Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the course I want the rest of my life to take. What I want the structures of my life to look like (as opposed to what I assumed they would look like now for the last 40 years or so). How I want my days to feel in my heart. Some constructs have arisen that I have no choice but to manage my way through, and that has really given rise to a whole lot more questions than answers. But what I want most, is to be at peace with it all and feel light, positive, supported and loved moving forward. My faith is being tested. Life and people are throwing things in my way that are telling me to give up on impossible situations, but I know I can’t, and probably shouldn’t.
I think by my age, one of the biggest unforeseen adaptations we have to make is in the changes in relationships. The elephant in the room for me is of course the Big D, and I have written many a post on the adjustments that’s necessitated in pretty much every area of life. But today, it’s not top of mind. I think that people pretty much expect (me included) that some friendships may change in that situation, and that it will be a little weird and uncomfortable with that person who used to be your primary person for a while until things, and feelings, settle out. Deaths of loved ones, grave illness, financial crisis. They are all biggies too that shift relationships; both with others and with ourselves.
My friends, the friends that were mutual between my ex and I, our extended families… we both found our balances with these people in our own way. Yes, there are some people I really don’t see much anymore, but they were always closer to my ex than to me, even when we were married. And vice-versa. That is expected. My core people, are still my core people. (I just owe them a lot more listening, wine and bourbon than I used to). For the most part, I feel blessed that my friendships have remained strong and comfortable. I worked at them, made the effort to get out, be social, ask how they felt, tried to support whatever they were also dealing with; because I wanted my people to know that they were important to me no matter my life circumstance. That went better than I expected, to be honest. I think most people carry some angst about what friends will do in these situations, because we really can’t predict it. But I am feeling pretty good about the tribe that has stuck with me on this journey.
What I didn’t see coming was the complete loss of relationship with one of my kids. Odd to call them “kids” per se, because they are both adults now. But deep down, they are still kids to me. I did anticipate that they would struggle with the split family dynamics, everyone does, but I had no idea how deeply impactful it would be. Or maybe it just exacerbated an existing condition, I don’t know. But the end result was not good.
My oldest had the usual ups and downs one would expect in a family breakdown for a bit, while she figured out how she wanted to do things and dealt with her own grief at the end of her intact family. She was going through a major life transition of her own at the same time, so there was A LOT on her plate. We talked though, especially about things that she didn’t like; and over time, she found for herself the balance that suited her between Dad and Mom. We still chat lots, see each other when we can and I have become more careful about what I share. She is an empath who takes on the angst of those she loves. I realized too late that because of this openness, I was adding to her angst when I often unknowingly “overshared” at the beginning of my singlehood, simply because I often had my head in a blender of emotions that left me a little preoccupied with my own issues and not really attuned to what seeing that meant to her. Point being, that with her… yes, things are a little different than they were before the divorce, but they are still good. Our bond survived, and in some ways it is better for what we have both come through. She has been clear about her boundaries. And I have set better boundaries for myself about what to talk to my besties about, versus my adult daughters. The good thing is that I feel we have set a tone of open honesty and respect so that I feel she is OK with bringing up anything that is bothering her, and we can deal with it. As her Dad re-marries, things may change again, but I feel we will always come through.
“The long and winding road“The Long and Winding Road”, Lennon/McCartney
That leads to your door
Will never disappear…”
What has really impacted me like a freight train is the pretty much complete loss of my youngest daughter. The one I struggled hard with, from her early teens onward in the way a lot of Moms and daughters do; the stuff that usually maturity, leaving home and just plain time bring back around. But much to my great regret, she has now become pretty much unreachable for me, worse since our family split. Whether that made a difference or this would have happened anyway, like I said, I don’t know. Friends advised me to be patient; that once children came into her own life, that she would “come around”. And for a very brief time, that happened, and I breathed a sigh that perhaps all that angst and tension between us, was finally behind us. That we could be two adult women who could move in each other’s spaces with understanding and respect. Things seemed so hopeful and positive for a while. But slowly, for reasons known only to her, her anger at me re-built to an even worse level than her teens (the exact reasons for which I am not yet privy to, as she won’t discuss the problem with me other than to say it’s “a long laundry list of you and your ways”). We’ve been at impasse before, but this feels… different. Angrier. Bigger. Unmovable.
“…I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door…”
And now, I find myself in that unfortunate and lonely position of “estrangement”. Another label in life I never thought I’d be wearing. I realize of course, that there are millions of Moms and Dads like me out there, with a child who has no desire to have them in their life; with grandchildren that they aren’t allowed to see. But, as with so many other things in life, you don’t ever understand the full impact of a situation like this until it happens to you; and then, shit gets really real, really fast. I find myself needing for the sake of my sanity, to make peace with the fact that regardless of my desire to come together: talk it out, find some common ground, and try to build some kind of new relationship going forward; that unless she also wants that, I will have to make peace with saying out loud when asked, that “I don’t have a relationship with my daughter” and that “no, I do not see my grandchild”. As more and more of my tribe enter the joyous stage of grandparenthood, I literally often choke trying to get those words out. They feel so… final. So judgmental. So shame-filled. So failure-finger-pointing, right at me. So how-the-fuck-did-this-happen-and-can-I-please-wake-up-now. And there we have the crux of it.
“The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here?
Let me know the way…”
Let me just say that I have never been an addict, had a problem with alcohol, or been a child abuser. I was not an absentee Mom who left raising my kids to a nanny or my spouse. I made good lunches, I stood up to their bullies, I was there when their hearts got broken, their cars broke down, they performed at school, they ran out of cash before they ran out of month. I was the Mom who said “you can always call for a ride, no questions asked” and delivered on it. I opened my home and my heart to their friends who found themselves in need or wanted just to talk to a Mom who wasn’t their Mom. I made eggs for hungover twenty-somethings. Supported their dreams and listened to their fears. Cheered their successes and was there with a shoulder when they failed. I drove them to sports all over hell’s half acre, put up with dance moms, cheer moms and gym moms, did all manner of things to raise funds and was always “around” when schools needed parental help. Yes, they had their share of bumps, bruises, stitches and casts, I probably cussed too often, yelled too much, worried a bit too much about shit that didn’t matter in the end, and generally made my fair share of mistakes and helicoptered more than once… but I was not a mean, shitty, neglectful or careless Mom. I was just a parent with a lot of love who did her best but maybe still fucked it up sometimes. Like we all do. I didn’t think that this kind of thing happened to Moms and Dads like me; but it does. I realize now that I know several. Damned good people, who deserve better.
It has been the biggest challenge of my life to come to terms with having to be an outsider in the life of one of my kids, and her family. To not be part of my grandchild’s life anymore… birthdays, holidays, just the little visits that I had loved and enjoyed so much. That child’s arrival felt like heavenly redemption after the losses of divorce to be honest. To realize that she will now grow up and not know who I am, or more important, how much she is loved and missed by her Gramma. There will be no one there to tell her the stories of my family, of people she should know that form part of her history. Some days I think that I am ok with just letting it be, and on others it feels as though my heart will literally split open from missing her and being able to do nothing about it.
This is the part where we come to the decision about the disturbing of the peace. Or not.
On days when I feel strong, I think that if I just wait it out, that something surely will trigger a moment where things turn a corner, and this will pass and all be just a closed dark chapter. That surely, if I am patient enough, one day it will resolve. I turn my energy to find outlets for the love I have for little ones, and help those out who might not have a Gramma of their own. Put more love into the world regardless, and let those who don’t care for me go on their way to whatever fate awaits them. To “let go, and let God” as one of my good friends says often.
But then, there are the days when the hurt gets too big, and the anger at the injustice of this rises like fire. Then, I want to upset the apple cart. Stand up for myself. Haul this into the legal system and fight for my grand-parental rights. I want to yell and scream at everyone else near to this situation, who are standing by and not standing up themselves to say that keeping a Gramma from a child when Gramma is not a threat or unstable, is wrong. To scream out loud that a child is not a pawn to be used to punish people for what you think they’ve done wrong. That a child has the right to make up their own mind about people without undue influence from someone with an axe to grind. That a child should not be kept from someone they love simply to satisfy a beef that has nothing to do with them. That they themselves, these other folks, by their silence are actually condoning what they say to me in private is “just horrible” and “not right”, by simply doing nothing to challenge it.
But then I remember that in the end, the human condition (thanks, Heather) is to seek comfort and not walk into conflict when they can more easily walk away and keep their own peace. And just maybe, their own place in the life of my child and grandchild, by allowing me to remain barred instead of fighting to pull me back in. Perhaps if the situation was reversed, I would do the same, I don’t know. I don’t think so, but like so many things in life, we don’t truly know how we’ll handle a thing until it’s in our hands to deal with.
At first, I was hurt all over again to think that this meant that these people cared so little about me, that they would let me suffer this loss rather than stand up for me. But nope, it is not about how they feel about me. It is about the natural inclination of humans to seek the most peaceful path.
In this season of Easter, I am reminded that it takes a Jesus to be that selfless, to stick to your principles even at the risk of horrible consequence… and even he had some moments of doubt as to whether Dad had lost his marbles on this whole crucifixion and eternal life rebirth thing. So, who am I to expect better of people who are not Jesus? I sure as hell don’t have the faith and strength of Jesus myself, in spite of a lifetime of trying to get closer to his ideals.
And then, I think some more. About how awful it would be to have to have lawyers and social workers dictate what happens to a little person I love. To potentially put other people I love on polarized sides of the situation, creating even more rifts in an already fractured situation. Any of that would break my heart even more. Of course I could never do that. Because that little person is happy now, even if (I’m told) she misses me. She loves her life and that is what matters.
And so, I finally conclude, it will fall to me to find my big girl pants and do what Moms always do. Put the kids first. Perhaps that is my lesson in this loss. To make peace not just with where I am now, but with the fact that it’s OK that I don’t know everything about the future better than God, and to keep my faith, keep praying for a reconciliation; but also find ways of preparing for the fact that it might not be part of my path for reasons not known to me to have these two people I love dearly in my life anymore. From where I am now, I cannot understand fully how a loving God could tear apart a child from her Mom when there is so much love being given, even if only from one side. But it’s not up to me to understand everything. It is up to me to find peace where I am, be the eye in the storm and know that the path I am on is the right one, even if it is an awfully hard one to walk some days. I won’t stop praying for reunion, but I’ll also pray for peace in my heart regardless of where the road leads. My door and my heart will always be open. And as I sit here in the Maundy Thursday of my motherhood, I’ll wait for God’s love to roll back the stone, and light the way to where this goes next, even for a humble non-Jesus like me.
“You might think you push my buttons, you might think you go too far
But I love how you’re so stubborn, who you are is who you are…”
“Baby don’t ever doubt it, I couldn’t live without it”
”Never giving up on you”“Never Giving Up On You”, Meghan Patrick
“Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Anyway, you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long, long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here.
Lead me to your door”
I’m a 64 year old aging hippie with a sarcastic tongue and out of control ginger hair. I am passionate in advocating for women “of a certain age”, especially we single ones, because we aren’t quite dead yet, in spite of the fact that we are often largely invisible and made to feel redundant on many levels. I hope to make you think, make you laugh, and mostly, feel like no matter where you are in life, you are never alone, and whatever dumb thing you think is going to sink you, won’t. Because heaven knows if that were true, I wouldn’t be here.