Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quick Update from Crazy (or should that be lazy?) Town

A whole day has gone by and I am still sitting here in my pajamas gazing into space.  I feel incapable of movement.  Any physical action seems to require such a momentous exertion of energy that I feel immediately light-headed and nauseous.  I can't quite seem to stop the muscles in my legs and arms from trembling.  I can't quite seem to stop my brain whirring, with hypochondriac tendencies, convincing myself that I am definitely on the verge of a major ailment.  Probably a stroke.  Surely not something as simple as a panic attack.

However, if I look on the bright side...if I tell myself that the main objective of the 'wasted' day was to conserve energy and to do as little as humanly possible...then I guess I could say the day has been a roaring success.   And maybe it is little wonder that I feel so physically and emotionally depleted.  It has been another insanely busy week here in Crazy Town.  Hurray for a sofa free of Gormiti's and Lego and back-to-back episodes of America's Next Top Model.  Perfect fodder for the temporarily brain dead.

Finally - FINALLY - all the references, applications, bank details have been submitted for the house we are trying to rent in the UK.  I also wired the money, using my new Smart Currency Account, which saved $$$'s on the exchange.  With any luck the money will be with the estate agent early next week and the contract will be finalised.  Maybe then I will be able to take a breath.  Maybe then I will be able to stop the sensation of falling through space, even with my feet planted firmly on the ground.  Maybe then I will be able to control what appears to be the early onset of Lockjaw and grinding my molars into stubs.

You see, it all sounds like this process was quite simple and straightforward.   The Estate Agent and currency company asked for information - I provided information...and, hey presto!  Of course the actual process was fraught with hourly setbacks and issues, compounded by the time difference which meant that if I couldn't get everything achieved by 11am Chicago time, I was pretty much snookered until the next morning.  Even the straightforward process of getting documents printed and scanned turned into a scene reminiscent of an Abbott and Costello sketch.  I don't have a printer.  I don't have a scanner.  I emailed information frantically to friends - only to find that their printer had, without explanation, died a death, or the scanner would only work at a freakishly high resolution, resulting in file sizes too big to email.  I tried to resort to faxing information, standing forlornly with my credit card in hand at Kinko's, but none of the fax machines would pick up.

Nothing went smoothly.  Anything that could go tits up, soared like a bird.  And in the back of my head, while I raced around like a blue-arsed fly swatting at issues in a vain attempt to resolve them, a little voice kept reminding me of all the other things I needed to achieve in order to move home: apply for UK schools, apply for a UK bank account, ship a house full of stuff in 4 weeks time, move into a friend's for a month, plan for Xmas, find a new home for my cats, sell my car, sort out utilities (UK and US), buy and organise delivery and assembly of boy's bedroom furniture for the UK (before we arrive), organise rental furniture until the shipment arrives...oh, and get bloody divorced!

No wonder then that I felt a little overwhelmed.  It felt at times that if I didn't physically wrap my hands around my neck that my head would start to spin.  I am pretty certain that if I hadn't developed this incredibly attractive habit of gulping like a baby bird desperately trying to swallow a fat earthworm, then I most certainly would be projectile vomiting lurid, green goo while my head repeatedly turned a full 360.

As I said to my sister, I can't cope with all this.  I truly can't cope, but what choice do I have?  The option of running off, celebrity-like, to a clinic to drink chamomile tea in a perfectly white towelling robe while having my head massaged by a lackey well-paid therapist for a month is not one that I have to take.  There is no other choice but to minimise the gulping reflex in public settings to avoid looking like I am losing my tenuous grip on sanity and just get on with it.

Seems so easy when I write it down.

Wednesday morning was time for mediation.  I get up at 5am to sort out the previous day's cock-ups with the UK and then start the drive to our appointment.  There is nothing civil or pleasant about mediation, I have learned.  Medieval torture would be a more accurate description.  The thought of sitting across from  my husband of 12 years, as adversaries, while we dual the divorce agreement to death, practically brings me out in hives.  My stomach is knotted to such a degree that my fail safe gulping mechanism is now a physical impossibility.  Just as I am nearing the mediator's office I receive a text from Ex: he can't make mediation, he is sick.  I am instantly furious, yet overwhelmingly relieved.  The hangman's noose loosens.  The gulping technique reinstates itself.  Maybe this meeting can be productive after all.  At least there is less chance of a bun fight, followed by my hysterical tears.

It ended up being a productive meeting (well, as productive as it could be with only one person there to agree to anything).  After a bit of a verbal tussle, I concede on several financial areas, because after arguing the toss for an hour I finally saw the mediator's point of view that It Just Wasn't Worth It.  And ultimately I felt quite calm when I headed home.

A couple of hours later the mediator emailed both Ex and I, summerising the discussion and highlighting points of agreement - which Ex immediately responded to with an email stating categorically that he has NOT in fact agreed to the maintenance amount.  Which immediately sent me into a tailspin.  WHA???  My throat constricted and my head began to spin again.  I felt totally sick, couldn't breath, couldn't swallow - just felt stressed to the eyeballs at the thought that he was now going to start fighting me over the maintenance sum - because without it I really can't afford to live in the house we have just rented in the UK.

My knee jerk reaction was to call the mediator and my lawyer and lose the plot, along with the shreds of my remaining dignity.  That's It!  I fumed.  The Final Straw!  The @#$&%*@#$.  But then I remembered advice that my lawyer had told me several weeks ago: just because Ex says doesn't mean it is so.  I fretted all afternoon, sniping exhaustedly at the boys, hanging on by a thread until they were in bed.  No wonder they enjoy being with their dad more right now.  Their mum is on the verge of being a professional loony-tune - if I can't keep up with my swings in temperament, then how can they be expected to?

I called a friend and let loose, fear gripping my bowels, sobs caught in my throat.  I feel like a puppet with no control over my life and know that the time might be approaching where I take a different tack, a more aggressive, offensive approach with Ex.  I know I need to calm down and not do anything rash - the world is not coming to an end after all.  It all feels monumental, but I know my reactions are hyper-sensitive right now and this constant feeling of being in fight or flight is not going to be the best basis for decision making.

I wake up the next morning (well, when I say 'woke up' that implies I actually had some sleep...maybe it is more accurate to say 'stumbled out of bed in a sleep deprived fog') to a text from Ex.  A long text.  An unexpected message.  The gist of it being - he was sorry.  Sorry for not going to mediation.  He is going to be fair and not fall out over money.  Too many years of happiness.  Too much love.  Too many years ahead of us.  That he is really struggling to deal with the situation, but he will try harder - and we will be fair to each other and the boys.

The world tilted on its axis and swung back around 180 degrees again.  I breathed and got on with getting packed lunches ready.

I texted Ex a little later, thanking him for his honesty.  And also sharing with him that I too am really struggling.  That even after the death of Mack, this feels like the toughest situation we have ever faced.  Made even tougher by the fact that, in all the crap over the years, he was always by my side, always my rock.  It will be over soon.  And then just the memories of the love and happiness will be left.  That's what we have to hold on to.

I press 'send', wondering if I have been a little too open.  Whether this honesty and expression of vulnerability will ultimately come back to bite me in the arse.  I do still love this man, in many, many ways, but it feels a little dangerous to give him a glimpse of that, to expose how I am struggling.  I feel a sense of calm that I have put down my weapons and spoken from the heart, but wonder if it will be used in  retaliation.

Just then I receive a new text, an instant response from Ex.  "Ok - you just made me cry at [global business meeting]...thanks ;-)"

I'm relieved that I let down my guard and feel an overwhelming desire to sleep.  My mode of panic, which I have perfected to a degree of professionalism, abates.  I'm exhausted but my inner feeling of strength reinstates itself.  The next few weeks are going to be hard but I feel a sense of confidence that we can get through it.  That we will continue to find a way to draw on the love we once shared to endure all this stress.

Physically I am totally depleted.  My body is heavy, yet weightless.  I drag myself through the motions of daily life.  Yet know with certainty, that This Too Will Pass.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Friends Think I'm Gorgeous...But 'Computer Says No...'

So while I was alternatively hibernating or bleating away about my pitiful existence this summer, to anyone who had the patience of a saint to listen, two of my girlfriends came up with a plan.
It wasn’t a particularly brilliant, inspired  or original plan, but they succeeded in getting my attention regardless.
“What you need,” they declared knowingly, “is to be wined and dined a little.  You need to get out more.  Let your hair down.  Have fun!”
More specifically, I needed to be wined / dined and to expend a little flirtatious energy with men who had the looks of Pierce Brosnan, the assets of Richard Branson and a Phd in cunnilingus/multiple female orgasm.  “Any sane, single man would give his right arm for the chance to go out with you!” my loyal friends assured me.  “You’re going to have men queueing up for the chance to take you out to some fancy, schmancy restaurant!  C’mon, your confidence could do with a little boost and it’s not like you have anything better to do, is it?  What have you got to lose?”
Sounded like a good plan to me.  Sign me up!  I said.  Now, where’s the catch?
There’s the catch.  Need I say more?
I wasn’t particularly convinced that a man with the combined attributes of Pierce / Richard / Sting (?!) was going to be advertising himself willingly on  I’d had the impression that was purely a euphamism for“well, what’s the problem with that?”  said one friend, “after all, it’s about time you had your pipes serviced.”)  
When I expressed these concerns to my two girlfriends they duly ran roughshod over my scepticism....”No, No, No - there’s plenty of fantastic, eligible men on Match...look, here’s a photo of one on a boat!” they assured me fervently....and started to write my profile.  
And that, my dear friends, is how my first foray into t’internet dating began.
Oh well, I thought a little dubiously, at least it will provide some entertaining blogging fodder if nothing else.
In a matter of days I had created a dating pseudonym, written a half-hearted profile and posted a few pics, including this photograph.

This is, I have to be honest, the most flattering photograph I have probably ever had taken in my whole life (wedding pictures included).  It is a miracle of modern digital technology.  It caught me in a split micro-second before my facial features morphed back to their typical frown or gormless gaze.  Even my most closest friends will attest that unintentional gurning is one of my foremost specialities.  
This is going to have all the hot, rich men responding in droves, I thought.  No matter that I won’t possibly be able to recreate that look in person - this is the land of false advertising.  And anyway, I am going to divert their attention with my effervescent, vivacious personality and pernacious wit!  It’s going to be great!
Now if there was ever one activity designed to well and truly knock my confidence to rock bottom levels this summer - it was my experience with
Oh to be sure - I did get a fair number of winks.  And even a number of emails.  All of whom from  men with the combined attributes of Homer Simpson (couch potatoes), Jabba the Hutt (“Weebles wobble...but they don’t fall down”), John Merrick (aesthetically challenged), the Hunchback of Notre Dame (a few handbells short of a full set), the Yorkshire Ripper (serial killer style facial hair) and Sarah Palin (gun toting global ingoramus).  
It appeared that the likes of Pierce / Richard / Sting hadn’t yet tracked down my profile, so I decided to give them a helping hand and shoot out a few winks and sardonic, amusing emails of my own.  
Which were all IGNORED.  
Not one response.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  And I know they went on to read my profile and take a look The Most Ridiculously Flattering Photo Of Me Ever Taken, because I checked.  
Now to say my self-esteem was in tatters prior to this experience is to put it mildly.  And after?  Well, it was well and truly incinerated.  
Well here is proof positive, I mused.  My destiny is a relationship with an overweight, hairy, ugly man who sits on his couch all day cleaning his guns, picking at his beard while agreeing with the latest Glen Beck rants.  Either that or I am going to be alone FOREVER.  Way to go in cheering me up, girls.
Of course, beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes, so I did venture out on four first dates.  

The less said about those the better.  

Surprise, surprise, there were no fancy dinners in exclusive restaurants.  I made an effort to make myself look presentable, only to find each man turn up in baggy, ill-fitting cargo shorts, T shirts, that looked as though they had slept in them, and flip flops.  I’m not sure what impression they were aiming to make with that ensemble, but it definitely wasn’t one of, ‘I made a little effort before coming out to meet you tonight’.  Of course, looks aren’t everything.  I may be shallow, but not that shallow.  However, I have to confess I have spent more entertaining hours in the company of my friend’s British Bulldog Louie...and at least with him I am guaranteed of less slobber during the goodnight kiss.
What a spectacular waste of time.  And more to the point, what a spectacular waste of $75.  Do you realise how many cheap bottles of plonk I could have purchased with that money, to keep me company during my long summer of sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself?  Quite a few, I can tell you that for nothing.  Particularly if I had limited my spending to the 3-buck-chuck shelf at Trader Joe’s.
Let’s hope this is not a sign of things to come when I am back on British shores.  Surely the dating world can’t be as cruel back at home?  I guess on that front, I will just have to wait and see.
In the meantime I will continue to reassure myself that I have, in fact, meet a very interesting guy and no, he does not have the looks of Pierce, the assets of Richard (although potentially he could have a Phd in ‘satisfying women on the sexual front’...).  

He is a good friend of Subversive Mum and I met him the first time last Xmas, then again at Easter while on holiday in the UK and most recently while visiting SM at her new home in Brooklyn.  
He’s a Brit.  Older than me.  Shorter than me.  Possibly not the least bit interested in me.  But I like him.  I can’t quite put my finger on where the attraction lies - all I know is that the instant I met him, I liked him.  I wanted to spend time with him.  We are so very different yet have umpteen things in common.
Maybe he’s going to be a very good friend once I move home.  But maybe, it could be something more.  Only time will tell.
It might take a while....but I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Long Hard Summer Of Acceptance (aka if only I had shares in Kleenex)

The main reason for the lack of blogging activity over the summer was due to sheer exhaustion.  Not physical, but mental and emotional.  I had lists of posts to write, but when it came to having the time to write after the boys were in bed, more often than not you could have mistaken me for a mannequin lying prone on my sofa - that's the state of stillness I have been perfecting night after night, watching trash TV.

Ex and New Girlfriend are still going strong (I guess 'New' is fairly inaccurate at this point in time, as they have now been together for 10+ months...let's just call her American Girlfriend instead...I am tempted to call her Girlfriend With A Mouthful of Big, Shiny Teeth, but that seems a little facetious verging on bitchy, so I won't).  Due to the fact that our long-term babysitter still works for us both, it was impossible to avoid being aware that AG is a constant fixture at Ex's house and was developing a close relationship with our sons.

And this I have really struggled with.

By all accounts she is lovely with the boys and, in the grander scheme of things, I knew I should be really grateful.  But understanding you should be grateful and actually being grateful are two very different states of being - the latter being a state of mind I was finding very difficult to achieve.

I want my boys to be happy.  I want them to be loved by a myriad of people in their lives.  Just not by her.  The thought of them sharing 'family' time with their new mum substitute - with her beginning to love them and them beginning to love her - absolutely crushed me.  Knowing that it shouldn't...  knowing I should just be grateful that the boys were happy and loved...knowing that it didn't take anything away from their love for me as their mother, didn't help a great deal, I have to be honest.

I was wracked with jealousy.  I never had any fault with her personally - it was just the situation that felt totally agonising.  I felt an overwhelming anger at no longer being the sole mother figure in my sons lives.  It was not something that I had ever anticipated when conceiving, carrying and giving birth to them...and in all the sleepless nights that subsequently followed.  All that hard, turn-my-life-upside work...all that selfless devotion and self-sacrifice...for my role to be ultimately shared?  It didn't seem fair.  It wasn't fair.  It was hard to look at it from the boys' point of view and acknowledge the benefits it was bringing to their lives, and so much easier to look at it from my point of view and feel so incensed that I just wanted to kill someone.  Not her necessarily.  Probably him, in all honesty.

How could he?  How could he do this to me? I would fume and fester over the injustice of it day after day, night after night. It seemed like such a betrayal.  I felt like such a fool.  And their togetherness (and happiness) highlighted and exacerbated my own loneliness to a degree that felt intolerable.  I was wretched and I was miserable and I was beyond any form of consolation - all because others were happy and moving on with their lives.

It didn't help matters that Ex and AG took the boys on holiday together to visit some of our old friends in Seattle.  Yet again the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head.  I tried to maintain a note of cheeriness and excitement in my voice when I spoke to the boys on the phone - but my envy towards their 'family' getaway, with our friends, was palpable.  And of course, there were the accompanying insecurities.  Do our friends like her more than they liked me?  Do they see Ex and AG together and think, 'Oh yes, they are so good together...much more suited than Ex and Nicola ever were.  And AG is so nice.  And pretty.  And young.  Not old or jaded or cynical at all.  It's so obvious why Ex is with her, rather than his unstable, drama-driven, aging wife...'

Friends would sympathise - but would also acknowledge that yes, AG is nice.  And she is great with the boys.  And the boys seem to have a great relationship with her.  And that's a good thing, it really is.  But all I could think was, well, that's easy for you to say - and I emphatically agree with you on a theoretical level - yet, I think you might have a completely different point of view if this was happening with YOUR children.

My thoughts and feelings on the matter ultimately reached a tipping point when the boys returned home. We were having a fairy innocuous conversation about girlfriends while I was driving them home after an afternoon at the park.  Johnny Drama was having a hard time deciding which girl in his class he should choose to be his girlfriend.  In the midst of discussing their various merits, Captain Underpants piped up, "I think I'd like AG to be my girlfriend.  She's kind, she's pretty, she plays with me, she's fun.  Yeah, I think AG will be my girlfriend, mum.  I love her."

How I managed to keep the car on the road while the knife was being driven so swiftly and cleanly through my heart is a true reflection of my superior driving abilities.

On the tip of my tongue was the instant rebuttal:  oh yeah?  well, I think your father would have something to say about that!

Instead I kept quiet for a minute, listening to JD enthusiastically concur with his brother, before saying, "that's nice sweetheart, I'm sure AG would be very happy to hear you say that".  The conversation continued with CU saying, "you know, AG is always there at Daddy's now Mum.  It's kinda like I have two mummies now, isn't it?  She's like my new mummy now, isn't she?  So I have two mums.  That's lucky, isn't it?  So, you're my mum - and she's also my mum.  Right Mum?"

How I managed to keep the tears from flowing at this point, due to the knife being twisted cruelly in my heart, is a testament to the rapid blinking technique I have perfected over the past 2 years.  It was on the tip of my tongue to shout, "NO, SHE IS NOT YOUR MUM!  I'M YOUR MUM!  I'M YOUR MUM!! YOU ONLY HAVE ONE MUM AND SHE IS CURRENTLY USING EVERY OUNCE OF CONCENTRATION NECESSARY NOT TO DRIVE OFF THE FUCKING ROAD...AND DON'T YOU EVER FORGET THAT!"  Of course I didn't say that, although my brain was screaming it relentlessly, and I couldn't bring myself to agree with him at that point either.  But what I did manage to say was, "well, of course it's great that you have all these people in your life who love you so much, CU - you are very lucky boys."

And once they were in bed, tucked up sound asleep, I sobbed and sobbed, feeling a mix of rage and self-pity.  They already think they have 2 mummies?  I felt robbed and achingly sad, as if I was on the rocky road to losing them forever to their new, happier, family.

I can see how easy it is for mothers in my position to wish to reek havoc and vengeance on their Ex's and their new partners.  Having to share the emotional devotion of your children in these circumstances goes against every primal, lioness instinct.  I had always aimed to be magnanimous, gracious and generous as our family shifted shape, but it felt beyond my capabilities to be this way.  Holding my dying first born son had been hard.  Having a second premature baby had been hard.  Going through the breakdown of a marriage away from my family and friends had been hard.  And hearing my son profess his love of AG and his acknowledgement of her playing a mothering role in his life was also hard.  Just as hard.  I felt sideswiped by emotion and struggled not to fall into a pit of depression and self-loathing over my inability to handle the situation with grace and acceptance.

As I said.  Not a fun summer.  Not a lot that I had the strength to blog about at the time.  My energy was directed towards a) not crying constantly and b) not following through with the urge to kill somebody (many days myself).

So it would have been easy, and incredibly satisfying, to hit back.  And believe me, I really wanted to.  It seemed the quickest and most efficient means of reducing my pain was to pass it on to my Ex and AG.  I just wanted the satisfaction of them appreciating what I was going through - and to impact their world to the degree that I felt my world was being impacted by theirs.

But I didn't.

Instead I invited AG to the boy's upcoming birthday parties and decided to face this situation head on - and to muster every ounce of artistic ability I possessed to maintain a veneer of grace, acceptance and generosity.  And to put my sons - who I love unconditionally with every single fiber of my being - 100% first.

I also decided to stop participating in the competition I had created between myself and AG.  Realising that I was not in competition with her - in age, looks, personality, even over the boys' feelings towards us - fundamentally shifted my perception on our situation.  I came to realise that the only person stopping me from being lonely and sad and stuck was me.  And until I moved on and faced my biggest fear head on - that AG is potentially the second mother in this family - that I would remain forever stuck and bitter and lonely.

Not that the parties were easy, mind.  I faced them both with the requisite smile, talked to AG briefly, introduced her to all the other parents...laughed and smiled in all the right places while I quietly died inside.  Then I got into my car - as the boys departed with Ex and AG - and cried my bloody eyes out.  For hours.  But I did it and I lived.  And it really did make the boys happy.  And - dare I say it - I quite like AG.  She's nothing like me at all.  She's really very nice.  She appears to be very respectful of me and for that I am truly grateful.  It could be worse.  She could be worse.  I need to count my blessings and make a continued effort to knock my competitive, jealous tendencies into touch where she is concerned - and try to focus my attention on being the best mum that I can be right now.

Luckily for me, the boys and I are the closest we have ever been.  While I do still struggle with being a single mum, on many levels, being able to single-handedly parent the boys on a daily basis is becoming easier.  I take comfort in the fact that I must be doing something right, because otherwise I am sure Captain Underpants would not have stated so emphatically the other day, "But I don't want to have to leave home to go to college Mum!  Do I have to go?  I just want to be able to live with you FOREVER!"

Oh my sweet, sweet boys.  Oh how I love you.  (But you're still leaving home at 18, if I have anything to do with will be for your own good, honest.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Almost Don't Want To Chance Fate By Writing This...

....but it looks as though I am finally coming home.

After a long and arduous summer and a very tumultuous few months, it looks as though the wheels are in motion to move back to the UK.

Can it really be true?  I don't dare fully believe it myself.  But the fact is that I have found a compact and bijou house to rent in North London (well...more compact than bijou if truth be told) and Ex has agreed to move things forward by co-signing the lease with me and has ponied up the dosh for the deposit and first month's rent.  (Forgive all the slang but I am just trying to get back into the swing of things...need to refresh the lingo so I don't stick out like a sore thumb.  Innit.)

Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the references come through to reflect our status as shining examples as prospective pillars of the community...or else the whole thing could easily go tits up.

But.  Assuming they don't.  Assuming the tits remain firmly in place, then the house will be rented from 1st November and I can start applying for schools, booking shipping and generally running around like a headless chicken coordinating all the logistical paraphernalia  necessary to move home at the end of December.

Fingers crossed for the tits then.

I had to heave a sigh of relief tonight, while eating a culinary masterpiece of fish fingers and mash with the boys.  To me, fish of any kind (but especially the grey, tasteless cast-offs that generally comprise your average fish finger) cannot truly be savoured without a liberal dousing of salad cream.  I know, I know...not everyone's choice of seafood dressing, but most definitely mine.  The same goes for jacket spuds (I almost said baked potato but managed to find the 'right words' just in time...see I'm getting the hang of this).  Anyway, I am down to my last thimble of salad cream - so really, the timing couldn't be more perfect.