Be Present: Yoga and Divorce

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We set an intention in every class, just as the heat begins rising through the room and everyone rises together into the first upward facing dog.

Today it’s Be Present.

The class makes you focus – through sweat and music and dim light and all the fit bodies moving in unison. It forces you to be present. Otherwise you will miss a pose, lose the flow, fall out of step.

Time slows down in this room.

There’s no room in your head to worry about work or lacrosse carpool when you’re trying to keep up and not fall on your face during eagle pose. It makes you fully present and engaged. For sixty minutes, you have no expectations for what will happen later, after they turn on the lights and turn down the heat and this class is over.

Lying in shavasana, taking the last few breaths of class, I think about divorce.  Be Present. It’s what comes long after the trauma, long after the fight, long after the fear and adrenaline and shame have diminished. You focus on the present, no expectations for what comes next. The person you are dating may or may not be your forever person. Your ex may or may not lose his job and stop paying child support. He might or might not do something awful and go to jail. You may or may not ever regain the financial comfort you once enjoyed. You may or may not achieve Great Things in your post-divorce career.

And you realize you can live with this. You’ve learned to be present in this strange new world. No expectations, because after all, you once entered into a marriage with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes only to have them trampled. You’ve learned that expectations are usually false, and that life is way more like some temperamental bucking wave than a straight line. You have to learn to bend and balance and breathe so you don’t get toppled over.

And so you suddenly find yourself present. And calm. And content.candle-light-yoga

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Judging Divorced People: Just Don’t

 

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The moms were bored. They were about 20 hours into a 36-hour Girl Scout camping trip, an experience that was incredible and life-changing for the little girls.

For the moms, its was the old familiar mix of joy, laughter, hard work, responsibility – and lots and lots of sitting-around boredom.

And so it started.

“Oh, I feel so sorry for this dear friend of mine. She’s divorced….”

And the story unfolds. I try not to bristle. The friend cheated on her husband and has spent the last four years trying to win him back, unsuccessfully. And now he’s getting remarried to someone else, and she’s falling apart.

Oh, and she’s an alcoholic.

“It’s so sad, but I won’t let my daughter go over to her house anymore….”

I sigh to myself. The biggest alcohol abuser I know is a married mother down my block, and everyone seems to allow their children to go to her big old fancy house….

The story leads to another one – divorce and alcohol and heartbreak.

And then a third one, the best yet. “My husband and I just went to a funeral this week of an old college friend who died from drinking. Of course his wife had to divorce him, and that made it worse….”

At this point, I got up and walked away. It was abrupt. I didn’t look back, but I know they all must have looked at each other, shocked and guilty. None are bad people. They were just caught off guard; they forgot they had a divorced mom in their midst.

But it was the tone of over-the-top sympathy that got me. I don’t know the private lives of these particular women. But I know enough about the lives of our peers. Enough to know that feeling sorry for others must make at least some of these women feel better about their own problems, marital and otherwise.

When one of them came up to apologize later, she obviously felt awful. And she’s a nice person. Really. I looked at her and told her my truth: “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not upset. Frankly, when I look around, I don’t think that my married friends are any happier or unhappier than my divorced friends. But I did feel that it was gossipy.”

I paused.

“And I wouldn’t want anyone talking about me that way,” I continued.

“Not that I ever did anything wrong.”

But for some reason, my voice sort of trails away with these last few words. I think I’ve crossed some line.

And I walked away, from her, from the group – feeling proud and ashamed, independent and pathetic, filled with anticipation and regret – another few steps away from my old life.

Thank you World, I Needed That

Thank you to the person this morning who noticed that I dropped a sweater on the sidewalk on the way to the dry cleaners. Thank you, thank you for picking it up and draping it over my driver’s side mirror.

Thank you sweet, efficient ladies who work in the dry cleaners and say yes, I can pick everything up on Wednesday because I have a funeral on Thursday.

Thank you sunshine and cold morning air that’s sure to warm up today – I can sense it, finally, spring finally breaking through after weeks of chilly gloom in this gray city.

Thank you funny Starbucks guy who never gets rattled when people like me say grande when they mean venti, and venti when they want grande.

Thank you, boss, for understanding that I sent my daughter to school today with no sports equipment, even though she has team practice after school – and that I sent my son to school saddled down with sports equipment even though he has no team practice after school – and that I had to go home and then go to their school to sort it all out on work time.

Thank you funny friend for telling me it doesn’t matter if my date liked me or not last night – that it only matters if I liked him – and that you can’t start out a good story about a date by wondering out loud if you were rejected or not.

….

Thank you, all, for showing me that the world is generally a good place, and that people are generally decent and kind. Because later today I need to deal with my ex and his lies about how our dog escaped in his care, and how he signed up my son for a sport – that he’s coaching! – behind my back. And how, somehow, all of this is my fault.

And then I need to check to see if my mortgage check bounced because my ex gave me a custody check ripped so carelessly out of the checkbook that the check number was completely torn off. But I had no choice but to try to deposit it in the machine on Saturday anyhow because it was so late.

….

So, thank you for small kindnesses, world. And for being so ordinary and normal. I needed that.

Dating after Divorce: When they come back.

It didn’t end particularly well, this relationship of mine, my first new relationship since I was 23 and originally met my ex-husband.

I was hurt; he was a jerk. And my friends shook their heads and were thrilled it was over but said, “He’ll be back.”

And he is.

And I am elated in a petty and mean way. “Well, I guess it didn’t work out with the perfect new girlfriend,” I announced. “Well, I guess he wasn’t able to find anyone out there better than me!” I chortled.

And I ignore his texts. “Silence is the ultimate f*ck you,” I tell my friends.

But now I remember him all over again, and all our favorite restaurants and how he used to pick me up to go everywhere and when he trained my dog to stop jumping on people and the dinners he cooked for me and how he held my hand as we wandered through museums and down city streets on Saturday mornings.

And then I remember how he lied to me, and how there is no room for this in my life anymore. And how I didn’t think he was that nice to my dog. Or to waiters. And how I hated all his shoes. And then I nod and smile to myself and know it will all be okay, because no matter what, nothing will ever be as bad again as my divorce – every other setback or sadness pales in comparison. And I have learned from this relationship, about myself, about him, and about how the world works when you are divorced and starting over.

So I will never respond to him. But if I run into him, which is sure to happen eventually, I’ll smile and say hi and remember that he just wasn’t quite the person I thought he was.

And that’s okay. I choose to believe that he came into my life for a reason: to show me, however imperfectly, that there is love and light out there after divorce. And then he needed to shift out of the way so that I could keep moving towards that light.

 

 

 

 

Imaginary Boyfriends and the Divorced Mom

Imaginary boyfriends. Suddenly they seem to be everywhere.

One woman realized that her 40-something, never-married boyfriend was never going to commit, no matter how hard she tried. Blitzed on $15 fancy cocktails, she slid into his bed after a night out with the girls. When she woke up, she knew. Her perfect boyfriend was an illusion, and she was his booty call, and he would dump her if her demands get too serious. The relationship she believed in was imaginary. It existed only in her head, not his.

Another woman clung too hard to her first relationship after divorce because she was so afraid of living through the pain of breaking up again. The first few weeks with this man were perfect, but it was downhill after that. He was a liar and a creep. But she believed this must be a series of terrible coincidences, and if she worked hard enough, things would go back to those blissful early days. Needless to say, they did not, and day after day as she lost her self-confidence and self-esteem. It all ended when she got dumped, in a maelstrom of yelling and slammed doors and lost car keys and crocodile tears.

A beautiful divorced mom has a long, perfect relationship with a man she cannot marry because he is still married to someone else, a mentally ill woman who never leaves her house. He spends nearly all his time with his girlfriend, but she has never met his children, and probably never will, because he will never get divorced. And the girlfriend continues to date him, and he hangs out with her children and her lovely friends, as she she settles for an imaginary “almost” world.

A recently divorced woman met an almost fully divorced man from back home over the holidays and slept with him right away for fun. After all, she was unhappily married for 20 years, and she should just have fun. Right? But meanwhile, his life was consumed by divorce attorneys who didn’t call back, and angry teenage children, and screaming fights, and threatening emails from a personality-disordered soon-to-be-ex-wife. But the divorced mom hung on to this shit storm, pretending it didn’t matter – after all, it was all casual, right? But deep inside, she cared in a very unimaginary way.

A divorced mom meets a seriously handsome guy just right for her. Yet he’s a bit of a leech, waiting for an inheritance. He has many things going for him, but they all lead to the same thing: making himself indispensable to people who can help him. She does not break up with him – yet – he’s nice and handsome and helpful and cool. People like him. But he’s not the guy she wants him to be. And the relationship limps on, perfect on the outside, until she drinks too much and tells the real story of her imaginary perfect relationship.

The list goes on and on, story after story.

On the outside, these are not the sad, sorry stories of divorce. These are the women who have survived, overcome ugly histories, have have good jobs, and good friends, and whose children love them – women with fabulous hair and skin who fit into tiny jeans. These are the women who are not afraid to put themselves out there, to date again, to fall in love, to risk heartache and failure.

Some may say it’s low self esteem. But I believe it’s something different. I believe it all starts with the sorry state of online dating after divorce and men feeling that there is always someone better out there around the corner. And for this particular group of women, it’s knowing that when you work hard enough at most things, they work out. After all, that’s been their experience so far in life. So why not this, too?

And it’s wanting something so bad that you believe you can fix a situation that’s not fixable.

But sometimes life doesn’t work that way. And now, a rash of imaginary boyfriends. Where it ends I don’t know.

 

 

 

Online Dating After Divorce: Bachelor Number One

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He seemed interesting and smart. I liked that he grew up in California, and that he kayaks in the rapids near our homes. He is super fit. He is sarcastic and witty. Sophisticated. All that stuff that I like, I guess. He can flirt one moment and be incredibly sweet and sincere the next. He reads my emails carefully and responds thoughtfully. That was all good to me.

And then the bread thing happened. I received this photo of three loaves of bread that he baked one snowy evening – at the same time that I was sweating through several layers of clothing, determined to shovel out my driveway myself – me, the single mom who doesn’t need any help from anyone.

And I didn’t like him anymore.

I know what you’re thinking: What a jerk. No wonder she got divorced and now has to start dating in her late forties. And what’s wrong with a nice guy who bakes? How great is that? All men should bake! Women should appreciate men who bake.

But I don’t care anymore what anyone else thinks. I know this won’t work, and since I’m the only person who has to date him, I need to follow my gut. And my gut hates that photo.

I cancelled our date that snowy evening. The roads were too dangerous anyhow, and he had some crazy idea to drive through the blizzard of the century to a faraway tavern. He was disappointed, and a bit angry. But I stood firm, unlike anything I would have done in the past. My ex-husband was always the guy who would drive through snow and ice storms, with me clutching the arm rest, praying we would survive. When we skied every weekend during those early winters, he would take off, leaving the groomed trails to dodge fields of trees at breakneck speeds. He thrived on this.

It took me years to stop following him.

I realized that the bread guy has a few other things in common with my ex. He is overeducated, and has given up good jobs under murky circumstances, and now he works at a tiny nonprofit. And he complains about it. But does nothing. He seems to believe the world owes him something. But I know better though experience. The world owes us nothing. We make our lives what they are, though hard work and smarts and hopefully some luck. I learned this from my father, a self-made New Yorker who started his first job as an accountant who didn’t know who to use a calculator.

I am like my father. I have my children 2/3 of the time (plus some), and I have gone back to work full-time. I often sneak off to my car at lunchtime to sleep because I’m so exhausted, but I will not give up, and I will not admit I’m tired. I bargain at work to carpool my children to and from school and lacrosse and dances and playdates. I complain to dear and patient friends, while I work my ass off, like my father did before me. I know I’m lucky, and that my family helps me, but at the same time, I’m a worker, as we used to say in New York. A fixer, a striver, for better or worse.

And I think I need to find another worker, another striver.

The bread guy and I are still corresponding via text. He’s funny and smart – probably smarter than me. But he’s lost interest too, I think.

And that is okay. This is a learning process, for me and for him. I hope it brings us one more step towards what we are looking for.

 

 

 

Dating After Divorce: Lessons from a breakup

I truly believe we learn something from all relationships we have – both those that we decide to end and those that we don’t. These experiences make us better selves, show us what we want/need, and help us to be better partners . . .

These words arrived today from a friend, after my first breakup in more than 20 years.

These words made me sit down and think about the ways I improved myself and pushed myself and opened myself up in this relationship that ended.

These words made me sit down and think about what I want and need from future partners and friends. I could not have done this six months ago, without this relationship that ended.

And these words made me sit down and think about the ways that I could have done better too. And what I need to help me be better in future relationships.

All in all, I’ve learned a lot. Love and loss. Got it. Very different from my marriage. It’s going to be okay. It will just take a little tiny bit of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Trust After Betrayal: After Many, Many Many Betrayals

“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” ― Lady Gaga

And after a marriage to a serial-lying, serial-cheating, narcissistic personality disordered person, how does one learn to trust again? Like back in those innocent days before you met your ex-spouse, when the world was simple and good, and people generally told the truth?

Dating after divorcing a NPD is a minefield. A casual conversation about infidelity in Europe can quickly devolve into lunacy. One moment you are laughing and enjoying your scallops at a fancy restaurant, and the next moment your face is flushed, your chest is tight – is that a heart attack? – and you can’t breath or remember what you just said.

And the person you are dating looks at you like he has never looked at you before and quietly says, “I think you are making me sound like a bad guy. And I’m not.”

And then you catch your breath and wonder what just happened, and he says the unspeakable: “I think we should wrap this up and go home.”

And you know you have just moments to make big decisions. But your brain is still acting in the way it needed to act for more than a decade in order to protect you. It can’t suddenly catch up and admit that it overreacted. It starts searching for ways to make him the bad guy. It starts scouring memories for slights, suspicions, imperfections, and quickly comes up with a laundry list of faults and problems.

But despite the crazy in your head, you manage to excuse yourself and text a dear friend in the restroom, and she tells you to Scale It Back. In no uncertain terms. I think her first text was, “Oh boy,” like she fully expected this sort of behavior all along from you. And of course she did because she has seen it countless times from you before – and perhaps she has even experienced a bit of it herself, given that she too divorced a NPD.

And so you march out of the restroom, knowing that at least your friend understands, and you pray that the person you are dating will understand you too.

And you apologize. You may not remember exactly what you are apologizing for, but you try your best.

And it’s okay again. At least it’s okay again on the surface, but it will be hours before he will start to relax in your presence, before he comes back to being himself. It will be tomorrow afternoon before you start truly connecting again. You will walk through the city together, hand-in-hand, and you will both laugh, and all will be okay again.

But you cannot truly relax, because deep in your heart and chest cavity and gut, you know he has limited patience for this sort of scene. And that you’ve used up probably two of three strikes already. And you feel helpless because you still wonder about this man, this handsome and calm and disciplined and kind man who is devoted to his children and who comes over to cook you dinner and drive you everywhere and fix your gate. Yes, you wonder come crazy things, and some things that might be less crazy.

One suspicion in particular seems to resonate. All day. You know it is not healthy. But suspicion kept things in check in your marriage. They kept an insatiable and sociopathic NPD in check, albeit briefly.

Suspicion kept you safe once.

And then you remember when you asked your therapist if she thought you could do this – if you could have a healthy relationship with this man, at this time. And she turned to you and said, “I know with certainty that you can have a healthy and successful and loving relationship with someone at some point. I can not promise it will be with this man right now.”

And you realize again that you are broken. You are humbled, and scared. You feel a slight thrill that she believes you can do this, eventually. But then you start mourning the end of this relationship as if inevitable. Then you summon up all your resilience and you rumble forward, hoping against hope for happiness.