(This post is intended to be read while hearing Pomp & Circumstance play softly in your head. Or maybe the theme song from Rocky. I’ll let you decide which one you want to hear because I’m not pushy like that.)
I’m tired of feeling sad; sick of rarely smiling or laughing; over not dancing around my living room.
So… I decided it was finally time to celebrate myself. Not with a huge invite list or champagne or anything like that. Rather, last night I sat down with a glass of wine, watched the first 2 seasons of Sex & The City and reflect upon my accomplishments over the last three months. Here’s why I’m raising my glass…
Around every corner I turned, throughout every square inch of the floor plan, I saw Charlie in the house. Saw us. Saw the life we had built together for 19 years. And since I couldn’t look anywhere in my house without seeing him, I decided to change the things I could in order to move forward with my life. Even though he was still living in the house, I needed it to be different. Needed to release myself from the constant reminder that I was no longer part of a couple. Needed a metamorphosis.
My first accomplishment – Wood. Yeah, you read that right. I got wood.
As the dust settled over the word ‘divorce’, I managed to split and stack 3 big trees worth of wood in my backyard. Charlie (assisted by our dear friend, Rick) was nice enough to cut down the dead trees before he moved, but it was up to me to figure out what to do with them once they were on the ground. I had to do it quick too because the forecast was calling for Hurricane Sandy to rip the Mid-Atlantic region of the US a new asshole. So after I filled emergency buckets with water, struggled against the masses in the grocery store, put away anything that would fly away from the yard and gathered every candle, flashlight and match in the house, I prepared a space by lining planks of treated lumber on the ground (to prevent bugs from eating through the wood). A friend allowed me to borrow his gas-powered 22-ton log splitter and I proceeded to spend several weekday afternoons and a couple of dreary weekends in October splitting and stacking log after log with my daughter.
During this time I also felt compelled to update the bedroom. The color on the walls was steel-gray; the accents, black and white and chrome. It was tasteful, but on the masculine side with the tiniest hint of girlie. (That said, I may have gone a little overboard with the ‘girlie’ in my revamping of the space.) Many week nights and a weekend morning in October were spent taping off the ceiling, trim and floor and then applying this warm, yellowy color called ‘Hummus’ to the walls. It almost looks like honey butter and would probably ooze of deliciousness if it weren’t paint. The curtains are now bright white and trimmed with ruffles and lace. My comforter is a sumptuous white ruched duvet that makes me feel like I am sleeping on a cloud in a dream. With angels playing harps nearby. And Pegasus babies leaping over me. To fill the space I found a great old dresser and mirror for $100 bucks (Score!) at a thrift store that I started to refinish. The temps got too cold to continue with stripping the existing stain off of it, but as soon as it gets a little warmer I intend to put those chemicals back to work and distress it white. I even took down the (ugly) ceiling mount light and replaced it with a chandelier. That’s right, bitches. A crystal chandelier. In my bedroom. It is fabulous. And I did it by myself. Yep, turned off the electric, unhooked and re-hooked wires, flipped all the switches back on and the shit shines like Christmas morning. The room may not be fully redone, but I am happy to say it is now cheery, comforting and beautiful. All of the things I would want people to say about me. And isn’t that how your bedroom should make you feel?
If she could talk my chandelier would say, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful".
I conquered one more project during October. My beloved grandmother, Katherine, willed her old stereo to me upon passing in February of 2000. This piece had great sentimental value to me. Still does. It stands about 33 inches high and is about three-and-a-half feet long, but in my memory, it may as well be the size of mountains. The 1965 turn-table and AM/FM dials can still be accessed just under the sliding top panels. I can’t tell you how many times my sister and I would slide those panels to the side and listen to Alvin and The Chipmunks sing Christmas favorites from an LP on this bulky audio conductor. I learned every word to every song on the Sound of Music soundtrack because of this stereo. Grew to appreciate the beauty of Brahms and Beethoven from the speakers encased within the framework of this carved piece of wood. Danced my 8-year-old ass off to the beats exuded from the needle when the Saturday Night Fever record was placed beneath it. Sadly, over the past fifteen years, I have done a severe disservice to this link to my childhood. I let it sit quietly in my dining area hiding beneath fabric and used as a buffet. It’s beauty lay dormant for so long under that cloth that I now feel shamed I hadn’t found another way to display it in all that time. So, in my quest to change my environment I uncovered it, removed the speakers, sanded the shit out of it for 5 hours on a Saturday and distressed it with white paint. I knew I would never use it again as a musical instrument, but I just couldn’t conceal it anymore either. It is now the centerpiece of my living room. I think I did a pretty good job with it….
VERY shabby chic, don'tcha think?
Please don’t think I was consumed with house projects during October though. After all, it is the month in which my favorite holiday falls AND all work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl. So on one of those wonderfully warm October Sunday afternoons, where the bees are hungry and the leaves gracefully waltz towards the earth, Emma and I carved pumpkins out back on the picnic table. With newspaper spread across it and our carving instruments procured, we quietly sat next to each other meticulously designing and scraping the orbs until the art was satisfactory enough to display on the deck steps. This is one of my all time favorite things to do with her. I love how they turned out…
It's intense scary, I know.
My activity didn’t subside with the arrival of November. One day, as my thoughts turned to pumpkin pie, apple cider and how the hell I was going to get through the day emotionally, a Ballard Designs catalog arrived in my mailbox. I half-heartedly thumbed through it when I was stopped in my tracks upon viewing a room design so glorious I was immediately inspired had to have it in my house. Three trips to Sherwin-Williams and six samples of paint later I landed THE color. Soooo… in mid-November I began painting the hallway light mocha. Naturally this would spill over into the living room. And starting around 9 AM Thanksgiving Day, aided by the in-your-face, kiss-my-ass, ear-splitting hard rock of Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, spill it did (figuratively of course – I am too careful to actually spill paint!). Charlie had taken Emma to his Dad’s for the 4-day weekend and I needed something to occupy my mind so I wouldn’t be a puddle on the floor that first holiday without them. And even though I had five offers for dinner, I elected to cook a turkey and a couple of sides just for myself in between rolling that chocolate milkshake color onto the walls. As 5 o’clock neared I cleaned up, ate my own little dinner and went to my sisters for dessert followed by my girlfriend Kristin’s house for wine.
As much as my heart yearned for my daughter to be with me that day I got through it. Actually, I felt very accomplished and self-reliant knowing that I looked the biggest family holiday of the year in its face and said ‘Fuck You, I am capable of doing this my way’.
December approached at an alarming speed. This was significant because the 7th was the day Charlie was to make settlement on his new house and begin moving out. I wanted to ensure Christmas could be as “normal” as possible for Emma. Despite this desire (because I’m impatient and an overachiever), I arranged for my very talented contractor (a.k.a. Kristin’s husband) to refinish the hardwood floors in my living room and hallway. In order to get it ready for the process I had to remove the existing carpet, staples, carpet tacks and trim that had been in place for so long. On the evening of Tuesday, December 4th I did just that. I pulled up the old carpet, cutting it into three-foot lengths, rolled it up nice and neat for the trash men and put it out on the curb. When Emma came home that night I got the affirmation I needed. “Oh Mom”, she said, “I love it in here”.
This shit was not easy.
It only took a week for my living room to be completely transformed. The floors are now this magnificent, shiny, dark chocolate-brown and worth every minute of the 14 hours I spent on a Saturday wiping the dust from each and every crevice of the ceilings, walls and floors. (Again, aided by the Foo Fighters.)
Christmas was somewhat difficult and somewhat awesome at the same time. Emma and I have started new holiday traditions and kept up some old ones. She is an amazing young woman and I find that there are many days when I pull my strength from her. I also got to see Charlie’s family for the first time since deciding to end my marriage. I love them so much and was torn as to whether or not I should go to their annual family party on Christmas Eve. The uncertainty faded the minute I walked through the door. They were all very warm and loving and as broken-hearted over my divorce as I am. I really felt loved back that night and am happy I decided to go.
Sure, the last three months haven’t been easy. Some days have been downright hard. There have been days where I have done so much I have nearly collapsed from exhaustion. And others when I’ve wept to the point of my eyes swelling. But then there have been days when I’ve been elated with my accomplishments, like October 24th when I decided to look for a new home owners policy and ended up saving $500 a year. Or December 6th when I received a glowing review at work. Or December 14th when I signed my very own mortgage – in my own name, with no co-signer.
No one would debate that divorce can be ugly. That it can reduce a person to lows they never would have thought they could possibly stoop to. But I believe I have conducted myself with dignity and grace (for the most part) in order to keep the ugly out of it. Keep the ugly from Emma. I know I have put my child’s best interests before mine. And maybe if I wasn’t going through this I wouldn’t have realized all I am capable of. I now know I can do anything – all by my damn self.
So bring it on, life. I’m ready for you.
Cheers to me!