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Category Archives: friendship

Death Before Christmas

Yesterday I woke early, and decided to luxuriate in bed for a while to scroll through my Facebook feed before beginning the day.  The first post I saw was a picture of 2 hands holding on to each other that began with “Today I lost my best friend…..”  I immediately glanced at the name of the poster and began to panic.  I read the post and saw my fear was correct.  My good friend’s father had passed away.  My heart sank, and I found myself crying for my friend’s surely broken heart.

My friend, I’ll call her Sue, is a single mom of 4 I’ve known for many years.  We live close to each other and often chip in to help each other out.  We pet sit for each other, borrow sugar or flour, jump cars, and mow lawns for each other.  We know we can count on each other in a pinch, and there is never any judgment about our often messy houses, chaos, or asking for a favor.  We both lost our moms and we understand how deep that loss goes. We get each other.  It is a simple and easy friendship that I treasure deeply.  

Sue’s dad has been her rock.  He was often swinging by to help fix things, or take care of something she needed help with.  I never met him, which seems strange to me now, because he was such a prominent figure in her life.  When times got tough for her, he would give her money to help out.  He kept her afloat when she thought she might drown and she simply adored him.  She was always grateful for him and told me on many occasion that “I don’t know what I’d do without him”.  She spoke of him glowingly and acknowledged how lucky she was to have him.  

Last week, my husband and I went by to help her when her Christmas tree fell over, not once, but twice. She mentioned she was going to visit her dad to check on him because he had felt out of sorts.  It didn’t even occur to me that he would end up passing away a few days later.

Once I read her post, I sat wondering how I could help.  I WANT to help.  I want to do something, anything to ease her pain, but I’m so unsure of where to begin.  Death, especially death of a parent, is so very difficult.  I’ve often posted about how deeply the death of my mother and friend have impacted me.  That being said, when I asked myself “what did I want or need when my mom passed away?” I came up sort of empty handed.  I remember feeling utterly alone.   My dad was 300 miles away, the rest of my family 3000 miles away.  I had my husband, and he tried his damnedest to get me through it all,  but I still felt alone.  I realize now I’m not sure if I alienated myself a bit.  I had so much overwhelming grief I didn’t want to burden others with it.  I didn’t want to have to console other people.  I just wanted to get through the grief on my own terms.  The problem was, I was newly married with an infant, so there was no time to grieve properly, not in my eyes anyway.  I just got on with things the best I could and let the grief seep out when I could….5 minutes here, 10 minutes there…

My husband suggested cooking a meal.  Meals are good.  I know this.  The problem is, I’m not a super cook, and she has some dietary restrictions (her son is also a very picky eater).  In the end, I saw her best friend was with her and I messaged the friend that Sue could call in an order to any place and I’d fly and buy, or I’d pay for whatever meal she wanted.  Also, if she needed to talk, to vent, I’d be here, day and night, any time she needed. 

It’s a fine line of offering, being there, but not imposing.  I wish I could say or do the perfect thing to ease her pain, but I know I can’t. I can just be here if she needs a friend. 

Death before the holidays seems particularly painful.  People are rushing around, cheery game faces on.  This is the time of year we tend to focus on love and family.  How do you console someone who has had such a huge loss?

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Quiet, Kindness and Chaos.

First snow of the season is here.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for it. Today was supposed to be my crazy chaos day…a crazy day at work followed by the first orthodontic session for the little one, topped of by parent teacher conferences at the big kid’s school.  I was prepped, caffeinated, and ready to attack this day and all it would entail.  I hammered out my work stuff today, ending feeling really good.  While the day was progressing, however, the calls and emails starting coming in.  Conferences…rescheduled due to the pending snow.  Orthodontist called…”can we reschedule until tomorrow due to the snow today?”.  Before I knew it, quiet and calm had fallen, along with big fat snow flakes.  I did manage to drop a return for Amazon to the UPS store on my lunch break.  Aside from that? It’s going to be a quiet night.  I can’t complain, it’s been hectic.

With our trip looming, there has been an outpouring of money, so it’s been a little tough. We needed more luggage, I needed (ok, fine, wanted) some new clothes, and we needed outfits for a party we are attending while there.  My daughter asked me if we could have matching outfits for the party.  I managed to find a dress for her that is very reminiscent of mine, a similar cardigan to go over, and similar shoes.  She’s thrilled.  I’m thrilled she wants to dress like me.  I know in a year or two, she’ll start that stage where she is mortified by my very existence, although I, like all mom’s deeply hope she won’t go through it.  She will anyway, which is why when she asks to match me, I will always say yes.  She has her own style, her own look, and is her own person.  We celebrate that.  I’ve never wanted her to be a kid who has to be like everyone else, does what everyone does, etc.  I’ve seen kids who’s parents spend a lot of time and effort to always have them keep up with whatever their friends have.  Sure, kids like to have what their friends have,  but sometimes you can see it’s a constant comparison.  I never want her to place her worth on what other kids are doing, but rather on who SHE is.  That being said, sometimes she likes the novelty of matching me, or her cousin, so I go with the flow, as long as she stays true to who she is.

I’ve commented before about the issues our school has been facing.  Redistricting brought in a lot of low income families, and the school is struggling to fundraise.  I hate to see the kids lost out, and have offered to help when possible, especially the 6th grade committee.  The PTSA and I sort of had a rough go of it, and while I love many of the women on there, I’m sure it’s best if I help in other ways.  I was blessed to have a friend of mine reach out with “hey charitable lady, need raffle prizes?” on facebook.  I emphatically said yes, and was rewarded with bags of awesome items and gift cards to donate into the school.  She also handed me a $50 gift card to a grocery store and told me to use my judgement to help someone.  How amazing is that???  I have find that many people love to help, donate, or offer something for a good cause.  They just don’t always want to do the heavy lifting of coordination, or other commitments prevent them from jumping in as they would like.  I’m a boots on the ground person, who doesn’t mind doing the work, but needs the resources.  This works well.  The fact people know I’m a doer has served me well, as you can see, because now I don’t have to beg…amazing folks just offer, knowing I’ll have a need.  It’s amazing, and I am so very lucky.  After picking up the items yesterday, my car was filled, as well as my heart.  While it sounds cheesy, it feels good to be able to put together something that helps. The gift card for the groceries…that needed a home sooner rather than later.  Next week is Thanksgiving and I wanted to be able to make someone smile.  I thought of a single mom I know.  She lost her job over the summer, and is now playing catch up.  She has always had it rough financially, but she does the very best she can for her kids.  She is always the one to be the team mom, the mom at girl scout camping, etc.  What she doesn’t have in cash she makes up for in time.  When I placed a call about needing a helper over the summer, she was the first to volunteer as my sidekick for whatever I might need.  I knew that card may make her Thanksgiving easier.  I knocked on her door and said “Happy Thanksgiving!” I explained I had been gifted the card to find a happy home for someone who deserved a break and could use a little help around the holidays.  The beaming smile I got in return made my whole day.  I’m lucky to have a friend who would donate some money to help those that need it.  I’m also lucky to have a friend who will give her time and energy to help those around her.  I’m luckiest of all that I got to be the one to help hand out some kindness and see the joy it brought.  I messaged my friend who donated the card and thanked her. She was pleased with my choice of whom to give it to.  Everyone felt a little happier last night.  Kindness will do that to a person.  Choose it whenever you can.

Then again, take no shit.  That’s a good motto too. Which leads me to:

North

So, many of you found me via twitter.  Many of you also know from both twitter and here that my family member has been stalking me online for years using fake accounts that she creates whole fake lives for.  I’ve listened to the lies, the projection of what she does on to everyone else, etc. A few weeks ago, I got a follow request (had to lock and block on all my social media) from someone that didn’t sit right with me.  I did a search, and low and behold it’s a coworker of the stalker.  I’m not mad at the coworker. She listened to what she heard and I’m sure they thought this would be a “stealth” thing to do. I think mostly, she was shocked I figured out who she was.  In fact, as soon as it clicked, I had all her info.  The internet works like that.  I messaged her, spilled all the tea, and wished her a happy Thanksgiving.  Now that being said, I’m all set.  I’m done with this.  Let me be clear.  If you come for me, my husband, or my kids, I will come back for you like it is my 2nd job.  I’m a nice person, until you make it not so.  So understand, very clearly…..I’m tired.  I’ve had enough.  The North Remembers, and Winter is Coming.

 

 

 

 

Where is the time going?

You know, I thought with vacation planned that time would creep.  Slowly ticking by, agonizingly slow, the days would pass.  In fact, that hasn’t been the case at all.  I looked at our flight reservations today and the trip is just over 2 weeks away.  Where did the time go? Why is it flying by?

I suppose family life is keeping me on my toes.

Halloween was last week.  It’s a HUGE holiday for our family, as we get about 500 Trick or Treaters and their families a year.  For my husband, it’s SHOWTIME! We dress up, the animatronics are out, and the house is specially lit.  We have music and food, and a good time is typically (hopefully) had by all.  We get a LOT of positive feedback from people who come trick or treating, and even get asked to pose for photo ops.  It slays me that tons of random people around town have pictures taken with little old me in costume each year.  This year I dressed as Pennywise, and my son went as Georgie.  Of course, my son invited a friend over, so I got totally dusted.  That’s fine though. The kids had lots of friends stop by and I think they’d tell you it was their favorite Halloween yet. The house got tidied up (somewhat, but the nice part of halloween is that dust is considered ambiance), and I feel a bit more relaxed.  There is still tons of stuff I need to go through as I continue on my “purge of the things” but I felt more relaxed.  I had BAGS of clothes I had washed from when my washing machine broke.  Since nobody had worn anything in them since, I purged every one and donated all of them.  It made me feel lighter.

What hasn’t made me feel lighter at all was stepping on the scale this morning.  Stress, candy, and bloating, not to mention eating all the fatty foods has ballooned me up a bit the past few months.  I have about 2 weeks to shed some of the bloat and a lb or two. It’s going to be brutal.  I hate that I am the “chubbier one” of the family.  It’s not even like I am that big, because I’m not, but British people seem to be smaller than Americans, especially where I’m from.  I think it’s because they are more active, and tend to spend more time outside…at least my family does.  Here in the States I work full time at a desk job and don’t get out and about as much as I would like.  I said months ago I needed to lose weight, yet here I am.  I didn’t do what I set out to do, and I’m honestly a little down about it.  I have two weeks.  Let’s see what I can do with that.

I’m beyond excited to see my family.  It’s going to be different this time because my husband and kids are going with me.  I feel a bit nervous about keeping them all entertained.  I tend to have my habits when I go home.  This year I want to visit my mom’s grave the day I get there.  It’s a bit of a habit.  Having her buried 3000 miles away is tough in some ways.  I have no “place” to go to memorialize her.  When I go back to England, I feel like visiting her grave signifies a lot.  I’m also arriving on the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, which also lands on my cousin’s birthday.  I usually go to the cemetary and visit both my mom’s grave as well as all the other family members that have passed as well.

The weekend we are there will be my cousin’s birthday party.  This is awesome, not only because I get to go and take my favorite 3, but also because a lot of the family will be in one place.  It allows me to see almost everyone in one shot.  Trying to make it out to see the whole family is no easy task.  Having everyone in one place is awesome and hopefully feel like old times.  It’s tough because there have been some family estrangements and arguments over the years, which means likely everyone won’t all be together.  I kind of hate that, yet on the other hand, I understand it.  Assholes are going to asshole, if you get my drift.  It does make me sad though.

My daughter’s teeth have been another major concern.  I was heavily impressed last week when the orthodontist and coordinator called me for a conference call to address all my questions and concerns.  I feel like we’re on the right track, and am cautiously optimistic.  The process will be a bit more drawn out than I initially imagined.  She had teeth pulled, a 3d scan done, and next week we begin the process.  Her canine teeth are impacted, meaning they are bearing down on her 4 front permanent teeth.  I’m a raging mess about it but am hopeful we can save her teeth and give her a beautiful smile in the process.

This week and next week are a whirlwind at work and home.  Appointments, school conferences, and getting the family ready.  I’m excited but nervous as my usual procrastinating self needs to kick it up many notches so I’m not a raging lunatic the 2 days before we leave for vacation.

Who am I kidding?

I’ll be a raging lunatic the 2 days before we leave.

 

 

 

Rose and Thorn

A friend introduced me to a game called Rose and Thorn, which is where you basically lost the best and worst parts of your day. I always liked it because it allows you to vent your bad part while happily reminding yourself of the good part of your day. Sometimes, you have an awful day, and the universe seems to drop something great down as a consolation prize. Other times, your day is wonderful but then there’s something to take you down a peg or two. Feel free to post yours in the comments! Today, I’ll share mine.

Roses: my daughter attended a birthday party and while that was taking place, I got to relax and enjoy good coffee and a donut with some of the moms whose company I enjoy. I came home and managed to accomplish some yard work. My husband also offered to do a tattoo for me on his day off. Woohoo! I topped off the day with an invite from the neighbor to go have dinner at her house. She makes the most amazing empanadas! Good company, many laughs were had, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Thorn: before I get into this, note that when your day is going fabulous, sometimes the universe will drop a tiny turd on the day to keep things balanced. Today, I learned what hell is. I stepped in dog shit while wearing FLIP FLOPS. This prompted me to recoil, shriek in horror loudly while pointing at my now surely diseased foot and scream “kill it with fire!”. I bleached my own foot while wretching. Even now, hours later as I lay in my bed, I feel like one foot has shitcooties on it.

Balance. It’s all about balance.

Fearing the Reaper

reaper

Once death hits really close to home, it feels like it never quite leaves.  It’s like a booty call that leaves an item behind to have an excuse to collect it later. I’m not talking about the elderly who have lived long, full lives and it’s not entirely unexpected when the pass.  I’m talking about the under 60 set, like our parents, friends, siblings or even kids. When people are still crafting dreams and are in the middle of their lives, it seems like death swoops them away and their living loved ones are left floundering, stunned from the loss.

I lost my mother 12 years ago.  I was 32, she was 57.  She died of cancer, and while her death at that point was expected due to her illness, her illness itself was a shock to my system.  I never really expected her to die that young, to leave a life not yet fully realized and lived.  If I’m really honest, she told me in a dark moment “I’m not ready to die!” and I believe that she wasn’t.  She had plans, dammit, lots of plans!  While life for the living goes on, a piece of me stayed with her when she died. Like the Jewel song says “there’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you”.  Life continues in its twists and turns, but a little piece of me is held there in time with her. I started to also wonder, would death come after me like it had my mom?

A couple of years ago, and I’ve blogged about it, one of my oldest and dearest friends fell asleep one night and didn’t wake up. His heater malfunctioned and pumped carbon monoxide into his room.  He just never woke up.   His death was a shock to the core, completely unexpected, no sense to it, and heartbreaking for everyone who knew him. At the time we hadn’t spoken for a little while, simply because life had kept us busy and we lived in different parts of the country.  He was my age, and it seemed ridiculous to me that I was headed to a memorial for someone so young.  Death isn’t supposed to come for the young, or at least, the sorta young.

Last month, a friend of mine died. She was just a little older than me.  Her story is a different one.  We had been good friends until she made some life decisions I just couldn’t hang with.  She became a different person, and I think she was tired of some of the baggage I had myself, and we parted ways as friends. She didn’t come for me or do anything horrible to me, she just made detrimental choices for her own life, and I couldn’t have those choices around my kids.  See, here’s the funny thing.  I’m not really a grudge holder.  I also have a relatively piss poor memory, which means I let a lot of stuff go that perhaps I shouldn’t.  (Let me be clear, if someone comes for me or my husband or kids, I will become a beast like no other, and I will stop at nothing until that person stops their shit.) For the most part though, I don’t hold on to ill will.  I don’t stay angry, I just remove myself from the person.  When she died, we hadn’t spoken in years, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t miss the friendship, miss our hours of laughter, and giggle at old jokes.  I miss all of those things.  I’m sad things worked out the way they did, but I can’t have toxic people in my life, so I’ve removed them all.   Honestly, I looked at her facebook today, wishing their were more clues as to what happened to her, and I just felt inherently sad.

Sometimes, you don’t just grieve the person, there are more layers to it than that.  Sometimes you miss the old stories, the laughter.  Sometimes you grieve the hopes and dreams.  Sometimes, you simply grieve the fact that the person will never have a chance to get their shit together.

See, that’s the thing.  Once these people started dying, I became very interested in death.  From the actual science of some of it, to the grief process.  I belong to fb groups for funeral directors and other people in the death business.  I don’t think it’s something I could ever do….it freaks me out on one hand, but on the other I have a fascination with it.  Perhaps the study and conversation about death takes some of the mystery and pain out of it.  Sometimes it’s easier to look at something that saddens you in a way that removes all the emotion and just looks at the science of it all.  It’s not a popular conversation.  I’m that person who is honestly curious how people died.  It’s not polite to ask, of course, but I truly want to know what happened to the person who died most recently.  Do I have a couple of guesses?  Sure.  But the cause haunts me a little.

Maybe it’s because deep down, most of us fear the reaper.  We don’t want life to go before we have seen our life play out.  Even on it’s most boring days, our lives still have the hope of adventure and the unexpected.  One thing I have always told people struggling in life is that “you are only just one small decision from living an entirely different life.”  Nothing is permanent, and we can make different choices to have a different life if we choose.  Some choice are easy, some are devastatingly hard, but the choice remains.  Life is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.  We hope we make good choices.  Sometimes the choices don’t line up he way we hope.  Sometimes the choices aren’t good or bad, they just are.  Sometimes a simple, innocent choice leads the whole story to end.

 

Letting Kids Fly, But Not By Helicopter

Helicopter-Parenting-300x300

Ahh, vacation.  It’s my first day back from a weekend trip to visit family, and I already need another vacation.  Not because of the family, we had a fantastic time, but because I came back from a Saturday and Sunday away to a shitstorm of work to do.  I digrmyess, however.  Every year, my step mother’s sister throws an annual weekend up at her house.  Since my dad married into the family, they also include me, my husband and kids.  The weekend is filled with laughter, days spent at the lake, and lots of food and beer.  It’s always a fun weekend.  This year, I think we had 16 or more.

Saturday, while lounging at the lake, watching the kids play in the swimming areas and in the sand, I got into a conversation with my…let me see if I get this right….step cousin’s wife.  We were talking about our kids, and how they are growing up so fast, the usual.  She lives in Brooklyn NY, and she overheard her son tell me how excited he was for school this year because at his school, the kids are allowed to leave the school and go out for lunch unattended.  I was completely fascinated by this revelation, and his mom (I’ll refer to her as E) filled me me.  Apparently, starting in 4th grade, the kids are allowed to leave the school building and can go for lunch.  Completely unattended.  In Brooklyn.  I was a bit amazed that the school, never mind the parents, would ever go for such an idea.  I live in relatively small town suburbia, and parents here are CRAZY intense.  Helicopter parenting is mostly the norm, if not encouraged.  Parents direct every aspect of their children’s lives, friends, interests and activities.  Kids are placed into a LOT of activities because the general thought is that they must be active ALL the time.  They must be kept busy.  I have friends who have their kids in about 6 activities a week.  It looks exhausting, not only for the kids, but for the parents who have to drive to (and most attend) as well.  The idea that this school in NY would allow kids as young as 10 to just leave the building mid day and roam to a local restaurant unattended was something I struggled to fathom, but I was intrigued.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember I wrote a while back about how I was trying to let me kids have more freedoms, more independence, and promote a sense of self responsibility and good decision making skills.  It went swimmingly, until we had a falter when my daughter forgot to communicate she was going to a friend’s a few houses down and I couldn’t find her.  After that we had to place new rules and explain the communication process.  Things have been going really well, except that it got so hot the kids haven’t really wanted to venture outside too much, never mind riding bikes etc.  Hopefully, we will work on things more in the fall.

As we talked, E explained that the school allows the kids to leave, unattended for lunch, mostly due to a problem with overcrowding in the school.  There really isn’t enough room in the cafeteria.  She said the kids have a radius that they can go to, about 2-3 blocks, and their are crossing guards at the intersections (and to make sure the kids don’t go outside of the “zone”.  On those blocks, there are a bunch of restaurants the kids can choose from, they bring their own money, and buy lunch.  I thought about how this would fly where I live and giggled, because it never would.  After hearing the layout of their school’s plan, it seemed like quite a good one.  The kids have choice, are given responsibility, there are crossing guards to keep them in the general vicinity, and frankly, it was a great way to keep local businesses afloat.  E explained also that the principal is a very strong leader, explains the process to the kids very clearly, and they are fully aware that one misstep means they lose the privilege.  They haven’t had any issues, because the kids take the privilege so seriously, they don’t want to lose it.  Also, with the volume of people in the area, parents feel that the kids are far safer than wandering in the suburbs.

I explained to her my realization earlier in the year that there were so many things I knew how to do at a young age that my children have never learned, simply because they have never had to learn it.  Road safety, because I am always there to walk them across the road, for example.  All those little things, that really are big things, because I am always there to do it for them.  She said she had had the exact same realization, and it really bothered her.  The interesting thing was that with one of us living in the city, and one in the suburbs, we each had a different set of skills we realized we had never taught our kids because we’d always been there to do it for them. Also, the kids needed different skills based on their location.  For my kids, bike riding was more important, but for her kids, there wasn’t much of a good place for her kids to ride.  For her kids, navigating their neighborhood during rush hour was more important than for my kids, who don’t see a lot of traffic in our area.

Both of us have decided a change is in order, and we are working to give our kids more flexibility, responsibility, and more LIFE skills they can do without us.  While the skill sets may be different based on where we live and the needs that arrive from that, the mentality is the same. Our parents let us learn the hard way, on our own quite a bit, and it taught us good, solid lessons.  We weren’t hovered over and coddled.  We were treated as little people who had to learn to live in a complicated world.  I see moms on social media claiming their kids are never out of their sight, that they do EVERYTHING for their kids, and that they keep their kids in activities and busy every minute of the day.  Know what that tells me?  Those kids likely won’t be able to entertain themselves if someone isn’t telling them how.  Those kids will miss many an important life lesson.  Independence and self discovery is important!  If someone does everything for you, how do you learn to do it yourself?

I recalled the conversation I had with the police officer who came that day my daughter left for her friend’s without telling me where she was going.  I was honestly really, really frightened and questioned my decision to let her do more on her own. (And trust, there were the people who had to make nasty comments about what happened, but you know what? 0 craps given.)  The officer told me that I was doing a GOOD thing.  That kids should be outside playing.  He also said that one thing he runs into all the time are kids of helicopter parents.  He said these parents hover over their child’s every move, thinking they are doing the right thing.  He said that he sees the end result of that, where if a parent goes to the store and runs 10 minutes late back, the kids (old enough to stay home themselves) the kids freak out because they don’t know how to cope for a few moments outside of expectation when the parents aren’t there.  He sees a lot of kids without some basic life skills, because they have never been taught them or had to learn them.  When I recounted this to E she thought it was really interesting, and we discussed how true this probably is.

Statistically, we are at a time of lower crime, but more ways to communicate it.  Our kids in some ways are probably safer than we were when we were younger.  Yet parents are more protective and are helicoptering.  I have seen parents call their grown children out of work.  I have seen parents doing laundry for grown children.  How did we get here, where we are so focused on our children that we have stifled them?

One of the greatest feelings I had as a kid was the feeling of being trusted with responsibility.  I felt so grown up, and appreciative of any new independence, that I worked hard to keep the privilege.  As a kid, I flew overseas by myself!  I traveled 3000+ miles myself, with some oversite from the airline.  I arrived, got my bags, and found my ride.  I navigated airports like a pro.  When I traveled with my parents, they had me tell them where to go, what our next steps were, etc.  In time, I learned my way around our frequented airports, knew how to travel responsibly, and became comfortable that I could manage travelling on my own.  If I got separated from my parents, I knew I had a plan to stay safe and find help.  I knew road safety on my bike. I knew how to speak to adults, how to navigate my corner of the world, and even another area of the world.  I walked comfortably across town at 12 years old in a town overseas.  It saddens me that after being pushed to hover over my kids, I have neglected to teach them some life skills, not for not wanting to, but for not thinking of them.  Why? Because I handled everything for them.  The more I talk to people, the more I notice parents having the same revelations.  This year, I am going to teach my kids the process of navigating an airport and how to travel safely.  Time to let them fly, just not by helicopter parenting.

Wha’ Happened?

Facebook is an interesting thing. It has it’s positive points, like the fact I can now easily communicate with and keep up with the lives of my family overseas.  I love seeing pictures, jokes, and funny anecdotes shared by friends.  I enjoy the feature where I can see posts from the past.  On the other hand, there are the political bullshit posts (how many of you are tired of THOSE?)  Whenever people from “the other side” of politics post something attacking my views, it’s sometime worthwhile to take a deep breath and keep on scrolling.  Sometimes I wonder if Facebook hurts as many friendships as it helps.  In the middle of the endless political posts, jokes, TMI posts, etc, there are the weird posts that come across that make you wonder….”wha’ happened?”

Two such posts crept across my newsfeed recently.  A friend and former coworker, who I follow on FB but don’t see outside in the real world now we have different jobs etc, suddenly posted a pic of her with a new fella. When I met her, she was married long term, with a son.  I knew she desperately wanted another baby, but it never panned out for her.  She posted pics of her and her husband on cruise ships, buying and renovating a house, and other, normal family type activities.   “must be a new friend” I mused, and kept scrolling.

Then I notice she tagged him in lots of pics and posts.  This was CLEARLY a VERY good friend.  Then the love post appeared, and a post of the two of them with her son and his kids.  I caught the post where she said she was hoping they would have a baby between them soon. Husband, it appears, was long out of the picture.  Or perhaps not so long. Who knows? As with any breakup of a marriage, it’s often hard to know what to feel.  Sadness for a dream that ended?  Sadness it couldn’t work?  Happiness that a possibly bad situation is over?  Happiness for new beginnings?  It’s always tough for those in the ripple effect around a couple splitting to know what to feel.  I felt sad her marriage had ended, clearly after a very long go of it, but I was happy to see a sparkle in her eye.  Still, I wondered what happened.  How do couples who have been together 20 years or so suddenly call it quits?  I suppose Facebook is what you let it be, and she hid what was going on very well.  I am very much an open book, so I doubt had I been in her situation I would have been as discreet.

Fast forward a few weeks, and another former coworker, from the same company now that I’m thinking of it, posted she was with her ill mother.  She made a comment about starting a new life alone is hard, especially without her family around. For all intents and purposes, it looked like she too may be at the end of a marriage.  This was a military wife who had been married since her late teens or very early twenties I believe. Another multi decade marriage, apparently at the end.   Again, I felt saddened by that.  Then I noticed in her pictures she was looking a bit happier, so I chose to be happy for her.

I’ve been married 12 years.  I got married during the simultaneously best and worst year of my life.  I got married, moved, had a baby, dealt with some post partum depression, lost my mother to cancer, went back to work, and was a new mom without my own mom to guide me.  It was amazing and hard, and joyful and it brought me to my lowest points.  It was a year of utter chaos.  We got through it together, my husband and I.  We’ve been through babies, new beginnings, the death of parents, fights, making up, and all the little life moments. We only really see each other a day and a half a week, but perhaps that makes it easier.  We manage well on our own but work really well as a team.  We don’t see each other every day, so we don’t take each other for granted.  It works for us, but certainly it wouldn’t work for everyone.  Nobody makes me laugh like he can.  Nobody makes me feel safer or happier than he can.  I’m very lucky, and I wish everyone felt that way in their marriage.  Unfortunately, not everyone does.

I’m at an age now where I’m more comfortable with myself than ever before.  Life seems easier in a lot of ways because I know who I am and I act accordingly.  Once you get a grasp of that it sure makes decisions easier, although don’t ask me what I want for dinner…..please don’t ask me that because while I know who I am, my stomach has no idea and it wants to do the equivalent of Rumspringa. Unfortunately, I am also at an age where my friends’ parents are starting to pass away, marriages are sometimes ending, and some of my friends who had kids early are becoming empty nesters.  It’s a different time that when I was younger.  I see a lot of endings and new beginnings cross that Facebook newsfeed.  Sometimes I don’t see the ending.  Sometimes, I miss the middle, and sometimes the beginning is subtle.  I assume I will see many more.

I sometimes wonder what causes long term marriages to end.  I suppose I can understand shorter term ones.  Sometimes, marriage is hard.  Sometimes, the person you marry lets all the habits they had hidden while dating suddenly go free, and some are deal breakers.  Sometimes people change.  Sometimes, the person turns into a bad person.  Sometimes, people just realize they aren’t as happy as they could be, and that life is too short not to be as happy as they can. That being said, 20 or so years into a marriage, what makes someone say “NOW I want to leave.”?  I don’t begrudge the choice, I just find it interesting.  I have an aunt and uncle, married well over 30 years.  They just announced a divorce.  I thought “you’ve put up with each other’s shit for this long…what was the straw that broke the camel’s back?”

It’s not my place to know.  It’s not my place to ask.   It’s not my business.

But I’m still curious.   I’m curious by nature.  I always wonder why people make the decisions they do, what their life story is, what happened in life to make them who they are.  I love to study people and their behavior.  I probably should have made it a career.

Again, I’m not sure what to feel when I hear these stories.  I have one friend who is trying to get a divorce from her husband.  He’s a horrible person, cheats, lies, bullies, intimidates.  He has a girlfriend and a baby with her, but won’t divorce my friend, instead dragging it out.  In her case, I will be happy for her the day it is final.  I have other friends getting divorced, and I feel a bit sad, because they always seemed happy to me, but again, I’m not living with them, so what the hell do I know anyway? I suppose I feel sad for the loss of the dream.  Nobody gets married with the thought “I’ll ride this out for 10 years and then I’m bailing”.  We get married with the hope of forever. It saddens me when those hopes and dreams don’t come to fruition for people.  Divorce and splits are more common that they used to be, but by the same token I’d hate to see anyone sitting in a bad marriage just to keep the masses happy.

So while the dream is gone, it does pave the way for new dreams, new adventures. For that fact, I am happy for my friends.  I have always stood by one very simple statement: “you are only one choice or decision from an entirely new life.”  It’s scary sometimes, it’s amazing sometimes, but at the end of the day, the person making the decision is opening up a world of new possibilities.  I’m very happy in my marriage, and everyone deserves to have that same happiness.  Sometimes they just don’t find it the first try.  That’s ok.

While I wouldn’t ask them what happened, what changed, I wish my friends the very best.  I hope that Facebook shows me their new futures with smiling faces and happy adventures.  I hope perhaps I eventually see new weddings.  Marriage, after all, is supposed to be love, trust, respect, hopes, dreams, and happiness.  That’s why so many celebrate it with such pomp and circumstance.  Those wonderful things are meant to be celebrated.  When they don’t work out, sometimes they are quietly skipped over on facebook, leaving those curious about the change to wonder “wha’ happened?”