I started to write this to a friend… I speak to him every single day. He’s currently going through a marriage breakup, and I try to be there for him… because I know how it feels to have noone at the end of each and every day… just someone to talk to and rant to and pour those crazy feelings out to…

We’ve known each other for over 20 years now… We met in a club – my friend was picking him up (for me) because she thought he was cute. That’s what we did. We’d go out. She was in a long term relationship and I was single. So she’d find guys and pick them up on my behalf… The best kind of wingman! 🙂

Anyway… he and I talk daily at the moment, and a couple of days ago, I made a flippant remark about having a 17 year old who had to confess she couldn’t drive because she wasn’t sure she had a zero alcohol level after a party the night before, and a 14 year old who at least gets his weed from his friend’s parents, so at least I know it’s not laced with Ice… It was a flippant remark about not taking any parenting advice from me, unless it was to tell him how I’d screwed up…

He was stunned… but he tempered it down to a ‘surprised’… And it struck me… we don’t talk about our kids. Not really… He knows my marriage was very ordinary, and he’s heard moments from it, but he doesn’t know the extent… and I haven’t told him… So he knows it wasn’t great… but he knows nothing about the rest of the dramas in my life… and not many people do… I think it’s actually one of the things I enjoy about our chats though – it’s his dramas and none of mine – just a few odd commiserations and similar stories to divulge…

And then, this evening, my sister messaged me out of the blue… and we texted a few messages back and forth… real messages… We haven’t spoken in over a year. There was a time when we were incredibly close, but the last few years have been strained…. and finally, it just wasn’t pleasant talking any more… So tonight we chatted, and she finished by telling me she loves and misses me… and I couldn’t say it back.. because it would be a lie…

So I’m left wondering… I know I compartmentalise – far too well some days… I can talk about things that have ripped my heart out, as if I have no emotions involved at all. So perhaps that comes across at times… but then I wondered, after talking to my sister, a thought I have had a lot over the last couple of years… Is something inside me simply broken? Am I just so used to being hurt and discarded and betrayed by those I love the most, that I have built so many walls and there’s no longer any windows… Or am I in fact in a better place, where I just don’t have time, energy or inclination for those that drain me… even those I love….

So my message to my friend was about me…. my children… my dramas…

I know I sometimes may seem too flippant, too abrupt, too unfeeling… but in fact, the opposite is true… I feel far too deeply and I care far too much for the people I love. I am that friend that will drop everything and turn up on your doorstep if you need me. I am that friend who will drop everything and appear with food, wine and a night of my undivided attention when life just seems too impossible. I am that friend you can call when you’re broken down at 3am on the side of the road 3 hours from me, and I will get in my car and be there. I am that mother who leaves a dinner to drive my daughter’s friends home from a party, to 6 different addresses taking me over an hour, just to know they are safe. I am that friend who will pack up a new baby as I’m still talking to you on the phone, and have begun the 4 hour trip to your house when you ring and tell me your husband has just walked out the door after 26 years because he’s now in love with someone else. And I am that friend who will leave my phone volume on so you can call or text and wake me at 3am when you’re feeling alone.

And I am the mother who will leave my phone on all night and sit up talking to my 14 year old about nonsense, convinced he is doing it simply because he hates the world and knows how exhausted I am… so he wants me to hurt and to suffer too… and I am that mother who needs to believe that a part of him just needs me to prove that I do love him, and that staying awake, somehow for him, proves that… and never quite knowing if this is the night that he NEEDS me to talk to him…

And I am the mother who stays awake until 2 and 3 in the morning to get my child off the bus, the mother who drives my child’s friends home when they all descend from a bus with no parents to collect them…

Ha… I am simply singing my own merits… but I am that person. My skin is not as thick as people think it is. Words shatter my soul. Accusations that I am not the friend that is needed, destroy me… no matter how mild the comment. Yes, this is my issue, not yours…

So, I could not write that to my friend after all… and I tried again…

The last few years have been hard… more than hard… I left the marriage from hell, but I didn’t realise that the aftermath was so much worse… another friend going through a nasty divorce told me the other day, on the eve of his court case, that if he’d known, two years ago when he left, that he would have to endure the last couple of weeks, he wouldn’t have left. His ex has destroyed his life in every way she has known how, and he still would not have left… Yet for me, I could never have undone it. Never, even for a heartbeat, have I regretted leaving. I simply regret not leaving earlier. I regret what I have put my kids through. I regret knowing I can’t undo the damage.

So I have the ex from hell… although, to be fair, most of the time he stays away now. Someone told me it’s because our son now lives with him, so he has to be around all the time and play the doting dad and husband to the new family. Perhaps… But he leaves us alone for the most part. He’s still manipulative and that still infuriates me, but the intimidation and threats have stopped…

My 17 year old is in her last year of school. We have always had a great relationship, but cracks are showing at the moment… I could be completely off base, but I think she resents the horror she’s had to live with, and she blames me for a large part of it… But she won’t talk to anyone, not even her friends have ever been party to what she has been through… Bottling it up… Eventually, the cork will pop though…

My 14 year old has so many issues, I’m not even sure where to start. He’s happier where he is than he has been for a long time… but the last 2 years have been hell. The violence. I can’t explain the violence. How can you? How can you tell people that in November, he grabbed a glass from the kitchen sink. I grabbed his wrist as he tried to smash it. He screamed at me to let him go so he could smash it and cut my throat and watch me bleed to death… and how do I tell people that it took me back to my own mother pointing a knife at me and telling me she just wanted to stab me in the heart and watch me die… How do you tell people that this is the child that lies and steals and hurts… that would walk past his sister and punch her in the face… or destroy everything in her bedroom… that he annihilates everyone with words… and when the words run out, he uses his fists or feet or whatever he can get his hands on… How do you tell people of the nights, so many nights, of sitting awake, terrified that he would decide tonight was the night he would stab everyone in their beds… How do you tell of never, ever being able to leave him with the others because he would look you straight in the eye and say to you – you can leave them, but I can’t guarantee I won’t kill them… How do you say all these things and so many others to anyone…

How do you tell people of the days and nights you have spent hours on the phone talking him down from wherever he is at. From killing himself to killing everyone in his house to killing everyone at school. That when he stood here bleeding on my couch from the fresh slashes on his arms, all I could think to say, in irritation, was – don’t get blood on my couch… Of the tears I finally shed when the blood wouldn’t stop flowing and the look of satisfaction mingled with disgust as he saw… His words – this is because of you… Of the times now when he will Facetime me to show the cuts aren’t too deep… How do you explain how it feels to see your child’s arms and legs from 400km away, on a tiny screen… to not be able to reach out to him, to have absolutely no idea what to say to him, to not b able to stop it or fix it… Or that now – I’m not cutting anymore mum, you’ll be happy…. so what are you doing instead? Oh, I do smileys… A smiley is with the cigarette lighter – you burn yourself… Burns are deeper, they leave scars, they’re easier to get infected… But hey mum, I’ve stopped cutting like you wanted… so you don’t have to worry I’ll cut too deep anymore… Or do I tell of him picking fights with the most frightening of people he can find, wanting one of them to finally snap… or dangling from the roof of a 4 storey building by his hands… or smoking cigarettes and weed and drinking anything they can get their hands on… or… where do I start, and where do I finish…

Or perhaps i try to explain the bit that absolutely no-one understands… of the four kids… THIS is the one I thought would never leave… This is the one who was in counselling from before the marriage ended, trying to help him cope with the destructive relationship he had with his father… This is the child who has always needed that extra bit of love… this is the child who begged me to let him live with me forever, who couldn’t stand sleepovers because he had to sleep in the same house as me, who wanted both our ashes ultimately spread over the ocean so we could travel the world forever, together… and then he left. As simple as that… well, not quite… first, he made our lives hell. He did everything he could to make me hate him… because he doesn’t believe anyone does love him, should love him… At one point, broken, sobbing, I shrieked at him – what have I ever done? What have I ever done that is so bad, you could hate me this much? His reply… You gave birth to me. You’re the reason I’m alive… How do you explain this to yourself? Let alone to someone else…

Or do I talk about the 9 year old, so hell bent on keeping the peace she will tell anything at all they want to hear, and do anything at all to stop an argument… regardless of the consequences. The child who goes into meltdown if you even look at her too crossly…

Or the 8 year old who has an amazing analytical brain, but still can’t read and write… who refuses to eat anything other than 6 basic foods… whose behaviour is escalating… and we’re about to embark on the merry-go-round of specialists to find out what is going on, and what we need to do about it…

Or do I talk about me… and my exhaustion… Do we talk about the fact that very few people will still love you at your worst, they’ll just complain when you don’t love them at theirs. They won’t hear the words you say or the words you don’t say… they’ll only hear the perceived hurts you’ve inflicted… Do you try to explain this to them? Or do you realise that it just doesn’t matter… Do I tell them that 2 months ago, I walked into a doctor’s surgery for a pap smear, and walked out with a bunch of referrals and suspected problems, where the broken toe was the best of the bunch… That the lump in the breast turned out to be nothing, they think, but we’ll keep an eye on it just in case, because it might be deep seated or too small… or the skin cancer that they THINK they got all of, but lets do regular checks for the rest of your life in case we missed a bit and it spreads…. or the uterus that they can’t actually find any cause for, but isn’t cervical cancer like my best friend died of a year ago (and do I tell that? The endless loss… the phone in my hand to call… or of going back finally to visit recently, and for the first time ever, she wasn’t there…), but they can tell me that the average uterine wall is 3mm at the start of the period, and mine was already 17mm a week afterwards… but they don’t have a reason, just that my body is giving up on me… or the low iron that should rectify when the blood loss is sorted, but that is currently leaving me drained, tired and emotional… or about the high blood pressure and low pulse rate that apparently means my heart is not working effectively… Do I tell them all this… just to have them ‘fix’ it by telling me it can all be fixed with surgery and medication… but none validate how I am feeling. None understand that I don’t have the time or energy to fix my own failings, when it is all needed to hold together my children…

Or do I talk about the fact that I have worked and studied forever… That for years, I have either worked two jobs, or worked and studied simultaneously. All with kids underfoot. All whilst being heavily involved in the life of a country town. Secretary of swim club and soccer, registrar and recorder for little athletics… Involved in every major event in the town and half the smaller ones… traveling constantly for the children – school, sport, family… Until finally, a couple of years ago, I started to stop… I left the country town, I stopped being involved, I stopped travelling, I stopped working two jobs, I stopped studying, and finally, I stopped working at all. I simply… stopped.

Which part of the story do I tell… Because when I start to tell the story… I lose track of the pieces… because there are so many… and when I try to gather them, I realise… I don’t want to tell them my story. I don’t want to share the pieces. I don’t want the judgment. I don’t want the opinions. I don’t want the solutions…

This was the other thing I had tried to explain to this friend… He was saying how lonely he feels… Anyone who has ended a marriage, or anyone who should end their marriage, knows it… that deep seated loneliness… where you just want someone to snuggle with on the couch, no more… someone who wants to know how your day was… someone to make you chicken soup when you are sick… someone who cares that you are being ridiculous… someone who listens to all the boring bits, simply because they are important to you… So we know how that loneliness feels… the knowledge that even though you might be there with the person you have married, they’re not the right person… and you miss the warmth of being with someone you love…

But i am passed that stage… I am okay with my own company… For me, I want someone who makes me a priority. Someone who believes that my happiness matters more than their own, because I will believe theirs matters more than mine. Someone to hear about the boring bits of my day, to hear the stories from my past, to listen to the inane thoughts that traipse through my mind… I want that…

But even more… if I went back in time… the thing I would choose first, for the father of my children, is a man who will love them more than he loves himself. A man who will place their welfare before his own comfort.

Because that is the part that is hardest at the end of some days… Someone who loves them all as I do… someone to occasionally do the hard parts of parenting… to occasionally be the bad cop… to sometimes argue with them to go to bed, to clean their teeth, to eat their damned dinner… Someone to fight with them about whatever drama and meltdown occurs this time… Just someone to occasionally pick up the slack… someone to say to me – hey, you’re doing okay… you’re not the worst mother in the world… and it’s okay… Just that. It’s okay…

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I’ve had a number of conversations of late about feelings… particularly about negative emotions… and particularly about the fact we’re not allowed to have any…

I seem to be constantly telling friends – let yourself be sad! You’re grieving! But I seem to be the only one. They’re bombarded with well meaning voices telling them to get over it, be happy, move on…

But you have to grieve. You have to work through the process. If you don’t, those emotions control you.

When my marriage fell apart, I’m the one who finally said the words. And I’m the one who refused to change my mind. He went around the town sobbing to anyone who would listen. He rang my family and friends. I remember sitting in our lounge room and every device in the house just kept ringing. That was the day I learned you could make a phone call through FB… That was the day I first shut down almost all of my social media.

What everyone saw was a guy, broken, desperately trying to get his family back together… and i was the bitch who just wouldn’t listen to anyone. One friend kept saying to me – okay, you’ve made your point, he’s sorry… now take him back.

They didn’t care about any of the reasons I gave. Umm, he has a girlfriend! Surely that would work.. no. We all know men have needs, he doesn’t love her…. Hmm… Ah, he’s unbalanced and keeps threatening and harassing us… That will stop though if you take him back – he’s told you this!… Okay, so I’m meant to be bullied and threatened into taking him back, and I’m meant to want this person in my life, in my children’s life, and I’m not meant to be terrified of him?… You’re being silly, listen to me, he’s sorry, he wants you back, you’re doing this to yourself you know…

So… he was allowed to grieve… he was allowed to turn up to my workplace sobbing… he was allowed to physically pin me to my car in the main street and scream abuse at me… he was allowed to have his ‘needs’… he was allowed to do anything he wanted… because I’m the one who said the words. I said ‘I want a divorce’. And since then, he’s still constantly forgiven for everything he does, because I destroyed his world and broke him.

Firstly… no I didn’t. He was doing all these things and more long before we broke up. He was leaving. He had already taken a job in another state and only planned to visit the kids every 2-3 months for a couple of days. He’d already made that choice, but he didn’t want to be the bad person, so I said the words…

And as a result, I wasn’t allowed to grieve. The second I showed any unhappiness, the wolves pounced. I was obviously doubting. I was obviously regretting.

Because we’re not allowed to have negative emotions… But I WAS grieving. I was grieving the loss of the ideal. The plans you make for a future. The ideas you have and the choice you’ve made. I still had to grieve for all those things. The loss of the life and the lifestyle. The hurt in my children’s eyes because mummy and daddy just can’t get along and they’re always in the middle of it. All those things…

And I see friends going through crap and they are told the same thing. Move on. Get going. You need to get over this. Smile. Why are you sad? You must be depressed… you need to see someone.. get medication.

And this takes away from the reality and seriousness of true mental health issues – but that is another story…

So why are we so terrified of feeling anymore? Why can’t we simply allow ourselves to grieve?

I was talking to a friend this morning who is going through a divorce. Only a few weeks. He’s doubting, he’s unsure, he’s feeling isolated and he’s constantly told to be happy… after all, he wanted this… There’s no mention of the psychological abuse everyone knew his wife has inflicted for years… He said the words.

Or the friend whose husband recently walked out the front door to go to work and never arrived… They found him 3 days later, miles from home on a drinking binge. Hospitalised for a week. Now going through the very long process of medication and therapy for suicidal thoughts and depression. His company is bust… she’s left to sort out the finance, clean up the warehouse, and close the business down… They have three young children…but he’s not coping with life himself, so that’s hers to focus on as well. The house. She was on maternity leave… but now they need an income, because his company is bust and he’s currently unable to work, for who knows how long…. She walking on eggshells wondering what’s inside his head. He’s trying to function at all. Her entire world has turned upside down. Her entire future has changed. But he’s back now, and he’s fine so move on… There’s no time to grieve for the life they had planned. There’s no time to be selfishly sad and angry and to shake your fist at the universe…

There are so many stories… big and small… but the theme is consistent. Move on. Be happy. Smile.

The media took a spin with the smile thing earlier this year. Telling a woman to smile is sexist… and I get that. You’re beautiful when you smile – I like you better when you smile – I tried an experiment when this was actually in the headlines. I posted a series of selfies (I don’t often have me in my profile pic) to gauge the reaction, and every single time, there was a comment on my appearance – smile, being the most prolific. But ‘smile’ also exhausts you when you just don’t want to. Because today is crap. This week is crap. Right now, it feels like this whole damned life is crap and I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and I just don’t want to smile… Oh, then you must need medication!

No. Sometimes, you just need to be sad. To work your way through the grieving process. To rant and to roar and to cry. Because when you finish that, then your smile will be genuine.

** And obviously, clinical depression is a very different thing to grieving and feeling sad.

alice

I’ve loved this quote since I can remember… it just sums up my days so well at times 🙂

I knew who I was yesterday. I knew the path I was on and the vague direction I was heading… but three simple conversations, a text message and an overheard plan… and a new path has appeared to the right…

Three conversations. All about the other person. One has finally left his unhappy marriage, one is not coping with the twists of life, and one has just had his heart broken…

A text message, or lack thereof… one of those ones that just seems to clarify you’re making the same mistakes….

An overheard plan – hatched by my two munchkins… They’d asked if this course was possible and I said – sure, but your father will object…. and suddenly, they are chatting to each other and their friends, working out how to make this a reality…

And suddenly… I find my world is tilted yet again and that path I was on no longer holds appeal… I find myself physically leaning to the right as these thoughts swirl… towards that new path…

I need silence and I need words…

7 bullets…

I can do this. Dodge seven bullets. I can choose which bullets will hit and where… Okay, it’s actually more than seven… but we’re starting with the main ones and working from there…

First bullet. The toe is broken. Well, she’s assuming it’s broken or fractured… not much point taking an xray as there’s nothing that can be done. Frustrating. Painful. But I can take that bullet. Hit. In the leg, in fact!

Second bullet. Blood test tomorrow morning. So no food… or caffeine… Hmm… At least it will take my mind off the needle :/ I hate needles. I know… no-one likes them… but I really can’t stand them. They hurt. A lot. And I jump. So if it’s someone inexperienced, they miss… and have to do it again… :/ Blech… I actually feel like vomiting.. let’s move on… But I’ll let this bullet simply graze the skin maybe… a flesh wound. It can show anaemia. We’re expecting that. I already have that history. So I’ll take the anaemia. That’s it.

So that’s two bullets and I’m allowing both to hit. So I get to dodge the third, yes? Surely I get to dodge the next…

Third bullet will also be fired tomorrow. No point in pacing these things… Mammogram and ultrasound. Apparently this will hurt, too… but no more than childbirth… Ummm… I had caesarians… But you had labour, right?… Sure… So this is the first big bullet. Because, oh yes, there’s more than one of the big ones… But it will be nothing. A lymph node. A cyst. Something benign. I get to dodge this one, yeah?

So… the plans for study and a career change need to be put on hold. Phone calls tomorrow to do that. Lifestyle changes… they’re tangled in at least one of the next four bullets…

But… I can do this. One bullet at a time. Play the game. Perform the dance. Mind over matter. I get to choose which bullets hit and where.

Please don’t grant me strength…

dd

He got married yesterday – which is great – because he’s (mostly) now leaving me alone. People seem to think I’ll be bothered… and it’s odd… there’s a part of me that IS bothered… but it’s bothered that I made such a bad choice for a husband and the father of my children.

Not for a second have I regretted leaving. So many people told me I’d have doubts… but not one.

I was sifting through paperwork last night, trying to find evidence of qualifications… my paperwork methods really leave a lot to be desired… Sifting through emails… found some relevant documents… and found some old emails from the first 18 months after the split. The abuse. The insanity. The threats. The manipulation.

So I was already feeling a bit rattled… going back down that path is hard…

The kids are there for the wedding. They’re on a train home at the moment actually. The eldest went – the first time in a very long time. He dropped the kids home on 3rd January. They’re there for the wedding this wknd. He wants them for Easter. I said no.

Because, you see… he sold his kids out. All he wanted was the money. So I gave him the money, and he gave me the kids. I can’t seem to make anyone understand. The legal papers state he is entitled to every second weekend and from Boxing Day until New Years Eve. A phone call on a Wednesday evening between 7 and 7:30PM. That’s it! Anything else can be granted, but is not mandatory.

I don’t stop my kids from seeing their father. Ever. He sees them for a weekend every 2 to 3 months – his choice. He was living here for 5 months, knowing for 3 and a half that we were moving here. Two days before we arrived, he took a job near his new girlfriend’s town – a girlfriend he had known for two weeks. Yes, he married her yesterday, but he chose her over seeing his kids, after knowing her for only two weeks.

He wants Easter. I said no. I don’t argue, it’s just not going to happen. Ever. I have the legal documents. I have photos of him still in bed every year on Christmas, Easter and birthday mornings (the birthdays he was there for). He never cared about those occasions. He cared about what presents he received and what food and alcohol was on the table. That was it.

So my eldest has sent me a text. Dad and the whole family have convinced the kids to come here for Easter. All of them, mum. The whole family. Everyone has been at them about it the whole time.

So I am furious. It’s not going to happen. He can take it up with the courts. But yet again I am the ‘bad person’. Every time they come home… “Mummy, if we moved to *** we could see daddy all the time”…. Umm, no…. daddy moved there, we’re not going…. “Mummy, daddy said if I go and live with them I can have an iPad”…. Umm, you have an iPad! “But I’m not allowed to take it to daddy’s place, but if I move there, I can have one for there and one for here”… Umm, you’re not moving to your dad’s…

Eleven more years of schooling. Eleven more years of this manipulation.

Someone… please find me that patience….

I used to be a good parent. I used to care about all those things that don’t really matter. I’d worry about what food they ate, sport they did, homework, friends, music, art, socialising, leadership, chores, downtime, and the list goes on….

I was never really a good parent though. People told me. I didn’t discipline enough… or I disciplined wrong. I gave them junk sometimes. They only had organised activities 6 days a week. I let them wear pink, red and green on the same day. I didn’t jump to intervene when they couldn’t get it to work. I’d walk away and ignore them when they’d throw a tantrum. I didn’t make them wear shoes everywhere. Or jackets. Sometimes there’d be a stain on their shirt.

I like at the eldest – almost 17. She’s amazing. Everyone loves her. She’ll go places. Success! But… she loves junk food… Where did that come from? I only let her have sultanas and yoghurt for a treat… She has no idea how to entertain herself except with TV. Again, wtf? She didn’t even watch The Wiggles until she was 3 and at daycare! She needs to have activities constantly – to be doing something or going somewhere… but her downtime is to watch TV… and she hates to work! Seriously hates it. Hmmmm….

The next child challenged me. He had the same rules. Initially. But they didn’t seem to work for him. We’d go out… he’d misbehave. A while ago, he admitted he’d do it so we’d go home… Most of the time now, he doesn’t talk to me. He has chosen a different path to the one I was guiding him towards. I struggle to accept it, and as he tells me… just because he tells me he loves me, doesn’t mean he actually does….

Then I look at the next two. They’re busy dragging themselves up. And I have to say, they’re doing a much better job at it than I was doing. So… I figure I’ll let them keep going. The youngest had cereal for dinner tonight… again… because as he tells me, he LIKES it. They bicker and gang up on me and drive me batty some days… They don’t do homework. They eat way too much junk. They only do activities that suit them and they’re happy to just sit at home and do nothing quite often. They think chores are optional, as are showers and cleaning your teeth… we do argue over those last two…. But… they seem to be getting it so much better than I ever did… So I think I’ll leave them to it, sit back, observe and learn…

Mother love…

Lying in bed this morning, trying to convince myself I needed to get up… the kids hadn’t bothered me…. no real plans for the day….

My phone rang… My mother…

It’s been a while… and I like it that way… I’ve come to the point this year where I’m happy to just not hear from any of them…

But… it’s her birthday on Wednesday and Christmas on Friday… and I really don’t have the right to stop them from seeing my children…

So, I decided to answer and have any harsh words said today, rather than on Wednesday or Friday.

Me: Hey. What’s wrong? (because she only calls with bad news)

Her: I was going to come and visit…

Me: What? Today?!? Oh…

Her: Yes, are you busy?

Me: (thinking of a million and one possible excuses… but deciding to be noble) Um, no… just going to the markets, but that’s not important…

Her: Oh… I thought you’d be busy… You’re always busy…

Me: No, no… we’re about…

Her: Well… it will be 10 before I even get there so the day is already half over (it is??)… So maybe I’ll come over in the New Year…

Me: Sure thing…

Her: I thought you’d be busy… You’re always busy…

Me: Yes, you said…

So! I am happy because I rose above my own desires and opened the door a crack… and she is happy because she can tell everyone she tried… Win-win!