Living The Other Life

A wonderful friend emailed me this tonight:

“Walked the dogs today and passed the same woman twice; she was running in the other direction. Wondered what her life was like, if I could just “be” here for a day, what would that be like? This idea has actually plagued me since I was a little girl and my father left my mother. I always thought other people must have really nice, normal lives. (Mine never was.) I would peek in their windows at night and wish I were part of their families. Then I realized you ARE LIVING the OTHER LIFE. I feel really excited for you, happy, wondering how one gets to “cross over”. It feels huge, like a meteor, like a sex change operation, like a tornado or a tsunami.”

She is right.  I spent a good portion of my life running in the other direction, seeking the other life that I did not have.  My life status now feels huge, and real, and right here, as I live each day crossed over into the other life, the one I had been searching for and have finally found.

But the road to get here has been long, the path still winding, and the journey unfinished.  Would we ever take a journey if we knew ahead of time that we’d be hopelessly lost, have our hearts broken, and feel as though we would never make it out of the darkness?  Of course not.  So we have to believe that on that very same journey will find our way, find ourselves, and live happily ever after.  We can’t find that peeking into others’ windows.  We have to look inside ourselves and listen to our heart’s intent.   

Sometimes we have to let go.  Be still to move forward.  Give to receive.  Cry to feel joy.  Pretend to make it real.  And then we can cross over into the life we really want.  The one that may have been right there waiting for us but we did not see.  And when we get there, we can finally just be.

Moving Day Part 2

Last week Mr. Someone Else and I went to get a truckload of my stuff from my other house several hours away.  Today he went to get a truckload of his stuff.  It was an easier trip, his other house is only a few minutes from our new little home. 

We started out the chock-full day with a hearty breakfast of warm muffins and strong coffee.  Then we headed to the UHaul store in more falling snow to pick up his truck.  We had just been there to drop off my truck last weekend, the guy who works there recognized us.  He gave us the keys and off we went.

There wasn’t quite as much to move this time, so the packing and loading went fairly quickly.  A friend of Mr. Someone Else’s helped, a friend who knew our situation well.  It was nice to have the muscle power to move furniture swiftly and efficiently. 

The conversation was interesting.  I listened to the two men talk about things…with knowing gestures, understanding nods, and discerning eye contact.  Men certainly express things differently than women do, they cut to the chase, make their point, and move on with a chuckle and a high five.

But the real chuckle came when we returned the truck to the UHaul store.  Mr. Someone Else and I were just doing what we do–talking amongst ourselves, smiling, and interacting together.  The familiar UHaul guy laughed loudly and blurted out, “Boy you don’t see people like you two very often.”  What?? 

He didn’t hold back.  “It’s clear that you two are moving in together, you have rented two trucks in two weeks and you look ridiculously happy, laughing, showing affection and love like you just don’t see anymore.”  Ok REALLY? 

He kept going.  “I wish I had a girlfriend like you, who is holding my hand, touching me, looking at me the way you two look at each other.  How did you two meet?  On an internet dating site?  Did somebody fix you up?  How do I get what you have?”  Well no…we met in high school.  We were the best of friends, an unspoken attraction that was never divulged until recently, when we reconnected on Facebook. 

“On Facebook??” he says, still laughing out loud.  “That’s incredible!  I guess I better get a Facebook account, I really want to get together with someone and be as happy as you two are.  I’m going home tonight and am signing up.” 

He wrapped it up by saying, “Go on, get out of here, go back to your home and unpack and enjoy your lives together.  Congratulations.” 

I have to say, that was really very surprising, to have someone you don’t know blurt out what they are thinking—that what they see is wonderful.  It’s nice to spread some happiness, despite the long road and daily difficulties of divorce.  It reminds me of a time that Mr. Someone Else and I were out to dinner, and on our way out the door the manager of the restaurant looked at us with a big smile and said, “Thanks for coming.  Have a magical night.” 

That’s just what we are doing.  Moving into magic.

Winter Day

I got up in the still, quiet early this morning and looked out the window.  Icicles hung off the street lamp that flickered off as I watched the snow that was blowing sideways.  The fire hydrant was covered, the bushes were buried.  The storm had dropped a thick layer of white on our little corner.

The streets were quiet, nothing but the sound of a snow blower in the distance.  These are the mornings that make you grateful for a warm home, fresh coffee, and some time to enjoy the calm contentment inside of a winter storm. 

As I let the serene scene soothe my tired eyes, I tried not to think about how much I had to do today–thoughts of my job search here and administration from there.  While most of where I live now is standing still from the weather, life outside this snowy haven is going on.  Caught in thought between my two worlds, the sound of a rushing train rattled me back to reality.  The quiet was disturbed just for a moment, and I remembered I am here, comfortable, happy, and able to take some time to settle in. 

Shortly after I cozied into the couch with my laptop and the morning news, I got a call that I needed to head out in this blizzard of sorts and rescue a friend whose car slid off the road.  I’m not afraid of a little weather, but I was not prepared for the snow to be half way to my knees and higher than the tires on the car.  Wet jeans, snow inside my low boots, cold, and stuck in the snow-laden driveway for some time, I finally made it to the road and a little frantically navigated the slick, slushy streets. 

This was my first encounter with real weather since I arrived to this new area, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the locals fare Mother Nature.  I thought we had the market covered in New England, but I was wrong.  People are calm here, it’s just weather.  The media lets you know it’s happening but without the intensity level that my beloved Bostonians exhibit when a few feet of snow falls.  I actually enjoyed being on the road with people who know how to drive in it without panic or weather-rage. 

I did not mind being out and about, I even stopped for a little shopping and coffee before returning home to my warm abode.  The big, fluffy, thick sheets of snow continued to fall throughout the afternoon.  I watched them swirl around outside my windows, softly piling on the mounds of fluff that was rapidly rising.  I thought about their journey–free falling from the sky, dancing through the air, sometimes rushing, sometimes floating, then softly landing.  That is my life everyday now…falling, dancing, rushing, floating, and softly landing.  Winter days are beautiful.

Forging Ahead

It’s exhausting to be me.  Before I got here I thought it was hard, managing the life of three kids and one deteriorating marriage.  That was a lot, and this is a lot in a different way. 

It’s a whole new set of circumstances, trying to settle in, living in a new location, find a job, become self-sufficient, make new friends, create an entirely new life, while still trying to manage my other life, stay connected, and close out the long chapter that I lived there. 

Life can be taxing at times.  It’s easy to look through the windows of others’ lives, but life is hard for everyone no matter what you are doing, where you are, or how you handle it.  Rich, poor, in love, in angst, facing stressors, working through worry, embracing joys, reveling in hope, experiencing a realm of activities and emotions every single day, it’s all-consuming. 

But I go with the flow, and I keep going in spite of all odds no matter how tired I am.  I have internal strength that propels me forward.  I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but I welcome it even when I’m unable to catch my breath.  So I manage, one hour, one day at a time. 

My friend S said, “When I don’t hear from you or see your latest blog post, I wonder, where is she today?  What is she doing?”  

Things happen each day that are building the foundation for my new life.  Like when I moved furniture into my new home in my yoga clothes and jewelry, asked Mr. Someone Else for a screwdriver as he was balancing one end of the couch and I the other, while I was also taking the banister off to get the couch up the stairs.  Then we reveled in our big accomplishment–nothing short of a miracle that we got the sofa around the tiny tight corner into the living room.  After we collapsed on the couch in physical agony and in laughter that we moved an entire truck of furniture by ourselves I smiled, knowing that the efforts are always worth it it in the end. 

I see myself differently now.  I am a woman with many talents, diverse, adaptable, flexible, and strong.  With the support of Mr. Ex, I have taken a sabatical from my former life so that I can work full-time to re-create my new life.  He is doing a great job on the other home front, even though he may be doing it differently.  We’re each moving forward into better and happier lives, and eventually things will settle down and life will ebb into a normal flow.   Until then, I forge ahead, exhausted, but tirelessly.

Invite in Uncertainty

If there’s one thing to be certain of, it’s that there is no certainty.  We make decisions every day that we think will provide us with an optimal living experience, when in reality, we don’t really know for sure.  Rules change, plans change, and life changes.  We can try to control where we’re going, but more often than not, we end up shifting course. 

My life is changing by leaps and bounds at record-breaking speeds.  Most of what I am experiencing now was not anywhere on my radar.  Trying to figure it all out as I go without any kind of itinerary, roadmap, timetable, predictability or safety net is tricky, but also interesting. 

Living with daily uncertainty and unknowns takes some getting used to.  It can feel very unsettling.  But in truth, safety is mostly an illusion that helps us sleep at night.  We hope for the best, do we prepare for the worst?  Not usually.  We like to rest in the security of what we believe to be certain.  But life offers opportunities that make you wonder if you might just want to take a chance. 

That’s where spontaneity comes in.  Spontaneity feels positive, can bring fun, adventure, surprising outcomes, and opportunities we never imagined. There’s less judgment with spontaneity, less cause for worry, less room for fear, regardless of the outcome.  We can try to enjoy things along the way when we are spontaneous. The trick is to let go of preconceived mindsets and an agenda of predictability and let situations unfold into discovery. 

Regardless of what we cling to, life’s events come and go, so we might as well try to make the best of them.  There is some wisdom in uncertainty.  It provides us an opportunity to consider things, and to experience unexpected pleasures in the present moment that we might not have seen.  Uncertainty can put us on an emotional path that may be different from what we expected, but that may also provide a more fulfilling journey than we could have ever imagined. 

I’d like to know what will happen next, but my life is a mystery of all things yet to happen.  Does that mean impending disaster?  Absolutely not.  A lot of things can happen in a short time span that can make uncertainty seem as appealing as it is unsettling.  I prefer to think the mystery sets things in motion for all things good yet to come, and watch what surprises come around the corner. 

Uncertainty holds everything inside of it—the past and the future, the resolved and the unresolved, the angst and the joy—and it is from here that we can choose to live courageously.

Simple Surprises

What a day.  It started out something like this.  Get up, make coffee, have breakfast with Mr. Someone Else, get online, read and reply to 50 emails, converse with Mr. Ex about kid, house, and divorce administration while decorating apartment, yoga, shower, get ready for job interview, go to job interview, shop for a shower curtain, come home, pour a glass of wine, get back online, balance checkbook, eat dinner, do laundry, relax.   Not bad for a gal who is juggling a lot of chaotic, life changing balls at once. 

This day was manageably hectic and full of surprises, like when I realized that my interview clothes were too big and I did not have a belt to wear so had to scramble for safety pins to cinch in the waist so they would not fall down.  Or when I got a parking ticket after my meter expired during the meeting.  When I got home I found two big boxes filled with treats from supportive relatives who sent care packages. 

But nothing was as surprising as when Mr. Ex and I had a very pleasant conversation about our situation.  He is very supportive of me starting my life over here, almost like he is trying to make up for the hurt that was caused during our marriage.

In fact, he actually cracked some jokes about my “bachelorette pad in a new town with lots to explore,” asked about Mr. Someone Else’s bruised rib from helping me move, and rolled his eyes saying he could tell him a few things about living with me.  I’d say that made for some pretty good banter as we are trying to move forward with our lives.

We also had a more serious discussion about where we are emotionally at this stage of our separation and impending divorce.  Mr. Ex said he could not really grieve the loss of our marriage while he is so worried about trying to find a job.  He is also working hard taking care of the children, and it’s going well.  He finally understands what it’s like to fully care for three boys, one with special needs, manage a house that is on the market, cook, clean, pay bills, shop, run household errands, be a taxi service for the kids, and try to keep smiling in the process. 

When Mr. Ex and I were married and living together, I felt like I was doing everything alone, Mr. Ex was not there emotionally–we had a mammoth disconnect.  Now we have a physical separation, a few hundred miles away, and while we are each “alone” in our endeavors, we are emotionally doing better “together.” 

There have been some moments of long distance discord while trying to work through the logistics of our divorce, but overall we each have a better understanding of what our roles have been and what they are going to be.  I am optimistic that we can continue to work through whatever emotional downs present themselves along the way.

Sure I have to compartmentalize that neither of us have a job and his severance has run out, that I’m temporarily mothering my children a few hours away, that there are some technicalities that need to be worked through before we’re all settled.   But I embrace each day that is filled with surprises, pleasant exchanges with my future ex, and delightful experiences in my life here.  I read somewhere that all endings are happy endings.  It’s just a matter of staying with the story long enough.

Judgment Day

Controversy can bring out a lot of negative emotion for people.  When those thoughts are then verbalized, and opinions are expressed, people get hurt.  One of the hardest things to accept when faced with your own personal conflict?  Being judged.

Judgment is a natural human reaction to things that cause discomfort.  Almost everybody does it, even if people claim they don’t, more often than not, they do.  It is even more magnified when someone says they aren’t judging, adds an inferential or stated “but,” then continues to exert their personal beliefs and opinions.

Why do people feel the need to judge?  Usually it stems from fear, from worry, from their own inability to manage their feelings about a situation.  Judgment also comes out of caring.  When you care enough about someone who you don’t want to see in pain, you may speak up, even if what you say results in distress.

But no one can possibly understand what it feels like to live in someone else’s reality.  No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors in other people’s lives, even though they think they do.  How can they?  So they feel the need to express whatever things they need to so that they feel better, regardless of how that makes someone else feel.  And when they feel better, they have just rationalized their judgment.

Judgment starts with analysis—taking personal views and trying to put together what you think is happening with other people’s actions, and then determining whether what others are doing is right or wrong in your opinion.

Then there is rationalization.  You decide that your feelings and beliefs are the better ones to have based on any number of things—popular consensus, societal norm, spirituality and religion, or just strong opinion.

Finally you verbalize your sentiment to both to the party that you disagree with, as well as with those “on your side,” who agree with your assessment and opinion.  But verbalizing your convictions spreads adversity and perpetuates an endless cycle of negativity for everyone involved.

People may even go as far as trying to manipulate the person they believe is creating what they see as the problem into coming over to their “side.”  In their minds, this is the “right” side, without giving consideration to the other person’s feelings, causing hostility and hurt to all parties.

Not everyone views every situation the same way, and people may make different decisions given the same circumstances.  The problem with judgment is that it does not allow for the person being judged to have their own thoughts, feelings and actions about their own life.  It devalues a person’s personal truth and knowledge about themselves.  Even when it comes from a caring place, it can feel disrespectful, and more importantly, feels unloving.

It’s easy to have an opinion about what others say or do, because there is no direct responsibility.  It’s easier to judge than to stand on the higher moral ground of unconditional acceptance.  Those being judged must then endure the repercussions of that.

We should all take a moment before we express our thoughts about other people’s lives, their authenticity, and veracity.  It’s unfortunate to condemn those who truly know themselves, listen to their inner guidance, and follow their heart.

Moving and Grooving

Mr. Ex needed closure.  After I told him I was moving to another state and further told him there was someone else, he wanted my stuff out of the house.  I get that.  He wasn’t vicious about it, just insistent.  Again, I think he needed closure.  And so did I.

The timing was not great because life here and at home is still complicated–not only my life, but the life of my Someone Else.  At the end of a harrowing week and after five days hunkered down in our new apartment with bare walls and no furniture, he and I found ourselves in a car driving east on the thruway to pick up my stuff.

But really it was going to be more than that.  Not only were we going to get my clothes, some furniture, many lamps and a few books, but this was also an opportunity to show my Someone Else a peek into my life and family.

For weeks the skies over my new home were a shade of gray but on Friday the sun was out and the further we drove from our apartment, the better both of us seemed to feel.  Maybe it was the tunes, my Someone Else has a great selection on his ipod, including ancient bluesmen, obscure bluegrass, and even a little Sinatra.  I have to say the miles felt good.

But it also had something to do with the mission.  Then, I thought it was all about getting my stuff and getting Mr. Ex off my back.  But really I think it was about moving forward.

At 10 pm my little village is dark and fast asleep.  But the lights were still on at J’s house, so we pulled in the driveway and went inside.  What’s great about coming home is that after weeks of getting beat up for our newfound relationship we found people who opened their arms to it and gave us a hug.

This was also the first introduction of my Someone Else to my kids and it came at 10:15 at night after six hours and 400 miles on the road.  He was already nervous and has enough on his mind about his own kids, but he looked them in the eye and said hello.

A few minutes with J and the kids and we were gone, off to the house that was once full of hope but now does not feel like home.  How do you split up the possessions of a 20 year marriage?  I guess it can be simple.  We walked through the house, took a quick inventory, and started packing until 3 am.

Mr. Ex provided the alarm clock the next morning, a text at about 6:30 am, wondering what time we would be done, so he could come back home.  We rolled out of bed, ran out for coffee, then got busy packing and moving.  My friend S brought the boxes and an uncanny know-how of how to fill them.  It all went pretty quick. Her soon-to-be-ex husband R was a big help loading the truck with an impossibly long couch and the armoire that left my Someone Else with a bruised rib while trying to get it down the narrow antique stairwell.

In the middle of all this, Mr. Ex shows up.  I think he just wanted to meet this guy who has taken me off to another state, happily away from him.  They were polite and even shook hands, while I was distraught.  This was not a meeting I had anticipated.  It seemed like it took forever for him to leave, but it all seemed to work out for the best.  Mr. Ex even said my Someone Else was a nice guy, and my Someone Else even stuck up for him when I was browbeating Mr. Ex about the house not being clean in my absence.

After about four hours, a few tense moments, bruises, and aching muscles, we were packed and ready to head home.  But there was something else we had to accomplish, a more formal meeting between my three boys and my Someone Else.  We went to my son’s basketball game, where Mr. Ex and my Someone Else sat together and talked about football.  What the hell is that all about?

After the game, we went to lunch.  Me, my three boys, and my new guy.  They interacted with Mr. Someone Else but still acted like teenagers…oh joy! 

After lunch we brought them home and I walked into my home, the last time I would enter as a resident.  I hugged them goodbye, called for Mr. Ex who did not answer me, he was in the shower, so I left.  He called me later and told me he was upset and I said I was sorry.  My Someone Else was driving the loaded truck and I was in my full car.

10 minutes into our trip home, a state trooper pulled up behind me, lights flashing, but not for speeding.  It seems that the last number on my license plate was covered by dirt and he stopped me so I would clean it off.  You know this is not a complaint about the state trooper, because there was an Amber Alert in the area and they were looking for somebody who looked just like me.

One beautiful sunset, seven hours and four stops later, we got home to our quiet apartment.  The moon shining brightly through our windows, we poured a glass of wine and reflected on the previous 34 hours.  And what did we learn?

Probably that moving forward is more than moving furniture, saying goodbye, and driving home.  Moving forward is also about healing hearts, cleaning up messes, and walking into a new apartment with your old stuff under a moonlit sky with your special Someone.

The Laundromat

I went out in a snowstorm to go to the laundromat.  Couldn’t tell you the last time I did that.  Actually couldn’t tell you the last time I did much of anything I am doing now.   Getting divorced, moving out of state, into an apartment on the second floor of a house, and setting up a new life.  Too bad the washer and dryer weren’t included. 

My first run to this suds and bubbles didn’t work out very well…I got lost and ended up in another town.  When I finally found it, after thousands of red traffic lights, skidding cars, and pelting snow and ice, I hauled in my overflowing basket and dropped it onto the top of a triple load washer.

I pulled a pile of quarters out of my purse only to learn that they don’t take quarters, they use special laundromat refillable debit cards.  Who knew.  I think I looked as lost as a kindergartner on her first day of school, with several heavy sighs and a few under the breath bad words thrown in for good measure.

Eventually I got a handle on how to maneuver through the super laundry haven and got my clothes washing.  Thank God I brought a big cup of Starbucks with me, too bad it wasn’t bourbon.  (Not really. I drink wine.) 

The people doing wash right alongside me were a mixed breed of young couples, pregnant moms, single professional men, and grandmothers.  I wondered why each of them was there, besides doing their laundry of course.  What brought us out in a snowstorm to gather in the bright, loud, old, glass-windowed self-serviced establishment?

I wondered what story each person would tell.  As I wandered off in thought about that and was typing randomly on my laptop, I was approached by a man carrying a briefcase and an iphone.  He asked me if I was using the wireless internet there.  A little nervous, I said I was not, and he insisted that I try it.  He claimed he was the owner, but I was a little skeptical.  Obliging him I logged on and connected to the wireless.  He said thank you and left, I quickly disconnected and took a breath.  Unfamiliar town, unfamiliar haunt, unfamiliar life, yet wrapped in warm familiarity.

Next stop on my journey:  the appliance store.

Let’s Talk About The Children

“Practically everything we do as parents is motivated by a desire to see our children be happy.  The good news is that there is much you can do to encourage them to discover true happiness.  You can offer that to them through your loving example…As you show them that, you may notice that something else happens, which is that you become happier too…the most essential thing they can learn and benefit from.”  (Dr. Robert Holden, Oprah)

Any of you who have read my blog or know me, know I have lived through some really horrible situations over the last several years, including things between my soon-to-be ex-husband and me, cancer, indiscretions, children with disabilities, real estate lawsuits, loss of friends, disappointments, stress, and unhappiness.

There has been a tremendous toll on my family, for which both my future ex and I share responsibility.  Over these last few months my eyes have been opened and I finally have clarity on what has been happening and what is possible.  We are both to blame for the breakdown of this marriage and in order to heal we have had to make some important decisions.

When a divorce happens the common practice is that the father leaves.  The accepted choice is not for the mother to go away, as I have.  But in this case I have three boys who desperately need their father.  Because of the complex problems that he and I experienced in our marriage, the environment was terrible for all of us.  No one person is at fault, there are always two sides to every story.  But my children always sided with me, therefore a rift was created in the relationship with their father.  Now there is an opportunity for that rift to be repaired.

When I first decided that I was going to go away I was just intending to go for a brief respite and to explore new opportunities that were put in my path.  After being gone for a week it became very apparent that my children were thriving in the new relationship with their father, there was no fighting, no toxicity, no negative environment for them to endure.

There is now much less stress between the parents, no marital discord.  My children, who had been exhibiting outward signs of anxiety have suddenly started to improve, and they are expressing over and over how much better they feel to have this time with their father.  They feel better, they feel stronger and they are embracing this newfound and happier relationship with their father, something previously interrupted by an unhealthy marriage.

Many of you may wonder how a mother can temporarily leave her children.  It was not an easy choice for me to make, but there were signs in front of me that I couldn’t ignore.  I chose to take the road less travelled.  I believe with all my heart I’m doing what is best for my kids at the moment.  I think there are women out there who feel like this is the better option and are afraid to say it.  The difference is that I’m doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, the guilt that I have faced every day can be staggering.   But I have the support of my almost-ex husband and my family and friends who have watched the suffering.  While he is experiencing his own emotional repercussions, as well as his reinvention, he is finally able to be the kind of father he has always hoped he would be, while offering me encouragement to rebuild my own life.

Is this scary for him?  Sure.  Is it doable?  Absolutely.  For the first time in many years, Mr. Ex and I are communicating effectively.  And that is what is helping our children right now.  It is helping all of us.

Through last few years of difficulty, there has also been a toll on my body.  I argued with doctors at length that my illnesses were not stress-born as they indicated, but that was not the case.  Since I have been focusing on myself, my illnesses have miraculously disappeared, I am strong, healthy, and happy.

Moving out-of-state to start a new life is something I need to do for me. It’s becoming more apparent that this is where I belong.  I have given my children the choice of moving here with me or staying in their hometown with their father and their network of friends, and they have made a choice to stay there…for right now.

There is a lot of change in the air, and the kids still have questions that I will have to answer.  I’m in a new relationship with an old friend and am giving us the opportunity to work through our respective marital losses and not burden the children with that until things settle.

In the past four months I have reconnected with someone very special, left my marriage, I offered my children a fresh start with their father in my absence, I have moved to another state, I am setting up a new home, starting a new career, and am learning to live for me—the first time I have ever done that in my life.

Is this the popular choice?  No.  Is this the socially acceptable choice?  Probably not.  Is it easy?  No way.  Do I miss my kids?  Absolutely.  But do I know that I’m doing the right thing for me and for my family right now?  One hundred percent.