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Posts from November 2008

My Ex-Husband Never Became President, Neither Did I

The other night, watching Michelle and Barack Obama on the stage in Grant Park I couldn’t help but (yes, think of myself) think of how we choose the man we will marry (and I am assuming in these days of SAHF, the woman we will marry). I am not talking about being a gold digger, but about the selection, both sub-consciously and consciously, that we ponder as we date, especially when we are too young to have a resume to present. Don’t we pick people who we think will succeed? Don’t we go with the guy who we think will go to the White House of his chosen profession?

I think that we are able, to a certain extent, to decide who we will fall in love with. All of the things that you find wrong with a guy in the first five minutes of meeting him, isn’t that just your way of telling yourself that he doesn’t meet your expectations for a husband? Granted some of the rejects are on their way (my first and only set-up blind date seemed to be on his way to being a bigwig in whatever field he was in, but all I could talk about was how I was moving to Israel in a couple of weeks, and he had to go back to the office to finish some things after less than an hour), but we do have to be somewhat selective. And even those who go for the deadbeats, don’t they usually talk about how they think they will turn him around? I worked with a woman who kept referring to the fact that her husband was a diamond in the rough when they first met, and after a few years he had built a successful company.

But going back to the Obamas, I’m sure that they were taken with each other’s physical, intellectual, and emotional compatibility as well as the potential that the other has in making her/his way in the world. I mean do you really want to hitch yourself to someone who has no ambition? Obviously we want success for ourselves, but don’t we also want to be with someone who has stars in his eyes—especially at the beginning of the journey?

When I started dating mr ex he had just become an officer in the Israeli army and he had plans to either be a spy (HA!), lawyer, or businessman, and perhaps politician down the line; and I was determined to be a writer of the intellectual bestseller by the age of 24 type (no comments). But beyond his career goals, this was a man who was at the center of a few groups of people, and they all listened to what he said (which was good, since I couldn’t always figure out what he was saying since my Hebrew was pretty basic, but it set the stage for me, or rather his stage). Not only was he the nuclei of different groups of friends and colleagues, but also of his family—he was the older son who everyone listened to. One of the interesting things about being in the military (this seems to be pretty universal) is that there is an intense selection process that tracks people, and you can really see how someone is valued and judged by the track he is put on. And boy, was he on an impressive track.

It all seemed good. He had been vetted. But the vetting process only works well if who you see is who you get, and the who does not transform in unknown and unexpected ways.

My point here is not that most of us fail to meet our own expectations, never mind how our significant other fails, but we at least begin with a heightened estimation of that person. I believed he could do all of those things (so much so that I even petitioned against the whole spy business) and I think he thought I would be a bestselling author (even though he didn’t “appreciate” what I wrote).

Maybe it’s harder to correctly analyze this when you are young (I was 22 when we started dating and he was 20) and don’t have much to go on. But there’s always something. What did the person do in high school? What college did the person attend? What was his SAT? What did he do during his summers? What did he do when he got out of college? Sure, it’s not quite on a track, but there’s a general direction.

Which leads me to an awfully obvious question: Am I jealous of Michelle Obama? You betch’ya. Even, God help me, Laura Bush. I made my choice, and I thought it was a good one. For goodness sakes, I thought that I had hit the bonanza with him, that we were on our way to tête-à-têtes in important circles with important people. In my own defense I do want to note that both of these women met their men in their 30’s, after the adult formative years and when there was more to see and assess—you know, more to fall in love with (or not).

Reconciling yourself to your own inadequacies and failure to launch are hard, but it’s hard, too, to reconcile yourself to the fact that your spouse didn’t live up to his own expectations—or yours. And it really doesn’t matter if it is because the world is against him or if he just didn’t have it in him.

Or maybe more tellingly, because other people saw in him a flaw that it took me so long to recognize. 

Who Am I? Who I Am.

I sit here thinking of the painful place I am in and how I feel myself about to sink into a deep pool of pity, but I don’t want to. No. I do not want to wallow. I resist the pull of the quicksand of pity—I will pull myself out before I sink in. I am more than this circumstance that has morphed into my life. This does not define me; this has not redefined me, well, not wholly. And I want to channel Scarlett O’Hara: I don’t want to think about that today. But there is no way around what has become a foundation stone, for better or worse.

So I sit here pushing my thoughts away from pity and into the path of pith. And as I ponder, it occurs to me that rather than a separation of body and soul that we have grown up being aware of, perhaps there is a different dichotomy, perhaps it is a multi-tomy or even a uni-tomy. There is not the internal life and the external world. There is not the desire and the reality. There is not the present and the future, or the past and the present, or the past and the future. There is not the perception and the reality. No. It is not even thoughts and actions. I can enunciate what the division of self is not, but what it is doesn’t come as easily. What is a self? What defines who I am? Is it who I want to be rather than who I think I am?

Can I negate my circumstance (all of the things that I don’t identify with because they hurt too much and actually deny who I am—who I should be) and focus instead on that which I acknowledge, of which I might be proud. (Would that be a more spiritual—not religious—interpretation of self?) Why not? Why can’t I consider myself as those qualities and capacities of which I am proud, which I would proudly acknowledge in a self-survey, and let the rest wither in estimation. Why do I have to resort to seeing myself as encompassing the good and the bad; does that really help me? And what does it mean to help oneself? If all of the introspection we do is to help ourselves, guide ourselves to making better decisions, acting kinder in tough situations, being satisfied, even pleased, with ourselves then why not just focus on the glow and not the glower?

Instead of pondering where I have fallen short, why not mull over deeds well-delivered? Wouldn’t making myself feel good at the end of the day be better for me (and those around me) tomorrow than festering over scabs that have been picked at? Instead of endlessly poking around slights, I could spend my talk and think time on how I lived up to self-estimation, and how I can even raise the bar.

There is a man at work who stops by my room every day to see me smile. He doesn’t always ask how my day is, and I don’t always want to talk, but his searching out the positive in me, my knowing that someone expects that of me, is what I am probing here. Often I feel better after my smile and nod of thank you than I do after a discussion with a colleague or friend or even my mother because so often our conversations flow to what was not good, what was upsetting, what went wrong with our day. And even after an outpouring of angst and an in-pouring of empathy I don’t feel better, I feel drained—and that is an empty feeling, not a full one, not a fulfilling one.

Maybe it’s me and that is the way I have directed my conversations with people, and if so, I need to stop that. I need to focus on the moments that enable me to smile at least once a day (five days a week). And if it’s other people, then I need to direct our attention to those moments in their day that would bring out their smile if they had a smile-man.

Yes. It’s already working. I have spent a few hours thinking about how to make myself feel better and not how the world is punishing me or how a man can be smaller than a mite and I do feel good. (Or is that the beer and the black and whites?) Perception, maybe that is the key, and the key within that would be to put blinders on to the bad and ugly.

In class, when a student answers a question, or has an insight, or even if s/he reads a passage aloud, I generally say “excellent” in acknowledgement which is surely a bigger pat on the back than the situation deserves, but it feels darn good to say it, and, I hope, to have it said to oneself. And to others I generally comment on how good something they did is, or how good they look. So this looking on the bright side of things is not new to me, is not an alien concept, it is something that came from me—to others—naturally.

Now I need to embrace that positivity for myself. I need to embrace it with the intensity with which I generally analyze the failings of ex man and the glowerings of older daughter. Even if this doesn’t turn into a lifelong conversion, I could really use a break from visiting the dark side for a while. I need a break from that because, really, what is new? Maybe only this intense exhaustion which could use a smile a lot more than it could use commiseration.

Still Looking, Kind Of

I just read a listing on JDate and the guy noted that he is not interested in a woman who blogs about the details of her life. Well la-de-da to you. Why? Is he scared that his foibles will be blazed across the internet and multitudes of people will read that he is sweet and has restored my faith in men, or conversely that he is another controlling man who won’t see me again. Oh well, I have self-selected out of some people’s lives by writing, by communicating, by reaching out to friends and creating new friends. If that is scary to some men, so be it. 

Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate

My expectation for the mediation on Tuesday was that I would get to sit in my own little room, ex would sit in his own little room, and the mediator would shuffle between us. I wouldn’t have to see him, I wouldn’t have to hear him, I wouldn’t have to be in his presence. Unfortunately, mediator man thought that two adults need to act maturely and civilly, you know, be nice to each other.

He forgot that I had told him we were divorced already, not a good thing to forget. Don’t worry, I reminded him of this significant detail as soon as he started asking if there is a way to save the marriage. Um, what marriage?

Did I say that mediator man is in his 70’s, battling cancer and recently had a part of his right ear chopped off? Perhaps his perspective on life comes from the perspective of a man looking back at the follies of people, but since I am in the prime of folliehood I did not appreciate his view from on high.

When I walked into the mediator’s office I was confronted with a very, very big oval table of heavy wood with six chairs around it. I think it was a dining room table transformed into an office table. But it was wide enough so that we couldn’t be near each other.

(Highlight of the meeting: ex’s chair broke. The wheel of one leg fell off, twice. I was gracious enough to not laugh, but my was that lovely. I wasn’t able to look at him, but I could see him struggling to get the wheel back in.)

Is it worth it to go into the details of ex’s presentation of his case? Or is it enough to say that as I listened to him, I could hear how an outsider would think that what he said made sense but it was all twisted, twisted by a perception of reality that is formed in a narcissist’s mind. Apparently the house has not sold for two reasons. First, we had an offer that I rejected. I practically jumped out of my seat when he said that. There has never been an offer, there was a price probe last summer a month after the house was listed that was so low that even the realtor didn’t take it seriously. Second, the carpet in the entrance is old and I refuse to replace it. Yes, a house built in 1977 with the original kitchen, original bathrooms, original windows, original flooring has not sold because of a worn carpet and not because it is priced as if it has a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new windows and new flooring. Please.

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Letter to the Judge

I was supposed to go to court today to plead to the judge to stop mr ex from harassing me, start paying me what he owes me, and stop preventing us from listing the house at a reasonable price. We came to an agreement during our mediation session on Tuesday so I will not have to go to court. (The post on that is still being mentally formulated but since I am so mentally drained, it’s taking some time.) But I thought that I would post the letter I had written to the judge at my lawyer’s behest. This letter would have been my opening argument in court.

* * *
I have been divorced from mr ex since August 2007. I have been separated from him since March 2005. It is unconscionable that we are still living in the same house.

I separated from him and divorced him because he is emotionally and verbally abusive. He has only gotten worse. Because we still live in the same house I am still an emotional and verbal punching bag for him. He has no stops on his mouth. He curses at me in front of our daughters, now 17 and 13. He insults me in front of them. It does not matter if I go into my room and close the door and lock it, he continues. It does not matter what I say or do, he continues. We are divorced, there is no reason for me to have to live in the same house as him.

We need to reduce the price of the house so that it can be sold. We will both still make money. I am being held prisoner because of his greed and my lack of money.

* * *

I have not slept in a bed since March 2005, except when visiting friends and family or on one weekend vacation. Since mr ex and I separated, I have slept on a couch in the living room, then on a mattress on the floor of the guest bedroom, and since June 2007 on a love seat.

That’s a lot of nights of discomfort.

That’s a lot of nights when I can’t stretch out.

That’s a lot of nights when I can’t roll around trying to find a comfortable spot so that I can go back to sleep.

That’s a lot of time for two girls, who are now both teenagers, but were 9 and 13 when we separated, to see their mother contorted on a love seat while their father stretches out on a king-size bed.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to see and hear their mother being verbally and emotionally abused.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to grow up watching what happens when love dies.

That’s a lot of time for two girls to think that this is normal.

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Tears of Joy

Hard to believe, I know, but I am a pretty emotional, weepy woman. Yes, I even cry when flipping through the channels and happen to catch a dramatic scene in a movie in which I have no idea what is happening. So it will be no surprise that I cried last night when Obama won. I cried while I bubbled in my ballot. (Finally a paper trail for my vote.) I cried when I drove by a group of college students standing in the rain at an intersection by my house at around five o’clock waving Obama signs. I cried when I honked my horn and heard other drivers’ honk theirs. Later, I cried when I saw people crying on tv. But who cries on election night, except the candidates and their families? Yes, this was different.

Different because his victory—OUR VICTORY—actually made me feel more American. Yes, I am a white woman, but I am a white woman with no blue blood in her veins. I am a Jewish woman whose family did not come over on the Mayflower, nor did my people colonize the west, nor did my ancestors line up medals from battles fought defending our freedom. My history is not the history that we are continually told represents the real America. And this is not just Sarah Palin being internally xenophobic, this is the America that is continually lionized in films and history books. Obama’s election enfranchises the breadth of people who truly create and recreate the United States of America.

Our voting for Obama shows that perhaps we are finally inclusive. Perhaps kids now will not feel less American because their grandparents came over to escape the horrors of the mother country in the last one hundred, or fifty, or twenty, or even five years and have not been here since the Founding Fathers. Perhaps kids now will feel truly American because their traditions have incorporated American traditions and are not just considered different, and thus wrong. Perhaps now we adults will be able to be fully American even if we aren’t old white guys. And I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a break from those old white guys.

Change. Yes. It’s about time.

It's Official: I Am a Terrible Woman

Apparently I really am a terrible woman. It turns out that my behavior, what with slamming doors and not agreeing to be walked on by mr ex, is upsetting his girlfriend. Yes, apparently it's true. Well now, now I really must assess the way I conduct my life because I would in no way want to annoy, bother or perturb ex's girlfriend.

More to come later from the mediation session, but this was just too much, I needed a sarcasm break.

I Voted

I waited 50 minutes at my polling place (a local library). The longest I ever waited before was 10 minutes, but I did go first thing in the morning instead of in the middle of the afternoon.

When I finally made it into the library, after winding my way through part of the parking lot and then the park space in front of the library there was a joyous call: “A through G go to the front of the line.” Yes! I am a G and so I skipped ahead of at least fifty H through Zers. But that is not the point, the point is that after my divorce I changed my name from my R- beginning last name back to my maiden name, the one that begins with a G. And so, I have reaped a benefit of my divorce today. Lovely. May it be a sign.

I was number 104 in the A-G group, out of a polling place of 3,000 citizens about an hour after the polling place opened.

Off to mediation.


The Bat Mitzvah Girl

My daughter is lovely, and she was lovely at her Bat Mitzvah. She chanted the Hebrew perfectly, she read her sermon at the right pitch and volume so that the congregation of friends, family, and congregants could hear her every word as she reflected on the Noah story and God’s covenant with man that he would never send a flood again (rainbows are a sign of this covenant); and that God commanded man to not murder, not eat a live animal, and to be fruitful and multiply. She was poised and graceful and intelligent.

And the two blessings that she received from the two rabbis who were there were so insightful about this wonderful young woman, and showed how she is appreciated by all who know her. One commented that she is an open, honest, caring person; and the other that she is a like a tent, for she is open and friendly, and providing the warmth of a tent to all.

Yes, during the service I could focus on this wonderful girl who is my daughter. I was with her and for her, and there were tears of pride in my eyes, not pain.

A friend’s father told me that she is stunning. Indeed, inside and out.

Wishing her happiness and fulfillment, and a long joyous life. 

Some More Reasons Why I’m Glad To Be Divorced

My friend, who never met slime, knew who he was immediately at the Bat Mitzvah. She pointed him out to me and said, “That guy, he didn’t hold the door open for me. He’s your ex, isn’t he?” Yup, that was him.

In the robing room, right before the ceremony, the cantor, rabbi, ex, my daughter and I were standing there to recite a blessing and receive words of comfort and joy from the rabbi. The rabbi asked ex to move in a little closer, which would result in his being closer to me—but in no way next to me. His reply: “no thanks, trust me.” Slime, always slime.

I arranged two parties by myself: one a luncheon after the service, and one a party for the kids at night. I planned, shopped, purchased, cooked, shlepped, arranged, organized, cleaned up (with the wonderful help of my sister-in-law—my brother’s wife), and shlepped back home with no help from him. Oops, I forgot, he carried one box into the house and took some things in his car to the evening party, but my daughter and her friends did all the carrying. slime and louse.

He cursed me out this morning in front of both my daughters (well, by this time I was in my room with my door closed because I could see that he was in rant-mode, but their doors were open) because I did not agree that he would take the money gifts from my daughter's Bat Mitzvah and invest them. And once again he did not spare himself the opportunity to mock me in front of my 17-year-old who is both cracking up inside and erecting a strong and solid wall to the outside world. He should be proud of himself that he turned a teenager against her mother, against the person who encouraged the development of her mind so that she would be an independent thinker.

Tuesday is mediation. Thursday is court. Please please please let this be over soon.