Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Living in the Land of the Married

Last night I took my youngest to Great Clips for a haircut and it was nice that they have that $7.99 special going on. While I waited for him I knitted and overheard bits and pieces of a cell phone conversation another mom was having, I assume with her husband. He was with their daughter at some athletic event and they were discussing the logistics of picking up kids, etc. All that stuff I always have to figure out and then handle on my own. But while I noticed that aspect of the call what really grabbed my attention was that when she hung up there was no "I love you" as part of the goodbye.

I hear this all the time and it has come to bother me. Last summer, I witnessed over and over one couple's cell phone exchanges at our sons' baseball games. The mom was a talker (and I admit a bit irritating at times) and whenever she called, the dad he would roll his eyes and make negative comments about her after he had hung up. I wanted to scold the guy for his disregard and the fact that both of them had such "take it for granted" attitudes about the other. Okay, she talks on and on in a high-pitched voice but you married her and this is one thing you can overlook and even laugh about rather than insult her behind her back to other parents.

These people don't think about what it would be like not to have their spouses in their lives - small irritations wouldn't seem so big if they'd reflect more on the total picture. I just wish people would demonstrate their love for each other more often and not take their marriages for granted. A little "I love you" before hanging up or an "I appreciate you and thanks for getting little daughter from soccer" would only take a few more seconds. But as I said, these folks aren't in that frame of mind because they haven't had to experience life without a partner. It's kind of too bad that most people won't get what some of us have learned the hard and painful way.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the boys got some nice clothing at Plato's Closet (a used clothing store for teens). I'm not sure I'll go back to paying full price for new clothes when you can find brand name stuff for $6.00 at a used clothing store.
2. For being able to see the "bigger picture."
3. That the boys were patient in waiting for "new" clothes until we could better afford them.
4. That the boys are willing to get their clothes from a used clothing store (in fact, it is where they asked to go).
5. That the boys understand the "bigger picture" too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Plugging Away

Well, I survived my work day on Sunday. I did admit I was not ready to handle a cash register on my own and I got a little more time working with someone before I was thrown in. Yes, I made some mistakes and had to ask for help. But I made it through and did not leave with a headache. Things are still confusing but I'll try and do the best I can and get through this training period. This course of action sounds a lot like widowhood. Trying to get through the best I can. I've sure had a lot of practice in that regard. Now I'll try and apply it to this work situation.

Today I am grateful:

1. That trying circumstances come to an end (like the first few days on a new job).
2. For my ability to see beyond what others do - Okay, so I transposed the amount due to a customer who was making a big deal about it. (I told her the amount due was 12.67 instead of 12.76.) I knew she had gotten the correct change back and no harm was done but a little confusion. I could let it go because in the grand scheme of life this is a nothing incident, of no consequence.
3. For April showers bringing May flowers.
4. For the truth behind one door closing and another opening.
5. For escape t.v. shows like Dancing with the Stars, Hell's Kitchen and American Idol - I know I need these in my life to give myself a little breather from reality.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Challenges

I did not do particularly well with my job training today. I am not picking up how to use the cash register quickly and I feel frustrated and slow. The 20-year old who was working with me refused to tell me what to do when I was stuck and I got short with her and told her to tell me. I didn't know the answer - there was a line forming - I was making the current customer wait. So what was the point of her "tough" attitude? I am used to a slower, more relaxed work atmosphere. And one in which I am confident because I know what I am doing. I took this job in retail because it offered more hours and the potential for advancement over work in my social services field - but now I am beginning to doubt my decision. Except I don't have much of a choice at this point. I have to get it and catch on here. I need the job and I need the income. I feel displaced - old and rusty. Most of the others in training have recently worked in retail and are familiar with how to use registers. I have been told that they push you quickly and basically throw you into the fire to sink or swim. In my opinion this is a silly plan. Why should someone who is not ready be forced to handle a job they are not fully trained for? Mistakes are sure to be made and customers will get upset. The training so far has not been thorough. In any case, I am someone who has to do a task before understanding it. Sure, they've told me how to do something and run through it once in training, but it hasn't stuck with me. We'll have to see how tomorrow goes. I actually debated not going back after my morning today - I left with a migraine and much discouragement. But I just have to try and make this work out. Besides, I do want it to. Obviously, with practice I'll get the hang of things. I definitely do not agree with their training methods. Or maybe I'm just not cut out for this line of work. There has been too much to remember and keep track of - all while going at a quick pace. As I drove home I just kept thinking that I wouldn't be facing this pressure if my husband hadn't died. This is just another crummy obstacle to have to face and get through on my own. I have tried not to be rude in these posts but right now I just want to say that this totally SUCKS!

Today I am grateful for:

1. Having enough decent clothes in my wardrobe that fit for Spring.
2. Ditto for shoes.
3. Patient customers - hopefully they'll be extra patient tomorrow.
4. Second chances - I hope this job will give me one (they might even need to give me more).
5. OTC migraine medicine (which wasn't even available until a few years ago - unfortunately, since my husband's death I pop way more of these pills than I'd like).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Work Grind

I am feeling drained and spiritless today - it has been a tough week with starting the new job (I haven't worked in three years). The boys had half and full days off this week and their share of after school meets. Much of the focus of this week has been trying to coordinate everyone's schedule. I am feeling rather sad for myself with thoughts of "Is this what I have to look forward to the rest of my life?" Feeling constantly tired and lonely (it is the sleeping alone night after night that really gets to me). This has been a hard life and I want to just hang it up right now. I am of course very happy that I have started working again but in doing so new complications are created. This widowhood life doesn't have many perks to it. And I am still grieving my divorce big time because being remarried represented the start of a new life where I wouldn't have to handle everything on my own. I didn't just lose a man I loved, I also lost an easier life.

Today I am grateful for:

1. Chinese takeout food.
2. Cell phones (so Moms like me have a way to connect with their teenage sons because they cannot be in two places at once).
3. That we have a roof over our heads.
4. The spring blossoms coming out in full force.
5. A working vehicle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back in Civilization

I start a new job today - my first in three years! I am a bit nervous and anxious - what if I don't do well? I'm afraid I won't learn fast enough and all of that. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. I do think this is positive because it will give me less time to anguish about my ex. However, now I'll have to start worrying about all those things like visible panty lines again. It has been nice to not have to worry about those matters - throw on a pair of jeans because I'm just at home or at one of the boy's sporting events. I guess I'm rejoining the world again. (I hope my panty lines don't show on my first day - I'll have to buy new underwear!)

Today I am grateful:

1. That I have a job.
2. That someone gave me a chance to start over and prove myself.
3. That after everything I've gotten through, a work orientation should be a piece of cake.
4. That I will have an opportunity to meet new people.
5. That a new door is opening in my life.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Out with the Old, In with the New

I have decided to devote the next month to "healing." My personalized plan will involve trying to get through all the excess "stuff" in my house. Right now I feel so buried under. I think/hope that if I can clear some of the old stuff out, it will improve my outlook and help me move forward. The last few years have been so busy I haven't had the time or opportunity to clear out all the old clothing, books and toys that have accumulated. Then, on top of that, there is still some sorting to do of my deceased husband's possessions. As well as boxes and bags remaining from my parent's home. This is all bad enough but yesterday I picked up my possessions from my ex-husband's home and these need to be organized and put away too. Quite a job ahead of me! But I am bound and determined to get this done once and for all!

This is the first time I have really felt up to the challenge. I so want to clear out all the old so what remains is what is useful and functional for our current life. This plan is making me feel motivated and in control. Every little bit will help - anything that I can move out of here will free some of the stagnant air that is smothering us. I am on my way out to donate today's load to Goodwill - 14 pairs of my old pants that are too big for me; 2 pairs of capri pants (too big); 2 skirts (too big) and a very nice black raincoat (since my husband died I refuse to wear black - I don't even carry a black purse anymore). And a pair of boy's novelty Homer Simpson slippers. My goal is to try and take at least a bag of stuff over to the Goodwill every day. We'll see how I do.

The other part of my healing plan is to knit as much as possible. Knitting is supposedly as therapeutic as meditation and at this point I don't have much time to devote to just sitting still. But I can knit and watch t.v. at the same time. Author Laurie Perry describes in her book, "Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat Hair - The True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split," how focusing both on cleaning and knitting help her transition through her divorce.

I Guess Love is Not Enough

I picked up my possessions from my ex-husband's house yesterday and had an opportunity to briefly speak with him. We probably talked about 20 minutes - I could have used an hour. So much is still left unsaid. But I did get to convey a few of my sentiments and that is very important to me.

This is a terribly difficult and strange ending because it is apparent we still have strong feelings for one another. My ex-husband disclosed that he could not handle the financial strain of running two households and threw in the towel. He also admitted difficulties with my two teens (the problems in coming in as a stepdad to raise two boys who have been fatherless for some time). He told me that love is not enough. I guess I always thought it was - and if you had love, everything else could be worked out in the end. In my mind there were more positives than negatives with our marriage.

That we left one another with a hug and kiss means more to me than anything. I feel a small bit of healing and hope in regard to moving forward. There was so much anger between us combined with the total lack of communication. I would have been completely devastated if that had been how we said our final goodbye (silent and angry). I wish this wasn't the ending that has been written for this story. It is like coming to the last chapter of a book that I want to keep going. It is over, finished but I don't want it to be. Now I have to wait for the sequel or pick up a new book to start reading. This one is written and complete.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the opportunity to say goodbye.
2. That my ex did not refuse to talk to me and he even let me in the house!
3. For the love my ex and I shared.
4. For everything my ex did for me to assist us financially.
5. For the man my ex is (both good qualities and those more challenging - I am grateful to have known him as he is).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Truth

My guyfriend, who faithfully reads my blog (what a great guy!), related that he thought my last two posts, which were about my divorce, were way too personal and might make some people uncomfortable. But rather than delete them or revise them I want to keep them as they were written. I know what I wrote about is very intimate but it is the truth and it was how I was feeling at the time. And that is the whole reason I started to blog in the first place - to have a safe place I could go where my reality could be revealed.

After my husband died, I just found it very important to live and tell the truth. I want to present what is going on in my life in an accurate and honest way. So for me, that means relating some of the more personal details about my marriage. This blog has been the only place where I have had an opportunity to do that.

I apologize if my words, thoughts and details may have been offensive. But I am grateful for having a forum in which to share my life. And for me right now that means processing certain aspects of my marriage (some of which are icky). Thanks for bearing with me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Divorce Grief

I am going to have to devote a few more posts to the end of my marriage because it is where I am and I need to process, vent and tell my story in order to move on. A few days ago, my nice guyfriend gave me the typical response we hear so much while grieving - "Get over your ex-husband and move on." What is so frustrating about these words is that the person saying them never offers any wisdom as to exactly how we're supposed to "get over it." Do people really think that we can just turn on some sort of switch inside us and stop thinking about our losses whether they result from death, divorce or some other hardship?

If there had been any kind of pill I could have taken to have avoided the last nine months of pain that I've endured, let me tell you, I would have been the first one to take it (maybe even before FDA approval). Working through the grief of my failed marriage has been excruciatingly tough and brutal. Perhaps for me, some of the difficulty has been because the divorce followed so closely behind the death of my husband and then my Mom. I'm not even sure how much I'd successfully grieved those losses before the marriage blew up.

Each loss is different and has to be grieved in its own way. Each person is so unique with an equally unique life history. For that reason, those grieving often find themselves facing other losses from the past, that have resurfaced because they remain unresolved. My friend and all the others who tell us to move on as quickly as possible mean well, but it is not the answer. The only way to the other side is to stand in the face of the storm and reflect on all those painful emotions and NOT just put them on a shelf to deal with sometime later.

So that is what I am going to try to do now with the next couple of posts - devote some time for thought and reflection regarding my divorce (it is hard to even type that word). I hope that in doing so, it will help me get to the other side. Where that other side is and what it exactly looks like, I'm not sure yet. But anything that is less painful than this will be better!

End all Endings with Love

I recently read about a concept that just blew me away - it is the intention to end all things with love. No further explanation is needed - just end a phone call with love; end an argument with love; say goodnight or goodbye with love and so on. This totally resonates with me because it is how I am consciously trying to live my life and since my husband's death, I have been well aware of the need for all of us to focus on love. Love diffuses bitterness, anger, resentment and hate. Anger in particular has no where to go if it is met by love.

I am thinking of all of this as I make plans to retrieve my possessions from the house of my ex-husband on Sunday. I had a girlfriend call him to finalize the details and she reported that he is just so angry with me. Furious might be a better word. He told her I will not be allowed into his home and if I do not show up on time, he is not going to wait. He made a couple more unkind comments. This is just so hard for me to deal with. I can't understand the extent of his fury and resentment. My attorney commented that he is going to punish me to the very end. The way I see it, he has gotten the divorce he wanted and in the process destroyed me financially. What more does he want?

I was divorced without any formal explanation as to his reasons why; he refused to speak with me throughout the proceedings; he did not say goodbye to me or the boys; he failed to uphold the agreement we had made regarding my move to his state (I was going to move on 7/23/08 after the boy's summer baseball season ended, but he told me on 7/7 that he was divorcing me); he told me this over the phone, long-distance and then hung up on me; he lied about other things; he was not supportive during my Mom's illness and death as well as when my home was struck by a tornado and I had to clean out her large home after she died; he divorced me knowing I didn't have a job and hadn't looked for one in 10 years (he also knew we really only had the money to survive through the end of July on our own). The worst of it all is that as a result of this divorce I will probably lose my home.

I also feel pretty betrayed because I made a huge sacrifice in marrying my husband, one that I did not take lightly. He suffers from Retarded/Delayed Ejaculation and has NEVER had an orgasm (in any way) with any woman (and it was even difficult for him to have one with himself). But I accepted that aspect of our sex life and was willing to live with it. If I put on my counselor hat I would say that maybe much of his anger is really at himself or a way for him to feel masculine and powerful because of his sexual issues (which are emotional in nature, not physical). Since I'm on a roll here and this is my only outlet for venting about this, he also did not date in H.S. or college, was a virgin until age 25 and had been in fewer than 5 relationships. He went long periods (5 or more years) without even one date (or sex). What is that saying about not marrying a man who has never been married by the time he is 50? Maybe some people are just not cut out to be married. I wish he had realized that before taking me on the roller coaster ride that became our marriage.

And one last thing - did I mention that his nickname (behind his back) at work is Prick? I'm serious! How people treat others is a pretty good indication of how you'll be treated. I begged for marriage counseling - he adamantly refused. What bothers me the most is his inability to look at his own issues as being contributors to the problems of the marriage. He has presented his version of the situation to his friends and family and no one has heard mine. This post is my opportunity to do that even though it will not reach those who should hear it.

Yet despite all this I've tried to focus over the last nine months on the love I've felt for this man. And on Sunday I will do my best to end this marriage with love. Who knows if he'll make an appearance personally or talk to me if he does. But regardless if he is present or hiding in his house, I will be thinking of, focusing on and sending out feelings of love. There isn't any other way, although it is far easier to lash out hatefully and unkindly. I will not do that.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I am able to end this marriage with love (although that doesn't mean that it doesn't still hurt beyond words and that my heart is still broken).
2. That I met a man with whom I can now have a realistic, mature, mutually satisfying and whole relationship with.
3. That this man has treated me with love and respect every step of the way and has patiently helped me heal from the loss of my second marriage.
4. That I feel ready to close the door on this chapter of my life and move forward into the future.
5. That I've tried to become a better person by working through my issues (unlike my ex).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No regrets

The other week while grocery shopping, I spied a box of a dozen, assorted Krispy Kreme donuts. I picked them up but ultimately passed at the $6.99 cost. But I never forgot those donuts and went back to the store on subsequent days to get them. The bad thing was that I didn't see another box of the assorted donuts - just the glazed ones. So I still kept thinking about those donuts and a couple Sundays back drove over to the local Krispy Kreme store to find that the store had closed (another casualty of the Recession). I was disappointed and computed that the cost of all the shopping trips to the stores ended up costing me around $6.99 anyway so I just should have gotten the donuts when I'd seen them in the first place!

Moral of the story - to go for things at the time instead of waiting and then facing the possibility of losing out. If I equate that to my marriage, I can say that at least I gave it a well-intentioned shot. It sadly didn't work out but I don't have to always wonder about it like I would if I hadn't gotten married. I took a chance and even if it failed, there is some solace that I did it. So I'll never regret remarrying and the hope I held for the future. And the next time I struggle with a realitively minor purchase like the donuts, I hope I have the strength to put them in my cart, forget about feeling guilty over the cost or calories and just enjoy one or two with a cold glass of milk!

Life is too Short

I still struggle on a daily basis with feelings of loss and tremendous sadness concerning my divorce from Husband #2. It is like this terrible sore that just won't heal. I continue to have nightmares and migraines on an almost nightly basis about my ex. There is this continuous loop that just keeps repeating itself - I play over all aspects of our "marriage" and what I did or didn't do. I know there are any number of reasons why this could be happening. For one, I think that the divorce happening so soon after Husband #1 and my Mom died has made it much more difficult to get through. Looking back now, I believe that I hadn't even really grieved my husband's death before I started to help care for my seriously ill parents. So my grief over his death was kind of put on hold. When Husband #2 filed for divorce, it opened up the floodgates for all the grief left over from Husband #1, which just kind of combined with and increased the grief I felt about the divorce. And it doesn't help of course, to be facing all kinds of financial hardship on top of everything else.

Yesterday, my close girlfriend met me at the high school to watch my oldest at his Volleyball match. As we sat in the bleachers, I asked her how she would stop thinking about her ex if she were in my situation. She told me that she would focus on the new man in her life and whenever a thought popped into her head about the ex, she'd force herself to think of the new guy. I also talked to my sister last night and asked her the same question. She also told me to focus on the new guy in my life, to leave the past in the past and to look ahead to the future. One of her comments was that the past is way, way gone - there is nothing we can do about it now. She added that life is short - far too short for continued angst and agony.

Life is far too short for me to continue to beat myself up over a relationship that was not meant to be. It is time for me to really move on and release the pain and regrets I have over what wasn't. For me, I think that I hold on to all of this because as long as I do, I still have the people I've lost with me. It has always been very hard for me to give up the past and to move on. But if ever there was a time to do so it is now. And maybe it is as simple as consciously committing to and concentrating on what is active and alive in your life.

Today I am grateful:

1. For family.
2. For friends.
3. For TAZO Awake tea.
4. For the belief that being a good, kind person will in the end bring more peace and comfort than doing something spiteful to Husband #2 (like sprinkling a product on his lawn that will kill all the grass).
5. That my boys are popular and well-liked.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your ability to survive

On Saturday, I had the rare treat of splurging on a pedicure and the nail place was quite busy before Easter. So, I also had the rare pleasure of an uninterrupted hour to read and browse through the table full of magazines while waiting. Somewhere in that large pile of magazines I read a short editorial about Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling's 2008 Harvard Commencement speech. It struck such a chord with me that when I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up a book my oldest needs to read for a book report, I looked through the magazines there trying to find the article. But I couldn't find it. Today, I went back to the nail salon and went through the table of magazines, again coming up empty handed. Then I noticed that the Real Simple magazine wasn't there. (Someone probably took it home under their coat!) Was that where I'd seen it? That magazine would be more likely to publish such an editorial than a fashion or gossip magazine. I left discouraged but upon getting home did a search on the internet and found the whole text of the speech and the section that had caught my attention. So here it is. Very inspiring to me. I thought about all the hardship I've experienced since my husband's death and these words have soothed me.

From J.K. Rowling's June 6, 2008 Harvard Commencement speech:

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned."

Today I am grateful for:

1. The internet.
2. Finding quotes like this when I need them the most.
3. The advice of others who know what this is like because they've been there.
4. My less depressed mood.
5. Heat, running water, and a washer/dryer (no dishwasher though).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Celebrities and Comfort Food

People magazine is one of the subscriptions I had to cancel due to cost and lack of time (they'd pile up so quickly because it is a weekly). But once in a while if I see an issue that is worth the $3.99 price I will get it (and they are only a $1.00 at the used book store). Today in the grocery I didn't even flip through the 4/20 issue. It immediately went into my cart when I saw the beautiful photo of Kelly and John Travolta and the headline "Living with Grief." In this issue also, is a smaller mention of Liam Neeson. I hope these brave and lovely people know at some level how much they will help educate the general public about grief and loss because they are celebrities. And how they will give hope and strength to others also facing such losses because we can identify with a familiar face.

The stores are so crowed today. People had filled carts with ham, beautiful flowers, eggs, and pastry goodies (cakes in the shape of lambs or bunnies, cookie flowers). The people looked somewhat distracted and busy. I truly hope that those who see the People magazine or choose to add it to their cart will be struck by the realization of what is truly important as they gather with loved ones tomorrow.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the new day that dawned (although I am still pretty down as evidenced by all the comfort food I bought at the grocery - noodles, mini donuts, sweet rolls, banana bread mix, lemon poppy seed muffin mix, pudding and jello mixes . I have visions of eating noddles with butter for dinner and eating a heated sweet roll oozing with butter accompanied by a cup of hot tea).
2. For the power of choice. I have the power to choose to eat a sweet roll with butter or take a walk in the park. The fact that I am choosing the less healthy of the two does not negate the fact that at least I have a choice.
3. For being shown new ideas on how I can get through this. I was reading a little when I first woke up from the book "Tough Transitions - Navigating Your Way Through Difficult Times," by Elizabeth Harper Neeld and was struck by a woman's comment highlighted in the book. She said, "During difficult times, we all do different things to help us heal. I found that in my own life, during my darkest, worst days, my therapy was to bake." Thank you Ellen Rose for showing me there are an infiite possibilities for me to grab on to - maybe I'd find baking far more nurturing than eating sweet rolls with butter.
4. For having a friend willing to change plans and come up with an alternative in lieu of our celebrtating Easter with my family because I do not feel up to being with my relatives right now.
5. To have this same friend say, "That's okay" (he'd still stick by me) when I told him I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to get out of this current funk and what if I am in it the rest of my life?

Friday, April 10, 2009

One Day at a Time

I'm in a terrible low - just not sure what to do, where to go, how to get on with the rest of my life. I have to figure out a plan for a job but am worried my Master's in Psych won't end up paying the bills or cover the boys for college in a few years. So what do I do now? No one seems to have any answers. I think all the people I've been talking to at the career counseling centers don't have a clue. When I got my masters I was married and only wanted to work part-time - I never expected to have my husband die and that I'd end up being the main bread earner. If I had had a crystal ball I would have taken another course of study - most likely in education. But that is all a moot point now.

I need a daytime job with regular set hours. Psych jobs are often only in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate client's daytime school and work hours. I need benefits - we don't have medical insurance. My van has almost 100,000 miles on it. I am worried about those factors too. It is like I have finally hit my bottom. Most mornings I still wake up with a migraine and I know I have been dreaming about Husband #2. I remain haunted by the end of my marriage and the utter cruelty of my husband which I now think boarders on the brink of being emotionally violent.

I am in foreclosure and the threat of losing the house hangs over me like I'm caught in a dark, dense fog that I cannot escape. I have a couple close friends who have been there for me but my family is emotionally distant (my sister has not spoken to me since Thanksgiving and has offered no support in regard to the divorce). That hurts almost as much as being abandoned by Husband #2.

I know you're not supposed to talk or think or feel like this because in our society the message is not to complain but buck up and cope. Even my friends are uncomfortable when I'm in this hopeless/helpless state. I just feel so alone and so tired from the many years of this. Almost like I've reached the limit as to what I can handle.

My Mom and I were very close and I know she would have been there for me with support and advice (especially about the financial stuff). My divorced friends have close families and I just feel like I'm hanging out here all by myself kind of like a flag on a flagpole that is getting tattered in the wind. People are quick to point out that there are many other single moms out there without any family handling things, coping and moving on with life. I'm just having a hard time and don't want my situation compared with others. My life story and personality are different and for whatever reasons I've reached a point here where I feel like giving up. What would happen if I ended up not doing anything from here on out? That would be an interesting concept to consider. Would the outcome be that much different than whatever I may do now consciously?

A friend was responding critically to my mood and I asked him how he thought I should be handling all of this. He told me to just try and live one day at a time. For me right now that might end up being one hour at a time because all I feel like is lying down in bed and not getting up.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the changing seasons.
2. For my education and advanced degree - they may end up taking my house but not that.
3. For my ability to feel, even though what I'm feeling right now is pretty bad.
4. For the pride I felt seeing my oldest at his volleyball meet - I have two great boys despite having suffered such hardship at young ages.
5. For the promise of another day and hopefully one that is less depressing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Men at the tire store

Last Saturday morning when I was at the tire store I was struck as usual by a myriad of emotions. I was the only woman in the place and felt amused as the employees and customers were riveted to the t.v. screen upon which some Japanese game show I'd never heard of called "Ninja Warrior" was on. From what I could gather, 100 Japanese guys had to go through all these obstacle course type events to become the Ninja Warrior. The events were pretty difficult and no one came even close to being crowned the warrior. I was grateful to have a book with me but I had to say I found it pretty funny that these nice middle-aged dad type guys from my middle-class suburban town were so fascinated by this show.

It got me to thinking about the differences between men and women and how much I miss living with a man. I love and appreciate all the male quirks that get on women's nerves including obsession with sports and interest in totally pointless athletic game shows. But I also miss and appreciate all the good stuff too - the strength of a man's body, the smell of sweat on him after he has mowed the lawn, his ability to kill spiders and unknown scary insects without closing his eyes or squirming in his shoes.

When some of these men came in the store, they told the mechanics that their wives had called earlier and talked to them about some tire model or other detail. To this my reaction was jealousy toward women I don't even know getting to stay at home while hubbo goes to the tire store to get the tires changed. I also felt burdened with the fact that I have to be the one doing the "male weekend chores." In reality, I do everything all the time. To hear how couples were sharing the work load made me envious that their lives are easier in that regard.

Most of all I think that what I was feeling more acutely was just sadness at not living with a man right now. I do have a guy in my life but we don't live together and going out or spending time at his home does not end up being the same thing. You can't replace the experience of waking up with someone in the morning or having someone by your side in the middle of the night when you have a nightmare or a headache. I looked at these nice, average, middle-aged guys and wanted to take one home with me. But only after he did all the tire stuff.

Today I am grateful:

1. For all the steps I have taken to try and cope with this transitional part of my life (grief therapy, reading self-help books on grief, knitting, going through old possessions and getting rid of them, blogging, journaling, socializing with friends).
2. For always getting back up even after sinking into despair.
3. For being honest about needing help when I need it.
4. For not wanting to pretend anymore that life is something that it's not.
5. For being more kind, patient and tolerant of myself.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Comparing myself to others

A friend just complained that I am always comparing myself to others and I need to stop doing this. I admit that I am stuck trying to cope with my feelings about life being unfair and bad things happening to good people. I am also jealous of those with seemingly fewer problems than I. The biggest question of all is "Why did my husband have to die and leave me alone?" and the answer is "Why not me? If not me, who else?" I have recognized that when life was going well and I wasn't on my own that I didn't compare myself much to others. It is only since widowhood and divorce have entered my life that I have been comparing myself and seeing the disparity in people's lives.

For whatever reason I am at this place right now in my grief journey. It is no doubt intensified because we are facing such economic pressures as foreclosure. I think for that reason I am even more likely to compare myself to others. The more problems in your life, the more people there are with fewer ones so it seems as thought everyone else has it better than me.

I'm trying to work through these difficult feelings and not brush them aside because that would defeat the purpose. But if anyone out there has dealt with this in the past and has ideas on how to move past the comparisons, please let me know.

Trying to make sense of all of this

Yesterday, I went to a job fair and was hired on the spot for a mental health counseling position. The job is great and think I'd do it well and enjoy it besides. But there are a number of problems with it (of course). For one, the job is not considered permanent or full time - it is a fill in job for employees who call in sick, are on leave or vacation. I'd also have to be filling in for all three shifts because it is a hospital unit so that means overnight hours. The job is in Chicago and living in the suburbs I prefer suburban locations because I am more familiar with my neck of the woods. Plus there are no benefits including insurance, although the hourly pay is not bad. For me, the real difficulty with the job has to do with being on call and not knowing what my hours would be on a week-to-week basis. My employer cannot make me any kind of guarantee as to how much I'd actually be working. I think they anticipate I'd have hours but the thought of being called two hours before I'm supposed to go in is more than I can bear right now. Also, I do not feel comfortable leaving my boys on their own overnight.

Right now what I am craving and know that I need is structure and stability. I need to know what my work hours are so I can plan my life and effectively parent my boys. I'd have no problem taking a job like this if there was someone at home to help hold down the fort but I am on my own and I have to take this into consideration. A lot of this has to do with the tremendous amount of unpredictability I've faced in the past years. First there was my husband's illness and the constant, up and down not knowing if the treatments would work or if he was going to die. Then with my remarriage my new husband was always threatening me with divorce so there was that roller coaster and the eventual divorce. In between these events were many involving my parents' illnesses, my Mom's death and my son's diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome (potentially fatal heart arrhythmia).

After getting the job offer I went and talked with Human Resources and explained my situation ("widow card") and that I'd prefer a suburban location. The HR Head said she'd see about another position and we left my acceptance on hold. She is supposed to call back today. When I left the job fair I burst into tears after reaching the safety of my car and had a good, long cry. I asked the Universe what it wants me to do here. I want and need a job but I am not willing to keep adding to the instability of my life by working a job that will bring that to me. I talked with a couple of friends and got the typical responses - about how I need to try and make this work and somehow arrange my life so it can fit around this job. My two male friends glossed over my concern about leaving the boys on their own overnight.

I'm trying to remain strong here and do the right thing for all of us. It is more challenging for someone like me to work out the details of a new job. I can't just take whatever is offered because there are too many ramifications. It would actually be easier to just take the job because that is what everyone else seems to think is the best thing. But it is harder to stand up for what I believe is better (and not the popular opinion) and that would be not taking this job because I do not want the upheaval it would being to our lives on a daily basis. So the widow not only has a harder life but then she is not supported for making the decisions she feels are the right ones to make. I'd say this is a pretty good example of damned if you do, damned if you don't, or at least that is how it feels to me.

About my boys - I don't care what anyone thinks or says. As an only parent it is up to me to make the decisions regarding their health, well being and welfare. I only know too well what can happen (and plenty of bad things happen). So if I error on the side of caution so be it. Better safe than sorry and it is one of the few things I do have a small amount of control over. But how frustrating to always be criticized for being an overly protective parent. And what about my safety besides? No one seems to consider the risk I may have driving into Chicago on my own at night. I just think I'm expected to always be some superwoman and I've reached a point where I'm saying "no." I have limitations, I can only be stretched so far. My life was ripped out from under me, I'm trying to move on as best I can and now the least I deserve is respect for the careful decisions I make because I think they are what is best. And if others can't or won't give me that, then I'll have to be strong and give it to myself because I know it is right.

Yesterday, I felt so defeated and exhausted. I felt like giving up on life and living - just throwing my hands up and admitting defeat.

Volleyball Roster

My oldest son just brought home his JV Volleyball roster listing the names of his teammates and their parents. There are twelve players and he is the only one to not have both a mom and dad listed. When I saw this reality in black and white it made me feel very sad - for both my son and me. On a fairly regular basis evidence of my widowhood pop up and I am always struck by how strongly it impacts me. I don't think there is ever a day that goes by where I don't internally acknowledge my widowhood but when the signs come at me in black and white it is like a double whammy. Yet another reminder (this time visual) of the situation.

There was blog talk a few days ago about "widow cards." I think it is absolutely amazing and creative that one widow actually created "widow cards" to pass out to people! Visualization can be better understood sometimes than trying to explain to someone verbally. This got me to think that I should copy this roster for the next time someone (usually married) gives me a hard time when I mention how tough things can be. I'll whip out this copy from my purse and say, "Try and understand how hard it is to keep on going with a smile on your face and hope in your heart when you're doing it on your own among a sea of two-parent households!"

Awful Accountant

In honor of tax season, I am posting about my accountant. He was sexually inappropriate with me last year and now that I am divorced, his actions have escalated and include physical contact. I am feeling angry, exploited, disrespected and vulnerable. The fact that I've paid him a lot of money adds insult to injury because I feel as though I've actually paid for this abuse!

I have great trouble standing up for myself and part of my hesitation in this case is that I need to keep on good terms with him because he knows my financial history and would have to intervene with the IRS if necessary in the future. It is too late and costly to go to someone else. Why I thought things would be different this year, I now don't know. I guess this helps prove that theory that leopards don't change their spots. Maybe he has a knack for hitting on vulnerable women? I put the matter behind me last year after I reconciled with Husband #2 and he came in with me to the office - the accountant sure behaved himself when Husband #2 was with me!

The latest in this saga was yesterday when the accountant wanted me to pick up my completed return at his home. All I want is to have a strictly business/professional relationship with the guy. Here I am again in another situation that forces me to do something that is outside my comfort zone and makes me extremely anxious. More hassle in an already hassle-packed life!

What I am realizing about all this is that the strongest feelings I am experiencing have to do with not having a man in my life to protect me from all this. It is not the feelings of abuse or anger that are top here. Instead, I am feeling vulnerable with a victim mentality. I am feeling like as a widow, I am even more at risk for being taken advantage of. Along with those feelings are the ones that if I were still married, I wouldn't have to be dealing with this - so it is just more punishment for my situation.

For me, the hardest part of widowhood is and has been not having a husband by my side. I just don't want to face life alone (especially the hardships and conflicts). I know couples have to face both individual and joint difficulties, but in my mind anything is more bearable if you're married. It is what is most important to me. I don't want to deny that but to face it in hopes that it will help me understand myself and my actions better. To me, marriage represents safety, security and stability and part of me believes that I won't have these unless I am married.

Bottom line though - I'm not married and I have to face a crummy situation on my own. One that involves standing up for myself so my dignity and honor remain intact. There's no knight coming in on a horse to defend me on this one. I know that would be the easy way out, but maybe just once or twice here I'd like to have that happen. To be taken care of instead of doing all the caring, day in and day out for both myself and the boys.

Today I am grateful:

1. For my boys. I need to stay focused on the knowledge that as long as they are healthy and whole, my world is complete as it is.
2. For books - my strength and refuge.
3. For Barnes & Noble and Borders. I could probably live my life without another new outfit but could not say the same about a new book to read.
4. For bagels - maybe the perfect comfort food because they can be considered a healthier indulgence.
5. For brides and the wedding season and all that marriage represents. Even though my marriages did not end as I'd hoped, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a bride.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Grief Time Limit

I had to take care of the taxes this past week and went to the accountant on Friday for my follow-up appointment. I cried as we reviewed my options and at one point I referred to my husband having died. My accountant sternly replied that since that was five years ago, it was old news and I needed to get over it. He then went on to give me that old familiar line that there have been lots of women widowed and somehow they manage to move on and survive. Somewhere in there too was the comment that if I have to downsize and move into an apartment so be it, that is what I have to do and I need to face it.

I had a lot of reactions to this exchange. First, that these are all things I've heard before plenty of times in my widowhood. I don't think my accountant wanted to be mean and was trying to be helpful. For the first time, I tried not to react or think defensively and to sit with his perspective and perhaps even benefit from it. Yes, I do need to face reality and move on (not only from my first husband's death but also the end of my remarriage).

But despite these positives, the main reaction I had to this exchange was the feeling that as a widow, I'm not even allowed to have the death of my husband as an explanation to what I am feeling or dealing with in my life because it has occurred in the past. It seems like after that first year or two we've used up our grief allotment and can no longer use it to justify where we are in our lives. I felt like I was even having my grief taken away from me.

Granted, the immediate death event is over. But what still remains are all the complications that resulted from that death in the realm of financial, housing, job and parenting responsibilities. I think these are referred to as secondary losses. So even though my husband died five years ago I am still dealing with and trying to cope with things that do directly result from his death. I'm not sure I'm explaining this well and maybe people who aren't in this situation wouldn't understand it. I guess what I could do next time would be to explain things more specifically - "I'm dealing with the financial repercussions resulting from my husband not having enough life insurance to allow me to pay off the mortgage when he died." It has just always been easier to say, "I wouldn't be in this position if my husband hadn't died." And in the end, really, why can't I have that? I've had everything else taken from me.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the taxes are done (still have to mail them but at least I know the damage isn't as severe as I'd been dreading).
2. That the boys seem to be hanging in there emotionally and socially.
3. That I'm in a much different place than when the divorce was first filed - that I've accomplished a lot of introspection and made some spiritual progress.
4. That I feel a little more hopeful and positive despite the obstacles that still loom ahead in our lives.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More than a flat tire

My right rear tire on the van was flat when I left the house late Friday afternoon to pick up a pizza for the boys. A flat tire may not be a major catastrophe in the grand scheme of life but I think for those of us on our own that it is not a minor inconvenience either. This flat tire resulted in:

1. Not being able to get the Friday night cheap pizza special for dinner.
2. I had to come up with an alternate dinner plan.
3. Worry on Fri. night about how I'd get the tire repaired.
4. Time spent Fri. afternoon talking to the tire store about towing, new tire cost, etc.
5. Money and time spent picking up fix-a-flat.
6. More money spent than planned for the boys' alternate dinner.
7. Worry Sat. a.m. about using fix-a-flat (which I've never used) and concern about driving the van to the tire store.
8. Two hours of time spent at tire store.
9. Was not able to pick-up the college kids that were supposed to come over at 8:00 a.m. to rake the yard so lost out on a low cost option to have the yard spruced up and will now need to do it on my own. (The local college comes out in Spring and Fall for community work day so this was it for this season!)
10. The extra cost of having to replace the tire.
11. My discomfort in having to handle a "guy job" which I do not find fun and really have no interest in doing.

I think that what I was feeling during this situation that again, it just demonstrates how certain events become bigger than they really are when living and handling them on your own. If my husband were alive, we'd have been able to still get the pizza and to have the college kids come over because there would be an extra car to rely on. Granted, it would have still been an annoyance, but a far lesser one than when handled alone.

To be fair, I will try and list the positives of this situation as well:

1. Learned about fix-a-flat which I had not known about.
2. Successfully used fix-a-flat and saved on the towing expense.
3. Handled the situation and got it done without tears, anger or too much self-pity.
4. Cut a deal with the tire store (since I'd just gotten two tires replaced in January) to add replacement insurance coverage on all four tires for a nominal cost.

Today I am grateful:

1. For my ultimate favorite comfort food - donuts. And I have indulged in some this weekend in part because of feeling down about the tire.
2. That the tire became flat in the driveway instead of on the road someplace far away from home.
3. That it was just a flat tire.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I can't erase my phone messages

I need to clear some messages from my cell phone because there is no room for people to leave new ones. The problem is that I have great difficulty deleting messages once they are left. This started right after my husband died. I was so struck by the fact that I'd never hear his voice again that I became paranoid about deleting messages, especially from loved ones. To solve the problem I eventually started taping my messages and then deleting them. I'd have a tape for close friends and family and another for acquaintances. That seemed to work for quite some time with the land line phone. I never tried to tape any messages from my cell. I just keep them until I have to delete them and when I do so it is very hard for me - if I never had to delete a message again I'd be happy.

What am I actually thinking here? I know deep down that my saving phone messages won't spare my loved ones from death but somehow part of me must believe that. It is like some misguided insurance policy I have bought into. Even though I know this is silly I still can't seem to stop. Just knowing I have the voices of my loved ones with me provides some kind of comfort.

I think that my distorted thought process just shows how greatly and deeply a death can affect us. My husband's death had a profound impact on me to the extent that I treasure phone messages because it is the voice of someone I love. How could I erase that? Especially because I know that some people aren't with us to ever listen to again.


Last night I was driving home and reached a point where the train tracks were down but no train was in sight. A few bold drivers went around the tracks and a few turned around but the majority continued to sit there. I was impatient because I had to get home to the boys before it got too late. Eventually, I turned around. It was dark and I was tired and in an unfamiliar area not that sure of an alternate route. But I knew the right direction to head home toward and some of the street names were familiar so it wasn't long before I was able to pick up the main road again having gone around the train tracks.

I thought about all this on my remaining ride home. How this is so much like a metaphor for being a widow. You're going through life as planned and suddenly this tragic obstacle presents itself. You didn't do anything wrong, nor do you deserve it - this hardship just happens. So you're left having to detour from that original and expected life plan. There are a number of roads to take but in the end you go with the one that seems best. Or maybe the first road you take is wrong so then you have to turnaround and try another one.

Last night's blocked train tracks required me to take a detour. Although I was a little worried and unsure of myself, I turned around and figured out where to go. In the end I made it home - a little later than planned, but I got home. And maybe for all of us in this situation, our lives have required us to have to take unexpected detours. Our lives may be more challenging and it might take us longer to get where we're going, but I think in the end, all of us will make it home.

As I opened the door to my home, I felt relieved and also proud of myself for not freaking out and doing what I had to do. It made me realize how infrequently I give myself credit for having to navigate through life's twists and turns brought on by widowhood. This is not the life I wanted or expected but it is my life. The gift of last night also showed me that even if it's not the way it's supposed to be, there is always another route available for us to follow.

Today I am grateful:

1. For people who stand by their commitments and do what they say they'll do.
2. For the opportunity to be a friend to others.
3. For life's lessons turning up in unexpected ways.