Misfit Island

c68bc207576cb8ee01a02545d07cafd9
Image Credit

For most of my life, I have often felt like I didn’t fit in.  As a teenager, I felt like I was meant to live in a different time. I felt like I started to find myself towards the end of high school and in college, I developed an excellent group of friends who I felt “got me”.  Then, when I got married, I thought “this is it, I finally found someone who loves me, and all will be good”.  Then, came the infertility…as I watched other couples and friends start to build families, I again felt left out.  Suddenly, my friends were busy raising kids and even being around them was a painful reminder.  When we adopted the boys, I again thought “this is it”, but I quickly found that in a small community, many families already had their “groups”.  As Bolt began to really struggle, it felt further isolating.  Why couldn’t I have the American Dream?  We then picked up and moved across the country right when I was just starting to feel like I might have found a community.  As I have said before, the move was the right decision, but also reactivated that feeling of isolation.  Then, well, you know the rest.

Interestingly, in the past few months, I have really connected with the adoptive families group at church.  It was feeling so alone that really allowed me to step outside my comfort zone for new friendships.  However, with that, the feeling of not belonging has been emerged its ugly head again.  While I now feel like I found a group of women who understand what parenting a kid from a “hard place” looks like, I look around the room and still feel so very much like a misfit watching couples mingle with other couples.

The other challenge I find, that churches are designed around families.  You look around a service on a Sunday morning and are surrounded by families.  I stand there in worship and often find myself overwhelmed by how alone I feel.  I have one son who sits who his hands over his ears and both regularly excuse themselves for a bathroom run.  I worry that people are judging me for the behavior of my sons.  Part of me wants to shout from the rooftops, “I am doing the best I can”.  Then, as I joined the sparsely attended singles group I hear that the church has so many groups that it can’t “publicize” groups that don’t feed a majority…

All while these thoughts are going through my head, I can’t help wondering if these experiences are teaching me empathy for the lonely…the left out…the misfits.  I must take hold of the truth that we all have our own stories and those stories can either make us or break us. I don’t know the future, but I also believe that God can make beauty from ashes.

st,small,215x235-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1
Image Credit

Milestones

It was six months ago this evening that my ex walked out of the door of our home for the last time.  It was six months ago that I embarked on the oft lonely journey of single parenthood.  At the time, I frequently said that I figured the first six months would be the hardest…and now how I wish that were true.  Maybe things will surprise me, but if the past few weeks is any indication, it will likely get harder before it gets easier.  I foolishly compared this situation to other times of transition such as the move across the country or adopting the boys.  However, I now realize that I spent three months running on adrenaline, and it wasn’t until the boys settled back into school that I began to understand the routine of single parenthood.

Being a single parent means I am the first one up in the morning and the last one up at night.  I am responsible for making sure my sons are up and ready for their first glimpses of morning and that the doors are locked, and the lights turned out, ushering them into sleep.  It is sometimes a wonder and a privilege to have such great responsibility for the two young men asleep in their bed.  When there are two parents present, it is easy to pass the buck, so to speak.  Now it is just me.  That isn’t to say that I take full responsibility for the men they become, but rather, I take full responsibility for what I teach them over the next few years.

So, how are my sons doing?  There are days, I feel like I have a good understanding, but the reality is that this transition is complicated by the own transition their bodies are experiencing.  I have two middle school boys, in the throngs of puberty, and it is hard to tell where the trauma of the past few months ends, and the puberty begins.  Probably, a lot of the challenges of the past few months are a combination of both.

Bolt has been a challenge to me from day one.  When he was finally diagnosed with autism, four years ago, it did provide some clarity to some of the issues that were so challenging, but it didn’t provide any solutions.  With autism, routine and structure are something that makes Bolt feel safe.  His own trauma has also made him extremely in need to have control over things in times of transition.  I feel like the past few months, he has latched onto one thing after another that he can control.  His latest fixation is hand hygiene for anyone preparing his food (which is me), so therefore he stalks me through the kitchen to snap at me the second he perceives that I have gone too long between hand washings (which means like every two minutes).  It helps to remind myself of the why behind the what, but let me just say that at six in the morning, I don’t want to be yelled at because he didn’t hear the water running.

Messi is in such an odd place and I am really struggling to figure out what is just typical teen angst and what is his own trauma.  He started middle school this fall and loves it.  I am getting the usual glowing reports from his teachers and peers. At home is another story.  He is downright rude and condescending to me more often than not.  He is very inpatient and critical of most things I do.  However, the second he wants something, he turns on the charm.  It actually reminds me a lot of the interactions I have had with my ex over the past year or two, so some of me wonders if he is just mimicking him.  At school and sports he is social, but at home he is withdrawn.  I routinely find him under his bed listening to music, with a dog curled at his side.  He won’t talk about what has transpired over the past few months and he says everything is wonderful between him and his dad, but…

So, those are some of the areas that are hard and I don’t have a magic wand to make it all better.  At the same time, there is some real freedom in being a single parent.  The decisions that are made are mine alone.  I also feel like because I have been forced to take on the role of only present parent, I have also had to learn to be both “good cop” and “bad cop”.  I can be the fun one and spontaneous. Just tonight, I agreed to let the boys go see the new “Thor” by themselves (gave me an opportunity to study).  I try and surprise them with pizza some nights or some special treat from the grocery store.  I also feel like I really know my sons better.  I know what will make them angry or frustrated, but I also know ways to make them smile.  Often when two parents are around, each parent takes on a different role to their children.

So, while initially, I thought the first six months would be the hardest, I now think it will probably be the first year, at minimum.  We are sitting on the ledge of the holiday season, after all.  We have not done Thanksgiving without dad.  I haven’t been without my sons at Christmas.  We have a vacation planned for February…one that was originally planned as a family of four.  The next six months will be full of more milestones as we begin to rebuild our lives as a family of three.  For now, all I can do is take it one milestone, and one day at a time.

06-Milestones-1024x682.png
Image Credit

Heroes & Villains

After a few weeks lull, I started thinking more frequently about my ex again.  I am not sure what prompted my brain to start dwelling on the past, but I have found myself lost in my thoughts on more than a few occasions over the past week.  This, of course, was partially what prompted my grief filled weekend.  However, unlike in previous times of grief over this whole situation, this time the grief wasn’t rooted in anger or betrayal; this grief was rooted in the loss of the man I thought I knew.

So much of what I have shared and written about paints my ex out to be a horrible person. There is no doubt that the things he did to me and the betrayal of our marriage are horrid.  Walking out on one’s children for “the love of my life” is despicable.  However, I think maybe one of the greatest challenges is reconciling that the actions of the past year do not really reflect a large part of the man I shared my life with and the father my sons knew.

My ex is very charismatic – he can talk to anyone and has a George Clooney smile where his eyes crinkle into slits when he smiles.  He is great at massages and I still miss him working out the kinks in my shoulders after a crazy shift in the ER.  Most importantly, he was (and yes, was, is the correct term) a great dad.  He was patient with our sons and always willing to stop and teach them something.  He was very physical – allowing them to wrestle or tickle him.  He was soft-spoken and rarely raised his voice.  My sons love him dearly.

So, while it may be easy to see him as the villain in the story, I cannot, because, for many years he was my hero.  I wished I could be more patient and more fun and more like him.  What happens when the hero and the villain are one in the same?  My head and my heart don’t even know where to put it…I spend days trying to make sense of everything and it overwhelms me at times.  I am also reminded of the times I have played the villain in this story…there are many.  The truth is that in this life there are very few true heroes and probably even fewer true villains.  For all the beauty and evil in the world, it is all shaped by someone’s story and sometimes the line between the villain and the hero isn’t that clear.

st,small,215x235-pad,210x230,f8f8f8.lite-1u3
Image Credit

Waves

Recently I read something online from an elderly gentleman about grief coming in waves.  At the time I understood it, but at the same time I was thankful how my waves of grief were so much smaller.  At the same time, I was talking with another person about how I had finally reached the point that the circumstances of the past several months no longer consumed my thoughts.  Then this weekend happened…call it fatigue after finishing a tough grad school class (at least with an “A”), call it frustration from arguing with two middle school boys daily, or just call it life.  Whatever the case, the wave, or even tsunami of grief washed over me this weekend.

This morning I awoke and began the usual Sunday battle of trying to get the boys out of bed for church.  I tried to make the morning positive with delicious pumpkin chip pancakes.  As I went through the plans of the day, the boys started in on me on how I never do anything and make them do everything, all the while staring at their phones and making no attempt at getting ready.  I lost it and basically said I was leaving for church, but I wasn’t dealing with their crap anymore and if they felt the need to act like jerks they could stay at home.  Bolt followed me out to the car, Messi took advantage of my minor meltdown and chose to stay home.  I cried all the way to church and through half of the service.  Sometimes once the wave of grief starts, all I can do is ride it to shore.  The rest of the day was followed by these waves (albeit smaller) …I haven’t cried this much in months.

I did allow myself to feel the grief and think about what it was that hurt so much.  It isn’t so much that I miss my ex-husband – the past few months has given me a lot of clarity about the problems in our marriage.  So, what was I grieving?

  • A partner to unwind to and with at night
  • A co-parent…this single parenting stuff is no joke
  • A male role model for my sons
  • My masseuse
  • A warm body in my bed as the nights get cooler
  • A shoulder to cry on when things felt overwhelming

While I have way more support from friends and my community than I did even 6 months ago, the reality is that when the doors to our home are closed for the evening, it is just me struggling to parent alone.  Single parenting is hard and it very lonely.  While I am grateful for the healing that has taken place over the past few months, today was just one of those days where I had to ride the waves.

Grief-Waves-NakedMystic-sm.jpeg
Image Credit

Embracing Fear

I think one of the struggles of those who identify as “control freaks” is fear.  I don’t like to do anything without thinking of variables and outcomes, so sometimes I avoid being spontaneous or overthink things.  Over the past few months, so much of my life has been out of control that I find myself embracing the unknown and embracing my fears.

I was a fearless kid, but around middle school something shifted.  There was some bullying and I sank into the safety of my mind.  I found myself diving into fictional worlds and with the internet, the worlds were expanded through chat groups.  I emerged in high school and developed a solid group of friends and the same in college.  I met my ex the beginning of my sophomore year and we were great friends and study mates for 6 months before we started dating.  In hindsight, I now see some of the disfunction of our relationship.  Rather than push me to be better, he fed off a lot of my insecurities.  It was a lot of “don’t worry about it, I will take care of it” (even when he didn’t). When we would go to group functions, he was the social butterfly and I just tagged along, but he never tried to actively include me in things.  I often felt like a third wheel when we went out, like I was holding him back.  Over the past few years, I dreaded going places because it was like watching his performance while I sat in the back ignored.  Again, this isn’t about bashing him, but rather seeing that this affair was the straw that broke us, but it was far from the only issue.  These subtle things had created a deep fear that I didn’t live up to expectations or I wasn’t capable of doing things without him.

Fast-forward to May, when I woke up one day a realized that I had to do it all.  I had to make those phone calls I hated making.  I had to be more social and meet the other soccer parents, so I could ask for rides!  I had to drive places when driving is not something I enjoy.  So, I started doing those things and what has emerged in me is something interesting.  No longer to I get anxious when I think about driving into New York.  The phone calls are now part of my day (and now my job).  I now socialize with the other soccer parents and don’t hesitate to ask for a ride (or give one).  I also just dive in without overthinking things.  I just managed to get my cat home from a shelter in Wyoming in a matter of weeks because I was willing to ask friends for help, make numerous phone calls, invite strangers into the story, and just trust that it would work out.

22309105_10156673679398294_2364006660216749257_n

I also have been finding my sense of adventure returning.  I walk every day at lunch and started looking around during my walks and, in the process, found a network of public trails in the woods behind my work, that I walk daily.  Rather than sit home and sulk over Christmas, I texted a friend and am going to spend it with her family (can we say time for a tea party!).  I just bought a ticket to go see P!nk by myself in Philly this spring!  I have also started thinking about my future and the things I look forward to doing.  Maybe a hiking trip in Africa or South America or whatever.  And guess what, it doesn’t scare me to think of doing it alone!

be-fearless
Image Credit

On Your Wedding Day

I am sitting in a hotel room after midnight in Hershey, Pennsylvania while my sons sleep on the floor it preparation for a weekend soccer tournament.  No, I am not cruel.  We have 2 beds, but they refused to share, but also both refused the beds.  Anyway, I digress.  Today, my ex-husband, of under 3 months, marries the “other woman” …the woman he left me for…the woman he left our sons for.  My mind is a jumbled web of thoughts and emotions that won’t be quieted tonight.  So, here is my letter to him…he may never see it, because I am not going to send it to him and because he has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want to hear it…, so I leave this for the world to read. I have nothing to hide.

Dear J****,

A year ago, if someone would have told me that tonight I would be alone in a hotel room with our sons for a soccer tournament on the day of your marriage to the woman who you would give up everything for, I would have laughed at the absurdity.  Yet, that is exactly the story that has played out.  I know our marriage wasn’t perfect, but I also never imagined the way in which it would implode in a matter of months (though I now know…it imploded years ago for you).  So, today I release you.  I can honestly say, the love I felt for you is gone and hasn’t been replaced with hatred, but rather a sadness.  A sadness for myself, for our sons, and yes, for you.  I know you think you are marrying the “love of your life” and maybe that is true.  But know this, you gave up the best thing God gave you – a woman committed to staying with you through good times and bad and two amazing sons.  I don’t pretend to know the woman you left us for, but I do believe that a relationship that started in lies will not end in truth.  So, what do I wish for you on this day…a day where I am grieving and where our sons are confused…

May you never be on the receiving end of the kind of betrayal you put myself and our sons through.  I hope that one day you develop empathy…empathy for the lives you and she chose to hurt to be together.  Maybe someday you will be able to look at our sons and say, “I am sorry my actions hurt you, please forgive me”.  Most importantly…I pray that one day you find what you are looking for.

Goodnight and goodbye.  I can’t say that I wish you well…maybe I will be able to someday.  For now, I wish that your restless, longing soul finds peace…not a peace found in the love of another, but a peace found in knowing you are loved by God.

Farewell,

C********

d1f64eabcb8e190692efd6efae451763--depressing-quotes-sad-quotes
Image Credit

Feeling the Story

I was talking to someone this week and she mentioned that I don’t talk a lot about how I feel, but instead I tell lots of stories.  That really has been something I have been mulling over this week.  Do I tell stories because I don’t want to engage with my feelings?  The more I thought about this, the more I realized the opposite is true.

I love stories…some of my hardest periods in life were walked through by burying myself in the stories of others.  I went through long Anne of Green Gables phase in my very difficult middle school years.  As I was struggling, I found myself escaping to the world of Prince Edward Island.  That habit of almost obsessively reading the same books, like Anne or Pride and Prejudice has continued into my adulthood.  I also lose myself to certain television shows and will watch them over and over…my repeat list includes CSI, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, and The Good Wife.  I have watched them all multiple times, but they are like comfort food to me.

Over the past few years, though, I have found myself listening more to the stories of real people.  When I started to sit across the table from people or dialogue one on one with people, I really began to understand the complexities of human emotion.  Each story doesn’t have a singular emotion, but rather a complicated web of the emotions of the human experience.  The people who I find myself drawn to are the ones who are willing to share their stories and talk honestly about how those stories make them feel.

Now, I find myself living a story I never imagined, but rather than hide from my emotions, I am trying go engage with my emotions in connections to various chapters of this story.  I am not one who naturally talks about specific emotions in a general way, but rather I often use a particular story to place a feeling into context.

While the overarching feeling of this season is one of sadness, grief and loss, individual stories have played out differently.  The baby situation created a feeling of absolute despair and panic.  Watching my sons struggle often leads me to an angry place.  Hearing that my ex has spoken lies about me makes me feel vengeful.  This situation with my cat is just confusion and bewilderment.  Reflecting on how far I have come just gives me a feeling of peace.  But what are my day to day feelings at this point?

  • I feel lonely
  • I feel scared
  • I am anxious a lot
  • I feel a bone-weary fatigue
  • I also feel proud
  • I feel accomplished
  • I feel hopeful
  • And at times, I even find deep joy

I am learning a lot about myself during this season.  It is often painful to live in the emotional rollercoaster that is my life right now, but I can see the walls that I have built around myself start to crumble and that is through living vulnerably and writing my own story.

ThisIsMyStory.fbeaed63.fill-800x600
Image CreditImage Credit