Category Archives: womens issues

If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with?

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I am forever a love romantic, a fool for love. I crave the high of those early feelings. Neurologists and love doctors have summed it up this way:   Hormones oxytocin and vasopressin in the hypothalamic-pituitary endocrine pathway and the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine induce feelings of attachment, happiness, and pleasure.

My brain is out to get me. While I love falling in love, what happens AFTER the fall? What happens when the hormones and neurotransmitters stop shooting out those pleasurable impulses?

For me, there’s a crash landing.  I have to admit that I don’t know what love is anymore. I’ve heard the descriptions “soul mate,” and “the love of my life.” The problem is that I thought I’d found it in HIM…then it was HIM…and yet again HIM.

I’m in the process of divorcing for the FIFTH time. Yes, you heard it right. In fairness, I have married, divorced, remarried, and then re-divorced TWO men TWICE. If you’re confused, it means there were only THREE men altogether.

I thought Number Two husband, who was also Number Three husband, was my true “soul mate” and the “love of my life.” If you’ve read my memoir, you’ll see that he died after we’d been together on and off for almost thirty years.

After he died, I married, divorced and then remarried Number Four and Five. Our divorce will be final in September. I suspect that he was in the realm of today’s subject. If I couldn’t be with the ONE I truly loved, this guy would suffice. But WHY do I insist upon marrying them???

I give the excuse to my girlfriends that I fall for the marriage proposals every time. They are like the ones you see on The Bachelor, if you’re foolish enough to watch THAT idiotic TV show (I do!) That kind of show feeds into our foolish love notions that there is a prince out there ready to rescue the fair maiden. I suspect anyone reading this post got sucked into fairy tales just like I did.

The reality is far from a fairy tale. I’m nobody’s notion of a fair maiden, and he’s far from a prince. It’s more than his aggravating habit of leaving the toilet seat up. In my case, we had a huge argument about the date of expiration on a jar of tartar sauce. When he rejected my prooffered out of date tartar sauce, I felt like I had failed as a woman. Really.

Those role models run deep. Mom would NEVER have tried to feed Dad and us kids with OLD tartar sauce! Truth is that, yes, yes, she would have. And Dad would never have noticed nor commented on it. But MY huz did, and it felt like a stab to the heart.

What is behind that feeling? I felt criticized, less than, a failure. It wasn’t just a jar of expired tartar sauce. That is but one example of the type of thing that we argued about, again and again, in different versions of the same tune.

He seemed so “perfect” while the oxytocin, vasopressin, serotonin, and dopamine were flowing. Once his “representative” left the room, it was just the two of us–and the realization that we are two flawed human beings who are totally unsuited for each other.

I’ll let you digest this post for awhile and come back again to express more feelings. It’s another death, another loss, another fantasy wrecked on the shoreline of reality. And reality is a word that this recovering alkie hates to hear.

 

 

 

Sobriety Collective Article

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  First of a Two-Part Series

I was not an alcoholic, nor an addict, nor a substance abuser. I was not even a “problem” drinker. After all, I was a college graduate, had stable employment, lived in a decent home, had a husband and two kids, and I was a Jew. Everyone knew that alcoholics lived under bridges or in shelters. Addicts stole and were incarcerated in the finest penal institutions. And, of course, both varieties came from dysfunctional families. Well, okay, my family was pretty dysfunctional.

Not only wasn’t I an alkie or a druggie, but also, in my career as a probation officer, I supervised them. They were on the other side of the desk. They were my caseload, and I was paid to “fix” them or to lock them up. I didn’t get arrested when I drove drunk because I had a badge.

Alcohol and drugs were my solution, not my problem. I used them to “take the edge off,” to cope with stress and unhappiness. I used them to help me feel at ease in uncomfortable settings—and anywhere was an uncomfortable setting. Mostly, I used them to feel attractive to the opposite sex.

Getting drunk and using drugs was cool—for a very, very long time. Most people would never have guessed I had a problem. I kept that secret behind closed doors. To the outside world, I was the life of the party:  I was funny and entertaining when I was loaded. My hijinks were the stuff of water cooler jokes at the office on Monday morning. My “outsides” looked just fine.

Towards the end, drugs and alcohol turned on me. My life got very dark. I drank daily and had blackouts in which I couldn’t recall what I’d done or with whom I’d done it.  I lived a double life: during the day, I was a professional in a job with incredible authority, but at night, I drank in the scummiest of dive bars with “lower companions.” From the time I got home from work and popped that first beer until the time I crashed at night with a wine glass by my bedside, I drank. After all, I had a stressful job and a difficult home life. I deserved to drink and to smoke pot!

I got sober on January 4, 1988. It was, and still is, a journey.

I’ve had a chance to take a good, hard look at my life as an alcoholic and addict in a memoir I recently had published:  Starting at Goodbye. I worked on it, off and on, for over ten years. In the first of this two part series, I will refer to a few excerpts to illustrate what my life looked like drunk and sober. The book is also an outrageous love story and testament to my late husband, Wayne. We shared thirty years of our lives together until his death from cancer. I picked up a hunky cowboy in a country western bar and took him home that night. Wayne was supposed to have been my last one night stand.

One of the main reasons I drank was to help me feel better about myself when it came to men. I had a horrible self-image based on my looks. I’d had horrible cystic acne as an adolescent. I was ridiculed by boys in both junior and senior high school because of my skin. I just wanted to be invisible if it meant they’d leave me alone.

When I drank, I felt pretty. I believed that if I went home with the cutest guy in the bar, I wasn’t so bad looking after all.

Here’s an excerpt from the book set early in my relationship with Wayne:

He flashed me his adorable smile and sexy wink, and I was toast. My anger melted like snow on a sunny day. I knew he was attracted to me for the security I offered, not to mention my cabinet filled with booze and a steady supply of pot. He needed my strength and stability. I needed him needing me. No matter what I did or said, he wouldn’t leave me. My weakness filled me with disgust, but I couldn’t really understand why I stayed. What was missing in me? Where was that empty space he filled? Why didn’t I believe I deserved someone who was my equal educationally, socially, and financially?

 We shared a desire to avoid reality. Although I managed to go into work most days, I found myself calling in sick more often after suffering worse and worse hangovers. With Wayne, I was drinking more than ever, matching him shot for shot. On weekends especially, we’d spend hours sitting around the dinner table sharing intimate feelings while candles flickered.

 “No one asked me to the prom,” I said. Tears plopped down my cheeks as I sipped sloppily on a glass of Gallo.

 “I’da asked ya if I’d known ya then.” Wayne leaned over and patted me on the hand.

 “No one wanted me. I was so ugly with my pock-marked skin. And all the boys in high school were so damn short. Some of the meaner ones teased me in front of everyone, called me a giraffe. I sucked it up and cried later, all alone, in my bed.” I took another sip, knocking over the glass accidentally.

 “Ahh, baby. I think you’re beautiful.” He jumped up to get a sponge to wipe up the mess and got out the crystal decanter to pour me some more wine.

 On nights like these, after I poured out my sob stories, we’d stagger upstairs and pass out on the bed. Often, with the room spinning, I’d puke my guts out first….

 I hated feeling so desperate. I questioned my attractiveness. What’s wrong with me? Wasn’t I pretty enough? Passionate enough? Feminine enough?

 The answers lay in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Once I was drunk enough, I could push down the pain, postpone the issues, and ignore what was happening in my life. 

Because I was a functional drunk and Wayne wasn’t, it was easier to focus on him as the alcoholic. His father suggested that I attend Alanon with him.

Here is an excerpt of my first Alanon meeting:

At 6:30 on the dot, Nathan arrived to drive me to the community center in Costa Mesa. A sign posted on a door declared “Alanon meeting here.” We entered a brightly lit large room with dozens of metal folding chairs arranged in straight lines. Slogans with trite sayings like “Let go and let God” had been posted on the walls. A woman dressed in a conservative, navy suit stood at a podium on stage. I surveyed the audience, composed mostly of middle-aged women in dowdy lounge wear with worn, beaten looks on their faces. This is going to be a laugh a minute.

 The leader read aloud some material from Alanon literature, which was followed by enthusiastic clapping. A parade of others stepped up to the podium, announcing their names, which were echoed by the audience—“Hi Loser!” Each told a tale of woe about husbands, boyfriends, or adult children who were out of control from alcohol. There was continuous mention of “the alcoholic,” as if he or she was an inanimate object.

 They had no sense of humor regarding “the alcoholic,” that’s for sure. I had to stifle a desire to laugh out loud on occasion hearing them describe some pretty riotous drunken antics. If they could’ve read my mind, they’d have booted me out of the joint. I didn’t want to humiliate Nathan, so I kept my feelings to myself.

 They ended the meeting by joining hands and reciting some stupid prayer with which I was unfamiliar. I think they said it was the Lord’s Prayer, which lent the whole shenanigans a clearly Christian slant, adding more icing to this unappetizing cake. I’ll give them a piece of my mind if they try to convert me, Nathan be damned.

 After the meeting, we were steered to a table which held Styrofoam cups, a big coffee urn, hot water and tea bags, and an assortment of pastries and cookies. Nathan nudged me in the direction of a group of women who had congregated in the area, and he suggested I talk to them about Wayne. One woman who appeared to be the head sob sister was surrounded by a group of fawning women. I approached the bunch timidly as they formed a spontaneous opening to allow me into the circle. I found myself tattling on Wayne, focusing on his sporadic work history, and recounting tales of outrageous bourbon-related incidents. The head sob sister swept me into her arms and hugged me tightly. Her cohorts made sympathetic tsk-tsk sounds while patting me on the back and muttering jargon.

 A tear slipped down my cheek as I grew more comfortable with this new role of victim. I began to embellish the stories, culminating with a synopsis of the SWAT blow-out.

 “How awful, you poor thing,” one grey-haired matron said, locking eyes with me. “Keep coming back!”

 I was beginning to relish being the center of attention. Hey, this isn’t so bad!…

Is this what the future holds in store for me? Sitting around with a bunch of pathetic losers talking about “the alcoholic”? Might as well shoot myself now and get it over with. Is being with Wayne worth it? I need a stiff drink. 

 

The second part of this two-part series deals with my realization that I too might have a substance abuse problem.

 

Diary of a Divorce–January 22nd

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IT’S IN HIS KISS

     So I left you aching to know what became of my new guy, right? The guy who asked me out on New Year’s Eve and who seemed so “perfect” in so many ways. He is the epitome of consideration, kindness, good manners, and loves dogs. He’s 6’4″ tall, which is a nice match to my 5’11” height. He is exactly my age and decent looking, maybe shy a few hairs on his head, but he doesn’t try to disguise it in something hideous like a comb-over.

     What could go wrong, you might ask. The first sign came when I met him with our dogs at the park, had lunch, and went for a stroll on a balmy Southern California day. The conversation flowed, and, most importantly, his dog got along with my two!  But I guess I wasn’t feeling that “spark,” that physical chemistry.  Who can define it?

      Maybe, I figured, it was better all around if I didn’t feel passionate towards this guy. I haven’t had the best luck following my impulses where men have been concerned. Frankly, I think my “picker” is broken. Maybe it would be best to start off slow and let the sexual energy build gradually.

      We went to a movie and dinner on New Year’s Eve. We talked, we laughed, we exchanged details about our lives. So far, so good. He gave me a plant from his garden which he’d put in a beautiful pot. Along with this thoughtful gift, he’d enclosed a card. In it, he said, “Let’s take this slowly and build a solid foundation.” Wow. How many guys do you know who want to take it slowly?

      As we sat talking in his SUV, he bent over to give me a little kiss. Okay, it was awkward. I figured it was the position in which we sat in the bucket seats. Maybe, I suggested, we could try it again outside the car? So we did. And…..it was a wet kiss. One of those tongue kisses where you feel you need a towel afterwards. Ugh…I’m embarrassed to talk about it. It had never happened before. Every kiss with every man prior to this one had been effortless and natural. To make matters worse, my soon-to-be-ex husband is a GREAT kisser. That, and sex, were probably the only areas where we got along fantastically. If only we’d never gotten out of bed.. But I digress.

       I quickly made an excuse that we’d better head home before all the crazies got on the road after midnight. We said goodbye and he promised to call. Soon after I arrived home, he’d sent me an email in which he said he was so excited about the direction we were headed and that he was enjoying getting to know me more and more.

       And then, like a total moron, I did the ego embellishing woman thing: I thanked him a lovely time and told him he was a good kisser.

       What the hell was I thinking????

       Of course, he was thrilled to hear it and wanted to set up another date really soon–at his house. It didn’t sound like the kind of plan where he was trying to lure me into his lair to get laid. He’d actually carefully thought out the date to meet my specifications. He has a scooter and had asked me if I’d like to ride on it with him. I said it sounded like fun but insisted I wouldn’t ride on it in traffic or on the freeway. I suggested going to a canyon area or a more remote setting where I’d feel safer.

        He researched some canyon drives near his home, took a ride around them to find one I’d enjoy, and then invited me to join him. He also invited me to bring the dogs, and we could take them for a walk in a nearby park. Afterwards, he’d make me dinner. All he needed to know was whether I preferred filet mignon or prime rib. What a great guy!

       We were to get together a week ago Saturday. As the date grew closer, I could feel my anxiety building about the “kiss situation.” I even discussed it beforehand with a male friend. Ugh!!! Still, I decided to give him another chance. Honestly, he is a wonderful guy!

        When I drove up to his house, which is fully paid for, I was pleasantly surprised. It is in a beautiful canyon, surrounded by greenery and parks. He had decorated the place tastefully and in style–like those old canyon homes I recall from the ’60’s and ’70’s: fountains lightly trickling water, light effects to set the mood, lava lamps, and hundreds of plants both indoors and out. I felt comfortable immediately.

         We took a ride on his scooter, which is almost as large as a motorcycle, and I felt free and wild. What fun I was having!

         We came back to his house and played a game of stacking lego-like pieces until they collapsed. He offered me a smoothy he mixed up in his blender and then brought out a delicious appetizer. He put on a music DVD which was a concert of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. So far, so good. But I could feel my body language signaling him to keep his distance. I was nervous!

         We had dinner, which he prepared and served on cool stoneware. And then the moment came: He said he’d like a kiss…

         So I thought I’d try it with my mouth shut. And???? It…was… wet again. OMG.

         I made a hasty retreat soon thereafter. I knew this was not going to work. Everything about him is wonderful, but I knew I was not about to teach a guy how to kiss. If he can’t do THIS well, it doesn’t bode well for other more intimate activities.

         I discussed it at length with one of my closest friends the next day as we took a long walk with the dogs. She strongly suggested I tell him right away, instead of leading him on. He is a good guy and deserves someone who is “into” him physically.  I knew she was right.

         I came home to find an email from him saying how happy he was and that he was enjoying me more and more as he’s gotten to know me. I knew I had to let the ax fall.

        I sent him an email in which I very kindly and diplomatically explained that I’m not feeling “it” with him and that I know myself well enough to know that this type of thing can’t be forced. I offered him my friendship as I really, really DO enjoy spending time with him, but told him I’d understand if he wanted to blow me off. I offered to talk with him if we wanted to discuss this further.

        Two days passed, and then he called. He wanted to know what had gone wrong. He’d felt hurt at first, and then confused. I’d given him signs that I was feeling as positive about him as he was about me. He kept on digging for answers, and I’m not a very good liar. I asked him if he wanted to know exactly what the problem was. When he said he did, I reluctantly told him about The Kiss. Ugh!!!!

        We evaluated more specifics about kissing than I have EVER before discussed with a guy!!! I tried to explain exactly what kind of kiss turns me on–not such an easy thing to describe. And he…said he wanted to remain my friend!! I replied that I would be willing to try it as long as he understood it would never be more than a friendship. I don’t think you can change those types of feelings. It’s either there or it’s not.

         Only time will tell about how this friendship works out. He has already contacted me a couple times, including enthusiastically calling me to tell me he’d “won” an auction to get a second dog. He was so pleased with how his dog had interacted with one of my dogs that he decided to get his dog a playmate. We have talked about taking all four dogs to Dog Beach really soon.

        I don’t know about how this romantic stuff works, why it is that the guys who are the best guys aren’t the ones for whom I fall. Is it the “Good guys finish last” phenomenon? Honestly, if I could will myself to fall for this guy, I’d do it. We are so compatible in every other way. But you can’t fool Mother Nature. Deep within our bodies, pheremones or some such unconscious phenomena are dictating who turns us on and who doesn’t.

         I keep singing a couple songs: the Everly Brothers “Til I kissed ya” and the Shoop Shoop song. If you want to know if you love him so, it’s in his kiss. That’s how it is.

Diary of a Divorce–Jan 4th

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SO MANY MEN, SO LITTLE TIME

      I never imagined myself as the kind of woman over whom men would fight and compete.  That happens to the beautiful women, the ones who never have to worry about having a man in their lives. So how did it happen to ME?

      I’ve been on an online personals website where I’ve met a scattering of men, most of whom were not worth the time it took to get ready for the dates. I had just about given up. Slowly, I withdrew my interest and figured I’d no longer initiate contact with any new ones. Should someone interesting come along and send me a message, I’d screen him to see if he even seemed like a possibility. I’d realized that many of these guys were there to play games, to see how many women would contact them, or to see if they could “score.” Ugh..

      My former therapist, who follows the teachings of Buddhism, told me that as long as I pursued anything–whether it was a man or something else–it would elude me. What I wanted/needed would come to me only if I released my energy on getting it. Sure, I figured. It sounded a lot like those married friends who asked me why not look for a guy in an interest group or through a mutual friend. Uh huh–like that ever happens! I’ve never been fixed up on a blind date, unless I was the fixer. And men in those groups? Hah! Mostly women show up.

        It seems that as soon as I “let go” of my marriage the last time, the universe received the message that I was truly done. I was free and able to stand alone, if necessary. I didn’t fear being without a man anymore. In fact, I realized I’m a whole lot happier living by myself–just me and the dogs. I don’t need anyone to hold me up or to “complete” me. I’m already complete.

        Then suddenly, a couple weeks ago, I got a very nice message from a man who had recently started to look for a partner on the website after losing his wife about seven years ago. They’d been married 35 yrs and had chosen to have no kids. Perfect! I’m SO over raising kids! Also, he has a dog and is retired, just as I am. He described himself as a “forever hippie” although he had all the “trappings” of those who hadn’t dropped out of the system. He had a home which is completely paid for. He has enough money from his deceased wife’s social security and some investments, and, best of all, he couldn’t be more mellow!!!

        We met at a nearby park with our dogs. We had lunch at a doggie friendly restaurant and then took a long walk.  He was attractive, perhaps a little shy of hair on top of his head but very tall. He couldn’t have been more gracious and more laid back–so different from the soon-to-be-ex. What a relief! There was nothing I said or did about which he disagreed. It was so relaxing and easy…And then he asked me out on New Year’s Eve. I accepted, even knowing that’s a somewhat pressured evening.

         Here’s something weird: His birthday is EXACTLY on the same day as my “real” husband, the one with whom I was married for almost 30 yrs and who died three years ago.  How strange can it get?

         In the midst of all this, I found myself in yet another strange new circumstance. A man who is in a specialized AA group which I attended almost 25 yrs ago has been writing a newsletter of that group. I’ve been on their mailing list for the last 25 yrs, receiving the newsletter monthly.  He is now living in New Mexico, having moved there a few yrs ago from California. I lived in New Mexico more almost 30 yrs ago. He has invited me to stay in his house anytime, just to revisit my old haunts.

         I always figured he was married.

          Every once in awhile, he’d write an article about which I’d disagree. I had sent him several emails, to which he replied in a very good natured way. He usually asked me if he could post my comments in the next month’s newsletter. No problem.

           Recently, he asked me if I’d like to join him when he takes his “birthday” cake in California in March. Yes, I said, I’d love to. It’d be great to meet him, at last! In the meantime, I decided to see if he was on facebook. Not only is he on fb but also I got to see a picture of him, his family, etc. He is no longer married, and he’s a very distinguished looking man who’s only a couple years older than I am. He is retired but still works in mediation through the courts. He is a very spiritual man with real character.

          Our emails during the holidays took a decidedly romantic turn. We began to write to one another from our hearts. And guess what happened?? He seems to have fallen for me BIG time. We have spoken by phone many, many times. It’s getting really complicated and intense. I really, really like him. He is such a grown-up, so mature, so in touch with his emotions and philosophy of life. What a refreshing change from my soon-to-be-ex. Actually, he’s like no one I’ve ever known.

           He recently realized that, when he still lived in California, he’d been at that specialized AA meeting when I’d just gotten sober. I was a total nutcase then–even more so than today, trust me!

          Well, he’s in New Mexico, and the online guy is HERE.  On the date New Year’s Eve, California Man couldn’t have been more thoughtful. He’d made movie reservations for us and even brought a bag full of snacks for the show. In his car on the way to dinner, a lovely and expensive fish restaurant, he presented me with a plant from his garden. He’d planted it in a beautiful pot. He also gave me a card in which he wrote that we should take it “slowly, to build a solid foundation” for our blossoming relationship. We kissed a few times, but it was nothing sexual. Yikes!

         In the meantime, I felt I owed it to the New Mexico man to let him know I’m still dating California Man. I can’t lead him on with any promises of waiting until he gets here. He had decided to come to my town at the end of January, and then again in March. Most of all, I don’t want to hurt him. He’s very special and precious to me already, and we’ve sort of known each other for years–even though we’ve never seen each other in person.

         Now what??? It feels like they’re competing for me! This has never happened before. I mean, I have dated more than one guy at a time in the past, but it was never so intense as this situation seems to be headed. Both of these guys want regular contact with me, in phone calls, emails, texts, etc. I’m overwhelmed…I was kind of hoping one or the other would be a real schmuck so I could let him go in favor of the other. But they’re both great guys. Holy moly!! California Man has already invited me out again–a day in the mountains on his motorcycle, followed my a romp in the park with our dogs. Then he’ll make me dinner. He’s a great cook!

          My head is swimming. Who would’ve guessed that now, in probably the last third of my life, I would be in such a dilemma? And it happened, just like my therapist predicted, when I let go of the search.

          I don’t know where this is going. I don’t know which man I will choose. How nice that it’s up to ME to choose! And what else have I done? I’ve resumed my normal activities. I’m still working on my memoir, still visiting my mother, still getting together with my friends, still playing with my dogs, still volunteering at the VA,  still planning my daughter’s wedding in March, and still staying sober. It is now just past midnight, which means I’ve been sober exactly TWENTY-FIVE years!!! That’s a quarter century, folks. My life has gotten so much better since I quit drinking.

           It’s 2013 now, and I am hopeful for the first time in so many years. The glass feels half full, not half empty. Even though I have “so many men and so little time,” I know I’ll be just fine if they both leave my life.

           January 26th, I’ll be officially divorced. And I can’t wait to see what comes next!!!

           Happy New Year to all of you too.

Diary of a Divorce–Dec 26th

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THE PERFECT MAN AND OTHER MYTHS

         Has it really been over two weeks since I’ve blogged? I guess life has a funny way of happening in present time which pushes the past to the wayside. I had a big revelation today about my soon-to-be-ex: he has become “neutral” in my mind. IOW, I don’t feel passionately involved or passionately uninvolved anymore. I feel, well, neither. Days have gone by when I haven’t thought about him at all. When I do think of him, I picture him on our final night together–filled with rage and blaming, spewing out the words “Deal with it!”

         It feels remarkably good not to have to deal with IT, or with him, anymore. A peace has settled over my life. Strangely, I’ve not been into almost any expectations. I’ve gone out on a couple of online dates; I got right back onto that horse. The cool thing is that I go on the dates not expecting anything from them–either good or bad. If it’s good, well hooray. If it’s not, well, okay. That simple.

          I will never find HIM. There is no HIM. The “him” who’d be my “perfect man” would be an assortment of parts from the many men I’ve known and cared about over my lifetime. He’d have Wayne’s big heart and good looks, he’d have David’s intelligence, he’d have Jim’s sense of humor, he’d have Mark’s steady income, and he’d have Ben’s guitar skills. If you put these pieces together, you’d have my “perfect” HIM. It is foolish to search the world for one man to contain all these elements. It is one of our myths as women. We want the prince.

        Other myths: It takes a man to make me happy. No, no, it doesn’t. I can have my own happiness all by myself. Happiness lies within. No one “gives” it to us or takes it away from us. No one has that much power. Was it Will Rogers who said, “I guess I can be just as happy as I make up my mind to be”? I should paraphrase that.

         I’ve been finding my own happiness the past couple weeks, if not months. I have found I enjoy time alone with my dogs. We spent Christmas Eve walking through my neighborhood admiring the beautiful and fanciful decorations and lights on lawns and houses. I found I had the wonder of a child. To think that, just a few years ago, I got angry at those lights and at the happiness of others because I felt like I had my nose pressed up against the window peering in at someone else’s Hallmark card setting. This year, I caught the eye of several people I didn’t know as they were wrapping up their evening’s festivities. They called out “Merry Christmas” and I repeated the greeting, really meaning it.

        The dogs just sniffed every tree, bush, and fire hydrant and peed on each one. We had a really merry Christmas.

        The following day, I went to my AA club where they held a potluck luncheon. I sat around with old and new friends.  One woman I only slightly knew told me that I’d played an important role in her sobriety. She’s now sober over four years and introduced me to her new husband. They held hands and gazed with love into each other’s eyes as they joyfully told me she is four months pregnant. Instead of envying them, I felt incredible joy for them.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

       Afterwards, I left with a friend to the Veterans Administration nursing home. I’d found out that most of the vets there had nowhere to go on Christmas, no family, no plans. So I’d bought a bunch of inexpensive items at Big Lots, stuck them in gift bags, and took them to the V.A. The guys were thrilled to see me there. I started a poker game and a rummy game for those who didn’t like poker. I gave the winners–and the losers–a pick of a wrapped prize. Then I walked down the pods and handed out the rest of the gifts to guys who couldn’t get out of their beds. I felt like Santa handing out those presents.  It felt damned good!!!

         I’ve been listening to podcasts from a Buddhist lama who says that we don’t find happiness by getting. There is only ONE way to find happiness and that is to GIVE. Give till it hurts! It’s the oldest message in the world. John Lennon said it in Imagine. The only thing we take with us when we die is what we’ve left to others. I think I’m just feeling it deep in my guts.

         I’m starting the new year soon with some promising events ahead. No, not with either of those two guys from the dates. One of them was a nature lover and a backpacker. Nice guy but I’m not going camping anymore. The other was…well…how can I put this nicely? Just plain boring! He is very stable and has all those things we put on our wish lists for the perfect guy–but he bored me to death! I tried everything in my power to draw him out, to ask him something that might provoke an interesting response. Nada. Too much work! Maybe the two guys combined..well. maybe those two guys plus about five more!

         I’m meeting a prospective and interesting guy this Friday. He, like I, is “into” his dog. We share a lot of other similarities, but I’m not getting into any expectations. It will be what it is. The main thing is that we’re meeting at Dog Beach with our pooches. Afterwards, we’ll go with the dogs to an outdoor cafe for an early dinner. If nothing else, the dogs will have a good time. And me? I will take my own happiness with me on this date. I won’t look for it in him.

         There’s also been an interesting new development concerning someone I’ve “known” for many years. Stay tuned on that one. I’m really, really, really excited about this one.

        And…my daughter’s getting married in March. My son will fly out here to walk her down the aisle. I’m sure I’ll cry like a baby. I’ll be celebrating 25 yrs of sobriety on Jan 4th. It’s a milestone “birthday” and I will celebrate it both with cakes at my AA clubs and in private “parties” with my closest and dearest friends. I’m sponsoring two women now, and that brings me exquisite joy. We only “keep” it is by “giving it away.” We say this all the time in our meetings.

         2013 is the scheduled date to get my book published, at long last. I have worked for over four long years on it. I’ve gone to many critique groups for suggestions, and I’ve been working hard on the edits.  It’s brought back a lot of old memories about Wayne and also brought more than a few laughs and tears in the writing.

         I know it will be a good year. The Mayans believed, not that the world would end in December 2012, but that a new era would begin. I think those Mayans were onto something. May this new year be interesting. Is that a blessing or a curse? It’s up to us to decide.

Diary of a Divorce–Dec 10th

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SQUEEZING THE ORANGE

      I once heard a motivational speaker explain the concept of who we really are inside by a comparison to an orange. No matter how hard you squeeze the orange, what comes out is orange juice. So if you are an angry person, it doesn’t matter how hard someone “squeezes” you. What comes out is anger.

       I recognize my own anger issues. I realize it doesn’t take a lot of pressure to get me going. All it takes sometimes is to be told “no” or not to get my way. The difference between me and Mark, though, is that I’m aware of the anger inside and I’m working hard not to allow it to run my life. I honestly don’t think he has any idea how angry he is. The sad part of this is that his anger, which has festered over the years, explodes on those he most loves. When I didn’t do something he felt I should, he reacted as if the world was coming to an end. And this happened over and over and over again. No, he can’t help being who he is. He could manage to disguise it from most people. He could put on his charming persona to the world. But he will always be that orange. No matter what I did or said, I got the red hot orange juice.

        So why did I think it’d be different THIS time? Had I fallen into the trap of believing that time would fix him? If he just missed me enough…If he wanted me badly enough. No, it wasn’t enough. He hadn’t done the necessary internal work, which always starts with a recognition of what type of juice lives inside of us.

        And what was operating ME during this attempted reconciliation? That darn fantasy stuff. That twinkling Hallmark card commercial of the happy, loving couple. That hope. Haven’t I told myselff enough times that there is NO hope? There is only what IS. As a recovering alkie, I have never liked reality. I can wish, hope, dream, imagine and it changes absolutely nothing.

          The good news is that I recognized it so quickly. Nine days. Pretty damned good, if I say so myself. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Mark is Mark, no matter how much he tried to win me over one more time with the Great Guy routine. And, today, I am not willing to settle for BTN (Better than Nothing). Is it worth walking on eggshells all the time just for those moments of hand holding and whispered “I love you’s”? No, not anymore. I’ve learned I can do my life by myself. I don’t “need” anyone to make me complete. I AM complete. Yes, I would’ve loved to share my life with someone, and I still do. But not just anyone.

        The paralegal’s office caught the Stip before it was sent out. My divorce proceeds towards its intended end. By January, I will be a single woman again. In the paperwork, I indicated I want to return to my maiden name. Wish I’d done that at marriages number one, two three, and four. I want to go out of this world with the name I’d been given when I came into it.

        There is the possibility I’ll be alone for the rest of this lifetime. Maybe. I hope not, but it IS a possibility.  I’ve known true love, and it wasn’t with Mark. He was, after all, simply a rebound from the man I truly loved but who died.  I met Mark on an online site, when I should’ve been concentrating on grieving. I wanted some light times, some fun times, after all those bleak moments. Mark and I should’ve dated but never married. Oh, well. Lessons learned.  The guys on online sites are single for a reason.  Patience has never been my strong suit. 

       After this mistake,  I’m no longer in such a rush to find a new, warm body to lie by my side in bed. I’ve got the dogs, anyway, and all they do is love me. S-l-o-w down, girl! In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow IS another day!”

        Oranges? They’re pretty sour anyway. Maybe the next time, I’ll pick an apple.

Diary of a Divorce–Dec 9th

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A STOMACH-TURNING END

      It was a short-lived reconciliation: Nine days, to be exact.  It wasn’t a good sign that I felt better when he left than when he arrived.  It came to an end over dog barf. Of course, that was but a symptom of the disease.

       He came over Friday, early evening, and we had an quiet night together because he was tired from a long week at work.  Okay, I was good with that. We don’t have to date and go out every weekend. For some reason, though, I didn’t sleep that well Friday night. Maybe it was the dogs, curled up around my head and shoulders, afraid they’d be kicked off the bed they’ve used to sharing with me. Maybe it was that Mark curled his body around me when I got back in bed after getting up to take a leak, and I was practically falling off the edge of my king-sized bed.

      Or maybe it was something bigger…

       On Friday, he told me that the paralegal’s office had called to say there was a problem with the way his notary had signed the Stipulation we’d hoped would cancel our divorce. The paralegal’s secretary hadn’t submitted it to court, as promised. That meant waiting until Monday. It pissed me off because we’d rushed around getting all the paperwork done, and Mark had even overnighted it to me so she’d have it by Friday morning. I called her up to complain, and she gave me a lot of attitude about why she hadn’t sent it to the court. In conclusion, I realized this Stipulation was a bit more complicated than she’d let on initially, and maybe she didn’t know what she was doing. I contacted some free legal services online and got different answers from four different attorneys about whether or not the Stip would be legally binding. 

      Put this part of my post on hold for now…

       Saturday night, we decided to order pizzas and then sat down to watch some movies on Netflix. I noticed Mark was nodding off on the couch during one of the movies, even though he’d pop his head up every once in awhile and deny he was sleeping. You ladies all know what I’m talking about! When I needed to take a leak,  I put the movie on “Pause.” On my way back to the living room, I went into the third bedroom to close the blinds. As I did it, I noticed some clear-colored dog puke on the rug. I think one of the dogs might have licked some bleach I’d poured on a stain and it had upset his tummy. So I got some rug cleaner, sprayed the carpet, and blotted up the barf. I warned you it was a stomach-turning ending!!!

        The whole thing must’ve lasted about five minutes, max. When I returned to the couch, Mark was sitting up, wide awake now. He launched into a tirade about my lack of consideration for him that I’d put the movie on pause while he was watching it! Really? I was honestly stunned by the level of rage he had about this stupid issue–but then almost ALL of our previous fights had been about stupid things. Perhaps the stupid things only masked deeper issues…

        Each time I tried to discuss the situation calmly and rationally, he berated me more. Now, he claimed I was minimizing his feelings and disregarding/deflecting them like I always did. Nothing I said would get him to stop. He got more and more animated, pounding on the couch, flipping his body from side to side, and pointing at me to “Deal with it!”

        The rage in his voice and his irrational actions brought tears streaming down my face. I asked him, almost begged him, not to make such a big deal out of this. Each time I tried to reason with him about the “facts,” it only infuriated him more. I’ve learned Mark is an angry, angry, angry man–though he tries to hide it under a “nice guy” exterior to the world. He also manages to charms me each and every time after we’ve broken up. It’s very similar to physical abuse: rage, acting out, then remorse and flowers. I guess it’s considered emotional abuse.

        While I sat there crying, he intensified the attack, insinuating that I thought he was an asshole and worse. He said it, not me. His language was full of expletives. Though I may have felt like retaliating with a few choice words, I actually kept a fairly cool head. But when he started to get totally disrespectful, I’d had enough. I’ve come to believe, over the past six months and more,  I’m worth more than that.

       I got up, still crying, and walked into the bedroom after cleaning up everything we’d left out. I changed into my pajamas, cleared a spot on the bed for my dogs, and finished the night reading a book.  I thought about what had just happened and actually gave him a slight pass by concluding he’d probably still been really tired from the week. OTOH, I gave him no excuse for the vengefulness of his words and attitude.

       As my tears dried on my cheeks, I made a decision:  I am really through with this marriage. I’ve had enough. Done. Yes, I’ve said it before, and yes I’ve taken him back. But it feels different this time. In the past, we ended our marriage through emails. That allowed me to have hope. It took away the sting and memories of his festering anger.

       This morning, he approached me sheepishly as I made my coffee. “Hello,” he said–as if nothing had happened last night. Then he jumped into the shower. I wondered if he planned to leave or stay. Either way, I’d made my decision. Nothing more needed to be said.

       I heard him in the other room, packing a bag. I was actually relieved–he was leaving. As he walked to the front door, he made one more nasty remark that I needed to f**king realize the meaning of “commitment.” He added a comment about how I had mistreated him last night. And he left.

        I waited till he drove off and headed straight to the phone. I left a voice mail for the paralegal asking them NOT to messenger the Stipulation to the court and to let the divorce proceed.  It will be final in one month. Then I followed it up with an email.

        I can breathe again.

          Later in the afternoon, I got a friendly email from Mark. In it, he said we needed to talk. If we couldn’t work it out together, after getting “real” with each other, then perhaps we needed to go to a counselor.  He felt that I’d given him a “deaf ear,” as I’d done so many times in the past.

          He did apologize for making me cry.

          Too little, too late. I wrote back and told him so.  This marriage cannot be saved. I’m listening to my gut, for a change, and running for my life.

          I’ve heard from many people that others are put in our lives to teach us lessons. Well, this relationship has taught me quite a bit, mostly about how I am willing to be treated and what is no longer acceptable. In just the past six months, I’ve learned the following:

           1) I don’t need Mark, or any man, to support me financially. I’m totally self-sufficient. Although I’m far from wealthy, the money I get from my pension and social security is enough to pay all my bills. Maybe I have to live a lot more frugally than before, but my peace of mind is worth a whole lot more than money.

           2) I have been able to handle a lot of tough situations all by myself, without Mark. The major ones were getting my mother into assisted living and taking care of myself following  back surgery. I have also been able to handle things that break and need repairing around the house. If I need help, I can hire a handyman.

            3) My life is full without him. I volunteer at the VA, I’m finishing the editing of my book, I have the dogs for company, I love to garden, and I attend regular meetings to maintain my sobriety.

            4) My friends love me and support me much more than any man ever could. I can live without a man but not without my friends.

  and probably the biggest one:

             5) I can be by myself without shriveling up and dying. In fact, I love my own company!

           I’d say those are some pretty major lessons I’ve learned. Why would I ever want to go back into the shackles of a relationship like the one I had with Mark? No, I won’t say I’m done with men. I’m sure I’ll want their company again–probably sooner rather than later. But I never, ever want to revolve my life around a man again. I’m worth more than that. I can say that aloud today without worrying or caring if that makes you want to barf. I’m pretty good at cleaning that up too!