The Last Year of Marriage

There’s a very good chance that this will be the last year that I will be married. Though we have been separated for almost a year and a half, technically we are still locked in union according to the law.  I still help pay his student loans.  He is still on my health insurance.  Neither of us is in a rush to get this thing finished, to break apart a union that is 16 years in the making, but we also know that eventually the cord will have to be cut and ties severed.

Sometimes I honestly don’t know which times we’re harder.  Was is the years we spent distant and cold, simply playing the part of husband and wife, the outside world oblivous to the struggles we were having within ourselves?  Was is the year I said I was leaving, but had to stay, the couch my permanent home, so much hate traveling back and forth between us while our children looked on, bewildered and overwhelmed?  Or was it this year?  The year filled with anger and remorse, both wanting to be with my kids full time and knowing that doing that meant hurting all of us in the process.  I simply can’t be sure.

The only thing I do know is that all of them were hard and all of them have taken an irreversible toll on me.  Anger, guilt, despair, panic, and disappointment and utter sadness have been my constant companions  and some days it takes every effort possible just to remind myself to take in air so I can keep living.

I’ve spent so much of the last year and a half fighting with a person I was supposed to love until the end of time.  He knows how to push my buttons better than anyone else and knows exactly what to say to make me go from quiet and content to a rage filled nightmare.  Sometimes I think he does it accidentally, forgetting how much I look into every word spoken, sure there are hidden meanings.  Other times I know it’s purposeful, and those times are the hardest to bear and the hardest to break free from.  Because how in the hell did we get to this place where we’ve become vindictive and spiteful to each other on purpose?

The other day we texted back and forth about something completely innocuous; a movie quote from a movie I know is one of his favorites.  It was a short, but lovely, conversation simply because it seemed so easy.

And then, of course, in true Cassie fashion, I started to cry.  I wanted to crawl into that conversation and live there because for the first time in a long time, I felt safe in that relationship.  Did I want to get back together?  Absolutely not.  We were horrible as a couple.  Not in the beginning, but in the many years that followed.  Our relationship was passive aggressive at best and self destructive at worst.  We were mean.  And nasty.  And horrible to each other.  And that’s putting it lightly.  Love should bring out the best in two people and for us, it didn’t.  Not anymore.  But that simple conversation showed me something I hadn’t seen between us in a long time.  It gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe one day all the conversations could be like this.  Maybe it will get better.

And while we may not ever really be friends, maybe we would stop intentionally trying to hurt each other in ways we only know how.

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I want.

I want to write so many posts, but I never seem to get the motivation at the right time.

I want to write about how I’m trying to rid my life of the negativity I can control and live more gratefully and gracefully.

I want to write about how I am about to start a new teaching year and I don’t even know if I want to be a teacher anymore.

I want to write about how I am trying to change my parenting style and my relationship with my kids and not get to frazzled and controlling all the time.’

I want to write about how I gave up on the marathon, and the half marathon, and I’m sincerely, trying so hard not to give up on myself.

I want to write all of this and more. But I sit down to write and feel like a fake. And like I have no idea what I am talking about.

But I wrote this and that’s a start.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll pick more and go with it.

I want to.

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Half Life

“Please mom? Can we go the waterfall way?”  all three kids shout from the backseat in unison.

It’s just a dam.  And half the time it’s off and there’s no “waterfall” anyway.  But it means 20 extra minutes with the kids, singing the Despicable Me 3 soundtrack at the top of our lungs before dropping them off to their father.

So I always say yes.  Always.

This is the part of divorce that I wasn’t prepared for…the part where I see my kids less.  While I am a full time teacher, I am a mom first and foremost. I made breakfast each morning.  I packed the lunches, signed the permission slips, did the homework.  I made dinner each night.  I did the baths and showers and the bedtime routine and then also the house cleanup after bedtime routine before slumping exhaustedly and somewhat defeatedly into the couch for the rest of the evening.  365 days a year this is what I did.

It’s not the case anymore.  Two days a week I don’t see them at all.  I always feel like I’m going to be happy about having a break.  “Yay!  No kids tonight!  I can relax, or watch TV, or sleep in a little bit tomorrow morning!”  But that feeling lasts for about an hour and then I just want them with me.

It’s because of this whole half time phenomena that it took me so long to leave.  It was an unhappy and unhealthy marriage for far too long but I couldn’t not see my kids every day.  I assumed they would fall apart.  But in reality, I seem to do way more falling apart without them.  And no matter the sadness we feel at being apart sometimes, we are all happier.  All of us.

I think back on last year and get nauseous knowing how much I put them through when I couldn’t leave, but I couldn’t stay.  The shortness of breath.  The tightness in my chest.  They rush in when I think of last year, a panic attack on the brink every single time. It’s the year I would take back if I could ever take back anything.

But I can’t take it back.  It’s there.  It happened.  It changed us.  It scathed us.  It traumatized us.  But it also taught us.

It taught me it was ok to not see my littles every single day if that meant a better quality of life for all of us.  It taught me to leave the pile of legos for the night if that meant feeling like they were here when they weren’t.  It taught me to put down the phone and really be present in the moments because they were no longer unlimited.

And no matter how much longer it makes the drive, always say yes to waterfalls.

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The Scaries

I think maybe I’m having a mid life crisis.  I’m only 37, so I sincerely hope not.  Since I don’t really know when midlife is, maybe I’m just always in crisis.  That sounds a bit more like it.

Happiness in some life aspects seems to be taking its toll and I’m struggling lately.  While my “relationship” with my ex is always in turmoil, my other key relationships seem to be working rather nicely.  It took me a long time to actually feel confident in my life with Joe.  Seeing as both of us were with other people when we decided to be together, the constant wondering if he’d rather be back with her was always in my mind.  Now, not so much.  I’ve accepted the fact that he wants to be with me and with that acceptance it feels like a giant weight has been lifted.

Additionally, my relationships with my kids has never been better.  While I wish I could see them every day, I do get them for 5 days a week so I know I am lucky.  When they are with me there’s not a lot of emotional breakdowns.  There’s the age appropriate ones of course, but no more of the tantrums and fits where I would contemplate calling a priest for an exorcism.  Without all of the hostility and toxic air that Mike and I would spew around the house, they are thriving and I love having this daily reminder that I did the right thing even though it was incredibly hard.

But now, in the absence of these major life instances to worry about, I actually feel a loss.   One might think that now that I have these things worked out, it’s time to reflect on other items that may have been plaguing me but that I’ve brushed aside.  Yes, this is probably true, but I feel like it’s more than that.  It’s almost as if I’m scared of happiness.  That I look at myself being content and happy and immediately begin to wait for the other shoe to drop.  I begin to worry about not being worried about something so I find something to worry about (the ever present vicious cycle). I think that’s why lately I have been so focused and seemingly unhappy in my career.

For me, the Sunday scaries seem to be a thing of the past…because now they begin on Friday night.  I spend my entire weekend with the idea and unhappiness of going back to work on Monday looming in my mind.  AND. I. HATE. IT. I find new causes and excitements each day.  I get excited about buying in bulk and reducing my plastic usage.  I get excited about making muffins with a new recipe.  I even get excited about starting a new book.  But I can’t get excited about going to work.

Don’t get me wrong, when I get there it really isn’t that bad.  I love my students.  I love feeling like I’m making a difference, at least in the life of one child but ever since I switched schools my enthusiasm for teaching at all has gone lower and lower with each passing day.  Yes, I always felt stressed about teaching and my job…but in a way that everyone does.  This year is different.  I feel like an outsider in this school, locked away in my own little corner, almost as if no one expects me to stay so no one makes the effort.  Everything seems so competitive, almost as if you can only do well if you are doing better than someone else.  It’s completely exhausting.

At Collington I was never really a favorite.  I did my job and I did it well and for that I fell under the radar (not extremely motived to do everything in the school, but also not drowning).  I knew the families and they knew me.  And I had people.  There’s something about working in a school in an atmosphere like that one.  You need people.  You are not going to make it without people.  You band together because you know they get it.  I don’t have people at my new school and that makes it rather lonely.  That, topped with a complete lack of any praise EVER makes it a hard environment to work in day in a day out.

So I stress.  And I stew.  And I worry.  I deliberate.  I panic…literally.  And then I tell myself every single morning as I walk out that door that if it gets to be too much, I can quit.  Or I quietly remind myself that I only have a certain amount of days left of this year and next year is sure to be better.  And these two things seem to be all that is getting me through.

I don’t know why I allow myself to be consumed with the stress of this job ALL THE TIME.  I have to stop.  I spend roughly 7.5 hours there each day. That translates to 35.5 hours at work.  That’s it.  Barely a blip on the 168 hours that are in a week.  And yet I spend the rest of those hours worried about work!  And the saddest part of all?  I’m a 37 year old woman and I keep worrying about if I’m doing a good job.  That’s it. No one tells me I’m not.  But no one tells me I am.

This is ridiculous. I have to be more present in the moment with my kids.  I have to focus more on the good things than stress that is ever present.  I have to stop letting 35.5 hours dictate the rest of my time.

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Some September Evening

Today was a good day.  I can’t tell you why it was, precisely, but it just was.

I over slept by 40 minutes (and by over slept I mean chose not to get out of bed for 40 minutes after the alarm went off).  I forgot the ice cream for my class’s Fun Friday and had to turn back around.  I didn’t get a real lunch break because I had five students stay with me for lunch bunch.  I didn’t get quite enough done at the end of the day to be completely prepped for Monday and next week.

And yet…it was a good day.

My students weren’t *too* terrible.

I wasn’t annoyed at my job *too* much.

My kids only fought one time when I got home.

I know this is not the norm for me.  The fighting amongst brothers is unreal.  My disappointment with my job usually takes the forefront of my life.  Certain aspects of my life seem to spiral out of control with no possible way to bring them back into stillness.  I’m usually so wrapped up in myself, always wanting so many things to be different that I can’t see the truly wonderful things I have.

I’ve done terrible things to myself and the people I love, and I’m still living, and breathing, and standing.  This, in and of itself, is a miracle.

Lately I’ve been trying to practice more gratitude, being grateful for all that I do have instead of focusing on what is going wrong.

My kids fight and are insane 90% of the time.  But they’re healthy.  And smart.  And good people.

My job takes part of my soul every single day.  Sometimes I wonder why I even do this.  Then today a very troubled student tells me he misses me.  That he knew he was making progress with me.  That he needs me to be his teacher again.  And it made all of the nonsense worth it.

Money is always tight.  Marriage is always hard.  And yet, I have both.  I have a roof over my head.  My bills are paid (even if it’s just the minimum), and I have love in my heart.

And I am happy. Maybe not always.  Maybe not all the times I should be.  But today I am.

Happy and grateful.

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Small but mighty

I sit here at 8:10 on a weekend morning having already been awake for multiple hours.  Charlie actually slept through the night for the first time in a long time, but the boys start their wake up process every morning at 5:30 regardless of weekend status or what time they went to bed the night before.  Sometimes I think back enviously to the time before kids when getting up “early” was 8 am, how after work I could literally come home, sit on the couch and do nothing, when time was not a precious commodity.

And yet, here I am, thinking how I want one more.

To be fair, I never thought I wanted children at all until I was told I may not be able to have them.  Suddenly, it was all I had ever wanted.  And after each one I was sure it was my last one until the universe decided to surprise me in a big way.  Each time I wonder: can I really do this?  And each time I realize that even though money is tight, and resources are slim, I can. We can.

They drive me crazy, every single one of them, there’s no doubt about it.  Max with his constant creativeness thats leaves half finished inventions around my house.  Oliver with his sass.  His constant and unforgiving sass.  Charlie with her fierce independence at such an early age.  And then there’s all the worrying.  School, social issues, and distractibility for Max.  Insane amounts of hyperactivity for Oliver.  Charlie being so tiny and yet so fearless that she’s constantly covered in scrapes and bruises.  But within all this, I love them fiercely and know what a gift it is so have them in my life…to have given them life.

It’s funny.  I know people think it’s relatively easy for me to get pregnant and have babies.  I mean I have three children 7 and under so it can’t be that hard, right? But for the three children I have, I’ve also had an ectopic pregnancy and four miscarriages. So I know the struggle and the loss and unbearable pain along with the amazing amounts of love.

So, when Charlie is toddling around in her baby Sauconys, I’m both proud and depressed.  And when she shows an understanding of what I’m saying, I’m both in awe and saddened.  And when she begins talking my heart both grows and darkens at the same time.  Because while I’m watching her firsts, I am most likely watching my lasts. And I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet.

I know all the downsides to having one more baby.  You don’t have to remind me or convince me.  I’m 35 which means a lot of increased risks.  The judgement of others.  We would have to buy a new car.  Mike would delay working for another 3 years.  Formula is hella expensive.  Pregnancy and I never really saw eye to eye (I hated every single minute).  Less sleep than I’m getting now.  Did I mention having to buy a new car? Every single thing points to Charlie being the last in line.

And yet…as I pack up her clothes when she grows out of them, they go upstairs in a box labeled “baby girl clothes” and not to the consignment shop or to a friend.  And as I sit reading or watching TV I make mental notes about what names would be cute on baby number 4.

Because you never know.

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Lost and Found

I seem to have lost myself.  And my will.  And my motivation.  And I can’t seem to find any of them.

I think back to last summer.  Training for the NYC marathon.  Running almost every day, even in the heat. 50 pounds lighter than I am now (the shame).  Happier kids.  Happier life.  Happier marriage.  I sit here and I wonder…what the fuck happened?

When I think about it, I tend to place the blame on other people and situations.  This person came into my life.  This person left.  Work became harder.  A third baby was added.  Time and money were short, as were tempers and understanding.  All of this things can take the blame for my unhappiness, the lack of motivation, the weigh gain, the drinking gain, the indiscretions.

And none of that blame is actually working to fix the problem.  It’s making me a victim.  And I hate being the victim.

Maybe, instead of placing the blame and over analyzing the past year I can suck it up and move on.  Who cares how I got to this place?  Does it really even matter?  The point is, I’m here.  And I need to find my way out.  I know no one can do this for me.  I have to find my way on my own.  But it’s HARD.

I can say, things seem to be headed in the right direction and my support system, though smaller by a few people, is incredibly mighty.  I’m learning to ask for help.  I’m learning to accept help when it’s offered.  Homelife is becoming more concrete, and sound, and loving.

And now to work on the rest.

I’m not used to baby steps.  I’m not used to slow progress.  I’m not  patient person.  When I want something, I want it now.  But with that, my life seems to be a bunch of random “One step forward, two steps back” mishaps.  So maybe now, I go slow.  Take each day and change at a snails pace. Work to strengthen everything instead of just fixing is for a minute.

Maybe going slow isn’t so bad.  Maybe it’s just what need to find where I’m hiding.

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