Fairly

It’s National Poetry Month, and I have a confession to make: I am a poetry nerd.  There, I said it.

I wanted to talk about my favorite poem here to celebrate National Poetry Month, but I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one. After all, I quote “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” every morning when I make my coffee and tell myself that “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” I think of Ferlinghetti’s “Christ Climbed down” at Christmas every year. Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” springs to mind every time I lose a loved one, and I start reciting Sandburg’s “The Sins of Kalamazoo” every time I drive through my home town of Kalamzoo, Michigan.

But when I sat down to write this morning, one poem jumped into my mind. It’s one I first heard back in high school and has stayed with me all these years, although I don’t think I ever really understood it before now. It’s “Well, I Have Lost You” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

You see, it’s been a year and a half since my husband and I split. We talk almost every day now; we are better friends than we ever were as a married couple. Friends and family don’t understand why we don’t hate each other, why our divorce hasn’t been more bitter and angry. I can’t put it into words, but good ol’ Edna did it for me.

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.

In other words, no one “stole” him from me. I lost him fairly. No one destroyed our marriage. We did this to ourselves. We both allowed it to happen, and I think this past year has been all about both of us growing up and accepting the fact that we did our best. Our best just wasn’t good enough.

At the end of our marriage, he fell in love with another woman. I don’t blame her, and I don’t blame him. We were done long before she came into the picture. Yes, there have been tears and bad feelings and heartache on both sides, but there is no villain here.

The marriage died a natural death.

Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that’s permitted me

It hasn’t been easy for any of us, and that’s okay. It’s okay that we’ve cried and raged and said some awful, hurtful, wicked things to each other. And about each other. Like the poem says, “that’s permitted.” We are allowed to mourn the loss of our future together.

Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.

These lines remind me of another verse that was popular in the 1970’s: “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours; If it doesn’t, it never was.” It’s been credited to Richard Bach, Jess Lair, and even Sting, but perhaps Ms. Millay said it first and best.

Basically, they are just different ways of saying “I don’t want to keep someone who doesn’t want to be kept” or “I love you enough to let you go.”

Or even “I deserve better than someone who doesn’t want to be with me.”

It’s not about slamming doors or marching away in anger. It’s about quietly accepting the fact that the relationship is over and then simply letting go. No one is quitting or giving up; we’re just . . . releasing each other.

If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.

I could have played games. I could have been manipulative and controlling and begged him to stay. Or he could have begged me for one more try. We could have lied to each other and eventually hurt each other even more under the guise of “trying.”

I’m not saying that either one of us is terribly honorable or any kind of a saint. We’ve both gotten in our digs at each other, scored a couple of hits below the belt. I’ve had my days when I was the perfectly bitter and angry ex-wife, and I know there were days when he couldn’t stand the sight of me. At the same time, I know we’ve both wondered if we should have tried a little harder, made one last effort, given it one last shot.

We “might have held you for a summer more,” but our last summer together was miserable. We weren’t fighting, we were just . . . existing. Avoiding. I look back at my blog posts from that summer, and I see my own desperate efforts to convince the world and myself that we were blissfully happy. Meanwhile, we were running in place, scrambling for traction on an icy road, losing a little bit of ground every day.

Miserable. Lonely. So alone and yet always within arm’s reach.

Friends and family wonder why we don’t hate each other. They ask why we are still apart if we get along so well now. There are nudges and winks and sly looks from those around us, as if to say, “See? I knew you guys would get back together.”

And that, folks, is why the last line of this poem really speaks to me:

Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

Anguish. Yup, that’s the word I’ve been looking for all this time. Anguish. It’s more than pain, more than regret, more than sadness. Anguish.  But we’re going to survive it – outlive it —  and go on because that’s what people do after a divorce.  We’ll never forget each other, or even really say good-bye, but we’re going to get through this.

And in time, I will have only good to say of him, and he will have only good to say of me. Not because we belong together or even entertain the hope of any kind of reconciliation, but because we once loved each other and thought we would be together forever. Because we’ve both felt that anguish and tried to heal.

Because . . . we lost each other fairly and with full consent.

Well, I Have Lost You by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that’s permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

Ready or Not

Not too long ago, my daughter told me that some of her friends were wondering if I am going to start dating now that I am getting a divorce.

Just so we’re all clear on this, I think we all know that none of her friends care whether or not I ever go on another date.  I assured her – and her “friends’ – that yes, I will probably date again someday, but that I’m not ready yet.  How, she wondered, will I know when I’m ready?

“I’ll just know,” I told her.

I’ve talked about it a few times since then.  Thought about it.  Joked about it, although I was only half-joking when I asked my friends if they thought there might be an online dating service for short, overweight, partially handicapped people in their forties.  Pretty specific, I know, but I’ve seen commercials for some other specific dating sites:  Christian Mingle, Farmers, etc.

I’ll know when I’m ready.

I’ve flirted a little bit.  Flirting is fun.  And harmless.  Well, mostly harmless.  I’ve had a lot of fantasies about Randolph Mantooth, Josh Hartnett and Eric Allan Kramer.  Quite the variety, I know; I’m keeping my options open.

I’ll know when I’m ready.

“You need a man who reads as much as you do,” said my daughter, the matchmaker.  “Who’s into science fiction and comic books and anime and Dr. Who and Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy.  “

Honey, I’ll never meet men like that.  They are all living in their parents’ basements.

However, I think I was propositioned recently.  I don’t know.  It might have been flirting, but it might have been a definite offer.  He’s an old and dear friend from long ago, and his, er, offer is definitely appealing.  I asked a friend what she thought he meant, and instead of answering she asked me a question.

“Is he, you know, worth shaving?”  My friends are pretty blunt.  They have to be; I don’t do well with subtlety.

“He’s worth more than shaving,” I sighed.  “He’s worth waxing.”

She advised me to go for it, and promptly hurried home to attack her husband.  I wasn’t sure if I should be worried for him, or if he owed me a big thank you for planting ideas in her head.

And then I had a panic attack.  A heart pounding, lungs squeezing, hands trembling panic attack.  And not just at the thought of potential nudity in my near future – although my nudity would have been a frightening thing, his nudity would surely be like a work of art. A thing of beauty.  And when  I go into panic mode at the thought of seeing nude and beautiful . . . things, I need to face the truth.

I am not ready.

Some women are able to have a quick, meaningless fling to celebrate being single.  I wish I could; I rather like the idea of a few commitment-free encounters to help ease me back into the dating world, but that’s just not who I am.  I was an old-fashioned girl before I got married, and I’m an old-fashioned woman now that I’m divorced.  Like the song says, I’m “sadder but wiser.”  And still old-fashioned.

So I played dumb and pretended not to question any kind of possible subtext under my friend’s message.  If he meant nothing, we are good.  If he was just teasing, we are still good.  If he actually meant anything more than that, I hope he understood that my stupidity was masking my terror.

I want to fall in love again.  I want to feel beautiful and desirable and cherished.  I want to kiss someone until my lips feel bruised, and I want to drift off to sleep in someone’s arms again.  I want to hold hands in public and kiss goodbye before work in the morning, and I want to mean it when I say, “I love you.”  I want him to mean it when he says it back.

But I’m not ready.  I’m too afraid.

I’ll know when I’m ready.  I don’t know how I’ll know, but I’ll know.

Due Process

In my defense, let me just say that the food processor was supposed to have a safety feature to prevent accidents.  I say “supposed to have” because the safety feature obviously failed.  In theory, the food processor will not turn on unless the lid is securely locked in place.  Which is obviously a load of crap, because the lid was nowhere near the food processor when it started up with my hand inside.

Note to everyone who is about to tell me that I should sue the people who made the food processor with the faulty safety feature:  I stuck my hand in a food processor that was plugged in.

I am not suing anyone.  Can you imagine me standing up in court and testifying that “yes, I do realize that was a stupid thing to do, Your Honor”?

The good news is that I didn’t lose any fingers or sever anything crucial.  The heel of my hand looked like a chunk of raw pork roast, which has sort of put me off pork roast for a while, and I have added to my status as an accident-prone freak of nature in our local ER, but I didn’t do any long-term damage to myself.  If I were a child, they would be calling in Protective Services right about now.  Since I am an adult, I’m surprised they haven’t called for a psych consult.

 

Not really one of my finer moments.
Not really one of my finer moments.

I’m just glad I didn’t go in for x-rays when I fell out of the barn and sprained my ankle the week before I processed my hand.

There’s an old saying:  When it rains, it pours.  I never really understood it as anything more than a slogan for selling salt, but I get it now.

You see, I got my house.  I am moving.  It is a delightful house in a perfect location, with enough rooms that my boys don’t have to share.  There is a laundry room, a little playhouse in the back yard, fabulous neighbors, and a grocery store within walking distance.  It’s even got a picket fence, for God’s sake.

A house with a picket fence!

There have been a few hiccups, most of which involve the previous tenants.  Since this is a small town, I won’t go into any detail that might embarrass the family.  Suffice it to say that the bike ramp they set up to fling themselves out the laundry room window was the least of the modifications they made to the building.

I am packing and sorting and organizing eighteen years of my life. My emotions are raw.  I keep going off on crying jags and then laughing because I feel stupid for crying over dumb things.  I fell apart yesterday when I came across the little quartz elephant The Big Guy gave me on our honeymoon; I can’t for the life of me figure out which one of us gets to keep the trinkets we inherited from his grandmother.  And I haven’t a clue what to do about that damn goose in the front yard.

The Big Guy painted it for my Aunt Noni when someone stole Lucy the Goose from her front porch.  We knew she needed a replacement goose – hell, that thing had a better wardrobe than I do – but The Big Guy decided that everyone has plain white concrete geese on their front porches.  Aunt Noni, he decided, needed something unique, and so he painstakingly designed a Canadian Goose.

Just wait until you see him in a dress
Just wait until you see him in a dress

So, really, he should keep Desi the Goose.  He worked so hard and really created a beautiful thing.  But I should keep Desi because he belonged to my aunt.

And I know I really don’t give a rat’s ass about that stupid goose.

I am sorting and dividing and cleaning up my life.  With a 10-pound lifting restriction because of my neck. With a sprained ankle.   With my hand in a splint.  With my kids’ school year winding down, and end-of-the-year parties and band concerts and dance recitals and book fairs and trying to find a job and goddammit I want to crawl under the kitchen table and curl up in a fetal position and have a really good cry.

I’m not sad; I’m overwhelmed.

And accident-prone.
And accident-prone.

I stand in the middle of a room and spin around trying to figure out where to start, and then I decide it’s time for a Toblerone and some Netflix.  I’m not lazy; I have just perfected the art of avoidance tinged with just the right amount of procrastination.  With a little bit of guilt and compulsive overeating  and some vintage Randy Mantooth thrown in for good measure.

It’s probably a good thing I don’t drink.

Although drinking might help explain things when I go back to the ER.  Because I think we all know I’m going to hurt some other part of myself before all is said and done.

I have, however, been able to make one major decision this week.  I may not know how to divide the towels and silverware and DVDs, but I have decided on at least one item that The Big Guy can keep.

I grant him full custody of the food processor.

But I’m keeping the goose.

Knot Now

200px-Cherry-stem-tongue

One of my hidden talents is the ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.

Believe it or not, it has taken me a week to come up with that in my search for anything that I might be able to refer to as a “hidden talent”.  Of course, once I figured that one out I remembered a few others.

I can light a lighter with my toes.  Once upon a time, I could also light a cigarette with the toe-lighted lighter, but these days I strongly doubt that I could get my toes anywhere a cigarette in my mouth.  Meh, I don’t smoke anyway.

I can balance a stack of quarters on my raised elbow and then swing my arm around fast enough to catch them before they hit the floor.  My record is twenty-one quarters.

I can break into almost any house, as long as I have access to a butter knife, something to climb on, and enough time to think about it. . . but not enough time to really think about it.

It says an awful lot about where I am in my life right now that I struggled so hard to find my own hidden talents for this week’s prompt.  I’m dealing with so much in my life, and I know that it has taken a real toll on my self-esteem.  Which was always a bit wobbly to begin with.

I’ve never been out of work before now.   I don’t know what I’m good at.  I know I’m not dumb; I just don’t have any real ideas of what direction to go, career-wise.  I have limitations now that I’ve never had before, limitations that pretty much eliminate any kind of job I have ever held in the past.  Or, as I whined to two old and dear friends last night, “I have no marketable skills!”

Let me tell you something about these old friends:  they don’t take self-pity lightly.

I’ve known them since we were all eight years old.  At times, we’ve gone years without seeing each other.  At times, we haven’t really liked each other.  But there is no one on this earth who knows me better than they do, warts and all.

They pretty much slapped me down, scolded my ass for feeling sorry for myself, and proceeded to remind me of all of the things I am good at.  They reminded me of my worth as a human being, and they made sure to tell me that they love me.

They helped me remember that I need to love me too.

This morning, my husband and I drove to the county courthouse together to file the papers necessary to begin our divorce proceedings.  It was an emotional experience for both of us; neither one of us wants to get back together, but taking this step feels like failure.  It hurts.

It hurts to admit we couldn’t make it work.

It hurts to realize that it really, truly is over.

It hurts to look each other in the eye and say yes, I am sure I don’t want to be married to you anymore.

It hurts.

In the car, I asked him for help with this week’s writing prompt.  “You’ve lived with me for eighteen years,” I said.  “What would you say is a hidden talent that I have?”

“You can tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue,” he said.

My friends know that I can hand-quilt and embroider like a dream.  They have faith in my writing, and they have ideas of ways for me to make money with it.  They know I am a hard worker and that there is no job I can’t do if I set my mind to it.  They believe in me, and they are going to make me believe in myself whether I want to or not.

My friends demand the best that I have to offer, and they will accept nothing less.  They know that I have talents and skills that I haven’t even discovered yet.

My husband, the man I loved and lived with for nearly two decades, knows that I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.

Somewhere between the county courthouse and home, I finally understood that my hidden talent has nothing to do with cherry stems or cigarette lighters or fine needlework.  It has everything to do with this man that I used to love; this man that I tried so hard to share my life with.  This man who never really knew me at all, any more than I really knew him.

My hidden talent is knowing when to walk away.

Not Guilty, Your Honor

I was found guilty of adultery.

Oh, relax.  I didn’t commit adultery.  I was accused and found guilty, but I never did it.

Well, okay, there was that one steamy dream about David Hasselhoff while I was on bed-rest during my first pregnancy and the remote control stopped working with the TV stuck on a Baywatch marathon.   I blame that and the pregnancy hormones that were destroying my brain at the time, not any real desire for the Hoff.  To this day, I feel a bit guilty and somewhat nauseous at the slightest mention of his name.

Say it with me, girls . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Ewwww
Say it with me, girls . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Ewwww

I think most women suffer from some degree of Hasselhoff-induced nausea that has nothing to do with an erotic dream, however.

As far as the real thing, actually cheating on my husband?  Of course not.

Call me naïve or prudish or whatever, but I have never been able to understand people who cheat in a relationship.  I don’t get it.  Seriously, what is so hard to understand about staying faithful to a person that you claim to love?  If you love them, how can you even contemplate causing them that kind of pain?

And if you don’t love them enough to stay faithful, then why are you in a relationship with them?

I realize I am over-simplifying things.   Maybe it would be different if I had ever been attracted to someone outside of my marriage.  You know, like one of the men I was accused of cheating with.

The first was an older man, a neighbor of my Aunts.  He was very handsome and dignified in a Cary Grant sort of way.  He was also my boss at the Outplacement office I worked at before going to Cosmetology school, and I had a well-established working relationship with him.

He was also gay.  Very gay.  As in, In-A-Committed-Relationship-For-Twenty-Years gay.  He was so obviously gay that he was practically a prototype for gay men everywhere.

I was also accused of having a fling with an old friend from high school.  I’ll admit that he has cute little dimples and some seriously sparkly blue eyes, but let’s face it:  I’ve known him for over thirty years, and I could have screwed him long ago if I had ever felt the slightest hint of physical attraction toward him.  I’ve had opportunities over the years, but he’s about as sexually appealing to me as a pair of nicely folded trouser socks.  I’ve felt more intense passion toward a Toblerone.

Most recently, I was convicted of having a fling with my child’s coach.   Now, I have to tread carefully here; I live in a very small town, and several of my friends and neighbors are followers of my blog.  It won’t take much detective work for most of them to figure out who I am talking about.

I respect the man. He does a great job of working with the little guys who don’t really understand how their sport works.  He deals with all of us parents, who can be pushy and irritating at times.    He has been a source of inspiration for me in recent years because he has recovered from injuries similar to mine, and that gives me hope that I will someday regain full mobility just like he has.

But.

Aside from the fact that he was married to a friend of mine until recently, aside from the rumors I have heard about his temper, aside from the fact that this is a very small town and I have no desire to damage his or my reputation by having a casual fling with him . . . aside from all of that, there are three big reasons why I would never become involved with this particular man.

  1. He never asked.
  2. I don’t find him in any way appealing.  That’s not to say that he is an unattractive man; he’s just not attractive to me.
  3. I am married.  Duh.

I am in the process of a divorce.  Chances are good that I am not ever going to re-marry.  Oh, I plan on dating and I may fall in love again, but I just don’t know if I’m up for another round of being hurt in a committed relationship.

People cheat.  I’m beginning to think that everyone cheats in a relationship.    That I am in the minority because I don’t.

Fidelity means nothing any more.  Husbands cheat.  Wives cheat.  Those of us who don’t are accused of it anyway because cheating has become so prevalent that it is inconceivable to others that anyone would actually stand by their wedding vows.

One Man Two Women Silhouette

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have not cheated on their spouse or been cheated on by their spouse.

I believe in gray areas in life.  That not every situation can be easily defined by black or white, good or bad, right or wrong.  I believe that we can all learn from every experience, every mistake, every heartache.  I even believe in forgiveness and second chances.

But I don’t believe there are gray areas when it comes to infidelity.  A cheater is a cheater is a cheater.  A cheater loves himself/herself more than the person they are with.  A cheater will justify his or her actions by making declarations about destiny and true love and how some things are just meant to be.

And sometimes, a cheater accuses his wife of cheating because he knows that what he is doing is wrong, and because somewhere, deep down inside, he knows that he doesn’t love her enough to stay faithful to her.

And each time he cheats, some tiny piece of his selfish little romantic heart holds out hope that maybe, just maybe, this one, this affair, this new love in his life will be THE ONE that he can finally love enough to stay faithful to.

Yeah, good luck with that.

This has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, prompted by the sentence starter “I was found guilty . . . “

Tradition!

Wedding_rings_photo_by_Litho_Printers

We can either be traditional or non-traditional in the way we do things.  I think my husband and I are being pretty non-traditional in the way we are going about our divorce.  We haven’t involved lawyers, choosing instead to do it the DIY way.

We are having a non-traditional “Friendly Divorce”.  People have asked us why we are going through with it if we are able to be so gosh darn friendly about things.  If we can get along so well, they ask, then why don’t we give it one more try?

Fair question.

Here’s the thing:  I am not a fool.

Make no mistake, I want this divorce.  I don’t hate him yet, but I am afraid that I will if I am married to him for much longer.   And I am just as certain that he will soon hate me as well.

We keep hurting each other.  Again and again and again.  We have been together long enough to know each other’s vulnerabilities, and we know how to use that knowledge against each other.  Each of us can inflict more pain on the other than anyone else in our lives can do.  We are both the “bad guy” in our situation, and we are both the victim.

I don’t want him back.  He doesn’t want me back. I don’t want to be married to him any more than he wants to be married to me.

I can be snarky and sarcastic, and I am fully capable of trashing him here, or on Facebook, or to our mutual friends.  I could air our “dirty laundry”, tell exaggerated tales of his misdeeds, and I could make him utterly miserable.

What purpose would that serve?

He has his own set of skills.  He can be cruel and hurtful, controlling and antagonistic, and at times his sense of humor can be downright devastating.  He could make my life a living Hell.

This could very easily become one very traditional, very spiteful, very ugly divorce.  All we have to do is say the word.  But again, what purpose would that serve?  One way or another, he and I are going to have to have a relationship for the rest of our lives because we made three little people together.  Three little people who need both of us to act like adults and set a good example for them.

I have been accused by some of being a pushover.  Advised to hire a good lawyer and go in for the kill.  I am the semi-crippled, unemployed mother of his three children, and he fell in love with another woman before divorcing me.  I could ask for his testicles to be gold-plated and gift-wrapped for me if I wanted, or so I have been told.

In ten years, do I really want a set of gold-plated gift-wrapped testicles, or do I want a decent relationship with my ex-husband and father of my children?  Once upon a time, we loved each other; I think there will always be a small kernel of that love between us because of everything we’ve shared.  I don’t think either one of us really wants to hurt the other.

We just want out.

We have made the decision to be non-traditional because we are being practical and putting the needs of our kids and each other first, for the first time in a long time.  Maybe that means we are finally growing up.

Or maybe we are starting a new tradition for others to follow?

Divorce Registry

In these early stages of my divorce, I find myself thinking back to our wedding.  I remember running through Target and Wal-Mart with the little pricing-gun-thingy to create my “registry”.  What a tacky thing to do!  Inviting people to our wedding and telling them what to bring as an offering gift.  Ridiculous.  Young people getting married have no idea what they really need to begin their married lives, and they waste their time begging for useless things that they will never really use, like punchbowls and decorative china.

I think there should be divorce registries.  That’s right.  I’ve been with the same man in the same house using the same dishes, towels and pans for almost eighteen years.  I know what I’ll use and what I won’t; I understand so much more about running a home.

So here is my Divorce Registry for my new home when I finally find one.

A lifetime supply of those Ziploc or Gladware containers.  I don’t want to have to fumble through drawers of expensive Tupperware dishes for which I am never going to find the right lid.  If I can’t find the lid for the cheap stuff, I can throw it away.  Move on with my life.  And if those leftovers in the refrigerator are on the verge of becoming self-aware, I don’t have to risk my life by dumping them and washing the container.  I can throw them away, disposable dish and all.

And I will never again have to argue with a child about a Tupperware dish he or she forgot to bring home.  You left my dish behind?  Oh well, open a new package.  Environment be damned, I’m having an organized kitchen.

I want cheap, practical dishtowels.  Screw the pretty matching ones that color-coordinate with the potholders and wallpaper border.  We all know the border is a leftover from the previous tenants, the dishtowels are going to get stained, and I’m going to set at least one potholder on fire. Just give me stack of the cheap ones from the dollar store.

 

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Corelle dishes.  Enough with the fancy-ass china.  At the rate my kids and I break ours, we might as well eat out of the pans while standing near the stovetop.   What’s that you say?  I need something special for holiday meals?  Why?  I spend half a day cooking the special holiday meals, and it is ridiculous to spend the other half washing the delicate china that can’t go in the dishwasher.

Give me some plain, sturdy Corelle because that stuff is almost totally unbreakable. I say “almost” because they do sometimes break, but even that is a fascinating science experiment.  They don’t just break; they disintegrate.  They vanish in a cloud of Magic Corelle Dust.  So they also provide the occasional after-dinner entertainment.

I need bigass wine glasses.  The Big Guy didn’t like wine, so we rarely drank.  When we did it was usually beer.  I am drinking wine now, and loving every drop of it, but these tiny, delicate pieces of crystal that we got as wedding gifts are ridiculous.  A couple of sips on the way to my chair, and I’ve got to go back for a refill before I’ve even sat down.  I want a wine glass I can dive into.  I want the Big Gulp of wine glasses.

Throw pillows are a necessity.  Lots and lots of fluffy, ruffled, utterly useless throw pillows.  He insisted that pillows on a couch had to be big enough to nap on, so we always had bed pillows on the couch.  It always looked like someone had spent the night on the couch.

On that subject, I want a fluffy, ruffled, girly bedroom.  I’m talking decorative pillows, a floral comforter, lace curtains.  The works.  I am a girl, damn it.  I want a girl’s bedroom.  And if I ever get married again, he is just going to have to be secure enough in his masculinity to deal with my very feminine bedroom.

I want a universal remote for the living room TV.  Dear God in Heaven, I am so sick and tired of having to locate and shuffle through the eighty-seven different remotes that we have at any given time.  If I can’t find something to watch with one remote, then it’s time to turn the damn thing off and read a book.

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And last but not least, I want Riley the cat.

Now, I love my three idiot furballs.  Fiesta, Mini-Me and King are all sweet and loveable and very cuddly, but I really hate their litterbox.  Riley, according to his owner, has trained himself to use the toilet.

How cool is that?!  I have literally spent an entire afternoon trying to attach the video clip of Riley peeing in the toilet.  I’m not sure which is more pathetic — the fact that I spent an afternnon trying to share footage of a cat peeing in a toilet, or the fact that I failed at the effort after so many hours.

I don’t really want to keep Riley.   I just want him for a few weeks so my cats can realize how cool he is and learn from him.  And he is cool.  I wish I could have attached the clip so everyone could see the expression on his face while he takes care of business.  It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t tell me you’re still using a litterbox!  How gauche!”

I wonder if Wal-Mart has a Divorce Registry. Or if it’s terribly tacky to throw myself a Divorce Shower.  All guests would have to bring one practical item from my Registry, as well as the phone number of a single man who likes chunky gals and good books.

Except Riley’s owner.  She only needs to bring Riley.

Believe

I think I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old when I went to the wedding of a family friend and heard the minister talk about true love.  He reminded all of us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and then went on to explain to the congregation that this means there is a perfect match for each of us. For every man, he said, there is a woman bearing his rib; for every man, there is a woman who makes him whole.

Let’s explore this a little, shall we?

So there is one perfect match for me.  Okay.  What if he lives in Timbuktu and I never meet him?  What if he died of Reye’s syndrome when he was eight years old?  Wait — maybe he’s alive and well and right here in Michigan, but he’s gay. That is the kind of luck I have.   Maybe I already met him when I was too young and too picky, and I never gave him a chance because he was short.  Maybe he is married to the wrong person.  Or maybe I met him and missed my chance because I was already married to the wrong person.

And really, who is to say that my husband was “the wrong person”?  We shared some good times along with the bad, and we made three incredible children together.  Maybe he was my perfect match but we were just too stupid and selfish to figure out how to stay married.

No, I don’t believe that there is only one perfect person for each of us.  Life just can’t be that cruel.

“The heart wants what the heart wants.” I’ve heard this saying so many times over recent weeks.  True romantics who get all misty-eyed and emotional, who gulp and sniffle while moaning that they couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t help falling in love because it was just bigger than they were, an irresistible need to be with a soul mate after eyes met across a crowded room.

Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves.  The only thing that meets across a crowded room is libido.  The only thing bigger than anyone is desire, and the mating that follows has nothing to do with anyone’s soul.  Rather than the heart wanting anything, it’s more along the lines of “the dick wants what the dick wants.”

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Okay, so maybe I’m a little angrier than I realized.

I read romance novels.  I love movies like Somewhere in Time and Heart and Souls.  I sing along with Don Williams about believing in love.  I believe that I will fall in love again, and that I will someday be happy with a man who treats me the way I deserve to be treated.

I believe in love.

What I don’t believe in is fairy tales. Destiny.  Kismet.   In real life, Prince Charming became a bad guy on General Hospital.   Princess Buttercup married Sean Penn while Westley ended up playing a campy villain in the next generation’s fairy tale movie.

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I had the whole eyes-across-a-crowded-room experience once.  It was my first relationship, and I was hopelessly immature about it; I cherish my memories of him, but it wasn’t the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.  He taught me about love and about sex, and about letting go when it was over.  He didn’t break my heart.  He woke it up.

There was no crowded room the night I met my husband.  It was just him and me, with his shy smile and the bluest of blue eyes.  We rode in his pickup truck to a hockey game, where he apologized for swearing in front of me when the Orlando Solar Bears scored on the Kalamazoo Wings.  We bumped into my sister and her family, and he didn’t know I heard him tell her that I was beautiful.

Me, beautiful.

I kept the ticket stub in my jewelry box.

We fit.  We laughed together so easily, and talked about past loves, past hurts.  We fell too fast.  Bought a decrepit old house to fix up and started making babies and for the briefest of moments it looked like all of our dreams were going to come true.  But somewhere along the line, we stopped laughing.  The renovations on the house never happened, and we fell out of love as easily as we fell into it.

I still believe in love.

I’m not going to make eye contact with some stranger across a crowded room and fall hopelessly in love.  Nor will I ever tumble head over heels because a man says I am beautiful. I know better.  I am not going to create impossible dreams of a glorious future with anyone.  I want reality.

I believe in reality.  And the reality is that there is nothing magical about true love.  No Kismet, no Destiny, no “meant to be”.  No perfect, mystical, once-in-a-lifetime, pre-destined match.

Love is just . . . love.  That’s all it is.

Believe it.

Thanks, Dad

My father didn’t leave me any money.  I didn’t get his height or his broad shoulders or even his pretty blue eyes.  I’m sort of glad I didn’t get his hook nose, although I have to say I’m not really happy with the one I ended up with.   And I breathe a sigh of relief whenever I think about how awful his deep chin-dimple would have looked on the sharp, pointy chin I inherited from my mother’s family.

In short, all I got from Dad – other than the gene for alcoholism – was his sense of humor.

In the immortal words of Robert Frost, “That has made all the difference.”

I get depressed quite often.  Maybe more than the average person.  So sue me – It’s my divorce party and I’ll cry if I want to.  But when I’m done crying, I have to find things to laugh at.  Sometimes, I laugh while I’m still crying, which is sort of messy and tends to make people eye me warily, as though questioning whether or not they should start Googling phone numbers for the nearest distributor of straight-jackets.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

— Kurt Vonnegut

My search for a place to live has been a mess.  It has become something my soon-to-be-ex-husband would refer to as a Goat Rodeo, which is apparently only a step or two removed from being a complete and total Cluster Fuck.  At the rate things are going, I fully expect to enter all-out Cluster Fuck territory any day now.

I made an offer on the perfect house.  And by “perfect” I mean “enough bedrooms, great location, within my price range, needs some work, has a creepy pet cemetery in the back yard.”   I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.  I then called a different Realtor – a smart woman with whom I graduated – and followed her advice.  I made another offer directly to the Seller’s Agent . . . who hemmed and hawed and made excuses about why the bank wasn’t responding.

Meanwhile, the house went up for auction.

I looked at another house, which was described as having renovations that were “85% complete”.  It had a gorgeous layout, including a built-in greenhouse window in the kitchen and a set of French doors leading from the Master Bedroom out onto a deck.  It also had garbage piled up throughout, holes in the floors and walls, no bathtubs or toilets or kitchen cabinets, and ivy growing on an inside wall.  The big red “Condemmed” notice on the front door was a bit of a surprise, as was the raging river gushing through the basement.

Good thing I majored in English, because my poor math skills make it impossible for me to calculate where the “85% complete” factors into that particular equation.

In short, things are not going as well as I had hoped.

I can’t even find a three-bedroom house to rent.  I’d settle for an apartment, but there are no three-bedroom apartments in a town this size.  And forcing my children to change schools is not an option.  I may end up finding a two-bedroom apartment and sleeping on a couch in the living room until my older children graduate.  Not a pleasant alternative, but possibly my only alternative at this point.

I have cried so much in recent weeks that I just feel sort of . . . done.    I can’t cry any more.  So when I laugh at my housing problems, I am not in denial; I am not avoiding the situation; my amusement is not a sign that I am not taking this seriously.  I am taking it seriously, believe me.

But come on – ivy on an inside wall?!  A raging torrent of water in the basement of condemmed house, and some  moron actually has the chutzpah to ask $20,000 for it?  A Realtor who assured me that she understands that I have bad credit, no job, limited funds – and then sends me details on houses that cost upwards of $70,000?

I have to laugh.  It is simply too preposterous not to laugh.  If this situation isn’t funny, then it has to be tragic, and I just can’t do tragic right now.  You know the old saying about how “someday we’ll all look back on this and laugh”?  I can’t wait for someday.  I have to laugh now.

It’s in my genes.

Not to sound ungrateful, Dad, but you couldn’t have just left me thirty grand instead?

Comedy is tragedy plus time.

— Carol Burnett

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I know you don’t get many letters from people my age, but I am writing to you because I find myself facing Christmas this year without very much to believe in.

I can accept the fact that there won’t be many presents under the tree for me.  I’m an adult; I can handle it.  The Big Guy and I have agreed that it would be foolish to exchange gifts this year, and I’ve always taught my kids to spend their money on each other rather than on me.  With Mom and Dad and The Girls gone, that leaves only my sister, with whom I have also agreed not to exchange gifts.

Christmas isn’t all about the presents.   But Santa, I still have a wish list of everything that I want this year.

I want to sign the papers on my little house and get started on the next part of my life.  It’s just a worn-out manufactured home on less than an acre of land, but it’s in my price range and it’s got enough bedrooms for my kids and me.  And it’s got closets, something I have lived without for the past eighteen years.

Ah, closets!  I could spend weeks extolling the virtue of having places to put things away!  But I digress.

I want an easy winter this first year on my own.  It has been too easy to sit back and let the Big Guy do all of the driving in bad weather.  He says he will still do more than his fair share of it now, but I don’t want to be that ex-wife.  I want to get along with him and be nice to each other despite our divorce, but I don’t want to need him.

I will not be pathetic.  I will not need a man who doesn’t need me.

Santa, I want a good night’s sleep.  I’ll settle for five or six good hours, if that’s all I can get.  I want to drift off gently instead of tossing and turning until I pass out from sheer exhaustion, and I want to stop waking up at two, at three, at four-thirty, staring at the ceiling and listening to thoughts and memories chase each other around my mind until I give up and make an extra-strong pot of coffee to get me through the day.  Coffee that I used to divide between his white Chemtreat mug and my seagull mug every morning, but that I now pour into just mine.

Coffee for one, please
Coffee for one, please

Santa, I want my kids to like the Upgrade, and I beg you to see to it that she loves them, treats them well.  But please, please, see to it that they don’t love her more.  Give me something, some way to compete in their eyes.  She is younger, prettier, happier with this new love in her life.

Please, Santa, give my children the gift of understanding that their boring, lonely old mother has always done her best.

And someday, Santa, I want to love someone again.  Maybe not this year, maybe not for several years.  But please, let me know that I haven’t lost the ability to love, that my heart is going to be good for something besides just pumping blood back and forth in my chest.

I don’t need roses or candlelight dinners.  I just want someone who will say “I love you” first instead of always “love you, too”.  Someone who will sit with me on the couch and watch stupid TV shows together or hold my hand in public, who doesn’t care what people think if he kisses me right in the middle of the park during the town Christmas Festival.  Someone who cares enough to remember the stupid, tiny details about me, like my favorite color or the fact that I hate apple pie.

Someone who will still think I am beautiful, even after eighteen years – and who will say so once in a while.

Someone who won’t go looking for an Upgrade, because I will be enough for him.

Someone who will love me as much as I love him.

All I want for Christmas, Santa, is a little bit of Hope that everything is going to be okay, and that life is going to get better.