Rethinking the approach

So, I was hopeful that I could try to maintain a somewhat “normal” life by returning to my house on my typical telecommute days and using my sister’s house mainly as a crash pad at night.

But it seems we may be in for long-haul on this, and looking at my home as, well, my home is not healthy for me. It’s not my home anymore. It is a house occupied by someone else that I will eventually get to reclaim as my home.

Instead of visiting my dogs and chickens 2-3 times per week and trying to carry out a productive business day, I will only drop by the house maybe once a week to pick up mail and more clothing. Other than that, I will stay away.

I’ve had to come to this difficult conclusion when I found myself having another panic attack in my therapist’s office. I’ve been working with Dr. L for a long time and I’ve been alarming her greatly in my level of upset around the situation I’m in. She set up a appointment yesterday with a psychiatrist who can prescribe, and now I’ve joined the millions of others in the US who find ourselves medicating our way through the day.

I hate, hate, hate, having to take mind altering drugs like this. I belive that if the situation is so bleeped up that drugs must be taken to get through the day, then it’s time to attend to the situation. Move. Get a new job. Leave the girlfriend making you crazy. Or step back and figure out what YOU are doing to make yourself crazy and change that.

Unfortunately, I can’t attend to this situation myself other than using medication to alter/mask whatever it is in my brain chemistry that triggers the anxiety/panic attacks when confronted with a situation like the one I find myself in. Actually, I’d really like to try that “move” option by getting out of town until this is over. Or going into a hospital and living in an induced coma until this is over. But by then I’d lose my job and be in yet another kind of big trouble when I returned or woke up.

So, I’m now taking my old, old friend klonopin.  I first took klonopin about 12 years when I started having panic attacks. Coincidentally, the panic attacks happened right after I agreed to marry Mark. Hmmm….At that time the klonopin was paired with Paxil, too. But I told the psychiatrist that I am dead set against an SSRI (usually referred to as anti-depressants in the vernacular) becuase of their evil side effects.

When taking an SSRI one basically has to choose between one that is “weight positive” (in other words, makes you fat) or has “sexual side effects” (a euphemism for not being able to um…reach fulfillment, if you know what I mean.) I’ve already been battling back the pounds added due to my thyroid issues, and do not want to mess up my progress. Nor do I want to be dead below the waist for next 6 months, minimum.

Klonopin has none of these side effects and can be tapered off much more quickly. The only problems with it is that it makes me sort of sleepy and clumsy. I’m drinking lots of coffee to counteract the doziness, and just being careful to counteract the clumsiness. The good news is that I don’t feel keyed up all the time about the situation. I’m ready to move the rest of my clothing over to my sister’s house this weekend when Mark is out of the house, and continue converting her basement into my boudoir.

Then, it’s just back to waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting, etc.

At least I don’t feel like my head will explode.

Breathing room

I’ve spent the last 2 nights at my sister’s house and am feeling much less frantic. When I think of how I have to stay away from my home, my sanctuary, it makes me sad. But I can deal with sadness.

At least I no longer feel such overwhelming rage and helplessness. It’s like staying at home with Mark around was triggering my fight or flight response all the time. My first inclination was not to run away, but giving in to the “fight” response was going to get me in worse trouble than leaving.

Yesterday was a day I would normally telecommute from home. So I did. I had a gym appointment and I knew that by the time that was finished he’d be out of the house. I worked a bit at my sister’s house after getting up, went to the gym, and then continued on home. I spent the day working and a bit of time with the dogs, then I packed up food and clothing for next day and left before Mark returned.

Tomorrow I plan on doing the same thing, but will have to pack up enough clothing for more than a day since I don’t plan on returning to the house again until the weekend. I guess I’ll end up with my entire professional wardrobe over there by the time this is over.

Living with my sister has been quite pleasant so far. I get to see my niece and nephew a lot now, and I’m enjoying the camaraderie. With more than one competent cook in the house, cooking duties can be rotated, too, which is a great benefit.

Now that I have some breathing room, I won’t be pushing Mark along through the process, either. Mark can be incredibly deliberate, plodding, and downright stubborn about getting all the time he needs to take action on something. Me pushing at him only increases his stubbornness, which is counter-productive for my purposes. Allowing him some time to figure things out on his end is necessary (unfortunately), and I just couldn’t do that while I was feeling so desperate.

Maybe…possibly…this can be over by the end of February and I can move back into my house again. I really hope so. I jokingly told my sister that I’d be living there for the next 6 months. As much as she may love me and be supportive, I don’t think she’d like that very much. Neither would I.

A difficult choice

I won’t be spending the nights at my house starting tonight. I just can’t stand to share the house with Mark anymore and he refuses to move out. Since he’s not beating me up, he can’t be ordered out of the house by a judge, either.

Over the past week, I’ve gotten more and more agitated by living with him. I see him every evening and most mornings. The only time I don’t see him is during working hours. I have to maneuver around him in the kitchen and feel his presence just a few feet away from me during the evenings if I want to watch TV.

I find myself thinking of horrible things that I wish would befall him, or that I want to do to him. And this is a clear signal that I must get away. My lawyer has told me I can take a few days away as long as I don’t go too far: Wisconsin, Michigan, or an in-state spa, for example.

Over the past few weeks as my distress has escalated, I’ve had several friends and family offer to let me stay with them. My main concern has been that if I leave the household, the pets — dogs and chickens — will not be cared for properly. But at this point, I can’t worry about them anymore. I have to just take care of myself.

So, I informed Mark that he has sole responsibility for the household as of this evening. I will still be returning to the house, just not when he is here. I will come here for my standard telecommuting days and to pick up things; I’ll also likely have to come by to do some cooking and laundry.

It really saddens me that I must do this. I’ll miss snuggling up with my dogs at night and the familiarity of my home enfolded around me in the evenings. I’m just hoping that putting some more physical distance between me and Mark will help me feel less anxiety and distress.

Literary stuff

I had a horrible day yesterday. Some days are just bad ones, and I have no clue why this particular day was any worse than others. I got up, I did a little work whilst munching some breakfast, then I went to the gym.

I spent an hour on the treadmill, alternately walking very fast (3.8 to 4 miles an hour) or running (at 6 miles an hour) for 2 minute stretches of time. One of my thoughts/goals is to get into running. It’s something that can be done anywhere (as long as you have a very good pair of shoes) and it would be fun to take runs with my sister every once in a while. So, I’m trying to ease myself into running.

One would think that after such a demanding workout I would have burnt off whatever anxiety I was carrying around, but that wasn’t the case. Instead I found myself getting more worked up as the morning progressed. I went to see my therapist and had a total meltdown in her office. This is what therapist appointments are for, right?

Except I guess I triggered some professional standard when I started wailing about what I wanted to do with Mark to get him out of the house. So I had to calm down enough to look her in the eye and promise I wouldn’t do anything to harm him physically. I guess I can yell at him all I want, though. So comforting.

I made it back home and took the course of action she suggested: I took a Xanax and went to bed. The afternoon was pretty much just a wash for me and I had to cancel my participation in some meetings, but luckily I have an understanding boss.

When I got out of bed a few hours later I started thinking about how I was feeling. Tasting it. Turning it around. Really trying to pin it down and make sense of it. And here’s what I’ve come up with: despondent.

I have no clue as to when this ordeal will be over, but I’ve had to admit that Mark and I must continue to live together for at least another month. He will not be moving out at the end of January. I will not be enjoying sweet solitude in a matter of a few days. Instead, I must continue to navigate around him in the kitchen, in the living room, in the dining area, etc.

My despondency comes from the fact that timelines are totally ambiguous. There are no dates or timeframes when anything will happen (a month? 6 weeks? 12.3 weeks?), and therefore there are no goals I can set for myself. I can’t cross days off a calendar literally or figuratively, as I have no idea of how much longer I must endure.

And I’m tired of people telling me things like “This is going pretty fast for a divorce,” or “It will be over soon.” WTF does soon mean to these people??? Every minute wasted on this ordeal is one that I will *never* get back again. I know that everyone must go through some crappy times to get to the good, but enough is enough.

I many times thought peace had come
When peace was far away;
As wrecked men deem they sight the land
At centre of the sea,

And struggle slacker, but to prove,
As hopelessly as I,
How many the fictitious shores
Before the harbor lie. 

Emily Dickinson, patron (literary) saint of despondent people everywhere wrote that. And Google Books deserves thanks for having this great collection of poems by Emily Dickinson easily accessible.

Control and comfort

I’m a control freak and I realize that. Digging deep into my life as I was growing up, there is an explanation for this. I won’t go into great detail here as I try not to get too heavy on this blog; I have a therapist for a reason, and that’s the proper venue for such revelations.

I only note this fact here to introduce the reasoning behind my nearly fanatical focus on food and exercise in the past few months.

I am NOT in control of what is going on around me these days, and I find that very stressful and anxiety-provoking. I am buffeted by the crazy economy and an internal reorganization at work; by a wildly changing mortgage market that impacts my ability to lock down a monthly budget on which to live, and; by the wacky legal system and it’s impact on my personal space/life due to divorce. (*STILL* no final agreement on paper or date for this to end and me to be living alone…arrggghhhh!)

One sure thing I CAN control is what goes in my mouth and how I expend those calories. So, my freezer is pretty much full of containers of the various soups I’ve cooked up nearly weekly over the past 2 months, as well as the fruits, veggies, and other freezable things I’ve put by such homemade crepes and bread. It makes packing lunch every day pretty easy, and it is a great way to make sure I am eating healthy, nourishing food.

I love soups, and I’m a big fan of beans and other high-fiber veggies. So when I ran across a recipe for Garlic Lover’s White Bean Soup I had to try it. This is gooooddd soup that’s really thick and stew-like. It’s vegan, but can be adapted for those who love meat. (I had some chopped ham on hand so I added it near the end.) I talked so favorably about this soup to my friends that I’ve been chided once already for not yet providing a link to the recipe. My friends, have at it and enjoy!

Today was a very special day for Chicagoans as our former senator was sworn into the office as president. Many of us took a break from work to cluster around the television on our floor (perpetually tuned to CNN and usually spewing dire financial news or disasters) to watch the key inauguration activities: Obama’s swearing in and his acceptance speech. I’ll admit that I was one of the people wiping tears from my cheeks. I still tear up as I see the replays of his speech on the news programs.

I know that Obama is just a man and that he will likely make mistakes, but it is such a relief to have real hope for the direction of this country. This is also an area where I have no control, but it makes a big difference to have a person that I trust and admire in this position. And the fact that so many outside of this country responded with great enthusiasm to this event, too, gives me great hope and comfort.

Blessed solitude

I used to live alone and did very well on my own. In my single years, I did live with a boyfriend or two (or three, to be exact), but that wasn’t the same as having a roommate. Those were more like auditions. (And they served their purpose very well.)

I’m looking forward to being on my own again, and it looks like that *may* happen by the end of this month. We have an agreement now. It’s a verbal agreement that has been communicated to the lawyers, and which they seem to understand, but it is not yet written up and signed off. Nonetheless, it also includes the stipulation that Mark move out at the end of January.

This weekend, Mark has been away more than in the past, too, which allows me to enjoy the house alone and in peace. It’s nice having the place to myself. I talk to the dogs, sing out loud as badly as I want, and look around the place for things to change up. I’m not sure yet what furniture will be going with Mark, so my plans for re-arranging the living room are not very solid. It’s still fun to think of them, though.

I’ve also been making steps towards my own personal goals. I had my first riding lesson last Friday. Thank goodness for indoor arenas, since the temps were still brutally cold outside. I mounted Moose (a lovely, calm gelding…and let’s leave off all the potentially racy remarks that can be made here so this blog can remain “family friendly”) and started out with a walk. I took corrections of my posture and positioning of the reins well, and moved on to a posting trot pretty quickly. I learned that I was spot on with my diagonals (and learned what those were, as I don’t recall that term coming up when I last took instruction in English riding), and the instructor pronounced my efforts “very good” when all was over. I have another lesson scheduled for next Friday and the instructor didn’t think me delusional at all when I told her I’d like to be ready to ride for a week in Iceland at the end of summer.

On Saturday morning I woke up expecting to be sore, but I was surprised by where I felt the soreness. My legs were fine, but my upper back and shoulders were feeling like they needed a rub down. I made sure to do my upper body exercises as the gym on Saturday in additon to cardio, as it was obvious I needed them. Tomorrow I go for my monthly therapeutic massage, so I’m sure that will help.

Tonight I’m enjoying the time alone with a cocktail, some fine cheese (Moonglow goat’s milk base from a small vendor at the Green City Market), and the second season of The Tudors. (I’m a sucker for costume dramas!) And every once in a while, I pause everything to enjoy the quiet sounds of the house around me. Ahhhhhh.

All’s well

When I opened up the coop this morning, all but Speedy came out for their warm mash. Speedy was too pre-occupied with finding a good angle to enter the nest box, which hopefully means I will get at least one egg today. All looked well with no signs of frostbite and they were eating quite greedily.

Last night I left the water on a trickle through the faucets of the bathroom upstairs and the kitchen sink. Both have pipes running along or very near the outside walls of the house, so it was a good pre-caution. Both taps were working well this morning, too.

My digital thermometer wasn’t even providing a reading this AM, but on the radio they said it was -17F with a -30F to -35F  wind chill. Amazing.

Hanging in there

Wow. It is C-O-L-D outside. I didn’t put on quite as many layers as Adrienne while commuting this morning, but I was OK. When the weather gets like this, I pull out my sheepskin hat (the one with the earflaps) and mittens, and put on my thermals under my work clothes.

I also wear my Lands’ End Commuter Coat which I *highly* recommend to anyone who has to spend any amount of time outdoors. When I wore it in Manhattan last winter during a work trip that coincided with bitter cold (unusually there were very few people in Times Square that night) one person commented on my “sleeping bag…Oh, I mean coat.” But I was toasty as I headed outside to walk back to my hotel while the jokester shivered on the way to hers.

When I woke up this morning, the thermometer outside my window said it was -9F. When the weather report came on the radio, they said the windchill was -25F. The day didn’t get much better, either. We got up to a high of -1F, and tonight’s temps will be down to -14 (not counting wind chill). It hopefully will get up to a high of 7 tomorrow. Yikes!

I gave the chickens their warm mash this morning, but they didn’t get their afternoon scratch. I had to go downtown today to work in the office and visit the dentist so I wasn’t home before dark. They seemed OK when I closed up the coop tonight, although there were 0 eggs today. I guess I don’t blame them.

I’m hoping this is our last arctic blast of the year. We had bitter cold in December already. Typically, we get maybe one or two weeks like this each winter, but no more than that. Let this be the end. Please?

A typical snow day

The snow finally stopped yesterday in the late afternoon. The official tally was 12 inches up here on the north side. All I can say is, it’s a lot.

I didn’t spend the day inside like most sensible people, though. Mark was around the house so I took Rachael up on her offer to meet in Andersonville for lunch and then a visit to the Philippino grocery store.

I rode the Foster Ave bus to meet her and took my camera with me. I got a few interesting shots along the way.

Gimme shelter

Gimme shelter

A bus shelter along the route. Getting and off the bus often entailed stepping into more than foot high piles of snow pushed to the side of the road by the snow plows.

I need a walk!

I need a walk!

Dogs still need to be walked on a snow day.

Slow going

Slow going

Cars have to struggle along unplowed side streets. The plows don’t venture down the side streets until the snow stops and all the major roads are completely cleared.


But before you can drive anywhere you have to dig out your car. The situation actually gets worse after the plow goes by since it piles up more snow around it.

We had lunch (or brunch depending on your ordering preference) at Kopi Cafe where I was also able to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to Iceland. (I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford a trip to Iceland this summer, but it’s OK to dream.)

The Philippino grocery store was delightfully pungent and intriguing. Rachael was able to get the obscure ingredients she needed to make some of the childhood dishes she fondly recalls. And then I had her drop me at the Foster bus stop so I could head home.

Although it was Saturday night, I needed a night of real rest and I knew Mark would be gone by the time I got home. The headcold that had bugged me earlier in the week was threatening to return and I needed to replenish the sleep reserves depleted by 2 nights of interrupted sleep.

So, I settled down with a hot cup of herbal tea and my knitting for a bit, then indulged in a hot bath. By the time Mark returned to the house, I had already taken a Nyquil caplet and was ready to snuggle into bed for the night. Ah, the simple joys of home.

A night out

Whoa, baby, what a night!

Last night Rachael, Jamie and I spent a very enjoyable evening getting toasted at some of Wicker Park’s finer drinking establishments. We started out rather early (about 7ish) at Adobo Grill with some fresh guacamole prepared tableside, and delicious margaritas made with fresh lime juice. Rachael and I also had a precautionary meal, too, but that wasn’t a stand out. Then we headed off to The Violet Hour.

I’d never been to The Violet Hour before and found the experience really enjoyable. Swanky for sure, with moody lighting and decorating, eclectic music, and real cocktails. I mean classic cocktails as they were meant to be made: high quality liquor, fresh fruit juices and garnishes, and dashing presentation.

Now, I love The Matchbox for similar reasons, but the atmospheres are totally different. Matchbox is a small, gritty sort of place where you rub elbows with the person next to you, and start unexpected conversations. The Violet Hour is the type of place to dress up for, and to sit back, sip your drink and feel like one of the “beautiful people.” Prices at The Violet Hour are more than at The Matchbox, but part of what you’re paying for is that groovy atmosphere.

We found a great deal, though: Parsippany Punch. This potent combination of applejack, a couple of other obscure liquors, some simple syrup, and a dash of bitters came to our table served in a small punchbowl with an ice block floating atop. As I raised the first glass to my lips, I took a sniff and it felt like my nostrils were being singed. Yikes!!! Two sips into it, I felt my face glowing. The flavor was intense and not something I can easily explain. The three of us got several mugs of this stuff out of the punchbowl and it cost us only $30 total. A pretty good deal!

Afterwards, we squeezed through the full vestibule of people waiting for tables and out into the snow. It may have only been a bit after 10 PM, but we were snookered (2 Margaritas and 3 glasses of strong hooch will do that to you) so we parted ways and headed home. I was lucky with the CTA, not having to wait too long for an el train, and catching a bus at the station only minutes before it left.

The reason we had headed out so spontaneously into the snowy night was to blow off some stress. Rachael had had a pretty tough week, and is on tenterhooks awaiting next week’s scheduled announcement of more layoffs at her employer. And I had a really rocky Friday.

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night, awaking after about 4 hours of sleep. Lots of tossing and turning ensued until I finally gave up, got out of bed and grabbed something to do. I listened to a podcast, I knit a bit, and then I played around with stuff in my closet.

I leisurely got ready for work, putting on the nice suit and blouse I had selected earlier (part of my newly liberated wardrobe that I hadn’t been able to wear several months ago!), and going the extra mile with the full make-up routine, including mascara. (I really don’t like mascara and avoid wearing it as much as possible.) I headed out into the snowy day to catch the train downtown, which happened without incident.

The morning was good. I attended a special event with our CEO and got to sit right up front and interact with him and the office managing partner. It’s good for the career to meet these higher up folks, and my attendance at this thing was the reason I made up my face so carefully. I worked through the stuff in my email that had to be done, set up some meetings, checked in with my team, etc. It was a productive day, until late in the afternoon.

By 4 PM I was drooping. Operating on 4 hours of sleep and being up for so long already was starting to affect me and I was pretty much just focusing on the more mindless stuff. And then my lawyer called.

I know that one of the reasons I had trouble sleeping was due to my anticipation of the meeting she was reporting back to me on. Becuse of continued rescheduling by Mark’s lawyer, it was the first meeting they had held, too. I was…well…disappointed, to say the least about this meeting.

As she talked about the particulars of how the assets could be divided, it was obvious that some of the details of what Mark and I had discussed ourselves months ago had been lost in time. I had reported the conversations to her shortly after they took place, but hadn’t brought them up to her before this meeting to refresh her memory. And, of course, Mark hadn’t really been in touch with his lawyer, either. So, I was getting pretty disturbed by what sounded like hours more of billable work to figure out EXACTLY how much my pension was worth, and what portion of Mark’s retirement investments were pre-marital, etc.

The worse part was her response to my request for clarification on what “this can be finished up soon” meant. “Please help me understand exactly what that means,” I asked. And the response was devastating to me: agreements drafted over the next few weeks, court date around mid-February, and then Mark would get 30 days to vacate the premises. I started to cry. Right there, sitting at my desk in my “deluxe cubicle” (as a senior manager, my cube is larger and next the windows, of course!) I started sobbing as I realized that I most likely must continue to co-habitate with Mark for another two months. !!

After we ended the call, I wiped the dreaded runny mascara off my face, packed up, and headed for the train station. I got on the train and sat there fighting off more tears and sobs which I just let flow after I left the train and began the walk home through the steadily falling snow. (The nice thing about snow is that it muffles sound, so not too many other commuters would hear me sobbing and gasping as I walked.) I made it through the one major intersection without getting killed in my total lack of concentration and confusion about the lights.

My stop at home was going to be as brief as possible: just enough time to change my clothes, lock up the chickens, feed the dogs, and then let the dogs out to do a bit of “business.” I had one more call with my lawyer, who phoned me after digilently running through some more figures that she had emailed to me, too. I promised to review them and get back to her on Monday, then left the house again.

As I approached the intersection to catch the Foster bus (still snowing with the totals approaching 3 inches by this time) I again wrestled with my confusion with the timing of the lights as I tried vainly to reach a rapidly approaching bus before it got to the official bus stop. I missed it. I stood there in the street and screamed. I just couldn’t help it, I was that much at the end of my rope. The bus magically pulled to a stop on the other side of the intersection. I dodged traffic to run up to it and nearly started sobbing my gratitude to the bus driver as I boarded. I managed to get out a coherent “Thank you, thank you!” without blubbering at the same time, found a seat, and then gulped in air as I pushed back the “I’m going to lose it” feeling again.

By the time I got off the el near Rachael’s place about 30 minutes later, I was calmer and more than ready for some alcohol. We had our wonderful evening and I returned home to find Mark there.

Of course I knew this really wasn’t the time to talk about the lawyer’s meeting, but he broached the topic and seemed eager to do so. It wasn’t a great conversation as I was still pretty tightly wound. I recall at one point saying to him, “You have to understand that no matter what you do, you are going to be the “bad guy” to me.” Nonetheless, I think we may have a reasonable compromise worked out.

Now, if I could just get him out of the house at the end of the month…I foresee many, many days and nights ahead where I spend time away from my home, avoiding him…

Oh, and it’s still snowing.