Redefining alone 

Every other weekend I have to see my ex husband. He brings his new girlfriend with him every time he sees me. It’s his way of proving to me that he’s moved on. It’s his way of rubbing it in my face that I’m alone and he isn’t.

But maybe alone isn’t what I think it is. A good friend of mine told me that maybe what I need to do is redefine what it means to be alone.

Dictionary.com defines alone as:

  1. Separate, apart, or isolated from others: I want to be alone. 
  2. To the exclusion of all others or all else: One cannot live by bread alone. 
  3. Unique; unequaled; unexcelled: He is alone among his peers in devotion to duty. 

In looking at definition 1, I’m certainly not alone. I’m not isolated from others. But in many ways my ex is alone. He has separated himself from his family and his friends. He keeps himself isolated and alone. I don’t. I have amazing friends and family who care for me and check in with me on a regular basis. I have people in my life that I can turn to to make me laugh, that I can depend on when I need a shoulder to cry on. I have people in my life that let me vent and that build me up when I’m down. I have good people in my life who remind me to be gentle and patient with myself.

According to the second definition I’m also not alone. My ex tried to keep me alone when we were together. He tried to control me and keep me away from others both physically and emotionally. Whenever I made a connection with someone, he would try to turn it around and keep me away from them. He made me doubt their intentions. It was actually one of the turning points in our marriage. He tried to ban me from seeing a friend I had made at work and tried to force me to choose between him and my friend. I don’t know why I refused to give up this friend but I just wouldn’t do it. It was the first time I had really said no to him about his controlling behaviors and he spiraled out of control.

As for being unique, I’m not alone in that way either. That is one of the great things I’ve learned through blogging and through connecting with people. I am divorced. I was lied to, manipulated and threatened by the man who promised to keep me safe and love me forever. But I’m not the only one. I have a strong group of women I connect with who are going through similar situations. We talk, we share, we connect and we commiserate. While unfortunate, I’m not unique in what I’m going through.

So I guess it’s not so much about redefining being alone, but defining it correctly and realizing that I am not alone. I do not currently have a significant other in my life. But my life is filled with many significant others who love me and care about me. I am not alone.

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Must have’s for a new man

I am dually terrified, and not because Halloween is coming. I’m terrified about relationships. I’m terrified about the idea of putting myself out there and getting into a relationship again. I feel like this is an area where I am not very successful. But I’m also terrified about the idea of being alone for the rest of my life.

I’m not sure which one terrifies me more. I think that fluctuates day by day. But in what can only be defined as a positive move, I began thinking about what I would want in a man if I were to ever date again. I guess it’s a good thing that I am even thinking of dating again. Maybe it means there is some healing going on. But I admit to being tentative and scared that I will fail again.

My list, of course, starts with my boys. They are the most important people in my life and if anyone wants to be in my life, they have to understand and appreciate this. I know no one will love my boys as much as I do, but they are so important to me that it is essential for someone to be in my life that they must care about my boys and figure out a way to build a relationship with them. My ex couldn’t do this. He was jealous and controlling of everyone I talked to. He could never comprehend my relationship with my older son, his stepson. He was so jealous that he became angry and resentful of my relationship with my younger son, his biological son.

Religion or more specifically spirituality is also significant to me. I have always been a deeply spiritual person. My connection to a particular organized religion has varied throughout my life. I have often gone back to Catholicism because it was what I was raised and where I thought I was comfortable. But I wasn’t. I disagree with many of the Catholic Church’s tenants and beliefs so I have spent a lot of time exploring churches. I am currently a practicing Presbyterian but bigger and more importantly than the actual religious affiliation is the fact that I now know what it is like to have a church community where I can really belong.

If I were to get involved with a man again, I would want him to have some type of religious conviction and spiritual belief. My first husband was the son of a Lutheran pastor, but he was not very spiritual. He actually resented the church and the people of the church because he felt that they took away some of his family and his father because of the demands of being a pastor’s son. My second husband went to church because I went, but he really didn’t believe and he was not invested. Spirituality is something that is very important to me and something I value in a partner.

That is the next thing. I want a partner, a companion, a friend. Someone I can count on and rely on. Someone who is there for me, as I would be there for them. Most of my previous relationships have been about me being there for and giving up myself for my partner and not the other way around. I want someone to do things with and share things with and talk about things with. I want a partner who is invested in me as I am in him.

Doing things with a partner would mean that we should have some things in common. I love football. You would think as a woman that would be an easy sell to a man, but so far, no good. I like watching football. I like going to football games. And at some point in my life, I would love to travel to different stadiums to watch football games. I would like to do that with someone who would enjoy those games with me. I’m hoping that somewhere out there is someone who can appreciate a woman who is passionate and knowledgeable about football.

As I began contemplating this list this weekend, I went to church on Sunday and saw an even better list to live by. The front of the bulletin said:

Clothe yourself with:

Compassion,

Kindness,

Humility,

Gentleness,

Patience

And above all else, Love.

What more could I ask for. As I look to find someone to share my life with, I will first try to practice the qualities I want to find in others: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience … and above all else, LOVE.

Genuine happiness

Not every happy birthday wish is genuine. Sometimes it’s just for show.

happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. I don’t care so much about my own birthday, but I love to celebrate my friends and their birthdays.

I am a principal of a middle school. Somehow the kids and the teachers always find out about my birthday and I’m usually a pretty good sport about being sung to by the students all day long. But I remember one birthday when my ex-husband and I were still together and working at the same school and I wasn’t very gracious at all.

My ex-husband planned to surprise me with a cake in the cafeteria when I was on lunch duty and have the kids sing to me. I suspected something was going on, and rather than just go along with it, I resisted. Practically making one of my friends, the social worker at school, drag me into the cafeteria. The kids sang, we had cake, and it was great. But I was pissed about it. And I didn’t know why.

As I look back on that time now, I realize that one of the hardest parts of us working together was that the person other people saw (and loved) at work, and in public, was not the person I went home to at night. Everyone thought he was so sweet and wonderful, but the man I was with at home was angry, mean and spiteful.

We were living a lie, and I think at that time in my life, I was finally starting to realize it, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but our life was most definitely not perfect, in fact it was pretty miserable.

He made such a big deal about being this great guy in public that it made me feel bad about the way he acted it home. It made me doubt myself. I was mad at him that birthday because he wasn’t trying to make sure that I had a happy birthday, he was trying to look good in the eyes of other people. So the birthday gesture didn’t feel genuine. And the fact that he continued to fool people, and still does, made me mad then, and is something I still struggle with now.

Even though I was alone for my birthday, every “happy birthday” that was wished to me felt genuine. The students, the teachers, my friends, my family, my boys, all wished me a happy birthday because they wanted me to be happy. Which [even as I sit here crying as I type this] makes me realize that I am a very lucky person. And I genuinely did have a very happy birthday this year.

the human touch

 I’m recently divorced, again. I have 2 amazing sons. And a great job. And a HUGE family (it seriously is huge). But sometimes I get lonely and I miss that personal touch. I miss another adult to talk to about my day. I miss someone to ask about me. And I really miss physical intimacy. Don’t worry, this post is not about to get ‘R’ rated on you, I just mean a hug, someone to hold my hand, someone to rub my back, a peck on the cheek, someone to be there … for me.

 

The affectionate gestures of the cute, little, old couples in church just about bring me to tears. It is so adorable to see them holding hands, or helping each other stand up, or just placing their hand over each other’s hand. It really is beautiful and it is something that I miss. I miss someone just touching me affectionately because they want to touch me and they want me to know they are there for me.

 

It probably sounds kind of silly in the grand scheme of things, but it’s true. Human physical contact is really important and one of the things I miss most now that I am divorced. I’m not quite ready to begin dating again, but I wouldn’t mind a nice affectionate hug every once in a while, just because.

 

Final Ties

Divorce takes a long time. There is no set time frame, but it’s long. I’ve seen some people finish the process in about 6 months (not including the 90 day waiting period).  And I have a friend who, after almost 3 years, is still waiting for her day in court. I fall somewhere in between these two. After just about 15 months I am finally divorced.

Armed with all the paperwork I thought I needed to cut the final ties between my ex- husband and me I went to AAA to change my name on my driver’s license. Much to my surprise I had to provide them with the official copy of the final divorce decree. I hadn’t brought that with me. I had to go home and get it. 35 minutes each way, and they were closing in an hour and 20 minutes. I almost burst into tears at AAA. The kind woman at AAA sensed my frustration and tried to see if she could proceed without it but alas we could not.

Driving home to get it and hoping I would get back in time to get it done that day I did burst into tears. I cried at the frustrating hoops I had to jump through to change my name back to my maiden name. I cried because I hadn’t realized just how important it was for me to cut this final tie between my ex- husband and me. I didn’t want his name. I didn’t want that connection to him. I had never wanted to use my maiden so badly in all my life.

I’m not sure why cutting this final tie was so important to me but it was. I don’t want to have his last name anymore. I want my own. I don’t want any more connections to him. I want to be able to move forward with my own life.

Maybe cutting this tie will help me take back just a little bit of the control that he still has over me. Maybe cutting this tie will make me stronger. Maybe cutting this tie will let me move on. Maybe, just maybe…

 

The Radio

Today’s blog post idea from The Daily Post was to start a post from the first lines of the last song you heard on the radio. For the most part I listen to Boston sports talk radio so while I would enjoy writing a post about the outstanding performance of Tom Brady and Jimmy Garapalo in last nights pre-season game between the New England patriots and the Carolina panthers I don’t think that was the intention of the post. So I decided that I would intentionally put on some music when I got in the car today. I don’t really like a lot of the music on the radio, which is one of the reasons I listen to sports talk radio, and of course because I love football.

I plug my iPhone into the receiver in my car and let it shuffle and pick a song. The first song that comes up is “Show you how to love” performed by Penatonix and amazing acapella group I love. I sigh. Why are all songs on the radio about love? But the idea behind the title “show you how to love” has me intrigued in several different ways.

Having spent the last year of my life struggling through a horrific divorce (is there really such a thing as a good divorce?) I think about needing someone to show me how to love again. I’m jaded right now. I’m hurt. I’m struggling. And I’m in that place where I don’t even want to think about love again. But that’s because what I thought was love wasn’t. So I need someone to show me how to love.

I’m also thinking about the idea of the song being about showing someone how to love me. Showing someone what I need and how to love and take care of me.

It has made me think about love again and what it means to me. Or what I want it to be this time around. At the football game last night I saw on older couple walking out of the stadium holding hands, wearing matching Brady jerseys. I love the idea of companionship and enjoying doing something together. At church I see the older couples helping each other out of the pew at the end of service.

 

For some reason old couples are who I’m looking at now. They are so sweet. Maybe that’s because I think about what it’s going to be like when I’m older and alone. Or maybe it’s because I still can’t think about being in a relationship now because I’m still so hurt and raw.

But I also have friends my age who have been married for over 17 years and are as in love today as they were when they met. I often tell them that they are my hope that there is goodness and love in the world. They ride with each other to a meeting just to spend the time together. They have special things they do for each other just because. They truly love being together. I guess that’s what I want. Someone who loves me enough to want to spend time with me and yet trusts me enough to let me spend time away from him.

I guess I need someone to show me how to love again. And maybe in the process I will be able to teach them how to love me.