Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blue Skies and Gray Skies

In my line of work, we operate in both "blue sky" and "gray sky" environments.  Gray skies typically get the most coverage - tornadoes, floods, earthquakes.  It's always a challenge to get the blue sky activities noticed in the public - our preparedness programs, our services to the armed forces. Gray skies make better stories, and they dominate our attention, but as the communications director, it's my job to market both.

Often times my blog is dominated by gray skies, because it's in the gray skies that I feel the need to explore and purge my negative feelings. This leads to the impression that I'm living my whole life under gray skies, when the reality is I'm happy most of the time.

Getting divorced is the grayest my skies have ever been. Scott and I would both agree though that at the bottom of this, we feel we are doing the right thing for us. On the worst days, when my thoughts are their darkest, I want to write, I need to cry. Yet on my best days, and even my normal days, I'm too busy enjoying my kids, enjoying my friends, enjoying my job, enjoying life to make time to write. The need to write isn't so great on those days; and those days are the norm.

So today, I want to write about my blue skies.

The kids and I had a good day yesterday. Sure they were kind of awful in the morning when I told they had one hour to get their rooms clean or I was coming in with a garbage bag and throwing away anything left on the floor. But I spent that hour getting the rest of the house clean and then helped all the kids finish up their rooms before the hour was out. We watched a movie together on the couch then ran errands. (Haircuts and new shoes!) We had beans and toast for dinner - easy and certain to please! We put on our jammies and watched Harry Potter. Jaguar fell asleep curled up in my lap; it was sweet. The girls went to bed with no complaining. I then stayed up until 2am watching Switched At Birth on Netflix while finishing up all the laundry. I had a great day!

Last weekend was my first weekend away from the kids. I spent the first night - Friday - in Oklahoma City, eating pizza from Sauced on Paseo and watching hours of CNN. I spent Saturday with my high school bff Devon and one of her friends, grilling out, drinking gin and gossiping around a campfire until all hours of the night. I went to a play the following day with another friend. I had a great weekend! There were sad moments as we three newly single women talked about the disappointments, the regrets and the losses that come with divorce, but we had a lot of laughs and a lot of perfectly bad ideas regarding how to keep the campfire going in our somewhat inebriated state.

I talked a few days ago about my fear of being alone and the negativity that I can heap on myself while alone. I honestly feel that way some days. What I don't get around to saying though is on other days, I look forward to getting to know myself, spending some alone time learning to appreciate the quiet solitude. Last weekend after spending all that time with friends, I took myself to a movie I've been dying to see and loved going by myself. It was a movie based on a book that dramatically impacted my life and was a movie I didn't want to see with anyone else. Watching it in the cinema alone is exactly how I wanted to see it. This morning, I've even gone so far as to allow my kids to go to church with my mom (shock! horror!), so that I could revel in the silence of an empty, clean house, writing this blog and appreciating the me-time.

I recognize that I've never been very good at being alone and I've never really been good at knowing what *I* want. Before Scott, I had a very serious boyfriend that I spent way too much time trying to please, trying to be what he wanted me to be. Before him, I had a boyfriend that liked me so much just as I was, but I felt the relationship wasn't what God wanted me to be in so I ended it. Scott always allowed me to be me - he's incredible that way and this point needs to be reiterated loud and clear because he NEVER asked me to be anything other than who I am - but the moment after we married, I moved to another country and became "Scott's wife" to everyone else, and a few short years later, Fifi's mum. I did everything for the kids, was everything they needed me to be, and I don't regret that for one single second. But they are older now and don't need me like that so much, and Scott and I are splitting up, and I am back in America where people remember me as just Lori Arnold, the girl who had an obsession with mooning everyone and an equal obsession with Tripping Daisy, and you know what? I look forward to just remembering what I like and who I am all on my own.

A few weeks ago I had a night all to myself. I almost felt afraid to leave the house and go out on my own, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had a few options, but all the options included me going alone. I was supposed to be meeting friends, but they all canceled for one reason or another. I drove around aimlessly for a while realizing I don't know what I even want for myself, what I even like to do, what choices I should make for myself. I'm generally happy to go with whatever everyone else wants to do; I'm not picky, I just like to hang out. Left with making decisions for myself, though, I was at a loss. I picked a restaurant I wasn't terribly excited about and ate dinner by myself with a book. I texted my friend. She encouraged me to just "do me" that night, whatever the hell that might look like. And you know what? I decided to follow my gut and do exactly what I really wanted to do, even if it meant doing it alone, and I did. And I had a fantastic time! I realized I AM capable of going places alone and having fun and making friends wherever I go, and that excites me.

Scott and I as a broken couple also have our mix of gray and blue skies. But it's the blue skies we're focusing on. It's the days when we can just talk about what we're going through and what we want for the future and how we can best love and care for our kids and still be a family. It's the days we can hug each other and know that deep down, we will always want the best for each other and root for each other's happiness. It's the times we can still laugh about things and roll our eyes at the things that annoy us both and quote Scrubs and know that the other person knows we're quoting Scrubs. We will always be in each other's lives no matter what, so why dwell on the gray skies when there are blue ones to smile through?

I have a lot of blue sky days. A LOT. I have gray ones too. The gray ones get the limelight, but as a blogger, I'm making it my job to share about both. I may not love being alone, but I know I am strong enough to make it work. I'm an extrovert. I need people. That won't change. But I don't need to be codependent. I want to learn the difference between needing to do things with people and being able to do things alongside people. I can face the fact that I'll never be the kind of person who chooses to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, but I can and will be the kind of person who will travel to another city by myself and hang out in bars and meet the locals and see the sights and take photos to post on Instagram and text with friends while I'm off doing my own thing. I can't do complete solitude, but I can just "do me". I'm going to be okay. I'm going to be happy. :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I'm Really, Really Bad At

I'd say I'm good at a lot of things: writing, baking, eating said baking, sleeping, cleaning, coloring in the lines, making small talk, avoiding unnecessary conflict, attacking necessary conflict, making impulsive decisions that do not usually backfire, crying at the drop of a hat.

I'm also bad at a lot of things: math, making rational decisions, not burning cookies in the oven, getting my oil changed, rejecting conspiracy theories, taking care of myself and making healthy choices, showing affection to my pets, keeping my phone charged.

Two things I'm exceedingly bad at though are forgiving myself and being alone.

Those two things together create a powerfully bad situation.

I am a guiltaholic. When I'm not feeling copious amounts of guilt over something, I feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough. When I'm alone, I dwell on that guilt and rather than getting sick satisfaction from wallowing in guilt, I get more and more depressed and feel more and more guilty. And then I isolate myself because why would anyone want to have anything to do with me, this awful, horrible person who doesn't deserve anyone's love and affection? And isolation makes me dwell on the negative more and more.

It's a fantastically bad never-ending cycle.

So I usually avoid being alone. If I can be with others, I can feel okay about myself and say fuck guilt like I totes mean it.

Then I realize that I'm avoiding being alone and I'm depending on others for my own happiness and since that can't be healthy, I go back to trying to find alone time and know thyself. Which leads me to thinking of all the bad things I've done in my life, and the cycle continues.

Being a single mom now is hard for all the obvious reasons, but the hardest is all the time I spend alone now. Time to dwell on past mistakes, things that led me to where I am now, analyzing every mistake made from the moment we met until this moment, wondering at which point things turned down the wrong path, and punishing myself for all I ought to feel regret over. And when I'm alone long enough, I can come up with zillions of things to feel regret over.

I'm isolated already as a single mom, but this penchant for shame and guilt isolates me further. It simultaneously makes me want to curl up in a corner to shut off the entire world and run outside looking for someone, anyone, to talk to and share happiness with.

Supposedly being alone is good for us and getting to know yourself is important for loving yourself. So what do you do when being alone is bad for you and getting to know yourself only involves discovering all your faults?

I wonder if this is an extrovert-meets-former-evangelical issue.  As an extrovert, I need people. I get my energy from people, I get joy from people, I get my bucket filled from people. There are times when I do genuinely enjoy solitude but not for long, and even while I'm basking in solitude, I'm usually doing something communicative... writing a blog, texting a friend, scrolling through Facebook. I am really bad at being alone.

Other extroverts, is this your experience too?

And as a former evangelical, I have yet to toss aside the deep shame of "sin". I was taught that Jesus forgives, etc etc etc, but regardless, he wants you to be pure and blameless and more like him, and the only way to do that is to confess your sins and get yourself right already. And it's not just outward "sins" we're talking about; every proud, lustful, hateful thought must be purged if you want to truly be like Jesus. If you are still okay with your proud, lustful, hateful, fill-in-the-blank thoughts, then you are not truly wanting to be like Jesus.

So when your very thoughts are sinful, how much more should you feel guilt over your actual actions?

I don't believe in "sin" anymore, but I haven't shaken guilt. Other former evangelicals, is this your experience too?

So I'm in the process of learning some hard and unpleasant lessons right now. How to be alone and not berate yourself. How to not berate yourself into wanting to be totally alone. How to let people in without assuming they will despise the person they see. How to not let in people who will just be harmful to you. How to get to know yourself and like your own company. How to forgive yourself and move on.

How to remember to turn the timer on so you don't burn the cookies. I'm the sole adult now, and not burning down the house is all on me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

It's Valentine's Day and I'd Rather be in Chicot County

So it's Valentine's Day.

Look, I try to act all cool and yeah-whatever about Valentine's Day, but dammit, the truth is, I've always loved it. Always. Even back in the day, back before marriage, on single years, I still loved it. I remember the Valentine's dinner we had in mine and Katie's townhouse, mostly just us single ladies. (David Motter was there, but it was all good.) But especially as a married chick, Valentine's Day was fun. We would do things like take cocktail making classes or painting classes or go out to our favorite Thai restaurant on Sauchiehall Street or even just stay in and cook a lovely dinner together. I loved the flowers and the special feeling of being coupled on the loviest day of the year.

And I'll be honest, while I felt a little bad for the single folks out there, I didn't care too much. And why should I? And why should you? Enjoy being in love. It's wonderful! Celebrate the fuck out of it.

This year, Valentine's Day (and for that matter, Christmas and even Thanksgiving) all came too soon, when things are too raw. I joked about how gross all the balloons and hearts and chocolate boxes were, but it didn't really annoy me. It's just a stupid holiday. I didn't really care.

What I forgot to anticipate though was all the expressions of sugar-sweet love I'd see everywhere today. And while some of it I could just scroll past (because all the love was only evident on Facebook), others, well, they were sore.

Add to the soreness the fact that I had to cancel my travel plans (just work, and just a day trip, and just to Chicot County, so not that bit a deal) to stay home mopping up projectile vomit all day from two sick children who ought to be old enough now to run to the toilet when they need to spew but instead hurled all over the carpet three times, making the whole house smell like... well, like vomit. Hurray, Valentine's Day. Vomit, literally.

(And you know what? I was kind of looking forward to my Chicot County trip. The Disaster Program Specialist in southeast Arkansas and I totes bonded yesterday on our trip to El Dorado.)

Anyway, it is what it is. But you know what the saddest, most heartbreaking thing about today was? Scott stopped by on his lunch break, knowing I was home with sick kids, and brought them little Valentine's gifts. And he brought me flowers, because he knows how much I love Valentine's Day and knew I'd be feeling down.

I cried so hard, because I suck and he doesn't.

Hell yeah that's gin in my bathroom.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Official Statement

For those who have been wondering and trying to read between the lines, and I have decided to part ways. We've been pretty quiet about it, because this is very difficult for all involved. The feelings on both sides are pretty raw, and there's just no easy way to get through it.
Please be patient with both of us, and respect our need to process it all imperfectly. If you feel compelled to take this opportunity to take shots at either one of us at a moment like this, you better make it good because that'll be the last thing you post in my social media spaces.
Our most earnest request is that you don't try to pick sides but continue to love and support us both. We both need your love and support right now. If we don't respond or are slow to respond to any comments, please understand there is a lot going on and sometimes we do not feel like talking. Just know your support means a lot to us, and we appreciate your thoughts.