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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sisters, From Other Misters.

"Mommy, tomorrow we go see Mr. Map?"

I am trying to tuck her into bed after a second late summer night in a row. Freshly bathed and avoiding the actual tucking-into-the-bed part, her tiny voice lilts with excitement and joy.

"It's Matt, honey, not map. With T's like Tova." Force of habit escapes before I can curtail myself, caught off guard by the request and her dainty voice invoking his name. A deep breath, slow and quiet, to not draw attention to all that breath feebly masks.

"Oh. yeah," she giggles, "Mr. Matt wif T's like Tova. We go see him tomorrow?"

Another deep, steadying breath. It has been over a month since she's asked for him. Why are you asking now?

"Honey, we've talked about this. We can't go see Mr. Matt anymore."

A beat.

"Hey, I know good idea, why if you call him on you phone?"

I look at her, legs criss-cross-applesauced on her bed, her elbows perched on her knees, palms upturned to the air above her.

"Yeah, I fink we do dat. Is good idea, Mom."

She nods assuredly as she side-eyes the middle distance between her small frame and her pillows leaning against the headboard of her bed. Her bottom lip is pinched in a way that mirrors my own when I make decisions, an impartial half-frown, a faux indifference utilized to appear suggestively ambivalent.

I hang my head. Her last IEP meeting labeled her as almost gifted, expected to be labeled as so before second grade. She is her mother's daughter and at times like these, it is exasperating.

One more deep breath. I sit down next to her on the edge of her bed.

"Why do you want to call Mr. Matt, baby?"

"'Cause we miss her birfday and I draw a princess for her wif my new art from Grandpa. I do dat for her."

"Who are you talking about, Tova? Whose birthday did we miss?"

"Da girl. My sister."

I never called her that. I was so careful not to, just in case of this, the thing we're living now, this fractured semblance of normal. To not do so, to acknowledge it and accept it as impending fact felt like a jinx, like tempting fate. Not once did I ever talk about him and her and them as if they were already family. I so staunchly called them friends. Because my redheaded offspring, she was already struggling with the concept of family and relationships and where babies come from and having once been in my belly but not allowed back there and but how do the babies get in your belly mommy and fuck, fuck it all because it didn't matter. She knew. Just like I knew that day they held hands and swung them back and forth while giggling inches from each other's faces, a two-girl Red Rover daring anyone to come over, demanding to sit next to each other at lunch leaving he and I the other side of the booth to share and neither one batted an eye because it just was.

It just was.

I swallow.

"Do you mean L-----?"

"Yeah, dat's her name, my sister! Wif the yellow hair. How many old is she? I forget 'cause she already had her birfday, but mine's not yet. So I maked her a picture to say sorry 'cause we forgetted."

She giggles, proud of herself, of her compassion and kindness, knowing I will praise her for them.

"Tova." My voice comes out sterner and sadder than I wanted it to, but it's enough that my little empath senses the change and she looks up at me with wide, innocent chocolate eyes, practically begging me to not ruin this reverie for her.

A deep sigh as I pull her into my lap.

"She's three now, because you're right, we missed her birthday. But sweetie, I can't call Mr. Matt anymore, either. I love that you want to give L----- a princess picture for her birthday and I bet she would have loved it. But honey, since we can't be around or talk to her daddy anymore, that means we can't talk to her anymore, too."

My girl presses her face into my chest at my heart as her open palm rests along the neckline of my tank top, as it used to when she was an infant. She is hiding from my words, literally trying to push them away as her tiny body tenses and shudders with disappointed sobs.

"I know, sweetie, I know. I'm so sorry, because I know you two really liked each other."

I bite my tongue from what I want to say next. You would have made awesome sisters.

"But why, Mommy? She no like us anymore?"

I have to remember to exhale.

"No, honey, I'm sure she does still like us. It has nothing to do with that. It has more to do with me and Mr. Matt and L-----'s mommy, not you, not your brother, not L-----, okay? You three kids are wonderful and fine and sometimes grown-ups just have to deal with hard things and it's not fun and I'm sorry that grown up things can make you sad."

She pulls back from my chest to look at my face.

"Like when you an' Daddy fight an' it make me so sad?"

I want to lie down on the twin bed and pass out, shut everything about this moment and these past two terrible months and all of the past year out and never let it back in, never let anything in ever again.

"Yes, bubalah, it's kind of like that."

She crawls out of my lap and towards her blankets.

"I all done talking now. You go now an' leave me alone? I have a long day."

Me too, child. Me too.

"Yes, baby, I'll go." Pause. "I love you and your big heart, Tova."

"I no have a big heart, you have a big heart!" She giggles as I swoop in for hugs-kisses-noses-bonks, our secret handshake, of sorts, for saying our goodbyes of varying degrees.

"I'll see you in the morning."

"I see you in the morning too, Mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweetie. Goodnight."

"G'night."

I shut the door as I pass the threshold, turn on the hall light, creep down the stairs avoiding tripping on the cat running up them into my path as I descend, and make it all the way to my bedroom and throw myself onto my own, empty bed with my face buried deep into my pillow before I lose it in violent waves of muffled wails and sobs that wreak havoc upon me until I inevitably fall asleep from every form of complete and utter exhaustion.

Monday, July 27, 2015

On Re-Entry.

I went to NYC for BlogHer '15 and all I got was an extreme re-entry hangover.

To be blunt, this trip was The Thing I Had To Look Forward To, when in my darker moments over the last couple of months, people with concern weighing their voices heavy would ask what I had to keep me going, to get me out of bed each morning and through my days without harm. If I could just get to mid-July, if I could just get to my roommates and the other people who love me, if I could just get back to the city and to learning and to expanding and to a moment to breathe away from everything that weighs me down here at home, then maybe ...

Maybe I could fit all the pieces back together again.

And I had that, for certain.

But unlike last year, no weight was lifted. I still cried in Central Park, after guiding my children around Columbus Circle (because Murray on Sesame Street stands there sometimes) via Facebook Messenger video chat with their father, because I missed them and the wonder in their voices made me suddenly realize I have no idea how I'm going to expand their horizons and show them new places, as an under-employed single mother. I cried again, at a party, talking to women I admire and respect and love, as they listened patiently to my laments and anxieties. I found myself walking around corners at the Hilton and being slapped upside the head by vivid déjà vus of my very first BlogHer, which was essentially one giant panic attack. I choked up more times than I wanted to admit, when heartfelt hugs were given, often at a rapid rate of forward propulsion, because I have always struggled with unwavering and supportive kindness.

And that's not even counting the emotional pull of the sessions and keynotes I attended.

I simultaneously never wanted to leave, because maybe in this space, with these women and friends and mentors, maybe I could actually start to heal ... and desperately wanted to be home, because the intensity of my solitude in the large crowds, the overwhelmingly emotional interchanges smacked up against meals and sessions and after-hours frivolity were a wee bit too jarring, the slightest bit of sensory overload.

My wires are all crossed. I either need to live in that space for a very long time, with those people and experiences and that love and support in person, or I need to take a giant step back from the emoting, the constant baring of my wounds and scars, the vulnerability that keeps betraying me.

Coming home and being home has been surprisingly difficult. Here, in reality, are more divorce issues to be tackled and handled; here is job searching and school preparation and a five-year-old birthday party desperately asked for that I cannot afford and more issues with money than I have fingers and toes and organs and brain synapses to count. Here are all the reminders of everything I've lost, everything that is missing, every broken promise and shattered dream and all the places I invested my hope and my trust, obliterated.

This re-entry has felt like it sucked the soul right back out of me, right as I was learning to breathe deep, again.

It is the first time I have not come back re-energized to write and share. It is the first time I haven't felt inspired to better this space, to keep up with the way this virtual landscape is constantly changing and reinventing itself.

It is, however, the first time I've come back and thought, maybe I've worn out my welcome; that as a white, cis-gendered woman my voice is unneeded and tedious in the greater blogosphere and social media landscape. Maybe, in fact, it's time to withdraw from this space and lead a more quiet, private life. Maybe I was never really cut out for this life, after all, especially when the stats and the third-party website comments show I have more hate-readers than I do friendly ones.

Maybe I'm finally just broken in a way I can't build myself back up from, this last time. Maybe the thing I need to let go is not so much the life and the memories I harbor, but the push to form it into words to display for public purview.

I hear a voice in my head, repeating that I've pretty much lost everything else I love, so I might as well lose this too.

I haven't decided how much I want to listen to it, just yet.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Late Night Letter.

Hey, you.

So I just now finished watching Wild because I've come to grips with that my life these days is not conducive to reading all the things I'd like to -- and a funny thing happened.

See, it's about this woman, Cheryl, who gets through her divorce and the death of her mom and a slight heroin addiction by hiking some trail that runs from practically Mexico to Canada over on the West Coastish area. When her life became too much, she literally ran away into the woods to find herself.

Yes, I envy her. Though she does address it at one point -- that women can't just up and leave because they have children and parents to care for, jobs to keep and food to put on tables (and she gets called a feminist for it) -- her life was just the perfect godawful storm which allowed her the space to just up and leave.

Along her travels, she stops in a town in Oregon (I think) and this hippie town is called Ashland, and of course, I thought of you.

There are moments like this for me every day. Links I would send you. Stories I want to tell. Little things here and there -- like even earlier in the movie, Art Alexakis plays a tattoo artist and I snorted to myself as your face flashed across my mind.

This is my new stasis. Things happen. I think of you. I've mostly stopped reaching for my phone at this point, but sometimes I still do, lost once I unlock it because I slowly remember you're not there anymore.

But for the first time, tonight, it didn't hurt quite so sharply. I ached maybe, like someone who's homesick, but I saw the village name scrawled across some arching sign and I smiled a tiny smile as I thought of you and your smile, that twinkle in your eye you'd get when I'd do or say something that just ... lit you up, from the inside.

I still miss you like crazy -- I don't think you realized it all the way back then, but when I called you my best friend, I meant it. As someone who's consistently been dropped or cut off or shoved aside or shut out, your presence, your interest and involvement in just the stupidest smallest things of my day meant just as much as anything else. I mourn your friendship just as much as I mourn your steadfast romanticism.

Of course, I have tons of large, big-life things I wish I could tell you -- so much is so hard right now, you wouldn't believe it. Seriously everything has gone to hell in a hand basket, but it's shit I can't publish, things that have to remain within a certain circle of trust, and that place is obviously not here. Between my former in-laws, a particular blogger hate site, and now your contingent of hate-readers and rubber-neckers, this isn't a place I can lay it all out with the hopes your eyes will find it and not face any ramifications.

Not like that completely stops me, obviously. But it often gives me pause.

Even stupid things, like how I had to super single parent for a week while Kyle went on vacation -- and missed Father's Day, because of course he did -- and it's made me realize how much I actually can take on my shoulders without any extra weight. Like, the more time the kids and I spend with just each other, with these longer stretches of time together minus their father, the more I realize why I wanted to be a mom for most of my life. Sure, it's not always sunshine and rainbows ... but I'm able to relax with them, enjoy them, have fun with them. When I'm the only one I -- and they -- have to answer to -- there's such a freedom in that, and a realization of capability that I surprisingly didn't have before. I was so hung up on keeping everything together and seeing myself through someone else's lens that I didn't know how to just be there for whatever just was, when it came to them. And I feel sheepish because, well, your plan (however not intended for me) that you didn't want to tell me because you didn't want to hear me say I thought it wasn't enough ... darling, it worked. In another crumbling marriage altogether, but still, it worked. But in the same vein, what I told you was also true -- people step up and you find support where you don't expect it and you do your best to cover your bases and when you're the only one you can fall back on, sure, you pull some extra weight but you know, it doesn't feel any heavier because you know there isn't anyone to make up the lack. It's you or nothing. So you give it your all and you have faith that it's more than enough because you give a damn to try with all your might.

And maybe I wouldn't have realized that, if you were here.

Other things I just don't know how to broach -- like that a week from now, while I'm in NYC and theoretically surrounded by people who love me, I'm going to know if I need to alert my OB/GYN when I get back that three months out, my shit is still not straight. Because you weren't here when I got the letter from them, the one from after that panicked visit on April Fool's Day, the one you wanted to come with me to but you had an appointment at work and I told you it was okay, it wasn't my first time at this rodeo -- that basically said whoops, our bad, we totally read that test wrong and you were right that wasn't at all a normal period so sorry for your loss and directions for how and when I should notify them of further complications, since my body appears to have mostly handled it on its own and haven't requested prenatal care, so. I shouldn't have been surprised -- I mean, they sent me a postcard to tell me I had cervical cancer almost a decade ago so why the hell not send me a letter two and a half months after the fact informing me of my early term miscarriage?

I missed you the hardest in that moment, holding that single sheet of paper in my hands and feeling everything come crashing down all over again. But you were already long gone as I put the pieces together, the timeline -- I was in such a shit mood that weekend we last spoke because I was just a few weeks out from when it began, meaning I was hitting that hormonal drop something fierce. And that, if what you said was true, I was miscarrying as you ... created a more legitimate life elsewhere. The mindfuck of that is just unfathomable, really. I haven't truly begun to deal with it, if I'm completely honest. I haven't had the space or the time, and I can't even tell you to your face. I'm only even bringing it up now to maybe start to carve out that place where, at some point, I will be able to face it and recover.

I've really never felt so alone in my entire life, than I have these last six weeks.

But I guess know that I carry you with me, still. I think I always will. Someone in my divorce support group finally found words for it that I haven't been able to -- you set the bar higher for me, for what a relationship could be like, what a partner that actually cared about me could be like, and losing that is more traumatic than ringing the final death knell of my marriage, my family, and the life I'd worked so hard to create and maintain. My marriage ending was a slow and painful process, but one I had time to process in chunks -- you know, you held my hand through a lot of it. But losing you, well -- it was the complete opposite. I had no time, no buffer. You were there in every aspect of my life, little fingers of your presence reaching through the most minute details and banal circumstances, not to mention threading yourself through every vision of my future from this point forward ... and then you were gone, brutally cut out leaving gaping, gushing wounds in the wake.

I'm always going to carry these scars.

I imagine you are, too.

I choose to believe that I'm not alone in this, that you, too, are struggling ... though you're probably shoving it way down deep inside so you can put on a good face. I choose to believe that you ache for me and miss me, too, because that's the only way that I can believe a word you said to me, that anything between us was real in any sense of the word. It's not that I'm wishing you pain or anything, because I absolutely don't want that for you -- it's just that if I ever meant anything to you at all, well, then you have to miss me as much as I miss you, and know what this kind of ending would do/has done to me, just as I'm sure of what it must be doing to you.

Tonight, for the first time, I think I realized that ... it's going to be okay. Not that it won't be hard or that I won't bawl my eyes out most nights for a long time or that you won't be the first thing on my mind when I wake up each morning and the last breath upon my lips as I fall asleep each night for probably months, maybe years to come, I expect all that. I expect to never hear from you again, to have to devise my own closure here, my own logic and reasoning and forgiveness. That even though now a piece of your genetic code will always be with me, become a part of me (goddamn science what with their stem cells studies and how those of children linger with their mother after they no longer do, for whichever reason) -- for whatever reasons the universe or god or whatever had in store, you and I met at the wrong time, or as the wrong people, and we ran our course and it was so good, better than I could have ever dreamed up for myself but maybe we were both too scared of the things that haunt us to bear down and do the work to make it survive, make it thrive.

To let us thrive, both together and as individuals.

I'm going to hold on to your belief in me. I'm going to hold on to the things you said about how you saw me, what my strengths and my talents were, where my goodness and purpose laid. I'm going to hug my kids tight and when they ask for you (because even yesterday Tova cried and said she wanted you) I will tell them you loved them but you had to be with your own family but weren't we so lucky to be loved like that, even for a little while? And I will keep dancing with them in the kitchen to the playlist of every song you ever sent me (Kiedis has a special affinity for Frank Turner, by the by) and I will let myself smile through it because that's the beauty in the endings, right, finding those places where you can smile through the tears?

Everyone told me that my thirties would be amazing, the best time of my life. I'm staring down the barrel of thirty-one-and-a-half and this has been a fucking goddamn trial by fire, every minute of this decade thus far. And when I could hold your hand, I felt like I could face anything, that I could be brave and strong and blossom into whoever it was that I was meant to be.

I now have to do all of that on my own. It's going to take longer, and I won't have the space for quite as remarkable risks and choices because I'm a single parent living under the poverty line, now, so it's more about survival than it is thriving, nevermind dreaming and blossoming.

But I think I'll get there.

You always said how strong you thought I was.

I'm finally at a place where I think I just might prove you right.

I'm always going to love you, even if this year has destroyed me in so many more ways than I ever thought possible.

I really hope somehow, you know that.