Forgiving Yourself for Marrying a Man Who Cracked Up

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What would I say to a friend?

You were young. You didn’t know. You couldn’t possibly predict the future. Yes, there were signs, but you were also hoodwinked by a pro. You had noble and honest intentions. You thought it would work out. You tried your hardest. You never gave up until you needed to walk away. You worked so hard.

It’s okay. It really is. 

You are moving forward. His power is diminished.

It will be even more okay. It really will.

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St. Patrick’s Day: What a Difference a Year Makes

St. Patrick’s Day means so many different things to different people: green beer, a buzz, too many drunk people, new friends, an excuse to go out, parades, heritage, fun, too much fun, trouble, shamrocks and green, whisky and corned beef – the list goes on and on.

I’m named for this saint, and so is my son. St. Patrick’s Day is special to us. It’s also special because my grandmother came here from Ireland all by herself when she was 16, and she lived to 94. Now when I think of her, I smile. I’ve finally absorbed the words on her mass card:

Grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk of me
as if I were beside you…
I loved you so —
’twas Heaven here with you.  (by Isla Paschal Richardson)

I love these words because my grandmother loved us all so, and it was heaven here with my her.

But now, just when I’ve got that down, and I feel peace when I think of my grandmother, St. Patrick’s Day has become the anniversary of my aunt’s death. She died in hospice one year ago today. Her death was not peaceful or fair or welcomed in any way. My aunt was angry. Pissed. Fucking furious and bitter that she, a non-smoker and all-around good person, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

At the very end, she grew tired of us, distant and distracted. She had the most tolerance for me, her troubled niece who was in the middle of a child custody evaluation to protect her children. But even I couldn’t comfort her or distract her at the very end. She was moving to another place, one in which we didn’t matter anymore. I knew it and it broke my heart.

While she was dying, my blog glossed over her pain – her mental anguish over having to accept a death too soon. In real life, I glossed over it too. It was too big, too much for me. It still is.

On Facebook today, a friend posted that yesterday was the day to go out and meet the love of your life. She has many Facebook friends – married couples – who met on St. Patrick’s Day, and she gleefully pointed them out. I thought about this for a while, at work yesterday, before i had to run to pick up my children from school.

Maybe next year is my year.

Instead, I rushed through the aisles of Whole Foods last night while my daughter was at ballet class, and suddenly everything grew blurry because I was crying. I miss my aunt. I miss having an aunt. I am sad my children don’t have her. I am tired of my family getting smaller and smaller as the years go on.

Next year will be my year. By next year, maybe I’ll absorb my aunt’s unfair death, and the day will be filled with green beer and adventures. I remind myself that we all move at our own pace. Just one year ago, I was still trying to get a divorce; I was in the middle of a child custody evaluation conducted by a very strange man; my ex was threatening to sue me and my attorneys for an imaginary key logger; I was still in my old marital home; and I didn’t yet have a job.

I wonder where I’ll be in my life next year?

Parcheesi Love

Parcheesi Love

I was tired. We had a long dinner out with friends; my daughter was at a sleepover. It was just me and my almost-ten son. He’s easy at bedtime and goes right to sleep. I was sort of hoping to do the same. … Continue reading

Death Number Two

My uncle passed away yesterday. Cancer.

In January a hospice worker said to me, “So your father has two sisters, and one brother-in-law, and all four of them are all terribly sick in hospitals at this very moment.” I nodded. I hadn’t really thought of it like that. With the exception of my uncle, they are all in their seventies.

Isn’t seventy supposed to be the new fifty these days? I thought, somewhat stupidly.

My dad had emergency open-heart surgery, followed by bladder surgery. Across the street at another hospital was his sister, who has some sort of complicated and deadly heart condition. I don’t ask too many questions because everyone gets very agitated about it. Then my dad’s brother-in-law was in an assisted living facility a few blocks away because he was dying of cancer. And then my dad’s other sister was my Aunt A, who was in hospice for cancer several states away.

Aunt A died on St. Patrick’s Day. My uncle died on Easter. Pretty poignant for a New York Irish Catholic family who started out in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

My dad looks a bit frail and seems to tire easily, but he’s recovered.

And that leaves my other aunt, in another serious medical situation.

Cancer and heart disease. I feel numb, nothing, but I’ll hold my children especially tight tonight and drive very slowly and cautiously for the unforeseeable future. I’ve written this before, but I’ll write it again: How can people float so easily through life for decades, only to be pummeled with every sort of emergency and tragedy all at the same time? My poor dad. How do the stars align themselves like this?

I guess it’s just one more mystery.

If I have figured out one little thing in the past five years, it’s that life doesn’t stop for these tragedies. I will not make it to this funeral. I start work tomorrow, and the funeral is five states away. So I shoulder on, get ready for work, cook my children dinner, and call a friend for support and a few laughs.

And this is life, pushing through the bad, to get to the good again. We can do it. It just takes faith and a whole lot of stamina.

 

Gratitude List: 10 Gifts of Divorce

Gratitude. It’s a difficult exercise when you’re going through a divorce like mine, which drags on for years and can suddenly suck out all the energy and joy of a beautiful day.

On the surface, I’ve lost a lot. But I’ve been thinking about some of the good things I’ve gained in the past 2.5 years. I’m a little surprised by my list. These are really and truly gifts.

1. The Truth: No more lies. I tell the truth, and I expect others to tell me the truth.

2. Independence: I can do all sorts of things myself. I can fix a garbage disposal and pay the taxes;  fly across the country and drive 1,000 miles with two little kids; throw a baseball as well as the dads, and hold family meetings all by myself. I can pretty much do anything that my soon-to-be-ex-husband can do. And I do most of these things better, since I actually pay attention.

3. Boundaries: Everyone stops asking you for favors when you’re getting a divorce. Soon you start to realize that your quality of life is vastly improved when you’re not running around like a lunatic trying to please everyone. So now I help out when I can, but I no longer always feel obligated to donate, volunteer, show up, or listen. I  can say no without guilt.

4. Authenticity: I rarely pretend everything is okay when it’s not anymore. I’ve learned that appearances don’t mean a thing — my soon-to-be-ex and I looked pretty good on the surface. I’m not perfect, and everyone knows it now — my marriage could be an exhibit in Brene Brown’s Museum of Epic Failure. Also after facing real problems, I  learned quickly that gossiping and social climbing are empty, soul-sucking pursuits.

5. Vulnerability: This is a hard one for me, but I try my hardest to show up, be vulnerable, and lean in to all situations. My reward is deeper connections. Since my divorce, people have shared so many important and personal things with me, and for this I’m grateful.

6. Confidence: I have learned that when I step outside my comfort zone, I will be okay after all. From speaking in public to standing up for myself in front of lawyers and evaluators, I can do all sorts of things I never thought possible just two years ago.

7. Health: My free time is my free time — running, time outdoors, hikes with my children, walks with friends. Plenty of sleep. Good food. I take care of myself and my children.

8. Compassion and Self-Compassion:  My little children know that “Only God is perfect,” but I guess I missed this message until halfway through my divorce. Now I know it: none of us is perfect — and on top of that, anything can happen to anyone at any time. My divorce has made me more compassionate, first towards others, and finally towards myself.

9. Creativity: When I stopped worrying what everyone else thought of me, I started getting creative. And if nothing else, this divorce has given me some good material.

10. Freedom: Sink or swim, it’s all up to me now. I refuse to google my soon-to-be-ex, or feel embarrassed by him, or be held back by him anymore. Pretty amazing.