My first solo blog, The Still Point, was created in 2009 as I navigated my way through divorce. I abruptly shut down that blog one day in 2010, fearful of someone’s increased, unhealthy interest in me – I suppose it could be called stalking. Even though my blog had become completely private, attempts to break into The Still Point actually intensified; I freaked out and deleted The Still Point entirely, losing over a year’s worth of writing in the process.
I thought I’d resurrect some of my old posts here – the ones I’d managed to save, the ones I think tell a bit of a story and form a framework for my newly-refashioned blog (only the name remains the same). Hope you enjoy.
The Ex Factor (written June 12, 2010)
My ex and I are better friends than lovers.
People are amazed that we get along so well, post-divorce. While my ex is driving my son to chess camp, I’m watching his house, taking care of his animals. When I leave to pick up my son, my ex will reciprocate here. He knows where my house key’s hidden; he’s allowed access (with consideration).
I went to my ex’s house this morning to clean the ferret cage and the cat box, take the dog out, and feed and water everyone. I sat outside on the sidewalk as the dog sniffed and squatted and performed her general goofy-dog maneuvers. She trotted up to me, butt wagging (her previous owner bobbed her tail), then rolled over onto her back, looking for a belly rub.
I patted her happily, enjoying the early morning sun, feeling extraordinarily peaceful. But then it occurred to me: I did not feel wistful or nostalgic for my ex’s house. Not one bit.
I do not miss living in that house. When I walk inside, it feels familiar, yet already I am a stranger. I accidentally put the dog food in the water bowl and vice versa. I’ve forgotten the daily minutiae, the details.
Those who don’t know the whole story between my ex and me regard our intertwined friendliness suspiciously. They warn me: Be careful of ex sex. Don’t stay attached. Research says it takes two years, maybe longer, to fully detach, separate, move on.
Little do they know that we will never again have a physical relationship. Never. We’re both 100%, crystal clear on that point. Maybe that’s why it’s easy for us to remain friends. Whatever slight attraction drew us together 20 years ago sputtered 15 years ago, dying completely 10 years ago.
Ten years is a long time to live without physical affection…and I don’t mean just sex. I mean the daily affirmations, the loving touches, the affectionate pats, the sidelong glances, the stolen hugs and kisses, the anticipated date nights. I’ve learned I need this sort of connection with my partner, to feel whole and happy within a romantic relationship.
During my marriage, mutual sex devolved into mutual masturbation, further devolving into something that eventually felt like his solitary masturbation, with him using my body as a means to an end.
That’s when I decided that living without was preferable to feeling as though I wasn’t even in the room.
I am still feeling my way toward sexual wholeness. I don’t ask my ex for details, but I know he is, too. We realize how much we damaged each other by staying so long in something so unhealthy. It gives us, I think, an added layer of empathy as we embark on our personal journeys.
My ex continues to exasperate me in many ways. Lack of sex is not the only reason we divorced. But, in general, I believe we’re finally where we should have stayed twenty years ago: supportive friends. I like, very much, where our relationship is heading.
Unexpected Life Lessons (written September 25, 2009)
Tonight I saw a film version of La Boheme, showcased in brilliant HD. The setting was perfect: an intimate, charming, historic downtown theater. The night air was balmy, breezy; a brilliant crescent moon lit the sky. And in the spirit of the opera, I wore a funky bohemian-style dress that won a thumbs-up from my friend.
As for the movie itself: if I allow my inner critic to take charge, I’ll have to admit that the movie didn’t move me. It was trying a little too hard to be artsy; it was superimposed with a relentless bleakness that seemed overworked and contrived. Instead of the grandly tragic effect the film strove to achieve, the result was merely self-conscious.
But the music…ahhh!…the music…
I can forgive all manners of pretension for the opportunity to have my soul stirred.
Puccini is not even a favorite composer. But in my rather pensive mood of late, the music was a perfect backdrop to my thoughts. The action almost didn’t matter.
Except….except for Musetta’s soaring arias, which riveted me and diverted me from my musings. The character definitely is blessed with the outrageously show-stopping pieces.
And the character also is blessed with…well…character, abundant character. Spunky, kind-hearted, self-confident Musetta epitomizes who I want to be. She follows her heart but she doesn’t take shit. She loves Marcello, but when his jealous rages become too much, she moves on. And yet, she has a compassionate heart: it is she who seeks out the consumptive Mimi – not Rodolfo – and it is Musetta who brings Mimi home to die in Rodolfo’s arms.
Mimi, in contrast to Musetta, allows events to happen to her. She accepts her fate meekly. She does not fight or scratch or claw or spit. Instead, she clutches her bosom and heaves gracefully, looking beautifully wan and pale all the while. Even her arias, while sumptuous, lack the confident punch of Musetta’s.
I realized I’ve been too busy playing Mimi of late…weak, consumptive, tragic, passive…when I really want to be Musetta. So let me kick off my shoes, jump confidently on the table, and belt out an aria while batting my eyes at the certain cute someone I’ve decided I want. Hey, someone has to take charge.
Life lessons happen when you least expect them.
Global Mala for Peace (written September 17, 2009)
This weekend, Global Mala for Peace Day is being celebrated worldwide (September 19 or 20). Its purpose is to unite the global yoga community and to demonstrate the power of collective meditation. Yogis and yoginis from around the world will form a “mala around the earth” based upon the sacred cycle of 108. Most events will include 108 of my beloved Sun Salutations.
The significance of 108 is not entirely clear, but here’s one explanation from renowned yogini (and Global Mala Day founder) Shiva Rea:
“The number’s significance is open to interpretation. But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun). A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra—much like the Catholic rosary.
Renowned mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.
According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.”
I do a lot of whining in this blog. A lot. But even as I whine, I also realize that I have much to appreciate. So, in honor of Global Mala Day, and in gratitude for all that’s good in my life, here’s a random list of 108 things that bring me joy:
- my children’s laughter and the laughter of children everywhere
- the pleasure of a cat kneading my stomach and purring
- passionate kisses that make me dizzy and alive
- chocolate truffles made with the best ingredients
- a strong, warm hug exactly when I need it
- a soft, cozy bed on which to rest my tired body
- clean sheets against my bare skin
- bare skin against bare skin
- an unexpected call, letter or email
- finding the a-ha moment
- being punch-drunk on romantic love
- snuggling under fuzzy blankets on cold nights
- feeling the pulsing and wild insistent rhythms of drumming circles
- sincere compliments
- soft kisses down my back, making me shiver
- clean, shiny, swingy hair against my back
- reading – no, savoring – a completely engaging book
- taking a catnap in the sun
- indulging in embarrassingly trashy t.v.
- cozying up to a crackling fire
- yoga, any time, anywhere
- toe-curling sex
- cuddles and whispers in the night
- making someone smile or laugh
- a really good, strong cup of coffee
- real butter on good bread
- the newborn baby smell
- singing loudly and proudly, even if off-key
- dancing with abandon
- eating cake for breakfast (with coffee) and feeling no guilt
- finding true love and appreciating that I’ve found it
- a child’s arm around my waist
- perfect sleep, happy sleep
- waking up with someone I love
- falling asleep in the arms of someone I love
- anything with garlic
- fast red sports cars
- moments that feel outside of time
- interacting with bright, engaged children
- down pillows with just the right firmness
- seriously fluffy robes
- a steaming hot cup of chamomile tea
- sitting on the dock, watching the ducks, thinking of nothing
- swinging in a hammock
- engaging, lively conversation
- writing the absolutely perfect line
- dreams from which I awake smiling
- the eternal promise of hope
- forming the perfect musical phrase, one that makes my teeth ache for its beauty
- La Traviata
- exceptional musicians creating exceptional music
- connecting with my virtual friends
- face-to-face encounters with my non-virtual friends
- meditative trances
- holding hands, fingers interlaced
- cookies of any kind
- playing footsies under the table
- comfortable shoes
- a crazy night out with friends
- cute and flattering sundresses
- fresh beginnings
- second (and third) chances
- pushing myself outside my comfort zone, for better or worse
- daydreaming, recharging my imagination
- stormy weather, no umbrella
- hot chocolate with real whipped cream
- starting over and knowing I can do it
- life’s detours
- anything that makes me stronger in the end
- finding compassion
- feeling empathy
- unconditional anything
- non-conformists, thinkers
- fresh herbs
- ethnic foods of any kind
- variety and spice
- sparkling wine sharing with a sparkling someone
- raspberries dipped in ginger ale
- the perfect red nail polish
- trips to faraway places
- lying on the lawn at Tanglewood, looking up at the stars as the music washes over me
- knowing when to fight
- letting go gracefully
- homemade cupcakes with homemade frosting
- a sympathetic ear
- conquering fear
- heart connections
- light after dark
- falafels on the beach
- steaming hot bubble baths
- learning something new
- realizing I have something to offer
- not becoming completely cynical
- not becoming completely rational
- following my heart
- learning to trust
- an appreciative look
- a seductive glance
- spinning madly until I am united with the world
- slow dancing with the one I love
- unabashed indulgences – no guilt
- recognizing and relishing love in all its finest forms
Endings and Beginnings (written September 7, 2009)
My ex and I are officially divorced.
I’m not sure how I’m feeling. The procedure itself was ruthlessly quick, efficient and far too easy. It was rather like excising a wart: the offensive part was sliced off neatly and cleanly, before the pain had time to register.
Yes, there were tissues sitting on the judge’s desk, just in case. His questions flew by so fast, however, that I barely had time to process them, let alone weep over them. So…with a bang of the gavel, a handshake and a jovial remark from the judge – “You can get married again today if you want!” – it was done, except for the paperwork.
No one knows quite what to say to me. Although it’s not really a time for congratulations, it’s also not a time for sadness, either.
The words that come closest to describing my emotional state: contemplation and commemoration.
My ex and I both wanted this divorce. I certainly complained about him enough – even hated him at times – and I’m sure he’s done the same about me. But when exterior differences are pushed aside, what remains – solid, sturdy and unshakeable – are our many coupled years, for better or for worse. In our 18+ years together, we’ve raised three beautiful children, shared a warm bed that gradually grew cold, bought houses that became homes, experienced laughter and tears and anger and – yes – love. We’ve built a treasure trove of memories together.
So to me, our divorce isn’t necessarily a question of right or wrong, good or bad – it’s simply a bittersweet finish to a long, often amazing, story that along the way required an unanticipated, unexpected ending.
Time now to close this chapter and embark upon a new one. I’m excited; I’m scared.
I’m ready, I think. I hope. Bring it on.
Save the Date (written August 19, 2009)
I have a date.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t involve candles, flowers, soft music, good food and drink or stimulating…um…conversation.
In fact, it’s the polar opposite: I’m finally scheduled to appear in divorce court.
So I’m taking a morning off from work next week to head downtown, where I’ll appear before the judge. If all goes well – and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t – I’ll be officially single by next weekend.
Ironically, my soon-to-be-ex will be out of town that same weekend. Who could have foreseen that my quote-single-unquote weekend might possibly be the start of my single-forever status?
The people I’ve told have been positive; a few have even offered their congratulations. I’m not sure why, but this surprises me somewhat.
Of course, I want this divorce very much. I’m anxious to reclaim my identity, my independence, my autonomy. Part of me wants to prove to my kids, as much as to myself, that I function well – possibly even better – alone. I’ve worried that they view me too narrowly, that everything I appear to be is filtered through my soon-to-be-ex’s lens: subordinate, weak, dependent. Though I know I’m none of these, it’s true that I’ve hidden in the shadows far too long. The time has come to turn toward outward toward the sun, to grow strong and to soar in the light and air.
Now here I must stop and admit that, despite everything, I still think it’s unfortunate that must find my voice and my wings by escaping the confines of my marriage.
It’s the end of a journey begun many years ago, when I was madly in love and full of bright-eyed optimism. No one gets married looking toward divorce. Most rational people don’t have children together, buy homes together, or intertwine their lives so thoroughly unless their intent is forever. I was attracted to my soon-to-be-ex, in part, because he was so different from my first husband. He believed in forever, strongly and assuredly. His absolute certainty made me believe, too, and I loved him for imbuing me with the strength to push aside my pessimism and doubt…and to find hope in the power of true love.
So, yes…I’m excited and nervous about the next stage. But I’m also mourning the death of a union once held precious to me. I’m filled with hope one day and despair the next. A wide range of emotions course through me, alternately energizing and paralyzing me.
But happiness – elusive happiness – is not among them.
Whack-A-Doodle (written July 18, 2009)
I pulled up into the driveway. The kids were playing hockey with a tennis ball. Nothing too unusual, right? Except my crazy middle son was wearing his underwear. On his head. To keep his hair out of his eyes. I didn’t dare ask if he was also wearing underwear the way normal people wear it. I didn’t want to know.
Chess Boy (posted July 18, 2009…writtten?…)
My middle son plays chess. Really well. Ever since he was 9, I’ve spent a good portion of my weekends at chess tournaments. He has a room full of trophies and a healthy bank account filled with chess winnings. Yeah, he’s pretty damn good.
Today was the start of another chess tournament weekend. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t want to go, but he was already signed up and the entry fee had been paid. So off we went, my middle son and I. We’ve gotten pretty casual about chess of late. He forgot his iPod. I forgot to pack snacks. Fortunately, between us, we remembered the clock and notation pad.
This weekend’s tournament is a prestigious one, at least in our scholastic chess world. It’s an invitational; only the best kids in the state were invited to participate. My son, who’s 12, had chosen to play in the toughest division, against the high school kids. He’s a cocky one, this son of mine, and he has a sureness within him that makes him feel invincible.
But today, he was brought down. He went into the match as the underdog, paired against an 18-year-old opponent rated over 200 points higher. Never mind that he was expected to lose. He knew he was winning. He could smell it, he could taste it. He had his opponent on the ropes. And then…one slight miscalculation, and the game was over. He emerged from the tournament hall, stunned.
He stood stock-still in the hallway, rubbing his red-rimmed eyes, trying not to cry. He berated himself over and over (and over and over). He refused comfort. His game had lasted for the full time allotted, and he had barely 20 minutes to pull himself together before the next round began. I tried to get him to drink, to eat. He shunned my ministrations. I admit to feeling a slight impatience and anxiousness. I fretted over his despondent state. I worried he could not fully engage for the next match, given his current deep blue funk.
And this is where my son amazed me. Right before the next round began, he walked over to check his pairings…and just like that, the funk lifted, the shoulders squared, and my brave boy marched back into the tournament hall to do battle. To win. And so I bow to his indomitable spirit and grit, to the fight within him, to the courage that drives him forward even when he feels at his lowest. I wonder if I could do what he does. I don’t think I could.
Salty and Sweet (posted July 17, 2009…written…?)
She’s salty, I’m sweet. Our snack choices, I mean.
That’s just one of many differences between us.
I’m back from an all-too-brief junket to Washington, DC. It was a welcome respite from my day-to-day existence. I relished the opportunity to explore a city that I love with my children. And this trip had a particular poignancy, because it will likely be our last as a family.
I also tried, during this trip, to re-connect with my daughter.
She’s 11 going on 20, a pre-teen with an extremely sarcastic attitude. She’s always been a daddy’s girl. From the time she arrived, she snuggled into her daddy’s arms and never left. I’ve always been the unwelcome interloper prowling on the outskirts of their mutually-adoring relationship.
She speaks to me in sass and derision, and unfortunately, I return fire in whine and irritation. It’s not good. Too often, she doesn’t like me, and too often, I’m not crazy about her. They say it’s a mom-daughter thing that happens around this age. Experienced moms reassure me that it will get better, and I hope so, because despite our differences, I adore her madly and I want her to love me, too.
But I can’t help feeling angry and defensive when her condescension toward me progesses deeper and deeper. She’ll begin with, “Ohhhh, mom…(insert random complaint here).” The next layer is the heavy, tortured sigh. And if serious eyeball-rolling occurs, it’s curtains for me. I am beyond hope or redemption in her eyes, at least in that moment.
Some of our contrariness stems from my lack of understanding her, much as I try. She’s the ultimate girly-girl, something that has never been part of my (excuse me) make up. She adores styling her hair, dabbling in makeup and perfume, and dressing up in the perfect socially-correct outfit, complete with the perfect socially-correct accessories. This, plus endless phone calls and texting, is how she prefers to while away her time. I’m completely opposite. I’d rather write or read or listen to music or practice yoga. I wear my hair long and straight so I don’t have to deal with it. I tend to wear easy one-piece sundresses for play, and monochromatic outfits for work, so nothing has to be matched. She is always snorting in derision at my appearance. I, in turn, cannot understand how anyone can wear skin-tight jeans and three layers of shirts in the broiling summer Florida sun, just for fashion’s sake. It exasperates me, the time spent on appearances and social acceptance.
She’s also bright and engaging and extremely social. Her teachers shake their heads in despair at her classroom-disrupting antics, even while ruefully admitting if they were 11, they would be vying to be her friend. I’ve watched in amazement as strangers have offered her trinkets and treats, just because she’s so adorable. Once a park attendant even risked his job and opened up the carousel, just for her, because he couldn’t stand to see her cry. Then he bought her an ice cream, saying it was worth it to see her smile.
This is the magic she holds; it’s the flip side to the one she too often shows to me. But this trip was a chance for me to capture some of her magic. And I did. I held her hand or put my arm around her as often as she would let me, which turned out to be quite frequently. She happily took photos of us together, pointing the camera toward us, directing me to, “…look mad…look crazy…look happy…” with her. We brushed each others’ hair. We modeled our matching animal-print hotel bathrobes and laughed hysterically at each other. We performed crazy dances in public, highlighted by my pathetic attempts to mimic her neck rolls, evoking even more peals of laughter. We sang “I’m A Believer” while lying on the Capitol steps looking up at the stars. She rubbed my shoulders; I rubbed hers. And at night, I shared a bed with her, inhaling her soft girly smell and feeling her gentle breathing, her hair tangling with mine, her hand groping to touch me in the night.
We even shared our snacks. I tasted her salty chips, she ate my sweet cookies, and we discovered a compromise snack to satisfy both of us: chocolate-covered pretzels.
She loved it. I loved it. Salty and sweet, just like the two of us.
Letting Go (written July 17, 2009)
I swerved into the driveway impatiently, having raced home from work to pick up my oldest son. My mission: to deposit him at friend’s house by 3 p.m., because the family had invited him on their two-week vacation to upstate New York (yeah, I know…right?).
My son emerged from the house carrying his suitcase and backpack, holding a folded slip of paper. He handed the paper to me while loading his gear in the car. I glanced down quickly and saw it was his AP World History test results, which had just arrived in the mail.
A few months ago, tension ran high over this exam. But not his tension…oh, no… it was mine, all mine. Other parents were fretting nervously about these exams; my own nerves escalated in response to horror story after horror story. I started nagging my son incessantly to study, though he assured me he knew the material well. To placate me, he promised to knuckle down and review right before the test. He also attended a few study groups at Barnes & Noble, but I secretly suspected it was for camaraderie and coffee. Meanwhile, his friends began poring over their notes obsessively, months in advance. Some even missed a few days of school to cram.
I was peeved at my son for being so cavalier about the test. I felt sure his results would reflect his attitude.
So, feeling slightly apprehensive, I unfolded the paper and looked. Then I did a double take and looked again. Wow. He received a 5, the highest possible score.
I’m a little ashamed of myself now for not trusting my son enough to realize he knew what to do. All that irritating nagging spewed by me, all that stormy anger volleyed back by him…all for naught.
Ah…Trust. It doesn’t come easily to me, especially when dealing with my children. It goes hand-in-hand with Letting Go, another difficult concept for me.
I congratulated my son profusely about his results. Then we chatted companionably on the 20-minute drive to his friend’s house, mostly about his life: girls and friends and how he wants to spend next summer in Boston. When we arrived, I thanked his friend’s mom and turned to get back in the car, chucking my son chummily on his shoulder as I left. Now that he’s approaching 16, I don’t dare embarrass him with foolish displays of public affection. But my son surprised me: he grabbed me instead, hugging me long and tight, with promises to text me later.
And thus, I learned a valuable lesson: It’s definitely easier to Trust and Let Go when the one you’re Trusting and Letting Go is working on it, too.
My eyes were teary as I drove off.
The Soon-To-Be-Ex (written June 28, 2009)
Surprise! No smack talk about the soon-to-be-ex today! That’s because I’m starting to realize what our impending divorce is going to mean to me emotionally. Quite frankly, being without him – or at least, the idea of him – sort of scares me (and I can’t believe I said that out loud).
I don’t love him anymore, not in the way I want to love my partner. And he definitely doesn’t love me in that way. But he’s basically a decent guy (as my mother is fond of pointing out), hard-working and honest. I’ve never had to worry about his loyalty to me. And we’ve formed an interconnection that is feeling increasingly odd to wrench apart.
Plus, I wonder if I can be responsible on my own. I don’t mean in practical ways. I’m responsible to a fault when it comes to paying bills, getting to work, delivering children, supervising school projects, caring for pets, maintaining the household, and all of those (sometimes) mundane, but necessary, functions of life. No, I’m more concerned about self-responsibility.
I have a serious tendency to drift…from job to job, from interest to interest, from thought to thought. I’m happy and comfortable in a hazy, new-agey, touchy-feely, loosey-goosey, love-is-all-you-need world. Do a little yoga, dream a little dream, make a little love, and all is right and good.
My soon-to-be-ex kept me grounded, whether I wanted to be or not. I still believe that he kept me too grounded, that he exerted way too much control. But maybe I need someone to temper my more irresponsible tendencies. Maybe I need someone who will act as yin to my yang, water to my fire, dark to my light. I can’t imagine life with someone too much like me. For me, it’s constantly, “Oh, baby…oh, yes!” But maybe someone needs to reel me in occasionally and remind me, “No, baby…no way.”
I’ve railed against my soon-to-be-ex because he’s held me back and kept me from doing what I want to do. But, knowing my propensity to flit and float, maybe what I wanted to do wasn’t necessarily what was best for me. Maybe he was right, at least at some of the time. Maybe I was selfish; maybe I pouted childishly instead considering all sides.
When hopes are dashed and dreams are thwarted, it is far, far easier to place fault on another than it is to take responsibility upon oneself. With complete autonomy comes complete responsibility for self. There’s no one to blame when things go wrong. At times I wonder if I can really be quite that responsible.
Mother Knows Best (written June 15, 2009)
Why is it so dammed hard to talk with my mother?
I know she means well. Truly she does. But I never come out of a conversation with her without feeling small, insignificant, unworthy.
Hence, the start of a pity party.
She constantly peppers our conversation with open-ended sentences and unfinished, but fully-formed (though implied) thoughts. A few jewels from today:
“Are you sure you want to do this? (divorce) You were lucky to get him…”
“You realize you won’t get married again…”
“You’re getting old, you know…”
“Your sister is gorgeous. She really works on holding down her weight. And what do you weigh?” (I tell her. Silence.) “Oh. Well, I realize you’re busy and all, but still….”
“You’re lucky you were able to find a job doing anything…”
“Men like him are hard to find for someone like you….”
“He’s going to get snapped up right away. You were lucky to get him…”
Sprinkled in and around these comments, of course, is the proper motherly concern for my well-being. Of course she wants me to be happy. Of course she is worried about me. But she drops these deadly word bombs into our conversation, weaving them in and through artfully, hitting me square between the eyes before I even realize it happened.
I wonder what I would have been like if my mother ever thought I was good enough. If today she said to me, “He was lucky to get you.”
Beautiful (written May 28, 2009)
I have a friend who calls me “beautiful” as easily as he calls me by name. His emails often begin jauntily with the salutation: “Hello, beautiful!” He’ll sign off, “Good night, beautiful.” He tosses out the word casually within the body of his message. I’m sure it’s rote for him; he probably writes this to all of his female friends. But it makes me oddly uncomfortable: a little flattered, and a lot embarrassed.
Growing up in a mostly-Caucasian culture has had a profound effect on my self-image. My appearance is rather stereotypically Asian. My sister, who’s not biologically-related, fits a more neutrally-exotic mold. Even though she’s also Korean, physically she’s completely unlike me. Her hair has a wave to it. She has eyelid folds. When we were growing up, my mother considered her the perfect little living doll. Her hair could be styled into fat, gorgeous, bouncy ringlets. Her eyebrows were dark and straight. As she grew older, a touch of makeup, especially eye shadow, flattered her beauty even more.
As for me…well, I was hopeless. My stick-straight hair refused to hold a curl. Every evening, my mother would roll my hair tightly into uncomfortable, unyielding foam curlers. I would go to bed wearing those horrid curlers, tossing uncomfortably throughout the night. Every morning, my mother would unwrap and style my hair, single-handedly destroying the ozone with her liberal use of hairspray. But no matter how much she tortured and lacquered my hair into place, it would be straight by midday. It made my mother crazy – my ugly straight hair – so crazy, in fact, that she finally took to perming it. I think I’ve destroyed every photo from that stage of my life. And eventually, my mother gave up waging war with my hair.
I also had fine, feathery eyebrows, and a round, moonish face that hid any trace of bone structure beneath. And without the eyelid fold, eye shadow looked ridiculous on me, so I never wore it. I still don’t, to this day. My father once told me I was lucky to have a pleasant personality, because I’d never make it on my looks.
Now I know my parents loved me and they tried to do right by me. They succeeded in many ways. I felt relatively accomplished and capable when I left their home.
But I never felt beautiful.
I still have trouble accepting compliments about my looks. Yet there are times when I do, indeed, feel truly beautiful.
When I’m in the yoga studio, I feel beautiful.
When my skin glistens with the sweat of my efforts, when my limbs feel both lithe and strong, when my mind is focused, yet serene – that’s when I feel beautiful. When my body holds the pose a bit longer, or stretches a bit further, or sinks a bit deeper – that’s when I feel beautiful. When my thoughts are still, when my heart is at peace, when serenity is achieved – that’s when I feel beautiful.
When I’m in the yoga studio, it’s not about the way I look on the outside. It’s about the way I feel on the inside. I try to take those feelings with me outside of the studio, but more often than not, they fade away. Although…if my friend happens to email when I’ve just finished yoga and he calls me beautiful, sometimes I think he might be right.
Endless Delight (written May 19, 2009)
I thought about turning 50 today. Where I would be, who would be with me.
Actually, it was no mere thought; it was an enticing vision…brief, seductive, dazzling. For a tantalizing moment, I felt awash in love. Love embraced me in the form of my most cherished friends and family as we celebrated in my home. My own home. There was laughter, there was music, there was the feel of arms about my waist and countless sweet hugs. And there was muted golden candlelight casting its spell over our proceedings – or maybe the shimmering I sensed radiated from the happiness bubbling up inside of me. Whatever the cause, I was rapturous and giddy and I felt loved.
This is where I want to be when November come knocking: at peace, at home, in the company of those whom I love, and who love me.
I’m surprised and a bit taken aback by my eagerness to own a home. Suddenly, I want to imprint myself wholly and completely on my own little place. I want it desperately. In my single years, I always rented; I remember how cold and sterile I felt being inside those stark white walls. After years of living inside a stark white marriage, I want color and gaiety and endless delight. If I can’t have it in a relationship, dammit, I can at least enjoy it in my environment.
Endless delight. Words to live by, words to dream by.
See you in November, my place.
Angry Little Yogini (written May 18, 2009)
I took an unprecedented emotion with me to yoga today: anger.
I hoped the anger would dissipate in the serenity of the studio. I was wrong.
My thoughts whirled angrily as I held the postures:
You can imagine by the time I reached the count of 60, I was down to some pretty lame words (does “meanie” count as an insult?). I make light of this now, but it deeply affected my mood, my practice, my soul.
What, you wonder, set me off?
It was a comment. A simple, muttered comment that made me realize why I have to leave this marriage, why I need out, why I can’t breathe here.
This afternoon, as I walked to the door for the yoga class I’ve attended at the same time for over a year, my soon-to-be-ex asked where I was going (as though my yoga attire didn’t give it away). He acted surprised when I told him, and muttered petulantly, “I’m tired of always being responsible for dinner.” Big, exaggerated sigh.
Bingo. Red behind my eyes, steam out of my ears.
Stupid, right? First of all, I hate absolutes. His always implies my never. For the past 18 years, comments like these made me drop whatever I planned to do. I’d feel guilty for being selfish; I’d feel small, lazy, and unworthy. A bad mother. A bad wife. Over the years, I have slowly given away pieces of myself or denied myself a chance to grow, because they interfered with his idea of what I should do, what I should be. He sees me as unstable because I want to try new things.
I am finally ready to reclaim those long-denied pieces of myself, but that doesn’t mean his implications still don’t resonate in me, and cut me to the core.
If someone truly sees you as lazy and selfish and ungiving, how do you change their perception? You can’t. I don’t want to enumerate all the ways I am not lazy and selfish and ungiving, but suffice to say that, while I am not perfect, I am not all bad, either. And neither is he. But throughout all of these years, he has truly believed in his always versus my nevers, despite my attempts to placate and to please. And at some point, you begin to believe the hype. You see yourself as reflected through his eyes, and you feel worthless.
So I came home from yoga, still angry (but bearing the week’s grocery shopping and dinner for the family). I stewed in my own juices for awhile (literally and figuratively). And then I did what I always do: I showered….I shook off the exterior anger…and I joined my family.
But I’m still smoldering on the inside.
Sleeping Happy (written May 15, 2009)
What does an almost-single, sex-starved woman want? Gosh, the answer should be obvious, shouldn’t it?
Guess what? It’s not what you think.
Before I had options, I thought sex was what I was seeking. And yes, it’s still a big part of the equation. But now that I have the freedom to choose, I’m finding my daydreams have strayed from the erotic. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what might come afterwards: sleeping happy, and waking happy.
For the past fifteen years or more, I’ve had many kinds of sleep. I’ve had exhausted sleep and dreamless sleep. I’ve had restless sleep filled with yearnings and longings. I’ve had timid sleep and cautious sleep: sleep where I’ve been oh-so-careful to not touch my soon-to-be ex. And recently, I’ve had fitful, broken sleep, brought on by marital woes, menopause, multiple rapid life changes, and financial stress.
What I haven’t had, in many, many years, is happy sleep. The kind of feel-good sleep in which I float off contentedly and wake up with my whole body smiling and sighing and stretching from the inside out. The kind of sleep that has no beginning or ending. The kind of sleep that meanders peacefully…a seamless segue from wakefulness to dreaminess back to wakefulness.
My longings have confused me because I’ve equated them with neediness. Finally, though, I’m beginning to understand that neediness is not what’s driving me. With that understanding has come my desire to wait until I can have it all. I believe happy sleep really can happen one day, alone or with a partner.
I’m not looking for declarations of love or relationships or commitments from a partner, but I am looking for that sense of rightness. A sense of connection and intimacy that can lead to amazing sex followed by happy sleep. It’s not necessarily about cuddling. I’ve never been a seriously cuddly person, though drifting off in someone’s arms might be nice. So what I want is hard to verbalize. It’s just something that lives patiently inside of me: this need, nestled deep in my bones. I’m finally ready to acknowledge my need, and to accept it as something important and necessary.
Sex is easy. Connection is hard. Contentment is even harder. But that’s my goal…contentment, peace, and happy sleep.