Sometimes happiness comes under the most unexpected of circumstances.

The Challenge of Being Alone

Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: challenges, happiness | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

 

Private time

When I lived in Northampton, I never really felt alone because every time I went downtown, I would run into someone I knew. Plus, I was never away from my kids for more than two days, so my alone times were short-lived.

During this two-week spurt of childlessness (and partnerlessness), I am diving much deeper into the experience of solitude. I wrote last week about my day at the De Cordova Museum and my solo matinee (it’s kind of easy to hide alone in the dark). Sunday, with none of my friends available to join me, I drove 35 minutes northeast to the Lowell Folk Festival by myself. To be fair, I thought that a friend of mine from Northampton might be there, but I still had to motivate myself to get out of the house on a gloomy day that looked like it might rain to go to a part of the Boston area that I had never been before. I was definitely tempted to veg on the couch and watch the Olympics instead.

When I got to Lowell and wound my way through the rather large crowds, I felt a peculiar elation. My ex hated crowds, and so does my daughter. I’m not a huge fan of them either, but I found that they are a lot easier to manage when you are alone and don’t have to worry about losing anyone (or someone feeling tense about them). And of course there is that old adage about the freedom of being alone in a crowd. I did meet my friend and ended up having a really fun afternoon drinking a little beer, eating Filipino food, and dancing to some great music.

I can’t say that I always like being alone. Yesterday, I chose to go to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain and saw a couple staring romantically at each other on a bench, and kind of thought it would be better with a date. However, once again, I found some benefits. When I am not busy chatting with someone else, I am more observant of my surroundings. I notice more of the subtleties of my environment.

After the arboretum, I stopped in for lunch at a local restaurant where they had a special of a burger and a beer, which reminded me of Spain, where I drank either wine or beer with every midday meal. Then I headed to JP Licks, which is an ice cream store in the rest of the city but is a real café here in Jamaica Plain, complete with comfy leather armchairs. I enjoyed watching my fellow MacBook users, inventing stories in my head about what their lives were like.

The more time I spend alone, the more accustomed to it I get. It no longer feels strange or awkward, and instead of self-conscious, I am starting to feel empowered. On that note, I have decided to set myself a challenge of going to more new places alone. I haven’t taken myself out for dinner before. There are some local bars that I would like to visit alone. As with most goals, I get a kick of satisfaction just from accomplishing them.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted on how these things go. And I’d love to hear about things that you have done alone that maybe took real nerve. Maybe you hated them or maybe you found that it was a lot more fun than you thought.


Living Well

Posted: April 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: challenges, happiness | Tags: , | 28 Comments »

The great thing about being a blogger that is constantly searching for positivity is that I have a storehouse of posts about finding that silver lining.  Once again, I have been feeling cranky, and I came across this post from February of 2011. It made me feel so much better that I thought I would share it again with you all.

Hidden Mickey Mural

 

I’ve been feeling unwell, not sick,

Just cranky, and not quite myself.

Hurt, frustration and fear have welled

Up inside of me, pestering me.

I tried to call upon wellbeing.

I opened my door up wide

And invited her in, cajoled even,

Okay, maybe I insisted she come,

Which is never the most seductive

Way to attract a desired guest.

So I backed off a bit.

I left her well enough alone.

I put extra effort into my

Teaching and grading and did yoga

And read with my kids and

Made comforting stews and banana bread.

Watched American Idol (a guilty pleasure).

Things that I have control over.

Things I know how to do.

Sure enough, she slowly found her

Way back, like a repentant lover.

I have to declare that living

Well is still the best revenge,

Even if really, truly, you’re only

Feeling vengeful against your own fate.

* * * * * * *

This post was brought to you by Six Word Friday.   One more word of wisdom about living well from my yoga teacher: “Don’t wait until you are dying of thirst to dig a well.”


Start a Conversation, Start a Connection

Posted: March 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: happiness | Tags: , , | 7 Comments »

Talking

When you read something good, you just have to share it, no?  Yesterday I read my friend Amy Gutman’s essay called “In praise of erring.”  Amy has a terrific new blog called “Plan B Nation” which bravely examines her life of relative unemployment despite her stellar education and impressive resume.  I realized that I had not added “Plan B Nation” to my blogroll, an oversight that has now been remedied because it hit me that what is more Plan B than a life after divorce?

Her post, that I literally cannot stop thinking about, addresses the issue of how we make decisions, and if we are to err in some way, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of human connection?  She tells the story of approaching two women in a local café who seemed really interesting.  Although she was feeling a bit hesitant about whether to go talk to them, she summoned up the courage to do so and discovered that they were lovely people.  Her conclusion was that erring on the side of human connection will more often than not bring a richness to your life.

After I read her article, I started thinking about my closest friends and how I met them.  I met one woman in a chiropractor’s office where we casually discussed our kids and traveling to Puerto Rico.  We saw each other a few times at the Northampton Parents Center, then went several years without contact, only to run into each other one day in Whole Foods.  We struck up a conversation, I asked her for her email, and she is now one of my closest friends.  In fact, our connection was rekindled and deepened right before my ex and I split up, and she was instrumental in supporting me through that difficult time.

Years later, I started a conversation with a woman that I had seen a few times in yoga when I saw her with her kids at a pool in Northampton.  It turned out that she was going through a divorce, and I basically asked her out.  I can’t remember how, but I think I got her email and said let’s have drinks after yoga some night.  Again, she is now one of my dearest friends and, as a fellow divorcee, she and I have helped each other time and time again navigate the sometimes rocky terrain of co-parenting, dating, and having a friendship with your ex.

As many of you know, I recently moved to the Boston area after spending eight years in the friendliest town on Earth, where it is not so uncommon for people to reach out to each other.  It’s a little trickier in a big, busy urban area.  However, just this week, I had social engagements with three different people that I made an effort to get to know.

One was a mom from my kids’ school who had reached out to me on Curriculum Night.  I saw her again at parent dinner party, that I was attending solo and feeling somewhat uncomfortable about being in a roomful of couples.  I made a beeline for her (as she was the only familiar face in the room), and it turned out that not only did we have many interests in common, but we also both attended Yale at the same time (she was in med school and I was in grad school).

Another was a friend of Jon’s that I wanted to get to know better, yet I wasn’t sure how she would react after Jon and I broke up.  I brought that up to her, and she was fine with it.  But I could have easily assumed that she was just Jon’s friend, even though our breakup was amicable.  We have become fast friends and this week she brought me chicken soup when I was sick.

My third social date this week came about through circumstances that pushed me even farther out of my comfort zone.  At the New Year, I had set myself the intention of making more friends in Boston because I felt that I had gotten a little lazy about that while dating Jon.  So I contacted a guy that I had met only once and then become Facebook friends with.  He seemed funny and witty, so I told him about my intention and asked if he’d help me accomplish it.  He said yes, eventually we hung out together, and within minutes, we were laughing like a couple of schoolgirls.

My point with all these examples is to jump on Amy’s bandwagon and let people know that the simple act of taking a risk and starting a conversation with someone can lead to a connection that enriches your life immeasurably.  The connections that I have made with the aforementioned people have been instrumental in navigating my life as a divorced mom.

As a divorcee, you often lose the cocoon of having a built-in social life.  One of the things that I liked best about being married was that I always had a companion to play with on the weekends.  Now I have to seek out those companions.  And now that I am in a new city, I have to build a whole new support network (although Northampton is, thankfully, only 90 minutes away).

So, if any of you divorcees (or singletons or marrieds) are feeling a little lonely, just remember that a deep and meaningful connection may only be a conversation away.  Many of us put in time and effort online seeking dates.  If we would only take the risk to say hi to someone in public, to comment on the book they are reading on the bus, or remark upon their adorable child or pet, we might find that we can make connections in person.  So I encourage you to put down your iPhones and take out your ear buds and see if there is anyone around you who looks or sounds interesting.  It just might be the best move you ever make.

Thanks, Amy, for this reminder.  You’ve made me realize how the casual conversation at the pool, doctor’s office or jury duty has left an indelible impression on my life.


Loving My Life

Posted: February 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: happiness | Tags: , , | 7 Comments »

Film star Helen Twelvetrees, ca. 1936-7 / photograph by Sam Hood

Today is Valentine’s Day and I considered re-posting what I wrote last year, a piece called Single Awareness Day. February 14th can be a tough day for singles, especially us women who are fans of romance and sometimes feel incomplete without a partner.  However, I realized that this year I have so many blessings to count that to even think twice about being single would be to squander them.

In addition, my seven-year-old daughter Layla showed me the Valentine that she wrote to herself.  It read: Dear Layla, I love being Layla and that will never change.  Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Layla.  I was overwhelmed by her love for herself and realized that she certainly had the right idea.  Today, and all days really, we should celebrate our love for ourselves.  Without it, we can’t truly love anyone else anyways, at least not successfully.

In the past, I have written alove letter to myself and also appreciation lists (the best of which, perhaps, is “50 Ways to Love Your Ex“), so today I am going to continue that tradition and give you all an update of how life has changed for us in Boston and how we are thriving.

1)    I love my new job. It has turned out to be a great position for me.  I have taken on new responsibilities like mentoring graduate student teachers and sharing pedagogical tips with them, and that has been a wonderful new challenge and source of stimulation for me.  In addition, my university is sending me to Madrid for the summer to teach a six-week course.  Since it will be such a great cultural opportunity for them, my ex has agreed to let me take the kids with me for the whole time.  We are all very excited about this new adventure.

2)    Boston is a great city. It has been very fun to live in a bigger metropolitan area.  In the last few months, I have gone to more museums than I have attended in years.  I love the excitement and newness of living in a new place, and have enjoyed making new friends and exploring new places.  In addition, my kids are attending one of the best public schools in the state.

3)    Our new custody schedule is working well. When we lived in Northampton, my ex and I had the benefit of being only 5 minutes away, and we were able to see each other and the kids almost every day.  That has undoubtedly changed as we are now in Boston, and he is still in Western Mass, and we do miss him.  The kids now stay with me during the school week and spend the weekends with him.  We meet about halfway across the state in Auburn every Friday afternoon after school, and then I pick them up there again on Sunday evenings.  This has allowed the kids to have the consistency of one household during the school days, and I have enjoyed having my weekends free to socialize, do school work, and go to yoga.  Furthermore, the kids have half days on Tuesdays, and I have arranged my teaching schedule so that I could get some down time with them on those days.  All things considered, this change has happened with relative ease, and I am so appreciative of that.

All in all, this move has been a great one.  It has enabled us to have new and exciting experiences while maintaining our bonds with our family and friends in Northampton as well.  As I contemplate my present situation, I feel so very pleased to have had this opportunity.

In the spirit of Layla’s Valentine’s Day card to herself, one of my dear new friends posted on Facebook a beautiful poem by Derek Wolcott called “Love After Love.”  I share it with you now as an inspiration for each one of us to look for love from within, instead of focusing on who is giving us love from without.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another; who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Lessons Learned from My Divorce

Posted: June 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: tips for a peaceful divorce | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments »
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Photo by Lisa Echevarria

Recently I read a really satisfying article on divorce yesterday in the New York Times’ Modern Love column cheekily titled “Let’s Get a Little Divorced.”  The author, Rachel Zucker, a woman who has been married for over thirteen years, wrote about the ways in which her parents’ and her friends’ divorces have shaped her vision of her own marriage.  As she watched many of her friends blossom and find real happiness after their divorces, she asked herself whether there were some positive lessons from divorce that she and her husband could incorporate into their own marriage.  I loved the article because not only did she point out some real benefits from divorce but she also bucked the notion that divorce is contagious and instead decided to be inspired by others’ divorces to make her own marriage better.

In discussing this article with one of my divorced friends, I learned that he really couldn’t articulate the benefits of his own divorce.  I asked him to make a list of the ways in which his life was better, and he was a bit stumped.  So, in part to help him find his own list, I am making one of my own, a sort of gratitude list of the positive lessons that I have learned through my own breakup.

  • I am now more appreciative of my ex husband. When we were living together, things had gotten really tense.  We were certainly no longer enjoying each other’s company and were often engaged in vocal disagreements.  Now, with the distance, I am able to appreciate the ways in which he is a great father to our kids and a loving friend to me.  I am so happy to be able to enjoy spending time with him again and for us to have peaceful interactions. Read the rest of this entry »