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I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.

I am lonely for my daughter.

I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion.  I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal.  And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.

I have always been the one in the family who worked.  My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way.  I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.

Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still  have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.

But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.

Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.

Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.

The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.

I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.

I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.

I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

I spent last night sleeping in Kelsea’s bed in my old house. Sleeping in her bed helped me understand her better. How odd does that sound?  All I’m saying is that it is a truly magical bed. It’s one of a pair of twin beds from my grandmother’s house, one I used to sleep in some 45 years ago. (It’s mate was lost in an unfortunate accident when I was moving out of Ex-Pat’s house – que lastima.) I don’t know if its history is part of its magic but I suspect so. Anyway, I slept amazingly well, had amazing dreams, and had a visitation from my Mother in the Hour of the Wolf. Her scent preceded her, and we had a lovely conversation.  I have missed her so. I had no idea she was hanging out in Kelsea’s room, keeping watch over her, but it totally makes sense, given how much she loved her and how alike they are. As I was drifting back to sleep, I checked again, and her scent was still there.  She was sitting with me.  What peaceful comfort.

I’m sure that sounds a little crazy, but hey, the women in my family have the shine.

Moving on, the shower is always a great place for me to come up with creative ideas, work through technical problems, and have epiphanies. I suspect it’s that eternal connection between me and moving water.  When I was in the shower, and thinking about how “enmeshed”  (to use MKL’s term) I am with Ex-Pat, I realized one very important thing – and this is something MKL said to me yesterday: Ex-Pat’s problems are not my problems any more.

Yes, I can help, because he is my daughter’s father. Yes, I can help, because I love the dogs, even though they are his dogs now. Yes, I can help, because the house is half mine on paper. But I am not his wife any more. I have moved on. He hasn’t. That does not mean that he gets to turn to me as if I am still his wife. Which is what he is doing. As Pam said in comments on yesterday’s post, I am a good human being and take care of people, and while that is indeed an admirable quality, in some situations, like this one, the boundary issues must be acknowledged in order to take care of myself and my life. I am not going to screw up my relationship with MKL because I am feeling guilty about Ex-Pat being alone (and hence, spending my time to take care of his needs). Ex-Pat has made his own choices here. And as singlecell reinforced in her comment, he has made his choices. His choices have left him without a support network. That does not mean it is automatically my job to be his support network. I am not the get-out-of-jail-free card anymore.

It’s a habit, a pattern of many years, that is hard to break, but must be broken.

He HAS to take responsibility for getting things taken care of. And doing so does not just mean asking me, and me saying yes. I think, in the shower, I finally realized that I can say no. Just like I finally realized that, even though he has a kitchen full of dirty dishes, it is not my job to clean up the house to make it easier upon his release from the hospital. If he can’t pick up after himself, he can ask another (less enmeshed) friend to help. If he hasn’t got those, then that’s not my problem. And on my way to work, I told him he would have to find other resources and couldn’t just rely on me. He clearly wasn’t happy about it. But it felt right.

The rest of today however, has gone horribly wrong, and I am totally discouraged.

I have an unusual divorce. In many ways, it is good. Ex-Pat and I get along pretty well most of the time, as we are committed to our 15-year old daughter. The first year was tough – he was angry, I was sad, it was awful at times. But now, when it gets awful, I can leave, or hang up, or whatever. I don’t have to put up with being berated or belittled. And we do help each other out with things from time to time. We’re better unmarried than married.

He has not moved forward in his life. I have. He is very supportive of my relationship with MKL. He wants me to be happy. But he has done nothing in his life. He hasn’t learned anything from our divorce, hasn’t grown, pursued another relationship, devoted himself to a job or a dream. He has just bowled and spent money and alienated nearly every one of his friends. His support system – on which he calls rarely – consists of me and Kelsea. That’s not good.

He got a sore neck about 45 days ago. It became excruciating. He had horrible back pain. He could barely move. He was miserable, and miserable to be around. He went to the doctor at th VA twice, and they didn’t diagnose him, just gave him painkillers, which didn’t help much. I finally insisted he go to the doctor again, and that I go with him to advocate for him. I couldn’t stand how he was being around Kelsea and I was worried. He’d lost 15 pounds in a month, and reminded me of how my mother suddenly lost a lot of weight before her final cancer diagnosis.

So on Friday morning, we went to the VA. And while I’m glad it’s there to help veterans, it was about the most depressing place I’ve ever seen. To give you an idea of how poorly Ex-Pat was doing, a fellow veteran in the waiting room mistook him for a World War II veteran, which gave me quite a giggle.

The appointment with the doctor was okay. I insisted that he come clean about his excessive drinking, and the amount of over-the-counter painkillers he was taking.The doctors listened, looked at x-rays previously taken, and said he had some arthritis in his neck that might have just finally started causing the pain. Hmmm. I was suspicious, but the doctors agreed to get him to a primary care doctor for more visits, and to schedule an MRI to see if there is any soft-tissue issue.

But as we were wrapping things up, Ex-Pat got woozy. He thought he was going to faint. They took his blood pressure: 87 over 51. And off we went to the Emergency Room. That was Friday. They decided to keep him overnight because his blood pressure wasn’t coming up. They said he either wasn’t producing blood or he was bleeding “somewhere”. Overnight, he spiked a fever. They ruled out leukemia. On Saturday, his fever was down, but his blood pressure was way high. They kept him in another night. He had an MRI, which was fairly normal. But they discovered  bacteria in his blood, so he went onto massive antibiotics. This morning when I talked to him, he said they were keeping him another day. Now I can’t remember why, but I think they’re trying to figure out if it’s related to his long-term mitral valve prolapse. He’s on fab painkillers, so he’s happier. But they still won’t let him go.

So I’m at his house, to tend to the animals. (Roscoe is back to his old self, by the way.) I can’t sleep in our old bed, because it’s covered with laundry. There’s no food in the house, and a counter full of dirty dishes. And I’m in tender shape. I help people who need help. It’s who I am and what I do But I feel like we are crossing boundaries that our divorce should have solidified. It is disturbing to me. It is disturbing to MKL, and I can understand that. I am still half owner of this house (that he has let fall into as much disrepair as he has let himself fall)  and the animals, and Ex-Pat is still my daughter’s father. (She, by the way, is in the mountains with a friend for spring break.)

And it is upsetting. When they mentioned cancer during his exam, I got nauseated. Seeing him degenerate like this has brought back all those feelings about when my Mom got sick, and I cared for her, and she died. And when the Captain got sick, and I lost him. Which were both around the same time. I find myself holding back tears and saying out loud to myself, “You’re all right. You’re ok.” And this makes me feel stupid. None of this is happening to me. It’s happening to Ex-Pat. I am fine. Inconvenienced. Worried. But fine.

Aren’t I?

I guess I still have some work to do.

Denver VA Hospital (image from http://www.ucdenver.edu)

What side of the bed do you sleep on?

When you’re young and you have a twin bed, this is not really an issue – there’s only one side of a twin bed.  If you have tried to share a twin bed with someone, you will probably have discovered that, if you are the one sleeping next to a wall, when you roll over you CAN break your nose on said wall.  Trust me on this.

At some age, perhaps early teens, many of us graduate to a double bed. 

And if you try to go back to sleeping in a twin bed for any length of time after you move to a double bed, you run a very high risk of falling out of bed.  Trust me on this one too.  And believe me when I tell you that hitting the floor as a dead weight in the middle of the night is a distrubing way to wake up.

It seems, and maybe it’s just my perception, that the size of every bed has changed over the last 48 years.  Kelsea’s twin bed seems much larger to me than my twin bed growing up, or the twin beds in the room we share at the beach for that matter.  Double beds seem smaller – queen beds seem more like what I remember double beds to be.  And king-size beds seem huge, with the California King being huger than huge.  I’ve always wondered why they named it California King.  If it’s a description of size, then shouldn’t it have been named Texas King?

During my entire married life, I slept on my husband’s right.  I don’t know why.  He was left-handed, but I don’t think that had anything to do with it.  On the rare occasions when we tried to change sides, it just felt so wrong.  And now that I am single, the idea of sleeping on anyone else’s right side feels wrong.  I imagine I would wake up in a confused fog, thinking that Pat was the person next to me, and that’s really not an episode any courtship needs.  But I could deal with sleeping on someone else’s left side.

When Kelsea and I took road trips last year, we sometimes had to share a bed, and it didn’t matter what side I was on.  Thinking back, it was her right side in Tucumcari and Cheyenne, her left side in Cimarron and Durham.  Apparently, when it’s not a romantic partner, it makes no difference, although with her, I tend to take the side closest to the door, in order to protect her from intruders (which really makes no sense at all).

In my own massive bed, I sleep on the left side (as viewed from my position lying on my back in the bed).  The right side is a dark territory into which I rarely venture, like the wilds of the Amazon, as yet fully unexplored.  Every so often, I’ll wake up lying sideways or diagonally across the bed, but I never start out of the right side, and I never wake up there.  I’m sure part of the reason is because the light switch is on the left side, but I know that’s not all of it. 

It’s truly a psychological thing.  When I moved out, I wanted to change everything.  Since I took almost nothing from the family home, since Kelsea (and of course, Pat) were still living there, I bought furniture.  (Thank heavens I was working at the time.)  Everything was new to me, which fit well with the idea of leaving my old life behind and making a fresh start.  So I deliberately chose to sleep on the opposite side of the bed from that which I’d slept on for the past 24 years. 

And now, here I am, on the other side of the bed.  I dislike the fact that the side to my right is empty, but I hope that will change in time.  It certainly leaves a lot of room for exploration in the future.

It is almost the end of the day.  I worked today.  I did some very good things today – applied for a writing gig, started working on my platform for the novel, with the intention of pitching it to an agent.  I haven’t felt very great – my stomach is being iffy.  And so, I crawled in bed at about 6:30 and have just been noodling around in cyberspace.

And just now, it hit me.

It’s my official one-year anniversary of being divorced.

I saw Pat today when we handed off Kelsea and hung out for her dentist’s appointment.  But I wasn’t thinking about what day it was, and neither was he.  Our interaction was, as always, cordial and friendly.

It’s all so odd.  Getting to the point of divorce was so painful.  Getting through the bad feelings around it was so painful.  But now, a year later, I wouldn’t go back for the world.  And the painful part now is losing my relationship of the last year.  In some ways – many ways? – that has been more painful than the divorce.

As I say.  How odd.

The Rec Center where I work out (almost daily now, like a very good dog!) had a little handwritten sign up the other day:

Widow’s Potluck

with a little arrow pointing down a dingy hallway.

It got me to thinking, which, as we know, can be dangerous. 

If I were married and my husband died, I would not want to be identified as a widow.  What a sad status.  Sad because you are identifying yourself by what you have lost.  Sad because it places you in an exclusive club that you never wanted to join.

And that got me to thinking even more.  Almost every form you have to fill out asks you for your “status”, with “status” being defined as:

— Married
— Single
— Divorced
— Widowed

Now why should anybody care?  Is it really anybody’s business?  Why should we clump ourselves into these categories?  It’s not as if this question provides any insight into your emergency contact information or mental state.  Don’t they realize that there’s a judgement involved in each of these categories?  The boxes might as well read:

— I have not been successful in finding a mate.
— I’m better than you because I did find a mate.
— I failed at making my marriage work.
— My life is defined by the death of my spouse – hell, I might as well die too.

Honestly, how rude.  And doesn’t this leave out those of us who may be in love but do not want to be married?  We don’t exactly define ourselves as single.  We’re in a committed relationship.  We have a life partner (which unfortunately also implies that we’re gay.)  We just fall outside the check boxes.

Can’t someone please come up for a word for those of us who are “of a certain age,” dating and totally committed to a man, but not really interested in marriage?  I hate using the word “boyfriend”.  It makes me feel like a middle-schooler.

Why do we define ourselves with these terms?  Isn’t it the same thing as defining ourself by our relationship (or lack thereof) with someone else?  Why can’t we just define ourselves as ourselves?

Alternatively, we define ourselves by our jobs.  This identifying label makes losing one’s job that much more difficult.  Not only have you lost your income, your self-esteem, your routine, and a big chunk of your social network, you’ve lost your identity.  When strangers ask you, “What do you do?”, what can you say?   “I exist”?  That just implies failure or laziness. 

I have a British friend who told me that in England, you must know someone fairly well before you ask them what they do for a living.  Asking such a question is essentially the same thing as asking how much money they make, and heaven knows we never ask about that – it would be entirely too vulgar.  Yep, that’s us, shockingly vulgar Americans.  Just think about the John Goodman movie “King Ralph”.  Gotta love the scene where he’s wearing the crown in the bathtub.

I suppose this was a mini-rant.  It’s not a battle I’m willing to spill blood for, but it is an interesting set of thoughts, at least to me.  Now it’s back to the drawing board for coming up with that word for my relationship – and checking to see if there are any goodies leftover from the Widow’s Potluck.

I was walking back from the truck to the cottage tonight.  The black lace of the trees was silhouetted against the sunset.  The waxing moon was rising above the big pine trees.  It was cool – definitely fall.

I have lived essentially alone now for almost two years.  I say “essentially”, of course, because Kelsea lives with me about half the time.  At first, it was a relief.  Later, it felt scary sometimes.  Still later, it felt boring sometimes.  Now that I have been a bit busier and less depressed, it is a bit of a relief again.

But tonight, I remembered coming home late from work when I was in high school.  My parents always left the lights on outside.  I parked around the corner from the house, and walked to the front door.   My parents’ house had a light at the top of the first set of outside stairs, and a light above the front door at the top of the second flight of stairs. 


Seeing that warm, welcoming light let me feel loved, and made me know I was home.  They never failed to turn the light on for me.  Inside, there was always a living room light on, turned very low, so I could find my way around.  Even though I had lived there my whole life and could probably have found my way around blindfolded.

Whenever Pat was late, I left the light on for him – except when I was angry because he said he’d be home hours earlier, or because he hadn’t called, or because I knew he’d been out doing something I didn’t want him to do.  Leaving the light off was my own expression of my anger.  I don’t think he ever picked up on that.

Do you remember the Motel 6 commercials a couple of decades ago?

Their spokesman was Tom Bodett, and I have no idea who Tom Bodett is or was, but I feel as if I should.

Their slogan was “We’ll leave the light on for you.”  I always liked those commercials.  They reminded me of my parents’ home and made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside.

At the cottage, if I turn the outside lights on, I also turn on the outside lights at the Big House, and so I don’t often turn them on, because I don’t want to disturb the Big House residents.  But lately, I’ve taken to leaving a light on in my living room if I know I’ll be coming home after dark.  With this single light, the cottage looks cozy, homey and welcoming when I approach from across the yard.

I know it’s not a responsible use of energy to leave a light on when I’m not home.  But I have made an executive decision that, living alone, it’s a small price to pay for a little glow of comfort.

I haven’t made an entry into the Divorce Diaries for a while.  That’s because there’s been nothing really to say.  It is what it is.  It’s not awful.  Pat and I are getting along just fine.  Kelsea and I are getting along great.  Pat and Kelsea are getting along well.  She doesn’t try to push us together.  She has suggested things like taking a family vacation, and I’ve told her that the family profile is different now, and we won’t all three be going on any trips together.  She’s okay with that.  Pat has expressed an interest in taking her on a trip – I think he’s a little jealous of the good times she and I have had when we’ve gone away.  That would be very nice for both of them.

Yesterday would have been our 20th wedding anniversary.  I thought of it in passing after I dropped Kelsea off at school.  Several years ago, before I had finally had enough, I was planning a special trip for us for this anniversary – Italy, or Greece, or Turkey – just the two of us.  It was not to be.  But I’ll get to those places myself someday.  I had a momentary sadness, but truly, it was just a moment.  Then, I pulled up in front of my old house to pick up something for Kelsea, and completely forgot about it.  Pat didn’t give any indication that he remembered.  (We actually both had a hard time remembering the exact date; one of his brothers gave us an anniversary clock with the date engraved on it, and we always had to check the clock to be sure.)

So 8 months after the divorce, strange to say, it feels like a more comfortable relationship.  He still make comments that grate on me, but I don’t feel compelled to spit back, and I don’t take them to heart.  I know that I can just leave.  But for the most part, we chat, we confer on Kelsea issues, we do each other favors, we hand off our daughter, I pay child support, he’s not asking me for money, I don’t ask him about his projects/finances.  I guess it’s a friendship.  Maybe that’s what it was supposed to be all along.

It bothers me a little bit that I can only remember the most loving times vaguely.  Perhaps there’s too much water under the bridge.  Or perhaps it’s an internal mechanism to help the healing process.  I really don’t know.  I just know that we’re both moving on.  And that’s just fine.

I am always happiest when I am by the sea.  Its lure never pales.  Days stretch in and out of time.  Shells line the edge of the surf like tempting pastries in a bakery – I have collected so many over the years that now I can only afford to take away those that seem most perfect and special. 

I have walked hundreds of miles, just up and down this beach over the past 40 years.  I have grown from child, to teenager, to woman, to mother.  I have watched shooting stars fall to the water, made out in the dunes, nursed my baby at dawn, cried on my father’s shoulder – all here at this house, at this beach.  It was here that a long-ago boy first said “I love you” to me when I was 17.  I have quaked through three hurricanes here, watching the waves lick the bottom of the fishing pier 30 feet in the air.  If I were to really concentrate, really think, I would be able to remember my thoughts, be able to see them and to see myself evolve over all these years, bringing me to the person I am now.

Even though I have had bad-monkey stomach today, it has been a good day.  Finished another book – I find myself on the book-a-day pace now that the final Harry Potter is done.   We did normal life things, like getting the oil changed in the truck, refilling prescriptions, and going to the grocery store, all of which we could do in Porter’s Neck.  Dinner at E-Bros house. 

The ceaseless sound of the waves hitting the shore lulls me into a state of peace.  I feel as if I am recovering.  Yes, I shed a few tears for my failed marriage since I’ve been here, but that’s normal still.  It has been  6 months and 24 days, and I wonder when I will stop counting.

I caution myself about thinking that my new life hasn’t begun yet.  My new life has begun.  I just haven’t embraced the opportunity to shape it yet.  I’ve been taking some mental time off.  And I’ve discovered that I’m pretty happy.  Come Fall, I will get serious about writing and networking, and will even feel excited about it.  But it’s been so many years since I’ve had the summer off that I think it has been good for me to at least feel like I’ve had that break this year.

Just as the sea shapes the shore, though, I have the power to design and direct my life into the form I most wish.  The only thing that can stop me is…me.

Today is my birthday.  I’m 48 years old.  I could think that’s old, but I don’t.  For one thing, I’ve been saying I was 48 for months now.  I just forgot, or got confused, or wanted the year to be over, or felt like I’d earned another year.  Or something like that.

It has been a nice morning.  I woke early, refreshed.  I wrote a little.  I read a little.  A friend called.  I dozed for another hour.  I got up and correctly [insert wild screaming cheers here] installed my Digital Transport Adaptor, which makes it sound like I should be able to teleport a la Star Trek, but really only enables me to watch my TV, now that the cable company has “improved” service.  I made soup.  I got a shout out from Swinemama on Facebook.

I’m lunching with my sister.  I have some work to do, and I have a friend coming over for dinner.  Tomorrow, Kelsea and I are off to Steamboat Springs for the hot air balloon festival.  If you haven’t seen them, you can check out my pictures from last year’s festival on Monkeyeye here.  I had a great time last year, and I think she’ll really enjoy it.

The vet called and my darling Dusty (the cat)’s blood work all came back normal – he’s been ill the last few days – it stared with a sort of weird gagging/choking sound, and now he’s hiding, and won’t eat, though I did get him to eat a little baby food yesterday.  Next step is an x-ray. 

Pat called to say “Happy Birthday”, which was nice of him, but we got into a bit of a tiff about taking the cat in for the x-ray – it was a money issue and a control issue.  He wants to watch the cat to see how he is – which makes no sense to me, as I watched the cat and determined that something was wrong.  Why does he need to do it too?  We also batted around whose financial responsiblity it was.  I say we should split it.  He says I should pay for it – on top of the $266 I paid yesterday.  And we snipped about bedtime rules for Kelsea – he’s of the mind that she’s 13 and should go to bed at 10:00.  And so they fight about it.  I think she can stay up later – she’ll learn that she needs to go to bed earlier if she screws up her next day.  He says she’s not old enough to make her own decisions and that I’m just acting like her best friend.  He says she needs to listen and learn.  My argument is that she needs to make her own mistakes and learn.  And I don’t think I’m just acting like her best friend.  So I guess this proves that even in a “pretty good divorce”, you’re still going to have issues and disputes, and they’ll be very similar to the ones you had when you were married.

Anyway, that was a mini-rant, wasn’t it?  A departure from the point of this post.  Back to the subject at hand. 

There hasn’t been a birthday that hasn’t had me in tears for longer than I can remember.  I think last year, that’s all I wanted – a whole day without crying.  I didn’t get it.  It’s just always been something (often with Pat) for years – a fight, or he’ll forget, or something else.  Maybe I put too much importance on my birthday, but I think if you’ve been with someone for 25 years, you should be able to remember their birthday.  Which made it really nice that he called with birthday wishes today.

This morning though, I realized that maybe I have placed too much importance on other people celebrating me.  It makes perfect sense for ME to be the one celebrating being born.  I’m (finally) happy to be here.  I’m happy to have the friends I do.  I’m happy to love as I do.  I’m buying myself a AAA membership and a book on old Route 66 for my birthday.

I’m viewing today as the start of a new year – a chance to set new goals and walk through new doors, see new places, keep working on that life list.  When the next birthday rolls around, I expect I’ll be even happier.  There will be bumps in the road, but you must take the roughs with the smooths – it helps you appreciate the smooths more.

So, happy birthday to me!  And just FYI, the buttercream frosting roses were always my favorite part of the cake.

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