Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Gut Check

It's amazing how the separation/divorce process keeps finding new ways to depress me. It's like any other kind of grief, I suppose, in that it sneaks up on you. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, you're rolling merrily along, feeling good, thinking "I got this", and all of a sudden, SMACK! Dawning realization, grief, tears, depression, it all rolls back over you. At one low point, I remember sitting on the sofa, enduring random crying jags while watching 30 Rock episodes on Netflix and absentmindedly eating literally half of a cake (it was a small-ish cake, but still: half).

Prior to the separation, I didn't get out much. By that I mean, I did things with the kids, but aside from going to work, never put too much of an effort into getting out without the kids. And then wa-BAM! Separation, and suddenly I find myself with actual kid-free time, two nights a week. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong, but I just don't know what to do with myself.

At first it was exhilarating, having the house completely to myself. I listened to explicit music at high volume, walked around in the buff, was able to watch R-Rated shows and movies on the actual television (instead of sitting hunched over the computer with headphones). I went to the store by myself, just because I could. I brazenly ate a popsicle while sitting on the couch, and I'll explain to you why this is a big deal: most any mother of small children knows you cannot do this without your child wanting a popsicle, but they don't want the purple one they want the orange one, but then his sister got pink and he thinks that looks good but it's the last pink and HOW I MUST HATE HIM SO MUCH because I deliberately gave his sister the last pink one but wait, there's a red one, I'll take that one but can you open it? Can you wrap a napkin around it? Can you hold it for me? Oh wait, I dropped it on your new rug but that was like 5 minutes ago and I forgot to tell you because I got distracted by cartoons - and THAT is when you resolve to never eat anything in front of your children again.

The first few times the kids were gone I was all "WOOOOO!", but then my first weekend without them  rolled around. And I spent an entire Sunday going completely bonkers, going back and forth between bursts of productivity around the house and watching HBO shows. I would wander into one of the kids' rooms, look around for a few minutes and then suddenly decide to take on some overly ambitious project, like "I'm going to move all the furniture into the center of the room and paint in here!" - and then 20 minutes or so into the job I would come across something that would make me miss the kids so much it was like a physical ache. In Manny's room it was his handy dandy notebook, full of his scribbles, with the crayon taped together. In Bella's room it was her 3rd grade journal that I came across in her books, her sweet musings on some pages, other pages with just half a sentence or one or two words, because she was too busy talking during journal time. So I would sniffle, feel really sorry for myself, then go sit down and watch True Blood (because Alexander Skarsgard is like big viking balm for my troubled soul).

I was used to the companionship of marriage, and even though my husband worked a lot (because of his demanding job, that wasn't a bitter or nasty remark in any way), he was there some of the time. You come to depend on that, not just the person doing things for you but that person simply being there. Sitting up late into the evening watching 'The Office' on Netflix and hear a weird noise in the backyard? Your husband is asleep in the back of the house, and that is comforting. Even if he doesn't want to get up to check on it, there is someone there. There's a huge palmetto bug in the sink, you can ask him to kill it. There's someone there to get you a glass of tea when you're feeling lazy, someone there to physically make the petulant toddler brush his teeth when you're reached your petulant toddler limit for the day, someone there to do all the small things that you can take for granted. One of the things I miss the most that my husband used to do was making certain the trash and recycling got out to the curb for trash day. I'm really bad at doing this in a timely manner - many Tuesday mornings you can find me exploding through the front door carrying my trash and recycling, darting to the cans and throwing them in, and trying to maneuver two 50-gallon cans to the curb at the same time while the garbage truck is mere houses away.

So the reality of being husband-less has been an adjustment. No one to kill the bugs, or make sure the trash gets out to the curb. No one there when there are strange noises in the backyard, or the front yard or anywhere else. No one there to call into the room when Bubba has stacked 8 throw pillows and perched himself precariously atop them. No one to talk to once the kids are in bed. No one to step in and take over when you've reached your saturation point of grumpy preschooler. Its sad and its lonely. But its made me stronger, more independent, and more confident.

I was also used to the companionship of children. Little people to do for, to do things with, a constant hum of activity and conversation. From the moment I got home from work, there was always something to be done. Not just chores, the fun things, too - congratulatory hugs for yet another good behavior happy face for Bubba, laughing at how Bella's playground scrape looks like oddly like Scrooge McDuck. Then you move into other portions of the evening - the doing of homework, and the review of completed homework and tests ("why did you say that the beatitudes are Jesus telling us to have beautiful attitudes?", and so on and so forth), dinner and dishes and playing and walks and baths and bickering. Then bedtime, and you are exhausted and ready for bed yourself, and you putter around the house picking up, straightening and putting things to rights. Then maybe you watch some tv, maybe you read, maybe you mess around online, and then you sleep the sleep of the happily exhausted, knowing that, while you're not the perfect mom or housekeeper, you tried your best.

However, when the kids are gone, there is none of that. There is just deafening silence. I listen to music, I turn on the tv for background noise. I talk to myself, mostly about how disgusting or messy things are (for example, discovering a bowl of leftover spaghetti in the fridge but we haven't eaten spaghetti in a month). I clean and straighten and organize, but not as much as I could or should be. For a change of scenery I sit on the porch and posit theories about my neighbors, wondering why the people with the pool won't invite us to swim, or what exactly the people on the other side are doing with their blacked out back room. Then there's the people who live behind me and their mystery shed. I am fascinated by their shed, and their comings and goings in and out of it. I'm sure it's probably their laundry room, but I imagine maybe it's a meth lab, or it's where they keep their marijuana plants. For some reason I don't read, which is odd because I am usually a voracious reader, and I have the opportunity to read without interruption, but I think reading is just too quiet. It's dangerously close to being left alone with my thoughts (and remember, my thoughts run to meth labs in sheds), which is scary for me.

My first thoughts, when I realized being alone was becoming a problem for me, were that I should make an effort to become a social butterfly. I thought maybe I would find a group hobby of some sort, and start going out with friends more often. Well, the problem with a group hobby is that those things usually scheduled, and our schedule for visitation is rotating weekly (it follows my husband's work schedule. Or, ex. Or, soon to be ex. There needs to be a name for people in this situation), which means my availability literally falls on different days every single week. Ok, strike the group hobby, let's go out with friends! But wait...most of my friends are moms, too, so their availability is scarce. I have married friends who are childless, but again, there are issues of availability and also of compatibility - many of my witty anecdotes are child-based, so if you don't understand the magical rainbow of colors that toddler poop can come in, you might not be amused (not all of my stories are poop based, by the way. But many of them are). People are busy these days! That's not to say that I haven't had success finding people to go out with, or that I'm not enjoying spending time with people. I've reconnected with old friends, gone to parties, had dinners, had drinks. So it's not all bad!

So, when plan 'Social Butterfly' didn't pan out, I reflected some more and realized that I need to learn how to be alone. That might sound simple, as in, just be by yourself and there you go, that's it, but that's not what I mean. I mean that I need to learn to be at peace being alone, to learn that there is no shame in one. To just forge blindly ahead, filling my life with tasks and activities and outings and meetings, would be doing myself no favor. I have to learn to like myself and my own company. And maybe one day, down the road when I'm ready, that will allow me to attract someone who is more likely to enjoy my company as well.

So I'm going to start an experiment of sorts, making myself go outside of my comfort zone in the name of learning to love myself and my own company. This sounds incredibly vapid, I'm certain, or maybe selfish, or self-indulgent. But what I'm trying to say is that I sort of lack a sense of self right now, and I need to re-discover it. I'm not a wife anymore. I'm still a mother, but there are a couple of days a week when the kids aren't there. And I have no idea what to do. I do offer this up to God, and pray regularly. And I've put lots of things in God's hand during this entire process. But God isn't going to come down and, physically and in Person, hang with me when I'm at the beach by myself, so I need to find a way to enjoy it. Know what I mean?

So anyway, maybe I'll post here about my forced alone-ness and what I do. How it feels. And in the meantime, I offer you this sort of silly video with a neat message: