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Archive for February, 2012

Last weekend was my once-yearly trek to the EMS conference in the boondocks. Last year I learned to birth a robotic baby, this year’s highlight was watching my good friend Jay, who 6 years ago was battling cancer, stand up strong and confident and present on professionalism in fire and EMS services.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend Jay. He is my ex-husband’s best friend (they grew up together and have the war stories to prove it) and I met Jay and his family about 10 years ago. He is now a paid firefighter/paramedic in Fort Myers, Florida and teaches at the local fire academy and the high school votech program. He was diagnosed in October 2005 with Burkitt’s type non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a blood disease so rare that only about 100 people are diagnosed each year. Jay, his loving wife Rhonda, and their six wonderful children fought the disease for over a year.  I have learned a lot from Jay – how to deal with the hand that your dealt no matter how unfair it is, how your attitude can effect the way your battle goes, how important it is to be courageous, how good people will receive good support. Quiet dignity and courage are the two best ways I can think of to describe Jay – and I struggle every day to live up to that example.

Jay and Rhonda both have been wonderful to me through the course of our friendship and my divorce. Despite what could be expected in terms of loyalty, they have not walked away from being my friend – like so many others have. They are at the end of the phone line or the Facebook message when I need them. I am grateful for that.

This EMS conference is now one of the most difficult events for me in my post-marriage life. I have to gird my emotional loins [on a side note, what a greatly colorful phrase, just saying] to attend. This conference is one of the few things my ex-husband and I ever did together. The fire service (along with baseball) was one of the few shared interests we had – and so we did things like this as a couple. And this particular conference was and is always filled with our mutual friends and fellow fire/EMS providers. For those of you who aren’t in the fire service, it can tend to be a very tight knit, close community. Which, when the shit hits the fan, is the best thing in the world – you know that it is your friends and pseudo-family members who are going to come to your aid. But, when your life has fallen apart, it also means that they are ALL going to know about it – and when your ex is also a beloved member of that same pseudo-family, it creates an abondanza of awkard moments. None of your mutual friends want to refer to The Breakup, yet they all know (or think they know) what really happened.

The flashbacks are staggering, those moments when you time travel back to happier days, when you can forget that things have changed. When you run into an old friend who doesn’t know you’ve divorced or you come out of a class and want to share your new knowledge with your life partner. When you go through your skills evaluations and want to celebrate your successes with your husband like you used to. I know that I’m not the first to experience this – those moments of forgetfulness are probably pretty common for anyone who has suffered a loss – but they still twist the knife of grief. I am haunted by the ghosts of lost friends, sad memories, and a firm place in the support system of the local EMS community – no longer can I consider myself a full member of the team because I have lost half of who I was. And the ghost of the Ex lurks around every corner, waiting to slam into me – will he be there? Will he come to the conference and will he bring his new woman? Rationally, you ask yourself – why do you worry if he appears or what he does? Yet emotionally you worry at every moment about the ghosts of him will come out to haunt your present.

So this year’s conference, with Jay as one of the keynote speakers, was one of the most difficult yet. I adore Jay – see the above description – but I also can’t ignore the fact that he is one of my ex-husband’s best friends and has been for over 30 years. How to greet a good friend who, understandably, has loyalties to the man who destroyed my life? How to face a friend who has probably heard every bad thing that my ex can construct about me? How to look in that friend’s eyes and not beg for forgiveness for not having been good enough for his buddy?

The good news is that I learned a lot at the conference. Not just the practical skills-based knowledge on pharmacology and airway management or the new technology for battling ‘dirty war’, not just the steps for a good radio consult with the trauma center or about the protocol updates in Maryland EMS. I learned that I am truly a different person now than I was before. I am damaged goods, yes, but I am also able to stand straight and hold my head high. to ignore the whispers of gossip and to make jokes about the bumpy road I’ve travelled. I am not better for the experiences of the last 2 years – but at least I am stronger.

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One of the worst parts about being single again at my age is the serious shortage in available, decent men. I guess I got too comfortable as a married woman and didn’t notice that all the really good guys were being snatched up off the market. But in the time since my husband left, I have found pretty much every possible representative of odd men that are still left on the singles scene. My married and relationshiped friends laugh when I make jokes about creating patches to represent these various different categories of men and wear the badges like a Girl Scout uniform. So, as a representative for single girls everywhere, I’m willing to proudly wear the Red Badges of Shame:

The Rebound Guy – this is the one who comes swooping in and says he knows exactly what you’re going through, he’ll be there for you, wants to rebuild your damaged ego, etc. I am a big enough girl to admit having fallen for that huge mistake – my rebound guy was over 20 years older than me and seriously resembles the cartoon character Shrek – without the sense of humor or lovable charm! Yeah, I’m real proud of this one.

The “You Were Better in My Head” Guy – this was the guy that ended up being so not worth the hype. My particular version of this guy had been the subject of some serious x-rated fantasies for me in the last year of my marriage as things were falling apart. It could have been terribly awkward if the husband had ever found out, since this fantasy-maker was a mutual friend of ours and in the fire service with us. Too bad he ended up being a MAJOR disappointment compared to all the fantasies I had built up in my head….

The Momma’s Boy – this guy couldn’t decide what to wear without consulting his mother. I was actually surprised, the few times we went out to dinner, that he didn’t either ask her to join us or have to call her for guidance on what to eat. And the worst part was that I was actually disappointed when this one dumped me. We won’t even ponder why I waited around long enough to get dumped.

The Pimp – yep, that’s right, he was a real, honest-to-God pimp – in his past, or so he promised me. And he considered it a compliment to me when he said I could have been his house mother. Gee, thanks, I don’t even get to be a ‘service provider’, I just get to babysit and cook for them. Really??

The ‘I Can’t Believe You Dumped Me for HER’ Guy – this is the guy that you see out with the next girl and you literally think to yourself ‘really, THAT girl’s better than me?’!  I went out with a guy once who is in law enforcement and who blew me off for someone he met through work – and NOT on the free side of the bars if you get my general drift. That’ll take a chunk out of a girl’s ego – of course, my husband left me for a woman who is going bald and has a mustache so there wasn’t much ego left but still….

The Control Freak – this is the guy that can’t be bothered to squeeze you into his schedule if it’s inconvenient but he damn well wants to know where you are and who you’re with. And, if you mention that you have guy friends and that you’re spending time with them, be prepared for the Control Freak to go batcrap crazy. You’ve been warned.

The “Are You SURE You’re Not Gay?” Guy – this guy was classy, educated, well-spoken and always dressed well. All in all, way too perfect to have been interested in me. I still haven’t figured out yet if he really is a gay man or just out of my league…

The Merry Widower – this one actually called me for emotional support on the night of his wife’s funeral. His need to ‘talk’ to someone lasted only as long as it took me to fall hard for his wounded, emotionally vulnerable self – and then he was moving on, getting engaged and pregnant within a year. Wow, shame on me, that’s all I can say….

The Baby Daddy – we all know them and love them, the men who just seem destined to be dads. Normally, I am a sucker for a guy with kids, who spends time with them, loves them, and supports them. This particular individual, though, has *4* children – with *4* different women. There is something charming about a loving dad – there is something not so charming about a serial sperm donor.

The Hillbilly – miles beyond the normal redneck man (who we all know I happen to love), the Hillbilly is in a class all by his double-wide-trailered self. This is the guy that thinks “hey, wanna see the deer hide still stuck in the front bumper of my station wagon ’cause I ran him down last month?” is an actual pickup line.

The Loser – this guy lives with his parents (in the basement, the attic, whatever) and doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it. Normally, when an adult child has to move home for some reason, there is a sense of discomfort and unease on the part of the adult child – they don’t really WANT to be there. But with this guy, he’s quite content to let Mom & Dad foot the bills, do the laundry, cook the meals and keep the house.

The Second Date Guy – this particularly charming individual got pissed off at me when I wouldn’t sleep with him on the second date. I will politely refrain from using the phrase Trailer Trash …but suffice it to say, I don’t give this one high marks for class or chivalry.

The Possessor – this guy is the one who wants to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with at every moment. He needs constant reassurance that you’re interested and wants to know when you will be calling him, seeing him, or texting him. It’s a sad day when I date a man who is a bigger girl than I am!

The One Who Is Just Waiting For Something Better – this charmer is the one who basically tells you he’s just passing the time with you. He checks his texts constantly while out with you, hoping that a better offer has come along. While he gets points for being honest and upfront, he will someday realize that telling a girl straight out that she will be only a booty call is somewhat insulting.

The Emotionally Unavailable One – this is the one that, no matter how hard you try to establish an emotional connection, you just can’t rip through the walls he’s built up. I couldn’t even get a straight answer from this guy on WHY he had built up these walls – it was like trying to ram my head into the proverbial brick wall.

The Egotist – this is the guy that never once asks you a single question about yourself or listens to anything you have to say. He’s too busy telling you about his history, his life, his hobbies, his job, his taste in food, etc. You could stand naked in the corner and whistle Dixie and it wouldn’t interrupt the soliloquy about HIM.

The Friend – this is perhaps the biggest mistake we as newly-single women can make! If he was a friend either from your previous single life or worse yet from your married days do NOT try to have a relationship with him! It will be awkward when things don’t work out and then you’ve potentially ruined a friendship that has survived the test of time. Or, even if you can salvage the friendship, you will always feel a certain resentment when you see him with the next girl.

The Wounded Soul – this guy is the easiest to fall for, especially if you’re like me – a sucker with a big heart. It’s like adopting a homeless puppy – they’re so vulnerable and needy and you can help them and make their lives better. The downfall is that you can either end up with the dog that will one day turn on you inexplicably and bite you in the ass OR you end up with the one who just acts like he’s waiting for you to kick him in the teeth because some woman in the past has done just that. Either way, you can’t win and it won’t be a healthy relationship.

And all of these charmers are the ones I actually went out with – this doesn’t include the variety of men that are still out there, just waiting for me. Oh, come on girls, you know we’ve ALL been out with these guys – I cannot possibly be the only one to have discovered some of these ‘treasures’! In a rare flash of uncharacteristic optimism, I am going to HOPE that I might one day start a relationship with Mr. Perfect. This is the guy that is, in so many ways, the anthithesis of the men that are normally attracted to me – he’s intelligent, kind, educated, well-spoken, with a good job and a sense of decency – and he actually reads books and uses his brain for matters other than sex or fire trucks. He will be able to tolerate me and my quirky ways, he will treat me well, and he will be normal…and then maybe I can throw away the collection of badges? Oh, Mr. Perfect, here I am, ready and waiting….

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Why should a woman who is healthy and strong
Blubber like a baby if her man’s goes away?
A weepin’ an’ a wailin’ that he’s done her wrong
That’s one thing you’ll never hear me say!
Never gonna think that the man I lose is the only man among men!
I’ll snap my fingers to show I don’t care
I’ll buy me a brand new dress to wear
I’ll scrub my neck and I’ll brush my hair
And start all over again!

Many a new face will please my eye
Many a new love will find me
Never have I once looked back to sigh
Over the romance behind me
Many a new day will dawn before I do!

Many a like lad may kiss and fly
A kiss gone by is bygone.
Never have I asked an August sky
“Where has last July gone?”
Never have I wandered through the rye
Wondering “where has some guy gone?”
Many a new day will dawn before I do.

Never have I chased the honeybee
Who carelessly cajoled me
Somebody jist as sweet as he
Cheered me and consoled me.
Never have I wept into my tea
Over the deal someone doled me

Many a red sun will set
Many a blue moon will shine
Before I do!

I know that I frequently highlight songs and lyrics – I can’t help it, I live in a musical universe. My dad is a professional musician now that he has retired from teaching and I was raised in a very music-inclined household. At one point, I enjoyed a life on the stage, just a’singin’ my heart out or tootling my flute. Music speaks to me in ways that only true musicians will understand. So, while I apologize for boring you with my songs, I also make no apologies that the cosmos speak to me through country ballads, rock anthems, and Broadway ditties.

Anyway, this song popped up on my iPod today while I was out walking the dog. Per my surgeon’s instructions, I have to walk daily for the next several months until all my incisions have healed – at which point I can graduate to running, aerobics, dancing or whatever else my heart desires. So the dog and I have a daily dose of iPod shuffling. This song came on and even the dog was cheering…

Any of you out there who have had your hearts broken or who have been wronged, who’ve been abandoned or treated like garbage? Am I the only one to feel that she does NOT need a man to complete her? Is there anyone else out there who is struggling to put on her big girl panties and get on with her life? I’m guessing I’m not alone….

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