Date Yourself

FLOWERS

Max once said to his brother, “Shane, what’s the difference between you and a calendar?” Shane said, “What?” Max said, “A calendar has dates.” Shane said, “I’m going to my room to play video games now.” Max said, “That’s exactly my point.”

A good friend told me to wait until I had been separated from the Wasband for a year before I started dating. He also told me to take get new art for my house and rearrange the furniture. So, while I was waiting for the year to pass, I took down 20 years of compromise art and relegated it to the garage. I moved or donated furniture. Things got lighter in my house. Finally, a year later, I was ready to date. But, as it turned out, there wasn’t anyone at my front door ready to date me. The last time I had gone on a date was in 1994, when I started dating my Wasband. This was 2016. Shit was going to get real.

I set up a couple on-line dating accounts, with the help of some friends. I received some messages from men, “Hello, how are you? Tell me more about yourself. Would you like to meet?” I went dates. I learned that 5’11” was not an actual height but was subject to interpretation. I learned that dating is like a job interview. I learned that there were people who had been on dating websites the entire time the dating website had existed. Basically, their dating half-life was the same as my youngest son’s life-span. Which meant that for these guys, dating websites were just like singles bars, but they had eliminated the time and energy buying drinks and talking to you until closing time.

It took me another year and some half-hearted dates to realize that the most important date I needed to have was with myself. I know, I know. It’s totally granola yoga crunchy chakra of me to say that. But during my years of marriage and the subsequent year of dating, I never stopped to breathe.  In yoga, there’s a word for it: pranayama. It means the practice of regulating the breath. I needed some time off to just be with myself again. I hadn’t been with her for a really long time. I hadn’t really taken a breath in 20-something years.

Just breathe. How hard is that? Harder than you think. Even my Max got it, long before I did. One night, before the divorce, he and I were walking the dogs and he told me, “Mom, I still have a bloody lip from wrestling and my tongue hurts where I bit it. My whole physical being is tired and in pain and I wonder, will I ever feel better?” I said, “Max, I really don’t know what to tell you.” He said, “Mom, do you know what a rhetorical question is?” I said, “Yes, it’s a question that doesn’t really have an answer to it.” He said, “Well, that was a rhetorical question.”

When your whole physical being is in pain and you can’t find answers to make it stop hurting, the one thing you can do is sit down and wait for your breath to catch up with your own questions. Or maybe, just maybe, the questions are just rhetorical. And sometimes you don’t need an answer. You might just need some time to breathe in. And out. Do that about 100 more times. Or however long you might need.

If I had a regret, it would be that I wasted so much fucking time agonizing over what a man (or boy) thought about me or “us” when I should have taken that time for myself. Stars fell from the sky, entire microcosms and colonies of bunnies died while I angst-ed out over the trivialities of relationships that did not even exist. I could have owned an estate full of shoes with the time and money spent on the rage and anxiety of the rhetorical questioning of why it didn’t work. But there is still time and for that I am grateful to pranayama and the shoe allowance I have given myself.  Get the shoes. Take your time. Getting back to dating is all on your own timeline. Basically, it’s a rhetorical question with no right answer. So do whatever you want do. Just don’t forget to breathe.

The Divorcesary

Red shoesAccording to the Kubler-Ross model and a recent article I found on Huffington Post, there are five stages of grief that you endure after a traumatic event. They are: Stage 1: Denial; Stage 2: Anger; Stage 3: Bargaining; Stage 4: Depression; and Stage 5: Acceptance. I call bullshit on it all ending with five steps and acceptance. I mean, really. It takes 12 steps to get through Alcoholics Anonymous and those steps are repeated over and over again, anonymously. You can’t convince me that unwinding “until death do you part” and all the associated paperwork only has a fallout of five steps, especially when divorce requires no admission of fault. At least AA requires some acknowledgment of responsibility in the fuck-up. In divorce, it’s fault free. So I think we should get at least get six stages to get through the fault free bullshit.

So, allow me to introduce Stage 6 to the stages of grief after a divorce. Stage 6: The Divorcesary. The divorcesary is what I decided to celebrate on the day my divorce was final, year after year. Because you should end the intervention of the legal system in your personal life with a celebration.

In Judaism, we observe a yartzheit. It is the observance of the death of a beloved parent, spouse, or other significant loved one. For me, I wanted to observe the death of my marriage. I did not want to be divorced. I wanted to be married forever and ever. But in the end, that wasn’t possible. So I chose to celebrate the end of my marriage with a divorcesary. And for the divorcesary, which is in June, every year, I now buy myself a pair of red shoes. We all choose our form of observance and remembrance. This is mine.

Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, wore red shoes. She had the power all along to take herself home. I finally bought myself a pair of Louboutins this year. Louboutins have red soles. They are my power shoes. When I see other women wearing them, I get it. They are our power ties. We have the power to take ourselves home, to bust down the  glass ceiling, to kick ass.

The divorcesary marks the anniversary of the day I stepped out into my own life, in bad ass high heels. When I got married, I had to get a marriage license. And that was pretty much it.  Hell, even my dogs can get licenses. Divorce takes a lot more paperwork. Even though I’m an attorney, I felt like the amount of paperwork and agony required to end what only took a license to begin was breathtaking. Red shoes helped.

However you choose to celebrate those moments of your life when you realize that you have momentum and choice, whether it’s red shoes, champagne, a trip, or a donation to a deserving charity, cheers to you and our anniversaries and our divorcesaries. May we always celebrate the endings as well as the beginnings, because each of them brings us to the place where we are today. Life is good. Keep going.

 

Raised by the Internet (Or Wolves)

Shane and Max HawaiiThe election of 2016 was an interesting time in our household (as if there was ever a time that was not interesting). Both of my sons were on the debate team at their high school and both were informed and interested in the political process. One night I went into Max’s room and he was on his phone. He said, “Did you know you can sign up to get texts from Donald Trump?” I said, “To be honest, it had not occurred to me.” He said, “I’m reading my texts from Donald.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I think I can also sign up for Snapchats from Bernie.” I said, “I think Bernie has Twitter.” He said, “Whichever. I need to sign up.”

A few weeks later, Max said, “Donald Trump texted me and said that he’s going to make America great again.” Shane said, “What does that MEAN? What isn’t great about America?” Max said, “I’ll tell you what isn’t great about America. Our refusal to convert to the metric system. We are only one of three countries in the entire world that doesn’t use the metric system.” I may be one of the few people in this country who believes that high school students may be able to fix some of this shit. Not that I could possibly wrap my brain around the metric system. I still use my fingers for basic arithmetic.

The Internet and social media can be a great thing. And it can also be a confusing world for parents. When do you let your kid have a cell phone? What about parental controls on the Internet? Well, guess what? While you’re worried about your kid surfing porn, he (or she) is on WebMD checking medical symptoms. Or finding out fun facts about your prescriptions. Or checking up on political candidates. So, porn is the last thing you should worry about.

One afternoon, Max said to Shane, “My right arm is all numb and tingly. Isn’t that what happens when you have a heart attack?” Shane said to him, “No. That’s what happens when you’re having a stroke. Check the Internet.” Then he left me alone with the Master-Web M.D.-researcher. Max spent the entire afternoon telling me that he was having pinching sensations in his lower arm and that he couldn’t feel his hands. (But somehow, miraculously, he managed to play Xbox in between bouts of research on the Internet). WebMD informed him that he may have diabetes, tumors, alcoholism, liver disease, carpal tunnel, and HIV. I had to set up an appointment with his doctor that week. He had none of the above.

Not too long ago, Max told me, “Do you know that you will eat seven spiders in your sleep in your lifetime?” I asked him, “Where did you get this information?” He said, “Internet.” I said, “Max, that’s not always reliable information.” “Yes, it is, Mom. I Googled it.” “Okay, well, what were your search terms?” I asked him. He said, “I put in ‘fun facts.'” I said, “Really? Seven spiders in my lifetime and that’s a fun fact?” He said, “I think you need to reconsider your idea of fun.” Touché, Max. Touché.

So, my job as mom is to ensure that no one swarms the moat and enters the castle at night (the dogs aid in this).  I provide liquids and solids for sustenance. I give out cash as requested and as available. And I make sure that the WiFi doesn’t go down, so my kids can research how to survive in this wilderness.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Let’s be real. As adults, we read our social media and react to the BS that is posted there without even doing any research or fact checking. But when it comes to our kids, all we do is lock in parental controls to make sure they don’t hear swear words or see naked people. Well. I’m sure that horse left the barn. Your kids already know the “F”-word. “FALSE.”

The only parental control you need is this: Answer their questions. Remember, you were there once. Be for them what you wanted for you, when you were a child. When you begin from love, there is no wrong. There is only the chance to raise your child, and yourself, up, up, up. What is the worst thing that can happen? You may have to re-set the WiFi. Or learn the metric system. Either way, who fucking cares. You can look up the directions on the Internet.

Namaste, okay?

NamasteIt’s true that you lose weight after a divorce. Not just the weight of another person in your life. During the stress and loss of a divorce, you drop pounds. I dropped about 15 pounds. And then you wake up and start eating again. Which I did. And I was not going to go gain that weight back again, because I had been heavy and miserable before. I am not someone who is curvy and bodacious. I do not carry weight well, not like Marilyn Monroe or the many beautiful curvy women I see every day. I carry weight like it’s a jail sentence. Life without the possibility of parole. Too many years of being plagued by social dysfunction and insecurity. It’s my albatross – my self-esteem issue. I have been heavy and I have been thin and I have been every place in between. And I fucking judged myself every step of the way.

But yoga took that away. In January of 2017, I was done. I was done trying to figure out relationships. I was done trying to pay for a gym membership. I was done with the hours of running and cycling and the 6:00 a.m. work out classes. I was just done. So I made a commitment to myself to do 31 days in a row of yoga. How hard could it be? And so I began doing yoga every day. And I have practiced yoga every damn day since then.

It sounds so middle aged mom hippie chick post-divorce. To say, I practice yoga every day. But here’s the thing. I have a fast-paced career. I have sons that I am trying to raise as good men. I have a mortgage and bills and pets that keep doing shit that requires emergency pet visits. I am learning how to be in a relationship and not fuck it up. And all of that requires breathing. And no one ever teaches you how to breathe. You get shoved out into this jet stream of life and no one says, “You know what, dude? You have to breathe in as well as out. And you also need to take time to just breathe, alone, and to focus on that breathing. Because one day, that breath will stop and all you will have done is basically hyperventilate your way through the shit.”

I didn’t want that anymore. Yoga saved my life. Because of yoga, I kept off the 15 pounds. Because of yoga, I remembered how to breathe. Because of yoga, I can test my limits daily but I don’t have to do it in front of a room full of people. It’s my own challenge. And every damn day, I meet my challenge.

It doesn’t have to be yoga. It can be planting a garden. It can be playing the guitar. It can be prayer. It can be writing a book. It can be learning a language. Whatever it is, if it lets you take some time for yourself to breathe, if that takes you out of judging yourself for some extra pounds, some bills to pay, some relationship issues that you don’t quite know how to fix, then please. Do it. No one else can give you what you can give yourself.

Namaste. My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the whole universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.

White Dog

Me and KimbaWhen the Wasband and I got married, we had two dogs. One was a Rottweiler-Chow mix and the other was a Husky. We also had two cats. When we moved from Colorado to California, it was in an R.V. with the two boys, the two cats, and the two dogs. I have never stepped foot in an R.V. since. It was three days in an R.V. with my entire family and most of what we owned. I felt I had been tricked into camping. And I do not camp. That’s another chapter of my life. This chapter is about my white dog Kimba.

The two dogs and the two cats that we moved to California with all lived long pet lives but of course, eventually died. The kids were sad but were young and now, they don’t recall much about that first set of pets. We eventually ended up with three more dogs and another cat. Kimba, a huge white mix; Atticus, an Australian Shepherd; Tommy, a Bichon; and Veronica the cat. Along the way there were also assorted hamsters, rats, and amphibians. When Max was in third grade, he wanted a hamster and promised if he could keep it in his room, he would take care of it. He got Lightening the Hamster. He had her for over a year before she died.

We buried Lightening in the back yard in a Tupperware container, in his garden, between the snapdragons and the beets. Max was distraught. He laid on top of her grave until it was dark, crying. He asked me, “Mom, when we move, can we dig her up and take her with us? I don’t want to leave her.” I said, “Honey, I don’t think we are ever going to move.” Besides Lightening, we’ve buried two rats, two extra-large goldfish, and another hamster. Not a great selling point that I have a pet cemetery in my backyard.

When the Wasband and I divorced, as I have already mentioned, I ended up with the house and all the (living) pets, per the settlement agreement. It took my breath away, trying to make ends meet and support it all. Every morning three dogs clattered down the stairs with me. While my coffee brewed, I filled water bowls and food bowls. I cleaned up the backyard in my yoga pants and DU t-shirt. I cried. It seems like I cried for two solid years, every morning. Then I would make my coffee and stop crying because it was time to get ready for work. My girl, my big white mutt Kimba, would follow me, every step I took. She would lie outside the bathroom door while I showered and got ready.

She would lie in front of the closet door while I selected an outfit for the day and carefully stepped over her to avoid getting fur on my clothing. She would follow me back downstairs and I’d give her a last peck on the head before I left. “I love you, old girl,” I would say. “Wumpf,” she’d reply, and arrange her old, tired bones in front of the back door.

I knew she was getting old. It was harder and harder for her to climb the stairs. She had various infections and old lady dog issues. I would lie on the floor at night next to her and listen to her precarious breathing. And then one night, after a friend had been visiting, I went out into the backyard and she was lying in her favorite spot. And she had stopped breathing. My sweet old girl was gone.

And I had a 130-pound unresponsive white mutt in the middle of my yard at midnight on a Friday night. I called Shane. He came over after his job at the movie theater and helped me say the Mourner’s Kaddish over her, wrap her up in a sheet. We sat with her and cried. I said, “I need help moving her tomorrow. Can you help me?” He said, “Okay, call me and I’ll come back if you need me.” And I was alone, with a giant dead white dog.

That night I sat with my big girl in my backyard. All I could think was, well, I can’t put her with the rest of the pets in the pet cemetery. And I don’t want the neighbors wondering what I’m burying now. I have to figure this out. I never thought I’d have to deal with a huge dead dog in my yard. On top of dealing with the fact that she had been my constant and loving best furry friend for the last 12 years, I had to figure out what to do with her body. I had no master plan for that.

The next day, I found out that a local vet hospital would take her body and help me with a cremation service. But I had to get her there. I rolled my wheelbarrow into the backyard and tried to push her into it by myself. It wasn’t happening. I ended up on the ground next to the wheelbarrow, sobbing. I called Shane. He said, “Mom, can’t the vet come over and help you?” I said, “Shane, it’s Saturday. Vets don’t make house calls. And I can’t lift her by myself.” He came over, and brought Max.

They helped me pick up their dog and put her into the wheelbarrow. We wheeled her around to the front of the house and loaded her into the truck of my car. Then my boys crawled into the trunk of the car with our sweet gone girl and cried and said goodbye to her. And then I closed the trunk and drove my dog to the 24-hour vet service. The entire time I was thinking, this will be the day that I get fucking rear ended. And my trunk will pop open and I have this huge dog wrapped in sheets in there. Like the fucking dog Mafia.

I finally made it to the parking lot of the vet service, I walked into the lobby and told the girl at the counter that I was there to deliver my deceased dog and I burst into tears. She took all my information down. She asked me, “Do you want your dog cremated separately or can she be cremated with other animals?” I felt like saying, “I’M FREAKING JEWISH,” but then I realized I was getting my dog cremated so I was basically a hypocrite. And I said, “Separate, please.” She told me to go and wait in the parking lot and there would be some helpers to come and get Kimba’s body. And then she got on the loudspeaker and said, “Need assistance for deceased dog in the front parking lot.” Great. I was a deceased dog owner in the parking lot.

I waited by my car and two young girls came out with a gurney. We extricated Kimba from the trunk of my car and I took her collar and said goodbye to her. I went back into the lobby. The young girl who had been helping me came back and gave me a brochure about urns and told me it would be $167.00. I gave her my credit card and she told me they would call me when Kimba’s ashes were back. And I left my girl and came home.

And it occurred to me that for $167.00, my kids could put me in a dog suit and take me to the 24-hour vet and dispense with some expensive burial costs. I don’t know that it would be entirely legal. But it would sure be expeditious. Just a thought. I mean, I don’t really care what happens to my body after I am gone. I know that I needed something back when my dog died, a box with her ashes and bones. How different would it be for my kids to have a small box with my ashes and bones in it? Except it would be weird for them to have it on their mantle with a little plaque that said, “Mom.” They would probably be judged for that. Better to have them put me in a coffee can and dump my ashes into the Pacific Ocean, that’s Plan A.

The Sunday after Kimba died, I took my car and traded it in. There were other reasons but to be honest, I couldn’t deal with having the car that I had driven my poor sweet dead dog around town in. When I got the trade in value for the car one of the items noted was, “Pet smell.” I refrained from telling the salesperson that for about two hours, I had been a dog coroner.

Pet smell. That smell was my girl’s soft white belly that I cried into night after night, when she took her place at the foot of my bed. That smell was there when my sons came home and collapsed onto her, hugging her neck. That smell was the companionship of years of unfailing, unwavering, nonjudgmental, pure love.

Her vet used to say to me, “I’m not sure if she is a complete mutt or maybe some rare purebred dog.” I never knew what kind of dog she was. I just called her a white dog. She was my white lion. I still wake up and look for her at the foot of my bed, keeping me safe from my own nightmares. She stayed with me long enough for me to survive the aftermath, the divorce, the hardest part of learning to be alone. And for that, I will always be grateful to my old white dog.

Lessons of Old Dogs

Old dogs do not worry that
Their fur is graying
That their walk is slowing.
Old dogs await the noise
Of your key in the door-lock.
They do not care that the evening mile
Has become once around the block.

Old dogs are not afraid
To fall or fail
To be tired or sad.
Old dogs are not afraid of love.
Old dogs are not afraid of death.
Dog years do not allow for such fears,
only human years do.
And so we are given old dogs.

Maybe All You Really Do Need Is Love

Shane graduation hatThere’s this great myth out there that once you have a baby and hold him (or her) in your arms, you become part of this amazing tribe of mothers and you are vested with this knowledge of How to Be a Mom. That’s total bullshit. The reality is that we spend more time Google searching our fuck ups than being okay with them. That’s a lot of time spent trying to figure out what is wrong with us than just being where we are. Sounds sorta Buddhist karma yoga mama but that’s who I am now. Allow me to explain, if I can.

My oldest couldn’t sleep for the first five years of his life. I was so tired and frustrated. Sometimes I cried with him. Sometimes I put him in bed with me and put on a movie and passed out while he wavered between awake and asleep, watching “Pretty in Pink,” and “The Breakfast Club,” in his onesie. I just held onto that damn kid and I kept going. That’s all there is to motherhood, basically. You cry and hang on.

And then one day, you’re walking downstairs by his bedroom and you hear that he’s watching “The Breakfast Club” and you realize that he has the entire movie memorized. And you hear him say, “We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms. The most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”

For Shane’s senior year, that was what I chose for his yearbook dedication. It was for the kid who never slept, the kid who was my constant companion on long lonely nights when his dad was working graveyards, the kid I was sure I fucked up, the kid who reminds me why I’m here every damn day. That kid  – that young man – is my soul.

My Shane is an adult now, a college student. He gets himself to bed and he gets himself up for school and work. But for those long first sleepless years of Shane, when I would talk to him and rock him and feed him and let him crawl into bed with me, every parenting book informed me he needed to be in his own bed, cried out, and weaned. I didn’t do it. Most mornings, when I check on him before I leave the house, he’s usually asleep, with his cat curled up next to him and our dog Atticus in front of his bedroom door. He seems to be okay.

I have days that I suck at being a mom. I get mad, I say the wrong thing. Or I don’t discipline my kids enough, I give my kids too much. I am convinced that I do a lot of it wrong. But no matter how much have I screwed up on the procedure, my kids have gotten the substance.

Maybe, just maybe, love can fix all that you think you did wrong in the eyes of everyone else. Maybe, just maybe, all you really do need is love.

The Aftermath

Art with MaxI think “aftermath” is such an odd word. It sounds like it should be a fun party after you take a math test. Alternatively, the space where you suffer after a math test, where you know that you had no fucking idea what you were being asked so you spewed a rainbow of quadratic equations onto a page and hoped it was enough. Despite my fear of numbers, I am fascinated by mathematics. And physics. What makes things move? How do they move? What moves them? Do the laws of physics apply to love?

When Max was around two years old, he developed this odd tick. He would roll his eyes and twitch his head. And, around that same time I was trying to potty-train him. I tried everything. Finally, because the twitch kept getting worse, I took him to his doctor, who set us up with a visit to a neurologist. We went to the neurologist, who put leads on his head and attached them to a machine. He was scared. She told me, “You can lie down with him, but we need to have him rest here for a couple hours while we measure his brain waves.” I laid down there on the cold examination table, holding my baby, who had wires attached to his head. I kept telling him it was okay and we would be done soon and we could go home. And he turned to me and he said, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I promise, I will go potty in the toilet.” And that was it for me. I pulled the wires off his head, I picked up my kid, and I left. The neurologist followed me out and said, “We aren’t done with the testing!” I turned and said, “Fuck the testing. We’re done.”

And then we figured it out. And we got it fixed, with a simple note from a teacher and a test. Max has ADD. Just like me. Both of us are much better now. Thank you, modern medicine and generic pharmaceuticals.

My then-fat Max, my sweet constant companion, lost his weight, and found his confidence. I selfishly miss my fat Max because that was our time. When I studied for the bar exam, he was my study buddy. Max used to lie on the floor next to my desk while I studied for the dreaded California Bar exam. He learned all the torts, the crimes, the rules, the exceptions. He once said to me, said, “Mom, so a pair of double-A’s went to court. What was the crime they committed?” (Long stage pause.) “Battery!” I said, “Max, I can’t write that on the bar exam!” He said, “Sure you can, just put it on the side somewhere. You’ll get extra credit.”

Another evening after studying for hours, I told my ever-present Max, “Okay, I need to go take a shower so I am clean and ready for work in the morning.” He said, “Yeah, because if you couldn’t get into the shower and you just had to throw on whatever clothes were there and you looked all crappy, after a while you would be so stinky that your boss would call you in. And your boss would say, ‘I am sorry, but you are so stinky and you look so bad that I just have to fire you.’ And you know what, Mom? You wouldn’t be able to fight it. Because under the Constitution you can still get fired for being stinky.”

I didn’t pass the California bar exam the first time. No one was more devastated by that failure than my Max, who had studied so hard with me. But I passed it the second time. And, as I hoped, my son Max’s life has gotten incrementally better because of that choice I made, to step into a career that I postponed for so many years, to take a chance, to fail , and to succeed hugely, so that my sons would see that you must always, always, persevere. So in the end, the aftermath is really about surviving the odds.

Max told me about a year ago, “Mom, the reason why I work so hard and I am not accepting less for my grades and on my projects is because you showed me that you have to get back up and keep fighting. You didn’t give up. You fought back and you took that bar exam until you passed.” So maybe the aftermath is really about not giving up when you’re stuck and sad. So here’s to me and Max, for making it to the aftermath. It was fucking hard. It still is. But it’s so much better than the beforemath.

Love is a Verb

It’s early on a rainy Sunday morning in Sonoma County. I’m sitting at my kitchen table, slightly hungover, and well into my second cup of coffee.  I’m also well into my second year of being divorced from Shane and Max’s dad. Which explains the hangover. The kids travel between our respective homes on alternate weeks; the switch happens on Sunday nights. They come to my house tonight. Initially, we tried a 2-2-5-5 schedule, where they were at one house two nights, went to the other house two nights, then switched weekends.

Then Max said, “I don’t want to keep carrying my Algebra book back and forth during the week. This has to stop.” I asked Shane, “What do you want to do?” Shane said, “It doesn’t matter to me.” As it usually happens with things involving the kids, we did what Max wanted. We changed it to alternate weeks. Sunday nights after they leave are still so hard. The house is like a gaping hole where a tooth used to be. Yes, I know, a horrible metaphor. But you know how you meet someone who is missing a tooth and you can’t stop staring at the empty space? That’s how it is. All you can see is empty space when your babies leave.

I probably should have known my marriage was weakening and falling in on itself years before we divorced. There’s an entire industry built around falling-in-on-itself marriages that is designed to make you feel like your impossibility of a marriage is possible. Marriage counselors. I am sure that out there somewhere there are marriages that are saved by marriage counselors. I read dozens of books by marriage counselors. We attended, over the course of our marriage, hundreds of therapy sessions with different marriage counselors. But the fact is, I held on because I just didn’t want to be a divorced mom. Even after it was blatantly obvious that the marriage was not happening any more, I kept trying.  Okay, well no, not really. Here’s the thing. If you are going to marriage counseling and you use the shit you learn in marriage counseling to torture each other – then you shouldn’t be married any more.

I was out in my backyard once and I found a dead rat lying under the apple tree. I didn’t want to dispose of it and I didn’t want to leave it lying there for the dogs to get at it. I picked up a stick and I kept poking it, in case it wasn’t really dead, and it might get up and run away. But it was, really, dead. And I had to get rid of it. That was my marriage. I kept poking the dead rat with a stick.

After the divorce was final, I took the kids, during their first spring break, to Santa Cruz for a short vacation. They were walking ahead of me down a path towards the beach, earbuds in, listening to music stored on their cellphones.  I had a horrible mom moment, I thought that I had forced my kids into a situation where they were never able to just be at home, in one place, ever again. They would always have to travel back and forth between two homes. I sucked.

When we got to the beach, I turned to them and I said, “Boys, I just want to tell you that I’m really sorry about the divorce.” Max said to me, “We’re not sorry, Mom.” Shane said, “No, we’re not, Mom. This is better for you. And us.” And that was that. I had done the right thing. I didn’t need to keep poking it with a stick.

In a few hours, I’ll send out my usual Sunday afternoon text to my kids. They each get the same one. “What do you want from the grocery store?”  The responses vary. Shane a few weeks back: “granola cereal granola pineapple almond milk.” I texted back: “Aren’t granola cereal and granola the same thing?” Shane: “No.” Me: “It’s just granola semantics.” Shane: “No not really.” Me: “It is. But I’ll get your granola and your granola.” Shane: “Thank you.” Max’s list is usually the same: “bananas Twix bars Kit Kat bars chicken strips.”

It’s a few days after Thanksgiving; I didn’t have my sons this year as we alternate holidays. I was not thinking about the holiday, I was working and not focused and then I had no plans. So I spent the day alone. I didn’t know what else to do, so I made an entire Thanksgiving dinner. A turkey breast instead of an entire turkey, but still – two pounds of turkey. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, gravy. Shit. I have a ton of leftovers. Tonight’s dinner will be leftover turkey jambalaya. The Wasband texted me: “I’m sending over turkey soup for you and the boys this week.” I text back: “Thank you.” He responds: “Don’t thank me yet. You haven’t tasted it.” Me: “Why? Did you poison it?” Wasband: “Maybe. Have one of the kids taste it first.” Me: “I’ll have the little dog taste it first. The one that shits in the house.”

The little dog is the one that the Wasband got for Max, one day a couple of years ago, back in the days when we were still giving our marriage CPR.  We already had two dogs. I now have all three fucking dogs and they are written into the Marital Settlement Agreement. One of my family law attorney friends told me, “Usually dogs aren’t put in an MSA. One party or the other gets the dogs and takes care of them.” I said, “Fuck that. I have to take all three dogs and the house. He has to pay for half of their vet bills.” Of course, I don’t ask for half of the money anymore. Here’s why. Those fucking dogs have ended up being my constant companions. They lay on the bathroom floor with me while I cried every night for the first horrible six months. They allowed me to bury my face in their fur or to hug them too tightly when I was certain I would never have anyone else to hold, ever again. I owe those damn dogs my life. Even the little one who shits in the house. I’d drink poison soup for him. Fucker.

So in the post-Thanksgiving apocalypse of 2016, I realize that I have a lot of baggage but I’m pretty sure so does everyone else. I thought for a while I was getting tougher but I’ve just gotten better at saying what I fucking think and what I fucking want. And I swear a lot more these days but really, sometimes just saying “darn it” doesn’t get the point across. I don’t have as much time to love and work as I did when I said “I do” in 1997 but I am sure as hell going to make the most of the time I have left. I’m going to say “I do” to being alive, not to being part of someone else’s destiny or career and not to being the other half to someone else’s whole. Because I’m not a fucking half.

Love is not a noun. Love is not the person you are looking for to make you happy or a house that you can buy or a favorite food or a nice car. Love is work. Love is expressing and being passionate and making mistakes and saying sorry and being courageous and stepping into the flow and owning every fucking minute of your life. In my small, damaged-but-healing world, love is a verb.