Unexpected Emotional Cesspool

Wow, it’s been quite an unanticipated emotional roller coaster since I moved out of my house on January 6. I’ve been sharing bits of my journey on my social media platforms, and my most recent post talked about this and my upcoming cross-country move  a little bit (basically as a reason for why my accounts have gone silent). I said something along the lines of calling this time I’m in my emotional cesspool because it’s been a quagmire of excitement and anxiety, exhilaration and fear, and unexpected mourning and grief.

I realized I have to embrace and really feel all of these emotions, no matter how uncomfortable or exhausting, in order to fully move forward. It’s not fun, but it is necessary. And I also realized that the definition of cesspool – an underground reservoir for liquid waste (such as household sewage) – really fits. I know I’m not alone in this, as one of my SM followers posted a comment that resonated with me on several levels. It was:

“You’ll never know how many women who read your posts are in painful , scary, confusing, and even dangerous situations. None of us has known how we would EVER get through it. But, we do, scars, lessons, strengthening and all. We need each other in those times to see glimpses of another’s courage, hopefulness, and success. So thank you on behalf of all of us who are on our own journeys, for your generosity and courage in sharing yours.”

Wow. It brought tears to my eyes to read this, and reading it again now, I’m tearing up yet again. (This is likely due in part to the fact that being in the place where I am, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. My emotions are like raw, exposed nerves and it doesn’t take much to set them off. But, to be honest, I’m a sensitive and emotional person in general. I cry at sappy movies. Heck, I cry at stupid TV commercials. It gives my kids no end of entertainment to look over at me to see if I’ve teared up over something.)

I started this blog as a way to work through my own sh*t, and for whatever reason it felt like I’d have to work through it more seriously if I was writing it in a public space. But her comment is the other main reason I started this blog – to perhaps show others that we are never alone, or even all that unique, in what life throws at us. That it IS possible to make changes, no matter how scary change may be. For so many years I felt afraid and just stuck, and I felt all alone in this. I only talked to a few close friends about the details of my marriage. I felt like I was stuck. Rationally I *knew* I wasn’t the only one in an unhappy marriage, but I felt very alone.

I was afraid to be on my own, supporting myself, after so many years of not being the primary breadwinner. I was afraid of damaging my kids by splitting up their home. I was afraid my ex would make my life hell – he said he would many years ago, in a fit of anger, when I said I wasn’t happy and didn’t want to be married to him anymore. At that time, it scared the hell out of me because my kids were very little and I could not imagine putting them in such a situation, or splitting custody and not being there. So I backed down and soldiered on.

This time around, my kids are grown and off to college. I finally realized I had two choices – to stay where I was, content sometimes, miserable other times, probably more financially secure because we had two incomes. I could see my life stretch out before me – kids gone (because, of course, that’s what we do as parents, prepare our kids to leave us), just the two of us at home, the inevitable arguments, and the constant undercurrent of anxiety about when the next blow up would be. I could no longer do it, and the alternative of being on my own, wholly supporting myself , splitting up our home, was terrifying, but I knew it was the direction I had to take.

Change is f*cking scary. But what lies on the other side of the fear of change and the unknown? We’ll never know until we confront the fear, and walk through it.

I’m doing it. Some days kicking and screaming, others weeping and afraid, still others completely bogged down in grief. But yes, some days are with excitement and anticipation. Time will tell what’s on the other side for me, and for any of us finding that where we are doesn’t work, and has to change.

Courage is not the absence of fear …

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. ~ Mark Twain

When I thought about courage, I always envisioned people being super brave, on the outside. I never really questioned how they might be feeling on the inside. I’m sure there are some people who ride off into the sunset on grand and crazy adventures without a qualm or question. I always thought they were the brave ones.

The ones nearly crippled by fear but doing the scary thing anyway? I’m not so sure I considered them courageous.

But you know what? These days I think the people who are terrified, and doing that scary thing in spite of it, have a shitload of courage. It’s easy to do the wild and crazy thing when you’re eager to do it, looking forward to the adventure with open arms; chomping at the bit, so to speak. It’s substantially more difficult to do that wild, crazy, or scary thing when your insides feel like jelly, when your inner voice is screaming “holy shit, WTF are you DOING?!” And everything in your being is crying out to stay where you’re safe and comfortable, where everything is known (the good and the bad).

That’s where I’ve been sitting for the past six months. Having made the decision to end my marriage, I’ve been in this place where part of me says, yes, it’s the right thing to do, everything will be fine, you’ll be fine, you’ll be able to support yourself, you won’t end up worse off than you are. Meanwhile, that obnoxious OTHER voice (I call it my Gremlin) pipes up at nearly every turn to push me back into my comfort zone. To make me stay where I am; to make me fear the unknown future, being on my own, supporting myself for the first time – by myself – in 22 years, questioning every decision I make. It’s incredibly exhausting.

But, I’m forging on. Telling the Gremlin to shut up and go away.

My divorce is now final. I moved out of the house I researched and helped design with my Dad, and moved in with a friend for the time being.

A few months ago, I made the monumental decision to move to New Mexico from my east coast home, friends and family. Another terrifying decision, but it came down to honestly answering two questions: if I don’t go, will I always wonder “what if?” (YES), and if I don’t go, will I forever regret not giving it a chance? (YES). The answers to those two questions gave me my answer: yes, I’m going to New Mexico. Leaving my kids at their east coast schools, leaving my parents, family, and friends. Leaving the community in which I’ve finally started to become a part. Making a giant change, and a terrifying leap into a completely unknown future.

But I’m doing it anyway. Maybe I’m courageous, or maybe I’m crazy. Time will tell. I’m telling myself I’m only moving for a year, because thinking beyond that is more than I can handle. I’m not really mastering my fear, I’m just doing the scary thing and being scared all at the same time.

I was supposed to move at the end of December, but things got a bit complicated and delayed. Now it’s looking like mid-February. I feel like I’m in a limbo between lives – old one is over, new one has yet to begin. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, and I feel like it’s making me mourn moving out of my house more than I would have, had I moved out and immediately on to New Mexico. But it’s also giving me more time here, to visit friends, breathe deep, try to plan and, or course, worry (and try not to worry).

Now that my divorce is final, I’m starting to feel lighter. Starting to hope that maybe life will be better. Feeling myself take deep breaths and feeling almost as though I’m coming back into myself. At the same time, strangely feeling very sad when I think about my ex living in our house all alone. I hope that we’ll both be happy, and find what neither of us could in our relationship.

 

I Was Happy Enough …

There’s this line in one of the early episodes of Grace & Frankie, where Robert (Martin Sheen) says to Grace (Jane Fonda), as he’s telling her that he’s leaving her for his partner, Sol (Sam Waterston), “Admit it, you weren’t happy.” And Grace says, “I was happy enough.” Is “happy enough” good enough?

There’s this line in one of the early episodes of Grace & Frankie, where Robert (Martin Sheen) says to Grace (Jane Fonda), as he’s telling her that he’s leaving her for his partner, Sol (Sam Waterston), “Admit it, you weren’t happy.” And Grace says, “I was happy enough.”

Is “happy enough” good enough? For some people it probably is. For others, it’s just not. Is it selfish to say, “No, happy enough is not enough” ? That’s the question of the hour for me.

Some days I was happy enough in my relationship with my soon-to-be ex-husband. Many days I was entirely too far from happy enough. I was upset, sad, miserable, angry, deflated, exhausted, disgusted. Not happy – not anywhere close to it.

I realized a while back that I just couldn’t live the rest of my life “happy enough.” I couldn’t live knowing there would be another heated disagreement, more accusations and criticisms. That’s how my relationship worked – some days were just fine. And it could be like that for days, or weeks, or months – everything peaceful and fine. And then, all of a sudden, everything would suck. My ex would pick fights, either with me or one of the kids. He’d criticize, and berate, and accuse, and need to have these long, drawn-out discussions for hours about everything that was wrong, all the issues I had (they were always my issues), all the ways I wasn’t proving that I loved him enough. Discussions that always left me exhausted, drained, and in tears. Until, all of a sudden, instead of being in tears, I was just enraged.

I think that was the end for me. I’d reached the tipping point, and all that was left was admitting it wasn’t going to work. I wasn’t ready to do that for a long time.

Two years ago, I realized my kids were leaving. Both would be heading off to college and we’d be empty nesters. And while many couples look forward to getting to this point in life, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to be home without my kids. It was then that I really knew “happy enough” would never be good enough for me, and I’d have to be the one to pull the plug and call it The End. And I did that earlier this year.

I’m the selfish one. I’m the one who only cares about myself. I’m the quitter.

These are the words used to taunt me. I don’t think he realizes that I just don’t care; that I’ll own all of those without issue or guilt.

Because there’s a time when being selfish, caring about yourself, and quitting are the things you just have to do. When you realize happy enough isn’t good enough, and there’s no other choice to make but the one for yourself. The one for more. The one that takes you away from happy enough, and gives you the chance for completely, unequivocally, unapologetically happy.

Yes, that’s what I choose.

Tell me, what it is you plan to do …

Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~ Mary Oliver

I’ve been in a holding pattern for the last two weeks, since I found out I needed a biopsy to rule out breast cancer. All future plans were quite suddenly circling the drain, waiting for word on whether I’d be moving forward as I thought I would be, or taking a completely unexpected path down the road of literally fighting for my life.

Thankfully, I got the results back Monday afternoon, and all is well. No cancer; not even a sign of any pre-cancer potential. I didn’t realize how much I’d been holding my breath until I heard those words from my doctor. What a relief.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? This line from Mary Oliver’s poem struck me the first time I read it, and has stuck with me for years. WHAT. IS. IT. YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE?

Geez. It’s a simple question, but for me it comes with all sorts of pressure attached to it. Probably because I’ve felt like I was wasting my one wild and precious life. Not living it to the fullest. Not taking risks. Staying in a relationship that wasn’t healthy, wasn’t what either of us wanted or needed, and had no way of being what we wanted or needed. And then, two weeks ago, a significant smack upside the head.

DO SOMETHING with this wild and precious life, because who knows how long it will last.

My radiologist’s office made a mistake on my biopsy results, and included results for another patient in my report. Luckily I didn’t clue into it, but man was my doctor angry (that’s putting it mildly). There was one paragraph in my report stating that carcinoma was found, and surgery was recommended. I thought it was a reference to what *could* happen, and the reason for the biopsy. But, no. It was another woman’s results. Another woman who got the bad news I did not. Another woman who is now headed down that unexpected path of fighting to take her life back from cancer.

Last night, I got together with three very dear friends. One of them has a niece, B, who is 34 years old, and in the final stages of advanced lymphoma. None of the chemotherapy treatments have worked, so at this point they are just trying to make B as comfortable as possible, and hopefully strong enough that she can go home for a while. There is no hope for her; the cancer will take her. I’m so sad for her and her family; she is so young and it’s just not fair.

Thinking of both the woman whose results made it into my biopsy results in error, and B, makes me feel I must absolutely live my precious life as fully as I can. I need to care for this physical body of mine; keep it strong and healthy. I need to care for my spirit as well; I need to love myself. And I need to take responsibility for my life. No more coasting, no more excuses, no more rationalizing, no more wasting precious time.

I’m still not sure of what I’m doing. I have doubts, and questions, and reservations. I’m not clear about how I’ll support myself. I’m not sure where I’ll be living. I’m afraid of the unknown; afraid of making a mistake; afraid things will be worse than they are right now.

But I’m moving forward anyway. Because I really do want to make something of this wild and precious life that is mine. I am moving forward with clear biopsy results. Already, I’ve lived more life than my friend’s niece B ever will and have yet more time.

Every day is a gift. I have a responsibility not to squander it. Too many people don’t get tomorrow.

 

 

When it rains it pours …

Seriously.

As if enough of my life wasn’t already changing (exploding? transforming? imploding?  evolving? falling apart? Pick a day and a different verb will surface to describe how I’m feeling about everything. Every day it’s different, that’s for sure).

Last week I went in for my annual mammogram screening. As has been the case for the last five years or so, I was called back in for a diagnostic screening. I have calcification in my breast tissue in a few areas, and my tissue is also too dense for the standard mammogram to see through (lucky me). Yet another thing for many women over 50 to enjoy: calcification of tissue.

One quick aside: my health insurance (I think this is the case for all of them) will not cover a diagnostic mammogram without first having a screening one. How asinine is this?! They end up paying for two procedures, because I always have to have the diagnostic. But, nope. No coverage if I don’t have the screening one first, no matter what my history is. It is so very stupid, and another (albeit simple) example of how f*cked up the health insurance industry is in the U.S.

Anyway. Back to yesterday. I went in for the diagnostic, which is usually fine and I get the green light. No changes, nothing of concern.

Yesterday was different.

Some of the calcifications “seem to” have changed, and so they want to do a biopsy. I looked this up online (I know, I know) and yeah. WebMD and a few other sites seem to recommend a biopsy if the calcifications have changed. I don’t know if I have “microcalcificaitons” or not; the micro ones seem to be of more concern in their potential to be pre-cancerous.

Seriously, I’m afraid to even ask what else could possibly happen in my life right now. Nope, not gonna even go there. Let’s just throw everything up in the air and let it rain down like confetti; see where it lands. But I’m telling the Universe, enough already.

Divorce. All the financial insecurity of having been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years (yeah, I had my own small business, but that doesn’t count. It’s never supported me in full, or had to. Until now.). Losing my current health insurance and having to get my own policy (which is even more nerve-wracking now that this has popped up, and might be considered a pre-existing condition. Which might no longer be covered if the current political administration has its way … or has it already been dropped? I swear I can’t keep track anymore). Moving out of my house, not sure where yet. Kids both heading off to college. Perhaps moving really far away from the area I’ve lived my whole life. Which would also mean moving very far away from family and friends (though many have said they can’t wait to visit). And, if I move, extricating myself from one of my businesses, and running the other one in a way very different than I have before. Wondering if I should close up both businesses, if they really can’t support me, and do something else entirely (and if I do, what?!). Plus, if I move … the overwhelming physical MOVE.

And now, the cherry on top of this colossal pile of overwhelm: the possibility of breast cancer looms over me like an ominous cloud. I’m thinking positive, of course (well, I’m trying to … some days, like today, it’s hard and what I really want to do is stay in bed all day with tea and my books and f*ck the adulting).

I’ve had an annual mammogram (or twice-yearly for a couple of years when the calcifications first appeared), at the same radiology office, since since I was 40. I have no family history of breast cancer. I still have this rock sitting in the pit of my stomach.

I was scheduled for first thing Monday morning. I decided to reschedule so I could talk to my doctor, which I was actually able to do this afternoon. He had already spoken with the radiologist, who said that it looks like I have NEW calcifications since my last check. And so, yes, my doctor wants to do a biopsy to rule out cancer. He said not to worry; it’s probably fine. I’ll worry anyway, of course. Because there’s always the chance it won’t be fine. Now it’s scheduled for next Friday, but I may try to reschedule it for sooner so I don’t have to agonize for an entire week. We’ll see. Worst case, next Friday, and then I’ll get the results the week after.

I’ll get through it, either way. I know I will. I just never imagined I’d have something like this pop up NOW, when everything is already a crazy bag of monkeys I barely feel like I’m holding onto.

Yeah, truly. When it rains it pours. Ok, universe. This is more than enough, thanks.