The Problem with Perfect Endings

When I was young, somewhere in my early teen years maybe, I developed a love of romantic movies mostly in the form of musicals but also those with a bend towards comedy. The neatness of it all appealed to me along with the magical feeling of getting swept up in the story and carried away by its currents. I recognized that most these stories followed a similar formula: the build up where the main romantic couple either meet and dislike each other immediately or where their lives overlap ironically or coincidentally without them meeting; the revelation where the seemingly unlikely pair starts to see or notice one another, maybe they finally meet for real or maybe it occurs to them that there is attraction lurking beneath their tense interactions; and lastly the dramatic, often epic, conclusion followed by the inevitable possibly metaphorical ride off into the sunset. Once in a while the story took a twist and didn’t end this way but mostly there was this satisfying tying up of all the loose ends into a lovely, neat bow. And I so enjoyed that process and the perfect ending.

In fact when it didn’t happen I felt a little robbed. When I read Little Women and Jo didn’t end up with Laurie I was downright angry, even more so when her calmer, kinder sister did. What the actual eff, Louisa May Alcott??

Somewhere along the lines things changed; I changed.

I very distinctly remember going to a movie with my then (but not too far from ex) husband somewhere in the late 2000’s, I was slightly past mid twenties; we saw one of those romantic comedies. It followed the formula and presented the same perfect ending after the token conflict or overcoming of circumstances. But the satisfaction in that was gone. Vanished. Instead a white hot anger flickered up inside me. I literally wanted to take off a shoe and throw it at the giant screen.

“Lies!”, I thought, “it’s nothing but lies.” Why do they sell us this bullshit? Like everything is going to magically be great some day. Almost ten years into a marriage that was fatally flawed from the start, and not romantically so but destructively so, I knew better than that and I did not enjoy the empty promises I was being sold in the form of that perfect ending.

Shortly after that, during the divorce yes, I couldn’t even watch romantic movies, especially the comedic ones, unless I was in a dark place and wallowing in the bit of self loathing I had yet to battle through. I felt angry, so so angry, and betrayed by them. It was a twisted form of punishment to sit and watch the trite, idyllic story unfold and know that the reality of relationships, the real stories, were tinted with hurt and brokenness. Pain, more often than not, inflicted by the very person standing there swearing they loved you.

Time heals all wounds, as the saying goes. Heals, yes, but it never puts things back as they were. The more help you give time, the more work you do, the better those wounds heal. But there’s still always a scar.

While I don’t thoroughly enjoy those romantic stories like I once did, I can occasionally watch and enjoy them now. These days, though, I appreciate the less than perfect endings more. I like when the film gives nod to the possibility of perfection in romance but then gently reminds us that is not the norm. So maybe the couple rides off into the proverbial sunset but then they fall off their horse which insights bickering and blame casting; suddenly yet stealthily the seeds of resentment are sown. Or, more likely, the couple doesn’t end up together but they both treasure the time they shared while going on to lead full and fufilling lives. It’s a reminder that even relationships that don’t last forever have value and are worthwhile; sometimes things end and people part ways but that’s okay. Perfection isn’t always ideal.

Rally the Troops

Sometimes a seemingly random occurrence is actually preparing us for something further down the road. Maybe much further.

This dawned on  me tonight as a large bat was swooping around my workplace. Said workplace is a house but, still, bats = Not Cool! Not cool at all. But luckily I was prepared because I’ve dealt with bats in the house before (my own house that time and it really was not fun). While my coworker was legitimately freaking out I knew exactly what to do. (Open one door, turn off all the lights except by that door, and try to gently direct the bat out if it isn’t finding the exit on its own. In case you were wondering.) And, although it was a terrifying ten to fifteen minutes, we had the bat out in ten to fifteen minutes. Had I not had previous bat encounters this night could have been a lot worse. I’m not sure I could handle a lot worse right now; just being at work is bad enough.

giant bat

The giant bat: An interaction with him is NOT my ideal night at work.

This week is one of those off the charts crazy weeks. Really it’s been the last two weeks. Last Wednesday, after furiously studying for way less time than I should have, I took the DAT to complete my dental school application. It went decently well and I was extremely relieved to have that out of the way but I had to hit the ground running with graduation open house planning as soon as the test was over.

My oldest son graduated from high school this spring (on my birthday). At the time he was adamant that he did not want an open house. I told him too bad; the open house isn’t for him, it’s for his family and all the people who have supported and encouraged him over the years to celebrate our  his achievements. He reluctantly conceded to a party. I think he realized that I wasn’t backing down on this and he really didn’t have much choice. After being invited to a few of his friends’ & classmates’ open houses he warmed to the idea…especially after he heard how much his one buddy got at his open house. (Apparently he didn’t believe me when I told him people give you money at these things.)

Because of the aforementioned test and my daughter’s horse shows there weren’t any feasible open house dates in June but my son’s 18th birthday fell on a Friday AND it was not one leading up to a work weekend for me. I pitched the idea of a graduation open house/18th birthday celebration to my son and he actually seemed to like it. Well, that weekend is this weekend. The open house is Saturday (technically tomorrow as it’s 3 a.m. right now) and my son’s birthday is…well, now. Unfortunately this not being a work weekend means I’ve worked the seven, maybe eight, days leading up to the weekend (including tonight, obvs). Not short shifts either, ten to twelve hour night shifts. This schedule is really not conducive to preparing for an open house.

Way back at the launch of the open house planning process I emailed my ex husband asking if we could collaborate on this. Not only would that make it more affordable but we could divide and conquer the work. Plus planning an open house together provided an opportunity for a much needed exercise in cooperation for us. Even though we’ve been divorced for three and a half years and separated for over five, there is only bare minimum communication between us and even that is tense and unpleasant. At some point we’ve got to get past that. Our kids can’t have two of everything. I mean, are they going to have two weddings: once for their dad’s family, once for mine??? NO! Sadly though my ex  did not see things the same way and declared that I could do what I wanted and he’d “Celebrate separately”. This, of course, left me running the graduation party show all on my own.

And once again lessons learned in prior life experiences came back around in a real and useful way.

Implementing a graduation party at my house (which is not typically visitor ready) in ten days or less seemed like No Big Deal…until I was staring down the barrel of those ten days. I got a little overwhelmed, paralyzed by how much work there was to get done in a short week that was already full with work. Holy, holy crap!

Just as I was on the brink of sheer panic my instincts kicked in and I did what I do more and more when I need help. I called my mom.

To be fair, a couple people had already asked what I needed help with but I wasn’t even ready to think about that until the DAT was out of the way. But now, roughly a week before Open House day, I needed the help! I’m insanely lucky (blessed?) to have a large, supportive family. Throughout the stressful, somewhat traumatic process of the dissolution of my almost twelve year marriage and the subsequent divorce and custody hearings I learned just how helpful and supportive my family is. We aren’t touchy-feely people, my family; we don’t verbally express our love and appreciation for each other. Not very often and when it does happen it’s a sign of deep concern. But that doesn’t mean those feelings (or whatever you want to call them…talking about feelings so much is starting to make me a little uncomfortable) don’t exist. It’s just that we’re Do-ers, not say-ers. The things we don’t say we show by doing, by being there when needed.

My mom offered to pick up meat and taco seasoning from me and cook all the taco meat (I’m having a taco bar at the party); my youngest sister spent a day and a half cleaning up my house and hacking away at brush in my yard; one of my brothers-in-law is coming over tomorrow to help set up the yard stuff; other people offered to bring something, to contribute. And suddenly I was not alone in this crazy endeavor.

And that is a thing worth remembering. Sometimes all you have to do is reach out and accept the help you need.

graduation selfie

Awkward graduation selfie because, much like the open house, my son was not entirely on board with this.



Good Ol’ Fashioned Angry

I’m feeling a little angry today. And yesterday. And maybe the day before that, it’s been quietly building for a little while now, lying in wait for the perfect moment to sneak up on me and yell “Boo!” It found its moment, that good old fashioned anger that used to simmer just below the surface back in the good ol’days when everything was in a tumultuous state of turmoil. It’s been relatively peaceful for a bit so I guess I was due for a good bout of repressed anger rearing its ugly  but all too familiar head. It’s not like it used to be, though, with no rhyme or reason to it. There’s reason. But I’m not going to make it rhyme.

The old patterns are back and mounds of frustration with them. Largely because there is literally nothing I can do about it now, nothing at all. I’ve exhausted all my resources and gotten no where. Like a dog chasing its tail, I’m all worn out but have gotten no where. A very expensive no where, thousands of dollars in legal fees, days spent in court, a year of insane stress crushing down on me. Very expensive indeed, a lot spent on a whole lot of nothing.

Round and about we went going no where, getting nothing but dizzy. And then it ended in a fizzle of stupid admonishments and court ordered counseling. All that and nothing to show, back to square one. Or negative zero. There were a few brief months of playing nice because you thought you’d won. I sure felt like I had lost so why not? Maybe you did. I’m pretty sure we’re all losers here though. And now it’s back to the basics, no new reality just the same old shit and bad behavior. The same guilt, spread thick, to manipulate and damage the kids. The same games, punishing me by not bringing them to their end of season awards banquet. The upset kid going to school and telling his teacher, as he fights back tears, that he won’t be going to middle school camp because it’s his dad’s week and his dad was making him feel bad about going to camp because his dad had plans for his birthday. The kid’s birthday. The kid who now feels guilty about going to camp with his classmates and friends because it happens to fall on his birthday. (But don’t tell my mom because then she’ll be mad at my dad.) The same kid who just now texts me from his brother’s phone to ask me to bring his camp stuff, clothes blankets, and all because it’s too much for his dad and step-mom to pack and prep these basic needs for the kids. Even though he’s at their house. But “Hey mom can you bring my stuff…Because my dad said since you signed me up that  you have to provide.”

It’s bullshit. It’s fucking bullshit, that’s what it is. What kind of asshole does this to his kids?

So, yeah, I’m a little angry again. I’m ranting and raving, shaking my fist at the sky. Trying hard not to let it seep from my pores. Trying not to let it dominate my life and steel my joy. Because there is joy to be had. Even with no good answers, no solution, just an awareness that this is the way things are. What can you do? Be the change you want to see? There is no fucking change! This is the perma state of life, your burden to bear, kids, and mine. The thing that will eventually fuck you up and already has me. All I can do is balance, and try not to eff you all up even more. Be steady, be calm and kind even when I’m writhing inside with a white hot anger. Good luck with that! Deep breath in, deep breath out. Punch the bag, this is why you have it, go for a run. One foot in front of the other, go go go…

I think I can’t but I know I can

You know that scene in the movie Last of the Mohicans where one of the characters cuts into the chest of his opponent and pulls the guy’s still beating heart right out of his body then holds it high above his head while yelling…something?  That scene sums up how I felt as I walked the wrong way through the metal detector out of the boring official brick building into the sweltering heat. Except I hadn’t been cast as the triumphant warrior holding the heart in the air. No, I was the other guy. The one standing there staring at the gaping hole in the middle of his body wondering what the fuck just happened. He’s the one I can relate to right now. That guy. Some days the Universe should hand us an “I Survived” t-shirt at the end of the day. Life just plain sucks and there should be some recognition for getting through it once in a while. There’s not and you just keep chugging along. What other choices are there?

That’s what it feels like I’m doing these days, just chugging along at bare minimum trying to get through. At some point there’s got to be a light at the end of this tunnel but right about now I’m not so sure. I’m running out of steam. The car is on E and I’m not seeing a gas station anywhere. Feelings wise I don’t think I can make it but based on experience I know I can… Well, I’m 90% sure I can.

There’s an odd disconnect between the pain and the reality of life moving forward. I want the world to stop for a minute and let me wallow in it, give me a second to process it all, but decisions have to be made and quickly. Big ones, hard ones (Yeah I know Phrasing!) and I don’t think I can do this. I’m not equipped to deal with life on this level. Maybe I skipped class that day of Adulthood 101 but nobody taught me how to handle this kind of reality. I want to crawl under a rock, or maybe the blankets on my bed in my dark room, and hide for a month, come out when I’m ready to handle this disappointment and sadness, when I’m ready to cope with the struggles of my life and decide whether this is where we say Okay and deal or keep on fighting. Whether this goes to the next level or becomes the new norm. How do you really know when it’s a thing you can or should change or one you should accept? I never was very good at that, recent events have made me worse. I question my perception of reality now more than ever before. It’s hard not to when I see people buying the craziness that’s being sold dirt cheap. Sometimes the thing being said the loudest and most insistently really does become the truth. Guess I should have learned a long time ago to speak up, to yell more. Shout the injustice from the roof tops even if it is all in my head. My belligerence level has always been a little too low for that.

I think I can’t. Can’t handle this, can’t deal…just can’t. But I know I can. Because I have before. One foot in front of the other, keep moving forward. Ignore the desire to stop and just lay down and let time wash over you. Focus on the positives while you’re crying in the shower. Work towards the concrete goals, those ones with an end in sight. Because even though it feels Not Okay right now, better things really are on their way .Maybe not the ones you thought you needed but still better. Better than this. Life will never be ideal. No one gets out of this without a scar; we’re all a little fucked up in the end.

That’s just the way it goes. I think I can’t but I know I can.



It’s 6 a.m. and Adele is on the radio.

Word to the wise, don’t listen to Adele at six in the morning after being up all night. Especially not this one and especially not on the third long night of work in a row…

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way this morning. All I needed was some sound to help pass the time in those few painful hours on the overnight shift where there’s not much to do and the drowse starts creeping in. I got more than I bargained for today though. Between her beautiful, sadly nostalgic songs and someone else’s bad divorce diatribe that I happened to read I started thinking about how things used to be. Not in a happy, the way things once were as viewed through rose colored glasses kind of way either. Some things can’t be viewed through rosy lenses even ten plus years later.

I’ve been working on writing my personal statement for the dental school application. Trying to find words to describe what I went through to get where I am and what it’s taught me is a challenge. Doing so in 4500 characters or less (including spaces) an even bigger one. If you haven’t noticed, being concise is not a strength of mine.This morning I started thinking about the semester I took the first organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology. There had to be another class or two in there as well but I don’t remember what. Maybe a math. Probably. Maybe that was the same semester I took online International Cinema; now that was a cool class. I don’t remember though, all I recall is that those two tough courses, both with labs, were on the same day.

At that time I had four young kids ages two, four, five or six, and seven. Two were in school already, two not. I took the younger ones with me to school and they went to the low-cost on campus childcare center while I was in class. That was two days a week. One of those two was my Very Long Day. I’d leave our crowded apartment with all four kids sometime before 8am to take the older two to school then sit in traffic on 23 stressing about whether or not I’d be able to find parking, get the other two checked in at the daycare, and be in class on time. Anatomy and Physiology lecture was first. Lab followed that and then maybe the ambiguous math class. After that I had a two hour break where I’d pick up the younger two from daycare and take them to my parents’ house about fifteen minutes from campus. I’d meet my husband there with the older two kids so he could go to work for the night. There was just enough time to decompress with my kids for a few minutes, make sure a parent or sibling was watching the four of them, and head back to school for organic chemistry lecture and lab. Four hours of organic chemistry that would end between 9 & 10 pm after which I’d head back to my parents to collect the kids and drive the forty-five minutes back home. There was a song by Blake Shelton that was getting a lot of radio play around that time called Home. I swear every week around 11:00pm on whichever day that was it would come on the radio just as my overly tired two year old who was fighting off sleep in his car seat would wake up and start crying that he wanted to be home.  As we were exiting the freeway just minutes from our beds, Blake Shelton would be crooning “I wanna go hoome..” and my exhausted baby would crying that he just wanted his home. Me too buddy, me too.

I remember sometime that same semester finding a small notebook my then-husband had used as a journal. I didn’t realize what it was until I had read things that couldn’t be unread. There are some things that can never be unseen, never unknown once they’re known. He had written in his tiny, neat handwriting that some guys at work had teased him about me trying to go to dental school so I could leave him and he was pretty sure that’s what was going on. I was pursuing a career in dentistry so I could mercilessly leave his sorry ass behind.  I was going to get through school and dump him. He was sure of it. It was a one-two punch to the gut for me. What do you even do with that kind of information? How do you carry on knowing that this person you’ve been married to for six or seven years now thinks you’re just using him to get through school and the you’re going to discard him like a dirty used glove, that he thinks you’re not only capable of that but most definitely planning on it? I’m not sure, you just kind of do. That doesn’t make it better.

If a picture is worth a thousand words what is a song worth? Ten million?

I reminisced about all this and a little more at six o’clock this morning and then thought about my feeble attempts to convey who I am, where I’ve come from, and why the powers that be should let me into their elite dental school. So far the few thousand words I’ve pounded out seem flat and dull on the paper…well, the computer screen. Some stories need to be told, I’m not sure this is one of them. There’s a right way to do this, ideal words to write,  but at six a.m. when Adele is playing on the radio all I see is the sadness.

The One Where Everything Was Different

Christmas 2011 was the first one that my  ex husband and I celebrated separately. We still lived in the same house but not together; that fall we had begun dividing household and parenting responsibilities. Even though we didn’t talk much in general at that point, the holidays were relatively simple to sort out. We did what we had always done, just not together. He and the kids went to his parents’ house Christmas Eve (I worked). On Christmas morning we all gathered in the living room and the kids opened the presents we had each gotten them (They made out like little bandits that year!).  Then I took the kids to my parents’ for the rest of the day. I think he went to work that evening and life just went on. It was almost as if nothing had changed. Heck, it may have actually been less stressful than a couple of the previous Christmases.

2012 went about the same except that we didn’t live together anymore. He brought the kids to my house Christmas morning, went to church with us, stayed for presents and went about his day. That was the last time we spent Christmas morning together. A few months later I filed for divorce, shortly after that things got pretty ugly between us. Even so, the next couple holiday seasons followed our established pattern: Christmas Eve with him, Christmas day with me. That was our thing, our tradition. The holiday rhythm and routine revolved around it.

This year, though, everything was different.

It’s the second year under our “permanent” parenting time order that directs us to rotate holidays on an every other year basis. Last year just happened to follow what we had always been doing. This year not only would I not have the kids on Christmas day but I also ended up having to work a good portion of my “holiday break” time with them. Last year we kept our parenting time weekends the same over break which worked well and maximized the time each of us actually had with the kids. This year my ex was not open to that. He did not care to be flexible because it only benefited me…that’s exactly the reason he gave. It didn’t surprise me but I was definitely disappointed. And frustrated. And, to be honest, a little angry.

Not having my kids Christmas day seemed to throw everything off. Although it wasn’t the only cause, it aided in my family not being able to settle on one time for our Christmas celebration. We ended up with three different gatherings. Even though all my siblings were in the same state (which maybe happens once every two years) there was no time we were all together. It created a lack of the usual family cohesiveness. The stomach flu that worked it’s way from family group to family group didn’t exactly help that cause either. Every day from December 20th to the 27th (when most the out of town siblings were leaving) someone was vomiting. It hit us Saturday through Monday, the last few days of break days that the kids were with me.

My kids went to their dad’s early in the day Monday, I won’t see them again until next Monday. A solid week. As soon as they left I missed them. Heck, I missed them while they were still here. How is that even possible? While we were trying to fit everything in and find a new balance to our holiday traditions (my kids love traditions) the brevity of our time together hung over us like a dark cloud hovering on the horizon. I’m not sure if the kids felt it but I sure did. I do know they felt the impact of the differences in the holidays this year. They started commenting about it back in November, worrying that they would miss seeing the cousins on their dad’s side on Christmas Eve and commenting sadly that they would be missing the big family stuff at my house on Christmas day. We didn’t get to all our usual traditions. No sugar cookies got made. My six year old kept asking when we were going to make the “gingerbread men” cookies.  I didn’t have an answer. There was no big dinner with my kids’ million aunts, uncles, and cousins. Just one quick brunch on Christmas Eve that we had to be the first to leave to get to mass on time. Christmas morning came with a very limited time for enjoying new toys due to the 10am holiday transition. Everything felt rushed. Everything was different.
That’s the thing about divorce. It’s there all the time but around the holidays feels especially acute: Everything is different. Everything. Some things are better, but many things are harder. Sadder. They feel a tiny bit broken even when they’re good. Happiness slightly tinged. Maybe it’s different for couples (or former couples?) who have a more amicable divorce and subsequently a better more functional co-parenting relationship. Right now I can’t really say. I have no idea what that’s like. But every family is a little, probably a lot, different in every way after divorce. Every kid is massively effected by divorce and I’m sure nothing feels the same for them after that. Their entire world view is changed. My kids’ collective experience of childhood is completely different from anything I can relate to. That’s especially difficult for me, not being able to fully understand what the people most important to me in the entire universe are going through. It’s always there but the holidays this year brought it into such sharp focus. I’m not really sure how to fix that, what I can do to make it better. That’s also difficult for me. I’m a fixer. I solve problems. But this problem, there’s no solution. No ideal answer.

Everything was different, it always is, I did my best to keep the important things the same though. To create the feelings of stability and security that traditions give us. And that’s it. That’s all you can do, try your hardest. Give it your best effort. Make the important people a priority. Choose based on that.



The Trap

A couple weeks ago on a Thursday afternoon I got caught in a trap. It’s a common one. Usually I’m on alert for these types of things but for some reason that day I wasn’t. Maybe because it was sunny and I wasn’t ready for the week to end. Maybe I was tired; my youngest has been having a hard time going to sleep lately so I’ve had a hard time getting to sleep.
Who really knows. It just snuck up on me and I walked right into it in the form of ten dollar pizza. Usually a pizza is just a pizza. Sometimes it’s not; sometimes it’s guilt.
Yup, that’s right, guilt.
Divorced parenting guilt.
It’s like regular parenting guilt only a little more intense, a little stronger.
As if regular parenting guilt wasn’t enough. You know they always blame the mom right?
Anyhow, it was Thursday, switch day, and sunny. As usual my week with the kids passed too quickly. They go to their dad’s for the week just before dinner time, my kids. Shiny New Step-Mom would probably have dinner waiting for them. I bought pizza anyhow. It was only ten bucks but it was ten bucks I didn’t really have to throw away.
I threw it away anyhow.

This past Saturday I fell into that same trap. In my defense it was dressed differently and I have poor facial recognition skills. It may have looked different but it was the same trap.
A friend of my daughter’s called. They had an extra ticket to the friend’s dance recital. It was a busy day already and we were tightly booked between a run in the morning and plans in the afternoon. But this was a long time friend, she switched schools last year, and they hadn’t seen each other in a while. So I made it work.
It was frustrating. I don’t know why I did it. I ran around, a little bit late, a lot stressed, and made it work so my daughter could see her friend. As I was doing it I told myself how stupid it was, saying yes when I knew I should’ve said no. I thought of how we seemed to always be running late, how our friends would be waiting for us at the U-pick strawberry farm that was a much farther drive for them than it was for us. How rude! I hate being rude (unless I’m actually trying to be rude which is almost never). I thought about all the time I spend running kids to friends’ houses and how that cuts into my already limited time with them. There is NEVER enough. Then I remembered my daughter needed to go ride her pony because I had failed to get her out to ride the day before. Well that just wasn’t going to happen now.
Layer upon layer of frustration!
But they don’t get to see their friends when they’re with their dad, my kids.
So I always make it work. I say yes when I should say no.
Why? I just do.
Probably the guilt again.

Then there’s the classic bedtime trap. I’m pretty sure all parents are familiar with this one.
As I mentioned my youngest has been having bedtime troubles. He’s four and I’m pretty sure he hates our week on/week off parenting time schedule almost as much as I do but no one listens to four year olds.
Last night was typical. It was late, after 10:30, and he had been “in bed” for about an hour. We had read four stories, he had played on my phone, he asked for his usual snack (which he never wants at the beginning of bedtime when I offer it to him), calm music was playing, the room was dark with the requisite closet light on, the fan was blowing directly on him: conditions were perfect but sleep was not happening. It was knocking on the door but the little bastard just wouldn’t let it in. He was fighting it hard core and ,let me tell you, that boy can fight!
Around 11:00 he played the “lay down with me, mommy” card.
Like I said, a classic trap.
They’re so close to sleep when they look up at you with the heavy eyelids they’re struggling to keep open and ask in their sweet, sleepy little voice. You know it’ll only take a moment of cuddling next to them in bed to tip them over the edge. But you also know THIS IS A TRAP!
Not only will they be asleep in moments, so will you. You’d lay next to them “for just a minute” and wake up hours later groggy and disoriented.
I could not afford to fall in this trap last night. I still needed to go grocery shopping. Like really needed to go grocery shopping.
Yes, at eleven o’clock at night. That’s how it goes sometimes.

empty fridge
Just in case you thought I had my shit together.

Guilt, that wily beast who so cleverly disguises itself, is hiding in everyday activities and occurrences strategically located at the top of a slippery slope.
It’s not the guilt itself that’s the real problem; everyone steps in the guilt trap now and again. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.
The real problem comes when you stumble onto the hornets nest guilt has laid in your path on a regular basis. When you gradually and suddenly find yourself frustrated, angry, and unhappy because guilt is running your life. That’s the thing of it, you have to pay attention or guilt will sneak up on you like it did on me. Before you know it guilt will be dictating your decisions and controlling your day to day life.
And, guess what, your day to day life…that’s it.
That IS your life.

What’s the point of it, all these emotions? Guilt, anger, fear, whatever.
Some people say you have a choice, you choose what you feel. I don’t buy that. I don’t want to be angry. Fear holds me back. And guilt, guilt is just annoying. If I had a choice I wouldn’t encounter these emotions and life would be grand. It just doesn’t work that way though.
We feel what we feel. It’s a chemical thing.
That’s not to say we don’t have any choices or that we can or should let our emotions dictate our lives. Let’s not get crazy here, people. Wile we may not choose what feelings wash over us we do have a choice as to what we do with those emotions. Guilt is no exception.

The other day the ice cream truck was driving through the neighborhood for the first time this summer. I gave my son two dollars and told him to get something for himself and his younger brother. A few minutes later, with popsicles in hand, the two boys brought me back a dollar. I commented that they could’ve gotten their two older brothers popsicles as well. My son felt pretty bad about it. I didn’t think it was a big deal.
A few hours later at bedtime my son brought it up again; he felt so bad for not getting the other two boys popsicles. In an attempt to reassure him that the popsicle thing really wasn’t a big deal I gave my so some advice that maybe I needed to hear too.
“When you make a mistake in life learn from it then let it go and move on.”

So now that I’ve encountered a couple of guilt traps in the past couple weeks I’m on high alert. Hopefully I’ll take my own advice: learn something and move on.
Maybe that should be my new motto.

Hulk Smash!

About this time last year my life was thrown into upheaval. Okay maybe at that point life was already in a tailspin of upheaval, a three year (maybe longer) downward spiral of sheer chaos and overt uncertainty complete with black smoke and projectile debris spewing forth.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
But in early June last year the regular chaos and upheaval of my transitory life took a turn and increased in intensity.
I had filed for divorce at the beginning of March after a few months of getting paperwork figured out and completed. At that point I was doing everything “in Pro Per” or on my own, without a lawyer. I thought that would keep things simple, I thought it would be the cheaper and better way to go.
I thought wrong.
That was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my adult life.
DIY divorce, NOT a good idea! Sure it might have saved me the money but the price I paid was not worth a few (thousand) dollars. And let me tell you, a few thousand dollars ,while not that significant to everyone, is quite a lot to me.
So it took me months to get my paperwork together and filed, then when I finally did nothing happened. Nothing. I called the county clerk’s office a couple times and got no answers. They tell you they can’t give legal advice and technically they can’t but any advice they do give you is probably be wrong. And then it will come back and bite you in the ass later. The lesson I learned from this is any time someone tells you to do something get their name, write it down, file it somewhere safe. You’ll need it later.
For example, when you’re asked “Why did you put these numbers on the child support formula?” you can respond with “Because so-and-so at the County Clerks office told me I had to put numbers in before I filed a motion for child support.” FYI-you don’t have to fill in the numbers. There’s a whole complex formula used for that. But when you don’t have the name of the clerk who wouldn’t let you file the paperwork without filling in the numbers there’s not much you can do to correct this error.
Anyhow, this was not the rant I was aiming for tonight.

A year ago things finally began to happen in my divorce case and my life went from regular chaos into super stressful battle mode chaos. And then it stayed there…for about eight months at which point the divorce proceedings abruptly ended. The end was not what I wanted, I did not get what I was fighting for. I know I’ve mentioned that before.
I was left with a structure to my life that I hadn’t anticipated and wasn’t prepared for.
It sucked. It still sucks.(I really need to find a better adjective but sucks and sucking really are apt.)
But at some point sucking just becomes the status quo of day to day life and maybe you stop being so acutely aware of how much it sucks and life just goes on in its normal, suckish way.
And then what?
The past three years of my life have passed in a state of basic survival mode with a just do what you have to to get through this and survive attitude. Even though things didn’t go as I had planned and hoped and I have to adjust and deal with the loss of the life I thought I would have, I did survive.
So now what?
I know I have to adjust my expectations.
I’m taking steps to move forward. I’m accomplishing some goals that have sat idle for a long time. I’m even starting to have some fun again and really enjoy life. I’m getting back to the easy going, weird but usually funny person I was. I liked that person, I’m happy to see glimpses of her again.
But, still, underneath all that I am angry. Very, very angry. Like Hulk-Smash angry.

Yeah like that.
I hide it well, at least I really try to, but scratch the surface and there it is. A slow simmering anger that might even border on rage sometimes because of it’s constancy and futility. I’m not really sure what to do with it or how to get away from it. I want to be done with it, to “learn to accept the things I cannot change” or whatever.
I don’t want to be that person at Easter dinner who just can’t stop the bitter quips. That’s not cool.
But how do you stop it?
I run a lot or at least as much as my schedule and sleep deprivation will allow. I’ve been thinking about getting a punching bag. That kind of thing helps me cope with the anger but how does one make it go away?
I’m a fixer; I like to solve problems even challenging ones, heck, especially challenging ones. I don’t like problems with no solutions, I don’t like the kind that you just have to wait out. But that seems to be what this is, another one of life’s waiting games.
Maybe I should channel the Hulk (or Bruce Banner); he should replace Batman as my super hero favorite for a while.
At least Bruce Banner seems to have figured out the secret to dealing with the anger and using it constructively (in a really destructive way).

The Key to Happiness is Low Expectations.

said Barry Scwartz (His actual wording is “The secret to happiness is low expectations.”).
I kind of thought I said it first, that it was an original idea of my very own. Turns out Solomon (ya know, the biblical guy) was right when he said “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Or something to that effect.
So this guy Barry Schwartz has a whole book about low expectations leading to higher levels of happiness. I haven’t read it but I did watch his TED talk about the book which is called “The Paradox of Choice”. It frames the concept of low expectations contributing to happiness in the context of choices; I came to this conclusion based more on my interactions with people.

Another way I’ve phrased it, to myself, is “The key to not being disappointed is low expectations.”
This idea is one I developed over the past couple years of life experiences. After being let down, stood up, blown off, and generally disappointed with people it occurred to me over and over that if I expect less from people I won’t be disappointed and angry when they aren’t there for me or don’t follow through with what they say they’re going to do. They would merely live up to my expectations of them.
Maybe this sounds cynical or pessimistic. I won’t deny being a little cynical at times but I think , in this case, I’m just being realistic.

Think about a movie that has gotten a lot of media hype. The reviews are great, the ratings are high. You go to see it with high expectations. Chances are you are going to be disappointed. Your preconceived ideas of what the movie should be lead to a less than satisfactory experience when you actually get around to see the movie.
Now think of the last movie you saw that you just didn’t expect that much from.
You weren’t disappointed were you? Chances are it was either exactly as bad as you expected it to be or you were pleasantly surprised. You thought it was going to be terrible and ,hey, it really wasn’t that bad…maybe it was even good. The blogger Ladygoogoogaga gives a pretty hilarious example of this.

An experience I had Last Mother’s Day shows the relationship between expectations and happiness and how it played out in my life.
I work every other weekend and my kids are with their dad on the weekends I work. Last year I worked Mother’s Day weekend but my ex-husband oh so generously let me take the kids for the day on Mother’s Day. I went straight from working a twelve hour night shift to his house to pick up the kids.
I just wanted to see my kids and have a nice Mother’s Day with them. You know, like in all the Hallmark commercials, full of smiles, sunshine, and happiness.
I knew they were alone so I called to tell them I was on my way. When I arrived they were not ready to leave. A couple of them were in a less than good mood, maybe they had been fighting with each other like siblings do. I was a little annoyed. My daughter and second to youngest son said “Happy Mother’s Day” and my daughter had made me a card. That was nice.
My oldest two gave me attitude.
That was not.
When we got back to my house the kids made me lunch…because I told them to. Then we all sat down to a rather grouchy meal.
At that point I remember thinking “I thought this would be a nice day, I should’ve just slept.” I was expecting to be appreciated and to enjoy time with my kids. That is the point of the day right? Most my kids are old enough to know and do something about this.
A little later that day my eight year old son told me that their dad had told them they “would probably have a new step-mom by this time next year” in reference to the woman he’d been dating for a month. Happy fucking Mother’s Day to me!
Here’s the thing, I was super tired. My kids were tired and probably having a bad weekend. Expecting a pleasant and lovely day was unrealistic and not especially fair to them. If I was more in touch with reality that day I would not have been so disappointed.

Here’s another example. There was this guy I would go out with from time to time. He always said nice things and really seemed to enjoy our time together. We’d make plans to go out and he’d say he was looking forward to it. Then five out of six times he would cancel on me. Sometimes the day before. Once or twice I would be on my way to meet him and he’d call or text with something that had come up. Each time I would be frustrated and upset. But every few weeks I’d make plans with him again. Most of the time I ended up alone, upset, and extremely disappointed.
This went on for a few months.
I let this go on for a few months.
I don’t think he was lying to me or making up excuses because he didn’t want to see me. I just think he had a lot of family drama to deal with and didn’t realize how much he was letting me down.
Obviously he was not a reliable person but I kept expecting him to be.
We all know at least one person like that.
We also all know or have had interactions with someone who is just a jerk.
I know everyone is a jerk or behaves badly once in a while; that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about individuals who make a habit of it. They repeatedly treat people close to them badly. They’re inherently selfish and can be pretty mean. Hopefully you’re not close to someone like that. It’s not a fun place to be. But if someone has been a jerk to you or treated you badly over and over again chances are high that they will treat you badly in the future. Expecting them to suddenly be or act differently is unrealistic and is only setting yourself up to be treated badly.
It’s like expecting Eminem to release a kid friendly album. It’s just not going to happen; that’s not who he is. He even says it in one of the songs on his latest album, “Everyone knows you are just an asshole” (referring to himself).
He’s not going to change. He’s going to be what he is and what he’s shown himself to be.


To expect anything different would be silly.

I’m not by any means saying you should settle for or allow yourself to be treated badly.
I’m not saying you need to lower your standards in life.
Not at all.
Have standards. Have high standards. You deserve to be respected, to be treated with dignity.
Every human being does.
But you should have realistic expectations for people. There are no perfect people especially in relationships. If you’re waiting for prince charming or that perfect woman, guess what.
You will always be disappointed.


Life isn't a fairy tale, you're not Snow White.

Having unobtainable ideals will guarantee that no one will live up to them. You are setting yourself up to be unhappy either with the person you do find or because you just can’t find anyone good enough.
People are who they are; you can’t change them but you can change your expectations for them and be less disappointed. If you have to lower your expectations too much then maybe that isn’t a person you should have in your life.

A conversation between my co-blogger(and friend and co-worker) and myself last night summed up the point I’m trying to make. The question was asked “What one person, dead or alive, would you have coffee with if you had the chance?”
I said Batman.

She said her great-grandfather.
She knew him and admired him when she was very young and he was very old.
She said she’d like the chance to get to actually know who he was as a person. My response was “But what if you find out that he was a douche bag?” Yeah, I know, real mature language.
But what if you found out that someone you admired as a young child was not nice or not the person you had thought they were? Not only would you feel let down and disappointed, but the cherished memories you had of that person would also be ruined. It would be a major disillusionment.
She said that No, she wouldn’t be disillusioned or admire him any less because she “wouldn’t expect him to be anything less than human.”
How she remembered him would still make him the person he was to her.
Basically our conversation boiled down to this:
It is unfair to other people and especially to ourselves to expect people to be anything other than who they are.
Lower your expectations and you will not be disappointed.
Maybe it’ll even allow you to be happy.

Thursdays and What’s in a Name Anyhow?

Every other Thursday around 7pm the house feels huge…and quiet…and empty.
My kids have just left for the week (though not the whole week, I’ll see them Monday and Wednesday evening).
Sometimes I’m grateful for the quiet and the alone time but sometimes the week goes by too quickly and Thursday sneaks up on me. These Thursdays leave me feeling a little sad, a little lonely. They make me wish I had more friends or at least more single, available friends. They make me wonder if I should start trying my hand at dating soon (Eee gads, I’m not even sure how I would go about doing that!).
This time it was one of those Thursdays. My kids and I were sitting around the dinner table last night and it occurred to me that I had no idea what would be for dinner the next evening. I tend to plan the week’s dinners out on Sunday or Monday and I knew I had planned enough for this week but couldn’t for the life of me remember what I planned to make the next day. Later I realized it was Wednesday; I don’t make dinner every other Thursday, The kids leave at six.
Dammit, Thursday, why you gotta creep up on me like that? I wasn’t ready for you.

So I’m sitting here eating cheese and drinking beer, listening to Billy Joel alone in the semi dark reflecting on the week that just passed (and reminding myself that I need to run tomorrow if I’m going to keep at the beer and cheese like this).
It was a busy week but normal busy. We watched What About Bob Friday night, the first of what I’m calling Friday Nights with Bill Murray. The kids loved it; it was fun. A couple of my kids and I did a run Sunday morning, also fun.
There was one thing about this week that stands out to me though, something my kids told me about.
I don’t remember how the conversations started but it was Sunday evening and we were returning the movie on the way home from the 4-H meeting. My daughter said something about the youngest referring to me by my first name instead of mom. I responded with some vague question about the context of this. She told me their dad was calling me Grace instead of mom.
“Well was he talking to another adult about me or something?” I asked.
She said no, that it had just been he and the kids in the car at the time. She then went on to inform me that he had been doing this lately, calling me by my first name when talking to them, our children, about me.
What the fuck?!? (in my head only of course)
Oh…that’s weird. (out loud)
She agreed and mentioned that maybe it had something to do with him wanting them to call their New Step Mom mom.
Um, yeah, probably. (Again, in my head)

I told my daughter that if she wasn’t comfortable calling New Step Mom mom she should say something to her dad. I also suggested she could talk to her counselor about how to handle this (at which she dramatically rolled her eyes).
Obviously he’s trying to change the way our children think of me. To me this is so wrong; I’m their mom and he’s their dad. No matter how we feel about each other or who else we each have in our own lives we are still both very important to our children.  Irreplaceable even. But this all doesn’t surprise me considering he has indicated to me that he thinks I’m obsolete when the kids are with him. They have New Step Mom why would they need me (Old Real Mom)?
But, seriously,
is it just me or is this a bit of a douche bag move?
Obviously I’m not happy about it but what’s in a name anyhow?