The Last Tear

Something about having a free night or weekend to myself, seems to trigger emotional releases in me.  Today, I met my sister half-way to New York City, so the boys could spend the night with her, then cried most of the way home.  My boys are old enough that I have allowed them on some social media, but with that comes their dad.  As I am responsible for making sure their accounts are private and appropriate, I was confronted by the smiling images of my ex and the other woman.  Then, I saw the mutual friends and family who loved those images.  And now, here I sit, with an afternoon free and tears streaming down my face.

When you marry young, most of your friends end up mutual friends.  So, when 14 years later and the rug is pulled out from under you, suddenly everyone comes under suspicion.  I have had to learn who I can trust and those who are safe people.  This is hard to do, and even harder with family members.  I had hoped to maintain a relationship with my ex siblings-in-law, but I realized that I can no longer have people in my life who support my ex and the choices he has made, so today I made the painful decision to write them a note, but explain that I didn’t want them to choose me over their brother, so I was severing our relationship  I have known most of them most of their lives as they are all younger than my ex and I.  I honestly, though, couldn’t stomach the idea of them loving seeing pictures of the life he chose when he walked out the door on the boys and me.

Nine months in and the actions of the man who I chose to love, still bring me to my knees in grief and pain.  Many days, I just feel stuck, like I will never be through this.  Other days, I just wish I had a timeline on this grief, so I could see the end, how ever far it may be.  I am so emotionally exhausted, trying to parent well (and often failing), trying to work, trying to grieve, and trying to move one.  When, when, will I have shed my last tear over the actions of the man who broke my heart?

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Of Losses & Gains

It is funny because part of the thing I decided to due to grieve the losses of the past few months was to write a list of all the things I lost.  And in writing it, I found the list was much shorter than imagined and even many of the things I had thought of as losses were not actually losses. I am not going to go into detail on everything I wrote, but it was interesting because the more I wrote the less I felt the loss.

The first thing I listed was the loss of my best friend and the more I thought about it, the more clarity has come regarding our relationship.  A best friend doesn’t repeatedly lie to and about you. A best friend is honest about problems in the relationship.  A best friend doesn’t tell everyone who will listen how lucky you are that he puts up with you.  A best friend doesn’t walk out of your life without looking back.

As I look through the list of everything, I see nothing about these losses is irreplaceable, except maybe the loss of a co-parent.  Considering he only responds to about 10% of what I email and has not continued to same standards in his house, that we had for our sons together, I can honestly say that is an irreplaceable loss.  No longer do I have anyone to consult about issues our sons are facing or have a partner to help parent or give me a break.  And no longer do my sons have a day-to-day father that watches tv with them or coaches soccer.

Every other loss is one that can be replaced.  I didn’t lose my future, but rather the one I imagined, and I am okay with that.  The more I wrote the list, the more I see what I have gained…

  • My self-confidence – as a woman and as a parent. I had spent years hearing how much I needed him and, surprisingly, I don’t.
  • My future – it was never set in stone, so I realized it was never there to be lost, but only to be gained.
  • Freedom – to make decisions without worrying about what he thinks or wishes.
  • A relationship with my sons – he had always been the “good cop” in our parenting relationship, so now I get to learn to be both good and bad cop. It is hard, but it is good.
  • Quiet – I used to feel the need to fill silences with talking…now I am content to sit silent with myself and my thoughts.
  • Potential relationships – I spent years hearing how lucky I was that he put up with me. I watched friends with husbands who treated them like queens.  I assumed our relationship was different, but now I see that I settled for feeling like I was not equal to him, so therefore I couldn’t expect to be treated better.  Now, in any relationship, friendship or romantic, I have clearer expectations of what I need and what I am willing to give.  I can also say that I deserve so much better than what I experienced.

As hard has the holiday season was, I feel like it was one of the big hurdles that I needed to survive before I could really start to move forward.  I have started the new year with a calmness and peace, as have the boys.  As I sat in church today, I was reminded that the faith I profess to follow is based in resurrection.  Last year, I experienced the death of my marriage, but I do serve a God who is very comfortable with loss and death, but also in re-birth.  So, this is my year of renaissance…of rebirth and finding beauty in ashes.

 

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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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Six Months

It has been six months since the life I thought I know was turned upside down.  At this moment 6 months ago, I had just heard the words “I want a divorce” and then the subsequent revelation of months of deceit.  Six months ago the life I thought I know, turned upside down.  I think it is the appropriate time to reflect on what that has looked like for the boys and I.

The Ugly

  • No one is unaffected by an affair. As I write this, I am in the process of trying to figure out how to get the cat that my ex took out of a shelter in Wyoming and relocate it to Pennsylvania.  Apparently, the cat did not adjust well to the move and a life with small children and lashed out by scratching one, so my ex surrendered her to a shelter.  Even our pets have been hurt by this affair.
  • The raw emotions…to this day moments of grief and anger and even love, will invade my heart when I least expect them.
  • My sons are growing up without a father as part of their day to day life. I am having those conversations about teen boy puberty while never having walked that path.
  • Trust issues and skepticism about relationships are my new norm. I often find myself looking around rooms wondering about the secrets people are harboring.
  • Exhaustion is part of my day to day life. From the exhaustion of grief to the exhaustion of being a single mom…it is my new reality.
  • The financial impact of going from a two-income family to one has been hard on myself and my sons. In my 30s, I should feel financially settled, but instead, I find myself scared about the next bill.
  • The retriggering of old wounds of loneliness and infertility have been pushed to the forefront again.

The Beautiful

  • Bolt and I have never had a stronger relationship. It is hard, because he has become my shadow and will go everywhere with me, but it also means that he is holding on to me.  We talk more than ever and laugh more too!
  • The relationships that have grown through the mess have been amazing. I went from feeling alone prior to the revelation to feeling a community and family I didn’t know existed.
  • My faith had been struggling for years for a variety of reasons, but through this process I have found God to be faithful to provide what I need.
  • Contentment comes easier. Sometimes the simplest things…. a great meal or a cuddle with my dogs or a great family movie night help bring me such contentment in the moment.
  • The future is unknown. Some may think this would be hard, particularly for a control freak like myself, but there is something so freeing about not knowing the future and learning to hand that over to God.
  • Beauty in creation is easier to appreciate. I have a new beautiful niece, who I want to meet in the next year.  I am loving just being outside and feeling the air on my skin or watching a sunset or my sons playing in the surf at the Jersey Shore.
  • Finding out that I am stronger than I thought has been an enormous surprise. Seven months ago, the idea of four days parenting alone was overwhelming…now I am nearly five months in and surviving.

There is probably so much more to say, but it is late and I am tired, with a full day planned for tomorrow.  Let me just say that 6 months later, I am still grieving daily and scared and overwhelmed, but I have also seen God’s provision for the boys and I.  I expect that six months from now, the ugly will be less and the beauty will be more.  It has been amazing to recognize the reality of resurrection after death…

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The Empty Tank

As I hopped in my car last night to begin my 45-minute trek home, I began to think about my evening plans and plans for the week.  The more I thought about everything that needed to be done, the more overwhelmed I got…and soon I found myself sobbing all the way to my therapist’s office.  I had asked the boys to walk over from their middle school soccer practice to the local YMCA where I would pick them up after my appointment.  I spent 10 minutes finding parking and finally arrived at the office and sat down on the couch where all it took was “how are you” for the tears to start falling.  Let me back up by saying that it normally takes a lot for me to start crying and I in the 6 sessions with my previous therapist I never once even came close, but in my third week with this therapist, the waterworks were flowing…maybe a sign that it is a good fit, but also could also represent just how exhausted I am.

Let me explain my current schedule.  I get up weekdays at 5:20 (I gave up trying to get up earlier to work out for the time being), wake up the boys, make breakfast and lunches for the crew (pups included), and when the boys are on the bus at 6:37, I hop in the shower and leave the house by 7:05 for work.  I work until 4:30 and the boys also have soccer until 4:30, so after practice they have been going to the YMCA, as I have yet to find someone interested in watching them for two hours.  By the time I pick them up it is between 5:15 and 5:30, so we quickly do a run home for a snack before one of them has a 6:30 travel soccer practice until 8pm.  Sometimes, I can fit in a dog walk during the practice, sometimes I have another appointment scheduled during that time.  Soccer ends at 8 and then we head home, where I make dinner while they do homework.  We eat dinner around 9pm…then by the time they are in bed it is 10 and I need to work on school assignments or the bare minimum house cleaning.  I try to get to bed between 11 and 11:30…Saturdays are soccer, school work for me, and an evening movie with the boys.  Sundays are church, grocery shopping, cooking a few things for the week, housecleaning, and getting ready for the upcoming week.

I am not saying all this to be dramatic, but rather to say that this is the reality that many families face.  When there were two of us sharing the load…when my ex worked the Monday to Friday job and I worked 3 12 hour shifts a week, we shuffled.  I worked on meals on my days off, we shared the back and forth to and from practices (he more than me, as a coach) or appointments.  Now, I find myself trying to do it all and I can’t.  I am losing my sh** here trying to do it all, while still trying myself the time to think.  Not to mention, we are still grieving and needing a litle more grace to process in whatever way we need.  Something has got to give.  As I sat in my therapist’s office explaining this, she agreed, but we both struggled to find the what that something is.  I miss having someone to share the enormous responsibility of parenting and yet, I find myself so grieved and angry with my ex for leaving the state to let me do this alone and just waiting for me to fail.

So, here I lay…awake late, despite my need for sleep, because I had to do one of my mandatory shifts to maintain a per diem status in the ER.  The bags under my eyes are growing.  I am so very exhausted and my tank is running on empty…every few days I can add drops into my empty fuel tank, but it feels like just enough to keep this car from stalling.  But seriously, this is not sustainable and I can’t see the solution…

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Dancing in the Rain

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Vivian Greene

I have this quote up on a wall in my house.  It is inspirational and reminds me to live in the here and now.  A summer storm blew through Pennsylvania this evening and I opened the door to let the dogs in from their evening bathroom run.  As I waited for them to come in from the rain, I heard the glorious sound of raindrops on the roof above me and I got a sudden urge to dance in the rain.  I let the dogs in and grabbed my phone and put on a song and I danced under the canvas of darkness and heavy rain.  It is one thing to do it figuratively, but another to do it literally.  There was something cleansing and healing and freeing about feeling the warm summer rain pour down on my head and across my skin.  The darkness allowed me the freedom to dance, skip, walk and just feel.

A friend posted this today:

“Morrie Schwartz, who taught social psychology at Brandeis, was the subject of the best-selling book “Tuesdays with Morrie”, his final teachings to his friend Mitch Albom before death. In the midst of the agony of Lou Gehrig’s disease, he told his last student:

What I’m doing now,” he continued, his eyes still closed, “is detaching myself from the experience.”

Detaching yourself?

Yes, detaching myself… You know what the Buddhists say? ‘Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent.'”

But wait, I said. Aren’t you always talking about experiencing life? All the good emotions, all the bad ones? How can you do that if you’re detached?

Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it.”

I’m lost.

Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going through, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to be detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, ‘Alright, I have experienced that emotion, I recognize that emotion. Now I’m free to detach from that emotion for a moment’…I know you think this is just about dying, but it’s like I keep telling you. When you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

Today I found out my ex-husband of just over a week announced his engagement to his Facebook tribe.  I knew it was coming…he had called and told me a wedding date over a month ago, but I was surprised by the grief this news brought on.  I felt worthless and disrespected on unloved, even though I know none of it was true.  Instead of trying to hide from those feelings, I let myself marinate in them for a little bit and remind myself of what is true.  I am loved and deserve respect and I am priceless to my sons, my family, and to God.  So, as the rain pelted me tonight and I danced, I allowed myself the freedom to let go and to live and to dance through this storm…

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Letting Go to Live

On Friday night, I found myself sitting in the dark filled with melancholy, which has been fueled by my exhaustion.  I started my new job this week working “normal” hours (9-5:30) for the first time in my career as a nurse.  I am eager to establish a new routine and a new normal for the boys and I, but I was just so very tired.  I have been waking every morning before dawn to workout, walk the dogs, and have a short quiet time before waking Bolt for his summer school classes.  By the time Bolt hops on the bus, I have approximately 30 minutes to shower and get ready before hopping in the car for my 40-minute commute.  This week work has been brutal as I have been staring at a computer screen doing corporate training for five straight days.  I often find that with any major transition, such as a move or new job, it zaps my energy and drains my battery like a phone on data roaming.  By the time I get home from work it is nearly 6:30 and this week I have been blessed with a sitter who had the boys fed and off to their evening activities by the time I got home (with the help of Blue Apron).

As I sit here, I worry about the coming months, once soccer kicks into full gear, and school resumes for the boys and for myself.  I worry about how I will learn to juggle kids, pets, exercise, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, school work, laundry, as well as fitting in some fun and laughter.  I am a worrier by nature and these are the things that will wake me from dead sleep, even when exhausted.  I am trying to learn to let go of certain things and embrace others.

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Things to Let Go

  • Elaborate, home cooked vegetarian meals every night
  • Clean house with all the boys’ clothes and dog toys picked up before bed
  • Dinner at the same time every night with the same food for everyone
  • Staying up until midnight trying to get ready for the next day
  • Keeping too tightly to a schedule
  • Making sure everything is “done” before allowing myself some time for fun or doing something fun with the boys

Things to Embrace

  • Simpler, home cooked meals (some with meat for the boys, if I have vegetarian leftovers for myself) with meal prepping on Sundays
  • Clean kitchen at night (if the kitchen is clean, my whole house feels cleaner)
  • Planning our evenings ahead so that I know when we can try to eat together, even if it is at 8 pm.
  • Giving myself a bedtime (a tired mom does not make for a nice mom or good employee)
  • Continuing to get up early for exercise, dog walking, and quiet time for my mental and spiritual health
  • Looking ahead at the week on Sunday so that things don’t catch me by surprise, but also allow for deviations in schedule
  • Spontaneous and planned fun activities

At the end of the day, my sons may not remember the beautiful meal I made with all the food groups, but they will remember the 15-minute spontaneous pillow fight (thus the reason I have a stash of old pillows under my bed) or roasting s’mores in the back yard.  In the meantime, I seriously need to find a few single mom hacks to make life just a little bit easier.  The rest I must give over to God.

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