Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Writing...And Not Writing

When I first started writing back in the sixth grade -- oh so many, many moons ago! -- I had a hard time keeping things short and simple. I would write pages and pages, whether for history papers or short stories, and my English teachers frequently told me I needed to cut things down a bit. I tried, but I kept thinking, "But I have so much to say!"

But something changed. Now it seems I don't have enough to say. I struggle to get enough words on the page.

I don't understand what happened. Did I grow up, thus knocking my childlike creativity for a loop? Did learning more about writing stymy my creative process? Or did the fear of failure, of people reading my work, swarm into my head and blot out the fun of creating?

Probably all of those things and more. But it really bothers me. I used to be able to sit down and write to my heart's content, but now I feel like it's excruciating even to write a simple blog post.

I think it might be resistance. Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that writing was hard and it wasn't supposed to be easy. Then my internal editor stepped in, and started demanding I write a certain way, and that further bottled things up.

Steven Pressfield writes a lot about resistance in The War of Art (I own a copy which I think I gave to my mother to read and never got back...) which is where I first heard the term. There's something holding me back, and it's tug is so strong that it's keeping me from doing what I really love. I can almost physically feel the barrier between me and the words - it's a concrete wall, and pushing through it takes an incredible amount of energy.

But really, all I need to do is just write.

Getting to that point, though, is the problem. Why? I honestly don't know. Of course, it could be that I have an incredibly thick skull (recent events have proven this) and it takes awhile for things to sink in. My family is a stubborn bunch comprised of Germans, Italians, and Poles, so it's really no surprise. But writing is my dream. It's my passion. It's what I want to do. Why, then, is it so hard to do something I love?

That is the essential question.

Maybe I need to challenge myself. Maybe I need to make a commitment to write daily for awhile and see if that helps. Maybe that means a blog post every day for a month. And I need to stick to it. No excuses.

I'm not going to let this stop me. Even when it's hard to sit down and let the words come, I will do it. I can do no less.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Healing Is Not Linear

Y'know, this divorce business really stinks. I've felt the spectrum of human emotions over the last few months. Sometimes, I'll have a really good week and get only a tinge of sadness here and there. Other times, I'll endure a few days of depression and crying, all the while wondering if this will ever end.

Healing is not linear. It goes up and down and sometimes it goes backwards.

The good news is that it's getting better. Easier. Less painful.

The bad news? I feel like I'm dealing with the same stuff over and over again. I'm trying to let go. Trying not to feel like what the soon-to-be-ex does is any of my business, like who he dates or what he does with his spare time. But old habits die hard. We were together for 18 years. It will take awhile.

There are several large stumbling blocks that I must overcome. One, of course, is the knowledge that he will have a girlfriend at some point - and much sooner rather than later, I'm sure - and I will have to deal with seeing them together. That cuts me to the core. Yet there's also the competing knowledge that I am glad to no longer be with him and a twinge of sorrow for the next woman that comes along who will have to deal with him. Indeed, when making a list of the pros and cons of our relationship, the cons definitely win out. Yet those few pros are incredibly hard to get over.

Another stumbling block? Learning to be alone. When you go from having a partner in your life to going it alone - especially in such an abrupt fashion - there's an element of whiplash to it. Honestly? I've been doing a pretty darn good job so far. But there are days where it all becomes too much.

I had one of those days yesterday. I went to the grocery store, an activity my husband and I always did together, and it just became overwhelming. I almost burst into tears in the check out line, but managed to hold it together until I got into the car. I cried. And then when I got home, I cried some more. This morning, I cried at work. Yes, I am one of those people who will run to the bathroom and bawl, then wait until my face doesn't look like a red, splotchy mess to go back to my office.

Good times.

There are the little things, too. We used to text each other through the day: now that is gone. When I was in the middle of a rheumatoid arthritis flare, he'd check on me several times to see how I was doing. Gone.

But you know what else is gone?

Holding my breath when his latest burst of anger exploded through the house. The disappointment when he refused to go to a family event with me. Money arguments. The stench of alcohol on his breath. And oh so much more.

My house has now become a place of peace. It's calm and soothing. And I feel a lot of pride for holding things together, even if it's something little like keeping the dirty dishes out of the sink and cooking my own meals instead of bingeing on fast food. Maybe it's the responsibility ingrained in me from my upbringing, but I refuse to give in. I refuse to quit. Oh, there are days when I do nothing but lay on the couch and watch TV because I don't have the energy or motivation or emotional capacity to do anything else, but after awhile, I get tired of that, too.

But I know this: I am healing. It's just going to take awhile.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Random Randomness

Every once in awhile, I'll do a post full of random things going on in my life. And as I do not have a clear idea for a post today, random randomness is what I shall write about!

1) Every year, we have a symposium at the day job. It requires a year, sometimes two, of planning. The two-day event is usually full of stress and I'm left wrung out like a limp washcloth afterwards. However, this year it went very smoothly and I'm happy to report that I did not have any terrible side effects. My body didn't hate me this time around. Huzzah!

2) Since the basement has now been vacated by the ex, I'm coming up with ideas on how to turn it into the "writing den." My daughter, also a writer, and I want to make it a creative, cozy space perfect for our writing sessions. I'm excited by the possibilities!

3) Yesterday, I had a glorious writing session. Sometimes, things just actually fall into place and yesterday was one of those times. I love it when that happens.

4) Retail therapy is a good thing (when you have money, that is). My daughter and I went shopping yesterday and each came home with a new pair of shoes. She found a cute dress, I found a cute top, and we were quite pleased with our purchases!

5) I have discovered that I can, indeed, survive on three pieces of dark chocolate per day. This is nothing short of a miracle.

6) Doctor Strange is just as good the second time as it was when we saw it in the theater. Benedict Cumberbatch still can act better than 95% of the world's actors/actresses.

7) In going through a divorce, there are different "zones" that you enter. There's "crazy town" zone where you throw clothes on the lawn; there's "dying inside" zone that happens when you discover your ex is already dating other women; there's "missing him" zone where, despite logic, you miss him and yes, even want to go see him at his apartment and you think you must truly be out of your mind; there's the "happy to be free" zone where you realize that you no longer have to deal with what you endured for years and years! And you can experience all those zones in one day. Trust me.

8) I'm happy to report that both parents are doing well after their surgeries. Whew! God is good.

9) This weekend is my hometown's annual alumni basketball tournament. My brothers organized this over five years ago and it's been a huge success. I help them out, making it a family affair, and I thoroughly enjoy this time with them. I'm very, very blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive family.

10) Spring! Lovely spring is here! Now I wouldn't be at all surprised if we got hit by a snowstorm or even a blizzard. This is Nebraska, after all, but I'm really hoping we're done with winter weather until November! Yesterday during our writing session, my daughter opened the windows so we could listen to the birds chattering. It was so lovely and calming.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tommy Dorsey, Myron, and Me

Last Thursday, the Tommy Dorsey Band played a local venue. Naturally, I dressed up in my 40s-style dress, curled my hair, added some flowers in true '40s style, and put on some vintage-looking shoes. When I arrived, I wasn't too surprised to see a bus with the name of a retirement community on the side, and there were several elderly people heading toward the dance hall. Didn't bother me a bit. I was there to listen to music and to forget the problems of the last few months.

The venue itself is like stepping back in time. It opened in 1929 and not a lot has changed. Numbered booths with wooden benches line both sides of the dance hall and there are tables covered in white cloths sprinkled around the floor. The bathrooms are painted in turqoise and have shell-shaped sinks. Yes, shell-shaped!

Once inside, I realized I would undoubtedly be one of the few there under the age of 60. But I didn't care.. In fact, I felt completely at home. I've always fared better with the older generations (which is probably why I gravitate to history and specifically, World War II history). I count my 91-year-old grandmother among my best friends.

About five minutes after I arrived, I grabbed a drink (diet soda, of course) and headed for an open spot which wasn't easy as many places were reserved. I found a booth and was just about to deposit my coat on the bench when the man in the booth next to me said, "You here alone? Need a dance partner?"

Little did I know that this simple question would spark a conversation that would last the majority of the night. The gentleman, who was in his 70s, introduced himself as Myron and immediately asked if I could help him find women to dance with. And even date. So I proceeded to ask him what he liked. And of course, he told me.

  • Can't sit around the house all day
  • Has a job
  • Likes to dance (of course!)
  • Not too heavy
  • Likes to go places
  • Must be younger than him

The band was late that night - bus trouble, I believe - so Myron and I had plenty of time to talk. I learned a great deal about him and what he'd done in his life, and believe me, there was never a shortage of things to discuss. Once in awhile he'd stop his conversation and point out another woman. "What about her? Do you think she'd dance with me?" Then there were times he "went cruising", as he called it. He'd walk around the dance hall, see if any women sparked his interest, and if so, he'd ask if they'd like to dance once the band got there. He even asked me if I wanted to dance, but I politely refused. I was there to listen to the music and that's it.

At one point, he gave me his card and said, "If you can find dates for me, I'll pay you $100 per date." Now I'm slightly broke, but still, the idea of finding women to go on dates with Myron didn't exactly appeal to me.

When the band finally arrived, Myron did his thing and went looking to cash in on those "saved dances." But soon enough, he'd come back and start regaling me with how good (or bad) his dance partner was. At one point, I encouraged him to ask a woman sitting across from us to dance. He said, "She looks too old." (Apparently, Myron wanted someone in her 60s that still had pep in her step). But I said, "She looks nice. I bet she'll dance with you." And lo and behold, he asked her and they went out to the dance floor. He even came back to her table with her and they chatted for awhile.

But alas, it did not last. Myron ended up back in the booth beside mine and lamented that this woman was "too bitter," undoubtedly the result of an ex-husband (or two or three). Once again, with the band playing in the background, he launched into tales of his daughter and his son, of the Australian fellow he met in New Orleans, of his childhood on the farm growing potatoes, of the ex-wife he was married to for 13 years that apparently was 13 years too long. He thought Frank Sinatra was too pompous and preferred Dean Martin. Cary Grant was okay by him, and he agreed that North By Northwest was a good movie. Music, however, was his passion. He loved to listen to it, loved how it moved people's souls.

"You know, you are delightful," Myron told me. "You're just delightful to talk to."

I thanked him, thinking that he was rather delightful, too.

Myron ended up leaving early because the music was too loud and it bothered his ears. He said, "I was serious about you finding me dates. Call me!"

I smiled, said goodbye, and watched as he made his way toward the door, stopping at a few tables and trying to get one more dance. He looked up at me and blew kisses my way. I waved, shaking my head in amusement.

I spent the remainder of the night listening to the band, watching the people around me, and realizing that this night had been illuminating in a lot of ways.

We tend to think that the elderly are "done" with life, content to just let the days pass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath the bravado, Myron was deeply lonely. He wanted someone to share his days with. He wasn't yet done experiencing life. And all around me, I saw more of the same. Older couples dancing, holding hands, dressed in their best, smiling, laughing, living.

And they encouraged me to do the same.

I hope in the coming months and years, I will push myself more out of my comfort zone. I, too, want to experience more and live more. This world is full of beauty and awe, and it can be found everywhere: across town, across the state, across the country, or even across the world.

So thanks, Myron, for reminding me of how wonderful this life really is.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Digging Into (My) Past

One of the great things about my blog is that I can go back several years to see what life was like. Today, I went back to 2009 when I divorced my husband. I never made this public, but we divorced in 2009 and got married again in 2010. Foolish me thought it work work this time.

One post in particular hit me in the gut.

Raising a daughter and two stepsons, and dealing with the "bad" things in my marriage had been difficult. I found my self-esteem starting to drop and I developed a rather craven attitude (to me) of wanting to stay in the house all the time, not meet new people, not do new things. In short, I wanted to be "safe." I could control the world in my house - to an extent. (Or so I thought. I realize now that I wasn't controlling it at all - it was controlling me). I couldn't control the outside world. So I stayed in the safe zone.

Wow. That could almost describe my life in the past two years. I retreated from the world, never wanted to go out, and was in my "safe zone." Part of it was my health worsening, but part of it was also living in a marriage that I refused to believe could not be saved. I hung on and on. When we'd get into another fight, I knew it would blow over and we'd resume as normal - until the next one. On and on this went.

Reading those past posts, I feel incredibly foolish for having married him a second time. But when I made that decision in 2009, I truly thought he'd changed. He seemed like a different man and I thought it would be different. But as the months and years went by, he reverted back to the one I'd left in the first place.

Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. In this case, the really hard way.

Since the split, I've made it a point to go out and do more, to experience new things and meet new people. I did that Friday night for St. Patrick's Day. And I'll do it again this week when I go see the Tommy Dorsey Band play. Already I feel like I'm finding myself again, finding that woman who used to crave adventure and enjoyed discovering the world. Somehow, she got lost.

No more.

It's time to take care of me now. It's time to listen to that inner voice and learn to embrace the unknown. It's time to see what's out there in this big, wide world.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Keeping Busy

One of the best ways to deal with a divorce is to stay busy. And to that end, you could say I've been an over-achiever!

My father had heart surgery in Denver earlier this week. On Monday, I flew to Denver and then spent the next three days with him in the hospital. I'm happy to report he came through the surgery incredibly well and is due to go home today. A true blessing! I flew back home Wednesday night and went back to work on Thursday.

As today is St. Patrick's Day, I'm going out with friends after work today.

Next week, my mother is having surgery (I know! Both parents in two weeks!), but thankfully, it will be here in my own city, so no travel is involved! But I'll be taking her to the hospital for that, then helping her with the recovery process. Next week I also have to give a presentation about my book, and on that same night, I'm going to the Tommy Dorsey Band at a local venue.

The last week of March will also be busy as we are having our annual symposium at my day job. This is a pretty intense two days of nonstop work, and I'm usually thoroughly exhausted by the end of it.

I'm actually glad the next two weeks will keep me busy. It's another way for my mind to quietly heal and process the recent events in my life.

And the novel? Oh yes, that will keep me busy, too! In fact, I plan to tackle it hard this weekend and write as much as I can.

I'm still having tough days, but that's to be expected. On the whole I'd say I'm doing pretty darn good for what I've been through. I'm proud of myself for that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Oh, Sweet Words!

Good day, bad days, rotten days, and everything in between. I've experienced it all in the past week.

Which is why tonight, I needed an escape.

I opened my novel, excited for the first time in weeks, thrilled to be diving into this other world.

So that I could forget the reality of my own.

It worked. I loved reconnecting with my words, even felt a burst of joy at how much I loved this story. Yes, in many ways writing this novel has been like being in labor for two years - agonizing and painful - but in so many others, this story has pulled me in, made me look beneath the surface of humanity, forced me to examine how we can fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe, self-medicate against the pain, lose our way and struggle to find the right path.

Ironic, perhaps fitting, that so much of what I've been through in the past few months is echoed in my characters' lives. I didn't plan it that way. Yet somehow, connections I never made before are fusing now, deepening and enriching the story in ways I never imagined.

A blessing amidst the furious storm that has raged in my little corner of the world for the better part of a month.

Throughout my life, my words, my writing, have saved me in so many ways.

A blessing indeed.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Betrayed

My last novel's title was The Betrayed. Betrayal was the theme and I explored it in various ways. It was challenging to write, but I really enjoyed it.

But when you're betrayed in real life, it makes fiction pale by comparison.

I'm not going to get into specifics, but I found out my husband was having an affair and thus, that was the reason he wanted to get divorced.

Everything I thought I knew about him has been turned upside down. The pain is such that it feels like a knife has been plunged into my heart and it keeps twisting, deeper and deeper.

I will be okay. This I know. But my hopes for an amicable divorce, for a continued friendship with my ex, have been cruelly dashed. I have not only lost my husband, but my best friend.

I believe we go through challenges like this for a reason. I'm not sure what the reason is for this latest development, but I know, in the future, I will understand.

My friends and family, even my primary physician, have rallied to my side. I am supported. I am loved. And this makes all the difference.

I've worked through this pain by writing. I've filled my journal with pages and pages of scrawled thoughts and feelings. It has helped. And my writing will continue to help.

I may not feel it all the time, but I am growing stronger in so many ways: in my faith, in my relationship with my daughter, in my relationships with my family and friends.

I will not let this break me.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Courage, My Friend

Hearing the news that your ex is ready to date and, indeed, is even speaking to a woman wasn't what I wanted to hear last week. Sometimes I wonder if there are more hits to come in this whole divorce process. Undoubtedly. My heart has been shredded more than once this last month and just when I think I'm beginning to glue it back together, something else comes along to tear it apart.

But my heart will mend. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I will survive this. I will not succumb to bitterness and hate, even though it would be very easy to deliver a healthy dose of revenge and spite right about now. I will refrain. I will stand tall and walk with my head held high knowing I acted with dignity.

Every day is different and some days I have more courage and fortitude than others. This is normal. And it will be for some time to come. I've made my peace with that.

My coping mechanisms have been varied and many. I peruse quotes on Pinterest, lose myself in a good movie (or five), hang out with my daughter while we both write, play with my dog, pack my soon-to-be-ex's stuff up (since he has not done so yet), clean the house, go to work, send long emails to friends, hang out with my co-workers, journal and journal some more, read a book (or books), and pray and pour my heart out to God. He listens.

But perhaps the most important coping mechanism I have is this: I allow myself to feel whatever it is I need to feel each day. If I'm feeling sad, I allow myself to cry. I allow myself to grieve. And if I'm feeling happy and upbeat, I allow myself that, too. I have snatches of hope now and again that there is a future awaiting me with bountiful blessings and happiness. But I also have grave misgivings about my ability to ever trust a man again. All valid, all important. I'm working through it, giving myself the time and grace necessary to process. I will not rush things.

Now is the time to rediscover me. Now is the time to nurture myself. Now is the time to reconnect with what I've put aside.

Now is the time to be me.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Day I Shut Down

As longtime readers of my blog know, I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Dealing with a chronic illness is difficult, and every day is different. Some are fantastic, some are horrible, some are right in between.

But combine a chronic illness with getting a divorce and the stress level tends to skyrocket.

Yesterday, when I woke up in a flare, my mind shut down. I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't deal with getting up and going to work. I couldn't deal with looking at my novel. I couldn't deal with looking at Facebook or Twitter. I couldn't deal with life. Period.

I spent the day in bed. I caught up on PBS's Victoria. I watched Mr. Holmes and The War Bride. That evening, my daughter and I watched Denial. It wasn't until 8:30 p.m. that I actually roused myself enough to go and pick up a few items we needed at the grocery store.

I think yesterday was another way my body and my mind worked together to try and protect me from serious harm. I could have pushed through and went to work, undoubtedly to make several mistakes, perhaps burst into tears from emotional and physical pain, and in general, have a rotten, no good, very bad day.

Instead, I stayed home in my little cocoon. And while I was in that cocoon, safe and warm, my body and mind were proceeding with the healing process, one in which I did not need to participate. I did not need to move forward or backward.

I just needed to be.

Our mind is a powerful thing. Somehow, it knew what I didn't: that it was imperative to go into "shut down" mode before things got worse. Learning to trust that instinct instead of fighting it is crucial.

Today, I'm still struggling (and I will be for a long while yet), but I'm better than yesterday. The old adage, "One step forward and two steps back" sometimes seems appropriate for my life. But there will be a day when it will be "Two steps forward and one step back" which means I will actually be making progress.

And in the end, that's what matters.