My Still Unmade Bed

I know this is a long one, but seems memoir is…so here is my write something funny assignment. Class is almost over so hang in with me. And sorry about last weeks lack of a post. It is a another long story..

The stillness of the house made the morning sun feel like a my friend, who in their presence, I naturally slow down and breath deeper. This was one of the weekends I had to myself while Jena stayed with her dad. I was beginning to relish these periodic weekends alone as I became more comfortable in my own company, hearing less from my inner demon that would tell me, with great certainty, that I would never make it on my own. That I would never find anyone to share my life with.  He–yes it’s a male voice–would not stop there. He (me) would expound on why I would spend the rest of my life alone, using a tone of voice that convinced me he knew what he was talking about. The inner criticism who begin with, “you are too picky, you aren’t picky enough, you are too much, too needy, too tall, too scared, too injured, you don’t know how to love,” and end with, “you are a mess, my dear!”

So, in the absence of my nasty self, I planned this staycation retreat weekend. I considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, somewhere lovely with a Victorian four poster, canopied, quilted bed, serving gourmet breakfasts and quiet fields to roam. But my financially frugal inner accountant pursed his–are they all male voices?–lips together, folded his arms firmly across his chest and admonished, “Think again sweetie, you are staying right here, you can’t afford it.” So I stayed home.

I needed time to consider, reflect, renew, and figure a few things out; like what I am going to do with the rest of my life. I let my friends know my plans, that way when they didn’t hear from me or I didn’t answer the phone they wouldn’t think I had fallen into that deep, dark pit I frequently mentioned. I told my daughter the same, but assured her if she really needed me, she could call my cell phone. I shopped for food I love, shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, fresh asparagus and a great bottle of wine. I picked up the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, a story about a divorced woman redesigning her life.

I was well prepared for my weekend retreat to begin.

I woke leisurely, feeling grateful that I could take this luxurious time out. I was also thankful to be waking alone in the previous marital bed. I knew when I decided to marry, Unknown23-years-ago, I would miss sleeping alone. I always loved that sense of freedom and privacy of being in my own bed, wrapped in the covers, with no one else to consider. I moved slowly, allowing my body to wake as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen to make that first great cup of coffee. As I waited for it to brew, I decided to cover the microwave clock so I could ignore its bright red face insisting on the time. I wanted to hear the voice of my own internal clock this weekend.  After all, isn’t that what a retreat weekend is all about?

As I blindfolded the clock there was a knock on the kitchen door. I turned around, to see my neighbor Kyle standing on the other side of the french doors. Kyle and his family owned a weekend home up the street. I hadn’t known they would be here this weekend. I momentarily resented his intrusion to my quiet movements, but cajoled myself saying, “be nice and there is no escape, he knows you are home.” I opened the door. We did a neighborly shoulder only hug hello. I was still in my morning sweats.

I liked Kyle. I liked his wife and kids too. Our families got together often when they visited. Kyle explained he was here to do some work on their house, Laura and the kids decided to stay home. He said he was on a run and decided to stop in to see how I was fairing after the separation. How thoughtful I mused. We caught up on the kids, his and Laura’s trip to Italy, and my pathetic current circumstance. Even though I had planned to be alone and contemplative, I was comforted that someone had checked in on me.  I was also certain he wouldn’t be staying long.

We finished our coffee — I offered only one cup — and got up off the kitchen stool to rinse my mug in the sink. Kyle came up behind me, presumably to rinse his too, but instead wrapped his arms around my waist pulling me tightly into the front of his body. I tried hard not to feel anything I knew I wasn’t supposed to be feeling. I was speechless. My brain and my mouth were not engaged.

As he held me, he lamented his concerns for his son who had recently started college and was struggling socially and scholastically. Since my ears were working, I listened to what he was saying, while still trying to make sense of his physical contact. It had been a long time since I had needed to decipher another mans intentions. Obviously too long. I naively concluded Kyle must be very upset about his son and be in need of a friendly hug. Nothing else made sense. After all, he was married and our families were friends. I assured myself by he meant nothing by it. As he released me I fell tipsy to one side. I was off balance.

We continued to talk as though this was normal contact for us. I half paid attention to what he was saying, the other half of my attention was listening to my now engaged inner banshee, who was screaming, “What the fuck was that?” This time it was a female voice, a rather outraged female voice.

I’d like to report it ended here. It didn’t. Kyle made it known, in several explicit ways-that even I didn’t miss-that he was at my service. Did I look like I needed to be serviced, I wondered? Was this what I got for ending my marriage…offers from other women’s husbands? Had I misread Kyle’s friendship all these years? I began to question my judgement. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him in. Should I kick him out? I felt like I didn’t know anything any more. I felt scared that maybe I was doomed to be alone, a woman with too many cats — my demon had returned.

I didn’t get mad, I didn’t take action, I was immobilized in my confusion and self doubt.  I couldn’t find my center. Kyle continued to sit on my kitchen stool, sipping the second cup he poured for himself, patiently waiting for me to take him up on his very generous offer.

My insides were tangled between introjects of “be nice” and “men are pigs.” Messages skillfully taught to me by the women in my family. These lessons, distilled in me to their purest form, made it virtually impossible for me to find my way on this retreat morning. This was not the first time I had been caught in the trap of my family’s mixed messages.

Suddenly and without conscious thought, something in me began to straighten. It took me a minute to register just what, but I am thrilled to say it was my backbone….my hackles were up and I was pissed. I grew 2 inches sitting on that stool. I found my voice and told Kyle he was a PIG.

Surprisingly, he didn’t agree. He explained he was not offering to do it just to do some of it. He went on to explain, if we didn’t fuck, he wasn’t technically cheating on Laura. What sophisticated rationale. He did, he explained, have a line he wouldn’t cross.

I began to find this all very funny in its absurdity. I began to recite his logic back to myself, making comic sense of it. Ohhhh, I told myself, my mistake. Why didn’t he make this clear from his first grope? In his world his wife won’t mind if we retire upstairs, to my still unmade bed, and roll around for a while. I was astonished at the sincerity with which he made his offer.

I told him I would accept his very thoughtful proposition. But…only if Laura agreed with his definition of faithful. My demon and banshee stood down; they knew I had this now.

I handed him the phone.

He rinsed his cup and left.

: )

waxseal2 

 

 

What is Good Enough?

I am sitting with Clea this morning, waiting for the vet to come make a final house call.

 

Yesterday I sat with Clea, eye to eye, nose to nose, asking her if it was time for her to go. Her empty gaze, dilated pupils said it all. It is time.

 

I think. Is it? I hope I am reading this right. How do I know for sure?

 

I worry I should be doing something special, a ritual of good bye, a meaningful something for Clea. Truthfully, not for Clea but for me. To ease my pending guilt when I accuse myself tomorrow morning of not doing everything I could to save her, of helping her go peacefully, for euthanizing her to early, when I tell myself now it is too late and it is my fault. (Whatever the IT may be.)

 

I foresee this self destructive berating on my horizon. I have beat myself silly though out my life with other perceived infractions. So, I am attempting preemptive action.  I am writing to you as Clea lies next to me. It is the only thing I want to do. It is the only thing I can think of to do. It is my way of comforting myself.

 

Clea is the last of the family pets. With her passing she takes with her the last connection to the family home, the family we once were, the way things were supposed to be. Again I feel guilt. I sold the family home, I divorced my kids father and changed the family unit forever. Granted Clea would still be dying even if we lived in Chalk Hill, but at least the safety net of original family and home would be there.

 

You may be realizing by now, as am I, I have a very close relationship with guilt. Somehow it all becomes my fault…my not doing it right…my missing something…my something. Tom says he wishes I weren’t so hard on myself.

 

The logical question is how come I am?

 

My therapist says it is because I never believe I’m good enough. He is right. The truth is I can never be good enough because I keep moving the bar. Upping the ante.

 

This keeps me in a perpetual state of pushing. Like Sisyphus. Except, unlike this bad boy, I don’t do it as a punishment for tricking the gods, I do it because excepting what is, without guilt, let’s me off a hook I value. The hook is a false sense of power, control, ability to change life so the day turns out better.

 

What if I let myself trust I am doing my best with Clea? And what if my best is all I have? What if it is all any of us really have? At the end of the day.

 

So I will do my best even when it isn’t good enough. And I will live with that. Some days more comfortably than others.

 

Today I feel very sad about my best.

Good Surprises

So I am here to tell you, ya just never know.

 

We just have to be open to the next thing that appears.

 

So I am telling myself…as I work with determination and faith to develop a new venture I am alternately thrilled by and terrified of. (Can I end a sentence with of?)

 

I am offering my counsel as a financial wellness coach.

 

I am thrilled because I have been informally sharing with anyone who would listen–and some who would not–my personal financial transformation.

 

After my divorce I decided to I needed to change my relationship with money. I knew if I was going to make it on my own financially I had to take a look what was not working-just like I had done with my ailing marriage. Over time and with a discerning eye it was clear-money and I needed some couples counseling.

 

So, one night, with a bottle of wine, steamed shrimp, cocktail sauce and chocolate for dessert (my comfort menu at the time), I sat myself and money down on the couch. We spent the evening reacquainting ourselves with one another. We painfully sorted through everything, especially what was coming in and what was going out.

 

What made this evening so memorable is that money and I became very clear we both needed more from each other. I needed money to help me have more adventures in my life and money needed me to be pay more attention to it.

 

So we began, awkwardly at first, like dancing with a new partner, to develop our rhythm.

 

This meant learning several new steps. I had to look at long held family dysfunctions concerning finances. I had to treat myself and money with respect…everyday. This meant making responsible money choices. At least once a month I needed to spend quality time with my budget and bills. Finally, and maybe most importantly, I needed to dream and plan my future.

 

The resulting two-step crescendoed into a very specific budget system I call The Best Money Management System in the World (pretentious perhaps, but true!). Eight years later I am living the financial life I dreamed about that night on the couch.

 

I recently shared my journey and my system with some close friends. Their unanimous advice was to teach this to others. “Really? Me teach money stuff?” I countered, “I can’t teach this.” This brings me to the terrified of part of my story.

 

You see I was never a math wiz. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I was good at math until I hit middle school where my 7th grade math teacher hated me. I, in turn, hated him. He was also the vice principal. So while commendations for History and Spanish were being sent home, Mr Small (yes that was really his name) sent home Math deficiencies. He called my mom in for conferences on my behavior and dress. He took exception to the culottes I wore, calling them shorts. Unfortunately for him, my mom had made those culottes and was quite proud of them. Mr Small was sorry he had shared his opinion with my mom. He never commented on my culottes again.

 

He also would keep me in his office all day bullying me into confessing to offenses I didn’t commit. I was a really good girl in middle school. I tried very hard to stay on adults’ good side. My rebellion thankfully showed her brilliant face though by refusing to give in to his harassment. I was determined and I succeeded sitting the full day in his office without showing him any hint of fatigue. He finally gave up, but the damage to my math self esteem was done. I had come to believe I was bad in math.

 

I went on to bomb out on my math SAT’s. I zoned out when I saw anything math related. My first job after college was as a bank teller outside of Richmond Virginia. My friends were astounded. They knew my talent was in talking with people, not banking. However, in Va. I needed a masters to work in the therapeutic field, so I took the job that would hire me.

 

Citizens Saving and Loan.

 

My money drawer never settled. Some days it was over, some days under. Amazingly Citizens never accused me of embezzling. I think it was because they knew I was not mathematically savvy enough to rip them off. At my exit interview my manager Rick commented that my people skills were exemplary. He went on to say that wasn’t so true of my teller skills.

 

He highlighted the day a familiar customer pulled up to the drive thru window explaining she had forgotten her check. She asked if I could give her the amount of the check and she would run the check back later in the day. I had no doubt she absolutely would bring the check in. I also knew first hand what a pain it is to forget your check when you need the cash for your next errand. I considered her request. I trusted her.  I still believe, to this day, she would have come back with the check. Rick didn’t agree. He said, “No.”

 

Today, I am out from under Mr Small’s spell and I understand why Rick said no.

 

Necessity derailed my self-fulfilling prophecy, as it is known to do. I needed to support myself and my kids, I wanted a life with more financial pleasantness and security.  I had to get serious with myself and with my relationship with money.

 

I am writing this on my way to Barcelona, Spain followed by 10 days in the South of France. Places I never dreamed I would be able to afford to visit. I have also been to vacation in Paris, Mexico, New Mexico, Wyoming, Cape Cod and the California wine country in the past 8 years.

 

My ability to travel is a dream come true. My ability to pay for it feels like a miracle, but it isn’t. It is a result of using a very specific budget system that thinks ahead so there is money there when you need some.

 

Who knew?

 

Facebook and Family Death

I knew he was terminally ill. My X husband and I had a few touching emails about his dads diagnosis. How was he? Was his dad in pain? How was his mom? We gently recalled some details of my dad’s death 19 years ago. This was pretty much the first time my X and I had referenced our past with tenderness. I felt hopeful that all would be well between us at our son’s wedding next July.

 

So three weeks later, I gasped when I saw, in my email inbox, a cryptic Facebook post from my daughter about life and relationships, ending with, “RIP grandpa.”

 

For some reason whenever my daughter does anything on her Facebook page I get an email about it. In some ways I like receiving these frequent slices into her life. I feel included. Sometimes, however, it is as they say, “TMI.” Now I am not a Facebook aficionado so I don’t know how this happens or how to stop it. I do plan to learn though-for two reasons. One, because I was told it is necessary to use Facebook to draw readers to my blog. Secondly because I was told if you keep learning new computer skills it helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

 

I clicked on the link on the email to get the whole story. I read the comments from her friends. I looked at the endearing picture of her and her grandfather, arms around each other, cheeks pressed together smiling for the camera. Lower on the page there was a picture, that I remember taking, of Jena and her grandpa when she was young. They are facing each other, looking directly at one another, Ed’s hands on her sides stabilizing her. A bit of drool on Jena’s chin… It has always been one of my favorites.

 

I was in shock. Ed had died. I always liked Ed. Unfortunately, in laws are often a causality of divorce. Our divorce was no exception. Memories of Ed’s warm hugs and sage advise to me when my dad threatened not come to our wedding flooded my thoughts.

 

I didn’t know what to do. What is the protocol here? What is the social media etiquette in this case? Is there any? I read through the many comments of condolences and wondered, “Should I comment too?” Dear Jena, So sorry to hear about your grandfathers death. Love Mom. How weird would that be?

 

I felt like an eavesdropper.

 

I felt hurt.

 

I was really confused about what to do.

 

My rule is when in doubt…do nothing. I decided to follow my own advice until I could make some sense of this. I talked with my friends Debbie and Susan and they agreed. (They don’t even have Facebook pages.)

 

The next day my X husband emailed me telling me his dad had passed. His telling me directly seemed to grant me permission to know. I then knew what to do, I called my kids. Strange how that worked. Or at least used to work. Bad news was passed from the family to an inner circle of specific people which they then shared with the larger community. It seems social media is changing that. At least in this case.

This all makes me wonder about how we use Facebook. On one hand, this was Jena’s way to share her news. She was able to tell her 566 “friends,” in one easily typewritten sentence, the death of her grandfather. In return, probably instantaneously, she could receive heartfelt warmth and sympathy. Instant compassion.

 

On the other hand is Facebook the acceptable way to inform others the intimacies of one’s life? Does social media replace deliberate sharing to a chosen few? Does It afford, in some cases, a welcomed distance when sharing difficult news?

 

What are the social mores of social media? Are there any? Maybe we can come up with some. Any ideas?

 

I have one:

 

1. Call your mother concerning any death in your family before posting it on Facebook.