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.

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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, 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 city.

Thank you funny Starbucks guy who understands people like me who 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 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, after all, that you can’t start out a funny story about a date by keeping a scorecard on previous dates.

….

Thank you world for being a generally good place. 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 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 I guess I’ll take the small everyday kindnesses of the rest of the world.

 

Vindication or Moving On?

It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has read my blog that my ex-husband appears on the Ashley Madison list. In fact, he’s an active member right now. Interestingly, he seems only to have discovered this website after the divorce.

I suppose he’s cheating on the Other Woman who contributed in her very teeny, tiny, little minuscule way to the ending of my horrific marriage to my ex-husband – an NPD, sex addict, and probable sociopath.

This is the Other Woman showed up voluntarily in court at my divorce trial to badmouth me – a woman she had never even met. A year later, this still takes my breath away.

She showed up at a divorce trial to badmouth an innocent woman whose husband she “stole” (booby prize that he is), and to repeat lies told to her by her cheating partner that she met on an adult website that makes Ashley Madison look as innocent as Disney.com.

And after she testified, she decided that she wanted her name redacted from the court records. She filed motion after motion, filled with vague references to a terrible and life-altering smoking gun against me, which never appeared of course, delaying my three-year divorce by many more months and costing me the remainder of my retirement funds.

The courts turned her down. She will always appear, by name, in my divorce decree. There is some justice in the world. The decree, written by the judge, states that she perjured herself on the stand. Even though she is an attorney.

In fact, she perjured herself twice during a very short cross-examination by my attorneys. She would have perjured herself many more times, but you are only allowed to ask questions directly related to her previous testimony.

So we never did get to ask about the Big Things. It’s too bad because these are very, very Big Things.

I really want to write more here about her job as an attorney, and how she likes to prosecutes people. I want to write where she works.

But I won’t. I know I’m dealing with a lunatic.

But now her “boyfriend” has appeared on Ashley Madison, looking for other women behind her back.

Is she surprised?

No, I’m sure she’s not.

Does she even care?

I’m guessing she does, but since she cheats on him too, I don’t think she has much of a case against him.

But I do know, from their history of Disclosed Emails, that this will lead to a lot of drinking, screaming, threats, and possibly even some violence.

And so how do I feel?

Not so good. Some people will find out that my lying ex-husband is a AM regular with multiple accounts. They may find his scandalous profiles. My children could find out someday.

I think a lot of other things though. I believe that people are generally good, and that the good people I know are too busy and happy with their own lives to look through AM lists.

I also think that I’m lucky to have moved so far away from this man psychologically. I think that my life is good. It’s getting better and better.

I think that he’s somebody else’s problem now.

And that sort of makes me smile.

When No One is Looking

I brought my son to sleepaway camp yesterday. Even though he loved it last year, he panicked yesterday on the long drive, suddenly saying that he didn’t want to go.

Twenty miles away from camp, he told me he was scared, and he was sad that only one friend going this year instead of two. He didn’t like the showers; he didn’t like the darkness; he missed his home and bed and sister and mom and friends.

So we stopped at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere for a treat, and as we walked back to the car, he suddenly took my hand – my little big ten-year-old who just started wearing men’s size shoes. I teased him to lighten the mood: “SO, you’re still not too old to hold hands with your mom!”

He looked around quickly: “Well, there’s no one here I know.” And he held my hand firmly.

And so it goes. My sweet son, caught in between childhood and tween-hood, in a place where no one really knows anyone or what comes next.

As we drove up to camp, those clouds that were following us turned very dark, and suddenly were were driving through pelting rain. My son begged me to take him home. Pretty desperately I babbled about other topics, future vacations and sports and playdates – an lame old coping mechanism left over from my terrible marriage. Sure enough, it didn’t really work.

Then we went around a curve and suddenly heard the singing of the teenage counselors standing up on a covered porch. My son started yelling that he spotted his last-year counselor among them. I noticed that through the rain, it was still sunny, and I started looking for a rainbow.

We stopped for parking directions, and suddenly my son’s window was open. He greeted the counselor and asked if they would have a big, huge surprise welcome-to-camp-game that night. He explained that this was his second year at camp.

The older boy smiled as he told my son that he wasn’t quite sure, and even if he knew, he couldn’t tell. And then he winked, welcomed my son back, and explained the parking, and the bags, and sign-in procedure. My son told him he knew it all from last year – and he did.

And so I let my little boy run the show and go off into the great unknown without me. He didn’t need me at all until the very end, when he jumped down off his top bunk to give me a huge hug. And I knew all was well with my little-big boy who didn’t huge me for two years during the Great Divorce.

He’s on his way, my boy.

Old, New, and My Oh My How Time Flies

Today my children went off to their last day of third and fourth grades. My daughter wore a gorgeous little dress given to her by her Auntie K. My son wore a blazer and a blue-and-white Vineyard Vines tie. The tie was given to him last fall when he was an usher at his uncle’s wedding. And the blazer once belonged to this same uncle, who wore it about twenty years ago when he was ten – a rascally little boy with golden curls and a big heart.

It’s remarkable because I usually end up throwing away most of my children’s clothing after a season or two. But this little navy blazer is perfectly preserved, dry-cleaned, and pressed. It’s just been waiting around for two decades for my little boy to grow up enough to fit just right into it, gold buttons still shining, a special jacket for two special little boys.

Lessons from my Dog, Part 1

I got out of the car and stopped to admire the daffodils in my new front yard.

Then I hear it. Someone’s annoying dog barking and screeching and sounding really loud and really annoyingly high-pitched.

I look up, annoyed. Take care of your dog, folks, I think.

Then a movement catches my eye. It’s something popping up against the windows of my front door.

It’s my dog.

A long time ago, I learned a critical life lesson on a playground: Never ever judge another mom. Because before you know it, your kids will do the same thing as that mom’s child, and you will end up in the same position as the mom you once judged. It’s instant mom karma.

That lesson has served me well, but it’s faded a bit through time. I needed a fresh reminder.

Divorcing a NPD, Part 5

When you’ve divorced a narcissistic personality disordered person, and things have been going well for months, you will get email like this out of the blue:

This is serious. I can see his ribs in the bruise.
How did this happen?
Did he get x-rays?
Why didn’t you tell me?

And attached to this email, will be a huge photo of your son’s latest bruise, which he got by pretending to be a famous baseball player in the shower. Until he slipped.

And you will think to yourself about how much you love your child, and how gentle you are with him, and how you have never laid an angry hand on him, and how you would do anything for both of your children.

And then you think of the terrible, horrible things that your ex has done to you and your family. You will even think of the time when he threw you up against a wall, at the very end of the marriage, when you finally finally got hold of his cell phone. And how you banged your head on the wall before falling down in a heap. And how he calmly pulled the cell phone from your hand and got into bed. And how you were staying at your friend’s home on holiday, so you didn’t make a sound.

And then you will feel the fury building in you, the unjustness of it all and how it seems like it will never ever end and you will never, ever get away from him.

And then your survival instincts kick in. You will need to take a breath and be smart and answer his email calmly as if a judge was looking over your shoulder reading it. You will write that by lucky coincidence you went to a social event at your child’s pediatrician’s house right after the bruise occurred. You will briefly and succinctly point out that the pediatrician looked at it – and called it a bruise, nothing else, no x-rays or anything else required.

You will thank your lucky stars that you are friends with a pediatrician and that the stars were aligned the night she had a barbecue and your son got a bruise that would be blamed on you.

You know you shouldn’t, but you also point out in your email response that you think it’s wrong for your ex to be lifting up your son’s shirt and taking photos of his back – that it must be upsetting and confusing for your poor child. Traumatizing, really, though you don’t use that word.

And you feel the anger for hours afterwards because every time your children go to their father’s house for visitation, you worry about their physical and emotional safety. You know that they are finally truly thriving after the long divorce. But you know that this is a tenuous place to be when their father is a sick NPD.

When you divorce a NPD, it’s never over. You just hope and hope that he fades away into the background, hoping that more and more time passes between these accusations and episodes. You followed all the directions and detached. But can you really ever really escape?

I Blame it on the Flu

I got the flu. It was terrible.

My children went over to play at a friend’s house. There, they met a dog named Stella. And one thing led to another, and now we have adopted Stella.

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Except now her name is Reilly. Because I can’t imagine spending the next 12 or so years screaming “STELLA” across dog parks.

She needed a home; we had one. So, what could go wrong?

Let’s see.

1. I am a divorced (or single) mom who works full-time (well, sort of full-time, technically full-time at least), and I already can’t do it all. My new normal is a deep exhaustion that I’ve only known once before – during the final weeks of my third trimesters. I spend some nights too overwhelmed to do a load of a laundry, and so tired that I start nodding off during dinner.

2. I have never had a dog. My children have never had a dog. We don’t know the first things about dogs.

3. I am a neat freak who shudders at dog hair and dog messes and dog hair.

4. Exactly one week before taking Reilly, I ordered new furniture – all mine, all new, for the first time in my life, perhaps. And most of it is white.

5. After living across the street from a city dog park for ten years, I don’t like a lot of dog owners. They are odd and combative and fight amongst each other and yell a lot about their rights – usually their right to let their dogs run around unleashed and leave poop behind in toddler sand boxes and neighbors’ flower boxes.

6. In fact, I’m not even sure if I like dogs after living across from that dog park. Sacrilegious to some dog lovers. I understand. But honest.

6. Paying for my dog walker might just involve giving up my favorite things (that are, coincidently, my only indulgences): my daily venti skim latte, Uber, wine, an occasional pair of Joie boots or my Splendid tees …

So, why a dog?

It comes down my son, ten years old, who said:

Mom, we need to take Stella, because she’s a rescue, and she’s been through so much. We “had” the divorce, and we went through so much. So we all belong together. We need to take her.

So now we have a little rescue beagle. She’s very smart and very sweet. But she likes to run away, following her nose, and already a dog walker has labelled her “incorrigible.” And that was before Reilly ran through the dog walker’s legs and out the front door to escape.

Let’s see how this all goes.

*ps: I wrote this post a few weeks ago. Just WAIT until you hear exactly how things have gone.

Especially this week.

–Madness