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Primal Screaming

My September theme of new year, new beginnings also causes me to reflect.  One thing I have been thinking about is my lack of stress these days.  I don’t have any.  Seriously – my finances are fine, my living situation is lovely, my work is pleasant.  I have no worries.  When I say I have no worries, don’t get me wrong.  I think about the big picture stuff of mortality, retirement, how are my kids, pandemic, elections, politics and stuff of that nature, but it doesn’t give stress me out because I cannot control any of that.

Anywhoo, in the context of appreciating the simplicity of my life, I have been thinking back to my parenting, child-rearing days as a working mom.  Good lord.  How the heck did I do it?  I have no idea. What did pop in my mind were thoughts of the days I would frantically be driving to work and be screaming with primal frustration and anxiety. 

Yes, on my 45-minute to hour-long commute, I had more days than I care to admit when I would be screaming with all my might to release the pent-up anger, frustration, anxiety, etc. that was overwhelming me.  Once I finished my primal screams, I would then use my words to scream my emotions into the empty minivan.  I would fantasize of just driving away from it all. For context, I was good for a screaming about about 2-3 times a year, so it wasn’t a weekly occurrence.

What is somewhat funny is that when I thought of just driving away, I would think about driving to Orlando.  Why Orlando I have no idea.  It is 3 hours from Miami and I guess just far enough away from my insane life to feel liberated?  It definitely wasn’t for the attractions.

Perhaps this primal screaming in my morning commute was my therapy that kept me sane.  It was a release for me.  Was it a healthy one?  Who knows.  It seemed to have worked as a band-aid for me.  Somehow I kept it all together as I dealt with all of the activities of two busy, school-age kids, coordinated all the logistics of household maintenance, shopping (including gifts and clothes), social calendar, bill paying, pet care – you name it, I did it.  Where was the father of my children and my husband?  Working.  Going to Happy Hour with “clients”, working on Saturdays (I actually liked that).  He believed that working as the “primary” breadwinner meant that he didn’t have to carry any of the household load. 

Yes, he did drop off for a year or two off and on.  Yes, he handled the annual income tax because he had an S-corp and the accountant.  But he did little else. He wanted me to work 40+ hours and handle all the same responsibilities of a SAHM.  I did the groceries, cooked the meals, cleaned the kitchen, made the school lunches, did the laundry.  I had a weekly housekeeper to help control the chaos which was a necessity, not a luxury.  I bought clothes for everyone – him included, any gifts for family members.  I arranged medical care for the kids and me.  He expected me to do it for him, but I drew my long, overdue line there.

Plus I was responsible for our social calendar.  God forbid we had a simple weekend or two staying home.  That was unacceptable.  We had a full sports calendar for the kids including me being team mom oftentimes, we had family nearby so birthdays were frequent, we hosted many large (12-24 folks) holiday gatherings. Towards the end, we did a 30+ person Memorial Day barbeque.  It was just a very busy time of my life. I look back and wonder how I did it all.  No wonder I had some mornings spend primal screaming.

Now I look back and ask myself, “was it worth it?”  I have to say….yes.  My kids had a wonderful childhood.  We had an interesting, busy, fulfilling life filled with activities, family and more.  I spent too much money, drove myself to the brink of sanity, but I can accept that.  If I had to do it over again, I would strive for more boundaries, but I chose a partner who was never going to co-parent.  Shame on me, but man, we created some amazing kids.

My advice to you young un’s: be more like RBG when you seek a partner.  Go find your Marty.  I am blessed that Taz found her.

Hitting Home

I just finished “Evvie Drake Starts Over” by Linda Holmes.  Wow. Loved it.  Once I got started, I couldn’t put it down.  Chick Lit that hit home.  Evvie’s marriage was so much like mine that it hurt at times.

She was leaving her husband, literally, when she got the phone call he was in a car accident that ended up being fatal.  I am ashamed to confess that I dreamed many a night of my Ex dying in a DUI accident when he stayed out late drinking.

Her husband was charming to everyone, mine often was as well.  Everyone thought their marriage was perfect.  Mine also.  So many similarities.  His temper, his denial of basic facts. She was also a self-confessed “fixer” -someone intent on fixing others rather than working on herself.  Guilty.

She didn’t want to tell others her feelings because of her rocky relationship with her husband.  Same.  I still keep things pent up and don’t share much with the outside world.  I put much more inner truth on this blog than anywhere else and there are still a few things I am not blogging about these days.

People think I am an open book because I will chatter on about my life, day-to-day stuff, but rarely will I spout about my feelings.  Nope, not sharing.  Between my borderline personality mother, absentee father and emotionally abusive husband, I keep my inner feelings locked up tight where I occasionally take them out to look at and then usually stuff them back inside.  Not the healthiest thing to do and I need to do better.

The book left me thinking and spending today listening to the Avett Brothers.  I got out of the shitty marriage.  I am safe.  I am happy.  I am oh so blessed these days.  Time to unpack the emotions and let them have some room to show themselves.  It’s OK.

Get the book.  It is much lighter than perhaps I am describing it.  I need to put Maine on my bucket list for sure….

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Santa

One of my step-aunts shared a photo of my 80+ year old dad in his Santa suit waving to commuters. This has been his holiday tradition for untold years. It is pretty cute, but as his child, I am mildly irritated. Irritated enough to write this post.

First, a little background. My parents divorced when I was 6 and I saw my dad for holidays and two weeks in the summer thereafter. He wrote monthly and made little effort to spend more time with his kids. He quickly married my stepmom, but they had no kids. I always felt that a) she didn’t like me and my brother because we were a reminder of his previous marriage and 2) she really doesn’t like kids generally.

This meant that any holidays spent with him were with her family. I liked them, but we were the only kids there. Her three sisters had no kids until the youngest adopted. One has a stepson, but she’s divorced from the father. They had their own holiday traditions and we fit in where it was convenient for them. Suffice it to say, those Christmases were not packed with fond memories. They were what they were.

Back to Santa. To me, my dad’s Santa tradition is an example of how little I know about the man. Did he start this because he missed Christmas with his own kids? I seem to recall he was Santa for a non-profit he volunteered for and things grew from there. But I don’t know for sure. I guess I could have a conversation about this with him.

This man, a pillar of his community, put virtually no effort into parenting. He allowed his wife to delay child support checks and write scathing letters to my mom. He is smart and funny, but I have always said he does much better with young adults rather than kids. He tried harder with my brother who went to live with him when he was 15. That didn’t go particularly well, but he paid for my brother’s college and fraternity which is a lot more than he gave me. I got one year of college paid and $2500 for my wedding.

I am asking myself why is this bitterness emerging? I don’t know. I guess I wish I had a better father, but I could have done far worse. I will take benign neglect over abuse any day. I was lucky my stepfather, who was a horrible person, never physically abused me. Here I am 55 years old with my childhood so far behind me still grappling with the aftermath of my childhood. Interesting.

But I agree with Maya Angelou and wouldn’t take nothing for my journey. And most importantly, I have to remember a quote of hers. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

So in the spirit of Christmas, I forgive the adults of my childhood. I forgive them for the times when they put their needs before a child’s. I forgive them and I fulfilled my promise to myself. Do better. Be a better parent and a better person. I proudly think I am.

Teamwork

One thing I will say about my Ex — he’s a very good dad.  When my son arrived at his new digs in his new city to start his new grad school a few months ago, he discovered his new roommate was bat shit crazy.  He was signed up with a company that master leases various houses and then it leases out the individual bedrooms to different folks.  They handle the cleaning of the common areas.  For my son, it was an elegant solution to his housing need.  That is until he got Crazy Girl.

Without going into details, the situation was untenable and my son needed to move immediately.  Literally the day he arrived, he started making plans to leave.  It was that bad. The landlord had other options for him, but was a bit slow off the mark to remedy the situation.

My son called me the second or third night in a full on panic.  I texted my Ex and we spoke the next morning.  My Ex is an attorney.  We quickly debriefed one another, voiced identical concerns and agreed to the same immediate course of action.  I voluntarily said I was standing down and would await updates from him and my son.  I had to wait for updates from both my Ex and my son — I was on pins and needles all day.  I promised that if I heard something from my son that perhaps was unknown to my Ex, I would advise him.  He promised to do the same.

Fortunately my son has a cousin (my Ex’s nephew) in the same city so that provided an immediate couch-surfing solution.  We wanted him out immediately because we would not put it past Crazy Girl to #MeToo him.  They were two people living in the same house alone which could create a He Said/She Said situation.  She was that kind of crazy.  Now keep in mind that I am very pro #MeToo.  I believe all the Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Brett Kavanaugh and Jeffrey Epstein accusers.  However, in my son’s situation, all of us were highly concerned — even the property manager was concerned about it.

Luckily, property management leaped into the situation with a viable solution and rushed the process so my son could switch houses within 48 hours.  Luckily, my son had his car so he was able to move everything in a single trip.  Luckily, we all kept the channels of communication open and nobody pointed fingers or cast blame.  It was a successful team effort.

Yet another example of the fact that even though my marriage is over, and I am happy it is over, it was still a successful one.  It was simply one that had run its course.

Now my son is in a house with three other guys with like interests.  A bunch of introverted, intellectual nerds.  A match made in heaven.  As for Crazy Girl?  She apparently was evicted.  Good riddance.

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Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash

My Beach Read

My beach read for my recent trip was “The Naked Truth” by Leslie Morgan.  That damn bitch wrote my book.  Actually she wrote the Hollywood version of my book.

She’s doing the newly divorced 50ish woman re-discovering her sexuality with a flair that only privileged white women can do.  That’s my snarky side peeking out.

Leslie is a beautiful, fit, successful writer with two homes.  That hussy was living the dream — my dream — in her memoir.  OK, enough of my green-eyed monster.  Give me a minute and let me tuck my monster away….

OK, I’m back.  Leslie was right on point.  Her pain, her honesty, her humor but mostly her blinding candor made this book a great read for me.  It reminds me that women in our 50’s with an empty (or nearly empty) nest really need to spend some time discovering and uncovering ourselves (pun intended).

No spoilers.  If you have a chance to grab the book, you’ll spend some time with someone who automatically feels like a friend.  Here are some of my favorite quotes – no spoilers, I promise.

“I was crazy about men now the way Lyon had loved each of his high school hookups.  Including me.  Each of the men in my life was a chip of self-worth, helping me rebuild myself”

“Ever ask yourself what are you really looking for, honey?  Sometimes it seems like you’re willing to pay an awfully steep price in order to feel loved.  That’s what you always say about your first marriage — that the definition of an abuse victim is someone who pays too high a ransom in exchange for love.”    This one hit home for me.

Sara (this is her therapist) had warned me to be careful.  She cautioned that the first serious relationship following a divorce can be more intense than the marriage itself, because after a divorce, you are raw and broken and filled with hope that the next time, you’re going to find lasting love to make up for the love you lost.”  Damn, did that ring true.

“You know it sounds to me like Jake (her boyfriend) is your burn ointment.  Your sexual healing after years of Marty’s (her Ex) sabotage.  But that doesn’t mean he’s your soul mate.  Each man you date now is a building block for your self-esteem.  Not the foundation.  Don’t confuse the two.”  Damn, I need her therapist.  That woman is worth her weight in gold.

“Withholding emotion is a form of manipulation.”  Yeah, I may be guilty of this…

“Part of this journey was, obviously, that I had to learn and re-learn that the way I allowed men to treat me was up to me, and only me. I had to thread a particularly challenging needle:  to find validation from men in my life without completely giving myself over to them.”  Yep, still working on that.

“You grew up in an alcoholic home.  Fundamentally, this means that the people who loved you, who were supposed to take care of you, didn’t protect you.  It’s why you are so independent, and yet paradoxically susceptible to abuse and manipulation by those closest to you.”   This was a biggie for me.  My family wasn’t necessarily an alcoholic home, but it was dysfunctional.  Something to ponder further.

Anyway, buy Leslie’s book.  We divorced nymphomaniacs need to stick together.

Naked Truth

Once I Lost My Car Key

Facebook popped up a memory of mine from 8 years ago.  I had posted “I have somewhere lost my car key and I have looked EVERYWHERE!  I think my pets are messing with me.  It’s got to be in my house, but where??”

This ended up being one of those situations that confirmed that my marriage was shit and I needed to get out.  In the end I had the last laugh, but I wasn’t  laughing during the search.  Settle back and enjoy another one of Maggie’s stories:

On New Years Day 8 years ago, we spent the day on a friend’s boat.  Our boys were BFF and they invited us to a day of boating.  It was lovely.  The marina was really close to my house, so I didn’t take a purse and had a small beach tote for the boat.  I took my car key off the key ring and it was secured in my tote.  Obviously I had it when we arrived home because it was used to start the car.

The next morning I needed to drive somewhere and I couldn’t find my car key.  I made it to the appointment using a different vehicle but returned home where a full-scale search began.  I searched EVERYWHERE.  Outside, inside — you name it.  I offered a $100 bounty to my housekeeper who turned the house inside out.  No key.

I went to the dealer and a new key would cost $250.  They told me to keep looking before spending the dough.  That was good advice. I was worried I would lose the only key I had and then I would really be up shit’s creek.

I was using my Ex’s copy of the key and he lost no opportunity to berate me for being careless at losing the key.  He repeatedly reminded me how I had lost the key to his SUV a couple of years ago and how I lost everything.  Yada yada yada.  For the record, I rarely lose or misplace anything.  He just loved having the opportunity to belittle me.

10 days go by and I am rapidly losing hope of ever finding that damn key.  Then I get a text from my son who is at school.  “I found your key”.  Hallelujah!!  I quickly text him back saying how happy I am, etc. and then I asked him where he found it.  It was in his backpack.  Our car keys look similar and on that fateful boating day, he picked it off the vestibule table thinking it was his….  I told him that I was very thankful still, but he was not going to get my $100 bounty.

My Ex now had no current event to bash me with, but he continued to remind me that I had lost his car key, so I was still sloppy and stupid about losing things in his mind.  But Karma, she was with me…

Two weeks later I get a phone call at work from him.  He leads with “You are going to kill me…”  He found his missing car key in one of his briefcases.  Apparently two years ago, he used my extra car key for some logistical situation involving car maintenance or something.  He had forgotten not only to return the key to me but he also forgot he had it.  Asshole.  He was always forgetting where he put things (like his wallet which he lost twice in our years together only to find it months later in some random spot).

That whole episode where I got no support from him and just derision was another nail in the coffin of our marriage.  Good riddance.  Today in my gratitude thoughts I will be thankful that I have ended such a toxic relationship.  And that I know where my car keys are at all times now ……

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Photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash

Mother’s Day – Bah Humbug

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I am slowly cleaning my house today and once again it sends me into a meditative funk – LOL. My future housekeeper may be more about mental health than actual housework! In any case, I was thinking about Mother’s Days past and how I slowly came to realize that the day had very little to do with my desires and it was all about everyone showing how much they celebrate and appreciate moms.

Here is the lesson to all moms of babies and very young children – insist, absolutely insist, that YOU define how Mother’s Day will be celebrated.

My first Mother’s Day was about 3 weeks after Taz was born. My Ex is one of 4 kids and we were the first to have a child. They arranged and insisted a brunch at TGI Fridays which was relatively close to home. What a cluster fuck.

I was a breast-feeding, over-whelmed, first-time mom in an age where breast-feeding in public was still pretty taboo. Brunch on Mother’s Day is restaurant hell and the 2-hour lunch was difficult. I hadn’t learned to just hand off the baby to anyone willing to hold her – I thought she was my responsibility and that I should be able to handle the situation. Plus Taz had undiagnosed reflux at that point so she was a hot mess. It wasn’t much fun and alcohol couldn’t smooth the rough edges because of the breast-feeding (I needed copious amounts and one mimosa wasn’t going to do that).

From then on it was a series of Mother’s Days that included brunches, pool parties at my house, outings to where my Ex decided would be fun for the family (boating, beach – not too bad), movies, nice meals, etc. When I was asked for my input, it was routinely pushed aside. I was given flowers – I don’t really care for flowers because they are over-priced and short-lived with my black thumb. If I asked for what I truly wanted: a day away from my responsibilities, alone at a spa – I was deemed selfish and unappreciative.

Interestingly enough, when my no-nonsense sister-in-law had her son about four years later, she attended one Mother’s Day brunch and was done. Too much work, she stated, and from then on she spent the day just with her mom doing something special. Smart woman – I should have followed her lead.

Now, of course, I had some lovely moments. My kids showered me with their version of the absolute best gifts a mom could want: a Lion King coffee mug (I used it this morning with a smile on my face), homemade gifts that made me feel special, lovely cards and the most precious gift of all – their time and love.

I’ll be spending Mother’s Day with my son and the Hunter. They have asked what I wanted to do and I want to spend it at the beach. I anticipate a call from Taz, who has over-scheduled the hell out of her next 30 days (don’t even ask, it’s dizzying), and the day will be low-key and mellow. Just the way I always wanted it…..

By the way, I’m not the only one hating Mother’s Days. As I read some essays from others who are in the “I Hate Mother’s Day” camp, they brought up some excellent points about how this day causes people pain. Pain from lost mom, abusive moms, lost children, the list goes on. Here are some great essays backing me up on this:

Fellow Ranting Moms:

http://www.momtastic.com/parenting/526033-ill-just-say-hate-mothers-day/

http://www.bluntmoms.com/i-hate-mothers-day/

Here are some compassionate folks thinking of others (I really need to work on my empathy)

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/lifestyles/mother-confession-why-hate-mother-day/H7yh8oVRwBfBEtj4EwRd7L/

http://forward.com/opinion/spirituality/371609/why-i-hate-mothers-day-and-why-all-women-should-hate-it-too/\

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