That descriptive term about relationships was not around when I was growing up. It has always been in the world. I just never realized that was a word for it. Nor had I imagined that so many of us experience the duality between relationships that fill you up and ones that deplete you. I suppose as long as there are people who relate to one another there have been connections that have served both purposes.
I had been gnawing at some words. Letting my lips kind of form around them like hard marbles in my mouth. Trying to figure out how they came into existence. Where my being led to these things coming into the world. It isn’t the lack of accuracy that has me puzzled, but instead that those feelings couldn’t exist without my entering a relationship. I am twisted up in them.
Yet, while complicated, I had thought it would wind a little differently than it has.
Now, I know my Ex is a person who historically depletes me. He used to slide in and make the world seem different. At the time, I didn’t understand it was subtle manipulation. I get it now. Retrospectively, I can trace back to how he alienated my relationships. Made it so my feelings or disagreements about his behaviors were twisted to be about my own. My dissatisfaction made me an unloving partner and reflected a lack of loyalty. He used a lot of tricks to hide things he was doing. Gambling debts, infidelity and drug use. I was young. i didn’t have a big frame of reference for drug and alcohol use. I didn’t put together the pieces until they were glaringly obvious. Then, after I finally knew better, I felt like there wasn’t much to do except stay and fix it. That whole for better and for worse thing thing had be by the short hairs.
Eventually, I did leave. I stopped holding things together. It was an act of faith. Taking an action that felt foreign and against my instincts to see if that finally would fix things. I had tried everything else. I realized it was outside my scope. I went beyond halfway to meet my Ex and asked him to walk back to a life together. I offered to lead the way, to accept if he stumbled, to stand by and pick up as long as he chose our life. He didn’t and so I left. There literally wasn’t anything else to do. Our daughter was about to be a year old. I was not going to have her grow up like that.
That was about nine years ago. And, honestly, I thought that my relationship with my Ex– now as Exes who share a child– would be my most tumultuous one. The one that would forever be toxic. It would be hard to beat having tens of thousands of credit card debt opened in your name behind your back, finding crack pipes, having no heat or electricity, sleeping with a debit card in your bra, getting texts once divorced about him looming outside my apartment, slashed tires when he found out about Match, and all the endless issues he causes that makes Miss M’s life harder than it should need to be. The funny thing is thought with time, a little space, and experience: He doesn’t deplete my energy anymore. He’s kind of just a piece of life that is now consistent and ordinary. His baloney is just part of an average day. He steals some of my patience from time to time, but not my life source.
Yet, despite having gone through this before, it took me a while to realize I had another relationship that was unhealthy. It is one that often takes a lot of energy, time and thought. It still does even though we don’t often talk directly these days. Some friendships are like that. They require a lot of sweat equity. Usually I don’t mind as there is inherent give and take where my effort is met with theirs. Not in the same shape or form– but there is a sense of equality. I think the absence of that where this particular relationship tipped towards one that depleted, but never refilled me. She tried here and there. There were moments. I accepted the well intended effort and recognized it. Yet, she never listened enough to understand she was off the mark. It felt as if her efforts were always to try and fix something that was never broken on my end.
I have a pretty strong ability to mesh with all sorts of personalities and make inroads to friendship without a lot of effort. I say the wrong ting often enough, but I’m honest and well meaning. I believe in showing up even when you might not want to. I out my people before anything else. People come first in my life philosophy. I don’t have high expectations in terms of being friends. I just kind of work with who the person is, our common ground, and build something from there. I have a lot of lovely people who fill my life up. In my lifetime, I’ve only walked away from less than a handful of people. A friend who couldn’t be the friend I needed. In fairness, I couldn’t meet her expectations either. We still see each other from time and have found an okay place in the end.
I left my Ex and cut off any ties I could. Yet, we share a human, so we’re also bound till someone dies. Funny how that works.
Lastly, I took a break from Match’s Ex. Step parenting is a muddled part of life. I always knew it, but living it gives me a lot of clarity about how complicated life can be. It is grayer than the complexities of co-parenting. Since Match and I aren’t married– I technically don’t even get to be a step-parent. It is a messy place to be, but I happen to kind of dig messy because it is real and raw. Two ingredients that make the really worthwhile parts of life. So taking calls and hashing things out never bothered me. Puzzled me some days. Trying to match up words with actions. Her perspectives with things I knew. I still have a lot of loose ends and misunderstandings that eat at me a little. Mostly because I don’t do miscommunication. I like clear, deep air.
Mostly, that relationship just kept breaking my heart. There were unclear rules. Places I wasn’t sure how to fill. And so, when Blue Eyes was on the cusp on being 9, I took a huge step back. I couldn’t take being disappointed over losing time again and again with Blue Eyes. Having a carrot dangled and taken away again and again. It is agony. An emotional gut-punch that aches and aches and aches. Then you have to watch your other children ache because they were let down too. Being told you can’t even know who is watching your kid. I wanted some new ground rules. Yet, so did Match. I let him go first.
The push can in August when Blue Eyes was 8. Match filed for a new parenting plan right after she turned 9. And now, at age 10, they can to an agreement. It took a long time, a lot of emotional energy, and it was a big expense. I do think it was worth it. Match wanted to be more involved, he just wanted a say in what the terms were. Yet, in the process, my role became an issue. I don’t know exactly what grievances are there. I just know there are some.
Yet, I’m still chewing on her words:
Third-party caregiver. I didn’t send her there for Lori to babysit her. Malnourished. Exhausted. She doesn’t like being there. She was bored. Why won’t you give her water? She doesn’t sleep there. She melts down when she comes home. Shes so worn down from holding it together on your weekends. She is bored there. She doesn’t want to spend time there.
Months and months of trying to figure out how to reconcile these statements with actual life. I have spent the last nine years with broken sleep. I nursed all three of my babies, have toddlers who waddle from their bed into mine, bad dreams, sick kids, and lots of hushed, creepy whispers waking me up in my slumber, “Mom, I have to pee.” Twice a month, I worry the hub bub will be hard on Blue Eyes. Yet, as I put children back to bed, he soft breaths and occassional snores of sleep are uninterrupted. I’m sure its different than sleeping at home, but she rests here. I know. I’m up and checking. Dairy sensitive, but we don’t see the symptoms. Hold it together here, but not at home. She has mixed feeling about spending time here, but busts through the door into the fray of her sisters and an excited dog immediately hugging, tickling, and laughing. The quiet stares of her wheels turning in New Hampshire where she looks wistful at it all as if she wishes this was more often. How to reconcile a happy kid with the one her mother says she is? We still can’t figure it out. We stay up late talking about it.
There is a lot of talk about the term parent. I get that that umbrella applies to her mother and father directly. However, that’s not really the reality of a lot of us in the world. There are kids raised by their grandparents. Their aunts. Foster families. Adopted. And then there are us blended. I can not figure out if the indignation or concern is that if I’m considered a parent that I will replace the irreplaceable. I will never be her mother. I don’t want to be that. I want to be Lori. Blue Eyes is the kid who doesn’t hug me, but will burst out with, “Lori…. guess what…” Every once in a while, I encourage her to do somethings. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they are a bust. Blue Eyes says, “I guess sometimes your parents know yourself better than you.” Parents. I know that’s what I am. Albeit, I only get to be that part-time. I never labeled it. I never care about definitions or putting fluid things in boxes. I think how you act, what you take on, how you choose to tackle a problem– those things add up to how people feel about you.
I can’t spend my whole life unraveling the facts, misunderstandings, and assumptions Match’s Ex makes. I only have one life and I’m not willing to give hours and hours of accepting accountability, but not getting any in return. I can’t try to explain only to be accused of lying when that isn’t the case. I can’t make her understand that there is room for both of us. And I can’t be different in the sense that I can’t undo the fact I’ve been in her daughters life for seven years and care. Or that I don’t always like the choices she makes. That it raises my ire that she says things to us like, “do the right thing, ” or “pray on it.” Yet, she does the most small, spite filled things to cause hassles instead of just doing the sensible right thing. That she does not understand that taking care of one child is not the same of taking care of a family of four. That you can’t love her sisters, but not consider them in your dealings here. Everything impacts them. That family does not have to be blood. But it does mean you act out of love first. I can’t be her family because everything is about a principal. Principals have no place in dealings with your circles. It involves a whole shit load of mistaking mistakes, apologies, listening and eating crow. Not, making points, tit-for-tat, and passing the buck. And then trying, really trying, to not make the same mistake again. But that’s not the relationship she gave. So I walked away because I couldn’t have Match hash it out and myself simultaneously. I walked away to keep the tendrils that survived intact. At the root of it: I still have respect for her existence. Even if it does not do much to build me up in life– I didn’t need to do anything to make her less.
At the end of the day, the only thing I can really do, is make sure Blue Eyes and I will be okay. I’ve picked Blue Eyes brain and she says there isn’t a thing she wants to fix here or make better. She seems okay. Match checked with school. She’s thriving. I tell her this is her home. She can some here whenever she wants for as long as she wants. We never say she can’t stay with us. It usually is a problem with logistics– school, pick up, or drop off. She says she knows. I explain that my family is hers too. Always. She says she knows. I hope that’s the truth. Its hard to prove with the co parenting schedule. Which the fact my family things aren’t treated as legitimate things. I don’t understand not giving Blue Eyes more in life– except that I took a break from her mother. Who treated me really shitty some days as an accountable adult. The difference though is that no one is going to walk away from the ten year old.
So I think…. that there’s a miscommunication. Or, on a more nefarious note, it is some sort of a manipulation. On a more concerning note, it might be how she sees things. That her reality is filled with all these issues that just aren’t there. I’m digesting. Taking the new information and the rules and seeing how it plays out. I’m judging if this person has character I want to share myself with. Or if its just going to be always this accusatory and hurtful and misleading. That of course Match and I would discuss and change the agreement together. I have to live it too. And I’m experienced with how these things go. I have listened to complaints and feelings from both parties. I pointed out how certain conflicts weren’t solved in their agreement, I reminded Match of the things that sent him out on the deck smoking and cooling off. I brought up all the times we were up late worrying about Blue Eyes. But also– all the things her mother had been worried about as well. The things we had talked about. Yet, most of those came out at her request in the end. I just have to remember that the things she said are a reflection that include a version of me that’s not true. The version of Match that’s outdated. So, I think, I have to give it more time, space, and grace.
Yet.. the universe keeps putting these inconsistencies, miscommunications and accusations on my plate. I’m still figuring out if I’m suppose to learn to leave it alone or if I’m suppose to reach out to mend it. I’m trying to figure out these words, the truth, and how to build some better in roads to coexist. It is a puzzle. I don’t know how to fix it. Nor how one should bridge it. I don’t understand the disconnect between what she says and how things actually are. I just don’t know how to navigate it yet. I don’t know if I even have to?
Yet, these few days are meant for thanks and giving. Tomorrow, I know to be thankful that things are okay between us and Blue Eyes. That there is no scarcity of love for her and she knows it. Thankful that Match decided crumbs were not enough and he did something scary about it. There was no working things out between the two of them. I am thankful this is hard, confusing and we feel small qualms about what is the right thing. It means we didn’t do things lightly. None of this life is ever to be taken lightly.
I am grateful that I get to support Match and that he supports me. We have something really good . I don’t have to feel bad that Match and I are a “we.” A “we” is a nice thing to have. I feel like this “we” is doing okay together. We’re still holding hand seven years in and stealing kisses in the kitchen. We bring complications and problems to our family blended. Yet, we also bring solutions and efforts to make things better.
I am grateful today is one more day to maybe figure this out. Time usually brings wisdom and solace. I’m hoping enough days will pass for something better to grow in the place of this gray area. For myself, I just needed to leave some of this here this week. I needed to make a little room for the joy of the holidays.
Hope everyone has a nice day of family and reflection.