I'm a Divorced Woman, Not an Ex-Stepford Wife
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January 27, 2015

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Letting Nature draw the line in the sand for me.  

This may come as a shocking confession to you, especially those who take care of children, but I forget stuff. I’ve arrived at the gym without a bra to put on after my workout. I’ve unpacked a dress and then realized that I’ve only got my sneakers and a gym outfit that is so soaked I could water a garden with it. I’ve forgotten my thyroid medicine a dozen times. Once I forgot my ID and couldn’t pick up my tickets to see AC/DC. It was only with the powers of persuasion that I got to ogle Angus Young.  I’ve left my purses in more places than there are places to buy purses. 

My Mom would often say to me, If your head wasn’t attached, young lady, you’d leave that somewhere, too!  But she never flipped out on me because of it.

I’ve left my purses in restaurants, movie theaters, on the backs of chairs in public places where purses should never be placed. (Have you noticed that no one does that anymore, when there was a time where seeing a strap across a chair was the norm?) I’ve left them in food courts and football stadiums, on planes, trains and countless automobiles, including taxis.

I once left my purse on the top of my car while living back east. I drove onto a highway that plunged under overpasses and snaked its way through a city. When I saw a blizzard of what appeared to be confetti in my rear view mirror I assumed it was just street trash. Then my mouth popped open, I gasped and my eyes bulged.

I was in the emergency lane with my flashers on in ten seconds. From there I watched my personal artifacts float down to the pavement and then get launched by speeding cars twenty feet into the air.

A few moments later I realized the very worst thing. A gift, a very special gift, was in that chocolate brown Gucci clutch purse with the subtle leather G buckle. A gift I received from my former boyfriend who was then my current boss for my birthday. I loved that gift as if it was a pony and I was eight years old.

It was a solid sterling silver Mont Blanc fountain pen. In it he placed emerald green ink, my favorite color. That pen was smokin’ hot. And it wrote like the super model of pens. Sleek, smooth, gorgeous curves, elegant lines. That pen was exquisite.

The flashing red lights of a police car knocked me out of my state of shock. I’m going to move along, officer, I thought, after I erect a memorial and berate myself sufficiently. Come back tomorrow.

But when he approached he had this sweet smile on his face, which for an inner city police officer was not often the case. He put all the evidence together and knew why I was standing there in my high heels and skirted suit with tears running down my face. And then he did the unthinkable.

He ran onto the road during breaks in traffic to snatch what he could of the contents of my purse and bring them back to my waiting hands. I stood there with palms outstretched in shock as he ran laps up and down 500 feet of highway. Receipts, business cards, credit cards, my driver’s license. Eventually my purse.

Can you please look for a pen? I asked. It’s silver. Big. A fountain pen.

But the pen was lost forever.

Even though there have been times when I splurged on something for myself, I never repurchased that pen. I felt like I didn’t deserve to have it after behaving so recklessly with it the first time around. (I’m actually tearing up still, all these years later, at my dunderheadedness.)

Finally, I just stopped carrying a purse.

But then I had children. Thankfully, I have not left either one of The Dudes anywhere. I have, however, left their stuff, my stuff and the stuffs of other people scattered around the Bay Area. Not like in my days of ditz, but I’ve not remembered to ask them if they have their…(fill in the ten thousand things we need to ask our children to remember to get, grab, retrieve, and find here) lots.

Those cute, albeit sometimes frustrating and often inconvenient, bumbling traits about me that my former spouse once tolerated, maybe once in a while even appreciated, have morphed into fatal flaws worthy of verbal assaults since our divorce.

This past weekend I got reamed from all sides for forgetting the Tall Dude’s medicine for his raging case of poison oak. Had my former spouse not been there when the discovery was made this is what would have happened:

The Dudes and I would have gotten back in the car, driven over the hill to Bolinas, grabbed the medicine, scratched the dog’s ears, dodged High Maintenance Kitty as he tried to trap us into accidentally re-feeding him, ran to the car, I would have marveled at the fog, they would have rolled their eyes, and then we would have played around with the reasons for the unexpected journey back home.

Instead, they were tweaked by my former spouse’s outburst, and I was floored and felt attacked.

Sure, it was totally my fault that the medicine sat in the lunch box the Tall Dude so sweetly packed it in early that morning. We became distracted by an impromptu life lesson on how to avoid bickering before noon (baby steps, people, baby steps!), I saw the Tall Dude with stuff clutched in his hand and just assumed without thought that since he packed the meds and his hands were full that he was carrying them to the car.

El wrongo.

Oh, Dude! I said with disappointment in my voice. And that was all my former spouse needed to hear. Instantaneously, he raged about how I should not make a nine-year old child responsible for bringing his own medicine and after yelling at me in the middle of a public parking lot, stormed off with the Tall Dude in tow, as the Little Dude and I were having a Mama/Son date that day.

Here’s where the magic comes in…

The Little Dude and I were headed to a Warriors game – his birthday present from me. And his first NBA game. While he was tweaked by the outburst of Dad, he was ultra stoked to be going to his first pro basketball game.  I was determined to not let this nonsense get in the way of his fun.  I called up deliciously giving, outrageously hilarious F, who lives on the Calmmune.

Can you meet me in Olema? (How that hasn’t been a movie title by now is beyond me.) She didn’t hesitate.

Sure! Happy to help out!

She popped into the cottage and grabbed the meds and made the snakey twenty minute drive up Highway 1 without killing a single cyclist, and there were hundreds all over West Marin that day. We arrived in Olema at nearly the same time. Contraband exchanged, we were all back on the road in moments. By this time I had stopped shaking from the inappropriately angry response to my MISTAKE, which inconvenienced him not one bit, and made the most of the return trip by breathing and consciously raising my vibrational energy.

That witchy woo-woo stuff freaking works. The Little Dude and I were on our way to the arena one hour later than we planned. So, maybe we wouldn’t get there in time to get autographs. We’re still going to see a great game and have an entire evening alone together, a rare treat.

Traffic slowly crawled toward Oakland.  

We arrived at the entry doors to Oracle Arena at the exact moment that they began to announce protocol for entering. The doors hadn’t even opened yet!

Moments later he had a hat in one hand and a sharpie in the other. (Pen courtesy of my former spouse who remembered to bring it – hey, we all have our strengths…mine’s monogamy.  Softball.  Bat swung. Gimme home run.)

There was ONE spot left along the railing to the tunnel into which the players would venture once warm-ups ended. Well, that Little Dude hung over the railing and said please and thank you and walked away with six autographs, including Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. Quite a score for his first NBA game.

From the moment we left the presence of my former spouse our vibrational energy lightened up to the point where we were soaring as the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics. The Little Dude manifested every wish except getting on the Dance Cam. He snuck down and sat in courtside seats, had a soda AND nachos AND a pretzel, and he danced in the aisles during every game break.

Just a magical evening. A memory maker.

As I drove us home that night I thought about the counselor who said to me, Leave his affair behind. You have to use your ‘happy voice’ with him for the sake of The Dudes.

Does it ever become detrimental to use your ‘happy voice’?

It took me some time to unravel my feelings about the importance of her request and decide if I was undermining myself in anyway to fulfill it. I figured I’d have to get her input on this one. I had that foggy head I often experienced in my marriage when my former spouse would make me feel like it was my fault when he did something uncool, like staying out until sunrise without calling me.

It wasn’t until the next afternoon that I realized I could figure this one out on my own. And it was essential that I did!

I NEED POST-DIVORCE BOUNDARIES!

It’s not his affair that’s the problem. It’s my lack of boundaries. So, given that he reads my every word…here goes:

Don’t yell or otherwise verbally attack me at any time ever. Got it?

I can use my ‘happy voice’ while co-parenting. I’m so far over his affair I can’t even make it out on the horizon. But what I am fully present with is a requirement that I be respected as a human being.  

The rules are simple: We are respectful and cordial. We are NOT required to have any intact family style experiences in order for The Dudes to feel happy and safe. What makes them feel happy and safe is to see their parents act like people who have self-control. And seeing their Mom publicly berated by their own father does not make them feel happy and safe.

I am not going to act like a Stepford Ex-wife and smile and use my ‘happy voice’ a day after being verbally smacked around. Why? Because that teaches The Dudes that denial of mistreatment is safer than standing up for your rights and enforcing your boundaries.  

I will not teach them that. That is not how you build healthy self-esteem and teach the importance of proper boundaries.

So the next day when they asked why I didn’t use my ‘happy voice’ when we saw my former spouse I replied, Because he owes me an apology. It’s not okay to speak to you or me in that tone of voice. Ever. But if it happens, and we all bicker, right Dudes?, we do the right thing and apologize.  

Oh, okay, Mama.

That was the most magical moment of all. The moment where I realized I didn’t need a counselor to tell me how to deal with what happened. I just needed to stop being a former spouse and start being a divorced woman.

The moment that realization occurred everything else changed.

I can’t wait to tell you how…stay close.

Love yourself,

Cleo

 

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