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He walked out at 7:00 a.m. yesterday.  He looked worn, tired, angry, and so disgusted.  As he shoved the last few things in his truck, he didn’t even really look back.  He just got in the vehicle, turned on the motor, and drove off.  Never mind that he left most of his clothing here and all of his precious books.  I haven’t heard a word from him.  Not a text.  Not an email.  Not a phone call.

Part of me is crushed.  How could someone spend two years of their life with me and then walk away like that without a second glance?  And then, to leave all of his belongings?  He must have been so miserable for so long and yet he hid it.  The question I keep returning to is, “Why?”  The unanswerable, why.  Was he so desperate that he stayed here and “put up” with us because he had nowhere else to go? Did he feel about me the way I felt about my last ex?  Like I just couldn’t take it any more or I’d go crazy or maybe even do myself in?  The other part of me thinks, “Wow.  I can’t be rid of someone like this fast enough.”

It is a beautiful, warm, peaceful late summer evening.  My urban garden  is flourishing.  I’ve packed up his belongings and placed them in a corner of the garage.  Yes, even the things I would like to keep…like the books.  I’ve changed the locks, changed the code to the storage unit, and removed him from all of whatever accounts he was on that I was paying for.  I’m stuck paying his bills for this month…but next month should be easier.  Tonight, we grilled  hamburgers,  my son and I, and my daughter and her friend sat at the kitchen counter eating their foot long sub sandwiches, and we just chatted, freely, easily, without contention.  Something that hasn’t happened for a very long time around here.  It was peaceful.  Later, my daughter left to go to the theater with her friend and I watched Napoleon Dynamite with my son.  It was the most relaxed evening we’ve had in, what, two years?  There was no grumbling about the minuscule crumbs left in the sink, no complaining about how poorly the dishwasher was loaded.  There was no guilt about the fact that we were relaxing instead of cleaning our already spotless place.  It was truly a peaceful, lazy, golden summer evening.  And…for all of that…I am deeply relieved and grateful.  I believe I may have, as they say, dodged a bullet, somehow.

And yet, in the background of my mind and my life, the questions seep through.  Why hasn’t he contacted me even to make arrangements for his things?  What is going on? Where is he sleeping at night?  Is he okay?  Is he really relocating to be closer to his ex and the kids?  How long was he so unhappy?  How long was he hiding, lying, keeping secrets?  What went wrong?  How could I have seen this coming?  How on earth could I have avoided it?  And then, the recriminating accusations that always surface, “What a fool you have been…AGAIN. You are such a relational loser.  When will you ever learn?  You are just no good at relationship.”

And this is when my strength fails.

I tried like anything to learn from the mistakes of my past.

I tried like anything to put 100% into this.

I tried to the best of my ability to give and to love.

And, for what?

Again, I’ve failed.

In times past I could point to mistakes I’d made.  Things I did that created stress, strain, tension in the relationship.  I could point to ways I was too controlling, ways I over-reacted.  This is not to say I was the only one to blame for the demise of the relationship, but I could, in these past situations, at least see areas that I probably didn’t handle so well.  Areas, that I could improve upon next time.  Things I could point to that contributed to furthering the misery instead of alleviating it.  With the Non-Boyfriend, I’m simply at a loss as to what went wrong, why it went wrong and what part I had in it.  I have nothing I can point to that I screwed up (other than that I gave way too much with far too little in return).  Maybe that is completely the problem.  Maybe I did give too much, invested too much, without adequate commitment up front from him to begin with.  Maybe that set the precedent for everything that followed.  It’s possible then, that when I finally got tired of the giving with no return on my investment, he just created a situation he knew I would not tolerate, and freed himself.  I just do not know and the wondering is going to drive me crazy.

I’ve dated a few men since I left the Evil Ex.

I’ve had a few “relationships”, none of them lasting this long.  All of them, the men ditched (or I did) as soon as we were uncomfortable. We didn’t just hang on.  Now, I’m not thrilled with how some of those men chose to exit the scene, but I have to hand it to them, they did exit the scene as soon as they knew it wasn’t a fit.  They didn’t hang on for two years, then bolt.

I may go to my grave wondering what happened here.

It’s going to be difficult to stifle my own accusatory tendencies that want to make me the culprit for whatever it was that transpired here.  I’m going to have to fight the tendency to blame myself for what went wrong.  I’m going to have to continue to listen to those good, and decent, and objective (I hope) people in my life that tell me, sometimes shit just happens and you can’t see it coming and you can’t necessarily avoid it.  My friends would tell me, “Well, maybe you didn’t do everything perfectly, but that’s just no excuse for someone living on your dole, while actively planning to leave you and tell you about it after the fact. That’s simply not honest.”

So, I swirl in the post-breakup emotions of despair, hopelessness, and wondering what the hell I did wrong all the while feeling like somehow I’ve been gifted a pass out of a horrendous nightmare that could have transpired had we stayed together.  It is the epitome of mixed emotions…and I hate it.

I miss what I thought we had.

I miss him when he was at his best.

I don’t miss his unhappiness, his negativity and the stress I’m now realizing he brought into our home, because he somehow just didn’t think we were good enough, or clean enough, or whatever enough.  (I personally think those are excuses.  He was miserable, for whatever reason, and he just needed to get out.  He created an out and went for it without looking back.  Maybe that’s just my rationale designed to comfort myself about this crazy situation, but, maybe there’s some validity to it. He had everything going for himself here, and he tubed it.)  I don’t miss a lot of things that he brought to the table that I didn’t like, but which I overlooked because he brought other strengths to the table.

I can spin around in this place forever, wondering what happened and why it happened.  I may never know the answer to those questions.  It’s possible I don’t really want to know the answer to those questions.

At some point, I’m just going to have to let all the questions go…unanswered…if need be…and move on.

In the meantime, the comfort of friends is a most welcome thing.

An Open Letter To The Guy Who Spilled Ketchup On Me

I was sitting there, in the Dairy Queen, waiting for my daughter and her friend to come back from the bathroom.  I felt a cold wet sensation on my side, my back, my arm, my thigh.  I thought for sure that my daughter and her friend were playing pranks and throwing ice.

I turned to look at the offended locations on my body.  Instead of ice, I saw, ketchup.

Disbelieving, I looked up to see you looking my way just as dumbfounded.  As if you, in your wildest imagination, could not believe that you had dropped the ketchup, let alone that it landed all over me.

You were obviously embarrassed.

You fumbled.  Desperately seeking to right a wrong that somehow strangely couldn’t be righted.  You handed me all your napkins and there were many.  You went to get water for me to use to wipe the red stuff off my attire. You were worried that you had damaged my fine attire.  Never mind that I was wearing a discount skirt purchased from Ross Dress-For-Less and my bike shoes.  Okay, the bike shoes were somewhat expensive, but you wiped them clean.

I, in return, was so shocked that I did not, I’m afraid, respond well at all.

You see, when I felt the cold liquid on my body and through my clothing, I was really certain, the girls were playing games.  They’d been a bit silly all day and after a meal laden with carbs and chased by sugar in the form of soft serve ice cream cones, I was certain, they’d grabbed ice from the ice machine and were tossing it at me…for pranks.

My shock, Mr. Ketchup Guy, was not because I had ketchup on me, as much as it was because I did not have water or ice on me.  I was stunned…but not for the reasons you supposed.

You hurriedly helped me clean up, then disappeared to your table on the other side of the dining hall.  I walked by you on my way out, in shame, you didn’t even look up or glance my way.

Mr. Ketchup Guy, I owe you an apology.

You did not deserve my response today.  Never mind that my response was not what you thought.  I was not angry with you. I was not, though I’m certain I came off that way.  You did not deserve to leave that place thinking you had offended me or angered me or upset me.  You did not deserve to experience embarrassment.

I was just so completely stunned that my kids were not throwing ice at me, that it took me a bit to realize what was going on.  You handled everything so smoothly and so well and so quickly, I didn’t have the time to tell you.  Then, as I left the place, suspecting you still harbored some embarrassment about the entire episode, I failed to approach you and to thank you for the napkins and the water.

But it really wasn’t the napkins and the water that I’d have thanked you for.

It would have been for the courtesy, the chilvary, the emotion in the person that felt that spilling ketchup on a lady in a fast food restaurant was worth being addressed rather than ignored; that the incident was worthy of some embarrassment on your part.

Many would have acted like the incident never happened.

Thank you for not being one of the many.

Please accept my apologies for not letting you know how grateful I was for your response and for relieving any embarrassment you might have experienced as the result.  I was amiss to not assure you that I was fine and the clothing washable, yes, even the expensive bike shoes.

It was clear to me that you are a gentleman, while I did not behave like much of a lady.

Thank you for being part of an endangered species rarely seen these days.  I regret to think that I might have taken steps to hurry your kind closer to extinction.

Please forgive me.

Tucson Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Well, you know how this goes, don’t you? We complain because the weather isn’t warm enough. It’s June, by God, and still raining! Many in the Pacific Northwest are ready to pack up and move elsewhere where they might be guaranteed more than three days of sun this summer. I am not one of those people, though, I do live in the Pacific Northwest…but…just barely.

I, on the other hand, complain (well, I hope not too much and not in a negative way) about staying up late at night because of the rain. I don’t mind the rain, really. I don’t even mind staying up late at night, really, except that I know that it is not really the best thing to go without sleep. Especially for one, such as I am, who is attempting to recover from a brief (yes, six months was brief, I have friends who have lived to tell of battles lasting 13 years) skirmish with cancer. Please ladies, don’t skip the mammo’s. Anyway, they tell me that sleep is important when you are healing, so I suppose, it frustrates me when I cannot sleep for that reason.

But otherwise, being awake late at night is really the best time to blog.

I have no interruptions. I have no guilt about which people in my life I am neglecting as the result of my writing. It just kind of works.

But, the rain is gone, and now I have yet another reason to be awake. You probably saw this coming. Yep.

It’s heating up here in the Pacific Northwest and in my particular area, the air conditioning kicked on at 8:00 this morning. My bedroom, being upstairs with fully half of the entire wall (or more) glass and being the only room on the south-facing end of our home, gets a tad bit warm.

I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry. I have no idea why I was so hungry. I just was. I’m not prone to midnight snacking at all so the fact that I actually got up out of bed to get a bowl of Life cereal and eat it was pretty unusual. After eating as quietly as I could (the entire upstairs opens up to our living/dining/kitchen area in the form of a balcony and I didn’t want to wake anyone), I drug myself up the stairs. The house was deliciously cool and I was tempted to grab my black velour blanket from my bed and curl up on the couch downstairs. I walked into my room and it was like I’d entered Tucson in the middle of the summer. Wow! Outside my door, deliciously cool. Inside my bedroom door, Tucson summer. Something is wrong here.

Then I remembered about the glass windows which I usually don’t pull the shade down on, and the sun which beats in my bedroom all day long, and the fact that I’m upstairs and heat rises. I should have seen this coming.

I can fix all that for tomorrow night…but for now? Well, for now, I can just add one more thing to the list of things that keep me up all night.

Tucson summers right here in the Pacific Northwest.

P.S. I actually spent a summer in Tucson. That’s it, just a summer. From April to September the year my oldest daughter was four and a half months old. She’s turning 22 this year, so that was a while ago, and, yes, I am old…but not infirm by any means. Back then, we lived in an apartment complex and our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment rented for $250 a month. It was the only time during my then married life that I didn’t work and I stayed home with my child. Our complex was built around a swimming pool. It was the perfect arrangement. The worst part of the deal was packing the not-yet-walking child down the stairs with the laundry and the detergent to the laundry room to do the laundry. That was truly awkward. Since then, if/when I ever rented, I insisted on space for a washer/dryer in the unit. Other than that one little laundry thing, I truly loved Tucson in the summer.

Summer Rains and Insomnia

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Interesting weather we’re having here, isn’t it? While most of the country is burning up, my little corner of the world is experiencing a deluge that might become record-breaking. The water is pouring from the sky in monsoon-like torrents. The thing is, I live in a region not known to ever experience monsoons. We don’t have tornadoes either, so I’m hoping that’s not next on the weird weather agenda these days.

The rain is definitely good for us. Though my area is known to be a bit rainy at this time of the year, rains of this magnitude usually occur in January and are accompanied by colder weather and snow in the mountains. It’s raining like it is January, but it is 64 degrees out. And it’s the middle of the night.

I love summer rains. I love them even if they keep me up at night. I’m tempted to go brew a cup of coffee and sit out on my upper deck. Sitting in the rain soaked air with a cuppa joe at night, just listening to the rhythmic cadence of raindrops on roof, and on cedars sounds like a heavenly idea. Maybe if I took a blanket, I could fall asleep out there.

I won’t do it though. I’m certain to wake someone up. I don’t mind that I’m up at night. In fact, I’m becoming more and more accustomed to these late night rendezvous with my tiny iPhone screen, and the WordPress app. This does not mean others in my home would view wakefulness at this hour with the same charitable nature. So, out of consideration for them, and to save the neighbors from hearing the rest of the family yelling at me in the middle of the night, I’ll save the coffee-in-the-rain idea for a night when I am all alone.

The rain does sound so very nice…and far away…so does the rumbling thunder accompanying it.

Summer

It’s August.  The still midnight air hangs heavy like a thick comforter that won’t move, suffocating in its stillness.  The air conditioner is ineffective in my badly-in-need-of-updating 1970’s-style ranch home. You could say it’s a fixer-upper.  The windows, the single-pane aluminum type, gather condensation on the inside during the winter and do nothing to keep in the cool air during these sweltering hot nights.  Back in the days of the last marriage, a second-mortgage was taken out, the amount of which was originally intended to finance the much needed home improvements, however, the ex’s coercive tendencies along with my fear and intimidation of him, combined with my desire for a great deal less chaos than we had at the time, resulted in all that money going toward his custody battle.  It was a losing battle on all fronts.  Custody was not awarded, the resulting parenting plan divisive and chaos-inducing, and it ate up all the second-mortgage money; a total of nearly $30K.  The house remains a fixer upper,  just like my life.

I’m awake tonight, thinking of the summer nights four years ago, when I was homeless, having left my house and my ex under a civil protect police escort because the tension between the ex and I was at an all time high. I’d been advised by the officers to get out, since he wasn’t leaving (and he was much bigger than I). One officer said, “I’m concerned that if you don’t leave, this has all the makings of something tragic we will read about in tomorrow’s paper.”    In the 30 minutes I was allowed to gather the most important essentials, I cut cable wires, grabbed technology, clothing and only the essential toiletries.  Not one of my more glorious memories. In fact, when I have to define the word shame, that episode is one of the top five in my life that come to mind.  In times like that, you quickly learn how little stuff you really need in this life.

I ended up living in a small travel trailer in a trailer park borrowed from friends while I waited for the court hearing to see which of the two of us would end up with the house that I had purchased on my own, without him.  Tonight, I remember those nights.  In the trailer, with my daughter, then six, hardly a lock of any protective value on our flimsy trailer door, a hundred yards from the interstate with the incessant rumbling noise of semi’s barreling by.  There was little sleep to be had during those nights either.

I’m back in my own home now, but on the verge of leaving it again, this time, for good and by choice.  When and how, and where my final destination is, I don’t yet know.  These uncertainties occasionally keep me up at night.  When they don’t, they certainly gnaw at me all day long and re-surface in my dreams. When I was younger, I only had myself to worry about taking care of, and though I wasn’t always certain of the destination or the outcomes of my choices I didn’t have the ever-present concern for another human being’s physical survival and emotional well-being.  These things, these parental worries, nag at me all.the.time.  The worries always end with the final, culminating question: Will the children be all right?

So much has happened in the last four years.  On the surface I’ve gone from sleepless nights frightened behind flimsy travel trailer walls to sleepless nights behind sturdier, but deteriorating, stick-built walls. I’ve rebuilt a life after a very traumatic second marriage and subsequent divorce. My children and I are working on healing, a process which I will forever regret that they have to endure and for which we will all likely be healing from for the rest of our lives.  We’ve established routines and created a new way of being together.  It is a way that emphasizes honesty, respect and consistency.  This doesn’t mean things are always calm and quiet, but they are stable and they are much safer for us all. I have to say, “No, I can’t afford that,” much more often than I used to, but after four years, things are getting better…or they were until the latest recent developments on the job front and with the second ex transpired.  The thoughts traveling through my consciousness vary greatly from details of how I will make ends meet with these new colossal expenses looming on the horizon, to knowing deep down, that somehow we will survive because we always have.

Among the thoughts of financial worries, dealing with the fallout of divorces, job stresses and the well-being of all my children swirls the heat, the deep silence of the heavy night punctuated by the yowling of neighborhood tomcats, there is the knowledge that the bad times don’t last forever, the good times will return though they won’t last either.  This set of challenges must be faced and endure,and though it won’t be easy or fun, at some point in the future, I will be able to look back on these nights, the way I do on those trailer park nights and realize, “I made it through that.  It’s going to be okay.”

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