Adieu 2017

Believe me, I am ready to put 2017 into my rearview mirror.  In fact, I am looking forward to the new year more than I even realized.  There is something freeing about putting concrete ending on a year of heartbreak and grief.  I had been thinking about what I would say about the new year, but when I woke up, I saw a beautiful post from author, Shauna Niequist:

“Every New Year’s Eve, before we ring in the New Year, we share ten blessings of the year that’s ending.

I love this tradition: instead of jumping forward into new & next, we pause & pray & express gratitude for what we’ve been given.”

That made me stop and pause.  For all the pain 2017 has brought, I can also see the blessings sprawled across the pages of the year.  When in the middle of a painful season, it is often challenging to see past ones’ own grief, but acknowledging the rays of sunshine is not only important, but part of the healing process.  So, without further ado…10 blessings of 2017:

  1. Bolt and Messi – they are my heart, they are my reason for getting up, and they have taught me more about resilience then anyone I have ever met. They make me laugh, cry, worry, and beam with pride.  They are my harshest critics and yet, the most forgiving.  Without having them with me, I would have no reason for crawling through this season.
  2. My furbabies – I have my beloved pups – my two big boys who will hug me when no one else will. I have my 3 kitties, who provided entertaining stories this year.  Then there is the bearded dragon that came to live with us as a gift for Messi.  She has been surprisingly interesting and helped me break a fear of reptiles.
  3. My home – in a divorce, many people are forced to move, but we have been blessed to stay in the home we rent. I have slowly removed reminders of my ex, while re-creating a safe space for my own healing.
  4. My community – I have written about this before, but this year has been about me finding and building a community to embrace.
  5. My family and friends – my parents have listened to many incoherent rants and tears in the past nine months. They live 3000 miles away, but are also just on the other end of the phone.  I also have some new friends and have reengaged with other “old” friends.  These people have helped provide some much-needed perspective at times.
  6. A new job – leaving my job as and ER nurse of nearly a decade was hard, but it was time. I felt like my life necessitated the change, but it has been good and challenging.
  7. School – in 2017 I completed four courses towards my master of public health (MPH) or 16 out of 58 credit hours. As of now, I have straight A’s, which feels awesome!  School has been a great distraction, but also a way for me to start planning my own future.
  8. The outdoors – I love being outside – whether at the beach or on a hike or walking in my neighborhood. As I sit here, it is 12 degrees and there is snow on the ground, but even breathing in the frigid air while staring at the blanket of white, leaves a feeling a peace.  The past few months, I have been so tired that I haven’t been outside as much, and I feel the loss, so I need to work on that this next month.
  9. Writing – I wouldn’t call myself a writer. This blog was born out of a suggestion of a friend.  I am not great at journaling, but something about blogging has allowed me to organize my thoughts into some semblance of coherence.  I have ranted and rejoiced.  I have been able to diary the process of loss and grief and rebuilding.  Looking back allows me to see the growth and the pain of the process.
  10. Faith – God and I are still in a rough spot. I am still trying to reconcile years of religious platitudes with the truth of my faith.  It has been a difficult decade and this year brought my world crashing down.  I feel like my faith is in pieces and I am often angry with God, but it has also been the one thing that I can cling to…sometimes just out of habit.  However, just when I am about to say, I am done with God…something brings me back.

So, 2017, you have not been kind, but there have been redeeming qualities.  I love harder and feel more deeply.  I am more appreciative of the small blessings and simple beauties.  And, at the end of the day I have a home full of chaos and hormones and laughter and love.

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Jigsaw Puzzles

As a kid, I would occasionally do jigsaw puzzles.  As one gets older, the challenge becomes doing more challenging puzzles with lots of pieces.  The worst was when someone (or some tail) would destroy your progress or spill the pieces everywhere.  Right now, my heart feels like that.

I keep gathering up my million-piece jigsaw puzzle, picking out the edge pieces, and whoosh, something scatters them again – a “miracle” pregnancy, a quick remarriage, now Christmas without my kids.  So, right now, I am sitting here trying to gather the pieces again.  I also suspect that when I do gather all the pieces there will be some missing. After all, you can’t give your heart to someone for 14 years and expect them not to take a few pieces with them.

What does it look like to piece your heart back together?  I wish I knew.  Some things have helped…safe spaces at home…pets…candles…new traditions.  I need to get back into exercise because it helps focus some energy and makes me feel better.  I also need to find a manageable way to process the grief.  A few people have suggested the process of writing down what I lost.  I will be doing that over the next few weeks.  I have also ordered a few books on grief and healing…the divorce books just weren’t helpful, but a therapist said what I am going through is more like a trauma and grief, so I am going to try and go down that path.

I finished my grad school classes until March, so I am going to prioritize some of my energy into healing (again).  Christmas is nearly the last of the “firsts”.  Tomorrow it will be 9 months.  Nine months of pain, nine months of yelling and tears.  It has been also nine months of finding that I am stronger than I knew and that my heart has a bigger capacity for love and pain than I thought possible.  I cling to the hope that one day I will look back and see that this jigsaw puzzle is finally put back together…maybe sans a few pieces, but more beautiful because of how hard I worked to recreate the beauty.

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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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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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I Am Not One of Those…

I grew up as one of those very black and white people…right and wrong, yes and no, etc. So, I have a tendency towards being judgmental (shocking, I know).  Over the past few years as I begun living my own story…full of the joys of motherhood and the scars of infertility, I really began trying to look past the external facade and think about the story behind the mask.  Interestingly, though, I have struggled with this when thinking about divorce.

I grew up believing in marriage – my parents have been married for 36 years and have weathered lots of ups and downs, but remain committed to one another.  I believe that marriage was a lifetime commitment and that there were very few “exceptions” for leaving a marriage.  I still believe in marriage, despite my experience.  I believe in the beauty of two people choosing the ideals of “until death do us part”.  I looked forward to growing old with my ex-husband.  That being said, the longer I was married, the more I understood that marriage is hard and the black and white exceptions to divorce were maybe not as black and white as it seemed.  Yes, infidelity is an “exception”, but what about emotional infidelity when one partner repeatedly goes outside the marriage for emotional intimacy?  What about abuse…where is the line between physical abuse, emotional abuse and the partner who treats the other like they are “less than”.  So, over the past few years, I would see someone who is divorced and appreciate that there is probably a lot to the story, but “thank goodness that isn’t me”.

And I here I sit before 7 am on a Saturday, as I was awoken at 5 unable to stop thinking about my own marriage, relationship issues, and now divorce.  I tossed and turned for over an hour thinking about my ex and the pain of the past 6 months…and that dragged me into the pain of the past few years.  The longer we are apart, the more I recognize how unhealthy our relationship was for years.  I can’t really talk about that right now, but I can say that his infidelity was just the final nail in the coffin of a marriage where I had been considered an unequal for many years.  One thing I never want to hear again was the thing my ex would always say, jokingly “oh, she is so lucky I love her because no one else would put up with her”.  It is only now, months later, that I can see how much I believed that.

So, now I sit here as a divorced woman and the judgmental side of me is trying to creep out because “I am not one of those…”.  There is this side of me that wants everyone to know that I am not divorced because my marriage failed, but because my ex is a liar and cheater (which is true).  However, I have really had to work on not setting up some hierarchy of divorce where those of us “with good excuses” are at the top, then assorted reasons fall at various levels.  I am really trying to look at women (and men) who are divorced and acknowledge that, no matter the circumstances of a divorce, no one enters a marriage with the thought that it will fail.  We all walk the stories of our relationships and every marriage is full of its own unique struggles…and every divorce hurts.  There is no hierarchy here.  I am just one of the legions of divorced parents trying to grieve, trying to heal, and trying to love and parent through pain…and just live my own story.

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