“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
As I get older I find that it’s hard to say very many things with such certainty, but one thing I do know is how very lucky I am. This is something that I’m always aware of. Constantly. But sometimes it’s just rhetoric. I’m so lucky to be alive, to have two amazing (seriously amazing), incredibly loving, thoughtful, caring, and creative kids. The only reason I care about anything is because I care so much about them. Everything else is just… filler. It’s passing the time. It’s wishing I got half as much fulfillment from everything else as I do just being their mother. But knowing this can be very different from feeling it. So I forget sometimes how much worse things could be. I throw my very own pity party. And wouldn’t you know? I’m the only one who shows up. Every time. Did I forget to send out the invitations? Nope. It’s just that NO ONE CARES. Because everyone else has their own shit they’re dealing with. No one cares that I feel sad and lonely most of the time. And no one cares why. No one cares that my love life is a disaster. Or why. I think of times during my divorce when I thought of shutting myself in the garage with the car engine running and ending it all… all the pain of being left behind. All the pain of feeling unwanted. And unloved. Like no one cares.
And then I wonder what my life would be like if I had never met him, if he had been successful at ending his life. Did he feel like a failure when the noose was loosened and air again began to pass through his lungs delivering blood to his heart and back through every vain and capillary? Who would I be without his presence in the world? Without the intertwining of our lives for the comparatively short time we were together? Whoever that person might have been, I’m so glad I’m me. Even if I am alone now. And also very importantly, I’m so glad he’s him. Maybe that means he’s better off without me. I’ll allow that. Because when you love someone, you want what’s best for them. I’m just damn glad he’s alive and hopefully happy, though I really do miss him and long for his friendship.
And while I can say to myself, “Straighten up–you made your bed, now you have to lie in it” I also see that he and I both had a bit of maturing to do. Even though I was married for almost 7 years, as my counselor pointed out, this was my first adult relationship. I met my husband in middle school. We got married when I was 23. I started dating my recent ex less than a year from the time my husband left me for another woman and got her knocked up. One short year. And things just rollercoastered from there. He took me by surprise and it was great. But looking back I can see that I was still dealing with a lot from my marriage and the stress of my divorce. Jesus Christ. Not to mention, right before our relationship began I was semi involved with a “recovering” alcoholic who had LOTS of issues and made me feel like shit. I still had so much healing to do when I met the one who got away. And still so much more to learn.
On the other hand, he went from being single for four years to being in his first serious, committed relationship with an older woman (me) who was divorced and had two kids. That’s a huge paradigm shift and a lot to take on for anyone, especially someone with as little experience and maturity as he has. But like I said, we weren’t prepared, either one us.
I’m willing to allow this.
I watched him mow the lawn every week, taking such pride in it and the fact that we had a yard, that it was ours. I watched him with my kids and the way he took such pride in them, too. And the fact that they were ours, even if they weren’t born to him. It was amazing to see someone just jump in the way he did, the same way he learned to swim after his mom threw him in the water as a child with no prior experience, just faith in his will to survive. But I’m not so sure I had as much confidence in him. My frustrations in our relationship stemmed from the resentment I felt all my life over the fact that my dad didn’t do shit to help out. And my mom continues to hold his hand through everything, even when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant like I do when I take my kids out to eat. She may as well wipe and powder his ass, but I think that may be the one thing he does do on his own… for now.
No one should expect that much of a person and then take it all for granted. So when it comes to household and parenting responsibilities, I admit to being pretty sensitive. I have a short fuse when it comes to that. Even with my kids. I lecture them all the time on how I’m not their maid and it’s not fair for them to expect me to pick up after them all the time and do everything for them. That’s one thing I have absolutely no patience for. But then you have to remember, I was already a person before my kids came along. I’ve had a life’s worth of experiences and challenges that I am naturally affected by. And when I met him, that was true even more so. I wish he would allow that.
For my ex who wasn’t used to caring for kids or running a household, I can see how overwhelming it must have been. And with my communication style, which is at times passive aggressive, and the fact that I have a hard time accepting help from other people, odds were not in his favor. I give him credit for that. But of course I expect for my partner to also have a sense of things that need to be done around the house (and the motivation to do it). I don’t think it’s fair to be the only one who thinks about going to the store and what to get, planning and preparing meals, cleaning the house, paying bills, all the shit that grown ups do. Whenever we went somewhere, I drove. Everything that was planned, I planned. It’s one thing when you’re on your own and taking care of your kids to do all of these things without question. But when there is another adult in the picture, I think it’s natural to expect for there to be some collaboration and cooperation. And when there’s not, resentment builds and emotions flare.
But I will allow this.
When we moved in together I think we were both under a lot of stress. First of all, moving itself is stressful. Getting situated and finding places for not only my things but his things was part of it initially. I certainly have a clear idea of how I want my home to look and how I want it to feel. I can be very particular and OCD when it comes to my space and I’ve always been that way. In fact, it used to be much worse. And he is similar in this regard, he’s very protective of his things. Sometimes it felt like his things were more important, like he didn’t trust my kids with his stuff, especially when it came to his books and video games (another example of fantasy seemingly having more relevance in his life than reality). I’m sure it was hard for him to feel comfortable in his own home when he was constantly concerned about something happening to his belongings, a concern he grew up with amidst various step-siblings, and a concern that stressed me out unbeknownst to him.
Then you add the mounting pressure I felt knowing how demanding kids can be and the fact that he still didn’t seem entirely prepared for getting woken up by my 5 year old crawling into bed with us In the morning before he was ready to wake up, or all of the questions kids ask and things that they need. I hated the idea of cramping his style or being a burden. I think I just wasn’t ready to accept that someone might be willing to spend their life with us, to devote themselves to us and never turn their back. He said he was ready, but my experience told me I should be skeptical.
In addition to all of this pressure, there was the stress of starting a new job just a couple of weeks after our move. Our new location meant new schools for my kids and all of these changes meant a different schedule for all of us to adjust to. He had never seen me through a major transition and all of a sudden we were going through so many together, simultaneously. And while to others I generally seem to keep my shit together and stay cool at all times, I take whatever I’m really feeling out on the people I’m closest to… all the stress, anxiety, insecurities, loss of control… Needless to say, I end up feeling like a bad mom at least once a day. That’s because when I’m around my kids I am in a safe environment. I take things out on them because I know I can, I know they’ll still love me. That doesn’t make it right. It makes me human.
And I can see how better communication would have benefited us greatly, though I did voice my concern over some of these issues at times. I still had a lot to learn, though, namely with allowing myself to speak up when something is bothering me instead of letting it build up inside. Because then I just blow up and overreact and put up walls that no one can get through. I have yet to learn how to indicate to others that I’m hurt without pushing them away. But I don’t think I would have learned the importance of overcoming these things or the importance of forgiveness were it not for him. Because now that I’ve lost him for good it’s like my whole world has shattered around me. And I’m not willing to let that happen again. And while he may have decided we’re not worth the effort, eventually, regardless of who he’s with, the same effort will be required. Guaranteed. But that’s for him to figure out. I can’t say I blame him for turning his back on us. I’m capable of doing the same thing when I’ve been hurt. But sometimes walls are for building. And sometimes they’re for smashing down.
So he tells me he doesn’t love me anymore. He’s found someone else he’d rather be with. I’m learning to allow this.