Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘marriage’

Killing Me Softly

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People ask what prompted me to write a 430-page novel where I kill off the protagonist, the antagonist, the villain, many secondary characters, and a big ol’ list of walk-ons. Over and over again. Well, to answer the question, I have had the kind of experiences that prompted me to write that novel – a nasty, in your face, go to hell novel where someone gets killed off every 30 pages of the manuscript. You are laughing. I can hear you. Right now you are laughing because you are imagining me doing this. Yes, someone gets killed off every 30 pages in the manuscript.

A pivotal experience kicking up this urge to smack a character started kindly enough. I was explaining to a friend about my first husband. Saying the usual stuff.

“We married young.”

“The marriage went as far as it could go.”

“He is basically a good man and we had a lot of fun for a while.”

Truth be told, I was a tad relieved when my first husband moved to Chicago after we divorced. I felt a sense of freedom and let’s get on with life. The divorce happened in the middle of my master’s program at a state university. So I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and took out a loan to get through the last year. It wasn’t too horrible sleeping on a friend’s pullout sofa. What is it about that bar in the middle of the mattress? And why did I always creep towards the bottom of the bed to get my feet tangled up in the metal frame? I learned to like cereal – I will never love it. I reframed the first union as “a starter marriage,” one that should be respected, where I learned many skills essential to my second marriage. Overall I felt really good about the first marriage until the day when I learned how he explained the end of the marriage.

He said I had died. Yes, I had died.

At a coffee shop, I ran into one of his business colleagues. She looked stunned. She stammered. I kept talking until I ran out of words. She was quiet. We looked at each other. She didn’t blink so I didn’t either.

“What’s up?” I asked with a wide-eyed smile.

“Uh. You’re still alive.” Her eyes were as round as the saucers under our café au laits.

“Yeah. I think so.” I blinked to show that I was not the Undead (Twilighters will get this reference).

“He told us you died.” Tears filled her eyes.

“What?” Massive blinking on my part.

“D*** told us you died then he moved to Chicago.” She hiccupped spilling tears.

“You’re kidding?” I blinked with my mouth open stopping just before I drooled.

“No.” Both of us sat down. I shrugged, stopped blinking and drank some cold coffee. I shook my head from side to side.

I thought I may need to rethink my understanding of my first marriage. I called Social Security to check if he had accessed any death benefits. I called the advertising agency in Chicago, explained who I was and the first words out of his colleague’s mouth were, “I thought you had died.”

“No. Not yet,” I said into the phone.

I tracked him down to his house in California using the Internet. During a series of phone calls to ad agencies, I explained my live status. One person hung up the phone. Another person dropped the phone. It was hilarious. If I was dead, did I need health insurance? Would I need to pay taxes?

So that is where I get my comfort with a plot full of characters who return from the dead, again and again and again. To tell their story. Yet again.

 

 

20 Pounds or Happiness

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Everybody is exquisite. Truly, stunningly beautiful.

I keep learning one concept over and over again. As a counselor, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist, a writer, and in my own life.

This week, I am collaborating to combine story with photographs. Sunday afternoon at Barnes and Noble, I was sitting with the photographer discussing our model choice for the project.

“Wow she’s lovely.”

“Yes very photogenic.”

“And she’s athletic.”

“Yeah, the long torso implies that she was a gymnast. Bone plates shortened.”

“The other model has longer legs … “

“Let’s use both. Different looks.”

“The differences will spark more ideas.”

We grinned at each other. Two people in their 50s, feeling great about our work and about being able to see the possibilities, sweet possibilities of two very different body types. I went to get some lemonade. Walking back to our table, the beauty of every person in the store stole my breath away. I teared up. We could have used any person in the store. A cascade of memories followed the joyful epiphany.

I thought back to my first husband, initially an art director, now directing TV commercials. He was so very persnickety about how each feature of the model had to line up with his vision. I left the marriage for many reasons but there was a defining moment for me one night.

I never felt good enough, pretty enough with him. He was always checking out other women. I always felt lacking stacked against his model choices. A big issue was my weight.

“You could have made it as a model if you lost 10 pounds,” he said repeatedly.

After seven years of this, I snapped.

“I am a size 8 not a size 4. Get over it. I have other things to do with my life than live up to your celluloid ideal of beauty.”

He had stepped back. I hadn’t yelled but stated the words with a flat and factual voice.

Something changed after that. From then on, I did not let him take my power nor define me. Read that sentence again. The important words were, “I DID NOT.” The power dynamics shifted in our marriage – based upon a realization of my own worth. I wanted to be in relationship with someone who saw the beauty of the entirety of me.

After years of practicing compassion, I came to the conclusion that we had loved each other as best we could at that point in our lives.

I met my second husband when I was working my way through graduate school. Uncharacteristically, I was a size 4. I dated Rod for four years. He did not judge me; he would gently point out when I was judging him. I had unconsciously incorporated the behaviors of my first husband. With much effort, I learned to accept all the parts of him, not to judge him based on one aspect of his being.

A year before our marriage, two things happened. First, I became very ill. Treatment included medications that added twenty pounds to my body.

Second, I had to get a copy of some divorce-related papers from my first husband. The phone call to my ex went something like this.

“I don’t know where the papers are,” he said.

“Well if you remarried, they are probably near your marriage certificate. In a lock box? A file?”

“Oh yes, I remarried. You should see her. She’s young, beautiful and stylish.”

“Aaah. This is why we divorced,” I yelled.

Not my most graceful moment as I took the phone and beat it against the strong metal desk bringing my fiancé rushing into the room. He took the phone from my sweaty palm, said to my ex, “Call back when you have the papers. We’re getting married soon so we need the papers.”

Two years later, on our first anniversary, when I was well and had shed most of the 20 pounds, I felt I could ask my second husband, “Why didn’t you say anything when I gained the weight?”

“What would it have helped? Anyway that’s not all of who you are.”

I didn’t know what to do with his statement of acceptance and love.

Now I know what to do. With every person, I look for his or her one, at least one, beautiful attribute. My heart meets them from that place whether I say something about it or not.

This week, I will thank our models for their courage in showing themselves to us. I will bring them water, sandwiches, pasta, fruit, and brownies – their choice.

Love Without Words

earring 2Sometimes words are unnecessary. Such a weird thing for a writer to say. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, I want to remember what it is to be in love, astoundingly, courageously, heart in my mouth, love. When I started thinking about this post, a series of images took flower in my heart, bittersweet, opening my eyes to how lonely life had been for years.

Nineteen years ago, I went to dinner at what was for us, a fancy restaurant. After ten years together, finally finished with my graduate schooling, Rod had scraped together enough money to go for our first Valentine’s Day dinner out.

I was excited, toe-tingling, searching my closet for something pretty to wear, putting on uncomfortable lingerie, excited. After an hour of primping, usually I’m done in 30 minutes, 45 if I have to deal with animals; my hair looked okay, eye make-up subtle, mouth a bright red for the holiday, my husband walked into the bedroom. I thought how happy I was to be married to a man I adored … and who was so handsome. Thick black hair shot through with silver, soft kissable mouth, green eyes lively with intelligence and humor.

Before we left, we stood looking at each other. If there were words, they weren’t memorable. We drove to the restaurant in his beat-up Corvette. For five courses, smiles and eye contact were our form of communication. Words would have muddled the time. Before dessert, Rod reached into his pocket to pull out a box. Without breaking our gaze, he presented the box across the table. Opening the box, I found a pair of garnet earrings bound in silver wire – these from a man who professed a disbelief in gifts. Silently, I put them on. They were small rectangles of a soft red, the color of blood. Plates of berries and cream interrupted our contented sighs. After a final glass of champagne, we tootled the mile back to our house.

Immediately, I felt sick. Running to the bathroom, I vomited raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cream all over the bathroom. Rod got a pillow for my knees and held my long curly hair out of my face. The projectile berries created quite a firework display covering the bathroom floor, the walls, and me with blotches of red, purple, blue and pink.

Between explosions, I said to Rod, “I’m so sorry. I was excited about the night and now I have a whoopsie tummy.”
He ran towels under water ands started to wipe off my face. Another explosion of berries.
“Not a problem. What an ending to the night,” he said.
“I ruined it,” I said tears mixing with the stains on my face. Caring for me like I was a sick baby, Rod took my clothes off, chucking them in the trash, wiped clean my body with cool towels, and scooped me up.
“You are a mess,” Rod said laying me in the bed.
“Yes, but a mess who loves you with all her heart,” I said.
Rod put a wastebasket by the side of my bed and a washcloth on the nightstand. “Just in case. I’m right here.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. And you are my mess.”
I took out the earrings to wake up with them still held in my hand.

Less than three weeks later, Rod contracted a virus. His heart bled out.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you can use action to show someone how much you love them. Celebrate their foibles, little quirks, and whoopsie tummies. I am going to wear my garnet earrings in remembrance of love.

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