Divorce Transitions or How To Slay a Dragon—Another Year Later

Costumes_Halloween_Lady_Dragons I wrote this last year at about this time of year over on my other blog. It is rather lengthy so I’ve broken it down into a series of several posts.  Those of you who have been through the divorce process and are trying to heal up after it, might have some very significant and quite possibly different perspectives to share.  If so, I hope you’ll leave a comment.  I certainly don’t profess to have the only valid experience.  I only share mine and what was helpful for me.  I love hearing what others found helpful.  I know my readers do too!

I spent most of my childhood growing up in rural eastern Oregon.  My family lived in the same home from the time I was in third grade till after I graduated from college.  We drove the same ’68 Chevy Camaro and never had another car.  My mother had the same job in the same office building across from the county library until she retired many years after I was grown and beginning my own family.  My grandparents lived across the river in Idaho, a mere six miles away.  They owned a department store in town where I spent my pre-school years hiding in the racks peeking out at customers from behind the clothes.  It was a stable, predictable, secure childhood.  Very little ever changed.  It was not the kind of beginning that exactly prepares one to deal with the transitions that come after a marriage ends.  But, if we are fortunate, and I was, we should not be preparing for such sad events.  There just weren’t that many dragons to slay back then…and…I guess that’s a good thing.

clocks-med Change is the only constant.  This is never more true than when going through a divorce, when emotions run high and everyone is running scared at some level.  Everyone, except the attorneys and the dragon.  They are running to the bank.  (Sometimes I think I am definitely in the wrong career.  Hmmmm, is it too late for a law degree?) Even so, I am grateful for a good attorney who helped me see the issues clearly and without emotion.  The dragon is bigger and has the fire-breathing capabilities.  You can easily determine where the dragon fits in your own analogy.  For me, it was a volatile and completely unstable partner who was an incredible con artist and who had everyone believing (including myself) that I was the crazy psychotic problem child.   

Phase 1–Acceptance

This is the first transition and probably the most difficult in divorce:  accepting that the marriage is over.  Accepting that one partner wants out badly enough  to formalize the dissolution legally can be a difficult and heartbreaking reality to grasp.  Whether you are the one initiating the divorce or the one having to accept that your partner is saying, "I’m out!",  the very first step is to accept that no matter what happens, when the dust settles you will in fact be divorced.  Nothing else but this will be certain as you head into the process of negotiating like you’ve probably never in your marriage or maybe your life negotiated before. It is not unlike dodging the fiery blasts of the dragon’s anger as you attempt to defend your kingdom. The finances, the assets, the kids, the child support, the alimony and the acrimony will all be undetermined until the judge raps his gavel or until the two of you sign out of court. Until then, you just don’t know how the dragon will move, twist, or turn.

BooksandGavelA_jpg When I walked in to see my attorney…a good two years before I actually retained her…she told me these words, "Look, I can’t assure you of anything except that by the end of this you will be divorced."  She was right, and despite what is oft said about attorneys, she was honest, direct, a great strategist and she advocated on my behalf.  She helped me negotiate the frightening web of legalities to ensure the best possible outcome for my children and I.  She was there to negotiate some of those transitions for me.

Plan on the transitions.  Expect them, anticipate them, negotiate them and then live them.  My attorney helped me plan and prepare for the first phase of transitions but I had to first face the reality that nothing I could do was going to change the eventual outcome.  Armed with this knowledge I was able to take a more active role in determining and shaping my own post-divorce world.

If you are at this place in your life and the inevitable is going down, I encourage you to begin doing your own research.  Find out what the laws are in your state or county.  Find out how property is usually divided and how the courts generally treat custody and parenting issues arrangements.  Your attorney can be a valuable resource in this area.  You can also do your own homework.  There are many great resources on the internet. 

It helped me to think of life in three categories: the things that were non-negotiable for me, the things that I could easily give up, and the things that fell in between these two extremes. It became a matter of prioritizing.  When it came to negotiating with the ex, I knew clearly what I had to barter with and what wasn’t up for negotiation from my perspective.  This ended up being irrelevant for me as my ex didn’t even show up for the hearing and the judge ruled everything as proposed by my attorney with some added stipulations making it more difficult for the ex should he seek to drag me back to court in the future. This, however, is extremely rare.  Expect a battle and arm yourself intelligently and thoughtfully for it.

 

Religious vs. Non-Religious

There are several reasons why I don’t usually venture down the road of the theological. 

First, it is because it doesn’t matter.  Okay, wait.  Hear me out. It’s not that theology, religion or spirituality isn’t important to me, it is just that the discussions are not necessarily important, especially those discussions that tend to divide and take sides as in the theist vs. non-theist discussion that occur ad nauseum all over the blogging world. 

Seriously.  What good are these discussions?  Has anyone ever been converted from their standpoint as the result of one of these dialogues? I’d like to hear if they have.  I suspect though that if they have then that’s the exception and not the rule.  Most of the discussions of this nature seem to me to be people picking fights with other people just to create some drama so they can get their daily adrenaline rush.  Not something I’m inclined to want to do much of. 

The next reason I don’t really go there with the spiritual or religious or theological or lack there of is because again, it doesn’t matter if I do.  Here’s what I mean by that this time.  It means, I know what I think pretty much.  I have some definite convictions, I have lots of questions and sometimes even some real serious doubts.  None of it can be “proven” from a scientific point of view (neither theism nor non-theism can be proven) though many make some very logical arguments for their particular side.  Nevertheless, regardless of the amount of logic, it is generally isn’t sufficient enough to sway my perspectives from those that after my own study, reflection and research and the conclusions I’ve come to as the result.  Nor are my arguments going to be convincing enough to alter anyone else’s views…usually. 

Another reason I don’t go here is that if I were to do so, I’d immediately have a bunch of people from all ends of the spectrum throwing their dogma at me in an effort to a.) share their opinion or b.) try to change my perspective.  I don’t so much mind a.  but I really hate b.

Finally, and probaby the real reason I don’t deal with the more religious or spiritual much is because I’ve placed my own views squarely under the microscope and am refining my own focus.  I’m not abandoning my conclusions per se, but some of my own warped and misguided and misinformed thinking has to be reassessed and quite possibly adjusted.  This is not a process I necessarily want to make public…yet.  Not saying I never will I just don’t feel like it right now.

Has the Wild Mind Also Died?

Have you noticed how non-existent I am here?  Like what’s up with that?  The Wild Mind gets on and posts a wimpy (at best) post about Michael Jackson and then disappears.  Hmmm, makes you wonder what I’ve been up to.  Or…makes you wonder if I died like all the rest of the celebrities out there.

Okay, rest assured I haven’t died.

Yes, I have struggled a bit with writer’s block due to the fact that certain someone’s might be reading this blog and trying to read between the lines and of course I don’t want them to get the wrong impression so I….*deeep inhale* ….need to take a freaking breath and just write what I want to write.  But also…and more importantly…I’ve struggled because my life is changing at light speed…due to my own initiative…thanks…and well…I just want to write about something more important than Fire Trucks and swimming pool pumps and hoses hooking up.  I mean, as fun as that is…it is so not where I live and other things are motivating me right now.  Sigh. 

The Wild Mind is in a Wild State of Transition….I guess?  Maybe? 

Or…The Wild Mind is simply being proactive and deciding to live life…instead of merely writing about it after the fact?

Okay…all of the above is true.

Here’s what you (you being anyone interested besides The Wild Mind’s Self) need to know:

* yeah, okay, I admit…life has been busy and rather than write about how I’m accomplishing my New Year’s Resolutions, I am actually out there accomplishing them.

* I’m done with dating derelict men who are unavailable emotionally and legally or who are simply looking for a one night stand(or lay).  I’m also done with spending time with anyone  who cannot demonstrate a  LOGICAL, RATIONAL, well informed and clearly articulated thought process when communicating.  Since this eliminates 97% of all men on the planet and especially those who post profiles on all the dating sites (and, yes, sadly I’ve tried them all), I ‘ve completely given up on the dating thing.

“Why?” you ask.

“Because” I say, “I have so much better things to do with my life.”

Yeah, that’s it.  I’ve decided to quit moping about my past failures.  I’ve picked myself up and dusted myself off and am reinventing myself and my life and my future.  I’m doing it because I can.  I’m doing it because I still have the energy and health to do it….and I am loving every freaking minute of it!  I’m.having.fun!

My mother was soooo right on.  I should have done what I wanted to do to begin with instead of being so worried about pleasing the world and getting married simply because it was the socially acceptable fantasy at the time.  Thank-you, Mom.  Even though you never saw the fruit of your labor with me while alive, understand that your words like seeds were sowed deep in me and took root…albeit late…but they have taken root and sprouted and there is a bountiful harvest for sure! 🙂  I’m finally figuring out what I’m about…what I want and it has nothing to do with the presence or absence of some nondescript man in my life. 

But it means I’m not having so much time to write, especially when it means that creative energy is spread out among 3 or more blogs,  4 children and one very viable contender for the Knight in Shining Armor Award.  (Okay, screw the shining armor part, he’s just very interesting, intelligent, attractive, real…and…well…the best part is that so far his actions match his words and that is never a bad thing).

Yes, if he passes muster, you’ll hear about it.  Until then, he’s only one who’s captured my imagination, sparked my interest and kept my interest far, far longer than most.  If he rides off into the sunset it will be because he didn’t like the fact that I wanted to ride my own horse instead of hitching onto his.  It will be because he wasn’t willing to move forward while I mounted my own gallant steed and caught up with him in a bit.  It will simply be because he wasn’t able to or man enough to deal with a princess who is completely in charge of herself and doesn’t depend on a dashing prince to achieve her dreams. It will be because he ultimately felt insecure around me instead of inspired and motivated to be the best he could be.  Somehow, this particular Knight, strikes me as being one who will make decisions for himself, and allow his Princess to make her own decisions, all the while as he’s got her back and spoiling her at every opportunity.  Not because he has to, but becaue he’s totally into her and not afraid to declare it.

Dashing prince or not, The Wild Mind will create her own Fairy Tale Happy Ending.   It will take an incredibly amazing and masculine and self assurred….even a bit arrogant…maybe cocky Prince to be able to roll with that. 

Can you imagine just how interesting that relationship might be?  Not your standard, let’s-go-to-bed-at-ten-and-do-the-same-three-things-we-always-do-in-the-same-order-at-the-same-time -like-a-circus-monkey kind of relationship now is it?

Bad Behavior

Recently a friend shared with me how her boyfriend of nearly 8 months ditched her for a period time on their last date without saying anything to her.  It seems they were out with a crowd of people and he simply disappeared for a while with another one of the guys from the group.  My friend was not really left alone.  She was with other people she knew, but she was in a different city about 30 minutes away from her place  and dependent upon her boyfriend for a ride home.  He was not even in the same location with her for over an hour of the time they were out on their date.  When they met back up again, my friend, smart cookie that she is, ended the date and insisted that her boyfriend take her home.  He was surprised that she had had enough for the evening and was calling it a night a good two hours before the time they originally planned the date would end.

Surprised?   He was surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior as if what he’d done was perfectly acceptable.

Another friend, recently met a man and went out with him for a first date.  He showed up dressed in an old tee shirt and a baseball cap. While on the date,  this man did not offer to buy her drinks but allowed her to buy his and did not say thank-you.  She never went out with him again.

Surprised?  Are you surprised that she was not going to put up with his bad behavior?

A third friend went out with a man who was attractive, intelligent, and paid without flinching for the drinks on their first meeting.  He went overboard to express his interest in her and to ask for a second date.  He told her he’d call her in two days.  He kept his word.  When he called he suggested they do something the next Saturday, she agreed.  He told her he’d call later that week to firm something up.  He called at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.  She saw the call ring in on her phone, recognized the number and let it go to voicemail.  She continued on with the plans she’d made for herself that evening after not having heard from him by midweek. What were those plans?  A home pedicure and a quiet evening in…alone.  When I spoke to her later about her thinking she said this, “I have better things to do that to waste time on someone who demonstrates such bad behavior.”   I asked her what she’d do if he called again?  She said, “He won’t, but if he does, it won’t matter.  He had his chance and he already blew it.” 

Surprised?  Was my friend playing games in the way she dealt with the man’s bad behavior?  Was she too harsh?

Bad behavior.  It happens.  Men behave badly toward women and women behave badly toward men.  It is not my intent here to point out or villify one sex over the other, but for the puposes of this article, I am speaking mostly of men and their bad behavior with women.  I do recognize however, that the relational road is a two way street and both sides get mistreated. 

We  put up with the bad behavior because we are so afraid of losing the relationship. This is something I have been guilty of more often than not in the past.  A guy says he’ll call, then doesn’t.  A guy calls at the last minute for a date that evening.  Worse, he pulls the typical 11:00 p.m. bootie call. (Now, that I’ve never put up with not even in my college days when it was normal for a date to start at 11:00!) A guy takes a woman out to a party then ignores her the entire evening.  A guy spends his time looking over every female that walks by while out on a date with you, his girlfriend, of a year.  A guy says he loves you and wants to get married, two years later a date is still not set and he is waffling.  The guy says he wants to move in.  The scheduled date for moving in comes and goes and he and all his things are still not in the same residence with you and yours.  Bad behavior.  We put up with it because the alternative in most cases is kicking the guy to the curb.  We don’t kick the guy to the curb because that means so many unpleasant things.

It could mean loss of the relationship.  If it does, then there go the dreams, the hopes the imaginary future you’d built in your head about all the possibilities you two could have had/done together.  It means you now do not get to check the “in a relationship” box on MySpace or Facebook.  If the relationship tubes, it means pain and loss and grief and anger.  It may mean some lonely nights in front of the t.v. with a box of Kleenex.  It could mean some self recrimination as you wonder, “Why on earth did I waste so much time hoping he cared about me the way I cared about him when it was so evident he did not?”  It could mean a complete change in living accommodations and lifestyle and standard of living.  It could mean so many things that are seemingly worse than just tolerating the bad behavior. 

But tolerating the bad behavior is damaging to us.  By tolerating bad behavior from anyone, we devalue ourselves and risk losing or crippling our confidence and our self-esteem.  No one needs to tolerate bad behavior on the part of a significant other.  We also don’t need to respond to the bad behavior with similarly bad behavior. 

Bad behavior happens.  So, what to do when it does? 

Well, to answer this question, one must first be very clear about what they want from relationship and what they will not tolerate.  Once one is clear about these things, the rest is fairly easy.  Simply do not tolerate the unacceptable behavior.  No need to get mad.  No need to get upset. No need to waste any time wondering if he’ll change or call or apologize.  Just don’t tolerate it. No explanation is needed. 

I hate to sound so callous, but seriously?  If he’s treating you that badly before you’re in a “committed relationship”, what will he treat you like after?  It generally doesn’t improve. Further, why waste any more time in relationship that is mediocre, unsatisfactory, disappointing or just not working?  Life is too short and there are plenty of decent men out there ready, willing and able to treat a woman they care about with dignity, respect and integrity.

So, how would I have done each of those scenarios if I were taking my “No Tolerance” approach? 

In the case of  the first friend whose boyfriend took off for an hour without saying anything to her, I wouldn’t have waited out the hour to find out that he was gone for over an hour.  I’d have either asked a friend to take me home or called a cab the minute I found out he was nowhere around.  I would not go out with him again.  If he called and offered some lame-ass excuse for his behavior (which is the only kind he could offer in such a circumstance) I would politely listen.  I would not offer an explanation for my behavior other than possibly to say, “There’s just not much about that entire episode that interested me that much.”  No need to discuss.  End of call.  I would screen any further calls.  No tears, no drama, no need.  I’m worth being treated better than that.  At minimum, I’m worth an explanation and the opportunity to say I want to go home if the plans have changed.  Further, I would not have done that to him. 

In the case of  my friend who’s date showed up for the first date dressed carelessly and who behaved carelessly, I would have ended the date within an hour.  Fortunately for her, they arrived in separate vehicles and she was free to leave when she wanted without having to depend upon him for a ride.  (I’m a big advocate of doing this if the date is a first date with someone you don’t know very well or if it is someone you are meeting from online.)  I would not go out with this person again and I would screen all calls as well. If it doesn’t matter to you how a man dresses or presents himself publicly and if you don’t mind being his bankroll then this behavior might not bother you.  It goes back to being very clear about what you want and what you don’t want.  The direction I am steering my life, has no room for someone who cannot move fluidly from a nice formal occasion to a tee-shirt and jeans and back again as needed depending upon the occasion.  Knowing this about myself, helps me eliminate the would be contenders for my affection that aren’t a good fit, no matter how nice they seem to be.  And, no, there’s not much about being someone else’s bankroll that interests me all that much. That’s what I do for my children, not for my lover.  I’m not opposed to bringing what I can to the financial table, but he needs to be willing to contribute too.

In the case of the third friend whose date didn’t call until the night of the date, I’d have done exactly what she did and I have on several occasions.   I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  when a man is crazy about a woman, he doesn’t let her phone grow cold.  He doesn’t wait until the last minute to call.  He doesn’t give her his number and hope she’ll call him.  Again, I know what I want and what I will not tolerate.  I want a guy who is crazy about me and a guy who doesn’t call simply is not.  He’s not shy, he’s not busy, he’s not unable to call, he’s simply not interested.  That doesn’t work for me. 

It’s just bad behavior and I have already used up all my bad behavior moments in this life.  They’ve all been spent on past relationships, enduring very bad behavior when I should have been moving on and enjoying my life.  Instead, I allowed myself to experience a great deal of misery and pain which I could have avoided by recognizing the bad behavior from the start instead of overlooking, ignoring or excusing it. I only have time and energy left in my life to spend on giving the best of me (which is my time and energy) to those who are really truly going to appreciate it.

Tahiti On My Mind

skiingonglassSo, you know how life is?  You cruise along and everything is really chill and you are making forward progress toward all your goals.  You have your game on and you are kickin’ it. You are just moving through life like water-skiing on glass.  It’s a complete breeze.  All you have to do is hold on to the rope and you don’t even need both hands.  Jumping the wake is effortless and every single time you land it cutting sharp with rooster tail flying.  Life doesn’t get any better than that!

We all know life turns on a dime though.

In the water-skiing arena of life all it takes is that submerged rock or floating log that the driver of the boat didn’t see or that edge you catch because you aren’t paying attention and then suddenly you are hurling over water at nearly 34 miles an hour which is breakneck speed when you are wearing almost nothing and the surface of the water is throwing you back into the air like a red rubber bouncy ball on cement.  It’s simply no fun.  In fact, depending on the wipeout, and I have had a few of these, after the motion stops you wonder if you are, first, still alive and second, how badly you might be bleeding. Hitting glass at that speed is like jumping onto the freeway from a car traveling the speed limit.  It hurts…bad!

But then life isn’t just the water-skiing thing happening in isolation.  In real life you could be water-skiing, but then someone says something and another person sends you an email and a kid looks up at you and asks you the most random question or you have someone new enter your life you totally pushes your game and suddenly there you are…

hurtling buns over teakettle…

bumping…bouncing…skidding…slamming…hurting…gasping…reeling…

waiting for it all to stop. Wondering if it will stop. And you can’t do anything to make it stop.

Yeah.  That’s pretty much how life can be sometimes.  And that is exactly how my life has been.

So, let’s go over the skiing on glass experiences:

Two years ago I left Ex #2, who was emotionally, spiritually and verging on the point of physically, abusive.  To put it kindly, he was a very cruel, selfish, immature, irresponsible, manic/depressive and unkind person. I got out of that marriage and managed to keep my health, home and some of my stuff but I ended up having to take on all the marital debt.  Because why?  Because during the marriage, I was the one with the rockin’ credit score and he couldn’t even beg bread on the corner so everything (credit wsadness_1_ise and I was worth a decent amount…then) was in my name.  I was smart enough on one level to never combine accounts with the man, but in the end, that also killed me, because those are the debts I am now paying off.  Sure, I could have fought for a judgement that forced him to pay half, but he wouldn’t have paid it (I know this man well) and that would have screwed my credit score and my ethics. It wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. So, Ex leaves with no obligations, I carry on with all of them.  As the marriage goes, so goes the divorce. 

True, he goes home to live with mommy (and pay no bills) and he actively seeks for and finds his replacement for me.  Easy freaking come, easy freaking go.

Sad thing about that is…when I was there…I wasn’t taking it so lightly and I really cared.  Clearly he didn’t.

So, two years post-divorce and I’m just barely beginning to see this dim light at the end of the tunnel and thinking life is actually going to be peaceful where this man is concerned (that’s the glass part)  where this crazy man is concerned and he runs off to Vegas and marries someone and not even someone he has really had an opportunity to meet or interact with in real time. Worse, my daughter’s only met her twice. And now he’s announcing to the world how they are already actively working on having a family and they haven’t been married a week.  Better. Get this.  He already has 8 children he is not paying for or supporting either emortionally or financially!!!!!  I could really care less what he’s doing or who he’s doing…except that it seems incredibly unfair that the schmuck here can find fun far faster than the responsible, mature, thinking  person.   There is seriously something wrong with this world…or maybe it is this country…or maybe it is convervative Christians…or maybe it is just him. (He’s an amazing con artist!)  Enough.of.that!

overwaterbungalowWhile all that was going down in my life and I’m reeling from the realization that I wasted 7 very critical years of my life with a man who really did only view me as something less than the dogs and completely replace-able, other things were going on too.  A friend sent me one of those joke emails.  I’d post it in here, but I’m not sure how to make it work.  In this particular case, it was an invitation to a barbecue at a beautiful resort in the South Pacific.  You know the place.  Bungalows built out over the water, floors of glass looking into the ocean and fish swimming below.  Beautiful.  Sunny.  Warm. Serene.  Isolated.  Isolated.  Solitary.  Relaxing isolation. 

Back at home, the kids are angry because I have limits and won’t adjust (much) when they inform me at the last minute.  I’m also doing the same ole teenage fight that centers around balancing home obligations (read chores…or in my kids’ case “chore”) with social desires.  It doesn’t make me popular around here. And now, my youngest, who is clearly having her dad and  The Replacement plan fun things in her presence when they know she will be with me (as an attempt to upset her and indirectly coerce me into allowing her to be with him) is very, very angry and unhappy…supposedly with me.  Not like he could pick up the phone and call and say, “Hey, we have this big family thing we’d like her to be a part of can she come?” instead he has to directly involve her and use her to manipulate me. 

Like I said earlier….as the marriage goes, so goes the divorce.

I’m also way into the most stressful month I’ve yet to experience in my life since leaving the Ex and in this week alone I have more obligations due than most people in my position have in a year…and more were added this week.  I seriously need to be mainlining vodka crans…no…Long Island Ice Teas…in order to self-medicate here!

The next unrelated incident that happened was a digital friend, who in very casual conversation made this statement, “You can’t control anything another person does.”  Obvious enough, true enough and old knowledge for me…but in the context of all the other things hitting me on the glassy surface of life at 35+ miles/knotts an hour this one caused some different synapses to fire.

It all culminated with the young, beautiful, intelligent and wise Student Teacher who has her complete game on coming into my classroom this last week and putting a picture up on the big screen of a freaking bungalow built over the water in Tahiti as a writing prompt for the kids.  I so did not need to see that.  And, who does she think she is anyway, coming into my classroom and freaking challenging me to amp up my instruction to the next level?????  Well, all I can say to that is, “Bring it, girlfriend!  We’ll rock this sleepy little joint with the proverbial as iron sharpens iron thing!”   Anyway….I hate her.

glass_floorI hate her for putting that image up.

I hate that the fact that this particular image has haunted me throughout the week.

And that’s when, my water-skiing on glass life became the wipeout of the century…sort of.

“Mommy, over break Daddy and his girfriend went to a drive through Chapel in Vegas and got married.”

Images of bungalows built over the ocean.

“Mommy, I want to go live with my dad.  He’s more fun and I want to be with my stepmom.” (Daggers in my heart.)

“You can’t control what other people do.”

“You can’t control what other people do.”  Well, what is it I want to do, now that it doesn’t matter to anyone else?

“You can’t control what other people do.” Tahiti.  Glass floors.  14 nights of solitude. 

“You can’t control what other people do.” What I really want to do is spend 14 nights of solitude in the South Pacific.  I would be a completely different person after that.

It was strange.  As I sat there lying face down on the proveribial post-divorce surface of the now choppy lake, I thought, “I am free. I am really no longer obligated to consider him in any decision I make regarding our child.  In over two years, he’s not concerned himself in communicating with me, why am I concerned about making the attempt with him.  My duty now rests completely with making my daughter’s childhood the best it can be in spite of him…and I’m not going to give him the heads up about it.”

Simultaneously the question my mother use to plague me with ran through my mind, “You need to decide what it is you want to do and then do it.” For the first time in my life…I can really answer this question.  What I really want to do is spend 14 nights, three weeks or a month if I could afford it, in one of those bungalows over the South Pacific all.by.myself.allbymyself

“What???!!! Like not even with a guy???!!” A friend of mine asked.  Yeah, she can, she’s happily married.  “No,” I answered, “Not today, at least.  Not even with a guy.  Alone.”

So, while the last three weeks or so have done their best to slap me around (and, yes, it’s been painful), the feeling and the awareness that comes when the skier realizes they just survived a major wipeout and they’re still alive and still able to pick up the rope and continue skiing (even if they have to sojourn in the boat awhile) is like life reborn. The second wind, the second chance, the next 40 years.  However, you want to phrase it, it was one of those weeks for me.

I will be heading to the South Pacific and I’ve set a goal and a deadline.  Further, I really do want to go alone but if Mr. Soulmate finds me before then and would like to join me…truly…I’d be disappointed…in a way…that I wasn’t going alone…and I’d consider it a complete gift in another way. Quality relationships are difficult to find…and even more difficult to keep. If you find yourself  blessed by being part of one, make it a priority.

Even further, since fourth grade, I’ve wanted to write a book, but I’ve never been able to come up with a storyline  or even a basic plot.  And I’ve been too afraid to make the attempt (yeah, I know I don’t particularly strike anyone as the fearful type, but I am). All of that changed for me this week.  I not only have the characters named and fleshed out, but I have the setting, basic plot, problem and….yes…even the conclusion for my story.  And I’m  not afraid to write it and not afraid to submit it to scrutiny a million times if need be. It may never get published.  But it will be written. 

My story starts in pain, continues in Tahiti and ends in hope.

I feel like the last several weeks I’ve gone from just beginning to feel like I’mdreams water-skiing on glass to feeling like I’m experiencing the wipeout of the century.  After crawling in the boat and resting for a bit (and moaning and groaning like a blasted wuss all the while) I feel like I’m ready to trade in the boat and skis and purchase a ticket to the South Pacific. Not because I hate skiing or because I’m gun shy, or because I’m a bad skier, but because, while I really love water-skiing, it just isn’t what I want to really be doing right now. 

14 nights.

Bungalow over the water.

Complete solitude.

A book.

I have Tahiti on my mind.

Negotiating a Divorce And Trying To Read The Crystal Ball

Today I tasked my students with attempting to begin their personal narratives in an interesting and creative way.  Now, it’s my turn and I am stuck.  How to begin? 

It was a dark and stormy night….na…taken, overused.

On Wednesday I was talking to a friend of mine….boring.

Hmmm, it is easier said than done.  It’s always easier to tell others how to do something and to give examples, but when it comes down to doing it yourself, it can be a much more challenging task.

This is how it is for me when I talk to my friends who are going through divorce.  I’ve been through divorce twice myself, but I also went through a custody trial on behalf of my second ex before he was my ex.  That means three times, I’ve needed to retain attorneys to resolve affairs of the heart that went bad and involved children and houses.  Once I settled out of court, once I experienced a two day, very tense and humiliating trial at the end of which I had no solutions and $30,000 less to my name.  The third time, the opposition never showed up so the judge ruled in my favor and  my attorney still stuck me with the bills.  None of these experiences was what I’d consider fun.  I never want to go there again. 

I hate to see my friends go through the pain, the anxiety, the fear, the tension, the complete range of unhappy emotions that come with negotiating anything in the legal realm, especially in family law.  It is so agonizing to stand by and listen and watch my friends knowing that I didn’t like what they are experiencing when I went through it.  It is painful to care for my friends and to see them experience such doubt, uncertainty, and angst.  It is hard to not be able to help in any way other than to sit by and listen.  Giving advice based on my experiences wouldn’t even be relevant because every situation is different.  The stakes are always high, as are the emotions but the nuances and possible consequences of all the negotiations are never just a simple black and white.

Even so, there are some things I’ve learned that I wish I would have known before going into the process and while enduring the process.  These are the things that are on my mind right now.  I’m airing them as much for me to revisit and clarify what I’ve learned and where I’ve travelled and why as much as to put it out there for anyone who might benefit from it.

I am not an attorney and none of this is intended to in any way replace the counsel of a good attorney. I am not a psychologist and I cannot give that kind of advice either.  All I’m really doing here is sharing what happened to me, what I wish I’d known or done differently.  Maybe it will help others maybe it won’t.  I’m really not all that concerned about that.  I just need to sort out for myself the jumble so I can be clear about the paths I chose and where they are now leading me.

One thing I wish I would have done in every case is wait and not panic.  This is not always possible.  When you are in the legal battle with someone you used to be very intimate with but with whom you cannot bear to be allied for a moment longer, waiting is especially hard.  Waiting is especially difficult if the person is abusive, dangerous or volatile.  Until you have that signed document you are still linked to that individual to some degree. It makes waiting nearly impossible, especially when the longer you still have the married label the further and more thoroughly the other person can destroy you financially, emotionally, maybe even physically.  When this is the situation, and you must wait, panic can eat you alive and prompt you to make decisions you may later regret. In my case, I made many good decisions, but there are some that I wish I’d waited on.  I wish I’d asked more questions of my attorney.  I wish I would have considered negotiating some other areas more thoroughly.  It might not have made a difference, but then again, it might have.

I also wish I could have seen more clearly how the deal I was negotiating then would affect my future which has become my present.  I think I did a very good job of this when considering the children.  I think I should have thought through it all a little more on the financial end.  I wish I could have seen a little more clearly then how it all would impact my future in post-divorce life.  How closely will I be connected and for how long will I be linked to this individual in the years to come? How much communication will be required between the two adults in question and is the amount required even going to be possible given the nature of the relationship?  As long as there are kids and money involved the chains still linking me to my past relationships are there even if they are invisible most of the time.  This sometimes negatively affects my present peace of mind.  Sometimes I wish I would have done this differently, though I’m not sure even now what that “differently” would be. 

 And this is the trouble with divorce, especially if there is a huge breakdown in communication, which it seems there usually is.  Because there are so many unknowns, so many possible and probable different outcomes, trying to see how my present decisions will impact my future life was a lot like gazing into a crystal ball and seeing nothing but formless shapes and figures among the misty haze. It simply isn’t possible to anticipate the future in every instance.  I think the people who are really good at computer programming could come up with a program to identify all the potential variables, courses of action and potential outcomes, but who has time or patience for that?

The best thing I did (and maybe the best any of us can do) is to  listen carefully to my attorney (get a second or third opinion if we need to) and try not to let our emotions rule.  The best we can do is to do the best we know how to do at the time.  In the end, I just had to move forward in confidence, knowing that I couldn’t know all the possible outcomes.  I had to forge ahead making decisions based only on the pieces of the puzzle that I could see and that my attorney could see. I forced myself to believe that it would all turn out okay, even when I was plagued with fears of the “what if’s”.  What if I lose the house?  What if I can’t make it financially?  What if, what if, what if…. There were nights I tossed and turned with the angst.

As it turned out, as most things turn out I’ve learned, most of what I feared never came to pass.  It ended up in some ways, in most ways, far better than I could have asked.  It ended up in a few ways more difficult than I imagined.  I simply did the best I knew how to do at the time.  It has to be good enough. This is the biggest lesson I take with me as I move forward into each day: I will be okay if I just do the best I can at the time.  When I get down and discouraged and starting thinking “I wish I would have” this is always the place I end up.  I did the best I could.  If I’d have known better, I’d have done better.  I just wasn’t able to read that crystal ball clearly enough, but it’s all turned out okay anyway.

Swirlies And The Problem With Interludes

I have the swirlies. I’ve just experienced an interlude.  Wasn’t planned.  Wasn’t expected.  Was fun. Very fun.  Not exotic.  Not spectacular.  But unusual, unexpected, and very, very unique.  It was signature.  It was classic.  It is the stuff good romance stories are made of whether they end in happily ever after or not…and not all of them do.  But now, it is post-interlude and I have the swirlies.

The swirlies.  It’s that state of mind, hmmm, maybe that state of emotion too, where everything’s  in motion.  My thoughts, my feelings, my reactions, my motivation, my thoughts, my feelings, my reactions, my motivation…all of it is just swirling around like leaves in a breeze. The wind’s not blowing hard enough to just clear the yard of all the leaf matter.  Leaves are in motion, spinning, floating, dangling, coming to rest momentarily, then getting picked up again by the next breeze that floats through.

This is my state of mind this morning.

I’m filled with thoughts.

I’m fill with emotions.

I can’t sort any of it out.  I’m not really even sure I want to. 

I can’t keep any of it still for more than a moment or two and it all comes bubbling right up to the surface again.

I have to go back to work tomorrow.  Correction.  I have to go back to work today.  Because there is laundry to be done, a house to be cleaned, bills to be paid, and children’s needs to meet.

But I am filled with emotions and thoughts and my own needs.  I have my own questions.  I wonder.  I doubt.  I fear.  I hope.  And, none of it will settle.  I want.  I do know this.  I know what I want and that is not swirling.  Everything else is swirling around that. 

I have my own wishes…and my own regrets.  I wish I could have….I wish I’d said…I wish I’d asked…I wish.  I regret that I didn’t…I regret that I did…I regret…

And I wonder.  I wonder what.  I wonder if.  I wonder why. Will there be the opportunity for a re-do?  What if there isn’t.  Why?  Why not? What? What if? 

I also fear.  I fear the if…the when and the why.  Maybe, especially the why or worse…the why not.

Thoughts dash in and then out and back in.  They are swirling, roaming, floating, dashing, fleeing, swirling.  I have the swirlies inside. 

It is evident that today I will not get any answers.  I don’t even know if there are any answers to be had. For that matter, I can’t even pin down the questions.   So without questions, answers make no sense anyway.

I will not get any nearer knowing or resolving or settling anything today, I don’t think.  The leaves in my mind just refuse to be raked and bagged.  I am certain that it is going to be a waste of time to even try to address the tumbling mess of emotional and cognitive matter moving messily about my wild mind. 

So, I am going to give up and go do something else. 

Like laundry.  And making breakfast.  Or preparing for work tomorrow. 

Or any matter of other really normal, routine, business-as-usual things that I would be doing anyway….if the last three days hadn’t happened.  And that’s the problem with interludes. 

The really good ones can’t be planned.  They come as a completely unexpected surprise.

And, when they are over….

When they are over…the return to reality can be almost painful. 

Because a really good interlude, especially one that isn’t planned or scheduled, can put one in touch with what really matters.  And sometimes, it’s just hard to get back to the laundry after that.