Last week, in the writing group I facilitate for homeless people, I suggested a pre-Thanksgiving exercise that got me thinking. Instead of the grade-school-type assignment of writing what you’re thankful for I suggested we come up with some things we are not thankful for and see if we can find bright spots in those, the proverbial silver linings.
I’m not thankful that my children’s parents are divorced, but there are many things I am thankful for as a result of my divorce. Let me say at the outset that I liked being married. The greatest loss was that of our family unit, yet we still go on “family” vacations and gather on holidays when possible.
The three things I miss most about being married are:
1. Reading the Sunday New York Times with my ex. He would quote to me bits of interesting articles, which doubled my reading pleasure, literally.
2. Even though Steve traveled a lot, I never felt lonely. At times I felt disconnected from friends because it takes time to be married, time that I now use–and this is one of the silverest linings–to spend with old friends and cultivate new friendships as well as to visit my mom and talk to her every day.
3. Oops, I can’t remember the third thing. If it comes to me, I’ll let you know. Oh, now I remember, he wrote all the checks and dealt with life’s fine print.
As for a sleeping companion, I stopped caring whether someone with hairy legs was sharing my bed. In fact, at some point I began to believe that sharing my bed with my hairy beagle, Casey, was as pleasurable in it’s own way and in other ways a lot less bother. For example, I can blow my nose loudly in the night and Casey could care less. If only Casey could talk politics.
Sex begs to be addressed, even though my children, who read my blog, might gag. I’ll spare you details, but yes it’s nice to have a built-in partner. On the other hand it’s nice to have one’s own bedtime routine and to once again have had the opportunity to experience feelings of new romance with an–albeit limited–succession of boyfriends.
The morning routine is my treasure. I go to sleep when I please and wake up when I please and I turn on NPR without worrying I’m disturbing someone. And no one disturbs me. Casey simply follows along with my schedule, which often varies from day to day.
After getting dressed, if the weather is 50 degrees or above, I go out to the porch that is off my bedroom and stretch then write, which is what I’m doing now. It’s 12:48 pm and when I finish this, Casey and I will have breakfast and take a short walk. After that, I’ll write some more and then walk with a friend. (In case you missed the diet tip, my tip goes that I eat all day long, so the later I start, the less I eat.)
Often at night I go to dinner, to book club, to a swing dance. Other nights I turn on MSNBC and cook Brussels sprouts and answer mail, sitting through repeat rounds of Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow. I find catching up on mail while listening to jabs at Sarah Palin a pleasant way to spend an evening.
Last night I went ice skating with my ex-so-called boyfriend under a velvety midnight-blue sky with a crisp half moon on the outdoor rink that sits between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Afterwards we went for frozen yogurt and a stroll.
Don’t get me wrong, the skating was as lovely as it sounds but it’s not perfect. Mr. Ex-So-Called was cranky about my fiddling with stuff in the car, putting things in my pockets so I wouldn’t have to take my backpack to the ice and then fiddling again after we skated to put back stuff from my pockets into my backpack, all of which proves, of course, that you don’t have to be married to get on someone’s nerves.
When I was married, I loved when my ex traveled and I had the house to myself after the kids went to sleep. Plus, as I recently wrote in a Huffington Post article about helping kids deal with divorce, the kids and I could have French toast for dinner if we wanted or dinner in the bathtub or French toast for dinner in the bathtub. I can do that every day now, if I choose.
Now, it’s just Casey and me at home. The serenity is ideal for my writing. Ah, but there’s the rub. I’m not complaining, but as a free-lance writer, I have no anchor, no office culture. I regret that, as a competent loner, I’ve built more space around myself than I presently need. It helps that I’ve compiled a list of people I like, long enough to form a small village. So when the house gets too quiet, there’s always someone to bike to if I’m desperate to escape the racket of molecules banging together.
Maybe I could do more to attract the company of a suitable man. Instead, I have chosen a path of comfort in my “mom jeans.” By contrast, some women I know have undergone the cosmetic blade to look sexier and younger. Would I ever pay a surgeon to cut open my face open and staple my head and expose myself to the risk of looking like Popeye? Certainly not to attract a guy who’s too vain to use sunscreen like a man I met some years ago on a bike trip.
In sum, divorce has many silver linings and I have oodles to be thankful for. I hope you won’t allow this upbeat post to detract from my worrywart creds.
What silver linings can you find in things you’re not thankful for?
My memoir Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others is now available!
Read an excerpt at www.susanorlins.com
“Readers of all ages will relate to this deeply personal story, told with comical sensibility by a quirky, startlingly honest mother, daughter, ex-wife, and dog lover, who—à la Nora Ephron—will feel like a dear friend. Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others will stay with you long after you finish reading it.”
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