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Not too long ago I went to the annual Women’s Retreat at my church. I took a workshop on acrylic painting that was led by a woman who managed to get a bunch of small canvases, acrylic paint, and brushes we could use. The idea was to paint our feelings and we could even tap into the current #MeToo movement that has risen up around the world in the wake of the rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment that has risen up around Harvey Weinstein.

I took the whole #MeToo thing seriously because I painted something based on a thought that had long been in the back of my mind and it’s based on what happened when my marriage ended.

A Different Kind of #MeToo Story
Acrylic paint
9 inch x 12 inch
23 cm x 30 cm

I was inspired by the art I’ve seen at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore over the past few years where I’ve seen art done by people with little or not formal art training. I’ve seen paintings that had writing on them so I decided to experiment with doing something similar.

For the top of the painting I wrote: “A different kind of #MeToo story: When your significant other sexually preys on a severely mentally ill woman and the law can’t or won’t stop him.”

For the bottom of the painting, I paired it with a Donald Trump quote from 2004 that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign and it triggered me. Here’s the quote: “[She] is probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed.” While I’ve had so many friends tell me that they don’t understand why he left me for someone with so many problems, I have to admit that this crass quote from Donald Trump has provided some kind of insight. Although I can’t really say that it’s the main reason why he left me for her, it’s definitely a possible explanation.

I painted some cartoony versions of the three people in the middle of this love triangle. None of them bore any kind of resemblance to any real-life people, which is just as well because I wasn’t in the mood to spend tons of time trying to come up with realistic depictions of real-life people. I just wanted to paint the raw emotions in an impressionistic style. (Although I inadvertently made the man into someone who looked like a cross between John Lennon and Jerry Garcia. LOL!)

I had all of those pent-up emotions from the last few years and I really expressed them in that painting. For years I had gone to great lengths to avoid expressing too much about my feelings regarding my husband leaving me for a woman with severe mental health issues (with the exception of the sessions with my therapist and attending meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced) because many of my friends are still in contact with my ex-husband and I didn’t want to drive them away if I bashed my ex too much around them. I also feared that someone would go to my ex and say “Boy you should hear what your ex-wife have said about you!” and he would retaliate by withholding alimony or try some other kind of shenanigans against me. After seeing his ugly side throughout the entire separation and divorce process, I’m inclined to believe the worst about him these days.

It was so difficult when that horrible quote from Donald Trump about how he felt that troubled women were great in bed had surfaced and it unearthed memories of when my husband left me for a severely mentally ill woman and he even married her just two months after our divorce was final.

Now that my alimony has run out I feel a little bit freer to express my feelings about how my marriage ended. But I still can’t openly dwell too much on it because I don’t want to appear as a very angry and bitter woman who ends up alienating my friends.

I have anger issues towards my ex that still remain to this day. It was bad enough that my ex had never indicated that he was the least bit unhappy until he arrived home three days after Christmas, announced that he was moving out, then bolted out the door before I could even say anything. On top of it, he left three months after I underwent hip surgery so I couldn’t even run after him without grabbing my walker, unfolding it, then shuffling outside. By that time he would’ve been in his car and driving off.

I was shocked when he left. I thought that his mind had simply snapped because he had to deal with my health issues at the time, the stresses at his NASA job, undergoing stress each Sunday when he served as the Treasurer at our church and he had to constantly keep close track of the church’s finances, and the fact that he came down with bronchitis. That night I wrote this post where I expressed hope that he would soon return home.

Things grew worse when my friends told me that he left me for a friend of ours who has mental health issues so severe that she had told people that she has an experimental pacemaker in her brain. She had an incident just 10 months before he left me for her where she spent a few days at Sheppard Pratt Hospital in Baltimore. Just a few weeks before my husband left she had announced that she qualified to start receiving SSDI disability payments.

The fact that he left me for a woman with severe mental health issues gave me a not-too-subtle message that he would have stayed with me only if I had developed my own serious mental health issues.

At one point I wrote this post about my husband running away from home because I learned that another blog was looking for stories about people overcoming adversity. I did everything that required from me regarding being featured in that other blog only to never hear back from the blogger in question. I found out later that the blog decided that it would no longer post other people’s stories about overcoming adversity, which was why I never heard back from that blog. (That blog is still online but it is now a lifestyle blog that’s heavily focused on interior design.) My blog post about my runaway husband has been ranked among my most viewed posts of all time.

I was also rankled back in late January when I went to church without checking what the topic of the service was beforehand. I arrived to find out that the Men’s Group was doing a lay-led service and my ex was among the speakers. He began his bit when he said  “My marriage fell apart…” That had me livid because that statement implied that either I had left him or our marriage had broken down over a long period of time because we were arguing and not getting along so we both made the mutual decision to separate. What he said was total bullshit because he didn’t even indicate that he was the least bit unhappy until he left.

I’ve had a few people ask me if I ever intend to stay friends with my ex. Here’s the thing: If a woman had her marriage end after she learned that her husband had sex with a 12-year-old girl, would you ask her if she ever intend to stay friends with her ex? Chances are you would answer “no” because not only is having sex with a 12-year-old girl is considered to be morally and ethically wrong but it’s also illegal in most states these days.

I know you’re probably asking why would I compare having sex with a mentally ill woman with sex with a 12-year-old girl. Well I’ve done some Internet searches on Google regarding having sex with a severely mentally ill person. This link on the Criminal Defense Lawyer website has this to say about the issue:

Lack of consent is the crucial component of sex crimes. Sexual conduct becomes criminal when sexual touch is not consented to, either because the offender forces another person to be sexual against his or her will, or because the other person is considered incapable of consent or to have a diminished mental capacity to give consent. Those who are deemed incapable of consent include minors under the age of fourteen or fifteen, regardless of their mental abilities to understand the nature of the act and their ability to refuse (but see “Sexual Conduct with a Minor,” below). In addition, sex with the following people is criminal if they do not have the capacity to knowingly consent:

  • a developmentally disabled person
  • someone who is mentally ill, and
  • a person who is incapacitated – drugged, drunk, or unconscious – or otherwise physically helpless.

There’s not much about any court trials related to the issue of having sex with a mentally ill person. There was a case in 1990 where a man in Wisconsin was put on trial for sexually assaulting a woman with multiple personality disorder by encouraging the woman to allow one of her more compliant personalities to surface so he would be more likely to score with her.

There was another case in Connecticut that is nearly identical to my situation. Like my situation, a married man entered into a sexual relationship with a mentally ill woman. (This particular case included BDSM, which I can’t even say whether my ex and the other woman engage in or not.) Unlike my situation, the mentally ill woman subsequently died (I wasn’t able to determine whether she committed suicide or if she died of something else). Her mother filed a lawsuit against the man and it resulted in a $630,000 judgement against the man.

Unfortunately I’ve come to a dead end because the law is pretty inconsistent regarding having sex with mentally ill people. On top of it, there are plenty of mentally ill people who have been able to lead normal lives thanks to various treatments and therapies so these high-functioning people are just as capable of consenting to sex as other adults.

At the end of the day, the only thing I could do was to warn anyone with female friends or relatives with mental illness to not let that woman be alone with my husband for even a minute. My warning is based on the fact that I had friends later tell me that while I was home recuperating from hip surgery, he was frequenting a non-profit cooperative cafe a few nights a week where she volunteered as a bartender and they saw him aggressively flirting with her. After he left home, those same friends saw him take her on dates to that same non-profit cooperative cafe where she volunteered so they soon learned why he left me.

All I know is that my ex-husband has a cousin who spent time in prison after he was convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy he met while he volunteered in a mentoring program for children of single parents. (The cousin was partnered with the boy and they hit it off pretty well. He then invited the boy over to his apartment for an unsupervised sleepover and the boy accused him of sexual molestation. The cousin said he was innocent but there were no other witnesses at that sleepover that night. It was the cousin’s word against the boy’s word and the law sided with the boy.) To me what my ex-husband is doing makes him little better than his cousin. At least she’s an adult and not a child but she has severe mental health issues and I really think that if he was really concerned with her as a person, he would leave her alone and let her figure out how to live her life on her own terms. (By the way, my ex-husband and his cousin are both the grandsons of the famed diabetes researcher Michael Somogyi.)

The most frustrating thing about this is that had I learned that my husband was having sex with a 12-year-old girl, I could report him to the authorities. But since the person in question is an adult woman, I can’t do anything because the law is so vague and inconsistent regarding sex with the mentally ill.

As much as I would love for the law to take a strong look at the mentally ill and consensual sex, I have other pressing matters going on in my life that needs attention so I have no other choice but to let this go. I hope the law changes one day so that people like my ex-husband would have to be held accountable for their actions.

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There’s this story that’s currently trending on Buzzfeed that’s pretty bizarre. The gist is that Lisa Palmer was a student at Hunter College in New York City until two years ago when she said that the school forced her to drop out just a semester before she was scheduled to graduate because she couldn’t pay her student fees. She claimed that Hunter College said that she could remain in her dorm room as long as she paid off her course fees and re-enroll in classes. Since that time she has remained in her dorm room while not paying any room and board fees nor paying off her past debts to the college. She currently works two jobs but she has yet to re-enroll in any classes.

Hunter College has spent the past two years sending her notices of owed residency fees as well as repeated eviction notices only to have Palmer ignore them. Hunter College has sued Palmer asking her to not only leave the dormitory but to pay back a staggering $94,000 dollars that she has owed them for the two years she has lived in that dorm. Palmer has said that she hasn’t paid anything over the last two years because she can’t afford to pay so, therefore, she shouldn’t have to pay anything yet she should still be able to remain in her dorm room. She also said that she’s currently looking for legal representation but, according to her, “none have met my expectations in terms of their deduction ability.”

I stayed in a dormitory during my undergraduate years at the University of Maryland at College Park and this story has me shaking my head at both sides of this dispute.

Lisa Palmer is 32 years old and I don’t even know why she wants to continue her fight to remain in a dormitory, especially at her age. A typical college dorm tends to be cramped. I once lived in a dorm room with two beds, two bureaus, two desks, two chairs, and a large closet but I had to share it with a roommate. Based on a photo of one of Hunter College’s dorm rooms that I saw posted on the Buzzfeed site, it looks like Lisa Palmer had a room to herself but it still looks very cramped with a bed, a desk, a chair, a closet, and a small bureau. She can’t really own too many clothes or other things because her room is so small. Dorm life was barely tolerable for me when I was in my early 20’s and I’m not exactly pining for that experience again because living in one can be a total hassle—which only gets even more annoying the older you get.

If you need to use a toilet, brush your teeth, or take a shower, you have to frequently leave your dorm room to go to one of the communal bathrooms that are located on each floor. If you need to eat a meal, you have to leave the dorm and walk to the nearest dining hall. The dining hall was only opened during certain hours of the day so if you were hungry at—let’s say—2 a.m. you had to stay hungry (or come up with an alternate way to satisfy that hunger) because the dining hall was closed. Unless you’re lucky enough to own a tiny refrigerator that’s suitable for a dorm room (which I never had due to tight finances) you have to leave your room and go somewhere else if you’re in the mood for a soda or a glass of wine or even a drink of water.

I remember during my time living in a dorm I wasn’t allowed to have a hot plate or a portable stove in my dorm room due to fire regulations. This was also back in the day when microwave ovens were very big, bulky, and expensive so they weren’t practical for a dorm room at all. There were a couple of kitchen ovens that were located in the basement of my dorm near the laundry room. I only used one of the ovens once and that was to bake a birthday cake using one of those boxed cake mixes and pre-made frosting for my then-boyfriend’s 25th birthday. (He later became my ex-husband.) It was such a hassle having to leave my upper level dorm room, take an elevator to go to the basement, whip up the cake (which I recall had its own disposable pan that you can bake and serve in and it only required adding water then stirring the mix with a plastic spoon that I swiped from the dining hall), pop it in the oven, then wait around for the oven to finish baking because there was a rule where we had to stick around whenever we used one of the ovens because the dormitory wanted to avoid oven-related fires. It was easier to just go to a dining hall for meals than to try to cook your own meal using one of the dormitory ovens.

As for Hunter College, I don’t know why they didn’t move to evict her sooner instead of filing a lawsuit after two years. I know that during my undergraduate days the dormitories at the University of Maryland were only available to students who were 1) single, 2) childless, 3) pet-free, and 4) enrolled for a minimum of nine credit hours per semester, which generally equalled to three courses. If, for whatever reason, a student had to completely withdraw from all of his/her classes before the semester ended, he/she was expected to move out of the dorm soon afterwards. A dorm resident could also be kicked out before the semester ended if he/she engaged in acts of violence against another student or did something extremely destructive (such as setting a bed on fire). Each dorm resident had to sign a contract acknowledging that he/she would abide by all of the rules as long as he/she wanted to stay in a dorm.

I assume that Hunter College has those same standards. They could’ve evicted Lisa Palmer the moment they found out that she hadn’t enrolled in any classes in a semester. All they had to do was to send a notice saying that she would have to leave by a certain date or else she would be evicted then stick to that schedule if she ignored that notice. They could have gotten the campus police to remove her from the room while hiring some movers to place her belongings on a nearby street corner. For added measure, they could’ve hired a locksmith to change the lock to that room so she couldn’t sneak back in. That’s no different than what I occasionally see at a local apartment complex that’s located near my home where someone’s furniture, clothes, and other belongings suddenly appear in a giant pile near the curb because a tenant has just been evicted. I just don’t understand why Hunter College dragged its feet on this.

There is so much weirdness on both sides that it resulted in the escalation of something that should have been resolved with very little drama two years ago.

This February was probably the worst February for me in recent memory. It was like everything that could have gone wrong for me did.

First I learned that my ex-husband had stopped sending me alimony payments. I knew it was going to run out at some point but I always thought that it would be sometime in June (when it would’ve been the anniversary of the judge handing down the decision that the divorce was final) but my ex decided to stop sending further payments after late December. Of course he didn’t notify me of this. In fact he has pretty much avoided speaking to me as much as possible since the day he walked out on me back in late 2011, which has made the entire divorce process far worse than it was. (Ideally I would’ve loved for the two of us to meet together somewhere in person to hammer out a few things and communicate about such things as payment schedules and similar matters but, with him, everything can only be done via email or text—and that is only if he feels like responding.) As a result I only learned about this when the alimony check has stopped arriving. I sent a polite email asking about the payments while stating that I have had a run of bad luck (which I’ll get into in a bit). I didn’t resort to name calling or making accusations. It was basically a short polite email where I asked about the payments while explaining my current situation. I even expressed my sympathy for the death of his father back in October. He responded with this businesslike tone where he said that he had fulfilled his obligations and thanked me for my kind words regarding his father. The whole thing had the tone of a business transaction instead of two people who used to be married to each other.

Unfortunately consulting a lawyer was out of the question because I really can’t afford to launch any kind of lawsuits at the moment due to extremely tight finances. On top of it, my original divorce lawyer passed away back in 2016 so I would have to hire a brand new lawyer if I wanted to launch any kind of legal challenges regarding the original separation and divorce agreement.

Then there was that church service that I attended on the last Sunday in January, where I ended up experiencing raw emotions that carried through February. Here’s some background. When I was still married my husband and I used to attend that church together. When we separated, I tried attending Sunday service only to see my estranged husband there and I found it to be a major distraction and I couldn’t focus on any part of the Sunday service. I stopped attending church for a while because I just couldn’t stand attending with my ex. There were times when I arrived at church only to see his car parked there and I would immediately turn around and drive back home. I even contemplated quitting church altogether or switching to a different church, which wouldn’t be unusual because over the years I’ve seen other members’ marriages or longterm relationships end and one or both former partners would end up quitting. I had members of my support group for people who are separated or divorced tell me that they ended up either switching churches or stop attending in order to avoid seeing their ex on a weekly basis.

But then I had friends from my church tell me that my ex had eventually stopped going to Sunday service so I felt comfortable enough to attend on my own. I attended one service on the last Sunday in January where I didn’t even look up what the topic of the service was. It was also the same Sunday where I was scheduled to attend the 90th birthday party of a fellow church member that was held at a retirement community near my church so it made sense for me to go to church then go to the birthday party afterwards. It turned out that it was a lay-led service where it was being put on by members of the Men’s Group at our congregation. I found out that my ex was not only involved in the Men’s Group but he was among the speakers.

But then it got worse. My ex mentioned at the beginning of his speech “My marriage fell apart…” That had me livid because that statement implied that either I had left him or our marriage had broken down over a long period of time because we were arguing and not getting along so we both made the mutual decision to separate. In reality he didn’t even let on that he was the least bit unhappy until one night, three days after Christmas (and three months after I underwent hip surgery), he came home, announced that he was moving out, left behind two handwritten letters and the first alimony check, then bolted out the door. In fact, I wrote this post on the night he abruptly left indicating my hope that he would return soon. The following month I learned from friends that he had hooked up with a friend of ours who has long been suffering from severe mental health issues and he married her just two months after our divorce was final. For him to say “My marriage fell apart…” implying that it was something that happened to him is totally disingenuous and dishonest. If he had simply said “I got divorced” I probably would not have been as angry and upset.

I’m the one who had more right to say “My marriage fell apart…” than he did because he was the one who left me for a woman with severe mental health problems, insisted on a divorce, refused to consider marriage counseling, demanded that we separate all of our finances according to this schedule that he worked out in his head or else he would sue me, got engaged to the other woman eight months after he left me (while he was still legally married to me), sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email that was sent on Christmas Eve, and married the other woman just two months after our divorce was final.

As it turned out I ended up tuning out the rest of the service because I was fuming and I focused on perusing Facebook on my smartphone instead. I bolted out of the church as soon as I could, headed to a Starbucks that’s located inside of a Target that’s located near the venue where the birthday party was scheduled to be held, and just sat there drinking a soda I had purchased until it was time for the party to begin.

My biggest lesson is that from now on I’m going to look up the topic of a Sunday service before going to church. That way I can avoid hearing any future talks from my ex-husband.

On top of that there is my ongoing job search for a new day job. I’ve gone to various networking events and job search seminars and job fairs only to come up empty. I could write a separate post about how broken the job search process has become—complete with emailing resumes to various websites with no responses, people not returning phone calls when I did follow-up calls on job applications and left messages, and things like that. Even temp agencies have gotten completely dysfunctional where recruiters now tell you to go to their website, look at all of the jobs that are posted there and if you see a job that you like, you should send a resume and if the recruiters think you’re qualified, they will call you. Years ago I used to be able to easily find work through temp agencies simply by calling for an appointment and taking a series of tests (which measured typing speed, the ability to solve simple math problems, and knowledge of basic English grammar) but now most of them no longer give any kind of tests and they aren’t even into seeing you in person any more. I can’t even recommend temp agencies to anyone. And I’m not the only one. I have a friend who was let go from her job, which she had originally gotten after working there as a temp. She tried the temp agencies herself and she has gotten the same runaround as I did.

My car brakes started to make a grinding noise every time I used the brake pedal, which freaked me out. I initially decided not to drive the car to any place that was more than 10 miles away from home. Then the grinding noise got worse and I became too afraid to even drive my car because I was scared of not having any brakes at all. I couldn’t afford to get them repaired because of my money situation so I was left with no other alternative other than to leave my car parked while running the engine for a few minutes once a week so the car engine wouldn’t deteriorate from disuse. (I’ve know someone whose car stopped working after she didn’t use it at all for about a month or longer so she had to get it towed and repaired.) I started walking or using public transportation, which definitely put a crimp in my job search because I was limited to applying only to places that I could get to by Metrobus or Metrorail or some other form of public transportation.

I had to call my own mother telling her about my car situation while telling her that I didn’t know when I would ever be able to visit her in person again because she lives in a part of the state that has no public transportation whatsoever.

My Sagittarius Dolly channel was let go from the YouTube Partner program this month because I didn’t get enough subscribers or watch hours. I never earned any money from that program (that’s because of YouTube’s policy of not issuing payment until it reached the minimum $100 threshold and I never earned more than about $10 or $20 total) but I was still peeved because I was among the hundreds of less popular channels who were essentially paying the price for what Logan Paul did in Japan last month, which I already went into once, twice, and three times.

My PlayStation 2 console stopped working and today I found out that my Wii remote has stopped working even though I’ve been putting in new batteries with the same result. Those two console problems are nothing compared to what I’m going through but they seemed to be part of a continuum of how horrible February has gotten for me.

If all that weren’t enough, it had been raining most of February, which made me feel even more depressed. There was the occasional sunny day but it was mostly gloomy clouds and rain.

And I’m not even about to go into the constant news about President Donald Trump’s latest antics other than I find it so draining learning that we have a totally immature man-child in the White House. I’m also not even going to bother with the Parkland shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day other than to say that I’m totally pissed that nothing has been done to enact gun safety over the past several years and this latest shooting would have never happened had some common sense gun laws been passed years ago. I’m glad that the kids who survived that shooting are starting to agitate for change and other students from around the country are also starting to launch their own protests as well.

So I was down and out. But then a few things happened that made me less down and out. I had one friend loan me the money to repair the brakes on my car (which came to a whopping $560). I made arrangements with my co-op regarding being able to pay my co-op fees. By the end of the month I got my car back. I also had friends who were very kind to me, especially when they learned about my situation. One friend gave me $100 out of the blue when she learned about my car situation. I will always remember that act of kindness. I have a friend who wants my help in making a documentary about someone who is going to celebrate her 100th birthday this year and she said she will pay me. I have another friend who needs my help regarding computers and there may be money in it as well.

Plus I’m expected to pay off that loan from my friend by helping him with putting various things for sale on eBay while giving him the proceeds from each sale. I told him I can’t guarantee that any of those eBay listings will lead to actual sales. I’ve had mixed results with eBay and Etsy over the years where I seemed to have more unsold stuff than stuff that actually sold. I’ve generally done better with selling things at street fairs and I think it’s because people are more likely to make an impulse buy if they see something in person than some picture that’s on a computer screen. Maybe I can do a big yard sale if the eBay thing doesn’t work out. But in any case I’m going to give the eBay thing a try first so I would have more time waiting for the weather to improve so I can put on a yard sale if I need to do so.

The biggest lesson about my story is that it always helps to have friends who are supportive because you’ll never know when you’ll need to rely on them. In any case I’m ready to put February behind me starting tomorrow.

Birthday Cake Santa Claus

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day I made my very first post in this blog. Today also happens to be the day known as the Feast of the Epiphany, Little Christmas, and Three Kinds Day and it usually signals the formal end of the Christmas season. Usually I try to keep such anniversary posts light by tooting my own horn while marveling at how long I’ve been keeping up with this blog. This year it’s different. I don’t feel quite as light-hearted as I have in previous years. And it doesn’t help that that I’m writing this post while the entire region I’m in have been covered in sub-freezing temperatures that have been known as the coldest New Year since 1940 and it had just suffered through something called a bomb cyclone so it is still below freezing outside. I’m still trying to hold on despite the fact that all hell broke loose this past year.

It all started on January 20, 2017 when Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. It all went downhill fast. It would take several separate entries to describe everything in detail but here are just a few of the highlights (or maybe I should call them lowlights): His penchant for issuing bizarre postings on Twitter that sound increasingly alarming (especially the ones about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un). He has appointed to various cabinet positions people who either lack experience or are outright hostile to the positions they have been assigned to (such as appointing a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and giving the Department of Education a new leader who is not only a proponent of for-profit charter schools but is also hostile towards the idea of having government-funded public education available to all children). Then there are his frequent weekend golf trips. This guy has taken more vacation time in his first year of office than his predecessor, Barack Obama, have in the eight years that he occupied the White House.

And don’t even get me started on that recently passed tax reform bill that Trump says he will sign where the wealthy individuals and corporations will get major tax cuts while middle and low income people will not only have their taxes raised but the social safety net will be shredded even further than it already has been in the nearly 40 years since Ronald Reagan was elected president.

Some of my problems are personal. My mother’s health has been deteriorating slowly over the past few years ever since she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It’s gotten to the point where I have to make all the phone calls because she literally no longer has the energy to even make calls on her cell phone. She doesn’t even return any voice messages I leave on her cell. Our conversations have gotten shorter because she gets tired all of the time. When I visit her in person she can only hold a conversation before she gets tired. We basically watch TV when I visit because at least she’ll sleep off and on. But she’s definitely a shadow of her former self. I don’t even bother with having any kind of deep heart-felt conversations with her because I don’t know if she has the energy to even process everything I say.

At least my mother is still alive as of this writing. I found out through one of my ex-husband’s relatives that my father-in-law had passed away in October. On Christmas Eve I received a phone call from another one of my ex-husband’s relatives telling me that there have been a couple of other deaths this past year as well. One was my ex-husband’s aunt (who was also my father-in-law’s younger sister) and the other was Annette, a longtime family friend.

I knew both of them pretty well. The last time I saw my ex-husband’s aunt was in 2010 (just a few days before I made my first post in this blog). She and her husband had just sold their longtime home in Scituate, Massachusetts and moved to a retirement community outside of Philadelphia in order to live closer to their children and grandchildren, who had all settled in neighboring New Jersey. My ex-husband’s aunt and uncle lived just a few miles from Longwood Gardens. After visiting my ex’s aunt and uncle in their new place, we all headed out to Longwood Gardens because it was having its annual Christmas display. I found that display to be so amazing that I shot a short video.

As for Annette, she was the friend of my mother-in-law’s who used to invite her and any of her grown children who were in town over to the Long Island home that she shared with her then-husband each Christmas Eve where she would serve her corn chowder. I wrote a post back in 2010 about that tradition and I even included the actual recipe. I later made this animation featuring that recipe while I was playing with this website called MySimpleShow.

The last time I saw Annette was in late 2010 when we held a memorial service on the East Coast for my mother-in-law that was held for the benefit of her longtime friends who couldn’t fly to Phoenix (where she lived the last 17 years of her life) for the original funeral back in March.

If all that weren’t enough, I learned that Ben, a man whom my late aunt used to babysit as a kid (and I met him several times when I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins) had killed himself. I also learned through Facebook that my onetime high school guitar teacher had died the year before and he was only in his early sixties.

Then there is my effort to find a new day job to pay the bills. (I’m currently getting alimony from my ex-husband but I really want more money so I could pay off the debts I incurred due in large part to my divorce.) It has been over a year and a half since I left my last job at a newly formed startup because I wasn’t getting paid (the boss wouldn’t finally pay me for the work I had done until six months later). I don’t regret leaving that startup, especially when I saw that my ex-boss has spent the past year actively doxing his own sister on Facebook not once but twice.

I’ve been spending time at the local branch of the American Jobs Center doing things like going to seminars on all aspects of the job search process. I was told in those seminars that I needed to build my personal brand because that will make me stand out from the crowd of other job seekers. I was told that I especially needed to build my personal brand on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is the best way to a new job. I was told that I needed to learn how to market myself online. I took a couple of free online marketing classes that were on Alison.com where I learned how to market myself online as much as possible using tools like Hootsuite to schedule posts. I learned through those online courses that once I am able to market myself to the point where I’ve built my personal brand online, I will get so much attention that the job opportunities will miraculously come to me.

So I started to post links on my various social media accounts to older blog posts highlighting my skills in writing, art (both traditional and digital), and photography while using Hootsuite to schedule them. I was told that I also needed to share links of articles written by others showing my knowledge on certain subjects that would be sure to build my brand. Each week for the past few months I would schedule on Hootsuite a mix of links to newer blog posts, links to older blog posts, and links to articles that are in my fields of interests to be shared over Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The one thing I learned that all of this brand building is incredibly time-consuming. I would literally spend several hours a week with trolling websites for external links then scheduling those posts on Hootsuite. I spent time carefully vetting each link in order to make sure that any links that include controversial topics or NSFW content do not get posted on my LinkedIn account (although I would post them on my Facebook and Twitter accounts since neither one have the stated reputation as being THE Social Media Network For Professionals). I even followed the advice from the American Jobs Center and tried to go to networking events where I made every effort to be friendly and introduce myself to new people. It was all to no avail. No one has come forward saying, “Hey, I love what you’ve posted on LinkedIn so much that I want to hire you!” No one has come forward saying, “Wow, you’re really an expert and you have such a fantastic personal brand that I want to refer jobs your way.” I began to feel that something was wrong with that advice but I kept at it because I was told by professionals who are experts in the human resources field that this is the best method for all job seekers.

The best I was able to do from all of my online marketing efforts and going to networking events was to snag a two-night stint serving as an extra at a taping of a TV special featuring finance guru Ric Edelman.

But then I came across this article through a link on Facebook titled The One Thing Nobody Ever Told You About Personal Branding where basically the writer says that building a personal brand in order to advance your career is overrated. His contention is that, instead of spending gobs of time marketing yourself on social media, you would do better to build your reputation by actually doing the work in your field (whether it’s in a job you already have or you’re currently volunteering in something that’s related to your field) and treating people well.

At first that article flew in the face of what those human resources experts were advising me and other job hunters at the American Jobs Center. But then I did a Google search on “building a personal brand is overrated” and I found a few other articles that echoed the same idea. Branding is an Overrated Buzzword says that one should focus instead on building his/her reputation by being passionate enough about your job/career/interest to focus working on that while also working consistently at your job/career/interest. Developing a Personal Brand Is Overrated says that developing a personal brand can take a lot of time that would’ve been better spent making the best product or doing the best work that you can do. The writer says that making tweets or sharing photos online is just a small portion of building a reputation and a reputation is made through doing your best at what you are working on. The Pitfalls of Personal Branding is even more blunt in saying that personal branding results in the pursuit of online attention stunts that may backfire and do serious damage to your real reputation.

That last article made a good point and I was especially reminded of it when I learned about a recent incident. A few days ago a popular YouTube star known as Logan Paul has come under fire for going to a park in Japan (which has a reputation for being a spot where numerous people have committed suicide) where he found the body of a man who had committed suicide by hanging from a tree branch. Instead of calling the Japanese equivalent of 911 or flagging down a park ranger/police officer/someone else in authority, he decided to film the body while he’s nearby wearing a hat that resembles the head of one of the three-eyed green alien toys from the Toy Story movies and making sick jokes about finding that body. Then he uploaded the video online. While the video in question has since been deleted and Paul has uploaded another video apologizing for his actions, there have been online petitions circulating calling for YouTube to delete his channel altogether.

I’m starting to think that the advice I got about personal branding was just wrong. I focused on marketing myself online at the expense of actually taking the time to developing my talents. I should’ve been volunteering more in the community on projects related to my interests. I should’ve been focusing on creating new arts and crafts for sales both online and in real life. But I ended up following what turned out to be bum advice for me. I shudder to think about how many other unemployed/underemployed people have been taking similar bum advice from human resources professionals and career counselors about personal branding by wasting their time trying something that is highly unlikely to work for them.

Luckily I haven’t inadvertently damaged my reputation in real life by my misguided efforts to develop a personal brand online.

So my conclusion is that focusing on building a personal brand is ineffectual at best while, at worst, could create a bad side effect that will severely harm your reputation and make it difficult for you to find new work opportunities.

I’m going to cut back on my online personal branding marketing efforts and just focus on doing my best work in real life. I’m not going to give up on this blog or social media altogether. I just want some better balance between promoting my work online and doing my work in real life. I’m hoping that doing this will enable me to live my life and conduct my work with more authenticity than just spending time on social media hyping myself on how great I am. I’m hoping that being more authentic to myself and to others will really convey what kind of person I really am that I haven’t been able to convey on social media.

Well, anyway, I’ll end this post with a few highlights from this past year. I especially needed to remind myself that I did do things other than sitting at home fretting about job hunting, my mom’s health, the recent deaths of people I know, and the Trump Administration. There are times when I think that I didn’t do anything in 2017 but then I look over my posts from the past year and these blog links prove that it’s not true.

Visited the American Visionary Art Museum for free on Martin Luther King Day.

I took part in the Women’s March on Washington, which had a far larger turnout than Donald Trump’s own inauguration the day before.

Checked out The World of Pets Expo.

Walked around Savage, Maryland on Groundhog Day.

Went to the Werk for Peace Dance Protest that started outside the Trump International Hotel and ended outside the White House.

I went to a Valentine’s Dance at my church.

Attended my first focus group movie screening (which was a documentary about the DC Divas women’s football team).

Walked around historic Riverdale Park on an usually warm February day.

Checked out the annual Sakura Matsuri in Washington, DC.

Attended Kamecon on the campus of the University of Maryland at College Park.

Walked around historic Laurel one spring day.

Spent two nights working as an extra on a television special featuring finance guru Ric Edelman.

Attended the Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Went on the Gateway Arts Open Studio Tour.

Checked out the latest outdoor art installations around Takoma Park.

Helped out with a yard sale where I found all kinds of vintage kitsch items.

Attended Creator Con in Silver Spring.

Walked around Mount Rainier, Maryland.

Visited two possible locations of a real-life exorcism that served as the basis for both the book and film versions of The Exorcist.

Checked out DC Pride Weekend.

Saw a new shopping center that was erected on a former farm in Riverdale Park, Maryland.

Saw some art murals in an industrial area of Annapolis.

Walked around Catonsville, Maryland during the Fourth of July weekend.

Checked out a large toy show in Timonium, Maryland.

Spent one hot summer after under the solar eclipse.

Walked around the Washington, DC side of Takoma Park.

Attended the German Festival in Timonium.

I made my first-ever visit to a megachurch.

I attended two different art events in one day.

Checked out some newly painted murals on vacant buildings in Hyattsville, Maryland.

Took part in a fall yard sale full of interesting vintage kitsch items.

Attended Baltimore Comic-Con where I saw DMC of Run-DMC fame and purchased an ocarina.

Checked out three Mall events in one day—Fiesta DC, the pro-Trump Mother of All Rallies, and the Juggalo March (the latter included fans of the Insane Clown Posse protesting the FBI’s classification of them as a gang).

Walked around historic Gaithersburg.

Spent an afternoon at Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland.

Toured an Eastern Orthodox Church during a local Slavic Festival.

I purchased a camera off eBay, which took some spectacular photos of the Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk.

Checked out a Halloween-themed art walk in Hyattsville.

Went to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I visited the attractions from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest.

Took some photos of an outdoor decorated Christmas tree covered in snow.

I went to Baltimore on the day that Fox broadcasted a heavily attended Baltimore Ravens football game.

Went to the Doll and Teddy Bear Show in Gaithersburg.

Saw the fall leaves in the Roland Park section of Baltimore.

Saw historic Annapolis at Christmas.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts related events I participated in: I went to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in both Baltimore and Washington, DC several times. Went to an artist networking event at the Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center in North Brentwood, Maryland. Took part in a Craft-In on International Women’s Day. Attended the Resist art exhibition reception at ReCreative Spaces. Participated in the Cosplay Life Drawing Night in Rockville, Maryland. Attended an exhibition that was inspired by the Women’s March on Washington. Participated in the Greenbelt Maker Festival. One of my animations, The March of Liberty, was shown on an outdoor big screen at Light City in Baltimore. I went to a DC Drink and Draw event in Adams-Morgan. I took part in a couple of events at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival including an Art Show and a Retro Town Fair (where I won a couple of ribbons). I painted a fox on a rock at an event that was sponsored by Artists & Craftsman Supplies in Hyattsville, Maryland. I took part in the month-long Internet art event known as Inktober. I took part in the annual Holiday Craft Sale at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland in December. I had one of my pieces on display at Trinacria’s Ristorante & Bar in Baltimore that went from early December, 2017 to early January, 2018.

Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

A few days ago one of my ex-husband’s relatives contacted me on Facebook letting me know that my father-in-law was dying from stage 4 cancer and he also had a collapsed lung as well. I dedicated one of my Inktober drawings to him. Yesterday that same relative contacted me to let me know that he is now dead.

My father-in-law and I had always gotten along well together. He was a very brilliant man who devoted much of his career to near infrared spectroscopy and he and his second wife had their own consulting company that focused on it. For years I could only tell people the name of what he worked on but I literally couldn’t describe what it was about (other than it dealt with infrared light). The Wikipedia has a page on the topic that does a good basic explanation for people who aren’t experts in the field like my father-in-law was.

I last saw my father-in-law and his wife in person back in 2011. It was seven months before my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas (and three months after I underwent hip surgery). When he left I thought his mind had snapped and I had hoped that he would return home after a day or two. When it became apparent that he wouldn’t return, I sent an email to my husband’s relatives, including my husband’s father and step-mother, letting them know that if they needed to contact him they should use his email, cellphone or work phone because he was no longer at home. I remember his father and step-mother emailing me back expressing shock that my husband had ran away like that and they expressed support for me.

I sent them one more email after that. It was one month after my husband was gone. That was the day I found out from friends that he was seen in public with a woman who was a friend of ours. On top of it, she was the same woman who was open about her mental health issues that were so severe that she spoke about how she had an experimental pacemaker installed in her brain. I also know that she went on SSI disability shortly before my husband left me for her. I let his father and step-mother know that my husband was with another woman.

I know from other relatives that my father-in-law had summoned my husband to his place in New York City in an effort to talk some sense to him. Unfortunately that effort failed since my husband stuck with this schedule he had planned in his head where all of the separation of our finances had to happen by a certain deadline (he even threatened to sue me every time I dared to question why he needed to adhere to such a stringent schedule that he devised himself) and the divorce also had to happen by a certain date. He married the mentally ill woman just two months after our divorce was final.

In the years since I’ve had friends tell me disturbing things about their interactions with that couple. I can only imagine what my father-in-law had to directly deal with in the last few years of his life. I’m sad that my father-in-law had to spend his last few years with the knowledge of what happened to his son. It must have been hard for him to witness his son going from seeming to live a respectable life with a good job, a nice townhouse in a decent neighborhood, having a wife he basically liked (that’s me), and being involved in activities that were all connected to our church (such as his stint serving on the Board of Trustees) to suddenly chucking most of it in order to marry a severely mentally ill woman.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my father-in-law started wondering “Where did I go wrong in raising him?” I only hope that he didn’t kick himself too much or delved into feeling guilty because, to be honest, it wasn’t his fault that all this crazy drama happened.

At least my mother-in-law was spared this drama (due mainly to the fact that she died over a year before my husband left me).

My father-in-law was 86 when he died. He seemed pretty happy with his second marriage, his work, and his life in New York City.

Rest in peace.

A couple of days ago I received word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that his 86-year-old father is in the hospital with stage 4 cancer and there’s a chance that he may die soon. Since that time I’ve looked on the Facebook walls of my ex’s relatives whom I’m still in contact with and I haven’t seen any updates on my father-in-law’s situation. Nevertheless I decided to dedicate today’s Inktober drawing to my father-in-law.

UPDATE (October 21, 2017): I’ve just got word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that my father-in-law has died. May he rest in peace.

Here’s my latest book review about Planet Heartbreak by Vikki Stark, which is a companion piece to Stark’s previous book, Runaway Husbands, which really resonated with me on a personal level. I decided to write a text-only review because I know I would totally lose it if I even attempted to do a video review.

In September, 2011 I underwent hip surgery. My loving husband took great care of me before and after my surgery. He took a temporary leave from his NASA job so he could take care of me while I recuperated. He drove me to my outpatient physical therapy sessions. Once he had to return to work a couple of months later, he lined up various friends who drove me to and from physical therapy. One of my friends later told me that when we went to their home for a Christmas party they threw we seemed so happy together. On Christmas Day he made a lovely dinner for the two of us where he said he used beer as a themed ingredient while he made French onion soup and a seafood dish in a beer broth.

Imagine my surprise when, just three days after Christmas, my husband arrived home from work. He had a wild-eye look on his face as he blurted out “I’m moving out,” said that he had rented a room, and threw three pieces of paper in my direction before bolting out the door. I looked at the three pieces of paper. One was my first alimony check. One was a schedule to separate our finances he had written out that would culminate in our eventual divorce. The third was a letter where he essentially blamed the fact that I had purchased a doll the day before my hip surgery as a reason why he had to leave home because the doll added to the clutter of our home.

At first I thought he had just snapped. I knew he was under stress from my surgery, the stresses at his job (he was working on a major satellite project at the time), the fact that he was battling bronchitis, and he had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. But he refused to speak with me even though I tried leaving voice mail messages (he refused to pick up when I called his phone), text messages, and emails. I found out through friends that he had left me for one of our friends who has been battling severe depression for most of her adult life (she had just been granted SSI disability shortly before he left me).

In the wake of his leaving me, I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home” and I was directed to this website that also served as the promotion for a book written by Vikki Stark called Runaway Husbands. I ordered that book from Amazon and even paid extra to have it rush-delivered to my home. I read and re-read that book so many times over the past few years that I think I have gotten it memorized by now. It was such a great help to me as it helped me to brace myself for whatever horror my husband threw at me (such as the fact that nearly a year after he left home he sent a divorce petition in a .PDF format that was attached to an email he sent on Christmas Eve). My ex-husband married the other woman just two months after our divorce was final.

In one of our very rare and brief face-to-face conversations my husband said that it was my fault that he had to leave home and hook up with that mentally ill woman. I later found out through friends that they saw him flirting and actively pursuing that woman at the cafe where she used to work two nights a week while I was home recuperating from that surgery. Given his current state of mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if he blames me for the fact that he married this woman soon after our divorce was final.

Not too long ago I found out that Vikki Stark had published a companion volume to Runaway Husbands, which I have recently finished reading. This one is called Planet Heartbreak and it’s a series of essays written by women whose spouses have abruptly left them. While the original Runaway Husbands book had testimony written by women whose husbands had left them, they were interspersed with Vikki Stark’s writings about her research into not only the abrupt demise of her own marriage (her husband suddenly walked out on her the day after she returned home from a tour promoting her first book that she wrote about sister relationships) but other women’s marriages that had also met a similar quick end.

Planet Heartbreak is different in that it consists entirely of essays written by women whose marriages had ended with no advanced warning that their marriages were even in trouble. Vikki Stark included women who had young children, women with adult children, women who never had children, young adult women, middle-aged women, even senior citizens who had been married for a few decades. There is even an essay written by a woman who had been in a long-term same-sex relationship with another woman until her spouse abruptly left her and their two adopted children. In short, there are essays written by women who come from all walks of life.

The one thing that struck me as I read these essays is that all of the husbands are depicted as suddenly switching from being kind and loving spouses to being incredibly cold, indifferent, distant, and even nasty. This fits my ex-husband perfectly. He has gone from being a very sweet, friendly guy who had a great sense of humor to being this totally distant unfriendly stranger—the kind of person I would never even consider dating in the first place let alone marry him.

The only silver lining is that many of our longtime friends have noticed a change in him as well. They have told me about how unhappy he looks these days and his second wife also looks unhappy. Sadly I can’t do a thing about this, especially since he divorced me. He was the one who left me for a mentally ill woman. He was the one who sued me for divorce and married her just two months after our divorce was final. It’s like what Dr. Phil frequently says on his TV show, “When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.”

At the beginning of the book Vikki Stark advises the reader to try not to read the entire book in one sitting, which I personally think is good advice. Many of the stories in these essays are gut-wrenching to read at times. Some women had to sell their marital home because they couldn’t afford to keep it. Some women with minor children still had to deal with the minefield of coparenting with a now-hostile ex. One of the women wrote about how her husband has not only cut her out of his life but has also cut out their adult son and 8-year-old grandson as well.

There were two essays where the husbands regretted what they did and wanted to reunite with their wives. One of the women decided to remain separated for the time being and just take things slowly by seeing her ex once or twice a month. The other woman, who’s a devout Christian, welcomed her husband back into their home as he told her that Satan made him leave her and she has basically forgiven him for what he did to her. Those two essays are a far cry from the fairy tale ending “And they all lived happily ever after.”

Vikki Stark wrote that Planet Heartbreak is meant to be a companion volume to her previous book and people should really read the first book before reading her latest one. For me Runaway Husbands helped me deal with what to expect regarding my husband. Planet Heartbreak only further drove the point that what happened to my marriage wasn’t really 100% my fault and there was absolutely nothing I could say or do to get my husband to change his mind and return home.

While Planet Heartbreak isn’t required reading for those who are dealing with their own runaway spouses, I would recommend it for anyone who’s still reeling from an unexpected divorce and has read Runaway Husbands so many times that they have memorized it because reading other people’s stories does provide a chance for healing and hope for the future.

I have one minor quibble with the book. At the beginning of each essay there is a mention about how long each woman had been separated from her husband (which ranges from two months to over 10 years). I wished the essays had been better organized according to the length of the separation (meaning that the essays written by the newly separated would be in front of the book while the longer separations being located towards the end) because it would’ve been easier for someone who’s been separated for—let’s say—three months to find the essays from the recently separated while people who’ve been separated longer can find the essays from the women who have also been separated for over a year or more. I think grouping the essays according to length of separation would provide one with an idea of how it’s possible to recuperate from something as traumatic as a spouse who has ran away from home.

For me reading Planet Heartbreak has helped me to accept the fact that the man I once knew is gone for good and some stranger with an unfriendly personality is currently inhabiting his body. I don’t regret getting this book.

Ramadan

I’m devoting this Throwback Thursday post to my wedding day mainly because today is not only what would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me for someone else but June 8 falls on a Thursday this year. June is the month that many couples in the U.S. traditionally get married. On top of it this month is LGBTQ Pride Month and I have a wedding-related story that definitely fits with that theme.

A couple of months ago on March 31 I saw a bunch of stories suddenly crop up on my Facebook feed about people speaking openly about either being transgender themselves or having a friend or loved one who is transgender. I didn’t know that the transgender community have been having an International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 since 2009. This year it really took off with all of the testimonials about transgender people and issues. I only wished someone had given me advanced notice because I would’ve told my own particular story then. So I decided to wait until Pride Month to tell my own story.

I grew up being completely ignorant about transgender people. I was raised Roman Catholic and the topic of being transgender was simply never brought up in church. The local public school system never mentioned that topic either in all the years I was a student there. The first person I recalled who actually had sex-reassignment surgery was a British man named James Morris, who became known as Jan Morris after having the surgery. I was a kid then and I thought it was pretty mind-blowing that one could change genders like that. I remember Jan Morris got tons of publicity and it ignited all kinds of debate about transsexuals (which is what transgender people were referred as at the time).

A few years later a tennis player named Renée Richards attempted to compete in the U.S Open as a female athlete. She became controversial when it was revealed that she was originally born a man and she, too, had a sex change operation. There were female tennis players who protested the idea of her being included in their tournaments.

When I was in college I picked up a copy of Gloria Steinem’s book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which was a compilation of articles that she wrote in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Among those articles was a 1977 essay about the Renée Richards controversy called “Transsexualism.” Her hypothesis was that people opted for sex change operations because of the rigid gender roles that were proscribed in society, which dictates that boys don’t cry and girls don’t play sports. She basically said that if society were to loosen gender roles then men won’t feel the need to have sex change operations so they can express emotions more easily and women could play sports without having sex change operations to become men. Her closing words were “But the question remains: If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

In the years since Gloria Steinem wrote her “Transsexualism” essay, there have been major changes in terms of gender roles. More men are opting to become stay-at-home dads while their wives work full-time. There are now male nurses, female doctors, male flight attendants, and female postal workers. The WNBA is a professional women’s basketball team and there is the FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer. Women’s basketball, women’s hockey, and women’s soccer are all Olympic sports. Yet, despite these advances in gender equality, more and more people are coming out as transgender because they feel that they have literally been born in the wrong body, with the most prominent being Caitlyn Jenner, who once won an Olympic gold medal as Bruce Jenner.

During my college years at the University of Maryland at College Park, I met a couple of gay and lesbian students but my first-hand experience with transgender people was limited to going to a midnight screening of a certain cult film that has this musical number:

After college my fiancee and I decided to get married and it was my fiancee who, out of the blue, said that he wanted a church wedding. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) I had stopped going to mass and I would’ve been content with a civil marriage by a justice of the peace. I told him that we would’ve had to go to marriage classes if we were to be married in the Roman Catholic church while he would have to promise that any future children we had would be raised Catholic. He remembered an ad I had shown him that was published in The Washington Post a year earlier that was for Unitarian Universalism that said “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fits me” while telling him that I was impressed with it. (I remember when I found that ad while I was going through the Sunday paper. There were no Unitarian Universalist groups on campus and the nearest congregation was only available by car, which I didn’t have at the time, so I never followed up on that ad and I soon forgot about it.) He even found a local UU congregation that he said we could try. (He also lined up a few other denominations we could try as well—namely Quaker and the United Church of Christ—in case the UU church didn’t work out for either of us.)

So we went to our first UU service and we were impressed with the minister. We found out after the service that the woman was a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following week. We were still impressed with the fact that the church had a weekly coffee hour where people stuck around and socialized after Sunday service. (In contrast, my old Roman Catholic parish had something similar called “Hospitality Sunday” that was only held once a month. Otherwise, people basically spilled into the parking lot and drove home once mass ended.) We were also impressed with how friendly the people there were. We went back the following week to check out the regular minister and we were impressed with him as well. We started going every week and, after a few months, we signed the membership book. We even managed to get the minister to officiate at our wedding so my husband got his way on having a religious wedding.

So we were married by a UU minister. During the reception I threw my wedding bouquet and one of the single ladies caught it. Then my new husband removed the garter from my leg and one of his single friends caught it. Then the bouquet catcher and garter catcher posed for a photo with me and my newly wedded husband.

The guy who caught my garter was named Dave Norris. Dave’s mother and my husband’s mother were friends and there were times when Dave hung around with my husband and his neighborhood friends in Long Island even though Dave was a few years younger than my husband.

Traditionally there is this old wives’ tale that says that people who catch the bouquet and garter are the ones who will be married next. That doesn’t usually happen in real life but Dave was the rare exception because he got married the following year while my husband was the best man at his wedding. It was a short-lived marriage that happened soon after his girlfriend found out that she was pregnant. The bride was six months pregnant at the wedding. Three months later she had the baby. Three months after the birth, Dave and his new wife separated and they were soon divorced.

My husband and I saw Dave in person a few more times after the quick wedding/separation/divorce. The last time we saw Dave was when he traveled to Maryland with his then-latest girlfriend because he was going to a conference in Washington, DC. The four of us ate at a local restaurant. After that we lost touch with Dave for a few years.

Meanwhile my husband and I became more involved in our new UU congregation where we made new friends. About a year or two later my husband and I ended up as co-chairs of the church’s Social Action Committee. During that time AIDS was starting to ravish the nation. At the same time there was a big March on Washington for LGBTQ people that was announced. A long-time member came to us about doing a lay service about AIDS. We knew that he was previously married to a woman and he had two children (one of whom would tragically die in a car accident when she was only in her early 20’s). It was during that time he came out to us as gay. A short time later he came out as gay to the rest of the congregation. I have to admit that the congregation was shocked but ultimately accepted him because he had been an active member. (If he had been a member of my old religion, he would’ve been driven away no matter how long he had been a member.)

I’ve already written plenty about that longtime member coming out as gay in this blog so I suggest reading this post if you want to learn more about Ed Kobee and his spouse, Al Usack. After Ed managed to rally his fellow congregation members (including my husband and I) to actually attend the March on Washington for LGBTQ rights, he and Al became activists within both our congregation, the Joseph Priestley District, and in the greater UUA for that faith to become more welcoming to LGBTQ people (which resulted in the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program). Due to those efforts we started to seeing people who were openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual attending our Sunday services. Some became members for years while others attended for a short while then moved on.

I met my first openly transgender person through my UU congregation. One of the newer members was an open bisexual who had joined with her then-husband, who was also bisexual. (They gave a forum at my congregation on bisexuality where they said they had extramarital dalliances with same-sex partners.) That marriage subsequently ended and her husband left the church. She started a new relationship with a person who was born a man but he underwent a sex change operation and was now living as a woman. Yet she was still sexually attracted to women. I attended a forum on transgender at my church and this person spoke openly about how she felt like she was born in the wrong body yet she was still attracted to women. That was how I learned that gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. This person was born in a male body and was sexually attracted to females so society designated him as a heterosexual. After the surgery this person was a woman yet was still sexually attracted to females so society designated her as a lesbian.

Basically the bisexual woman and the transgender woman started a relationship and stayed together for many years until the transgender woman died a few years ago. Over the years we’ve had other transgender people attend our Sunday services. I really can’t elaborate further on these other people because it’s really not my story to tell. On top of it, even though these people are openly transgender to my congregation, they aren’t quite as open to the general public outside of church. That’s because there have been too many cases of transgender discrimination on the job and in housing. And that’s not to mention the fact that there have been Republican lawmakers who are trying to pass those bathroom bills that only exist to make a transgender person’s live much harder. If that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that transgender folks are frequently targets of beatings, sexual assaults, and other acts of violence perpetrated against them by transphobic criminals.

Getting back to my husband’s friend who caught my garter at our wedding, we basically didn’t hear from Dave Norris for a number of years. One day, out of the blue, Dave called our house. My husband and Dave had an enjoyable conversation on the phone. Dave told my husband that he had started his own consulting firm and he gave my husband the URL to his new website.

My husband visited the website and saw the page that had the list of the small staff that the consulting firm had along with headshots. He saw the name “Denise Norris” on the list. At first he assumed that Dave had gotten remarried and his wife was helping out in the new venture. But then he took a closer look at that photo and saw that it looked like Dave dressing in drag. My husband soon called his old friend back and asked point blank if this person now a woman. His friend admitted it.

I remember that night my husband decided to take me out to dinner and he relayed that story about his friend is now living as a woman while we were in the car. We had the car radio on at the time while my husband was telling me this and this song suddenly came on the air.

Talk about serendipity! My husband and I got a good laugh out of it.

I have to admit that accepting my husband’s friend as a woman was slightly more challenging for this reason. The other transgender people I met through my UU congregation had already made the change so I never knew them in their previous gender. On the other hand, both my husband and I knew this person when he was a guy. (And my husband knew this person longer than I did since my husband hung around with this person while they were growing up on Long Island.)

A month or so later Denise was in the DC area attending a conference so we decided to get together for dinner at a local restaurant. It was awkward at first but then we hit it off, especially when my husband and Denise started talking about the old days when they were growing up and they would get into some escapades together.

We also learned that basically Denise had long felt like she was a female even though she was born a boy but she had kept those feelings to herself while she was growing up. I can understand why she felt she had to do this. There have been too many cases of transgender children being rejected by their parents and being targeted by bullies in school. It was only after she reached adulthood that her feelings became stronger and it reached the point where she felt that she had to have the surgery. I also remember that her mother was dead by then. (I don’t know if Denise ever came out to her mother before her death or not.) I’m only paraphrasing here because I don’t have an exact transcript of our conversation from that night and I’m just relying on my less-than-perfect memories here.

I have to credit Unitarian Universalism for my husband and I quickly adjusting to the fact that Dave Norris was now living as a woman named Denise Norris. If we hadn’t met other transgender people before seeing Denise, I think it would’ve taken both of us longer to accept Denise as she is now.

We would see Denise in person a few more times after that. I think the last time we met in person was sometime before 2008 (the year I had my hip replacement).

As for the woman who caught my bouquet at my wedding who is also in that photo I posted a few paragraphs ago, her name is Trisha and she’s my godfather’s daughter. I last saw her in person when my father died in 2000 and she stopped by the funeral home one evening during the viewing period. My husband and I told her what happened to the guy who caught the garter at the wedding and how he is now living as a woman. I remember Trisha smiling and deadpanning, “I have that effect on men sometimes.” (LOL!)

Denise Norris now works at Accenture and she is also a transgender activist whose speciality is getting corporations to not only end job discrimination among transgender people but also offer benefits to them (such as health insurance that’s broad enough to afford such expenses as hormone therapy and sex change surgery). She frequently gives media interviews on the topic, such as this recent example. I follow her on Facebook where I read her posts on transgender issues and fellow transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner. (Like many in the transgender community, Denise basically has a dim view of Caitlyn mainly because Caitlyn continues to support the same Republican Party that has been coming out with those notorious bathroom bills in recent years.) I haven’t directly communicated with her in years, especially since I am now divorced and Denise had been more of a friend of my ex-husband’s than mine. On top of it, our paths simply haven’t crossed in real life. There are times I wonder if Denise still has my old wedding garter and, if so, had she ever worn it. (LOL!)

As for my UU congregation there are still LGBTQ members who are active. The most recent transgender member is a person who originally joined my congregation as a man a few years ago. He was open about admitting that he was suffering from gender dysphoria and he was seeing a therapist about that. Last year this person decided to undergo medical treatment and she is now living as a woman. She is also in a relationship with a cis woman who’s a lesbian. This member now looks happier than before the change.

That’s it for my story.

Passover

A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.

I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.

If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.

Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.

I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.

webfriendlyversion

That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.

Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.

I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.

Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.

If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.

I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.

This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.

However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.

Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.

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