Merry Damn Christmas

I’m lamenting, I know.  Posts like this aren’t fun to read.

So divorce means the kids can’t be in two places at once.  We all know that and when we choose to divorce we see the evil it will create when kids are involved but rarely do we realize how much pain it will cause on holidays.  This year I do not get to see my children on Christmas day – they will be with their father.  Dropping them off tonight was excruciatingly painful.  I cried, I yelled.  But I had the good sense to wait until I was around the corner driving away so that they didn’t see how much it hurts to not spend tomorrow with them.  Next year, he will have to do what I just did and I already feel badly for him even though he doesn’t care one iota about me.

I’ve been barely surviving financially for almost three months now having been unemployed since October.  So this Christmas I couldn’t get them very much.  In fact, if it weren’t for the charity of others, I wouldn’t have been able to get them anything at all.  I found a group that makes bikes from old bikes for kids with parents who need help with gifts.  So they got some really cool bikes.  I had a coworker hand me $200 with the specific instructions that it was for Christmas gifts and I followed his instructions.  So they didn’t get much but they got something and I had a great time watching them open their gifts.  They know how tight things have been and they weren’t outwardly disappointed.  Of course, tomorrow on the “real” Christmas their father’s parents will spoil them rotten and they will forget about the four or five things I got them.  They will probably never understand the struggles I went through these past few months trying to put food on the table because I don’t burden them with those details.  I’m employed now, I have regular paychecks coming soon – in a few days in fact.  And it will be nice not to stress about money anymore.  I will start saving immediately so that I can be someone’s Christmas angel next year.  I will pay it forward.  How could I not?

My friends are all on Facebook posting pictures of their beautiful trees and piles of presents.  Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas while smiling and enjoying themselves.  No one remembers the divorced parents who are sad, the destitute parents who just wanted something-anything under a tree for their kids, or the parents who have lost their child and are distraught.  I was buying some beer at the grocery store just a bit ago since I’m having some friends over this weekend and the clerk wished me a very enthusiastic Merry Christmas while I was grabbing up my bags.  I wanted to slap her.  It’s not going to be a Merry Christmas.  It’s going to be a Sad Christmas.  I’m going to wander my house and look at the two presents I bought for myself, the presents they left behind because those gifts live here.  I’ll probably make my kids’ beds, sniffing their empty pillows, and consider doing their laundry.  Maybe I’ll even clean their rooms for them.  Sounds “Merry” right?  I’ll survive their week and a half long visit with their father.  It might suck tomorrow.  But I’m tougher for it and more focused than ever on making sure my kids get what they need to grow up strong.

Merry Damn Christmas everyone.

Carefree? No but I wish I could be… again

I used to be so confident and carefree.  I remember feeling so happy that everyone wanted to be around me all the time.  I had lots of friends to choose from when I wanted to go out and have fun.  I could date anyone I wanted because they all flocked to me.  I was carefree and flying on air.

Then I got married.  I thought getting married meant I had to be something different.  I thought it meant that I was supposed to capitulate to my spouse.  If he didn’t want to go out, then I was supposed to stay home.  If he didn’t want to have friends over, then I was supposed to stay home alone with him.  I lost my zest for life and over time, I lost track of the carefree person I used to be.  Then in the middle of my life, I realized I was living a life that wasn’t right for me and came out as gay, choosing to divorce the husband I no longer loved and barely cared for.

The choices I made chased a few people away and some I chose to leave behind.  I have very few friends now and although they are amazingly supportive, none are in the gay community, nor do they know anyone who is (besides rookie me).  I have lived in a hetero world where the rules are totally different and I have been pushing people away for so long to keep them from having to deal with my unhappy life, that I have no idea how to make new friends or how to accept this new version of me – this person I’ve become.  I want to be free to explore this new world but without a basic understanding of the rules or what’s expected, I feel lost.  I am desperate to feel comfortable because it is clear the tolerance and acceptance of others is profoundly simpler than the world I was in.  I want to feel that love that the gay community seems to embrace.

I am afraid to fail.  Making such a big change this late in life, it feels like my last chance to change my stripes and I’m afraid that no one will like me and I will forever be trapped in a life where I will never become who I want to be.

All I want is for someone to take me by the hand and bring me into this new world with full acceptance of who I am including my faults and show me how to live a life free from the fear of rejection.

I want a champion who will fight for me to show me who I can be (particularly within the gay community), not fight with me over who I once was and the residual affects of my past.  I want to be able to go to a party and not worry what everyone thinks of me or wonder if after I leave will anyone ask me to come back or even care that I’m gone.  I want to laugh and have fun without worry.  I want people to like me and since I’m afraid of being unlikable, I am afraid to be me.  I find it difficult at best to recognize when people aren’t just patronizing me with banality because I’m in the same room.  When I am invited to any kind of event, it feels like such a privilege that I’m afraid I’m going to blow it and end the night without securing a single new friend and because of my own insecurities, I usually end up living out the exact scenario that I feared.

If someone could just be my champion and provide a little bit of reassurance that I’m doing this right, I know I would build the confidence I need in short order.  I want friends.  I want to love someone who loves me in return.  That’s it.  It’s really that simple.  I want to feel like I belong.  I want to be comfortable in my own skin.  I don’t want to keep hearing about what I’ve done wrong today, I want to hear what I did right.  I want to be accepted.  Unconditionally accepted.  I want to be attractive to someone who can see past my insecurities and loves me anyway for who I really am.  I just want to feel loved and accepted.  Is that too much to ask?

My World is Looking Up

I’ve been unemployed for the past couple of months.  It sucks.  I had grown accustomed to paying my bills and still having some money to spend on the things I wanted.  I filed for unemployment almost immediately but the wonderful State of Oregon took their sweet time processing my claim.  All of a sudden, I had $10 in my pocket and nothing in the bank and no hope in sight for any kind of paycheck.  It was scary.  It wasn’t until the fourth week that they finally approved me for unemployment and sent me a weekly pittance check compared to what my income usually is.  I was embarrassed to ask my friends for help because most of them are strapped for cash too.  So I held my breath, kept my wits in check, clutched onto every cent I could, and hoped the state money would carry me through until I finally found a job.

I was too ashamed to use the food bank so I quit eating when my kids weren’t here.  I wanted to conserve food for their dinners and breakfasts.  Since losing my job in October, I’ve lost twenty pounds.  I’ve been too ashamed to use any of the food banks because I should have done a better job saving my money for this type of rainy day and I should have donated more when I had money in my pocket.  A neighbor heard me discussing my lack of funds and grocery bags full of food appeared on my porch.  I cried for hours in humble humility and thanks.  For Thanksgiving, I hosted a potluck and invited all of my amazing friends.  I gained three pounds that week because they all left their leftovers for me and the kids – and they needed to be eaten before they went bad.  It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever celebrated.  So full of fun and laughter and food.  The food in my stomach gave me a new sort of power over my life.  It sounds odd to say it like that but feeling well fed really does change a person.

It didn’t surprise me that my first interview after Thanksgiving was a success and I’ve been shortlisted with only one other person for the position.  The second interview landed me an offer within days.  I’m now in a position where after being unemployed and starving for two months to having potentially competing offers.  The first job is a full-time permanent position with massive benefits and a huge leap into an industry that is nearly impossible to break into.  The second job, with the offer in hand, is a contract position that will last a minimum of six months.  In my field, 95% of the positions are contract so a full-time permanent position is highly coveted.  The second job is also twice as far away and during commute hours, that’s not going to be an exciting thing.  So I’ve decided to accept the contract position and pursue the permanent one.  For those of you who haven’t worked contract positions, it’s the same as a permanent position now-a-days just with an expiration date.  I earn money through a W-2, the company I work for deducts taxes from my paycheck, and I’m usually offered a company provided benefits package.

So now, after almost a year of hell.  My world is looking up.  I will soon have money in my pocket again, I’ve learned how to appreciate the things that I have and not worry about the things I don’t have, I’ve learned how to stand up for myself, I’ve stopped trying to make enemies out of my past and instead focus on the positive prospect of the future.  I’ve learned to love with open arms, not only the people around me but I’ve had to learn to love myself too.  I have amazing kids, a nice home, a job I can be proud of, lots of loving friends, and my world is falling back together after being broken for so long.

So here’s my parting words for today…  If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you’re hurting, let someone know – having someone nearby is sometimes the best medicine.  If you’re broke, keep looking for the break in the clouds – keep pursuing work, don’t give up. If you’re not happy with who you are, change yourself – no one else can change you except you.  Don’t let someone else’s choices become your choices – decide for yourself how you would like your world to be and pursue it.  I had to learn to accept that not everyone sees the world the way I do and that’s okay, but I don’t have to live the way they dictate.  I can do things my own way and if I lose a friend or family member over it, that is their choice to not accept that I am different from who they want me to be.

She Doesn’t Trust Me – And I Don’t Blame Her

My daughter told me last night she doesn’t trust me.  I don’t blame her even one bit.  We were talking last night about her wanting to sleep on her new futon instead of her wonderful bed and the conversation got pretty deep.  I reminded her that she can tell me anything she wants.  She hesitated then said, “Mom, I don’t trust you.  I don’t know why but I just don’t.”  She clearly was scared to death that I was going to lose it on her but instead I told her I wasn’t surprised.  Here’s my reasoning…

A year and a half ago, my marriage failed.  I knew it, my husband didn’t.  For six months, I tried to restart my flame but it was out.  Not even flickering, totally cold, OUT.  I was done but I hadn’t quit yet.  I tried taking trips with my ex, I tried having more sex, I tried everything I could think of and nothing worked.  My heart was done even if my head wasn’t.  Around the sixth month I finished my Master’s degree and I began to find other things to occupy my time.  I went out with friends, I worked longer hours, and I avoided my husband.  This whole time, my kids could see that something was wrong between us but it really wasn’t unusual for us to fight or ignore each other.  Their mom was changing into someone they didn’t recognize.

Then I met a woman who became the center of my attention with the exception of my children.  They have always come first. I often had them come to her house to hang out at birthday parties or just to hang out.  She and her family came to our house for a number of social visits.  I was changing even more because having a friend who I spent a lot of time with was a new concept in our house.  My ex had chased everyone else away and my kids got used to me not having many friends. Especially not having friends I hung out with on a regular basis outside of Girl Scouts.  Then I fell in love with this friend, and she with me (See My First Girlfriend post) and I changed even more.  I was suddenly very happy but still avoiding their dad. This was weird for them.

Then I wrecked my motorcycle and had to move in with my friend and her family.  My kids would come stay with me at their house regularly but it was weird.  I was heavily medicated, I was in a lot of pain, I had to be helped with basic things like going to the bathroom.  I was no longer their strong willed, independent mother.  I was an invalid that they loved but weren’t sure what to do with.

Then I healed my broken bones and my broken head and changed even more because I am a survivor.  I had to fight to be where I am and I’m not going to back down for anyone.  I am strong willed but in a different way.  It’s less about how awesome my job is or how much money I make and more about the inner strength I had to build to win the battle over my body.  Different things in life are important to me now.

So I told my daughter, “I’m not surprised.”  And I think her chin hit her mattress.  I went on to say, I am a different person than I used to be.  I’m changing every day.  I think differently, I act differently, I now like girls instead of boys, I am completely different with one exception – you and your brother.  The two of you have always been and will always be the most important thing to me.” She nodded and added a quiet – yup.  Then I talked about how her dad is the same guy he’s always been.  He lives in the same house, with the same attitude, he does things the same way he always has, and he probably always will.  You know what to expect from your dad, you don’t know what to expect from me.  And she looked at me like, wow I hadn’t thought of it that way.  I let her know it was perfectly acceptable for her to question whether or not to trust me since I was basically a new person to her.  And I thanked her for telling me and asked her to let me know if I ever do something that doesn’t make sense or if she has any questions for me.

I feel like a better mom today because I finally figured out what was bothering her.  We had a great day today.  She talked openly with me about her boyfriend and some other stuff that happened at school.  Today was a good day.  I’m hoping tomorrow will be just as positive and wonderful.  Happy Mom Day!