I Should Have Known

NOTE: If you read this post prior to 10:50 pm on Sunday 12/3, I want to note that I have made significant changes. I may have come to an inaccurate conclusion that the author is also a life coach. I realize in doing so, I sort of shot much of the premise of this post (the parts about the author’s identity). Hence the multiple changes. ~ pk

Do a “Don’t Should on Yourself” search on the Internet and you’ll find plenty of anti-“should-ing” graphics.

Marital Infidelity

Source: qsprn.com on Pinterest

My academic background is in mental health. Therefore, I am an advocate of the fact that there are very few instances in which the word “should” is a fit for a constructive outlook, especially if we are using in retrospect to define how our lives could have gone differently.

After reading a recent Modern Love column in the New York Times, however, I can’t help thinking the author is going to say “I should have known” someday.

A Marriage Ends

The column I can’t get out of my head is An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce. Synopsis: The author fell in love with a married man; the man left his wife for the author; the ex-wife is a saint for “the grace and maturity she has displayed” as she welcomed the new love interest into their family’s life, paved the way for an amicable relationship with the young children, and took the high road.

The Gaping Flaws in This Situation

Here are the challenges I see. I can only call them as I see them.

Author: “He wasn’t a creep or even a cheater.” Time proved her wrong about the cheater part.

Writing “he wasn’t a cheater” after his infidelity led him to leave his wife is disingenuous at best.

In the article, the author discloses that she has Bipolar II disorder.

I just can’t help thinking the new guy’s move on this woman was more about him than her. She talks in the article about her proclivity for getting into unstable relationships. I can’t see how this is that much different. Maybe he wasn’t taking advantage of her exactly and maybe he didn’t have enough awareness about mental health to stop himself. I’m not sure, but my sense is that she is a victim here.

When the ex-wife-to-be (Beka) invited the author to dinner (a precursor to eventually meeting the kids), Beka handled it with aplomb, grace, and courtesy. The guy? “…he drank nonstop.”

So many red flags about this. So many.

The author spends a paragraph discussing how hard the three of them have worked to make this situation palatable for the children (the girls were seven and three at the time of the breakup). She says, “they have never reproached their father or me for the immeasurable disruption we have caused to their lives.”

They aren’t teenagers yet. That’s all I have to say. 

The Beautiful Aspects of this Situation

I do love the fact that all of the adults display so much love and unconditional positive regard for the children. It appears they also all conduct themselves civilly in front of the children, which is also an important building block.

I know so many people who put the children first in the way they relate to their former partners/the parents of their children. What a gift that is to model those priorities.

This is Not a Guide to Divorce

The title of this piece (An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce) is (to me) a misnomer. Who is the optimist?

I suppose the author pictures herself as the optimist. She discusses how meeting the two daughters made her glad she had never had children herself, writing her initial relationship steps with the girls were, “as if I had been saving my maternal love for [names].”

What? I will be the first to admit I have felt maternal love (in spades) for children who weren’t my own. I can see feeling maternal love for the children of someone I fell in love with who weren’t my own biological children.

I suppose the thing is if I felt the author had the capacity for maternal love she would have curtailed this whole thing earlier, realizing the disruption it would cause.

If I Had a Crystal Ball

Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have enough life experience to say that there is a possibility getting involved with someone who left his wife for her *might* end up with the author herself acknowledging….

“I should have known.”

Marital Infidelity

This post was inspired by the Mama Kat prompt: “Write a poem, post or story where the last words are ‘I should have known.’”

(Also, I really want to hear the ex-wife’s version of all this.)

Editor’s Note: Right after I pressed “publish,” I found this piece that summarizes comments to the original piece, shares the editor’s insights, and includes a quote from Beka. I still stand behind everything I wrote above, but I think this is an important piece of the entire puzzle.

Beka (according to the follow-up NY Times piece): “I wanted to do what was best for my girls. And, honestly, I didn’t want to be one of those women who was defined by her divorce — and end up bitter in the end. Josh and I have managed to maintain our friendship through it all, and Elizabeth and I developed one as well. Now, my sweet girls have even more people to love them, and they adore Elizabeth. Most of my family and friends have had a hard time accepting it, but I think it was one of the best decisions I could have made.”

Grateful Challenge 2017

Grateful Challenge

There are 37 days left in 2017 (how is that?) and it’s time for the annual grateful challenge. (Gini Dietrich says so here.)

I did the Grateful Challenge the standard way (list everything you’re grateful for in 10 minutes, with a goal of getting to 99) twice. I reached 33 in 2014, and 99 in 2015 (yay!) then changed things up a bit in 2016.

I’m going to change things up a bit this year too. I like the 10-minute limit. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book about caregiving. I blew off NaNoWriMo though, and am at a bit of a loss regarding what to write (and frankly struggling with the courage to write anything).

Therefore, a (roughly) ten-minute list of what I am grateful for regarding the lessons learned from caregiving:

To set the scene, I am listening to the soundtrack from Sleepless in Seattle while writing this. It’s one of the things Dad wanted played at his visitation/funeral, according to his Five Wishes document. This always struck me as odd, but he did love movies and classic music, so it makes sense in retrospect. (We also only managed one of his wish list items (Claire de Lune (sp?)) at his funeral, so I guess I am making up for an item that didn’t get checked off his list.

That’s the thing about caregiving. The person at the center of it all is the subject of everyone else’s checklists and (at least in Dad’s case) has very little control over what happens to them.

To start the gratitude list then, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is an honor to be entrusted with a loved one’s wellbeing (and I’m not saying “honor” in the cliché way —- it’s as vital a responsibility as parenthood, being a spouse, or giving your all as an employee).

I, to be honest, am grateful for the opportunity to be at home for three years. I was mentally exhausted from my efforts to make peace with the degree to which I had become unmotivated at work and physically exhausted from my crazy sleep patterns as I tried to squeeze in freelance work. I may have said to many people “I have to be a caregiver,” and I did (barring some financial solution that would have enabled him to go to a facility coupled with our willingness to let him go to one), but I healed over the three difficult years in some ways. If nothing else, three years free of Monday Dread were worth all the hard work of caregiving.

I am grateful to know myself better (not that it’s all good). I have the academic training to be empathetic, organized, and deliberate in my approach to caring for someone (due to my degree in Child Development and Family Relations (okay, ONE class in elder issues but still …..) and my master’s in Counseling and Human Systems). About 95% of that went out the window, though, when it came to dealing with Dad (just like 95% of my child development knowledge went out the window dealing with my own kids).

It was really toward the end that I got better at setting limits and boundaries and not reacting to being baited (and I know he wasn’t baiting me on purpose — it was a dementia thing). I am also a pleaser by nature and it was so very frustrating that “pleasing” is really a bad approach to someone who is combative and irrational.

I am grateful to have learned that there are often more solutions than you think there are. I am grateful to have become more decisive. We went round and round hemming and hawing about whether to move Dad to Depends ….. until the night he stood in our hallway peeing on the carpet (again, not intentionally but it was what it was). I immediately made the decision we had been putting off.

Ditto the decision to switch him to non alcoholic beer. I guess maybe that wasn’t my decision but the whole situation pointed out how we had options we could have pursued earlier. It wasn’t until he had his emergency dental procedure and couldn’t have beer for 48 hours that we said “we’re going with non alcoholic beer for good now.” The funny thing is I had been knocking myself out to sneak N/A beer into his “real” beer when he wasn’t looking. I would wait until he went to the bathroom then do this weird sprint/scurry thing where I ran to the fridge, poured out part of the real beer, and replaced it with N/A. I was grateful to end my N/A scurry cycle, let’s put it that way.

I am grateful for the realization that humor and the end of life stage are not mutually exclusive, that sarcasm (private, venting to people who get it sarcasm) is not a sign that the patient is not loved (quite the opposite).

I am grateful that I was forced to be assertive over so many things — medical practitioners who didn’t take care of his needs (not that there weren’t some who were AMAZING) and home care people who lied to me (again, some were INCREDIBLE).

Most of all, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to *try* to live up to the care my awesome mother-in-law would have expected me to give (the woman had high high standards!). I am grateful to have seen this stage of someone’s life. I think it will help me be more empathetic to others in the same situation in the future (and maybe do some advocacy).

Grateful Challenge

On the left, the official funeral mass. On the right, his friend Dan sharing memories at Corner Pocket. Another day ending at his favorite place. 🙂

Why Our #MeAt14 Stories Matter

I didn’t jump to post a #MeAt14 picture/story when the trend started. My story is not dissimilar to so many of the interactions that have been recounted.

The logic that finally got me to post was this: younger women (and I have a 21-year-old daughter, so that’s a factor) need to hear these stories. They need to know that women they have looked up to as invincible (this is a link to Diana Nyad’s incredible account) have faced down episodes in their lives that invaded their privacy, physically and psychologically. They need to know what we would have done differently in order to stand up to sexual harassment in their own lives.

Sexual Harassment

#MeAt14 (I guess the “band geek” part goes without saying?)

My Story(ies)

Incident #1

The first incident for me happened when I was 13 and a trusted male adviser in a fraternal group kissed me repeatedly against my will.

Incident #2

The second incident happened when I was a college freshman. Unlike Incident #1, it happened in a room full of other people. A trusted (and revered, at the time) male professor groped me.

What I would tell a girl/young woman to do if Incident #1 or Incident #2 happened to them:

Incident #1

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Whether you’ve spent one hour or 100 with a particular adult, trust your gut when they put their hands on you (or their tongue in your mouth).

MOVE TO A PUBLIC PLACE. Due to my ceremonial role in the organization, I was outside of the room where the meeting was taking place. I could have put an end to the situation by a) telling him to stop and b) OPENING THE DAMN DOOR. That would have violated some sacred obligation of our fraternal order, but some situations warrant breaking the rules.

TELL SOMEONE. As I’ve written repeatedly, the fact that my parents believed me made all the difference (and the fact that they created an environment where I could tell them in the first place).

Incident #2:

Many of the same recommendations as Incident #1, but with a few twists.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. One of the biggest challenges of sexual harassment (and something perpetrators probably rely on and are incentivized by) is the “shock” factor. It takes split second instincts to realize what is happening and adjust mentally to the loss of trust (if the perpetrator is someone you know already). I didn’t have that at 17.

SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE INDIVIDUAL. I’m honestly not sure (still) whether to say “confront the individual publicly by saying ‘Get your hands off me'” or to tell you to retain any facts you can (who else was present? what exactly happened?) so that you can recount it later. But get away — that part is a definite.

TELL SOMEONE. Tell someone, but do your research. I went to a Vice President who seemed to me the appropriate choice, since the circumstances of the incident’s occurrence were academic in nature. Unfortunately he had a relationship with the perpetrator — as his brother in law. I’ve never known what transpired after I left the vice president’s office.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Like many other women who have a #MeToo story or a #MeAt14 story, I have spent the last few weeks bouncing from resignation as the sheer quantities of stories rolled in to mobilization (a better choice than resignation, by the way!).

I recognize that many of the current allegations and descriptions of incidents that sometimes date back several decades have to wind their way through the legal system. I guess it is possible that people sometimes claim to be victims for reasons that are self-motivated and aren’t true.

But we don’t tell our stories to have attention focused on us (I don’t anyway). It’s really the last thing I care to discuss anymore. We do it to keep other people from being victimized, to try to renew our confidence in the fact that there are people in the world truly worthy of our trust.

I want my daughter and every young woman out there to trust their instincts, have a plan if sexual harassment happens to them, and have a way to address the issue publicly (and legally).

(I also want my son to stand up for the women in his life if/when he witnesses or hears about them being subject to harassment.This post is mostly about my perspective as a woman but men definitely have a place in changing the tide of this issue in our country (and world)).

If you have a #MeToo or #MeAt14 story that has lain dormant for years, eroding your happiness and making you question whether it makes a difference to share it, I give you my support (and an ear if you need it). I also encourage you to seek counseling to work through any lingering effects.

Sexual Harassment

I recently ran across this picture of my boyfriend at the time, me, and the professor who groped me (now deceased). My body language makes sense in retrospect.

Sexual Harassment

Five Takeaways from a Daily Writing Challenge

The “31 days of 5-minute free writes” October challenge has come and gone. Among other things, I never really got consistent about “31” or “Thirty-one,” “5-minute, “five-minute,” or “five minute,” but at least I was consistent about my writing commitment.

This is what occurs to me after 155 accumulated minutes of writing:

I like pondering a concept in advance of writing about it.

I got involved in the October challenge due to my affiliation with the Five Minute Friday community. Typically, there is not much time between learning the FMF prompt and writing to it. With this challenge, I had all 31 prompts from Day One.

Writing Challenge Survival

Although I like spontaneously responding to a prompt, it also shaped my month to be reflecting on concepts like truth, brave, and connect in advance.

I like changing things up.

It didn’t take long after the challenge began for me to start thinking of novel approaches. There was the day I handwrote my response, for example. Then the day I spent the five minutes verbally presenting my contribution via Facebook live (and then transcribing it — I speak much more rapidly than I type — that day’s entry was roughly double the length of any other).

I also found I needed (wanted?) to have a fresh, novel image for each day. Although I had created an image that I planned to be the “hallmark” image of the series, I hardly  used it. For one thing, I wanted something different to populate every day when I posted the piece of the day to social media.

Writing Challenge Survival

I may have gotten dependent on images.

This is truly a concern of mine — one that the challenge didn’t dispel.

I can think of very few posts I have written in the past several years that I didn’t somehow anchor with an image. Now, there’s nothing wrong with images, but I believe one of the goals of a writer should be to paint a picture with words.

Have I become more of a “look at this pink flower — isn’t it pretty?” writer than an “I could almost see the cotton candy fibers spinning into place as I pondered the pink hue of that blossom — even though we were nowhere near a fairground” kind of author?

Obviously the only way to improve my ability to describe with words instead of pictures is to practice. And learn. And have people critique my writing. But writing daily for five minutes at a time made me hyperaware as I scrambled over to Pablo many of the days to whip up a quick image, even if it only distantly related to my topic.

This image for my “follow” prompt, for example, is pretty but what does that leaf have to do with a conversation I had with a former Executive Director of an agency I volunteered at/worked for?

Writing Challenge Survival

People who comment are the best!

Commenting seems to be a dying practice. I read so many great blogs that have very few responses, if any at all. It does take time to comment, but as a writer, I know I appreciate each and every one. Tara of Praying on the Prairie commented on most, if not all, of my posts. It was like a little tiny pat on the back each time I read one of  her affirming notes. Thanks, Tara.

I love writing.

When I took on the challenge, I shared in the introductory post about how I have a goal of cutting down on writing for others for free and trying to secure more paid writing assignments. I couldn’t resist this challenge, though!

I am at a time in my life that I love waking up to start my morning part-time job (thanks, SmartBrief), but waking up to write for five minutes (BEFORE CAFFEINE EVEN) made waking up even better.

Before doing the challenge, I would possibly have argued with you if you had suggested I could put together coherent thought at 5:45 am without the aid of caffeine. But I’m here to tell you I apparently can!

(What I can’t/won’t do, though, is the next frontier: NaNoWriMo — a challenge to write a book in the month of November. The pending house listing, the lack of a clear idea of what I want to write, and a smidgen of fear topped off with a dash of insecurity are all barriers. It won’t happen this November, but that book will happen.)

I found this quote/image when looking for a quote with which to close, and although it is not as overt about writing as some other quotes I saw, this gets most directly at the reason I write and the reason I loved this challenge.

The act of writing (and sharing the writing) keeps me thinking. I suppose I would have “thought” whether I wrote or not, but writing makes me nudge the thinking into the world.

And when the thinking is out in the world, fading away is much less likely.

Writing Challenge Survival

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Thirty-one: Rest

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Rest

Today is the FINAL day of the 31 days of 5-minute free writes challenge, and appropriately enough the final word is “rest.”

Maybe many writers will do this topic in a Genesis-type way (and on the 7th day He rested kind of thing) but this topic, for me, brings up my sporadic and mysterious approach to rest.

I read a mental health post a while back and the author said she had been “stress sleeping,” and I thought “hmmm …… me too (maybe).”

For years (decades really), I prided myself on being able to get through life with very little rest. Take on a freelance project on top of the day job to try to earn money? Check! I can sleep later (?). The choices I made that obligated me to avoid rest in order to fulfill some monetary or status (volunteering) need added up.

And now I can’t get enough.

It helps that we are out of the caregiving phase — I don’t think I ever fully rested while Dad was with us (at night anyway), especially the last year or so when he was prone to wander the house at night and need to be redirected. I am not sure I got any REM sleep that three years (it felt that way anyhow).

I am fairly convinced that some of my fatigue IS physical, not just emotional. I have always, notably, gotten sleepy in meetings, while driving, any time I am not moving around.

But the “stress sleeping” bears some weight too. When I’m asleep it’s the most reliable way to shut my brain down for a bit.

Rest can be very unrestful, it turns out, unless we make our emotional bed once in a while.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Thirty: Refine

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Refine

What are we going to do about all the books?

This is a question Wayne and I have asked each other multiple times over the last week or two as we prepare to get the house ready to be listed. Although we have ideas (donate to Friends of the Library, etc.), the question sill begs itself.

What are we going to do about all the books?

My non-productive, related answer/thought is: we should have refined our approach to book acquisition long, long ago.

As we were in my son’s old room/our former “extra” room yesterday, going through books (many of which we had stored in a closet), I grew more and more disenchanted with the deluge/accumulation of books.

I really found myself thinking “maybe you shouldn’t write your own book because it will lead someone to be sitting in their extra room in fifteen years, saying “this was a nice book (hopefully) but WHAT DO I DO WITH IT NOW?”

So many books — books we had truly enjoyed, books we had felt compelled to buy but never cracked the cover of, books we had felt obligated to buy (I may have gone to quite a *few* book fairs back in the day and had many friends selling educational books), books we hoped would expand our children’s worlds.

The collection of books certainly tells the Kiger story in a way, though. Parenting books (did those work?), cookbooks, political books and, memorably, the wonderful Eugenia Price books.

This whole house/move process is leading me to wish I could retroactively refine my approach to acquiring things (not just books) and accumulate so many less material items.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty-nine: Follow

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Follow

When we have gotten used to things being a certain way, then a change is announced, it can be challenging to accept that change, embrace the positive benefits that might result and follow the path to implementing it.

I was talking last night with my friend Randy, who has been the director of the phone counseling hotline that I used to volunteer/work for (in the late 80s) for more than 25 years.

We were talking about ALL the changes — the many information-handling pieces that were strictly paper-based back then that are now handled by computer, the operational revisions, the way staffing and volunteer management has evolved.

I had been at the hotline when we first took on the contract for the Florida AIDS Hotline (again, late 80s). Because I was a compensated backup supervisor, I had to get trained on that hotline and work it. He and I discussed the fact that some volunteers didn’t agree with us taking on the AIDS Hotline (again, late 80s) and left the agency.

I commented that my personal views, and my path to becoming a more committed ally for LGBT individuals was BECAUSE I had to follow instructions and get trained on that hotline.

It turns out that although we should never fail to think critically about the choices ahead of us, *sometimes* following an organizational change is exactly what we need.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty-eight: Connect

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Connect

Look closely at the picture of tweezers above. I got them out to deal with a stray eyebrow hair the other day. I squeezed and squeezed yet nothing happened.

When I looked closely, I realized that the ends, the parts that would need to grasp the errant eyebrow hair in order to extricate it …… DID NOT CONNECT NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRIED TO FORCE THEM TO.

This “totally ineffective tweezer” situation seemed like such a parallel for so many other things in life.

From a distance, without my glasses on, the tweezers looked like any other pair of tweezers (frankly I was amazed to find tweezers at all — we never seem to have them when we need them — same goes for emery boards and fingernail clippers, especially toenail clippers but I digress).

It was when I actually tried to get them to do what they were supposed to do, that they failed.

Are we somehow doing the same thing in our lives? Putting on all the outer appearances so we look like we have it all together but neglecting to maintain the qualities and priorities that help us connect when we most need to?

Because I work from home, and because I will admit I have been more and more hesitant to bother to get ready to leave (something has to be really compelling or downright mandatory to coax me out), I worry that my “connector” bits are getting rusty, that I won’t have enough “foundation” experiences to write about…

…that I’ll end up in an endless loop where I am not connecting enough to grasp anything that matters.

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty-six: Change

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Change

“Don’t go changing to try and please me.”

“Just the way you are” by Billy Joel, which includes the line above, is one of my all-time favorite songs.

It came out around the time I took a class trip to New Orleans. You can tell this was a 70s class trip because we all crammed in a teacher’s car (it was a small group). These days, we would have had to sign five forms in triplicate, rent a bus and hire a driver to avoid liability.

Whatever the case, this song seemed to come on 20 times during the trip (I am sure this is an exaggeration of my middle-school memory).

I think — I’ve gotten to the point at 52 that I don’t feel *that* compelled to change to please others, but it is a lifelong quest to feel comfortable with ourselves — that we don’t have to change in order to please ourselves.

Wayne and I were talking the other day about the MAMMOTH job ahead of us of decluttering to list the house, and I said “despite how it looks (I am a terrible housekeeper and let clutter pile up), I hate clutter.” He said, “I just gave up at some point because I got tired of the dirty looks.”

Now, not to break down the Kiger marriage in five minutes, but we have each over 25 years done plenty of things worth getting a dirty look from the other.

Yet it still grieves me that in his head, the state of our house was driven primarily about my stubbornness and unwillingness/inability to change.

Take it away, Billy ….

Writing Challenge

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Twenty-five: Because

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.

Today’s prompt: Because

I am the kind of person who wants to know the “because” behind the things I do.

It’s not that I want to be in charge of everything; it’s more that understanding the context of my tasks helps me feel part of a bigger mission and see why/where my contribution fits in.

My hunger for the “because” part of life is not always a good fit for freelance world. Either by virtue of being separated physically from my bosses/coworkers, or because of being a dotted line on the org chart, more often than not, the “because” is somewhat inaccessible.

(Don’t get me wrong — that’s a blessing too. There’s lots of minutiae about the work world that you get to escape as a remote freelancer too.)

I think that’s why at least part of my career has involved career counseling. Asking people why they do what they do, helping other people find their own “why.”

I think that search for a “why” is never-ending.

And I am glad (mostly) the various twists and turns of my life have given me different angles on how best to fulfill my purpose.

Because having a purpose, after all, helps make the act of going to work matter.

Writing Challenge