The Department of Health and Human @$$holes, did you say?

So today I had yet another appointment at the Department of Social Services that made my palms sweat and my throat close up. Once again, the person on the other side of the desk was looking at me like I was running a scam and treating me like a second class citizen, before taking the time to properly assess me or my situation.

This stuff makes me crazy. He asks, “so where is your husband?” I reply, “we seperated nearly four months ago, he is not a part of this household.”

He says, “you are claiming the children? All three children?” I say, “yes.” He says, “you’ve only got one with you.” I say, “the other two are in school.” “Oh,” the man says.

Later in the conversation, “I’m going to need your latest pay stub.” I respond, “I work on call so my pay stubs aren’t a fair indication of what I can really expect to make each week, I worked full time in my last pay period but the time before that I worked less than forty hours in two weeks. What I have is a statement of my average pay over three months…”

He cuts me off. “I’m going to need that last pay stub.”

The interview suddenly gets a lot shorter and I get booted out of the cubicle with a printout reading if I don’t give up my last pay stub I lose my benefits. This has happened at every single quarterly review.

I’m poor. I realize I’m poor. And I realize that I, in part, chose to be this poor. I chose to be a single mom, that is true. I chose to do so knowing that I would be “taking advantage” of the American Taxpayer in order to do so. But I’m also not trying to stay on the dole for the rest of my life. I am using the opportunity afforded to me by Joe Public in order to better myself and my children and move forward. But yet, the average social worker appears to look at me as just another woman who is gaming the system to keep from having to work full time.

ARGH.

So, yet again, I’ll go back tomorrow, at a different time of day, and ask to speak to someone else. And I’ll give them the printout of my average pay, and explain the situation, and they’ll apologize and wish me luck with my life.

And I’ll use the taste of bile in my mouth as fuel to get me through the hard days ahead.

This is not going to be my life forever.

My children won’t be raised to believe that this is part of “normal” for us.

One of these days I’ll be rich enough to resent paying taxes, by God. I’ll be rich enough to resent it, but I won’t.

Wait, did you say Dragicorns?

Sorry for the long absence, I just spent three monthys with no internet and two with no computer. Yes, you read that right. One of the unfortunate side effects of being a single mom is being obscenely broke, which sucks when your laptop decides to offer itself to the dark gods and you can’t afford to buy a new one, and the only time you can update Facebook is when you drop your kids off at your parents house to go to work.

Fun times.

So I’m back to school in two weeks. It’s suffocating to think about school full time, work half time, and still having to take care of the kids. It’s suffocating but at least I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit ten years from now.

I’m going to make it through this.

One of my latest attempts at restoring sanity to the insanity that has been the kids and my life is “family talking time”, as my son calls it. We sit down, before bed, and we talk. I have a series of questions I ask the kids. “What’s one thing that happened today that made you sad?” “What’s one thing that made you happy?” “What’s one thing in your life you wish you could change?” And so on. Often the answers to those questions are the kinds of things you would expect- fighting made them sad, playing together made them happy, they want Mommy to stop giving time outs and they want more popsicles. But, every once in a while there’s a priceless moment. Like when Fighter said, “Having mommy and sis and the baby makes me happy.” Or, when Princess loudly proclaimed, “I think we need Dragicorns.” I responded, “dragiwhatsits?”? and she said, “Dragicorns. It’s a dragon with a unicorn horn and tale and it’s sparkly and magical and breathes fire and eats lions.” Sweet! I agree, having those in our lives would DEFINITELY rock.

There are days now that I completely forget to be sad. Things are better, every hour. And while the future is still looking pretty bleak in the long term, right now things are still absolutely amazing.

I’ve got my kids and my sanity and a borrowed laptop. Huzzah!

stubbed heart

So have you ever rearranged your living room, and then went to get a drink of water, and stepped around something that wasn’t there any more?  I was thinking of this the other day when I found myself not cooking something because I knew the Estranged wouldn’t like it, and then I realized it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t eat it, and then I had a crying jag over nothing.  I’ve gotten so used to sidestepping myself to make room for his preferences that I still can’t seem to live my own life normally, and it both pisses me off and creates this incredible sadness.

I made room in my life for someone who is now not there, and regardless of whether or not I’m the one responsible for his not-there-ness, there’s still this empty space now that may never again be filled.  It’s like I need someone in my life who doesn’t like olives for my life to feel normal now.  Okay, so that sounds totally insane.

But if you’ve ever rearranged your living room, you know a little bit of what I mean.  Because you’ve had that jarring moment when  you step around something that is not there, and it’s like your body has a memory and mind of it’s own and it startles you.  Or, more likely, you step into something that is now where that space used to be and as much as that stubbed toe hurts, and should remind you that the landscape is different now, you’ll probably do the same thing over and over until the new landscape is fully imprinted over the old.

Which means every time I go to the grocery store now I need to remind myself that I’m the one I need to please.  And then I wonder, sometimes, what kind of foods I really like.  I mean, do I really prefer Pepsi?  Recent taste tests prove that I actually prefer Coke.  And I don’t really care for television for the most part.  And I prefer to listen to music with more of a beat.  And, goddam it, I like my knick-knacks and whatsits and I don’t care if the house looks cluttered.

And I sort of want a cat.

And then I realize, at some moment, that as much as it’s nice to just meet my own needs and not have to have anyone else to take into account (excepting the kids of course) that there’s also a lot that I’m missing but not having that space filled, and I feel this incredible sadness again.  I enjoyed leaving the olives out, damn it, because I enjoyed taking care of someone else, in some ways more than I enjoyed being taken care of (when  it happened).

I can’t get through a grocery list without a stubbed heart.

Freaking Codependents.

So one of the places where I work is a residential rehabilitation center for drug addicts.  Their Thursday night “process group” sometimes uses excerpts from a book called “The Language of Letting Go” with is about overcoming codependency.

So one day, while I am working there, we are using meditation cards from “The Language of Letting Go” and I draw one called “Other People’s Responsibility”, which caused me to say, aghast, “I’m such a freaking codependent!” which was perhaps not the best thing to say as a role model for a bunch of recovering addicts, who all said “so are we!” and caused me to have a very humbling moment where I realized what I might have become if I’d never gotten a handle on the downward spiral I was taking.

I read “The Language of Letting Go” over a series of shifts at that facility.  One quote that sticks out in my mind was about how if you’re in a relationship with someone who is talking about how they have never succeeded because no one ever believed in them, you should run away screaming because that is a major flashing red light.

And I’ve thought a lot since then about how sincerely I used to believe in my husband.  How sincerely I admired him.  How completely I loved him.  And about how now he accuses me of the opposite.  I always looked down on him, never had faith, didn’t love.

I’ve made a new promise to myself- to only own my own problems and of those problems, only those that I can truly get a grasp on.  All the other problems in the world, those that others have created or that I have created but I cannot handle, those go to my Higher Power.

There is so much more that I wish I could find the words to say right now, but I really don’t seem to be able to organize my thoughts in a reasonable way.  I guess what I am trying to say is this:  I am not as broken as some.  I haven’t made the mess of my life that I might have, so in that way I have been very blessed.  But I’m realizing more each day how dysfunctional my relationship with the Estranged had become.  And each day, I grow a little more capable of setting better boundaries for myself and realizing that I don’t have to live in some sort of parasitic symbiosis.

Perhaps one day I will experience a healthy mutual relationship.  Until then, as one resident said; “I can have such a good relationship with myself that someone else might say, ‘hey, can I get in on that action?'”

ache

I don’t know how to start writing this post.  Those who have known me for the last few years know that my life has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, especially my marriage.  Today  I jumped ship.  Perhaps that’s not a fair statement- I jumped ship months ago.  I met with an attorney.  I applied for a lease with just my name on it.  I slowly started chipping away at the marital chain that connected us and today, I suppose, it became final.  All that was once “ours” is now either “his” or “hers”.  There is no more “us.”

I wish I could write that and feel more emotion.  In a way our marriage has died a slow, painful demise.  If it were a disease it would be a cancer, but a particularly nasty kind.  The kind you don’t even know y0u have until it’s way too late and no one ever screens for.  Maybe colon cancer, that seems a fitting comparison.

One friend asked me “when did you decide to quit?”  I don’t know.  I suppose I saw the end of the line when I found out I was pregnant with the Little Lady.  I looked at Spanky and Bubs and thought, “sheesh, these kids have been so damaged by their dad.  I can’t do that to another one.”  But I swallowed that disloyal thought and I tried to keep things going.  I tried to make my marriage last by sheer force of will.

I guess my strength gave out.  For four very long years I’ve been telling my husband I’m too stressed out and at some point I would burn out.  I thought I’d burn out in a way that mostly just hurt me, not that I’d burn out on our relationship entirely.  But I guess I burnt out on almost everything in the end.  I gained thirty pounds, stopped wearing makeup, stopped writing, stopped giving a crap about just about everything and at some point I realized I’d grown so numb I barely even recognized my own thoughts.

And all for what?  Let’s go back to the beginning.  A few months into our marriage the Estranged and I were moving out to Indiana.  During the car ride we were talking about God knows what anymore and I kept saying “okay” as my way of contributing to the Estranged’s uninterruptible thought process.  He thought I was being sarcastic and raised his voice and kind of snapped on me, and I was terrified.  When we got to where we were going I felt this overwhelming desire to run.  I wanted my mom and my dad and safety and this person who had been wholly safe to me was suddenly Not Safe, a betrayal so overwhelming I could barely breathe.  But I thought I was being disloyal, and overreacting, and I was ashamed of my fear so I said nothing.

Nine years later I want to throttle my eighteen year old self and scream “fly you fool!”.   Perhaps that initial snapping wasn’t as big as it became as my fear exaggerated it, but it the snowball that eventually became the Ice Planet Hoth between us. My husband’s anger grew more unpredictable and far, far crueler.  As our children grew older it exploded not just on me privately, but on me in front of them.  My children have heard me called a bitch and a self-centered snob.  They’ve heard me demeaned and seen their father continue yelling even when I was in tears and begging him to stop; even while they were begging him to stop.

I do not, in this moment, know how much damage has been done.  I can’t quantify it because I don’t have a baseline to compare it to.  I don’t understand “normal” or “healthy” in a relationship because that’s not something I’ve ever really experienced.  But I know that I can try to create something normal and healthy for myself and for my children.  And as far as “ours” being gone, there is no more “our” dysfunction.  There is his anger, and there is my home- a home where it isn’t welcome anymore.

So, today I left my husband.  One friend asks me, “how do you feel?”

I feel heartbroken.  I feel disappointed.  I feel sad and angry and confused.

Plus, my feet ache.

At least if I’m drowning it’s in a beautiful sea

So this week was my first week of work, and I worked four days.  The next two weeks I’m working five days, which is insane, because my ID badge says “PT/On call.”  I didn’t realize “on call” meant “on the pre-printed schedule full time for the next two weeks.”

My mom says “make hay while the sun shines!”

I guess there’s a point to that, although knowing that I’ll be working full time for the indefinite future changes plans for childcare, as I can’t depend on my dad to be able to provide full time day care.  He has a life, and doctors appointments, and other engagements.  Hello, application for state funded childcare for the working poor, nice to meet you!  Hope you get processed in less than a week, since my parents are flying out of the country for my brother’s wedding leaving me working full time without childcare.  Life is… interesting that way.

Today is my day off, so I’ll be using that to move into Yellow House (pics to come!) and take care of some other matters around town.

See you all on the other side!

By Popular Demand!

So I made a comment about greeting cards being dishonest, and about how I have, at times, fantasized about sending one that says “my deepest sympathies:  you’re a vile person nobody likes.”

It was an instant hit, hence:

I have started a line of greeting cards that say, with class and artistic layout, what you really want to say.  I don’t imagine that many people will buy these to send to people they actually resent in their lives (Well, in a few cases, but in those cases it is well earned) but mostly that it gives people with a mutual acknowledgment of the ridiculousness of life a way to express themselves and their obligatory card giving with a bit of fun.

There are three cards to choose from right now, and more coming as I get the time and energy to make them.  Of course, requests are welcome.

So, shop if you’d like to and share the link if you want to.  I don’t plan to really make money of the venture, but it ought to prove fun…

http://zazzle.com/shushnow