I’m writing in the wee hours of the night, when my family is fast asleep. Can I borrow your ear? Though I should be sleeping, I can’t stop thinking.
I’ve been divorced for three years now, separated from my ex for almost four. I thought I had kicked divorce’s butt. I went to therapy. I cried the ugly cry. I sought counsel of my dearest friends. I prayed and I journaled. I took time for myself and I learned how to be home alone without having a panic attack. I am strong. I am brave. Most of all, I feel for the first time in almost a decade, I am healed and healthy.
Life is pretty boring and I’m proud of it! That is, until this last week.
I’ve been dating this wonderful man, who not only loves me, but loves my boys — like really loves my kids and always puts them first. He loves me when I leave all the kitchen cupboards open while cooking. He loves me when I try to pack too many things into one week and I end up needing his help to clean up the mess I’ve made. He genuinely loves me for the messy me that I am.
I’ve tested this theory — I’ve tried pushing him away. He doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve tried holding him at arm’s length and he says, “It’s ok, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll still be here when you’re ready to let me in.” Heck, in the world of single mom dating, I’ve struck GOLD! This man is everything I could ever ask for and my best friend.
Last week, we were on family vacation. I was nervous about being in such close quarters with my family AND all of my children. Yet, I was optimistic because my fella was coming too and I’d have back-up if needed. But rather than feeling confident and backed up by my hunk, I felt uneasy and found myself doubting all sorts of things.
One night, we were all playing a family game of Apples to Apples. My man decided to sit on the back deck and read up on the news. That’s when my Crazy kicked in. Rather than thinking, “He looks content reading the news; I’m sure he’ll come and join us when he’s ready,” I started hearing things like:
Why is he mad at me? What have I done wrong?
He’s being totally unsocial and it MUST be because he’s decided that my kids, my family and my Crazy are too much for him.
Did I mention that he has no kids of his own? Why on earth would anyone choose to live with three wild boys, when I spend a lot of time trying to figure how how to escape from them?
Anxiety, worry, fear, self loathing kicked in and quickly took over.
All kinds of feelings of rejection, being unlovable, not being good enough came rushing at me. Sludge from my past marriage was still hiding below the surface. Nothing like a week in a three-bedroom condo with your entire family to bring it all front and center. I started feeling anxious. I once thought my marriage was going to last forever, so what makes me think this relationship will? The man who pledged, in front of both our families, to love and cherish me as long as we both shall live, just threw our marriage out the door. Why wouldn’t this guy do the same thing? I started to analyze every comment, look or touch. He’s ready to bail, I just know it. There is no way that someone as good as him, would want someone like me.
The lies I thought I had disproven reappeared, masquerading as truth.
I was flat out frustrated that things from the past still had a hold on me. I felt exhausted that I had to process them all over again and I felt guilty that Hunk had done nothing to deserve this, yet he was the one that was paying for it.
So goes grief. I remember sitting in a support group after Owen died and the group leader asked us to draw a line of what grief looked like. The women to my left drew loop-da-loops all over her page. That’s exactly what it feels like. Just when I’ve got this self image and independence thing under control, BAM — it’s back to square one.
But there is hope.
Each time I get knocked on my rump, it gets easier and easier to pick myself back up. It’s sort of like lifting weights. The first time you do it, it’s hard. You sweat and maybe curse a little and you’re left pretty sore. Try lifting the same weight every morning. Pretty soon you don’t realize how heavy it is. Your muscles don’t quiver as much. You are stronger than before. With repetition and practice, I could see how beautiful and courageously I was created. The lies still lingered and threatened to destroy me, but this time I was stronger than the lies.
Hunk and I had a good talk about it. I shared the backstory on where these feelings came from. He listened and loved me through my tears. He wanted to know how he could help me and the truth is, it’s work that I have to do. I just need him to love me, sort of like I just needed someone to listen tonight.
Grief and loss are hard. Some of the scars from old relationships never really go away. They have become a part of who we are. It’s ok when they bubble up, because, guess what? They always will. Be patient with yourself. Work hard to remember how lovable you really are. Don’t underestimate how strong we have become though what we have gone through.