Choices

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.

The One Who Got Away

 

I was waiting tables six years ago when he wandered into my section with a mutual friend, and I believe he ordered a couple of draft beers, something dark, and later, a cup of coffee, black.

He was very quiet, with a plaid shirt, tats, a hat he took on and off his head nervously. I noticed that he stared at me a lot.

Even more, I noticed how much I liked him staring at me and it made me flush deep shades of red, my hands shaking every time I filled his coffee.

He stared right through me, like he could touch me with his mind.

I didn’t know you could feel naked completely clothed, not like that.

He was there a few hours and I don’t think I noticed one other person in the smoky bar but him. Our mutual friend chit chatted about this and that, my stomach turning as I talked, feeling him stare straight through me.

And then, out of nowhere, as I talked fast and nervously, he interrupted,

YOU’RE MARRIED?” He asked it like he had just found out someone shot his favorite puppy.

I blushed. “Yep!” I shoved my ring out in front of the table, shaking, wanting to cry, not really understanding why.

He laid his head down in quite a dramatic way, and I felt this horrible rush of guilt as I wondered for the first time as a married woman what it would be like to be completely free, having not made any vows, any commitments to a mortgage, a child, and a husband. My husband and I had long began the process of leaving one another when this gorgeous stranger appeared from nowhere, reminding me what it was like to feel again.

Our mutual friend kept telling him it was time to go, and it was. We were smiling way too much, connecting in a way that felt uncomfortable, and we both knew it wasn’t right. When he got up to leave, he put his arm around me in a friendly way, and leaned over and smelled my hair.

Mmmmm. God, your hair smells nice.” And just like that, he walked out the front door.

I relived that moment in my mind over and over for years, after having another baby, a separation that ended terribly, and finally, a divorce. I wondered about him a lot, but knew all hope had been lost, feeling for sure he was married himself, and that moment had been built up in my mind, completely forgotten by him.

And then he found me. He lived hours away but he still found me by searching my name through Myspace, and had just gone through divorce himself, and on top of everything, he was convinced that I was the only woman for him. It was a fairytale, and I was finally Cinderella. We fell in love over texts, hours of phone calls, and a trip promised, planned, just like our future together.

I waited for him in the rain, freezing, as he jumped off the train to see me. I felt like my life had just jumped off the pages of a romance novel, and everything I experienced with this man was so magical, so breathtaking. It was like I finally realized what I had been missing.

Until our last day together. He was distant, nervous, anxious to get home. I didn’t know what had happened or why but something had completely switched, and I knew by his eyes that something was so wrong.

I can’t do this, I’m sorry. I can’t.” He could barely look at me.

I started to sob, and he just left. He left me there without even turning to say goodbye. Just like the first time he walked out of my life, but this time, his steps haunted me.

It was brutal for me and I could hardly get out of bed for the next three months, my grief so heavy and my heart completely broken. Every day was a challenge, and I didn’t know it could hurt that bad to just be alive. Its a testament to the human spirit that just when I thought I couldn’t go on, I did. And slowly but surely, things healed and my laughter returned. Days turned to weeks into months and now more than two years later, having nothing but that biting moment of being left by a man I loved with everything I had, I get this text from work.

U were never meant to be mine but I love you. It has always bothered me that you weren’t sure about that. I’m moving even farther away- I wont be back.  I just pray you know how much hugging you would mean to me- how smelling your hair would make me feel eternal- how watching you eat would make me feel alive. I have lived on the memory of seeing you two Springs ago. Your an amazing woman. I will pray to cross your path once more. Be blessed.

Two years later and I can finally receive the closure I have always wanted. I can’t be angry anymore or sad that the fairytale he promised didn’t exist.

I can finally stop blaming myself for somehow not being enough, and I cried tears of relief that I had not been crazy, that he did love me indeed.

I can finally breathe gratitude for a boy who stopped me dead in my tracks. Its like a ghost from my past has stopped by to remind me how deeply I am capable of loving, how much I have to give.

He will always be the boy who stopped to smell my hair.

He will always be the one who got away………………..

 

Grief Observed

Yesterday I watched tenderly as a very old lady on a busy intersection, cane in hand, placed a stuffed teddy bear at the foot of a simple white wooden cross.

I was at a busy traffic light, on my way to work, and felt very much like an intruder, a witness to the horrific grief this woman was experiencing, tears flowing down her wrinkled cheeks, teddy bear being patted, picked up, placed down, and up again.

She couldn’t seem to make up her mind which direction of the cross the teddy bear should face and at one point, she just sat on the ground, staring, the teddy bear on her lap.

I wanted to open my door, ignore the honking people trying to get here and there to just sit with her, hold her hand, offer up a tissue or a hug. Instead, the light turned green and I can’t shake the image of her out of my head, as I said goodbye from my rear view mirror, watching as she took her hands off the bear and on to the cross itself, shaking from obvious sobs of grief.

I don’t know what happened or who this woman loved and lost. I want to tell her that she touched me, that she is forever connected to my soul, reminding me that death is part of being human, something we all have or will face. When you strip it all away, I am a breathing, loving, grieving soul, just like her.

So, I thank you, little old lady on Hwy 141 with hair in pink handkerchief, cane in hand.

I promise to pause and say a prayer for you when I pass by your white cross where you lost someone you obviously love so much. I am sure they were better for being loved by you.

Love Tinks

Since my 7 year old Kat had her heart broken when a boy picked Sophie over

her, Kat said, “He twicked me, mommy.”

She said it must be that Sophie has blonde hair and she has brown,

which made me feel like a blonde betrayer.

For my girls and I, music is our way through the grieving process

and this has been her and I, every day,

on my bed watching Tinkerbell on You Tube

play out something so universal and yet still so very tragic,

this messy love business, where the man of our dreams

is chasing everyone but us.

Fleetwood Mac brings it with Gold Dust Woman, in which Lola, the little sis,

comes running in when the drums come on in the end, clapping and cheering, with Kat giving her the evil eye.

And I sigh, knowing Lola will one day have her heart broken too, and at 31, so will I.