Thursday, September 25, 2014

World War III

While our congress is off having cocktails with major donors- it is election season, you know- Obama continues to beat the war drum. We are now going to fight ISIS's "Network of Death" anywhere and everywhere. And oh, by the way, there was this other thing called the Khorasan Group that we bombed the shit out of the other day, too.

Um, if  World War is defined by multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple places... doesn't that make this WWIII? And while our congress clearly thinks sipping martinis is essential business of the country, are they not shirking their constitutional duty to debate and vote on this?

No, no, let's all talk about the lazy salute with a cup of coffee in Obama's hand. I mean, WOW. Can you believe that he was so disrespectful? And why didn't Michelle curtsey? or something?

Let's take a peek at where we are now fighting, or planning to fight. We have sent troops to Africa to fight the Ebola virus. Mind you, perhaps a dollar short and a day late, as the infection rate at this point could easily be 1.5 million by January 2015. Okay, this is a good fight and we should have been there at the beginning. I know, hindsight is always 20-20.

We are giving Russia the "one more step and we are going to lose it" look in the Ukraine. Of course, Putin continues to inch forward a little bit more to see if we are serious. No one in any country has any appetite to take on Russia in a war. Except for Ukraine, and that's only because they have to. Let's face it, they didn't mobilize their entire army to go fight. Luckily, there is an uneasy peace right now and it appears Russian troops have started to withdraw. Although as I tell my students, if you are not there? You have no idea what's going on.

Which brings me to Syria, and Iraq. No boots on the ground - just in the air, and at sea but it's not ground! I'm sorry but that reminds me of my kids holding a finger an inch away from their brother's face saying, I'm not touching you! There is not one reporter or news agency of any kind there. All of our information is coming from the military. Great. Not at all unbiased. And this Khorasan group? Just a little concern they are plotting attacks on the US and Europe.


Now the politicians are telling us we are headed into a long, drawn out war in the middle east. Call me crazy, but when I look at the calendar? Seems we have been at war since September 11, 2001. That is a long, drawn out war. And hiring Blackwater to go in and do the dirty work doesn't mean we don't have boots on the ground.

What about Israel? We give billions of dollars in military aid to a conflict that my son Zachary says, both sides suck. Sure, we're not fighting there, but we are involved. Deeply.

Multiple continents, multiple battles. Seems to me that we have, in fact, entered WWIII. Add to the mix the effects of climate change- droughts, food shortages, extreme weather disasters- and I'm not exactly sure what this world will look like in ten years.

But please, Congress. Don't stop your campaigns of mud throwing and nasty to address this. Don't bother having a debate. We'll all just sit back and watch the nightly news showing the glory of our missiles leaving warships from 10 different angles.

We, the American people, are all good with it. Right?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Emptying Nest

I was talking to a fellow parent of a child off to college yesterday. She asked me how it was going and I said, I miss Ben. I miss his sassy commentary, his whirlwind through the house. I keep looking in the refrigerator, expecting to find something with a single bite out of it.

He always took a single bite out of pretty much everything. Incredibly annoying but better than peeing on things to mark his territory.

She said, Yeah, well, you have back up children.

It's true, I have two more children. No empty nest here. This same person once referred to my other children as the "do overs." You know, you screw up on the first one and get a do over on the next two.

Sad, but true. There was once a time in history when the first born got all the privilege. Now, they get all the mistakes of brand new parents. Of course, you used to have a lot of children because they were economic benefits. They were additional free labor, minus the piece of bread you tossed them.

Not so much anymore. Costs me five bucks to have Jake mow the lawn. And they would throw the piece of bread right back at me, telling me they wanted it lightly toasted with butter, please.

The other two, while learning to spread their wings in the newly available space. It's been a delight to see them shift into new roles. Mostly a delight. They have both decided that drinking straight from whatever container in the refrigerator is their way of marking territory.

Of course, I've never taken a single bite and returned the item to the refrigerator, nor drank straight from the container. If I did, I would have to claim insanity from living with so much testosterone.

While there are fewer dishes to do, I miss the camaraderie of the three of them. I get tremendously sentimental, thinking of what it will be like when they are all out of the house. The way they interact will never be the same again. I want to put on Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You" and cry.

Then I hear that Ben texted his brothers on their first day of school. My heart melts. Turn up the volume, get the tissues. (Unless no one is looking, then just use the inside of your tee shirt.) Until I hear they both texted back the same thing- Fuck You! I realize, it's not changed all that much. They are a tight band of brothers. Nothing will change that core.

I appreciate those who have only one child means everything happens at once. There is no process of change. One day, the house is simply empty.  I'm lucky to have five more years before a truly empty nest is upon me. Of course, by then? Ben will have graduated and considering the economic realities for college graduates? The refrigerator will have plenty of one bite items in it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Courage to Change

Almost four years ago, I took a deep breath and found the courage to change. It was impossible not to do something. What I didn’t know at the time was how hard it would be. I’ve never been afraid of being alone. I rather like it. At times, I need it. But deep down to the bones alone? I wasn’t prepared for that.

It’s hard to think back to that time. I cried a lot. I missed my kids. I missed my sister. I missed my home, although my sister left me with everything I needed to start over again- a house, fully furnished, close to the kids. I even missed my mother. Suddenly, I was in her shoes- divorced with three kids. There were days when all I wanted to do was to crawl into bed and sleep. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I felt like such a failure.

Let’s get one thing clear- nothing about divorce is good for kids. Okay, if there is abuse, yes, but when it comes to two parents not able to be together anymore? Nope. Nothing. I knew that. Leaving felt like one of the most selfish things I had ever done.

It took a long time to realize it was self-preservation. That’s the tricky part as a parent. My kids have always come first. They still do. That didn’t mean I had to suffer. My life mattered.

What I didn’t know then, is that pain is not necessarily permanent. Not for me, not for my kids. Healing takes time. The loneliness I felt and still feel, is not forever. It comes and goes. I still feel the ache when my kids are not with me. I know it, see it for what it is- a moment.

Healing doesn’t mean there aren’t scars. When one loses a limb, they continue to feel it, phantom pain, for a long time, nerves without a pathway blindly triggering the brain. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, the stages of grief, swung wildly about because in divorce, fear is thrown in, not allowing for a smooth transition. Eventually, I learned to accept my children would have lives that went on without me. That I was alone as a parent and had to navigate the empty spaces on my own.

I no longer miss what was. I’ve pasted back together pieces, a mosaic of the old combined with the present. I do not regret my marriage or my life up to that day when I packed a bag. There was much beauty, times I will always cherish. I’m taking the shards of glass and torn pieces, along with the new, weaving them together, creating something beautiful.

It's not perfect, not without struggle and doubt, both riding shotgun, always present. This ride, with the windows rolled down, the sun strong on my face, is for me.

I found the courage to change because I realized I was worth saving.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's been a long time. Much has changed.

The Suburban Lesbian Housewife now is divorced, teaching, and has moved to the city.

My oldest, as you all may remember, is Ben. He's off to college. He's six feet tall and very beautiful. I mention that first because I know he would want me to. He's grown into a young man. It wasn't easy. Growing up never is. I'm proud of the person he is.

Zachary, the middle, is by far the tallest. He absorbs school and likes to learn for the sake of learning. He has a deeply rooted belief in justice and calls me a communist in our dialogues about the world. Perhaps. I love the way he thinks and considers issues. Smart, beautiful young man. (He would want that mentioned last, if at all.)

First born, third child Jake is no longer chasing his brothers around trying to get their attention. I take that back- he's not trying to get positive attention anymore. He's a powerhouse athlete- nothing out there he can't play and play well. Beyond handsome, he will still mug shamelessly for the camera. He believes in being a good man, in a classic way. Kind and real to everyone he meets.

As for me? Divorced. I won't go into details. I wish I had some beautiful story to tell about how everything worked out and no hard feelings. I don't. What's more important to write about is the journey. What it's like to be divorced, now, at 51 years old. How it feels to have my kids half time after spending my life until that point as a stay at home mom. How it feels to suddenly have half my time free.

I'm still teaching. I love it. It's amazing to sit in a room over the course of 16 weeks with groups of musicians just beginning their path. What a gift.

And I moved to the city.

Yup. After 29 years in Newton, I'm moved to Boston. In that move, I finally let go of the rest of my sister's things. It was hard leaving her house, but it was time for me to have my own. I still miss her. I think of her every single day. I reconnected with her very best friend Patty over the summer. She gave me the one thing I needed the most- forgiveness. She knew my sister and was there at the end. I hadn't been able to forgive myself for not being all that my sister needed. Patty did. It was a gift.

Big shifts for me. I wanted to start writing this blog again because I believe I am not unique. I realize that while I have my children, and good friends? I am doing this alone. Not a self-pitying alone, rather a nod to the reality that people are dead. Relationships, over. I'm not 25 looking to start new, rather 50 plus and wanting to integrate the good and move beyond the losses.

How to have faith, for the lack of a better word, when everything going forward looks fraught.Wide open spaces can be scary to a girl who used to hide in the woods.

Big shifts in our world, too. When I was 25? I thought pigs would fly before gay people could marry. Now marriage equality is almost a ho-hum experience. Yet will we ever get to a place of equality for all?  Politics have become such a farce, people refusing to vote, which is a fast train to crazy government. Global warming has been successfully reframed as climate change- hopefully in time to make real impact.

New York City saw one great protest yesterday. The question is, will it continue?

Mostly? I need to write again. The blog was the best place for me to do it. I made myself write every day. So it begins again. I have been wary of anything that feels like a backward step, and yet understand that there was much that was good and beautiful in my previous life. I have barely written in the last few years. You know the old saying, if you don't have anything good to say... I didn't.

I realize everyone is over blogs. I realize no one reads them anymore. I'm doing this to write again, not to try and change the world. Okay, I always want to change the world. This time, though, is for me.

But I need a new name. Lesbian Divorcee? Single City Mom? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wish Me Luck

Last night, I did something I don't think I've ever done. I relaxed. Truly, deeply, relaxed. I turned off my phone so there were no updates, texts, calls, games to play. I finished a book, Jane Hamilton's first book, Disobediance. God, I love the way she writes. Cats on the bed with me, quiet (for once). I turned off the light, and I found myself not ready to fall asleep.

I let myself simply be. Listened to my old, fat cat's deep, rattling purr. The ticks of the radiators gathering heat.

And I smiled. Party because I didn't have to get up at any specific time. My phone off meant I had no idea what time it was. Mostly, though, it was me. It was a place I've started to find inside myself. A new room.

Years ago, another mom told me on the preschool playground, sometimes, you have to put yourself in time out. Go into the bathroom and shut the door. Count to ten. Take a deep breath. It's more shocking to the kids- Where is Mommy??- and more effective overall in bringing calm to the situation. I've found that room inside myself.

The meditation I've been doing lately has helped me find it. I closed my eyes and focused on different parts of my body. Shoulders? Relax. Jaw, let go. Listen to that air go in and out. Let the words inside work their way to the top, hold them each for a moment, then let them fly.

This past weekend, a friend and her girlfriend came up to Ogunquit. We had a great time. We talked about big, giant issues in the world, about silly things, ate great food and sat in front of the fire playing a rousing game of scrabble. All of 36 years old, my friend said to me, you might want to try something totally out of your comfort zone. Something unfamiliar. You might then find something new- how to be the amazing adult you are instead of the kid inside searching for old wounds to be healed.

Okay, she belongs in diapers still but she's right. She also said, it's really easy to be kind to you, Sara. Remember that when someone is treating you badly.

I'm heading up to Downeast next week. Classes finish this Friday. I have the boys for the weekend. On Monday morning, I'm driving up to spend some time alone. Oh, not totally alone. Donald is there, along with others. I have words coming out, ready to be arranged, strategically placed in a narrative about a woman finding out what relationships truly are. And what they are not.

I find myself wanting to be alone not to shut people out, which is often the case, but to decorate that new room. To let myself steep in this new peace. To have it gain root. I know now that I need to have a relationship with myself first and foremost. A kind one. To find an unmistakeable ability to enjoy each moment. To cherish moments of true appreciation.

To smile.

It's time to let go of all the past hurts, pain, disappointments. Hug each one, hold them tight, then let go. They serve no purpose anymore. They have always been piecemeal armor, never truly protecting anything, only allowing me some sense of safety that was never real. Slings and arrows still made their way through and I would be shocked, surprised, thinking I was immune. I was, and am, merely weighted down. I'm ready to take it off. Not to exile to voices inside who cry out NO! but to let them know it's a better place to be. Show them. Bring them along.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dinner Conversation

Dinner tonight, the boys and I were having a lovely time chatting. Okay, the truth is, Ben and Jake were going at it. I said, STOP.  Jake kept up.

Jake! You are halfway across the bridge...

What bridge?

I pause. I'm not appreciating the sassy tone. He's giving me those puppy eyes.

It's a long grassy bridge, Jake. And you're carrying a torch, and you're about to drop it. Then the bridge will go up in smoke, poof, and you'll be falling into the deep chasm below.

He stares at me, I stare at him. He smiles.

But Mom... what bridge would be grassy?

Yup, still love him.

Unconditional Love

The definition of motherhood has no absolutes; perfection, except in freshly baked cinnamon rolls, is not meant to be. What, then, does it mean to love someone unconditionally? Does it mean you are perfect in that love? How can you be perfect in love?

Clearly, mid-divorce, I am not. In fact, I've been told recently I pretty much suck at it. I'm afraid it's true. I am not ready to love deeply again. The wounds are too fresh, and old voices tug at my ear, whispering their fears to me.

I do, however, love my children, and I believe I love them unconditionally. I know from the moment they were all born, my heart filled with not only the emotion of love, but the instinct, too. A parent's love can be fierce if anything comes close to endangering their kids.

I still yell at them. And it stings. The other day, Ben reminded me of a time when I made him cry. He was about five years old, and he had gone over to a cup on the table and taken a drink. It was diet coke and I yelled at him to put it down. (Indeed, I was one of those hysterical parents who never let anything non-organic pass their lips). I made him cry. Yes, I overreacted, and was wrong to do that. When he reminded me of the event, I apologized. I'm sure in ten years, I will be reminded again. And I will apologize again.

Mind you, I made him cry when I yelled at him for trying to poke at the soft part of infant Zachary's head, too. He doesn't remember that.

I love him, all my kids, unconditionally. I know, regardless of what they do, or what they say, I will love them. It is without hesitation, even when they make me cry. I would, will and have done anything for them. Anything from making fried egg sandwiches to stepping in front of a bus to save them. It has never been hard, or difficult to love them. Ever.

Romantic love, however, is a totally different thing. To love without conditions. For a long time, I thought it meant loving without pain. I grew up hugging bared wire, thinking love simply hurt. Often. There was no love between my parents to witness, ever. My mother never dated, or had any kind of deep, singular personal attachment. Later in her life, she admitted that her Grandfather was the love of her life. He was the only person, she would say, that truly loved her. Long dead before I arrived, I never witnessed her filled with love for another adult.

Stepping into adulthood, I tried to be the person I imagined I should be in relationships. Honest, loyal, kind, respectful. I'd stay in relationships too long thinking, if I just did this better... it would all be okay. When I met my soon to be ex-wife? I had no idea what a healthy relationship was, let alone how to have one.

I did believe love was like a jigsaw puzzles endless possibilities but only one perfect fit. I found my perfect fit.

 I loved her. There was a time when it was unconditional. At least I think it was. The perfect fit did end up creating a whole picture, with kids, friends, family. The memory is in a far away room inside me, locked up, with two guards at the door; Self-Preservation and Fear. I cannot let myself remember loving someone who is causing me so much pain. I must keep my eyes wide open for the next blast. Some day, when this whole nightmare is over, I hope to be able to go visit that place and smile.

Eventually, too many conditions piled up in the doorway. Rules, restrictions, demands, all creating a brick wall between us. There we both stood, on opposite sides of the wall, barking orders at each other. Any love left bounced off the bricks and slapped me in the face, to the hissed chorus of "I told you so" and "Don't be so stupid." What happened to the love? Where did it go?

I can hound my children to pick up their dirty socks every single day, over and over again, and it does not draw down on the level of love I feel at all. We have arguments, hurt feelings and tears. Never, ever, does it diminish my love for them. Why did it disappear in my marriage? That core, hardwired feeling of love, and being loved; it was there once.

I know I will never be perfect in love. I am a strange collection of neediness and strength, anxiety and charm. There is no perfect in love. Unconditional does not mean without struggle. Instead, what I hold is knowing I am capable of love on deep levels. I see that every day in how I feel about my kids. There was a time when I felt that with my ex-wife. Some day, when the rage has passed, I'll be able to see why it left. Until I know the answer, the guards can't take leave. Like motherhood, there are no absolutes in relationships. I must learn how to keep walls from being built without intent, and then decorated as if they belong.

I have, without question, a great deal left to learn.

Monday, April 09, 2012

More to Life

An opinion piece today in the New York Times, The Taint of 'Social Darwinism', discussed Obama's recent description of the Republican's budget proposals as an elitist attempt at culling the least productive, in their minds, from society as such.

It seems the Republicans doubt the need for all those silly social programs to help people. If they were worthy of procreating, they would be able to take care of themselves. They're trying to take women's rights back to Mary Wollstonecraft's time. Why not embrace eugenics?

The concept of "the survival of the fittest" came from Herbert Spencer, not Darwin, and included the evolution of society, too. The best and the brightest would succeed and society as a whole would benefit.

That was in 1864, which ironically, was towards the end of the Civil War. Considering the number of dead on both sides of the conflict, you have to wonder who was left to procreate and make that "better" society. Toddlers and the elderly?

I'm not going to argue, though, about Spencer's interesting myopia nor the Republican's utter blindness. Instead, the article made me think about something that was said to me yesterday.

I thought there was more. More to fucking life.

My answer was, there is more. And there isn't.

Let's face it. We get up in the morning, we get ready for work, we work, we come home, and we rest until it is time for work again. We eat, drink, laugh, cry, make love, snore loudly. We buy things, choose clothes to wear, go to concerts, read books, and clean our homes. Every day we consume resources that make our lives easier. Transportation, health care, economic systems, political structures, agriculture. In purchasing a single piece of paper, we touch so many lives it is almost beyond comprehension; from the tree, to the labor, to the transportation, to the marketing- the list goes on and on.

When I read about social darwinism, about political and economic games played that tug on the strings we are attached to, I wonder... why? Have we really advanced as a society?

Isn't there more to life than pretty shoes and two weeks vacation? What is the purpose of life? To run on treadmills, eat low fat muffins and be promoted? If it's about family and friends, why do we spend so little time with them?

Is the goal the betterment of society? Is a better society one where everyone has an iPhone? Or have we lost perspective in the massive rush for more, losing the core of our humanity- the need for other people.

Personally, I would put love and belonging before anything else. Family, friends and intimacy. I think we've all bought into the idea that there are winners and losers in life, and that balance is necessary, if not innate. We have evolved as a species based on economic and political distributions of power and access.

Is that what we want? Humans have always looked up, whether to the alpha male, God, King, or President. We work hard to get a better life for ourselves, for our children. Maybe it's time to look around. Maybe have and have not is a concept we've allowed ourselves to believe.

Maybe it has only kept us in an endless cycle of dependency on the very few in power.

There is more to life. More to who we are as human beings than one big competition over resources. We are no longer animals in the wild. We should stop behaving as such.

And there isn't. Life really is as simple as loving and enjoying ever day we are here. Celebrating and sharing all we can be with one another.

Obama is right. The Republicans are playing yet another game of hide and go seek. A game with very real impact. It's not moving our society forward. It only continues the cycle of looking up.