Paul and I went to a wedding at Luttrellstown Castle during the first weekend in August, which is where Posh & Becks were married 15 years ago.

I love Irish weddings.

The last one we went to was on the west coast, in County Mayo, in an ancient church, in the shadow of Croag Patrick.  It happened to be held in the church where Pierce Brosnan was married, too.  So I’ve made my tour of Irish celebrity wedding venues for the year.  And Paul and I were just about the only two in the whole church who didn’t rise to take communion. Paul, because he doesn’t.  And me, because I’m a divorcee.

This recent wedding, though, was a second marriage.  It was held in a Unitarian Church on St. Stephen’s Green, so I didn’t have to pretend like I’d never been married before. Like it was some dirty secret that I once wore another man’s ring, and had a different last name.  Sometimes, I even feel like I talk about my divorce so much because I’ve now become so conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t talk about having been married. Like how you find you talk about a surprise when you become conscious of the fact that you shouldn’t blow it.

This recent wedding was an Irish-Paraguayan celebration, filled with warmth and colour and all the beautiful, hopeful things a marriage celebration should be.

The other thing I should mention here is that Irish weddings go on forever.  We had arrived at the church at 2pm, and at midnight, when we left the reception, we were among the first to leave.

These days, it seems all I do is go to weddings; send baby gifts.  There was a week earlier this summer when I sent off eleven sets of baby gifts.

I love kids.  I think I want kids.  But sometimes, I feel people forget there is more to a woman’s worth than the hardware on her hand, or the products of her womb.  I have friends who have lost children; who have miscarried; who have struggled with heartbreaking infertility, and I see them shamed, and maligned, and peppered with awful, but often well-intentioned questions that imply they are not trying hard enough.  That they do not have strong enough faith.  That they have done something wrong.

I went through it myself when I had cervical cancer and people said, Can you still have children? Are you still able to have children? What about kids? What does Paul think about kids?  Is Paul okay with what you’re doing to make sure you can still have kids after this?

Oddly, most people’s reaction was not, Thank God they caught your fairly aggressive situation by total accident. Thank God you’re alive.

I will tell you honestly: That was my first reaction. I was focused on the practicalities of what I was dealing with, and I was not really considering Paul’s feelings/future offspring.  My reaction was fundamentally one of: Oh, thank God I’m not going to die. I was thinking about how bad the cancer was; how much I had to lose; whether or not I would survive; how much tissue would be excised; whether would I need a hysterectomy; whether would I need chemo/radiation, etc.

So now, every time I go to a wedding, or someone asks me about kids, I get a bit defensive/annoyed. Even now, I’m sitting here going: Thank God I’m sitting home on a Saturday night, alive enough to write this blog post.

And I’m still baffled that my fantastic education, my great friendships and relationships, my successful career, my travels, the way I have treated others, and my personal happiness were not enough.  At the time, it was as if only my fertility and my partner’s biological aspirations mattered.

With more distance between me and my experience, I still wonder: Am I worth less to you — friends, family, advertisers — because my insides have been hacked up by the surgeon and the only little feet running around my apartment are Roo’s? Every time the Facebook algorithm fills my newsfeed with Amazon Mom ads, and cool kid gadgets that I won’t be buying…I wonder.

Just because I have reached A Certain Age and there is no ring on my finger, and no kid in my arms — it doesn’t mean that I’m invisible.  It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in where you are, or that I’m ignorant of the fact that we’re in different stages and seasons of our lives.  It simply means that what I am doing is right for me, and where I am is okay, and our callings are each worthy of respect and compassion.  That I worked really hard to have the career I have is not…selfish, and my choices are certainly not a referendum on yours. What I’m doing is just…different.

It seems funny that I have to say this; that I have to reassure myself by writing it; by shouting it. That I have to tell it to other people around me: We should all just be supporting each other to the extent that we Feel Okay Doing That and Taking It In, and Minding Our Own Business.

There is a saying that people in recovery use, and I’ll share it here: Take the best and leave the rest.

This year has been an exercise in doing just that.

Recovering from the kind of hip surgery I had is part art, part science, but mostly it is sitting still and following the doctor’s/PA’s/physio’s instructions to the letter.

For someone who a) is incredibly active; b) has run 14 marathons in four and a half years; c) is very fit, this sitting still has been a challenge.  For nearly two weeks post-op, I was spending about 4 hours in this device:

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And then additional time in the ice machine:

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And then trying to fit in physical therapy appointments as well.  It was just so…time consuming.  And some of the therapies were boring.  Four hours of bending?  Come on! But you know what?  I wasn’t in pain.  For the first time in almost a year, I wasn’t in pain! It was amazing.  Boring, time consuming, and amazing!  I’ll take it.

I went back to work in the second week of recovery, and would come home in the evenings and have another 2-4 hours of bending and icing to deal with after working a full day.  I have been marvelling this whole time about how great I feel, but also how much TIME this whole process takes.

Thankfully, my physio allowed me to substitute 20 minutes on my bike for one hour of bending, which has made the timing piece a bit easier.

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Seriously, you guys.  Open a new tab in your browser right now, and buy yourself a spin bike on Amazon.  I got this fancy contraption for less than $300, and it’s just as nice as something you’d ride at the gym.  Very sturdy; very quiet; super easy to put together. When I am fully back in the saddle, I will YouTube some spin routines, or be Sarah’s spin choreography guinea pig (it always helps to have a friend/cousin who is a group fitness instructor!).  But for now, I am using a timer set for 20 minutes on the iPad, and some old episodes of AbFab — which are are just what the doctor ordered.

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I cannot fathom how I went for so long being in so much pain.

I had my stitches out on Monday, and the surgical nurse showed me the photographs the doctor took during the surgery; showed me the placement of the screws in my hip joint; showed me the before-and-after of how they ground down the bone on my femoral head.

You had a lot of work done, the nurse explained, I’ve never seen quite so much inflammation in a joint before — see all that redness?  That’s why it’s so important for you to keep taking the anti-inflammatories.  We’re all shocked and pleased you’re in so little pain.

Not “little” pain.  I’m in NO pain, I said, eyeballing the screen, surprised by the fact of it myself.  I was looking at the redness on the screen; the rawness, and the things that had been hiding inside of me.  I was thinking of Jacob and the angel; of me wrestling with the unknown; of being forever transformed; of what this process has changed in me.

For now, on the doctor’s orders, I am sitting still.  I am taking it easy; I am asking for help; I am taking in support.  I am doing all the things that I never thought I would be able to tolerate or do.  I am recovering in all senses of the word.

I am not in pain and I have never felt quite so good.

At some point, over the last few years, I became one of Those People who carries a big tote bag, and talks about the latest workouts, and drinks her water out of an omnipresent glass water bottle (because BPA is bad), and has Lunches and Dinners and Drinks Things at fancy places.

Basically, I went from being a Garden-Variety Yuppie Asshole to being an Insufferable Yuppie Asshole.

Anyway. This summer has been busy with all the Lunches and Dinners and Drinks Things that are the hallmarks of the Insufferable Yuppie Asshole lifestyle and so last Tuesday, I had my sesquiennial Lunch with Frederic.

It seems that we get together every year and a half or so to “catch up.”

We are different, now, in most ways, and in the fundamental ways, we are still very much the same.  But not…angry anymore.  Not hostile in that way that fuelled our passionate fires.  Now, we are just…friends.

So I had picked the Pool Room for our meet-up, partly because I had graduated to a new level in Yuppie Assholedom, but also because they’ve got this gazpacho that I sometimes dream about.

When the day of our lunch came, I hadn’t washed my hair. I was wearing flats. My skin was breaking out because I was pumped so full of analgesics that I was practically oozing naproxen. There was a time when I would’ve cancelled because I was so afraid that Frederic would see me with so much as a hair out of place.  Now, my skin was erupting like I was 13 and I just didn’t care.

We met in the entrance of the restaurant, and ascended the staircase to the host stand together.  The maitre d’ greeted me by name, probably because I’d made a number of bookings there lately; probably because I eat a lot of gazpacho.

And we were seated for lunch.

I ran out of hair stuff this morning, Frederic confessed, And my shoes broke, so I’m wearing these weird, orthopaedic shoes.

I smiled, and sort-of laughed, because even after knowing each other for so long and having gone through so much together, we still had these idealised versions of each other in our heads.  We were still afraid to be messy, and ugly, and have a spots and unfashionable shoes, and All That.

We stared at each other for a moment.

Are you engaged yet? Frederic asked.  My eyes caught his wedding band, and then flashed down to my own naked marriage finger.

Me? No. Not really in any rush.  We like where we are; not in a hurry to change things.

He nodded.

People ask me that a lot, especially over the last two weeks since Andrew has gotten married: So when are you and Paul going to make it official?

I don’t think either Paul or I feel like we are lacking anything in our lives or our relationship because we aren’t married.  I admire the hardware that the married girls sport, but otherwise, I am pretty ambivalent about That Whole Thing.

Also, I have observed that people seem to feel unhappy in relationships when they believe they must be on some sort of march to the finish.  But I have found one can enjoy people and partners for what they are, where they are, and one need not necessarily be in perpetual motion.

Once I figured that out, I felt a lot more…free.

I guess that was really how I had found myself sitting face to face over gazpacho with a man who had once broken my heart in that punchyouinthegut kind of way.  Back when I believed everything had to go somewhere, interactions between Freddy and me were downright weird.  I could barely tolerate looking at him because I was so devastated about the way things had or hadn’t gone.  But now, we were just two old friends who had been to the front and back, sharing stories; talking about our partners; inquiring as to what had been going on and what came next.

At the end of our meal, the waiter came out with the big plate of cotton candy, which Frederic eyed suspiciously.

Don’t worry, I said, It’s not on the menu, but when they get to know you, then they just bring it to you.  Also, there’s ice cream in the bottom.

And we ate it. That was it.

There was no drama; no high emotional or sexual tension; no massive or horrible news to break.  We were two old friends having lunch.

There had been so many years of grief and loss and fear and fear of loss; so many years in perpetual motion, and now we were just still.  Now we had just run out of hair cream, and had spots on our faces, and were wearing orthopaedic loafers.

It occurred to me, too, that I had spent so many years blaming Frederic for everything – his drinking, his lying, his inability to accept things. It was not until recently that I could bear to accept that I also had to shoulder some of that blame.

We had been friends for nearly a decade. Things between us had never really gone anywhere.  In truth, they really hadn’t had to.  What we were looking for had been in front of us the whole time.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Summer Time Blues | It’s mid-summer and we’ve got the summer time blues.  Tell us how you’re feeling at this mid-summer check in point.  Do you have the summer time blues?  How do snap out of it?  Or if you’re still loving summer, what’s been going great?

If you’ve wondered where I have been, the truth is that I’ve spent my summer studying for securities licensing exams; dealing with a number of intense projects; preparing for hip surgery; having hip surgery. This means that I have been in a haze of learning about municipal bonds and undergoing a ton of physio and weird workouts to prepare for everything that’s been thrown at me.

In other words, I’ve got the summertime blues.  Bad.

Last week was the hideous denouement in my summertime saga: Monday, I came down with shingles; Tuesday, a huge project I’ve spent six months of time on was pulled; Wednesday, I found out Andrew was getting married at the weekend.  It was just a series of Serious Stuff that brought me way, way down.

And, I was scheduled for hip surgery on Monday – which I’ve spent almost a year preparing for, and which shingles threatened to postpone.

It was A No Good, Very Bad Week.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a week that bad since the one where Frederic called me to tell me he was getting married, and then, within 72 hours, I had been hit by a car and found out that Bill was sleeping with half of the five boroughs.

How do you recover from a rotten week – the kind of week that makes you question yourself and everything you’ve been doing for…years?  How do you prepare for a series of examinations that try your patience and don’t seem immediately relevant to anything that you do?  How do you fight a body that keeps fighting you?

Most weirdly, and perhaps importantly, how are you supposed to feel when your former spouse marries someone who is basically the opposite of you?

How are you supposed to feel when your ex-husband gets remarried, period?

I am not sure there’s really a stock answer to that question; I’m not sure there’s any way you’re supposed to feel.  I don’t have much of a relationship with Andrew now, and we’re not close friends, but it felt like I had to do something, or feel something, or cope with something.

So my mother came into town last Saturday night to help me prepare for, and get around during the week following my hip surgery.  We seized the pre-operation opportunity to see Cabaret on Broadway; to enjoy time and Thai food together; to play with Roo and just relax.

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And Sunday, Andrew got married.  It was, admittedly, weird to watch mutual friends post photos on Facebook.  It was strange to field the incoming text messages from friends who didn’t realise they’d never unfriended him on social media after our divorce, who suddenly had his wedding photos in their newsstreams.

They refrained from asking the obvious question, which was, if your ex has a wedding that is the opposite of the one you had, and his new wife is as different from you as can be, what does that say about you?

What does that say about me?

I’m not sure it says anything, honestly.  It’s not my life anymore.

Then, on Monday morning, I walked over to the Hospital for Special Surgery and had my hip put back together.  What felt weird, I realised, was not that Andrew had remarried, but that I wouldn’t be running the Marathon this year.  I had used running as a coping mechanism since my divorce – one of the very first things I did when we separated was obtain a charity entry to the 2009 NYC Marathon.  My identity in this post-marital era had been as A Distance Runner; a Marathoner.  And I was walking into the hospital to say Goodbye to All That – possibly permanently.

But what I realised, too, was that I didn’t need that anymore. I had no axe to grind, and nothing left to prove.  There was nothing in the tank of bad feelings that was fuelling my racing.

I was free – really, truly free.

The surgery was a huge success, and while the recovery from the injury and surgery will be long, I feel great.

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It is normal to be blue in the face of a lot of things hitting you at once.  It is normal to be knocked breathless in the middle of unexpected change.

But I’m getting through it. I’m putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how you get through the blues – you keep going.

 

I wish they all could be California Girls
- The Beach Boys, California Girls

We went to California during the first week of July.

IMG_3479It was part work/part pleasure. We started in San Francisco.

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Saw friends; enjoyed the city; happened upon the Pride Parade, and bumped into more friends.

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It was a great way to start the trip.

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Then onward, to Big Sur.

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And the Hearst Castle.  They have zebras.  And I always forget that everyone else in the world says zeb-ra, not zee-bra, the way Americans do.  So when Paul tried to point them out, I had no idea what he was trying to say.

Speak American, darling.

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Then on to Santa Barbara.

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Perfection.

From there, we drove to my parents’ house.  More friends; more family.  Hooray!

Celebrated Fourth of July with my family.

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(One of these siblings lives on the East Coast, and one lives on the West Coast, and I betcha can’t tell which is which).

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A good trip was had by all.

Especially Paul, who asked me to take this picture laying back so only one of his chins was apparent in the photo.

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This was my view last weekend flying into Dublin.  It looks…peaceful, right?

This weekend, I’m hosting Easter.  I’m tired and frazzled, and I have massive stacks of work to do.  But I want to see my family of friends that I’ve barely seen this year.  We used to see each other almost weekly, and now, we barely see each other with any regularity.

I am not unique in questioning the achievability of a work-life balance.  But I think people get bogged down in looking at the idea of “balance” in too much of a day-to-day sense — i.e., are my DAYS balanced?  Do I get enough family/friend/leisure time on a DAILY basis?

I’m not sure that is the right way to look at it.  In fact, I get extremely irritated when I say that I’m busy with work right now, but will another time work, and I get a dismissive response like, You can’t take it with you!  Don’t you think it is more important to spend time with your friends and family?  No one on their death bed wishes they’d worked more!

Please keep that kind of attitude to yourself.

I think that looking at it in a more holistic way might be more practical, i.e., is my LIFE balanced?  On the whole, do I get enough time to do things I want to do, even if this particular week or season is weighted too heavily in one direction or another?

To suggest otherwise would be to say that CPAs have a “balance fail” during busy season.  Or that an attorney who is completely sucked into one litigation or deal has not achieved “balance” when the work is cyclical, and maybe during the “off” season, that lawyer works significantly less.

In my case, my life does tend to be more heavily weighted towards work these last few years.  But I’m happy with what I do.  I find it fulfilling and challenging, and I enjoy it — even when I wind up travelling for long periods, or things don’t go the way I want, or I get really negative feedback on something I’d worked hard on, or…I can’t spend enough time with my friends and family.

Will I wonder whether I could’ve worked more when I’m on my deathbed?  Probably not.

Will I look back and think: I worked really hard, and I did good things, and even if I didn’t always get to spend my time the way I wanted to, I am satisfied with the work I have done?

Probably, yes.

I get sick of the same old song-and-dance trotted out by people who don’t like and/or can’t relate to the balance I choose.  I get sick of being told what I will regret.  Because I don’t regret the long hours spent working; I don’t regret the many, many flights I take; I don’t regret the moments of insanity trying to schedule things.  I’m sad that I’ve missed events and weddings, and what have you, but I don’t…regret it.

We choose how we balance ourselves out.  The balance might not look the same for every person, in ever circumstance, in every season.  And the fact that I am frazzled, and frantic, and seeking peace in this season — this year to date! — of chaos doesn’t undo the bigger balancing act I’m working to achieve.

By Friday, I was that special kind of exhausted — that hot and dizzy kind of Too Much Going On tired that didn’t go away with water and clementines, which seemed to be my panacea lately.

I was in the office, and in meetings, and I was meeting D and Rach for lunch.  It was hard to believe how long I’d known them now.  It had been three years since D had convinced me to come back from Edinburgh over the bank holiday weekend; now N and Rach had a baby — not a baby, a little boy! — and D and I continued to be the unmarried, childless friends.

So much had changed in both New York and in London and still nothing had.

We met, and we ate, and it was lovely.  Then Baby Z fussed a bit, and mother and child had to dash a bit early, so D and I stayed and caught up.  It was one of those gorgeous springtime Fridays in London where the sun was out, and the trees in Grosvenor Square were green, and even the squat, post-modern, could-only-have-been-hatched-in-a-Cold-War-architect’s-imagination American Embassy was softened around the edges.  (Which was true, but is a terrible thing to say, because later that afternoon some building right behind it collapsed and a man was killed).

Then our lunch ended, and we kissed on the cheeks, and we were off into the afternoon.

A little bit after that, I was off to Heathrow for the third time in three days, and then on a plane to Dublin.

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(Obviously, I just discovered Instagram.)

Paul and I had a dinner date with one of his best friends and his wife — he was an Irish native, and she was a Californian, as is the case with many of Paul’s friends (strangely enough).  She grew up about 15 minutes from where I did.

It was strange, you know, sitting in a restaurant in Dublin with a couple whose experience was similar to ours — both lawyers, both grew up in the places we had.  It was so strange that I couldn’t wrap my  head around it.  It was strange that I could say the words “the 405″ or “the 210″ or “where the 10, the 210, and the 57 meet” and she would know what I was talking about.  I could probably have sung the radio jingles of my youth and she could’ve chimed in.  It was weirder still to think that she probably knew what the smog looked like in the ’80s, and the way that the Earthquake felt, and all of those weird, muscle-memory things about Southern California that you want to forget but never do.

But I was too tired for any of that.  We just talked in the way that Strangers talked — the same way I would have talked if she were Irish or English or Chinese.

So we talked and laughed and shared food and wine, and I stumbled into bed later than I had expected.

I am happy.  Things are lovely.  But I am at a strange crossroads.  As it turns out, my entire life has been a series of forks — a hideous, unexpected, dusty table laid with cutlery where just when I think I have grasped the right utensil, it is time for another course.