And just like that, “friend” becomes “acquaintance”

Last year, I had a great time with some of my girlfriends at a wine festival.

On the way home, the designated driver made some comments about her husband and called him an asshole. Hmm. Not such a good thing.

A few weeks later, she and I had a chance to talk one-on-one, and it turned out she was unhappy in her marriage and was in the midst of an emotional affair. Having been in a very similar situation, I did my best to talk her down and give her some “I’ve been there” advice, in the hopes that she’d use my mistakes as a lesson.

“Whatever you do, deal with the issue of your marriage separately from the relationship with the other guy.” 

“I wish I hadn’t gotten physical before actually leaving my marriage.”

“Don’t get pregnant!” 

She seemed to take the advice to heart, but a month later, she was a wreck, and it turns out she’d slept with the other guy and her husband had no idea and she didn’t know what to do.

We talked for a long time. She was sure she wanted to leave her marriage. This wasn’t the guy she wanted to spend the rest of her life with anymore. She’s not sure she ever felt that way, but inertia happens and we sometimes stand by choices we know aren’t right out of a false sense of obligation.

She was sure she wanted to leave but was afraid that if she moved out, she’d lose any claim to their house. Our state sometimes recognizes “in-home separation,” so I sent her some information about it.

Her husband became suspicious that night, not believing she was with me, so he snooped in her phone and found the e-mail I sent. He woke her up, devastated, saying he’d do anything to save their marriage, including counseling, which he had stubbornly refused to go to when she had previously suggested it. Sounds awfully familiar.

She felt obligated to give it one more chance. He had one condition: cut off contact with me.

Fast-forward to last summer. She and I managed to find some time to talk. Things were “ok,” she said. But then she asked, “Do you really think it’s possible for a marriage to work when the two people have nothing in common?”

I said that I do think it’s possible, if they enjoy time together and are confident enough in themselves and their marriages to do things independently, and those independent experiences enhance their relationship when they come together afterward. But I also told her that I had nothing in common with my ex-husband, and I have everything in common with my current partner, and the relationships are so very different. The current relationship is so much more fulfilling and happy.

Just this week, I heard from another friend that she and her husband are trying to get pregnant.

My heart sinks.

I sent her a request for a double date. I’d like to get to know her husband better. I want to support her and let her know that I will be there for her no matter what. I am hopeful that we can maintain our friendship.

But I get a chilling–and chilly–response. They don’t have time. And not even a hint of “let’s try another time.”

It’s time to write off this so-called friendship. I don’t know if I’m still persona non grata to her husband, and he has denied my request. I don’t know if she is happy, but seeing me reminds her of the terrible time she had last year. I don’t know if she is unhappy, and seeing me reminds her of what could be if she took control of her life.

I sincerely hope she is happy.

I am doubtful.

“I love you world.”

“I love you world.”

My son said that to me tonight. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but I know exactly what he meant.

Every night Smiley is with me, before he goes to sleep, I whisper, “I love you more than anyone in the world loves you, and I love you more than I love anyone else in the world.”

I know he has a father who loves him dearly, but I grew that child inside my body, and I simply cannot imagine that his egocentric father loves him as much as I do.

Today we were eating dinner, and I told Smiley that I love him, and he said, “I love you world.” I know he’s just two years old and cannot know what exactly I mean when I say that, but my heart melted. And then in the next instant it broke when he said, “I cry for you, Mommy.”

Bedtime the first night he’s with me is always hard. He doesn’t want me to leave him alone in his room. “Mommy sit wif me.” I will acquiesce for a little bit, but when I get up, the crying starts. I feel awful leaving him. I try to explain that I’ll just be down the hall and I’ll see him in the morning, but, well, he’s two, and that doesn’t really get through.

“I cry for you in bed.”

What he doesn’t know is that I cry, too. I cry because his cries hurt me. I would love nothing more than to hold him closely until he falls asleep. I cry because he is not with me. He’s only two, and we can spend 5 or 6 days apart. It’s not right. But maybe that’s my punishment.

I love him world.

Life Is a Whirlwind…Until It Stops

The past few weeks have been a blur. First there was Thanksgiving, then The Writer and I jetted off to paradise. We had an amazing time but missed the kiddos fiercely. Home for two weeks (well, I was–The Writer had another work trip) and loving on the boyo. Then TW and I had another trip to a warm location.

The back-to-back trips were exhausting, and we didn’t intend to plan them like that. The second trip was planned before the first one, after another trip had to be postponed. But both trips were fun, and it was great to have so much uninterrupted TW time, out of our usual element.

Life was hectic but fun. Exhausting but full of love.

And then the world stopped.

Cancer struck again.

A great friend of mine lost her father.

I’m back at the airport for the third time in as many weeks. (Side note: I have no idea how TW does it.)

Once again, the custody schedule works in my favor; I can be with my friend while Smiley is with his dad (though I’m sad to miss the daycare holiday party).

I have known Pickle since my freshman year of college. We were great friends but after graduation we lost touch, as you did in the days before FB and Twitter. We reconnected a few years ago but it wasn’t a deep friendship. I was embroiled in my shithole of a marriage and she was dealing with her parents and sister and their various health issues.

Then I needed someone to talk to. I was pregnant and thinking of leaving my husband. I was up late, and Pickle has always been a night owl. We spent four hours on the phone. It was that cliched “we haven’t spoken for 10 years but when we picked up the phone it was as if no time had passed” friendship.

I’m so thankful for all the support she gave me. It was especially helpful to talk to someone who knew me “before.” She remembered me as “me,” not somebody’s wife. She talked me through so much crap, and assured me I wasn’t crazy to want to be respected and loved for who I am, not what someone wants me to be. She even came to visit when Smiley was a few weeks old and gave me much-needed sanity and sleep breaks.

And as I figured my shit out, she came to need me. Her dad had been suffering from prostate cancer for a few years. The chemo seemed to help, but he kept sliding backward. Her sister was useless. I’d been through something so similar, it helped her to have someone to talk to.

I could sympathize with how hard it is to watch your parent get sick. I could sympathize with how shitty it is to have a sibling who doesn’t want to be involved unless it directly relates to him or her–and who has the gall to ask “is he dying?” when it’s suggested s/he come visit dad. I could sympathize with the guilt of needing to take time for yourself when someone is relying on you.

And now, unfortunately, I can sympathize with having to deal with funeral arrangements and telling people terrible news while your own world falls apart. Struggling to keep yourself going, supporting other people who need you more, who are more fragile.

And I’m on my way to be with Pickle, so someone can take care of her. So she doesn’t have to be strong for everyone else.

I love my friend, and I hate cancer so much.

Sobbing on the Bathroom Floor

That’s where I found myself tonight.

I had knocked over the glass with my last vitamin C tablet. Tepid orangey fizzing liquid dripped down the side of the vanity onto the floor. Dripped behind the toilet. Dripped onto the trashcan.

This is not something that would send a normal person into sobs, but for me, it was the last straw.

I have struggled for years with clinical depression, and I’m the first to admit that PMS makes everything a thousand times worse. Combine those two factors with exhaustion, sickness, and the ache in my heart, and you get me, sobbing on the bathroom floor.

I miss my guys. Smiley is back with his dad after only two days, and last week’s time away from him was so hard, even with my great vacation. The Writer is on another business trip. I am home alone. It is too quiet. I have time to brood.

I worry about what I’m “doing” to Smiley. How he’ll turn out. Whether I’m ruining his life by “bouncing him back and forth” between two homes (his dad’s phrase). He’s so easygoing and adaptable and happy, and I know how important it is for him to have as much access to both of his parents as possible (and there is no way I’m getting back together with his father). But I’m so worried and I feel so guilty.

I twiddle my thumbs and get anxious for the day to come when The Writer and I can move in together and get married, and then I turn around and worry that I am wishing away these days. I know it will happen, but I am impatient. I worry that I won’t be a good stepmother–that I won’t even get a fair chance because The Writer’s ex will badmouth me to their daughter.

I worry that I’ll never get the weight off. That I won’t be able to keep up with Smiley. I worry that I’m not reading enough parenting books and I just go with the flow too often. Are there things I need to be doing? Am I stunting his emotional growth and education? Is he getting enough calcium? Is he getting too much?

I am looking ahead at the winter holidays and dreading more time away from Smiley. I’m dreading more time away from The Writer, when he spends almost a week with his daughter. (I am so glad they’ll have that much time together–it’ll be great for both of them–but time with her means our only contact is e-mail, texts, and whispered phone calls after she’s asleep.)

Smiley, The Writer, and I had one night together this week, and it was great. My family, all in one place. We made dinner, ate together, played, and had a wonderful evening. Those days are rare, and they have quickly become my favorite days of all. Then Tuesday it was back to mama and Smiley (which was still pretty awesome), and tonight, it’s just me. Planted on the couch, feeling sorry for myself, only realizing right before bed that I hadn’t stopped at the drugstore for more Mucinex. I was so glad there was a vitamin C tablet left, thankful I could at least take that to help fight the cold that surely has already taken hold.

And then I knocked over the glass.

And there I am on the floor, sobbing, cleaning up a mess beneath the toilet with the “good” towels I received as a wedding present.

It’s only fitting, I guess.

I Am Stronger Than My Appetite

So after two weeks of bending my rules guidelines, I am back on the wagon. Mostly.

The Writer and I had a fun weekend with Sue, and we ate and ate…and my stomach staged a revolution. (Gross and TMI, but there it is.) Then I got back home and was just OK. Not great. it’s easier to continue to eat unhealthily than it is to get back to the diet lifestyle change.

Then there was my Thanksgiving celebration, which was so much fun, but I also consumed a lot of food.

And then a vacation–an absolutely wonderful vacation–to a little place I’ll call “Paradise,” with The Writer.

We spent four days in the Caribbean and had an amazing time. The weather was perfect. The activities we chose were perfect. And the food…oh my god, the food. <drool> It was perfect.

We had an amazing tasting menu with wine pairings and oh-so-much good food from a former chef at Le Cirque. Macadamia nut ice cream? Heavenly! We stopped at street vendors. Cheese wrapped in fried pillows? Divine! We had local meals with amazing flavors and spices. Fried plantains? Delicious!

But we also walked and hiked and walked and kayaked and swam and walked. The scale wasn’t too happy–I am up about 1.5 pounds from before we left (and I was already up a pound from my amazing first-week weight loss), but I’m also bloated (stupid PMS) and exhausted and coming down with a cold. I am  anticipating The Writer’s next business trip. And I miss Smiley so very much.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about yesterday, when we just bummed around the house and ordered pizza and generally did nothing. I’m trying to get back to my guidelines. I needed a pep talk from The Writer, but I eventually did get a salad for lunch today and, as tired as I am, I haven’t succumbed to my diet soda addiction. The fried food I had on our trip will be the last fried things I eat for a long time.

I can beat this. I can change.

On vacation, I was able to keep up with the group during the hike, but I really struggled to catch my breath a few times. We had a fire alarm in my building today, and I had to pause my conversation with a coworker as we walked up the stairs because I was too winded to continue talking. I don’t want to be that person.

I have come to think of myself as fat. I hate that. I see other people on the street and compare myself to them. I try to figure out if they are heavier than me. I can usually placate myself with, “Well, at least I’m not as big as she is!” And then a few months ago I caught a profile view of myself in a window and…oh. Ouch. I am fat.

I was very active in high school. I wasn’t quite as active in college, but I had to walk everywhere, so that helped keep my weight down. Then I started a desk job, and my weight has creeped up and up. The pregnancy didn’t help, but I was already overweight. Now I am in a place where I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. My mental image is shattered by the woman staring back at me, and I hate that. I don’t really like that woman.

That is another problem: I need to love myself. I want to love me as much as The Writer loves me. As I said before, I want to look at myself in the mirror and see what he sees.

The Writer’s pep talk helped today. He reminded me of our deal (he said he’ll buy me a dress from Anthropologie when I get to my goal!), and he reminded me that I am not the PMS. I am not the emotions. I am not my cravings. I am strong and I can change. If I succumb to emotional eating to try to make myself feel better, I’ll only feel worse afterward.

Every meal is a new chance to move forward. Sure, I had some chocolate this morning, but I was able to stick to two “fun size” bars, which works out to about 135 calories. Considering I used to have four or five of those at a sitting–sometimes twice a day–I’d say that’s a victory. I had a salad for lunch. I have taken the stairs all day. Each of those small things adds up.

I will beat this. I am more than my stomach. I am stronger than my appetite.

Making My Own Family

I’ve been pretty absent here and on Twitter, except for Friday’s SingleParentsTalking chat, and I’m sorry for that. Things have been a little crazy for me.

I went out of town to visit my friend, Sue, which completely derailed my “lifestyle change.” We get together and we *eat.* I didn’t follow most of my rules, and I paid the price–I felt terrible for a few days. But instead of going back to my rules, I kept eating poorly. I’m still making better choices sometimes, but I need to get back on track.

And this weekend didn’t help. Smiley will be with his dad on Thanksgiving, so I had my own Thanksgiving celebration with 20 of my closest friends. My true family. There were a few people missing, like The BFF (sad–lives far away) and my brother (annoying–unreliable), but I had a wonderful time. I really felt loved and even though I drove myself crazy with all the preparation, it was a great time.

Side note: If you’ve never roasted any sort of whole bird, a 20 pound turkey for Thanksgiving is probably not the best place to start. However, it turned out perfectly. Best turkey I’ve ever tasted. (And thank you to Cari and MFA Mama for the push to brine.)

I didn’t spend nearly enough time with Smiley yesterday because of all the craziness, and he was a little overwhelmed by all the people, but he was great and social and adorable. And he got to spend time with The BFF’s parents, who are basically his grandparents on “my side.”

I’m not related by blood to very many people. But I think about my childhood, and I was always surrounded by “family.” The ex and I used to get into it because he only considered “family” to be anyone who wast related by blood or marriage. But he has five or six aunts and uncles. I had many “aunts” and “uncles.” They just happened to be my parents’ friends. Three of his grandparents were still alive well into the ex’s 30s. Three of mine were dead by the time I was 2, and the last one died when I was 10. My parents had friends who were much older than they were, and they were my “grandparents.”

The ex just didn’t understand how those people could be family. But he had the luxury of having a large blood-related family. My parents did what they could to surround us with love and loving friends, who I will always think of as my family.

And I am doing that for Smiley. Of the 20 people in my home yesterday, only three were related to me by blood–my son and my brother’s children. But everyone in that house was my family. The Writer. Friends who are former co-workers. Friends who are married to former co-workers. My BFF’s parents, whom I have known since I was 5 years old. Friends I met while training for a cause near to my heart. This is my family.

My family is made up of people I have chosen, and that’s the best family of all.

Remnants of My Failed Marriage

I’ve been divorced for a month. After waiting so long for all the paperwork and red tape, it all was over amazingly quickly.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the things that remain.

My name: I am changing my last name back to my maiden original name. But I’m going on a trip this month and don’t want to change my passport or driver’s license, so that’s on hold for a bit.

My e-mail address: I changed my e-mail address when I got married to one with my married last name. I still have access to my old one with my original name, of course, but everyone uses the newer address. I suppose it’s nothing harder than setting up forwarding and just starting to respond from the new (old) e-mail address, but I’m sort of comfortable where I am.

My wedding dress: It’s in a plastic bag in storage. I never even got it cleaned and steamed and put into one of those fancy storage boxes. I did wear it a second time, for a Halloween skit at work, but it’s been in a bag ever since. I would love to donate it to Brides Against Breast Cancer, but I need to have it cleaned first and I’d have to actually go to the Post Office, and I haven’t been motivated to take the steps. But I know I should do it.

The wedding albums: So many beautiful pictures, so many memories. I actually had a blast at my wedding. Let’s not talk about how my groom got trashed that night–and the night before–and was totally hung over. The wedding itself was so much fun. But I don’t really see myself sitting down and looking through the photos any time soon. I guess I will hold on to them so Smiley can look at them when he gets curious (if he ever gets curious), but I probably should go through them and put them in archive-quality boxes. I do have a DVD of the images, so I guess I don’t need to keep the prints, but it is so hard for me to throw away photographs.

My ring: This one is really tricky. My ex proposed to me with my mother’s engagement ring. Which was custom designed for my mom by my dad. It has amazing sentimental value because of my parents’ marriage. But now it also has a bit of a tarnished value because of my own marriage. Any suggestions for this one? It really looks like an engagement ring, so I’m not sure about wearing it on my right hand. And I don’t want to re-set the stones because they were custom set for my mom. Hmm.

I also have other pieces of jewelry from the ex that I haven’t worn in ages. They are pretty pieces, but they just remind me of the ex. I had a stone from a previous boyfriend set into a ring, but I don’t need that much new stuff.

I would like to hold a cleansing ritual, of a sort, where I burn a wedding photo and a few other mementos, for closure. I think that would help me feel that it’s all pretty final.

What did you do with your engagement ring or other jewelry from your ex?