Stories

Bare, Naked Ring Finger

Today someone made a comment on my instagram page for my book that reminded me where I was emotionally three years ago. This lead me to clicking on her page. Her posts looked very similar to mine back then.

Divorced and Forty by Cody Fife

She was questioning, how does it feel when your ex is quickly moving on, even wanting to marry another woman after so easily discarding you?

“My ring finger on my left hand feels oddly naked, like it forgot to put on its bra and mascara before it left the house.”

That’s the first line from a chapter of my book, Divorced and Forty. (P.S. You should order one on amazon if you’re going through it.) I wrote it a few months after my marriage ended in 2016, and at the time, the “phantom pains” of my missing marital appendage- my wedding ring- were intense.

I knew all about these “phantom pains” from my ex-husband, who had amputations as a result of military combat. He would wake up from time to time in intense pain, and say something like, “My right hand hurts.” Which would have seemed normal, except for the fact that he didn’t have a right hand.

The first time he said it, I thought he was kidding, as he always kept a great sense of humor despite his injuries. He also wasn’t one to ever complain, so I figured out quickly that this was a real thing.

According to the ever reliable web MD (as well as my ex’s explanation), phantom limb pain is a common occurrence among amputees. “After you have part of your arm or leg amputated, there’s a chance you could feel pain in the limb that’s no longer there. This is known as phantom limb pain.”

This is also known as having someone rip your heart out of your chest and yet still carrying on in the world as if everything is fine when in fact- you are definitely not fine- when your heart has been – well, ripped out of your chest. You’re like a zombie. The walking dead.

My message today for those who are fresh out of a long-term relationship is this -your heart will eventually find it’s way back to where it belongs.

Along with not feeling like a part of you is missing, you will stop the habitual ritual of fiddling absentmindedly with your ring finger. Then, one day, you will wake up, and you will take a deep breath, and the weight of sorrow will be gone!

My message to this woman, who I am just a few steps in front of, was to hang on and to tell her that one day, she too will be free. That bare, naked ring finger? It means- in more than one way- that you are free. Think of it this way, you are not only free from someone who was incapable of valuing the masterpiece God created you to be, you are free to.

You are free to remember…

Who you are.

What you really want.

Who you want to become.

Why God created you and what His purpose for your life is.

You were made for more. This is your window of opportunity to allow your heartbreak to propel you to your purpose.

Just around la Esquina in San Miguel de Allende

Just around la Esquina in San Miguel de Allende

That’s “Just around the Corner,” but since I’m utilizing my best Spanglish this week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I thought this would be an appropriate title.

I started planning this trip back in November.  I found a fabulous Air bnb rental in la Callejon de los Chiquitos bursting with artistic flair and charm.  Everywhere you look in this four story, one bedroom home there is a new creative detail to admire. I was very purposeful in my planning and search for a residence to stay in on this trip.  I wanted something cerca del centro (near the center of town) as I wanted us to be able to walk everywhere and not have to rent a car.

That’s one of the things I loved most about staying in San Miguel- the walkability.  We walked everywhere.  (Leave your heels at home though ladies, because the walking is on cobblestone streets and sidewalks.  I wore my Teva sandals or tennis shoes the entire time.) There was no need for a rental car or even a taxi, except for the two dollar cab ride my side kick, Kevin took to the golf course one afternoon.  I was also purposeful in finding a place with a killer view from a roof top patio.

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Casa Mia- the view from our terraza

So, while I was very detailed in my planning concerning where to stay, I pretty much left the week wide open to explore on a whim. This week is proving to me that sometimes the best plan is no plan, especially when you teach junior high and are on spring break in Mexico!

Well, let me say we had a rough plan.  Maybe what I should say is sometimes the best plan is a flexible plan. The day started out with a planned visit to a Spanish language school in San Miguel de Allende, Instituto Habla Hispana.  Angelica, the owner allowed us to observe a beginner class.  La profesora, Socorro, was friendly, energetic, and lead the three students in a very interactive lesson.  One student, Carol, was also from Houston, one gentleman was from Canada, and the other student, Darcy was a college professor of music staying in residence at the school for five weeks while she is on sabbatical. The school comes highly recommended and reviewed, is very reasonably priced, and offers classes for a minimum of one week. Hopefully, I can convince my own kids to come with me and mi novio for a week in the summer to study.

After our lesson, we wandered around town in search of a place for lunch.  We attempted to find a salsa dancing school (with no success) which lead us to a part of the city we had not yet explored.  We popped in and out of several boutique hotels that inundate this quaint and beautiful city.  We also learned that breakfast (desayuno) officially ends at noon (media dia).

We stumbled upon Jesus street, also known as Calle de Jesus and figured this was a good sign.  We took a left on Jesus street and landed at At Cafe de la Parroquia (Calle de Jesus 11 Centro).  I settled on eggs with mole and tortillas and black beans and jugo de naranja (oj). Kevin, who annoyingly always orders better than me, ordered huevos los revueltos, scrambled eggs. It was delicious, and even better, it was twelve dollars for the both of us for breakfast, I mean, desayuno.

After brunch, I followed my boyfriend Kevin down the narrow cobblestone streets, glad to not be in charge of navigation at the moment.  He lead us to the Rosewood Hotel, where we took in the sights of the immaculately kept gardens bursting with luscious,  colorful blossoms at every turn.  If you’re in need of a gardening job, I suggest you apply here. They must need an army of them to keep this place up to par.

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The Rosewood Hotel-Magnificent grounds

Across the street on our way out, we spotted an incredibly gargantuan bougainvillea draped over a stone wall leading to the boutique hotel, Nena.

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Hotel Nena

With only 6 guest rooms, a fantastic rooftop patio with a pool, an elegant yet chill ambiance, and Juan the bartender who made an excellent Margarita, I would say this would be on the top of my list of dream places to stay.

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Courtyard at Hotel Nena

For today however, the rooftop bar, open to the public, gave us a chance to experience this lovely hotel.

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Juan at the terrace bar at hotel Nena made a fabulous margarita.  (I think that’s Gwyneth Paltrow keeping watch over the terrace? )

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The terrace at Hotel Nena

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Enjoying the view from the terrace at Hotel Nena. Kevin tried the Mojito. I stuck with my search for the best margarita!

Now, the best part happened completely by accident. Leaving the hotel, we rounded a corner where we heard the sound of children playing. I realized this was the park, Parque Benito Juarez, that had been recommended to me for a morning run,  right in front of us.  (Running aside) If you do happen to be a runner, just know it’s no easy feat in downtown San Miguel.  You are going to have to slow down a lot to get around people on the narrow sidewalks, so forget about keeping pace.  I will say the drivers here are the most courteous I’ve ever seen about stopping and letting you cross a street.  Also, you can get a great workout starting in the main town square by the church and just hoofing it straight uphill until you can’t breathe anymore from the steep climb!  So, if you’re just wanting to get some distance in and not worry about running over anyone on the sidewalk, head to this park!

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Benito Juarez Park

We followed the trails through this beautiful,  public park and ended up exiting at what has been my favorite random find so far on this trip, the Santa Monica Hotel.  It looked intriguing from the outside, but a few steps in, and the courtyard made me want to stay.  If you have the opportunity to travel here, do not hesitate to wander into the boutique hotels that saturate this city just to take a look around.  Most of them have terraces and restaurants open to the public, and no one told us no when we asked if we could take a look around. Anyway, the Santa Monica was beautiful, tranquil, and serene. It seemed like a perfect place for a quiet retreat from the world. If we hadn’t already snagged desayuno, this would have been a nice place to have a meal just to be able to hang out in that courtyard for awhile.

Leaving the Santa Monica,  we followed another bougainvillea lined street and enjoyed the walk back into the center where we were staying.  It was definitely time for a siesta.

Cobblestone street outside the Santa Monica hotel-This wall gave me a serious case of Bougainvillea Envy.

For a day of unplanned wandering around, I think we learned that especially in this city, you never know what magical discoveries may await you just around la esquina.

Baa…d Decisions

Baa…d Decisions

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I had a lamb once when I was a kid. Notice I said once… One year of raising a lamb was enough for my dad, who is an expert at raising show steers not sheep. Sheep? We didn’t know much about raising those. The only reason we bought a lamb for show was that I was little, and the show steer my dad had bought me turned out to be wild. I was 9 years old, which is how old you have to be in order to compete at the fair. Me vs. a 1000 pound animal, my dad decided, was not a great match. So, he suggested showing a pig.

My dad was a high school ag teacher in addition to being a cattle rancher, and his teaching partner was the pig expert. I, being more of an expert in Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, the latest Jordache fashions, and jazz dance, turned up my dainty little nose at this suggestion. “Ew! A nasty, stinky hog?” I scoffed. Thus, enter the little lamb.

I named him Hungry Jack.  Seem strange? Not if you know two things.  I loved Hungry Jack biscuits, and my lamb ate his wooden fence.  He ate the fence… He whittled that sucker down to almost nothing.  It wasn’t like we weren’t feeding the thing either.   He had plenty of food, water, and  nice pasture, but apparently, the fence was an appetizing treat.  Who knew?

I had heard that sheep had a reputation for not being the sharpest tools in the animal shed, and the state of the wooden fence was further evidence that this was the truth.

This lamb was…well…stupid.

Even if you’ve never been to church, you have likely heard the Bible verse Isaiah 53:6 quoted, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned-every one- to his own way.”  In the Bible, Jesus is the “good shepherd” tending to his “sheep.” You’re no dummy.  You can see exactly where I’m going with this can’t you?

We wander off sometimes.  We need someone to lead us in the right direction.  Sometimes we need protection from danger.  Sometimes we simply do stupid things.  Maybe we eat a fence when right in front of us is something way better. Well, I probably shouldn’t insult you, so I shall apologize and speak for myself.  In the past, I have made some really  stupid choices.

Let me just affirm the fact that while I am intelligent and well educated, I have done some really dumb shit in my lifetime already.  Like, really…really dumb.  Exhibit A- husband number two…  Exhibit B… ex- boyfriend Sirswipesrightalot…  Exhibit C… blindly trusting Exhibits A and B. I rest my stupid case!

I’ve wandered down paths I try hard not to regret, especially when it comes to relationships and love. There was a time when I should have stayed, and I left.  There was a time when I should have fought, and I quit. There was also a time when I should have left, and I stayed.  I should have given up, but I stubbornly refused to walk away. There have been times I have closed my ears and chanted a spiritual “lalalalalala! I can’t HEAR you” to God.   I am not too proud to admit that there have been times that I have acted like a spoiled, stubborn brat while I’m sure God shook his head, waiting for me to come back to my senses.  I did, and I am thankful that in spite of my stupidity, God still loves me.

I will say the best lesson I have learned from making bad decisions is humility.  Humility and mercy.  I no longer see myself as better or worse than anyone else.  I see myself as a person who tried her best, but on her own fell short of perfection.

The truth is, no one is perfect. We are all flawed and in need of grace, which should only serve to make us try our best to love others instead of judge them.  Judging others is simply not our job.  My new mantra has become, “Judge none. Love all.”  This includes myself because as many mistakes as we may make, not forgiving yourself or someone who has hurt you may be the biggest mistake of all.

I’m sure you’re also familiar with the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd goes to look for that one that is lost and return him to the fold.  Yes, God loves us, even when we make really bad decisions.  He loves us when we walk the line, and he loves us when we fight it or even try to erase the line.  He loves us when we’re “good” or “bad.”

I don’t think he’s up there with a red pen and a naughty list checking it twice.  I think he is looking for a humble heart, a seeking heart, and an honest heart.

I hope God is looking for a teachable heart because at this point in my life, I know there is simply so much I don’t know.  I think God knows that sometimes, we’re even going to be so stupid we’ll try to eat the very fences meant to keep us safe, just like old Hungry Jack.

Whatever happened to Hungry Jack ?  Honestly I don’t even know.  I do know when I stepped into the dusty show ring back in 1984, that lamb stepped on my purple Keds tennis shoe.  I spent the entire time in the ring trying to hold Hungry Jack, lead him around the show ring, and keep my shoe from falling off my foot.  Why I made the terrible decision to wear tennis shoes instead of boots into the show ring I don’t really remember. I’m guessing it likely had to do with color coordination with my shirt.  Whatever it was, all I remember is that I came in last place and my daddy swore it was the last time we would ever show  a blankety, blankety sheep!

So Hungry Jack , wherever you are, please known that yes, even as stupid as you were, if you were lost, I  would totally come after you, splintered lamb lips and all.

©codyfife ©cocomocopublishing

 

 

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

Today is Saturday.  It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  It’s the first Saturday after the second Thanksgiving I’ve spent alone since my divorce.  Nothing about the holidays have been normal for me the past two years, and I’m learning there really is such a thing as a “new normal.”

This my friends, is survival mode thinking, and some of us find ourselves in moments of needing to just hang on for dear life this blessed time of year… or is it rein deer life?  See what I just did there? This is merely one holiday season survival mechanism-corny, corny, cringe worthy Christmas humor.

You’re welcome.

You see, I’m trying to keep my sense of humor through these changes, and never are the changes more glaringly obvious than during the holiday season.  It’s like a spotlight has just been turned on and aimed directly at you, and you feel frozen , unable to move, squinting helplessly into the blinding light. Things have changed, and Thanksgiving and Christmas have a way of really driving that point painfully home.  If you felt like a lonely, pathetic, middle-aged, divorced loser already, there’s nothing like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve as a single to make you feel even better about yourself!

It’s holiday survival mode for the newly separated, divorced, or have recently broken up with someone, individuals.  I happen to be the lucky, lucky winner of two of the aforementioned conditions, so I consider myself an expert on this topic.  While I don’t pretend to know everything, I have learned a few things that I hope may help other people, even one, trying to white knuckle it through the holidays.

If you have one of these people in your life right now, I have two words for you- have mercy. Seriously. Cut them some slack this holiday season.  Oh, I have two more words for you, chocolate and wine.  Bring us those. We’ll need them once the Hallmark Channel kicks off it’s snowy, jingly, kissy faced, season of hell we’re trying to avoid. All this merry making, these Hallmark movies with their romantic, fireside cuddling scenes, the twinkling lights, the diamond jewelry commercials, the stupid mistletoe hanging around random doorways just taunting you, and the picture perfect family holiday cards flowing in at an alarming, unstoppable rate, are all reminders that things are not what you thought they would be.  You never imagined how much you would want to face palm yourself every time you hear the jewelry store jingle, “Every kiss begins with Kay,” or find out, “He went to Jared’s!” You know what I want for Christmas? I  want Kay and Jared to stop bragging and shut their freaking pie holes!  Is that too much to ask?

Yep, the only man the kids might catch, “kissing mommy underneath the mistletoe,” would be the literal Santa Claus because the only men hanging around are your relatives, and that would just be weird.  So, while these idealized, romantic notions of the holiday season are warming your happily coupled hearts, just remember they can also make the people who are already alone feel like throwing a freshly baked plate of warm, gingerbread cookies right at the TV screen.  Take that Kay and Jared! Look out Candace Cameron and Tori Spelling!  I’ve got slightly burned yet still edible holiday cookies coming in hot and headed right towards your Hallmark bliss. There might be a strong case of single, holiday depression and angst coming straight for your on- screen make out session.  So, you’d better duck and cover.

On the bright side, I have to say that this year, I feel like I’m handling this whole alone scenario like a rock star compared to last year.  Now, that sucked. I was a hot mess.  I felt like I had been run over by a Mac truck emotionally.  You might as well have stopped calling me by my real name and just started referring to me as, “Flat Stanley.”  Where was “Flat Stanley” last Christmas season?  Sitting on the sofa in running gear, crying into an industrial sized container of cheese balls, watching Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscan Sun” on Netflix. My heart was crushed.  I was broken.

Last winter, my now ex-husband was spending his holidays with the “other woman” (to sum it up), and I was pretty much a puddle of pathetic devastation. He also introduced her to our six year old on Christmas, which I was super pumped about… It was bad last year. I am not going to even pretend it wasn’t.

My older sister, who has become one of my best champions through this mess, graciously included me in their Thanksgiving.  I found myself making frequent trips to the bathroom to cry just a little every few hours. I also found myself crying in the bathroom intermittently all through Christmas as well. As you can see, I spent a lot of time in bathrooms last holiday season.  I choked back tears the entire Christmas Eve service at church watching families sit together.  I choked back tears while I watched my brother and his family take pictures together in front of the tree on Christmas day because I didn’t have my family the way I had known it anymore.  Let’s just refer to it as the Christmas trail of tears.

Then this past year, I met a nice man when I was out dancing with my girlfriends one night, and he asked for my number. He was cute, smart, an Aggie just like me, a great dancer, and shared many of the same interests like theater, music, and running. He started calling me,  and we started going on dinner dates. Things slowly progressed, and by the summer we were spending a lot of time together,  traveling together, and he was even becoming a part of my kids’ lives after several months of dating and making sure this had potential to move forward. He was great to my kids. He took the time to talk to them beyond surface level conversations about their lives.  He included them. He became my best friend, my person. You know your person, the one you call when you get in your car after work and talk to all the way home about your day and their day and all the minutia of the in between.  I had that again.

He would buy groceries, show up at my house, and cook dinner for us, or if I cooked he would do all of the dishes. When I had two places to be at the same time to pick my teenagers up from after school activities, he was happy to help pick one of them up since he worked from home and had a flexible schedule. He even did laundry when he came over.  Read that again, people.  Laundry.  He held hands at the dinner table and lead us in prayer before meals.  He went to church with me on Sundays. He talked to my kids about their plans for the future, their goals, their dreams.  He played board games with my youngest in the living room while I was grading papers. I thought he was a keeper.

He had even passed the parent approval rating, no easy feat. I had met his son who lived out of the country with his mother and stepdad.  I had met his mother his father, his stepmother, friends he used to work with, attended his sister’s wedding in the spring and his family reunion in September.

I was able to trust again, which I didn’t think would be possible.

I thought this season of loss had all turned around.  I thought I had managed to find a good man who would be sitting next to me in church this Christmas Eve and watching the Hallmark movies with me.  There would be no throwing of cookies, and maybe I wouldn’t even mind Kay and Jared too much this year.

This year, I had really been looking forward to the holidays.  We had already planned out Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So even though last year the holidays were really lonely and difficult, I had been thinking how happy I was and how much things can turn around in a year’s time. There would be no holiday blues this season.

“Not this year!” I  thought to myself, mentally clenching my triumphant fist high into the wintery air with the conviction matched only by the likes of William Wallace before he charged the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.  “This year there will be happiness at the holidays!

Insert “WRONG answer” buzzer sound effect.

Did you hear it? That was the sound of my hopes of seasonal bliss being “wrong answer” buzzed into oblivion.

Funny how everything can go to hell in a hand basket with one little click of the old mouse. At the beginning of October I was at my sister’s house grading papers, and before I shut down my lap top, I decided it would be a good idea to check my email one last time. Do you remember the opening scene in, “You’ve Got Mail,” when Meg Ryan talks about that excited feeling, that anticipation you get when you open your email and hear, “You’ve Got Mail!” Oh, I had mail all right, but this was not mail to get excited about. It was mail from hell.

By the time I opened my email and read all the way to the end, there was no question the sound track for my Christmas this year would be less Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” and more Dolly Parton, “Hard Candy Christmas.”

It turned out that my perfect boyfriend had another girlfriend he started dating after me that he accidentally forgot to mention. According to her, a very successful, not easily bamboozled litigation attorney, there were apparently other women he was somehow managing to find the time to date in between seeing us! Insert gasp and look of sheer horror. She figured it out when she kept seeing my name appear on his caller ID and rifled through his phone.  Thank God she did, or I might still be dating Sir Lies a Lot.

After several days of complete freaking out which floated all over the map of emotions from shock and disbelief to sadness and anger, I thought to myself, “Hmmm… There appears to be a pattern here.”  These men keep forgetting about these other women they have scattered about to and fro.  It must be taxing on the old memory. Maybe they need some Ginkgo Biloba.  Maybe, as my sister suggested, we need an all points bulletin, “International Douchebag Alert” system. All I know is I could barely keep up with one boyfriend, much less two!  I mean, where did he find the time, and how is he not an academy award winning actor being able to master the craft of being so believable yet so full of complete crap?

The seemingly wonderful, attentive, very successful man I thought I was in an exclusive, progressing relationship with was a big, fat as Santa’s bowl full of jelly belly, liar. The tangled web lying liar pants had been weaving all came unraveled just in time for the holiday season.

Here’s the happy ending.  I survived, and you will too. Not only did I survive, I managed to find an incredible amount of joy, peace, and reconnection to God in the year and a half since my separation and divorce, and I still have that same peace and joy in the wake of yet another betrayal.  This time, while the sting is still painful, it hasn’t flattened me. This time, I knew better than to give my power away to an infallible human being when the only being who deserves that kind of complete control and power is my creator.

The first betrayal taught me where and with whom my heart was completely, 100% safe. I also managed to find myself and remember who I was, what I like, what I’m passionate about, and what my dreams are.  I made it my mission to find healing from what I can only sum up as trauma, and I pursued that healing with focused determination like my life depended on it… because it did.

What I’ll remember this Christmas and New Year is that Jesus came down to this crazy world, to a messy, dirty, stable that night in Bethlehem to give us abundant life, and I am not about to settle for a broken life when I know He is the one who is able to make the broken mess something beautiful again. I’m so glad the King of Kings doesn’t mind messes.

Now in addition to that wonderful news, here are a few more positive aspects about being single during Christmas. Let’s look at the bright side together, shall we?

#1 It is much better to be alone at the holidays (or any time) than with the wrong person.

#2 You have one less present to buy. Cha-ching!

#3 You can stay in your pajamas all day, not wear any make up, eat straight out of the ice cream container, and have complete control of the remote on your holiday vacation after the kids are all in bed, and there is no one there to judge you.  Can you say, awesome?

#4 You can decorate your white Christmas tree you picked out yourself with hot pink beads and hot pink ornaments, and there’s no one there to stop you! I would know.

#5  You don’t have to share any of the left over advent calendar chocolate the kids didn’t want with anyone else. It’s all yours. Score!

You see, there is always a silver bells lining, even if you have to squint really hard to see it.