Saturday, November 22, 2014

Broken home?

We all know the statistics.

Single mothers are more likely to live in poverty.  Their children are more likely to grow up addicted or criminal or, well, I don't know, something awful.  Children from broken homes suffer greatly, do less well in school, have difficulty maintaining relationships, and all that.

I'm not going to look up the statistics to share them with you - if you want that depressing data, you can find it, but this time you have to find it on your own, because I don't want to talk about other people's broken homes, I want to talk about mine.

I am raising my child in a broken home.  Bryan moved out - at my "request" - in 2012.  It was heartbreaking for all of us, and I truly doubted my sanity in asking for a divorce, as unsure of my own ability to manage that fallout as I was.  Bryan spiraled even deeper into his depression.  Katherine got angry and picked up some scary OCD behaviors (hand washing and more).  I lay in bed awake, wondering how it ever got so bad and if I had the wherewithal to make it better. 

I don't want to sanitize all of that.  It was horrible.  We all had our dreams dashed, and I carried the weight of the broken promise ("to love, honor, and cherish, as long as we both shall live") with me heavily.  I value integrity above all, and reconciling my inability to breathe within my marriage with breaking that promise wasn't easy. 

And the financial parts - don't minimize that, either.  I thought I would lose my home, the only place that Katherine has ever lived.  I seriously doubted my ability to keep food on the table, and thought it was likely I'd never have a fun vacation or a beautiful dress ever again.

And my beautiful daughter - what was I doing to her?  How incredibly damaged was I making her?  It made me feel so ashamed that I could bring this into her life: how could I possibly do this to her, while simultaneously keeping my promise to her to give her the best life possible?

If you're asking yourself questions like that, floundering in the answers and feeling like you might drown, then please keep reading.


My home may be broken - clearly, a piece was shattered and the remnants swept away - but if this is broken, then I don't want to go back to being whole.  This cracked and imperfect life of mine is so good that I can barely believe my good fortune.

It's actually looking pretty Norman Rockwell around here lately:

I'm standing in the kitchen in high heels making a dinner from scratch.  (The heels are leftovers from work, not some bizarre 50s housewife getup; the scratch dinner is simple but fresh.)  Not just sometimes, most of the time.

Katherine is practicing for the choir concert - choir is her favorite class now.  She sings whenever she thinks I'm not listening, and my heart nearly explodes from the pure joy of  listening to her.

We're getting ready for family Thanksgiving.  Katherine is going to learn how to make her first pie (apple), I'm preparing several side dishes, and we're going to head to Bryan's brother's house.  Bryan and I will carpool (I'll offer to drive in my new car!).  There will be 15 or so of us squished around a too-small table, and on that table will not only be my roasted Brussels sprouts (yum!) but my ex-sister-in-law's jello salad (no thank you).  Cousins will run around, football will be on in the family room.  I'll pass around the Thanksgiving journal: every year, I have those at my Thanksgiving table fill it out with their Thanksgiving gratitude, and now that the journal is half filled we all have fun looking back at what we wrote in prior years.  Though Thanksgiving is not at my house this time, I've got a few fall things set out - a table runner, candles, gourds - that make my home feel like Thanksgiving is here.

It's all pretty darned near perfect.  And it doesn't feel broken at all. 

Actually, it feels a thousand times less broken than it did when I was married.


I have fought, scratched, and clawed my way into work that is meaningful to me.  I'm not in "the" job yet, but I'm well on my way, and in the meantime I'm happy enough with where I am.  I love my career path, I'm doing well in it, and I feel like landing on that career path is like winning the lottery.

Financially, I am nowhere near where I ought to be (a source of fear, often enough) and yet I feel so much more stable than I ever did in my marriage, and I have come so incredibly far.  I have enough.  I pay all of my bills, and Katherine is allowed some fun things, and there's enough left over for ski lessons if I don't go out to eat or go to plays this winter.  My pride at doing this after my years of being marked a dependent on income taxes is....extraordinary.  I hated being dependent, and I hated not being able to financially prioritize my values.  My ex was terrible with money: we were constantly running short even though he made way more than I do now.  I was constantly fearful that the checking account would be empty when I went to purchase something - it was ridiculous, given his income.  I never feel like that any more, and I LOVE being in charge of my own finances, and watching my life improve as a result of my managing those finances.

And beautiful daughter, with a soul made of light and kindness, the center of my days and the person that I care about most in the beautiful daughter is thriving.  Yes, her grades fell when we told her that we were getting divorced, and they were a tangible marker of my shame at what I had done to her.  But these days, she's getting the best grades of her life, and what's more, she's feeling proud of her schoolwork.  She approaches homework with a can-do attitude.  Her report cards tell me that she is doing well, but more importantly, her easy smiles tell me.  She's in love with her gymnastics and really blossoming with it; she's constantly inviting or being invited to sleepovers with good friends; at night I have to say "turn off your light right this minute, young lady!" and she says "please let me finish this chapter!"  Sometimes after school she calls me and says "Mom, my homework is done and I feel like baking: can I make brownies?" and she pulls out cookbooks, eggs, flour, and chocolate and gets to work.  She's a bit mad at me because I haven't figured out yet how she can volunteer at an animal shelter (time is still in short supply!).  We've been playing board games together when we have friends around.  We sing along with Taylor Swift (shhhhh, don't tell her, but she's getting tickets to the Taylor Swift concert under the Christmas tree!).  We're about to start ski lessons because my new car came with free season passes to the local ski hill, and though we'll be in hand me down equipment the two of us will be having fun on the bunny slopes (and we even talked some friends into joining us, so Katherine will have a bestie in her ski class).

I'm healthy.  Blissfully healthy - about to go on a run after I hit "publish" on this.  I have some writing projects that really speak to me.  My volunteer work brings light into my life.  My house is filled with good books.  Last night, friends came over and we started planning a camping trip for next summer (kids and dogs included).  I've got a crush that may not go anywhere but makes me feel lively.

I see my ex all the time.  I go to every gymnastics meet, regardless of whether it's my weekend, and sometimes we carpool.  He will spend the night in my guest room on Christmas Eve - after the party here that he will attend as my guest - so that on Christmas morning our beautiful daughter will get to share present-opening with both of her parents, gathered around the tree.  Bryan still drives me crazy, of course - getting divorced didn't turn him into my dream guy - but given that we don't share finances, or a bed, or household chores, or future dreams, or vacations, or leisure activities, or a closet, and given that his daily moods no longer have an influence over my life (no more walking on eggshells in my own house)....I don't mind that he drives me crazy.  Even when he's in the same room with me, he only drives me crazy from a distance.  He is not the fabric of my life, he's just a character in it.


I'd love a million dollars (or even an "appropriate" college fund and retirement fund).  I'd love my muffin top to go away.  I'd love to fall madly in love with the man who is worthy of that love and returns it.

But right now, today, this minute, I don't need to change a thing.  I am well.  My daughter is well.  My life is better than good - it feels extraordinary in its ordinary goodness, because I know how different it could be.

Broken?  Maybe.  But like those Japanese bowls, the cracks and brokenness in my life appear to be filled with gold.  I appreciate my new life in a way that I could not have appreciated my old one.  An outsider may judge: I could not save my marriage, and I raise my daughter in a broken home as a result.

But if this is broken, it is so much better than whole.

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