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Dust Settles on a Marriage

I felt gratitude for my ex husband choosing to leave me.  If not for his choice, I would not have the life I have now.  My kids in the car were happy, as far as teenagers are willing to express such happiness.  I had this overwhelming hope that their father was as happy about our marriage ending as I am.  It was a genuine moment of gratitude toward him and a moment where I hoped he had the same joy and optimism toward a new future that I do. 

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Filling Out Forms

I'm doing it.  I've started this before.  There were many befores, but I'm doing it. The first before was because I was angry and I had no options.  I excused that away because I decided I wouldn't finish what he started and I never wanted.  I stopped.

Another before was started and then stopped when I decided I wouldn't be the person he wanted to make me into. I would be the wife I wanted to be, no matter what kind of husband he was being.  That lasted 11 months.  I tried. I won't say I failed.  I allowed another dream to replace the one that no longer served me.

There were plenty befores when I felt rage or pain or loss and I didn't know what else to do.  The action I took was no action.  I wouldn't allow a feeling to force my hand. Feelings come and go, but a choice I make is one I get to live with.

This moment right now will not become a before.

I'm not angry.  There's no pain. Last night I learned something that was shocking and could have been painful but it was more irritating.  How dare a husband of mine disrespect me on such a visceral level?  It wasn't even about him, but the label I gave him when I gave him my hand and the disgust I felt.  At the end of the day, I chose to make that boy my husband.

This is not about the person I'm dating. I'm not actually dating anyone special. There hasn't been anyone on a date with me that was blog worthy for a while. It's not that serious. Only one man has made it to a third actual date and he didn't get number four because by then, his really sexy Italian accent wasn't as hard to comprehend.  I started to actually understand what he was saying and I couldn't continue dating him. Just no and ewwww.   No one else has made it past a first date, and my crushes were just crushes and wonderful for what they were. Would I have ever introduced either one of those boys to my kids? No.  It was never even considered.

Six days ago I imagined a perfect day. For the first time, I was able to imagine being at a river with someone else.  I thought about the shimmer of the sun reflected on flowing water and radiating painfully in my eyes.  I could smell the sunblock and feel the warmth of the sun.  I could hear laughter and imagined being in a place I've never been, surrounded by people and not on my own.  I imagined waking up with someone, and bumping around a kitchen to make breakfast together.  I pictured a hike with someone and sharing an afternoon and sunset on the pier with someone, followed by walking along the sand in deep conversation under a bright and full moon.  I could hear the crackle and smell the burning wood while cuddled under a blanket around a beach fire pit.  In all of this, I wasn't imagining being on my own, but with someone special.  It's time.  I'm ready for my divorce now.

I won't lie, I've been putting it off all week.  Every time I sat to fill out the forms, it didn't feel right.  I had things on my mind at work, and couldn't get it done on my lunch.  I had homework to help with and things I needed to do that became more important throughout the week.  I'm doing it now.  I'm filling out forms.  I have two more to bang out before I start drafting that motion.  What makes it right in this moment is I have my boys with me.  My older two are happy and gaming, and I can hear the music from their games and the occasional geek out.  My little one is playing and running to me to share whatever new thought crosses his mind.  A house full of my babies, and the sounds of who we have become are what have been missing.

I'm excited about the next phase in my life.  I have been sitting in this moment and fully appreciating what it means.  I want more intention in this moment than there was on my wedding day when I thought, "shit, am I really doing this?  What the hell, let's do it." There may one day be another wedding.  If there is, it will include my family and not just three people, with one of them objecting.  I chose to marry him, and even though it wasn't my desire, I took his name.  I am the only woman to marry into his family that has his name.  I may  be the only woman in his family with his name.  I'm not sure what his sister and cousin did when they married their husbands, but I don't really care either.  I get to reclaim my birth name.  I am the only person on this planet with the power and ability to divorce him.  I get to divorce my husband and as his wife, it is the last mess of his I will ever have to clean up.  Whatever children he decides to have won't fall under the shame of my broken marriage.  He always wanted a daughter and I never wanted to give him another child. I don't have to live with what he felt for the surrogate daughters I carried for another family. I can be at peace with what I did with my body. When I'm asked about my marital status, I will no longer be in marriage purgatory and separated without a legal separation.  I will be divorced and I will be single and I'll only be connected by our boys.

I feel peace.  I feel empowered.  I feel joy.  I feel alive.  I feel hopeful.

It's a great night to be me.  I'm going to finish filling these forms out before bed and I anticipate pleasant dreams.

Open Wounds

There was blood on the floor from the gash gaping gore Licking the edges itchy with healing

tang of salted copper pennies

Bite of flesh digging deeper in rage lust vengeance

I want to feel what I need to inflict

Anger angst apathetic vices

you are full of fire and cold embering flames

expired heat and disgust replaced desire

Wrath lashes through dull warm beer haze

And I spit with spite at the little bitch you've become

Washing hands clean

scalding boil of lye and fat

scraping remnants of memories to clear away the decay of your existence

leaving gone and still going

And I call your name one last time

Pussy

Unringing the Bell

Sometimes it would be amazing to unhear or unsee something.  A chance at a do-over is the stuff of great novels and daydreams.  We all want to take something back and start over.  Sometimes it's impossible.  Sometimes you can use the point where it all fell apart as a launch pad for something new and deeper. The devastation I felt when my husband left me was traumatic but there is value in it.  I have learned so much about myself and I have found true joy in who I am.  There was a cost but I didn't expect the payout to touch so many various areas of my life in such a ginormous and beautiful way.

In 2012 I was hospitalized with my last surrogate pregnancy for about a month.  At 25 weeks gestation, a regular check up with the neonatologist showed that my cervix started funneling and the twins were trying to come out. Well, more like my body wanted to force an eviction. I've always been blessed with fairly easy pregnancies and contractions I couldn't feel until I was about ready to push. Why else would I be willing to be pregnant 6 times? I was planning a pedicure and Target trip that day but I was told to head straight to the emergency room. I couldn't stop at home for my laptop or Kindle or even extra panties.  I was in a hospital bed from week 25 until week 29 when they were born.  They eventually left the hospital and then the country.  During that time I was on complete and total bedrest, and allowed to take one 5-minute timed shower while sitting.  The rest of the time I was stuck having nurses give me bed baths, and I spent a week in the trendelenburg position.  This means my bed was tilted so I was laying upside down at a 45 degree angle to keep gravity from doing what is natural.  I will always feel like I could have done things a little differently to keep them in longer and give them a stronger start in life.  I can see most would imagine I did enough, but believing there is always more to do and that I could do a better job is just who I am. I deal with it.  You should too.

This time of being forced away from my family reset things for me.  It gave me a do over. I realized that motherhood was a gift I was squandering in superficial ideals of what I should do and what I should be while my kids suffered my short temper because I couldn't possibly do it all and be happy about it at the same time.  I came home and things changed.  I decided I would be the mother my children deserved, rather than the mother I wanted to be. I started putting their needs ahead of mine and the desire to whine about it settled into a version of peace for me.  I stopped feeling defeated because I felt what it was like to not be able to sleep with my kids near me and steal random hugs whenever I felt son sick and needed a refill.  I never imagined it as preparation for shared custody.  I saw it as patience when I needed it and compassion when they did.

In 2005, my oldest was 4 years old and nonverbal.  His pediatrician with too many letters behind her name told me he would talk when he was ready.  At the time I was a teacher's aide at an elementary school and had a friendship with a speech therapist.  She suggested I ask the school district for an assessment.  His assessment was the same day as his first IEP.  I took him for the appointment and the team asked me to come back in a few hours and bring the whole family.

A few hours later I was there with the ex and our two boys.  They psychologist played with our kids on the floor while the rest of the team explained what autism is and that it was in our home.  They explained the characteristics to us and I right away made the connection that they were describing everything Kid2 does as well.  From the floor, the psychologist told us that in her professional opinion, Kid2 was also on the spectrum and his characteristics were more severe than Kid1.  Kid2 was still 2 years old and an official diagnosis wouldn't come until later. Autism spectrum disorders can often look like normal toddler behavior and while it may seem like everyone has autism through some sort of connection, they really don't like to hand out labels unless they have to.

My emotions were swiftly all over the place.  Before I left that meeting, I had cycled through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression) and I was at acceptance. Every thought and action for the next few years became, "But how do I help my boys?" I had to field the questions from family, making them feel better about what it was like for me to raise special needs kids because somehow the stigma affected them even though I was the one dealing with meltdowns and being a bad mother in the eyes of everyone around me.  It was a long time before I allowed myself to mourn the loss of expectations that were born with my kids and died in that meeting.  I would deny myself the freedom to revisit those stages and emotions because it wasn't productive.  I would instead go through a moment of sensory integration messes like poopy painting on the walls and floor and beg others to envy me in snark and frustration, not realizing that there really are women that would give anything for the work I faced in place of the grief they felt.

There are fewer expectations and more pleasant surprises. I was told my middle son would never even say, "Mom." I smile when he has long conversations about Nintendo or tells me how loved he feels.

My boys are still autistic.  That doesn't go away or fade into the background.  It's in our face with meltdowns from time to time. We do our part to make others autism aware, it just doesn't look like stickers and ribbons.  I'm usually good at knowing where their limits are but I constantly remind them that they need to communicate their needs.  I don't mind cutting a day short, but I mind knowing they pushed through a day of torture because they felt my needs were more important than theirs. I will always run the risk of a total melt down with violence if I try to change routines too drastically without plenty of warning and coaching along the way. The difference is they have learned ways to regulate how they feel and they have learned how they are expected to behave in society.  It's not a perfect formula but it's one we have all learned to work with.  At the same time, I am at peace with the idea that they prefer to be home at all times because it's a routine they can predict.  It's structure they crave and when they are calm, we all have peace.  That is until Kid3 has a meltdown. He doesn't understand he's not capable of competing with what his brothers have already done before he was born and the part of me he is poking with a stick has long since been broken and looks at him with pity and amusement.

Would I ever unring this bell?  Probably not.  Of course I'm Mom and would love to protect my children from every moment of suffering.  The reality is they are often blessedly oblivious to most social slights. I'm the one that sees more than I should and I may or may not have wanted to cut a kid because of it.

There are things about being a special needs mom I would never give up.  I'm an advocate.  I know how to fight for my kids.  I have.  I've won.  Fighting Like a Girl and Pulling Punches is all about what my kids have taught me. It has made me grow in patience and empathy.  I'm the person that won't judge the mom with the crying child in a grocery store because I know that child is probably hungry, tired, uncomfortable and bored. I know that parent has been doing all they can think of to do for their children while doing what they need to do in order to take care of themselves and be the parents they want to be.  We all try to do what we think is best for our kids.   Being an autism mom has made me an optimist.  I will always look out for the best in a bad situation and find the silver lining because that is a necessity in the life we get to live.  We have to stay positive because it's not just our joy on the line, but that of the children we are blessed with.  Their peace and sense of self comes from me.  I'm responsible for the inner voice that I've helped shape from their infancy. I'm responsible for their ability to navigate the world outside of our home and the thickness of skin that protects them from discrimination and aggression.

As for Kid1, he has the ability to see the world with a fresh perspective that takes each part separately and examines it carefully before putting it all back together.  He has a gift for art that is detailed because one of his superpower characteristics is to fixate on one thing to the point of mastery.  He amazes me with how he sees things and the specific diction with which he describes things.  One of his loves is my mashed potatoes.  He's always called them "smashed potatoes" because that is what I'm doing when I make them.  (Not much in my kitchen came out of a box until recent months.)

Kid2 is completely guileless.  While he would love to lie, he's often incapable of it. He has an open appreciation for affection.  He understands the value of a great big hug and snuggles that hold you up and together. He loves video games and will research and obsess over them. He's passionate.  He will have moments of joy and laughter and moments of rage.  The only times he is apathetic is when he is experiencing a sensory overload and needs to reset with hugs, and a calming routine. Or when he's being affectionate.

I've heard some lines about special needs parents being chosen.  I call BS on that.  The learning curve has been sharp for all of us, and we haven't quit or died trying, so we're doing okay.  But we're far from the saintly.  We know how to live on call every moment and know that an emergency is seconds away at any given time.  We've been judged for our parenting and had our instincts go against professional opinions and we've been right. Given true respite where someone we trust has our kids, we can let loose and party harder than the average parent.  We know how to accept a break when it's offered and we trust the person that has our kids.  At the same time, not everyone is trusted with our kids.  We're not magical or unicorns, but we learn to choose our battles and let the small stuff slide.  The big stuff will be a bigger battle than you could imagine trying to bargain for.

Right now this first draft is being written with 9 year old Kid3 having a tantrum because I won't allow him to eat Funyuns in my bed.  It's been about an hour of crying, throwing things and slamming doors.  It's part of his fallout when transitions between houses gets to him.  I'm at peace and ignoring him, except when he calms himself enough to talk clearly.  I respond calmly and talk to him at his level while speaking slightly lower than he does until he has begun to calm his voice.  I wouldn't unring this bell.

Jealous Much?

I once read a Maya Angelou book that I loved into worn and dog eared pages. It was weighted with the pleasures of words that resounded deeply in the wistful and angsty corners of my heart.  The most profound (to me) thought she shared was on jealousy.

“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening”

The beauty of online dating is the ability to hide certain details like where exactly I live and work.  That's the benefit of hiding behind a keyboard.  I let potential suitors know I'm available when custody shifts to their capable Dad, and I usually have a couple of offers lined up for Wednesday because that's my first kid free opportunity.  Last week and again this week, I was asked to meet at the California Pizza Kitchen in Burbank.  I work in Burbank and that seems to be the solid choice because it's across from Ikea and everyone seems to know how to get there.

For years it was our place.  My ex and I went there for date nights, and we shared many family meals there.  I went there last week with a lanky guitarist/skateboarder and learned from the staff that still remembers me that it's still my ex's favorite place with the new woman in his life.  I was surrounded by scent memories and nostalgia in a restaurant that has slowly shifted into something new and trendy in shades of my favorite colors.

My date probably had first date nerves, but I wasn't so into him that sharing a first meal with him mattered to me.  He relaxed into the evening when he realized I really don't bite. He had yet to impress upon me the benefit of his presence.  As cocky as that sounds, I am picky.  I'm on four dating sites, and have swiped left enough times that I've exhausted both Clover and Bumble's list of potentials because I've narrowed my criteria and rejected as many as they had for me.  I like a clean shave because that's a preference.  I like fair skin and light eyes with a solid jawline.  At the end of the day, he has to be doing better in life than I am, and not feel like dating is the same as a sex interview and that's where they tend to crash and burn.  I'm very interested in not having to take care of anyone else, and I refuse to date younger men.  As of right now, I have 237 likes on Clover in the past 3 days and 90% of them are still in their 20's. It's a cougar's market.

"No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment."

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I'm meeting someone else at that same restaurant this week.  I hear his insecurities when he brings up my ex.  He wants to compare and contrast but that's not a game I'm interested in. I can hear his need when he tells me how carefree my smile is and that I have a magnetic charm he has wanted to get to know for some time and then he talks about his insomnia.  He thinks he needs what I have but I don't know how to share it.  It's who I am.  He's a bit jealous of the ex and I don't think he can tell I don't care to see that.

I have jealous moments, but it's not for the man my (still) husband has become, but the life we used to have.  It's gone.  We've both changed too much for that history to become a future. I have moments in the bustle of a busy restaurant with friendly smiles and fresh yeasty bread with a crackling crust and the aroma of fresh pizza sauce that catch me by surprise in memories of spilled soda and laughter and even a bit of hand holding when we shared each other's rings. I'm sometimes jealous for the life we shared before this last year changed who I am and forced choices I never imagined I would have to make.  I'm no longer jealous of the woman that called me a horrible mother, an ugly woman and that I deserve how my husband treated me as she spent long nights and days texting my husband and sharing family moments with her children and mine in restaurants and at their workplace, replacing me at my children's birthday parties that are now separate celebrations.  I'm no longer jealous of the in laws that treat her like family and told me I was no longer family because I was thrown away.  I was thrown away.

I think of the ignorance and joy of a life as a wife that never imagined a "what if" or "when . . . I will" because I once had a marriage that didn't have a contingency plan. Our future was camping trips and growing old together and it doesn't look like that anymore.  I'm jealous of the certainty of that.

Worth the Effort

img_0294 I had a birthday party for a friend Saturday night.  I won't get a sitter when I have a date.  That's what shared custody is for.  But I had a party to attend.  It was a party with Persian food and it was full of vegetarian yum and the beautiful art of kabob that satisfied the carnivore in me.  It came at a cost.

My son didn't want to go to Grandma's house, but he agreed if I would make him macarons.  He loves macarons.  He requested orange blossom.  They're a complicated piece of work with very few ingredients.

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I usually use fewer dishes, but I wanted to take pictures.

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At this point, the egg whites have sugar added and a bit of cream of tartar.  I had stiff peaks that stayed put when the bowl was flipped upside down.  The powdered sugar and almond meal were sifted together, then folded into the egg whites.

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Orange blossom water added the flavor and the gel food coloring made it pretty.

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This stream of yum is ready to be put in a piping bag.

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I use silpat mats with parchment over it.  It keeps the bottom from browning too quickly.

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I'm horrible at piping things with a bag. I bang the pan on the counter to release air bubbles. They rest a bit until the top is no longer sticky.

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They've baked and have cute little feet from released steam.

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I eyeball my buttercream.  Butter, powdered sugar, more orange blossom water and gel food coloring.  Normally the cookies would rest but my boys don't allow that.  I already had one thieved away as soon as the cookies were taken out.

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The cookies were made and gone by morning.  (I asked them to save some for Kid3 who thinks they're too sweet.)

The point is the work involved is where you find the love.  I was texting someone last night. It's the new form of dating I'm not sure I like.  Even in casual dating, people want to get to know you and I feel that's the point of going out for coffee and dinner.  I rely too heavily on nonverbal communication and body language to be comfortable with texting.  It skeeves me out when I'm texting someone that says he's willing to relocate from Dallas to Los Angeles for love or when you can't judge the tone of a conversation because it is something that pops up when you are in the middle of living.

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I wholeheartedly believe that if the juice is worth the squeeze, it's not work but anticipation.

My kids have on and off freak outs about my dating.  They are okay and then the anxiety kicks in and they are not. For the most part I keep it away from them.  They won't meet anyone I'm dating unless he's really special and we're talking long term and progressing toward cohabitation or marriage.  I'm still legally married and not at all interested in that right now.  I'm also not into "Netflix and Chill," now that I know what that means. (Yikes!) I try not to piss in my own pool, (to put it in the most vulgar form I can), but that means I'm not eager to date someone that knows my family.  That just feels like descabbing the scars our family faced last year when I was a sobbing mess shattered by a false friendship and deep betrayal. This morning I had a heart to heart with Kid3.  He's worried about a replacement Daddy. I assured him that he has only one Daddy and Mom is just going out to have fun.  He's special to me and someone has to be really special to earn the right to meet him.  He felt better about that.  He was curious about the many alerts and likes I get because my phone goes off all the time and I showed him a couple and pointed out that Mommy can't date the many 20 year olds that like me because that would be creepy. He started laughing with me and we both felt better.

This juice is worth the squeeze but I'm waiting for the wine glass to shine before I pour this mimosa.

Beautiful Sunsets 

 

Friday was a good day at work.  I did a bit of a run around scavenger hunt for toner and was surprised that my security badge got me into places I didn't know I could go.  I learned new things, and I am really digging finance.  I left work and drove to Santa Monica for another glorious sunset.  I live a blessed life.

I walked the pier and saw that friendly photographer that once offered me a free picture and still offers a warm hug and a hot beverage.  He kept offering hot tea and I accepted. I watched people on the pier land small mackerel.  I looked for the seal that appears to prefer warmer weather.  I even watched a man toss back a crab he caught, accidently knocking his drink into the ocean.

I answered a call last night that carried a redemptive value I never thought I'd see. It was a shift I didn't know was coming and it arrived long after I gave up on it. The freedom it brings comes with a weighted burden of the heartache that came as a cost to the person bringing my vindication. After being accused of insecurity and jealousy over a friendship, I was told that yes, my ex left me for another man's wife, and there is something wrong with what the two of them did and continue to do to my family, with blessings from those I once called my family. Being right doesn't always feel good.

I spoke about the ex for the first time in months and it wasn't painful. It was more a dull history lesson with angry highlights.  I'm moving forward and experiencing many beautiful first times in a long time. It tastes like freedom. It smells like aftershave and feels like facial hair and solid muscles.  I waited a long time for that conversation and last night I realized it didn't matter anymore. I don't feel happy about it.  I feel pity.  It sat on my shoulders and as the wind whipped through my hair, I couldn't toss back the weight of disappointment that this woman felt.

I made a last stubborn walk through forceful winds to look for the gamboling seal that often cheers me up, then headed to the parking lot.  I stood in front of Pier Burger and while I felt that dinner should be had, my appetite was gone. I met Patrick with beautiful and haunting blue eyes. He was searching for dinner in the trash in front of the restaurant and I offered him a hot meal instead. I looked in his eyes and addressed him by name.  In his uncertain smile I found the cloying weight was a layer of shame that I was feeling and I let go of that weight long ago.  I could see it in the way he looked at me, that the weight I was starting to shoulder was no longer my burden to carry.  In the glimmer of hope shining in his icy blue eyes, I found my anchor in joy.

Healing, Growing and Helping Others

Lately the power of "no" has been an elusive friend.  She watches me from her corner booth with a dry vodka martini in hand and the solitary light of an inhaled ember that is a beacon in her ephemeral haze of cigarette smoke.  I can hear her laughter cutting into me like a slap across the face that is kissed into tenderness.  My life has been vacuuming away my choices, so I can only see decisions.  These decisions have a heavier weight to them.  There's an honest clarity that we can't always coat in confectioner's sugar and the independence of a choice is shackled in duty when it becomes a decision.  We must do what is right, even if it is not easy.  Especially when we know it doesn't feel good. It's the stress of the last couple of weeks that has had me blogging less, but it's not so much about being busy or distracted as much as I've been holding the choice to be a dutiful "person to ______" as more important than the choice to be selfish for myself.  Right now that means I'm taking on a little too much and processing it all just before falling asleep and the meaning escapes me in dreams but I wake up with hopeful anticipation. Stress relief looks late late night flirting into early morning hours because I can and a nap is never not an option. I'm reminded fairly often that I need to take care of myself first and this late morning while still in bed is me doing just that.

I am mother before I allow myself to be me. It has been a few days of frustration, disappointment, powerlessness, and when I wait patiently, I can even see Grace.  Yesterday Facebook reminded me of what I went through "On This Day" last year. I'm editing out a few names, but essentially I wrote:

May 20, 2015 at 4:29 PM

It's been a rough few months.  I'm not ashamed.  It is part of life.  Alone with the kids at bedtime last night, I was feeling too low to want to read to them.  Kid3 had a tantrum, so I went ahead and started reading.  I keep telling them that giving them less than what they deserve because I might not be happy is a choice and they need to call me on it when I do that.  Kid1 called me on it. It's not their fault life is unfriendly to me right now, and I won't punish them for it.  So I started reading, and as I'm reading, the tears start and so do the sniffles.  My throat gets tighter and the words struggle free and choke with emotion.  They didn't say a word.  They listened quietly and said thank you with goodnight kisses when I got to the end of the chapter.  Their hugs were loving and gave as much as was received.  It's a new day and looking at last night, it encouraged me and right now it's lifting me up a bit. I have great boys.  I want the world to know how great my boys are.

Kid2 is going through a rough patch right now and last night Kid3 blamed their Dad.  It wasn't until after I defended him that I realized how well I'm doing.  At first I was devastated.  I was happy in my marriage and blindsided that he wasn't.  I've found there is true joy in my daily life now that I am single.  There's so much joy that even when situations are out of my control, I can find peace and laughter if I dig deep enough.  I'm learning how to deal with what life hands me in a way that lets me react in making difficult choices and tough decisions without selfishness and greed.  I can hear my son blame his Dad for the family falling apart and I can hear the pain when he feels hopeless in helping his brother.  Hearing his concerns allowed me to comfort him and remind him that I have fallen apart myself and it's a choice to decide you want to get back up.  I reminded him that his Dad is much happier now.  I told him that I've found ways to be happier now and we all just need to find ways to move with what life looks like to us.  I felt the weight of truth in stating that this situation with Kid2 really isn't anyone's fault and that we just need to find a way to help each other feel better and be better.

I saw my cousin and sister late last night and he shared some of the pain from his break up.  I told him I've found my joy in crashing waves and smiling at strangers. I love matching bra and panty sets.  My sister asked who is going to see them and I pointed out I see them in the mirror every day.  I showed them my latest tattoo which is over a year old and we talked about online dating.  In the end, there is good with the bad, and I am having fun with it.  I've found fun on one site and I can let go of the other one.  We made tentative plans to go to Florentine Gardens because that was a club we all went to when we were fledgling adults and it would be fun to revisit.  Mainly we talked healing.

I love my cousin. He is beautiful and feminine and so full of deep love.  I reminded my cousin that he was born at a certain level and lowered himself to be with his ex.  I told him he keeps entertaining his ex to offer another opportunity to get kicked. I did it too. If he stops looking below him, he'll see all of the many beautiful men at his level and above.  He needs to stop looking down and back and look forward.  I told him he may never find closure for the relationship but he will one day find closure for why he thought he needed to allow someone below him to act as if he was above. He wanted to know why his ex would enter another relationship right away and accept an obvious downgrade with worse treatment.  I told him that his ex sees him as better than he deserved which is why he's often the object of aggression.  Say "have a nice day" and hang up. I do.  He looks at what he has and knows it's a downgrade.  He takes whatever he's dished because he's afraid to look lower.

I told my cousin about the many great men I've been meeting and he started to say that I would find someone better than my ex. I don't look to compare him to anyone. Not anymore. He's a good Dad.  He does what he thinks is best for our kids, as far as he can see. We're just no longer together. I compare these beautiful and intelligent men to me. Can we hold a meaningful conversation? I have goals, does he? I'm taking care of myself, is he doing better than I am?  Things are looking better from this vantage point.

I went home and realised the pedestal we place our loved ones on are designed for us.  We just need to look around, up or down, but we'll eventually see where the people we love are placed, and we will eventually see that we don't need to put them in our place because they won't always be willing to set us on their pedestal and their pedestal doesn't always lead us forward. If we're lucky, we can hop from stand to stand, side by side and not feel like one needs to be displaced for the other. And sometimes it's not worth it to date a charity case.  Letting them go and washing off their sticky insecurities can be a little exhausting. That really doesn't refer to the ex.  We're happier apart, and I'm happy with casual dating.

 

The Lonely Hours

There is something about the middle of the night that pulls you out of a deep sleep to remind you that you are in fact alone.  I experienced it early in my separation.  There were nights when I would wake up and the feeling of loss would grip me and wake me.  It was a physical emptiness that squeezes uncomfortably until you can't sleep through it.  It gnaws at your insides because even in sleep, your body knows that something is wrong.  Something at the core of who you are is broken and alone.  Your arms and legs reach out for comfort and you wake because it won't be found in your bed, or your home or any of the other places that once brought peace. I sleep really well now.  The sleep I had during the early separation was much like the sleep I had for most of our marriage.  I was used to staying up with a crying infant or toddler.  I was used to waking up because my autistic kids have insomnia from brains that don't usually slow down.  I was used to waking up and feeling alone in the quiet.  Now sleepiness takes hold around 10 and every single morning, my eyes open naturally around 6.  I wake up and stare at the soft light filtering through the curtains.  I listen to the water flowing from a tiered waterfall into the pond outside of my window.  I hear birdsong in the trees, and the soft deep breathing of the child who is next to me half of the time.  I wake and there isn't a list of tasks to do and expectations to meet.  There is joy and presence for the moment I am in and there is a blessing of wonder and muted excitement.

I was always a light sleeper.  I would hear the soft cries of an infant and wake to tend to his needs. I can still hear the suction from a refrigerator door opening while half asleep when my kids have been sent to bed. I have started to switch my phone to "do not disturb" when I go to sleep because emails and text messages will wake me.  I would like to think I can be counted on to be a friend at any time in an emergency, but not when you are up and bored. For the right person, I would be happy to be boredom relief.  For the right person there would be giddy surprise at a late night call or text. But I don't currently have a right person.

I wake up and most of my dating site messages come in between 2 and 4 in the morning.  I get some likes and emails right around 10 at night.  Early in the morning, I see plenty of people online and looking.   When my kids are with me, those are the times when they need me most.  We're shuffling feet out the door for school, or settling in for the night.  We are sleeping and enjoying quiet moments of hugs and laughter.  And I get pings and bells and alerts because there is someone in need of the busy sounds of life that are filling my home.

When my kids leave, I will often find myself at the beach.  I have always been a water baby, but when I had kids the ocean became a terrifying place where I remembered every time a wave crashed fear into me.  I remembered being in the ocean and the man that worked his way closer to me with each wave until his hands were groping through sea salt and my own innocence.  I remembered the many times my autistic children wandered away and the fear that I might lose a child took that joy and washed it out to sea in a riptide of fear.

When I wake alone, I enjoy the solitude and work on tasks to do and consider what I would like to do.  It's an endless option of finally doing what I want to do and not being accountable to anyone. I can go where I want and stay until I decide I've had enough, and I don't need to make sure someone else is okay with that. I can eat as much or as little as I want and there is freedom in that as well.

When I'm talking to strangers that find me attractive, I hear their list of demands and remain silent.  I hear their constant need for approval and attention.  They want to know that I care about their pictures or how they spent their day and I feel the needy hands reaching and take a step back. They are so self involved that they rarely notice I don't reach out to them or ask more than polite questions.

They like to ask what I like to wear because they have a preference for skirts and dresses that has nothing to do with my sense of style or comfort.  This tells me they are more visual than empathetic. This tells me they will care what I look like to others.  I'm not looking to be recognized for my looks when I have thoughts that jump out and demand attention. I haven't found a worthy audience except this blog.

I hear them ask if I like to cook.  I respond that I like good food, even if I have to make it.  I hear them not say that they need someone to cook for them and care for them.   I don't mention that I make a mean hollandaise and will whip up eggs benedict if the mood strikes.  I don't tell them I cook most of my meals from scratch with fresh ingredients and have a love for French and Italian styles because I don't want to sign up for a relationship where someone else never feels like I might want them to cook for me.  My loneliness is a tender friend to me when compared to servitude and I can sleep at night knowing I'm content with a tuna sandwich for dinner.

Self Confidence and Online Dating

I spent many years as a stay at home mom.  My days were spent chasing babies, cleaning up messes and doing yard work.  The yard work made me happy.  I love fresh dirt under my nails and working up a sweat in pulling stubborn weeds. It was often done in bare feet or running shoes.  Mainly bare feet.  When I went back to work in January, I decided I wanted to wear heels, but it was hard on my calves and I had to work through some seriously solid comfort zone fears. I wasn't used to walking or standing in heels.  I used to be.  I could spend a night dancing in heels at one time.  I still miss my black Esprit Mary Jane pumps with a chunky heel. It was a long time ago.  Pushing Past My Comfort Zones To Reclaim Ownership of my self-imposed value system came with rewards, but the first few days it mainly came with serious calf cramps. I was talking to my regional manager about my shoe issues, and she said she never wants to lose her confidence in heels.  The word, "confidence" immediately shifted my perspective.  It shifted everything.  That was when I really saw that confidence is something you decide you are going to accept as part of your identity. When I was walking without confidence, I had this fear that my ankles would twist and I would teeter and fall.  When I realised it was about confidence, I started walking as if I knew I wouldn't fall because my confidence made the decision that I wouldn't.  The change in my stride made my calf pain go away.  I wasn't walking like I would fall and my muscles didn't have to compensate for my insecurities.

I'm building my confidence in my dating profile.  Funny story:  I set up my preferences based on my type, and someone I know ended up in the search that pops up when I open the app.  He's not my dating option, but he pops up, and I remember his smile and the real life person I know.  For some reason, the views and likes and messages I've gotten since yesterday are all compared to him and they all fall short.  I'm chatting when I'm I get an email or chat window, but they're already rejected based on the person I know in real life.  It's sad.  On the other hand, it was a moment of joy to realise that I'm no longer comparing everyone to my ex.

The app and website are boosting my confidence.  I don't have to go out and turn down polite interest, I can do it from my phone in my pj's while getting laundry done. And there's something that feels good knowing that in 24 hours, I've had over 150 men click through my profile.  The numbers may be average or sub par, but it's far more than I was getting while out and about. Some of them might have read my verbose ramblings and checked out the profile I've plastered with several vapid examples of vanity.  I like reading, "nice smile, " and that I'm a "striking eyed beautiful woman," even if the smiles he can screenshot are all he'll ever see.

Right now my confidence is looking for balance.  The person I was the last time I was dating was intimidating and aggressive.  She was also a bit of a slut. I'm at peace with that.  It isn't who I am now. I'm trying to dial it back a lot and this in between gray area is foreign and frightening.  Besides, I still feel that I am having a great lot of  Fun Dating Myself and I feel I am pretty phenomenal.

There's something to be said about online dating.  I like real life interactions where I don't really pay attention to cars, status, or even looks until a man has said something that makes me want to learn more about him.  In real life, I can feel the guilt when I start to become materialistic, but online it's expected and I'm eased into it without the real life person in front of me to remind me there is a person with genuine feelings before me. The online version has made me look at these men in a different way, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Realistically, I look at profile pictures and the first thought I have is, would I be willing to see this man naked and be attracted to what I see?  It happens in person within the first two minutes, but I can usually get past that.  Getting past my vanity and physical attraction is how many of my long term relationships were born. Online, he won't get a chance to make an impression.  I usually like conversations about interests and likes but online they become a blur.  I'm missing the expressions and cadence in a voice that makes me obsess like I did when I wrote That’s cute, and Getting Back on that Flirtation Bike.

Everyone's profile duplicates each other after a while. The profiles in my searches all have readers and outdoorsy types.  They like children and animals and water.  They want someone fit and attractive and happy.  And they all make insane amounts of money. The woman they are searching for needs to be driven and make him a first priority.  So many of men want to show women a great time, snuggle and travel the world. I'm just hoping to find someone that's already survived their midlife crisis, but I won't add that to my profile. They like motorcycles and fast cars, and I can't help but remember I'm not dent proof and will lose in a car fight and become a victim to their need for speed.

I find lots of really driven men that have worked so hard on a career that they missed the part about starting a family, or stayed in a relationship for longer than it was working.  I was in a marriage that I thought was working.  I get it.  I was putting our kids before my career and now I'm starting over, but on my terms.  I'm not the financial powerhouse I plan to be one day.  That confidence will grow once I start a career path that I'm designing, and not one that I'm trying to fit into, and once I find work I can be passionate about.

I can't help but see the lack of confidence on these profiles.  It's not always obvious, but it is often shy and insecure in the last line of an open invitation.  It's in the pictures of places they've been and their pets, children and cars, instead of a bright and wide smile.  It's hiding behind sunglasses as if they can't imagine anyone getting lost in their eyes.  It's in their disdain for a sales pitch they know is a sales pitch that they aren't fully confident of. I'm just as guilty, talking about the places I like to go and feeling like I may be padding a resume while I do it.  At the same time, I'm not advertising my blog and a full visual of what makes me who I am.

I am being honest though.  That is huge for me.  I'm not lying in my profile or in private messages.  I have no reason to because I'm not ashamed of who I am or what my life looks like right now.  I'm not even lying about my lack of gainful employment.  Go, me.

Having Babies as an Act of Faith

When I was younger, I didn't see myself having kids.  They were messy and demanding.  I didn't even see myself getting married when I met the ex. I liked picking my date each night and it was like putting on a persona with each of them because I was good at being what I thought they wanted.  It was lots of dress up and pretend and nothing was too serious.  Okay, so keeping track of who I was dating and what I wore on each date and where we ate or what we did required more work and brain power than it was worth, but I was happy to do it for as long as I did. And once in my lifetime is enough to teach me I prefer dating one person at a time because I'm happiest when I'm obsessing over one person at a time. Even when I got my fertility tattoo, it wasn't about procreation, but about fertility in thought and creativity. There was something that felt right about the ex.  I didn't see an endless fantasy of right now and fun, but a lifetime of caring for each other.  We spent the 6 months we dated doing a lot of night fishing and making wishes on falling stars.  I felt I could live like that for the rest of my life. I saw something special in him that made me feel like it would be good to bring children into the world that would learn to be just like him.  The dream in my head didn't pave the course of our reality.  I had no idea that children would change everything, including how much I would want to avoid large bodies of water, or how much their wants would guide my actions.

There was something so amazing about getting called by the doctor's office the day after a routine physical to tell me I was pregnant.  There was excitement and I was inexplicably happy about something I wasn't sure I wanted just the day before.  The ex was right next to me when I got the call and from the bits and pieces he could hear, he understood and the news made him so happy he cried.  Every bout of morning sickness was silly and fun.  I laughed after I puked because it happened so rarely.  He went to most of my prenatal visits for that first pregnancy. We explored every single stretch mark that traced the growth of my belly and the life blooming within me.  I developed the pregnancy cradle, where my hand was constantly drawn to my belly, to touch the child that I knew was there because I was told he was. It's often how I can tell if someone else is pregnant.  We want to touch our babies, even when they are only our secret.

Once Kid1 was born, the reality of how unmotherly I was really set in.  I had sisters and in laws and my own Mom at the hospital, coaching me to support his head, and burp him gently.  My nurses had a firmer hand, and they had their own pitying looks to depart with.  I didn't feel like I might know what I was doing until he was a few weeks old and one of the wise sages telling me what to do couldn't calm him, but I did.  Her inability highlighted the fact that for his whole life, I had been doing what she told me I was doing wrong, and he told me I was doing it right.

After Kid1 and Kid2 were diagnosed with autism, we found out we were having Kid3. At the time, the odds were somewhere around 1 in 150 kids would be diagnosed with autism.  Six months ago, Autism Speaks was holding that statistic at 1 in 45 according to the newest government survey.  Either way, I was two for two and probably had some insane gambling luck I should have tested out. Our families gave us a hard time about a third child we couldn't afford. Some time when I was defending our choice to risk a third child with autism and not terminate a surprise pregnancy that I wanted, I realised what a true act of faith having children can be.

Bringing life into a world full of death and pain on the news and world wide is an act of faith.  You have to believe that there is enough good in the world to keep your child safe.  There is no way to be within arms reach of your children for 18 years, so you have to trust that there will be friends, family, teachers, clergy and strangers that will not harm your child, although they will have opportunities to. You have to believe that in your life, you will be the example of a person that will contribute to society, rather than take advantage of society and the weaker ones that make up our society.  You will want to give every benefit of your labor to your children while instilling generosity in their gratitude, and a servant's heart to give of themselves as well.

In being a surrogate mother after my three children were born, I was acting out faith that each of my three couples will continue finding ways to consistently choose to love each other.  In agreeing to carry their children and go through fetal testing, I had to believe that months of shooting hormones into my hips wouldn't end in a terminated pregnancy and the emotional burden of turning my back on all of my beliefs about abortion.  I was believing in my ability to safely bring children into the world and to send them off and potentially never know how they are doing and what kind of people they will become.  My faith was based on the love and care they offered me as their surrogate and I have no regrets. I quietly remember each birthday and reminisce through each scrapbook I put together for each pregnancy from time to time. I don't miss the children, but the feelings of love and hope that met every phone call, meeting and shared appointment.  I miss the friendships of parents that would never have met me in a perfect world. It was amazing to have a cheering section and experience all of the joys of pregnancy with none of the worries outside of a happy and healthy child or set of twins.

I believed in the covenantal bond of my marriage being a cradle of nurturing that would see our children into adulthood.  There's been a necessary shift, and now my belief is that as parents, we will do what we can to ensure the emotional wellbeing of our children, even if I can't see or talk to the ex without having to quiet my rage.  I forgive him but it's a choice and I'm still letting go of my anger because my emotions are not chosen. I have to feel them as they flow through me, and choose to redirect my passionate rage into open hearted joy. I believe that no matter what I face as a single parent, there will always be enough of what we need.  For 50% of their lives, I will have to be both parents and that means putting my selfishness and unease aside, even if that means allowing their boundaries in my home.  I have to give them space to be and allow the idea that growing up means allowing them to grow away from me, in the way they have since birth.  And it means I will have to accept that there will be times when they will need me to coddle and support them because the great big changes in their lives can at times be bigger than they can handle.  I have to put my pain aside for their needs, and believe that it is what is best for them, even if for a while, it goes against what my selfishness needs.

As much as I love being pregnant, I'm not sure another child will come from my body. Yes, I'm talking about a seventh pregnancy. Birth control pills did their worst and gave me pulmonary embolisms.  It's a side effect risk and I am quite good at odds, apparently. I will never be able to go on hormonal birth control again. I am fertile and a pregnancy would be high risk.  And yet I don't believe in abortion. That just means one day I will find myself in a complicated conversation and today I don't have to make any decisions.

What I do believe in is the good in children and I have 6 siblings through adoption.  I would adopt.  I believe in children, even if I have days where I can't believe in me. The best part of adoption is teaching a person that they were not a surprise, but a perfectly planned and chosen member of a family that was missing them. Birth parents in this way have honored us in their selfless sacrifice. I love being part of an adoption family. 

 

 

Ambulance Ride

My first ambulance ride was about 9 years ago.  There were no lights and sirens.  The seatbelts were tucked into the bench and I held my little boy's hand as the ambulance drove from County USC Hospital to Kaiser Sunset.  He was stable and he was being transported for observation. Kid3 was 8 months old.  I didn't process the fact that there was standing water in the bathtub or that it could be a hazard to the baby crawling on the floor. He wasn't walking and I didn't know he could pull himself into the bathtub until he pulled himself into the empty tub about a week later.   Kid1 was home alone with their Dad and had his hands in the tub with a Lego Boat he wasn't even allowed to play with when his brother was awake because Legos are an obvious choking hazard.  When I got home with Kid2 and Kid3, I was unloading groceries and the ex was running out of the door.  We had one car at the time and he was ready to escape the moment I walked in.

I was having a tickle fest with Kid1 when Kid2 started tugging on my shirt.  My nonverbal autistic 4 year old son saved his brother's life.  My baby was in the cold water on his back, arched and blue faced.  I pulled him out and tried to remember CPR.  I took the classes and knew the drills but in that moment I forgot it all. I pushed on his little belly and water flowed out of his mouth. I didn't realize I could have made things worse if he had aspirated that water.  I was frantically screaming for someone to call 911. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to help me. I was home alone and so helpless.  I didn't have neighbors to call on because they saw too much. We didn't invite them in because they saw enough from outside.  I found a landline phone with my limp son in my arms and called for help.  The ambulance came and the paramedics took him away.  His chest was rattling in air and he was otherwise unresponsive. We only had one car at the time and I was stranded at home with two children.  I waited until my sister came, or maybe it was my mother in law.  I just know that I waited for them and the ambulance took my son.  One of the fire trucks stayed, then took me to my son.  It was agonizingly slow.  They obeyed all traffic laws and carefully kept an eye on me because I was a caged animal.

My house was a mess.  I had been at the store, and my major clean up day at the time was Sunday evening. (They go to their Dad on Wednesday, so that's my new day.) I was tickling my son and preparing to get to work.  I picked up here and there throughout the week, but caring for two children, aged 5 and 3 with sensory integration dysfunction and a crawling 8 month old that started walking at 9 months meant my house was a disaster.  Dealing with the messes on my terms meant I was angry a lot less and able to play with their trains and Playdoh. It meant not freaking out over yogurt on the ceiling and peanut butter on the walls.  It also meant the house was a hazard. I didn't have help and it was less stressful to not invite people over.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was held at a distance until they were sure I wasn't trying to kill my son.  It was standard practice for the situation.  They see that on a regular basis and had to imagine the possibility that I could do the unthinkable because other mothers had thought it. They interviewed my family and neighbors.  They asked if there was abuse in the home and my Mom later asked if there was because she suddenly wasn't sure what she had seen and what I had said because I was not living like the daughter she raised, spitting fire and raging at the world.  I was in someone's shadow and I was still defending my position there.

My neighbor across the street expressed her concerns about the times I was yelled at or other times she saw anything that wasn't love.  She saw power and aggression and she reported what she saw and for years I didn't want anything to do with her because she saw what I refused to acknowledge.  This is the same neighbor that filmed what my ex took out of the house when he left and offered to call the police for me.

Two days ago my chest pain was extreme.  I couldn't stand up straight and the band of pressure was squeezing me painfully like I was placed between two icy plates of stone.  For a person that has willingly given birth 7 times, I can say I never want to relive the sensations I felt Wednesday. It was hard to stand, and I was slick with sweat.  I called 911 and stayed in bed, barely pulling on yoga pants and a tank top. I asked Kid3 to help me and get dressed and I've never had his obedience react so swiftly in the months since I've become a single mom.  When they arrived and asked me to sit up for them, I vomited in a waste basket as several paramedics watched and checked my vitals.  They moved sticky contacts from my chest to my legs to get the best possible reading. I was given pills to chew and a spray under my tongue because I was presenting as a heart attack, and they checked the important things.  I was given baby aspirin.  I had to take it during IVF because studies show baby aspirin helps keep you pregnant through the first trimester of an IVF pregnancy and it's not a taste you forget. It was becoming clear to them it was probably stress, but still felt I needed the lights and sirens on the way to the hospital.

It's different when you're the patient.  Normally I'm hyper aware of everything, but there was a haze of activity.  I don't know how many paramedics arrived.  I don't know what I was given. I remember being put in a chair and being bumped up a flight of stairs and out of my front gate in a bed that was a chair but was a bed because that felt better to me. I didn't even notice being swabbed before  I was stuck so they could check my blood sugars. I just know that my neighbor across the street held my son's hand and called my family.  She met me at the hospital and took Kid3 to his Dad for me.

My nurse asked about my stress levels. I told her it probably was just stress.  I explained the way my life looks right now and that I was sending my kids to be with their Dad.  It's the same stress I've had for months but some days are harder than others. At some point I was given Ativan and the giggles started before the pain subsided and I drifted off to sleep. They should bottle that stuff and call it happiness because it was like being drunk only I wasn't and it was like being high . . . which is probably why it's not handed out like candy or sold over counters.

Right when I was being discharged, my Dad picked me up.  My neighbor still checked on me throughout the night and into the next day.  I have good neighbors and I owe her homemade brownies or something equally less stressful than macarons or homemade toffee. My Mom and Stepdad came by.  My sisters have been calling me.  I feel loved and cared for.  I am loved and cared for.

I've been resting for the last couple of days. I've been sleeping when I feel I need it and I've replaced coffee with cocoa.  The only marathons I'm contemplating are on Hulu and Netflix.  I may start a Xena Warrior Princess Marathon because I loved that show when I was younger.  And Star Trek because . . . Well, no explanation is necessary, but I'll be sipping Jasmine tea because I don't like Earl Grey.  So now my geek is showing but it is who I am.  I'm still happy.  My joy wasn't stolen. I just need to give my body the rest it needs when the stress builds.  I could've built a castle with my shoulder load on Wednesday and if I'm lucky, there will be no more ambulances in my future.  The next time I see a paramedic or firefighter, I will thank them for their service the way I first started to almost 9 years ago.  I still thank every one I see because of the handful of people that saved my son's life and kept me calm when I was afraid for his life.

 

Being On Guard

I let my kids play on my cell phone.  The worst that could happen is they might ignore a call or text and when they are all with me, the rest of the world matters much less anyway. I'm not setting up dates or sexting with anyone and anything that might upset them gets deleted.  They don't need to see angry texts from their Dad any more than I do. Last night Kid3 swiped left from my home screen and my top Siri Suggestion was the picture of a man I had been texting.  It was nothing too serious, and special enough that while it was what we were making it, I wanted it private and only mine.  He was beautiful and masculine and smart but now he's just a random contact with a great contact picture linked to his Facebook profile.

Immediately Kid3 wanted to know who he was because he could see what I did when I saw that man's face. He wanted to know who was talking to his Mom because the reality of another man taking his Dad's place is something he wants to face with his eyes open. His curiosity was piqued and teased with the sense of intuition that I felt when I knew there was another woman in my ex's life before he decided he was leaving. I knew as much as my son knew in seeing this chiseled face and the smirk of a juicy secret that there was something worth looking at and questioning. I assured him that I'm not dating anyone and the one person that makes me laugh and giggle on a regular basis throughout the day is only a friend. Right now, it's the truth. Honestly it was the truth when we were still texting and I was obsessively analyzing each word he sent. As far into the future as I can see, it will remain the truth until I meet a man worth changing my relationship status.

Yesterday I had 3 kids at the pediatrician.  We were running late and skipped breakfast so when I'm awarded Mom of the Year, I will skip the vending machine breakfast and the fast food lunch on the way to school in my acceptance speech. I forgot to make sure my order was wheat free, and I spent the night in pain. Dharmic balance, right?  I had a small chili from Wendy's and my milder discomfort was chest and back pain that woke me up throughout the night.  Envy me, I dare you. (There is a point, keep reading.)

Lately my dreams each night tend to lose focus by morning and I'm left with vague impressions and generally a good mood. Last night was different and I realized it was in letting my guard down. Usually before bed I rehash what I've done and what my next day will accomplish.  I enjoy flooding my mind with what I want to do and focus on.  My dreams then take on an adventurous flair where I am my own hero.  Sometimes I will have lucid dreams where I'm fully aware that I am dreaming, and I will visit people or have conversations where I am my own tour guide because I know I'm dreaming. In pain last night, the only focus was finding a comfortable position.  My dreams defaulted to the last two men I have wanted to think about lately. I actively redirect my thoughts when they cross my mind, in fact. They were pleasant dreams, but dreams I hadn't entertained in a while with intention.

When you are so driven to protect yourself, the hard shell that covers you makes it hard to see the sunlight and harder to breathe in the beauty around you.  Your vigilance searches for an attack and that search will usually find something, even if it is only in your head.

In my awareness of redirecting my thoughts each night, I lose out on the specifics of happy dreams.  I miss the joy that comes from letting my mind wander into the places where there was happiness, even if that joy is now a series of melancholy memories.

For my sons, one day I will meet someone amazing and I will decide he will be able to meet my kids.  My sons will be hyper aware and looking at this person in comparison to their Dad.  He'll treat me in a way that is better than their Dad treated me toward the end.  They'll see how happy I am and feel guilt because that's how this will play out.  They'll be angry because they can't control these changes in their lives. They won't see that there's someone so great with kids I will trust that he will be gentle with mine.  They will only see the consequences of choices they have no decisions in. They will always be on guard and it will take an amazing man and lots of patience to help them see otherwise.

Today I will not allow skepticism and doubt to rob me of the beauty I might miss.  I will let my guard down and there will be joy and pleasant surprises.

Custom Made Kicks

Greeting a friend, I told her about my week.  It was a good week as far as my weeks go. Still unemployed and Kid3 had been tantruming and banging his head on walls to the point where he gave himself goose eggs, but it was a good week. I did the dangerous and scary and conquered a cliff.  (Rewriting the Past in the Present) It was awesome! The person near us asked about kid3, and I explained the separation is hard on him and sometimes more so than others.

She wanted to try her shoe on my foot.  She wanted to compare her divorce to mine. I wish I could say that no one has gone through what I have, but my story really is a cliche.  Most divorces just are not one size fits all. No one can make any of us feel better for what we do or what is done to us. No matter what, it will chafe and leave you raw in delicate places.

"I know people that stayed together for the sake of the kids.  I didn't.  I decided the fighting was too much.  Is that what you did?"

I wasn't inclined to lie to her.  There's no point.  I couldn't make her feel better about her choices in telling her about mine, so it came out. It was a matter of fact statement that didn't have the energy or desire to hide something I didn't have a choice in.

I ripped off the bandaid and it didn't bleed all over the place.  It was a statement of fact much like telling her my birthstone is amethyst.  It was like saying my favorite color is green.  I was thrown away. It is a fact and nothing could or should be done about it. It is what we've made it and I'm choosing to accept that.

"No.  My husband left me.  He chose what we did and I didn't have a say so.  We didn't decide together. He didn't give me the choice."

I used to feel like it takes two to get together and two to break apart, and for so long I refused to let him go. We didn't fight and I thought we were happy. I didn't know that I should have been looking for it so I didn't see it coming. 

The thought valve wouldn't shut off and I remembered that he vowed to never give me another cent and he's been good to his word as far as the courts will allow.  He took me off of his medical insurance but won't divorce me because then I could request alimony. Years and children and promises became monetary value and visitation and kids that won't answer my call or his for that matter.  I hinted at things in An Open Letter to the Man That Abandoned Me but most of the stuff he's done and that I have done back came out when I was bleeding all over the place on social media or in conversations that always got back to him.  I eventually got it under control enough that places where I was spilling my heart out wouldn't stain his shoes.

Today's thoughts washed over me in icy pain and the shock was real, but I remembered it's low tide, and the bandage that was ripped off didn't take that thick layer of skin with it.  I wasn't bleeding all over the place.  I also wasn't hiding his actions in my shame.  I let go of that shame and I didn't see it happen. It was wrapped around me and must have blown off in a warm wind during a moment of joyful laughter. I don't want his shame back any more than I want him.

I didn't have a choice last year, but last year has nothing to do with the choices I'm making today. There isn't a record book that says I have to take the same path repeatedly. I can offer forgiveness and grace because those are choices, just like we choose to love. Just like I chose to let go. There's sunshine outside of his shadows.  There's lightness and frivolity in me that I thought had died. There's no waiting for him to move on with a new girlfriend, because that's been done and I got through that as well.

Today the floodgates were opened and the torrent that would have washed me away took a handful of moments from me.  There was no blood seeping out of me and left in the places all around me.  No tears were shed and the anger flashed like fire and burned out in pale grey smoke, leaving the acrid smell of destruction, but nothing more. There are no singe marks and the lack of visible destruction shows me how I've grown.

There wasn't a huge emotional fallout, although I did give in to a Mcdonald's craving that is already coating my insides in greasy salt and too much sugar as I raced to finish a strawberry sundae before it melted and hot fries before they turned into cold disgust. That might just be an emotional fallout from the body that is in so much aching pain from that hike yesterday.  I feel like it needs a great big thank you in replacing all of the calories burned.

Shadows and Clarity

We can split our lives into before and after and it would still lack the meaning to make sense. What was before made sense for then.  It was right to do and be and exist in the spaces we occupied. That time of a language spoken without words and thoughts pouring out in hope into the distance between us was everything and all, but is nothing now.  What was then can't make sense now because none of it fits like it once did.  It just doesn't fit. I imagine him now in the spaces of the nothing we share. The vision of time and distance help me see where he was real and large and where he was small. So small and insecure. The shadows looming above him are my creation. The shadows are false armor and his strength was in my shadows of light.  I see where I imagined him as he stands alone and the ripples of memory wash around him, stripping my fake for his real. I was trying to save him when I should have saved myself from him.

This island is my home and the forgiveness that pardons me shines on my skin, warming the cold cavern that once burned with passion. Embers fight the darkness but refuse to burn out. The haze of memories taste of citrus tang, and spin under the light of the moon with blinding clarity.  All I see is what was real and the place he once claimed as home was full of my light and now he walks in shadows I don't care to see.

 

That Time I was the Other Woman

It wasn't on purpose.  It never was.  He was sweet and made her feel like his world was better with her in it.  He wanted her to meet him while he was working because he was always working and she was his happiness.  Her new soundtrack was about the longing and love he made her feel as they sat and talked and kissed in her car while he was on a break. She only saw him at work.  He was on location and she was happy to follow him on sets all over Los Angeles.  He would wrap warm arms around her and lend her his jacket.  She wore Versace Red Jeans and he wore Versace Blue Jeans. It was unintentional but it must have meant something in the signs she was searching for. They would smoke cigarettes together, and he would light hers with the Zippo lighter she bought and had engraved with his name. He always lit her cigarettes in a show of old Hollywood chivalry. His house was in Rancho Cucamonga and too far for her to visit, but he told her she would be proud that he mowed his lawn every weekend.  He only had his kids on weekends and he wanted her to meet him at his house one day - to meet his kids.  His kids were his world and his ex girlfriend wasn't in the picture anymore. His work schedule made it hard to see them anytime but the weekends.

Her friends didn't believe he was real because they never saw him but made fun of his last name and called him Mango.  He was sweet and they gave him a code name she loved.  Her friends saw the shiftiness and wondered why they never saw him.  If he loved her, why was it so easy to stay away from her?

His story began to shift in the days and weeks they dated. Working as a gaffer was hard work and long hours, but eventually he became the supervisor of the security company on most sets.  She didn't question his lies because it didn't matter what he did as long as he kept making her smile. The ex was all the bad in the world.  She was the source of his pain and she took all of his hard work and spent it and didn't care about him.  She went from ex girlfriend to ex-wife in a few dates, because his dishonesty was killing him and he needed her to know that she meant enough to be open and honest.

He met her at her favorite pool hall with his son Michael and brother Jason.  They played 8-ball.  Michael was sweet and shy and happy to be with his Daddy and Daddy's friend.  Daddy kissed his friend, but friends sometimes kiss and it was innocent to a five-year old.

She met him at work and his co-worker told her that he was still married, and she shouldn't trust his lies because his lies were destroying worlds.  She couldn't believe that.  His words brought hope and happiness.  His words made her feel lovely in all of the low places because he wanted her but loved her enough to wait and fill their visits with words and kisses and the kisses were chaste because he respected her.

One day she ran into his brother on a location set.  Jason felt bad that she was so misled and he gave her the honesty his brother was withholding.  She was dating a married man who went home to his wife every night and beat her when he was angry.  She was dating a married man and the proof was irrefutable. Jason took her to meet their mother and unwrapped her Christmas gift in memories through a scrapbook wedding with grand babies. Her boyfriend was the groom and the Daddy and she was a homewrecker.  She was a trollop.

Jason wanted to touch the places she wanted to be touched.  Jason knew how to pull her across a dance floor and wanted to show her what he thought the meaning of life was and it filled the spaces her boyfriend left.

She would never kiss her boyfriend again and dumped him because he had a wife.  The longing and pain were real. He was pretending but it was real to her. She wouldn't see him again, though he begged her and she missed him.  She would want closure because it was a word that meant she might not have been wrong to give him her heart. She would spend weeks feeling like the lowest scum on earth for being with a married man, for feeling like her happiness could justify the destruction of a family.

She would never again date a married man because the point of marriage is that you aren't open to dating. What this boyfriend taught her would settle into solid lines never to be crossed because he taught her what marriage isn't in the weight of what she danced in.  His allusions made her feel beautiful and the unfairness of his lies made her wonder how much was real.

She would settle for a man who wasn't handsome but made her feel desire that consumed them both.  He wasn't successful but she found home was in his arms. She would learn to trust him through the times he betrayed that trust. She would wait in faithfulness through his solid and malicious rejection, until she would decide that she had enough of what he offered and she would want more joy than he could ever give again.

One day she would look up the old boyfriend because cyber stalking is her gift.  She would see that he is divorced and looks nothing like he did in her memories. In 16 years, his children grew into beautiful expressions of their parents.  She could see that the pain he caused them cut him out of their pictures and likely their lives. The shadows of released inhibitions weighed down the happiness in his smile and though he now tips the scale far less than he used to, he stands as though there is more weight on his shoulders.The fading tattoos that were one or two now mapped destruction all over his entire body. She would decide he wasn't worth a hello.

She would continue looking up other ex boyfriends to hold them up and see if she would want them back.  She would decide to keep the memories they gave her but that they weren't worth the friend request. They weren't worth a revisit.  She would pour herself a fresh cup of coffee and daydream about the shape and form of her next lesson with a Cheshire cat smile and joyful anticipation.

Withholding Words: Self Censorship

You may have noticed a missing post.  Or you may not have because I may be overestimating how much my words mean to you because they mean a lot to me.  My words are symbolic of a freedom I'm dancing in. I admit that I'm still walking a line and feeling out my comfort. I censored myself. I'm a really light sleeper with a huge day finally behind me and when I got an alert at 4 in the morning, I stayed up and typed.  It was honest and raw and not entirely pain free, but not what I want my blog to be about.  This is about me.  Mainly me.  It's also about the many ways I've been shaped by relationships that are no longer relevant. It's about me and how I'm crushing this chrysalis, and that last post was more about me and the ex and it gave him more proprietary space on this blog than I want to offer him right now.  One day there will be no fear of what his reaction will be.  There will be no fear in closed spaces with him. There will be no need to forgive him because I will have forgiven him. It was a post about our sins against each other, and maybe in time I'll make it public again.  Just not tonight. Not when I see him in court and the attorney can tell by my body language that a bailiff escort out of the courthouse was appreciated by me. Not when strangers can see my body language shift from confident to fearful in the shift of a gaze. This is my selfish therapy platform where I point out my weaknesses and find gentleness from within with an accountability to a nebulous crowd.

I met a woman at the courthouse.  She introduced herself to me and handed me a card with her name preceded by the word, "Goddess" as the first part of her given name.  She called me Goddess as well.  She asked if I spoke spanish and I admitted I only know enough to get me through a conversation about love or food - the important stuff.  She thinks I should rewrite that memory in San Pedro at the Friendship Bell that I shared about in Water Baby.  I let go of that boy so long ago, that it's faded into good memories and I'm not sure I want to walk over them with new ones. We talked children and beaches and the healing I've found facing the Pacific Ocean under a blanket of stars.  Her beliefs differ from mine, but I could censor my disbeliefs into appreciating the beauty in healing wherever we are blessed to find it.  We talked and her light brought me peace amidst the snickers and phone conversation about me going on a few feet from me.

While I didn't get what I wanted in court, there was grace and an alignment of circumstances that can only be described as favor.  Miracles happen where you look for them.  I was encouraged by four men that looked me in the eye and expressed the value they saw throughout my day.  It was just the pick me up I needed, when I needed it and least expected it.

While I uncover our sins

While you were talking my thoughts roamed into the list, picking apart what to do and when to do it and not worrying where I fit in because I never did. While you were sleeping, I ate while I watched you snore and I cried silently and sometimes I wrote in a journal I tried to hide from you.

While you drove me to the bar and waited in the car for my fun to end, I couldn't see your paranoid control and fear that I would find another person in the drinks with old friends I never wanted to date but I knew it would be my last night with friends at a bar.

While you were running away for weekends of paintball or deep sea fishing or concert tours, I was being Mom to our kids and asking my parents for help with groceries.

While you said we couldn't afford to pay the debts in my name, I managed to pay them without your consent or assistance.

While you were ignoring me, I was escaping into teenage paranormal romance books, because these books didn't have a sex life to be jealous of.

While you were flirting with the waitresses in front of me, I was afraid to look at other men because of the reaction you might have had.

While I was birthing babies, you were kind enough to let the laundry wait for me.

While you were battling food poisoning, I came home from the hospital to make my own dinner after the birth of our firstborn which set the tone and my practice for the other pregnancies.

While you were losing weight and excited to go on adventures, I was willing to walk through Sea World a couple of weeks after our last child and years later Legoland with a c-section scar less than a month old.

While you had lost the weight of a person and insisted on amusement parks, I tried to ease the sensory needs of our autistic children.

While you wanted the fame on stage, you didn't see that we were putting you first and sat uncomfortably in your shadows and darkness.

While you were our leader, I took up the rear to make sure we didn't lose children on adventures because it never occurred to you that we couldn't keep up.

While your words said later for nearly a week and I was stumbling in the dark to do our laundry, I made the choice to step on a ladder and change the bulb myself at 5 months gestation.

While I was on bedrest and you made yourself look like a hero, you forgot to mention the help our surrogate couples hired so you wouldn't have to pick up my slack.

While you were working, I had phone calls and follow ups and exhaustion from lack of sleep because sleep came in the morning when you were gone and I had peace.

While you were getting drunk I was sober and moming and driving and urging you into bed.

While you were raging and breaking cabinet doors, I was raging right back in my mind, afraid to move because of where your rage might have turned.

While you were locking yourself in the bathroom with a knife I was irritated because I knew you wanted my audience, but you didn't care that our kids could see it too.

While you were driving home and not excited to see me and the weight I waited to rest on your shoulders, I was excited because you could see the children destroy all I had done in their artful undoing and I really wasn't sleeping all day - just most of it.

While you were punching cracks into the windshield on the freeway, I wondered how this came from a game of punch buggy.

While you walked through the door, we were happy to see you but we missed the puppy joy mark that was the bar you were setting and you thought we didn't care because we were only matching the joy you showed us in coming home.

While you were hungry and forgetting your wallet or keys or running out of gas on the freeway, I paused my day to rescue you for a moment to be with you and be the hero I hoped you would be to me.

While you ignored my suggestions, I found I could feed them to others and you would actually hear them.

While you complained about money I hid in my Amazon account, I found you were hiding so much more and convinced myself it was your right but guilt and shame plagued my sins against you.

While you were gambling, our son nearly died and the fault was mine because I am his mom even though that tub was filled on your watch and the destruction in the house was a mess you sat in while I took two kids to the grocery store and battled the budget you gave me alongside their wants.

While you had a girlfriend online, I had baby blues that nearly ended our eldest son's life.

While you joked about my being on my phone during our dates, you were tagging me on yours.

While you wanted to snuggle and just be with me, the house wouldn't run itself.  I had to get up and be a wife and mom while you lounged in bed and couldn't hear me not asking for your help.

While you watched television, I was escaping into books right next to you because not being present while next to you was my idea of bliss.  I loved watching Legolas, but couldn't see the point in memorizing a trilogy when there were books filled with new worlds to discover.

While you were trying to impress her and found her so amazing, I was secure that our marriage would survive because in my selfishness I saw my happiness and couldn't see you didn't have any in yours.

While you were waiting outside a concert to drive home an artist that wouldn't even get you into the show, I was being awarded at an Honor's Convocation.

While you were making financial choices I didn't agree with or believe in, I was borrowing from my parents who now trust me on business accounts for emergencies as long as me doesn't include you.

While you were trying your best to not be my husband I was trying harder to be your wife.

While your Christian rap ministry took you on tour, I was home with our children, wondering why you couldn't be that man on the streets in your own home.

While you wanted me to be a wife and only a wife, I fought you each semester and quarter to be more so we could have more, never imagining my new identity would be the one thing you couldn't take and that you would try to destroy all else.

While you were buying three touch screen computers and a WiiU for Christmas, I was giving our sons a welfare Christmas from the Dollar Tree, and they were giving me gratitude and love.

While family and friends pointed out what I couldn't stop seeing, I defended your actions and managed to make them my fault.

While you were working to provide for our needs, I was shopping as therapy for the home I wanted us to build.

While you were figuring out our finances, I was planning on retail therapy in the grocery store.

While you hated my friends, I avoided them for you but you still spent the night out with friends who kept bringing strippers to the house that you spent the night at.

While you shattered who we were, I've been picking up the pieces I want, and smashing to dust the parts meant to die while I find the ways in which to fall together.