Somehow

I miss the days when I would lay my head on my pillow at the end of the day and feel peace.  Feel at home.  When I knew that tomorrow I would be fortunate enough to wake up next to the man I loved.  And I knew that we would all spend our coming days in the home we built together.  I mean I did stress back then.  Why can’t I ever get the house clean?  What if Noah’s Asthma flares up?  What if Caleb doesn’t participate in preschool again tomorrow?  What if Noah has an allergic reaction?  What if I can’t get everything done for the birthday party?  And those were real worries.  But they were different kind of worries.  Because back then everything was okay, and even if my worries came to life I could probably figure out how to fix it..   Now, I try not to think too much or worry because things aren’t okay and I can’t figure out how to fix it.  Will the judge believe me?  Will I lose my children?  Where will we live?  Do I have what it takes to be a single mother?  What if I get sick again?  What if I can’t find a job?

So I try so very hard to stay positive.  Because if I let myself worry it would just overcome me.  Now, I really just don’t have the luxury of letting myself worry.  Most of the time it is pretty easy for me to be happy and peaceful, especially when I am with my boys.  But sometimes, it can be such a struggle.  Our Special Masters Pretrial is in a little more than two weeks and everyday I find myself less able to not feel panicked.  This is it. This is our last chance before a trial.  And it doesn’t seem like he cares.  It’s all a game to him.  The custody agreement was a joke I guess.  Something else to string my foolish heart along.  I can’t afford an attorney for a trial and I have no idea how to represent myself.  Especially against somebody who hates me so much and wants to take so much from me.

Tonight I feel very discouraged.  I have applied to so many jobs and most send me a rejection letter before I even get an interview.  I don’t know where I will work or where we will live and I just feel like such a failure.  I feel like the court will judge me because of it.  I feel like I haven’t been the friend that my friends need.  I feel like I am never enough no matter how hard I try.  But I force myself to remember that feelings are like clouds, and they will pass and give way to sunshine.

And now when I lay my head on my pillow at the end of the day I feel alone and like there is nothing left.  But, I know that in the morning I will be awoken to Noah’s slobbery good morning kisses and Caleb’s loving crafts.  And I know that God will give me the strength and motivation to get through this.  One day at a time.  And sometimes, one moment at a time.

I have two healthy kids.  The rest can be figured out.  Somehow.

Ramblings

A lot has happened since my last blog update.  My excuse for not writing is both true and logical – when I do have free time online I am looking for or applying to jobs and doing schoolwork.  But, the real reason why I haven’t made time to write is because I always wonder if this blog is a mistake. So many people have pulled away from me. Should I pretend everything is normal and not risk losing more friends? The truth is I can’t do that, I don’t want to do that.  As much as it hurts, I no longer want people in my life that can’t accept me for me.

At our fourth, and last, mediation meeting we were able to come to a parenting agreement.  I am not sure what changed his mind, but we were able to work together to come up with something that seemed somewhat fair to both of us and the boys.  I will have the boys during the week and he will have them on weekends and school vacations.  I will get one weekend a month and one day of school vacations.  He will be able to come and pick them up Tuesdays and Thursdays after work as long as he has them home before bedtime.  So, compared to what he had been asking for in the past this is a wonderful plan.  We get to avoid a custody study.  And at first I was relieved and thankful and thought maybe it won’t be so bad.

This week we returned to court.  We stood in front of the judge and accepted and agreed to our parenting plan.  And it is now a court order.  And I guess that is good news.  Really, it is a miracle.  I should be happy.  But, reality is setting in.  Soon, I won’t see my boys from Friday night to Sunday night.   Soon I will be working, rushing home to see my kids, and if I am lucky three times a week I will have a few hours to see them before dinner and bed.  And then during the time when we could do fun things I will have to say goodbye.  And then I will get them back on Sunday night just in time to get them ready for bed.   And this will be our time together.  And I guess i have been spoiled.  I have been a stay at home mother for seven years.  I have incredible memories with my children.  It never went unappreciated, but still I guess I didn’t realize how good I had it.  If you know me, you know I have always cherished time with my children.  Caleb starting school was a huge deal to me.   Some days I am still counting down the hours until I see his little feet jump off of the school bus and scurry across the street.  I just don’t know how to put it into words.  I guess there just are no words.  It is absolutely heartbreaking.  My world is being ripped apart, all because I wasn’t enough.  All because someone decided not to love me anymore. All because there are girls out there who are skinnier and prettier and lots more fun than me. I remember as I was growing up I would be told “life’s not fair”, and how that used to make me so mad! And now I realize what they were trying to tell me, and for the first time I realize it wasn’t a mean statement to try and justify unfairness, it was an attempt at a very important lesson.

At court this week my attorney bluntly told me “get a job and an apartment”, as if it was easy enough to do that it should be on my to do list with laundry and phone calls.  He told me not to bother with a school job, because everyone would be trying for those.  And panic set in.  I know he is right, but I NEED a school job.  If I don’t have the same hours as the boys, WHEN AM I GOING TO SEE THEM???  Who is going to take care of them?  And I am sobbing just writing this.  Somehow I have to pull it together and be stronger than I have ever been in the worst time of my life.  I have to write cover letters and make phone calls and make myself sound wonderful, when really what I am thinking is that, there is always someone better than me.

And yet, we have yet to discuss any of the financial aspects of the divorce with our attorneys.  Our attorneys are pushing to schedule a special masters pretrial before we even try to discuss it outside of court.  It really makes no sense.  I told my attorney that it is hard to look for an apartment when I have no idea what I will be getting for child support, that I have done the math and I just don’t seen how I can support them on my own.  Still, he says “get an apartment.”  To him, it seems like no big deal.  But, I guess he has never tried to support a family by himself on close to minimum wage.  I have learned this year how important it is to stick up for yourself.  I have learned the hard way that the people who are paid to protect you (police, attorneys, state agencies, etc) don’t usually have your well being in mind.  And that is still shocking to me.  And lots of people don’t want to believe that.  But, sadly, it’s true.

Well, I am still trying for a school job.  Maybe I am foolish but I am a determined fool. My kids and I need time together.  I am not going to rush out and find any job or apartment so that I can have no time with my kids and be evicted in a month.  In our marriage, it was mutual, we both wanted me to stay home with the kids.  He always encouraged it.  And just because he changed his mind, doesn’t mean I can rush out and build a new life in a few months.  But it seems like they think I should be able to.

Yesterday Noah and I went together to drop off a Paraprofessional application at a nearby city.  As the man looked over my paperwork, Noah sat nearby pretending to fill out his own application.  The man looked over and smiled at him, and I realized most people probably don’t have kids with them when they are applying for jobs.  And I wondered if I should feel embarrassed, but I felt happy to share the experience with him.  The very short time we were there, three people came in to get applications for the same job.  And when we left I saw a bright orange parking ticket waiting for me on my windshield.  And sometimes it feels like the world is stacked against me.  But I felt Noah’s little hand in mine, trusting me to guide him safely across the busy street.  And I knew everything would somehow work out.  I may not be good at standing up for myself, but I will do absolutely everything possible to make sure my boys have what they need and deserve.

Stupid

We went for our third mediation meeting today.

I am so mad at myself.  I feel so stupid for getting my hopes up that we could come to a custody agreement.

As soon as we sat down he informed the mediator and I of the plan he wanted.  And he was back to the plan where I move out of the house, the kids stay, and I come to visit the kids at his house every other weekend.  And stupid me, I was shocked and heartbroken.  And it was clear that he wouldn’t agree to anything reasonable.  The mediator explained to us again that if we can’t reach an agreement that things are going to get very bad, for us and the kids.  I have never felt so helpless in my life.  I started sobbing, saying I want to agree and that I am trying so hard to, but I have to do what is best for the kids.  And that only fueled his argument more.  And now he is saying that if the kids spend any time at my place that I cannot move out of town (my plan is to move back to the valley to be near family).  He angrily asked the mediator why I have any right to move out of town or why I have rights to the kids.

I want to be a person too. I want to be able to make decisions for myself and my children. But I don’t want to have to battle for it. It would be easier to give in. But, I want to do what is best for the boys. So I’ll cry through the meetings, and I’ll throw up in the bathroom when they’re done, and I’ll continue to put my own needs and wants on the backburner. But I refuse to put the boys’ needs on the backburner.
I try to picture the future. I know this is a turning point in my life. This is either going to make me or break me. I have to believe that God will give me the strength to do what I need to do. I have to believe that someday things are going to be so different. And somehow, I have to make them different.

Mediation Update

We had our second mediation meeting today.  I have to say it was one of the most emotionally exhausting times I have ever had, but I also have to say the mediator we have seems amazing to me.  She is caring yet incredibly objective.  The meeting started pretty badly with the usual false accusations.  And then he pushed an idea he has suggested previously, to have the kids always stay at the house and for me to just come and visit them on the weekends.  I tried my best to remain composed but I started crying and I just could not stop for a long while.  But by the end of the meeting we seemed like we may have made some progress!  We go back for another mediation meeting on Friday.  There seems to now be a glimmer of hope that we will not have to go through a custody study!!

Grief and Joy?

   So, I have tried to fight it, ignore it, and deny it, but the reality is that I have been living in a fog of despair.  In survival mode; going through the motions but feeling a weight of sadness pulling me down.  Doing everything I need to do, making sure the kids are taken care of, but just not being me.  Feeling like the world was spinning around me, but I was standing still.  Not feeling the joy I used to.  My heart wouldn’t be tickled with joy the way it used to be when Caleb told me about his silly school adventures or when Noah told me one of his cute jokes.  Each week I would give myself a pep talk, that this would be the week I would snap out of it.  That surely, if people say you can choose happiness that I can choose to just get over this.  But I couldn’t, and that just made me feel worse.  And the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to get further and further away with each court date.

Lately, life has been a whirlwind of court dates, attorney visits, and counseling appointments.  I kept busy and I convinced myself I wasn’t sad because that would just make everything worse.  The boys need me to be strong.  So, I ignored the sadness I felt.  I convinced myself that the tears on my pillow were just a result of me being overly dramatic.  That the feeling in the pit of my stomach was a result of me just making things worse.   How could I be so pathetic, when so many others have been through so much worse??  But pushing it all away or trying to talk myself out of it didn’t make it any better, it didn’t make any of it go away.  It only made it worse.

A few weeks ago I took the all day parenting class that is required for divorcing parents.  And to my surprise the class consisted of all of us sharing our situations.  And with each story the instructors would ask questions and point out what could be worked on to help the kids with the situation.  I struggled to hold back tears and breathe while I gave a quick synopsis of our situation.  And I was confused when the instructor did not offer any constructive criticism as he had done for everyone else, but instead went through the stages of grief.  I was so confused as to how he could think I was grieving when I tried so hard to hide it.  I was even kind of mad about it because I convinced myself it wasn’t true.

Last week we went to court for an attempt at mediation.  Our mediator explained that if this didn’t work,  that we would be referred for the next level of intervention, where we would lose all say in when we would see our own children and that our lives would be turned upside down for 4-5 months while they question our children, their teachers, doctors, etc.  And as she asked us questions, he lied as usual, making ridiculous accusations.  But I was surprised as he said he wants 50/50 custody, this is a change from him previous saying he wanted sole custody.  Whenever I spoke he interrupted to tell her that all I try to do is make him look bad.  And as she began to stress how we need to work together for the boys, and as she seemed not to see how much I just want what is best for them, I couldn’t hold back my emotions anymore.  And as I started crying, she also started explaining the cycle of grief.  And she explained how it can be hard for divorcing parents to co-parent when one is still grieving more than the other.  She explained to me that when I bring up affairs or concerns over parenting in the past it is only going to make things harder in the present.  But how can I talk about our divorce and just forget about everything that got us here or why I have concerns for the future??  She asked if we had a picture of the boys.  And after she admired it for a couple of minutes, it was obvious she was holding back tears herself as she asked us not to take away their beautiful smiles.  She said that we both seem like wonderful people and surely that must be why we ended up together to begin with.  Surely, once upon a time.

This morning we go back to court to try again and see if mediation can work for us.  I now realize this divorce has nothing to do with what is right.  As they told us in the parenting class, the court doesn’t care what has happened in the past, they just want us to come to an agreement.  Do I fight for what I believe is best and put my children through a custody study?  Or do I continue to try and give him what he wants to avoid more conflict?  As usual, it appears the latter is the best option.  I keep thinking about what the instructor at the parenting class told us, that the courts almost always want 50/50 custody, even in cases of past abuse, and I realize that somehow I have to accept this.  But, I think about missing out on 50% of my children’s childhood and it feels like someone is stomping on my heart.  It’s so unfair.  I didn’t want this.  I gave up so much just to try and prevent this.  I have been the one caring for them, making decisions for them, and protecting them since they were born.  I am the one who knows them best.   But it seems none of that matters now.

Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I have noticed changes in myself over the past couple of weeks.  Despite him discouraging me and despite my own doubts and worries, I have been doing more for myself. I researched lots of career programs and found one that seemed promising and I enrolled..  I signed up to be a consultant so I could sell a product I love.   I started applying to more jobs.  When it is his time with the boys I have been going for long walks, and really enjoying them.  And a teensy bit at a time I feel better about myself and about the future.

Saturday was Aron’s day with the boys and so as usual I made plans with my brother so I would be out of his way and so I would be distracted.  Usually during these times I am pretty miserable.  I worry about the boys and I miss them.  And when I see other families it serves as a reminder of what we could have been, or at least what I wanted us to be.    But, on Saturday as I was driving to pick up my brother, all of a sudden I realized the fog was gone.  Somehow that feeling of sadness that had been hanging over me for so long had disappeared.  I was singing along to the radio and I felt like myself.  But, not the me I have gotten to know over the past few years.  The part of me that I lost – happy and hopeful and dreaming of the future.

Yesterday as Caleb told me silly stories about his class pet Gilly the tadpole, and Noah and I danced around the living room, my heart felt tickled with joy again.  Only, now it felt even better than I had ever remembered.

Now, sometimes, I feel like I can do this.   I don’t know how I will, it seems that I have so much stacked against me.  But God loves me, my boys love me, and I am even starting to love myself.   And maybe if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, somehow I’ll get to where I am meant to be.  Maybe the label of single mother doesn’t have to be so terrible,  maybe it can be something I am proud of.  And I am starting to accept that some days I am going to be filled with grief, and that’s okay, but as long as I keep going it’s going to be okay.  Maybe it will be even better than okay.

I realize now that true joy doesn’t happen because we have what we want or because we are comfortable.  It doesn’t happen simply because we choose it.  And it doesn’t happen despite sadness.  While I don’t totally understand why, I think it takes some sadness to allow us to find true joy in our lives.

Change

We had our screening with family relations at court today.  They had us sit down next to each other at the counselor’s desk.  And she began reading questions off of a piece of paper.  He began answering first. He told them things that aren’t true, and I wish that by now I could let that not bother me.  But it does.  He is the one who knows how much I love my children, how much I have loved him, how can you ignore that and make up lies just to hurt me?  How could you do that to anyone, nevermind the person that has dedicated her life to you?   He told them that I can’t control my emotions and the boys are not safe with me.  He told them that I drive dangerously and put them in danger.  He told them that I am physically abusive to him and that is why he is divorcing me.  He told them that I have trained the children to hate him since he filed for divorce.  He told them that the boys attack him.  Each time I would tell them that isn’t true.  And every time I would answer a question he would make up an answer to make me sound worse.  I felt so helpless.  He was telling her that I make up lies so I can look good in the divorce, which is what he also has told the police. I don’t know how he does it but he can make the craziest things sound so logical and true.  And then the case worker asked me if this was all new since the divorce was filed. And I started to answer but he interrupted me and I later realized I never got to finish my answer.  She started asking me for examples of disagreements.  I started to give her recent examples of  things that have happened.  Each time he told her how I am exaggerating and I have been abusing him.   And I was surprised at how easy it was for the words to come out of my mouth but all of a sudden I was telling her about how every time I have called the police they take his side.  About how a few weeks ago before I called the police he told me if I did that he would make sure the kids were taken away from me forever.    About the affairs.  About how I am trying my best to live peacefully with him because I just want custody of my kids and I need to make sure they are safe.  And then she asked us if we had any concerns about mental illness.  And it took courage, but I said yes, that I wasn’t sure if he was dishonest or delusional.  And he immediately was telling her that I cannot control my emotions and that I go into violent rages.  It is just my word against his.  And my whole life depends on what he says.

Our family relations counselor explained to us that a decision will be made soon about the intervention we need.  And that it is possible that the outcome will be a custody study which will end with a decision by a judge who doesn’t know us at all.  We will be getting a letter soon with their decision.

The fact that he seems to want this to go to trial terrifies me.  He has a legal plan through work so his attorney is fully covered.  I, however, will not be able to afford an attorney for trial.  And there is no legal help in CT for this kind of thing.

I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to fight.  I don’t want to worry about every single breath I take being held against me.  I don’t want to worry about everything I do being misconstrued into some sick fantasy.  I don’t want to be scared anymore.  I just want to enjoy my boys’ childhood with them.  I want to laugh with them and not be worrying in the back of my mind if we will be laughing together in a year.  I  want to know we have a place to live.  I  want to be safe.  I want to be heard.  I want to be a person too.  I want to have a voice.  I want to be able to do things,  I want to work.  I want to go to school.  I don’t know how I can do these things.

I have been far from perfect.  I should have tried harder to lose weight.  I should have kept the house cleaner.  I should have made his lunches for work.  I have made mistakes, but I don’t try to hurt people.  I know he has to know that somewhere in that heart of his.   A long time ago we had an awful fight and I said I wanted a divorce.  I immediately told him I was sorry and said I didn’t mean it.  But he has always remembered that and he says I am the one who wanted this.  Maybe if I never said that things would be different.  Maybe if I was someone else things would be different.  But I have tried so hard to be someone else and all I can be is me.  And now all I want to be is me and I am realizing I don’t even know who that is anymore.

My head hurts and my heart hurts.  When I left that courthouse today I felt dead inside and I felt like I had no hope at all.  That is a scary feeling.  My chest hurt so much it felt like I had gargled acid.  And I don’t know if I should post this blog.  I have such a need to have a voice, but am I just going to make things worse?  There is so much I can’t say now, but I dream that someday I will tell my whole story.  I dream that someday I will look at these posts and be amazed at how far I have come.

We were walking out of court and he asked me if I need cash for the parking garage, as if we were buddies.  At first I was so confused because usually he gets so mad if I ask for cash.  I was tempted to take the bait and feel like he loved me again.  But now I recognize his patterns.  I just shook my head and kept walking.  And it breaks my heart but he is no longer my buddy or my husband.  I have no idea who he is.  I want so badly to believe that part of him still sees the truth and still loves me.  But apparently part of him isn’t enough.  I walked out of the courthouse alone and realized nothing was ever going to be the same.

God, I just wish I could wake up from this nightmare.

Just Me

My emotions have been all over the place this week.  I have thought about deleting this blog many times over the past several days.  That is what I would usually do.  I am scared of people judging me.  The # of views far outweigh the # of comments or likes.  So, a silly part of my mind starts telling me people must be reading it and secretly judging me.  And I start to feel like I have to delete it right away.  But then I remember my Gram.  And how she had such a story to share, but she never shared it.  And now she is gone.  I think of all of the people I know who hide.  Who are afraid to share themselves or their lives with even their friends.  And I wonder why can’t we just be ourselves?  What are we so afraid of?  So, I am trying to be brave and I am going to leave this up.  I don’t want to be afraid of being myself anymore.  And I will continue to share my soul.  And more than likely I will continue to be judged.  But it’s worth it.

Tomorrow we have our family relations screening at court.  I am slightly hopeful but mostly I feel sick with worry about it.  They will talk with us and determine the amount of intervention we need.  For example, if we go in and he agrees to joint custody with me as the primary parent they will not get very involved, if at all.  However, if he does what he usually does and says I am awful and lies about things and demands custody, then I am told this is all going to turn into an absolute nightmare.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I am just being selfish and I should just surrender.  Just walk away and let him have whatever he wants.  That way the kids won’t have to be put in the middle of this battle, and I won’t either.  But I know for sure the best thing is for them to be with me.  I know they need to be with me.

When he has had his days with the kids this past week I found myself turning into a person I do not like to be.  I felt absolutely miserable.  I hated looking at my Facebook and seeing all of the pictures of families, reading about how wonderful people’s husbands are, and how they don’t know how they could survive without them.  And honestly I was surprised by my own reaction because normally I love seeing all of these things and I love that people share them.  I guess that is what is called a pity party?  Then the pain I was feeling led me to think of mothers who have lost their children, like my Gram who lost her four year old daughter, or the parents of Sandy Hook, and many more who live daily with every parent’s worst fear.  They have to live in a world everyday that continues to spin without their children.  I can’t imagine how they do it.  And I think of Race4Chase, the triathlon my son is involved in.  Chase was killed at Sandy Hook and his mother set up a wonderful camp so children could  have opportunities to do things her own son loved to do.  And I think of her tears as she got up to speak at the triathlon my son participated in this Summer, and I can’t even begin to imagine her pain, yet she was there with all of the families and encouraging them.  Wow.  And I am just amazed and humbled at her strength, and the strength of those like her.  And I am embarrassed of the self pity I was feeling.

It sure feels like everything is falling apart and the future looks so scary.  And, maybe I have a few less days with my kids each week, and maybe it feels like my whole life is torn apart.  But I still get to share life with my sons and hug them and kiss their boo boos away.  And a lot of mothers can only dream of that.  I have to cherish our time together instead of dreading our time apart.  I hope I can get better at the latter.

Love

For almost two weeks I have been trying to write about our last court date.  I just felt like naturally that should be my next blog post.  But, I just can’t.  I just can’t find the words, yet.  So, maybe this blog will skip all over the place and maybe it won’t make sense, but what I post will be what is on my heart to write about at the time.

When I was in nursing school (which I never finished) I began to work as a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant).  I took my first job at a nursing home.  I thought I knew what to expect as my clinical training had been at a similar type of place and that had gone well.  After my first day of work there I left crying and I never went back.  The person who was training me didn’t even treat the residents as people, they were merely a job to get done.  She encouraged me to be rough with them, and did not follow proper precautions, and told me that this was the way it had to be if you wanted to get the job done.  And after observing it seemed the rest of the staff had similar ideas.  This was not what we had learned in our training or even on our licensing test.  This was not what I pictured when I thought of taking care of people.  What about speaking to the patient, informing them of what we are doing, treating them with respect and dignity?   I didn’t know what to do, I had a new car payment to pay for and Aron and I had just bought a condo but all I knew was I couldn’t go back to that place.  My heart just couldn’t deal with seeing people being treated that way, and it being okay,  Especially people who needed someone to show them love.  I couldn’t believe the world could be that way.  And maybe I should have stayed and tried to be the person to love them, but I ran away.

At a job fair I came across a job for home health aides.  They hired me on the spot.  I was terrified at first.  What a scary concept, you walk into a stranger’s home by yourself, not knowing what to expect, not knowing them, and you have to care for them.   My first patient was a woman who had lost both of her legs and was immobile.  My first task was to get her in the shower, and they had no hoyer lift in the home.  What?  How was I supposed to do that?  They didn’t teach us that, in fact they taught us not to do that.   I was nervous that her husband would be angry that they sent such an inexperienced person to take care of his wife.  Instead, he was happy to have someone there to help and we worked together.  For some reason, they really liked me, and I loved being able to help them and be a positive part of their life.  And I had so many more patients like this.  They felt like friends.  It was more than a job, in fact it didn’t feel like a job at all.  I was surprised that I looked forward to going to visit my patients.   It didn’t seem like it should be a very rewarding job – taking vital signs, writing reports, helping with exercises and bathing. But it was.

One of my patients ended up needing to switch over to hospice care.  My supervisor asked me if I would do it, as the family said they were comfortable with me and wanted to keep me if possible.  Honestly, I didn’t want to do it.  I, like most people, am terrified of death and I doubted my ability to provide them with the care they needed.  But I did it because I knew adjusting to someone new at such a difficult time would be hard for the family.  And afterward the patient’s family told my company what a help I was.  And my company asked me to become a hospice care provider.  And for some reason I did.  And the things I learned in those few years will stay with me forever.  I had the pleasure of getting to know so many different types of people and families.  I had the privilege of showing them love when they needed it most.  Most of my patients did not pass while I was with them but many did.  Some I had only known a day and some had become friends.  I have held hands of people as they took their last breath and they had nobody else to be there.  One of my first hospice cases I think of quite often.  My patient was a married woman with no children.  Her husband was a well known attorney.  She was dying of Cancer.  To say they had a beautiful home is a major understatement.  Many people would consider that happiness, they could afford anything they could ever want.  Her condition deteriorated quickly, I was only with them for a couple of weeks.  It was an awful couple of weeks.  She was in terrible pain and kept asking and eventually screaming for her husband.  He was at work.  She died in her bed, with just the nurse and I there.  I was only 20 and didn’t know much about anything, but I was pretty sure she would have given all of the years of wealth away to have her husband there with her during those two weeks.

I got to know quite a few people at the end of their lives.  And I can say that not one of them cared much about how much money they had, or what they did for a living.  They just wanted to be around the people they loved and when they couldn’t, they loved to tell me about those people.  They loved to tell me about their parents, their spouse, about their children growing up, about birthdays, graduations, weddings, and vacations.  It is sad that a lot of times it takes death to make us realize what is most important, and some can’t even see it then.  I was lucky enough to learn through my patients.  It was a really tough job for me, I don’t think I could do it again.  I woke up from nightmares of my patients often, but I learned so much from that job. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to see the importance of love and of living life.

When I was 22, 6 months after we were married, my Dr. walked in the room and told me I may never be able to get pregnant.  I felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on my chest.  He told us if we wanted to try and have a family it was “now or never”, and suddenly nothing else mattered to me.  We decided that I could finish school later, luckily Aron was older and already had an okay job.  And two years later we had Caleb.  And two years after that we had Noah.  We both agreed I would stay home with the boys.  I stopped working three weeks before Caleb was born.  And the plan was that when Noah started kindergarten I would go back to school.  This week I registered Noah for kindergarten.  If things were different I would have waited another year, as Noah is only going to be four when kindergarten starts and I am not sure if he is socially ready.  But now, everything is different.  Now, I have to somehow figure out how I can support us with no college degree and no recent experience.  There is no time for me to go back to school.  We were supposed to be a loving middle class family in a nice community and suddenly it seems my destiny is to be a struggling single mother who isn’t even sure where we will live or if I will have my kids.  This isn’t what I wanted and I can’t even begin to understand how we ended up here.

I made lots of mistakes.  After a rough childhood I was so determined to have a happy adulthood that I blocked out anything remotely unpleasant.  And, ironically, that set me up for some pretty bad things.  I naively believed that love could change people.  I was selfish and I believed that if I prayed for what I thought was right that I would get what I wanted.  That if I made choices with the best intentions that they would automatically work out.  I believed that if someone loved me it didn’t matter how they treated me that somehow things would all work out for the best.  I believed that people loved me the way I loved them.  I saw the world the way I wanted to see it, through rose colored glasses.

And it seems all of a sudden I have had to realize that some people can be cruel.  Some people don’t do what they are supposed to do.  People lie.  People cheat.  Police look the other way when they are supposed to protect you.  Agencies turn you away when they are told to help you.  Attorneys ignore you even after you give them every penny you have.  The people you trust the most intentionally hurt you.  People judge you when you need love the most.  And I can’t pretend these things don’t happen anymore.  I can’t pretend everything is good anymore.  Because now I have to deal with all of these things to try and make a new life for me and my boys.  But still somehow, I do believe love wins.  But my definition of winning sure has changed.  It doesn’t mean that everything is good, and it doesn’t mean that I get what I want.  It means that I will survive this and not be bitter or mean.  It means that you can hate me or judge me and I can still sincerely wish the best for you.  It means that no matter what you do to me, no matter what you take from me, you can’t take love away.

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Our Last Anniversary

I was never one of those little girls that dreamt of getting married.  I never gave it much thought but I just assumed I would be alone.  I saw myself as a single career woman.  As a teenager I had the usual teenage romances.  But after a month or two I would always break things off to make sure they didn’t get serious.  Then I was 17 and I met him.  And all of those thoughts and fears flew away.  He knew how to make me feel safe.  He knew how to make me laugh.  He loved me.  I loved him.  Years went by and for the first time in my life I wanted those things all of the other girls dreamed of, but only because I wanted them with him.   Things unfolded before me, marriage, children, and the perfect home.  It was all unplanned but yet a dream come true.

I am a Christian.  I thought we had a Christian marriage.  He said he believed in being honest.  In forgiveness.  In love.  He said he loved those things about me.  I never rushed into a relationship.  I prayed.  I prayed.  And I prayed some more.  I was careful with my heart.  I swore that he was a blessing from God.

And, right now, it is 11 pm, on the night before our 9th anniversary.  My precious boys are sleeping upstairs in their bunk beds.  I am alone, but not as alone as I am when he is home.  My husband is out with one of his girlfriends.  I wonder how she makes him happy.  Maybe just because she isn’t me?  I bet she is prettier, skinnier, and maybe even smarter.  But I doubt she loves him as much as I do.  I wonder how it could ever be worth throwing away the life we had.

And it has been this way for years.  And somehow I convinced myself I could fix it.  That if I prayed enough God would fix it.  That I could change enough to make him love me.  So many nights I sat sitting on the couch next to him sobbing and begging for him to tell me how I could make him happy, but all he could tell me is how awful I am.  The church told me if I was patient enough that God would fix our marriage.  I endured affairs and abuse and I believed him when he blamed it all on me.  If it was all my fault then somehow I could fix it, right?

But I couldn’t fix it.  And God didn’t fix it.

The day I was served with divorce papers he came into my room with a smile on his face, just so he could see my tears.  He is trying to get full custody of the boys.  He says he will make sure I am homeless so that I can’t get them.  He says he doesn’t care what he loses just as long as I don’t “win”  I told him that I have already lost.  I beg him to make this as easy as possible on the boys.  That I would agree with anything he wanted if he had their best interest in mind.  He says I deserve to suffer.  He knows the best way to make me suffer is to take the boys from me.

And as hurt as I feel, I will keep fighting.  I will fight for what is best for my boys.  On the days when I just want to stay in bed with the covers over my head, I think of Caleb’s mischievous yet innocent giggle. I think of how when Noah says “tickle me Mama” he starts laughing uncontrollably before I even touch him.  And I know I have to get up and move on, for them.  My heart hurts for them, more than it hurts for me.  They deserve better, I wanted more for them.  The feeling that I failed them is the worst feeling of all.  But I am determined to make this the best I possibly I can for them.  They deserve a childhood full of fun and loving memories.  Carefree Summer days spent outside splashing and laughing.  Sleepovers with friends where the biggest worry is what movie to watch.  Dancing in the living room.  Singing in the car.  We will have lives full of love.  And it is a shame that some people choose not to share that with us.

I would have done anything to save my marriage.  I just wasn’t enough.  I thought we would be together forever.  He used to cry when I told him about how if I died first I would wait for him on a cloud.  We picked this house dreaming of growing old here.  I thought we would grow old together.

But that just isn’t how it worked out.  And it kills me inside.  But the people who love me really believe that the best is yet to come. And it is hard for me to see but I trust them. And I trust that God will make good out of this.

Sharing this is a huge step for me, even though really it is just the tip of the iceberg.  It is something I have felt I should do for a while, but have been too scared.  It is terrifying to open up, for lots of reasons.  One of them is the fear of being judged.  I wish I could say I don’t care what other people think, but I do. But I have come to a point in my life where I can’t focus on who might judge me and for what.  If you want to read this and judge or gossip about me, go ahead, that is your right.  But please remember, we’re all in this life together.  And no matter what you do, and no matter how hard you try, there are just no guarantees.

Life is short.  And I am sick of pretending to be someone I am not.  If this helps one other person have the courage to speak up and just be themselves then it is so worth it to me.  I am going to live a life of love.  Real love.  Join me.

Reflections

A few months ago I started a blog.  I kept it locked with a password which I only shared with a very small group of people.  The blog was taking a direction I didn’t want it to. Most of my entries were about the sadness and fear I was feeling and I kept it locked with a password.  But, really, I am trying to get away from living like that.  I will be sad and scared from time to time and I may share that but I want to share beauty and happiness and laughter too, and I don’t want to keep anything locked up anymore.  And so, I started this blog.  And I am deleting the other one.  But there was one entry from the other blog I wanted to keep and this was it.  Somehow it seems that when people treat us badly that our positive memories of them are magically erased.  I don’t want that to happen to me.  I don’t want to forget the good.

Reflections

Sometimes I flutter my eyes as if I am going to wake up while I am already awake.  How could this possibly be my life?  How did I get here?   People, including me, especially me, have their theories and judgements.  Most would choose to believe that for the past fourteen years I have been blind, refusing to, or just blind to see what was right in front of me.  Some would choose to believe I chose someone who was similar to my father.  And, as with almost all judgements, this is a way of consoling oneself.  If Shanna did something to cause this, if she missed something along the way, then surely it can’t happen to me.  Because what if love can turn to hate?  What if one day our whole life can be turned upside down because of the choices and actions of one person?  What if the one person we trusted most with everything turned out to be the person who wants to hurt us the most?  As human beings we just can’t go around believing that things like that can happen.  And just like when others judge us, if we also put the blame on ourselves we are protecting ourselves.  If it is our fault then we are in control, if we are in control then it is not possible for anyone to hurt us so deeply.  If it is all my fault then somehow I can make it better.

But as with most things, none of those theories is 100% correct, but perhaps they all have some truth to them.  What is 100% true is that real love leaves us vulnerable.  That when we trust our heart to another person we cannot control what they are going to do with it.  In fact at the very essence of love is vulnerability.  Many will say to guard your heart, to never allow yourself to love someone more than they love you.   But, if we never risk that have we ever really loved at all?  How can you guard your heart but yet give your all to somebody?  How can you put someone above yourself but be thinking “I have to make sure I don’t give them more than they give me”?  How can you be willing to give someone all of you, yet try to balance it so that you don’t give more to them than they give to you??  You can’t.  That isn’t love.  So, as I sit here broken, so uncertain of the future, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel regret.  But what I don’t regret is feeling love and giving real love.  Some people go through their whole lives without experiencing real love, giving it or receiving it, and without that ability to even understand what that is. or what it means.  And when you look at my life now maybe you doubt that love was ever there, sometimes I convince myself of the same.  Lately I have been convincing myself that what some people say must be true, that I must have been blind, that I must have believed that something was there that wasn’t.  And maybe he never really loved me.  But I loved him and I gave him everything I had.  So at least I have experienced that side of love.

This weekend I attended a retreat that focused on mindfulness and our goals (they used the word intentions) for the upcoming year.  With so much uncertainty ahead that was a challenge for me.  But what I was able to do was to relax and let my mind think freely for the first time in a while.  To acknowledge my thoughts and feelings instead of pushing them away.  On Saturday, at the end of a day full of  deep thought, we were treated to a beautiful concert.  And at the concert the singer began to sing a song I hadn’t heard in so long, but that I know so well.  A song back from our mix tape days.  A song I sent to him and that I meant with all of my heart.  And as I sat there just being open to the situation and to my feelings all of a sudden a tidal wave of love washed over me.  Love for him.  And all of the wonderful memories I have pushed away began replaying in my mind.  And then came the incredible hurt.  The kind of hurt that takes your breath away.  The kind of hurt you usually do anything to immediately distract yourself from.  But instead I let myself feel it and I let myself remember…

How he used to hold my long red hair to his nose and how he said it had magical powers.  How patient he was when I couldn’t find the words to say.  How he understood the underlying meaning of the song lyrics, I thought only I understood.  How he loved God.  How he understood being cautious yet being silly.  How for the first time in my life I let myself fall in love.  How he sent me new phone wires when my Dad cut them.   And how when that didn’t work anymore he bought me a cell phone.  How he left work early to cheer me at my high school graduation.  The long good night kisses on my Grandpa’s porch and laughing as we saw the neighbors watching us night after night.  How he taught me to drive and didn’t think twice about trusting me with me his car.  How we would drive down to the beach and sit on the rocks and just talk for hours.  Staying up all night to watch the sunrise and how he said my hair was the same color as the sunrise.  How he dropped me off at my dorm on my first day of college and how after I had a terrible experience he was the one who came and got me right away.  How we got our own apartment and filled it with flowers and love.  How we laughed as pieces of my car would fall onto my lap as we went over a bump.  How he loved me, flaws and all.   How fun it was to look for and buy a condo together.  How he supported my aversion to white walls and we painted our entire new condo in a weekend…and how as with most everything, we made it fun.  How we loved our bird and a cat…and a puppy that he advised me against but he fell in love with almost immediately.  How we would dance around the living room with them and laugh and laugh.  How I believed with my whole heart that everything I had been through in my life led me to those moments with him.  How we decided on a whim to buy a house in a town we had never heard of.  How we moved in and it all seemed like a fairytale.  How I chickened out of our big wedding and we called the justice of the peace at 11pm and he immediately came over and married us in the upstairs of our house.  How we wanted to be together every moment that we could.  How we spent our evenings hand in hand walking around our lake.  How we seemed to forget each other’s names and refer to each other as “love”.   How he was there for me when I was in pain and sick.  How he was there for me through my Endometriosis surgery.  How it felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on my chest when I heard the word infertility but somehow his love made it okay.   How we laughed as I moaned to the nurse about how much my butt hurt in recovery.  How good it felt to build a home with him.  How proud I was of him.  How we supported each other.  How with the help of God we turned a 3% chance into a miracle.  How he never left my side through a very long labor.  How incredible it felt with him by my side when Caleb was born.  How proud he was of me.  How wonderful it felt to start a loving family.  How sure I was that we would be great, loving parents.  How much fun we had with Caleb as he grew.  How astonished we were as he took his first steps and said his first words.  How amazed we were that we could have a part in creating such a beautiful person.  How we couldn’t wait to make Caleb a big brother.  How we were just about to give up and were blessed with another miracle.  How we did everything as a family.  How much fun we had.  How much love there was.  How he voluntarily cleaned up my vomit everyday when I was pregnant with Noah.  How we laughed as I had to pull over the car and throw up.  How excited we were for the future.  How amazing it was when Noah was born and the four of us were together and we knew our family was complete.

Things aren’t always black or white, in fact they rarely are.  Things, or people, are not usually good or bad.  Sometimes the worst people have the best intentions, sometimes the best people have the worst intentions.  Sometimes the worst things have speckles of light and sometimes the best things are speckled with darkness.  As people our first inclination is to judge based on what is apparent or on what is presented to us.  Sometimes what we see as whole is only a speckle of the entire picture.  It is impossible to determine an outcome of something based on the speckles.  In fact, it is impossible for us to determine an outcome at all.   Sometimes the speckles of light spread and sometimes the darkness spreads.  And although we can have an influence, we cannot control the outcome.  What we can control is how we react and much light we decide to shine.

And today, in the midst of this mess, it is as if he still cares for me.  As Caleb and I did something nice for him and Noah he commented “What a nice family.”  I never thought those words could hurt so much.  Because they could be true.  They were true at a time.  How could he say those words now?  Now, as he openly admits his biggest goal is to hurt me.  How could the person who I built my home with try to make me homeless?  How could the person who saw me sacrifice and give everything I could for my boys try to take them from me?  How does love turn into hate?  Somewhere along the way my fairytale turned into a nightmare and I am not sure exactly when it was.  The dark speckles grew and grew and it got hard to see the difference between the dark and the light.

Now, I am trying to figure out how to make it through the darkness and not let my light get dim.  And I know I can’t do that by myself.  I keep thinking back to the poem Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson and the line “It was then that I carried you.”  I know God is carrying the boys and I right now.