The Magic of A Snow Day — Vintage Blog!

This morning my son came running into my room and pulled open the curtains, eager to learn if today would be the day that the TV weatherman hinted at last night. A day that every child since the beginning of time lives for. A day known simply as A Snow Day.

But one glance outside, with the sun shining brightly, and Jake realized today would not be A Snow Day. He leaned heavily against the window and slid down the wall, sad and disappointed. He shook his head and said he didn’t want to go to school. I tried explaining that there would be more Snow Days ahead… I tried reminding him that we’d been lucky to have bonus Snow Days in the past. But he would not be cheered.

I kept silent then, knowing that now was not the time for “a teaching moment.” Instead, we walked downstairs together, his sadness nearly tangible, hanging in the air. And while disappointment is certainly a part of life, as a mother, it is hard not to feel your child’s pain, even over the smallest bumps in the road.

As Jake sat down to a bite of breakfast, I opened the pantry door and the first thing I saw was a big bag of mini-marshmallows. And I had an idea.

While he wasn’t looking, I began throwing the mini-marshmallows at Jake, one at a time. He looked at me, astonished, but not entirely surprised by my silliness. I told him to open his mouth, and that I was going to try to toss in as many marshmallows as I could before his carpool came to pick him up for school. As he started to grin, I said in my best fake-stern voice, “If you laugh, I’ll throw them two at a time. I mean it.”

Well, the laughing started immediately, and marshmallows were flying everywhere. Only about five out of 50 actually landed in his mouth, but it was a hilarious surprise each time one did. (And it was fun firing more at Jake’s face and hair as he held up a finger for me to wait while he chewed.)

By now the kitchen floor was covered in white mini-marshmallows, and the mood from the morning had lifted entirely. Jake even tried to toss a few marshmallows into my mouth, and made one in on the very first try, creating more peals of laughter from us both.

By the time we heard the carpool’s horn honk, we’d had a good five minutes of solid silliness. When he got up to go, we both looked at the floor and I said softly, “I guess it did snow after all.” And Jake smiled — his beautiful, dimpled smile that melted my heart.

Now he’s at school and I’m about to go to work, but I think the silliness will stay with us all day. As I start to sweep up the marshmallows, I smile and decide to leave them there for a while. Proof of the power we all have within us to make any day A Snow Day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Driving With My Son Is Scarier Than Natural Childbirth

I finally understand why my father smoked an entire pack of cigarettes each time he took my siblings or me on the road to practice driving.  I’m sure he tried to quit many times, but every two years one of us turned 15, and it would start all over again.

For me, driving with my son has just replaced natural childbirth as the scariest thing I have ever done. In fact, if the statute of limitations hasn’t expired on those delivery room drugs, maybe I can ask for them now.

It’s not that my son is a bad driver. On the contrary, he’s really good, especially for a new driver. He has an excellent combination of caution and confidence.  It’s just that having driven for 25 years, I know how distracted, disgruntled, delirious (and drunk) drivers can be.  And don’t get me started on the impact of smartphones – texting as well as talking.

No matter how responsible my freshly-minted teen driver is, he is still a newbie. He doesn’t understand the passive-aggressive behavior of a car edging its way into your lane. He doesn’t get that a bus always has the right of way, even when it’s practically bull-dozing your car onto the sidewalk.  (On the road, size does matter.) And with his oh-so- limited experience, he believes everyone is as hyper-focused behind the wheel as he is.  If only it were so. Heck, if only I were as focused as he is when I’m behind the wheel.

Which brings up another point: driving with my son is putting a big damper on my personal catch-up time.  I no longer talk while I’m driving or sneak a peek at my texts at a red light. I know that my son is paying closer attention than ever, and I take my new role-modeling very seriously. So mom and dad, I apologize in advance for missing our daily morning calls. I’ll call you when Jake turns 17.

For the first week after my son got his learner’s permit, I sat frozen in the front passenger seat (now I know why they call it “riding shotgun.”  It is tempting to want to shoot yourself.) With my feet braced against the floorboard, as if there were brakes on my side, too, I drove around with my son, thinking to myself, “Is my life insurance paid up? Do I have on clean underwear? Did I throw out all the sex toys?” All in a vain attempt to assure myself that if, God forbid, we got into an accident I would not embarrass anyone from my grave– including myself.

After the second week driving with my son, I lost my voice from the strain of providing a constant stream of directives. “Stay to the left. Come to a complete stop. Watch the car in front of you, he’s braking. He’s BRAKING! “

So naturally, I spent the fourth week trying to keep my mouth shut, as it became clear that my instructions were confusing to my son. (“You can go in front of this next car” seemed to translate to “Move over immediately. “ )

The learner’s permit has been a learning experience for me, too. For one thing, I learned that I am a gasper. When it appears that my son is not going to stop in time, I gasp. When it appears that my son is going to drift into the next lane, I gasp. It has come to my attention that my gasping itself may cause him to get into an accident. Therefore, I have learned to hold my breath instead of gasping. If I am lucky, perhaps I will pass out if danger really does occur.

I have learned that, when my son is driving, holding the handle that’s located above my head is a sign of disrespect.

“Mom, why do you keep grabbing that thing? You never grab it when anyone else is driving.”

“Oh, really? Well, I guess that’s because I’m usually the one driving. I’m not used to sitting here.”

“Well, it’s kind of disrespectful to me, Mom. You don’t do it when Sean drives.”  (Sean is my boyfriend who has been driving for more than 25 years. But okay. )

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t realize how you felt.” To myself I think, “Damn, grabbing that handle is the only thing keeping me from wetting myself.”

But I am trying to be supportive, so now I jam my elbow into my side whenever I feel the urge to grab the handle that the car manufacturers put there specifically to help Mothers survive the year of the Learning Permit. I think that it is actually called the “Oh, Shit Handle” in the owners’ manual.

And all of this was before he hit the highway.

Let me just say this about that: I never used to have bald spots where my eyebrows grow. I heard that pulling out your eyebrow lashes is a typical response to post-traumatic stress. I’m an overachiever; I do it in response to current-traumatic stress.

Suddenly, everywhere I look, there is a man-child driving his mother around in a minivan. How do I recognize her as a kindred spirit? Her lips are pursed tightly together. The fingers of her left hand are resting lightly against her lips to prevent any sound from escaping. Her right arm is in constant motion, reflexively reaching up for the handle and responsively pulling it back into her lap before her son sees. Her balding eyebrows are arched high above eyes that are wide-open in fear.

In the split second that our cars pass, I take all of this in. I never noticed it before … just how many learners are riding with their permitters.  And I think, “This is not the worst thing.”

The worst thing will be next year, when all the minivans are filled with empty shot-gun seats, our sons are driving alone, and we mothers are waiting with lumps in our throats for them to come home.

I hope I look good with no eyebrows at all.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

What to Wear for Valentine’s Day (Mother and Daughter!)

Happy Valentine's Day1

My sweet mother and I saw these adorable “love” shirts by I.N.C. at Macy’s yesterday, and we decided to buy them for each other and wear them at the same time! They have a little bit of “bling” (my mother always told me a little bit goes a long way!) including teeny-tiny crystal hearts on the bottom right side. And there’s a surprise on the back! My mother has always been my biggest cheerleader! She is inspiring, optimistic, and has always considered herself a very lucky person. (I inherited her optimism, and for that I am eternally grateful!)  My mother and father have been married and have loved each other 58 years (and counting!) and they raised my siblings and me to be kind and caring; to have a strong work ethic and that family comes first.  For all of this and more, this year my Valentine is my mother! (Plus, isn’t she so cute??!)

Leave a comment

February 4, 2012 · 12:00 pm

The Divorce Diva is In – Part I & II

The Divorce Diva is In – Part I
Now that I’m nearly eight years post-divorce, I thought I’d share my top tips for anyone new to this sometimes scary, often enlightening, frequently courageous transition.

In the Beginning

I met my future husband, Jon, in late summer. Four months later he asked me to marry him. By September we were married and had already been in couple’s therapy for eight months. Our problems were complex, but probably not all that unique. There was substance abuse involved, intimacy issues, and my need to try to control the fear. But even in those early years, we thought we would make it. Both of us truly believed we loved each other as much as a marriage would ever need. But after 13 years of marriage (and 14 years of therapy), Jon and I separated. Within two months, on his own accord, my husband checked himself into rehab. My son and I visited, attended meetings, supported his dad the best we knew how, and learned to live without him. It was the saddest time of my life, but I started to feel better than I had in years. Then, following a year of long talks, lots of tears, and trying to hold onto our marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce.

Does Anything Prepare You For Divorce?

People say nothing in marriage prepares you for a divorce. But I disagree. I think everything we worked on for more than a decade is what led us to finally be able to divorce, and to do it with grace. What I wasn’t prepared for was What Comes Next?  There are practical steps you need to take right away, and sometimes it’s difficult to be sensible versus emotional.

Money Talks

I didn’t know how to talk to a financial planner, or even how to talk about money with my ex. Jon had been in charge of our bills and insurance and savings and wills and even our burial plots. Now I had to determine if I could keep my house, if our son could stay at his school, and if my single incoming salary could support my outgoing expenses. I was supposed to itemize our son’s expenses, from daycare to Legos, and this was nearly impossible to get my head around when I kept looking at the tree in our backyard and remembering how much love and hope we’d had when Jon and I planted it years ago in honor of his grandfather. In fact, I could not bring myself to call the house – the home — that we had re-modeled, re-carpeted, re-painted, and re-planted, an “asset.”  But I took baby steps, and that is the most important tip I offer: no matter what you are delving into after your divorce, go slowly, even cautiously.

Who’s On Your Team?

I asked people I respected to recommend accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, mortgage lenders. Some of these turned out to be good matches for me. I hired a financial planning firm early on to help me budget, save for college, buy life insurance and revise my will, and this team is still with me today. My divorce lawyer, however, was a bad choice for me. I was not prepared to buy into his version of “wife versus husband.” I did not want to, as my lawyer suggested, “leverage everything the law would allow” because we were talking about the father of my child; a person I wanted to remain close to. My attorney viewed divorce as warfare, and that just wasn’t my philosophy. (If it’s yours, that’s fine – I’m not judging, it just wasn’t right for me. I can give you his number if you like.) If I had it to do over again, I would have fired my attorney and kept interviewing until I found someone who would handle the legal part of my divorce with the same care and character as Jon and I were handling the rest of it. Instead, I let myself be pushed around until I finally pushed back.

Now, you may want a lawyer who will fight for everything the law allows; you may be entitled to the highest level of child support; you may need a sizeable share of your ex’s 401K, stocks and salary in order to maintain your lifestyle or give your children what they’ll need in the coming years. You really do need to be smart about money; just make sure you engage an attorney whose goals match yours.

Tune in next week for The Divorce Diva Is In, Part II

 

The Divorce Diva is In, Part II

 

Thank God for Girlfriends and Family

Some things came much easier following my divorce. I found it a relief to be living authentically – no more pretending that everything was fine; no more struggles and resentment at home. I was able to talk with my girlfriends with a freedom and honesty that had been somewhat strained before. And they welcomed my stories and sobbing and even my loving support of Jon. Yes, they thought it was odd, but no one judged me or called me crazy – to my face, anyway.

How to tell my family was a little harder to figure out.  I am the only person who has ever gotten a divorce in the entire history of my genealogy. I didn’t think they’d understand. I thought they would tell me to try harder. But when I told my sisters and brothers and my mom and dad, I received unconditional love and emotional support. Well, to be perfectly honest, my dad was not happy. He wanted someone to blame, and it’s taken many years for me to convince him that there’s really no one to be mad at. He still thinks it’s weird to be friends with your ex. That’s okay; it is. But all in all, everyone dealt with our divorce with care and kindness, and extended that to Jon as well.

A Child’s View

How to tell our son became the overpowering question. Jon and I spoke for hours about the best way to tell him (together), the choice of words to use, where and when … and how to explain his “why?”  It’s worth spending a lot of time on this … after five years, my son still remembers the exact moment of the telling, the exact place he was sitting, his own perception of what we said, how we looked, how he felt. I wish I had a video camera to see how close to reality his version is! We also paid very close attention to see how our separation would affect his mood, his conversation, his schoolwork. We didn’t know if he needed a professional to talk to – hey, we’d been doing it for years! – so we took him for a session and learned that he was adjusting really well, but that he might feel the impact now and then, years from now, at different points in his life, and we should continue to check in with a therapist. We do.

The Evolution of Divorce

Like a marriage, a divorce evolves, too. It’s been five years, and What’s Next has turned into What’s Now. Jon is an involved, empathetic, loving parent, and a helpful and compassionate co-parent with me. And believe me, I’ve needed that during the teenage years! I am a strong presence and partner in Jon’s life, too. I believe I am a better person for knowing Jon, for having been married to him, and I feel honored to have created with him the kind of relationship we have … out of the divorce, a real friendship.

What I Know Now:   

…that divorce is not always a tragedy. It does not mean that your child will automatically have a more difficult life. Sometimes it is the best, healthiest path for a family to take, especially when the marriage itself is unhealthy.

…that love does not conquer all. It is powerful, but no one can change another person; they have to do that for themselves.

…that you can disagree with – and even fire – your lawyer if you are not on the same page philosophically. Interview several lawyers, and find one whose practice matches the way you want to proceed with your divorce.

…that the people who love you will support your decision with kindness.

…that anger, resentment and hurt suck the energy out of you. The sooner we let those emotions go the healthier and more vibrant we feel.

…that divorce is one of those rare opportunities to use the highest character traits God has given you — the power to really forgive your ex and yourself – and the compassion to accept your ex for who he is.

…that if you have children, it will be SO MUCH EASIER if you can have an amicable relationship with your ex, for schedules, carpools, expenses, adolescent issues, graduations, weddings, grandchildren… in some ways, it’s still forever. Let go of the blame. No one person is responsible for what has happened.

….that I had everything I needed to be a good mother and co-parent in a divorced situation.

…that happily-ever-after looks different than Disney. Create the life you want; it’s your story.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dating After Divorce: What Do You Get Your Boyfriend’s Mom?

Thank God Christmas is over! I had no idea it could be such a dangerous holiday. 

 

It all started the morning I was shopping for a gift for my boyfriend’s mom. And let’s stop right there. That term, “boyfriend.”  We really need to come up with a word that doesn’t make me feel as if I’m in high school, because while I may be in my prime, I’m decades past my prom. Yet, I have a boyfriend. And, well, that boyfriend has a mother. She’s really sweet and very smart, but because she lives out of town, I’m still just getting to know her, even after several years of dating her son.

 

I’ve only met her half a dozen times so I don’t know much about what she likes and doesn’t like, but I do know she’s really into shoes.  Every time I see her, she comments on my shoes—no matter what pair I am wearing.  And come to think of it, she talks about her own shoes fairly frequently, too.  But you just can’t get your boyfriend’s mother a pair of shoes.  In fact, you really can’t buy anyone but yourself a pair of shoes, unless they’re flip flops. And she is not the flip-flop-wearing kind of woman. At least, I don’t think so. 

 

Anyway, last year I gave her a beautiful picture frame with a picture of her son (my boyfriend) … and me. It was taken when we were on a hot air balloon ride. I thought about it later and wondered if this was really an appropriate gift. I mean, she loves her son and I’m sure she is happy to have a recent photo of him. But a picture of her son with his girlfriend? In retrospect, I worried that it might have been perceived as some sort of jab. Could she have thought it was an, “I’ve got him now” kind of taunt?  I mean, does any mother really want to see her son madly happy with another woman? Actually, my son is 16 years old and between his hormones and my hormones, some days I’m willing to give him to just about any other woman. Whether she makes him happy or not.

I don’t know if my boyfriend’s mother actually displays the picture and frame in her home, as I have not been there since two Christmases ago. And no, I do not take this personally in any way.

 

So this year, I thought I would give her something more meaningful; something she loves (besides shoes). I went to the gardening center to find her a potted herb garden because she’s a vegetarian and I thought she could use this in her kitchen.

 

So, I am standing in the garden center, where there are hundreds of pretty little plants displayed in a variety of pots on dozens of glass shelves. I bend down to smell one marked European Basils and suddenly I am propelled forward by some invisible force.  My ankle buckles and I fall toward the glass shelf. I try to catch myself but I am afraid that if I grab the shelves I will break the glass and bring all of the plants shattering down around me. Instead I simply continue falling until I hear a crack as my rather-high cheekbone makes contact with one of the shelves.

 

The impact immediately throws my head backward, giving me some sort of garden-variety whiplash, and my cheek immediately begins to swell. I turn around to see what on earth could have thrust me forward like that, and I notice that while my back was turned, someone had placed a gray Rubbermaid trashcan directly behind me, apparently to catch some water dripping from the ceiling.

 

Now, I am not much of a gardener, but what exactly is the problem of rain water dripping among the plants in a GARDENING CENTER?

 

As I touch my throbbing cheek and roll my ankle around to ensure nothing is broken, an employee comes by to see if I’m ok.

 

“No, I don’t think I am,” I say, my voice actually trembling.

 

He was not expecting this. I’m guessing, like restaurant servers who ask if your food is okay as they walk on by, not bothering to see if you need ketchup or utensils or a third cocktail, this gardening center employee rarely encounters anyone who says anything but, “I’m fine. Can you tell me where the fertilizer is?”

 

Now I’m really about to cry because he’s walking away and I feel as if my left cheek is about three times as big as my right cheek.  And what I am going to say to my boyfriend’s mother when I see her Christmas Eve and she asks how I got that horrible bruise on my face?  I can’t say, “I got it looking for your gift” because she clearly wouldn’t believe that anyone could harm themselves looking for an herb plant. (She doesn’t know me very well, either. I’m not exactly the graceful type.)

 

So now I’m pretty upset and I am thinking of not buying the Basil plants at all. I realize I’m projecting my anger onto this basket of greenery that really had nothing to do with the injury, but I don’t care.  I turn to the Rubbermaid trashcan – the anti-Christmas in all of this—and push it out of the way. I continue to give the trashcan a series of small kicks until it is out of the aisle, safely away from any glass shelves and innocent — though clumsy — shoppers.

 

Suddenly, I start to laugh. At myself, at the trashcan, even at my bruised cheek (and matching ego.) I realize that I’m really nervous about this gift to my boyfriend’s mother, that I want it to say much more than “Happy Holidays.”  I need it convey all the things about me that she doesn’t yet know: that I’m a good person and a devoted mother. That I’m bright, responsible and kind. And most of all, that I care deeply about her son.

 

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a potted plant. But I think if I add a card, a warm hug, and a few years of showing her who I am, the Basils will be up to the task.

 

As I reach for the prettiest of the plants, I notice that the leaves seem to be reaching toward the drops of water falling from the ceiling.

 

And in true Christmas spirit, I hum all the way to the cash register, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Post-Divorce Relationship Takes on Christmas

My Post-Divorce Relationship Takes on Christmas

(Spoken to the rhythm of ’Twas The Night Before Christmas)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and I felt kinda blue-ish;
It was the first time I wished that I wasn’t so Jewish.
My boyfriend, a 7th Day Adventist he,
Was bouncing off walls filled with merry and glee.
He was wrapping up gifts and caroling carols,
Making hot cider and eggnog by the barrels.
“Could we have Christmas at your house?” last week he had asked;
“My mom called to say she’s not up to the task.”
“Of course,” I’d said sweetly, but inside I was balking.
All I know of Christmas would not fill a stocking.
Me with my latkes, menorahs, Oy Vey!
To me Christmas Eve’s just a late shopping day.
It’s okay, I thought, I’ve got one week to cram,
As Sean called from the kitchen, “We’ll just order a ham.”
“I’m Kosher,” I cried, “You can’t serve pig here!”
“It’s tofu,” he said, “they’re all vegans, my dear.”
Oh, yes, I’d forgotten what Adventists eat.
So, an all-dairy Christmas, with mystery meat.
He added, “No dreidel – that’s a gambling game.
My whole family will die of original shame.”
“We’ll just keep it simple, straightforward, low-key,
They won’t even notice there isn’t a tree.”
“We’ll sit around talking, sharing Christmases past.
We’ll sing, we’ll play cards – honey, you’ll have a blast.”
“What? No dancing? No drinking? No family feuds?
What this party needs is a few boisterous Jews.”
As if right on cue, there arose such a clatter,
I set down the blintzes to see what was the matter.
Outside it was snowing, but sloshing right through
Was my whole friggin’ family – surprise! The Jew Crew.
My brother Avromi and his second ex-wife,
Who can’t tell a clean story to save her own life.
Behind her I saw Uncle Ben and Aunt Sable,
Soon they’d be drinking us under the table.
There’s Moisha and Sasha and Bubby and Zada,
All with their doggy bags to take some “fuh laytah.”
My mom and my dad with a car full of toys —
I prayed that they wouldn’t call anyone “goys.”
My stomach was churning, Oh! What a disaster!
Could Christmas Eve please just this once go by faster?
Before I could faint, Sean’s own family arrived,
Spiritual and sober — I just prayed they’d survive.
My sister Shoshana slaps them all on the back,
And tells them she’s no longer addicted to crack.
My gay nephew Aaron hits on Sean’s younger brother;
My father – who’s 80 – tries to French kiss Sean’s mother.
As Sean’s folks milled around I heard one of them say,
“How the hell do they do this each year for eight days?”
But Sean’s family’s not shaken, they’re still very formal.
They gotta be thinking: This makes our family seem normal.
My boyfriend just hugs me and kisses my head.
“See honey?” he says, “So far no one’s dead.”
“We’re all here together, there was nothing to fear.
“Hey, all!” he yells suddenly, “same place next year!”
You have to be kidding, my thoughts nearly burst,
No Christmas here next year, I’ll kill myself first.
But at the end of the night as the little ones yawn,
And I take back my jewelry they’d stolen to pawn,
I have to admit my eyes feel a slight mistness,
When my son cries, “I’m Jewish, but I’m glad you’re all Christmas!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Train is Leaving The Station

I had been dating my boyfriend, Jon, for four months when he asked if I would drive from Atlanta to South Florida with him, to attend an anniversary party for his grandparents. This was big – meeting his grandmother would be like meeting the Queen of England. Jon’s Grandma Dorothy was the matriarch of his family, and often ruled it with an unforgiving iron fist. 

But she was no match for a girl in love. Without hesitation, I said yes! After all, my entire family lived in South Florida, and I was just waiting for the perfect time to introduce them to Jon. 

Let the Romance Begin

The anniversary party was Saturday night, and everything went beautifully. Jon’s grandparents were gracious and delighted that their grandson was dating a “nice Jewish girl.” We danced, we laughed, we bonded over family stories. To my surprise, my boyfriend showed up at my parents’ home the next morning at the crack of dawn – literally, 6 a.m. With an air of mystery, he told me to grab my flip flops – we were going to the beach.

A romantic stroll on the beach at sunrise with my pony-tailed, one-earringed, guitar-riffing musician boyfriend who normally slept until noon?  Are you thinking what I’m thinking? 

We walked for about a mile along the sandy shore when suddenly Jon stopped, turned to face me, and dropped to his knees (landing dead-weight on the top of my left foot. Normally I would have cried out in pain, but when I realized what was happening, I was not about to let a few crushed tendons ruin the moment). He pulled out a homemade snowglobe of glitter, and floating inside was a golden ring. He handed it up to me and asked me to marry him.

And of course I said — or rather, screamed, “Yes!” (The reality of the crushed foot to be part of our story as the years went by, but not today.)

Let No Man Put Asunder

We raced home to tell my parents, who apparently had already been filled in. It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and I was starving. Jon and I left to grab breakfast at Denny’s, and by the time we got back to my parents’ house, my mother had booked the room, the caterer and the florist. 

The train was leaving the station, ladies and gentleman, and I was strapped to it.

After all, my mother had been waiting more than a decade for her last child to get married. 

Just as our future was looking so bright, our troubles started to surface. Within weeks, my boyfriend – excuse me, fiancé — began having panic attacks. He felt as if his throat was closing up on him and he couldn’t breathe. Direct correlation to having just gotten engaged? I didn’t know, but as his symptoms worsened and he dropped more than 10 pounds in two weeks, we called for help.

Can You Love Someone Enough To Save Him?

We went to see a therapist, and I discovered that the man I loved had a substance abuse problem. Well, actually, I didn’t learn that in our first session; I just learned that something was terribly wrong and making him scared to death. It took a year of neurotic behavior, obsessive doctor visits, psychotherapy, extreme weight loss, multiple occasions of drug use discovery and severe anxiety attacks until we both learned that his addiction was slowly killing our relationship — which by now had become a marriage.

Yes, I went full-steam-ahead with our wedding plans during the same year that Jon and I were learning more about each other (and ourselves, for that matter) than most couples learn in five years.

Why did I marry Jon just as I was learning he had a substance abuse problem? Well, for one thing, I had never met an addict before, and Jon’s use seemed very low-key and surmountable. It was nothing like the made-for-TV-movies. But here is the real reason: I was absolutely certain I could love him enough to save him.

I did not walk down the aisle thinking this was a mistake. I did not walk down the aisle thinking this could be heartbreaking. I walked down the aisle thinking, “Jon is the love of my life.” I truly did not have any pre-inklings of separation, divorce or trauma. I was a happy, hopeful, bride-in-denial

The Co-Dependent Dance

For the next 13 years Jon and I built a marriage on a rocky foundation. We loved each other – we even liked each other most of the time – but we were cast in the co-dependent version of So You Think You Can Dance? That dance goes something like this: Jon would stop doing drugs. He would make promises and we would make progress. Then I would notice that something was off. I would ask if he was doing drugs and he would tell me no. Then I would feel bad for thinking he was doing drugs. But the feeling wouldn’t go away so I would ask again, a week later. Jon would deny it and I would feel bad again. And then, eventually, I would discover the drug use. Each time my husband lied, I would feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to take the football away. And each time we would get extra help from our therapist and we would work to rebuild our relationship. I would love him all over again.

And every so often, I thought to myself, “Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore.” But we had a son by now – a miracle in and of itself – and I could not imagine breaking up his family. 

A Changed Perspective Changed Everything

One day, 13 years and 5,000 therapy sessions into our marriage, I suddenly I saw the possibility of divorce from a totally different perspective. This time I didn’t think about divorce as, “how can I do this to my son?” but rather, “how can I not do this FOR my son?”

That slight movement, the understanding that letting go of this marriage could actually be better for my son – for all of us – changed everything. I believe it is what finally gave me the courage to try a separation. I believe our separation is what motivated Jon to get help on his own and me to stop trying to save (control) him. And I believe the growth that both Jon and I did – alone – is what allowed us to ultimately come together and build this strange but authentic friendship. It wasn’t always an easy path, and I hit a lot of road bumps along the way. 

Stay tuned for what happened after we said, “I don’t”…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized