Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Only Way Over Is Through

Amongst my divorced friends, we often refer to ourselves as "2.0," this part of our lives being a "next chapter" of sorts. Part of the process of divorce at 40 after 14+ years of marriage, is reinvention. It's impossible to go back to who we were at 25 and it's impossible to move forward without significant change. When I talk to people considering divorce, this is the part that scares them the most. The idea of starting over, of redefining ourselves halfway through our lives. The knowledge of the strength, support and wisdom it will require - it's terrifying.

The only way over is through. The only way to get there, is to do it. Some days that just means getting up and putting one foot in front of the other and other days it means discovering humor, passion and strength we might have believed we no longer had. In the beginning, each day you get through is a victory, each step is a mountain climbed.  In the beginning, the idea of 2.0 is so overwhelming and foreign that our ability to see it's potential is marred by the long, winding, muddy road between here and there.

Eventually though, time passes and you realize that your baby steps have moved you further than you'd have imagined. You wake up, look in the mirror and actually recognize the person looking back. That person is not you a year ago, but that person is YOU. You can finally see light back in your eyes. When you picture your day, your week and your month, your realize you are excited about the potential. Reinvention is the most integral part of this journey. You simply cannot get over what you have been through without it.

For some of us, we are faced with hard truths. We are forced to deal with demons and issues, we'd long ago put on a shelf. We are forced to look long and hard at who and what we want to be. To look at who and what we want to be around. There is a lot of work to be done and often in rediscovery and reinvention we have to force ourselves to be honest about being given a second chance to figure out what makes us happy. We are also forced to see where we have been wrong, what we need to own about our failures and how we want to be different in the next chapter of our lives. This is not to say that our core tenants change, per se. The crux of who we are remains. It is what we do with it that we are being given an new lease to define.

I recently sat around a table with 9 of the most amazing women I know (and have been blessed to know for over 20 years) and we were asked "what are you most proud of in the last 20 years?" While the answers varied and are too personal to disclose here, mine was simple - "I have found my voice again." One woman at the table chuckled and said "wait, when did YOU ever not have your voice?" In the literal sense she was right. I am loud, opinionated, a debater and defender. But the truth is, I had.

I had lost a sense of what made me, me. I had lost my innate need to own my words, my needs, my dreams and in doing that I was lost. It's been almost two years since my separation. Two very long and painful years. Two years of growth, discovery and redefining. Some things remain the same. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a lover. I am a friend. The rest has, for the most part, changed. How I view that change has also shifted. I am grateful, I am blessed. I still have days of anger and frustration but they are fewer and further between.

I am still very much in the process of understanding me, of knowing me and of liking me again. I often fall backwards and am lucky enough to be pulled back up by the loving people in my life. I am also learning new things about myself that are exciting and beautiful and that require so much soul searching. But this process is long and it is painful. Often in my discovery, I hurt the people I love in the name of understanding and discovery. I have no choice though. I need to find my 2.0 so that I can own her.

I am a work in progress. I have started the next chapter but the book is not yet finished being written. I am a sketch, not a masterpiece. I am still me at my core though. That me, she knows only ONE truth in this journey - the only way over is through.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Am Me And I Am Okay

 
I have long held the personal mantra that “if it won’t be on my headstone, it does not define me.” It has been 40 years in the making and I’ve forgotten it many times along the way, but I do my best to live that truth. Granted I plan to be cremated, but the sentiment is the same nonetheless.  The idea of letting ANYONE or any ONE mistake, accomplishment, role etc. define me, is simply unacceptable. I am the sum of my parts - inside and out.

A friend announced her graduation from cancer treatments today and I was so incredibly inspired for the obvious reasons and a few that are less so. From the day she openly shared her diagnosis, she has never let the disease define her. She is a mother, a wife, a friend, an advocate and a “grateful patient,” but she has never been “breast cancer.” She has often shared that even when its “over,” it’s never done. I suspect that she will continue to define her experience, her story and her life, herself. She defines what that looks like.

Until you are divorced, you don’t realize just how many documents require you to define yourself as such. It takes a toll at times. Adds insult to injury. If it were up to Facebook, I could chose that definition of myself there too. Yet very few of the divorced men and women I know would ever consider that a part of their being. A definition of self.

I was married. Now I am not. I am a mother, a daughter, a colleague and a friend. I strive to be a good neighbor, a lover, a contributor, a communicator, a teacher and human. My therapist insists that I spend far too much time on two unproductive topics; self-blame and affirmation seeking from the wrong people. It’s true. I can forgive others with ease, but rarely myself. I want to live my mantra, but I fall down when I can’t move past my own failures. I have often said that when I love, it is at 100%. The issue with this is when the object of my 100% can’t do the same. I have in the past, been left (in friendship and in love) feeling “less than.”

Amongst my divorced peers, there is a pervasive difficulty among women who were “left” not to define themselves that way. It’s the hardest part of being a support system. I see these women as strong even when they feel weak. I see women who, despite the hardest of circumstances, get through every day for themselves and their families. I see women who in their marriages might have played different roles, now begin to stand up for themselves, to fight for what they think, what they feel and what them and their children need. Today divorce might define them, but eventually they will define themselves.

A dear friend asked me recently what else he might refer to his ex as. “Ex-wife sounds so harsh, but the mother of my child erases all of the history.” He is right. This idea is not exclusive to women either. Why are dads often referred to as “babysitting” for their own kids? Would you ever refer to a mom that way? Why are divorced men automatically given praise when they show up, co-parent and do their share in all aspects? Would we ever award the same to a women? As a divorced women, I can’t imagine dating anyone who was not also divorced with kids. Who else could possibly understand? Who else would be able to handle the crazy scheduling and time sharing me with my kids and theirs? “Divorced dad” often comes with its own set of unfair societal definitions, when it seems each man should be able to define themselves.

I am, even from first blush, a lot of things. I am loud and extroverted. My accent is a dead giveaway about where I grew up. I am opinionated and open and honest and real. I am also incredibly sensitive and not nearly as self-confident as you might assume. I am scared, often. I am a worrier and I obsess over the things I cannot change. I’m a lover and a fighter all at once. I am organized and meticulous but also open-minded and adventurous. I define me. I am me and I am okay.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Being True To Ourselves - Lessons From My Daughter


My amazing, incredible and world traveling daughter finally came home last week after a month in Amsterdam. She called her time in the CISV village (http://www.cisvusa.org/) “the most amazing experience of my life.” She arrived exhausted, animated and changed. She talked non-stop, except to sleep, about the amazing friends, adventures and life lessons she’d had. Despite my being the adult, she is my hero. Her thirst for learning, her openness, her kind and gentle nature, her willingness to be vulnerable – all a gift. Her response to the opportunity to meet kids from all over the world and live together in a community of their own for a month was so enthusiastic, it was contagious. I was envious of her journey.

In the yearbook she returned with, so many of her friends, leaders and staff commented about her comfort in her own skin, her big ideas, her open mind and giant heart. Reading those notes was so emotional for me. I was so proud and also in such awe. I take very little credit for the person she is, which is very much her own doing. I know we are pretty good parents and get close to 50% of it right, close to 50% of the time. But she, she is all her own.

I was reminded however, that it was the same spirit in me that forced me to see how much of myself I had lost in my marriage. How squelched we can become when trying to please someone else’s ideal of how we “should be.” I was reminded that I had no one to blame for that but me. In any relationship there is give and take. There is compromise. All of that is necessary and good, but when we compromise ourselves, our very core and our very being, that is when it is no longer healthy. THAT is when we have to pay attention to the inner voice that looks in the mirror and barely recognizes our reflection.

Marriage, like any relationship, is hard. Being true to ourselves is even harder. My daughter is my hero because even as she enters the cruel world of tweendom, she stays the course. I'm smart enough to know this might not always be the case. Middle School and High School are other-worldly planets where the rules seem to change daily. Puberty and hormones often take over and cut down self-confidence and ability to be ones true self. Acceptance often rules over self-worth. I remember. I recall exactly when I went from believing (at 10) I owned the world to realizing (at 13) it owned me.  I also know that I will fight damn hard to help her stay true to her amazing spirit. I know that I will prioritize that over grades, clothes, looks and even friends. All the while, thanking her for motivating me and inspiring me to remember my own.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Noniversary


 

Today would have been fifteen years married. Twenty years since we started dating; that’s half of my life. Half of his too. We checked the right boxes. Wedding, house, dog, kid, another kid, cat, new house, another dog, picket fence. We made the right promises at the time – always and forever, until death, cherish, honor and, of course, love. And I still do. It confounds people when I say that. I think it even confounds him.

I love him still. I always will.

It just is. I used to believe that with enough time, therapy and arguments, it would end. I realized one day that it never will. In many ways I am grateful for that. We have been through it all together and even though we are now “apart,” I hope with every fiber of my being that this is the start to something we always struggled with, friendship. I hope that we are able to find our way, however difficult, however heartbreaking and however long it takes.

When we fight now, it’s really no different. We have still not found the right or best way to communicate. We drive each other nuts. We hurt each other regularly. He is fond of saying “we know just which buttons to push.” After 20 years, I think we are just on autopilot.

The love we had is bigger than the struggles, bigger than the messes and bigger than even the “right decision” to be apart. The sun always rose and set with him, for me. Even if that has changed, my horizon is not right without him in it. Our family is a new version but we are still very much a family. Our incredible kids are a gift I’ll be grateful to him for, forever.

Someone asked me recently how much of our marriage I was happy and when did I know it was over? Both are such difficult questions to answer. We’d likely each have unique response too. What I do know is that every time I talk to someone who is still in the throes of this mess they call “divorcing,” I feel blessed. We survived. We came away different. We came away apart. We came away changed. But, we survived and each of us is thriving.

I think the best gift we’ve given each other since is acceptance. We accept that we were not meant to be. We accept that we are each happier now. We accept that we were broken and unmendable.  We accept that our wants and our needs were too far apart. We accept that this, while life changing and heartbreaking, is better.

But I regret nothing. I’d change very little. This was our story. We wrote it, we lived it and we ended it with a level of grace. With that chapter completed, our own stories goes on. We will always be characters in each other’s tales. The vows of marriage are over. The vows of family endure. Happy noniversary to that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Year Ago and a Year Later


Eighteen months ago we made the decision to get divorced. Fifteen months ago we were separated. Five months ago our divorce was official. But it's the year I'm coming upon that seems the most significant.

A year ago we moved out of "our" house.

A year ago I had just made it through living in a hotel for two weeks.

A year ago I had just driven from the Midwest back to my foundation in NY. As I said then, "For the first time in 20 years, the idea of the cocoon of my parents and my childhood home is calling my name and I am heeding the call." I stayed there for weeks, in the cocoon, until I was able to come back to Ohio and move into my new house.

A year later there are seven kids between 8 and 13 running through my yard, screaming with the delight of summer and freedom while I sit inside and work, smiling at the sound of childhood.

A year later, we sometimes have dinner as a family of four, attend the kids' events as a posse of exes and currents, pack together for our kids' summer adventures away and discuss their anxieties, etc. According to a close friend "the general public thinks you guys have done a remarkable job, especially when it comes to the kids."

A year later, we still know all of each others' insecurities and weaknesses. I can still have my heart broken and be rendered speechless. We still fight over the stupid shit and the monumental things. We still bicker and fail to communicate, understand each other and be respectful. Fail. Often.

A year later, my house is my home. Every single thing in it was chosen by me and my kids. Each thing has a way of making me feel happy and comforted. Our schedule has a sense of normal, our new normal. My relationship with my kids has changed too. I am so much more present. We are so much more in sync. They have become more grown up, independent and responsible. I have become so much more grown up, independent and responsible, too. People argue over what "single mom" means, but when I am on my own with my kids, a single mom is exactly what I am.

A year later I am less gutted by the experience, less acutely sad, less mournful. I miss him less. But I do still miss him. Parts of him and parts of us. I spend less time crying and angry and more time reflecting and understanding. More time analyzing and working on me. More time alone. I used to hate alone. A year later, I've learned to hate it less.

A year later I have lost and gained friendships. Some have been a shock and others make perfect sense. I have built a village that is mine. I have learned that shared experience is more powerful that shared background or upbringing. I have learned that you cannot force someone to remain your friend if they are done with you. I have learned that you can want your ex to be your friend, but you can't make him want it too. I have learned that you can keep parts of your ex-family as your own and feel blessed for that.

A year later I am not "alone." Freud would likely have a field day with the fact that both my ex and I entered serious relationships soon after we separated, but we both seem happy. My relationship is long distance and seems to boggle the minds of those who love me, but it works for us. I am with someone who makes me feel like the best version of me. He is great with my kids and my family when he sees them and that, well, that is everything. My ex's is local and adds the layer of a regular presence in my kid's life and even in mine. Oddly, most of the time that makes me feel grateful. Sometimes it hurts, as I assume mine does for him. Sometimes. Most of the time I am glad that she is a good person - an open and genuine human, who is good to my kids and who seems to take a sincere interest in them.

A year ago, I was just beginning this journey. A year later I have come to realize that the baby steps count just as much as the leaps of faith.

A year ago I'd forgotten much of who I was in the face of such a heart-wrenching loss. Grief is the pendulum swing of love. A year later, I'm back. I'm building and rebuilding. I'm starting to recognize this version of me. A year from now, I might even love her.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What We Wish You Knew




It’s true, isn’t it? I am that person. I lack a filter at times and want to (g-d forbid) talk about the tough stuff. I’m a firm believer in the power of talking. It’s my process. It’s my thinking out loud. I’m far from alone.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who is fighting and beating breast cancer. She asked how I was and it felt selfish to even answer. She commented that she’d read a lot of what I’d wrote about divorce and much of it hit home for her too. She shared the difficulty of knowing that at first, everyone shows up. They feed you, they hold your hand, they take your kids - they are THERE. Then, they move on. They have their own lives to get back to, as they should. But you are not done, not by a mile. Yet, it feels selfish to ask for more, to NEED more. In that way she and I were the same, she said.

I asked her what she wished people understood about her journey. She said “too often people think the end of treatment is the end, when really it’s the beginning. The beginning of looking over your shoulder every day, wondering if the disease will return. The beginning of adjusting to a “new normal.” She knows she will never be the same as she was before breast cancer. For so many people in her life, that is challenging to understand. When your world shifts on its axis, when you are reinventing yourself, when life is now “2.0,” there is so much you wish those around you understood.

So, I asked again. This time I asked men and women who are divorced or getting divorced. What do you wish people understood? Their answers were all over the board, but poignant, real and raw.

“Even if I asked for it, I didn’t want it.” Nobody gets married to get divorced. By the time you finally break down and admit there is no other option, you have fought the good fight. You are hurt and broken and sad, dammit! You might very well be sad for a long time.

“I'm totally fine with it, we might have actually separated 2 weeks ago but we separated from each other 3 years ago. Everyone else needs to catch up to where I am.” That doesn’t mean this was easy, it just means I’ve been processing it myself for a long time and I’m ready to move on.

I was very committed to the marriage and sad that it is over, even if you think I am better off, or that he/she was no good for me etc.” I am grieving, I am mourning. Please allow my marriage the respect it deserves. Please don’t belittle my feelings, my heartache and my journey. Give me time and patience.

“Divorce is not contagious. I know you might be scared and looking at your own marriage and wondering, but I assure you this is about my marriage and only mine.” So often friends don’t show up and we are surprised and bewildered. After a while we realize that this is scary for people “if it could happen to them…” It’s hard to assure others when you are still reeling.

I'm not a shitty person because someone was able to stop loving me.Trust me, I have spent enough time beating myself and my ex up for this. Enough time in therapy breaking this apart. I did not fail. My marriage did. I am enough, my marriage was not. Try not to judge what you don’t know. You were not inside my home, not inside my marriage. I am worthy.

There is no right or wrong timeline for things. I dated right away and am in a very happy, serious relationship.”  “I’m not ready to date. I have so much me to work on” “I've been CRAVING an intimacy with someone who WANTS to be with me for 3 years. Dating after marriage is complicated, scary, exiting and all together new. Please don’t remind me how young I am, in the dating world I might as well be 100. If I’m not ready, don’t pressure me.

Sharing my kids and seeing them for ½ of their lives can be devastating.” It’s the single hardest thing about divorce for parents. When you say "I would give anything to have a night to myself,” I want to punch you in the mouth. It’s not like a night out or an adult vacation. It’s every day. It’s permanent. It’s forever.

“I’m not a threat, and I’m not after your spouse.” Getting back in the saddle is laden with insecurity and doubt. Please don’t assume that being divorced makes me desperate or a target. I am not interested in your spouse any more than I was when I was married.

“My friends no longer invite me to events where it will be only couples. I wish they’d leave that decision to me.” “I can function fine on my own and wind up simply feeling left out when uninvited.” Most of us had a social life based completely around other couples. Once we were single there were choices to be made. Which of us to invite? Even if we have a new significant other, this gets complicated. But trust us, we are adults. Let us decide.

“Even when it’s over it’s not done.” Co-parenting is a daily job even in the most amicable divorce and in a hostile one, it can be a daily nightmare. Divorce is a death and the recovery is long and hard at times. We will take a lot longer to mourn that you might expect. Navigating a new relationship with your ex, be it friendship, partnership or something else is a process. We will fall down many times before we get it right. Some days we will hate them and others we will miss them and we need you to hold our hands either way.

“We need you.” We need support, love, patience and understanding. Please save your judgement for someone else. We might be lonely and needy. Please don’t forget about us. Call, write and show up when you can. If you can’t just make sure we know that we can still count of you. Our world is hardly recognizable for a long time. Remind us that you still see us.

No one expects that anyone who has not been in our shoes will get it. No one is angry or hateful. We are all just doing our best to reinvent ourselves, our families and our lives and we wish you knew how hard that was. Be patient, this is our journey.

A big thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts to this article. I am blessed with an amazing village. This is just the tip of the iceberg, tell me what YOU wished people knew (in the comments).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Putting Our Kids First

We did it and no one turned into a pumpkin. We did it and no one cried. We did it and while parts of it were awkward and new, overall it was surprisingly normal. Our kids starred in the school play for three nights and we were ALL there to support them. My parents and brother, his parents and siblings, our mutual friends and most importantly my ex-husband, his girlfriend, myself and my boyfriend. All there. In rows of seats, together. We applauded, we kvelled and we smiled at each other knowingly. In the end, our kids felt loved. They felt supported and surrounded by people so invested in them that everything else was less important. They were the priority, the spotlight and they were amazing (yes, I'm bragging).

It's been close to a year and a half since we separated and the course of our lives has finally begun to calm. Things have a "new normal" kind of feel. With our divorce final, there is much less to discuss, argue about or negotiate. Now we are in the pattern of day to day co-parenting and living our own lives, separate from each other. The new people in our lives have been vested in getting to know our kids and after much hesitation, we've both decided to embrace that.

That's not to say it's all rainbows and unicorns. It's not. We still do not communicate the same way, causing bickering and misunderstanding. We still haven't quite mastered the right way to ask for scheduling switches, assuring homework down at the other's house and signed permission slips. The kids are slowly learning to feel less stressed when they realize that their favorite shoes or book were left at the others house and we are better about fetching it for each other. Some days however, this can still cause a meltdown for one kid or another. This is hard work and we work hard at it.

In fact, I've come to realize that divorce is just that, work. It's not all that different from parenting, truthfully. We have to pick our battles, embrace the great days and try not to dwell on the shitty ones. Divorce requires patience, trust and a wicked sense of humor. Most days you know you made the right call. You see it in your kids, in your self and in your ex. But on some rare occasions, you miss your "family," you miss the normal everyone around you seems to have. You miss the life you had. Likely because the right decision doesn't make it easy or painless, just right.

So there we were, all of us staring up at those faces beaming with pride as they took their final curtain call and I was as proud of them as I was of us. Onward we go...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Planning My Own


May has long been my favorite month of the year. Before having kids it was my birthday, the beginning of real spring and the end of school. After my first daughter was born, Mother’s day and my birthday consistently fell within a week of each other and that allowed me to stretch both out, just a little bit. I LOVE birthdays. Mine and anyone else’s. My friends often tease me as May draws closer that “my birthday month is approaching.” I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. I found that they became even more important after losing one of my dearest friends and learning the life altering lesson of not knowing when our last one will be.

I’ve always wanted to celebrate. Nothing fancy or over the top, but friends, family and of course food and cake! Mother’s day has been the same. I want to lay in bed for 10 extra minutes, hand-made cards and spend the day planting flowers with my kids. And I want the blessing of having to plan none of it. I want it all to be taken care of for those two days of the year. I am no different than any other mom or woman, I’m just divorced.

This year is different though. This year I am turning 40 and this year there is no dad around to whisper reminders in the kid’s ears. The triviality of all of this is not lost on me, but I am who I am and these occasions are important to me. To me they matter. I spent some time sulking about it, debating just how tacky it might be and then I put on my big girl panties, strapped on a set of balls and planned my own 40th birthday party. I decided that I needed to take change no matter how it might look or feel. That I needed this, deserved it and that there was no reason I couldn’t do it myself.

I decided to harness my best qualities and go for it. I am change maker. I talk the talk AND walk the walk. I perseverate over issues, yes. But then, when I’m at my best, I act. So I sent out an invite, ordered the food, shopped for the drinks and aligned my resources and my army of helpers. 40 will not look anything like what I’d imagined even 2 years ago, but it will be good. I will be good.

And we, we will be good. I sent up a red flag to the girls in my boat and asked what they were doing about Mother’s day. Within 24 hours we had a women’s 5k and brunch planned. So all of us will corral strength from each other and our kids that day and we too will be good.

All of this was hard, a struggle even. A year ago I’d not have been able to do more than climb under my covers and mourn the loss, the change and the burden. Today I am stronger, I am wiser, I am less na├»ve and I am over myself. I am still working on the acceptance that this is what my life looks like now. I am still working on less self-castigation and flagellation. I am a work in progress every day. I am so much of what I want to be and yet the road it still so very long.

May though, May 2015 will be one for the books. I know, because I planned it that way.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Do I Write About My Divorce?


Why do I write about my divorce? It's a reasonable question. Often, when I'm asked I have to step back and evaluate who is doing the asking. Is it a genuine curiosity or a judgment? The answer is the similar either way. My ex is a very private person as are many of my friends. They can't imagine ever sharing intimate details of their life in writing, much less online. They think I am an "over-sharer.” I get that. As long as I can remember, "talking it out" has always been my processing method. I detest passive aggressive behavior and always prefer to discuss and even fight if it means there might be resolution or better understanding. Writing about my divorce is just an extension of that processing.

I write about my divorce because I am not special. I am not an expert or a professional. I am not a celebrity or a politician. My divorce is not out of the ordinary. I am not particularly interesting. I am a suburban woman who is VERY close to 40. I am raising two girls and I work from home. I transplanted to Ohio from NY and decided after 14 years of marriage and 20 years together, to get divorced. No one is writing a movie, or sitcom for this one. I am not glamorous like the women who star in The Girlfriend's Guide To Divorce. But, guess what? Neither are most of the women going through this. When I write and women respond, it's because I am just regular and so are they. Seeing that someone else like them came out on the other side and did not combust, well that seems to be helpful. I know it was for me.

I write about my divorce because I felt so alone. I am blessed with an amazing family, friends and community. However, when this was happening I have never felt more alone. Those who love you do their best to be there. The truth is, unless you have walked in my shoes, you simply cannot fully understand. When I started writing and sharing, women (and men) came out of the woodwork. Many called and wrote to share their experiences, to give support, guidance and just a shoulder. I felt understood. I started a "secret" group on Facebook with women in my community who had been or were going to where I was. Many of us hardly knew each other but we are there to support each other daily and without question. These women have become sacred to me. I still often feel alone. Then days like today, someone from my past who was merely an acquaintance reaches out and asks to talk. Then I know I am doing the right thing.

 I write about my divorce because I have daughters. Daughters who know that I write as a way of dealing with my feelings and who encourage me to do so. Daughters who I want to share themselves in whatever way feels right to them. Daughters who are strong and funny and smart and independent. Daughters who I am as honest with and who know they can tell me anything. Daughters who have their own feelings about all of this and who I encourage to express those feelings in creative ways as well. Daughters who I hope one day feel strong enough to make the best choices for themselves, no matter what life or society or anyone else might dictate. My mom has always been my biggest advocate and I'll be theirs.

 I write about my divorce because it's cathartic for me and for others. Writing heals me, soothes me and helps me focus my feelings. When I publish it and others encourage me, that too is invigorating. Being helpful fills my soul and brings me a sense of purpose. Knowing that I am here to talk, to listen, to hold a hand or be a shoulder, that is immensely fulfilling for me.

 I write about my divorce because the process sucks and I don't want to pretend it doesn't. I am not an advocate for divorce. I have no ability to paint a pretty or rosy picture. For the most part, divorce is a shit storm. Lawyers and courts and 8 million versions of the same documents. Splitting up your marriage, time with your children, your possessions, the life you made, your friends, your family, your home - all of it sucks. Even the most civil, kind and gentle divorce is still life altering and devastating. Everything changes and everything is different. Even if you wanted it, you don't want it.

I write about my divorce because it's not over when it's done. I've written about that before, but it's still true. I've not been at it long enough to know if eventually some sense of total normalcy is established. I hope so. Thus far, there are still issues and feelings and legalities to deal with on a regular basis. Co-parenting means you are entwined forever and navigating that is a delicate balance.

I write about my divorce because I can. Quite simply, I am the boss of me. I can now decide on my own what is best, what works and what makes sense in my life. I am working on letting go of other people's judgment and my need for affirmation. I am working on the 2.0 of myself. I am working on my confidence, my spirit and feeding my soul. I am working on all of it and while I do, I get to share it.

 So this is why I write about my divorce.

 Follow Jessica at Living Life Loudly

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Family, Minus Me

It's not that the idea came out of nowhere, it had been planned for months. It's not that their absence was a surprise. I'd offered him Spring Break, since I knew I couldn't afford to take them anywhere.  It's not even that I hadn't expected to be jealous or lonely or unhappy. It was just that I didn't expect to look at the first picture and see my "family", minus me.

Divorce quite naturally causes thousands of "lasts." Last time living together, last anniversary, last joint taxes, last "table for four," last family photos. There are a million more "firsts." First time living alone, first time mowing the lawn, first time you have to call or text to share a child's accomplishment, first solo road trip. Most of them you anticipate.

This one hit like a ton of bricks. This one knocked me off of my axis and threw me left of center. This one, I simply had not prepared myself for. I was happy for them, for their adventure, for their sun kissed faces and chlorine hair, for their laughter and silly stories. But, for the first time it was not first hand. I was not a witness. I was not a participant. This trip had no mommy. My "family" went on vacation and I watched from afar.

Perhaps in the grand scheme of the changes divorce brings, this one will one day pale in comparison. Perhaps I will look back and realize it was not as monumental as it felt at the time. Perhaps. At the time though, it felt like everything. It felt like a test, a living and breathing proof, more a marathon and less a sprint. Those six days were long for me. I kept busy and engaged with people I love to ease the knot in my stomach. I felt the heavy so deeply and tried to focus on the kids voices via phone and the few pictures they sent.

From the beginning, I've promised my kids we'd still be a "family," we'd just redefine what that meant. All along I assumed I'd know what that definition would be, how it would feel and what it would look like. But when my "family" went on vacation, I realized that control should have been categorized under "lasts." I am simply learning as I go, simply defining as it happens. WE are still a "family," but everything has changed.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I've Learned About Friendship Amid Divorce



Friendship is so simple when we are small, two babies playing next to each other, aware of the other but not necessarily interacting. Then we get a bit bigger and we both like Cookie Monster and that's enough. Time goes on and we have more things in common and real interaction and even an argument over who got the bigger half of the cookie. We'd still pinkie swear that we are "bestest friends FOREVER!" In adolescence and tweendom parents are hyper focused on alienation and bullying. As the mom of two girls, I spend more time helping them navigate the complexities of friendship than math, science and history combined. 

Somehow though, we are taught to believe that we outgrow a lot of this. That as adults we've survived enough catty, backstabbing, gossiping hell for a lifetime. That we will settle into adult friendships with a calm and ease we've earned. And, for many, this is true. It is also true that by the time we are adults, we have learned and grown enough to foster healthy relationships and walk away from toxic ones. That we lived enough to know the difference.

But often, just when we feel settled, just when we bought the idea that it's not the quantity but the quality, that it's not the likeness but the differences as well - our world shifts. Whether the shift is slight or dramatic, it's enough to effect visible change in our lives.

When you make the decision to get divorced, it’s interesting who you choose to confide in at first. It's not always your closest friends, per se. It’s like a clown car of people who have the right strengths, views, open arms, who lack judgment and just make sense for some reason you can’t explain at all. And then it’s out and you wait for the gossip, for the condolence calls and for something you didn’t plan on – those you don’t hear from at all.

You realize that for some it’s a need to take sides – sides that don’t exist in your case. For others, it’s too much. Your choice makes them look harder at their own relationship and question, wonder and fear. That part hurts, but you are too tired to focus on it for long. The ones you really don’t count on though are the people who judge. Those who think you could have tried harder, pushed on for longer or simply that you should sacrifice everything and anything for your children. You resign yourself not to let that hurt – good luck with that.

As time goes on even the best of them move on with their lives. Your brave face is mistaken for a strength you don't actually own and often, you are alone. But, anyone who has been down this road knows that divorce is like a death and the mourning process is slow and seemingly endless.  In Judaism there are rules for mourning – Shiva, Shloshim, Kaddish, Yizkor and different lengths of time depending on who the deceased was. There are no rules for the end of your marriage, no specified time or tradition. It's physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually devastating.

Sometimes you wish the phone would ring and the friend on the other side would just be there to check in. There are days when asking for any more attention, support or love seems selfish and impossible. You hear about yourself through the grapevine and try to ignore the gossip or the accusations when you decide to share your journey is this very public sphere. You do your best to remind yourself that until you've walked this path it cannot be understood. You are grateful for those who never waver in their support and you make it your mission to be as good a friend. You remain committed to being "all in."

Often, new friendships form and you feel blessed for that, but you can't help but wonder. You thought you knew all of the changes you'd endure when your marriage was over, you'd considered each one carefully thousands of times. But this one - this wasn't on the list. That there would be friendships irrevocably changed or lost as part of the process. The list didn't consider the fragile and complex nature of female friendships, but it should have.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When it's over, but not done


Nobody tells you that when it's over, it's not done.

The table is big and oak and could likely tell quite the tales of what it's seen. The pens are new, and the papers are crisp and official. The judge is old and he talks and talks and talks. He goes on and on. Only after do you realize that while you can't even speak or look up for fear of the tears, the judge does this every week. It's not the end of his chapter that he is signing, witnessing and notarizing; it’s yours. It's not his partner, his family, his hopes or his dreams that he is declaring legally null and void, it's yours. So you decide not to hate him and instead to focus on breathing while he passes the papers around the room. You reply with the requested "yes" or "no" at the questions you are required to answer. You breathe evenly to keep your voice from cracking. And then, while you are focused on the inhale and exhale, on how the knot in the table looks like the knot in your stomach, everyone rises and shakes hands. And that's...it.

You knew that it wouldn't be easy and that you did not want what happened in this room to define the day. So, in advance you asked if you could have lunch together. Eating and drinking were always something you were so good at doing together. So you go and you eat and you drink. You eat off of each other’s plates because old habits die hard. You taste his drink because he insists and you've never been able to say no to him. You talk and you laugh and there are a few jabs but mostly it’s ok because you pretend that it's not what it is, that it's just lunch. Then it's over and you stand on the street realizing that it's the most bizarre goodbye ever. You hug and congratulate each other for getting through it without killing each other. Then when you climb in your car, alone, you finally realize that the foreign feeling you couldn't place is numb. You've moved past angry, past heartbroken, past remorse. You feel completely and utterly numb.

So you drive and you walk in the cold, waiting for feeling to return to your fingertips, your feet and your brain. You breathe and try to connect with the relief you thought you'd feel. You cry and try to reach the bottom you thought you'd already hit. None of that comes.

So you go home and you move on. You live and laugh and work and parent and love and only when it's quiet do you allow yourself to know that there's no such thing as over. You have mounds of paperwork and finances to wade through. You have calendars to plan and holidays to coordinate and children who want their "family" to be as present as before. You have friends who expect you to show up. You have new relationships that fill you with hope but need to be introduced and explained with care and sensitivity.

So you go on and everything has changed, but a few things have not. You still can't seem to communicate well, you still seem to argue and hurt each other as much as you help and need each other. You still seem to see everything differently and feel everything differently. But most of all for you, you still love and miss and cry sometimes, too. And he still seems to hate all of that about you.

You realize it will never be done. Instead, you start to try to figure out what the next part will look like. And you hope that you two can do this part better. That you'll get there with practice, with patience that neither of you own, with faith that is tested daily, with compassion you've never given each other, with humility you will both need, and, most of all, with a reminder that there was love there once, and maybe for you, always.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Drawing inspriation from...

I could lament about how long it's been since I posted or the why (how long do you have?), instead I will say that I am not ready to put pen to paper about all that is going on in my life right now (sometimes even the loud ones need quiet time) but there something I want to share.

I am a very lucky almost 40. I have led a rich life, full of some of the most amazing humans. In the last few weeks, I have thought on more than one occasion that several are also talented, raw and honest bloggers too.

The more I get wrapped up in the slog of day-to-day the less I am focused on what is real, what is lasting and what is important. My mantra has always been "if it won't fit on my headstone, it can't run my life."

I want to share here a few of them, some are very private, intimate and even difficult to read. Some are lighter but no less engaging and powerful. I am proud to say that each of these people has had an impact on my life in the last 40 years and I thank them for their inspiration.

Amy (my sleep away camp counselor) is one of the funniest people I've ever known, who is now dealing with one of the hardest things life can throw at you - when your child wants to die. https://wheresmypoolboy.wordpress.com/

Adam (my first boyfriend, in 6th grade) was always a kind and gentle soul. He's navigating the middle ground between family and career and writing for "Life of Dad."
http://www.lifeofdad.com/blog_post.php?pid=20012
http://www.lifeofdad.com/blog_post.php?pid=19955

Brit (a "newish" colleague) whose writing is beautiful and whose faith is inspiring. Reading her blog reminds me how much we gain when we focus not on what makes us different, but what makes us the same.
http://taminglions.org/

I am sure there are others I missed or don't know about. But for today, this is who is keeping me inspired.