The Kool-Aid Questions – How Low Can You Go?

I started thinking. Every time I say that, I hear “Danger. Danger Will Robinson.” I also see in my head the the robot flailing dryer hoses as arms – my mind is a fun place to be. I tried to find a clip on YouTube with waving arms – no luck.

Parenthood is a series of decisions. Some good, some not so good. I frequently wonder (because I am insane, probably) if this is the decision that will send my kid to ruin. If I let her color her hair with Kool-Aid, will she hang out with the wrong kids, do drugs, go to jail and break my heart? If I take away his pacifier too soon, will I cause him to look for oral gratification in other ways, hang out with the wrong kids, do drugs, go to jail and break my heart.  If I let him have a pacifier, am I teaching him to do drugs, smoke, or drink? If I let her go out with that boy I don’t like, will she run away and get pregnant before she graduates high school? If I don’t let her go out with a boy I don’t like….it never ends – I told you my head is a fun place to be.

Seriously, though – I have let go of my expectations of most things, making me more peaceful and content. But, have I let go of too much?

I woke up this morning in a great mood. It is Easter. My kids are with their dad; I have no plans for any holiday celebration as I have to work. But, that got me to thinking and thanking. I am thankful for all the money I saved on a traditional Easter meal, since I do not have to prepare one. I am thankful for not having to spend time when any assholes (yes, there are assholes at work, but I get paid for that shit) that are not related to me (link prior blog). I am thankful I no longer am sad when I wake up on a holiday with no plans. I didn’t have to clean my house or plan or shop. It was about here where I wondered if I should be sad?

Leaving all of the religious, faithful arguments out of it – am I ruining my children as well as contributing to the continual tearing of the fabric of american families? I have let go of the significance of the date and celebrate these events when it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I also have let go of traditions, because some traditions don’t translate when there are only 3 of you. Why would I create an entire traditional holiday meal for 3 when 2 will complain and not want to eat most of that meal? We don’t eat that way (heavy comfort foods) the rest of the time. The meals cost a ton, too many leftovers for me to eat alone, etc. Plus, no cooking, cleaning, etc. When there is a holiday, we talk about options and then we pick one.

At first I worried, that I wasn’t giving my kids enough traditions, but to be honest – I’m a single mom who owns a home, and works 3 jobs. My life is easier because I don’t have to do: X (or my X – ha)  I save hours and $$$ every time we go out to eat when a holiday calls for a traditional meal.

Because this is too much to think about on a Sunday, i called my sister on the way to work – she’s like – well, families are broken, things change. We talked about our childhood. Mom was a “there is always room” kinda mom. You could bring anyone home without a pre-plan. You would only get in trouble if there wasn’t enough food. And, there was always enough food. Some families stick to family on holidays. Not my mom – everyone is welcome. We invited anyone who may be a holiday orphan. I thought that is what everyone did. Yeah – not so much. I’ve spent a lot of lonely holidays (see – it wasn’t always like this). Some of our favorite memories from living at home were spending our holidays with whatever family was around and whatever friends were orphaned – at my moms best friend’s house. We reminisced about that and I had a realization.

All of those holidays as a family with friends – began when my moms bestie got divorced – she was the first in their group. About the same time, my grandparents had stopped coming at holidays and older siblings had married and moved. It was simple, if we had out of towners coming, we stayed home and invited anyone. If we didn’t, we hung out with moms best friend and whomever was orphaned at her house.  From that broken family, joyous and love filled holidays ensued.

One of the hardest things about my divorce was breaking up with my holidays and all of my traditions. Some I redesigned. Some are ever changing. One of my closest friends grew up with no family she says (we disagree, but I digress). It was definitely broken. She has done everything she can to instill traditions into her daughter’s life. She is a great mom. Makes me wonder if I am doing the right thing. 

I personally feel freer, happier, and more content. I don’t have a check list of things we must do in order to have a happy holiday. I take it as it comes. Its been a crazy month or so. My kids and I haven’t even discussed an alternate plan for Easter. I am going to go shop the sales for candy tomorrow and they will get their “basket.” And, that may be all. And this is okay.  It wasn’t easy getting here. I just hope I’m not fucking everything up for my kids.

 

 

Divorce: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I’ve decided that Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving, instead of the thing that cut me off at the knees, leaving a barrage of scars. But getting here was a long haul.

And, I’m not saying that in a snarky or sarcastic tone, really.

Since my divorce, I have learned so many new things and am energized and excited in ways I never thought possible, especially at the beginning.  I have updated my resume (this seems easy until you consider my college roommate. She found her most recent resume on a floppy disc), interviewed for many jobs and am on job three post-divorce. I have made new friends, met new people, and learned new things. During my eight days at job number one, I found my lip gloss soulmate (it’s a thing) and learned how to use two monitors. During job number two,  I found new restaurants, stores, and deeper appreciation for cultural differences. Job number three led to my illustrious writing career and without it, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I used to want to stay home every night and watch tv. I still like doing that (way more than I should) but, looking back on my marriage (dinner, watch favorite shows, costco on saturday) that now feels like waiting for my turn to die. Now, I am writing, hanging with friends, finding new things to do. I used to want us to agree on all of our kid-related decisions. We didn’t. Still don’t. But, now I know that we won’t always agree and there is nothing I can do about it. So, I do my thing and he can do his. I have peace.

We had a lot of money. A lot of money. Now, I don’t have a lot of money. I learned how to do more with less, building better relationships with my kids in the process. And, teaching them you don’t need money to enjoy things and you don’t have to be in the front row to enjoy the show.  I’m not arguing that money doesn’t make things more fun, but fun can be had without. I am not necessarily materialistic, but I loved my home and my really nice car. Now, I am free as a bird, not defined by what I drive or where I live. Plus, I’ve learned to find joy and calm even when things are tight.

Before, I wanted my friends and their husbands to like us and want to hang out with us. We had some like that. But, now I have found that I can choose (and choose, I do) who I hang out with and what I do. Much easier and no stress. What can suck about only spending time with the people you choose?

What used to be a loss of all of my holidays has given me the permission to do different things, to make or break traditions. I spent one Thanksgiving or Christmas at the movies. Not crowded. Especially the chick flicks. The theater was filled with men and kids. Which only served to remind me; you don’t have to do all that work, spend all that money, while the ingrates go to the movies. And, you don’t have to spend time with his relatives, especially the assholey ones. Traditions are important, but we have made it our tradition to be flexible and try new things. Instead of making all of the decisions, we make decisions together. While that is more “friendy” than “parenty,” we all enjoy doing the things that we choose to do together.

While I was married, I was worried about my future for a variety of reasons. Now I have a plan for my future that excites me so, I cannot wait to retire. This divorce has given me the opportunity to live a second chapter, or start a whole new book. It has given me strength I never knew I had. It has given me new friends. It has given me new traditions and happier holidays. It has taught me I am creative and flexible and smart. It has given me freedom and joy. It has taught me a lot about parenting. I don’t know if I am a better parent, but I am a different one. I have always been open minded, but now I am not just open, I am receptive to new things.

The most surprising thing, though, is how this experience has enriched my children’s relationships with their parents. In my home, we spend almost all of our time together. If we watch television, we do it together. If we go to the movies, shopping, out to eat, we do it together. We take short road trips and go on local “adventures.” I try not to make other plans, waste time online, or talk on the phone when my kids are home and we are together. While divorce may make it easier to “play” us, it also makes it more difficult to have a favorite parent. I am not sure if this better, but I know if we were married, the relationship would be primary.

While all of these things are true, they are not reasons to divorce. I think it is way better for families to stay together. When that isn’t possible, you need to go through it. It sucks a lot of the time, but some moments of joy seep through. Everyday, I find reasons why divorce keeps giving me presents. And, I am thankful. It wasn’t easy and I had to choose happiness – something that is more difficult than it sounds.

The best thing…divorce has turned me into a perfect girlfriend; I don’t ever want to get married again and I don’t care about money.

I am totally free.

I Saw My X on the Jumbotron

I saw my X on the Jumbotron at the Nickelback (don’t hate) show I recently attended.  I saw him from 5 miles away on the lawn, where my seats were.  Yes. Yes. Yes, folks, here comes the “Inequality of Divorce” blog.  Well, it is that and so much more. A few nights ago, as I sat under a beautiful full moon and was cooled by our “delta breeze”, with 3 other divorced women, I looked up to see the unpleasantly charming face of my X on the gigantic screen, indicating to me that he was in the 2nd or 3rd row from the stage. Wow!  I was looking for my son, who won the toss and got to sit with dad during the show.  Sister was hanging in the cheap seats on a blanket with 4 old ladies. (It is okay, she rocked her little heart out!).

Some of you may be wondering how we all ended up at the same show.  Well, this is the first time that has happened in the many years since we split. I got tickets because kids were with their dad that night and it was a school night. I didn’t figure I would run into any of them there.  And, then kids asked to stay with me because dad was going to the show. And, then I gave dad a hard time about ditching his kids to attend his son’s favorite band’s show. And, then dad didn’t want to look like a douche, so he ponied up some lawn seats for the kids, so they could sit with me. I offered to take his good tickets (I had no idea how good they were at the time) so he could sit with his kids, he declined (yes, I try to be funny – all of the time). He also couldn’t get a date (even with great seats) and so “the toss” for the good seat.

I would like to start of by saying I am not bitter. Really. I am better. Way better.  I will abbreviate for you, after 7 miserable years, 10 + court days and tens of thousands of dollars, the court set us “even.”  We still are, according to the courts.  I will spare you so many ridiculous details and sum up our differences this way, how is it that he can afford 2nd row seats and I feel “lucky” to be able to afford the $20 lawn seats? This is really the best way to show our divide.  We are not even financially.  We never will be. Every single one of my divorced friends is in a worse place financially since her divorce.  All but one of these friends is in a worse place financially than her husband.  And, the one? She is in the worst place, she pays him support – spousal and child while he works under the table for cash.  She is a school teacher. He and his live-in gf have a new baby (really, Karma has already visited him) and live in her former 4000 sq foot home.  She lives in a 1400 sq ft rental.

I was lucky. I had fantastic family and friends for financial and emotional support. So many women don’t.  I know two are better than one and can leave cheaper together than individually but, in that case both should take a hit when the marriage is over.  And, maybe both do.  I mean, I could be biased.  But, we are still not “even.” To be fair, I am leaps ahead of him in the categories that matter to me anyway, peace, happiness, and love. I enjoyed that money when I was with him. But, I enjoy so much more now. Because he isn’t there.  It just pisses me off 8 ways from Sunday that women are the bigger “financial” losers in divorce situations.  And, I don’t know how to fix it.

Do men and women cope differently? I was taking huge financial hits when I was losing everything else in my life: family, holidays, blah, blah. I had to recreate a whole new me. It just seems to be more difficult to deal with adversity when you are an emotional mess and have no idea how you are going to pay all of your bills this month. All a guy has to do is sleep with someone else and he is good…..

Don’t Look Back

Many years ago, as I sat in my car bawling after I had just signed my home over to the X…..my friend said to me… “this is just one more thing in your rearview mirror.”

That became my mantra.  It helped me get through many ugly moments in the years after that. When something was coming up that I did not want to do…I thought to myself…”I hope it gets here soon.” Then I can get through it and it can be ‘one more thing in my rear view.’  One more little mountain I had climbed.  And…as, you can guess…when you run head first into the things you are dreading….they lose their power. Big time. You grow strength…because, you have to do it.  And, then what seemed insurmountable, becomes easier.

I am not saying that I or anyone ever gets used to confronting things that are unpleasant. But, I learned, nothing lasts forever..that emotion, feeling, stress, dread, fear….doesn’t last forever.  The anticipation. The Waiting….the hardest part. And, something else unexpected happened.

I was still feeling like I was on a treadmill up that damn mountain….that I was never going to get to the top….I still had mountains to climb.  It was depressing. A friend said to me …. “That is just life, right? There is always something unpleasant around the corner.” Well.  Maybe. I was listening to a friend share her tale of woe (same story, different verse) and she asked me…”when do I get happy like you?”

Hmm…funny.  I was thinking…..before she opened her mouth…how far she had come…instead of crying about never being happy again, she now was asking when happy was going to come.  That is progress.  I reminded her of the way she spoke, her tone of voice, her attitude, everything in the beginning. And then I asked her questions about how she felt now….she feels better than she did in the beginning…..and the middle……so…guess what…she is improving.

Well…you know…like most people I am very good at telling others what they should do with their lives (if you people would only listen!!!!). This time I taught myself something. Every once in awhile, on your journey, your climb….your mountain of hell….turn around.  All the way. Look back at where you were when this all started.  Look at how you felt, what you thought…look at the milestones you got through (1st, 2nd, loudest, smallest, biggest, etc) You have come a long way (Baby….sorry…the 70’s just slipped out).

I realized how many of my friends (and me too…) were concerned with how far they still had to climb. We are told you can’t go back, you can’t live in the past…..some of us wax poetic about the past (another blog)….but, every once in awhile as you slog your way through your struggle…..turn around (bright eyes…OMG…so sorry)

I realized….sometimes…you need to look back (sorry….I tried to resist Don’t Look Back ) to see how far you have come.

I went through fire. I am better now. Way better. And thankful for the experience.