Live and Learn

I’ve been reading articles lately about the aftermath of divorce, avoiding divorce shame, and how to move the hell on after divorce with dignity and a pint of beer…and I say, “Cheers!” to them all because they’re so accurate…

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a total bitch to my first husband. By the time our marriage ended, I had become a person I never expected to be. Bitter. Angry. Resentful. In my early twenties, I saw all my friends meeting wonderful men, having whirlwind relationships, and then pledging “til death do us part”…and I kept thinking, it’s my turn to have that. Because of course, I was an old maid at age 21. And honestly, I really was looking for that life partner. The soul mate. The one my heart longed for. The one to complete me like Jerry Ma-Fucking-Guire completed Dorothy. So naturally, when the first boy to treat me nicely asked me to marry him, I said yes.

And then I entered hell. Mental, emotional, and physical hell. Because I should have said no. I should have listened to my dad and fled the church before the ceremony began but I let my pride walk me down the aisle. What would happen to all my friendships if I suddenly decided I didn’t want to get married? I would be ostracized, crucified, and left alone. So I married the guy and immediately regretted it. To his defense, my ex-husband did try to make the marriage work. He did everything he could think of to make me happy for several years. I truly believe that, even after all the shit he put me through at the end of our relationship. Ultimately, we were just a very poor match.

I took on much of the blame for my flailing relationship because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t in love with my husband. I went to therapy for months thinking something was wrong with me. I pleaded with God and everything else to make me love him. And then I gave up. About two years in, I left town and started a new life 400 miles away from him. I felt like it was the right decision; but I let some people bully me into reconciling because surely being married was better than getting divorced. I felt like I had no strength to be my own person without this sham of a partnership. But the sham seemed better than the certain isolation I’d face if I owned up to my own feelings of regret.

I look back and think about how horrible we were to each other. The words we screamed, the hateful expressions we gave, and affection we withheld…and it’s a miracle we survived almost five years as husband and wife. Our marriage ended very abruptly when he admitted he’d been having an affair–via text message. I went to work married and drove home from work a future divorcee. I never saw or talked to him again. I moved out and went through the entire legal process alone (by choice). The true friends I had before I married him remained constant in the hours, days, and months after I left him. And when the judge granted the divorce, I walked out of the courtroom smiling from ear to ear. I went for ice cream and celebrated. For. Days. Because I was free. He was free. We could both move on with our lives.

Starting over was incredibly brutal for about six months. I drank. A lot. I went to therapy again and tried to stay busy. Though we weren’t the best match, at least my ex-husband provided companionship. There was a physical presence at the end of the day, someone to come home to. One day he was there, the next day he was gone… It was like he died. I hated the silence that filled the nights I spent alone. I hated that he still lived in my proximity and that I could run into him and the girl he cheated with when I went to hang out with my friends. I hated that I felt punished and isolated while he fucked his way across town. I hated that his infidelity scarred me so deeply, I didn’t know if I’d ever recover.

It’s been almost five years since we broke up. We’ve been apart about as long as we were together and that’s an odd feeling. It seems surreal, like that part of my life never really happened. He and I both remarried about a year after our divorce was finalized, which speaks truth that we never should have stayed together. I think for a long time we were more afraid of facing the unknown apart than remaining committed to each other…

Sometimes I wonder if my ex-husband regrets marrying me. I wonder if he was ever truly happy or really loved me. I wonder if he’s forgiven me for the pain I inflicted. I think perhaps we were both in love with the idea of being married but rather than admitting it and walking away, we punished each other for our growing unhappiness. I like to think he has grown a lot from the time we shared as spouses, the good and the bad. As much as it hurt, I wouldn’t change anything because the experience led me to my current husband. My second marriage is everything my first marriage should have been…and more. I am deliriously happy. And I hope somewhere…my ex-husband is too.

Think Think Thinking

Today’s a snow day. The fifth one in ten days. Suffice it to say Texas doesn’t take kindly to anything beyond rain. The entire Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis and surrounding suburbs come to a complete halt when wet, flaky substances fall from the heavens. And I’ve purposely done almost NOTHING every snow day. I’m either binge watching Netflix or staring into space. I don’t read, I don’t study for internship, I don’t paint. I might do a load of dishes or feed the animals…but otherwise, I’m a lush. And I’m starting to feel less guilty about my idle time.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson: there is a big difference between physical rest and mental rest. I’ve done plenty of physical resting over the last week, but my brain seems to be overactive…which in turn leaves me tired. There’s never enough mental silence and my brain is crowded. All of the thinking, all of the wondering, all of the worrying.

I think about the website for my new business and the fact that it’s still not complete and I’m lagging behind by two months. I think about internship and the fact that I have far fewer client hours than I should at this point in the semester. I think about the pure complexity of the custody battle my husband and I are in…and ALL the work necessary to complete this task. I think about big upcoming changes that I can’t publicly share yet. Changes that I’m excited about and hopeful for.

I think about friends and family…do I talk to them enough, reach out enough…? Am I prioritizing my time? Am I listening to my husband? Does he know how much I love him? Does the Little Blonde One know how much we miss her?

Does my damn cat resent me for the two new cats that have taken over her home?

What kind of job will I be able to get when I FINALLY graduate later this year? Will I even like it? Will this three-year investment be worth the sacrifices I’ve made?

All the thinking all the time.

I’m Never Going to be Like You

I tend to march to the beat of my own drummer. Most of the time. As a child, I was a rule follower…almost to a fault. Terrified of punishment, always seeking approval, wanting to obey for the sake of maintaining order. Teachers loved me because I was a great kiss ass. My parents always knew they could count on me to fall in line and be respectful and responsible. But rule following turned out to be more of a phase of life than a standard to live by.

As an adult, I’ve become a bit more rebellious. I don’t always adhere to authority. And I’m deviating more and more from the “norm.” I admit, there’s a lot of comfort in going with the flow of the majority. Typically, you know where you stand, what you believe, and where you’re going…because you’re likely following the crowd. You have friends to talk about life with…because you can all relate to each other. You’re sharing the experiences. In many ways, when you choose to live differently from the accepted norm, you abandon or lose some of the friendships and relationships you’ve cultivated.

Being atypical is lonely. I spend a lot of time frustrated about the loneliness. I miss being part of the collective.

I’m currently at the end of graduate school. At the conclusion of this adventure in debt acquisition, I’ll have a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Makes me sound all official, doesn’t it? But truthfully, I could give a shit less. Because I’m not a “clinical mental health counselor.” I don’t fit into their mold or ideology of what a therapist should be. I didn’t fit in the mold before I enrolled. It’s a little humorous when I tell fellow classmates that I really don’t care to be state licensed, endure the national exam, or sit for hours and hours in a tiny room listening to people bitch about their problems. I didn’t start grad school and sacrifice years of employment, socialization, and reading GOOD books to learn how fucked up Freud really was. I wanted to learn how to relate to people better, how to manage ethical dilemmas, and generally how to understand behaviors of people experiencing distress. I’ve spent almost three years being taught how to be a compassionate human. I really could have saved myself the $90,000 loan. But the investment isn’t entirely in vain. If anything, I’ve learned more about who I am and who I want to be. I’ve also learned who I’m NOT.

I’m not society’s version of a therapist. I’m a conversationalist. I dialogue with people. I listen to their stories. And sometimes, I give them strategies for how to journey through life with a little dignity. And when dignity can’t be found, I give them a bat and tell them to break shit until they feel better (as long as they break objects and not people or animals…I’m not THAT delusional).

Ultimately, I think we all want to tell our stories…and more than that, we want to be heard and feel validated. It doesn’t take years and years of reading psychosocial theories to learn how to love people where they are. Or at least it shouldn’t.

I’m never going to be who they think I should be. I’m going to be myself. H…who talks to people in the language they relate to.

Tis the Season

I’ve been an artist for over half of my life. One could argue I was born this way but it didn’t fully manifest until early adolescence. My modality of preference is oil painting but I’ve also explored painting with acrylics and watercolors, making mosaics, and warping clay sculptures. I’ve painted for fun, to relieve stress, for money, and for the sake of making something. At first, I could go years without dabbling in the arts but gradually it became a monthly, then weekly, then occasionally a daily endeavor. There’s something exhilarating about purchasing blank canvases and new paints or brushes. I even love the peculiar smell of fresh oil paint. Many items in my apartment are permanently stained with various hues, a product of my inability to juggle multiple paintbrushes at a time. Unfortunately over the last year, I developed a random allergy to my hobby and am now forced to wear latex gloves and a mask that filters toxins and any chance of looking sexy while painting.

Last year, I started to feel burned out and took a break from the art of creating. It’s weird to go into my office/studio/child’s bedroom and see my drafting table/easel, the bag of paints, and my rolled up brushes and not feel the urge to make something. It’s as if the desire totally evaporated. Perhaps part of it is because the space feels crowded and not fully functional, and in that way, it’s a reflection of my life at the moment.

I love studios. I love the superfluous natural light that’s often permeating the space, the smudges on the walls, the worn easels, and scattered paintbrushes. Creative spaces that look lived in. I even have catalogs and magazines meant for designing studios. The other day, I was watching a movie called, “The Face of Love” (one of Robin Williams’s last films) and Ed Harris plays an artist. Harris’s character hadn’t painted in years, but in one moment he was inspired to create again. He dug out all his paints, brushes, and materials and set up this eccentric studio. It was messy and chaotic and much like where he was in his life. As artists, our creative spaces tend to reflect our internal processes. Some are more organized and structured, others are a whirlwind of spontaneity. Some are active, others are dormant. It’s a seasonal exhibit of our life journey.

Watching this film, I felt a resurgence and desire to create again. But I’m not sure what to make or when and I know it will reveal itself in time. Until then, I’m taking this season moment by moment and experimenting with color when I feel the inclination to do so.

Bypassing 29

The big 3-0 is looming ever close but I feel as though I’ve bypassed 29. It’s a rather odd number anyway, pardon the pun. I’ve been dreading turning 30. I thought I’d have my shit together by then. I’m not even close. When I was 19, I remember someone telling me I’d be 10 different people in my 20’s, but I think it was more like 20. 

I started my 20’s the morning after I got my 16 year old brother and our 16 year old cousin drunk for the first time. Way to be a winner… I got married when I was 21, divorced when I was 25, remarried when I was 27, started grad school at 28, and officially became a step-mom at 29. And jumbled up in between those milestone years was a lot of heartache, frustration, joy, and elation. Sometimes I hardly recall the details before 25. Even though it’s only five years, it feels like a lifetime ago. 

I thought by the time I was 30, I’d have an established career, a house, a dog, and maybe a child or two. But would that have made me happy in the long run? Would I have been available or willing to leap through hoops and attempt new adventures? I still judge myself for the things I don’t have but my hopes and dreams for an accomplished life are different.

I don’t care if I have biological children. I have a step-daughter who I love and (as previously discussed in this blog) I’m totally fine if she’s the only child I ever have in my house. 

I don’t care if I ever have a house. For me, a house has been wherever I feel safe, whether it’s a hotel, a tour bus, or a friend’s couch. I don’t really enjoy apartment living but it’ll do until the next thing comes along.

I still want a dog, damn it.

My career ebbs and flows with the rising and setting sun. I can’t seem to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. Too many interests to just pick one. I am too many things anyway…teacher, author, editor, artist, wife, nerd… If I were locked into one job, I think I’d probably lose my mind in monotony. So maybe I can cut myself some slack for not going with the flow like the majority of society.

I really want to travel. I don’t care if it’s to Canada, I just want to get out of Texas.

I want to have more conversations that matter. Do things that change the community and its perspectives. 

And since I’ve spent the last 10 months dreading turning 30, perhaps I’ll spend the next 2 months relishing what remains of my 20’s. 29 is an important year. It’s the culmination of a decade of life and experiences. It’s the bridge to the next decade of adventures and shouldn’t be bypassed.