Sunday, November 29, 2009

Owner's Manual

There's just no manual for divorce. Nothing to tell you how to do this and how to handle that. No book or magazine article that tells you what to say and how to be. No pamphlet that explains how to feel and what to think.

I've finally come clean to most people who know me very well. I've admitted that I'm getting (or now have gotten) divorced from the person I've shared the last 12 years with. People have had mixed reactions. I've been touched by the support of some. And hurt by the judgment of others. But overall that part is over and done with, and I'm glad. Maybe people will stop talking about it, and stop questioning me about it. It's complicated. There is a part of me that yearns for some privacy through all this. I don't want to discuss the demise of the primary relationship in my life with every Tom, Dick and Harry. I don't want to be the subject of gossip. But mostly, I just want to feel normal again in my relationships to the people around me. Whatever that means.

The parts that are still confusing really relate to my kids. I finally pushed my ex-husband out of the house. (It's funny that even I use his pejorative terminology, actually I asked nicely for months, and finally insisted on Sunday). Sort of. I told him he needed to be out by today. However, that hasn't happened. He moved some of his things out. He left behind most of the furniture, two cars and a garage full of junk. I think it's a control issue, and it's frustrating as hell.

He also left behind our two kids. Today he indicated that he will come by and see them tomorrow and daily from now on. I don't believe this. He hasn't seen them in nearly a week. He hasn't spent more than an hour with them in months. And because of his normal absence in their lives, they really haven't asked about him much. I think he assumes he will continue to make himself at my home here to visit with the kids. That he should be allowed to visit with the kids in my home. Since there's no manual, I've had to admit I'm not comfortable with him in the house at this point. He still has keys and remotes, and doesn't seem to have any desire to give up his right to stay, live and be here. It makes me uneasy. And I don't get it. Why would he want to be in the house at this point? Other than attempt to make me feel uneasy, is there any point to it at all? Then I wonder...should I allow it if only for my kids? Perhaps this is the only way they will spend time with their dad. Do I prohibit it? I don't know. I wish there was a manual. All through this process, I've been most concerned with how my kids would react to all this. By and large their lives have remained unchanged. Today we went to church and had a normal Sunday at home. We went to the store to buy their Christmas ornament (a tradition I started when Melena was 2 and I was pregnant with Rudy) and got all the Christmas stuff out and around the house. We ate fish sticks together for supper around our table. Life goes on. Part of me feels a lot of sympathy for Walter. The fact that he misses these moments...that he misses his quizzical little boy saying, "Is that polite mommy?" Or his daughter losing another tooth (her third this year)...biting into an apple hoping to knock it loose. He has missed so much with them...and continues to miss so much. I wish he got it. That life is so fast - and that soon these babies will have their own babies. Part of me is angry as hell with him for being so stupid, so self-absorbed.

Perhaps at the end of this experience I will write an guide to surviving divorce with your head and heart intact. Of course I haven't survived it yet. And some days I'm not at all sure I'm intact.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't waste a single moment

Today I found out a friend died. I have only known her for the past year. She was a priest, and a friend in the sense that I knew her to some degree, and she knew me to some degree. We weren't close in the sense that there was a lot I didn't know about her, and a lot she didn't know about me. Still, I counted her a friend, and someone who I thought highly of. She was intelligent, warm and passionate about the church. She was an encourager, hopeful, a decent person. She died suddenly, and I'm left thankful for her life, and even more thankful I didn't waste moments and skip the thoughts I had of her the last time I saw her.

I last saw her in a group we are part of on Wednesday nights. She had started teaching the other group that meets on that night, as opposed to the one I participate in. But the last time I saw her (last Wednesday) I told her how much I had enjoyed her sermon on the Sunday my daughter was baptized, and how my friend (my daughter's godmother) really thought a lot of her words. She accepted my comments graciously and smiled at the compliment. We chatted for a few minutes. I'm so glad now that I took that opportunity to tell her that I valued her and her contributions to the church I go to. I'm thankful that I told her I appreciated her one last time.

I'm thankful for her life. I'm thankful that I was able to meet her and know her, even if it wasn't as deeply as I now wish I had. I'm thankful that I was able to share the words that came to mind when I saw her instead of holding them back like I so often do. Oftentimes I find myself unable to say the things I think. Perhaps it's the fear of looking foolish or even a little vulnerable, I don't know. Regardless, I will be thinking of Irene this Thanksgiving Day and I will remember her comment to me once about her prayer life...she had told me that she always starts her prayers with praise and thanksgiving for the blessings in her life - and she meant it. When she talked about God she had this certain smile, this almost glow about her. I never doubted her faith. She had a certainty to the way she spoke about God. She once asked me where I was in the formal process of discernment. I laughed and told her I wasn't in a formal process, but that I would figure it out eventually. She laughed and told me there was no rush, God will work it out. She was right. May she rest now with the One she was so very thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

D day

The day has come that I have dreaded since May. Today I have to sit down with my babies and tell them about the divorce. I have put this off, primarily because I didn't want to tell them prematurely only to upset them when we were all still living in the same house. But, a few weeks ago I finally gathered my courage and told Walter he would have to be out by the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That's only 9 days away. And I'm taking the kids out of town while he moves out, so in less than a week we will be in Indiana. I've thought of different ways to approach this, but quite honestly there is no easy way.

My daughter is my primary concern. My son is only 3. And his bond with his dad has always been tenuous at best. My daughter though recalls a loving daddy who tickled her, fried her chicken and took her to Chinese buffets when she was littler. Since our son's birth, Walter has distanced himself from the kids more and more. But our daughter is hard to resist. She is an affectionate, effusive, sweet child. She is also emotional. I know that she will cry. And quite honestly when she cries, I have a hard time not joining in. I know that I am causing her pain, and that's the worst feeling I've ever had. I've been upset all week knowing this day was coming, and feeling like I have failed her. There is no quick, painless way through this.

While I can defend my decision to myself and to my friends and family, my daughter is another story. How do I defend splitting our family into two pieces to a child? How can I explain that Christmas morning won't be the same? The whole mess is so complicated that I don't always get it, I certainly don't expect her to get it.

Everyone, well-meaning as they are, tell me she will be fine. And I hope she will, but of course I know that part of her innocence will be gone. I don't know how people have gotten through this intact. It just seems so hard. Staying was hard. Leaving is hard. Some days I wonder if this is the right path for me. I wish I knew for sure. I've been reading some Buddhist writings recently. They talk about living within the moment. And about not running, not holding back. Not grasping onto things out of fear. Hard to explain. Harder to practice. Perhaps in my struggle to hold on to my sanity, I hold back that which is the most precious.

A few weeks ago I felt paralyzed. I was so depressed I couldn't see light. After 5 days it passed. But I worry about falling into it again. It seemed so deep, so all-encompassing. Despite my struggles, I couldn't get out. Finally I just let go. I let myself sink down into it. And after a few days, it lifted.

This post is random, and seemingly disconnected thoughts. Perhaps that is representative of where I find myself at this moment. Without apology, without excuse. And still I was able to get up today. To work, to love, to smile.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thin Skin

There are a lot of things I could be accused of. Emotional at times. Stubborn. Passive aggressive. Some of these are positive and some are negative depending upon the situation and what I'm reacting to.

Something I would not say that I am is thin-skinned. In fact, I think for the most part I take criticism fairly well, and don't let the little insults get to me. This week might've proved me wrong.

I'm friends with a lawyer named George. He's a nice enough guy I suppose. I haven't known him that long. We both have contracts with the county we practice in to provide guardian services for juvenile court. He was there first. I think I "knew of" him prior my starting in juvenile court 18 months ago, but I didn't really know him. In the past year, because of some mutual friends, I now would say that I know him to some degree. We are not best friends, nor do we share large parts of our lives. But, overall, I would call him a friend.

George has crossed lines with me in the past. He's made comments that have been inappropriate. Most of these comments have related to race, and have been borderline in my opinion. I think my gauge of appropriateness is pretty liberal. In fact, I enjoy the slightly rude, funny comment as much as the next person, so I don't think I would construe something as off the radar unless it was...really off the radar.

This past week George got angry with me about something fairly trivial. I think he would likely even agree it was trivial. His reaction caught me off guard. He called me a profane name and then told me to ... well I suppose you can guess. These messages were delivered via text message. I was taken aback, and quite honestly, I was offended. For someone to get so angry over something so...inconsequential...well it surprised me.

Then to make matters worse I was approached my another member of the team of people we work with in juvenile court and was informed that George had told her some personal things about my life, my now ex-husband and my children. Not only had he made these comments to her, but he had chosen to say these things in front of several others on the team. By the time I found this out, I was incensed. What was he thinking? How do I react? In the past I probably would've chosen to either ignore the incidents all together or to ignore the fact that I was hurt by his behavior.

Then today I realized again that perhaps I am beginning to take things too seriously or read too much into people's behavior. My daughter was baptized today at the church I've been attending since last winter. She chose this, and was excited about it. I invited one of the people who sometimes attends the church. He was there, but acted slightly odd. Not at all warm or the person that I typically think he is. I felt sort of confused by it, and a little taken aback.

Sometimes I think I am developing thinner skin. Or maybe it's just that I am learning to feel what I feel and not apologize for it necessarily. I doubt that I will raise the issue with the person from my church. George, well I haven't figured out what to do with him. I'm sure I will figure it out. All these feelings and nowhere to go with them I suppose. Or my skin has gotten too thin. Whichever.