This is an EXCELLENT read and explains my silence the last few months. I cannot bring myself to say the words I want to scream out. From my adult children to one of my dearest friends to acquaintences I’ve known for years to those who read this blog and make PTSD inducing comments……..I have silenced myself because I just can’t bear up under the secondary abuse.
The heavy darkness bore down upon me until it forced me out of bed. Unable to sleep or even breathe for its weight, there was no place of rest to be found for me tonight.
It has been over four years since he stormed out of our home in a fit of rage. Two and a half years have passed since the divorce was finalized. And, yet, on Thursday I received notification from the court that he has retained an attorney and filed a motion to have his domestic violence conviction set aside.
Merely checking the mail had no longer caused me horrific anxiety. Now, that reprieve has passed, and I find myself avoiding the mailbox once again these last couple of days.
The DA’s office does not think I have a chance of winning should I request a hearing. “He’s kept his nose clean in the eyes of the law before and since his conviction,” they claim. The Chief Administrative Assistant was shocked the judge denied his motion to have this conviction set aside in 2011. But, I had a newly signed personal protection order, and he angrily exploded in the courtroom, frightening others present. The judge got to witness the narc’s other side that he typically reserves for private moments.
What do I have new since the 2011 hearing? She reminded me……that was over four years ago. He is threatening and manipulative with the children. She responded, “That isn’t illegal. That happens in a lot of families.” In the eyes of the law that continued demonstration of poor character does not indicate that he is still a threat to us or anyone else. Poor character is not against the law. They do not see the continuum here.
So, I can’t sleep.
Why is he trying once again to have this conviction set aside? What is his ultimate motivation? Is it simply that he wants to open up the possibility of returning to a former line of work that is easier than the work he currently does? Or, is he setting the stage for another ploy to gain custody?
The narc and I both know that the best defense is a good offense. The best way to defeat an enemy is to remove their ability to attack you. I am quite certain this latest motion of his is just that. I know he would claim in court that it has everything to do with job hunting, as he would claim the abuse was an isolated incident. But, I know he’s really just removing his weak spot–a conviction for a violent crime–in order to thwart my ability to counter attack should he go for custody again.
If I request a hearing and plead my case before the judge who listened compassionately to a child’s testimony of abuse and then awarded the abuser unsupervised visitation……..the judge who illegally awarded the narc, with a standing domestic violence conviction, a rifle and waved off my attorney’s protests that it broke federal law…….the judge whose own pastor came to court and sat with my ex’s nonbelieving family as “moral support”……….will he have a change of heart and validate my very real fears? Or, will he once again side with the abuser and give him what he asks for?
The known-to-be-corrupt DA’s office isn’t even supportive. They obviously don’t want to take this to hearing. Last time, the Assistant DA did. He was eager to keep the record in place.
If I request a hearing anyway and enter the courtroom alone, without the support of the DA, swimming upstream and fighting against everyone, and the judge orders the record set aside and sealed, the narc will be empowered by his success. He will know for certain he has the best enabler he could ask for….the courthouse….covering for him. That would most definitely give him the green light to fight for custody again.
Of course, any attorney would then argue that I’m just hateful and paranoid, a fantastic backdrop for a case of parental alienation, because I’m still holding on to this “one isolated incident” from eight years ago. I’m still trying to make the poor narc pay in spite of him being a model citizen in all other regards. Just another bitter woman.
And, I would miss work, lose clients, fall behind on the kids’ schooling, the children would miss out on extracurricular activities, and I’d be broke, living in squalor while trying to pay a worthless attorney to plead my cause, knowing full well he’d had a friendly dinner with the opposing attorney the night before and that my fate was decided before we ever stepped foot in the courtroom. Every ounce of energy and every dime would go to contesting the narc and his latest antics.
My only other option is to not request a hearing and just allow the conviction to be set aside. Go on with my life with no regard to what he may pull next. Go to work, pay my bills, run the kids to birthday parties and dance classes and piano lessons, rebuild my credit with the dream of buying a modest home….live. Live and breathe and sleep, trusting in God that He will protect us and has a plan in all of this mess. Focus on a positive direction for the children and myself regardless of the narc’s latest antics.
He frequently said, “Bad attention is better than no attention at all.” He loves to fight. He loves contention. He’s constantly agitated over some perceived injustice because others simply don’t treat him as special as he should be treated. So, he slanders them and creates difficulties in their lives to make himself the center, as he feels he should be. I don’t want to hand him that pleasure by charging into a losing battle. “Supply” feeds the narc, and I’m simply finished being that source for him. If his nourishment is cut off here, he will be forced to look for it elsewhere. He needs it. He craves it. Like an addict, he is single-minded and focused as he seeks his next “hit.”
I panic at the thought of facing him in court again. I have tremendous anxiety over the idea of him actually having the children in his custody! But, at some point, we must go on with our lives and not live in continual reactivity to his demands for attention. My time and money and energy must go into rebuilding a life worth living, not struggling with the vicissitudes of a life that I’ve extricated myself from. And, I have to let the narc see there is nothing to feed on here. Not any more.
I never listen to the Dove, a local Christian radio station, because I have viewed it as “too schmarmy Christian.” By that, I mean, I’ve thought it plays into the stereotypical phony voiced love/grace/mercy at all costs teaching that is so prevalent in the Christian community at large today. But, ya know what? My heart was just hard, and God revealed that to me this morning.
I never listen to the Dove. But, last night my teenage son bought me a secular CD I’ve been longing for for quite some time. We listened to it on our way home, and he popped it out to bring it in the house when we arrived back home, leaving the system on. So, when I started the car this morning, to head to work, the stereo system was on, and, for some weird reason, it was set to the Dove.
At first I listened more for my own entertainment. I was going to mock it. Through the static I could hear them laughing and throwing around the “grace” word. But, it did NOT go where I thought it would! I was convicted. And, I was fed. And, I was validated.
Being single isn’t easy. Logistically or emotionally. Nor is it easy to field the questions and understand the social expectations.
Friends have recommended I try online dating. No thanks; that’s just desperate and creepy. Clients have asked if I’m bitter, a man hater, hung up on the ex. My own elderly uncle asked if I’ve become a lesbian now because of what that man put me through.
But, when I tell people I met a nice man I’m just talking to, some friends, some of the same friends who recommended the online thing, tell me they’re worried about me.
They’re worried I’ve been alone for a reasonably long time. They’re worried when I meet someone. Sometimes I feel like I can’t win for losing.
What is a single woman to do?
They used to say that your chances of being the victim of an act of terrorism were greater than your chances of getting married over 40. So the joke goes, our chances are increasing in the world today! Hey! Awesome! Not.
I have a confession to make. I did it. I signed up for online dating. Because, regardless of what the worriers and naysayers think, I deserve and need love and companionship just as much as the next girl. In fact, maybe more. So, creepy and desperate I am!
A couple of months ago I’d received a friend request from a man on a page I follow. We had exchanged some witty comments, and we obviously had a common interest. It seemed okay to become Facebook friends.
Am I ever glad we did!
As much as Facebook is an intrusion into our privacy, it’s kind of nice to be able to know what a new friend is doing, what kind of photos they’re liking, what trolling comments they’re making. Within two short weeks I was able to see that this guy was not who he was telling me he was, he has a mean spirit that he wasn’t showing me, and he apparently has an addiction to porn.
In the real world, at work or through friends, it could have been months before any of that came out. And, once it did, ending it could have been very awkward. Online, it was easy. Unfriend and block with just a few clicks. It was then that it hit me how truly great online dating could be. There just could be some advantages to the whole thing.
So far, I can’t even begin to tell you how many men I’ve chatted with. I’m only on one site. It’s a small site geared toward a particular common interest, and the men outnumber the women two to one. I’ve “met” some seemingly very nice men. Some I pray for, and they say they pray for me. But, I know I’d never want to date them.
As we write good old-fashioned letters (via email) I get to see how they respond to things and what they focus on. I get an inside peek into what makes them tick without having to leave my children or get dressed up. And, there is no temptation that comes with sitting across the table from an attractive man. I mean, let’s be honest, when it’s been a long time since you’ve been held in a man’s arms and heard compliments come from a deep voice, it might be easy to overlook those problem issues when you’ve got a live one right in front of you!
I’m once again learning how to talk to men. I’d forgotten. In all the years of silence and suffering, I’d learned to not respond or to only respond in an acceptable, “supportive” way. I’m unsure, even around women, if my conversation and responses are appropriate or odd. At the end of the day, I weigh my words over and over again, wondering and fearful that I may have been offensive or stupid.
I can’t hide away–fearful, bitter, and untrusting. I have to try to live again. And, that means warily inviting people into my life. From opening up a conversation with the cashier to reconnecting with old friends to meeting men, I need to make connections with other human beings.
So, I appreciate these men who are just as lonely as I am. I appreciate that they are honest enough to say they want someone in their lives. I’m grateful when they’re honest enough to say they don’t think we’ll be a match. I enjoy the witty banter and the compliments. And, I’m learning to feel comfortable expressing myself.
Each of these flat pictures on the screen represents a human being. For whatever reason, we’re touching each other’s lives. We may just be catalysts for growth, and, most of the time, that does indeed seem to be the case. We work through the murky waters of getting back out there from the safety of our computerized cocoons. For me and the men I’ve chosen to maintain conversations with, it seems finding “The One” is secondary to building a solid, happy life. And, I’ve come to realize that they’re just as scared as I am! Not all men are monsters who are just out looking for the next victim. Who knew?!
And, this whole experience has the added benefit of building my confidence. I walk a little taller, stand a little straighter, smile a little more. Even if I never receive another email from any of these men, the ones who’ve told me I’m beautiful or asked how I’ve stayed so slender with so many children have made me feel feminine again. That is mine to keep now. The ones who have asked me questions about subjects I know something about and have commented that I’m a “fount of information” have made me feel intelligent again. That is now mine to keep as well.
I don’t want to be the woman who garners her value via a man’s opinion. But, I need to reclaim what was stolen from me….by men. My girlfriends can give me encouragement all day, and, for me, it just doesn’t say the same thing. I do need men to give back to me what men took: that sense that a man could value me. It’s one thing to be strong in a group of women. It’s another thing to stand strong before a man when you’ve been so utterly destroyed by the men in your previous life.
And, my self-confidence is boosted when I walk away, when I hit block or choose to not write back. My fearful friends love me and are worried about me, but they’re telling me they don’t trust me and my judgment when they act like that. They’re saying that I am responsible for my own pain, not my abusers who chose me and groomed me, and I’m too stupid or too wounded to be trusted to make decisions for my own life. That in itself is harmful to my growth in my new life. I must be allowed to make my own decisions and fail and grow and learn. The majority of my past were forced or coerced situations. To move past that, I desperately need the opportunity to make my own choices, right or wrong.
So, I guess I am desperate. But, not in the way some people would think if I told them I’m using online dating.
There are creeps online, but there are creeps in “real life,” too. It’s a matter of learning to use discretion and my own GOOD judgment no matter what waters I wade into.
I don’t know how many times I’ve sat through a pastor or study leader condemning the children of Israel for complaining, rebelling, and generally having bad attitudes.
Here they were, being led by God Himself, their clothes were miraculously still nice with no holes; they drank water out of a rock and ate manna and quail in abundance; they were protected from enemies; they were given the Ten Commandments. It was a time of being alone, as alone as a people can get when they number in the millions, with God.
And, yet, these ingrates complained constantly. What a bunch of whiners! Really! Can you imagine how wonderful it must have been to see their enemies destroyed and to be led day and night by The Lord? Right there with ya?!
I’ve always cringed and kept silent at those studies. I relate to those Israelites. I get it!
I’ve struggled with the “Wilderness Syndrome” since my parents divorced. In spite of the other difficulties in my childhood, I still saw my glass as half full. Sure, my own mother hated me, but I knew my dad and my Nana loved me. Sure, my grandpa molested me, but my other grandpa was very, very good to me. He was kind and gentle and loving and taught me how to garden and refinish furniture. He attended my school functions and provided taxi service to them as well. Sure, I was hungry and bleeding for years on end. But, when I was at my grandparents’ house I ate tuna casserole and sausage with toast and strawberries and pie and corn fresh from the stalk, raw and sweet. I felt trapped in a hell of sorts when left alone with my mother, but I had my books to escape to when the weather was bad. And, when the weather was good, I could run or ride through the fields and escape to the barn with my animals. And, there was always September to look forward to when I could start school and be patted on the head and adored by my teacher.
My glass was half full.
I remember knowing that my world, as truly awful as it was, was ending when my dad walked out and took all goodness with him. He no longer cared, and I would seldom see him. Now, my grandparents would resent having us because they’d be forced to take us all the fricken time. We were no longer novelty. We were responsibility in old age. The barn, the fields, and the animals were exchanged for concrete and a swimming pool that sat behind a transparent chain link fence. We were exposed and out in the open. No more hiding from the world. School became its own kind of hell in the more populous town. We subsisted off of Pepsi and pizza morning, noon, and night as the party was always at our house. Crude, raunchy, drunk adults throwing boxes of pizza at the kids in the pool to keep us out of their way.
My glass was half empty.
And, it’s been half empty ever since.
The Israelites were allowed to get hungry and thirsty before God provided those things they cried for. And, I know what it’s like to be hungry, thirsty, and crying. And, I have a bit of a hard time with those who are full and happy with pretty little lives who will sit and wag their heads at those ungrateful Israelites.
I know I’m probably way off base and really wrong for siding with the ingrates. I just do.
Count your blessings they say. List all of the good things in your life. Have an attitude of gratitude. Thankfulness is the key to happiness. Or, abundance.
Trite little expressions to those wandering in the wilderness. Those whose water comes from the rock only after they’ve thirsted. Those whose food rains down from heaven only after they’ve known hunger.
I am grateful for the goodness He’s poured out on me. I am not knocking the graciousness of God, and I am well aware I don’t deserve His kindnesses. I’m just saying the walk gets long and lonely. And, I can’t fault those who call it what it is. Those who’ve never wandered would like us to sing Kumbaya and skip through the darkness, looking with anticipation for the light on the other side of the forest. It’s just not that easy. And, I get that. I get that the Israelites were displaced, lost, wandering, scared, hungry, thirsty, traumatized, and just wanted to sit down. The last thing they wanted to do was wander for forty years, without a home, without rest.
I’m doing the right thing, right? I’m trying to better my life and provide for my children’s future. Everyone cheered me when I announced my return to school. It’s the smart thing to do. I’m setting a good example for my kids, they said.
When I recently asked for prayer because I’m considering quitting my degree program at community college, people rallied, “You can do this!” “Don’t give up!” “This is just a test in perseverance.” “What would you tell your kids if they said that to you?”
Nobody likes a quitter.
Well, ya know what, a lot of people don’t like me anyway! Besides, who am I trying to please?
I have some tough decisions to make. So, here’s the low down:
- I’m running myself ragged, and I’m not much fun to be around these days.
- I’m turning down work and missing work, which means I’m losing desperately needed income.
- I feel like I hardly see my kids.
- I never cook a decent meal for my children.
- I’m not keeping up with the children’s schooling.
- My body is getting used to sleeping for only four or five hours (after I worked so hard to train myself to sleep) so I’m no longer able to sleep more than five hours….once again.
- I’m not learning the material at school anyway, and no one who’s supposed to care does.
- I seldom write here on my beloved blog anymore. I miss you all!
- I’m missing important events in my loved ones’ lives.
- I’m not working out, going to treatment, eating right, or taking my supplements.
- My former physical symptoms are resurfacing.
Why am I sacrificing so much? To earn a degree, of course! Eventually I’ll make better money and be able to work from home! Eventually…..when my youngest child has one foot out the door, and it isn’t even necessary for me to be home anymore. Eventually……I’m a little (a lot) old to be trying to compete with young, 20 somethings for the best positions. Eventually…..after I’ve missed six years of living.
I am pausing to ask myself what is really important to me. And, to admit I was wrong.
I thought re-education would be the key to achieving my goals and dreams. But, what are my goals and dreams? Really?
I live every day with the awareness that I am at an increased risk for a full stroke. I’ve also buried enough friends and friends’ children to be fully aware that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So, what if I had a crystal ball that could tell me that I am going to stroke out and be confined to a wheelchair in exactly ten years and five months? Or, what if it said that I’ll be killed in a car accident in two years? Or, what if it told me my ex is going to finally kill me in six months?
Is this how I want to spend the last six months, two years, or ten years of my life?
I WANT TO LIVE! I mean, I want to live whatever life I have to its fullest! Each and every day is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed, and I’m no longer enjoying any of it. I’m surviving, marking off the days until I can hopefully get a reprieve. If I can just make it to midterms. If I can just hang in there until spring break. It feels very much like living with any of my abusers…..barely surviving each day, waiting for some day in the future to alleviate a bit of the constant pressure.
The thing is, my passions are my God, my children, home schooling, connecting with others, natural living, and this blog. Work isn’t a passion for me. I know it is for some, but, if I had my druthers, I’d be working as a wife and mother. I have never ever ever in my entire life longed to be a career woman. Even my dream job, being a writer, isn’t the big city, journalist type. It’s the sitting by the river with a laptop version.
Returning to school, sacrificing each day of my life for the next six years, so that I can perhaps some day in the very far off future potentially make more money is feeling rather foolish once I perform a little values clarification. Because, you see, I’ve sacrificed all of my passions in the process. And, I feel empty. I feel like I’m pursuing what I believe is expected of me, rather than what truly makes me joyful and content.
I want to serve my God and connect with others. Funny thing is, one of my clients asked me to pray with her last week. And, her sister, a stroke victim, struggled very hard to tell me something. She was thrilled when I got it, and we were communicating. My current vocation does allow me to connect with God and others.
I want to be a writer. I have a blog where I give and receive–receive more than I give–support with others. Again, connecting. And, writing!
I want to live naturally, which takes time I no longer have now that I’m in school and working.
And, I want to be there, truly be there, which takes, well, being there, for my children. I want to make memories with them. Memories that aren’t filled with violence. I want to give them the best foundation in life that I can by pouring myself into their education, the way I did with the older children.
My little cleaning business is menial labor. Yep, I spend my days hunkered over toilets scraping feces off of rims and picking up body hair from showers, plugging my vacuum with someone else’s dog’s hair. It sucks. But, it is MY business. If I don’t really like a client, I can graciously find a way to quit working for them. I have enough other work that I have that freedom. I can also reschedule for emergencies and vacations and time with my kids without fearing a boss’s reprisal.
I consider nearly all of my clients friends. I’m charging enough of an hourly wage now that if I chose to work more hours a week, I could make as much as I would as a graphic designer in my area! All in all, it’s not a bad gig. It has allowed me time to home school, build a new life with my kids, and blog. It has allowed me time to get stronger and healthier.
I don’t think I feel the need to hang a diploma on my wall. And, I’m quite certain it won’t bring me the joy I feel when you respond to what I write or when my daughter is able to read “the fast way,” or when my children and I are dancing together or when my client asks me to pray with her.
That’s my values clarification.
I don’t value the pursuit of a degree enough to continue on with it and sacrifice everything in my life that I do value.
Another of my clients, whom I consider a sweet friend, has suggested that I get my real estate license and work with her. She’s been a realtor her entire life and would be an excellent mentor. Most of the work can be done from home on a computer. Sure, I’ll have to go out to show houses, but I can take one child with me. The course is relatively inexpensive, completely from home, 120 hours over the course of eight months done at my own pace. It’s something to consider.
I’ve spent my life believing that when one door closes another one opens, and I had no other options but to walk through the first door that opened. I falsely believed that once I walked through a door, there was no turning back. I was told, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” But, I’ve come to believe that’s a lie and a trap.
My chiropractor shares my new outlook. He once told me he’s never understood that mindset of sticking with something no matter how bad it is. “If something isn’t working for you, change it!” he said.
Sure, I’ll be judged for being a quitter. My decisions will be seen as walking away from an opportunity, committing my life to poverty…and those poor children along with me. I can see them all wagging their heads at me now. But, that is the basis of my new free life. It is MY life. And, I am FREE to make choices for my LIFE.
I have always LOVED Proverbs 31. She is a woman of strength and honor and her family adores her. She dresses well and is a successful business woman who cares for the poor and needy. She’s perfect really. Everything I could ever aspire to be. She has everything I could ever hope for.
Proverbs 31:28: Her children arise up, and call her blessed.
That isn’t what my children call me.
I just spent an ungodly amount of money and went in debt, maxing out my credit card, to go to the graduations of my oldest son and his girlfriend. I had wonderful tours and activities planned for the younger children, hoping to make history come alive for them on this once in a lifetime trip.
It was wonderful in many, many ways. Don’t get me wrong. But, we missed nearly all of those planned activities.
We were exhausted. Wrung out. Grumpy. Hungry. And, hurt. Very hurt.
My son warned his girlfriend’s parents about me. As though you need to mentally prepare yourself to meet me. He told them I’m a hippie.
I Googled “define hippie.” It gave me, “a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.”
My values are so conventional I’ve been accused of being legalistic! Too Christian! A right wing nut! I won’t even vaccinate my children, let alone take mind altering drugs! I’m about as bland and conventional in my appearance as a middle aged mom can get! I wear make up (well, most days); I wear a bra (padded push up!); I don’t think I even own any beads.
I do try to buy only organic food. If it’s local, even better! I do make my own deodorant and some of my cleaning supplies. I prefer going barefoot. But, that’s about it, Folks!
Her parents were pleasantly surprised and actually liked me. I was nothing like what my son had built me up to be.
Friday night before my son’s graduation he and his girlfriend hosted a party (which cost me almost $200) in their apartment. It was a loud, drunken party. At one point his girlfriend asked me if she could give my 14 year old a “shot.” I responded emphatically, “Absolutely NOT!” She waited until I left the room, dumped a shot in his punch, put her hand on the bottom of his cup and directed it toward his mouth, and told him to drink it quickly before I came back. Just because you’re in a lovely townhouse in one of the richest counties in the country, overlooking the representations of the nation’s grandeur, surrounded by extremely well educated individuals, don’t assume anyone actually has any class. People are people. Some just dress better and have better vocabularies.
At this raucous celebration there were three moms: A Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew. We made jokes about ourselves, and we got along FAMOUSLY. Sometimes I’m not sure we even knew what we were laughing at. We were just feeding off of each other’s laughter. Our jokes were probably quite inappropriate. We mocked our religions, ethnic backgrounds, and politics. We mocked each other’s, and that was funny, too. It was all very light hearted, as none of us took ourselves seriously.
The next day, however, my son’s girlfriend said that she didn’t think I got really offensive until after everyone left when I referred to the one other mom as “the Jew,” saying how much I liked her.
Ironically, however, my son had called me that in front of everyone earlier in the evening, and that, I guess, wasn’t offensive. His one friend let it be known to all that he liked me and would propose on the spot if he had a ring. My son joked that you can get a ring from Nomorerack for $10. The young man exclaimed that he had two fives in his pocket, so he was set! To that my son responded, “She’s such a Jew, she’d probably rather have the $10 than the ring!”
Admittedly, I’m not as quick as I used to be, but I don’t understand. The other moms and I referred to ourselves and each other, in a joking way, as the tags that society labels us with, thinking we were funny. When I merely continued that and stated how much I enjoyed one woman’s company, I was offensive. When the same tag was used to describe my fiscal awareness, along the lines of the old, pro ethnic cleansing German cartoons, that was socially acceptable. How so, young people? How so?
As we prepared for the trip in advance I had made a trip notebook. I placed dividers in it and labeled them according to state. I researched activities and paid in advance for some tours. We were all set for the most memorable vacation ever! We had been promised that if we could just get there, just buy the airline tickets, my son and his girlfriend would feed us, house us, and get us around.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Several months after I booked the NONREFUNDABLE airline tickets, charging $1700 to my brand new credit card, my son called to ask me if I could book some motel rooms or stay with friends. They couldn’t put us up the entire time.
I ended up booking three motel rooms total AND getting a rental car for a week. Thankfully I’d paid on those airline tickets some because this was another $900 on that credit card, and my limit is $2500. That doesn’t include gas.
When I asked my son about how long I should keep said rental car he said that I’d never be able to drive in DC–traffic is crazy–so to turn it in once we got there. Either his girlfriend could get us around, or he would get a zip car the day we planned to visit the re-enactment of the 150th anniversary of a famous Civil War battle.
Once we got there though and were at their mercy for travel, we were told “we aren’t going,” “figure it out; I had to,” and “I don’t know what to tell you.” In the week we were there we only went into DC three days, each day costing me at least $60 in transportation for the tram and Uber cars (basically taxis).
The first day I nearly sat down and cried. The girlfriend had flat out refused to take us anywhere and had given us very little instruction, none really, on how to use the tram. As you well know, I’m from a congestion, the side of a mountain. I’ve never ridden a subway before in my life. We missed almost all of our tours we were so late everywhere, spending ungodly amounts of time lost in the subway corridors, trying desperately to figure out how to get somewhere, anywhere. At the end of the day, hungry, sunburned, and exhausted we wandered off the subway onto the platform at rush hour. Because I’d been using the maps app to navigate, or try to, our way around the city, my phone was nearly dead. It began to rain gigantic drops onto the massive crowd of aggressive, busy, pushy, and apparently very important (they all seem to think so anyway) people and us. I didn’t know where we were. The youngest two children refused to walk any further and were sitting down on the sidewalk, fussing loudly. I used the last energy my phone had to call K, my son’s girlfriend. She refused to come get us and told me to call an Uber car. I told her my phone didn’t have enough battery left to figure out where I was and then use the Uber app to send for a car. She didn’t care. I used my 14 year old’s phone to call my son. He said, “K won’t come get me either. I’m in a car. I don’t know what to tell you.” That’s when I just wanted to sit and cry. I was lost in a huge city without a phone, alone with three children, and no one to help us at all.
I was afraid to go into the city again, but I knew I had to try. When I asked more questions of them in preparation for my next adventure, they said, “Figure it out!” “Just read the boards and figure it out! I had to!”
The difference in my mind was that they were single adults who had CHOSEN to move there and NEEDED to figure out this new way of life. I was INVITED there by them and had children to watch in those crowds while I tried to “figure it out,” and I’ll likely never go back. I don’t NEED to figure it out and waste all of our sight seeing time learning a skill I’ll never use again while my children cry, whine, sit in the middle of traffic, or try to run off. They didn’t exactly use the word “incapable,” but they certainly made me feel that is what they were thinking.
The word “embarrassing” was never actually stated either, but my son’s constant eye rolls and refusal to hug me at his graduation until after he’d hugged everyone else and his girlfriend’s mother demanded that he “hug your mother!” again made me quite certain that he felt I was an embarrassment.
He hadn’t acted that way in Georgia. He gave me a lovely card with BEAUTIFUL hand written sentiments. He hugged me publicly. He was sweet.
But in DC I suddenly felt unwelcome. I have no idea what I did. No one will just communicate. There wasn’t even a precipitating event. The tension was just so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The girlfriend would snap and make rude comments to me before retreating to her bedroom. My son dutifully followed her and then would come out and be rude to me. It was quite apparent he was following orders.
As I mulled it over, trying so hard to figure out what I’d done so I could fix it, I wondered if it was my parenting. My son had snapped at me in front of my 7 year old, and he and his girlfriend both regularly interfered when I tried to discipline my 7 year old. They let me know in no uncertain terms that they did not agree with my expectations. Yet, the girlfriend nearly seemed to delight, in my opinion, in being unfair to my 5 year old, who looks and acts just like me. I took that as verification that she definitely has a problem with ME.
During one pleasant conversation the last night there, my son asked about specific tours we’d taken that day. As I delighted in the moment with him and recounting the day, she interrupted, “You can’t expect a private tour of the Capital Building! There are thousands of people that go through there a day!” The hate exuded from her pores. I tried to nicely respond that I didn’t expect a personal tour. It just wasn’t my favorite because it was so rushed. She refused to let it go and insisted upon putting words in my mouth and snapping at me.
As it ate away at me though I could audibly hear the Lord tell me, “Their anger is not your problem.” So, I let it roll off my back and made the best out of things, refusing to let this young woman’s issues come between my son and me.
My son opened up the discussion about seeing us off the next morning, and I was surprised. I had assumed we’d once again be forced to ride the subway, this time with all of our luggage. But, no, he WANTED to see us off. She agreed to it, though not enthusiastically. However, an hour before our plane was to take off, she began to take the exit to the subway station! My son asked her where she was going, and she matter of factly stated, “West Falls Church.” He exclaimed, “They’ll never make it! We discussed this last night.” I could tell she was ticked, so I chuckled and said, “Oh, she’s doing pretty good to be dressed and driving. She didn’t get coffee this morning!” Everyone went along with that, and she made her way back onto the freeway just in time.
We made it through security as Zone 3 was being called to board our plane. Fortunately we were seated in Zone 3 and, though we missed the call for it, we made it onto the plane. I marveled at how we definitely would have missed our plane if we’d taken the subway and why she would have wanted to cause that to happen. It was evident she certainly didn’t want us stuck in her apartment one hour longer!
During the long hours in flight back I napped, took photos of the scenes below, played games and chatted with my 7 year old, and thought about the events of the last two weeks. I thought about the rejection I’d experienced. And, I thought about the approval and acceptance I’d experienced, in particular the approval of that young, educated, professional man whose Facebook profile picture is of him being interviewed on national TV. He wanted to know more about my opinions on religion and politics. He laughed at me. He was apparently, on some level, attracted to me as I stood there in my “mom” capris and a JC Penney T-shirt because he was adamant he wanted to marry me. And, I thought about the word he used to describe me………….
He said I was real and honest, and that is something you just don’t find these days.
My own son has risen up and called me a hippie, a Jew, offensive, and harsh and let’s me know that he sees me as incapable and embarrassing. But, someone else’s son rose up and called me real and honest and let me know that he sees value in those things.
While I still love the Proverbs 31 woman, I’m finally at a point in my life where I just don’t want to strive to be her. I’m content with being real.
I think I’ve shared with you before that my paternal grandmother frequently said, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” It had a quaint wisdom ringing through it, especially said with her Southern accent and stern, maternal tone. Her words helped to further solidify the fear I harbored in my spirit. I was scared to death of change because it could possibly be even worse than the life I’d had thrust upon me. My current circumstances might not seem so bad in the light of new, unknown terrors.
My mother and brother were more manipulative in their ploys to keep me stuck in the quicksand of a go nowhere life they orchestrated for me. But, the common thread of fear of the unknown was prevalent. So, I stayed, unmoving, in a certain hell of an existence of their choosing. They were the devils I knew.
I stayed in a nightmare of a marriage out of fear. Fear of God’s wrath. Fear of losing my children. Fear of being murdered. Fear of my children being murdered. Fear of proving everyone right…..I am a failure. Two failed marriages would solidify the harsh judgment I’d borne up under for so many years. He was the devil I knew.
When my friend suggested I apply for a Habitat for Humanity house I was reluctant to embrace that particular idea of hope. My landlord, coincidentally at about the same time, began discussing the possibility of writing up an owner carry contract with me. I dreamily embraced that idea! I’ve lived in this house over fifteen years now. I’ve given birth in it. My children were raised here. My husband beat me here. He beat my children here. We starved here. We’ve huddled together, freezing, here. It’s the devil I know. My landlord is a devil I know.
I attended the required meeting to receive the Habitat for Humanity application. The approximately thirty other families there intimidated me. I don’t earn enough to meet their loan requirements. What are my chances, really, anyway? Then, they gave the address. Out of curiosity I reluctantly drove by with my mind already made up not to apply. As I drove past scantily clad 12 year old girls and boys unseen for their hoodies, garbage strewn yards, and toddlers playing alone in the rain, I determined the devil I know isn’t so bad.
The property is near a school and a park. That will be noisy and unbearable to those of us accustomed to the solitude of a mountain. The unsavory neighborhood that must be passed to get to it would be too frightening for a family of PTSD sufferers. How could we sleep at night knowing that kind of riff raff is walking the streets nearby?
God has a funny way of opening our eyes to devils and turning our hearts longingly to the uncertain future He has planned for us.
This past month I’ve once again taken on extra work….rentals, houses for sale, spring cleaning jobs. I’ve worked until my arthritic fingers will barely flex and my back feels like it has been beaten with a board. I’m exhausted. The natural physical fatigue that is to be expected has been exacerbated by the loud traffic on the highway that fronts my house. It awakens me at 4 a.m. and continues steadily until 9 when all of the students are settled in their seats and the worker bees are all busy with their duties.
This may be a solitary mountain where the trees refuse to permit daylight to enter and not a single neighbor can be seen, but the noise is unreal. The highway below is busy. The bar around the corner is quickly being rebuilt after a fire destroyed it. It has been the scene of regular stabbings at their all night outdoor music-fests that blare old rock and reggae into our rooms, denying us sleep all summer long. Even with the windows closed, which creates a sort of oven/green house effect on the house, the screaming guitars, drum beats, and yelling rip through the closed glass and stagnant heat. These are the devils I know.
Interestingly, one of those extra houses I took on just happened to be located about two blocks from the Habitat property. I heard the mailman pull up, the Fedex man arrive, and a tow truck haul away an unhappy woman’s new Toyota. But, other than that, the silence of the neighborhood was almost eerie. I spent a total of ten and a half hours there over two days, a Friday and a Saturday, and never heard anyone yell. I never heard music blare. Though I was in town, in a house without a yard, snuggled up against the houses next to it, I never heard evidence of another human being anywhere near.
When I left, the neighbors, who could be seen but not heard, studied me warily. Were I there to perform mischief they could have described every detail of my appearance and my vehicle to the authorities. Yet, when I stopped for a child to cross the street, they smiled warmly as though my courteous gesture gained me acceptance.
The first day I was there I worked the entire day without a break or anything to eat. After I finished late in the afternoon I chose to make my way through the speeding and wreckless young men conspicuously driving Mercedes and Beemers and into the lot of the small store and deli right down the road. The woman behind the deli counter was overly friendly–the kind of person who will remember you a month later and greet you warmly as though you’re old friends. I learned her life history in ten minutes, and she said that she’s never related to a woman customer as she did to me. I dare say we bonded in those moments over that corn dog. The gentleman at the cash register let me have my snack for a mere fifty cents. When I questioned him, because I knew that wasn’t the right price, he urged me to go on and take it for fifty cents.
At the end of the second day there, after six days straight of hard labor, beyond tired and hungry, I asked the kids if they minded pizza for dinner. I was too tired to cook or do anything other than sit on the sofa and veg. Fortunately, we have a pizza place less than a mile away, right next to the abandoned market, and for $16 I was saved from the insurmountable task of preparing food.
As we pulled into the rutted, gravel parking lot our eyes were drawn to a disheveled man walking slowly around the perimeter of the building with a machete in his hand. We had seen him days before in the empty parking lot of the old market. With the market gone, the tiny post office adjacent to it has become a haven for litter and thieves. We sat, doors locked, afraid to get out to get the mail until he was a safe distance away at the pizza place. He watched us, walking slowly and stopping to turn back and stare at us. We busied ourselves with imaginary papers and tried to look like we were simply getting organized before going into the narrow little, inescapable cave of boxes. Now, here he was nervously pacing around the pizza joint with a machete in his hand.
An obviously unshowered woman in a flannel shirt and old jeans lit a cigarette and walked over to her Prius as a similarly dressed man walked out to his 2014 white Ford one ton pick up. I told my 14 year old to run in between them and into the front door to retrieve our order. I sat there, praying, worried for our safety and my son’s as I glanced upward to keep a suspicious eye on the machete guy. These are the devils I know.
After initially deciding to not even turn in the Habitat application, I did. I filled out the paper work, added pictures of the condition of this house and a four page plea for a home that isn’t filled with rats, the steam of our own breath, and memories of abuse. I did it because I’ve learned that the devil you know is not better than the devil you don’t. That’s merely a tactic of devils to keep you trapped in the hell they create for you.
When I compare a silent neighborhood in a new house with neighbors who watch you and your home to the noisy yet isolated darkness of this mountain hovel, there is no comparison. The reality of those young ne’er do wells in their fancy drug cars is the very same reality of those unkempt middle aged growers and dealers in the new, practical vehicles out here: none of them want to get caught and lose the trappings they’ve come to enjoy. I’ve never feared that element out here. Why do I fear them when the clothes and cars are a different style?
The man with the machete: now, there’s someone to fear. The bikers who get drunk and stab each other on Friday night within ear shot and eyesight of me: they are to be feared. The aimless homeless who camp out by the river or, worse yet, near the creek that runs along my property: they seem to believe they own the land they crap on and will fiercely confront anyone who comes near their camp. The impoverished, neglected teens and 20 somethings who waste their days breaking in to empty houses along this highway: were it not for my dogs chasing them and biting them, I would have feared them entering my home that time they crawled over the side of the hill and into my yard where my children were playing. All of this goes on unabated because we essentially don’t have a sheriff’s department out here. It is a land of lawlessness. These are devils I know.
The Lord has blessed me so much in the last year. I have genuine friends to whom I can turn for advice, help, or a laugh. I have sole custody of my vulnerable children. I am my own boss with clients I consider friends, and none of my bills are ever paid late. I’m driving a new car! Hallelujah! My household items lost in the divorce have been replaced by generous friends and strangers; I like my new belongings a lot better than I liked those items I had to say goodbye to. Some of these new things were given to me or purchased for me by people who didn’t even know me. Some of them are just cast offs, no longer needed hand-me-downs. Yet, all of my new belongings represent me better. They appeal to my senses in ways that those items R picked out and allowed me to have never did. I look around at all of this and think that surely the Lord will not stop here. Surely, He will meet our need for a home. So, with hopeful anticipation I pray for favor with the Habitat for Humanity board who will choose one fortunate family from that thirty who attended the meeting. And, I dream of the day I will turn my back on ALL of the devils I know.
I don’t remember exactly why I chose the books I did. I can’t recall if there had been a recommendation on a website. But, I ordered Love Is A Choice and Boundaries in Marriage, along with their accompanying workbooks, and I worked them.
I had to keep them hidden and constantly moved them, burying them deep within a box of old photos, hiding them in a child’s closet, shoving them underneath insulation in the attic. There would be hell to pay if R found those books. Even more so if he read what I wrote!
Once the books were completed I felt I needed something more. I knew I shouldn’t just stop there. Love Is A Choice gave heavy recommendations for joining a support group, so I mulled that over. I googled an organization it listed, contacted the local head, and thought of lies to tell R about where I was going.
I’d been to AA as a teen, so I had a little bit of an idea of what to expect. I remember sitting in the back with my friend, watching as her mother and the others told a little bit about themselves. It was uncomfortable sitting in the big, cold building, on a hard metal chair, trying to be silent, listening to total strangers’ dark secrets and pain.
This time I’d be one of those standing at the front. But, I pushed myself to go, feeling like I might die from the fear and loneliness if I didn’t die at R’s hand.
When I got to the meeting place, there were several people mulling around outside. One woman I recognized as being a neighbor. People seemed friendly and kept offering me coffee. I was relieved! When it actually started, we sat in padded chairs and on couches in the tiny, intimate back room of a church. It wasn’t as intimidating as I had feared.
However, as they began to talk and share I quickly realized that I didn’t belong there. The lump in my throat grew larger. Good thing it was there, too. It acted as a cap for the anger that began to develop in my chest, and it held it safely within me. These people shared how they had controlled and manipulated their loved ones to keep them down and needy in order to fulfill their own needs. And, it sounded like something my mother should have said but never could bring herself to utter. I could not relate to them in any way. I could not feel compassion for them for the “pain” they expressed. When it came my turn to “check in,” I passed.
Disappointed and angry, I returned home. I had decided to tell R where I was going. My thought was that if he believed I was admitting there was something wrong with me and I needed help to be a better person, he would accept it. And, he had. He seemed thrilled that I was “realizing” I had a problem.
I returned a couple times after that first disaster, and each time was just more of the same. I could not understand where these people were coming from. I began to avoid my smiling neighbor when I saw her at the post office, now seeing her as some sort of monster. I came to see her former partner as a victim, though I’d never liked her as much, seeing her as impersonal. I developed empathy for her now though and wished I had been friendlier toward her. Her, I could understand. I knew all too well what it was like to live with someone who sees you as an object to be used to fulfill their own selfish desires. I understood what it’s like to share a home with someone who views relationships as a competitive game.
This wasn’t working, but I still felt desperate to find a support group. But, where? What kind? Though I had not found a place to go, I still left on the same evening of each week, letting R think that I was still going. Instead, I would sit at the river and pray. I don’t remember why I decided to call the local women’s support group. I can’t recall what prompted me to see if they had a support group meeting. But, I called. And, called. Weeks went by, and it seemed like an eternity before I had a meeting with the advocate who would grant me access to the meeting location.
And, it was worth the wait.
She changed my life.
The first words out of my mouth were, “I really think my situation is different. I think my husband might be bipolar.” She asked me how he might treat a checker who gave him back the wrong change. Or, a gas station attendant who accidentally spilled gasoline on his truck. R’s responses in those types of situations were always, always, always overly, sickeningly, oddly gooey sweet and dripping with offers of new friendship, BBQs, and keeping the change altogether. It was a sharp contrast to the terror the children and I knew if we so much as dripped mashed potatoes on the table or sneezed while he was talking.
After my appointment with her I was granted the location of the support group, and I eagerly attended my first meeting. There, too, was a “check in,” and I could feel my heart racing as I knew my turn was coming. What would I say? What would everyone think of me? Would I talk too much? I thought I might pass my turn the first time, just as I had at the other group.
But, when my turn came the words spewed forth. I could hear myself talking, but it was as though it wasn’t really me speaking. The women sat and listened intently, and the release of my prison into a somewhat public domain was intense. I bent forward and cried onto the floor. I laughed hysterically. Round and round it went. All the way home. Other drivers stared at me as I cycled through this intense release of emotion that had been bottled tightly for a decade and a half.
I attended that support group and participated in “check in” for three solid months before R left, and I faithfully continued throughout the loss of my parents and the majority of the custody battle and divorce proceedings. I loved it there. And, I looked forward to “check in.” I eagerly anticipated that release valve that came with expressing my truth to someone who listened without interrupting or judging.
Unfortunately, my work schedule has precluded me from attending for nearly a year now. I’ve missed it. I wonder what has happened to the other women who attended so faithfully during the time I did. We were in the thick of battle together, and I grew to care about them deeply. I miss “my” advocate, a woman of strength and wisdom who always seemed to know just the right thing to say. I was thrilled this week when my afternoon client would be out of town and I could clean for them at any point during the week. I could make it to my old support group and “check in!”
As I entered I marveled at how different it felt to walk those stairs. They didn’t seem as long or steep. I noticed colors and art work that had been lost on me before. And, I realized that, just like the first time I attended, I didn’t know what to say.
I no longer acutely experience pain moment by moment. I am not completely unsure of myself and my decisions. I no longer live in complete fear.
Yes, I have pain. I will always have pain. But, I have tremendous joy, too. I relish my conversations with my Bible study pals and my survivor sisters. Just the thought of these women brings a smile to my face and warmth to my spirit. I fully embrace that the pain of my life was caused by someone else’s sin, not my own unworthiness. I enjoy gifts I’ve been given that make life easier and pleasant. I am preparing for a trip. I go out with friends. I write and enjoy hobbies. I have a life. I live.
I still have many, many doubts. And, I pray daily over small and large concerns and decisions. But, I’ve learned to trust my own gut instincts and my ability to discern. Most importantly, I’ve learned to trust that God’s promises are for me, too, not just everyone else. He is with me all the way and is faithful to guide me when I seek Him first.
I startle easy. I have mild panic attacks, occasional sleepless nights, and nightmares. I take perhaps unnecessary precautions. Last night, late and dark, as I left Walmart, I held my keys in my right hand, one pointed out to be used as a weapon, bags draped from my arm, and pepper spray in my left hand. I looked around, hypervigilant of my surroundings. When I returned home I locked the gate at the bottom of the driveway and upon entering the house I turned on the outside flood light, secured both locks on the front door, and set the alarm behind myself. Both at Walmart and at home though, I was relaxed and confident in my invulnerability. I take control of what I can so that my fear doesn’t control me.
So, what would I say? Did I really belong there, taking up precious time that should be spent on women who are currently in crisis? Would it be selfish and inappropriate to speak and share at “check in” that I am truly happy and love my new life and the direction it is taking?
When my turn came, so did the words. I could hear myself talking, but it was as though it wasn’t really me speaking. It seemed surreal to sit in that same room I’d sat in dozens and dozens of times. That room where I’d cried and desperately needed the support and guidance I found there. And, now, I sat calmly and just “checked in.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Up until a year ago when I “checked in,” I felt like I was dying. Everything I’ve ever known was plucked up and broken down. I wept and mourned. I was lonely and had lost everyone and everything. I was cast away. I was hated as I warred with my own family.
Now, I’m healing. I laugh and I dance. I feel blessed as gifts are received. I’m gathering stones to rebuild and am replanting my life. I experience moments of peace, and I know love.
It was probably a lot like returning home to visit family at Christmastime after a long absence. The sites and sounds and memories were there, but it wasn’t the same. I’ve changed. That season of my life has passed. Finally. And, as I marveled at the difference in how I felt last night compared to the first night I attended, I also marveled at how far my life has come. It’s been a long haul. Three very, very long years. But, to everything there is a season. It was good to “go home” and “check in” and realize just how far I’ve come.
I’ve always considered myself a prepper. Raised by grandparents who survived The Great Depression and WWII, I was shown ration stamps and told stories about making do with nothing. Sired by a man who was born in Texas in 1936 to a mixed race migrant worker and his Texan bride, I was made aware of the reality of poverty, starvation, and uncertainty.
So, I learned to prep.
I cook from scratch, and I can. I derive tremendous delight from the sight of a counter top covered with worn and tattered dish rags, home to rows of jars cooling and popping.
I buy in bulk and store the excess in old bakery buckets I purchased for a dollar from a local grocer.
I prepare for a government shut down, the loss of my ability to work, and the zombie apocalypse.
But, I’ve never really prepared for life.
I started to. Once upon a time in what now seems like another life. I built a reputation in my chosen field. I excelled. I was dedicated. And, I was good.
I purchased life insurance and invested and saved money. I bought tangible items that had monetary value.
And, I lost it all for the hope of a dream that became my nightmare. I didn’t prepare for the possibility of the painful reality that he was a liar and his only intention was to use me and break me. I didn’t prepare for being left alone and destitute at the end of the middle of my life.
I fear I’m not a true prepper.
Preppers are ready for any eventuality. I wasn’t prepared for this. I wasn’t prepared to lose my health and my stamina, the tremendous energy I prided myself on. I wasn’t prepared to be abandoned by a man I deemed unworthy of me, a man less accomplished, less intelligent, less everything. I foolishly thought he’d be glad to have me and would never leave me. Like everyone else had.
I wasn’t prepared to lose both of my parents in seven months.
In fifteen months, I lost my health, my husband, my mother, my father, and my brother.
I stood alone. Empty. Unprepared.
The thing about preppers is that they strive to bounce back in the event of catastrophe. Sure, they anticipate hiccups. But, they believe they are ready and able to face a disaster and maintain a sense of livability.
And, that’s the thing about me.
I hiccuped. But, now, finally, I’m ready to face the disaster of my life and regain a sense of livability.
My body feels broken, and I pray myself through every work day. This recent accident–another thing I was unprepared for–has opened my eyes to some profound truths. My fear that I can’t keep this up much longer isn’t just in my mind.
When I can’t work, I don’t have an income. No sick leave. No vacation pay to tap into. Every. Single. Day. I earn my bread by the sweat of my brow. When my body betrays me and I am unable to work, I have no income.
I haven’t received child support in a month. He only paid half. Again. This seems to happen frequently. He’ll pay steady for a few months. And, then, a hiccup.
Unfortunately, this hiccup came at a time I could barely work.
It’s like seeing the stock market drop. Or, the US dollar lose its value. Or, watching the unemployment levels soar. Those factors scare a prepper into stepping up the game plan.
And, these recent factors have scared me into realizing that I need to step up the game plan. No knight in shining armor is going to come rescue me from this new free life that feels more like a different kind of hell. The courts will not force my ex to be responsible for the children he helped bring into this world. And, I’m not 29 anymore. I can’t work myself harder and harder in an attempt to catch up on twenty years lost to domestic violence and the vices of a wicked man.
I will have no retirement. I have no home. I cannot rely on my children in my old age. And, I have no inheritance.
So, like a smart prepper, I read the signs and decided to start getting ready, slowly, a little at a time, as I am able.
I requested an impromptu meeting with a counselor at the local community college. Some sort of mix up occurred that placed my first round of credits under another social security number and my second round of credits under my married name, though I was unmarried when I graduated. In order to fix it, I must apply for a new social security card in my new hyphenated name and present the new card as proof to the college. Then, they can combine my two accounts and figure out how many of my old credits can be applied to a new major.
I’ve put off changing my name. I don’t know why. Last spring I was eager to gain a sense of independence by taking back my maiden name and adding it to my married name. I thought it would make me feel a little like my “old self.” Whatever that meant. But, I’ve dragged my feet. Until now. Until I had to. I was somewhat afraid of becoming a new woman, a mix of the old and the new.
So, I’ve had my meeting at the college. I’ve put in a request for a name change with the Social Security Administration. I’ll take my placement test in January. And, I’ll be working on scholarship and grant applications in the meantime.
I’m beginning the initial steps of prepping for a new life. A real life. Not a pseudo life full of fear and uncertainty. But, a life with the hope of a marketable trade that I can pursue into old age. A career that would bring in a living wage instead of barely eking out a substandard existence.
I have a long row to hoe. My thought processes aren’t as functional as they once were. I’ll still have three traumatized children to raise alone. I’ll still need to keep a roof over our heads, wheels beneath us, and food in us while I attend school.
But, I’ve also come to realize lately that my teenage and adult children aren’t all particularly fond of me. While I can’t “punish” the youngest two for the behavior and attitudes of the older ones, I also have to prepare for the possibility that they, too, may grow up to blame me for their pain or look upon me with disdain for the failure that I am.
I don’t think I can live my life for my children.
I may find myself sixty years old, destitute, with a body completely broken from a life of physical labor, and standing completely alone as all of my children run quickly into their own futures, far away from the mother that didn’t prepare a better childhood for them.
No, I need to prepare for a complete familial shut down, the loss of those I love, and the offspring apocalypse.
In the event my youngest two children have compassion for me and don’t harbor deep seated resentment, I still would like to leave them more than my parents left me. So, I need to prep.
The signs are all around me. The time is now. I can no longer put off learning to cope with the challenges of the disaster of my life. I must respond to the crisis with a sound plan.
It’s time to be a real prepper for real life.