Tag Archives: divorce

Yeah, I’ve Been Silent

IMG_3942I haven’t been posting on here because I’ve been too busy… having a breakdown. Yep. I mentioned that things kinda hit the fan in the winter with my mental health and then, then they just kept going downhill. On one hand, it feels to me like I’m pouring water into a soapy glass, and watching the soap rise to the top and flow out of the glass- where the soap is a metaphor for years of hidden pain coming lose and floating away. On the other hand, I feel like I’m losing my damn mind.

I am genuinely terrified- I mean terrified of my mind right now, and being alone. Tonight the plumber didn’t leave my house until after 6pm, and I haven’t gotten much done today and so I thought “it’s rainy and I was out all day, maybe I won’t go to yoga tonight”. Immediately, terror set in. Not because I don’t have plenty to do (my backlog is many virtual pages long- both of fun and work related tasks), but because I will be here. In this house. ALONE.

Is it the house? I want to move so badly it’s ridiculous. But how can I? Here I pay no utilities or mortgage (divorce agreement). I am already only surviving on handouts from my parents and not making ends meet as it is. I could move in with my parents, and that’s about it, financially speaking. So here I sit, surrounded by “our” stuff, in a place that J’s mail is still delivered to.

And last week he threatened to move in. Not threatened in a… threatening way, but he wanted to move back in as my roommate. I don’t want to narrate the whys of it, because this is a public blog and I’m trying not to say.. negative things about J. But it was incredibly emotionally insensitive of him. I think I can say that. I think I can say that it was for religious reasons; he is by no means broken up with his girlfriend, and is in fact intending to re-marry. Ok, that’s where I stop talking. He found my AirBNB listing somehow, after all…

The lowest point was the Saturday when I had a total and complete meltdown in an Ikea. I walked in and looked at the patio furniture and remembered when I felt like I had a family to shop for patio furniture with… even if it was just one person. One person without whom I had never shopped for furniture. Or done almost anything. I just wanted to be back in a family so much it hurt. To not be alone in Ikea. And all of a sudden I was desperate, and I didn’t know who to call or what to do. So I just sat on a stack of boxes, and cried in public. I kept hiding it when people walked by, but I was legitimately crying. In public. I have only ever cried in front of two people in my life- T, and J. I felt like I was choking trying not to make a scene, however, so I fled to my car in the parking lot. And I sobbed. It was pouring rain, and I sat there and just cried until I was so shaky I could hardly move. I thought I wouldn’t survive that day.

The night found me in one of the few places I feel safe on the planet… Black Hole Coffee House. Not sure why, but I do. Feel Safe. There.

Ok, I’m going to break the me-update into 2 posts. It’ll be too long and nobody will read it, otherwise.

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Learning to Live (and Be) Alone After a Divorce

What would you do if everyone you lived with, your entire family (you can keep your pets) just disappeared and you were suddenly alone in your place. Indefinitely?

I’d never lived alone before I moved to Japan, and when I made that move I was facing so many of my biggest fears at once that my stress level became untenable. A year later, going through a divorce, trying to write a dissertation, moving back to the U.S., and dealing with PTSD while trying to live alone has been similarly “intense”. A book given to me by my yoga studio simply addressed a generic reader with these (paraphrased) words: “you’re doing amazingly. I can’t believe how strong you are.” When I read this yesterday, I was surprised to find myself spontaneously bursting into tears.

But I still make a lot of choices from a place of fear. I feel the dread start to rise around Friday. By my usual Friday night yoga class I’m a aching combination of terrified and depressed. My whole being seems to scream out for someone, anyone to come to my house and sit with me, to go grocery shopping with me ( a real loneliness trigger, even though I used to relish doing it alone), come to my favorite Saturday morning coffee spot with me… etc.

Thing is, I fired the harem (the guys I was juggling in the fall because I have a boyfriend now. No, it’s not T. It’s G- a new code letter!) He’s a visiting professor at a university in Pennsylvania until April. He is my dream man, seriously. He is the male version of me. We are so much alike it’s delightful and amazing and intense. But he’s up there and I am here. And I’ve never tried to navigate a relationship, particularly during the early stages, entirely via text messaging and email.

So this feels like something that on one hand is keeping me from engaging in the manic dating behavior that was my entire autumn. But it means that I have a lot more space in my head and my days. And I seem to use that space to mostly fall into despair about not having  a “family” of my own anymore. I even want to make kids appear out of nowhere so I’m not alone…

In general,I need less interaction with people than is typical (it drove J. crazy that just having him in the house was enough for me, and that I felt sitting in the same room reading different books was “spending time together”), but I seem to fall apart without that low-level stimulation much more quickly than everyone I know.

So, while mulling this over and doing net searches on loneliness, I read:

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/coping-with-the-pain-of-loneliness-after-a-break-up/

which helped a bit. I mean, I know I’m not alone in feeling alone, but I also don’t know how to reach out and ask for help from those who are around me every day (or my friends at a distance).

She writes: “I have learned that masking those uncomfortable feelings (my escapism being alcohol and meaningless dates) only leaves the pain unattended for a while longer.”

Yes… the dates and all of my other ways of staying busy merely meant that when I slowed down in January, I fell apart. Every night when I lay in my head was spinning. My mood swings were violent and frequent, and I alternated between feeling like a voice in my head was screaming, to obsessively visualizing breaking things or shooting them, to thinking that unless one is in a state of crisis, it’s impossible to get others to care… so I might have to try to kill myself for people to realize how bad it was. Or I’d have to call my parents and say “look, I’m not coping… I need someone to come here NOW.”

I’ve kept most of this from G. This early in a relationship, I was/am already showing him a lot of my damage. I didn’t want him to know that at times I am one text message from him away from loneliness-induced despair.

Last night, when I was too exhausted to do much else, I read this:

http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/it-happened-to-me-i-havent-left-my-apartment-in-6-months

And actually, it helped. Unlike the other commentors, I didn’t think about the unhealthiness of not leaving your home for 6 months. I thought “Huh, what if I took a radical (for me) step, and tried to leave my home LESS. If I just did fewer things from a place of fear and desperation. What if I pretended my house was an isolated cottage in the mountains, a -retreat- rather than my prison, and a retreat for the benefit of my mental health and work productivity at that? What would this change?”

Because let me tell you, just letting myself -feel- the feelings of loneliness doesn’t seem to be helping. It has the effect of wallowing, for me.

What would I do differently if I wasn’t afraid of being alone? My entire life would be different, so this is a problem worth solving.

-I wouldn’t be afraid to tell the guys who keep hitting on me despite me saying “I can’t do this, I now have a boyfriend” to cut it out. Right now I’m afraid to lose them as friends because I don’t want to be alone… but who needs friends who won’t respect my boundaries?
-I wouldn’t make myself go out all the time– only when I actually wanted to. I would be able to say “You know, I’m exhausted. Why don’t I just stay home?”  (I am doing that tonight!)
-I would grocery shop without feeling sick inside watching all of the couples and families milling about.
-I would be more honest with people in general, because my fear of being left alone encourages me to avoid conflict at any cost
-(Past tense) I wouldn’t have stayed in a broken relationship for 16 years.
-I wouldn’t stress when G doesn’t respond to some of my texts. That’s just how he is; the sometimes-incompatible texting style is only a problem because we’re dating from a distance. I rely on external things and people to cheer me, when I need to learn to rely on myself, and to stay steady even when I don’t have someone distracting me from my own mind.

Amidst a lot of conflicting advice about it being important to “respect the process” of growth and transition, I find myself not wanting to “stay with my feelings”, but to change them.

So, I am not writing this from “my house”. I am now pretending it is a  wellness and work retreat space. Of course, if anyone has a REAL retreat/writing space I can move into temporarily with two dogs instead, I’d take you up on that 😉

The Body Will Deal With What the Mind Won’t

So I mentioned I contracted the flu, right after Christmas. And unfortunately for me, I then had to drive the car my parents gave me cross country (well… North to South, not cross). I told you guys all of this. Anyway, when I went to see my shrink last Wednesday, the day my divorce was finalized, I was still coughing in the morning. That night I wound up meeting a guy I know who’s also going through a divorce (and with whom I have a lot of sexual tension, but I’ve told him I just need to be friends). We drank beers, and I bummed two of his cigarettes but didn’t really inhale. No really, I’ve been doing the “just suck it into my mouth” thing since I actually bought my own packs of cigarettes (age 18-19), and so I didn’t think weed did anything for me because I… never actually inhaled it. Like Bill Clinton.

But I digress.

The next day my chest felt a little tight, and I felt really low energy, but I chalked it up to staying out late and drinking three beers. And I went to a 90 minute, intense hot power yoga class. With a live DJ, even. They wanted us to hold wheel pose for 5 minutes, and I just couldn’t. The next day my chest was hurting even more, but I again went to yoga and felt like everything was much harder than usual, like the instructor was deliberately torturing me. By Saturday I felt as though my body had been stuffed with bags of sand, and the pressure in my chest was intense. It felt like someone was pushing down on me, hard. Like anxiety, but deeper in my chest cavity.

Having not received the necessary documents from J, I had no insurance of my own yet. And actually, I was surprised to find that I’d been off his insurance since Dec 31. I was stuck- with the pain growing worse, I searched for an urgent care clinic, cancelled my evening plans, and drove to a strip mall clinic that turned out to be closed. I sat for a while in the parking lot searching for anything open and nearby, and though the Bellaire ER didn’t have any statements on their website about accepting uninsured patients, I desperately made my way over there. I was the only patient in the entire building that Saturday night.

I had to turn down an X-ray, because it was just too expensive out of pocket. Without that, the doctor guessed that I have pneumonia, or bronchitus. Or bronchial pneumonia. A jolly nurse made me pull down my pants, so she could give me a steroid shot in the butt (IN THE BUTT!!), and I was left in the examination room for a while to drink my free Keurig coffee and contemplate how I’d gotten sick AGAIN. Or never really gotten well, I suppose. From not being sick for years, I descended into a string of bad colds and other ailments around when J and I decided to divorce, and I haven’t been able to go more than 1-2 months between illnesses since then. A short time later, while I waited for my antibiotics at the 24-hour CVS, (rather than going to watch movies with B), I contemplated whether this was my body’s way of forcing me to confront an emotional pain that I otherwise compartmentalized, and only dealt with in those brief moments when my sorrow managed to get away from me, to leak from beneath its lid.

It’s Thursday, and I’m done the course of antibiotics, but my chest still aches and my limbs feel heavy so I have gone almost a week with no yoga class (SIGH). I’ve been so exhausted and ill that I’ve spent most of the week on the sofa, convalescing. If this is my body’s way of healing my “soul”, then so be it. But considering how long this particular illness has been dragging, I hope it gets everything out of me for good this time.

(On a hippie friend’s advice I bought this sub-lingual B vitamin stuff at Whole Foods. Taking it is like pounding a shot of espresso, since I don’t usually drink caffeine. But even through the manic-hyperactivity, I feel the chest pain lingering.)

***

I just started reading the newest book by my former advisor. I put it off as long as I could, but I need it for my dissertation. I find it unbearable to read him, so GOOD is his work. He makes me want to give up, convinced that there must be enough brilliant anthropologists in the world already. I mean, good work seems good to me in a way that I cannot access; I have trouble remembering things- names are a particularly sticky spot. Names plus their major theoretical contributions are even more difficult. I’m good at imagining. I’m good at wordcraft. But I’m not good at details, just like my mother.

I am impatient with people in my daily life who think they’re smart because they haven’t really had to test it by matching wits with the absolute smartest in our society- no, the world. I’ve actually gone on a few first dates with such people this year. Accustomed to walking around feeling smart because of the company they keep, they have no idea how tired is their logic, how thin their justifications, how stupid they really sound. And I’m NOT a jerk, I’m not. I don’t let on that I’m thinking this (maybe that’s still being a jerk?), but try to gently challenge their arrogance. I don’t have the luxury of arrogance, unless I’m self-deluded. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone manages to be arrogant in academia anymore. Maybe it’s just personality. Maybe it’s that everyone is just deeply insecure and arrogance is the default posture of some.

Anyway.

In his acknowledgements, my ex-advisor thanks the woman he met around the time I first met him, and who became his wife. She’s an artist/art prof. There is something about the way he thanked her that made tears well up in my eyes. I want that. I want a creatively and intellectually stimulating partnership grounded in the fiercest of love. I might have actually met that person recently… he’s a playwriting/theater professor. I dream of writing some heartbreaking homage to him, (or if not him, someone else), when my dissertation becomes a book.

I Don’t Need Your Shenanigans

Feh, I’ve been sleeping too much. Like, going to bed by 12, getting up at 8 to deal with the dogs, and then going back to bed like a lump for another 2 hours. Because I can, sure, but mostly because of the anxiety/stress.

J and I are supposed to go to divorce court and finalize this divorce this week, and that has me all sorts of twisted around and emotional. J seems to not really be carrying around any sort of sadness about the whole thing, but rather anxiety that I’m going to freak out at the 11th hour and delay the process. You know, I don’t even have to go to the courtroom… isn’t that odd? I can just sign the docs, and he can go by himself. I could be tied up in a closet somewhere, or coerced or… well, I guess we do have to sign them in front of a notary.

I’ve also been spending too much time with notaries lately. And the one up the street takes her job very, very VERY seriously. Raising hand and taking a solemn oath that I am who I say I am seriously. (The one before her told me: “I just got divorced too. Fuck ’em!”)

I had a bit of a meltdown on Saturday morning when I stumbled into the kitchen feeling all sorts of broken and battered and fragile. Still in my jammies and pre-coffee, I wasn’t prepared when J came sailing into the house unannounced and asked if his girlfriend could use the bathroom. Apart from scaring me, I was horrified. What if I’d had a -boy- over? What if I were naked? He’d texted, but I was still in bed so I didn’t know… We had a fight about privacy and house co-ownership and legal cohabitation that led to me curled up on my couch for an hour or so that afternoon, feeling like I’d been beaten up.

Honestly, I need to prepare to see him. Surprises aren’t my favorite thing when they involve people EVER, but particularly not when they involve him right now.

So that night I had am ill-timed date with S, the other Japanese dude I was seeing. I was really emotionally and physically spent, so I don’t think I was my usual sparkly self. But we had a good time drinking wine and eating tasty Italian food and cake balls. In the corner of my mind I was thinking “I need to break it off with this dude”, because I didn’t think the chemistry was there, and I’ve met another guy who I actually really like (but who is currently living close to my parents and not in TX!)… Anyway, S and I talked about all sorts of interesting things (Japanese comedy from the early 2000s!) and then parted relatively early, at 11pm.

Yesterday I got this text, typed out verbatim (he’s lived here for 10 years so we communicate(d) in both English and Japanese depending on what we wanted to say):

“Hi L, how are you? I’m really sorry to tell you that I got very turned off knowing you were interested in women before and you sound you still are [sic]. It was kind of shocking. You are a very interesting person and it’s fun spending time with you. So I would still like to see you as a friend. But I think I lost interest as a date to be honest with you. Sorry but this can happen while we are knowing each other. We can talk on the phone if you like.”

Ok… ok what? So on Saturday I’d told S about how a hotel clerk in TN thought my sister and I were a lesbian couple, and had tried to be thoughtful by suggesting he could move us to a room with one bed… then S asked me if I’d ever had experiences with women, and I said sure, I ran the bisexual student group for a while as an undergrad. I dated women, although none of those relationships made it past the 1 year mark, because I met J in the midst of all that. I told S honestly that these days my orientation is pretty straight.

Anyway, I didn’t think the conversation was a big deal. This is a Japanese guy who doesn’t mind my tattoos, let me go on two feminist rants about Japanese politicians during that same evening, etc. His sisters both married gaijin and moved to South Africa. He’s a typical Todai (University of Tokyo) salaryman in some ways, but…

I haven’t answered because I want to bitch slap him. I have no patience for needing to explain basic sexuality, and why would I want to be friends with someone who finds a basic aspect of my self-identity icky? Dude, this is why you’ve never come close to being married at age 43. Freakin’ evolve already, or don’t date girls with lotsa tattoos and punky short hair. I imagine most of us have smooched a lady or two.

Fehhhhhhhhhhhh. If I could only afford it, I really wish I was going to my shrink more than once a week. Oh, and my dog is sick and I don’t know how to pay to have him taken care of (the vet said it’s either Cushing’s or a tumor, but a more comprehensive, $350 test is needed to determine… ) Meanwhile, I miserably watch as he spends his days drinking liter after liter of water and peeing it back out, shnuffling and coughing etc.

I so wanted to get back to my routine here in HTX, but now that I am here, and I am alone I am just… blah. Trying to keep up the basic productivity. After all, I am on borrowed time with being able to stay in this house, and bleeding my parents dry as they try to support me through this difficult period.

I have too many feelings these days, guys. (Oh dear, a bee just flew into my house. It’s so nice in Houston that I’m working with the bay doors open and they have no screens.)

2014 WILL be better

Our hotel in Slidell, LA. The dog decided she'd like to travel by suitcase.

Our hotel in Slidell, LA. The dog decided she’d like to travel by suitcase.

Oh goodness, 2013’s final present to me was the honest-to-god flu. One of the few bright moments between coughing up a lung and coughing up a  lung has been finding Rohto(ロート) eyedrops in American drugstores. Mint eyedrops in my tired eyes while sick and road tripping across the country? YES SIR. Or wait, maybe they’ve been around for a while in the U.S. and I just never noticed. When I searched in English, this popped up first:

Urban Dictionary, rohto:

Gods [sic] true gift to stoners. The best eye drops on the market

I see. Well…. yes, I can see that (no pun intended).

Anyway, so yes My sister and I roadtripped from near Philly, PA (my hometown) to Houston, TX over the course of three days. It’s about a 24 hour drive, but I broke it up into more like 10-8-5. (With stops, since I basically needed a hot beverage constantly and was drinking about a liter of water an hour, it was more like 13-10-7.) What did I learn from this road trip, other than that cruise control + the flu + stretches of monotonous landscape in Mississippi and Alabama = road hypnosis?

1. Apple maps can still suck it. We followed a highway sign in rural Tennessee to try to go to a Starbucks, because I desperately needed a hot drink and wanted decent (enough) tea. But, typically, the ‘Bux was nowhere to be found once we highway-exited. So I asked Maps. After it tried to turn me onto a dirt trail, I almost chucked the phone out of the car. We kept driving, trying to find a place along the winding road to pull over, and wound up easing into the gravel lot of a dilapidated and unsteady-looking nondenominational church with black crosses in the windows and its own wooden-stand “salon” in the front yard. It was across from a burnt out barn, nonetheless. No lights but our headlights. It would have been a lovely setting for a horror movie, and my sister was legitimately spooked. After that I used Google maps to guide us back to the real Starbucks location, and actually even got a free tea at the lovely new building. Guess it wasn’t -that- rural.

2. People in rural Alabama don’t know what to make of me: I’m not that weird. I’m really, really, not, right? I did have a fresh haircut, so the sides are shaved. I got confirmation throughout this roadtrip that I look like a lesbian (an adorable academic dyke, I’m hoping!), by people for whom this is not a good thing. The car’s low-fuel light was on, so we stopped at the first no-name gas station we could find in a small town. I was paying cash for gas, so I went in to get a coffee (hot beverages!) and pre-pay for my gas. When I entered the shop, everyone inside stopped what they were doing, comedy-sketch style, and sized me up. I gave them a goofy grin and moved to nonchalantly pour myself a coffee while being stared at so intently I was sure I was going to drop something or trip. I smiled big at the good ol’ boy standing to my right, who wasn’t trying at all to hide the look of incredulity and disapproval on his face.

What? Just the short hair? I don’t even merit that kind of attention in Japan, people. (Although… Japanese folks are probably trying harder to hide the stares, eh?)

Similar experience in rural Georgia.

3. New Orleans on New Year’s Eve is exactly how I imagined it. (Enough said). Watch out for flying Mardi Gras beads and unsteady drunks! People watching at its best and worst all at once.

But.. my sister and I found the best live broadcast in rural Louisiana, transmitting from a dive seafood shack. The DJ just did not care that he was singing and talking over the songs, and heckling the customers. S. and I were absolutely crying with laughter. Bonus points for the FEMA trailer jokes.

4. The mountains of Tennessee and Virginia are beautiful. We saw some views that really took my breath away. Blue Ridge Mountains, you are a sight. Mountains meeting bright blue water, and the road running around and through it all, taking the ache out of my lungs and throat for a few minutes. Everything blue and grey and black and white and vivid. And the cold, dark waters of the Louisiana swamps, with trees popping out here and there in the middle of the water- the bridge from Slidell, LA to NOLA…. yeah.

5. Subway has sriracha sauce as an option for their subs now. What’s a vegetarian / health foodie to do for lunch on a road trip, when she’s got two dogs that can’t be left in the car and is trying to bust tail to make good time? Subway! It’s pretty much the only option. So I got my veggie sub, and truth be told, the sriracha sauce was a bit overwhelming on it. But the spiciness was, um, welcome cold medicine.

J wants to go to court and finalize our divorce next week. I was “meditating” this evening (and generally feeling lonely), when I realized that rather than sitting with my eyes closed, doing my meditation-thing, I was staring into space sadly. I told him I had a dream that he fell in love with me again and asked me to re-marry him. He is refusing to engage when I say things like that, and really I don’t even want that dream to come true but… I also want to stop doing things like staying out all night making out with a guy in my parents’ car while visiting them for Christmas. Yeah, I did that. Day after Christmas. The guy gave me the flu.

I thought I couldn’t wait to get back to being home alone, to my routine. The routine is good, and a certain amount of alone time is also good. This is the first night I’ve been alone though in three weeks and it feels weird in a bad way. But I’m -making- myself do it, because the nonstop parade of guy distractions isn’t the healthiest thing either.

10 Ways that Divorce Has Improved My LIfe

I’m having a glum morning. Divorcing means losing my current health insurance, and although I can and will (and have to by their rules) switch to the University’s grad student insurance, it will cost more than $1000 to sign up…. which I just don’t have. And it’s, of course, not as comprehensive by a long shot. And I can’t afford to order my contact lenses… (seriously, screw LASIK. Everyone I know who’s had it has needed vision correction within 10 years, and my eye doc says those who have gotten LASIK pay his mortgage and Mercedes car payments. Feh.)

I know I’m in the company of many, many people who have been tossed from financial security to a precarious position by divorce, but it’s still hard for independent and proud me. So, in order to lift my mood, I’m going to list the things that kind of rock about having to go through a divorce:

1. I’m Getting Fit. I am the fittest I’ve been since high school. Thanks to my friend K, I did that 40 day yoga challenge, and it converted me to Baptiste Power Yoga (sad that I wasn’t into it when I lived in Cambridge or Philly at the same time as Baron Baptiste!) I love feeling myself get stronger. I love being able to do push-ups, and trying new poses that were previously beyond me. I even like the heated rooms at this point. I’m in Bucks County, PA for two weeks visiting my parents, and am missing my Houston studio, even though I’ve been doing yoga here too! Being single means I can go to yoga whenever the whim strikes, without compromising or apologizing or negotiating the car.

2. And Getting Over my Fear of Loneliness. When I moved to Japan, I suffered immensely because I’d never lived alone and was dealing with too many pressures at once. And when I first returned to Houston, I was terrified and depressed. I felt as though I was haunting my own house. I paced. I frantically made plans. I fell into a horrible black sadness every time there was a lull in my distractions. Mostly I used dating to avoid dealing with my own mind. But I’m learning to be okay with just hanging out alone (In the past I loved alone time, because I knew that eventually someone would come home and relieve me of my solitude.) Now if I can learn stillness…

3. Learning to cook. Living with a great cook for my entire adult life meant I never did learn how to cook much of anything. I’m enjoying dusting off all of the cookbooks I had pointlessly accumulated, and making the things I once wanted to try. I’m just -learning- how to enjoy the process and results. Nobody mocks my knife skills, nobody tells me I did anything wrong. I can just learn as I go. I know I don’t cut things correctly, but my food still tastes good to me.

4. Getting to budget. I do so much better with money when I can be a super control freak about it, and without some other reluctant party to mess it up and sabotage my efforts, I can save for the things I want that are more expensive (of course, with no income that’s trickier…) When I splurge on something, I know it’s okay for my budget and I don’t have to argue with anyone over it.

5. Getting to travel if I feel like traveling. If I can scrape together the money (yay frequent flyer miles!) and, so long as I can find a way to deal with the dogs, I’m free to go. Being married to someone who hates to travel was sad during my 20s. If we’d had a budget (see #4) we could have saved for trips… but we didn’t even take a honeymoon.

6. Juice Fast? Sure, why not?. I can randomly decide to do a 7-day cleansing fast if I want to, and nobody can say boo. I’m looking at you, January 7 (when my sister goes back to Philly from Houston). I’m going to try the Cleansing Diet that Baron Baptiste used on his 7-day Bootcamps. I’ll probably get all surly again. But they really do have an overall positive effect on me, and I didn’t expect them to, so I’m not sure the case is strong for a mere placebo effect.

7. Learning to be less useless. With nobody around to handle things like the smoke detector needing a battery change, or the paint chipping on my back doors, I’m just sort of learning to do them myself. I changed my own car oil the other day!

8. For the first time in my adult life, figuring out who I really am.  I defined myself in relation to another person for my entire adult life (19-35), and I am discovering I didn’t have much of a sense of my own strength, or even who I am apart from his opinion of me. So much of me was defined by the feedback I got from him, and not all of it was complementary. I’m also realizing that, because I was the submissive partner in the relationship, I deferred to J’s opinions on a lot of things- but I’m often right (too). Not always, but more than I thought I was.

9. Regaining my Sex Drive! Er, you might want to skip this, friends. But yeah, a dysfunctional relationship can really, really torpedo your sex drive, eh? I’m sure some people are able to sleep with a person towards whom they have years of accumulated hurt and pain and anger, but not I. And I’m enjoying feeling like a more healthy and vital person as a result of not having to wrestle with that emotional garbage constantly. I should qualify that the garbage is still there, but it has nothing to do with my current sex life. 

10. And…  Forcing me to Leave My House. When I am in a relationship, it’s just too easy for me to give in to my introverted instincts, to hide in my house with the other person. Thanks to being single, I’ve gone to (and participated in) The Moth, and Grownup Storytime. I’ve gone out for beers on weeknights, tried bars I hadn’t been to, etc. Forced to leave my house if I want human contact, my life is much more interesting now.

Divorce support group

marrrrrrgarita

This is really the margarita I drank there. I photographed it for you, dear blog-readers.

I had three hours to kill between dropping the dogs off at the groomer, and divorce support group, and I still managed to almost show up late.

I followed a handsome guy about my age into the airy home office of a local shrink. Dr. informed us stragglers that the reason for his running this group free of charge is that he’d relied on a similar group when going through his own divorce several years ago. He’s been running it for three years. On weekends.

(Note: it’s important that things said in support groups remain in confidence, so I’m going to combine some people and mix up some other people’s details, and I hope that’s sufficient. Please let me know if it’s still inappropriate somehow.)

I took a seat, anxiously, not sure how the ice would be broken and if we’d even make it to the part where I could tell this group of people how alone I feel, how big and empty the house is, how I feel like if I wasn’t so clingy I’d have never married the guy to begin with.

I had to do my self-introduction first, and my hands were shaking. I said I just got back to the U.S… and I want to turn around and head right back to Japan where I wasn’t alone. I said that I need to communicate as little as possible with J, because no good comes of it at all. And then we moved to the next person, and the next…

There were a few veterans, discernible both by the Dr. pointing them out, but also by their comparative acceptance of their situations, and self-assuredness. P., a … dare I say “ripped” ex-navy looking guy with a shaved head, who was going through a drawn out and horrendous sounding divorce, counseled the group by co-opting familiar language: “it gets better” (y’all).

Several of the women, ranging in age from a few years my senior to older than my mother, spoke of numerous affairs – that was by far the most common reason for these divorces. There were lies, there were bribes, and for everyone but me there were children involved, but in almost all cases there were a string of infidelities.

Sigh.

A beautiful woman with flawless dark chocolate skin, whose beauty made me think she was my own age (actually 10 years older), broke down in tears talking about being stuck in a city with no support system: no family, few friends, etc. Her tears were met with sympathetic murmurs and commiseration by many of us. I felt, for the first time in a long time: “this is a common kind of misery”.

But misery it still is.

I couldn’t stop looking at a pinata standing on a ledge far above our heads, in the vaulted ceiling. In my depression and deep sadness, I found the advice offered by others to go to the movies solo, to eat at restaurants solo, etc. to be tragic. I loathe being in those kinds of public places by myself. It makes everything worse for me, it really does.

Sigh.

After some tears and some ranting a fair-haired, WASPy looking young woman piped up and said “who’s in for lunch?” Most of us, the lonely and depressed, were down.

This is how I found myself at a Tex-mex restaurant drinking frozen margaritas at noon on a Saturday, with an enormously diverse group of women and men, all of us volleying around short rants peppered with “my ex”. A 65-yeat old woman with vibrant red lips and toes talked about behavior from hers that sounded annoyingly familiar: he coming along on a trip, becoming obsessed with money to the point where he ruined the entire experience by begrudging her even the money needed to get around the city and see the sights. Another woman talked about calling the husband of the woman her husband was sleeping with, telling him everything, and getting the brush-off. Seemed everyone had tried counseling but me; as the youngest I was also the one who had been least successful in getting “my ex” to see a counselor with me in the past.

A 40-something woman complained: “He couldn’t have run out on me when I was in my 20s? I’ll never get a date now.” I thought she was wrong; she looked to me fit and lovely, healthy and together. All of these people (but one, I’ll be honest) looked to be on top of their lives: fashionable clothes, pedicures, glowing skin, wry senses of humor.

I wondered what the exes really were like: I try to never form a (strong) opinion on a relationship of which I’m not a part, but I instinctively took our sides. I wondered what J would say if he came to this group, although he never would. Ever…

Someone spontaneously said that she wanted to go sky-diving. Then it seemed we all did. Seemed the right thing to do, to deal with feelings of being out of control, by deliberately, consciously relinquishing control.

Right now I am trying not to think too far into the future, because anything I can imagine right now features a terrified and alone me, increasingly desperate. So I try to think : “Saturday. Just get through Saturday.”

Apparently it’s easier with margaritas.

When I enter the house and see that he’s dropped off a case of the Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk that I like, I don’t know how to feel. But I do know what I think: “I only want you back because I want somebody, but if my fear of being alone was not so strong, I’d never have married you. So I have to learn not to be afraid before I can really be with anyone, even T” (who sent me drunken selfies of himself swinging on a hammock at a Tokyo roof-party “tonight”-Tokyo time).