Too much pain, too little gain?

One of my favorite Santas.

…”Trouble, oh trouble, trouble on my mind.  But the trouble in the world, Lord, is much more bigger than mine.  Hey, hey, so I guess I’m doin’ fine.” ~Bob Dylan

I have spent a great deal of time this holiday season trying to convince myself that my troubles, in the grand scheme, are minor.  And I truly believe it.  But I guess getting it from my head to my heart isn’t so simple this time of year.  I have sat down to write a number of times in the past week but I didn’t want to sound pathetic or whiny or complaining.  So I would trash each little essay and try again the next day. 

I don’t make resolutions at the beginning of each year.  I don’t know whether that’s a good or a bad thing.  I guess I don’t want to set myself up for failure.  It certainly isn’t that I think I’m so great I don’t need improvement.  But this week I was reading another divorce blog that I’ve been following for a while.  Another woman whose husband abruptly dumped her.  She had a short list of wishes for the new year and a couple of them struck a chord with me.  She said she would like to be happily divorced and that she would like to get over her husband without needing someone else.

Well, hallelujah and amen, that’s exactly what I want.  I think I’m much closer to both than I’ve ever been before.  At least I was before Christmas week arrived.  I think I will soon get back to where I was a few weeks ago.  But I may have to rethink Christmas for next year.  Should I plan on working at the soup kitchen or take a trip or what?  Family has always been and will always be the most important thing in my world.  Yet I’m still not far enough along in my acceptance of “what is”  to be comfortable dealing with sharing and avoiding and looking out for everybody’s feelings, etc.  Something has to change before next year.  If anyone reading this has a suggestion, I would love to hear it.

I love trees.

Have a prosperous and happy 2011!!!  Pamper yourself.  Get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water.  Eat healthfully.  Exercise.  Smile even when you don’t feel like it.  I think I probably wrote all this advice for me. I know.  I said I don’t make resolutions.  But I guess I just did.  Wish me luck.  And good luck to you.


Christmas my way.

Check it out! I couldn't have done that if I'd been trying.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know by now that I do not relish being single.  That’s especially true during the Christmas season.  My thoughts on the subject are diverse and random and sometimes confusing, even to me.  I hope they make sense.

  • I love buying gifts for my daughters and grandchildren.  But I miss having a husband to share the excitement with me.  That’s not necessarily to say that I miss having D to share.
  • I made my first batch of toffee last night.  That means the season is really upon me.  Each batch makes two pounds and I will make several more just to meet the family’s requirements.  The irony?  No one loves homemade toffee more than my ex.  He could hardly wait for me to make it.

    Santa on his giant white owl.

    • I love this Santa and owl.  Wouldn’t that be neat?  If Santa came on an owl?  It’s  no more unbelievable than eight tiny reindeer that fly.  Is it?
    • I miss my mother-in-law on Christmas eve.  She took great pleasure in having the family for dinner and gifts every year.
    • On the other hand, my son-in-law’s parents have taken me in and I very much enjoy being with them on Christmas eve.  She’s a marvelous cook and he’s very entertaining and funny.

      Glorious Amaryllis.

      • One of my greatest joys the last couple of weeks has been watching my beautiful red Amaryllis bloom.  Daughter #1 (They’re numbered by birth order.) gave a bulb already planted and growing to each of her guests at Thanksgiving.  I don’t think I can take any credit for it, but she is a thoughtful and generous daughter.
      • I hate scheduling around my ex in order to spend time with my grandchildren on Christmas day.  If we could have had a smoother transition from married to not, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad now.  I accept my share of the blame.  But I think his share is greater than mine.  I’m just being honest about how I feel.

      • This is a photo of a framed print by a North Carolina mountain artist.  Her name is Linda Kotila and she has a shop in Dillsboro, NC.  She’s one of my favorites.  The quality of this photo is not great, but the print is beautiful and I keep it up year around.  I love seeing the children and the dog gamboling in the snow.

        This probably looks like a rambling and disjointed post.  I guess that’s what it is.  But I’m glad I wrote it.  When I sat down to write I was feeling a little forlorn and lonely.  I still do, yet I feel better at the same time.  By going through pictures of some of my favorite things and by thinking about my situation, I have been able to realize once again how lucky I am.  I have family.  I have friends.  I certainly have more material “stuff” than any one person needs.  I have good health.  I have no reason to feel sorry for myself.

Letter to my ex-husband, part 2

O Christmas tree, my Christmas tree.

“Lord, lord, how subject we men are to the vice of lying.”  ~ W. Shakespeare

Dear D,

How easy it must have been for you to lie to me.  Not because I was naive or gullible, but because I had come to trust you completely.  Shakespeare, in his quote above, lumps all men into the “liar” category.  There was a time when I would have argued with that, based upon what I thought was my honest relationship with you.  Now I don’t know.  And I don’t know whether men or women lie more or better or equally.  I don’t really care so I won’t  do any research on the topic.  I do know, though, that I didn’t think you were into lying once you stopped abusing alcohol, etc.  And I think (and hope) that for a time you were more honest than not.  But the distrust looms large and I can no longer be sure that we ever had more than a sham of a marriage.  Did we?

Seeing you still causes these questions and feelings to surface.  I’m glad you came to M’s basketball game last night.  She was happy to see you there.  I’m glad you didn’t bring your “friend” with you.  But whenever I see you, it still feels as if I should reach over and put my hand on your knee or hold your hand the way I always did.  Of course I don’t and I won’t.  I know better.  Still, it seems like such a natural, normal thing.  Such a small thing.  But maybe not so small.  Not anymore.

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Always, Pat

Christmastime sadness.

Sadness comes in many forms.  I’m writing today about the loss of my friend V to cancer.  And I’m writing for the daughter she left behind.

V fought this cancer for about eleven years.  From the beginning she knew she would beat it.  For years she thought she had.  Even during her last year she stayed positive and upbeat most of the time.  I would call her  and she would answer with a cheerful “Hi, how are you?”  I used to worry that she wasn’t accepting her reality.  But who am I to judge that?  I started to realize that she probably did accept it but she didn’t want to talk about it.  She called me one day about five or six months ago–one of the few times she didn’t sound very chipper.  I asked her what was going on.  She said, “Oh, I’m just down today and I need someone to talk to.”  So we talked and talked.  Not about her illness.  That bored her.  We discussed family.  I have a large one and I think she asked about all of them that day.  We discussed her husband and his upcoming retirement.  She told me what was up with her beloved daughter A and her job and life in New York.  We talked politics.  V is (was) one of the few people I’ve been able to discuss politics with.  We were truly kindred spirits in that regard.

A few weeks before V passed away she spent some time in the hospital.  I went to visit one day while she was there.  She was in the middle of a conversation with a woman who was explaining hospice to her.  Her doctor had recommended that she go home with the help of hospice.  I waited outside until they had finished.  When I went in her room she started to cry.  I took a chair as close to her as I could get.  We held hands.  She told me what was going on.  She didn’t want hospice because of all the implications.  She saw it as giving up and she never, never wanted to give up.   You see, V had lost her mother when she was a young adult and she couldn’t even imagine doing that to her own daughter.  She told me that day that she never dreamed it was possible to love someone as much as she loved A.  And she was so proud of her and her many accomplishments.  She wanted to be there for her.  To abandon her was unspeakable.

I saw V one last time on the Monday before she passed away on Thursday.  She had little energy.  We didn’t talk much.  I guess we didn’t need to.  She did ask me about my GPS because she wanted to get her husband one for Christmas.  She spoke with as much enthusiasm as she could muster when she talked about A getting home for Christmas.  Her comment:  “I’m ready!”  She was always ready for A.

So, A, I write these words for you in the hope that they will confirm what you already know about your mother’s love and admiration for you.

Lots of love from Paddywhack.

Persistence of memory.

Salvador Dali, "The Persistence of Memory" 1931. MoMA ecard.

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.  A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.  We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” ~Lewis B. Smedes

Many times I’ve heard the expression “forgive and forget.”  When I was younger I thought I couldn’t do one without the other.  The great theologian Lewis B. Smedes, quoted above, takes a different view.  And I’m buying his take on it.  I think he’s telling me that I don’t need to forget, but that my memories, once healed, can help to lead me to a better way of life.  Memories of the sometimes painful past are part of who I am.  I had an acquaintance in the mountains who once said that whenever she thought she had forgiven someone and was done with it, the bitter memory would crop up again and she had to start over.  I think I understand what she meant but my “persistence of memory” (Sorry, Dalí.) comes at me in a different way.

As I move farther away from the time when D was having an affair (before and after I found out), I remember all kinds of betrayals that I hadn’t thought of before.  Or in some cases I hadn’t thought of them in a while.  So for me, it’s like having to forgive over and over because I keep thinking of more insults and lies and disrespectful behaviors.  I’m hoping that one day I will be able to put all of it in one giant crate and be done with it.  I don’t know whether it’s true or not but I’ve heard that our minds don’t dump all our negative memories on us at once because we would blow a circuit if that happened.  I’m sure you can conjure up your own version of what “blowing a circuit” would mean.  Certainly it would be more dire for some than others.

I do have great hope for the future.  Does that mean that I am changing my difficult memories of the past as Smedes suggests?  Learning a new way to remember?  I think so.  I hope so.

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended in any way to analyze the art pictured above.  Many great critics have tried that already.  I haven’t the talent or desire to throw my hat into that ring.