Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Get

I just finished reading the chapter about the get ("The Ritual Question") in Rabbi Perry Netter's book, Divorce is a Mitzvah. I read most of it with tears streaming down my face. Guess the thought of a get is still too hard to imagine. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More dreams

I dreamt a surreal dream this morning about being admitted to a "hospital." In the dream my NO was already in the "hospital" for some reason and I was there in the morning and then went out to work and return again at the end of the day. In the dream, it didn't look anything like a normal hospital and looked more like a cross between a play date and a field trip with many of NO's schoolmates there. He was assigned a bed, but he was happily playing with Legos with other kids on a floor. I went about my day's work which somehow included going to all these different places and interacting with all sorts of different people from various parts of my life. I saw myself at a crowded beach boardwalk on a crowded forest trail and I know there were other scenes, but I've forgotten them. But I remember at the end of the day I was headed back to the hospital (that didn't look anything like a hospital), and was coming into the area where I would find NO and I was tired and stumbling and looking generally unwell and the hospital staff came up to me and started talking to each and said, "This one needs a bed too. Her son is here. Put them together."
I woke up then and about two minutes later NO walked in to where I'd been sleeping (a camper in my sister's yard). I told him to crawl up and snuggle me for a minute and I told him I had just dreamt about us. As we snuggled I told him about the funny dream and asked why he thought about it. He got it totally. We're hurting. We are going through our normal life, doing the normal things, but we're in an emotional hospital at the same time. And during this time we need a little extra care and tenderness from the people around us. I awoke from the dream exhausted. In reality I slept well and cozy in the little warm cocoon of the camper (despite goring to bed way too late), but waking from the dream I felt sort of like I was in the close of the dream, stumbling and in need of care. How to get it? How to let myself get it? Those are the questions. Here I am at my sister's house, but those aren't our roles. She loves me beyond measure I know, but she's not a caretaker for me. It's the opposite. How do I step into a different role?
And then there's the whole holiday issue. I feel like I'm doing ok with it all, but perhaps the dream is telling me to look beneath the surface and allow myself to feel the pain. I'm REALLY REALLY good at being happy and thankful and choosing to be positive. If I let myself be glum, I can. I could allow myself to spiral into tears, and I know that's important to be in touch with those feelings, but how much? I'm so good at "choosing my mood" that I could be just as good at being wrapped up in grief and pain if I choose, and I don't know what percentage of what in supposed to be feeling? And I get the ridiculousness of that. The idea that I'm "supposed to be feeling" anything, but I don't know how to respond to life any other way. I'm so accustomed to choosing my mood I don't know how to let a mood choose me.
Ok. Boys to get dressed. Off to the park with boys, sister and her new puppy. Then to get ready for the first night of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

Loneliness Personified

Ah, Loneliness.  I remember you.  I'm holding you at bay this week as I have traveled with my boys to my sister's house nearly 6 hours away.  So good to be here.  But Loneliness knows where I live when I get home.

Hard Wired?

My therapist says that regardless of their attitude and behavior now, if the boys see that it's important to me that the house is clean and tidy before leaving on a trip, that they will ed up doing the same thing when they are grownups. That's the good news right?  But does that also mean that we're jut a combination of our wired experiences. Programmed to behave like our parents?  And if that's the case, what's to stop the boys from growing up to do jut what their father has done?  In which case, is there an age in which this is more or less damaging to their future adult approaches to relationships? Have we caught them early enough that I can somehow counteract the effects of their father as I raise them to be emotionally honest men? Or are they just destined to do the same damn thing?

Monday, November 25, 2013


Night before last I dreamt that he expressed remorse for his choices and asked me if we could try again. It was weird that I would have this dream now. For one, I'm quite certain that he doesn't feel that way, having been given every opportunity to do so and since he just decided to spend time with his girlfriend and our boys together. Secondly, I don't remember ever having a dream like that before in the past eight months. Why now? It would have made more sense back when I desperately wanted that to happen. Now, to be honest I'd be equal parts happy and terrified and unsure. And it's certainly not where my heart and brain have been, not what I've been focusing on. So why now? Perhaps it was only to show me how far I've come? That is, if progress is the name for this journey I've been on.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I'm finding hope that someday I might come out of this cocoon to be a grateful iridescent butterfly after all. The hope comes in the word resiliency. That keeps coming back to me in the last few days.
Last Monday I was hit with a sucker lunch to the stomach. It took me down in a very real way. I could barely stand. I wanted to crawl in bed. The quality of the hurt and pain and anger were every bit as intense as earlier seasons of this grief process. But it feels like I have greater resiliency. Four nights later at Shabbat services with my friend, I found a corner of joy in my heart, and I recognized it as a part of me that had been overpowered for months. Friday night, that joyful part of me took up a bigger proportion of my heart than it has for a while. I was able to engage with authentic joy. Not necessarily 100% joy, but more than 50%, and it was all authentic.
It occurred to me at that moment that my bounce-back time is getting quicker and that seems to be relevant. I was down for the count Monday evening, but by Friday, life was more positive than negative. And I think it's happening with the boys to perhaps, all though it may be too early to tell in that case. But when NO went in to meltdown mode shortly after returning home yesterday, I held it together well (as I have been lately), and he snapped out of it in not too terribly long, managing to turn things around and be helpful and positive.
In any case, I'll take these as signs of hope that I will emerge from this a beautiful butterfly afterall.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Feeling jealous of married people

It comes in wicked bitterly stinging moments.  Fortunately they don't last long, and I can mentally and emotionally regroup pretty quickly and go about my life, but they happen regularly.  Little comments overheard made by presumably happily married people.  And they fill me with such an overwhelming sense of jealousy.  Is it envy or jealousy?  I think it's actually jealousy.  Envy is just longing for it for yourself, but jealousy suggests a certain amount of judgment.  And that's there.  I judge this situation and find it falling short of what should be.  I deserve that.  I deserve to be the one making those comments.  I was a good partner to that man.  So when I hear comments from one mom to another such as, "Yay, date night tonight. Oh, we are so overdue for a datenight!" With all the associated subtext in her voice that says, "life is hard and stressful and the kids are driving me crazy and isn't it about time my husband and I had a night to ourselves."  And I get it.  I really get it.  I would feel that way too.  But right now it cuts like a knife.  I deserve a date night with my husband.  And lady, you have NO IDEA what it's like to parent through this emotional shit storm.

Or this morning when I overheard one preschool mom laughing with another about how she was joking with her husband about whether or not doing the dishes was part of their ketubah and he had to do something because well after all, it was in their ketubah.  Yeah.  I had a ketubah too.  And there were a lot of wonderful things in it.  I upheld my end of the contract.  I can look back on it and know that I honored our argreement.  He did not.  So I hear this mom and it takes everything in me not to pipe up with a negative bitter comment like, "yeah well, from my experience, what it says in the ketubah doesn't necessarily mean much anyhow."

Family Conversation

As per my therapist's advice, I sat down last night with my boys, and we had a talk about everything that was happening.  I shared with them that the most important thing to me is that the grow up to be emotional honest men with integrity.  And that that means talking about things, even when it's uncomfortable and hard. That I wanted to be sure they understood that there's nothing they can't talk to me about.  There are no big secrets. I asked NO if he felt like it was his fault I was upset on Monday night.  He did feel that way and I tried to tell him over and over that it wasn't his fault.  He hasn't done anything wrong.  I asked them if they thought it was their fault Daddy and I are getting a divorce.  They both sort of felt like it was.  I reiterated emphatically again and again that it was not their fault.  The MC had a convoluted way of explaining why he thought it was his fault, sort of a backwards version of if you never got married I wouldn't exist turning into because I exist you got divorced.  Oy.  So we went over all that and tried to impress upon them how very grateful we both are to have them and how even with all this pain and heartache, I wouldn't go back and wish it any different (about being with their father) because we wouldn't have them, and I know he feels the same way.  NO couldn't articulate why he thought it was his fault, just stayed quiet and teary.
We talked about J. being more than just a friend to Daddy and they asked if he was going to get married.  "That's something you'll have to ask Daddy about," I said, "I don't make decisions like that with Daddy any more, so I don't know."  They asked if I was going to get married again and I told them that I while I would like to have a husband again some day, right now I'm only focused on healing my heart and taking care of them.  That it was going to be a long time before I'm interested in being in a relationship with anyone.
I told them that I wanted to have this conversation because I never wanted them to have to worry about hurting me or having to hide things from me to protect me.  That it was ok if they like J.  (Of course secretly I hope they hate her guts, but hopefully I convinced them otherwise.)  And the MC said indeed that he does like her.  Great. Yay for my life.  But I told them that I wouldn't want them to have an adult in their life that made them unhappy, so it's a good thing if she is someone nice to them.  Fake it til you feel it right?  Say the words until you can believe them, like prayer?
When we talked about how I wanted them to feel comfortable sharing their feelings with me without worry about secret things hurting me, the MC expressed that he did have something to say that he was worried might hurt my feelings.  I encouraged him to share.  I proceeded to tell me that he loves Daddy more than he loves me.  Without batting an eye, or a fleeting pained expression, I told him it's ok to feel that way. That it's normal for kids to go through stages where they like one parent more than another.  I told him how it used to be the opposite when he was a toddler, and it was all about Mama and how Daddy always had hurt feelings about that and how I repeatedly told Daddy not to worry, this is normal and things will flip flop at some point, just you wait and see. All said with a loving smile on my face.  And I mean it, I really do, but part of me wanted him to say, I love you best mama.  I'm sorry Daddy hurt you so much.  He wasn't very nice to you.  I don't like Daddy anymore.  There's enough sense in me to know that's not what's best for my child's emotional development, but the broken part of me would have felt nourished by it.
And then later NO said that he hadn't realized in the conversation with Daddy that J. was more than a friend to him.  According to STBEX, that's how he described the situation, but it hadn't sunk in for NO.  Either it was just too big of a piece of information to comprehend or he misheard or something, but it certainly seemed like NO just understood what that meant last night.  He was pretty broken over it.  I thought I understood why.  "Is this hard because it makes it really clear that we're not going to get back together?"
"Was there part of you that was hoping that might still happen?"
"Yeah," tears streaming down his face.
"I understand kiddo.  It feels the same way to me too.  It's really hard to get used to all these changes isn't it?"
And of course we talked about how we're going to get through this.  That it won't always feel this awful.  That three years from now, standing together on the bima with his mom and dad at a bar mitzvah, he's going to look back at the challenging journey we've been through and realize how strong he is and how much he knows about his emotions and how to deal with tough stuff.  That we're going to get through it by working together and taking care of each other, etc. etc.
I wonder what, if any, of that conversation will trickle back to their father.  Or if I'll ever even know.
The boys go to him for the night and then are back with me Saturday and Sunday anduntil Monday afternoon.  Then we go to Seattle on Tuesday.  STBEX is going somewhere this weekend so he couldn't have them Saturday or Sunday.  I don't know where he's going and that bothers me.  I traded time with him so he could go to the work conference (with her), but it annoys me to be trading this time with him.  I don't know why.  I get the feeling that he's going somewhere with her and that doesn't seem fair.  On the other hand I don't think it's really strategic of me to say no to switching if I want the reciprocal treatment when I need to go somewhere, such as my cousin's baby shower in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Who knows what's the right approach?

So for the past 8-12 months I've been operating under the belief that it's better that the boys don't know that Daddy had an affair.  The reading I've done has been pretty unanimous about that.  And then today I read this article  which says you should.  I don't know what's the right thing.  All I know is that I don't want them to grow up to do such things.  Thank God I can talk to Dr. P tomorrow.

And here's another good blog and post.

So not ready for this

What a night. So so hard.  
After the initial announcement that they had dinner with her, and my attempt at acting unaffected by the news, I continued to help with homework and then eventually excused myself to go upstairs for a few minutes.  That turned in to 45.  But the Little One was napping and the bigger two were fine downstairs.  I had to go bawl my eyes out in the privacy of my room.  And text with their father (and everyone else to get my anger out). 
Here's my text exchange with him:

You didn't wait the 12 months that you agreed before having the boys spend time around J----. And more significantly you didn't have the courtesy to tell me in advance that they would be spending time with her and so I was utterly emotionally unprepared today for hearing Noah say that he went to dinner with her Sunday.  That was not ok. I am angry that you didn't have enough respect for me and the boys to honor the agreement. And no, I was not prying. It came up utterly innocently. I never ask prying questions. I am very angry and hurt all over again.

I'm sorry. I had spoken extensively with Zak (the therapist) about how all of this should be handled. He does not feel that waiting 12 months was necessary, and however this happened it was going to be painful.

Talking to Zak is utterly irrelevant. If you had a different opinion you should have expressed that to me and you should have communicated your plans to me as co-parent. I can't possibly believe that Zak would say that having this information sprung on me as a surprise would be the best approach for the boys. You should have told me first. What have you said to the boys?
And no, all approaches to this are not equally painful.  Clear communication in advance would not have been as problematic as this.

I understand that this is painful. I also know that if I had communicated that "someday soon I might invite J---- along when I go out to dinner with the boys." That would also be painful.
I didn't introduce her as someone I was dating, and had no intention to.

That's bullshit and cowardly. I could have dealt with that on my own, processing that with a therapist rather than unexpectedly, standing with Noah at the kitchen counter.
And don't give me bullshit messages like "I understand this is painful."  You don't deserve to suggest that you have any idea how I'm feeling. You have no fucking clue how I'm feeling.  I don't want your empathy. I only want you to understand that you have not been a cooperative co-parent by not communicating with me.

You need to let me know when you are going to introduce her in that capacity.
This is about me as the co-parent, not me as your ex-partner.

So, then you should know that we went out Saturday for dinner, not Sunday. Sunday morning after Talmud Torah Noah asked me if I "was replacing Mom with your friend."

Relevant information to share. And what did you say?

My answer was "No one will replace your Mom."

"But I realize that's probably not really what you are asking."

So were you going to tell me this at all or just let me stumble upon this information?

I met with Zak this morning and was planning to write an email to you tonight.

This co-parenting thing isn't easy (his name). No one said it would be. Just like marriage, it's hard work and takes honest communication. But you've got to figure that out at some point for your boys' sake. You need to be honest and clear. Not for my sake, but for theirs. Do you understand why I'm angry about this?

I do understand. It's not easy. I want us to be better co-parents for the boys sake.

Then work on it. I'm putting my phone down now and going to tend to the boys.

I managed to go downstairs and try to cook dinner for the boys, but I could hardly stand up while doing so, though I was trying to act as normally as possible.  My facade was only good enough for the younger two though it seems.  After putting dinner on the boys' plates, I went and sat down in the living room by myself, excusing myself from dinner, in totally unprecedented behavior.  Earlier in the afternoon, my NO had been asked to unload the dishwasher as his afternoon chore, but of course, true to his recent pattern,  didn't do it. As I sat in the living room, I realized that after eating dinner, he started unloading the dishes as he had been asked.  He unloaded everything and put it away, including the dishes dried on the counter.  Then he reloaded everything, including the cooking dishes from the breakfast burritos I had made them, cleaned the counters, put away leftovers in plastic containers, took out the compost, the whole freaking deal. The kitchen is perfect at the level an adult would do it, far far above and beyond what I asked or even would have asked. I've never seen anything like it. It completely blew me away.  Thanks kid. Of course he still refuses to clean his room even with my offer to help and even with the loss of his Legos until he does, but I was so touched by the kitchen. At first he didn't really want to accept my gratitude. He was nearly crying.  Glassy eyes.  Didn't even want to accept a hug from me.  Such complicated emotions.  He couldn't or wouldn't articulate why he decided to do it or why he was uncomfortable accepting my thanks. I think I get it though.  I may even get it more than he does.  I think he understands at some level what has happened and how broken my heart is and he wanted to do something to make it better, but articulating that would have had required him to acknowledge what he knew or at least think about what he's wondering about, and that was more than he could do.  

Having exchanged the texts with the STBEX about the situation that I knew NO knew that his dad's friend is "more than just a friend."  I told him that he could talk to me about anything.  That he didn't have to worry about saying something that I didn't already know.  That I knew everything he knew.  Of course, God only knows if that's true!  Only now as I'm writing this, I question myself and wonder if indeed I do know everything he knows.  Why should I assume that?  I think that, but STBEX has proven repeatedly that he doesn't have the emotional maturity to address hard topics in the appropriate way, so I guess there's no reason to assume that.  

I can't believe that the counselor that we went to see together (whom he's seeing now individually), would have told him that it wasn't necessary to wait 12 months.  And I can imagine even less that he didn't strongly advise him to communicate that with me in advance.  I looked up the topic in three different divorce parenting books that I've read for a little review tonight.  They all recommend waiting at least 12 months after the divorce before introducing someone new to the kids.  For a whole bunch of reasons.  Ok so, it's 8 months after separation (divorce far from final), and what difference do 4 more months make?  Nevertheless, he should have communicated with me!  All the books talk about that as a key part of co-parenting.  Tell the other parent before introducing someone new to your children!!!!!!   Ok, so even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he really had no intention of doing so and was blindsided by Noah's question, he still could have communicated that with me Sunday evening or anytime Monday before I saw the boys.  What the hell was he thinking?  He doesn't.  He is so emotionally immature he can't deal with the hard conversations.  He doesn't get it.  He broke my heart already, this is not about me.  This is about working together to parent these boys.  I'm so fucking mad.

And hurt and jealous and bitter and scared.  Why am I left here, trying to preserve my son's innocence?  Trying to shield him from his father's mistakes.  I don't want my son's to turn out this way.  It's not ok what their father did.  I don't want them to grow up thinking this is acceptable.  To have affairs and leave their wives.  Divorce is shitty, but divorce that starts with infidelity is the shittiest possible scenario.  Fucking cowardice.  Emotional immaturity and a utter lack of integrity How can I provide a model for my sons that shows them that is not acceptable when they know that's what their father has done and they love their father so it must be ok?  I don't care who they become in their careers and their lives as long as they can be righteous men, with integrity, and ethics, and emotional honesty.  That's the most important piece.  So, how do I move forward?  I can't badmouth their father for all the reasons that I understand already would be very damaging to them.  But if I stay silent about it (which I will), how do they learn that it's unacceptable?  And of course, it is so painful to not know which pieces NO has put together in his own head and which leaps he hasn't made yet.  I want to be there for him and I don't even know how.  And it's just a matter of time before the MC finds out, and who knows how that's going to go down.  

One of my friends who was texting me words of support this evening said regarding dealing with my boys' awareness, "I know it will be hard, but you can do this." 

To which I replied, "Yeah, that's the ongoing theme here.  I get pretty tired of it, but what's the alternative? :( Thanks for your support Sarah." 
And she said, "Of course.  You really are one of the strongest women I know.  You do what needs to be done no matter how hard it is.  Not everyone can do that."
I left it at that, but I wanted to go back and whine some more, to protest that I'm tired of that role.  Please let me step out of it for a minute.  I feel so trapped by it. 

During the dinner hour I texted with three of my closest local girlfriends in addition to people out of the area.  I said things like, "I can barely stand up and cook dinner… I wish I had someone to come take care of my boys and let me curl up in my bed… How am I going to get through the two hours between now and bedtime…"  And there were nice words of encouragement, but why didn't anyone actually come to help me?  Why didn't anyone say, forget cooking, I'll be there in 30 minutes with take out and I'll hang with your kids?  Am I wrong to think that others would have received this kind of assistance?  It's not like people have tired of doing this.  I can't think of a time when anyone has done this, short of when my friend and neighbor Chris came over one night to help put the boys to bed when they were being awful last spring.  The boys still see it as a possible threat if they are misbehaving.  "Don't call Chris," they say.    I actually did call he and his wife one afternoon last week, hoping I could get some help in a crisis, but they didn't answer the phone and never called me back to check up on how the situation got resolved.  I'm tired.  And not just because it's 1:30 in the morning.  This journey is exhausting.  I really wasn't ready for this turn in the road today.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

She's in the picture

I just heard her name come out of my son's mouth for the first time. Fucking bastard (STBEX, not my son). Didn't wait the 12 months as we discussed, but more significantly, didn't even have the courtesy to tell me in advance that they would be spending time with her. No ability to prep myself for that one.
I tried not to be taken aback and I didn't say anything dramatic or negative, but my NO picked up in my changed mood even though I tried to conceal it. Bastard. Fucking asshole bastard who didn't have the courtesy to tell me.


On mornings that I don't have the boys it's as hard for me to drag myself OUT of bed as it is for me to drag myself TO bed at nighttime. Not that I don't have plenty to do, it's just one of the hardest moments. (Not being a natural early riser doesn't help, but it's much bigger than that.)
People asked me how I'm doing yesterday when I saw folks and I answered "well" to a few of them, and that was accurate, which felt good and bad (if that makes sense). And it's true, life is getting easier in moments, but it's still really indescribably fucking hard and painful.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Can't really imagine what that will be like when it comes.... though I do think about it regularly... in a "what will that be like?....yikes.... please let it happen when I AM actually ready for it... how will I ever be ready for it.... how will I ever me able to balance being mother to three, taking care of myself and my work, and introducing a new relationship... worry, worry, fret... don't worry, don't borrow a jack, think about that tomorrow Scarlet" kind of obsessively not thinking about it way.  Anyhow, when that time does come... here are good things to remember so that I don't suffer from Post Relationship Stress Disorder.  

Friday, November 15, 2013


Exchange with my eldest this evening when I told him to turn off the light:

Me: "Hey, if I wake up in the morning and I see you've picked up your room, I'll let it count as one of the four nights," referring to the offer I made him to earn his Legos back by having his room picked up four nights in a row at bedtime. I told him that yesterday and he flatly refused the offer. This afternoon I made a simple little chart on a piece of paper with four boxes and the offer on the top as a reminder. I pointed out that it would be really easy to earn them back right now, because his room is only about five minutes away from being clean, since we did a massive cleaning together last weekend. If he picked it up tonight that would be night one. He leaves first thing in the morning and won't be back until Monday after school, so that would be a simple day two, and then swimming is Tuesday and Daddy's on Wednesday and swimming again on Thursday, so there's hardly even the opportunity to mess it up in the next four nights if he started with it clean tonight.
"Nope." Is all he ever responds. Or, "I'm not gonna do it," despite being really mad about the loss of his Legos.

Me: "Have you thought about why you don't want to succeed at this?"
NO: "Nope."
Me: "Or, what's making you want to fail?"
NO: "Nope."
Me: "Seems like that would be useful to think about."
NO: "Nope."
Me: "Even if you couldn't come up with an answer right away, it's interesting to wonder why you're wanting to fail."
NO: "Nope."
Me: "Cause it's not just about your room, right?"
NO: "Nope."
Me: "I think I'm going to have to start calling you Pierre."
NO: silence
Me: "You know why, right?"
NO: "Yep."
Me: silently to myself, well at least that's not a 'nope,' then, "Goodnight ----."

Another day of parenting. I could write for hours about just how f-ing hard the last few weeks have been as a parent, how proud I am of what I've been doing and how much I've grown and on and on. And actually if I had endless amounts of time, I would do just that. I yearn to write it all down. But it's so big that I am paralyzed by the sheer volume and mass of it all. I don't know how to summarize the intra and inter -personal ultra parenting marathon I've been on the last few weeks. Like the stage race that never fucking ends. And I'm winning. I think. I don't even know what that means, but I think I'm doing a lot right a lot of the time. More than a lot. I feel pretty awesome about how I've been managing the challenges of this course, but it's a shallow and not very rewarding sense of daily victory because there's no clear roadmap to the finish line. And no sense of how long this itinerary lasts. I just want it to be easier. So, rather than writing it out blow by blow and emotionally processing much of the last few weeks in writing, which would be satisfying, I'm going to start a movie at 10:15 at night instead. Ah, for escapism. And homemade chocolate chip cookies.

(So I did go back and put the "previous" post in between these, thanks to backdating, because clearly I'm feeling a need to document this for some unknown reason.)

Text support

It's on ongoing roller coaster with the boys.  Lots that's good and even charming and lovely at times, and much that is frustrating.
Here's a sampling of texts I've sent recently as an easy way to journal:
From 11/11, to my mom and sis:

Another day, same routine. Lovely day. Excellent restaurant dinner experience with the boys. Then we get home and all is going pretty well until --NO-- changes his mind about being willing to shower and refused to do that or stop with Legos and now he's lost ALL his Legos. can't let things get too good before he sabotages everything again.
But I didn't yell!

From 11/12, to my college girlfriends:
This parenting job is the fucking hardest thing in the whole wide world. I win a freaking medal for how awesome I've been lately. I'm working so incredibly hard at being compassionate calm and consistent while still holding them accountable. But the thing is, I don't want a freakin medal. I just want it to get easier. On me and on --NO-- in particular. He's breaking my heart every day as I watch him fight off the tears and keep himself in his own dungeon and try so hard to help him let it out but he refuses anything that might feel like help or the satisfaction of life being too regular/good/smooth/right. Every day the same f!ng roller coaster. And I stay calm. Consistent. Compassionate. And committed to holding him accountable. Please someone tell me it's going to get easier at some point.

And then this to the STBEX later that same night after bedtime:
---NO-- had been consistently refusing to do homework. He is flipping back and forth in general from being totally fabulous to being awful and defiant. We've had many frank talks about everything. He sees the pattern of self-sabotage that he is engaged in (as soon as things start to feel too good and normal he has to destroy his own happiness), but he can't stop the pattern. We've talked about that too, how that's hard even for grownups. I have been doing an EXEMPLARY job of staying calm, consistent, and compassionate, while still holding him accountable. He lost all his Legos last night. :( He refused to do his homework again all afternoon today and this evening, despite plenty of time, reminders, and offers of support.
I'm sharing this with you because if this was my weekend coming up, he wouldn't be allowed to go to ---- with --(his friend)--- if he hasn't done his homework for the week. I've wondered allowed with him what you might think about that, but have stopped short of presuming what you will do or saying what you should do. However, if you desire to be in the same page, that's what I believe should happen. Just like last weekend, he didn't have his homework done and he had to do it over the weekend and wasn't going to get to have a play date if he didn't get it done.
Please let me know how you will handle this so I can know how to proceed. If you agree, I was wondering about contacting 
--(his friend's)--- family and having them contact --NO-- to encourage him.

To which I received this infuriating response:
In general, I want to be supportive of teaching --NO-- that there are consequences to not getting one's work done, but 1) I think that there is a lot at play here, and 2) I'm not really okay with subjecting --(his friend)-- to the potential disappointment, particularly since this trip has been postponed a number of times already. I will make sure that --NO-- gets at least some homework done after Hebrew school tomorrow, keeping in mind that he will have had a long education day already and we haven't seen each other in a week). I will also make sure that he finishes all of his work by Sunday evening.

That all sounds lovely and good, not infuriating at all, unless you know him.  I realize know how typical it is of him.  Sound good, not outwardly disagreeing, seemingly on the same page, but not really when tough choices come up and with lots of outs available.  One of the hardest things about this scenario is the lack of kudos from my former partner.  I am working so hard to be a good parent, but I'm not going to win his praise.  I know that he doesn't respect my parenting style. So, why do I yearn for his approval, especially when I don't have any reason to believe it will come. And he makes himself look so compassionate and understanding.  Well, we'll see if all his homework is going to be done Sunday.

I discussed this issue with my counselor on Wednesday and to sum up, she encouraged me to talk with NO very honestly about my role in his schoolwork/homework life and I consider stepping out of my role.  So I did that Wednesday and then sent STBEX the following as part of a longer email about calendars, Hanukkah presents, and sitters:

1. HOMEWORK: After talking with my counselor yesterday, I've decided to try a new approach with --NO-- regarding homework for awhile.  One of her main points (among several) was that if it's going to be up to him to self-motivate in life, he needs to experience that now and perhaps experience the effects of failure now too.  Better to fail now than fail in 10th grade.  She suggested that I ask him what he'd like in terms of homework support from me.  I talked with him yesterday afternoon and in that initial conversation he said that he wanted me to remind him once when he gets home from school, and if he hasn't done anything to remind him in 30 more minutes one more time.  So, I'm going to SIGNIFICANTLY back off from homework support for awhile.  I will provide a place and the supplies to accomplish homework, I will remind gently twice, and I will be there if he requests support or checking. I will let his teacher Brian know about the new approach.  And if he's failing miserably, I will request that Brian request a meeting with us and Noah to discuss it.  (I realize that me requesting Brian to request from us is a little convoluted, but I think you get that right?)  
Of course there's been no response to that email.

Yesterday was the first day of the new homework policy and I stuck to my agreement.  It wasn't the homework that was the battleground.  It was the Legos.  We had what would have been a knock down drag out over the Legos and his unwillingness to follow directions in general.  It got physical, but in an unusual way.  Rather than emotionally engage with anger I tried yet a different tack.  I feel like I have to keep him on his toes.  How's she going to react this time? Calm? Stoic?  Compassionate? Anything but anger.  So, I tried to use humor, shock and surprise.  He was wanting to physically wrestle with me in his anger over the Legos, so I went for it.  Wrestling, but while laughing, tickling, kissing.  Anything but getting mad.  Giving him chances to get up and walk away to cool down, but not allowing him to get/keep the Legos (his goal) or destroy the toy room (his other goal).  I kind of think it did work.  He didn't recover immediately, but he did recover faster than he might have.  As I was catching my calm and my breath, I sent the following to the girlfriends:

And that's what it feels like, CONSTANTLY strategizing in uncharted territory.  Asking myself, ok, which tricks and tools am I going to use this time.

Which brings me up to this evening.

Mostly they are charming and delightful so long as I'm not asking them to contribute in any way to the team effort.  Tonight was yet another example of their utter unwillingness to help if they aren't in the mood.  Particularly NO (Number One).  The Little One is actually a pretty cooperative 3-year old and surprisingly (or perhaps not), every since NO has started being so profoundly difficult these past couple of months, my Middle Child has become easier.  He's always been a particularly challenging child.  And that's still the case, but I do feel like he's easier to deal with now that everything has become such a struggle with NO.  Tonight, I shared my feelings with the boys calmly, clearly and honestly.  I told them that I find it frustrating because I'm spending my time doing what I think is good for the team, being with them, making cookies and challah with them, planning for a nice evening with them, taking care of chores for us, acting for what feels like is for the good of the team, while they are not interested in acting like part of a team.  They're happy as long as nothing is expected of them, but ask them to spend 15 minutes to bring the recycling and garbage in from the street and pick up the toys and miscellany scattered around the kitchen floor, and it's, "no, I don't want to."  I told them how I felt about their attitude without yelling, without blaming, without inappropriate amounts of guilt.  As in no "you're a bad kid," kind of crap, but just honest, "it makes me feel like I'm not a respected member of the team when I do things for the team, but you don't." So, I was getting pretty grumpy headed into the evening at about 5:30.  I reached out to my support network.  I sent the following text to several women in my life including my mom, aunt, sis, and three friends:
When you're irritated and grumpy with your kids and it's clear they aren't going to change their behavior, what do you do to let go an be cheerful again so that you don't ruin the night? I know that I'm the only one preventing us from having a nice end to the evening, but I'm grumpy from being not listened to, disrespected and unassisted. If I ignore all that, they'd be happy and we'd have a nice night. How do I let it go so I don't ruin our evening while still making it clear that I don't approve of the way they've acted (and shown no change)? They're not grumpy, just me. Help?!?
And here's what I got back, from my sis:
Ok. My reaction is: if they are rude and uncooperative and disrespectful - why is the goal a 'nice night'? I would want them to know I was irritated and send them off to bed, shut the door and pour my self a glass of wine. The goal is not to wrap every night up in a bow, right? It's their loss, not yours and I don't think you should change your behavior to bend to them. I know that's not the answer your probably wanted.
I know you want it to be happy right now... I get it. I would just do that calm emotion-less thing you've been doing and send them to bed or to their rooms. Again, sorry, I know that's not what you want. I could argue the other side if you want :)
And then from my aunt:
-----(my name)-----, I agree with your sis. They are not deserving of fun evening. They are using bully style behavior on you. Sounds like 3 boys
Will need to be in bed at 7 tonight.
Why would any mom be happy and cheerful in face of rude behavior..,. Drugs!
Rent a chic flick.
Don't guilt self with vision of what you wanted tonight to be.... Plan b
Is their choice.
Then from friend:
First u have to walk away from them and clear ur head. Then I would absolutely take away the fun night and work on getting them to bed ASAP so u can have alone time to chill xoxo
Then back again from aunt:
Dear grumpy
You have a consensus.
Love you!!
But before I ever got any of those I got this one from another dear friend on a different thread:
Oh ----. I've asked myself that so many times. sometimes I pour myself a glass of wine. Sometimes I tell myself a hundred times "they are kids. She is only 8. He is only 3." If I start to think so what? I repeat it again until it sinks in, kids at 3 and 8 can't do all I wish they could. And they especially are not grateful. I yelled at Ada the other day for not taking me for granted. Then, I remember I took my mom for granted until I was 30. Don't know if this helps but it's all I got in times like these.

And here's how I described my night to them all in the end:
So, I took three minutes in my room. Changed into my slippers and came out with a better attitude. Decided not to throw everything out just because some parts were crappy. Boys set the table, did the best job EVER at saying Shabbat blessings and we had nice conversation at dinner. Then ---NO-- refused to cooperate at the end if dinner, but I was able to respond to him calmly as he lost dessert, them being with us, then stories... Bedtime with other two were mixed, but worth it. A Shabbat story and significant turn around on ---MC's--- part. And ---LO--, well he was just a tired 3-year-old that didn't get a nap, so how much should really be expected? And most importantly, the boys learned that I have the power to choose my own mood and determine the course of the evening, and consequence are only connected to their behavior and not my mood and that everyone gets second chances in life, but that there are logical consequences as well. So, I'm glad I made the choice I did. Now however, what I would give for a rented movie to watch. :(. Wish there were better options on Netflix. Any suggestions?
Oh and we made chocolate chip cookies and challah this afternoon and I made a delicious shepperds pie with homemade crust for dinner that none of them liked. Delicious, but now I have a lot of leftovers!

And what was the right choice?  Who the hell knows?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Things to reflect on

A few snippets from therapy…
I talked with Dr. P about how the wallflower issue and how things never happen for me.  She pointed out that it's ok to acknowledge that that was my story, but that I'm not the same person as I was then.  I get to write a new story.  I see her point and I'm interested in learning how to do that, AND I'm resistant and terrified.

That being said, I am beginning to understand that the changes I need to make in my life don't need to be 180s.  I have this fear of giving up the parts of me that I have valued to make room for new characteristics that I don't value yet.  I fear I don't know how to value those new characteristics as much as the old and I feel like all the kudos I get from others help perpetuate the characteristics that are sometimes problematic.  Yet in fleeting moments of clarity I am beginning to understand that the changes aren't about 180 degree personality changes.  Perhaps the change is quite small, just being able to understand the tendencies and acknowledge that these are my life-long growth edges.

I'm supposed to learning how to want, to give myself permission to desire without feeling badly or guilty about that.  Whether it's a new dress, better treatment from friends, or sex, I need to honor desire.

Subsequently, I need to learn over the long term to view pursuing my desires as an act of giving.  I get this intellectually, but emotionally this is a enormous leap for me to make.  But it's the idea of being in the moment, or sharing with another human being (when that's the case) my desire for them (sexual or friendship), and giving people that gift of being desired.  I get it, but that will be hard.  Especially after being thrown aside and not desired.  This all came up in a conversation with a friend who encouraged me (when the time comes that I'm ready), to go out on 100 dates.  Just take the time to get a sense of what I like about men and what I don't, before allowing myself to think long term about anything.

Dr. P is gently encouraging me to make new single friends because the reality is that many women find that they need new friends after/through this experience.  Married friends don't have the ability to support in the way that's needed.  But the more I think of that, it sounds overwhelming and like one more thing I'm supposed to deal with.  I don't have any emotional energy to invest in new relationships.  I can't even enjoy the friends I already have as much as I would like.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


December is coming and I want to be able to take my boys on a vacation and yet the thought of doing that on my own is thoroughly depressing. I wish I had another family that I always went and had adventures with that I could do this with. It's not that I can't pack up the car and rent a house and do these things, it's just that I feel so alone. And yet I don't want to just hang out at our house the whole time either. What do I do? Do I post in Facebook that I want to go in a vacation with someone? No. That didn't work with camping this summer. That's not how things work. People are already buddied up. How do I do this? Who do I reach out to? I hate feeling so alone. Makes me feel like the awkward teenager at the dance all over again. And not just because of boys, but friends in general. Why is this? Does everyone feel this way? Is this just a personal struggle, as in everyone struggles with different things? There's irony in the fact that the two of us always did everything together. We weren't one of those couples that took a lot of time to do things separately. So much for that as a theory about what makes relationships work or not work. So, I'm unaccustomed to doing things with other people like some friends are.

The feelings of rejection just spiral and swirl. This rejection is connected to other experiences of rejection. I've been reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. In the section I read last night she talked about getting laid after being on the trail for two months and going into a bar in Ashland. Why are some people like that? Guy magnets. And then others of us, not so much? And it seems to have little to nothing to do with appearance. And seemingly I can't figure out what personality trait holds the key to it either. (Except that sometimes I think the more broken the girl or woman the more attractive she is, but that's definitely not always the case at all.) So what gives? I'm forty years old, and I'm back wondering what is it I don't have? Shit. I don't want to be in this place emotionally. I was there for a long time. While still being happy and whole and confident and engaged with life around me. The question haunted me nonetheless. I don't want to be back in that spot. And yet I already find myself comparing. How easily that author got hooked up with someone. How another acquaintance who is going through the same thing, but nine months behind me, had come-on offers within weeks of her husband's announcement. How some women respond to this by going out and having lots of causal sex, yet I know that wouldn't even be possible if I tried. I'm getting defensive just thinking about what I know others would say about this, that I don't put myself in those scenarios. But I KNOW. I've been at this game long enough to know what is the reality in my own life better than anyone else. I know that my sister can go running up a mountain and on any given day she could have sex with a man she meets if she wanted too, without even coming on to him. I could go running up the same mountain and pass the same men and at most exchange friendly smiles. THIS IS NOT IN MY HEAD.
It's not even that I want to have sex with just some man (or even a significant man quite yet), but I'd damn well like to believe that the opportunity is knocking on my door.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Replacing Old Patterns, Learning New Behavior

Several weeks ago, STBEX asked me if I could take the dog when he has to go out of town on business for 5 days in early November.  I thought about it, and following old patterns, decided I could do that.  It seemed like the friendly thing to do and in my twisted brain it made sense to do so because since Murphy was the family dog, therefore he's the boys' dog, and therefore if their father is unable to care for the dog, he should be with the boys, and since the boys will be with me and I should take him. Never mind that Murphy stresses me out: barks whenever someone walks past the house, regularly poops in the house, and jumps up on everyone constantly.  If I had listened to my heart and thought about what I want and only what I want, I would have never said yes to taking him.  But I'm not yet well versed in doing so, and agreeing to take Murphy seemed like the right thing, the nice thing to do.  Boy am I still learning.  Dr. P, who works very hard not to show opinions about right or wrong behavior, clearly had an opinion about this.  Long story short, after talking with her about it and several other people and hemming and hawing for several days, I decided to tell the STBEX that I would not be able to talk Murphy.  It felt awful and right at the same time.  Right because I listened to me first, and did what I wanted.  Awful because I hate the thought of him irritated with me because I was annoyingly wishy-washy about the situation and I feel guilty for being so.  Part of me wants to follow up and see how he's dealt with the situation, but I get that it's not my concern.  I do feel good that I don't have to deal with Murphy.  It's not that I don't like the dog at all, but he brings more stress than pleasure, and right now, I don't need to bring any more stress into my life.  ESPECIALLY when keeping Murphy at this time would be a reminder that STBEX is off on the same work conference that he went to with her last year where they first slept together.  And so we reach the anniversary of the beginning of this hellish experience of the last year.

Today at parent teacher conferences, STBEX said during our meeting with NO's teacher that communication between us wasn't great.  Pissed me off.  I've been making a concerted effort.  I have frequently forwarded him emails to make sure that he is on various lists.  I have taken pictures of handouts and sent them to him in text messages.  I have informed him about homework on multiple occasions.  And yet he is so confused that he suggests that communication is the problem and somehow specifically my fault.  It made me mad and we got in an argument about it after conferences on the street corner.  It wasn't until after we went our separate ways that I realized this is the exact same pattern that he repeatedly uses.  When he has a frustration, instead of taking responsibility for his own behavior (like either forgetting to email the teacher to be on the email list or forgetting to read the email), he finds away to project and blame me.  Then he turned things around a bit and tried the other familiar strategy, the victim, hands-tied posture in which the problem is the set up.  He can't possibly be familiar with NO's school work because he only has them on Wednesday night and every other weekend.  As frustrating as the conversation was, it helps to see that this really isn't about me.  It's about him.

But here's to some new patterns.  Today was hard.  It's been a hard lead up to Halloween and I knew it would be hard to not have the boys.  But I'm so glad I had a good plan for the evening.  I went to a zumba class and out to eat with a friend of mine who also was without her children for the evening on account of divorce.  The dancing and endorphins were great and then dinner was fabulous and THEN, I went on a shopping spree.  I was already in the parking lot of the new Nordstrom's Rack and decided I would just go check it out and see what kinds of things they have.  I am not much of a shopper.  It's not that I don't see things that I like, it's that I like so much and I'm so frugal and spending money on myself is particularly hard, and so since there's so much I like I end up buying nothing because I can't decide.  Mostly I just avoid stores.  But not tonight.  And I did it by myself too.  Or mostly by myself.  I had to text my sister pictures of all the dresses, and enlist the help of her, one of the store clerks, and another friend on the phone.  But here's the pattern breaker: I tried on 5 dresses and they all fit, were cute, and very reasonably priced.  I went in to look for a scarf, decided to buy a dress.  Decided to get as many as three and then said what the hell, get four.  This is crazy unusual behavior.  But the point is that normally I would have listened to my internal voice say, "You don't need 4 dresses.  That's extravagant.  You have to prioritize and figure out what you want the most."  Tonight however, I realized there was no good reason for not getting all four.  I liked them.  They fit.  They looked very classy. They were warm for winter.  They look like they'll last a long time (I have clothes in my closet from 10 years ago). And, they were only $40/dress.  What the hell is the difference between $120 and $160 when I have enough money in the bank to cover the visa bill?  It was very liberating.  I'm not saying that I'm going to become a shopaholic or spend money irresponsibly in the future, but for right now, it was really good practice in listening to the other inner voice, the one that I'm less practiced in listening to, the one that considers my desires before considering what is judicious, responsible, fair, helpful, and not problematic for others.