I left Divorcee years and years ago, a young mother, barely able to understand herself much less the vows she took. I stayed and so did he, neither of us able to look at our life and imagine a day without our girls in it. We settled and didn’t even question the distance, the cold empty space between, the void, the growing ball of self hatred, the elephant I pretended not to watch just stomped me instead, over and over again.
In the leaving, I saw two girls so heartbroken over their daddy, I could die from just the memory of it, a stain so drenched in shame of their innocence, the smell of their blood on my hands could make me vomit in their presence.
I knew I had made choices that defined my life early, choices that led me to stay home, daddy coming home to the bills and a mortgage, my shirts drenched in breast milk and baby vomit paid my homage, a role I believed I had to endure. The truth is I loathed him for his freedom, the flippant way he hated his job, my thought of working and providing made my heart flutter like air. My very shame in wanting to work was the bondage he could never seem to make peace with.
And so, with my father vanishing, Divorcee’s tears and heart gripping hugs to them, I couldn’t take it anymore. They didn’t ask for this pain nor did they ask to come into the world to a young mom shocked and horrified at her own unconscious life, a life I couldn’t remember choosing, the constant look of longing and questions, their little hearts longing for the Daddy I knew loved them. And so, he moved in to take over, paid the bills, fed and clothed us, my mother and brother roommates as we all passed by, the girls in the circle, a circle I depended on for refuge.
And so they have soared, my little angels, healing and growing, Kat’s reading conquered, Lola’s first day at Kindergarten a blow we took together, friends and mostly a team, Divorcee and I. I told myself the room I had was worth it, the tiny little room with a mattress I did not own, a side table and lamp borrowed, my home long gone, all the “stuff” we collected together a vague memory of what was. It was worth it, the pain easing over time, the work of forgiveness and healing showed up like little lights in their eyes.
Only he knows what this cost, the harsh criticism, the judgments and assumptions, the weird looks, and strange distance of potential relationships, a blow I took for not having known my worth or passion. This new roommate role I settled into felt more comfy, like my favorite converse shoes, and was a better trade, so I took off their pain and wore shoes that said more lost than comfy, a bewildered zombie of a woman I did not know ran and ran, watching them grow from a different angle, but it was all just the same.
Again I was outside a life I did not want.
And like all things, courage came, the death of a dream in another form, the understanding that I wanted to live in a home I owned, with little towels that smelt like me, sheets I paid for, a bathroom I could visit without a turtleneck and deadbolt, which is pretty much how I feel every time I sneak to the community shower, never knowing if Divorcee or Baby Bro will have beaten me first.
I am an artist and nothing here is owned or decorated by me, strange glass vases and foreign colors make me weary and depression came down like a whip lash, my girls laughter in the back yard was nothing less than the cost of myself, my eyes vacant and hollow, joy a feeling I had lost long ago.
Until now. I found me. I found my joy, the passion for a work I could only dream to want much less own, and truly the shock and gratitude comes and goes like a slap, the pain and longing for my babies just as strong, my inner pull to do what I love.
The truth is I did not choose this job but it has instead chosen me, my body and soul a channel for the demand to create, no matter the cost.
I have not eaten from having spent my quarters, prayed as I shake from the gas tank on empty, not even able to buy the birthday presents much less the big party, I watch in sick envy as Divorcee clumsily picks the Halloween costume, nails the Christmas list, works tirelessly as a single Dad while I come home deathly afraid I have missed it, and the fear is not an illusion, but a truth, because I always miss something, every story or lesson plan or book read is a shock to my system, and I watch Lola miss me in her baby love, Kat shrug away in her silent anger, no longer a hero at her ripe age of 9.
And has it cost me. God, it has cost me everything. I eat, breathe, sleep, think work and art, my own presence vanishing off the map, my little girls holding my legs and crying for me not to leave, the hours have been brutal to them, and so I have promised them.
I have promised a girl house, with girl stuff, where girls where panties and dance and laugh, and this house has been the taste of freedom I seal the wound each night I miss the bath, the reading, the stories off the bus.
So, I have this passion, this creative talent and unheard of passion and drive, but for what?
You never get Mrs. Smith’s second grade concert back.
Kat has struggled the most, her needing me screams like a cat caught on fire, my heart screaming no as she turns her back to me, my sixteen hour day has nothing but “YOU LEFT ME” written, a pain I cope by working harder, certain the dream and the house and the ability to own a bank account certainly will make it all worth it.
Perhaps I will fail, miss every moment for a poor substitute, a dream is a waste for many or all of us would pursue ours.
I don’t blame them. I sometimes hate my own.
I tell them about Disneyworld and the house of girls and i see myself disappear in their eyes, and only God knows how I don’t just bury my soul in the grief, the guilt, the belief it has to be worth it and so I push, and push.
I can’t decide if living with them poor and broke when they are on their own paths, a cord they can never untie for needing to carry my weight is the destiny I am avoiding or if the truth of my mission will one day reveal itself to me, all these broken promises made good, a pride for my work and courage renewed by our love.
Until then, I sit in a room written with words of affirmation, words written to convince me I could do this and be happy, dependent on a man that never wanted me, who is releasing my title, living my dream, the one I have to go make space for while he is brushing their hair and hearing their stories, and I feel like a ghost, my life playing through a window pane, but he is in it while I am chasing it.
I sobbed and sobbed with Kat tonight, a breaking I had to have, my forgiveness I beg, my title of mother not worthy of such a precious little girl, and she is going to let me hold her tonight, a rare thing for her growing pride, to watch a movie in my teeny room, and yes, no closet door for extra storage space, my mission to make a magical sleepover in this once fearfully loved home, a space I never occupied but pretended to love.
The truth is, no space or dream can take her away, for without her I am nothing, and so I silently weep, a grief I know must be shared by millions of women all over the world. But right now, I hear nothing but the shallow ache of a hollow heart, wondering if any dream or art could give me back her, all the days, not just the moments, and I can not hear my own voice, the echos of these women I assume know answer not, and I sit in the breath of my choices.
I sit in the weight of my dreams.