Tag Archives: marriage

Divorce For Grown-Ups

Divorce for Grown-Ups: 5 Tips on Achieving Your Best New Normal

None of us is immune to divorce and I’m here to prove it.  Though I was trained and practiced as a marriage and family therapist, I have had my fair share of moments where it didn’t matter.  It didn’t save me from the ick.  And I’m grateful, because those experiences have taught me the most.

My ex-husband and I met in a doctoral program in Social Work. We waited to marry (we were 30).  We planned long enough to have a child that I was labeled a geriatric mother (I was 35).   And yet today, I am still the divorced mother of a twelve year old child.  What-are-ya-gonna-do?

Alas, there are no guarantees in life. And although divorce is difficult and challenges will always remain, I personally discovered you can make your journey to the new normal easier on you and your kids, with no Ph.D. required:

 

  • Respect Survival Mode. A friend introduced the idea of “Survival Mode” to me during my separation when I was (yet, again) revisiting the facts, feelings and current state of our marital dissolution…I was deep in my feelings and in my head. She stopped me and said, “You know, you don’t have to do this to yourself.  You’re in Survival Mode.  Let’s save the therapeutic analysis for when you are not trying to just put one foot in front of the other and be a good mom.”  Wait? What? I don’t have to do this to myself?

When someone is trying to survive in the desert, they don’t spend a lot of energy and brainpower on how they ended up there and how unfair it is.  Instead, they focus on getting out – on surviving.  It was a very freeing for an over-analytical person like me to give myself the gift of giving myself a freaking break—and just get through now, this moment, today. There will be time for the post-mortem—later.  And I did it, when I had the bandwidth to do it.

 

  • Take off your spouse hat. Stop viewing the world (including your ex’s actions) through the perspective of being that person’s spouse. You’re not anymore, so stop. When your ex does anything – the more view that action as their spouse, the more likely it will do a number on you.

The only hat you are allowed to wear is your parent hat. Period.  You will be amazed by how much you can take off your plate once you make this one adjustment to your perspective.  It is not your job to make your ex a better person, or at least not a jerk, in your eyes.  You’re done.  Not your problem.  Off the hook.  You only ask: How does this directly impact my kid and their relationship? And don’t try to warp the issue into being about your kid, when it’s really just about the spouse hat you’re still sporting. Hat off.  And see how much better you breathe.

And bonus: the moment you stop acting like something bothers you is the moment it may stop happening, so stop taking the bait. A little secret I discovered…

 

  • Don’t wait for the karma train. You feel wronged.  Treated badly. Undeservedly so. Yep. That sucks.  Not fair.  Stop screaming at the sky and demanding the karma train to hurry up and get’em.  Because each day that you focus on thinking your ex is “getting away with it” or has “won” is another day you have wasted not getting your best life.  Focus on you, your life. Things have a way of working out, but you are not in charge of the timeline.  So deal.  Go back to figuring out your new normal and living well.

 

  • Social media lives forever. Don’t Vaguebook about your ex. Don’t outright hash it out publicly on social media.  Your kids and lawyer will thank you.  Stop.  It’s a bad look and your friends are cringing for you.

 

  • You are a teaching tool. Remember, your kids are watching and learning important life lessons from you at this moment about how to be resilient, face disappointment (and reality), and conquer challenge—all needed life skills. It’s ok to show vulnerability though—they should also know perfection isn’t a realistic goal. Just be human with superhuman tendencies.

~Dr.L~

 

Dr. L is divorced mom with a global consultancy based out of North Carolina. 

The Fixer Of Broken Boys Part 12: I’m Not The Marrying Kind

I am not the marrying kind…

After the debacle of the one that should have never happened, I didn’t date for almost two years. On purpose. If I did date I broke up with the guy very quickly, walls were very high.

Out of respect for my daughter I’m going to go about this a bit differently…

I was introduced to my ex husband by a friend. He was the complete opposite of anyone I had ever dated and I thought that was a good idea.

Since I referred to him as ex I think you already know.

Here’s the thing you have a type for a reason. I believe that. I relish differences and believe strongly successful relationships are about caring and compromise.

But you have a type because it works. He was not my type. Not even close.

If you love someone you go to True Value even if you’d rather be at Target.

My ex believed the only person who should compromise was me.

A year after my daughter was born I just couldn’t anymore.

My leaving was not well received. I was accused of things that weren’t happening. My family was not nearby. It was incredibly hard and went against everything I believed in. It rained the day I moved. My Mom, me and G…

I was a wreck. I was lost. I will be honest it is nine years later and I am still at a loss when my daughter is not home.

It is is beyond true what they say when you hit bottom you find out who your people are. Fast.

Sadly they aren’t the ones you’d hope they would be.

Do me a solid please don’t ever tell anyone to get over it. When your world is falling apart and you are making $8.50/hr paying rent, child care, with a husband who won’t divorce you so you can’t get help and you’re trying to figure out how you can pay a lawyer … please don’t tell that person to get over it.

That’s helpful. Not at all.

Thanks

How about sit with me

How about let me cry

 

~~Caprise

Single Mom of the amazing Dbl G
Teacher
Sometime DJ
T-shirt collector
Henry Rollins Middle Aged Punk Prom Date

Dinosaurs Divorce

We are sitting under the glow of fluorescent bulbs, and I notice the book “Dinosaurs Divorce” on the play therapist’s wooden clipboard, an item on the evening’s agenda. “We have this book as a resource,” she says as I thumb through it. The book depicts Mommy and Daddy dinosaurs arguing with loud noises. Mommy and Daddy dinosaurs stewing silently. Daddy dinosaurs packing dinosaur boxes and placing them in the back of dinosaur moving vans. The therapist’s voice brings me back to reality: “Would you like us to go over this with Brennan? Or is it too overt?” Brennan is my 3-year-old son who isn’t familiar with the word “divorce” but has come to understand that he lives at “Brennan’s house” with Mama. I glance again at the glossary in the front of the book that explains the family law system to children in the way a biology textbook delineates the parts of a cell. My heart is beating fast. “Well, what do you think? Is this what he needs?” I ask her. I’m on foreign soil. She pauses and peers at me over thick-rimmed glasses: “You seem hesitant,” she replies. “Follow your instincts.” “Then, no. Not now.” No to “Dinosaurs Divorce.” No to pushing my kid off the cliff of childhood innocence with brute force.

It’s right after the Ash Wednesday service, and I am meeting my mom in front of Charming Charlie for the usual toddler trade-off. I climb cold and red-nosed into the front seat of her black SUV to sit a minute and turn to grin at my baby boy in the back. “What’s that?” Brennan says, staring intensely at the ashes on my forehead. “It’s in the shape of the cross…” my mother starts. I interject- “It’s just…it’s a religious…” my voice trails off. We move on to different subjects, and Brennan seems to adjust easily enough to the idea of a mother with an inexplicably dirty forehead. “Mom,” I say as we’re moving him and his accoutrements to my car, “I’m not ready to tell him about Jesus yet. I mean, I tell him that Jesus made us, and He loves us but not about His death. Not yet. Let’s just let him be happy. Let him be a kid.” “Of course,” she agrees.

His blue eyes stare up at me, long lashes blinking. “Is Da-Da home?” “No…remember, Da-Da lives at a different house now. He drives a big truck, and he lives with his friends. You’ll see him soon though!” I try to say it with cheer. “Oh yeah,” he replies with disappointment. I regret trying to say it with cheer.

As we drive, I glance back in the rearview mirror at a kid who is excited about driving over a bridge, and I pretend to get excited too. I know life’s not all bridges, but I want it to be. I want it to be happiness and every one of his favorite things. I want to shield him from the grisly deaths of Saviors and families.

I linger in these moments: they are uncomfortable places, sure. I think back to my first trimester of motherhood when the doctor called Brennan an impending miscarriage. In my fear and desperate longing, I spoke to him often. With a hand on my belly and a fierce whisper, I begged him to stay. “Life is not always easy, but it will be good. I’ll be a good mama to you, I promise. Please stay.” He stayed. And I try to stay true to my word, the best I can, here in this messy in-between. Even at three years old, life is not easy. Maybe all of life is a messy in-between. But still, I know: it will be good. It is good.

We get out of the car after another long day of work and play and commuting. It’s dark outside, but the sky is brightly lit. “Look, Mama!” he says. “The moon and the stars and the sky!” “Oh yeah! I LOVE the moon and the stars and the sky!” “Me too, Mama! I love them too!” And before we go into the house for another night of supper and bath time and bed, we stand for a moment and look up together at the big wide world- wild, uncontainable, beautiful.

~Mallory is a Mississippi mama who has been broken by life and softened by grace. She loves pine trees, poetry, and her friends.

An Omission Turned Admission

I was sitting on my living room floor folding laundry. Miles of piles of tipping laundry and unmatched socks sat in front of me. The kids were playing independently and the house was otherwise quiet.

Just me and my thoughts. A dangerous thing.

And suddenly I felt sick. Literally, physically sick. It occurred to me, the omission I keep making.

I will allow myself to feel this for a fleeting moment. I need to, so that I can continue to heal. This is just the beginning. I know this. I resent this.

I am so angry.

I am so sad.

And I am so lonely.

I catch myself looking at everyone’s left hand. The ring finger of even the 70-year old in the grocery store checkout line is not excluded.

Are you married? Are you happy? Does it feel good to sleep next to someone every night? Is it nice to have someone to call when your day is shit? How does it feel to hug someone tightly when you cry or even better, when you have the best news to celebrate? Do you feel a sense of security knowing they will be there day after day, night after night?

I hate everyone’s happiness. I hate the people who have someone to go home to. I hate all of your wedding rings and I hate all of your family pictures. I hate all of your smiles and I hate all of your photos of flower bouquets and sandy beach vacations.  I hate your Facebook questions about an anniversary dinner spot to reserve, or whether you should have another baby.

My wedding dress sits in a box in my attic. My rings, were so beautiful, and they sit in a safe that isn’t even in my own house. My wedding albums sit on a shelf. My dream of another child dashed.

There are two photos of him still in the house that just feel like too much energy to change out of the frame. His mail still comes to the house. I want to burn it.

I want to just sit and cry until I can’t anymore. Especially when people who don’t know, who will never know, hear that I am getting divorced and optimistically say “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that it didn’t work out.”

Didn’t work out?

It didn’t work out?

You must be f#%@*ing kidding me, right?

I gave everything to this man, and then some. A thankless, unselfish kind of love he will never, ever find again. And I got screwed, sideways, backwards and up the street. I was emotionally abused, abandoned, and ignored.

In return I have two, beautiful, healthy, awesome children.

I learned I have the strength of a warrior and an infinite capacity to love through hurt, betrayal, and loneliness.

But as I told him, so many times, I am not unbreakable. There is an end to my ability to bear the weight.

I am grieving the loss of what I thought my life would be. I am grieving the loss of love, a husband, and even a father to my children. I am grieving failure.

I gave it my all and I failed. I don’t fail. I don’t quit. And at this, this most important thing, I couldn’t fix it. Singular effort in a dual partnership just does not cut it.

A few months ago, he made a point of it to hurt me and tell me: “You were not good enough.”

It hurt to hear him say it, and his intent behind it. I know this is not true. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get replayed in my head in the quiet of the night. In the quiet of folding laundry on a Tuesday afternoon.

There is still an indentation on my ring finger. I find myself reaching to spin my rings less and less. But my finger still feels naked, and so do I. My flaws feel exposed, my emotions feel heightened, my hurt feels raw and misunderstood. My trust and my belief in people…broken. I am sorry in advance that I will not believe you will follow through. I will always wait for you to be the one to break my heart.

I feel like I will never be as important to someone again, as he was to me. I grieve the idea that there is a possibility that I will never be loved that way that I love. That is real, that is honest, and that is heartbreaking. It may not be true, but right now, it is the truest statement I can make about what it feels like inside.

Everything hurts. And no one, not anything but time, will make it better. Please hide all the clocks and wake me when it’s over.

-Jessica: Awesome Single Mama

The Empty Field

The Empty Field….

It was a simple task. Fill out your user profile in the new expense system at work. Verify name, address, phone number, date of birth.

Marital Status.

There is not a drop-down for “f you” or “none of your business.”

There is not an option that says “Divorce in progress.”

I need a gosh damn yield sign because the next question is even better: Emergency Contact Information.

Can I put a coworker? Is that weird? Who would I like you to call in case I break a leg, get in a car accident, or worse, die? Shall I also put my life insurance policies into the comments field, as well as their distribution amounts?

I was so proud to be a wife, and I wasn’t just proud to be the noun, I was proud to be his wife. It didn’t care if you were the mail carrier, the grocery store employee, the doctor, the co-worker, the playdate counterpart I just met. I was proud to take his name, be his association, be his person.
He was supposed to be my person. The one who listened to my bad day, who knew how I liked my coffee, who could identify my mood based on the appearance or disappearance of a beauty mark on my face, who knew the right spot on my neck to kiss, the jokes to make me laugh, the right amount of time to hold me before he pulled away.

He was supposed to be the luckiest man alive whether we were together in a room of 20, 200, or 2,000 people.

He was supposed to be my forever emergency contact. The person whose heart would cease to beat if mine did.

He was supposed to be the one they called if something happened to me.

My mouse cursor slowly blinks at me, patiently but passive aggressively waiting for an answer, kind of like how I waited for him for so long and I am reminded.

I am reminded I am my own person. He isn’t my person anymore.

And when the coroner called to announce the death of our marriage he didn’t answer the phone anyway, and his voicemail box was full of all the preliminary warning messages he never wanted to listen to.

The mouse cursor blinks on.

-Jessica: Awesome Single Mama

My First Date Post Marriage

My first date was with a guy from Tinder.

Don’t read that twice.

I did not expect that one date would turn into a dozen dates. I did not expect that he would make me laugh so hard my stomach hurt or that I wouldn’t even eat most of my meals we shared because we would be talking so much. I did not expect that when we would go places he would grab my hand, kiss my forehead, or pull me into him while waiting in line. I didn’t expect that I would love nothing more than walking into the door and seeing his face and wanting to literally wrap up in his arms. I didn’t expect how easy it would be to not only be emotionally but physically drawn to this man.

My therapist warned he was a rebound. Rebounds never work. I nodded, secretly thinking this could maybe be different. I justified that my husband was actually the rebound as he was my relationship right after my high school boyfriend. My therapist glared at me.

“Jessica, he is a rebound.”

One session he asked me very frankly what he was like.

“He feels like one gigantic sigh. I walk into his presence and I immediately relax. I am not a mom, I am not a manager, I am not an ex-wife. I can just be a woman and I can say and do as comes naturally, and I just…exhale.”

He was, and is, my first relationship post-marriage fail and he was…and still is…a great, big, sigh.

I love being a mother. I love my job. I adore my friends. I have a wonderfully supportive family. But I had no idea what I was getting into, what my actual intensions were for the long-term. I just knew what I no longer wanted and that was to feel like I was invisible and unimportant.

I liked having someone ask me about my day, my job, my children, how I slept. I liked having someone really look at me as they talked. Hell, I even liked when he pointed out stupid shit I did, like when I would walk to another room of his apartment and begin talking, totally facing the opposite direction of where he was located and expect him to hear me. The things he noticed made me laugh.

He loved how my eyes squinted when I smiled.

He loved my smile.

The way he caught my attention was by sending me a message that said something to the effect of “How many children do you have or do you want to show me your pile of mismatched socks and I’ll guess?”

A man with a child and a man who also had a pile of socks that never matched. You could have even called it foreplay.

An odd revelation I quickly had upon seeing him and emotionally finding myself positively smitten was that I had no idea how to have a relationship with a man and not be his wife.

I didn’t know how to not be someone’s wife.

It scared me. I didn’t know what dating was. I didn’t know what sex with a new person was. I didn’t know what you were supposed to say, or not say, how often to call, or text or see each other. So, I was myself.

And I felt alive.

I loved the way he listened to what I said and I loved that when he asked me questions he seemed to actually care how I replied. I loved the way he touched me, I loved the way he hugged me, I loved that he was well read, cared about current events, and history. Call him a humanitarian or a socialist, a man with a dry and crazy sense of humor, but just be sure to call him mine.

I loved the way he kissed me even though he kissed me differently than I’d been accustomed for twelve years.

Do you know what your first kiss is like after you thought you already had your last first kiss of your life a dozen years prior? Totally terrifying. Scarier than sex. It was a moment of no going back. My life had changed. It wasn’t ever going to be what I thought it would be when I walked down the aisle. The act both saddened me and freed me.

I was nothing but myself any time I was with him or spoke to him.

Within 90 days of saying goodbye to what I thought my life would be, I regained my life. I lost, and regained my home, traveling to stay between a half a dozen places with two children and two rabbits, living out of suitcases and laundry baskets for almost two months. My boss resigned. I helped host the largest, most important, global, annual event for my company. I assumed 100% financial accountability for every aspect of my life. I didn’t jump out any windows, run over anyone in a parking lot, stomp my feet and ugly cry in too many public forums, completely change my appearance or buy a one-way ticket to a mental institution. I had been through a tornado of hell and still managed to find my way in a relationship with a man who I found myself trusting, opening up to, and falling for.

I will admit it. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t like it. It feels uncomfortable for me. I like companionship. I like love. The house feels empty. So does my bed. This is what is supposed to happen to you after the last chapter ends.

This is the pain, the thrill, the punch in the gut after the curtain to one life closes and another opens.

I am just beginning a relentless journey toward simple, honest, uncompromising happiness.

Either hop in for the ride or get out. Because I deserve so much more than where I came from.

-Jessica: Awesome Single Mama

Take Your Cat And Leave My Sweater

In the spring of 2017, my ex and I observed our eleventh wedding anniversary.  Not long after that, we decided to end our marriage.  It was the hardest decision that I’ve ever made.  Divorce is such an ugly word surrounded by negatives.

I make no secret of my love of Pinterest.  Like, most of my life guidance comes from Pinterest and country music-haha.  It is easy to find exactly what you are looking for, whether that is good or bad.  Do you want to support the despair of divorce?  Done.  Do you want to find hope in what’s to come?  That can be done, too.  One of those choices keeps you bound.  The other gives you wings.

I had to get through the sadness of it all before I could get to the blessings that came from our decision to split.  That’s what I want to focus on here.

The hardest thing (for me) about ending a relationship is wondering what you could have done differently.  We exhausted every avenue.  We prayed.  We went to counseling.  We medicated.  We tried to be different people.  We kept arguing more and more.  We love each other very much, but we are very different people.  We kept trying to make it work for the kids, but the kids weren’t happy.  We weren’t helping them anymore.  We were hurting them.

We made a lot of adult choices that weren’t rooted in feelings.  We decided that no matter how we felt towards each other in those first days, we were committed to one thing.  Making this transition as easy on our kids as possible.  We didn’t make schedules.  We showed them that no matter what was happening between us as a couple, we were still committed to them.

When I stopped focusing on what divorce was taking from us, I started seeing what this separation was gifting us.  Solace.  Breathing room.  Peace.  I love Thomas with all my heart.  He is one of my very best friends in this world and I know without a shadow of a doubt that he always has my back.  All of those things were true when we were together, but they were lost in petty disputes.  Fights about everything and nothing at all.  Arguing because we didn’t know how to be happy anymore.  It took him moving out for me to be able to just love him again.

Does this mean we are getting back together?  No.  We would go right back to the same old patterns.  Does this mean we are seeing each other or dating or a couple in any way?  No.  That part of our life is behind us.  What it does mean is we have a new commitment that has nothing to do with anything but doing our best by our family and each other.  It means the court doesn’t have to tell us who can see what child when.  We are capable of deciding that all on our own.  It means that we will be sitting beside each other at sporting events and graduations and weddings.  It means that our kids don’t have to decide where they are spending Christmas, because we are welcome in each other’s homes.  It means our kids can enjoy having two parents who aren’t at each other’s throats all the time.

We are working hard, together, to teach our children valuable lessons during this time.  We are teaching them to be kind and fair and compromising.  We are teaching them that homes are only broken if the people inside them are.  Once those people find the strength to heal, it doesn’t matter what their addresses are.  We are teaching them that love and commitment doesn’t have to be conditional.  It may change over time but what really matters is how you handle those changes.  We are teaching them resilience.

~ LA

You can read more from LA at https://sweeterinthesouth.blog/

An Open Letter To My Daughter

Daughter,

When I told you that your father and I were getting divorced it was probably the saddest thing I have ever had to do. We were in the bathroom. I sat on the closed toilet lid and you were across from me on a step stool. I don’t know why I chose that moment. Maybe because it was quiet, because you seemed like you were paying attention. I didn’t think about what I was going to say before the words escaped. I wasn’t prepared for the questions your 5-year old self would ask. I just dove in, head first into concrete, because I needed you to know. I needed you to know why we weren’t sleeping in our own beds and why your clothes were in a suitcase and why I would cry while I ate dinner, or dried my hair, or did just about anything. I needed you to know from me, from my words, that our life was never going to be the same, me and your Dad. Because telling you made it final. Telling you that I had failed, I had failed my one big job, was something I could never take back after I said it and I knew this. I knew that telling you would mean I would never turn back.

Then, I needed you just to know we weren’t going to be married anymore.

Now, I need you to know it wasn’t your fault.

And in the future, I will need you to know why.

You wept. You didn’t just cry. You threw yourself onto the cold, tiled floor, and yelled at me.

“But why, why can’t you just stay together? Why?”

I bit my lip and I thought carefully for a pause.

“Why can’t you just love each other? Why can’t we just be a family?”

How could I tell you that the reasons why I can’t stay are heavier than you, taller than you, bigger than you, older than you? They are heavier than I can carry alone, and I carry so much. I am tired.

You made it sound so simple and yet this decision, this life, is so complicated. I made myself believe, I convinced myself with such will, that this could be simple. It was simple to uphold vows and forgive.

But the cost, it was so high. I tried to tell him. I tried for so long and he would never hear me. Or maybe he did, and he just didn’t want to anymore.

You asked very grown up questions for a very little person.

You asked me if I was angry with him. You asked if I would always love him.

You have asked me this many times over, many nights later. My answer is always the same.

“No, I am not mad at Daddy. Yes, I will always love him.”

This is a truth; this is also a lie.

You see, I am not mad at your father. I am mad at the man that was supposed to be my husband. He let me down in small and large ways that cannot be undone. This is for me to hurt from. This is for me to learn from. This is for me to try and protect you from.

I will always love the man I once knew, the man that gave me you.

Without him, I would never know what tiny fingers wrapped around my necklace felt like. I would never know your big, contagious laugh or the sound of your off-key singing. I would never see your big, scrawled handwriting and doodles with hearts. I would never know that you think your eyes are the color of chocolate and mine are the color of blueberries. I would never know how to remove permanent marker from skin, or nail polish from carpet. I would never know clumsy hands braiding my hair, or stinky feet in my face in the middle of the night. I would never know what it felt like to love something more deeply and more naturally than I do you.

And to that end, without your father, I would never know just how badly it must hurt to know that the two people who were supposed to love each other as much as they loved you, shouldn’t stay together.

But, my little girl, know that I thought about this long and hard. And when I thought about leaving my marriage, the last person I thought about before I did…was you.

I thought about what I want for your life. I thought about the kind of man I want to love you, take care of you, hold you. I thought about the kind of smile I want you to have not just on your wedding day, but on an ordinary day. I thought about the unending respect and independence I want you to have for yourself; the inner strength to know the difference between enabling and empowerment. I thought about how much more I not only wanted, but expected for you and I realized that in order for you to recognize and chase these things, I had to want them, demand them, for myself.

And yes, I thought about what it would feel like to sit at your wedding and watch your father-daughter dance with a man who would no longer be my husband. The thought of disappointing you put a pit in my stomach. Disappointing you for expecting more for your life than I had mine. I feared what you would have thought of me twenty years from now, knowing I devoted my life to teaching you to be more than me, all the while expecting less than for myself.

Someday we will talk, woman to woman. But for now, know that this was not your fault. Know this. Hear this. Believe this.

I did my very best.

Know this.

Hear this.

Believe this.

I loved your father with a love that was more than love.

In the end, my love for him was not a reason to stay.

My love for myself was a reason to leave.

My love for you was a reason to keep moving.

Know this.

Hear this.

Believe this.

~Jessica-Awesome Single Mama

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

 

 

I’m the baby of five children with eleven years separating me from the youngest of my siblings.  You can rest assured that I’ve been asked at least fifty-eleven times if I was a mistake.  The short answer is no.  Have you ever known me to stop with the short answer?  Okay, so you know that this time is no different and you know that I have a story to tell.

My grandfather, my Mom’s dad, was an electrician, and they moved around quite a bit.  When they lived in Kentucky though, they lived about a block and a half away from where my dad grew up.  My mom and my dad went to the same school during those years and walked the same sidewalks and my dad thought my mom was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I made my mom tell me this story.  She was so very shy.  She knew that Dad had a crush on her and so she would see him coming and she would cross the street to the opposite sidewalk to try to avoid running into him.  Lord knows that every socially awkward statement that has ever come out of my mouth was the exact reason my mother opted to go with avoidance.  I regret nothing.  I wish.

By high school, my mother was living in Michigan and my dad was in a military boarding school.  Their lives had moved in totally different directions.  Mom graduated from high school and got married.    Mom had four children in a very short period of time.  Which is why when I say she was always the most patient person alive, I can speak with confidence.  Dad joined the Army, got married and when the Vietnam War began he found himself in Japan.

Then the unthinkable happened.  My mother’s first husband was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  My mother was a widow and my siblings had lost their father.  I can’t imagine what that time was like for my mother but she ended up packing up her four young children and moving back to Kentucky.  Around the same time, my dad was newly divorced and also making his way back to Kentucky…

So this is NOT where I’m going to pretend that their marriage was magical or perfect or even hard in the way that every marriage is hard because I don’t think that would be accurate or fair.  I think it was pretty difficult.  But I also think that my mom really, really, really, loved my dad, (and I know she still does), and I know that my dad really, really, really, loves my mom and always has.

Dad is in the hospital.  It’s becoming the norm lately.  I guess that’s how it is when you have stage four cancer.  I have sat with him through appointment after appointment and over and over I have heard doctors ask him what he wants.  What his expectations are.  What his concerns are.  What questions he has.  Over and over I have heard  his answers begin with, “My wife has Alzheimer’s…”

Tonight was no different.  The cardiologist asked him if he wanted them to try to resuscitate him if he coded and Dad began with his usual, “My wife has Alzheimer’s.”  Then he continued with the same responses I have heard him give every single doctor since he was first diagnosed.

My wife has Alzheimer’s.  She’s in Calvert City.  I just want to be able to drive there to see her.  I don’t want to be too sick to do that.  I just want to be able to see her as long as I can.  She looks forward to seeing me.  She has the biggest smile when I walk in.”

Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but maybe love doesn’t have to be.

Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful life.

<3 LA

You can see more of LA at https://sweeterinthesouth.blog/

The Circle’s Double Entendre

I made him a promise and I did not keep it. I always tell you to be truthful and I…I lied.

Almost ten years ago I stood in front of your father and I said:

“Today I give you this ring which represents my love and commitment to you. Please wear it always, and when you see it, may it remind you of the vows we’ve made today. I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask no more than you can give. I promise to stay by your side no matter what may come, with all that I have to give and all that I am, in the only way that I know how, completely and forever. From this day forward, you will not walk alone. My heart will be your shelter, and these arms will be your home.”

I lied to him. I promised to ask no more than he could give. That I would stay by his side no matter what. When the words were spoken I had no idea just how great that promise would be. How easy they would be to say, and just how repetitive and how loud they would echo in my head.

If I had not met your father, I would maybe never know just how painful a promise can be.

Don’t ever promise not to ask of someone more than they can give. I thought it sounded noble. Giving. Wise. I accepted less, so much less than what I wanted for myself because someone else could not, would not, give it to me.

I gave all of myself, the best and the worst, from the beginning until now. It isn’t even the end. I ended it and even now, the giving continues. I put candles in the mailbox tonight because he is on day 10 of no electricity in the apartment he will soon be locked out of. I filled out forms upon forms for food stamps and cash assistance that are not for us–but for him. I gave him $10 so he would not sell his wedding ring (which is what they offered him at the pawn shop) because for some reason that I cannot explain I wanted to keep it. My own rings sit in a safe, away from me. I cannot bear to let them go, but I can’t hold them either.

The reverend who married us said that the circle has long been a symbol for marriage: “being unbroken circles, each represents unending love. As often as either of you look upon these rings, may you be reminded of this moment and the love that you have promised.”

When I walked out on our marriage I took a hard look at those rings. A long, hard look. The circle may have been unbroken on my finger, but every blessed promise it once contained had broken my heart. Every one. And in that time, my reminder of the moment in which it was put on my finger no longer was enough to wear it anymore.

Nightly, you ask me why he can’t live with us. Our bedtime conversations start out casual or goofy, and very typical of what I would expect from talking to a loopy-tired, four-year old. And then out of nowhere, you will ask:

“Why can’t Daddy live with us?”

Stupidly on my own behalf, this interruption to our bedtime routine still leaves me tongue tied and surprised. I always take a deep sigh before I respond with the most watered-down response I can think of.

“Because Daddy and I have grown up problems that we can’t seem to fix and we are happier and better parents when we live in two houses.”

It stings to tell his half-lie.

I am a better woman, I am a better mother, I am a better me without him.

He is lost, he is selfish, he is reckless, he is miserable, he is absent without me.

But, my son: he was lost, selfish, reckless, miserable and absent when he had me. The only difference is now I don’t have to drown with him. I can choose to ask for more. I can choose to stop being home for someone who let me walk alone, without apology, so many times.

This is the paradox. It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. This is the high of self-discovery and the low of starting over. I look in the mirror and I am so proud of what I see. I look at your father and I am so inexplicably disappointed and scared. I look at you and I am overwhelmingly proud and blessed.

And while it is less frequent these days, I still look down at my left ring finger and for a millisecond I believe something is missing and I panic.

Then it passes and I realize that even six months later, a barely visible line encircles my finger where a heart full of promises resided, the reminder is no longer what I lost or never had.

The reminder is that I will never allow myself to accept less than what I would give, even on my very worst day.

So, when I tell you that they are “grown up problems” what I mean is a thousand lies, a thousand tears, a thousand chances, a thousand cries that went unanswered. What I mean is that these problems are so big and beyond what your mind can hold and my heart can bear. They are the kind of problems I never want you to know, I never want you to hear because if you did, your question would change. It would change so drastically.

Your question would not be why he can’t live with us. Your question would be, how can he live without us?

So, the truth is, he can’t live with us because when he does I give away a piece of myself, every day, that I will never get back.

Unbroken circles may represent unending love. But sometimes there comes a point where you change the script. Maybe it isn’t unending love for someone else.

Maybe, finally, it is for yourself.

Jessica-An Awesome Single Mama