Fight Song

What would I do differently?

I’ve always been a fan of the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow.  You know the one where she misses the tube, and the one where she catches it.  And how her life would play out with both of that minor detail of her life, changed.

I have moments like that.  Where I wonder how life would have been had I made one little change.  Had I gone to a different university.  Had I not moved to another city.  Had I not gotten back together with that one guy.  Had I paid attention to the warning signs.  Had I not been a stay at home mom.  Had I spoken up.

For the past 8 months, I have told my children that I would go through all the pain and heartache, over again, for them.  Because they are the best thing to have ever happened to me.  They are the reason I was meant to be with their dad.  To have them as my children.  And if I had to do it all again, just to have them in my life, then I would.

If I had the chance to be reborn, would I come back as myself or opt for a fresh start?

It all comes down to my kids.  While I struggle being a single parent, I can’t imagine my life without them.  So I would have to come back as myself.  I would have to come back and live every day exactly as I have, just so that I would have them.

But in my do-over life, the day after my son was born, my baby, I would start doing things differently.

I would speak up.

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

~Rachel Platten

That is the one single thing I would change.  I would not have allowed myself to have lost my voice.

Now I am taking the opportunity to make a fresh start.

With my kids.

And my voice.

Fear of Dying and Something Worse

This morning when I opened the Daily Post daily prompt, the words started to come to me.  They continued on through my bike ride.  Here I am, finally able to put them down.

A fear that I have overcome.  Conquered.

For about 5 years, I was afraid of “my husband” dying.  What we would do without him?  How would we survive, financially?  Looking back, I find it interesting that those were really the only two questions I would ask myself.

He was the centre of our world.  Everything we did was with his wishes and desires in mind.  Everything.  He was always the top priority.  Always.

At some point that fear turned into fantasy.

What would my life be like if he died?  Would it be easier?  Would it be harder?  What would I do?  Would we move away?   Would we stay?  What kind of a job would I get?  Would I move on?  What would that look like?

The questions never ran deep.  But obviously my subconscious was working on something.  Was sensing something.

I realize, that I sound like a horrible person.  Who would want their husband to die?

I never wanted him to die.  And he didn’t.  He just left me instead.

There were times at the beginning when I thought that it would have been easier if he had died.  Some days I still question that.  But he didn’t.  And so we must figure out this new life.

Interestingly, I still had the same questions, when he left.  What would my life now be like?  What would I do without him?  How would we survive?  Will it be easier?  Will it be harder?

Some days are undoubtedly easier without him around.  Some days are harder.  But to be honest.  Not many.  Not anymore.

I am discovering what my life will be like, and that I can indeed live without him.  I am discovering that I can finally breathe.  That I can make decisions for me and my life.  And it feels good.

And I am surviving.  More than surviving.

FullSizeRender-2

Today I met a friend for coffee.  She asked me if I was happy in my marriage.  I told her, “I thought I was.”

Have you watched Grace & Frankie on Netflix?  In the first episode, Martin Sheen, upon revealing that he is gay, says to his wife, Jane Fonda, I didn’t think you were happy.  And she replies, “I was happy enough.”  That was me.  Happy enough.  My friend said that when she met me, she felt an underlying sense of frustration from me when I talked about my husband and marriage.  Not a surprise maybe that I used to think about losing my husband.  I just never thought it would be from him leaving.

Now my biggest fear?  Walking the dog at night.  And getting sprayed by a skunk.

Moments

So tonight I find myself trying to move forward in a way that will help my kids.

Today they went to ex-beloved’s apartment for the first time.  Where he is living with his girlfriend.  She was not there.  And they have yet to meet her.

My son, who I was worried about the most because he is a worrier and very anxious, actually enjoyed going to the apartment.  I know he initially did not want to.  In the end, I think he did it to please his father.  He liked the apartment and commented on how nice it was.  He said it was like a hotel.  While I appreciate that it means it is not a “home” in my definition, he obviously thought it was exciting.  And of course it is exciting.  It is new.  It is flashy.

My lack of enthusiasm worried my son.  But let’s admit it.  To you, not to my son.  Hearing about ex-beloved’s new apartment and new life, is not really worthy of enthusiasm from me.  It was hard to hear how rich the girlfriend is (interpreted from the kind of car she drives).  It was hard to hear about what the apartment looks like (ex-beloved finally has the apartment he has always dreamed of…he just had to ditch his wife and kids to get it).  It was hard to hear that he is excited to go there.

It’s moments like these where I find it all a bit too much for one person to bear.  It’s moments like these where I find myself wishing that my kids did not talk so much to me.  That they did not share so much.  It’s moments like these that are sometimes just too hard.

It’s moments like these where I have to take a deep breath.  Where I have to remind myself that I am their mother and will always be their mother.  And while I was replaced as a wife, as a partner, I cannot be replaced as their mother.

It’s moments like these where I wish that I had a bit more time.  A bit more space to myself to start living my own life.  To be worried less about their lives.  Where I wish I did not always have to be the parachute for everyone else.

Who is my parachute?

How to Save a Life

I originally posted this on my other blog.  When I read today’s daily prompt, I immediately thought of this post.

I am not sure what this says about my sense of humour.  You will understand when you read it.  However, when I think back on this night, I have to laugh.  Because if I don’t I might just cry.

life's journey

So.  My dog.

Really, he was not meant to be my dog.  I am not even a dog person.  But, in the end, he is my dog.

Tyler joined our family in 2006.  He wasn’t the dog we were supposed to get.  The dog we were supposed to get was a black lab and his name was going to be Magic Bubbles Puppy, or something to that effect, named by our daughter, who was 4 at the time.  Instead of a black Magic Bubbles Puppy, we got a blond Tyler.  The dog breeder did not have any black labs, only black labradoodles.  We did not want a labradoodle, so we settled for the yellow lab.  And thankfully we managed to convince her to change his name

Tyler has been a great dog.  Not the brightest bulb in the socket, but not destructive like the famous Marley for which most yellow…

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Mouth Drop

I could see his mouth moving but did not hear anything after “I have fallen out of love with you and I don’t want to try.”  All I could hear was a sound like a vacuum.  The sound of my life being sucked from my body, up through the pit of my stomach, through my oxygen deprived lungs and out of my jaw dropped, open mouth.

As tears rolled down each cheek, I tried to breathe with an unbearable, crushing weight on my chest, the rushing sound of wind in my head and a vice grip, strangling tight around my heart.

Not Ready to Make Nice

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round

~Dixie Chicks

It was the day of our anniversary.  I guess the day that would have been our anniversary.  Fifteen years.  Two children.  Two dogs.  Four houses.  Eight moves.  Four jobs.  Seventeen years together.

I was on my way out.  He had dropped our son off after having dinner together.  While he sat in the car in front of our building, my son struggled, with arms full, to get into the building.  I helped him with the doors.  Chatted briefly and turned to leave.

He was still there.  Ex-beloved.  I said hello and continued walking.  He called me back to his car.  Leaning across the arm rest, looking all handsome like he does.  I apologized and said I did not realize that he needed to talk.  “Well you were just going to walk by without talking to me,” he implored.  I indicated towards my car and said I was on my way out and again, that I did not realize he needed to talk.  He looked at me, shocked I think, that I did not want to talk to HIM.

“There is no reason why we can’t have a conversation,” he said.

“Actually, J, there are plenty of reasons.”  And I walked away.  Head held high.  Shaking like a tree in the wind on the inside.

That night to end an email that was already in the works regarding camp for the kids, I let him know that while he likely thought me rude earlier that evening, I did not want to talk to him.  And that I did not need to talk to him.  Especially on that day, what would have been our anniversary.  And that to add insult to injury, my gynaecologist had told me on that same day, that because of his indiscretion during our marriage, that I should be tested for all STD’s.

I have not talked to him since.  That was almost 3 months ago.  I have not seen him since.  Thankfully I tested negative for all of my tests.  And thank goodness for email.

On Thursday, my lawyer was told by his lawyer that they wanted to have a sit down meeting to hammer out the last details of our divorce agreement.  I thought I was going to throw up.

I spent the better part of 24 hours feeling pressured.  Feeling that I should sit down because that was what I thought I should do.  How would it look if I did not want to?  And then a friend said, “why would you do that to yourself?”  Another friend said, “you hired a lawyer all those months ago because you did not feel strong enough to stand up to him.  And while you are most definitely stronger now, it does not mean you need to sit down with him.”

I decided that I did not need or want to sit down with him in a conference room.  That I had nothing to gain by doing so.  And that the only reason why he wants to is so that he can manipulate me, take advantage of my feelings that he is sure still exist, and justify why he only wants should pay spousal support for 2 years.  My lawyer can deal with this.  That is why I hired her.

I am trying not to be bitter.  I am trying not to be sad.  I am trying not to be frustrated.  I am trying not to be angry.  I am trying to move on.

But I’m not ready to make nice.

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

Yesterday.  My kids were young.  Tomorrow.  Getting older.

This morning I opened my email to find a message from a friend by where she was forwarding a link to a number of mothers regarding our teens, parties and drug and alcohol use.  Good advice for raising teenagers?  Sounds good to me!

My oldest just turned 14.  She has yet to attend a house party.  As far as I know.  She has yet to try drugs.  As far as I know.  She as tried a small sip of vodka.  As far as I know.

Do I trust her?  yes no yes no yes no yes.  I do trust her.

Back to the email.  I followed the link to the article titled DOING DRUGS WITH PAUL DILLON: 5 questions you should be asking when you call parents hosting a teenage party.  I’ll be honest.  I was intrigued. This is a new area for me and my teen.  Any advice would be helpful.

But as I read the article, all I could hear was the whooshing of helicopter blades circling overhead.

Paul goes on discusses at length about how if your teenager is going to a party, that we as parents, should be calling the host parents and asking them questions about the party.  When does it start?  When does it end?   What are they doing about alcohol?  What do they plan to do if there are problems?  Who are the adults that will be present at the party?  He also explains that teenagers start their evenings at pre-parties so we need to be careful because talking to the host parent isn’t going to be enough.

This is where he starts to lose me.

We were all teenagers once. Right?  And those of us reading this, with our own teenagers, all survived.  Did some not survive?  Sadly, yes.  We went to parties.  We drank.  Some did drugs.  I did not.  Not sure why, but I just didn’t.  Some would say that I was too goody-goody.  Me, I just don’t think I had any interest.  I digress.

We are a different generation.  We are the helicopter parent generation.  Our parents were not.  They did not call other parents to ask about a party that was happening in their house on the weekend.  Probably because a) we did not tell them we were going to a party, b) the other parents probably did not know there was going to be a party in their house and c) it was just not the way things were done back then.

So, does it help to call the host parents?  I am not sure.  Am I “anti-calling the host parents” because it would make me uncomfortable?  Probably.  I am not very good with confrontation.  The mere fact that I call it confrontation is a whole other issue.  Again, I digress.

Ultimately, where I see the problem is with the fact that we, as parents, seem to be holding everyone else accountable for our teenagers actions, and not the teenagers themselves.  And most certainly we would never hold ourselves accountable. It couldn’t possibly be our fault.  We hold teachers accountable when our children fail to get good grades.  We hold schools accountable when our children fail to get into a high school or university of their choice.  We hold coaches accountable when our children fail to make the top sports teams.  We hold store security guards accountable when our children get caught shop-lifting.  We hold the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend accountable when our children’s hearts are broken.  Ok, maybe that one is the way it should be.  And now we are holding other parents accountable for making sure that they host parties in an appropriate manner so that our children are safe.

Why are we not sitting down with our children and talking with them?  Why do we not explain the dangers and risks associated with alcohol and drugs?  Probably because our parents might not have.  Probably because when we look back to when we were teenagers, we realize that we would not have listened.

Teenagers by definition, are still growing, still maturing, still learning.  Hell, I am still growing (not physically thank goodness), still maturing and still learning.  Part of teenage life is parties, defying parents, pushing boundaries and maybe a drink or two, or too many.  Do we really think that we are helping when we call a host parent?  I would think that my daughter would be mortified and that would be the last time she would tell me anything.

I talk with my daughter.  A lot.  And I hope that I am building a relationship where she feels that she can be honest with me.  That I trust her, and because of that, she will be as open as she can be.  We talk about the risks of drinking.  We talk about the fact that drinking can kill you.  We talk about how drinking sneaks up on you and by the time you think maybe you should stop, that it is probably too late.  We talk about how one day she will get drunk and have a bad hangover and swear that she will never do it again.  And we talk about how she will.  Do it again.  We talk about how when you hide things it is hard to reach out for help.  And that if you can’t reach out for help, bad things might happen.

I feel very strongly that if I trust my daughter and have good, constructive, open dialogues, that she will get into less trouble.  That she will be in less danger.  That she will be more comfortable calling me for help when she needs it.  It is the times when we are not honest, when we are secretive, that trouble happens.  The fact that something is being hidden escalates the danger and in this case makes it harder to get out of.  If she hides the fact that she is going to a party and things start to go wrong, you can bet that she is not going to call me.

That is where we need to focus our efforts.  On our relationships with our children.

About a year ago, a family in town hosted a party for their teenager.  The told their child that they could have a party but there was to be no alcohol.  It was explained that the kids would be checked when they entered the home.  Imagine their surprise when after about an hour or so, the noise of the party increased.  The teenagers seemed to be having more than their fair share of fun will imbibing on soda and eating potato chips.  “What is going on?” they thought?  “We checked everyone as they came in.”  What they failed to realize was that in the week leading up to the party, every time a friend came over, they brought alcohol and stashed it in the basement.

Teenagers are resourceful.  We should not underestimate them.

Cathartic Rewrite

I read.  A lot.  I used to read books.  Novels.  Now I read websites.  Self-help pages.  Websites about divorce, communication and narcissism.

Ask any ex-wife and I would bet she would say that her ex-beloved is a narcissist.  I do.  And while sometimes I wonder if maybe I have created this monster in my head, born out of anger, sadness and bitterness; I truly think he is a narcissist.  I read somewhere the other day that although a man may not display narcissistic tendencies during a marriage, that the stress of a divorce often can push a man over the edge.  Where in the marriage he was simply self-centred (and maybe a bit controlling) he now becomes deceitful, manipulative and unfair.

It is a lot to handle.

I’ve read a lot about how to communicate with a narcissist.  I wish I could find the link to an article I read a few months ago.  It was brilliant.  The writer of the article was a woman who had divorced her narcissistic husband, but she found communication very challenging.  And then one time she took his email he had sent to her and re-wrote it.  She took all the hundreds of words he used to express himself and pared it down to less words, getting straight to the point and clarifying what was between the lines.

Yesterday I received an email that brought all the emotions flooding back.  He was pulling on my heart strings.  I was feeling badly.  I was feeling conflicted.  What was I going to write back?  Was I really being unreasonable?  And then I gave my head a shake.  I used her trick and re-wrote the email, highlighting what I thought he was really trying to say.  My interpretation is below in italics.  Although I was tempted to edit his original email, to do so would not convey the length and depth of his emails.  I have changed some key details for privacy of course.

It may be a bit tongue in cheek, but for sure it will make you smile.  Enjoy!

**some back ground info for context: ex-beloved left, did not get an apartment for himself, moved directly in with his girlfriend whom our children have still yet to meet, cancels vacation time and weekends with the kids (only sees them two weekends a month) and cannot (will not) reschedule but manages to take trips with her instead, all the while lying about pretty much every minute detail.

*****

Dear ex-wife,

Sorry for the super long email. I am waving the white flag. Your emails about the kids cut right to my soul and leave me in tatters. I am not sure if that is your intention, or you are just calling out your concerns as directly as you see fit, but either way – I need to let you know. I would like to please work on a less confrontational approach together. I hope you can consider. I would like to, especially when it comes to the children.

Here is a long email from me.  I hope that it wears you down and makes you feel overwhelmed.  Do you see my white flag?  I am trying to distract you with it.  You see that I am not making the kids a priority and have called me out on it.  I wonder if you know the truth about all my lies.  Please stop giving me a hard time.  I am only doing what makes me happy. 
OK, here we go – again apologies – while rereading it – it is really long.
OK, are you overwhelmed yet?  Emotional?
I have discussed my one night a week with the kids. For the time being, I suggested that once school starts, my one night per week become a dinner together and not an overnight. I miss them a lot between my weekends and want to see them, yet I know it is not ideal for them to stay at my brother’s place with me (not sleeping well, homework, next morning drop offs – these are their comments to me). They agreed and seem very happy with this suggestion. It will reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed with options, and for the time being, probably best for them. No problem with this night moving to another night.
The kids seem to agree that staying at my brother’s during the week does not work.  Now I can stay at home in my own bed with my honey.  Thanks for understanding.  If I tell you that I miss the kids a lot, I think you might believe me.  See my white flag?  Is it distracting you from my actions?
In the above, I say “for the time being” because I very much want them staying with me, but this is a ways off. Before they would consider staying with me, a first step is meeting my girlfriend, and I think they should do so. A while back, you had offered to support this. I think it is better for them knowing they would meet her with your knowledge and approval. Please let me know your thoughts. If you are not comfortable in supporting this, which I understand, then I will come up with a plan / suggestion and share with you prior, then propose to the kids. I think we just need the initial meeting to have happen – it will take a lot of the mystery out of things for them. I am open to your suggestions and thoughts, I know this is a big topic for all.
It is time for the kids to meet my girlfriend, whom I live with, as you know.  That way I will not have to divide my time between them all.  Not that I am putting the kids first.  Obviously.  It would be great if you could figure out the logistics of all of this.  I don’t want to.
I still plan on doing school drop offs, if they would like, and when I am not travelling. Our son has told me he is not doing early morning drop offs this year – so this would allow me to plan two mornings with later starts where I could take our daughter and then even walk with our son. Could you please confirm this is ok with you. I’ll put these in my agenda, and it would be great if you might ask them the ideal time on each of those days (typically) so to standardize it. If my schedule changes due to a work meeting, I’ll let you and them know in as advance as possible.
Waving the white flag still.  Do I look like a good dad yet?  You can be sure that I will cancel often but will let you know the morning of.
On some Tuesday nights I would like to come watch our son play hockey if I can make it. Can you pls share some details of his practices.
OK, so I offered.  Is that good enough?
Regarding my weekends this Fall;
Work is really complicated and hard right now. More than ever and this Fall is going to be insane. I have spoken about it to the kids to give them some context of what I manage. They were very receptive and supportive. They clearly understand that although I am not living with you, I am still supporting all of us and work is a reality that sometimes I can’t bend.
Work comes first.  Always has always will.  The kids know you are a lazy mother and should be out getting a job so that I can stop giving you money.
Sunday Sept 13, I fly to the big UK city that evening, so will have to drop kids off around 4pm.
Oops.  Have to bring the kids home early.  I know you won’t mind.  May as well bend over and lift your skirt too.  I am providing all your money don’t forget.
Friday, October 9th, I am coming back from the big North American City at 9pm that night. I would like to pick the kids up Saturday morning if that is OK with you.
I will have been away from my girlfriend for a whole week.  Have to get my rocks off first.  Again, thanks for understanding and recognizing where your money comes from.
For the weekend of Oct  24/25 – I am away that week for travel from the Wednesday onwards. Would you be open to switching a weekend with me, and I could do the weekend prior (the 17 / 18). If not – I will have to organize something but my hope is that we can work on an alternative together.
I will switch me weekends.  See, I want to be with the kids.  And because I pay for your life, you will organize the babysitter, right?  And have I distracted you enough with this email and the others that you have not figured out that this particular travel is actually a vacation week?  I hope you don’t see through me.  I deserve to take a vacation.  Again.  Without the kids.  What more do you all want from me?  And you know I have to lie about it right?  You get so mad at me that I have no choice but to lie.  It is all your fault.
For the weekend of the Nov 21 /22 I am away for that weekend and the whole following week dealing with production in Asia – back on the night of Friday the 27th. Would you please consider switching with me so I can see them on the 28/29 ?
Again $$ = you will do what I say.
For my birthday – I have to leave for the big UK city on Sunday Dec 6th – back on the 9th. So it is a non issue – we can share a meal another time.
Whatever.  I am going to spend my birthday in London.  Suckers.
For the Holidays – If I understand correctly you would like them with you the week of Christmas and I would take them the following week with me to the cottage. If so – I would pick them up on Monday morning the 28th please – because we might try to take my parents South, and the weekend of the 26/27 they are with you.
I have forgotten that our agreement says you have the kids for Christmas this year.  Convenient that I can spend it with my girlfriend.  We will probably take my parents to the Caribbean where my girlfriend’s parents have a place.  You know, the one where I have been twice in the past 5  months.  Hope you haven’t figured out that my trip in October is back to that place.  Yes, this will be instead of spending time with the kids.  Oh, and if our divorce is final by then we may as well get married at the same time.  No issue with the fact that our kids have yet to met their step-mother to be.  
March Break week looks good for now – but I will have to confirm later with you as I am unsure of my work travel right now.
March break?  Fuck you really are busting my balls.  I will say yes now but by the time all of my vacation time has been accounted for, there will be none left by then.  
I will always do my best to see them. They are on my mind all the time. Work is entering a new reality as the company prepares for a big transition over the next 3 years. I have been promoted to a higher up position and my boss will  take on new challenges. My package has yet to be offered to me, but I am hopeful it will be a bump in salary so that I can pay for the Kids School without depending on my parents, and pay off some of all the debt each month.
Good dad alert!  See me!  See me!  You know work is the priority.  It pays you, right?  Good.  I don’t want you to forget it.  I got promoted and of course I will get a raise.  But if I distract you enough, you won’t notice.  Oh, and not only am I supporting you, but so are my parents.  
ex-beloved

Gotta Get Up

You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

~ Pink

I look back and wonder how I did it.  How did the heartbreak not crush my soul to pieces and leave me to rot somewhere between the sheets?  How did I manage to drive the car?  How did I do my job and no one seemed to notice that there was this monumental shift that had happened to me, inside of me?

My kids.  And my dog.  All three of them made it so that I had to get out of bed.  They were my forward drive.

We live in an apartment.  A curse and a blessing.  A curse when the temperature is so cold that when you breathe in, you feel the ice crystals form inside your nose.  A curse because I could not just let the dog out into the backyard to write his name in the snow.  A blessing when we receive feet of snow and I do not have to shovel it.  A blessing when the wind howls past our top floor windows and I am reminded that not only does heat rise, but it is also included in the rent.

On what seemed like the darkest and coldest of mornings, I would drag my broken, crushed heart out of bed.  I would make sure that the kids were up and getting ready for school.  I would trade my pink striped pyjama pants for the grey sweatpants that were getting so big around the waist I practically had to double knot the drawstring.  I would pull on my cream, cable knit hat, and dawn my matching downfilled parka.  With my scarf pulled up to my nose, the dog and I would venture into what I imagined the arctic tundra would feel like.

I would curse him.  Ex-beloved.  On those cold walks in the early morning.  It would be -30 degrees celsius and all I could think about was how he left.  He left me with everything.  I had to do it all on my own.  The kids.  The dog.  Even the shit.  He literally left me picking up the shit, all by myself.

Without my kids, without my dog, I do not know what would have happened to me.  Maybe I would have spent more days in bed?  Maybe less?  Without the kids, I would have had a “real job”, and that would have been my forward drive.  The force that got me out of bed.

But the kids were my job.  The kids are my job.  Everyday I get out of bed for them.  Not only to take care of them, but to enjoy them.  To laugh with them.  To cry with them.  To celebrate their successes.  To share in their frustrations.  To watch them continue to grow into the wonderful young adults I have spent years devoted to.

I would do it all again.  The heartbreak.  Because of them.  I would not risk changing one thing in my past to have avoided this heartbreak.  To do so would put their existence at risk.  So I would do it all again.  For them.

And for me.