Mon. Sep 21st, 2020

What They Don’t Know

“She has become so well versed in good-byes, the spoken and unspoken, the planned and unplanned, the teary ones and happy ones. Don’t be angry she begs, she surrendered and gave up long ago on anyone reading her, her life, her fears, her accomplishments, her gifts, her tears, her happy, her weird, her crazy, and all of her story. She screams I’m not the chapter titles or the end paragraph, don’t you see, I’m all the words written between.”
― DC Allen

Letting Go

I have walked away from many things in my life. I left the life I knew two years ago, though this much most of everyone knows. Ten years worth of memories and photographs, I left most of everything I had ever owned behind. Of course, if you’d ask my ex, he’d tell you that ownership is 9/10 of the law – which was what I was often told while living there. His favorite line though, that I heard more often than anything else was, “if you don’t like it, then leave.”

I mean, never mind all of what I endured while living there. My family would rather I didn’t choose to make waves. While I fought to understand the way of life and the way of ‘things’ the entire time I lived there, I tried to make it work. Not so much for him or for myself but for our kids. As our cycling continued, and worsened over time, I had left there, or tried to, more often than once. This last time was the sixth time. Every other time I’d gone back. I had nothing. And promises, well, those are what he was good at. Although his words were used to tear me down in every way possible, it was all I had, it was all I thought I deserved. I heard them so much that I believed them and parts of me still do.

 

Monsters are Real

I remember the first time he physically hurt me. Words cannot describe the emotions that went through me in that moment. This man had gone from wanting me around him at all times, from telling me he loved me and how much I meant to him, to some unknown monster I had always sworn I’d never put up with prior to the point in my life where it first arrived.

The first time, well, we’d been drinking, of course. Spending time with him alone, meant tagging along to the nearest party or bar. There wasn’t anything to do unless it involved drinking. And I’ll be the first to admit, before he and his three kids entered my life, drinking is what I did. Failed relationships and living away at college had led me to being content being alone for a few years. I worked and drank, and the social life that both offered me was enough. It’s funny, looking back, I was happy then though I didn’t realize it since depression was something I fought often. But something changes inside of you after someone hurts you, parts of you go missing that never quite make it back.

The first night he hurt me, I remember well. We had left the campfire we were at that night. I had been talking to people all night long, just the same as I always had. The last conversation was with a guy. There was no flirting from either one of us, just conversation. Of course, after he and I started dating, many around me didn’t approve of him. He wasn’t yet divorced and even though he was someone I had known for a while, we didn’t travel in the same circles often or frequently. So, I knew many people and I always have. Hell, all the time I’d spent drinking, there wasn’t a face I would turn away from, I’d talk to anyone and everyone. ‘Social butterfly’ I guess is the correct term. But don’t confuse my own words because I always went home alone. I didn’t offer much of myself beyond the public eye.

That night, when we left, we had taken a back road home, which where I live isn’t unusual. I grew up on back roads, drinking. At one point though, our conversation got heated. He was accusing me of flirting, of talking longer with this guy than I should have. Explaining myself was pointless. In hindsight, explaining myself was always pointless. In time I learned that what he heard me say was never what I actually said. But this night, the first night, he opened the door and pushed me out of the car. He shoved me unexpectedly, with one swift motion of the door opening and my being pushed out of it, and he began to drive away. There I was on my ass where I landed, crying, and I was so confused. What in the hell had just happened?

The first time, and others, I remember well. But I soon found that this is a part of him he’d hidden away from me. Months had passed prior to this. My mind was racing to those nights he held me close, kissed me, loved me, told me so many great things that no one had ever told me. In all of my backtracking, I kept coming right back to the present, where I was still on my ass on the ground, in the dark, in the grass, in the middle of nowhere.

 

 

Increase the Pain

Soon after, it started happening more. His words were more harsh with time, as they came at me with the intent to cripple me. I needed to be better and he was the one who could help me to do that. He saw who I was and who I could be, and it was the ‘who I could be’ that he loved. The first time he had told me that, I swear I would have rather he pushed me down steps, and I told him so. Slowly, the person that I was became less and less the person he wanted to be around. He was still waiting for the person he could make me become. Power was his game. He played it well, and he showed it whenever he wanted.

It isn’t the feeling of being helpless and overcome that makes me wish I’d been stronger – he would always be stronger than me and I knew that. Every time my head bounced off of the ground below me as I fell, it was the split second before he’d be on top of me that I dreaded not being able to be faster. His hands were always at my throat, he’d be an inch from my face, speaking to me in a tone that would shatter me, every single time, as his spit would fall onto me with every word he’d say. I would claw at him and try my hardest to get away from him. During these times, I couldn’t breathe, and it was after these times he’d wear the scratches on his face I gave to him.

He always apologized. I might stay mad and confused for a day, maybe three, but he’d always win me over. Afterwards, I would be asked why I did what I did to make him do what he did. That is what I was always asked. It was always my fault for having said something he didn’t approve of or by using a tone as I spoke that he didn’t like.

After one of his daughter’s birthday parties, and the kids had gone home with his Mom for the night, I’d gone to change my clothes. We were heading to the bar, like every other night his Mom kept the kids, which was often. Nothing was fitting me, nothing in the closet, and I went through damn near every thing I owned.

We went out for a few hours and came home drunk. I sat on the basement floor crying, as he stoked the coal furnace, telling him how I might be pregnant. Even though I’d been told I’d never have children and how odd it was that nothing fit me; how if I was despite my denial of being able to be, I was already a bad Mom having been out drinking that night. He’d laughed. He told me not to worry about it and that I was raising his kids and I was doing a good job. He said if I was pregnant, we’d find out, and everything would be how it was supposed to be. Sometimes, he’d still said the right things, sometimes he’d still hold me.

After the test came back positive, I left it lay on the counter of the bathroom, he came in and he looked at it. He seemed excited. Then he told me to make a doctor’s appointment and not to say a word to anyone until I had a positive result. I had to wait three weeks to get in. The results were the same. I told everyone. I was suddenly filled with so much excitement that it seemed unreal.

But I’d started getting stomach cramps, though they would come and go. I had searched online and what I had found was sometimes this was normal and sometimes this wasn’t. I remember, looking backwards, there was a night a few weeks prior to another time we had come home from drinking. We were fighting, loud and hard. At one point he shoved me and I went over the couch. I went over it and he was on top of me. I remember the scratches he had worn on his face for almost a week. I can’t say one thing led to another, I only know the order in which they happened.

I’d decided one morning to give myself peace of mind and went to the emergency room, just to be checked, just to be sure I was fine. I was sure that by considering I could be miscarrying was the effect of having searched for medical answers online.

Then the doctor came back and told me it was a miscarriage after all. My world went dark and in a matter of seconds the tears came. I had spent those weeks talking to this little being inside of me. I had begged it to stay as I rubbed my stomach, reaffirming my love. I thought I could wish the idea of miscarriage away, I doubted it with everything inside of me. This reassurance I was after had completely backfired. I lost.

I just got up walked out of the room. I cried the whole way home. My Mom cried and tried to reassure me, as I sat in the passenger seat not saying a word. I got home and I called the coal mine where he worked. It was minutes from our house. I could barely speak on the phone. He’d come right home after I had made the words out to the woman on the other end that I needed him with me. I wanted him there. I wanted him to come out of where he loved being, to come home to me and hold me. He threw the door open and stood in the doorway, breathless from hurrying. He stood there. Not saying a word. Even after I spoke of our loss.

We scheduled the D & E. I didn’t have much of a choice. The doctor told me it was either that or having it happen on its own would be a worse experience for me. I was thirteen weeks when they took my baby. I woke up crying, I remember it clearly though at the time it was a fog. I woke up asking where my baby had gone. I wanted my baby back. It took me a minute as I looked around and came to, I saw the two nurses looking back at me, neither one saying a word.

I realized it was real and it was over. After coming home, I laid in bed. He’d gone to his Mom’s to get the kids to bring them home. I laid upstairs, crying. I cried harder every time they laughed below me. I cried harder remembering that morning, as my Mom and I waited on him to go to the hospital for the procedure that when she’d told his Mom, her response had been that she felt the timing was wrong anyway. I was crying as I walked downstairs and told them all to leave. That I had lost something unreplaceable and their laughter was making it worse. I was crying as I’d made my way back to the bed. I cried for almost a year after that.

 

I Was Broken

I remember when the bruises started to appear on my arms from him. I didn’t know what I would tell people. During the summer months I wore t-shirts and tank tops. Most of the time, since I wasn’t working, I’d just stay at home until they were gone. It was easier that way. But after we had moved, I realized that the bruises and the door knobs were the exact same height. I remember how excited I was to have an excuse, even if questioned it could be proven. So, from this point on, I’d become the clumsiest person I’d ever known myself to be, and clumsy wasn’t ever a word myself or anyone had ever used to describe me. It satisfied me though, having that to use in my own defense.

As we moved into years four and five, life didn’t change. It’d become a normality – just a way to live. I learned how to exist as he’d expected. I did what I was asked. Even in my protests, he’d laugh and remind me how much he was teaching me and how well I was learning. Soon any chore I did, he’d be beaming and drinking, sitting close by and watching his success in motion. That’s who I became. I was the product of his hard work and determination. For quite a while, I continued on this way. It was easier and it was better than being confused and crying and screaming during those times while he was on top of me, physically overpowering me. It was better than the weight of his force. It was better than his hurtful and hateful words piercing through me. It was better than being told to leave.

 

Life’s Consistencies

Drinking was all he did while he was at home. He worked a lot, and I learned to adjust my schedule with his. I knew as long as my list of chores were completed by the time he’d come home, things would run smoother. Evenings and weekends became about other people. His life started evolving around who would come visit and keeping them there to have someone to drink with. Over the years, I’d stopped being his ‘drinking buddy.’ I found early on that drinking with the kids at home wasn’t what I liked doing. After all they had him to watch. Over the course of a few hours, he’d begin being more careless the drunker he got. I had to maintain and balance life, I took care of the kids. I wasn’t the fun one, sitting there laughing and carrying on though. I was the one ensuring homework was done, making sure dinner was eaten, baths were had, and bedtimes were consistent. I became the bad guy with his kids, quickly.

I wasn’t a favorite, not only with his kids, but with his family, too. I’d been close with his family in the beginning. While his divorce drug on, we were at his parents’ home often. There was never a conversation that didn’t include his soon to be ex wife. It consumed all of them.

As time went on and the conversations continued, I loathed going to visit. I knew the conversations before they started, before we’d get out of the car, before we got in the car to go to visit them. While talking, conversations were often directed to the kids. They were told what to tell their Mom and why. They were told what gifts they were given while at his parents’ house that they were permitted to take to their Mom’s. With time, I also caught on to the way the world worked there. Gifts were frequent, whether they were money or clothes, or some random cute thing bought at an auction, something no one even needed or thought they wanted. I learned that this was how life was for all of them – if you do what you’re told, you get rewarded.

After we moved though, I began requesting we stayed home more. The house was bigger and just as the kids had grown in the first few years, we could all be inside its walls comfortably. I began dreading the visits to his parents. I hated the conversations that never stopped or changed. I hated the hatred there, as redundant as it sounds, but it was all they knew. Resentment and regret, the should haves and the should nots. These people were relentless yet consistent. It was miserable. What they allowed to consume them became the burden of anyone else in their presence, regardless of age.

Soon, his Dad frequented our house. Father and son would drink together a lot. As I maintained the environment and routines, they always got more drunk. I’d began being lectured on how I was doing things the wrong way and why I was doing them wrong. After they were said by either man, the laughter would follow. I was told that’s just the way it was. I wasn’t good enough, nothing I did was good enough, though, if I were younger, his Dad would have done the same as pretty as I was. This he was sure to say, too, as he sat there. His words hurt. They hurt just as much as the pain I’d felt every time I found myself on the floor by his overbearing son. Somewhere in all of the commitment I’d given, I became the target of where they saw the problems to exist. The focus shifted away from his ex wife onto me. Regardless of who was there to hear it and regardless of their age.

 

The Beginning of the End

We lived this way for about five years or more. The drinking never stopped. The arguments increased. And I was ready to leave, I’d had enough. The thought of leaving his kids though would leave me in tears. What would they do and how would their life be if I wasn’t a part of it anymore? Every fight his daughter and I had, every time his oldest son would yell at me, they still mattered. Every drunk lecture I received, every put down I was given, all I could think about was how his kids’ lives would be if I left. But, then it happened…I was pregnant again. For the second time I had wronged my doctors. The baby was there. Though this time, I told everyone. I wasn’t keeping this one to myself, not even for one day.

As the weeks passed, my depression worsened and my anxieties grew. I began giving in to the emotions against the words and attitudes from everyone around me. I was now told to go for a walk instead of leaving. So I would. I would walk the length of the half-mile driveway. I would go into the woods where I knew I was out of site, and I’d sit down and cry. Just me and the baby. I would apologize over and over as the tears smeared my face and I wiped the snot from nose. I would never be able to apologize enough for the life we lived. I would never forgive myself for not having the strength to walk away.

Throughout the entire pregnancy, his Mom never spoke to me. His Dad still came over often, and often reminded us how hurt she was still that being told about this pregnancy never came from her own son’s mouth. Her son had grown distant to her and he didn’t seem to care about how upset she was or the amount of sleepless nights she had. It didn’t seem to phase this grown man how much his Mom wasn’t a part of his life anymore.

Not only was this the conversations I’d heard now, but I was also asked who I thought I was – what business did I have holding a bachelor’s degree and staying home raising kids that weren’t mine? Who did I think I was wasting my education this way? Besides, when there are problems, you work them out when you have kids, you don’t get divorced. This is what the story was now. Never mind that I was pregnant. Never mind that their blame shifted on to me. I was the only one that noticed. Every one of his family functions after, awarded me glares. His Mom wasn’t afraid to show her disgust, though she never spoke a word. Not once extending the courtesy of my pregnancy. Not once caring as his kids would come home repeating the names she’d called me. It never seemed to affect anyone but me.

It had taken me a while to catch on but his Dad’s words were said with the same intent as his Mom had spoken in her own kitchen for years. Since we no longer went there to visit, at least not as often as showing up for every prepared dinner she’d cooked, here sat this man, drunk, bringing her words to our table. He’d slam his fist down, proclaiming the damage I had caused this family. I was six months pregnant. I was carrying his grandchild as I was told how important I thought I was and how wrong I was for thinking it.

I caught on to the fact that if his Mom never spoke these words to him, then the finger of blame couldn’t be placed in her direction. After all, she was a victim. I had come in to their life and had decided to take on the responsibility of raising this family – it was my fault she was hurting and I was reminded often that I had replaced her. She was the one he depended on on after this divorce began. I had replaced this grown man’s claim to life and his Mom wasn’t his focus anymore.

When my son was six months old, his Father came into our house drunk. Standing over my son he insisted to inform me that he had worked very hard all of his life, and at fixing this problem I had created with his wife. He informed that if I were his wife, he’d beat the shit out of me himself. I told him to leave. I told him if he ever came back drunk again, he’d get escorted by the law from our home.

 

Failed Attempts at Life

I remember once, after my ex and I had argued after he had been drinking for nine hours, he had loaded our kids into the car. I protested at the fact that it was already after 8:00 p.m., that I knew where he was going, and he would stay longer than necessary. I didn’t like the cooler full of beer he had put between the front seats in our van. After the argument exhausted itself, and everyone was clearly upset with me, and only me, I resorted to just getting into the passenger seat. It was the only option left besides sitting at home and waiting for a safe return. We hadn’t even made it halfway out of the driveway. I was so upset, and I kept asking him not to go, and I kept telling him we should just stay home. He stopped the van. He asked me if I was going to carry on this way or stop. I told him I wasn’t going to stop because it wasn’t right. He proceeded to open my door for me, and shoved me out of the van.

I immediately ran around the van to our son’s door only to find that it had already been locked. I yelled and yelled for him to open it and to let me have him. I promised he could do anything he wanted to do, just to give me our two year old son. I screamed, I was crying, I was pleading. He got out of the van and he pushed me as hard as he could. I fell to the ground full force, catching myself with my forearms. I rolled in the gravel as I landed. I got back up, sat on all fours, crying, asking him, “why?” over and over again.

He told me to get in the car and he’d turn around. I started walking. He rode beside me the quarter of the way back to the house. I cried. I couldn’t speak. He wouldn’t give me our son. His alcohol was more important and getting to his destination was all that mattered. My heart was broken, my thoughts were scattered, and all of this had happened in front of our kids, all of whom were crying. It was my fault he had said. But these things, like all things, were my fault – this I expected. Why did I make him do these things, he’d asked me. He drove by my side the entire time I walked. When he parked the van, he got out and he asked me for my cell phone. I threw it in the yard. He told me I could have it back the next day, after I’d calmed down. We didn’t have a house phone and he knew that as well as I did.

He sent the kids on his four wheeler, go for a ride, he told them. The kids left, and that’s when the lecture started. Why did I act this way, what was I thinking, and why did I do it very well knowing that it would cause the same result as always…I just listened. I had nothing to say. The more he spoke, the more I wanted him to stop. My knees were bruised already, my wrists were aching, I had lost my voice in the driveway, and I felt defeated.

Through all of this, the worst for me would come the next day. His nine year old sat in the sandbox, recounting the events from the day before for his cousin. I listened, as he proudly stated, ‘and then my Dad got out and he shoved her so she’d stop, and it worked.’ The boys were smiling, and I looked at his nine year old, astounded at the way he was gleaming at his Dad’s success…I looked at him, and I asked him if he was proud of what had happened, and he looked away from me laughing. I think this was the turning point for me, my mind started to work differently. I started to build myself up on the inside. But little did I know it would take me a while to get to the point I needed to.

 

The Cycling Continued

Our son was three when I left for the fourth time. Those times before, each time before, my Dad was who I had called after a fight, after my being told to leave and being stonewalled from conversation. I’d thrown my clothes in a garbage bag, put them in his car, as we’d go away from there. I often revisited in my mind the first time I’d left. I was drunk. I sat on their porch, in the dark, it was around midnight when they’d come home from the bar. No one said much to me. My parents, my sister and brother-in-law and myself made our way to the back yard. We stood drinking around the campfire as I finally told them about the abuse. My Dad hung his head and cried. He begged me to leave.

I talked about his kids, and how things were. His kids were my hold. My Dad begged me to stay with them and to not go back, he’d replace every item I owned, a one time offer, if I would just not go back. But I went back. Every time I left I went back. And each time I left after that it seemed more routine.  My Dad and I would go through the motions, have the same conversations about how life was just different there with his family, and he knew I didn’t fit in there. I had an education, it was the one thing he had taught me that no one could ever take away from me. I would restart, and I would be fine. But every time I went back. My family tried, I know that they did. But in my mind, I was stuck out of being needed.

This time though, I took our son and I went to a friend’s. I was determined to do it. I was determined to prove to my family I was doing it by not including them. I stayed there a few weeks. Until one day, as always, I was standing back in my ex’s yard, in the middle of nowhere since his property was a half of a mile from any road, no neighbors. As our son played, he talked. He told me all the things he knew I wanted to hear. He sucked me back in like he always did.

A few years had passed. I was more and more miserable. The drinking never ceased and our house had become stomping grounds for anyone and everyone. I didn’t drink often anymore. If I did, it was alone, and the kids were in bed. I usually sat on the porch opposite of where company was. I would chug each beer. I would listen to the laughter on the other side of the house and I’d cry. How could he be so happy around everyone else and not me? I’d started waiting for him to pass out. If he passed out, then I could crawl in bed unknown. I could sleep soundly without the expectations of my womanly body. I’d cry as I drifted to sleep. Though after our son was born, I’d slept on the couch with the our toddler more and more. I knew if my son was beside me, he wouldn’t bother me.

I’d begun to live separately while in the same house. I stopped drinking. After all, someone had to be there to make sure his kids were taken care of and weren’t trying to stay up all night with him and his company as he drank. His kids adored him. Followed him everywhere and he’d never tell them no. He’d never adjust to appropriately include them or to do anything without drinking. His daughter was a teenager, and could never do wrong. As long as she was beside him, no matter the time of day, she knew she had no expectations at home.

When he wasn’t at home and she was expected to help, she knew he and her grandparents would defend her and believe her. Every time I tried to discipline her or her brothers, it was me who ended up being disciplined. I don’t blame her for this now, as I know this was how she was raised since I had entered her life when she was eight years old. But this triangle they created for her, made our lives a living hell. His older boys, while they were just over two years apart and neither one older than 11, had looked up to the man he was. The kids would sit around, hearing every word spoken, good or bad. Their Dad was careless when he drank, as was his company, but he was fun. It was me that ruined their times, making sure they came in and went to bed, as I argued with their Dad in the process – I was the bad guy.

Our son was five years old when I had gathered the strength in myself to leave. It didn’t happen all at once, it took me a couple of years. It took weekend after weekend, knowing my son was with him while he was out drinking with family or friends, watching the clock as I sat there waiting and praying for them to come home. I’d finally had to start letting him go since he was old enough to be included and to want to be included. Who was I to say no?

Then came the time I had held my son, as he cried and kicked and screamed trying to get away from me when his Dad was taking his kids, whom I no longer had a say-so over, stood there, watching and smiling. “Your Mom won’t let you go, buddy,” he kept saying. He was drunk. It was after 9:00 p.m. They were all leaving and our son wanted to go. I didn’t want him to go. It was late, he’d been drinking all day, which was normal for his weekends, they began around 11:00 a.m., every Saturday and Sunday. He’d laugh with each new 18-pack he opened, it was cheaper this way, too, it was so odd how he’d convinced himself he was cheating the system by buying more of less.

My son, whom I’d spent nearly every waking and sleeping hour with up until the point when I left, was screaming and losing his breath from crying, kept pushing me away. His Dad was smiling as I was crying, begging him to just go, to leave. I kept repeating it over and over as I fought to keep my son in my arms. This continued for every bit of thirty minutes. The older boys would run and grab Dad a beer when needed, as they always did, while he just stood there, watching the two of us.

As I sat there wondering how someone could enjoy watching this pain he was causing not just me but our son, I swore there and then that with everything inside of me, I would change our lives. We deserved better than this. My son didn’t need to be brought up in a home like this. It would take me days, even weeks, to convince myself I was strong enough to do it. I had to convince myself that I could restart, with a car payment and not much money. None of that mattered. Even though I owned nothing, it didn’t matter anymore. What mattered to me was what my son saw and experienced. But I also had to wrestle with knowing how life would be if I wasn’t there for him, each day and every night thus far I had been there to take care of him. His Dad would never stop drinking, and I would never stop praying.

 

Fast Forward to Now

We have been on our own for a little over two years, my son and me. I live in Section 8 housing, I collect food stamps, and I try my hardest to not be ashamed because society says that how I live should leave me feeling this way. I have two years of graduate school in, I am employed as a part-time licensed substitute teacher at my son’s school.

I have co-founded a website and I am certified in peer support recovery. While our site doesn’t make money yet, one day soon it will. We have opted to work ethically by not collecting any money from the addiction and recovery community. I have given my life to helping others, as well as trying to be a successful single Mom. My own life experiences have shown me that no one deserves to be intentionally hurt by another. My life has become about giving a voice to those who can’t speak up for themselves. Yet, I’m still being told to take care of me before trying to save the world. My pipedreams don’t matter. I just waste my time, the same as I always have, with people and things.

I have more recently sat across from my own attorney, my ex and his attorney, beside the judge and the court reporter. My ex wants my son fifty percent of our son’s time. It’s fair, he says, to he and his other two boys. He doesn’t drink anymore with our son he says, no longer drinks and drives with him, he says. He admitted to letting the three boys shoot rifles alone this summer. I failed to mention that after knowing about it, he told our son he had to keep him closer, to not allow him to venture off with his older brothers anymore because it was my fault I was upset over his lack of supervision.

He stated in court that he is the one the takes our son to school every other Friday morning that he has him. But I know he doesn’t. I see his new girlfriend sitting across the street from the school with my son. I’m difficult he says. I refuse to work with him he says. It doesn’t matter that in our first year apart, he had our son every weekend. He’d promised to extend weekend time to me, here and there, but he never did. I even dismissed the case I had filed to establish a visitation schedule because he never wanted to pay support through the state or county and I never wanted to be a part of the court system, he and his ex wife battled there for years. We were adults, and give and take was a part of parenting. But what he considered parenting was me giving and his taking. What has been fair, is what has been fair to him, as his Father, and not to our son.

Now I am racking my brain wondering why I didn’t say more or if I said enough. I lost it and I broke down before even going in to the court room. What I was told this time, isn’t the same as what I was told the last time, when the extension was given to my ex to finalize it all. He didn’t agree with the temporary orders that he signed. He didn’t agree that after my being ignored and disrespected multiple times over the summer, even with the fourth of July holiday, that I had to force my hand to get the papers filed after seven months of what he’d started. He didn’t acknowledge that he failed to meet the weekly rotation we agreed to and that he lied about it after the first courthouse meeting – but he doesn’t agree to anything that isn’t his idea. He doesn’t acknowledge his faults. I’m just difficult.

Meanwhile, after his attorney tried to say that while I was drinking at times in my adult life with him, it was just an attempt to save the relationship. Now I’m left wondering why, if alcohol wasn’t an issue, it even came up at all. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t even drank alcohol in over a year. Or that in ten years’ time, the only times my ex didn’t drink were when he was scheduled to work afternoon shifts. Now, though, he says he drinks two beers and he’s done. For some reason it’s overlooked that he even admitted he drives after his ‘two beers’ with our son in the car. He doesn’t drink and drive though. He said so before saying the latter. I’m not sure if it even mattered that I said I can smell alcohol on him at our exchanges or that sometimes he’s even driving.

I haven’t eaten for three days because my stomach is in knots. It’s now into day four and I do not have an appetite. I don’t know what I’ll do if my ex wins his way. I am stuck wondering how long it will be that he plays the victim if he doesn’t win his way this time. I’m sick with emotions with what my son has endured over his lifetime, at the hand of my own situation. My only regret is that he’s the one paying for all of this. My son deserves better than to be treated like some kind of award.

My ex however, after watching what shared parenting causes and inflicts on the kids living their life this way, is relentless. While the court’s may assume it is the best route for parents involved – I can guarantee that it is not. Kids need consistency and positiveness. They need routines and schedules. I’ve also lived through the week-on and week-off rotations, the every weekend rotations, and the every four day schedule. While we tried every possible calendar variation throughout the ten years I helped to raise our kids, I watched his kids suffer. There is no variation that makes this easy for the kids because as I’ve witnessed, the kids only become the victims. They are victims unable to speak for themselves, and afraid to speak up to say how they feel.

Through all of this, I’ve lost the support of my family. All of them have chosen to not be involved. I call it small town life and a membership of secret societies. I blame the location of where I live and the people who live here. I have spent my entire life fighting for those things that are right and that matter, all the stuff from the heart, from the inside. I stand against a sea of people who don’t care about fighting for the same things that I do, and I fight for what my son deserves all alone. Even my ex’s attorney pointed out the vacancy in the courtroom. I cried before the judge had entered the room, I cried when I knew my ex stood a chance at having his selfish desires met, yet again. I am still crying over what one man’s decision could do to alter what I have worked so hard to maintain with consistency.

I have fought against this monster alone. I have felt completely alone while doing it. But all of this, and even what’s not included here, from the duration of time that has lapsed from the very beginning until now, this is what they don’t know. It’s what they don’t care to know because no one has asked. While I stand here alone, still trying to make headway into my single, adult life after having started over with nothing, and still having nothing, I look at all the good I have done. I try to anyway, the good is all I have to hold on to through all of it.

 

Nothing Matters

But as I sit here today, I am trying to find a hint of the good because around me feels bleak and empty. I mean, I’ve felt alone for a very long time, but knowing I’m alone is the hardest for me. While others do good deeds or have the right memberships, I stand here, with my chest ripped open and my heart in its most vulnerable state, as I hold my breath and wait. I thought I lived my life going through the motions before, but what I did before is nothing compared to now. My mind is racing, my thoughts are confusing, and my solitude while familiar, has never felt more real.

My ex is trying to break me, heart and soul, entirely. I have had no one in my corner to defend the greatest thing I have done in this world; the only person I love more than my own life. I am forcing myself to work everyday. I am forcing myself to not think. If I think, I cry; I don’t want my son to see it. I’m trying. I’m trying as hard as I can at this adult thing and being his Mom. But every where I turn I feel the failure that life has proven to make of me. Every time I think I am getting ahead, I have someone reminding me that I’m not. Every time I feel my inner strength more pronounced, it gets sucked right back out of me again. I have no one to lean on and this is the hardest thing to endure alone. I’m proud that I’ve stood against this man but I am now facing what I have always wanted to avoid.

My ex will tell you it’s all about money but it’s not. It’s all about what’s best for our son. But what he won’t tell you is that he never told me he quit his job or mentioned health insurance for our son after he did. He won’t tell you about the times he’s lectured our son about all of the co-pay bills he received from his doctor visits and well checks. He won’t tell you how he’s convinced our son that I’m stealing his money. No one hears my son yell at me when I pick him up about how the money I get is his to do what he wants with it but I don’t give it to him. No one gets to hear my son yell at me either about how a week with both of his Dad and I is fair when he comes back.  No one gets to hear the names he says his Dad calls me or says about me when he hears him talk to his girlfriend. No one gets see him cry when he tells me he doesn’t want to spend more time there. No one else sees him lay in bed and cry because he feels sad and doesn’t know why. No one else lays beside him, rubbing his back, watching him hurt while feeling helpless. No one else holds him when he hurts. No one is watching the affect all of this has taken on him. No one knows what any of this feels like.

It’s exhausting – this life. I’ve spent my time fighting my own depression and my anxieties, but now I spend my time fearing a future that is out of my control. I have resolved that I am better off alone though. I’ve always hoped for good things for my son and I to move on to but there’s nothing out there. If people don’t hurt you, they leave. It’s one or the other and it’s guaranteed. People make promises and promises get broken. People say they understand, but that’s impossible. People say I need time to repair me and my life, but I’ve learned it isn’t all in my hands. I’ve been broken for too long and I’ve learned that who I am never is enough for anyone since there’s always more that I need to do. I’m tired of hurting and I’m tired of crying.

I consider myself to always be changing but I’ve also accepted that I’ll never meet anyone’s standards of who it is I need to become. While everyone around me seems to exist without the need for a reason, I’m left trying to fix all the reasons I’m told I need to exist for.

I’ll never be the person I was before any of this happened, there are parts of me – the innocent and happy parts – that won’t ever return. I accept my faults, but I never expected or wanted my son to have to suffer the consequences of them. Making mistakes and being afraid of losing have never meant as much as they do to me. I’ll suffer every loss I deserve, but he never deserved this.

I stand at losing what I’ve established for the only person I’ve held close to me in over a decade. I stand to fail at protecting him when I promised I would. I stand to lose at the one thing I was doing well, even though in everyone else’s opinion I’m still failing.

This, all of this is what they don’t know.

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