Prologue to My 2008 Journal

Well, here it is, the long awaited end to what proved to me the most difficult and stressful year of my life.  It was a year ago in December that I life R., the farm, and my married life there behind. I had no idea how hard it was going to be, and I’m glad I didn’t or I would never have had the courage to go thru with it.  I don’t regret my choice for one moment, though I wish our story could have ended so much differently. 

I am surprised to discover an entire year later that I still have deep feelings for him, and miss him terribly.  Well, I don’t miss the person he became and what he was like to live with, but I miss the person that he once was and what we had in the beginning.  Now that I don’t live with him 24/7 the harsh realities of that existence have faded, and what remains is the bittersweet memories of my time with a man that I loved more than any other.  I know now that I really truly did love him, and still do.  I wonder if a part of my heart will always feel “gone missing”.  I was tempted today to call him up and wish him (them) a Happy New Year, but I asked myself why pour salt into my wounds.  I knew I couldn’t do it joyfully, though I truly do wish him a much better year ahead than this one has been for him and for us jointly.

As the much anticipated Christmas vacation wears down with just one more day remaining, I am conscious that once again I didn’t do any of the things I intended to – the house is no more organized, no more boxes are unpacked, the paperwork all remains unsorted.  I sigh, I wish I could motivate myself to pull it altogether and get it over with. 

I realize that I have spent much of these past months functioning at some level of depression, adjusting to single life, the loneliness, finances, the never-ending bankruptcy saga, health issues, and a job that is far less than fulfilling. Top this off with concerns regarding my daughter and it is no wonder that I haven’t felt very motivated or eager to go out into the world and begin again.  Sometimes I am surprised that I have even survived it.  But I am nothing if I’m not a survivor.  My two children depend on me to be around for them, to be the strong one, and I must show them how it’s done.  Hopefully surviving is a lesson they can take into the future when I’m gone.

Many things that I hoped would be easily resolved or non-issues entering the New Year remain in the forefront to be yet dealt with… Another bankruptcy hearing looms in the future.  God, I wish that could be over and done with, and not present more financial stresses than I already have.   My financial situation is tight beyond belief, with nothing left over for essential extras like clothing, car repairs, and emergencies.  It appears that more medical tests/bills will be in order, but I have no idea how I can afford them.  In reality, I can’t.  My job of over 19 years grows increasingly burdensome; truly I hate it there, not the job but the situation.  I hate any situation, which I feel entraps me with no escape possible.  Then there is the loneliness – the reality that there is no one outside of my ex that I can call in an emergency. No one cares where I am or how I am.  If I died tonight, no one would know until I didn’t show up for work and they eventually started enquiring.  I need to make some friends, both male and female, and I really have no idea where or how to go about that.  The workplace environment isn’t appropriate, I have learned from past back-stabbing there to keep my private life very separate. 

Still, despite all the worries and concerns, I have much to be thankful for.  I have managed to remain on good terms with my ex despite all the struggles with the bankruptcy and his finances and the presence of his new live-in girlfriend.  I actually like her, but am still coming to terms with the fact that he has moved on, or it appears so.  Why is it always so easy for men to do that?  I have been able to stay financially afloat and remain in my little duplex, which I love.  I have pinned down some of the allergy/asthma issues, which were making my life miserable and scary.  Now it remains to me to adapt to a new eating/exercise regime to reduce those problems and also to begin working on the monumental task of losing weight and reclaiming my body.  It’s the one thing I truly hate about me – all the extra weight, because in our society it is such a stigma. 

My daughter’s life was on a roller coaster this year, she struggled so hard at times that it tore my heart out.  I was so very afraid I was going to lose her, and that very nearly happened.  At the present she is doing so much better.  It is wonderful having my kid back again!  Just this week a situation came to light, which will necessitate them moving elsewhere to seek employment, and in the immediate future since my son-in-law has lost his job.  My daughter was just preparing to start working again and had been hired part-time by a local hospital.  I’m glad this happened before she went thru all the stress and orientation for nothing, but I worry that the pressures of moving along with the necessity of finding work in a new city immediately will overwhelm her.  Still, I am trying hard to focus on the positives of the move, and to help her see it this way too.  New beginnings can be a really good thing, and in moving to San Antonio they won’t really be any further away from me.  I can still drive there, thankfully.  I contemplate the possibility of relocating to their area sometime down the road, if God makes a way possible.

Although I have played at online dating, it has been a very unfulfilling experience and I haven’t met anyone that even remotely interests or excites me.  Truth is, no one feels that way about me either, which is disappointing.  I believe I have much to offer in a relationship, just maybe not in the traditional sense of being highly active and super-attractive.  I long for a friend/partner that would be comfortable, fun and loving.  I have no idea how to find someone, so I guess I will have to wait and see if God has that in store for me.  The thought of being along forever is too scary to even contemplate.  It’s been months now since I’ve felt the pleasure of someone warm beside me.  Yet I also see a side of myself that doesn’t want to be drawn into the expected role of a partnership.  I am not ready, maybe ever, to trust anyone enough to give my life to them.  In the past, every time I relinquished control, I paid dearly. I value peace and freedom immensely.  So I realize that in some ways I am holding back.  I’d like to think that if I met the right person, I’d know it.  Certainly, this last relationship has opened my eyes to the errors in my choosing, and what must be different if there is ever to be another. I’m older and wiser now, at least I hope so.

And so it is New Year’s Eve, and I am alone again, as I have been for most of the New Year’s Eves in recent years, although I never wanted it to be that way.  All I can do is say a hearty goodbye and good riddance to 2007, and pray that 2008 brings much more happiness for me and all the people I love and care about.  Hard as it is at times, I still have hope!

I had a wonderful few days with my daughter and son-in-law over Christmas, really one of the nicest Christmases in recent years.  It was so good to get far away from here!  But by far the most precious gift and prayer answered was my son’s visit and my daughter coming to be with us also.  More than twelve years had passed since I had both of my children together and with me. The took up so easily where they left off and the smiles and laughter of that weekend will remain with me forever.  Also the awareness that they have become my caretakers, looking out for Mom, instead of me looking out for them.  A change of roles, and I welcome it.  It’s a comfort to know that they are there for me. 

Anastasia's Secret

"You are such a good person" said her friend via email. Anastasia smiled sadly to herself at the words, thinking "Oh, if you only knew."

Lunchtime found her sitting at the table with a group of work associates. The conversation was light and playful. Said one, "I read in a magazine article that if you've had sex with more than seven partners it means you're a slut." Laughter rang out all around.

"Seven, can you imagine?"said Sharon, "My husband was my first and my last, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

"That's just because you don't know what you've missed", chided Mary, her best friend who loved to harass her about her naivete.

Sharon blushed, then retorted, "Well, you've been married a couple times, so I guess we can safely say that you've had a little more experience." Everyone chortled in agreement, including Mary.

The truth was that most of the middle-aged women at the table were in long-term relationships, with the exception of a two who were divorcees, including Anastasia.  One of these had been single for what seemed like forever, and swore that she would never have another man in her bed or her life. Yet deep down she wished for a secret lover. No matter how long it had been, one never forgets those pleasures.

Only Anastasia remained quiet, mostly staring at her plate. "What about you, Anastasia?" teased Mary, "Have you got a scorecard or are you a single-hitter?"

Anastasia forced a smile and replied in the most casual voice she could muster, "Oh, I guess I've had two or three along the way." Everyone nodded in acknowledgement, and gradually... mercifully... the conversation moved on to other topics.  Deep inside Anastasia burned with shame.

What would they think of her if they knew about her past?  She was grateful that they didn't, but it didn't make her feel any better about the secrets that she carried. She knew that it was unlikely she would ever have a friend who would understand. Seven?  How about seven times seven... ten times seven... and even more.  She could envision the shock that would register on their faces and the gossip that would travel quickly in the halls if they knew the truth.

But Anastasia didn't live that way anymore, that was buried in her past.  There was a time long ago when she lived by a different set of values.  There was a time when she had little sense of her own worth, or an understanding of her spiritual center which was being damaged by this self-abuse. "If it feels good - do it" was the motto of the time, and "do it" she did. It helped take away the pain... at least for a little while.

These days the people who are acquainted with Anastasia, have no idea of her past or the life she once lived.  The changes in her occurred slowly, but were dramatic.  Now, if you were to ask those who knew her, they would say that she was a "good person, kind and giving, always putting others before herself."

"Saint Anastasia" they sometimes teased her, as she was always the one who was seeking donations for the poor, writing letters to prisoners, and organizing drives to gather blankets for the homeless in the winter. She would laugh along with them and assure them she was no saint. But inside the words burned like a brand of fire. Saint? Hardly!

Anastasia had turned her life around and discovered in the process that she felt far happier when living in harmony with her spirit. What she didn't tell them was, that along with the acts of kindness she was also performing acts of atonement for a darker past than they could ever imagine. God is good... God forgives... and with time Anastasia had learned to forgive herself.

My Letter To Younger Me

Where does one start to correct "wrong thinking" about themselves, at what age? I am aware of feeling like a square peg in a "round hole world" since I was five or six. But back then I wasn't truly conscious of the choices I was making. So I've decided to fast-forward to age eighteen where one very critical decision changed the entire course of my life. Admittedly, some damage to my psyche had already been done by then, but still... things could have gone different, and life would have been much easier. Here is a letter I wrote to myself from a perspective of 35 years later.

Dear Josie,

Look at you girl... graduating! Finally your longing to escape the little town where you grew up will soon be realized! You've already been accepted to nursing school and will start in the fall. It's a hard school, but you know you can handle it. School has always come easy for you. But first there's the summer ahead...

It's going to be a long summer, and you will continue to struggle in your relationships at home, especially with your mother. Cut her some slack and realize she's got many problems of her own. Don't be so defiant, just 'cuz you can. Help out a little bit more to lighten her load.
I know your are restless and bored, and looking for an adventure... a big one is headed your way! Your sense of world-vision will draw you to attend a meeting you see advertised in a flyer - an obscure religious group talking about "One World". You will be amazed by what you hear that night, they are saying the words that you've long since heard in your heart! But please, be careful, think about it slowly... what else are they saying? Look closely at their lives.

Your curiosity and desire for friendship will soon draw you to their encampment on the lake. That's ok, enjoy yourself. You finally discover that you can have a good time meeting new people. It's even ok to listen to the faith they are preaching, you have a good mind and you can think for yourself. You can sort what rings true from what doesn't. Or can you??

I'll warn you in advance that your Mom and Dad aren't going to like your new friends at the lake. In fact it will cause a major scene at the house, even when you bring them to dinner so mom and dad can see they are "regular folks". Are they? With all the conflict that's been going on between your parents and you, this new fascination will add fuel to the fire and things will heat up to an unbearable point. You will crave peace in your heart, in your life, in your world. I know you will cling to the words these people are teaching... belonging and love and joy and peace. Very 60's I see, thinking back on it now. :-) It all sounds so perfect... in an ideal world.

I'd like to tell you to slow down a little bit with this... listen, read, watch, learn, but see where it goes. But then, we both know you never do anything half-way. So before long you are likely to be fully involved. Maybe that's ok too. I've always believed that it's ok to believe whatever brand of religion, or not, works for you. We have to figure faith out for ourselves, it can't be inherited.

But here's where the problem comes in. It's not just the faith you're adopting, it's a whole new family of very unusual people. If you take a good look you will see there are problems, big problems, in many of their lives. And you, with the caring heart, and the longing for friendship, and the desire to belong... you'll want to become a caretaker, just as you always do.

By the end of summer things will reach a critical juncture, your parents will become very emotional, and will forbid you to see your new friends. You will feel desperate without them, after finally finding a place where you feel accepted. What are you going to do? Will you take up their offer and run away to go live with and help with the family of one of these friends, when she is injured in an automobile accident? What about school? Will you throw it away? Are you thinking it thru, what your future will be if you do this?

This is your chance to use that powerful brain God gave you... realize that if this new faith is real in your life it will wait, you can take it along if you like, but please don't turn your back on school! If you could look down the road, like I can look back, you'd know how hard life becomes when you don't have that degree, how often you will be forced to do things which are necessary, but you hate them, just in order to survive. You don't have to sacrifice your education for friendship. Deep down I know you are scared about being in a new social situation, but it won't be so bad there in school, a little further away from mom and dad. Please don't see this opportunity to escape as a way to alleviate your anxiety. If you run, you're going to create far more anxiety than you'll ever avoid.

As the clock nears 7 PM that night, and you're walking the road toward that bridge where you are supposed to meet them, please think about where this will lead, how things might work out in the long run. Then, before it's too late, turn back, and go home, and bide your time. Your future is waiting... embrace it!

And while you're considering the pros and cons of the run away option, please realize that you have far more to offer others than you realize. You don't have to choose your friends, and your future lovers, on the basis of if they will have you. You can be choosy, find people who will be real blessings in your life! I know you've heard a lot of what you are not, and you're not feeling like you have very much worth at all, but if you go to school and get that nursing degree - or even if you change your mind in a year or two and decide to become a teacher (which is probably what you should have done in the first place, had you not listened to you know who) - that degree is your ticket to truly helping others - the life direction engraved in your soul. You'll never look back and you'll never regret it. There will be plenty of time in the years ahead to sort out the faith thing. Remember that God is love and Love is God, and anything that contradicts that isn't real.

Oh and one more thing before I sign off... please stop going without your bra! While it might look great now, and feel very freeing, years down the road you'll regret those stretched out underlying muscles, when gravity starts to take it's toll!

Most of all, remember to love yourself no matter what anyone else is telling you. Avoid the people who put you down and try to take control. And please learn to forgive yourself when you do something stupid. We all make mistakes in our lives, but sooner or later we figure it out. The choices you make now will affect the options you'll have in rest of your life, but those detours you'll take along the way will help you to understand and encourage others... and long about 50 you will discover that this is the meaning of life, it's what we are here for.

Love, Josie at Age 53

The Price of Freedom

Yesterday I wrote about the blessing of finally having freedom in my life. The flip side is the price I pay to have it. When Rick and I were together, we were doing pretty well financially. That was because I made sure the bills got paid. If left to him, they never would have been. Rick's very much an "immediate gratification" person - he sees it, he wants it, he buys it... with little thought of the consequences to our budget. He gets sick of a job (about yearly), and he quits. I've stuck in the same spot for almost 18 years, not because I didn't ever want to quit. Sometimes the desire to do so is overwhelming. But my practical nature says "you can't quit - someone has to make sure the bills get paid". So the pressure always laid heavily on me. Due to bad spending habits, and periods of unemployment between Rick's jobs, we ended up deep in debt. We're in the process of filing bankruptcy now, something I don't like doing. I believe in paying what you owe. But now that we are both on our own, the living expenses for two households nearly doubles what it cost when we lived together, and there is just no way to cover it all.

Last week we both got hit with another unexpected blow. Switching our income tax filing status from "married" to "single" meant the federal and state governments took a whopping $200 more a month out of my pay, and a little more than that out of his. I was just barely making ends meet before that and so was he, with nothing going into savings for emergencies, and now I'm looking at more ways I can cut corners just to keep afloat. I spent the week feeling really depressed, because I'm trying so hard and living so carefully. But I'm determined to make it work, and I will. I've got to admit it's hard though. Before, I had the freedom to spend a little money each month to help friends and families on the rez, and send fun things to the kids I love there. Now I'm hard pressed to come up with a book of postage stamps for writing. That seems very unfair.

I remember a line from the old Janis Joplin hit "Bobby McGee".... "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Some days it feels that way, like everything that meant something to me is gone - love, the only house I've ever actually owned instead of renting, having my furkids with me, and most of all, being able to help out a few folks struggling hard just to cover the basics, and bring smiles to some little faces. I worry too, about what will happen when my car breaks down, or I need new glasses, or I have some other major expense. Already I have three teeth needing root canals and crowns - at a cost of several hundred dollars each. I'm trying to save up for the first one now. SIGH But I also live my life by faith (though I didn't always), and I keep reminding myself that God has been faithful to me over these years. If He helped me find the strength and courage to get out of the destructive environment of my marriage, and provided me with the perfect place to live when there was nothing at all to rent in town, then surely He'll help me find the way to get thru each day from here on too. One day at a time I remind myself, life is to be lived one day at a time.

I know I could go back, Rick reminds me that it's always an option - to combine our resources and live under one roof even after the divorce. The money struggle makes it very tempting... but I know better, I KNOW it wouldn't work. Within one week we'd be right back in the same roles, with me being the mommy and carrying all the worry, work and responsibility. No thank you. To go back would be to lose everything I've gained (especially my sanity), and I just can't live like that ever again. I'm going to find a way to make it on my own!

The Way It Is

I headed out to the farm today to drop off food for the furkids and spend a little time with them. Rick, as usual, was jamming with his friends. The house was rocking and the air was thick with smoke. He was glad to see me; we don't spend much time together anymore. It's hard for me to go there now since it doesn't feel like home.

As I headed back into town to my own little place I realized that he's doing what he always did - making music. I've said before that music is his first love... me his wife, the band his mistress. The band came before vacations, holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. He knew I'd be there anyway, whether or not he took some time to spend with me. It doesn't matter to me anymore, I have my own life back now. He's making music, and I'm doing what I love... writing, reading, spending time on the Internet with friends and the collection of rez kids who bring me such joy. No one is yelling at me, telling me to "shut it down" when I'm on the computer, slamming doors, or scaring away the children on the phone. I can do what I want, when I want, with who I want, and have no one to wait on but myself. If there's a mess I made it and I'll clean it up, and if I choose to let it lay, I can. I go to bed when I want, wake up when I want, and eat what I like instead of what he likes. It's amazing how freeing that is!

I wasn't really watching as the freedom that I had back when I met him slowly eroded away, bit by bit, as he changed from mellow partner to control freak. It wasn't until the last two years that I really began to realize how under his thumb I was living, and how much I resented it. I grew to fear him and the constant underlying tension in the house. Now that I'm gone, of course he misses me. Wants me back in the worst way, even though he knows I never will return. Sure he wants me back, he lost his mother and has to take care of himself for the first time in 45 years!
Sad really, 'cuz underneath it all, I love the man, or at least the memories of the way it was when we began. I'm glad we can stay friends, it's the way I want it, even though that's sometimes hard for other friends to understand. Life is too short to hate. It's easier now to remember the good times, because after a visit to the farm I have the freedom to turn and walk away.

April 15, 2009
And just look... I DID MAKE IT! :-) Just one year after those posts were written, I was engaged to John, spending weekends with him painting our new house and preparing to move to Odessa to begin a new chapter of my life. It still seems impossible! I never would have believed my life could turn in such a positive direction. God has given me everything that I wanted, and so much more!

Now another year has passed. We have settled comfortably into the routine of married life. I live in a house that we have made into a home together and I like it very much. I have a good job that I like most days with none of the b.s. I encountered in the previous one. I live in a good city with all the amenities. We are financially able to make ends meet and still enjoy a few fun activities and indulge in the occasional visit to Red Lobster. We are owned by three very spoiled
furkids. Best of all.... I am truly loved and my heart is at peace... it's a wonderful life!

A Little More About Me

First off, I want to tell you that Josie isn't my real name. Well it is, but not exactly. From a previous blogging experience on My Space, I learned that a little anonymity is necessary to protect myself from the curiosity of co-workers, relatives, and back-stabbers. I'm also known by a couple other names, familiar to some of you. Last names... I've had four of those along the way, starting with a good, solid German one at birth. I'd like to choose a new last name, something that has meaning in my life rather than just denoting me as the property of one man or another. So Josie "Two Shoes" it is - for standing on my own two feet. :-)

I was born and raised in the Midwest, with snow a possibility for eight months of the year, and mosquitoes big as hummingbirds (well, almost)... and how they loved me! Still, in my heart, that will always be home. I've lived a few other places since then, and have been settled in the Great Southwest for the past 27 years now.

I live in a town of of roughly 30,000 and it's growing rapidly. That has it's pluses and minuses, one being the doubling of rents due to a severe housing shortage. I found a great duplex, though I can scarcely afford it. It has plenty of windows to flood the rooms with light, a clear view of the sky, and just a seven minute drive to work. What I love most is that it's very quiet and peaceful in my home... at last.

I've worked in an office at the same human services agency for going on eighteen years now, and I am so ready for a change of scenery and function. But after that long I've accrued great benefits and pay, and I haven't found a realistic alternative...yet, still looking.

I have two grown children, a daughter and a son, that live in other states. I don't get to see either of them often, but I'm incredibly proud of them. They've each achieved the goal I most wanted for their lives... good careers as a means to support themselves without the need to depend on anyone else for their survival. My daughter is married to her soul mate, the best son-in-law I could have ever dreamed of. My son isn't quite ready to settle in yet, says he enjoys "his freedom and his money" too much. Makes good sense to me; he'll know when the time comes.

My furkids (cats to those of you who've never been owned by one)... I had six, three that lived inside and three that were born and live outside. The most painful part about leaving the rural area where I lived and moving into town, was that there is no place willing to allow pets here, not even one. So my furkids stay at the farm, and I return to visit them at least a couple times a week. I miss them more than I miss my ex, much more. Cats are my passion. If I was allowed, you'd likely read about me in the newspaper someday, one of those "crazy cat ladies" that died and was found in a house with 70 cats. :-)

My philosophy of life has changed radically in recent years. The older I get the more I've come to realize that having many "things" is meaningless if you don't have love. I'm moving toward a life of simplicity and the need for fewer possessions, focusing instead on my mission to love and serve others. My hero (ok, heroine if you must be politically correct) is Mother Teresa, and no, I'm not a Catholic. She lived her life in a way that few can even hope to emulate; her philosophy was to "do small things with great love". Now it's my philosophy too. I think that we too often overlook the power that the smallest actions on our part can have in uplifting someone else... a smile, a hug, a compliment, a note of encouragement... it can make all the difference. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and it has a ripple effect that spreads into infinity.

I guess that's it, if there's anything else you'd like to know... just ask! By the way, you'll see a "..." fairly often in my posts. It's my way of expressing myself in writing. I nearly drove my English teachers crazy. I write the way I think and speak, fast and in a dozen directions at once, pausing (...) only to come up for a breath of air. Don't be surprised if now and then a sentence or idea trails off into nowhere. It only means my mind has wandered off again, and forgot to finish what I was saying in the first place. :-) Smileys...yeah, I love them too! :-) And I'm so very glad that Blogger has spellcheck, my fingers never seem spell the way I tell them too!

By Way of Introduction

It seems some sort of introduction is in order. A few months back, after years of struggling with the realities of the relationship I was in, I made the decision to end my thirteen-year marriage and move out on my own. As decision proceeded to actuation emotions ran high and the situation grew intense. Looking back now, I'm amazed I got through those days, amazed I found the courage to finally say "enough". It hasn't been an easy journey since then. I'm still settling in and coming to terms with the realities of what of my new life will be. My emotions have been all over the place and I've found it difficult to communicate, even with the handful of people who have been a tremendous source of love and encouragement. That has always been my way... when life gets hard I hide. But I'm feeling the need to start reaching out again, to reconnect with life and those I love. Living is a process, day-by-day steps on a path toward fulfilling our spiritual destinies. This blog is my way of sharing that journey, since none of us travel alone. We are all related and here to help each other along the way.