A stroll down memory lane.

The leaves of memory seemed to make         A mournful rustling in the dark.                     ~ Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

Yesterday afternoon I took a little trip to my old neighborhood.  The one where D and the girls and I lived for a long time.  This was our home when we first got married.  The primary reason for this little excursion was to visit our next-door neighbor and friend A.  I don’t think she would mind my saying that she is now elderly as age goes.   She’s anything but elderly in her mind and in the way she acts and interacts with others.  She looks wonderful physically.  She stands straight and tall and she still moves gracefully.  We were, both of us, so very happy to see one another.  We hugged and hugged and then hugged again.  We talked and laughed and reminisced.  I must have stayed for an hour or more as we caught up with all the neighborhood news and our families.  The fact that we have both lost our husbands put us on common ground.  A’s husband died a while back.  You know about mine already.  Although A is of my mother’s generation, it’s as if she and I are not separated in any way by that now.  We both grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, she in Virginia and I in North Carolina, so we have very similar backgrounds and experiences.  It was a lovely visit and she is a lovely woman.

The rest of my memory stroll was rather dry like the autumn leaves that “make a mournful rustling.”  It didn’t make me sad, just pensive and maybe grateful.  I knocked on the door of our old house and met the young woman who is living there with her dog and her husband/boyfriend.  She was very nice and we had a brief chat after I told her my name.  She’s renting the house from D as he still owns it.  I had not been on the property in years, not since our daughter lived there.  I could not help noticing that the lawn and shrubs were in a bad state.  The brick walk that D laid when we lived there was overgrown with weeds.  The lawn hasn’t been mowed recently and I would guess that it’s been years since anyone has  mulched the beds.  I didn’t go in the back yard but I imagine the brick patio looks like the walkway.  And from A’s house I could see that there was a tree down and apparently it has been for some time.  Sad.

Before I left the neighborhood I drove around the circle and found that the rest of the street looks very much as it did years ago.  The trees and shrubs are taller but the houses are neat and the lawns well-groomed.  A tells me some of the “old” neighbors are still there.  Others have moved on and new (to me) families reside within.  It’s still a respectable area with everyday people and all the houses are different.   No two alike.  No “ticky tacky” on that street.  I’ve always liked that about it.

As I drove away from that little oasis and back into the traffic of the city I gave a little sigh of relief.  And yes, I felt grateful that I no longer live there.  I’m not sure why.  I imagine the state of the property was a factor.  But that’s not quite it.  Maybe it’s because I really have moved on.  I remember wonderful, happy times in that house.  But life has changed and we’re all different and You Can’t Go Home Again as Thomas Wolfe so succinctly put it.


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“There are no mistakes.” ~ Kubler-Ross

There are no mistakes.  Everything in life has a purpose.  All events are blessings for us to learn from. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

When I lived in the mountains I knew a man named John who had the same attitude as Ms Kubler-Ross in the comment above.  No matter how bad the circumstance he found himself in he would always say, “I wonder what I’m supposed to learn from this.”  I never had any doubt that he really meant it.  I remember thinking about John’s positive attitude when my ex dropped his news and then moved out.  I wanted to feel that way; to learn something of value from this nightmarish experience.  At the beginning of the process I didn’t think there was anything valuable to learn.  It seemed like an enormous pipe dream full of elusive wisdom.  Nothing that would be within my grasp any time soon.

The rewards I was to reap did escape my grasp for a long time.  And I know now that I never could have imagined what lessons I was to learn.  I will probably repeat some that I’ve mentioned before but sometimes it’s good for me to remind myself what they are.  I have learned that I don’t need someone else to take care of me.  I can take care of myself.  If I could do it all again with the same spouse, I think I would be easier to get along with than before.  I like to think that D would be too, but I can’t speak for him.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t worry about insignificant “stuff” that happens on a day-to-day basis.  By taking care of all the daily minutia with no one to help, I recognize that it’s all just stuff that has to be dealt with one thing at a time.  When the insurance company recently gave me the check for repairs needed on my home I contracted the companies to do the work and even came in a little under budget.  I can do this.  I will never again expect another person to be responsible for my happiness and well-being.  No amount of money and no other human being can do that for me.

When I first embarked on this unwanted journey I could not have called this disruption a blessing.  But I can look at it now and see the gifts and grace I have received these past few years (almost five now) and be grateful for where I am and who I am today.  Perhaps this experience will help me through unanticipated difficulties in the future.  I am a grateful camper and life is good.

Do unto others. Or not?

Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred.  Don’t do them to others, ever. ~ Dee Hock, Founder of VISA

Those of us who are surviving/have survived unwanted divorce have a rather lengthy list of abhorrent things done unto us.  Most of the time I classify myself as one who has survived.  But every once in a while something new comes up that triggers my anger all over again.  When the anger kicks in , the desire for revenge kicks in, and momentarily I feel as if I’m back at square one.

This week I had to pay more than $900 in back taxes on a piece of property here in town.  The tax collector’s office tells me that the parcel was deeded to me only in 2008.  Up until that time it belonged to both my ex and me.  The deal was that it would remain in both our names until he had finished paying his monetary obligation to me as stated in the settlement.  Once he paid the debt, I was responsible for transferring the property to him.  The debt was due the day the divorce was final.  I’ve waited for three years now thinking that we both owned said property and that since it was attached to another tract and house that belonged to him, probably D was paying the taxes.  He wasn’t.  I realize I would have owed half the taxes either way but that sort of thing is usually ironed out at closing.  And now D is saying that since I own the property he doesn’t have to pay the remainder of his debt.  Excuse me!  I don’t want the property or the taxes that go with it.  I want the money.

I’m spitting nails and trying to talk myself into whatever is right in this situation.  But the larger question is:  Does his interference in my life ever end?   Thank you for reading.

Getting to the bottom of the bag.

  Carry a small bag so you don’t have to carry too much weight.  Heavy baggage damages your shoulder and your neck and your back and your psyche. ~ Pat

My daughter and her family brought me this little bag from Hawaii where they recently spent their summer vacation.  It’s hand-painted and embroidered and quite lovely to look at.  It has just enough space for my essentials which are minimal.  I’ve learned that if I carry a small bag I’ll fill it up or if I carry a large one the same thing happens.  I definitely prefer the lighter weight.  Back in the day when I needed a super-sized one to carry diapers, training pants, etc., I found that everyone in the family had something they needed me to carry because I always had room for one more item in the giant atrocity.  I usually trailed behind in the airport and now I wonder if they knew it was because I was carrying such a heavy load.

Have you ever noticed, when you carry a heavy burden like the one mentioned above, it can be very difficult to get to the bottom of the bag to unload the one thing that you need to remove?  I find life to be much like that, too.  If I carry around every bad, sad, unfair thing that has happened to me, it’s not easy to find and deal with things that may really need my attention.  Just as the physical load can damage my body, so can the emotional baggage overload my psyche, my ability to deal with everyday strife.

When I get in a philosophical frame of mind like this I start to realize that my divorce probably did happen for a reason.  Maybe it was Kismet if you believe in that sort of thing.  I’m not sure I do.  Even though D traveled for a living when we were married, and I had plenty of time to deal with all the problems that were me, I was able to avoid them.  I could focus instead on his chronic illness, our latest conversation or lack thereof, and what he said, what I said or didn’t say.  I wrapped too much of myself, my life around what he was doing, thinking, or  not doing, thinking.  He never asked me to do that.  Maybe I did it to avoid looking at my core issues.

I realize now that I carried a lot of baggage from my family of origin.  I had a victim mentality long before the divorce hit.  Also a fear of abandonment.  Both probably came from my mother and her insecurities.  (I’m not blaming her.  She did the very best she could.)  If we become what we think, then it was inevitable that I would become the victim of divorce and abandonment.  And so I did.

The happy side of this story is that today when I look at myself I’m okay with who I am.  If I see something I don’t like I try to change it.  If it’s so resistant to change that I’m wasting too much energy on it, then acceptance goes a long way.  And life is good.

A note that has nothing to do with this post:  I was sitting on the couch a little before 2:00 this afternoon, my feet and legs resting on the coffee table.  Suddenly the table started to move, tremble.  It went on for maybe 30 seconds.  It dawned on me that it was an earthquake, a very rare event on the east coast.  The epicenter was near Richmond, VA, but it was felt far and wide along the Atlantic Coast states.  It was a very eerie feeling, one that I had not experienced before.

“Salute her when her birthday comes.”

Bow down to her on Sunday                                                          Salute her when her birthday comes. ~ Bob Dylan

One year ago I wrote my first post for my spanking new blog.  I was so proud of myself that I wrote twice that day.  Writing journals in long hand no longer gave me what I needed.  I needed a voice.  From the moment D said he wanted a divorce and I had no hope of changing his mind, I had no voice, no choice.  My life was careening down hill, gaining speed and the brakes were stripped.  No matter how hard I pushed the pedal I couldn’t stop it.  And how I did push!

In acknowledging the conclusion of my first year here, I have been looking back at some of my earlier posts–a sort of retrospective introspection, I think.  When I started blogging I remember wishing and hoping to be totally honest about the facts and my emotions.  In other words I want to write for me, to help me first, and not for some unseen reader.   That last sentence isn’t meant to be harsh.  What I mean is that if I visualize some imagined audience or readership, then I might not be able to be honest.  I don’t want to address a post to anyone in particular.  (The post to A about the death of her mother is an exception.)  I want to write it out, whatever it is so that I can sort and prioritize and assimilate my own words and feelings.  If, in the process, my words can be helpful or amusing or occasionally interesting to a reader, then that’s a bonus and it makes me very happy.  Another bonus that I’ve discovered is receiving comments from many of you.  As a rookie, I had no idea how much I would look forward to your writing and your comments.  I now feel as if I have a whole world of blogger friends who support me and care about me as I do them.

I have averaged 2.5 posts a week and in the process have learned some things about myself.  I’m surprised at how often the same things keep coming up.  The alone/lonely debate arises fairly often.  I sometimes embrace my alone-ness and other times it doesn’t feel one bit embraceable.  I think that’s because I like people.  I get energy from interaction with others, especially in person.  Other times I like being alone.  I think that’s just life and not necessarily because I’m divorced.

I didn’t mean to make a ramble out of this post but I will add one thing that seems really significant.  I love and miss my NC mountains.  I am going to add this to the top of my priority list.  I need to be in the mountains in the summer.  My goal will be to arrange trips to the mountains more often in summers and autumns to come.  They are a vital part of me and I cannot, must not ignore this fact in the future.

Help!! I’m in a rut.

In a rut.  Going in circles.  If there’s a difference, it eludes me.  Either way it’s uncomfortable.  I checked out all my I-can-help-you sources and discovered that they all say the same thing and it doesn’t really matter what your problem is .  Granted, they don’t use exactly the same words but the meaning is the same so I’m left to pick the one that speaks the language I best understand and tackle the job.  Time’s a-wasting.  And so, with my tongue in my cheek, let’s get started:

1.  Focus on the present.  Now why would I want to do that?  My present is in a rut.  If I look back I can get angry.  When I look forward I get scared.  So let’s see now, would anger or fear help more?  I’m thinking anger works better for me.  No, maybe fear–fear that I’ll be in this rut forever.  Come to think of it I am pretty comfortable down here.

2.  Spend time with fun, energetic people.  Are you kidding me?  What fun-loving person wants to hang out with a down-in-the-dumps whiner?  Won’t I just bring them down to my level?  No, wait, their fun and good times will pull me up.  So…I will have to pretend I’m happy to get their attention and then they will let me hang out with them.  Hmmm.

3.  Set goals or challenges.  I think the theory here is that if you don’t give yourself a challenge, you will do whatever you do in a sorta half-a$$ed way.  Day in and day out just getting along, not accomplishing much.  That leaves me to wonder if I’m in a rut because I didn’t set clear goals or did I not set goals because I was in a rut and couldn’t make myself do it?  Shall we continue?

4.  Do without some everyday things.  This one makes me giggle.  I’m thinking I can go without my bra like I did back in the 70s.  Bras are everyday things, but alas, I think the idea here is to do without something that will make you change your pattern/schedule.  Maybe like not turning the TV on when you usually do, so that you’re forced to do something different or more productive.  I guess that means the bra-less notion is not so good.  That would cause me to stay home and hibernate or isolate more than I already do.  Bad idea.

5.  Do something for someone else.  I interpret this to mean volunteer or help a neighbor.  I have to approach this one cautiously.  Why?  Because I have, in the past, volunteered myself right into that volunteer rut.  Hey!  I never thought of this before but maybe I’m a little OCD.  How else does one get in a rut volunteering?  I must keep moderation and balance in mind.  If not, I’ll forget to take care of myself.  This is harder than I thought.

6.  Look at things or people from a different perspective.  I think this means that when I think about my situation and how I’ve been treated, I’m supposed to have more patience and tolerance for the other side of it and recognize that maybe D did what he thought he had to do to save himself.  I’m biting my tongue here.  See how nice I can be.

7.  Learn a new skill.  I get credit here.  Every Sunday morning I walk in the church as if I know what I’m doing (I seriously don’t.) and I sit down at the computer and I proceed to try to keep track of which song, which verse, which prayer, etc. should be on the screen at any given time.  Talk about a challenge for a brain that is accustomed to flitting from topic to topic like a monarch butterfly on milkweed.  I am learning to focus for an hour plus once a week.  How impressive is that!  And I’m doing it all in Spanish.

8.  Don’t keep listening to your own thoughts.  I don’t know about you but for me that’s an exercise in futility.  I am very repetitive, especially about negative things from the past that I can’t change.  I can beat the hell out of that dead dog and then revive him and beat him some more.  Even though I know it’s a waste of time, I still find myself slipping backward and making the rut deeper.  Duh!

9.  Don’t complain.  Quicherbellyachin.  Don’t whine.  Nobody wants to hear it.  NOBODY.  The right to whine has expired.  I’m trying to remember that.

10.  Look for humor in the mundane.  Humor is the greatest healer I know of and I try never to forget that.  I get an A+ for this one.  It has been my saving grace.

Feel free to adapt these suggestions to suit your situation.  Pick and choose.  Take what you like and leave the rest.  Life is good.  Smile.

Advice to my younger self.

To love and win is the best thing.  To love and lose, the next best. ~ William M. Thackeray

Dear Pat,

So you’re planning to get married.  This is a big decision and I know you’ve given it much thought.  Your children and how this second marriage will affect them is uppermost in your mind.  You have a new teaching job, and you and the girls could eke out a living without D in your lives.  You hope they will all get along but you don’t know that for sure.  D is very easy-going and seems to want to get along with them.  But how are the older daughters going to feel about a step-father who is significantly younger than their mom?  Not so great, probably.  You’ve recently learned that D isn’t exactly the person you thought he was.   But it’s nothing big, a small deception that doesn’t change how you feel about him.

What is my advice to you?  Since hindsight is supposedly twenty-twenty, I also know your heart.  The love and caring and passion that you feel for D is like nothing you’ve ever felt before.  I know that he got on his knee and put a diamond on your finger and asked you to marry him because he loved you, too, and he was willing to take on the challenge of a ready-made family.  I also know that this marriage will not last forever as you hope it will.  But listen up, young Pat, life doesn’t come with guarantees and the deep love that you feel for D may come along only once in a lifetime.  For some, it never comes.  My advice to you–go for it!  You’ll have many opportunities to play it safe in the years to come, this is not one of those times.

I feel sad about the pain you and D and the girls (and yes, the grandchildren) will endure when the marriage falls apart.  I know now, though, that you will all get through it and be stronger on the other side.  As the years pass the sad times will start to fade and you will be able to cherish the memories of some fabulous vacations, camping across the US, wonderful parties, a beautiful wedding on the lake, D and S stealing crispy garlic fries from each other (that one always makes me laugh), D’s “How y’all doin’ ” when you went to Maine–so many good times that you will always have.  Remember, no one can take those away.

Oh, and one more thing–I hope the photo above doesn’t offend you.  I couldn’t resist it because it is a perfect depiction of how you felt about your groom at the time of the wedding and for a long time thereafter.

Don’t forget:  Life is good.

Love, Pat