Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

Blogging Hiatus June 21, 2013

I love this blog.

A little less than one year ago Sustainably Single Parenting (SSP) began. My goal was to be candid about my life as things progressed; from the end of my relationship with my abusive husband to whatever lied ahead for me and my kids. I was pregnant, in school full time, broke, and terrified. I wasn’t sure if I’d be homeless by the end of my pregnancy, I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to pay for things. I lived on two-four hours of sleep almost every night. But three nights a week I’d write.

I’d write about what I was feeling, how I missed him, how I grieved. I’d write about the children, their transition, and counseling. I’d write about my terror, and my methods for finding peace. I’d write about the disappointment of losing a dream. And through everything, people listened. People read, and reached out, and responded, and gave advice. People showed genuine empathy, told their stories, gave encouragement, and helped me to revitalize my self-confidence.

This blog has been a lifeline, a therapeutic outlet for me. It has been a chance for me to come forward about my situation, and hopefully, to inspire other victims to find the strength to leave their abusers. This blog has been a way for me to connect with amazing people, read heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories, and stand strong as a survivor who is certain of her ability to thrive.

I do not plan to give up blogging. I will return to SSP. But for awhile, I’ll have to take a break to work on other things. I’m in my last semester of graduate school, and though I only blog two days each week, finding the time and energy to keep on that schedule while single parenting three babies and taking two classes and maintaining a household is proving much too stressful. I want to keep telling my story, keep connecting with readers and meeting new people, keep on helping the DV community in some small way.

My plan is to come back once I graduate (August 2013) or sooner if I can manage to find more balance before I finish my Master’s degree. Until then, you can stay updated on our journey via Twitter. I hate to have to leave, but I have to sacrifice some things if I want to graduate without repeating my last semester. I’ve come this far…I have to do what is necessary for me to finish.

I know you all will understand. I will miss you until I blog again 🙂

 

Allowing Myself June 7, 2013

I’ve had some really hard days lately. I don’t know if it’s the fact that his birthday is right around the corner, or if it’s the pressure from the load I carry, or if it’s the stress of another divorce hearing fast approaching, but I’ve felt a hopelessness come and go with great intensity over these past two weeks. NTummyTimeI’m trying to allow myself these moments of sadness without being overcome by them. It’s a tough balance.

When my baby smiles I am overcome with such joy and such turmoil all at once that I physically ache from within. She is the happiest baby I’ve ever known and I feel like I don’t deserve her sometimes, because I cannot give her more at the moment. I cannot give her a stress-free mommy. I wish I could.

Sometimes I wonder if it would’ve been better to keep him around, to deal with his rage, wrath, and degradation. Maybe it would’ve been better than this? Than this mama who cannot smile without threatening the levees that hold back the tears. This mama who cannot balance cleaning the kitchen and getting her homework completed. This mama who, after a year alone and lots of therapy, still wishes there was a way to have her husband be the man he was in her illusions.

I’m allowing myself to miss him. I’m allowing myself to remember. FarmRICI’m trying to allow the bad memories as well though, because I also need to remember why it was better to let him go.

This has been a hard year, but I’ve gotten through it. I’ve cried more than I thought I would, but that’s another thing I’ve allowed myself. I have every right to cry sometimes. I’m allowed to feel sad. I’m allowed to feel let down by my situation. I’m allowed to take a time out from my kids. I’m allowed to hire a babysitter. I’m allowed to keep loving the bands he introduced me to. I’m allowed to change my hair, wear makeup, and find myself attractive. I’m allowed to watch what I want, eat what I want, and go where I want to all without being punished.

I’m taken aback by my newly acquired freedoms. I went from living with my mother to one year of college dormitory life and then moved in with him. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been in complete control of my decision making.

It’s difficult, but I’m allowing myself to let go, and in that sense I am allowing myself to grow.

 

An Uncelebrated Anniversary May 24, 2013

Wednesday marked the one year anniversary of The Big Incident.

domestic-violence2

Picture links to a blog with another woman’s domestic violence story

It brought back a lot of feelings; a lot of fears. But it also brought the closing of the most difficult year of my life.

My therapist says things tend to get better after the first year. She says that the first time experiencing Christmas, and Thanksgiving and the kids’ birthdays, and our wedding Anniversary, and the Hallmark holidays without him, would be the hardest. But that when it gets hard during those important events next time I can remember that I’ve gotten through it once before, and I’ll know I can do it again.

I CAN do it, but it’s still hard. I miss the good parts of him. I miss his friendship. I miss the comfort of saying “husband” even though I was covering up the pain of what my relationship was really like when no one was watching. I’m still grieving him. I may grieve awhile.

Sigh.

For those who have never been in an abusive relationship, the thought of longing for someone who has caused pain and hardship is unfathomable. If you’d have read the police report, or seen what I’ve been through, or know how hard things are for me now, without also understanding domestic violence, you’d probably think, “Miss him? What is she, crazy? She must have enjoyed the abuse.” It’s difficult to explain, but I had so much faith and pride and commitment wrapped up into that relationship making it; I had so many childhood dreams tied to being with him…it seemed almost impossible to let him go.

And things weren’t all bad. Of course they weren’t. Had they been all bad it wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long as it did. There were periods of calm, of comfort, of deep connection, and quiet evenings, and afternoon hiking trips. There were pancake breakfasts, and road trips, and board games, and our first garden. There was our first car accident, and house, and child. There was the time I cut his hair and we saved it to donate to charity, but I forgot to research it and we found it in a Ziplock bag after we moved.

There were some really great times. We could have a lot of fun together. I considered him my best friend. But then…then my best friend would turn really nasty, and I’d never know when to expect it. He would lash out and blame me, saying things like, “You just can’t ever get too happy. Things get too good for you and you have to go make it negative!” While I’m reeling with confusion, trying to figure out what made him go from smiles to screaming, apologizing profusely for setting him off again, trying to toe the line to keep him calm so it doesn’t get worse, but knowing that whether I fight or stay silent things will get worse, and then hiding within my self, weakening, waiting, praying for my friend to come back again. The one I used to enjoy, not the one who makes me hate knowing him.

It’s complicated.

But I made it through one year. I did it. It’s a bittersweet accomplishment. I miss my friend. But that part of him isn’t, and never will be, all of him. So I’ll always miss him, and I’ll grieve awhile, but if the first year is the hardest…I can do this.

 

Still I Wonder…About Him March 29, 2013

I tried to convince myself not to worry about him months ago. I tried reminding myself of the bad times. I tried focusing on the felony charges, the reason for my restraining order, the pain and embarrassment of the entire situation. I tried telling myself that I was only feeding into his narcissistic desires if I spent my time and energy on him. I tried to reason with myself that with my heavy load I didn’t have strength left to carry the burden of continuing to worry about him. To wonder about him. To wish it were different.

But still I do. I was conditioned to put his needs ahead of my own, and even though I have not seen or spoken to him in ten months it’s terribly difficult for me to let my worries go. I still wonder what he’s thinking about me, about everything, and lately especially about our newborn baby. Does he blame me? Of course he blames me. What is he telling everybody? How has he framed things? I’m sure they all think I’m a monstrous psychotic manipulative bitch. It pains me. I miss his family, but they will never love me again.

I wonder if he still loves me. He never loved me. I know that he never really loved me and I still wonder if he still does simultaneously. QuestionMarksMaybe I am crazy. I wonder if he’s with somebody. What is he telling her? Are they the same things he told me about the mother of his first baby who he never sees? Is he convincing her that really I’m the abuser? That I caused all the hardship? That’s I’m insane? Of course he’s telling her that; he’ll never take responsibility for anything.

So why do I worry about whether or not he’s eating alright? Why do I care if he’s losing weight? Why do I brood over his ability to sleep at night? I spent the majority of my pregnancy an insomniac. I have no money to pay our bills in New England, but still I’ve made EVERY mortgage payment on our Illinois home since he left though he’s probably living in it. I have our three children, our three daughters ages five weeks to five years and I’m getting nothing from him.

So why the hell am I worried about him? Quite obviously he’s being well taken care of. He has more than likely convinced his family members of his innocence. He has probably started training a new woman. He is making calculated decisions regarding his legal proceedings. He doesn’t give a shit about me. Maybe that’s what bothers me? That I’ll always care for him even though he wronged me and it’s so easy for him to let go of me, of all of us.

It’s our second daughter’s fourth birthday tomorrow. Is he thinking of her? He never cared much for our second daughter. Maybe he’s happy to not be here. I have no idea. The not knowing anything is so hard. I think he knows that the not knowing is hard for me. He is probably loving every minute of my misery. I want to stop myself from wondering, from worrying, but some part of me might always be focusing on him. In spite of everything a huge part of me wants him to be alright, wants him to love me, wants him to care about our family. That part of me may be unwilling to allow myself to let go of the fantasy. The fantasy is better than constantly thinking he’s plotting to kill me…though him wishing me dead is probably closer to reality.

Still…I wonder.

 

Death to the 4.0 December 19, 2012

NoB+I know that I shouldn’t be so incredibly disappointed, but I am. For the first time since graduate school began I received less than an A for my final grade. In one of my courses this semester I got a B+. For me, a B+ isn’t good enough, and I am terribly distraught.

I know that grading isn’t systematic and we’re basically relying on each teacher’s subjectivity; if I’d had a different professor I may have easily gotten an A for the same performance and the same work. That doesn’t really matter at this point, however, as I had the professor that I had and she gave me a B+.

Bummer.

I know. I should be proud of myself just for being in graduate school, trying my best, and attending classes these past 15 weeks while juggling being a single parent, being pregnant, and dealing with the mix of emotions that have surfaced since separating from my abusive husband.

I know. It’s graduate school, and I unless I’m planning on going for my PhD (which I’m contemplating) it won’t really matter what my grades were as long as I get my degree. But getting a 4.0 meant a lot to me. Maybe it’s because I didn’t try my hardest in undergrad? Maybe it was just because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I like challenging myself.

This feels like failure.

I know that I have excelled at so many things. I suppose the mere fact that I’m keeping my head above water lately, and surviving off of three hours of anxiety-filled sleep each night for the past seven months is…something similar to an accomplishment. But the B+ saddens me.

I know that I will still proudly walk the stage, content that I did the best job I could do in every course I studied. Ten years from now I will not think  about the B+ that I received and how much it tormented me. For the next few days, however, I will be sulking. Death to the 4.0 GPA.

The loss of another dream.

 

The Haunting Continues December 12, 2012

It had been so long since he had haunted my dreams. A week or so of semi-peaceful lack of sleep. But last night he returned with a ferocity, a vow to ruin me, and my well-crafted safety plan does nothing for me while I’m in an REM Cycle.

Sometimes I don’t realize it until waking. Sometimes, like the first of my four nightmares last night, he is back to being my typical husband. In my dream, I go through the motions of “staying in my place” (something he repeatedly instructed me to do throughout our eight year relationship). I ride the roller-coaster of our marriage through my dream and everything feels strangely familiar. I even feel the knot in the pit of my stomach and the frog in my throat; that constant conflicting feeling of wanting to avoid confrontation while simultaneously aching to defend myself.

In other nightmares, The Big Incident occurs in the same way that it did, or varied ways. The result is my pain, my fear, and my lack of control. He always wins.

If I were to believe Freud, then every one of my dreams is some form of wish-fulfillment. So in some sick subconscious way do I wish that my husband was still here, controlling my life, haunting me day and night? I suppose there was comfort in the familiarity of our relationship. There is something addictive about abuse.

But despite my loneliness, my constant state of uneasiness, my inability to control his presence in my dreams, I do not want to return to the daily terror of being his lady. How is it that after nearly seven months apart, a restraining order and other legal proceedings taking place, and with over 1000 miles between us, he still possesses me?

I want to feel free; if only in my dreams.

 

Carry On November 5, 2012

I’ve been trying to keep my mind off of…my mind.

Yes, it is as difficult as it sounds.

Not only is my mind riddled with worries, but my body is burgeoning with my growing baby, and every time she moves I feel a mixture of awe and grief.

I’m trying my hardest to eat more vegetables, get more sleep, and balance myself emotionally. I recently started a book on meditation. It has only been a few days, but already I am able to breathe more deeply, think more clearly, and feel more energy coursing through me as I bring myself into a state of awareness.

I’m in the process of selecting a therapist. I want to talk with someone, to disallow myself from falling into the depths of sorrow. I want to work on it now, because I do not wish to succumb to postpartum depression.

Somehow I must keep going.

Lately I feel so alone. It’s a complexity, feeling lonely while someone is growing inside of me; while most of my time is spent parenting two beautiful darlings who hardly ever give me a moment to myself; while commuting to campus and taking classes in the heart of Boston.

But I am heartsick, for I am without him. He was not good for me, but I was used to the small comforts, the familiarity, even the cycle of never knowing which side of him I’d be encountering.

How difficult I’m finding it to recondition my thinking, to force myself to stop thinking about him. I considered him in every decision I made for the past eight years and it is nearly impossible to stop myself from wondering how he will feel about or respond to the choices I make. I am still making decisions based upon my fears, trying hard not to do things that would make him retaliate.

But aren’t I free from those shackles? Have I not broken those chains? Cannot I think for myself nowadays?

I ridicule myself for my weakness. I want so badly to let go, to not allow him to continue to control me. How is it even possible? Nearly six months since The Big Incident and over 1000 miles between us have not yet proved enough to liberate me. I am still factoring him into my daily routine.

Am I cursed to forever be his worshipper? Will I bow eternally at his feet? Mentally, I’m still clinging to his approval. Parts of me will forever feel incomplete.

It’s difficult to balance sorting things out with trying to keep from thinking about them, but I am trying.

I will sustain.

 

Depression Looms October 26, 2012

I feel like I’m just days away from falling into a deep depression.

I’ve refused to succumb to it, but it’s closing in on me. I know the warnings well; the hopelessness, the loneliness, the emptiness, the terror.

I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of how it came to this and I reexamine the part I played in it all. Is this all my fault? In so many ways I have to take the blame for what has become of my adult life.

It has been five months since The Big Incident and I have yet to shed a tear. Recently though, I feel my eyes brimming with them every time I am reminded of him, and everything imaginable reminds me of him. Only my strong will, my unwillingness to allow my daughters to see me crying, my stubbornness to not submit to the helplessness of having been victimized, my fear of losing what little control I maintain over my life, keeps the tears from spilling over.

There’s the obsession. I may hide it better nowadays as I am great at suppressing my deepest and most painful issues. But my resolve to stay away from him does not ward off the daily surfacing of debilitating worries over him.

There’s the uncertainty. The not knowing how things will go with the legal proceedings surrounding The Big Incident. Not knowing what to tell my children when they ask how long it will be before they see Daddy. Not being able to plan my future beyond surviving the next few days, next few weeks, next few months without breaking down.

There’s the paranoia. Everybody is out to get me. Every tall, thin, blonde-haired, pale-skinned man is a threat to me. Every glance from a stranger toward my growing belly makes me instantly subconscious that they’ll see my empty ring finger. I am no man’s woman. I must be someone’s whore. Surely they’re thinking I am nothing more than another unwed mother-to-be, ignorant of the world’s inner workings, incapable of succeeding. Poor poor pitiful me.

There are the unhealthy behaviors. I am not eating properly. I am consuming fewer vegetables than I should be. I am, however, favoring milk chocolate. I am not sleeping. Even when I don’t have class the next day I find myself awake for hours past useful brain activity. I have so much work to complete, homework to catch up on, applications to finish, approvals to attain, but so little energy for being much more than a really decent deadline artist. I am low on patience. I am nearly devoid of joy.

There’s so much sadness behind this smile. So much doubt clouding my determination. There’s an overwhelming fear of failure. There’s impossibility that I am constantly trying to defeat. On the outside, I keep smiling, but to be honest, this is all but killing me.

 

Sibling Rivalry September 3, 2012

I know that I cannot force my daughters to love one another and that to a certain extent their rivalry is perfectly normal. But am I horrible for saying that it drives me CrAzY?!

I cannot stand their bickering.

“No I didn’t!”

CRASH!!!

“Aaugh! Sister hurt me!”

“STOP IT!”

“Mama!”

And the crying. There are so many tears that I think I’ve figured out why I hardly shed them in my adult life. I must have used them all up between the ages of three and five.

I cannot believe some of the things they’ve done to one another. Hair pulling, kicking, punching, spitting, purposely urinating on the others belongings, stealing, biting, lying, crying wolf, and breaking toys among other things. I often wonder if the negativity of my marriage influenced these behaviors, or if this is just the way of young siblings. It bewilders me.

I try so hard to teach them how to show one another respect. I try to wisely choose the battles I step into. I try to lead by example, to explain how valuable a sister can be. I pray that they will outgrow their disheartening rivalry, but at the moment I am annoyed beyond belief.

I want to scream with them. I want to run away. It’s extremely difficult to handle these days because of my severe lack of patience. I am too tired and stressed and borderline depressed to deal with such insensitive unnecessary madness. I just want to tell them to shut up and shake hands and show love, but that would be inappropriate.

I am trying harder to not not play favorites. To not compare them to one another. To let them be who they are trying to become and encourage them to express their individuality while showing them that I love them unconditionally. I try to make sure that every one is well fed, well rested, and working as a team. Still it seems that they are constantly competing.

I am counting down the days until they start school. I imagine that having more than one playmate will cut down on their constant battling. I fear that they will both be their class’ bully, but I’m hoping that once there are other children around, and more than one authority figure, they’ll straighten out.

Or, at least they’ll practice being kind in public and save all of their negative energy for me. I’ll work on finding solace in the breaks in between.

 

Mythical Welfare Queen August 24, 2012

I could’ve lied. I could’ve said I was in undergraduate school. I didn’t have to mention the house. I could’ve pulled all of the money from my bank account. I could have let them process my husband for child-support (though they would’ve taken that had I received any). I could’ve gone so far as to get a fake ID, fake social security card, and have someone cover for me when I list theirs as my address. But alas, I am infallibly honest. There goes my shot at being a welfare queen.

The system may seem too easy, but it is in fact not as simple to get help as you may think, and those who get help are not getting a lot of money. I have disagreed with the idea of government welfare all of my life. I do not like the system, its record of being abused, or the way that the people who use it feel compelled to succumb to the rules of remaining destitute.

People’s reliance on the government has cut down on the reliance of people in one’s own community and that makes it much harder to determine who really needs help and who is simply looking for a handout. Shouldn’t there be something on the applications which can determine whether or not you are an upstanding citizen who is really just going through a tough time and could use the assistance? No one I associate with would prefer to be on welfare or stay on welfare or condone living off of the government as a lifestyle.

I have done my duty as a citizen my entire life. I have given to the poor because I had extra at the time. I have completed community service simply because I enjoyed it. I have never complained about my position in society as being due to my ancestors’ enslavement, or blamed my hardships on “The Man”.  Upon beginning graduate school I reestablished and became the president of a student organization (which received the award for Most Outstanding Graduate Student Organization of the year), was nominated to be on the board of directors for a prestigious organization in the city, and have received an A in all of my courses thus far. Everything fell apart a little (okay, a lot) in May of this year, but I do not plan to stay in this indigent condition long. For the first time in my life I could actually use a bit of help and it’s nearly impossible to obtain.

One of the top reasons why women stay in abusive relationships is because the male partner is the breadwinner and/or they do not want to lose their financial stability. I admittedly overlooked several years of unacceptable treatment as I was determined not to enter the impoverished single-mother statistical category. I can put up with his mood swings if it means being able to stay home with my new baby, I convinced myself. I’ve been through this for eight years already, it’d be better to stay together while I finish grad school; at least while I’m in class the babies will not have to be cared for by a stranger. If I leave him I won’t be able to afford the Montessori or have the freedom to homeschool. I don’t want to be like those other single mothers.

I stayed with him to stay off of welfare. I stayed with him to maintain the illusion of a two-parent home. I stayed to keep from needing to weigh my options. How was I going to survive on my own? How do other mothers make it possible? I no longer think there’s such a thing as an authentic welfare queen; the system demands that you be insolvent before you qualify, and I don’t know too many people who would give up the little they’ve got to get a lot of flak. But how could anyone stoop so low as to deceive…no…it’s not so unbelievable. I suppose if someone got angry enough with the fraud being committed by others and desperately needed assistance she might think to go to extremes. But alas, I am unfailingly truthful. No crown for me.