Category Archives: Creating a new life

Eleven Things to Give Up in 2011

Some of the things in the GoodNewsNetwork’s list of 11 things to give up resonated with me. I will even forgive them for using an apostrophe in #11 – cliches. Why do people think that plurals all of a sudden get apostrophes? Was there a meme I missed? Again…apostrophes for (a) possession or for (b) contraction. Never for pluralization.

Anyway – check out their list. I’m liking many of them, especially #5. Give up self-betrayal. That was a huge one for me after the divorce… I don’t want to go, but xxx is depending on me, or expects me, or how would it look? Of course, #6. Give up the victim role should resonate with many of you post-divorce, as well as #8. Give up blame.

Happy 2011. Check out the list: Eleven Things to Give Up in 2011.

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“Good enough”

This post was inspired by an article by my friend Deborah Reigel – who is, without question – the greatest life coach, motivational speaker, Jewish mamma eva.

Now that I’m mowing my own lawn, I’ve developed the mantra “it’s not a golf course.” In other words, so what if there are a few stray blades that didn’t make it under the mower this time? So what if I don’t trim the edges? If there are weeds? My favorite sister-in-law, by the way, tells me weeds are necessary for a healthy lawn. And she’s an environmentalist, so I trust her.

Since having 100% responsibility for the house, the car, the dogs, I’ve had to learn to silence my inner perfectionist and let some things go. It’s been hard. For much of my life, good enough was never less than 100% perfect.

Not too long ago, I had a lot of work done in my house. I had ceilings replaced, the entire house painted – expensive stuff. As soon as it got warm and humid, I noticed some nail pops in the newly-done ceiling in the living room. I was devastated. Okay, I was devastated as soon as I got over being worried that the house was going to come down around my ears. But I was devastated – here I had just spent all this money on the work, and it wasn’t perfect any more.

Unperfection happens.

And I’m gettin’ okay with it.

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Filed under Creating a new life, Singleness, Things I never did before

Redecorating

I realize that my recent foray into having the house redecorated was symbolic of getting through becoming divorced.

This is the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this. I mean, I choke a little every time I think of the money I spent (and, of course, start to think of all the other things I could’ve done with that money…), but the payoff is pretty good.

First there were the “have-tos.” Ceilings HAD to be fixed, and, unfortunately, in some cases they had to be completely replaced (yikes). Door frames had to be repaired.

Then there were the “really need-to-dos.” Walls to be repainted. Shelves taken down. TV moved.

Finally, there were the “nice-to-dos,” the “since you’re spending money anyway…why nots?” That includes the new light switches and the new stair rail (which necessitated the new carpet on the stairs…).

So, after about three weeks (which, in retrospect seems like no time at all, but while it was going on seemed like decades), I have a new looking house, with brand new ceilings that DON’T have acoustical tile glued to them (yes, that is what we lived with for 17 years), pretty things and a more minimalist look (because my contractor REFUSED to put the pot rack and book shelves back up).

(me) But I like my pot rack. I have lots of pots.

(him) You want a pot rack or do you want to sell your house?

Just like getting divorced, there are the things you have to do, the things you should do, and the things you want to do.

And sometimes it takes you a little while to get around to doing them all. But that’s okay. I did this in my own time (and, for the first time in my life, my own way).

And, now… the pictures have to go back up, the furniture can be rearranged, and, maybe… new drapes?

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all time. I love the food, the smells, the crowd, the preparation. I love having people I love around me and I love that you can eat really good food and you don’t have to rush off to synagogue.

I’ve made Thanksgiving for most of the last 30 years. For many of them it was the same crowd, give or take; the four of us, our ‘best-friend’ family, my mother, maybe my brother and his family. Some years we included some other friends, some years there was a boyfriend or so, some years somebody was out of town, like the year youngest was at her Disney internship and I got to make two Thanksgivings – the second of which was Thanksgiving-Shabbat when she was in town early in November.

Last year I didn’t do Thanksgiving. Mr. Ex had just moved out, and oldest wanted to do it anyway. It seemed like a good year to be a guest instead of a host. I missed it though – big time.

This year, it seemed that nobody in my son-in-law’s family was really excited about making the holiday. Oldest is making seder so two big holidays didn’t excite her, and everyone else has “their” holiday. Wow… my favorite holiday and it’s up for grabs. So, I grabbed it.

Yes, people. I’m having 20 guests for Thanksgiving and I’m only really related to two – my daughter and my brother.

And I couldn’t be more excited. First, I’m thrilled to be able to host these wonderful people who have welcomed me into their homes for the last year – holidays, birthdays, whatever. They consider me part of their family and I am honored and humbled to be included. I adore my son-in-law’s niece and nephew and have grown to be very fond of his cousins and their families.

No doubt, it will be different. My mother is gone, Mr. Ex won’t be there (wow – the possibility of non-vegetarian stuffing is almost intoxicating. Sausage-and-corn-bread here I come), and our former ‘best-friend’ family is no more, since I kind of lost them in the divorce. Yes, there’s no question that this will be different.

But I will still be with a whole bunch of people of whom I’m very fond – even love – and who have been good to me. And, in the end, we’ll all remember all the things for which we’re grateful.

As my late father would say, prost! (translation: cheers!)

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Filed under Creating a new life, Moving on

I survived…

Famous Jewish joke…

Question: How do you explain Jewish holidays?

Answer: They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.

So, does one have a divorce party? Marriage tried to kill me (not really, but I’m going with a metaphor here, people), I survived, let’s eat.

Do you give favors? Play pin-the-tail (or substitute some part of a man’s anatomy) on-the-ex? Eat cupcakes? Open presents?

Do you make it more meaningful? Institute some kind of ritual where your guests make wishes for you? That sounds kind of, um, mushy.

I dunno. At one time I felt like having one, but now I’m not so sure. It feels kind of anti-climatic.

I like the eating part, though.

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Elul reflections

We are in the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish calendar. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we take time during Elul to reflect on the waning year and to prepare for the time of renewal that the High Holy Days bring.

As I reflect on the last year – and on the previous 30 years – I’m trying to use this as a road map for the coming year.

I don’t regret doing the things I did to give my children as wonderful a childhood as I could. And I am reaping the richness of doing so; my daughters are amazing individuals who live their lives with integrity, purpose, kindness and conviction. I stayed in my marriage because I thought that was best for my family and, even though the marriage has ended, I still believe that it was a good decision (btw – it’s taken almost a year of therapy to say that). I also benefited from my decision in many ways; I have a career I love, with colleagues I love, and have found ways to earn a reasonable living doing it. I developed a strength that I may not have developed in a different relationship – a strength that serves me well today.

Of course I have some regrets. I worry that the strength I nurtured will make it difficult for me to ever enter into a relationship with a real man. Not a real man as opposed to a fantasy man, of course, but a mature, responsible man with a genuine sense of self. I worry that my “guard” will be too hard to break down. But I’m starting to understand that that will take time – and the right person – to address.

My more immediate regret is that I subjugated myself in so many ways. And I see this same subjugation in many of my friends. Because we moms and wives put everyone else’s needs in front of our own, we forget who we are and ignore the things that nurture us.

In my own case, I’m talking about my creative energy. Over the last year I realized that my energy went into my family; making the best home I could with limited resources, giving my girls things like camp, and propping up my husband for thirty years. Again – I have no regrets. I made these choices as a free woman and I would do it all over again (although I do think that I would have ended the marriage five years ago, rather than working so hard to repair it at that point).

All the things that bother me about my home seem to stem from the lack of creative appearance. I want color, texture and inspirational surroundings. My wardrobe is the same – I want to wear what reflects on the outside what’s on the inside (rather than what, sadly, fits and is affordable). I want to entertain creatively and live creatively, too.

I’m going to start a creative journal – one in which I reflect each day how I’ve done something creative to enhance my home, my wardrobe and my social life. I think it may have to be unelectronic, because I’d like to use watercolors and ink, but I’ll try to scan pages where I can.

In closing, I quote the great American prophet, Tina Turner. Seriously – can you imagine anyone better to look to when transforming your life?

Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.

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Filed under Creating a new life, Haven for one, Moving on, Singleness, Transition

Toward inspiration

I was just watching something about how survivors of an airplane crash have this new attitude toward life and what’s important. About how they have this “second chance” approach now.

In some ways, that’s how this divorce after a long marriage thing works, too. At least in my case.

For nearly 30 years I was in this life where I did what I had to do; I responded to what was right in front of me. When Mr. Ex lost one more job, I decided that I had to put younger daughter in full time day care, find after-school day care for older daughter, and get a job. I did that. When it became apparent that without more income we wouldn’t be able to pay for school supplies, camp, after-school activities, or bat mitzvah celebrations, I found it. When I was offered an opportunity to take on more work at my full time job – an offer that I knew would bring us just a little more security – I grabbed it (by the way, when Mr. Ex left, this was one of the things he threw in my face: that late at night he would beg me to close the laptop and I insisted on working until the wee hours. It occurred to me that was like a wife who sits home doing her nails all day yelling at her husband for working too hard).

My home was never a sanctuary. Never an inspiration. Never my muse. It was filled with hand-me-down, dog-eared (literally), bought-because-it-was-cheap furniture. I dreaded coming home when he wasn’t working and seeing the house look just like it looked when I left – couldn’t he do something? In the days when he was playing at becoming a cantor I would come home and say “what did you do all day?” and his answer was always, “studying.” I guess – because he certainly wasn’t cleaning, straightening or throwing away.

Okay, okay. I can’t write those things without thinking, “WTF? Why on earth did I put up with that for 30 years?” Enough – I could be in therapy for the rest of my life (and I imagine I will be) and I can’t come up with a better answer than I did what I thought was best for my children. And then, when they weren’t an issue, I guess I figured we’d make it work since it was just the two of us. Whatever.

But now I have this chance to remake my home into a muse.

I want to come home and breathe. I want to come home and fee like I’m being hugged. I want to come home and feel like I’m in this nurturing and inspirational environment.

And all in a space that I may still want to sell, so it can’t be anything weird or too “out there.” Luckily I’m not “out there,” so I can probably make it happen.

I’ve already started with the purging. Not only was it cathartic to get rid of all of Mr. Ex’s things, it’s been incredible to just be able to see the floors, not have stuff on every surface, and to be able to walk into a room without picking my way through piles. After I put those bookcases up in the office I went in there at least five times just to admire how it was so neat and tidy and all the books were on shelves just like they’re supposed to be.

But it’s got to be more than that. I need to be surrounded by the things I love and be able to put away the things I need to keep but don’t have to have in my face all the time. I need colors that speak to me and textures that inspire.

I need the flaws fixed. The water-damaged ceilings need to be fixed, the leak in the roof needs to be fixed, the downstairs bathroom needs to be – yeesh, I have no clue what THAT needs – I just know it needs something . . . And it all needs to feel pulled together.

Ironically, I can afford it, too. I have some money from my mom – not a lot, but certainly enough to do some of this. I don’t have to have anyone else agree with me; I can whatever I want, wherever I want to do it, and however I want it done.

It’s almost overwhelming. That’s the problem. I have too many choices. I’m not used to options. I’m used to settling. And now I don’t have to, and it’s almost paralyzing.

Step one: verbalizing the problem. Step two: making a plan.

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Filed under Creating a new life, Haven for one