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Waiting for the dice to roll

June 4, 2010

I wanted to have something witty and uplifting for you, but the sad fact is that I seem to have regressed. Because I’ve felt so low, I’ve been reluctant to write–worried that this website would become (even more) puling and self-indulgent, when I want it to be a beacon of Light and Reason, helping fellow travelers find their way. (Never let it be said I don’t aim high enough.)

I trust you readers will keep me honest. A kindly meant Oh Do Snap Out Of It in my comment section will never, ever offend me. My own mother, at once my sternest and fairest critic, has intimated that I whine (in this particular venue, about my run-of-the-mill feelings) too much. She has a point. I’m not sure whether her impatience with me comes as a natural consequence of her status as a highly-decorated veteran of multiple divorces, or simply from the selective amnesia I pray will one day afflict me, too, as I move away from this wretched, stupid and somewhat spiritually annihilating period of my life. At this point I would prefer to be callous and unfeeling, or shallow, or blissfully oblivious, or even (horrors!) boring, because I can’t take feeling so fucking SAD for much longer.

The most overwhelming and least interesting woeful component of my life is the house, which is going to be shown to one more person on Saturday morning before I pull the plug. Then I will reclaim the place as my own, whatever that means (mess up the closets? Throw towels about willy-nilly?) My ex-husband signed the lease on the cottage, so unless Saturday’s people buy the house, that particular pipe dream is gone. I had to drive past the cottage yesterday, taking my kid and my consoling-windows friend’s kid to baseball. It nearly killed me. However, I have decided to refer to the dream cottage as “the apartment” to my ex, who has vehemently stated he would never, ever live in an apartment. It’s a small, vicious thing to do–really quite unworthy of me, but it makes me cackle inwardly. My consoling-windows friend promised she’d follow suit whenever she sees him and the topic comes up. We amuse ourselves.

I spent a few days in the company of my dear (and about to be extremely, deservedly famous) authoress friend, who took me to a fancy department store and discussed my skin tone with a charming young gentleman at the Chanel counter. I sat stupidly between them in a chair, tilting my face this way and that per their instructions. They might as well have been speaking Urdu. In the end I handed my credit card over meekly, and left with a bag full of beauty enhancers I don’t know how to use. However, it’s high time I spruced myself up, I’ve been told. My great-grandmother, an exceedingly glamorous woman, believed that clothing became much more important as one aged; so, apparently, does makeup. “You don’t wear…drugstore cosmetics?” my authoress whispered, and both she and the Chanel gentleman exchanged horrified glances when I admitted that I did not have a preferred (or any, as it so happens) eye cream. Or facial moisturizer. Believe it or not, when I was a dewy-faced 22 year old, I worked here at the Yves Saint Laurent counter, selling makeup. Not my calling, evidently.

Then my boyfriend and I trotted out to the country to visit some of his college chums–in an odd coincidence, they live about a mile away from my college chums we saw a couple of weeks ago. (Mine were not around last weekend–they were at my 20th reunion, which I, obviously, did not attend. I feel rather guilty about that. Numerous friends urged me to go, but (especially after l’affaire Chanel) I couldn’t justify the outrageous fees my alma mater charges for a weekend of nostalgia.) I was, for some reason, nervous about meeting these particular old friends of my boyfriend, but I needn’t have been. They turned out to be delightful people, with preternaturally lovely children, the youngest of whom (a second-grade girl who reminded me a great deal of my own second-grade boy) quietly took me under her wing for the weekend, slipping her hand into mine unobtrusively as we walked to the beach, appearing by my side on the sofa with a book, offering to accompany me in the hot tub. (We both like the jets off and the heat turned up, thank you very much.) She could not have been a better companion. And as I settled into their household for the weekend, I felt the familiar ache…not precisely envy, not nostalgia for marriage or even for domesticity per se, but for the utter coziness that comes with family life. Everyone exactly where he or she should be, at exactly the proper time. That sweet normalcy, for lack of a better word, that seems to have fled my life completely.

Oh, I know. It’s easy to romanticize and generalize, and I should know better. After all, I experienced first-hand the pleasures and annoyances of a long comfortable marriage with children. I loved it for years, and then I didn’t love it any more, so I wrenched myself loose. And here I am–living a life I would have mail-ordered if I could have, back when I felt the first icy tendrils of dissatisfaction creeping around the corners of my marriage.

Consider: I spend some part of every week with my boyfriend alone. This is not generally available to married couples with children–even if one is rich, and has obliging relatives, a yearly trip to Paris without kids is the upper limit, for most people. And I spend some part of every week truly alone–a luxury almost unknown in marriage. I spend part of every week alone with my children–which occurred when I was married, too, but their father’s absence was a presence, if you know what I mean. When I’m alone with them now we aren’t just waiting for Daddy to get home. And, paradoxically, it’s both easier and more comfortable without another parent in the picture. Finally, I spend the odd weekend with my boyfriend and his kids and my kids–domesticity on steroids, if you will.

This four-fold life strikes me as infinitely rich and rewarding. And so it makes no sense that I find myself upset and shattered on a regular basis, missing my kids when I’m with my boyfriend, missing my boyfriend when I’m with my kids. “Do you think you are good at long distance relationships?” I asked my divorced friend who lives across the country, and she said, “No, although it bothers me, because I think I should be, and I wish I were.” My feelings exactly. The limbo I’m in is the best anyone can do right now–we’re powerless to change it, so we might as well accept it. I wish I were better at it, though. I certainly think I ought to be.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2010 2:22 pm

    This is a beautiful and honest post. Sure, many of us know that we have so much to be grateful for, but the fact remains that we feel “upset and shattered on a regular basis”. Grieving change is hard, takes way more time than you expect, and often doesn’t make sense. You try to find healthy, or at least innocuous things that comfort you (warm baths with bubbles; lunch with girlfriends as often as possible) and trust that eventually, this too shall pass.

  2. June 4, 2010 2:58 pm

    Your current setup sounds good, though certainly different than your life before. I noticed that you talk mostly about your relationships–with your boyfriend, with your kids, etc. Are you doing enough to take care of YOU? Writing this blog probably counts, but what else are you doing for yourself? Your authoress friend had the right idea with taking you to Chanel. What else do you really want to do? Give yourself permission to go for it.

  3. June 4, 2010 7:26 pm

    I enjoy your blog and your writing. (I hope that doesn’t come across the wrong way – I don’t mean that I enjoy that you are having troubles, but I do appreciate your openness and honesty as well as your clever, intelligent, and very readable style of writing.) I started a blog earlier this year and it hasn’t really “taken” yet for me. I think I want to do it but I find that I’m better at leaving comments in response to something someone else has written than in writing something on my own.

    Please don’t feel you need to apologize for anything you write. It is your space. If a reader doesn’t like it, s/he can move along. I’ve been struggling emotionally for a couple of months and I use my blog, occasionally, as a place to vent. Maybe that’s what I need it to be right now.

    Sometimes when I’m in a downward spiral or feeling stuck, I feel like I should just get over it, quit whining, shut up already. I don’t like feeling this way, I want to feel better, and I’m doing things (seeing a therapist, acupuncture, eating better, and an anti-depressant) to try to FEEL better. Sometimes these things are helping, sometimes not. I guess I’m trying to encourage you (and me, too) to just be where you are. If you could feel better, less sad, wouldn’t you? I don’t know that we can always just “snap out of it.”

  4. jaruuds permalink
    June 4, 2010 7:52 pm

    I’m happily married, but (very) occasionally it does seem like I’d have more alone time if I was divorced. And I wouldn’t have to negotiate what the plans are for the day with my husband every weekend. BUT, I’ve been there, done that, and I know it’s a “grass is greener” thing, not something I actually wish for.

    Don’t feel like you HAVE to buy department store makeup. There’s lots of other healthier ways to take care of yourself that are more worthy of your money. Everybody has a friend that takes them to the makeup counter and can’t believe you don’t already frequent it, but none of that stuff solves any of the problems, physically or emotionally, that’s it’s supposed to. I have to admit I’d love to have your particular authoress friend to do it with, though.

  5. June 4, 2010 8:59 pm

    This post struck a chord with me because we often think we should feel a certain way because of what we have that others may wish they had. Disclaimer: I have been married almost 33 years, some of those years wonderful and some of them not so much. My husband took a job 24 years ago that takes him out of town to work days at a time. A few years into his job, and me with three children at home, someone asked me if it was like a honeymoon every week-end when he came home. Silence followed, on both our parts, because decidedly NO it was not like a honeymoon when he came home and I tried to fill him in on four days of happenings and get him to re-enter family life while life happened whether he was there or not. It is what it is and we do the best we can. Do yourself and your kids a favor and feel what is real for you. It is what it is. If you try to push it aside, it will only resurface later with more intensity. You write beautifully.

  6. Celeste permalink
    June 4, 2010 10:17 pm

    I think our culture makes us feel like we are supposed to be satisfied at all times with whatever is going on. Then it’s this horrible letdown when we can’t measure up to that. No matter how much you want a family, you can really hate A) the third trimester B) labor C) breastfeeding D) night waking E) must I go on?? The low end of things is hard because it’s so relentless. Instead of just rejoicing that we get through it daily, we flog ourselves because we didn’t get through it joyfully. We must be traitors. I just don’t think other cultures romanticize it all like we do, or maybe they just don’t feel they have choices or control. But here we are with what we have; our lots are better than some and worse than others’. It won’t always be like this. Also? It sounds like you’ve done all you can for now.

    I love that you just have the one viewing left to finish, but I think “the apartment” is CLASSIC. I’m also wondering if Chanel makeup is what I need. Estee Lauder Double Wear and DW Light both failed to live up to my desire to reinvent my face.

  7. julie permalink
    June 4, 2010 11:11 pm

    Chanel and chickens? Sounds like the best of both worlds!

  8. June 6, 2010 10:14 am

    Perhaps your house needs to visit the Benjamin Moore makeup counter; maybe your limbo can be made a little less sad. New colors for our faces and walls don’t solve the larger problems, but moments of superficial joy have their worth.

  9. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    June 6, 2010 12:51 pm

    Coco is actually a great name for a chicken, isn’t it?

    Yes to the Benjamin Moore. I have already started a list–minor projects I didn’t want to undertake in case the house suddenly sold, and sprucing up/painting/gardening. The chair I prefer on the porch is not as comfortable as I’d like, so I’m going to go for broke and replace it with a better one. And as of today, since there will be no more showings for a long time, I can start wading through the desperate piles of things-thrown-in-closets-pre-showing and actually getting organized–just me, in my house, etc etc etc.

    When my ex moves into his new APARTMENT, he will have some of our old furniture to re-donate, and I will fix up a couple of rooms that have been sadly bereft/purposeless. All shall be well, in other words. I have been spending so much time (wasting so much time, truth be told) coddling my emotions that I’ve not spent nearly enough energy DOING things. And I’m going to find a renter for the fall, for the “guest” room. I’m full of ideas….

  10. Katie permalink
    June 7, 2010 7:29 am

    Yep I can definitely identify with your post. But I bet when your friends closed the door to the bedroom that night they might have snuggled but she may also have sighed wistfully about the free lifestyle you have, he would have complained about the air conditioning being too hot, they might have argued over who needed the weekend for their own needs more…who knows?
    I’ve learnt that comparing myself to the seemingly perfect relationship is soul destroying…. and behind closed doors we all ride the waves of lust, boredom, irritation, affection, fecklessness and so on. Good on them for staying together but for those of us who got out because the flaws became unbearable, then good on us. I can tell you – there are plenty of married folk who envy us. I was one of them when I was married.
    Now I’m not married, I have the same feelings of nostalgia you experienced.
    However, I also come home every night and send a silent thanks up that I am in MY space, free of nitpicking and remarks, my castle (an apartment!), free to live a life of my choosing.

  11. Cheryl permalink
    June 7, 2010 11:11 am

    I’ve thought about being happy a lot – i really think way too damn much most of the time – and here’s what i’ve concluded. What makes me happy is the perceived ease of another option. For example, in the fall we have an enormous amount of family things in my clan, birthdays, weddings, major anniversaries, etc. Inevitably I long for the times when I can have a quiet weekend at home doing nothing but what I want. Come January, when I have nothing to do but what I want, I pine for some events to get together with family and friends. Neither one is better or worse than the other situation, it’s just different than the life I have at that moment. Someone invented that “Grass is greener” thing for a reason, I suppose. I know it doesn’t help your situation, but there is some comfort in that not being alone boat.

  12. view from afar permalink
    June 7, 2010 6:31 pm

    My overarching response is something like Emma’s. Are you inventing *your* new life? Before, your marriage and young children were defining it. Then, the whole process of deciding to make a Huge Change was defining — which was an act for yourself, for the wholeness of your Self, but was also by definition transitional. I’m thinking it sounds as though it was in many ways a transition *out* and not a transition *to*… in which case now you need to figure out what you want your life to look like when your youngest is 10 or 12 (guess what, he will be one day), and think about the steps to get there. Not immediately today etc, but over time. Maybe the path lies through the Chanel counter but (being me) I rather doubt it… you sound like you have way more fun fantasizing about chickens than about make-up, though that may be the context of the writing. (And more fun crafting prose, as well, one might add.)

    I don’t mean to be glib, it’s very hard, this improvisation, especially when we are all so used to living from one “should” to the next. And presumably (I myself can only speculate on this part) it’s especially hard when your adult life was shaped by this central piece of identity: someone’s wife, a person in a marriage. But you did have the guts to imagine yourself out of it. Is it possible yet to stop calling it “limbo” and “waiting” and start calling it shaping, groping toward, imagining, enacting, choosing? If it takes changing the locks and repainting something or getting new throw pillows or whatever to get your brain and soul facing forward, start there… or if you want different paying work, or (yikes) the crazy chicken idea (though I must admit despite the “yikes” that I have friends who are very happy about their chickens), or a bike, or whatever, there are other places to start… but I do worry about these recurring motifs of limbo. Try a poem about a journey, perhaps? Or, here’s a tidbit (do you know it?), make some kind of a badge and go on:

    They returned to the castle
    and had a second wedding feast.
    He put a ring on her finger this time
    and they danced like dandies.
    All their lives they kept the silver hands,
    polished daily,
    a kind of purple heart,
    a talisman,
    a yellow star.

    • view from afar permalink
      June 10, 2010 10:51 am

      A poem I know but you don’t — wow. Final lines of “The Maiden wihout Hands” from Anne Sexton’s _Transformations_ (which is now on its way to you, even if quite alot of it is a good bit more bleak!)

  13. June 8, 2010 10:28 am

    My mother won’t let me moan, either. But I think as long as it doesn’t become a vice, moaning is just human, and even useful. FWIW.

    I am sorry you are/were feeling out of sorts. It’s true that your fourfold life sounds lively and varied, but perhaps the lack of routine, and the need to change gears constantly, to adjust and readjust, is wearing, at times?

    And now I think I should not only invest in more than the 2 cosmetics I currently use, but even unto the beauty counters venture. It’s just the orange people who man them intimidate me. They are on the lookout for a victim, it is clear.

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