human, being

May 19, 2009, 7:28 pm
Filed under: divorce | Tags: , , ,

Tonight, L came home from dinner with her dad wearing a silver necklace with a small disc pendant. The letters L-O-V-E are punched out.

L: Look what Miss S gave me tonight!

Me: Ooh, that’s pretty. Why did she give it to you?

L: Because she said she loves me like a daughter. She got one for E and H too. E’s says hope and H says peace.

I tell her it’s pretty. She looks at me guiltily. I wonder what’s coming next.

L: You know, dad and S are getting married in two Octobers, right?

Me: Yeah …

L: Well, I was wondering if it would be OK if after they get married … She pauses. Looks away. Looks at me.

Me: um, humm

L: Well, would it be OK if I call S Mom, too?

Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. I try to smile. I don’t want her to call anyone but me Mom. I’M MOM damnit.

Me: … Well, yes, but as long as you remember who your Momma is.That’s me.

L: Of course, Mommy. I know that you’re my first mom.

L looks at me seriously: You know what the best thing is Momma? I’ve always wanted them to get married because then my dad will have a family. Like you and Steve have a family. So that means I don’t have to worry about him being lonely when I’m not with him.

I feel her sorrow that her dad hasn’t had the family I’ve had for the past several years. Even with the girlfriends, none has been serious enough to warrant such ideas as calling them mom. I try to be the bigger person, when all I want to do is tell her no, you can’t, because it hurts me. But it’s not about me, is it? It’s about her happiness.

Me: You know, the best thing about our hearts is we’re capable of loving lots of people a whole lot at the same time.

L: Yeah, our hearts are like balloons that we can fill and fill and fill with love, and they get bigger and bigger but never pop.

Food for thought from an 7-year-old.


3,159 emails lighter
May 11, 2009, 2:41 pm
Filed under: divorce, love and relationships | Tags: , ,

It’s been a long time since I’ve cleaned out the sent box on my personal email. Since May 2005 long. 3,159 emails long.

My favorite photo of me and Steve

My favorite photo of me and Steve, circa Feb. '06. We're love-stoned!

Going through my sent box was an archeological dig into the past four years of my life. There were passionate emails written during my dating days before I met Steve, most sent to guys I don’t even remember. Correspondence to a woman I co-wrote a book with, to past freelance clients, resume writing clients, my best friends, my mothers. I found an attachment of the first seven chapters of the last novel I worked on, seemingly lost in a computer crash in 2007. I found my favorite photo of me and Steve, taken by his friend Greg two months into our relationship.

It was interesting to remember, for a short time, who I was back in 2005, not even a year into my divorce. But I’m not that girl. I hardly recognized my own voice in my writing. I was a mess and I didn’t know it.  I can see now that I was barely holding it together, but back then I felt like I’d conquered the world. I thought I was past it. I was actively looking for someone new, thinking I was ready. I wasn’t. Really. Not at all. And I think the collection of bad boyfriends I racked up during 2004-2006 is a great illustration.

I’m usually not an accumulator. I’m that person who purges her closets twice a year, who has just one box of sentimental objects, and it’s only half-full. I go through my personal inbox a couple of times a month and file stuff I think I’ll need later in folders. So it seems odd to me that it has been four years since I hit the delete button on my sent box.

I did go through the list first, and I pulled out all the emails sent to Steve and to my ex, anything with pictures in it (many also lost in the great laptop meltdown of 2007), anything else that looked important. That totaled about 250 messages, less than 10% of the whole.

I have a tiny niggling regret, because in effect I just wiped out a significant portion of my history, or at least documentation of my history. However, I feel lighter, freer, more nimble for having let go of all of that stuff that has no purpose in my life anymore.

You should try it.

Protected: The drama continues: MBA
May 4, 2009, 3:42 pm
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Protected: I can’t compete with that New Mommy Smell
April 30, 2009, 11:42 am
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Protected: To meddle or not to meddle in my ex’s love life
April 29, 2009, 12:15 pm
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Little bits of despair
March 17, 2009, 2:56 am
Filed under: divorce, work | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tonight, as I finished up Jennifer Weiner’s “Little Earthquakes,” Steve tickled my back and asked me what is wrong. It was after midnight, on a worknight, and I was still awake.

“I’m just feeling anxious,” I told him. Five minutes later, I turned off the light and came to the living room so he could sleep.

There’s a bit of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, a slow worry of butterflies circling there. And then there are little bits of despair circling among the butterflies. Anxiety is about my lack of control of everything in my life. Despair is about wanting something that I cannot yet identify. I know that something has to do with how I spend the majority of my time: work.

I like my job. I like the people I work with. I believe in the important work my organization does. But I’m bored. Regardless of title or location or mission, this is essentially the same job I’ve been doing since I was 17 years old and editor of my high school newspaper. I’m damn good at it–great even. I’ve won awards, pretty awards that throw rainbows on my white office walls when the sun shines through them. I have more responsibility–aka, more work–in my current job. I have a little more clout. Still, it’s the same-old, same-old.

Every Monday, I receive a PR/marketing jobs list by email. Every Monday, I scan through the jobs. Nothing thrills me. None of the jobs listed are much different than what I’m doing now. The money is the same, or less. The cause, usually, is less inspiring. Seriously, I work for an NCI cancer center–exciting stuff is being done by smart people there. Several days each week, I get to learn more about biology, which actually interests me. People out there would love to have my job, with my benefits (10% match to my 5% 401k contribution, for example). And here, a kvetch that it’s not enough.

And bits of despair. My heart knows that, as good as this job is, it’s not how I want to spend my time for the foreseeable future. What do I want to do? I don’t know. There’s the rub.

Maybe I’m lazy at heart, because what I really would love to do is to NOT work for anyone. Do nothing at all. Retire. And maybe, just maybe, lessening the noise, the distraction in my life would allow me to figure out what’s next for me. I feel like something IS next but I can’t see what it is. I feel like the something is MORE. Bigger, yet not in an 8 to 5 way.

Actually, my ex accuses me of retiring in 2000–the year of the beginning of our demise. I hated, HATED my job and my boss. I was truly in a hostile work environment, and had I known better, I would have filed a lawsuit. Instead, I quit and started a freelance writing business. My intention was to work about 15 hours a week on freelance jobs and spend about 10 to 15 working on my personal writing–poetry, stories, maybe a novel. My oh-so-supportive ex told me, “Lynn, you quitting your job to become a poet is like me quitting my job to become a professional fly fisherman. Those are hobbies, not jobs.” Because at that time in my life I believed others’ opinions of me were more important than mine, I listened to him and didn’t write a lick of poetry, not a single story.

For the first six weeks I did nothing but detox. Three weeks after quitting, I stopped having nightly work nightmares. Four weeks later, I stopped eating Tums by the handful. Five weeks in, I started calling leads, and six weeks in I started my first two projects. Most days, I got up around 8, had breakfast, exercised, watched the Price is Right while getting ready for the day, worked for about four hours, ran errands and did housework, got dinner started and waited for the ex to come home. I was happier, even though my marriage sucked. I got pregnant after almost a year of trying, I believe partially because my stress level had dropped from RED to green. It didn’t matter that I was ew-y in the morning and really tired in the afternoon. I was in charge of my time. I took the mornings slowly and took naps. I went to client meetings by phone. I wrote website copy, an annual report, a series of newsletters for the nursing school and pharmacy school. I had a good stable of clients from the start. I did this routine for about six months, until I got my cancer diagnosis. Then I didn’t work much for the next nine months. Lauren was born in June. I had every intention of going back to work in October, but 9/11 wiped out the freelance market and I went to work part-time.

I loved working part-time: three days for them, four days for me. I got to spend time with my daughter. I got to spend time using my brain. I got to do mommy things with other mommies. I got to have grown-up conversations on a regular basis. I got to have the social outlet of a workplace, which I missed when I was at home with an infant all the time. I got to earn regular money without having to market myself. When I got divorced, I went to working four days a week–I needed more money, but my employer wouldn’t let me go full time. Secretly, I loved the time off. When my daughter went to full-day kindergarten, I started working every-other Friday as well. I still had that one extra day for me. I usually spent it writing, or taking pictures, or going for drives, or running errands so Lauren and I would have uninterrupted time on the weekend. In 2006, I started working full time again. That was hard. I missed having that Friday for me.

Eighteen months later I moved into my current job. It was a slight step up, and it was a change at least after being with the previous employer for almost seven years. The first year of this job was incredibly stressful: the politics, the learning curve, two enormous projects right off the bat. I went from being that person everyone went to for information to that person who knew zilch. When I found out I could claim comp time, I rejoiced. I don’t work much overtime anymore, but in the first three months I was averaging 50+ hours a week. The past nine months have slowed down a bit. I’ve decided that I cannot go on acting as if I am a full-fledged department when I am only one person. Unfortunately, that means disappointing some people who I have over-promised and will now need to under-deliver. (Lucky for me there will be no raises for University employees this year, regardless of performance.) I feel like I run on a quarter-tank most of the time. I’m committed but not fully engaged.

I keep thinking about these little bits of despair that float up to my head like plastic bags caught in a draft. They mean something–I’m off path, perhaps. I felt this same way in November of 2002 when, deathly ill with the flu, my ex refused to go to the store for more Kleenex, and I lurched to King Soopers myself, wiping my nose on my sleeve through my fevered haze. I remember not thinking, but feeling that I wanted more than this. But THIS is what I’d committed to. THIS was all I could see through the windshield. I could daydream about being with someone else–a man who loved me and respected me, who didn’t beat me down–but  couldn’t see that daydream as reality. And here I am, almost seven years later, feeling the same way about my career, and feeling solid in the relationship department. Right now, at almost 4 am on St. Patrick’s Day 2009, I can’t see anything except the career I currently have.

Since I was a little girl, I knew I would be a writer when I grew up, and I am. It’s not so much what I do, but what I am–the essence of me. I’ve gone the route in my writing life that requires the least amount of risk. Journalism. Corporate communications. Public relations. I get to write for a living, a good living, I say, but the honest truth is writing is perhaps 15 percent of my job. I’m a project manager, which is fine for now, but not forever.

There are days that I fantasize about just calling in “done.” Realistically, I can’t do that right now. I’m the bigger bread winner. And I like having money for things like haircuts in a real salon, and occasional vacations like the mini-break we just took. And my simple Honda Civic. And food on the table. And TiVo. So tomorrow morning (or maybe that’s this morning, given the current time), I will get up and go to work, and I will do a good if not excellent job, and I will generally not feel bad about the work I’m doing, and I will sometimes get really excited about a story I stumble upon. I am grateful that I have this job, which pays well, is flexible and helps promote a place that does an enormous amount of good in the world.

And I’ll continue to pay attention to the little bits of despair, and do my best to listen for the message they are sending me.