Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breaking My Heart Open So My Eyes Can See

Ten years ago this month I made a decision to leave Ward and within a couple of short months later not only had I left him but I left my kids too. I gave him custody because I was sick of fighting with him about it and I thought--as boys--they would be better off with him. But the real REAL reason is because I was absolutely convinced I was a terrible mother. I had suffered from not one but two episodes of depression. The first one was a mild post partum depression but the second bout was a doozy. I couldn’t leave the house for a month and Ward had to take full control of the kids. I barely made food for them those long weeks. Poor kids. Poor Ward. I still see their sweet faces looking at me with a mix of puzzlement and sadness because Mommy was dressed in a sweat suit in July and about 100 degrees outside and I had to hire a babysitter to take them to the pool and to the park and the rec center for activities because I simply couldn’t leave the house. I’m still not sure exactly why I couldn’t leave the house; I mean I don’t fully comprehend even now after years of therapy which monsters lived outside the door of the Fabulous House in Stepford and why they went away as quickly as they arrived. I do know I had to leave Ward if I was going to survive and if my children were going to survive and grow to have any sort of meaningful life they belonged with their fully functional father. They could hire their own therapist when the actions of their mother, foisted on them at the tender ages of nine and five began to muddy their abilities to cope in relationships with others. In essence, my well-meaning but sick actions fractured my relationship with them a decade ago because I was convinced I was a terrible mother because I suffered from two bouts of depression and was pretty sure I was gay. Let‘s not forget to add I was unfaithful to Ward to this list. I was depressed, confused and a liar. I was a BAD person to the tenth power and didn‘t deserve those children. In hindsight, I can see the life I was leading was sucking the life out of me. Of course I felt like I was drowning in an ocean with a plastic bag over my head. Shit, who wouldn’t? Don’t answer that because I know plenty of wonderful mothers who put up with WAY more than I did from Ward and they aren’t leaving their husbands and their kids.

When I say I left my kids, initially I saw them every other weekend and a night a week. I was Disneyland Mom. But a couple of years later, my children wanted less and less to do with me. For a long time I blamed Ward for poisoning them against me. But now I blame myself because I stopped trying to have a relationship with them and for two years we were like amiable friends who would get together a couple of times a week but each visit felt forced and everyone was miserable. Of course it didn’t help I was in the most dysfunctional toxic relationship of my life which, in the end, left me broke and broken. In AA terms, I hit bottom. (there by God’s unboundless grace go I)

But God’s hand was always just right there and as much as I hate to admit it; The Most Toxic Woman On The Planet had a role in all of this. Did I mention after I left her I was not only broken but financially broke? The only place I could find to live was a tiny little rental house in a neighborhood riddled with meth heads. I hadn’t lived in such a bad neighborhood since I was in college but the rent afford my paying off hideous debt and my landlord, an angel on Earth, didn’t give a shit if my credit rating was in the toilet. “I don’t check those things, I see in your eyes I can trust you.” And I didn’t let him down. We lived in that little house for three years. The 750 square foot house was our little port in the storm. I was able to put myself back together with the help of Jesus, Wayne Dyer, my therapist/reiki practitioner, Landlord Bob, and my boys. It’s a good thing I got my shit together and rebuilt my relationship with my sons because it was at this point Ward decided he was tired of being the custodial parent and lost interest in his children. But despite the neighborhood and the tight space our home was generally a place of peace and joy. Yeah there were hard times because Wally was such a challenging kid and Beav wasn‘t a walk in the park, either. But I figured (still do) the tantrums (theirs) and the aggression (Wally‘s) was bad Karma I had to work off. I made new friends, too. One of them shares The Girl‘s name and I met her first but eventually she became my “Spare”. I can‘t count the number of times me and TSG have been out and people will say: “Oh, this is The Girl.” And I have to explain but I’m always flattered by the confusion because The Spare Girl is an awesome woman. TSG has been a cheering section for me in ways I‘ve never told her and has been there for me in ways I don‘t think I can even explain. Her oldest son and Beav are a few months apart and very alike in their natures; while her youngest son-- seven years younger than Wally --is just like Wally. We can commiserate and compare notes on lots of things because in addition to our children, we have feckless ex-husbands who are hit and miss with financial and emotional support to their boys; plus we came out in mid-life. Rather, we finally came out in mid-life. One of us--not TSG--had a false start in the eighties.

So when TSG called me early on Thursday morning and her first words were: “I can’t do this anymore. I want out and I don‘t want to be a mother anymore.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. Because I feel this way about three times a week and know without a shadow of a doubt if I had to do it over again, twenty years ago I would have told Ward I didn’t want to go out with him much less sleep with him because if we started dating, one thing would lead to another and it would spiral out of control until I was locked into a life long relationship and a role I would spend most of my time resenting and quite frankly hating. I hate being a mother because I’m so bad at it. Like I hated being a waitress because I sucked at that, too. I don’t hate my children so don’t call social services or my ex-husband. I just really don’t like being a mother because I am emotionally lazy. I am sick of having to be thoughtful and strong and forbearing and patient and wise and wonderful and listening and coping. Because just now it seems like the only thing these kids do is break my heart and drain my bank account and ask me for a ride somewhere I‘m not invited to go . So I knew exactly where TSG was coming from. The week before I had spent the day helping her--pre and post op--with her boys when they had their wisdom teeth taken out. Wally-the-Younger (WtY) was tuned up and I knew he was going to be a handful waking up from anesthesia. He was but TSG is a saint (I really want to hate her but I can’t) and she talked him off the cliff and he calmed down. What I didn’t count on was he had been acting like an asshat for a few months and was moving my very dear friend to the brink of her limitless patience. When she told me what was going on I wanted to march over to their house and spank that twelve year old menace. (More evidence I’m not much of a mother) How DARE he treat his mother, his hardworking single mother like that. I at least have an ex-husband who shares custody of Beav (for the moment until his stepmother, Alexis Carrington, gets bored and doesn’t want him around) so that’s a gift compared to her ex-husband and his fucked up games and issues. But instead of spanking the boy she set some stern boundaries with him and he has respected them for several days now. God’s hand was clearly in this because I was supposed to work and if I had been at work, I would have missed her call.

I need to remember this whole God works in mysterious way thing because that evening I got the other big phone call; Wally had failed his PT test because he quit in the middle of a run. I’ve already chronicled in full internet blog vomit my initial reaction. Last night, as grief would have it and my nature will predict I landed full on in the Anger territory and sit here. I mean I was really angry. I wanted to scream and rave at him: “What the fuck were you thinking?! When are you going to stop this behavior????!!!!” Then I got angry at myself for ever giving birth. (now that’s getting to the root of the problem) TG thoughtfully decided we should go out to dinner last night, to cheer me up and to celebrate her recovery. She had progressed from laying in bed with ice on her shoulder and under the influence of prescribed narcotics to being able to dress in real clothes in the span of a few days because she is from Polish stock who all believe if you can survive post WWII Germany and refugee status under the tyranny of the USSR you can survive anything, including shoulder surgery. I know everyone will be stunned to learn I wasn’t very good company. It’s a good thing I had to drive because if I had the option of not driving I would have had eight too many drinks and probably puked all the way home from the passenger seat. (Hey, I’ve come a long way in five years but I’m not perfect) Not only was I angry at Wally but I was resentful I had to try and help him through this hiccup and not only was I angry about the whole thing my heart was broken for him because he has to live with the consequences of quitting. I was also angry because I knew this about myself--prone to freaking out and quitting midway because of ZERO self-esteem--and went ahead and had children. What the fuck was I thinking twenty years ago.

As luck would have it a young couple were sitting just across from us in the uber chic uber hip restaurant we were in last night and as luck would further have it they had their brand spankin’ new baby with them. “You know it’s a good thing I’m driving because if I weren’t I would probably get drunk and tell those people it’s not too late to take that baby back to the hospital because all that baby is going to do is grow up and break their heart” The Girl looked askance at me, worried I was going to do it but her worry was quelled when I started to cry and go over and over all the the bad things I did to my children and the many ways I have sinned against them. I do believe in my heart of hearts our children choose us but why on Earth would anyone be as masochistic as choosing me for a mother and Ward the ball-less wonder as a father. She let me rehash the things she has heard me confess about a hundred times and then she said this:

“Those boys love you. You are the one they depend on.”

As much as I was enjoying the pity party, I realized she was right. Wally called me first this week and when he tried reaching his father; his father “missed” his call. (Oh for the love of God you don’t miss calls in this day and age. His asshat father didn’t want to deal with it. Gah, I just wish he would disappear!) Beav knows it’s pointless to ask his dad to do something for him because it won’t get done and it’s doubly pointless to ask him for money for his activities because Ward simply won’t have it because he never has money for them but has a wine cellar. As she reviewed these things, I realized she’s right and I fought becoming smug because everyone knows how much I can’t stand “teh smug”. Smug is also a sin of pride and that’s just one more thing for the long list of transgressions I commit so I chose to not add it. Instead, I changed the subject and we talked about her. What a relief for everyone when the whining stopped.

This morning at the early hour of two at 0200 I awakened with a headache which I was happy to blame on stress rather than alcohol abuse. Because worrying about stuff you don’t have control over is so much healthier than drinking to excess. (myth number 2373 I tell myself) I took a few Ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep but of course I couldn’t. I lay awake in the still half light which gave the impression it was not early winter but mid summer because it had snowed. For a few minutes I tried to pretend it was really an early morning last June. After playing the time machine game, I ran my tape about how much I hated myself for hating being a mother and how I hated having my heart broken by Wally again when I remembered something I read in The Power of Intention exactly five years ago which was one year after I had found shelter in the Crack Cottage and began my amazing spiritual journey which led me to the sweet life I have today all made possible because I couldn't leave my house July 1999. Dr. Dyer shared a letter a woman wrote to him which said the following: “When my boyfriend broke up with me, I thought my heart was broken but you helped me discover my heart was broken open.” I realized I needed to turn pull my finger off the self-loathing button and take a second look inside this broken heart. My heart is broken open to all sorts of possibilities and lessons in faith and trusting the Universe or God or Jesus or whoever things because do happen for a reason. Like the whole messy business of involving myself with The Most Toxic Person on the Planet so I would have to live in a terrible neighborhood in a tiny poorly insulated house that was either too hot or too cold so I could learn what was really important.

"So God, I’m ready, bring it on. Show me what the purpose of this Fresh Hell is all about and if it’s about giving you everything I worry and fret about and then taking it away because I’m a big control freak. Fine. I can deal with that but can you leave my kids out of it because I think they have suffered enough at my hand." Thanks, Me.


Micki said...

Oh, Sweetheart,

THIS is the hardest age with kids. Especially boys with absentee dads. ESPECIALLY boys with useless absentee dads. I didn't make that up, though I lived it: I was told that by the kindest, most down to earth psychiatrist I ever had to fortune to send my kid to.

I didn't have the fear of being a mom that you do to complicate things. What I had was an ex who thought that if he could only get the kids to hate me, they'd love him best.

But here's the thing, with or without idiot ex'es. Babies and toddlers wear you out physically, but they are bundles of love and gratitude for whatever you do for them: walk into their room when they are ready to get up, and you were the one person in the world they wanted to see.

Gradeschool age kids tire you out with questions and their own friendship dramas. But you finally get some sleep, so it's easier to handle. The teenagers come along when your hormones are preventing sleep, along with their later hours. AND they challenge you at every turn. AND they play "pull Mom's strings" for the hell of it. AND they need so badly to know that you are in charge, even while they desperately don't want you to be.

You are kind, you are thoughtful, and you love those boys like crazy. So I have two suggestions, if you haven't already started doing this. First, get yourself a lightbox, because anybody who's prone to depression could benefit from one, in northern latitudes at this time of year.

Second, there are a host of herbal remedies for sleeplessness and you need something: everything feels worse when you can't sleep.

BIG BIG hugs to you, Sweetheart!

Anonymous said...

Hey babe. If it means anything, I think you are one of the greatest people I know. I thought so when we first met on TT, ten years ago, and I think so now.

-- Phyl

EdgyJuneCleaver said...

Micki and Phyl,
Thanks for your kind comments! Micki I love your description of the different stages of motherhood, so wise and so true. Fortunately, writing helps me tremendously and I only have mini nervous breakdowns that last an hour or so and then I just move along. Exercise and working outside has done more to improve my mood and the St John's Wart and melatonin I take has helped tremendously. Your support means so much.