It’s not about me.

I cried on a lot of shoulders back when I first separated from my husband, probably too many.  Most were wise enough not to give advice.  A few made very appropriate comments which I took to heart.  One such comment came from a friend who had been divorced years earlier.  He said, “Remember–this is not about you and it’s not about the girlfriend, it’s all about him.” D had chosen to take his life in a different direction.  He never discussed it with me.  He never asked my opinion.  He didn’t want my opinion.  The adult children and the grandchildren and I had no choice in the matter. It was a “done deal” once he made up his mind.

It seems unfair, even now, that one person can make a decision that will change the lives of so many others without their permission.  But I do understand better now than I did earlier why he thought he had to make such a choice.  He felt as if he were drowning and he had to save himself.  I don’t believe I’ll ever understand all the reasons he felt that way but I guess I don’t need to.  I’ve already beaten that dog to death, no need to kick him.  But I do understand well enough to let it, and him, go now.

I read a book recently by Daniel Gottlieb.  I don’t remember the title of the book.  Daniel was the victim of a tragic accident which left him a quadriplegic.  I’m paraphrasing here, but one of his children had a melt down in the car one day and screamed at Daniel, “I hate you!  I hate what you’ve done to my life!”  When I read that, I realized for the first time that even though I understand it’s not about me, children and very young adults do not necessarily grasp that notion.  I mention this in order to say that a couple of the grandchildren were very angry with D.  So angry they would hardly speak to him.  I thought they were upset because he had “hurt” me and I imagine that was a part of it.  I suspect, though, that they were really unsettled because of the changes the divorce would cause in their lives.  D has tried hard to remain in their lives and to make amends to them.  I appreciate his desire and effort to do that.  I’m hoping for healing for all of us.

As I’ve said before, the children have been balm for my soul.  And it is in my nature to want to protect them.  I suppose that’s why I’ve crocheted an afghan for each one of them in the past several months.  I wanted to wrap them up and keep them cozy and safe.  I didn’t set out with that in mind but when I read between the lines, I realize that’s what I was doing.


An attitude of gratitude.

This morning I mowed the back lawn.  When I do something as mindless as cutting the grass I often think of mindless things.  I was noticing this morning that our recent drought has caused the grass to go dormant.  So why is it the weeds don’t go dormant?  Should I ditch the grass and cultivate the weeds?  They’re quite green and profuse.  Once my over-active mind wore that one out, I moved on to other things.

As I pushed the mower from one side of the lawn to the other, I had a beautiful sight to behold at every other crossing–my herb/vegetable/flower garden.  How lucky am I to have a little plot of ground where I can have grass and trees and a small garden.  I was initially traumatized at having to leave my beautiful mountaintop spot with its amazing views.  But I have photographs and many good memories of happy times there.  This spot I’m in now  is a very good place both literally and figuratively.  And fresh tomatoes for lunch.  What more do I need.

I think it’s a fairly well-known notion that gratitude is an antidote for sadness and depression.  (Notice I didn’t say fact.)  When I started to take an antidepressant drug at the beginning of mine and D’s separation, I thought I would have to take it forever, and maybe I will.  But I’m getting better emotionally these days so I have been able to cut the dosage in half.  My goal is to stop it altogether but I know that goals sometimes have to be adjusted based on circumstances.  I’m open to that, too.  If you are taking medication to help you through this difficult time, please do not assume that what works for me will be safe for you without advice and assistance from your doctor.  Also, please be aware that I have had a great deal of counseling while I’ve been on medication.  The combination of meds and counseling has worked for me.

I would be remiss when I speak of gratitude if I didn’t mention that I have three wonderful daughters and nine amazing grandchildren.  My family has been my reason for getting up each morning.  In fact, they’re the reason I moved back to this hot country called Charlotte.  I wanted, and needed, to be near them.  There are very few problems that I don’t forget entirely for the time I’m with one or more of my grandchildren.  A cup of frozen yogurt and a conversation with a child is about as close to heaven as I can imagine.  And forgive my gushing but I am a fortunate mom to have three very accomplished daughters who are my best friends.  They have been loving and supportive throughout these past years.  I know that wasn’t easy sometimes because I’ve been a basket case.  Hopefully, I can now be available to support them when they need me.  I love my girls!

The pros and cons of being queen.

Whimsical queen of the house?

A few years ago I never would have imagined buying a car by myself, let alone a house.  But I’ve now done both.  And I’m very happy with my purchases.  I have no idea what cars need or when they need it.  So when I bought my new Honda I bought the service package, too.  I realize some people think those packages are over-priced and unnecessary but I know myself well enough to know that I need it.  And it’s been great!  They call me and tell me when it’s about time for me to come for service.  And then they show me a list of all the things they did and I pay nothing because I’ve already paid.  It’s a no-brainer for me since I don’t really want to know too much about cars.

My house is another matter.  I didn’t choose to be “queen” of the house but here I am.  Since D traveled a great deal when we were married, I was the one who took care of the maintenance of the house.  He took care of the lawn and grounds except for flower beds and vegetable garden.  I did the gardens.  When I say I took care of the maintenance, I mean, if I could fix it, I did.  If not, I called someone.  I learned to do a lot of things.  I can caulk, paint, wallpaper, fix minor plumbing problems, etc.  I like to decorate so doing those things seems like a part of decorating.

Here’s the hard part.  I am not physically strong enough to do certain jobs.  And I don’t have unlimited funds for hiring help.  And if I have a major issue with the house I have no one to help me make decisions.  For example, this has been a peculiarly hot summer.  My air conditioner hardly ever stops running.  It’s ten years old.  Since I’ve lived here I’ve had a repairman out twice to work on it. Is it going to go?  If it does, do I replace it or do I try to get it rebuilt?  A decision I’ll have to make by myself.  Ugh.

Even minor problems seem major some times.  A wind storm recently broke a branch in one of my backyard trees.  If D were here, he would take care of it in 5 minutes with his chain saw.  I don’t have a chain saw.  Nor do I want one.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Maybe when it dries out this fall, the branch will weigh less and I will be able to pull it down.

I bought myself a cordless electric lawn mower and a weed eater so I’m taking care of the lawn and a small garden.  I have to admit that lawns are hard work but I think of it as really good exercise.  On the days I mow, I don’t have to go for a walk.  When I started mowing a couple of years ago, though, I sent D an e-mail telling him how sincerely I appreciated his mowing our lawns all those years.  It occurred to me that I had never realized what hard work it is.  I hadn’t properly appreciated him for doing it.  I hope he didn’t think I was being a smarta$$ because I wasn’t .

I guess what I’m saying is that if I’m going to be queen, I have to be queen over all of it–the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult.  And I have enough faith to know that it will all work out and I’ll be okay.  In fact, I am okay.

Love to travel.

My first trip as a free woman was to Seattle and Vancouver.  I had been to Seattle a number of times with D but never to Vancouver.  My good friend B had been to Vancouver but never to Seattle.  She had lots of air miles for free tickets and I had quite a few from my divorce settlement.  If you are in the divorce process now or expect to be soon, be sure to check with your attorney about hotel and airline points.  North Carolina is a 50/50 state so I was entitled to half the points D had accrued.  I might not have known that had I not received a finance book from our financial advisor.  There was a very helpful chapter in the book about women and divorce and how to navigate through it without losing your dignity or your shirt.  I am forever indebted to MM for sending me the book.  The most important lesson I learned from that chapter was that I must put away emotion when dealing with my financial security.  I wasn’t always successful but I tried mightily.

Early October, 2009, B and I boarded the plane and headed out on our grand adventure.  She is a seasoned world traveler and I, having worked for two different airline companies, have a bit of airport/travel experience too.  We went to Seattle first and used ground transportation for the rest of the trip.  Now that’s something D would never have done–use ground transportation.  There’s much more control when you use a rental car.  But B had done a thorough job of research on Seattle’s and Vancouver’s bus service so off we went.  My two older daughters had made this same trip some years ago and didn’t rent a car; thus we were comfortable with this plan.

B and I shared hotel rooms and split all the costs.  We got along very well and I have fond memories of the trip.  I tried to teach her not to over plan our time and she tried to teach me to drink more wine.  She was a wonderful tour guide.  She has taken numerous groups of teenagers to Europe, especially France, and so she’s accustomed to planning for the best use of her time in whatever city she’s in.  I like to learn about the places I’m going but I’m not particularly good at making a concrete plan.  That made me a grateful and willing participant in her schedule.  I jokingly told her that together we have one good brain.

I have asked myself several times why I chose to go to a city that D and I had been to so many times.  It’s still a bit of a puzzle to me but I think it was the fact that I was a little scared of traveling without my former travel buddy and I wanted to have at least a little familiarity with the place.  I avoided being terribly nostalgic about my former trips except on the plane ride home.  I think the realization hit me that yes I would be taking all my future trips on my own.  I rested my head against the window and allowed myself to accept the tears that rolled down my cheeks.

Next month I have another trip planned with a different friend.  This one will be shorter.  We will climb up to Mt. LeConte Lodge on the Tennessee side of the Great Smokeys.  I hope I’m in shape for this.

Remembering the Good.

Pictured here is a photo of a red maple that D planted for me .  I took this in October from the deck off our bedroom.  This was one of the many kind things he did for me over the years.

I am learning more and more to appreciate the years of good times we had together instead of mourning eternally over the death of the marriage.  I couldn’t do that at first.  When I thought of what fun we’d had through the years I could only cry over the loss.  I would wonder what I had done.  What could I have done that I didn’t do.  What did I do that I shouldn’t have done?  Am I ugly?  Am I old?  Am I boring?  Am I dumb?  The rejection was devastating.  I had a counselor recently whose husband died about the same time D divorced me.  She told me one day that she was lucky because her husband died.  She was referring to the fact that she didn’t have to deal with the rejection.  I don’t wish D any harm.  I’m glad he didn’t die.  I have to admit, though, that when she said that I thought about what it would be like to live without the pain of being dumped for another woman and to have all the assets.  Not a bad deal.

D and I took lots of wonderful trips together:  Seattle, Mt. Ranier, Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico, Nova Scotia, Maine, Jackson Hole, Montana, Yellowstone and so many more.  We camped in the Smokeys often because we live in NC.  We loved camping.  I miss the travel but I’m glad we had those experiences.  I remember them fondly because we were “two peas in a pod.”  We traveled well with each other.  We could talk or not.  I would sing and he would laugh at me.  Thankfully, he didn’t sing.  We joked about his singing too.

D showered me with gifts.  His favorites (and mine) were jewelry and flowers, especially roses.  No occasion was forgotten.  I was the envy of many other women.  Where did I find this man they wanted to know.  I don’t know exactly when I started to take it for granted but I’m sure I did.  And as he started to spend more and more time away from home I started to believe that he was substituting gifts for time he might have spent with me.  I remember telling him that I wanted him and time with him, not flowers.

Do I feel a twinge of sadness as I dredge all this up?  Yes.  A little.  But it doesn’t overwhelm me now.  I can truthfully say that I’m glad we had what we had while we had it.  And I wish him happiness, health and prosperity.  (I really do, most of the time.)

Living alone.

You clear out a closet and you listen to a clock

Wipe off the table and you pick up a sock

Then you put up your feet and you stand on your head

You hate what you did and regret what you said

Then you gaze at a snapshot, you wait for the tone

Talk to yourself, yeah, you’re living alone.

–Loudon Wainwright III from his CD Last Man on Earth

If you aren’t familiar with Loudon Wainwright’s music, check it out!  I love it.

For the most part I have grown accustomed to living alone.  There are many reasons to enjoy it.  I can do as I please.  I don’t have to hurry home when I go somewhere.  I don’t have to advise anyone of my whereabouts.  I don’t cook if I don’t want to.  My dad lived alone the last few years of his life.  He told me one time that he sometimes got lonely but that it was really nice to get up at 3:00 am if he felt like it and not have to worry about disturbing anyone.  I have plenty of time for things I enjoy–reading, quilting, crocheting, gardening (when it isn’t too hot), visiting grandchildren.  I take the time to find beauty all around me.  I no longer waste time waiting for a husband who was almost always late.

What’s interesting to me is that many of the reasons for enjoying living alone are the very same ones that make me feel lonely sometimes.  Weekends are hardest for me.  When D and I were living together he traveled during the week but he always came home on Friday.  Knowing that no one is coming home makes me sad.  I’m relieved that I don’t have to cook a meal for a diabetic and at the same time sad that I don’t have him to cook for.  I find that most of my friends are simply not available on Fridays and Saturdays.  Neither are most family members.  Soccer season starts soon.  Then I’ll gather at the field and see my 12-year-old granddaughter play and will visit with the rest of the family while there.  Those are fun times.  I do have great Sunday evenings.  My dearest friend and her husband and family have me over for dinner.  A standing invitation with people I love and who love me, too, just as I am.

I would be interested in hearing what other people in my situation do.  I know that I am responsible for my entertainment and my happiness.  But some weekends I hit a wall.  And that’s how I feel tonight.

Thank God for girlfriends.

At the time of my separation from my husband I had two groups of women in my life.  One was my Tuesday night book club.  The other, five women whom I’ve known for more than thirty years.  The common denominator in the second group is teaching.

I didn’t tell either group about my marital problems for several weeks.  Nor did I tell my family.  D was still living at home and sleeping in the same bed with me.  I was probably in denial.  If I didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t happening.  I wanted very much to save our marriage.  I still didn’t acknowledge that there was another woman even though I was becoming more and more suspicious about the possibility.  Because of my suspicion I started to snoop–checking D’s pockets and desk and briefcase.  Aha!  A receipt for a sapphire ring for about $1200 right on time for Valentine’s Day.  I made myself a copy and put the original back in his briefcase.  I didn’t want him to know that I knew.

That discovery precipitated a series of events that resembled a snowball rolling down hill.  There was no going back.  I asked D to move to a bedroom downstairs.  I sent an e-mail to my group of five.  First one and then another came to the mountains to spend some time with me.  By the time the second one arrived I had accessed and made copies of all VISA and MasterCard statements for the past year and she helped me to go through them item by item and mark the ones that looked shady.  Lots and lots of evidence–roses sent to someone, jewelry stores, expensive building supplies (I found out later that the girlfriend was renovating her house.) and on and on.

I knew I had a lot to take to the lawyer’s office but I wasn’t through yet.  While my friend was still with me and I was angry enough to spit nails I called a private investigator in the state where the evil deeds were taking place.  I just wanted a photo of them together.  And I got that, too.  I was operating on pure I’ll show you! energy.  I was in horrible emotional pain.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I lost twenty pounds which I didn’t need to lose.  But it was the anger that kept me from falling apart.  That and my incredible girlfriends.

Later in February I had a birthday.  D was out of town of course.  He didn’t call.  He did send me an e-mail:  “P, Hope you have a good birthday.  D”  But my amazing book club friends surprised me by taking me to the nicest restaurant in town.  And they brought me wonderful soaps and lotions and candles and all manner of  take-care-of-yourself items.  One even crocheted a prayer shawl for me.  And they bought me dinner and wine and we cried and laughed together.  Recently, I went back up to the mountains to see them.  They’re still as great as I remember.  Always will be.

And so the arduous journey is full steam ahead.

You want a what?!

I am a divorced grandmother.  Something I never expected I would be.  I am writing about it in the hope that I can offer support and encouragement to others who are on the same journey.  It’s a rocky road.  Especially if you are an unwilling participant as I was.  Many friends and acquaintances told me that time would ease the pain.  Oh, how I hated to hear that.  But it’s true.  In the course of almost four years now I have gone from victim to accepting and more recently to happy (well, most of the time).  I encourage you to drop the “victim cloak” as soon as possible.  It holds you back.  Now that I can look back, I’m grateful that I got very angry and was able to use the anger constructively.  It gave me energy to get a lawyer and to do the research I needed to protect myself and my share of the assets.  I will talk more about that another day.  But first, I’ll tell you some of my story.

On December 29, 2006, my husband D and I had just finished dinner.  I thought he had somewhere to go and I was expecting him to tell me that he was leaving.  Instead he sat down on the couch and “out of the blue” told me he wanted a divorce.  At the time we had been married for 29 years.  He had a history of depression and had been pretty remote for some time.  I thought he surely didn’t mean it.  That he was just depressed.  I asked him, “Are you sure about this?”  He told me that he was “pretty sure.”  Pretty sure?  I told him I thought we should think about it a bit.  I didn’t want to believe that he really wanted to divorce me.  Our youngest daughter S had recently divorced.  I reminded him that her three children were still confused and unsettled.  What would they think if their grandparents divorced as well.  I said to him, “Please, D, don’t do this to our family right now.”  He seemed a little unsure of himself and muttered something like, “the children will be fine.”

I asked D whether he had another woman.  He answered and I’m quoting exactly because I remember it clearly,  “Oh, hell no.  That’s the last thing I want.  I just don’t want to be married any longer.”  I wanted to believe him.  Unfortunately, I have a number of girlfriends who have divorced under very similar circumstances.  All of their husbands were about the same age as D and every single one of them “just didn’t want to be married any longer.”  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I don’t want to be married is code for I have another woman. And he did.

I will talk later about how I found out and how I reacted.  Some of it I handled well enough.  Some of it wasn’t pretty.