Running On Empty

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And so I start my new life. A life that once offered such promise and now I know not what it brings. One could say we never do…know what life brings. But when I was married for 32 years, I know that life brought me hope, assurance, and feeling appreciated. Now I feel nothing…but empty. An all encompassing emptiness like the lack of sound around you as you stare wide-eyed at the snowy silence in a forest.  That surreal reaction that feels so other worldly because it makes your ears hurt with the nothingness that fills them. That is kind of what leaving your children to get away from your cheater “I’m in love with our tour guide who is 20 years younger than you” feels like when you finally put your foot over the threshold. All the remains is a vast and unending silence. And while I am glad to be away from B’s constant lies, the price I am paying for doing nothing but believing in him…in us… in our family… is a heavy price to pay. He cheats…he has our kids. She cheats…she walks into my life and I am replaced. Everything I have poured my heart and soul is gone. Everything I loved into since I ran out my door at 15…never to return…gone. There was nothing to return to then and nothing to return to now…but emptiness…vacant hearts…desolate times in which I could not compete with the forbidden kiss of a woman across the world. A love, once whole but now dried up… falling apart… flaky and hard… like a day old biscuit.

Yet, every morning I put my feet over the side of the bed refusing to give into grief and pain that pulls at the roots of my insides, snapping like a rubber band against the skin…a wince coming just prior to letting go of the stretch. And so I stand, taking my first steps just like I did 58 years ago when first steps were exciting and everyone squealed in delight. Not terrifying as they are now. Falling when you are one = bandaids and kisses whereas when you are my age it can mean broken bones and even possibly death.

I feel like I should be grateful…I have a place to land unlike so many others in this world. But I feel no gratitude. Only the emptiness of once abundant touches…gone. “Hey, mom…I’m home!”…distant dreams. I miss my kids. I miss my life. But most of all I miss me.  Who I was when I was their mom? When I was someone’s wife?  When I thought I knew what I was and what I wanted. Now I look in the mirror at a stranger. A person’s whose eyes flash like a loud neon sign, ” Vacancy!” There is nothing here because I don’t even know the place that I am at, the language that is spoken, or the resources available to me. Life on this side of the aisle is so different and full of unknowns. Like being dropped off on a desert island with one match and being told, “Okay, now go make a life for yourself!” Does striking the match guarantee fire? Where to I even begin?

I have been reading Joan Didion’s book The Year Of Magical Thinking in hopes of reacting to grief in a normal way, yet, there is nothing normal about this. Grief when someone leaves you alone due to death protects the mind. While all encompassing you know that the person who left you didn’t have a choice. They didn’t want to leave you. Grief when your husband is in love with someone else is different. They had a choice and they choose someone else.  They wanted to leave you or wanted you to leave. Either way it makes no difference. You are rejected for who you are and all you ever hoped to be. You are not enough…never will be. This kind of grief doesn’t allow for “what if’s.” It just allows for the coring out of your heart and soul…all that is left is dry dusty bones held up by pieces of your life that fill in the joints making it possible to remain upright like a medical skeleton hanging in a med school dorm. Something hanging there that no one even notices anymore in the age of the digital life. Something regulated to the obsolete.

I will be okay. I keep telling myself this because if there is one thing I have learned in life it is that it will be okay…eventually. It always gets better…eventually. And when my eventually comes I will kick up my heals and dance celebrating who I am and all that I have created. But for now I sit quietly contemplating the same life questions I did when I was 15, 20 and 35. Who am I? Who will I become? What do I want? How do I go about achieving this?  The devil is in the details and the details have yet to be revealed.

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GONE

If I had to name all the occasions that lead up to the moment of my leaving last week; it seems as though the list from the past five years might be endless.  A small part of it might look like this:

Maybe it was the fact that you told our tour guide (TG) the second day you met her that “you will be my second wife” contributed to the demise of our marriage. For you have worked very hard to make that statement come true by putting TG on a pedestal while you wiped your feet on me as you dusted and shined your Vietnamese FANTASY. You know, the fantasy whom you have spent five whole days with over the past five years. Maybe that led to my leaving.

Or maybe it was the fact that you sent her so much money that it was the equivalent of 20 years salary in Vietnam. With that much money she began living high on the hog…fancy dinners, beautiful clothes, fixing her father’s home… while I bought shirts at TJ Maxx for $14.99 to which you would comment, “When did you get that?” as if I had done something wrong.

Perhaps it was all the time and care you took into ensuring her needs were met and picking out gifts for her. Necklaces, perfume and oh yeah,,,that engagement ring that she wears on her wedding band finger.

Maybe it was all the lies…thinking that you had ended it so many times after your assurance that you did…only you didn’t. The phone call you had me witness and participate in telling her it was over. The letter you wrote to her saying the relationship could never be.

Although it might have been the daily “I love you’s”, the hugs, the great sex, and the kisses that were so faked (according to what TG told me) that you could have made Vivian Lee swoon.

Maybe it was making me feel “less than” while you struggled to choose who your heart would belong to….a competition that I could never win. Making me feel as though I could never do enough…and I couldn’t… because in your mind TG would always do more. Or the fact that you were hiding a quarter of your take home pay in a private account and couldn’t understand why I would wonder if you were sending money to TG and then getting upset when I mentioned her name.

Yet, another fact could be the day that I opened an envelope from J.P. Morgan stating that you changed your beneficiary of your investments with it going half to your sister instead of taking care of your kids. You said it was so she could divide it among your siblings because they had been left out of your father’s will 15 years ago but if that were true why not divide it with 33 1/3% going to each?  Instead I believe that she was instructed to give it to TG. Frankly, doing things like this without discussion with your partner seems kind of suspicious and slimy to me.

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But it really boils down to was a few days in which clarity arrived like a freight train as it plowed into my ears through my mind…its horn loud and piercing my heart until all the blood from my body seeped out of itself, spilling onto the tracks, along with all of the love that I once had for you. And like a bullet train, my love was here one minute and gone the next and I was left standing, suitcase in hand, on the platform of life deciding which direction I wanted to take. And now I am here ….alone….without my children….my heart breaking. Yet, I have been wise enough to put that suitcase down along side  those tracks and refuse to drag it along behind me for the rest of my life. For you and your lies are packed in that suitcase and it is has been a heavy load to carry around with me the past five years. Now, I never want to open that suitcase again.

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But really what drove me to leave were these few things that all happened within the past ten days. The first was the night that I told you how I had been working with my therapist to come up with what a needed to feel that we were working towards healing and that our new life together was on track. You know, that night I told you, “Honey, I need a new symbol of our commitment and would like for us to go on Sunday to pick out new rings and re-new our vows on our anniversary.” And you said something along the line of “I am not sure that I can do that because I don’t know that you can change to love, honor and OBEY me. ” That was definitely the beginning of the end because if you loved me you would have said, “Whatever you need to make you feel safe in this relationship. I will do whatever it takes.” Yet, you had never, once, throughout these two years of me knowing about the affair been willing to do whatever it takes. And you should have. I deserved no less.

 

Finding the love letters between the two of you and the naked pictures of your time in Singapore didn’t help the situation especially as I ran through my head the number of times you told me that you had nothing left from the affair.

But really it was the butt-dialed conversation I heard between you and your sister that drove me away. Hearing the distain you have for me in your voice just about did me in. Hearing the two of you laughing at and about me was one of the most painful things I have ever heard. You know that conversation:

“…I asked her what she was seeing her therapist for and she said PTSD.”

“…from my affair?”

“and she said yes.” (chuckle, chuckle, laugh. laugh)

“…oh that is the new diagnosis. Everyone has it. But if anyone should have PTSD it should be YOU from living with her!” (chuckle, chuckle, laugh, laugh)

Or maybe it was hearing her say you were lucky to be living in Texas now… for the divorce and hearing your answer. Your words made me finally realize that there was a strong possibility that you had brought me to Texas with you in order to get the kids with you (since they were with me in CA) so you wouldn’t have to pay child support nor spousal support. If that was your plan it was so deliberate and cunning that it sacred me and shook me to my very core. It was that moment that I also realized just why you didn’t want me to come to CA to work on my house until after the 30th. Texas law required that you be a resident six months to file and in just a few more weeks you could file against me for divorce and try to get the jurisdiction of our pending CA divorce changed to the  State of Texas; a more favorable state for you. My heart started bleeding with that realization because my intensions to start over and be with you and our family were true while yours were not.

Hearing how you made yourself out to be the victim of the housecleaning wars was also interesting as was when you asked your sister how the TG was doing and it became obvious that your sister was in contact with her for you.

But it is conceivable that what really sealed the deal was how, when the next day arrived and I asked you if you had talked to your sister you said, “No, I haven’t talked to her in at least a week” while looking directly into my eyes.

“Really, you haven’t talked to her?”

“No, not at all.”

“Stop lying to me I know you talked to her yesterday.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You butt-dialed me (or did he…maybe it was intensional?). I heard every word!”

“No, I didn’t.”

How…how can you stare into my eyes and continue lying? And at the moment I realized the price I was paying was too high and I didn’t want to pay it anymore. That my sanity was worth more than I could ever lose remaining with you.

So I have left your fantasy land. Mine too. Our “trial” reunification in Texas is done.  I have been stripped of everything I thought was true about you, about me, and about our life together. I no longer know what was true the past five years and what you made up to appease me and to protect your guilty self. In fact, upon reflection, I don’t know what was true EVER. And that makes me angry. I am angry that I was so stupid and trusting. I am angry that you set me up. I am angry that you and your girlfriend fucked up our lives and that now I am left alone…our kids living with you because I loved them enough not to just take them with me.

Why?

Well, Paul is in his senior year of high school. He will graduate in four months and is finally doing well in school. His high school has worked hard to help him succeed and feel good about himself despite all the challenges his disabilities present. No…I could not pull him away from that because of my own needs. And Gracie? Well, she has two more years of high school and loves her new coach. Finally, she is getting great coaching which is paramount for a kid wanting to go to college on an athletic scholarship. No, I couldn’t do that to her either.  And Andre…well autism serves him well. He doesn’t care if we divorce or who he lives with as long as he gets to remain in his room.

I am back in my house in CA. It had not sold while I was in Texas. Unfortunately, about six weeks ago it also flooded due to a sump pump failure which insurance would not cover. So I am spending close to $50,000 to repair this house and living in at at the same time. This week I am going to try my hand at tiling a bathroom floor as well as get back to studying my textbooks so I can have a “career” again after I divorce at 59 years old. (I mean who starts a career at almost 60…let’s be real…it won’t be a career like you have had rather it will just be a job). And with it my lifestyle will go from vacations and having to worry much about money to cutting coupons and shopping at Good Will while you wine and dine your fantasy.

We haven’t talked since I left except for 40 seconds about a crisis occurring at the rental house.  Thirty-two years of marriage and we have sent less than a half dozen texts. And while I hurt like I have never hurt before it is also incredibly freeing not to be living with a narcissistic liar anymore. Knowing that what I see and what I hear everyday is the truth is calming my brain and helping me to experience a sense of peace that I have not known in many years.

My friends are concerned. They are afraid that I will go back. But this time I won’t for it is done. I am done. Forever. Just hearing his laughter and distain did more to drive me away than the past five years that he deliberately tried to get me to leave. And because of his warped thinking he can now tell himself the story that he is innocent….that I left him…that I am the bad one….in order to feel good about himself. Yes, B, you’ve won but so have I in a way that I never imagined…I am acting with a sense of purpose and Dignity and Grave. I am treating myself well.

In fact, the other day I bought myself something very nurturing for my re-birth. It makes be feel very safe and cocooned-like. It also brings relief to my set on “high alert”  sensory system has been under attack for the past many years. This gift to myself is contributing to my sense of feeling grateful, peaceful, and calm.

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So friends….don’t worry about me… I am cocooned…I am safe… And B can no longer touch me or my heart. I am GONE. And one day I will feel safe and happy again. It can only get better…and it will….one day at a time. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

A Toast…To ME…And The “Quest”

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So, here I am 59 years old and back in school…who would have thought! Certainly not I, that is for damn sure. As a stay-at-home mom with two special needs kids; B and I let my professional license lapse as we never thought I would go back to my career. Then during his affair he kept trying to push me to go back to work because a divorce would be easier if there was no spousal support to pay and probably because he was supporting/compensating “affair woman” too. Let’s face it,  all he had done became too much for him to handle, and as he saw it, my working would reduce his burden in so many ways. Of course, I didn’t go get a job because with the boys autism issues, school interventions and all the doctor visits there was just no way to do so… but still he kept trying to push me back into the workforce even though financially it made no sense… at least until you calculated in the cost of the expensive mistress…at which point it made perfect sense.

Needless to say, this “about face” on B’s part had left me feeling vulnerable, scared and rather pissed in the face of a “maybe” divorce. No career, no livelihood … no nothing to depend on except a husband with whom we had made joint decisions for the “good” our family… decisions that he now wanted to abandon or amend. Yep, I could count on him looking out for his “affair needs” but not mine and at my age I found it to be a very nerve wracking thing to have staring me in the face. It was definitely a wrinkle I had not counted on and one which Botox could not cure.

Now that things are better between us I decided that I need to secure “my or our” future… whatever that turns out to be… and so last week I started online schooling. This program will allow me to work from home in the medical field and earn $50,000+ per year. While it is not what I am used to living on it will allow me to take care of my family should the need arise. It will allow me to help pay for college for our kids, would allow B to retire early if that is what WE choose and it will allow me to provide a decent living for myself should I find myself alone.

Starting to plan on a new career is a scary thing and goes against what the lawyers have told me. But I am feeling that I need to step out and take a risk for my own sake and safety. While I would like to believe that B and I are healing our marriage with a two steps forward one step back approach; I also know that the time has come for me to trust in myself again and to find a way to be able to be less fearful no matter what comes my way. If we stay together that would be great but if we don’t I am taking my first scary steps to my own financial independence and to relying on myself alone. And while I am still pissed that I have been put into this position in the first place, at this point in time I find I am grateful to have the opportunity to shape my own destiny even though I do not know what the future holds. This truly is my first step to letting go of fear and trusting in myself, my “maybe” marriage, and what is to come.

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So, here’s to me and the two A’s I have received on my first two tests. I’ve got this and I finally have my own back too. And with the holidays upon us I am proud to say I have given myself the greatest gift of all…leaving limbo by reclaiming my own strength. While I may have been betrayed by others, I will try never to betray myself again and instead will face the world standing in quiet confidence.

So starts a new journey and quest. This tough old broad is ready. Bring it on.

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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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Out With The Old (2017) And In With The New!!! Or Get Me The Fuck Out Of This Crappy Year!!! Or Celebrate Change!!!

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In many ways, this past year has been one of the toughest of my life. It has been a year of sorrow and heartbreak as I watched my 30+ year marriage hang by a thread only to snap in December. But it has also been a year of tremendous growth as I have learned to sit with things longer before reacting, have found joy in places that were once unavailable to me, and I have located pieces of myself again which I thought were gone forever. Good and valuable pieces that I am proud of and am grateful to have re-captured in a slightly different form.

This past year I have walked down paths and met new friends who have been there for me while I cried on their shoulders. I discovered amazing people who have given me wisdom through new perspectives and helped me to realize that there is renewal in letting go and giving up so that future growth can occur.

My children have given me courage and a dogged determination to act in ways I once never dreamed possible. I have learned to appreciate them in a new light and with a sense of gratefulness that has brought joy to my spirit and wisdom to my soul.

Seeking peace has become a way of life and a way of viewing a future that is full of possibility and excitement while negative self-talk is becoming a slightly more distant phenomenon. I am trying, as I go into 2018, to avoid turmoil… self and otherwise so that anxiety is no longer walking in the shadows along side of me as I journey through the end of this life as I know it and the beginnings of a new life that I am about to confront head on.

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The changing relationship with my husband has shown me that pushing my own agenda is like walking through a land mine and that sometimes you just have to stand still until the bombs can be diffused. It has taught me that people change in ways you once never imagined and that their changes are THEIR changes and you don’t have to take them on as YOUR OWN. I also learned and am working on the idea that his changes and dislikes may have little to do with me in all actuality so that disappointment I have felt in myself may well have been misplaced.

I have also realized (after spending time in a sauna yesterday) that even skinny 65 yo women’s bodies look old and that acceptance and making peace with my less-than-perfect body will probably bring me a sense of freedom that has eluded me for years.

As I march into 2018, head held high, I thank you for putting up with my confusion and bull shit for these past several years.  Thank you for your wisdom, knowledge, and loving support. I know in real-life some of us could be best friends and leave our mark upon the world together though I think we might need the name of a bail bondsman handy!

I wish for all of you joy and wisdom in the coming year. Dance, dammit, dance…. preferably under the stars. Do something tough and do something you love often. Read tons of good books. Dream more. Eat more chocolate and take more time for yourself. Visit a place you have never been and kiss those you love more often. For those who suffer from chronic pain may it ebb. And lets try to remember that we never know just how much time we have on this earth so let’s all vow to use ours wisely.

And finally, may child-like Trump and childish Kim Jong-un not one up each another in a fit of spoilt “my dick is bigger than yours” and blow up the entire world just because they can.

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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.

 

Empathy

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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Visiting With Ghosts

“I’m not being bossy, I’m just telling you what to do,” says my husband.

As you can imagine these are not the choicest of words to say to your wife or any other woman who is over 30.

Years ago I would have told this man where to shove it if those words were said to me. Today, it is more complicated…kids, a 30+ year history together, mortgages…and then there is the sex which has always been divine.  So what does one say when the man you have admired more than anyone in the world hits his 50’s, goes through male menopause, and suddenly becomes someone you no longer know. Somehow…”SCREW YOU ASSHOLE”… no longer feels like an option when you are trying to become your best self and live in a more authentic and pleasant sort of way.

But enough of that.

Today, I was sitting inside when I suddenly heard the roar of B’s hedger. I decided to go out and help him because his back has been hurting.  Upon arriving outside I find B taking it to the rose buses with blades the size of a helicopter and my beloved pink agastache already mowed almost to the ground.

“What are you doing?”

“The trick or treaters won’t be able to make it up the walk. Had to make room for them.”

“B, those were precious to me. I work hard to have a beautiful yard. Why don’t you honor what I do and how hard I work?”

“There you go again. I can’t do anything right.”

And with that we were off. He went his way thinking his wife is a bitch and I went back into the house fuming while feeling what I do is devalued. As I crossed over the threshold it occurred to me that I could be right and I could feel miffed… or… I could have peace. Which did I want? It was a no-brainer. Outside I went.

“B… we need to talk. I came outside to help you so you don’t have to bend over”

“I’m busy. I’ve been working all day. I don’t need your help.”

“Honey, I am done with this old pattern of relating. I say something and you respond that you can never do anything right. Then we both go off into our corners with our invisible boxing gloves on. It is time to do something different.”

He looks at me suspiciously.

“Look,” he says “The kids can’t go up our sidewalk without running into our bushes.”

“I understand that now but didn’t realize it was that much of a problem. But instead of destroying what I worked so hard to create it would be helpful if you would come to me and state your concern about the kids. Then you could say, “Honey, I am going to cut the agastache down if you don’t come out and take care of them your way.” That way I am responsible for what happens. Not you. And I get to do things in the manner I choose; in a way that preserves my plants and my dignity.”

“I didn’t mow them all down…”

“Honey, lets just agree to disagree and try harder not to do the same dance which gets us nowhere. Right now, I am choosing not to be right at all costs. Instead, I am choosing to create peace.”

Later, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We all know that they are getting too old for this folderol but it is a tradition…something to hold onto when so many things are up in the air and our relationship is hanging like grapes on the vine. As we entered the farm, I reflected on our “Days From The Past” and I remembered the happiness our family had experienced here. I harkened back to the times when I saw B in a kinder, gentler sort of light and felt a soft glow surround my heart.

I suspect that sometimes this is what is needed…reminders of times gone right. Those moments in our lives when our joy outweighed our sorrows and fits of laughter outnumbered our tears. Days filled with pumpkins, sunflowers, corn mazes and a frosted cup of apple cider. Maybe these are the things we all need to sustain us when things in our lives morph into things we no longer recognize.

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So this Halloween, instead of paying attention to the ghosts of the present who rattle their chains in an effort to be heard; I think I shall visit with the ghosts of the past to gain a new perspective and appreciation for what was and could possibly be again.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Set oven to 350. Clean pumpkin seeds. Mix with melted butter, dark cherry vinegar, garlic salt, and rosemary. Roast for 25 minutes.

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Trying To See The Light Through The Flames

I have to admit I am still searching for the light that is missing in this box into which I have crawled. Sadness seems to be the one emotion that I still feel. I am weary of being with a man who no longer loves me. The weariness lives in the marrow of my bones sucking them dry the richness of life squeezed out of them.

This weekend I was suppose to have a girls get together at my house on the coast. Everyone bailed. There was one reason or another and with this; I realized that there was not one person I could depend on. Not my husband, not my kids, not my friends…and I vagely thought about how I had better start depending on myself alone. So I headed up to the house. Me, myself and I.

As I got closer to San Francisco the air became thicker, filled with the smoke of the fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa. Some of my favorite places in the world up in flames. You could smell charred houses, burnt grapes and the bodies of those who were unaccounted for. Lives once vibrant and hopeful now trying to figure out what they will do without their homes,without their jobs and all their earthly possessions gone. Ninety six thousand displaced people all living in survival mode.

I took the back way on Hwy 1 instead of my usual route through Santa Rosa knowing that the I did not want to witness all the devastation. Nor did I want to get trapped on a highway that could become an inferno. So I drove along the blue waters of the coast, skipping all the unpleasantness except those kinds of thoughts rattling around in my head.

I arrived here in time to watch the sun set on the ocean with bats dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the nighttime sky and the waves of the ocean beating like drums as they broke against the rocky shore. I grabbed a bottle of vodka and drank to 30 years of marriage that is in the same predicament as  Thelma and Louise hitting the gas and driving off a cliff into uncertainty.

The next morning was beautiful and as I walked the cliffs I started to feel like myself again as the mist in the air washed over me, cleansing my soul. As I ambled on, the winds began to pick up and I thought about all those firefighters 50 miles away who would soon be battling them along with the intense heat of the ash as it rained down from the sky.

Soon an old lady came into view. I judged her to be about 80 and she was carrying a jet-black cane over her head. We passed one another with a smile and a nod; each continuing our own way with our own thoughts. A mile later we met again as we retraced or steps but this time I asked her “Why are you carrying your cane over your head?”

“To remind me how strong I am,” was the answer.

“Why do you need reminding of that?” I asked “you look strong enough to me that I wouldn’t want to take you on in a back alley somewhere.”

She chuckled as she began to explain that she was a fire evacuee staying with a friend. On Sunday, in the dead of night, she was awakened by the fire fighters from the station two doors down who were banging on her door.

“You have got to get out. You have got to leave now,” they ordered.

She wrapped a house coat around herself, grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and her shoes,  went into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. Then she picked up her purse, called the dog and left her house.

“It’s all gone now,” she tells me with not an ounce of pity in her voice.

“Why did I get my toothbrush?” she looks at me and asks the question as if I might provide an answer that would satisfy her.

“I needed my medicines but left those behind. Yet, I took time to get my toothbrush. A $1.50 toothbrush,” she says with a shake of her head and a laugh. “Crazy isn’t it!”

She tells me that her Grandmother’s china is gone along with her deceased husband’s favorite books, her wedding dress, and everything else she owned in the world. Pictures of her children on their first day of school, her collection of salt and pepper shakers, all her clothes and her piano at which she sang to start every morning.

“But I will sing again,” she assures me with a smile. “For I am strong and I am happy and I am ALIVE!!!!” she says with a great belief in herself  and sense of joy that literally takes my breath away.

“I will begin again and who knows what I will become? Opportunity is banging at my door just like those firemen did,” she says with determination and grace as she heads off down the trail.

“It’s never too late to re-create yourself,” she yells back at me with a smile.

Later that day I offer my house up to any family who might need it. I talk on the telephone to a man who skirted the police blockades just to return to his house and sift through the ashes that now contain the contents of his entire life.

“I found my son’s bronzed baby shoes,” he informs me along with a few other trinkets of a life that felt meaningful and alive to him.

“We will just have to start over,” he tells me a sob stiffelled in his throat.

And although he cannot see me I find myself nodding my head at his words. For many times in our lives we are forced to start over, not of our own choosing, but because of forces that intrude unexpectantly. We can choose to see sorrow as an opportunity or we can wallow in our own misery until the end of time ultimately robbing ourselves of our accomplishments and the ability to morph into something we might not have expected… Someone better. Someone Kinder. Someone Wiser. And Someone who depends on themselves for their own happiness and to create a satisfying life no matter what is thrown in our way.

Today I met so many amazing people…. survivors and volunteers alike. And in these meetings I came away blessed. I hope they will be too.

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P.S. Thank you to all the fire fighters, healthcare workers, inmates, sheriff departments and all the volunteers who have saved lives while risking theirs.