An End and a Beginning

In summer of 2008, just before our son’s second birthday, my husband and I split up after nine years of marriage. Our marriage had been over for a long time and we’d come close to splitting a number of times over the years, but for some unknown reason we just kept beating that horse until it was dust on the floor.

Finally, with a few months of therapy under my belt and a therapeutic dose of antidepressants in my system, I found my strength and independence to utter the words.

“I think we should split up,” I told him one day before work.

“Yeah, me, too.”

The decision was made in a ten-minute conversation. We would separate and see how things went from there.

Only a couple of weeks after that, I was living in my own apartment – for the first time on my own – with Jack and my two cats. And I loved it! The moment I set foot in my apartment I knew I’d made the right decision (and soon after, I knew divorce was absolutely the right choice). Naturally, it took some adjusting. It takes a while to unravel yourself from an eleven-year relationship, but I’d been emotionally preparing for the separation for years. Even when the adjustments were difficult, I found them easier to cope with than fighting for a long-dead marriage.

I talked to my friends every day and wrote my heart out both online and on paper. I wrote pages and pages about what hadn’t worked in my marriage and then I wrote more about what I really needed in my life. I asked for advice and guidance from my closest friends and they were more than happy to give it – even when it wasn’t pretty and even if I didn’t always heed that advice.

And then, after a few friends suggested I try dating since I never had before, I put my profile up on match.com. Writing a profile for a dating site may seem like an easy task, but I was in a very strange place in my life. I had ideas about what I was looking for but I had trouble putting them into words. Describing myself as an individual – outside of my marriage and being a parent – was quite a challenge. I really had to look at myself in new ways and figure out what made me who I am.

I rewrote my profile a bunch of times before coming up with what turned out to be the perfect thing. Even after that, I took it down completely in a moment of self-doubt, but I did end up putting it back up. And thank goodness I did because I met David and he changed my life.

This is the profile that landed me my perfect match.

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I am always seeking out new points of view on life from others to test my own opinions. I like to examine the differences and similarities in all people. I love to bounce ideas and theories around. I am playful and not afraid of embarrassment, although I dislike being the center of attention. I am a no-nonsense type of girl who goes for what she wants and I’m passionate about the things that are important to me. Yes, sometimes I argue my point even if I suspect I’m wrong. I don’t give up easily!

I often get so enraptured with a subject that I will read everything I can get my hands on about it until I’m an expert. It’s typical of me to read all of the album lyrics and notes prior to listening to a new CD. I am a master googler. I love imdb and wikipedia.

I’ll know I have reached the ultimate in life when I acquire a maid and a cook. I like it when I can pay someone else to do things I don’t like to do; I feel like I’m helping the economy.

I am somewhat impulsive but I usually spend a lot of time planning. I’m contrary sometimes.

I can be reserved at first but if you’re shyer than I am, I might do something outrageous to get you talking. I’m honest to a fault and will answer any question. My answers will probably surprise you.

I hate to wonder if I’m missing out on something that has the potential to be awesome. I am independent and enjoy time alone, but also love the energy of a group gathering. At a party I’m likely to be found in the corner of a room observing interactions or engrossed in a conversation about the merits of various toothpaste flavors and consistencies (cinnamon gel is my favorite).

I’m not much of a cook but I bake fairly well and often. I’ll make you some peanut butter brownies if you prepare the main course. Or you can give me cooking lessons… Dining out most nights a week is perfectly acceptable, as well (as long as it’s not fast food).

I have an amazing 2 year old son who fascinates me with his passion and his unbridled sense of discovery. He is inspirational and brings out the kid in me. He makes me a better person every day.

I’m looking for a creative, funny, yet intense man. Someone who feels equally comfortable discussing the state of the world as he does chasing me around the house or taking care of a pesky spider (they have it in for me!). I want someone I can rely on and who takes the time to get to know what makes me tick. I will offer the same in return.

I’d like to take any new relationship slowly, although I suppose I may budge on the relationship if I meet the right person. After all, they say you find the one when you least expect it. I’ve never actually been on a real date, so this should be interesting!

for fun:
I love doing just about anything with another person – life is always more fun with friends. Board games, dining out, travel, BBQs, bocci ball… I like dancing around the house (but I’m a terrible dancer) and pondering the oddities in life.

my job:
I’m an executive assistant at a software company. I like the exposure I get to various types of work, the details about the inner workings of a company, and I learn new things all the time. The money isn’t bad, either.

my ethnicity:
I’m so pale I glow. I’m mostly German with a spattering of British and a little part of every other European country that ever existed, except Italian.

my religion:
I’m highly skeptical of organized religion. I focus on being the best human being I can be and don’t feel that I require a set of instructions in order to do that. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is great, though.

my education:
I could never decide what to major in (Sociology, Psychology, Art, Finance, English…so many choices, so little time) and the classroom is set at too slow a pace for me. I prefer to read a book and learn while doing.

favorite hot spots:
It is my goal to eat out at every restaurant in the bay area. Okay, I can skip the seafood but I’ll take everything else! I enjoy museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, coffee shops…the Bay Area is a great place for all of those.

favorite things:
I’m an indoors girl generally, but will venture outside for walks or a hike with the right company. I like to bowl. I’m currently having a lot of fun decorating my apartment (retro yeah!). Wine is tasty. I miss the 90s music scene but am adjusting.

last read:
Lately I’ve been reading any vampire book I can get my hands on (anything from I Am Legend to Twilight). Patricia McKillip is my favorite (fantasy) author. I write and read blogs. I eat up Augusten Burroughs. Click Clack Moo gets a lot of play, too.

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Hey, look! I’m participating in NaBloPoMo! You can, too!

Divorce and Empathy

My friend Becky is in the early stages of divorce, a situation that brings out a lot of empathy in me. It’s not only a divorce – it’s also a complete shift in her life; she is completely starting over from scratch (which is fairly typical with divorces). This, naturally, takes me back to four years ago when I did the same…

I had been married almost nine years to Joe when we called it quits. We’d been together since we were 16 and neither of us had ever lived on our own. We grew up together – and we outgrew one another. We had been trying to avoid the inevitable for years, doing everything we could think of to adjust to one another, including individual AND couples counseling. Divorce came up so often in our relationship that we had already decided “if we ever get divorced, that one is YOUR cat.” He regularly talked about women who would be “next in line” and I tried to escape with friends or travel as often as I could.

Not long after moving back from the isolated northern coast of California to the Bay Area and starting a new job, I started having a serious mental breakdown. I had an incident where I could not get out of bed – I felt entirely zapped of energy and I had to be guided to the car because I was so disoriented and dizzy. The stress had built up so much that my own willpower was no match for it.

I started therapy again and got some anti-depressants. In talking with my psychiatrist (who reminded me exactly of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Stranger Than Fiction), I realized I had some serious personal issues I needed to work on that just could not get resolved while I was in that relationship with Joe. I had to start from scratch if I was going to fix anything about myself. I had to separate completely from unhealthy patterns, behaviors, and people. I had been trying to live a life that just wasn’t me for too long and I was no longer able to stuff myself in that box.

The conversation about separating took about two minutes. Joe and I both new where we stood with one another and knew it’d be a relief to not be together anymore. Everything else aside, we were a bad match – nearly complete opposites when it came to goals, personality, and values. This was not difficult to see. The only reason our relationship had been ‘working’ was because I’d been suppressing so much of myself for so long, trying to mold myself into a good wife for Joe. I might have continued to do this if my own psyche hadn’t put a stop to it. Even Joe had told me, “You aren’t the person I fell in love with at 16.” He was right.

Almost all the difficulty in the separation came out of the reactions of family and friends (not everyone, mind you – we had support, as well). Someone made the comment that because Joe and I had been together so long, had seemed so comfortable in the way things were, that they had placed us in the category of “not breaking up ever.”

Reactions varied – some took sides (although we both maintained that it was a mutual decision) and others felt scared about their own relationships. People argued that we hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t done enough to save the relationship. As hard as my depressed and scattered brain tried to make sense of it all for others, I was not able to coherently explain that the relationship was a fraud – that I was a fraud – that I had buried myself for a decade. The relationship was an illusion and there were some fundamental problems with me (and Joe, as well) that needed to be fixed. Guessing at the people we would likely be once these issues were addressed, it was blatantly obvious we wouldn’t choose to be together (if even friends) once healthy.

We both grieved the end of the relationship and the major upheaval in our lives. Joe did so openly, as he is a very outgoing person. I, on the other hand, am more private – it’s only through writing that I am able to share most of what I’m thinking and feeling. My therapists have always had to PULL information from me.

Unfortunately, my lack of demonstrativeness was seen by others as coldness. I didn’t seem to be upset enough. I seemed to be carrying on just fine. (Meanwhile, I was taking bathroom breaks often to deal with my panic attacks in private. The idea that my personal life would affect things like work was appalling to me – I needed to work and I needed to take care of my child and I needed to start all over. I didn’t have time for grief.) A number of people were MAD at me – felt that my seeming indifference was aimed at Joe. The things that were said about me hurt deeply, especially since I was struggling with my long-ignored mental health in addition to this huge life change.

Some of the relationships I had before the split were never quite mended. I still haven’t yet figured out my place with my family-by-marriage. I was fully entrenched in that family for over a decade and loved them as my own. But somehow when Joe and I split, I lost my place with them. I still feel most conflicted about that.

I write all of this not because I want sympathy after the fact but because I would like to implore everyone out there to have empathy for those going through divorce – for BOTH people. Joe did horrible things to me during our marriage and I did horrible things to him, but in the end – even if those things had never occurred – we were wrong for one another and we both knew it. Neither of us wanted our child to grow up thinking that he should force himself to stay in a bad situation that was leaching him of happiness. We wanted to show him how to go out and seek what he needed, to find those things that feed his soul.

I’m proud of myself for walking away from the marriage. I’m proud of myself for sending the message to my son that love and happiness are important. I’m proud of deciding that *I* was important.

Divorce is hellish, no matter how amicable it is. Starting over SUCKS and everyone makes mistakes while doing it – they are, after all, making extremely important decisions about life while under a ton of stress. But sometimes, even as painful as it is, it’s the right thing to do. Without happiness, how is life worth living?

Little update on my personal life

I have been very hesitant to say anything on this blog about what has been going on for me personally, but the dust has settled somewhat so perhaps I can report on a few things.  I think last time I mentioned anything, Joe and I had decided to separate.  That separation was painful, mainly due to the hurt we caused our family members.  After 11 years together, there is no way to make something like this seamless.  The separation turned into divorce, for which I filed the paperwork almost a month ago.  Good lord, did that involve a lot of paper!!  It’s unbelievable how difficult the whole process is.

Jack has transitioned really well.  Joe moved a little over an hour away from us but I have tried to keep everything stable for Jack by staying in Alameda and keeping him in the same daycare.  This has done wonders.  Since the very beginning of all of this, he has been his normal self at home for the most part.  He did have some trouble going between me and Joe for the first month or so, but as soon as Joe found his footing and was able to stabilize things on his end, Jack’s demeanor also improved.

It’s tiring, all of it.  Dividing up our belongings, speaking with family and friends about the reasoning behind the decision, being solely responsible for Jack most of the days of the week, carting Jack to and from Marin several times per week (due to daycare/work schedules, Joe can’t take Jack two days in a row), filing paperwork and getting finances in order…divorce is not the easy way out, that is for sure.  I knew as soon as I moved into my new apartment, though, that I was going in the right direction and that has kept me afloat (along with a lot of support from family and friends).

Despite entering the dating scene with no expectations of finding anyone with whom I would click, I met someone special very quickly.  All I can say is that I got incredibly lucky and things fell into place at just the right time.  David and Jack get along famously, which is another amazing blessing.  I feel like I’ve moved mountains to make this life that I have now possible, but it was so worth it.

I am finally leaving behind the depression that I have been working so hard to fight off for the last few years.  I am halfway done with an intensive therapy program.  It has been really, really exhausting (in addition to everything else I’ve been doing!) to deal with some old wounds but it is leaving me feeling lighter and happier than I ever  have before.  And that has allowed me to be a better mom to Jack.