One week into the new year and I am steeped in calm. This is an almost overwhelmingly new feeling for me. It's been building for some time. I have remained relatively unflappable in the face of a very difficult work year. Perhaps flappability can only be aimed in one direction at a time and my life with my children without my husband had me 'flapped' in the last 16 months. The chaos on the personal side brought a new and welcome objectivity and serenity to my approach to work. Who has room in their heart and brain for chaos all around? Which doesn't mean I didn't care. I care. I care a lot. But I could look challenge square in the eye, weigh the pros and cons of various approaches and decide. I could tackle contentious professional relationships with the maturity of... well, of a recently divorced mother of two who knows what really matters.
So as my personal life has calmed - the hurt hurts less, the sting of failure transforms into the hope of a new opportunity for happiness, the guilt diffuses and is replaced with the knowing that every stone was turned in this particular marriage and the loneliness subsides and is taken over by sheer gratitude to be able to hear one's own thoughts (for more on this read Dominique Brownings great piece in the NYT today called Alone Again, Naturally... far better put than I could put it myself) - the work calm Jen has infused the real life Jen's approach. (Boy that was too long of a sentence. My apologies.) What I'm saying is this. My life blew up. I handled work with aplomb. What choice did I have, really? I got seriously objective and calm in the face of any storm while I waged the stormy waters at home. And now, I have brought that learned calm to my personal life. Whew. I should have started there.
Finding a lovely, fun, funny, charming and caring man to share dinners, days at the beach (however freezing a Northern California beach may be), movies and conversation with doesn't hurt. I truly had no idea the peaceful ballast that a relationship can actually provide. We are only three months in. We've had minor hiccups. But they were hiccups that could have been major belches that perhaps led to vomiting if not handled with tenderness. An example: he felt uncomfortable that I was reluctant to share our burgeoning relationship with my kids just yet. I understood his discomfort. But that discomfort was not enough for me to violate my own. In the past, I would have put my discomfort aside. I would have done what made HIM comfortable. Which is fine sometimes. But not all the time. It can only lead to resentment long term. It was important for me to be strong in my assertions: Not Now. I am not ready. This was tough for me. But I did it. I shared that we were simply going to each have to be Ok with the fact that we were both a bit uncomfortable right now. And keep going. He accepted that.
I also explained my growing concern that there was an ultimatum waiting for me around every dark corner. This was particularly difficult for me to say. It sounds mean. I don't want to be mean. I assumed the response would be anger. A snap back. Defensiveness. Nope. Here's what I got: That must feel awful. I don't want you to feel that way. Huh? Who are you and what have you done with your manly need to strike back with equal parts venom? Not that I was spewing venom, but I'm accustomed to being perceived as a nasty venom spewer. And I've been one at times, no doubt.
This response was a clincher for me. We had a rocky conversation. We both heard each other. We both stayed very calm despite not necessarily getting the answers that made us each more comfortable. And we agreed - at my request - to not talk about the state of the relationship for a bit. Rather to just have it. We agreed on 6 weeks which we've not really adhered to. But the mere act of taking the foot off of that gas pedal has actually, somehow, magically, accelerated the relationship car. Terrible analogy. I apologize. Boy I'm a mess today with the linguistic stylings.
Point here is he adds to the peace and calm I feel. He doesn't create chaos on the home front. We're not the same in all ways. We're not the same in a lot of ways. He's a science-y, computer-y, bird watching self-avowed nerd that likes living in the woods and who prays several times a day. He has three sweet, intelligent kids who all seem a bit younger than their years. He's expressive and warm and friendly and likes to laugh. I'm a city girl, with a big shoe collection and two potty mouthed children with sensitive hearts, crazy hair and big giant brains. I am not so great at math, am useless on a computer or with anything IT-y but I am a writer, reader and lover of words and a seriously ambitious driver in my corporate work life. And I am ok with those things. Now. (I was incredibly ashamed of my competitiveness and ambition for a very long time.) It doesn't work because we are the same. It works - in these very early days - because we appreciate the other's differences, want to learn about the things the other is interested in, admire rather than fault certain defining characteristics. If we can maintain that, we might be on to something.
I know better than anyone I'm in no position to call this yet. I was married for 12 years, with him for 17 and was truly deeply in love. It's important to me not to revise history in this regard. It isn't that, in hindsight, I didn't love him. I did. But we had foibles that clashed in a dangerous manner for both of us. And the damage we were doing to each other's psyches was overflowing into our home which had two kids in it. And we made the right choice to end our marriage before more damage was done. I never would have thought that this is what would've happened when I walked down the aisle with him and looked up (way up...he's 6'8") into his eyes at the altar. I was filled with absolute certainty. I had no hesitation on that day. And here I am. See what I knew? Nothing.
I am hyper cognizant now that all I can do is enjoy the day, be kind in the moment, appreciate kindnesses offered back to me. And not predict the future. And I am oh so appreciative of the calm. I won't give it up for anything.