Wow, I guess last summer is over, huh? Oops. I really did intend to resume my blog in the fall, but I guess that season slipped away from me too. Yikes. And winter has apparently been cancelled here in the Northeast this year, so now it’s been officially three seasons since I blogged.
Frankly (get it?), I’m touched that a few of you have been on me about it. I am flattered that some of you have missed my musings. I miss them too, but I’ve been stuck. Allow me to be my neurotic, honest self and I’ll tell you a bit about my stuckness. I’m going to use the “deceptively simple bullet format” extolled by one of my most beloved pals/readers to explain my lengthy blog hiatus:
So that’s where things are at. If you were one of my loyal fans, thank you for urging me to resume blogging. And, um, not that I’m trying to get the milk for free, but if I were to start a new, post-Splitsville blog, what would the focus be and what would it be called?
(Oh, also, I am supposed to give credit for the image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1152)
and so is my blog. See you in the fall!
This morning I was lying in bed, listening to NPR. It was early–around 8 am. (I got up so I could get to Target before anyone else, because I have crowded-Target phobia.)
Anyway, a guy was being interviewed about “mindfulness” (sorry, but that’s one of those jargon-y words I have to put in quotes, though it resonates with me more than the others) and meditation. He read this poem aloud and it spoke to me in a big way, so I want to share it. It’s the takeaway message for me and I think for anyone who ends up single again after a long relationship. You were on one planet, half of a whole, and now you’re on a different one–one that only vaguely resembles the planet you were on as a single person before marriage. Even if you end up in a new post-marital relationship, it’s so different from that first defining one, formed when you were young and naive and forever-oriented. You’re forced to realize that it’s you who must be your greatest source of strength, you who is both halves of the whole; anyone else is pretty much gravy.
I’ll shut up now and turn the spotlight on the beautiful, true words of my guest poster, Derek Walcott:
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Yeah, we're standing. Big deal.
Last night I lived another midlife cliche–that of the aging hipster who doesn’t realize just how aged she is until she revisits the kind of scene that in her younger days passed for fun times and she just doesn’t get it anymore.
I was at a night club (is that what they call them these days?) called the Mercury Lounge, where I went to see the band Urge Overkill. The guitarist/singer, Nash Kato, is a friend of mine from college and a very talented dude (not that I can use the word dude without sounding like an idiot, but that’s sort of the point here). I wanted to be supportive, but found that I needed to be supportED–like, physically.
It was a rainy Monday night at 10:30 pm–a time when I am usually asleep or catching up on Mad Men–and I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of equally middle-aged UO fans–most of them male, portly, and balding– in a hot, dark room, waiting for the band to take the stage.
After about five minutes of this insanity, I realized that I can no longer stand like I used to, especially while simultaneously clutching my raincoat, an umbrella and a plastic cup of mediocre white wine. I’m 47 and I need a chair, dammit! And a little table on which to place my vino. And a piece of fine stemware instead of a plastic cup.
The longer we stood there, the more outraged I became. How could anyone expect a mob of moist, aging hipsters to stand and stand and stand right next to each other like this? I kept looking around, thinking there has to be a chair somewhere. Someone must be getting the chairs right now–at least one of those folding soccer-mom chairs with the cup holder in the arm. Right?
Wrong. No chairs; not even a stool. But the standing became the least of it once the band started playing. UO has a lot of energy. They are very, very loud. The kind of loud where emergency ear plugs fashioned from a ripped-up Kleenex do no good because the whole room is throbbing and it’s not about your hearing as much as your entire circulatory system.
I flashed back to my college days, when a Saturday night required this kind of loudness and chaos and endless standing in order to qualify as fun. In fact, I recalled seeing the band Black Flag with Nash and finding the whole slam-dancing thing slightly barbaric. At my age, I guess standing is the new slam-dancing.
I also started to worry about the band members, who were all sweaty and red-faced. I was concerned that one of them might have a stroke.Then, after the show, I couldn’t stop telling my pal K (Nash’s girlfriend) how he’s such a great performer with a wonderful voice and that it’s a shame we couldn’t hear him because of all the noise, not to mention the standing. I told her to suggest that he reinvent himself as a soothing folk-singer type. He could play in quiet, classy little venues with tables and chairs and decent wine. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
Tell me you didn’t see this coming: I have a life coach–or, well, I spoke with one once for 90 minutes. I know, I know–such a midlife-makeover-ish thing to do, right? And I’m really too cynical and eye-rolley to participate in something as amorphous as life coachery—but then it’s amazing what a sudden, unexplained bout of poverty and singleness can drive one to (see: self-help books and online dating sites). Honestly, I’ve been a little restless ever since I landed a job. (For which I am grateful, btw. I’m almost starting to believe in god.) And a sweet, cute boyfriend. (No, really, god, I was kidding. Of course I believe in you.) And figured out how to get groceries delivered right to my door (possibly the ultimate accomplishment of the three, thanks to my good pal god).
Now it’s time to sort out my creative self, something I’ve been trying to do since I was 21, with intermittent success. I didn’t make my original deadline of writing something important, critically-acclaimed and noteworthy by age 30. Or 40. And now 50 is uncomfortably near (um, no thank you, god). Fifty. Fif.Tee.
So now what? In a way, I don’t care as much as I used to about achieving something significant in my lifetime. So what if I would rather watch Mad Men and read other people’s books than write one myself? Does the world really need another book? We’re all going to die anyway—agents, editors, writers, critics, even the PR and marketing people. So in the end, perhaps just having fun and blogging is an acceptable way to pass one’s free time. Right? Am I capable of not putting such pressure on myself? Can I once and for all dismiss my gnawing, constant sense of disappointment in me?
Apparently not, because I wrestle with these thoughts, oh, 500 times a day. Recently, I inflicted my inner conflict on my super-creative and much-younger new friend Laura, who instantly fixed me up with her life coach, Marcia. My expectations were high. Prior to speaking with Marcia, I felt an untrustworthy sense of well-being—as if simply contacting her was accomplishment enough and she would take it from there. I didn’t want her to help me be creative as much as I wanted her to be creative for me, maybe even to produce something on my behalf–more like a surrogate than a coach.
Our introductory chat was good, like a combination of therapy and school. She helped me think about what has worked/not worked for me in the past as far as unlocking my creative self. I shared my struggle over how much to reveal and whose feelings to protect or not in this blog or in any future, larger tell-all endeavors. But she kept bringing up this notion of a “goal,” which I found unsettling–because if I had a goal, would I need a coach (or simply a trophy)?
We’re scheduled to speak again in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to that. Until then, I’m supposed to read a few inspiring texts that Marcia recommended, plus I’m going to write down some of the blog thoughts that I’m reluctant to publish and see where that leads me.
I’ll keep you (goal) posted.
… a thousand words or so. God bless America, no?
Since my last post on this topic, I’ve accumulated more proof that getting older and becoming curmudgeonly/peculiar are inextricably linked (but maybe the self-awareness is somewhat mitigating?) The latest evidence:
It’s been almost exactly two years since R moved out. I honestly can’t believe it has been that long–even though we middle-aged folks are constantly bemoaning the brisk passage of time. My goodness, wasn’t I just writing the post about surviving the first year? Where has the time gone?
Many of the (many) books I’ve turned to for guidance during this difficult period mention the two-year mark as a milestone. Apparently, if you’re the me in the scenario, by then you are officially back on your feet, successfully re-routed toward your glorious post-divorce future. I remember reading about it while still in my raw, skinless state and thinking I could not possibly survive two whole years. I hoped someone would hit the fast-forward button so I didn’t have to be awake for the duration. Or hit me with a bus.
And now suddenly I’m here, 24 months later. I am, in fact, re-routed and less raw, just like the books promised. Yet, oddly enough, I’m also feeling a little sentimental about that hellish phase, if only because it gave me an automatic excuse for being unable to cope with anything. Just like when you have a baby and chalk up the extra weight, the slovenly attire, the exhaustion, to the fact that, well, you just had a baby–until one day you wake up and notice that your kids are in elementary school and you can’t fall back on that anymore.
When I couldn’t handle certain household tasks (and I couldn’t), I forgave myself because, after all, I was a recently-separated, marginally-employed, suddenly-single mom. If my temper was too short with the girls (and it was) or I cried in the bathroom (and I did), well, wasn’t I off the hook, given that I was going through an awfully hard time? If I needed a reason to turn a man down for a second date (which I did), I played the confused newbie: “I’m sorry. I’m so new at this. I’m not ready. I think I started dating too soon. Maybe in a few months…”
Abigail Trafford aptly describes those years as Crazy Time in her book by the same name: “It starts when you separate and usually lasts about two years. It’s a time when your emotions take on a life of their own and you swing back and forth between wild euphoria and violent anger, ambivalence and deep depression, extreme timidity and rash actions. You can’t believe…how terrible you feel, how overwhelming daily tasks become, how frightened you are; about money, your health, your sanity.”
Now I’m so jaded that when I read other women’s divorce sagas, I think, “Oh, boo hoo, honey. Pick yourself up off the floor and get on with it. Pump the gas, kill the mice, fix the toilet, change the occasional light bulb, join the dating site. Because–guess what–you have no choice.”
But, as crappy as I felt during that stage, it also came with the thrill of the new and unknown. I had my work cut out for me, a fierce sense of purpose. Every day felt like a challenge, an occasion that required rising to, an endless loop of first-days-of-the-rest-of-my-life. It was often agonizing and exhausting, but there was so much intensity and drama, so much adrenalin. It was an adventure.
And now things have leveled off. I have a job; a guy. Much still remains unknown, unhealed and unclear–but Crazy Time has officially ended. It’s not exactly a let-down, it’s just so weirdly calm and orderly all of a sudden that I’m a little disoriented. I wonder what will be the source of my next adventure and what will provide meaning. Or maybe I should just embrace the stillness for a while.
(Note to the universe: I said adventure, not heartache. Meaning, not misery. Got that?)
This is not mine, btw.
This past weekend I decided to wear a bracelet that I haven’t worn in years. No big deal, really, except that the bracelet was from R, and for a long time I boycotted most of the jewelry he gave me in a misplaced, don’t-mention-the-war type attempt to protect myself from sentiment. (Plus, the books say that removing physical reminders of the spouse is necessary to heal and rebuild.)
The downside of my jewelry boycott (mancott?), though, is that I have been wearing the same wimpy handful of non-R-associated necklaces and earrings for two years now and I’m getting bored. About 80 percent of my jewelry collection was given to me by R, and,whatever one may or may not think about the man’s other facets (tee hee—get it, facets?), one can’t deny that he had excellent taste in baubles. In fact, it instilled in other females the kind of awe and envy that is usually reserved for that lone remarkable dad pushing his kid on a swing at the playground on a weekday morning.
My friends routinely expressed amazement. “R got you that? He picked it out himself? All by himself?” Then would come the sad stories of having to return–or, worse, keep–ill-chosen husbandly gifts of jewelry, or of having to actually accompany one’s husband to the store so as to avoid faking an “Oh, honey, I love it!” moment.
I never understood this stereotypical cluelessness among men, because it seems that if someone truly knows you, he also gets your style and sensibility. Right? It’s so simple. (The truth is that toward the end of our marriage, R’s jewelry prowess began to falter, and I ended up returning a pair of whimsical, but not wearable, antler-shaped earrings. Something was clearly amiss.)
At one point during those stormy pre-separation months, I weepily gathered every last bit of jewelry that R had ever given me into a tangly mass and chucked it into the wastepaper basket next to his dresser. Fortunately, a sliver of my rational brain was still functioning and knew I would regret that move. I dug it out and tossed it into a drawer instead.
And now that I’ve lifted the ban, it’s like I have all this new jewelry! There are a few key pieces that give me a pang, but it’s amazing how time has diluted most of the voodoo.
Once I found the bracelet, I started sifting through the other stuff. I even reluctantly opened the gray suede box that now serves as a tiny coffin for my wedding and engagement rings. I put the engagement ring—one of my favorite pieces of jewelry (and yes, R chose it all by himself)—on the ring finger of my right hand. Then I put it back in the box because that one’s still a little fraught, plus it seems wrong to wear a symbol of a marriage-to-be when the marriage is now a has-been. But IS there any real reason not to wear it, now that it’s not so much my engagement ring as just a pretty ring that happens to have been given to me during a prior engagement?
What do you think?
I try to steer clear of whining about the physical decline inherent in midlife, because it’s so cliche.
Me, formerly flawless and well-lit.
But I recently experienced a moment of reckoning in a fitting room at Lord & Taylor, where I was all alone with fluorescent lighting and a three-way mirror. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. My 46-year-old self stared back at me in all directions. Who knew I had a little pouchy chin thing, plus the beginnings of the weirdness that happens to one’s neck–not to mention less-than-taut upper arms? Not me. Until then.
I walked out of L&T dazed and confused, and without having purchased anything. (I might have bought something had the lighting been less brutal. Seriously–has no one done market research and found that women will buy things if the dressing rooms are designed to flatter, not to appall??)
In my disoriented, highly vulnerable state, I wandered into one of the three Sephora stores near my office. (There seems to be a 1:1 ratio of Sephora to Starbucks stores lately.)
I’ve worn makeup since I was in junior high school, back when my skin was a creamy, smooth blank slate, open to subtle enhancement via a bottle of Maybelline Kissing Potion roll-on lip gloss and a streak of eyeliner inside the lower lids (remember that technique, gals my age?) A spritz of Love’s Baby Soft and I was good to go.
Now, at my advanced age, enhancement is the least of it. Correction is what it’s about, and Sephora is all over that, with displays devoted to wrinkle fillers, concealers, and the newest word in corrective makeup: Primers. These are all designed to bring your face back to a flaw-free baseline so that it can receive the more frivolous embellishments like eyeshadow and lipstick.
It seemed exciting at first, to think I could erase all my facial flaws simply by purchasing a few tubes and jars, but I soon experienced what I call the orange-juice dilemma, which goes like this: When I was a girl there was one kind of orange juice. From concentrate, period. Now, you can choose from OJ with some pulp, no pulp, a little pulp, tons of pulp, with calcium, without acid, with other kinds of juices, etc. Should you want no pulp, yet tons of calcium, or a little pulp with a soupcon of pineapple juice, you are screwed. It is truly panic-inducing (or is it just me?) and I often find it easier to go without OJ than be forced to prioritize like that.
With the face-fixers, it’s the same thing. Sure, you can have a perfect face, if you can decide which flaw to prioritize. Wrinkles? Redness? Age spots? Crepey eyelids? Dark circles? Shrinking lips? Acne scars? Oily skin? Dry skin? No skin? No one product seems to do it all, yet the time and money commitment involved in covering even a few bases seems mind-boggling.
I decided to start small, with a concealer that has two components. The first one “neutralizes” discoloration and the second layer does, um… something else. I forgot what, exactly, but I know it works because it cost $28, not including the special brush, which was only half that price.