Monday, June 19, 2017

The Power of Journaling

I've kept a journal since I got out of college. I honestly don't know what I would do without it. On those blank pages, I record the day's activities, comment on national and international events, and most importantly, pour my heart out. It's a place for me to take stock of my life and try to figure out why things happen and how I can work through them.

When my marriage broke up, I was journaling every single day. I filled up an entire journal within a month and a half, and will probably fill a second one in that same amount of time. Last night I wrote pages and pages.

And you know what? It has directly contributed to my healing process. I've been able to look deep into my psyche and make connections that I hadn't thought of before. In last night's writing session, I realized that I had been the rock in my marriage, the responsible one, the adult (I used to joke that I had four kids instead of three!), but that all the manipulation, deceit, lies, and emotional abuse had started to seep into my life, creating tiny cracks deep inside not noticable on the surface, but that were doing major damage to my soul.

And now? Those cracks are healing, filling in with strength and courage and growth. I am no longer the rock in my marriage, trying to hold it together and putting my best foot forward to keep it intact. Now I am the rock for me. I am the rock for my daughter. And that is all. I no longer have to be responsible for my ex's actions, no longer have to worry how his actions will reflect on me and my marriage. He is free to make his own choices and suffer the consequences. I no longer have to participate, no longer have to defend him, no longer have to suffer.

Without journaling, I don't think I would have come to that conclusion. And it is a very powerful realization, one that can free me in ways I'd not imagined before, and lead me to finally letting go of him and my marriage. The ability to be introspective, to delve underneath the layers of the superficial, is imperative to my healing journey, and journaling has made it possible.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Don't Live There

The night my divorce was final, I had another bombshell dropped on me: the ex and the woman he cheated on me with are moving in together. The pain was excruciating, and for the next few days, I felt like the wound had been torn open again. 

Throughout this ordeal, I've sought various ways to cope, and one of those is pinning quotes and sayings on Pinterest. It's made me realize that I'm not alone in this, that others have gone through this before and survived. I will survive, too. But I felt like I took another giant step back in my healing process with this new development. And honestly? How could I not? To be discarded so easily and so completely by a man I was married to for 18 years is horrific. 

Soon, I found myself feeling rage and bitterness again, feelings I thought I'd worked through already. Obviously not! Thanks to some very good friends, prayer,  and my therapist, I feel better. Oh, and writing. Did I neglect to mention that? I have filled my journals with so many words in the past few months...SO SO many words. That's who I am, and that's how I cope - through writing.

I also joined a support group for those who've undergone the same thing I have (survivors of narcissistic abuse) and it's a great comfort to find understanding through others. 

But today I discovered that if I wasn't careful, I could very easily live right where I am for a long time. In other words, instead of moving forward, I would remain right here, stagnant, unwilling to grow or change or learn, and feeding off of bitterness and anger and revenge. When you are surrounded by people who are all feeling the same way, it becomes all too easy to absorb the negativity. 

Now please understand, support groups are invaluable. I was able to learn a lot about narcissists and how they operate, their patterns, their traits, and that I was far, far from alone when it came to being treated the way I was. That was a balm to my soul.

But I also realized that there is a time for support groups, and then there is a time to leave those groups. I don't want to recycle the same drama I've been through over and over again. I want to learn from it, process all the feelings, understand it, and then move forward and grow. There comes a time when you need to leave the past behind instead of live in it.

There's a quote I found on Pinterest that means a lot to me now:

I've had several meltdowns in the past five months. But that's okay. I know I'm doing better. I know that six months from now, I'll be in a great place. This whole ordeal has taught me a lot, one of those being patience. I want to just not care what the ex does with his life now. But unlike him, I can't shut the door on 18 years of marriage by snapping my fingers. But some day? I'll not be so bound to him, and though I'm sure I'll always have a tiny spot in my heart for him, it will never be like it was when we were married. And that is how it should be.

I'm going to be just fine. I'm excited about my future and all the possibilities that were only dreams before. Hard days remain ahead, but I'll get through them. I refuse to give up. I've been set free!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

My Personal D-Day

This morning, I wore a black dress splashed with bright flowers. The black symbolized the death of my marriage, but the bursts of color represented hope and happiness for the future.

As I walked to the courthouse with my lawyer, we talked of today being the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944. I said, "This is my own personal D-Day. Liberation from this marriage."

A marriage born from second chances, of hope and happiness.

A marriage killed by infidelity, lies, and betrayal.

My ex did not show up at the court proceedings. I didn't expect him to face what he'd done in a court of law.

My lawyer asked me to verify that the signatures on the divorce document were mine. "Yes."

"And do you know your husband's signature? Is that his signature?"

I stared at the familiar scrawl, and tears clogged my throat and stung my eyes. "Yes."

"Is your marriage irretrievably broken?"

A firm answer on my part. "YES."

And it was soon over. I walked back to my car, and once safely within its confines, I lost it. I cried and thought of how you say goodbye to 18 years with someone, how one sentence from the judge dissolves it, how the ex didn't care that it was over. I cursed him for doing this to me, for shattering my heart into thousands of pieces.

I bought myself a donut because I deserved one, darn it, and came home. A migraine began to creep over my skull and I took a pill, then popped The Longest Day into my DVD player, the movie about the Normandy invasion.

Today is my own personal D-Day. I am liberated from a marriage destroyed by infidelity, and I will emerge from this stronger than ever. I am not broken. I am a survivor.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Movie Marathon

As we all know, life has been nothing short of crazy with many more downs than ups. That's why I was grateful for three days off for Memorial Day weekend, and I was even more excited that the Turner Classic Movies channel planned to do a weekend of World War 2-related movies starting Friday night.

But I also wanted to get a huge chunk of work done on my novel. Thankfully, I was able to do both!

First up on Saturday was Nazi Agent. Conrad Veidt, best known for playing Major Strausser in Casablanca, played twin brothers, both German immigrants to America. Unfortunately, one is a Nazi agent while the other loves America and the freedom and opportunity it's given him. It's a terrific espionage flick.

Second was Hotel Berlin. Set in Berlin right before Germany's surrender, it follows the conniving, sometimes traitorous actions of several different people at the hotel. A favorite German actor of mine, Helmut Dantine, plays a German resistance leader who escapes from Dachau and is trying to hide from the Nazis.

Next on the list was  Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur. I own this on DVD and have watched it several times, yet I never tire of it. Robert Cummings plays an ordinary American who is framed for a work of sabotage and gets caught up with Priscilla Lane as they try to bring the real saboteurs to justice. It's Hitchcock at its finest.

Of course, the day wouldn't have been complete without Humphrey Bogart! Across the Pacific is set on an ocean liner traveling to Panama with Bogart playing an undercover Army intelligence officer trying to find out what the devious Sydney Greenstreet is up to with his collaboration with Japanese spies!

I finished the evening by watching some of Tora! Tora! Tora! about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but didn't watch all of it. 

Do I regret spending the entire day on the couch, watching World War II classic movies and writing? Not in the slightest. I needed a "me" day where I put everything on hold for the day: the responsibilities of being a single parent and taking care of the household by myself, the financial worries, my health, etc. 

Of course, it's imperative to remember why I had this weekend in the first place - the men and women who've sacrificed their lives for their country. That is what Memorial Day is about - remembering them. While we tend to have picnics and drink beer and go to the lake in what is ostensibly the beginning of summer, that kind of celebration has never sat well with me. For me, it's a sober day, one for reflection and remembrance.

Today I've watched two Clint Eastwood World War II movies - Kelly's Heroes and Where Eagles Dare. Both are excellent (and yes, I own these on DVD, as well!). 

Tonight, however, I'm attending a Memorial Day service at my local veterans memorial garden. It will be a fitting end to a long weekend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Writing...And Not Writing

When I first started writing back in the sixth grade -- oh so many, many moons ago! -- I had a hard time keeping things short and simple. I would write pages and pages, whether for history papers or short stories, and my English teachers frequently told me I needed to cut things down a bit. I tried, but I kept thinking, "But I have so much to say!"

But something changed. Now it seems I don't have enough to say. I struggle to get enough words on the page.

I don't understand what happened. Did I grow up, thus knocking my childlike creativity for a loop? Did learning more about writing stymy my creative process? Or did the fear of failure, of people reading my work, swarm into my head and blot out the fun of creating?

Probably all of those things and more. But it really bothers me. I used to be able to sit down and write to my heart's content, but now I feel like it's excruciating even to write a simple blog post.

I think it might be resistance. Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that writing was hard and it wasn't supposed to be easy. Then my internal editor stepped in, and started demanding I write a certain way, and that further bottled things up.

Steven Pressfield writes a lot about resistance in The War of Art (I own a copy which I think I gave to my mother to read and never got back...) which is where I first heard the term. There's something holding me back, and it's tug is so strong that it's keeping me from doing what I really love. I can almost physically feel the barrier between me and the words - it's a concrete wall, and pushing through it takes an incredible amount of energy.

But really, all I need to do is just write.

Getting to that point, though, is the problem. Why? I honestly don't know. Of course, it could be that I have an incredibly thick skull (recent events have proven this) and it takes awhile for things to sink in. My family is a stubborn bunch comprised of Germans, Italians, and Poles, so it's really no surprise. But writing is my dream. It's my passion. It's what I want to do. Why, then, is it so hard to do something I love?

That is the essential question.

Maybe I need to challenge myself. Maybe I need to make a commitment to write daily for awhile and see if that helps. Maybe that means a blog post every day for a month. And I need to stick to it. No excuses.

I'm not going to let this stop me. Even when it's hard to sit down and let the words come, I will do it. I can do no less.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Healing Is Not Linear

Y'know, this divorce business really stinks. I've felt the spectrum of human emotions over the last few months. Sometimes, I'll have a really good week and get only a tinge of sadness here and there. Other times, I'll endure a few days of depression and crying, all the while wondering if this will ever end.

Healing is not linear. It goes up and down and sometimes it goes backwards.

The good news is that it's getting better. Easier. Less painful.

The bad news? I feel like I'm dealing with the same stuff over and over again. I'm trying to let go. Trying not to feel like what the soon-to-be-ex does is any of my business, like who he dates or what he does with his spare time. But old habits die hard. We were together for 18 years. It will take awhile.

There are several large stumbling blocks that I must overcome. One, of course, is the knowledge that he will have a girlfriend at some point - and much sooner rather than later, I'm sure - and I will have to deal with seeing them together. That cuts me to the core. Yet there's also the competing knowledge that I am glad to no longer be with him and a twinge of sorrow for the next woman that comes along who will have to deal with him. Indeed, when making a list of the pros and cons of our relationship, the cons definitely win out. Yet those few pros are incredibly hard to get over.

Another stumbling block? Learning to be alone. When you go from having a partner in your life to going it alone - especially in such an abrupt fashion - there's an element of whiplash to it. Honestly? I've been doing a pretty darn good job so far. But there are days where it all becomes too much.

I had one of those days yesterday. I went to the grocery store, an activity my husband and I always did together, and it just became overwhelming. I almost burst into tears in the check out line, but managed to hold it together until I got into the car. I cried. And then when I got home, I cried some more. This morning, I cried at work. Yes, I am one of those people who will run to the bathroom and bawl, then wait until my face doesn't look like a red, splotchy mess to go back to my office.

Good times.

There are the little things, too. We used to text each other through the day: now that is gone. When I was in the middle of a rheumatoid arthritis flare, he'd check on me several times to see how I was doing. Gone.

But you know what else is gone?

Holding my breath when his latest burst of anger exploded through the house. The disappointment when he refused to go to a family event with me. Money arguments. The stench of alcohol on his breath. And oh so much more.

My house has now become a place of peace. It's calm and soothing. And I feel a lot of pride for holding things together, even if it's something little like keeping the dirty dishes out of the sink and cooking my own meals instead of bingeing on fast food. Maybe it's the responsibility ingrained in me from my upbringing, but I refuse to give in. I refuse to quit. Oh, there are days when I do nothing but lay on the couch and watch TV because I don't have the energy or motivation or emotional capacity to do anything else, but after awhile, I get tired of that, too.

But I know this: I am healing. It's just going to take awhile.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Random Randomness

Every once in awhile, I'll do a post full of random things going on in my life. And as I do not have a clear idea for a post today, random randomness is what I shall write about!

1) Every year, we have a symposium at the day job. It requires a year, sometimes two, of planning. The two-day event is usually full of stress and I'm left wrung out like a limp washcloth afterwards. However, this year it went very smoothly and I'm happy to report that I did not have any terrible side effects. My body didn't hate me this time around. Huzzah!

2) Since the basement has now been vacated by the ex, I'm coming up with ideas on how to turn it into the "writing den." My daughter, also a writer, and I want to make it a creative, cozy space perfect for our writing sessions. I'm excited by the possibilities!

3) Yesterday, I had a glorious writing session. Sometimes, things just actually fall into place and yesterday was one of those times. I love it when that happens.

4) Retail therapy is a good thing (when you have money, that is). My daughter and I went shopping yesterday and each came home with a new pair of shoes. She found a cute dress, I found a cute top, and we were quite pleased with our purchases!

5) I have discovered that I can, indeed, survive on three pieces of dark chocolate per day. This is nothing short of a miracle.

6) Doctor Strange is just as good the second time as it was when we saw it in the theater. Benedict Cumberbatch still can act better than 95% of the world's actors/actresses.

7) In going through a divorce, there are different "zones" that you enter. There's "crazy town" zone where you throw clothes on the lawn; there's "dying inside" zone that happens when you discover your ex is already dating other women; there's "missing him" zone where, despite logic, you miss him and yes, even want to go see him at his apartment and you think you must truly be out of your mind; there's the "happy to be free" zone where you realize that you no longer have to deal with what you endured for years and years! And you can experience all those zones in one day. Trust me.

8) I'm happy to report that both parents are doing well after their surgeries. Whew! God is good.

9) This weekend is my hometown's annual alumni basketball tournament. My brothers organized this over five years ago and it's been a huge success. I help them out, making it a family affair, and I thoroughly enjoy this time with them. I'm very, very blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive family.

10) Spring! Lovely spring is here! Now I wouldn't be at all surprised if we got hit by a snowstorm or even a blizzard. This is Nebraska, after all, but I'm really hoping we're done with winter weather until November! Yesterday during our writing session, my daughter opened the windows so we could listen to the birds chattering. It was so lovely and calming.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tommy Dorsey, Myron, and Me

Last Thursday, the Tommy Dorsey Band played a local venue. Naturally, I dressed up in my 40s-style dress, curled my hair, added some flowers in true '40s style, and put on some vintage-looking shoes. When I arrived, I wasn't too surprised to see a bus with the name of a retirement community on the side, and there were several elderly people heading toward the dance hall. Didn't bother me a bit. I was there to listen to music and to forget the problems of the last few months.

The venue itself is like stepping back in time. It opened in 1929 and not a lot has changed. Numbered booths with wooden benches line both sides of the dance hall and there are tables covered in white cloths sprinkled around the floor. The bathrooms are painted in turqoise and have shell-shaped sinks. Yes, shell-shaped!

Once inside, I realized I would undoubtedly be one of the few there under the age of 60. But I didn't care.. In fact, I felt completely at home. I've always fared better with the older generations (which is probably why I gravitate to history and specifically, World War II history). I count my 91-year-old grandmother among my best friends.

About five minutes after I arrived, I grabbed a drink (diet soda, of course) and headed for an open spot which wasn't easy as many places were reserved. I found a booth and was just about to deposit my coat on the bench when the man in the booth next to me said, "You here alone? Need a dance partner?"

Little did I know that this simple question would spark a conversation that would last the majority of the night. The gentleman, who was in his 70s, introduced himself as Myron and immediately asked if I could help him find women to dance with. And even date. So I proceeded to ask him what he liked. And of course, he told me.

  • Can't sit around the house all day
  • Has a job
  • Likes to dance (of course!)
  • Not too heavy
  • Likes to go places
  • Must be younger than him

The band was late that night - bus trouble, I believe - so Myron and I had plenty of time to talk. I learned a great deal about him and what he'd done in his life, and believe me, there was never a shortage of things to discuss. Once in awhile he'd stop his conversation and point out another woman. "What about her? Do you think she'd dance with me?" Then there were times he "went cruising", as he called it. He'd walk around the dance hall, see if any women sparked his interest, and if so, he'd ask if they'd like to dance once the band got there. He even asked me if I wanted to dance, but I politely refused. I was there to listen to the music and that's it.

At one point, he gave me his card and said, "If you can find dates for me, I'll pay you $100 per date." Now I'm slightly broke, but still, the idea of finding women to go on dates with Myron didn't exactly appeal to me.

When the band finally arrived, Myron did his thing and went looking to cash in on those "saved dances." But soon enough, he'd come back and start regaling me with how good (or bad) his dance partner was. At one point, I encouraged him to ask a woman sitting across from us to dance. He said, "She looks too old." (Apparently, Myron wanted someone in her 60s that still had pep in her step). But I said, "She looks nice. I bet she'll dance with you." And lo and behold, he asked her and they went out to the dance floor. He even came back to her table with her and they chatted for awhile.

But alas, it did not last. Myron ended up back in the booth beside mine and lamented that this woman was "too bitter," undoubtedly the result of an ex-husband (or two or three). Once again, with the band playing in the background, he launched into tales of his daughter and his son, of the Australian fellow he met in New Orleans, of his childhood on the farm growing potatoes, of the ex-wife he was married to for 13 years that apparently was 13 years too long. He thought Frank Sinatra was too pompous and preferred Dean Martin. Cary Grant was okay by him, and he agreed that North By Northwest was a good movie. Music, however, was his passion. He loved to listen to it, loved how it moved people's souls.

"You know, you are delightful," Myron told me. "You're just delightful to talk to."

I thanked him, thinking that he was rather delightful, too.

Myron ended up leaving early because the music was too loud and it bothered his ears. He said, "I was serious about you finding me dates. Call me!"

I smiled, said goodbye, and watched as he made his way toward the door, stopping at a few tables and trying to get one more dance. He looked up at me and blew kisses my way. I waved, shaking my head in amusement.

I spent the remainder of the night listening to the band, watching the people around me, and realizing that this night had been illuminating in a lot of ways.

We tend to think that the elderly are "done" with life, content to just let the days pass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath the bravado, Myron was deeply lonely. He wanted someone to share his days with. He wasn't yet done experiencing life. And all around me, I saw more of the same. Older couples dancing, holding hands, dressed in their best, smiling, laughing, living.

And they encouraged me to do the same.

I hope in the coming months and years, I will push myself more out of my comfort zone. I, too, want to experience more and live more. This world is full of beauty and awe, and it can be found everywhere: across town, across the state, across the country, or even across the world.

So thanks, Myron, for reminding me of how wonderful this life really is.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Digging Into (My) Past

One of the great things about my blog is that I can go back several years to see what life was like. Today, I went back to 2009 when I divorced my husband. I never made this public, but we divorced in 2009 and got married again in 2010. Foolish me thought it work work this time.

One post in particular hit me in the gut.

Raising a daughter and two stepsons, and dealing with the "bad" things in my marriage had been difficult. I found my self-esteem starting to drop and I developed a rather craven attitude (to me) of wanting to stay in the house all the time, not meet new people, not do new things. In short, I wanted to be "safe." I could control the world in my house - to an extent. (Or so I thought. I realize now that I wasn't controlling it at all - it was controlling me). I couldn't control the outside world. So I stayed in the safe zone.

Wow. That could almost describe my life in the past two years. I retreated from the world, never wanted to go out, and was in my "safe zone." Part of it was my health worsening, but part of it was also living in a marriage that I refused to believe could not be saved. I hung on and on. When we'd get into another fight, I knew it would blow over and we'd resume as normal - until the next one. On and on this went.

Reading those past posts, I feel incredibly foolish for having married him a second time. But when I made that decision in 2009, I truly thought he'd changed. He seemed like a different man and I thought it would be different. But as the months and years went by, he reverted back to the one I'd left in the first place.

Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. In this case, the really hard way.

Since the split, I've made it a point to go out and do more, to experience new things and meet new people. I did that Friday night for St. Patrick's Day. And I'll do it again this week when I go see the Tommy Dorsey Band play. Already I feel like I'm finding myself again, finding that woman who used to crave adventure and enjoyed discovering the world. Somehow, she got lost.

No more.

It's time to take care of me now. It's time to listen to that inner voice and learn to embrace the unknown. It's time to see what's out there in this big, wide world.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Keeping Busy

One of the best ways to deal with a divorce is to stay busy. And to that end, you could say I've been an over-achiever!

My father had heart surgery in Denver earlier this week. On Monday, I flew to Denver and then spent the next three days with him in the hospital. I'm happy to report he came through the surgery incredibly well and is due to go home today. A true blessing! I flew back home Wednesday night and went back to work on Thursday.

As today is St. Patrick's Day, I'm going out with friends after work today.

Next week, my mother is having surgery (I know! Both parents in two weeks!), but thankfully, it will be here in my own city, so no travel is involved! But I'll be taking her to the hospital for that, then helping her with the recovery process. Next week I also have to give a presentation about my book, and on that same night, I'm going to the Tommy Dorsey Band at a local venue.

The last week of March will also be busy as we are having our annual symposium at my day job. This is a pretty intense two days of nonstop work, and I'm usually thoroughly exhausted by the end of it.

I'm actually glad the next two weeks will keep me busy. It's another way for my mind to quietly heal and process the recent events in my life.

And the novel? Oh yes, that will keep me busy, too! In fact, I plan to tackle it hard this weekend and write as much as I can.

I'm still having tough days, but that's to be expected. On the whole I'd say I'm doing pretty darn good for what I've been through. I'm proud of myself for that.