Exit, Stage Right

Not a day goes by that I don’t spend time trying to make sense of the past three years of my life.  I mull over the events, ruminating all the gory details, and pick apart the moments when I could have made better choices.

It began about about six years ago as a little voice in the back of my mind saying, “REALLY? THIS is all there is in life? And you are content with THIS?”  At this point I’d been married to the father of my children for fifteen years and our children were ten, seven and five years old.  I pushed the thoughts from my mind with new hobbies, this blog and more time with girlfriends complaining about my frustrating marriage.   Occasionally my thoughts would wander to fantasies of being a single mom and making decisions on my own, closets all to myself and sprawling in my own bed alone every night.  I even let myself wonder if I could survive on my income plus child support.    I decided that after this many years of marriage and three kids, surely I’d get enough child support to make a decent home for us.   Then I’d push the thoughts to the corner of my mind again and go back to being a supportive wife and mother, part-time tutor of learning disabled college kids, and avid reader and knitter.  This continued for about three years until March 2013 our fourteen year old son got arrested at school for selling four Concerta prescription pills prescribed by his doctor for ADD.  I felt everything spinning out of control.  I watched helpless as my son was handcuffed and put in a police car.  Because it was a Friday afternoon and no judge could sign off on the paperwork to release him to our custody after a one night stay, our son spent three nights in juvenile detention.  He was devastated as well, and although he needed to learn a lesson, three nights was terribly excessive.  He cried, prayed and watched trains on the nearby train tracks from his small cell he later told us.  My heart was broken for him and our family.  I felt like a failure as a mother.  Surely, if I’d done my job right this wouldn’t have happened.  My husband said I was being selfish.  “This isn’t about YOU.” He blurted out to me one day after I shared my feelings with him for the umpteenth time.  He didn’t understand me.  Maybe he never had.

I stop short of saying that our son’s arrest caused me to want a divorce, but in a way it did.  It just as easily could have been a car accident, serious illness, death of a loved one, a job loss, or a natural disaster.  I used to tell my girlfriends that our marriage didn’t feel like it could weather any serious storms.  It felt like we were one catastrophic event away from marital disaster. And indeed, we were.  About three weeks after the arrest I started talking to my doctor about antidepressants. I tried thr over a three month period and none gave me the relief I needed. I did; however, get hives that lasted almost a year.  I asked husband for marriage counseling one day in the car.  He said nothing and changed the subject.  This was probably the fifth or sixth time in our marriage that I told him I thought counseling would help us.  I tried to weather the storm.  I truly did.  I said the right things.  I did the right things.  But I couldn’t do it alone. And then I got very tired.

I didn’t realize it until late in our marriage, but this man had very little capacity for empathy.  He had the mind of a scientist and saw the world in black and white.  He reacted to events and situations from a place of analytical reason and could not understand displays of emotion, especially mine.  I learned to save my emotional side for my girlfriends’ coffee dates and just keep things mainly on the surface with him.  We talked about the kids, upcoming events, holidays, work, and car and home repair projects.  I suppose I did vent my frustrations about some relationships with friends and relatives with him, but he only listened and never offered any support or suggestions.  I accepted this as normal and thought if he doesn’t need to be intimate with me and show his true self, then I guess I don’t need that either, so I began to share less and less with him.  He had a sweet side and was very cuddly and affectionate, but there was no emotion behind it.  It felt empty and I began to resent his need for it.  For me, our marriage began to feel like a watered down lemonade.  Slightly tart, slightly sweet, enough liquid to quench my thirst, but not truly satisfying.

I began trying in earnest to get him to connect with me in the months after our son’s arrest.  I was testing him to see if there was any hope left for us. We felt worlds apart and I could not get him to put down his walls to talk to me from his heart.  One day on a walk in the park near our home I asked about his past before I met him and we got into an argument because once again he refused to share anything with me.  I felt shut out and frustrated.  He couldn’t understand why it was important to me, and I couldn’t understand why he resisted so much.   That was the first watershed moment for me.  This is truly all he was capable of and I realized that I had to accept it or leave the marriage. In the weeks that fo I began slipping away and it felt there was nothing to be done about it.

One evening around we were in the yard at dusk cleaning up the yard of garden hoses, kids abandoned balls, bicycles, and yard tools and found ourself arguing over nothing.  The unspoken root of the argument was that we had drifted apart and were becoming strangers and neither of us knew what to do about it.  He was about two hundred yards away when his annoyance at me turned into action. He picked up a baseball from the yard and hurled it toward me.  I was standing in the doorway of the garage when I saw it coming toward me.  I was stunned.  I quickly hopped out of the way as the ball sunk to the ground and bounced at my feet.  Had he meant to hit me?  Months later he claimed he did not truly mean to hit me, and that he had let his frustration get the best of him.  But of course, we didn’t discuss it in the moment.  He went his way and I went mine.  We acted like it had never happened as we did most confrontations in our marriage.

Also during this time his parents moved from our town to their dream retirement spot, Estes Park,Colorado, fourteen hours away.  They had put my husband in charge of last minute details in selling their home, the home which has been his childhood home.  As I often did during our marriage, I gave him opportunity to open up to me to discuss how he felt. I said, “How do you feel about your parents moving to Colorado?”  He bristled a bit and replied, “I DON’T feel about it.”  And there it was.  I. Don’t. Feel.   I was shocked he actually put into words what I had long suspected.  This was the moment that I knew there was no hope.  I felt sick.  I was not okay living like this and this was probably as good as it would ever be.   I was exhausted from the struggle.  I was tired of wishing he would change.  It was over and I was horrified and scared of what I knew I had to do.

In the following two months I cried in the shower and in the middle of the night when no one would hear,  I talked to friends, I confided in my mother, I researched divorce online, I mourned the loss of my husband as if he was dead.  After all, he was dead.  He was not capable of any emotional connection with me, so he really was dead to me and probably had been all along, but I was too busy raising children and taking care of a home and working to notice. I did not discuss any of this with him. Why?  What purpose would it served?  I couldn’t move out, he couldn’t change, and now that the veil was torn away from our sham marriage I couldn’t put it back.  And so I moved on.  Looking back now, what I did was unconscionable, but I could not live in this dead, lonely marriage any longer.  Our debt was a looming mountain and I knew divorce was a financial impossibility  and he would not let me go easily.  Besides, he was content.

I always joked with my friends how easy it is to keep most men happy: occasional sex, good meals, someone to cuddle and do their laundry and a little effort spent on perfume, clothes and make up, be agreeable and happy around him.  Smile and flirt and make him feel wanted.  Easy peasy.  It’s much harder for a man to keep a woman happy.  We have emotional needs and are complicated creatures and have high expectations.  Did you shave today? Are you wearing that to the party? You should read more. I think that shirt has a stain. You need to trim your nails. Have you called your mother this week?  Hard stuff, indeed.

I found dating sites.  That’s the stupid truth.  I was lost and didn’t know what to do next, but I knew I couldn’t live the rest of my life alone in this marriage and not being heard. I knew I deserved more than the dead existence I’d been living for years.  He was the last person I could talk to about it, so I found others online who would listen, and some were going through the same thing I was.  I found that the world is full of lonely miserable married men and a staggering number of them are on dating sites. I was honest from the beginning that I was married.  And then to my shock, I still had many men interested in me.  There were many times along the way I should have been horrified by my actions, like the time I nearly met a man from Chicago at a hotel room, or a cop from L.A. who nearly flew to a town a hundred miles to meet me.   I forged ahead, hoping that happiness lay in a secret relationship hidden behind screens and keyboards with someone I may or may not ever meet in person.  Maybe THAT could make me happy enough to stay in a  lonely marriage. Maybe I would grow old with a secret life and a happy marriage. But is that happiness? I tried to find out.

Day by day I felt myself slipping away from our life together.  I avoided him.  I did what I needed to do for the children, but I was dying inside.  I did not want to be divorced, I really only want change; I wanted a different kind of marriage he wasn’t able to be a part of- a compassionate, caring, intimate marriage where we let each other in to our hopes and dreams and secrets.  I began reading books about marriage. I read a book about monogamy and for a brief time believed that I could stay married if only I could get my emotional needs met elsewhere.  I tried  foolishly to discuss this with husband.  He decided then that I had indeed lost my mind.  He was against anything untraditional, even if it might save our marriage or give us a starting point.  I continued talking to men online and ultimately decided that I probably would have an actual affair.  And it felt like I was saving myself.

When I look back at those bleak days I remember feeling like I had no idea what I was doing, but that connecting with those men and having real emotional discussions about our lives made me feel good.  I felt alive.  I know I should have been having those discussions with husband, but he was a closed up mess.  It just wasn’t possible. In the end we had lived together for eighteen and a half years and I wasn’t any closer to reaching him then than I had been earlier on.  He was emotionally unavailable and always would be, at least with me.

One day in mid August I was home alone folding towels – the worn, sad towels we had received as a wedding gift.  The realization set in that I did not want this life anymore:  not these towels, not this house, not this man, not this disappointment over and over again. I had to tell him. It was becoming unbearable.

It was the end of August 2013 when we were alone in the car after dropping our son off at cross country practice.  I said, “I don’t know if I want to be married anymore.”  I don’t remember any of the conversation except that later that night he cried and wanted to hold me and could not look at him.  I was already gone.  I didn’t care about our marriage anymore.  I left to drive around and get some air.  I texted one of the men I had met online about what was happening and about what I would do about it.  I ignored husband’s calls.  There was nothing that would change my mind. I had seen enough, been through enough. After about an hour or so I drove home.  About a month later he found out I spent time out of town with a man I met online.  And then a funny thing happened.  He wanted to go to marriage counseling with me.

From fairly early in our marriage we had some rocky times.  I had felt all along that we could benefit from counseling in order to learn to work better together and listen to each other.   He wanted no part of counseling and had refused repeatedly until this day he agreed, but now it was too late for me.  I was done.

There is no sadder thing than a failed marriage. It is the death of dreams. And yet, it is also the birth of dreams. I cried on my divorce papers the day I signed them. The following day I took a bakery cake and flowers to work to celebrate my independence. It was sweet relief to have the eighteen month custody battle over. I was free.

Destiny or Just Trash?

After leaving my marriage of eighteen years and moving to a rental house with my twelve  year old daughter and fifteen year old son, I was utterly taken aback by the quiet of being alone at night when they were gone to their dad’s or off with friends.  I cried the first few nights alone in the house.  It felt wrong being there, like I had run away from my old life and I’d be alone forever. I was in unchartered territory.  I felt completely lost.  Then, one day my son found this ratty old golf ball in the woods behind our rental house.  At first we all joked at the quirky find.  One of the previous renters or one of the neighbors was practicing their swing towards the woods.  Then my son turned the ball around and we gasped.  It had my initials on it.  From that moment on I felt I belonged here.  I don’t believe much in coincidences.  I think that the universe speaks to us and it’s our job to listen.  Well,the universe definitely got my attention.  I eventually adjusted to my new life and I am truly content.  I no longer cry at night. I am in heaven having two closets and an entire bed to myself and I can stay up until 3 am knitting if I fancy and no one says, “Aren’t you coming to bed?” But there are days when things are difficult (like the day I found a bat in my washing machine and the week of Christmas when the heat went out).  I have to look no further than this ball in my kitchen window to remind me of how far I’ve come and that I belong here.  Listen to the universe.  It has a lot to say.

Culinary Adventures

There are so many things I love about my new life with my new fella.  After leaving my marriage to someone of nearly twenty years who was content to be a homebody and stuck in his comfy routine, it feels exhilarating to go and do and explore new places and restaurants nearly every weekend.  Last night we were driving past a small new corner bistro that opened a few weeks ago in our town and noticed empty tables.  We decided to go in for dinner, although we weren’t hopeful since it’s strictly reservation only.  New restaurants are pretty exciting here since we don’t often get new ones.  They offered us an in-the-way table for two.  The fella had a flight of Iowa crafted beer and I had a crafted berry sangria.  My pork tacos with mango slaw  and watermelon salad with feta, red onion and tomato with mint lime vinaigrette were delish and he said his ham and cheese sandwich and roasted corn were  very yummy.  One of the high points was the Ace pineapple cider that was on his beer flight.  I’m hoping to find it in a six pack somewhere local. I’m hoping Krafted Bar & Bistro makes it here in our little town.  We have a God’s plenty of franchise restaurants and fast food and this place is truly a breath of fresh air.

Mini Vacay

I tend to procrastinate vacations. I know it makes no sense, but I hate change and I hate planning trips and spending money, so I put it all off until the last few weeks of summer and then I freak out and throw a weekend trip together before the kids head back to school. This one was one of the best. When the kids were little I had a hard time imagining what it would be like traveling with them as teenagers. What could be more fun that five and seven year olds bickering in the backseat for three or four hours? Well, as it turns out, teenagers are incredibly fun and I think this is my favorite age. Now they are 20, 18, and 15 and there are no temper tantrums, no throwing up in the car, no whining, nagging, or begging. And since I breastfed half of my adult life it seems, I have to say that I was not leaning over any carseats to nurse on the trip. (What happens on vacation, stays on vacation!)

Since Oldesst Kidlet is working at an internship near Omaha, we decided to drive to meet him and spend a day in the city. We went to the zoo, downtown, and hit the touristy high points. It was a super fast weekend, but we loved Omaha and could see why the settlers decided to put down roots instead of continuing to head west in their covered wagons. My favorite sight was the bridge named Bob. It’s a huge pedestrian bridge that connects Iowa and Nebraska. It’s hugely popular among locals, so there are people walking, biking, and running across the bridge.  We ate sushi at a place downtown.  They served it in a huge boat loaded with beautiful sushi rolls. We were so grumpy and tired from the zoo that we didn’t even complain about having no ice in our glasses. (Is that a Japanese thing or did they just run out of ice?) Missy Moodle lost her sushi cherry that day.  She was less than impressed.  Well, two kids out of three love it, so that’ll have to do. At 15 her tastebuds are still developing.  She only recently discovered how amazing pickles are.  She’s got time to learn to appreciate sushi. Besides the sushi milestone, the trip was important for other reasons as well.

This is the first trip that The Fella has been on with me and all three kids.  The divorce from their dad was a year and a half ago.  They know him pretty well and like him, but he and I were both a bit nervous about it and wanted it to go well.  It went off without a hitch and everyone had a great time.  Sometimes in life you just have to take a chance, plan for the worst and hope for the best. You can quote me on that.

Old Man River

I have spent most of my life in this Iowa Mississippi River town, so the river has been an important part of my life.  Living near the river makes me feel grounded. It’s always there, full of life and always an odd sort of comforting presence.  I grew up a few blocks from the north bluff that overlooks the river.  I would walk our Dachshund, Peppy to the park several times a week when the weather was nice and watched boaters and barges and fantasized about what it would be like to be out there on the water.  Sometimes I would squint and was sure I could see the arched curves of a Mississippi Loch Ness Monster.

As a teen my neighborhood friend and I would spend hours at the park discussing the multitude of problems in our complicated teenage lives, which now are mostly laughable compared to my adult problems.  Perspective is everything.  We would carve our initials in the green picnic table as dusk approached and we swooshed the mosquitos away.

As a young adult I would walk by the river hand in hand with my boyfriend, have picnics at the riverside park, or eat an ice cream cone and watch the water roll by.  These days I find myself working in an office building near the river.  I sit by the water’s edge during my lunch hour or take a walk by the river front and feel the sunshine on my face.  The top photo was taken looking upriver one afternoon after work on a particularly pretty day with puffy clouds accenting the bridge.  The bottom photo was taken this morning looking down river toward the BNSF bridge.  It’s open to allow a barge to pass down river.  Every morning I gaze at the water and watch the gulls as I park my car in the lot next to the water’s edge and prepare for my work day.  I appreciate the river in a new way now and almost feel a bit of giddy excitement as I drive toward work and see it off in the distance on highway 34.  I am amazed how it looks a bit different every day. Some days it’s hazy, cloudy, sunny, fog, or a light mist. The clouds are absolutely stunning some mornings and I have to stop and take a picture.  It’s a lovely thing to appreciate the natural beauty around us, whether trees, a bright sunny day, or the massive and mighty Mississippi.

I’m Back!

I’m back.  It’s been a crazy long absence, and I’m not sure anyone will ever read this besides me, but I’m back.  Where have I been?  It’s hard to say.   I had a bit of a mid-life crisis (for good reason, I might add. It ended spectacularly. I’m very happy now mostly because I’m no longer married),  I had several career changes, my kids turned into teenagers and one is halfway through  college and another just graduated high school and another just started tenth grade, my mom passed away, and well, LIFE happened.  I have so many stories to tell and they just bubble around in my head all day and I knew I had to come back here to get them out.

Do people still blog much? Are my old favorite blogs still there?  La, Ruby, are you there?  I’ve been working full time and being a single mom and not much time for reading blogs and puttering as I used to in my old life of staying home and raising kids.  How I miss my old life and my old house and my old friends.  People change and grow and even outgrow places and people sometimes.  And I do absolutely love my new life and it was utterly worth every tear and the heartbreak.

Life is such a strange and amazing journey.  At different points in my life I would think, “NOW I have things figured out. Now I’m finally an adult and am content.  This is where I’m supposed to be.”  I must have had that thought at least twenty times in my life. But really, I do have it figured out now. And THIS is where I’m supposed to be.  I love my new life, love being a single parent, and I love my new house and my new job.  I am the luckiest duck.  Life is so good.

Peace and Quiet, and a Little Spoiling

I have three kids and a husband.  I am reminded of that daily by their sounds, needs, and sometimes affection (but mostly their sounds and needs).  Two kids and husband left this morning for an adventure with Boy Scouts.  Missy Moodle couldn’t be happier to have all the testosterone removed from the house.  And I can’t say that I blame her.  Most times I am her favorite person and she always asking to do special things together.  I always make efforts at this, but often she has to wait because of her siblings and dad.  So I told her we’re having girly week.  We started the day by having breakfast together, her choice.  We played a new board game together, enjoyed the quiet a lot, talked about how we don’t miss the boys yet, went to her favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch, bought some new nail polish and shoes, went to see the Harry Potter movie (awesome!), and then picked up a friend to come over to play. And this is only day one!  I think we’d better slow down or we’ll burn out!

The most amazing thing about the boys leaving is the different feeling in the house.  No stress, so many less interruptions, and it’s more quality time.  It’s completely not reality, and I’ll be ready for the craziness to resume when the boys come home, but for now it feels like a dream for both of us.  I think it’s always good for a child to get a glimpse of what it would be like to be an only child.  And of couse a little spoiling is a good thing too. Each child is a gift and although the days pass slowly sometimes (summertime, when I’m home with them!), the years are a blur.  I need reminding sometimes to slow down and make some special memories with them.

What I’ll be missing this week is a bit of time for myself.  The boys often watch Missy Moodle (at nine she can stay home for short periods alone, but mostly the boys are with her when I run an errand alone).  I know she’ll spend time at friends’ houses for playdates this week and I’m sure there will be some time for me, but it will be few and far between I suspect.

I dunno about you, but this blasting hot summer we’ve had has put a real crimp in my knitting life.  It’s just too damned hot to knit.  Even in the cool A/C I don’t want to touch yarn.  Either I’m dying of some anti-knitting brain disease or it’s just too hot.  I choose the latter.  It’s a rare occasion that I find it too uncomfortable to knit.  I hope it cools down soon.  I’m dying to make real progress on this:

Flyaway Vest from SkeinCocaine (bought at SimplySocks.com

I had hoped to get it done soon before I go back to work for the semester. I actually had hoped to be wearing it back to work, but I guess I’ll be working on it during my breaks instead.  Anyway, it’s lovely and it’s supposed to be a quick, easy knit so I’m sure I’ll cruise right along. I got the Simply Socks newsletter via email in May and this yarn was the May project.  I bought the yarn and got pattern free.  I chose the yarn from the photo, (Dream Baby), hand dyed Lettuce.  It’s yummy.  I’ll post some progress photos if I ever make any.  In the meantime, stay cool and post a comment, please.  I feel like I’m on Mars here.