his abdication.  And there are undoubtedly things that are appealing about this. I'm already learning to take advantage of it.  New household decorating to MY taste.  Taking a trip with my boys that I'VE wanted to take.  Going to bed when I want.  Doing projects that I'VE wanted to see get done.  But the satisfaction (while strong) isn't quite enough to overpower the profound loss I feel.

I have to know inside, even without a therapist reinforcing it for me, that I was willing to do that hard work.  I loved him for all the good in him and was willing to work even harder to make sure we created a beautiful life together.  I was willing to stand together in the forge of marriage and be transformed to something even more positive together.  I know that in my heart.  Nothing his confused mind can say to me can change that.  A therapist telling me that isn't going to help if I don't believe it on my own.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I wanted to go on more adventures with the boys. There was always some reason why we couldn't, a busy calendar, unsure how to do it, etc. On our last weekend together back in February, when the two of us went to the beach and I was trying so desperately to rekindle the flame for him, I talked about my dreams of traveling with the boys.  I want  to go on adventures around the country like I did as a kid. I want to give them that experience. The thought of fitting it in and accomplishing it just stressed him out. Our conversation which all started because we were putting together a puzzle of the US, went from pleasant to sad within a few minutes.  (And I only started the puzzle because I was bored waiting for him while he spent an inordinate amount of time taking pictures of the moon instead of spending it with me. I see that event (as well as so many others) differently now.  Before I saw it just as me being patient and supportive as I gave him an opportunity to do something he enjoys (behavior I have been trying to show him for years that I am more than capable of, as I encouraged him to take time for himself). Now I just see it as clear evidence that he didn't want to spend time with me.

Anyhow, fast forward to today. Four months later. I AM having those adventures with the boys. Ok, so just a one-day adventure, but we hooked up our new (23-year-old) tent trailer and headed to the beach for an overnight to celebrate the start of summer. I'm doing it!  By myself! I'll take those hopes and dreams and make them happen.

I wonder how he feels about our trip. He's the one who left me, but given his emotional dyslexia, I wouldn't doubt that he's feeling shut out and hurt about it at some level.

In addition to everything else that's good about doing this, I love showing my boys that their mom is a strong independent woman who can do all sorts of things and isn't afraid to try new ones or have fun even when it might be a little challenging. And single-handedly managing three high-energy, strong willed boys who like to push the limits while also traversing dunes, teaching them to sand board, and learning how to camp, is no easy task.  But we did it, and I plan on doing more of it! I pray that by modeling that behavior, they will be more comfortable in their adult lives with a partner who is confident and whole, rather than desiring some co-dependent misery.

Monday, June 10, 2013

So you want 50/50?

He who never came close to carrying 50% of the parenting load now argues that he should have the boys 50% of the time.   I have done the vast bulk of the parenting, from the logistical management side (birthday parties, homework, doctor’s appointments, school shopping, etc.) to the emotional support side (conversations about emotions, religion, relationships, life goals, growth and development (i.e. "sex ed"), etc.) to the fun side (play time, toys, wrestling, tickling, etc.), to the discipline side.  I've done it all, and more often than I liked, without appropriate backup and support.  I used to joke that he had never taken two boys out of the house by himself at one time until we had number three, and I don't think that he had ever taken all three of them out of the house until I started working Sundays last fall and he needed to pick up the older two from Hebrew school.  And now, he wants 50/50.  I suppose the silver lining is that in many ways he has spent more time with them in the three months since his departure than he ever did before.  Though he doesn't see it like that of course.  He is utterly unable to see that he wasn't carrying his weight as a member of the parenting team.  That's what kills me the most.  Not that he wasn't doing his part, but that he indignantly argues that he was.  Never mind that EVERYONE I talk to about this confirms that their perspective on the matter lines up with mine.  More often than not, even without me mentioning anything, they make some disparaging remark about how he repeatedly didn't step in as a parent and support me as he should have.  Of course, he has a vastly different perspective on that and everything else in his life.  
Meanwhile, he has been complaining bitterly that he doesn't have enough time with them, but when given the opportunity for more time, doesn't take it.  Yesterday evening I texted him and said:
I know you are scheduled to have the boys until 3 tomorrow, but I wanted to tell you that I'm flexible about that. I'm happy to have them back anytime between 12 and 8. That way you can choose whether or not you want to attend the TT picnic or not or if you want them later. Or even if you want a break in the middle of the day and then a little more time with them in the afternoon/evening. I would like them for bedtime, but I'm flexible about the rest of the day. Your choice.  
He choose to only keep them until 3.  Fine with me.  We had a lovely afternoon.  I just think that it's a little ironic since he's been complaining about how little he gets to be with them, but when given the chance, two days is more than enough!  

I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about how much I'm not going to see my boys over the next two weeks, between their trip with him to see his family (which I am now shut out from), and my trip to Mexico.  I've been so excited about my upcoming trip, but it's tainted now because I will be missing them so much more due to their beach trip preceding it.  Of course, the timing wasn't supposed to be like this, but that's because he wasn't supposed to have given up on our marriage.  I was supposed to be with him on the beach trip with his sister and her kids.  I've been more of an auntie by marriage than he has been an uncle by blood.  Granted, I haven't been a perfect auntie.  I haven't called regularly or sent presents for every occasion, but I did make them both quilts and I have made or purchased many presents over the years.  But now because of his desire to throw away our marriage, I've been thrown out of the equation too.