I’m Not Pregnant

Most people who know me would be astonished. Not that I’m not, but that it would even need to be said. I’m in my mid-forties, my husband is a little further down the line than that (although don’t say nearing fifty, he hasn’t quite reached that level of acceptance).  We are at a hugely vulnerable time in our lives and in our marriage. His health is precarious, at best. We are facing a forced separation and which continent we are going to inhabit, or even if we can inhabit one together at all, is anyone’s guess. So the fact that I have reached the age of irregular cycles adds a layer of interest to an already MORE than interesting time in our lives.

I really didn’t think I was. I’ve been late before. But I also have three grown/nearly grown daughters. So I know what it feels like to be late, and to wonder, “What if?” It was an interesting several weeks. I didn’t take a test. I didn’t feel like I was pregnant, and I do know what that feels like. I don’t have any bad habits, and I eat pretty healthy. Nothing in my life, or lifestyle would change with the knowledge that I was not alone in my body. At least not yet. So even if I WAS, I didn’t think I needed to KNOW. Not right away. I figured Mother Nature would give me a clue, sooner or later, and she did.

But what about those weeks? What about the stuff in my head while I wondered? It wasn’t a constant thing, by any means. Last year, I went several months where nothing happened. After two negative pregnancy tests and a follow-up with my doc to make sure nothing was wrong, I made some peace with the fact that my body is changing. Things are simply less predictable now than they used to be.

Still, it is interesting what a lifetime of programming can do to a fertile imagination. I wondered, what would I do? I had some great conversations with my husband regarding the, “What if?” question. It was great to know we were both on the same page. We would have been terrified. And thrilled. And terrified.

So now that I know for sure, I am relieved. But I also mourn the second chance I won’t get. I know. I’m selfish. I have three amazing, beautiful, intelligent daughters. My girls are a blessing that any mother would be grateful for. I have friends who are trying desperately to have even one child, and I have three. How DARE I feel sad that I can’t have even more? But there it is. I do mourn, nonetheless.

I know a few women in my age bracket have “second” families with new husbands. I think, if you’re healthy and can afford it, go for it. I never saw myself in that scenario, but last year’s scare, and this year’s… whatever it was, has made me think about it. And while I know how difficult it would be, I would embrace the chance to raise a child with this amazing man it took me a lifetime to find. And so I do mourn that loss.

My husband would have made a brilliant father. Plus, he has the most amazing blue eyes. It’s a shame that no child of mine will look at me with those eyes. No baby of mine will call him Daddy.

But then I come back to myself: this life I have chosen; the man I love who loves me more than I ever could have imagined; the family I have, oddly scattered as we may be. And I am so grateful. I have a life and a love beyond any dream I ever had. I am fulfilled, satisfied beyond the wildest imaginings of my youth.

And yet, even so… what if?

When someone falls for you, in SPITE of your appearance…

OUCH!!!

Today, let’s talk about body image. Don’t worry, nothing trite about loving yourself first to attract others to you, or, God forbid, becoming the kind of person that you would fall in love with… gah!! I guess those things have their value, and I have subscribed to both of those philosophies (even if they are not that far apart). No, what I want to talk about is this: If you are fat (like me) and yet, still think you are fabulous (like me) … how does that play when run up against a love interest who prefers non-fat, potentially less fabulous women.

I say potentially less fabulous because, let’s face it. A naturally skinny blonde is NOT gonna have the same issues with body image as those of us of a more curvy nature… and consequently… those of us who have come away from that with a sound and viable self-respect will by default have MORE depth to draw from. Argue what you will…. fat and fabulous beats skinny blonde hands down, every time, in that department.

So, that said, what if the guy you fall desperately in love with prefers the skinny blonde… and despite that glaring flaw, you have chosen to allow him to worship you anyway? Hmm…. I bet you haven’t thought of it that way. If you have, welcome to fabulous. If not… let’s chat.

My husband is Danish, and so his field of women has been saturated with the skinny blonde type. Danish women are naturally taller, thinner, and blonder than the average American chick. We live on convenience food and media. Danes… much less so. We are at a cultural disadvantage, but also, there are the genes. Scandinavian genes are just programmed for tall, skinny and blonde. It’s hard to fight nature. So he never did. He has always preferred a slightly boney, washed-out version of what I would call healthy… lol

Enter me. I am fat. There are no two ways about it. I have not always been fat, but I have almost always felt fat. So even when I weighed 125 pounds and was a size 6… I felt fat. My hips and ass have always been on the large size for my frame. Which is not a bad thing. I was voted “Best Ass” in my workplace when I was a teen. I still get compliments from men who prefer a larger, warmer woman. But I digress. When I was a small child, my grandmother watched me hop off a stool in her kitchen and told me I had inherited the “Brumley Basketball Butt”. Yup, round and bouncy… that is my ass. Was, is, will likely always be. When I was a teen, I wanted to model, but my mother told me I was “too hip-py”… Even though my collar bones were visible beneath my shirts. Yup… fat ass. What can I say?

So no matter how thin I have been, and I have been on the dangerous side of thinness for my frame… I have always had enough bounce to spare.

Enter life. Two disastrous marriages (I didn’t get enough abuse the first time around, figured I’d go for me more with hubby #2), three kids (whom I love dearly, but let’s face it… pregnancy + stress + bad marriage = fat), and decades of letting my self-esteem take daily beatings… I went from bouncy to fat. And I stayed fat.

I have dieted. I have lost it all. I have gained it all back. I know I can get thin. I just haven’t been able to STAY thin since my 20’s. I am actually working on it again now… but that is likely another few posts in the future…

So, I met my current husband (#3) after YEARS of nearly ecstatic single-hood. I spent years and time getting my head straight after the two decades of disaster following high school. I “found” me, I took care of ME…I really LOVED me. It was a lot of work to get there, believe me. Anyone coming out of an abusive childhood and abusive relationships knows how much work it is to get to a place where you LOVE yourself. I am amazed and grateful I was able to do so. THAT is likely another post, as well.

When I met my love, I was at the peak of dating. I had decided nearly a year earlier that I was done being single, that I had something to offer a relationship, and dammit… I wanted to be IN one! I had dated several guys, nothing serious. I met guys from work, friends of friends, online, you name it. I vowed to not let any chance pass me by. I was reading, “If the Buddha Dated” and if you get a chance, you should too. I was also reading Rori Raye (online dating guru), and if you get a chance, you should too. LOL

I had a LIST. I was talking to 27 guys on a regular basis (circular dating), and had a short list of 6 guys that I was pretty into. Along came Henning (lucky #7)… and I was hooked. From our first conversation, I was done for. But I played it cool and our friendship grew. He lived in Denmark, I lived in the USA… so I didn’t really place a lot of weight on a “relationship” happening. But then he was coming to the US for vacation… and mutual friends were pressuring us to hook-up. So I agreed to meet him.

From the moment I met him, I knew he was the guy I wanted. He was just the right combo of physical, mental and emotional traits that I admire. I never even considered, not for one second, that I wasn’t HIS. And that’s where this all gets interesting.

It never occurred to me, not during our visit (in which he spent the last hours in my bed, of course), not during the ensuing weeks, and then months of communication where we eventually decided to be a “thing” and ultimately that I should come to Denmark… not once during ALL of that time did it EVER occur to me that … perhaps I was not his ideal. I was THAT fabulous, in my own head. Really.

But then, during my first visit to Denmark, he let it slip one night during a very intense conversation, that I was not his type. That he had seen me, initially, as a fat house-wife type… definitely NOT girlfriend material.

******

Yeah. Wow. That’s what I said. I nearly dumped him right then. I spent the next day (I was meeting friends of his for the first time) playing nice. It was really hard, but I WAS stuck in Denmark with no exit ticket for a week or so… so I opted to give him a chance to redeem himself.

And… guess what? He never has. Not really. I married him anyway. Why? Because he loves me. He loves me as much as I love him. It stopped mattering to him that I was not his “ideal”… he had fallen in love with me in spite of the way I look (which, I must say, to me… is still pretty damn fabulous… but I AM partial to myself).

So here is the deal. He confessing his sins damaged me more than probably ANY of the abuse I suffered in my life. I ended up completely reevaluating how I saw myself. I dieted and lost weight, then gained it back over the following months. My skin broke out because I started doing shitty things to myself in the name of getting skinny… which, obviously never works. I ate junk. My blood pressure spiked. I ended up severely depressed. I even let him talk me into cutting my hair (don’t worry, I’m growing it back) I did more physical damage to my body than I had done since high school. But that was just surface damage. That the man I loved fell for me DESPITE his lack of initial attraction to me… that broke something inside of me, which I had to really work to fix. And make no mistake; it was MY job to fix it.

I had opened myself to this man, had removed layers and layers of armor that had been built up over the years… I laid myself bare before him, intentionally and mindfully… and he skewered me through the heart. And it still hurts. It does. I am not going to delude myself, or you, and say I am all better now. It can still bring me to tears, remembering that night. I have a raw place inside that can’t take very much tweaking or poking before it begins to bleed. The balance point of our relationship was his view of me at that time… and it could have gone either way, honestly.

But there is this… I AM fabulous, and he saw that. In spite of being fat, in spite of being not blonde, in spite of being not young… that being inside of him, which resides under HIS layers of armor, recognized ME. So I forgive him for being stupid. Mostly.

My message is this. If you are fabulous, if you DO really love yourself, if you really ARE that person that you would fall in love with… that is still no protection from the damage that can be done from within. Make no mistake. His lack of vision regarding me was all him. The DAMAGE that was caused… that was all me. I allowed myself to see ME through the eyes of someone else… and that… THAT… is the biggest danger to self-esteem.

Letting go of how others see you, even your nearest and dearest… and deciding that the person you see every day in the mirror only answers to YOU… THAT is the best gift you can give yourself. THAT is where self-esteem begins.

Weekly “Pick on Denmark” Post

Today is Friday, and I have decided every Friday is “Pick on Denmark Day”. I might change the name, but yeah. I need a venue for bitching and this is it.

What happened this week? Well… I will go back to last Saturday. I met a lovely woman who, like me, is an American ex-pat trying to stay in Denmark. She has a job, she is married, she has an education, she speaks Danish… in other words, she meets all of the qualifications. And yet, she has NOT been granted a green card, and in fact, she was recently imprisoned for staying here illegally. Of course she is not here illegally… it is just a ruse to scare her so she leaves. Denmark has no choice but to grant her the green card as she meets their own standards… but she is black. So… we’ll see how it shakes out.

My own situation is a bit more precarious than my new friend’s. I do NOT have a Master’s degree, and I am still in the very early stages of learning the language. To make matters worse, they ALSO said I was here illegally. According to our legal advisor, I am definitely here legally… and they are willing to back us all the way to court, if necessary… but yeah. It sucks. We got a letter the other day that says they will try to make a determination regarding my legal status in the next 5-6 weeks. At that point, if they determine that I was legal when we submitted the application, it will take 3-7 months for them to process the application.

Denmark is quickly climbing the list of countries least friendly to foreigners. It is not just Immigration, which is horrendous all by itself. Just read a few columns in Copenhagen Post and you will get an idea of the strain put on foreigners just to stay here. Not to live here permanently, not to become part of society… just to go to school, or work, or whatever. Even businessmen have had to miss parts of conferences just to meet the odd and ever-changing immigration rules of when you can enter and how long you can stay. It is maddening.  But it not JUST Immigration.

Asking if someone speaks English is often followed by an “Of course.” No smile. Of course… the English that is spoken is likely barely comprehensible. No matter. I have friends from all parts of the globe and manage to understand most of what is said to me. But the demeanor instantly changes from merely cold and indifferent (the standard of customer service here, as far as I can tell) to outright rude.  Other times, however, the answer is “No!”, and I have been refused service.

The other day, I wanted to cash a money order my father had sent me for Christmas. It was drawn on Danske Bank, and in my name. My husband went with me. Since he is a Danske Bank account holder, we figured it would be no problem.

First, we waited in line. THAT is also standard. It is not unusual to have to take a number (everywhere, take a number), and then wait in line at least 10-20 minutes, for anything. Post a letter, buy a loaf of break, talk to a city worker… take a number, and wait.

I have to interrupt myself here. The reason we waited until now, nearly a month past Christmas, is because the line was too long other times we went by. People were lined up out of the branch into the hallway. So this time… waiting 15 numbers was NOT too long. So, yeah. Efficiency at work.   When our number was called, the cashier spoke to us only in Danish. When I asked her to speak English, she just looked at me. Whatever, Henning was there. She first said the check was not valid. It didn’t look the way she expected it to. She went back, showed it to her manager, and they photocopied it, and then the cashier made a phone call. The manager went to the back offices and conferred with at least two other people.

The cashier came back to us after quite a long time, and said it was missing numbers. I explained it was a money order, so it was not a standard check. She went back to her manager, they made another phone call, and again went to the back offices. She came back and asked if I had a CPR number. Of course I don’t. I am officially still a tourist here.

I signed it over to Henning, so he could just deposit in into his account. After all, once a check or money order is signed, it belongs to the bearer, no questions asked. Right? Wrong. Again she conferred with the manager, and the boys in the back, and again the check, along with the photocopy and a growing pile of notes accompanied them.  When she came back, she said I needed to have a CPR number to do any business there.

And that was it. After standing in line for nearly 20 minutes, and then waiting at least 20-30 more while they all went back and forth, we left with just the check, which was now signed and, to me, pretty vulnerable.

I called my embassy in Copenhagen, and they suggested I contact the bank’s main branch (where the check was issued). It was after 4:00pm, so I had to wait until the next day.

I did call Danske Bank’s main branch the next day, and spoke with a lovely man who insisted Henning’s branch should have cashed the check. He said his bank (the one in Copenhagen) deals with Americans all the time, and if I so desired, I could come right there and have it deposited. He offered to come take care of it personally if the cashier had any questions.

We did go to Copenhagen that afternoon, and aside from the parking, the cobblestones and the fact that the main branch of Danske Bank has STAIRS and NO ELEVATOR (in other words, is NOT accessible at all) had no issues getting my Christmas gift deposited to my husband’s account. It took about three minutes. Well… three minutes after taking a number and waiting in the foyer at the bottom of the stairs for 20 minutes… but… whatever.

What if I had not been so close to Copenhagen? What if I had relied on the misinformation given to me by Danske Bank employees who said I was unable to effect any transactions? I wonder what other foreigners do, in this situation? I am blessed to have friends here who I’m sure would have been able to help. I am blessed to have had to contact the embassy for a few other matters, so that anxiety of dealing with them has lessened.  I am even more blessed to have such a confident and encouraging husband (although, to be fair, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be here… so there is that).

Why does Denmark hate us so much? Why is it so hard for the country, as a whole, to embrace the idea that we truly are a global community? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t really care why. I just know that to me, it seems like each and every time I step out of the sanctuary of our little apartment, I must have my guard up, my thick skin in place, and be prepared for any array of insult, misinformation and discrimintation that will be the norm as I go through my day.

Gratitude

To be thankful in any circumstance is not easy. It can seem, to the casual observer, that to be  thankful even as you are inundated by the dramas of life is to have your head “buried in the sand”. I have known people who have that false cheerful vibe, and you know they are a miserable sod on the inside. Those people scare me. I am not talking about a disconnected relationship with reality. I am talking about actively looking for, and finding, the truly wonderful gifts we are given, every day.

I personally find a lot of solace in humor, and when things get tough, I tend to get sarcastic. This month, partaking once more in 30 Days of Thankful, I have not always been very serious. I have written about being thankful for things like chili sauce, for example. Or my pancreas. But seriously, sometimes you really are grasping for anything. On a day when you have heard nothing but bad news, and you have to find SOMETHING… it can be hard. But… those exercises still have value. Perhaps they even have MORE value than the “easy” ones.

It is easy to be thankful for the sun, for oxygen, for God, for Science, for whatever keeps you going, day after day. To be thankful for one’s family, friends… to remember those things is obviously paramount. People that forget that the sun will rise again, that they have the love and support of others, those are the people that we tend to worry about. But what about the person who IS conscious of those things? The person who KNOWS “every day is a gift” and yet… can’t find daily joy? No amount of “cheering up” is enough to touch that emptiness. Those are the people I relate to.

I KNOW I am blessed. All I have to do is look next to me as I wake up in the morning to know how very blessed I am. A phone call, a Skype session, a text message or chat… my life is full of friends and family who love me, who I love in return. I know the sun will rise, I know “this too shall pass”, I know my life is more than my circumstances. But I still lose the joy. I still find myself in those dark places, wondering where the light went. Everything feels so heavy, and I can barely breathe from the weight of it.

Then, out of that heaviness comes something… some small thing. Perhaps I read a quote, or am told a joke, or just maybe my brain throws something out of the void that makes me laugh. Perhaps is it just scrambling around for something to mask the taste of leftover parsnips sparks the idea that sweet chili sauce is a brilliant invention…

Recognize those moments for what they are. The salvation that comes from finding something in the grind of every day for which to be thankful, to realize you have the strength to BE thankful for those small things, THAT is the miracle. Those are the moments of true gratitude.