Friday, October 18, 2013

Dark Emotions - Am I a Stranger to Myself?

Dark emotions

I'm reading Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan, for me a fiercely compelling book, because it's so evident that my troubles with addiction find their roots in not allowing the dark emotions of grief, fear, and despair into my life since early childhood. The author, a psychotherapist, believes that these three emotions (grief, fear, and despair) are the mother emotions (my term), the emotions at the bottom of the heap, under anger, under depression, under actions such as addiction, suicide, and aggression.

We are taught, she says, by our family and culture to suffer in silence, or to deny suffering exists at all, taught to suppress the dark emotions, especially in public, in any but the most intimate personal relationships, taught to compose ourselves, taught that display of authentic sorrow is bad form, a sign of emotional weakness. We feel guilty and abnormal, criticizing ourselves as "over-sensitive" for expressing the dark emotions, even for fleeting moments. These teachings carry on generation to generation. My mother, learning from her family not to cry, taught it to me by ignoring me whenever I cried, or discounting my grief by telling me to stop crying because everything was going to be OK. If I had any children, doubtless I would have taught them the same lessons, because until now, I did not know that I could heal my grief and despair by feeling it, by crying, by allowing it a legitimate place in my being.

Am I a stranger to myself, not even aware of my fears, grief, and despair, numbing myself with food, playing solitaire on my computer, and compulsively working? What can I remember from childhood about the teachings I received? How have I suppressed dark emotions in the past few days? I believe these are important questions to consider, important enough to spend time painting the answers with words.

Childhood teachings

Sadness, grief, and despair were certainly not approved. I know this because I was always told by my mother and grandmother "don't cry." I recall my grandmother making waffles, allowing me to fill all the holes with maple syrup, wait until the syrup seeped into the waffle, and then fill them again. "See," she'd say, "now it's all better." Fill the holes with sugar. Don't cry. Eat and be merry. I lived with my grandmother from age 5 to 7, two years of learning how to grieve my father's death and my mother's absence with food, especially sugar, to not talk about Daddy or Mommy, to stifle my angst, my sadness, my fears and despair.

From my mother, it was a slightly different teaching, although she also practiced self-medication with sugar, never crying, never voicing her own grief and despair about her husband's death, about her mother's death, about the cold war, about anything. Her primary method of dealing with any of my expressed dark emotions was to ignore me. I'd go in my room, wailing, in torment about being slighted by a neighborhood kid, flopping over my bed, suffering loudly, wanting her to come to me, hold me, rock me, comfort me. But she would not come. And when I finally composed myself enough to rejoin the family, it was as if nothing had happened at all. Grief and despair were thus discounted, as being unworthy of parental attention or discussion. I don't blame my mother. When Mom was only 11 years old, her mother died. She too was not allowed by her father or paternal grandmother to grieve.

Fear? I'm not sure about fear. I do not recall voicing fears during childhood at all, although I do remember having them. For example, being tall, the tallest girl in all my grade school classes, taller than most boys, when we had nuclear attack drills, not fitting under the desk, my legs sticking out, unprotected, I feared when the bombs dropped, my legs would be ripped off. I'd become a cripple, unable to walk. I'm certain I never voiced that fear to anybody.

More importantly, back when I was 5 and 6, I'm sure I was afraid my mother would never return to "rescue" me from my grandmother. I don't recall asking anybody if she would return. Maybe I did. Maybe my grandmother discounted my fear by telling me, "Don't be a silly old goose... of course she'll come," thus teaching me that expressing fears means I am a silly goose, definitely not OK.


Fear might be the mother dark emotion for me. If I express it at all, it's as an instant flash of hot, viscous anger, striking out verbally, especially at those close to me, like my husband in recent years, like my brother, like my parents when I was a teenager. In the moment of expression, I'm not aware, even in the slightest, that my anger is fear-based. It takes a lot of working though my angry emotions and actions to find the under-lying fear.

I can think of many examples of this. Here's an incident that happened more than 10 years ago, one that I didn't realize was fear-based until just this moment.

My parents had moved into an assisted living facility. The eldest of my brothers and I had flown to St. Paul to help prepare their house to sell, to facilitate a garage sale of their down-sized belongings, and to dispose of what couldn't be sold or given away. Tensions grew between the two of us, until a few days after arriving I blew up at him, starting an ugly verbal fight that ended with us not speaking to each other for the remainder of our stay. He was this; he was that; he did this; he did that; he was one bad dude, and my anger was justified, even after it diminished and we returned to our "get along sibling" mode. That's what I thought until just now.

What was under all that fault, blame, anger, and isolation? Fear! It was my fear about my parents. Were they going to die soon? Did moving to assisted living spell their imminent demise? Would I be abandoned again? Would I ever see them again? I was afraid. And my poor brother suffered the consequences. Maybe he was afraid too. Most men, taught early in childhood how it's not OK to be a "scaredy-cat," deny their fears entirely. Maybe his fear manifests in anger too. When we could have supported and comforted each other, instead we had an enormously damaging fight, all because we didn't even realize we were simply afraid.

I could, and probably should, write about many such events in my life, shouting and cursing in anger, not aware that it's really fear I am feeling. Can I change? Can I think "fear," allowing myself to feel fear before I throw flames of anger? I have a lot of shame around my outbursts of anger. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have less shame and anger?!


Dictionary definition: deep or intense sorrow or distress, especially at the death of someone.

I've tried to acknowledge and work through the grief I must have felt when my father died (when I was just turning 5 years old), and the abandonment by my mother when she immediately returned to college, leaving my brother and me with our paternal grandparents. I've journaled, written poems, and made artwork (see below). Have I finished feeling my grief? I don't know.

Not one to cry, as you already know, I have to look for other ways to express my grief. When my step father (whom I loved dearly) died, I made spirit dolls from his neckties for each member of the family. When my mother died, I made a collage with pieces of the vests she wore. Journaling visually with bead embroidery, I celebrate the beauty in each of them, and our shared love (here/Mom and here/Dad).

But losing my parents as an adult, I hardly spoke out loud about my sadness, not to anyone, and I only cried once. People sent me cards, and I looked at them like a stranger. To whom were they offering condolences? Does that mean I aborted the grieving process? Silly old goose, won't get caught with tears in her eyes. Years later, am I numbing grief by eating and playing cards? Is there any way to restart grief, to go through it rather than avoid it? I hope reading about the dark emotions will help me.


Dictionary definition: to be overcome by a sense of futility or defeat - complete loss of hope.

I recognize despair, and feel it knowingly more than I feel fear or grief. I feel it when I read or listen to the news, when I think about politics, when I am greedy myself or see it in others, when somebody discounts me because I am a woman, or old, or fat. I used to feel it quite painfully when I went to a dance. I felt despair in my marriage. I feel despair almost daily, when I am unable to stick to my food plan, when my weight keeps creeping up again.

Talking about despairing feelings is easier than talking about grief or fear, since somehow it was more acceptable in my family to despair, especially about politics, world population growth, violence, and human-caused harm to nature. Still, I wonder if I don't try to numb myself to it most of the time?

This is good

It feels really good to be writing this, to be facing the dark emotions, not yet fully embracing them, not yet understanding their healing powers, but ready to become less of a stranger to myself.

Last weekend, I attended 16 wonderful documentary films at a local film festival, some of them very sad, some full of despair and fear, some of them offering spirituality and hope, some not. Swallowing hard, a big lump in my throat, shutting my eyes, thinking about what I would eat between films, I managed not to cry, just barely. I did not allow myself to speak to anybody about Luna (The Whale), because I knew I could not utter one word without choking up, without my eyes welling with tears. Silly old goose. Thou shalt not cry.

Isn't it time to allow myself to grieve? It's good to be taking a few baby steps in this direction!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Exploring My Need to Win

I recall feeling virtuous, even brilliant, back in my college days, playing whist and pinochle with "the big boys," older boys who had learned to play cards in the service and were returned, going to college on the GI bill. I was proud of myself, holding my own with them, drinking and playing cards long into the night, studies forgotten, every cell in my brain focused on winning, counting and remembering what cards had been played.

In graduate school, I recall playing bridge and later duplicate bridge with the same drive to win, the same steady focus of my attention on the cards and reading subtle nuances of my opponents' facial expression. It was all about winning. I needed to win, and win I mostly did.

This eight-year obsession with cards ended as I developed work-place friends who weren't interested in playing. But the need to win stayed with me, and is still with me, as I discovered in the past few weeks.

A friend called, saying she and her sister wanted me to join them for a card game, "Hand & Foot," a version of Canasta. Mostly a game of luck, winning based on the cards you are dealt and draw, it seems to be played as a social thing, something to do, background "music" to a gathering, time to be and talk with friends, while pleasantly engaged in a light-hearted game; at least that's how it seems to be with them.

We played that first time, and I won. Yay! Fun, I thought, this is quite fun. The next time, my luck was down and I didn't do so well. I heard myself complaining whining about my cards, getting grumpier, not enjoying myself as much as the first time. And the third time we played, a couple of days ago, my luck was horrible. I lost miserably, my score only about a third of the winner's score.

Even KNOWING my face and comments showed my displeasure with every card I drew, with every hand I lost, and with every time the scores were read aloud (after each hand), I couldn't stop myself from exuding negativity. Near the end of the last hand it was inevitable that my friend was the hands-down winner. I put my cards down and declared the game over, she the winner. Nope. Wasn't to be. They play to the end, they told me, and count the points. It's only a game, they said, and we finish the game no matter what.

Why? I didn't understand why they wanted to keep playing or add up the scores when the outcome, the winner, was already known. I guess the answer is that winning isn't the objective of the play for them. What is the objective? I should ask them.

I've been thinking about it a lot, recalling opportunities to play games, such as Trivial Pursuits, which I won't play, EVER, because I know I'm no good at remembering facts and would not win, recalling other times when I was a "poor sport," embarrassing myself as I just did with my friends, recalling getting angry and tearful playing board games as a child whenever luck failed me, recalling how gleeful and smart-ass I can be when winning.

What does this tell me about my life, this compulsion to win, to win or not to play at all? What opportunities have I lost by choosing to not play for fear of losing? How can I retrain myself to be a better sport, to let go of winning, playing more light-heartedly? How did I get this way? Why am I such a poor sport about not winning (and sometimes an equally poor sport about winning)?

I am looking far back in my childhood for clues of understanding. I remember being about 4 or 5 years old at a family gathering with grandma, grandpa, and several of the great aunts and uncles. One of the uncles did magic tricks and staged competitions for me, my 2nd cousin, and my brother. He'd give us each a balloon, telling us to blow it up until it popped, offering a new and shiny fifty cent piece (a lot of money in the 1940s) to whichever of us first popped their balloon. Being afraid of the noise and the explosion of the popping balloon, I couldn't do it. Every time there was a family gathering, we played this same game; every time I lost, didn't get the much-desired coin.

That's my earliest memory of a game. I see a vague picture of the two boys, my brother and cousin, huddled together admiring the coin, my uncle beaming at them, maybe a few other relatives standing around to watch the game, smiling at them. Did I feel abandoned, ignored, worthless? Did my immature brain decide then and there to never play a game unless I could win? Did resentment begin to build, resentment that I still carry to a card game with friends, resentment about not being a winner, and therefore not important, not worthwhile, nearly invisible?

Here is the bigger question: Do I see LIFE as a game that must be won? Do I miss life opportunities for fear I won't win? Am I a poor sport when I can't be in control, when life deals me a "bad hand?" Do I cast a cloud of resentment over myself and others whenever I'm in a no-win situation? Do I fear the invisibility of players who do not stand on the winning platform?

I continue to ponder, trying to understand, trying to change.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Just Ate Compulsively

I've been feeling blue all day. I found no solace at the OA meeting this morning, which is surprising, as generally there's at least one pearl offered and received. I found no excitement in quilting this afternoon. I went to a Contra dance, after having not danced for 15 years, and sat out half of the numbers. There were about 10 more women there than men, and I was an unknown entity. So I guess it was a given that I would find myself in that awkward wall-flower position, smile pasted on my face, growing more uncomfortable by the minute. When I got home this evening, I realized that my bra straps must have been showing all evening.... that sinking "spinach on the teeth" feeling.... the "I'm no good" feeling... the blues closing in on me.

And so, I got out a bag of dried coconut and started binging. It never even crossed my mind that "the answer is not in the bag of coconut." The driving force, the need to comfort myself, just took over. All that I've learned in OA was invisible until I ate so much coconut that I felt physical discomfort.

Isn't that ironic? I'm seeking comfort, in my old, compulsive way, and end up with greater discomfort. Right now, at this moment, I understand people who purge. I can imagine the relief. I've never purged, and most likely never will because I super hate throwing up.

Last night, when I couldn't sleep, I got out the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous. Flipping through the stories at the end of the book, #15 caught my eye. It starts out like this:
When I had been in A.A. only a short while, an oldtimer told me something that has affected my life ever since. "A.A. does not teach us how to handle our drinking," he said. "It teaches us how to handle sobriety."
Because I eat compulsively when I experience discomfort (due to fear, boredom, loneliness, whatever), it's important for me to learn other ways to handle discomfort. OA has taught me some tricks. But tonight they were simply not in my consciousness at all. I hope, like the author of #15, that by persevering with OA, and all it offers, I will learn how to handle sobriety (in the sense of not compulsively overeating).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Over the Hump

It came to me in the wee hours of the morning, after writing the previous post about love and divorce, that we are getting unmarried. I like that word, unmarried, much more than divorce. There are no nasty connotations attached to it; plus it's simple, with no strings attached.

The hearing was a bit nerve-racking. I felt like a fish out of water when I walked into court, which was already in session, regarding hearings for other types of cases. I thought maybe I had the wrong date or time. After three or four cases, the judge recessed court, and everyone got up and departed. What the...??????  The clerk was still seated, so I finally mustered the courage to go ask her what was going on. She told me there was a “docket” posted outside the door, and I could go look at it to see if my name was on it. Page 3. There it was. However, I had no idea where they were on the list. Wait. Wait. Wait. Court resumed, more waiting, names called, not mine. At last a name was called, and a young gal walked to the table in front of the judge. I couldn’t hear much of what was said, but it seemed to be a marriage disillusionment. Nice that I got to see the procedure for her and one more after her before my name was called.
Judge looked me in the eyes as I swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. He then asked if the marriage was irrevocably over. I remember swallowing hard before answering, “yes.” He then flipped through the documents a few times, asked me a couple of questions about the division of our property, and finally said he saw nothing amiss. Lastly, he looked me in the eyes and asked again, “Is this marriage irrevocably over?” Again I paused and swallowed before replying, “yes.” I wanted to say, yes, your Honor, but we are still good friends. We still love each other. It’s just that we’ve aged differently and need more space, emotionally and physically. These words remained in my head, unspoken.
After a pause, the judge signed the papers, gave them to the clerk, and stated that they could be filed immediately if I so wished. I did and they are. We are  officially unmarried. Glad to have the court thing behind us. That afternoon, I received a bouquet of  red (for love) roses from my wasband. Nice surprise. In the evening we went to dinner to celebrate "new beginnings," the beginning of whatever our relationship will become in the months and years ahead.

This evening, I am officially declaring myself to be over the hump - mostly moved, mostly unpacked, mostly settled in my new home, mostly out of my wasband's home, mostly satisfied with the way things are going, mostly cheerful and optimistic about the future - the downhill side of the hump.

Therefore, I have no further excuse for overeating. I'm done with the book and done with the process of getting unmarried. Time to return to a sensible eating plan. I am powerless to do this on my own. I surrender myself to the balance and harmony of the universe.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Word "Love"

Tonight I'm thinking a lot about love and what it means to love another person and to be loved by that person. "Love" is a word my husband doesn't seem to trust. I shy away from it too. Except in the first year or so of our 16 years together, we haven't used it much. In recent years, we declared our love for the other a few times on the phone, a few times in writing, especially on cards, but rarely by speaking the words to the other. Why is that?

In the morning at 10:30, I will stand before a judge, who will determine if we will be divorced. If he/she agrees to our plan for dissolution, we will be officially divorced on Monday.

This evening, we went to hear a little presentation in town about wildflowers found in the two National Parks located on our island. After that, we went back to his house and packed a few of the remaining things of mine into my car. Then we watched some TV together, until it was time for me to toddle down the road to my new home. Tomorrow evening, we will have a dress-up dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate the "new beginnings," the start of a new pathway for our relationship, which for the last few months seems to be quite a healthy friendship.

So where is love? What is love? Did we love each other? Do we love each other now? I think we did and do... at least, I'm pretty sure about me. It just doesn't quite make sense to me at this moment how we could enjoy being together, care deeply about the welfare of the other, yet not be able to stay married and living together. And what's with not being able to say the words "I love you," to the other person?

There's something odd about the word "love," especially when it comes to our relationship, our history together. I can't speak for him. But for me, love is a can of worms, too big for one little post. Guess for now, I'll sleep on it... maybe write some more about it later.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Two Poems

Written from my current beadwork project about a week apart. The model is easy to do. I sit quietly for a moment and then take a couple of minutes to write down all the words and/or phrases that come into my mind as I look around me (in this case, looking at my beadwork and beading supplies). When I run out of things to write, I circle the word or phrase that seems the most compelling at that moment.  The first line of my poem is "I am _____________ (that word or phrase). Then I use other words/phrases on the list to write a poem about myself.  Here they are:


I am scattered
I want to be one of the other
words or phrases
such as I am peaceful
or I am purple
or I am flowing
but the truth is
I AM scattered right now
as I cut through
the crumpled remains
of the soft colors
of my marriage dream
I am scattered
as I pack all my things in a box
drained of energy
traffic noise in my head...
oh flower fabric and aqua beads
may you refill my cup of life
               PB March30, 2013


I am delicate
emotionally delicate I guess
a little unusual for me
my heart is folded
my wedding rings still on my finger
my life flowing along
as if everything was normal
as if everything was the same
I am circled by beads
beautiful, graceful, pretty beads
are supporting a new phase...
like the buterfly
I will take a new form
yet with the same life blood
the same heart as before
                  PB April 14, 2013

Writing out these poems seems to be the most accurate way of recording what is going on right now. I'm tired, scattered, called by food (my mother addiction), plagued by all the subsidiary addictions. I constantly think I need, make that NEED something... need to buy a ruffled bedskirt, need to have a handful of nuts, need to call my friend L, need  to buy new walking shoes, need to make a cup of tea, need to take some's about needing to find something to fix it, to make myself feel better. The answer's not there. Where is the answer? Maybe there just isn't an answer. Maybe I just feel sad and delicate and scattered, and that's the way it is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nothing is Constant... Except Change

My previous post was all about moving to the mainland... all set... offer received and accepted... done deal.

Ha... It was not to be. What looked like the absolutely perfect house, one where I almost skipped the step of having an inspection, had a surprising nightmare underneath it... a pond of standing, stagnate water, three inches deep, in the crawl space. A few hours of internet research convinced me to run (not walk) away from this house. The water was indicative of high water table, a problem that can be addressed with bandaids, but not cured... a problem that would eventually result in mold, mildew, rot, insects and rodents.

So the deal was off.

What to do next? Keep looking both on the island and the mainland?

Sometimes, it takes making a decision to realize what I really want. Ever had that happen? Yep, I had been convinced that the mainland move was the right thing. But when the house deal watered out, I felt relief, major relief actually. Examining the feeling made it clear that I really did not want to leave my friends and the security I feel here on the island. Even though there were pros for the mainland, it now seemed I felt more inclined to stay where I am.

Funny how the see-saw of making an offer here and then one on the mainland finally showed me where my heart wants to be.

Meanwhile, the owner of the house I'd offered on previously, contacted my agent saying she'd be willing to knock 10G off the selling price if I wanted to re-offer. She thought that amount would cover the necessary repairs mentioned in the inspection report.

I took another look at the house and decided to go for it. Now, I own it. Done deal. I am staying on the island, moving over the next couple of weeks to a modular home in what seems like an amazingly friendly modular home park, located 3 miles out of town. Here are a couple of pictures.

My new home!
This huge, evergreen tree (don't know specific type yet) is one of my favorite things about this home. I have neighbors only on one side (and she happens to be a quilting friend!). Looking across the street from the dining room and living room, there is a wonderful view over open, pastoral land to salt water and the Olympic Mountains.


The large living room, as shown in this picture, was carpeted, and painted a rather dull brown. I've already replaced the carpet with wood flooring, painted the room a very pale rose, and installed ceiling lighting. This room will be my studio... my art, bead, and stitching haven!!!

The former dining room will be my cozy little living room; and what was the breakfast nook will be quite adequate as a dining room. Everything is currently getting a make-over... paint and new flooring! I couldn't live in a home with white carpets throughout... just not me.

The kitchen is roomy and light, thanks to the skylight. I've never had a dishwasher, and have always struggled with cramped, no-counter-space kitchens. This spacious kitchen is a huge change for the better. Whoo-hoo! It too is receiving a flooring make-over.

From kitchen to food... the stress (of all the decisions, the changing plans, and the divorce) is definitely taking a heavy toll on my serenity these days. I am grateful beyond words for OA meetings and friends. Yes, I've probably gained a few pounds... snacks here and there and larger meals... but the good news is, I have not reverted to binging. This is actually better that good news... it's a miracle!

I look forward to being moved and settled... to a bit more serenity... to pursuing my art again. It is in sight!

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Home on the Mainland

Beach - place of harmony and calm where I live now, on the island - I found a heart rock, placed it on a beautiful log, and left it there when I departed - possibly foreshadowing what will follow.

It's settled...

...not without last-minute angst. It was down to the wire, the last 2 hours and I still hadn't heard Y/N on the offer on the mainland house. So I phoned the agent and said I was sending an email to withdraw my offer. I phoned the agent here and told her I would proceed with the island property.

I had five minutes to wrap my head around that decision, enough time to note that I was feeling a little resigned, maybe slightly disappointed, yet I knew it would all work out. I remember thinking my friends (and husband) would be pleased to hear I was staying on the island.

Then the phone rang. The mainland agent called to say she had phone confirmation that the seller accepted my offer. In an instant my future path shifted a one-plus-hour ferry ride to the east. Twenty minutes later, I was signing papers to terminate the offer on the island home.

Confused thoughts followed. I couldn't quite comprehend the shift for a while. So I called my walking partner... When I arrived, she said "You look like you've been on an all-night binge, complete with a bar fight." Yep, that's how I felt.

Two-point-two miles of fast-paced walking later, I'm starting to feel like myself again. I can almost picture moving to the mainland. I feel sad to leave all the people and things I love about the island, yes, true. At the same time, I feel comfortable with the new direction my life started taking a couple of hours ago.

Mainland house
I'm so relieved the two biggest decisions are behind me now... divorce and where to live. Check those puppies off! Now it's all about how to do it as smoothly and quickly as possible. Whew!

It took a total of 4 weeks to investigate possibilities and reach these two decisions. The most amazing fact about the process is that I did not compulsively overeat. I made a few dubious food choices, yes. But in my pre-OA days, I would have been swimming in chocolate and every other goodie I could bake, buy, or steal.

If I've had any clarity in the decision making process, I attribute it to NOT binging or compulsively overeating. Really. When I am in binge mode, my mind only wants one thing - chocolate (or if I'm abstinent on chocolate, then whatever else is next on the trigger food list). With my attention focused on food, how could I possibly find space for clear thinking, or feeling my feelings, or any kind of mindfulness. WOW! That alone is such a wonderful reason to remain abstinent. My gratitude is huge for the OA program, readers of this blog, and OA friends. I owe them for my sanity during this trying time.

Mainland house - back deck and small yard bordered by a protected wetlands creek.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Island or Mainland?

So many things are out of my control right now. I have two active offers on two different homes, which is the most crazy-making thing I've done in a long time.... juggling the expiration dates, getting an extension on one, while I wait to see what happens with the other, the other dragging on, possibly beyond the expiration date. I could end up with neither home.

The good news in all of this is that it seems to be sharpening my awareness of what I want. If I have to start all over to search for a suitable home to buy, at least I have a better idea of what I want and where I want to live.

The fence-sitting process has finally revealed that staying on the island would be feasible, but not optimal. Yes, my established community is important to me. My friends and fellow OA members are amazing, wonderful and important to me.

For a while I thought staying near my husband was also important to me. When I start considering all the good times we've had, the reasons I wanted to be with him, the things I love about him, it seems reasonable to stay in proximity and work at building a friendship together.

On the other hand, I have lived on this island for nearly 16 years now, all of them as a married person... as his wife. How can I establish a new identity if I stay here? How long will it take? He and I are so comfortable going out to dinner together, to the bank, the dump, the movie theatre... I wonder if we'd just segway into our old patterns, while maintaining separate homes, neither of us building a new, independent life?

A related consideration is my tendency to be a "caretaker." Since his back injury and leaving work, he has become more and more a guy who stays home. Knowing me, I would imagine him as missing me and being lonely. I would actively seek to be there for him.

These considerations and a somewhat discouraging inspection report on the island home are the reasons why I made a second offer, this time on a mainland home.

Unfortunately, there was a second offer made the same day. How nice for the seller.. TWO potential buyers! She made counter offers to each of us. And now we wait. The extension on the inspection report on the home here on the island is good until Monday noon. If my mainland offer is still unsettled at that time, I will have to reject the inspection report and exit my offer here.

Nervous Nelly (that's me) needs to go do some hand sewing. For now, for the next several hours, I just have to let go and let God. Whatever happens (island home, mainland home, or neither of them), I will adjust and keep on keeping on.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Heart Replies...

A dear friend, who knows what is going on with me, just sent an email asking, "So how is your heart feeling these days?" Below is my immediate response...

Heart Replies

Heart is feeling empty
resisting reality
resisting change
looking for sunshine
in the wrong season.

Heart is feeling lost
can’t find her home
can’t recall the path
looking for a home
where none exists.

Heart is feeling tired
weary of pros and cons
weary of thinking
looking for answers
in a thick fog.

Heart is feeling closed
turning from faith
turning from trust
looking for clarity
instead of the truth.

Still on the fence... maybe more now than even a few days ago, because I went on the ferry to the mainland town to see the other place again. Tomorrow, I'm going to take seriously the suggestion given by one of the readers here... I'm going to sit on a log on the beach, hold out my open palms, and breathe in harmony with the ocean's lapping waves.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Second Guessing Myself

Decisions to be made.... huge, life-changing decisions being made quickly... no sitting on the fence. Two helpful conversations with my OA support team (that's what I'm calling two members of my Overeaters Anonymous group) today... and now writing about it. Here are the topics:

What will it cost me emotionally?
The illusion of being cared for...

The situation is this. My husband and I have filed for divorce.

Time: We want to live apart. We both want the change to happen as soon as possible. He will remain in the home we have; I will move. We agree on this.

Options: I do not want to move twice. Therefore, I do not want a temporary living situation, such as a short-term rental. Having owned my own place for 40 years of my life, I do not want to rent. Therefore, I made a firm decision to buy a home or possibly a condo. I wish to be moved by the end of March.

Possibility A: I live on an island. It is a great community which feels very safe to me. My good friends, doctor, dentist, OA group, beading/quilting/fiberarts groups, and my local internet provider are all here. I found an affordable home to buy, but it is not conventional and it is not real estate. It is a manufactured home. The rent per month to keep it in the Manufactured Home Park (very nice place), is fairly high. Resale is difficult and can take 2-3 years.

Possibility B: A 1-hour ferry ride away from "my" island, on the mainland, there is a small city with a full-service hospital and many other amenities. I like it there and can see myself living there. I found a nice home for sale in a small, attractive, developed community. The Home Owners Association dues cover ALL outside maintenance (roof, paint, landscaping). 

My choice: I listed all the pros and cons of these two places in writing. They are very evenly balanced, the good of one balancing the bad of the other. Finally, the plus of staying physically close to my friends/community and the comparative ease of a local move tipped the scales toward the home here (A).

Offer on island home: So I made an offer, which was accepted. I had it inspected, and received the report yesterday. There are a few non-major problems which need to be addressed.

Second guessing myself: As soon as I made the offer, I began to question if the off-island home (B) might be a better deal. I fretted for a while. But, after reviewing the pros and cons list, I returned to the same card that tipped the scales in the first place. Then the offer was accepted. Another round of second guessing. Again the importance of my friends and community tipped the scale toward A. Now today, I'm looking at the inspection report and yet another round of angst is with me, which is why I'm writing this post. To write is one of the best OA tools for me. And all of this is making me want to give up my abstinence, even chocolate, the most addictive fix for me.

OA supporters say:  This morning I talked with two members of my OA group, both of whom are clear-thinkers, grounded, and good listeners. Both asked good questions and brought up several points I didn't consider previously. One of them said this:

It's an illusion that I will be taken care of in home B.

The significant word is "illusion." Yes, the outside of the home and property is taken care of for a modest monthly HOA fee. But does that mean I am being taken care of? Does that sustain me? She suggests that friends and community are what sustain a person, not lawn mowing and exterior home maintenance. I think she is right. I would build new friendships, find a  new Dr., and join new groups if I move off the island... but it would take time, and it would leave me more or less alone at a time of stress (divorce).

The other OA friend said this:

It all boils down to, "What will it cost me emotionally to leave the island?"

The significant phrase is "cost me emotionally." The emotional cost, in his opinion, outweighs other cost considerations such as resale value, monthly payments, and costs of exterior upkeep.

Trump Card: Shall I let go of Possibility B? Shall I recognize and respect my strong need for stability of community at this time? Shall I let that card trump all of the others, and stop second guessing myself, go with the current offer and make it work? Can I get off the fence and go with it? Yes, I can.... But, will I? 


<>   <>   <>

PS. The above conversations with OA members were outside of and not related to the OA meeting. Confidentiality is not being breached here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feeling Better Today

Lists please me... so here's my list for today: Things That Make Me Feel Better Today
  1. Seeing pictures of all the beautiful and creative beaded projects being made by women in this year's Bead Journal Project! My creative energy is either at an all-time low, or it's being absorbed into making choices. Seeing BJP beadwork makes me feel happy and inspired... a glimmer of my muse is back!
  2. Walking this morning. Very low fog this morning, the woods shrouded in mist, a soft silence all around me. Loved it.
  3. Blueprint of my new home to be... Yesterday, I took a small floor plan of my new home to a copy/printer place, and had it enlarged to 17 x 22 inches. WOW! It's so fun to see it big like that. I'm going to measure furnishings and make little scale representations so I can play with the layout, especially of my studio stuff, before I get it over there.
  4. Thinking about a furniture recon trip on Monday. When I moved out of my home of 24 years and into the very small (and already filled) home of my husband, I gave away or sold a lot of my furniture. For my new digs, I'll need a dining room table and chairs, a bed, a sofa, a small easy chair, a couple of floor lamps, and more over time. On Monday, I'm going off island to shop for these things... probably won't actually buy yet, but it will be fun to look and fun to anticipate having new stuff, especially since I've always furnished in used, self-finished, or make-shift pieces, fondly called eclectic.
I like this table!
Yesterday was hard, signing the divorce papers, making it "official." I went to bed feeling sorry for myself, and had weird dreams about not being able to find my friends and getting lost. But now, at 3:04 in the afternoon on Wednesday, Feb. 30, 2013, life seems pretty good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The "D" word again

Don't read this if you don't want to know about my emotional response to filing divorce papers today. It just seems better to vent, to explore my muddled emotions, painting with words, than to eat.. which is what I want to do.

I (briefly) imagine myself in a bathtub FULL of decadent, dark chocolates, painting my toenails fire engine red and stuffing sweets in my mouth. That is not to be, for I am still abstinent on eating chocolate, and so far, thanks to OA, Words Paint, and wonderful, supportive friends, I haven't gained any weight or binged on anything.

Tonight though, I feel like I'm going to burst. My eyes burn with tears that won't flow. My stomach hurts. My jaws hurt. My brain hurts in its completely befuddled state. So many changes, happening so quickly.

I'm angry at the whole legal system and divorce protocol. Good grief, there is sooooooo much paper work, so many nearly incomprehensible forms... this stamped, this notarized, these numbers needed, blah, blah, blah. It's worse than doing our taxes. And here's the rub. We agree perfectly about how to divide our stuff. TOTAL, absolute agreement and harmony. Yet still we have to provide information down to the dime about everything we have in the whole world, whether acquired before or during marriage. And I'll have to go before a judge in 90+ days to present our decision; whereupon he or she will have a say about whether the court approves, and if not, how we need to change our mutual agreement. It stinks.

What's under my anger about the legal system?
I'm angry about the divorce
I'm angry we can't get along well enough to stay married

What's under my anger about not getting along?
I'm angry for getting married in the first place
when the signs were already there that it might not work

What's under my anger about getting married in the first place?
I'm angry at society, movies, song writers, story tellers
for making marriage seem so necessary for a woman

What's under my anger about being lead astray?
I'm angry for being so gullible and stupid
Not my husband's fault, not this anger

Let go of the anger. Let it flow away
downstream to the sea. Let springs of new beginnings
and adventure take its place

I guess the other major feeling is confusion. Numbness and memory loss are part of it too. We had a meeting with a County Clerk today, who we paid to help us with the forms. All except the basic petition have to be filled out and submitted to the district court by 80 days from now. I tried to take notes on everything the clerk said, but a lot of it seemed incomprehensible to me. She gave me a link to a website that might help. I hope it will.

Grief... that's part of it too... Or, maybe anger is part of the grief.  OK... well, that's the way it goes. Think I'll have a diet soda and an hour or so of sewing. That's always a calming. Thanks for reading along. Part of me wants to delete this post... but guess I'll let it show for now.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The "D" Word

Funny how there's ingrained shame around the "D" word. I even have trouble writing it. Divorce. There I put it in print.

you and I start down a road
the surface is a bit bumpy
but we look ahead
towards our beautiful dream

together we withstand the bumps
we try different speeds
different sides of the road
whatever it takes we say

the road seems more rutted
many deep pot holes and rocks
the dream no longer sustains us
despair grows as resolve dwindles

until finally we say
we can't go on like this
we've reached the end of this road
so we turn onto different roads

we've left the big rocks behind
traveling now on gravel
looking ahead to smooth pavement
looking back to a lost dream

Saying goodby to dreams. Our divorce should finalize around the date we met, 16 years ago. Back then, almost immediately, I fell in love and began to dream of our future together. When we married 3 years later, our dream (or at least mine) was to spend the rest of our lives together, our love, understanding, respect, and companionship growing with each year. OK.... nothing unusual about that. Everyone has a dream like that when they marry. And many see it come to an end.

Why then do I feel so alone in this? Why is the finality so disheartening? Why do I look at him and want nothing more than to call if all off, saying "please forgive me, it was all a mistake?"

I made an offer on a house yesterday. Will it be accepted? Will it meet the inspection? Will my financial security be lost, spent on buying a home, upkeep and the doubled costs of living alone? Will I get along OK alone? Will I have the emotional and physical stamina to do the move? Did I make an OK decision about the house? I don't know.

There isn't a dream ahead of me with this move, like the ones in the past. Or, at least, it's not clear what the new dream is. My friends might say, "the new dream is peace, contentment, balance, harmony." I must try to keep that in sight.

<>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>

PS... Update 3 PM, Jan. 25th, 2013... Just found out my offer on the house was accepted. Next is the inspection. Closing is scheduled for 2-28....  moving on.... Oh my heavens, I'm a nervous Nelly at the moment.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Confusion and Food

In my present state of confusion and uncertainty, food is ever more attractive. The kitchen calls me, loud and insistent. "Come! I will comfort you! I will fill the empty, lonely, sad place in your heart."

I make tea, thinking that will help. Normally I add a little splenda to my black tea. These days, the kitchen offers honey... ooooh, gooey, sweet... even more will be better.

I notice, reading PJ's recent post, that I'm not alone in being lured by a voice that says, "Restaurant food is better! You need pizza tonight. Pizza will help." Tonight however, my HP guided me to my own refrigerator, where I found left-over pea, bean, veggie, ham soup, which was totally delicious and much better than restaurant pizza. Thank you HP.

The group consciousness of the readers/commenters to Words Paint and writers of other related blogs helps too. I am so grateful for the comments to my previous post. There were many helpful ideas and a sense of support that has helped me immeasurably, both with taking baby steps and with the siren song of food.

In the past week, many other angels buoyed my spirits as well...
  • friends who listen and share their thoughts
  • my sister-in-law who suggests I go on the internet and read about the signs of verbal abuse and label myself as a victim of it
  • a real estate agent, previously unknown to me, who is gentle, accepting and understanding
  • my longest time friend, who listens so well
  • my OA group which is a special source of wisdom and calm
I will share more of the ongoing process in a later post. But for now, I just want to voice my gratitude for readers, HP, and the angels mentioned above.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Contrary to the Previous Post...

I think I'm going to get divorced.

I feel afraid, confused, lonely, sad, excited, crazy, very lonely, critical, angry, stupid, worried, and not at all calm, centered, or peaceful.

My husband is dissatisfied with me. He doesn't like so many things about me. He doesn't like how I treat him. He says I am disrespectful and controlling of him. He says I blow smoke at him. At times he has a long litany of things I have done (or not done), said (or not said) that are wrongs I have perpetrated, seemingly maliciously, against him.

At times when he starts telling me these things, I try to defend myself verbally. That only fuels his fire and the litany gets stronger, louder, deeper. Then I get angry and mean and childish. That doesn't end the litany either. He just adds angry, mean, childish words to his litany of accusations. Then we don't talk for a while.

Finally, in the past, after thinking about it for some hours or days, I realize that I have made some mistakes. I come to a better understanding of his feelings, of how the things I did (or...etc.) might make him feel disrespected or controlled. I vow to try to be better. I try to find different ways to say the things I want to say and/or do the things I want to do, ways that incorporate respect and that are not attempts to control him.

It never works. The cycle begins again. I am not able to change myself (or him) enough to bring contentment to our relationship.

We have had 15 years together. I can not imagine 15 more years. I can not even imagine 15 more months  in our current state of discontent. I'm lucky if I have 15 more years to live (in some functioning form). Yesterday I came to the conclusion that I have to end the marriage and look for contentment from within at some safe distance away from him.

How to do it? I don't have a clue. Where to go? I don't have a clue. How to make the transition away from him as peaceful and considerate to both of us as possible? I don't have a clue. How to forgive us both for our failures. That I do have a clue about.... just do it.

I'm grateful for Words Paint... a safe place.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Beginnings

New year - new beginnings - these words found today in other blogs resonate with me too:

peace (Loretta)
centered (PJ)
calm (Carol)

Thanks dear friends. Together we get better!