Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A happy relationship story (for a change)

I mean, my new hair looks good, right?
The other day, I thought it might be funny to write about all the mean stuff my husband has said to me during the divorce process.
But as I started to dredge up all those choice quotes, I realized something. This isn’t funny at all. WTF were you thinking?
So today, I thought I’d tell a more positive kind of story. One about a relationship in which the two parties have actually worked through their issues and made a spectacular turnaround even when things looked grim.
It’s a story about me and my hair.
The two of you who’ve been reading this blog over the last couple months know that when I went to Oaxaca back in February, it was like a honeymoon for the two of us. The warm, dry climate of Oaxaca did wonders for my relationship with my har. It was all roses and champagne and falling in love all over.
No time to blow dry? Doesn’t matter! Hair looks great in a ponytail!
Only five minutes to blow dry? Hair looks sleek and volumized anyway!
But when we came back to Puebla after a too-short week, things quickly went downhill again. My once ebullient hair positively drooped. The gray proliferated faster than normal. No amount of product or careful blow-drying could give it that Oaxaca dazzle. On top of that, my jeans were way to f*cking tight.
It was a dark time for a couple weeks there. It looked as if we weren’t going to make it. I tried to remind myself how lucky I was just to have hair (and pants to wear). A few years back, I saw a wrenching documentary called Mondays at Racine, about a salon that opens its door for free to cancer patients. And it chronicled, in part, how devastating it was for these women to lose their hair.  
So why couldn’t I just be grateful?! But that kind of thinking never works. It just makes you feel worse about yourself because you know you’ll probably lose your hair to cancer one day too and then you’ll hate your former self for being so spoiled and ungrateful to have a head of full – if slightly droopy – hair. Yet it doesn’t make you appreciate your hair any more in the moment.
Of course, it’s not easy to break up with your own hair. But we were definitely heading that way. Until things changed. I went to the salon one day with very little hope for any miracle. Except, that of course, they’d get rid of the gray and I could forget for a while that I was actually kind of old.
But two other things happened at the salon. One, I showed them a picture of how I wanted my bangs cut. Because my bangs NEVER turn out how I want them to.
Two, they parted my hair on the Other. Side.
I tried to protest this.
“I always part my hair on this side,” I said, or rather said with gestures, because I have no idea how to say the word “part” in Spanish.
Then I got a mini-lecture about how you should part your hair on a different side every day so it doesn’t get “stuck”. Then I gave up and watched skeptically as they styled it with the part on the other side and the new bangs. And…
Well, your hair always looks good the day you go to the salon.
The next day I tried parting it on the usual side. Eh. Then I parted it on the new side. And what do you know, it looked good. The new bangs were in my face a little but that’s kind of sexy, right?
It might have been that the climate in Puebla changed just a bit too at that moment. Suddenly there weren’t so many flyaways in my hair either. It looked sleeker. Plus, it was getting longer after I’d chopped off a bit too much the last time.
And though it took a few days to dawn on me, I realized that I was starting to look forward to blow-drying my hair now instead of dreading it. That I could actually count on my hair to look good instead of just waiting for it to disappoint me every single day. (Which is a feeling I know all too well from my marriage, thank you very much.)
Since that day almost a month ago, things have been steadily improved between us. In any long relationship, there are ups and downs. But in the healthy relationships, things generally get better again instead of staying mired in the bad. You work through stuff and find your footing once more.
And, like your hair stylist says, you mix things up so you don’t get “stuck.”
Which is, of course, a lot easier said than done with relationships.
But at least one of my important relationships has been salvaged.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Handing over the cash and saying goodbye

Compared to many, I’ve had an easy divorce. There are no kids involved. No huge sums of money. Just two innocent pugs who seem to have settled happily into their life of sloth with my ex while I gallivant around Mexico, trying to outrun my feelings.

Photo by Sara Tro. My doomed but beautiful wedding.
 There’s been plenty of ugliness and drama, that’s for sure. But it could have been way worse. As I know because we went to court at the beginning of this.

And I saw other couples who once loved each other get up in front of the judge and tell stories about violence and lies and restraining orders gone wrong and children caught in the middle. Trying to make their soon-to-be-ex-spouses look as bad as possible. Abuser, liar, cheater, out-of-control, drug addict.  

You have to hope that it all started well, at least. That maybe, like us, they had a sun-dazzled wedding on a gorgeous dock with sailboats floating by, and Uncle Norman on the saxophone, and champagne flowing, and everyone smiling. That maybe, like us, they had hope and love in their lives for at least a little while before it all started to go awry.

We split up nearly 7 months ago. On our fourth anniversary, to be exact. The divorce has dragged on, mainly because my lawyer has uglier divorces to deal with.

But now, finally, we seem to be nearing the end. Where it’s all coming down to a pile of cash that gets exchanged. And that seems so sad to me. A wad of cash and goodbye. Here’s what our relationship was worth.

I’ve been waiting for it to end and yet I don’t want it to end (even though it's over).

This is everyday tragedy to be sure. There are much bigger messes out there. But  that doesn't make my broken heart hurt less. I started out with so much love and hope and champagne and sunshine and music and here I am.

Here's your moneySee you later, person I once staked everything on and thought I would be with for the rest of my life. Don't spend it all in one place.  



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Seattle trip report: snuggly pugs, pouring rain, and angry exes


I wanted to see the rain.

I saw the rain. Lots of it. It made me cold and wet.

I wanted to see my dogs. I saw them. They kept me warm and dry.

I wanted to see my friends. I saw them, and that lifted me up too. 

I didn't want to see my (soon-to-be-ex) husband, but I had to see him to get my dogs.

I was expecting him to be friendly, because that's how he'd seemed - mostly - over these last couple months.

However, I should have known better. Because a hallmark of his behavior is volatility. And finally I've learned something important about him that I should have learned long ago. The one thing that's actually predictable about him is his unpredictability.

There was a moment, back before I left for Mexico, when I thought, "OK, we can be friends. This is going to be fine." Because my (soon-to-be-ex-) husband is, or was, my best friend. And it was very hard to let go of that. And so I held on to it, thinking, when he seemed fine with everything, "Great, we're always going to have each other's backs."

From http://www.yuzmshanghai.org/rain-room/
But since then, there have been various about-faces on his part, where he goes from friendly to furious and then back again. And I finally realized NO, we're not going to be friends. At least not now.

But no. The two occasions that I had to see him, he vibrated palpably with anger. I would even go so far as to use the tired cliche that he was seething with it. And while we're on a roll with the clichés, let's say that he didn't make much eye contact with me, but when he did, his eyes shot daggers at me.

Our interactions were short, but they left their mark. Because those daggers draw blood. It hurts to see someone who once looked at you with love (and a huge, gorgeous smile) look at you as if they hated you more than anyone on Earth.

He didn't always look at me with love, of course. My (soon-to-be-ex) husband was volatile at the best of times during our marriage and it only got worse as time went on.

But still, he always loved me. I never doubted that. Even as our marriage went through increasingly hard-to-recover from death spirals, I knew he loved me. I loved him too. And I clung to that.

Sunny, happy Puebla street scene
Just like I clung to our friendship, and the ten years that bound us together. And my love for my mother-in-law and our shared love for my dogs, and the fact that my niece and nephew loved my (soon-to-be-ex) husband more than anyone else in the family.

Until I didn't cling to it anymore.

Which is a story in itself that I'm still trying to figure out how to write.

Meanwhile, back in Puebla, the sun shines and people are nice to me. I've started to dry out and the anger feels a little more distant. But it definitely left its mark.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Even in Mexico, there are Mondays

Tasha is tired of Mondays
Yesterday was such a Monday.

My pants were too tight, my hair was bad, and my (flexible) (well-paid) work (that lets me live anywhere in the damn world that I want to) was destroying my soul.

#Firstworldproblems


Yes, I know, what a whiner I am. Here in a country with desperate poverty and a corrupt government, all I can do is complain about how tight my pants are because I've indulged a little bit too much in queso fresco and tacos al pastor.

Mmm, tacos al pastor. Actually, better yet, TORTAS AL PASTOR.

But  I digress.  In general, life in Puebla for a privileged gringa such as myself is idyllic.

I rent a little apartment with a Mexican family where I get 1)cheap rent 2)delicious homecooked meals 3)a clean room every day 4)Spanish practice and 5)canine companionship (shout out to my homies Tasha, Dolly, and Coco!)

It's also sunny. All. The. (Effing). Time.

OK, I love sun, don't get me wrong. Especially after 25 years of the endless winters in Seattle. But I'm starting to recall my love for rain too, and a bit of cloud cover in which to hide.

I'm also realizing how much I crave the presence of  water. In Seattle, you're never far from it. Throw a rock and you find a lake or a bay or a channel. At my ex-mother-in-law's house, I could literally launch myself into Lake Washington from here backyard (which I did often and enthusiastically).

Ah, Isla Mujeres.
Here in Puebla, we're landlocked.

(Though I did get a splendid dose of agua in Isla Mujeres in December, which seems like eons ago now).

So it's a good thing I'm headed to Seattle in a few days. Besides seeing my friends and my dogs (oh, the pugz, how I miss them!) I will get to quench my thirst for clouds and water and rain.

Unless, of course, there's a freak stretch of sunny weather.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Good hair days in Oaxaca

Has anyone ever made a decision about where to live based on how good their hair looked in a given location?

If I could reasonably do this, then I would move to Oaxaca city.

Art from one of Oaxaca's many galleries
Not only is it full of stunning art, delicious food, strong drinks (including the best strawberry margarita I've ever had), colorful cafes,  and many other attractions, my hair looked fabulous there.

I mean, if I do say so myself.

Because of my Good Hair, I was exuding so much confidence (and possibly cleavage) that young waiter even asked for my phone number! Unfortunately I made the poor guy repeat himself several times because no one has ever asked me for my phone number in Spanish before.

And though I didn't actually I give it to him, I wanted to tell him how flattered I was and how he'd made my day, but my Spanish wasn't quite up to the task. Because I was flattered and it DID make my day. (I mean when was the last time a random stranger asked for my phone number?)

The minute I returned to Puebla, my hair started to droop again. Even though there are many things to love about my adopted Mexican city, good hair, alas is not one of them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monarch butterflies in Michoacán

A couple weeks ago, I went to see the monarch butterflies in the mountains of Michoacán, Mexico.


Ever since I was a little kid, I've had a thing for butterflies. That's because my favorite memories involve chasing them across the wildflower-choked meadows of the Sierra mountains in northern California when my family backpacked there every summer.

The monarchs here can be elusive. If you arrive before the sun is high in the sky, they might still be sleeping in the trees, clustered together with thousands of their butterfly friends for warmth. Or if it's a cold day, they might never really leave the trees.

But if it's a warm and sunny day like the one we were lucky enough to have, then you're treated to the sight of them swooping through the air like little orange fairies with the bright blue sky above.

I've always related to butterflies (I have three of them tattooed on my back, in fact), but even more so now that I've migrated to Mexico temporarily too.



We stayed at a little hotel called JM's Butterfly B&B, which I really liked (except that all the other guests were Americans, and I don't know when I got so snobby about other Americans, but I realized while I was there that they talk really loudly, and that they also never stop talking).

From this scenic and tranquil spot, you hoof it up on horseback or foot to about 10,000 feet, where - if you're lucky - the butterflies will be busily flitting about. And your mouth falls open at the first sight of them, and maybe you cry, and you wander about in a daze for the next couple hours, taking pictures, listening to the delicate whisper of their wings, and feeling really grateful.



Then you come back for tequila shots at sunrise, and eat wine-laden dinners with the other friendly but LOUD Americans  and later go to sleep with ALL your clothes on the pretty but unheated rooms.

Meanwhile, the butterflies go back to sleep together in the trees, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of them, fighting off the nighttime chill until the sun prompts them to open their wings again.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

BreakupBabe: The Divorce Years

Well darlings, it has been an eventful year. And that doesn't even begin to describe it.

For one thing, I'm getting divorced. Which means we've fast-forwarded to...that's right, BreakupBabe: The Divorce Years! Soon to be followed by BreakupBabe: The Nursing Home Years! Oh wait, I take that back. No one in my family lives long enough to put in a nursing home. But ANYWAY.




You know what this means, right? It means that another juicy, tell-all memoirish book will be forthcoming in the near future. I have so much to tell you all!

Meanwhile, after centuries of writing and revising, I'm actually about to start flogging my middle-grade book about nerdy Sam and his embarrassingly exuberant pal Cedric, aka Little Lord Fauntleroy

So wish the two of them luck because they really need it. Although IMHO, Cedric is just as charming as he was way back when he was the Harry Potter of his day, even if he does talk a little funny.


But back to me. I can also tell you that in the wake of my divorce I've fled it to Mexico like so many brokenhearted, confused, and criminally accused before me. Though I might never get back, because of the effing WALL, I'm pleased to report that the sunny climate and tranquilo lifestyle of Puebla is agreeing with me even though I miss my dogs (a lot), my friends (a lot), and the rain (a little).

At least there's my new Mexican boyfriend Coco to comfort me. He's only five months old but the age difference means nothing to us.

Coco

Also, I've started writing regularly again, which is something that didn't happen much in the turmoil of the last six months. I've come out, at least, temporarily, on the other side of that turmoil.

Although if I know anything about grief, I know that it's a long process losing someone and this will be haunting me for a long time.

That is, of course, until I excise it by writing the juicy tell-all memoirish book, which I've already started on with the help of cervezas and sunshine, and the luxury of distance.