Welcome To Adulthood

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This has been a tough day. Every day has had its challenges since I left my husband and my family but today especially so. Today is Paul’s 18th birthday and I wasn’t there to help celebrate thanks to COVID-19 and Paul was upset. Even though he knows I could not come for the past few weeks he has still asked, “Are you coming?”

At first I wondered if it was his autism talking. Kind of like it wasn’t computing that I would not be there. But the other day I realized it was his way of coping with the fact that this would be the first time there was a major celebration or holiday since our break-up and he was struggling with the fact that our family was no longer what it had always been…a place that provided a sense of comfort and security. Now there is none of that left. Nothing intact or nothing familiar about a milestone birthday and he just wanted it back to the way it had been. Frankly, so did I.

A tradition in our family has been that the birthday boy/girl got to choose the restaurant where they wanted to celebrate their big day. Obviously, with COVID 19 this was not an option. So I thought really hard about how I could make Paul’s day very special even though I would be unable to be there with him.

Paul is a foodie. He appreciates new tastes, flavors, and atmospheres. So, I decided that since he would not be able to go out to dinner I would bring dinner into him. Because his birthday was on a Monday his dinner would have to be celebrated on Saturday since food companies do not ship on Saturdays or Sundays. First strike to this birthday dinner…it would not be able to be celebrated on the day of his birth… yet he was excited anyway. I ordered a dozen Chesapeake Bay crabs to be delivered complete with brown paper and mallets. Next a few filet mignon steaks followed by a speciality cake which Paul saved for today.

Well, the steaks never arrived but luckily I was told the crabs were superb. And today it appears that the cake was a hit for everyone but me. Instead of tears of joy for Paul today I cried tears of sorrow for me. Why? Two days of celebration and no one bothered to Face Time me so I could share in the joy of seeing Paul enjoy his gifts from me. So I could watch him enter into his adulthood. AND IT HURT. BADLY. All I know was last April when I had B leave our house I would invite him to dinner just about every night so he could be there with our family but the same sort of courtesy was not extended to me… the person who made this dinner that they all enjoyed happen.  Sadly, it never occurred to B to offer the same to me.

Sometimes I wonder how my life got to a place where I don’t even recognize it anymore. What happened to compassion and concern we once shared? I often contemplate how I could have given so much of myself to someone who had such little regard for me and continues to show nothing but distain. But what I do know is my son is entering adulthood today and so am I. His is full of life, adventure and openness whereas mine is one of loss, fear and regret. I am trying to grant compassion and not hold hate in my heart for someone who cheated on me and did me wrong but somedays make it darn near impossible. Today was one of those.

So,  to Paul,  welcome to adulthood ….  make it a good one.

And to me…welcome to real middle aged adulthood… what the fuck are you going to do with it?

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Running On Empty

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And so I start my new life. A life that once offered such promise and now I know not what it brings. One could say we never do…know what life brings. But when I was married for 32 years, I know that life brought me hope, assurance, and feeling appreciated. Now I feel nothing…but empty. An all encompassing emptiness like the lack of sound around you as you stare wide-eyed at the snowy silence in a forest.  That surreal reaction that feels so other worldly because it makes your ears hurt with the nothingness that fills them. That is kind of what leaving your children to get away from your cheater “I’m in love with our tour guide who is 20 years younger than you” feels like when you finally put your foot over the threshold. All the remains is a vast and unending silence. And while I am glad to be away from B’s constant lies, the price I am paying for doing nothing but believing in him…in us… in our family… is a heavy price to pay. He cheats…he has our kids. She cheats…she walks into my life and I am replaced. Everything I have poured my heart and soul is gone. Everything I loved into since I ran out my door at 15…never to return…gone. There was nothing to return to then and nothing to return to now…but emptiness…vacant hearts…desolate times in which I could not compete with the forbidden kiss of a woman across the world. A love, once whole but now dried up… falling apart… flaky and hard… like a day old biscuit.

Yet, every morning I put my feet over the side of the bed refusing to give into grief and pain that pulls at the roots of my insides, snapping like a rubber band against the skin…a wince coming just prior to letting go of the stretch. And so I stand, taking my first steps just like I did 58 years ago when first steps were exciting and everyone squealed in delight. Not terrifying as they are now. Falling when you are one = bandaids and kisses whereas when you are my age it can mean broken bones and even possibly death.

I feel like I should be grateful…I have a place to land unlike so many others in this world. But I feel no gratitude. Only the emptiness of once abundant touches…gone. “Hey, mom…I’m home!”…distant dreams. I miss my kids. I miss my life. But most of all I miss me.  Who I was when I was their mom? When I was someone’s wife?  When I thought I knew what I was and what I wanted. Now I look in the mirror at a stranger. A person’s whose eyes flash like a loud neon sign, ” Vacancy!” There is nothing here because I don’t even know the place that I am at, the language that is spoken, or the resources available to me. Life on this side of the aisle is so different and full of unknowns. Like being dropped off on a desert island with one match and being told, “Okay, now go make a life for yourself!” Does striking the match guarantee fire? Where to I even begin?

I have been reading Joan Didion’s book The Year Of Magical Thinking in hopes of reacting to grief in a normal way, yet, there is nothing normal about this. Grief when someone leaves you alone due to death protects the mind. While all encompassing you know that the person who left you didn’t have a choice. They didn’t want to leave you. Grief when your husband is in love with someone else is different. They had a choice and they choose someone else.  They wanted to leave you or wanted you to leave. Either way it makes no difference. You are rejected for who you are and all you ever hoped to be. You are not enough…never will be. This kind of grief doesn’t allow for “what if’s.” It just allows for the coring out of your heart and soul…all that is left is dry dusty bones held up by pieces of your life that fill in the joints making it possible to remain upright like a medical skeleton hanging in a med school dorm. Something hanging there that no one even notices anymore in the age of the digital life. Something regulated to the obsolete.

I will be okay. I keep telling myself this because if there is one thing I have learned in life it is that it will be okay…eventually. It always gets better…eventually. And when my eventually comes I will kick up my heals and dance celebrating who I am and all that I have created. But for now I sit quietly contemplating the same life questions I did when I was 15, 20 and 35. Who am I? Who will I become? What do I want? How do I go about achieving this?  The devil is in the details and the details have yet to be revealed.

OIP

 

 

Stress Eating/Mental Health Nightmares

I started my diet to lose 20 pounds at 6:00 a.m. It is now 11:30 A.M. and I have downed two pieces of fudge, drank another cup of coffee that is mostly milk and devoured a bag of moon cheese. All within 30 minutes.

I had good intentions. Truly I did. And I was sincere too in the belief that this week would be the one I got off my kester and set to work reducing my waist but at this point my resolution appears to be a waste… for life got in the way.

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It all started yesterday. I drove home from Las Vegas after Gracie’s dive meet where she took a first in one event. So proud of that kid. Anyway, after driving 6 hours I was met at home by an angry teenager. Paul was fine while we were gone but seems he and Gracie got into it the moment she came through the door.  An hour later I was holding him while he melted down and cried. Damn you autism and mental health challenges!!!!

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After those difficult and emotional moments it appeared things were better until I decided to spoil myself with a nice warm bubble bath.  And therein lies my first mistake…actually thinking that I could do something nice for myself without being interrupted.  For as I lay in the tub I suddenly heard very loud shouting and a slamming of a door that shook the entire house. As I jumped up and wrapped a robe around me I heard uncontrollable crying coming from Paul’s room. I walked into a mess caused by a kid who had dumped, in a rage, the contents of his desk all over the room and he was sobbing. I went over to him and he yelled at me to leave him alone. Now I don’t know about you but when I hear those words spoken with the tunderous roar of a fighter jet I know that I am needed more than ever. I also know I need to change into my Green Beret mentaility to succeed in turning things around despite the odds being against me.

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What ensued was not easy. I ended up on the floor while this child both raged, hyperventiled and talked scary stuff. I held onto him like his life and mine depended on it. This went on for almost an hour until at last he wore himself out. His words broke my heart. His pain broke my soul. And his anger touched a place in my brain that I never want to visit again.

Later, after going down to the kitchen I realized what the problem was. While I was gone he had not taken his medicine and B had not checked his box to make sure that he had. Two days without meds in Paul’s case is a disaster. He becomes a tsunami of emotions that threatens to wipe out anyone nearby and the result is anger that cannot be contained.

I worry about my son. I worry that one day he will rage at the wrong person. I worry that while “out of his head” he might get shot by police or hurt himself. I worry that in his anger he may seriously hurt his siblings instead of a kicking a hole in the door that is a reminder of when he got seriously mad. Sometimes I worry that his mental issues will engulf us all and carry us down the mountainside with him broken and  buried under tons of stone. I know my marriage has been effected by Paul’s issues and that we all suffer in different ways when he is off-balance and out of control.

This morning, I packed everyone’s lunches and drove each one to their school. I proceeded to the gym in order to kick my diet into high gear. As I was nearing my goal of three miles I received a phone call. Paul was having an anxiety attack at school and could I please come and get him?

He’s sleeping now. His face soft and relaxed. Quiet breaths making his chest rise and fall in a slow steady rhythm unlike yesterday when he sobbed so hard he chest was moving mountains. I look again and my heart fills with love for my son; this boy who feels others emotions so intensely and takes them on as his own. This boy whose face I first saw on an adoption site. Right now, he looks like an angel which is what I am afraid that he might someday be. For unless, we can find a way to teach him to control his emotions I am afraid he will be hurt and possibly killed. By a stranger, The Police. Or himself. Either way, our path is a hard one and we are scraping our knees as we once again escape the sharp edges of the precipice which is our lives.

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I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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Distance

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I thought things were so much better between us but it feels like we are headed downhill once again. The distance between us has re-appeared and it makes us wary, circling one another, both waiting for the other to make the first strike.

The distance between us varies. Right now it feels like a ship off course from its intended destination. Off course because a storm is tossing it about in rough deep seas and as I look out of the window all I can see is gray skies and rolling waves the size of skyscrapers. And the smell sticks to you like wet, moldy grass. But it is the smell of fear that fills the room. Fear of sinking and fear of knowing you can never swim hard enough or fast enough to plant your feet firmly on the ground.

Sometimes I associate this distance with my GGG Grandparent immigrants. That last kiss, that last hug and that last wave knowing that all of it would be the last of everything and everybody you knew and that you would never see those who were left behind again. It feels conflicted…excited at a new chance, scared about what the unknowns were before you, and sad for all you were leaving behind. Sometimes our distance feels deeper than this sort of distance.

Often the distance between us feels like we are across from one another, standing in a sunny meadow. I reach for you and I find I am stuck in concrete and that I cannot move. Sometimes you see me and make your way towards me. Other times you turn your back and walk away.  It feels confusing and leaves a terrible taste in my mouth like dry burnt toast.

And sometimes this distance feels like we are just feet away from each other on a bridge but we both fail to take off our blindfolds so we can see that the other is right in front of us. This is even harder…so close…yet so far apart.

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Self-Deception

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When did I …STOP…

Seeing myself as a StRoNg

And CoNfIDeNt Woman?

Was it when…

I didn’t finish my Master’s Degree?

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Was it when I stopped working

To take care of a family…

The loneliest Job in the world?

Maybe

Was it when those unexplained absences

Occurred

On those silent nights

When you were gone?

Didn’t help

Or perhaps I never really was

StRoNg and CoNfIdEnT

Those powers lost when I

Was But a ChiLD

Struggling to UNDerStand

A World I Couldn’t

Possibly know

A world made for adults

At which I played dress-up

Taking tea laced with whiskey

Trying to act cool

And impress people

I shouldn’t have bothered with

Did they BeAt me down?

Or did I do it to myself?

I would guess the latter

Yet, I would also suspect

This is a more recent

Phenomenon

That has arrived

Tangled in those few gray hairs

I pluck at

To remove from sight

That age I should be celebrating

Instead of fighting

Like an epic battle

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Between GoOd and EviL

Lost in a dark forest

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In which most of the trees were

Felled long ago

But where shadows remain

With a poster tacked to

The BriTtLe bark of a downed tree which reads:

Lost…StRoNg & CoNfiDeNt Middle Aged Woman

With Blue eyes

A big heart

And dark circles under her eyes

If Found

Please return her to…

ME…

 I miss her

 

 

 

Parolee

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Sometimes I this “maybe divorce” makes me feel like a convicted felon out on parol. It isn’t a comfortable feeling and makes me feel jumpy in my own skin. And if the truth be told sometimes I feel as if B is the Parol Officer which sometimes makes me resentful and angry at the system that I have allowed myself to be incarcerated within.

It must be hard for real life parolees. Living in the shadow of an officer who in the blink of an eye has the power and absolute authority to send them back to prison. One false move and their life changes whether they want it to or not. You can’t help but wonder if they are constantly looking behind them and in front, unable to live in the present, due to the stress of staying vigilant like I am. Not being able to let your guard down is a terrible way to live.

Frankly, I just want to be let out on good behavior. I have served my sentence and have made major changes in myself along the way and while serving this sentence has made me be more mindful and has helped me not to yell (which has been a good thing for both me and my family) I am tired of being under watch. I just want to be free to be me again without the fear of separation hanging over my head.

 

*After I wrote this piece I told B that this was how I was feeling. With tears in his eyes he said, “I’m sorry. That must feel awful to feel you are having to live that way.How can we change this?”

 

Raw

I read a few of my writings to him

He was hurt and upset

Believed my words and thoughts were raw

He said:

“Why didn’t you let me see these

Before we went into the therapists office

Why would you save this for in there?

Why didn’t you let me see your words and let me

think about them before going in?”

I think:

It’s suppose to be a safe place

Exactly where we are suppose to take

Our deepest hurts and fears

Where we have someone to help us

Through the words and through the tears

He thinks:

Why did you ambush me?

It’s his real question

Unspoken with words

But spoken just the same

I think:

Maybe I just want to hear from your heart

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And not listen to your rehearsed

Very logical answers

Maybe I long to know

What you really FEEL not THINK

To hear words spoken from the heart

Not encased in the laughter you use

To deflect the feelings that threaten

To overwhelm you like a bad case

Of poison ivy

I am:

Guilty and sad that I hurt him

Wishing that I could say with words

The things I so easily write on paper

Perhaps they would be less complex

And easier to hear

But I am not sure that words are whats needed now

Maybe its deep feelings

Because we both want to run from them

Instead of dealing with the pain they contain

I know:

I still love him

That it hurt me deeply to hurt him

Even if that was not my intention

My intention was to be HEARD

And I wish I could take back the words

I said because I don’t want to see

Him retreat

Because of my pain

And his pain

Because really he just wants peace, love and rainbows

Happiness and joy

He claims he is a simple man

Uses it as an excuse

Not to touch those parts of him

That make him feel vulnerable and afraid

He says:

He is a simple man

But we both know better than that

 

 

 

The Return

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When you walk into the house after a week away you expect to feel that your husband is delighted if not intoxicated upon your return. Instead, it felt guarded and a little cold with a hint of resignation thrown in for good measure. Not what I expected at all.

Yes, Paul attacked him that morning. Yes, the grand babies are crying. Yes, things are stressful at work. I get it. I feel weary too at times. Actually, often. Sometimes it is hard not to in this household.

Tonight after being reunited, as I lay in B’s arms, I asked “Do you ever think we will get back to where you really love me. Like it used to be?”

Might as well be putting a gun in my hand and pressing it up to his head.

Why do I even ask these types of things?

I guess I want reassurance that he can, that we can, get to a place of love that once felt as wide as the Grand Canyon but now feels somewhat like a sink hole.

But I don’t get the answer  or the reassurance I am looking for. I get a question turned around on me?

“Do you think we can?” he asks, which tells me he is feeling this disconnect too. Which saddens me and makes me feel even more insecure.

Why do I have to always ask the hard questions? But even as I ask the question I know the answer…I don’t want to have to continue to try to guess. To try and read the mind of a man who doesn’t even know how he feels much less knows how to try and share it. I ask these questions as a gauge as to how our relationship is in his mind. But the thing is…I am not even sure I want to know. Sometimes I think I would like to just keep floating down the RIVER deNILE. FOREVER.

 

IEP Services From The School District

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For years we have been fighting our local school district to get our son what he needs in order to learn. Comprehension is sometimes difficult and math often impossible. We have watched him struggle to learn things that others grasp without effort while the school district ignored our concerns. Yet, if he is taught using particular methods he is often able to do the work that is required. Unfortunately, we do not yet know some of the methods that he would benefit most from.

We first realized he was having difficulty with math in first grade. We brought it to the attention of the IEP team. Our concerns were dismissed. In second grade, “It just takes some kids longer.” In third grade, “So he won’t be at the top of his class in math. (Yeah, duh!)” We then paid for him to go to an after school program at the cost of over $400 per month to learn his multiplication tables which the district could not manage to teach him. In fourth grade, he really started slipping but it was “Well, we can’t do anything now because he isn’t failing.” The rage I felt was immense. We were trying to be proactive but the district wouldn’t take our son’s lack of being able to understand and apply concepts seriously. By fifth grade they couldn’t quite ignore it anymore but their solutions and IEP goals were meaningless. He is now in 8th grade and doing math at a 4th/5th grade level. SIGH. I can also say the pathway has been similar for reading and comprehension but not as difficult or severe. In retrospect, the things we would do differently are numerous including taking the school district to Due Process. But the end result is that we have refused to sign his IEP for more than two years and continue to work with an outdated one.This, of course, is beginning to make the district nervous for what it means for them should we instigate legal action.

One of the things we have been fighting for is a GOOD educational/cognitive/psychosocial assessment of our son as we have disagreed with the district’s findings. We feel this is the best way to discover the issues that are effecting his learning and how he needs to be taught to reach his full potential. We have had a well-known and respected doctor in mind to do this assessment who specializes in kids with multiple “things” going on and have been fighting for the district to get him seen by him. Thus far the school district has refused citing their policy (which is illegal, BTW) that IEE’s must be performed within 60 miles of our home. If you understood where we are located you would also know that these types of services are not available here.

It has been a long, hard road with often disappointing results and constant stonewalling from our school district. But after all this time we were just notified that they have agreed to this testing and with it comes a very belated victory for our child which has cost him dearly due to these very purposeful tactics and delays.

Unfortunately, no family should have to go through this. Yes, we have at times hired a lawyer to push our case but the cost is immense and we see very little action for the money spent. School districts often stonewall because most parents cannot afford legal services, they don’t understand the law and districts know that most parents get weary of fighting “the machine” and give up. It’s hard not too. When you are already struggling at home because of the way your children’s disabilities impact your home life taking on a huge school district seems impossible and the educational system counts on that. Yet, by not doing right by our children it puts a future drain on our economy because these kids get discouraged by their lack of understanding/comprehension/accomplishment and drop out of school. They then face a life-time of unemployment or underemployment and the use of social services that could have most likely been avoided had they had some measure of success in school. Prison and gang activity is also a direct measure of the failure of the educational system.

I wish I could say it has been easy but I can’t. In fact, fighting this battle against the local school district has contributed to our ‘almost divorce.’ But I do urge all parents out there to continue to fight for their children’s place in the educational system. I have to believe that eventually we will make a difference.