Lists, Part 1   Leave a comment

This is the last time I’m asking you this, / Put my name at the top of your list, / This is the last time I’m asking you why, / You break my heart in the blink of an eye Gary Lightbody, Taylor Swift, Garrett Lee

There was a conversation I used to have on a fairly regular basis with my ex. It happened often enough that I probably should have seen the divorce coming from early on. But I was either naive or overly hopeful. Possibly both.

The lead-up went something like this:

I would ask him to do a task or he would excitedly outline a plan for completing a project around the house then I would leave to go to work or do whatever errand needed doing. Not long after my departure one of his friends would call to ask for help with something, and he would drop whatever it was he was doing or had planned to do and go help his friend. Later on, I would come home to find him gone and the project either undone or started and not finished. He would eventually return from wherever he was, and with a glow of accomplishment, tell me about the phone call and regale me with the story of how the problem had been taken care of.

It was only after he paused to take a breath that he would look at me and notice I was fuming wasn’t happy. Then he would ask what was wrong.

After taking a breath and counting to ten, I would say that while I was glad everything worked out for his friend, I wondered if he realized what I expected to be done was still not done.

He would explain his friend needed him, it was an emergency, something had come up, (insert reason here), and he would get to the house task soon.

I would take another breath and tell him I was glad his friends could count on him for help, and he truly was the best friend in the world. The only problem was it felt like he was the best friend in the world to everyone but me. I would explain that it felt like everyone else’s needs came before mine, and everybody else’s wishes came higher on his list than mine did. And that it hurt. Then I would try to soften my words by saying I didn’t need to be at the top of his list, but I needed to feel like I was actually on the list.

Apparently I didn’t need to soften my words. It didn’t matter how many times we had the conversation or how many different ways I said it. He didn’t understand.

The worst time was one Saturday I was working. I had asked him to straighten up the house as we were having dinner guests, and since I was the one cooking that night, I wouldn’t have time both to pick up our regular clutter and work on cooking when I got home. As I left, he stood holding our son and assured me the house would be neater by the time I got home.

Three guesses…

Needless to say, it was not entirely a surprise when I got home to find people other than those who were coming for dinner in my kitchen drinking tea. Friends had needed help with a car repair, so he had them come over so he could see if could figure out the problem.

For the first time, rather than getting disappointed I got mad. Furious, actually.

After saying a terse hello, I started the job of decluttering. Once the friends left, I plopped my toddler in front the VCR to watch a rollicking episode of Blue’s Clues, brought my husband in the kitchen, and – seething the whole time – quietly informed him if he ever did something like that to me again, I would leave him.

He was surprised, shocked even, and I’m pretty sure even after I explained through clenched teeth why I was so upset he still didn’t get it. Because it was just another permutation of that same conversation.

I felt like I didn’t matter to him. I felt unimportant. I felt like the housekeeper or the nanny or a roommate rather than his wife.

Different iterations of the same conversation.

Sometimes I wonder where I would be now if I had left him when it happened the next time. Because there is a vast difference between choosing something yourself and having it decided for you. Would it have taken longer to get over him? Would my self-image have suffered as much? It’s interesting to speculate but impossible to know for sure.

If some of the blogs I follow are any indication, other people have lists as well, and many of them keep their ‘important to me’ list in a weighted order: immediate family/significant other, birth family, friends, etc.

Whether it’s a holdover from my marriage or function of how my brain works, I prefer to keep mine fluid. This is partially because I find the order of importance fluctuates from time to time – for example, whether the cats place higher than my son on any given day depends entirely on which of them didn’t wake me up at five in the morning – and partially because I don’t feel comfortable looking at it that way.

I guess I’d rather think of my list more like one of those word clouds you see on the internet; whatever is currently uppermost in my mind is in a really big font while everything else hovers around in slightly smaller ones. Sort of like this:

Capture

It’s both kind of cool and a much more accurate representation of how my brain actually works. (Although I am surprised ‘chocolate’ is in as small a font as it is. Odd…)

What has thrown a wrench into the word cloud is the new relationship. Completely in a good way. Suddenly I appear on someone else’s list again, and I find it’s taking some getting used to. The funny part is I’ve gotten so used to not being on a list that I don’t always know what to do with it. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just been so long that I forget what it’s like.

But I’m slowly starting to accustom myself to it again.

And, you know what? I think I like it. I’ll have to check my word cloud again next year and see what it looks like. Who knows?

I am expecting ‘chocolate’ to be a larger font, though. Anything else would just be wrong.

Posted June 21, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Don’t Punch a Gift Horse in the Mouth   Leave a comment

We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it. – John Lennon

Thanks to my mother, not a single cardboard box has found its way back into society. We receive gifts in boxes from stores that went out of business twenty years ago. Erma Bombeck

What greater gift than the love of a cat. ― Charles Dickens

It’s that time of year again. Time for one of those pesky anniversaries I can’t for the life of me make myself forget. This year, for a nice change, I didn’t re-experience the trauma I felt on that first day when the foundation of my life disappeared. (Yay me!)

To be honest, while I have been aware of the date, I really hadn’t been thinking about it at all. I’ve been a little too busy focusing on the good things in my life right now.

Like the trip my son and I will be taking this summer. And the recent uptick in his completed knitting projects. (I got a gorgeous hat for Mother’s Day; yes, I had to purchase the wool for it, but wow… I couldn’t even hope to match the quality of his work. He is much better than I am.) And the fact that his grades – cough… English… cough… – have improved enough that I am not going to have to maim him at the end of the school year.

And the relationship. Which is still going swimmingly.

So, given that is has now been four years, my therapist informed me I should asked if I was planning on writing about the gifts I have received from working through my divorce. I gave him a cock-eyed look, and said no.

Here’s why: I don’t view the things I have gained from my divorce as gifts.

To me, a gift is something given from the heart, something that you give knowing – or at least hoping – the recipient will want or enjoy. And while I have gotten things from my marriage ending – a better sense of self and self-image, the ability to travel places I want to go, time to focus on things I want to do – they were in no way, shape, or form given to me. They weren’t even thrust upon me like some kind of consolation prize for surviving the implosion of my world and personal life.

I fought for them. Hard. And I’m still working on some of them.

Yes, my self-image is better than it has been in years. Probably better than it has ever been. I like how I look, white-hair-with-its-trendy-blue-streak, cuddly parts that would be slightly less cuddly if I laid off the cookies, and all. (As an aside, pop culture really needs to stop telling teenage girls they need to be tall, thin, and part of a couple. And laying off the cookies? Not going to happen. Cookies are life.)

The time I spend at the gym – slightly less lately after the trip to the ER a few weeks back and the absolutely terrible weather we have been having – is for me, not because I am trying to mold myself into someone else’s ideal of how I should look. I like being stronger and relatively in shape. It feels good.

The trips? This has been one of the more difficult ones. Mainly because it honestly took me a while to realize I was now in charge of my vacations and could take my son places my ex wasn’t interested in going. Like Disneyland or the Harry Potter Park at Universal Studios, which was truly awesome. It’s actually been kind of cool. I mean, I did most of the planning when we went away as a family before, but now the plans are exciting rather than work. How far can we travel? What kind of cool, off-the-beaten-path places can I find for us to see? Can I get really cheap airfare so we don’t have to spend two days of our vacation trapped in car trying to get through New York City in the middle of the day? (DC, a fountain pen show, and yes. Score!)

The hardest one has been figuring out what I want to do. Obviously, writing is one of these things. While I wrote before, I was never able to dedicate the time to it that I can now. This was partially because the boy was younger, and as the preferred parent I was on call for him more, but it was also because my attention was focused on what I thought I needed to do for my marriage. That, and I didn’t know what to say. Or how what I needed to say would be received. It was easier not to express myself.

So, while I am doing pretty well with the first couple definitely-not-gifts, this last one is still a work in progress. But I’m having fun figuring it out.

And that’s the point of a gift, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go gift myself a cookie.

Posted June 7, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Compassion. Fatigue   Leave a comment

So, I had another post mostly done that I was going to finish up for tonight, but yesterday I had an adventure. Not an exciting or welcome one, but an adventure nonetheless.

I was supposed to be meeting my guy for dinner, our usual Tuesday night activity, when I realized my stomach wasn’t very happy. I decided to stop at a local grocery store to avail myself of their facilities (without having to buy a cup of coffee like I would have to in one of Northampton’s many cafés). After throwing up a couple of times, I realized dinner wasn’t going to happen, texted him to let him know what was going on, and ensconced myself on the patio display the store had thoughtfully set up close by the bathrooms. Just in case.

Fortunately someone I knew from my synagogue also happened to be in the bathroom at the same time, and she sat with me for a few minutes until I started to look and feel a bit better, as whatever had been bothering my digestive tract was well and truly gone. My acquaintance went off to finish her shopping, and my guy texted me back to let me know he was coming to the store to see how I was and drive me home if I needed him to.

This ended up being a good thing. Some time after that text, I started feeling really, really ill. To the point that when he got there, he offered to take me to the hospital. I agreed that would probably be a very good idea, and if I had been able to get up and walk, he would have done just that. As it was, he ended up having to call an ambulance to take me there.

(Before I go any further with the story, I will say I am fine. The problem ended up being dehydration after having been sick.  It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t life-threatening, either.)

My second ambulance ride wasn’t any more fun than my first – that being the one I had to take with my son after the sledding accident where he tried to take out a small stand of trees with his head – but did get me to the hospital without my having to stand up. Which was a definite plus. And after about twenty minutes of sitting/lying in a hallway on my gurney trying to sign my name to release forms with an IV in my right arm that made it really difficult to move my arm enough to write, someone came over and asked if I had anyone in the waiting room.

It was a huge relief when they brought him over to me. He had actually beaten the ambulance to the ER and had been waiting to find out what was going on. Apparently, the waiting room was full – it was an oddly busy night at the hospital – and a bunch of people who were waiting to be treated were annoyed that he was called into the inner sanctum before they were.

The nurses brought him a chair, and we stayed in the hallway for several hours, him holding my hand and talking to me, as I gradually felt better thanks to the bag of saline solution attached to my gurney. Arrangements were made for my ex to stay at my house with the boy in case I needed to stay at the hospital overnight for observation, and we settled in to wait. He made me laugh when he joked that having the beds in the hallway made moving people around seem like a giant game of Tetris, moved out of the way when one of nurses came to draw blood for tests – needle phobia being something we share, and held the bendy-straw in the cup of water I was allowed to have to my lips so I could drink from it. The rest of the time, he held my hand.

After several hours, we were moved into a room, the nurses thanking us for being so patient, where we waited to find out the results of all of the tests that had been done. By this time it was a bit after ten o’clock, and I was feeling much more like myself. A tired version of myself, but myself. When the doctor finally discharged me – there was “a bit of a backlog” we had been told – it was close to midnight, and we had both been dozing. He walked me through the lobby and sat me down so he could get his car to drive me back to the supermarket where mine was still parked. As we left, the nurses told us how sweet they found the two of us.

During the short drive, he quizzed me to make sure I felt up to driving back home and informed me he would be following me back to my house to make sure I got there safely, even though it would mean a) he would be driving way out of his way and b) the extra miles would increase his trip home by forty minutes.

As I crashed into bed with my very vocal cat who had apparently been wondering where the hell I was all night, all I could think was how lucky I was. Not only that nothing was seriously wrong with me, but that I have found someone as kind and caring as he is.

Tonight I am planning to go to bed nice and early. I feel better, but better still feels a bit like having been run over by a pickup truck. But on reflection, I can honestly say that while last night wasn’t the evening I had been hoping for, it was a good one nonetheless.

Posted May 24, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Anger Management   2 comments

So, over the past few weeks I have had two people tell me I look happier and calmer than I have in a long time.

I’m taking it as the compliment I know it was meant to be. Because I am. Both happier and calmer. It’s kind of nice.

This may come as no surprise, but for a long time, I was angry. Angry at my ex, angry at the world, angry because the supermarket was out of the granola bars I liked, angry because the stop light was taking too long… I could go on, but you get the picture. It wasn’t pretty.

Mostly I was angry at myself.

Angry for putting up with certain behaviors for as long as I did, angry because I viewed the dissolution of my marriage as a failure on my part – divorces are known as ‘failed marriages’ not successful ones, after all – even though I wasn’t in the marriage alone, angry because I prefer to do things right the first time. And angry because, even before the end slapped me upside the head, things had already gotten to the point where I felt like I was failing at marriage. Like I would be getting an F on my report card or something.

I’m not a big fan of failing.

I know when you fail you learn stuff, but honestly I would rather learn by doing and doing well than by doing and having things blow up in my face. (Type A personality much?) And when twenty-five years worth of things blow up in your face, the end result is scar tissue. Also known as anger.

Now, at first, I didn’t try to manage the anger. At all. I couldn’t. I was a walking collection of sharp edges held together by anger, exercise, and vast quantities of ice cream. Really, the only thing holding me together was the anger – the ice cream helped with my psyche; the exercise allowed me to sleep – and I held on to it with all the strength I could muster.

I managed to blunt the edges a tiny bit at work and temporarily smother them with fuzzy blankets when my son was around, but when I was alone and not focusing on my behavior, I raged.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it took longer than I would like to admit for it to dissipate. (Cough… three years… Cough.)

I would like to take credit for it finally happening, but I can’t. It’s not that I didn’t try. I tried listening to calming music, coloring, long nature walks (it’s useful living at the bottom of a mountain), telling the negative voices inside my head to go the hell away. Nothing worked. Well-meaning friends suggested meditation and yoga, but I shied away from the former as that gave the negative voices both lots of space in my head and my undivided attention – which was not the effect I was going for – and the latter left me feeling stretched out and craving an energetic aerobics class followed by more ice cream, but not necessarily any calmer.

What finally did it was time. And not in a “time heals all wounds” kind of way, as I’m pretty sure the psychological and emotional wounds I sustained will never completely go away, but more in a “can we just call this done now” manner.

Honestly, I think I tired myself out. Maintaining that level of anger is exhausting. Not to mention extremely unproductive.

Anyway, if nothing else I learned something. Not that I can control my emotions, as I did a really crappy job at that. (Cough… three years… Cough.) Or that I am a great actress. The fact that people are commenting that I look happier and calmer now lets me know that fact loud and clear. Despite my claims of being all right when everything first blew up, the husband of one of my friends told her he thought I looked fragile. Now I would call it an accurate assessment, although then I thought I needed to try smiling more and see if that helped. It didn’t. The smiles were all rather… feral.

I learned that I am more resilient than I thought I was. Resilient over a long period of time, but still resilient. And I’ll take that.

After all, there are much worse things to learn. And worse things to be.

Like angry.

Posted May 10, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

More Than Words   Leave a comment

Cause it’s easy to tell me you love me / Easy to say you’re thinking of me / Words are so easy to say” – John Romano, Julian Hernandez, Richard Miranda, Tony Garcia

If you’ve met me, you know I need like to talk. A lot. Actually, if you haven’t met me, but you’ve read any part of this blog, you have probably come to the same conclusion. Because I talk. A lot. Sometimes I even say things when I talk. Sometimes. Not always.

When I met my ex, one of the things I really enjoyed about him was his ability to talk, to tell a story, to make me laugh. The ebb and flow of conversation was easy, and we always had a lot to talk about.

By the time we had been married a while, some of the conversation stalled. We had told each other most of our before-I-met-you stories and needed to find other things to talk about, which wasn’t always easy. I spent a lot of time at the terrible, soul-sucking job that provided our health insurance as well as the majority of our income at the time work and wanted to spend most of my limited free time with him, so I didn’t have much fodder for amusing stories and ended up mostly talking about work. Right up until he told me I complained about my job too much. So I started censoring myself, even though what I really needed was – in addition to venting – someone to tell me someday the economy would improve, and I would be able to find a different job. With health insurance. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

But I kept a lot of what I felt to myself. And continued to about other things. Sometimes issues would bubble around inside my head until the words exploded out of my mouth, but for the most part, I found other things to talk about. Looking back on it now, I realize it probably wasn’t that healthy, but it was what I thought I needed to do to keep my husband happy and my marriage intact. Live and learn, right?

His conversations included talking (read: sometimes complaining) about work, discussing politics, and expounding on his running habit, which I didn’t share. (I tried. My knees complained violently, so I had to stop.) And then over the years, conversations dwindled.  I can more or less pinpoint this to two events, the first being the birth of our son, the second being when Facebook took over the world.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook. I post this blog on Facebook. It lets me keep track of friends and family all over the world, read interesting articles I wouldn’t generally find, and introduced me to Words with Friends, where I regularly get trounced by some of those aforementioned friends.

He spent more time on it than I did, usually starting while I was putting the boy to bed, and stayed with it once I made my way back downstairs. Conversations became fewer and farther between as I read books and he stayed glued to our computer’s monitor.

When he sat me down to announce he was ending our marriage, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, although I was. Then the words started. And one of the things he told me with those words was that he felt like he had been lying to me for the previous few years because he had told me he loved me even though he no longer did.

The clarification of, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” didn’t help, and I wouldn’t recommend saying it to anyone. Ever.

The funny part was I used to love hearing him use those three little words. Because to me, they were the proof that he really did love me. I mean, why would he say them if he didn’t mean them, right? And, as his actions didn’t always make me feel warm and cozy inside, I really needed that proof. So any time he told me he had thought about doing something I would like – even if he didn’t actually do it – it made me feel loved.

Boy, was I dumb naive.

My new relationship – although it’s not that new; we met almost a year ago – has been a bit of a revelation.

We talk. We talk about the weather and movies and our families and the interesting science blogs he reads. We talk about our jobs and the new library the town I work in is hoping to build and the interesting things he ships all over the world in his job. We talk about our pets and our hobbies and places we have been and would like to go.

But it’s more than that. There are also little things I didn’t have before. When we walk, he walks next to me. Even though he is much taller than I am. (I mean much taller. Like I can take 2-3 steps to his one if he’s really moving.) And he holds my hand when we walk. Everywhere. He opens doors for me, helps me with my coat, and makes sure I can get over large obstacles in our path when we go hiking.

Recently, when we were out for a walk in a state reservation, he mentioned that he had seen people out riding horses on the path we were on when he had been there in the past. I replied I had never been horseback riding – pony rides at fairs don’t count in my book – and was interested in trying it some time. That night in my email there was a coupon for a one-hour horseback riding lesson.

I’m surprised my son didn’t have to pick me up off the floor after I read it.

So, all in all, I’m kind of liking this relationship thing. More than like, actually, but you know the phrase – actions speak louder. So, I’ll keep working on those actions.

And I’ll be sure to let you know how the riding lesson goes.

 

Posted April 26, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

If I Had $1,000,000   Leave a comment

A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. – Jonathan Swift.

“Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?” – Ed Robertson, Steven Page

I’ve been thinking a lot about money lately. The federal government very nicely gifted me deposited my income tax refund in my savings account recently so I’m not feeling as financially stretched as I have been the past few months, which is nice. It means, among other things, that the boy’s request for a class ring – the school very nicely sent home the catalog/price list, and, my G-d, I can’t believe how much these things cost – is a possibility.

The fact I can even contemplate this purchase lets me know how lucky I am not to have to worry about money like I did when I was in my twenties.

When I was first married, the country was in the middle of one of our periodic recessions, and neither my ex nor I had a job. Initially we decided that whichever of us got a job would decide where we would live – Boston, western MA, or Burlington, VT of all places. Which was great until neither of us was offered a job. We eventually decided to stay out here in western MA as it was central to all the places we were looking and reasonably inexpensive. Then I got a job three miles down the road from where we were going to be living, which was a great relief as food and rent weren’t free. The salary was negligible, but it had health insurance and was stable.

We were finally at a point where I would have called us upper middle class in terms of salary and lack of extraneous debt when my ex decided he wanted to quit his job and go back to school. To say this freaked me out is a vast understatement. It terrified me. I was making a good salary, but three of us living off of it while paying tuition and gas money and food and car payments and braces… Well, you get the idea.

When my ex ended our marriage, the strange thing was that while I was frightened for the future, I wasn’t so worried about the present. Annoyed that I had to refinance the house and buy him out, yes – I had nine years left on a 2.65% fixed-rate mortgage; it still makes me clench my teeth to think about it – but worried, no. It was actually cheaper for there just to be two of us on what I was making. And the utility bills went down, which was an added bonus at a time I really needed bonuses.

Right now, while I wouldn’t say the boy and I are well-off, we are comfortable. My job pays decently (if not always up to its frustration level) and child support helps with both monthly and those pesky unexpected expenses (Cough… ring… cough). I own my home, put really good food on the table each week, and can proudly say neither of us have ever gone without shoes or clothes that fit. (Except when I refuse to buy bigger sizes of things when I have gained weight. But we won’t go there…) Each month I manage to put a small amount of money in the 401K that will supplement my town-government-job pension and add a bit to the boy’s 529 college fund, both of which I know will be appreciated in the long-term.

The one thing I haven’t pulled off yet is that six-month cushion recommended by financial experts, but it is something I am working on. Probably not as hard as I could – or should – but I like to think of it as work in progress.

Are there things I could do make progress go faster? Sure.

For starters, I could tell the boy we can’t get him a class ring. Which I won’t. I could also probably cut back on our entertainment budget. We don’t eat out very often – restaurants aren’t really Weight Watchers friendly – but do go to the occasional concert, movie, and science fiction convention. We also knit, although these days that is mostly him, and I have this book habit that cannot always be filled by my place of employment. And to be honest, I don’t see any of these things being sacrificed any time soon.

One thing that could be cut back is our annual summer vacation. We could take a stay-cation and enjoy beauties of western Massachusetts in the summer instead of our planned trip to the Washington, DC Fountain Pen Supershow. (If they ever decide on when it is…) Staying home would make much more sense financially, but really, I don’t want to. I enjoy going places with my son, exploring new cities or revisiting places we have been and loved. I don’t care so much about stuff, class ring notwithstanding.  Neither of us has the newest cell phone, in fact the ones we have were purchased used, and I never bothered to get a data plan to go with them. I want to be the parent who brings my child to new places and lets him have experiences that will aid him in becoming the man I see in him rather than gives him things. Travel is a big part of that.

In other posts I have kvelled over trips we have taken the past three years, but, honestly, the big ones have been greatly appreciated gifts from family or friends. Singapore? Never would have made it there without the generosity of a childhood friend. California? The boy’s bar mitzvah present from our aunt. Our 3 days at Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter Park were courtesy of a lucky deal thanks to AAA, and last summer’s trip to London was both an extravagance and a fluke funded by last year’s tax refund. But those were the exceptions.

Do I wish I could travel more? You bet. The green-eyes monster rears its ugly head when I see friends’ pictures of trips to Italy, France, Iceland, Japan, and many other places I won’t be going any time in the near future. But I know I need to balance the desire to go to all these fascinatingly wonderful places with the need to create a cushion to protect myself and my son financially.

So, while I may sigh over the brochure in my mail from Viking River Cruises, I won’t be sailing on down a river in Europe any time in the near future. Instead, I’m going to work on finding that happy medium of small adventures while building up my bank account to weather whatever financial storms may come our way.

Does this mean I’m going to tell the boy he can’t have his ring? No. The entertainment budget is probably going to stay intact as well. Those things will just be part of my balancing act.

All in all, I think we’ll be okay.

But, you know, I haven’t always wanted a monkey.  And I don’t think I ever will.

Posted March 15, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts

Where am I Going? (And Will There Be Chocolate When I Get There?)   Leave a comment

We’re all pilgrims on the same road, but some pilgrims have better road maps. – Nelson DeMille

If you know me at all, you will know that while I am a voracious reader – I tend to have anywhere from three to five books going at a time, which doesn’t include the several audio books I shuffle between – there are two things I cannot read to save my life – bus schedules and road maps. (I also can’t cut things in straight lines, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Bus schedules confound me because my eyes can’t seem to track the information from one end of the line to the other end without heading off on some strange tangent. Which, now that I think of it, probably has quite a bit to do with my inability to cut straight lines. Even when the line is marked. Hmm… I’ll need to pursue this line of thought further. Just not now.

Maps are a whole different type of difficult for me. Which is weird as I have an excellent sense of direction. But even when someone hands me a map that is pointing in the right orientation (get it?), I still manage to get off track somewhere along the line. (I’m pretty sure I have mentioned at least once in this blog how much I love my GPS. Because I love my GPS. With very few exceptions, she has gotten me where I needed to be when I needed to be there. Which, overall, has been lovely.)

The one kind of map I never used to have problems with was the road map of my life that lived in my head. Sure, there were details that I hadn’t gotten quite right and things that changed from how I imagined them as events occurred, but the overall course went pretty much the way I thought it would.

Right up until it didn’t.

When my marriage first ended, I didn’t need a map that showed the future. I needed a day-planner. Or a minute-planner. Something that told me what to do when I got out of bed each morning that started with ‘Move covers and slide legs off of mattress’ and continued through the day with helpful hints like ‘Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. This is called walking.’

Eventually things got better, and the instructional narrative subsided, which made the inside of my head both much quieter and a nicer place to visit. But my internal map remained blank, intentionally so. I planned things in a general way – what to eat each week because without a weekly menu we just don’t eat (which brings vehement objections from the teenager), where the boy and I would go on vacation, seasonal house repairs – but nothing big, nothing that pertained to the big, scary future I could no longer imagine for myself.

For a long time, I told myself this was good, that I needed to live in the moment, be more spontaneous (or, in my case, be spontaneous. Spoiler: Not so much.), and experience life as it happened. But after a while, it started to feel aimless.

I’m one of those people who has always had plans, even if they are on a slow simmer on a way back burner. I even have back-up plans to the plans. And – most of the time – a back-up plan to the back-up plan. Because that’s how I’m made.

Not having plans made me feel like I was drifting, rudderless, disconnected.

Then something changed.

The guy I have been seeing asked me to go away with him for a weekend. When he asked where I wanted to go – the ocean or the mountains – I told him to surprise me.

What I didn’t tell him was that for years when my ex would ask what I wanted for birthdays or Hanukkah, I would explain I didn’t really need more stuff, and what I really wanted was for him to plan a weekend away for us. Just the two of us.  Alone. A weekend where I didn’t need to choose a destination, pick a hotel, or negotiate child care with friends or family.

It happened once.

Generally when we traveled, I did the majority of the planning. The few family vacations we took to Acadia National Park we stayed at cottages I found. When we went away for our infrequent weekends over the course of the twenty-plus years we were married, I chose the location and found someone to take care of the boy (once he was a factor). The driving trip to Wisconsin to visit a friend – where we had a really hard time finding a hotel to stay in on the way home as we hadn’t booked one in advance – was done together, and my ex tended to take on the trips around his marathons as they mattered more to him than to me.  (I was there for moral support and child care.)

The weekend he planned for us was lovely. The location was wonderful.  He chose the ocean, and we walked on the beach in the surprisingly warm-for-February weather. The room was fabulous with a gas fireplace for both warmth and ambiance, and the Jacuzzi tub was relaxing. The hotel had a pool, and we swam both after dinner the evening we got there and again in the morning before we checked out. We meandered through New Hampshire and Vermont and stopped for an easy hike on the way home. We talked about places we want to go someday, some of them together.

And on the way home something clicked in my head. It was like a switch going off. Or, rather on, and suddenly I can see a spark of a future again. It’s small and hazy, but it’s there, and I kind of like it.

Wow.

So, I guess I’ll start looking at this map and seeing where it takes me. Hopefully somewhere with chocolate along the way.  If not, I’ll make sure to bring enough to share.

Posted March 2, 2017 by wordsaremylife in random thoughts