Thursday, April 23, 2009


I dreamed the other night:
Some sort of commune—sort of like the old Columbia Park. People without much money, including me.
I have a daughter who has disappeared. A family has helped me—one reminds me of a woman, Courtney, at Scott’s school. She & her husband live close to the water supply where people fetch their water. My daughter disappeared long ago. One day I’m approached by a little girl who says she has something to tell me. I’m getting the water, talking with the man. So I ask the girl to wait. She begins to cry. I walk with the man and see that they live on the edges of a large park that I’d not known was there. Rather dry and sparse, but on a sort of hillside.

The girl turns out to be a daughter I lost, probably while getting water long ago. I hadn’t recognized her but now I do with joy. This man has something to do with it? Seems glad.

I had an image that Ego is like a shark: needs to keep swimming in order to survive. It needs to feel itself positively engaged, usually by pushing or pulling against something. And it's profoundly uneasy at stillness.

Self-accusation has been my method for "moving forward". It is my equivalent of pushing, or pulling against something. I've not realized in my soul that I can also rest on the surface of the water--I can spread myself over it and allow it to hold me up. This is the empty space between the spokes, the silence between the notes.

As Lori said in the comments of my last post, Ego has a positive intent--to protect me, to help me to get what I want.

She also sent me a link to a brief article by an author/parenting coach named Scott Noelle. He described a process by which a desire becomes a 'should'. This is because of the influence of 'dominator culture' which frames everything in terms of 'right' or 'wrong'. This is not necessarily a problem when 'shoulds' are in alignment with our own goals and values anyway. It becomes problematic because it robs us of our freedom of choice. We have left the realm of Choosing and entered the prison of Must (or Must Not). (Humankind seems susceptible to this culture, and unfortunately has the tendency to create one-upmanship--"I'm doing what I 'should' better than you"--which creates food, parenting, religion, breast-feeding nazis).

I'm reading one of Martha Beck's books, The Four Day Win (End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace). She explains how the traditional weight-reduction diet is doomed to fail because of the spiraling dynamic it sets up within a person. Prohibition ("should/should-not") creates desire/compulsion. A dictator is created, along with an insurgency. A lapse (which is inevitable) strengthens the prohibition (as well as shame and self-loathing), and the intensity of the rebellion. Many of us spend our lives this way, in parallel versions expanded beyond the theater of weight.

Exposing the role of accusation and trial in my life to the light of day seems to have unlocked the doors to allow her, the lost 'daughter', to emerge. How interesting that I didn't recognize her at first. She had been gone for so long, it seems, that I'd habituated to missing her, so I didn't even register her absence any more.

I wonder if her emergence has anything to do with having seen the lawyer on Friday; if the other insights were preparing the ground and seeing the lawyer was a sort of trigger?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Someone is trying to kill me

I had a dream. I was in a white-water kayak and I was on a river. The river was swift, but did not contain rapids, at least not on the stretch I was supposed to boat. I was out ahead of my friends and swept right past the take-out. In my pleasure I'd ignored it. And ahead was a bend in the river and the roaring sound and a hint of white that told me there were standing waves. The next thing I know I'm on the bank, in a woods, and I'm having a head-slapping moment: "Oh yeah. I didn't make a plan for transporting the boat and myself back upriver! How could I have missed that!" That feeling is sharpened by the realization that I am keeping waiting people I was supposed to meet at the take-out, now upstream of me. I return to the boat, trying to work my way upriver by using the eddies, or areas of slack current adjacent to the bank. I see that I am in the midst of downed timber, floating alongside me. I have a vague feeling of alarm, and I can hear the voice of an old boyfriend saying "I don't do anything around logs."

The dream reminded me of kayaking trips. My mind was flooded with an image of me, in a boat, people waiting downstream of a tricky rapid to negotiate, and me, paralyzed with fear. Me, terrified of that first moment of commitment, because I'm not at all certain I have the skill to thread that needle, not get turned sideways and breeched, the force of the water bending the boat and breaking my legs. Or pinned underwater, knowing I'm beyond help and that I will feel the water flood my lungs when I can no longer resist the imperative to inhale. Worse, I'm afraid that my own fear will cause me to seize up and therefore fail to make the hair-trigger decisions that are required to be effectively responsive.

Not that I was ever in a situation that was quite so dramatically desperate. I'm afraid my over-active imagination is biased toward worst-case scenarios (which has worsened since having kids).

Still, I thought I'd examine that moment of recoil, where I feel myself on the brink of something and draw back in horror. For a split second I feel a ghost of the actual experience, of what something would feel like in my body--the moment I launch, of terror, the moment of surrender, the moment of knowing that this is my last.

All that was based on a belief that I couldn't count on myself. That in a moment where a split-second decision was required I'd be unable to deliver. Fearing fear itself, and fearing the self who fears.

Basically, I believed that self was trying to kill me. And I suddenly realized that in a way my life has been based on this belief that left to its own devices, my self would ruin everything I cherish, cause me to make bad choices, could never be happy and would make endless demands that would drive whatever I wanted away from me.

I tried to outwit her. I tried to subvert her with positive affirmations, with censoring "negative" thoughts, of censoring desire thoughts. I blamed her for everything from relationships that went badly to picking the slow line at the grocery store.

So who was trying to kill whom?

I realized as I mulled this over that the paralyzing fear at the top of a rapid was not an effort of a subversive self to keep me from functioning optimally. It was as loud and clear a message as possible that I didn't have the skills I needed to negotiate that problem. Rather than trying to kill me, she was mutinying against what she must have perceived as me trying to kill her.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Baby step

Took one Friday. Now I wonder how long I'll hang out here.

"It's just preliminary" I kept telling myself. "This is just a consultation."

I told Gary I was going, and I told him the appointment time. I told him it was recommended that we come in together, but if he wished he could go on his own another time. He said he thought this was something he should attend with me. I told him that he needed to find a time in his schedule that would work for him and let me know so I could reschedule.

He did not, so I kept the appointment by myself on Friday.

I wonder how many people sit outside the door of a legal office, reflecting that they'd never imagined themselves walking through that door. I walked inside to a comfortable setting with shelves of books about low-conflict divorce, single parenting.

The lawyer I met with is an ex-litigator. He said he'd had his fill of court-mediated divorce and preferred this model instead. "This model" has a name called 'collaborative divorce' and it exists to help couples avoid going to court. Within the collaborative divorce model are 3 sub-models: kitchen table, mediation, attorney collaboration.

In 'kitchen table', the couple is handed paperwork, they come to their agreements on their own, fill out the forms and the firm shepherds the filing through the legal system. $3000.

Three thousand dollars? And that's the budget option? Man, filling out the legal forms and filing must be a really onerous task to make it worth paying someone $3,000 to do it for you.

So how much are the other two models?

The second model is where the couple negotiates through a mediator. The mediator is a neutral party and helps facilitate the conversation with the goal of "each person finding their own point of fairness" and getting those points together where they can be agreed upon.

He said that going the mediation route often ends up costing about as much as the collaborative model which is where each couple has legal representation and so there are four people in the room working out the terms. He gave a cost estimate of between $7 and $15,000.

Mediation ends up costing as much as legal representation because working through a mediator tends to be a very slow process.

But litigation can cost somewhere in the range of $30K and upward.

Who can afford to get a divorce? Legal separation costs the same; it can be converted to a divorce if done within 2 years after the separation; otherwise the process and expense are repeated.

As I mulled over all this later, it occurred to me that the expenses are incurred by the lawyers' hourly rate. Dave's rate is $275, and I'm not sure if it's the same if he's acting as mediator, or if he's acting as my (or Gary's) attorney. So the costs are proportional to the extent that a couple can stay focused on business and not meander into fighting and blaming--on attorney-paid time.

So, theoretically, in a perfect world, a couple could come to their agreements on their own, get and fill in and file the papers themselves, and it will only cost the $381 filing fee? So: $381 or $15,000+--your choice!

I walked away from the meeting with the contours and shape of the process a little less hazy. I also walked away with a slim but dense notebook with the paperwork needed for the kitchen table divorce. If nothing else that will help me see more clearly the minutiae of what needs to be settled between us.

Our 17th anniversary was Saturday.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mother's boy

Shortly after writing my last sentence in yesterday's blog, I visited another. The post was about the author's brother and sister-in-law getting a divorce after 15 years of marriage and 3 children.

I felt a little shaky with my own (anonymously) public declaration; and reading the post reminded me that there's a whole community out there who is going to be affected by the ripples of going through with this.

I pictured myself going in to the offices, saying the words, "I want a divorce". Such cognitive dissonance; in my imagination I couldn't pair myself with those words.

It's just a preliminary consult. It's just seeing what the options are, and the legal framework--familiarizing myself with the contours of the process. A couple weeks ago I confided my anxiety about action vs inaction to Sharon. I've been telling the few people in real life who are privy to this that I've not taken action so far because 'I can't see my way forward', or, 'I'm waiting for a path to open up to give me some indication how to proceed.' Were those just excuses? I wondered. Sharon suggested that it's valid and important to be moving toward something, not just away-from. She suggested that I do something to satisfy the urge toward action, while being alert for guidance. In other words, do action and inaction together.

I felt comforted in the validation that I need to see the next step ahead of me before I take it. It freed me from the feeling that I was being cowardly in not moving yet...freed me from the sensation of being pushed from behind toward something I know I'm going to do anyway, but need to do according to my own signals and instincts.

Then I had a dream. In the dream a gun had come into our house and I didn't know how it had gotten there. It was on a table in the dining room. I'd already admonished Scott that he was not to touch it. I'd assumed that my saying would have the same effect as actual physical removal. Even in the dream there was an awareness that this was foolishness: the sight of something compelling for Scott would obliterate the memory of any flimsy verbal prohibitions. And sure enough, he was out in the yard with it, a loaded handgun. I felt myself cross that "That's IT" line. It was my "running out in the street" moment--sort of the classic justification of a parent being so freaked out by a child's headlong rush to the street that they express their fear and relief in physical punishment. Scott having disobeyed me and taking the gun was my "That's IT". I took him in the house and placed him on the bed and began to hit him. Only I couldn't. It was as if gravity curved, or there was a repellent magnetic charge around him. My blows merely fell to the sides of him. Or, if I did manage to penetrate the 'shield', by the time my hand reached his skin all the force had been bled out of it.

So is there any significance to having had this dream shortly after reaching a feeling of peace in not taking positive action? Something in our house is deadly dangerous for him, and by extension, all of us. Is that 'something' our marriage?

So we're riding home in the car yesterday after I picked him up from school. "Mom, a 'teacher's pet' is when someone listens to their teacher and does what they ask, right?"

"Well, being respectful to your teacher isn't necessarily being a teacher's pet." (frantically trying to come up with the distinction: 'kiss-ass' is really not an appropriate explanation). "A teacher's pet is someone who's trying to get the teacher to like them--" (no, no, no. That's not it).

"So someone the teacher likes is a teacher's pet?"

(shit) (Will he understand the idea of 'manipulation?') "Well, someone who tries to get the teacher to like them by tattling on someone else, that's kind of being a teacher's pet."


"Yes, Scott."

"What's a 'mother's boy'?"


"Well, it's a man who hasn't grown away from his mother yet..." (lame, lame)

"You mean he loves his mother?"

"Well" (floundering gracelessly), " it's more like he is his mother" and more such stumblings, trying to articulate, on the fly, the concepts of differentiation and appropriate level of need. "A man can love his mother and that doesn't mean he's a mother's boy."

"You mean he loves his mother too much?" (AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!)

"Well, maybe it means he needs his mother too much. You know, a baby needs his mother all the time, and then when he's one he doesn't need her so much; when he's 5 he doesn't need her as much, when he's 7, when he's 11, and when he's grown-up he doesn't need her anymore at all even though he still loves her. (God, please don't let me be implicitly saying that a boy who loves and needs his mother is a mother's boy!) "A mother's boy needs his mother like a baby needs his mother when he should be all grown up."

While still struggling to refine the abstract concept down into some words that are easily digested by a 7-yr-old, he signaled that the subject was closed: "I don't want to talk anymore."

God knows what I've planted, or fertilized in his mind. I just hope I didn't mess up too badly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another step in the progression


Darlene (my mother-in-law) finally left. I can’t help but feel that ‘leave’ must be sticking out of me. After a certain amount of time, always long before she’s ready to go, I’m ready for her to leave.

She invited me to go to two things with her. One a tour of the construction site of the new headquarters for a charity she supports with a reception afterwards at Kell’s; April 30, and then something in May, some sort of “Hunger Hero” dinner or awards or some such. Perhaps I should have just said no and gotten it over with. But I opted for the coward’s way out which is to call tomorrow when I know she’s in church and say no then.

The bottom line is I don’t want to do it with her.

It was nice of her to invite me. It was nice of her to offer these gifts. I don’t feel ‘yes’ though in accepting them. I feel no. It would make me sick to think of the prospect of attending that tour/reception with her. I would dread it for weeks


Anyway, I did call, taking the coward’s way out, and left the message with Darlene telling her thanks but no thanks to her invitations. And I was honest about the causes not being something that reflects my own investment or interest, and so I don’t want to go.

I’m glad to have it over with, politely refusing Darlene. When I was thinking about it last night, I realized that should any of my friends asked me to go to those events I probably would have said no to them too because they’re not things I have an emotional stake in right now. As far as I know, invitations are not mandatory, otherwise they’re not really invitations. They’re meant to be voluntary, and refusal is an ok option.


Which is the other thing I wanted to write about: the feeling in my body which is a response to having refused her invitation.

I feel lighter, and maybe elated. The feeling of elation I’m aware of as a bit problematic for the ‘older’ me. The ‘old-pattern’ me, I guess is a more accurate description.

First, I do feel some compassion and responsibility for the person that she is who possibly is feeling hurt. Who made herself vulnerable in extending the good will to invite me, and who has made other overtures. Accompanying this the sense of responsibility toward her: shouldn’t I just go ahead and see her every so often in order to preserve her feelings? Just to be nice, kind? Do I owe that to her?

Gary conflated my refusal of this invitation with the (probably correct) notion that I will not do anything with her one-on-one, ever. “Never??” he said.

Because technically, saying no to an invitation to an event I’m not really invested in does not mean ‘no forever’. In a sense though I kind of feel that that’s the context that is coloring this. I suspect she sees it that way too. There is cover for her, in that she can tell herself that it’s as I said: I’m not really interested in this event and so choose to not go. Then just not make any more invitations. Prior to this it had been a long time since she’d made one; invited me out to lunch—a year and a half ago or so, to celebrate one of my birthdays. It was before Christmas and I think I said perhaps after the start of the new year and then we just never broached it again. So we can treat this the same way, and she won’t have to confront the truth explicitly: that I really don’t want to engage with her any more than we are now.

So, the feeling inside as I wrote that is part of what I thought bears looking at. I suppose there is a certain schadenfreude element (I just looked it up: “malicious joy at the misfortune of others”). That definition sounds pretty ick. Not to be proud of, and a pretty mean way to feel.

I didn’t say no to be mean, although I guess the fact that I feel a kind of liberation, an undeniably pleasurable feeling, and it’s in context of a person I don’t particularly like—I could label that feeling meanness. I would have been consumed with tail-chasing self-doubt before. It’s legitimate to feel liberated whereas before I felt chained. Chained to some notion of politeness that demands the necessary hypocrisies of periodically swallowing my ‘no’ feelings and doing something I really don’t want to do. Pretend to like her and go to lunch, or any other event she wants to go to. Doubt myself and my mean spirit, wondering if I’m ‘clinging to things past’, and if the ‘things past’ are ‘just’ misinterpretations I have and have magnified in my mind (because I’m just the kind of person who’d do that), accuse myself of being childish; try to overrule the negative feelings and ‘focus on the positive’. Yeah, that all feels familiar. As does the insistence of the magnetic pull toward the feeling of no. Trying to banish it.

There is often the feeling with her that refusing something she offers is not acceptable and it will hurt her feelings if you don’t ‘accept’. That gives me the inkling that when she got my message she took it as ‘no forever’ and is hurt/angry.

It feels explosive to consider that I might feel pleasure in association with that. It feels charged, and like I want to step away and deny it. Because I don’t want to be a person who feels pleasure at the pain I’ve inflicted on someone else.

I think where the pleasure comes from is that I no longer feel sentenced. Under the social convention of politeness I’m required to go through the motions with her. I’m required to see her an acceptable number of times socially. I’m required to at least act like I want to. Under those ‘rules’ I’m always vulnerable to her whims, ‘required’ to accept her ‘generosity’. And feeling free to tell the truth now—and indeed if she presses this with me I will tell her the truth: I feel no inclination to engage with her any more than I already do.

I think she may know this.

And I’m more aware of the process by which pure feeling becomes contaminated by thought, and all that it sets off. And again, the accusation model fits. That I would feel a sense inside that’s positive when I consider having refused an overture—and having told the truth in doing it, not leading her on—it’s often followed so quickly by a thought that the feeling and thought get fused. The thought is that I am taking pleasure in her pain, that I’m being mean to “someone who only wants to reach out to me”, that I’m taking malicious joy, and that I’m trying to deny it or call it something else in an effort to rationalize it. Well, I’m going to settle the matter out of court. It is legitimate to feel a sense of liberation, as well as a sense of having been True to mySelf, and refusing to be apologetic. And, having felt under her thumb for some time, as indeed I have been when playing by the rules of her perspective, there is some glee in being out from under. I suppose a childish part of me wants to stand outside the boundary of the fence and ‘nyah nyah’ the junkyard dog, and perhaps there’s an element of that in me too. But even thinking it, I act as if she’s present and I’m doing it. And I censor myself. So fearful about pride coming before a fall. That if I allow a little triumphalism inside of me at this that on some energetic level it’s the same as doing it to her face. I feel the impulse and I reign it in, even in the privacy of my own thoughts.

I’m reminded of the concept of ‘winning’, which I guess is what triumphalism suggests to me. And that scares me a little, because in the past when I’ve allowed myself to have such a feeling somehow she’s pulled a feint at the end and I’ve felt like I lost. That’s why I shy away from the feelings that resemble triumphalism. It’s easy to conflate liberation with triumphalism, I guess. Yet, it’s the Truth that I feel that very force inside of me…that is aware that in refusing to play anymore there is a kind of victory. So my next step in the thought is that true triumphalism is rubbing someone’s nose in it, and forcing them to admit they’re beaten. I see that this is possible inside me; and I feel a sort of accusation forming about it. It comes in the form of a prohibition: I cannot even let myself picture in my brain the satisfaction of ‘winning’, knowing I’ve ‘won’, and knowing SHE knows I’ve ‘won’.

Those have always seemed like such dangerous thoughts, forbidden thoughts. The fear is that if I think them they’re true. And confirm a Really Bad Place inside me.


I've called and set up a consultation appointment with an attorney who specializes in collaborative divorce. I told Gary that he is free to come with me, or not.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Presumption of guilt

I wonder if "The Trial" that Kafka wrote about was allegorical, a story of his inner life. Now I'm hesitant to reference him, because I find I'm not sure: was the Trial always pending? In the story was he actually on trial, or was he merely awaiting it as he tried in vain to discover what the charges even were?

A good deal of my life has been within a trial context. I've been the police (a 24 hr guard I imposed on myself in attempt to preempt any transgressions, or at least intervene before anyone else felt they had to: to even have my behavior corrected was cause for great shame.), prosecutor, judge. I've even been a (weak) defense attorney. Evidence is presented, and attempts to cast doubt on witnesses for my defense are employed. To prejudice an already prejudiced jury. Motives are examined minutely.

I've wanted to fire my defense attorney, who seems befuddled and fragmented in his (I call it 'he'? ???) thinking and can't present coherently a reasoned argument. I need him to convince a jury, and he seems unable.

It just now occurs to me that the field has so been tipped toward guilty that it doesn't really matter what the defense attorney comes up with. I'm imagining a field so tipped that the witnesses on my behalf, and my attorney, and I are clinging to it , even dangling from it. Something has never quite let me just let go, though, and completely believe the accusations. Still, it's kind of hard living suspended like this, amid the fears that maybe the accusations are in fact, true.

To be moving toward a life that's on a more level playing field brings a chorus of objections:

"Without the presumption of guilt you will run amok! You'll throw your weight around! You'll be a bully! You won't meet your obligations to your friends and family! You'll be abusive! You'll absolve yourself from your own mistakes and give yourself permission to do and say stuff that you'd think unforgivably rude if other people did it!"

As if I have a gorilla, or a Ms. Hyde in a closet somewhere that this presumption of guilt is employed to keep restrained.

What a curious thing; presumption of guilt as an organizing principle of a personal universe. It seems almost as fundamental as whatever mysterious forces are the organizing principle of the particles of matter that make up our physical universe.

How in the world do you undo that?

What are your underlying principles? How do you see the world and how do your own underpinnings influence that?

I'm very curious.