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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Be the good

Today, I have been feeling pissed off at life. Angry with my STBXH, angry with myself. I have been hurting. I have had to acknowledge that being the better person comes with a hidden cost; knowing that (even when you are glad that it turns out you really are the person you hoped you would be) it's hard to accept this goodness may not be recognised, and you won't be thanked.

My ex and his partner relocated last week to be closer to Bean and Sprout. This is for the good in the long run. The boys have no long journeys looming in their future, separated from me and or their normal lives by miles, or hours or travel. It is in their best interests, and for them I am happy. In typical bear hunt fashion, my introduction to this brave new world has been a crisis. Their first full day with their dad at his new home was cut short abruptly - barely two hours in - when I was called to collect them, his partner so sick she was waiting on an ambulance to take her to A&E.

Sometimes you just don't question a situation, being the good you want to see in the world means you just deal and do the best you can. I went immediately to get the boys. I took my mum, an A&E nurse with me. The boys dad lives in the back end of nowhere, a very remote village deep in rural England. I arrived to see him standing on his front step, boys in coats, ready to hand them over, without me crossing the threshold of their house. I would have taken them too, were it not for the fact that no ambulance was in sight. And I could hear OW crying in the house, frightened, miles from her home, her friends, her family and in pain. Without hesitation I asked if my mum could take a look. A long pause later, STBXH checked inside. OW wanted her help, so could we come in.

There are moments in life that remind you what kind of person you are in your core. Not what you hope you are, but who really, deep down, when the shit hits the fan - you are. I could have left, listened to her crying and thought be damned. I could have gloated that the karma train was calling at their station. I am so glad that I am not that person, I am blessed that my mum isn't either. Together we looked after the children, and mum looked after OW. She is 27, but in pain and sick she looked younger. I didn't see a disgusting person, I saw a human being who needed compassion and care. In that instant I knew something deeply in my heart. Failure is always an event - never a person. The sum of OW is not the action of infidelity. She is not simply the agent of my unhappiness, she is a young woman living a life that her choices have led her to... on that day they led her to an isolated, scary place where ambulances don't come and you have to lean on the goodness of those you have wronged.

Eventually the ambulance arrived, and my mum handed her over with the care and professionalism I love and respect her for. OW left, shaking and tearful, and on her way out she mouthed 'I'm sorry' to me, smiled at my sons and tried so hard to be brave. I don't feel angry with her any more. I feel sad, really sad, for the situation. Sad that we are here and the only way forward is to forgive. I wish there was nothing to forgive, no hurdle to overcome. Forgiveness in principle is one thing, forgiveness in action is something else.

I suppose you can call today an emotional hangover. Sprout is running a fever of 102. He's tearful and clingy, I wonder if he caught a bug from their house. I am cross that STBXH took our tiny, vulnerable children over there when his partner was so ill. OW has a kidney infection, before the antibiotics and hospital run, she was so sick my mum was afraid she may even have meningitis. I am thankful that it wasn't anything as bad as all that.

However, despite the sea change in my heart towards the woman he has brought here, there has been no change in STBXH's heart in return. He is as ever, as cold towards me as can be. A spark of fury was lit tonight when, following a polite conversation about the boys, I enquired whether OW is feeling better? I received silence in return.

Evidently STBXH is not ready to allow kindness to thaw the stony ground of our separation. I can only presume that it suits him to hold onto the caricature of me he created that justified his terrible behaviour towards me and our sons. I guess I will simply have to wait, and continue to live with compassion, with kindness, with patience, until (or indeed if) he decides to accept that I am not, and never have been the monster he would like me to be. In the meantime, I will try to practice reaching a place of forgiveness that includes him as completely as I know it should be possible to achieve (and forgive myself for not being there yet!)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresLove never fails."

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A year from now, you'll be glad you started today

Today has been a quiet day. I woke up with two little bundles in bed with me (something I try not to allow every day! But ahh, what bliss when I do) and was treated to Sprout announcing, as the sun streamed in through the window onto Bean and I, that he 'loves us both quite much'. We have pottered and played, read stories, cuddled and laughed and squeezed each other lots. My boys are becoming the very best of friends - giggling so much at each other over dinner, their fish pie barely stood a chance of making it into their mouths. I've cleaned the house several times and it still looks like a small army has trooped through it... but the daily mash of pots and pans and toys and odd socks trailed all over the place doesn't bother me. It's the happy signs of life in our lovely little home. We are really very, very happy here.

I have been mulling over this blog for a while, feeling a little bad that I've been neglecting it. But in the post holiday lull I had very little to write about. I don't like to reach around for something to say - I believe that when something needs saying, it tends to pop up of it's own accord, and there's nothing much to be gained from hurrying the process along. Sometimes I have useful or interesting things to say but there's also art in knowing when I don't!

Having said that, there is some small news of the bear hunt to share. I have finally filed for divorce. It's taken 14 months to get here, but I don't mind. I am very glad that I waited until now to send off the petition. Today it feels like paperwork, a bit of admin that needs taking care of. I no longer feel it is a great knife cleaving my family in two. I cited adultery, I didn't name the OW. In the grand scheme of things, I can be happy today with my own truth. I know, and STBXH knows, just how we got to where we are.

I have plenty of things to look forward to as well. Bean is days away from crawling, his little face set firm with the determination he has been bursting with since birth. Sprout is a gorgeous chatterbox who makes me laugh all the time with his toddler observations - I can't wait to get to know him more as he teaches me to see the world newly day by day.

As they grow, my life is opening back up again, filling up with fun. I feel excited about what might be around the corner. Tomorrow night I'll be catching up with one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose simple presence in my life makes me happy, I realise now how grateful I am that I can make space for him again. Sending the divorce petition felt like closing a door, while throwing open all the windows in my house. Can you feel it? Spring is on the way, and I want the fresh air to fill up every corner of my life! This is the year of the Dragon. It's a year for me, and my boys. No more worrying about the ones we've left behind.

And my last bit of news is the one I am most quietly proud of today. I officially became self employed this week, so my business as a life coach has begun. When I take a moment to reflect on everything that has happened to me in a year, I can't help but feel glad that the bear hunt began after all. Every step has brought me closer to happiness in the end.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

I am being a super little elf tonight, stuffing stockings on behalf of Santa while my cherubs Sprout and Bean sleep (sort of - there has been much leaping around with excitement from Sprout until about an hour ago). A biscuit and carrot are laid out for Santa (there were two biscuits, but Sprout was operating quality control tonight). And while I am sat here thinking about how wonderful the day will be tomorrow, I have to share the Christmas cheer with you guys, because we wouldn't be half so happy or confident about 2013 without the love and  hand holding we've had along the way. So here's to you, and you and you - thank you so much! See you in the New Year!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Weeds are flowers too

Today is a very, very wet day. The rain is coming down with such commitment that going outside even for five minutes would result in an immpromptu mid-afternoon hairwash. As a result, we're all snuggled up inside and I have that rare thing for a mum of two under three, a half hour with both children asleep.

So I'm sensibly putting off an inevitable cleaning blitz and posting on here instead. I have a lot of cleaning and sorting to do, because this time next week, I'll have moved house, I pick up the keys to my new home on Friday. Right now, I'm in denial about it - don't get me wrong, it's great, the house is lovely, and it's the right thing for us to do now, but boy is it scary!

No more Nana and Papa on hand to help out. It's a very big step indeed. Despite planning to move out ever since we arrived back in January, now that the move is upon us, I am feeling a little well, actually miles out of my comfort zone. To me, this is a BIG DEAL. The good things are that it means I've made the conscious decision to stay in this part of the world, to put down roots, and to be a genuinely lone parent. In reality, mum and dad will only be about three streets away so why I'm having silent palpitations I don't know!

In part, I think my anxieties are gathering pace because deep down I don't know if I have what it takes to be truly independent. Before my marriage, I lived in a flat rented by my parents. Before that I was a student, with lots of financial and practical assistance from my family. When I was married, I was in a house part owned by my STBXH and his MIL. I've never really 'done it for myself'. I have never had to organise my utilities, know where the fuse box is, manage all my household bills or maintenance on my own. I've never really been in charge of the home I'm in. But in the same breath, that means the 'home' I've been in has never really been mine. I truly want to be excited about this new start, however I feel like I'm going out on a limb living somewhere that it's really all up to me. 

I've been talking about being independent for a long time. The home is only one part of it. I began studying to be a life coach for young people long before my marriage broke down. In many ways, this new house is more to me than bricks and mortar, it's the start of my new life with my boys. Come April, it'll be the first office space for my new business too.

Like many other lone parents before me, I've come to the realisation than no-one really wants to employ me in pre-school hours so I have to make self-employment work for me if I intend to build a working life that supports the family life I want for my children. On paper that's exciting. Subconsciously I am looking around frantically for someone to hold my hand! I know that the career I've chosen to study for and invest in, is one that I passionately believe in. I know I'm good at it. My friends tell me I'll be great at it. So why am I such a nervous wreck?

Someone, somewhere planted seeds of self-doubt in my head. I never paid much attention to where those seeds took root and flowered, until now. All of a sudden I feel like I'm standing in a bramble patch wondering how the feck to get out. The freedom course has been helping, but has also highlighted some of the ridiculous things I've allowed myself to believe for a long, long time. I believed that I'm not capable of managing money, or planning my own destiny. That I needed someone stronger than me to tell me what I should be spending my time, my income or my energy on. I've let previous partners define my self-worth so that it's intrinsically less than theirs.

This is not true. I will be repeating this to myself a lot! When I move into my own house, with all the furniture I have chosen, and lock the door with the keys that only belong to me, to sit down at the kitchen table desk where my business will be born, I'll remind myself that yes, I've let some pretty negative thoughts put down roots in my head. But in my heart I know I am capable of much, much more than I've achieved so far. If I can take those fears and turn them into fuel to push me forwards instead of holding me back, I know I can make this a year of enormous change and positivity.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The wonder of you

For the last two nights I have co-slept with my baby Bean. Battling tiny fingers up my nostrils, little arms flung with wild abandon across my face in the night, the noisiest thumb sucking I have ever heard... and breathing in the most delicious baby smell I could possibly imagine, right next to me all through the dark hours. Staring at those enormous black eyelashes as they flutter against the softest peach skin, willing him not to wake when I shift or turn. Feeling the joy flood through me when he gives me his first face splitting smile of the day. I can truly say, I am enjoying my baby at last. 

We've reached the end of the break in contact, and have survived the start of a new routine. I'm standing at the foothills of a co-parenting relationship that I can't imagine ever being easy, but I'm putting my best foot forward. Switching off from the hideous merry-go-round that our weekly hand overs had become is the best thing I could have done, no matter how badly I worried about the break. We are easing back into regular visits and have new boundaries in place to protect my personal space. Doorstop hand overs for a start, no more cups of tea in my front room while a feigned friendship is played out. I've contacted the CSA to negotiate on my behalf for maintenance, and enrolled on the Freedom course at my local Children's Centre. I'm feeling stronger and healthier, and happier at last.

Taking a month off felt like coming up for air. Drinking in the calm and quiet, letting the pressure fall off my shoulders as I became free of all the nonsense for once. I had no idea how stressed I had been until I finally took this break. With the benefit of space, I've been able to appreciate how incredibly blessed I am with my little family. I've visited my sisters and their children, my closest friend and her beautiful son, and had some very wonderful visits from the loveliest of friends who journeyed to Devon to see me and the boys. In the space created by this little break, so many happy things have flooded in. The children are incredibly happy little souls right now too, as rewarding as they are challenging. Bean has the same belly shaking chuckle Sprout had at his age, which we have the pleasure of hearing almost as often as his "I'm terribly hungry and STARVING Mummy" cry.

As for Sprout, he and I have had some pretty epic bonding of late too, as only a two year old knows how. We sat in companionable silence the other day, him on his potty, me patiently waiting for him to finish up, when he leaned over and delicately tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. "My pretty Mummy" he said, as seriously as he could, "Me give you teeny stroke." Well, I could have welled up there and then, til we both fell about in fits of giggles and I scooped him up off the potty (nothing in it thankfully!) to tickle him to death immediately. We've done some great stomping around the park in puddles and chasing each other down slides and up climbing frames. He's nailed wearing pants, because he's had the time to get there without constant disruption. He's grown at least an inch in height and doubled in naughtiness as well.

This is the thing about being a parent for me, the absolute wonder of bringing up my children takes me by surprise again and again and again. Every time you feel you've reached the point where you could happily chuck the baby out with the bathwater, they give you back something incredible and surprising and unexpected. Taking each day as it comes, they make me feel important and valuable and loved just as I am. I am the absolute centre of Bean's world right now, in a way I don't think I appreciated when Sprout was so young. In fact, in a funny way, I've started to enjoy being a mother more now than I ever have done before.

We've come a long way. At the end of this month I pick up the keys to our first house together, just me, Sprout and Bean - another little step along the bear hunt. I may stumble and trip, but bit by bit I'm getting there. It's still a beautiful day. I'm not afraid!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Hope, Faith and Guilt

Thank you to everyone who has enquired after me. I realise I've not posted recently and I would love to say it's because I have been out enjoying life with my boys, and the world of twuntdom has disappeared. Sadly it's about 50/50 enjoying life with Sprout and Bean, and the other half being stressed and anxious about the future.

It's not been possible to maintain a wholly positive outlook - I think I hit the metaphorical wall about a month ago. All the efforts to keep things normal and positive became too much, and I had to give myself a break. In fact, my solicitor instructed me to take a break before I 'cracked up', because I had to squarely face head on the reality that my family is over - and no amount of stitching it back together by always being 'nice' is going to make it ok.

She made a strong case for me taking some proper time out, seeing my GP and assessing where I am really at. With a 12 week old baby, she was worried that I've pushed myself to the cusp of PND, while suffering from anxiety as well as stress due to the relentless pestering from STBXH. His ongoing campaign to make me accept the situation with OW and speed up the divorce (on his terms of course) now feels like bullying, with pushy, nasty emails arriving as well as the constant drip drip drip of requests at handovers. I've been unable to sleep, experiencing waves of hopeless feelings, suffering nightmares and bursting into tears. Not what I want to be doing when my two gorgeous little boys are here to be enjoyed. So, to cut a long story short, she instructed his firm that I would be suspending contact for one month in order to take time out. I do feel tremendously more relaxed two weeks in, but am taking advice and have been referred for some counselling as well. I need to be well to be a good mummy first. The rest of the drama has to take a back seat to my health, no matter who that upsets really.

So far my boys haven't been upset at all, which surprised me. I expected some tears and tantrums from Sprout, but if he's noticed, he isn't too worried yet. After fretting about it all and chewing my mum's ear off about my worries, she reminded me gently that (especially where we are living) many, many children do not see their military fathers for months at a time - no-one starts saying they have been irrevocably damaged by this, or that they will stop loving the absent parent. Even without letters, skype or telephones, somehow children survive. Of course she is right, so I have unwound another notch knowing that is the case.

I did waste some precious energy worrying that people would think I was being unreasonable, unfair or malicious by asking for some time out. Then I realised that the only person who is likely to think that, is STBXH. Largely because he cannot see that the way he treats me has consequences, and therefore he is responsible, not me, for pushing things to this point. As I am resigned to the fact that he will never accept responsibility for this situation, I need to let go of worrying about his opinion of me. I ran into an old friend recently at toddler group in our small town. I've not seen her for a decade or more, but she had (as is the way with small towns) heard of my 'situation'! And she blithely informed me that "Choco, the facts speak for themselves. You don't need to be a genius to see that he has treated you and the boys appallingly". 

It's true, he has. But somehow it has taken me a full 10 months for the enormity of it all to sink in. Now I need to take the next three weeks before the week in, week out cycle of handing over the children and dealing with him face to face picks up again, to put some effort into building a solid foundation back up. Thank you for holding my hand again while I try x

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Meditating on mediation

Good morning all! Life has been rolling along since baby bean arrived, the days just seem to have been coated in butter - they slip through my fingers before I can catch hold of them - before I know it another week has passed. These have been good weeks, despite the hard work that naturally comes with a newborn. He's eating well, growing well and finally (sporadically) sleeping well. We have had our fair share of colic and inexplicable screaming bouts, but Sprout still loves his baby brother and asks for a 'Cuggle with Mummy and Baby?' every day! 

Rumbling in the background is the divorce. It's now been long enough for the heated emotions of betrayal to fade slightly, and new, more complex issues to arise. We've decided it's time for mediation. The hardest and most painful topic will be contact; how much and how often my baby bears should be going off without me. This is something I never expected to have to consider. It breaks my heart every time I time I think about the trade off that has to happen in a split family. They need a good relationship with their dad, but they also need stability, security and their mum. They are so very young that I struggle to know how much is enough (or too much) when it comes to time away from me and from our home. 

I've been talking to my health visitor for advice, and trying to reach a place where I can view the whole thing positively. It's very hard to do when my STBXH keeps popping up with solicitors letters pushing me to divorce him faster and bringing his girlfriend down to stay when he visits or dropping other painful reminders of what lies ahead into my path. It's a bitter pill indeed to think that his decision to fulfil his own needs will force me to give up the precious family time I have, so that my own children can go and be with him and his partner. There are few things that I can imagine feel more unjust. But concentrating on that feeling of injustice and pain can't be helping me. Getting angry doesn't mean you will get even - contact isn't about getting even. It's not even about me, although I have to be involved in the process. It's about my little bears and the life they are now living, also through no choice of their own. I have to keep remembering my old mantra, 'I love my children more than I hate my ex'. Actually, I need to let go with love for my ex as well. His decisions have cost him more than they have cost me. He just doesn't recognise that yet. 

Reacting to life is not the same as acting on life. I know my strongest urge right now is to react to all this pain with anger, or to run away, and deny access to the things I hold most precious to me. But this isn't an option if I want to build a happy future for us all. I need to act on what I know to be right, no matter how I feel about the cards I've been dealt. There is no magic button I can press to make me feel less rubbish about this next stage, but I do believe that if I make it through with dignity and kindness, I will be able to look back and know I played a good hand despite it all. I don't know what their father wants or will even be able to commit to when it comes to seeing the boys. He's about to start working full time, a three hour journey away, on an unpredictable shift pattern. The typical 'every other weekend and one night in the week' almost certainly won't apply. But what we've been doing (every weekend) is not sustainable for me either. I need time with my own family, when I can see my parents and friends with the children, and not have to arrange everything I do around his life. However the idea of a compromise isn't something we have a history of reaching. 

I am coping by learning about meditation, more specifically, cosmic ordering. I'm not one for new age hippie mumbo jumbo believe me. I don't think a simple affirmation will change my life. Nor do I think that saying 'I'd like one big happy family' is going to make my life rewind or rewrite itself so that the ex can come home. I don't want him to! But I do recognise that what you focus on is what you very often get. If I focus on conflict, fear, anxiety and pain, then the whole process of mediation is likely to feel very much like more of that. It takes practice to let go of fear. Daily, rigorous work in fact! Good job I don't mind putting in the effort. I will be meditating every day now, imagining my family as it is, and as I would like it to be - not a perfect nuclear unit, but a happily functional spread of people. A family that will give my boys room to grow and where they will feel loved wherever they turn. I'll focus on believing that with patience and compassion, and understanding, that we will be able to reach a positive place. I'll try really hard to ignore that little voice in my head that says 'pffft, yeah right!'