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Timeline of Joys and Sorrows

21 Nov

September 2011: Preggers. Feels like I’ve been waiting for this all my life. Feels like he’s been dreading this all his life.

December 2011: He goes away for 3 months. Turns out I can do stuff on my own.

March 2012: He returns to find that I have evolved into a giantess, no longer vomiting every two seconds, and about 20+ kilos heavier.

June 2012: Beautiful, healthy son is born.

September 2012: We have the talk.

October 2012: He leaves. I grieve.

December 2012: I start to live again.

January 2013: I try to love again.

March 2013: M is sick. It’s going to be alright.

June 2013: Promotion!

June 2013: ONE!

July 2013: Besties in Berlin! It’s going to be alright.

July 2013: Trying and failing to get back together.

August 2013: Trying and failing to find a new home.

September 2013: Staying put. M is still sick. Love is gone. Everything sucks.

March 2014: Hope for a new start.

April 2014: A new home. A new start. Dating again.

June 2014: TWO!

June 2014: Coping. Empowered. Life is complicated, I can take it.

September 2014: I can’t take it.

October 2014: I have to take it.

November 2014: Low point. Depression. Unkind to myself.

November 2014: I tell M about a good first date with D. I try to keep it together.

December 2014: Limbo.

January 2015: Unspeakable pain.

February 2015: Unspeakable pain.

March 2015: I slowly begin to reclaim my life.

April 2015: I celebrate a birthday, dramatically, with my best friends, with my boyfriend.

May 2015: Girls gone wild memorial. Besties in Santorini, remembering M.

June 2015: THREE!

June 2015: Officially divorced at last.

July 2015: A trip to Barcelona with D.

July 2015: Adorably insane Charlie joins our family, chewing and biting and acting crazy 90% percent of the time, being the best dog in the world the other 10%.

September 2015: OK. We’ll keep you. Just please stop biting.

September 2015: Let’s introduce our kids.

October 2015: Playing family.

November 2015: Celebrating a year together. How lucky I am to have love in my life. Hope is renewed for a future of togetherness.

Fearing January.

Knowing I’ll make it through January.

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Three Men and a Wedding

2 Nov

Three handsome men with me on the dance floor: My son, in his tiny collared shirt and necktie. My partner, D, slightly intoxicated, ignoring the watchful eye of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts who’d just met him for the first time, and Y, whom I introduce to people as my brother,  though there is no blood connection between us.

My sister got married last night. White gown, hair and makeup, 300 guests, candles and  fancy tablecloths and everything. She was gorgeous, the groom was handsome. The ceremony was lovely. The food was delicious. My son, walking before her in his fancy little outfit, and a basket of rose petals, it was all perfectly out-of-a-magazine, predictably beautiful. I was happy to be there with her. Happy that she was happy.

I can’t get emotional over weddings anymore. I just can’t. Even if it is my own sister. Something in me stopped believing long ago that this thing we do, this expensive social obligation – that it means anything more than what it is to me, a costly party. I know I had one. I know I wanted one. So there’s no judgement here. It’s hard to not want something you’ve been told you wanted throughout your entire life.

We’re structured so that we are always thinking about our next step. After all, life is the journey from one climatic event to the other, with a bunch of boring shit in between. I think my sister and her husband have a good shot at “making it”. They’re a good couple. They’re going to have children, they’ll be a family. My best wish for them is to have what I didn’t. I know it’s what they want. She’ll get pregnant, she’ll have a husband who won’t leave her side, who frets about how she’s feeling and meets her every craving. She’ll have a healthy baby in a painful messy birth, she’ll become blind to the world and only see her baby’s needs and have her marriage take a blow. But her marriage will be strong enough to make it, she and her husband will bounce back and remember one another. They’ll have sex at least once a week. They’ll raise well behaved children that can be left with their grandparents so they can take some time off. The kids will grow older, they’ll grow closer again.

I wish for my sister all of that. I wish for her to trust her man, I wish for her to not be let down, to not be disappointed, to not have her heart shattered and her trust in men broken.

But, if somewhere down the road her heart is broken – then I wish for her exactly what I have. An amazing son, the best friends you could wish for, and, well, love – in all its forms.

We were dancing last night, my son and I, with my awesome girlfriends, whom I can always count on to stand (or dance) beside me when I need them. At one point I found myself suddenly surrounded by my three favorite men, my son was really going nuts on the dance floor, jumping and laughing and man, let me tell you, he’s one hell of a dancer for being only three and a half! Then there was Y, goofing off with us, making my boy laugh, and D, on his day-view, having just met my parents and 300 of their closest acquaintances. The music was loud and not to my taste, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I thought, how special it is to be surrounded by the three people in my life who’ve helped me restore my faith in men.

So I ended up getting a little emotional after all. I guess, it doesn’t matter what ceremonies you choose to ornament your life with. It’s who’s there beside you at those moments. I felt beautiful last night, with my hair and my makeup, and my awesome dress. I danced, with all my favorite people. But most of all I felt loved last night. And I guess that’s what I really wish for my sister.

Home Away from Home

6 Jun

There was a place in my childhood and adolescence, where I felt truly safe and happy, where I could be myself and feel acceptance, where there were boundaries and I knew I was cared for, where I could let go and be a child, allowing myself to experience all those things that allow you to learn about yourself as you grow up and become the person you need to become. That place was summer camp.

Every now and again in my life I am reminded of those powerfully condensed summers, in which friendships were formed, secret crushes flourished, conversations about the meaning of life were conducted in the wee hours of the night, often under the stars, sometimes with a guitar playing in the background, where the cool girls would hang out, in their cut-collared T-shirts, exposing their bra straps, with that summer’s newly transitioned ex-geeky hottie, his arm muscles flexed as he strummed his guitar, was playing his Oasis and his hotel california as his entourage sang along. Was there an afterlife? Would there be peace in the middle east? Would I ever have my first kiss and would it be with A?

In the mornings, waking up early and rushing to get dressed and brush teeth and get to prayer on time, then breakfast in the dining hall and a meeting with our counselors, and then the things we needed to do, efforts made to change the world, truly believing in our power to better it. Hot afternoons in the swimming pool, set amongst the pine trees, harboring rowdy half-developed teens as well as frogs that croaked beside us as we swam.

Shabbat. Getting ready and dressing up, feeling elated, excited to end prayer by greeting everyone and, traditionally, kissing on the cheek. Would he come greet me? Would he kiss me on the cheek?  Shabbat dinner was always deliciously noisy and fun, with our counselors singing at the top of their lungs when the meal was over, and everyone excitedly participating, sometimes even standing on chairs or drumming on the tables. There was no curfew on Friday night, as long as you made it to prayer in the morning, and we’d lay down on the grass outside, looking at the stars, sharing secrets and talking about who and what we wanted to be.

Condensed. Three weeks a year where I wasn’t constantly being scorned by my father, where I wasn’t in charge of mothering my younger sisters, picking them up from daycare, making them lunch, and later on seeing that they did their homework, arguing and trying unsuccessfully to discipline them when they misbehaved. I loved my sisters to pieces. I would have died for them. But then, everything was so dramatic when I was a hormone stricken teenager, learning to constantly be critical of myself, to be ashamed, and eventually to truly hate myself.

I didn’t hate myself in camp, though. I liked myself. I felt smart and funny. I was able to let go of my worry about my appearance. I felt competent and brave. I sang solo one time in front of 300 people. I dared to befriend the boys I had a crush on. I learned then so much of what I know now and implement every single day into my work with children, into my parenting, and into my constant introspection.

I’m not religious anymore. I don’t even believe in god. But I believe in the good intentions of people. I believe in people’s ability to change things that seem unchangeable. I believe in my own personal ability to cope with anything that comes my way. I believe I’m awesome. I believe I deserve to be loved and shown affection and appreciated. And even though it took me years to implement these beliefs into my life, it all started when I was 13 at summer camp.

Girls Gone Wild Memorial

1 May

bird

The narrow wooden gate opened and we fell silent for a moment. Stepping through the gate and onto the huge deck, we took in the view, the ocean, the caldera, the little white houses on the slope of the mountain, the breeze, the birds that chirped all around and wandered along the breakfast bar, in search of breadcrumbs. It was almost too much. It had been very, very long since I’d seen something so beautiful. Long enough to forget that beauty like this existed.

Twelve hours earlier, I had taken my Boy to see the fireworks. It was his first Independence Day that he could really grasp and might actually remember, now that he was almost three. He was so happy and excited, and he fell into a deep peaceful sleep on our way home. Straight to bed. No shower or teeth brushed. That could all wait.

On tiptoes, I made the final arrangements. Washed the dishes. Checked my bag for passport and ticket. In a couple of hours my mom would be coming over to stay with my son and I would be off to Santorini, a place that my only connection to was M. It was the money she’d left us. It was the directions she’d given. To go to where she was at 18, when everything was possible and there was no glass ceiling to life. To where she’d been hoping to go with J, between treatments, before she ran out of time. It was a carefree spring break. It was a trip down memory lane. It was our Girls Gone Wild Memorial.

Like he was synced with my plans, two minutes before my alarm went off at 1:00 am, my Boy woke up with a bad dream. And that was that. He remembered suddenly that I was leaving. He was beside himself, clinging to my shirt, hysterical. Finally I had to go. So I did, and left him crying with my mom, telling myself to trust her.

Taxi with E. Picking up J. Meeting G and the airport. Us four. We used to be five.

Tickets, passports, security, duty free, overpriced coffee. The excitement was building up. If only my mother would text me to say things were OK. They’re sleeping, I told myself. And then the flight, laughing hysterically, talking way too loudly and being inappropriate. Landing in Athens, layover, freaking out since my mom hadn’t texted yet. Finally hearing from her. Everything’s fine, I shouldn’t have worried. Boarding. More inappropriateness. Landing. Finding our driver. More inappropriateness… And then traffic, and lots of it…

By the time we got to the hotel, we’d been on the road for almost ten hours and were exhausted. But then that gate opened, and from that moment on, there were no worries. No crying children and fretting over them. It was just peaceful and lovely. And by lovely I mean beautiful, but also full of love.

black sand

If I could possibly be less cynical, I’d say she was there with us, M, laying on the black sand, drinking smoothies and cocktails, dipping her feet into the frozen infinity pool, enjoying the out of season weather, assuring it would never get too warm, rolling her eyes at the look on my face when I saw a lobster on my plate for the first time, and had to ask J to “deal with it”.

She would have chatted endlessly with Vicki, the almost over friendly receptionist that made it her life mission to assure we had the best possible time, ate the best possible food, and sweetly joked about her tendency to eat too much. “There is no moderation in Santorini!” She’d said. M would have loved that.

The end of the last day, standing on the deck again, looking at the water glistening in the sun, I wanted to cry. It was an end to our trip. And though I knew there would be others, I couldn’t be sure that M would be there for the rest. So vivid in my heart, the way she had been in Santorini. Please, I thought, stay with me. Don’t fade away into a distant memory. As we stepped into the taxi that would take us to the airport I clung to her, like a child clinging to his mother’s shirt. But it was time to part, again. And I realized that I could probably continue parting with her forever. Saying goodbye again and again, just as it had been when she was still here.

Her birthday is coming up on Tuesday. Will I be saying goodbye once more? Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe instead of saying goodbye, I should welcome her memory into my life, as a permanent tenant, that lives forever and never goes on vacation.

I should.

And I will.

But not just yet.

A Beautiful Cup of Sun and a Moment of OK

7 Mar

Some things I wanted to tell you, M:

Well, first, D told me he loved me, and since then things have been pretty sweet with us. We haven’t said it again, but we’ve been much closer, acting more like a couple, having fun and sex, and holding each other, and saying stuff like I’m crazy about you and basically enjoying one another. We have these inside jokes going on now, that I know you’d appreciate. And he’s totally up for watching cheesy late 80’s – early 90’s romantic comedies with me and judging everyone but secretly enjoying them. We had a ball with Mystic Pizza and we watched Groundhog’s Day last week, which I’m sure you’d approve of. In the middle of the movie he actually said, “They don’t make movies like this anymore”.

Other than that, I wanted to tell you that we’re going to Santorini in the spring! J, E, G and me. We’ve already bought tickets and everything. End of April. And it’s going to be amazing. My birthday comes up before that, and this year I’ve decided to throw a party, with drinks, music and dancing.  Remember that year, when you first moved to the city, you got all your friends together at a small bar downtown and got really shitfaced? You repeated that tradition in the years to come but that first time was so much fun.

This morning it was hot, way hotter than it should be this time of year and I wore a new skirt I got at that boutique you like, the one I can never go into without spending a fortune because everything is so beautiful. It’s green with white polka dots and little brown-goldish feathers. I wore it with black tights and a black tank top and it looked awesome. I went into town to meet J for coffee at a place that opened up rather recently, when you weren’t drinking much coffee anymore. I love that place. You enter it and are immediately overwhelmed with a craving for the warmth and comfort of a morning’s first cup, and it makes no difference if it’s actually your third.

I sat there with J and we chatted. She told me about a new guy she started to chat with online. As I looked at her I saw a giddiness that I hadn’t seen in a very long time and I asked myself if it’s been that long since we’ve been happy that we might not recognize it when we felt it again. But I totally recognized it. A spark of beautiful around-the-cornerness, anticipation of good things that may be coming. Obviously, shitty things will always be coming too. But I think we know now to look for the good, we’ve learned that we need to embrace it – NOW – because who knows what will happen tomorrow.

As I sat there in the sun, with J, drinking coffee, munching on an oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookie, I felt it. The sun, the warmth, the air standing still, my shoulders and feet bare in my tank top and flip-flops, the ice cream parlor nearby, the people riding their bikes, J’s smile, it felt like it was OK somehow. My first instinct was to jump up and say that it isn’t, defending your memory means I need to grieve you, still and forever.

But no. Instead here I am, telling you about the things that are good, the stuff that works out. I promised you we’d be alright, and I wanted you to know that we sat in the sun and smiled and drank coffee today, talking about boys, planning a party and a trip to Santorini.

It’s been 49 days without you. I miss you so much. Horribly, terribly, devastatingly, enormously, outrageously. I will always miss you. It surprises me that despite that, I am able to allow a glimpse of lightheartedness in, through my exposed toes, in desperate need of a pedicure, through my bare shoulders, soaking up the sun. It wasn’t escapism this morning with J, it was simply good.

30 Days, Meltdown, Love and Not Pregnant

20 Feb

I haven’t written for a while as things have been so hectic and I needed some time to process. So, we’ll take it by chronological order.

Day 30 was around the corner and we would be going to the cemetery to see the tombstone, followed by eating Indian and watching Life of Brian as she had specifically requested. The weekend before, J, E and I decided to go up North and basically do nothing in an awesome wooden cabin for 24 hours. I was a nervous wreck, and figured the rest would do me good, but rather than getting excited about the road trip, I was having another where-is-this-going meltdown about D.

Three months since we’d started dating, and I had already told him I loved him, and he hadn’t said it back. While I told myself I should give it time, I was beginning to wonder if, every time he says “this was fun” after sex, he actually means that fun is all that this can be. And that made me draw back to the extent that when I slipped and fell in the shower a couple of weeks ago and actually thought I had broken my arm (which thankfully I didn’t) I didn’t want him to come over, I preferred to be home alone than to see him. Because when you’re down, you only really want to be around people who love you. Not people who just think you’re fun.

So, this mini road trip would be just what I needed. A break from everything, with two of my favorite people by my side, people with whom love is simply not a question. And the trip gave me the guts to have the “where is this going” chat with D, knowing that if the talk went horribly and I felt like shit after, I’d have my friends there to remind me of what was really important. Oh, and it happened to be valentine’s weekend too. Coincidence?

Thursday arrived, the night before the trip, and D came over after I had put my boy down. I put on a dress, and got some Kasteel Rouge and cheese, and basically made sure everything was pretty. He came in and asked what the occasion was and I just gave him a kiss and smiled. And then as we were sitting down to munch and drink I dropped the bomb on him and said we needed to talk. He smiled, and said he’d figured. I said, I needed to know if this was going anywhere. And he asked, going where? I said that he knew I didn’t want to get married again, and that I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to live with someone again, but that I was looking for companionship, for love, for more that just “fun”.

He said: “It’s still too soon for me to know where this is going. I know that you’re incredible and beautiful, and I’m attracted to you, and I love you, and this is fun, and I want it to continue, and I love you. I don’t know where –”

“Shut up, you’re ruining it.” I interrupted him and we kissed. “I didn’t know you loved me.”

He said, “Of course I love you.” And I wasn’t sure why he thought it was so obvious if he hadn’t said it to me before, but I took it without judgment and allowed myself to feel happy, relived and comforted.

Then I was very, very happy for 72 hours, which included the post-I-love-you-sex, and the he-loves-me-text to my friends, and the amazing 24 hours in a wooden cabin, watching Magic Mikw and drinking hot wine and unwinding with my friends.

I felt like I could rest, and resting felt good. During the whole time up North I didn’t think about day 30 or the cemetery or anything sad for that matter. I remembered M as I do all the time, but not in a bad way, not in a sad way either, more like in a it-just-feels-good-to-think-about-her way. Then the weekend was over and it was time to get back to reality.

Sunday was day 29, and it dawned on me that I would have to go to the cemetery and see the tombstone, and I felt this horrible, cold heavy feeling in my gut. I had a shitty day at work and my day was only saved by hanging out with my boy at home, cooking and doing puzzles and not thinking about tomorrow.

And then it was tomorrow.

I went to work, but I was only there physically.

And then I was off work and I stopped at the mall to buy underwear, which I needed desperately, in hopes that doing something useful would make me feel better, and it did, even though just a very little bit.

And then I was there, at the entrance. I went in. I hugged M’s dad who was very practical about things in his trunk that belonged to M, that he wanted us friends to have a look at. We went to see the tombstone, which was beautiful and unique and I think she would have liked it. Words were said, none of which really represented what M was to me. Her family spoke. They said some religious stuff that I couldn’t connect to and it was pretty much unbearable to be there. I just wanted to leave. Then A spoke, and said something funny about imagining M lying in bed with her eyes closed, waiting for us to leave, assuming she’s gone, so she could finally rest. He imagined her then opening her eyes as the door closed, and rolling them, as if to say, I thought they’d never leave. Everybody laughed and my laughter turned into uncontrollable sobbing. Because it was the way I will always remember her, cynical and humorous.

The Indian food was delicious but didn’t fill the void, and I made a video of everyone singing “always look at the bright side of life” at the end of the movie. Then I went home, and I felt relief that it was over. On Tuesday, D came over, and we ate my famous curry and we drank some beer and had sex and it was good. And it’s been better since.

What I realized yesterday though, was that in all this turmoil, I hadn’t realized I was 9 days late with my period. So, I took a test. And I’m not pregnant. Which is very, very good news.

That was a recap of the last couple of weeks, eventful, yeah, difficult, yeah, but you know what? I think the bottom line of the whole think is how much meaning and love I have in my life. It hurts, obviously, and it also comforts and soothes me. It’s awesome and it’s shitty all at the same time and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A Post about Grief and Comfort

6 Feb

Nearly two years ago, M called me at work at to tell me she was going to have a “port” installed. Right after we found out M was sick, she kind of disappeared. I don’t remember if it was for a few days that felt like forever or for a week, maybe even longer. I remember calling her and texting her and getting no answer. I knew from J she was going to have the port installed, to make treatments easier and avoid being constantly stuck with needles, but I couldn’t get a hold of her, and though I realized she probably needed some time alone to process the news, I really wanted to talk to her.

That day was a Tuesday, I think. I was still working part time at the school back then. My boy was maybe seven months old, and was home with his babysitter. I had just gotten off work, when I saw her missed call and immediately called her back. It was 1:30 pm. “I was worried about you.” was the first thing I said. She answered matter-of-factly: “I’m having the port installed today. Can you come?” I answered, “Of course.” And hung up. I had an hour and a half to find someone who could be with my boy that afternoon. I literally called everyone I knew, and finally found an arrangement as I drove to the hospital.

She was scared to death, and her fear fed my fear. Sitting there in the waiting room, I realized what was about to happen, I realized that we were in it for a long haul. The nurse asked her something and M answered that she was going to need chemo for the rest of her life. The nurse said, “I’m sure that’s not true. You have to be optimistic. People have recovered, even in your situation.” I believed her. Even though she had no idea what M’s situation was.

Then she went in and was sedated, heavily, because the first dose they gave her didn’t put her down. Jesus, that seems all too familiar. I don’t think I’ve written here about the end. How she wanted to sleep, and the vast quantities of morphine she’d been given just wouldn’t do it.

By the time she got out a couple of other friends had gotten there. I don’t remember who, I was so out of it, and at the same time I was playing my role of “having it together” so vigorously that I couldn’t feel anything. Did she need something? Maybe some water? Maybe another funny story about my boy to pass the time? Smile, I told myself. Don’t look scared. She needs you to be strong.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. My sister had left everything she was doing, and taken a cab to my old apartment to be with my boy and BD had picked him up in the evening, so I was alone. I sat on the sofa and texted SG, whom I was seeing then. I said, “I know we said we’d meet tonight, but I’m really out of it. I’m sad and tired. Maybe you can just come over and hang out.” He said, “Get dressed, I’m picking you up in 20 minutes.” And I said, “No, you don’t understand. I want to stay in.” And he said, “No, you don’t understand, we’re going out.” I was too tired to argue. So I got dressed.

He took me to an eatery, run by an outstanding chef, whom M despised by the way, for being an arrogant prick, which is true but doesn’t make the food any less incredible. In this place, you can eat the most delicious things you could ever imagine stuffed into a sandwich and served with beer. The place was busy and colorful. The food was delicious. The music was oriental and loud. The beer was cold and satisfying. I think we even did a shot of Arak. I was sitting there with a man who cared enough about me to force me to come out and remember life. And when we came home we took our clothes off and literally did not stop fucking until I couldn’t remember my name. That night I realized that I didn’t always know what was good for me.

Sometimes, looking back at my relationship with SG, I tend to discredit what we had. I say things to myself like, he was my first after the breakup, I didn’t know any better, he was just a kid, he lived with his parents for christ’s sake, I knew from the start it wasn’t going anywhere. But none of that changes the fact that SG was perfect for me at the time that I met him.

It’s all about grief and comfort. I was grieving when I met SG. Grieving the loss of my husband, father of my son, the loss of my family as I had always imagined it would be. SG was a source of comfort. He loved me, almost instantly. And it wasn’t just saying words. He really went out of him way numerous times to please me, comfort me, to show me he cared. He took me to the opera, and cooked for me, and talked about books with me to the wee hours of the night, and he’d go down on me for twenty minutes straight, and tell me repetedly how beautiful and deserving I was, and he held me really tightly when I cried, so tightly that it felt like he was going to crush me. And he accepted it when I broke up with him twice to get back together with BD, he said he couldn’t stand between me and my family.

I’m not reminiscing here. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t miss him anymore. I’m just thankful that I got to have that comfort in my life at that time. And I’m thankful for all the amazing sources of comfort that I have in my life today.

My son, who makes me feel loved, like no one else.

My friends, who have been through a lot of shit with me, who I can always call to rant or just do shots with while hanging laundry (yes, that happened).

My co-workers, who appreciate me, who understand what I’m going through or at least make a sincere effort to.

D, for being a sorce of comfort to me these days. For going back to that eatery with me last night and listening to the story about M’s port and SG and for saying about seven times how amazing the cauliflower was, and not just to please me, because he really loved it. And silly as it may sound, it really made me happy that he appreciated it, because that place is special to me, not just because of the food.

And finally, me, for being kinder to myself than I have been in the past, for having a better notion of what I want and deserve, for being aware of mistakes that I’ve made, for forgiving myself, for knowing that I will never again be wandering dark streets at 5 am looking for my car after having had only semi-protected sex with a first date that I didn’t even like (yes, that happened too).

Me, for knowing I deserve better. Me, for thinking good things of myself, most of the time. Me, for doing it on my own. Me for knowing when to stop doing it on my own and ask for help. Me, for leaning on the people that I love and trust.

Grief has a place in my life, especially these days. But exactly three weeks ago, I left M’s bedside at the hospital for the last time, and I’d told her that we’d all be fine. I said she didn’t need to worry about us. And it was true. We have many sources of comfort in our lives, and they allow us to experience grief, to fall apart, and to get back up again, and pick up the pieces, and carry on.