Clarifying some terms.

“What I lack in decorum, I make up for with an absence of tact.“–Don Williams, Jr., American Novelist and Poet

Some definitions:

decorum–Behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety; a requirement of correct behavior in polite society

clueless–completely or hopelessly bewildered, unaware or ignorant

insensitive–lacking feeling or tact; rude; callous; heartless

respect–to show regard or consideration for  (Note:  I can’t type this one without singing along with Aretha in my head.)

In yesterday’s post I talked about respect, or should I say the lack of respect that my ex showed to me and to our 30-year marriage during our separation and divorce.  Today, someone very near and dear to me suggested that maybe I meant a lack of decorum.  Her point is well-taken because I have great respect for her intelligence and her ability to find  the nuances between and among words.

Now that I have studied the above definitions, I have concluded (I think) that all of the words apply to both D and his woman friend.  I remember saying to someone after attending the reception after D’s dad’s funeral that those two lacked decorum and propriety when she sat down on his lap with dozens of people milling around.  The two of them were insensitive at best when she showed up at the funeral, considering that R had been my father-in-law for thirty years and I needed to mourn his passing.  And I know from experience that D is often clueless about things that seem obvious to me and to others.  I asked my friend S one time why D was being so cruel to me and she said she didn’t think he was deliberately cruel, just clueless.  I think that his woman is, too.  Either that or she’s incredibly conniving and vicious.  I really don’t know her.

Finally, I think that because they lack decorum and they are insensitive and they are clueless, they fail to show an appropriate respect for me and for our families.  It’s  not so much intent, at least on D’s part, as it is ignorance of what’s appropriate.  And I’m going to stop feeling like Rodney Dangerfield.  Really!  I mean it!


Where’s the respect?

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me…All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”–Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson is one of my first heroes.  When I was still a child I had a tiny transistor radio that I listened to in bed at  night.  I would turn it down really low and listen to The Dodger Network on WATA, a small radio station in Boone, NC.  I learned about Jackie’s struggle for respect in what had previously been an all-white world.  All he wanted was for the other players and the fans to accept his talent as a player without regard for his race and dark skin.  I remember feeling indignant and sad and angry when he was treated badly.  And I remember feeling happy and at peace when he was welcomed and befriended by some teammates.  One such team member was Pee Wee Reese, The Little Colonel.  Once when the crowd was yelling hateful things at Jackie, Pee Wee stepped up and put his arm around Jackie.  The crowd became silent.  I love that true story and I love Pee Wee as much as I do Jackie.  Sometimes all it takes is one sane person to quell the insanity.

I have always favored fairness and justice.  And I have always believed that all human beings deserve to be treated with respect.  Not because they’re someone’s mother or father or teacher or doctor or neighbor or ex-wife–but because they are human and equally created.

I wish I could say there was respectful management of our divorce, but there wasn’t.  After much research, I suggested that we go for a “collaborative divorce.”  He found a lawyer and I found a lawyer.  Then we would meet together, the four of us, and discuss our settlement.  This type of divorce, according to the so-called experts, saves money and feelings, etc.  Well… was immediately evident that D’s attorney didn’t understand what collaborative means in terms of divorce.  He was combative and hostile from the beginning.  Even D didn’t like him.  We both liked mine.  After meeting with them a few times I told my lawyer I couldn’t be in the same room the other lawyer so from then on she managed the whole thing for me.  I like the idea of collaborative divorce but I think it’s counter intuitive to an attorney.  They’re in it for the money.  It is in their best interest to drag it out and find things to bill for.  My attorney’s office billed me in six-minute increments if I even spoke with my attorney or one of her assistants on the phone.  They charged every time I sent an e-mail and every time they sent an e-mail.  I imagine D’s attorney did the same.   We ended up spending thousands on those two.

Here’s the thing:  I didn’t dare not have an attorney.  At the point of needing help from the experts, I had lost all trust in my soon-to-be ex-husband.  If we could have sat down together without lawyers and decided on an equitable distribution of assets, we could have saved a huge amount of money.  But even today I’m glad we didn’t because I still don’t trust him to treat me fairly.  Numerous lies and deceptions do not make a congenial divorce.

And it isn’t about just lies and deceptions.  It’s about the absence of respect from my husband from the moment he told me he wanted a divorce.  And it got worse once he knew that I knew about the other woman.  He lived in the house with me until the end of April, 2007.  And even the following month he would sometimes spend the night at the house because of medical appointments.  Then on Father’s Day in June, 2007, I learned how disrespectful he could be.  He was going to his mom and dad’s house for the celebration.  My daughter and her children were going, too.  And he was taking his girlfriend. He had broken up with her for about a month and a half which I knew about.  I did not know that they were back together so I certainly wasn’t expecting that he would be introducing her to my family.  His inconsiderate behavior continued ad nauseum. To this day I’m left wondering:  Where’s the respect?

Take a deep breath.

Look at something beautiful.  Take a deep breath.  Try not to hyperventilate.

I have done an awful lot of deep breathing in the last few years.  It’s a good strategy for me when I become stressed.  I keep thinking (and hoping) that I’m beyond being stressed by my relationship with my ex.  But just when I start to get comfortable with who I am and where I am, something comes along to remind me that “it ain’t over till it’s over.”  Last week I received an e-mail from D informing me that he is getting married.  He didn’t say when and I didn’t ask.  I can’t explain why but I felt, once again, as if he had kicked me in the gut.  All I could think of was that this is the divorce from hell and it’s never going to end.  It doesn’t help that he still owes me money.

I could guess “till the cows come home” as to why he’s marrying this woman he’s had a long-term affair with.  He told me that he and his counselor had figured out that he was “not the marrying type.”  I know it’s a bit of insanity to even try to guess but some things just pop into my mind.  So crazy or not, here goes:

  1. Because he’s chronically ill, he needs her insurance.
  2. She’s gainfully employed and probably makes more than he does now.
  3. The bank is about to foreclose on our mountain house which is now in his name only.
  4. He may have to declare bankruptcy and he wants to include her.
  5. The real estate agent says that raccoons are using the decks for a bathroom and D wants her to clean it up.
  6. He thinks if he marries her she’ll learn to cook since he can’t.
  7. Sadly, he’s afraid of being alone.
  8. Maybe he loves her.

Okay.  I know that numbers 1-6 are snide and mean and I thought I had moved beyond that.  But today I feel entitled because I’ve allowed him to disrupt my life again.   I hope it’s none of those. But since I know him so well, I fear that at least a part of the reason is 7.  In my heart of hearts I hope it’s number 8 because I wish him no harm.  I wish him well.

Finding serenity.

An antique oriental rug that I love.

“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which ones to surf.Jonathan Martensson, motivational speaker

“Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” –Karl Jung

Today I choose to ride my artistic wave allowing my hands to do my thinking for me.  My feelings are wide-ranging and not pleasant. When I feel this way there is a cacophony in my brain that could reduce me to tears and worse if I let it.  The way for me to deal with this much emotion is to do something physical.  But it’s too hot to go for a walk.  (I’m ready for fall weather.)  I could walk in the mall but too often I wind up shopping when I walk there.  I certainly can’t afford that.  I was flipping through a book and came upon the above quote by Karl Jung and realized that I needed to use my hands.  So this morning I glued small pieces of green tissue paper on to a canvas (one of my in-progress projects).  This process always amazes me.  I whacked up several shades of green tissue and started to haphazardly glue them to a selected section of my canvas.  There is some logic here.  I mean for the finished green section to look like grass, more or less.  Today I worked with a friend who had not done this before but she’s a self-starter and she got in the groove quickly.  We started out talking and analyzing our work.  In a few minutes we were almost totally silent and our hands had minds of their own.  We both had found serenity in the process.

My divorce was final a little over two years ago.  I had hoped that the emotional roller coaster would be over by now and fortunately it doesn’t come around very often these days.  When it does I put my hands to a task, find peace and end up with an artistic project that reminds me of where I’ve been and how much better I am now.

You’re not alone.

My friend J gave me this beautiful violet. It is thriving in my kitchen window.

I’m not one to quote statistics.  I’m not nerdy enough to compare studies and figure out possible skews, etc.  I did look at a study on divorce recently, though, and was a little surprised by some of the results.  I think most of us know already that 50% (more or less) of marriages end in divorce.  That’s first marriages.  No surprise there.  I was surprised by the rate of divorce for second and third marriages.  About 67% of second marriages end in divorce.  And for third marriages the rate goes up to around 74%.  It seems to me that after a failed first marriage, we would try really hard to get it right.  I think we do.  I know I did.  My recent divorce was my second marriage.  Maybe the surprise for me should be that it lasted for almost thirty years.  The odds were against us.  Will I try a third time?  I think not.  But I guess it’s good to know I’m in good company.

I learned how “not alone” I was when I started admitting that I was separated.  “That happened to me.” became a common refrain.  I went to the bank to set up my own accounts.  When I told the banker what I was doing and why, she said, “That happened to me.”  She became all the more helpful because she understood what was happening to me.  She even gave me the name of her counselor.  I was sitting in church one Sunday morning with a woman who said she hadn’t seen my husband in a while and wondered where he was.  I told her and she said, with tears in her eyes, “That happened to me.”  She took me to lunch one day that week.  I could go on and on.  There were so many that I started to call them “the sisterhood.”

I imagine there is a “brotherhood” out there, too.  I wasn’t in a position to meet the “brothers.”  The loud and clear message I got from the “sisters” was that each one’s husband had left her after having an affair (usually of undetermined length) with another woman.  Typically a younger woman.  And the husbands were almost all in the same age range as my husband, in their fifties.

It’s impossible for me not to think it was a midlife crisis.  I did some research on the subject and discovered that D fit the profile almost to the letter.  I showed him the profile and asked whether he could see himself in the writer’s description.  His response:  “How could I not?”  And so it goes.

What’s up with that?

Here are some things I’ve puzzled over:

1.  When D first asked me for a divorce, he said he still had “feelings” for me.  What’s up with that?

2.  Who is that strange man who divorced me and what happened to the real D?

3.  Why is it that some men never get over a midlife crisis?

4.  Why is the midlife passage generally easier for women?  Or is it?  I read somewhere that it is.

5.  Why did I have to go for medical tests?  Shouldn’t he have done that?

6.  Why did D give me a sweet anniversary card with lots of “I love you” statements in it, along with an expensive sapphire/blue topaz necklace, in October, and then ask for a divorce two months later?

7.  Why did he give me hand-crafted diamond earrings for Christmas and then tell me he wanted a divorce four days later?

8.  What happened in November and December, 2006, that caused him to change all our lives forever?

9.  Why am I still asking these stupid questions?  Because I hope this will help me to purge them forever and let them go!

“If you surrender to the wind, you can ride it.”–Toni Morrison, American Writer


For some reason divorce has caused me to have insomnia.  I understand why I couldn’t sleep early in my separation and divorce.  But I don’t understand why I don’t sleep now.  About once a week I’m wide awake.  And nothing helps.  I wouldn’t mind so much if I could get up and be productive.  But I can’t.  There’s  no telling how many typos you’ll find in this post because I’m so tired I’m nodding.  But when I go back to bed my eyes go boing and I’m hopelessly alert again.  There have been times when I could go to sleep on the couch but not in bed.  That was when I still missed D so much that I couldn’t sleep in bed because he wasn’t there.  On the couch I would roll over and pat the back of the couch and snuggle in and drift off because I fooled myself into thinking I wasn’t sleeping alone.  I wish it still worked.  Couch sleep is better than no sleep.

Last night (I guess it’s now night before last) I taught my first ESL class.  I haven’t been in a classroom in several years.  I volunteered to teach for one school year.  If I love it I’ll re-up.  And I did love it last night.  Teaching adults to speak English is fun because they are motivated to learn so that they will be able to fully participate in their new homeland.  I have great admiration for them.  The older we get the harder it is to learn a new language.  And English is a complex language.

Okay.  I guess this paragraph is writing “doodle” number three.  I am letting my gray hair grow out, getting rid of the blond.  I think this is a part of reinventing myself.  But it’s also about money.  Those of you who get your hair colored know how expensive it is.  I’ve decided I’m not willing to pay for it any longer.  I reserve the right to change my mind.  My grandchildren have strong opinions about this important matter.  My thirteen-year-old granddaughter said, “Nah, don’t do it.  The blond is what makes you Grammy.”  My three-year old was even more opinionated.  She pointed to some of my new white hair and said, “Why is your hair white?”  I told her that since I’m getting older I thought it would be alright for me to have white hair.  She replied, “Bleh!”  I said, “You don’t like my white hair?”  She said, “No, but I like dat” and she pointed to my still-blond bangs.

There’s nothing like the honesty of a little child.  And there’s nothing like a child’s ability to make one second guess oneself.  We’ll see.

Meandering: Bees, beads and buttons.

meander:  to wander aimlessly or casually without urgent destination

I like the word meander.  It has a nice ring these days.  Going from one thing/interest to another without guilt. Without having to explain to another person.  I haven’t always been able to do that.  I don’t mean just circumstances.  I mean that mentally and emotionally I wasn’t able to.  When I was teaching I was very task-oriented.  When I quit working and stayed at home for most of the twelve years before my separation, I wasted so much time waiting for D to get home or for D to decide he wanted dinner or…etc.  He didn’t ask me to be that way.  I allowed too much of who I was to depend upon where he was,  who he was, what he was doing, why he called me on the phone every few minutes (guilt?), why he couldn’t even go to the grocery store without checking in with me at least three times.  Was his glucose low?  Whew!  I needed to get a life, didn’t I?

And now I have one.  A good one.  I take the time to enjoy the bees and beads and buttons and all the beauty and color around me.  Why bees?  That’s a tough question.  Beads and buttons are easier.  Beads are beautiful and I can make a drab piece of work sparkle with a few beads.  I can write messages with beads.  My grandchildren and I have made some “gorgeous” pieces of jewelry for their moms with beads.  Very versatile, beads.  And buttons.  Buttons are timeless, I think.  They remind me of happy childhood moments with my mom and my “maw.”  I have lots of old and new and everything-in-between buttons.  My youngest granddaughter learns all kinds of things with buttons–counting, colors, sets, adding, subtracting.  And how to pick up and put away, if I’m lucky.

But why bees?  One of my favorite books is The Secret Life of Bees. I love honey, especially New Zealand honey.  Bacteria cannot grow in honey.  Honey is used for healing wounds because it won’t foster bacteria.  But bees sting!  When I was a child I would get stung on the foot at least two or three times a summer.  And it hurt like hell.  And my foot would swell to twice its normal size in a matter of minutes.  But still I would race through fields of clover in the hope that I’d be lucky and not step on a bee.  I’m wiser now.  I wear shoes when I walk through fields.  So why am I attracted to something that can hurt me so much?  Is the honey bee my metaphor for D?  Maybe.  But I think I’m wise enough not to get stung again.

But sometimes we are. And it's fun!

I have been to the mountain top.

Proof that we made it.

This week my friend P and I made an 8-mile hike up to Mt. LeConte, TN.  This expedition was on my “bucket” list.  My ex and I had talked for years about doing this trip but we just never got around to it.  A year or so ago I was talking to P about it and she volunteered to go with me.  For the uninitiated, it is necessary to make reservations at the lodge about a year ahead.  They opened registration for 2010 in early August, 2009.  I sent in several date options and felt fortunate to get my last choice which was September 7.  So we hiked up on the 7th and back down on the 8th.  September 8 is my late mom’s birthday so here’s to you, Mom. I miss you.

We started out on the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Road.  We were on the AT for 2.7 miles and then 5.3 miles on the Boulevard Trail.  P and I think that the AT segment was the most challenging.  Lots of rocks to traverse.  Up and down.  Up and down.  By the time we finished that small segment we wondered whether we were going to be able to hike the last 5.3.  According to the literature, it’s a 5.5 hour hike.  We took exactly 5.5 on the way up.  On the way down, in the rain (heavy, at times), we required 6 hours.  Remember, wet can be very slippery.  I’ve never been so elated and so tired at the same time.  This was one time I was happy to see pavement and cars, especially mine.

I think we had all the right equipment for the trip but if I ever decide to make the trek again I will condition more before I go.  More aerobic training would have been good for me.  I won’t speak for P since she’s lots younger than I.

This was a huge accomplishment for me.  I feel empowered.  If you are experiencing divorce, you know the damage that rejection does to your self-esteem.  This was one more step toward healing and recovery.  I thought I would be exhausted for days when I got home.  Not so.  I have a new energy.

Thank you, P, for enabling me to do this.  I would not have had the nerve to go by myself.  You’re a true friend.

I actually found the energy to skip down these steps at the end of the trip up. I think I needed some sort of rhythm to keep from falling on my face.

Down and dirty

Driveway off the mountain and into a new way of being.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the old days on the mountain top.  I even get sentimental about my ex-husband.  The photo here is our driveway going down the mountain and away from our house.  It’s symbolic for me.  I drove down it for the last time in early April, 2008, when it looked exactly like this picture, all green and beautiful.  And I did see it clearly that day because I wasn’t crying.  I had used up all my tears for the time being.  I found some more later and still do on rare occasions.

Whenever I get feelings of wistfulness about my broken marriage and start to think I still miss D, I try to remind myself of that last drive down and how I was feeling hopeful about a new life.  And how I have now, in fact, established a new, fulfilling life with old friends and new.  But most of all I remind myself of what it was like to live with D those last years–his secrets, his lies, his sneaky phone calls to his “friend” after I went to bed.  Oh, and I mustn’t forget the strange phone calls I got from people up in Virginia who felt compelled to let me know what was going on up there without actually coming right out and telling me.  I mean, who calls at midnight and asks if my husband is home and do I know where he is.  By then I already knew what my husband was up to and I said, “No, I don’t know where he is but if I had to guess, I’d say he’s probably in Virginia with his other woman.”  That got rid of my mysterious caller.  And I have to admit that it’s kinda funny now.  The best I can tell, those two created quite a scandal in that little town and it still interests me that so many people wanted to talk to me about it.  Some called me and yes, I made a few calls of my own.  They all confirmed for me the extent of D’s deception and I must never forget that.  I can forgive now but it would not be in my best interest to forget.