This week I feel like I drove the Indy 500 every day. Maybe you’ve been there? Possibly, probably had it even more challenging?
I’ve got three kids, all in different schools which are located in three different places spread across the county. Things didn’t start this way. Originally our kids went to a school or two that were 3-4 miles from our house.
But starting about 4-5 years ago things started to shift. My wife at the time and I were not really happy with the help our youngest was receiving at her elementary school. She had an IEP and lots of challenges. The school had been fine for our previous two children, who did not have challenges like our youngest. In fact, the school seemed to be best suited for kids that were a bit on the gifted side. That worked fine for our son and first daughter.
Back then my ex-wife was a teacher at a different elementary school across on the other side of the county. It is a Title I school and the teachers and staff there had a significant amount of experience working with children that had lots of challenges. As my first daughter entered 4th or 5th grade and my youngest was going into first or second (I can’t recall now) we moved both girls to their mother’s school. The idea at the time was that the school, even though it was a Title I school and often came up on the ‘failing’ lists, it was actually a very good school with excellent teachers. We suspected the school might even be better than the school the girls had previously attended even though by the scoring system for schools, their old school was not ‘failing’.
Truth be told the old school did not have it that hard. They had a population of students that performed well in general. They did not have generational challenges. They did not have the extreme poverty challenges and more.
Meanwhile the ‘failing’ school had the latest technology and teachers and staff that were used to doing super human things just to try and keep up.
My older daughter ended up going into her mother’s class. My youngest daughter ended up going into a very close friend’s class.
There was no bussing from our side of the county to this side of the county. My ex-wife (then my wife) would drive the girls in with her everyday. It was not a whole lot of extra effort to get the girls to school. It wasn’t that much extra effort for my ex-wife that is.
Previously, I had been able to show up and run with my daughter for the Girl’s on the Run program. If I needed to get the girls for doctor’s appointments or anything, they were just 3 miles down the road.
The new school was 35 minutes away. If I had to pick them up or take them to school when my wife was sick, I’d drive over an hour back and forth, sometimes more depending on traffic.
Meanwhile our son, made it into a a great high school through a lottery program. It was also about 30 minutes away. His school was 2 interstate off ramps up from my ex-wife’s school. For the first year or two, his mother would drop him off on the way to work and pick him up afterwards.
Again if I had to pick him up, it was not on the way and he had braces and so my trips were an hour round trip.
Still while we were still married it wasn’t that much of a challenge.
We separated last year and that changed a lot. Through negotiations we decided that we would leave our youngest in the school her mother worked at. She was going into fourth grade and had two more years of elementary school. By this time my son was driving himself to and from school as well.
He drove his mother’s second vehicle and part of him being allowed to use her vehicle included that he’d help out driving his youngest sister at times. So he would drive down a couple exists and drop her off and pick her up every other week when his mother did not have custody.
His vehicle hasn’t run for a couple weeks now. Its not my vehicle and a trigger if I get involved with it.
So I’ve been driving all three kids to three different schools to and from school and then back again each day. Due to the odd start times of the schools, there is about 5-6 hours between when they get dropped off and need to be picked up again.
That does not make it easy to work a full day while the kids are at school. Understatement. Plus, as these things go the kids have lots of extra curricular activities as well so after we pick them up, more driving for that too.
So it is Thursday. I’m sitting at a soccer game after school after dropping my son off at the dentist. My ex wife is going to drop my youngest off soon here at the game.
some of this explains why I have put about 21k miles on my car since last August.
I’m not complaining. Not really. Just venting.
There’s no easy way to let all this driving go. I get to spend a lot of extra time with the kids. That is a good thing and gives me a lot of chances to talk with them. We have some great conversations while driving, but its still while driving. Its not complete quality time.
I’ve found ways to destress by hiking in the morning every now and then after dropping them off and before starting work. It’s a consolation type of thing.
But all this driving….
Its hard on the cars. I’m burning through tires, brakes, need the air conditioner recharged and a tuneup and time for that too is challenging.
Plus, by the time I get them all home, I then have to race with supper and also trying to squeeze in getting work done in the evening, things I couldn’t get done during the day.
Fast forward a few hours
My daughter’s soccer team just won the county playoff game.
We had a great supper of homemade lasagna. Its been a couple years since I made a lasagna, and this one turned out better than expected. I had made it during the afternoon between trips and let it cool off while I picked up my son and later watched the game.
Since it had cooled off it was a bit on the orange side, but tasted excellent!
One of the improvements I have made in family life after the separation is having family dinners almost every evening. For years and almost a decade we had not done these often. We had even put our dining room table into storage and had tended to eat at the couch in front of the tv or sometimes on the dock by the lake, but rarely together as a family focusing on each other. I am very happy and grateful that I started doing this. It has been a positive improvement and helped us all. We tend to eat breakfast mostly together as well.
I type this addendum from an auditorium. My daughter, the same one playing soccer earlier, has a band concert tonight. She is in eighth grade and the 6th grade and 7th grade bands are going first. Sixth grade just played and seventh grade is warming up.
We have had a lot of family moments and memories in this auditorium with my son playing here three years and now Zoe finishing her third. I have to admit that I am a little hyperaware that I am sitting with my kids and their mother is not sitting with us. She may be here or not. I invited her to dinner as we were all running late. She didn’t respond. I did not expect one, but trying to find ways to break the ice and figure out how to coparent.
Right now we continue to work as part time single parents with occasional help from the other. I am not saying that to be critical of either of us. It is simply what we are capable of at this stage about a year from the separation. Some day I hope we grow beyond this and function more like the parenting team we used to be. We will never be a couple again, but we will always be parents.
Sometime soon I need to start studying more about coparenting. Classes and counseling have not been an option yet, but I can study on my own.
Seventh grade getting ready to start while a thunderstorm gets ready to go as well…
Deep sigh. One more band to go. I made it to yoga this morning for the second time this month. I was able to renew my monthly membership after a two month hiatus. Vacation followed by financial challenges and even more than both of those, schedule challenges led me to take almost two months off.
One of the best things I did a year ago today was start attending yoga classes in a studio five to six days a week. I kept this up until mid March. It was excellent for me spiritually, mentally and physically and in that order.
Today’s yoga practice was excellent and I left walking out with that soul shine, glowing feeling. Two days in and I am already feeling ten times more grounded and things are working in my life much easier than even a week ago.
Yoga does not take away the pain. It does allow me to deal with the pain in the present and not overburden myself with the pain of the past or the projected, potential pain in the future.
I am beyond happy that I was able to get back to this, giving myself this mental and spiritual boost, plus I like having abs. Maybe after a couple more weeks, they will return.
The final band, my daughters band is preparing to go and I am preparing to go as well.
Earlier tonight I read a quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”
That is also what I have done for the last year and even now. This helps me heal and exorcise inner demons better than anything I know.
Thank you for following along. I trust you will join me in finding what works for you!
Late Night Postcript
The evening is over. My kids are tucked in bed and asleep for the last hour or more. It has been a good day. It has been a good week. Good things have happened all week long.
The week was not easy. It was not easy by far. I did good things for myself. I did good things for my children. I did good things for my business. I have done good things for my clients this week.
I am not looking to coast in life. I am not looking for a free ride. I trust that with hard effort, I will be able to make my life easier. I have trusted in this idea for a long time, all of my life. It has not always come to be, or at least as one bit of wisdom I saw earlier this evening would have it, my bad luck could have been worse if I had not been lucky enough to avoid ‘worser’ luck!
I have a lot to be grateful for. I am healthy. My kids are healthy. My girlfriend is healthy. Heck, as far as I know even my ex-wife is healthy! Life is progressing. I am on a new path and it seems uncertain at times, seems trying and difficult and I bend and bend until I feel like I will break.
But I do not, or at least I haven’t in months. 🙂
I’m still healing from last year. I am getting stronger, and I am a better person for having put so much effort into my healing.
I am extremely grateful that I no longer have writer’s block.
As I heal, I still feel pain about what could have been. I feel pain about what I thought would be. I feel pain about what I thought existed in my old relationship.
Days like today, remind me that my family is not the family I thought it was. The family is not the family I thought I had a year ago. That family had not existed for several years. I missed the moment when my ex-wife checked out. It might have been two years ago. It might have been three years ago. It might have been seven years ago. It might have been before we even married in 1993.
Yet, I do know the family I have right now. It is the same family I was taking care of a year ago and the year before that and that and that. I am a single father half the time, and half the time I am a father whose kids live with their mother.
I did not want this for myself. I definitely did not want this for my kids. It is good to know. It is better to know where I stand with their mother after all of these years.
We are not married. We are not coparents. We are not friends.
Every one of those statements hurts, but they are truth. I never wanted a lie. I never wanted the truth hidden from me. A year ago that truth was revealed to me. It was shocking in many ways. I think the shock might have been part of what damaged me the most at the time.
I could rationalize so much. I could empathize with so many decisions she made. I did not agree with them. I would have loved to have been a part of them. I would have loved to be part of trying to heal things before they were fractured. But I could understand.
Intellectually, I got it.
The emotional shock of the truth that was revealed after so many months and years of covering up the truth, lying, living a secret life, not sharing or being able to communicate things to me, the shock of it being revealed within just a few days…
I do not know how I survived that part. I did. I am living testament. I did it. I know I did. I can even remember many of those days, hours, minutes and seconds unfolding one after the next after the next….
Its the strolls into the past memories that are the most dangerous, dangerous for recovery. We need to take those strolls. We need to know where we came from and better understand who we are and where we are going and what we are capable of achieving.
Its easy to get caught up in that past though.
Tonight I remember it, because today I tasted that detachment again. I had no reason to expect anything less. I did not want anything more.
Its like being hypnotized by a serpent. You stare into the eyes of the serpent, in this case the eyes of the serpent represent the detachment of the woman I loved for twenty three years, and you are temporarily lost and burned at the same time.
I was slowly boiled alive for decades, not realizing that I was being heated, then scalded then boiled and cooked. Now, I’ve climbed out of the pot.
But at times, I’m still acclimated to the boiling water.
I ran myself rampant this week. I was going so quickly to and fro just trying to keep up, just trying to keep my head above water.
It was working. I was succeeding. It was one of the better weeks I had had in over a month with my family and professionally too.
And I metaphorically glanced at the serpent and was back in a trance. It only lasted about 3 seconds in real life. In those three seconds though, it all flashed before my mental eyes again. I didn’t relive it. I didn’t spin up the cycle of grief again, not this time.
But the awareness came back, and I quickly felt the wisdom of 369 days wash over me all at once. (I do not really count the days. It just happens that the anniversary passed recently so I only had to add 4 days.)
I’m not sure what reawakening that wisdom gives me, other than the knowledge that I’m not going back to my past.
that’s probably enough. I didn’t intend to go back. I see the idea float through the minds of my children often. Its a larger dream than awaiting Santa Claus on the night before christmas. Its the dream of Mommy and Daddy becoming Mommy and Daddy and living together as a big happy family again.
I can empathize with my children in that dream. But in their dream, they do not see the vacant sign that I see. They do not see the things that were hidden behind the false smiles from the past.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain why that dream can never be.
The shock of that truth was almost unbearable for me last year. Its not a truth I’m prepared to share with the kids anytime soon.
So again, I end this. Its been a good day. It has not been an easy day. Many wonderful things happened today all day long. Along the way a whole lot of life happened as well. I was aware of it. I lived it. I remember it. I have processed it. I have learned from it. I am better for it.
As I go to sleep now, I think tomorrow will be an even better day. I will go easy on myself tomorrow. I’m not going to live quite so hard. I am definitely not going to reflect as much. I need that break. And I will focus so much more on building my new life and my new me! So again, I trust you will join me in building your own and doing a great job of it!