This morning as I sweated Sauv Blanc under the direction of my thirty something Soul Cycle instructor, I thought to myself, if the 60s could see the TwentyTeens, they would be proud. The class this morning was comprised mostly of over-sexed single hungover people who probably should not have been attempting a bicycle seat. 90%, yes 90, of my friends are divorced, widowed, or otherwise single. We have never laughed more, “loved” more, imbibed more or cried more. One of my friends lost her husband to cancer in June. She was the most proper friend I had. She shuddered when I swore, judged who I dated, and loved her husband with everything she had. Unlike most of my tribe, she still believed in marriage. After the grieving process had started to subside, what she calls the “widow gone wild” phase began. From the proverbial ashes emerged a giggling, partying profanity popping person. Phoenix, you dirty bird you. But here’s the thing – if it weren’t for our children, we would be one cliff away from a Thelma and Louise. Because behind every laugh is a little Robin Williams inside us all. When I first got divorced I told my therapist I was going to lose it and he laughed at me. He said, “Sorry, you don’t get to fall apart, and besides, it’s not your style. Just keep going.” So my tribe and I have been doing just that. We are having a lot of what I call Facebook Fun. Our posts show an enviable non-stop lifestyle. Its fun, but truth be told I miss being married. During class today I mourned my not so sexy Sunday routine of sleeping in and shopping at Target. The harder I pedaled, the sadder I became. Now, if you haven’t been to Soul Cycle, its a about a buck a minute to ride a bike to a beat in the dark while a hot perky person motivates you with inspirations and threats. Today, Ms. Soul Cycle urged us to look forward. “Keep going. Don’t look back,” she said, “You aren’t going that way.” Fifty years after the summer of love, here we are in the winter of none. Thank God that in Soul Cycle, your feet are locked into the bike, and your bike is locked into the floor because you can’t fall off, and you cant fall apart. You just have to keep going.
Have you ever walked to your car in a parking lot and then realized it’s not your car? At first it looks like your car but then you see stuff in the backseat that is not yours? Maybe you have a car seat and this one has golf clubs – or something just seems wrong and you realize, “This is not my car.” Post-divorce/Post-forty I have become more aware of this phenomenon – with my life. This weekend I [tried to] put on my skinny jeans and could not button them without overspill. “This is not my body. I’m a runner and a yoga instructor and I work out all the time!” Oh right. My 6 days a week have turned into 2. It’s not easy finding time for yoga or soul cycle with a job, a commute, basketball games and friends that like wine. When I am getting ready each morning in my rental house, I look down at the linoleum floor. Yes linoleum, the visual nails on a chalkboard to me. I think to myself, “This is not my house. This not my life.” It has happened with marble floors too – something just feels unfamiliar. It has also occurred in my career. After 9/11 I decided to be a better person and try running a non-profit. In Long Island. Next to Butafuoco Auto Body. As in Joey. When I would walk by the receptionist with the big hair and the long nails into my office with the donated computer, I could hear the whisper. “This is not my office. This is not my life.” It was an amazing job for someone – just not for me. When my last relationship ended, while prickly, it wasn’t unexpected. When he played music (smooth Jazz), I thought “This is not my music.” I am sure he heard it when I played Eminem. When he talked about travel (fishing in Florida), I knew “This is not my vacation.” When I spent time at his house, there it was again. This is not my life…
Or is it?
Parts of our story are in our control, and parts are not. “I.e. unfortunately, these are in fact my grey hairs and wrinkles.” Some can be changed (like grey hair) and some cannot. Some are just a matter of accepting reality over fantasy. I.e. I may never call a Porsche “my car” but I can find something that says, “This is me.” And much of it comes down to choice. I may never get my dream house back, but I know I will find another place that feels like home – and hopefully someone to share it. In the meantime, I will spend as much time as possible enjoying the things in my life that I got right: My kid, my friends, my writing, my cooking, and my smartassness, among other things. When I find the rest, I’ll let you know.
NEST: (Psychology) The tendency to arrange one’s immediate surroundings to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control.
Women have been building Nests – literally and figuratively – before humans even showed up. Dinosaurs dug them. Alligators made them out of mud and vegetation, and cobras used leaves and forest litter (Eww). Rats use anything they can get their little claws on. One of my friends just found an infestation in her garage, and the she-rats had crafted Nests out of her holiday linen collection resulting in a creepy if not strangely beautiful billowy pile of red and green fluff. Divorce “upsets/overturns” a lot of things, but one of the most significant may be the Nest. We women are genetically engineered Nesters. Part of the bliss of marriage – at least for me and most woman I know – is building and keeping our Nest. We surround ourselves with pretty and comforting things that make us happy whether or not we plan to put eggs in it. If we do decide to lay anything, then the Nest becomes even more precious. There is a phenomenon appropriately called “nesting” in which women prepare their home for pregnancy. An article in the Huffington Post explores the topic and explains how scientists have been studying why women ‘Nest’ and what makes them throw out perfectly good almost-new sheets because only brand new ones will do. Nesting tendencies seem to be enhanced with creativity. My best friend of 25 years is an advertising creative director and like me, she undergoes a visceral reaction when her Nest (or a lover’s nest) is not aesthetically pleasing. Every time she moves, she rebuilds a better Nest than the one before and it’s always a work in progress. When I visit her all is right with the world. In every room, I feel nurtured and smiley and serene from the cloud bed and the velvety robe on the back of the door – to the artisan wine glasses and the lavender kitchen soap. As a writer, I like things to flow, connect and make sense. A random lamp with an ill-fitting shade not situated next to a reading chair is a like a dangling participial. Upon my divorce, my world and my Nest were turned upside down. Knocked out of the tree. My ex ended up getting the Nest and found a new mama bird and a new egg. I will never forget the feeling of driving around with my dislodged little 5-year old bird looking for a new Nest. We settled on a furnished home of a stylish Swedish designer who had young children and was living abroad temporarily. It was more expensive than we wanted, but when we walked in after touring way-too-many bachelor pads, my son yelled, “Mommy! All the other places look like just boys live there. This is where a FAMILY lives!” “We’ll take it,” I told the agent. We lived and loved in that Nest for two years and treated it like it was ours. The Swedish bird family moved back home, and once again my son and I went in search of ‘sticks and straw’. We happen to live in one of the most expensive tree zip codes in the U.S., so it’s a small and temporary Nest but it’s safe and cozy. My son toggles between his two loving Nests, and when he is gone and I’m lonely, I fill my Nest with friends or frequent theirs. One day when he goes off to college (not optional) and I become the proverbial empty-nester, I will make damned sure that he will always have a happy place to land when he comes home.