Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SWF Seeks.

That's not even an incomplete sentence. I'm definitely seeking... something. But what? Peace, comfort, security, pretty much all the same things I've been seeking for the last ten or twelve years. I had it briefly (if you can call a year plus "brief") with my Cowboy, and though we've given it another go, and been on-again, off-again since the last update here, and though he is still very much a part of my life, and I hope always will be, since we do care about and love each other and wish happiness for the other... we just can't make the long-distance thing work. So I think that it is safe to say that I am now very much "single." I'm not feeling any great drive to do anything to change that, but I do need to change something, or somethings.

The feeling of solitude grows overwhelming at times. Stephen was always there for me and did (and does) the best he could to support and help where I needed it, and God knows when he was here, he was a beast of productivity and instigated upgrades that are still continuing around this property and in my life, and revived my own motivation, setting it on track so that it belongs to me now. And I'm keeping it going. I thank him for that. Like I said, he was always there for me, but "there" was, ultimately, just too far away. As it turns out, and as we knew the first time we did the breakup thing, we work beautifully together, and not so great apart. I haven't seen him since September, and though we talked about another visit soon, the logistics just aren't there. So we're back (Yes, AGAIN) to friend status, which is something I hope to never lose.

 But dear Lord, I need... something. Something HERE. Something real, something tangible, something I can't even yet identify. Single parenting SUCKS, and I am in awe of all of you who have been doing it for years--it's killing me not having backup, another pair of hands, another voice to comfort, praise, scold when necessary, and show love to a child who desperately needs it, on a daily basis. I won't fall into the trap of grabbing the first stable-looking man who glances my way just because my daughter misses having a father, but I can't deny the fact that I feel a pressure on HER part that I do not feel for myself. I have all the time in the world, and am happy in my own company, and enjoy the freedom of being able to have all kinds of friends and talk to men freely as friends and even be flattered by their flirting without concerns of having someone cross a line of disrespect to my boyfriend. It's kind of liberating... in a melancholy sort of way. I am definitely not celebrating the dissolution of our relationship, Stephen's and mine, but I am at peace with my decision, as I believe he is also with his, since it was just not going anywhere as it was. We miss each other, but really? We were already missing each other, and we're still only a phone call away at any time. I hope he finds ultimate happiness in whatever life has in store for him... and I hope that I do to. I'd settle, based on my last few years, for reasonable happiness. Contentment. Peace.

I keep coming back to that word... peace. It's all I really want. Whether alone or with someone else, I need calm, stability, the assurance of knowing what is coming next, a lack of strife... peace. I need to show my daughter that we are powerful women, that we can achieve this on our own, and that anyone we choose to allow into our lives should live up to this standard. It's so little to ask. I have always considered myself "low-maintenance" as far as relationships go. I don't ask for much from friends or romantic interests at all. Just be honest with me, loyal to me, and love me like I love you. Simple. If you INSIST on paying off my mortgage, and twist my arm, well, I guess I'll let you. I'm just saying that you don't HAVE to in order for me to be happy. (But seriously--any takers on the mortgage thing? No? FINE.)

 I cried tonight for about 5 minutes. There has been an overwrought series of events happening the last few days with which I have had to deal by myself (duh, who else is here?), and for a moment, it just became too much. That, and this stupid new medicine the neurologist put me on is wrecking me, and I think I need to quit. But I cried, good, loud, pitiful sobs, I wiped my tears, and I got on with myself. Because I AM strong. And my daughter is, too, in her way, and will only grow stronger. And for now, I seek. I don't know what, but I am supremely confident that I'll know it when I see it.

And for those of you who keep asking: I write. A lot. The "bones of a book," as a dear friend once referred to some of my storytelling in this space, are growing flesh, and I daresay muscle. At this point there is as much re-writing as there is writing, so often days or weeks of work disappears in a flash, but the progress seems to be in the right direction. I've never seen another writer doing precisely what I'm doing, so it may be a colossal failure. We won't know if I don't try, though, and it's been a long time coming. This may be exactly the reason I need time alone, though it sure would be nice to have someone on the next sofa over to bounce ideas off, to read a phrase to here and there, to check the authenticity of some of the voices...it would be nice to have a solid someone for that dedication page. Well, besides my mother, who made me who I am, with the help of my father, through sheer badassery.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Where I Lay Down Some Straight Talk On Politics And Offend No One

Yes, it can be done. Watch me.

Election day has finally come and gone, and the people have spoken. This time, individuals won out over huge, moneyed corporate interests, which honestly sort of astonished me, because I thought the Koch Bros. had this thing bought and paid for. Turns out that people on both sides of the aisle largely ignored all that advertising, which is encouraging. We're learning. There is a pretty nice balance at the moment between "red and blue" when you look at the big picture, WHICH IS GOOD. We want that. As much as we act like we hate each other, Liberals/Progressives and Conservatives are forever locked into a symbiotic relationship that CANNOT be broken, or we all die. Dead. As a society, I mean. Not, you know, individually, though I won't rule that out because no one knows what will go down come the Zombie Apocalypse.

There have been  numerous brain studies which illustrate the fundamental differences between the way that a progressive thinker operates and the way that a conservative thinker operates. There are important distinctions, and learning about this is what helped me to love a whole lot more people and welcome more diversity into my own personal "society." Conservatives have a heightened fear-center, which makes them highly resistant to change, while Liberals show high activity in areas that deal with resolving conflict, which makes them more likely to not just wonder what that button does, but to push it and find out. You can see why these two groups NEED each other. This symbiosis goes back to our Paleolithic ancestors and beyond, and is the reason that any of us are even here today. Without the progressives in the tribe, hunter/gatherers would've died out when they depleted their natural resources (kind of like we're doing now, *ahem*), and without conservatives in the tribe, the whole lot may just have been eaten by giant paleolithic bears (laser-bears, if it was in Canada) when they set forth all willy-nilly to find the next place to set up a home.

Conservative or Liberal, you NEED that person on the opposite side of the spectrum. This is why our American system of checks and balances, for the most part, works. Without progressivism, we get nowhere. Without conservatism, we risk going too far too fast. As much as you may think that if only YOUR party were in control of EVERYTHING, that things would be just peachy, that just isn't the case. Without Progressives/Liberals, societal growth would come to a screeching halt, stagnate, and just... die. We MUST progress to succeed and grow. Likewise, without Conservatives to provide some caution and restraint, societal growth would blow up like crazy and before you know it we're all dead by sentient nanobots. Or Daleks. Whatever. Trust me, it's gonna be some whacky liberal scientists who unleash the virus that causes the Zombie Apocalypse, and it's gonna be Conservative corporate interests who fund the research and cover up the results. I know things.

My point is, we NEED each other. All of us. So quitcher bellyachin', and get involved with your neighbor of opposing ideology, and fix stuff together. I'm talking to you, Congress. Well, and everyone else. But mainly Congress.

I would leave you with a seed of an idea: Whatever the MAIN driving force was for you during this election cycle--the thing that really motivated you... take that issue and make it YOURS. Own it. Work for it. On the local level. On the ground. In your own community. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Even small things can make a huge difference, whatever the cause, for or against--green energy, women's & children's issues, ecology, economic reform, health care reform, social security, climate change, lack of poodle representation in local government, WHATEVER. Get involved and make stuff happen. And if you get stuck? Take a look across the aisle, and see what your "enemy" might have to offer. You could surprise everyone.

It's going to be OK.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Restrained

I want permission to be angry. I have made tremendous strides in the last year in regaining myself, and yet--there is still what feels like a clogged pressure valve somewhere that is impeding my ultimate progress. I am being restrained.

Things have come to light since Alex's death about which I have every right to be furious. To vent. To rage, even, if such is my wont, and through that process, to achieve some catharsis. As much as I knew was wrong, the things I did not know, while not shocking, have been like continuing punches in the gut as they've been discovered, via the cleansing of computer files, the sorting of financial records, phone and e-mail logs, etc. Just horrifying. And here's the thing: You do not speak ill of the dead. Surely there comes a point at which that "rule" tips, but I don't know what that point is.

Don't get me wrong: I am beyond being hurt by Alex, or being angry with him. Our relationship had evolved into something totally different, and non-intimate, in every sense of that word (you cannot have any sort of real relationship without trust, and trustworthiness was absent on one side of the equation for oh, such a long time), years ago, so I was fairly insulated against most of that by the time our marriage was "officially" over (which, in my view, was the night I left). That kind of pointless enmity accomplished nothing before his death, and it accomplishes nothing now. But just plain ANGRY? Yes. Angry at a level of betrayal I would never have imagined a decade ago, that, yes--but also, fury at being silenced about it out of something that I am surely imposing upon myself... a sense of propriety, loyalty to my child, kindness to his family, embarrassment at having been in the middle of it all and being fooled so well and so thoroughly. Whatever it is.

Of all considerations, Bella is of course number one. And she, like me, is learning more and more of the truth, through discoveries of her own that I cannot prevent or predict. But there are things that she does not know... there are things that almost no one knows, because they are just too outrageously awful to consider, much less to dwell on. Someday, she will likely know a lot of it. Now is not that time. I must protect her sweet innocence as much as I can, and I find that the conversation regarding her father now is much the same as it has been all her life. I don't know why he did that, Baby. He was sick. No, that's not an excuse, and yes, he still made his own choices. It's complicated. He loved you. Same refrain as always, because it's still all I have to offer, as always.

And here's the catch to THAT: As this daughter's mother, I have a responsibility to her to assure that she knows, that she really understands, that all of this horror that I have been minimizing, excusing, even hiding, for years, is NOT OKAY. Not EVER, not for ANY REASON. She has to be allowed to understand that it is permissible to love her father and still know that his was not a model to be emulated or duplicated of what it is to be a proper man, husband, or, sadly, even a father. She needs to be able to pick the good and shining qualities that he imparted to her apart from the wreckage that he left in his wake through constant betrayals of trust. I have to raise a young woman who will look for, and expect, and DEMAND, a completely different standard than the one set for her through living example, both by the father who failed the test and the mother who kept re-setting the curve lower and lower. She deserves better.

So far, though it is, I am painfully aware, early, she has as good a handle on this as you could possibly expect--probably because she had lived it. At least I hope that is the way it's working. She knows that she can absolutely trust me, no matter what. And know this, Universe: I now have a zero tolerance policy for being lied to. No three strikes, no second chances. Not anymore. There will never, ever again, be a time in my life when I will discovery an infidelity, on the part of a trusted partner, of any magnitude and not respond instantly, decisively, and with extreme prejudice. Not any shape or form of a lie will be tolerated. I just cannot go through that any more--I won't. One thing that my family instilled in me my whole life was that you do not lie. You just don't do it. How I managed to become someone who tolerated lying, I do not know. And that frightens me, because if my daughter ever asks me "why," I am not going to have an answer. Love? Delusion? Hope? Denial? It doesn't really matter, does it?

Ultimately, I think that that is part of what is killing me a little inside right now. If you know me even a little bit, you know that I am an open book. Transparent. That the way I process things is to spill my guts, usually in writing... to pour it out on a page and let others who have experience to offer share that with me. Just to get it OUT OF ME, even if no one responds. That is a critical piece of who I am, and the stifling that I'm feeling right now just seems so... dishonest. Yes, I put up with a lot of dishonesty, but I was never, ever dishonest myself. I was accused of it--in every way, from having my motives questioned in irrational, rage-fueled tantrums, to being accused during a court proceeding of having an affair. I can stand firm in the knowledge that I never betrayed a trust. That I am faithful, and that I am honest.

Wait. Let's walk that back a step. Because that's not entirely the truth, is it? Because being honest isn't JUST about not lying, is it? And let's face it, I might not have ever lied to anyone, but I sure as heck kept quiet about some very not-right stuff. And that in itself is not right. It wasn't right that I was put in a POSITION to feel as though I needed to do that, it wasn't right for me to FEEL that I needed to do that, and it wasn't right for me to DO that. Not really. Because even if those "lies of omission" didn't hurt a single other person, they hurt ME. And they still are. That is just not who I am, and the longer I suppress that, the more it hurts me, and interferes with forward progress. I have become close to someone who has helped me to recognize this "withholding" trait I've developed as a defense mechanism over the years, and I truly believe that I have come almost fully 180 degrees in shedding that reflex. Of course, only having people in your life who you can trust makes that a lot easier, but still. It was sort of a shocking revelation to me, Miss Truthiness Poster Girl, that I was, in my own way, harboring a less-than-genuine personality tic, and I'm grateful to the one who pointed it out along the way, and grateful to be rid of it.

Which brings me back, full circle, to where I started, but I realize now that I don't actually want permission to be angry. I want permission to be HONEST. Now I just have to figure out who grants that to me, and go about getting it. I don't need to be able to fill the world full of sordid details--God, that would hurt worse, I think--but I need to be able to say, once and for all, "This is how it really was, and how it really was, was wrong."

I have a life to get on with; a life which is looking pretty wonderful and full of beautiful potential right now, in which I am surrounded only by solid, dependable, amazing people... let's go get that, shall we? It's right there for the taking.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear Alex

Alex Miller, loving father, husband until just recently, and an often tormented and struggling but essentially good soul, died on the morning of Friday, February 24, 2012, of natural causes: a sudden and completely unexpected heart attack. He was two weeks short of his 45th birthday. We are all in shock, and struggling to make sense of it all. These are just some of the things I would say to him right now, if I had a direct pipeline to where he is finally, at long last, knowing the peace that eluded him in life. As everyone who has followed our story for all these years knows, it was never easy, even in the best of times...but there was always love. Even when that love changed in its essential nature between the two of us, it was still there, and will always be treasured.

happy faces

Dear Alex,

You've been gone from this earth for a few days now, though none of us knew it until last night. I am sorry for that--no one deserves to leave this plane unbeknownst to the world; it's not right. I am beyond sorry that you died alone. The one thing in all the world you couldn't stand to be was alone. I'm glad that you at least had Reggie and Phoebe there with you, that you had living beings to love and care for, who loved you back and gave you comfort.

I'm sorry I didn't answer the phone that night before, in the wee hours of the morning; I wasn't aware of the single message until the dawn, just before I took Bella to school, and I couldn't make sense of it... just my name, in a text message, "Belinda." I wish I knew what you were trying to tell me, and you were gone forever mere hours later, so I will never know. I sent police officers to your house that very morning to check on you, but they just knocked on the door and went away... I wish I'd gone myself now. I couldn't have saved your life, even if I'd been right there with you, but it should have been me who found you, and it should have been me who tidied up for you one last time, me who saw you off this mortal coil.

I am so glad that the end of your time here came quickly and without pain; that you didn't have to go through yet another (and who knows how many more) Spring manic season. I'm sorry you didn't live to see your birthday in a couple of weeks. I wonder if it will snow, the way it usually does, even if it's been 70 degrees for the month prior.

I'm glad that you are finally at peace, the "peace that passeth all understanding," and that you're with your grandmother, your father, my father, all looking down in perfect knowledge and understanding at the legacy you've left in this amazing child of yours. Alex, you had so many regrets, I know... but you had a major part in creating and shaping a force that will change the world for the better--any part of it she can impact, she will. She's a powerful force, and much of that came right from you.

I am glad that our last interaction as a family was a happy one, a short time of simple domesticity, almost "normal" (though really--when was anything about us ever "normal?") in its banality. A trip to Wal*Mart. A sushi dinner. Jokes and smiles and so many shared hugs and "I love yous" between you and your adoring daughter. I didn't want to go that night--I didn't have to, but something "pushed" me, and I will be eternally grateful that it did. The last time your daughter ever saw you, you were spinning her around, her feet flying from the ground, in a giant bear-hug, the two of you laughing, happy, and exchanging declarations of your very real love for each other. I am SO grateful for that.

I'm glad that I had decided to bring Bella to visit with you on Saturday, and cherish the hope that you died preparing for and looking forward to a good long visit with your baby girl.

I'm glad I was able to give you, in your words, that one person in all the world who was the "only person [you'd] ever met who looked like [you]," who was your blood, your flesh. So many people loved you, Alex, but she was part of you, and always will be. I am amazingly grateful that she became the brilliant, resilient, honest, caring, sensitive, and tough little thing that she did. She always handled you beautifully and lovingly, even when you didn't know you were being "handled." Such a bittersweet smile comes to my lips with this thought. Any mistake you ever made in your life is more than canceled out by that amazing child. Please know that. You done good, there, my friend. Real good.

I'm sort of sorry that I took such care of you. I didn't allow you to learn to care for yourself enough. I stepped in when I maybe should have stepped back. But you were hurting, and if you hurt, I hurt, and even though in the last years the nature of our relationship had changed, I couldn't seem to just stand clear and let you fall if it was in my power to catch you. In hindsight, I wonder if that made things at the end that much harder on you. You were so dependent on me... and I had a part in creating that. Me and my whirlwind of personal will, trying forever to shape Life into what I would have it be, often tilting at windmills in the process.

If I had known how little time was left... if there had been any way that I could have known that your own heart would give out in just a few more months... oh, Alex. I'd have stuck it out. Unhappy or not, I'd have stuck it out. I'd been unhappy for so long already, a few more months wouldn't have made a difference. I might not have been your lover, your WIFE, in the truest sense of the word, but I'd have remained your caregiver, your partner, your ally... and your final months wouldn't have been spent alone and lonely, full of confusion and regret and uncertainty of what was to come. I'd never have separated you from your child, especially. If only I could have known. Then again, it's not like you would have known, either, so could I have really made a difference that mattered? Maybe we actually saved all of us several more months of pain toward the end. I hope that you had a sense of finally gaining your own feet in this world... as you left it.

I'm glad there was no animosity between us, at the end. That we were cooperating together to create a co-parenting situation with Bella that was beneficial to her. That we were, gradually, becoming friends again. You always "got" me in a way that no one else ever had, and I'll forever miss that.

I'm glad to have made peace with your family--our misunderstandings were complicated by our love for (and truth be told, frustration with) you, and our disparate understandings of same.

I'm sorry that you had to live, for so many years, the majority of your life, with a condition that was not your fault, and that clouded every decision you ever made, and contributed to a repeating downward spiral year after year. I'm sorry that your body, and your brain, were breaking down from the stress of a mental illness, and that you had to give up things you loved because your body was betraying you in a thousand small ways and a good many large ones. I am both sorry that I did too much, and simultaneously sorry that I didn't do more. Not sure how I could win on that one, but it's the truth, and I can't tell anything else.

I am glad that, although that love metamorphosed over the last few years, I never stopped loving you. That I was able to honestly and openly show that love to your daughter; that she never had to experience her parents hating each other.

I am glad that you now know all things, including the answer to that most elusive of all questions: "Why?" I envy you in your knowledge of why life is so unfair, and what it all means. I look forward to the day when we get to talk about it all, and laugh together again, unfettered by what bogged us down in life.

I'm glad that you finally know the truth about Bigfoot, Yetis, Elvis, and The White River Monster... and I hope that you were right about all of it.

As I inscribed simply inside your wedding band, and regardless of the fact that it came to mean something different than it did on that day: "Forever my love." Our lives will go on, Bella's and mine, and we will love more, and differently, but we will love you forever.

~Belinda

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

You Can Go With This, Or You Can Go With That...

So. New year, new life, newly single, new friendships, new lifestyle...it only follows that a fresh start on this website is in order. How do you do that? There is so much to consider. I have always been transparently honest in this space, and have shared (many would say overshared, but that's kinda who I am) openly what I felt was sharable about my life here in this little corner of the Web for nearly 7 years now.

I am genuinely interested in your feedback on this issue, so please let me know what you think.

I considered starting over, from scratch. Leaving this site in place, but starting a new one and going forward from there, as many of my peers have. I still might do that--I don't know. But so much of what will happen with me going forward is going to be informed by what has happened to me over the last several years, that that doesn't quite seem right, really. Also, "ninjapoodles" is WHO I AM. It's connected to every online identity I have. All of them. I've never been much for anonymity--it just doesn't fit me. I admire people who can pull it off, but I am not one of them. Even if I wanted to be, I'd slip up. Heck, Bella gets recognized by my blog-readers out in public already, just from pics I've posted online, and I've met many folks that way. They see her, and then ask, "Are you ninjapoodles?" Well, yes. Yes, I am.

I was "Ninja Poodles" before I ever met Alex, much less married him. I had a life, and it was chock full of ninja poodles, Arabian horses, and ridicularity (and made-up words). It was my life before it was shared with anyone else. I kind of don't feel like losing my identity, even my online identity, because of a divorce. I've lost so much of what was mine through this process already, that this is something I don't feel like giving up. This space, this little niche I've carved out of the Internet over the years--it's mine. It's one of the few things that always has been. I am loathe to give it up.

At the same time, do I go into the archives, like a surgeon, and excise Alex, in this space, from the last 7 years of my life?  Just the logistics are overwhelming: Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook... every online presence that I have--to just "erase" him?  That doesn't seem right, either. He was, after all, there from the beginning of this site, and indeed inspired the very first post. Much, if not most, of this 'blog has been about him, about our struggle with bipolar disorder, probable borderline personality disorder, and our marriage and family, and it was through the exploration of those topics that I met and grew to love an increasingly larger and larger community of people who are bipolar, married to/family of bipolar people, and became involved in mental health education and awareness causes. I wouldn't give up those experiences now--they've informed the person I have become, and I'm better off for it. For better or for worse (and let's not gild the lily: it was more worse than better, all told), life with Alex did shape the ways in which I've grown over the last few years, like a vine on a trellis. Now it's time for me to grow upward again, toward the sun, toward life... but that doesn't mean that the tangles and crookedness and stunted spots from the past just go away. And there were blooms along the way, as well, that do not deserve to be ignored. I just took the best one to school.

So many of you, my friends, my peers, my support, my community, are going through this (or at least something similar--I HOPE you're not going through what I am) right now. How are you choosing to address it? My inclination, at this point, is just to continue business as usual in this same spot, with some clean-up and a re-design, and yes, probably re-starting with the ads; God knows I need the income now more than ever. 

As far as Alex and I go, the damage he has done to our relationship over the years has been systematic, ongoing, and finally, irreparable. He did not damage ME (aside from financially), however, and I am going to be JUST FINE.  As is Bella, though I realize it's going to be tough on her for a while.  Those of you who have been with this site from the beginning (and that is an amazing number of you, and I thank you for your years of support, and hope you'll stick around) know how very, very hard I tried. I tried to muscle this thing through all by myself, to FORCE it to work, and many times, I forced myself to BELIEVE it was working. By being manipulated, abused, lied to, cheated on, and so much more, over and over again, I have lost view of some bits of myself--trust, optimism, self-reliance, etc.--that are just now returning to me in a big way. THAT was who I was, and who I am becoming again. I just needed some obstacles cleared out of the way. I am smart, capable, and determined, and as you've seen, a formidable advocate for those I love. Right now, that puts Bella in first place, and right behind her? Yours truly. Yes, it's time for me to advocate for ME. I deserve it, and I can provide it. For myself, by myself.

Things, they are going to be all right.  All The Things. Agreed?