As the dust has settled over the latest news to rattle my world, I have settled into a deep fatigue. I have been struggling to find enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done from exercise, walking the pups, keeping house, working, cleaning, and mom-ing. On top of that, I still need to work on the process of grieving and healing, because I know if I don’t do that work, then everything else will suffer. The boys have returned from 10 days with the grandparents and we are getting ready for the upcoming school year. I started up grad school again this week and my job is beginning to feel like less of a mystery. It is hard to prioritize both what needs to be done on the practical level, while also prioritizing what my heart and soul need. The past few days, I have actually done a lot for the latter…Saturday I spent the day in fellowship with an amazing group of women, all adoptive moms, as we talked and ate and laughed and got our first tattoos. I remember sitting around the table that evening and feel some of my burden be lifted as I found a community willing to walk alongside me in my season of loss and grief. Sunday, I braved meeting a woman I had never met from church, as we went to see Wicked in Philly. It is not something I would have been comfortable doing a year ago, but now is the time for stepping out of my bubble. Tonight, I did a much harder thing and went to see a therapist. I saw one a few months ago, but didn’t feel like it helped much, but after last week, I knew I needed to find someone, and hopefully someone more skilled at the circumstances I am facing. It was good and she already gave me some tools to help work through some of what I am experiencing. Here is to hope that I can find a balance between all the hats I am juggling and am still able to find rest for both my body and soul.
Let me just start by saying, I am writing this from a really raw place. Yesterday I received some news that set my healing process backwards and plunged me back into a state of confusion and anger and grief. It is like the scab that was beginning to develop was ripped off, along with several layers of skin. My two deepest sorrows – my ex-husband’s infidelity and our infertility have merged into this mess that feels like it may destroy me.
I have talked about how prior to adopting the boys, we (as in my ex and I) struggled through the lonely road of infertility and then several failed in-vitro fertilizations. What I didn’t explain is that our infertility was what they call “male factor” meaning that I was seemingly healthy, but my ex was told that without scientific intervention the likelihood of him ever fathering a child was slim to none. We spent about 9 months in the thick of IVF without success. I subsequently gained 30 pounds as a result (something I have never been able to lose) and developed polycystic ovarian syndrome…a condition worsened by weight gain, but also makes it harder to lose weight. So, for the past 10 years we have not used birth control in hopes that one-day God would grant us a miracle. Bolt and Messi did not heal that hurt that the infertility caused, nor did I expect them too. I had always wanted to adopt, but I had also wanted to experience pregnancy and a newborn sharing the traits of the man I loved and myself. When my ex left, I closed the door on us ever becoming biological parents.
Yesterday morning I awoke to several messages from around the country asking how I was dealing with “the announcement”. It was several hours before I would find out what this “announcement” was and yes, you guessed it, my ex and the woman he left me for are expecting a baby that was conceived while we were still married. One son found out via Instagram (since my ex posted it before he had actually spoken to both boys) and the other found out from a phone call, but I had to find out from everyone else.
So, if you ask me how I am doing, the answer is “not well at all”. This has triggered so many things in my heart and soul. It has reopened the barely healing wound of the affair and divorce. It has opened the scar left by infertility. More than that, the rejection I faced from my ex, I now feel from God. They posted what a “blessing” this baby is and it feels like a rubber stamp on their affair and God’s way of saying that he blesses it. I know God doesn’t, but how could he reward their infidelity with the most beautiful gift…a child? Talk about kicking a person when they are down.
I am sitting here alone tonight while my kids are 3000 miles away on a vacation with their grandparents. My ex not only didn’t have the balls to at least email me in compassion over our shared grief and story, but he let me find out through the web of social media. He also told our sons when they were on vacation and when they weren’t with me to help them process and understand. The boys claim to be excited, but in their voices, is an undercurrent of confusion.
I feel like I am living in some nightmare. This isn’t my life. This announcement was absolutely my worst nightmare. I feel like the God who had taken me into his lifeboat to rest has thrown me overboard and now I am drowning.
Yet again I found myself watching in horror as the events of Charlottesville unfolded. There are days that I experience disbelief that in 2017 we are still seeing such overt displays of racism and bigotry. In just a few weeks, the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech will take place and it feels like we are still fighting the same battle that he fought. Racism was on full display in Charlottesville on August 11th and 12th and many people have spoken out in horror about those events, which were horrific, indeed. However, let us not forget the more subtle acts of racism and intolerance that take place on a daily basis in the communities around the United States. There are women who experience mockery for wearing a hijab, or the people who cross the street if they see an African American man walking towards them at night, or the gay man that is beat up outside of a bar just because of his sexual orientation, or the Hispanic student mocked about “the wall”. My own sons have had the experience of being followed by guards at stores and last fall my son was mocked and told that the new president would send “people like him back to Africa”. When we observe this more subtle acts of intolerance do we just look the other way? I know I have, at times thinking “oh I don’t know what to say or how to help and don’t want to cause more problems”.
When reflecting on racism it is easy to think “oh, I am not like that”. It also makes me wonder how far any of us is from becoming such a hate filled soul. There is the part of me whose heart breaks for those who marched proudly in racism and hatred. What kind of experiences have they had that makes them think that this is all okay? What kind of deep pain makes them want to lavish others with hate? I don’t know, but maybe that is just as an important part of the question. Yes, we should all stand up against intolerance, but it is perhaps more important to prevent it. May our daily lives be lived in love and empathy and compassion. May we all reach out to the broken and the hurting and embrace them. May we teach our children to seek out the lonely and unlikeable. May we all love as we have been loved. I leave you with this song lyric that has been on repeat for the past few days.
And hold all the mothers, whose babies bleed from bullet holes
And feel all the hunger, the bellies and the bones
Shout for the prisoner, cry for justice, loud and long
And march with the victims, as Jesus marches on
And sit at all the tables, ’cause Jesus eats with everyone
And dance to the music, if you can’t sing its native tongue
And cry for the wombs, the mothers and the empty arms
And hold high the warriors, fighting now for freedoms’ song
And love, love, love, love
Like it’s your own blood
And love, love, love, love
As you have been loved
Love, love, love, love
Like it’s your own blood
Love, love, love, love
As you have been loved
Love, love, love, love, love
Like [you have been?]
Love, love, love, love, love
It’s all about love!
Love, love, love, love, love
His name is love
Love, love, love, love, love
Dear Me …
You did not learn this in a day or two or three
So ask a lot of questions
But Jesus loves us, this I know
And there are no exceptions
“Dear Me” ~ Nichole Nordeman
I got married at the ripe old age of 21. Granted, I was a pretty mature 21-year-old, but I was still very young. I had gone from living with my parents to college, where I had two roommates, then I met my ex-husband and we married the summer before our senior year of college. I don’t regret any of that. However, because I married so young and never lived alone, I never really developed my own identity. I was always part of a “we” as an adult. There are wonderful things about that. I didn’t flounder in dating land for years. I didn’t get my heart broken by boys and men. I learned early to make sacrifices for the happiness of another person. Essentially, we grew up together. We really began our adulthood as a couple. We made our first major financial decisions together. We experienced some of our greatest sorrows together. We became parents together. My adult life has relished being part of a “we”.
Overnight, the man who felt like half of me, vanished. I honestly felt like someone had cut off all my limbs and I didn’t know how to walk or even move without him at my side. That is the beauty of marriage, the whole “two becoming one”. But when that one becomes two again, it is messy and it is like learning to swim without any limbs. I missed the comfort of waking up next to the comfort of my best friend. I had never made any major decisions as an adult without his input and suddenly I found myself having to make decisions for myself and my sons without him. While I was trying to figure this out alone, he was planning his new life with her and her kids. He jumped from one we to another we. Even now, months later, I still talk about my life and my parenting as “we” …I suspect I will get better taking individual ownership over time, but I am not there yet.
Despite the grief over losing my partner in crime, I am finding some freedom in it. Suddenly the future is the great unknown. I get to do things I find fun, plan events that interest me, and spend my evenings focusing on my priorities. Other than my sons, I don’t have to consider another person when making decisions. In just a few short years my sons will probably be on their own life adventure. One may live with me for a while, but for the most part I get to start planning my own future. I resume graduate school for public health at the end of the month and by the time I graduate, both of my sons will be in high school. I feel like in some ways, suddenly the sky is the limit. I don’t know what the future holds, but maybe, for the first time in my life, I am learning to embrace the adventure known as life.
I often find myself wondering how I ended up alone raising two nearly teen boys. I know the logistics, of course, but seriously! I wouldn’t say that I am a girly-girl, but I am not a tomboy either and I often look at my sons in complete confusion. They laugh at farting and wear their clothes to bed and argue about the benefits of deodorant while falling out of their chairs in hysteria over The Simpsons. I love Anne of Green Gables, collect teacups, enjoy sewing, and watching Gilmore Girls. Of course, we have things we enjoy doing together like going to the Jersey Shore and boogie boarding or soccer (them playing, me watching), and eating great food, but often the male mind is a complete mystery to me and here I am raising two young men without the benefit of a male voice in their daily lives. I know many single moms do it, but none of them are me! I also think the timing of their father leaving us is just so perplexing. I feel they are at such an age where they need a father and theirs moved across the country. Sure, they talk to him on the phone and he buys cool gifts, like a new BMX bike for Bolt, or plays Playstation 4 with them online, but the day-to-day dad they have known and loved for the past 8 years is gone. I find myself having to still be the mom they know while having to take over some of the roles their dad used to do.
Messi and I spent all day Saturday building a birdhouse from scratch. Many failed attempts later, we completed it, but it looks just a little off. Not that I felt like a failure, but I just sat on the floor in frustration wishing I knew how to help him with the project better and wondering if he was thinking “I wish dad was here”. I know there were moments I thought it, but those same moments are followed by the crushing reality that his dad chose to leave them. So, yes, the birdhouse is complete, but then Amazon delivered 2 precut kits that he put together while I worked today…and they look much better!
Then, I knew Bolt had his first crush on a girl and Messi has been teasing him mercilessly. So, I let the teasing go because that is what brothers do, but when it is just Bolt and I driving in the car, I try to talk to him about different things. So, I finally found out that they are boyfriend and girlfriend (whatever that means at this age)! They text funny things like “how is your day?”. I will admit I am approaching this news with equal parts terror and excitement. I am excited because my socially awkward 8th grader actually likes a girl and talks to her. I am terrified for those exact reasons. Not to mention, I am trying to teach him about healthy relationships and sexuality and purity and everything, all while his dad is demonstrating exactly the opposite. Such a hard place to be. At the same time, I encouraged him because this girl he runs track with and I am so happy he likes someone who enjoys the same activity he does. Don’t we all want relationships with people who share our passions?
I sat on the phone last night talking about this all with a friend and with my dad. It is so frustrating to be the only “present” parent. I am the only one here every day to help my sons navigate becoming young men. It is scary place to be, but also an honor and a privilege to walk this journey with them. I know it is going to be full of false starts and detours and mistakes, but I need to trust that God will give me wisdom and guidance along the way.
Today Messi and I were working on a wooden birdhouse. I had saved some of our old Washington license plates for just such a project. Unfortunately, I knew they were in my damp basement, which is home to all sorts of critters and creeps me out to no end. So, after Messi and Bolt were unable to locate the license plates, I ventured downstairs. Before my ex left I had asked him to clean up the basement, which he had been promising to do since a water pipe burst a year ago. He said he cleaned it up and, for the most part, he had. However, on the search for the license plates we found a whole area which had been neglected, including a damp box of photo albums. As the box disintegrated in my hands, the albums fell to the cement floor. In that box were the photo albums of the first years of our marriage, our wedding guest book, and his old baby book and childhood photos. His photos were damp, but mostly salvageable. The other albums were a soggy, moldy mess. The irony was not lost on me. I chucked the evidence of our first happy years, before he started cheating on me, into the trash. There are days I wish I could do the same with my memories. The reality is, though, that affairs are messy and brutally painful. While he moved out and basically tried to shut a door on the past 14 years, I am left holding the sopping, moldy mess of our shared history. I am hurting, my sons are hurting, meanwhile he jumped into a new relationship with her and a whole bunch of kids, seemingly not grieving the loss of my sons and I. I wouldn’t trade places with him, though. I would much rather be left cleaning up the mess and rebuilding my life than pretending like it never happened. I am a product of my past, but I want to learn from it and build on it. So, while I may have thrown away years of evidence of the best years in my marriage, it is still part of me and of that I have no regrets.
In one of my favorite podcasts, which I mentioned previously, For the Love with Jen Hatmaker, she asks all her guests “what is saving your life right now?”. I have thought about this question as I have listened to these podcasts over the past month and initially I was unsure of the answer. However, over the past two weeks, the phrase that keeps coming back to me is “coming home”.
When you envision “home” what comes to mind? Is it a place, a feeling, a sound, a sight, or a smell? For me it is all of it. For the longest time after relocating from Washington to Pennsylvania, I wondered if Pennsylvania would ever feel like home to me. It is only over the past few months that I have really begun to embrace my new community, quirks and all, and pull into my driveway and feel like I am home. I rent this cute little 90-year-old red house full of oddities from being built up and out over nearly a century. The house is in a beautiful neighborhood where everyone is on about an acre (including me) with lots of old oak and maple trees. In our neighborhood there are various ponds, and streams and I enjoy the beauty of nature while walking the dogs.
When I walk into my front door, chaos often erupts as I am greeted by two Labradors, two affectionate cats, and, of course, my two rambunctious sons. Half of the time my front room is littered with dirty socks, empty boxes from Amazon and whatever project Messi is working on. Laundry sits on the couch, dog toys provide an obstacle course, and one of the boys has always left a backpack out on the floor. It isn’t that we are slobs, but my sons have not yet mastered picking up after themselves and I have been unable to train the dogs to put their toys away. There are days that the chaos gets to me, but more and more I find myself walking into my home and feeling peace in the chaos because it is mine! There is the business of running to and from activities, juggling chores, refereeing arguments, but also eating together, watching movies, or planning new adventures. This is my family and this is us loving, fighting, laughing, crying and just living life.
Coming home is saving my life right now. Coming home reminds me of God’s grace and the power of redemption. In the wake of one of the darkest periods in my life, God has given me the gift of home.