Tuesday, September 28

Current Events - pt 2

     You need to take responsibility for your actions. You haven't taken responsibility for your actions! When are you going to take responsibility for yourself?
     Those are words I heard him say to me and assume it is what he says about me to others. Words I know he says to himself about me when he tells himself why it's ok that he's behaving the way he is.
     She seems to minimize her behaviors and shift responsibility off herself. ...blames others... Has minimized her role in this matter. Explains away events. Does not accept responsibility for personal role. Did not cry or show emotion, was serious.
     Statements and fragments of statements written about me by a "professional" after a "brief interview" with me and then a lengthy discussion with him.

For more than a week now I've thought nonstop about these things, about the theme expressed by those words. About the constancy of it's being brought up over the past year.  If I remove all emotion from my thoughts, remove my attachment to the meaning and my need to respond, then I can see the way in which these things might have a foundation in truth. But only if I remove emotion and attachment and involvement, only if I try to stand outside it all. And then I see too, how my every effort to explain ANYTHING about my behavior, my actions, my FEELINGS even, appears to be blaming, shifting responsibility, minimizing.

If the shoe were on the other foot.... as the cliche states so accurately.

I don't necessarily accept that the statements and resultant theme held over me are true or valid - but I do accept that it is a believed (and believable) stance from which he has made his argument. And only by doing that, by seeing how he's arrived there at that point and how he's made it his absolute truth, am I able to finally, finally, oh God finally, let go of my futile attempt to figure out what to do to make this whole thing better.

I can't change his truth. I can't change his perception, nor can I change the tremendous damage I have done over the past year in my efforts at trying to change his truth (aka blaming, shifting responsibility, minimizing...).

What I can do is accept all of that and work with it instead of against it.

I can do what I expect HIM to do and that is to accept responsibility for my actions regardless of WHY those actions were committed.  I can stop explaining why I've done something and simply sit with what I've done and the way that is perceived by others... and then respond to that.  Not by explaining any reasons, but simply by responding.

I will do this because this is what grown ups do: take responsibility.  I will do this because it is what a mom does, what a mom wants her kids to do, and I am, after all is said and done, Still The Mom.

Love, Mia

Tuesday, September 7

Friday Balancing Act

I've tried over and over for the past hour and 45 minutes.  I can't reach them by phone and I am alternately worried, outraged, and annoyed.

Worried: Did they make it home from school ok? Did something happen late last night? Is someone sick?  Is everything ok? What if He is sick? I hope He is ok... no, don't go there...  What if my son is in trouble at school?  Did my daughter have a problem walking home from the bus all by herself? It's been raining, was there some accident?

Outraged: I can't believe it! He got them right after school and took them out and now they'll be late! He's done it before - I'm sure that's what he's done. I've driven 70 miles, it's taken over an hour with the rain and the Friday traffic and now I have to just sit... and wait... and it's one more thing I don't have choice or control or say in. Argh! I hate this whole thing! No, I know, he blocked my number and they can't get my calls. Like before... come ON!!!  Aren't we done with this yet? What, did he hide the house phone, take away my son's cell phone? Is this such a joke to him?

Annoyed: Sheesh, they NEVER answer their phone anymore. I'm just "a mom" and my son ignores my calls and texts just like he does to his dad.  They never answer the home phone or they can't find it or can't hear it. They were supposed to call me when they got home, this is soooo annoying!  Forgetful, air headed, thoughtless teens!  They know I'm coming, we just spoke last night and now I've called 5 times and texted twice... watch, they won't even be home or maybe they will but they won't be ready to go... Argh!

But then, as I am getting into my car to drive the half mile to their house from my friends house where I stay when I come to be with them, I try one more time and my son answers.  I am short, terse; relieved and with no reason for outrage, I'm just annoyed.  My son starts to explain and I cut him off.  "I'll be there in two minutes.  Be ready to go, OK?"  "Yeah mom, we're ready!"

The sight of them coming out the door and down the drive makes my heart feel like it's actually swelling, rising up in my chest, filling up.  And at the same time, at the sight of their faces I feel pain so peircing that my eyes well up with tears that burn like acid as I tilt my head back to prevent the spillover.  Mustn't let them see me cry. I am the mom, the grownup, the safe stable adult whom THEY can cry in front of.

Our time together is full full full of chatter.  Their first few days of school, their classes and teachers and friends and what they've been doing after school and in the evenings and this very day while I was trying to call them. 

We eat, we watch tv, we talk.  And while I am bitter that I have to impose on my friends hospitality just to have time with my kids, and am simultaneously bound by the limitations of her house and her time, I am oh so grateful that I have a friend so willing to open her house and her heart to three extra people on a Friday night when she is already tired and worn from her own long week.

My son falls asleep on the couch while I play Yahtzee with my daughter.  I see his sleeping face morph from the thin cheeked, big nosed, distant eyed teenager into the soft mouthed, sparkly spirited little boy that my heart will always hold.  My daughter and I whisper and try to shake our dice as quietly as we can.  Her spirit is joyful and radiant as we share this private moment when it is just her and I.  I am so unsettled, dissapointed, guilty even, that my son is tired and can't just go to his own room to rest, can't even go home because taking him home means taking them BOTH home and means me getting "in trouble" for not sticking to the committed time of 8pm.  I am also elated, fulfilled, and cleansed by sharing this almost intimate time alone with my daughter, time we need, want, are desperate for - this time that is a salve on the wounds we both feel.

There is so much to feel and so little time to feel it in.  We have three hours.  My emotions are so wide and deep and go from one continent in my heart to another.  Balancing that all out to feel the simple joy of mothering my children in the moment takes a heavy dose of denial, a generous amount of not thinking ahead, a foundation seated in not remembering 'before'.  Staying present and focused without prejudicing the moment by adding guilt, remorse, and sorrow take effort that leaves me exhausted, drawn, empty. 

And I haven't even begun to consider their emotions: those of my sleepy teenage son who has to balance normal behavior with the want and need of a boy for his mom and the guilt associated as he navigates those two huge places in his heart, seasoned with anger and grief; and those of my pre-teen daughter, so needing of me, so genuinely cheerful and open hearted that she'll welcome the attentions of any female in my place, and the guilt she tries to pretend isn't pricking at her sweet spirit, well marinated in confusion and unanswered questions, torn loyalties, and sweet love.

Balancing it all in my heart, tipping the weight of it one way or the other by smile, tone of voice, and the noncommittal even tempered, "mmmm..." until later.  Balanced until they are out of the car and through the doors into their own home - the one that is still in my name but I can no longer go inside.  Balanced until I am alone and all the work of holding it together comes undone.

I carry always though, the knowledge that my kids do their own unbalancing act. For that fact alone, I am the most full of self loathing.

I am their mom, still, and always. Unbalanced, balanced, and somewhere in-between.

Love, Mia

Thursday, September 2

Current Events

While the stories are still unfolding here, so you can understand why my life is the way it is, there are things happening every day that impact my relationship with my kids.  Today was another setback.  In moments like this I find myself numb and distant, only able to think the same one thought over and over: "Isn't there any one, any where, who can fix this?"

Essentially, more than a year ago now, my husband told the court I was mentally unstable and he feared for our childrens safety.  No evidence of harm or innappropriate behavior committed by me: to them or near them or indirectly toward them, just that one verbal statement that he had "serious concerns" and I have been viewed as a threat ever since.

At first, in September and October of last year, I had supervised visits with my kids.  They were supervised at my husbands request, by a couple we jointly knew.  This couple? I had cared for their children while that mom was in a mental health facility.  I had listened to her, pre and post her hospital stay, tell me about screaming at her children, cursing at them, telling them to leave the room before she beat them.  She told me how scared her kids were when she told them she felt like hurting herself and that she had to call a friend to help her.  This was the woman who my husband asked the courts to assign as a guardian during my visits with my kids. 

Initially she was willing, compassionate, and available. Then she wasn't.  She had issues of her own, her husband was sick, her kids were struggling, etc.  I was able to arrange, legally, for a friend of mine to be listed as an alternate so I could still see my kids. And then the restrictions were lifted, sort of.

In October I had moved into a house in our town with the parents of a girl who used to babysit our kids a very long time ago.  We had stayed in touch (the mom and I) and she invited me to stay in the room her daughter, now all grown up and moved out, used to be in. The newest legal changes allowed for me to have my kids overnight and unsupervised, so long as the overnights were at that house, and that address, at my husbands request.

Everything happened relatively quickly and what came to light as I moved in and then the kids came to stay a weekend was that the house was filthy - real actual filth, mold, dust, animal hair, rodent excrement, etc. as well as very poor plumbing resulting in not much hot water available and only one usable bathroom. Additionally both the missus and the mister were entrenched in depression so thick that it hung in the air, a helpless hopeless despair of health issues, insomnia, financial ruin, unemployement: which is the reason I guess for all the filth.  And then there was the drinking.  Mister was a drinker of the sort that starts in the late afternoon and continues until he passed out in the late late evening but he would always rouse himself to drink more, sit in a bathtub of cold filmy water for hours sipping more alcohol, and then finally go to bed somewhere around 5am.  After a couple of boozy inappropriate nighttime run-ins, I knew this would NOT work. 

Nice people? yes. Generous to allow me to move in? yes. But it was not a place where I OR my kids would be safe, have a healthy environment, and the ability to settle in or experience some stability.

I moved - in late November of last year... and where I moved was where I could have a sound stable safe clean environment that welcomed my children and provided a foundation for me.  Where I moved was where I could find employment, and a future.  And where I moved was both where my husband subsequently refused to allow the kids to stay overnight, and was over an hour away.  But with no other options I didn't know what else to do. 

I felt like I was NEVER going to be able to get my kids on a regular basis and since ending my own existence wasn't a viable option (yeh, been there, tried that!) my next choice was to persevere with gaining a future that held something resembling hope and peace.  So in spite of his refusal to let the kids stay with me, I stayed there... or rather here, where I am now.

I gritted my teeth and pushed my grief at bay through minimal visits with my kids in December, January, and February hoping he'd see that I was in a stable secure place, employed in the same job, and that the kids were enjoying our visits and not suffering any harm.  I made it to soccer games, school meetings, and provided appropriate holiday treats.  And then I petitioned the court to extend my visits at my new residence.  March 2010.  A year after I'd originally filed for divorce, 9 months since I'd lived with my children, and 4 months since I'd had them overnight with me.

My husband said that thing again, the "serious concerns about mental health" and the judge believed him.  No matter my job, my stable housing, my compliance with every other restriction, my childrens health and well being - no evidence to support HIM or his statement, and with no credit for anything I'd done, I was refused. 

I was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation at a court clinic.  Our next court date was scheduled for July 2010.  A few weeks later I was told that the judge would be out on a county exchange in July so we wouldn't be heard until September.  It took until July to get an appointment at the clinic anyway. 

What I got was more time lost with my kids: no spring vacation, no summer vacation, no sleepovers or extended vacations.  Just alternate Saturdays from 8am to 10pm.  No assistance with transportation for the 70 mile drive. 

And finally my mental health evaluation and a court date of September 7th, 2010.

My evaluation was initiated and then, of course, that doctor went on vacation and didn't return until this week.  That result is that the report on the evaluation, which the judge needs time to review, is not completed yet and so the court clerk was told to postpone and reschedule the Sept. 7 date for a couple weeks out.  More time lost with my kids. 

I still don't know when the date will be, only that it will be that much longer before I can see my children for any extended time.  I don't even know for sure that this "evaluation" and this doctors assessment will be favorable and that I will even be granted the time I want with my kids.  But in my heart I was counting on September 7, 2010 as the day I'd be exonerated and finally freed from the burden of this "mentally unstable" label my husband is using. 

I try not to dwell in how unfair it's been from the start, on how much injustice has been forced down my throat, and on how much fear drives so many of my choices on a daily basis - anger? maybe anger looks unfounded and irrational so I better not be angry! grief? maybe crying looks over sensitive and irrational and unstable so I better not cry! 

I try not to dwell on how, if experience were to be my guide, I maybe should plan on losing custody entirely, on being placed back on supervised visits, on being told I can't be with my children at all, or that we will have to postpone until November, or some other ridiculous date.

But it's hard.  It's so hard not to dwell in those places.  I keep moving forward one day at a time trying to adjust my expectations.  But it's hard.

However hard it is for me? Think how hard it is for my son who started high school the other day, or for my daughter who is right in the middle of really needing a mom for 'girl stuff' right now. 

Love, Mia