Sunday, January 22, 2017

there is no happy ever after

When we were married, Jeff and I had our fair share of "normal" marriage problems, in addition to his addiction issues (which were the straw that ultimately broke my back).  You know, things like financial disagreements, communication issues, everyday annoyances, not fulfilling promises or changing in the ways that we had hoped we would.  These are things that kill marriages every day, although on their own they probably would not have killed ours.

One of the most surprising and affirming things for me, after we separated, was how light and free I felt.  I realized how burdened I had been for those years, by all those issues.  Jeff and I continue to be great friends and co-parents.  Indeed, we function much better as friends than as spouses.  (After we separated, I joked that I had found the secret to a perfect marriage:  don't live together or share finances.)  But during those years we were together, I did my absolute best to work at it.  As a coping mechanism, I had gotten really good at telling myself that "happy ever after" is just a mirage.  Every marriage has issues.  Every marriage loses its luster at some point.  You can't stay as intensely "in love" as you were at the beginning.  It's just not physically possible, like from a neuro-transmitter perspective.

But as time has worn on, I have begun to be seduced by "happy ever after" again.  After almost four years, I have lost the immediacy of my marriage experience and the knowledge that that kind of sublime, transcendent love for the long haul is a myth.  I have allowed myself to desire it again, and (even more alarming) I have begun to be upset and entitled about it.

I'm so great . . . I want to share myself with someone . . . I deserve that kind of love in my life.

Do you hear what I'm saying?  I'm allowing myself to get upset that I'm not experiencing a myth.  Absurdity.

Almost all of my friends are partnered or married, so I still get a big glimpse into what the marriage struggle is like.  And I regularly find myself congratulating myself that I'm not married anymore, when I hear about the kinds of mundane, daily ridiculousness that they have to put up with from each other.  And then there are also the big, capital-P Problems.  My friends' marriages have those, too.

For instance:  in my home, there is no question about who will be taking care of the children.  Because I'm the only one in my home who is going to be taking care of the children.  Of course, this can be stressful and wearing.  But, at least there is no additional friction from another adult about who is supposed to be in charge.  Know what I mean?  There is no resentment about who buys groceries or cooks dinner or takes out the trash or folds laundry.  I do all that because I can't expect a 3- or a 5-year-old to do it.  And thank God I don't have to do all that, on top of arguing with someone.

I never, ever have to call someone to ask about why the bank balance is so low.  I'm the only one who can make the bank balance low.  So I only need to ask myself about that.

I have begun to forget about how nice it is to be the only one in charge, the only one who is responsible for either getting things done or creating problems.

If I were to marry again, I would suddenly have to renegotiate all of that.  And then my warm, rosy "happy ever after" feelings would vanish, for sure.  It would be back to work.  Would it be worth it?  Perhaps.  But it certainly wouldn't be "happy ever after."

Friday, January 20, 2017

the dress

Forgive me for what you're about to read, as it is maddeningly vague.  Trust me that it's as specific as I feel I can be, given a variety of different situations in my life.  (The metaphor of the dress applies to two or three somewhat separate things that I'm going through right now.)  I want to share a breakthrough that I've had recently - a sense of peace that is so pervasive that I wish I could bottle it and keep it in the medicine cabinet to take a dose when life gets stressful.

You see, I had this dress.  The dress was perfect.  The fabric was silky and soft against my skin.  It was elegant and perfect for every occasion.  In fact, I longed for more occasions when I could wear the dress and show off how lovely it made me look.  I always got so many compliments every time I wore it.  The color and the cut and the pattern made it like the Platonic ideal of a dress to me.

Every time I wore it, I stood in front of the mirror admiring myself.  But then, when I went out in it, I would start to get uncomfortable.  It was like the dress only fit right if I was standing up straight.  When I sat down, it pinched.  If I gained five pounds, it was all wrong.  When I tried to lift my arms up high over my head, I feared that I would tear the underarm seams.  I had to wear certain shoes so that my legs looked right in the dress.  Suddenly, I couldn't wait until I could get home and take it off.

But I remained committed to the dress.  Maybe if I could just change myself a little, or even alter the dress, it could fit right.  I could nip here and tuck there and suck in.  I could wear different undergarments.  Nothing radical, just some little changes.

But it just never fit.  And the dress not fitting caused me to doubt myself.

So, I gave it away.

No more dress.  And that is the peace that I'm talking about.  Was it sad?  Yes.  Do I miss the dress?  Yes.  Do I worry that I may never find another dress like it again?  Of course.  A girl needs a dress like that!  But no matter what I tried, it wasn't the right one for me.  It's probably going to look just perfect on someone else.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

a day in the life

I'm back!  I found this entry that I never published from last March (the 22nd, to be exact), and it really got me thinking.  I find it hilarious that I never made it past 12:50.  A bunch of stuff has changed in the last nine months (I didn't end up moving appointments, for example, and Jeff is out of the halfway house and doing awesome - he just got his one-year sobriety chip), but the hectic pace is still the same.  It's really very telling that I could only keep up with cataloging what I do until early afternoon.

I just got back from a little vacation to visit my best friend outside San Francisco.  One of the things I love most about spending time visiting with him is how slow and simple life is.  We linger over coffee in the morning.  We walk the dog in a great big loop.  We have time and space to just talk about ideas.  I spend all day shopping for and fixing dinner.  And it's so, so not how my life is every day.  I don't know if I would like my life to be that open and simple all the time (and I don't really get much of a choice, anyway), but it makes for a perfect place to reflect and get my mental life in order.

I love these kinds of zoom-in posts to see what the warp and weft and weave of the fabric of a person's life is like.  Forgive me if you just don't care that much, but I thought some of you might find it kind of amusing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

7:15 - we wake up late.  Todd has his allergy-induced coughing this time of year, so he kept me up a lot of the night after coming to sleep with me at about 11:30.  The dog is tucked tightly into my armpit on the other side.  I love this feeling of being pinned between two warm little lumps who love me.

8:20 - after showering, getting the kids dressed, fixing them six hundred different things for breakfast, realizing I'm slightly hungover after I had three drinks and no dinner at this storytelling thing (don't worry, my senior pastor drove!) for my birthday last night, eating some homemade granola, and forgetting to take the dog out, we pile in the car.

8:30 - we pick up my ex-husband at the halfway house where he is living.

8:50 - we drop the kids off at their preschool.

9:00 - I drop Jeff off at a Burger King so he can meet his boss and go work for the day.

9:05 - I call my attorney to discuss the eventuality of my moving and needing to renegotiate our custody agreement.

9:15 - I walk into church, wave at everyone, finish the call with the attorney, and answer emails and texts for awhile.

9:30 - I'm interrupted by a few folks needing bus passes and food bags.  No big deal.

9:45 - time for chapel with the daycare kids!  I go to the Sanctuary and meet them, light candles, tell the Easter story, sing a few songs, pray, and answer some of their very thoughtful questions about why we have purple in the Sanctuary right now (Lent), why where are so many crosses in there, why there is a screen behind the cross (vents for the organ speakers), and why we light candles.

10:00 - I come back to see that the Moroccan woman who doesn't speak any English and is being divorced by her husband and has no recourse or resources is back speaking with the Senior Pastor.  She has been in a lot lately, and we have no idea what to do about her situation.  I remember that the son of some congregants is fluent in Arabic and try to reach him.

10:15 - edits, edits, edits.  This is Holy Week, plus there is a funeral today, so there are a million things to proof and edit.  Early and late service bulletins for Sunday, funeral order of worship, Good Friday bulletin, children's bulletins for Sunday.  I also miraculously find the Easter offering envelopes that I thought I was going to have to sell my soul for at some Christian bookstore this week.

10:20 - the family of the deceased for the funeral later is here and setting things up for the visitation to follow, and I have to text the custodian a bunch to get things squared away with them.  They set up a chocolate candy bar display that looks, frankly, phenomenal.

10:25 - interrupted by some more folks needing bus passes and food bags.  They need to get down to Metro General Hospital for some appointments.

11:00 - I realize that I need to eat before leading the Madison Homelessness Commission meeting at one.  I also need to call another District Superintendent about a possible move.  Multitask.  Panera sounds good.  On my way out, I notice that the Moroccan divorcee is gone.  I also remember that I haven't brushed my teeth yet today, but I did pack my toothbrush and a little travel paste in my bag this morning.  After lunch then.

11:20 - I talk to the DS.  I remember that I need to text my mother-in-law and tell her I left Todd's medicines in the preschool office when she picks him up later for his sleepover.  I order French onion soup, a veggie sandwich, chips, and water.  I get out a book like I'm going to do some reading for my D.Min. program, all studious, but then I just Facebook the whole time I'm eating.

12:30 - I get back to church.  The office volunteer tells me about a man to whom she gave a food bag.  I realize I need to move the Homelessness Coalition meeting from the gym to the library.  I contemplate a third cup of coffee and decide to live dangerously.  I brush my teeth first though.  Then I give some thought to how I'm going to lead this meeting.

12:50 - I remember to starting downloading the episode of "GIRLS" I'm going to watch tonight on my iPad after bedtime.