Some days are just emotional, you know? You think you put all your ducks in a row and have all the lunches packed and the work deadlines met, and you even think you’ve done an ok job with the parenting and the supervising at work thing and…
Sometimes, you still wake up feeling depressed and sad. I don’t know why. Things are going really well the last few days, despite a handful of e-mauls from my ex.
Yet, there is so much energy around responding to those e-mauls, too. A support network is consulted, and at times, even my official attorney offers advice. They say he continues to want to “engage” with me, to have “a relationship” with me, because he has lost control. And with abusive people, losing control is just the one thing they can’t take. In my case, it’s not only about the control, it’s about the shame. That deep down, he knows what he did to us, and years later, he still can’t get over the fact that no matter what bright face he showed the court, and no matter how badly he painted the picture of me as an unfit mom, he knows it’s not true. And on top of it, the court recognized the truth, which is why our outcome was so detailed and so explicit, yet he and his family cannot face the fact that he has an anger problem, and he did things that terrorized and hurt us. So by not accepting it, he has to not only continue to ‘control’ the situation by sending long, engaging e-mauls, but he also has to show the world that I am the bad person and he is really the good person. In any way he can. That, apparently, is the shame talking.
Anyway, when his name appears in the inbox, I will spend sometimes hours on “the response process”—sifting through the crap, carefully choosing language that I think addresses the issue but does not engage too much, that keeps the boundaries firm and at the same time does not invite commentary. Figuring out what is needless needling commentary that I can ignore. And also calm down from stupid commentary that sounds accusatory and nitpicky. Next, I consult with people I trust. Sometimes I call my therapist. And if in a really gray area, I will consult my attorney because I don’t want to say anything that crosses a line or jeopardizes my carefully laid out and death-defying result of the best protection for my girls and me.
I’m getting better at—I used to get the e-mauls and freak the f*ck out. For hours, or longer, sometimes not be able to sleep at night. That is the PTSD talking. Now, I will have that initial jolt of terror, and it will calm down in about 5-10 minutes, depending on the content. Then I focus on the “response process.” And lately, I’ve figured out what I need to say and send it out for consultation, and am usually 85% there. Sometimes 100%, and it’s just validation that I still need. One day, I hope, I will be able to do it all on my own, with no consultation, because I won’t be triggered by PTSD, and I will be fully confident that I’m doing the right thing. I wish that day was today.
But, it’s not. So, like I’ve told others in similar predicaments—I must do the best I can in these circumstances that I’ve found myself in, and be as content with that as I can. Sometimes I feel empowered, and sometimes, like today, I feel sad and tired and depressed.
Writing helps—because rather than having an unnamed, overpowering blob of unnerving emotion hanging over my head, I’ve now described it and shaped it and put it into words that make sense. A kind of a-ha! It’s okay to be exhausted by this kind of crap.
The other thing is—despite the crapiness of co-parenting with what one of my favorite bloggers, Betty Fokker, would most likely refer to as an “asshat,” the view from the positive life that I’ve found myself in lately is unfamiliar.
We are not used to having things go well. I am not used to having a peaceful, kind person around, who is genuinely interested in our well-being, loving us with no demands or price to pay. I am not used to the calm life of no surprise eruptions and having the loudest noise in the house be our laughter, even when we get into a heated disagreement. That a heated disagreement doesn’t turn into dishes breaking and slamming cabinets and threats and terror—that it ebbs and flows as we listen to each other and agree or disagree or agree to disagree, and there is still hugs, and laughter, too, it’s like learning a foreign language. Or remembering a language I’d forgotten I knew. I wish this view was familiar, and it is getting to be, and maybe that’s why I sometimes have this feeling of apprehension or shadow of sadness linger, because deep down I have the fear that an earthquake will come and swallow us up.
We were used to earthquakes. We knew how to handle them and what to do, where to hide, the many attempts to Red Cross ourselves back to a normal, non-earthquake state.
So I am careful and also a bit wary with this new climate, even though I love the calm. I love our present and I love how we are preparing for our future. My heart sings at the same time as it continues to heal from the shadows.