664 Kilometres

On Tuesday my daughters will be leaving for 7 days with their father and travelling north of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Weeks like this are always very difficult for me; it’s been three years since my marriage ended and it still hurts like hell whenever my girls have to be away. 

The first time I had to say goodbye to my daughters for a full week was in August of 2016. I wrote something that day that I’d like to share here. The feelings may be slightly less raw now, but the heartache is just as present.


August 5, 2016

My ex just left to take our daughters away for the week. They’re travelling 664 kilometres away to Havilland Bay, 40 minutes north of Sault Ste Marie. That’s a 7 hour drive, give or take, and it’s 7 hours too far.

The reality of having to share our daughters…my daughters…hits home today more than any other. Because this moment will be one that I have to relive again and again and again as we now become “co-parents” instead of husband and wife, Mommy and Daddy. 

And yes, I made the choice to leave my unhappy marriage. I chose to walk away and accept this new, awful reality, because I have faith that ultimately, we will all be happier and healthier. If I had stayed a wife, I would have continued to suffer in what felt like a jail sentence instead of a marriage. And so my daughters would have suffered too. 

But this feeling…this new reality where I have to share my daughters with someone who betrayed me, used me, lied to me, cheated on me, ignored me, forgot about me, disrespected me…I can hardly bear it. 

To watch him show up in his new car, with his now stylish clothes, a new haircut and cool sneakers… To listen to him tell me about how important it is that I make sure he and his family have more time with the girls… To wave goodbye while he drives away with those two precious beings… To smile for my girls, despite the pain inside… What do I do with these feelings??

Two years is what my lawyer told me. 

Two years is what my counsellor told me.  

Two years until it stops feeling this way. 

Two years until this is “normal”. 

Two years until I’m okay. 

In this moment, it’s hard to believe that life will ever be okay, because although I left my unhappy marriage, I will never leave my children’s father. And they deserve to know him and love him, but damn I want so much for them to understand why I made the choices that I did; understand the hurt and shame and pain that he caused me. That he caused our family. 

664 kilometres is much too far between me and who I love most, and yet 664 kilometres will never be far enough away from the man who hurt me most. 


Well, I’m calling bullshit on the whole “Two years and you’ll be better” thing. Two years is nothing! It’s been THREE years since my official date of separation and I’m still hurt and angry! I still don’t trust my daughter’s other parent. I’m still in therapy and on psychiatric medication and trying to stop struggling so much! Things are getting better in some ways, but I don’t know how long it will take for me to be able to enjoy the time I have apart from my girls and not have it be so tainted with resentment and fear.

I didn’t want to be a part-time parent, but that’s how it’s ended up. I will always, always stand by the statement that choosing to have THIS life is better than the one I left behind, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult every day.

664 kilometres is still too far between me and who I love the most, but I have no choice but to accept it and try my best to get through the days until my heart comes back to me.

xxJ

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) – ee cummings

Home for a Rest

For the last few weeks, my counselling has been focusing on discussions about rest. Specifically, I’ve been working on re-framing my definition of what rest is and allowing myself to rest when I need to.

Before now, and in the black and white delineations of my mind, rest became something that represented weakness. I learned to believe that I only had worth if I was busy and active. And the only excuse for resting was exhaustion or illness. Sounds healthy, right?

How many of us push ourselves constantly to keep going? How many of us don’t take advantage of restful moments because we’re too anxious or have too many expectations placed on us to be constantly engaged?

In my previous relationships, I expected myself (and was expected by my partners) to be available and ready for action at all moments. I was also burdened with the vast majority of the physical and emotional labour in those relationships, which meant that restful moments were few and far between, and that when I did rest, it was out of utter exhaustion as opposed to simply taking a break or relaxing. It was so bad that I actually forgot how to relax entirely! I remained in a hyper-vigilant mode of awareness constantly. I was always, always tired, but could never rest.

I’m still so incredibly tired. I’m still doing the majority of the physical and emotional work for my family. I’m still anxious a lot and I still have this tendency to try and fill all the hours of all the days and then crash afterwards…

But I’m learning how to do things differently. My need for rest is being validated and supported in the therapy I’m doing, which is going a long way towards my acceptance of its validity. I am trying to no longer feel guilty for needing to rest. I’m trying to take advantage of the time I have to relax and recuperate. I’m coming to understand that rest is, in fact, productive! No, seriously!

Think of it this way: in order to be productive, you need to have energy. And how do we get energy? Well, by eating good foods, drinking water, and resting. If we don’t take our downtime seriously, how can we have enough “umph” to keep going and accomplish the things we need or want to do?

My counsellor and I are working to change my thinking to reflect this kind of understanding. Not only do I have the time right now to engage in some really solid rest, my body is also telling me that I need it. A decade or more of being burdened with unfair and incredibly heavy expectations has taken its toll; mama needs a good sleep and to put her feet up or take a nap otherwise she can’t function!

I know I’m fortunate to have time to rest right now. I’m already thinking ahead to the fall when I’m going to be busier (I’m going back to school…yay!) and will have more to worry about. But fuck that anxiety, because I’d rather focus on taking advantage of the time I have now and using it the best way that I can. And instead of thinking that that means doing a million things everyday and never sitting down or catching my breath, I’m thinking that I might take a nap instead. I might enjoy a crossword puzzle, or have a mindful snack. Maybe I’ll watch some Netflix or take a walk. Snuggle up with a book or cuddle under the covers.

Rest is not my enemy. Resting doesn’t make me weak. My value doesn’t come from how much I can get done in a day; it comes from tuning in and responding authentically to the needs my body presents to me. It comes from being my authentic self and showing up in all the ways I need to, including times of rest.

What do your restful moments look like?

How does getting enough (or NOT getting enough) rest affect your mental and physical health?

Who else wants to go take a nap right now?

xxJ

Yep, it’s definitely nap time.

I Can’t Look at the News

I can’t look at the news right now. Not the real, factually-based news, not the “infotainment” news, not the “I have an opinion” news, not even the “cute puppy dogs/cats/penguins/hedgehogs/[insert adorable animal here]” news.

I’ve had this problem for a very long time… I absorb news like a like a sponge absorbs water; it saturates me and weighs me down, changing my shape and viscosity, until it overwhelms me. Even when I try to tune it out, I always ended up taking it on.

I just can’t look at it! And it’s not because I don’t want to know what’s going on…in fact, I want desperately to know what’s going on! I already feel isolated enough being the only adult in my home almost 100% of the time (read: I’m a strong, independent single mom, but some adult conversation would be nice every once in a while, you know?) and I don’t want to shut myself off from my local community or the global one.

—When I look at the news, it makes me hold my breath and not want to let it go.

The world fucking sucks right now. And I say that as I’m personally just beginning to reach a period of “wellness” I haven’t touched in over a decade! I may be doing better overall as an individual, but what I see when I look at the news is monumentally depressing and disparaging. The images and stories of hope are far outweighed by the atrocities of our species’ loss of humanity. Greed and selfishness pervade all areas of society and the wealthy few make the same bold and egotistical decisions again and again to set themselves apart from the everyday people who are the backbone of our community and who simply want a life that falls into the category of manageable.  

I’m afraid that my children are facing a future of war and famine. I’m afraid that countless many will suffer horribly before our privileged selves will begin to crack and crumble. I’m afraid that I won’t see my grandchildren and that too many foolish egomaniacs will take too much and hurt too many.

I see our waters contaminated and our air polluted. I see our forests desecrated and our animals annihilated. I see hate-mongering and gaslighting; victim-blaming and victim-shaming. Women are losing their rights, children are being placated by sugar and screens, and men aren’t being allowed to feel feelings or put their egos aside.

When I look at the news, it makes me hold my breath and not want to let it go.

I try to tell myself that I can keep trying to live the best life I can and that it’s enough to do that, but I think that’s just false optimism at this point.

You know when you get into an argument with someone and you have this feeling—this unshakable awareness that you are unequivocally in the right—but no matter how hard you try to prove it, your opponent simply remains unmoved? That insanely frustrating and perplexing kind of experience? Well, there are so many voices screaming solutions out into the world right now and the solutions seem so incredibly obvious, yet things seem to keep getting worse!

We celebrate Kim and Kanye having another baby, an adorable dog performing perfunctory CPR on his handler, or the [possible] reunification of Brad and Jen *gasp*!

Wow.

Are any of those truly worthy of celebration? Is that where our focus should actually be?

Fuck no! And we know it!

We fucking know better! We do!

I dare someone to tell me that they don’t know what would improve humanity. Tell me about a time when you felt deeply moved or deeply connected—I guarantee that time did not involve celebrity gossip or superficial internet memes. We know that quality time with people we care about is insanely important. We know that eating healthy food grown in healthy ways is the best thing for our bodies. We know that we need to have quality sleep and get outside. We know that we need hobbies that inspire us and communities that support us.

We know that love really is all we need, because that statement, although seemingly trite in its Beatles-mania lyricism, evokes a deep sense of knowing that love means love for all and that love means respect and honesty. Love means empathy and awareness; it’s about giving generously and receiving humbly. It’s about connection and it’s about togetherness. It’s putting ego aside and humbling ourselves to not only hear what needs we can fulfill, but also spurning ourselves into taking action.

I may not seek out news in any form for the foreseeable future, and I’m aware that I may miss out on some details that may be interesting or informative. But somehow, the important stuff always seems to trickle in, so I’m not really worried about missing the big stories that need real attention. I’ll continue to try to live in a way that betters the world. No, I’m not ready to give up my safe home or the beautiful natural space that surrounds it. I’ll admit selfishness on that part… but I will challenge myself to life with a conscious mindfulness of how my life impacts everyone else’s. I’ll move slower and more deliberately, and teach my children to do the same. I’ll challenge myself to stay accountable. I’ll create and I will grow; I’ll enjoy simple pleasures and seek to find a like-minded community. I’ll live like love is what really matters, because it does and it is.

I can’t look at the news, but there is a hell of a lot I can do. It’s about fucking time I did it, and so did you.

xxJ

Look to the skies, look to the trees, listen to your heart. News be damned…we all know what we need to do.