Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disappointment Recovery Specialist

That is the best job description I can think of for the year I am leaving behind.

If you take a look at my resume, you’ll find a very strange blend of experience that includes pharmaceutical report writing, medical transcription, and landscaping. I can break that bizarre combination down into specific skill sets and polish it up a bit, but that is essentially what I’ve done with my life over the past 12 years, and it tells a large part of the story of my marriage.

In addition to my work experience, however, I have spent the last year focusing on my new specialty, Disappointment Recovery. This is a broad description that spans across every category of my life. It covers such events as the ending of my marriage, the few times I’ve had high hopes for a new relationship that all end abruptly with unhappily never after, and the resumes I’ve sent out in search of a job that hasn’t come my way yet. I’ve become exceptionally good at getting all excited about varying levels of false hope, holding on to it like there’s a chance that it might actually represent something good about to happen in my life, and then having it yanked out from under me so that there’s nothing left for me to stand on but more false hope, more wishes for that hope to bring something good into my life, and more recovery from the disappointment that follows when it turns out to be nothing, at all.

Disappointment Recovery is a skill, really, a very valuable life skill. I’ve been learning about it in therapy for the past year. It involves overused and clich├ęd terms like self-esteem, codependency, and positive affirmation. It means that you have to keep telling yourself, over and over and over and over and over and over again, that there is nothing wrong with you. The reason things aren’t working out for you they way you think they should is because the people that keep disappointing you are simply looking for something you don’t have, something you don’t need because it’s not a part of who you are. The skills and the qualities and the love that you have are still valuable, and you can’t let these experiences negate their worth. You just aren’t the right fit for that job, that relationship, that circumstance. Yes, of course it feels like you’re the problem when nothing in your life seems to come together, but that’s an illusion, a lie you must choose not to believe. It’s simply about timing and circumstance. You just have to keep trying until you find the timing and circumstances that will help you assemble the life you want.

What I’m really learning about myself through my ongoing adventures in Disappointment Recovery is that I’m made of a combination of iron and glass. I’m strong enough to walk out of an abusive marriage, to make the necessary choice to protect myself and my kids, and to start a new life that will give us all more peace and love and happiness. As my kids and I navigate the path to that new life together, I’m strong enough to keep taking all of the blows of disappointment that life keeps giving me, absorbing their impact, and then getting up, licking the wounds, and starting over, again, and again, and again. I’m strong enough to handle the disappointment and the heartache; I continue to find new ways to manage my Disappointment Recovery and keep coming back for more. But inside of that solid iron exterior is caged a delicate blown glass heart that shatters easily with each painful impact, and it's my iron will that resolves to do the work of putting those fragile pieces back together each time they crumble. I’m frustrated with myself for being so sensitive to all of these disappointments. I want to let them roll off of the iron cage, but they continue to penetrate through the bars every time. And every time, I keep getting back up and starting over, because I have to; because I have kids who depend on me to provide for them; because I’m a fighter and not a quitter; because I’m too smart and educated and experienced to simply give up on the hope of having a great job that I enjoy; because deep inside I still believe that I’m going to find love again one day; because my life is worth the pain of this repeated effort; and because eventually, I won’t have to specialize in Disappointment Recovery anymore. I’ll be able to draw from that experience on the occasions when I need it, but instead of hitting me like a brick wall each time, disappointment and heartache will land softly in the middle of the life I’ve built for myself and my kids that gives us contentment, peace, and love.

Tomorrow is my 39th birthday, and I’m going to approach it as a new beginning. When I wake up, I’ll strap on my iron bra, gently collect the fragile pieces of my glass heart, and do more of the work of assembling the life that I know is still out there waiting for me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Biohazard Blog

It's been almost a year since I left my husband, and about ten months since I started this blog. I started it at that time because I wanted to write about the trials and joys of single parenting. I made one significant mistake, though: I thought I KNEW something about single parenting.

It's easy to think that after years of being trapped in a marriage where you shouldered so much more than your fair share of the parenting responsibility. And it's true that I was always the primary caregiver for our children, and that the things I tried to accomplish for them were often made much more difficult by the lack of unity between myself and my husband. What I didn't know is that actually being a single parent, all by myself, with divorce papers in hand and without any hopes or expectations from anyone else, would be the scariest thing I have ever faced in my life.

A year ago, I really thought I was ready for the journey of single parenting. I thought I was already most of the way there, and that all I needed was a couple of months to recuperate from the traumatic ending of my marriage before I'd be back on my feet again. I had no idea that I was actually terrified of being alone, that I would have to overcome enormous levels of fear and anxiety about finding a job that would support myself and my kids financially, or that I was going to be so utterly miserable with my own company. I just wanted to be that Power Mom who could do it all and doesn't let anyone or anything stop her, and I thought that if I tried hard enough, I would be, any day now... I kept trying to move ahead and sort out my newly single life, but without making any real progress. It was like trying to plow a field with a rusty old tractor that is out of gas and missing a transmission.

As a result of that process, however, I learned a few things about myself. I learned that you can't place a timeline on the healing process for a heart that has been neglected, broken, and abused for so long. I learned how to take care of my kids on my own but also that it's easier if I have support from friends and family. I learned how to find more enjoyment from things that my husband didn't want me to do while I was married, like reading books and listening to music. I learned more about my own spirituality, and about how I want to raise my kids. Most importantly, though, I learned that being a single parent isn't something that you know how to do until you have to do it, by yourself, without a spouse, in a place that looks frightening and lonely and intimidating until after you've waded around in the shallow end of the water long enough to try out the deep end of the pool, and maybe even contemplate a jump off of the diving board.

Parenting is a journey more than anything else. Our kids grow and change before our eyes every day, and as parents all we can do is try to keep up with the whirlwind of metamorphosis that we have given birth to. I certainly can't say that I have arrived in my journey as a single mom. What I can say is that I've finally figured out how to begin that journey. I'm at a place where I have accepted that I am a single parent, and I am going to be a single parent for a long time, and that's okay because I'm a pretty decent one, and I have two of the most amazing people I have ever known to travel this journey with me every day, and of course it's not perfect, but I am honestly happy with the life I have with my kids and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The challenges and difficulties that I've been through in this past year have been almost inadvertently chronicled in this blog. I initially wanted it to be a fun and entertaining blog about being a single mom, but I didn't do a whole of things last year that were either fun or entertaining, and when I did I wasn't writing about them, so this blog has ended up being sort of like an emotional landfill. I have dumped endless negative emotion in here that I wasn't sure what to do with, and by now I think the entire blog might actually be a biohazard; I worry that my readers could pick up something nasty like anthrax if they were to hang around here for too long. But I think that I am now on the verge of some exciting changes in my life that I'm going to want to write about. I am finally excited about finding a new job instead of being scared about it, and I want to write about that. I am starting to enjoy being a mom to my kids again, and I want to write about that. I am becoming a more confident and centered version of myself, and I want to write about that. I just don't think that I want to write about it here, in a blog that feels like a toxic wasteland to me. I feel the need for a fresh start. So in that regard, I have plans to start a new blog, somewhere else, sometime soon. I have some ideas that I want to experiment with a little bit before I set something up that I hope to be happy with for a long time. When I get it ready, I'll come back here and include a link to it.

I will probably continue to post here from time to time. After all, the year of your divorce only happens once, and there may come a time when I'm glad I took the time to write about what I went through. But today isn't that day. Today is the day to start over, move ahead, and begin living the life I want instead of wallowing in the life I happen to have.