And So It Comes To This…


By myself at the kitchen island with half a bottle of wine, a stack of generic cream-filled cookies from Grocery Outlet, and the soundtrack to Ong Bak 2 playing in the background as my children watch a Thai kickboxing movie I should probably be censoring. I have to filter the wine through a paper towel laid over the top of my water glass because I got too eager at the beginning of this process and rushed the cork removal, resulting, of course, in a fractured cork.  Half is now floating in the bottle and shedding little bits of cork shrapnel as it greedily soaks up my precious cabernet sauvignon.  I know what you are thinking… why on earth are you using a water glass?  The explanation for that is what has brought me to this moment, this rock bottom valley of personal hell I am optimistically calling a midlife crisis, and the story will take longer than a single blog post.  For now, let me just say that a few months ago, I owned nothing, so maybe lay off your snobbish, judgmental glasswarism for two seconds and be impressed I own a glass at all.

I wish I’d bought better paper towels.  These aren’t porous enough and the wine just pools on top, soaking into the sides and running over the lip of the glass before it thinks to drip inside.  Is cork poisonous? We’ll find out soon, I guess.

The children should be asleep. There are three of them (baggage, I like to call them), but it often seems as though there are more.  Little G lost her first tooth a few days ago. She pulled it out proudly, paraded it around as though no one had ever lost a baby tooth before, and then promptly… lost it. We looked everywhere, but my current theory is that the dog got tired of never being fed and decided to start eating us. She’s just starting with the body parts we’re least likely to notice… like our cast off appendages. First it is G’s tooth, next thing you know, my uterus will be missing and one of the boys will wake up in a tub full of ice with a note that says “thanks for the kidney” scribbled in dog poo.  Well I’m not going to buckle. The boys will just have to sleep with one eye open.

So little G is sleeping on the floor with an empty envelope under her pillow, upon which is scrawled a very detailed note explaining to that stickler of a tooth fairy the mitigating circumstances surrounding the missing baby tusk.  I made her sign her own name, mostly because it is so cute to watch her bite down on her own tongue when she concentrates that hard.  I hope she hasn’t learned anything in school about coin values yet, as all I could find in the couch cushions to give her were a handful of nickels and a Canadian dime.  I am considering using the silver calligraphy pen I found in the junk drawer to color some pennies, but we’ll see how creative I feel once this wine is all gone.

I lost my job a couple weeks back. It turns out no employer really wants to pay you for facebooking, building your spotify playlist, and paying your bills online. Although it would have been more helpful if they had mentioned that in the employee handbook (which I read cover to cover since it was NOT what I was being paid to do at the time), I suppose there is really no use in looking backward. Well, technically, there could be use in it if I were apt to learn anything from my past mistakes, but given that I have three children, I think it is fairly apparent I like to repeat my errors until I have reached a socially acceptable age to cauterize whatever fallopian tube led to them.

This wine is fantastic, even peppered with cork.

So I am on a shoe-string budget, which literally means I have pulled the shoe strings from the children’s shoes in an effort to barter them for french vanilla coffee creamer.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds, though… none of them bothered using the shoelaces anyway.  The only one I feel sorry for around here is the dog, for whom I refuse to buy dog food; she has been eating so much leftover pasta it is bound to go to her hips, and then who will want her?

I’ve started this story in the middle, but I think that is inevitably where it had to begin. I didn’t know it was blog-worthy until I looked around and saw that I had hit rock bottom… which meant, as I glanced up, that there was a tale to tell about my fall.  There is also a tale to tell about my forthcoming ascent, but that part of the story is still a mystery to me. I have a feeling it is going to be worth hearing.

But I’m definitely going to need more wine.


A Letter to the Coach

I made a decision a few weeks ago and I finally followed through on it today.  I decided to take my son off his soccer team.  This was tough for many reasons, not the least of which is that no one- not his father, not the coach, nor any of the other parents on the team- agrees with me.  It can be nerve-wracking to stand up for yourself and do what you feel is right when everyone thinks you are crazy… and when you are a parent, and the people who think you are crazy are other judgey parents, and that THING is soccer?  Nearly impossible.

I did it though, because as scary as the backlash and forthcoming temper tantrums from my ex are, nothing scares me more than the absolute certainty that I’m doing this wrong, this parenting thing.  At 37 years old, I have tossed out everything I used to think I knew.  I have disassembled my perspective on life and I am slowly, carefully, putting it back together with only the pieces I know belong.  Quite honestly I have very few pieces in place.  Maybe that’s all I will ever have as the older I get, the less I realize I know to be truth.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I know- KNOW- that narrowing one’s perspective, limiting one’s opportunities, eliminating choice, and replacing what should matter with what should not is bad.  I know that being kind matters.  I know that family matters.  And I know that it is my job to make sure I don’t lead my children down a path I know won’t lead them to happiness.

My oldest son is a great soccer player.  He is on the premiere team and this means he has practice three nights a week, games every Saturday and Sunday, and this lasts ten months out of the year, the other two months to be replaced with indoor soccer every weekend during the winter.  If for some reason he needs to miss soccer, I have to ask permission from his coach who gives me a lecture on dedication and work ethic.  (I don’t think I need to elaborate on the eye-rolling that ensues when you lecture a working single mother of three with no financial support on the subject of work ethic.)  My son has never taken music lessons.  He isn’t in any clubs or on any other teams.  He has never played anything but soccer his entire life.  Oh, and he’s twelve.

I sent the coach a letter today explaining my decision to take my son off his team.  I’m sharing it here because I want to expand the commentary from a discourse about youth soccer to something a little bit larger: if you are a parent and you are educated, thoughtful, and want what is best for your child to become a happy, healthy adult someday, do what you know to be best for that child.  Everyone has an opinion on how you’re doing it wrong and how to do it better, but your opinion is the only one that matters.  If you find yourself the only dissenter in a mass of parental peer pressure, whatever it is, consider me rooting for you.  And good luck.

My Letter to the Coach:

I am writing to discuss with you my decision to take Matthew out of year round soccer, to explain why this is important to me, and to ask if you will accommodate an alternate schedule for him on your team.

First, Matthew’s father and I have equal split time with Matthew and if he should wish to continue taking Matthew to his practices and games on his weekdays and weekends, I would like to know if you will accommodate him. I will not be taking him to soccer again or allowing him to attend on my days until tryouts for next season begin when I will allow him to join a select team.

As for why I am taking Matthew out of year round soccer, I think this is important to communicate with you as you are a parent and have likely had similar thoughts of your own on what is best for your children.  Matthew has been playing soccer since he was 4 years old.  Up until four years ago, I managed his team and helped his father coach.  He has not been exposed to anything other than soccer in the way of extra-curricular activities.  I reasoned that this was okay because he was gaining so much from soccer- it was healthy, good for his self esteem, and was teaching both to work hard for what he wanted and to be a successful part of a team.  Over the past year, I have found that the lessons my children are learning from soccer are primarily harmful these days and contradictory to my reasons as a parent for exposing him to the sport in the first place.  I feel the importance placed on soccer at such a competitive level in children so young is teaching them a skewed perspective on what really matters in life, that teaching them to win at all costs, to be mean and critical and value a competitive spirit over camaraderie and encouragement is actually very harmful.  I do not agree that soccer practice (or games for that matter) should take precedence over family, health, or education.  I also feel that every child on that team is being forced to miss a large portion of their childhood, to forgo exposure to the vast myriad of experiences expressly available to us only as children, in order to train as though they are Olympians when the reality is that few if any of them will play beyond high school, and all of this misplaced over-exertion is wasted.  I have been harassed by previous coaches for making the decision to keep Matthew home when he was feverish and it was raining, for choosing to take the children Christmas shopping (when your time with your children is limited by joint custody and work, sometimes you have to choose between these things), for missing practice to visit a dying relative in the ICU… I have spent family weekends camping, fishing, and visiting with far away Grandparents without my son there because the coach called the shots instead of me.  And I have watched my son turn into an unlikable ass who yells at his teammates, looks down on others, and has absolutely no idea what actually causes real happiness.

I will continue to encourage him in soccer, but I intend to move him to Select next year as it has been made clear to me that balance in one’s life is not an option on a Premiere team.  I hope you will understand my decision even if you do not agree with it and I wish the team the very best for the remainder of the season.

Best Regards,

Marie Sorbel

One Thing Right

It is one thing to know right from wrong, I have found, and another thing entirely to put that knowledge into practical application.  I suspect that deep down even the most horrible among us knows how to behave appropriately at all times, but something greater than that knowledge takes hold and we act very often in direct contradiction to how we know we ought.

Never is this phenomenon more prevalent than when an “ex” is involved.  And never is it more detrimental and inevitably regretful than when there are children with that ex.  I’m surprised by the rhetoric so many separating parents can recite by rote memory- “I just want what’s best for the children, we never fight in front of the kids,”- and the stark contrast that is usually the reality.  The same parents who love their children use them, grill them, brainwash them, withhold them, and manipulate them as they suffer through a divorce in an effort to inflict pain on the other parent.  I’ve seen it constantly and I am excessively grateful that for all my difficulties through my divorce, I never felt my children were part of the battlefield.  I was asked the other day how I managed to maintain my sanity through the split and remain above the drama that drives so many couples insane.  While I don’t feel a great deal of secret wisdom was at play, I am able to at least impart the basic tenets of reasonable, sane human decency which dictated overall the manner of my separation and current coparenting arrangement.

  1. Don’t make money more important than your children.  Child custody laws are strange sometimes.  A law entitling the custodial parent to more child support makes sense on the surface as the parent providing more care for the child needs to be reimbursed for that care by the other parent.  Unfortunately, a law designed to ensure enough financial support for child-rearing can easily be utilized by a greedy parent to increase child support simply by demanding the majority of the parenting time.  In fact, in nearly every custody discussion I have viewed in the past few years, this has been the case.  Given that virtually every study on the issue unanimously agrees that equal time with both parents both offsets the harmful emotional effects of a divorce on a child and fosters the important child-parent attachment essential for healthy development, there has to be a pretty compelling reason for one parent to want to deprive their child any amount of time with the other.  In the first-hand custody battles I’ve watched recently, none of the parents were abusive, none of them were drug addicts, no children were in harm in one household or the other… one parent was simply denying the other parent equal time for their own benefit.  Too often- that benefit is money.  Yes, you may be able to avoid paying child support by limiting how much time the other parent sees the child, but if those are really your priorities- WHAT THE FUCK?!
  2. Don’t carry your baggage forever.  When first you part ways with the other parent of your children, you will likely feel a myriad of emotions, few of which are sane or beneficial to continue to feel for the long haul.  You may feel anger and resentment over how things ended, you may feel hope that you will eventually reconcile, and you may feel jealousy if the other parent has found a new partner or begun dating.  The actions we take when we allow our unsettled emotions to dictate our path are very seldom wise actions.  These emotions are the things which lead you to stalk people you don’t know on Facebook to see who your spouse is dating now, or hack into his email account to sift through all of his private correspondence.  Sadly, these emotions can also lead you to use your child as a weapon to inflict pain or elicit remorse from your spouse.  While behaving irrationally is wrong and will end poorly, behaving irrationally and using a child to do so is reprehensible and can cause irreparable harm.  As insane as your situation makes you feel inside, take a deep breath, accept that this shit is just what it is, and let it go.  If you find yourself behaving in a manner which is obviously the result of resentful or jealous feelings- stop.  Just don’t.
  3. Remember you are creating a real life human being.  So you fucked up the marriage part of your life.  C’est la vie.  Maybe you try again someday, maybe you collect cats instead, maybe you find a nice cave and live out your old age weaving stocking caps out of ivy and carving pictures into rocks.  I don’t know or even really care.  What you don’t get to do is stop parenting.  It is your job to give that kid the best chance at becoming a happy, healthy adult who contributes to this world in a positive manner.  It is your FUCKING JOB.  I don’t care how mad you get at that kid’s father- the best thing for a child is to love and respect BOTH parents throughout their development, and it is your job to foster that because this is no longer about you.  The upbringing of that child has nothing to do with who cheated on who, who felt neglected, who yelled too much, blah, blah, blah.   Speak well of that other parent.  Encourage your children to love you both equally.  Put your selfish ulterior motives and underlying issues aside and do your job.
  4. Grow up.  You can whine to your girlfriends as much as you want about how you accidentally married the worst human being on the planet, entirely unbeknownst to you until approximately 5 years, a white picket fence, and 1.5 children in, but it’s highly unlikely that this is the case.  More likely, you married someone who just wasn’t a good fit for your personality in the long term and things just didn’t work out despite the fact that you are both relatively good people.  While it may be tough when you are disagreeing over massively important contentious issues like who gets that piano your mother-in-law clearly gave to you, it is important to remember that this is just another human being you are dealing with who hurts, fears, regrets, and also wants to be happy someday.  It takes a very mature person to embrace empathy and forgiveness in order to replace some of the inevitable vitriol with kindness or, at minimum, civility.  Be that person. Be better than you want to be because it is good for your soul.  Have something to be proud of when you look back on one of the most difficult times of your life.

I asked my children the other day if they were happy.  They told me yes, all of them, even happier than when we lived in Spokane and their father and I were together. They see us both an equal amount of time, they love us both, and they are happy.

For all our failures, at least we got this one thing right.

The High Road


The dissolution of a marriage between two people. The end of a union which two adults have determined to be insufferable. A very private choice which can only ever be fully understood by the two individuals who were personally living the married life that resulted in so much unhappiness.

One of the things I found most jarring upon choosing to end my marriage was how many more people than TWO are actually involved in a divorce. People you don’t think to run your decisions by when you set out on the journey. People who didn’t have to live through the marriage itself. Family, friends, mutual acquaintances, relative strangers… People who didn’t give a rat’s ass about supporting the sufferers during the marriage, yet immediately feel the entire event is public property when it ends and appear entitled to an opinion on its every aspect. These people often take longer to adjust to your divorce than you do, and have more difficulty behaving with general empathy and courtesy until they’ve adjusted. They are often outraged when they didn’t even see it coming (because why aren’t you keeping the general public apprised of your every marital issue?!) and quick to take sides with whoever will tell their side first and loudest.

I don’t deal with this much anymore. I cut the people out of my life who didn’t make room for compassion and forgiveness. It was a long road weeding out the busy-bodies and judgmental skin-deep acquaintances who always had more than two cents to share, but now I can feel content that the only meddling left is from former in-laws, and it’s at least done behind my back where I can’t see or hear it.

Instead, I now find myself an outside observer to a divorce and this strange phenomenon of the real life he said-she said game. The advice I give when asked- to take the high road, stay above the bullshit, and just let it all go- is difficult to follow. Because not everybody takes the high road, and when you are a victim of someone else’s low road, you find your friends taking sides, and not yours… because you haven’t shared all of the dark, filthy gossip that led you to where you are now. You never told anyone your wife was sleeping around, or that she used the children as pawns, that she won’t let you be with your child half the time because she wants more child support despite her trust fund and an income three times what you make. You don’t complain to them that she erupted in a jealous rage after you finally started dating and has since been using every avenue possible to ruin your new relationship- secretly reading all of your texts and emails multiple times a day, sleeping with your friends in an attempt to make you jealous, refusing to let you take anything from your marriage but the shirt on your back, and even moving your son’s mother into her home and instigating a second custody battle. And so your friends have taken sides and, although they claim they are still your friends and don’t want to choose, they show no sympathy for you when you prefer not to be around your wife and her new fling-slash-attempt-to-get-a-jealous-reaction-out-of-you. They treat you as though you are over-reacting about the pain and cannot understand why you have to make everything so difficult when they just want it all back the way it was.

For a while now, I have thought that perhaps my initial advice to you was wrong- that perhaps it is best to just get it all out in the open… her infidelities and cruelties, the years of misery, the conniving and manipulation and mind-boggling selfishness and greed…

But I am brought back around by a single truth- your real friends do not need to know any of your dark secrets to remain compassionate and considerate. They don’t need to hate her in order to forgive you for failing at wedlock. They don’t need to know who is to blame. They have character and a moral conscience and a heart. They won’t abandon you because her tales are better spun and they won’t bend an ear to the jealous rantings of a woman scorned. People of character like this might be rare, but they exist and those are the only friends worth keeping.

So take the high road, and say farewell to those who will not travel it with you. In the end, you will be happy, and that was your only real goal all along.


A How-To On Love

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone close to me who I love very much. We discussed a million things as we always do when we finally reach each other on the phone, but one thing in particular has monopolized my thoughts and even awoken me in the night on numerous occasions since.

The topic was love.

When I commented that it is certainly possible to find someone who loves you exactly as you are, her answer was, “Perhaps- if that person just doesn’t know you very well at all. It’s easy to love someone when you don’t know what’s wrong with them.”

It stung.

I immediately did a double take and felt my eyes well up.

Her assertion meant so many things… that some things about me were simply unlovable to her was certainly my first reaction, but also that she was mistaken about one of two things- either that she felt herself only to be worthy of love because she was somehow without flaw or, and far worse a travesty, that she did not believe herself to be wholly lovable exactly as she is. When I tell her I love her, she must think I mean only the pretty parts, or the generous parts, or the kind and thoughtful parts… but that as soon as she becomes tired, cranky, petty, or spiteful, I somehow love this person less. My understanding of her as a person shifted as a fault line ruptures during a massive earthquake. This revelation about her perspective on love explained countless things about her. It fit with the underlying nagging dread I have always had that her love came with conditions and that I had to change even the most unchangeable things about myself to earn it. It also explained why she had difficulty being genuine with people she wanted to impress and often found herself pretending, and then tiring of the façade as we all inevitably do when we must be someone else every day of our lives.

I stand by my conviction that it is possible to be loved for precisely who we are. I know it is possible because I know I am capable of loving people who are tremendously flawed without attempting to change them. It can be difficult to do when your purpose is muddied by things like good intentions, well wishing, or even the perception that someone you love is a reflection on you. I’ve certainly done my share of attempted “fixing”; it never seems as magnanimous to the one being fixed, I’m afraid. More often than not, the recipient sees it as “controlling”, and the truth is they are right. Anything we do to try to fix, change, guide, direct, or manipulate another person is really just that- an attempt at control. And it is all a myth anyway! We cannot control anything another person does. We cannot control how much someone loves us, or how they choose to show that love. We cannot control the choices they make or refuse to make. We cannot control how they behave or who they choose to be. The only thing we can control when it comes to another human being is our own reaction.

I love people who are imperfect. I love even the imperfect parts. Sometimes I even love the imperfections more than the parts they have “finished”. I hope that my willingness to remain silent on their faults will urge them to cut me a little slack when they are noticing mine. Everyone has flaws. Everyone.

Love all of them anyway.



For Her

I sometimes find myself wondering if she hates me.

Especially at moments like this, as I sit in her driveway with the car running, and take one last deep breath before I trudge to her front door to fetch my children, one of whom is in the midst of a screaming tantrum and has probably hurled some vehement words at her to the gist of “You aren’t my mom!” She looks less calm today than usual, obviously frazzled by my daughter’s inconsolable rage over being put in time out and having a stuffed toy taken away. As I try to herd the kids out the door, they exchange one last string of venomous words… I am about to step onto the porch, but I look at her and I’m touched by how upset, disheveled, and clearly distraught over this she appears. I tell her my daughter loves her and I go.

She is my husband’s girlfriend. It sounds worse than it is, really… after a 3 year separation, I often forget we haven’t formalized the divorce with paperwork yet. They have been together for nearly two years now, and she has been a constant fixture in the lives of my children for all but the first month or so of that time. We have rarely spoken, and though every word that has passed between us is civil, I know that the stories she has heard about me from my husband must be terrible. I know this because he is often unable to remain civil with me; I shudder to think what he says when he isn’t watching his tongue. I cannot blame him, though… although I harbor no hard feelings myself, divorce is hard and neither of us can claim to regret nothing we’ve ever said or done.

It was hard at first to share my children with another woman. I thought about these little people I had birthed, and fed from my own breasts their every meal for months of their lives, changed every diaper, awakened to every nighttime whimper, nursed through the darkness when they were sick, held in my arms when they cried… and now they were apart from me half the time and someone else would soothe their hurts and coo them to sleep. My heart ached over it for weeks. I would feel pain when my daughter would show me the nails this woman had painted for her, or a doll this woman had given her. When she told me how much she loved this woman, she might as well have ripped apart my very soul.

I don’t know exactly when I began to feel differently… but at some point, I just did. I slowly began to realize that hearts are different from most other of our world’s creations. They do not have finite boundaries, but grow to fit their contents. I suppose I must have feared initially that my children would not have room to love me as much if they chose to love her, but I have watched closely as they learn to love us both completely. They are happy, healthy, and loved in return. I know that when they are not with me, but her, they are still safe, and I do not lay awake at night wondering about what is out of my control.

It isn’t fair what happens when a marriage ends- how two stories evolve so very differently from each other to make the teller feel less guilt over their own part in what is always inevitably a joint failure. If I could share my thoughts with her, I would not bother with a dissertation on my innocence of whatever wrongdoings have been leveled against me. In truth, I am not innocent of most of them anyway. Neither would I level accusations against my husband of a decade to justify my final decision to give up. I have nothing to say on either head.

I only want to tell her thank you.

For loving my children as her own. For staying calm when the boys fight. For showing my children compassion and patience when it gets difficult. For laying down rules and boundaries without losing her temper. For letting them into her heart. For loving their father and making him a happier, better person. For never being rude to me. For setting a good example. For being kind.

And I would tell her I’m sorry about that temper tantrum; it wasn’t her fault and I never blamed her for a second. She’s doing a damn fine job.

Nine Steps Back to Awesome

At 19, I suffered my first broken heart.  It felt more like an implosion, honestly, combined with the systemic failure of my central nervous system and the rupture of at least a spleen.  It hurt, is the point.  Back in those days, the recovery lasted longer than the entire length of the relationship and I was young enough to actually enjoy the melodramatic wallowing.  I recall remarking that it was romantic to be hopelessly in eternal, unrequited love.  I have an entire album of music born of this first failed romance.

I’m 35 now.  I don’t have time for that shit.  I don’t care how brilliant the resultant ballad or how jerked a reader’s tears are bound to be following the inevitable multi-volume poetry…I barely have the attention span to sit through Pride and Prejudice before I have to get up and run some laundry.  I just don’t have months or years of pining left in me.  To keep up with the times, I had to get good at getting over break-ups since- let’s face it- every relationship I’ve had has ended in one to date.  I have finally found a shortcut that worked so well this last time (I went from “fuck this” to “whoa, I can facebook stalk him and my gut doesn’t even twinge” in about 30 days), that I felt compelled not only to put it into writing, but to share it.  I want everyone I know to benefit from my hard found wisdom. 

Step 1: Over Text Like a Muthafucka

A lot of people will tell you that it is best to maintain your dignity and bow out with grace at the end.  Yeah.  Hm.  Maybe.  I wouldn’t know what that’s like, having never managed it myself.  What I DO know is that everything I’ve ever left unsaid has haunted me for weeks afterward.  I can’t think because I’m rewording every argument, getting in that one last point in my mind, wishing I’d just fit in a couple more really eloquent kidney punches.  This last time, I decided not to let anything go.  A bold move, but I can promise that after two weeks of combined over-texting, facebook IMing, spotify messaging, emailing, calling, and even old-fashioned letter writing, I finally ran out of words- and subsequently all of those nagging thoughts that linger. 

Step 2: Ambien and Wine

It is my natural reaction to try to distract myself with the company of friends and, often, new acquaintances after a break-up.  This time, I decided that was putting off the inevitable- that moment when you have to admit you are alone again.  Instead, I shut it down.  I spent nearly every night at home for four weeks.  Too hard, you claim?  How do you keep from going crazy?  Easy.  Ambien and wine.  I actually began to look forward to it on my drive home.  Oh, I’ve heard the warnings- ambien is a serious drug (and it is, don’t be fooled be my nonchalance, I put myself to bed before taking it and did NOT get up til morning), but the worst side effect I had was some crazy texting about simean dancers with nipple tassels and an evening spent friend requesting all of my ex-boyfriends on facebook.  I did eventually wean myself off of it, but I will remember my month of agoraphobic early nights with fondness.  What parts I CAN remember, anyway.

Step 3: Stop Cleaning

I did this preemptively, back in 1996.  The great thing about it, aside from the obvious time saver it is to not have to clean anything, thereby enabling you to get to your ambien much sooner every evening, is that visitors will be more likely to leave you alone.  Those who demand entrance, despite the cloud of fruit flies and pungent decay wafting through the crack in the front door, will immediately take pity on you and probably offer to buy you more wine.  Accept the wine.  Don’t be an ungrateful douche.

Step 4: Dwell on Shit

I like lists.  A lot.  I found that when I thought about all the things I hated about the last dude, it was really hard to be sad.  (I know, profound.)  So I made a list of every little thing that made me miserable or irritated or annoyed when I was with him, and I read that list over and over throughout each day, often adding to it as I would remember some of his more effeminate facial gestures or that one thing he said that one time that made me want to stab myself in the eye socket… I would then call the people most likely to rally around my pettiness (thanks, Mom!) and seek their reassurance that that one thing WAS so annoying and oh my god how DID I ever put up with it?!  Eventually, I couldn’t remember anything I liked about him, and by eventually, I mean within 3 weeks.  It was magical.

Step 5: Utilize Online Dating

This is tricky- after a few weeks, online dating is vital to a quick recovery, but my specific method is key.  You must ONLY post photos that are not particularly flattering.  The reason for this is that when you meet your potential suitors in person, you are immediately met with the compliment “Oh, you are SO much prettier in person!”  Ego.  Fucking.  Boost.  It might also work to be less charming in your written profile than you are in person, but I don’t have it in me.  The downside to this method, of course, is that the real winners aren’t going to be interested in you, but who cares?  You just got your heart broken!  You aren’t really ready to date yet anyway.  You can save that photoshopped prom picture for when you are soem semblance of emotionally stable again.  It doesn’t matter that your date is missing teeth, has a slicked down comb-over, voted for Nixon, and needs your help turning his hearing aid up because his osteo-arthritic shoulder doesn’t permit his arm to bend that way- when he looks you up and down through that vintage monacle, slaps his knee in delight through his mom jeans, and showers you with old-timey praise, it’s going to feel good regardless.

Step 6: Look Amazing

This is easier than you think.  If you’ve diligently been going to bed early with the assistance of heavy medication, not only is the extra rest good for your complexion and eliminates dark circles, but you probably haven’t been eating as much (who has time with all the texting and emailing going on!) and you should drop weight faster than a teenage boy headed to a wrestling championship.  Couple that effort with a shopping spree for some new makeup and a killer pair of boots- yeah, you’re going to make heartbreak look like it really agrees with you.  This will come in handy for the next step…

Step 7: Fake Being Awesome

Actually being awesome may seem like a challenge if your self-image has just taken a little hit, but if you’re like most women who’ve dated enough, you’ve gotten good at faking things by now.  For once, though, you’re going to fake things for yourself.  Tell yourself you are good at something, and then go do it.  Fill up your schedule.  Bury yourself in creative outlets.  Make yourself live the life of someone who is incredible and, in short order, you won’t be faking it any more.  You will just be awesome.  I played multiple open mics (drunk, so drunk I forgot words and quit the last song halfway throguh by mumbling “oh christ, I don’t know this song”), I went camping and fishing and had my first pedicure and started a punk bluegrass band (actually we just met for beers one night, but it’s technically still on my to do list)…obviously, my outlets are just examples.  I’m sure rock climbing or pottery or rescuing orphans from shark-infested waters are also fulfilling.

Step 8: Meet Someone Better

Don’t do this until you are actually ready to be over him.  You’re going to find someone worth keeping and you won’t want baggage in the way.  Although I pulled this off pretty quickly despite straying slightly from my formula (I hung out with a really cool chick who vastly outshone me), I recommend the following method to guarantee success.  First, choose chubbier, less attractive friends to accompany you out.  If you can possibly make sure they are also less interesting and funny, your stage is set.  Second, refer back to step 6.  This may require a trip to a salon; don’t cheat yourself.  Shower.  Wear clean clothes that fit.  Come on, girl.  Try.  Third, go somewhere full of worthwhile single people, preferably of the correct sexual orientation and gender to find you attractive.  You aren’t likely to meet prince charming in a biker bar or at a drag show, although both can be fun if you aren’t goal-oriented.  Fourth, spend the entire evening having a genuinely great time.  Nothing is more attractive than happiness.  If you are the prettiest, happiest girl in the room, you’re going to meet someone better than that jackass who dumped you back when you were chubbier, boring, and so into crazy texting…

Step 9: Scrub the Bathroom With His Toothbrush

I made a pile early on of everything I was gong to give back to him (and never did), but I left his toothbrush.  I don’t know why.  It served as a reminder of what I had left behind.  For some reason, his ridiculously expensive, ergonomically correct toothbrush stood as a symbol of all of the pretension and overblown self-importance that permeated our four months together, and every time I brushed my teeth I would glare at it with its articulating, multi-tongued head and multi-level bristles and part of my heart would heal.  Last week, as I was cleaning the bathroom, my eye caught site of it and I realized the healing was done…it was time for that toothbrush to hit the road.  I scrubbed every hint of soap scum from around the faucet, the sink, the nooks in the tub, and finally…the toilet.  I have to admit, though, that ergonomic crap is no joke.  My wrist feels amazing.

And that’s it.  Nine steps to overcoming a broken heart so you can get back to watching Downton Abbey and googling cat memes like your soul deserves.  I know I haven’t cured cancer here, but if I can help somebody brilliant stop crying a little sooner…maybe she will.


A Brief History of My Failings With Men… or… You Can’t Hide Crazy

Women are crazy.

All of us. I wish I could say this does not pertain to my entire gender, but given that it does pertain to every single member of the female of our species with whom I am acquainted…yes, probably all of us. I say this because just today I managed to use my crazy to ward off yet another potentially wonderful human being simply because he is male and might have been good for me. That’s what I do. In the past, I have revelled in my romantic mishaps as they provide excellent songwriting fodder, but this time, instead of lauding his faults and shortcomings in a ballad, I became introspective…

What if every single man I’ve dated and subsequently failed to continue dating (note currently very single status) has not been at fault. What if…and I’m thinking out loud here, so it might be far-fetched…but what if I hold some blame for injecting my batshit nature into what might otherwise be a perfectly normal interaction? In true engineer-with-ovaries form, I have decided to run a quick analysis on some of my past failures. I’m hoping this provides the insight I need to at least know where to lay the blame in the next song.

Case 1: Nice guy, liked to make me cocktails in the evening, had an unhealthy addiction to the Rat Pack, and dressed like Dean Martin. Length of dating episode: Two days, but we’d been tormenting each other in on-again-off-again status for months.

How it ended:

Me: (shouting) I hate you and I never want to see you again!

Him: Um…Marie…uh…what the?

Me: (storms off)

Next day…

Me: (via text) Hey, wanna go to breakfast?

Him: (via return text) Um…not really?

Two days of lengthy text messaging then ensued where I flip-flopped between “why don’t you care?” and “lose my number”. I consider us friends still. Because I still text him.

Case 2: Nice kid…I say kid because although he was technically a year my senior, he had yet to experience any of the rites of passage which I consider essential to being considered a full-fledged adult…no mortgage, no children, never married, spent all his disposable income on shredding metal guitars and PBR… Length of dating episode: Maybe two months? Hard to say. It dwindled slowly at the end, so I don’t know the exact date we both consider the finale.

How it ended:

After calling it off via text message, I stalked him on facebook and saw he was attending a concert and was therefore too busy to respond.

Me: (via text) I see that you are very busy having lots of fun even though you can’t make one damn minute for me.

Him: (no response)

Me: (more crazy texting)

Him: (no response)

Me: (more crazy texting in which I insult his character, his purpose in life, his parentage, and all of his major life choices for the past ten years)

Him: (no response)

Me: (considerably more craziness including an assertion that I never wish to speak to him again and this is the very last text I will EVER send)

Him: (four hours later, via text) Hey, just got home. Talk tomorrow.

Two months of sparse texting followed this exchange, with intermittent anger and craziness always ending in “this is the last text I will ever send to you” followed closely the next day with some reference to my love for midgets or my disgust for Taylor Swift. Oddly, again, I still consider us friends and still text him at random, half the time with no response. I know he’s laughing inside though every time. He must be. I’m hysterical.

Case 3: Nice man. The first grown up I’ve possibly ever dated. He held doors, paid for things, and was attentive and thoughtful. Naturally, it had to end quickly. I can’t live like that for long. Length of dating episode: Two weeks is a stretch, but I’m uncomfortable calling it anything shorter.

How it ended:

Me: (via text) Fine.

Him: (via text) Um… wait…really fine? Is something wrong? (obviously he’s been married before…)

Me: (begin late night tirade about how I never see or hear from him, things are so different now, he’s changed, he’s probably seeing someone else, and I assume he thinks I simultaneously look too fat with breasts too small and hates my mother despite never having met her)

Him: (via text) This is silly. Good night.

Next day…

Me: (via text) Hey, hope this doesn’t wake you at 7am on a Sunday…heh heh…(thus begins the 11-part text message heard round the world)

This poor guy. I don’t think he even saw it coming. I seemed super normal for 95% of those two weeks. I still text him though. I have a modus operandi to maintain, after all.

I suspect that if I look back far enough, I have pulled something similar every time shit hit the fan. So who is really to blame for all of my failed loves?

Obviously Verizon.