Friday, April 6, 2018

If We Knew God’s Greater Plan...

Recently, a  friend presented me with a question; If we knew what God’s greater plan was, or why we are meant to endure such things, would that make it any easier? I have spent countless nights pleading to God, in an effort to change his plan for my mother, but I will never forget the moment my pleas changed from “please God, see my mother through this one more time” to “God, please take her and end this battle”.

 My mother spent years of her life striving for perfection always trying to please everyone. She fought many a losing battle and I remember my father often telling her to “stop trying to save the world”. Life is full of letdowns when you have such good intentions.

She was a dedicated wife who’s only mistake was choosing a mate who had no interest in pretending to be perfect. He tried to teach her to focus on the good rather than dwell on the bad. But she was not ready for this liberating approach and perhaps resented the fact that it came so easily to him.

She was a dedicated teacher in the school district that recognized her special ability to handle the worst kids they could throw at her, only to have them turn their backs on her and accuse her of being too harsh on those kids. I often run into former students who tell me, with a residual look of fear in their eyes, that she was tough. So tough that they wish their kid had a teacher just like her!

And she was a dedicated mother who raised a son who seem to master the art of at least appearing to be perfect, and a daughter who spent her teen years resenting the very idea of such unrealistic expectations and often found pleasure in throwing her rebellious imperfections and her poor mother’s face.

Being a mother now myself, I have learned a lot about just how perfectly imperfect my mother was. It wasn’t perfection she was demanding from others, it was simply her want to see her loved ones, and even those rotten students, be the best people they could be. And she was always harder on herself than she was on anyone else when those people fell short. I have no doubt, for instance, that the lessons in tough love that she was forced to teach her  idiot teenage daughter were far more hurtful for her than they were for that foolish young girl.

In the last leg of her time here on earth, she became a grandmother. Her never ending soul-searching journey to find herself seemed to stop dead in its tracks the moment she met her first grandchild. She was happy to simply be grandma and never seemed to struggle with that role as she did with all the others. Her need to please and appear perfect found the ideal outlet in her grandchildren. In my five-year-old daughter’s eyes, grandma could do no wrong. Madeline is all at once,  the lucky one for getting to know her grandma so well, and the poor little girl who spent the last year waiting patiently to resume weekly sleepovers and camp outs by candlelight in the living room at grandma’s house. And while my heart breaks for the newest grand kids who have been cheated out of knowing their perfect grandma, I am devastated by the thought of my daughter losing her first best friend. I can only imagine the pleas  my mother made to her God, begging him to let her watch her grandchildren grow up and to let her shine a bit longer in the starring role of her lifetime, just as I prayed that all of her grandchildren could get to know the capable woman I still conjure up in my dreams every night; the woman who’s world revolved around them, not her illness.

Just as her downward spiral began, she took a very uncharacteristic moment to sit me down and tell me that she is proud of the mother I am to her precious grandchildren. I believe she is thankful and respects me for breaking the cycle of demanding perfection. I mother with my heart and without regard to how it appears to others. She was grateful to me for giving her grandchildren the kind of peaceful, stress-free, fun filled childhood that every child should know and probably doesn’t give herself enough credit for giving her own children the same. And she was pleasantly surprised that despite my obvious flaws, my children, her grandchildren, are genuinely kind, caring, polite, headstrong, independent, and yes, perfectly imperfect.

It took a while, but my mother did learn to stop taking life so seriously. And perhaps a credit to her “pal Petey” and his odd sense of humor, she learned to laugh, even at herself. We all grew to appreciate my mother more as she grew to appreciate herself. We were thankful rather than burdened by Sunday dinners at mom’s house. We were amused rather than annoyed by her incessant curiosity. We even saught the  nagging, motherly advice that we once resented because it was forced upon us. And my father, her ex-husband, never wastes an opportunity to tell us what a wonderful woman our mother was.

 Her faith saw her through many hard times. And eventually she learned to stop judging her life through the critical eyes of others, and instead begin living and learning through the forgiving eyes and unconditional love of her God. We found great comfort in watching my mother’s faith remain so unwavering during this agonizing process. Who are we to question God while we watched in awe as her faith held up and she still insisted on going to church every week even though it involved the challenges of the wheelchair and the humbling inability to rise with the rest of the congregation to sing his praises and the need to be lifted in and out of the pews, and the special,  doting attention from her loving and dedicated church family, which she once would have found terribly uncomfortable.

 I respect the Lord’s path, and I genuinely trust him. I only ask that he respect us for learning the valuable lessons this type of tragedy is meant to teach us, and to take note that we did this a long time ago, even before we were forced to do so out of fear and that the cost of losing someone we love. And I pray that he shower her with all the praise and accolades her dedication to him surely warrants.

 God bless you Mom. I am certain he will.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Get Over It.

I was told recently, that I really should be “over it already.  It’s been two years, I mean really.”

I have no idea what the reasonable amount of time is to get over 15 years of unrequited love and endless failed attempts to be worthy and 14 years of losing myself completely in the blissful hell of child rearing and happy homemaking, with no one there to love me enough not to let me do that myself.   But I do know that it is not two years.

Add to that, having to shatter my family/most prized possession, and the painful burden of bearing sole responsibility for all of their tears and frustrations, and feeling single handedly responsible for rebuilding us, with all our fractures, strong enough to bear the weight of my guilt and to take anything life throws at us.

Add to that, haunting memories of our perfect family and our happiest times, happy enough to shield me from all my sacrifices.

Add to that, losing a large group of loved ones I once called family.

Add to that, meeting a man or two who couldn’t seem to resist falling in love with me despite all my warnings that I’m hard to love now, and who believed that any man who let me get away when he had an even better, loyal, less broken version of me in the palm of his hand was a fool.

Add to that, knowing that I’m very hard to love now...

and suddenly it feels like a life sentence.

Happier, hopeful, healing, slightly less jaded and bitter? Yes.

Over it?  Hell no.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Meet me at the fair...

Him: “Meet me at the fair” 

Me: “That’s the name of one of my favorite episodes of Little house on the Prairie.”

Him: “I love those books.  My mom used to read them to me.”

He had a way of saying and doing little things that felt like a tap on the shoulder from the universe, “Pay attention Kristin.  Don’t miss the clues.  Don’t let sincere words fall on bitter, deaf ears.  Don’t let your jaded eyes be blind to genuinely thoughtful gestures.  Don’t let your cold, resentful, brokejn heart be too frozen to skip a beat sometimes.”   It was so much of what I had been missing and craving for years, even when I couldn’t quite put my finger on the void.    

So we met up at the fair one evening.  Up until then, we had only had a few dates, drinks together, endless, easy, thorough, heartfelt conversation, and some seriously passionate kisses whenever and wherever the mood struck.  Kismet.  

He found me waiting for Ginger, who was on a ride.  He appeared with two tickets for the ferris wheel in hand;  “If one of your friends would keep an eye on your kids for a minute later, I’d like to go for  a ride with you.”  Despite the best intentions, we never did make it on that ferris wheel, for reasons that I would perhaps thank the universe for later.  

It was a lovely evening.  Easy and comfortable as always.  And it was scary.  I was starting to think that he was special, and I didn’t feel anywhere near ready for special.  My plan: Keep him at a very safe distance.  

He walked us out to my car at the end of the night.  We all said goodbye to him.  And as I turned to walk away, he said “Oh wait, here, this is for you.  Trust me”  and handed me a flash drive. 

I went home, and for some reason (because I have four kids) I forgot about it.  Then he sent me a goodnight text and urged me to plug in that flash drive.  “It’s something you’ve been missing.  Trust me.”  

So I plugged it in, and up on my computer screen, popped the titles of all of my long lost stories that I had been mouring the loss of for months.  Stories I had written about motherhood as I know it, that I had poured my heart into and cherished.  My very first published stories.  They had disappeared from my limited scope of the world wide web and were seemingle being held captive in a cyber abyss locked in a treasure chest.  And now, I had just laid eyes on my treasures, right at my fingertips. 

It stunned me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was like a little puzzle piece of my heart was put back in place and in the silence of my awe, I swear I could hear my heart pounding and it’s icy shell cracking.  I cried.  I cried because I had my stories back, and I cried because someone cared so much.  Someone, who had only known the severely broken version of me, found me worthy of such a miracle.  I cried because I knew if he had gotten me on that ferris wheel, and handed me this gem, I would have cried and cried and cried and my cover as cold and heartless and incapable of love may have been blown.  I cried because he was, in fact, special, and I still wasn’t convinced that I was worthy of special just yet.

But that’s the beauty of special.  Special is patient and strong and courageous. Special can see beauty in our flaws.  Special wants to help carry our baggage.  Special sees our battle scars as a badge of courage.  Special admires our strength during our weakest moments and never lets us forget that it’s there.  Special is not afraid of four kids and their broken mom.  Special feels heroic while insisting that it is in fact you who has saved yourself.  Special is all of the demands you throw out to the universe when you’re jaded and your standards go up because broken hearts teach cold, hard lessons, appearing when you’re certain the timing is wrong.  Special is an understatement.  

 Him:  “You just set the pace, and I’ll keep us moving in the right direction.”

Universe: “He is special.  You are worthy.” 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Survival Mode

Today, I met with my accountant to have my taxes done.  My hope was just to drop them and run, but he sat me down to get the basics of my financial situation.  I sat there blindsidedly explaining that I have been a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, and that I am newly single after 14 years and trying to get back on my feet and care for my 4 kids, and that we were never married so basically since I gave up and walked away, I now have nothing but my 4 precious children to show for my wholeheartedly devoting every moment of my life to raising my kids.  Nothing.  

When I broke, and left, and walked away from a very comfortable but love-lacking life, it was so necessary that I didn’t even care.  The fact that I had finally come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t love me like I needed, the idea that I might one day find that love, the fact that I had my children, the fact that I had the pleasure of being home with them for over a decade while they were young and oh so precious,  all of that was enough.  I had been very blessed in many ways and it was priceless, but costs me a lot.  

I have a new found happiness.  It is liberating to let go of something I was holding on to with every fiber of my being but still never really had.   And I try very hard to focus on that, the silver lining to some dark, dark clouds.  But every so often, I’m forced to stand right under those clouds and endure the storm for a moment, like it or not.   Recently, I went to be interviewed for a job subbing at my childrens school.  The very first thing my interviewer mentioned was that I, unfortunately, did not have much recent work experience.  I was aware I would never be welcomed into the cold corporate world with my decade plus experience in full time child-rearing and housework, but to think that my devotion to children and the fact that I have four of them which is practically a classroom full, may not qualify for so much as working in a school hit  me like a lightening bolt.  But this is my reality now.  In this society, devoting myself to being a good mother and psuedo-wife makes me incredibly blessed and fortunate and entirely unqualified for anything else.  And the fact that I was ok not being worthy of marriage all those years leaves me entriley screwed.  Lucky me.  
But I do feel lucky…and hopeful, and optimistic.  And even though I explained my bleak financial reality to my accountant in the most positive and matter-of-fact and optimistic way, the storm clouds came as he looked at me and said “My dear, my heart breaks for you.  And every inch of your body language tells me you are in survival mode.”   And the thunder rolls…

It’s important to look on the bright side.  I am a hopeless optimist.  But these reality checks are important sometimes.  They serve as those little pushes I need to pick myself up and dust myself off.  They remind me that I do not deserve to walk away from everything I put into my family and our life with nothing, and that if there is only one way to fight for what I’m really worth, I have to stop being afraid. They help me to dig deeper.  

I am indeed in survival mode.  I’m trying to dig myself out of some very deep holes I have dug for myself despite all my best intentions, and I am standing in storm after storm, but I can see the silver lining, and I will survive.   

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One year later...

One year later…

I’ve learned that failure is an option.  That my best intentions do not guarantee a perfect outcome, and loving with all my heart and soul does not promise the same.  I’ve learned that no love at all is better than unrequited love.   I’ve learned that I’m very lovable and it’s his loss.  I’m very lovable.

I’ve learned that at my weakest, with a broken heart and shattered, defeated spirit, I can charge through the darkest battles with four kids in protective tow.  I can hit rock bottom and bounce right back.  

I've learned that when I'm hurt, I can be very stubborn when I should be courageous, but I tend to come around.  

I’ve learned that fathers will never ever let their little girls down, and that the more you say “Dad, I’m fine.  Please don’t worry about me”  the more sleep Dad loses at night.  

I’ve learned that my children are resilient and strong and open minded and observant.  I couldn’t explain why I shattered our perfect family a year ago, despite my agonizing, tearful attempts.  But I think that now that I can’t be with them every moment, distracting them from some of the painfully obvious imperfections in our family, the more they understand why I walked away from the man I loved so hard for so long.  I like to think all of my praying and pleading that my children would learn that I walked away from my relationship and not our family has paid off.  They know why I’m not there.  They know I’m here.  I have always been here.  I will always be here.  I also like to think that we have all learned a few lessons in love; how to love and be loved.  Love it or lose it. 

I’ve learned that it is very difficult to get back on my feet after 12 years of raising kids and depending on a very strong, capable, hard working man.  It’s also very terrifying.  It’s also life changing and liberating.  I have the power to hold out for a most powerful and satisfying yet insatiably passionate love.  Somehow it makes me feel fearless.  

I’ve learned that I’m a lover.  It’s what I do.  I love people.  I’m passionate about it.  I pour my loving, generous soul into making my loved ones feel loved.  And I don’t really ask for much in return.  Raising kids is a thoroughly selfless and thankless job.  But if there is one thing I know for absolute certain, it’s that my babies love and adore and appreciate me more than anyone else in the whole wide world.  They can’t get enough of me.  It’s smothering and sometimes I think it might kill me, but it’s my absolute favorite thing in the world.  There is something far more tolerable and satisfying about the suffocating, ungrateful love and adoration of my children that seems more fixable than 14 years of unrequited love from the man I gave my all.  I’m too lovable for unrequited love. 
I’ve learned that I am my own worst enemy when I am heartbroken, and that even at the age of 40, I can still make some devastating, heartless mistakes and hurt people I love most in the world.  The kind of mistake that, when forgiven, reminds you that love is essential.  Love is friendship.  Love is all around.  Love is forever.  Love conquers all.  

I've learned that we are all in need of forgiveness.  To forgive, to be forgiven, to heal.  And this year, the universe, in it’s infinite wisdom, taught me a lesson about forgiveness that unleashed a ripple effect among my loved ones that tore us down just to set us up to rebuild, stronger.  i've learned to trust the universe.

I’ve learned that there are some very angry people out there.  People who will take your best intentions and weakest moment and use them to their advantage and your detrement.  Just because.  But…forgiveness. 

I’ve learned that some friendships are literally like life lines that get tattooed on our destiny for better or worse.  Eternal friendship.  

I've learned that Mr. Perfect is out there.  That mutual passion is out there.  That some men are not afraid of 4 kids.  That I'm worthy of hearing "I love you" and seeing it in his eyes.  That I'm not ready for Mr. Perfect yet. 

I've learned that the most improbable, unexpected and nonsensical events can be dead on.  

I’ve learned that some things are inevitable because the universe says so.  And that the more I tell the universe that I’m’ not going to do something, the more it reminds me not to give up on love.  The more I insist that my shattered heart is ice cold, the more the universe reminds me that I am a lover by nature.  The more I resent never having  heard “I love you” and swearing that I don’t want it anymore anyway, the more the universe hands it me and challenges me to know what to do with it now.  I am lovable.  I’m a lover.  Love is inevitable for me…


Friday, January 13, 2017

Lessons (and Blessings) from the Pediatric Wing

There is a lot to be learned when you spend an unanticipated 5 days in the hospital with your 7 year old son with a broken arm, a bone infection, and the patience of…a 7 year old.  It would be easy to feel sorry for ourselves.  And while one of us did understandably pity himself, I found myself humbled by just how fortunate we really are.  Even our most unfortunate circumstances can shed some positive perspective on the bigger picture.  

As I sat (and sat and sat and sat) in that hospital room with  my grumpy son, and endured his abuse as he barked orders at me and insisted I was falling short in every way and that it was all my fault that they wouldn’t let him go home, all while we both knew that there was no one else in the whole wide world he wanted by his side than his flawed and infinitley patient mommy, I was reminded, everywhere I looked, that things could be much, much worse. 

It all began when our 16 year old roomate joined us.  His father and sister dropped him off for a stomach issue.  As I sat on the other side of our curtian divider, drowning in their stench of what could only be described as a chain smoking, filthy old kitty litter box, I listened to the nurses ask their millions of questions and made a few humbling discoveries right away; He and his barely older sister live alone together, mom is barely in the picture at all, and dad couldn’t get out there fast enough, and would “come back for him when they were ready to let him out”.  Otherwise, this kid was on his own.  And for the next three days, he laid there, alone, with what I can only imagine were his only constants in life, video games, and that stench, 

Now, while a different kind of person may have thrown a fit about having to share a room with that odor and its attached sad reality, I couldn’t bear the thought of this boy being put in a room anymore empty and lonely than his life already appeared to be.  So I sucked it up (while trying not to breath unless my life depended on it.  It's as hard as it sounds).  

I had high hopes that this smelly experiece could somehow serve as a teachable moment for my son.  I knew it would be heartbreaking to watch his family NOT show up or even call day after day.  But I thought it might help my cranky, meaner than usual, impossible to please son, realize how lucky he was.  It didn’t.  He was unphased, because he’s 7 and all.  The misfortunes of our roomate did not overshadow the needles and medicines and procedures and inedible hospital food and unfortunate diagnosis that led to day after day of “sorry kid, you can’t leave yet.”  I didn’t blame him for his lack of compassion.  He was enduring a lot.  And between the curtain seperating us from each other, the body’s ability to grow accustome to fowl odor, and the heartbreaking silence of our roomate’s loneliness, I suppose it was all too easy for my son to pretend he was the only poor kid in the room.  

By the 3 or 4th day of being a dedicated, doting, loving, failure of a mother in the ungrateful eyes of my son, and listening to his pity parties every few minutes, and his harsh critiques of my every unconditional-love filled move, I started shooting him some serious glaring, warning looks.   I was hoping he would somehow hear my unspoken lecture shooting out of my eyes.  Every time he asked to go home and was told no and responded with an “I hate my life!”, my teeth would clench and my eyes would fill with words I needed him to see, because screaming “why don’t you count your blessings that you’re not the little baby next door who just had brain surgery, or the newborn baby down the hall who hasn’t even gotten to go home yet because she’s too sick, or the kids who are so sick they can’t even get out of bed, or the kids who have been here for months, or the kid who’s parents don’t even care enough to visit or call!” would  be insensitive to the children and parents who were living in that reality.  As if they needed a reminder that they were worse off than us.  

My son didn’t see a single word of my silent lecture screaming from my eyes.  And a part of me started wishing and hoping that our lonely neighbor behind the curtain was growing tired of listening to my ungrateful boy not appreciate his mother and her unyielding efforts to meet his every want and need.  I began wishifully thinking that he would suddenly snap and start spewing words of wisdom from behind that curtain like the great and powerful Wizard of the Pediatric Wing that went something like:

"hey kid, do you know how lucky you are to have two parents who have been by your side every single second doing everything and anything they can for you?! If I were you I would stop being such an ungrateful little *******!”   

But he remained as silent about my bratty kid as we did about his odor.  

Aside from my sleepless first night on a broken, non-reclining recliner, and in spite of my understandaly miserable, thankless child, I tried not to complain too much.  Because if there is one things to be learned in the pediatric wing of hospital, it is that, if you’re lucky, things could be much, much worse.  We were lucky.

We’ve got a long road ahead of us.  And I hate what my boy is going through this.   But I hope that one day, he looks back and remembers the sick kids who were stuck there through no fault of their own, (and not because they chose to jump off the top of a playground), or the kids who were not even aware that there was a world beyond those hospital doors, or the boy who’s parents didn’t care enough to be there, and maybe even his own parents, who were there every second, and who would have taken his place in that hospital bed if they could have.  I will never forget.  Blessed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Dear Heartbroken Children (a therapeutic letter that I will never send)

Dear kids, (I will never share this with my children because it's far too honest for innocent victims of their parents crashing and burning.  It's really more about reminding myself (and forgiving myself) why i broke up my family.   It's just...therapy)

I’m so sorry.  I’m not sorry that my relationship failed, because I know I gave it my all.  I’m not sorry that I left, because I know I had to.  But I’m sorry that you have to endure the fallout from your parents mistakes.  I’m sorry that I had to shatter your perfect world, the very world that I created for you.   I’m sorry that I spent your entire lives striving to create an enviornment that is safe and happy and loving, only to have to make the hardest decision of my life to rattle all off that for a moment.  

I’m sorry that I’m asking you to try and understand things that there is no possible way you could understand.  I don’t even understand a lot of this right now.  I’m sorry that the best I can do right now is to ask you to trust me, all while you watch me flailing a little. 

I’m sorry that your father never wanted to marry me, and I’m sorry that I ever thought that was ok.  I’m sorry for not sharing your last name even though you are my whole life.  I’m sorry that all those years of bringing my babies into this world and devoting every waking moment to ensuring that you are thriving and happy, made me so blissfully blind to the possibility that he just didn’t love me the way I loved him.  You shouldn’t have had to overcompensate for that, but thank you.  I will forever be grateful to you for always being to key to my genuine happiness.  

I’m sorry that I hung in there for so long, trying to endure the anger and intolerance and resentment and pretending that I could tolerate it. I wanted to shield you all from that as best I could.  I took a lot of those bullets for you (and will until the day I die) and it was only a matter of time before that battle knocked me down.  I’m tired and scarred, but i’m recovering, trust me.  

I’m sorry that I took myself for granted, so much so, that I it was ok if the man I loved and cherished and nurtured never told me that he loved me.  I’m sorry for being so very patient and relentless in trying to earn that and ultimately convincing us all that I could go on doing that forever.  That was a mistake, and it will never happen again.  Trust me.  

I’m sorry for suggesting that someone’s relentless selfishness can be tolerated and forgiven with the occasional grand gesture.  It can’t, trust me.

I’m sorry for your father’s disinterest and for all of the excuses I made for it.  I’m sorry for ever going along with the idea that daddy’s work is more important than your pre-k graduations or concerts or any other brief shining moments in your childhood.  I never once believed that, I just knew I couldn’t change it.  

I’m sorry that you’re scared for me.  I’m sorry that you worry about how I will survive without daddy.  I’m sorry if I taught you that I can’t take care of myself just because I have dedicated my life to taking care of all of you.  I’m going to be just fine.  We are all going to be just fine.  Trust me.

I’m sorry that I hurt your father.  I loved him and fought for him until the bitter end.  I would have done anything for him, all while knowing I couldn’t really expect the same in return. That hurt me.  Trust me. 

I’m sorry that we are all hurting now just because my pain got too unbearable to handle anymore.  I would give anything to carry this burden on my own.  I spent more than a decade trying to ensure that my family was nothing but happy, and trying to protect all of you from pain and heartache only to make you a casualty of my own broken heart.  I never saw that coming, trust me.  

We will all be ok.  This moment is dark and uncertain and often tearfully blurry, but the future will be everything I ever dreamed of for you.  Trust me.  I will singlehandedly survive and care for myself and my children and you will be proud of me.  Your father may learn not to take loved ones or fleeting moments for granted.  I hope that you will all learn how important it is to love unabashedly and selflesly, and to never settle for less than you deserve and that it’s ok to walk away from anything less, even when it feels very, very not ok.   And I know that we will all learn how resiliant we are when we come out of all this feeling as safe and loved and happy as we ever were.  Trust me.