What I learned from Tom Hanks and his typewriters

I read a really wonderful profile on Tom Hanks recently (I highly recommend checking it out) and, not surprisingly, learned a lot of really sweet things about Tom Hanks. More unexpected was what I learned about myself.

In the piece, Hanks discusses how he amassed a large collection of typewriters, starting when he was 19 — hundreds of them — and eventually attributing the need to continue building the collection to the fact that, for the first time in his life, he truly had control of his belongings. As a child Hanks’ family moved pretty regularly and he often lost things in those moves. Being able to purchase the typewriters and hold on to them finally gave him some control in his life. Each time he bought a new typewriter the idea that he could bring it with him wherever he went and keep it for as long as he wanted, provided him with a sense of comfort he hadn’t experienced growing up.

As a kid my family also moved a lot. When they married and started having children, my parents lived in San Francisco. After a few years, we all moved across the Bay Bridge to the East Bay suburbs. Not long after that, my parents split up and my mom, sister and I packed up our things and moved back to the City. We were there for less than a year before returning to our house in the suburbs. The very next year, when I was six, I packed up and went to live with my father and stepmother about 2 hours south of San Francisco. That move felt more permanent than the previous moves and it seemed like I might stay put for a while.

Instead, in just over 3 years, my father, stepmother, sister and new baby brother moved to a small somewhat remote coastal town in Northern California. I don’t have a lot of childhood memories but I do have a vivid memory of a family meeting in the dining room and being given a brand new address book to collect the phone numbers and addresses of my 4th grade classmates, because we would be moving in just a few weeks. I would be leaving before the end of the school year and I was devastated. Four years after that, I left my friends and family behind again when I moved back to the Bay Area to live with my mother and stepfather. I stayed there for the next 5 years, until I went away to college — an eternity compared to all my other homes.

As I criss crossed my way up and down California it’s hard to keep an accurate account of all that I left behind in each location: family members, friends, family pets, toys, books and items that my parents likely saw as junk, but to me were treasures. I left a little piece of me in each of the homes and towns I moved away from. And being a kid, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. The people and things I left behind were gone forever. Like Tom Hanks, I found myself as an adult with almost no physical objects leftover from my childhood. Not a single thing that went along with me to each of my homes.

My parents and step-parents continued to move several more times throughout the years and more and more of my things were either discarded or left behind. My father and stepmother cut off contact with me when I was in high school so the connections to that part of my life completely disappeared. I have no idea what ever became of my old bedroom set or my books or my bicycle….did they keep my school photos? My report cards? The cutting board I made in my middle school woodshop class? I’ll never know.

During my marriage, my husband and I would often argue over my need to hold onto things. I never made it to “hoarder status” but I had a very difficult time getting rid of books, furniture, clothes, appliances or anything that I might someday wish I had kept. When we had no room in the house, I would move these things out to the garage. For the first time in my life I was able to hang on to my belongings and I’d be damned if I was going to suffer the loss of my life’s treasures ever again.

All the moving and all the loss I experienced growing up made me fiercely protective of my childrens’ histories. I wanted them to grow up and be able to see and read their favorite books, touch their beloved stuffed animals, see their sports’ trophies and art projects on the shelves. It was also important that they be able to hold on to friends from kindergarten all the way to high school graduation, and beyond. I hoped they’d have a sense of history with people who have known them their whole lives — something I longed for but never had. Well, at least not until I met my husband and spent the next 25 years with him.

And that brings up another important thing I missed out on during my transient childhood: feeling like I belong somewhere and with someone. I didn’t get to have friends that lasted for more than a few years. With no social media back then, it was hard to keep track of my friends when I moved away. I didn’t even have a family I felt I belonged to. My stepmother made it well known that I was her stepdaughter and very clearly not her daughter. My father likely suffered from pretty severe and undiagnosed mental illness and wasn’t able to express his emotions in a healthy way. So I never knew where I stood with him or if he even cared about me. My stepfather had three of his own kids that he didn’t have a relationship with, so having one with me was not of any interest to him. And since I moved back and forth between my parents’ homes I often felt like I was a guest in both places.

With my husband, I was finally able to feel secure and loved and like I belonged somewhere for the first time. I wasn’t just visiting, I wasn’t going to be forced to pack up my belongings and move away from a home I loved. No it wasn’t always perfect, but during those years we truly felt like a family, we cared about each other and our kids knew they were loved and safe and cared for. It’s hard to put into words the sense of safety and security I felt during time in my life and it’s even harder to articulate just how devastating it was lose it.

It’s coming up on an astonishing 3 years since my husband left me and I wish I could say that I’ve settled into being alone. I wish I could say that I’ve found that sense of safety and security and belonging that I had in my marriage. I do hope to get there again someday. And I do hope that I can get to a place where I feel loved and cared for. But in the meanwhile, I’ll be holding on to my “typewriters” and feeling some sense of comfort and control, however small.

Practicing what I preach

This morning as I was driving to my job of teaching yoga to elementary school students, I had a panic attack. I had to pull my car onto the shoulder and, while trying to control my hyperventilating, I texted my colleagues to apologize and to let them know that I wouldn’t be making in to teach today.

I’m not entirely sure what brought on the panic attack, but likely it’s the stress of working two jobs and trying to juggle all the duties those jobs entail, while also raising my youngest son, who is still at home with me half the time.

Recently, I took a job as an admin for a busy architecture firm for a few important reasons: the main one being health insurance. When my divorce becomes final I will be without health insurance, as my job as a yoga teacher is as an independent contractor. Without going into politics and how I feel about the limited access to health care in the US, I will just say that the situation has caused me a great deal of stress and worry. I also took the second job so that I can earn enough to support myself as a single woman living in the increasingly unaffordable Bay Area, where I have spent my entire life.

I thought I was managing. I thought I was getting it all done and doing a decent job of taking care of everything on my plate. Today the realization that I might actually be doing a crappy job at all of them hit me like a ton of bricks after I dropped my son at school, checked in to the office for an hour, then headed to my teaching gig. The irony in all of this is that the theme I’m teaching my yoga students this week is aparigraha — the practice of non-grasping.

I have been talking to my students about learning how to let go of feelings and thoughts — and even tangible things — that aren’t serving us. We’ve talked about the importance of releasing the negative feelings, the grudges and the stress of living in the past and the future – rather than in the present moment. It all makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Truly, it’s great lesson for my students, but it’s also a lesson that I need right now, maybe even more than my students. Perhaps it’s time for me to stop talking about these things and start living them. Sure, that’s easier said than done, but I suppose realizing what I need to do is the first step.

And taking stock of what I have been grasping at and holding on to is the most important thing on my to-do list right now. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here is what I need to learn to let go of:

  • the shame of my husband leaving me
  • the worry that I’m not doing a good enough job at everything in my life
  • the constant monkey mind thoughts that I am not: moving on fast enough from my divorce, making enough money to support myself and my kids, able to access to health insurance, being a good parent to my children
  • the idea that something I did caused my husband to cheat on me and become a “sugar daddy” to multiple “sugar babies” right under my nose
  • the shame that I am not making the right or most rational decisions in my divorce
  • the belief that I am a fraud
  • the belief that I am not good enough
  • living everywhere but the present moment


The panic attack has subsided, my breathing has returned to normal and I’m not feeling as terrified. It’s probably time to start checking things off that list.




When does this get easier?

After 22 years of marriage my husband left me more than two and a half years ago. And while I’ve progressed from the early days spent largely in the fetal position on my bedroom floor, eyes so puffy I could hardly open them and spontaneously bursting into big ugly tears several times a day, it’s still hard — excruciatingly hard. I wish more than anything that it wasn’t. I’m angry at myself for still struggling. And I long for a time when I don’t think about my old life every damn day. Multiple times a day, even. Isn’t it about time I accepted this new life in front of me and moved on?

I have two dear friends who are going through the divorce process and we get together frequently to talk about our court dates, court orders and beyond-belief legal fees. We compare notes, prop each other up, and support one another through a life stage none of us expected to find ourselves in. For the three of us, our divorces are all consuming. We get up each day, take care of our children, go to work and tell those who ask that we are okay. But we’re not okay, not even close. We’re scared, angry, sad, anxious, frustrated and, most of all, absolutely and completely overwhelmed.

What absolutely floors me, though, is that from all outside appearances, our ex- (or soon to be) husbands seem to be doing just fine. One has a new girlfriend, one is already — shockingly —  remarried and one may or may not be dating, but seems to be going through life like he doesn’t have a care in the world. Why is that? Why is it so easy for men to walk away relatively unscathed from decades long marriages? And why is it so fucking hard for women to do the same?

I feel like a broken record on this but, seriously, how did I get here? I spent twenty five years with my husband. We worked together in the early years, we bought and remodeled two houses together, we had three children, we endured the founding of three startups, we traveled, we enjoyed each others company….for crying out loud, we spent half our lives together!

The other day I went into a wine bar to pick up a few bottles of wine. It was early in the day and there was nobody in the bar. In walked my husband. We looked at each other, he mumbled something about “how funny” it was that we were both there, then we proceeded to act like perfect strangers. I never in a million years would have imagined the person I was closest to in the whole world would become a complete stranger to me. It breaks my heart in a way that it’s never been broken before.

I’ve spent the past 20 years taking care of children, and the last 12 working in education so that I could be available when my kids were home — especially because my husband traveled regularly for work. My youngest child is now a senior in high school. I expected to be using this time to be plan for an empty nest with my husband. This was to be that magical time we’d been looking forward to during all those years our evenings and weekends were devoted to soccer practice, gymnastics meets and marching band rehearsals. I pictured us spending more time tougher, traveling, going away for weekends, having wine and cheese for dinner. Instead, I’ve taken a full time job as an admin at an architecture firm so that I have health benefits when my divorce becomes final.

It’s so easy to feel sorry for myself these days and I really need to stop it.  It’s time to look at the other side of things. I have 3 children I adore who have grown into amazing adults I truly enjoy spending time with, I have friends who have been by my side for the good and the bad — one even hired me to work as her admin, trusting that I could do it, even though I had no applicable experience. I have family who have dropped everything to help me out when I’ve needed it the most. And although my financial situation has changed drastically, I still have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food to eat and a pretty damned good life, all things considered. I can’t wait for the day when all of those things are what I think about when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night, instead of mourning what I’ve lost. It will happen, I know it will. I’m not the first woman to go through a painful divorce and I’m certainly not the last. And this won’t break me, I am too strong to let that happen.


The stigma is real

There has been a lot written about mental illness lately and also about the stigma that goes along with it. It’s wonderful that the word is getting out there and that we are all much more aware of the issue of mental health, but when do we get to see real change? Not just awareness, but actual, real, tangible change?

I have been coughing for over a month. I’ve tried multiple over the corner remedies with varying degrees of success. So I finally broke down and called the doctor yesterday and was able to get an appointment that same afternoon.  After a few minutes of listening to my lungs and looking at my throat, the doctor wrote up a prescription and wished me well. I picked up my two prescriptions that afternoon and am already almost cough free and I’m only out about $50. I’m happy that I will be able to sleep through the night now without waking up in the middle of a coughing fit, but I’m also sad that I can’t do the same thing for my ongoing, and much more debilitating depression.

Instead, I have to book an appointment with my psychiatrist three months out. If she has to cancel, which happens on occasion, I have to wait another few months for an open appointment. There are so few psychiatrists available with my health plan that they are all fully booked up several months in advance. My plan also covers therapy, but only once a month. If I want to see a therapist more often than that (even with a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder) I have to go outside my plan — which I’ve been doing for years and paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket each month. Why is a persistent cough easier–and cheaper– to get treatment for than mental illness, which I would argue is much more debilitating than a cough?

I’ve been in the middle of a contentious divorce for more than two and a half years now. We are currently battling over attorneys fees — namely the almost $50,000 I have already spent for just my own side of things. Last summer when I ended up hospitalized, my husband filed a series of emergency orders that stripped me of physical and legal custody of the only child of ours who is still a minor. Didn’t matter that I raised all three of my kids mostly singlehandedly while my husband founded two startups and traveled constantly, or that I have never put my children in harms way, I was still considered a danger to my son. My son, who towers over me by almost a foot. And despite the fact that none of my children were home the night I ended up in the hospital, the court agreed that I was unfit and I spent thousands of dollars just having my attorney respond to the court orders. I’m now told it’s unlikely that I will get any of that money back. If I were to have had a medical issue, like cancer, getting that money back would be much easier. But family courts don’t often rule on issues of mental health, unless it is to take custody from from a parent who is considered mentally ill.

The best part of this is that after we work through all these issues and the divorce is final, I will no longer have health insurance. With a preexisting condition (two actually….thanks melanoma) it will be difficult and expensive to get comparable coverage.

I hope the conversation continues and more people speak out about mental illness and I really really hope things change soon.

What do you do when you’re not okay?

It’s almost as if “how are you?” has become a rhetorical question. We ask, but do we really want to know the answer? Unless, that is, the answer is, “great, everything is going great,” no, we don’t really want to hear the answer.

What are we supposed to do when we have the wrong answer to that question? What you do is, you lie. You say, “I’m fine. Everything is good, kids are good, work is good, I’m good. Great, in fact!”

I’ve become a liar. I don’t consider myself a dishonest person, but I lie every single day. I lie to everyone. I lie to those closest to me and I lie to the clerk at the grocery store.  I spend all day lying about being ok. “I’m good, how are you?”

I am not good and I’m not even okay. But I have no choice but to keep lying. Why? Because nobody wants to know that I’m not okay. They don’t know what to do any more than I do. And people don’t like to be faced with situations where they don’t know what to do. So I keep lying.

I tried not lying last summer. I told the truth. I told my estranged husband, my mom, my sister, my kids, my friends that I wasn’t ok. And I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for 8 days where the first order of business was to remove the underwire from my bra for fear that I might harm myself with it.

I don’t blame anyone for the fact that I ended up in the hospital. Before I was a patient, I had no idea that when you get sent to a psychiatric hospital (or at least the one I ended up in) you don’t get the help you need. You get sharp objects confiscated, you have to remove the drawstrings from your clothing, you are given coloring pages to pass the time, you get woken up every two hours during the night with a flashlight in your face, you live in a room with the windows covered and are only let outside when the nurses feel like letting you outside and the highlight of the day is ‘activity time’ when you get to make bracelets out of large plastic beads that are often found in preschools. But the one thing I needed the most, I didn’t get. I needed help and I needed it desperately. I begged for it. I asked every day to talk to a therapist. You’d think the place would be filled with them, and you’d be wrong. There is one psychiatrist who sees every patient in the entire hospital for about 5 minutes each day. He doesn’t offer therapy, he doesn’t ask you how you are or tell you how to get better. He looks at your chart and sees that when you got spit on by another patient that morning you asked at the nurses’ desk for anxiety meds and that means that you are not yet stable enough to be released. File closed, see you tomorrow, maybe. If he gets tied up with too many intakes you might not see him until the day after.

With so many high profile suicides in recent years, we have all become “suicide aware,” and we know what to look for in our friends and family. We know that we need to check in with our friends and family members who are struggling. And we know that when they say that they aren’t okay, we need to do something. It’s just that there is no good “something” available.

My doctor, my therapist and every other single person I have walked with on this path through the world of mental illness tells me to immediately go to the ER if I feel like hurting myself. Seems like solid advice. But I tried that. And after two stints in the psychiatric hospital, three rounds of IOP (intensive outpatient program) and six months of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy where each week I had 2 hours of skills training and 1 hour with my individual therapist) I am still not okay. The only difference is that now I know not to tell anyone I’m not okay. And as an added bonus, I can no longer legally purchase a firearm (upon my discharge from the hospital I had to sign the paperwork informing me of the law that anyone who has been involuntarily held on a 5150 cannot purchase firearms). Doesn’t matter that I have never ever threatened to hurt anyone but myself, I am considered too dangerous to own a gun. Oh, and besides the whole gun thing, I also have a case of PTSD and have regular nightmares about being locked in a mental institution without any options for getting out.

When I bowed out of one of the celebrations for my daughter’s upcoming college graduation —  because my former in-laws told me that, even though they never called or sent me a note while I was there, I caused their family a great deal of pain when I ended up in the hospital. They have since refused to speak to me and won’t answer my calls — my husband (who is only still my husband because the divorce is not yet final after nearly two years) accused me of ruining the event. When I explained to him that since it was completely ok with my daughter to miss this ONE event, I had decided to do what was in the best interest of my mental health by not being there. He then accused me of making the whole weekend about me and refuses to speak to me.

What can I possibly do that respects this milestone in my daughter’s life and also takes into account that being around people who have told me they want nothing to do with me is extremely triggering? I suspect that is another rhetorical question. But I do so wish there was a good answer. And I wish I knew what to do when I’m not okay. And I wish there was another viable option for making me feel better. Because now I know all too well what doesn’t help when I say that I’m not okay.

Another year gone by

My birthday is a few days away. I have always been one of those people who *loves* my birthday. I’d make sure EVERYONE knew it was my birthday, and I mean everyone. To the clerk at Safeway: “No thank you, I brought my own bags. But, by the way, today is my birthday.” I practically shouted it from the rooftops. For as long as I can remember March 30th has been like a national holiday. I make sure I have the day off from work, I go shopping, get a pedicure, or take myself out to lunch — historically it’s a Treat Yo Self kind of day.

That changed when my husband left. In February of 2017 I came home from a trip to Tanzania and, after my husband picked me up from the airport and dropped me and my luggage off, he packed up and moved out of our house after 25 years together. We had been in therapy for some time and things had been tense, but I was utterly and completely blindsided by the abrupt end to our marriage. He never came back, never even entertained the idea of coming back. That was a month before my 49th birthday. When March 30th rolled around I was not shouting anything from the rooftops.

The next year a dear friend went all out and planned an extravagant bash for my 50th. I was touched at all the effort she put into it and was truly humbled by my friends who came out to celebrate with me. Unfortunately, it was all overshadowed by the feeling of being alone in the world and having to navigate this next stage of my life all by myself.

The list of things I haven’t ever done alone is huge: bought a car, moved out of one house and into another, filed my own tax return, paid a cell phone bill, paid a property tax bill (and two supplemental bills that just appeared with no warning), set up and paid for my own health insurance, car insurance and homeowners insurance, sold a car, managed an adult budget, planned a vacation, purchased a major appliance, bought a power drill, used a power drill, dealt with a bathroom leaking so profusely that the subfloor was practically rotted clean through, cleared out a decades old hedge that dislodged from the side of my house and blocked my entire driveway and map out my finances to make sure I have enough money to support myself for the remainder of my days. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment. You know why? Because at almost 51 I cannot remember what I did 5 minutes ago. My memory is shot. Is it age? Hormones? Stress? Probably all of the above.

What was I saying again? Oh yeah….it’s not that I did nothing during out 25 year relationship. We had a division of labor in our household. I managed everything to do with the kids: doctor appointments, dentist appointments, orthodontist appointments (with 3 kids just managing those appointments seemed like a full time job), haircuts, clothes shopping, school supply shopping, laundry, school lunches, being a room parent, scheduling and attending IEP meetings for my son with ADHD, driving to and from soccer, baseball, gymnastics, cheer and tuba practice, planning and throwing birthday parties, purchasing presents and driving to and from birthday parties, hosting and transporting to and from playdates, filling out field trip paperwork, chaperoning field trips, taking the dogs to the vet, buying dog food, buying groceries, making sure kids had what they needed for vacations and packing their suitcases, packing up bags of snacks and activities to make sure the kids were entertained on the airplane, breastfeeding each child for 1 year, waking up in the middle of the night for feedings since none would take bottles….. I think I’ve made my point. But at almost 51, and with 2/3s of my children out of the house, I have a lot of catching up to do on real world adulting. And it’s scary. And overwhelming. And I wish I had someone to help me navigate it.

But, I digress. This started out about my birthday. So we’ll get back to that: my birthday is in 4 days and I will likely spend it alone. My older two kids are away at college (and will stay there because, thankfully, we did not pay someone to take their SATs for them, nor did we bribe someone to get them in). And my youngest son is flying to Boston the day before my birthday to attend a video game conference with his sister.

I know that I have no right to feel bad about this. I am healthy, I have a roof over my head, a car to drive and food to eat. I have 3 healthy and happy children and am relatively healthy myself. I have family and friends have not had to deal with racism or sexual assault. Those are all biggies, I truly do know that, I just wish I could get excited about my birthday.

That silver lining I have been waiting for.

It finally happened. Over the past two years I have heard more than my fair share of “my divorce was the best worst thing that ever happened to me.” And the “some good WILL come out of this pain,” and ” you will come out the other side happier than you have ever been.” I was starting to think that none of that would ever apply to me. Thankfully, some of that light poked its head through the clouds tonight. I’ll take a few steps back and explain how I got here.

When I got pregnant with the second of my three kids, my husband was knee-deep in the launching of a high tech startup. Long hours, lots of travel and all of the stress that comes along with launching a startup made it difficult for us to be a two-career family. My husband and I made the decision that I would stay home with the kids. And while being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t always the easiest job, I was very grateful to have been able to spend that quality time with all of my kids.

When my youngest child started kindergarten, I realized that I had quite a bit of free time during the day when all three kids were at school. But since by then my husband was working on startup number two, a full time job wasn’t going to be any more feasible then than it had been ten years earlier. Seeing the various substitute teachers that came and went in my kids’ classes, I realized that I could do a much better job than most of them. I promptly got my substitute teaching credential and began what has now been a 12 year job as a sub at the elementary school my kids attended. It was perfect, the kids and I could essentially commute to and from school together. I became the go-to sub at the school (believe me, it is not difficult to rise to that rank, the bar is set painfully low) and got to be part of my kids’ lives at school as well as at home. My youngest graduated from the school more than six years ago…..and I’m still there.

But when my husband moved out and divorce became inevitable, I realized that being a substitute teacher, and making what amounted to little more than pocket change, I needed to find myself a new gig. Having been out of the traditional job market for almost 20 years, I saw little opportunity available to me. Without going back to school for an advanced degree or vocational training there just wasn’t much out there for an educated, but rather unskilled middle aged divorcee.

When I signed up for yoga teacher training about four years ago it had nothing to do with a desire to actually teach yoga. I was more interested in deepening my own personal practice. But on a whim, I decided to approach the principal of my school to see if the possibility existed for me to start a yoga and mindfulness program for the students. I didn’t have high hopes, but really, what was there to lose?

To my great surprise my principal loved the idea, but he cautioned me that it would be an uphill battle to get the program approved and funded. Months of frustration followed as things went through the school district, school board, PTA and the education foundation. My hopes were dimming. It was a wonderful shock when four months later, we were given the go-ahead to use a one-time education foundation grant to start the yoga and mindfulness program….yay!! Yoga mats were purchased, I set up in an unused classroom and set out scheduling 30 minute sessions with each classroom at our kindergarten through 5th grade school — about 14 classes per week.

The kids, and teachers, took to the program and it felt like a success, but I worried that when the grant was gone, so would this new dream job. As the end of that first year approached, I heard from the PTA that they would be taking over the funding of my program — telling me that it was the only non-academic program their kids came home and talked about. Again…..yay!!

Fast forward to tonight at our district’s school board meeting. My principal was using our school’s “spotlight” to highlight the yoga and mindfulness program. I knew that he had sent out a request for teachers and students to write about the program or even attend the meeting to speak about it in person. I was pretty excited as it was, but when I walked in the door to see at least 6 families walking into the meeting — I could not stop smiling. My students, as is typical when they see their teachers outside of school, were excited to see me. But what wasn’t typical, for me, at least, was to have their parents tell me how much they appreciate what I do….I had to work hard to hold back the tears. But man, when those kids got up and told the school board how much they love yoga, mindfulness, pranayama and meditation, I can’t even describe how fantastic it was. It seems so corny to say, but I was bursting with pride.

When we were all told we could leave the meeting so that the kids could go home and finish their homework and the board could get back to boring school board matters, the kids gathered outside the room and showed their parents their favorite yoga poses (mostly the impressive looking crow pose) and asked me to pose for photos with them. Each parent thanked me and one even told me that she would make sure that the PTA will not only continue to fund my program, but she will also push to expand it. Wow!

Again, so corny, but true….I cried tears of happiness and gratitude all the way home. I haven’t felt this much pride and joy in a very long time. And had my husband not left me, I never would have had this experience. I’m not sure why — old habits die hard, I suppose, and I guess I still haven’t fully given up the need to share my accomplishments with my ex — but I called him on the way home. I told him that I was grateful he left me so that I could have this experience. He seemed irritated to hear from me and I don’t imagine that telling him I appreciated him leaving me helped matters. But it seems time for me to move on from that need to have someone else validate me. Tonight, at least, I was able to validate myself, with a little help from some amazing little yogis.

I’m not naive enough to believe that my sadness is gone for good or that life will suddenly be all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s a start. A very big start.

Trapped in a Talking Heads song

Until my marriage starting falling apart, I didn’t know what gaslighting meant. Unfortunately, I know too well what it means now.

gerund or present participle: gaslighting
  1. manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
    “in the first episode, Karen Valentine is being gaslighted by her husband”


The cruelest thing gaslighting  does is it takes away your truth. Gaslighting makes you doubt your own reality and, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer with depression and/or anxiety, it takes away almost everything.

During the final few months of my marriage, my husband accused me of cheating. I knew it was untrue, but he wouldn’t listen to me. Refused to discuss it. Told me that was why our marriage was ending. Accused me of lying. It mattered not one bit when I discovered that it was actually HIM who was cheating. I was still one who could not be trusted to tell the truth.

More than two years later, I am questioning everything in my life.

I have always believed myself to be an honest person, quite often to my detriment. As a kid I wished that I could lie to my parents about my misdeeds without the dead giveaways of my bright red face and my stumbling speech. Over the years, I learned to take pride in my ability to speak up for myself, and in my trustworthiness and honestly. But after being accused so many times of being a liar, have I gotten it wrong all my life? Am I really a person who can’t be trusted to tell the truth, as I’ve been told? Do I really twist reality to my benefit, as I’ve been told? I honestly don’t know.

I had been the primary caregiver of my children for most of their lives. I took great pride in my children and was proud to have raised three people with whom I enjoy spending time. But did I get that all wrong, too? Was I a bad parent? Have I really done such horrible things that I deserved to have my legal guardianship of my youngest son stripped from me? I honestly don’t know that either.

Did the fact that for a few months this past summer I thought my life was no longer worth living and my actions caused me to be involuntarily confined to a psychiatric hospital really cause my former in-laws “a great deal of pain?”  So much pain, apparently, that not one of them reached out to me while I was in the hospital or when I returned home?

These days I feel like I’m living that song by the Talking Heads:

“and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? And you may ask yourself, am I right? Or am I wrong. You may ask yourself, my God, what have I done?”

My God, how did I get here? And, how the hell do I get out of here?

I want to be able to trust my instincts again. I want to be able to trust that my truth is reality. I want to know that I count. I want to know that I am a good person. I want to know that I did the best I could in my marriage and that its demise wasn’t all my fault. I want to know that I’m not perfect, but I’m learning and growing and trying to be a better human being.

How do I undo years of gaslighting? How do I stop needing to constantly plead to deaf ears that I am telling the truth? How do I convince people who have been my family for more than 25 years to pick up a phone call from me, or to just listen to what I have to say? How do I stop being invisible to people who were such a large part of my life for more than half my years on this planet? How do I get them to treat me like a person? How do I convince myself that I’m okay? How do I convince myself that I’m enough? How do I convince myself that I am worthy of being loved?

Because I want out of this Talking Heads song now. I want a new song. I want to trust myself again. I want my power back.


“Never marry someone you wouldn’t want to divorce.”

I kid you not, someone said that to me not too long ago. I shrugged it off at the time and didn’t even offer a response to the co-worker who offered up that pearl of wisdom. She had– surprise!–just gotten married. But just like “don’t go to sleep angry,” the idea is nice in theory, but it’s a complete load of crap IRL. If I had a dollar for every night I went to bed, not just angry, but hating my husband with a burning hot rage.

But seriously, does anyone enter into a marriage thinking about divorce? No, the answer is no. Ok, so maybe there are a few out there who get to the alter and wonder how the hell they got there. But generally we believe that we are marrying the person we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with. We want to be in the 50% of marriages that don’t end in divorce. When my soon-to-be ex husband proposed to me more than 25 years ago, divorce was the last thing on my mind. Although it probably wasn’t the LAST thing on my mind, I certainly wasn’t asking myself how we would treat each other during a divorce settlement meeting, even as we were separating.

Lucky for me, I got the answer to that question today, whether or not I wanted it. And for the record, it was awful. And I say that as a person who can honestly admit that most of my marriage was wonderful. We were great partners, we had and raised great kids, we enjoyed each others company, and shared too many things in common to list here. Wr were happy and we loved each other. But, while he was, for most of our marriage, a great husband, he is a terrible person to divorce. Just awful.

I suppose it’s Pollyanna of me to expect a civil and respectful divorce. Divorce hurts. And while sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who feels pain of going through this, my logical brain tells me that it hurts him too. It’s human nature that when we hurt, we tend to take it out on other people. We do this whether we want to or not, whether we realize it or not. But it still sucks. It sucks a lot.

Without diving too deeply down into the divorce rabbit hole, let’s just say that today’s meeting with both attorneys and the private judge we’ve hired to mediate didn’t end well. Can it ever end well when a 25 year relationship boils down to a couple of spreadsheets and something called the Dissomaster? Again, no. No it won’t. Did I ever expect that the husband I loved for most of my adult life would call me a liar and accuse me of things worse than the meanest girl in my middle school? No, absolutely not in a million years.

Even though we just hit the two year mark of our separation last week, I still wake up some mornings and forget that I’m in my bed alone. I still read articles and think about how my husband would enjoy them. I have to stop myself from calling him up when I have good news to share and also when I need support during the not so great times. Twenty five years of habits are desperately hard to break. Which is why it stings so very much when the person who knows me better than anyone else, better than I know myself even, throws out accusations that are so hurtful and also so wrong.

Of course I wasn’t thinking on my wedding day about how hard it would be to be his adversary 25 years down the road . Nor did it occur to me when we bought our first home or when all three of our children were born, or when our first child headed off to college. I could never have dreamed how bad it actually would be. But would I do it all over again knowing what I know now? Yes. In a heartbeat. I’ll keep wishing for the impossible though, that we can come out of this and be the friends that we owe ourselves to be.




The kind of crowd sourcing I can get behind

Today is Valentine’s Day. A day I dreaded when I was younger and didn’t have a boyfriend. Then during the 25 years I was with my soon-to-be-ex husband, it was mostly just another day. In the early days of our courtship and marriage, we probably exchanged cards and gifts, but the day gradually came to be a non-event. It mostly meant that our kids came home home from school strung out on refined sugar in all its forms.

Now that I find myself very single and (mostly) without kids in the house, Valentine’s Day is back to being a day that culminates a week long march into dread. To make matters a million times worse, my favorite SweetHearts aren’t available this year. Something about the factory and…. blah blah blah….bottom line: no pink boxes with the heart-shaped window on the front. As a side note, I might actually be the only person who buys those conversation hearts to actually eat them. I have even been known to clean out the stock of them on February 15th so that I can enjoy them until mid-March.

To cheer myself up this year, I bought a big bag of Brachs candy conversation hearts yesterday, hoping they would be a sufficient stand-in until next year when SweetHearts will again be available (they weren’t) and all day I  have been popping them into my mouth like, well….like candy. But are they REALLY candy? I have spent a lifetime of eating the candy that nobody else will touch. Black licorice? Love it, and let me take those black jellybeans off your hands for you. Necco Wafers? Love ’em, especially the black ones…..black licorice-flavored chalk… mmmm. During Halloween season I have to strategically map my trips to Target so that I can keep away from the candy aisle. On those days when my will power is especially low, I casually stroll by the end cap that has the candy corn and, I’m not proud to admit this, but it always means I will have eaten an entire bag of the stuff before I even get to the check out. Am I the only one who loves that Peeps have expanded beyond just Easter time? Highly likely. I’m loathe to admit this, but I probably wouldn’t even turn down a Circus Peanut — you know, those orange, marshmallowy things? I know, I know. I am the bottom feeder of the candy world.

Anyway, I digress. My point today is that I came up with a great idea, well, for me, anyway. It might not be met with much enthusiasm from anyone else, but I’m excited by the possibilities. I’ve contributed to many very worthy GoFundMe pages, purchased a few Kickstarter projects and have made more than my fair share of meals for families needing assistance. I think it’s my turn now. As we’ve already established, I’m single. Very single. Here’s where you, dear readers, come in: I need a boyfriend. I don’t need a live-in boyfriend or anything that committed. But someone to go out to dinner with once in a while, or to catch a movie with. Someone who can add that 4th wheel to the gatherings I attend with my married friends. Certainly someone out there knows a tall, handsome and available bachelor who is dying to date a well read, well traveled and very social 50-something woman….right?

I have given up on online dating. Yes, I know it’s apparently the only way to meet anyone these days. But after the latest date that I thought went great but was told later that there just wasn’t enough chemistry, and after having corresponded with several “men” online who then disappeared from my feed because they were determined to be “unsafe accounts,” I deleted all of my dating apps. I just can’t do it anymore. So, I think I’m going to try to crowd source this one,

I’m not picky, but I’d like my new boyfriend to: be taller than 5’10,” live within 15 miles of San Jose, have kids who are at least high school age, likes dogs, likes to travel, owns his own car and if he doesn’t own his own house, he is at least not still living with his parents or ex-wife. Too much to ask for? I don’t think so. Now get to work and send me some great candidates. More importantly, happy February 14th, whether it’s Valentine’s Day at your house or just a regular Thursday. xo