Happily ever, after divorce.

My smoke detector malfunctioned the other night.

This wouldn't have been such an inconvenience if it hadn't happened at 3:30 in the morning. I was deeply asleep, having one of those totally nonsensical dreams that is perfectly logical in the deepest slumber, when the distinctive chirp of the alarm woke me up. I blearily hauled my half-conscious body out of bed, stumbling down the hallway like a drunkard on a bender, and studied the alarm, which peered down at me imposingly. It chirped again. How was I going to reach it? I cursed my landlord for installing it at the highest point in the ceiling. I cursed the high ceiling. I cursed the very existence of smoke, smoke itself, which made such inventions necessary. I cursed my ex-husband for being my ex-husband. This was exactly the sort of thing I had kept him around for when we were married - to do all those annoying household things that are delegated to the male sex, like taking out the garbage and tinkering with the lawnmower and fixing the toilet when it overflows. The smoke detector seemed unreachable. It taunted me, chirping incessantly, mocking my meager five foot three inch frame. Eventually I piled books onto a chair, balanced precariously on top and, using a broom handle, knocked the detector's cover off, leaving it dangling from electrical wires from the ceiling. The smoke detector fought back, emitting a screech similar to those made by certain members of the owl family. I ripped its battery out and tossed it on the floor, certain I had assured my defeat. Amazingly, it chirped again, seemingly possessed by a demon determined to drive me insane. I ran into the kitchen, woozily grabbed a pair of scissors, and violently hacked at it. Perspiration ran down my back. The detector crashed to the floor, made a pathetic warbling sound, and died.

I had won.

I've never lived alone before. Now, stop staring at me like that. I swear, I have good reasons. I lived at home while in college, choosing to save a fortune on student loans by going to a state school and commuting to campus. It was just my mother and I, and we shared our space with relatively minor conflict - I did all of the housework and lived rent-free, while she mostly left me alone. Then I met my ex-husband, got engaged, graduated, got married, and relocated from my mom's apartment into an apartment with my now ex-husband, where I promptly got knocked up.

I moved into the house I currently live in back in May, which means I'm still in the process of learning to live on my own. I remember looking around when I first moved in and realizing, wow, everything in this house? It's MINE. And ONLY mine. It was kind of overwhelming. I slowly realized I would no longer have to deal with my ex's dirty clothes all around the house. I wouldn't have to clean the whiskers that peppered his bathroom sink after he shaved. I wouldn't have to cook what he wanted to eat for dinner, decorate according to his taste, or spend a single God dammed minute thinking about accommodating his needs anymore. That realization felt fantastic. I was free.

Before my ex and I separated, I remember feeling very alone and wishing I could live alone. It was unbearable to be under the same roof with someone and yet feel so alone all the time. Even before the idea of divorce came up, these feelings chased me. It didn't matter what state we lived in or how big our house was or how much money he made. When I finally told him I no longer wanted him, I spent a lot of time hiding outside on the patio, curled into a lawn chair, wondering how I was going to get through our separation. I couldn't visualize how I would take care of myself. I couldn't picture my own things in my own space. I couldn't imagine learning how to budget, to cover rent and the water bill and clothes and groceries and the occasional movie with my kids.

Now that I've learned how to do all of those things, and find myself thriving as a divorced single mom, I couldn't be happier. But it's hard to get used to sometimes. When something goes wrong, there's no one lying next to me in the middle of the night to ask for help. I'm sure my boyfriend would be happy to rescue me, but he has his own house and children to care for, and its important for me to learn to handle emergencies on my own, even if they seem insurmountable. While it's been incredibly empowering to teach myself how to get through the moments when things do go wrong, that doesn't mean I want to live alone for the rest of my life. Learning to be self-sufficient will eventually help me be a better partner when I do remarry, which I hope to someday.

In the meantime, I have smoke detectors to vanquish.


On leaving NYC and being in charge of your own happiness.



It's been over fifteen years since since I turned my back on my hometown of NYC. Sometimes I miss it, but more often I don't. When I tell people here in Dallas that I spent my adolescence riding the subway to school and knew my way around Central Park and got into my first cab accident on the way to my prom and was mugged at 13, they do one of two things: ask why I left, or how I managed to survive there in the first place. New York City seems like an exotic place to some of my neighbors, with their tidy suburban homes and sprawling mega churches and somewhat bland uniformity. It's true that it was a difficult place to grown up in. I didn't have a backyard or washer dryer. A pigeon pooped on me on my way to kindergarten. My parents struggled to afford a place for my brother and I to grow up in, with good schools and low crime and friendly neighbors. And let's not talk about the traffic, noise, sweltering summers and frigid winters.

But it could be magical, too. I have 24 years of wonderful memories from growing up in the city.  There was the Bronx Zoo, where I went trick or treating as a child among giraffes and elephants. And the nice lady at the library who always gave me a cherry lollypop because she knew it was my favorite. There were oak trees a thousand feet into the sky on the playground of my elementary school and hot bagels from the deli on the corner. As a high school student, I befriended the crazy homeless woman who perched near my subway stop. Between her mutterings, we talked about politics and whether the grafitti was getting worse on the F train and what happened on Beverly Hills 90210 the night before. I had my first kiss in the whale room at the Museum of Natural History and my first heartbreak in the corridors of Carnegie Hall. I met Diane Keaton and Dennis Miller and the guy who DJ'd for Madonna in the nineties. And I never much missed having a washer dryer -  on a cold winters day, the warm hug of the laundromat was better than anything else in the world.

I moved to Dallas as a newlywed in 1999. It felt like landing in a foreign country. The food was weird, the people loud, the houses sprawling. All the open space terrified and fascinated me. Over the last 13 years, I've relocated from Brooklyn to upstate NY to Texas to Long Island to Georgia to Texas to Iowa back to Texas again. It's been over three years since I've moved back, and it's finally staring to feel like home. I'm not 100% there yet, if I'll ever be. There are still moments of lonliness and fear, but that's art of being human. The location has nothing to do with it.

I occasionally come across articles online about living in Dallas, and how pretentious and unfriendly it can be. This is not an easy place to live. Dallas is a messy, complicated city. It's populated by some of the wealthiest people you'll ever meet in areas like Uptown and Highland Park, and some of the poorest in South Dallas and parts of Oak Cliff. This is a land dominated by sprawling suburbs in the north, home to mid-level executives who work for Frito Lay and their stay-at-home housewives who stain the air with the carbon runoff from their gigantic SUV's and block the sun with their rhinestone bedazzled jeans. It's not easy to make friends here. While the south has a reputation for being home to friendly, hospitable folks, I've found Dallasites to be quite the opposite. They can be judgmental, and standoffish, and often just plain rude. It can be hard making friends here.

I've read similar articles about the challenges of residing in NYC, including this smugly self-congratulatory one in The Cut. Most of these articles annoy me, not because they aren't true, but because they cling to the notion that a place should make you happy. I think one of the enlightening truths unveiled to us as adults is that you must choose happiness, no matter the circumstances. You aren't owed happiness because you live in a big city, or a small town, or someplace in between, and these places aren't capable of handing you the happiness you might think you deserve simply because you live there. You, and you alone, are in charge of determining what makes you happy, and you alone are responsible for finding it.

Happiness begins with the basics. It's choosing a job that fulfills, challenges, and inspires you.  A job that leavs you exhausted at the end of the day, but also excited to come back the next morning. A job that you're excited to talk to friends about and adds a new dimension of fulfillment to your life.

Happiness is choosing friends that make things better. It's having one friend who you share your deepest fears, anxieties, and truths with, someone who doesn't judge or laugh at you and gets you out of your house when you're holed up wallowing in your own depression.

Happiness is choosing a significant other who adds something to your life, who isn't just your best friend and a shoulder to cry on and a warm body to see movies with, but someone who understands and supports you and loves you unconditionally.

It’s finding a place to live that can be your refuge, a place where you can go to escape from the world, where you feel safe and relaxed. It's a place for you to keep clean, and light candles and hang up pictures and invite people over and make your bed every morning. It’s up to you to make it somewhere you’d want to live, and get out if you can’t.

As for me, I'm finding a little more happiness within myself every day. I can thank my job as a teacher for keeping me busy in a challenging but inspiring way. Getting to know Dallas better is also important to the process. It's like we're dating -- the relationship is still kind of new, and it's taking some work. But it's really worth it.



The big fat lie of closure.

When a relationship ends, there's one thing most of us obsess over: Getting closure. Whether it's a romantic relationship, friendship, or a divorce, you might find yourself finding excuses to contact the other party. You may send a text that didn't really need to be sent, or go out of your way to put yourself in their path.. You might suggest seemingly clandestine meetings, to talk about the kids or family members or your schedule or something, anything, to keep contact. You may tell yourself, "Well, I just need to get some closure." Seems innocent enough. You're in need of an apology, or vindication, or validation that your gut was right and ending the relationship was necessary for your sanity.

I didn't really feel any closure when my divorce became final, and I haven't found in the months since. There's been no tidy ending to what was a fifteen year marriage, no ceremonial goodbye. During those last few gut wrenching conversations my ex and I had at the very end of our marriage, he said things I knew not to be true. He clung to misconceptions in an attempt to avoid taking any personal responsibility. He blamed me for everything. While it's true that I was the one who initiated our divorce, we didn't have a conclusive conversation regarding what went wrong, why we each shared fault, and why our divorce was ultimately best both of us. The lack of such a conversation eats me up sometimes.

Fortunately, the truth is that closure - that thing that ties up the relationship in a nice neat bow and explains it all - it a big fat illusion that eludes everyone after a split.

When I was a high school student in the flush of my youth, my friends and I delighted in dissecting the end of our relationships. The arguments and debates and break-ups between us and our boyfriends were studied with the exacting deliberation of a forensic scientist. We analyzed the love letters, notes, answering machine messages and gifts from our ex's with the gut-wrenching solidarity only teenagers have. We were lovesick girls. We cursed and yelled and cried a little, and then we felt better. Mostly.

Closure has become central for explaining what people supposedly need to find in order to heal after a loss. Yet there's no agreed upon answer for what closure means or how you're supposed to find it. Closure has been described -- in contradictory ways -- as justice, peace, healing, acceptance, forgetting, remembering, forgiveness, moving on, answered questions, or revenge. There's even an emerging divorce party industry attempting to cash in on the desperation people feel to find closure, with break-up party games, cakes, cards and invitations.

Unfortunately, parties and forgiveness and all those things probably won't provide the emotional comfort that's needed. In the months immediately after my divorce, I asked myself, “When will I start feeling better? When will things get back to normal?  I wanted to banish all the sad, confused, angry feelings from my life, putting them behind me so I could move on. But what an odd concept really, closure….as if I could turn the lock and throw away the key, as if I could truly shut the door on my emotions and feelings for a marriage lost.

Perhaps it's better to lose the idea of closure and reframe in terms of healing and growth. Learning to live with some questions is okay. Recognizing the loss and giving myself time to grieve, taking the high road and letting go of anger, and giving myself permission to release of the guilt and shame that's haunted me are much more achievable than the arbitrary concept of closure.

Now I ask you: Have you ever felt a need for closure after a relationship ended? How did you manage those feelings?  Did you ever find the closure you were looking for?



Currently 10.21.13

Reading: Did you ever find yourself absolutely immersed in a book?  I'm talking about a book so good, so rapturously luminous, that you can't eat or drive or go to work or make dinner or do much of anything except think about it. It is your reason for living, this book, with its lush prose and complex characters and sublime setting. The book that recently had such an effect on me is called Someone, by Alice McDermott. In a concise 240 pages, she presents the full and absorbing life of an ordinary woman named Marie. Chapters from childhood, adolescence, marriage, motherhood and old age reveal the abundance of Marie's life and family. In these laconic pages, McDermott allows readers to enter post World War II Brooklyn and experience a depth of emotion and human experience common in the most ordinary lives. Much like McDermott's protagonist, I too lived among Brooklyn's Irish Catholics, and felt that she very accurately captured the feel of that life.

Cooking: Every year, in the fall, I get an urge to cook. Not just cook. Oh no. I want to orchestra five course meals. I want to bake pies and crumble and bars and cookies. I want to fill my house with the intoxicating scent of butter. (Oh butter. How I love you.) I want to plan elaborate dinner parties, with complicated appetizers and candlelight and appropriate wine pairings for each course. I scour Pinterest for recipes. I leaf through back issues of Southern Living. I shop for ingredients like a smart bomb dropped from a F-22. I'm tactical. I have lists. This weekend, I made fried chicken and mashed potatoes and two loaves of apple muffin bread and crockpot cinnamon applesauce, for no real reason at all. It was lovely.

Listening To: Joni Mitchell. John Legend. Ben Howard. Daughter. With a 25 minute commute to work, I've learned that listening to something calming keeps my blood pressure down and hand off the horn when some moron cuts me off. Ben Howard is especially medicinal.

Concerned About: Money. Before my divorce, my ex-husband took 100% control of our finances. He solely supported our family and he largely directed where and how the money was spent. I often had no idea how much we even had in the bank, much less what he was spending it on, and almost no say in our personal finances. It was humiliating and infuriating. One of the best things about being single is that I"m now in charge of my money. I know where every cent is, at all times. It's a learning experience, all this budgeting and accounting and frugality, but it feels pretty great. I'm doing okay for now but I'd really like to be saving more - to finish paying off my credit cards, to start a college fund for my children, and to take a much-needed trip to NYC. A couple of you sent me emails recommending apps for keeping track of my personal finances, and I'm so glad you did! The Mint app is especially good.

Watching: So many shows. Parenthood (the best.) Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown. Modern Family. Scandal. Grey's Anatomy (even though I might be the last person in America who cares about Dr. Bailey and Mer and McDreamy.)

Loving: That autumn is finally here! Honeycrisp apples, thrifting for chunky sweaters, decorating my front porch and walkway for Halloween, preparing fall crafts for my school class, watching my daughter take to the lacrosse fields every weekend (she scored her first goal of the season this Saturday! Proud mama here.) Sipping whiskey and talking late into the night with my boyfriend. Just my boyfriend in general.

So, how about you? What are you up to today? Got any book recommendations?


Date yo self: Being out alone isn't as scary as you think.



The first time I took myself out for dinner and a movie, I had just thrifted three new sweaters for fall. I paired one with my favorite jeans and requested a table at a local Vietnamese restaurant, indulging in the largest bowl of pho they offered. I ordered spring rolls as an appetizer and iced tea to drink and at the theater I purchased one ticket to Gravity. (Unrelated: George Clooney, I'm beginning to think you're a bit overrated as an actor.)

This happened this past weekend, eleven months after officially leaving my marriage of fifteen years. In the past I'd grabbed a bagel and coffee, or a quick salad from a deli, or a hot apple cider from Starbucks alone. I'd even had a memorable solo meal in Little Italy once, where I escaped last summer after officially announcing my separation to my family.

I've had friends look at me, wide eyed with disbelief, when I've told them that I've eaten out alone. Some of them have confessed they might consider having a drink at a bar by themselves, maybe, if they were waiting for their husband or a friend to arrive, but never an entire meal. And certainly not a movie as well. Nope. Not going to happen. No way.

So what's with the stigma?

Eating and watching a movie at home is one thing. You're in the comforting womb of your living room, listening to the predictable hum of the refrigerator and that dog who lives next door, barking all night. It's safe, and secure, and occasionally a bit suffocating. For many if not most of us, eating alone is relegated to home or a quick bite somewhere anonymous, like a deli or bagel shop, where it’s more about sustenance than experience. Especially, it seems, for women. A quick poll of just a handful of my friends reveals that women still don’t eat out alone at restaurants with a sense of comfort or security, and it’s a shame. A shame! Because learning to enjoy a meal out with only your own company or that of a good book is an outright empowering experience. The sense of independence that coexists with ordering a meal and not asking what others are having or wondering if they'll approve of your choice or if they’ll want to share is something we all deserve to experience.

In case you were wondering, there’s a name for the fear of dining alone. It’s called solomangarephobia, according to psychologist Lillian Glass, and just about everyone has it. It boils down to solo diners thinking that other people are looking at them, when those eating around them are, in fact, focused on their own food.

I wonder if we don't eat out alone more because we aren't taught how. From the time that we're young, we learn to eat in the company of others. In preschool, children sit in groups of eight to ten when sharing a meal, and are pulled out to eat alone if they misbehave. As a teacher myself, I've witnessed what just the mere threat of being forced to eat alone does to my students. They freak out. Eating alone is considered punishment, a punishment worse than missing playground time. In middle school, kids realize that the ones who eat alone in the cafeteria at lunch are the ones that no one wants to eat with. Eating alone is a sign of social suicide. I'm certain that, whether by choice or not, every single person reading this post ate a meal alone when they were in school. This experience leaves a lifelong scar we carry into adulthood.

Let's not even talk about the stigma that comes with seeing a movie alone.  Almost any human being with a pulse trembles at the thought of being in a movie theater alone, surrounded by happy couples sharing extra large tubs of popcorn. That crap is scary. I get it. I couldn't help but feel self-conscious when Gravity started, as I noticed couples curl into one another with the easy sense of intimacy they have with a significant other. Doing things alone can be outright terrifying, expecially if the activity at hand is synonymous with dating.

Bu what if you don't feel like sharing the popcorn? What if you want to see a movie in 3D but 3D makes your friends queasy and your boyfriend twitchy? What if you want to go to a movie ridiculously early, like at 5 pm, a time reserved for seniors fresh off the early bird special? What if all you want is a date with yourself? What then?

I say, put on your favorite jeans, swipe on some lip gloss, and take your own self out. Screw the so-called shame in going out alone. Movie theaters are pretty dark, and chances are no one will notice you. In addition, most people are incredibly narcissistic anyway, worrying about what their dates think of them and their taste in movies than notice you exist/are there alone/are audibly sobbing while Sandra Bullock tumbles through space towards almost certain death (spoiler alert.)

You probably feel a little anxious with the thought of going through with all this. That's okay. That's normal. But if you're willing to set aside your fears, you too could get the chance to bask in the joy of riding solo.
 


Thanksgiving negotiations.

My ex left me a couple of text messages last week concerning our Thanksgiving schedule. According to our divorce decree, he is supposed to have custody of our kids the duration of their Thanksgiving holiday. (Their school holiday encompasses an entire week.) Technically, Thanksgiving week is "my" week with them. The week prior is his. This means that, conceivably, he could have custody both the week before Thanksgiving and the entire week of the holiday.

Cue problem.

This is where divorce and custody gets complicated. The fact that we decided to have joint custody with alternating weeks makes our situation better than most. We don't have to wrestle with 'two days on, three days off, every other weekend, one Wednesday night each' as I've heard other divorced families do. For the most part, we communicate effectively and are able to handle schedule changes with an impressive amount of maturity.

Then there's Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will always be difficult for me to negotiate. This will be the first year I won't spend the holiday with my children, and the thought of that is almost unbearable. The fact that I don't have family within driving distance makes it that much worse.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that has always had special meaning for me. I've spent past years curdled up with my children on the couch, watching the Macy's parade -- just as I did with my mother when I was growing up. I made green bean casserole and pumpkin pie while my ex watched football with his brother, whose holiday visits from our home state of New York were a tradition. The kids enjoyed a couple of days off from school, and we were fortunate to enjoy time together as a family.

When the ex and I worked through our divorce settlement, we agreed to split holidays evenly. I took Christmas Eve and morning. He got Thanksgiving day and the Friday following. I took every other Hanukkah, he got every other Easter. I know ex-spouses who have split an actual holiday itself - Thanksgiving morning with one parent, the evening with another. But we didn't want to shuffle the kids around any more than was necessary. That's not fair to them, and ultimately they matter more than anything else.

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing similar challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules and the pain of being apart. Our holiday agreement is very fair, and on paper, it makes perfect sense. But it feels much, much worse. When the ex called me to talk about it, I'll admit that I wasn't exactly in the best state of mind. I was immediately hostile and defensive. I snapped at him, jumped to conclusions that he was going to ask for more than he was already getting. Eventually I was able to communicate why I was having trouble staying even-tempered, that the holiday arrangement hurt too much and this pain was affecting my ability to discuss our arrangements rationally. We were able to talk it through and work out an alternate schedule, and everything is as okay as it's going to be.

When we were married, my ex delighted in telling me that I felt things too strongly and was overly emotional. It impeded our communication even when our marriage was relatively good. Every time I struggle to communicate effectively with him, it's as if I'm proving him right. I hate that. I feel like a failure.

I have no intention of crashing my ex's Thanksgiving, which means that starting this year, I get to create a new holiday tradition. I'm thinking about doing some volunteer work that day, helping serve homeless families a meal instead of sitting at home feeling badly for myself. It'll be good to give back, and might provide a much needed dose of perspective.

In divorce, there will always be negotiations. Things will never be perfectly balanced. I'm learning to deal with that, one tiny step at a time.



My ex's new girlfriend, and the process of disentangling.

When women talk about the current romantic lives of their ex-husbands, it's common to hear refrains along the lines of "I couldn't care less who he's with. What a nightmare, she can have him, good riddance." And they usually add "As long as she's nice to my kids, that's all I care about."

Really? You don't care at all? You're not curious? No twinges of jealousy? What if she's younger? Successful? Skinnier? None of this stings at all???

I don't believe you.

My ex introduced my children to his new girlfriend and her children this weekend. I've known that he's been seeing someone since before the ink on our settlement dried, despite his proclamations that he'd never be able to date again and would spend years alone mourning our marriage. I wasn't particularly surprised that he'd partnered up. This is a man who moved one of his parents in with him the day after I moved out. Of course he would be eager to move on, to find someone else to accompany him to office parties and tell him how intelligent and successful and wildly attractive he is. Of course he would immediately search for a replacement.

So why do I feel uncomfortable now that he's made his relationship public? Why does my knowledge of his girlfriend's existence give me pause? I want my ex-husband to be happy, I do. He deserves to have a life. I have one, after all. It's healthier for the kids to see him settled and partnered than sitting home with his dad at night, watching ESPN like a zombie. Do I want my ex anymore? No, most definitely not.  Do I miss him sexually? Hell no. Do I suspect his new girlfriend is getting something I want or need? No, I know for sure, surer than I know anything, that he is incapable of giving me what I want. I knew that for years preceding our separation.

But there's something about the idea of my ex and his girlfriend being with my children and hers, acting like a family, that stings. In these moments I have to remind myself what it's like when my kids are with my boyfriend. (My children haven't met his kids yet. Though he and I are crazy about each other, we're in no rush.) Is it threatening to my ex's role as their dad in any way? Of course not. Would anything about them being with my boyfriend be objectively unacceptable to my ex? No, not even remotely. It's just a part of us all moving forward, separately, building a new life.

I'm not the only one whose having difficulty with this new development. I spoke with my daughter on Saturday night, and she was very, very upset. What she was told would be a brief introduction to my ex's girlfriend and her kids over frozen yogurt had turned into an all-day event. (Why he felt the need to include her children during this first meeting is beyond me.) They spent the afternoon at his house, had dinner together, and went to see a professional soccer game. My daughter did mention that his girlfriend was nice, and that her children were friendly. Of course, I didn't expect my ex to date a hag.  I'm sure she's a nice woman, nonthreatening and uncomplicated. A simple girl. The opposite of me, with my churning brain and intellect and tattoos and "issues" regarding my long struggle and recovery over anorexia.

"It's all too much, mom," my daughter told me. "It's just too much." She never wanted to go to the soccer game. She didn't feel as if she had any say in what was happening. I was infuriated. Absolutely infuriated. I wanted to pick up the phone and roar at my ex and ask him why, for a relatively smart man, he was so God dammed clueless. I wanted to defend my child, who was in obvious emotional turmoil. I wanted to cry and scream and throw things and curse the heavens for marrying him in the first place.

I was up all of last night thinking about what had happened. Sure, I was infuriated that my daughter was so upset. But why was I really angry? Why had I spent a night awake, wondering about this new woman, if she was pretty, smart, successful? It wasn't really about my daughter. She'll be fine. I suspect she was more annoyed about giving up a night playing her new Pokemon download than going to the soccer game. Here's what it is, what it boils down to: this guy was my friend, my husband, my father figure (sorry, it's true), for awhile, the bulk of my adult life. Since we split, he hadn't yet officially "replaced" me. I'd still been the only woman, aside from his mother, who really loomed large in his life, for better or worse. And now that's changed. So it pulls at the wound. It's a reminder of the loss.

That's the thrust of it: even though we've been estranged for over a year, and we've both moved on, the process of disentangling continues. My complicated feelings about the new girlfriend are about us all taking yet another step apart. It's not about her in particular; she could be anyone. Who knows if she'll even stick around. It's about the sadness of divorce, of one family unit ending and morphing into something else.

I believe it is genuinely possible for people to move on. Some marriages, like mine, were mistakes. Jealousy can often be confused for regret, and I suspect that's what I'm feeling - regret for wasting so much of my time with someone who didn't value, notice, or appreciate me. I have nothing against the girlfriend. Her presence doesn't affect me personally. As long as she isn't cruel or abusive to my kids, it'll be fine. These complicated feelings won't kill me, not by a long shot.


Bits + bites 10.11.13






Bits + bites 10.11.13.

1, 2, 3: Scenes from the Texas State Fair. I won a sock monkey (yay!). The ferris wheel was our favorite ride. Our other favorite state fair thing, not pictured: Deep fried Oreos, which we hastily shoved into our mouth parts.

4. Chile rejeno from Avila's in Dallas. Credit for the drool-inducing pic goes to my boyfriend, who encouraged me to try something besides fajitas from a Mexican restaurant. It was amazing.

5. Thrifted this 1950's plaid poncho a couple of weeks ago. Bring it on, fall.




Staying "friends' with an ex.

Today I came across a truly depressing fact: According to a blog post I read regarding divorce recovery, it takes one year to recover for every five years of marriage. That means that I have two more years of grieving ahead of me, and that I've only just begun to scratch the surface of overcoming my own dysfunctional marriage.

Fun times.

I suppose I was fortunate in the fact that my divorce was relatively calm. Sure, there were occasional bouts of profanity. My ex broke a crucial promise to me not to hire a lawyer (as he's an attorney, we had agreed to do the divorce ourselves to save money.) He emptied our bank account, leaving me with $12 in my wallet and an empty gas tank,  and had a sheriff serve me with papers at work, which is a humiliation I will never, ever get over. But we managed to be mostly agreeable throughout the negotiations of our divorce. It helped that I was resolved to show kindness and respect towards him during that time, no matter how he chose to behave. And I was pretty successful at that. When he tried to taunt me, I refused to respond. Instead, I prayed for him, and for myself. I prayed for strength. I prayed for resolve. I prayed to stay calm and stoic when he tried to enrage me.

All that prayer left me relatively unaffected when our actual court date arrived. I was relieved to put closure after eight months of vitriol and tension while we lived together before finally separating. I was thrilled that he chose not to attend court with me, leaving just my lawyer and judge to see my tears.

There's another negotiation happening now that I wasn't prepared for: the type of new relationship the ex and I have. Before the divorce, I entertained all kinds of fantasies that he and I would be friendly. Maybe not friends, but friendly. I thought we'd be able to occasionally meet for coffee to catch up on news about the kids. I was sure we'd be able to trade texts if we needed to talk about schedules. After all, we'd spent 15 years together. We had three children together. We'd been there for each other during the most difficult challenges a couple can face. I supported him as he changed job after job after job while forwarding his career. We relocated out of state multiple times for his new positions. He stayed with me through relapse after relapse and family drama that left me estranged from my mother. While our marriage had ultimately collapsed, we still had a huge history to fall back on. He was my best friend during most of my adult life, and I was his.

I've read books and watched movies and read blog posts about couples who were friends after their own divorces, despite the fact that one of them cheated or was a drug addict or was convicted of a felony. They meet for pizza in busy restaurants or celebrate birthdays together and while there's an occasional bubble of tension, they still managed to communicate effectively. I don't know what real life couples those books and movies and blog posts are based off of, but I'm convinced they're crap. I don't know how to reinvent our relationship after the divorce. There are times when I am so enraged that I can't bear to look at him. Then I have moments when I miss what we had when our marriage was good, in those halcyon newlywed days. There are times when I'm thrilled he's out of my life, followed by what-if daydreams - what if we'd gone to therapy sooner, what if I'd used my voice instead of my emaciated body to communicate my needs, what if I'd refused to tolerate certain behavior on his part, what if I'd been strong enough to say no when I'd needed to.

Truthfully, I'm not sure I even want to be friends with my ex. And I doubt he wants to be friends with me. While it would definitely make our co-parenting more effective, I don't think either of us is capable of it at this point, and I'm not sure it'd be the healthiest thing anyway. He can be passive-aggressive and uncooperative. I can be overly emotional, defensive and mistrustful. Maybe there will come a point when we'll be friends. Maybe not.

The divorce process naturally pit my ex-spouse and I against each other, training us to view each other as enemies. Any future alliance seems impossible. But because we have children, he is still my co-parent. It takes a lot of maturity to make amends with the person who has just torn apart your life, or has behaved in an unforgivable way. But just as it takes two to determine the marriage dynamic, it takes two to make a good - or bad - divorce.

Now I ask you - can you be friends with an ex? Whether it's an ex-boyfriend or spouse, I'd love to hear your opinion.


Reinvention.

I haven't blogged in a week. I could blame it on lack of time, distractions from my children, even a shortage of energy resulting from shepherding 19 preschoolers around all day. But that would all be untrue.

I've been struggling with the direction that this blog is going in. My life has changed quite dramatically since I starting blogging here three, almost four years ago. When I began this blog, I was a married stay-at-home mom in the early stages of recovery from a long battle with anorexia and bulimia. My husband was gone frequently, traveling out of state for work. With my children in school all day, I had loads of time to research topics for blog posts. I could roam around thrift stores at leisure. Eventually, I would even write and publish my own book on vintage and thrifting. I could blog about body image, sharing my own struggles as I tentatively tiptoed into recovery. When I felt lonely, or abandoned, or undervalued (which was often), I wrote a post, eventually cultivating a community of friendly, supportive readers who were also thrifters and vintage lovers and appreciated my occasionally wacky sense of personal style.

Flash forward to today. I'm a somewhat recently divorced full time preschool teacher. Because I have joint custody with my ex-husband, I see my children every other week. My previous wardrobe of vintage sequins and silk skirts and distressed jeans has been replaced with clothing that is stain-proof, durable, and sensible - far from the fashionable outfits I used to wear. I'm lucky if I have the time to thrift once a month. Instead of researching and crafting eloquent, engaging blog posts, I use my free time to browse Pinterest for classroom management tips. I'm on an extremely tight budget, leaving little room for shopping aside from groceries and fall clothes for my kids. Most nights I collapse into bed riddled with shame for ending my marriage, stressed about money, missing my children and wondering when I'm finally going to feel my life stabilize.

Don't get me wrong. I'm far, far happier than I was in my marriage. I feel more content, more confident, more energized than I have in years. I have a sense of independence that eluded me most of my life. I know where my money is at all times. I don't have to revolve my life around the needs of my ex-husband. For the first time, I get to do things on my terms.

Which leads me to this blog.

It seems silly to continue on the same path when so much has changed since I started. Doing outfit posts feels trite now, especially since most of my daily wardrobe is decidedly unfashionable. I have overcome my anorexia and bulimia, and am no longer riddled with the poor body image I once had. I don't feel the need to write about the same topics I once did - fashion in specific - because my values have changed so much. These days, I get far more excited about paying off a credit card or hearing one of my students tell me that they love me than this month's issue of Vogue. I still get a thrill from a great thrift score, or getting dressed up for a night out with my boyfriend. But fashion in and of itself doesn't hold the same weight.

I feel a need to do more personal blogging. I want to use this space to write about where my life really is now, as a divorced middle aged woman just starting to hit her stride. While I'll always be interested in personal style, it isn't that important to me anymore. I'd rather feel free to explore this new start as a single woman, as a person mourning the end of her marriage, as a single mom and a teacher and introvert and perpetual cheapskate. Truthfully, after so many years of starving and faking my way through my marriage, I don't wish to put on a facade and pretend to be someone I'm no longer for the sake of my readership here.