Standing at the Crossroads, Waiting for ~

For a long time now, I have felt as though I’ve been in limbo.

Imagine a crossroads, dusty and forlorn, on a lonely stretch of deserted gravel road. A middle-aged, redheaded woman sits on a stack of boxes, staring off into space, absently tucking flyaway hairs behind her ears, and sighing at nothing in particular. The sun sits midway through the afternoon sky, warming her back, and she stands, wanders up to the dented stop sign, looks left, looks right, turns back & sits down again.

Me.

Waiting.

For what, you might ask?

Oh, for the fulfilment of a promise, for the chance to change her circumstances, for the liberation of knowing that she’s successfully raised the last of her children to an independent, adult stage of life, & she can make decisions now, solely based on what’s best for her, and no one else. 

I love my children.  I love that I was given the opportunity to raise them, to love them, to nurture their growth into responsible, independent adults.

But, every large decision I’ve made in my life since March 13, 1991, has been influenced heavily by “what’s best for the child/children”, not just for me.  

And for the last few years, I’ve felt as though there was this staticky, dusty place in the back of my brain, where that woman sits at the crossroads, waiting for the next stage. Waiting for “what comes next”.

Men have come and gone from my life, for whatever reasons they felt were valid at the time. Only 1 said he was in it for the long haul; but even he has failed to actually appear in person to begin this life he says he longs for. All the rest, whether they originally said they were “there for me” or were just in it for the moment, or nostalgia, or just wanted the temporary convenience of another warm body nearby, ended up walking away. 

I’m tired of being a “temporary fix”. I’m weary down to my bones of waiting for this elusive “luv” to show up. I’m not content, anymore, to be someone’s “right now”.

I want more. I want to go, get out, move and shake and rattle some cages. I want something to change.

And I want to stop being that woman at the crossroads, waiting for…

1 more year… Then…watch me.

Watch me fuck shit up; shake a few trees to see the residents fly out, screeching about being dislodged from their comfortable perches; watch me change my little corner of the world as I rise up from that stack of boxes, kick them into the ditch, and pick a direction to 

Just. Start. Walking.

Then. Watch me. As I walk away, & start my own life. 

As difficult as it will be to start over at the middle age of 47 (as I will be this time next year), I will do it. 

Because I’m tired of limbo.

Tired of waiting for change to swoop me up & deliver me someplace else.

Tired of being left by the side of the road when I’m no longer “convenient”.

Fuck that. 

It’s my turn.

Happy Thoughts…

Trying to remind myself of the good things that do happen, I decided to make mental notes of small, happy things.

1. My pumpkin patch is growing like mad! I have 1 that’s about the size of a baby’s head right now, & at least one more possible that’s the size of a kiwi…

2. I finally saw a monarch butterfly yesterday! I’ve been wondering where they were this year, with everything I’ve read about the troubles they’ve been having…and I saw one! It gave me a smile, and a happy memory of the kids & me taking care of one a few years ago, then releasing it into the park.

(Sneaky Pete from a few years ago when we released him)

3. I found some new series to watch on Netflix. The Shanarra Chronicles (already hooked on this one, & can’t wait for the next season to come out), Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Penny Dreadful (these last ones I haven’t started yet, so have no other comment).  I finished Gilmore Girls again, and I’m eagerly (rabidly) waiting for the new episodes to start in November!

4. I have a lone daisy growing wild in my yard.  It popped up out of nowhere, it’s small, & not perfect… But, it’s tough, and determined.

5. Onlyson started his senior year today. He is also turning 18 in 2 days! My youngest, my baby, will be registering with Selective Service in just a few days. Oy. Where did the time go? I want to do something nice for this big day, but he’ll be going to his dad’s this weekend, so I won’t see him till Sunday. 

I’m trying to be more mindful, more open to recognizing the happier things that happen from day to day. Some days, it’s easier than others.

Living For One

I’ve never lived alone.

Oh, I’ve lived in places, and in situations, for short periods of time, where it might be said that I was alone, but even then, I really wasn’t.

Obviously, I lived with my parents for the first years of my life, till I went to college.

Then I lived with a roommate, in a dorm, for the year & a half that I spent at college.  

Then an apartment with 3 other girls for a handful of weeks.

When I left there, I went back to my parents’ home through the summer, until I moved to New Jersey for 2 months to live with a family as their nanny.

Until I found out I was pregnant with ElderDaughter, and, once again, moved home for a short span, until I could get a place of my own.

The remainder of my pregnancy, I lived in a small house that my parents owned.  That is probably the only time most would call it living alone. But even then, I wasn’t really, because I was carrying another human being around with me.

Ever since then, I’ve always had kids, and lived with 2 different husbands at different times, for the different spans of our marriages. 

Yes, my Onlyson still lives with me, at least until he graduates from high school next spring. But he spends a good amount of time with his father – most weekends, and the lion’s share of the summer.

So, you might say, this summer I’m practicing living alone.

And I can’t decide whether I like it or not.

I get to do what I want, when I want.

But I do it alone, with no one to talk to.

I can stay up as late as I want, and be as loud as I want.

But there’s no one to enjoy the fun stuff with.

I control the remote, and I can keep the house exactly how I want it.  Things don’t get up and walk away when I leave the room.  (Unless the cats decide to get ornery)

But there’s no one to share the chores with, I’m responsible for all of the work.

I can buy exactly the food I want to eat, and nothing else.

But there’s no reason to cook, because I’m eating alone.

The dog is always happiest when I come home.

But…I can’t share my day with her & have her tell me funny stories about hers. (The cats are whiners. They only bitch about the food bowl being too low, or why don’t I ever let them outside?)

I like being on my own, sometimes. No “Moooooommm! Mom. Mama. Mommy!” No demands & needs, no asking where this or that is. 

But…no one to hug. No one to smile with. No one to cry with. No one to joke around & be sarcastic with.

There has to be more than this.

Letter to Myself

Dear Jen,

I just wanted to drop you a line, to check in, and to let you know…

It’s all going to be Ok.

I promise.

I know that things haven’t been great for you recently. I know that you’ve been struggling to find your balance, your peace, with everything that’s been going on, and that you’ve been beating yourself up over that.

Stop.

Stop right now.

You don’t deserve the pain you’ve been putting yourself through- you truly don’t, and I’d appreciate it if you’d cease and desist. 

Your friends would appreciate if you’d cease & desist.  They truly do care about you, you know this, and they’ve told you so. Listen to them. They’re smart.

E putting you off for 3 years is not your fault. You’ve been holding onto hope for so long, and I know it hurts when you have it dragged out this long, but seriously? He needs to put up or shut up, and you need to stop feeling guilty about thinking about moving on without him.

Someday, you will find someone who will treat you with respect. Someone who will love you, and will not only tell you so, but will prove it.

B ignoring you is not your fault. You tried to talk to him, and left the door open for conversation, so it’s his decision and choice.

Matter of fact, you’re not responsible for anyone else’s feelings and/or reactions. 

Only your own.

K’s problems with G are not your fault, either. Yes, it’s like reliving your past a bit, but there’s nothing you can do about it, nor should you. You can provide compassion, a comfortable shoulder to cry on when necessary, and love to boost her back up. That’s all that’s required, as it’s her life, so she’s the one who has to decide what to do.

And you need to stop letting others get you so worked up, and take more moments to breathe before you react. You know that if you just sleep on it, or give it at least a little more time, you’ll calm down, and be able to see things a little clearer.

And if it’s still worth getting worked up over, you have the extra rest to use.

And you do know how to kick some ass, when necessary. You’ve been fighting for others for years, and have gotten a pretty good reputation as a bouncer when needed.

Just learn how to do it for yourself, too, would you? Please? For both of us?

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Me

Remembering the Fair

It’s fair week in my city, and yes, I went with my Youngerdaughter and Onlyson today. 

It seems as though I have to go to the fair once every couple of years to remind myself why I don’t go to the fair anymore.

I enjoyed wandering around with the kids, talking as we looked at the sales booths, joking about them playing PokemonGo, deciding what we wanted to get to snack on as we meandered our way back out of the fair.

But the rest, I could’ve forgone. I would have been just as happy to pick up snacks & go for a walk in the park. Happier, in fact, to avoid the pressing crowds, the yelling Carneys, the messy walkways in between stalls & down the main pathway of the fair.

It was hot, especially out in the full sun of the midway, which is intensified by the pavement underneath, the heat radiating off the rides, & the up-close-and-personal crowds.

I used to love haunting the fair when I was younger. As a teenager, my friends & I would spend the whole day running around, riding rides, watching enduro car racing, playing games that we knew were rigged, but hoped that maybe the carney would like us enough to let us win, goofing off & running into people we knew.
I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t have any desire to ride the rides, & I don’t have any younger children who want to go on the little kid rides. I have no desire to pay for overpriced, and oftentimes, shoddily made items that will simply sit around, collecting dust, after a week. I really didn’t miss the filthy, awful-smelling bathrooms. And Goddess knows, even though the mini donuts are awesomely good, especially with a strawberry smoothie, if I don’t have them…it’s not the end of the world. 

The $10/person admission for the 2 hours we spent there, plus the extra $25 spent on our snacks (1shaved ice, 1pretzel, 1 small bag of mini donuts & 1 strawberry smoothie) would’ve bought us all supper & ice cream… But whatever.

Chalk this up to an afternoon spent talking to my kids, while the world spun around us. And next year, I think I’ll skip the sunburn and the sweaty hair.

I’ll take them to the park, and we can sit around eating dairy queen while they hunt the ever-elusive MewTwo.

And now, for the news…

ElderDaughter is going to make me a Gramma×2! It’s been confirmed, and we can expect our newest bundle of joy in late February, or early March! We’re hoping for a visit at Christmas, when they’ll come from Washington to collect all the baby things they left here. It’s been so long now, since I’ve seen her and Schnicklefritz, I’ll probably burst into tears as soon as she tells me they’ve hit the city limits…oy.

YoungerDaughter has gotten a promotion & a raise, and will soon be teaching preschool at the daycare where she works. She’s also found herself a new apartment, which will be much better for her, as right now she’s living out of her bedroom in a house with 8 girls. Oy. She’s also coming home next weekend for a visit, and I can’t wait to see her! We’re going to have to do a movie marathon night, just to catch up.

OnlySon has finally gotten his driver’s permit! Oy. The boy who hates to drive will now be forced to practice with me in the passenger seat…or maybe in the backseat, where I can pretend to be chauferred around town in the style to which I hope to become accustomed, someday when I win the lottery. He’s going to hate driving AND me by the time he’s able to get his license, but at least he’ll have plenty of practice! 

As for me? Well…still here, still waiting…still wondering what the hell I’m going to be doing. Otherwise, no news is good news, right?

Family Plot Twist

I know what I said last night.

And I know it was harsh, writing about the guilt and anger I feel towards my parents over the abuse that took place at my friend’s house when I was 16.

But, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Because I do still love my parents.

It’s complicated.

My parents are good people. They’re”salt-of-the-earth” kind of people. The ones who would take in unwanted dogs for friends and family, and find them new, loving homes. They’ve done that many times in the past.
Hell, they’ve taken in other family member’s children, when their parents were having a tough time, or the kids needed more attention or discipline, and they weren’t listening to those at home.  Two of my cousins lived with us at different times, both for different reasons, and were sent home with a different outlook on life.

Not that my parents were hard-asses, not at all. They were, and are, hardworking, honest, and deeply moral people. They always want what’s best for those around them, and I can honestly say that, while I might never have had everything I wanted as a kid, I always had everything I needed. 

Well, except for that incident. But I’m trying to make a point, here.

My parents helped me in many ways, for many years. Especially when I was a single mom, struggling to make ends meet.  They were always willing to lend a hand, and babysat for me when I really needed a night off.  (1 weekend a month, or 2 separate nights a month, my choice)

I was never spoiled, but was taught how to be a responsible, independent human being. They taught me to think outside the box, how to care for animals as much as people, and that, as my Dad always says… “Shit washes off.”

They’re irreverent and funny.

My mom once rode a horse into a bar, because she was looking for Dad after he got done mowing some yards in town for folks who couldn’t do it themselves, and a friend dared her while holding the door open. She rode in, all the way to the table he was at with his friend, said “David, meet me outside”, and rode back out.  It’s just a good thing she was riding the Arabian gelding we had…he was much calmer than her super-tall Saddlebred mare.

And my dad once had a man (who he couldn’t stand) convinced that Dad had an imaginary friend with him for lunch. He carried on a one-way conversation for about 5 minutes, before the other man gave up and went to sit elsewhere in the cafe’, which was what my dad wanted in the first place.

My parents have both been emt’s, at separate times, they’ve helped care for elderly folks in their town, who just needed a little help from time to time, Mom helping them get to the store for groceries, mowing their lawns, cleaning their houses, etc. Dad doing plumbing for them, for nothing more than the cost of whatever parts they needed.

Dad got paid in pies, homemade egg noodles, honeycomb…all kinds of food goodies these elderly folk could, and would, press on him, because they knew he wouldn’t ask for anything else.

They are good people.

And I love them, down to the DNA they gave me.

That’s why I struggle so hard with the guilt and anger.

It’s all twisted up in love.

Goddess. That explains so much about the rest of my relationships…

I don’t know how to title this.

It’s 4:15am, and I’ve been up most of the night.  This is a bad time for me, between 2:30 and 5am…too many dark thoughts, not enough sleep, and no one to hold me in my anxiety-ridden panic attacks.

So, I’ve come here.

I’m angry. And I feel horrible guilt.

I can feel the lump in my throat, choking my voice, threatening tears, which I won’t allow to fall.

Anger, shame, guilt, hateful rage, and soul-crushing depression, all weigh on me, each voice in my head clamoring for the lion’s share of my attention… screaming and pounding on my temples, until I feel like banging my head on the floor just to make them shut up.

Because there’s a confrontation coming. I can see it up ahead, I feel it in the wind, and I know it, in my bones.

Because his father is dying.

Gods. There’s so much history tangled up in this. 40-some years of it. How do I explain it? Can I even explain it clearly to myself, much less others? 

And the history doesn’t even touch on all of my anger.  

Fuck. 

My parents and his are best friends.

Their daughter was my best friend growing up.

He was the boy who taught me how to French kiss – in the 3rd grade, on the playground at school.

And then, when I was 16, he molested me.

I don’t know, truly, what my parents thought when I called them at 2am that morning. But I know what they did.

They made me wake up the mother. She took me upstairs & made me confront him, while he lied and, of course, said that he  never. 

My parents didn’t come get me. Yeah, yeah, it was a 12-hour drive from here to there, 2 states away. Instead, they had me shuffled from family member to family member, slowly working my way closer to home.

Nothing would have stopped me from reaching one of my children if they called me at 2am, sobbing about being sexually abused. Nothing. 

Did they not want me home? Were they hoping that by the time I got there, they could have given me enough time to forget what had happened? Or, maybe, they were trying to give themselves time to forget.

Forget that their friend’s son had harmed their daughter. Forget that their daughter was now “damaged goods”.

Forget that maybe, just maybe, they were supposed to DO SOMETHING about this? Instead of just closing all the blinds and pretending it never happened?

And now, the father is dying from terminal cancer.

He is still my father’s best friend.

His wife is still my mother’s best friend.

They visit, back and forth, at least once a year, they come to North Dakota, and I’m expected to come down, play the dutiful daughter, and visit with them.

And every year, I have panic attacks, nightmares, trigger events, from these visits. The mother always has to, at some point, bring him up, show me pictures with him in them, call him on the damn phone when I’m sitting right there, and can’t escape.

30 years later, and they’re still all denying that it ever happened.

And I feel rage.

I know that there is a funeral coming up. I know that my mother will want me to go down there for it. Show support. Be kind. Be compassionate. 

I feel horrible guilt about this.

Because I – can’t. 

I just can’t.

I can’t be anywhere near him.

He caught me by surprise, once, a few years ago, when my girls were little. I was visiting his parents with my daughters & mother. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but showed up, unexpectedly. He tried to corner me, actually tried to grab my arm, and I threatened him. Told him that if he ever touched me again, if he ever came near me or my girls, I’d kill him. Then I went straight to my mother & demanded to leave.

I never returned to their home.  I wasn’t going to go through that ever again. 

And now, if my mother tries to guilt me into going down for the funeral… I’m going to have to confront her… Them, really, because my father is just as deep into this. But it’s Mom who uses the guilt. Dad just ignores it, and hopes the emotional people will go away.

I don’t want to cause anyone hurt.

There’s the guilt.

But they never defended me, never believed me, never talked to me about it, never confronted the other family. He was never punished. He got away with molesting me, because our parents couldn’t deal with it.

They left me damaged and alone in my pain. Which has colored so much of my life since.

And there’s the rage.