Am I a mentor now?

There hasn’t been much writing going on lately. In trying to figure out why I just don’t want to write, the only thing I can come up with is the general feelings of overwhelm I’ve been dealing with over the past few weeks.

The stress of the holidays has certainly been part of that. Trying to balance time with family and friends, and time for myself during the last few weeks has left me limp. I get cranky and start shutting down when I feel over-committed, and it frankly doesn’t take much for me to feel over-committed these days. Stressing about work — thinking about it and berating myself for not feeling more motivated about it — has also taken it’s toll on me.

One of the things I’ve come to accept about myself over the past few years is that I’m an introvert, which means that in order to re-charge I need time away from hustle and bustle and people. I used to think being an introvert was a bad thing, but I’ve accepted that knowing what you need to feel your best is inherently good. Besides, it’s not as if I need to do something illegal or immoral — like torturing animals or bullying people — to feel good. I just need quiet time so I can let my mind wander and feel refreshed. (I can even find time to refresh in a crowded cafe, like right now. Often it is possible to be alone even in a crowd.)

Last night I spent some time talking with an old acquaintance who is going through a separation and divorce. I grew up next door to this guy, and while we don’t have much in common at this point, I did see him at a reunion gathering shortly after my divorce was final. He reached out to me last night via Facebook since he remembered that I had been divorced recently. Since I can be a pretty compassionate person I spent a bit of time talking with him.

I remember feeling that lonely and that desperate for human contact. I remember how scared it made me to lose the person I thought was my life companion. There was the desire to be coupled again, and the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do so; that I just would fail at dating.

Having close friends helped me through those times, and I think men are at a disadvantage here. This guy is conservative and “old school,” and many guys in his position have a less-developed support network.

So what did we talk about? I tried to let him talk as much as possible, since I know that is critical in these situations. But I did give him some advice. I told him to just focus on getting through the divorce right now and not to worry about dating yet. I seconded the suggestion another friend of his had made to join a Meetup so he could get out of the house and socialize a bit. (I also had to explain to him that Meetups aren’t necessarily dating networks, too.) And I told him that I completely understood those fears he was having of being alone.

I’m not alone now and I never have been. I’ve been blessed to have really great friends, and I’m grateful for each one of them. Nearly two years has gone by since my divorce, and I feel that I learned a lot from my marriage and the divorce. That’s the best outcome I could have asked for, too.

Big stuff

Well, tomorrow is my day in court. I’m on the docket for 9:30 AM, so it will be a split personality type day: in the morning I will be a married person, but by the afternoon I will be offically single again.

But that’s not all!

I also was able to arrange my closing on the house refinancing for tomorrow afternoon, so I will get that business accomplished, as well. It may seem like a lot to deal with in one day, but I’m taking the entire day off of work anyway, so why not conduct all my business in one day. It will save me having to take time off later in the week, which would be difficult to manage these days anyway.

Work is very demanding lately. That’s good because it means a) my employer really wants/needs my talents and I’m unlikely to lose my job anytime soon, and; b) it helps me keep my mind occupied so I’m able to deal with this divorce and personal transition in smaller chunks at a time. It’s not always easy to compartmentalize and “schedule” personal stuff/work stuff, but the fact that I am compelled to keep my act together these days so I can accomplish stuff at work is a help.

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I was at my house for a few days last week while Mark was out of town. On Friday, I checked the nest box in the afternoon and saw this.

Peak production

Peak production

Four eggs. All in one day. Woo hoo! With only 4 laying hens, this is the best it can get. I’m very proud of my ladies and how well they’ve done.

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So, I’ve been back at my sister’s house since Friday night. We’ve been doing very well together, although this morning there was a bit of an exchange that I didn’t care for. While sis has been generous in allowing me to stay at her home, she did ask me to help pay for food I consume. Considering that I am consuming utilities in her home, too, the estimate of $40 a week seemed pretty fair.

Well, last week I wasn’t at her home all week. And I put out $70 picking up groceries for her earlier in the week. So when she broached the subject today and generally asked when I was going to pay her for food, I was a bit thrown this morning. Yes, I ate dinner with her last night. Yes, I ate lunch at her house yesterday that consisted of some food she had purchased. But, geez, it just sort of broad-sided me this AM while I was in the midst of figuring out how I’m going to do banking after the divorce tomorrow.

Bear in mind that while I do eat stuff she buys, I have also brought over foodstuffs from my own house to eat. After all, she and I don’t consume exactly the same. I like a lot of unprocessed, “real” food (no “buttery spreads” for me, but real butter, etc.), while she purchases different stuff. Plus I’m sticking to my no-cow-dairy rule, so that limits some of what I would consume from her fridge, anyway.

I’ve brought over and shared: tea, eggs, homemade jam, home canned peaches, and home canned applesauce. I pretty much eat my own stuff for breakfast (excepting coffee, since it is readily available in the AM) and bring my own food for lunch on days I go to the office (from my dwindling supply of frozen soups).

Additionally, she takes full advantage of me being here to help with her pet care and be a “responsible adult” to help out with her teen son. So, I figure I’m contributing more than just a few dollars to the household by being here and all should be balancing out.

I’m not trying to get down into the weeds on this stuff, but it became a much too long exchange for my comfort. I hesitated as I thought through the implications of giving her some of my rapidly dwindling cash on hand. I offered her a check, which she declined, and then I explained my dilemma about accessing ATMs and how banking is going to be challenging for me over the next week as I give up the shared account at a major banking institution with ATMs all over the place and instead am relying on my personal accounts at a credit union with NO ATMs in the city at all.

Call me cheap, but I don’t want to spend $5-6 in transaction fees to get her $40 for the week; I’d much rather wait until I get another account set up that I will use for ATM transactions and online bill paying. What made this exchange go on too long was her observations and commentary on  me sharing my dilemma, and the fact that she seemed to have no sympathy for my situation in her response.

It just goes to prove that family can really get you in vulnerable parts, eh?

Being here

I’m at my house now. My own house. My home. It’s just for a few days until Mark gets back from a business trip, but it’s sort of like a little breather in the middle of a long stretch of craziness.

As I sit here on my couch, with Sadie curled up on my left peacefully sleeping, and Hannah curled up on my right, sleeping in her usual twitchy, I’m-chasing-something-in-my-sleep way, I’m loving it. I’m surrounded by their healthy, doggy smell, and the warmth of their presence.

It will be so nice to climb into my bed tonight knowing that my wonderful dogs will be snuggled up with me. While I get this time just for a few days this week, it’s great to know that in about 10 days I can look forward to this again, and again, and again, etc.

Checking ’em off

Hooray! Next Monday, February 23 is my big day in court. Yep, I will be officially divorced that morning.

It does make me a bit sad to think about it so I lined up some moral support for that time. My sister will be there with me and then I will take the rest of the day off. Perhaps I will just hang out downtown: have tea and a scrumptious croissant at Argo (they have the *best* croissants in town); browse at Border’s and use up the holiday gift card I got from A; or rush to the nearest open bar and guzzle down a big martini. (Just kidding!!)

Actually, I’m hoping that I can arrange to do the house refinancing the same day. After all, I’ll have the afternoon free so why not get all my business done in one day? I received a signed copy of the MSA today, which is the only thing I’ve needed to complete the refinancing. Once the divorce is final, I can also attend to other business type stuff, too, like open a new bank account.

It’s not here yet, but it is such a relief to have a date set now. Hallelujah!

Moving along

Here it is, week 3 of living at my sister’s house and I’ve pretty much settled into a routine. She joined the same gym I belong to, so now we go to the gym together at times.

Having a work out buddy is another motivation for me to not skip a gym date, although I wouldn’t attempt to keep up with her. I’m only now getting comfortable with the fact that I must get pretty sweaty in the course of getting healthier, whereas she works out as if she wants to get to the point of falling over in exhaustion as quickoy as possible.

I have a new trainer at the equestrian center and I think she’ll work out better for me. She let me help tack up the horse and identified some other areas I need to work on in my posture and seat, including gripping better with my legs. This means much more working out of inner thighs at the gym. Between riding for 30 minutes on Friday and working out for 1.5 hours at the gym at some pretty leg intensive stuff yesterday, it’s no surprise that my legs are quite sore this morning.

Even so, I feel like doing more exercise today. I think I’m starting to understand my sister’s style a bit more. And I am starting to get that lovely rush when I get into the cardio stuff after several minutes.

My only disappointment with the riding lessons is that the over past 2 weeks I haven’t been able to ride the lovely Moose. He’s been lame each time and so I’ve had to instead ride older, slower mares that need a bit of coaxing to get into the trot. I suppose the silver lining is that I’ve learned how to handle a crop pretty effectively now. Still, I’m hoping to get Moose next Friday when I go back.

This week I get to spend several days and night at my home. Hooray! Mark has an out of town business trip, so I get the house to myself during that time. Only 2 more weeks to go until I can move back in permanently, too. He is definitely moving out on February 28, and I plan on being there to help things move along as quickly and smoothly as possible.

I’m still waiting to hear about the final court or “prove up” date, though. And for the final, signed copy of the MSA (marital settlement agreement). The MSA went to Mark’s attorney late last week, and once I have a signed copy and I can take that to the mortgage broker and get the refinancing done.

So, these are the final things remaining on my personal let’s-get-my-new-life-started-checklist: get final MSA; refinance house; attend prove up and get quit claim deed; transfer title on the house.

Seems like everyone I know is going out town to someplace warm around Feburary 25, and I’d love to do that, too. Unfortunately, it just won’t be possible to do that until I get through that checklist first. But after that…well…we’ll see what can be worked out.

Heating up

We’ve been enjoying a mini “heat wave” here in Chicagoland for the past few days. It has not only gotten above freezing, it’s become warm enough to put away (temporarily, I’m sure) the big, down-filled “sleeping bag” coat I wear during the coldest part of winter. Yesterday the temps were above 60F, and the rest of this week looks to be in the high 40s and 50s.

I’m not really complaining here, but this has caused me a few problems as I only had the one warm coat with me here at my sister’s house. I had to make time to run over to my house and bring yet more clothing back, including some lighter outer wear and thinner shirts to wear with my suits. It almost seems as if my full closet WILL be transported over here by the end of the month.

Mark emailed me a couple days ago with some good news: he has signed a lease at an apartment beginning March 1, but since it is currently vacant he can pick up the keys early and start moving stuff over at any time. He said he’s calling movers tomorrow to schedule the move for the big stuff (bed, bookcases, etc.) Dare I hope that he will move early, and I can get back into my home before the end of the month?

There are still some adjusments needed to the MSA (marital settlement agreement) apparently, but my lawyer said they will try to schedule the “prove up” (this means, the final court date when the judge grants the dissolution of marriage) for the third week in February. Hooray!

I’m happy and sad about this news. At the very beginning, I was sad and cried a lot, but then had to get busy doing paperwork, meeting with the lawyer and the mortgage broker, making lists of this and that, etc. Keeping busy and in motion gave me something to do to keep my my off of the emotional aspects of the divorce.

Now we’ve reached a big milestone, though: Mark really is moving out. I really will be living in the house on my own soon. And that is sad and scary. I know the mortgage broker said that I will have no problems meeting my mortgage payments, but it is still scary to know that I will be sole support of my small household.

Moving from 2 incomes to one also means I have to change my lifestyle to be more vigilant about what and when I spend. I’m not a profligant spender who makes shopping a hobby, but I have enjoyed the DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle that has allowed for travel, eating out at pricier restaurants, and purchasing high quality stuff off-sale. I know this may sound sort of whiny considering the hard reality many others are facing with layoffs, the rising cost of living, etc. I’m just saying it’s a change I have to get used to.

A dozen down

This is my twelfth night in exile. Not much to say other than I am getting used to it. I still miss my dogs and my chickens.

It appears that I *may* be able to move back in as of March 1. Mark emailed me today that he met with this lawyer this afternoon and is now “seeking an apartment in earnest” for a March 1 move. I’ll believe it when it happens. I no longer get excited and hopeful about anything related to the divorce proceedings. I’ve been let down too many times by expectations I’ve allowed myself.

I still don’t feel like I can start crossing days off the calender yet. I still think this sucks.

On the plus side, I have better focus now at work with the klonopin. And my diligent exercising is paying off, as it seems that I’ve lost another 5 pounds in the past 2 weeks.

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.

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.

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.