Tag Archives: marriage

Feeling a bit dim

rv-ad529_divorc_g_20110708181412So, I’m walking home today and thinking about Christmas traditions and how we as a family have so few of them and it suddenly dawned on me that I had actually destroyed my family when I left my ex.

I feel like an idiot. I hadn’t actually realized that before. Well, I had, but not in such detail.

I destroyed the family traditions, such as they were, destroyed the extended family, messed up the getting together for everyone.

I mean, I knew I was wreaking havoc when I left, but the kids were grown up, pretty well. I thought they’d be okay, and though I still care about and respect my ex, I wasn’t as concerned about him for a variety of reasons.

And I suppose I shoulda realized the eddies of my decision to save myself. But at first, the relief I felt at my escape was so huge, and then I had to deal with the MS thing, and the depression thing and I thought, maybe, we were okay with separate holidays and traditions as we weren’t that into Christmas and all that. Everyone SEEMED okay.

As I watch the families getting together for the holidays, the joy expressed by parents on FB, the happiness I hear about and remember when we were all together, I wonder. I wonder how the kids felt when I left. Did they feel gutted? Did they feel there was nothing left? Did I inadvertently cast them out onto the sea of isolation without meaning to?04-how-could-this-happen2

They never spoke much about it. We explained everything calmly. We didn’t yell and fight over things. We co-wrote our separation agreement and all was civilized, but the kids were quiet. I should perhaps have pried more.

A few years ago, one said, “I understand that you two are better off on your own.” Which makes me wonder if they thought I left singing and happy and destroyed their home life just out of selfishness, gaily stabbing my ex on the way out the door.

In a way, I guess I did. I couldn’t stay, though. It was not possible. I never dreamed I’d get divorced – but I somehow married the wrong fellow, and it wasn’t sustainable after the heavy work of raising children was done. It hadn’t been warm and friendly for over ten years, and in a way I knew it was over when he dropped me home with my brand new firstborn and went back to work. No fault to him or me – just our mutual differences were too much to take. And by the time I left, neither of us were willing to put in the 100% needed to save things. dave-willis-quote-quotes-marriages-love-marriage-is-not-50-50-divorce-is-marriage-is-100-100-not-dividing-everything-in-half-but-giving-everything-you-got-davewillis-org_

And in the midst of that life change, I tore much apart. At this time of year, I can’t help but wonder where we’d be if I hadn’t.

I’m so sorry, kids. In all of the things I’ve done, I’ve always wanted to spare you hurt. But I guess I still did.

And it only took me ten years to realize it. Forgive me…

Moving on

Just listening to Stan Carew on Weekend Mornings – he plays the best music and woke me this morning with a rousing fiddle tune by Natalie McMaster. I’m feeling my toes tap under the covers as I sluggishly awaken.
But the song spoke to me.
Lately I’ve heard from a quite a few people who are by choice or not in a position where they are living in a hellish situation. Family dynamics, unhappy marriages, awkward locations, bad jobs. It seems so many are trapped, struggling against ties, but unwilling to take the risk, unwilling to bear the swirls of awfulness that come from change. We’ve all been there at some time….
There’s a part of me that still feels badly about the dissolution of my marriage. I was brought up to believe that marriage was a lifetime promise. But sometimes the contract is in fact broken, and then sometimes it is the right thing to leave, rather than stay and let the poison of our anger or hurt eat away at everyone in the family. Or so I tell myself. I don’t know.
Life is short. Should we make ourselves unhappy for all of it? Or should we move on, so that we are capable and have the resources to be joyful, bring joy to others? I’m not saying to cast aside things casually, but if we tried our hardest and it doesn’t work, what good are we doing breaking ourselves against the rocks?
See, the thing is, where we are at may seem like absolute hell. But, like standing in a prairie rainstorm, two or three steps to one side or the other may bring us into the sun again. Change doesn’t have to be dramatic, in fact, we are such small bugs in that prairie rainstorm, a tiny change may well be enough. A willingness to speak up, to try something a different way, to reach out or push away…
But we also have to be willing to draw our line in the dirt and say ” this far and no further.” And if we are still miserable, we can turn, and move on.


I want a “do over”…

Just back from watching The Great Gatsby. It astonishes me how different all these books are from what I thought they were when I was forced to read them in high school. The whole feeling of Gatsby was so different than what I remembered (truth is I just lived for Robert Redford (still do) and dreamed of being his Daisy). I never understood the significance of the damn green light at the end of the pier.
I didn’t have the life context to even begin to understand the story. The endless striving for a dream only to find that the dream had changed while you strove, and hey, it wasn’t worth the striving anyway…you need life context for that. You need to have lost a few dreams enroute in order to understand the terrible terrible innocence of Gatsby, the horribleness of the people who used him.
If only we had the chance to redo our lives with the information we know now. Think of how much easier it would be if you knew the bumps ahead?
I was at the mall today, marvelling at the amazingly intricate strollers people were carrying their kids around in, and wincing at tired parents yelling at tired kids.
If I had it to do over, I’d be more patient. I’d enjoy my kids more. I’d force their dad to enjoy them more, too. What’s work, anyway? I’d have fought for our marriage, too, and forced him to be present in it. Even if I had to sit on him. I’d have sat on him more often, in a different way…
If I had it to do over, I’d have fought more to stay in the same place, to form lasting friendships with people. My friendships now are what sustain me. I don’t think I was always as good a friend as I could have been, and I’ve been lonely a great deal of my life. If I had it to do over, I’d work harder at being a friend, less hard at being a career success. I’d spend more time with my cousins. They’re like family bright – not as competitive as siblings, easier to just love.
I’d exercise more, if I had another chance. I’d spend lots more time enjoying the freedom of moving my body, of walking and running and flinging my muscles around while I could, before MS made every such exertion a guessing game, subject to sudden limitations. I’d tell my ballet instructor at Harriet Hoctor’s school to take her flat shoes and stuff ’em and demand to be on point even if I was shorter than everyone else.
I’d spend more time on creative pursuits: writing, music, art. They are truly the only things of value in this cynical depressing world. Well, those and chocolate and ice cream and single malt. And full-on laughter.
I’d travel more. I’d stop spending money on stuff and spend it on seeing other places while I still could. I’d go volunteer in Africa or something, where my skills could be some use and where the kids (I’d take them with me) could see that I had value to others. They already know how privileged they are and do good things, but I have this irrational urge to make them proud of me.
Probably cos I’m so proud of them.
Yep, a do-over would be great. I might even be able to protect my kids from things that hurt them as they grew up – I’d know to be aware that some people were not to be trusted, that school was nastier than it was when I grew up, that drugs were so present.
Probably not. It’s hard to be everywhere, and I always valued my kids’ right to privacy. I still do. I just wish I could try it all over again.
Maybe do it just the teensiest bit better.
Or, at the very least, appreciate it more.

Oxytocin and love, or why don’t you just touch me already?


This can be yours. Just sniff.

I love the luxury I have as a retired person to lie in bed and listen to the radio on the morning.
Sometimes, though, what I hear sends me rocketing into my day, filled with rage or wonderment.
Yesterday, in time for Valentine’s Day, there was a report on the Current about using oxytocin spray to improve failing relationships.
Prairie voles, normally the type of mammal you meet at bars on a Saturday night, don’t have long term relationships with their females. Shoot them some oxytocin and they cleave to their main woman (though they still cheat), heading back to her at the end of a night of partying.
Why this is seen as a benefit, I’m not sure (if you cheat, I would rather you just stay away, thanks).
Some folks are thinking of creating nasal spray oxytocin to help people in failing marriages feel bonded to one another and stick it out for longer.
Oxytocin is the “touch” hormone. We create it naturally with babies when we hold them, nurse them, smell them. We do the same with other adults – building up the hormone as we touch and cuddle and stroke and hold. We create it when we pat cats and play with dogs, when we sit on the couch with our surly teenagers and touch shoulders, when we hug our friends. All of these things make us want to spend more time with the object of our affection.
Maybe the marriage is failing because there hasn’t been enough loving touch. I hardly feel a snort of oxytocin will repair that loss of contact.
Why not just arrange to spend some time together?
I always fell more in love with my husband when we’d hang out together, talking and bumping shoulders and laughing. Unfortunately for our marriage, those times were so few that by the time the kids grew up, I’d fallen out of love. The fault was with both of us- busy, tired, distracted.
Another long time sweetie of mine would request cuddles for oxytocin – it never failed to make me feel more warmly toward him, even if I was grumpy or tired or wanting to be distant.
So hey, all of you, clinging to a sinking ship of a relationship, try the hug now and again. Don’t make it sexual – that implies you are only doing it for your own reward. Just hug. Sit side by side. Touch.
Don’t hope that a magic potion will keep things magic. You might actually have to DO something.

Single and okay with it…

ImageIt’s still not approved of. Especially for women, but I’ve got to admit I’ve been guilty of it, too. When I see a profile on a dating site that says the guy is 50 or older and never been married, I have to admit it gives me pause.

Because, if we aren’t totally horrid, someone must’ve wanted us enough at one time to marry us, right?

If you get to age 50 and no one has, you must have mighty carbuncles or a secret axe-murderer personality or some wild collection of ephemera – or maybe you don’t believe in showering or doing laundry or you’ve been in the pen for the last 20 years…


As my single time lengthens, though, I realize that single-hood is, in fact, rather lovely. I don’t sit at home patting my 50 cats. I have good friends that I can see without feeling guilty that I’ve left someone at home, pining for my totally glittering company. I have hobbies that I can indulge without having to clear them away every time someone comes home. I can SLEEP IN. I can make a dinner of vine leaves and artichokes and love it.

If I’m having a bad day, I can sit about in my jammies all day and watch movies where I take out my essential angst or joy or sorrow on the screen without having to think about getting meals and having a discussion. Sometimes it’s good to be in my head.

And if I want to take off on an explore, I can just up and do so. I can go to movies about one thing with one set of friends, go with a date to another, go alone if I want.

It’s all pretty good.  I have the occasional lonely afternoon, but that’s only because I’ve momentarily run out of things to occupy myself. I can usually find something. And being comfortable with solitude is a true life skill.

There’s only this one problem – it has to do with my perceived availability/wantonness by others. Married women seem to think I am after their man. It’s pretty funny, that one, since usually I’ve learned about their man from them and know it’d have to be a cold day in hell before I took them on. Seriously, though, the thought of breaking up a marriage or encouraging cheating makes me totally uncomfortable. I remember going absolutely crazy when my ex came back from a deployment suddenly liking Shania Twain just because he had fallen for his driver. He never did anything other than enjoy her presence rather too much, and make the terrible error of sharing that with me. I was shattered.

I couldn’t do that to another woman.

The other supposition is that I must sleep around. I’m a cheery nurse who doesn’t know enough to keep her mouth shut, so most people know I’m not a tightly sewn gal – seen too much to not talk shockingly at times…besides, I’m a natural flirt, and love it, so people see the sparkle in my eyes and think its due to more than an enjoyment of the parry of conversation.

As Jessica Rabbit would say, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way…”

I suppose it’s natural to try and figure people out when you meet them, but it’s a bit offensive these days to assume that a woman is single solely because no one wanted her. Or because too many did.

For a great article on this subject, check out Melanie Notkin’s “Single and Childless: I know what you’re thinking”


Solitude and writing and love and life

Alone time is vital for writers – it’s very difficult to hold a conversation while writing emails even, and when deep inside a character, it’s almost impossible. I apologize in advance for being rude to people who interrupt when I am working with my wobbly muse.
They never know how they will find me.

I might be surly, distracted, vacant.

Or I might seize upon communication with the outside world with desperation and giddiness, begging to be saved.

I imagine it might be a bit frustrating for those trying to make contact.

I like solitude, generally, and am happy with my own company. It lets me play in my head and helps with my distractibility. But I’m also an over 50 single woman who has lived for most of my life in a pair-bonding situation. I need that, too.

It’s not that I get lonely, most of the time. I have learned over the years how to keep myself occupied. I know, though, when I find myself watching Mad Men reruns and eating Honeycomb cereal, I’ve reverted to the self that needs a companion.

And then I read something like this article , reading about the sad Susan Sontag, and the more balanced Vivian Gornick, who comments this way about the need for marriage:
“It is this conviction, primarily, that reduces and ultimately destroys in women that flow of psychic energy that is fed in men from birth by the anxious knowledge given them that one is alone in this world; that one is never taken care of; that life is a naked battle between fear and desire, and that fear is kept in abeyance only through the recurrent surge of desire; that desire is whetted only if it is reinforced by the capacity to experience oneself; that the capacity to experience oneself is everything.” The promise of marriage is the promise of togetherness, support, safety, and this prevents a woman from taking responsibility for her own life — and therefore ultimately from “experiencing” herself — by removing the motivation behind all important action, which is the terror of aloneness.”

It’s an interesting point. Sometimes I wonder – how much of my life is governed by fear of aloneness? I remember the primary reason behind marrying my ex when I did was that – and the fear that my mother would keep me at home to nurse my parents in perpetuity. I knew that would kill me. I am not that selfless a person.

Writing is great for aloneness, as it drives activities suitable for when one is alone, and forces activities to refill the pot. I don’t know about others, but I need to go out and about to get stimulated to write – I need conversations and sights and deep experiences and touch and tastes.

But I also know that I didn’t really think about what I wanted to be when I grew up until I left my marriage.

So I dance the delicate balance between wanting a partner, and running away from same, between writing and experiencing, between solitude and connection. It isn’t always effective, and I waste a lot of time teetering on the tightrope, but it is currently where I need to be.

Sometimes, though, I wish for someone to come along and take me off the tightrope, hold me tight, and tell me I don’t have to create myself every morning from the scraps of the night before.

As time goes by…

Just finished watching the excellent series on WGBH, As time goes by. It’s about a couple who met up during the war, were separated for years, and meet again in their old age, finding out they are still in love with each other. It’s lovely.

It’s so appealing, the thought of reconnecting with someone who knew and loved you passionately in your youth. It’s like linking with your memories, holding them close, while starting anew with someone familiar, friendly, willing to accept your aged self with all the lumps and bumps.

When you are married or have a long term relationship, you have a deck of memories stored up of your loved one- times when you were so attracted you were radiant together. I know this because my ex and I glowed so well we were an instant target for thieves when we moved to the UK.

It’s harder to create the mythical deck when you meet someone later in life and don’t remember them young and unwrinkled and with ideas and life still forming. By the time we meet at this age, we have already lived so much, seen so much, or not. The gaps in experience and philosophy are broader. So, often, are we!

I’m an independent creature, given to wanting to do things my way, please. Sometimes I can seem over- independent, but that’s usually because, like a cell seeking to merge with another, the bumps in my cell membrane don’t match up with theirs. I can try, but the merging is eventually impossible. The bumps like values, politics, emotional availability, beliefs, love of coffee…

In this context, the fantasy of linking up with someone I knew intimately before is a welcome one. I think about my past loves, wonder what it would be like. I suspect such a merger would be incendiary, with all the passion of youth combined with the wisdom of age. And then, it might be comfortable. Or the differences would start to appear, shattering the illusion.

In any case, it’s a friendly fantasy. And meanwhile I practice bumping cell membranes against others, hoping to connect, as time goes by.


Give it up, already!

When do you give up? When do you decide that the effort just isn’t worth it anymore, that you’ve wasted enough time, that you should cut your losses and move on?

I’ve struggled with writing for some time now, beaten back by fatigue, depression, and that damned autocorrect. Occasionally I think to myself – hey, why not just give it up? You’ve given it your best try. You’ve sent things out, you’ve been rebuffed and rewarded about equally – surely that’s enough for now.

I’ve given up other things. Big things. Once I gave up my marriage. Other times I’ve given up friends, romances, volunteer responsibilities, pets, even tickets to an Elton John/Billy Joel concert (though I was glad I gave them to one of my best friends ever).

I’ve got a virtual room full of hangers-on that demand I give them up and move on – odd dust bunnies of objects, a piece of my heart, chunks of things I love but realize aren’t good for me, like far too much chocolate…

And yet there are other things I stick with. I am going to the gym three times a week, despite the exhaustion this causes my MS and despite the lack of any recognizable change in my form. I follow religion in my own wobbly way, despite questions and the everlasting silence from above (which is, I suppose, better than malevolent laughter). I’m persisting in learning to play the ukulele, in learning to felt and knit and make things. I keep on trying to write, even when it doesn’t come.

This week I started to wonder why I continue to work at some things, and not others, and I think it comes down to this – I persist with the things that make me feel better inside. The things that fit with my inner ethical self, my inner creative self, the self I think I am supposed to be. The things that seem congruent.

When I left my marriage, I left because I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. It wasn’t so much about my ex as it was about how I behaved when I was with him. The other things I’ve left for similar reasons. I didn’t like who they made me be.

I continue to write because I see the world better when I write – I am more observant as I seek words to describe my environment, I treasure others’ writing more, I wallow in words. I feel more interesting, diverse, mentally strong.

I exercise because my lungs feel open, my back is straighter, my joints move more smoothly. And even though I have to stagger off the machines as my MS makes its presence noted, for a few moments I feel normal again.

I guess, as I grow up, I am trying to fit things into the internal picture I have of myself at my best. I’m not there yet. I still have bumpy protuberances poking out of my ethical self, my self self. I still have some pruning and shaping to do.

But I’m not pruning the writing. The truth is in there. Or under there. Somewhere.

PS: CL – I’m not giving up on you. Ever.