After a helluva a month, I turned a corner about two weeks ago.
I spent that morning with my anxious child’s therapist and my ex, working out how best to support her through this troubling period of constant panic attacks. (Answer: quiet compassion and tough love.) Then I was faced with an unpleasant email from my other kid’s teacher about how homework isn’t getting done (RAGE!). My employee was having cancer surgery and my other employee was sorting out a major sensory issue. Work was generally sucking and I was completely overwhelmed.
Then they screwed up my lunch order and the new order never came after waiting an hour, and so I tried to call into my 1PM meeting because I wasn’t going to make it there in time, but couldn’t get on because technology isn’t perfect and… WHOOSH. I was desperate and completely saturated with the weight of it all. Walking towards my office building, I cried, defeated. I looked up at a tree and prayed to Gord for something to change because I couldn’t take much more. It was extremely windy, and I know to be careful of what you wish for, because sometimes the Universe can’t be specific when you’re not, so I whispered, “But don’t like, drop a giant tree branch on my head or anything.”
I’m not entirely clear as to what changed in that moment. If a vessel cannot carry anymore, it has to let go or it will sink. So the vessel called Maria somehow let go. I decided in that moment that everything would somehow work out. A kind young colleague brought my revised lunch order to my desk and then sent memes to cheer me up. I successfully steered the panicky kid away from her fears via text. I went home and coached the homework kid until he had a major breakthrough. The universe just somehow tipped a quarter degree in my direction. I felt like myself for the first time in six weeks. Fun Maria is back, I thought.
All this recent hardship has made me really miss Theo and wonder if we could get back together. There are nights where I rush in and start to make dinner before even taking my coat off. The therapist suggested texting the kids on my way, telling them to put on the kettle, and then sitting down in the living room for a cup of tea before I start making dinner. I must remember to do that.
Then there’s the stuff that happens while I’m making dinner. One kid needs emotional support, the other needs homework support. Ah fuck, I burned the garlic. Wouldn’t everything just be better with another adult human next to me, sharing resources, sharing the load? What I constantly forget is that Theo is like adding a third child to the mix; a petulant teenager who wants his independence but can’t do the work to secure it. Why do I always forget this? Why do I always forget that I wanted it to work so badly, that I tried everything from micromanaging his part of the to-do list, to taking most of his responsibilities off his plate to just completely accepting him as he is and ALL OF IT added up to an unequal distribution of labour and emotional labour that left me completely in debt to myself.
And yet, when I feel completely bankrupt emotionally and energy-wise, I think, geez, it might just be nice to have him here to put the dishes away after dinner. So what if he NEVER wiped down the counters? Was that the deal breaker? I long for a hug, to have someone hold me, or to lie with my head on the chest of a man while he strokes my hair and kisses my forehead. Surely that must be worth it? In my loneliness and despair, I forget that I was lonely in my marriage as well.
“He did not love you the way you needed to be loved,” comes the voice, the story that I repeat in my head. The narrative must change, this I know. But to change it to, “He loved you the best he could and it wasn’t enough for you,” is a different kind of pain. Was the alternative to let go of the little things? Was it to accept his resentment when Fun Maria was nowhere to be found, her mind a giant pile of to-dos and post-its?
Was it to ignore that I was a growing feminist married to someone who couldn’t accept his misogyny or acknowledge his male entitlement or his privilege? How was I to continue to exist like that? I’d left Plato’s cave and seen the truth. How could I stay and watch the pantomime of shadows in the dark and pretend it was OK?
Leaving was painful, continues to be painful, but it doesn’t mean it was wrong. Sometimes I forget that it hasn’t even been two years yet.
Theo and I have had lots of heart to hearts of late, because we’ve been triaging our treasured anxious child. I think he wishes things with Mr. Saturday Night were better, that I had someone to cherish me. I want that for me too. It’s painful when he sees me spending time with someone who does not want to do the work to be with me. He knows, because he was that person. Or rather, to quote Theo himself, he did not “have the capacity” to love me the way I wanted to be loved. Neither does Mr. SN.
He tells me about his lady. I know a bit about her, because I’m a master digital sleuth. I know that Lars and Zofia introduced them. I know she has no children, but a great career and a thousand-watt smile. I think she’s smart and has the bandwidth to make him her second full-time project. They go paddleboarding together. She’s nurturing, by the sounds of it. It’s not a wild, passionate love like he and I had, but it’s a comforting stew on a slow simmer. It hurts, but I’m happy for him. She would be good for the team.
It is bittersweet, the tender way we are saying goodbye, in fits and spurts. We will need each other for a long time and it’s better to be nice to each other and to honour our 20 years of loving each other this way.
On the weekend he came over to sort the last bits of our car that is no longer, winter tires and storage racks hiding under the deck. He was going to help me build a tool shed, but we ran out of time and he made us all a chicken soup instead. The feelings of wanting him to stay were quite strong. We shine in fall when he’s not complaining about the heat and I’m not complaining about the cold. There is harmony in a season where things are ending, when the trees let go in the most beautiful way. We had dinner and so many laughs, and so many times I had to resist reaching out for him. I wanted it to be just “us” in that moment.
He went upstairs to get one kid’s bath started and his phone began to ring on the kitchen counter. I glanced over and her name was there. Our kid grabbed his phone to take it to him, “Dad! It’s your girlfriend!” We laughed awkwardly.
And then I cried, a super ugly cry. I’m a fool, I thought. I’m a fool to keep thinking that he’s ever coming back. I was ashamed. I’ve put everyone through so much and yet I would take him back if he asked in the right way.
I sought emergency counsel from my text chat with the Mommy Mafia and the plain truth came from no-nonsense Brenda. While her abrupt way of telling me what I need to hear often stings, I knew she was right. “No more playing house,” I texted Theo, “I can’t anymore. I keep hurting myself. Please let’s separate for once and for all so I can close this and move on.”
He apologized for lingering, he expressed concern that this might mean he sees the kids less.
“If it means anything, I’m TRYING to move on,” he replied, “I don’t know that I’m doing a very good job.”
But then I had a puff or two after he left and the kids were asleep (it’s legal today – woot!), and fell into a delicious sleep. There was a man in my dream, with dark hair and glasses. He was flirting with me, putting his arms around me and we were falling for each other in the dream. And the thing was that there was no fear in this dream, the falling was a feeling of butterflies but there was no ambiguity about the feelings of this man. I woke up feeling like he’s still out there, whomever he is, and remembering that I have no clue where he will come from, or when this might happen, but there is something yummy in trusting that it could happen when I least expect it.
“You are not responsible for my feelings,” I apologized to Theo. He sat on my steps while I did my hair. “But I need boundaries. I can’t count on you to do stuff for me, and you shouldn’t feel you have to. She may be cool now, but she’s not going to like it.
We are not getting back together, ever. It would make no sense. We tried that, for years, and we don’t work. I need to stop entertaining the thought.” Not speaking out loud is not my strong suit, you might have guessed.
“What if I do stuff for you when you’re not here,” Theo offered. He can’t seem to let go either, and truthfully, the well-being of the mother of his children is in his best interest.
It’s a weird fucking So You Think You Can Dance routine where we tear ourselves apart and run to the other side of the stage where we take turns freestyling, then freak out and run back to each other until one of us turns away. But the song is ending now and we need to decide what pose we are gonna finish this on, when they turn the spotlight off.
I love him. I will always love him. But he is no longer mine. And it’s time to truly let go.
“I can tell you’ve changed,” Theo said with a smile as he got up to leave one night.
“Thank you. How do you mean?”
“You seem… lighter,” he offered, shutting my front door behind him. I took it in, sitting under the glow of a new lamp I’d bought, another totem to mark how I was moving on and bringing in more light.
I’m no longer carrying you, the voice in my head reminded me.