Chapter 31, loren
“One of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make is whether to try harder or walk away.”
Dating after divorce can be scary. For me, it turned out to be mostly weird, mixed with some lessons I had clearly not mastered nor paid attention to in my 20s. So, in typical stubborn-Loren fashion, I had to learn the hard way.
In walks Loren’s late life lesson.
I had recently began falling in love with a man. He was completely unexpected and full of red flags. I swore to not only him but to myself that this was going to be my last try at “love”. Sure, we all make promises to ourselves and never keep them, but this time it felt different. This time - good, bad, or indifferent - I felt like it was going to be the last time. I had nothing left in me to give, and the world was slowly turning me a darker shade of black than I already was. I knew deep down I could not go through the repair and healing of anymore heartbreak.
If this love wasn’t forever, then I never wanted love on my doorstep ever again.
While love was now a faint glow in my dark world, it had still never shown bright enough to illuminate the answers I was begging God to give me. Every ounce of ‘happiness’ somehow only brought with it a little more anger and resentment.
My frozen heart was not melting, no matter the strength of the lips pressed against mine.
In fact, it seemed as if I was now living in a permanent state of hopelessness. I was also not willing to do any moving for myself. No, that was supposed to be God’s job. If He wanted me to move, then He’d have to make me.
So, I suppose God went back to the drawing board and created a new plan that would take a little more time but surely do the trick to move me right off the cement of stubbornness I stuck myself to. The plan He had in store for me would take several more months to come to fruition. In His defense, He had already been working on me for 30 years, a few more months couldn’t hurt.
Oh, but it did!
Bitter Betty - that was me. I was as bitter and angry as a woman could be. I begged and pleaded with my attorney to make some sort of headway with our case. I thought if only I could get before the judge and say to her, “Look! Here I am! You said I was selfish for moving away, well I am back now so how about that?”
“Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
Leaving out the latter, of course but wanting so desperately to prove that I was NOT the woman that the judge deemed me to be in her 45-minute speed dating session of “getting to know Loren”. My attorney advised me strongly against scheduling with the same judge that handled our previous trial, but I was adamant. I wanted her, and her specifically. I had never wanted a woman more! So, my attorney set out on his lawyerly duties and sent my opposing counsel our plea.
During my mission to change the mind of my biggest doubter, I still had a little hope in the fact that a warm hand was now interlaced with mine.
The man brave enough to dive into this realm of chaos made me feel like I could conquer anything. Our fast fall went into hyper mode when the discussion of buying a home together soon arrived on the tip of his tongue. Eager and ready as he was, I took a little bit more convincing. So, for several weeks we started to discuss this new life we planned to build together. The thought always crossing my mind that this was exactly what I had prayed for and what the judge needed to know.
I will move as close as possible to accommodate for my sons, their school, their father…anything!
Suddenly pieces started to fall together all at once. A dear friend of mine reached out to me one day with a precarious offer. She needed a full-time nanny for her 3 little ones. I jumped on board faster than I could take down a bottle of wine! “This was perfect,” I thought.
I missed being a mom full time so deeply, and my love for her babies was the same love I had for my own creations. So, I said yes to “temporary motherhood” and eagerly started a job doing what I had already been bred to do.
I began every day bright and early, making breakfast, changing diapers, doing bus stop drop offs and pickups, chauffeuring a little princess to ballet, and another to baseball tryouts in the evening.
I did it all with a small baby on my hip. Three blonde haired, blue-eyed blessings that I loved on and ‘mothered’ day in and day out. Only one thing was out of place in this perfect portrait: those weren’t my babies. Like a drug addict hooked on a specific drug, choosing an alternative fix was simply what it was - a fix. My ‘fix’ of motherhood and purpose was met, but the void was never filled because they weren’t my babies.
No, my babies were still only held by Mom every other weekend and hugged on occasion when I was able to make it to soccer practice 30 minutes across town. This thought never left my mind, and often took me into a spiraling depression. I should have been taking my son to soccer practice, but instead I was taking another child that was not mine.
When I was able to get an evening off, I had an immense amount of guilt for not being on time to my own son’s events or cheering him on at every practice.
Mother’s guilt is real, and mine felt amplified daily as I played “pretend mom” to children that were not mine.
On one such evening, I graced the soccer fields with my disheveled presence in a huff. I saw “her” standing on the sidelines and no sign of my other boys, nor their father. “Oh, hell no,” I said to myself as I strutted down the field seeing nothing but red. I approached April, “Excuse me, why did you bring Jack to practice? I am his mother. If his father could not take him, then I am to be called.”
She scoffed and reminded me that I did not have custody of my children and that John did. Therefore, any and all decisions were to be made by him. “Oh, hell no,” I said. Only this time, it came out of my mouth instead of remaining in my head where it belonged.
One thing about me, passive aggression is my specialty, and I own it like I went to college and got a PhD in it.
“Oh my! You poor thing. Did John hit you in your mouth? Are your lips ok? Do they hurt?” I toned in the most sarcastic way possible. Toned to perfection, really.
Her stunned face gave me a tiny rush of joy. I struck a chord. Not a big one that played the Star-Spangled Banner or anything, but it was enough to pick a catchy tune too. Mama Bear was poked, so I poked. No, I pinched right back!
Of course, I knew April had lip injections because I envied them. This was something I had wanted for so long but simply couldn’t afford. So, why not use this as ammo instead?
While it was certainly no victory, in my eyes it felt for a brief moment as if I had stood my battle ground proudly. I was not backing down from this fight, no matter how many hits my opponent had coming to me.
I am here, and I am not going anywhere! Get used to it.
Even after our soccer field square-up, April and I did continue to try, time and time again, to forge a breakthrough between the three of us. Sometimes successfully mastering every aspect, other times I would again feel like ‘mom #2’ - always coming in second place to her picture-perfect self and having zero communication with my co-parent. I still felt I needed to defend every action; I always sensed a dark cloud looming in the distance, just waiting for the lightning to strike. Never trusting a single moment of calm the storm teasingly gave.
You know what they say, “When you hear thunder, lightning strikes soon after.”
Just when I thought the hits had stopped, another blow came crashing towards me once more. A court hearing determining my character as a mother, yet again. Only this time, as I sat waiting our turn in the courtroom, a familiar face appeared down the hall. Unbeknownst to me, a woman I once called a dear friend had become an ally to the enemy. I immediately got up and walked out of the courthouse that day. I walked to my car and told the man who I loved and trusted on this journey with me:
“I am done. I can’t do this anymore. My sons deserve more than this, and I can’t win a single battle. They have gone after my friends to turn them against me. This is never going to end. It’s time for me to walk away.”
My tiny moment of happiness in life, once again dimmed out.
And then, his calming, rational voice soothed me back down to my purpose. Once again, he assured me ‘we’ were in this together now. I was not alone.
He and I would go to battle and fight against the odds and lies, but I would no longer be alone on the battlefield.
In that moment, I had a partner, a friend, a lover…