Unraveling

crocus raindrops

This post has been in the works for six months.

Six long, painful months where I’ve watched my life unravel. A thread was pulled too hard, and it all came apart. No amount of skill could repair the damage.

I am alone. In love, anyway. I’m now facing the world as a single mother to three kids. Three kids who now have to move through life without the benefit of their family under one roof. We spoke to them on Saturday morning. My youngest was completely accepting, my middle girl very emotional and her older sister quietly resigned. They all asked incredible questions.

I have an army of support, and I haven’t been shy about rallying the troops. There are so many people who care for me, and without them, and the light they have shone into the darkest corners of my life, I don’t know where I would be right now. I’m not afraid to lean on them, and I will continue to reach out and draw strength from the people who know me and see me.

This is not a choice I ever wanted to make, and yet it became the only choice I could make. Anger continues to swirl through me, a noxious cloud of ‘why’ and ‘should’ and ‘how’, but I hold it gently and tell it to propel me forward rather than drag me through the past or shove me too far into a future that I cannot see.

One breath at a time.

I haven’t lost everything, but when my heart fills with the moments I have lost, it feels like part of my soul has been stripped away. Fifty percent of my time with my children. A partner I thought I would grow old and gray with. A co-parent I thought was a close friend. Had I closed my eyes to the truth that was right there before me? Should I have known better? Was I asking for this in trying to do something that few people before us have done? Is there any point to answering any of these questions now?

I am living in two places; our home where the children stay 100% of the time, and my parents home in Hamilton where I stay when it isn’t my turn on the custody calendar. This post will go live hours before I taste this new reality. This post will go live only because we’ve shared this news with our beautiful babies. I stopped praying a long time ago, but I whisper to the universe, begging that this won’t forever dim the light of those three radiant souls.

Nothing has ever hurt like this. Losing love and my sense of family is like dealing with death. I thought I’d become an expert in grieving. A pro at heartbreak. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

How do I wake up and get out of bed? I have to. I have to be a mother. I have to be an entrepreneur. I have to arrive each day and learn how I will reinvent myself. I have to understand who I am as I move through this world without my love. I moved mountains for that love. Now I have to move those mountains to survive.

This grief feels like I am fighting to breathe. Like my life is a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Like my worst fears in this relationship have been realized.

And sometimes it feels like a glimmer of possibility.

There has never been a shadow in my life so dark that I haven’t seen the light. These last six months have brought me close to yielding to darkness, but with the return of spring, I feel like I can find a balance again. Between sorrow and hope. Between loss and discovery.

I’m not okay, but I think at some distant point on this path, I will be again.

A Mother’s Day Letter to Myself

Dear Mama C,

This year, Mother’s Day marks the start of a new journey into motherhood. One you had never planned on taking, and one that is more than a little scary. I don’t need to tell you that you are not alone. Your own mother and father are in your corner, your brother is your greatest ally, and you have an army of superwomen (and the men who love them) who are there for anything you might need.

It’s going to be hard for a while. Your heart will need time to heal before you can feel your power again. You don’t have to be perfect. Those beautiful children seem to know how difficult this is, and they will understand your tears, and your exhaustion. They love you, and they will see your love for them shine through this (brief) period of darkness.

Mother's Day

You’ve brought so much beauty and fire to the lives of these three young souls. You haven’t been perfect, but they see how dedicated you are to growing, to learning how to be the very best parent you can be. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s a chance to forge your own unique path with your children. Nobody else will be inserting themselves as you problem solve. Your kids will see you, and they will see you shine above all else.

I know you will handle this with grace. I know you’ll be the kind of mother that you wish to be. I know your kids will remark on how steady and capable you are. (Look how steady and capable you have been through all of this!) I know you’ll teach your daughters (and son) what it means to be a strong and truly independent woman who can take care of herself and still remain open to the possibilities the world has on offer.

Mother's Day

Remember how you used to fantasize about being a lone wolf, answering only to her pups? Well, the Universe works in funny ways. What will you do with this new reality? It’s time to trade in yoga pants for vintage slips and soft kimonos. This is your new stay-at-home-uniform. Don’t be tragic, be fabulous.

Sometimes brokenhearted lovers are left with nothing but memories and dreams that will never come into fruition. You get three glorious examples of how the love you’ve poured into the last nine years was absolutely worthwhile. Stay in that feeling, let the rest slide away.

You can do this. You were meant to do this, in exactly this way. It’s time to embrace this new path and move ahead in love and wisdom.

But don’t get out of bed until you absolutely have to today. You’ve earned it.

Stranger

The morning we’d planned to talk to the kids, you stood in the doorway of our bedroom, staring at me.

Your beautiful face, the one I’ve held in these hands and kissed a thousand times, was the face of a stranger.

Tears streaming down your cheeks, you looked so fragile in your sorrow. What was in that look? Regret? Shame? Were you sorry that you’d fallen out of love with me? Sorry that we now had to tell our children? Were you worried that letting me go was a mistake?

I’m not asking you to reconsider. I’ve laid my heart and soul on the table, and your response was to tell me to gather up the pieces of myself, put them back together, and carry on alone.

And I think, perhaps, that you did me a favor in this final, absolute rejection of me. I pored through the pages of an old diary where I’d scribbled all my frustrations and fear. The same theme played out in a steady loop; I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel like I can trust, I don’t feel like you want me to belong here. The same theme has been repeated so many times that now we’ve brought it to life, and there’s no going back to try to change this pattern. For so long, I thought those scary feelings were a product of my own damage. Maybe that’s true, in part, but those black thoughts were also a kind of prophecy.

I am my own safety. I belong to me. I know and trust my heart, my good intentions. I know what my love looks and feels like when it comes from a place of security and trust. That love will blossom now, fed by the goodness of my own soul, my children, and the people who are grateful for my love, however imperfect it may be.

For your tears, I am sorry. I would have dried each and every one. Even now, in this place of finality, my impulse is to reach for you. But instead I must hold my own hand and walk myself out this door and into my new life.

Can We Meet for Coffee?

Get a cup of something warm before you sit down to read this.

I’ve been meaning to write. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been staring at the mockery of my barely-touched bullet journal thinking, “Hey, I’m supposed to write a post a week.” I haven’t even made it as far as opening a new post page until today.

I snapped a couple of photos on my walk this morning, thinking the rather bleak, snow-covered road against the solemn slate sky seemed like some kind of metaphor. (As a side note, the walking thing has been executed with regularity. I dare say it may be all that’s keeping me sane right now.) If I had an image, maybe I could write something. A little snapshot of this particular January in my life. At the very least I could throw it up on Instagram and appear both connected to nature and committed to exercise.

These words dribble onto the screen, and yet I’m not sure if I’ll hit publish. How have I gone from willingly, eagerly even, opening my veins here to feeling stunted every time I look at the home page of my blog? I can recall, (albeit with the haze of a woman looking back on a more substance-enhanced era of her life), a time when I would race to the keys whenever there was a crisis brewing or tiny victory to celebrate. I never felt lonely when I was posting about my life.

My newfound reluctance to share could have something to do with the handful of devastating times where my candid vulnerability online came back to bite me in the ass. Those moments when my own truth-telling didn’t coincide with the schedule of the other parties wrapped up in the drama. Or the instance when my polyamorous relationship was outed to my in-laws by a spiteful extended family member with an itchy cut and paste finger and a current familial email list. (Hi, hope you’re healthy and well, by-the-way.)

For the first time in years, I’m compelled by the urge to vomit all of my sorrows and frustrations here, yet I’m reaching for the little paper bag instead of wanting to hit ‘publish’. I haven’t cried to a girlfriend yet, not really. I haven’t even really seen a close girlfriend, in person, in a setting in which I could cry. We could blame Facebook, for creating a false sense of keeping in touch, but this hermit-like behavior on my part could just be a by-product of approaching middle age. I’d have to drive somewhere, select an outfit, put makeup on that I will inevitably smear with tears, and for what? To have them pat my hand and say “You’ll get through this.”

Of course I’ll get through it. I’ve been through crazier shit than this.

What is the poop-mire I’m currently wading through you ask?

No big deal really.

Just a relationship crisis that strikes at the heart of my childhood trauma. A delightful little reminder of how I’m nowhere near finished with my own therapy. Lucky for me, I live in a town with a month-long waiting list to see a therapist.

Oh, and a major restructuring of our family dynamics. I’ll get into that more another day.

Lean financial times. This is a slow time of the year for nearly all of our businesses and my efforts to generate income can be described as feverish at best and absurd at worst.

A crisis of faith as I dip my toes into the dauntless task of pitching the novel I’ve been working on for nearly five years to agents who are bombarded by similarly hopeful would-be authors. Yesterday I got a rejection in only an hour and forty minutes. Yikes.

This feeling that my light is dimming. That I am growing invisible. If I could just lose five pounds, or get out in public more, or may just a little Botox here and there. Jesus Mary and Joseph, did I actually type all of that? Should I be looking at hormone replacement therapy? Is it time?

The bizarre conflict of both feeling lonely and like I don’t have the energy to go anywhere or see anyone who might have a sympathetic ear.

Okay, so that’s all the whining I’m prepared to offer up for today. Maybe that’s why I’m not posting. In the constant deluge of horrible news, my petty little problems seem like a gross thing to clog someone’s news feed with. I’m sorry if you’re rolling your eyes reading this. I know I have a lot of beautiful things in my life too. It’s just that I needed to connect. Sit down with a coffee and share a little. Please feel free to unload whatever’s bringing you down in the comments section below. I’ll publish this post, just so you know I’m listening. And the best part is that I don’t even have to leave the house.

No Mo November (On Surviving a Shitty Month)

I thought I was dying this November.

I realize that’s a dramatic statement, but when you’ve been around cancer as much as I have, the slightest ailment is a cause for panic. I was EXHAUSTED, so much so that I demanded a full blood panel from my doc. I’ve been anemic before, and was certain this was the case. Otherwise, it was the Big C, because that’s how rational I am. I wasn’t anemic. Nor was my thyroid out of whack. All of my blood looked fine. So, what the hell?

November and I have a long-standing, love/hate relationship. (Here’s another November post, if you like this trip down memory lane.) Two people who I adore died during this particular month, and I think you can guess how. This sorrow seems to live in my cells, filling me with a non-specific melancholy that most people experience in February in this part of the world. The gray feels grayer, the cold feels colder. I can count on one hand the number of times I leave the neighborhood in a week. Maybe this grief is what had me dragging my butt.

Life has been stressful. Relationship stress. Financial stress. Work stress. This is enough to make most people want to stay in bed. Maybe the tired feeling was on account of these old demons rearing their heads? Thing are on the up now, thanks for asking.

hands and wedding bands

I officiated the wedding of my Aunt Gigi and her partner Bob this November, from his hospital bed. This occasion marked a bit upswing in my mood.

I spend a lot of time on my ass, at my desk, working away. I’ve grossly neglected my exercise routine. I’ve slipped from the nutritional choices that make me feel best. This could be what was making me exhausted.

An average-sized five-year-old often ends up in my queen sized bed, wedged between daddy and I. Sometimes he thrashes about like he’s being chased by a Ticklemonster. He’s become an ace at falling asleep on his own, in his own room. We haven’t quite nailed the staying there part. My family doctor suggested installing a baby gate to keep him contained. I found this horrifying. No judgement on those of you who have employed similar methods, but my doctor has obviously never seen a five year old take on a baby gate. Anyway, there’s another reason to feel exhausted. No sane woman could sleep in the company of a little boy who flails about and a man who snores like a demon.

So, what am I doing?

Taking vitamins, as regularly as I can. I don’t always remember, particularly on weekends, when our routine varies.

Saying NO. Holy shit, I’m bad at this, but I’m trying. I’ve had to say no to something very special to me because the mental drain was giving me anxiety. That was a tough one.

Holing Up. I’d love to spend time being social, but until that stops feeling like work, I’ll continue on this hermit-like path. You’ll occasionally see me at writing group meetings, and to drop my kids off at rehearsals. I suppose I’ll have to do some holiday shopping soon. I used to go crazy if I didn’t get out of the house and connect with other humans at least once a day. I used to appear before hundreds of people in my underwear about every other month. This homebody thing is still relatively new for me, and it’s novel. So are yoga pants. I’m a legit suburban mom with a mini van now. Most days, I’m okay with this.

Exercising. There’s just no way around this one. If I don’t move, I feel like crap. I get down on my body, I lose my drive (yes, all of it) and I feel spacey as hell. I’ve started walking for 30-45 minutes after dropping the littles at the bus stop. (Ew, that’s not a euphemism). The key to staying motivated is a good audio book. I only allow myself to listen when I’m walking. It’s working for now. I intend to keep going, even when the snow starts. Please send me your book recommendations.

Self-care. This is a difficult concept. It doesn’t mean pedicures and hair appointments, though it could. I think self-care is about doing things that make you feel good. For me, that’s putting a full stop on work after 5 pm so that I can cook for my family, or help my little dude create a book about dinosaurs. It means reading a novel for pleasure, and not because I’m getting paid to read it. It means tea and chocolate and doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes. A little bit of self-care each day seems to be helping to battle the melancholy.

Listening to my body. If want to sleep, I sleep. Even if I’m in the middle of the workday. Twenty minutes with my eyes closed, and I can easily see a difference in productivity.

So, I’m finally seeing a difference. I realize that it’s also December, which has more than a little to do with this shift in energy. Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week, because I take the mornings ‘off’ to meet with my writing buddies. These women keep me focused on my passion, and they offer the most amazing encouragement, and validation. If you’re a creator, find your people and make them a regular part of your life. Weekends are spent caring for my family and decking our halls. I love Christmas, and Yuletide, and everything connected to staying cozy and bright. I intend to carry this forward until the Spring.

Is it just me, or are there certain months of the year that consistently suck? November is mine, but I’ve survived another one. A big thanks to chocolate, and novels, and my ever-patient family.