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If I didn’t love my job, I would probably feel much more resentment towards my ex.  I don’t like where I live, but I’m stuck here because I’m not shitty enough to take my kid away from a non-abusive father.  If I didn’t have a child, I might move, but I would have to think long and hard about it because my job is awesome and fulfilling.

One of the hardest things about divorce is splitting holidays.  Since we live 45-75 minutes away from each other, we split weekends and holidays in our divorce agreement.  On Thanksgiving, for example, one of us gets her from Wednesday night until 3 pm Thanksgiving day, and then the other gets her through the afternoon and overnight.  The next year, we switch. On paper, I would get her until 3 pm Thanksgiving day this year.

I keep saying “on paper,” because we’ve been doing all of our holidays together.  His family has continued to invite me to Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas since we split, and I have enjoyed spending those days with them. I knew that it would come to an end as our daughter got older, but I was SO grateful to still have a surrogate “family” to eat, talk, and laugh with on holidays.

Well, that transition period has come to an end.  My ex has been saying for about a year that his fiancee and her son are moving down here, so I didn’t immediately think much of it when he said it again recently.  A few days later, it occurred to me to ask if they’d be moving down before the holidays.  I usually keep anything that’s potentially emotionally-charged to email in order to save my ex discomfort, so he can read and respond when he feels up to it, but I suddenly became paranoid that anything I put in writing would be seen by his fiancee, who spread the embarrassing lies that he told her about me.

He said that they would.  I asked if I would still be invited to holiday gatherings, and it turns out that I won’t.  I said, “Listen, I really don’t care that ___ will be there.  I just don’t want to be alone. Specifically, I don’t want to be without [our daughter] Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas morning. I’m okay with Easter.”  I just got a shrug, and when I turned away, he said “[my name]!I” as if he had something to say.  I said, “What?,” he just looked at me with tears in his eyes.

I texted my mother-in-law later that day, and she suggested I talk to him.  I told her that I had, and he had just shrugged. She suggested talking to my sister-in-law, who is hosting, and I said that that would be very awkward if I’m not invited.  She said, “Okay, give me a couple days, and I’ll try to see what’s going on.”  I didn’t hear back.

The summary is that his family turned to him to ask whether or not to invite me, and he said no because he and/or his fiancee are uncomfortable with it.  No one was planning on saying anything to me.

I have a bunch of different thoughts on this, and the list has grown over the last week, so I apologize in advance for the rambling.

  • I got together with them yesterday for cousins’ trick-or-treating, and I could sense a difference.  Everyone was polite as usual, but everyone except for my mother-in-law talked to me less than they used to.  It was sad, but I guess it’s not unexpected given the dynamics of the family.
  • His family has a lot of the traits of a typically “alcoholic” family.  They love each other very much, but they end up hurting each other through avoidance of uncomfortable topics.  Here’s an example: My ex’s sister and brother (and their spouses and kids) were coordinating a trip to Disney in 2014.  Not only did they not invite him (because they were afraid it would upset him to be invited but not be able to go for whatever reason), but they hid it from him for 6 months, until someone slipped up at a family gathering.  My ex was FURIOUS about it, and I sympathize, but that’s also basically what happened with us. He was afraid of upsetting me by telling me he was unhappy, so instead he hid his feelings, had an affair, and left me for the other woman.  The lack of communication isn’t callous, it’s just that this is a deeply ingrained pattern.
  • I had invited my ex’s fiancee and her son to my daughter’s birthday party this year as a gesture of goodwill and to communicate that I don’t need to be protected from her presence.
  • It’s interesting to me how quickly people jump to blame the other woman.  My friends say, “Well, she’s got him under her thumb, I’m sure it’s her.” I think they think it’ll be more comfortable for me to believe that the fault lies in someone I don’t know rather than someone who was my partner for 19 years.  The most likely scenario is that he doesn’t want me at gatherings because it’s painful for him, or he just assumes that it’ll be painful for her….but who cares?  The truth is that she’s inconsequential to me.  Whatever is motivating his decision-making is on him.
  • i am invited to a Thanksgiving in another state, but I can’t do that and honor our divorce agreement.  I’m not crazy/irrational/bad enough of a person to demand to have her for Thanksgiving dinner, because I know that that’s going to look retaliative, and it’s also just plain old not fair.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’m sane/rational/good enough of a person to just suck it up and go by what’s on paper.
  • I think that if I asked him if I could have her this year, he would agree, but I’m very hesitant to do that.  Sooner or later, I’m going to have to spend a Thanksgiving dinner without my daughter.  It also puts him into a position of “no win” in terms as our relationship as co-parents. If he says “yes” to me, I’ll lose respect for him, because I know he’d be doing it just to avoid having to deal with any more uncomfortable conversation, but I think that’s shitty and that he should stand up for his rights as a father.  If he says “no,” I’ll obviously go cry to my friends and write more blog posts about how he’s not showing kindness for the mother of his child, who is stuck in this shithole nowhere near family.

I’m signing my divorce papers on Wednesday afternoon.

I’m very interested in grief, and I’ve been resentful of our culture’s death practices ever since I went to my grandmother’s viewing at 13 and flipped out because she was gone and everyone was standing around making smalltalk like they were at a fucking cocktail party.

It’s all about making money and utilizing ritual that is inherently meaningless to avoid the discomfort of directly dealing with loss.  There’s no reason to: pump a lifeless body full of toxic chemicals, lay it out so people can quickly fulfill the obligation to to stop by rather than actually attending the funeral, and pay money for a vault that keeps out moisture when OUR BODIES ARE GOING TO DECAY.

When my ex’s grandfather died ten years ago, I grieved with them.  However, I felt that the only thing that the routine of two rounds of visitation before the funeral and burial accomplished was to add an extra step in the grief process by allowing them to temporarily attach to the corpse itself.  Whether you believe that a life is defined by a soul or the mere firing of neurons, it was gone. All that was left was a shell.

My daughter and I were talking about smoking the other day, and she told me that some people smoke because it calms them down.  First of all, fuck whoever told her that.  Second, I told her that the only reason it calms them down is that cigarettes contain chemicals that hurt your body and make you not calm, so if you don’t smoke, you won’t need a cigarette to calm you down.

I think wakes are similar.  It’s not inherently helpful to grieving. It’s a habit.  It’s how things are done, a way to avoid thinking.

You could argue that complacency about forming new “family” here are the same thing.  We’re not together any more; it was obviously going to happen, and I was dumb to not see it coming.  That’s not untrue, but…I really do enjoy their company.  They’re nice to talk to, they make me laugh, I love seeing my daughter with her cousins, and my daughter gets to celebrate with both of her parents instead of having to make an early exit from either the group fun or her mother.  It is what’s best for her.

Two parents who are in love and together are what’s best for her, but that’s not what her family is.  We’re trying to give her as close a second choice as possible.  I don’t know what I’m doing about any of the holidays, but I hope to find as close a second choice as possible there, too.

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