I just looked back at this blog and saw that on August 5, 2009, my daughter, Zoe, and ex, Steve packed up the car and left our family home (the most recent one – we’d moved about three times in previous five years.) I remember the feelings I had that day, it was probably one of the lowest points of my life. I had just lost my mother and now my family was breaking apart.
So here I am one year later. It’s been an incredible year of magical thinking, I guess you could say. Many miracles and many life lessons have occurred. A one year anniversary is significant in that it is a measure of the first Thanksgiving without your family, the first birthday, Christmas and Hanukah, a long series of firsts. Surviving these events, going through all the feelings that come up, starts to gradually make you feel stronger.
I am so grateful for the way this year has unfolded and for all the positive changes in my life. I have a wonderful home in Manhattan with the nicest loftmate in the world. My dogs are still here with me and although they are both old, and not doing all that well, they have given me so much love, it would have been much harder without them. (And it was also hard with them — walking four times a day most days, in the winter, in the heat – not an easy job.) They are pretty famous in the neighborhood, particularly Lola.
I am close to having a job, at least a freelance one. I don’t want to talk about it yet, but it’s something that I am very excited about – and I hope will work out. Zoe is doing really well in San Francisco. I’ve met some very nice men. I’ve learned so much about life just by sitting in Friends In Deed for the past year. I’ve kept up my meditation practice, as imperfect as it is. I’ve started running again and although recently my knee has been bothering me, I’ve kept it up and am working on building up the muscles around my knees. Exercise has really helped. We are getting closer to resolving our divorce and hopefully that will happen soon. I wish Steve well, I am tired of fighting and look forward to someday having all of this in the past.
My friends have sustained me and I don’t even have the words to say how grateful I am.
A friend of mine wrote me a note about changing the template for the blog and said she calls the blog “a book review a day.” I guess I have been staying away from writing about my personal life recently because it’s been a bit difficult to write about it. I’m working on my book project, or whatever it will be, and keeping a journal – but going through a divorce and writing about it publicly, in a blog, is not easy to do.
There are times I seem to disappear. Usually I’m going through some difficult period of dealing with my lawyers and reading affidavits and wondering how we got to this horrible mess. Having watched so many of my friends go through this in the past, I feel like I’m experiencing a rite of passage and I feel good about how I’m getting through it. I don’t drink or eat too much, or spend too much. If I do anything too much it’s reading books about divorce and getting through difficult times and writing about it on this blog. It helps me to focus on the stuff I’m dealing with inside, with my soul.
Some day I will write about it, but right now it feels difficult to reveal too much. I am a far more empathetic person than I used to be and when I hear about people who’ve lost a spouse or a parent, or are dealing with a sick parent or child, or going through a divorce, or who have lost a job — I have a sense of the pain they are feeling. Last night I listened to a man, in a big group at Friends in Deed, talk about losing a girlfriend of twenty-nine years as he sobbed and said he’d never in his life experienced so much pain. He said he never knew that people suffered like this before and he felt sad that for so many years he walked ignorant about grief. I’d know about grief now, the feeling of disconnection, of crying, of not getting pleasure in anything, of the worries that it’s never going to get better. But everything does change and in this past year, I can see how much it’s changed. My reading about divorce says it generally takes two years to feel “normal” again – whatever normal is. I’ll let you know.
Last year, when I was in Spain with my…well, what do I call him? My almost ex husband? Steve is his name, that’s what I’ll call him. I guess I could call him other names, but I won’t.
We were in southern Spain, in Andalucia, which I totally fell in love with, and we were driving in the mountains, headed to Ronda. We (he) decided to take a road through the mountains because Steve wanted to go to a small town called Grazalema, I believe was the name. We got on a road that had a sign that said, in Spanish, something about road blocked due to a mud slide, but for some reason, we saw a few cars up ahead of us, and we didn’t believe the sign. The road was extremely curvy and I tend to get a bit anxious on really mountainous roads, and this one seemed to go on and on and kept climbing up the mountain. It was also absolutely gorgeous country, which I tried to notice as I gripped the dashboard. There were a few turn-offs along the road where people had stopped to eat lunch and look at the views.
I figured once we got to the top of the mountains we would be safe and just go down the other side to Grazalema, but sure enough, after what seemed like a good hour or so, we came to the part of the road that was blocked and we could go no further. I couldn’t believe we had to go back down that same road and take those same curves. We didn’t argue about it, we just turned around and that hour long drive took about twenty minutes. It wasn’t, in fact, an hour, it only felt like an hour.
We returned to the town we’d driven through at the base of the mountain, found a restaurant, had some lunch and then set off again on our journey to Ronda, on a different, but still gorgeous road.
I feel like I’m on that windy road now, just headed through the mountains, not quite sure what’s ahead, but trusting that I will get to the other side of the mountain. (Or turn around and go back down and have lunch.) This divorce journey seems endless, but from all my reading about divorce, it’s generally a two year ordeal – “Crazy Time” – a period of ups and downs and pleasurable periods and sadness. Today was both. I had some lovely times with friends and some time alone.
I’m heading through the mountains and I should try to enjoy the views, which are truly, quite lovely. I’m trying to stay in the moment, enjoy each day, and be grateful for all the wonderful blessings in my life.
Life is mysterious…I dragged myself to the gym and ran faster than I have in a long time, 3 miles in 36 minutes. It made me feel so much better. Then I went to Friends In Deed, to a big group, where I was reminded yet again – that when we live in the moment everything is pretty much fine. And the mantra can be: “Come on back” when we feel like we’re going back to the past and re-hashing stuff or going to the future and worrying about it. And the AND word – I can feel sadness AND feel happy at the same time. I can miss my mother AND also feel grateful that she is no longer suffering. I can miss my marriage and the family unit we had AND feel excited about my life now.
After the big group they fed us lunch which always makes me happy and I spoke to my friends who were there, then I came home and dealt with the thing that was really bothering me – my taxes. I can’t really file them because everything is up in the air about the settlement and I wasn’t sure how to file for an extension. So I called up the I.R.S. and spoke to a very lovely man who told me exactly what I needed to do and it was so easy, it was ridiculous. Life has lessons every day. Sometimes they are painful and sometimes we make them painful when they are really quite simple.
I’m nearing the one year anniversary of the decision to separate, that big moment that came in our marriage counseling session. Is it better? Yes. It is still difficult? Sometimes. Am I through the worst of it? Hopefully, but maybe not. I’m still mourning my mother and that also takes time.
Yesterday I sat with a woman whose husband left her just a few months ago and she found out that he’d been involved with another woman for several years. A few days ago I heard about a book called “Perfection” – about a woman who discovers, after her beloved husband’s death, that he had been having affairs with nearly every woman in their small town.
I guess I’m lucky that I’m not dealing with that kind of betrayal and that is often the reason many marriages end, people fall in love with someone else, or discover that their spouse has been cheating.
I’m not sure it really matters in the end what the causes are; the results are the same, sadness, loss, a sense of failure, mourning and fear. All of those feelings are less intense for me now, but they are still there and they come and go. The woman I sat with yesterday was in so much pain, I wished there was something I could do or say that would help her, but time really is the healer. One year from now I will be in a completely different place emotionally – I am certain of that.
And the saying really is “one day at a time” – and that’s about all any of us need to deal with.
A year ago I was spending ten or so days in Spain with my husband, on one of the best trips of our life together. Now we are separated and I am spending a week with my daughter here in NY. It hasn’t stopped raining for a few days, but it has been wonderful to see Zoe and be with the dogs. Tonight we are going to a seder at an old friend’s home and it happens to be right upstairs. Zoe wanted to go to a seder and I’m so grateful to my friend Barbara, who is also inviting my friend Mona, who’s flying in today from Los Angeles. She reminded me that it is a mitvah (an act of human kindness) to have a stranger at the seder table. Most people often say, “I’m sorry I don’t have room” – but Barbara says “Bring anyone you know!” What a mensch.
Several people reminded me that going through divorce takes at least two years to start to come out the other side. I’m solidly stuck in the middle. Not miserable, but not exactly happy either. Some days are fine, great even, I feel on solid ground and doing my meditation, my spiritual practice, my gratitude lists, my awareness of how good my life is – how many friends I have – how much I love my two dogs and my roommate is literally AWESOME – and other times, I would like to crawl into bed and take some drug that would take away the pain. And then I remember Pema Chodron’s message, and pretty much everyone I read who says, feel it and it will pass. So today I am feeling it, allowing myself to grieve and to remember the good times we had, especially on our trip to Spain. A friend of mine told me that if you really feel the grief and let it pass through you, it probably won’t come out twenty years later in some other way.
I’m going to start taking an acting class in the next week and that will be an excellent outlet for the sadness.
Today, in Moscow there were subways bombings and more than three dozen people were killed. I wish I had something more cheerful to share today. At least Obama managed to get a health care bill passed last week! It’s not perfect, but it’s a good beginning.
There – something positive. And my daughter is sitting on the couch, a few feet away. A friend of mine came over yesterday and met her and he pronounced her quite terrific. And she is and I love her.
My “kid” arrived this morning. She is twenty-two now and she is a wonderful woman and when we hugged each other I thought we would never let go.
Being a parent has been the most gratifying job/experience I have ever had and my relationship with Zoe has given me so much of everything I love in life – challenges, joy, fun, hard work, anxiety (okay, I don’t love that, but it’s a part of life.)
I heard a good quote that Georgia O’Keefe said, “I’ve been terrified just about every moment of my life, but I never let it stop me from doing anything.” I remember when I gave birth to Zoe twenty-two years ago I was terrified of the responsibility I suddenly had for this human being. And I can’t say that I did a stellar job of parenting, in fact for many years I thought I should win the “worst parent ever” award. Now I know I’m just like most parents – trying our best, failing at some things, doing pretty well at others. The measure of a person is not about the externals – it’s about who they are inside – and Zoe is a remarkable person who is becoming more her true self every day. I am so grateful to have this week with her and I want to enjoy every moment. Right now she’s napping after taking the red eye, so I thought it would be a good time to write. I don’t know if I’ll have much time to keep up with writing this week – at least not on the blog. But I will simply say how grateful I am that we have a good relationship, because I know how difficult it can be, especially when divorce fractures a family. It will be interesting to see how open we can be with each other about how these past seven months have been and also, to respect the boundaries we may need to put in place if it’s too difficult to talk about.
Lucy and Lola went as predicted, completely nuts when they saw Zoe. What can you say about our beloved pets? They are simply the greatest, most loyal company anyone could ever have.
Earlier today I wrote a post about receiving a summons from my ex, suing me for divorce in the state of California. I was expecting Zoe at the door, arriving from the airport, and instead, I got a summons. It was my first time ever being served and it was quite a surreal experience. (It turned out that Zoe is actually coming tonight on the red eye and will arrive tomorrow morning. Thank God, because it was a difficult day.)
I wrote about the description my ex gave of me to the process server, which was actually quite flattering (especially given the description I would have given of him.) But after I wrote the post, a friend of mine was appalled and said to me, “What would Pema say?” So I thought about it and removed that blog post, but I thought I would put in a You Tube video of Pema talking about her own divorce and how she became a Buddhist nun.
Last night I heard the news: after a twenty-three year relationship, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are separating. At least they don’t have to get divorced, since they never got married.
Yesterday, someone told me that in a recent NY Times op-ed there was a statistic that something like eighty percent of people in their “middle ages,” whatever that is, are married. But in New York City that number is dramatically lower.
I have heard of more couples separating in the last year than I can ever recall. I also know of many people who are not happy in their relationships, but aren’t going to leave. The reason I know this, is that when you announce you are getting divorced, suddenly everyone confides in you. I also heard from a friend yesterday, that out of her four grown kids, two are now getting divorced.
Another friend recently told his wife if their relationship didn’t improve he wouldn’t stay. Another couple hasn’t really spoken to each other in about a month.
I think that the myth we are sold on marriage is distorted and also that people show one face when they are dating, and after they get married, they very quickly become who they really are. I do know couples who deeply love each other, and think about how they can show that love, and are supportive and genuinely enjoy each others company. What a gift.
I don’t know if I’ll find someone to share my life with again. I know that my living arrangement with my friend has taken the edge off and I feel more relaxed about the future. I wonder what Susan and Tim would say about their separation – did they grow apart, as so many of us do? Even with the perfect life, the great careers, the multiple homes, the money, all the kids, and the fame? Did one of them find someone else? The message is we’re all basically the same…humans struggling, trying to find connections and good lives. No one is immune from loss, sadness, illness, death. Even Tiger Woods has to do some major re-evaluating of his life choices.
As difficult as life can get, it’s also fun too, and the difficult times pass. It’s been about a year since I first mentioned the idea of separation and each day gets better. I keep going where it’s “warm”, even when the wind chill is fifteen degrees. Going where it’s warm is about turning to friends who are supportive and really care about you. I am grateful for the friends I have, every one of them.
I’ll be away between Christmas and New Years, up in the country, enjoying nature. This has been a very difficult and extremely good year for me. I hope that Susan, Tim and everyone else who is going through these major life changes can find peace even in the painful times.
Do you think Tim Robbins will post his profile on Match.com?