the oversized sweatshirt

I had a boyfriend in my early 20s who chased me all the way to Paris. I had resisted at first because we had been involved at home and it had not ended well. He had shown up at my parents’ doorstep, saying he had changed, was crazy about me and begged for my  phone number.  He began calling me and convinced me to stay on the phone with him for hours. Before I knew it, he was heading to Paris to meet up with me.

The night he arrived,  we sat  sipping kir in a most charming Paris living room with french doors open to the beautiful night air. We were alone in this home, given to me by friends, for 3 days.  It was exquisitely romantic. He turned to me excitedly, saying he had a surprise  and ran downstairs.  Within minutes,  a gorgeous sound came through those open doors, the curtains dancing to it in the breeze- a man was playing the saxophone on the street. The gesture was so tender it was heartbreaking. Suddenly, the boyfriend runs into the room with an over sized sweatshirt. This was his surprise. Not the music. The disappointment was heavy.  The sweatshirt was ugly.

Over 20 years later,  I find myself out there in the dating world again, thinking about this funny Paris disappointment. If small girls have small disappointments – will big girls, in their 40’s , have big fat disappointments?


There is no script when you leave your marriage, no right way to do things, no way to measure how you are doing and certainly no pill to make you better. You would walk over hot coals if someone promised it would recover your broken heart. No one promises you a damn thing.

In an attempt to take no prisoners, heal all scars and emerge better than I had been, I thought I should give therapy a whirl. I felt well, positive and strong- but maybe I wasn’t. We had been to a marriage counsellor,  best described as trying to patch the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.   That doctor was a  masculine, dispassionate woman, who for $150 an hour wrote pads of lined paper while intermittently hmmming at us over the top of her spectacles.  I half imagined the copious notes were  going straight to the recycling or  to dinner parties where they would be entertaining her friends.

I needed to find something more effective and economical.  I spent an hour a week with a short man with dainty hands and a name that would more suit a teddy bear. He typed my stranger than fiction story onto a computer screen as I cried through kleenex boxes. When I looked up I either found him checking out my legs or vacant behind the computer screen as though he might be on the Home Depot web site.  I stayed with him longer than I should have, the way you do with an ill suited  lover during a bad time. I had no one else.

My doctor recommended a clinic not far from home, care covered by OHIP. Worth a try. The place was dismal and sad, with smear stains on the wall, mean notes of  WHERE NOT TO PARK, and the smell of burnt and stale coffee from a dirty communal pot.  The doctor I went to had a name that rhymed with Mastered that suggested he never had a father. I wondered whether he had worked out all the demons from years with a name begging for bullying.

He greeted me nervously (why would he be nervous? He would be sharing zip)   with a check list on a clip board that he ran through with me. Are you sleeping? like a baby. Appetite? Like that of  teenage boy. Libido? Like that of a teenage boy.  Confusion? Actually, my thoughts are as clear as  a glass of water. Thoughts of suicide? My goodness, no. He seemed  disappointed in all my answers.

He swiveled nervously in his chair, eyes bulging, like I was failing the post separation test.  Finally, desperate for something dark,  he asked me if I was sad.  I said    ” have you ever lost a dream?” He said yes.  I said “then you know what it is to be terribly sad. But I am also relieved, blissful, thankful, scared, excited and filled with hope.” I thanked him and said I would not be coming back.

Finally, a dear friend, who is a wise girl and a therapist, referred me to a colleague of hers. We connected right away. She remembers all my details, all my troubles and all my stories. I do not go to her because I am broken. I go to her to be better than I am.

In therapy we have a chance to say what might have otherwise gone unsaid, unnoticed.  I do not want to miss any precious moments or lessons in this life.

good and strong

I heard myself say so many times since separation that I am twice the person I would have been if I had never been through the difficulty that I had. It is an extreme example of me, to deflect any tone of pity, to see the bonus in the adversity and to rise above the harrowing pull of negativity. Everyone but my mom accepted this.  The first time she heard it, well after I had been telling myself and others this for several months, said “yes dear, but who might you have been in a good and strong marriage?.”