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Posts from May 2008

Trying to Talk to a Wall

A divorce lawyer with whom I consulted at the very beginning of the divorce process told me that I need to handle my husband until I am ready to file for divorce. I looked at him and said that not only do I no longer have any power over him, but I don't know how to maneuver him (some might refer to this as manipulation). And now, four years later, I have absolutely no leverage--not even to get him to do what I want--but do what he is supposed to do. He has become a wall.

Maybe a bottomless pit is more accurate. I ask for responses, I get none. I ask for bills to be paid, they are not. I ask for information, none is given. I ask for a copy of a document, I get nothing. Who can force him? His sense of responsibility? There is none. The court? He has already lied there to get what he wants. He has already insulted my lawyer in a court of law. He has already gone through three top divorce lawyers and they couldn't get him to do what is standard, what is right. (He now represents himself.) The police? He has already cursed at me in front of them and lied to them, too. (Yes, it's true, he really didn't mean to kick that garbage bag at my head when he was standing three feet away from me.) He is accountable to no one--man, woman, or spiritual being.

I can remember one meeting with the two of us and our lawyers when we were trying to work out the Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) and Custody Agreement; we were talking about how the bills would be split in the house until the PSA was finalized and the house sold. Since he was making about twice what I was making (who knows how much more it is now?) I suggested that the bills be paid proportionally. His lawyer, without consulting with him first, said that that made sense. Instantaneously his lawyer received a nasty look and he said NO, that it would be split 50-50. There was no talking him down on this, and I, in my stupidity, didn't conceive that this would be the opening of his free-loading existence. I guess it doesn't really matter what was written there, since he doesn't pay anything any way, but it shows his absolute disregard for any sense of fairness. (My lawyer also suggested that the 50-50 payment illustrates that the house is, indeed, 50% mine. Mr. Ex had thought that an 80%-20% split would be "right." It's unfathomable the extent to which a man will try to cheat and steal from the woman who had been his wife, with whom he had built a life.)

It's an understatement to say that this situation is frustrating. GET OVER IT! The marriage ended. Yes, I told you that I don't love you any more. Deal with it. Things happen. People change. I'm not asking him to be a mensch, just do the bare minimum that a decent person is expected to do. That should not be so hard!

To a man who loved me

She couldn’t remember the last time she had been kissed. That was certainly one of the reasons why she had gotten divorced. At some point a few years ago, her husband had stopped kissing her. He stopped kissing her lips, and her neck, and her ears, and her shoulders. He stopped making any pretenses of foreplay, any intimations of intimacy; the sex remained, but bare of all indicators of love, it became offensive, insulting even. She hadn’t thought of leaving then, she thought that she could survive, that it wasn’t such a terrible thing, living without love, that it would stop bothering her, that rejection, that aloneness in what should be a joining, what had once been a joining. But she just wasn’t able to shrivel up to suit the situation; there was too much life and love left in her to retreat, to agree to that debasement.

She hadn’t sought love out, but she just couldn’t stay locked in. It hurts to be told that you are unattractive, unlovable, undesirable, because there was no other way of interpreting his lack of gestures. What else could it mean? What else could it be when a man just uses a woman to satisfy his sexual urges but doesn’t attempt to meet her need for loving attention?


The man in the car, who she met four days ago, was surely an answer to her unarticulated longings. His words and actions were swirling in her head, combating the negativity from the man who was supposed to have been saying those things to her. You have the most beautiful smile. You have a glow about you. Can I kiss you? Was he for real? Was he just trying to seduce her? Was he sent to tempt her, to raise her up just to dash her down? It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that her lips were being kissed, and she was responding, finding that gentle pats of lips and soft licks of tongue against lip were better than she had remembered them to be. She didn’t remember how sensuous it was, this mouth-dance, this meeting. Her whole body was coming to life in reaction. She stretched towards him, seeking for more points of contact; her hands sought out his cheeks, his head, his shoulders, his arms, his back, both touching him and asking him to touch her through her gestures. And he responded with a soft, suppleness.

* * *

Her tears came as soon as he closed the car door to return to his car, and she started driving off, on her way home. The coldness in which she had been living, in which she had almost consigned herself, hit her, and tears of relief and pity overcame her. She pulled into a parking space and let herself go. These were not tears, they were sobs, sobs of relief that she had not let her husband kill her, that she had not acquiesced to live without love, to live without passion and compassion. It was a shock and a relief, too, to know that she could still give and inspire love, and maybe even more than that, that she still needed love.

On Being Hollow

To be hollow. Does it mean to be empty? to feel empty? or to lack a sense of self and purpose?

It is not possible to be hollow for you are you—in spite of or because of the events of your life. And that is not an emptiness, it is never an emptiness.

Revenge of the Back

February 2005 was the last time that I slept in a bed at home. That was when we--I--separated from him. Unfortunately, the separation has only been in rooms, not homes. At first I slept on a couch in the living room for about a month, and then, needing some privacy (he would come home late and turn on lights and make a lot of noise, and I felt so exposed to him even though I was sleeping in flannel), I started sleeping on my daughter's old twin mattress on the floor of the guest bedroom. When we put the house up for sale in June 2007, I moved the mattress out of the room and the love seat that was there became my bed. And now, every night I put the three throw pillows on the floor, spread a quilt on the cushions to act as a sheet, use one of the throw pillows as the pillow for my head, and then put another quilt on top to cover me as I curl into "bed." At 5' 4" I am not a towering mannequin, but my legs still go over the armrest. I spend night after night contorting myself to fit the love seat.

His majesty has resolutely refused to move out of the master suite and its king-size bed; he has refused to move out of the home; he has refused to do what is expected of a man, do what is best for his family.

But, oh, the sweet revenge of backache.

Remarkably, I wake up in the morning, stretch, fold everything away, and get on with my day. I have not had back pains. But him, oh poor him, a few months ago he had terrible, just terrible back pains. He was walking with a stoop, he was walking crooked, and for a time he wasn't walking at all. He was laid up in bed. He was calling out to his daughters to help him, but they were often unable to hear his calls for water, tea, toast. He put heating pads on his back. But still, the back pain persisted. It became so bad, in fact, that he had to have back surgery. So, in spite of sleeping in the lap of luxury, his back rebelled against him. If I was a spiteful person I would have done a "you deserve it" dance with a back twist and hip shimmy, but that is just so unseemly.

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Four


Trying to understand how and why a relationship develops is surely an endless task, with so many possibilities and perspectives. I find that I keep going back to our personalities and how different we are. It’s funny, because in the beginning those differences made it feel like we were creating a stronger-than-the-individual unit, that we were filling in what we were each lacking individually. I wonder if, ultimately, we just didn’t have the skills or ability to subjugate our own needs, they were just too fundamental to be overcome. Was our inability to be our true selves within this relationship what pulled us apart? Did we each need to make or expect too many concessions to create a healthy relationship?

My way to combat his decisiveness and imperviousness was to become as closed as he was. If I could not talk him into seeing or recognizing the validity of my point of view—ever, if his opinion was the only valid opinion, then perhaps the only way I could survive without becoming totally submissive was to fight back, absoluteness against absoluteness, or in my case, my silence against his torrent of words. I was changing so I would not have to respond to the charge that I was wrong, always. The whole rhythm of the relationship became discordant.

And so I stopped discussing things with him. If his opinions were the only ones he would hear and were the only ones on which to base a decision that affected both of us and eventually the family, well, then I would not share the decision-making process with him (like him). It’s not that I was aware that I was doing this until much later, until our relationship had already disintegrated. It was only then, too, that it occurred to me that the strong-mindedness and determination that I had so admired in him initially were the very reason for my utter disaffection with him, his treatment of me and our relationship.

I changed over the course of our 24-year relationship, I don’t think that he did, that, too, holds the seeds of our destruction.

Change leader change. Change leader change. That was a chant we would call out when playing ‘Follow the Leader,’ unfortunately, the leader never changed, and the follower did. Or if he did, not in a way that would help save our marriage.


I heard somewhere that for a marriage to work the woman must be put on a pedestal. I don’t know where that comes from, but it seems to have some truth to it. What does it mean to be put on a pedestal? A man should respect you, adore you, serve you, and want to make you happy. Is there more? For me that would have been enough. The problem was that I put him on a pedestal. I thought that I had struck it ‘rich’ with my husband; I thought that I was the one who married the pick of the litter, that he was the best, the smartest and the most likely to succeed. I felt for my friends and their laid-back husbands; I thought that my husband was The One. Unfortunately, so did he; I’m not sure if I was a competitor, and if so, for how long. Maybe it would have worked if both of us had stayed on those pedestals.

His nine-to-nine days never bothered me; I admired his dedication and workaholicness. It didn’t seem to predict any chinks in the relationship in the future. Wasn’t the type-A personality an indicator of future success, an indication that this man would be able to take care of me and my children. Was something wrong with thinking like that? I was working, I had goals for myself, but they were in the writing field, in the saving the world field, so why shouldn’t I respect a husband who would take care of the other side of things. It’s not that I was dependent, I took care of the bills, I wasn’t a tortured artist, I didn’t take advantage of anyone, after all I worked while he went to law school and then after. I thought we were a team, yin-yanging each other. He even acknowledged that I opened up horizons and perspectives that he hadn’t perceived before. So, where was the imbalance, where were the signs that this was a relationship heading for the brink? I thought I was acknowledged for what I thought and believed in, and he was respected for what he was doing and what he wanted to accomplish. Were we both living with illusions of our own making?

Did I put too much emphasis on his role outside of the home and, because of his success there, did I jealously try to prevent him from being as successful and commanding at home. Was my weakness outside, or rather my not achieving any of my goals, the reason I tried to hold onto the home base? I was contradicting myself, because while I was demanding that I not be solely responsible for the home, I was also demanding absolute authority in the home. Confusing for both of us, this blending of roles. The principle of ‘having it all’ did not recognize the difficulty it would engender at home, that a person could not always jockey for position at the top.

When did I get knocked off the pedestal? When did he get knocked off? Did he eventually tire of the silence of my non-compliance? Did he notice that I lost the glimmer in my eye when I saw him?

Looking for Love on Craig's List: 47 Is Not the New 27

The other day I answered an ad in Craig’s List that couldn’t have received, in my mind, a more appropriate response. But I got no response.

The ad’s heading was: “Arise, fair sun! (45).” That quote is from Romeo and Juliet, which I have spent weeks reading and discussing with my classes. I opened my book right to those lines to find a response. The body of the ad was Romeo’s soliloquy when he espies Juliet on her balcony. It begins: "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” It even includes the lines I have been repeating in my head for the past few days, “It is my lady, O, it is my love!” O, a romantic!

I was so ready with my response. I wrote back what Juliet says when she hears an as yet unidentified man in her orchard talking to her, “What man art thou, that, thus bescreened on craigslist, / So Stumblest on my counsel?” I mean how more appropriate could a response be? It even showed wit. Except, except I wrote my age in the subject line. Maybe he really is looking for a Juliet (which would be a 13-year-old), or someone closer to her age than I am.

Except for the twenty-year-old who responded to my ad saying that he always wanted to have sex with an older woman, my age doesn’t generally act as bait. And if a man discounts a woman just for her age, then I might as well be upfront about it.

I have a ten-year age range: five years younger or five years older than me, that seems about right on a superficial level. But the “men” seem to have a different idea. Forty-year-olds seem to not want women in their forties. I, obviously, can’t be sure why men don’t respond to responses. Maybe they are intimidated by responses with no spelling or grammatical errors? But my declaration of age—yes, I am as old as you are (maybe even a year older!) and so, probably, as potentially graying, decaying, and burdened as you—may not be what they desire.

At this point, I am not looking to enter into a November-August relationship (that would be he is November). I would like to meet someone who is approximately where I am in life, with similar challenges and concerns. Why would I seek out someone who is looking for a retirement home in Florida? (I am assuming that, keeping with men’s desire for younger women, my age would be attractive to this age group.)

Oh, it was so easy when I was in my twenties. I didn’t have to entice anyone online; I didn’t have to reveal my age and body type to strange strangers so that they could cross me off since I didn’t meet their requirements. I could just walk down the streets of New York and Israel and Ireland and meet men. Yes, I had the power! But now, now I’m not sure what I have, but it’s obviously not the power. (Except with one man, but he turned out to be married, so that kind of negated the whole “you’re the woman for me” thing.)

I was 24 when I got married; I got married young not just because I met the love of my life (I hope not!), but because I looked forward to sharing my life with someone. The sharing of lives and dreams (theoretically, since it obviously didn’t work out that way) was what I sought. Maybe because I have always been an independent spirit that groundedness of being part of a couple was good for me (at least initially). So this solitary life, while it suits my personality, does not bring me joy. And so I am compelled to see if there is someone out there, if there is a truer love, even though each non-answered response tears at me. At this age—47—I should have developed thicker skin, but it is just as sensitive as when I was younger, but at least then the encounters were kinder, at least then there were encounters.

* * *

It's Finally Over (7): Old Boyfriends

In the grand scheme of things, all of your old boyfriends probably seem better than the one you selected. But were they really better? Wasn’t there a reason why it didn’t work out with them, why you broke up or broke out? Instead of reminiscing about what could have been and making yourself feel worse for your choice, really think about why they were not your “it” men. This may also help you focus on where you need to go from here when you begin thinking about the next stage and getting out and dating. Try to remember why they were Mr. Wrong, as well as why Mr. Right ultimately became Mr. Wrong. 

Weekend Getaway

I am at a loss to express--to understand--all of the ways I am upset about my ex-husband taking my older daughter to NYC for the weekend to celebrate her birthday.

The first thing that stunned me was that my younger daughter was not invited. Granted, this is a birthday trip for my older daughter (the first ever), but since when does A MAN TAKE OFF WITH ONE OF HIS DAUGHTERS--ALONE--FOR THE WEEKEND? I get chills thinking about it. Him--a man I have absolutely no respect for, who repulses me by his actions, inactions, words, deeds, thoughts--is spending time alone with her for an entire weekend. I can't but see the unseemly side of this trip.

Okay, I'm starting to see why I am so upset:

  • Not asking my younger daughter to go. He absolutely ignores my younger daughter. So now, not only does he not buy her anything (as he does for daughter 1), not take her out to eat or spend the day together (as he does with daughter 1), but he treats her like Cinderella.
  • I had to demand that she go out to dinner with me for Mother's Day, yet she willingly goes off with him for the weekend. I know there are those, especially men (especially fathers) who think that this is a good thing, a sign that they have a strong relationship, but it is unseemly. I may certainly be jealous of their relationship, but that doesn't deny the fact that she would rather spend her time with the man who calls me bitch in front of her than be with me. It bites. It makes me wonder if she really is like him (oh, the horror). It also does not deny the fact that he will be in a hotel room alone with her, which really upsets me.
  • He is a bad example in every way possible. I know, I know, I married him. But that was a long time ago and the nasty, narcissistic aspects of his personality were not so visible, not so obvious in his demeanor then. And she, who looks up to him, will see that behavior and attitude as the norm. She will come back pleased with how nasty a person can be to others, how harshly one can criticize strangers, and think that that is a good thing, that is is a sign of intelligence and strength.
  • Whenever she spends any length of time with him, she is always especially nasty to me.
  • In the past few months he has purchased for her a $1,300 Mac laptop, $150 boots, Chanel #5 perfume, a Coach pocketbook, clothes, a bookcase, a necklace and earrings. It's unsettling; it is as if he is replacing me as his wife with her--he is treating her like a girlfriend, not a daughter. And why, why, the inbalance? Why only interact with one daughter?
  • Since we are not married I have no leverage over him, I have no ability to direct (at least partially) his mind, and this is the outcome. A weekend alone. I can't imagine that that would ever have happened in a non-divorce situation, and it pains me. I know, she's a big girl and can take care of herself, but can she, can she really stand up to a man who intimidates his peers?
  • I divorced this man because he behaved like a beast toward me. Moreover, he was--is--a non-involved parent to a ridiculous degree. And she willingly gravitates toward him! I have done all I can to influence her, to raise her to respect others, hopefully there is a strong enough base for her to weather the storm of her father's negative influence and only let the postive in (if there is such a thing).

Sunday night seems like such a long time away. Luckily my other daughter has a birthday party with a sleepover tomorrow night, so she won't be confronted with this betrayal. We already had dinner together (bad Chinese take-out); watched some TV together (what is the appeal of High School Musical 2?); and even had a no sex, no drugs, no liquor conversation (just to make sure I am keeping my eye on my duties as a mother). I really can't bring myself to see this as something normal, it is a fright, and a frightening situation.

Breathe in, breathe out, release. Breathe in, breathe out, release. I need to let go. I need to let go and see what happens. I am not in control. I am not in control. It shall be fine. It shall be fine. I guess I can try to convince myself because, really, it is out of my hands. I can only envision more wicked scenarios, but it may be fine and there will be no negative effects. See, it's working already.


Bonding by Divorce

I can't help but think how much women of previous generations missed out by being restricted in talking openly about their personal lives. (I am not going to touch on the issue of men using sports-talk or politics-talk as a surrogate for conversation, they can have their own blogs.) Ever since I got over the reticence of speaking honestly about my personal life, I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know some wonderful women, and that wouldn't have happened if I kept to the "all's fine" attitude.

Not only was I raised in the "don't talk about you private life with strangers" attitude, but I married into it. And it's not that the term "strangers" was restricted to those who you had just met on a plane or have only worked with for five years, but, in essence, it was everyone who did not live in your house. You were certainly--ESPECIALLY--not to talk about real issues or concerns with relatives (lest they know that you have problems, which, of course, they never had). I think it had something to do with a sort of "we can make it on our own" attitude, that we don't need anyone, we can handle whatever comes our way. Perhaps if we go back a few centuries to understand where this comes from we can ascertain a cause, maybe people were betrayed by their friends and neighbors. So what? It's going to happen whether or not they know the cause of your unhappiness / happiness, frustrations / pleasures, disappointments / plans anyway.

Now I may be taking this openness to the extreme; I practically introduce myself by stating my name and that I am going through a hellacious divorce from the man from hell. It is my proclamation of self because, unfortunately, it does, to a great extent, define where I am now.

When Donna, a female contractor, came to the house to give an estimate on how much it would cost to get the house in condition to sell in the current tough market conditions, within a minute we were off and talking about our ex-husbands. (Okay, maybe not talking, mocking seems closer to the mark.) So while we walked around the house bemoaning the lack of light hardwood floors, granite countertops on every countertop in the house, and missing caulk around the tubs, we discussed irresponsibility, inconsistency, and ingratitude to a considerable degree.

Then there was the Holocaust survivor who spoke at my school. Within minutes we were talking about our ex-husbands (both Israelis) and how they were too much controlled by their fathers' plans for them and their desires to meet those plans, except nothing they did ever pleased their fathers, there was always something lacking. And that how, as a way to compensate for losing control of their lives to their fathers, they made it up by attempting to control their wives. She then told me that she had been happily married to her second husband for twenty-five years, and that they were married a week before she turned fifty, even though she never expected to find love again. An inspiration. The woman is an inspiration in so many ways.

When I told a woman with whom I met to discuss my writing that my focus would be divorce, controlling men, and verbal and emotional abuse, well, the conversation flowed. Not that her experience was in any way like mine, she and her ex have been on good terms for years, but it just seemed to remove a barrier. Maybe when you admit that you are divorced you proclaim that you are not perfect, and that you are comfortable talking about your personal life, and not just the externalities.

I have one friend who finds it extremely hard to talk about her personal life. Perhaps one of the reasons why we are close friends is that I am so open with her, maybe she lives vicariously through me. When we talk about my issues it is a chance for her to consider her own life, without having to divulge details. So, when she gives me her thoughts about what is happening in my life, it helps her as much as it helps me.

Friendships, whether developed over years or a one-hour thing surely must be based on openness. Otherwise, what do you have? Filler, you have filler. And that is not the stuff of a life.


Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Three

Following in My Mother’s Footsteps

My mother used to spend her days preparing for my father to come home from work. It seemed that from the moment he left the house in the morning, she would start her preparations, that is, once she got my brother and me off to school. She would clean the house (which included scrubbing the floor on her knees, something she greatly regrets today), shop for what she thought my father would like for dinner, and then get to those preparations. In the years when we were in elementary school and came home for lunch, she would take a break from her cooking and cleaning to make us something to eat, and then back to it. Somehow this would take a whole day, every day.

This dedication to home and husband seemed to work for her, for them, on the whole. Both of my parents were—are—happy; for goodness sakes’, they still hold hands. They had bonded to become one; they became stronger as a unit than each was individually. They each had their own, absolutely traditional, reign of influence: she had the house, the children, and family gatherings, and he had his world of work. They respected each other for what they did in their realms and supported each other.

When it came time for me to form my ‘unit’ I had in mind the patterns that my parents had established. But this was the 80’s and I certainly did not intend to be the sole proprietor of the home. (After all, there were some twists already, I had graduated from college and was working as a technical writer supporting us, while my husband, that man on the bus, was a full-time college student, at first pre-law and then law school.) So we added some feminist liberation twists: shared responsibility for all that relates to the house, as well as food preparation and clean-up. And it pleasantly worked, for a while. I should have known things were no longer aligned when he stopped cleaning the floor (his job) and hired a cleaning man: that it wasn’t just because he didn’t have the time. Although he technically fulfilled his duties, he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. I was still doing my chores, while he found himself a loophole named William.

Unfortunately, like me, he was also following the pattern laid down by his parents, whereby his father did nothing in the house (unless you consider the occasional horseradish preparation as something) and his mother did everything. But while I was looking to modify the model, keeping a happy balance, he seemed to be trying to recreate it; moreover, there was a huge difference in our roles outside of the house, and no recognition of that at home. This surely created a tension. I felt that I had the right to rebel against the home-based expectations since I was not in a traditional role and so could strive for a recreated model. This was something I was passionate about; I was not a wallflower on this issue. Maybe he tried but was unable to change his actions and expectations, or perhaps he manipulated me from the start, saying what I wanted to hear but going ahead with his own formula for success. Perhaps, he needed to maintain his control at home since he didn’t have any outside of the home while he was just a student sitting in a lecture hall. Whatever the conscious or unconscious reason, I think that this role-perception split did not enable us to create a stable enough basis for the future. Although we were happy for quite a long time (at least I was), this unrecognized tension of who we are and how we—I—needed to be recognized at home probably wore away at our relationship.

Motherhood: A Test to Pass or Fail

"Shut up!" says my older daughter to her mother.

"Shut up!" says my younger daughter to her mother.

It's not only that my daughter's or daughters' (English teacher here, there is a difference, and the word selection depends on the day) misbehavior hurts me immeasurably, but it also invalidates a role that I had prided myself on doing well--motherhood. My marriage failed; and regardless of what he did and what I did or did not do, that means that I failed as a wife. But when my daughters are nasty to me (teenage years or not), the wound goes deep. Before they turned their words on me, I could at least say, okay, I failed as a wife, but I am a devoted mother who is raising respectful, intelligent, honest, creative, caring daughters, so I must not be such a bad person. But now even that security of self has been taken away from me. How can I honestly say that I am a good mother--at this stage in their development, even if they're supposed to rebel against me--if it I don't see evidence of a job well done? How is their yelling at me evidence of myself as paragon of motherhood?

And it's not that they stop themselves when they realize the error of their ways, they say it again. I can yell back, I can walk away, I can demand an apology, I can not let them drive the car, I can not let them go to the movies. But I need them to shudder in horror at how they spoke to their mother, but they don't.

A colleague, who has two children in elementary school, recommended the slap method of discipline. Sure. I'm going to slap my 16-year-old. What would that prove? That I really am a terrible mother, and not only have I not instructed my daughters well in how to behave but I can't control my own emotions.

Perhaps I misinterpret their apologies. Coming to me a half hour after a blow-up to talk about what she did that day in school might be my younger daughter's way of apologizing. And looking me in the eye and saying that dinner was good might be my older daughter's way of apologizing. Or am I just so desperate to find that they are good girls and I am a good mother, that that is how I need to construe things?

I remain relentless in my "don't talk to me like that" response because I cannot lose my perception of myself as a good mother. And if I gave up on them, I could never regain that title. And if I slapped them, I could never ask for it back. I guess if I keep doing what I think is right, they will eventually come around, or, at least, they should respect me for stubbornly adhering to a way of being and behaving that I think is right, and not give in to their teen tantrums.

I am mother, I am strong! Now SHUT UP and listen to me!

Time to Dust

I just dusted off the glass vase that sits on my desk, beside my computer. It was very dusty, there was a thick layer of dust that required solid wiping; a puff and a blow would not have been enough. I took a tissue and wiped all around, going into all of the crevices carefully, and then over again. It gleams now. I'm surprised that I didn't notice the dust before, because it had obviously been building up for a long time, but I hadn't. But once I noticed, it bothered me enough to immediately pick it up and clean it. As I held the vase in one hand and cleaned it with the other, I thought there must be an analogy here for my life.

Am I the vase? Am I as solid and real and specific as the vase? Is the dust debris from my life experiences? Can my internal dust be as easily wiped away as the motes of air that settled on the vase? Can I shine again as the vase does? Now, that it is clean, you would never imagine that just moments ago it was dull and unappealing. Can I discharge my dust, revealing, once again, my beauty?

Maybe I should fill the vase with water and put flowers in it; it would look better, and, afterall, that's what it's made for. I wonder what the analogy for that would be in my life?

A Pick-Me-Up for Myself

Okay, I've decided to take a break from negativity. I will do as parents used to do (at least when I was facing a plate at the dinner table), and compare my situation to starving children in Africa. Okay, not quite, but that's the idea. And even today I can say: at least I haven't lived through or died in the cyclone in Burma, or the earthquake in China, or whatever other horrific event ocurred in the past few days that I am not yet aware of. And so, I will (as Tom Friedman suggested in his Mother's Day column in yesterday's New York Times), look at the glass half full.

So, I will not focus on my daughter's negativity, but I will focus on the student who came up to me at the end of class today and said that she was sorry that my daughter is giving me such a hard time, but it will get better, she will come around, as she did with her mother.

And I will not focus on the unknown students who are complaining about me (about my inconsistency in being lenient or my occasional flares of humanity, namely temper and impatience), and instead on the student who gave me a Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother's Day card in which she thanked me for always "being there 4 her" and that I will be a big part of her memories of school.

And I will not focus on how we haven't sold the house yet, but that I am still living in this lovely four-bedroom home on a bigger piece of land than I ever contemplated would be "mine" when I grew up in an apartment in New York in a lovely neighborhood where my younger daughter walks to her best friend's house six houses away and her second-best-friend's house two houses behind ours.

And I will not focus on my financial woes, but I will focus on the never-ending generosity of my parents, and the fact that I have a stable job (except for the second point above, which has me concerned, but I will not focus on that concern either).

And I will not focus on how tired and sad I feel so often, but I will be thankful for my health and my ability to nap, which restores me to a more positive equilibrium.

And I will not focus on not having someone to love or who loves me, but I will focus on "feeling comfortable in my own skin." No, not that! I will focus on possibilities, and my never-ending optimism that I will be loved again and I will love again. This weekend, in the New York Times Wedding Announcement section (standard Sunday reading material for me) three marriages stood out: the bride is 50 and the groom is 66; the bride is 44, and the groom 45; and the bride is 60, and the groom 59 (they even had crushes on each other in high school). Not that I want to get married again, but I want to love again.

And I will not focus on today or yesterday, but I will focus on tomorrow.