Made it. The year that felt like a million. A year ago today, I woke up horrified, terrified, hopeless and so much more devastated than I ever dreamed possible after crying for most of the night. I was truly a single mom for the first time.
"Please don't do this to me. To us." I said (heart blatantly on my sleeve and pride firmly in my pocket.) "I know what I should do, but I don't have the desire to take those steps" were J's words right before he walked out our front door for the last time a year ago yesterday. The following days and weeks were a series of moments that I barely remember. The sinking feeling that I would get when he would knock on his own front door when he came to collect the kids. Thinking of things about the kids and current events and life in general that my first impulse was to tell him and remembering with a jolt that he was no longer either my friend or my companion. Doing laundry and finding his clothes and finally getting to the point where I had to box up his stuff from our closet and put it in the basement. I made meals for the kids regularly and with a false cheerfulness, but I felt like a zombie. I took a lot of naps, hid in my house and only sometimes let Britny drag me out to take all the kids to McDonald's playland. I talked on the phone to Bek a lot so she could counteract my constant attacks on myself, my character and my defects as a wife that would make my husband want to leave. I cuddled my little sunshine who had barely turned three months old and I still dared to hope. I dared to hope that he would recognize that he didn't want to be away from his boys and his brand new baby daughter. I hoped that he would realize that the schedule we all had to be under because of him was not the way our family should have to function. I hoped that despite the tangle he had put our relationship in in his mind, that he might remember some of our past the way I did. He might remember his best friend. I hoped that he would miss us or that he would belatedly realize that we and our family were important enough to "take steps" for.
This year has been a long series of 'keeping it together' episodes. I have been weak and the kids have seen me cry before, especially in the early days. I remember vividly the morning that Bubba crawled into my lap, took my face in his hands, peered into my eyes and gravely told me that "my eyes were not sad" (i.e. I wasn't crying for a change.) From then on, I tried harder but I knew the year would be full of pitfalls that I wished I could just sleep through or ignore. The first Christmas alone, his birthday, my birthday, Valentine's day and on and on. Each high or holiday that passed, I was tortured to remember the previous one when our family was together. I also dreaded the coming days that would remind me of my current shattering. Even Bubba's birthday this year reminded me that on that day the previous year, we had attended our sham therapy session in which he told me lots of horrible things, but still not the truth that would have helped us heal. I returned home and tried to discreetly slip past the houseful of (unaware) family members who were with us for the week to lock myself in our room and sob into a pillow for five minutes before I cleaned up and emerged to engineer a birthday party and pretend nothing was wrong.
I have worked hard this year to make every special day still special regardless of how low I felt or how much I wanted to brush it off. I am proud of myself for being able to do that. It was no small thing for me. As of today, I have officially reached my last first. He has been officially gone a year today and after this, I never want to mark this day again. There are a few exceptions (i.e. our Disneyland trip coming up next month) but as a whole, I have done all my first anniversaries of crappy days and my first special days alone. We even got our first dad-less vacation out of the way. There is some relief in that. We kept all of our traditions and even when it wasn't always fun for me, I hope I have laid the ground work in keeping things normal and maybe even fun for this year.
Life is still complicated. Probably more so than at this time last year. I have more to worry about, I have more complex feelings to sift through and I have demons to contend with that I would not have expected to ever have to confront. But this is my last first. I have been through a year of hell and I know that part isn't over (more clearly with every day and every choice we still have to be party to) but I am standing. Sometimes because I am strong and sometimes because I have no choice, but I have no regrets yet about how I have chosen to handle this trial. I am still standing because I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. I am still standing because of your prayers. I am still standing because I can't fall. I am still standing because God loves my family and wants us to make it. My pillow will still see tears but I can do hard things. I have three beams of pure sunshine that count on me and among all the doubts, I know that we are at least pointed in the right direction. I can do anything because I know that.