Taking Care of Business

Until now I was able to live a fairly comfortable lifestyle. Just before my divorce I had lived five fairly worry free years - we'd paid off the college loans, were debt free except for our mortgage, and were starting a savings account for our retirement. This was a time when Bob supplemented his income with consulting fees and when we vacationed gratis, thanks to his foreign-based boondoggles. I enjoyed five years of worry free living. Then my marriage fell apart.

I recall a time in 1978 when we were graduate students in Boston and were down to our last $20. We needed to purchase food for the dogs before we could tend to our needs. We also had to set aside money for the subway, for we had no car. After expenses, all we could afford to eat for the rest of the week was rice and spaghetti. Although we were happy and looking forward to our future life after we completed school, our first 15 years of marriage were spent as students and paying off student loans. When we reached our mid-thirties and found real jobs we let out a sigh of relief and began to think about building our assets.

Then Bob got restless. When I signed our divorce decree, Bob's lifestyle didn't change. In fact it improved because he married a rich woman. My lifestyle returned to the one I had in my thirties - we had not been poor exactly, but we had to watch our pennies.

By canceling the wine of the month club, getting rid of cable, and reducing my vacations from six a year to one or two, I managed to live on a fraction of the income I had become accustomed to. Instead of going out to dinner, I would go out at lunch. Instead of seeing movies at the theater, I would rent them. I invested heavily in a better computer, and dropped my magazine and newspaper subscriptions, getting the news online. Instead of working out at an expensive club, I concentrated on walking my dog.

I purchased conservative investment clothes, many of which I can still wear because they are not trendy. I stopped streaking my hair, and began to color it myself. My haircuts became few and far between, and I have often solicited my mother's aid in cutting an inch or so off my blunt cut. I also built a kitchenette in my walk-out basement, which has a bedroom, bath, sitting room with fireplace, and a dining area. After moving out my belongings, I rented the downstairs to relatives of friends, using the income to pay off my gas, phone, and electric bills.

I also worked nights and weekends in a second job to help me through my adjustment period. As my salary rose, I made more adjustments, quitting my night job and reinstalling cable. For a while I felt that I was leading a comfortable lifestyle again, and I was quite content despite the fact that my former opulent life was gone.

This year the stock market bottomed out and the real estate market took a dive. While I was fiscally responsible, the effects of this economic downturn have taken their toll. I will not be receiving a raise this year. (Thank God I have a job.) My brother and I are unable to rent out our investment rental house. We had purchased it four years ago, and the income it generated allowed me to go on vacation and live free of debt. Even when the roof needed replacing, and the big old oak had to be cut down, I had the cash to deal with these emergencies.

No more.

Every time I must make a big purchase, I have to dip into my savings. My niece is getting married next week. Instead of treating my family to a big dinner out, I will be counting my pennies. My safety net is rapidly dwindling as I am nearing retirement age, and once again I am thinking of retrenching. I have signed a two-year contract for a Fios bundle, but will probably not reup the contract or keep my landline. The yard man will have to go, and I will live with my old ratty couches and sagging mattress for another decade, if not forever. I have also replaced my incandescent bulbs with energy saving fluorescent bulbs, and am keeping my thermostat down.

One more matter of business: my dog Cody. Our entire family is flying to my niece's destination wedding. Today, I designated a good friend as Cody' protector. Before I leave I will notify the vet and Cody's kennel that Jim will adopt him should anything happen to me and my family. What a sobering thought. But now that I have taken care of the most important little being in my life, I can breathe another sigh of relief.

I've taken care of current business. What's next? I shudder to think.


Best Resources for Divorced Parents and Separated Families

Dear Readers: Look Who's Been Included in This Fabulous Group! Keep scrolling down to see

Divorced Websites for Parents

  • Child Centered DivorceRosalind Sedacca is very active in educating parents about divorce. Her website, “Child-Centered Divorce,” helps parents minimize the emotional trauma for children whose parents are going through a divorce.
  • Attachment Parenting Blog Great Dad perspective with three children, 11, 8 and 4, which is a discussion venue for topics relating to single parenting, divorce, fatherhood.
  • Gabriel Cheong Law “This blog is really great, videos, interesting articles and I am sure very helpful legal advice for sticky situations divorced families get into.” -Nick, 19
  • Divorced at 50: What is life like after a 32-year relationship? This blogger spills all.
  • Judith’s Divorce Blog Reflections on divorce, separation and associated topics by Judith Middleton, who is qualified as a solicitor and an accredited family law specialist. Interesting perspective on this topic!
  • Dad’s House: “A single dad’s exploits–great music taste and he talks about all aspects of life.” -Mary
  • Divorce Diva A humorous and sweet perspective to a difficult situation–thank goodness.
  • Women’s Divorce Blog “Wow, a lot of really hard hitting articles and topics that are very well organized, a little bit like reading a book in pieces–good.” -Mary, 14.
  • Glenn Sacks “His stance is tough, but he seems to have a lot of different kinds of columns and resources about divorce!” - Nick, 19.
  • Darn Divorce “This is so funny, great comments and posts! I like her honesty.” -Marci, 17

  • Fathers For Life “Fatherlessness is the absence of their fathers in children’s lives. It is a large and serious social problem.”
  • The Divorce Blog This is really divorce professionals like lawyers educating consumers and parents. Their homepage also has a lot of great resources.


Have You Ever Felt Invisible?

Have you noticed now that you are past menopause and a few wrinkles have appeared around your mouth and eyes that men simply ignore you and that their gazes invariably land on younger women? Have you noticed how society in general just assumes that a woman past 50 is uninteresting and that even people who know you better than most tend to discount your opinion?

Why is this?

I recall talking to a man my age last year. He was single and so was I. But then a married woman in her thirties joined us. Yes, she was attractive, but she was MARRIED. Never mind. He ignored me for the rest of the evening, even though we sat side by side and he had to talk over me to flirt with her. Any time I spoke up, he gave me short shrift. I felt like kicking him in the b-lls, er, shins. It was not as if he was God's gift to women. In high school or college I would have dismissed him as not my type. Small comfort now when my dating pool has shrunk to about 1.2 eligible and interesting men per 1,000 square miles.

I spent Friday evening with three women - two in their twenties and one in her mid-thirties. They absolutely embraced my presence and were so flattering. We spoke about work, men, girlfriends, children, ambitions, renting apartments, the economy, clothes, politics, movies, books, Richmond events, and a series of other topics that kept me interested and on my toes. I felt ENERGIZED. Moreover, the three young ladies wanted to repeat the evening and invited me to join them again.

And yet . . . while they drew the admiring glances from men, those same men (all but one was younger than me), gave me not a single interested glance.

Here is what happened with my last "beau," who has been my friend since college. We were both divorced within 4 years of each other, and three years ago we became 'romantic." I had a hope that our relationship would lead to something, but it did not. By August I had not seen him in nine months. My silence was deliberate. He seemed to have lost interest in me and so I disappeared. When a conference brought me near him, I let him know that I would be in the neighborhood. I wanted, once and for all, to know why things had cooled off.

He absolutely insisted on seeing me, going through great lengths to meet me, and so I felt flattered. I recall preening like a sixteen-year-old on her first date. The moment he entered the seedy bar he had suggested, he said: "There might be some drama tonight. My girlfriend and her ex might show up." He then proceeded to talk about his new love for the next hour. Any time I brought up a topic related to what I had been doing, he failed to follow up with a question, bringing the subject back to his love, who, poor woman, had endured 17 years of a bad marriage.

Not once did he notice my arm protecting my middle section, and my other hand hiding my mouth. Any person trained in reading body language (as he was) would have seen that I was in pain. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I paced up and down the small room, wondering how long I could last. He had driven an hour to see me, so I figured I could give him the same amount of time for his effort: I would stay one more hour max. I returned to our table with a new attitude, determined to ask him some honest questions and speak my mind.

When he began to describe his new love's drama queen behavior and how he felt she should get therapy and how she felt he needed to change, I told him that he was ok just as he was, and while I understood that sex could be great after an argument, that he was not describing a mature relationship. Needless to say he was not interested in my opinion.

That was all I said. I mentioned a few other things I had been doing, not from any prompting on his side, and then (gratefully) left. The following morning he sent me her picture.

Did I tell you how he had described her? "5'5" - like you. 30 lbs. overweight - like you. Funny - like you. Bawdy - like you."

But not me.

When I looked at the picture I laughed. I saw someone 8 years younger than myself, with an extremely short neck, and hair redder than Lucille Ball's. Ok, so I shouldn't emphasize her physical attributes. This woman has a law degree, three children, and lives in a section of town that I can only dream about. Yet for all that he was telling me in what he thought was the most flattering light possible, she sounded like a whining and controlling person. Wonder of wonders, he is genuinely attracted to her drama. When he spoke of her, he seemed all a tingle and alive. His eyes kept darting to the door (for he had invited her to join us) and on his cell phone, hoping to see a message. Aargh! Talk about feeling invisible. I realized that in the entire two hours we were together he was talking about her, seeing her in his mind's eye, and looking for her. I could just as well have been a statue for all he cared.

My only response to her rather ordinary image was to wish him well and tell him that I was happy he had found someone to love. I have not heard from him since. Ever since I received her photo, the song "Insensitive" has played in my mind. The words Jan Arden sings in her video express how I feel and felt about my male friend's behavior. (No, I am not pining for him. Life is too short. But I do miss his friendship, which has been absent since he began dating her.) Do not EVER sleep with a friend of the opposite sex. Ninety nine percent of the time this will lead to the end of that friendship.

I think I shall just hang around with my girlfriends for a while and enjoy being seen and heard. For the time being I'll stick with relationships that are life-affirming.


Divorced After 51 Years

It's never too late to make the decision, and I suppose in this case it was better late than never. Mr. Velsey apparently beat his wife and their relationship had been volatile for over 25 years. This divorce case between a couple in their seventies occurred in 1885, and was reported in the New York Times during that period.

The tintypes at right are not of the couple.

My blog has been quiet for some months, and this has been on purpose. I found myself getting angry and blaming others for my actions and emotions. So, I decided to lay off writing until I could figure out what was happening.

These downward spiraling cycles occur even to the best of us. There are times when it is easier to blame others (in my case, Bob), than to face the truth about oneself - that one is not entirely blameless for what has occurred in one's life. I am beginning to see patterns that I repeat in my relationship with others, especially men, and how I sabotage myself. Sometimes looking in a mirror isn't pretty, and it is easier to hide from the truth than face one's thoughts and actions directly.

In addition, my fears have been taking over - fear of aging, fear of losing my job, fear of losing my health and my talents. There are so many fears to conquer! And then there is the sense of time rushing by and wondering where all the years went and that they can never be recaptured. I work with people half my age and realize their lives are still in front of them, while mine has tipped over to just past its prime. At times I can feel panic creeping in.

And then there is my pent up anger, which has been building. I realize that I will probably live the rest of my life alone and I cannot describe how scary that thought is. I crave affection and am not ready to give up on the sexual, sensual side of me. (Yes, I give affection - loads of it - and I receive it in spades from family and friends - but not from a lover, and there's the rub, you see.) There are days when I simply feel enraged - how could the love of my life simply get up and leave and find a replacement less than six months later? How could he?

After some soul searching, I have decided to resume this blog and share my ongoing journey as a single woman. So far, it hasn't been easy.
As an aside: I am proud to announce that my blog will be included in the Best Resources for Divorced Parents Post on Teens Today.com. (In part, this is what their email said: I wanted to tell you that someone submitted you to us! We have reviewed your website with a few of my teen interns and we decided to choose your website to include in our Best Resources for Divorced Parents Post).

Since I adore young people, I am deeply honored. Thank you Teens Today. I look forward to reading your article.


Taking Stock

Ok, I feel better now. My two weeks of self pity are over. I've taken stock and this is my inventory:
  • My brains, talent, and health are intact.
  • I have a fabulous and supportive family, plus my parents are still alive
  • Two wonderful 'adopted' boys are living with me - they need me and I need them.
  • I've adopted a sweet, loyal, and loving dog.
  • My once in a lifetime miracle job keeps me energized, interested, and interesting.
  • Good luck comes my way time and again. (A local newspaper wants me to elaborate on an article I wrote for a university publication.)
  • I have as many friends as I can possibly want.
The only missing item is a mate, but at this stage of my life I am not so sure I want one. I've tried dating only to discover that I rather like my independent lifestyle. Besides, it's so exhausting to meet new men.

Next week would have been my 35th wedding anniversary. I realized as I looked at my old wedding pictures with a niece who is getting married this fall that the happiness I felt on my wedding day remains undiminished. When I look at the ecstatic glow on that fresh young face I realized that no one can take away that wonderful memory. Just days after my wedding I moved to a new city, away from family and friends, and it took three years for me to become adjusted to my new situation. But adjust I did, and then happiness came my way again.

It's been almost seven years since my divorce, and the pain of that event keeps receding. Oh, sure I dread being alone in my old age, and I still have spurts of intense anger (witness the previous two posts) but marriage is no guarantee that your spouse will be around, no matter how happily married you are. So I am going to keep taking stock whenever anger robs me of my contentment. When I itemize all that I still have I realize that for the most part life is still good.


Working and aging

It's been hard lately to write about the divorce. I've been so busy, you see. Like anyone who's divorced after fifty, unless you are rich, you need to work for a living. I was one of the lucky ones. After almost three decades of marriage and play acting at having a job - part time jobs, and selling my watercolors on the side - I found a job with benefits. I work as a specialist on a grant project at a local university and receive state benefits.

It turns out that my talents suit my job perfectly and I have managed to get promotions and maintain my position for eight years. After the divorce I got the house, but, except for Bob's social security benefits, I had no pension and nothing saved up for a rainy day. So, I estimate that I will have to work until I am 70 before I can think about retiring.

However, will my health allow it? I suffer from asthma, a bad back, and rising sugar levels in my blood. And there's another thing that we baby boomers are beginning to notice: We're not as fast mentally as we used to be.

When I began my job I could multitask with the best of them. I learned new skills with rapid fire speed. I could recall what each file contained and where I put it. But that is the case no longer. The change in the past two years is dramatic. I would worry that these are the beginning symptoms of Alzheimer's if my fellow baby boomer colleagues weren't experiencing the same symptoms. We're starting to grasp for the right word or phrase, and if someone interrupts our conversation, we'll forget our topic as often as not.

Aside from the physical signs of aging and mental slowdown, I seem to have less spare time. I've taken classes (simply to keep up with current research and technology) almost every year since I began working and this year is no exception. And my parents are aging and can no longer make the three hour drive to see me, which means that (ideally) I should go to see them two weekends a month. This leaves me very little time for socializing or for paying attention to my yard and house. My neglected friends are falling to the wayside and my house is looking a mess. Literally.

At fifty I could work eight hours a day and come home and then would go right out and shop or exercise or do yard work. No longer. Now nearing sixty, I come home and I'm lucky to have the energy to clean up after dinner. I need my rest. So the thought of working well into old age and competing with the young Turks who have boundless energy not only seems daunting, but may become impossible in my high powered position with its frequent need for overtime, week end work, and out of town travel. The way things are going I will be lucky to work at this level of intensity for another five years. But here is the problem: I need my health benefits now more than ever.

I heard Bob is going for early retirement, which means that he will leave his faculty position next year, 20 years after getting tenure. On the days when I drag my tired body into the house and plop myself onto a sofa unable to move I actually despise him.

Self portrait two years ago at the office just before we moved into fancier digs.


Hurts Are Best Forgotten, But Sometimes Revenge is Sweet

Dear reader,

Normally I steer clear from cynicism and bitterness on this blog, for my ex was my best friend for 32 years. Sometimes it is hard to take the high road, as in this instance. I found a photo and all the hurts just cascaded back. So please bear with me as I barrel along and allow my anger to pour out of me.

The pain inflicted by the hurtful words my ex hurled at me at the end of our marriage lasted for a decade. He told me that while his looks had stayed the same, I was no longer the woman he'd married. True I had gained an enormous amount of weight, but most people still found me attractive. Most importantly, they liked me for my sense of humor and fun. Ten years ago Bob was as fit as he'd ever been. He kayaked on the river, and rode one of four bikes on long trips, some lasting for days. He'd spent a sabbatical in New Zealand, teaching, biking, hiking, and staying fit. While I exercised regularly, I couldn't keep up.

The last time Bob and I biked along the river together he complained that I was going too slow. I had gone out alone for a peaceful 9 mile ride, but for some reason he decided to join me. He should have stayed at home. I got nothing but comments about my slow pace which was, after all, the point. Since the divorce, my bike has been parked in the garage and I haven't used it since.

During those last married years I made jewelry for fun. I spent $300 on supplies. I sold some earrings, but I donated most to charity (about 100 earrings, most of which sold and made money). Bob accused me of being extravagant. This statement came after he spent $30,000 on a boat dock that we wound up using about 10 times in two years. Nevertheless, my jewelry supplies sit unused. I am unable to create new items without remembering his comments.

During the many decades of our courtship and marriage I went on canoeing weekends with him, we biked and played tennis, we hiked in the mountains, ran in Hawaii and Europe, and went camping about once or twice a year. We went white water rafting and tubed down the river, and I learned to drive his boat so I could pull him on the tube behind it. The last year of our marriage we went on trips and vacations 3 months out of 12. Yet he complained that I never wanted to do anything he wanted to do and that I was such a boring homebody. Imagine my incredulity when I heard these accusations. We had just returned from a 3-week road trip on the West Coast, and had spent every other weekend through mid-September on our lake property. At the time Bob made the accusation, we were vacationing during Thanksgiving week with his relatives in Duck, North Carolina. That was about one month after he stopped talking to me.

On October 30 of that year we attended the Celtic Festival. We held hand as we walked from booth to booth, and Bob told me how much he loved me. I returned the sentiment, and still recall that day as being one of the most special times of my life. We listened to Celtic music under the tents, watched big Scots men play Celtic games, and ate British Isle food. The next morning, at the sink, over a minor argument (I was in the way while he was making breakfast) he stopped talking to me. I followed Mr. Idiot's advice, you know, the guy who wrote Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and allowed Bob to retreat to his cave and emerge when he was ready to talk. Well, when Bob emerged, he walked. Take it from someone who learned the hard way - don't let your mate get away with being silent. Force the issue and start talking, or else the situation will spin out of control

A few weeks after our Duck vacation, I came to his bed (for he slept in a different room) thinking that I needed to take action. The last sound I ever heard my husband make while I tried to make love to him was something akin to "Eeww" or "Uhhhgg". I slunk out of bed and he went back to sleep. That sound haunted me for months. It haunts me still.

Ten months after Bob moved out of the house, and after he enacted the charade of wanting to "save" our marriage by attending counseling sessions, I found out through a girlfriend that he was engaged to someone else. It seems my husband was squiring his new fiancee around town and she was showing off her diamond engagement ring to MY friends, and trying to solicit one of my best friends to help her plan a reception. Bob and I hadn't even discussed divorce. When I confronted him about his engagement, I asked, "How can you be engaged when you are still married?"

His first response was: "It's all your fault. You've been stalling and just don't see the point." He then proceeded to tell me that he'd found his soul mate, that she completed him. I replied that I didn't know he needed completing. I thought he was good enough as he was. Then he said, "I wasn't happy being poor, so I might as well find out if I can be happy rich." Frankly, I had no idea that we were poor, but this was a time when I was continually being surprised.

Bob was right in one area, though. I hadn't seen the point. I had been married for 26 years, was in shock at his leaving, and truly believed that my husband, who had prepaid for one year of counseling, meant to save our marriage. I had asked him not to date as long as we were getting counseling. I couldn't bear the thought of revealing my inner most thoughts and fears if such revelations were all for naught. As it turned out, he began to date women a few months after he left me, despite his promise not to (which he later swore he never made. Hah!)

On the day we were to sign our divorce papers, I sat in the anteroom while he talked to his lawyer in the main office. As I cried, feeling as if my heart was breaking, I heard their light-hearted banter and laughter. He and his lawyer were joking even as my world was falling apart. Before that day I'd had to endure such statements as: "I am tired of carrying you along", and now I was confronted with the realization that he was viewing the breakup of our marriage with relief. He claimed that I had never pulled my weight, and that my ambition to become a writer would never bear fruit. His new Tootsie, it seemed, had her own investment firm and she had sold her business for a pretty hefty sum. Though she was four years younger than me and was monetarily more successful, she'd had a couple of marriages under her belt. In other words, she was as ripe for picking as he. It turned out he'd met her through his sister. I thought, after 26 years of friendship, that my ex sister-in-law cared for me as much as I cared for her, but I found out the hard way that I was wrong.

It's taken me ten years to get over Bob's hurtful words. Well, I'm probably not over them if I am writing this post, but I will say this: seeing this photo of Bob with his soul mate made me howl with laughter. Sorry, but that low cut Auntie Mame outfit just doesn't fit my image of the kind of woman who would attract the simple, rugged, and fit outdoors man I thought I had married. Did I say fit? Oh, dear me. I'm afraid that is the case no longer. Click here to continue:

(My apologies to all who think I have fallen off my "high road" pedestal. In my next posts I shall endeavor to climb on top of it again.)


There are no time limits to heart ache

I apologize for my long silence. In recent months, a hectic schedule filled with deadlines and immediate concerns prevented me from tending to this blog. When I write my thoughts about this topic, I need time for reflection. After two months of merely acting and reacting, it is nice to find the quiet time to respond to the heart wrenching comments on my previous posts.

To my readers in pain:

The shock of your spouse deserting your marriage is so painful that you feel like you might die. There is no place to which you can escape, and the pain is with you 24/7. Some seek relief in sleep, and they sleep 12-14 hours at a time. Others can't sleep and spend their nights wandering and thinking about the "what ifs?" Sometimes you are so tired physically and emotionally that you can hardly think straight. Your mind mulls over the same issues, which lead to the same dead ends.

Your pain is raw and new, and you are still in a state of disbelief. All you want is your old cozy life, and your familiar schedule, and your spouse. The house is deadly silent, too silent, but hope springs eternal - maybe this is all a mistake and your spouse will return.

For some of you, the anxiety is so great that you feel as if you are having a heart attack. Your doctor will probably prescribe a mild anti-depressant. Others will try to dull their pain with alcohol, or increased smoking or exercise. I did all three.

Your need to talk is insatiable, and your friends and family, so helpful at first, start to be less available after a while. They have their own lives to lead, and many feel helpless in the face of such grief. You feel lonely and isolated, and the one person who understands you best and who you need the most is gone - your spouse.

After six months it feels like the pain simply won't go away. You are continually shocked with new developments, for the process of divorce is one of discovery. You discover how emotionally cold your spouse has become towards you; how painful memories crop up at the most inopportune times; how much your lifestyle must change and how much you will need to sacrifice in order to carry on; and how hard it is to move forward when you have lost your rudder.

Everything seems bewildering and new. Some will have to seek a job; others are paying bills for the first time. Taking care of the kids and house by yourself seems tough enough, and then you discover your car needs servicing and will have to be left at the garage. You've found two jobs, but they are at the opposite ends of town and the transportation costs are eating away at your income.

Meanwhile, society treats your pain as a trivial thing. You are merely going through a divorce, and it isn't as if your spouse has died. You find that the following piece of advice does not help at all: "In time, you will find someone new." You don't want someone new; you want your spouse!

You hear over and over that time heals all wounds, but the days are crawling by so slowly that you begin to despair. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that a few hours have passed without your having thought about your situation. You attend a party and you leave it feeling young and light. You hear a laugh and you realize it came from you as you watched a comedy show.

These are the small symptoms of healing. Take them to heart. The process of grieving isn't simple. Some seem to bounce back faster than others, but the situation for each person is different. Some are overwhelmed with having to tend to their family's emotions as well as their own; some are left completely alone.

My friends told me I was lucky because I had no children to be concerned about. What did they know? My spouse left the year I entered menopause, and I grieved as much over not having children as at losing him. We had made a pact in our careless youth that we would always be there for each other, and for the first time in my life I began to fear growing old.

The other day a new acquaintance asked me if I had been married. "Yes, 26 years," I replied. "How long have you been divorced?" she asked. "Seven years," I said, somewhat shocked at the passage of time. "Ah, well," she said dismissively, and changed the subject. I did not have the courage to tell her that Bob is still with me every day. How can he not be? I spent over half my life with him, and he was my best friend. The same as my brother and parents are with me daily in my thoughts and memories, so is my ex-spouse. Out of all those years together, 90% of the memories of my marriage are good.

The difference is that seven years later the agony I felt over the divorce is gone. Oh, I still experience pangs once in a while, but largely my new life is full and active, and I have a great career. There are no time limits to heart ache, however. Each one of us must deal with our hurts in our own way. You have come to this blog because you are grieving and because you are searching for advice or answers or support. Know that this intense pain you are feeling will eventually recede. My counselor told me that it would take two years for me to recover from the shock of divorce, but that it could take up to five years for a full recovery and a sense of peace and acceptance. I was horrified at the thought, but she was right. After one year I stopped crying daily. After two years I started to feel like myself again. Five years later I had let go of the situation to the point where I felt strong enough to write this blog without rancor or finger pointing.

Here are some links that might help you, although there is no substitute for a good, caring friend who will listen without judgment, and an effective therapist:
These two links are for people who have moved beyond the first stages of grief and anger:


It's More Than Merely Coping; It's About Accepting Your New Life

It happened again yesterday: Bob was on my mind throughout the day. I had sent a college friend a happy birthday email, and he casually replied that the reunion weekend was coming up and that he hadn't heard yet if Bob was coming.

Heart pang. I loved going to campus with my husband during the spring to watch lacrosse, and meet up with the old gang. Oh, sure everyone was getting grayer, last time I went, but there was the comfort of seeing old friends, their wives and their families, and talking about the good old days. I attended a woman's college and met Bob at an all-male school, and these reunions are on his campus. The last time I went to an alumni reunion, only one of our group was divorced and remarried. This time around, three of them will be bringing new spouses, none of whom have the history that the old wives had. In my case, I have known the guys since I was 19 years old when they lived in the fraternity and looked younger than their sons. I knew all of the old stories and then some. I wonder if I will ever see this group again? While Bob and his new spouse are invited to their children's weddings, I no longer receive even a Christmas card, except from a few.

When I divorced, my mourning extended farther than simply losing my husband, I lost many of our friends and his family, which was unforeseen, and I lost all those rituals that I so adored: these reunion trips, vacations with couples, tennis night out, etc. This is the toughest part about moving on: the landscape of your life changes radically after the loss of a spouse. At first you are lost, and reel from place to place, clueless as to which way you should go. Slowly, you start to regain some sense of direction.

Oh, I've regrouped and formed a new life. In talking to other women in my situation, I realize how lucky I am. One woman, who has been single as long as me, has yet to bond with a close group of women her age. Although she works, she feels lonely and isolated. She told me that if it weren't for her teenage daughter, she would have no social life, and then she asked me, with a hint of envy, how I had been able to move on.

Being an extrovert helps, I replied. I didn't add how much hard work it had been to fight off depression, or how much of a sea change my own attitude and emotions had gone through, so that I was able to embrace and recognize all the good things going on in my life. Tonight I will go to a restaurant with a group of single friends after work to decompress; on Saturday I will visit a friend who is recovering from knee surgery; and on Sunday I will visit a friend's house to pick out some clothes (she sells the Doncaster line on the side). We will chat, discuss clothes and Jane Austen, joke and giggle, and drink wine. Last Sunday, three of us went to a movie. So, although there is no man lurking in my dating horizon, I lead a full and active social life.

The toughest part about being suddenly single, when every cell in your body craves a mate, is to embrace your new life. Letting go of my preconceptions (divorce is bad, I was a lousy wife, single women are losers in the game of love), and enjoy each day for what it offers. It's hard, I know. I still have setbacks, like I had yesterday, when the old yearning and wishful thinking takes over. I was melancholy all day long, but that is part of my new landscape - recognizing that this yearning for a lost past will always be with me.

As you find your way in your own new landscape, take heart. You have it within you to find your new direction. Carving that new path takes hard work, however, and time, but with patience and the help of friends and family, you will find your way out of your heart ache. Just follow your instincts, and keep moving. For your own emotional health, you simply can't stay where you've been.


"I'm Sorry" is not worth dying for

A colleague died a month ago in front of her ex-husband. Since their divorce three years ago, they had been playing a co-dependent game: he as baiter, she as baitee. Her friends told her to move on with her life. We cautioned her that John, an S.O.B. if ever there was one, would never admit he was wrong or say he was sorry. We also told her he wouldn't come back to her... especially not after he made love to and married the young woman she'd taken in like a daughter.

Marianne just couldn't let go. She had moved out of the house when she first learned of the affair between Melissa and John, leaving behind their two dogs and all her possessions except for a few suitcases filled with clothes and toiletries.

Over the next months she'd return to play with the dogs, and pick up more items. The following morning at work, she would be devastated. For the first few months, we supported her, listening to her tales of woe, and advising her on the best course of action.

But Marianne's need to see John and make him admit he was wrong, see the error of his ways, or feel sorry for her was greater than our sound advice. She began to develop a jaw ache that wouldn't go away, and that turned out to be an arthritic joint. Her sleep was off, and her back hurt all the time. Migraine headaches would immobilize her. Towards the end of her short life (she was 48 when she died) she was taking so many pills that she lost count. Her blood pressure was low, and she would come to work with bruises. "Oh, I fainted," she'd say lightly, but we cautioned her to see a doctor and reduce her medications. To us the fainting spells were worrisome.

Marianne knew how we felt about John, so she failed to tell us that she had made up with him and Melissa, and that the three of them were palling around. They had watched the superbowl together at John's house, and Marianne would frequently babysit the dogs when John and his child bride went on vacation. Had I known of this, I would have organized an intervention. There was something terribly unhealthy about the whole set up. John was a manipulative bastard, and anyone with a thimble full of sense could see right through his bluster. But not Marianne.

Marianne's last day of work was splendid. She attended a day-long meeting in which her contributions were creative and valued. She seemed to be in a good mood. When people said "Have a good weekend," they had no idea that it would be the last time they would see her.

Some time that night she drove to John's house and collapsed from an overdose of drugs. When I heard the news, I immediately knew that she didn't mean to kill herself. All of us who were close to the situation intuitively felt that John said or did something to trigger a response in her. My sense is that she went to him to be "rescued." But she miscalculated. Either she took more drugs than was wise, or she had counted on a faster response from John or the ambulance.

The fact that she didn't leave provisions or instructions for her beloved dog was an indication that she didn't mean to commit suicide, or that she had acted on the spur of the moment. That little pooch meant everything to her, and she had left her apartment with the lights blazing and the dog all alone. It would have taken her 20 minutes to drive to John's, so the drugs had a while to take effect.

It's been a month since Marianne was cremated. A new person sits at her desk doing her work. Her dog is with a new owner. Her furniture was donated to a poor single mother, and her clothes were shipped off to Good Will. John is still married to his Tootsie, and he's still an S.O.B.

For the rest of us, life has gone on, except for poor Marianne, who couldn't - wouldn't - let go of her hurt and anger. Nothing we said worked (seek counseling, stop seeing him, do something nice for yourself, help others.) In the end John didn't say the words Marianne wanted to hear, and I'm not sure they would have satisfied her even if she'd heard them. And, so, she gambled and lost everything that mattered.

If you are having difficulty letting go of your anger toward your ex spouse, seek help. Your friends are there to help you, but if your anger has taken over your life and your common sense, you probably need an expert's advice. I wish I'd been able to give Marianne the kind of advice she was willing to hear. To my way of thinking, wishing to hear 'I'm sorry' is not worth dying for.


Dining Out Alone

Sorry for the long silence. I thought I had lost this blogger account, but I found my password and new email address (both of which I had changed without recording what I had done. AAAARGGH!)

A month ago a divorced colleague sounded astounded when I said that I planned to dine out alone after our appointment. "Where?" she asked. "Don't you feel conspicuous?" She was curious, because her daughter will enter college next year. For the first time since her divorce, she will truly be by herself, and she was already experiencing some anxiety at the thought of so much "alone time."

I thought about her concern, recalling the first time I dined alone in public. I wasn't divorced yet, and it was a Friday evening. I was surrounded by couples, mostly young and dating. It took all my energy to hold back my tears. At that time of sorrow, I felt even lonelier in that crowded space. Bob and I had been accustomed to dining out once or twice a week. We always set up a couples Friday, and we had followed that tradition for twelve years. When we dined alone together, we always had something to talk about. Our conversations were interspersed with lots of laughter, and I never tired of being with 'my man'.

During our separation, we would hash out our agreement at a public place. It was the only time in our long relationship that we had nothing to share with each other, and we resembled one of those silent couples who waited wordlessly for their food and stared out into space, ignoring each others' eyes. More than anything, I knew my marriage was over during those excruciatingly awful dining experiences.

After the divorce papers were signed, I persisted in dining out alone. Time is money, and I resisted having to go grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the dishes during my busy week days. As time passed, I began to feel more comfortable sitting by myself in a restaurant. Here are a few tips for single dining success that work for me:
  • Go to a favorite haunt where the waiters or waitresses have gotten to know you. This process might take time, but once the staff recognizes you, they will seat you at your favorite table and greet you with a smile. In less than a few months, the place will start to feel cozy, like a diningroom away from home. In one restaurant, the waitress immediately takes me to my favorite table by a window, and brings me a glass of cabernet. Even when the place is busy, I am given preferential treatment.
  • If you don't like staring into space, bring something to do. I write notes in my datebook, check my phone or email messages, compose letters, read a novel or newspaper, listen to my ipod, and text message discreetly. I also bring a small electronic sudoku puzzle, which hangs off my keychain. If you are desperate for something to do and you forgot to bring along materials, pretend you are a food critic. Take note of the service, the dishes and their presentation, and the atmosphere. Formulate your critique in your mind.
  • Go early, before the other tables fill up with families or couples. Usually restaurants are relatively empty between 5:30 - 7:30. One tends to receive undivided attention at this time, which is nice on the ego, and I always ask for the best table, which is usually available.
  • If you are watching your pennies, go during happy hour. Drinks and appetizers cost less. An appetizer plus a salad usually fill me up nicely, and they are not hard on the pocketbook when the prices are cut in half.
  • Don't sit at the bar alone. Older women tend to be ignored even by men their age, and that is hard on the ego.
  • Dine out during the week. Weekends are still hard for me, and they might be for you too. I avoid going out alone on weekends by making sure to receive my new netflix DVD for Saturday, or to be with friends. On the few occasions that I dine alone on weekends, I dress up nicely. When I look like a winner, I feel empowered.
  • Remember, people barely even notice you are dining solo. You probably feel more conspicuous than you really are.
Here's a lovely quotation I found online that describes my single dining experience:
Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than the absence of others.

(Source: Alice Koller, The Stations of Solitude, 1990, New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women)

Learn more about the topic at these links:


Finding Your First Job After 50

I am no expert, by any means. Regarding divorce, I can only write about my own experiences. One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome in searching for a job was my wardrobe. Hours after Bob announced he was leaving, I called up a friend at a nonprofit that I'd worked for through the years, telling her I needed a job. Sheepishly she told me that she only had an 8 hour per week job. I had trained the previous people who worked in this position, which was to write thank you letters after donations came in, record the checks, and file the information.

I took the job. At that point I would accept anything to get me out of the house and into the market place.

My main problem was my wardrobe. After years of working from home, the clothes in my closet consisted of blue jeans, sweat suits, comfortable tops, and fancy outfits I'd wear to parties. There was nothing that fit, since I was losing about a pound a day from stress, and any work clothes I had kept were out of date.

Here's where my elegant sister-in-law came to the rescue. We traveled to the outlet malls in Delaware to their fabulous end of season sales, and she helped me put together 5 fashionable outfits, all mix and match, all well-fitting, for a fraction of their cost. Included were stylish but comfortable shoes, stockings, a coat, accessories, and a new handbag.

In this one aspect of my life I was in control. I don't think I spent more than $350 on outfits that helped to boost my spirit and make me look great on interviews.

I would get up every morning, wash my hair, put on my makeup, and wear a new outfit. I stretched that 8 hour per week job as much as I could, going in at 11 a.m., taking lunch with the regular staff (on my own time) and working until 2 p.m. This meant I went into the office four times per week. On my way home, I would check the job advertisements. One impulsive afternoon I walked into a framing shop and applied for a part time position as a framer. After taking an easy math test, I got the job, working 20 hours per week. I didn't make much money, but I was busy.

No task was too menial for me. I needed to get out of the house, so I did. I needed an income, since Bob controlled all the purse strings, so I did.

I recall talking to a woman my age who had taken two years to find a job. "Why did it take you so long?" I asked, curious, as she had more qualifications on paper than me. She answered, "I couldn't find anything." Translation: "I couldn't find anything worthy of my talents." While she was staying at home collecting unemployment checks and worrying about her bills, I was running around town working three jobs. No, I'm not taking a superior attitude. Actually, I humbled myself, working in positions for which I was overqualified, and for which I was paid barely above minimum wage.

My experience has told me that it is easier to find a job when you already have one. You exude a certain confidence and energy, which the interviewers notice.

Getting a new wardrobe was my first important step in job hunting. The second was keeping all my options open. Within 6 months this old bird found a job with benefits. The glowing recommendations from my supervisors helped to seal the deal. Those three jobs had also beefed up my resume; telling my potential employers that my work skills were current.

The point of this little post? I had not held a regular, full time job in 20 years when I had to find a way to support myself. I used all the resources I had to find those first three jobs. If you've kept up your skills by volunteering, use those contacts first. You'll be amazed at how friendly and helpful those people can be, and how that first little job will open up doors.

To this day, no job is too menial for me. If I need work, I will say yes to the first opportunity that presents itself. If I need more money, I will go out and find extra work. (In fact, I have a great job now, one that I wouldn't trade for the world, and enough income to get by.)

Good luck to you in your job hunt. Remember, persistence counts. And arrive at the interview early, so you can go to the bathroom, dry up your tears, and fix your makeup before entering the front office.