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.)