Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not for the Faint of Heart.

"Oh, Gigi. You deserve so much better than all of this."

My best friend of twelve years sits across from me on top of the built-in bar in the backyard. Cross-legged, she tilts her head and tries to make eye contact. We are doing what we do best; drinking a vodka drink and smoking a cigarette and talking about the difficult hurdles in our lives. We've learned over the past twelve years that problems shared with each other mean half the load... we have built a solid relationship while we shoulder each other's burdens. We loan money. We show up even when the other says not to, because we know they're lying. We bring coffees and babysitters and a scrub brush. Spreadsheets and computer software. We scrape each other off the floor. Help move furniture and clean out Grandma's house. Say I love you and I'm here for you and you don't owe me a thing.

At the moment, we're discussing my life.

The last four months have kicked my ass. More than once I didn't know how I was going to make it. I've eaten Xanax. I've gone through boxes of Kleenex. I've sat at my desk at work with tears streaming down my cheeks, thankful that only two people can see me while I sit here and die. I've lost 15 pounds because I stopped caring about food. I've called people I haven't talked to in months or years, trying to get some perspective. I've asked people who love me to write a list of my flaws, so I can try to see myself from another set of eyes. I've cried every day for months. There have been several reprieves, times when it looks like the devastating circumstances I couldn't seem to handle were lessening... and then it turns out they weren't lessening and it's actually worse than I thought and it's even harder to handle because I thought it was getting better and I can't stand to be in my own skin anymore.

The beautiful souls who are closest to me had the agony of watching this, living this. I would show up at their houses, red swollen eyes, shaking as I tried not to sob. I would ask to stay for dinner, or to help clean the kitchen, just so I could be busy and surrounded by love. They wanted to help, they wanted to hurt the one who hurt me, they wanted to support me even when they didn't agree, and so I would take advantage of their kindness and stay as long as I could, in the safety of a house that wasn't mine.

I've always identified with being strong. My name means strength. I have the Hebrew word "chavil" tattooed on the inside of my right wrist (the word for strength used in Proverbs 31:25, which is the chapter that describes a woman of virtue). I tell my kids every day before they leave for work or school, "Be strong and courageous!". I have survived two divorces. Two restraining orders on a husband. Three bouts of single mama-ness. Yet, these last four months, I have been anything but strong. I did manage to go to the office every day, and for the most part keep my personal turmoil to myself; I did get out of bed every morning and get dressed, just to prove I still could... but I rarely did it with grace or dignity.

"Oh, Gigi. You deserve so much better than all of this."

I've been thinking about the ensuing conversation since it happened a week ago. My best friend meant those words to me with the most sincere of intentions. She was extending me love and kindness and grace and acceptance. She was telling me that this isn't right and it's horrible to watch.


Do I deserve better than this?

I hurt my ex-husband. Cut him to the core. For the last several years we were together, he had a constant look of pain in his eyes, right up until the beer finally numbed enough of it. He loved me without abandon; and while there are many reasons why that relationship didn't last and he must own his fair share of responsibility, I hurt him. Devastated him.

I am sometimes too quick with my words, and my eyerolls. I am judgemental towards people I have no right to pass judgement upon. I dig my heels in and fight back for no reason, other than to prove that I can. (I'm independant! I'm self-reliant! I'm an adult! Don't tell me to get some rest or be more consistent or think of your feelings; I do what I want!) I sometimes care little for the consequences as long as I get what I want today. I make excuses. I hurt people too.

I am not justifying any actions, of my own or the other party in these last four months of agony. If there was wrongdoing, it was wrong. But there was a pause today, wondering if I have ever caused anyone to hurt like I am hurting.

The situation has finally come to a point where resolution is in sight; there will be a definite answer to all of this heartache soon. But at this crossroads, there is no clear intuition about which way I will travel. I have already thrown my chips on the table, laid down my cards, and am now sitting back biting my nails hoping for the best. And then, in the next moment, I wonder if I can survive the best. Can I forgive and move on from this brokenness? Can I be understanding and patient? Can I have conversations about horrible subjects without attacking and using my words as weapons? And what if I do, and then I'm vulnerable to pain all over? I cannot live this out again. Can I trust anyone anymore? Maybe it's best to remove myself, to shut the door, to close myself off.

But everything in me screams that's not the right thing to do.

This is obviously gonna be an AWESOME life lesson, whichever way it ends. Only the things that cut like knives really ever teach me anything. I have a feeling I will never be the same.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dad- My Hero. A Tribute.

I had a conversation with the man whose DNA my daughter shares five years ago. It was when he lived in Colorado, and he had just driven to Washington to see me and our daughter. It was the third time he had seen her since she was two years old. She was 14 at the time.

Sperm donor: "The reason I don't come and see Cami more than I do is something you probably would never be able to understand."
Mama: "Okay, try me. I'm interested."
Sperm donor: "I travel across several states to see my daughter, and spend time with her for a weekend, and then I have to say goodbye and go home... You have no idea how heartbreaking that is. It is easier to stay away and not know her than it is to see her sporadically and have to say goodbye, not knowing when I'll see her next."
Mama: "You know what? I do understand that. It must be horrible. I can't imagine the heartbreak. Our daughter is a beautiful and amazing person, and to not be a part of her life must be overwhelming. Here's the part that I will never understand: why do you think it is an option to not be there for her? Or in her life, to whatever capacity you can be?"

Today is Father's Day. The day society celebrates and salutes the men who participated in the creation of the next generation. I have two children, who have different fathers. Cami's father is not a dad. Never has been. Cannot justify the sacrifice that would be required to be a part of her life. And it's not just that; he blames me for her struggles. Her fears. Her demons.

It is possible that he has a point. But since he has not been a part of her life, EVER, I don't really care about his opinion.

My son's father does participate in his life. Coaches baseball. Helps with homework. Teaches him how to train his dog, how to change brake pads, how to throw a curve ball. I don't like him (and I'm no longer married to him) but that is beside the point. He is an active part of my son's world. And because of that, even though I don't always agree with his methods, I sent him a "happy father's day" text today.

These are the men that gave me my beautiful and precious children.

And THEN...
There's my dad.

I am 37 years old, and my dad is still my hero. Not my hero now as an adult, not my hero now that I have kids of my own, but still. He always has been.

My dad was the financial provider for our family. It was important to my parents that my mom be able to stay at home with the kids, and so my dad's paycheck was the sole income. He's owned his own business, worked for both good companies and tyrannical bosses, and somehow managed to pay for my sister and I to go to private school for most of our education. He's loaned me money; sometimes requiring me to pay it back and sometimes calling it a gift. He gave me my first job, working at his office. He paid for my long-distance phone bill when my boyfriend was in the Army. He bought a new engine for my 1984 Honda Accord when I forgot to check the oil and it blew up on 405. He loaned me money when my business was struggling.

My dad used to take me on daddy-daughter dates. He took me to Lady and The Tramp when it came out in theaters when I was 5. We stood in a long line, and finally got tickets, and then when I was tired halfway through the movie, he left the theater and took me home. When my homecoming date senior year got cancelled, he made a reservation and was my date that night. He took me out to dinner, and felt horrible when we ran into my classmates that were at the same restaurant before the dance. He used to take me and my sis to the Science Center, and would always drive us home by the Fremont Troll when we would plead to go out of our way. He used to randomly ask me if I wanted to go watch baseball in Kirkland; we would drive downtown on a Friday night when I was in high school. He would buy me a hot dog and some Smarties and we would talk while we watched the high school boys play select ball. Some of my favorite talks with my dad were on those metal bleachers.

My dad was baffled when I got pregnant at 17. I'm sure he was scared, and mad, and confused. And then his Cami was born~ and he instantly had another princess for whom he was a hero. One of my favorite pictures of my dad is him sitting on the couch, reading to Cami while she's snuggled up against him in her jammies. I think she was three. I was 21 and still living at home. He is a grandpa who looooooooves his grandkids.

My dad yells at me when I'm wrong. I write this in present tense, because it still happens. Living 25 minutes away from my childhood home means he no longer has to know every single stupid decision I make or word that I say... but there are plenty of times that I tell him something and he rolls his eyes and shoots a sarcastic response my way. I know as a mama whose daughter is on the threshold of adulthood it is often hard to bite my tongue and let her make her own mistakes. I can only imagine how my dad feels seeing me wander and stumble and fall. He is much, much smarter than me.

Today we salute men who sacrifice for their children. Who play ball when they're tired from an endless day of meetings. Who go to football games to watch their daughter cheerlead for a losing team. Who get frustrated when kids don't pick up after themselves, are disrespectful to Mom, or who take too long to get ready to go run an errand.

I am unfathomably grateful that my children have a Grandpa like my dad. I may not have chosen the best of men to be their fathers, but I could not have hand-picked a better man as their grandparent.

I love you, Roger Alan Baer. You have given me an example of unconditional love that I can't imagine experiencing anywhere else this side of heaven. You are, and always have been my hero. Thank you for being my dad.

A postscript: for the last year I have dated a man who has shown me that men of my generation still have the capacity to be heroes for their children. To That Guy: Happy Father's Day, sweetheart. You're the best.