I feel like my life was a puzzle picture hanging on a wall that a kid took one of those flying whirly shot guns to & hit it straight in the center &…. smack! Life as I knew it splattered into a million pieces. It’s taken 3 years for all the pieces to hit the floor. They’ve been swirling, I’ve been trying to catch them, they’ve been hitting each other, hitting me, I’ve been fighting them, dodging them, running for cover, and now … 3 years later …they all finally hit the floor….and it’s silent. Still. Calm. Soundless.
And I’m crying.
I know that analogy may not make sense to anyone but me. But it’s how I feel. Truly. I’ve had people say I would have a tidal wave of emotions overtake me. And it has. I feel like I’m still on an adrenaline rush and yet everything around me has stopped and is still for the first time in what seems like eternity.
It started 3 years ago when my then husband was arrested on a 3 degree domestic violence assault against me. One night I went to bed. Married. A family. My puzzle picture (ugly as it was) in tack. The next night… my puzzle whacked straight on . Life would never look the same.
I was now one of “those people.” “Those people” who have police at their house. “Those people” whose husband is in handcuffs. “Those people” with protection orders issued and subpoenas given to.
I remember calling my cousin at 2am asking her to stay with my 2 year old because I had a subpoena for court the next day. I remember begging her not to tell anyone what happened. I remember going to court. I remember talking to the investigator, the DA, everything…. until …I was driving on 470 getting off at Bowels. I called my mom 1800 miles away. I told her. “Rob is in jail. Can you come out here?” She said yes. And then… it’s blank. I don’t remember anything else until 3 days later when I picked my mom up at DIA. Nothing. It’s gone. I’ve tried. My body refuses to remember. My cousin simply says “it was bad” when I asked her what happened those 3 days. What did I do? I don’t remember her being at my house. My daughter. Me. Anything. It’s just blank. It must have been bad.
From that day on I went into fight mode. Finding out my husband was a pathological liar. He had a made up a life. One that didn’t exist. Alcohol & drugs swirled around this life. Unknown bank accounts, fake jobs, fake schools, fake friends, cover ups, and past arrests. Everything swirled around me. Like a lioness protecting her cub I started fighting for my daughter. Her safety. I lost. I keep losing for 3 years. Multiple court cases, multiple social service case workers, multiple motions, attorney bills, a CFI, a parenting coordinator, therapists and professionals. And I lost. I was the “hysterical mother.” I was controlling. I was the instigator. He was just a nice guy who was a bit of a deadbeat but certainly wasn’t a danger. 3 years later he has another domestic violence assault charge, a probation revocation, a founded child abuse case with child protection services and is now serving a 3 ½ year jail sentence. 3 years of fighting and finally the truth has come out. 3 years of fighting for our daughter’s safety. Fighting for my safety. Fighting, fighting, fighting. And now …the fighting has stopped. It’s quite. And I’m just starting to mourn.
Everything is gone.
I’m now a single mom.
I never wanted to be a single mom.
If I wanted to be a single mom I would have gotten knocked up before I got married.
I wanted a family.
Watching our daughter grow up together.
My mom has a friend who used to say she was mad. Mom and Dad and she was M.A.D.
I wasn’t before.
For 3 years I wasn’t mad.
I was just frustrated.
Frustrated with the “system.”
Frustrated the system failed our daughter and she had to be physically hurt before anyone would step in and protect her.
Frustrated that my ex husband’s parents kept sending him money to pay for his barracuda attorney while he has made it to 34 and never actually held a job for more than a few months at a time.
I was also sad.
Sad for him.
Sad that he felt so horrible about himself that every day he woke up pretending to be someone he wasn’t.
Just sad. I can’t imagine what it must be like to look at yourself in the mirror and feel so bad about who you are that you need to literally make up a fake persona.
I pitied him.
Even my last few times in court with him. I just cried.
I cried when they escorted him out of the jail.
I cried when they put handcuffs on him.
I cried when they sentenced him.
I cried when they granted my permanent protection order.
I cried when they granted our daughter a protection order.
And then cried some more.
And now 3 weeks later I’m still crying wondering what the hell is wrong with me?
For 3 years I prayed for the truth to come out…. Got the truth.
For 3 years I prayed for our daughter’s safety….she is safe now.
And she is cancer free. (Just a little bonus fact I should be slightly grateful for don’t you think?)
And what I am doing?
I am crying.
At this point I’m not even sure what I’m crying about anymore.
I’m crying I’m not married….& I think…so? lots of people aren’t married they’re not crying.
I’m crying because I was deceived by someone I loved….& I think..so? People are cheated on, lied to, and hurt everyday…they get over it…they’re not still crying.
I’m crying because our daughter’s legacy will forever be her dad went to jail when she was 5….& I think…so? Better him in jail then her dead right?
I’m crying that I will never get to know why. Why did he lie? Why did he make up a fake life? Fake friends? Fake school? And did he know it would eventually come out or did he just think we would just go to our graves living his fake life? (Now some could argue I could go to jail and ASK him but remember this is a pathological liar, I would never get the truth anyway)
I’m crying that my single friends can go out whenever they want. Go away for the weekend even. And I can’t. I have a kid. I will never be able to come and go whenever I want again…& then I think …uh hello! Eventually she will be 18 and I know, I know, I will miss the days I couldn’t just come and go.
I’m crying because my best friends are having a baby. And they are already talking about having another. And I will have an only child. Who currently has 6 imaginary friends because she wants brothers and sisters. And I need to move the stuff off the passenger seat in the car because “josh needs to sit there mom.”
I’m crying because I have a light in my kitchen that I can’t seem to put back together and I’m tired of yelling at it every time I try to put it back together that I have just left it. And I’m too prideful to call anyone to help me with it.
I’m crying because my backyard looks like a jungle, again. (seriously in a couple of weeks I can prob. Start selling tickets for tours) and I don’t’ want to take care of 2 apple trees, 3 peach trees, and 2 pair trees and I should have just given the stupid house to my ex when he fought me for it so I could now be in a sweet townhome where when my toilet breaks I can call maintenance and it will be their problem and not mine. Oh and they’ll shovel too.
I’m crying because I live in suburbia hell where I am the only single parent on the playground and the only single parent in the moms club and the only single parent on my block and the only single parent at the vacation bible study planning meeting tonight. And while I openly acknowledge statistically only 2 out of every 10 married couples I know is truly happy at least they get to pretend they’re happy and someone else takes out their garbage on Monday night.
I’m crying for my daughter who doesn’t have a dad who gets to go the father’s day party at preschool and for the box of cards, gifts, and art work she is having me “save” for him.
I’m crying because I alone have to get all the mail and take care of every bill that shows up. And I don’t even like to balance a checkbook. I’m jealous of my great grandmother. My grandfather gave her a checkbook. When he was upset after finding out the account was overdrawn she put her hands on her hips and argued that that was obviously impossible! After all, she said showing him the checkbook, just look how many checks she had left. (Needless to say I think that was the end of the checkbook but I still would like to live in her financial bliss)
I’m crying because my single friends get to go on real vacations and actually relax and my married friends get to go on family vacations and take annoying smiling pictures of them all looking all “family like” to post on face book and I get to go on vacation and end up needing a vacation.
I’m crying because sometimes I’m not sure if I’m a mom or a full time servant, short order cook, butt wiper, & picker upper ….or maybe that is what a mom is and I really should have gotten a job description before getting knocked up.
I’m crying because I never bought a car in my life. I always had a company car. And after 3 years of separation, divorce and then cancer I have given up all semblance of what my career used to look like and in many ways am starting over from scratch. And that makes me mad.
I’m crying because I have to now seriously consider getting my teeth whitened because of all the coffee I drink because I no longer wake up just awake, happy, and alert.
I am crying because I had to sit and listen to this fabulous guy tell me how he just was so in love with this fabulous girl and they were so happy together and while I honestly just adore both of them and in my heart wish them the best life ever together I also had this strange sensation of wanting to throw rocks at him.
I’m crying because in the moms group when they do moms night out they all have dads who watch their kids and I don’t so I don’t go.
I’m crying because 3 years later I’m STILL paying off my ex’s taxes simply because we filed 2 years “Married” and the IRS doesn’t recognize my court order ordering him to pay his half of the taxes due.
I’m crying because on mother’s day my daughter made me make HER breakfast in bed. Toast with honey. Chamomile tea. On a tea tray. With a flower in a small vase. And serve it to her. Because that’s what Brother and Sister bear did for Mama bear in the Bernstein Bears “Mother’s Day Surprise” and after all SHE is a mother to Sally (her American doll). And I stood in the kitchen half asleep steeping tea wondering how in the hell did this become my life?
I’m crying because I will never get 10 free nights a month again. 10 free nights when our daughter would stay with her dad and I could come home whenever I wanted to or even not at all and sleep until whenever I wanted the next day. Now mind you, she was in a violent, unsafe, dangerous situation so I am very clear her safety is worth every free night for the rest of my life…but I still miss those breaks of freedom.
I’m crying because for the 1st time in 3 years I can go to sleep and actually feel safe in my own home. And I’m not sure why that feels so strange.
I’m crying because I sit alone in church. Then again when I was married I sat alone in church. So again, why the hell am I crying?
I’m crying because a man I’ve had a secret crush on for years got married a few months ago….and I’m prettier than his wife. How did THAT happen???
I’m crying because it’s still.
And for the 1st time I can hear all those voices in my head.
“You’re marriage is gone. You failed. You picked the wrong person. You’re not a wife. You have an only child. Your Christmas cards now say “Tara & Em” not “McLaughlin Family” You have to check “divorced” on paperwork. You’re too young to be a cougar and too old to be a catch. You’re a “divorcee.”
And I’m mad.
Mostly mad at myself that I’m mad and crying and not on my knees in gratitude and humbleness and thankfullness. How ungrateful can one person possibly be? I mean I have a kid. A kid who kicked cancers butt. And a support system others could only dream about.
If I was looking at me I’d want to slap myself silly (ok maybe not the best choice of words for a domestic violence survivor to use)
But I would. I’d say “wake up girlfriend! You are one of the lucky ones. Get yourself a tissue and grow up. What’s wrong with you???”
And so I will do what I did just 2 years ago when I was having a pity party about Emily’s cancer diagnosis. Sitting alone in a hospital listening to the beep beep of her IV pole and the gurgle gurgle of her chest tube draining I began to write. My grateful journal. What started it all. How full circle I have come.
I am grateful Emily is cancer free.
I am grateful Emily is cancer free.
I am grateful Emily is cancer free.
I will never get over how good God has been in this one blessing alone. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING else matters to that one blessing of mercy and grace.
I am grateful for Erin. That she is one of the best friends anyone could ever have and whose heart is bigger than her body and that she forces me to have fun every time I want to cry.
I am grateful for Irene because she makes me wear flip flops and introduces me to scary places like Candlelight and wears a trucker’s hat to a pool party and can dress like a rodeo clown and still get hit on. And if a woman as perfect and beautiful as she is can be single then really? What can I expect?
I am grateful for my family for supporting me for 3 years fighting with me and helping me in every way they can.
I am grateful for Sabrina, Cory j, Kathlena, and Debbie s. Women I’m just blessed to be in my life and on my cheering team.
I am grateful I live in a state where it’s sunny every day and I don’t ever need to cross over a bridge.
I am grateful I don’t have a fat gene. I’m a stress eater. Oreos, Swedish fish, and basically anything fried makes me feel better. In the last 3 years I really should weight 300 lbs.
I am grateful for Paul. I know there is at least 1 surviving man (whom I am not related to) who has integrity. Real integrity. Not integrity just when it’s in his best interest. But the kind that would be honest even if he knew it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.
I am grateful for Bethany and Jon. God could not have put two nicer people together. An Angel herself straight down from heaven in my life could not be better then these two. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them.
I am grateful that after cancer I can say my heart has changed. I’m not judgmental anymore. I’m kinder. More empathic. Less materialistic. More humble. More grateful.
I am grateful God really always does seem to provide.
I am grateful I have a career I truly, honestly, enjoy and while it might not be where I want it to be or where it was, I am grateful I’m not one of the millions of people who drag themselves to work every day hating their job.
I am grateful I have a great preschool and fantastic babysitters for Emily. They both just kinda “fell” in my lap (thanks moms club!)
I am grateful my dad’s heart transplant last week was successful and he (while in a ton of pain) is doing medically well.
I am grateful my mom’s cancer from Jan was removed and she is ok and that she and Em will celebrate clean scans every few months for the rest of their lives.
I am grateful it doesn’t snow in the summer and I don’t have to deal with shoveling and grass at the same time.
I am grateful that the damn woodpecker is gone. Not sure what happened to him (maybe a neighbor did him in) don’t really care either.
I am grateful I have a car. I know this seems silly to most but after always having a free car and never actually buying a car having to buy a car was a whole new experience for me (one I never plan on experiencing again mind you) but grateful I have a car.
I am grateful for John Catt. He is one of the most amazing men I have ever met and continues to bless Emily and me with memories that I will cherish my whole life. People we never would have met and experiences we never would have had without him in our lives.
I’m grateful I have been married and have a kid and am not at 34 settling for a “so so” relationship or feeling pressured to find “the one” because I have a ticking biological clock.
I am grateful I am getting to go to NJ for 3 weeks this summer and can book my tickets now for Christmas and don’t have to deal with a parenting plan that was used as a noose around my neck to control me.
I am grateful I have straight teeth and my parents paid for 7 years (yes 7!) of orthodontics. (Random I know but I’m really trying here to re-focus on gratefulness so go with me)
I am grateful for Jeremiah 29:11 and it is God’s promise not just to me but to Emily.
I am grateful to the makers of Bing…when a coffee just won’t cut it.
I am grateful for Emily’s therapist. Another God sent blessing in our lives.
I am grateful for victim’s compensation that will pay for Emily’s therapist for a full year.
I am grateful I live in America and there is victim’s compensation.
I am grateful I have found a sport I actually LOVE.
I am grateful for my Mary Kay family. My customers. My team members. My sister consultants. They are my life preserver.
I am grateful I have people in my life who actually care enough about me to read my ramblings.
I am grateful my grandmother is 98 and still prayers for me every day and Emily will get to see her this summer.
I am grateful my cousin lives in Colorado. And that I don’t feel guilty letting her take over taking care of Emily every now and then…because she has to love her ….she’s blood.
I am grateful I am only 34 and can rebuild, reshape, and remake my life – although I’m done making plans. I’m just praying for God to show me His.
I am grateful I live in a country that is about to celebrate its independence and remind each of us just how blessed and lucky we are we had the good fortune to be born in the land of the free and the home of the brave and there are men and women right now away from THEIR families and loved ones protecting those freedoms.
I am grateful for people like Vanessa who believe in me when I don’t.
I am grateful for a little hand that holds mine at night, a little arm that wraps itself around my neck and a little child that is my world. My Miracle Child.
It’s when I think of that living, breathing, Miracle …a true real life physical testament of
God’s goodness and grace. …