The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

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Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

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A Little Art Therapy

About a month ago my very bossy therapist (LMAO)  encouraged me to start painting. She wanted to see what emotions would emerge on paper, the colors I used, and the feelings I could name for what I drew.

“HOLD ON THERE, ” I thought. “I can’t even draw stick figures.” And so, like most things my therapist suggests, I resisted. I mean, writing comes easily but drawing….NEVER. And if I was going to invest in something; I wanted to do something I would excel at. The truth was if I couldn’t be Rembrandt I wanted no part of it. Yet, since my therapist is Miss All-Knowing, I decided to take her cue and give it a try.

Frankly, I was surprised what emerged from my hand onto the paper. The first pictures screamed in rage but as I drew I found that anger lessening with each picture. Those pictures that I was unable to express the images I felt … I found them, copied them, and then added to them to make them my own. They are rough, scary, beautiful…all of what my heart and soul has experienced during the past three  traumatic years.

And here is the funny thing. When I first started drawing I found I could not leave the words out of the pictures. Since I write professionally, I guess it should come as no surprise that words gave me comfort and a sense of familiarity that was hard to walk away from. But Miss All-Knowing insisted that I take the words out so I could no longer hide behind those words. What a struggle that turned out to be!

As much as I hate to admit it, doing all this artwork is producing a change in myself. I feel more at peace and my anger/pain has diminished.  Although I will never be a great artist there are several things that I have learned about the similarities between art and life in these few short weeks as I have explored this unused side of me and what I have discovered is this:

  1. The fewer words you use; the less explaining you have to do.
  2. Getting “stuck” in life or in art curtails the creative process. Just keep on forging ahead even though nothing fruitful appears to be emerging..
  3. Art, like life, is meant to be fun. Don’t take it all so seriously.
  4. Chances are, the more you try to fix, something the bigger mess you will end up with.
  5. Almost nothing turns out the way you expected when you first started your masterpiece.
  6. If you go with the flow and just let the colors end up where they are supposed to you will cut down considerably on your stress.
  7. Life, like paint, is meant to be free flowing, not stagnant.
  8. Leave your painting/emotions alone and come back to them later. Often you will see things in a different light later on.
  9. Less is often better in painting and in life.
  10. Trying to control all aspects of your life and your creation will often result in untold and needless suffering.
  11. Do anything enough and you will get better at it whether it be artwork or improved communication.
  12. Shut up and let your actions/work speak for themselves.
  13. Trying too hard is just as detrimental as not trying hard enough.
  14. In life as in art; have no expectations about the results.

Funny thing. While I am still not crazy about drawing and the like I have developed enough of an interest that I have found the need to learn a few of the “how to’s” of painting..  And so this weekend I attended my first water color class. While I am unsure whether this turn of events is due to the curiosity factor or my foolish need for “perfection” I am unsure; but either way I find I am enriching myself and growing beyond the artificial borders that I once set for myself… and what more could you ask of yourself?

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Self-Improvement

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Several weeks ago an older woman walked up to me and told me that she really liked how I talked to my son. I was shocked because I did not feel that I had done a good enough job to merit that type of praise. In fact, as I often do, I felt as though I had “kind-of-sort-of failed” in my response.

Later as I reflected on the moment I thought, ” Why, if a stranger can be so kind to me, then why is it so difficult for me to be kind to myself? Why do I seem to negate recognizing the good that I do each day? Why is it I always feel the need to do better?”

As I have contemplated this the last several weeks I have realized that I often end my day examining those things that I feel I have failed or done a less than spectacular job at according to some invisible standards I hold for myself. And so, I have been contemplating and asking myself: where did these standards even come from and what makes me give them the validation that they so often don’t deserve?

In response to this, I have begun a nightly ritual in an effort to change this part of my life. Upon laying down in bed at night, I hug myself tight, and make a mental list of all the things I did right that day and if I am in doubt about one of them I give myself a win anyway. At the end of this recap I am write down the improvements I have seen in myself as a way to encourage myself as I take this journey through life. I give myself the chance to see the positive through a lens of critical assessment that I have lived with for a very long time. At times, It has been difficult to see positive change because I am so used to being harsh with myself, but little by little, even though I may fall short of my “invisible standards;” I am finding instances in which I deserve my own pat on the back even though I have not behaved perfectly. And I find, that when I wake in the morning I seem to be much more optimistic than I had previously been.

Often newly married couples are given the advice not to go to bed mad at each other because it leaves a sour taste in your mouth the next morning. The same could be said of ourselves. Going to bed with negative thoughts begets negativity in the morning. So try noticing your good points and successes throughout the day and run through the list before retiring for the night. You might just find you sleep sounder and wake up feeling refreshed.

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So Be It …I Found Happiness

After all that has happened in my life I decided I needed to take a break from blogging. I needed to center myself and become really grounded so I could do the work that I needed to do.

The first thing I did (we did) was move. That said, the new house is in my name only and is not part of community property. I felt I needed to do this to protect myself and my children should B go off the rails again. It makes me feel secure and I am proud of myself for insisting on this safety measure.  I also put some other measures into place that has ensured that I am taking care of myself and kids.  All in all a good deal and I came out ahead of being divorced. A 30+ year marriage is not something I wanted to leave behind especially with the dynamics of our family. Besides I do still love the big lug and I know he loves me regardless of the past. Doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dorie but it does mean we are both still trying and that is something!

Needless to say, moving involves a lot of change which all have managed fairly seamlessly and with a few tears. Change is hard but also it shows you what you are made of. It offers new possibilities and allows everyone to “reinvent” themselves to some extent. Honestly, reinventing your life reveals surprises that you never considered before and I welcome them with open arms. Come on world…show me what you’ve got!

I have been working hard with my therapist’s help to decide who I want to be and what I want from these coming “golden” years. Not there yet but getting close so it is time for me to plan. I feel stronger and more confident now and am able to go with the flow without anxiety. I am settling into myself and it feels wonderful like a warm sweater on a crisp fall day.

I am enjoying making this house my home and am happy that our old house just sold. Good riddance to the pain and sadness that I felt in that house.  I am infusing my life and likes into every corner of the soul of this place. I am putting in a garden again and even though the “dirt” is hardpan clay and rock upon rock, I find a wield a pickax with the best of them.

The wildlife is expansive. Deer take bread from our hands. Fox run amuck. Opposum waddle through. And the skunks reek havoc. The first week we were here, the dog, who was protecting our son, grabbed a skunk by its tail and shook it, twirled it around and around and then threw it against the stone wall. Needless to say the entire time he did this he was being sprayed. Then he was bitten by it after cornering it. We tried everything to get rid of the stench but even 5 weeks later there is a slight after-smell on our brave pooch.

I have been stringing up hummingbird feeders and I now have great friends who visit everyday. In the morning when I water, these mystical creatures stand behind the spray so now they are getting a daily shower. I never knew you could see joy on a hummingbird’s face but I swear you can!

Our relationship is much better. Sitting on the deck watching the sunrise over the mountains together drinking coffee helps. So does watching the boats ply the waters, laying in a two person hammock and taking time to explore this new land around us together. Less stress also has contributed to a greater sense of well-being.

One of the things that I have decided to do as an act of faith in my relationship is not blog about it anymore. I have so many more wonderful things to write about…so why beat and dead horse to death. I want more positive vibes in my life and in order to have them my mind has to be in a place that welcomes and honors them. Talking about my “almost divorce” only serves to fixate me on the past and does not allow for me to be open to a future full of promise. And at this point in my life I want to be open to everything that might come to me.

So I leave you with one of my feathered friends enjoying a shower. (Okay…I haven’t figured out how to do that yet! Some other time!)

Peace to all.

 

Betrayed OR Liar Lair Pants On Fire

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So Thursday B walked in the door ashen and with tears in his eyes. After 14 years of being the president of his company he was sacked. I said and did all the right things, loved on him and told him everything would be okay. I was the perfect wife.

After several hours of being at home he decided to download all the family pictures from his phone onto my computer since he was afraid his company would turn off his phone. Since then my computer has been running slow because he added over 2,000 pictures to it so today I decided to delete some after moving them to The Cloud. As I was going through them…SURPRISE!!!! …..I found a naked picture of a woman. Long story short, it was our tour guide from Viet Nam. The woman I had been sending money to occasionally to help her family….guess she decided to go after a bigger fish…B!

B confessed that he has been communicating with her for 1 1/2 years.  That he has thought of going to see her….wonder if that is why he was so adamant that I could not go to China with him? I asked him if he has communicated with her since he gave me the commitment ring…he has…yep, that is commitment for you! I told him I wondered if that was one of the reasons he got fired because IT saw numerous naked pictures on his electronic devices.

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Frankly, I feel good. Glad to know that my suspicions were not unfounded. Glad to know that these past two years have really been about him and not me. Glad to find out that he is a sex addict according to him. Yes, I am glad to know all of it. Glad to know he gave me the commitment ring on Christmas and talked to her after. Glad to know that when he sent the text from Boy Scout Camp that he wasn’t sure he had the passion or love to sustain our relationship, that he had just received naked pictures from her. I am glad to know all of this because now I know that I need to believe and trust in myself and I know without a doubt that he had one foot out of the door and was not giving me his all. And now I know what I need to do.

P.S. And to all of you who have told me so…I am sorry I didn’t believe you or kinda didn’t believe you. I was a fool.

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Envision

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Tomorrow starts Gracie’s 5th competitive diving season. This afternoon, B took her to down to the city where it is being held. She competes at 8 a.m. which, if you ask me, is an ungodly hour to expect anyone to do anything well… especially a sport. Heck, I can’t even root her on before nine because the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.

This year Gracie moved up a level and she is getting to be at the top of her division. Only one level to go and she goes into elite. At 13 yo it is a heavy load to carry. She goes to school all day, the final bell rings at 3:15 p.m. and by 4 p.m. she is in the pool working until 8 p.m. five days per week.  But she loves it. Added bonus: I consider it good birth control….there are no boys around this little lady EVER.

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I rarely go to watch her workout anymore. The dives she is doing scare me and I’ve noticed that the kids who cry and get upset all the time are the ones whose mothers are always there watching.  I believe that she doesn’t need the added pressure of doing good for her mom. I want her to do good for herself. That is enough. And if she’s off… who cares… in a week we won’t even remember her scores. This is my part of her sport…trying to walk the line between letting her know that I care but that it is never the end of the world if you struggle or end up last. Sometimes you just do what you do for the fun of it and because YOU LOVE to do it. That has worth in of itself.

Tomorrow Gracie will compete doing a dive that has been giving her a lot of trouble lately. Before she left with her dad I reminded her to ENVISION herself doing the dive perfectly and to BELIEVE that she will do it. I will call her in the morning and play the song from ROCKY (Fly) which is a tradition in which she rolls her eyes and says “please, not again.” That is what I will miss seeing. And then whatever happens will happen. It is all good. Either way she gains confidence, learns to strive for what she wants and starts to trust herself which will carry over for the rest of her life.

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So…. GO, GRACIE, GO! Envision! Believe! And go for it! You have nothing to lose. In my book you are hard-working, dedicated young lady and I will always be proud of you no matter how you do!

Love,

Your Number One Fan (who is already missing you!)

 

P.S. She earned a 1st place, a 2nd place and a 7th. She amazes me!

 

 

 

What Is Right With Me

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So often in life we concentrate on what is wrong with us – the things we cannot do, our shortcomings and our foibles. We examine our “issues” so often that we can recite them in our sleep and as the list grows sometimes it feels like there is so much “wrong” that we don’t know what we can possibly do to change what we have told ourselves is “fact.” So what if today, we changed things up a bit and decided to concentrate on all that is “right” with us. How would that influence our beliefs about ourselves and make a “so-so” day into one that shines and puts little skip in our steps.

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Here is my list for today in no particular order. I would love to see yours in the comments section.

  1. I am a good researcher. I find things others can’t.
  2. I am a good friend. I can keep a secret better than anyone.
  3. I am interested in others lives and enjoy being attentive to their experiences.
  4. I am interesting. I have a breadth of knowledge about many things and I try to keep up with current events.
  5. I am a fierce Momma Bear and advocate for my children and march on in my efforts when others would have given up.
  6. I fight for the things that I love.
  7. Family is important to me and I try to make sure that those I love know that they are valued and loved by me.
  8. I love to travel, meet people, and learn from my experiences.
  9. If a puzzle needs to be solved I am your gal.
  10. I am not afraid to walk up to a person and start a conversation.
  11. I am fun and do the unexpected like take photos of my friends who could not attend our group event, blow their pictures up, staple them to sticks, and carry them through the city with me photographing them at places like the CHEERS BAR in Boston.
  12. I am smart.
  13. I recognize and honor my intuitiveness.
  14. I work hard when something needs to be done.
  15. For the most part I am content with what I have and have no need to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  16. I know how much that I really don’t know.
  17. I am compassionate with loved ones and strangers.
  18. I am a good writer.
  19. I try to stay in touch with others and send cards and letters to others so that they know that they are on my mind.
  20. I work hard at preserving my family history so that my family can learn from our past.
  21. I am able to self-hypnotize so that I can quickly relax and get to a peaceful state of mind.
  22. When I do get down in spirit I work hard to lighten the load so I can return to a place of happiness.
  23. I do small things for myself (like a warm candle-lit bath) on a regular basis.
  24. I read on a regular basis.
  25. I exercise often.
  26. I am a seeker
  27. I sing well.
  28. Integrity is important to me. I try hard to be fair and honest.

Hopefully after making this list you too will see that there is so much good in and around you that when things become challenging you can whip out your list and give yourself a boost to face the coming day. We all have our gifts which need to be acknowledged and celebrated far more often than we do. In remembering what is good about ourselves we can offer it to others or wrap those things around our own selves like a blanket on a cold rainy day. For knowing ourselves gives us the ability to live freely so that what we do aligns with who we are. Amen!

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Empathy and Tattoos

So yesterday I went and got my tattoo. Yes, it seems even strange to me the person who said she would never deface her body and here I am at 57 yo getting my first. I have to tell you that it felt great! A way of taking back myself and giving a gift to myself in the form of myself.. My authentic self. The tattoo is a message to myself.  It is a reminder of the way I hope to carry myself and to act throughout this process of separation and divorce. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to instill these words into action. 

I put a lot of thought into where I wanted it placed. It is very small and very personal to me. So I put it right below my shoulder where I have to make a conscious effort to see it. Without further ado:

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 I suspect there are times I will fail mightily as I try to maintain and even grow my dignity and grace, but somehow I also suspect that in just knowing it is there, like a ghost following behind my well-worn path; it will serve me well.
I did think that this thought from Thich Nhat Hanh might be a good alternative to DIGNITY & GRACE…but it was just too long and I am just too chicken…so I leave you with his lovely words.

 

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Middle Age Sweat

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In the past six weeks I joined a gym and while exercising is not at the top of my “fun things to do” list, it is slowly getting bearable. I try to do at least two miles on the elliptical and then at least a 1/2 hour of weights five days a week. I also hired a personal trainer who I meet with once a week to give me ideas of new things to try with my various medical issues that make exercising a little more challenging. And while I have lost a bit of body fat already I have to confess that this exercise thing is really not my cup of tea. Why? Because of sweat.

I HATE sweat. For most of my life my body has refused to sweat no matter how hard I worked it and frankly; I liked that. IMHO, sweaty people are gross. While B would have sweat pouring down his face and dripping in his eyes during the most mundane of household projects; I would look and smell like I had just stepped out of the shower. But not any more. Recently I have discovered that with old age comes sweat. Not the menopausal “TURN DOWN THE AIR CONDITIONING” kind of sweat but the honest to goodness stinky sweat that antiperspirant companies make a mint off of. Frankly, I hate it. These days doing two miles on elliptical makes my hair sweat and my eyelashes too. YUCK! To me that water is far worse than exploding diarrhea oozing out of a baby’s diaper!

These days when this nearing 60 body works out; I look like a linebacker with sweat under my arms, dribbling down my back, and sloshing between my boobs. When I sit on the seat of the quad weight machine, a sweat line from my butt appears with two flabby cheek imprints on said seat, which requires me to have to position myself in such a way that allows me to quickly grab the disinfectant to spray down the seat before anyone notices. I almost killed myself doing this maneuver several times and today I almost took out a line of jazzercisers who were prancing around near by. For me, avoiding sweat at all costs is almost as dangerous as raising my heart rate to my target zone.

I don’t see what is so special about sweat. I know a lot of men who equate sweat as akin to having sex…it is something to strive for at all costs. Yet, I have always avoided it to the point of refusing to watch those movie love scenes where the bed sheets end up looking like a swimming pool. I mean, who wants to slide around on someone else’s recently released bodily toxins anyway? Not me. And further, since the government always wants to get into our business, shouldn’t OSHA have some sort of fact sheet posted in all bedrooms so consumers know what environmental hazards we are being exposed to when sweaty skin to skin contact occurs? Shouldn’t the EPA be instructing us whether to use bleach or plain old soap after being sweat contaminated?

As you can tell, sweat is a subject that gets me all hot and bothered. It also almost deters me from grunting, running, and lifting on a daily basis. But I have hope that I can cure this aversion because today when I was gyming; I met a sweaty woman who has lost over 100 pounds. Her story was inspiring and awesome. And as the sweat soaked through her bra and down her back as she was telling me about how she lost that weight she said, “it’s no sweat off my back to come in and work out everyday. It’s really just fat off my middle.”

“Wow,” I thought. “What a strong and amazing woman…such a great attitude. She really has it all together.”

And then she stuck out her hand to shake mine. I swear that I almost broke out in a sweat at the thought of her sweaty palm touching mine.

“Oh what the hell,” I admonished myself. “Time to stop sweating the small stuff.”

And with that, I stuck out my hand and clasped hers in mine, upon which which we both quickly wiped our hands on our towels and started laughing at the near mirror images of distaste written all over our faces .

“I hate sweat,” she said.

“Me too,” I answered.

And as I walked away, I decided if she could get over her distaste for sweat enough to lose 100 pounds then I could push myself a little harder in the days and weeks to come… right after I get some antiperspirant that I can rub all over my body to minimize all that pent up middle age sweat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams Of The Past And The Future

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When we were young B and I could never have enough projects. They kept us busy and talking to one another about the different aspects that we needed to consider when we were working together. We tore out the kitchen of a cabin we bought, we built a house in the mountains, we started a winery and built the building to go with it. We were busy, tired, and often content with the manner in which our lives were progressing.

These days B is done with projects. He wants nothing to do with them. I suspect some of this stems from having to leave behind our hard work for others to enjoy when we did not yet have that pleasure. Moving for B’s career made us give up some of these comforts and dreams. Not being able to experience the joy of our labors made it more difficult for B to keep up the hard work, determination, and faith that building requires. And I think that stress at work has limited his enthusiasm for projects.

However, recently we decided to sell a property that we have owned for about seven years. This has entailed ripping our a kitchen and installing new cabinets, countertops and backsplash. We have had to repaint the entire place put up new lighting fixtures and vents in all the rooms. It has been a huge undertaking but it has paid off with some unexpected dividends…a closeness that has been missing and the chance to re-visit all of the amazing things we have accomplished together. This isn’t to say that everything is perfect. It isn’t. But it is nice to experience some of our “old selves” again and it is nice to be engaged with one another once more. I have missed this over the past several years. I have missed just being with B and watching him sweat as we struggle to hang a cabinet. I miss having dreams which are flavored with the smell of hard work and the sweetness of a job well done. I have forgotten how just spending time together made me feel connected and how my admiration for my husband would soar when all we worked for came to fruition. And it occurs to me that the respect I feel for this man, who, when exhausted, keeps giving his all, is immense and inspires me to do my best too.

I wish we could work together more. Find new projects to create together. I don’t know that it has to be building but something… anything that will plant new seeds to understanding, respect and appreciation.  I thirst for finding commonalities again with the man that I love. I understand why B wants to lay down his hammer but for me these undertakings  that we embark on together give me a sense of hope and purpose. And even though I can barely move after a day of hard work I would gladly down numerous Tylenol just to spend quality time with B once again. For when we work together I see deeper more personal glimpses of the man I fell in love with and I hope he sees the same in me and it also feels as if there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.