Thursday, December 20, 2012

Daily Uplifting Messages

Hey everyone:

I just wanted to let you know that I have a new blog.  This blog will remain active and record landmark moments and revelations.  The new blog is a year-long daily journey that is meant to track my purposeful changes in the way I live.  Hopefully both will continue to inspire and help you.  I will also be uploading a brief youtube video every day.  Feel free to check in on that daily.

Here's the link to my new blog.  The vlog is embedded.

lees_paradigm_shift


Cheers!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Paradigm Shift 365 Coming

I have made an important decision. I will be documenting my life every day.  There will be multiple components to my output, including brief daily video updates.

This is an exercise to observe the changes a person can make in her life in 365 days by deciding to act, then acting upon that decision.

I will share the new blog site with you here once it is established.  Meanwhile here's the inspiration and plan in video form. Don't worry this is five minutes, but it is probably the longest video I will ever post to my blog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ-82Zv82Vc&feature=share

Thanks for watching and sharing.  And thanks for reading my blog.

Lee

Sunday, December 16, 2012

On The Verge of Quitting

I find myself in the position of having to quit my job.

Most people are saying, "Hooray! You won a fellowship! You can dedicate your time entirely to your art.  You are so lucky!"

And they are right.

And I am so scared that I am leaving my job that I really don't like - don't get me wrong.  I love the students I support, but the faculty I work with, except for the philosophers, are all kind of classist dicks.  There I said it.  I hate my job because a large portion of the people I work with would rather I make copies and type memos and keep the coffee warm than do what I actually do.  That's okay.  It gives me something to fight, to push back against and say, "NO!  My life is really about this other thing."

So now I get to actually do that other thing.  And what's that like?  Fearful.  Scary.  Amazing.  So, so sad.  It is the last nail in the coffin of the life that I built with Earl.  All that is left is the person that I've become.

So friends, I'm gonna' try my best not to screw this up.  I'm gonna' get up every day and do my art and be my self.  And I'm gonna' get paid to do it.

In a sense and in defiance of the old adage, this quitter has won.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Don't Want To Write This

There's this thing I suffer from called, "Lee." 

It makes me not want to do the things that are good for me to do like exercise, sleep, eat normally, and write.  Lee can really mess with my life, so I have to trick her into doing things, sort of a carrot and stick thing.

Tonight I needed to not worry about stuff.  I handed my Ginger over to Earl for Thanksgiving and I set about doing things that only I would want to do.  That involves copious amounts of procrastination, cooking a delicious and healthy meal, then eating a normal portion, followed three hours later by another normal portion, watching the second half of a movie, then another movie on top of that, grading a few papers, checking one really good one for plagiarism and being happy that it just happens to be a really good paper, and cuddling with kittens.

Now to the hard stuff, because all that stuff above is done, except the procrastination.  But I've come to accept that this particular task is never done, and that I will always have to fit it in amidst the other duties and chores in life.  Procrastination seems to be a means of prioritizing work in reverse order.  The thing with the looming deadline swings like a blade on a pendulum over my exposed belly, yet instead of addressing the imminent threat of that sharp and cutting task, I find it's the perfect time to do the dishes and empty the trash.  And heck if I haven't been meaning to organize all my receipts for the month of October.  Procrastination.  After clearing all the other tasks and to-dos from my list, I manage to get to the now SUPER-LOOMING deadline.  And I crank out whatever it is I'm supposed to crank out.  This is what they call being a 1) libra 2) grad student 3) writer.

Procrastination seems to be my tool that I use to create urgency and focus on the important stuff.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but when I have a ton of time to do something, I don't parse out reasonable increments of time and get a little bit done every day.  Nope.  Who does that?  I worry and fret and feel guilty and think that I'm no good, a fraud, not worthy of whatever it is I'm not worthy of.  I find other things to fill the time so I just don't have to think about it even though I'm CONSTANTLY thinking about whatever "it" is.  And when push has come to shove, and there is nothing else that can possibly be done, I do the deed - I meet the deadline.  Usually just barely.  And I often meet it with a sense of disappointment.  If only I had spent more time focusing on this it would have been really great.  If only I had thought this through more, if only, blah, blah, blah.

Sounds like I'm being hard on myself, but I have noticed that this is what I've done with myself for a while now.  It's the things that matter most that fall to the last minute.  And there's a reason for this.  It's called self-awareness.

I'm fully cognizant of the fact that I am in a transition.  I am coming out of a cloud that I dwelt in for years.  It takes time for the smoke to clear.  Best not to run when I can't see three feet in front of my face.  But as the skies clear, as my vision improves, I believe it will be easier for me to do what I must.  It's all so freakin' incremental!  I'm so much better off than I was six months ago, but I'm still not fine.  And I probably will never be fully fine, because who is?  The goal here is to find ways to do what I must while I take the journey through life.  And my tool for success happens to be procrastination.  For now.

So maybe it's not so much suffering from "Lee" as it is coming to understand what this "Lee" thing is and finding a way to make it work.  It's like learning to drive a stick; the first thousand miles I'm just gonna' lurch and stall.  But as I get used to the sweet spot on that clutch, I'm eventually going to be able to speed shift.

And now for something completely different. . .



Sunday, November 4, 2012

TIngling with Anticipation

So many opportunities are laid before me, and I am very grateful.

I am free.

I am joyful.

I am blessed.

I am nesting in  my new home.

I am embracing new friends.

I am saying goodbye to destructive relationships.

I am looking forward, never turning back to see the places I have stumbled.

I am renewed.

I am letting go of blame.

I am accepting my own participation in my past.

I am painting my bedroom yellow and pink.

I am writing.

I am reading.

I am happily embracing chance.

I am pleased to know that you are reading my words and hope that they help you towards your own path.

I am thinking more and more about performance art.

I am glad to be nearly through the darkness.

I am loved.

I am not alone.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Today Is Angst-y

I just can't seem to shake it.  I feel anxious and worried and sad today.  Too much future looming, too little present action, and too much past behind me.

Life.  You are complicated and I would like some happy please.  In the form of hugs.

That is all.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I've Been Afraid, But Now I Understand The Ellipsis

I despise the misuse of the ellipsis in writing.  But, as a student of mine recently pointed out, grammar is only a problem if you understand the rules.

For those of you who don't know, an ellispsis   is this thing -->  . . .   <-- used to indicate a word has been omitted in a quotation. It can also be used at the end of a sentence to indicate the words are drifting away.  This is common in film scripts.  But what really irks me is the use of the dot dot dot to indicate someone has been interrupted.  That is clearly the case in which a terminal dash must be used!

I might see a script that looks like this:

                                                         EARL
                                          I am a no good, two-timing jerk, and you deserve better.
                                          I am having an affair. . .

                                                          LEE
                                         I should have listened to my mother!

When clearly it should read:

                                                           EARL
                                       I am a no good, two-timing jerk, and you deserve better. 
                                       I am having an affair --

                                                          LEE
                                      I should have listened to my mother!

You see the difference, right?  The proper use of the ellipsis matters.  But to the uninformed punctuator, the difference is lost.  Just as punctuation draws out bold differences in our stories, so do the cues we give ourselves in life.  Often times fears creep into my life and keep me from doing what truly matters.


It's important to recognize the things we fear in life. Sometimes fear is couched in a shoulder shrug that is meant to make everyone (including myself) believe that I just don't care.  Sometimes I have a clenched feeling in my gut, my teeth ache from gnawing my jaw, and my head hurts from squinting pensively.  These are the more obvious indicators of fears as they manifest in tension and restlessness. Sometimes fear stares me boldly in the face and I pretend I don't see it.  (Visit previous blogs in which I discuss the fear of my husband's infidelity and his forays - yes, that is plural - into that arena.) In these instances, I chose to believe that ignorance is bliss.  But now I see that it's the little clues along the way that have become big indicators to me when something I fear is preventing me from living fully.

So what is it I fear that I've ignored for so very long?  I fear my own possibility.  I've hidden in my husband's shadow, I've placed my family's needs before my own, and I've managed to avoid time spent evaluating my desires and acting on them.  Sublimation of my potential came in the form of an eating disorder, too much television and an unhealthy relationship, among other things.  Last week, however, the world of possibilities opened up for me, bashed me over the head and said, "Get your shit together, lady." I was given some very meaningful honors as a filmmaker last week.  And in those moments I knew (in allcaps, underscored, bolded, italicized and spelled out letter-by-letter,) K N E W that I am meant to be a writer and director, and that my life would unfold in that direction if I let go of my fears.

So I did what any person in that situation would do.  I took my fears out on my ex-husband.  Luckily sanity returned fairly quickly, and no humans were harmed in the process of my temper tantrum. It's taken me about a week to get back to a place where I can contemplate moving forward with my film career.  I've been contemplating it for a long time in theory, but it is becoming very real to me now.  Soon my life will change in ways that I will never be able to unchange.  Again.  But this time I get to call the shots.  This time I get to say to my life, "It's time.  Grow.  Change.  Follow the beckoning future." My future is not being thrust at me by a person who failed me; it is being given to me on a silver platter, a gleaming, polished platter full of ripe and delicious fruits.  It is up to me to partake.

Just as the rules of grammar cannot be unlearned, I cannot unlearn the meaning behind this opportunity.  I can no longer hide from the truth of who I am. It is still frightening and painful, but I am aware of my self now.  I know I am growing, and I know I will get to a new place that has many opportunities, ripe and ready for the picking.

There is nothing left unsaid.  There is no need for an ellipsis.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Forgiveness Tastes Like Chicken - a Blog Post in Which I Use the Word Fvck


You can't stay angry with children, puppies, or Sarah Silverman.
Sarah may break things, pee on your carpet or say something inappropriate, but then she will go on to hug you, lick your face and say something insightful. Children and puppies might do those things, too.

The anger of being treated unjustly has the potential to devour your soul.

This week, I've learned so much about forgiveness and acceptance.  Tomorrow is the memorial service of a friend who died because there was something more powerful in this world than his will.  Poor Friend Of Mine drank himself to death.  I believe there is a point (read about it somewhere in some article - was it The Times, DeLisa?) when a person who drinks heavily loses the ability to choose.  The alcohol takes over and you lose the ability to understand that it will kill you, that it will rob you of tomorrow - that day when things will get better - that day when you're really going to try this time.  Poor Friend Of Mine died alone, the night before checking in to rehab.  Poor Friend Of Mine left behind a most precious daughter, a lovely woman, and many beautiful pieces of photography.  I can't stay angry with Poor Friend Of Mine Who Drank Himself To Death.  What good does that do me?

Just as I cannot stay angry with him, I cannot stay angry with anyone, including my own self.

And here it comes - the Daddy Issue Blog begins, folks.

I've come to accept in the last few weeks the reason I fell in love with Earl and stayed loyally glued to him through all the hell that was his sexual addiction and our marriage.  Drum roll please, in case no one has figured it out . . . I wanted my father's love, something I will never have. As a cheap substitute I sought (and found in every man I ever fucked) the roguish qualities of my dad.  Smart, funny, entitled, cruel, distant, manipulative, charming in public, cold in private, and the world's biggest under-achiever.  Finding Earl was the Daddy Jackpot.  He fit the bill perfectly, and I fell for him hard.

I was so angry as a child.  My father was very cruel to my mother and indifferent to me.  He was a bastard to my sister and a bully to my brother.  Every night he would shout at my mother for hours, and my mother would sometimes fight back, sometimes take the haranguing in silence.  Whether she spoke up or not, I would sit listening, perched like a little bird on the banister at the top of the stairs.  In my mind I would formulate arguments against my father.  He would yell at my mother for some ridiculous, trumped up nothing.  My mother's response was never adequate in my opinion.  I would think to my self, "Tell him THIS, Mom!  Tell him THAT!"  I was Burgess Meredith to her Rocky, urging her on in the ring even though she was the underdog.

My parents divorced when I was 13 and I could not understand why my mother was so miserable; I could not understand why she wanted my father back, why she said she still loved him.  I was so relieved to have him gone from my life.  And he was gone.  I don't think I saw my father more than 5 times over the subsequent two years.  But those two years of transition and relative tranquility went by quickly and then BAM! Universe.  BAM! WHAM!SMACK-UPSIDE -THE- HEAD! My mother died.  Relatives swooped into town to hold the children together.  My father showed up for the funeral and put on a bit of a show about how important his children were to him.  The whirlwind of grief overwhelmed me.  All I could do was eat and sleep.  I can't remember much else except the freezing cold winter weather and the relatives who said they'd be there for me.  But as the weeks went by they disappeared one at a time.  My father went back to Ohio never to be heard from again.  My sister went back to college. My uncles flew home to their businesses and wives.  My aunt and grandmother stayed on a little while longer, but soon my aunt had to go back to her own brood of teens.  And no one was left behind except my grandmother  One month after my mother had died, the last standing grownup went home, too.  So there we were, my brother and I, 15 and 17 years old.  And we stayed in the house that had never once been a loving home.

Another day, another blog, I may be able to write about that grief, but right now I can only say that the two years I spent alone after my brother left for college were indeed lonely and sad.  And all I could do was pretend that I wasn't.  If anyone knew how alone I truly felt, how scared and sad I was, they would leave me forever.  So I just kept telling any grownup that asked how I was that I was okay.  After all, that's what they wanted to hear.

I thought that everything would be all right if my father was gone.  I struggled as a child and a teen to forgive him, but I couldn't come to any conclusion about how to forgive someone that didn't think they needed forgiveness.  I didn't know how to forgive someone that wasn't sorry.

So instead I forgot him.

And that is the foundation on which I tried to build a life.

Friends, you cannot forget people.  They will fester inside of you and poison you.  Instead, you must forgive. Now that I've gone through all this crap with Earl and Ashley's affair and the demise of my marriage, I can tell you that I cannot simply forget these people.  I must accept and forgive all of us.  Because if I don't, I am doomed to repeat the grief and anger of my childhood once more. I would be destined to be consumed by my anger.

The anger that I carried around all these years devoured bits of my soul.  It took away pleasure and potential and joy and left me with doubt and fear and emptiness.  So I must forgive and I must accept everything that has happened to me.  The pain is, in part, my own making.  It is, however, the way of human beings to make mistakes with one another.  Sometimes people will be sorry and work towards making amends, and other times they will not.

Here's the trick - It doesn't matter what the other person does.

Forgiveness comes from you.

Forgiveness is FOR you.

Poor Friend Who Drank Himself to Death could not find forgiveness, and pretty soon the poison that killed him felt better than the life he could potentially achieve.  The switch got flipped and the booze was more important than the life.

The same thing can happen with anger.  I lived for my anger with Earl.  But luckily he wanted out.  And now I can see that all that anger and grief tasted the same.  It all tastes like chicken.

I want to feast on the other feelings of life.  And to do so I must accept.  I must forgive.  Forgiveness is the only place in which I can find my own freedom.

Congratulations.  You've made it to the end of this very long blog post.  Here, have a cookie.  (It tastes like love.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Something Fun

Lately I've found myself saying that I am tired of being the topic of conversation.

Yes, I gotta' get it all out, deal with it, parse, process and all that jazz.  But tonight?  Tonight we have fun.

Here's one of the first movies I ever made, and I had the best time working on this with my friends and family.

Enjoy.  It's five minutes of real fun.  I wrote, directed and produced this film for a 48-hour challenge.

http://vimeo.com/14016139


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Actor's Nightmare - Letting Go the Fear

Lesson number 286, how to let go and get divorced:  Let someone who is better at the job do the job.

I hate it  when people tell me about their dreams,  rambling and droning on about the mental equivalent of navel lint.  However, I have learned that there is personal value in what we dream.  We narrate the stories of our lives in our sleep.  As a writer and a filmmaker, the craft of narration is important to me. Dreams are a way in which we try to make sense out of the confusion of life. They are riddled with odd details that are clues to our personal stories.

I had the actor's nightmare featuring my husband's mistress who sincerely tried to help me find a copy of The Taming of the Shrew so I could carry it on stage. I was to star as a last minute stand-in for the lead. Ashley and I searched desperately for a copy of the script while my old roommate, DeLisa, went on stage for me instead.  No one bothered to tell me that the part had been re-cast.  As I tell you this, please know that I am sparing you the details.

The life lesson I got out of this dream is to let someone who is better at the job do the work. I woke knowing that I need to let go.  I need to remember that my life is better lived as my life, not a branch of someone else's experience.  DeLisa is a far better actress than I ever was.  It was only right that she should be out on stage in the role I was meant to play.  I was unfamiliar with the part, didn't know the lines and couldn't even find the script.  When I figured out that someone had put DeLisa in my role and that I could let go of the fear that gripped me, I wasn't relieved.  I was disappointed.  And a little bit mean.  I let Ashley keep looking for the script. What can I say, schadenfreude is a guilty pleasure.

But it's all a constructed metaphor - thank you very much sleepy brain.  The metaphor tells me that Ashley is a better partner for Earl in many ways:  they both love Shakespeare, science fiction writing, and meat.  Although I appreciate those things, I am not a connoisseur of any of them. It doesn't matter if they stay together forever or are a fling that fizzles and dies out, he is spending some time with someone who appreciates the same things he does.  She's better at those things than I am.  She's better at being with him in terms of the basic things that he values.  So have at it, Ashley.  I'm supposed to be focusing on my own areas of interest now.  I'm supposed to be focusing on my personal growth.  So be it ALL.  Maybe we'll all be happier in the long run because we're shaking things up a bit now.

And maybe I'll stop crying at the drop of a pin soon.  Maybe the heart break won't be so heart breaking after I've allowed myself more time to explore my own interests.

******

The above was written over a month ago, but I did not publish at the time for a variety of reasons.  I'm glad to share that I do not cry at the drop of a pin anymore, although today I struggled with sadness and anger.  That's to be expected.  Grief is a petulant thing -ebbing and flowing in a most unpredictable manner.  I am glad to say that I truly believe I am better off without Earl.  I think he will be better off without me, too.  It's just...sad/hard/difficult...divorce.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Love Is All There Is...

The Beatles sang it best when they said, "All you need is love, love is all there is."

In 8th grade music class, Mrs. Allaman taught us that every pop song was about some stage of love: 1) the longing for love 2) the joy of love 3) the pain of having lost love.  At the time I couldn't disagree; every experience in my 13-year old life was framed within these three categories.  I had a huge crush on a bespectacled soccer player who didn't even know my name, and every movie I saw was about the joy of love and the pain of losing it (Blue Lagoon, Endless Love, Doctor Zhivago - my mother had good taste in films even if I didn't.)   Every sitcom TV show was about a woman who loved her husband and was tortured by his idiocy.  At the end of every episode, whatever misunderstanding had served as the conflict of the plot was swept under the rug with, "I looooove you!" and the applause track played.  So yeah, I thought the Beatles were right - it's all about this romanticized thing we call love.

But now I am understanding something new about love. There are shades, degrees, and various types of love.  Somehow I had missed this in my emotional education.  I knew I loved my daughter differently than I loved my husband, but it was still love at the core.  I had longed for my daughter for years before she blessed me with her presence, just as I had longed for a man to love me long before I knew Earl.  And yet, in this separation and pending divorce I am learning so much about the different types of love the world offers up.  There's the love that strangers and new friends have offered -compassionate, wise, patient and caring.  There's the love of old friends - full of the knowledge about me that I didn't possess, doled out in Goldilocks increments that are best for my maturation, not too much, not too little - just right.  And there's the love of self that is expressed by acting in my own self interest.  I have to make tough financial decisions (It's called comparison shopping.)  I have to do the work now, not wait for someone else to do it (I really hate taking out the trash.) And most importantly I must seek and find people who inspire me.  Different people offer me a variety of love, and I don't have to love them like a lover to call it love.  Love is not a tortured affection for an unreachable or difficult-to-love soul.   Love comes in the form of people who offer Art, Compassion, Community, Kindness, Independence, Self-Knowledge, Laughter, Shoulders to Cry On, Patience, Wisdom, and qualities I have yet to recognize.

I can say that today, even though I weep at the lost potential between Earl and me, I am  grateful for the lessons offered to me by the Universe - lessons I would not be learning if Earl and I had not lived every moment of our lives together exactly as we had.  I am learning that loving Earl doesn't mean that I have to have a romantic attachment to him.  As a young woman, I fell in love with Earl and thought that the emotional attachment was "all there is." Now this middle-aged woman is learning that love is so much more than the magnet between two hearts.  I am  grateful for having had the experience of romantic love, a love that lasted for a very long time.  I am also grateful for the chance to widen my emotional scope and love many people, exercising muscles I didn't know I had.

I love Earl, but I love him in a way I never did when we were together.  I love him for the chance he gave me.  I need to learn about the other possibilities for love in the world.  That's a chance that wouldn't have come along if I had stayed in the emotional zone of our marriage.

For those of you who think it's crazy to say you love someone who cheated on you, I ask you to understand that a person must learn from life; there is no controlling the actions of others.  In the Beatles' words - there's "nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you, in time."

When I say I love him, I don't mean I want him, I mean that he was the person I was supposed to be with and now he is the person I need to get over.  He was exactly what he was supposed to be for me to learn how to be me.
 
"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, love, love is all you need."


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tattoos As Personal Archives - You Are Not Alone

I met a woman the other day who is studying tattoos as personal archives.  I thought this was a beautiful and untapped vision of our culture's obsession with ink.

When I left Arizona for California this summer, my lovely Ginger painted my toenails and left me an encrypted message - "Y A N A" spelled out on my toenails.  Anyone who is a Dr. Who fan, as Ginger and I are, knows that this is an important theme - You Are Not Alone.  I certainly felt very alone as I was dealing with my husband's infidelity and desire to extricate himself from our marriage, but the message from my daughter stayed with me.  I didn't remove that nail polish; I let it chip. My toenails grew into monstrous, adorned claws.   I wanted the message to stay with me.

I'm back in Arizona now, in my own home; Ginger is with me three nights a week.  I spend a great deal of time alone, and yet I am not alone. I've made many new friends, done things I never thought I would do in the restrictive confines of marriage, and continue on a path of self discovery.

Last night a new friend went with me to a tattoo parlor. I relied on Han's expert advice to go to my safe place as the needle etched it's ink into my flesh.  Deep breathing, a rocking chair on a wooden porch overlooking reeds and a dock.  Deep, deep breathing.  That doesn't hurt so much, oooh, oooh, deep breathing, cool salty mist blowing on my face.  A sailboat in the distance. Twenty minutes later, I have my eternal reminder that even as I live in my own space, I am definitely not alone.

YANA designed by Andrea Tripodi Matthes
Etched by Chris at Living Ink in Tempe, AZ

Monday, August 27, 2012

Manifesting a Better Way of Decorating

 
This weekend my emotional well being relied heavily on IKEA and Target with a dash of Lowe's. 

I spent a great deal of time shopping this weekend.  When I left Earl's home and moved into my own apartment (with a side trip to Los Angeles for two months, and a three week stint on the floor of my best-y, Rhonda,) I left every worldly possession behind.  Antiques inherited from generations past now belong to Ginger and remain in her home with Earl. What was acquired during the marriage is now the property of Earl or Ginger; they can keep the marital home intact for the sake of Ginger's emotional stability.  I want nothing to do with those material items.  as Rhonda says, "I'm shopping for a new beginning.  It's a small price to pay for my emotional well-being."

Having been raised by a thrifty New Englander, you can imagine the sticker shock I suffered as I bought all the necessities of a new home: beds, towels, dishes, a toaster with a bagel setting. Rhonda fortunately came with me to IKEA. She and I have found refuge with one another this summer.  Her heart breaks and aches for reasons that are similar to my own recent experiences of pain and growth.  Together we talk through our grief and push ahead.  As we wandered through IKEA, Rhonda tarried in the possibilities that surrounded her.  She browsed for renewal and inspiration.  I, on the other hand, found myself overwhelmed at the decisions I had to make.  What loft of pillow?  Bath sheets or towels?  Non-stick or stainless steel pans?  As the cost of each item placed in the cart tallied on my mental spreadsheet, my breathing became shallow and my fear kicked in.  In the past, this would have meant me walking away from the decision - who needs a bed anyway?  We can just sleep on the floor.  But now I am the only grown up.  Now I have to make all the final decisions.  So panic be damned, I made them.  And even though fear and panic tried to lead the charge through IKEA, I slowed down, and did what had to be done.  And shortly into the process of making conscious decisions about large purchases, I had a life-changing thought.

Each day I use a great deal of energy imagining that when I’m out in the world  I’m going to run into Ashley, or Ashley with Earl, or Ashley with her husband, or with her child, or just her.  I imagine what that encounter might be like and I engage in the emotions of that experience.  All that painful energy around this imaginary trip into hell is bad for me, of course.   I believe that we attract what we project into the world.  Engaging consistently in these negative imaginings will  attract some form of this negative experience to me.  Keep this up and my imagination is going to help me manifest the occasion of an Ashley/Lee confrontation. I definitely don’t want to experience that painful meeting of this woman that I know is having an affair with my soon-to-be-ex-husband.  I don’t want that encounter; I fear that encounter.  Earl, Ashley, her husband and I all live in this fairly small geographical area; the chance of that happening exists.   

As Rhonda and I shopped through the decor possibilities in IKEA, it occurred to me that another possibility existed for me, too.  if I dwell on a negative thing and expect that this will manifest a negative experience, I can also choose to dwell on something positive and manifest that instead.  Somewhere between the MALMS and the EXPEDITS I came to clearly know that I could focus on wishing Ashley well; I could wish good things for her.   I could wish happiness for her and Earl, although maybe not together (I'm not that self-actualized yet.) I could wish them both as individuals happiness and growth and joy.  (Maybe there’s a little bit of schaudenfraude in the wishing growth part because I know how painful growth has been for me and continues to be.) In the long run,though, when Ashley enters my mind, I can focus on thoughts of her wellness.

The beauty of this new way of acting was overhwelming to me.  As part of the negative cycle of thinking, I would cry out, "Why can't I feel happy?  Why do they get happiness together and I feel so bad?" But with this change of thought, this flipping the switch to well-wishing, I know that this will only lead to my own wellness.  If I let go of thinking negatively around Ashley and Earl, I let go of all negative thoughts - none are manifested in my own experience.  And more powerfully, wishing them both well means that I am manifesting this wellness in my own life. This epiphany was astounding. 

All weekend long that is what I have focused on.  I wish Ashley happiness, I wish her wellness, I wish her… I wish her… all positive things.  I want to say the word “freedom” but that’s not really true.  When I say "freedom"  I’m thinking of my own desires.  I'm thinking of her freedom from Earl, which means that  my sad and sick heart still wants to be with Earl. When I’m wishing Ashley freedom, what I’m really wishing for is that she is free of him so that he will turn his desires back to me.  But that’s not really what I want, it’s what my habitual heart wants. Earl is a habit that I can kick.

I’m still learning how to separate my desires from my fears and my true intentions in life.   Habit leads me to relive fears continually.  I’ve been in the habit for 12 years of distrusting Earl, being afraid that things wouldn’t work out and, lo and behold, I manifested that fear by being with somebody that I couldn’t trust. This created a cyclical relationship in the marriage  -- I don’t trust you/ but I’m trying to fix it/but you’re not fixing it to my liking.  It was all negative.   

Instead of living in that space, I’m gonna’ live in this new space where I can say I wish Ashley well, I wish Earl happiness, I wish Ashley happiness, I wish Earl health.  And I wish those things for them because I wish them for me.  I wish the freedom to find love that is not just this romantic, sick heart.  Love is beyond this sick heart of mine.  The kind of love that I always wanted is active love that is exhibited in a partner's presence and authenticity.  If I wish those things for Earl and Ashley then I can have them in my life.  I’ve said this before in my blog - Ashley married a man just like my husband and left him for Earl.  That girl is repeating a bad cycle.  I wish that she would not repeat her cycle -not because I want my husband back, but because I want to be free of that cycle myself, so I wish this for her.  I wish Ashley free of the cycle of loving a man that is bad for her, loving with a sick a heart a man that only creates that sickness in her again.  I wish for her to find active love, authenticity, joy, and her SELF.  I want her to find who she is and live well. Because these are the things I want for myself, I have to wish them for Ashley. That is what is going to manifest positive experiences in my own life.  My well wishes for Earl and Ashley will draw to me the types of people and experiences that I desire.   

I have to believe that the Universe will not be cruel to me and throw Ashley in my path when I am not fit to face her.  Up until this IKEA epiphany, I had too much negative energy to be able to deal with Ashley in any way that would be safe for me.    Now I can be truthful and say that  I wish Ashley joy; I wish her happiness, because in joy and happiness there is no blame, no negative energy, no invitation to live a life that is less than the optimal experience that is offered to you by the Universe.  I don’t wish it for me, I wish it for Ashley.  And I know that in wishing this for Ashley, the Universe will remove the negative things that have dwelt in my heart and my gut and it will open my world of possibility.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mother and Daughter Reversal

My daughter was born a 50 year old guru.

Some people carry the knowledge of several lifetimes and walk through the world dropping petals of wisdom at our feet.  They are born an old soul.  My daughter, lovely Ginger, is a wise old woman.  I picture the landscape of her mind.  She sits atop a weather-beaten mountain.  It's a cross between the Alps of Julie Andrews' The Sound of Music with billowing breezes and picnic baskets, and a rocky precipice of Tibet with mountain goats bleating and sherpas carrying 7-foot high bundles on their backs. My little Ginger waits at the apex, a mesa with a view only of lesser mountains.  She sits with her legs crossed, her curly auburn hair tousled around her beautiful freckles and giant brown eyes -waiting for someone who needs her wisdom.

I thank the Universe for giving me this particular daughter to help me through my tough times.  Does that seem selfish and strange to think that my daughter was a gift to help me?  But that's what she has consistently done.  There are those among us who say that god only gives us what we can handle.  I do not believe in this god.  The Universe is too vast for me to settle on one explanation for my individual experience.  I don't need to know the reason I am here; I just know that I am.  In being present on this earth, I experience many things, the pain of loss not withstanding.  As I grieve the dissolution of my marriage, I have tried to shield my daughter from seeing me break down, from seeing my dark and horrible side lash out.  However, I dipped into the pool of pain the other night and exhibited my deepest grief. I did so in front of my daughter.  My brilliant daughter. Who sat with me on the floor in the hallway and answered for me the questions that arrest my heart.

I wanted to have a large family, many children, a happy marriage.  I didn't do any of that, and I spent a great deal of energy blaming Earl for this.  There was some deception on his part when it came to building that dream, but the bigger liar was me.  I lied to myself about what I wanted, why I wanted it and how I could get it.  I pegged all my hopes on Earl to make my dream happen.  Instead of seeking the love of a man who could share these dreams, I loved a man who was so much like my own father it would be impossible for him to meet my expectations. That was my lie, my mistake. Although my heart still harbors resentment towards Earl (I'm working on it), my mind knows that this isn't his fault.  My dreams of a large family were rooted in the notion that I would be a mom to lots of people.  Why would I want that?  Because you never stop loving your mom.  I wanted the guarantee of always being loved. (Damn those Daddy issues.)

My 15-year old Ginger sat on the floor with me as I keened.  She told me that I could still have all of that, that I did have all of that; it just looks different.  She's right.  My family isn't my sex-addicted husband who rejected me; my family is my daughter and my many friends.  I have a tribe of people who lift me up and comfort me, who love me and like me, and whom I love and like equally well.  Most importantly, though, I have Ginger.  She belongs to no one, but luckily that woman-child sees in me a person worth loving, and not just because I am her mother.  I lost my own mother 30 years ago.  I have a deep hole in me that was left when she died, but I no longer want to replace the love of my mother with children of my own.  Instead I have a woman-child to whom I gave birth who chooses to love me despite my weaknesses, and maybe even a little because of them.

Having Ginger as my daughter has taught me how to love like a mother, but Ginger, in so many ways, is more wise and loving than a mother can be. The wise old soul that dwells in the 15-year old woman bestows blessings I never expected from my child: the gifts of self-reflection and wisdom.  Through this period of pain and growth I am finding my true family and, more importantly, the woman who was placed on this earth as my daughter.  How very fortunate I am.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Accidental Divorcee

I have a bad habit of reading a book then, forgetting I've read it, re-reading it years later. 

I just re-read The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.  Considering the subject matter and my current circumstances - the slow process of separation and divorce from Earl the Philanderer - it was an appropriate re-read.  This isn't a book review; I wouldn't presume to make reading recommendations considering the fact that I can't even remember what it is I have read.  Instead, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on what people need and desire, and how these things manifest in life, fiction, and dreams. 

We promise in a marriage ceremony to love, honor and cherish, remain faithful in good times and in bad.  Why do we do that?  We promise each other to do something that in all likelihood neither has the capacity to do.  My husband, a typical sex addict, couldn't possibly have remained faithful to me.  But, to me, the unattainable matrimonial promise mattered.  My needy and insecure little girl dwelling deep in the bowels of Lee (remember the "Daddy issues?") thought that if this man - this person who is flawed in so many of the same ways my own father was flawed - can promise me fidelity and love me faithfully, then all the other daddy-alikes and my own father were wrong.  I would prove to be loveable.  All it took was for this one person to do the impossible.  All it took was for a sex addict to remain faithful to me and actively love me.

Oops. Bad idea.

I know that it takes two to tango.  Earl didn't remain faithful, but I was at fault, too.  I expected him to do all this active loving me, meet me at this base level of love where I envisioned myself sitting, waiting for him.  I did not strive to be my best self.  Instead, I pictured myself the sainted and wronged party.  Yes, all the things he did were wrong, but it was wrong of me to both expect him to be something he is not, and to wait around, not growing - backsliding into a worse version of myself - becoming resentful and expecting him to "catch up" to me.  

I am thankful in some ways that Earl saw the futility of our marriage.  He copped out in a lot of ways, but he also saw that what we were doing was only bringing harm to one another.  It was selfish motivation on his part to exit the marriage, but it opened a world of possibility to me; his exit has forced me to explore my self.

I finished The Accidental Tourist yesterday and sat with it for the evening.  The two rival women vie for the protagonist's love. Sarah the wife, and Muriel the mistress, are both like me: Sarah wants to move forward but finds it easier to slip into old habits and relationships, and Muriel is an awkward, needy woman who has the potential to find herself and blossom, lives passionately and yet somehow doesn't quite click with the world in a traditional way.  These women are both so similar to me, it's painful to watch the protagonist, Macon, struggle to choose his partner.  Leaving one means going to the other, and both of those women deserve love.   Realizing this was doubly hurtful because the needy woman is also so much like Ashley, the other woman who plays a role in the demise of my own marriage.

It has not gone unnoticed by me that Ashley bears a great similarity to the parts of me that I don't like.  I've known her for a few years. She is codependent and insecure, two of the characteristics that my husband drew out of me, and played like a royal flush in Texas holdem. (yeah, yeah, I  let him.  You're preachin' to the choir!)  She is married to a man who was by most accounts a more successful version of my own husband.  I always felt sorry for Ashley because she was saddled with a man just like my own, and now poor Ashley has left this man to be with Earl.  CLICHE ALERT:  Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

The combination of reading this book and the realization that Ashley's characteristics resemble my weaknesses lead to a vivid dream last night.  Don't worry, I'm not the type to detail my dreams, seeking meaning and expecting you to be thoroughly entertained (don't you just hate that?) It started with me verbally shredding her.  I left the room and she shrieked the cry of a lost child.  Something inside of me shifted; I asked her if she was okay.  She was weeping,  sad, confused and hurting.  All I could do was empathize. I woke up in a new emotional space.  I knew that even though Earl has chosen Ashley and Ashley has chosen Earl, it is pitiable.  They have chosen to repeat a pattern instead of grow.  I am left to grow- forced to grow - but growing nonetheless. 

SPOILER ALERT (but is it a spoiler if the novel was written almost 30 years ago?) I hated Macon for choosing the needy one, the mistress, but I didn't hate him for the obvious reasons.  Macon went to Muriel because he feels good with her, alive.  And she needs him. I've heard the same thing from Earl's lips.  Ashley makes him feel good. I don't. The reason I hated Macon for choosing Muriel had to do with Muriel.  She has so much potential as a human being.  She could be something all on her own.  She IS something all on her own.  She doesn't need him, except in some proscribed societal role of lover, husband, man.  I hated Macon for choosing Muriel because it would make him feel good, and it would leave her in a role that is secondary to the person she could truly be. 

I picture the unwritten sequel to this novel, The Accidental Divorcee, in which Muriel, after 10 years of marriage to Macon wakes up and realizes that she is limited by his need for her, that her potential is bridled by him leaching her joie de vivre.  Macon's second divorce ensues and Muriel's life begins anew.  And Sarah, the original woman scorned can only look at the situation from her new perspective, one that is mature and self-assured, a point of view that only comes from the painful inspection of one's own navel. 

I feel that there is hope for a woman like me, and even a woman like Ashley who is the sum of many of my own worst attributes.  It's too bad that we women take these vows of matrimony, that we place so much hope on them, let our womanly lives hang on the impossible task of maintaining the promises.  It makes it possible for us to forget to be who we truly are.  We easily let this vow define us as women instead of forging our own selves.  I don't really want to care what happens to Ashley; she behaved in a hurtful manner towards me and my family, but in the long run she's done me a huge favor.  She's taken the yoke from my neck and placed it around her own.   Speed the plough, Ashley.  Maybe you'll get beyond Earl, too.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Martha Stewart and Other Friends for Life

What Would Jesus Do?

That's what some people ask themselves when faced with a decision.  I am an atheist so that question isn't applicable in my case. I was, however, pretty sure I knew what Martha Stewart would do in most circumstances. And in my former life, I would choose the opposite of whatever Martha would do.  Perspective has been added to my life, though, and I can no longer hold myself up to the anti-Martha measuring stick.   Getting divorced is much like I imagine it was for Martha being in a West Virginia prison, separated from her enamel coated flour sifter and sticky pots of scrap booking glue.  As a married woman, what I presented to the world was the high gloss edition of "Living."  No, I didn't have a showcase home, my life was the showcase.  I spoke so often of my wonderful husband, my funny, adorable, intelligent guy.  I told the world how wonderful he was.  Like Martha, however,  I was sprinkling glitter on the picture to make it presentable.  It was going to take a forced timeout to be able to emerge a different woman, one who could see that my husband was not a good husband for me.

When my husband,- this seems like it may be a topic of enduring nature, so let's give him a name - Earl .  When Earl, quite rightly, decided that we were not good for one another, I put the call out to the Universe for a place of refuge.  Where could I go?  How could I not see him?  How could I find myself in all this crumbling mess? I believe in the Universe - a powerful source of wisdom and connection between all of nature, time, space, and beings.  By opening my broken heart to the Universe, a bounty of friendship flooded in.  At first I stayed with a few actors I knew mostly through Facebook. They let me stay on their futon in the living room of their Hollywood apartment, and they were so amazingly kind to the poor wretch of a woman who showed up on their doorstep.  But the circumstances of my life were so far from ideal that I sought further refuge.  I was then welcomed in by total strangers who knew nothing of me other than having once had a working relationship with my sibling. And it is with these people that my journey became rooted in self knowledge and friendship.

For most of my life I acted outwardly towards the world, giving too much of myself, not even knowing myself, and asking people in the world to reciprocate by giving me my self esteem.  It didn't work out so well.  But staying as a refugee with this Los Angeles family, I found out some amazing things.  Vanessa, the mother and wife, kindly listened to my heartache day after day, and gave me such gentle support and loving insight into my life's situation.  Daniel, the husband and father, continually reminded me through his actions and words, that a husband is more than a shadow in a wife's life, he is a partner, he is a presence. Somehow the generosity of this family brought to the surface in me an understanding of my deepest sense of loss, my true sense of abandonment that came about 30 years ago when my own parents crumbled as a couple, my father abandoned me and my mother died. (Let's cover that topic on another day, shall we?)

While in California, I saw what a family could be; I saw potential in loving relationships.  I saw an example of life that is neither a lie nor is it perfection.  This window into potential made it easy for me to see that the strong mom and loving friend that I can be was needed at home.  So I left LA and returned to my daughter and my job and my many, many friends that I didn't even know were my friends.

I understand now that people are not props, that they are not disposable or to be treated lightly.  I am clear on this point - I am worthy of love, even though I sought it out in all the wrong ways, in the wrong people.  Just because I made mistakes doesn't mean I'm any less worthy of love.  I think about Vanessa and Daniel and am so grateful for their humanity. They gave me a safe place to find myself, and asked for nothing from me in return.  They showed compassion to a woman who had no compassion for herself.  They were what I would like us all to be - better people. 

I think about Martha Stewart and marvel at her resilience. The Great Martha Stewart was reduced to prison, served her time and rebuilt her world with a new found perspective. She's still not perfect and never will be, but I no longer see her as a woman trying to gloss over her imperfections.  Now I see her as a woman who wears her humanity on her sleeve and tries to bring aesthetic qualities into what can be a very dark world.  She no longer lives as a two dimensional character in my mind; Martha is a fully dimensional and flawed human being, just like me.  I can honestly say that right now I have NO IDEA What Martha Stewart Would Do in my circumstances, but after the blessings of the Universe were bestowed upon me in subtle and loving doses, I have a pretty good idea of what I am able to do.



Friday, July 13, 2012

A Geographic Fix: Trying Something New

I lucked in to the worst job in Hollywood.

When your partner of 12 years decides he wants to try something new, and that something new is a whore named Ashley, you leave town so you don't commit a crime.  I drove out of the Phoenix desert and into an entirely different desert - the vast emotional abyss of Los Angeles.  I've done the geographic fix before, uprooting everything, abandoning my worldly possessions and taking flight into the great unknowns of other states, countries and continents.  I'm sure that says something about me, and read into it what you will, but this was the second time in my life I'd taken flight to LA.  I never considered it a place to hide, but a place to find myself.   That's what I wanted to do so desperately as I drove away from my husband and the pain of his betrayal. 

My ire, my desire for revenge, my spiteful and hateful wounded child spent plenty of time kicking around inside of my soul as I walked for endless hours through the streets of Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Venice. There were many moments of darkness and I am pretty sure that the time spent wallowing in that quagmire qualified as my lowest point in my life. I had moments of pure insanity, although it's hard to judge because my whole life has been lived on the tipped scale of mental imbalance. (Let's just call that "Daddy issues" for now.) But in all that darkness, all that resentment and pain, there was this steady drone; it was a bass line of self awareness, a quality of understanding that this is all a new beginning.

Now the Universe has a funny way of revealing itself to me and in so doing revealing me to myself. Each day I had to pick either living in a stuck place or moving forward through the sludge.  The days I picked moving forward made me a different person - physically stronger,  beautiful, patient, a little forgiving.  I didn't pick moving forward every day.  There were days when I picked living in pain.  I probably needed to do that so I could vent the steam in my boiling stomach.  And yet, no matter whether I chose pain or growth, the Universe gave me exactly what I needed in every moment of every day.  Often times my needs were presented in the words of wisdom of bus drivers or the person riding the exercise bike next to me at the gym.  The Universe gave me people I didn't even know I knew.

I don't want to quantify the gifts of the Universe, but in all the nuggets of wisdom and truth that were laid at my feet,  the best thing that happened to me was getting the worst job in Hollywood.  I was a tour guide on the double-decker buses parked outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre.  Being a tour guide isn't such a bad job.  I like talking to people, I have a pretty sexy voice and people respond to my sense of humor, so it's a good fit for a gal like me.  But the only good part of the job was the actual guiding of the tours.  Without casting disparaging remarks on the company, I will say that they were inefficient, disorganized bastards.  I spent the majority of my time trying to find the bus I was supposed to be guiding, finding the people who were supposed to be on the bus, finding a microphone, finding a manager, fighting off other tour guides who were trying to steal my tour, and trying to appease customers who could see clearly that the company was Shyster Fest 2012.

Yes. The Universe gave me a job that was horrible.  Awful.  Terrible.  And exactly the right amount of job to keep me in limbo.  That job, had it worked out to be profitable, or for a company that was trustworthy and kind to its employees, could have changed the course of my life, allowing me to make choices that were not in my own best interest. Through new-found friendships and the wisdom of strangers, the Universe made me comfortable enough to see that my husband was not someone I could keep in my heart any longer.  Through the  low-wage, dissatisfying job I held, the Universe also made me uncomfortable enough to know that I had to return to my life, to stand up for my life.  The geographic fix was no longer the fix that would take me away from my problems.   I returned to Phoenix, and didn't the Universe give me exactly what I needed once again?  Within 24 hours of returning, there were so many supportive people - friends I didn't even know were my friends - pouring out love and compassion, giving me support and strength.

The Universe gave me the chance to try something new, and here I am, living in a new space.  It's still painful and things are uncertain, but I am picking to move forward in nearly every moment of every day.  I don't need a new geography; I have a new me.