Sunday, March 26, 2017

What Will It Take To Make Me Happy?

My therapist asked me this question the other day:  

"What will it take to make you happy?"

It was a good question.  It's been two years since I made the decision to leave my marriage and left.  I've been back and forth to the house physically over those two years  but not to the marriage. Tough. Up and down. Still sad.  And uncertain about what my "new normal" looks like  but over all, across many aspects, I'm living happier and feeling so much better.  

Now I'm spending my time, energy and finances (for the most part) 
on myself  a new experience. Totally new. My truth is that most of my life I made myself somewhat indispensable (or at least valuable) by taking care of things for others.  By doing that I got the attention I needed; the attention that wasn't available at home.  Good behavior got me attention (since second grade).  But that automatic-robo focus on the external (It's-all-his-fault) and lack of focus on my internal (What's my part in this?) in part created the unhappiness I found myself living in.  

From young adulthood on, my driven, commanding (ever-worried) behavior
 got me great jobs, made me great friends, paid our way (partially) through life (along with my persistent frugality).  But it wasn't all beneficial. Not for me or my relationships.  I trusted next to nothing.  If I wasn't hyper-vigilant, something bad was going to happen.  And a married a guy who virtually never worried (way before I came along) and thought about it even less after we married because mastermind-me was always on the job.  It was a vicious cycle.

We're both free of that now.  It's a better, easier, happier life
  but it came at a price. And now, moving forward means leaving behind the only male partner I've had for 36 years.  It doesn't come easy!  Hard to turn off the motor in my mind that still looks for the clothes I think he needs (in thrift stores, of course) or still wants to pass along info I think he could use, or still thinks about feeding him the leftovers I know he'd enjoy having.  But that coupled life is no longer my reality.  My reality is grieving the loss of the marriage and grieving the loss of couple-dom, and I need to sit with that.  Something I don't find easy to do.

My daughter is going through a break-up and she's decided to write about it, which is SO healthy.   And it reminded me how I've shirked writing about my own transition.  From where I sit, it seems too hard to categorize or define or even know what my life is day to day.  How to write about that?  

What's on the table for me right now is so uncertain, so nebulous, that I scarce wanna write about it  but writing about it is what helps.  At least for me.  And I'd guess for our daughter, too. [FYI, that was just a place of transition for me, choosing to write "our" instead of "my" daughter.]  Anyway, none of this territory is known to me.  

I make choices every day and only as they benefit me.  I don't really need to consider anyone else  or if I do, it's because I CHOOSE to.  It's such a relief  such a gift to just focus on what I want and not need to take anything else into consideration.  Amazingly freeing.

And yet I've had two health scares recently (urgent care/ER) and at least one will require surgery pretty immediately and being on your own makes you feel really vulnerable. All the progress you've made on feeling strong and being able to exist solo, fritters away when you're in the ER and someone is asking, "Emergency contact?"

It's hard to write about this stuff, this transition.  It's always shifting to me.  But writing about it (along with time spent in therapy) forces me to examine it and that helps me learn from it.  I've examined a lot in my life and in real depth  but not examined myself.  I haven't been in help-myself mode in, well, forever.  At least that's how it feels.  It's a frightening business  but it's a must.

One of these days, I'll get into a writing routine again; find some "new normal", but it's not right now.  

Bear with me it may take time, but I'm gonna figure out how to truly make myself happy. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dear President Trump

This is my postcard on this Ides of Trump...

Dear President Trump,

First let me say, I did not vote for you.  Being from the Northeast I certainly knew of you, may have respected your business acumen in real estate, certainly gave nod to your ability to stay pretty near the top of some game as the decades passed; acknowledged that you're a Survivor. You're a contestant who eventually becomes the host of the show.  

Your congressional speech was aspirational; as those speeches are.  And yes, it didn't offer any details on how you would pay for your vision of what you want your Presidency to achieve, but neither do any of those speeches.  And while I realize it was only words, I was glad to see that you could restrain your tendencies.         At least once.

As a former teacher and an always-educator, my message to you is I'd like to remind you that you are the role model for millions of individuals who look up to and hold their President in esteem. You and your words, actions, and behaviors, impact millions  especially those citizens who aren't yet voters  our young people.

I say this because many, many years back, when I was giving a workshop on academic integrity with the eighth-grade class at a private, elite academy, one of the students justified his choice of actions by saying, "Well if the President can lie, why can't I?"  I was dumbfounded.  Not just at what this student said and believed, but at the fact that not one other adult in the room chose to tackle the ethical issues raised by that response.  

I bring this story up because it was in reference to then-President Clinton. Despite the fact that I am in disbelief at much of what you are doing, that is your right to do.  This is a democracy, flaws and all; it is what we've got, what has worked, what is often envied, and what people fight for.  Democracy will work its way through this the way it always has.  It lies in the words and actions of our elected officials and the populace.  While I'm waiting for democracy to work,  I can't abide by the lack of standard you are setting for our children.  Nor can I understand how those who support you can overlook the crassness and the lack of decency in your daily behavior.

Almost immediately after the inauguration of the Trump presidency, in two very different settings (one on an airplane and the other in a college campus paper) I heard examples of young people behaving in ways I found disturbing.  One was a reference to a student overhearing a few other students openly talking in a racist way while walking across their college campus.  The other way was a college professor headed back to his campus in another state, recounting that all of a sudden some students were balking at the partners they were being teamed with, etc.  To me that was appalling.  And like it or not, you, the President, gave them license to behave that way.

President Trump, here's what I'd ask: Isn't there a way for you to fulfill your new role, do the work you want to do but do it in a more positive, character-building way because it's what's best for all our children?  

I'm not asking you to stop tweeting, but does every day have to be a day that you disparage someone or some group?  Does every day have to be a day that you spout untruths?  Why not do your job without doing that?  I know it's not how you're used to behaving, but you're not in the real estate business NOW (well, at least you shouldn't be).

It's in no one else's control; what you say and do sets a standard for a portion of our populace.   I understand the focus on a bottom-line business approach and attention to more efficiency because we've gotten very top-heavy and incredibly sluggish about how our government runs.  I'm all in favor of improving THAT.  But I deplore how you are governing.  I rail at your lack of discipline and your choice to be uncivil and unwelcoming to those who most need the protection of the Presidency.  

I expect my President to be truthful and compassionate and just  that is what I wish and want and hope for, because it is what everyone who loves America deserves.  Other postcards will say much more, but today I'm focusing on the thing I believe you CAN change.

President Trump, we can disagree on just about everything else but can't we agree that all our children deserve to feel safe from the fear of being uprooted from their families?  Can't we agree that every student deserves to feel safe from harm, be it verbal or physical?  Can't we agree that making America great is making it strong AND kind AND inclusive?

I can.

I hope you can.