Sorry …

Sorry, I'm a bit of a flake.

“Can’t you just e-mail me with this stuff?”

Words coated in ice, slippery with sleet, sliding down my sensitive little back. They don’t roll off and shatter at my feet. They stick at the small of my back.

My ex-husband — father of my Girl from the West, a beautiful young woman now who reached legal age this week — chose these words in response to my phone call on our daughter’s birthday. This is what he had to say when I summoned the courage to call him to say, Hey! Our baby is all grown up. Imagine that?

I was being maudlin, thinking of that winter-storm level snow day in 1994, tethered to that hospital bed, hooked up to countless monitors and a pitocin drip, waiting for this unknown quantity to blast into our lives. And now, here she is, fully grown and ready to take on the world.

Of course, I know better than to just dial up without a good reason. He is not a chatterbox type. I called to discuss what to do about her medical insurance, college loan applications, and the like. I thought I’d lead in with the obvious, to rise above the politics of our divorce.

Sorry …

I retold the story to my mother a few days later, as a way to illustrate how people can be so disappointing and how we have to move on. She harbors her own disappointment with me, apparently, and grabbed my words mid-air and lobbed them back at me. She does not and never will support most of my choices. She’ll always think I could have done better. It’s useless to complain to her about a messy bed when I am the one who tangled the sheets. She is of the school that you take your licks or you rewrite the story in your head until you believe it.

Sorry …

And here is where I have a small epiphany. Maybe the one who was the physical abuser was the least of the matter. Emotional/verbal abuse slithers around me almost continuously and I am color blind to its stripes. I’m rewriting my story, too.

Sorry …

Last fall I had a long phone conversation with my brother, who lives thousands of miles away from all this. He was telling me why he decided not to come home for the holidays. He felt the message he was getting was one of disappointment. That his choices, his lifestyle, were unacceptable to my mother and that he was tired of justifying his life to her.

“I think, sometimes, that she’s upset because she can’t brag about us at the knitting circle,” I said. It was a bonding/healing moment for us.

I’m sorry — sometimes — that I returned from the estrangement arrangement.

I am sorry I didn’t accept your gift of baptism. I’m sorry you can’t understand my need to question the existence of a god or for doubting so-called sacred texts.

I am sorry you don’t notice I have a brain and that I use it to question everything.

I am sorry that no amount of perfection will ever be perfectly perfect enough for your level of perfectness.

I am sorry that I often model this behavior with the ones I love.

I am sorry that I don’t take more of my advice.

I am sorry that it takes me so long to recognize abuse.

I am sorry that I allow others to decide what makes me a good person.

I’m sorry I’m not warmer, more huggy and kissy, and loving and giving.  (I want so badly to be that person.)

I am sorry I am born of such cold people.

I am trying to thaw.

Sorry it’s taking so long.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade
I am hooked on Edlenland’s weekly Fresh Horses Brigade. That woman challenges me every week. Cheaper than therapy, I tell you.

And they lived happily ever after — but not the way you think

Divorce is on my mind lately.

No, not the end of my current marriage, just the ends of other people’s marriages and possibly a little bit of the end of my first marriage.

There’s Molly and her Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce. Click over to her site. Go through the archives. This is the way for a couple with children to divorce if they must do so. Every chapter in this story is sweet, graceful, poignant. And every move seems to be made with the children’s feelings at the forefront. Molly has a way of making her ex-husband’s worst traits seem endearing. Molly makes me go back over my divorce and wonder if her arrangement could have worked for me. Sadly, we just weren’t that couple. We were volatile and disagreeable before and during our marriage. (I guess it takes a somewhat peaceful marriage to make a peaceful divorce.) Visions of my ex hurling my possessions onto the front lawn with neighbors watching and my ceremonious smashing of the wedding portraits in the condo complex Dumpster don’t add up to peace and poise.

Then there’s Bossy and her graceful undivorce. In a recent post she laid out the blueprint of their family life when she and her husband decided to end their marriage. “They made a commitment to each other and to all of the other components of their life together, and it goes like this: to have each other’s backs, to honor the past they’ve spent together, and to move forward as gracefully as possible, keeping the family house a continued hub where everyone can gather.

Wow. Where was all that beautifully logical thinking when my ex and I were hammering things out with our respective lawyers? No one ever suggested we see a counselor or a mediator or a divorce coach. These words sound like something a divorce coach would say. We didn’t have legal counsel, we had football coaches, forever charting the offensive and defensive moves that would give our team  the winning advantage. It was all about making the other guy look bad, dangling threats, and painting worst-case scenarios. These are not the ingredients for peace and harmony and well-being of children.

Maybe that’s the root of it, the legal system. Our losses are its gains.

Now comes this “positive swing bang hum dinger” hosted by Jack White and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Karen Elson. I don’t know what a positive swing bang hum dinger is, but it sounds like a divorce-a-palooza with banjos.  Six years ago they married on a canoe on the confluence of three rivers somewhere in South America. A shaman priest officiated. Sounds exotic and romantic. Now, they are throwing a bash for their closest friends and family to “celebrate this anniversary of the making and breaking of the sacred union of marriage.”

Seems like when folks realize the air is out of the love balloon, if they could recapture enough of that something that brought them together they  could engineer a plan outside the traditional system like Molly’s peaceful divorce or Bossy’s sensible undivorce or even, if your really, really lucky a positive swing bang hum dinger.

My personal jury is out on the joint divorce party concept. What I’ve heard of in the past is the husband or wife having their own separate celebration with friends. My models for divorce were “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “The War of the Roses.” Divorce was synonymous with custody issues, child support payments, and Friend of the Court. Never did I hear party or peace or bonfire with the neighborhood kids.

Inside the oddness of this is something quite nice. People taking it upon themselves to do what’s best for them and their unique situations. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all-marriage and there certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all divorce.

If most marriages have a 50 percent chance of ending in divorce, why spend all those thousands of dollars on the nuptials? Save 50 percent of it for the divorce party. Soon, will we have divorce planners? Unhoneymoons? Maids of Dishonor? Worst men?

Jeez, Louise, things are getting complicated.

 

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Tightrope

Photo by KevinT3141 via Creative Commons

I walked the tightrope for 24 hours, balanced between two undesirable outcomes: the sharp rocks of grief and despair on one side and a bubbling lava pit of anger and frustration on the other.

“We haven’t heard from (insert name of family member) in five days,” my mother said to me over the phone.

Family Member, or FM, left his home state on a Wednesday. His trip included a brief stopover in a state somewhere halfway between Point A and Point B. Between Wednesday and Monday, I called FM and left a voice mail message.

That I hadn’t heard from him didn’t give me pause. He can be like that. Plans are always lightly written in pencil.

But my mother thought something was wrong.

“It’s not like FM to be so silent on the road,” she said. “FM usually keeps in touch if there are delays.” I took her word for it. I heard the concern in the spaces between her words. I felt the tightness in her voice become a tightness in my throat.

I considered the situation: A person traveling alone across the country doesn’t show up on his arrival date. No one who has called FM has been able to reach him. Voice messages have not been returned.  I discussed these concerns with my husband and a close friend. What to do? We are not talking about a teenager or even a young adult. This is a middle-aged man who’s been trekking around the continent alone for decades. This is a person who has a history of disappearing and living off the grid on occasion.

I also considered two recent deaths of people we know who were about the same age. The most recent case involved a single man who lived alone. Through circumstances we may never know, he somehow became entangled in live electrical lines that had fallen in his back yard. The crazy part? He was an electrician. He would have known better than to pick up a live wire. Or, maybe because he was an expert he was overconfident. Either way, these tragedies played through my mind as I considered FM’s lifestyle.

Even veteran solo travelers and outdoorsmen and women run into serious trouble. To ignore our concerns meant precious time would be lost if something had happened.

Suddenly this thing took on a life of its own. Other family members and friends became involved. Two relatives made a drive to the family cottage to see if he was there. Calls were made to the state police and to his hometown police department. The more calls we made and received, the more this thing felt like a situation.

I walked the tightrope. Were we inviting trouble by flirting with its possibilities?

  • He’s fine. This is typical behavior. My mother worries so much about FM. I needed to ease her fears. Taking action felt empowering.
  • He’s an inconsiderate jerk, self-absorbed, probably met some hot young thing at a campground and has lost all sense of time and propriety.
  • He’s dead in a ravine.
  • He’s been robbed and beaten by roving criminals.
  • He’s at home watching movies.

I started thinking about the last time we saw each other, our parting words, if we were kind to each other.

The next day, as I worked my way across the taut line, sending dark thoughts to the background and focusing on the day ahead,  my cell phone buzzed.

“He’s OK,” my mother announced.

The outcome? FM’s phone service was spotty to nonexistent during his travels. Oh, and he decided to stay a few extra days at his stopping point. By his calculations he is only one day late. He is upset and embarrassed that we called the police. He thinks we overreacted, created drama.

Maybe. We had the best of intentions.

As for us, the worry warts? We are on FM’s shit list right now.  Likewise, FM is on our list, too. We think what he did was totally insensitive. One phone call could have prevented all of this. I know it’s tough to find a phone if you don’t have a cell service. But, it can be done. You ask. You offer to pay for the call. You get a roll of quarters and pump them into a pay phone.

In 24 hours I cycled from the brink of grief to a frustration so profound I had to disconnect myself from the remainder of FM’s visit.

How in this life do we balance caring enough about others to make sure they’re OK with respecting personal space and independence?

It’s a thin line.

One for each finger

Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years. That’s a ring for each finger, or, one for each toe, depending on what way you twist.

Ten years is not such a big milestone that it merits news coverage, but it counts for something.

It feels good to say that it’s been a nice 10 years. My first marriage barely lasted six years. All but the first year were tough. I’m over feeling like a failure for that union. I’d like to think I learned some valuable lessons from the experience.

The most important lesson? Marriage takes teamwork.

If you don’t have teamwork in a relationship, it will not last. If I’m a vegetarian and you are a member of Steak of the Week Club, we might have some issues. If you are a big game hunter and I’m the president of the local PETA chapter, it might not work out. If I’m carefully saving money for retirement and you are opening credit cards behind my back, we are surely headed for a cliff.

That’s silly, you might say, people who are that different would not get married. It happens. Love/lust is a blind fool.

In our first years of marriage, we often talked about what we might do for our tenth anniversary. We might plan a romantic getaway to the Caribbean. We might finally get the diamonds put in my wedding band — an idea that we postponed a decade ago in favor of putting a down payment on our house.

Who knew our careers, the economy, our lifestyle would be so different  today? The idea of splurging on diamonds or a resort vacation seems foolhardy.

Instead, we celebrated simply. We had brunch at our favorite breakfast joint. We are going out to dinner tonight, dressed up and without children, for the first time in too long. We’ll drink one glass too many of wine. We’ll order dessert. We’ll probably talk about our summer road trip. We love road trips. Our relationship was built on road trips.

I don’t know what you are supposed to do for 10 years. A party with a hired band and ice sculptures? An exotic  trip? Vow renewal?

What really matters?

I guess that we still want to be married to each other counts for something. I suppose the fact that we haven’t waved kitchen implements during heated arguments means something. We haven’t cheated or lied (outside of white lies about butts not looking too big and hair loss not being too noticeable) or changed in such dramatic ways that we are no longer appealing to the other.

We made it to 10 years. While it’s not newsworthy, it is remarkable.

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Judgment

PROMPTuesday No. 99 from San Diego Momma:

Judge me for being an anonymous blogger.

Judge you for caring.

Judgment of Divorce: Many years ago I stood in court in my best suit and heels and swore before a judge that I’d follow the word and letter of my divorce decree. That meant taking care of my child, contributing 50 percent to her care and keeping, and splitting physical custody down the middle. For anyone who’s had to do this, there is no middle in a seven-day week. Someone ends up with the short straw. For seven years, that was me.

Judge me for it.

Many did.

I took the very great risk that forging a new life alone would be better in the end than staying in a toxic relationship. I was judged harshly. I lost friends. My ex-husband’s family shunned me for years and spread lies about me to anyone who would listen.

Judge me. Walk in my shoes. Then I’ll judge you.

As a single mother I walked a very narrow line. There were some things I just didn’t do for fear of losing my child.

I lived in fear of  judgments. I dreaded decrees.

I didn’t drink. I worked two jobs at times to have more than enough money to keep us comfortable. I was careful who I had over my apartment. Although I did date, I was discreet. My dates never occurred during my parenting time. Only once did I hire a babysitter when I was a single mother.

Even though I’ve been remarried for almost 10 years, I am still a divorced parent. I cannot shake that. I have an ex-husband who may or may not want to take me down.

Having this blog is a risk. The only way it works is to keep myself anonymous.

Judge me.

Judge you.

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Anger management – with sprinkles

by youknowlinzo

by youknowlinzo

 
Right now I’m counting the days until Girl from the West turns 18. I’m encouraging her to apply to colleges on the West coast.
I feel terrible inside for thinking these things, for what is happening to our relationship.
We had a row this past weekend. I suppose we both were to blame. But I am the adult. I should have prevented it from getting to that point.
It may have come down to something as simple as biting my tongue.
“We used to be so close,” Girl from the West said to me through a waterfall of tears. She’s perched on her desk chair, her long wavy hair shielding her face as she picks at a hangnail.

I’m sitting on the rug in her bedroom, my stomach in knots, attempting to reconcile the situation. There is no easy fix. We’ve moved away from the ice-cream-with-sprinkles-fixes-everything territory.

“Right now I need to be your mother, not your friend,” I tell her, working to keep my voice even and calm. “It’s my job to question what you are doing and to be concerned about your behavior. I do this out of love.”
While this sounds nice, what really happened was I launched into her about a number of things. It’s not so important what those things were. It’s more about how I decided to express myself about them.

“Mom, you are so immature!” she barked at me just minutes earlier. “You should hear the way you talk.” She then unleashed a fierce attack, ticking off incidents in the recent past of my brusque behavior behind the wheel, in line at the store, etc.
If I’m honest with myself, she’s right. I lose it a lot.  I acted like Joan Crawford waving the wire hanger at her cringing child.
Let’s face it, there have been a number of high-stress things going on in the MomZombie household. While I’ve discovered some new ways of healing and dealing with all of it, I’m a newbie and have lapses.

I’m trying to to be mindful of my acts: I am angry. But how am I using my anger? Apparently like a weapon rather than as a way to deconstruct my thinking and reactions to outside forces.

The least I could do for Girl from the West is to apologize and admit my behavior was less-than-stellar. I should know that action, not anger, is the way to reach through all the teen angst.

I wanted things to be different; I didn’t want to end up where my mother and I landed in the ’80s, with me running out the door in tears, my angry mother waving the latest contraband she found during one of her regular sweeps of my bedroom while I was in school.
If my mother had had her way, I’d have spent my teen years locked in my room reading scripture and knitting. If I’d had my way, I would have been an emancipated minor, like two of my good friends were in high school.

Obviously looking back on that, it was tragic. Teen girls living alone in apartments, away from a family unit. Some of us — I know I did — thought it was the most awesomest ever. But what did we know? How could we know?
My mother and I had such a volatile relationship. We fought brutally. We had no common ground. How could I possibly forge a strong bond with my daughter when I had this model?
It wasn’t until years after I left home and had my own child that we could begin to form anything that resembled a relationship. We are still working on it.

I’m still working on it.

Something nice for the nice

smiley

On this day of change, when old Mr. 2008 hobbles out of the room on a cane to his deathbed, when the squalling of a newborn is heard in the distance, the birthing of Little Baby 2009 is under way, I’m taking a moment to recognize folks who’ve taken the time to either read this blog, promote or champion me in some way, invited me to join in their particular brand of madness or interests, or have somehow done something nice for me. It could simply be that what they do brings a smile to my face.

As Major Frank Burns once said to Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on ”M*A*S*H”:

“It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” 

Yes, Frank, it is. So, without further adieu, allow me to present chocolates, fine liqueurs, red roses and cigars to the following:

  • Barking Mad — Auds, you write from the heart on a number of tough issues. I appreciate your candor and your support both personally and blog-related. All the best in this new year.
  • Foolery — You invited me to BlogHus, and by extension to be a BlogHussy, when there was no room at the BlogHer Inn. You are a tireless blogging cheerleader, storyteller and creative force.
  • Glamourous Life — without your monthly GIRL parties, I’d never have discovered my own “inner glamour.” Thanks for the fun — especially the Swedish rock bands and retro advertising. Oh, those Swedish rock bands …
  • Dharma Bum — Writer, artist and practicing Buddhist, on the path to enlightenment. Thanks for noticing me, the one crawling up the side of the embankment toward the path to enlightenment. I’ll make it someday. 
  • Mom Who Drinks and Cusses — I appreciate your humor and honesty, particularly in the area of family matters.
  • I should be napping — a.k.a. Tanya, cool band member, artist, craftster and mom from Vancouver. You made me Favorite Web Personality No. 5. Extra box of chocolates for you!
  • Alias Liz Jones (who’s hiding from me right now) — wherever you are, you were my No. 1 fan, you made me laugh with every post you wrote on your blog, and you were a constant support. Come back soon, won’t you?
  • JD at I Do Things — thanks for the advice and for making me smile with every post. JD, you are the ultimate blogger: you post early and often, you nurture your readers, you respond to every comment. How cool is that?
  • Suz Broughton — Thanks for taking an interest in a grown woman who plays with Fisher Price Little People all day. 
  • Mama Mary —  whom I met through NaBloPoMo — thanks to your Dead Dad’s Club and book project (Click on over to her blog and check it out.) you gave me a much-needed poke in the ribs last November to explore some issues I’ve kept buried in the back yard for 13 years. Good luck with your publishing endeavor. I can’t wait to see the final product.
  • Wreke Havoc — Thanks for the support and all the musical memories. Best of health and happiness in 2009.
  • Salsa in China – This is more of a one-way relationship: You write and photograph your amazing life with the Twinadoes and we read and watch. Special thanks from my Girl from the East, who asks daily to “see the twins.” Thanks for opening a window into your world.
  • Suburban Kamikaze — Nobody does what you do better. Hands down, you can drive a point home harder and faster and wittier than anyone I read. Humbled, and envious,  but glad you are out there.
  • And finally — all you anonymous readers, whoever you are, thank you. All the best to everyone in 2009!

Blogging killed dear diary

Dear Diary:
I’m sorry I haven’t opened you in a while. I’ve been a little distracted in the last year with a modern version of you. I still think of you fondly.
Do you consider me a cheater or a deserter for abandoning you for a high-tech trophy?

It’s not you. It’s me. I’ve gone public. Gone are my private musings and wanton ramblings. Now I put it all out there for the whole world two people to read. I flailed around in the deep waters of blogging for a while, before some nice people invited me onto their raft. Since then, I’ve connected with a lot of wonderful and talented writers and creative people. This is not something I could do with you, alone. I hope you understand.

See this thing called My Daytime TV? This is my blogroll. It is a list of writers I consider tops in the blogging game. I admire them for their talent, creativity, insight and candor. This is the good side of leaving you for the Internets.

But diary, there are some downsides, too. I’ve learned that a diary will never send mean replies to entries, or talk back or take my material and spread it around in a vicious manner like some Internet monsters will. The world outside your bound pages can be strange, dangerous and freaky.

Also, dear diary, you won’t leave me. But blogger friends come and go. I lost one last month when her online material caused trouble on the homefront. I hope she returns one day after reaching a compromise with her family. Just this week another special friend had to close up shop due to time constraints and other matters I am not privy to. I am sad about this, diary. But I must persevere in this new realm.

I just need to work harder. Get smart about this and justify the amount of time I spend online. Just as it was easy to curl up under a tree, on a couch, or by the shore with you diary, I’ve gotten comfortable with online circles, which have dimished lately.

I read recently on Wired  (courtesy of a visit to DharmaBum) that like you dear diary, blogging is dead. Isn’t it just like me to be on the dull side of cutting edge? I suppose you think this is my just desserts for up and leaving you. But I will not give up. Just as you and I have been a pair since I wore my grade school jumper and knee socks, I’m sure I won’t give up my online affair that easily.

So, while we are not an item anymore, I will always have a place in my heart for you, dear diary.
Thanks for understanding.

–MomZombie