Nothing ventured, nothing gained?

I recently tried on-line dating.  I don’t know why, exactly, because I actually have no desire to go on a date.  When I realized that I was not enjoying this process, I wondered why I was doing it in the first place.  I think it was because it felt like this is what I am “supposed” to do now.  I’m happy and healthy.  I’ve identified that reasons for my past decisions so I won’t repeat them in the future.  I’m in a place where I definitely do not “need” a man, for affirmation, affection, attention, or anything else.  I practice enough self-love that I no longer feel like there is any love missing from my life.  So, after 5 and a half years, this should be the time to test the waters, right?

Wrong.  Just so, so wrong.  I halfheartedly engaged in cyber-conversations.  Once or twice I made the mistake of texting directly.  Every time someone wanted to communicate with me, I felt annoyance.  If they wanted to meet me, I felt panic because I lacked any desire, whatsoever, to actually meet them.  This was definitely a sign that even though I think I’m ready, I’m apparently not willing.  My life is so full of things that I need and want to take care of, so there simply isn’t room for anything, or anyone, else.

It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be in another relationship.  I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know I’ll be alright either way.

Saving Yourself

I divorced my ex-husband five and a half years ago.  Our marriage was more of a blood sport than a relationship.  From the day I married him until the day I divorced him, I gained 80 pounds.  In the year following the divorce, I gained 20 more.

I now know that I let myself gain this weight as a form of self-protection.  This was my second divorce.  My entire adult life, I was with someone.  I never looked for the relationships but they were always there.  And I was clearly not the best decision-maker in the relationship department.  When I was obese, I was invisible.  Being invisible was both comforting and liberating.  Without men in my life, I could just be.  And I could figure out how I got to this place in my life.

I don’t have a strong family background.  I was not raised with unconditional love. Instead, I learned that you had to fight to be loved, suffer to be loved.  I would allow myself to stay in unhealthy situations because I knew that love was never free, and always conditional.

In my second marriage, I did not want to get divorce again.  And I desperately wanted a family.  I didn’t like being alone in the world, although being married to him was the loneliest time of my life.

When we divorced, all I had was myself and my two kids.  I didn’t have anywhere to live, or anyone to help.  That first year was particularly difficult.  I had to prove residency to the elementary school with an electricity bill containing a shut-off notice.  I had to get food stamps because I couldn’t find a job that would give me set hours and I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids (ages 6 and 9) on evenings and weekends.  I would pay utilities on alternating months.  If this doesn’t inspire serious self-analysis, I don’t know what does.

Over the next few years, I focused on rebuilding a career that I had given up and on loving the people who mattered, which now included me.  With great intention, I sought to fill the gaping hole inside with faith and self-love.  I recognized that I DID have a family, a small one, but a family nonetheless.

This summer I made a decision to regain control of that last piece of me that remained neglected:  my body and physical health.  I’ve lost 55 pounds so far and will be running my first 5k tomorrow morning.   Part of loving myself is accepting and loving my body. My body has been a faithful vessel, successfully carrying me through this journey and giving me two beautiful, bright sons to walk it with me.  My body deserves much better than I have treated it.

Alice Sebold wrote, “you either save yourself or you remain unsaved.”  As painful and scary as it was, I saved myself.  And I did it because I was the only person on this planet that could.

Inheritence

Unwittingly, he circles me,

casting reflections,

burning my eyes.

His imperfect projections follow me

down cluttered halls,

pressing into

every inch of every room,

jockeying for position,

demanding a place at the table

of my thoughts.

 

He is the beautiful disaster that drives us both

to tears.

 

Burdened by my own endless worries,

I try to convince him

he is not similarly afflicted.

Stumbling over my ghosts, I am unsuccessful.

 

We are two sides of the same dizzying, spinning coin.

 

I am swimming against the tide of his emotional river.

I am battered by the rocks of his fears.

I am drowning in self-recrimination.

I am one breath away from going under

when:

he reads Harry Potter to the cat,

joins the girl sitting alone in the lunchroom,

helps his teacher after class…

when:

his earnest, honest, open heart blossoms

in front of me,

casting a warm glow on my face…

and then:

I know

we’ll be okay.

Bad Men and Mondays

Shouts and scuffles
disheveled bags, slamming doors

pointed parting words:

“I’ll be back for the rest later.”

All before breakfast.

Daddy had, of course, done this before

but even a six year old could tell this time
was different.

Maybe because Mommy wasn’t crying
like she used to.

Only two weeks until Christmas and
the lights within were starting to dim.

Connor was quietly questioning,
increasingly wrestling with
the demons of divorce.

Nightmares were driving into Mommy’s room.

This night he curls up against my chest,
compressed like a fetus

As if wishing he was now what he was then.

At 4 AM, he wakes me with whispers.
“Bad men broke in and were torturing us.”

Then he asks
to stay home from school.

“Why, baby?”

He grabs my face and puts a small hand on each cheek

“Because,” he pleads, “I need to see
your beautiful face.”

And he did.

All day.

 

Little Boys Are Made of These

he balances
he falls
he spins
and he flies

every chance
he takes
stumbling
through this bliss

he is a flower
around which
the females flock

he is the fruit
nourishing
the girls in pink

he furrows his brow
and giggles

he is a butterfly
that never dies

he asks
if he can
do this

forever

a chef
cooking bluebirds
one day
a duckling
among swans
another

and at christmas
he hums the theme
of the Nutcracker
while coloring

unsteady yet
full of grace–
a gazelle
striving
to stand alone

i suspect
the stage
is calling him.

Post-Mortem

i wish i could say
i made it out
unscathed

but that would be a lie.

i didn’t just watch
the monster skimming
the endless ocean floor
of his impossible eyes,

i chased it.

despite warnings,
i dove in
after it–

after HIM.

we fought the tides
as much as
we fought the truth.

we fought each other
even more.

after failing
to drown me,
he disposes of me
on the shore.

where blood
competes with shadows
for ownership of the land
beneath my feet.

ever vigilant lest he return.

i now recall–
all those deranged and
deformed personal
performances —

tragic horror shows and
silent musicals to
the captive audience

born of this sick,
painful, pointless
choreography.

at least
the dance is over.
the battles have ended.

he retreats
into the darkness
while i forfeit the sea.

i struggle to stand
with small hands
clutching my own.

two confused faces
look up at me,
unseeing
the wounds,
the guilt.

it is their eyes
that keep me
from looking back
at the man
we leave behind.