I see a woman for occasional therapy, or professional coaching or music-guided meditation….depending on the week. Last week I was blathering on about some of my accomplishments in the dating world – letting go of the Let’s Not Be Monogamous Guy, declining a offer to have my engine serviced and other sundry affirming choices I’d made. We all know that I’m a weakling when it comes to men-the more intelligent and sensuous the less capable I am of holding my ground.
Well, that conversation led me to talk about my move in 1999 from a place where I’d established a wonderful network of friends, a home I loved and kept up, cooking, gardening and entertaining. All of which completely disappeared when I moved to my present location and were made more remote in the process of my decision to separate from and divorce my ailing husband of 26 years.
What I realized was that all the things I’d loved doing, and excelled at, had been jumbled together with Marriage and Wife and Mother. There was Career and Politics too, but not as relevant here. And without that structure, even of a bad marriage- a marriage where we went our separate ways more often than not, I let go of all the things I enjoyed doing and I somehow decided that getting a Man back into the picture would complete me.
It was one of those ah-ha moments where you want to yell out loud, “Are You F*%#ing Kidding Me?” Really. None of things I loved doing and am good at, had anything to do with the ex. And, it’s not like I lost my cooking skills or anything else in that divorce. But, why did I think that finding a man would make it better? What happens when I’ve been in hunt mode is that I put my own stuff to the side.
It was a major revelation and a funny one, in some ways. I can already see how it’s playing out in my daily life right now. I’ve done some work outside and I’m gearing up to start painting the kitchen. I’ve found a book group and made other steps to accept my single status and do things all by myself! I can’t say that I’ll give up looking for that one right man. I like men too much and I know that I want a man in my life. But maybe I’ll start looking at men with a more critical eye… and see if they can really measure up to what I want, as opposed to me fitting into their mold.
I put on some James Brown as we packed his belongings. Rather, I packed and he watched. There we were, listening to Like a Sex Machine on Easter Sunday, while downstairs old ladies in their Easter best sat in the lobby, listening to He Is Risen as they waited for family to come and whisk them away for a few hours. It was actually pretty funny in an ironic sort of way.
We totally ignored Easter Sunday and focused on packing, day two of helping my ex-husband pack up his life, yet again, as we prepared to move him to a nursing home. Five years ago our sons and I packed him up and moved him from my house to an assisted living facility. On Monday he’ll be moved to a nursing home, populated by people with many more problems and less alertness than he’s now used to associating with. It will be a very difficult transition, but inevitable.
As his brother and I walked down the hall for the umpteenth time, hauling his possessions, he looked around then said to me, “there are worse things than dying.” Somehow it was a fitting statement for the day and time. A sad one and an acknowledgment of how traumatic it is to witness someone with a chronic illness. My ex-husband is not an old man, he will have his 58th birthday in a nursing home this week. And that is part of the tragedy; he’s young and a victim of multiple sclerosis… mind and body wasting away.
And yet, he’s managed to be upbeat throughout the duration of his illness, my divorcing him, our sending him off to live in a facility with others. Last week he thanked me for taking such good care of him and he told me he loved me. I got off the phone and just sobbed. For him, for me, for the whole mess. He wasn’t this thoughtful or emotive as my husband; it’s only in the last few years that he’s gained this insight. Even though his cognitive functions continue to erode he’s able to show gratitude and maintain a matter-of-fact attitude about what’s happening to him.
My range of emotions varies from day to day. I never dreamed that my life would turn out the way it has. This is not where I wanted to be at age 56 and it’s far from over. I never share any of this with him and very little of it with my children. I haven’t shared it here but it’s pressing on me tonight and it needs to be spoken. Life as an adult is rarely all fun and games. If we’re lucky we learn to handle what we’re given with grace and we forge ahead.
I try to make light of things and I wear the mask well. I think about the future but I can’t dwell on it. Really, there are very few other options that allow one to get through the day.