The Holiday Doldrums

It has been a while since I have written and part of it is at risk of becoming a broken record.  I wish I could say the past few weeks have been good or at least uneventful, but it isn’t just the case.  We seem to vacillate between mini disasters and chaos with my own meltdowns thrown in for good measure.

Both boys are struggling, with one able to verbalize and externalize his anger while the other holds it in with contempt for me while pretending nothing has changed.  We have reached the point that I am in the process of getting more services to help the boys and myself.  I started going to DivorceCare to work be around other people who have been through similar experiences.  But, as my therapist said, “your story will usually win”.  Believe me, this is not some contest you want to win and when I sit back and detach from this story, it feels too much to be true.  But, alas, true it is, and there is a lot to it that I have not even written bout.

I have worked on building some new traditions for the boys and myself.  Some have been flops (the Elf on the Shelf where we all take turns), and others have been big successes.  I have been filling their advent calendars with coupons for fun things or breaks from chores and other small treats.  That has been fun to create that little excitement every day.  At the same time, Messi has really dug into his atheism and refuses to acknowledge any part of the Christmas story.

One of the greatest challenges of this past few weeks is the anticipation the boys have regarding their upcoming trip to see their dad.  Messi is counting down the days and knows all the grand plans.  Bolt is tentatively excited, but nervous and confronting his own issues with his dad.  It has been over eight months since they have seen him, and a lot has changed for everyone.  As for myself, facing the holiday without my sons and knowing that January could be rough…well that has me a mess of emotions.

The past week has seen me yelling and on my knees sobbing on the floor, sitting through church services with tears flowing, and overwhelmed.  I haven’t had a working kitchen sink since Friday due to a drain clog and I have a door with a missing plate glass after an accident by Bolt.  I have had help from unexpected sources, but at the end of the day it is the boys and I and we are a mess right now.  I am looking forward to making it through this holiday and picking them up at the airport knowing that this first is over.  Until then, I will try to relish the quiet warmth of winter – warm heat, chilly days, and the stillness of snow.

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Shared History

Let me preface this by saying that I asked my ex to do very little before he left, but one of the things I specifically requested is that he go through the Christmas stuff.  I didn’t want to have to face the process of separating ornaments and drudging up memories.  Well, he was too busy to do so over the course of 6 weeks, so tonight I had to do it.  I pulled out his ornaments and his stocking and they will travel in one of the boys’s suitcases, along with his baby books that he left behind, when they go see him for Christmas.  The tree decorating affair was bittersweet, at best.  The boys were being obnoxious about helping and then going on and on about how they loved every one of dad’s ornaments and mocking all of mine.  I tried not to cry, but there were also a lot of shared memories that were still hung on the tree.  Part of me is glad to have this “first” over and done with, but this was definitely one of the harder ones. When the boys had lost interest in decorating, I took our shared ornaments down to the basement, away from prying eyes, and smashed them into a million pieces.  It hurt like hell, but I needed to do it.

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The truth is, though, that even though our ornaments are sitting in my trash, I can’t do the same with my memories.  The tree is beautiful and full of history and while my ex may have moved on, he still shares pieces of the tree and he always will.  I look forward to building on to the tree with new memories, but I cannot pretend that 14 years never happened.  Some days, it feels like it would be easier, but he will always occupy a piece of my past.  Now, I need to work on creating a new future.

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When Thankfulness is Hard

It is the first major holiday as a family of three.  The winter holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and New Christmas occupy a special place in my heart.  I love cooking and gifts and Christmas music and curling up under a blanket. I have approached this season with a heavy heart.  Knowing that it was this time last year that my my ex began a journey that would lead to him walking out of our lives, has made me rethink every moment of last year’s holiday season.  So, as today is the day we pause and reflect on what we are Thankful for, my thankfulness is often through the fog of tears.

Oddly, I am thankful that the decision to divorce was not left up to me.  I am now able to see with clarity that I probably would have never left my marriage, no matter how insignificant I became.  And due to the circumstance of how it all went down, the custody battle was non-existent, for which I am grateful.

I am thankful that despite everything, the boys and I were able to keep things somewhat normal.  We stayed in our home and they have the same schools and sports teams.  We kept our dogs, and even one of the cats made a strange journey back to us.

I am so very blessed that God knew what my heart needed and basically dropped a group of friends and an amazing church community into my lap when I needed it the most.  I remember crying out in prayer that there was no way I could stay here because I felt so alone and disconnected from my community.  It was like God stepped in and met one of my greatest needs

Lastly, I am thankful for the gift of my sons.  The journey to learn how to parent them alone has been hard.  We are in the middle of a challenging season with the combination of teen boy hormones, grief, and trauma.  There are days I don’t think I can or want to parent them.  But, guess what, at the end of the day, we are still a family and as hard as it is, they are everything to me and I am grateful for the gift of being their mom.

So, yes, being thankful is hard this  year.  My grief and joy are strange bedfellows.  I am trying to keep my expectations low knowing that we are all very raw this year.  But, Bolt, Messi, and I are showing up every day to live, to laugh, to fight, and to love.

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Misfit Island

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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********

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