Monday, October 24, 2011

Poverty + Divorce = An Ugly Halloween Tale.

That's what it feels like most of the time. Here's what I've got to do today for my sanity: write about the nitty-gritty hell that accompanies a split after 16 years. Especially if the people involved are poor. This entry goes against my general rule about not saying anything unless it's nice, this entry goes against my Don't-Sink-Down-Into-Misery policy, but I find lately, I'm only writing after a rare day off, when I feel halfway refreshed and hopeful, so...I'm giving you an incorrect representation of myself. I'm sorta disgusted that my most recent posts are about cute farms, fuzzy sheep, and blissful road trips, and, you know, chirpy little la-la-la entries. Out and about! Look at me!...Moving on! And that's not really the case. Makes me sound like I'm super excited to be headed forward into a fresh start...but I'm not. Things ain't peachy. I'm sad about what happened here, and I'm afraid. Afraid, afraid.

Understand though, I can't, in good conscience, ALWAYS be writing just of the stuff that goes on between those once-in-a-while great moments because the words would be UGLY. I don't want to write them often, I don't want you to have to read them often. I'm ashamed to let people know what happens on a day-to-day basis. Because I'll tell you what it is: it's fights, it's purposeful hurting, it's money and responsibility and the arguments concerning selling off our life, basically. Goodbye beach cabin, goodbye house, goodbye ponies, goodbye boat, goodbye painting over our bed, goodbye everything nice in the life we made together. Start over from scratch. The most horrible thing about the "fresh start" is the fact that I'll actually start from nothing. Truly from scratch. Half of everything is not very much. Especially after what we owe is paid off. And Lord, I'm exhausted just thinking about starting over, since I haven't got the skills to do anything with my "half" anyway. I can't buy a hunk of land and build a house, I could only buy one...only there's not NEARLY enough money for that. I can't even get a loan because our credit is completely shot.

Am I doomed to tuck my tail between my legs and run back to my parents, babies in tow, at 34 freaking years old? Pride is a hard thing to reckon with. It frustrates me to know that I'm not able to stand on my own two feet when I want to SO badly. I need my boys to see me as strong, I need them to know for sure they can count on ME, always to take good care of them. I don't want them to have to worry...not about themselves and certainly not about their mother. I desperately wish they could someday be able look back and say, "Wow, our mom was one tough cookie through all that." It comes back around to pride, again.

We had a horrendous fight last night, Justin and I. Over honesty. Over debt. Over the fact that we agreed he keep paying the bills and I keep raising the our full-time contributions to the situation, except for the fact that the bills are going unpaid. A man came yesterday, knocking on the door, to inform me, very rudely, that the mortgage was so far behind he needed to take photos of our house for foreclosure purposes. And I know that these people usually deal with nasty confrontations, but when I told him, with my mouth hanging open like an idiot, that I had no idea things had gotten this bad, he smirked disbelievingly and said "Yeah, that's what they ALL say, lady." I've never been so humiliated. And then, the same afternoon, I received a final shut-off notice for our electric service, gone unpaid for months, unbeknown to me. Compounded by the fact that there's no heat in the house yet, despite everyone else being toasty warm for a month already, at least, and school tuition is also unpaid...well, melt-down city for Emily.

In a way, I'm kicking myself for not working all these years instead of raising kids, since that's what people seem to think I ought to have done. But I can't really agree, because I KNOW my kids were better off this way. Daycare costs more than any income I could have gotten, it didn't make the least bit of sense for us to pay some stranger MORE than I could make, to watch our children. And I've tried to work part-time doing dance, photography, writing for the paper...whatever, from home with the boys, for extra money. Dang it, I TRIED to do my part. I thought I was. We just couldn't make ends meet.

I'm having a hard time being alone. I never was before, not ever. I watched a short film on-line yesterday called "How to be alone" Here, I'll try and paste the address in:

I'm having a doozy of a time with it. Doing all the household chores that used to be shared is huge too. I don't ever sleep until after midnight. I find myself on the phone a lot after the kids are in bed, just because I can't handle the quiet when I'm doing the dishes or laundry. The house seems too still, and like a museum to my old life. I feel uncomfortable facing it by myself, and saying, "Yup, it's just little ol' me now. I'M the one gonna be filling your furnace. I'm the one taking your trash to the dump. Problem is: I don't know really how to do all these things yet, so we're going to have a rocky ride, House, you and I." It's daunting, feeling scared of being alone. I'm also upset beyond words that I'm working crazy-hard here, doing much more than I ever did in the past, and yet, I'm going to lose it all anyway? How can that be?

Not to mention we live in a tiny town, what do you think the hot topic around the General Store's coffee machine is? When I shake it, leading a Zumba class, what do you suppose people are thinking? Are they judging? Why do I even care? Who the hell knows. I guess I care because this is MY town. And I'm stupidly sensitive about what people think. This is the same place where I've been on/in every committee/group there is. I've baked pies for town meeting, I've helped out with the summer reading program, I've donated all the proceeds of my dance shows to the food shelf, I've made cookies for art openings, volunteered for the after-school program, sang Christmas carols to shut-in, been the local correspondent for our paper, taught a zillion dance classes to kids for peanuts, been in the Historical Society as long as I can remember, raised money for the Grange. And I'm not saying any of this because I feel entitled to respect from my neighbors. I did these things because this town is important to me, I love this place, it's special, and I'm proud to be accepted here. But some people are still going to disapprove, and I'm just an ordinary floozy after all.

And let's add the money issue to things: I always knew, of course, that poor people had the shitty end of the stick, we've been basically poor all along anyway, but I never realized the true scorn and humiliation that comes along with ABSOLUTE poverty. I spent over three and a half hours, day before yesterday, on the phone with our insurance company trying to work out a tangle, and being made to feel like DIRT. We get Government funded health care now, and here's what I learned from them over the course of the afternoon: I am obviously an ignorant, uneducated, lazy person. I am without human feelings, I am a mooch on society. My own bad choices are to blame. (And boy-oh-boy, was I reminded of that to an extreme extent.) I got the impression over and over again that I ought to count myself lucky that anyone even cared about people like me, (They actually used the phrase "people like you" repeatedly) and how dare I complain or question what kind of service I deserved? Because as a lower class citizen, I deserved nothing, really.

Maybe I HAVE made some bad choices. Haven't we all? Maybe buying the boys ponies was a bad idea, I just so much wanted their lives to be happy. I didn't want them to feel like they were always wishing for what they could never have. Maybe I shouldn't have done a lot of things. Maybe I am uneducated. But I'm not lazy. Worn out, more like. Plus, I'm full to the brim with normal, human emotion, and my pride is smarting horribly through all this. I cringe every time I have to ask for help. If it was just me, I never would. I'd live under a bridge first. But my kids aren't. No way.

There. I just spent forever on the phone with Myra, sobbing about how tired and sad I am. Even if she is all: "Power through this! Don't waste time feeling sorry for yourself! Who cares what people think?!" I end up feeling like a pathetic scab just wallowing in self-pity, but it still helps to know that my family loves me and won't let me live under a bridge. It also helps to eat a half pan of brownies apparently. My Halloween costume this year? Still undecided between Corpse Bride, Streetwalker, Homeless Bum or White Trash Momma.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unadilla Afternoon

This week's day off spent at Ann and Bill's beautiful farm and community theatre. Trying to capture the very last of the color before the world goes black and white!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Indian Summer

Glorious weekend. Warm and colorful. Since it was Justin's day with the boys on Sunday, John and I decided to take a tiny road trip and made up a ridiculous scavenger hunt to enjoy a day out. Our partial list (I forget some), from random, goofy suggestions:

1. Get a stranger to tell us a story.
2. Find our names on old gravestones.
3. Read three historic markers.
4. Pet a puppy.
5. Eat a Charleston Chew.
6. Buy a Christmas gift for someone.
7. Cross the Connecticut River
8. See a movie
9. Go to a used bookstore.
10. Hijack a plane. (Optional)

We ended up adding a few other things along the way...took a detour to Lake Groton and had lunch with Matty, climbed Owl's Head with a bizarre assortment of tourists, and had an accidental three hour dinner at a crazy Italian restaurant, where we almost started waiting on tables ourselves, so harried were the waitstaff. It was a much needed and fun break from a stressful week, I laughed a lot and almost felt human again by the end. Thank God for friends.

Life, As We Know It.

I'm frazzled. So frazzled that a perfect stranger took one look at me a couple days ago and said "You OK, Hon?" I guess spending every day being worried about the kids and our future, shows on my face, plain as day. I'm trying to walk a fine line between obsessively monitoring their behavior, and letting them work things out as they need to. And either way is wrong...being in the middle is wrong too. Apparently, there is no magic way to bring them, and myself, through this, unscathed.

At the Shelburne museum last weekend, Myra and Jana remarked, "Geez, if we ever get separated from you guys, we'll be able to track you down by just listening for Emily calling: "Come here!" "Don't touch that!" "Hold my hand! "Don't run!".....Relax, Emily." Basically saying I should lay off. But when I tried to loosen up a little, we had several incidents, including one where Eli grabbed a handful of a valuable costume's skirt with a muddy hand, making an armed guard very unhappy, and Ira tried to slide down a mahogany spiral staircase, three stories up.

I feel...hypersensitive to everything. I feel like people are judging me, and judging my kids. And judging me BY my kids. If ever was the time to be a perfect parent, it's now, when they are going through such changes. And yet I feel like I'm failing them. I'm making mistakes left and right. I'm not used to dealing with things alone, I get so tired and feel like I'm being a terrible nag. But since THEY are feeling pretty emotionally unstable too, when I don't carefully watch and react every second, they do things that are unacceptable or unsafe, because of course they're testing these new boundaries and trying to understand things.

I'm trying to do special things all the time with them, letting them know I love them and that Dad loves them, everybody loves them...but still, I understand they are angry and scared. The tricky part is: I'm angry and scared too. I'm setting up counseling for the kids and I, which I hope will help us deal with each other the right way. I can't figure out if I should be a little more lenient of Eli's wild fits of defiance, or be as consistent as possible through this. Either way, I'm exhausted.

John has been an amazing help. I'm very thankful to have him in our life, although it's a complication that obviously adds more anger and awkwardness in certain areas. Sometimes I feel like Justin and I could be in better agreement with our parenting if there were no other people in our lives, because we tend to feel so hurt by each other, it's hard to think straight. Needless to say, Justin does not approve of John, and the more John helps me with the kids, the more Justin disapproves. But as I said before, I'm not used to dealing with things alone, I get completely flustered in public, there's two very confused little boys, testing me every moment. John has been there for us, helping me take the them places, watching one, while I take the other one to the bathroom, keeping one from breaking something while I chase the other, holding ladders while we pick apples, helping impatient seven year olds set up tents, and sharing the occasional cup of tea with me in the evening, while I cry about what a lousy job I'm doing. It can't be fun for him. I honestly don't think I'd be a good enough person to date somebody with kids if I didn't have any myself. It's a pretty unfair deal, because you never get to come first. Never get somebody's full attention, and are forced in the position of having to take on loads of parenting responsibilities, but always required to yield completely to the actual parent's opinions/rules/rights. I know it's selfish of me to think that way, but God, it must be hard. You'd have to have the patience of a Saint. Plus, in that situation, you've got potentially upset children, not to mention their upset, newly single parent, all damaged and gun-shy about relationships.

So, that's where I am at the moment. Happy and sad. Thankful and guilty. Tired and confused. Optimistic, yet battling depression. Overwhelmed. A fresh page in a brand new, blank book, without an idea in my head of where to start writing, but somehow it must be a sequel to the last book...I need to include all the characters I love, but continue their stories in a whole, new way. And add things that I know nothing of yet. It's scary, but I'll try my best. I just hope it's worth reading.