I still tell people I’m from Ohio

I can’t believe it’s been a year.  I have lived in Chicago for a full year.  That means tomorrow I will have been at my job for a year.  It means I have been divorced for a year and 9 days.  I feel like I just moved here.  Then again, I feel like I just graduated from college a few years ago.  Clearly I have no sense of time.

I have no reflections.  I haven’t learned anything.  I’m the same person I was.  But it’s been a year, and that seems worth acknowledging.

I think I love Chicago.  I had no idea what to expect.  I grew up mostly visiting cities on the East Coast, but also Seattle and San Francisco.  I’d been to Chicago a few times, but really had no sense of what it was like.  Turns out it is a pretty great city.  I’d still choose Boston in a second if I was rich.  But after Boston, Chicago just might be my favorite big city to live in. 

It is hard to really gauge how much I like Chicago though because I need more friends and/or a boyfriend.  When you explore a city on your own it just isn’t the same.  I want to go to restaurants and baseball games and museums with someone else.  I am perfectly capable of doing those things on my own, and I do, but it would be a lot more fun to have someone to talk to while experiencing Chicago.  I’m slowly meeting more people, though, so maybe I will have companions as I explore my second year in Chicago.  Or at least lots of visitors.

Categories: Chicago, Starting over | Leave a comment

Bondage between friends

I have been thinking a lot lately about the different bonds you have with friends.  It started a few weeks ago when I heard someone say “friends are like seasons.”  I briefly got hung up on disagreeing with that concept – and then thinking about the instances when it is true.  But then I started thinking about how grateful I am to have unique and lasting bonds with so many people who I consider dear friends.

Last weekend I went to a reunion with seven other women who I knew through a Christian group in college.  One woman is one of those people who I have a bond with even when far too much time passes without speaking (and another who falls into that category couldn’t come at the last minute).  A few others are women who I have actually gotten to know better to an extent through facebook.  But for the most part, I was not close friends with them in college and have not stayed in touch with them since.  But it was really cool to see how we still had a bond that allowed us to want to know and support each other where we are now.  These women all lead incredibly different lives, but we all respect the choices the others have made and were able to be open with each other about the very different struggles we face.  And we plan to see each other again and not wait another 15 years!

The bond I have with some of the women who were in the small group I started at my church in Columbus is completely different than the group from college, but incredibly special and much more intimate.  Those women and I shared virtually everything with each other for a period of our lives.  We talked about books and shared meals and prayed for one another, but what we shared was so much more than that.  It was almost completely separate, and yet inseparable.  There were lots of members of the group (including the men!) who I still feel a connection to in some way, but the core group of women who made the group what it was are the type of friends who change you and become a part of you.  They are brilliant, funny, loving, compassionate people who I wish I still got to see on a regular basis.

When I think about bonds that I cannot explain, my friends in the ABA must be included.  It’s like summer camp; you meet some of your best friends there.  But unlike summer camp, you get to go to meetings more than once a year and you don’t get too old for it.  And you get to go to fancy hotels instead of cabins in West Virginia.  I love being a lawyer and I love the law and I deeply believe in the ability of lawyers to change the world and improve the profession.  I realize that most lawyers don’t have quite the same perspective that I do, and I remember how genuinely surprised I was to discover how little I had in common with most of my law school classmates.  When I got involved in the ABA, I finally met other lawyers like me.  I’m not saying I like everyone I meet through the ABA, but there are a decent percentage who I respect, and a handful who are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met and who I fully expect will always be close friends.  And it’s not just about bar involvement; we also care about each other on a personal level.  I love how we celebrate each other’s successes and support each other in difficult times, even when we don’t know each other that well.  And I love that so many of us do know each other well.

Finally, there are a few special friends who I can’t just lump in with a group.  Actually, as I think about it, I’m surprised that I have so many friends who I do associate with groups.  Then again, a former boss used to say I was a “joiner ”

There is the friend who I first connected with when I was checking the score of a baseball game at church, who was later my maid of honor.  There is the friend who is the sister of another close friend who I feel closer to all the time for no articulable reason, yet I know there is a weird and cool connection between us.  There are the few true friends from law school who are all totally different from each other and who are all awesome in their own ways.  There are the friends who I have met through mutual friends or in random interactions who somehow became real friends instead of mere acquaintances.  There are my cousins who are friends as much as they are family.  There is the childhood friend who is so, so much more than that, to the point that I sometimes forget and think her daughter is actually related to me.

I have very few friends who live in Chicago.  I spend most of my weekends alone.  But I always feel the bonds that connect me to my friends across the country and across oceans.  I’d really like it if at least a few of my close friends would move to Chicago, but thinking about the friendships that are a part of my life has made me grateful enough that I can get by just fine on my own at least a little while longer.

Categories: Christianity, Family, Friends, Starting over | Leave a comment

You don’t know what tired is

Most of my friends and family know that I have a “sleep disorder.”  But I don’t think most of them think it is very serious.  In large part that is because I don’t act like it is.  And it really isn’t, compared to so many other medical problems.  But sometimes I am struck by all of the ways it impacts my life.  And sometimes I am also struck by how reassuring it is to have a handful of people in my life who show genuine concern.  I hate to have anyone worry about me, but I’m glad there are people who care.

This is on my mind because I just started taking a new drug, Xyrem, and it is a kind of scary drug with all sorts of crazy side effects and it requires lots of adjustments to my routine in order to take it.  Which means I have been researching it way more than I should online.  And after just two nights at the lowest dose, I already have my hopes up that it could change my life.

Here’s the kind of short version of how I got to Xyrem and why I’m so excited about its potential.

Having been unbelievably tired since at least my mid-teens, I have gotten very good at faking it.  It takes a lot of energy sometimes, but I’m pretty skilled at acting energetic.  Well, before I was diagnosed and started taking medication, there were times when I barely had the energy to move my mouth to speak.  And it was nearly impossible to make it through the day without a nap.  But since I started taking medication, I can almost always fake it, and I never need to nap anymore, although I still always welcome one.  Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so good at it, because I hate it when people tell me I “don’t seem tired.”  But I would prefer that to the alternative.

I started complaining to doctors about being tired when I was around 16.  Depending on the doctor, they suggested that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was getting too much sleep, I was stressed, I was depressed, I had an infection, I should exercise more, I should exercise less, I should eat different foods, I was working too much, etc., etc., etc.  I didn’t have any of the diseases they tested me for, and I knew that none of their other theories were correct because my feeling of always being tired and needing to sleep was constant no matter what was going on in my life.  I didn’t even occur to me to think I had a sleep disorder; I just thought I was really tired and wished the doctors would stop making excuses for it.  The only reason I ever mentioned it was because on the history forms it often asks if you have been experiencing fatigue.  It’s not like I thought they could fix me.

In the fall of 2006 (so after roughly 13 years of telling doctors I was always tired), a new doctor asked if I had ever had a sleep study.  She was shocked when I said no, and promptly referred me to a sleep doctor.  In December 2006 I had my first sleep study and was promptly diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia.  So, being really sleepy for no apparent reason.  I could have told them that.  That is also why I always just told people I had a “sleep disorder” rather than saying idiopathic hypersomnia.  During the sleep study, I slept the full night with no snoring or restless legs or any of that, and then went promptly to sleep during each of my daytime naps.  They told me that what was wrong with me was similar to narcolepsy, but not quite the same.  In particular, I didn’t have most of the classic markers like cataplexy, sleep paralysis, or hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up.  I just had excessive daytime sleepiness even though I slept soundly all night long.  And apparently narcolepsy is often accompanied by insomnia, and I certainly didn’t have that.  Once I was diagnosed, I went through a variety of drugs and dosages in the first year, eventually settling a combination that still works fairly well.

Medication changed my life.  I went from feeling like I had to use every bit of energy I could muster just to function to feeling like I was a normal person.  It was amazing to feel how I imagined other people must feel.  As long as I had taken my medicine, I could engage in conversations, participate in activities, enjoy my time with other people, and just generally not feel like falling asleep all the time.  I made it through law school before I was diagnosed, but there is no way I could have actually practiced law without medication.

I was so grateful to be able to be normal that I didn’t mind the fact that I still woke up feeling tired every day.  I knew that the extreme tiredness would go away once I took my medicine each morning (and twice more during the day).  And I didn’t mind that I still felt tired throughout the day because I didn’t have to actively fight it most of the time – just live through it.  There are a limited number of medications available, and I felt confident that I was on the right ones because the other ones had not worked at all.  If you had asked me a month ago how I felt about the treatment of my sleep disorder, I would have said I was thrilled because I remember what life was like before, and I know what it is like now if I forget to take my medication.

But moving to a new city meant getting a new sleep doctor.  And the new sleep doctor decided she wanted to do a new sleep study.  She didn’t doubt my diagnosis or my need for medication.  She had no doubt from my history and from my previous sleep study that I had a sleep disorder.  But she suspected I might actually have narcolepsy.  Apparently there were enough things in my history and small clues in my first sleep study that made her think it was worth re-checking.  So, in January I did my second sleep study.  It went much like the first one did.  I slept for a solid 10 hours without waking.  I promptly fell asleep during all my naps.  But based on how quickly I cycled into REM sleep and some other factors, it confirmed for her that narcolepsy is likely the correct diagnosis.  Although many narcoleptics have cataplexy, not all do, and that makes it harder to recognize, and is likely why my previous sleep doctors never seriously considered it.

And the diagnosis with narcolepsy brought us to Xyrem.  This medication was the primary reason she wanted to consider narcolepsy as a diagnosis.  It is a drug that basically knocks you out at night and allows you to get a higher quality of sleep in the way that your body is supposed to.  Which means you wake up feeling refreshed.  And can mean eventually decreasing or possibly even eliminating the stimulants during the day.

Of course, it can’t be that simple.  Xyrem is GHB.  As in the date rape drug.  Which just feels scary, and kind of like something to hide.  So there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get it in the first place.  And then there are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to take it safely and effectively.  And there are lots of warnings about side effects – and lots of people posting online about how awful the side effects are.

The biggest hassle is that you have to take it on an empty stomach.  The minimum is 2 hours after eating, but from everything I’ve read online, 3-4 hours is preferable for effectiveness and to avoid nausea.  This means I am already finding my life kind of revolving around making sure that I eat early enough to go to sleep at a reasonable time, and remembering not to have even the smallest snack.  The other big hassle is that you have to take a second dose 2 1/2 to 4 hours after the first.  So you have to wake up to take the medicine to help you sleep.  They even give you a vibrating alarm clock to put in your pillow.  The doctor told me waking up in the middle of the night wouldn’t be a problem because Xyrem has such a short half life that it wears off by the time you need to wake up for the second dose so you can do so easily…and then it knocks you right back out.  So far, that is totally true.  You also have to mix two doses before bed which feels very elaborate to someone who is used to just taking pills.  And you have to arrange for overnight delivery of the medication every month.  So lots of hassles and new routines to adjust to.

The warnings include everything from nausea, dizziness, and anxiety, to bed wetting…  I’m trusting that the bed wetting is mostly an issue for people who normally get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night but are unable to because they are so deeply asleep.  And people also report falling down, but that clearly means they are up walking around which the instructions tell you not to do.  I haven’t had any side effects yet, and it is very common to have them right when you start, so maybe I will get lucky and avoid any serious ones.  I tend to be pretty fortunate in that way with most medications.  I am nervous that once my dose increases I will have side effects because dose changes can cause them, but I will just keep taking the medication as instructed and hope it continues to go smoothly.

Here’s the actual reason I am so optimistic this medication could work well for me: I woke up at 7:30am the last two days!  Without an alarm clock!  I haven’t woken up earlier than 10:00am without an alarm clock ever that I can remember.  And even at 10:00am I often need an alarm.  Today, after I woke up, I walked to Starbucks about 30 minutes later because I was wide awake and ready to get my day started (it usually takes me close to 2 hours on a Saturday to convince myself to walk the block to Starbucks).  My body still felt a little slow because the effects of the Xyrem had not worn off entirely since it takes about 6 hours from your second dose to be at 100%, but mentally I felt more alert than I can remember feeling – pretty much ever.  If this keeps up and if I feel even more refreshed once my dose is increased, I might be completely like a normal person who doesn’t wake up tired!

One of the funny things about researching Xyrem is that it has made me realize that I wasn’t as close to normal on my medication as I thought I was.  For example, I thought it was completely normal to set multiple alarms to wake up (after getting a full 8-10+ hours of sleep), and to then hit the snooze button 5-6 times and fall fully back asleep each time before getting up in the morning.  I just thought it was hard for everyone to wake up.  And I thought it was normal to appreciate the chance to take a short nap in the dentist’s chair, in the MRI machine, or pretty much any exam room where they let you lie down.  Little things like that maybe aren’t quite as normal as I thought.

We’ll see how the Xyrem works out.  I’m still nervous because there are just so many horror stories out there.  (Yes, I know, that is what I get for reading internet message boards).  But waking up without an alarm clock two days in a row is a pretty exciting start.

Categories: Health, Sleep | 2 Comments

Best dates (to take me on)

There have been lots of thoughts running through my mind the last month or so, but I haven’t posted because they have been too complicated or too personal or too controversial or too something.  I even have notes I wrote in preparation to blog about a couple of topics (which were a little more intellectual than when I just write about purely personal stuff).  But something has held me back – in fact, today is the first time I have even plugged in my laptop since before Christmas.

This afternoon I was focusing on thinking positively about several situations in my life and somehow mixed in with those thoughts I realized there are plenty of relatively superficial and hopefully non-controversial things I can write about.

Actually, the thought process was this: I was thinking about some semi-serious stuff while I drove, and consciously trying to be positive.  I half heard the radio DJs talking about Valentine’s Day dates.  I thought none of their ideas sounded that great to me.  I realized I could share the vital information of what I consider to be the best dates someone could take me on.  And now I’m typing.

This is not a list of best dates.  This is a list of best dates to take me on.  So, if anyone reading this happens to ever consider taking me on a date, they should refer back to this list.  Or not.  Maybe you know better and will expand my life experiences in a good way.  Or maybe you just don’t want the date to be successful.

Here’s the list, kind of in order, but not really.

1. Baseball game.  I love baseball, so the underlying activity will be fun even if the date doesn’t go that well.  It is a shared activity that allows conversation, time to just enjoy each other’s company without talking, an automatic subject of conversation that can lead to many others (What do you think of astroturf?  The DH?  The use of PEDs and the impact they should have on getting into the hall of fame?  What do you mean you’re a Yankees fan?).  Baseball games are a good length for a date, and you have to commit to going on a specific day.  Just don’t ever suggest leaving early unless it is a blowout, it is not a pennant race, the Indians are not playing, AND it is either freezing cold or pouring down rain.  Exceptions to that rule may be considered under very specific circumstances, but probably not.

2. Dinner at a really good restaurant.  Where you are going to be comfortable eating.  Like don’t take me to an Indian restaurant if you don’t like Indian food.  Don’t take me to a sushi restaurant if you’re going to order a California roll.  Really good doesn’t have to mean expensive.  It does mean good food.  It does mean reservations or confidence that we can get a table easily or get a seat at the bar (to eat or wait).  I really hate waiting for a table for more than about 20 minutes, especially at places that give you those buzzer things.  But I will happily wait for really good food with the right companion.  I just don’t want to wait forever because no forethought was involved.  To make it the best experience possible, suggest we eat at the bar.  Especially if it is a fancy restaurant that has a TV at the bar.  That’s like the best of all worlds.  I love sitting next to someone at the bar because you can talk so easily and it feels more like a shared experience than a meeting.  I also like watching bartenders pour drinks.  And bartenders are often more concerned about good service than regular waitstaff, and they are far less likely to be overly familiar in an obnoxious way.  Avoid restaurants where patrons are encouraged to throw peanut shells on the floor.  And I don’t do Ethiopian.

3. Brunch is good, too.  Or, actually, kind of awesome.  Especially if we do something else afterwards.  Or before.  Lunch is not a date.  At least not early on.

4. A rib festival.  I just thought of this.  I like meat.  I like men who like meat.  I like men who would make me feel comfortable eating ribs in front of them.  Or, actually, men who wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable, because my starting point would be that I would feel comfortable.  I don’t like the lines or crowds at festivals, but I would tolerate both for the right person and ribs.

5. Sporting events other than baseball and soccer.  Baseball gets its own number, and I find soccer really, really boring.  Sporting events other than baseball have all the good qualities of baseball without the baseball.  I will lump in watching March Madness at a sports bar with this entry.  Totally a different experience than a live sporting event, but still close enough.

6. Places near the water.  Being near the water makes me happy and relaxed and seems kind of inherently romantic.  So take me to a restaurant near the water.  Take me to a coffee shop near the water.  (Coffee is only a date if it is in a nice location, like near the water, or if it is combined with something else.)  Walk along the water with me.  Ride on a ferry with me.  And we could eat clam chowder on the ferry!

7. Drinks, with qualifications.  Depending on who you are, how you suggest it, and the location you choose, you might be able to get away with asking me to meet you for a drink.  If you ask me to meet you for a drink in the early evening and indicate you have somewhere to be later, that’s not okay.  That means you want an out, have another date, have a family to go home to, or are just too cheap to take me out for dinner.  If you ask me to meet you for a drink in the early evening and say “and then we can figure out what to do afterwards,” that is fine for the opposite reasons.  I don’t mind not having a definite plan as long as it sounds like you want to spend more than 30 minutes with me.  If you ask me to meet you for drinks relatively late, it might be okay and it might not.  It is okay if I know that you have a specific obligation earlier and it comes across as you really wanting to make at least a little time to see me.  It is not okay if you suggest it at the last minute after a night out with friends and I am an afterthought/booty call.  That might be okay under certain circumstances, but it is not a date.

That’s all I can think of right now.  So, it is important that it be some sort of shared experience without being something like rock climbing or pottery making that you would see suggested on a list on MSN.  The point is to appreciate and enjoy each other’s company, not just to have a meal or an adventure.  It should allow for conversation.  So that means no super loud live music unless it is a band we both really like, which is unlikely.  Despite what some people say, I think movies can be okay as long as you hang out afterwards.  It is a bonus if the date reflects that we have shared interests, such as good food/meat/baseball.  And, apparently, from looking back at my list, I like things where I get to sit next to my date.  But not sitting on the same side of a table.

And if you want a subsequent date, you better kiss me.

Categories: Dating, Starting over | Leave a comment

I’m still here

We can have the real you back!

That was what several of my friends said to me when I told them I was getting divorced.

You can be yourself again!

That was another favorite.  I knew exactly what they meant. I always felt like me (because how else would I feel?), but it was like I had to work very hard to suppress most parts of me when my ex was around.  I was ready to just be me again without fear or shame.  And I was glad my friends were eager to welcome me back.

I had moved to Cleveland two years earlier, so the opportunities to see my friends were already limited.  And when I did see them, it was often with my ex.  So that meant I was acting as his buffer as he tried to socialize, and it meant my friends were graciously listening to him give speeches about one of his favorite topics.  It meant I was holding his hand or touching his leg the entire time so he wouldn’t complain later that I had been unaffectionate.  It meant I had to ask my friends ahead of time if they would mind putting the game on in the background or warn them that when I was looking at my phone during dinner it was because I would be checking scores for him.  It meant I avoided humor when I was speaking because he might not understand what I meant and take offense.  It meant I was aware of what I wore, how my hair looked, how loud my voice was, and everything else I could possibly think of that he might later criticize.  And it meant we almost always left early.

My relationships with my friends had become mostly limited to seeing each other at occasional social events when my ex preferred to watch sports at home and I didn’t object because it meant I could be myself for one night.  But when a friend and I snuck away for coffee or happy hour or even a whole evening, or when we talked on the phone during my lunch break, for that little window of time it was just enough to keep us connected.  I missed them so much.

When I first began to admit that I couldn’t continue living like that but wasn’t yet strong enough to unequivocally tell my ex that I wanted a divorce, one of my ministers told me that I should spend the time before the decision was final to work on reigniting my flame.  He said he didn’t like it during weddings when couples light a unity candle and then blow out their individual flames.  It is important that each person’s flame continues to burn.  He said it was like my ex had blown my flame out and I needed to focus on reigniting it.  It was cheesy, but I kind of liked it.

During the last couple months that we lived together, I tried to “reignite my flame” as I did my best to stand up for myself while he desperately tried to convince me he could change.  It was a start, but it was like there would never be enough oxygen in that environment.  And, as soon as I started being a tiny bit stronger, it was interesting to hear my ex tell me that we could be happy if I would just be the “old” me.  As soon as he moved out, though, I was back.  It was a difficult time, but I instantly felt like myself again.  And the flame only got stronger as our contact became more infrequent.

When my friends made those comments, I understood what they meant because I felt the same way. And it was kind of comforting to hear them say those things, because implicit in what they said was their trust that the real me still existed and that they wanted me back.  It said that there had been enough glimpses of the real me, or enough history with the real me, that they still remembered and loved that version of me, even as they had supported the dying embers of me.

Some people talk about the ways they have changed after going through a difficult experience, or even just after the passage of time in general.  I feel like the same person I was a year ago when I had recently left my ex and was living alone in our apartment in Cleveland.  I feel like the same person I was three years ago, when we were engaged, but I already knew I could never be happy with him.  I feel like the same person I was five years ago, before I ever met him, when all I wanted in life was true love that lasts forever.  Sure, I’ve changed in some ways because everyone does over time.  But I fundamentally feel like I am the same person, and I’m very glad I feel that way because I don’t want everything I’ve been through to have changed me too much.

Categories: Divorce, Friends, Marriage, Starting over | 3 Comments

Is it Christmas if you’re all alone?

ChristmasIt’s Christmastime.  (By the way, spellcheck thinks that is a real word.  I’m doubtful).

I’m trying to figure out what Christmastime means for me this year.

Last year was my first Christmas separate from my husband.  But we weren’t divorced yet, and he was still holding out hope that I would change my mind.  It wasn’t at all like our Christmas the previous year (First Married Christmas!  How sweet!), but we were still technically married.  He invited me to spend Christmas with his family, but I declined.  His mother called me repeatedly on Christmas Eve to invite me herself, which I alerted him to and then declined.  I saw him briefly on Christmas Eve and we exchanged presents.  I sent gifts for his (temporarily my) nephew.  It wasn’t like spending Christmas with my husband.  It was like meeting a friend to exchange gifts out of obligation.  A friend who makes you cry and feel guilty and tries to sleep with you. 

This year I am really alone.

Last year was my first Christmas without my stepmother. 

Christmas was her holiday.  We used to spend it with her extended family until her parents died and there was no longer the same pull to a single location.  Her parents’ house was always full of people and food and presents.  Her mom always made everyone’s favorites, whether it was cookies or toffee or Christmas brunch or Christmas dinner.  Her dad always read A Visit from St. Nicholas to the younger kids.  Her sister-in-law made tacos or tamales (when we were really lucky) and her brother made turkey on Christmas Eve.  I went to Midnight Mass with the faction of the family that was still practicing Catholics.  My cousin and I wore Santa hats and passed out the presents.  The only bad part was the long drive to and from Kansas, and even that wasn’t too bad when the four of us were singing folk songs or when my dad finally gave in and let us sing Christmas carols.   

After her parents died, we didn’t know quite what to do for Christmas.  Just like me, she didn’t know how to celebrate once it felt like everything she associated with Christmas was gone.  So I got her a little pre-lit Christmas tree and set it up one day as a surprise.  I hoped that maybe the tree would remind her that we could still have our own little Christmas, even if it wouldn’t be the same.  So a new tradition arose of me and my sister (and various significant others) going to my dad and stepmom’s house on Christmas morning.  The room always looked full of presents because she bought us so many silly little gifts to kind of give it the same feeling that her parents’ house had on Christmas morning.  I passed out the presents, just like I did in Kansas.  And after we opened presents, we had brunch which consisted of my father’s slightly improved version of her mother’s egg and sausage casserole, as well as bagels and lox and mimosas.  Then my sister and I would head out for the rest of our Christmas visits – but it always started with Kate.

My father is Jewish.  A Jewish atheist.  A Jewish atheist who taught me that Santa was a lie that some parents tell their children (although it’s possible my mom taught me that).  He fought the public schools when they tried to make me perform Christmas songs in choir and band.  We only celebrated Christmas because of my stepmother.  I know that he enjoyed it, but it wasn’t his holiday.  He adopted it for her.  He loved the family part of it, and the food, and the presents, and seeing her happy.  But without her, Christmas just doesn’t make sense.

Picturing me, my dad, and my sister sitting around my stepmother’s Christmas tree is about the worst thing I can imagine.  The idea of trying to carry on the traditions that only have meaning when she is part of them sounds painful at best.  But what are we supposed to do?  Everyone has an opinion, most of which aren’t exactly welcome.  Last year, my dad took care of the question of how to celebrate Christmas by leaving town.  He spent Christmas with the family of one of Kate’s brothers.  I thought that was a good choice given the bad options.  It avoided us having to decide what to do or not do, yet allowed him to remain connected to her at Christmastime.

I saw my mom, stepdad, and sister on Christmas Eve (or maybe the day before) to exchange presents.  I gave my sister a stocking with a few of the treats that Kate always included.  We cried.  I went to a friend’s house on Christmas Eve for a little while and played with her daughter.  I went to church in Columbus on Christmas Eve, then drove to Cleveland and went to a second service.  I woke up alone on Christmas morning, in a house without a Christmas tree or decorations or presents or anything that indicated it was Christmas.  I went to church again.  I watched several Hallmark movies.  Later, I gave in and drove a couple of hours out of town to have Christmas dinner and celebrate with another friend, because everyone was concerned about me being alone. 

Christmas was unbearable.  It was harder than any of us expected.  Christmas without Kate didn’t make sense.  Christmas without my husband felt lonely, but that was almost irrelevant compared to the pain of missing Kate.  The days surrounding Christmas were by far the hardest for me since she died, and I’m scared to go through it again. 

This year will be the second Christmas without her.  But this year my father isn’t going away, so in some ways it will be the first.  And I don’t know if it will ever be any easier anyway. 

We are going to celebrate Hanukkah when I’m in Ohio for Christmas.  I don’t think we are going to do anything for Christmas with my dad, but I’m not sure.  I will celebrate Christmas with my mom and stepdad, but that is always low key.  I will go to church.  I will see my friend and her daughter.  Hopefully I will get to see other friends as well.  I don’t plan to see my ex.  I will also wake up on Christmas morning again with none of the excitement that used to wake me up before everyone else (even when I was an adult).  It won’t feel like Christmas.

Despite the dread I feel and the lack of desire to celebrate Christmas, I am doing my best to fake it.  Last year I didn’t have it in me to try.  This year I am putting up a Christmas tree and decorating my apartment, even though I won’t be there on Christmas morning and there will be no presents under the tree.  I went back to the tradition I began the first year I became a lawyer and ordered the 2012 Supreme Court ornament, as well as the 2011 one which I refused to order last year.  I even got a Christmas-themed phone case.

Categories: Christmas, Divorce, Family, Grief, Holidays, Starting over | 1 Comment

An open letter to the men I’ve hooked up with

Before I begin, let me explain who this letter is addressed to.  It is addressed to the men I’ve hooked up1 with since law school.2  And it is also addressed to men I may hook up with in the future.3  It is addressed to the men who have been part of my life either fairly briefly, or for many years.  It is addressed to the men who started as friends, and were sometimes more, and to the men who became good friends later.  It is addressed to the men who were unavailable in some way – and who I am quite certain I was not attracted to because of that fact, but in spite of it.  It is addressed to the men with whom I will always hold out a little hope that something real could happen.   It is addressed to the men who I may never see again, and to the men who I hope will be in my life for many years to come.

This letter is addressed to all the men who made me smile, and to all the ones I can’t think of without smiling.

Dear – You know who you are,

I’ve been thinking, and there are a few things I want to share with you.  I want you to understand me, so I’m writing you this letter because I feel like I could help you know me a little bit better.  And I am writing because I feel like whatever our relationship may be, there is always room for improvement.  I’m also writing to ask you to set me up with your friends.

First of all, you are awesome.  If you ever don’t feel that way, just ask me.  I wouldn’t have hooked up with you if you weren’t smart and caring and funny, and pretty damn hot.  Sometimes I get the impression that you don’t realize you are as awesome as you are, or I worry that you have people in your life who don’t make you feel that way, and it breaks my heart.

I am 100% okay with what our relationship is/was/will be.  I can compartmentalize better than most people, in all aspects of life.  Some people might think that’s unhealthy, but if it’s a coping mechanism, it is a very highly developed one, and it’s who I am.  I will never expect or ask for more than you can give, because I got involved with you knowing exactly what you could offer.  And I know that things work out a lot of different ways in life, and I value having you in my life in the way that you are.

I may not have unrealistic expectations, but you can still hurt my feelings, and you probably have.  If you have, I’m over it, but let’s try to avoid that in the future.  I am hypersensitive.  You know this about me, so be gentle with me.  Give what you can.  Be a good friend.  Be honest.  Treat me with respect.  Don’t cause me to feel insecure or unsure or second guess my original judgment of you as a kind person who I respect.

If our relationship is purely a friendship now, that’s great.  Don’t wonder if I want more.  I don’t.  Also, if we both know that we are better as friends, don’t push for something else just because you’re bored or lonely.  I want you in my life in the way that is best for both of us.

If our relationship is more than that, relax and enjoy and trust that our friendship and mutual respect will carry us through and things will work themselves out.

I get it that we have completely different interests, live far apart, are at different points in our life, live our lives in very different ways, etc.  Clearly we have something that draws us together.  Maybe I’ll take up hunting.  Maybe you’ll move to Chicago.  Probably not, and that’s okay.  Or maybe someday I will be writing about our great love story.  No matter what, it’s all good.

If we ever hook up in the future, don’t forget to kiss me lots.  I really like it.  And when you don’t, I feel a little too Pretty Woman, in a bad way.

If we’re going to be in a situation where we could hook up again, and you know beforehand that you do or do not want something to happen, let me know.  That gives us both a chance to figure out if we want different things before it’s awkward.  It will avoid unnecessary anxiety on both our parts, eliminate the risk of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and help me know ahead of time if I should shave my legs.  It allows us to make the most of it.  If you don’t know until we’re in the moment, I understand (because I might not either), but if you do know, tell me!

If there is a reason that you and I will never work out romantically, set me up with someone a lot like you!  I hooked up with you because I liked you, and you probably have friends who are a lot like you…so introduce us!  I would do the same.

Know that once I am in your life, I will always be here for you if you ask.  That’s just what it means to be my friend.  Ask or don’t, but the offer always stands.

That’s all for now.  Just know how special you are and that I will never regret hooking up with you.

Yours always,

The one you’ll always remember…

 

P.S. Don’t assume this is addressed to you.  😉

 

1. If you are of a certain age, you may be unsure what it means to “hook up.”  It is an intentionally ambiguous phrase.  Just accept it, and don’t question it.  The more broadly you define it, the more applicable it is in this instance.

2. Before law school, I either had serious boyfriends, or occasionally poor judgment.  This letter is not addressed to them.  Or to my ex.

3. If it sounds like I’m talking to a lot of men, just assume that is because I’m writing to the past, present, and future simultaneously.

Categories: Dating | 2 Comments

He went on a date?!

According to facebook, my father went on a date.

I actually think he was pretty smart to share the information via facebook.  Telling people in person likely would have been awkward for a variety of reasons, plus having virtually everyone know at once avoids gossip.  It also allowed him to tap into one of the best parts of facebook: its ability to become a forum for people to show their support.  Currently, 44 people like his status, and quite a few wrote encouraging comments.  My father’s response was: “I’m mildly amazed and very appreciative at all of your support at this emotional turning point.  Thanks.”  I love the fact that he can be mildly amazed.

So, having said that, when I read his facebook status I instantly started sobbing.

I don’t know why entirely.  It has been 15 ½ months since my stepmother died.  If a friend lost a spouse, I would be very supportive of the friend tentatively beginning to date at this point.  And I certainly support my father.  I would have supported him if he had gone on a date much sooner, although I may have worried it was too soon.  I would have supported him if he never dated again, although eventually I would have worried that he wasn’t really living.  And I am supportive of him now.  I will support him whether this is an isolated date that goes nowhere or whether this leads to a serious relationship or whether this is the first of many dates with many women.  I support him, and I’m happy for him, even.  I think it’s healthy.  All of that.  But I still started sobbing when I found out he had gone on a date.

Why?  I think partly it is just an inherently emotional thing.  It made memories come flooding over me.  It made grief for what will not be in the future overwhelm me.  Those were my first feelings, but they were quickly outweighed by the joy I feel for my father as he attempts to figure out what his life can be now and in the future. 

So why did I keep crying?  I think it’s because I am self-centered and immature.

As I thought about the idea of my father going on a date, I began to feel sorry for myself.  Here is my father who loses the love of his life, suffers unimaginable loss, has his entire life change in a moment, and he is psychologically healthy enough to go out on a date.  But I end an unhappy marriage leaving me dramatically happier, yet I am not actively interested in dating.  It’s like, if my dad is happy and dating (which I realize may not be an entirely accurate characterization), what’s wrong with me that I’m not?

My stepmother’s death was directly related to me deciding to get divorced, so somehow I feel like I should only date if I meet someone as phenomenal as she was.  Thus,…  There just aren’t that many amazing people out there, and when I look at the kind of person she was it reminds me how important it is to be with someone who I actually believe is amazing.  I know that men like that do exist.  I just think there are relatively few of them, which decreases the odds of them being single and living in close proximity to me.  And I have lost all patience for less than amazing.  So I guess my lack of faith in ever meeting anyone as amazing as my stepmother made me cry for myself at the news that my father has more hope than I do.

Categories: Dating, Divorce, Family, Grief, Marriage, Starting over | 3 Comments

Not a proper greeting

I recently told someone that the only thing I miss about being married is having someone to pick me up at the airport.  That may not be entirely accurate, but it’s close.  Last night, as I sat on my third flight home to Chicago this month, I was again contemplating the long walk through O’Hare followed by the tram ride to the bus that would take me to my car so I could drive home.  So I was thinking once again about how nice it is to have someone to pick me up at the airport.

But…not necessarily.

As I was thinking about this, I was remembering what it was actually like to be picked up at the airport by my ex, and I don’t miss it much at all.

This is the almost forgotten story that came to mind.

Relatively early in our relationship I was out of town for several days at a bar conference.  I think it was New Orleans, which would mean we were not yet engaged, but would be a few months later.  It was early enough that I still looked forward to coming home.

The plane lands.  I immediately turn on my cell phone and eagerly called him to tell him he should leave for the airport to pick me up.  “We just landed!”  “Hello.  Where are you calling me from?”  “Columbus!  I’m home; come pick me up!”  “So you are calling to tell me that your plane has landed in Columbus?”  “Yes.  I’m in Columbus.  We just landed.”  “So you landed in Columbus?”  “Yes.”  “Well that’s great.  You made it home to Columbus.  Where are you now?”  “I’m on the plane.  We just landed and I called you the second I was allowed to use my phone because I can’t wait to see you.”  “So you’re still on the plane?”  “Yes.  We will be at the gate soon.”  “Okay.  So you are still on the plane.”  “Yes, but I am just about to get off.  I actually have to get off the phone so I can get off the plane.  You should go ahead and leave now to come pick me up.”  “Wait, you just called me, we can’t get off the phone that fast.”  “I’m sorry, I have to get off the phone.  I can call you back in a minute, but you should just go ahead and leave.  I will get to see you in a few minutes, and that is much better than talking on the phone!”  “No.  Call me back when you have time to talk.”  “Okay, I will call you back as soon as I am inside the terminal.  Bye.”  “Goodbye.”

Etc., etc., etc.

30 minutes later, I am waiting outside baggage claim with my suitcase, looking at my reflection in the airport windows trying to smooth my hair and look as good as possible for him after two long flights to get home.  As I scan the cars turning into the arrivals area, I see him turn the corner driving his corvette with the top down.  By the time he pulls up, I am beaming because I am so excited to see him.  I wave as he pulls up, smiling and impatient for him to get out of the car and hug and kiss me.

He stops the car, gets out slowly, and walks around to me.  I run up and hug him tightly.  His arms remain at his sides.  “Kiss me!” I exclaim.  “No,” he replies.  “Say hello first.”  “Hello!” I respond.  “Now kiss me!”  “Well, hello.  You are home in Columbus.”  Trying to avoid yet another exchange about my precise location, I say, “Yes, I am home in Columbus.  And I finally get to see you again!  Now please kiss me!”  Finally he does, but he is clearly upset about something.  “Is something the matter?” I ask against my better judgment.  “Aren’t you going to say anything about the fact that I drove my corvette to pick you up?” he demands.  “That’s wonderful,” I tell him.  “That will be a special treat to ride in your corvette.  I’m just so happy to see you finally, but I’m also glad you decided to drive the corvette.”  “You’re glad I decided to drive my corvette?  That’s all you have to say about it?  I washed it and waxed it and tried to make it look perfect for you so that you could enjoy the ride home in it.”  “Thank you for driving your corvette to pick me up,” I say, trying to force enthusiasm for a car.  “It looks very nice.  I’m really happy I get to ride in your beautiful corvette.”  “You’re welcome,” he says.  “Thank you for appreciating the effort and thought I put into the decision to pick you up in my corvette.”  Hoping that issue is resolved, I again attempt to redirect the conversation back to what is really on my mind which is finally being together again.  “Well, I can’t wait to get in your corvette so you can drive back to your house as fast as possible!  I have really, really missed you.”

And that’s when things really start to go downhill.  “My house?” he asks.  “I thought you would want me to drive you straight to your house so that you could unpack and shower and get settled in.”  “No!” I exclaim.  “I’ve been away from you for days!  My house is 30 minutes away, and your house is 10 minutes away.  How is there any question about where I want to go?”  “Well, I assumed you would want to go home and unpack,” he repeats.  “Why would you want to go to my house?”  “Because your bed is 10 minutes away and my bed is 30 minutes away.  And I have absolutely no interest in unpacking right now.  I missed you.”  “Why do you care about my bed?” he asks.  “You have a bed, too.  If you are that tired, I guess you can sleep in the car, although that would be kind of rude after I did you the favor of picking you up.”  Doing my very best not to sigh and to maintain some enthusiasm for what was once my goal, I tell him, “I care about your bed because I want to have sex in 10 minutes, not 30.”  Appearing to be genuinely surprised by this information he tells me, “Well, I wasn’t expecting you to want to have sex when you got back.  I thought you would want to go straight to your house and unpack.  I really think I should just take you to your house because that was my original plan.  We can have sex after you unpack.”  Refusing to be dissuaded, I tell him, “No.  We are going to your house and we are having sex.  That should have been your plan all along.  Now, please let me put my bag in your car so that we can leave the airport.”

Clearly not liking this plan, he allows me to put my bag in the car.  He opens the door for me, and I finally get in.  As we pull away from the airport, he asks, “So do you really want to go to my house that much?  I am glad you want to have sex, but you should have told me that ahead of time.  I wasn’t expecting to have sex when you got back and I really can’t reprogram myself like that.  I was planning to have sex at your house after you unpacked.”  I tell him, “I am completely serious.  I have been gone for four days.  We are going to your house right now and having sex.”

During the 10 minute car ride, this continues, but at least he is driving towards his house.

“I’m sorry I didn’t realize you would want to have sex when you got back.  But you should have told me.  Next time you should tell me and then I will be mentally prepared.”

“Let’s just have it be a standing rule that I will want to have sex when I get back.”

“No, you have to tell me every time.”

“Seriously?  Fine.  Well, I’m telling you now that I want to have sex.”

“Do you still want to have sex?  I think all this talk about it has ruined whatever mood there was.  Should I just take you home?”

“No!  You are not taking me home, and I still want to have sex.”

With each time I repeat it, it is becoming less and less true.

“No, your mood is ruined.  I can tell.  We will go to my house, but we are not having sex.”

“How can you say that?  You should want to rip my clothes off when I get back.  Now that would be a great way to be welcomed home.”

“I can’t do that.  When I pick you up I have to take you home so you can unpack.  Plus, it’s not like I can literally rip your clothes off now.”

“Well, I can.”

I take off my shirt.

“What are you doing?!  Everyone can see!”

“Can you see?  That’s the point.  I am taking my clothes off right now because you won’t.”

Laughing a little, “Stop that!  You can’t take your shirt off while I’m driving with the top down.”

“Oh, yes I can.  I just did.  And I’m not done yet.”

“Just wait until we get off the highway when we are stopped at a light next to another car.  Then you’ll put your shirt back on.”

We get off the highway.

“Put your shirt back on.”

“Is that really what you want?”

“No, but you’re crazy.”

I take my pants off.

Laughing more in spite of himself, “You are sitting there in a bra, panties, and flip flops.  You look silly.  Put your clothes back on.  You’ve made your point.”

“No I haven’t, or you wouldn’t be telling me to put my clothes back on.”

“Fine, I’m not going to complain about you taking your clothes off, but we still can’t have sex when we get back.  We’ve talked about it too much, so now it’s ruined.”

We pull into the driveway.  I take my bra off.

He is speechless.

He walks around to open the door for me.  I get out of the car wearing my flip flops and panties, carrying the rest of my clothes.  I walk around to the back of his corvette and wait for him to open it so I can get my suitcase out.  I pull my suitcase to his front door, shivering just a little despite the midday sun.

He is laughing and shaking his head.

Inside, I take off my panties.  We do not have sex.

Categories: Divorce, Marriage, Starting over | Leave a comment

Saying yes

I’ve heard that you should never say no to a date.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  You never know who you will meet.  Whatever.  I don’t agree with that advice at all.

However, I was thinking this morning that you should never say no to an opportunity to serve. 

Being in a new city, I feel very disconnected because I am accustomed to having multiple opportunities to serve others.  Over the years I’ve done all sorts of things including leading a small group and serving on committees at my church, participating in one-time service projects through work, teaching classes to teenagers at community centers, as well as being very actively involved in bar associations.  These kinds of activities are what make me feel alive.  In certain ways it has been selfish because the joy I get out of service comes in large part through the personal relationships I develop doing so, not mere satisfaction in doing good.  But I’m okay with that.  One of the things I value most in life is meeting other people who share my passions, so it’s great when that coincides with service.

After years of integrating myself into the life of my church, bar association, and community, it is hard to start over.  You can’t just show up somewhere, volunteer to do something, and expect to be warmly received and immediately put to work doing something meaningful.  As much as people appreciate volunteers, it can be challenging to use them.  To really be useful as a volunteer, it takes time to build and demonstrate knowledge of an organization, show that you have skills that can be used, and establish a level of trust where leadership feels comfortable delegating responsibility.

I did that.  I put in my time.  And it can be very daunting to have to start over again.  I hear similar complaints sometimes about dating.  I don’t feel that way in my personal life, but it makes me feel uncharacteristically insecure to not know where I fit professionally and in the community.

So back to my point.  When I was highly involved in the past, I felt like I still maintained a good balance in my life by only saying yes to activities that I was excited about and were truly ways that I wanted to spend my limited time.  I was never one of those people who felt overwhelmed because I didn’t know how to say no.  It wasn’t that I went around saying no, I just said yes enthusiastically to the things I really wanted to do and rarely put myself in positions where I was asked to do things I didn’t want to do.  (For example, I was happy to work with children on a Saturday afternoon, but I would have had no interest in cleaning up trash on the side of the road.  But no one ever asked me to do things like that.)

But I think I may have allowed myself to get a little too picky.  It worked in my old life because I did so much.  But in my new life, I can’t be like that, at least not yet.  Recently, there have been a couple of opportunities to volunteer my time in ways that I initially thought would be boring.  The first time, I signed up, but almost backed out at the last second.  But then I went ahead and did it, and was so glad I did.  (Only like 30% because I got to work with a very cute, funny, if married, guy.  The other 70%, okay maybe 60%, was totally the satisfaction of helping people.)  The second time, I vacillated again.  But I went ahead and signed up yesterday, and I’m pretty sure it was the right choice.  Maybe it won’t be as “fun” as some other activities might be, but I think I’m at a time in my life when saying yes is the right decision.

Categories: Starting over, Volunteering | Leave a comment

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