Back To The Future

My Facebook feed is flooded with Back to the Future memes showing Marty McFly and the October 26/October 21 dates in the time machine.  Tonight my husband and I (what?!) watched the first movie in the Back to the Future series.  It was showing here in Lithuania (Double what?! Wait! Whoa! Back up!).

Okay, looks like I need to start over, rewind, back up a bit.  If you read my last post and paid attention to the date, you noticed it was written over three years ago.  If you checked out this blog at all, you found that I started writing here in 2008.  If you spent any time perusing posts, or if you’ve been a follower of this blog, you know that The Wild Mind is not married.  And she does NOT live in Lithuania, instead she lives in a small rural city in the southern part of the Pacific Northwest.  In fact, if you know anything about The Wild Mind at all in real life you know that there is no way she would ever be able to get out of her small rural location to travel the world.  Not with her expenses.  Not with her situation.  Not with her job.  Not with her kids. Continue reading

It Sounds Like Joy

Ever notice how we human beings have ways of marking the passage of time? Sure, we have our calendars, our reminders, our clocks and gizmos. I’m talking about the not-so-obvious ways of marking time. The ways that mark time in subtle ways that leave you realizing after the fact how time has passed rather than noting it up front.

I am not a winter person. I like cool weather but I’m really a sunny, summer person. I mark my years mostly by noting the passage of the seasons. The months from January to the end of March are dreadful for me. In the region where I live winters are relatively mild, but temperatures can vary from a balmy 60 degrees one day to snowing and freezing levels the next. I find this pretty tough on my system. I’m always glad when Daylight Saving Time arrives. Even though I lose an hour, I can see that summer is on the way, and with it, some more consistent temperatures. Continue reading

Not Just Another Auld Lang Syne

New Years Eve 004How does one look back on a year such as mine?  Three years ago, I ventured out into one of the scariest places I think I’ve ever been.  Post divorce, 40-something, straddled with debt that wasn’t all mine, looking forward to fewer years to earn back the losses than I had behind me.  While many would say I look good for my age, the fact that they had to add the phrase “for my age” said it all.  I was divorced, single with more children than most, struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and wondering how I was going to pay the bills and put food on the table.  I was frightened.  I was destitute. I was humiliated and ashamed.  I was alone.  To make things better, I blew an engine on one car, and dropped the rear differential out of another.  I had no credit, no cash, no clue what an engine or a rear differential was, and nowhere to turn.  I was terrified.  I wondered, often, how and if I was going to survive.  I was also 40-something and it was only a matter of time before the aging process we all must eventually succumb to, became no longer disguisable. Further, I still had children at home, lots of them, and would probably retire (if that was still even a possibility for me) with them at home.  Not exactly the formula for finding someone to spend your golden years with before you actually get to your golden years. Continue reading

Children and Divorce: And Now For Some Really Depressing News

I awoke early Tuesday morning with my throat so swollen and sore I couldn’t swallow, mucous streaming from nearly every orifice above my shoulders. I could not utter a sound that was even recognizable as speech.  My daughter felt much the same.  I knew I needed to call in a sub.  Two days later, most of it spent sleeping and reading (I certainly had no energy for anything else and the reading was pushing my limits), I think I might be well enough to return to work tomorrow.  The book I managed to devour between naps was, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, by Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakeslee.  I’m warning you.  It isn’t a cheery read.  In fact, I had tears streaming down my cheeks at points.

wallersteinbookimage I stumbled across this little find at my local book exchange.  I’m always up for reading some research (yeah, I’m kind of nerdy like that), especially about families of divorce, stepfamilies and how all of this impacts children. (Maybe because it is just a little close to home for me?)  This one billed itself as a landmark study because it was the only one that tracked children of divorce from the time their parents split up until they reached full adulthood. It was a 25-year-study. Since I work with kids and their parents many of them divorced and re-married, and since I myself am the child of divorce as are my own children, I thought this might be an interesting read.  It was indeed interesting, but it was not cheery. Wallerstein’s findings are sobering, relevant, deeply saddening, and yet more hopeful than one would expect.

I would recommend that anyone considering divorce, in the process of divorce, or now in the post-divorce family read this book.  I wish I’d read it 4 years ago.  It would have helped me support my children more effectively through the divorce process. Of course, to be honest, I was so stressed and fragmented (as many who undergo divorce are) that I’m not sure I’d have read it.  Which just underscores a significant aspect of this research.  The book also details children’s perspectives of parenting plans, remarriage, step-parents and life after divorce.

The most salient point of Wallerstein’s study, for me, is that no matter when the divorce occurs, no matter what the reason for the divorce, and regardless how amicable or not the divorce is, risk factors for children significantly increase while protective factors that were in place when the marriage was intact are diminished. I don’t think this is new news for any of us, but Wallerstein was able to get behind the eyes of the children in this study and reveal how that reality impacts and shapes children of divorce. She (Wallerstein) does not draw from this conclusion that divorce should never happen.  The author does conclude that we’ve just not been aware of the impact divorce has on children from the child’s perspective until now.  Maybe now, we can begin thinking more about divorce from the perspective of not just what works for the parents, but what works for the children throughout all their developmental levels. Wallerstein goes on to mention that the debilitating impact of divorce is often not evident until children reach adulthood and begin to enter into relationships and marriages of their own.  In other words, divorce has lasting effects on children, no matter how good things appear on the outside. (Personally, I suspect most of us parents know this. We just feel uncertain as to how to deal with this reality.)  These are just a few of the highlights I’ve gleaned and tried to summarize, and which were significant to me as I devoured her over 330 page book.  Oh, and the book does include specifics about the research design and the statistical results of study for those who are interested.

As for me, it was impossible for me to read this book casually without some serious personal introspection.  I am, after all, the mother of four children, all of whom experienced divorce, two of them when they were in elementary school and two of them when they were in preschool.  This book forced me to look at myself and my parenting since the divorce.  I’m asking myself questions because, if I’m to be the best support for my children that I can (and diminished parenting is cited by Wallerstein as one of the biggest perils of divorce), then I must take inventory. 

j0410095 Some of the questions I’m grappling with are:

  • Given that children often tend to either act out or stuff their feelings behind an ultra compliant approach, how are my children really doing?
  • Am I giving my children opportunities to express their fears and their anger (and yes they have both) about the divorce?
  • Am I taking the necessary time to parent them or am I so preoccupied with survival and keeping the family afloat that I am unintentionally neglecting their very real emotional needs.
  • Are any of my children taking on the parenting role?  What am I doing to reinforce this if it is happening?
  • How do I balance the stresses and demands of my adult world, the needs I have for adult love and companionship, with my children’s needs for protection, comfort, care and emotional connection with me…and…when do I get any rest?  (I say that last a little bit tongue in cheek, but fatigue is a big stressor and leads to illness as I’ve learned of late.)

And there are more questions lurking within. 

I’m really not depressed and I’m not beating myself up as a parent after reading this study, but, like the veil being lifted, I certainly see some areas I need to work on for my children’s sake.  I also see some areas that I’ve done well, which is reassuring. It has certainly given me a great deal to consider regarding my parenting, dating as a single parent and, if it ever arises, the idea of remarriage. We grow a little at a time all throughout our lives.  This book just revealed some areas that I think I need to check up on.

As I re-read this post, I realize I’ve only shared the down side aspects of the research.  There is much cause for hope and encouragement as the result of Wallerstein’s work.  I don’t want to be a spoiler, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself. 

Toward A New Year of Healthy Living

New Year’s Day, 2010

photo by nkzs Yesterday’s post spoke about thinking more thematically about New Year’s Resolutions.  To follow up on that, I feel I must give some more concrete examples of really what I mean. To that end, I have only one New Year’s Resolution. More aptly put, I believe this is a New Year’s theme that I hope characterize my year and the years to come. That theme is Healthy Living or Health. 

You see, I could do what I did last year and talk about all the things I want to do, as though life were some sort of checklist to be completed before the end of it. As a product of the American baby boomer culture, I’ve seen life this way more often than not.  I’d make my list, work frantically to accomplish it, come very close (or maybe not at all) and feel miserably unsuccessful or ineffective if I didn’t complete the list. I was what I could accomplish. 

List Fail

The problem with this thinking, at least for me, is that the list can never be completed because something is always being added to it.  You check off one item only to put another objective in its place.  What’s the sense of accomplishment in that?  How does this manner of operating lead to peace and contentment?  Even if you do accomplish something, the effect or result is only temporary, unless the item stays on the list and then, if you think according to the list, even if you’ve made progress, the danger of perceiving that you haven’t completed anything or not as much as you would have hoped exists. Lists are about completion not progress.  I want to focus on progress, process and becoming.

Really, what I am talking about here with this whole New Year’s Theme thing is not giving myself more stuff to do (and more reasons to be disappointed if I fail) but instead I’m dealing with effecting lasting change in my life.  There are areas I am not content with and I need to change.

Time for Change

Perhaps an example from my own life might serve to provide greater understanding of what I’m really driving at here.  Several years ago, nearly a year, maybe almost two before my divorce even started beginning, things (as things in a failing marriage will tend to be) became very chaotic and conflicted.  I was unhappy, he was unhappy, the kids were caught in the middle of that and dealing with the magnitude of kids that we had (11 in our blended situation), tensions were running at an all time high.  We’d been separated and back together more times than I care to consider, and I was at the point where I knew that something had to change.  I was afraid of what that might mean, but I knew I could not continue in the present situation any longer.  My health was failing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before  I experienced a serious and major collapse.

j0386273 I really had to take some time and think about what it was I wanted.  Now, I didn’t take the attitude of it’s all about me.  I took the perspective that I needed to take care of me so that I could take care of those who depend and rely on me.  In that case, my children, my support network, my community in a larger context, but admittedly I wasn’t thinking on that grand a scale back then.  I was simply in survival mode thinking about what was going to be best for my children and I in the short run, but also in the long run.  If you’ve ever been in this place you know what a difficult task that can be.  How do you think about making monumental decisions that will be right for the immediate future and still be the right ones, down the road a piece?  There are ways of doing this, I’ve since learned, but at that time I was floundering around in a state of hopelessness, fear and anxiety. 

Respect and Survival

As I sat there in a school presentation where the speaker was talking about dealing with children respectfully and building a climate of respect in schools and in homes, everything crystallized for me. It all came together for me, not as a list of things I needed to do in a sequential order, but rather as a frame of mind I needed to adopt; as a way of being I needed to pursue.  It became clear to me, in seconds, that what was lacking on so many levels and in so many areas in my life was, quit simply, respect.  I wasn’t being treated respectfully, nor was I extending it to others in most areas of my life. Not only that, material possession, symbolic of someone’s effort, time, life and money were being treated disrespectfully, the world around us was not being treated with any measure of respect either by any of us. This is not how I wanted to live, nor was it the environment I wanted my children to grow up in learning that this manner of living was an accepted option. 

With the theme being respect, I was then able to clearly see that in the current situation I was going to be crippled if not completely detained in my pursuit of a respectful home atmosphere and lifestyle.  I was then able to make the hard and frightening decisions with confidence and assurance that I needed to make at that time to ensure for me and my children a life that involved treating each other with greater respect and infusing our home with respect.  Three years after that day, I can look back and say it was the right way to look at things and, though we haven’t perfectly arrived, because we continue to learn more each day about areas where we can demonstrate greater respect to each other and because, quite frankly old ways of being die hard sometimes, we are in a much better place than we’ve ever been. We would not be here now if I hadn’t taken the necessary steps to start the process.  I couldn’t have taken the necessary steps if I had focused on what I should or shouldn’t do.  Focusing on what I wanted my children and I to be and experience made it possible for me to figure out the rest.

Healthy Living

 j0442586 It seems I’ve come to another place where a theme is stepping up to the forefront and demanding attention.  In the last three years, several themes have developed. First, was the theme of Respect.  The next theme that characterized the first year after the divorce till now was Survival.  The next theme which I believe to be developing in my life is that of Healthy Living or maybe just Health.  It is a theme that encompasses not just the idea of physical fitness and healthy eating, but also the areas of spiritual health, intellectual health (sustenance and growth) and relational health.

These “themes” I am talking of, if that is even an appropriate terminology, are not something I adopt, carry around with me for a while and then discard because they no longer suit the situation.  If you could think of building an onion from the inside out a layer at a time, you might come closer to how this all works for me.  As each theme develops in my life, it becomes part of me with following themes overlaying themselves on pre-existing themes.

So, since the title of this post is about a healthy new year and since I did mention it earlier on in this now rather lengthy post, I suppose I should discuss it just a bit.  Healthier Living, as a theme in my life, for this year, or for whatever amount of time it decides to be the forerunning focus, will help me make decisions daily regarding my time, my activities, my decisions, my focus.  Instead of creating a list that I may or may not accomplish, depending upon my motivation level or my feelings, I will instead operate from the place of asking myself, “Is this the healthiest thing for me right now?”  Or I might consider, “Is this particular choice going to move me closer to the healthy, whole life I see for my children and myself?”  The particular questions help me sort the myriad choices I face each day in order to more closely align my life with the healthful vision I see of myself and for myself and my family (because I don’t just simply think of myself, ever, in isolation; what I choose impacts and affects many others whether I recognize it or not).  So, in brief then, the theme works to direct my efforts, focus my energy and determine my choices.  I am no longer burdened by a list that can never be accomplished. I am simply, moment by moment becoming healthier and these moments will, undoubtedly stack up and create a year that is much healthier than years previous.

j0433106 Enthusiasm, Hope, Confidence, Optimism

Approaching life this way has, over the last three years, been very effective for me in implementing significant and incredibly positive change in my life over a relatively short period of time.  This approach might not work for everyone, but I’ve found it to be incredibly effective for me in determining where to focus my energy, how to prioritize all the conflicting demands that bombard me daily as a single mom, and in helping me keep at it even when things become discouraging and disappointing as they likely will. It is an approach which instead of frustrating and defeating me, fills me with optimism, confidence, enthusiasm and hope. Since I’ve heard those are some of the key ingredients for someone in good mental health, I guess that’s not a bad place to start.

Sex or Making Love? Who Is Confused?

947907_76218223 Oh, my!  ‘Tis the snuggle season that’s for sure and several of my bloggy friends out there are bringing up the topic on everyone’s mind (or, at least, theirs)…sex. But is it really sex that is on people’s minds or is it romance, is it relationship, is it something else altogether? This post is a response to several other posts posted in the blogosphere earlier this week as well as my own personal convoluted thought path travelled in response to these various posts. 

A Tale of 4 Blog Posts

The first post found here at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy, talks about the confusion that can arise between the terms “sex” and “lovemaking”. Go there read it and return more informed about some of the thinking that gave rise (no pun intended) to my own post (also no pun intended) here.  In a nutshell she poses a great many good questions on the topic with the ultimate being what is the difference between love-making and sex.

Add to that, this new blog friend  at To Be Determined who is traveling down the post-divorce single path with me, though at a much earlier stage in her life. Like me, she’s often wished there were some sort of dating rulebook.  Unlike me she still has her 30’s ahead of her and because of this her dating options are much greater than are mine though, admittedly, I am more fortunate in this regard than many. She also, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have the added complexity of trying to be a great mommy and trying to carve out time with another adult even if that time is merely coffee or a movie. Even so, my new friend at To Be Determined has dealt with the difficult issues and challenges divorce creates and I do wish I’d had her courage to blog more seriously and more intelligently about my own journey.  Kudos in a big way to her for doing that!

The third post, and one that rather struck a bit of a nerve with me is the one that jassnight at The Critical Path wrote today.  He talks about the nature of sex with older men, from the man’s perspective and he uses the really nice metaphor of running in the Master’s Division when competing in a marathon. He deals with how sex is viewed by men and how that view changes as men age.

And then, after all these ideas were simmering on the back burner of my mind, and as I was trying to find a quick easy recipe for those red potatoes I have in the fridge to go with the roast I’m attempting to destroy in the slow cooker (because, yes, once again, I am here with you and not watching the stove like I should be) I came across this most depressing thing. Of course, all the mom’s there are like, what, 35 and under, if that, but never mind.  This last site only served to make me ask myself these questions:

  • What defines hot?
  • Who’s deciding?
  • Do I qualify?
  • Do I care?

I won’t be answering those particular questions here in depth, other than to say: 

  • I have no clue what men think is hot. What I’ve heard from my male friends is all over the board.  This confuses me.
  • I don’t know who’s deciding.  I think I am.  I think I’m more interested in just being comfortable with me in my own skin.
  • I don’t know if I qualify as hot.  It always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable to hear those words in reference to me.  (I’m sure if I was totally in love with someone and he were saying that about me I’d have no problem, at least, I hope not!)
  • Yeah, sadly, if I were to be honest, I think I do.  I also think I care less and less with each passing day, not in a give up sort of way, but because I’m finding so much more of value to care about. 

Things Are Different Over Here

j0400322 It is tough being female, over 40 and single in our youth oriented culture, even if you look great. If you look good, or average or worse than average (however you would define that and most women are much harder on themselves than they ought to be) things get tougher, that is, if male companionship of a physical nature matters to them.  It is tougher being female, over 40, single and wanting to experience a fantastic relationship someday before you die…or before you check in at the retirement home.  There’s just so much of life to share with another person and having another adult around, if the relationship is healthy,it is energizing and motivating.  Two people in a good relationship with each other can provide strength, encouragement, affection, intimacy.  They can spot each other when one needs a break or is facing stresses. They can encourage each other to be better than either of them could be alone. They can challenge each other toward optimum growth in all areas of life. They can be there to stave off loneliness and support each other during the rough spots of life.  They can build something together that is bigger than the both of them.  Something that connects to the people and world around them and which makes a positive difference to all. This experience, while rare, is still a good thing.  But how does it happen?  For the woman suddenly single in her mid-40’s, the struggle with self-esteem issues that naturally accompany divorce can be exacerbated by the fact that if her 40’s are nearly over her opportunities for love seem to be diminishing and the rumor is, well, 50 is a big number. Besides, when a man of the same age can effectively court, woo, seduce or whatever a woman half his age and many of them do, how’s she to feel about what she’s got to bring to the table?  Likely she’s got kids, responsibilities, a house payment, yard work, laundry and a job.   Sadly in our culture the chipped nails due to weeding and the dry, cracked dishwasher hands just don’t shout “Hottie!” to most passersby. Younger women often come with half this amount of “baggage” and much tighter firmer (or, at least smaller) bottoms too boot. 

If You Ain’t Hot, What Have You Got?

j0436490 In our youth oriented culture, we worship the exterior. This leads us to assess each other on the external factors in our lives.  We consider the quality of the cars we drive, the addresses of our homes, how neatly manicured the lawns are and whether or not the person has good job.  Others even make assessments based on what kind of job the person has. While we are greatly privileged with many choices in this country and the ability to chose possessions that we like and which reflect our perceptions of ourselves, does this mean that in every case the vehicle reflects the person?  Does this mean in every case that the job reflects the woman or man?  Does this mean that I am somehow inadequate, because my yard is not perfectly edged and my walkway needs repair? Am I my job?  Am I my wardrobe?

Let’s take this one step further, and address physical beauty.  What is beautiful?  What is sexy?  What is hot?  It’s a pretty common understanding that women’s standards of beauty are different than men’s.  This is where I believe the confusion, if there is confusion, arises.  Women and men see this topic differently and our image oriented society with the help of airbrushed and digitized perfect bodies doesn’t help do anything except further the notion that in order to have a great relationship you’ve got to look great first.

Does physical beauty impact the quality of the sexual relationship?  If so, how and in what ways? 

j0444284 I mean, really.  Let’s think about that logic.  If physical beauty were the pre-requisite for an incredibly mind-blowing sexual experience then how come people don’t just jump into the sack on this basis alone.  (Well, okay, maybe some do, but for the rest of us?) On the other hand, being attracted to someone is important too because there is that thing we like to refer to as “chemistry”. It doesn’t make sense.  Just look around.  We see couples every day in our daily pass through this life that are not extraordinarily good looking but who enjoy a good connection with a partner.

Or is the question more like what exactly determines attractiveness? And doesn’t that question have as many individual answers as people asking it?

Might I suggest, that physical beauty is a nice thing but, it is not the most important thing.

In the end, I think it boils down to what the individual is seeking in terms of relationship with another.  I think those individual priorities determine the level of attraction to another person and the quality of any sexual encounter if a mutual interest were to exist.

So, to go back to my To Be Determined friend’s questions as to where is the Dating Rule Book, I have to respond with there isn’t one because the dating situation is as specific as the two different individuals involved. There might be some broad brush rules of thumb but beyond that it really is up to the individuals to chart their own course and navigate their own way.

As for jassnight’s assessments at The Critical Path of men and what they hope for and expect as they age, I can only hope some of that is true. But, truth be told, I think what people look for, what people consider important and what people value is as individual as the individual’s themselves.  The difficulty is more a matter of coming up with a good fit between two people.

j0444035Regarding my friend, BLW’s post, about Sex vs. Lovemaking the same holds true.  I know she is not confused.  I know she is just posing the questions to begin dialogue.  Many, though, do seem to be confused. I don’t think any of us really are confused.  I think we all know the difference.  Sometimes we let good sex convince us there is more to the relationship than really exists.  Sometimes the lack of instantaneously mind blowing sex dissuades us from pursuing what might turn out to be a very loving, nurturing and lasting relationship. 

We all know when we’ve just “had sex”.  Even when it is “mind-blowing” sex, it is still “just sex” and we know it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. When we make love there’s an added ingredient or two or three, that can’t be orchestrated as the result of putting two good-looking people in a room and telling them to have at it.  It isn’t any of it based on what either partner is individually, but rather, on what the two of them are together, what they share and what they’ve created between them, personally, privately, intimately. When they make love the core of their union as people is expressed physically.  This doesn’t happen overnight. 

This doesn’t happen instantaneously.

It doesn’t happen with a revolving door of partners, at least, not from what most people who’ve told me they’ve had a revolving door of partners say.

It doesn’t happen outside the context of something important and meaningful and loving.

It takes time to build something of value and anything of value costs something in terms of time, dedication, commitment, devotion and caring.

Making love happens in the context of a loving, healthy, relationship where trust and commitment are key ingredients.

The rest of it is just great sex.

Where’s the confusion?

Conversations With Men…and Some Women Too

Christmas Day, 6:00 a.m. 

j0440978 I wake up, stumble through the house turning on the Christmas lights on my way to let the dog out for her morning romp in the back yard.  It is a frosty, cold, foggy 28 degrees in Southern Oregon.  I change the laundry, start another load of the eternal never ending chore and move back into the kitchen automatically, thoughtlessly, still somewhat groggily to begin the task of brewing coffee. 

My house is silent except for the soft sound of heat being forced out through the furnace and the low rumbling purr of my cats who float ethereally in and out of rooms.  Noiseless vapors appearing and disappearing of their own catlike determination. Once the coffee is brewed I pour a cup, add a bit of cream and a touch of the homemade peppermint schnapps a colleague gave me for Christmas.  I pad silently to the living room couch where I plant myself, laptop on lap, facing the tree centered in front of the large picture window which looks out onto my quiet street. My mind and my heart are filled with thoughts and feelings. You would think that these thoughts and feelings would center on the fact that I am alone this Christmas without my children to share in the traditional holiday festivities.  Such is not the case, because I know I am not alone in my being alone on this day.  All over this country there are many men home alone without their children or families with them.  This is the ugly sad side of divorce.

Men are often denounced and disparaged as being focused on sex over relationship.  Women on the other hand place relationship as a higher priority than sex.  These are broad generalizations and there are many exceptions to every rule, but just go with me here.  Men, in general, are often villanized for being so very sexually oriented. 

I’d like to suggest a different idea.  I’d like to suggest the idea that men are every bit as interested in relationship (that deep, emotionally gratifying connected relationship) that women are touted as desiring.  I just think they go about it differently.  I don’t think that the differences in approach necessarily presume a difference in desire or ultimate goal.

j0402650I’ve been divorced exactly two years and four days now.  In that time, I’ve had the freedom to meet, have coffee with, have drinks with and converse with many members of the opposite sex.  I’ve had more freedom to engage in these conversations than I would have had I not been single even though many of these conversations have been completely platonic. I’ve learned a lot in these conversations with men.  While most of them have been single, some of these conversations have occurred with men in relationships with other women, while the woman was there of course, and other conversations have occurred with men who are still married but separated (a definite indicator that the relationship will never be anything more than platonic where I am concerned) and still others have been casual encounters at Christmas parties or social gatherings with husbands of my colleagues and friends.  These particular conversations all have one thing in common.  They have at the core of them the question, “What is it that men really want?”

One thing becomes clearer to me, as I have these conversations.  We really do all want the same thing.  Some of us are fortunate, we’ve found it, we enjoy it, we are grateful for it.  Others continue to look and wait and hope that someday we too will experience it or will experience it again.  Still others of us have given up hope that this reality will occur for us and some of us might even now be in the process of giving up hope that we will ever experience anything like it. 

What is it?  What is this thing we all want?  I suspect it is the same for men as for women though the sexes have very different and often opposing ways to go about getting what they want. This thing is love.  This thing is trust.  This thing is relationship.  It is relationship that is deeply, emotionally intimate and fulfilling.  The relationship that continues to be such after time, and change, and aging have taken their toll. 

j0440312 So as I sip my morning coffee and think about all the conversations I’ve had over the last two years and specifically some of the conversations I’ve had recently I want to extend a big hug to all my dear friends, male and female, married or single who’ve walked part or all of this journey with me these last two years.  Thank you for conversing with me.  Thank you for sharing your lives and your hearts with me. You’ve certainly enriched me.  I wish you all the love you seek and all the joy that comes with that love.  If you’ve found that in your life I wish for you a lifetime of experiencing it with that one special other. May you always be grateful for what you have in each other.  If you still await that experience then I hope, dear friend, that 2010 is your year! 

Merry Christmas!

The Wild Mind

“When the world says give up, hope whispers try it one more time” ~ Author unknown.

Silver Linings in the Clouds of Divorce

j0427604 I’m having great fun these days.  I’m reading my friends’ updates on Facebook and they are so filled with stress about last minute shopping sprees, what to get for that difficult-to-buy for loved one, and dealing with crowds and traffic while I sit quite contentedly and totally un-stressed out this holiday season.  Why?  No, not because I don’t celebrate Christmas, I do. In fact, I’m all about the festivities and would be hosting parties, going to  parties and going crazy about the gifting thing.  Well, I would have in the past, I should say.  Not anymore though.  

So what gives?  Why am I so chill while the rest of the world goes crazy? 

Ahhh, all I can say to this is that every storm cloud has its silver lining.  Even the storm cloud of divorce and children sharing holidays in two separate homes. Sigh. Divorce and its reduced financial benefits means less money to spend thus fewer presents to buy.  If Christmas is all about the "presents" then that’s a problem, isn’t it? If  you don’t have your kids on Christmas and you are all about "The Big Day" then that poses a bit of a problem doesn’t it?  The storm cloud of divorce requires that you rethink your personal paradigms about many things.  The silver lining is there but it appears in small and unexpected ways sometimes.

Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve.  I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet.  I might do some tomorrow.  I might not.  It won’t matter, because my "Christmas" is not going to happen on December 25th.  It will happen sometime in January, around New Year’s.  This year, my children are, once again, spending Christmas at their dads. 

3329835949_1d9b87b9ce[1] I won’t say that  this is a good thing about divorce.  In fact, my feelings are quite vehement and strong about relationship over dissolution, but life is not perfect.  Life is not always white fluffy clouds scudding effortlessly across clear blue skies.  Sometimes the thunder bumpers of relational demise develop and there’s no escaping them. You’re going to get soaked and it isn’t going to be fun. Drenched and distraught you end up finding that you are back at ground zero with nearly nothing but loads of debt showing for the last quarter century of your existence. It sucks. But after the storm passes…if you are careful and observant and hopeful enough…you can discover a silver lining on any cloud.  You might have to wait and work and watch for a while, but eventually, small though it might be…it will appear.

Christmas, in what I’ve come to call the "off years", is that silver lining for me.  The off years are those every other years that I don’t have my children on Christmas Day because they are with their other parent. Those are the Christmases that I don’t stress.  I don’t shop.  I don’t cook (that’s a big silver lining for all involved) and I don’t have anyone tugging at my bedside begging me to awaken so they can find out what is in the beautifully wrapped packages (yeah, I can’t cook but I can wrap…big deal) under the tree.

Divorce is never easy and the holidays don’t improve this situation any.  Even so, I’ve found there is even a silver lining on this thunderhead of dashed familial bonds.  It is called, The Day After Christmas.  Because of this schedule of mine this year, the stress of having to have everything wrapped and ready and under the tree by December 25th is totally gone.  I get to capitalize on sales the day after Christmas instead of hassling it before.  I actually have a good three days after Christmas till any of the kids show up.  I will have three days after the official day to do what I need to do before the kids come tumbling back in over my threshold. In that time, I will have spent my time doing whatever I wanted to do, something that is usually rare for a single parent.  I will have been able to plan and prepare for the second half of the winter break when they will be with me and I will be able to stretch my limited Christmas funds all the more. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         So, as I watch my friends update their Facebook status informing me of how they survived the mall (a good 45 minutes just to get out of the parking lot), or how they can’t find the one last minute gift they were looking for or how they have way too much to do in way too little time, I count my blessings.  I sit back, pour myself another vodka tonic and think, glad I’m not out there in that ugly traffic right now.  Because right now, I am in my own home, with my children before they head off to dad’s enjoying lazy days, watching movies, cleaning house, making cookies and eating the cookie dough before it is even baked.  Oh, the fun we are having in spite of the fact that the dates are not working in our favor this year. 

It’s a small silver lining….but it is a beautiful one.

Have you been able to discover any silver linings in your divorce clouds?

Divorce Transitions or The Dragon is Finally Dead

castle This post is third in a series of posts on the transitions that accompany divorce. You can read the first post in the series here and the second one here.  I originally wrote these last year, as I was contemplating my first year post divorce.  I also had a friend who was dealing with separation and divorce at that time and I thought some of these things would be helpful for others facing the specter of divorce. 

Phase 4—Picking Up the Pieces and Moving On

After the judge’s gavel drops for the final time dismissing all in the courtroom to go on about their lives within the new parameters issued by The Court, the process of picking up the pieces and moving on begins.   I call this a time of rebuilding the kingdom.  Your kingdom might be ravaged by war in many ways: physically, emotionally, financially to name a few.  It takes time to sort through the remains and build a new life out of the ruin. 

During this time, if you have children, your family will adjust to living in two households.  You may experience a holiday or two where you do not spend the time with your children as before because they will be at the other parent’s home.  You may experience grief, loss, pain and deep sadness.  You might be ecstatic that your nightmare has finally ended.  Your children will likely experience a wide range of emotions also and may need some help dealing with them.  You will be adjusting to new schedules, new responsibilities, possibly a new living arrangement in a new location.  This period is all about learning how to do your new life and getting used to the way things will be.  It’s time to slow down, take some time for yourself, reflect, experience the emotions, don’t deny them, learn and grow and hang in there.

3 Certainties Besides Change

Earlier, I stated that the only constant is change. One simply can’t predict a dragon’s behavior or the fallout of a dragon’s fury and damage.  But, as with most things in life…even if it is very bad…it’s not all bad.

Last year, after completing my first year post-divorce,  I made the following observations about what I’d learned during the year.

1.  Things (whatever disaster may come) are never as bad as they appear to be at first.  I will get through it somehow.

2.  I will survive and will learn something in the process if I pay attention.

3.  Things will turn out okay, though it might be a bit messy or difficult getting there or, to put it differently, slaying dragons is never easy.

As I come up on the second year post divorce (two and a half since leaving the ex for the last time) those words are even more relevant than they are today.  It’s been a long exhausting haul financially and emotionally but things are much better now than they were.  The romance department, while incredibly disappointing this year, taught me many things I would not otherwise have learned. The divorce dragon has been buried.  Our castle, bit by bit, is being repaired and improved. We’ve cleaned up, replaced the tattered gowns, polished up our tarnished crowns and there is more order and prosperity in our little kingdom than we had last year.  In spite of the new challenges and heartbreaks we faced this year, we continue to thrive. My children and I are going to be just fine.  I hope this encourages others who might be wondering if the battle will ever end, if the dragon can be slayed, if peace and prosperity will ever be theirs again.  I am here to say, the battle does end, the dragon will die and there are better days ahead.  Those days begin now. Believe it!

I would like to close with words I penned after my first rebuilding year. These words, now more than ever, express my feelings as I conclude another post-divorce year:

As I near the end this year, I have one overriding emotion.  It is the same feeling one might have after winning the Olympic gold medal in a come-from-behind-to-win-against-all-odds victory.  It is the same feeling players on the underdog football team feel when they win with insurmountable odds against the chosen favorite.  It is better than joy.  It is deeper than exhilaration.  It is more powerful than elation and less fleeting.  It is deep, deep conviction and confidence that comes from facing the demons, slaying the dragons, and emerging from the dragon’s lair, with princess gowns a bit torn and slightly charred, crown askew, maybe a bit tarnished, hair mussed and ratted, soot smudges on my face, but with my life and health intact and the dragon’s head in my hand.  My kingdom is safe and those in my castle can breathe without fear.  We are at peace with ourselves and our world. The rebuilding projects are progressing steadily throughout the land.  We can view the future from atop the mountain of hope and joy together.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Divorce Transitions or How To Slay a Dragon—Part 2

This is the second in a series of three posts about transitions one can expect and decisions to consider during divorce.

After you’ve sorted out your priorities and determined what is journal-writingmost important to you and what is least critical, you might find that there is a bit of a waiting period while papers get filed, petitions get reviewed and responded to by your attorney and your ex and his/her attorney.  While this is a waiting time where the legal process is concerned (sometimes hearing dates are booked six months or more in advance), it is also a time of setting up how your future without your ex will operate.  It is also  a critical and foundational time, because during this period you are setting precedents that might come to bear if and when your case goes to trial.  I call this Phase 2.

Phase 2 –The Process of Separating

Once papers are filed and served, the process of actually separating begins. There are the terms of the physical separation which need  to be negotiated.  There is also an emotional separation that must begin.  During this phase, partners are defining boundaries, establishing new rules and ways of addressing each other and deciding how children will be exchanged for parenting times determined by the court during this interim.  How this looks between couples varies widely from couple to couple. 

This is often where much of the dragonsbattlewpbattle takes place.  Much has to be decided during this phase.  Where will each of you live?  Who gets the family home, who gets which of the family possessions, and how will the money and assets be divided?  These decisions are not to be taken lightly as they will in some fashion determine your lifestyle after the divorce is final.

The next consideration is how to parent the children.  Consider these questions:

  • What kind of parenting plan will you develop?
  • Will you have shared custody or not?
  • How will you help the children transition through these changes with a minimum amount of tension? 

What the two of you negotiate for a parenting plan will in many ways determine your lifestyle after the decree is signed.  This is where being very clear about what you want your future to look like is important.  It might not always turn out exactly your way, but the likelihood of you getting more of what you want is greater if you go in with a plan.  It is wise to consider how workable the plan really is.  Additional questions to consider include:

  • Does the parenting plan allow for some reasonable boundaries to be implemented so you have some privacy and distance from your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) while the children are with you?  Or…do you prefer something more fluid, with your STBX coming and going on your property as before? 
  • How about the children?  Consider what is in their best interests, not just the meeting of your own needs as parent.
  • Does the parenting plan make the most of a bad situation by giving you some time for yourself if you are the custodial parent. 
  • If you are not the custodial parent does the plan give you ample time to invest in and parent your children? 

In every case, it is best if parents can nail this down and agree upon it before it goes to trial.  If you leave it up to the judge, it it less certain how things will turn out.  A judge is not likely to intervene in a parenting plan if both parents are in agreement.  Again, discussing this, and everything else, with your attorney is the wisest decision you’ll make. Your attorney will be familiar with the laws, procedures and judges in your area. (Please do your research and retain an attorney that has an excellent reputation and find someone you can trust to be direct, professional and who will advocate on your behalf.) Tap into that knowledge and expertise as you make plans that will daily impact your future.

Phase 3– Limbo Land: Waiting Around To Make Sure The Dragon Is Really Dead

952313_79933908 The next phase is the phase after the trial while awaiting the final  decree to be signed, stamped and recorded. I call this waiting around to see if the dragon is really dead. For me, this was a period of about three weeks.  My attorney had to formalize the final documents, I had to review them and then they had to be sent back to the judge for signing.  Since my trial occurred the Friday after Thanksgiving two years ago, I was waiting on pins and needles to find out if my divorce would be final before the end of the year.  In my state, if I’m divorced before December 31st, I can file single on my tax returns.  This was important to me, because, I knew my ex hadn’t had his taxes withheld all year and I knew that on my own I would get a return.  I also did not want the hassle of having to negotiate yet another issue with this man.  I was living in the transitional world of being free, knowing the outcomes, but I didn’t have a signed document yet.  I remember the overwhelming feeling of relief I experienced when my attorney’s assistant called to inform me that the document had been signed by the judge on December 21st.   My dragon was finally dead.

To be concluded…in the next post.