I had occasionally experienced the nightmare of insomnia prior to that upsetting, unsettling Fall of 2007 (when the gods of marriage decided to wreak havoc), but that was child’s play compared to what lay ahead.
In fact, what marked the decade prior to our separation was just the opposite–that is, my inability to stay awake. There were our baby girls, whose mission in life was to alternately delight us with their adorableness and kill us with their sleeplessness (how, how, how could both of them–so different in so many ways–insist on being identical in their aggressive nap-aversion??) Even when they finally slept through the night, the little darlings were exhausting–yes, just as young children are supposed to be, but still…
Maybe I was catching up from all that sleep deprivation–or maybe there just wasn’t enough can’t-miss TV to keep me conscious, but there was a stretch of time when I simply could not keep my eyes open much later than 9:20 pm–and that was after taking a little nap from 8:15-9:00 pm while lying with one of the girls as she went to sleep (R was even more prone to those than I, btw.)
Anyway, back to the fateful Fall of 2007, when I won a gold medal in insomnia. (Sorry, I can’t resist the corny Olympic allusion.) As life as I’d known it began to unravel, I craved sleep more than anything, desperate for relief from my incessant ruminating over why this happened, how it happened, how it might be reversed, undone, what would become of us, of me, of our kids, who was to blame, what would we do on holidays, how could we tell our families, why, how, when, when, how, why, why, when, how?
One night I called one of my friends–a chronic insomniac–and asked her for some sleeping pills. I went to her house at around 11 pm to score one precious Lunesta, her next-to-last one. I split it in half so I’d have some for the following night, but the next evening, I couldn’t find the little shard of snooze and things got ugly. I rifled through my drawers and my bedside table like a junkie, then crawled around on the floor, on the verge of taking a crow bar to the floorboards in order to locate that fraction of a pill. I didn’t find it and spent the night tossing and ruminating next to my snoring soon-to-be-ex. The next morning I had my doctor write me a prescription for Ambien.
Once R finally moved out, I weaned myself off of Ambien and learned to sleep unaided once again. Since starting my job last week, I’ve developed a new sleep-related neurosis: I so hate the rude awakening of my alarm clock that I’ve started waking up at 3, 4, 5 am just so I can make sure to turn it off before it rings.
Come on, that scrap of Lunesta has to be somewhere.
I am so clueless when it comes to understanding the many machinations of money (yet admirable for almost always being able to alliterate?)
During our last couple of sessions with the mediator, money’s what we talked about–proving that, as with so many things in life, divorce ultimately comes down to cash: where it used to come from, where it will come from, who owns what, who owes what to whom, and who bought the girls their last pair of snow boots. (I did.)
My understanding of money has always been very basic (i.e., you earn it, you spend it, you need it), and being married to R enabled that blissful ignorance. From the moment we moved in together on my 27th birthday, financial matters were his responsibility. I was elated when we got our first joint checking account that year, partially because I felt so grown up and also because–honestly?–it felt comforting to have a man’s name on those checks. In fact, R’s name was printed above mine even though both of my initials precede his in the alphabet. I’m not sure how that happened, but so it did.
For all of our married years, it was mutually understood that R was the one who knew the difference between a 401K and an IRA, between a variable interest rate and whatever the other kind is. The fact that he received a regular paycheck, while my income as a freelancer was unpredictable, followed suit.
Hence, being forced to discuss matters financial for two hours in the mediator’s office is not my idea of fun. During the last session, I spaced out as the mediator tapped frantically on her calculator and R scribbled furiously on a pad. At one point, my gaze wandered to the solid metal paperweight shaped like a bunny on the little table next to me. I wondered what sound it would make if I threw it at the side of R’s head. (Yes, even we amicable couples have our moments.)
My bunny-paperweight-tossing fantasy was interrupted when the mediator asked me if I understood what we were talking about. I, too ashamed and polite to say, “NO, I have no f**king idea what the word equity means,” cheerfully responded: “Yes. Yep. Absolutely.” I felt as dumb as Jeannie (as in I Dream of).
But, hold on, here comes the optimism: Tomorrow I start my full-time job. Even though I am well aware that cubicle life is not everyone’s idea of joy, and even though single working mom is not the label I’d pictured for myself, the thought of earning my own regular paycheck is empowering, relieving and kind of cool.
Soon, I plan to be a financially savvy force to be reckoned with.
(BTW, if you think you can describe the sound a metal bunny paperweight makes when it hits the head of a middle-aged man, by all means let me know.)
On Saturday night, I went to a Valentine’s day dance at my 3rd grader’s school. It was 1980′s-themed, so I spent the afternoon helping my girls outfit themselves in leggings and big shirts with belts.
The school was brilliant enough to provide a little pub in an adjoining room, so that the parents could buy cheap wine and beer in support of the PTA. Every now and then, we wandered into the gym to watch our kids dancing under ghastly flourescent lights to songs by such 80′s phenoms as The Violent Femmes, Billy Idol and Blondie. Our songs.
The combo 80’s/Valentine’s day theme had me waxing nostalgic in a big way. That was the decade when I first experienced the joys and miseries of romantic love, real and imagined. (For a while, I was sure I would DIE if Matt Dillon did not step out of the movie Little Darlings and instantly become my boyfriend.)
I also wrote a lot of bad, angst-ridden poetry during that decade, as I recently discovered while sorting through boxes of stuff. Allow me to share some excerpts (and please try to cut me some slack. I have never shown anyone these fine works, not even those for whom they were written):
* * *
Our love is like a dried-out Flair pen
No longer works, it tries.
It dies. It tries.
My optimism brews beneath a haze of lies.
* * *
This is not the first time.
This is nothing but self-slaughter. This is nothing but used crime.
Latent vacancies destroy the pillow
So blatant is the urgency
* * *
Beneath the crisp white smile of your work shirts
It’s your heart I want to taste
Even if it’s just one big bruise
Or beating red and salty
Like a healthy animal
* * * *
I happen to think the last one has some merit, but, um, a dried-out Flair pen? I can LOL at that now–but back then, it was not a laughing matter.
The 80′s ended with me meeting R, who caused me no angst whatsoever until well into the millennium. By the time I felt angsty about him, I had two kids and zero inclination to write poetry (though I did hit send on a few emails from hell itself).
Now, at the beginning of the 2010′s, I’m feeling too old for angSt. Or maybe just too wise to worry about Flair pens, dried-out or otherwise. Or maybe I’m kidding myself.
Hey, whatever happened to Matt Dillon, anyway?
So it’s Monday afternoon and I’m at work, which means my laptop and I are cuddled up in bed together. I’m wearing jeans, a tank top and socks with Christmas trees on them; messy hair, no make-up. It is 2:43pm and I have not yet interacted with soap and water today.
This is the professional lifestyle I’ve been leading since before my 13-year-old was born. Way back when, I did the thing where you set an alarm clock, shower in the morning and head to an office, but then I snagged a breadwinner-type husband, became a mother, and settled into what, for a long time, was an ideal arrangement: I was part-time stay-at-home-mom, part-time freelance journalist–able to interview Gloria Steinem or research rheumatoid arthritis in the morning and spend the afternoon hosting playdates or going to the playground.
And then, as we know, my life changed a little. The relatively warm, fluffy loaf of bread that R provided for a family of four living under one roof became a thin smattering of crumbs when that family started living under two roofs. (Doesn’t it seem like it should be rooves?) Add the fact that the recession has put many publications out of business or eliminated their freelance budgets, and my semi-luxurious work-from-home existence went poof. (If Gloria Steinem needs to be interviewed now, they’ll make her do it herself.)
So, big news here in the land of the midlife makeover: Two weeks from now, I am going back to work full time in an office, where I will write about health for a series of consumer-friendly booklets and–get this–be given a regular paycheck for doing so. Apparently that means I’ll get paid even if I don’t call the accounting department 7 or 8 times first, which boggles the mind in such a good way. (Fellow freelancers, I know you hear me.)
I. Am. So. Psyched.
True, there are trade-offs. I won’t be able to take my sweaty yoga class at noon or grocery shop anytime I feel like it, and my younger daughter, especially, will not see me as much, which makes me sad. I might have to dust off my Crock-Pot so that a nutritious dinner is ready when I get home. (Got recipes? I want them.) I won’t work lying in bed in a tank top anymore, and when I wear my Christmas-tree socks, no one will know, because, well, Mama needs a new pair of shoes, and now it looks like she might get them.