I’m allowed to change my mind.

Today is an exciting day. Last night I slept upstairs for the first time in almost a year. Since I came home from rehabilitation last December, I’ve been downstairs in the guest room. IMG_1108Yesterday my daughter and I cleaned my room and carried my clothes back upstairs. I suddenly came to the realization that I belong in my bed. I don’t like feeling like a  guest here. It took me a while to go to sleep but once I did, I slept all night. Lulu didn’t have any difficulty making the transition. She went to sleep straight away.

After falling down the stairs last year, my first thought was that I should sell my house and move to a one-story place. It seemed reasonable, the right thing to do.

As time passed, though, I started to feel more and more unsettled about that decision. Fortunately, I can change my mind. And so I did. The thought of downsizing a second time became a great weight on my shoulders. It’s too heavy and I’m unwilling to carry it. I have the option of doing it later — or not.

I feel lighter and happier than I have in a long time.

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Another letter to my ex-husband.

Sometimes an idea for a post pops into my head. If the notion pays the rent and takes up residence, I feel compelled to write it out.photo-43

I have noticed for months that there is one post I wrote early in my blogging days which continues to get attention. It’s called “A letter to my ex-husband.” and it consistently receives 50-60 clicks a week. I think this is telling me that there are new “victims” every day who seek comfort and company on the internet. Hopefully, they are seeking to lose that feeling of being the victim. What I know is that most are in a great deal of emotional distress.

Then I start to wonder, “Should I revisit that post? Should I write an update?” I seldom return to old posts. It’s rather like a sixteen-year-old backtracking to read what she wrote in her diary as a twelve-year-old — naïve and poorly written.

Dear D,

I have just read and re-read the open letter I wrote to you back in November, 2010. I stand by what I wrote. If I were composing the same letter today I might not use the Pearl Harbor metaphor but I’m not sorry I used it then. That’s how I felt at the time. I hope my writing is somewhat improved since those days.

I’m happy to say that I no longer dwell on the difficulties of that period in our history. My life moves along with more happy times than not as I try to focus on those most important in my life — my family. I must admit, though, that I still miss your family. At the time, I felt as if I had suffered multiple amputations but those wounds have mostly healed.

I have come to realize the we have a history — you, your family and I. And I know now that it’s mine to keep. No one, no divorce, no would-be interloper can ever take that away from me. I’m free to remember the happy times, and sad, as I choose. I even have a couple of pictures of you on display in my house. There’s one of you and two cute little granddaughters, all of you wearing identical Harley Davidson t-shirts. There’s the one of you and me and H when she was baptized  in your grandmother’s christening gown. When someone who doesn’t know you sees the latter and asks me if that’s my ex, I always say, “Yes, it is. Wasn’t he a handsome fellow.”

As I was reading the old letter and starting to write this post, I remembered the disconcerting dizziness of feeling as if I were on a merry-go-round back when I first heard the infamous divorce announcement. My mind would get in a loop and I had a hard time escaping the negative and unhelpful self-conversations. I even dreamed about carousels and their eerie, hypnotic music. I would feel it slowing and think it was slow enough to step off. But, alas, I would stumble and fall in a teary puddle every time.

My son-in-law recently told me about going to a colleague’s office to discuss a work-related matter. Instead of addressing the issue at hand, she looked at him and stated, “My husband is having an affair.” He asked me why she had said that to him. They weren’t buddies or anything so why would she do that? My immediate response was, “That’s all she could think about.” In other words, she was on the merry-go-round. It takes a while to get off. I had to ask the same “What did I do wrong?” question over and over before I finally let it go as unanswerable.

You’d think one carnival ride would be metaphor enough for one in the throes of despair. Not for me. I went straight from the carousel to a giant roller coaster. And sometimes the two merged into a monstrous nightmare.photo-73 This new ride came along when I stopped asking hypothetical questions and started to figure out what I must do to take care of me. I allowed my anger at you and at my situation to spring into action.

Anger can be a wonderful resource and motivator. It enabled me to start taking care of important divorce-related issues. Things like feeding myself properly, getting enough sleep and starting to raise my consciousness about financial matters and finding the right attorney to help me with my decision-making.

During this period the roller coaster started going up fairly often and I would feel pretty good. Fear would strike and I would crash back down. In between there were loop-de-loops when I was upside down and inside out and didn’t know what I was doing. One wise person named John told me, “Some things just take time.” He was right. As I found my sense of humor again and enabled my positive attitude, I came through and am better for it. I truly hope you are too.

Life is good as I remember our happy times together.

Fondly, Pat

 

 

Christmas, 2013.

Another Christmas has come and gone and I think I’m doing okay.photo  It’s been seven years since D asked for a divorce.  This is the sixth Christmas I’ve spent as a woman alone.  Someone commented recently on my blogger friend’s post that there’s a great deal of difference between being alone and being lonely.  I’m a bit of an expert on the topic because I’ve been both.

I’m happy to report that this year, except for a couple of brief hours on Christmas Eve afternoon, I was merely alone, not lonely.  The lonely times are becoming shorter and shorter as I learn that being alone can be a blessing if I choose to make it so.

I think it’s all about acceptance of what is.  My mantra has become “It is what it is.”  I can often shrug off troubles by photo-4repeating this simple truism a time or two.  I admit it doesn’t work all the time but it helps.  I’ve learned to do when I start to feel lonely.

Paul Newman once said that he was able to deal with his son’s death only by doing for others.  His words gave me fresh perspective about how I was living my life.  I’ve become more conscious of others, especially around Christmas. I’ve finally figured out that it doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as making toffee for friends and family.  (See photo above.)  Or taking a few seconds to text or email a friend who’s having a hard time.  Or a phone call. For me it’s taking a moment to think beyond myself and my concerns.

That’s easier said than done when you’re in the middle of the pain of rejection.photo-2 You can’t figure out who you are, let alone what you should or want to do.  I cried for months. I’m glad that’s over. I’m ever so slowly learning to trust other people again.  But I step cautiously.

As usual this post has taken a different direction than I expected.  Sometimes I think my fingers divorce my brain.  Or maybe my fingers tell my brain what to think.  I’m not sure what happens.

I started out expecting to tell you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year.  The photo below shows Santa riding past my house on the Pineville fire engine.  You can see his arm.  The rest of him is blocked by a weird-looking little green elf.  Only in the American South.  Made my day.photo-3

Am I invisible?

shutterstock_10882816-1280x960Growing old is not all sweetness and light.  Old women especially are invisible. ~ Ruth Rendell

I have said a number of times to daughter # 1 that the older women become the more invisible they are.  The last time I said it I guess she was tired of hearing me whine so she said, “You’re always saying that, Mom.  I don’t get it.”

I started noticing this odd phenomenon when I was in my forties.  I often took my husband’s grandmother to the ophthalmologist after her cataract surgery.  She was alert and intelligent and tuned in.  She would sign her name on the sign-in sheet.  Then the young woman who came over to check her in would look straight at me and ask questions about the patient.  I was completely taken aback.  I remember looking at her with a puzzled look on my face and telling her, “You need to ask her,” nodding toward Grandmother, “because I don’t know.”  (I must insert here that this grandmother was never known by any of the traditional grandma titles.  We called her Ole Shoe–another story for another time.)  So…Ole Shoe would give me a smile and respond to all questions herself.

If I’m not mistaken, this scenario played out every time we went to that particular office.  I guess my not-so-subtle message didn’t infiltrate the mind of my intended subject.

I don’t imagine the office staff person realized she was being disrespectful.  She was a nice person as far as I could tell, and very efficient.  Efficient is the word that struck me first thing this morning as I was reading my cyber friend Uta’s current post. Uta lives in Australia and she was writing about a very efficient agent who completely ignored her and spoke only with her husband Peter.  I’m thinking Uta felt invisible.  She would have appreciated some acknowledgment of her existence.  She didn’t get it.

After reading Uta’s post I started to do a bit of online research about older women.  I discovered an article Tira Harpaz wrote and guest-posted on Salon. (Go to salon.com and  type in women over 50 are invisible in the red bar at the top of the page.)  Harpaz suggests that women who are in positions of authority are able to delay the onset of invisibility.  I think that’s true but it doesn’t include the majority of older women.

So what are we everyday older women to do?  Do we have any control over how others perceive us?

I think we do. It may be limited, but we have some control. For me it means staying active. Having a firm step when I walk (unless the arthritis in my right ankle kicks in :))  It means speaking clearly and with authority.  It means volunteering.  It means asserting myself when necessary, without being strident.  (Not being annoyed and strident is hard for me.) It means saying, “Excuse me, I believe I was next in line.”  It means standing tall with a smile on my face and determination in my demeanor.

If this is an issue for you, I would like to hear how you stay visible and relevant.

Note:  The image of the invisible woman above is from the Harpaz article.

Changing perception.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. ~ Viktor Franklchange

I was working at the Food Pantry the other day.  Well, several of us were sitting around talking because we had no clients, no one who was seeking food.  I hope the fact that we had no clients that day is a good thing, that it means no one in our neighborhood was hungry for at least a day.  That’s my optimistic view of the situation.

We volunteers have some good chats on slow days.  I try not to let my divorced status define who I am, but at the same time, I am very open to discussion of my situation just in case it might be helpful to someone who takes the time and trouble to ask questions.  I usually prefer to assume that the questions are sincere and not prying.

One of the women asked if I mind living alone.  I have to admit I hadn’t thought about it in a while until she asked.  (That’s a sure sign that I’m doing well, don’t you think?)  I considered the question for a moment and responded, “No, not really.  I do have a cat after all.”  I went on to tell her that I missed my husband horribly for a long time but I don’t anymore, that I have adjusted to what is, and am content.  She said, “That’s a really good thing — learning to be happy where you are with what you’ve got.”

I’ve thought a great deal about that statement.  It certainly sums up where I am today.

Back at the beginning of our separation, I read somewhere that it takes a year of recovery for every five years a couple is together.  At the time I had trouble wrapping my mind around that notion, thinking “I don’t have that much time.  Let’s just get on with it!”  I have learned, though, that it has proved pretty accurate in my case.  I wanted to hurry up the healing but I wasn’t able to.  Some things take time.

I no longer think too often about D and our marriage.  Oh sure, things pop up but I don’t dwell on the negatives much.  I have thought about my ex this week because he had a birthday a couple of days ago.  I considered sending him a happy birthday text but then I asked myself, “Why would I do that?”  I don’t hate him.  I don’t dislike him.  But I don’t like him very much either.  And I don’t owe him anything.  I guess I’m idling here in the middle and it’s a pretty good place to be.

Oh, okay.  Happy birthday, D.  Thirty years is a long time and old habits die hard.

People change and forget to tell each other. ~ Lillian Hellman

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” ~ PB Shelley

photo(12)‘Tis a month before the month of May, and the spring comes slowly up this way. ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A couple of weeks ago I was preparing a spring pictorial post based on my strolls through the neighborhood.  Suddenly winter came screaming back like a lover scorned, taking the wind out of my sails and lashing it against my face with its cold rain.  As I wrapped my scarf around my neck against the renewed chill, I was feeling more than a little demoralized.

Today there’s still a chill in the air but the sun is out and it cheers me.  I heard from a friend photo(20)in the Blue Ridge that there are four inches of snow and it’s still snowing in the NC mountains.  I’ve decided it’s the perfect day to publish spring photos.  At the top of the page and to the right are shots of my Bradford pear tree.  The pear trees are among the first to blossom every year.  They are everywhere in my city and even though I don’t like the smell of the flowers, I love the sight of them.

photo(17)My daffys bloom even before the pear trees.  Every spring I welcome them with great joy.  I’ve seen them many times peeking defiantly through the snow in their golden glory.

It’s daffodil time, so the robins all cry, For the sun’s a big daffodil up in the sky… ~ Clinton Scollard

photo(6)I suppose the least appealing aspect of spring is the greening of my lawn weeds.  Some of you may remember that I don’t really have grass in my yard, I have mostly weeds.  Sometimes the weeds bloom.  If you look closely you may be able to see tiny yellow flowers.  This means, of course, that I will soon have to mow.  It also means that those obnoxious, pushy lawn company employees will start trying to get me to sign a contract allowing them to put all manner of chemicals on my space.  I’m not biting.

photo(10)Even rosemary is flowering in my herb garden.

As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship... ~ Sir Thomas More

Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens and has many culinary and medical uses.  The plant is said to improve the memory.  The leaves are used to flavor various foodsWikipedia  Simon and Garfunkel sang about it.

photo(11)Easter comes early this spring.  I have my welcome banner out for the grandchildren (and their parents, of course) who will grace my home with their presence Sunday afternoon.  We always have a grand time eating, hunting for eggs, and bartering with a cousin or a sibling for one more of those yummy caramel eggs.  photo(18)

To all my friends who celebrate Easter, I wish you joy and love and peace.

To all my friends who don’t celebrate Easter, I wish you joy and love and peace.

Awake, thou wintry earth–                                 Fling off thy sadness!                                         Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth                          Your ancient gladness! ~ Thomas Blackburn

Rebuilding a life.

photo(44)There’s really no shortcut to forgetting someone.  You have to endure missing them every day until you don’t anymore. ~ Anon

Whenever a spouse is lost, whether to death or divorce, the partner left behind must build a new life.  The longer the relationship, the more difficult the rebuilding can be.

At the beginning of our separation and divorce journey, I read numerous articles and books about divorce.  It gave me something to do.  Some sources were excellent while others were a waste of time.  I devoured all of them trying to make sense of what was happening to me.  I read somewhere (I’ve no idea where.) that it takes one year of recovery for every five years of togetherness.  “Hmmmm,” I remember thinking.  “Surely they jest.  I don’t have that kind of time.  I’m in my sixties already.  I’m sure I can do it faster.”  Little did I know how ingrained my way of life and my reliance on my husband had become.

It wasn’t long before reality came calling.  Despite all my research, I could not for the life of me move it along any faster.  The fact that I am still writing about it is a small hint that I haven’t been able to expedite the process.  This past December 29 was the sixth anniversary of the D-Day announcement.  We were married for thirty years.  If I include the time we were together before the marriage, it’s a few years more than thirty.

How do I rebuild a life?  How do I go from being one of a pair of perfect (OK, not so perfect) yellow dandelions to a globe of fluff and still be sane and vital?photo(45)  I’ve asked myself these questions many times.  They are not rhetorical questions.  They are not philosophical per se.  Certainly I can and do philosophize about them, but I have truly sought practical answers and solutions these past six years.  In the grand scheme of life I don’t seem to have been very successful.

I’ve tried to do all the things the so-called experts have suggested.  I go to church, I volunteer, I have membership at a gym, I meet regularly with friends, I spend time with family — and then I go home alone.  Certainly there are worse things than being alone.  My sister and I were discussing last night the fact that we prefer no company to bad company.  D and I had become bad company for each other.

What is missing in my life, deep in my core, I think, is trust.  I can recognize now that it may have been time, under the circumstances, for the dissolution of the marriage.  But the trust issue still looms over me like a festering ominous storm cloud.  After so many years together, I had come to trust my spouse.  That was a giant leap for me, the child of an alcoholic.  I had learned early on that the only one I could trust to do for me what needed to be done was me.  If you want something done you must do it yourself rang through my head as regularly as the chiming of Big Ben.  Moving away from that notion to one of acceptance that there are people I can trust was huge.  I’m not sure I can do it again.

I have come a long way in the past six years.  I am no longer miserable, though I am often  lonely.  I am a people person and I would not have chosen this solitary life.  As I look out my window at the blue sky and sunshine after several days of gloomy weather, I find myself grinning like the Cheshire Cat. photo(46) Today, as the temperature warms the ground, dandelions will appear, and I will be reminded that a dandelion alone is a beautiful thing.  I shall stand tall today and remind myself that this dandelion has not gone to seed just yet.