Tag Archives: loss

Love as dark matter

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Love as dark matter

It’s 3am, the dog is barking at what might be a serial killer or a simple burglar, or a leaf. A lanky teenager occupies the space next to me in bed and a bleary-eyed preteen hovers over me. I don’t really care which reason the dog is barking, or why these interlopers are here, I just long for a peaceful night’s sleep, which I can’t remember having in my adult life. The little wants to cuddle so badly that she makes a move like she’s going to just curl up uncomfortably on the prickly rug that is next to my bed. I angrily jump out of bed, cursing, to all who will listen. Storm down the stairs declaring that this is the last GD time this is going to happen, these are children after all, not infant triplets. Why won’t they go the F to sleep?
I am not good at cuddling, I do it out of guilty obligation and an overwhelming belief that it is a short term solution to the nightly interruptions of what is already fitful sleep. It must feel that way to my girls, or maybe I fool them, or maybe touch feels the same whether it is begrudging or mutual.
One of the dirty aspects of being a single parent is that you are always on duty. Day, night, sickness, health, tired, angry or hungry. It’s hard for everyone to get their needs met in any meaningful way, I offer love and support of the drive-thru variety. It’s quick, it’s low quality and it’s offered through a window as you pass by. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. To have needs that you’ve recognized are going to remain unmet, or in the best-case scenario, met primarily in moments of crisis. Of deep hunger or hurt. It’s unsatisfying for both parties.
Still we muddle through, catch love, or sleep when we are able and frankly periodically experience the kind of wealth that you can only appreciate if you’ve been disadvantaged.
This is how we are. Doing the best we all can under strained conditions. And, speaking of wealth, we are fortunate that in the hierarchy of needs, we are in search of satiating our emotional needs. We have the luxuries of other wealth, but emotional poverty is powerful and debilitating in ways that often feel more immeasurable.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that I am extraordinarily adept at responding to some emotions, even the ones that erupt in the deep darkness of the night. Anger is easier than sadness for me. And sickness is permissible, though not welcomed. Apparently there is a law that states that if a child is going to vomit, it will be around 3am and it will soil every piece of bedding they are near and probably divert away from hardwood floors to land on carpet. But I don’t manage the fears of my children particularly well. Partly because the only way I know how to overcome fear, is to ignore the source of it. Whether that is thunder, or nightmares, or just the fears that curl up with you as you fall asleep and rattle you awake in the middle of the night.
Sometimes saying, ” Everything is all right.” Is the worst possible answer when everything feels not all right. But in the sleep deprived state that these fears often arise, they are the only words that rise to be spoken, that and “Go back to sleep.” And apparently, ” God dammit”. Which now that I think of it is probably a worse response than ” Go back to sleep. ” nothing like having your childhood fears be a catalyst for your only parent’s anger.
And the worst part is, if I could find breath in those moments, enough breath to squeeze past the expletives and just put my arms around them and give them the tiny gesture they need to feel secure, I know it could be better, better for everyone probably. But what I find instead is guilt over not being able to conjure that breath, frustration over my inability to fulfill this expectation.
These are the realities of being a part of this life. This life where I’m underperforming my own expectations of what is minimally acceptable, even in the states of sleep deprivation. Where the tension is not in being unaware of what would make things better, but in being too emotionally tired to accomplish them. It is the pain of watching your children having to suffer through what cannot possibly be enough. And what is not their fault.

And it is the knowledge that we will all survive these circumstances, and some days not only survive, but thrive. This life can also be about understanding need, hardship and doing without in a way that creates a situation where we are able to appreciate the infrequent riches of love and selflessness. This life can be about valuing the brief and uncommon cuddle. This life is a space where love is in the guilt of inability rather than the wealth of stability.
We can all long for the lives that we do not have. We can lament the absence, of not just highest success, but of nominal satisfaction. Certainly we can strive to be better and apologize when we fall phenomenally short, but we can also spot the upside of loss and the advantage of deprivation.

Spoiler alert: you own your joy

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Spoiler alert: you own your joy

Well, I had a relatively quiet couple of months. The butterflies have launched, the play has closed and I’m back to managing three-ish jobs with moderate success. And then blam-o, the calendar reminds me that Mother’s Day is upon us with Father’s Day close behind.
Mother’s Day is the parenting equivalent of Valentines Day. Moms need and deserve a day. We (all) bust our butts for a reward that is a long time coming, if it comes at all. These days, with single moms being held responsible for a plethora of social ills, from lashing out in school to rioting, it’s hard to keep your head up. And my day to day, is still, well, embarrassing. I spend uncountable hours performing glamorous tasks like, cleaning up dog feces and looking for lost shoes and pieces of paper. Added to the mix is my own second (er, third) adolescence. I made toast this morning and felt pretty proud of myself. This month all the bills were paid basically on time, I only forgot one RSVP and I kept up with the various other appointments, well mostly. I made attempts to create quality time, to be patient, to be compassionate, to be quiet. I did my best, with varying results.
My point being, Mother’s Day can feel like an F-U. It can be the grim remembrance of who you are not, or who you have lost. I’m lucky to have a mom, to be able to call her, to be able to send her a gift. And I’m fairly certain my mother is racked with guilt and feelings of inadequacy that no card or bouquet of flowers can ever repair. I know because now I get to live on the other side of that equation too. Then of course, there’s the folks that fall into the categories of having lost their mother, being estranged from their mother, or just having a complicated relationship with their mother. See, it’s valentines day for parenting.
Being a mom is simultaneously the most difficult and the most rewarding accomplishment of my life. So, Mother’s Day is our day dammit! Moms, we earned this day. Daughters and sons, you earned this day to honor or remember or even be thankful that you live across the country from your mom. But we each get to decide what this day means and how we want to honor, or ignore it. But it is a choice. Confidentially i have set aside some sad sacking time on Saturday explicitly for moaning and feeling sorry for myself, for lamenting the mom I cannot be on my own and the husband that left me to do just that. But then I have a new plan. I say, If you’re feeling left out of the holiday send someone flowers, anyone who cares for you without demand, send your daughter flowers, or the old lady at the convince store that always calls you, ” honey!” . Send a card to the secretary at church, buy lunch for the waitress. Mow the lawn of an elderly neighbor, buy yourself a latte and a cupcake, You can honor anyone you want and I guarantee you’ll make the day of whomever you gift with your thoughts, because that’s often what being a mother is about: caring for someone else, taking care of the village.

Widow’s walk

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Widow’s walk

Typically widows, are supposed to be old grey haired women, who lost their husbands to a late in life heart attack. Her children are grown, and she’s surrounded by other women her age who are also widows.
I was 39 when I became a widow, I remember sitting on the back patio the night I found Chris and saying…”I’m a widow”. In those months after Chris’s death I was fortunate to have had the community of friends and family that gathered around the girls and I. But three years later their lives have gone on, as they should. But I am still a widow. It’s difficult for me because my peers are not in the same station in life as I am. Some of my peers are married and have the typical struggles of marriage, some of my peers are divorced and have the typical struggles of divorce. But young widows are pretty rare.
I suppose it’s the way friends are when the first of their group has a baby. No one really understands what it’s like to have a newborn, unless you have one. You don’t sleep, and sometimes even if you have the chance to get out and visit friends, you don’t because it’s exhausting to be awake, and the baby might give the sitter too much grief, or you can’t afford to go out. But unless you have a baby, you just think, ” it’s Friday night. Get a sitter and come out.” Eventually new parents have to become friends with other new parents. People who will understand when you have to say no and keep reaching out to you.
For the most part peers travel in the same cycles, getting married, having babies, getting promotions or new jobs, buying houses, caring for their parents, divorcing, staying married after all those years, rediscovering your youth, raising teenagers and so on. It’s lonely being outside that cycle. Maybe like the couple that has discovered they are infertile and will not be joining the play group set, or the one family with an autistic child, or the young widow. I haven’t found my young widows yet, I suspect they are out there too though.