On Deck

  • Being disgusted
  • Being brokenhearted
  • Being cute

 

(I’ve been reading Amy Blair’s newsletter about her own divorce, The D-Train, and feel inspired. Go, Amy. Go, me.)

Do you remember the 2016 election cycle? It was 247 years ago at this point. But there was this moment where poor, uncharismatic Jeb Bush was speaking to a group and at the end, getting no reaction, he prompts them with, “Please clap.” Oh, Jeb. No, Jeb.

I’ve been taking absolute scads of pictures of myself over the past nearly 10 weeks of this ridiculous ordeal—which reminds me, I need a snappy name for it that combines the horror of the pandemic itself with getting left on the first day of it. Up until the week before, I’d been going to the gym between three and SEVEN days a week to get in shape and (hopefully) lose weight. I was super in shape, but hadn’t really been losing weight. 

When the Fourth was put on full-time work-from-home duty, as opposed to his traditional two-day WFH schedule, I really adhered to a rigorous diet and could tell I was finally losing. And then when he walked out, I got to experience the blessing and curse of the Divorce Diet, which scrubbed a lot of that extra weight off. I was carrying more than pounds, I was carrying so much resentment for the years of carrying all the responsibilities alone, for swallowing so many feelings, for feeling so alone and frustrated, for not being considered. When this happened, I put it all down.

And suddenly, I remembered that I was kind of … attractive?  And I bought clothes that fit properly (I sort of had to, as my jeans literally fell off my body). I dyed my hair for the first time in many years. I started smiling—if only to stop weeping, even from behind the mask. I wore jewelry. I tried, after feeling invisible for years.

Part of it was for the Fourth. I so wanted him to see me, again, looking like I did years ago. So sparkly and so pretty and so alive. I didn’t realize what I’m still coming to realize, that he doesn’t see me at all and hadn’t for a while. And when he sees me now, it’s not as a partner, or even really a person. 

But part of it was for myself. Because I simply felt good letting all that go, both physically and emotionally. I’m taking care of myself for the first time in many years of taking care of the children, the pets, the house, the business of life—and the Fourth who, frankly, needed a lot of taking care of. I wear perfume (I smell like the cookies I don’t eat anymore!) and I love my freckles (so did the Fourth, and I get it now) and I love that I see the hourglass shape of me again.

So, back to Jeb Bush. I take these pictures of myself, generally buried among all the pictures that I take of my kids or plants. And I look at them and remember who that lady is in them. This beautiful lady who forgot herself for a while and is remembering again, thanks to this truly terrible, awful, shitty betrayal in the worst, most stressful time in modern history.

I post them on my Facebook page or Twitter account, where for YEARS my only avatar was of the Virgin Mary statue in our backyard or some plant I’d found. And my friends and kind Internet strangers tell me that I’m stunning. My friends, at least, are legally obligated to say that, but I think it’s true. If this is my “please clap” moment, I will take it and thank Jeb for the inspiration, while apologizing that I’m not getting the paltry applause he got, but a standing ovation.

I’m angry at the Fourth for doing this terrible thing to me and the kids. But I’m thankful. Because I look effing great, and he does not, by any angle. That’s his own deal to fix. Please effing clap.

 

 

On Deck

  • Post-beach baths
  • Memorial Day grilling
  • Cleaning ceiling fans

(I’ve been reading Amy Blair’s newsletter about her own divorce, The D-Train, and feel inspired. Go, Amy. Go, me.)

It’s Memorial Day, but for the first couple of hours of the day, I thought it was Tuesday, one of my least favorite days because old ghosts float in and kind of 

wreck my morning. But it was Monday, and a holiday, and I let my kids have the day off from school (mostly, as I am a monster). 

The Team of Three had breakfast around the picnic table we built ourselves, and then headed for the beach. It took some doing to get there, as there’s lots of bluff construction and all the lots are closed at our familiar beaches. But we figured it out and walked a couple of blocks down to the water. We used to be Four on this beach. We’ve camped here, uncomfortably. We all spent hours combing through the sand to pick out nuggets of seaglass and I’d store them in empty whiskey bottles that belonged to the Fourth.  

But he left. And it was excruciating being on this beach and doing this activity we used to do together. He would collect bits of seaglass and come over and place them in my palm or special collecting sack. Or, if I forgot my bag and didn’t have pockets, I’d place my finds in his pockets directly. I loved those tiny moments of tenderness in what was a really hard time for both of us. When he left, I wrote a poem about this, with a small sachet of pieces he probably threw away within the hour. 

 

Sifting through the sand

she found the missing piece.

Grabbed it, examined it

All grooves to edges, soft colors of fog.

But she grew distracted

by the waves and sun

and the gulls always screeching.

 

She didn’t keep it tight

Locked close in her busy hand.

It fell away and was covered.

When she found her hand empty

She scrambled, tossing sand, bereft.

 

But each wave brings a new beach,

and her searching was earnest.

With one more wave, she found it.

It didn’t matter. The Fourth left, didn’t look back, and despite my completely earnest and repeated pleading, never considered coming back a single second. When the door shut, he was gone, regardless of what we felt, wanted, or needed. I will probably always regret not running after him.

So what now. Now, I work with the Team of Three to figure out what traditions we keep and which we let go of. We’re already making holiday plans. And today, I swallowed my tears, took a handful of those Stress gummies at every Whole Foods check stand, and went to the beach. And we collected seaglass. And I came home and put it in the last bottle the Fourth will ever give me.

And we had a great time. And I hope that wherever the Fourth was, whatever he was doing, he knows he missed out on a beautiful morning with our children and the biggest pieces of seaglass I’ve found in months. I hope he thinks it was worth it. Mostly, I hope it hurts.

 

 

 

On DECK

  • Running again
  • Meals
  • Always laundry

Very smart people have explained to me how grief is elastic. One day, you barely feel it and it’s slack, like a fat rubber band hanging on your wrist. And other days, it is not. It is stretched so tight and digs into the skin and leaves a livid red line where it had sat. 

What I’ve experienced is that it isn’t by the day, it’s by the hour, or even the minute—at least right now. There are moments where the pain is so terrific it takes the breath away. 

Meanwhile, holding this grief, walking in mourning, feels so odd. Because we’re all grieving something right now. And I have my Team to consider and they can’t see me lie on the floor, or not get out of bed, or weep in the bathtub for an hour. They have to see me smile, work, try, and strive. They need that, and I can control what they see. 

But that doesn’t mean the line fades or the band isn’t incredibly tight at that moment. At this point, feeling that pain is almost a comfort. There are things I do to snap that band and feel it again. Reading old emails so often I can quote them. Looking at photos until I could draw them. Mentally saying goodbye to places filled with memories. These all snap the band. 

Maybe someday, it will be different.

 

DIY

  • Scrub it down
  • Fix it all
  • Make it your own

On the weekends, instead of lazy days at the beach or having backyard fires, I’m ferociously taking care of house and personal chores. I am determined to make this house feel like mine. A house I’ve lived in for 17 years already, but never like this.

About six years ago, my husband left his backpack in our car, and left the doors unlocked. And we woke up to a knock on the door from a nice policeman telling us that our car was completely open and we realized his bag, with our housekeys in it, was gone. I immediately got the doors all rekeyed, but our fancy front-door lock was just a tough customer to crack. The guy at the Ace couldn’t do it, and in the process, we just lost the ability to lock the front door from the outside. 

I’ve spent all these years having to use the back door only, hauling kids and groceries and crap down our uneven gangway. It was particularly irritating when our garage was also out of commission or used as a bike parking zone. I was irritated that the keys were stolen in the first place. I was irritated that it was all on me to fix. I was irritated that there were never any offers to help. 

But there is nobody to help me now. (Really there never was.) And so I called a locksmith, took my damn door apart, and hauled it over to a cigarette smoke-filled storefront to have the lock cracked and replaced. 

The incredibly kind gentleman called me a half-hour later, told me it was fixed, and it would cost me $15. That’s it. That’s all it took to fix this problem that had been gnawing at me all these years. A problem I didn’t create but was always going to be mine to fix.

I reinstalled the lock, and it didn’t work at first, but now it does. And I sat there and wept with sheer relief at having it done, at having finally taken care of it. And I also wept in absolute fury that it took so little effort to ultimately fix. I was angry at myself for not getting it done and angry at him for never even trying or even thinking about it.

But it’s done. And I get to lock that door again. And open it when I want.

 

 

On deck

  • Creating a family logo/motto
  • Cleaning the fridge
  • Buying clothes that fit

 

AnD on Not being included

Many families I know are forming bubbles with other families, so their kids can safely play with others this summer. Parents are having real conversations about the risks of COVID and how they’re taking precautions, and the potential reward to their families by restoring low-risk social connections. 

But for some families, we’re not being asked to join any bubbles. Some have high-risk jobs, such as nurses, firefighters, grocery clerks, etc. That’s easy to understand, even though it sucks. And some families have complications that make trust difficult to establish and maintain. For separated and divorced families, we also get the shaft since we can’t ever really know (or certainly control) the actions of the non-custodial parent. So, no bubble invites. 

As with many things regarding experiencing both separation and a pandemic, I’m reminded that this is a bad thing at a worse time. Learning to accept that our Team has no control over either pandemic or breakup has been an interesting (and both shitty and valuable) lesson. 

I would still pay $100 for a hug, though.

 

 

 

 

Today, early, but not early-early, I watched a sparrow feather its next. She (or he?) picked through the grass and I sat, silent, in the morning. As my coffee cooled inside (I forgot it), I wrapped my arms around my knees and watched the bird select just the right bits of paper, discarding this over that, no discernible reason. 

I consider my own nest and what I might want it to look like. If I will have a nest at all. But some perch somewhere.

I thought about how even though my mate flew from our nest, it doesn’t mean that our nest was worthy of leaving. Our cozy space, our little life wasn’t perfect, but it was comfortable and predictable and held our chicks all these years.

Just becomes the nest was left behind? It doesn’t mean anything other than more room.

 

 

Listen

  • You always knew
  • You did.
  • You did.

We have been studying the French Revolution in homeschool lately. And we’ve been listening to a lot of Les Miserables. And because we’re all into the drama, we’ve been belting out lines from “Master of the House” and screaming 24601!!!!

I really don’t like this show. Except for “I Dreamed a Dream.” Which includes this lyric from poor, sad, toothless Fantine.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

I’ve always read this lyric personally, and, as a lifelong, periodic insomniac, attributed it to nightmares. But as I have had more life experience, the tigers? They’re not nightmares. They’re regret. Gnawing regret that comes from looking backward. About the things you saw and ignored, the things you knew and denied. All along, right there. Growling and snarling from the corners you could see were clearly dirty, but turned your head toward the light to see better things.

And the tigers came, and they bit. But I’m biting back.

(Look, it’s not by best metaphor, but it exists, and so do I, and so do they.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marking time

  • Star Magnolias
  • Tulips and crocuses
  • Now the redbuds

 

As this season of my life stretches, I’m trying to figure out what to call it. Our “spring” has been filled with snow, flooding, a pandemic, a separation. What should I refer to this time? Liminal, is the word I reach for the most often. Here’s a delicious explanation, from Wikipedia:

 

In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage,when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete.[2]During a rite’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold”[3] between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which completing the rite establishes.

That is precisely it. I am in the liminal season. I’m no longer having or nursing babies. My partner has flown. The streets are largely quiet and I’m not the only person I’ve seen weeping in a grocery store. I’m transitioning, at some point, back to some kind of work. This is a liminal time.

And not just for me, for all of us. Maybe more for me? But for all of us. We’re all leaving something, heading somewhere else right now. Trying to figure out what we will take and what we will leave. What lessons. What practices. What people. 

This is a liminal time.

 

 

Rain & the Tunnel


Two Months

As the stay-at-home order came down, so did a lot of my what my life had been. Decisions were made and I was not consulted. Plans were made and I was not considered. Lines were crossed and I was not cared about.

And yet, eight weeks later, I stand thankful. Because where I’d been living, what our life had been, wasn’t true anymore. I just didn’t know it yet. 

In these months, I’ve realized so much about how I’d like to be in the world. Vulnerable, accountable, connected. More loving—and loved. Respectful—and respected. 

The tears I have cried over the last eight weeks, flowing from streams to puddles to lakes to seas. At the same time, it’s been raining for days. All the stormwater tunnels are at capacity. Flood warnings scream on my phone at regular intervals.  

Cold rain and wrenching tears, months worth or days worth, go. Leave only promise and potential. Go.

 

 

Climbing

  • Trilliums, red and white
  • Lots of birders
  • And ticks, too
  • Muddy car on the way home

Brave Boy Climbs High

Setting Free


The kiddos and I set out for a morning hike somewhere beautiful. And after cleaning out a drawer and finding a map of a neighboring county’s forest preserves, we’ve been going to different locations, all about 35 minutes or so away from home. They’re lovely spaces, well-tended and restored, free of the choking buckthorn and drifts of garbage found in some spots closer to home—although they’re so nice you sort of don’t want to be of the forest, just near the forest. 

But we found ourselves in a forest our family has visited during holidays. I saw a picnic table where we had lunch just a few months ago. And felt a twinge because we’ll never do that again together. We’ll never be four around that table again. Our fourth flew away, to his own horizons and perches, without a look back at the three he left behind. But we didn’t shrink as he flew away. We are soaring, too.

I watched my little boy, my formerly timid one carefully climb a fallen log, up and up, carefully placing hands and knees. I could tell he was nervous, and so was I. But instead of yelling, “Be careful,” I sat back and watched him. Hair shining. Fixed gaze. Wanting so hard to be as bold as his brother, the wild thing further off in the forest, off on his own. He climbed and I watched. Both of us showed bravery, him in moving, me in not. 

And I told them we’ll be back here again, throughout the year and at the holidays. We will be three, not four, and that’s okay. We are brave. We are strong. And we are free.