Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I was wrong.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the things in my life I used to be certain of, things that I knew for sure were absolutely true, and it turns out that I was wrong about all of them. Not about nitpicky and trivial things, like what temperature of water is best for washing dishes, but about big life stuff. Looking back now, it seems that I knew an awful lot for such a young kid.

For example, I remember very well what it felt like to fall in love as a young teenager. I knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together—I just knew it. And when we broke up, I knew it was only temporary. It was simply a matter of time until we were back together again, the way it was supposed to be. I also knew that if that never happened, my life was over and I would never be able to survive without him. Eventually, though, I had no choice but to move on, and by then I knew that I never wanted to fall in love again. Love was too painful and too unreliable. I knew I had to get married for logical, practical reasons. But I also knew that no one would ever want to marry me anyway, because I was too difficult and complicated, and because I knew I would not get married, I also knew that I would never, ever have the children I so badly wanted. So of course, it was a total surprise when I met someone who wanted to marry me. I was thrilled because I knew I had figured out the rest of my entire life and that I would never have to be alone again, and more importantly, I knew I would never be hurt again. I also knew that I was making this choice for all the right reasons and that our marriage could withstand anything, because we knew how to solve any problem that came our way. We had a Bible, a rule book, and it had all the answers for us; God would not allow us to fail. It really was a great feeling to know that I had everything about my life figured out by age 25.

And now, two kids and one separation later, I know I was wrong about everything I used to know. I also know that right now, it feels like my life is over, and that I am going to be a single mom forever. I am also going to end up living with my parents forever because there is just no way I can ever move out of here and be on my own again. I am sure of it.

Usually, I really like being right. But if it turns out that I’m wrong again, I have a feeling I’m going to be pretty happy about it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am not afraid of words.

I actually love words. They don’t scare me at all. Even the ones that are meant to scare me, like “tortured,” “blood-curdling,” and “zombie” don’t scare me. So it took me a while to figure out why writing my resume was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Every time I sat down to tackle it, I felt like I was looking into the eye of a dragon while holding a broken sword. Everything within me wanted to run away screaming.

The thing is, my resume is basically a breakdown of my work experience and job skills. And looking at it from that perspective is not very scary. It’s not supremely encouraging, but it is certainly not dragon-like. My problem is that in my head, my resume looks something like this:

“Hi, my name is Anne Marie. A long time ago, I finished college and got a science degree, and I was really proud of myself, and then I got a job I loved for a company I loved. It was a fun job, it was mentally challenging, it was in my chosen field, and I was surrounded by scientists and people with Really Big Brains. I was good at it, too. I worked really hard and got promoted within about a year and was starting to envision a career path for myself at this company. And then one day my husband decided that we should move to Ohio because he needed to pursue an employment opportunity that would allow him to develop job skills that would one day provide for our family, and like a dumbass, I believed him. So I followed his dreams to a farmland in the middle of nowhere and the only job I could find out there that was remotely related to my degree was in landscaping, so I did that. And then I became a mom and then we moved back to California and then my husband still couldn’t provide for our family because he really didn’t want to pursue the type of work he had done in Ohio after all so I took an online course and started working at night and never sleeping because I was working and taking care of the kids, and still the idiot couldn’t find a way to make enough money for me to quit my job so I kept doing it and eventually I left him because he was mean and scary on top of being stupid and now I am a single mom and it has been nearly a decade since I’ve done the kind of work I want to do but I’m not so sure that I’m really excited about it any more because now I’m a mom and I want to be home with my kids but I have to do this because I have to provide for these kids on my own and I hope I can make enough money to at least afford a small apartment but even that scares me because it costs about $80,000 a month to rent a small apartment in the Bay Area and I'm scared of small apartments in the first place because I have a dog. So anyway, I really need a job, even though my resume makes me look like I have no brains and no career drive. Won’t you please hire me?”

See, those words tell a story, and that story scares me. A lot.

But most of that story was not in the resume, so maybe the process of writing it isn't so scary after all. I still think it has great big teeth and breathes fire, though.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hitting the wall

Have you ever tried it? If you haven’t, don’t. It hurts. I've tried it with my head and I've tried it with my heart, and I still can’t decide which one is more painful.

I didn’t actually mean to run my heart into a wall. I didn’t see it coming. Ever since I left my husband and moved back home, I’ve been completely occupied with taking care of everyone else. I’ve been taking care of my son and his ADD and his behavioral and developmental problems at school and his emotional issues and outbursts of anger; I’ve been taking care of my sweet daughter who has been extremely clingy and never wants to leave my side; I’ve been taking care of legal paperwork and making sure that my custody of my children is secure; I’ve been occupied with the busywork of planning a party for my son’s birthday and an anniversary celebration for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary; I’ve spent weeks sorting and organizing the life that followed me here from Oregon in the form of a U-Haul truck filled with oddly packed boxes and bags representing a marriage that is never going to be what I wanted it to be.

And I did all of that happily, because it kept me from going over an emotional border. I didn’t want to see what was on the other side of that fence yet. I wasn’t ready to accept that there would come a point when I would have to work on Anne Marie instead of everyone else, because quite honestly, Anne Marie is the one person I really wish I could avoid. She’s flawed. She’s not quite right in the head, and she has too many dreams that will never work out right for her but that she can’t seem to let go of, and she’s doing her best at being a mom but always feels like she’s falling short because her kids need so much from her and she just can’t keep up with it all, and when you really listen to what she’s thinking within herself, she’s pretty sure that no one else on this earth will ever want Anne Marie to be their partner in life and that she’ll have to be a single parent and grandparent and great grandparent and eventually a lonely old cat lady who will be unloved and unwanted until she’s 99 even though she may only live to be 85.

But the thing that scares her most is the one thing she really doesn’t have much control over. There are lots of things she can control to some extent, of course. She can work on how she disciplines her kids and continue to mold and shape them into loving human beings who are productive members of society. She can work on her weight so that she doesn’t always feel fat and unattractive on top of everything else she always feels about herself. She can get a better job, eventually, because she really needs it, and because at least she has a college degree, and because if nothing else at least she can write well enough to put together a resume that isn’t a total embarrassment to all resumes, and eventually some employer out there will see her potential and hire her. And she can continue to help her children cope with their different emotional, psychological, and physiological issues, reassuring them all the while that they are loved and that they can depend on her to be there for them, no matter what else comes their way in life.

But the one thing she really wants is the only thing she can’t do anything about, and that’s having someone to do all of that with her. More than anything, she wants a partner in life. She wants someone who she can laugh with and watch movies with and cook dinner with and take family trips with and give hugs to and share drinks with and enjoy parenting moments with, someone who compliments her abilities and helps her be better at the hundreds of things she’s no good at so that life doesn’t always have to be so overwhelming, someone who is her best friend, someone to love. But there is no to-do list that she can check off for finding that person. It’s something she isn’t even ready for, and she can’t find until she is ready, but in order to be ready she will first have to pay attention to herself and build up her self esteem until she can manage to believe, even for a minute, in the possibility that someone like that may exist for her, and even more unbelievably, he might actually like her. She doesn’t believe that yet, can’t accept it, no matter how many people tell her that she’s wrong and that she’ll be amazed at what life has in store for her.

And that’s when it happened. When I finally took the time to slow down for a few minutes and think about myself and what I hope for in my life, I hit the wall.

Yeah, it hurt. Pretty badly. And it probably will for a while. But I do have wonderful friends and family who love me to help me through this rough patch, and hopefully I will meet a more confident, self-assured woman on the other side.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Why is it that I have this very quiet, but very persistent tape recording running through my head that keeps telling me I'm unlovable?

I know it's there. It's the part of my brain that keeps telling me that relationships don't work out for me like they do for other people, that it is impossible for my life to become what I want it to be, that I am probably on the verge of spending many, many years alone, or possibly decades, and that if I ever did meet anyone who I wanted to have a relationship with, they wouldn't want me anyway. I'm not worth the effort.

I don't like to admit that this subliminal message is constantly running through the fibers of my innermost thoughts, that it's arguing with me every time I dare to hope or dream for love to find me one day. But I know it's there, and it's real, and it's something I have to fight against. That battle is more difficult, though, when reality keeps staring me in the face, telling me that I am alone because there is something wrong with me.

The irony of it is that I'm not at all alone. That part of my mind, the part that tells me I'm alone and unlovable, has probably been there for most of my life, but it does not comprise the whole of my thoughts. I have another half of my brain that can break down that argument logically, point by point, and remind me that I am already loved. I have two beautiful children who love me. I am surrounded by family who love me. I have friends who love me, and I have friends who are more than family to me who also love me. Even the husband I just left still loves me. I know I'm surrounded by love, and I keep reminding myself of that reality, trying every day to wrap myself in its warmth and comfort, reassuring myself that love is everywhere around me. I sometimes think of this song and use it as a tool to remind myself of the ever constant presence of that love, but more often than not, I just end up in tears, feeling lonely and forlorn, and again, for no good reason at all, unloved and unlovable.

This is one of the things I have just begun to work through in counseling, this tape recording of negativity and eternal loneliness. I know that this is an essential part of the journey that life has laid out before me right now, and I know that one day, I'll reach the other side and look back on this time in my life, possibly even reread this blog entry, and wonder how I could have ever been so foolish as to think that love was impossible for me to find. But I also know that there is a long, painful, and difficult road between here and there that I have to travel, and sometimes, it feels like all I need is a someone to hold me and tell me it's going to be okay before I can dust myself off and get back on that familiar road again.

That's when I find myself eternally thankful for love from my friends and my family, who are there for me on every step of this journey of personal discovery and growth. I couldn't do it without them and I love them all.

And ultimately, it may be that the way to convince myself that I am loved is to know that I love. Of that, I am certain; I do love many people, all for different reasons, but each of whom hold their own special place in my heart. And maybe the real lesson I need to learn is that it's not the love that we seek from others that is meant to carry us through these difficult times, but the love we give away.