Monday, November 17, 2014

Lesson Learned Over Microwaved Ziti

The other night, the kids and I were finishing up dinner—leftover baked ziti.  An uninspired but efficient meal.  I find the daily meal more like the daily grind.  C. was the one who cooked, who took pleasure in the preparation of not one! (for the kids) but two! (for the two of us) evening meals.  I need a recipe hours beforehand, and the ingredients precisely lined up, and a carefully plotted timeline, which is to say, I’m exhausted by the initial pan of baked ziti before I even begin. 
The kids thoughtfully chewed the microwaved ziti and steered the conversation to some voice-changing App Sophia had on her phone which they found hilarious.  Then Alexander sighed, stood up, and walked into the kitchen with his almost-emptied bowl.  He clattered around in the kitchen, the sink turning on and off, then came back to the table and sat down.

“Hey!” I said.  “What did you do with your bowl?”
Alexander turned serious.  “Well, I was thinking about the divorce, and how you no longer have Dad around which means you don’t have a lot of help.  So I decided I needed to take on more responsibility and help out around the house.  So I scraped the rest of my food in the garbage and rinsed out my bowl.”

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to throw myself at him, scoop him up, tell him he didn’t have to worry about being responsible for anything and that this was all on his Dad and me.  I wanted to tell him he was the sweetest boy in the world.  So I did.
“Alexander, I could eat you all up you’re so sweet.  That’s about the nicest thing anyone has said to me in ages.”

He just nodded matter-of-factly and asked to be excused from the table so he could go play his Nintendo DS.
Responsibility.  Divorce thrusts it upon you whether you like it or not.  Sometimes I find myself caught up in panic and fear, I’ll be stopped at a red light or standing in the shower or waiting to pick my kids up at school, any of those small, empty moments can fill with panic and fear that I will be overwhelmed by the single task of this now single’s task that is mine—budgeting money, paying bills, making dinners, planning for a future.  Learning to be responsible—to clear away my own plate which will make an easier life for myself and kids—that is the task at hand.  Just today, I dropped my car off to get snow tires.  This was not an easy decision as snow tires run about $600, money which would be useful in other places during these lean times.  However, since I have to drive back and forth to Erie several times a week now for classes, which means through the horrendous strip of the snowbelt which makes for precarious winter driving, I decided that it was important that I stay alive and on the road so I could make it home and reheat more ziti for my kids.

For twenty years I had a companion beside me off of which to bounce ideas, to offer half of a “yes” or “no,” to build the fence around a life that was ours and then to mend the fence when it was torn.  Now?  I am standing on a wide open plain, and my future feels uncontained and unbridled.  For some reason, however, the opening scene of The Sound of Music keeps flashing in my mind: Julie Andrews (Maria) standing on the top of a green hill, her arms open wide, body turning, taking in the world.  I might be scared, but I’m filled with anticipation at what lies beyond the fenceline.   



Thursday, November 6, 2014

How To Be A Fearless Home-Re-Maker

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

                                                -Matsuo Bashō


The first week of separation that will lead to divorce.  My legs are wobbly, at times threatening to buckle beneath me, but I have remained upright, breathing steadily, firm in the conviction that while it will be a difficult journey, all will be well.  I have been preparing for this—after all, I survived the dark hell of those years when I tried to die by my craziness, my drinking, and my starvation.  I almost lost my life and all that I loved, but I fought my way back and in doing so, learned that I don’t ever have to allow it to spiral into the abyss again.  All I have to do is be a willing partner with the universe, which seems, by my estimation these days, to be generally benevolent.  Stop trying to be in control, trying to force things into an unnatural direction (aka where I have predetermined they MUST go) and say “yes” to the possible ways my life might unfold instead of  always saying “no” and bucking and thrashing like some cornered wild stallion.  This is how I am trying to view my life inside divorce: instead of seeing it as an overwhelming, out-of-breath disaster, it could be a possibility for my life to unfold in unexpected, remarkable, and yes, hopeful ways 

I am in my new house.  The first time I have lived on my own, in well, forever.  I went from living with my parents, to basically living with my boyfriend in college, to living with C..  Forty-two years of eternal co-habitation, of tuning my antennae into the frequencies of other people—into their desires, their needs, their likes and dislikes.  I don’t mean this to be a criticism, merely a neutral observation.  But this habitual checking-in is a difficult mental habit to break.  It is hard, for instance, to recover what I really like—what I really want for myself for dinner, for new lamps, for a new couch.  What if I make an unwise choice?  How do I choose only for myself and without consultation?  It took me one month to decide upon my new camel-colored, tufted couch because I ran through fifteen possibilities, all varieties of camel-colored, tufted couches,  wavering between one than another then yet another.  How to finally decide without regret?  How to know myself for myself again?

This first week, the kids are with C., and I am in the house living alone, becoming acquainted with myself, learning the rooms of the house, learning how the light casts shadows across the day, learning the ways the bones of the house settle in at night, learning how not to be scared when I wake up at three a.m., and no one, not C., not the kids, is there.  I walk from room to room and think: Here I am, starting my new life.  Here I am walking through my house.  Here I am doing it, owning it, keeping myself together.  Here I am loving myself through this impossible stretch of time.  I try to make that internal voice sound loving and kind, but also a little bit stern, like my CrossFit trainer who tells me that I can add heavier weight to my barbell even when I’m about to cry and fold at the thought of it.  “Kerry,” he says, “you can always take it off if it’s really too heavy.  But I know you.  You’re a strong woman.  You can do this.”  Kind, firm, he doesn’t back down.  I have to try.  And most of the time, he’s right.  I can lift the damn weight.  I had no idea I was capable of such strength.

What I don’t have, right now in the first week alone: C. in his whirlwind of cooking in the kitchen; the companionable silence on the couch as C. and I watch some favorite show on t.v.; pet hair; laundry—one person alone barely creates what four do; the kids’ backpacks and shoes and mess of schoolbooks on the breakfast table; noise, voices, the fullness of other people; being needed every ten minutes to find a book, a sock, a light saber, a Kindle, a Nintendo DS, a Lego piece, to give a hug and a kiss. 

What I have right now in the first week alone: time; time to follow my own schedule; time to go to the gym in the morning; time to finish an editing job; time to finish all my schoolwork for NEXT week; time to go out to dinner with friends three nights in a row; time to write this blog; time to set up house and try to make it home; time to try to cook for myself instead of relying on cereal for dinner; time to listen to the internal barometer instead of hurrying past it: How do I feel?  Am I okay?  Can I be honest? 

Can I be honest.  This is the only way to proceed.  At one point in my life, I lived in a house of lies—I lied about what I ate, what I drank, how I felt, and if I was planning to die.  I don’t lie anymore which is, in part, why I am now living in my house of truth, and while it meant giving up what was comfortable and safe for the unknown and scary, it also meant putting into practice everything that I have been speaking about for the past several years in regards to having to be fearless.  It was time to take the leap and live in truth.  So here I am sitting in my new dining room, as the morning light washes over me, alone but not, for the moment, lonely.  And of course, next week, my kitchen will be filled with backpacks and shoes and a mess of schoolbooks and my house with noise and my kids’ lovely need for hugs and kisses and my search and rescue skills for lost Legos and Kindles.