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

 

 

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Updates, discoveries and funnies.

I used the weather as an excuse to skip my walk this morning.  It rained all night–hard.photo-18 I know this because I woke up several times. That’s another excuse for not walking. Too little sleep.

I dreamed between spurts of wakefulness. I can recall this morning what I think was a brief encounter with my ex. Simpler times.  We were together, doing mundane tasks, together. Talking. Smiling. There was no anger, no angst. I would like to think my level of acceptance has risen to higher ground. I’m at peace.

I must say, though, that I am not quite so peaceful about my eye. Excited but not quite settled. I still wear a guard over my eye at night. That’s probably one reason for the wakefulness.  I’m still putting drops in my eye three times a day.  That’s down from four times.  And it’s one medication instead of the three this time last week.

The most important aspect of this scenario–my vision–is a work in progress.  The cataract surgery has achieved the desired goal. Increased clarity of color became evident after a few days.  It’s a miracle!

The cornea transplant benefits are more gradual. I have a very skilled doctor, and the surgery went well. He tells me that I will notice maximum visual benefits at about two months, or possibly three. I smile as I write this because I’m imagining how I would have been climbing the walls if I’d had this surgery in my middle age. I have much more patience now. I see differences almost daily and am confident I will reach the desired peak in a timely fashion. And in the end the result should be a major improvement.

I’m happy that I’ve been able to take care of myself the entire time except for needing a driver the first few days. I have discovered anew how generous and kind family and friends are. They have brought me food and sent cards.  Some have texted or emailed.  Some have called. Four different people took me for  birthday lunches, to all my favorite places. I am a lucky woman.

Moving along to the funnies part of this post. I love jamiedouglasillustration.com.  Many months ago I was searching the net for a bluebird of happiness. I came upon the illustration below.  It’s aptly named The Disillusioned Bluebird of Happiness. At the time, I contacted Jamie and asked if I could include it in one of my posts. He said I could as long as I gave him credit. In the meantime I lost my train of thought as to the bluebird and went on to other posts. But I saved this picture and I look at it from time to time because  it always makes me giggle. Thank you, Jamie, for entertaining me. Your illustrations remind me to hone my sense of humor and not to take life too seriously.  Other readers, check out Jamie’s blog.  You’ll be glad you did.Disillusioned-Bluebird-of-Happiness-38

One last thing to my favorite bloggers.  For some reason many of your email blog reminders have been sent to my Spam folder.  I don’t know why but am correcting those errors. Apparently it’s been going on for a while–maybe since I got my new computer. Aaaaargh!!

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

A day in the life…

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7:00-7:30 a.m.  Scritch, scratch.  Lulu is at the bedroom door.  It isn’t her feeding time.  She doesn’t go outside.  So, what does she want?  Company.  Me.  Sometimes I get up and let her in to snuggle for a while.  Other days I get up straight away and go downstairs with her.

Almost every day I get out of bed with an “itch” to write.  As regular readers know, I haven’t written much in the last few months.  So if I get up with a desire to write, what’s keeping me from doing so?  In part, it’s because I’ve been as busy as a honey bee in a bed of clover.  There was a while that I couldn’t write because I was seriously depressed.  That is no longer a problem, thanks to antidepressant medication which has worked a not-so-small miracle in that regard.

My upbeat mood and new-found energy have given me a joie de vivre that I haven’t had in a very long time.  I’m finding my schedule almost over-booked these days simply because I feel like doing things and seeing people.  Who knew there were so many entertaining endeavors waiting for me?  Well, I did.  But I couldn’t get past the lethargy that depression causes.  I’m grateful for another chance to live my life, and to enjoy doing so.

In the past couple of months I have been walking regularly with two of my neighbors.  (It’s lots more photo(19)fun when you have company.)  I’ve attended numerous grandchild functions:  a pre-prom photo session, an elementary school graduation, a high school graduation, two engagement parties, a gymnastics celebration banquet (the end of a rather lengthy gymnastics career–happy and sad), and more that I can’t remember at the moment.

In addition to the fun stuff, I have taken on a front yard project.  I’m wondering if my meds have made me a little more wacky than I normally am–not an easy feat since I’ve always been pretty wacky. As some of you know already, I don’t grow grass very well, so I decided I should construct some around-the-tree gardens in order to have less weedy grass to mow.photo(16)  I started by digging a v-shaped trench around the tree.  My research tells me this is a Victorian edge.  I didn’t want a brick or stone edging because it makes using the weed eater a bit fussy.  I thought the digging would be the hardest part, but abundant rain had saturated the ground and digging was a breeze.

The next step was to cover inside the circle with newspapers.  The newspaper kills weeds and unwanted grass in the finished product.  Then I spread four (or so) inches of soil on top of the newspapers.  Next came a nice thick layer of mulch on top of the dirt. Viola. The garden is ready for some shade-loving plants.photo(20)

I took this photo shortly after I planted.  We’ve had a great deal of rain and sunshine since then, so I’m able to see growth almost every day.  Only two more trees to go.  My neighbors are waiting patiently.  I’m still a little surprised (and proud) that I was able to do this by myself.  Gave me a nice sense of accomplishment.

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

Pretending to be normal.

201200003769_003The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. ~ Alfred Adler

Definition of normal:  not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle; conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; free from mental disorder — Merriam-Webster

I stashed this picture and the beginnings of a post in my files a long time ago, knowing that one day I wanted to write about it, but having no idea what I wanted to say.  It seemed important to me at the time.  Also, I love the cheerful, happy women in Suzy Toronto’s work.

At the time, I think I was exhausted by trying to be normal.  At the same time I wondered, “Why would I want to be normal?  I want to be more than normal.  I want to sparkle. I want to shine.  I want to leave my mark!”  The sad truth is I couldn’t get to normal, so how was I ever going to sparkle, let alone shine?  What on earth was wrong with me?

I have mentioned before that my family is rife with alcoholics/drug addicts.  I don’t remember having talked about the other family scourge–depression and/or anxiety.  I think that if I made a list of relatives who suffer from depression, it would be longer than the list of those who do not.  Most of my life I would have put my name on the those-who-do-not list.  Even after having taken an anti-depressant (SSRI) to help me through my divorce, I still would have considered myself a non-depressed person.  I have, in the past two or three years, admitted that I sometimes have bouts of depression.  But did I consider myself a depressed person?  Never!

This last bout of functioning-well-below-normal depression has changed my mind.  “And why is that?” you might ask.  I’m still trying to figure out the answer.  This time it went on and on for a very long time–close to a year, I think.  I was anxious.  I was worried.  I was tired.  I was so very, very sad.  I was short-tempered, impatient, critical.  The biggest clue of all was, I think, that I started to have numerous physical symptoms.  Test after medical test turned up nothing.  I started to realize that the chest pain I went to the emergency room for was probably an anxiety or panic attack.  The digestive symptoms I was having may have been due to what was eating me rather than what I was or was not eating.

I have spent a lifetime resisting the depressed label.  There are a couple of reasons for my attitude toward this particular illness: 1) I don’t like to admit to being less than healthy (as in it seems like a weakness to me), and 2) there is too much stigma still attached to any type of mental illness.  Number two is changing slowly but there’s much educating to be done before it becomes just another illness.

I believe that my reasons for thinking the way I did probably come from my attitudes toward my parents as I reached adulthood.  I saw my mother as weak because she played the poor-pitiful-me role her entire life.  I needed her to pull herself up and take control of the family.  I realize now that she couldn’t.  I saw my father as the drunk who didn’t provide well for his family.  I know now that he suffered from depression, too, and was likely drinking because of the anxiety and depression.  His drinking then exacerbated the problem.  I now believe that both parents did the best they could under very trying circumstances.

I’m happy to report that I no longer have to pretend to be normal.  I feel normal.  I’m not sure I’m shining just yet, but I’m beginning to notice a few sparks on a fairly regular basis.  I’m planning to sparkle soon.  About two months ago, after taking a long, but gentle look, at myself, and recognizing that I have spent most of my adult life depressed and anxious, I decided to be kind to me and I put myself back on antidepressant medication.  One month ago I told my doctor what I had done.  She asked many, many questions about how I had been and how I was on medication.  She agreed with me.  I did the right thing.

photo(9)Disclaimer:  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post should do what I did.  If you think you are depressed, please see an appropriate professional.

The addiction maze.

800px-Longleat_mazeSometimes my own best interest includes the best interests of others.  But how do I know the best interest of another person?

Eyes wide open?  Or not?

Al-Anon’s CCC.  I didn’t Cause it.  I can’t Cure it.  I can’t Control it.

Can I help at all?  Can I live with myself if I don’t try?  Can I try to help and still take care of myself?  Can I accept the results of my effort?

I am aware that I’m rambling here.  Please bear with me.  This is how I make sense of things, and sometimes make profound decisions.  It’s a type of brainstorming, I suppose.  I think that’s usually a group activity but I am all I have right now.

F.E.A.R:  Face Everything And Respond.  I read this acronym recently on a blog called Almost Spring.  The post cited here is not about addiction, but divorce.  In my experience, both produce a great deal of fear.  The acronym grabbed my attention because I believe that fear may be the greatest motivator humans have at their disposal whether it’s divorce or addiction or clowns or the dark or…you get the picture.  Fear has often caused me to look the other way.  Or deny the obvious.  Or convince myself there’s nothing I can do that will make a difference.  Fear can pump the adrenalin and give one the strength to escape danger, perceived or otherwise, as it did eight-year-old me when my older brother told me someone was following us one night as we were walking home after dark.  It seems to me that adrenalin-producing fear is preferable to fear-induced lethargy.  As the acronym above suggests, face it and then decide how to respond.  Turning away and denying are responses, but are there better ones–for me?  now?  today?

Helping?  Or enabling?  According to most 12-step groups we are helping if we do something for someone that they are not capable of doing for themselves, and we are enabling if we do something for someone that they could, and should, be doing for themselves.  Sounds simple, straightforward enough.  But who am I to determine what another person can or cannot do for him/herself?

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway.  You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

She did what she could…Mark 14:8