Shame On Me

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“Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Shame on me. Shame, shame, shame.

We are just about ready to close on our new house. We are packing boxes for the move. B is acting like the man I used to know…loving, taking my hand, looking into my eyes, telling me he loves me numerous times a day. I feel like a school girl again. Life is good. Until Tuesday.

At 7 am B walks downstairs and tells me he has not been feeling good since Friday. He needs to go to the doctor. Oh, and he feels guilty that I went for HIV test after finding out about his three year affair with our tour guide in Vietnam and he will get tested just in case.  Oh and he has something on his dick.

He returns home.

“So did the doctor look at your dick?”

“NO, I didn’t show it to him, He just ordered panels.”

“Okay, that makes no sense. Why would you go and worry you have something but not show it to him?”

Let me look. I see nothing. My antenna are now a mile high in the sky. Well, actually they were when he told me he was going to the doctor in the weird way he did so. That is just not like him.

On Wednesday morning he has had night sweats for three days and is up at 2 am. He is frantic. He tells me he is feeling really ill and has been sick for days and lost 6 pounds yesterday. He needs to go to the ER now. The man is out of his mind kind of frantic. Crazy nuts kind of frantic. Weird. As he is about to leave he grabs my hand and says:

“I think I caught something. While you took our son to a specialist on Friday (he fractured a bone Thursday) I went to a massage parlor and had unprotected sex. I swear I have never done  anything like that before. That is why I have been avoiding you sexually. I think I caught something and don’t want to give it to you.” (He is still waiting for those Brownie points!)

“Wow,” I say. “If you wanted a divorce all you had to do was ask.”

And off he goes.

That morning I hired an attorney. I am filing for divorce. I also asked the court to step in and oversee a large sum of money that is coming our way the last day of the month. I have to protect our family and make sure that he won’t get the money and skip town to Vietnam with all of it, leaving me unable to care for our kids. Do I think he would do that? NO. Am I sure? NO. I don’t know anything anymore. I can’t believe anything anymore. I have been living an illusion for these past many years. I also wonder if he is suffering from mental illness that runs in his family.

He, of course, is down on one knee begging for forgiveness. Trying to get me to move  with him while he “works on himself.” He is currently at a Catholic church praying for God to help him. He keeps sending me articles like “Five Reasons Christians Fail to Overcome Lust.” (Maybe the problem is you are not a Christian or you are trying to act like something you are not?)

Meanwhile, I flew to New York yesterday to clear my head and be with my son. I am trying to practice compassion for myself, love myself and just be kind to myself. I have had three years of chaos and I just want the freedom to grieve, take it easy and let someone take care of me for a change.

Our children who live at home are unaware of what is going on at this point. I am:

heartbroken

beyond sad

and wondering how I will ever be able to trust again.

I am trying not to be angry or bitter as It will only hurt me in the end. BUT…

my dreams have been thrown down the rabbit hole again but this time there is no soft landing. I am bruised and broken but somehow I will survive.

 

 

Veterans of War

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Last night I eyed the little old man sitting across from me in the Taco Bell. He was wearing a WWII veteran cap full of medals and although almost ancient he sat ramrod straight as if an officer might call him out for sloppy posture. In his hand was a Sudoku book and he was busy placing the numbers when he wasn’t looking around the place. Suddenly, he looked directly at me, his shiny blue eyes piercing my soul and gave me a smile that warmed my breaking heart. Then he went back to his game.

I had come to Taco Bell after sitting alone at a table in a restaurant waiting for my fellow book lovers to show up for our annual party and book exchange. As I waited tears would well up as I thought about the previous evening when B and I decided to divorce after I realized there was no hope that his feelings for me would ever change. I was devastated and contemplating life alone or, God forbid, someday dating.

Sitting there in a room full of strangers I felt more alone than I have in my entire life. Crazy thoughts of “my family would be better off without me than putting them through this ” circulated around in my brain, and although I knew I would never act upon them, tears leaked silently as I contemplated how my 30+ year marriage had reached such a gut-wrenching low. As I scanned the email to ensure I was at the right place I realized I was a week early and decided I needed to escape all the holiday merriment going on around me. That is how I ended up at the Taco Bell across the street.

I watched the old veteran for several minutes. He looked happy yet I felt a sense of loneliness cradling his well-worn soul. I decided to take a chance and invite myself to dinner. When I asked if I could join him he looked delighted. He introduced himself.

“Ken?” I asked, wishing that my soon-to-be hearing aids had arrived.

“No Kent,” came the reply. “Like Clark Kent, superhero, although I am afraid the red suit would look a little wrinkly at my age.”

We both chuckled.

Kent was 92. He had been married to Doris for 65 years and she had died four years ago. They used to come to Taco Bell and sit across from one another enjoying each other’s company while playing Sudoku. He missed her and the life they had built together.

“What is my purpose here?” he asked me soon after introductions were made. “I just want to know why I am still here and what am I supposed to do with the rest of my life. I have no clue.”

“Well, that is obvious,” I replied. “You are suppose to be sitting here eating dinner with a sad middle-aged woman and telling me the story of your life.”

And so he did. He spoke of being too young to join the war when the United States was attacked on December 7, 1941, and how two years later, on December 7, 1943, the principal of the school told all the young men that he would grant them their diplomas, a semester shy of graduation, if they would only go and serve their country. Being the good All-American boy that he was; Kent went and signed up that day.

When he went home to tell his father, a WWI veteran that he enlisted; his father told him that he would regret it, but he didn’t believe him until his first Christmas far away from home, with guns firing in the distance, with regrets that flew fast and furious like bullets around his head. On that wintry night narrowly escaping death he realized his old man was right after all. He just wanted to be home.

“When staring death in the eye, men act in three different ways. There are those who want to flee, those who cry, and those who pray. I was one of the later but if I am honest there were times I experienced all three as I fought in the Pacific,” he explained.

Kent still marveled at his first airplane ride and laughed as he re-counted his complete and utter embarrassment at getting air sick and throwing up in a hat in front of the pilot. He talked about endless days at sea and wondering if their big boat would be someone’s prize target. And he narrated the story of a fellow veteran who was in the Merchant Marine, whose ship was stopped by the Japanese, after delivering supplies to the troops. For an entire hour the enemy shined a light on the American boat until turning off the light and slipping into the night.

“Why didn’t they kill us?” his friend asked the commander.

“We were high in the water so they knew we didn’t have any supplies and they didn’t want to waste their ammo on us. They just wanted to give us a bit of a scare,” came the reply.

Eventually, Kent ended up in Saipan surrounded by water and the Japanese. He recalled how the enemy would slip into camp and night with a wire garrote and strangle an unsuspecting solider and how they learned to walk with their back to the huts so no one could attack them from behind. But by far the saddest day of the war for Kent was the day a plane load of soldiers were flying home soon after the war had ended. As the plane took off over the base personnel could hear the sputtering of the plane and watched as soldiers tried to parachute to safety only to hit the roofs of the buildings because there was not enough time for their chutes to open.  The ones who didn’t jump drown as the plane went down.

“A whole plane load of boys who had survived the war and were jubilant to be going home only to die as they were taking off. It never made sense to me,” Kent said with a far-away look in his eyes.

We spent two hours talking about the mundane: weather, walnuts (he was a farmer) and dogs and important topics like war and marriage.

When asked how he stayed married for 65  years he offered this advice:

“You wake up every morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself that come hell or high water, and am going to love this person no matter what. When you get to be my age you realize you just don’t remember those bad days but you do remember the good and the good far outnumber the bad anyway. Why hang onto bad feelings when you don’t have to?”

I told him my story. Married 30+ years, six kids, travel, building houses together and multiple moves to a man I had adored until he no longer adored me and did everything in his power to try to get me to leave. The night before, I had read him what he had written a year ago about how he loved to feel my touch and how much it meant to him. When I asked if he still felt that way he said, “No I don’t…. I’m just being honest”  which is his newest mantra. It was then I knew that it was time to end, what had been for the most part, the happiest years of my life with the person I adored most in the world. This veteran of marriage was being discharged.

“That husband of yours must be crazy,” Kent said quietly as he leaned forward and looked into my eyes. “Too bad he doesn’t realize that he’s got a good woman if she comes up and invites an old man to dinner. My wife used to do that too. Believe me when you are my age you are lonely and you appreciate someone taking the time to show you a little love and concern. But don’t worry, a nice good-looking gal like you will find love again. Just don’t waste your love on someone who doesn’t appreciate it.”

Sometimes it is amazing how God puts someone who we need right in our path when we need them which implants a beautiful facet of multi-colored lights within our soul.Yet, I have found that most of the time it is up to us to seek out for ourselves what it is that we need whether it be companionship, a safe haven or the quite assurance of a hug. For it is in the seeking that we find out what we truly need, that we become confident and brave, and it’s how we realize that we are never alone in this world even though it often feels that way.

Thank you Kent for being my guiding star last night. Your light helped to lead me out of the darkness into a world that is open to possibilities for this old broad. Your purpose in life seems fairly obvious to me…you are a beacon of hope offering your light to those that will take the time to listen.  I can hardly wait to see you next week when we meet for dinner again.  You truly are a great first “date” and you have given hope for the future.

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Control…Do We Ever Really Have It? Or Raw II

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You ask me why I have a need to control things. The short answer would be my sister’s severe illness when I was such a young child.  A young child whose parents thought she was too young to know all that our family was facing. I remember being snuck into the hospital (back then siblings were not allowed in) and seeing my sister, after many months of absence, now reduced to a human skeleton, not the happy normal-sized kid I was used to seeing. The guilt I felt was tremendous because I did not understand the situation. I was not told. I guessed a lot and interpreted things wrong. Guilt at wondering why bags of presents were being delivered to our home for her and not understanding why I was not thought of which in my young mind =not loved and not noticed. And how, I wondered even then, could I feel that sense of hurt and jealousy when she looked like death. There was also the guilt at hearing her scream when her shunt was cleaned daily and knowing I was okay. And even all these years later that guilt that rears its head in my professional life and makes me pass out on the floor when I hear a patient scream. I can look at anything but don’t let me hear the pain or I am a goner.  In my book guilt can sometimes=need for control= if I am in control less chance of guilt/suffering/pain. I know its wrong but sometimes my mind still takes me back to that little lost/confused and sad child.

I remember during this time of sickness and confusion, being moved from place to place while my parents sat a bedside vigil. That sense of unconnectedness does things to you. I understand the need to do that now…as a parent…but I didn’t as a child. Yes, my parents were sure I was in good hands. I knew most of the people I was with but some were strangers. It made me scared because back then I didn’t know for sure what was happening and no one thought to tell me. And being left and having no control in where you are going invoked feelings of jealousy that made me wonder why my sister was so special and I was not. Everyone knew where she was…did anyone know about me?

Being so aware of death/illness makes you acutely aware of the little control you actually have so I guess I have spent my years trying to control all aspects of my life which we all know is an exercise in futility.  Some people handle it by drinking. Others have sex with strangers trying to make a connection that somehow they feel they missed.  Others drive too fast, take too many pills or eat too much. Others show no obvious issues with it at all. Mine is control. And control, and the lack of it I feel in our relationship, makes me frightened to death and sometimes I push for a resolution because I feel like that little girl again. Her world chaotic. Her world upside dow. Her world with no forthcoming answers. Her world in control of others and now the master controller is B. And I feel like 1,000 little scattered pieces laying about, disorganized, without the glue of control to hold me together.

You wonder why I feel the need for control.

I watched my parents divorce. All the heartache and stress that went along with a cheating husband. My mother’s pain written in a note I have to this day. And then they divorced and within three years my mother was dead at 50, killed, I believe rightly, by all the stress which took her, a non-smoker, in the form of lung cancer. And I look like her. I have the same moles. I have the same body type. The same nose. And I don’t want to become a statistic like her. Illogical I know. But still dead after all this upheaval… after all the pain none of which was her doing…though that is not the case with me. I have caused some of my own pain. But this I know: stress kills and I am sure it is killing me. Maybe like it did her.

I have enough stress with two children who have significant challenges in their lives. Autism = stress. And now my marriage teetering on the edge of HWY 1 with no guardrail and a 1,000 ft drop to the ocean below. And sometimes I wonder if I will just drop dead of a heart attack or will it be a slower more painful way to contemplate the end of life as I know it because this much stress is like a IV drip of poison creeping into my veins. And so I want to take back control from B in a misguided attempt to avert what was my mother’s fate and not have it be my own. Because I want to live free of heartache, being responsible as much as humanly possible for my own pain, when I must endure it, and not have it foisted on me like a drunken sailor grabbing me from behind and taking what is not his to take.

The mind is a funny thing. We know that what we may be thinking is be wrong.Screwy thoughts  that we recognize as inaccurate.  But those feelings are what trip us up and make us believe things that we know in our heads don’t make sense but to our hearts don’t matter. Our hearts often have a mind of their own, too busy working to keep the blood flowing, rather than worry about correctness of how it is being done. Yet, my heart hears unsaid words. It sees hidden emotions on a persons face. My heart squeezes the truth that goes coarsing through my veins and it ignores the science of it all. My heart stings. It whispers with every whoosh. And for the past few days, I would bet my bottom dollar that it has cracked in two, blood leaking into my drowning sticky soul.

You ask me why I feel the need for control. It’s because I no longer trust you to take care of my heart and the love that it holds. You have held my heart in your hands and you have not been gentle with it. You have treated it as callously as a hooker treats her next trick.I no longer trust you to take care of me the way I felt I was not taken care of  when I was a child. I no longer trust that my pain is just pain and not leading to something more deadly as in the case of my mother. I no longer trust your words or your actions because you don’t love me and trust is the glue that holds love together.

You wonder why I feel the need for control? Because parts of that little girl remain behind and while I may be a very strong and capable woman sometimes that little girl is stronger when she faces what she perceives to be danger. And she tantrums and pushes for resolution while trying to gain control. Because she is unsure. Scared. Feels unloveable. And somehow she incorrectly believes that control will give it back to her and make her feel whole again. Strong again. Capable once more.

Someday I hope that someone somewhere will take that little girl her by the hand, thrust a mangy stuffed gray much loved puppy into her empty arms, and along with a great hug; tell her that it will all be okay. And maybe someday she will understand in her heart of hearts that control is an illusion and that the only thing she really ever controlled was herself and, finally, that will be enough and she can just let go and get on with living and playing hopscotch again.

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Hatred Is Not The Answer-Terrorists

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I’ve been to Paris three times during my life. The first was almost thirty years ago during our honeymoon, the second time was about five years later and recently we went two summers ago. Like most major cities, I have tended to avoid Paris because there are just too many people in too small of a place. I feel the same way about London, Beijing and New York. So when I frequent these places, I am already on edge. But usually then I meet people who have stories to tell, tears to fall and a love of life that is extraordinary and somehow these big cities become almost magical because I am reminded just how similar we all are in our shared dreams and in our desires.

The last time we were in Paris we were traveling with our children. Around the corner from our hotel was a bank of small restaurants and sandwich-to-go types of places. We entered one of the latter. It was a small place and behind the counter were three men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and spoke Arabic to one another. When they heard us talking with our distinctive American accents immediately their faces hardened. Then when I went to order for our family all of a sudden the place was CLOSED. They were no longer serving they told us. Yet, after we walked outside all of a sudden they were serving again to the lady who ordered a tomato baguette. So I went back in to order only to be told again that they were not open even though there were more new customers being helped. I was mad and sad about the situation but what was worse is that my children were witnessing this and wondered why they would not let us buy their food. And so I told them this:

“For some reason these men do not like us. I do not know why and neither do you. If I had to guess I would say that they were probably hurt or their relatives were probably hurt in some way by American policies or forces. They are probably still upset or angry by this. Of course, we will never know the real reason and I am guessing only to try to understand why someone would hate us even though we have never ourselves done anything to them. So this is why we cannot hate because hatred begets hatred. Anger creates more anger and people do things to one another that they should not. So I want you remember today not because of what happened but because of how we will handle it. For if we let it, the small thing they did to us will someday make us think that we can do something to someone we think has wronged us. But what is most important here is that we must remember that our lives as human beings are linked together in so many mysterious and interesting ways to people we know and people we don’t. If we allow this link of distrust and anger into the chain of humanity that we carry with us it will only create sorrow both for us and others that we will unintentionally effect by this hostility. So we must smile at those men and show them that we see their humanity even though they do not see ours.”

And so we did.

I wish I could say something changed and one of the men smiled back but that did not happen.

Tonight as I sat and watched the news pouring out of the City Of Lights I was dismayed as I listened to the political pundits demanding retribution, retaliation and encouraging a decrease in our hard fought freedoms (as if that will make things safer!) so the world will be a “better place” and I wished that they had been with us that day in Paris. For while the experience of being hated just because of where you come from was a bitter disappointment; I also know that my children learned a valuable lesson on that street in Paris that day. They realized that hatred is not the answer. I hope that calm heads will prevail in Paris and that human beings throughout the world will remember this truth too as they struggle to find a way through the carnage that they have seen and endured.

Mom Revenge

After I had children I began to understand why some animals eat their young. Those animals are smart creatures because they know that one day their offspring will grow up to become a mouthy, sulky, nasty, mean, cranky, selfish, thoughtless and reckless teenager; so they nip that problem in the bud.

Teenagers breed contempt. They make you question your sanity. And there is nothing worse on God’s green earth than a snotty-know-it-all sixteen-year-old.

Last Saturday evening, after a particularily difficult week with our collective teens, my girlfriends and I got together for a drink…or two. I am not sure where the idea came from nor the precise number of drinks that been downed but suddenly we were compiling a list which we have decided to use against our offspring to teach them a lesson should the need arise. We called it MOM REVENGE and does it ever feel sweet. And since we are all in this together I thought I would share.

    MOM REVENGE

  1. When you drop your kid off at school yell out the window “And if you don’t pee your bed again tonight I will give you another dollar.”
  2. Fill your son’s bed with stuffed animals just before his friends arrive
  3. Pack a sippy cup in your sweetie’s lunch box
  4. Post naked baby pictures on their Facebook page
  5. Yell out the car window “Remember the babysitter will be at the house waiting for you when you get home from school.”
  6. Text your teen “Honey, you forgot your blankie. Do you want me to bring it to school for you?”
  7. When your teen’s friends are over come downstairs with a box of head lice killer and tell your daughter that the salon called and wanted to let her know she has lice.
  8. Download ice cream truck music on your cell phone and blast it on your stereo as you pass their high school.
  9. Put a Barbie doll in your teens backpack.
  10. Buy a recordable card and record your own personalized message that awaits in their lunch box.

Lie to Me

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LIE TO ME

Let your words pull me off this deserted island

That I was banished to

Empty, confused and alone

With your not so innocent words

LIE TO ME

Tell me again just how much you love me

Let me see your love for me in your eyes

While the mountain of words propping up our relationship

Crumbles down when the word divorce (noun) is uttered

LIE TO ME

Tell me everything will be okay

That we will love each other with passion again

And that nothing has changed for the two of us

Today and for eternity

LIE TO ME

Make love to me like you mean it

Let me know that you are seeing me

And not the ghost of someone else

When you pierce my body and penetrate my soul

LIE TO ME

Show me your plans for the future

And your make believe photographs

With my face in them

Our smiles lighting up the sky because we are happy again

Please…

LIE TO ME

Because it feels better than the truth

LIE TO ME

Because I need to feel sane again

LIE TO ME

So I can dream again

LIE TO ME

So I can pretend this is happening to someone else

LIE TO ME

Because I want you to

LIE TO ME

Right now…Today

The Best Is Yet To Come…295 Days To Fix This

This past week-end was incredible.

Picture this…the roar of winter waves as they foamed, churned and crashed their way to a rocky stone-strewn shore. Sunsets of deep red, yammering yellows and passionate purples sinking below the marine layer as two 29 years marrieds held each other close. Hummingbirds floated in the garden while slimy banana slugs inched their way to freedom under the garden gate. And quite. Total 100% almost eerie quite… with no yelling for a “Mom” to break up an invisible fight. For three magical days we had time for just us.

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We walked the cliffs looking out over the Pacific, talking quietly and taking time to smell the roses along the way. We ate fancy dinners over whispered salacious conversations that would embarrass our older children for many years to come had they heard them. We walked around naked in the house, walls of plate-glass windows be damned. We treated each other as our best friend. We cuddled, we smooched, we laughed, and we played games like young lovers do with sweet barely there caresses that make the body POP! But mostly we just enjoyed one another from the top of our heads down to the tips of our toes and all places in-between; free to be ourselves like we used to be B.C. (before children)

I thought all was going well. Everything felt sweet and in its proper place on the emotional horizon. B was opening up. He was sharing. He was listening. And he was really there participating on every level. And then it happened and I was left with the sweat of utter terror that consumed me in a matter of seconds. I looked over at B and saw tears slowly sliding down his checks. Real tears from a man who I have only seen cry about four times in almost 30 years. And my first thought was “This is it. He is going to tell me…I did it…I tried…but I cannot keep going on with us, with you. It’s over.”

And I waited for the impact of his imagined words, like a tsunami breaking all that stands in its path.

But he didn’t say them. Instead, his cheeks trembled slightly and his eyes filled even more.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered so still and so scared that a slight wind could have picked up the letters of each word and floated them away.

“I am just so happy,” B said. “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed us. Spending time with you reminds me of just how much I love you and how happy we can be together. I just want us to be with each other now and forever.”

And I collapsed into his strong arms that I realized can hold my weight, our dreams, my fears and our future as we continue to figure out exactly what that future looks like… together.

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A Seven…342 Days To Fix This

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So last night when we were taking our nightly walk I made the mistake of asking B how was I doing on the changes he had asked that I make. I figured I was at a 9.5 at the least. After all I have:

  • Not yelled in like 25 days
  • My house is practically ready for a photo shoot in House Beautiful minus the sink where a pile of dishes is stacked because B needs to put in a new garbage disposal.
  • We had explosive sex 5 times this week (confession, it was only explosive 4 out of 5 times but hey I’m 55 so I count that as a blessing) Unfortunately, it appears that “Bat Ears” radar picked up on the fact that we were “going at it” which may explain why he is walking around the house repeating the number “69” over and over again. Sigh. How will I explain this one to his teacher?
  • I am smiling and dancing like a Pharrell Williams Happy extra when my heart is really breaking.
  • I’ve lost ten pounds

Yes, I have worked myself into a brand new me and frankly I have been pretty impressed with her. For in the midst of heartbreak I am also feeling strong and optimistic about who I can be as middle age creeps up on me (at least a couple of hours a day anyway)

So after all this change and angst which I am working so hard at I was devastated when B replied, “Well, I would say a 7.” And that is when I realized we really may not stay together because, frankly, I am doing the best I can do. The best I will ever be able to do. I can do no more and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. And if that is worth only a 7 in B’s book then we are doomed. Because I am working so hard at making others happy that I am losing myself even further in the process. And losing myself is not something I am willing to do anymore. Not even for B, or my kids, or my church community. Because I know that in losing myself it only makes my relationships stay in a state of limbo and that in the end the relationship will never make up for what I have given up in order to keep things going. All I am doing is creating an illusion and building a house out of sand that will be swept away during the first big storm. And as luck would have it, this year is suppose to be a hell of an El Nino.

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