Category Archives: marriage

Time for therapy

There have been four occasions in my life which have compelled me to talk with a professional about issues I was experiencing. Well, five if you count that time in high school when I was referred to the school psychologist because of the inconsistency between the results of my Stanford-Binet test and my actual grades. It’s a long story, but that didn’t work out at all. Which was disappointing because I recognized, even at 17, that mental health is important to attend to and expensive to pay for.

The first time I went to therapy on my own volition was when I was expecting my eldest child. I felt the need for some help resolving my own relationship as a child to better prepare myself to be a parent. It was productive and I gained some perspective and confidence. A few years later, when I couldn’t stop seeing the Towers fall every time I closed my eyes, I went back and worked through the sense of loss and sadness that 9/11 caused me to feel. That time invested, I believe,  helped me feel emotionally intact enough to deal with my cancer diagnosis and treatment the next spring. I was good.

With three children, a full time job and a part time job there wasn’t a lot of time for personal reflection during the remainder of that decade, but my divorce in 2011 took me back to the couch, so to speak. I think that particular crisis occupied a good 6 months or so before I was swept up and into a new relationship. The demise of that coupling was the most recent impetus to again seek an impartial observer to help me

a. sound out some stuff,

b. figure some things out and

c. learn how again to accept what I can’t control.

Because that’s what it’s about, at least for me – accepting things I can not change or control.

In the interim between my divorce and subsequent relationship ending, my therapist retired and it took a couple of providers before I found a new one with whom I was comfortable. I think the beginning of our work was simply my needing someone neutral and completely uninvolved to interpret a series of actions and inactions, a person to respond to a situation without really knowing either party.

I was in full out emotional shock when we began. It seems I really am remarkably gullible. But, as our work continued, I found myself understanding that it is unreasonable to allow your time to be occupied being angry with yourself because of how much time you spent with someone, because that’s just dumb. I was reminded that fire can create heat or light and I read things like this:

which resonated so deeply inside me that I kept it in my wallet for nearly a year. I forgave myself for caring too much after finally understanding that that is far less a crime than not caring enough. I realized that I’m a scab picker, not content to leave something alone as it heals, but instead, prompted by the knowledge that it will never bleed again as much as it did the first time, compelled to open it up and see what’s really going on below. Even when the remaining scar will be larger.

And I knew the only direction to move in was forward. So I did.

My last few therapy appointments, ever increasingly spaced out, have felt different. It almost seemed as if I was searching for topics to talk about and I cut the sessions short, because I was just done. I have other things I’d rather do with my time.

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From invisible to 518 famous

The years that I was married were busy ones. The boys were young and my husband and I worked opposite hours maximizing coverage of the children, but leaving little time for one another. As the kids grew, we grew apart until I remember a sense of invisibility appearing. I didn’t feel seen. In fact, I felt about as acknowledged as a throw pillow which had been part of a household for so long that its original bright color had faded into something no longer distinctive. It wasn’t good – or good for me.

My first post-marriage relationship, in many ways, kept me in that same shadowy place. Although I felt excited and emotionally engaged, the circumstances weren’t ideal and I felt restrained from being my best live out loud self. As a woman who increasingly wanted more – more fun, more open honesty, more life, I came to realize that the only part of my relationship that was consistently growing was my frustration. It’s taken a surprisingly long time to move from that dark place to a new vantage spot that comes with more sunshine and light. It’s getting better.

Have you heard or used the term 518-Famous? A close friend has been calling me that and it cracks me up. I absolutely love the phrase and I hope that whomever originated it did so with fondness, because that’s how I interpret being tagged as such. It isn’t a declaration of one’s value, it’s more a comment on the small, intimate circle that is Albany for a lot of people.

At an event last week there were some really nice women who had either seen  the Front Parlor storytelling event, or follow me on Instagram. They approached me knowing my name and it was pretty cool having a conversation immediately because this person you just met is familiar with your stories or perspective. While my circle of friends and acquaintances is pretty large due to many years in the hospitality industry and education, I’d like to believe that any notoriety I may own comes from this blog more than anything else. This is the place where I’m most myself publicly, I think, and where you just may have witnessed my becoming increasingly more visible. Maybe even 518 famous.

 

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(The) freedom of obligation

Wow, January! You were really something. During your calendar page time, I made my way home from California, spent an evening with friends in New Paltz and had a quick getaway to Miami Beach. There were numerous runs, some yoga, lots of golf course walks with Jeter and the first ski of the season. It was a month full of living life and spending time with people whose company I enjoy. 2019, I think you’re going to be a good one…

As I spent a little time reflecting on the past month, I couldn’t help but recognize that it didn’t matter where I physically was,  wherever I was I felt happy. I guess this internal happiness I’ve been working to cultivate travels well. It really is true, you know, wherever you go, that’s where you are.

It didn’t matter if I was traveling alone or with someone else, if the sun was shining or the wind blowing, or where I physically was – my general state of emotional being was positive. I felt lucky to be wherever I happened to be, even when it wasn’t a place with a scenic view or the warmth of sun on my face. I’m alive. I have family and friends and people with whom I enjoy sharing my time. I have a home and a job. My health is good and my body (mostly) does what I ask it to do. And, there isn’t a single day that I don’t appreciate every single one of those things.

One of the best gifts about growing older is learning new lessons about life and oneself, and how those two things relate. I think the happiness I’m currently experiencing comes in part to my recent realization that beyond my children, the only one I’m obligated to is myself. I’ve known for a long time that I alone am responsible for my own happiness and security, but I’m starting to have a different understanding about what that means. To me, at least.

The commitment I have to being happy, to living my best life, comes with an emotional independence that I hadn’t previously considered. While I most certainly owe honesty to any romantic partner I am with, I’m not obligated to sacrifice my needs to a relationship which may not fill my soul in the manner in which I desire. This is, to me, a rather radical understanding of myself and the state of being linked emotionally with another. I don’t have to stifle my feelings or longings because my ultimate commitment is to me. I only get to do this life thing once and I’m unwilling to experience it as an observer. I want to live it. All of it.

How is the new year treating you? What are you doing to make your life one that is well lived? Are you living your best life?

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Black lace forever

Look at this top….

isn’t it amazing? It’s been mine for the last 24 years, but it’s time for me to pass it on to someone else. Even though that breaks my heart a little. I still love it and think it’s beautifully unique and well made, but it doesn’t fit me right and I know someone else can wear this far better than I.

I bought this blouse on my honeymoon. We were in our last destination and had been traveling more than a month. The weather had been mixed, but Amsterdam was hot. We had been forced to pry open the sliding glass door in our hotel room because there was no air conditioning and it was absolutely sweltering in our room. It gave us a more direct view into Tina’s House of Pain just across the brick sidewalk from our hotel.

Amsterdam has a great flea market and I’ve done well there with clothing. I saw this blouse hanging on a rod loaded with vintage clothing and immediately wanted it. I tried to dicker the price down without success. Our budget was tight and it was an indulgence, particularly during our fifth week in Europe. But, after initially walking away from the blouse, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later in the afternoon, I returned to the vendor along the canal and gave him his requested price of 30 guilder. I don’t remember the conversion rate, but I do know it was the most expensive article of clothing I had purchased at that point in my life, Frye boots aside.

It’s been an honor to own this garment but it’s time to get it out of my closet and into someone else’s. So, I’ll be bringing this blouse to an upcoming clothing swap. I’ll just keep the memories.

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Someday, somewhere

It happens so slowly that I don’t know if it’s truly even possible for us to see it. Or maybe I should “me?” I probably shouldn’t assume this is a universal thing…

Anyway, it seems to me, when we’re in a relationship we often lose sight of ourselves as individuals – what makes us happy or laugh, how we want to spend our time, and what we want from, and bring to, being part of a couple. The wonder of getting to know another’s heart and soul, and what you are together as a unit, often nudges aside your own sense of who you are on your own.

When it’s a long-term relationship things you begin to accept as normal may work to dull your other senses. Your judgement falls victim to another’s manipulation of the truth and there’s no one you can really talk to about it because your last gasp of logical thinking reminds you that you can’t share all with your friends. They may not won’t be quite as generous as you are about swallowing some of the explanations, or accepting how far you’ve lowered your expectations.

Every once in a while you have a moment when you think to yourself – who am I and why am I tolerating this? Not only is the situation not what you want, but you yourself are becoming a person you don’t really know, much less want to be. Instead of feeling joyful and confident you start to feel brittle, sucked dry until at last you remember that being independent doesn’t mean being alone and that the most valuable thing you possess is your time and you’ve already burned through enough of that in this situation.

Finally, you get it together enough – the disappointment, the hurt, the anger and the refusal to settle for another day, much less another year, all come together and combine to create a parachute from the anchor they had previously been. You close your heart to that person and, with lots of head shaking, open your eyes and firmly direct them forward.

You won’t forget (at least not the same way), who you are, what you want and what you won’t accept again.

I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

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Summer starts strong

Only a couple of days in and I’ve already forgotten what day of the week it is. Summer break has arrived! I was fortunate enough to celebrate the end of the school year with some friends I worked with when I was last a student in the early 90s. We met while working in various capacities for Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. Good friendships were made there and, despite seeing each other only occasionally, we always seem to pick up where we left off without hesitation.

On Friday we discussed relationships, the work they require to be successful, our professional careers, and how to navigate whatever might come next in life. It was lively. Rosé flowed and the evening was a delight. A perfect start to what turned out to be a fantastic weekend.

A topic we touched upon was the appeal of a strong woman. While our context was primarily male/female, I can only imagine that in exclusively female couples the attraction would be similar. Right? Who doesn’t want a strong woman? Wait…what does that even mean? How would you define “strong?”

As I looked around the table, I saw the embodiment of “strong” as defined in my own personal dictionary. Each of the women present were able, and had demonstrated that ability, to make it on their own. All had endured the dissolution of at least one long term relationship. All were mothers. Each was comfortable with her sexuality,  not apologetic or ashamed about it.  None had escaped the loss of a close loved one or a threat to their own health, yet each had persevered. Political activism and advocacy were important aspects of our lives, yet, despite the serious commitment to social issues we each held, humor was also present in abundance. We’re fun, smart, kind and thoughtful women. We got it going on.

Our conversation, though, was about how men seem to find strong women initially attractive. They claim to admire our independence and ability to take care of ourselves until something shifts…maybe we’re not as available as they’d like because we have our own interests. We maintain relationships with males that make them uncomfortable or jealous. Sometimes we are made to feel guilty because we don’t hesitate to plan a trip or buy tickets to an event without determining first if our significant other is interested or available. How dare we?

We refuse to apologize for wanting as much from a partner as we have to offer and that can be difficult for a guy. Owning our homes, our time and our desire to live full and active lives, seems to be intimidating to some men and not one of us feels that it’s our responsibility to make a man comfortable with who we are. Our strength has been earned, expanded upon with each challenge we have met until it is the thread that holds the richness of our lives together. It isn’t that we don’t want to share our selves with the people whom we love, it just seems to me that being with someone who doesn’t match your strength and seeks (consciously or not) to bring you down rather than lift themselves up, is a situation that can not be maintained, no matter how strong we are. Our ability to recognize that may ultimately be one of our greatest strengths.

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Filed under aging, drinking, friends, marriage, moms, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer, Uncategorized, vacation

The right things

1F11A1B5-75F8-4D43-8056-96FC5FB61650-23130-00000FC14214CF59The schedule my boys’ dad and I share is probably unique, but it’s been working for all of us for more than 5 years. There’s a good bit of back and forth for the guys, with them generally spending no more than two consecutive nights in either house but, since our two houses are literally around the block from one another, things are pretty low stress. I’m thankful for that because I’ve seen other divorces that most definitely are not as amicable.

Marriages are about two people, while families are about all involved. When a marriage no longer works, it is the responsibility of the adults to navigate the family to a new place that serves everyone. While my marriage may not have lasted our commitment to our children, if anything, got stronger. I know that I work harder than ever to foster the relationship between my sons and their dad* because I would never want them to think their father is anything but a great dad. Because he is.

As a parent, I know how fast the years with my children at home have gone by and it no longer is unimaginable that they will be moving out, and on in their lives, in the next couple of years. Had my former husband and I not been able to negotiate the end of our marriage with our children’s best interests in mind, the years since the divorce would have undoubtedly been very different.

Last night I had an extra night at home with the guys since their dad had some plans for the evening and I wasn’t needed at the restaurant. I didn’t have a dinner plan in place, so we all did something different – a leftover half calzone, a rare visit to McDonald’s for takeout and an impressive and spontaneous shrimp and pasta dish prepared by one of my gourmet wannabee kids. Everyone was happy.

There was something about this third night that made me feel indulgent, even a little lazy. The wind outside was fierce and I wasn’t even a little tempted to take a run. The vacuuming had been done, the laundry was underway and I had uncovered a surprisingly tasty bottle of rioja in the basement. We settled on the couch with a movie. It was a mellow night, glowing with normalcy. We had all the right things.

*What I mean is, I always speak positively of him and share memories and stories from when we were married. I want our children to be comfortable with their place in our family.

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