This is not about you.

Sometimes it feels so good to be pissed off. When I’m angry, I feel powerful, eager to blast whoever offended me, cut me off in traffic, or amputated me out of his life. And yet, sometimes the anger makes me feel out of control. What did I say? What did I do? Why did I react that way? It’s exhausting. While the screaming and sarcasm feels cathartic at the time, afterward I’m left feeling downtrodden.

They say all arguments begin and end with ourselves. I believe it, and yet, I have relationships with people who can ignite me and burn me to ash in a moment. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember I must control my behavior, especially when I’m highly emotional. How I feel and act is about me. And, your feelings and your behavior is about you.

Think about a day when you woke in a bad mood. You stubbed your toe on the door to the bathroom. There’s a nearly bare toilet paper left on the roll, which you didn’t notice before you went. Someone used most of the hot water, so your shower was about luke warm. And when you poured milk into your coffee, curdles floated to the top.

So, you drive to your favorite coffee place and order breakfast. The server asks, “How’s your morning?” and you answer “Fine,” when you want to say, “It has sucked so far.” She gives you the right coffee order but the wrong breakfast sandwich. Sausage? I wanted bacon. The world is your enemy.

Think about a day when you woke feeling light. Your dog rolled over in bed and invited you to rub his belly. Your shower was just the right temperature. Your son told you he loved you three times before you left for work. You did food prep over the weekend, so you have overnight oats for breakfast and lunches for the week. When you drive to your favorite coffee place, the person ahead of you pays for your beverage. The world is your oyster. (If you like oysters, and I do.)

It’s important to hang onto those good days, relish them. Smile as often as you can. Realize that the friend who ignores you is mad at himself. The person who cut you off while driving is oblivious. Everyone is living in their own little world, stubbing their toes and running out of toilet paper. That has nothing to do with you.



What Was Foul for the Gander Is Fine for the Goose

Several years ago, I broke the Goose’s heart. I had a brief affair during our marriage, didn’t come clean for several months, and when I did, we fell into disrepair. After six months, the Goose filed for divorce, and in the yearlong aftermath, while I dated the affair guy, the Goose sent me long disparaging text messages, ignored me at kids’ events and told me he hoped the affair guy died of a long, painful disease. The Goose looked through my mail and did a full-on character assassination to our family and friends.

Because I chose to have the affair, which destroyed my family, and I deeply regret, I felt like the Goose had every right to unleash his anger. I didn’t threaten him with no contact orders, restraining orders, or police reports. He told our son the affair guy was a bad person, and looking back, he was right. Anyone who’s married and has an affair with another married person needs to take a long hard look at the decisions they’re making.

Five years ago, long after the affair guy and I had broken up, (we lasted 15 months) the Goose had no girlfriend, and we had a brief reconciliation. He called it off with no reason, but I suspected it was out of fear and lack of trust. He came to my house drunk one night and made a snide comment about my affair. Not long after that, the Goose stopped talking to me all together. Later, he would tell me he stopped loving me in 2014.

18 months ago, the Goose and I started talking again. We scheduled monthly nights out to drink beers, have a meal, and chat. Four months in, he kissed me and invited me back into his life physically. For the following six months, we hung out more, talked a lot about our failed relationship, and even went to couples therapy. I was hopeful. Our three kids said we’d created our own Parent Trap.

In July of last year, the Goose started pulling away with no explanation. In August he reconnected with a woman he hadn’t seen since high school. (She was still living with her husband, 7 hours away, with three kids under 10, and a pending divorce because of an affair and erratic behavior.) She told the Goose they were soul mates.  The Goose didn’t tell me for a month and a half that he had been spending every weekend with the woman. When he did admit it, I called him a mother frogger and left his house. In October, she was removed from her home by the local police.

Since the Goose confessed his relationship, we have had dozens of arguments over text, phone, and email. The Goose has threatened legal action against me for telling his GF he must love her more than he loves me. He told me to butt out of his business, and basically told me I am crazy because I challenged the red flags on the relationship. Move on, he said. It’s as though the six months we spent together never happened. And all of the rotten things the Goose said to me during my red-flag filled relationship have vanished from his memory.

Only three people in my life tell me not to give up on the Goose. He divorced me, reached out, rejected me, reached out again, and rejected me. It’s as though he broke my heart three times. If the Goose and his girlfriend end up working out, getting over him will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It seems so unfair. And yet, some might argue karma is giving me exactly what I deserve. Not sure the broken families deserve as much.


The Nerd in Disguise

In the ’80s, when I was coming of age, MTV was everything–I loved the thrift-store fashions of Cyndi Lauper, the fluffy skirts, zip up boots, and torn stockings. She looked so cool. But I went to a catholic school where we had to follow a dress code: blouses, slacks and/or skirts (not too far above the knee), no stirrup pants, and dress shoes. The most rebellious I could get was popping my collar.

I had grown up as a tomboy, two years younger than my brother, and because we were not rich, my father dressed me in “Tony’s” hand-me-downs. Until I was about five, I believed I was a boy. My father let me walk around the house with no shirt on, Tony and I had fist-fights with kids on the playground, and I only wore pants.

My father remarried when I was six, and my stepmother introduced me to a hairbrush, ruffled panties, dresses, tights, and patent leather shoes. It was not a smooth transition. When she brushed my knotted hair, I wailed and she yelled. And when I hung upside down from a tree limb while wearing a dress, consequently showing my flowered underwear, she told me to get down.

Looking back, I realize my stepmother was a trend follower. She wore T-shirts with sayings on them, high-priced designer jeans, and used top-of-the-line makeup and hair products. She bought school clothes for my brother and me at the very uncool Sears store in the mall and sneakers from a place called Philadelphia Sales. Cheap!

Of course, in high school, I was desperate to fit in and begged my stepmother to buy me Izod polos, designer jeans, and elf boots. She took me to outlet malls where they had “slightly damaged” Izod clothing and I got my polos. I borrowed elf boots from my friend, and was grateful for being a cheerleader who got to look cool in my uniform on game days.

Luckily, my stepgrandmother bought me Forenza sweaters and wide wale corduroys from the Limited, and Gloria Vanderbilt designer jeans. And for my senior prom, my father gave me an unlimited price tag to buy any dress I wanted–a mauve Southern Belle dress and finger-less gloves.


One of the things I liked about 80s fashions were they were influenced by the late 50s and early 60s fashions–saddle shoes, penny loafers, poodle skirts and angora sweaters worn over a blouse with a Peter Pan collar. When the GoGos appeared on MTV with their short hair styles and blouses, my father thought they were a 50s band.

As a woman who will turn 50 this year (yay!) I wear what I like to call “classic” fashions. Collared blouses, slacks, and shoes that don’t go out of style. This is not necessarily to make a statement; I think it’s because growing up poor taught me to be thrifty. I want my clothes and shoes to last. I shop at Goodwill and second-hand stores. I visit Nordstrom Rack, not Nordstrom. And if I think a piece of clothing I buy won’t last at least a decade, I usually put it back on the rack.

Some people always seem to know which trends are coming. The messy bun, big sunglasses, eyelash extensions, yoga pants. If it weren’t for my grown daughters, I might never know what was “in style.” I work in a professional office, so I wear dress clothes, but I feel like a nerd in disguise. I’ll leave the trends to the people who have the time and energy to follow them.

I’m deeply grateful that my father dressed me in boys’ clothes. I know I will never be a princess. Today I’m wearing a pair of Doc Marten saddle shoes I bought at a second-hand store for $35. I love telling people how inexpensive they were. I get many compliments on them. I once got a snide comment, but that woman and I hardly talk anymore.


Lust Kills Your B.S. Detector.

My father opened a shoe-repair business when I was two, and I spent a lot of time around adults. There was Joyce, the woman who made tie-dyes and sewed leather; Bob, my father’s buddy who fixed shoes; and the array of business men (it was the 70s and they were mostly men) who wore fedoras and suit jackets, and called me Chooch. Spending time around adults helped me cultivate a decent b.s. detector.

My memories from this period, before age four, are idyllic. My father had divorced my and my brother’s mother, and the three of us lived in a modest apartment. We were poor in money but rich in love, and we went everywhere together–the shoe-repair shop, the bowling alley, the bar. We ate TV dinners in front of the black and white console, mostly Laugh-In and The Sonny and Cher Show, or scarfed fried clam strips down the street at Sharkey’s Tavern.

After my father started dating “Vickie,” a high-school dropout with wavy bleached hair and freckles, my life changed. Although Vickie dressed my brother and me in nice clothes, and kept us clean, she also whipped us with leather belts and called us names. Her brother molested me when I was four. And, Vickie was a serial cheater. My father married her in 1975, and six months later my younger brother was born. He caught Vickie the first time when my brother was less than one.

My father and Vickie stayed together for 23 years. Living with her until I was 18 (I moved out on my birthday) taught me injustice, to keep silent, and to cower in the presence of a bully. Her brother had said to me, “Don’t tell your daddy what we did. He’ll think you’re nasty.” Vickie said to me, “If you tell your father I hit you, you’ll get it worse.” And when I told other family members or adults about what was happening in our home, I got a pat on the head, and a, “Oh, you’re just being dramatic.”

It may not surprise you that when I married, I fell for a male version of Vickie and left my relationship. More than once. Several people waved warning flags in my face, which I ignored. It wasn’t until the love of my life divorced me that I saw I was the problem. It took ten months for me to see through my male Vickie’s bullshit. Now, I’m single and am trying to make up for my mistakes through reading, self-reflection and therapy.

My father divorced Vickie in 1998, and he passed away in 2012. Vickie remarried and from what I hear, is cheating. I wish she would have sought help for whatever childhood haunts keep her in that self-destructive cycle. To make matters worse, I now have a good friend who’s been hoodwinked by his own version of Vickie. Did I warn him? Yup. Did he yell at me and cast me aside? Yup. It’s as if I’m reliving my childhood, watching my friend instead of my father, heading for a fall.

My hope for my friend, who usually has a keen bullshit dectector, is that he will wake up before too much damage has been done. But, similar to Vickie, his enchantress is pretty, fit, and an amazing liar. Friends tell me, “Don’t worry. She’ll hang herself. And then you can say, ‘I told you so.'” Problem is, I’m not going to say I told you so. I’m going to be there for my friend if he feels had can confide in me. Keep your fingers crossed.


The Truth Is Sometimes Painful

I grew up with a father who loathed dishonesty. I credit his Italian American pride, or perhaps growing up catholic, but nothing made my father angrier than learning he’d been lied to. He tended to be “brutally honest,” and the people who loved and admired him appreciated that. As his daughter, I feared his truth-telling when I was as a girl because I was extremely sensitive, but eventually I grew to admire the trait.

You have to be courageous, confident, and often live with regret when you are honest, because people rarely want to hear the truth. The image I’ve included in this post is a sketch from my son. In order to remember his spelling words, he sketched faces beside them expressing what he believed conveyed the word. When you look at the faces beside “truthfulness,” although one wears a halo, they both look anxious. Telling the truth is hard; hearing the truth is hard.

My father once told me, “You couldn’t be more like me if you tried.” Although I was sincerely flattered to hear that, I knew it meant I am also brutally honest, have a terrible poker face, and tend to alienate people because I struggle with being dishonest even in polite conversation when sometimes you should be. This is not to say I have never told a lie. I have. And some have caused irreparable damage in my life. It’s just that lying to people causes me great internal struggle, reddens my face, and fills me with crippling guilt.

Similar to most people, it’s also not easy for me to hear the truth. When people have told me I’m too analytical, sensitive, dramatic, or that I remember more negative details than positive, I stiffen with defensiveness. All of the preceding statements are true. I am also self-deprecating, affectionate, and loyal. The older I get the kinder I am to myself (and others), and I try to work with not against my human flaws.

One of my most irritating traits, I’m guessing because I’ve received a lot of flack for it, is my incurable need to discover the “why” behind just about everything. Why did my mother leave? Why did my stepmother beat me? Why do dishonest people seem to have more success than honest ones? Why did my brother get killed? Why did my husband die? Why do I have so much trouble sustaining a romantic relationship when others seem to just do it? Why are people mean? Why I did reject the man I believe is my true love?

On a positive note, once I process the Why in my head, through writing, art, or talking, I can usually let it go. In some cases, like with the death of my brother, I’ve had to make peace with not knowing why it happened. That has taken 30 years. I’m still struggling with the true love question. The other whys might be explained with psychology, self-help books, chats with friends, or talk therapy–of which I’m a huge advocate. But one important lesson I’ve learned is that in order to process these questions and heal, you have to be 100% truthful.

In the book, The Courage to Heal, which I highly recommend if you’ve suffered any personal trauma, the word courage is aptly used. It’s so much easier, and fun, to ignore our flawed humanness and not heal. For years, I was the party girl, loved getting drunk, being around people, being loud and obnoxious, all in an effort not to spend time alone and seek the truth within myself. I’d gone to therapy, but never engaged fully with the tenets. It took my loving someone other than myself to see how badly I needed help.

This person is still in my life, and because we’ve hurt each other, we have had to start rebuilding trust from the bottom up. Being honest takes courage, confidence, and working through regret to move forward when we hurt each other now. But, as you’ve probably heard or experienced, there is no greater reward than having an honest, open relationship with someone you love. And I want that.





Navigating Different Communication Styles

Over the past 18 months, I’ve been meeting with a behavioral therapist, as often as once a week. When I started, I had been sitting in a pit of despair after realizing too late what a special and rewarding relationship I had with my husband of nine years. I had turned 40 in 2008 and sort of lost my mind over the next two years. The collateral damage incurred by us and our sweet family post-split still nags at all of us. We are healing, albeit slowly.

Through my therapy I’ve learned that one of the issues “Eric” and I dealt with during our marriage and divorce involves our vastly different communication styles. We are similar in that we’re both passionate, quick-tempered and stubborn. However, I am a moving-toward quick-processing extrovert (MTQPE), and he is a moving-away slow-processing introvert (MASPI). Night and day. Black and white. Scorpio and Taurus.

Defining the styles. Moving-toward means I’m the woman who talks to strangers and wants to save the world even when it’s inconvenient for me. Moving-away Eric hangs in the background and observes the scene before he makes a move. The night we met, I walked up to his adorable self at Little Harry’s Airport Bar in Lewiston, Idaho, and said, “Hi. I’m Cindy. Wanna buy me a drink?”

Eric likes to listen and assess, and he’s good at both. I like to chat, on and on, and recharge when I’m around people. Eric recharges by spending time alone. Quick-processor me can call him on a Monday at 8:00 a.m. and say, “Wanna take the kids to the theme park this Friday? Do ya? Huh? I’ll drive. I’ll buy the tickets. What do you think? Huh?” Slow-processor Eric would probably take a minute to answer: “I don’t know. Let me check and get back to you.”

When you’re in love with someone, these differences seem minor. But after years of mistaken assumptions and misinterpreted silence, they can wear on a person, even destroy an unexamined relationship. And then, when you’re in the middle of a breakup, these differences cause real arguments.

Being aware and strategic. Eric lives in his head much of the time (he’s amazing at self-reflection) but I process my life out loud, through talking. If you are a MASPI, like Eric, I would drive you bonkers. If he has anything on his plate, work issues, personal stuff, bills, he would prefer to slide the theme park to the bottom of the stack until he was ready to tackle it simply to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Meanwhile, I’m doing aerobics, playing paddle ball with one hand and whirling a figdget spinner in the other.

Eric and I have been divorced six long years. In the past ten months, we have been scheduling monthly “conversations” where we talk about the kids, our lives, and manage our different communication styles. One of the most important things I’ve learned relies on the premise that my style is no better than his style. They are simply different. In this post-therapy stage we’re in, Eric and I work hard to treat each other with dignity, and examine and respect the styles.

Being versus foreseeing. Being an MTQPE, I would love to know exactly when I’m going to see and talk to Eric. I recharge when I’m around him. But, when a moving-toward person moves too quickly or too often, a moving-away person tends to get his energy zapped and needs more space. That is a style, not necessarily a strategy.

Eric is content just being. He doesn’t need to plan every movement of his day or his life. I, on the other hand, want to see into my future. When will we meet again? When we will talk again? Forward, forward, forward. One of the things my therapist helps with is my feeling comfortable in the not knowing. (Eric tries to meet me halfway by communicating more.)

We are less than a year into this process of trying to communicate effectively. We stumble. We piss each other off. We spend hours laughing. It’s an unpredictable way of living. But, I am slowly gaining comfort and working to make him feel safe in my presence. The closer we can come to meeting in the middle, the better off we’ll be.

Loose Lips Can Float Ships

For the first two days of 7th grade, my friends (with whom I’d been thick for three years) ignored me. They literally did not speak to or interact with me for two school days. Confused by the treatment, but afraid to ask why they were snubbing me, I pretended not to care and sat with others in the cafeteria, while my former friends looked on.

During lunch on the third day of 7th grade, my friends invited me to their table. One said, “We weren’t going to talk to you this year.” I nodded as though I understood but wondered how they might ignore me for an entire year. Studies on human behavior show that being shunned is a universal fear. We all want to be accepted by our peers. Middle school seems to be the place where we experience both.

Over the next two years, I shunned and was shunned, bullied and was bullied, made some friends for life, and gossiped incessantly. (Perhaps that’s why my friends shunned me.) Looking back, I see my gossiping as a way to get attention and gain friends. Instead, it made people avoid me or want to kick my ass. As I came of age, even into my 20s, my loose lips continued to get me into trouble. I had to take a good look at myself and see my fingers were pointing in the wrong direction.

As I got into writing, and made friends with other writers, I discovered we are a gossiping bunch. We love to get to “the truth,” find out what goes on behind-the-scenes, and tell stories, which are good things. What I’ve learned, however, is that it’s safer and often more powerful to tell stories about myself and the dumb things I do. Some of my favorite comedic writers, Margaret Cho, Dave Chapelle, John Mulaney, and Conan O’Brien, make fun of themselves. Laughing at our humanity brings us together.

The older I get, the more I want to preserve my friendships. I try to share positive gossip. Who got a job? Who got married? What’s going on in town? I also try to think before I start yammering on. I’m far from perfect but am commited to working on this part of my personality. If we can’t invite others to our table and make connections, why are we even here?