Monday, November 9, 2015

Out with the Old

In preparation for my new floors, I've had to go through every nook and cranny of my basement.  I need to either move items elsewhere in my house, or get rid of them altogether.  Never before have I had such a good incentive to purge: I'm going to have to move every object anyway, and there's no sense in keeping what doesn't suit me.

It has been strangely liberating.

The sweater that didn't quite fit?  Gone.  The cute Japanese rice bowls that I never really used?  Gone.  The supplies purchased years ago for craft projects that never took place?  Gone.  (I am never, ever, ever going to sew pillows or use those pillow inserts.  It's time to own that, no matter how cute my vision of the finished project is.)  The big crate of canning jars that has been sitting in my attic for three years without being touched?  Gone.  And with each of these things, the freedom to stop feeling like I'm behind for not using them.  It's okay that I don't have Japanese themed dinner parties.  It's okay that I haven't gotten around to making jam in a long time.  It's okay that I don't want to sew anything.  What freedom!

That framed print, street art from a European vacation years ago?  I've never liked it; it was never quite right.  And yet, it has lived on my wall for fifteen years.  Fifteen years of "I don't really like this"?!  I lifted it right off the wall, impulsively, and stuck it in the pile.  The blank space it leaves behind doesn't look empty, it looks clean and free.

I had no idea that I was weighed down by these objects - mostly tucked away out of sight, neatly organized in their appropriate zones of the house - but clearly I was, because it feels so good to let them go.  Each time I said goodbye to something, I think I was saying that I was enough without that item.  I was saying that it didn't matter if that item was perfectly useful if it wasn't useful to me.

Sometimes, it feels really good to let go of things.

I'm trying to cleanse my life of everything that doesn't fit.  I am shedding my baggage, literally and metaphorically, as I move forward.  I think it's interesting how the literal shedding of what doesn't fit my life feels so good, but perhaps that's because I see the links to the metaphors.  I'm working at only inviting what I love into my life, and letting go of what doesn't work makes room for that.

I wish I'd done this years ago.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Growing Up

Have you heard the Macklemore song that he wrote for his new baby when his wife was pregnant?

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The lyric that stays with me is:
Times are changing, I know, but who am I if
I'm the person you become
If I'm still growing up?

I am 46 years old.  I have a nearly thirteen year old daughter.  I have a mortgage, a car payment, and a real job.  I hold a masters degree.  I have been married, and divorced.  I've run a half marathon, and I've had double mastectomies.  I do volunteer work in the community.  I cook dinner nearly every night.  I walk the dog, I pay the bills. I own a crock pot, a table saw, a lawn mower, and a life insurance policy.

But I don't feel like a grownup yet.

When do people usually feel like grownups?  Am I the only one who often feels like it's all a bit of an amusing joke that I've been granted all of these responsibilities, because I'm just starting out?

According to Macklemore, probably not.  He's an international star who, I assume, is much more together than I am.  I guess if it's okay for him to feel like he hasn't arrived, it's okay for me.  And for you.

I'm in a between-time right now: I'm winding down my current job, struggling financially because I haven't received a full child support payment in months and because my current job just barely covers the bills.  I start my new job in three weeks, and not only will my professional life change substantially, my financial life will, as well.  It is certainly a period of growth.

In order to get ready for my new job, I have to first wind down the old one of course, but I also have to make space in my life for the new one.  Because I will be working from home, I need to create a home office, and I'm spending a lot of time doing so.

A note about my house: my house is really two houses on top of each other, or so it feels.  The upstairs is a cute bungalow/cottage style, with hardwood floors, picture rail, original trim and doors (solid and attractive).  The downstairs is a daylight basement that was clearly a 1970's afterthought, with almost no trim work, horrible carpet, acoustic tile ceiling, and bad design at just about every corner.  When I had a flood I had to tear out part of the carpet, leaving bare concrete exposed in the center of the basement (and not smooth, polished, sexy concrete: this is 1923 crumbling concrete).  The downstairs is where the TV is, and where kids go to bounce off the walls, but mostly I ignore the downstairs.  It's barely usable.

And I'm changing that.

I am attempting to create a grown up's house.  I am ripping out the horrible carpet, and ripping out a poorly designed wall, and ripping out a bunch of cabinets (set up as a mother-in-law kitchen but not used that way for probably 25 years).  I'm evening out the concrete, and adding beautiful light, clean bamboo floors.  Gone will be the 1970s linoleum in the bathroom.  Gone will be the boards nailed between posts to make "bookshelves" (they weren't fooling anyone).  I'm even getting rid of the pressboard bookcases that I purchased in college and have housed my books since then.

Not only am I creating an office space for myself, I am redoing the TV room and guest room at the same time.  And I'm not borrowing favors from friends to patch something together, I'm paying Real Live Professionals to come in and do it right.

This makes me feel a teensy bit more like a grownup.  But it also makes me feel like I'm a total fraud as a grownup, because I feel so out of my comfort zone in doing this.  I feel like maybe I should cut more corners - if I put in new flooring in my office, I don't need to do the whole basement, right?  I don't really need an ergonomic chair that will help my back, do I?  It's okay to leave that weird little wall that sticks out into the middle of the room, right?  Because I don't really need anything, I can make do.  I'm fine, I won't cause any trouble, I don't need to take care of myself...

I have to fight through these feelings just about every minute of the day.

But I am fighting them, and winning!

In my new job, I need to be a full grown up.  If I do my job, I can quadruple this little organization and serve so many more women.  I need to allow every ounce of leadership within me to shine, to inspire the board and volunteers and donors to make it happen.

And in my new life, I'm trying not to put off my hopes and dreams for the future, I'm trying to make them happen.  I'm trying to remind myself that I really am a grownup, and I can make grownup decisions.  I suppose it doesn't really matter if my basement is finished or not, but it matters to ME.

In Feng Shui, basements represent the subconscious, and one's foundation.  Well, if that is the case, my subconscious has been dark, partially finished, out of date, dusty, uncared for, and ugly.  That's not the kind of foundation anyone should build upon.  I'm doing a clean sweep of the basement - that ugly old carpet probably contains enough nastiness to make anyone sick, and it needs to go - but I'm also doing a clean sweep of myself.

I want my foundation to be built upon light.  I want it to feel clean, and open, while still being inviting and comfortable.  I want to feel solid.  I want to feel complete, not unfinished.  I want to feel proud, not apologetic.  I want to feel welcoming, not closed off.  I want to feel beautiful.

I'm not even sure if I'm talking about my basement or myself as I do this project, but for whatever reason it has become highly symbolic to me.

I might be growing up.

Monday, October 19, 2015


It's fall, and the leaves are in full color, the skies gray, the air cool.  The bright trees won't last much longer: even as I watch them turn, I know that soon enough they will drop their leaves and the branches will turn from bursts of flame to lace against the sky.

I couldn't stop it if I wanted to, so I try to embrace it.  I live in the Pacific Northwest where almost everybody complains about the gray monotony of winter: we may not get any snow, and we will get lots of rain, and sometimes the gray sky feels like it is only three feet over our heads.  People get grumbly about it and complain about it even in the summer ("oh, summer's great here, but November....!"), but not me.  I like all of our seasons; I appreciate that though it won't snow in the city (not much anyway) I can go up to the mountains to ski, just an hour away; I don't mind running in the rain.  I like hot apple cider, Halloween parties, turkey trots, and so much more about the season.  I look forward to Christmas with tiny lights everywhere and Christmas ships and friends and sparkly dresses.  Sure, it would be nice to break it up with a trip to Hawaii and blue skies....but overall, it's much more good than bad.

Life keeps changing, as much as the seasons, as much as the trees, and I'm trying not to fight that, either.

The job change - yes, I got the job! - is mind-blowing.  I have faith that this is the job that I've craved since returning to work, and that I am on the path I want to be on.  I am filled with awe, the kind I get when I see a particularly bright sunset, or a whale breaching, or stars over a mountain lake.  I am filled with joy.  It helps that I'm leaving my soon-to-be-old job on a high note: our big auction was this weekend, and I positively killed it.  More money, more people, better messaging, and a much smoother event.  I spoke to the room (300+ people) and did "the ask" and when I told them about our clients, the entire room cried.  Afterwards, more people than I can count came up to me to tell me how powerful my stories were, and how grateful they were to hear them. (One slightly inebriated guest told me, "Your charisma makes me faint!" which was good for a chuckle.)  I most certainly earned my keep.  I felt rock solid, strong, capable, successful.

That's a change.  Two years ago as I was fighting unemployment I felt insecure, frightened, uncertain.  Hope that it would get better kept me going, but I was so scared.

I'm not scared anymore.


My daughter is going through changes faster than I can count them, too.  Soon she will be a teenager, and her body changes daily before my eyes; she could easily be mistaken for an older girl, given the "right" clothes and some added makeup.  She's tall and slim but muscular, with glossy hair, clear skin, long legs, and a gorgeous figure.  At twelve!  She does her homework without prompting, has good friends (with minimal drama), does her chores, is trustworthy.  She's a fierce competitor in sports, giving it all of her heart.  She's kind.  She does volunteer work.  Right now, her dream job is to fight for women's empowerment; she's thinking that maybe she'll become a lawyer to fight for women's rights (especially the gender pay gap).  She sings to Taylor Swift nonstop.  She prefers jeans and Converse.  She bakes.  She's my backpacking buddy, my lake swimming daredevil.

And this month, she became somebody's girlfriend.

I do not feel okay about twelve year olds dating.  I don't feel okay about it AT ALL, actually, and my mind leaped from "she's such a great kid" to "this is the beginning of the end" in the space of about two seconds.  I think in the space it took her to say "I have a boyfriend" I went from "all is well" to "she will be a pregnant teenage dropout" without blinking.

Fortunately, I kept my panic hidden and said something like, "Uhhhh, oh, ummm" or equally intelligent.

That night I Googled "tween dating" and "when should I let my daughter date" and such.  I learned that my daughter is at the average age for this kind of thing; I learned that at this age, "dating" means that they text each other a lot but have no plans to go out and actually DO anything together.  (Phew.)  I read articles on how to discuss dating with your child.....and how NOT to discuss dating with your child.  I read articles about how to put boundaries in place without becoming such a strict disciplinarian that your child will rebel from being too constricted.  I read articles about how to coach her through this, and started saying "self respect" and "kindness" a lot.

At about the exact minute that I caught my breath, after weeks of monitoring text messages, I got the news that he dumped her.  I felt an unnatural desire to throttle a child, to call him up and give him a piece of his mind.  I felt certain that he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.

And then I caught my breath, realized that this was what was going to happen all along (she might have dumped him, or he might have dumped her, but the dumping was in the air from the first shy glance) and that I shouldn't expect a 12 year old to handle things gracefully, and that he was learning too, and that the two of them could handle it just fine.  My daughter texted with her BFFs who were suitably enraged and full of girl-power.  She played "We are never, ever, ever getting back together" loudly.  She did her homework.  We watched a movie together (one with no romance).

I breathed a sigh of relief.

Everybody knows that the only constant is change.  We hear it all the time, and we live it all the time.  That's why it's funny to me that when changes happen, they surprise me, catch me off guard and make me think "what on earth is happening!" and my mind spins off in crazy ways.  (Uh, as far as I can tell there was never even a first kiss, and I don't think that pregnancy is going to result from five-character text messages.)

I'm trying to go with the flow.  To accept the incredible goodness that is going on in my life, and to embrace the changes yet to come.

My new job is extraordinary.  It is an answer to the prayers I've been sending into the Universe; it is filled with hope and possibility.  I'm trying to live fully in this moment, to celebrate it deep in my heart as well as celebrating it with cake and champagne with friends.  It, too, will change.  It *will* be good, but there will also be challenges, struggles.

My daughter is extraordinary, and full of hope and possibility.  She, too, will keep changing.

I never, ever, ever would have guessed that this is how my life would look when I was 46 years old.  The single mom thing, the cancer thing, the career crazy thing....none of it has gone as predicted.  My finances most certainly haven't gone as predicted.  Some things are better than imagined - my own happiness, for one! - and some things I could really have done without.

And it all keeps changing, all the time.

I'm trying to live with that uncertainty, while holding optimism, and rooting myself in the present.  It's tricky territory, acknowledging that I'm not in full control, yet working hard to make my dreams come true.  I haven't got it figured out.

But today, now, in this moment, is really, really good.  And I am really, really grateful.  The recent changes are incredible, and I'm ready to embrace them.

What a moment in time I am in; what a gift it is.

So grateful.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tipping Points

There have been several times in my life when I have felt things tip, in the space of a second, where nothing will ever be the same again.

The first was when Bryan proposed.  He slipped a diamond on my finger, and I knew that my life would never be as it was before.  (This remains true.  That proposal altered my destiny in ways both expected and unexpected.)  One second we were boyfriend girlfriend, and the next, our destinies were woven together.

The second and third are related.  The moment when the pregnancy test showed two lines, my hands shook and I burst into happy tears.  I wanted that baby SO MUCH and I knew I would never be the same again.  The third moment is, of course, holding beautiful Katherine in my arms, amazed that she existed, that I could hold her, that I was forevermore a mother.  I knew there was no going back, that every part of my life had just changed.

Then, cancer.  I got the phone call while I was in the grocery store, from a nurse at a surgeon's office.  In the time it takes to say just the words, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but the results are back and you have cancer..." my whole world permanently altered.

My whole world changed again with the utterance, "We need a divorce."

Today, my world tipped again.

I got a message saying that I should come in to discuss the position that I've interviewed four times for, and there is "positive news."

Dear readers, I have fought so long and hard to get my career together after a near decade of being a stay at home mom cancer patient.  I took a job in an industry that didn't interest me at all, but paid my bills and suited my life, and I was just so relieved that I wouldn't have to live in my parents' basement.  And then the unemployment, which was relatively brief in the scope of my life, but so painful.  And then the job in the new, "correct" industry of nonprofit, but at an organization that I always knew wouldn't be a long term fit for me, and with a boss who turned out to be one of my life's lessons.  I have often felt like Sisyphus, making so little progress.  The current job barely pays enough to meet all of my responsibilities, and I've been holding off on Katherine's next set of braces, and I haven't traveled or done many other things, because I couldn't.  My boss is.....well, beyond belief.  I wake up every morning with a knot in my stomach, dreading going in to the office, and I go anyway and work my brains out, scrambling to do my best because I believe in the mission of the organization and my commitment to helping their clients.  I work incredible overtime, with no praise from my boss, despite my remarkable results.  (I took the job to get the experience that I needed to get the jobs I really wanted.)

But this new job?

Oh.  I hardly have enough words to describe how I feel.

I will be my own boss, the Executive Director.  The board is a group of incredibly talented, motivated, fabulous women.  I will be doing the work that I'm good at, and I'll be able to help women who are fighting for their lives.

I will be able to prove to my daughter that when adversity hits - cancer - I know how to turn it into something beautiful.  I am turning the hell that was my cancer treatment into something that will save women, feed my soul, make the world into  a better place.

I get a raise - a big one; I won't be rich, but I will be able to breathe again, to save, to be less panicked at each new expense.  I get to work from home, with my tired, achy old dog - the most loyal creature to have ever lived - at my feet, and be at home many days when Katherine arrives home from school (I envision having a cup of herbal tea together for a moment before she does homework and I go back to the downstairs office to finish my day).  I get to go out into the community, and grow this small nonprofit into something sizable that can make a bigger difference.  I get to call my own shots, while working with people I respect, and changing the world.

I'm good at what I do, with results that prove that, and I am going to be great at this.  I feel it in my soul, and my heart bursts with the joy of it.

I haven't signed anything yet, and so it's hard to believe it's really happening, but what I know is this:

I am meeting with the board president to discuss the position, and she has positive news.

I just felt the world tip.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Big week ahead

I'm in the middle of it.

Work: it's the busy season, and the big event is on October 17.  I often feel like I'm drowning in the work load.....but it's going to come together.

Career: Please send out thoughts, wishes, prayers.  I have my final interview for an amazing opportunity on Tuesday.  This is a heart-connection job: it feels so good to think about it, because I know that I would be just as good for them as they are for me.  I really, really want it.  I've passed every step until now with flying colors, but I do know that I can make it this far and still get turned down.  Please pray that doesn't happen, and that the full board gives me their vote of confidence and hires me.

Romance: Oh, dear readers, I've made progress.  I met a nice man.  We talked every day for two weeks.  We went on two dates.  He is kind, smart, successful, a dedicated father, a good friend, easy to be with.  But he had some other things that told me he was not in a good place for dating, and that he wasn't the right person for me (including an alarming lack of chemistry, even though he's not bad looking).  I gently, kindly, but firmly said no thank you.  I do not need a placeholder boyfriend, even though that sounds kind of appealing.  I listened carefully to my gut, and my motivations, and I feel absolutely at peace.

Too bad - he has a boat and a cabin and it would have been fun.  ;-)

He's small potatoes compared to the job opportunity.  Please, please, please let this be the right fit, the job that is meant for me!

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Did I really last write in May?

Oh dear.

Readers, I've been busy.  Not "I'm too busy to blog!" but "I'm busy trying to figure out my life, and while I figure it out I have no idea what to say."

Generally, when I'm writing, I'm grounded.  You would be accurate to assume that my lack of writing here - and anywhere else - is a sign that I haven't been grounded lately.  At all.

I'm okay.  Things in my life are humming along, all things considered.  I am healthy and strong.  My daughter is thriving.  I still live in a big old house that, while a bit worn around the edges, is also cozy and filled with comforts.  I've spent as many weekends this summer as possible out backpacking, filling my soul with forests and alpine lakes and incredible vistas that nearly make me weep with their beauty (yes, I'm sappy like that).

But some deeper work is going on.

I believe that we keep learning our lessons, over and over, until we get them right.  Well, it seems that I have not learned some critical lessons just yet, and it is about time.  I've been struggling, and I think that I've been so deep in the struggle I couldn't even analyze it or explain it: it exhausted me past my ability to figure it out.

On the surface, the struggle is about a bad boss.  My Executive Director is temperamental, prone to emotional outbursts.  He runs a disorganized organization.  He manages through fear, control, and ego.  He is prone to committing to things, and then changing his mind after the ball is already rolling.  He has looked me in the eye and lied to me on multiple occasions.  What's worse, we serve an incredibly low income community and he treats our clients disrespectfully and doesn't always operate within their best interests.  To say that it is disheartening is an understatement.  Over the past year plus, it has worn me down.  I have been weary, and felt more and more broken.

There is no question that I'm good at what I do.  The results are clear, and the feedback from other staff, others in the field, clients, volunteers, and my peers at other organizations is clear.  When my boss allows me to do my job, I get results.  I am proud of my work, clearly on the right career path.  When asked directly, my boss actually tells me that I'm doing good work, that he's pleased with my results, that hiring me was a great idea.

But I'm locked in a bizarre relationship with this boss, who treats me badly and then praises me.  It's nonsensical and confusing.


Bryan, too, treated me badly and then told me that all was well.  Bryan was temperamental, too; he also made illogical decisions and then expected me to clean up his messes.

Clearly there is a pattern.  Over the past few months, I've been struggling not to see the pattern - oh, it's there, clear enough! - but to determine my role in it.  Why do I keep attracting these impossible situations for myself?  Why don't my friends struggle with this?  Why am I locked in this pattern?


My father is all about control and "respect."  He demands that I adhere to the notion that he is my superior, and that what he says is to be done, without question.  I supposed that there are plenty of fathers like that; strict dads aren't that unusual.  But the thing with my parents is that one minute they are playful and generous and treat me like I'm interesting and special and that my ideas have value, and the next they are angry and name calling and unkind.

This week, my plans to go backpacking got canceled.  This was my "big trip" this year: having limited money (Bryan is again unemployed, and again not paying child support) I had planned a trip into the mountains for four or five nights as my big vacation.  However, the weather - hot and sunny all summer! - suddenly shifted to downpours and lightening, so it wasn't safe to go to the woods.  I was glum about it: I've been fantasizing about this trip for months, and badly needed to clear my head and get a break.  My father called me, concerned about my safety, and kindly asked about my plans.  I told him that I just wasn't sure what to do: I needed to stay safe, but I didn't have money in the budget to do hotels and such, so I was feeling sad about it. My father said, "Well, I think you need a vacation.  Why don't I give you some money so that you can take a trip?  You and Katherine need a break.  Where would you like to go?  What would you like to do?  I can help, just tell me what you need."

I hesitated.  I have seen this before, and sometimes it's a trap.

I said, "That is so incredibly kind and generous of you - thank you for offering.  Please know that Katherine and I are fine, and though I absolutely love that you offered, I don't want you to feel obligated," and so on.  I was determined not to fall into the trap this time.

He said, "No, tell me what you want!  I want to help!"

I still hesitated.  "Well....I don't want to tell you how much to spend.  If you'd like to help out, please tell me what you feel comfortable with, and I will work within that budget..."

He got annoyed with me, said, "Come on!  I want to help!  Just tell me what you want to do!"

I bit the bullet.  "I'd love to go to the San Juans for maybe three nights, stay in a little hotel..."

I hadn't finished the idea when he snorted.  "WHAT!?  That's ridiculous.  The cost of the ferry, and you've got so many other expenses - do you really think you should be spending money on a vacation right now?!"

I was still sucked in, trying to please him.  "I'm sorry, I don't understand, Dad.  I am not sure what to say, I thought you wanted me to give ideas....?"

My father, loving and kind five minutes before, practically sneered through the phone.  "If you want my money," he said, "You're going to have to grovel."


I can not, in ten million years, imagine seriously telling Katherine to grovel in order to receive a gift, or imagine begging for her ideas on a vacation and then telling her that her ideas were ridiculous and worthy of scorn.  I can not imagine offering her something, and then rescinding it.  I can not imagine telling her "Ask for anything!" and then treating her as if she was unreasonable.

I have played this game with my parents my whole life: they offer kindness, gifts, praise....and then switch gears, and I find myself with my head spinning.  How can my father go from openly offering a gift - which I did not request or hint at - to treating me as if I'm a foolish spendthrift, and telling me that I need to grovel?

Who the hell tells their kid to grovel to receive gifts?!  Never mind that I'm in my mid-forties; this type of language has been around my whole life.  My father doesn't just treat me like this, he treats everyone like this, and because he's "the boss" (the patriarch of the family as well as a successful business owner) he gets away with it.  Well, except that there are snickers behind his back and I think he knows it....he has his own struggles, and his control issues, his ego issues, likely pain him much more than they pain me.

And here's the lesson I'm trying to learn, deeply and thoroughly: this behavior is not normal or acceptable.  It is not a reflection on who I am, or my value.  And it is NOT MY JOB TO FIX IT.


When Bryan lied to me, I stuck it out for years, and did a lot of self-work to figure out how I was contributing to our marriage problems, and tried to be sexier/more interesting/a better wife.  I picked up his slack, over and over, hoping that he'd see that I had worth and value, and the harder I tried, the less he appreciated me.  Actually, it was almost an inverse formula: the more I worked at our marriage, the less he did.  He was very happy to hand me all of the work....and give me all of the blame.

My parents raised me to be like this, and I'm slow to see it.  They switched gears based on their moods or whims, and expected me to respond with gratitude, whether it was to praise or insults (I heard "you can do anything you set your mind to" and "you're a moron!" in equal doses.  They raised me to believe that "groveling" was what one does to people in power.  I was expected to switch gears when they broke promises, without resentment; *I* was expected to try harder.  (The big broken promise was college: in my senior year of high school they told me that they would not pay for my college, after a lifetime of telling me that they would.  I managed to put myself through college with only the tiniest bit of help - $100 here and there when I literally could not buy groceries - from my parents.  They unabashedly gave my brother a full ride at college, paying for everything, which is more ironic because he dropped out and never graduated, while I managed to get two undergraduate degrees and a masters on my own.)

I have spent the past year groveling to my boss, trying to work around his craziness to make it make sense, to prove that I am worth his praise.  In the context of my birth family and my husband, this makes sense.  It is pure craziness, and yet in my head I've allowed it to make sense.


So what is my lesson?  In the midst of all of that craziness, what is it that I am to learn?  Saying "Don't sign up for crazy!" is far too simple.  What is it that I need to learn?

Here's what I think the lesson is:

Other people's bad behavior is not a reflection of my character, and I don't need to own it in any way.  I do not need to prove my worth, to convince them to change, or to accept their behavior.  I can say "No" and doing so is a sign of health, self-respect, and integrity.  Sticking around to help them to solve their problems - when they don't want to solve their own problems - is not useful or desirable.

When I walked away from my husband, I thought I'd learned that....but I see that it was an incomplete lesson, an important first step, but not my destination.

This week, when my father told me to grovel, I didn't yell at him or accuse him - what would be the point?  Instead I just said, "Thanks for your offer but I can manage this."  And then I managed it: I did a little road trip, stayed with family in another town, had some adventures.  I had a great time, on my own budget, without his help.  Most importantly, I didn't grovel, or apologize to him for something I hadn't done, or try to make him feel good about himself.  I do not owe him for his offer, and I don't need to wonder what I did wrong that he basically rescinded it, mid-conversation.  I did not attempt to convince him of my worth, by groveling or by getting angry.

I think this surprised him, actually.

With my boss, I'm also laying the foundation for walking away.  A favorite charity is interviewing me, and I might just get the job.  It's a dream job, and I do hope that I get it....but if I don't get this one, I'll get another job, just as good.  I've shared my concerns with the board, and they are concerned, also.  They see the good work I'm doing, and they are astonished at what I've revealed (especially because it all checks out).  In the end, the ED may be fired over this, and the board is begging me to stay.  I know that it doesn't feel healthy for me to stay, however, and I am okay walking away.  I leave them in better condition than when I found them, and I am ready for my next career step.  Their need is not my problem to solve.


My worth is not judged by other people's behavior.  I do not need to analyze, to convince, to argue, to fight for kind treatment.

I am taking this information with me, into the next phase of my life.  In all of  my interactions - personal, professional, and everything in between - I am holding fast to this new knowledge.

My worth is not determined by people who are struggling with their own worth.

It is not my responsibility to fix damaged people.

...and, because I am PollyAnna, one more lesson, encapsulated in a Taylor Swift lyric:
"Don't you worry your pretty little mind,
People throw rocks at things that shine..."

Well, I'm shining.  With every year, I get a little brighter, learn a little more, make a bit more progress.

Mark my words:

This shiny thing is going to get the next job, and she's going to learn to love herself so deeply and thoroughly that she will attract a man who also knows how to love himself, and together, we will have a love that offers great light into the world.  I feel it getting closer, and I know it's true!


PS  All of this introspection is exhausting.  It has taken me months to figure this out, and writing it, my belly has done little flip flops.  I am, perhaps, a very slow learner.  Better late than never!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A filled closet

When Bryan and I were married, we shared a closet.  My home, which was ours back then, was built in 1923 when people didn't have as much stuff as we do now, and the closet is only about 7-8 feet long, with a shelf up top and a bar for hangers.  He had his half, and I had my half.

Which seems fair, except that I had more clothes than he did (he preferred to cycle through about 10 polo shirts and a couple pairs of jeans and a couple pairs of slacks, whereas I had blouses and skirts and dresses and slacks and jeans and long coats and short coats and so on).  My side of the closet was completely crammed, and his had room to spare.  Let it be noted that he didn't want more clothes, he was perfectly content with his small wardrobe, because fashion isn't his thing.

One day I noticed that he had lots of space, and that I was crammed, and I put a couple things on his side, past the bracket holding the bar in the middle that marked his vs. mine.

He was livid.  He told me that it wasn't fair and that I took more than my share.  (Ironic, given spending habits and household work and childcare etc.)  He put my things back on my side, pouted, fumed, and stomped his feet.  (How sexy, right?)

When he moved out of the bedroom (first to the basement, and then to his own apartment), I took over his side of the closet.  My clothes now hung, wrinkle free, with room to breathe.  I could feel myself feeling relaxed, even as the clothes relaxed.  We were both less confined.

Over time, I've transitioned the plastic hangers to wooden ones, and what's more, I've added to my wardrobe.  Now that I'm in charge of my own finances, I've picked up some nicer clothes for myself (again, ironic: our married income was much greater than my single income, but I am so much better off financially without him spending so much on himself) and the closet is once again filled....with my things.

The closet feels symbolic of my own growth, of my own taking care of myself, of my expansion into the world.  It's prettier now.  It's feminine.  It's mine.

And this, perhaps, is a problem.

I'd love to have a partner.  I'd love a man who lights up when he sees me.  I'd love to fall asleep in someone's arms.  I'd love sex (lots and lots and lots of sex).  I'd love to share vacations, meals, planning for the future.  I'd love to share chores, errands, crises, and joys.

Except that maybe I wouldn't.

I don't want to give up any space in my closet.

I want to share my life with someone, in all of its messy glory, but I don't.  I don't want to give up half the closet.  I don't want to eat the way someone else wants to eat.  I don't want to compromise the way I parent.  I don't want to share finances.  I don't want to deal with someone else's schedule.

I don't want to be consumed, eaten alive by someone else's desires.

I am terrified of giving my heart to someone ever again, because last time I tried that, I was eaten alive.  I lost so much of who I was in my marriage, and I allowed someone to bully me, to blame me, to put his wants and desires in front of mine.  I allowed myself to be treated unkindly.  I took on too much, I asked for too little, and I turned the other cheek until I felt black and blue (thankfully metaphorically).  I lost many of my dreams in the process, and I'm still breathing life back into them, still working on healing them.

I am well aware that in true partnership, there is so much more to be gained than there is to be lost.  I am well aware that my marriage was truly and deeply dysfunctional, and that I will never agree to that behavior again.  I am well aware that I am operating from a place of fear, and that without opening my heart up, I will not be able to invite another person into my heart.

But I do not trust myself to choose a partner wisely.  I do not trust myself to give my heart without giving up my spunk and sass and sass.  I have thrown out the baby with the bathwater: I won't let anybody in, because it might not work out, and because I might not  know how to manage it.

Well, shit.

I am not a fearful person.  I am courageous and strong and brave and I've proved it a hundred times.  (Next up: speaking publicly about my breast cancer experience.  And after that: topless photos and my story, to be published in a book geared at women newly diagnosed with breast cancer; the first photos - not of me - were recently published in The Huffington Post.  These are not for the faint of heart.)  I manage my life relatively fearlessly.  Last weekend I went backpacking - with a far-too-heavy pack filled with 20 year old equipment - with my daughter, in the wilderness, for two nights.  I am not a fearful person.

So I'm going to have to work through these fears, too.  I believe that romantic love and companionship is one of the greatest blessings in a life, and I will not exclude myself from that possibility by operating out of fear.

I don't want to give up space in my closet, because I don't want to be small and powerless.  I don't want to share, for fear that when I offer the first bite, I will be gobbled up until I'm not even there any more.

I want to find ways to expand my closet so that there's room for two, and expand my soul, so that there is room for two.

I'm not there yet.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Do overs

I am a huge fan of the do over.

Some are small: a haircut, a new eating routine, painting a room, taking a break.  Some are bigger: a new job, a new relationship, starting therapy, a big vacation.  Some are enormous: a divorce or a marriage, a new career, a move.

I'm ready for a do over in my life, and I am thinking large scale.  I feel so dissatisfied with so many things right now, too many things that make me feel small, and I'm reaching the point of being so dissatisfied that I'm actually going to do something about it.

Some things are easy to define: I am going to look for a new job.  Now.  I am going to put my heart and soul into the painful work of growing my career.  I am going to risk rejection, I am going to balance continuing to work with interviews and mothering, and I'm going to get a better job that will maybe let me get ahead, not just spin my wheels, and that will be in a healthier environment.

Some things are harder to define: right now, I long for the connection of romantic love, and I am completely closed off to it, which means that I'm doomed to dissatisfaction unless I change one of those things.  I have seriously considered saying "SCREW IT!" and abandoning my notions of partnership.....and I won't.  I am going to embrace the idea of finding love.  Somehow.  Someday.  Doing so makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and it's a painful admission, knowing as I do that there are no guarantees, but I'm going to find a way to stay open.

I'm reading Brene' Brown's latest book, "Daring Greatly," and it's uncomfortable reading.  She says that in her search to understand vulnerability, she found that people fell into two categories.  The first category of people are perfectionists who measure themselves via their productivity, who subscribe to the temple of busyness, who believe that they are not enough and so they try to be "good" so that people will see their goodness.  The second category of people are those who embrace their vulnerability and live wholeheartedly; this second group is often described as being creative.

I long to be a writer.  I have written since childhood, I have journals filled with notes, and I have stories that bubble inside me.  Lately, the stories are more and more insistent, entering my dreams, popping into my head while I stare at spreadsheets and databases, haunting me when I'm doing other things.  I read other people's words, and my stories whisper to me to put them on a page.  I keep those stories inside of me, longing for them so much that I can't let them leave me because outside of me, they are not safe.  If I let the stories leave me, then they might come under attack and find that people loathe them, pick them apart, can't see their beauty, call them names.  Worst, if I let my stories leave me, then they might be met with silence, with nobody who cares about them.  They might be ignored.

My stories might be the best part of me; I feel certain that they are.  They are me, they are something of my essence.  And so having them insulted or ignored feels like an attack on my soul.

So I lock them in a dark room, not daring to put them on paper, because I am the worst offender, and it is I who insult them and ignore them, and I am ashamed of that behavior.  I put them in a bubble, safe behind doors, instead.  But they wither without sunlight and trees; their muscles shrink without exercise; they long for companionship just as I do.

I want a do over of all of this.  It sounds ridiculous to me, even as I type it.  If I know what the problem is - and I've known for decades! - then I need to address it.  A fat person does not become thin by wishing for thinness; she needs to start by taking walks around the block and skipping the grilled cheese sandwiches in favor of vegetable soup.  A person does not become a writer by wishing it: she needs to put it on paper.


The timing for this might be perfect.

I am lonely.  And feeling disconnected.  And my friends are too busy for real connection, leaving us instead with a glass of wine here, a party there, and I want more.

What a perfect time to spend more time writing, to take that solitude and turn it into something.

Maybe my loneliness is a gift.  Maybe it's time, and that only with time alone can I create the things that I need to create; maybe the loneliness is a shadow cast by the brighter sun around what I need to do.


There's a new TV show starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda called Grace & Frankie.  See more here:

The show is surprisingly clever and with a lot more depth than I expected, and you should check it out if you're looking for some entertainment.  But that's not why I'm mentioning it.  I'm mentioning it here because the two main characters, who have been thrown together in improbable circumstances, are opposites of one another, and I see myself in both of them, even in their opposition.  One of the characters is polished, professional, and driven.  I long to be like her, and have spent years of my life trying to create a life like that.  The other character is wholehearted, unconventional, even strange.  I have longed to avoid being weird like that.

But I think I am meant to be weird like that.  That being polished and professional and exactly what society wants me to be is exactly what I do not long for.  That the split between these two is the source of too much tension in my life.

It's time for me to work on my weird.  45 year old divorced cancer survivor single moms do not become writers in between paying the bills and going to gymnastics competitions.

But I think it's time for me to decide to do just that.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Dear readers, I'm struggling.

I am so good at being a PollyAnna that sometimes I don't see my feelings following me like a shadow; I'm so good at finding light that when I stumble into darkness it somewhat startles me.

I'm feeling startled.

This has been a particularly rough month: a death in the family that brought up old feelings about a different death in the family (someone that I still deeply miss); Bryan's stroke; my father's eye surgery; Katherine's flu (not a big deal except that she felt horrid and I had to juggle childcare versus work, and it's hard to see her sick like that); and the never ending saga of my dysfunctional work environment and some pressures I feel there and my confusion about what to do next.  I've had late nights working, and I feel worn through to the bone.

It should come as no surprise that a list like that would make me feel sad, and it did.  I plowed on through.  I kept going, keeping all the balls in the air.  I keep doing that, actually: spending half the weekend doing fun kid things and half the weekend doing chores.

I reached out to friends a couple of times this month, deeply.  I told one friend that I just felt like crying, and she said, "You need down time, a four day weekend...." and then she proceeded to ask for my help with some of her chores (long story involving a mouse that got into a cupboard and her freak out over it that involved throwing away half of her kitchen pantry and cleaning like a madwoman...with my help).  I called another friend and said, "I think I'm having a panic attack!" and she said, "Oh no!  What can I do to help?" and then we got cut off and she had a meeting and she forgot to call back.

I don't have shitty friends, but this was shitty behavior.

I believe in confronting my issues head on, and whether I want to or not, all of this has me looking hard at my life, trying to figure out what's going on in my head behind the positive attitude.

I'm realizing that, though surrounded by lovely, loving people, I feel isolated and lonely.

Oh, crapcrapcrap.  I don't want to feel like that.  Surely it's me?  Surely there is some attitude adjustment that I can make, some revision of my attitude, some way to shine light on the shadow to MAKE IT GO AWAY?  I have many friends: I feel liked, and I get invited to parties and whatnot....

But no, this is real, and ignoring it or pretending it away won't work.

The life of a 45 year old divorced woman who isn't into the party scene and doesn't want to go on dozens of first dates or settle for a "nice" relationship is lonely.  I'm lonely.

My friends, while well intentioned, really just don't get it.  Their lives are centered around their families, most of which include husbands.  At the end of the day, they crawl under the covers and say "Hey could you call the mechanic about the weird sound the car started making?" and "What do you want to do about choosing high schools?" and "Where do you want to go on vacation?"  They have double the financial resources, or more, because they weren't stay at home moms who took a decade "off" before going into nonprofit.  They have someone to help mow the grass, or they can afford to pay someone else to do it.  They have a built in support system, inside their homes.  I know that their support system is often imperfect, and that spouses can be selfish or thoughtless or forgetful....but at the end of the day, my friends choose to slide under the sheets next to the warm body of the person that they've chosen to share their lives with.

While I get invited to a lot of parties (usually kid-focused affairs with potlucks), I've noticed that my dinner invitations have dropped off.  My married friends invite married friends over; the guys want to talk about the Seahawks or man-stuff (clearly I'm clueless in this regard) and I don't bring a plus-one for them to play with.  Same is true of weekends away.  Some of this is financial: my friends are, for the great part, far better off than I am at this point, and I simply can't join the girls' weekend in Palm Springs or the ski trip to Sun Valley or rent a cabin in the Methow because I don't have the means.

I know how much I have to be grateful for.  I haven't forgotten.

But I'm lonely, and for good reasons.

I told one friend about my feelings about being single in a world designed for couples, and she got super-defensive about it, as if I were accusing her of being a bad person and a bad friend.  Dear reader, her reaction made me feel like their were some truth to her wasn't the response of a friend looking out for me, it was the response of someone who wanted to be told that despite her absence in my life, a fifteen minute phone call filled with "You know I love you!" and "I miss you!" and "Don't worry, I trust that you'll get what you need!" would somehow make it okay.  It's friendship-light.  I don't want shallow, I want deep.  I don't want nice words, I want the actions that support those words.  Have my friendships become friendship-light?  Airy declarations of friendship without substance?  A horrid thought, not one I've had before, and it's troubling, and it makes me feel lonelier than ever.

What I want is my plus-one.  I'm realizing that friends can't fill that role, and that I am spending far too much time alone.  How can I not?  I must weed the strawberry beds, go to the grocery store, drive to gymnastics.  Every weekend I gather with friends for three or four hours or so out of my long week....and it isn't enough.  But I don't want parties with breezy talk and I don't need grand vacations....I want the companionship of a partner with shared goals.  I want an adult across the dinner table; I want an arm around my shoulders; I want someone to chat with about the NPR article; I want a hiking companion.  I don't want to be surrounded by people, I want the depth of relationship.

I know how to find companionship: it's easy to find activities.  I want more than that.

I have more questions than answers, and I'm going to try to unravel these thoughts and figure out how to find peace with them.  I know that a work environment with colleagues would be a massive improvement; I know that lifting my financial purgatory (hey, it's better than hell!) will probably lift my mood.

I am not hopeful about finding a life partner, and perhaps it is this realization that has brought this loneliness about.

Life is messy and complicated.  I will figure it out, and I will find my joie de vivre again.  Somehow.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Til Death Do You Part

I take my promises seriously.  I like looking in the mirror and seeing integrity, so I contort myself into ridiculous positions to keep promises.  Mostly, I like it that way: it's a choice that helps me to sleep at night, and it's a comforting guideline for my own behavior when I wonder what to do ("Should I....oh, wait, I've already decided....I have to keep my promise even when it's inconvenient").

It seems to me that I am keeping a promise that I made, even after I thought I broke it.

Getting divorced is, at some level, the ultimate breaking of a promise.  All of those vows, spoken in sincerity to a beloved, surrounded by family and friends, are broken.

I spoke the traditional vows at my wedding to Bryan.  I joked that I had grown up hearing them, and it seemed like we wouldn't 'really' be married unless I heard those familiar words:

I, PollyAnna, take you Bryan, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.

I thought, as it seems reasonable, that I had broken every last one of those vows when I uttered the words "We need a divorce."

It turns out that nothing is simple, and this isn't simple.

He's not my husband, and that's pretty clear.  Legally, spiritually, in whatever way possible, he is no longer my husband.  But after that, it gets pretty tricky, as it turns out.  He's not my husband, but he is still mine.  Sharing a child keeps us together, and he is "my" ex.  It definitely got worse (and worse, and worse), and there was a great deal of sickness and "poorer", and we are still tangled together, divorced though we may be, co-parenting that child of ours.

Love?  Believe it or not, I actually work at loving Bryan.  Not in a wifely way - the mere idea sends a quiver of fear and something bordering on revulsion through me - no, I do not feel even a drop of romantic love for the man I once shared my body and days with.  But I want to feel a sort of Buddhist love for all beings that includes Bryan, and I believe that hate is too hard to live with, so I work on love.  I do it imperfectly - my love in this regard is deeply flawed, filled with resentments - but I do work on it.  I do it for myself more than I do it for him, because it is who I wish to be, transcending our problems and seeing him as my father's daughter and a human being more than I see him as my issues with him.

I have given up hope of "cherish" though, and of all of the vows we made, that is the one that I most deeply regret having broken.  I long to be cherished - I feel it achingly; I feel parched and longing to be cherished.  I am not cherished, and I do not cherish.

But that last one?  There's the rub.

I thought we had parted - that the divorce papers proved it, that the separate residences were proof of it, that the separate bank accounts were part of it, that the separate vacations, dinner parties, and such were proof.  And yet, I can see that this is a vow that I have kept.  He will be in my life, at some level, until one of us dies.

Last week, Bryan had a mini stroke.  He informed me of it casually when I asked him an unrelated question in idle conversation while we waited for Katherine to gather her things at the child-transfer, as if it was no big deal and I should feel sorry for him all at once.  "I can't bike," he said, "because I've had some health issues."  "Oh, are you okay?" I asked, thinking he had a cold or something.  "I don't know," he replied, "but one morning this week I woke up and I couldn't move one side of my body, and now it is all tingly and numb."

He did not go to the doctor.  Instead, he "casually" threw out this information, and it landed like a pile of dog excrement hitting me in the chest.

I fell into over-compensating mode.  This is Katherine's father, and I recognized the signs of a stroke as soon as the words were out of his mouth, and all I could think is "Please don't leave our girl.  She needs you!  She has lost so much already, don't die and leave her to hurt."  What I said was "I believe you've had a stroke and you MUST go to the doctor" and so on.  He blew me off, of course - who wants to listen to advice from their ex-wife?  Not most, and not him.

I persisted.  I sent Mayo Clinic and WebMD links about strokes and symptoms of strokes.  I told him that I knew that my opinion didn't count, but that he should take care of himself for his own sake, but that if he wouldn't do that, I begged him to do it for Katherine's sake.  (Yes, I see the forbidden words.  Should?  Must?  Not appropriate language for ex-wives.)

Eventually, he went to the doctor (a week after the stroke).  The doctor confirmed my suspicions.  He also confirmed that Bryan's blood pressure is at the "crisis" level, the level at which 911 should be called (even in the absence of other symptoms) and death is a possibility and organ damage is occurring and future heart attacks and strokes are predicted.  He was immediately put on meds and has a series of tests and appointments lined up.  Bryan sent me an email thanking me for sending him to the doctor: he knows that I have likely saved his life by doing so.

Until death do us part, indeed.


This week I've felt incredibly sad, but that sadness is quickly followed by anger.  Flashing, bright, burning anger.

I got a divorce in part because I could not bear to be with someone who consistently made horrible life choices that had negative impacts on my life.  I could not bear to tie my fate to someone who not only blamed me for his problems, and could or would not support my problems, but who also went against the advice of all advisors (wives, bosses, financial planners, doctors, etc.) and made foolish decisions and then told me that "what's done is done" and left me to clean up the messes.  He mismanages his life just as he mismanaged our marriage, and I want no part of it: it is clear that unless he changes dramatically, he will go down in flames, and I choose not to join him in that journey.

And yet it continues to fall on my shoulders to guide him out of disaster, and I can not shake my obligation to protect Katherine from her father's death.  I could not face myself if he indicated that he'd had a stroke, and I did not encourage him to go to the doctor or share my suspicions about what had happened to him.  Loving humanity means reaching out to someone in great need, and this is sometimes a burden.  Right now, it feels like a huge emotional burden with Bryan.

I "let" him do whatever he wants most of the time, refusing to think about it or to interfere, and I've been grateful for that. His unemployment, his parenting - these things I do not touch.

But this is life or death, and there is one thing clear to me: there is no recovery once he's dead.  Katherine can manage her flawed parents, and she can see his mistakes for herself, and she can manage the disappointment of a dad who is only partially available to her.  But once he's dead?  Nothing.

'Til death do us part.  Apparently I continue to keep that promise, despite my intention to break it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


I really, truly, deeply loathe uncertainty.

For me, the hardest part is not actually DOING the hardest part, it's muddling through what ought to be done, not sure of my path.  Hearing that I would need a mastectomy and wondering if I'd be able to face all that entailed was actually harder than doing the surgery; when I woke up and faced my own wounds, still in recovery, it was almost a blessed relief: I had done the deed, I had survived it, and I was still me.

But the uncertainty about my ability to manage it, to know what to think, felt deadly.

I am in a time of uncertainty right now, a crossroads of sorts.  I did not get the job, and after the initial gulping, gasping sting of that blow to my ego (if not to my career), I am left feeling....unsure.  I don't even know what I feel.  I am not dead, nor gasping for air.  I am not jubilant.  I am not angry.  But I am confused, uncertain, unsure.

What do I do next?

Going after the job felt certain: I had a plan, and I stuck to it.  I did my best.  I thought it out.  I practically dreamed of it, wondered about it, but felt certain that I was on the right path.  Clearly I was wrong, as it was not my path, but being wrong is something I'm used to.  I may have been meant to interview, but the job was not meant for me, and I am not bitter about it.  There were warning signs - too many interviews/hoops, and a job open for too long, and a process that took months - and perhaps it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.  Certainly, I'll never know now, and I have a fair amount of peace about that.

Still, I have no idea what to do in the aftermath.  I thought that I should stay at my current job 18 months before moving on (professionally and personally it might be a good idea!), but it feels simultaneously uncomfortably small and frustrating, and like maybe I could accomplish great things there before moving on.  Should I re-gather my energy and go after another job, or should I stay where I am?

Staying has advantages.  It is TIRING to start a new job at a new company, and I'd have to prove myself all over again, putting in lots of hours and learning new things from scratch.  Summer is coming, and with it the summer childcare nightmare, and in my current position I have some flexibility to pick up or drop off Katherine early or late, to work from home.  My boss knows that I work hard, has seen the last year's worth of 4:30am emails and late nights, and I have some leeway, well earned.  At a new job, there would be no summer vacation, no leeway.  Am I ready to take that on....again?

Leaving has its advantages.  I am truly underpaid for my industry, and struggling with that.  I would make more, significantly more, where I go next.  I would seek out, and find, a significantly more functional organization.  I'd grow professionally.  I'd get a larger group of colleagues, and mentors (something I deeply crave).

Am I ready to leave?  Or shall I put in more time?  I am uncertain.

This uncertainty is rippling into the rest of my life as well.  I have writer's block.  I feel anti-social, declining invitations and delaying returning personal emails.  I don't know where I want to be in six months, or what I should be doing to get there.  It's unlike me - I do my best when I'm busy, on the path, marching along, watching the scenery.  But right now, I feel very still, very in place, and it's uncomfortable.


I also had a little epiphany about men that has me feeling uncertain.  Bryan and I didn't have a spark, certainly not when we first met, nor for several years afterwards, and I've thought that was part of my mistake, and that sparks were part of the future deal I would strike.  But something happened that has me questioning that idea, and it's caught me off guard.

I've talked here about Gymnastics Dad.  Handsome, "just my type" physically, with a bit of an edge.  Very creative, very expressive.  Very self involved (when we went for a walk together, he did not notice puddles and step aside for me, nor did he slow down when I had to stop and wait for him to go around them, so I then had to scurry to catch up with him...and scurrying is not romantic or sexy).  Maybe a bit of a party boy.  A bit moody.  Think George Clooney meets James Dean - a bit of a bad boy with charm.  I looked up and saw him for the first time, and every hormone in my body sang a little song and perked up, a physical reaction to his sexiness.

But let's face it, he's a bit of a jerk.  A charming, boyish, smart, creative, attractive.....jerk.  He gave me a tiny casual lie the other day, something small and insignificant, and then, I think fearing that I'd caught him, he love bombed me, and gave me more compliments than expected, and was more charming than usual.

The old me would have been confused - surely such a small lie doesn't matter, or maybe I was wrong and he really did what he said he did? (He did not.)  And such nice things to say.....give him a break!  But it feels wrong, but I want it to be right....and round and round it goes.

The new me can't smile and back away fast enough.  He's charming, and if I did friends with benefits I think I'd sign up.  Alas, that is not my way, and so I did not.

And here leads to the funny epiphany.

Yesterday at gymnastics I walked in and literally walked right past one of the other dads, also a divorced dad that I sometimes talk to, without even seeing him.  He called out to me and smiled, so I apologized ("Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't see you at first!") and sat down next to him for a chat.

We talked about hiking.  Backpacking.  Books, fiction and nonfiction.  Cooking, and baking.  Our kids.  (It should be noted that though he is divorced, he often comes to see his daughter when it's not his night "on".  I find this incredibly attractive in a person, male or female.)  His eyes twinkled, and I noticed for the first time how incredibly smart he is.  He spoke kindly of his ex-wife (and Gymnastics Dad says that his ex is horrible, then explains how horrible).  I know that he's kind to his ex-wife, actually, because I'm also friends with her through gymnastics (we really do spend a lot of time bringing our kids there), and she speaks well of him.  She's going through a hard time, and he had the kids make her a nice meal - he's that kind of ex-husband.  (Just like I'm that kind of ex-wife; interesting!)

I saw him as a man for the first time.  I noticed that he's tall.  That he's got broad shoulders.  That he probably works out.  That he (ahem) has big feet, and wears nice shoes.  That he shaves his head all the way, and carries it off.  I noticed that he lights up when he talks about things he cares about.  But most of all, I noticed how absolutely steady he seemed.  Something in him (and really, I'm pretty good at identifying these things when I am honest with myself) seems rock-solid and believable; I think he's a man of his word, someone you could depend upon.  He's not George Clooney, or Brad Pitt.  He's attractive in a normal kind of way.  But suddenly, I saw him differently, all at once.

It all came to me at once, after 20 conversations with his man prior to yesterday, and I almost started laughing.

I have had a mad crush on Gymnastics Dad, felt irresistibly drawn to him.  And I had a crush on the wrong Gymnastics Dad.   How is it that I've ignored someone much better suited to me, who has sat ten feet away through many of my conversations with Gymnastics Dad?!

No, I don't know what I am doing.  I don't know where I'm going.  I'm not dating, so "noticing" a man doesn't mean anything.  Except that I'm trying to sit with my own uncertainty about where I am, where I'm going, and what I want.


It's new for me.  I'm learning to sit with it, wait it out.  Who knows what will happen next?  Not me!  For now, I walk the path of uncertainty about life, career, romance.  Time will reveal all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sugar Crash

I've been in a bit of a fog since I got the news that the dream job is someone else's reality, not mine.

I had a happy little sugar buzz going on for the past few months while I dreamed of what could be, but I feel the crash now.  All the sugar of that sweet dream has left my system, and I'm left with.....I don't know what I'm left with. All I know is that it doesn't feel great.

I'm going to lick my wounds this week.  Mothering, working, and life in general will not wait while I figure out my next steps, so I keep doing them.  The yard must be mowed, the evening meeting awaits, and the endless cycle of dishes and laundry calls.  Friends are calling to offer support, and the weekend seems so far away but so tantalizing, and life marches on.

This week, I will sulk quietly, regroup, try to be gentle with myself.  I feel exhausted by the process, and I just want to catch my breath.

Next week, I'll implement some new plan.  Bigger, better, more.

But today I wish I could stay in my pajamas all day, drinking herbal tea and staring out the window, possibly taking a break to bake.  Today, even in the rain, would be good day to hunch over in the garden, pulling weeds mindlessly.

But instead, onward march.  One foot in front of the other, not quite sure where I'm going, but pretty sure that I need to keep on moving, and hopeful that every step gets me closer to something I want.

(I hope it's not another Character Building Lesson.  All of this character building is tiresome.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Real Life Practice

Today I got the call.  I haven't totally processed it yet, but indeed, my instincts were correct.  No dice, they want someone more experienced.

That is likely code for "man you really blew it but it'd be rude to say so..." and I saw it coming.

Does that soften the blow?  I don't know.  I'm telling myself that it softens the blow, but what is the truth?  That I'm crushed?  That I'm struggling with self doubt?  That I believe I'm trapped in a substandard job and reporting to a petty dictator who changes the rules as I go?  Or does it mean that better opportunities are waiting, that this wasn't the right time right now?  That I still have important lessons to learn?  That my current employer needs me more than before?  That given a bit more time, I will be even more valuable to my next employer?  That somewhere over the rainbow, there are bluebirds flying?

So, it's time to practice resilience.  Again.  I've gotten quite good at it, actually.  Lots, and lots, and lots of practice.

The truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle of the extremes.  I am not dying from the rejection, but it stings.  I do not feel thrilled with this result, and nor was I dying for yet another character building life lesson.  I do not feel diminished to nothing, but I feel the rejection, and I'm shaken.

I have lived through enough of these ups and downs in my life to know that it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (or, if you prefer more original sourcing, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" - whether you prefer Kelly Clarkson or Nietzsche it works for me).  I could have died many times, and I have lived, not because I am better, but because, well, I did.  Yes, I have fought hard to regain my life, both after cancer and after divorce, and yes I'm proud of the work that I've done, but some of it is pure luck, and I know that.  I am alive and okay, so I'm lucky.

But all of this unintentional and unasked for practice has built up some really, really good resiliency skills.

Tonight I've kicked off my shoes.  I'm writing it out.  As luck would have it, another gymnastics mom was on schedule to take Katherine to gymnastics, so I have two hours to myself.  There is an episode of The Good Wife that I haven't watched yet.

I don't know yet where this will land, but I'm going to be okay.


How to be resilient:

1)  Do your best.  That way when it all comes crashing down you have some integrity to fall back on.
2)  Look at all of the crappy things that have ever happened to you.  Realize that you lived.  Know that if you survived them, you can survive whatever disaster you're in the middle of.
3)  Figure out what you're grateful for.  Tattoo it on your brain.  Repeat it ad nauseam.  "I have a comfortable home, and incredible daughter, and good health.  My friends love me.  I have a great education and a good network...." and so on.  When you run out of big things, aim at the little ones.  "I'm glad that the trees are bursting into blossom, that I got up early to go on a run, that I got caught up on the laundry this weekend."
4)  Do a little self care.  Yesterday I had my first pedicure in almost a year (? is that when? I can't remember) and today I got my brows done (painful, but I like the results).
5)  Get out and sweat.  Seriously, work it out.  Pant.  Sweat.  Gasp for air.  Feel the burn.  It'll distract you.
6)  Repeat.  Over, and over, and over, until something changes.  Your mood will change, and you won't care so much, or life will change, and it will become irrelevant, or just enough time will pass that the wound will become a scar.  Scars are hot, right?
7)  When you're sick of repeating because it is tedious and it's not fucking working then you have to keep repeating.  (This is a good time to add a bit of wine, if it doesn't prevent you from getting up early the next day to sweat it out.  Run hard.  Run until you think you're going to barf.  That means you're getting close.)

Somehow, this works.  If it was easy, people would be more resilient, and we all see how they are not.

But I am.  I have nearly perfected resiliency, despite my best efforts to avoid it.  But hey, it's not a bad skill to have.

So I've got that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I'd like to tell you that I'm a Zen master and that Acceptance is my middle name.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Despite chronic optimism, I too am prone to doubt, fear, and most of all, fighting reality, trying to will things into being the way I want them, rather than the way they are.

(Case in point: my marriage.  There were some pretty serious signs that it was over before it began, but I told myself that if I just tried harder I could make it wonderful.  We all know how that ended, 13 years later, in divorce.)

I think I really blew my interview on Friday.  I won't go into the details, but please know that I'm not just being hard on myself, there were several missteps.  I could have done better, and I'm sure of that.  I know that I did not effectively convey what I wanted to convey, and that the interviewers (two of them) seemed to receive me rather coolly, and not with warmth.  I got rattled on one question, and on the others I didn't quite get to the essence of the answers.  It was an off day, not indicative of my skills.

Instant panic.

Over the weekend, I tried to come to terms with what I did and did not do well.  I've looked at it from every angle, and concluded that it is possible, or likely, that the last interviewers would not have been impressed by me.  Given that they're the head honchos, it would not surprise me if the job was not offered to me.

I do not exactly feel acceptance about this.  After the panic came sadness.  I thought this was the perfect job, such a good fit for both sides.  I've done so well in the interviews up until now, I really had a great chance at it!

But now the odds are not in my favor, and I have to find a way to accept that.

It's not easy to accept what we do not wish to accept.  I want to protest, and say, "NO!" the way a toddler does.  I want to snatch at the object, claiming "MINE!" and marching away with it.  Of course, this won't work. (It doesn't even work for toddlers; their mothers come along and say "now, now, give the truck back to Tommy" and such.)  Like a toddler, I want to lie on the floor and kick and yell "But I waaaaaaaannnnnnnt it!"

Of course that won't help.

So now I'm trying to see the good in all of this, trying to cultivate an acceptance that I don't quite feel.

Trying to imagine the job that is an even better fit for me.
Trying to picture what I can accomplish in my current job before I move on.
Trying to see what lessons are to be learned in this situation.
Trying to embrace all of the goodness in my life, and let the goodness outshine the shadow.

I haven't heard back anything officially, but my intellect and gut both say that I blew it.  It is what it is.

So, now I'm working with my heart, trying to soothe my own disappointment, to imagine a different future, to make the best of where I am.  I guess that's what acceptance is: it's simply refusing to throw the tantrum.  It's not a lack of feeling, it's a choice to guide my feelings rather than letting them flood me.  The older I get, the more that I see how this approach is useful, and gives me what I really want.

Crying over cancer just made me....drained.  Fighting cancer made me feel powerful.
Avoiding the problems in my marriage made them worse.  Confronting them gave me hope.
Fighting to keep my marriage made me exhausted.  Ending my marriage gave me my life back.

I wanted to be healthy, to have a romantic partnership based on trust and caring.  Wanting those things did not make them come true, though, and acknowledging that was the first step towards healing.

Sure, I fight acceptance, spinning in my bed at night wondering "what if" and "if only", but I know that my best course is to work on acceptance.

Who knows what the future will bring.  I will work hard to bring goodness to my life, to nurture the goodness already in my life.  There are sure to be many more curve balls, of course, and I will strive to accept them.

Today, I'm working on acceptance.*

*and also checking my phone every three minutes to see if they've called.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

When Good Things Happen

Life is so full of crazy that sometimes it's easy to keep an eye out for the next catastrophe, large or small, lurking around the corner.  Having survived cancer, divorce, and unemployment, I don't have to think too long and hard about what such a scare might look like.

But right now, I'm envisioning something quite the opposite of all of that.  I'm allowing myself to really envision the good things happening, the life that may be mine to make.

Yesterday's interview was nothing short of spectacular.

The V.P., on the telephone many states away, clearly loved me.  She spent a little while asking me tough questions, and she clearly loved my answers.  She then spent the rest of the interview letting me ask questions, and giving me a pretty fantastic sales pitch about the organization in return.  She asked me questions about start dates, and salary, and she said things like, "I think you have just the skills we've been looking for" and "I would be there to support you, and I'd fly out to introduce you to my connections" and other incredibly positive things.  She told me that those I'd interviewed with previously loved me, and had really great things to say about me.  She said that the man who would be my boss (who reports to her) was an incredibly smart, down to earth person and one of her favorites; she told me how much I would like him.

Up until now, I have really felt like I was the long shot candidate, and that a million different problems could get in the way of me getting this job.  I knew that I could do it, but I also knew that it might not happen.

Well, there still isn't an offer on the table, but I'm thinking that it could happen.  That it is LIKELY to happen.  That they are chasing me just as much as I am chasing them.

That in six weeks, my life might undergo another huge change, this one all for the best.


The biggest change that I'm undergoing is believing that not only will I survive, and find something that works, but that the scramble to stay afloat has ended, and that amazing things lie ahead.  That my surprises are the good kind, and not the scary kind.

This job would come with a 50% raise.  The funny thing about that number is that the money isn't what draws me to the job, it's just a lovely side effect.  I'm drawn to the job because it's my passion, and because I believe that it would take my talents and put them in position to make a real difference with my life.  I'm drawn to the job because I'd be fighting cancer professionally, and because that fight might one day save my own life, or my daughter's.  I'm drawn to the job because I'd be working with people at the tops of their fields, smart people that I'd like to be friends with; passionate people.  I'm drawn to the job because they've got a great infrastructure that would allow me to focus on the things that matter to me, rather than the running around in circles that I often do in my current job (don't even ask me about battles with my printer last week - the amount of effort I spent making things print properly and in bulk was atrocious!).

I want this job because I'm passionate about the work, and because I want to work with other people who are as passionate as I am, in a great work environment.  I want to show up to the office every day excited about what I do, and who I do it with.

But I also want the money.

I want to save for retirement and college.  I want to go on little vacations involving airplanes.  (Oh, how I long for travel, near and far!)  I want to know that when something goes wrong with the house - the furnace, the roof, plumbing, whatever - that I can fix it.  I want to replace my tires when they need replacing.  I want Katherine to get the next phase of orthodontia.  And sure, I'd love some great new shoes and pencil skirts - why not?!

I don't need to roll in money; I don't plan on buying myself jewelry, or fancy cars.  (My current car is uber fancy to me.  Did I mention that it's a Subaru Forester?  I don't want a Rolls Royce, or even a Lexus.  I want a car that's safe and comfortable, and takes me skiing, or hiking, or camping, and I've got that.)  I don't need to buy a bigger house, and I don't need to upgrade all of my furniture.  But when I go to the art walk, I'd like to buy some fun art for my walls; I'd like to go grocery shopping without wincing at the total bill.

I think that the odds of this job happening, opening all of these doors for me, are good.  Great, even.  Every single interview (three informal, three formal) has gone exceedingly well, beyond my expectations, and I've got all of these people pushing to hire me, saying that I've got what it takes.  Who am I not to believe them?  I choose to believe them.

Maybe I'm just as good as they say I am.  Maybe it's time I started living up to my potential.

I'm ready for this.  I'm ready to join a bigger part of the world.  I'm ready to have a chain of good things happen.  I'm ready for the next phase of my life.  I can't wait!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I will, or I won't.

Tomorrow is my next interview: my third formal interview (after three informal interviews) for The Dream Job.  I'm nervous: how could I not be?  I have far less than the 5-7 years of experience suggested in the job description...and I really, really, really want this job.  It would be a major pay raise, but more than that it would be working for an organization that I deeply believe in, doing work that is personally meaningful to me.

And here's the thing: I will either get it, or I won't.  Tomorrow's interview will go well, or it won't.  This is the job, or it it isn't.  I will put my heart into it, I've put a lot of effort into my career these past few years, and I will give it my all.

And then it's out of my hands.

There is always someone more qualified.  Someone who knows more people than I do (and in my career, networking matters!).  Someone who is prettier, smarter more polished.  There's always someone better dressed, with one more degree than I have, with one more reference.  I could panic about that, of course - I really REALLY want this job, and what if one of those "more"people swoops in and takes what I want so much?

Then it will be okay.  I will cry a bit, or feel sad, or mourn in some other way, and then I will be fine.  I'll go back to my not-perfect job and keep working, and I'll look at the next opportunity.

This is how life goes, and I've come to the realization that it's the same for all of us: it works, or it doesn't.  Good things happen, or bad things happen.  But the thing is, sometimes these things are totally out of our control, no matter how well we do the right thing,'s okay.

I ate organic food.  I breastfed my daughter for 13 months.  I maintained a healthy weight.  I exercised.  I never smoked.  And yet?  I got breast cancer anyway.  And then I hoped that I would only need a lumpectomy, but they ended up removing both of my breasts, and then some, and I was somehow still okay.  I wept, I mourned, but here I am.  My fake breasts aren't very pretty (that's an understatement) but they don't define me, except as reminders of how strong I had to be to do all of that.  I lost all those battles - getting cancer, losing breasts - and yet I am alive.

I met a man, I married him, I promised to love, honor, and cherish.  I kept my promise, but he did not keep his.  I mourned, I wept, I bought lingerie, I tried turning the other cheek, I did counseling, I stood up for myself, I worked hard on being a better wife and a better person, I encouraged him to be his best and happiest self.....and I got a divorce anyway.  He did not love me (or at least he certainly didn't behave like he did!), and I did not die of the heartache of being unloved.

It works, or it doesn't.  What's amazing is that we have so much invested in things working out the way that we hoped, and yet often it doesn't work out in our favor....and we're okay.  Somehow, despite the disappointments and pain and loss, time just continues, and the world spins, and somehow we are still a part of that world, and it's okay.

I want this job.  I want it so badly that it's a bit frightening, actually.  But if I don't get it, time will go on.  I will continue mothering my daughter, with love and joy.  I will sit by the sea and marvel at the waves on the pebbles, such a soothing sound.  I will go for hikes, I will write stories, I will walk my dog, I will drink wine with girlfriends.  Whatever happens, as long as I'm here and Katherine and I are healthy....I am okay.

But I'm still hoping for the yes.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Small Pleasures

Right now I'm waiting for something big: I want this job I'm going after, and waiting is incredibly difficult.

And yet....

And yet, no matter what is going on in my life, life marches on.  Some of that marching is incredibly painful, because some of life is incredibly painful, but I count myself among the lucky ones because most of my life is pretty damn easy.


Did I just say that?

Today I went to a benefit for an organization that provides diapers and other necessities to families living in poverty.  One of the speakers was a client of theirs: a young mother who had spent eight years of her life homeless.  Six months ago, she, her husband, and their five year old son were still living in a car.  Now they have an apartment - and a four month old baby.  She said she loves her new home, but sometimes she still feels homeless because the apartment is so empty of things.  Her son does not have a bed to sleep in.  And yet, she spoke of gratitude.  She had the courage to stand in a room of over 600 people and tell her painful story of need and humility.

My life is easy.

I had cancer (past tense).  And I had a huge support system to get me through it.  I got divorced (past tense).  And I had a huge support system to get me through it.  I have a meaningful job, even if I want a better one.  My daughter is well adjusted (while I was at the benefit, she stayed home and did homework).  I had to turn down social engagements this weekend because I could only fit so many things in; it's impossible to do it all.

My life is easy.  No matter how difficult some days are, I need to remember that.  My life is easy.  Education, family, friends, health.  Enough money to cover the basics of Maslow's pyramid; more money than many people in the world ever see, even when I'm living paycheck to paycheck.

My life is easy.

This weekend has been filled with small pleasures of ease.  Katherine had a friend over on Friday, and we went out to pizza.  On Saturday we did a day trip to a local island, and we hiked in sunshine, explored a bookstore, beachcombed, rode a ferry....all with friends.  We went in my shiny new car, which I never ever cease to be amazed by.  We slept in this morning, and then Katherine REALLY slept in, and I did chores, including cleaning out my closet and organizing it.

Never underestimate the beauty of an organized closet.

Sitting on the edge of my bed, the closet open, makes me smile today.  Tidy piles of sweaters and jeans; blazers lined up and facing the same way; scarves and gloves and hats in bins.  The order is appealing - so easy to choose an outfit when it's all organized! - and the matching wood hangers are a frivolous luxury that gives me a crazy amount of happiness (they make me feel like such a grown up!).  But the fact that I have a grown up wardrobe makes me happy, too.  I have enough; I have more than enough.  I have work clothes, and weekend clothes, and sporty clothes, and warm jackets, and fancy clothes.  I have casual dresses, professional dresses, and cocktail dresses.  I have heels, and flats, and boots, and running shoes, and sandals, and more.  I am prepared for sun, or snow, or rain.

I have enough.  I have more than enough.

I like to flip through Vogue magazine and look at pretty pictures of people far more beautiful than myself, wearing outfits that cost more than I make in a month, in locations I've never been able to visit.  It would be easy to compare myself to them (hey! I just did!) and feel bad about myself (but I don't).  I don't need to fit into Vogue's pages, and I never will, because though I enjoy the glossy perfection and the crazy quirky fashion (who wears that stuff, anyway?!), it's just eye candy and a bit of inspiration for the shape of a heel or a hemline or a color palette that I DO have access to.

I have enough.

Today, I'm taking in the small pleasures.  The blooms on the camelia bush, the dish of seashells (all collected on various walks), the fat candles I have burning on a Sunday evening as I wind down here and write to you,  The joy of a closet newly cleaned and organized, orderly and practical, and a reminder of how much I have, and how lucky I am.

Who knew that a closet could make me feel so good?  Not I, but I will take my pleasures where I can find them.  Lucky me, that I can.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The long and winding road

On my last post, I joked that it might be twenty more interviews before I have answers.

I might not have been too far off.

Today I had a successful interview.  Successful, however, does not mean a job offer.  And the Big Boss has a lot of Bigger Bosses.  This journey isn't over, and so far it's been successful, but it turns out that I am nowhere near the finish line.  I am told that there are an additional three to four interviews ahead for the final candidate.  Will the job be offered to me?  I don't know.  But I AM a candidate, and I've made it this far, and I'm going to move to the next level of interviews.

I have been told that I will have to be patient, because this is a long process.  When I heard that, I felt incredibly relieved.  My head is still spinning with all of this, and I really need to catch up with myself.

In the past couple of months, my perception of myself has started to change, and I do not feel entirely caught up to myself.  A little time to catch my breath doesn't sound like a delay, it sounds like a welcome break.

Ten years ago, I was shrinking to a size that I didn't belong in.  Ten years ago, I was about to "come down with" breast cancer.  My marriage was unraveling.  I'd willingly stepped away from my job.

Four years ago, I said "Enough."

Four years isn't very long to make over an entire life, to lose all of one's baggage, to change EVERYTHING.

Three years ago, I started working full time and my ex moved out.

Two years ago, I was officially divorced.

A year ago, I successfully switched careers.

And this year I'm going to try to land the job that will truly put me on the path I wish to be on, financially and personally.  But more than that, MUCH more than that, is that I'm going to try to re-conceive of myself as a person who doesn't just belong at the big kids' table, but at the adult table.

My head is swimming in all of it.

I need to gather my energy, because all of these changes aren't easy.  Today, I feel completely worn out, as a matter of fact.

But I'm one step closer.  One day at a time.