Sunday, July 23, 2017
More specifically I've been thinking about last times that I knew were last times, which made them even more sad.
Like the last time my mom kissed me.
In the summer of 2012, she was dying of lung cancer, which had spread to her brain. There are so many things to say about that time, of course, including how she was dying as I was on the verge of getting married, and how bittersweet that was, and how hard it was to see her lose the ability to speak, read, and write (My mother!!! To whom, like me, speaking, reading, and writing were everything).
But if I go into all that right now, I will never get to the point.
Maybe a week or so before she died in October 2012, I was getting ready to go out and meet a friend for dinner. I'd been at her apartment all day, during which time she'd hardly been conscious at all. As it turned out, she chose the exact moment I was leaving to wake up.
She wasn't talking much by that point (if at all). Mostly she slept. By this time, she was in bed for the last time and hadn't moved in a while. At least she didn't seem to be in pain.
I went to say goodbye to her this night - I remember it was a pleasant, balmy night (as it often is in Palo Alto, California) -- thinking I would kiss her on the cheek and leave her to her ever-deepening sleep.
Instead, she opened her eyes when I said goodbye. And I immediately felt guilty for leaving. And for wanting to leave, even now that she was awake, because watching over someone's deathbed all day is nothing if not draining.
I said something like "Mom, I'm going to go over to Katie's for dinner now, OK?" Then I went to kiss her on the cheek.
To my surprise, she bolted semi-upright and kissed ME on the cheek. A full, hearty kiss. Just like she had done every night when I was little kid, and every night when I was an adult too, if I happened to be visiting with her. My mom never failed with the goodnight kiss.
But of course, she hadn't done that in quite a while. Like I said, she couldn't really move anymore. It must have taken every last ounce of energy she had to sit up and kiss me that night.
She fell back down on her pillow after that, exhausted. She might have croaked out the word "goodbye." Probably not.
Startled, sad and yet uplifted, I left the house to go have dinner with my friend. I knew deep down, somewhere, that it was the last time she would kiss me. But I didn't let myself feel the enormity of it at that moment. I still had the whole business of her actual death to get through (Which is something I thought I was prepared for after her semi-prolonged illness, but I was totally not.)
But now, four years later, I think often about that moment. How she must have known she was dying because she made that last effort to let me know just how much she loved me.
Four years later the thought of that kiss both sustains me and also makes me weep uncontrollably.
I also often feel an intense anger at myself for not writing down every word of this exchange in my journal right after it happened. For example, I don't know the exact date that last kiss happened. What kind of writer am I? What kind of daughter am I?
When the anger passes, though, I realize I wasn't such a bad daughter. Oh sure, I was completely self-involved and constantly caught up in my own dramas. But despite our occasional squabbles and screaming fights (remind me to tell you about the time I threw a spoon at her at Thanksgiving), my mom and I were the best of friends. And that made both our lives so much better.
I like to think that it made her death a little better too.
And even if I didn't write down the stupid date or exactly what we said (which is what my mom would have done if she'd been able to write in her journal), I will never forget that kiss.
Posted by Rebecca at 9:47 AM
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
|Must. Have. Fun.|
No one (at least in Seattle) ever says "Have a great winter!" or "How's your fall going?" Oh no. Summer is THE moment! That glorious time when Seattleites crawl out of their caves and blind you with their pasty white skin.
As my erstwhile alter ego Breakup Babe the Younger put it, summer is the "moment when everyone else is living out a sun-drenched Coke ad, and you're a broken-hearted, miserable wretch."
(She was good at whining, that BBTY).
Breakups always seem to happen for me right on the precipice of summer, too. So that instead of looking forward to the endless days and balmy nights, I'm cowering in dread.
HOWEVER. We are in a slightly different situation now.
|Seen in upstate NY|
The edge of The AbyssMy breakup happened 10 months ago.
And then, well, I figured once that happened there would be The Abyss. That I would fill with anti-depressants, crying jags, cocktails, dating apps, and men equally crippled by emotional baggage. Kinda like my younger self did (but without the apps or the fixation on marriage [gag!]).
That did not happen.
Instead someone decidedly not crippled showed up. At a time when the last thing I expected was to fall in love. At a time when I probably shouldn't have fallen in love because I hadn't yet escaped the towering inferno that was my marriage.
But, there he was, like a sexy fireman, pulling me out of the wreckage in his strong, tanned arms. And. I. Could. Not. Resist.
Girlfriends on the more sensible end of the spectrum (that is, my complete opposites) counseled me not to rush into anything new. If you get your heart broken now, it will only make things that much worse.
I know, I know! Don't you think I know??
But because I'm not sensible, I fell hard into his waiting arms. (a story I'm still figuring out how to tell).
For now, I'll just say that this relationship has sustained and grounded me through a period that would have otherwise been complete SH*T. (Remember when I said the last six months were the most bittersweet of my life? Now you know where the "sweet" comes from.)
Now suddenly, however, I'm alone, because he's working all summer in a camp upstate New York and I have so much baggage around effing summer camps, but let's not even go there right now. Because it's IRRELEVANT, ok?
Comes a time when you're drifting, comes a time when you settle down...
That's because he was my home for the last six months. Not Mexico. He was in Mexico, which made it a warm safe place for me to be. A place where, for a while, I just relaxed and forgot about my identity crisis.
Who am I now if not a wife, a home owner, a soon-to-be adoptive parent?
Bring it on, summer. I can take you.Now the identity crisis is back, thanks very much. Which isn't a bad thing. It is what it is. In fact, I'm sure it's HEALTHY for me to be ALONE for the SUMMER figuring out who the f*ck I am and where I belong.
Meanwhile, I at least temporarily have the freedom (thank you, flexible job!) to jet around feeling uncomfortable in various places. So I don't have to be stuck in just one! So far this summer, I've been in two different countries, 3 different states and five difference cities, seeing friends and dogs and spending insane amounts of money on AirBBs.
Also, drinking way too much coffee, not exercising, crying less than I thought I would (but still enough), and looking out the windows of various modes of transportation at the ever-surprising, usually-beautiful U.S. countryside.
Speaking of which...I'm just about to get on another bus (aah, my comfort zone) to drift a little more.
*OK it's totally not undisclosed. All you have to do is look at my Instagram feed to know where I am.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Just the other day, for example, my ex-husband (who is now weirdly and apparently un-ironically handlebar mustachioed) TURNED ME AWAY when I went to pick up my pugs for a visit.
Yes! Those two snuggly pugs that we legally share custody of. And whom I have not seen in three months. Who are the lights of my life. The whole reason, practically, that I came back to Seattle for a visit, smooshed between two huge dudes on a middle seat in a germ-infested aluminum tube.
I LOVE MY PUGS.
They are the only family I have left in this city. And YET. My ex, the professional victim, decided to take his revenge on me for all evil I've wrought, by denying me opportunity to see my dogs.
Even for him -- an accomplished bully - this was a low and unexpected blow.
And yes. I thought of fighting back somehow. Of calling the police. Of harassing him somehow. Of yelling and screaming and causing a scene.
But here's the thing. He has guns. A lot of them. And, at the moment, he's clearly full of self-righteous anger. He is, in fact, scary just to look at because the anger just pours out of him, infecting the air around him.
Turns him into this hard, flinty person and smothers everything that is soft and (yes) beautiful about him.
Yes, yes, I'm angry too! Everyone's angry in a divorce! You disappointed me too, you know! But I deal with my anger in a healthy fashion! By crying and writing vicious blog posts and bitching to my friends and running off to Mexico! Not by being deliberately cruel!
Meanwhile, in his anger-infested state, my ex is undoubtedly basking in his victory, feeling very smug that he both surprised me and deprived me of something I loved. That will teach her.
Not only that, he invited a friend over to witness the whole thing, some fat gun-freak looking guy named "Gil" who looked on with prurient interest while my ex shouted down to me from his balcony and left me standing there empty-handed and stunned in the chilly Seattle twilight.
Yes, I can take him to court. No, I can't do it now because I'm only here for two weeks.
Is it worth it?
I don't know.
And yes, this divorce is sucking more than I ever imagined possible. Even though I'm well aware it could be MUCH WORSE.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
|Photo by Sara Tro|
But what does this mean, exactly? Especially for someone who was once Breakup Babe, wearer of slinky clothes, owner of a karaoke machine, writer of a salacious blog-turned-novel, failed but enthusiastic pursuer of innumerable commitment-shy men?
- Does she go back to being Breakup Babe (only a
slightlymore wrinkly, beaten-down version), chasing men across continents?
- Does finally publish another book, the sequel to BreakupBabe: A Novel that all three of you have been waiting for?
- Or does she curl up and die from loneliness and boredom just like Breakup Babe was always threatening to do?
How Breakup Babe became Married Babe
|Photo by Sara Tro|
(She also learned that when you’re in the throes of loneliness, you do write entertaining prose).
One day, however, BB finally met someone who was not commitment-shy. They fell in love, got married, adopted some pugs, had lots of adventures, and applied to adopt a kid.
Things were looking up for Married Babe (formerly BreakupBabe), who not only had a husband now, and a possible future kid, but a whole new set of relatives to love.
Why, she might never have to be lonely again!
True happiness comes from inside (duh)MB knew (at least, in theory) that no one else can make you happy. That true happiness comes from INSIDE. From doing things that make you feel good and help others.
For her, this meant writing fiction, climbing mountains, traveling to exotic locales, and reading stories to kindergarteners. Plus lots of other stuff. All of which she did in abundance.
So she wondered, after a couple years of marriage, why she didn’t feel happier. Because, not only did she have a life partner now, she was doing all these things she loved.
So what was missing?
Two can be as lonely as one
(NOTE: THAT SENTENCE IS A HIGHLY ABRIDGED AND SANITZED VERSION OF A VERY COMPLEX SITUATION THAT I'M ONLY JUST FIGURING OUT HOW TO WRITE ABOUT. APOLOGIES FOR LEAVING OUT ALL THE JUICIEST DETAILS.)
Early on, the loneliness would come and go. Because, even with the lonely times, there were still so many good times. There were the pugs and the garden. Playing guitars in the living room and cuddling in front of Netflix. Sunday night dinners with the mother-in-law who was like a second mom.
And last but not least, the application to adopt and the dream of being parents that was in process.
But then the lonely times got longer and the good times got shorter. The fights got worse. Attempts at counseling fell apart.
Yet they kept on keeping on, like you do when you can't envision another future.
Until finally the application to adopt got rejected.
The Great Mexican Escape
She thought she might feel even lonelier there. And she did, at first, but then slowly she felt better and better.
There was a strange feeling growing inside her and at first she wasn’t sure what it was. Finally she realized: it was happiness.
She was happier being away from her husband than being with him. It took three months of feeling light and unburdened in Mexico to make her really face this fact. To make her realize just how weighed down she'd been by the struggle to keep her marriage alive.
Because she loved her husband, there was no doubt about it. Loneliness, doubts, and all.
But after all the space and sunlight (and fighting with her husband from afar), she realized just couldn't struggle for her marriage anymore.
The end and the beginning
Then she quickly turned around and went right back to Mexico, which welcomed her with open arms. And there she lived through the most bittersweet six months of her life until the divorce became final on May 22, 2017.
As for what's next, your guess is as good as mine. But as the sign at left says, "When nothing is certain, everything is possible."
Which about sums it up for now.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
|I mean, my new hair looks good, right?|
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
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 money. See 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.
Here's your money. See 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
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."
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|
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.