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.