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Damage

27 Jun

In our closest relationships, we can do the most damage. When you know someone so well–their hopes, their fears, their failures, their successes, there are times when that knowledge is leveraged against the person we know and love. Anger builds up and we lash out with angry words. Why do we do that? Is it because we feel safe and that we believe we’ll be forgiven? Is it that this person can spin us up like no other? I wish I had the answer. What I do know is that sometimes that damage happens over and over again and causes irreparable damage to a person’s spirit; leaving behind scars that are deep within each of us.

In the movie Heathers starring Winona Ryder as Veronica Sawyer, she asks this of one of the Heathers, “What’s your damage, Heather?” I ask myself that same question. What has made you to feel this way, act this way, react this way and what are you going to do to change it? How does one undo the damage that has been done? I suppose the first step is in identifying what the damage is, how it was caused and where is the real truth.

Part of the issue lies within me. The lie that most damaged me was one that already existed within my own psyche and it became my truth.  It took on more power when those words were spoken out loud by the person who had taken vows to love me till death. The words left his lips and pierced my heart, “No one will ever love you. You are too hard to love.” He followed that with explaining how he was the only one who could ever love me. I was damaged goods. I am independent, strong willed,  outspoken, successful–all things that made me hard to handle. At least, that’s what I believed.

Then, someone from my past came back into my life and told me he’d always loved me. The lie was no longer my truth. I can be loved. Over time, after my divorce, more men came out and told me that regardless of whatever it was I believed, they’d always thought I was amazing, awesome, hot, whatever their words were they freed me little by little from the damage. I wish I could say that I don’t ever believe that lie. Unfortunately, I do. The longer I am single, the longer I am dateless, the longer I have in my own head, the more I let that become my truth again. There must be something wrong with me if no one wants me, right?! Wrong. It could be that the venues I choose for networking, socializing and the like are not ones that would allow me to find someone. It could be that I am still healing and learning to love myself. It could be my confidence or at times my insecurity that are a turn off. Or, it could be none of that. It might just be what it is…I haven’t found someone that was interesting enough for me to want to pursue or be pursued by.

We are all damaged in some way. That doesn’t make us unlovable. That doesn’t make us less than. It does not make us worthless. It does not make us not enough. We allow those things to be our truths by accepting them as such. I am choosing each day to change those things I used to allow to define me to be redefined. There is power in words, so choose which words you use and accept wisely!

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Differences to Embrace

13 Jun

Sometimes a woman needs a man who is a brother friend more than she needs a romantic attachment. She needs someone who is strong enough to say to her, “Say baby, the way you acted the other night, that’s not right, or that wasn’t the swiftest thing you could do.” At the same time she needs him to be strong enough to say, “Hey baby that was so brilliant, I am so proud of you, you were wonderful!”
– Maya Angelou

That’s the kind of men we women need in our lives. The ones who love us enough to tell us the honest truth. A bonus of men friends is that they are honest, direct and don’t add all the fluff stuff. That doesn’t mean that they can’t love us enough to be soft, kind and gentle with us and our hearts, it just means that they aren’t going to feed us a load of shit while they do it. At least not the men who we WANT and NEED in our lives won’t. If you have a guy like that in your life, count yourself blessed. I know I do. My Chris talks truth to me and fact when no one else does or did and always just when I need it. He’s the guy pal I seek out when things get tough.

At the end of 2008 when I was struggling with whether or not to leave my now ex-husband, he spoke these truths to me in the form of questions I needed to ask myself:

1. If it weren’t for the kids, would you stay?
2. If this were your best girlfriend going through this, what advice would you give her?
3. Why do you feel the need to always take responsibility for everything? When are you going to realize that you’re not the problem and you can’t be the solution to his?

When I answered those questions with my truths, I knew what I needed to do. Still, I stayed. I still felt responsible for the happiness of my children and couldn’t yet break up our family. It really was a blessing that something else occurred and allowed me to set myself free; to allow myself happiness and freedom of spirit again.

I was watching “Dexter” (Season 5, episode 11) the other day and one of the characters, Joseph Quinn (“Quinn”), tells his partner, Debra Morgan (“Debra”), the following after telling her he loves her and he can’t help but feel that way:

Quinn: There are not many women like you. I know that. You’re more…like…a guy.

Debra: A guy?.

Quinn: You don’t play games where I have to figure out what you’re really saying; you just say it. Usually with a lot of really filthy words I’ve never heard before. You’re the first one who’s really called me on my bullshit; made me take a hard look at myself. It’s made me a better person, I think. I just don’t want to lose you, that’s all.

My guy friend is like that. He’ll call me on my “bullshit” and “[make] me take a hard look at myself.” I have a passionately filthy potty-mouth myself and am very direct. I totally relate to Debra. She’s a “guy’s girl”. The kind that you can just be you in front of and not worry about all the other BS. I hope my guy friends and the men who have loved me in my past and found me “unforgettable” found me so because I am unique in the kind of woman I am. To me, some of the people who have touched me the most–in a way that has influenced me and helped me to become the woman I am–have been men. I know I feel blessed to have had and to currently have such wonderful and amazing men in my life.

Dating!

10 Jun

Dating when you are unencumbered by a bunch of responsibilities, priorities, and kids is easy-peasy!  I was also in the Navy which meant a bunch of young kids serving their country and ready to have a good time doing it. Don’t get me wrong, being a service member is hard work and we work a lot, but we have a tight-knit community of people and since life could end at any given moment, we enjoy each of those moments to their fullest! At least that was my experience in Pensacola, FL, Millington, TN and most of all…San Diego, CA! In San Diego, there are bases galore. Even though I was at the Naval Air Station, there was 32nd Street where the ships dock, the Naval Amphib Base, and north to Oceanside was my favorite base belonging to the Navy’s land force…the United States Marine Corps…OOH-RAH! Seriously, while there were Enlisted Clubs at each of the bases and the legal age to drink was 18 to keep us out of Mexico was 18 (though, we still went to Mexico!), the one at Camp Pendleton was 3 clubs in one–a rock/pop club, a country music club and a hip-hop/dance/techno club. It ROCKED! Hard bodied men who were taught to respect women–most were just out of boot camp so they hadn’t lost this appreciation, yet. Getting a date and meeting someone was easy to do.

When I got married to my husband in 1994, I was 22 years old (and no, he was NOT a Marine; sadly!) and I never thought I would have to worry about dating again. Ahem! Scroll forward to where I am now barely 37, just moving into a new place and sharing 50/50 custody of our 3 children with my soon-to-be ex. Soon after separating, I was ready to be done with that part of my life and move on to what was next. So how does one date in the 21st century?! Online, of course. Meeting a guy at the bar is not the way to meet quality peeps unless it just so happens to be a networking event or a group of friends getting together where you can somewhat trust the quality and caliber of the people with whom you are mingling.

At 38 and quickly rounding the corner to 39 in a little over 6 weeks, with all of the responsibilities of a grown-up woman, dating is no longer as fun or easy. And having kidS in the mix makes it even more challenging compared to those days when you are young, loving life without excuse and have few responsibilities and no one relying on you and watching and learning from you….yeah, a little more complicated to say the least! Plus, it all depends on what you want at this age and stage of your life. The big thing for me is that I am not interested in casual sex. I truly believe that sex is something shared between a man and woman out of love and commitment to one another. What I am challenged with is will I wait until marriage or will I wait until love. I don’t have that answer. As a Christian and a woman who’s been wrong about a man (or a few) she’s loved before, I know all the reasons to wait until marriage as that commitment. So as not to set any false expectations within a  relationship, I get the fact that I don’t do casual sex right out there when I start talking to someone. That weeds a lot of people out right at the get go. All that to say that I even got to the talking part. In some cases, based on online dating scenarios, the fact I have kids–let alone the fact that there are 3 of them–is more than many men are interested in taking on. Though, I do point out that only two live with me every other week; my teenager chooses to see me when he wants. To top it all off, I have certain things I want in a partner as well.

When I first got divorced, I made a list of the things I wanted and did not want from a man with whom I would have a relationship:

Characteristics and qualities I will NOT put up with for the next guy I chose…

  1. Lying or lack of honesty with himself or with me
  2. Cheating
  3. Lack of integrity/ethically dysfunctional
  4. Financial irresponsibility
  5. Passive or passive aggressive
  6. Someone who makes me feel worth less than I am either directly or indirectly
  7. Someone who is an “almost” good fit—I am not looking for perfection, but I don’t want a repeat
  8. Not an angry or jealous man – understands that men and women can be friends and not every man has an agenda for getting into my pants
  9. Cynicism or negativity
  10. Someone whose sex drive doesn’t match my own

Must-haves – the things a guy’s got to have if he wants to get close to me…

  1. Faith in God and that Jesus is His one and only son…or at least a willingness to make that a priority
  2. Good sense of humor
  3. Knows I have kids and wants to be a part of their life knowing they already have a father
  4. Understands that I don’t want to have other children
  5. Desire to travel (locally, nationally and internationally) and to vacation with the kids from time to time
  6. Ability to laugh at himself or quickly get over it when he makes a mistake or we have a disagreement—let it go and let’s move on!
  7. Someone who makes good money…I don’t want to carry the financial burden again
  8. Someone who will pursue me and desire me as their partner
  9. Someone who is very affectionate and wants to take care of me (emotionally, physically, etc.)
  10. Learned…I want someone that I enjoy talking to and with whom I can talk about anything – sex, religion, politics, my work, his work, the future, our faith, etc.
Those things still stand true today. Am I flexible on them? Yes. I can be. For instance, #1 in my must haves is flexible because I know that just because someone isn’t a believe right now doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t be. While I don’t want to have other children at this stage in my life, if it was something that was important to my husband, I would certainly not deny him this if he never had children of his own. I am not getting any younger, though, and with each year that passes, this is going to become less flexible. #7 is subjective. A man doesn’t necessarily need to make money equal to my own, he just needs to have a job, work regularly and not think I am going to be his sugar mama. Regarding #9 and taking care of me, we all have needs and I know very well what mine are. First and foremost, acts of service (doing something for me just because) and physical touch are my two top love languages which means that I feel loved when love is given to me in those ways. The next most important thing is understanding that I need a man who can handle me. Marilyn Monroe’s description of herself sounds right on for me as well, “I’m [a little] selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” That said, I need a guy who can handle me at my worst because I am way worth it even at my not so best 🙂

Lysa TerKeurst just posted what she called “the right questions to ask before spending time with a friend boy. (And yes, that wording is intentional.)” on her blog. This is part of a book she’s writing for teen girls. Thing is, I think it’s important regardless of your age–especially if you, like me, haven’t always been good at choosing the right guy:

Worship- Who or what does he worship in the shrine of his heart?

Words- Do his words (spoken and written) build others up or tear them down?

Character- Who is he when no one else is looking?

Personality- Who is he around other people?

Interests- What kinds of things does he do to recharge?

Feelings- Do you feel better about yourself when he’s around?

Attraction- Is your attraction to him centered around something that will stay over time?

__________________________

When asking these questions about a boy you are interested in don’t ask based on what you hope will be in the future, ask these questions based on the reality of today.

That last statement is KEY. People can change, but only when they want to and choose to. Every day we have to choose our attitude, to love, and to be all that we are and all we want to be. If we don’t choose, we don’t become anything different than we are right in this moment. Dating is not an easy task. It is complicated by life and all that comes with it. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, though. In the end, dating is the beginning of forever with the right person. Just take it one person and one step at a time to see where it goes. There’s no rush as there’s no finish line for this one. Enjoy the ride!

Devastation

4 May

As I watched the news of the tornadoes and storms that ripped across the southern U.S. and where I live in Ohio last week, a word rings in my ears: devastation. A wide swath of destruction has run through my life upending relationships, leaving me feeling like I don’t belong, and raw like the bare earth across whose path the tornado has blown. The sentiment of a fellow blogger who is heading through her own journey toward divorce said this in her post: “One of the hard things about being separated and looking at the possibility of divorce is the change of identity and roles.” I have seen my own roles change and have found the need to re-identify so many things in my life. One cannot keep living in the ways of old and believe that things will change. And the winds of change are blowing hard and fast…

Do-over

19 Apr

I learned recently that Pepe is engaged. It’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. It’s left me reeling a bit. Not because I want to be with him, but because I want someone all my own, too. I suppose part of it is that I want him to suffer as a single-father and toil in that a bit longer; not to have a wife who can share the challenges and work that it takes to go it alone. I am not usually a vengeful person, but I do have to admit I want a little bit of Karma to be doled out to him.

He gets married Memorial Day weekend. That was always the weekend we’d go to NY to be with his family when we were married. As it turns out, it was the weekend they were first together last year when they started dating. Yep. That’s right. They’ve been together less than a year, got engaged a couple weeks ago, and will be married in about 6 weeks. I was thinking about getting him a wedding present–ya know, to say “no hard feelings, enjoy your do-over” or whatever. What do you think about getting him a shirt made with this on it?:

Whatdya think? Too much?

But seriously, that’s what it feels like. A do-over. A mulligan. Screwed up the with the first wife (me) so I am gonna take another shot at this. He says he’s changed. That he’s a different person now. That he’s learned. Blahblahblah (that’s what I hear). For her sake, I hope that is the case. For the sake of our children, I pray that is the case. Loss is loss. Our marriage hasn’t even been over for 2 years yet. Our children are still grieving its loss and adjusting to their new circumstances. Shit, I am still grieving its loss after fifteen years of marriage and 17 years together.

Now, the kids get a step-mom (whom they adore and is an angel to them–I really do like that they like her which makes me like her) and a new brother. A brother they all seem to enjoy.  Am bitter about it? Yes. Bitter that he’s got someone and I am alone. Sucks feeling this way! It’s not the kind of person I usually am (“Bitter party of 1, your table is now available”). It makes me feel selfish! I hate selfish!

All of our journeys take different paths. We all come to new places at different times and at different speeds. Throughout the post-divorce life cycle, there are stages we go through; stages of grief based on the loss of your partner which are inherent to divorce are:

  1. shock or disbelief
  2. denial
  3. anger
  4. bargaining
  5. guilt
  6. depression
  7. acceptance or hope
I think I must be between guilt and depression. Guilt that I maybe could have done more–though this is completely irrational because I could not have–and depression because when you want to be married/in a relationship and aren’t it’s hard to see others finding their forever. At least it has been so far for me. It makes me wonder if I will ever find it. I read a blog post today that was talking about why people stay in bad relationships and/or aren’t able to find a new relationship because “They think so lowly of themselves that they actually BELIEVE that they don’t deserve or won’t be able to attract a truly loving partner.” Stinkin’ thinkin’, my friends. You have to believe to receive! So, while I am working on me, I will be working on that. Here’s to acceptance and hope coming soon!

Decisions, decisions…

12 Apr

Making the decision to divorce is never an easy one. You’ve invested yourself in this relationship for a period of time. That investment is one of blood, sweat and tears. Marriage is hard work. It takes time and effort to maintain a relationship with someone. You have to learn about compromise, love, respect, needs, desires, temperaments, and personalities. On top of that, there may also be children involved which further deepens that tie and complicates that relationship. It’s a delicate balancing act of the needs of your children, your spouse and yourself on top of the demands of external forces such as your job, each of your families, your friends, and the world at large. If you’re a Christian like me, there is also the concern of what the Bible says about divorce.

Knowing when it’s really over is different for each person. I have a girlfriend who’d had what looked like a happy and successful marriage from an outsider’s perspective, but once you got closer you saw the cracks. When she confided in me years ago that she was thinking about divorcing, I couldn’t understand what was holding her back. She had no children. She had a great job and was more than capable of going it on her own. Even her financial situation was perfect–made good money, had a good savings, good investments, etc. While all of those areas matter to a degree, they are small compared to letting go of all you have put into this relationship you have had with someone. The years filled with memories, the good times, the potential…we want to believe that maybe there is hope. Maybe there is something we haven’t tried yet. So, we try some more to see if these things can fix our marriage. The problem is that it takes both parties to try; when you’re the only one trying and the other person is just along for the ride, it doesn’t go anywhere. It’s important to make those last ditch efforts, though. Those efforts are of a personal nature so we can walk away in the end without looking back and wondering if I could have done anything more. And, at some point, you want to be able to say that I did all I could because I can only control my actions and decisions. The decisions and actions of my partner are ones that they will have to contend with in their time.

She did finally divorce, but at the time I still didn’t understand why it took her so long until I was in the situation that I was thinking about divorce. It was 2008. Soon after our 14th wedding anniversary, an old friend from my Navy days was getting ready to head off to Iraq for a year and he got back in touch with me. He told me how amazing and special I had always been to him. It was the final thing I needed to free me from my relationship. Or, so I thought. In January of that year, I had lost my grandfather who was the first love of my life. That was the first awakening to my personal misery in my marriage. In July, I was hired to work for my current company and my sense of self-worth sky rocketed. And then, I found out that I could be loved just as I was. It was freeing! At the same time, though, it was also very confusing. This wasn’t just breaking up with Pep, a man I had been married to for 14 years and loved for the last 16 years, but it would mean breaking up my family.

As a child of divorce myself, this was a big concern for me. My parents’ divorce was hard on my siblings and me. We each came out of it with varying degrees of damage. I knew that I married a man who was a great dad so some of my pain would not be their pain–or so I thought. We told the kids at the end of December 2008 that we were going to divorce. It was melt-down city. I was a mess thinking about how this was going to affect them. My pain was nothing compared to theirs was all I could think. I read books, I prayed, I talked to my siblings and my mom, and then I revoked my divorce decision and said we’d work things out. Thing was, when we were supposed to be working things out, Pep was out doing what had gotten us into this mess in the first place. His selfishness and lack of self-control in regard to having a monogamous relationship with me wasn’t revealed to me at the time. We had a talk in January 2009 where I told him that if he did it again–because he got caught in January again by me–that I was done. At the end of April, he got caught again. Now, I had to decide if I was going to hold to my word or just keep letting him do this to me. For a week, I toiled in this. I contacted our pastor in charge of congregational care/counseling, but he was away until the end of May. I met with him on May 20st and walked out of his office after an hour-long, tear-filled discussion about my marriage. In the end, the decision was mine, but he reminded me that I was Biblically sound in divorcing Pep if that’s what I felt led to do.

I had peace for the first time in months as I walked out into the sunshine. I felt the weight lifted off me. I knew that Jesus was with me and that while what would come next would not be easy, I had made my decision and felt it was the right one. I called Pep and told him I wanted a divorce. He cried and tried to plead his case. I told him I had given him every opportunity for too many years. Now, he had to live with the consequences of his own decisions.

Divorce and Taxes

6 Apr

While we all know that death and taxes are the only two things that are inevitable, with tax time fast approaching I am reminded about how divorce made me hate tax time all the more. On my twitter feed today was a post from Time magazine about this subject. In 2009, when I decided to get my divorce, I wasn’t thinking much about the tax implications. The only thing I did think about was that if I was living apart from my spouse for at least the last 6 months of the year, I could file head of household. Oh, the things you learn from you already divorced friends! Thing of it is, that doesn’t always apply and I didn’t know that at the time. Additionally, even though I was not living with him much of July, it wasn’t until August 1 that I officially moved into my own place. As you can see, that was still shy of the 6 months needed to even be considered as such. This year, still not able to be head of household. Why? Even though I have my kids half the time, I gave my ex the house and all three kids as his dependents to be claimed each year for tax purposes as he is the residential parent. I figured he’d be spending the most on their expenses as we’d agreed, but it’s still not working that way. I buy their shoes most of the time and I have to buy clothes for them to wear at my house so we’re not transferring things back and forth each week–not the way it was supposed to work!

So, back the the tax debacle…when I filed for my 2009 taxes, I realized I had to file single even though I had a status of married throughout the entire year. That meant that I had not paid into taxes enough. On top of it, while I pay child support, I don’t pay alimony. Child support is tax neutral while alimony is a deduction. I am happy that I am not paying alimony, but sad that my deductions are so few. That all meant that I owed a TON of cash to the government. I immediately corrected my filing status so that I would not be in such a mess for 2010. That change and the fact that I got a 20% pay cut in 2010 slashed my taxes owed from 2009 to 2010 by 75%. WINNING! No, not really. It still sucks. When you’re getting divorced, take all these things into consideration. One of the things I read in the Time article is that I could have switched the dependent piece so he gets to claim them one year and I get to claim them the next. That was something I had not considered. My ex also go a TON of cash back last year because he did get to claim everything, I could have asked that he split that with me. These are all considerations for you if divorce is something on your radar.

Stop being nice and conciliatory and just trying to get out and not make waves. Protect yourself so you don’t end up in another D word like me…DEBT!

Destiny

30 Mar

Destiny. A predetermined course. Does it exist? I think it does. That doesn’t negate our free will, it just means that in the end you get where you are meant to be. It’s the path we take to get there that changes.

My path was laden with things that definitely shaped who I am. I still haven’t figured it all out, yet, and I am sure I have lots still to learn. The key is that I have learned and grown to become the person I need to be in order to deal with what comes next through each new adventure and experience in my life’s journey. I am sure that your story is similar in that regard.

When I was getting married, I went to Las Vegas. We were stationed in San Diego at the time so Las Vegas was a short 6 hour drive. Six hours of non-stop arguing. I used to think that our arguing was passionate and fiery. After a while, NOTSOMUCH. Maybe I should add here that I was 10 weeks pregnant at the time. We celebrated our decision to get married in the bedroom which led to this pregnancy. That’s where passionate and fiery really matter, right?! Anyway, back to Vegas…once we got to The Little White Wedding Chapel, a lot had transpired. As I stood at the end of the aisle in my Birkenstocks and wedding attire, the voice in my head was yelling “run, run, run” and I was telling my little voice that even though he looked terrified standing at the end of the aisle, we were going to have a baby, he would be a good dad, he was a hard worker, and had some money saved up; he was safe and secure. So, I married him. Notice that in the conversation with myself love and happily ever after didn’t come up. That is not to say that I didn’t love him, it was just not what led me down the aisle.

My road with him pre-marriage was a rocky one. Filled with drama, arguments and cheating on me. For some reason, no matter how often we broke up, we got back together. I thought that meant he was meant to be. That we were destined to be together. Instead, what I have learned is that I didn’t love myself enough to believe that I was worth more. I also believed that once married, the cheating would stop. It didn’t.

I don’t regret my decision or the journey it took me on. I have 3 amazing children who have a dad who loves them and cares for them beyond my hopes for them. I wanted my children to have a dad; a dad that I myself had always wanted. I got that. Being with my ex allowed me to achieve much of the things I wanted in way of a career even though we had a child soon after we were married. I completed my Bachelor’s degree and have earned a good living. He was very supportive of all my accomplishments. I have not lived out my destiny–since we’re alive, our stories are still unfolding–but I feel I am finally on the right path. Divorce was just a stop along the road…

D-words

18 Mar

I am currently in hate with d-words. Why? Because the big-daddy of them all, a.k.a. Divorce, and I became too well-acquainted. Technically, in the state of Ohio, I had my marriage dissolved (a dissolution of marriage) rather than undertake the arduous process of a divorce. All that means is that Pepe le Pew (the ex, to be heretofore known as ‘Pepe’) and I were able to agree on the particulars and divvy up our accumulation of shared and unshared assets and debts.

With those d-words, divorce and dissolution, come a whole host of others that lead to or stem from the consequential divorce.

D-words that lead to divorce: debauchery, discontent, diametric opposition, differences (of an irreconcilable nature), discord, disparagement, disrespect, division, depression, dread, damaged.

D-words that followed divorce: disconnectedness, doldrums, dating, death (of the marriage/relationship), dieting, discernment, disentangled, delighted, debt.

D-words describe feelings, places and emotions. They are words that help to tell a story. And so begins mine…life after the D-WORD!

To jump or not to jump began this quest…and jump I did! Now, to deal with the aftermath…