“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt – it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.”

6 Jan

I’ve been writing a post for a week in my head, scattered across my brain like elastics on a nightstand. Visualize the crumpled paper surrounding me as furiously I write. Or rather, envision the multiple “draft” posts hanging around behind this one.

I’ve spent this week, blissful quiet at my boyfriend’s house, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, home to more potatoes and tractors than people. I’ve stuffed the cloistered maws of the wood stoves, played with his new kitten, cooked and cleaned and played entirely too much Civ IV. I’ve taken baths before he comes home from work, drank too much rye, stared into the gorgeously setting sun out his front window as the kitten purred itself to sleep.

I’ve spent the better part of a week inside my head, testing. Could I live alone? Could I wake mornings with only my voice calling, with perhaps a cat entwining itself in my ankles? Could I conceive of someday making a home again, alone? Could I walk away from the live I have now, and start fresh as I’ve been pondering.

I think now that I can.

Granted, this has not been “alone” by any means. My love came home to me each night, was with me in the morning as he blinked through the alarm and I snuggled farther down in the Brunswick sheets. But this has been close to the blank page of a life I missed out on, and desperately crave.

Maybe I’m a bad mother to imagine myself away from my children, in the capable hands of their father. Maybe I’m a fool for wanting to just pass the house keys over to him, take my books and my bed and flee. Maybe I’m a rotten person since none of this bothers me. Maybe I’ve been listening to The Suburbs too much, and I’m missing something that never was.

Maybe I just want to be happy.

I have felt more content this week than I have in years. Not because I’m with the man I love-but despite that. Because I feel like this week, I have heard my voice, and my mind more than I’ve been able to in nearly forever. I’ve had a chance to breathe, let my heart open, face head on the decision I need to make, and soon. I’ve been settled, warm in myself.

I have missed this feeling, if I ever knew it before.

I keep asking myself, “Do you want them? Are they best with you?” and the answer I keep coming up with is a pensive, lonely

No.

I’m not happy with them. I’m snarky, I’m tired and pissy, I’m resentful and sometimes I think I’m just plain mean. I am tired of sacrificing for them, for the idea of them. I am tired of being someone’s mother. But then, the sheer weight of culture sits upon my shoulder and yells “omfgIcannotBELIEVEyou’reeventhinkingthis! BAD MOMMY! BAD!”

and suddenly, you know, I’m back to when Ros was a baby and all I wanted to do was die or at least give her away so I could go back to how things were, before and now I can’t help but wonder if I had the right idea then? I can feel my feet firm in that skin, circa April 2005, and it’s scary because it’s almost like I knew, on some level I knew-

I just can’t do it.

***

I open my facebook and see the updates of an old friend, more of an acquaintance now really. She’s recently had her first child, a boy, and while I’m over the moon happy for her, I’m almost sullenly jealous. Her pictures, her updates, her eyes-it’s the life I wanted, and just…couldn’t grasp or create or let happen. She’s happy with him, her husband is happy with him and I can’t help but feel rage over the fact that I never had that weightless joy with my children or family. I remember anger,and hurt, yelling, confusion, But not much joy, none that I didn’t force feed and squeeze every inch out of.

I wanted that so badly, I see that now. But I just couldn’t. And now, with no more children ever, it will never happen and fuck me if I’m not mourning that loss now too. Or again.

I did it all wrong. And somehow I feel like since I can’t do it right, my version of right, then I shouldn’t be doing it at all. I miss the mother, the woman, the person I should have been.

They deserved better after all. Or at least, less yelling.

***

It’s fucking scary, you know? The thought of moving, leaving the city for another, taking the few things I give a shit about and just going. The nearly revelatory idea of a mother being the parent who sees them for a few weeks in the summer, the odd weekend here and there, sending money every two weeks, and a little extra for birthdays and holidays.

I wonder (frequently, and out loud, to the chagrin of my lover I’m sure) if this urge to leave isn’t intricately linked to the fact that I would have been about Vivian’s age when my mother got sick, and I’m rapidly approaching the point where I have no idea how to parent, and all I know from that age is fear and loneliness and attempts to be brave. I’m scared that I’m letting my past define these changes, that my fear, my aching terror is something I’m going to do to them myself, that I’m going to leave them, and this time it’s going to be on purpose and fuck me it’s going to hurt them no matter what and there isn’t enough poetry in the world to soothe this one…

or maybe, their father will be all the things I cannot be, and can take the slack for awhile, hold the reins, and someday, things will be better and easier and I’ll know the answers by rote.

***

A year ago he left me, or us. I had been planning on leaving him, and he beat me too it, or had bigger cajones, I’m not sure. But this week, a year ago, is when he physically left me, and I closed my front down and crumpled and sobbed my dreams out of me. A broken record, a poor plan, the fucked up shards of a life I had to put back together. And here I am a year later, planning my own leave taking, him back in the house he never wanted with the kids we never planned for. My eyes on a future blind again, no right path, no safety.

No net. But no shackles either.

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14 Responses to ““What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt – it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.””

  1. hodgepodgeandstrawberries January 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I don’t know what to say.

    My heart is breaking for your girls. You know that I don’t judge you for these thoughts and the decision it sounds like you’ve made. I’ve said here before that I can see why you would want their father to have primary custody for a while, and why that might not be a bad idea. But just reading this made me lonely, and sad, in a way I can’t quite express and don’t feel right commenting on.

    I hope that if you do move, you keep in close touch with the girls. You may think that all they see is your stress, and your anger, but I promise you that’s not the case.

  2. sweetsalty kate January 6, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    This was beautiful. I have more to say, but not here. xo

  3. Kim January 6, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    No one can tell you what is right or isn’t right for you. Only you know that, and you know it already, deep in your gut. I was born to be a mom. I know that. Even when they piss me off and I yell and scream and scare the living shit out of them, they are still my heart and my soul. My sister wasn’t, and shouldn’t have been. And if she had half the cajones that it takes to leave for THEIR good, they would have been spared a lot of shit that will take years of therapy to undo. I also have friends that ponder, should we/shouldn’t we have kids and I feel that if you don’t truly know in your gut, then don’t do it.

    You know. And no one gets to fault you for it, because no one but you knows what is best for you and your girls.

  4. Shana January 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Don’t trust what you see on Facebook, Thordora. Most people only put their happiest, sweetest images on there. All you get to see are other mothers’ rainbows and puppies, and you won’t ever hear about all their hard times – which are probably more similar to your own than you might realize.

    I always marvel at the phoniness (I don’t mean this badly, I just can’t think of another word) of two of my girlfriends who post all this lalala everything-is-wonderful I-am-such-a-good-Christian-mother on their Facebook pages – and in reality, they scream and cry and bitch to me about their kids, their husbands, everything in their lives. It’s such a Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde world.

    People struggle with parenthood, period. It’s the toughest job ever, and it pays zilch (actually, we wind up spending buckets of money). We only reveal a certain amount of those struggles to others. Other times, we rant on websites like yours (thank you). You’re not alone. But I am so glad you have experienced pockets of joy like you describe here.

    Hang in there. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

  5. Bad Mummy January 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    I’ve had those feelings. Those thoughts that lead me to think that I’m not the right mum for my kid. That she’s better off with her daddy who lives and breathes to play with her.

    But I’m starting to see the truth these days. That, when I’m able to take care of myself, I’m better able to take care of my daughter. I think that you’ve not been able to take care of yourself (self-care, putting yourself first) for a very long time. And that you’re so exhausted from taking care of others you only see the solution as not having to take care of anyone anymore.

    Please know that I absolutely do not judge you for wanting to walk away from parenting. And that no decision you make is permanent.

  6. Meaghan January 7, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    I think that every mother who has ever lived has had times where all she wanted to do was run away from her kids and her life that she’s built around them. I know I have. And frankly, I think anyone who says otherwise is probably lying.

    Listen, thank you for writing. Thank you for writing this, and all of the other things I’ve seen you write since I found your blog. It really means a lot to me to read this, because it makes me feel more normal. It’s hard being the only mom who thinks every day that I’d be better off (and so much happier) alone, childless, free.

  7. Marcy January 8, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    I love the title.

    I don’t have any evidence that their father would be any better for them — nothing you’ve written in the past indicates that he takes kindly to responsibility and affection, for example.

    You certainly need more you space — whether that means giving up custody or making some other kind of arrangement I don’t know.

    I still wonder what would change if there was a way you could pursue your career goals — surely the current job saps your soul, and maybe that’s more the culprit than the kids are.

    You’ve never waxed poetic about the current job, but you have about the kids — how much of that is wishful thinking, willfulness, squeezing, and how much is heart-blurts, I don’t know.

    In the first two months or so I so desperately wanted to undo our child. And yet, for me, adopting her out was never a real option — it would have haunted me, knowing she wasn’t undone or undoable, just somewhere else.

    You know, a river’s banks are only smooth because of friction.

    I wish you wisdom, clarity, more possibilities in the middle of the two options, rest, and replenishment.

  8. Bon January 8, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    you are an exceptional writer, Thor, and yet under the narrative there’s a gap in the logic that i don’t quite know how to put my finger on. not that i don’t think you might need the freedom of a break, even a long break, desperately.

    and i don’t really believe in safety, so the casting yourself out there doesn’t fundamentally freak me out. and yet, and yet.

    i re-read and i know what it is. something in this has the logic of a suicide note. the logic, not the content. for all you sound happier, much happier…it’s the casting of the girls as better off without you, and of your ex, suddenly, as capable. it’s the despair and escapism as solution.

    life patterns and thought patterns stay with us, but they don’t always help find productive solutions.

    just sticking my nose in or neck out to ask whether any of that resonates, and if you have anyone who might be able to help you untangle that? if you were interested?

    • Shana January 8, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      Bon… um, what?

      This doesn’t read at all like a suicide note. I agree with you that there’s a gap in logic, but to me, it’s that Thor is conflating a lot of different ideas that are actually separate ones, which should be dealt with separately.

      1. She enjoys the temporarily childless life she’s experiencing now. (Who wouldn’t?)

      2. She thinks that she would rather live like this than live her life as a single mom with primary responsibility, and feels guilty about it.

      3. She implies, but doesn’t say outright, that it’s unfair that society expects the mother to be primary caregiver when parents divorce. She wonders what life would be like if it were OK for the dad to be the primary caregiver, and if she were just the one doling out money on the side and seeing the kids occasionally. And then, again, she feels guilty for wondering this.

      4. She thinks that she’s unique (somewhat) among moms for feeling this way when compared with cheery Facebook friends, thus compounding the guilt, though all she needs to do is see all our comments in “I cannot handle being a mother anymore” for proof that she is normal.

      To me, all of this seems very logical and reasonable (and really well-stated, Thor). It’s just that all these ideas get jumbled and bound together by that insidious thing called GUILT, which can compound unhappiness if you let it.

      I think raising kids as a single parent is just hard, and there’s no getting around it. I highly doubt that your ex would do it better than you, but that doesn’t mean that it’s FAIR that you have to take most of the responsibility. Isn’t there a way a more equitable division of time could be worked out? E.g., if you take care of the schooldays, he has to take care of the weekends, not just a weekend here or there.

    • thordora January 8, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

      I know what you’re saying, and I worry about that as well. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if I have any other options? I can’t afford to stay in the house with my kids unless I work a shift that means I never see them…I can’t get loans to go back to school since I’m still paying off old ones..child care is nearly prohibitive since I make too much for any assistance that would be useful.

      I don’t feel like I HAVE any options is the major problems. And Guilt, like Shana says, it weighs heavy.

      I AM happy-happier and more settled than I’ve been in years. But I cannot help feeling backed into a corner with the children, and unable to find any way to provide for them. This is NOT parenting-this is barely paying the bills and making them lunches, and that’s about it.

      They deserve more than that, and yes, I believe their father, who has stepped up more and more this past year, can provide that.

      It’s terrifying though, the knowledge that my singular decision impacts so many and so much.

  9. Marcy January 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    Maybe a temporary arrangement — long enough for you to go back to school, or whatever you need to establish a better way of life.

    I’m glad dad is stepping it up — his girls deserve it.

  10. Natalie January 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    I loved and hated reading this…because it squeezed my heart and begged for easy solutions when there are none to be offered or had.

    I have more to say too….I look forward to seeing you in real life soon. xox

    No judgment, ever.

  11. marika April 25, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I have so enjoyed readeing these posts..its wonderful to be able to tap into others’ consciousness and thought processes. I’m grateful for each word.

  12. marika April 25, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    oh la la!! my very own ..my very first post! 🙂

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