Christmas. Each of the last 5 years has seen such a different state, location and feel.
2010: We were all in Cumbria. 5 of us. A family with a large tree. Presents placed under it after a long night of wrapping. I reeled from the tragedy that had happened when James was killed in June, but still cooked the beef roast.
2011: In California with my brother’s family. We booked a 2 week visit to use up the air miles before they expired. The trip finished with a last minute reconciliation with my mother orchestrated by Colin. Then back to dark Cumbria where it was so dark that we couldn’t recover from jet lag for many, many days.
2012: A three week visit back to California in March became a permanent move. A new job and then all three kids with me in a small apartment. The tree was a small pull up tower in red tinsel. And Colin was on Skype on the iPad with his beanie on in the large, cold house in Cumbria.
2013: We were together in a larger place. I no longer shared a room with Amara. For a while, Colin chose to sleep outside in a sleeping bag while I had my room upstairs. Later he moved to the sofa. At Christmas, he bought me a small gift. I was so annoyed at his reneging on a promise to get a job, any job, that I didn’t bother. Profoundly estranged, I made a New Year’s resolution to free myself from the marriage.
2014: A new beginning in the making.
But maybe I can back up to the beginning of 2014. In the first couple of days of January, my brother, Alec, who is also a family lawyer, helped me file the divorce paperwork. It had been over a year since we’d decided to end the marriage and I needed the legal paperwork to catch up with my reality. Since then Colin has been very difficult to deal with, but still lives under the roof I pay for. So be it. At least I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and, for once, it would not be a train headed for me at speed.
My birthday went well with a walk in the hills and lunch in Palo Alto with the kids. In March, Aidan turned 17 and has enjoyed shooting up in height to leave his sister behind. He has been wrapped up in designing lighting for drama productions all over Santa Clara County. And now he also works at Wing Stop.
Adair was so happy when he discovered the joys of studying subjects he was interested in at Junior College. He started the unlikely family tradition of working at Wing Stop, but has moved on to better paid work elsewhere. And Amara danced her heart out with the
Cupertino High School dance club. She grew even taller (or did I shrink?). A dance competition in Florida was one highlight of the year. I joined her for a marathon 3 day competition and Disney World experience. And came home with very sore feet. When she turned 15 in May, she calmly informed me that she’d be getting her driving permit when she could in 6 months’ time. And she’s due to take her test any day now. And I’m getting very nervous!
But in the background the divorce proceedings continue. Colin has remained in the house, still does not work and we do not talk. In April, the situation really degenerated over money and the net result is that Adair moved out to get away from the stress. He now visits regularly, and he’s safe and happy living with a friend’s family.
I have been active in the Unitarian Church in Palo Alto. This includes participating in the writing group, joining a discussion group, helping out with the Second Sunday lunches. And now, I’m even an usher once a month. One night after the discussion group finished, I asked another person in the group if they’d be willing to watch the movie ‘Noah’ with me. This turned into a couple of movies and then when he brought up working on his career, I piped up that I had a lot of materials on career and life coaching from research I’d been doing at work. I suggest that we could do co-life coaching and so we’d meet at various places to talk through career plans.
To my mind, this was innocuous stuff. I have many male friends and it’s all very platonic. And then one day in June, the world somehow shifted and Joe became much more than just a friend. I’d like to say that I had carefully planned this change in course, but the joke is that I was thinking of a way to find him a nice girlfriend. It just turned out that the girlfriend was me.
We spend lots of time together and in October he moved to a larger apartment around the corner from my house. I wander back and forth: checking on the kids, watering my garden and picking tomatoes, zucchini, bok choi, swiss chard and broccoli which are then split between the two houses. Thank goodness as the kids are all very sick of zucchini. My garden has flowers, too, much to my delight. And I’ve planted bulbs in both gardens, so I’m looking forward to a succession of flowers in the springtime.
My work has also changed dramatically. Brian at the 280 Group called me back to train Product Managers at a large client. I’ve worked with a team of really smart people to update 5 classes and generated some interesting ideas in doing so. Recently, the workload has been huge, but the work is very rewarding, exciting – and, yes, fun. The company is growing and so it’s an exciting place to be.
The kids are busy as teenagers usually are. Adair and Aidan work and go to Junior College. Aidan is in a special program where he takes all his classes there for his last year of high school. Amara has really focused on her studies and her grades are doing much better. I’m very proud of her making some hard adult decisions on how she spends her time. The boys grew up accepting the hard choices that have to be made. Amara has now come of age. And it’s fun to come home to a bunch of often giggling teenagers – most of whom are not mine. In preparation for Amara’s Winter Formal, I spent 5 hours shopping with three girls for their special dresses. It was a privilege to be allowed to participate and give advice – and they all looked beautiful on the night.
After more than 6 months, the kids seem happy and are getting used to the idea of their mom having a boyfriend. The boys talk to him occasionally. And Amara even helped him choose my Christmas present.
So, 2014 started with a desire to move my life beyond my marriage. And I’ve moved so far beyond it that the light I see is one of a new sunrise. I went backpacking for the first time in 20 years. I went skiing again, only this time, there was someone to hold hands with on the lift back up – even with gloves on. I smile during the most mundane of chores that we do together. I am happy.