10 Days of Reflection

Two years ago, I participated in the ten days of reflection that precede Yom Kippur (My Jewish Experiment Day 1).   I did not participate last year, but want to take these days to reflect now.

So, here goes:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My divorce became final this year.  Even though we have lived completely separate lives for over two years, and have had almost no contact since the day that I moved out, actually getting divorced and getting my maiden name back felt liberating.  Especially getting my maiden name back.  Until your name has unpleasant connotations, you don’t realize how often you hear it or say it on a normal basis.  Picking up a prescription at the pharmacy?  Give your last name.  Going to the bank?  “Welcome, Mrs. Elder.”  Signing a credit card slip.  Signing his last name.

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&lightboxID=4096051][img]http://www.erichood.net/bizpeep.jpg[/img][/url]

When you are trying to leave a marriage behind, his name keeps popping up on your way to the new you.

Until I got that final divorce decree.  Which changes absolutely nothing about how I have been living during the last two years, or my finances, or anything.  Except that now I can get my precious name back.  And I am grateful.

My Jewish Experiment: Day One

I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and the hosts mentioned that today was the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  One of the traditions of this very holy time is that Jews use the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to reflect on the year and spend time in self-evaluation and reflection.

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From Wikipedia, Definition of Rosh Hashanah

The segment went on to talk about how some Jews were blending their beliefs into the modern world by using technology during this ten day period, using a site called 10Q.  You can sign up for this website and each day for the 10 days get a thought provoking question in your inbox.  You answer it and submit.  At the end of the 10 days, your answers “go away” until next year during Rosh Hashanah.  Then you get your answers from the previous year (to help show how your life has progressed over the year), plus another 10 questions to answer for the current year.

This year has been a memorable, significant year in my life.  I have had a life-threatening illness, the dissolution of my marriage, and some fundamental challenges to the things that I believe.

If there was ever a time to reflect and complete self-evaluation, this is it.  And I liked the idea of tackling it, one question at a time, one day at a time.

So, here goes day one:

Question:  Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Wow!  Just go for broke, right out of the gate…

I have had several significant experiences this year.

1. I developed a pulmonary embolism and could have died
2. My husband asked me for a divorce
3. I bought a new house and began to rebuild a residence

The one that I would pick to discuss is buying a house and rebuilding my safe haven.

I am an introvert that is surrounded by people all day, so having a haven, a place to be still and to recharge my batteries is critical to my well being. After it became evident that my marriage was going to end, there was a time that we still shared a house. This might have been some of the most stressful time in my life because I lost having a safe zone. My house became a tension filled and unwelcoming, so finding a place to make safe again was so important.

I am slowly doing this with the purchase of a house. And I have felt every emotion possible in the months since. There is no way to describe how I feel without talking about almost all emotions.  Joy when the fence went in, keeping my dog safe. Anxiety and aggravation during the whole loan process. Loneliness during that first night on my own in the house. Relief when all the kitchen boxes were finally unpacked. Pissed off because I have to do this to begin with. Excited because it’s mine, mine, mine to do with whatever I want. Proud when the new color turned out just right. Worried that I am making decisions based on emotion, not rational thought. On, and on, and on.

Mostly, though, I am grateful. Grateful that I have a support system. Grateful that I am learning how to ask for help and to recognize that people find joy in helping.  Grateful that I am not alone, even during this time when I should feel the most alone.

I would never have chosen the circumstances that led me to rebuilding my safe haven — but I am a better person for knowing that I have all these wonderful people in my life.

Before you’re married twice

My mama had some key phrases that she used regularly in response to certain situations.  For example, when my sister or I were complaining or whining about something fairly (in retrospect) insignificant, she would say, “You’ll get over it before you’re married twice.”

I don’t know where she got that phrase.  I never heard any of my aunts say it, just my mama.  But to this day, it sticks in my head and I find it bouncing around in there whenever someone around me is grumbling about something small.

As a young girl, I used to think that her statement didn’t make any sense.  If she was trying to tell me that I would soon be over my anguish, well then, telling me that I would be over it before I was married twice caused me great confusion.  Since I would never be married TWICE, I would obviously have to spend the rest of my life working through my heartache.

I knew very few people who had divorced parents.  I had one cousin whose parents were divorced, but we never talked about.  None of my friends had parents that were divorced, and if any of the other kids in my classes had divorced parents, I didn’t know about it.  In my very protected little world, divorce just wasn’t a known entity.

So, it was with authority that I would reply, “Then I’ll always be unhappy because I’ll never be married twice!”

Ah, the innocence of youth.

At the age of 42, I have not been married twice.  But this is not a result of being so smart and emotionally mature that I just waited for the exact right person.  No, it’s the result of things not working out the way that I wanted them to.  I would have married a man who I dated in my 20s, and I am fairly certain that it wouldn’t have lasted.  It’s only stubbornness on his part that prevents me from being married twice.

Matt and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.  Each year has had its challenges.  Each year has had its joys.  And no matter how much you are advised that marriage is work, you can’t appreciate how much work until you are in one.  I couldn’t appreciate the blessings, either.

I hope this is Matt and me in 40 years.


Speaking of marriage, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at my mama’s house.  My Aunt Baby, Uncle Joe and cousin Judson came over on Christmas Eve.  During the evening, the topic of “John and Jill Doe” arose.

mama:  You could be like John and Jill Doe that got divorced after 42 years of marriage.

me:  Who are John and Jill Doe?

mama:  They used to live across the Blue Ridge Parkway from Mama and Daddy.  They got divorced after 42 years.

Judson:  Why after 42 years?

Baby:  Because John stayed in the bed drunk all day while Jill worked.

me:  And that had been going on for 42 years?

mama:  Yes.

Matt:  Well, what happened after 42 years?

Baby:  Jill got tired of John staying in bed reading westerns, being drunk all day, while she had to work.

me:  Yeah, but why did she put up with it for 42 years and then decide enough was enough?

mama:  Maybe she figured he was never going to change.

Joe:  I’ll say one thing.  John is a better man than me.  If I were in bed drunk, I couldn’t read.  That would be too much for me.  Maybe TV, but definitely no reading.