This was a post that appeared on my Facebook page a few years ago. This time of year, many of us are feeling "less than": we have less money, less time, less "stuff". Social media, ads and the shows/movies that saturate our screens around the holidays make is seem as if everyone is living their best life with no worries, no stress and no problems. It's so easy to fall into the tar pit of woe, right? It's almost impossible to look at all of it and not feel as if there's no way we can keep up, or even enter the race. I was feeling this way, too, and then my sweet wise kid and I had this conversation. I try to keep this story close, for those inevitable times I feel less than. I hope it helps you, too.
I started writing my blog almost exactly 5 years ago. The reason I wrote was twofold: I had to get it out, and I wanted other women who were going through the pain of infidelity, separation and divorce to feel less alone. Five years later, those two reasons are still front and center. And that's why I'm going to share with you what went down tonight.
Just when I think I'm all grown up and healed and HEAR ME ROAR, BITCHES something like this pops up out of the blue while I'm at the grocery store with my son:
We were standing in front of the Fancy Cheese section and William said, "When we were at dad's on Christmas they had this soft cheese that you put on crackers." I picked up a small wheel of Brie and asked, "Was it this?". Affirmative. I handed him the brie, and he said, "They had these big crackers, really crunchy. You broke off a section and put the cheese on it. Can we see if they have those here?" I smiled at him, and nodded. Then my boy, my quiet and kinda awkward 14 year old asks, "Does dad still tell you that he doesn't have much money?" I always hate these types of questions because if I don't say anything they think I'm hiding things, and if I say too much I worry that I'm...well, saying too much. So I just answered, "Your dad and I haven't discussed finances in a while."
The boy was silent for a second, inspecting the brie like a mother inspecting her newborn. Then he said, "Well, if he does tell you that he's broke, I think that's not true. Because they have a new kitchen. With an island and marble counters (god bless this sweet kid who doesn't know it's surely granite, not marble). And they got rid of their carpet and put all new wood floors all over the house!" I was pushing the cart down the cracker aisle now, my knuckles taut and white on the handle, my mind reeling with images of remodeling and memories of the new kitchen I once had. "I wonder if they have a big fridge" I thought to myself. But William wasn't done. "They redid the basement too. And there's a couple of new, massive flat screens."
He finally stopped. His cheeks were a little pink, maybe he was feeling traitorous, maybe he could see the glints of pain and jealousy (yep, jealousy) in my eyes. His voice was soft, more mumbly than usual when he spoke again: "All I'm saying, Mom, is that if he's telling you he is poor it sure doesn't look like it."
I will admit that hearing about all the "newness" hurt. It hurt something fierce. And I absolutely HATE that it hurt. I hate that things like this still have the power to evoke old feelings, feelings that I think are finally, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, dead and buried. I hate feeling the smooth tendrils of envy creeping up from my heart, entwining my throat and poking at the backs of my eyeballs. I really, really hate that a 14 year old kid sees the disparity between his parent's lifestyles.
A bit later I was driving William to a friend's house for a sleepover. "I'm sorry I got kind of weird after you mentioned your dad's new kitchen" I said. "I know that having you guys with me is worth so much more than new counters and all that. Are you okay with how things are? Even though we don't have cool new things?" I said this to him, in the dark car.
"Mom" he said. "When I was there, it was nice. But it didn't feel like home. It's never felt like home to me. Home is where we're with you."
Gah. I waited until he was safely inside his friend's house before I let the tears fall. I cried because it killed me to feel those awful things again. I cried because I'm sick of struggling and pinching pennies and renting instead of owning and trying to play Tetris with groceries in my teeny tiny refrigerator. I cried because once upon a time I had a new kitchen in an old house, and it was in that new kitchen my husband told me he was leaving.
Mostly I cried because my son told me that I'm home. Home.
I am home.
I can't afford a new kitchen or new televisions. But there is some room in my budget for little things, like fabulous tequila and a bag of limes and a new candle. I couldn't find any Fresh Linen scented candles at our grocery store, so I settled on one called Soft Cotton Blanket. The candle is burning now and I think it smells nice, although since most of the blankets at my house reek of dog and feet and teenager, I don't have much to compare it to.
So I'm sitting here, enjoying what I think is the scent of soft blankets and my latest obsession, homemade margaritas. The tears have long since dried up and it appears as though I've made it through yet another ambush attack of those awful Divorce Arrows relatively unscathed.
All is okay, again.
I'm telling you this, my sisters, my fellow members of this insane First Wives Club, because I know that we are all in different stages of repair. And although sometimes it seems like some of us have cleared the big hurdles and are all moved on and grown up and are HEALED, we still find ourselves back in that place again. That hurty, sore place where everything is fresh and sharp.
But you guys, guess what? We are okay. We can be sad and mournful when we need to be, but then we get over it and light candles and squeeze limes and have our kids tell us that we feel like home to them.
I still wish I had a bigger fridge, though.