Recently my Facebook page switched over to the new "timeline" format. At first I hated it as I hate all change, but then I realized that with just the click of a button, I could look back at what I imprinted in time with previous status updates, pictures, etc. I decided to check it out from the beginning, which just so happened to be 2008- the same month that my ex moved out for good.
My Facebook page is mostly used for business reasons now, but back then I had a feed linked from my twitter account, which was pretty personal.
I have a general memory of my life after he left. I remember that it was hard. I remember primal screaming in the closet at the sight of his clothes still there and collapsing on the floor in a heap of pain. I remember that my youngest child, 2o months old, was difficult at the time, probably sensing my own pain. I remember being so anxious that I couldn't relax my muscles, even through a massage. I remember not sleeping and being comforted by the distraction of tv at night so I couldn't hear my own thoughts. I remember having trouble setting boundaries with my ex husband.
But to see the words of those moments, the translation from situation to writing, even in tiny little 140 character thoughts, well, it brought it all back.
I read pages and pages of tweets like a novel, seeing it all happen again in my head. Most of it I had blocked out, whether that was for survival or lack of sleep or anxiety medication, I'm not sure. But to see me back there living it was jarring. I didn't write much about my feelings on the divorce, because I hadn't told many about it. I wrote about my toddler, who at five is now so angelic and sweet that I don't recognize her in my writing, screaming constantly. She screamed to be picked up, then when I picked her up, she screamed to be put down. She screamed to eat, then threw her food on the floor. She refused to sleep, would climb from her crib everytime I put her in, and would eventually fall asleep standing up screaming against a door or a wall, at 3 or 4 in the morning. If she did fall asleep, it was temporary...it was like she could sense me heading to bed and would wake up...you guessed it...screaming.
I wrote about how I was sure there was something wrong with her, and took her to the doctor...nothing wrong.
I wrote about one night, I was the tooth fairy for my oldest, and everytime I tried to sneak the tooth away and slip a dollar in, he would stir. After midnight, I was so desperate that I was ready to wake him and tell him the tooth fairy was a lie and just hand him his dollar. I finally slipped the dollar under and the minute I crept from his room...you guessed it...the toddler, screaming.
Aside from my toddler's issues, I wrote about my crazy work schedule. My ex left me weeks before the busiest time of the year, and it just so happens, turned out to be my busiest season to date. I wrote of editing photos until 3 or 4 am, photo after photo of happy families, crushed by the dissolution of mine, the failure I felt I was both to myself and my children in not being able to make mine stay together. (oh if I could have only seen into the future then)
I wrote about my son's 4th grade teacher, who did not understand my child one bit, and was negative to me on a weekly basis. Emails of "he's just terrible. I can't control him." Which I had NEVER heard from a teacher before and have never heard again since. I wrote of meetings with the principal, desperate for a resolution so that I would have one less thing to worry about.
I wrote about all three of my kids sharing illness after illness after illness. And not just colds, no. I was thrown up on in the middle of the night constantly. They had strep back to back. They had flu. They had a mystery bug that made them have insanely high fevers. My youngest spent time in the hospital for pneumonia. My middle child got an ear infection so bad that we had to rush to the ER in the middle of the night.
I wrote about my already difficult toddler being on breathing meds and steroids for her pneumonia, and her behavior elevating to cracked out status. Throwing things at my head, walking in a room and screaming at me not to sit there.
I wrote of shuttling children to dance practices, soccer practices, gymnastics, guitar lessons, PTA functions, birthday parties, and friends houses, hosting slumber parties at our house...all alone.
I wrote about my sick beagle, who had epilepsy so bad that she would have seizures that made her lose her bowels, bladder, and stomach, and then after dragging her out of that mess I would have to hold her down so she wouldn't attack anyone during her twilight times of recovery for a period afterwards.
I wrote of one friend, because that was all I had at the time.
I wrote of nights out alone...but just once a week, because that was the only time my ex was relieving me of parenting duty--Wednesdays for a few hours. Other than that, it was all me, doing all of the above.
I wrote about my ex showing up with cupcakes for the kids, then leaving me the mess to clean up and the sugared up kids. On a regular basis.
I wrote about attempting to buy groceries with three kids in tow every week, one usually screaming and escaping from the seatbelted cart, one usually begging for everything he saw, and one who once spent an entire trip lifting up my dress to look at my underwear, over and over.
And those were just the things that I wrote about.
What surprises me the most when I read back over that time are three things:
1-I had a pretty good attitude about it all back then, all my writing is done with humor and a smile, only a few times does the pain crack through. You see me making a valiant effort to enjoy the little moments with my children in between the painful ones. And I do remember telling myself that the logistics of it all weren't nearly as awful as living with a lying husband who makes you sick to be near.
I'm not that person anymore. The PTSD of that time period has made me harder, slightly more negative (as a defense mechanism).
2-The most unbelievable thing to me is that the worst was yet to come. I tweeted about one man during that entire ordeal, and it was my father. My father, who lived 1/2 a mile away, and would drop everything to come over and stay with children so I could take one to the ER, or run to the grocery store to get milk or diapers, or would bring me dinner when I just couldn't make it happen. My father who would meet the tyrant toddler and I for lunch every week so that I could cry on his shoulder. My father, who would be diagnosed with a brain stem tumor in January of 2009, just 5 months after my husband left. He is alive, but let's be honest, I lost my father in March of that year after the surgery destroyed all of his motor functions, and his after care destroyed what was left of his brain. I couldn't bring myself to read any of those tweets. For some reason, I seem to remember every second of those months.
3-I honestly don't know how I survived it all. I don't know how I'm alive. It is a grand testament to how much I care for my children, and to the new friends I made who came to my side and didn't leave, even when I was a horrible person to be around, and to the family like my mom, brother, and sister-in-law who took me under their care at the moments when I just couldn't take anymore.
As depressing as this all sounds, hold it up next to what I have today. Yes, I have a pain in the ass ex husband who hasn't paid me child support in months, trashes me to everyone we know, won't sign papers to end the legal battles, and shows hatred to me in front of our kids. But otherwise?
The reality is, I have a true partner now. No matter what happens, what kid gets sick in the middle of the night, what crisis comes up, I have a partner I can rely on to not only be right next to me helping me figure it all out, but with his arm around my shoulder with loving encouragement and support: something I never had before, ever. I have someone I can trust without hesitation or reservation. I have three kids who are happy, social, thriving, excelling. I have the resources now to spend time with each of them and nourish our bonds. I have a true co-parent who shares the same values and ideals with me.
I have the family in the pictures, for real this time.
It will make me think twice before I whine about my schedule, my legal battle, my ex husband.
Because my life is awesome now. And without seeing the depths and darkness of the bottom I may have never recognized the beauty and light of the top.