The Courage to Love Creatively

anais nin

I recently finished a novel in which the narrator noted several times that she loved her ex-husband more once they divorced than she did while they were married. She also checked herself, reflecting on how it’s easier to love when love is a concept instead of a daily reality. Or maybe, she posited, space and distance is the place in which love is possible with some particular people. The novel, “My Name is Lucy Barton” by Elizabeth Strout, is not about divorce, or marriage, and so the narrator didn’t go much further with this thinking.

I have, though. Continue reading

Advertisements

Defining “family” when there’s a divorce

20130728-091643.jpg

As a child I remember spending time with relatives and mentally drawing the family tree while everyone played cards and mixed cocktails and cheered for Auburn. These hilarious and super accomplished women are my mom’s first cousins. Their kids are my second cousins. Mom’s sister’s husband’s nieces are my cousins by marriage.

We had a couple of divorces in my family, and sometimes the “related by marriage” person would appear again at a funeral or wedding. But for the most part, in those cases, they drifted away from the rest of our group. I didn’t think about those folks’ relationship to me.

Sometimes it has to be that way, and I don’t judge any families in which that is the case.

But divorce does not have to split a family.

Continue reading

The Link Between Hardship and Success

She was 12 and in junior high school and had a problem of falling down at inexplicable times. Kids were mean.

To prevent herself from collapsing all the way to the ground during these falls, she carried herself on crutches. That way, when she fell, she fell only as far as the rubber arm rest.

During class, when she sat at a desk, the crutches lay beside her on the ground. If a teacher left the room, the boys in the class would tug the rubber arm rests from the crutches and wag them lewdly in her face.

That was pretty bad.

But the worst part of this is she could not explain to anyone – not her friends, not her teachers, not her parents and not her doctors – why she was falling. She did have a growing sense that certain things prompted the falls – blinking Christmas lights, staying up too late, slumber parties at the house of a friend who played really loud music.

She was tested for things that scared the hell out of her parents. MS. MD. Something called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which – like severe forms of muscular dystrophy – paralyzes its victims rapidly and ultimately causes organ failure.

This was 1989, and before the internet, so she couldn’t do much research on her own.

When the junior high boys began with the sexually-charged arm rest bullshit, she decided she’d rather risk a fall to the ground. She gave up the crutches.

That Christmas, she sat at the dinner table with her extended family. Her aunt – a child psychologist familiar with neurological disorders – had a striking moment of realization when she watched her niece uncontrollably fling a fork across the table.

“Test her for epilepsy,” she said.

Continue reading

He said (a little), she said (a lot)

txt

Out of the corner of the eye I saw he’d texted me, which isn’t unusual but in the past few weeks had been less frequent. We’ve both been busy: he has gone back to school and I have been traveling quite a bit for work. And there were the holidays: Parties. Family. Gatherings. Shopping. Lots of people to please.

I know, right? Serious Third World / “This is 40” problems.

For an insecure little second I wondered if he was cancelling our date tonight. Continue reading

Things We Overcome

columbine

A breakup.

A divorce.

The money you had to spend to replace your leaky garbage disposal, your broken thermostat, your refrigerator that died on Christmas Eve Eve.

A hangover.

A fight with your best friend.

A fight with your spouse.

A fight with your child.

Someone saying something mean about you on the internet.

A lunatic shooting up a school.

A lunatic shooting up a movie theater.

A lunatic shooting up a shopping mall.

Burning the main course.

The dog eating the caramel cake as it cools on the counter top.

The dog passing away.

Losing your job.

Moving away.

Missing your family on Christmas.

The Truth About Santa and Sex

9FB013C2-DB16-412C-945265272B0B3094

Do you remember when you learned the truth about Santa?

I don’t, but I am certain my daughter will.

She was in fourth grade, maybe the last kid in her class to believe.

The two of us were eating dinner at a restaurant I frequented in the months after her father and I decided to divorce. I didn’t yet have it together enough to cook at home.

A paraphrased recollection of the conversation:

“How was school today, Lily?”

“Okay, I guess. Actually, maybe not.”

“What happened?”

“Just kids saying stupid stuff.”

“What stuff?”

“Nothing.”

“What stuff, Lily?”

“Mama, I have a very important question to ask and I want you to tell me the truth. Do you promise to tell me the truth?” Continue reading