Waterlogged Journal; 6/26/15

June 26, 2015

Sometimes, life sets out to humble you. A tidal wave knocks you down, sending you tumbling without knowing which way is up. Your lungs burn from the strain of holding your breath. You ache for air. You surface, inhale, and see another wave. This one smashes you harder than the first. You tumble, weightless and unable to do anything to stop the terrifying ride. Eventually, life spits you out and you land, clinging, on the shore. 

Each breath hurts. You throb and feel the pounding heartbeat in places you didn’t know existed. You’re filled with a mix of anger, disbelief, gratitude, and humility. Now, you are woefully aware of how fragile you are. That single strand of knowledge causes intense pain. It stings. It throbs. Your nerves send lighting bolts of pain to travel down your spine. 

You are insignificant and the center of the universe all at once. It freezes. Racing down the gauntlet of human emotion, you ran as hard and as fast as your broken body can manage. At the finish line, you emerge badly wounded and exhilarated by cheating death. It is a paradox, a profound oxymoron, and a staggering puzzle that manages to make complete sense when the blood and sweat is wiped from your eyes. 

The fragile body that you laid claim to bleeds. Tears pour down your face from overfilled eyes. Scorn radiates from your posture while you shout joyful gratitudes to the universe. A moment. A pause. Fists lifted, angrily shaking at the unseen deity that allowed you to be beaten by the waves, the gauntlet, existence. Hands, folded reverently in prayer, knuckles turning white as lips move in a frantic chant of thanks. 

After unfolding stiff hands, you beg. You please. You make offers of compromise, you beg to trade this current existence for something, anything, else. The adrenaline and shock set in; the body begins to tremble violently. Another loss. Another stumbling block. Square your shoulders, push yourself up. Extend the muscles of your legs into propelling your body upward, pretending the burn, the ache, strain are figments of your imagination. Standing, chest heaving, eyes straight ahead, you will one foot to move. Now the opposite foot. Three small steps. Four. Demanding more, the number continues to increase until you find yourself sanding on your sandy salvation once more. 

The salt breeze whips hair across your face, entwining in your eyelashes and making it impossible to see without rubbing the heels of your hands into your eyes to attempt to clear the strands. The water continues to tumble forward, draw backward. Memories of salt water invading your nostrils demand respect. The inability to tell up from down causes fear to rise in your gut. Courage fuels the taunt muscles that quiver as the white crests crash into your feet. 

It’s another day. Another goddamn beautiful day.

Owl Journal; Entry One

Undated

It is a startling realization to make. You aren’t the crazy one. You are the normal one. What happened wasn’t okay. It wasn’t right. It seems impossible at first. The thought feels like an ill-fitting shirt.

When I think of my childhood, the home that sticks out the most is an old white farmhouse that sat nestled between acres of pine trees. We moved there when I was (eleven?) twelve; a girl balancing on the cusp of adulthood and childhood. It was a terrifying and exciting journey.

We moved right before fourth grade finished for the year. We spent a few short weeks in an Alabama school before a teacher hit my brother. Aghast, my mother pulled us out. We would spend the next school year being driven for over an hour to our old elementary school. In 6th grade, my mom decided to homeschool us. I’ve worked hard to repress memories. They hurt to remember them. Logically, I know I need to sift through and work through the memories. Mentally, I know this is the next step in my growing recovery. Emotionally, I’m terrified.

I used to lie in bed at night and imagine an iron safe. I would give my memories shape and toss them in the box. Memories of harsh words would transform into bubbles. All the things I didn’t want to think about were crammed into my imaginary safe. As I stared at the ceiling, I could picture myself wrapping yards of thick, shiny chains around the safe. I would wrap thick sailor’s ropes and add locks. To make the safe vanish, I would shove it into the depths of the ocean or a never-ending black hole. It would sink into inky darkness, never to be seen again. I always assumed these memories would be gone for food and that I would never have to relive them again. Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will eventually be forced to go on an expedition to find these safes. I will have to construct a deep ocean sub, outfitted with bright lights, and begin my descent into the never-ending black. This is my expedition, my journey to find my buried safes. Take a breath and jump.

One of my clearest memories from childhood is filled with a keen sense of frustration and disappointment. I was five and a huge Little Mermaid fan. I had the Barbie and was playing with her outside. I remember digging a whole and burying her bright purple seashell top in the soft dirt. I can’t remember why, just that it was an important part of the play unfolding in my head. I remember coming back later and being unable to find it. It was maddening. I was certain I had buried it near my swing. I just wanted to find my buried treasure!

The next two memories are filled with hurt, fear, and anger. I remember the worst fight I ever witnessed between my parents. The exact beginning isn’t crystal clear and neither is the end. I recall my father yelling at my brother and me to sit in two chairs, unmoving, eyes glued to the argument. I remember squirming and wanting to leave. At one point, I had to pee. I close my eyes and imagine my small five-year-old body’s bladder sending frantic urges to my brain. I can feel the hard seat underneath me, my feet dangling as the urge to go grew stronger. I vaguely remember a Coke can being thrown at me. The rest is blurry and I don’t know if I am mixing two separate occasions together or if my five-year-old mind simply shut out parts. I remember my mother ushering us to the car. I remember the house being a mess. Things were thrown around. We went to a hotel. It hosted a pool and a hot tub. When we came home, I remember seeing clothes thrown across the lawn and dresser drawers across the porch.

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An Open Letter To My Husband’s Girlfriend

Hey girl. Welcome to the club. I, first and foremost, want to thank you. Thank you for caring for my children. Thank you for going above and beyond. I know that they are not your responsibility. I know that you are not required to care for them, but you do. I see you and all the little things that you are doing. You’ve taken my oldest figure skating; you buy crickets for my son’s bearded dragon. You take the time to do my four-year old’s hair, cover her in glitter, and ooh and aah over all things unicorn. I see you picking up the grumpy baby and holding her close. I appreciate these things. I know it probably sounds odd coming from me, but I do appreciate them.

I also feel bad for you. I’m sorry that you have entered this strange relationship at such an odd time. We are still technically married, but we have been separated for a year. I do not want him back. I feel that I have to stress this point. I am much happier on my own. I don’t want to disparage him or complain about him to you, but I want to warn you.

You are so young. I know there are only four years between us, but I promise you that four years is a lifetime. In those four years, you likely will grow into a self-assured, confident woman. You learn your boundaries; what you are willing to accept and what you’re not willing to endure. I know I changed from 30 to 34. It’s a good change. It’s one I’m proud of. I fear for you because when I grew and changed, the man that I technically call husband did not change or grow with me.

Maybe these next four years will be different. Maybe he will learn. Maybe he will grow. Please do not hold your breath. Be prepared for him to remain stagnant. I worry that you’ll fall in love, not with him, but with the kids. You’ll be in the same situation I was. You’ll want to stay for them. That saddens me on such a deep level that I can’t fully explain my sorrow. While I appreciate any and all love that you have for my kids, I don’t want it to trap you. I don’t want you to wake up and realize that you’re alone. I do realize that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he will change. Maybe he will be a full-fledged partner that you can count on. My doubts are so great in that area; I can’t offer false confidences.

I see you already taking care of things that he should. You are the one that messaged me and asked for the oldest’s favorite lunch foods. You are the one who messaged me wanting to plan birthday parties. I was the one you called when the four-year-old was having a fit and you needed to know how to calm her down. It’s odd how we both have been thrust into this relationship. We have been forced to quickly get on the same page.

That angers me. It makes me so mad at him. I didn’t expect to have to deal with you this soon. Deal with you makes it seem like you are a burden. That is not my intention. I don’t know if you’re the first and last or just the first of many. The idea of co-parenting with one of his girlfriends sets a precedent that I refuse to allow. It’s not you; it’s the role you’ve acquired. I do not want to have to rely on Amy, Karen, or Judy to send child support payments. I do not want Melissa to have them while he works just because that’s “what we did before.” I will not share all the wonderful joyous moments of my children’s life with whatever woman happens to share their dad’s bed.

When we separated, I told him he needed to take time to work on himself. That I was going to take time to work on myself. I was going to take time to better myself. I said we needed to be the best version that we could be. When he mentioned dating, I flatly told him that it was something that shouldn’t be on the table for years. We were exiting an eight-year marriage. We both had jumped into this marriage shortly after exiting long term relationships. We needed to learn from our mistakes. We need to take time and grapple with codependency issues, being an adult child of an alcoholic, and co-parenting before we introduce more people into the dynamic.

I knew he wasn’t going to wait to begin dating. I knew this when he told me he was thinking of waiting a few months, maybe a year before he would begin dating. It was then that I knew he had already chosen someone to date. He was setting the stage for his newest relationship. I’m sure he thought he was being very mature and very smart. He wasn’t. I saw through it. My suspicions were confirmed when you were introduced as a “roommate” in a one-bedroom apartment with a couch that a child could barely sleep on. I didn’t press the issue because, honestly, what was the point? I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, he is going to run with his plans regardless of the multiple red flags, warning sirens, and people waving their arms to get his attention. When he stumbles, and he will, I hope he doesn’t trip you on the way down.

A Reflection: 365 Days Later

“It shouldn’t be this hard.” Those words were uttered exactly one year ago today. Sitting on the floor in my son’s room, holding my three-month old daughter, I had what was perhaps the most honest conversation in years with my husband. We were both exhausted from trying to love, like, and tolerate each other. It shouldn’t be emotionally and physically draining to make a marriage work. Granted, I am not an expert on what one needs to do in order to make a marriage be successful and thriving. I don’t have lists and diagrams to use when you are trying to decide if your marriage is worth saving. All I have is the knowledge that there is a line; there comes a point when you’re no longer attempting to fix what is breaking but instead are holding the jagged pieces and admitting it is shattered beyond the repair of super glue.

Over the past 365 days, I have felt many emotions. I have had triumphs, failures, and moments that I found myself drowning in all the things that were being thrown at me. I experienced moments of clarity and moments that I begged the universe to please give me a win because I couldn’t handle another failure. I have leaned on people when my soul ached for support and accepted help I didn’t realize I needed. I’ve navigated through issues that I was not prepared to face and I’ve been forced to wade into the muck to acknowledge the multitude of emotions these issues have brought to the surface. Despite all of this, I have never wavered in knowing that the decision to separate was the correct one.

Last year, if you had told me that I would be carving out time to sit at my desk and type out a blog post, I likely would have laughed. Last year was filled with such a contradiction of emotions; relief from finally admitting it wasn’t working, sorrow to admit that we failed. Writing has pulled me close and whispered “It’s okay. Feel your feelings. Write about them. I’m here.” I need to devote more time to translating my swirling emotions into words, but that will come. There’s so much adjusting, tweaking, scrutinizing, and readjusting going on currently.

When I try to think of a timeline, my mind becomes muddled. We decided we wanted to divorce on St. Patrick’s Day. Yes. That fact is solid. The kids had Spring Break the following week. Lee left for the week. He started being gone most of the time after that. Weekend trips to Georgia, staying at friends’ homes. I’m not entirely sure when he no longer “came home.” Maybe it was May or around then? I know it was later in the year that he moved in with a woman he claimed was just a roommate. For those curious, they’re now dating.

The kids began spending more time with him around October, roughly the same time he moved into a one-bedroom apartment with his now-girlfriend.

This is where my entry stopped. I don’t remember what called me away; I’m sure it was a kid. I have chosen to end this here.

Odd Moments

Tonight, as I was choosing a lotion to use in hopes of moisturizing my terribly dry skin, a little thing stopped me. By habit, I picked up the lotion, paused, put it down, and went to take off my wedding ring that wasn’t there. It was this odd little moment that made me realize how many little things are changing.

I haven’t worn my ring in months; before we decided on a divorce, I had been very pregnant, then very newly postpartum, and I had barely begun to wear my ring again before we called it quits. After saying the words out loud, it felt weird to wear the ring. It felt off and wrong. Wearing a ring felt like playing a role, pretending to still be a loving wife. It was almost a relief to take it off; a sign that I wasn’t clinging to hope that things would magically change, a sign that shit had gotten real.

At the most random times, I find myself using my thumb to rub against where the band used to lay; an old habit to straighten the ring so that the stone was centered on my finger.  I’ve noticed that I also do this when talking about Lee. What do I call him? It feels disingenuous to call him my ex-husband; technically, we are still married. Ironically, it also feels deceitful to call him my husband. It is a word used to describe a man who is still 100% married, not in this limbo of separation and divorce. If I use it, it feels like I’m glossing over the elephant in the room and omitting the real truth. Yes, legally we are married. Truthfully, we have never been further from being married emotionally.

June was a trying month. I’ve alternated between pissed and exhausted. My anxiety kicked in some days and I found myself letting it take the lead. I did not take my children to a birthday party because I knew they would swim in a lake. They’ve went to this party for two? three? years in a row. This year I couldn’t. Earlier in the week, I had read the story about the Florida woman who was attacked, and eaten, by an alligator when walking her dogs. I was crippled with fear that an alligator would have somehow gotten into the lake and would attack my children. We stayed home instead.

Depression, which often goes hand-in-hand with my anxiety, has also reared its ugly head. I despise the fact that it can creep up on you, slowly winding its way through your brain, zapping your energy, and making you feel numb without you realizing it. My house is a mess. I can’t keep up with all the cleaning and maintenance four children, a bull mastiff, three cats, two hamsters, and a beta fish require. I’m pretty sure the laundry alone is a full time job that should include a 401k and benefits. Instead, I’ve been juggling all that, dance classes three times a week, two speech therapy sessions a week, and two therapy sessions a week, with a third being added for Violet. There was also a major dental appointment for Violet, an emergency one for Noah, and then a scheduled one for Ella next week. Thrown in there were also a 6 month check up for Penelope, a vaccine visit for Violet, and other things like Sadie’s annual vet visit, the annual HVAC tune up, and the multiple grocery pick-ups that three constantly eating children require. Every day is exhausting and I’ve found myself just wanting to sleep. 24 hours of sleep sounds deliriously delicious. There is major Sleeping Beauty envy going on right now. If you showed me a spinning wheel, I’d be very temped to prick my finger.

Currently, I’m trying to get in to see my doctor. I know my meds need adjusted; maybe they just need bumped up slightly. Maybe I need a script for when it’s 1am and my mind won’t shut up. Of course, I could also use some premium tequila, a nanny, housekeeper, and a vacation to somewhere that I don’t instantly begin sweating when the door opens. Such is life, am I right?  I need to have time to curl up with my journal and pour my heart out. It just seems to impossible lately. If I do find a moment to myself, all I can think of is everything else that needs done. If I ignore the list of shit that needs done, I still avoid writing because I know it will trigger the inevitable ugly cry. I feel it building. It’s been building for so goddamn long. I’ve shed a few tears, but it’s just been letting the pressure off slightly. It’s still there; it’s still pounding. Once I start, I won’t be able to stop until the tears run out. With three kids who will be upset by a very ugly cry, I’ve been pushing it down, stamping on it, barricading it. A breakdown is coming, but I don’t want my kids to see it. I don’t want them to see me broken.

 

Rip tide

There are times that I feel the need to spill words onto paper, whether by typing or through writing. The urge is nearly overwhelming; it feels like the tide is rushing in, the white crest of the wave flooding the shore with words, phrases, feelings, hopes, fears. They scatter across the sand, eager for me to walk by and pick them up, rinse them off, and tuck them into my pocket.

Life has been the hectic, chaotic, swift dance of ending school and beginning of summer. Mornings appear to be filled with frustration and held back tears or glide by so smoothly that I’m left wondering how it was even possible.

Big things happened in our home last Friday. Things that I’m terrified to face and beyond eager to put behind me. I’m fervently wishing that doors will open and things will start to get easier. I need easier. Simpler. Smoother.

Years ago, I stumbled across a piece of writing that resonated so strongly with me that I’ve held it close for years.

Someone once told me that if you wanted a perfect metaphor for life, look toward the ocean.
For the most part, life is pretty constant,
like the gentle rolling of the tides;
life is a balance between the high points and the low points.

Every drop of water causes a ripple in the ocean,
just like every event we experience affects our lives.
Sometimes the storms roll in and stir things up.

There are times when the waves break too close to the shore
and crash down upon us.
And we have to pick ourselves back up before
the next wave knocks us even further down.

There are times when the rip tide pulls us out,
and we get lost in the enormity of life,
and we wonder if we will ever make it back to shore.

Well, right now, I feel caught in that rip tide.

As of today, I am caught in the rip tide. It feels like there was a major storm; Hurricane Divorce. It swept in and caused catastrophic damage. Once the flood waters receded, the clean up began. The clean up feels like it’s been littered with the typical government red tape. The sticky tape that delays aid, reroutes supplies, and requires five different signatures, all notarized, before allowing you to begin your life again. There are moments that I’m treading water, desperate to keep my head above the salt water that threatens to choke me with each breath. To quote Lin-Manuel’s genius, there are moments when you’re in so deep, it feels easier to just swim down…and learn to live with the unimaginable.

Yesterday, the ocean felt like it was pulling me further away from shore. I felt the sand scraping my body, my lungs struggling to inflate, and the sting of salt water in my throat and eyes. Through it all, there’s Lee standing on the shore, just watching. Maybe he’ll occasionally throw out a suggestion like “Hey! You should really try to keep your head above water!” or “I’ll go get a lifeguard, let me finish this game.” Instead of finding a lifeguard or wading in, he stands on the sand; eyes glued to his phone, it being ever more important.

I find myself in an odd place. I want to curse his name but want to stay above it all for the kids. I have a few trusted friends that I allow myself to message with profanity-filled statements. These conversations serve as my lifeguard, my buoy. They help bring me a little closer to shore, give my tired legs a reprieve while the tide ushers me back in. Thank you, my buoys. I owe you a debt of gratitude that will never easily be repaid.

Yesterday, we decided to abandon the house and move into apartments. Yesterday, we decided to tell the kids about the divorce tomorrow. Yesterday, I began looking for apartments while trying to figure out what kind of budget I’ll be on. Yesterday, it felt more real than it had in a while. Today, I drank my coffee and just enjoyed the moment. Today, I took the time to finish this post. Today, I will scrawl words into my journal. Today, I will hold each child tight. Tomorrow, I will carefully choose words to explain why life is changing. Tomorrow, I will answer questions, listen to concerns, and give hugs. Tomorrow, I will rip off the band-aid. Tomorrow, I will.

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It started, and ended, with a hamster.

It has been one of those weeks. I had to pick a sick kid up from school, drop off a backpack, remember to make a lunch for a field trip, figure out a flea market project, deal with a fussy baby, and conquer sixteen loads of laundry. Oh, and keep four kids alive.

Turns out, while doing all this fun stuff, I would also add hamster savior to my list. Yeah, you read that right. Hamster savior. It started on Monday. I was laying down with the baby, nursing her to sleep so I could hopefully accomplish something. Our back patio runs nearly the full length of the house; there are two windows from my bedroom that are covered by it as well as a sliding glass door in the kitchen. Trust me when I say you can hear everything that goes on out there. That’s why I heard the glass door slide open, and heard HRH out there plotting world domination. It’s fine, it’s all cool. That means I’m a step closer to actually getting the baby asleep without hearing a never-ending monologue that is peppered with demands and questions.

“STOP THAT! DON’T EAT THAT!” Ah, the battle cry of HRH. Usually this means that one of our idiot cats has managed to escape into the great outdoors and is hunting a lizard. We have tried to keep them indoors, but have given up. These ferocious beasts have plowed through screens and have nearly killed us all on multiple occasions as they barrel through your feet if you open the door. They’re cats. They’re assholes. Two of them particularly enjoy killing the lizards that gather on the back patio. My outrage is exhausted after the shit of this year and I just can’t with the damn cat/lizard war anymore. Besides, HRH usually fights off the cats and the lizard races to freedom while its persecutor is given an emotional lecture.

“NO SADIE! DON’T EAT THAT!” That got my attention. Sadie, our three year old bull-mastiff, eats things. Things like human food that she isn’t allowed to have. Things that most definitely require me to carefully detach from the sleeping baby and race out to investigate. As I was entering the hall, there was a loud crash. I sprinted to the kitchen. I saw Sadie racing into her crate, tail tucked between her legs. The sliding glass door was open, HRH was still yelling, and one of my kitchen chairs laid broken near the island. There was also a hole in the wall from the chair’s ear. The broken cross rail was nearby. HRH told me that Sadie got her head stuck and ran off, hit the wall, broke the chair, and GUESS WHAT! SHE SAVED A HAMSTER.

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Way to bury the lead there, kid. She began to tell me how the cat caught a hamster and she saved it. She said she held it in her hands and was going to put it in her shirt so it would stay warm, but Sadie was trying to eat it (also known as sniffing it), so she put it down to make Sadie go inside. When she put it down, the cat tried to catch it again, she yelled at the cat, and the hamster ran off into the woods. Okay. Got it. Now, to be honest, I assumed she meant a baby bunny. Last week, I had to clean pieces of a baby bunny off the back patio. Before coffee. The cat, Dorito, is a killing machine. I’m currently looking for a barn that needs an excellent mouser.

I told HRH that the hamster was probably fine; it was in the woods looking for its family. I stressed how we need to keep doors shut to keep the cats inside so they can’t catch anything. She nodded and chased the cat indoors. I thought we were through. Life is never that easy. For the next several hours, HRH would venture outside every 15-20 minutes to loudly call “HAMSTER! COME BACK HERE! I SAVED YOU! COME BACK!” This kid is quite determined. She really will either become a fabulous CEO or blood thirsty mob boss. It’s still up in the air.

It became afternoon. HRH left the door open when she went out to beg the hamster to return and Dorito escaped. I went out to round her up, my shadow following me closely. The cat, knowing I was trying to catch her, avoided me at all costs. At one point, she walked over to the grass by the rain spout, sniffed, and stayed still. I walked over, hoping to grab the demon, and made the mistake of looking into the grass. There was a hamster. An honest-to-God, living, breathing, hamster. “YOU CAME BACK!” Great. Her savior spotted her.

The cat was shooed inside, and an empty fish tank was procured. The stupid little hamster allowed itself to be captured. I was in shock. I didn’t really think she had saw a hamster. How the hell did a hamster make its way to my backyard? How did it survive a cat attack? I examined the little fluff ball and saw several puncture wounds. Googling “hamsters after cat attacks” didn’t exactly give me much hope of its survival. I called Jess, my go-to course for all animal info, and she agreed it didn’t look good. Hamsters, after being attacked, tend to have a euphoric state she said. It will probably act fine all day, but expect to find it dead in the morning. Morbidly I knew I could handle a hamster funeral, so we shredded paper, taped the lid on, and waited.

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Heart Heart 1 in the glorious fish tank

It survived. I woke up to see shredded papers rustling and a very happy almost-four year old. It was one of those take a deep breath, hold it, release, and move towards the coffee maker type of mornings. The hamster, named Heart Heart, stayed alive the rest of the day. I purchased a hamster cage, bedding, and food. Heart Heart was placed inside and immediately scampered onto the wheel and spent a long time spinning. Personally, I feel like he was showing off. “HA! TAKE THAT CAT! TAKE THAT LADY WHO WAS PLANNING MY FUNERAL!”

Friday rolls around. I’m sitting on my bed trying to be productive. I had my curtains open, enjoying the sunshine while I folded a never-ending basket of laundry. I glanced to my right, looking out the window at the glorious green grass. In that grass, I saw a little ball of fluff and an evil grey tabby batting at it. I sprang from my spot, raced outdoors, and began cursing the little jerk hamster who repaid my hospitality by escaping its new cage and trying to commit suicide by feline. I scooped it up into a handy Easter basket and walked back inside, cursing its little rodent self with every step. I opened the cage door and was about to dump the hamster in when the bedding moved. Heart Heart stuck its fuzzy little brown head out. I gasped. “NOW I HAVE TWO PETS!!!!” my very excited shadow exclaimed. My heart sank. My mind was blown. How in the everloving universe is this my life? Anyone?

I had to tell someone. I needed someone to fully understand what my life was this week. The solution was obvious. I texted my friend Richée. This conversation is gold. I can’t try to recreate it blog form. It has to be seen in its organic form. The pain is slowly turning into laughter. It has to. It has nowhere else to go.

It began with this video and the tag This is how my week started…

This is how my week ended…