Thursday, February 26, 2009

Could It Be Something in the Water?

When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn't a sign that they "don't understand" one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.
-- Helen Rowland
(thanks to Don't Lick The Ferrets! for sharing this quote)

Marriages all around me are falling apart. That, or they are on precarious ground, and those caught in its crosshairs are turning to me for support, information and guidance.

I have become the patron saint of wrecked marriages.

I have been thinking a lot about these marriages lately; about the individuals involved and what their lives are/must be like. I am mainly fascinated with the similarities in all our stories, by the fact that we have some interesting commonalities, but also by the marked differences.

Just as it was for me, these are all relationships that have spanned a decade, or close to it. We have all - regardless of where we are in our process - struggled with the fact that we are at this place after so many years with our partners. At the same time, the fact that these relationships go back as far as 10 years indicates that most of us are guilty of the same: locking into these relationships when we were young, perhaps too young: 20, 22, 24... We are not any of us more than 31 years old. I think about that in my case, that maybe part of the problem was choosing a life partner at an age/time when I was too young and clueless and conflicted about myself and my life to choose properly. Is the same true for them?

At the same time, these are all vastly different cases. Some of us are divorced; some of us are still in the process; some of us are seriously, deeply considering ending the marriages; and still others are unhappy, enough to talk about it and consider leaving, but not enough to actually do anything about it. Our reasons for being in this same boat are different - I've yet to hear two stories even remotely similar.

But, we are all here, all of us at some point in a life that suddenly seems fractured and frightening. Some of us made the choice to end the marriage; some of us were caught off guard with the news; some of us sincerely don't know what the right decision is; and some of us are too tied to the history of those long years to justify rocking the boat.

And we are all doing the things we need to do to cope, to survive, to make it from one day to another. We talk, we cry, we analyze; but sometimes we ignore, we deny, we act out. We do what we can, we do what we have to do.

That I find myself surrounded by friends in these marriage-crisis situations saddens me, even as it selfishly offers me a strange sort of comfort (oh, so I'm not the only one...). For them, I ache and wish there was more that I could do. I can only hope that my friendship and support, my understanding, are enough.

But if I could, I would reach my arms out over them and protect them from this pain.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/26/2009   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Survival of the Happiest

Yeah, yeah: I'm back, and it was just fine. Seriously, it was. Nothing of particular interest happened, beyond the fact that my son had an awesome time.

And he did. It was so wonderful to experience his happiness and excitement. His smile kept choking me up. The Magic Kingdom was indeed magical and sweet and not too horrifically crowded (crowded, yes, but I've seen worse. Also, given how packed the hotel and park was, times all the other resorts and parks, I'm going to be bold and state that the economy either can't be that terribly bad, or will recover very quickly). I don't think he *got* any of it, but he was such a cheerful, boisterous little thing that it was all too sweet for words.

Seriously, look at this face:


His favorite ride was by far the tea cups; he just couldn't get enough of them. That used to be one of my favorite rides, but man, this time around, the heavy spinning turned my stomach bit (I'm also recovering from a bug, but still). My boy was so brave and loved every minute of the spinning:




(This last one, I couldn't hide my discomfort.)

This trip was truly a learning experience, in many ways. I learned that my son travels well (confirmed it, really, because every travel experience with him has been good) and really is able to go with the flow. I learned that I could do a short vacation with him all by myself and be o.k. (funny how I still expect to fall apart like I used to when he was a baby). And I learned (or again, I confirmed) that my marriage was going to end at some point, in one way or another - and yeah, still sucky to keep realizing that over and over again.

That's not to say that it was a negative experience. It wasn't. It was, in fact, a low-key, non-stressful trip. But still. Where I feel I made an effort to be friendly and create a spirit of fun and camaraderie, Ben was his usual (indifferent) self, generally (but not always) ignoring everyone except Max, which, while I am used to that, it was nonetheless disappointing. I realized I'd been looking at this trip as a possible turning point, where we could turn a new leaf and take some real steps to start parenting as friends. Just as it could have gone badly, it could have also been the start of some healing and a new approach. I am thankful that it was just fine; but it did not go unnoticed by me that he made no effort to move forward with a better attitude and spirit.

At the same time, for once, his unhappiness (or whatever particular thing he had going on) was not my problem, not my responsibility, not my thing to fix. And that was very nice. All the things that in the past stressed me out - not my problem. All the questions that used to drive me crazy because I just could not figure out what the hell the problem was, and, my god, could he just not spit it out? - gone. Nice. So, so nice. Breathe. Sigh. Relief.

I don't mean that to sound harsh or critical of him; there was, truthfully, nothing *wrong*, and it's important to me that I not be hurtful or unfair towards him. There is just no denying that while I have no explanation for it, he was as he was, and it's my opinion that he had other choices. Or maybe it's just that I continue to expect more of him than he is capable of. I must regularly remind myself that we all do only the best that we can do. We can only give and do and be so much before we reach our limitations.

Still, despite this hiccup, my heart is full because we gave Max a great weekend. That's the important thing: my son had a blast. For that, I am happy.



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Posted by Tere @ 2/24/2009   | | | links to this post

Friday, February 20, 2009

The One Where You All Finally Realize That I'm Insane

This weekend, while you are running around doing chores, or relaxing, or enjoying a fun night out with friends, or working, I will be in Disney World.

With my ex-husband.

........

And my son, of course. When I told the ex last Fall that I was planning on taking Max to Disney World, he wanted in. It makes sense, given that it's the boy's first trip to Mickey Land. It would not be fair, so the unspoken reasoning goes, for one parent to miss out on such a momentous occasion, though I am kinda on the fence about that. It's a trip that's been three or four months in the making, and after much planning, it's happening.

I know. I have to be on crack, right? I mean, were we to do something like this when the dust has settled and we've developed a friendly relationship, o.k. Many co-parents do it all the time. But my God, I'm traveling 300 miles from home with someone that I don't even speak to anymore! All the calm I've maintained these last few months is falling apart right at this moment.

I have no idea what to expect of this weekend. I have had a lot of misgivings about this but have not said a word because I understand that this is one of those things that we're doing to give my son a good memory; or more correctly, to be fair, especially because my ex lives by a very rigid code of what is and is not "fair", and I am learning to pick my battles because the road ahead, it is effing long and challenging.

Despite my qualms, I am going into this with a good attitude. I know that he wants, as much as I do, to make sure Max has a blast and enjoys every moment of this trip. At the very least, the one thing we are consistently good at is working together for Max's benefit. My apprehension is based on all the awkwardness I know we will suffer, on having to be physically close to someone who is a stranger to me, on a concern that a few hours in, we will be at each other's throats.

I hope I'm wrong. I really do. Like I said, I'm going in with a good attitude and will do my part to make it a fun weekend.

Still, it wouldn't hurt you to pray a little for me.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/20/2009   | | | links to this post

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The History We Build, The Promises We Break

I've had to grow more used to being single lately. I've had to really examine the confusing mix of feelings inside me: curiosity, loneliness, hope, uncertainty. I feel like a ticking time bomb, my vulnerability so present and raw that I believe I can't trust myself because what is important now is that I remain guarded and alert. I've tested myself, and failed; I've asked myself, can I open up to someone and let him in?

But before I can think about this, if I could even attempt to ignore the giant "NO!" flashing in my head, I find myself too deep in my thoughts about the past; or rather, the last 10 years of my life and all the memories, history and promises I've had to let go of this last year.

When my marriage was ending - before, even; when I realized I could no longer continue with things as they were - one of the heaviest thoughts I had was this: how do I let go of the last 10 years? What do I do with all that history? Where do I put the memories?

It seemed like such a daunting task, impossible. How could I let go? How could I walk away? Especially when a large part of me simply didn't want to do it?

And when everything ended, these questions still haunted me. For as much as I felt that Ben walked away, and as shocked as I was at his ability to do it so easily, I too had walked away, I too had decided that my marriage was not a healthy, happy one, and that I could not continue in it, despite those memories and all that history; despite the promises I'd made and the promise I felt we had.

I struggled, too, with this: were those memories and promises worth sticking things through? Is that not the part where honoring your vows comes in, where you live out "for better or for worse"?

I wish I had a set answer for this, but all I have are these scattered thoughts: a marriage is more (so much more) than memories and promises; sometimes, no matter how long you have been with someone, they just are not the right person for you (or you for them); building a life together, one that is fulfilling and interesting and happy and healthy and that can stand the test of time and monotony, requires a delicate mix of qualities that you have to get down right somehow, or an undercurrent of dissatisfaction will settle in and just stay there; you can never underestimate the passion that you must have for each other and that life you build, because that is what can see you through the crappier times; the things that tore you apart once will tear you apart again if you are not completely dedicated to nurturing and cherishing what you have; the work and sacrifice required to keep it all together and have it all be good is intense, and you better be damn sure that the person you chose is one for whom all that work and sacrifice is worth it; and finally, just as it takes two people to make a marriage, it most definitely takes two to unmake it.

I sometimes find myself thinking about the history and memories and promise vs. the reality of our life together and the road we were on. There came a point for me where I had to stop talking about all we'd been through, all we could be, and focus just on what was. What was and had been for too long, a situation where the foundation kept cracking under the very painful possibility that after everything, or in spite of everything, or because of everything, we two were just not right for each other, not two people who could provide each other with a satisfying, happy life.

Was that the point where it became o.k. to reconsider the notion of "for better or for worse"? Because I remember the chain of events and feelings that made me conclude that I personally could not do for better or for worse, and my reasons for this are complicated and personal and divided into layers - but solid nonetheless.

I used to think so much about how we were "meant to be." Until the day came where I could not stop asking myself - but if we are meant to be, if we are right for each other, why is it like this? Why these gaping holes in what should be a joy-filled life? I have no answers, and I don't expect to ever have them. But now I wonder, do people ever really belong together, or do we just make ourselves belong?

Letting go of the history has been (continues to be) a difficult task. For now, I have learned to live with those memories and history. I have no expectation that I can do anything with them besides move them somewhere more removed from my day-to-day thoughts. They are there, not completely forgotten, but not within my reach, either. Like a sick, elderly relative in the room next door, I make my way quietly around them, seeking not to disturb them, knowing they may call on me from time to time; and if they do, I will give them my attention but will not linger.

The pull of history, of the habits formed over many years, is very hard to separate from, though it is necessary into order to examine a marriage objectively. It is a task too laced with fear - fear of what one may find there, fear of the unknown - and too painful to justify rocking the boat. Some people never do it, even as they know something is wrong, and remain mired in a life that is at times good, but never wholly fulfilling, to not speak of genuinely happy.

Even when a marriage has careened so far from what it was at its best, the history and the memories haunt and hurt. Worse still are all the promises we break. I don't know the formula for this, the thing that will ease the sting of all I've had to let go of. The hope, I suppose, lies in the rebuilding.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/18/2009   | | | links to this post

Monday, February 16, 2009

Send a Cupcake for a Good Cause

How about starting your week by doing some good?

It's really easy: go to the Electrolux website and create and send a virtual cupcake to friends and family during February. For every cupcake sent, Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund as part of their $500,000 commitment to help support this worthy cause.

But wait, there's more!

When you create and send cupcakes, you will be entered for a chance to win the newest front-load washer and dryer (an estimated $3,600 value) from Electrolux.

Neat, huh?

Kelly Ripa, as Electrolux's spokesperson, has her own website where you can also create and send cupcakes from.

Mom Central asked me to help spread the word about this charitable campaign, and, you know, this is a good cause. The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund's mission is to fund research for early detection of and a cure for ovarian cancer.

So show your support of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and send some cupcakes! And if you win that sweet washer and dryer, I'm so coming over to do my laundry there.

Please be sure mine has some chocolate in it!

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Posted by Tere @ 2/16/2009   | | | links to this post

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oh No, I Didn't!

There they were, taunting me:


First, at Dillard's. Then at Macy's. Then online at a couple sites.

For weeks. Weeks. Torturing me with their incredible beauty and crazy sexiness. Torturing me because they were too expensive. Torturing me because I just could not stop thinking about them, thinking that I want and need and deserve this kind of "oomph" in my life.

And then. They finally went on sale. Cheaper, but not cheap enough. I still could not justify it. So I waited a little longer. Waited, all the while imagining my feet in them. I pictured myself wearing them with a dress, walking across a restaurant, while everyone stopped what they were doing - forks lifted mid-air, wine pouring and pouring, conversations suddenly hushed - as everyone stared with mouths agape and hearts beating fast at my gorgeous, gorgeous feet.

And then - this time for real. Another markdown, one so low I could easily trade one planned expense for this one and not feel the pinch. Should I? Would I? Did I?

I did. Of course I did.

Oh, man, did I ever.


Sigh. It's just the boost I needed.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/13/2009   | | | links to this post

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The One Where My House Is Super Organized

Oh. my. goodness. I am thisclose to having my house about as organized and decluttered as it's ever going to be. For real! I'm so close!

The bookshelves are done, and I'm amazed. Books! Lined up neatly! With no papers, receipts, or random toys pieces stacked on top of them! My DVDs and some CDs (those not stored in the garage) are stored away in books - so no more cases cluttering up the entertainment center! (btw, I really need a new entertaiment center) Picture frames and knick knacks are neatly arranged! All the artwork is almost up!

The big question: what the H do I do with all the magazines and papers? They're all important, I swear! O.k., not all. The thing is, I like cutting interesting things - recipes, pretty design ideas, vacation info, new product info - from the magazines and filing them away. And whereas I used to be pretty good about reading, clipping and tossing, I am incredibly backed up now. What can I say? Having my life fall apart kinda put reading magazines on the back burner.

So now, I have a zillion magazines to go through. Plus, my filing system for important (for real, insurance and medical info, greeting cards, statements) documents is out of whack. These two things are the worst part of my clutter. You know how sometimes it's so much that it's overwhelming? I'm there. But if I do what I really want to do - take it all and toss it - I will be anxious that something very important slipped in, and then what? How will I survive if any single important paper or piece of information is gone?

Oh, and Max's room is still topsy-turvy with clothes that need to be stored or given away. Plus those two loads of laundry I have yet to put away.

Sigh. I'm so not thisclose. Not even. So much left to go.... Meanwhile, company's coming on Saturday, and I have to scramble to get it all done.

Or at least hide it all as cleverly as possible.

Posted by Tere @ 2/12/2009   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Note to Self: Cage the Child Until He's At Least 8, or More Like 18

The light of my life is, lately, a total pain in my ass. My God, people, this child is testing every possible limit, and I am tired of the high drama going on at Casa de Tere.

The problem is two-fold: 1) he is too much like me in temperament, and 2) my patience quickly diminishes to shit, which is counter-intuitive to proper discipline.

Let's start with the easy one: it is clearly evident that this boy is stubborn and temperamental. Which - hi! That's me. We lock horns regularly, with me insisting on my way, and he insisting on his. Then, we each get pissy, and the fighting starts. We both yell, we get dramatic - over inconsequential things - on and on until we end up in a weeping heap on the floor, locked in an embrace, crying, repeating over and over again, "I love you, I love you."

And with this playing out much too frequently lately, I suddenly realized: I'm behaving like a three-year-old. He's completely normal in being such a whiny monster. What's my excuse?

Which is where number two comes in: because I have very limited patience and get so flustered by individual situations that I lose my cool and become ineffective. I know this. I'm ashamed by this. I've been doing my best - very consciously educating myself and thinking carefully about what I say and do, putting into practice what I read and the advice I receive - but the truth is that I'm nowhere near where I need to be.

On one hand, the boy pushes the limits so much that there comes a point where I'm like, now what? And "what" is me becoming mean mami. On the other hand, if I recognize this, if I know this is all part of his development, of life as a three-year-old, I have to get smart and stay ahead of the game and then find some way to stick with the game plan instead of letting my feelings of frustration and doubt get to me.

I know this. I do. I'm trying. I'm really trying.

Meanwhile, life generally sails smoothly for big chunks of time. Max is a sweet, smart, agreeable little thing. He loves to please and seeks praise and affection, which I happily provide. Life in my house is generally peaceful and fun; kinda cluttery, but nice nonetheless.

But then something happens and it all goes to hell for at least an afternoon. Usually, it is because he is overtired and in that mood he gets where he just keeps doing the very thing you ask him not to do. And when he gets like this, any attempt to do something fun or to keep moving as usual is impossible. And going out? Oh God, it's the worst thing ever. It's miserable, a constant struggle to keep the boy safe and out of the way, constantly asking/telling him not to touch, not to run off, not to climb, not to grab. And I try to use the techniques I've been reading about, but I almost always end up the same way: telling him he has not been listening to mami, so we're going home. Cue the wailing and screaming and kicking. The ensuing ride home is pretty awful, at least for 10 minutes until he gets over it or passes out.

Sometimes, though, it's me: I'm tired or stressed or worried, and while I know this on some level, it manifests itself as impatience combined with a short fuse. And this is just not good. It's not effective; it's not how I want to be.

And I think what has me kinda freaked out about this is that I read that to a three-year-old, the most important/favorite person is the mother. According to this pretty clinical book I'm reading, the three-year-old's life revolves around his/her mother. I don't take the stuff I read - even the most highly recommended, seemingly sound things - as gospel truth, but this stuck with me. I mean, talk about pressure! I can't live up to that kind of importance! And he and I are already so bonded, that I am fearful of doing anything to break that bond, and fearful that the times I am less-than-stellar at this mothering thing are causing too much damage. And yet... the whole point of raising him is to teach him to confidently leave my side and separate from me, and I want to successfully do that. Sigh.

(BTW, I'm trying not to be a freak about all the stuff I read about parenting, and parenting a boy, and parenting a pre-schooler, and parenting as a single parent or with an ex in the wake of divorce, but I realize that I need the knowledge and different perspectives to figure out what the H I'm going to do these next 15 years).

Ay.

Even so, he is such a blast, such a wonderful, quirky little thing. I love the crazy shit he comes up with, love how he hugs me and smiles at me with that wide grin that makes his eyes close up.

So I just keep reading, keep seeking advice, keep trying. We're finding our way, he and I. I just hope we get there before I go completely crazy.

Boy, you kill me. You really do.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/10/2009   | | | links to this post

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wherein my New Role as "Single Woman" Brings Out the Matchmaker in Everyone

It always goes down pretty much the same way: I make a joke about men, or being single, or something around that topic, and the other person - a friend, my sister, my mom - will tell me I'm full of shit for being so pessimistic because there's no reason why, at 31, I would remain single forever.

There is no protest that I make - casually dating is one thing, a real relationship is another; I'm not up for taking on someone else's bullshit; love stinks; I'm an awful person to have a serious relationship with - that they don't scoff at and wave me off and tell me that it's inevitable: I will be with someone again.

Excuse me while I go hide in terror.

But then, it gets better: they start talking about setting me up with someone. All of a sudden, everyone's a matchmaker. They know what qualities I should look for, where I should look; and they can help me. One person is going to "ask around" (What? Like I'm looking for a casserole dish to borrow?); my dad (my dad) is pushing me towards older guys; and my mom is placing bets on how long it'll be till I announce my engagement (I told you all that my enamorada reputation is impossible to live down). My mom is also full of handy information, such as, "It has been statistically proven that more divorced women (with kids) find partners and marry than never-married women." I can't even begin to guess where she gets her statistics.

But wait, here's the kicker in all this: no one has anybody to set me up with!

Oh, everyone has an opinion, everyone has the answer, everyone has all kinds of helpful tips. But no one has a man! We'll get as far as, "How about XXX?" before it all falls apart. XXX, it turns out, is too young, or married, or an alcoholic, or can't hold down a job, or already has three ex-wives. One round of this, and I'm like, "Seriously guys, I'm good just as I am right now. Really. I'm good. Let's all take a rest now."

Oh man. The road ahead is long, isn't it? I already miss the old days when all everyone did was tell me I was smart and funny and pretty and a good person. Can we go back to that for a bit longer?

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Posted by Tere @ 2/05/2009   | | | links to this post

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Oh Blog, You Burden Me So

There is a certain price to be paid with being so public about personal loss and devastation. For me, that price is constantly feeling "marked" by it. I feel like people look at me, and all they see is my broken heart, my insecurities, like I wear my vulnerability on my sleeve.

People see me through this filter. They see me and remember my words, or their general sentiment, and combine it with their own knowledge, experiences and feelings. I wonder how many, if any, feel sorry for me, or question my judgment because I am clearly (in their eyes) in no position to make big decisions or know even which way is up.

There is a degree of truth to all this, but there also isn't. I write so I can be free of the thoughts that threaten to suffocate me. I write to better understand my feelings, and then hopefully temper their intensity by seeing them on paper, removed from me. It is a standard formula that has worked all my life. But it is not all of me, not all of what takes up my time or my thoughts. What you see here? Is but a piece of the entire puzzle.

And yet, how can I not feel self-conscious about it? It is not just because my family and close friends read this and then interact with me in person; it is also because so many other people read this blog, and I can never concretely tell if someone is talking to me with this blog in the back of their mind, taking my words and expressions in with this as their point of reference.

Perhaps the correct point of reference should be me, in person, what I say and how I act, with this blog as the secondary material.

At the same time, I wonder how to break free of the box I have put myself in. Am I silly for thinking that if I write about something different - something light-hearted, some other topic I'm passionate about - people will be critical of me, or will communicate something along the lines of, "What are you doing, blogging about all this other stuff? You should be miserable and chronicling it!" I feel like I've put myself in a place where feeling (and therefore expressing) anything but sadness and devastation about my failed marriage (or anything other than feelings related to my failed marriage) is unacceptable, like I am somehow not allowed to feel happy or more at peace or ready and willing to leave all this behind me.

Do you know that I worry about how to break the news when (or if) I start dating someone? (I'm not dating anyone). That I fear all my other words coming back to haunt me, as well as some unidentified person speaking up to criticize and judge me? All this because I chose not to hide what I felt, or the severity of those feelings.

This blog feels like a burden lately. I've thought of taking a break, of shutting it down, or of abruptly changing topics (completely) and ignoring the last few months' worth of posts. I have, in the last few weeks, sought refuge in a more private setting and have been writing elsewhere about some of the deeper shit I've been going through.

I know: I've been cheating on my blog. It's just that this blog doesn't understand me right now, and the other place, it's safe and warm. I swear, baby, it didn't mean anything; I was thinking of you the whole time!

Ahem.

I am not sure what to do about this blog. For now, nothing. I am giving myself time to figure this out and see what I can do to transition into a new, better place. Stay tuned. The ride's not over yet.

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Posted by Tere @ 2/03/2009   | | | links to this post