Chapter 25, loren
“It doesn’t get easier. You just get stronger.”
I’m not sure of the expectations I had for co-parenting our sons, but any idea I did have was quickly dimming. Every notification from the court or my attorney was a dagger that started to slowly kill a piece of me. In fact, I began to go numb entirely and remember thinking at times how much easier it would be if I were to just give up altogether.
In all honesty, I struggled many times with the thought that if I just gave my ex-husband what he wanted, and erased myself from my son’s lives, I could maybe start to breathe again. The white flag in my back pocket, I often wanted to grab and wave in utter defeat.
The heavy, dark cloud that loomed over me became more ominous every day. I was struggling to make ends meet, and the reality was that they never did.
My car was repossessed, my electricity had been shut off for the second time, and my fridge was so empty a roach would not have been able to stay alive. “What’s the point?”, I thought. I only had my sons four days a month. I could not find a job, and my parent’s patience with assisting me was wearing thin. I was alone in life and my home. I had pushed everyone I knew as far away from me as possible, for the simple fact that I could not live with the guilt of ruining anyone else’s life with the mess that mine was.
The shame and guilt ate at me night and day. I was embarrassed by my role as “Mom”. I could not find my place in this new world without my children. Who are you? What is your reason for existence now? The darkness I felt like I had walked through for years, became even darker.
The light at the end of my tunnel had burnt out.
I had my sons every other weekend, and the remaining 26 days out of the month I drank to limits that tested the absolute resilience of my liver and soul.
I learned to become creative in my efforts to find out what was going on in my children’s lives. I called the school district and got information about school activities. I added myself on every school and medical list I had been taken off of. I scoured Facebook pages for information on their extracurricular activities and game day schedules so I could show up. Oh, but when I did...it was as if someone had reached into my chest with icy hands and pulled my heart out with the cruelest of intentions.
The sight of seeing my family sitting sidelines and not being allowed to approach, was a break to my heart that no man could ever come close to matching.
On one such occasion, I braved it enough to go over and kiss my smallest while he was in his stroller next to his dad. Quickly my efforts were confronted with, “Get away from him. Do not touch my property ever again.” This was how it was going to be, I thought. Our son was going to run off the soccer field and hesitate as to which parent he was allowed to run to. No, this could not be our realty! I couldn’t understand how it had turned into this, and no one was offering the answers I was so desperately needing.
Anger and frustration began to take their toll on me, and I found myself behaving in a way that I would later scold myself for. On my days with my sons, if their father FaceTimed, I would closely monitor his interaction with them, often times ending the call just shy of “Goodbyes” and “I love you”. If I felt a tiny bit of control for even a moment, I used its full advantage. I sat nowhere near them for any function, and yet would observe their every move.
Secretly I hoped to catch a glimmer of tensions between he and his new bride, hoping it would warm my cold, bitter heart.
I felt stagnant. Nothing seemed to change, and my vision of the future relied solely upon the decisions coming from the county courthouse. A small break came when I made an escape from reality to join my family for my brother’s wedding. A day that was meant to celebrate love, I found to be more bitter than sweet. My sons were not by my side, and being alone started to feel oddly normal.
I did my best to hide my tears and force a smile upon my sunken face. I felt weak, and according to my family, I now looked it.
By the end of the weekend I found myself having to forcibly make the drive back to the place I refused to ever call “home”. It became harder and harder for me to return back to my reality after any brief escape I made. Just as facing my Hell once again started to feel meaningless, I would see the faces of those little men I made, and a small glimmer of meaning would carry me down the road just little further.
I finally landed a job, and the hit to my ego that came with it felt like a ton of bricks. I was college educated with graduate school credit, and the only business that would hire me in this God forsaken place, was a market where I would be working part-time for $9 an hour. The vision I had for my life was gone. When I saw the life in front of me, I saw nothing but failure and defeat. I was never going to be the mom I had planned on being, and the career I had once hoped for was someone else’s dream now.
Everyone around me seemed to be thriving, and I felt lost in a tornado that I had no idea how I even got inside of.
Every week for months I would receive notifications from my attorney about a new court hearing or an extension for a trial date. The days came and went, and every case was pushed out to the following month. My hopes were lifted and shattered countless times. The only successes we had were small and humiliating victories, such as receiving a ruling on how we were now ordered to split our holidays with our children. Right down to the hour and location, we were instructed on how we were to conduct an exchange during Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Two grown adults.
Something had to be done. Something had to happen, but I wasn’t sure what that something was. Until then, I tried desperately to distract my mind from wandering back to those dark places it preferred to travel. One of these distractions came in the form of a man…a kind, gentle soul that had all of the patience I thought it would take to take on Loren’s chaos.
The man that endured the next chapter of life with me, became more than just a vice. Little did I know that the bliss he brought over me was a mere existence in the eye of the hurricane.