Monday, December 30, 2013

Grief and gratitude

Feeling very bittersweet this PM. Held my nearly 10-year-old son cradled in my arms like a babe for the longest time on the couch this evening. He just needed to be held. Wish I could make it all better. He is hurting so badly. By his own accord he says he can't talk to his daddy about his grief. So sad.
They spent a lot of the weekend with Her. She accompanied them on half their wild frenzy of super-cool fun activities. Seriously, bowling and roller skating in the same day? This from the father that never initiated doing anything with them by himself before this. God knows the can't just have a normal day with some chores or whatnot over there.

NO told me he wished they hadn't spent quite so much time with J--- i asked if he had talked about that with his daddy and he said kind of but not really. That he couldn't. Then in his typical fashion he expressed compassion for his father's bad back and said that he realized it would be helpful if she was there because of that.

That conversation was all 7 hours earlier and we had a smooth midday and then smooth dinner hour. (I was gone for two hours to get sone work done.) My LO also melted down after his nap. Inconsolable. Thought I wasn't going to be here when he woke up and was beside himself.

NO held it together until 7 and then started to meltdown in his typical way. I did my best to respond with consistency, expectations, and compassion. I had already had one snuggle time with him in the couch, but after he started melting down I went in and pulled him into my arms like a toddler and held him this mostly wordlessly for quite awhile. I just caressed his head and arms while encircling him with my arms as he curled up in my lap. He didn't even push away my kisses on his forehead. He didn't say much, just needed to be held. So intimate and loving and heartbreaking. I'm filled with grief and gratitude at the same time. Grief for all that has been described ad nauseua. But also gratitude because he opens up to me and finds comfort from me and that I am able to hold him like that and just be there for him. That's not going away. At nearly 10, he's likely to remember those moments into adulthood. My sweet sweet boy.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

From shit storm to a glimmer of hope

Found out this afternoon that SHE and my MC went dog walking together just the two of them yesterday. What right does she have to spend time with my son one on one like that. Shit that's hard. Really hard. And then the five of them went to see the movie Frozen. What a happy little family they must look like. Fuck!!! He has them for 24 pathetic little hours, and he can't even spend the time just with them. Never mind that he isn't even divorced. That he isn't even legally separated for that reason. He has no ethics. No integrity. No vision. No ability to put their needs before his own. Makes me so fucking mad it takes everything in me not to text them both with obscenities and insults. Stay the fuck away from my child! 

If I attempt to peek at what lies beneath that anger, I catch a glimpse of fear, jealousy, and worry.  What if he (my MC) never knows that truth?  What if he just thinks she's a nice person forever?  What if he grows up to act like his father?  (Honestly, as heartbroken as I am now, I think I will be even more so if my sons grow up to be shitty husbands and fathers.)  What if he likes her better because she doesn't place any expectations on him, can just be like a cool auntie and gives him one-on-one time (his most desired gift!!!!!!!) while I have to actually parent him while parenting two other kids while doing so with a broken heart.  The injustice of it is enough to eat out your insides.  

Meanwhile I get them back and expect them to follow directions, adhere to rules, and accept logical consequences, such as you decide to bring a bunch of stuff downstairs and build a crazy obstacle course, ok, that's fine, but you're going to have to clean it up and put it away when you're done before other things can happen.  Or, what, you have no clean clothes?  Even though I've been asking you for weeks to bring down your dirty laundry?  Yes, you need to separate the clean clothes from the dirty ones that are strewn all over your floor; you may not just put all the clothes in the laundry. Etc. Etc. Etc.  All day everyday.  I'm not anywhere as fun as Daddy and J-----, I'm sure.  So fucking hard.

All day it was like this, plenty of nice good moments, plenty of them, but whenever I ask anything of them, instant roadblock.  Looked like the evening was going to be a shit storm of unpleasantness.  In the middle of it all, I had a very frank conversation with my NO.  I made dinner and had called them, but decided to sit down by myself and eat it because all three of them were refusing to do the picking up that they needed and/or come to the table.  I told him, calmly, intimately, not in an argumentative way, that the reality was that I was jealous and sad.  Because I wanted to do fun things with them too.  I would have liked to go to see that movie with them.  I wanted to have a movie night at home with them tonight.  But they continually throw up roadblocks to accomplishing the simple things we need to accomplish before having rewards like a movie.  And I'm jealous because I feel like the will get to do that with her then and not me and will think she's fun, and I'm just the mean mom who makes them follow rules and take care of responsibilities.  I don't think I said anything inappropriate in that.  I wasn't critical of her or their father.  I didn't say they shouldn't like her.  I was just honest.  And my NO got it.  He indicated that he knew I wasn't a mean mom.  And he wasn't just saying it to be nice.  You could tell he meant it.  

A little bit later sitting at the kitchen table with just him (the other two having not chosen to cooperate yet), we talked a little bit more about the whole thing and he said that wasn't the case at all.  That it was the opposite (his word choice).  I said, "What do you mean opposite, she's nice to you isn't she?"  And he said that he was afraid that she was going to be like his mom.  I told him that she would never be his mom, because I'm not going anywhere.  He's stuck with me.  He smiled at that.  I asked him if maybe it was kind of hard because part of him likes her and part of him doesn't want to like her, and he agreed.  

I want her to know, that if my sons are nice to her it has everything to do with me, because I have the power to make them treat her like crap, by telling them the truth about everything, but I have and will continue to refrain because it's what's best for them.  

NO and I continued to talk just the two of us at the table about the challenges of transition days and me feeling like the "mean mom" for expectations that are reasonable.  I told him that other people (my counselor, our extended family, our friends and neighbors) have given me every indication that my expectations for their behavior is appropriate.  He said he knew that.  And you could tell he agreed that what I'm asking for is reasonable.  I asked him if it feels different in the two houses or if Daddy expects about the same from them as I do, and he indicated that he thought it was pretty different (no shock there, but I think it helps that he's aware of it.)  We also talked about how his brother (MC) has never cried once over "The Divorce" as they call it.  He brought it up and said how strange he thought that was because MC is so overly sensitive about everything else.  He'll cry at the drop of a hat about other things, and then be utterly stoic and detached about things like this.  Pet cat dies, he just wishes it could have happened a week earlier so he could have a ghost cat for Halloween.  Parents get split up and he's "fine with it." He gets more time to play on the iPad!  I can't figure him out.  

But the good news, the point to this post, is that eventually, all three of them decided to cooperate and they came to the table, ate, and took care of the things they needed to attend to (without me turning into a mean Mama).  And when I discovered that there were still a number of things to pick up downstairs, I made my MC (who was primarily responsible and had contributed the least so far to the pick up efforts) take care of it while the other two headed upstairs to start getting ready for bed.  NO really led the way by modeling the right behavior.  And but the time MC and I got upstairs, NO and LO were nearly ready for the movie night.  And even more  significantly, NO and LO even got to start the movie without MC because he still had responsibilities to take care of, and he DID THEM WITHOUT A MASSIVE MELTDOWN even though he was missing out on the move in the meantime. That's a huge accomplishment for him. It was really too late for a movie night, so I told them they could watch until 9:00 (about half) and then we'd finish in the AM.  Even better, when 9:00 rolled around, they didn't make a single fuss, but turned it right off and came downstairs without a fuss or negotiation!  So, after all that,  I'm feeling victorious here!!! Screw him and his inability to parent. I can show them love and discipline!!!!  They will love me and appreciate what I've done for them as their mother.  At least eventually.  

Transitions are soooo hard

My boys were gone for 24 hours, and I'm already irritated with them 30 minutes after their return. After cookies and hot chocolate the older two are pissing me off. So uncooperative. So unhelpful. Won't even bring their dirty laundry downstairs so I can make sure they have clean clothes to wear. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fleeting visions of the future

The growth is in the pain, right?  That's what I've heard anyhow.  The growth doesn't come in the comfortable parts, in the easy times.  Well, there've been plenty of opportunities for growth in the past week.  Holy cow.  It's a good thing this blog doesn't have to be an accurate record of everything that has transpired emotionally and intellectually on this journey, because I don't possibly have the time to record all that I've been working through.  Only this quick note while the boys are watching a little junk TV before breakfast. (Ugh, mom guilt.)

There are moments, just snippets of moments when I catch a sidewise glance at a hopeful vision. This thought dashes through my brain that perhaps this was all actually for the best.  …These thoughts are fleeting because I don't want to think them.  And as soon as they sneak into my head, I chase them out.  I realize that.  They offer hope with a price.  The price is that I have to give up being a victim and angry and recognize this as a gift.  I'm not there yet.  So not there yet that I can barely write down the words.  I had to put that ellipses after 'for the best' up there.  But here's to pushing myself.  I'm going to write the whole thought down without shutting it off before it can come out.  Because the minute or two it will take to type it out is far longer than I've allowed myself to let it reside in my brain until now.

So, perhaps it is actually all for the best.  Perhaps without going through this experience I would have never dealt with this part of me that I didn't even realize was wounded and broken.  Perhaps this will be the impetus to deal with this and come out of this experience wiser and MORE able to be intimate than ever before.  Because I wasn't really being intimate before if I wasn't truly vulnerable. And not until I can be, will I be able to be in the love affair of my life.  A true partner that I can share my life with, and keep growing in intimacy.  Someone who will know my struggles as I know his.  Perhaps (in a fatalistic way), I was destined to have my life split into chapters.  An unsustainable relationship with him that gave me these three amazing boys but was so lacking in vulnerability (on my side) that it was doomed to fail and usher me into the next step, this time of personal growth and healing, which will open the doors for an amazing intimate future relationship.

That's hard to accept.  I've been doing all this inner work for three reasons: heal from the pain of being abandoned and rejected by my spouse, deal with the difficult challenges of parenting during this time, and learn from the past so that I can have a healthier relationship in the future.  I've seen those as logical foundational reasons.  Just reasons, like gray cinderblocks of an argument for therapy.  Only right now am I seeing (if I turn off several other competing trains of thought in my head) that the future is not a gray cinderblock to build on, but a butterfly in a cocoon I'm peeking at before it emerges.  There's joy in that reason.  Hope.

But all that joy and hope hinges on me letting go of the "wrongness" of all this.  I said to my STBEX one time about six months ago, "I will never think this was the right thing to do.  I will never think this was a good idea."  I'm so stubborn, it's hard to recant that even to myself.  I told him something to the extent of, "Even if I'm marvelously happy in the future, even if I appear to you to be happier than I ever was when we were together, I'll never believe this was the right thing to do."  Ahhhh.  I still agree with my words, BUT, now I'm wondering if I have to change my mind in order to let hope in. Do I have to admit (not to him but to myself) that he was right?  That we weren't meant to be, that the relationship wasn't working?  Do I have to?  I don't want to.  I am so f-ing stubborn in this arena that I don't see how I can possibly admit that he was right. It makes me mad! Can I honor my feelings as a victim (meaning, honor my hurt feelings about being unfairly rejected and abandoned) AND still feel grateful for the opportunity life (and he) has given me to learn, grow, and eventually be in a better relationship?  I guess that's the answer.  Both, rather than having to choose one or the other.

Ok, I got it out and now that fleeting thought doesn't seem quite as threatening.  That's the point of this blog I suppose.  Now to extract my children from in front of the TV.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

When you think you've hit bottom, there's still further to fall

More room to explore I guess, if you're looking for the positive spin on things.
Wednesday therapy, really hard.  But then busy afternoon at work.  Seemed like old news at that point, until talking with my sis late late Wednesday night.  Then really hard turned into sobbing blubbering, wailing, fat hot tears all down my face for an hour and a half on the phone.  Can't bother to go into detail on that right now.  Fast forward two days.  Went to Shabbat service tonight, because a) I find it satisfying to go in general when I don't have the boys, b) I wanted to say Kaddish for Grandpa, and c) it was the baby naming for my friends (and supervisor) Rabbi B and his wife S-----.  Didn't quite anticipate how incredibly difficult tonight's service would be.  Tomorrow would be our 11th anniversary.  Eleven years ago tonight we were also at Shabbat services, with family and friends, Rabbi Y also led the service, just like tonight, and we were welcomed under a tent of blessing in anticipation of the wedding planned for the next night.  Why is it that this year our anniversary couldn't just fall on a Wednesday or something? It had to repeat the exact same pattern?  Going to Shabbat services on Friday night, a special community-wide blessing (this time for the new baby), etc.   I was just awash with memories.  I was holding it together one minute and weeping quietly the next throughout the service.  The Friday night liturgy doesn't help, the bride and bridegroom metaphors and the nigunim.  I felt drunk with memories, like waves washing over me, my wedding dress, standing beneath the huppah, the year and a half of attending Shabbat services together in that community, singing those songs hand in hand before and again after our wedding in the early years of our relationship until our NO was too squirmy and distracting to make attendance comfortable, remembering singing the words of Adon Olam together at home in the midst of crisis in the early months of our marriage when he lost his business (because he lied - and isn't that telling in retrospect).  I kept looking through the sea of faces and thinking about all the people who were there with us davening in those early years, seeing them again, trying to rack my brain and remember which ones were at the wedding as well.  Not many of them in attendance tonight, but a few.  I'm resisting the urge (for now) to see if I can still open up the excel doc and remind myself who was there and who wasn't.  No point.
I really didn't think I was going to make it through the surface and may have actually left if I hadn't been flanked on both sides by two very dear women friends.  They held me tight and I stayed.  Later one of them told me how impressed she was by the way I could just let me emotions out and not hide it.  Her compliment was genuine.  It was not a backward compliment.  I know she has a lot of respect for me, as I do for her, and she said it such.  I tried to explain that it wasn't really a choice.  There was nothing I could do, I couldn't have held it in if I'd tried.  It was truly like regular tsunamis of emotion.
But they pointed out that I stayed.  I could have left and that in itself shows I'm willing to feel those emotions, a good thing they suggested.  And that's where it gets confusing.  I don't have a hard time showing those emotions, but I am just coming to grips with a whole category of emotions that I don't really deal with.  Small scale disappointment and rejection.  I've apparently developed a very stubborn pattern of being ok with not getting what I need from people, even those closest to me.
Case in point:  Wednesday morning I exchanged the following texts with my mother:
Me: Your toes are probably all nice and pretty having just been in Hawaii. But if you're in need of a pedi, perhaps we could go first thing Saturday morning. 

Mom: I think dad would like to go 
Mom: I'll check

Me: Dad wants a pedicure? I don't know that I was inviting dad. But I suppose. 

Mom: Yes he does - :)

Then I met with my therapist and was emboldened to speak up for exactly what I needed.  I left my session and texted again:

Me: It's not that I don't want to hang out with Dad, but I think you missed the point. I was specifically looking to spend some time with just you before getting the boys back on Saturday morning. That day is going to be hard and I was looking for that quiet one on one pampering time. Not sure what to do about that now if you've already invited dad.

Mom: Haven't said a word - we will think of something honey

End of conversation about that until tonight.  So, yesterday they flew back to the mainland from Hawaii, and spent the night with family.  They were set to come down today, to be here about 3:00, spend some time with the boys before they spent the night with their dad.  I spoke with my mom last night and learned that not only had Dad come down with another nasty sinus infection (the man who was never sick is getting sick regularly now), that required immediate attention (I don't debate this), but that their newly purchased house here in town was broken into and had just been discovered as such by the neighbors.  Dealing with those crisis were top on the list for today.  I understand that completely.  What else were they supposed to do.  And then they hit horrendous traffic at the start of the two hour drive here.  So, they didn't get into town until about 4 or 5 and then they had to deal with the police.  So, any possibility of going to Shabbat Service together was out.  Ok.  I understand.  I talked with my mom on the phone after the boys got picked up.  I had nothing to do here and she had nothing to do there.  Dad was off at the store getting some food.  We were both just sitting waiting, might as well catch up.  Her neighbor called twice during that phone conversation and she said that she needed to get off and call her back.  I was very bold and asked her why that was necessary.  Is there anything else you need to be doing right now besides talking to me?  Is it so important to talk to your neighbor?  Who you've known for a cumulative two weeks?  Whatever needs to be said, can't it wait until later?  She agreed, and remarked that it's hard to remember that.  Thanks for reminding me.  I expressed understanding.  I get it.  Totally get it.  I'm exactly like that.  Where do you think I got it from?  So, we continued talking for another 15 minutes until Dad got home.  And I was ok with that.  I needed to make dinner too and they were going to eat and we had caught up enough on what was going on.  I didn't need to talk anymore.  I said I would call after services.  She wanted me to come out to visit after the service perhaps (never mind that it would be a 30 minute round trip drive at 9:30 at night), and she's not a night owl.
I didn't get out until 10.  We talked for a little bit then.  The police still had not been there to complete their investigation and report.  It had occurred to me earlier that I really didn't want to see the STBEX tomorrow.  It is far too tempting to toss out a bitter sarcastic "happy anniversary" during the exchange of the boys.  I wouldn't of course, but it would take a lot out of me to resist, and I don't need to deal with that.  It occurred to me that there was no reason why I couldn't ask my parents to handle that transfer tomorrow.  I don't need to see him at all.  So, we discussed that briefly and made tentative plans.  She was happy to assist with that, but it might have to be at their house, because the police might come in the morning.  No problem.
Then she called back a little bit later.  The police were there then and she would be freer in the morning.  She said she could come with me to get a pedicure or perhaps take the opportunity to rest and sleep in in the morning.  (Never mind she's coming straight from vacation.  Yes, there were challenges to the vacation, from the death of Grandpa to mice in the storage cupboard, but come on, there was still ample relaxation time.)  I was feeling emboldened and so I said to her, "my first choice would be that you come get a pedicure with me."  To which she responded something to the extent of, "well, we'll see.  I don't want to leave Dad without a car.  You know we're a one car household now.  Etc. Etc.
I feel like I couldn't have been clearer about my need and desire and yet it was put behind Dad's potential inconvenience at not having a vehicle for a couple of hours.  And suddenly, after Wednesdays epiphanies (for a very non-Jewish word), it seemed all too familiar.  Coming in second (or even much further down) on the list after Dad, regardless of the level of need.  But this time I recognized it.  Now we'll see what happens.  I almost don't want to go with her now.  But I know that if she doesn't get her act together to get there with me, I am going to have to address this issue, and I don't want to.  But that's the growth opportunity here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advice to a friend of a friend

The friend of one of my closest friends just lost her husband of only a year and a half to lameness, dishonesty, narcissism, and infidelity.  The common friend asked if I had any advice to share to this other (also Jewish) discarded wife.  This is what I wrote:
  • I'm sorry to hear that you are going through similar crap. I wish we could just all be in the same room and I could get to know you over an evening together. But here are a few pieces of advice/strategies, whatever in the meantime…
  • 1.) Go to the website. Her blog is so fabulous. I get her daily emails, and they never fail to provide me with strength and courage. She's far far ballsier than I am in perspective, language, and everything. That's what I find I need right now though. So if you don't mind some f-bombs, avail yourself of her site.
    2.) Make yourself a playlist. I'm known for being the last one to know about anything popular. My sister had to laugh at me (understandably) when I told her that I heard a song called "Home" by Philip Philips one day. "Yeah sis, he was only the most famous singer in America a couple years ago," she said. Well, anyhow, she just introduced me to the songs 'Wake Me Up" by Avicii and "Roar" by Katy Perry recently, and I've been blaring them and belting them out in the mornings. Also on the list are Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone." I'm a big Dar Williams fan, and her song "It's Alright" has been a central theme for me. Anyhow, invest some time into making a good playlist for yourself. I listened to that stupid Roar song a DOZEN times yesterday morning while getting ready for work and driving there. Needed it. High energy, uptempo tunes to keep you feeling strong. I have quite a story about my 6 year old son wanting me to play "Strong Enough" by Cher because he knew that was a "strong song" that would help. He had know idea just how much those lyrics were accurate. Oy. That's a longer story. And "The Cave" by Mumford and Sons got me through the first two weeks. I survived on that song rather than food I think. Whatever eclectic collection you like, put it together with easy access to help you put one foot in front of the other at any given moment.
    3. I've found some amazingly insightful articles in My favorite one that got me hooked on the journal is: Read it and check out some of their other good articles.
    4. This one straight from my therapist: Don't try to make yourself get over it. The learning and growing is in the pain. Be there. In it. It's completely shitty, but if you want to emerge able to create a new life for yourself and manifest your dreams and goals, be there now in the muck. I'm a perpetual pollyanna (as I'm sure Sue will attest), so this is really hard. I just want to feel better now, and I'm usually so good at just "choosing my own mood" as I was taught to do as a child, that I don't "choose" to be in a negative, hurt, sad mood much. But I'm learning to be patient with myself and this grieving process. Please do the same for yourself.
    5. Prayer. Or meditation or whatever your thing is. I have a book called Sacred Intentions and another called Restful Reflections (for morning and night respectively).
    My prayer life has always been on again off again (with far more off than on), but I have found consistently that it has been helpful. (If only we would consistently do the things we consistently find helpful.) I try to wake up every morning saying "modah ani…" before getting out of bed. (recently straight from that to Katy Perry - ha ha). Then when I remember to take a couple moments after getting dressed to read from the meditation book, chant birkhot hashahar and the shema, it helps center me for the day (or at least the morning), allowing myself to have moments of gratitude so that I'm not consumed with grief. Furthermore, when I'm able to go to shabbat services (hard to do with three boys), I find that helpful. I don't know about you, but different words seem to pop out at me from the sidur, right when I need them most. And different ideas wash over me. Saying the amidah one day last spring I was thinking of our matriarchs and then my own personal family matriarchs and then all the women in they synagogue community who've come up to me to share their stories in the past year. And somehow, recognizing the shared experience in it all helped lighten my own pain. I've described it as feeling like I could throw this whole thing on the collective dung-heap of human experience. I'm not alone in it. I'm learning again and again that everyone has a story. And if they don't yet, they will. It's what I do with that story…. yada yada… but don't take that too far and get impatient with your grief.
    6. Lastly (for tonight anyhow, as this has gone on far longer than I anticipated), blogging. I have found it tremendously useful to start a secret blog. To do so I had to set up a new secret email address and whatnot, so that I could really have a blog that wasn't easily traceable to me. I feel a huge sense of freedom that I don't need to worry about what I say, because no one that I ever care about will read it. In fact, probably no one ever but spambots (oh plenty of views from them) will see the blog. But it gives me a completely safe place to process my emotions and hopefully keep track of my progress (or not). I set it up so I can email blog posts straight from my phone. They are not well edited, but I don't care. When I need to spew some thoughts and feelings, I have a vehicle for getting them out. and while you're at it, check out and I've appreciated both of them (even if the former isn't about this issue; the latter is.)
    Ok, that's probably way more than you needed from a perfect stranger, and perhaps you've already been doing all this anyhow. In which case just know you're not alone. I'll send you a friend request so we can message more another time if you want without necessarily bothering S----. I'm not sure how well messaging works if you're not a "friend."

Random list of issues

  1. My highly analytical/high feeler combination… how normal is that and what to do about it…. The thought-provoking Oprah mag article about thinking versus feeling and how instinct is feeling and we often confuse the two… how to stop thinking about my feelings so much..Layers of them.  Thoughts atop feelings and then feelings about the thoughts and thoughts about those feelings.  My GOD, make it stop.  Meditation?  Prayer?  When I remember to do it. 
  2. MC asked me whose idea the divorce was.  I stumbled through it.  I HONESTLY don't remember what I said.  How do I honor my need for emotional honesty while doing what's right for my children?  I can not lie and say it was mutual.
  3. NO wants to have a laser tag birthday party.  I can not do that for/with him.  CAN NOT.  I've tried to tell him I really don't like laser tag, that I've had a negative experience with it and simply don't like it, and he just presses for more.  I don't like keeping information from him when I ask him to be honest and open with me, but it is not his burden to carry to know that I hate laser tag because the one and only time I played laser tag was with him, his father, and his father's mistress on the opposing team.  FML that was quite the evening.  He pushed and pushed for an answer from me, not satisfied with my  "I just haven't had a good experience with it and I just don't agree with shooting at people for fun anyhow" response.  He finally dropped it, but I hardly imagine it's the last time it will come up.
  4. And what to do about his birthday in general.  The big 10.  Shitty time for a party, as we are still adjusting to the new reality.  I'm not sure that the rules I set up between the birthday party for the MC and the LO this summer and fall still apply.  I'm not interested in trying to do it together.  Why don't we just have two parties/events.  
  5. And random topic…. I think I should email my lawyer and ask if there's anything I should do about the fact that it has now been over two months since I made my proposal in mediation.  Do I nudge for a response?  Or do I just let it go for now since the one positive about this whole situation is that he is still paying the bills by and large.  I can't emotionally let this go on after the house sells, which will be next spring or summer (God willing), but until that point, I really don't care.  But is there any kind of risk or downside in this?
  6. More evidence of how all my relationships are built on this notion that I'll be there for them when they need me.  My mom texting me with a message saying, "please check email from me and respond" in the middle of my work day (she didn't necessarily know if I was working or would answer my phone or what, and I gladly stopped what I was doing for 5 minutes to assist.  Honestly didn't mind.  I like to be helpful.  That's not the point.  Or maybe that is the point. 
  7. How hard is that anniversary coming up on Saturday going to be?  Would have been 11 years. My parents will be in town.  Their anniversary as well.  Planned it that way on purpose.  How romantic then.  How tainted and painful now.
  8. What does it mean that my sister and my father (whom I both love dearly and who love each other but also struggle with each other in part because they are so similar) had affairs?  I thought that my father's affair(s) shaped me in one particular way, but I'm just wondering now if perhaps they affected me in other ways as well. I thought his affair (primarily the one I was most aware of), affected me by showing me that good people can make bad choices, people can grow up and out of immature habits into healthier patterns, marriages can go through rocky times and come out stronger, etc. etc.  Those are all good ways that I was shaped by my parents' experience with infidelity.  Did it perhaps also shape me in a less positive way?  Is my father a bit narcissistic?  Yep.  He's a wonderful dad in so many ways, but he's also a pain in the butt.  And some of the specific ways he's a pain could be described as narcissism.  Some of the things I've been reading lately, suggest that some of us are more inclined to fall in love with narcissists.  So did I inherit some of those patterns by both having a father-daughter relationship with him and also watching my mom be in relationship with him?  Do I even have such patterns?  Was my marriage's collapse partly due to a relationship to someone with narcissistic tendencies? 
  9. This entire damn obsession with who might be or have certain qualities of a narcissist.  Is it a useful thing to explore or a diversion.  I'm pretty clear that's it's a diversion if it's just an attempt to blame the whole thing on another person by diagnosing him (something I'm not qualified to do).  That's looking for answers (and falsely finding them) where in reality, there really are none to find, just the grief process to go through, anger, acceptance, etc. etc.  ON THE OTHER HAND… am I just beginning to uncover some important themes here about myself and my relationships with others in general (not just my husband), that might be powerful and important of establishing a brighter future.  Hence all these books available about people who are attracted to narcissists and how not to fall in to those patterns again.  
  10. And I get that I have to change in order to get what I want out of life.  No one said this was going to be easy.  The point of all this therapy is to actually grow and make my life better, not just to have someone listen to my pain.  That said, I think I have figured out what it is I need to do and I'm not comfortable with it at all.  I don't like it.  Don't want to do it. Am scared.  Resistant.  Hiding from it.  I think I need to learn to put myself first and just saying it scares me because I feel like the sole reason I'm well-liked is because I don't.  I'm so resistant to the notion that I don't even want to acknowledge that I have work to do in this area.  Even the acknowledgement feels vulnerable.  Like people are going to not understand it or think that's just like them when it doesn't look like them from my perspective.  
Ok.  1 am AGAIN.  How am I ever going to fit all that into a 50-minute hour as Dar Williams says….?

In honor of dear Dar…

What Do You Hear In These Sounds?
Words and music by Dar Williams

I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and all the memories to follow 
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something, 
But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself...
And she says

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, What do you hear in these sounds? 
And... Oooooooh,aaaaaaah
What do you hear in these sounds?????

I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing
And the promises to stay, and the footsteps that are leaving
And she says "Oh", I say "What?"...she says "Exactly",
I say"What, you think I'm angry
Does that mean you think I'm angry?"
She says "Look, you come here every week
With jigsaw pieces of your past
Its all on little soundbytes and voices out of photographs
And that's all yours, that's the guide, that's the map
So tell me, where does the arrow point to? 

What do you hear in these sounds? 
What do you hear in these sounds?????

And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But Oh how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself............ 

And I wake up and I ask myself what state I'm in
And I say well I'm lucky, cause I am like East Berlin
I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks
And I could hear their radio
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they'd know that I was scared
They'd would know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling
And their calling out just like me...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, The stories that nobody hears...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, and I collect these sounds in my ears...and

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these sounds...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these......
that's what I hear in these SOUU OUUUN NNNDS!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Harmony-seeking idealist overwhelmed by an abundance of thoughts and feelings

So, I've been meaning to force some thoughts into words by writing them out, but I keep avoiding them by surfing Facebook links and watching the Tudors. All more enjoyable (as in less threatening) than looking in the dark corners of my soul. Tonight's discovery… According to yet another personality inventory, this one, I'm a "Harmony-seeking Idealist... characterized by a complex personality and an abundance of thoughts and feelings." No kidding. That's an overwhelmingly accurate description lately. My beloved fatherly rabbi said to me last week when I was in his office, that I am "all heart," and I responded, "Well, yes and no. I'm a high feeler, but I'm also overly analytical and can't turn off my thoughts about my feelings." Discussing this with my sister, who has been close with me for 35 years, she admitted that only in the last few months has she come to understand that about me.
He also said something else that has been piled on to this heap of connected thoughts that have been pulsating under my surface.  He said I'm a giver.  I'll get back to that in a minute.  Why does that make me uncomfortable to write that?

My wonderful and dear grandfather passed away on November 30th.  Five hours after he awoke when I came to the side of his bed and 15 minutes before I would have been back at his bedside.  I feel so profoundly blessed to have had such an incredible relationship with him for 40 years of my life.  At 97 years old, the grief of his passing is significantly tempered by gratitude for a life so well and fully lived in every respect.  Nonetheless, there is grief.  The burial and service were last weekend.  There was a lot of emotion about getting up there for the service in a snowstorm, with my boys, etc.  I was perceiving that it would feel good to be there with my family, but I also wanted to have closure in a Jewish way and for my boys too.  So, a minyan was planned at my house after my return, for this past Monday night.  That was before the biggest snowstorm/cold snap of the last 40 years in our area.  Though I managed to get home safe and sound with my boys, our town was largely shut down for several days, and the shiva minyan was canceled/postponed.  I talked to my friend who was organizing the gathering and said that it was ok, I didn't feel like I really needed it as much anymore, that I got more comfort and closure from the time with my (Christian) extended family than I anticipated, and I was ok letting it go.  Certainly, if it wasn't for the snow, I was looking forward to the gathering, but given the snow, it's ok.  Not a big deal.  Not necessary.  I didn't officially cancel it, but indefinitely postponed it.  The next day I got an email from a friend.  A thoughtful, caring, bossy, know-it-all of a woman whom at different times can be either completely exasperating and absolutely wonderful.  (She's also the one who gave me that Divorce is a Mitzvah book that I struggle with.)  Her email:
From: J-----
Date: December 10, 2013, 1:53:54 PM PST
To: ----
Subject: Shiva or not?

Hi, -----,
I just wanted to let you know how I feel about shiva. I know one can feel very filled up from the family experience. The value of having a shiva - or a non-service gathering - for your support group and friends lies in your experience. It allows your friends an opportunity to give you their full attention, and hear your stories. And it allows you to know that there is a palpable circle of love and support around you, that people will gladly give you an evening, and that your feelings matter.
Mourning is not linear. Because you feel okay one day is not to say that will be the new normal. Of course you know much of this from mourning your marriage.
This is just to say that you matter enough for folks to join you for a conversation and a hug, even though it is now well into the week of shiva and this was a grandfather. No reason trumps your need or desire.
Forgive the intrusion -
Makes me nearly cry all over again just reading the part about the new normal and mourning my marriage and that I matter to folks.  I don't understand why the part about mattering to folks makes me want to cry.  I KNOW that I matter to folks.  I have many people who care about me.  I believe that I have a strong sense of self-worth.  So why does that make me feel choked up?

Then I had therapy last week and Dr. P encouraged me to still have the minyan.  She pointed out that I don't need to be paralyzed or in desperate need to let people help me.  They can help me even if I'm not in crisis.  That comment has stayed with me.   I get that intellectually.  We talked (maybe last week, maybe the week before) about putting myself first.  I was a little disappointed and frustrated with the fact that I had to deal remotely while at the service for my grandfather with the snowstorm at home and closing our school for Sunday morning.  I didn't mind that so much however, but then my executive director got irritated with me for dealing with the situation without talking to her (even though my supervisor, the rabbi who is head of school, had texted me saying we needed to cancel it).  She texted me to call her which I did between the reception at the church and the family gathering at my aunt's house.  I was relaying these and other details with Dr. P and she seemed genuinely more disturbed than I was about it.  I was ready to let it go and she wanted me to bring it up at the staff meeting.  End of that story is that I did bring it up in a one-on-one conversation with the ED a couple of hours later.  It was VERY difficult to not just let it go, but I brought it up, and we had a good conversation and everything is fine.  Of course.  Not a surprise.
But Dr. P's insistence (or as close to it as a therapist comes perhaps), made me think of the idea of putting myself first that I've been wrestling with so much.  Going back to the conversation with my sister two months ago about how I always feel like I have to take care of myself and she pointed out that I'm not actually.  I'm too busy taking care of anyone else to put myself first.  And I'm very uncomfortable with that very idea in general.
This morning the question that kept skipping like a record in my head was: Is refusing to be needy but meanwhile desperately wanting to be taken care of perhaps the neediest kind of person of all?  
Since being with my sister and her partner for Thanksgiving, I have been thinking (again) about how it is that she attracts people who are givers and do everything for her.  And she commented on how I'm a giver, like her partner and her ex-husband.  And that givers don't necessarily attract other givers. Or something like that.  The idea being that I have to be more needy in order to attract a giver.  I don't mean that in a juvenile sort of way.  I've been thinking of all the people in my life who I feel like have givers as partners, and they ask a lot of the people in their lives.  It's not an accident.  They ask, and they get.  Of course, I'm sure that there are others who ask and don't get.  I think of one of my dearest friends from college.  She asks for a lot from relationships, is willing to give a tremendous amount in return, but doesn't have a giver who is willing to do so for her.  So, I guess it doesn't always work, but rather than focusing on examples where it doesn't work, I am seeing that there's a pattern among the people that do have giver partners.  They all ask for what they need from life.  They're all very different in some ways.  Some are givers themselves, some are more self-absorbed, they expect very different things from their partners, but none of them hesitate to demand enough for themselves.  So in other words the reason they are "getting" care and love and so much support and help from partners is because they expect it.  (The words "ask for" or "demand" seem easily misconstrued here, because it's not even necessarily a verbal or certainly not a manipulative or powerful demand, just an understanding perhaps.)  Which brings me back to the needy thing.  They are taking care of themselves by expecting loved ones to be supportive, whether emotionally, through gifts of personal space and time, or assistance with the mundane like doing the laundry.  So, is wanting that kind of support, but not demanding it (so to speak), even more needy than those who appear to have so much support readily available?
Hmm…   I think I'm understanding things here, but I don't want to.  I'm so resistant to change.  So much for being an iridescent grateful butterfly.  Being in this cocoon is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  
Brings me back to Rabbi Y's comment.  He called me a giver.  Now, that shouldn't be a revelation, just about anyone but my STBEX (or a few former students who were unwilling to do their work) would say the same thing.  But I would never say that about myself.  Indeed, it's even hard to write it about myself in this secret anonymous blog.  Why?  I guess because I don't feel like it's entirely true, and so it feels boastful and horribly un-humble.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm a "giver" in some ways, but I do so much less than others in other ways.  I feel like accepting that description overlooks all the ways I fall short in other ways.  I haven't made a meal for my friends with a new baby, I keep saying no to the blood bank and to the many many other phone calls for various causes.  Sure I always give some money to someone at my door  for a cause (or to an organization) I believe in, but I don't give 10% of my income (as my grandpa believed in so strongly).  I didn't have a present for my friend and nanny's going away dinner that I attended last night even though she requested things for her new house, if people were interested in doing that.  I haven't been volunteering at my son's school, I didn't help with the recent coffee and chocolate fundraising venture for the school despite that I believe in it very much.  The list of areas I haven't been giving or doing is long.  Yet somehow others have this image of me as being a giver.  I feel like I fall short of what I want to be all the time.  
What does that have to do with being able to take/receive more?  I don't know yet.  I need to be able to do that more.  I'm starting to understand it, but it makes me uncomfortable to say it, even in this private context.  Even to myself.  I worry that if I was to say that to someone real, she would think privately to herself, "whatever, oh like that's so hard to learn to take?  And as if she's such a giver in the first place, she hasn't done, X, Y, or Z., she is so full of herself." 

Falling asleep at my laptop as is so often the case.  Won't solve this conundrum tonight anyhow.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Narcissists, the Chump Lady, and King Henry

I had plans to write tonight. I have some thoughts that keep peeking out at my from the shadows of my soul, and I have been avoiding them, but I felt like tonight I needed to write them out. To face some truths. But I managed to procrastinate dealing with them. Instead I talked on the phone with my sister, texted back and forth with a friend in crisis, consoling each other in these "depths of despair" as we would both call them in an AoGG reference (though neither of us actually did), watched not one but two episodes of the Tudors, got disgusted with King Henry and Anne and then wrote the following letter to the Chump Lady. I don't know why I needed to share with her, but I did get some feelings out. Not the ones lurking in the corners, those are big thoughts, still to be dealt with. Here's what I told her:

Dear ChumpLady,
I LOVED this piece. Thank you for finding a way to make me laugh at all this. I had just the night before sent the following text to a couple close friends:
Sometimes it's the trivial details that make me angry. The day-in day-out single handedness of it all. NOT doing the dishes while someone else takes out the trash. NOT going to swim lessons while someone else does a load of laundry. NOT reading bedtime stories while someone else brushes teeth. NOT going and getting milk at the store while someone else outs a load of laundry in. And on and on and on. Just makes me want to say, "you fucking self-centered bastard." Of course he's doing it all single handed now too (in his 35% of the time), and it wasn't like he was such a super great help before anyhow, but he was better than no help, and I'm mad in principle anyhow. Logic doesn't matter.
Like the writer you responded to in this piece, I also have 3 boys, and your response buoyed me up and got me through the next day.  I particularly loved the bit about the free-range lepers and translated cookie recipes.  And like the letter-writer, I'm struggling to know how to accept help as I'm accustomed to being the caretaker and not the one taken care of.  So thank you.  I've been appreciating your daily emails as a source of strength.
Which brings me to my second point, I've read a little bit online about narcissism and some of it describes my STBXH so accurately, but then other qualities are not so at all.  I find myself regularly wondering if he would be classified as a narcissist.  And then I wonder if it really matters.  What's done is done. (Our marriage, by his choice.)   I feel almost guilty thinking of him as a narcissist because it seems like that's just an easy way for a rejected hurt abandoned spouse to answer all the unanswered questions about what happened.  What a convenient little analysis. Sort of like giving me the last word, even if I never say it out loud.  But then I think maybe he is a narcissist and there's something I need to explore about myself for being in a relationship with him.  But then I think that's just ironic narcissistic self-reflection on my own part.  I need to quit dwelling and looking for answers and just heal and move on.  
As you can see, I can't quite turn off my thinking brain about all this, and it spins and spins until I'm emotionally exhausted.  Easier to just put one foot in front of the other and cope with my new reality than to try to figure it all out.  And then tonight I just needed to veg a little and a friend turned me on to the brainless series of the Tudors on Netflix.  But it came a little too close to home this evening.  Watching the triangle between Henry VIII, Queen Catherine, and Anne, seemed frighteningly familiar despite the vastly different context.  Watching Henry and Anne justify their love was so sickeningly reminiscent of things my STBXH said to me last year during all the meltdown.  How their warped minds can convince them of anything.  Henry convinced himself that his marriage was an abomination to God.  My husband's faith in God was shaken because as he said, "how could God make me fall in love with her like this?" Barf.  It wasn't God you idiot. It was your own lack of willingness to have a mature relationship with your wife.  Anyhow, this isn't a letter you need to respond to on your blog, I just wanted to say thank you for your blogging and draw your attention to episode six and seven in season one for a good description of a narcissistic cheater.  
Thanks, I.G.B.  

I do really wonder about the narcissism issue. Part of me wants to get one of the recommended books such as Stop Caretaking the Borderline of Narcissist, Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, or The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family. When I read that the seven signs of narcissism include: Shamelessness, Magical Thinking, Arrogance, Envy, Entitlement, Exploitation, Bad Boundaries it makes me curious. I think he definitely had arrogance, envy, entitlement, but he also had low self-esteem, and shame. I'm not sure what magical thinking is technically, but he did have some very unrealistic expectations about how his life was going to play out. As I wrote to the Chump Lady, I worry that I'm wrongly accusing him of narcissism just because it's an easy lens to use to understand all this. How tidy to explain the whole thing like this. Are there degrees of narcissism? Is every cheater a narcissist? Is my sister a narcissist? Is my father? On one hand it seems like a gross oversimplification. Surely I can imagine hypothetical cheaters who aren't narcissists. And I certainly don't want to think of my dear sister or father as such, but, and this is why I haven't even told my closest family or friends what the name of my blog is… I think there very well might be a little bit of narcissism in both of them. But then I feel like the pot calling the kettle black. Surely calling everyone a narcissist can't be accurate and therefore isn't the answer. What's that old saying about pointing fingers and how four of them point back at yourself? Do I have narcissistic tendencies? I generally have a pretty good self-esteem. I think rather highly of myself. What's the difference? But no. I don't think I'm a narcissist. This hints however at the persistent thoughts lurking in the corners. I need to address some of them soon, before my next therapy appointment. Need to explore why I'm scared of acknowledging certain traits as weaknesses instead of strengths. Or even rather of claiming certain descriptions of myself, such as "a giver" because I fear that seems boastful or prideful when I can think of SO many ways I'm not a giver and so I don't take on that description out of embarrassment or…. don't know exactly, fear of evidence to the contrary? I'll think on this more tomorrow and write then...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Single momity

Sometimes it's the trivial details that make me angry. The day in day out single handedness of it all. Not doing the dishes while someone else takes out the trash. Not going to swim lessons while someone else does a load of laundry. Not reading bedtime stories while someone else brushes teeth. Not going and getting milk at the store while someone else outs a load of laundry in. And on and on and on. Just makes me want to say, "you fucking self centered bastard." Of course he's doing it all single handed now too, and it wasn't like he was such a super great help, but he was better than no help and I'm mad in principle anyhow. Logic doesn't matter.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Letting go

I am intellectually on board with this concept when it comes to any other relationship. I am quite realistic about other the temporal nature of many relationships. It's hard for me, because I feel guilt at letting relationships fall by the way side, but I also know myself well enough to know that that's what will happen since one can't possibly hold onto all of them. So if I'm at peace with that phenomenon in general, why is it so much excruciatingly harder to accept it with my marriage?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I got home Sunday night. The boys have been with their father the last three nights. We met halfway between home and my hometown Saturday afternoon to trade the boys so I could go back to my hometown to be with my grandfather on his deathbed. The STBEX offered to make the two-hour drive to my hometown to come get them. That was nice. Not really surprising. He's a nice guy like that. That's why I loved him after all.  But then also in character is the fact that he said he was able to leave to come get them in 30 minutes and didn't actually  leave for nearly two hours, which made me have to drive a lot farther and then wait at the halfway point for nearly an hour and then miss being back by my grandpa's side by 15 minutes.  I get that it doesn't matter, but there's just been SO much this past week. Accidentally finding his love notes to me while looking for something else, reading that Divorce is a Mitzvah book, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, my grandfather's death, looking at old pictures which include us as I look for things for my grandfather's funeral, being alone in this grief not only without a partner but as a spiritual oddity among my family of origin. Needing to grieve in a Jewish way amongst non-Jews who have a very different understanding of grief. Lighting Chanukah candles by myself at home. A very good comfortable conversation with the STBEX about parenting and the funeral and whatnot where it felt like old times and that alone makes it so fucking hard that I had to get off the phone. 
All this piled up makes me feel like I've been in a major emotional train wreck accident this week.  I just can't drag myself out of bed this morning. That's often harder when the boys aren't here, but particularly this morning. All these events seem to have thrown me back months and months in this grieving/healing process. 
That lovely sense of resiliency last week is but a dream.