February 2009


Today I am in a crappy mood.

I shouldn’t be in a crappy mood. I got up, got the kids fed, read them Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, reflected on how charming the pictures are and how exuberant the little boy looks when he’s flushing. I got them dressed in the clothes I’d laid out the night before, put some finishing touches on their lunches, warmed up the car, which was frosty, and was on the road by 7:15.

Why so early? Because today is the signing day for the refinance on the house, which means two things: 1)the monthly payment will go down by approximately $400, and 2)K. will sign the house over to me.

At least, he’s agreed to. We don’t have a lot of equity, we didn’t put money down, and the kids should stay in the house: that we agree on. In a lot of ways, he gets his freedom this way, and it makes the divorce paperwork much, much simpler.

But I have lingering anxiety that he won’t show up for his noon appointment and that he’ll get angry and use this against me. I shouldn’t, I know. He’s been quite reasonable about financial issues, for the most part. He acknowledges his responsibilty to pay child support, we split up our joint bank account without too much trouble, etc. The only thing he’s been unreasonable about (if you exempt the whole issue of his life decisions/behavior toward his marriage and former life from consideration and accept the current scenario, which I guess I have just betrayed I am doing) is seeing the children, by using it as a way to get back at me. Hopefully, we are moving beyond that.

So I got Thing One to school before the teacher was even in the classroom, at 7:30, and then trundled Thing Two off to the First American Title office for our eight o’clock signing appointment. Everything was going perfectly. We were even early enough that I stopped at my favorite greasy Mexican drive-through and got an order of huevos rancheros. I was looking forward to signing about fifty pieces up paper and then getting to work, where Thing Two would attend her happy daycare and I would get some long-overdue grading done.

Then we got to the office and every little thing began to shred away at my contentment: our officer was late. Thing Two pooped her pants, and I had left the diaper bag in the car. She freaked out, crying and bucking and flinging apples and pens about the room while smelling, er, aromatic. He was visibly nervous and not a little annoyed by this. I was incensed that he had the nerve to be annoyed when, if he hadn’t been ten minutes late, we could have avoided most or all of the meltdown.

And then I looked at the papers and became aware of what a huge responsibility it is. One that I’m now shouldering all alone. And yes, I’m lucky that K. doesn’t want to try to make things difficult, but I didn’t sign up for this. I never wanted to do any of this all alone.

We got out of there. I changed Thing Two’s diaper on the sidewalk (the passenger seat of the car was too laden with crap), in full view of the woman removing the money from the “Pay to Park” machine, which she appeared to appreciate minimally. Thing Two howled and howled and then fell asleep.

I got to work and everything was late, slow, behind, absent, disorganized, and annoying. Including me. And I somehow opened up my iPhoto to some pictures from Thing Two’s first birthday, which will be the last we spent together as a family, and which featured K., looking on at some presents, his wedding ring prominent on his hand.

So my initial exuberance at having managed time and details so well is on the wane, and instead I’m trying not to think of the hand I loved and the ring that symbolized our life together and how it is no longer and all I have is a guy who has plenty to say about his 2 a.m. trips to Voodoo Doughnuts and not much to say about anything at all that matters. And a lot of details to work out about the divorce papers that I’m now filling out. And a lot of apprehension about the potential for future disagreement on those points. And I have several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debt that I am now solely responsible for. Which seems an accurate reflection of the situation, in general. On a metaphorical level.

I am trying to accept the signs from the universe. And I got some more pretty clear ones today, in the form of the local paper’s daily horoscopes (I never read the local paper unless I’m waiting in a title company office, where they have that sort of thing).

Mine said:

Relationships are like Humpty Dumpty. Once broken all the king’s horses and all the king’s men are of no help at all.

And K.’s said:

Don’t be so desperate to win attention. What you imagine is hidden is quite obvious to others, and what you think is clear may be obtuse.

I can only guess at the meaning of his, though it does seem apt. But mine is crystal clear.

Postscript: K. called me, as I’d asked him to for practical reasons, to confirm that he’d finished the signing. “Yeah, it was funny,” he said. “The guy was like, ‘I should have asked you this before…are you two still married?’ And then he looked at my ring finger.”

My mortgage broker had asked us to keep the impending divorce on the down low, lest it prejudice the loan against us. And K. seemed to find all this very amusing. And we hung up the phone and I felt that cannonball of sorrow hit me again. Because he thinks it’s funny, but I am feeling the gravity of this, the first Official Step towards total separation (and the one that was, early on, a source of hope that K. might come around, because we had to wait until the refinance went through before filing any divorce paperwork). He thinks it’s a scream, but I — I miss my husband. As foolish as that is. I miss my life. And I don’t know when I’m going to be able to pick up the pieces.

I’ve got to stop doing those tearful drives down I-5. One of these days I’m going to crash.

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Yesterday, I sent a research question to the research librarian at my school. He responded with an answer and added that he had heard “what’s going on in my life” and had been thinking of me; he asked for a personal email so he could send me a short note.

So I wrote him from my personal account, and this is what I got in return:

I truly wish I were an elegant writer, so I could send you a witty, sincere and thoughtful message that would lift your spirits and maybe, just maybe, make part of your day a wee bit brighter.  Sadly, I’m not a writer at all, so you’ll have to put up with my plodding prose for a wee bit.

I’ve been mulling over what I’d like to say, and in the end it comes down to this: your soon to be ex-husband is a complete fool and he’s going to really rue the day he made this decision.  I don’t know the details, (and in the end, do the details matter?) but I do know he left you, not the other way around.  When I learned this, I became very angry.  This surprised me.  We really don’t know each other very well, yet, the complete rottenness and selfish action of your soon to be ex, (if I knew his name, I’d use it), seems so short sighted, heartless and astoundingly stupid, that I am at a loss and very upset.

I meant what I wrote earlier about this not being a “Oh, I feel sorry for you” sort of message.  I am truly saddened by your news and I’ve thought about you often.  I have no idea what you must be feeling; however, what I do know is, you are a resilient and very strong soul.  You don’t need me to tell you that you’ll deal with this and move.  You know that already.  I guess what I want you to know is how honestly fucked in the head I think your ex is, how honestly fucked up I think your situation is, and how sincerely I hope the unwanted stress this must be causing you goes away post haste.

with deepest  sincerity,

Oddly, I found this email very uplifting and not a little funny (I guess he wanted to write me from and to personal accounts so that he could type “fucked” with wild abandon?). Uplifting not because I need a colleague to slag K., but because I think I can put into words why this man, whom I have always liked and never gotten to know too well, is so angry.

This is his church. This, family life, commitment to a marriage and children, is the foundation upon which he has built his life, and I mine. The life I was and am trying to lead, the life he is trying to lead (he is married and has a young daughter), is difficult and demanding and trying at times. Yet he is still in it and I am still in it and, from his perspective, my husband has abandoned that life and us with it. And it makes him angry because he feels how wrong that is, because he is choosing a different path, and because he identifies with my concerns and hopes and worries — for the marriage, for the children — and can’t conscience K.’s apparent lack of commitment. From his perspective, my husband has betrayed not only me, but the values upon which our lives both rest. And to do so is more than a dismissal: it is a devaluing of the challenge my librarian friend probably feels he rises to every day (and there are plenty of willing college students who think he looks like Brad Pitt; I’ve had many a class visit turn into a swoonfest).

I can’t say I blame him.

Obviously, K.’s relatives (with few exceptions) do not read this blog.
So I feel okay about sharing the letter I got this morning from his aunt, which is in regard to the Big Blowout Family Reunion, happening this June in Hawaii:

Hi Former Wife, Mother of K., and Grandmother,
I just wanted to talk about the reunion in June. Instead of emailing all of you separately, I decided to do one email.

I am not completely in the loop as to what is happening with K. and Former Wife. The last I heard is that it may be leaning toward divorce at this point. I am so sorry about all of this. But, it seems that there should be someway that Former Wife and the kids can make the reunion! The kids are too young to travel with K. for that long without Former Wife. Even if we all offered to help, it seems like it would be too stressful on them. So obviously, Former Wife should come too. We would love to see all of them and I know that Grandparents would love to see them too. When I briefly talked about this with Grandparents last week (after my brief talk with Former Wife that day) I suggested this:

I don’t know if K. will be able/or want to come to the reunion, I hope so! But, my idea was that Former Wife and the kids come at the beginning of the reunion and that would leave the 2nd 1/2 for K. to come. If K. is unable to make the 2nd 1/2 of the reunion, then Former Wife and the kids could stay for that part too. That way we will get to see everyone (hopefully)
I realize that this is a delicate situation for all involved. But, talking to My Husband, Second Brother of K.’s Father, myself, and our children we all felt like we should express ourselves about this. We do not need to be consulted when this decision is made, but we wanted to let Former Wife know how we felt. I am sure there are many other issues that are taking precedence over this currently in your life! But, its good for you to know how others are feeling!

Take care,

Love Martha

Well. Thanks for making it clear that a)you consider me a second-class citizen and/or simply a life support system for my children, your “real” relatives; b)you consider your micromanaging suggestions about how to handle the reunion, or anything else, appropriate; and c)you want to “let me know” how you feel, presumably so that I either i)feel comfortable and valued in my role as Former Womb to Your Great-Niece and -Nephew or ii)make sure not to try to leverage my position as such to shoehorn K. out of the family reunion…

…which he has refused to attend, anyway, not because of me but because he’s too furious with his grandparents for giving him the tough love.

Does she know how sexist that letter is?

Nah. Otherwise she wouldn’t be sending it to me, even if she does have those retrograde thoughts.

Gah.

K. is not a victim.

He is not buffered by circumstance, he is not disadvantaged by economics, he is not mistreated or misled. He made a choice; he changed it. He pilots his own ship. He is beginning to live with his new choice. He benefits from an extraordinary array of assets — a loving family who’s always ready to leap in and smooth his path, a commitment of love and care from his grandparents, a social network ready whenever he wants it, a host of family friends happy to feed and aid him, a job that pays well and where he is valued, and a soon-to-be-ex-wife and children who continue to try to facilitate his relationship with his children, to accept what he is willing to give, to work with his parameters, and to forgive feelings of hurt or discouragement. Who continue to show him love and compassion even in the absence of its return.

He is not a victim. And he doesn’t need you to offer him sympathy because he “has to” cut down his time with his children or because he “has to” pay child support or because he “has to” continue negotiating with the woman he abandoned about how and when best to do that or because that woman has requested, and been refused, that he not drink when he is with the children (pursuant to several episodes last fall before he moved out where he got drunk, passed out, then shoved her around when awakened).  All of these decisions are wholly his own. He chooses to work more, to make more money, to see his children less. He chooses to negotiate or not. He chooses what he puts into his body, spiritually and materially, and what he gives from it. This wife is not victimizing him. These children are not victimizing him. No one is putting him through trials or unfair tribulations. These circumstances are, if anything, uncommonly favorable for what he is doing, for what he wants, for his desires and demands.

He does not need your sanction or your sympathy for these things. He does not need you to make excuses for him to others or argue “his” perspective to others. He needs you to treat him with the respect of expectation: expect from him ethical behavior, responsible behavior, the honesty and honorableness that you would expect of yourself. Expect from him that he nurture his children and remain the adult, keep sight of their needs, and restrain petty impulses to withhold his presence or his attention. And if your expectations are not met, that’s your perview.

Also, if I may be pedantic for a moment, he is not having his Saturn return. Astrology’s hand is not steering the craft. That starts in December 2009, so expect even more upheaval then.

We’ve experienced some material changes lately.

Yesterday, K.’s sister was moving out of the downstairs apartment into the house she has just purchased. K. planned to piggyback on her U-Haul and get his furniture too. I was more looking forward to than dreading it, but since Thing Two took an early nap, I decided to take the kids out rather than have them watch furniture disappear (I have the sense that generally, it’s better for them not to see their dad unless they can actually see him, that they would not understand that he was just stopping by and wouldn’t stay to play. Maybe this will change eventually, but for now it’s my feeling, though I have not avoided such situations at all costs).

So at around eleven I bundled the kids into the car and took them on an Urban Shopping Adventure. I have not shopped much with the kids. For one thing, I rarely shop for pleasure, and for another, it’s hard to find anything at Goodwill with a one- and three-year-old running amok, pooping their pants, or impatiently wanting to drink/eat/pee/grab things/fall asleep.

We went to my friends’ artisanal coffee roasters and bought some fragrant Costa Rican. We went to the fancy organic grocery store and sampled blood oranges, falafel, hummus, cereal, tangerines, grapefruit, and berries (and I’ve got to say, those samples work every time. I totally bought half that stuff). We went to the giant Goodwill by the river and bought kids’ books, ogled the stuffed animals, indulged in a decorative wooden sailboat for Thing One, and picked up matching rain boots for the kids and a pair of jeans and a sweater for me. We went to the vintage furniture place and broke a fifties ashtray, which I had to pay $8.50 for, in its cavernous aisles. We went to the library and got still more books.

It was good times. Even though there was some pant-pooping, and Thing One did get busted peeing in the Goodwill parking lot.

We didn’t get home until three. And we’d had a great time and had a ton of groceries and some fun stuff and had actually integrated adult and child pastimes together, had walked down boulevards together, had been in the world. I reflected that in some ways, K.’s leaving is making me a better parent; it is forcing me to combine my life with the children’s more, to socialize with them and around them, to develop and maintain a network of like-minded friends who manage to be both people and parents. It is bringing my life more in sync with theirs. It unfortunately seems to have the opposite effect for him, but that is perhaps by design.

The house was different, but not in a bad way. The bedroom looks better without his enormous dresser as soon as you walk in the door. I had prepared and left out the vacuum, and sure enough there were dust bunnies and random objects where his things had been, especially the desk upstairs, so we took care of those. Then I moved the red couch to the deskless spot and created a reading/tv-watching alcove in the playroom, showed the apartment, played with the kids, made dinner, put them to bed after reading a bunch of our new books, and passed out at nine myself.

I had nightmares.

This morning I found the birthday card that K. gave me for my last birthday, not quite five months ago. I couldn’t help reading it and wondering how in the world he could express the sentiment that he loved me and was glad to have me in his life and then, just over two months later, unceremoniously leave me, our house, and that life. I couldn’t help crying.

Then K. got here for his afternoon parenting time and mentioned that he would not be able to come on Tuesday OR Wednesday, his regular afternoons, this week because he is working every day at three. Except Thursday. He’ll come on Thursday. But this will still cut down his time with the children by a full afternoon. And we discussed the possibility that this schedule might continue for a while, and he seemed completely unfazed by it.

It occured to me, as I went off to work this afternoon, to wonder why he didn’t have any regret about missing his regular days. It then occured to me that I might expect him (though I didn’t) to actually say to his boss: no, sorry. I can’t work that much. I need another day off to spend with my kids. It seems that for him, the kids are something to be worked in after his work schedule is determined; he is always available to work and expects his parenting time to adjust. And of course, this means that the kids get less Daddy and less reliable Daddy and that I get less work time and less reliable work time.

Well. It’s a new world. I wish I had more confidence in it.

Postscript: at our scheduling meeting, we discussed how K. doesn’t know how long this work schedule will last. He agreed readily to my putting Thing Two in an extra half-day of daycare; in fact, I’d meant just for this week, but he told me to do it for the foreseeable future and agreed to contribute money toward that. So for the foreseeable future, I’m going to try to add a day. And for the foreseeable future, I guess it’s okay with him to only see the kids two afternoons a week instead of three. I wonder if it will be okay with them.

He’s into his bar. He’s into his freedom, I’m sure. He works until 3 a.m. He drinks with his coworkers. He sleeps until noon. Repeat. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for these kids in his life, and although I think that what works for him has to be what works for us because there’s no point in an unwilling father, I can’t help wondering if this set-up might reveal itself to be a grave and lonely mistake down the road. For him, who will discover that he is no longer a primary parent to his children and may not even know them that well. For them, who will gradually decrease their expectations of him (and what will they be learning about fathers? About fatherhood).

“But Daddy’s coming over?”
“Yes, he’s coming over soon.”
“And then you’ll be happy. I’ll be happy because I have my Daddy back and you’ll be happy because you have your Daddy back.”
“Honey, he’s not my Kayo. He will always be your Daddy, but he’s not my Kayo anymore.”
“But he’ll come back and when he’s here you’ll be happy.”
“–“

There’s a beautiful French song, À la claire fontaine, with that as a refrain: “il y a longtemps que je t’aime/jamais je ne t’oublierai.” It is also the title of the movie Joaquin and I saw Wednesday night, an odd tale of a woman released from prison who goes to live with her sister and has difficulty re-entering life, which he disliked and I liked. Of course, a film’s being French automatically raises it 20 points in my estimation, and even the streets of Nancy have that particular French logic and charm that appeals to me, so I am biased. But I know what I like. I like the texture of French, the warp and the weft of it, the differences in the muscles of the face and the turns of phrase, and absent a trip over the Atlantic anytime soon, I’ve made a resolution to see at least one French film per month. That, I think, will be as healthy for me as a regular yoga practice or a trip to the therapist, if not more so: there are few things in which I find so much pleasure.

Otherwise, the week has been up and down. I felt, earlier this week, a lifting of the immediate sense of the sorrow of having lost my husband and partner and lover, mostly based on the feeling that since K. is not that person, is no longer that person, no longer wants to be the person I thought he was/did  — not just with respect to me but in general — that it is appropriate. His treatment of me ranges from casual, superficial chatty (mostly about work, booze, minor rock stars, and the drug and partying habits of his coworkers) to contemptuous and rude; his engagement with the kids seems minimal; he does not repond when I try to talk to him about them or when I solicit his input on issues relating to their welfare (their mental state, their school plans, etc.).

Of course, I don’t know what goes on in his head. I just know that I have an increasingly clingy and anxious son and daughter and that my son continues to assert that he doesn’t love Daddy because Dadfdy doesn’t love him. And that Daddy remonstrates with him rather extremely for minor offensives (such as a diatribe about how WRONG it is to not cover your cough that went on for several minutes and was negative, e.g. “That’s wrong. That’s wrong. You have to stop doing that. That’s bad.” in a way that seemed to me out of proportion).

And I know that on Facebook he has a lot to say about what music he’s listening to and his Saturn return (to which he attributes this life change, at least in part). There were several Facebook updates Monday night to that effect. And it took all my restraint not to point out, on Facebook, that a)he’s not yet having his Saturn return and b)even if he were, many people get through theirs without dumping their wives, damaging their kids, and becoming only 10% parents.

He is not impressing me.

Part of what I’ve been dealing with this week is disappointment with him for dumping me. And that’s what it was. I believed that our commitment was at least great enough that any decision to split would involve communication and sincere effort to find another solution. I see now that he didn’t want to communicate or collaborate and that he felt he’d already expended the effort. So in that sense, our marriage was a sham. My sense of responsibility for/duty to it went on and on. His seems to have allowed him to make the unilateral and immediate decision to leave, regardless of the cost to me, to our future co-parenting relationship, and to a large degree, to the kids.

I can empathize with his feeling that it was wrecked and he should bail. Unfortuately, I don’t think he knows that because of that, he has treated our relationship with no respect and me, as a person, poorly. As we expressed in a counseling coversation a couple of weeks ago: he doesn’t see why we can’t be friends, because he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. I feel that the trust between us has been destroyed and that any attempt at being ‘friendly’ is token.

Because really, most of what we had going for us was his avowed commitment to and love of me and our family. And that made me put up with a lot, try to work with a lot, and forgive a lot: a lot of disregard, absence, poor parenting, poor self-care that impacted others, superficiality, lack of intelligent conversation, etc.

And now he doesn’t love me and he’s not committed to me, and I’ve seen his commitment to his children erode, and he’s just this guy who makes small talk about boring things, who wears makeup to hide breakouts, who loves fashion and gossipy magazines, who is excited about his bar job and his hairstyle and the minor celebrities who come in there and the cocktail recipes and who doesn’t have anything to say to me about anything of substance. I don’t know why I should be surprised — maybe there was never much there there. After all, I did supply the works of literature, subject, thesis, many of the ideas, and some of the verbiage for his senior thesis (go Reed ’08). He wanted to write about Radiohead.

So for a couple of days I felt like this: maybe it’s hard, but I’m better off without that. And maybe it sucks, but if he wasn’t that person then I don’t want to be with him.

But then last night I remembered that hauntingly beautiful song and all the hopes I had and all the depths I thought I saw in him, and I sat and cried. For a long time.

J’ai perdu mon ami,
Sans l’avoir mérité
Pour un bouquet de roses,
Que je lui refusai…

Je voudrais que la rose,
Fût encore au rosier
Et que ma douce amie
Fût encore à m’aimer

If wishes were horses.

And don’t even get me started on today’s comment: “Don’t you think the child support is ample enough?”

As though I were going on a cruise with it, or something.

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