Relationships

A Good Saturday

I'm back from being in writer's no-words mode.

It is Saturday night and I am home alone in my emptied nest. The window is open, letting in the slight chill of an early fall evening in Virginia, and the crickets are the second soundtrack to the show tunes station to which I am listening.

In the morning I had a breakfast with a friend who is having relationship troubles. Ursula and I have known each other since I moved here from Israel thirteen years ago. We have breakfasted through my divorce, her dating escapades, my dating escapades, her relationship’s beginning, my relationship’s beginning—and end, and the draining interweaving-of-selves part of her relationship that shows just how hard it is to have a successful relationship once you’ve been divorced, and/or have passed 40 and the naiveté that accompanies us in our younger days.

In the afternoon I canvassed for a Democratic candidate for State Senate and against the entire Republican ticket in Virginia. Most people were not home on this beautiful, summer-like Saturday. One woman, whose husband I was there to talk to, tried to tell me that invasive ultrasounds were good because it gives women a chance to really consider killing a baby. Once we got past that, we had a real conversation, in spite of her obvious listening to Fox and my reading of DailyKos. I also saw a couple I know; he said that he was probably going to use his furlough time to do some canvassing.

When I came home, I read a little, I napped, then I walked Poops, and had dinner. For a few hours I have been reading at the computer and trying to write.

Nothing about my day was similar to the hectic pace and child-centric days when my daughters were home, nor was it similar to when I was focused on providing comfort to a husband or a boyfriend, or not getting the comfort I needed. Nothing about my day was less than an expression of myself. It is bittersweet, this open time of not being needed, but there is, too, the sense of satisfaction that the need I now fulfill for my daughters is fully me—and not a role. It is bittersweet, though, to have no one to ask me when I will be home from meeting with Ursula, and then to greet me with a kiss when I return as if I am some long-travelling love. But it was lovely not to think about when I need to be home so that a child or a man won’t feel alone.

There is much to life that is not intertwined with demands; it is astounding to have reached this point and this realization. Living without demands imposed upon me has also meant that I impose fewer upon myself. It also means that the focus I used to have on how I wasn’t as good as everyone but me is loosening its grip, as is my need to do just to show/say/feel that I am doing. There have been weekdays spent working and then coming home and not being productive. There have been weekends when the only thing I have done is to walk Poops. I am resisting saying that I did nothing because I am letting myself, finally, discover that life is life: it really is the moments and not only the actions or experiences or products.

Apparently I needed to be alone to proceed according to my internal clock (except for waking up at five am on weekdays) to become content. Spending a day with a friend, and a cause, and a dog, and then eating leftovers in pajamas is a darn fulfilling way to spend a day. 


The Alone Track

I’ve always considered myself a loner, so I was surprised to realize that I’ve never lived alone. In two months, though, it will be just me, and I’m not as happy about it as I thought I would be. When I first imagined the empty nest, I envisioned sipping champagne while soaking in a lavender bubble bath with a cucumber masque restoring my skin—with the door wide open and “my” music resounding throughout the apartment. Just me doing what I want. No critical, dismissive teen around. No man whose needs I cater to more than my own. I thought that I would have my own little resort spa, Casa Laura. But before I even had a chance to run my bath, I discovered that I’m not elated.

The empty nest marker signals the end of too much for it to be only about celebration. For almost thirty years I have cared for my loved ones. It’s not that I defined myself by the stuffing I made and the carpools I drove, but I did. How could I not? Sure, I’ve always been something else besides partner and mother, and I’ve always identified myself by my writing and my work, but whoa, this is like having an integral part of my identity being torn from me. A mental hysterectomy.

Am I ready to be just me? It seems so bare. So alone. How will I perceive myself? Obviously, I’m still a mother, but if no child is living in my house on a permanent basis, I need to create a new perception of who I am in relation to my daughters.

I can remember the day when the switch from active to supportive-back-burner mom occurred: the day my younger daughter got her own car. Up to then, the process of not being needed was so gradual as not to disturb my hormones, especially because there were always the driving duties to keep me in the need-loop. But, wow, when she could drive herself and not have to coordinate the car usage with me, I was released from an essential part of what being a mother has meant to me. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t revel in her independence, but it’s an empty independence. Gone were the talks in the car; gone, too, were the sullen silences, but, still, we were together.

Which means that I’ll have more in common with my widowed, retired mother than with my daughters. They are striding into their lives, while I am heading to a spot on a bench, next to my mother.

Oddly, the more I think about it, the more I feel ready to be just me. Over the last year and a half of her driving herself, and the year since Kenny left, I have been able to do what I want, no excuses or blame. I have gotten together with friends, and have spent or wasted my time as me and my pocketbook have allowed. I have been becoming the woman I am meant to be. Active motherhood is a thick layer in the lasagna of life, not the whole pan.

This summer, while my daughter is still here, I have plans of my own: I took a class for work last week, and I’ll teach a writing class for a couple of weeks. I’m also going away for a weekend with two friends and taking a woodworking class (which I’ve wanted to do since I had to take Home Ec and sewing in junior high school and not shop like the boys). It occurs to me that I have already started the transition from “mommy and me” to “girls’ night out.” I’ve been making decisions based on my needs and wants, not strictly theirs, but what is essential for my understanding of myself and my relationship with my daughters is that I still want to give and give and give, but they, rightfully, no longer want to live on the receiving line.

I can’t know what stages the relationship with my daughters will go through as they live their lives. What I now realize is that I won’t be an onlooker to their lives, because I will be on a parallel track: watching them and participating in my own race. Who knows? Maybe they’ll want to glance over every once in a while and see what I’m doing.


Guest Blogger: Author of "Never Marry a Momma’s Boy and 62 other men to avoid like the plague!"

Thank you for allowing me to do a guest post on your blog!  I am very excited to have this opportunity!

I have recently published a book titled “Never Marry a Momma’s  Boy and 62 other men to avoid like the plague!”   This book deals with types of men and the problems they automatically bring to a relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong-I really like men-I have been married 4 times (yes, four-I am the eternal optimist!).  Men can be interesting creatures-they see the world differently than women, have different interests, and can be fun to be around (not to mention the sex thing!). 

But “Being around” a man and marrying him are two different things!  Marriage changes everything-you are stuck with the whole person, not just the fun parts!

Men and women are very different (in case you haven’t noticed!) Men tend to be shallower and more rooted in the moment.  Women tend to be more introspective, caring, and nurturing.  We plan more for the future, and just generally have a much deeper nature in all ways.  It makes me laugh that most of the famous philosophers were men-the women were probably at home caring for the family and guiding him in his deep, deep thoughts (that he got credit for!)  Anyway, back to our topic…

Some men are genuinely wonderful people (in some ways). Sometimes you would swear this same man had the brains of a nit- and just about as much compassion and understanding!

 With all this said, many categories of men come with predictable problems, not just because of the man.  Certain problems are just inherent with different habits, families, personalities, or occupations.

This book has been the result of years of observations made as a Public Health Nurse, also working in the ER, Labor and Delivery and teaching Psychology.  As the years passed, I noticed, as many of you probably have also, that many men tend to fall into categories, with each category having its own set of problems.

This book was triggered by an event at work-the Momma’s  Boy of a co-worker was engaged.  Looking at the invitation sent to our office(with a lovely picture of the couple) was a horrifying experience-I saw myself years earlier, and knew exactly what kind of hell that poor girl was going to marry into!  That started a cascade of thoughts about types of men to avoid.

At around the same time I emailed an author about a book of hers that I loved, mentioning that I liked to write.  She said “Only you can write your book.”

Well, this book took over my life-I would dream of types of men-and wake up to write them down.  In the bathtub, types would pop into my mind, and I would scribble them down as soon as I stepped out.  I wanted to be done, but kept thinking of different types. 

I felt that if I could save ONE woman from a bad marriage, then I would be happy!

So here I am, sharing this on your blog-I hope it helps someone, or at least makes you laugh!  If you read this book, please email me your thoughts at susanconner99@gmail.com-I would love to hear from you!

Here is the link to my book:  “Never Marry a Momma’s Boy, and 62 other men to avoid like the plague!”

 


Suicide Threats after Love Is Gone

Not long before Kenny left, we took our last Saturday drive together. As usual, we stopped at the 7-11 near the house, but instead of the usual extra-large coffee and two apple fritters or donuts, he only got coffee. I got a plain donut and an extra-large coffee, so that he could finish it later. I was clinging to old habits, but he wasn’t.

We drove in silence a couple of hours south to Montpelier, Virginia, to see James Madison’s house (aptly named Montpelier). Unlike our early-romance silences that were comfortable and interrupted with the occasional conversation, revelatory or observational, this was a two-people-in-their-own-world’s kind of hard silence. Even when I drove down a country lane leading to a farm’s fruit and vegetable stand, there wasn’t any banter about what we would find—it felt like we were going to the supermarket.

When we finally ended up at Madison’s estate, we discovered that the entry tickets were $18 each. Since neither of us felt like spending so much money to wander around what had once been a plantation that we were only going to use as a backdrop to whatever conversation had been percolating within each of us during the drive, I turned the car around and continued driving. We got lost some more looking for a place to eat, until we found a country store selling barbeque. The barbeque wasn’t ready yet, so I ordered a Virginia ham sandwich and potato salad. Kenny didn’t want anything.

When I finally got my sandwich and finished talking to the proprietor (something I never did before Kenny came to town), we sat at the picnic table in front of the store. Sure, there was a tractor parked there making a lot of noise, and we were facing a two-lane road, but there were farms all around and the tractor added the appropriate background white (really black) noise to the scene, so we sat down.

I ate and he cried.

It is odd to think that you are an emotional and sensitive person, only to discover that the man in your life is more emotional and sensitive than you are. It makes you feel like a Beast, inside and out, while he gets to be the Beauty.

He told me, as I took a bite into my thick ham and cheese sandwich, that he saw no reason to live if he wasn’t able to make me love him. Looking out, past the tractor and the road to the sunlight trees lining the fields beyond, and then to the dirt under the bench, he said that he was contemplating committing suicide.

I was shocked, and then I was scared, hurt, and angry. I’m just a woman, I thought, as I tried to figure out what to say, why is he giving me more power than I have, and why is he making me feel guilty because of the way I feel. His statement was so supremely selfish that I was tempted to walk away, except he was obviously in so much pain.

When he moved here twenty months earlier he had said that his intention was to make my life easier because he had always loved me (we had been friends 28 years earlier) and because he was devastated by what I had told him and what he had read (on my blog and other writings that I gave to him) about my relationship with my ex-husband. Much of that was about how my ex-husband had tormented me emotionally, and how I perceived the origin of the abuse as his need to control me and my inability to move my STOP IT! thoughts out of my head and into words and actions that would have stopped him before there was nothing between us except the gulf between the moment we met and the moment he said he would spit on my grave.

When Kenny told me a few weeks earlier that he would be leaving, he said that it was too expensive for him where I lived and that he felt it would be better for us (or did he say for me?) if he moved. I had thought that things were good between us, but as soon as he said that, I knew it was right—that living with him was not right for me as a woman or as a mother. It was as if I had been at the optometrist’s office for endless hours of “Which is clearer: A or B,” but nothing was ever clear, until that moment of absolute clarity. Since then I had only seen clearer why I needed him to leave.

It had been too hard for me to make that realization since he had moved so far to be with me (from Belfast to Northern Virginia) and completely changed his life-plans in that move (graduate school in England to a great unknown). It was also hard for me to formulate my thoughts because he kept telling me that he loved me with all his heart and that I was all that mattered to him. After a while, hearing that didn’t make me feel loved, it made me feel imposed upon. Maintaining and protecting his love took precedence over whatever I might feel toward him. His love was not for me, but for himself—it became an unspoken demand for me not to do anything that would hurt him, that would open the open wound of his love for me because, after all, all that mattered was me.  

If my divorce had taught me anything, it had taught me to be clear about my feelings and thoughts and to not suppress them, but knowing that and acting on that turned out to beyond my ability. Not only because Kenny was so sensitive, but because I still put other people’s emotions above my own.

The first time that I told my ex-husband that I wanted a divorce, he said that he would commit suicide.

Between these two declarations of suicide there was all manner of working on relationships, and readings, and writings (a lot of those) focusing on faults (theirs and mine), with the occasional nod to strengths.

At the moment of Kenny’s despair, I reached for the compassion that he wanted, but I didn’t have any. My supply of you-first was gone, as was my sense that he was a sensible man. At that moment he was the desperate child that he kept telling me was hiding within him, ruined by a brutal childhood that he was never able to overcome. In arguments I had been instructed how he must be handled. I had tried to fit my needs into his, but at that moment I couldn’t—I felt manipulated, not consciously and maybe I only think that because I failed him and I am trying to take care of myself, but I had reached the point when all I could do was hand Kenny back to Kenny, and me back to me.

 

Things only went downhill from there until he left. I withdrew and he tried to take back his leaving. For me there was no going back: I needed him to leave.


A Single Lady, Her Dog, Her Girl-Chats, and Her Epiphany

On weekends I live in a virtually segregated world. There are no men around, unless you count the men servicing me—my groceries, I mean. It’s odd, but not a bad way to live. It’s as if I’m living on the flip-side of Taliban-enforced segregation but rather than in a remote Afghan village, I’m in a close-to-the-epicenter Northern Virginia neighborhood.

My ex-husband is gone. My boyfriend is gone. Even the man who just wanted to have sex with me is gone. And for some not-difficult-to-discern reason, I’m not seeking a man with whom I can attempt yet another failed relationship.

I know that there are families and couples in my neighborhood, and some barely-viewed single men, but their schedules don’t coincide with mine, so they are not a part of my world. It seems, though, that most of the single women around have dogs or at least keep similar hours as me, so we meet and chat as our dogs sniff each other’s not-so-private parts or as my dog sniffs and pees on one square of grass for ten minutes.

And on the home front, I have two daughters, so whether talking with my daughter at home or my daughter away in college, all our talk is from a woman’s perspective. For phone conversations there’s my mother who is always available for a recap of her day, which mostly involves discussing her women friends and their issues, especially since my father passed away two years ago. The one man still in my life, my brother, I call once every few months after I have despaired of waiting for him to ever call me, but our conversations barely make a flicker in my weekends of women-talk.

So there’s this constant brief interchange of stories and ideas that feeds my need to be heard and to hear. Since most of these conversations are unplanned, they represent the cream of conversations: concern for the other, telling only what is utmost in one’s mind and heart, and expressions of empathy—in short, conversations that recognize the value of the ordinary rhythm of life.

 

It occurs to me as I think of these open exchanges that there’s a reason why I’m single, and the blame doesn’t fall solely on the men who are no longer in my life—or never made it into my life. Maybe I’m just more myself with women. With men, there always seems to be a limit to my honesty. With my female friends I never try to figure out what to say to please them or to make them like me; there’s never any pressure to impress. It’s me in all my blunt and interrupting glory.

It could be, too, that I do better in small chunks of time rather than unending time together. There’s a big difference in who you are when you have two minutes every couple of days or two hours every few months than when you have dinner together every night, and breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time on the weekends. For goodness’ sake, all the good stories have long since told and retold by the time a relationship’s second anniversary rolls around and by the weekend every day has been thoroughly examined. When you only see a friend once in a while, there’s always something new to recount. For two hours we can each put forward the best aspects of our personalities and our lives. It’s certainly not worth it to be grumpy when it will soon be back to the grind that caused the grumpiness in the first place.

Maybe the best way for relationships to survive is to redefine them. My marriage might have lasted if we only met once a week and sex was upon desire, not convenience.

But maybe not, because I fundamentally act differently with men, so the whole two-hour weekly visit practice might still have backfired on me. After my boyfriend, who had been my friend 28 years ago, became my partner I rose to the occasion by considering his feelings and needs before my own, which turned out not to be good for our relationship. With friends I pride myself on being forthright, so why can’t I do that with men? Sure, the stakes are different: no more coffees together versus no more retirement plans together. But I do I wish that I hadn’t felt the need to protect him from my honesty; I wish, too, that I hadn’t felt so much pressure to make him happy.

With friends there are no expectations beyond the moment, so there is no reason not to be forthright. It should be possible for me to act like that with a man, especially if I want to be in a relationship and, surely, I have learned by now that without honesty, there is no staying power.

Not needing or expecting anything could be the key; although, I’m not sure it’s possible. Isn’t reciprocity the very essence of a relationship? Indeed, I know that I don’t want a relationship that is as casual as a conversation on the corner. The problem might be in the hoping and the wishing that this man, whoever he is, could be my knight, even though I have learned that I am the only knightette I can depend on, and that I don’t want to be anyone else’s knightette.

The added value of these all-women weekends is not for me to safely retreat, but to have realized that my essence contains no subterfuge and that I need to live that truth—in or out of a relationship. 


'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all

Kenny is gone. He left five weeks ago. Maybe he’s in California. Maybe he’s in Oregon. I don’t know. I doubt I will ever know. I don’t think I will hear from him again. But who knows; after all, two years ago I heard from him after 28 years.

All was well, until it wasn’t.

It was wonderful, then it wasn’t.

Perhaps some romances are only meant to be temporary.

Perhaps some people are better alone than in a couple. 

I am sad that he left, but there’s also relief. I don’t have to feel bad when he withdraws into himself. And I don’t have to try to draw him out. He will take care of himself, and I will take care of myself.

But it is so sad. It was such a perfect romance. We had been friends, then we were lovers. I felt embraced by his love. But then it started feeling confining. But I couldn’t talk about that with him. He made so many sacrifices to be with me—shouldn’t I have been able to do more for him? I tried, yet once again I found myself trying to fulfill my partner’s needs rather than my own.

I have spent the last few weeks writing and thinking about Kenny and our relationship. I have realized that I need space and time to myself, and if I ever get in another relationship, we should each stay in our own apartments.

It’s funny, he said he was purely guided by his desire to make me happy, but that ended up not being as wonderful as it sounds. What if his efforts didn’t make me happy? What if I didn’t want to receive his efforts when he wanted to give them? It was sweet and it was bitter.

May he find joy in himself and in his life.


Book Review: Love for Grown-ups

Book Review: Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides’ Guide to Marrying for Life When You’ve Already Got a Life by Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl, and Trish Rabe

A big recommendation goes out to women and men to read Love for Grown-ups. This book is about how we, the “over the hill” folks, are not so over the hill, or once we’ve all made it over the hill there’s a sensitivity and kindness that weren’t there on the other side—or at least there’s the acknowledgement that that’s what it’s all about: being loving, finding love, continuing to be loving, and finally being maturely loved (as in loved and respected for all one’s qualities—and personality quirks). What’s so wonderful about this time of life, as the Garter Brides describe in their book, is that both women and men have decided that kindness, consideration, and good sex are all things to want, to search for—to deserve and to expect. No longer are we to believe those adages about women over 40 and their chances of marrying being akin to winning a Vogue make-over. No, we are to listen and heed all the happily-ever-after stories of the many midlife women they have compiled in this book, including the three authors’ lovely stories, to make us know that we are the winning ticket! 

This book is listed as being a Self Help book, but as a non self-help book fan, I can say that this is not a simplistic do this and this will happen type of book. It’s more that Blumenthal Jacobs, Lampl, and Rabe laid out their stories and invited the reader into the lives of so many other women so that the reader can think that “you know, maybe it could happen to me too, maybe I can still be happy in a relationship.” And that, truly, is more honest help than I got from friends who just tried to pick up my spirits saying that I deserve happiness (which is true for all of us). But that’s not the same as showing how it has happened and how it could happen to me.

And now that I am in a relationship, although I don’t know if it’s going to last more than another month, there is a security that I feel because of this book, and it’s not necessarily that I will marry again, which is not my goal. No, the security is in the fact that Love for Grown-ups puts all those horror stories that I lived through via on-line dating into context—that there is a reason to believe that it could happened to me too.

While up-beat on the whole, the book tries to be realistic, but since the writers’ stories are so positive-in-the-end, “look we got married!”—it’s up to the reader to add her dose of doubt. The section on blending kids and families was, for me, not as true to my reality, but who’s to say my tough teen is not the exception? I did appreciate, though, that they did lay out the problems that arise and how they and other couples handled them. That, surely, was insightful.

So if you need to read some real life 40+ love stories, this is the place to go.  


My Father

My father died on December 21st two years ago.

Since that time the unbelievable happened: we continued to live. It’s not hard to recall the intense pain and loss we experienced—experience. At the time it seemed inconceivable that life could continue when he was no longer with us. How is it that we are here and he is not? The power of that thought was overwhelming and guilt-inducing.

But, life does go on. Millennia of loss with life going on. That joining in with generations of mourners was what made me understand that I, too, can go on.  

I still have the seven-day Yahrzeit candle that was lit when we sat shiva for him. I still have a voice mail message from him—from two months before his death, days before he found out that he was dying of esophageal cancer. And I still have an intense feeling of missing an important component in my life. That’s what comes, I guess, from his having been such a kind, loving man—to his family and everyone he knew. A quiet redhead.

Maybe this sense of him that does not leave me nor can it leave me is the stuff of which ghosts are created. An image of the person—physical and internal—who passed, who was loved and whose loss is always present.

My mother said that he spoke to her in their bedroom after he died.

Death. A part of life. It would be nice if it weren’t so. Thank goodness for internal flashbacks and the recollection of images and words and gestures and even sense of person from days of fullness. Thank goodness, indeed, for my father having been my father.


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!


Abuse In My Past, Not In My Present

Lately I haven’t had many visitors to my site, which makes sense since I am not posting very often. And many of them who do come are looking to read my post on chin hairs. It seems that many many many women the world over are suffering from midlife beards. Oy. But yesterday someone came to the site who was reading post after post on abuse. Which lead me to go to a blog on spousal abuse—something that I haven’t done for a very long time. The post I read there was about how this woman had finally left her husband after he had repeatedly been dismissive of her. I read the “straw breaking the back” post. And that brought me to a deep sense of thankfulness and almost forgetfulness that that was my life in the not-too-distant past, which, thankfully, has no relation to my life in the present.

People say that women have children after their first child only because they forget how painful childbirth is. Regarding relationships after emotional and verbal abuse: you can only have a relationship if you remember the pain—but don’t keep the pain itself alive.

So here I am, 19 months in my rented apartment, 19 months after the house was finally sold, and 19 months since I lived in the same house as the man who tormented me. It is also six months since a friend from the past kindled a spark that lead to love that lead to almost three months of our living together. Three months of creating a relationship that is based on love, respect, concern, admiration, and, alright, quite a tinge of mutual attraction. Not only didn’t I think that I could be in a normal relationship after my marriage, but from the pit of despair I would hear of fairy tale endings and proclaim: “How lovely, but I know that will never be me.”

As I read the woman’s post, I found myself unable to empathize with her—it was a sad story and I was glad to read that she had overcome so much pressure (internal and external) to be her own life-saver. But letting myself sink into the details, and read past posts, and imagine what her life must have been like—and what it was at that moment—no, I didn’t go there. I couldn’t.

Perhaps I have some version of PTSD, where to relive, in any way, past horrors brings to the fore the accompanying anguish and sense of self-loss.

I didn’t feel good that I couldn’t send vibes of compassion out to this woman, that I could merely observe where she was and cheer it, but it felt safe to look from the distance—from my fortress. 

What can I say? I was abused, but it is over—it is a part of my past. Since then I have created layers of life and self that do not depend on that reality: that are independent of it. Since then I have other things, such as chin hairs, to worry about. And now I have a man by my side for whom I pluck those hairs, even if he would never comment on them in anything but an endearing way.

My my life, indeed, can be wondrous, even if once it was so very arduous.

To that blogger: May your life and all those who you wish in it sustain you and keep you fulfilled.


Sharing Minutes

Opposite me sits a man who has fallen asleep. He sits on the floor, leaning against the couch. His head is back, his mouth is open, he is gently snoring. And when he wakes up a few minutes later he will say, “Laura, is there anything I can get for you?”

“No,” I will say because there isn’t anything I want and because I know that if I say something he will get up from the floor immediately.

That scene is the scene of my life since Kenny moved here in mid-October. The asking what he can do for me, and the fulfilling of those responses. And beyond that: the attempt to figure out what my responses would be before I formulate them. My life has changed since he has come into my life not only because I share my bed and my table and the minutes of my life with a wonderful man, but because my expectations for my life and how I will be treated and responded to have changed.

He tells me that I put everyone before myself. I ask, “Is that true?” because it doesn’t feel that way; I feel that I put myself before everyone else. But his contention, from observing me and hearing the stories of my days, presents angles of myself which I have never seen. And I appreciate those angles which come from his intense honesty and deep respect. “Refreshing” is too pale a word to sustain the thought that I am finally being reflected off a person who sees me in sunny tones because he, too, is a sunbeam. To be able to finally and fully discard the horror shop image of a woman that was presented to me for years is refreshing and life affirming. Surely it should have been done before, but until I had loving words to override the spite-filled ones there was always space in my mind for echoes.

Is there a way to thank a man beyond loving him?

“Aye,” as he would say.  There is coming up with answers to his question. There is the independent woman who can manage on her own, and there is the independent woman who can manage on her own who learns that strength can be found when two lean against each other. So, “Aye, Kenny, you could read this post.” 


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.


The Fuzzy and Infinite Bead of Plenty

I ended my previous post, a month ago with this paragraph: “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.”

The bead that I was referring to is a man with whom, 28 years ago, I would walk along the daytime and nighttime streets of Manhattan (and one bridge to Brooklyn in a blizzard) being the most open I had ever been with anyone. This man suddenly appeared in my in-box from where he has since snuggled his way into that space I didn’t know existed: a heart untrammeled.

When I started this blog in April 2008, I needed an outlet from all the pain I was experiencing from another man I met 28 years ago: my ex-husband. (Speak about making the wrong choice!) When I began the divorce proceedings four years before that, it was not to clear my decks for another man or even—utterly preposterous—the idea of love; rather, it was to come up for air. For too long I had been stifled: stifled by him and stifled by myself in reaction to him. And the blog, well, I needed to figure out how to breathe again.

First I just poured out in pain. I was seeking to find solace in the opening up, in the discovery of shared pain, in the offering of words of wisdom from survivors, in the providing of comfort to those who only had pain. And then, once I began to find my breathe and my voice, I found that I didn’t just reside in pain. I found that I could write—and think—about things that did not revolve around my life and its downs and occasional ups. I would write about all manner of thing. I liked to think of myself as a columnist (note: I would love to be a columnist) sharing my point-of-view and insights. But always, always there was some new anguish from my ex-husband that I needed to screech out. And now, well it still happens because he has not changed, but I don’t want to dwell on it, I want to acknowledge it and return to the path that my life has taken.

I am, for a moment, without words. Not just that I never thought I would be so fulfilled from a man’s attentions, but that I honestly did not expect more than a freedom of self when I began the divorce journey and the blog journey. Who knows what is beyond, yonder on the horizon, but I know what is not there. What is not there is the pain that has been transcribed here.

In a telling reflection that life is never flawless, this man lives abroad. I will be visiting him for a few days in six weeks—the countdown is on. But when you have two writers unfolding their hearts to and for the other, it is a thing of transcendent beauty. My inbox surely runneth over.

My words, and my thoughts, and my creativity, I have begun to channel to this man as well as to the new book that I have started writing. And so, I guess, I am saying goodbye. Or maybe, because goodbye seems so final and hard, I am saying that when and if I return it will not be as a woman discovering a recipe for lemonade to use the lemons her life dropped into her basket, but it will be as a woman who has recipes for cakes and soups, the sustenance of life. Or maybe I won’t have any recipes to share, just stories that show it is possible to go from the depths of the tunnel where no light can penetrate, to a place that feels darn close to Everest.


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.


Women, Hugs and Friendships

The other night was the last night of Hebrew School. I now have my Tuesday and Wednesday evenings back. I said goodbye to the sixth graders and the “big kids” (the middle and high schoolers) the previous night, but there were no dramatic pronouncements. When I said goodbye to the third graders, it was much different. I will sorely miss them. Before they bolted out of the classroom (with the boy who had been one of the rowdiest as the line leader because he had gained my trust that he would not lead them to whoop and holler down the hall), I told them how much I enjoyed being their teacher and how wonderful it was to spend the year learning with such a great group of kids—and I meant every word I said. There is something truly special about third graders. I haven’t studied enough child development to know why, but their blossoming and openness and giddiness is just a wonder of nature.

And then I did dismissal, otherwise known as ushering kids into the right cars and not letting parents who already have their darlings in their cars run over someone else’s kids, because what do they care—their kids are safely ensconced within.

Then one of my closest synagogue work friends left. The night before she joked that she wouldn’t give me a goodbye hug that night, but at the last moment—she didn’t want to get sentimental. We finally hugged; it was an uncertain hug because she’s not sure if she’ll be back to teach next year. We talked about getting together over the summer and I thanked her for being such a good role model to my daughter who helped her teach some of her classes for part of the year. And we broke the space rules as we stood there and intensified the feeling of friendship that had been steadily growing over the year.

Then I went inside and said goodbye to my other good synagogue friend. When we realized that I won’t be back until the end of the summer, we hugged. This is the woman with whom an amazing amount of ground was leaped over to develop a solid friendship once we both realized that we had been married to crazy Israelis. Now she’s married to a mere mortal who is a lovely and kind and gentle man. I love catching up with her in those few lull-like moments when we can act on our friendship.

As I walked out of the synagogue on my way to my car, I realized that those two women despise each other. There had been a scene in the middle of the year; there had been harsh words slung especially in one directions (of course, this was from one of the players, so the slinging was probably mutual); and there had been an unsuccessful “let’s all just get along” session lead by the director. How is it that I am close to both of them? Close as in get along in the comfortable fleeting friendship way that develops because you effortlessly click with someone. There have been no coffees together, or lunches out, or even shopping soirees (how women shop together is beyond me, but I know that it happens because two women in the department at school are forever wearing the same Ann Taylor outfits and shoes), simply a few minutes once or twice a week to exchange a hello, an update that all is well and if all is not well, to give and receive heartfelt compassion.

How is it that two women who I get along with so effortlessly so dislike each other? It punctures my whole “friends of friends” theory that says we can generally befriend a friend’s friend because we are on the same wavelength. Kumbaya and all that.

Friends of friends. Maybe we need to earn each and every one of our friends and friendships—and none can or should be taken for granted. And, perhaps, I should value each of those friendships more than I do because they are not doled out as easily as I had thought. And just perhaps I should value my ability to make friends and keep them, and not assume that it is the other person who is so friendly. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am a good friend and not an incidental conversationalist. 

Those hugs. They were from me and they were for me. They were a testament to something—something that I need to embrace and not merely walk through as so much air. 


Fleeting Friendships

I often think that I don’t have many friends, and that I have never had many friends. But I wonder if I have far more than I ever imagined. Perhaps the accounting system I use is flawed. Do we all have more friends than we think, and is it, perhaps, the working definition of what “friendship” is that limits our access to an expanded world of friends and friendships?

Are friendships only those relationships that occur over years of talking around tables or in living rooms? Are they only represented by longevity and a kind of intimacy that comes with details known and exchanged? What about those people who you smile at and exchange pleasantries with—once or every day for years? Do they count? Are those friendships? Could a definition of a friendship be an interaction with a person that brings you pleasure?

During the school year on most Tuesdays I teach at my synagogue’s Hebrew school. For the first half of the year my daughter started an hour before I did, so I would go to the nearby McDonald’s and eat and do whatever preparation work needed to be done before heading back to teach my classes. After a couple of weeks I noticed that a mother and her young son and daughter were there at the same time. At first we exchanged nods. Then we progressed to the most casual of conversation: hi, how are you’s. After this introductory phase we began talking. It turns out that she would take her kids to McDonald’s before they went to religious school at the church right next to my synagogue.

Is she a friend? Technically or by the traditional definition, she is not. But I feel that she is. I looked forward to our weekly exchanges. I enjoyed our five minutes of chatting between attending to my work and her kids. She remembered my name and I eventually remembered her name.

(The word acquaintance does not fit here, because, at least in my understanding, an acquaintance is someone you are familiar with, but there isn’t a true connection, one that brings a warmth from a meeting, however brief.)

Another element to thinking about these fleeting friendships is whether or not the exchange added a dimension to your life. Was there another layer of meaning created through the exchange? In that case, these fleeting friendships surely do something that “real” friendships cannot. It is an absolute acceptance of who you are just by the feeling that you project and receive. It’s a kind of love at first sight, but rather than love you have intrinsic recognition.

This expanded definition feels important. It gives me a new dimension from which I can look at my life and interact with the world. That certainly is a wonderful thing to discover on a Thursday night.


More Thoughts on People

I’m still mulling people’s reactions to each other, or perhaps I am still mulling how people live their lives so separate from each other. Or maybe I’m mulling how I’m still disappointed in people, but I'm coming out of that into a disappointed acceptance.

The other day I received in the mail a condolence card from my colleagues. I cried as I read through their comments, touched that were sending out their thoughts to me and that they had made this gesture. But then I caught myself: so, they all knew that my father had passed away and yet they hadn’t said anything to me face-to-face. At first they got a sort of pass because it was possible that they hadn’t known that he had died, but now I know that they had known and yet they thought that “I’m sorry for your loss” on a card was sentiment enough. Maybe it is—in their worlds—but not in mine.

Yes, I know. My father died and your life goes on unaffected. Well, if my father hadn’t led by example never to curse I would say “f%#* you” to all those who are so callous. I’m in an angry mood, maybe it’s a stage of reacting to people’s reactions when called to rise to the occasion. First, disappointment, then anger. What comes next? Maybe, as a few of you suggested, cut the dead wood. Forget about those people who don’t want their lives to intersect with mine or who don’t know how to intersect with other people.

Yes, I should focus on my one colleague who gave to me a bottle of wine with a smiley face on it—Happy Wine—because she knew I’d “been having a tough time.”

I am going to resist retreating again from people. And I am going to try not to absorb the lesson “not to expect anything from people.” I am going to try to continue living my life according to the rule “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man,” because I prefer some tears of disappointment in others over tears of disappointment in myself.

Life lessons. Is that what life is all about? Is life like a billboard on a busy road? We keep passing the signs displaying the lessons, but only after we’ve driven by them countless times do we finally understand what they’re saying. Unfortunately, there are lots of drivers who are so focused or distracted or inept that they never look around, and so they never see the signs.

The latest sign: I’m going to stay focused (and not feel bad about it) of comprehending the signs and not letting the sign-less distract me.


“Oh, Yeah, Sorry about Your Father”

My mother has found the outpouring of grieving reactions from people about my father’s death to be moving and comforting. She keeps saying how surprised my father would be—so many people have touched her by saying such nice things about a man who was always nice. Me, well, on the whole I have found that I need to reconfigure what I think of people. Granted, none of the people who have, unbeknownst to them, hurt me ever knew my father, but I had thought that on the whole people were kind and caring and were able to take a moment out of their lives to console a friend/colleague/acquaintance. My mother said I should just leave it, but how can I? How can I let the uncaring, or unaware, or thoughtless not impinge just a bit into my vision of the village?

Maybe I was like them before, not aware of how much a word, however brief, just acknowledging someone’s grief means to that person. But does that really excuse a colleague who I laugh with on a daily basis in the English teacher lunchroom to say to me the other day, as I was telling something that happened while we were sitting shiva at my parent’s house, “Oh, yeah, sorry about your father.” Speak of cutting to the quick with insensitivity. A few years ago, when I barely knew her, I went to her sister’s funeral. So she knows of grief. The casual way she addressed me just doesn’t leave me.

And then there is another teacher, her room is next to mine and we talk on occasion, but she is much older than me and she keeps to herself most of the time because she’s busy being the overworked theatre teacher. Granted, this summer we ran into each other in the records room of the courthouse when she was there with her daughter who was going through a divorce and I was there in the continual ache of divorce proceedings, which, perhaps, made some kind of outside-of-school bond. And I did tell her that I was flying down to Florida because my father was sick. When she saw me in the hall the other day, she gave me the warmest hug and said how sorry she was for my loss. Then, after we talked for a few minutes, as she was walking away she turned and said “Love ya,” which worked to bring tears again to my eyes, this time not in memory of my father or her parents who had passed away, but from the kindness of some people and the connections that we create that hold us to each other—and up.

There was an email announcement at school and at temple about my father’s passing. At school, one person sent an email and one person sent a card, and I received a plant from the school administration. I did tell three school friends about his passing before the announcement was made and they were kind, but each of them, I believe, should have contacted me over the break to see how my father was, which they did not do. At temple, there were calls and emails from a few people, and a donation made in honor of my father. At temple there were also genuine hugs when people saw me, and there was an honest sense of caring.

I don’t know what to think. Is it an age thing, being able to acknowledge someone’s grief and be able to reach out to a person who is grieving? Is it a work-relationship thing? Is it me and my ability or inability to connect at a deep enough level with people for them to reach out to me? Is it that at temple, a place created for, to a great degree, dealing with the hurts of life, people find it easier to connect? I have no idea.

What I sense is that we are so entrenched in our lives that we don’t take the time to reach out to each other, at least not in meaningful ways. What I sense, too, is that we are so very tribal and the tribe is so very very small: one’s own nuclear family and the few friends who are admitted into that circle. Social networking. Is that just another way to pretend that we engage with people when, really, we are further closing into the smallest family unit. Do we know how to create meaningful relationships? Do I?

The saving grace was my real friends, who showed that they are, indeed, real friends. Am I too naïve or deluded to hope/ think/expect that more of the people whose lives intersect with mine will care enough about me to extend a word, a gesture, an acknowledgement? Pain. Yes, it’s painful that my father passed away. But it’s also painful to realize that we are not intersecting with each other, we are simply in parallel paths.

Will this knowledge stop me from expressing my concern for others? No. There is a difference in understanding the way most people work and in succumbing to that. Are my real friends my real friends because they share the same characteristics as me? Maybe it’s not our circumstances that invites closeness but rather our personalities.

I don’t know. It’s all so painful. Is it really so hard to show that you care, that someone else’s life can divert from yours for just a moment?  


A Loss, The Loss

My mother is sitting on the couch opposite me sewing up my younger daughter’s jacket, which is actually her sister’s old jacket. My younger daughter is sleeping, even though it is past noon. My older daughter is back in LA visiting her boyfriend after spending a few days with us. It would be a lovely tableau, except it is a very incomplete picture. My father is not sitting on the other end of either couch reading the Sports section because he passed away on Monday morning.

When I bought our tickets to fly down to Florida last week he was still at home; by the time my younger daughter and I arrived on Friday, he was in ICU waiting to be brought to hospice later that evening.

On Sunday his rabbi told us what a wise rabbi had once told him: at a certain point, you no longer pray for healing but for a peaceful journey. It appears that that is what he had. A peaceful journey for a man who was peaceful his entire life.

Both of his parents had emigrated from Russia with their families when they were young. There is one story of hiding in the back of a hay wagon. Who knows? No one talked of those adventures much. The focus was more on raising their three children, who in turn raised their children, who are now raising their children.

The wavy shock of my father’s red hair had rusted over the years and some on top was lost to two sessions of chemo. But his carrot-top days were still evident in back. As was his sweet tooth. He had not been able to eat for a few weeks due to his esophagael cancer (it was detected in late October), but while we were there we were able to feed him some Key Lime pie, raspberry jello, vanilla ice cream, and he could feed himself some watermelon and cherry candies.

What a thing it is to see a father die. But we spent our last day with him, and his last full day, watching football in the afternoon. It is a thing, though, to know that one’s father was such a good person. Everyone who came to his funeral or came to sit shiva with my mother or who called spoke of a man who was always sweet and soft-spoken. The man who told my mother after a couple of weeks of dating that he wanted to be together “for life” did just that for almost 55 years.

And now my mother will have a different life. And we who loved him will have a different life. But his kindness and gentleness will always be a part of our lives.


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?