There is, I suppose, a certain amount of background needed since I haven't really completed my section of 'the mom story' on here. It's hard to know how to write that. How much to share. The story is no secret, and if there is one area in my life that I am not sensitive or thin-skinned in, it's the story of how I came to be a single mom. No question fazes me. There are no secrets. That said, it's not a story I run around bombarding people with, unless asked.
|Celebrating 30 with my main man|
The brief overview is that kidlet's father has never been involved. He has never met kidlet, or had any interaction. For the first 5 years, I didn't receive child support, and he stayed way off the grid. Eventually though, the courts found him and he had a job! They enforced the child support order and suddenly, I had help. At least financially. I was thrilled. We've always gotten by, but that extra every month was definitely a big boost. We were a little bit ahead. It felt like floating, instead of floundering. Eventually, I trusted that income. I made life changes that relied on that income. I took a new job, that was a better fit, but involved a pay cut. I made up for it with that support.
|On our own in our first 'home' (not apartment)|
On top of that, I was hearing from the father. Not regularly, but he would reach out every few months. I left a guarded invitation to meet Ben at some point, with stipulations, but that was never acted upon. He sent Christmas gifts "from Santa" to help. He sent me occasional Starbucks cards. He was available when I needed information about his elementary years, trying to understand struggles we were facing. It was nowhere near a second parent, but it was someone who was at least making a small effort. Others were skeptical, but I was accepting of this. It was better than nothing.
A year ago, I reached out for the first time ever to ask for more money. Just a little for school shopping. He agreed but tried to flake out. I was relentless and eventually got my little extra. A few weeks later I had the realization that I hadn't seen my usual check. They arrived twice a month like slightly off-kilter clockwork. I started paying attention to the days ticking by. I reached out via Facebook to the father (simply for the 'read' stamp that comes with those messages.) I grew increasingly anxious. Until the day I finally called my caseworker and she told me the words I feared, "we got notice that he's no longer employed". I felt sick. I hung up the phone, and cried. And cried. And cried some more. The whole evening. For me, it was a storm.
I counted on that. Our lives counted on that. I was brokenhearted. Not only had I lost a large part of my income, but he had taken the most cowardly route in not bothering to tell me what was coming. Not allowing me to prepare myself. I was blindsided, hurt, and afraid. Selfishly, I thought of what I was losing. I realized I shouldn't travel (albeit not far) to my planned marathon. Or pay my coach. Or even race. Or have coffee. I let myself sink into despair that night and cry it out.
|Ocean vacation just before the crap hit the fan|
But then... an amazing thing, a beautiful thing began to happen. People knew of the struggle. I opened up about my fears, I talked, I vented. I didn't do so with the expectation that people FIX my situation or take care of me. I just needed to talk it out. But people began to do things for us. A family did a food drive and provided us with a bunch of groceries. My incredible running team all came together to entirely take care of my marathon trip/hotel/entry/coffee. When they presented me with this gift, I was speechless and choked up (for a week, at least). Friends contacted me to offer to help in any way that they could. It was the most incredible time in my life of being blessed by others. I've had people come alongside me in the past, but not like this. I can't even list all the ways people gave me a safety net, and peace, every day.
|Photo cred: http://ferrarophotography.org/|
Slowly, I found my feet. I still felt underlying frustration and anger at the situation, but I had perspective. I did some math. I figured out I could make it work. I knew it was temporary and we would make it until the support came back. I lived in a place of gratitude. I would have drowned without all the family, the friends, the people in my life throwing out life preservers one at a time. With their words, and their acts, and their kind compassion.
Now, it's been a year. I never thought it would go on this long. I try not to dwell on the questions. Is he working under the table? Is he doing this with intent? It makes me angry, and bitter. A year. How far we have come in a year. I have learned so much about gratitude. I have wanted and wished to be able to pay it forward. I try to, when I can, in little ways. Over the last year though, life has changed, and continues to change for the better every day. I don't think constantly about the situation that threatened to derail me anymore. I am (not so humbly) proud of where we are now. We've made it a year. Okay, we've made it 9 years, really. Every day that I am a single mom, I am grateful. For the people in our lives, and how deeply they care for us and love us. And for the people who are not in our lives, and how we are stronger for it. That sometimes absence of things or people, subtraction from our lives leaves space for the addition of so much more.
It's not even about the money, in the end. Although this year, I bought all the school supplies myself, without panicking. I didn't have to do it myself... I could have asked for help, but, I could also do it. It's about the journey to really understanding what it means to be grateful. That asking for any type of help, and accepting that help without apology is okay. It doesn't mean I am weak and incapable when I can't do it alone. That just having the courage to say "I need help" doesn't need to come with guilt or pity.
So we've made it a year. And what a difference that year has made in our lives. We are physically in a better place, that I couldn't have dreamed of living in. We are emotionally in a better place, with people in our lives who love us. My guard over the last year, the wall of protection, has been breached. A lot. Okay, it's basically laying in rubble. And I had done some damn good construction. People tore it down and held my hand, carried me when I needed it, and never left my side.
|My life motto|
So here is to another year of continuing to live in a place of gratitude, grace, joy and most importantly, in the present moment.