Life can be complicated, there are so many pressures and influences on us that we spend our time responding to that it can be hard to know ourselves, what we really think and feel. It can often be that we have a public façade that we put on to face the world that is very […]
I have a theory about life. My theory is that it runs in cycles between periods where you have to turn inward and work on yourself and your life and learn and improve, followed by periods of time where that stronger, wiser person that you have become can expand outward with renewed energy to give to the world, helping other people to learn their lessons and become that stronger, wiser person that they need to be.
I thought about a butterfly and cocoon analogy but it’s not really like that because the cycle inevitably repeats, and neither cycle is completed in isolation, there is interaction with other people, either to give help and guidance or receive help and guidance, and that is exactly the way life is meant to be. That is life in all its wonderful, challenging, fulfilling perfection.
Looking back now I can see I stayed far too long in this relationship. I wonder if I hadn’t been supporting Mr Z through his master’s degree and felt if we parted ways that it would affect his study that I might have done it sooner. The truth is that my needs weren’t being met and I had been unhappy for a long time, but there always seemed to be a reason not to give up. If I was a bit more tolerant, if I was a bit more patient, if I managed my own emotions better, if I was more understanding, if I appreciated what I did get out of the relationship a bit more then it would all get better.
The thing was Mr Z was soon to finish his study for the year, and he would have time for me at long last. As it got closer though I realised I was dreading that. Yes, I had been feeling isolated, yes I had been feeling very lonely and really needed to make some plans with someone and have things to do together, but the divide between Mr Z and I was so wide now that I felt lonelier in his company than I did when actually on my own. It wasn’t working.
I had given too much, there was nothing left to give, if the relationship was going to heal it was because he would recognise that and do something to fix it, he would give back. I knew though that he wasn’t capable of it. He wasn’t capable of noticing, he wasn’t capable of putting himself in my shoes and seeing things from my point of view and working out my needs. I had been telling him what my needs were quite directly but it had become the endless drone of demands and nagging to him, I could see it. He wasn’t listening, he didn’t want to.
He was soon to finish uni, he would be free to get a job, and anywhere he wanted to, he wouldn’t need my support anymore. His relationship with his own children had deteriorated to almost non-existent – something that I was never comfortable with – and the only ties he now had were to me, and my family. He started making comments about my lead weights, my albatrosses: my children. I am a mother I told him, I love my children and meeting the challenges of parenting is fulfilling. I wanted to settle down, buy a property, grow a garden, get a dog. I want that life, he had told me he wanted that life, but clearly he wanted freedom.
As the end of his last semester approached his need for me diminished and his evasiveness over the future grew. He had never consistently pulled his own weight and it was getting worse now, arguments about him contributing to the rent and expenses escalated (along with his complaints about my children). He’d always claimed he would give back, later, when he had a full time job. It was increasing clear that he wouldn’t. My resentment grew, simmering inside me and too frequently boiling over into nasty arguments. I didn’t like myself anymore.
There had always been part of me that had seen this coming, but I had continually given him the benefit of the doubt. Classes ended, I had intended to let him stay until his exams were over at least, but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t last that long. Feeling like the worst person in the world I asked him to leave; he went to his mother’s place, a four hour drive away. He returned only on the days of his exams, then he was gone for good.
I waited for the heartbreak, that almost physical pain. I waited for the feeling of emptiness and disconnection to wash over me. I waited for all those feelings to hit me like a tonne of bricks, but they didn’t. I felt some fear for the future, some fear at having no backup if something happened with the kids, and an old familiar ache at the prospect of facing a future alone, but I didn’t feel heartbreak. He hadn’t given me enough for me to miss anything when he was gone, he had only taken and drained, and now all I felt was relief.
I am free.
The second day we called the plumber to come fix the tap so that one of the kids didn’t have to stand in the front yard on tap duty every time we needed water, and an electrician to sort out the switch in Mstr13’s bedroom that had a sign tapped over it “Danger, live wire, do not touch”. By the time Monday came around we were fully functional and I prepared myself to face the worst part of the move, convincing the new school that my son might be arriving with a substantial disciplinary record and a few suspensions to his name but that he was misunderstood and had been in an environment that was not good for him and he wasn’t going to cause the same problems here. He just needed a fresh start. And then I looked at my son who had given me so much grief over the past six months and prayed it was true.
It wasn’t the best experience I’d ever had but it went better than expected because there was a surprise waiting for me. This school has an autism unit. Not that Mstr13 belongs in one, but it meant that they recognise and understand spectrum behaviors and the chance of him being labeled a bad kid when in fact he is just a little different was much lower. He is a good kid, with good intentions, but he can’t tolerate germs for example, and will freak out if someone that regularly puts his fingers in his mouth touches something of his; becomes very distracted and annoyed in loud and chaotic environments, and sometimes does inappropriate things in order to try and fit in with other kids. This last one was particularly bad as some kids have taken advantage of that in the past, setting him up to do things that would get him in trouble just for the entertainment value. Mstr13 doesn’t understand these subtle bullying behaviors and gets hurt, and into trouble. This is where we had found ourselves at the last school, where he had dug a hole with the teachers so deep that he couldn’t get out of it, and was left feeling bitter towards the kids that had helped him get there, crying every night over his lack of friends but at the same time still vulnerable to doing whatever they told him to if it offered a chance of social acceptance.
I went home that day and said a quiet thank you to whoever it was that helped me find my way to that school, because I had absolutely been helped. Maybe my grandfather, who passed when I was 11 but I know is around for time to time? Or my grandmother, who passed last year? Maybe it was God, or my guardian angel, because I sure had been praying for help. I just know that in a moment of complete despair, sitting at the kitchen table literally too stressed and exhausted to cry anymore, feeling numb and empty and hopeless after yet another confrontation with my miserable Mstr13, I sat with my mind empty, blank, too overwhelmed to think. Our confrontations were affecting everyone, and I wasn’t sure how much longer MrZ was going to put up with it, we were living in a stressed out hot-house. It was then that the name came to me. It was the name of a suburb, I could see it in my minds eye clearly. After a while I sat up. What did it mean?
I had a look on Domain.com at the house prices in the area. OMG, the size of the places, at rents so much less than what we were paying! But it was so far away, could I even get to work from there? I looked up the train timetable. I was currently catching the bus to work, a minimum one hour trip either way and with travel sickness the occasional added bonus, but at this place it would be a standard, comfortable one hour ten minute trip by train. Not much difference at all, possibly even an improvement. I ran the idea past the kids; they were open to it. Then and there I made a decision, we were going to move.
From that point I was able to start to pull myself out of the depression I had found myself sinking into, we were making changes and life was going to get better for all of us. Rather than sit feeling hopeless and helpless there was something I could do, and I threw myself into the task of making it happen. I looked into a few other options but it always came back to that same area and that is where a short while later we ended up.
So that day, returning from a school in which I felt my son was in much better hands, I said another prayer, a prayer of thanks.
A few weeks ago we moved house. There was a big, stressful build-up to our decision to move. There was the second exorbitant rent rise in six months, the fact that the place really was too small for the four of us and the kids were going to kill each other if they had to share such a tiny bedroom for much longer, the rising real estate prices that meant that we were never going to be able to buy a property in the area so at some point we’d have to leave anyway, and then the fact that Mstr13 had burnt his bridges at school. It was this last one that was the clincher. Diagnosed as borderline Aspergers years ago we’d been through periods like this before, either the environment was going to work or it wasn’t. And this one wasn’t.
I had wanted to take the opportunity to move to a more reasonably priced area at the beginning of the year when he was changing schools to start high school, but all his friends were going to this school and he really wanted to go, he struggles to make new friends he reminded me. In reality the friends he already had were not great friends, he was always counting on making new ones, but he is a computer geek type into online gaming, and our local high school was a sports high school, so I supposed I didn’t really expect it to work out. I gave him the chance though, because that also meant Mstr10 could stay where he was happy. Our last move 18 months had involved a change of school and had been hard on him, it had taken him a long time to make a close friend, I didn’t want to put him through another change unless it really was necessary.
But the rent was killing me. And the higher the rent the further away the possibility of buying. And then there was the housing boom, the one I was missing out on. MrZ is a full time student completing a Masters degree, so buying wasn’t really an option right now as I was the only one really working (he works a few hours on a Saturday). Neither one of us had done well in our divorces, both having unethical exes sitting pretty as we struggle, both of us having been happy at the time just to be free from our toxic situations, although his was more recent than mine. That was the other thing. To move to a more affordable area meant moving a long way from my kids dad and he wasn’t going to like it. Mstr13 was busy building a disciplinary record as long as my arm though, I needed to get him out of that environment before the damage was irreversible.
I’m writing about it calmly now but it was anything but calm at the time. Mstr13 was a nightmare to get to school in the morning, and I was also fighting his father who had tried to get Mstr13 to live with him full time, while on the other hand the school had identified his father as a significant part of the problem and had agreed to keep working with me and Mstr13 if I limited contact between them. Finding him intense and unreasonable they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. How was I supposed to explain that though, without making everything so much worse? In the end I made the decision to move away – a good hours drive away – and to wear what I had to in regards to being the bad guy. The other options just weren’t feasible.
Three weeks later we were packing.