Friday, January 11, 2013

January Time

Where we are now.  My mother’s cancer, which first reared its ugly head in 2010, has returned again to torture her.  After she found out about it, and had surgery in December, my father had an “episode” with his heart, and had to be admitted to the hospital, just days after my mother was released.  His treatment involved inserting stents, and then he, too, was released.  They are both back at home, now, dealing with shuttling my mother down the hill every few days for chemotherapy. 

They are 76.  I am 1200 miles away, caught up in the ordered chaos that my life is right now.  We have made plans to drive out to Northern California at the end of March to get married in Napa.  Hopefully, there will be time to visit with them in their home, let them meet my fiancĂ©e, and attend my wedding.  For my daughter’s sake, I hope we will fit in one day to drive down to Monterey and introduce my man to the ocean, my version of it, anyway.  I hope there will be time. 

I have no illusions that there is enough time.  There is never enough time.  I have actively done what I can to mend the relationships I have with my parents, knowing that it will remain imperfect, and that this may well be the last visit.  Even if everything goes as best can be imagined, the reality of our lives keeps me attempting to stay as connected to them as I can by way of phone calls and emails.  Having been in their home when my mother was sick before, I know that they really don’t want someone hovering around, trying to help.  Private people, they prefer the aid of hired professionals, who efficiently go about their business, maintaining a friendly distance.  Our relationship, such as it is, still contains so much imbalance, that everything I do for them they see as “too much.”  It doesn’t prevent me entirely from sending them useful items and little things like flowers, but it keeps me from dropping everything here and booking a flight to insert myself into a situation where I’m really not wanted.  I do not care what other people expect from me, the eldest daughter, while my parents struggle with their health issues.  I know how I am perceived.  I also know that my mother and I will not have the opportunities to have the conversations I wish we could have, the conversations I wish we had.  My father and I barely have conversations any more, although we have a connection.  I have accepted that I have the relationship with my parents that they can tolerate.  It is what they can handle.  It causes me deep sadness, but no longer the pain of the unresolved.  At least I have had this much time.

If my work to understand and mend my life has taught me anything, it has taught me the importance of being my most authentic self.  To act deliberately, to speak the truth, and to be vulnerable to being hurt in order to have open and healthy relationships.  I am a good mother because I am doing it on purpose.  I get that where we put our energy is what grows in our lives.  I value my friends and appreciate my joyous moments.  I take risks, I am persistent, I work hard to make my dreams come true, and I acknowledge my losses.  No matter how many times life has knocked me down, I get back up.  I give it another shot.  I take another tack.  I don’t give up.  But I also don’t try to imitate a salmon, always swimming upstream, bashing  itself against the rocks.  Sometimes, you have to let the current determine where you’ll go.  Trust that if you are making good choices, the right opportunities will present themselves.

I am in the midst of preparing my fiancĂ©’s house to be sold, getting a new house built for us, participating in custody mediation, taking care of my daughter and going to work every day, and all of the details that fill our lives.  I feel frustrated a lot of the time, that I can’t be everywhere and do everything, but mostly I feel grateful.  I am grateful that there is so much that I have, that I am involved with, that needs me.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Where We Are Now

I miss putting my thoughts down in writing.  Sometimes, when I’m on the train, I think about what I want to write, but by the time I’m anywhere where I can actually do it, the chaos takes over and the opportunity has passed.
So much has happened in the past nine months.  Three significant and life-changing events all at once:  My daughter has been in a course of therapy to help her manage her behavior issues, I have a relationship that has grown to the point where we are going to get married, and Buster has taken his campaign to “co-parent” to the point of a custody battle.
M is doing so much better.  We were so fortunate to find a wonderful therapist that we both trust and connect with, and it has helped M immeasurably.  She has been learning tools to help her cope, and she has someone “all her own” that she can talk to and get guidance and the understanding that is so critical to one’s self-esteem.  I recently found the book “The Explosive Child,” that has helped me so much, too.
I have a lot to be grateful for.  I am able to take care of my daughter.  I have a safe, beautiful home, a stable job, and my health.  I also have the most wonderful man in my life now, and the comfort and joy that he gives me is impossible to adequately describe.  I know that I’ve never before had this level of partnership with another person, or the depth of affection and trust.  That he’s also funny and kind and smart and dependable is just magnificent.  What’s remarkable is that he and M have formed a tight bond, as well, and she adores him.  In every way that counts, he is the daddy that she’s always needed.
This brings me to Buster.  Last spring, when he moved to the area and wanted to see M, I offered him time on an “every other Saturday” schedule.  I did NOT have to do this, and in light of his history, the offer was more than generous.  But in classic Buster style, he took this as a sign of his entitlement, and has waged a crusade of demanding more and more outrageous “rights.”  The more I tell him that he needs to slow down and proceed gradually, the harder he pushes.
He has demanded that he be allowed to have a say in decision-making.  This from the man who has been essentially absent for the past eight years.  Who has been seldom-employed, rarely has his own residence, and has no defined life plan.  For the past several months, he’s been renting a two-bedroom third-floor apartment that is almost completely empty.  I’ve been there once, and M confirms that it hasn’t changed.  He sleeps on an inflatable mattress on the floor.  He has the kitchen table that I gave him when I left, he has one kitchen chair, a couple of empty bookcases, and that’s it.  But despite making absolutely no attempt to make a space for her, he has demanded overnights.  She’s never spent the night with him in her life, and his demand was for several weekends a month.
I have retained an attorney and filed a petition to be granted sole parental responsibility.  I should have done this years ago, but I really didn’t think he’d ever do this, and I wouldn’t need to.  As part of the official court paperwork, he “discovered” that M is on meds, and so therefore sees a psychiatrist, and he used this to declare that I’m “endangering” her.  We had gotten to the point in the process where we’d scheduled court-ordered mediation before he got himself at attorney of his own, however.  Now, we have two more Saturday visits before we have our first mediation.   I dread the four-hour session.  I am glad to know my attorney will be there with me.
My life has taken on an uncomfortable pattern.  As Buster’s Saturday looms, he sends me emails regarding his plans for the day.  If I question anything, he sends lots of responses, not waiting for me to answer before he sends another one.  I try not to respond.  Then, the day arrives, and M gets up and gets dressed, expressing conflicting emotions over going with him.  He comes to the door and she leaves.  Sometimes, I hear from Buster during the day.  He brings her back in the afternoon.  And then I sigh in relief, and prepare myself for the avalanche of emails that follow until the next Saturday two weeks later.
This weekend is a “Buster-free” weekend, and we are at my man’s house, where we are all relaxed, even though we have to pack for the weekend and maneuver around not being at home with our stuff.  Here, with two dogs in the yard, we are content and at peace.  The driving back and forth is a pain in the ass, as is staying on top of laundry and such when I’m not home every other weekend, but we are making it work for now. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No Net in Sight

I wrote this a few months ago, and couldn't post it until now:

It's been several months since I posted.  I've been struggling a lot with my daughter, and most of the time I'm so exhausted that I go to bed right after she does. 
I've recently had her start seeing a therapist, because things came to a head when she was suspended from Before & After School Care for two days, and school for one day.  She threw a temper tantrum and ran away from her caregiver, and in a structured environment like her B & A SC, that is considered a security breach.  Of course, leading up to the tantrum was my daughter's defiance in the face of authority, and general lack of concern for following the rules.  She takes the attitude most of the time that something goes wrong that "it's not my fault."  She definitely needs to learn personal responsibility and manage her angry feelings in a more constructive way.  She can lose her temper and be raging in a stunningly short amount of time when something doesn't go her way.
All of this makes me feel like I've been run over by a truck.  Her father had one particular flaw that I found myself unable to stand:  He never, ever, said he was sorry.  For anything, no matter what.  I find that degree of self-absorption and arrogance just unbelievable.  When this quality of his reared its ugly head, I found myself loathing him.  To have my daughter reflecting anything similar is just awful.

Also, I'm discovering that no matter how hard I worked to keep from being negative about him in her presence, she has developed her own feelings toward him that are very strong and very angry.  She recently told me that she hates him, and she had never said anything like that to me before.  I was surprised, although I guess I was hoping that somehow she would be immune from the feelings of loss and betrayal because he's been  so absent in her life.  She was only a year old when we split, and I thought if she didn't remember living with him, that she would just adopt that as her "normal."

Instead, she has focused all of her frustration and pent-up anger at him, and as a consequence, when he phoned late on Thanksgiving and wanted to talk to her, and then didn't call or try to contact her over Christmas (but sent a present via Amazon), it tipped the balance of something. 
It tipped something for me, too. 
I stopped making excuses for him.  That alone seems to have unleashed her rage. 

I never wanted her to have to feel the full effect of his complete non-participation in her life.  I realize I was dreaming.  I have sooooooo much sadness and anger about this, I can't even express it.  She deserves so much, and so much better that what she got.  He's so disconnected.  From her, from life, from reality in general.  I'm furious with myself for making a baby with a man who is so incapable.  I'm disappointed that I couldn't see how inadequate he was before I let it go as far as it did.  I love my daughter so much, but I can't stand how tied to this jackoff we are, for the rest of eternity...  he so doesn't deserve to be part of our lives.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Sustains Us

"When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don't you want somebody to love
Don't you need somebody to love
Wouldn't you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love"

I've struggled for decades with trust issues.  Early loss and repeated trauma have left my psyche scarred in ways that will always be with me.  And yet I am one of the lucky ones, because I was seven before all hell broke loose, and something strong and good within me was able to survive deep inside. 

And in one of the universe's ironic twists of fate, in this one way being female worked to my advantage.  Unable to find someone that I could invest with all the love and goodness that still remained, I simply made one.

Okay, "simply" is clearly not the right word.  But that is exactly what I did.  Having a child saved my life in all the important ways. 

I don't have to wonder what my life would be like without her.  I wonder at the fact that she's here.  A little hand holding mine.   Someone who looks to me for comfort and reassurance, who depends on me to provide what she, what every child, has the right to take for granted.  Who can bask in my "I love you"s and offer her own with the clarity and sincerity of a child.  It's pretty awesome.

All the years of being strong and keeping it together now have a reason.  My dilligence and persistence finally make someone else's life easier.  We have a safe and comfortable home, a routine, and the lovely mundane pleasures like our Labrador sleeping at my feet. 

I've kept myself sane, but she soothes my soul.  She softens me.  She makes me lighter.  The effort to raise her has brought laughter and imagination and flexibility into my life in ways that constantly provoke me to think differently about what's important and how to creatively problem-solve. 

She's also helped me put aside a lot of the stupidity and heartlessness of other people.  I just don't have room in my life for holding onto the darkness for too long.  Because I love my daughter, I can eventually get to the place of detachment a lot faster.  I can see that it's not worth it to dwell on the wrongs, because I want our lives to be free.  Because I want to be a good example, I am a better person. 

I have confronted so many of my fears.  I've taken them out and turned them over in my hands.  I've looked at them with these new eyes and been able to see their flaws.  Some of them, being brought into the light, have withered like a plant that's no longer watered.  I found that, as a mother, I don't have any more time to put off the things that I needed to do, but that I dragged around for years.  Some people have marveled at how I turned my life around.  I marvel that something finally happened that beat back the pain and despair and unrelenting darkness.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Next Steps

Looks like I've got a contracting job for the next several months, so that worry is taken care of, for now.  I am very grateful that I got my last job when I did.  It truly was "in the nick of time," when I was at the end of my savings and really needed to get back to work.  With that job, I was able to buy my townhouse and get a lot of loose ends tied up.  I met some people that I really like.  But I never felt it was a good fit.  For the first year, I had a boss that I really liked and had a great rapport with, and that kept me going.  But once he was promoted and the whole organization shifted, things went dramatically downhill.  I'm hearing bad reports from all sides in the time since I was let go.  I'm glad I'm not there any more.  I remember talking to one of the Project Managers several months ago, and telling him that I was miserable.  That's just no way to live.

I've been diligently job hunting, and my skills are marketable these days.  I was fortunate to find something Downtown.  I've worked Downtown before and used to take the bus when I lived just west of Denver.  Now that I'm further south, I'm going to try the Light Rail and see how that works out.  Parking is an issue, and sometimes getting in and out of the city can be a problem if there is a big game or event that snarles traffic.  So I bought a monthly Transit pass and I'm going to give it a whirl.

Sleeping later for the past several weeks has been luxurious.  I know that M has enjoyed it, too.  Tomorrow we're back to "normal" - me getting up at 5:30 and her at 6.  I've got our morning routine down to a science, but I think I'm going to make our lunches the night before to give us a little more breathing room.  One of the things I noticed before I became unemployed was how rushed I always am, and I didn't like it.  I'm going to make an effort to relax a bit on my schedule and take things a little slower.  Now that M is in the Second Grade, she isn't as clingy and feels more independent, and she got a teacher this year that is wonderful.  As a result, I feel like I can loosen up a little and maybe be a little easier on myself.

The extremely hot weather finally broke a few days ago!  This summer has been brutal.  Colorado isn't usually in the high 90s for months on end.  I've hidden inside when normally I spend as much time outdoors as possible.  One hundred degree weather makes me feel almost nauseated, and saps my energy.  For the past couple days, the temperature has been back in the normal range, highs in the 70s, and it's been lovely.  I had meant to really work with M on her bike riding this summer, but because of the heat, it just didn't happen.  I haven't been on my bike, either.  I really hope we have a nice Autumn and I can get back outdoors.

Since M's dad's last visit on June 1st, things with him have been weirder than usual.  After I told him that M was having a negative reaction to the webcam and I wanted to take a break, his communications have been combative and irrational.  He declared he was going to seek mediation, and then I didn't hear another thing about it.  Out of the blue he sent me a brief email asking my opinion on what a good "parenting plan" was.  When I replied with asking what happened to mediation, he just said I laughed at that.  So I answered that I didn't think it was appropriate for him to have "joint responsibility" but asked again about setting up visits.  He went as far as moving to Colorado but I wonder for what.  The distance has remained the same whether his address is Durango or Greeley or somewhere in Massachusetts.  I keep trying to get him to understand that with M, he needs to take things in steps, and build trust.  But he is clearly only thinking about himself.  Again, now, I haven't heard another word.  I can't believe he could be serious about his relationship with M if he is willing to let so much time go by with no progress.

He's always been so very touchy about his delicate sensibilities.  If he perceives that he's being criticized or demeaned in any way, his reaction is to shut down.  He's got no negotiating skills, and no creative ideas.  He's also extremely Passive-Aggressive.  He simply WILL NOT follow through on a committment, or do what he says he'll do.  Somehow he sees this as his master strategy.  But now that I've dealt with him so many years, I think he forgets how well I know him.  He really is his own worst enemy.  It's tragic how stuck he is in his own little drama.  Meanwhile, M continues to do well without him, and gradually is voicing her own opinions on the matter.  She wants to see him, but is adamant that she not be forced to "go with him."  She doesn't like the idea of spending the night with him.  Of course she'd feel that way!  She never has!  He's only spent a handful of hours with her since the summer of 2005.  I wonder if he realizes that she's a child.

I expect his next move to be some kind of summons.  I cannot believe though, that I would not be able to work out something reasonable, visitation-wise.  The question is why?  I've been the one trying to get him to be MORE involved with her, not less.  I've just maintained that it has to be under conditions that are in her best interests, rather than simply for his convenience.    That alone has been enough to keep him away, and that alone tells me that he really is interested only in himself.

She's playing right now with a little girl that lives part-time on the next row over.  I met her dad last night, and he gave me a summary of his situation.  I hope his daughter will be around for a while.  M hasn't had a lot of opportunity to have playmates who live close by.  It's a new thing for her to be able to run around outside with a neighbor kid.  M's such a sensitive girl.  I want her to be able to enjoy the stuff that kids should be able to take for granted, but that she is denied so often.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Here we go again...

Yep, as I feared, my job is no more.  However, a week later, what I realize is how very toxic that job had become and how much better I feel now that it's gone.  Considering the poor economy and all, knowing that I feel much better being unemployed says a lot about the workplace I was in.

Fortunately, I should be getting unemployment benefits, but I hope I won't need them or at least not for very long.  Who knew you could apply for unemployment online these days?  Maybe it's a sign of getting older, but I can't help feeling slightly amazed at how much technology has changed the way we do things.  Not that I miss combing through the Jobs section of the newspaper! 

Next Tuesday M starts Second Grade.  When she started Kindergarten, I hadn't found a job yet, so I was among the parents standing outside the school each day waiting for the kids to file in and out.  I've been in the PTA, and go to the school events, and am on recognition-level aquaintance with many of the parents.  So here we go again.  Each class at M's school has a designated spot around the school to line up and be dismissed from.  I will find out where our spot is on Monday night, when we get the pleasure of showing up with our bulging bags of school supplies and find out who M's teacher will be.

It takes a lot of self-discipline to get up each day and stay with a routine and keep plugging away without the structure of a work schedule.  It took six solid months to find my last job.  I am hoping it won't take that long this time.  Fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Creeping up on the Big Five Oh

For as long as I can remember, my birthday has felt like New Years. It was always the end of summer, right before school started, smack dab in the middle of last-minute vacations and the scurry to get prepared for a new school year. It has been a time to assess where I am and where I’m going, to take a look at what needs to be done to prepare for the long winter ahead, and to clear out the worn out and no longer needed from my life.

This year I will turn 50. I am grateful that before that happens, I managed to clear several important milestones. I bought a townhouse and got a dog, I got my degree and have no student loan debt, I turned my finances around and am now working on building back up my emergency fund and my retirement funds, and I have a job… for now.

That’s not going all that well, but I’m doing what I can to hang in there.

My daughter is the light and joy of my life, and she’s a great kid. The situation with her biological father is worrisome, but the older M gets, the less I fear his antics. I keep remembering what it was like when I attempted taking him to couple’s counseling for M’s sake, and the therapist pointing out that he was Passive Aggressive. I think it will always work against him in the end.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to catch up with some old friends, and I am continually moved by how lucky I am to have the friends that I have and how important my friends have been in my life. I am so fortunate to have friends scattered across the country, and from so many times in my life. They give me a sense of continuity and context that I wouldn’t otherwise have. They help remind me of who I am and how I’ve changed, but also how the essential core of me has remained the same.

I have a couple of friends that I’ve been seeing less of. I am increasingly aware of how precious my time is, and where I’m spending my energy. It’s important to me that my actions are in line with my intentions.

As well, there are the mundane housekeeping tasks. I just had four new tires put on my ten year old Rav. I had my eyes examined and ordered new glasses and contacts. I finally bought M’s school supplies and we’ve bought her some new clothes. I need to have my chimney cleaned and inspected, and I need to order some firewood delivered. All of these things have taken a chunk of change, and I’ve made each purchase thoughtfully, making sure I’m not being frivolous. (see job worry, above)

Thankfully, I am in wonderful good health and reasonable fitness. Yoga and walking the dog help a lot. I eat well and I have really good genes. I can look forward to skiing again this winter, if I can afford it, but if not there is still snowshoeing. I have every reason to believe I have many more decades ahead of me, in the tradition of my ancestors. I am approaching 50 with my head up, my shoulders back, and my stride still strong.