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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Small Love

I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days.  Joe has class from 7-9:40 three days a week.  Even though he wasn’t going to get home until late, he offered to head to the pharmacy after class in order to get me some much needed medicine.

To some this might not seem like a big deal, but to me it means the world.  I know how long class is for him.  I know how much he just wants to get home afterwards.  But he offered to go out of his way to get me something I need…even though I very well could go out myself.  Let’s not even mention the fact that he’s the one who gets me out of bed to marathon train at 5 am most mornings.  That’s more than dedication.  That’s more than caring.  That’s love.  Plain and simple.

It’s the small tokens of love that are the most meaningful and important. These are the tokens that had been missing from my life for quite some time.

Had I been sick before it would have been met with contempt, almost as if my sickness was a major inconvenience that I contrived in order to make someone’s like more difficult.  Or I would be met with the fact that he was also sick…and even though I was working a full time job, along with being a full time wife and mother, I was still expected to take care of one more person.

I think about these small moments when I feel someone judging me for leaving.  They don’t know what it was like; to never feel like someone cared or to never feel “taken care of”. I think sometimes people forget that meanness and non-caring isn’t all about outward nastiness.  It’s not always name calling or a controlling nature.  Sometimes it really is the fact that you are overlooked and feel completely unimportant in everyday life.

Sometimes someone taking 15 minutes out of their day to show you small tokens of love is all you need to realize you’ve found “the one”.  It’s moments like these that make it all worth it.

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The Elusive Other Shoe

Things have been good lately.  Really good.

Yes. I’m still annoyed by my job.  Yes.  My kiddos drive me insane.  Yes.  There is never enough time, or money, or resources, or sleep.

But yet, things have been good.

We took all three kiddos on a walk around the neighborhood today.  The boys ran ahead playing Pokemon Go and chatting with a neighbor friend who turns out to be in Ollie’s class at school.  Charlie toddled. And fell.  And begged to be picked up.  And begged to be put down. We, as the grownups, meandered slowly, relishing in the fact that we live in a neighborhood where it’s ok that the kids run ahead of us and Charlie walks in the middle of the road.

There was an instant that I realized this is the happiest I’ve been in a long time.  Not days, not months. Years. Probably 5 years if you want to put a number on it. And it was the most amazing feeling.  Nothing extraordinary was happening at that moment or today, and yet, pure bliss.

And then after the bliss comes worry.  Because this kind of happiness doesn’t stay.  At least not for me.  I’m half enjoying the bliss and half waiting for the other shoe to drop.  That elusive shoe that’s always hanging in the background waiting.  Waiting to swoop and and remind you that you’re fallible.  That life is full of ups AND downs.  To bring chaos to the stillness happening around you right now.

So we enjoy the happiness, but on our tiptoes.  Scared to make too much noise.  Scared to make any sudden movements.  Because, as much as we want to believe that this kind of happiness, true and unadulterated happiness, is here to stay, we know that darkness is hiding in the shadows.

So we sit and wait until we hear it…the sound of that shoe hitting the ground.

And then we brace our selves.

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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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Complacency, Love, and the Weather

As is too often with these posts, I start by saying…it’s been too long since I have written anything new.  I could blame work, school, kids, life,  but really that would only be the icing on a cake too tall to tackle.  The real problem is myself and even that is not enough to explain what has happened to me over the past few months.  As is usually the case I am torn between being happy (complacent) with the life I have and wanting (needing) something more.

While I feel like I say it every year, this one, by far, has been the hardest one to navigate.  Between friendships found, and lost, and found, the bumpy and panic inducing ride that is 11 years of marriage, losing and finding myself over and over again, and simply finding time to breathe through it all, I feel like I’ve been broken and put back together so many times that I wonder if all my pieces have survived.

 

I wonder, sometimes, if my biggest problem is more simple than I realize.  That maybe my expectations for people and their behaviors are simply too high. Mostly, I feel that people will never meet mine and am forever doomed to sit and silence and ponder if it’s them or me.  And yet, why ponder?  I know it’s me. I simply assume everyone puts forth the same amount of everything I do: love, effort, understanding, movement, change.  And when they don’t I am undoubtably dissapointed.  “They” say expectation is the root of all heartache and this is something I wholeheartedly believe.  But do we give up, accept this, and work to assimilate to the “others”; the ones that we feel are disappointing us?  Decide to live in quiet complacency, knowing we could have it worse?  That maybe if we just let things go, decide to give up what we feel we need, that we could live an almost happy life?

Or do we simply wait?  Wait for the changes we are asking for.  Wait for love we know we need and deserve. Wait for a life we know we are not going to simply exist in…but actually live in.

The conundrum exists: do you hope for the hurricane or simply enjoy the calm and still air of almost?  Sometimes, the hurricane is worth it.  It’s beautiful and perfect in its power and destruction, changing the landscape of your life forever, tearing down the extraneous walls you’ve built up to keep things out (or in).  Other times it simply destroys everything, coming and going in meer moments, leaving an empty hole where something stable (maybe not profound or amazing), but stable used to be.

I’m watching people take these leaps and bounds in their lives and am becoming completely envious. Picking up and moving away.  Finding a new and meaningful job.  Leaving behind a mediocre life for a great one. For a while, it was hard to watch their journey because of the jealousy.  What luck to get exactly what you want; what you’ve been hoping for. They made it looked so easy.  But now, I know it is their bravery I covet.  The sheer courage to say “This is what I want and I’m going to go for it.”  They decided take some action instead of sitting around and talking, wondering, or even writing about it.  Taking the risk in the hurricane, even if it destroys everything.

No matter how much back and forth I do in these situations, deep down, I know what it is that I want.

And it’s time to go and buy an umbrella.

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Snow is serious business

The summer before I graduated from college (circa 2003) Mike and I drove across the country.  We visited 36 states in 3 weeks.  It was the most magical and fun trip I had ever taken.  And it’s this exact trip that convinced me that I could, in fact, get married.  I figured if we could basically live in a car together for 21 days and come out the other end alive, then we could pledge eternity to each other.

If knew me growing up, you’d know I never even thought about marriage.  Both my parents were on their second marriages before I came along.  I am also what caused their marriage (They were married in June.  I was born in January.  You do the math.).  Their marriage was tumultuous to say the least.  Fighting, screaming, throwing, cheating, drugs, alcohol, guilt, and insults were what I witnessed almost every day.  We would all beg for them to get divorced and my mom left a few times, always coming back in the end.  She would tell us it was for love, but we knew the real reason: loneliness and lack of money always won out in the end.  It wasn’t until I was 18 that they finally divorced and only because my mother had another person to help take care of her.

To say these experiences shaped the way I look at love and marriage would be an understatement.  From a very young age I had decided I didn’t want to be married.  Or have children.  I saw the strain they brought to things and having pretty much raised my younger siblings, I felt like my child rearing days were over.  Even when I would play with my dolls when I was younger, I never played house.  I always played orphanage.  That way I was still taking care of my “babies” but not having to be their mother. And I also wouldn’t be required to have a husband.

Sure, I had crushes.  Who didn’t?  But I never thought about them in the long term and I tended to flit from one person to another as my mood changed.  Finally, in college, I met Mike, we dated, and after our car trip I figured maybe I could do the marriage thing.  Maybe I wasn’t as broken as I actually thought I was.

Cut to the end of 2015/beginning of 2016.  14 years together.  Almost 11 years married. Three children.  And completely unsure of the future. Throughout this separation, I’ve spent my days convinced I am making the best decision for me and my family and my nights unsure.   Conflicted is an understatement.  Torn apart might be better analogy.

And then, lo and behold, a snow storm.  And not just any snow storm…the largest single snow storm in Baltimore history.  Not only would I be trapped in the house with my husband and kids, but I would be trapped in the house for DAYS.  How would we manage our hostility and hurt when there was no where to go?  It’s not even that I wouldn’t be leaving for work.  We literally could not leave the house. And I refused to simply use the children as a buffer as my parents had done so many times.

And maybe that’s where the real story begins.  Or, should I say, maybe that’s where a new story begins.  Maybe being trapped by this snowstorm was the best thing that could have happened to us.  Without a means to escape, we would have to face our problems head on and full force.  There was nowhere to hide.  And really no reason to.  Without being able to leave, we couldn’t lie to ourselves or each other anymore.  We would have to start being honest.  We would have to actually do some work.  Even if not to fix things, but to figure out a way to live in quiet harmony.

And you know what?  We did.  I’m not saying that everything is magically fixed.  It’s not. And it won’t be for a long time.  But without being able to escape I had to confront everything: my feelings, his feelings, the past, the present, the future.  And for the first time in a long time, I haven’t wanted to leave.  There’s a glimmer of something that I used to feel peeking up from behind the years of complacency and routine. Perhaps we need to see if this is anything worth saving.   Perhaps there’s a chance that it is actually worth working for.  Maybe it’s not…but maybe it is.

I feel a hope and a promise I haven’t felt for years.  Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally getting somewhere.

 

Honestly So…

This is hard.  Harder than I thought.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad.  Or so defeated.  Or so alone.

One minute I have the utmost conviction that this is what I am supposed to do…that this is what I need to do.

To save our family.  To save us.  To save me.

And the next minute I think, maybe this is my lot in life…the idea of almost.

Almost happy.  Almost in love.  Almost understanding.

Today was not a good day, but I held it together.

And for now, that’s more than enough.

In fact, it’s all I can do.