About this Blog

About this Blog: Divorce is something you do, not something you are. It is not easy, but it can be funny. I know hanging on to my humor gave me hope and courage. Divorce shouldn't cramp your style. There are whole industries devoted to helping brides plan their weddings -- why shouldn't we have a style guide for divorce?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Social Sandbox

Fair warning to those of you who think that once the ink dries on the paperwork and your attorney cashes that last check, your happy new life begins.  No, I'm not talking about the continued interactions and negotiations with the person you used to be married to.  Good ol' what was his name is not the problem.  It's your friends and neighbors.  So watch out.

Do not assume that when you re-enter the social scene in your small, small-minded town that people will be happy to meet the new you.  A few will compliment you on your courageous, triumphant return.  But the rest will resent and snub you.  Don't mistrust your intuition.  Sometimes your neighbors and sometimes even your friends will want to wipe that calm, confident smile off of your face.  And that is even more so in the greater social sandbox.  Do not assume that society in general is benign.  People love to give a good smack to people in your position when they can.  They will go out of their way to do so.  Do not be naive. 

Take the time last summer I helped pay for Purl's music camp, the one that his friends helped organize.  When I dropped Purl off the first day I ignored the stiff body language of the ladies at registration - it's just that it's a bit awkward, I told myself.  They don't really have any ill will toward me.  All I need to do is act normal and that will break the ice.  Oh look, I said, there's a parent get-together at your house in a few days?  I'd love to come.  Um, uh, alright, she said, give me your e-mail address and I'll send you directions.  Are you sure, I said.  Yeah, no problem, she replied.  Well that was easy, I thought as I walked away.  I'll get to know them, maybe we'll be friends.  It doesn't have to be strange, I told myself.  Silly, silly, foolish girl.  As you may have guessed, I never got a phone call or e-mail telling me how to get to the party.  And I didn't get a message the next day either.  I told myself not to read anything in to it.  It was just an oversight.  Nothing deliberate.  Nothing personal.  And so off I went to the camp concert on the last day.  I'm sure once she sees me she'll say 'oh my goodness, I'm so sorry I forgot.'  And indeed, there she was, just inside the door.  But I got nothing.  Not one glimmer of recognition.  Hello, I said.  Hi, she answered.  Imagine the flattest most bored affect you can.  That was her.  I never sent you that e-mail, she said.  Right, I replied.  I just remembered that this morning.  Oh, I said.  Long pause.  Longer.  And then most insincerely:  I apologize for that.  And then she told me it was my fault for not coming to any other events during the week and figuring it out for myself.

And yes, really, it was my fault.  I should have realized that there was self-interest at play here, not just social grace.  That is why you are being warned.  Getting caught off-guard hurts.  You want so much to join the other kids at the playground.  You've checked to make sure no one is sneaking up behind you with a bucket of water.  You think it's safe, that you're welcome to play.  You feel confident.  But you forget to check out the kid right in front of you, the one throwing sand right in your face and laughing.  The one getting everyone together and saying "let's not play with her, if you do I won't be your friend anymore."

When you are faced with a similar situation, take a moment to calculate which cards you can see, and which cards have not yet been shown.  Act accordingly.  There are people who have a stake in preserving their relationships with your ex.  There are others who need to preserve their distance from you.  Some might recognize a part of themselves in you that makes them uncomfortable.  Others believe that divorce is contagious and fear your fate.  Many fear a small town's guilt by association standard.  Most will simply be intimidated by your strength, knowing they probably could not survive what you have endured.  Ultimately, they envy your freedom, expensive as it was in so many ways.  It doesn't matter if the motivation is "There but for the grace of god go I," or if it's "I'll never let that happen to me," it still smarts.

I don't have super advice on how to handle something like this once it happens (a cream puff and sobbing loudly to sad music on the radio is often my tonic of choice).  But being able to recognize the situation before it gets too personal should help.

Yes, I am posting this on Christmas Day.  Mostly because I am having such an incredibly pleasant morning I can get my head around this post I drafted several weeks ago.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Be That Person You Could Have Been and Might Still Become

Taking Purl this weekend to GeekGirlCon - the conference celebrating female geeks of all ages.  Neither one of us can boast having an ongoing or intense geeky interest, but I'm taking her anyway.  It's hard to explain.  It's not just that I want her to become an electrical engineer or computer code designer or to start playing hours of video games.  It's the breathtaking fierce emotional risk-taking of doing something that others don't understand that I want her to see.  I want to show Purl that you should always work with what you have, you know, bloom in place, and practice satisfaction.  But I want her to be fearless in exploring that space -- where you are should be a pathway to creativity, not an obstacle.  And that's important in a small town, where cultural conformity can feel suffocating (it's not, but you have to be courageous to combat that illusion).  It's also a trope to say it's small-town conformity, when it's really an American insecurity in general.  So that's why I'm going too.  It's fall, it's going to be a long winter.  Let's shake things up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lighting Not Striking Twice as One Would Hope

Well of course now that I contemplate it, the reason that phrase came to mind last night could have been because sometimes I hope that even if lightning doesn't frequently strike twice in the same place, once in a while it could do me a favor and strike in at least one particular place when I wish really hard, or in any event that the universe would figure out who needs to be struck by lightning and make it happen without me even making a vague request.  But truthfully it was because I was in the middle of another one of my "use it up or get rid of it" projects.

I still had quite a bit of Purl's friendship bracelet floss in my workshop, and it was grating on me, so I bought another one of those tea towels that has a special section woven for cross-stitching.  And I wanted a super sequel to my last successful bitch-stitch project.

I worked quite a bit on the proper sentiment and think I got it right.  But compare this item from the previous one.  The stitching is so much less careful.  I was clearly in a rush to get it done.  I obviously didn't care that the french knot was once again well beyond my capability to execute properly.  And anyone can see that "at all" needs to be ripped out and done over.  So that's what I was looking at when "sigh - lightning apparently doesn't strike twice around here" came to mind.

I do like the way it looks as if the original embroidery said "Miss You" with flowers and then post-purchase some angry bitter woman took it upon herself to graffiti the damn thing.  Maybe I should sketch out the design first so that I don't get frustrated and cut corners.  Maybe I should have ironed it before posting this picture.  However, like divorce, these things are life lessons that we always discover in retrospect.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Tell You've Got a Friend

So Friday I'm having lunch with my guys at the office, and who shows up to have lunch at the table at about half past seven o'clock behind us -- that's right.

So my first guy, he says, did you see who's sitting behind us, and I say, yes. . . . [two beats] . . . be nice, let's all just be nice.  And I see that my other guy, he doesn't know who the guy is, and he doesn't hear the comment.  So then we settle up, and I go say hello, because I can, on the theory that air is free, and there was nothing in the settlement about who gets which lunch spot.  And then we walk out, and I say to my guy, so that was my ex, and then he says what, the guy in the blue shirt, and I say no, not him, the other one, and he smiles, and he says, you want me to go back and kick his ass?  I would do that for you, you know.

And I thought, well isn't that just the sweetest thing you could say to a girl to show her you care.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Crafty Way to a Better Divorce

You can be happily moved on, married even -- and still some days it can still rise up and smack you -- you had to take a fully-loaded rat trap out to the trash, and it was difficult and messy and disgusting, and the person who was supposed to be there for you to help you with the difficult and messy and disgusting part not only wasn't there to help you with it, he was actually the difficult, messy, disgusting job you had to take care of.  And you can be enjoying a moment like a walk down the street on a Saturday blue-sky day in July when all of a sudden the thought of him and the phrase "You're such an Asshole!" or something similar appears.  I have suddenly muttered it under my breath or blurted it out loud on several occasions.

And it's embarrassing.  I mean, you're supposed to have moved on, and the emotional bruises are supposed to have disappeared, the scars just something that get touched languidly, thoughtfully, and no longer painful.  But at the same time it feels so good to just say it:  you, yes you, that guy I used to be married to.  no I can't remember your name anymore, but I just want you to know, because I never told you when we were married:  you're such an asshole.

Today's project helps externalize that sentiment in a productive, pretty way.  We must embroider our emotions whenever we get the chance.  Putting excessive detail on them helps define them more precisely, and can help distinguish what is healthy or rational from what is not.  And whenever I do reflect on what an asshole that guy was, and how sad it is that I was so patient and kind to him, and what better things I could have done with my time than stay married to him, I eventually reflect on how much money and effort I used up getting divorced, and how fucking worth it it was.  So it's a temporarily unkind moment, but the memory then leads to a great affirmation.  Someone else is stuck with him now, and the price I paid was one that allows me the freedom to say whatever I want.  (Happy Independence Day, by the way).

The materials for the project are available at craft stores like Jo-Anns, Michael's or Ben Franklin, and sometimes at bigger Target/Walmart types.  The towel is about $5, and the needlepoint work goes in a section of it that's woven in such a way that you can count squares and stitches easily.  The embroidery floss I used here was lying around from some abandoned friendship bracelet project of Purl's.  I free-styled the whole thing but if you are more of a stickler you can use an embroidery hoop and use a washable pencil or marker (make sure it is really made to wash out) to put your design right on the fabric.  I also typed up my phrase using a bunch of different types (fonts) to get ideas about how to shape the script-style letters.

Tip #1:  "Plan Ahea":  the original idea was to embroider "You're such an Asshole," but because I made the "A" so big, there was not room for the whole word.  I've justified the resulting "You're such an Ass ++++" as if I'd planned it that way, so as to be more spatially balanced, but that's just not true.  I ran out of room and then had to back up.

Tip #2:  Undo, Undo, Undo:  don't be in such a big hurry that you leave in stitches that you don't like.  If you don't make a mistake a project like this will take an hour or two, but this took about 3-4 hours for me because (a) I was free-styling and so I picked out several whole letters several times, (b) you want to get it right.  Just like you got your divorce done right no matter how times you had to re-work the settlement agreement.

So kick back and enjoy Independence Day, and if you spill your beer, you've got something to wipe it up with while smirking a little bit to yourself.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Yep, that's a sore spot alright

A while ago I wrote a post that wasn't very nice.  I am redacting that post because it wasn't funny enough or clever enough to make up for the snarky parts.  And luckily enough there are not enough readers of this blog to have noticed.

All you really need to know about that post is that I have realized that post-divorce I don't have a lot of patience when I am even marginally inconvenienced by a guy.  Even a nice guy wasting a tiny little bit of my time.  Go figure.

When there's some minor misunderstanding, or some last minute delay, I immediately see it as a giant red flag of how fundamentally inconsiderate the guy is.  Especially if he thinks "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be late" will take care of it.  As far as I'm concerned, it won't.  The evening's already ruined.
 The thing is, in response to "I'm sorry," my attitude is completely cracked.  I got no more "yes I understand."  I got no more "sure, no problem."  I got no more "no, I don't mind."  All I got is "are you f*&^ing kidding me?"

So sure, I own that problem.  I'd like to put a positive spin on it like I have higher standards now, and we'll see how far that gets me.

Anyway, I did realize something new:  sometimes the nice guys can be just as inconsiderate as the assholes. But what makes it worse is that a nice guy never thinks of himself as inconsiderate, because he thinks hey, I'm a nice guy, I don't mean to be inconsiderate.  To him, being called inconsiderate is an affront.  People shouldn't call him inconsiderate when he does something like show up late, or forget something you told him, because he's not inconsiderate, he's a nice guy.  And that's the problem.

An asshole knows that when people are pissed off at him about something there's probably a half-way decent reason for it.  He's aware that his behavior can be offensive, he knows that sometimes he says the wrong thing.  He owns it.  And he apologizes, and if he's an asshole with a heart, he probably makes a marginal effort to avoid the problem in the future.  But he usually doesn't deny that he was at fault, not like the nice guy in the previous paragraph.

Whew.  I've been meaning to redact that post for a while.  Apparently I was just venting.  And now I have to decide if maybe I should just try to date assholes who will at least apologize when they do something rude.  Comments, dear followers?  Are nice guys worth it after all?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Playlist for Divorce #1: Afterwords

This Playlist allows you to feel calm and resigned.  Okay, maybe a certain amount of sad, but a little bit more at peace about the whole damn thing.  Afterwards.  Afterwords.

  1. "Better,"                    Regina Spektor
  2. "F**k You,"             Lily Allen
  3. "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues,"                The Eels
  4. "Change Your Mind,"                     Sister Hazel
  5. "Hands Open,"           Snow Patrol
  6. "If I Ever Leave This World Alive,"   Flogging Molly
  7. "Na Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,"     Steam
  8. "Cold Cold Heart,"       Norah Jones
  9. "Throw it Away,"        Abbey Lincoln
  10. "Round of Blues,"      Shawn Colvin
  11. "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong,"       Spin Doctors
  12. "I Feel it All,"              Feist
  13. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away,"      Eddie Vedder
  14. "The Gardens of Sampson & Beasley,"        Pink Martini
  15. "I Can See Clearly Now,"        Johnny Nash
  16. "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da,"        The Police
  17. "Let My Love Open the Door,"       Pete Townsend
  18. "I Have a Song to Sing, O!,"         Peter, Paul & Mary
  19. "The Weight,"       The Band
  20. "Song for the Asking,"       Simon & Garfunkel

The Style Guide to Divorce: Your Play Lists

When I got dumped after an intense, romantic fling a few years ago, I found myself heartbroken in a way that surprised me.  First, I'd sob uncontrollably on hearing certain songs, and yet I'd replay them over and over, feeling exhausted but a little better after an evening of wallowing.  I'd never before been so traumatized by a departing boyfriend.  Second, every time I collapsed in tears, a tiny little part of my rational self would stir herself, cooly observe the dramatic emotional scene, and say, "You realize that you didn't cry quite like this when your marriage broke up."  "I know," I'd wail.  I'd stop crying for a moment and breathe deeply.  "Why is that?"  It was a strange feeling.  Sure, I'd cried.  But that was because it was such a big, frustrating, inconvenient change in the plans, and because it made me feel stupid for choosing him as a spouse when clearly it was never going to work out.  But I didn't cry because I missed him or because I wanted him back.  Did it mean I'd never loved him?  On occasion that thought brought forth a different type of tears, for lost time and opportunity, for not believing I deserved more.

But I digress.  The thing was, I really needed to get over my broken heart, and I really needed to not be thrown off my recovery if one of my sad, trigger songs came on the radio.  So I started pulling them together in playlists, and then would inoculate myself by listening to them in big chunks of time.  That helped.  And in time I started making other playlists for different moods.  The moods that said "I'm better off without you anyway," or "What an ass - I can't believe I ever saw anything in you!"  Boy did those help.  I enjoy my OCD, so I put it to use, making lists of 20 songs each, and then grouping them into groups of five - 100 songs in each playlist folder.  Of course each one had to have an appropriate name.

I lost a great many hours working with my lists, adding songs, deleting songs, perfecting the play order.  Every now and then I hear a song - new or just one I haven't listened to in a while (movie soundtracks are great for this), and I'll think, "This would be perfect for --- !"  and then it's hours more gone to restructure the system.  But it's a great hobby and been a great way to work through my feelings, and make the painful ones less sensitive.  I finally even made one for the guy I used to be married to.  It's fabulous, and Purl doesn't know why I'm smiling when I play it in the car.  Lists and song clips to follow, if I can figure that out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Allergic to Change

Snuff, snuff, sniffle. . . I have emptied a box of tissues already this week, plus the one at home. It is impossible to figure out if I am coming down with something, and is it bacterial, or is there something in the air? One minute I'm fine, one minute I'm sneezing, and the next I can only breathe through one side of my nose -- no wait -- it's mouth only. My usually charming Midwestern nasal twang soweds moe lye-guh dis.

Wouldn't you know it though, this is what I went through nine months ago when I arrived here. First I thought it was road fatigue plus the dust from all my moving boxes. Then I thought it was pollen in my new neighborhood, plus poor local air quality. The week after that I tried the mold in my office theory, but that didn't work either. Nothing worked: over the counter, behind the counter, antihistamine, decongestant, histamine blocker, neti pot, herbs, nada. The acupuncturist said it was stress and I drank this awful tea tasting of Farmer's Friend throat lozenges for a week. Two rounds of antibiotics finally seemed to kick it in the pants, but that was right around the time when I got word about my Illinois bar results, so who really knows whether it was the drugs or the endorphins kicking my immune system back into gear.

I'm complacent, thinking that perhaps my new move is bringing it all on and that it will pass. The uncertainty, the logistics, the pressure -- enough to make me want to curl up with some chicken soup and sleep until the whole thing is over. Some kind of psycho-somatic reaction to change, which my body sees it as threatening rather than exciting. What a drag, though -- it's going to be a few more weeks before I get all unpacked again. I'd like to be known as the wonderful new person in town and at the office, not the poorly looking soul with the red nose and watery eyes.

But if sniffling for the next week is the way to get there, so be it. I'll just take some zen-like action to address the problem indirectly (sudafed not doing a hell of a lot anyway, so my allergies can just bite it if they think they're going to get me down). A manicure. A massage. Several bottles of champagne. A date. Concert tickets. Nothing can get me down because I feel good, look good, and have great things to look forward to. Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Importance of Pets

It doesn't matter if you're the one leaving or if you perhaps got left behind - there's nothing that takes the edge off a day of divorce-wrangling like the soulful, non-judgmental eyes of your dog.  I don't have experience with salamanders or pythons, but I suppose the company of a cold-blooded animal might be soothing in a certain way as well.

I got a cat when the guy I used to be married to finally left.  Weeks of stress and uncertainty preceded his departure -- it was that setup where it had to be his decision to leave, and he wouldn't just make the decision.  So he was leaving, but I was kicking him out.  Geez it was a lot of work.

When it was finally quiet enough to feel his absence, the thought just came rushing in:  get a cat -- now!  The child and I hopped into the car and sped over to the shelter, where we played with and picked out a sweet grey kitten.  An hour later she and the dog were sizing each other up, and eventually became the best of friends.

The cat served an important purpose or several.  Sure, she replaced the warm body of the departed spouse, so that "we" still had a household of four beings.  She was also an important distraction for the child, a source of joy to offset the pain and sorrow of the separation.  For me too:  the dog was too big to be a lap warmer, so those times when I was the only human in the house her demands for attention forced me to stop and cuddle and feel a whole lot better.

Oh, and did I mention?  A pretty effective barricade.  Yes, I did know how allergic the guy I used to be married to was when I brought home the cat.  Well, I'd heard about it.  And I'd never really been a cat person, so it didn't come up.  A few odd times I guess at someone else's house.  But that morning the concept was strikingly clear -- get yourself a damn cat fast or that man is going to come back.

Later that day he dropped by to pick up some socks, or whatever.  It was impressive.  That little tiny kitten.  The wheezing, the shortness of breath, the hives.  They started immediately.  Sheepishly, he asked, "so, I guess I can't come back now."  "Nope."  He stayed by the door, and left soon after.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Haven't Rented the Truck, Yet

People would ask me, when I was first getting divorced, how the guy I had been be married to and I were going to manage living in the same town afterwards.  I'd say, blithely, that you never know about these things, he could always get run over by a truck.  Then I'd pause for effect and say, ". . . and it's not like I've hired the truck or anything."

I'm going to hire a truck now, but not to run over the guy I used to be married to.  I've been offered a job in my old town, now that I've finished my degree and can actually afford to live there even without child support.  So I have to move back.  Correction:  because I want to, and not because I have to.  And even after multiple downsizings I still do have a small truck's worth of worldly possessions.  So I will be needing that truck, and the guy I used to be married to should just look both ways on the day I arrive.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Custody of the Neighborhood

The guy I used to be married to called me the other day for the sole purpose of telling me that I shouldn't go to a theater performance he would be in next weekend because "it would make him feel uncomfortable."  Yes, that's right.  We've been separated for seven years and divorced for five.  He has a decent job, bought a nice house and lives well.  I quit my job, the one I held because it gave our family some health insurance, sold my house, and went back to school.  Right now I'm still at the ground-floor entrance level of a new career path, barely making enough to shop at Goodwill on their 50% off days.  There's one theater group in town.  So my date and I we thought, what the hell, let's go.  It won't be any more awkward for him than it is for me.  And then he calls, and tells me that he would be uncomfortable?  Who gave him custody of the neighborhood, I'd like to know.

Using my best divorce humor, I approached the situation with tact.  "So, I said, ". . . I guess this means you're not going to comp us the tickets?"

Review to come next week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Starting Over

Wow, it's been a while.  I'm in town for the week.  I should have scheduled a meeting with the guy I used to be married to, and talk about schedules, and finances, and tax returns, and all that stuff, but I acted like I was too busy.
In the meantime, mostly I've been worked about how to approach a new interest.  Is he going to call?  Do I want him to?  Is it worth it?  The last time didn't work out so good.  How do I even know, this time around, if I'm choosing correctly.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Self-Talk and Headaches

First.  Divorced life can give you a headache.  Literally and figuratively.  The stress, the sleep disturbances, the careless diet.  Inadequate hydration.  The wrong kind of hydration.  The upsetting e-mails, as if from the dead.  The new year, same as the old year.  Monday it crawled up the back of my neck on the right side, through my cheekbone and behind my eye.  Tuesday it was the left side, up into my ear.  Today it was the right side again.  I got up, took a double-team dose of ibuprofen and tylenol, and waited for it to subside.  It did slightly.  I hit it with a venti dark roast.  That helped too.  Talking about it helped dissipate the last little bit.

Second.  Talking about your pain and frustration to yourself is important.  I have to talk it out, and out, and out until the complaints turn back on themselves and become affirmations.  The fear of going it alone is unfair, and I hate it, and I hate you, who made it happen to me, and wait, I also hate me for letting it happen to me or not being able to prevent it, and I hate that it's making me stressed and giving me this headache, and I hate the headache for not going away fast enough.

Some people think that complaining like this only reinforces the feelings of anger and self-pity, but I disagree.   When I talk it out until the very end of the issue, it eventually arrives at an extreme result which is clearly absurd.  That, finally, helps take the same facts and feelings and give them a positive spin.  As in, wait a second.  If I wasn't alone, I'd still be married to him, who was so difficult.  And I'd feel powerless to do anything to make the marriage better.  But I wasn't powerless.  I did do something.  I got out.  And I feel pretty darn good about it.  So take that -- bring it on.  Apparently, I can handle it.  The self-talk might sound pretty silly, but it gets through eventually.  The way Alzheimer patients can't remember any details of the funny movie they just watched, but they still feel happier half an hour afterward.

The buzz word I use that gets people energized is "authentic."  I live an authentic life.  It's hard, and it's lonely, and it's not as comfortable or secure as what I had before, but it's also not unhappy.  It doesn't make me feel defeated.  I'm not in denial of how messed up the relationship is.  I'm not in denial of whether I have any control.  I don't have any excuses for why I can't be happier.  I'm not waiting for someone to get hit by a truck, or for some natural tragedy to strike.  In divorce, you live an authentic life.  Not just waiting for something to change, but in making it happen.  [Oops, I mistyped "happen" just now and typed "happy" instead.  Good move.]

So it's not really worth the headache, because who really wants one of those.  But the headache can help start a conversation that ends up giving me more confidence than I had before.

Wow, this was a messy post.  Hope someone can follow it.