Divorce

Why Date?

Cherry tomato

The last of the cherry tomatoes growing on my balcony.

It’s been a while since my ex-husband ruined my life. So long ago, in fact, that sometimes I think about how his life has been ruined and feel sorry for him, and not in the pitying vindictive way people imply when they mention karma.

The years of shredding my self-confidence have faded, leaving behind the dullness of disappointment. In him. In myself. Making me, not quite regret, but wonder about what might have been if we had caught ourselves before bitterness seeped into the solitary spaces of a marriage between opposites.

The impact, though, is on far more than the lost possibilities in our joint past; it is in my resistance to wanting to have a relationship today.  

I tell friends that there are no men to meet, that no men attract me, and I joke about the men online (who start each sentence of their profile with “I,” and have manly pictures on motorcycles, and refer to women as girls, and write about wanting to impale a woman’s mind into his mind to discover something worthwhile). And about the men who make it past that hurdle to a date [there were the guys with whom I barely made it through the complementary one hour of conversation; the antisemite who thought he was going to score; the guy who brought his own teabag to Starbucks (not because he was a tea snob, but so he could just pay for his cup of hot water); the guy who didn’t believe in evolution (he made it to date five and sex before this revelation); and the married guy whose wife had a brain tumor who left (after paying the bill) when I was in the bathroom, sick from attempting to drink two lemon drop martinis]. I even comment, in a completely judgmental way, to my mother that when I look at my friends’ husbands, there is not a one who, in other circumstances, would entice me. Nice men, but not the man for me. She, being a supportive mother, states the same about her friends’ husbands.

Notwithstanding my objective lack of success, I wonder if there is a subjective element that bars me from meeting the/a man. Perhaps the question isn’t Why haven’t I met someone, but—with a slight shrug—Why would I want to meet someone.

The last time I was in a relationship was more than four years ago, with Kenny, who lived with me and my younger daughter for a year and a half. He said he loved me with all his heart and would do anything for me. Anything, it turned out, but make me happy. In that relationship I was increasingly stifled by his need to be acknowledged and loved in the ways that suited him. Which, not surprisingly, inevitably meant his disappointment in something I did or did not do in accordance with his desires, which, of course, made his love for me “better” than my love for him. I will freely admit that I ignored his request to wear dresses when we went out. Even if I liked wearing dresses, which I don’t (and he could have seen that in our closet), that was a huge invite for me to definitely not wear a dress even if I felt like it. Why is it so difficult for men to understand one of the thickest redlines they should not cross with a woman (it can’t just be me) is to tell her what to wear. I got the petulant silent treatment for wearing pants.

My reaction to his suggestion/demand shouldn’t have been a surprise because during our long conversations, when he was living in Beirut and then Belfast, I would tell him how harmed I had been by my husband’s controlling ways. He had been so understanding and supportive. He knew that I was dealing with the residual pain of insults and put downs, of my desires deemed wrong or inappropriate, and my need to not be curated.

So his man-structing was unexpected and devastating.

When we argued, I couldn’t leave the room because of his fear of abandonment. But what of my need to be alone and think so as not to immediately lash out? Being told that I needed to argue in a way that supported him was another redline too many. The relationship became as if on a continuum with how my husband had tried to control my actions and thoughts and emotions, or maybe it was worse because I had opened up to Kenny about retreating into self and how I was trying to not shut down.  

The best part of that relationship were the trips we took together. We would talk in the car, opening up our internal monologues as we drove along the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or along highways and backroads from Virginia to Key West and back again. We wanted to stop at the same time and try the same places, and we even needed pee breaks at the same time. We were in unison, at least on the road. But at home, his need to be taken care of, which had to be done exactly as he wished to prove my love and to prove that he was lovable, underpinned his declarations of love. I was increasingly reminded of how unhappy I had become in my marriage as I tried now to make him happy. I didn’t have the energy or the desire to take on someone else’s emotions.

If you’re not one of my daughters, then I don’t want to take care of you. (Except, maybe my mother, and I’m dreading that scenario.) And he did want to be taken care of. As did my ex-husband.

And I did it.

But I don’t want to anymore.

On weekends, I don’t want to think about what someone else wants for breakfast and I don’t want to try to anticipate his desires. And to be fair, I don’t want someone trying to cater to me.

My standing weekend desire for a soft scrambled egg with feta and fresh herbs from my balcony garden, right after I wake up and take Poops for his morning walk, and as soon as the coffee in the French press is ready, the bread toasted to a warm brown, every section of the newspaper available, and no talking required, is, frankly, why I don’t want to date.

Beyond the fear of being hurt and undermined again, lies the very basic question: What do I want out of my life?

Surely my inability to formulate a substantial why I should want to be in a relationship is a reflection of past failures, but I can’t help but dread that it would be more of a diversion from how I want to live and what I want to do, than a benefit. Do I want to be in a relationship just to have someone with whom I can travel or rehash the stresses of the workday? My inability to even perceive a relationship as a source of respectful, supportive love shows my state of being.

My two friends who date the most, and are in and out of relationships like my high school students, are also the ones with the most out-going personalities. Both of their lives center around doing, and not around contemplation (there are no books in their homes) or fulfilling an inner drive to create or express themselves. Perhaps relationships are their manner of expression.

I would rather sit by myself in an internal monologue than have a conversation, day in and day out, just to fill the time and play a role.

Am I missing the chance at a great love that will imbue my world with joy?

I had that grand romantic love when I was first with my ex-husband. I needed it then. He helped pull me out of myself and into the world. I was aglow; I bubbled. Now when I think about those years it occurs to me how intensely focused we were on each other. I can’t imagine wanting to narrow down my life again. If by some outrageous dating app algorithm that intensity of love at 22 were to revisit me, that insular quality of being part of a couple is not something I want to relive. An identity as part of a couple is not something for which I yearn.

I was married for 21 years; approximately 15 of those made the marriage worthwhile. So moments of envying people in marriages and relationships are quickly overridden when I realize that I prefer to be alone or with different friends, without limiting myself, then always having a partner, even if he is not physically present at that moment.

A life of placid contentedness is not a surrender, it is lake upon which I float or into which I plunge, knowing that no one will interrupt my daydreaming in the tub.  


VIRGINIA TO FLORIDA AND BACK

Nature Reserve Florida 2015

 

In what turned out to be a break between snow and ice storms in Northern Virginia, I visited my mother in Southern Florida. As a gesture to hope, I packed my sandals and capris—and I got to wear them the entire time! No Uggs that weekend.

 

We did the women-in-the-family trifecta: eating lots in and more out, light sightseeing, and intense clothing and shoe shopping. My mother started the tradition with me, and I proudly continue it with my daughters. Who am I to reject a tradition that involves pastrami, pad thai, bagels, the beach, and new sandals?

 

While there, essentially to check on my 81-year-old mother, she sent an email to older daughter with “Mom” in the subject line. Older daughter, as another tradition would have it, immediately worried that something had happened to me. But no, my mother was emailing her to say nice things about me. Her momentary anxiety, while not fun for her, made me feel appreciated. I know, I should feel that already, and I do, but sometimes tangibles make the intangible tangible. For my mother, (I hope) it was that visit; for me, it was older daughter’s concern and younger daughter’s texts as I journeyed back to the tundra-on-the-Potomac; for them, it should be the souvenir tee shirts that I purchased and planned to buy even before booking my flight.

 

A tangible that became even more tangible was how alone I am when I’m not reinforcing tradition at DSW. Having to roll my suitcase with me each time I went to the bathroom and as I walked up and down the concourse to exercise away my too early airport arrival, while other women simply nodded to their husbands and tapped their suitcase was, to my travel-tense mind, an indictment against me. The regrets from the dissolution of my marriage and the what-ifs that swirl around have a party whenever I’m at the airport; they overwhelm my otherwise sane acknowledgement that the past cannot be re-lived and to live with the result without a never-ending trial. There’s something about being confronted with couples and families going about their family business when I am traveling alone, even if it is to family, that slurs my convictions.

 

At this point, after years of mulling and rolling, I don’t know what I could have done differently; though the flipside of my could is his equally logical could, but going there is too painful, and full of real and imagined guilt.

 

My mother loves to psychoanalyze my ex, but I can’t. I think she does this to support me, but I have no need or desire to rehash his wrongs and find the source of his flaws. We did that for years when I would call her from my car seeking her solace and support, crying after he cursed me and insulted me to the girls once again. Maybe she misses when I needed her? But as much as a marriage and a divorce can transform from something living to something inanimate (a block in the shape of time and experience), this has reached that stage. I only wish him well. Besides, with distance I find it easier to find fault with myself, because isn’t it that fun, and I know that that’s a trap.

 

So the past can, in the same instant, be both the past and the present. What’s key is to keep it contained there, and not allow it to seep into the future, and that requires that I still the theorizing and the fault-finding. I was the me of then, and now I am a different me.

 

Sometimes you see yourself and you wonder how it is that you haven’t changed in all these years, and then at other times you wonder when you had that growth spurt.  

 


Daughters and a Single Mother’s Vulnerabilities

Elizabethan Garden April 2014

In the normal way of things (meaning if I were still married), my daughters wouldn’t know me nearly as well as they know me in my single state.

In a text exchange the other day with my younger daughter, I told her that I changed the notification sound for her texts to a bird chirping.

“You gotta know when I’m texting you so you can avoid it ASAP,” she texted.

To which I replied, jokingly, “You know me so well.”

“I like to think so,” she responded.

Her comment made me think about how much she and her sister do know me and how much that’s because I am a single mother, not because I am their mother/friend. If I had still been married to their father, he would have been my sounding board (of course, his inability to be my sounding board is one reason we’re no longer married), which would have enabled me to expose far fewer vulnerabilities. My daughters would not have seen me falter and then push against their father. If I had remained deflated by his controlling ways and words, they probably would have kept their distance from me because why should they seek support from someone who can’t stand up for herself?

They would not have seen me fall in and then out of love with another man. I would have remained an example of someone settled into the sway of long-married life. They would not have seen me wonder if my new relationship had veered into settling territory, or if it was loving but not in a way that was nurturing for me. I lost my ability to be an icon to look up to and, perhaps, emulate; instead, I have become an example (a warning?) of how love and the desire for it can play havoc with us at any age and stage.

Even the financial realities of being a teacher (purpose over paycheck) would have been shielded from them by the power of two salaries and a closed door for parents-only to deal with money matters. My determination to prevent their monetary ignorance, as I had been, might not have been there if I had been cushioned by their father’s, at one time, substantial salary. Then, again, I wouldn’t have had the same struggles, but at least they see what it means to make it on their own—in or out of a relationship. My older daughter is in a relationship with a financially secure man, but she understands the need to be independent even within dependence.

Surely the time that might have been spent propping up and soothing their father’s ego (or another man’s) went to them. And the time that might have been spent cuddling, goes to them. But it’s not only time that I gave and give to them, it’s about having been unable to hide the realities of my life and my personality from within the huddle of a relationship, and so I gave them bare me. It’s also about decisions and opinions that didn’t need to be tempered by being the fruit of consensus, so, again, they got bare me. Amid whatever anxieties I have about being alone night after night, it bolsters me knowing that in this scenario I have not remained hidden from them.

And they know that this is their mother. The good, the bad, the grumpy, and the devoted.

And I have secured an honesty from them that would not have been forthcoming in a world guided by “Don’t tell, Dad.”

Life, it seems, is a continual coming to terms with the past so that the present is a breathing space that remains unclogged by regrets and guilt and tears.

Their respecting me for who I am, who we each has become, is the gift that makes breathing easy. 


Thinking about Tongues

Hot pink spring begins

Look! No snow.

 

Last night, on the first second date I’ve had in a long time, I experienced time travel. How my 13-year-old self entered my body the moment his tongue sought its way into my mouth is a wonder. But there I was, mother of two, uncertain how to react. It was odd to have someone searching his way into my mouth, making me understand that French kissing is a skill that one does forget. As I broke off kiss one and just as we were going into kiss two, it occurred to me that I don’t have to do this if I don’t want to. And so I stopped kiss two before it really began (right as that tongue came back in and I realized that I need to send mine out on a return foraging trip), said an awkward good night with an awkward hug, and got into my car.

All of which made me realize that the fumbler I had been in my younger years was not because I needed experience to kiss and make love like a mature woman, rather I needed passion beyond the lust, and that still holds true. It was a relief to realize that before I had the chance to ridicule myself for ineptitude, rather than listening to my tongue’s blunt signal.

When people ask the hypothetical: If you could, would you live your life all over again? I generally respond with a resounding Yes. Who wouldn’t want a chance for a great big REDO? (Except for my daughters, of course!) But now I wonder. That kiss made me comprehend, in a way that I hadn’t before, that I have neither the desire nor the energy to relive those endlessly demoralizing battles of self vs. norms vs. expectations vs. boys ever again.

I can remember a sixth-grade kiss in the playground in front of the apartment building where I grew up that pummeled me with doubt. Why did he kiss me? What else would he expect from me? What should I do? Was this okay? Did I want this? And, embarrassingly, what was his name? This set into motion a steady stream of uncertainties that ran in the back of my head far too often in the years to come. (Sadly, that was not the last time I entertained the name question.) The fact that those questions didn’t run in the back of my head when I met my ex-husband has made me even warier. What’s a woman to do who eventually thought that her intuition was trustworthy only to be confronted with its extreme fallibility?

With gratitude, in the minutes after I drove away from my potential paramour, I channeled back my 53-year-old self, the woman who has lived through her life and recognizes that the voice in her head is not the voice of frustrated hopes nor is it the whispered desires of men, but her own voice: a voice that knows that the only question to entertain is Do I want this—with this man? Because in those brief moments, I knew that I wanted it, as in romance and passion, but I wanted to feel my way into it, not think about it.

When I told a recently-divorced friend who is not dating that there would be no date three, she responded, “But you are trying and that is good.” I’m not sure if I agree with that; if anything, I have come to see that the more I date, the more skeptical I become. It’s so much harder to open up to someone once you don’t need anything and it is only a question of desires. Because once it’s about a desire, it’s also about being satisfied without.

And so I will go to bed alone, unable to even imagine what it would look or feel like to have someone beside me, but at least I’m not trampled by the implications of that knowledge, because there aren’t any.

Or maybe the implication is that I live in a state of contentment and possibility; kind of like opening the door on Passover for Elijah the Prophet to come in and have a sip of wine at your Seder. If he doesn’t come, you knew it wasn’t real any way; but just in case, there’s always next year.


My Ex-Husband Is Homeless

“Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” my ex-husband yelled, his face red, veins popping from his neck, spittle sticking to his lips. He stood inches from me in the hallway outside the master suite—his room—with our two daughters down the hall in their rooms.

“I didn’t touch you!” I yelled, stepping back, opening my hands in front of me.

“Don’t touch me!” he shouted again, stepping closer.

For years I had feared that his words would morph into fists, but this accusation of violence scared me. I had done nothing. Was this a set-up so he could hit me in self-defense? “You’re crazy! What are you talking about?! GET AWAY FROM ME!” I cried, stepping back into my room, locking the door, turning up the radio so I couldn’t hear him screaming that he’d call the police. Was he preparing for some imaginary courtroom drama where our daughters could claim I hit their father?

This twisting of reality had become my reality in the four years that it took to get divorced and sell the family home. His mind could contort the turning up or down of a thermostat into an offense—as it could with the volume of a radio or even an open door. Now, he had created a threat so he could continue to embitter my life because I wouldn’t just walk out, abandoning our daughters, and leaving the house to him.

“Turn it down! I can’t read!” my older daughter yelled, banging on our shared wall. My daughter, who used to respect me but now despised me for my weaknesses. Her shriek coincided with my heartbreak—“Crazy woman!”

 

I couldn’t have predicted this 30 years ago when he sat next to me on a bus in Israel—happenstance generating the spark that would join a 21-year-old American tourist and a 19-year-old Israeli soldier. He wooed me in letters after I left Israel three days later, and when I moved from New York to Israel nine months after that. His intelligence, vitality, and infatuation with me made me bless that serendipitous moment.

For two years on Friday afternoons when he had Shabbat leave (he was an officer completing his service), we would go to the beach in Tel Aviv, rolling with the waves, embracing with our limbs and through our dreams, letting the hot sun and cool waters of the Mediterranean forge our relationship. Afterward, we would eat hamburgers in pitas with hummus and pickled baby eggplants—adding to the sense that life in this place and with this man would be an adventure. And it was.

Initially, he was my guide to all things cultural and bureaucratic as I learned to live in Israel. His push to incorporate me, his reserved girlfriend, into his thriving life of friends and interests, helped me find my place. The lure of opposites lasted twelve years: we married, he became a successful lawyer, I was a writer in the high-tech industry, and we had two daughters.

But the excitement of having a yin/yang partner who was competitive to my passivity and confident to my self-doubt turned on me when I grew into myself.

Initially, I thought his driving or walking past Do Not Enter signs showed his sense of curiosity and adventure—a bit of that wild side that I found so exciting. But years later, when we were entering an outdoor festival with our daughters and I was reaching for my wallet, he suggested we walk around the entrance where he spied an opening. I looked at him in disgust and walked up to the ticket table and bought four tickets.

When we bought our first car in Israel, he handled all the negotiations. I didn’t think that my Hebrew or my understanding of the way things worked were up to the task. Fifteen years later, when we moved to Virginia, I spoke up in the car salesman’s cubicle, only to have my husband tell me, in Hebrew, to shut up, that he would handle it, otherwise we wouldn’t get a good deal. Maybe it’s true, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten the faux leather seats and the sunroof, but what of the cost to my ego being put-down so publicly. The salesman didn’t need to understand Hebrew to know what was said. The same thing happened when we bought our house—he told me to be quiet or I would ruin the deal.

I started to view his confidence as arrogance after we moved to Northern Virginia in 2000 for my job relocation. Perhaps my confidence finally thrived—no longer held back by a language that was never my own and a sense that I would always feel like a visitor, even after 17 years in Israel.

He found a job in business development at a DC law firm. But our jobs didn’t survive the economic bust: I lost mine in less than a year, and he lost his two years later. Right before he lost his job, I told him that I wanted a divorce. He asked me to wait until he got a job. I agreed, but I had assumed he would move out or at least move into the basement, but he refused. As the abusive behavior intensified, I thought of moving out, but I was afraid I would lose my daughters. I couldn’t afford to live in their school district or near their friends and I feared that they would choose to stay with him, so I never asked. How could being away from him be good if it meant being away from them? So I stayed and endured for four years.

Becoming a financial consultant didn’t work out for him: he was laid off in 2008. Then, according to our daughters (because we had stopped talking since you can’t have a conversation if neither of you will listen to the other), he worked independently.

When we moved, our older daughter went to college out of state and our younger daughter did the custody dance, until she didn’t.

“Why are you here?” I asked one Friday when she was supposed to be with him. I had been looking forward to a quiet weekend without her nastiness. It seemed that she was doing with me what I had done with my mother. One day my mother commented that I was taking out my stresses on her because she would always be supportive.

“He can’t pick me up. He doesn’t have a car,” she replied, arms crossed.

“I can drive you.”

“No,” she said, staring at the carpet.  

“Why not?”  

“Don’t you understand? He has no money!” she yelled, running to her bedroom and slamming the door.

No, I didn’t understand.

That was in June 2011.

Later that day she told me that he was hoping the big deal he was working on would come through.

At the end of August the conversation continued in the car. The deal hadn’t worked out and she needed to go to his house for a few hours on Saturday (she had not been there the entire summer). “He’s being evicted on Monday. I need to,” she paused, looking out the window, “get some things.”

“Why not stay there for the weekend?” I thought she’d want to spend as much time as possible with him before he—. Evicted. It didn’t make sense.

“I don’t want to be there when,” she paused. More staring.

I was stunned, how could this have happened to the man I once idolized; who had been such a good provider? We continued home in silence, crying. I was not a mother able to console her child. It occurred to me that perhaps I was stronger, more resilient than he was and that he had needed more support than he ever let on or that I could give him.

My older daughter told me that her sister said he was going to California because, as he said, “It would be easier to be homeless in California.”

Days after getting her things, my younger daughter told me she felt guilty that she was not with him on a bench somewhere. “He’s my father, I should be with him.”

With that the pain of jealousy pushed out sympathy—it had come to pass—she picked him over me. Her compassion for her father was wonderful, but I felt betrayed. Now I had tears of self-pity. “Sweetie, you can’t feel bad that you’re not there. He’s got to take care of himself, and you—that wouldn’t be good for you.”

“I know.”

“If you ever want to talk about it--.” 

She looked at me, and then out the window. “I know,” she said quietly.

No one has heard from him since then.

I am not my ex-husband’s keeper, but I cannot help but feel guilty. After all, we moved from Israel because of my job. He had supported my writing and my creative projects: he helped look for publishers for my children’s books and outlets for the games and toys I developed. I initiated the divorce.

I used to think that there was a balance between us: I supported him when he went to law school and he supported us when I stayed home intermittently with the girls. I lived in his country and then he lived in mine. Now I realize that most of those decisions were mine. He was overbearing in our day-to-day lives, telling me what shoes to buy for the girls and myself, and where to go on vacation, but those things don’t outweigh having imposed such big changes on him.

His outward bearing of absolute autonomy never revealed doubts, and so I assumed he could handle the changes that came his way.

Thinking of him alone on a bench somewhere, while I have a good job and the respect of our daughters, makes me realize that perhaps I brought more pain to him than he brought to me. So as much as I hate him for how he abused me and for walking out on our daughters, more than anything, I feel sadness for what he has lost.

 


Thanksgiving 2011

It’s Thanksgiving, but we’re having pizza and beer for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving. Do I need to be surrounded by family to prove that I have what to be thankful for? And do I have to serve the requisite main course and sides and desserts (okay, the apple pie is ready for consumption tonight) and conversation-round-the-table about what we’re thankful for to make this a thankful day for me?

My boyfriend/partner is getting the pizzas. It will take him at least an hour at the frozen pizza section in the supermarket to pick out just the right pizzas. Luckily they close early today. On pizza and beer Fridays we always have two frozen pizzas: one veggie and one mucho cheese-o. But he will take his time thinking about which pizzas I would prefer tonight. The decision will be made by him making experienced-based assumptions about my taste buds today, not definites about himself.

It is the two of us, and Poops, everyone else is in absentia.

My older daughter is at college on the other coast. But the ticket cost is not the reason why she won’t be here. No, she’s there celebrating with her boyfriend and friends. And I am thankful and grateful that she has found a place where she is happy and people with whom she finds herself blossoming. I’ll never forget the mother stomach-lump that developed in an instant when her first grade teacher told me that she never smiles in class. And she has always been a solemn child. The curse of the bookworm, perhaps? Her happiness, from whatever distance, is to rejoice in.

And my younger daughter. Well, it’s her fault that we’re having Turkey Day tomorrow and not today. A friend invited her to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Maybe they feel sorry for her that we’re divorced and her father is not around and that it’s just Kenny and me here on this family celebration day, or maybe they are thankful that their daughter has such a wonderful friend. I decided that Thanksgiving should be more about her happiness and gratitude to two women and the homes they make and make her feel comfortable in rather than sticking to the calendar (besides, we don’t watch football and we don’t Black Friday shop), so she’s with her friend’s family today and us tomorrow.

And my mother down in retirementland is going to the movies and then for a non-turkey dinner with a couple that doesn’t make her feel like the lonely widow. The holidays really are the hardest for her; there doesn’t seem to be a before and after, just a before, with my father—and the way it should be, not this being alone business.

My brother. A bit of aggravation there just to make sure that the subterranean theme of how families can be dangerous to one’s health is maintained even if Thanksgiving is not; he did not invite us to his family’s Thanksgiving Day repast. Granted, they’re five hours away, but I used to do the drive, even when it took nine hours in only-stop traffic. That is until I decided one year that I’ll wait for my invitation rather than invite myself. So here I sit, at home and not in Thanksgiving Day traffic since the invite never came.

Thanksgiving. Yes, I’m thankful that the people in my life seem happy and well-adjusted and purposeful. And me, I’m happy that I’m not stressed about cooking, because what kind of pressure can I have doing it a day late?

And I’m also thankful that at 50 (or 49 twice in a row) I feel healthy, I feel wise, I feel pretty, and I feel.

Happiness and Thanks to You All!


Romantic Weekend in Belfast

“Give us a hug.”

And with that tentative embrace, right after I stepped into the lobby of Belfast City Airport after almost 18-hours of traveling and waiting, and after being identified and identifying successfully, and with my red pocketbook slung over his back because I didn’t have a moment to put it down, we went back 28 years and we went forward 28 years. We went right back to the deep friendship we had already revived in our three months of daily hours-long email and phone conversations, but we also stepped into a romantic sphere that we had, because of our self-confidence-lacking 21-year-old’s and 22-year-old’s minds’, never broached. And so, a path not taken or a spark set ever so gently or a light at the end of a tunnel was brought into being.

And then there were the delicate kisses, or should I say the tentative checking to see if lips fit, if the mind interaction would be joined by its best bud: the body interaction. Indeed.

And with that four days of non-stop talking and walking and laughing and eating and lovemaking began. Yes, it was a wonderful weekend. Not wonderful because, as so many people have told me “I deserve to be happy,” but wonderful because it was in and of itself wondrous, not in comparison to what had come before, but in and of itself. What could be said about a man who not only looks right into my eyes when he tells me he loves me, but makes me feel that way when he makes me laugh, or sits down to eat a leisurely meal in a restaurant he had walked by for years but never went into because he didn’t have with whom he wanted to eat there. And what could be said of a man who doesn’t try to one-up a couple we met at the bed and breakfast where we stayed when they told us that theirs is a true love story because they got together again after breaking up three years ago.

Was it too easy? Should there have been an awkward phase to get over? Or was it that I was never with a man as a lover who was also the person who I felt the closest to, the person to whom I would reveal my secrets and my silliness? Had I never been in love with a friend, a best friend? Was that the secret? Not to want to run to tell anyone about what he said and did and how you felt because the person you want to talk to is there, across the table or across the pillow.

On one of our walks around Belfast, we walked around Titanic Quarter, where the Titanic was built. (A tee-shirt for sale in Belfast reads: The Titanic. Built by an Irishman. Sunk by an Englishman.) I remember when I saw the movie Titanic I thought how improbable the love story was. How, I thought, could a woman go from being with such a nasty, vile man as her fiancé to the loving and tender Jack? Here was my answer: in the man who was sharing with me a bag of chocolate-covered raisins as we sat next to the River Lagan and watched the current pick up and talked in the shadow of the cranes that held up the Titanic as it had been built. Sometimes we women learn from our mistakes. Yes, we do. We learn the difference between when a man says he loves you because of who you are—the good, the bad and the ugly (he did see me in the morning), and when a man says he loves you because he wants something from you.

Where do we go from here? Ah, the deliciously improbable is where. In nine days he will be moving here. This is not a trivial thing, especially for him. Twenty-eight years ago, when I left New York to move to Israel, he also left the states—only to return twice for two very brief visits more than 26 years ago. Without me here, this meltingly romantic man told me, he lost all desire to be in the states. And so, now, he is returning to a person he has loved for all those years and to a place he never expected to return to. And me, who has spoken of despair and lived through my personal hell; me, who was a pessimistic optimist, afraid to think I would ever be happy but afraid, too, to think I wouldn’t be; well, I am in love. In love with a man who is, according to the note his boss wrote for me, “a good guy.”

And after all those posts moaning about men who only want women who are thin or in shape or "care about their looks" or work out seven times a week, I have by my side a man who loves a curvy body--my curvy body.

So here I am. No longer alone. No longer wanting to be alone. I am looking forward to sharing my life with a man, my Kenny, who says to me, “Every day with you is the best day of my life.”

Yes, to be continued.

Life and love after a bitter divorce.


Plenty Beads

I used to finger the enough beads that my life was stringing for me. Enough bead after enough bead after enough bead of words and happenings that kept pushing me down, teasing me into thinking that they would end—that there would be a real enough point—but they just kept coming.

And then last June, when the house was sold and I could move out of the oppressive atmosphere, the stringing ceremonies stopped. And now new stringing ceremonies need to be instated. Now I am happily adding plenty beads to charm my days.

---It is pouring outside. What a joy. Once you live in Israel (or any place with a dry season), you can’t but appreciate a summer rain. It is beyond refreshing, it is life-affirming. Rain in the midst of unending heat. Even though I grew up in New York City, city of steamy summer rain storms, that seventeen-year break means that I do not take the soothing rains for granted. It is a blessing to be received.

---In a few days I will be going on vacation—I am taking my daughters to the Pacific Northwest for a week’s vacation. While my older daughter has shed her teenage skin and my younger daughter has grown it, they both wanted to go—or agreed to go—with me on vacation. Either way, it is still such a plenty bead on my formerly bare mother-joy necklace. And while I am not happy that my older daughter has not talked to her father for a while—as a result of his words and actions toward her—I can’t say that I’m not sorry that she has finally seen him for who he is.

---I have sent off query letters to agents for the book I began writing last summer. What a sense of satisfaction. And after the experience of writing this blog and receiving such supportive feedback, I believe that I have developed the type of skin necessary to not give up. Although, of course, I am sending out positive thoughts that this first round will elicit an invitation to send the manuscript and not just form rejection letters.

---And I have begun writing another book. And that also is wonderful. Of course it’s slow going, but I am pleased with the concept (which came to me about two weeks ago) and pleased that I am finding purpose in thinking about it and writing it.

---For three years I used to listen, night after night, to a call-in radio show, Delilah. People would call to say how wonderful their husband or wife is, asking for a song to be dedicated in his or her honor, or they would call, asking for a song that would temporarily soothe their broken hearts. Up until last June I would lay there on my love seat-bed, with the door of my room locked, and cry as I listened to people talking about how lucky they were, and I would cry as I listened to people cry out their pain, seeking a moment’s solace in a song.

I would cry because I could never imagine getting out of the misery that I felt encompassed me. Love and happiness seemed so foreign. How does one go from experiencing the harshness of a relationship that transformed itself into an endless battle to longing to think about someone? And even when people would say that that is precisely what had happened to them, I would be happy for them and envy them, but say, good for them, but that will not happen to me.

And now, now I am finding an opening in my heart for a man who searched for me to tell me that he has loved me since we were friends 28 years ago. How could I not reach out my hand to touch this preposterous bead? It feels as if the ineffable quality that oversees the wonders and ways of the world is presenting me with the most precious bead of plenty—a bead that grows to encompass all manner of well-being, fuzzy and infinite.


Pillars, Crutches, and Other Manner of Support Systems

As I lay in bed the other night trying to fall asleep with used tissues littering the floor, it occurred to me that beyond the pain of my father’s death, his loss was not just the loss of a father who could be counted on to exhibit and act on his concern for me on a daily basis but it was the loss of any remnant of being the beloved daughter as she was cared for in childhood. Not childhood in a child’s sense, but in the sense that in some families a child knows that her problems can be shared with her parents throughout her life (shared as in expressed, which somehow shifts the burden).

Now, I share my mother’s problems. I am her ears and shoulders when she needs to have someone listen to what she did that day and how she is feeling or doing that day. It is not right, or I don’t feel that it is right, to seriously share with her my thoughts and concerns. It’s not that she doesn’t ask me how I am doing and wants to honestly hear, but for once I realize that she just doesn’t need my unburdening. No, I need to be her vessel. Maybe this is a step in the maturity of a child, a bit late, but such was the relationship that I had with my parents.

During most of my marriage and before the divorce, when things were getting bad but not bad enough yet to act on them, I held all counsel within. Then, when it reached the point that I would drive away, week after week, from the house in tears and fear for my life, I finally broke down and called my parents. They became my pillars. They gave me money to hire a divorce lawyer. They listened to me as stories tumbled out about their “son”-in-law’s fierce nastiness. To them I could unendingly vent as I couldn’t with friends. What friend could really listen to the unbroken story of a broken heart as she is trying to live through the dramas of her own life?

Was it selfish that I unburdened on my parents? I don’t know. I know that it was too hard to deal with the pain of my life on my own and they were there to levitate the pain as much as possible.

And now, now I need to be here to help shift the burden of my mother’s pain and emptiness, and fears.

For my daughters I need to remain chief booster and boaster. That is what they need and deserve. That is what I have been trained to be.

Perhaps the time has finally come for me stand firm. Maybe I don’t need anyone to hold my tissue box for me. At first I thought that I still needed to be propped up, but now I am starting to feel like one of those blocks that stays in place even when the blocks around it have been removed. I stay in place only because those blocks transferred their power and strength to me.


Closure, What It Feels Like

I finally got to court on Wednesday; “got to” meaning that we were all there, including the judge, but we didn’t face the judge because nasty lady lawyer decided that we were not properly prepared to face the judge who would get mad at us all for arguing about little things, as in the Battle of the Grocery Store Receipts. That was, to a large extent, because, as she tried to make it out, I did not present the hundreds of pages of receipts and bills to her and her associate early enough to send to exman. Of course, I was never told that I needed to have them in to her early enough to send to him in advance (and in chronological order). She, of course, also said that it was because I got emotional over the summer when there was another delay and I need to, basically, act my age. I was also charged as guilty for not having continued to present receipts to him all the time, as it stated in the PSA but which he always ignored and so I stopped. 

But I don’t feel like mulling over how the lawyers I have encountered have failed me. In spite of her not preparing me to properly prepare for court, I do think she was the best lawyer I have encountered and too bad that I didn’t have her earlier instead of the lawyer who I thought was as good as could be when, in fact, he was incompetent. (Note to self and others: do as Charlotte did and go for the unattractive lawyer if you’re going with a man.)

Okay, the point. Nasty lady lawyer, who wouldn’t let exman rile her and abuse her as he has done to three associates at her law firm as well as the receptionist (imagine that, verbally abusing a receptionist) told exman off and, perhaps momentarily, put him in his little place. Her reaction to him: he’s extremely unattractive; he looks dissolute, as if he might, on occasion, be drinking too much; is seedy and unkempt looking; oh, and he is still in love with me and is devastated by the divorce. She even told him that he’s upset that I left him and it must hurt him that I am so cute. Oh, the woman has balls.

But that’s still not the point. The point is that I am finished, finished with worrying about him getting the better of me, of him getting away with owing me money. I’m just done. What has been has been, and now I am ready to let it go, so I won’t have more money to buy an apartment, and so I have spent too much money on lawyers, I am content as in not mad at myself for letting him win without putting up a fight and not disappointed in myself for having given in. Content that I have done all that I could have—should have—and content, too, that I have come out at the place where I am. 

For the first time I don’t see that another process will bring me anything I need—or that I will get—and am ready to let go. Sure, she said that she will meet with him to go over his receipts and my receipts (at no charge to me she even told him—and she charges quite a lot), but I don’t feel anchored to that in any way. No, I have left the anchor behind. I am no longer moored in any way to him and the marriage and the divorce. Does saying that negate saying it? No, I don’t think so. I really feel complete. Maybe that’s closure, not that there is a tidy end to something (and even an apology and a forgiving), but rather that you feel that no more needs to be done. Does closure happen when you sever your ties to something that had formerly held you? Not that you close a door, but rather that you pass through a doorway. So closure really is an opening, an opening into a space that doesn’t hold you to what had been. Closure, it’s not an end, it’s the gradual movement from one place to another. It is the personal passage from the past to the present.

NOTE: I absolutely loved the fact that this tough 60-something lawyer came to court in an obviously expensive black suit that was decorated with tiny rhinestones and  rhinestone-studded heart-shaped buttons. Oh, she was a sight to see. No power shoulder pads or asexual suiting, she was all woman—all 120 pounds of her in her three-inch heels, ready to do battle with any pin-stripe that came her way.


What I Learned this Thanksgiving

This year, as in the past four years, I went to New York to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife’s family. It has become a wonderful opportunity for me to become a part of her family and for her family to become my family, as well as to meet up with my New York friends.

In past years the sympathy factor has been in my direction because I was still in the throes of the bitterness of my life/divorce. But now I have been in my own lovely apartment for six months, and the most visible remnant of the bitter divorce is the court case that's coming up in a week and a half (I haven’t given up on getting from him the $14,000 he owes me), all of which means that I am basically on par with everyone else in the “dealing with life” aspect of things. Which brings me to what I have uncovered or acknowledged: that we are all simply dealing with life. It doesn’t seem that we are enjoying it, rather we are simply handling the things that keep coming at us and we just keep going at it. I wonder, then, if we need to adjust our expectations so that the “dealing with” becomes less of an intrusion into what should be our unending happiness and instead we should understand that life as it’s lived is not just an intrusion but life itself. Would we feel better about our lives and ourselves if we expected the complications and not the beaches?

Most of those gathered round the table are in our forties and fifties, and we are all in the midst of lives that we have found to be ours—none of us can claim that this is the life he or she expected when we were the ages that our mostly teenage children are now. None of us was complaining in the “woe is me” way of the world, but we are all dissatisfied or still hoping for better times ahead or at least times that aren’t so full of pains, and exhaustion, and concerns.

Happiness. What is it? Is it sitting around a table passing plates and platters or is it being untouched on a pedestal? Is it sharing words spoken and heard, or unending attention? Is it sharing stories of aches or being free from compassion? I wonder.

I wonder if now that my house is as in order as it’s ever going to be the time has come to reassess what being thankful means.

Thankful. Full of thanks.

Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.

Thanks, not for what could have been or should have been, but for what is. Is that a new, working definition of happiness?


Friday Night, Alone

When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, there was no fourteen-year-old who greeted me by closing the door to her bedroom but then popping out a few minutes later to ask what’s to eat, nor was there a Maltese named Poops who jumped up and danced on his hind legs when he saw me. There was only the dining room table with its self-created collection of piles to greet me. It's his weekend with them both.

I unpacked the bag of groceries that I bought for my evening at home, trying to ignore the silence by turning on the radio. I put away the frozen pizza and the two bottles of beer. After I responded to some emails, I went into my daughter’s room, piled her clothes on a chair as I had done when I was her age instead of the floor mounds that she prefers, arranged her five pillows on her bed, lay down, and lifted up the remote for what would be hours of unending numbness. It’s not that my job is so hard that I need to unwind so intensely, perhaps it’s because I don’t watch tv other than those Friday nights (okay, the occasional Saturday night if I’ve been grading or on the computer for too long—I think I need a “life”) but it is time that enables me to detach from my mind. Perhaps this is how I meditate. Sometimes it gets hard to think and be aware.

So there I was, on a hot pink sheet for hours watching Say Yes to the Dress and House Hunters International. The thought of why it is always those two programs that I return to kept trying to break into my mindlessness. Is it because I like to see people so happy, so ready to step into another phase of their lives, that I want to become a voyeur? Is it that I wish that for myself and so I live vicariously through them? Maybe it’s a bit of both; maybe I’m anticipating more change. But it’s also that there is nothing else that I can settle my mind onto. I cannot watch the news or opinion shows because I’m tired of listening to people open and close their mouths repeatedly without saying anything. (I don’t ignore the news, I still read mine.) I know, I know, I’m sure some of my students say that about me [especially the ones who wrote “I hate this class” on my “What I Want to Do This Year” sign on the backboard before I ripped it off in a moment that combined hurt and bitchiness (no one was there to witness this act)]. And I can’t watch scripted programs because everything is so fake and contrived that I don’t see how I could ever have been compelled to watch so much falsity in writing and acting.

How bare can I make my life? Is that why I need to watch tv every once in a while? How much can my life, a life, revolve around one’s actions and thoughts and the people one encounters? Is that why we read and watch? Is that how we expand our circle if we need it to be larger than it is in reality? Or do we need to incorporate ideas and people and images that don’t always challenge us and demand attention from us on a personal level? Do I need the numbness because there are so many people I need to care about everyday that I need to just stop sometimes? In a week I have about 185 students, each is an individual who I need—want—to understand and reach, and who I care about. Maybe it is about the job. Maybe it’s more draining than I realized. I get up in front of my classes three times a day and on religious school days, four or six times a day. And each time I’m on stage; I need to sense the audience and project, and thrust my personality out so that it meshes with the instruction. Is that why I don’t watch dramas? Not because of the corny stories and plasticine acting, but because I have too many lives to care about that I cannot expand my heart anymore?

Is this about self-preservation? Do I need to return my thoughts and cares to myself instead of always extending them and sharing them? Do I need to come back to myself at the end of the week because if I didn’t there wouldn’t be anything to share the next week? When I walk, I think. When I read, I think. When I watch, I detach. Maybe it’s not as much of a time-waster as I thought.

Where’s the remote?


Random Thoughts on a Sunny Sunday

 • How is it that we are supposed to help a country, Iraq, if so many people there find that killing each other is better than learning to live with each other? Yes, it’s only a few who are terrorists. Yes, the terrorists might not even be from there. Yes, maybe the terrorists became terrorists after the US-invasion and occupation. But still, it’s hard to keep caring about people who keep blowing themselves up. Blowing each other up at weddings, while shopping, while looking for a job, while working, and worst of all, while mourning a loss at a funeral. Isn’t there a purpose to life other than another person’s death?

• Why do wealthy people register for gifts when they get married? Really? People need to buy gifts for Ivanka Trump and her new husband, who are both from real estate empire families. Can’t a person ever say enough? Why not a gift registry of organizations to donate to if they feel that they always deserve something? They should be ashamed of themselves.

• I wonder what happens in a teen’s mind that enables him to transition from writing essays that are merely lists in paragraph form to writing essays that analyze? Now I know why I’m happy to be teaching 12th graders and not just 9th graders: there are the occasional thoughts swirling around.

• Helicopter parents are not the only helicopters around, this morning I observed a helicopter wife. Really? He can’t put his own food into the microwave and spread the butter on his own bagel? He can hold the door for you but he can’t carry his cup of coffee? Are thoughts like these a reason why I am unattached?

• There is a man out there with whom I will find comfort, but I don’t know if we will find each other.

• Being a three-quarter empty-nester is better than being a complete empty-nester, but my, how I miss being on-duty all of the time. I’m pleased that both of my daughters are independent, and that I am independent of them, but it’s still hard to have a few dishes that reflects my eating and snacking habits.

• It’s beautiful outside. It’s time to put a bra on and go pick up my daughter from her weekend. She will probably say “okay” and turn away when I ask her how her weekend was. But we will be together on this beautifully sunny afternoon for at least a little while and I will be relieved from the pressure of thinking about myself and the world we live in. Enjoy the day.


5770: Starting Off Quietly

On Saturday evening I went to a friend’s house for a mid-holiday Rosh HaShanah (New Year) dinner. Besides me, there were three couples and their two, two, and one children. I had thought before the evening that I would feel a stab of discomfort or loss at my unaccompanied presence. For a brief moment before it was time to go I even considered cancelling and staying wed to my couch. But I didn’t. It could be that my friend and her friends and family were all interested and interesting people so the conversation flowed easily and I didn’t get caught in any down-times in conversation that left me without a built-in conversation partner.

Have I overcome a hump? The “I’m alone” hump? Am I now resolutely in the “it’s okay to be alone” phase? Is this what it feels like to be a person who is not dependent on another or with others dependent on her—or wishing that someone would depend on me? Should I rejoice in this chance to focus on what I want to focus and not moan that one daughter is in California and the other spent the holiday with her father? Is this my chance to be stripped of imposed-upon roles so that I can whittle myself down to my own essence? It’s as if I can feel the layers of personhood that I was and still am, but now I can also clearly discern the self—my self. Enough time was given up to the regret phase that I am purified of it, and so this transcendence doesn’t feel like a trick of a mourning self, but the very real reflection of a person who respects herself and her life.

So this is what it’s like to be me. I talk read write critique listen laugh greet walk observe eat shop cook drive plan think inquire doubt. I don’t seem to do anything. But perhaps that is not essential to me. The doing is the living. This is my life. It doesn’t need highlights to be a highlight. Satisfied with who I am, does that mean that I am not looking for someone to redefine me? Does it mean, too, that I will not let someone else redefine me? I hope so. It’s taken a while to reach this configuration of self; a while and a journey. It seems that I do things. But I also contemplate them.

I have begun 5770. A new year. Stepping into a new year with the fullness of how the years past have wrought me and excited for how I will hone the future, moment by moment. 


Waking from a Nap

On Friday afternoon I took my usual afternoon nap so that I could make it past eight o’clock still a member of the adult community. I napped on a couch in my lovely living room, facing the large sliding glass doors that are always open except when I go to sleep or when I’m not at home. When I woke the sky was in shades of gray; I tried not to think, but just to feel the coolness and the calm. When I finally got up I put on, for the first time in a few seasons, my light, at-home sweater that I bought years ago at a street market in Tel Aviv with a friend. The September chill felt more comforting than the heat of the summer. While I lay there my mind was focused on the now. It was a lovely interlude from the preoccupations of a wake and expressive self. It was a lovely interlude from the intensity of the first week of school and having to deal with exman and his stringent demand to adhere to the letter of the custody agreement that we drew up three years ago.

In a phone conversation later my mother told me that I shouldn’t think about how I had a lawyer who let me negotiate from a point a weakness and not a point of strength, but that was after we once more picked apart how utterly petty and evil my ex-husband is. It’s not that he really wants my younger daughter there, no. He even said to me in one of the fourteen calls that he made to me in the course of two hours the other night, and which he recorded, that he thinks I want her to stay with me more than is written in the agreement because I want to get more money from him. This is a man who has not paid a penny of child support since we moved out of the house in June. This is a man who ignored this wonderful girl for years while he tried to infiltrate the mind of my older daughter, until she went across the country to get away from him. This is a man who uses and manipulates.

The mantra that a friend told me I should recite to myself is “you’re out of there,” and that is good. I cannot tell you how at peace and happy I am in my apartment. And even the new school year and teaching a grade that I never taught before and needing to create all new lesson plans and teaching four different classes at religious school are all exciting and invigorating. So I know what feeling good is like. But the ache I have for my daughter is intense. As a glass half-full person I tell myself that at least I didn’t have to fulfill the custody agreement when the girls were younger, when it was both of them, that now, at least, his negativity and emotional cruelty towards me and the world will have less of an impact on my daughter, my sweet, sweet daughter who is no longer such an impressionable child.

But it’s so unbelievably hard having to deal with someone who is so very poisonous.

When I told him that I don’t want to have to talk to him, that I want to do these movement-of-daughter discussions via email and to please give me his email address he refused, because he doesn’t want to get emails from me. And when, after his recitation of his time calculations that will enable me to somewhat change the agreement for one week to confirm to my daughter’s request, I told him to just tell me when he would be over and if he was bringing Poops, his response to me was “don’t dictate to me.” My reasoned response was, “I’m hanging up.” And I did. Nor did I answer another one of his insane calls. I turned the sound off my cellphone so I wouldn't even have to be aware of them.

I know there are people who act as intermediaries between formerly-married couples so they don’t have to talk to each other. But I’m too tired of spending money on that man. I will try to deal with him on my own, and I will continue to strengthen myself by standing up to him—for me and my daughter-s. My mantra when dealing with him needs to be “He’s just a bully” because that’s all he is.

I can’t believe how endless this is.

In our conversation the other night my mother reminded me that he had told me that he will hound me until he can spit on my grave. He can’t do that. I am determined to compartmentalize my interactions with him, in fact, the writing of this post is the lighting of the fire and the extinguishing of it for this episode.

 

Today I wrote eight pages of my novel, which I can proudly say has reached 90 pages and which I am very pleased with. And I took Poops for two half-hour walks. And I created three handouts for my students (one each on apostrophes, commas and an in-class reading log). So I no longer let him impact me, much.

One day it will be four years from now and younger daughter will be off to college. And the burden of marrying wrong will have lifted even more from me—and them. But I will not wish those years to fly past; I want to enjoy my daughter as she grows into the woman she will become. And I want to enjoy listening to her sister blossom with each and every phone call. I will taste the sweetness and let the bitterness fall to the bottom of my cup, unstirred and undisturbed.


I can't resist

I can't help but laugh when I see the blustering Dick Armey in the news lately. He comes off as a man of no morals, and for whom money and strong arm tactics are central--to hell with people. He talks of tyranny as a man who knows--does anyone seem more tyrannical than him? Is it any wonder that exman, when he was still on his way up, found a friend and mentor in Dick Armey? They were buds for a while.

Arrogant men, can't they just bother each other and leave the rest of us alone?   


Penciling in Dates

An update on how the system's been treating me.

June 18        The house was finally sold in a six-hour "ceremony." Since exman still owed me money (for food, shelter and clothing for his daughters), I filed a complaint in court. The lawyer (one level down the totem pole from Nasty Lady Lawyer) told me the hearing would be on June 26. Since she made a mistake in the filing, a revision needed to be prepared and sent to court by another lawyer (four levels down from Nasty Lady Lawyer) and we were given a new date—July 24. I needed to prepare a lot of things and make a lot of copies for that hearing, which I did.

July 22         When I arrived at 4:50 for my 4:30 meeting (because there was so much traffic) with the lawyer-to-the-4th to prepare for court in two days, she told me that exman had hired a lawyer and the hearing would be rescheduled. She mentioned August 13th as the day she thought this would happen.

July 23         Lawyer-to-the-4th and his lawyer went to court to postpone the hearing.

At this point I sent an email to Nasty Lady Lawyer telling her that I did not want any one to do anything on my case except get a new date. I noted that I feared that the amount I would get was not much more than the amount it would cost me.

July 27 or August 3         I don’t know on which day the scheduling hearing took place because lawyer-to-the-4th never bothered to contact me (was this part of not doing anything?). At that meeting exman appeared by himself because he had fired his fourth lawyer. The new date for the hearing is DECEMBER 9! Lawyer-to-the-4th, feeling pleased with herself (somehow) had the gall to write to me (after I emailed her asking WELL?) that she told exman “no more continuances.” Yeah, she really has him eating out of her hand.

I have decided that I must be as detached from the legal dealings as I am from the dating game. Just play along until something proves to me that I am being taken seriously. No more tears or sleepless nights. These are the follies of my life. I regret going to court this time, but I have started it and will see where it leads. By the way, I do not get child support nor do I think that it will ever come to pass because it will involve more hassles and fighting that I don't want to undertake because I want and need to be done with him, hence the desire to get some of what he owes me for the last two years. 

I just received a bill from the electric company. Shocker. He didn't pay what he owes them and since his electricity is apparently included in his rent in his new place, they want me to pay it. I just kept repeating to the supervisor on the phone (in a not very calm tone that I apologized for at the beginning--stating that this is coming at the end of a bitter divorce) that "I don't owe them anything." She got off the phone, but I don't think that will be the end of that.


The System Speaks

HA HA HA HA HA! You thought you could beat the System. You thought the System was fair. Woman, how is it possible that you never lost your naïveté? How could you think that your voice would be heard? No one cares! The judges don’t care. The lawyers don’t care. Your lawyers don’t care. Only you care. But who are you? You are nothing. So you thought just because you got a piece of paper that said COURT JULY 24 that that would happen. How stupid could you be? Have you not been through FOUR years of this to know that you will never have your day in court!? Have you learned nothing?

DELAYS. OBSTRUCTIONS. INCOMPETENCE. That’s what wins.

How could you not expect the System to work for your ex-husband? He is the epitome of the System, of the kind of people who created the System and who thrive in it. Of course your ex-husband will do something that will get the System to bend toward him because the System is stacked for him and against you. You who think that the System is here to hear you and pity you and understand poor poor you. HA HA HA HA HA!

Of course he will hire a lawyer four days before the court date who can’t appear on Friday and who needs time to prepare for court. Of course it is summer and the judges (those Guardians of the System) prefer to play golf on Fridays rather than listen to your whimperings.

Go back. Go back to your little life and stop pestering the System. Relinquish your attempt at moral superiority and go back. Relinquish your illusions and go back. Retreat from thinking there is equity and fairness. Retreat to your place. You will get no money. You will not be heard. There is nothing to hear. Not even your cries.

You will not be heard.


The Symbolism of the Laundry

I just did a load of laundry. One bath towel. One blouse. Three tee shirts. One tee shirt-pajama top. Three pairs of undies. One bra. One pair of jeans. One cloth napkin. Two kitchen towels. A white wash is in the machine. I think there are four white shirts in that load.

The laundry is hanging to dry on a portable air dryer on the terrace.

Before May 16th, the last time I did a laundry for one, was in the apartment where I lived in Ramat Gan (a suburb-city outside of Tel Aviv) before I got married. Since then I have done thousands of loads for two, then for three, then for four.

Then for three, when I no longer did his laundry. He started doing his own laundry when I stopped folding his undies. The idea of touching them disgusted me and so I left them in a pile on the bed. I guess he got the message.

Then for two, when I no longer did younger daughter’s laundry. She took the modern version of home ec last year and once she had to do laundry as part of her class, she decided that she was going to keep doing it for herself. And she has stuck with that.

Then for one, when older daughter moved to California. She did her first load out there, all by herself. Apparently it’s not so hard and she has managed. Though I do think that younger daughter showed her how to do it before she left.

I’m glad I had all those endless piles of clothes to wash. I’m glad I got to care for loved ones in so basic a way. I loved folding clothes; such a simple way to nourish and nurture. And I loved doing the wash, such an obvious accomplishment. And now I’m glad that I only need to do my little loads that go into the small-capacity machine in this apartment.

It’s very insightful, doing just my own laundry. I see how much I bought things for them and not for myself. I see how my clothes are brighter than I thought they were. I see the continuity of life. Their lives. And mine. 
 


Realization

My book, Get Your Words Off Me, starts with me wondering:

I can’t remember the first time my husband insulted me or what he said because I didn’t even notice that I had been insulted. It wasn’t much of a stretch from the negative comments and forceful suggestions that he was continually giving me about what to do, and what to say, and what to think, and what to feel, and even how to respond to him and his comments. The realization that his caring critiques were really humiliating affronts took far too many years of my taking it, and accepting it as a part of our marriage. The shame is that I didn’t stand up to him the first time the word “fat” or “ugly” or “nothing” or maybe it was “stupid” came out of his mouth and scream back at him, “DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!” Who knows, maybe that would have been enough to break a pattern before it started? But I didn’t. And so my life became one filled with far too many insults, and distrust and fear of the man I had once loved and respected, and much too much silence from me.

Now I know the answer to that question. No, that would not have stopped the downward turn of this marriage. Nothing would have stopped that. The answer in its starkest form came to me on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday there was the first encounter after the move from the house three weeks ago. I was to drop off our dog for his week to pick up Poops’ poop. I called when I arrived at the gate of his apartment complex (I was so not surprised that he moved to a gated community). When he approached me I said that he needs a leash since I had to buy a leash since he took the leash. He commented that my daughter had brought it to my house; no she hadn’t, I said and then reiterated that I had to buy this one.

Then he asked if I brought his food bowls. No, I said, I had not. “They are not yours, you can’t take them,” was the comment.

“I had to buy a leash, you can buy bowls.”

“Bitch. I’m out of here. Fuck you.”

Yes, I am sure that if I would have yelled back at him that he was “fat” and “ugly” he would have just expanded the range, as he did. And I’m sure, too, that if I had tried to explain to him how much it hurt me to be called fat and ugly (does that really need explaining?), he would not have heard a word that went from my mouth to his ears because he was not making statements, he was expressing something ugly about himself. I was too kind when I wrote this a few years ago, but I was still married to him then and thinking that he isn’t as slimy and nasty as he is.

The other day in my writing group that is part of my Writing Project class a woman said that her husband, who had verbally abused her, finally got down on his knees and prayed and found it in himself to stop hurting her. When I read this excerpt from my book, she commented that she had yelled back at him that first time because she had the self-confidence. Then she said something that really cut to the quick, she said that her husband had really loved her. Yes, her husband had it in him to love someone besides himself. My ex, he was and is incapable of caring for anyone more than himself or even as much as himself. Maybe the way I handled things was the right way with this beast, preventing worse things from happening. But I am certain now that confrontation that first time would not have helped.

Since that day we had been through my talking back, my yelling back, counseling, mediation,  lawyer meetings, legal wranglings, police visits, and the sale of the house and nothing in his attitude or utterances has changed. If none of that had made an impact on him, and if four years of pain in the household did not have an impact on him, turning to him and saying, “You’re hurting me when you say that,” would not have prevented him from becoming who he is.