Friday, April 17, 2009

My Pretend Life

When my so-called real life ended about two years ago, I began trying to re-imagine myself.  I considered everything. Answering those work abroad ads, joining the Peace Corps (I have an application in progress and yes they do want people my age), moving back to my hometown, or at least back to the midwest where I'd be closer to family if I felt myself slipping off the deep end (yes, the deep, deep end was an option I considered, too.) I thought about putting my stuff in storage and just moving around from this to that or getting into some kind of communal living situation.
But now I've done something that is none of those things.  I bought a second condo.  My daughter and her friends will live there and cover the expenses and I have an air-bed there tucked into the corner of the strangely big-as-a-bedroom laundry room.  An air-bed with white sheets and a white comforter and two feather pillows waiting for me in a room with plaster cracked like a roadmap so that I can lie there and study the wall and wonder where I am going.
I've made up a pretend life for myself in St. Paul.  Where I practice yoga. The cooking class I've registered for.  Where I buy yarn and the bar where I never miss a happy hour and the bookstore where I work part-time.  There's a good smelling  salon where I get the perfect haircut and my neighbors have me over for dinner every week.  I like my imaginary life.
And I like my new real life, too.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Another Step on the Path to Reincarnation as a Writer

Ever since my friend Shanna applied for a writer's residency at McDowell and got it, I've been filling out applications, too.  While she was at MacDowell Shanna sent me a photo of her room and I burst into tears at the thought of sitting in the chair next to the big stone fireplace and pecking away at my laptop while others prepared my meals and sheltered me from the everyday world. I asked to see her application when she got back to L.A. and what I remember is this: The first item on the form was List your prizes and awards, most recent first--and then there were 8 or 10 stark black lines waiting to be written upon.  Shanna (according to my memory) wrote, "You're kidding, right?" The rest of the application was in much the same vein. But Shanna is an utterly fabulous writer and her writing sample was the key that got her a month at a very prestigious residency program.  
MacDowell rejected me when I applied a year or so ago. But I applied to a few others.  I got into the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center. 
Then I got rejected from the Millay Colony--twice.  But recently I've been notified that I'm an Auvillar fellow for the fall and will be going to France to write.  Today I got a call from Ragdale and I've been awarded a residency there, too. Little by little, I'm becoming a writer.
I need better work habits, but eventually hope to become a writing machine.

Army of Friends

"Everyone who loves you will be standing behind you in that restaurant tonight," my friend Karen said.  I pictured her with the phone to her ear, sitting on her couch in her cozy house in Portland and then I began to imagine a phalanx of loved ones lined up in the candlelight with Mr. Ex and I sitting across the table from one another.  I continued to think about my friends and family as I got ready for the meeting with Mr. Ex and laughed myself silly as I drove to the restaurant while picturing my contingent of support magically squeezed into the backseat of my Prius.
I got to the restaurant first and had a minute to collect myself.  It was weird how comfortable I felt when Mr. Ex strode up to the table and sat down.  I suppose the two of us have shared a restaurant table about 2000 or 3000 times and last night didn't seem all that different.
We've been stuck in our post divorce financial negotiations for months.  So last week I conceded the issues I thought were hanging us up.  "I still want to settle this sooner rather than later," I wrote to him in an email after I agreed to pay my own grad school tuition and forego any claim on his bonuses. 
Last night he gave me those things back.  
I didn't ask.  He offered.
Maybe he saw the people standing behind me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dinner with Mr. Ex

I'm dining with Mr. Ex tonight.  I want to come to an agreement on my spousal support without going to trial and I'm hoping this face-to-face meeting will do it. We've batted my proposal back and forth a couple of times and I think we might be ready to agree. It's almost two years since he left me. He and his new wife are having a baby in the fall. I think it's time for the crawl out of divorce limbo--time for each of us to concentrate on ascending to our own separate versions of some new paradise.  I'm ready.
It's surprising how little pain is left. Now I just shake my head and ask myself why I wouldn't give up on a man who didn't want to be with me. I should have given up. But I guess we were both courageous in our separate ways. Him for pulling the plug and me for insisting that things might turn around tomorrow or next week or next year.
I don't want to be negative in any way tonight.  I don't want to utter a single syllable of sarcasm. I hope that no vein of sadness or anger opens up and spills forth tears or venom. I'm trying not to have a plan, to not rehearse what I want to say.  I want to stay open, moment by moment listening and thinking and responding.  As the day counts down, I'm visualizing a door flung open, upturned palms, a rose showing its insides.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Seeking Peace and a Cast Iron Stomach

There was a time when I could eat anything. Nowadays, when I think of eating, I ponder idiomatic phrases like "eat my words," "eat your heart out," and slogans like "eat the rich" while I wonder about all the things I should or shouldn't be trying to communicate to Mr. Ex as we endeavor to settle our financial affairs. I have no reason to really trust this man, but I want to enter into an agreement with him that will finally be the end of us.  And I am seeing it as the end. The idea of being chained to him forever has left me. We are sooo close to sealing a deal and if that happens, I can almost imagine shaking his hand at our daughters' weddings and graduations without traveling backward through all the grief of the past two years. That handshake will just be a moment in a day on a green lawn striped with folding chairs or in a rustic field by an ocean and far more momentous things will be happening than ex-spouses touching hands.  He will have a new baby by then.  I'll have my MFA, a new life with a new love and maybe he'll even be at my side.
Still, my stomach hurts.  Maybe that's the way bitterness leaves the body.  Not through skin or lips, but through our intestines.  Sitting for a bit and stewing and then snaking its way out. Purging us of life's poison and leaving behind peace.