Anyway. The lowest point was over winter break, when I was home for two solid weeks and did absolutely nothing. I pulled off another Christmas wherein I played the part of Loving Mother but other than that it was basically me sitting around growing new chins, watching every British show on Netflix and discovering just how long one can go without showering before people driving by your house can catch a whiff of your sad stench. (side note here: how is it possible that I am still single? 😂)
Things began changing after that. The new year truly did bring in a new me, and I haven't looked back. My teenager's unflagging attempts to actually get me to join him at the gym* instead of just dropping him off finally paid off, and on January 13th I steeled myself for a moment before walking into the workout room of the YMCA. It was almost as hard as walking into the food shelf for the first time, you guys. I tugged at the giant shirt which was, despite its size, uncomfortably tight around my belly. Certainly everyone was looking at the frizzy haired giantess approaching the weight machines, right? But guess what...nobody cared. Not one person pointed and laughed at me as I did arm curls and leg presses and there wasn't a crowd of people snapchatting fat shaming pictures of me as I got on the treadmill.
Nope. Not one person cared except for me, and after a few minutes my worries melted away as the endorphins rushed in like rainwater after a drought. That was the first night of many that my kid and I loaded into the car and made our way to the gym in the dark, when I used to be finishing the dinner dishes and deciding which show to watch before falling asleep in front of the t.v.
In the days since that first anxiety-ridden gym trip, so much has changed. My mood is a thousand times better. I am losing weight, although this time around I refuse to step on a scale (the fact that my boobs now resemble freckly deflated footballs is really all the proof I need). One of my favorite work friends commented the other day, "You have a really beautiful glow around you lately" and I replied, "I've never felt better" and it's the truth: I have never felt this happy or this healthy or this hopeful.
Hope was hard for me to find after mom's death. Add to that the insane election and the aftermath and it felt as though it would never come back (I know we steer clear of politics here but come on, friends- I'm a low income single mom who works for a public school district...it's not hard to figure out why I'm scared shitless). Since I started exercising again, though, I'm finding it easier to see the good. I'm laughing again, smiling real smiles and even the old writing urge is slowly coming back to life.
I lost all of that for a little bit earlier this week. All thanks to a letter. A letter from someone I was done with, or so I thought.
When my mom died there was one silver lining: it meant that I'd never have to see her husband, the man who terrorized me as a child and teenager, again. It was a relief to hear he'd hightailed it out of Minnesota just a few weeks after her memorial service, leaving for the warmth and golf courses of Arizona. He was the main reason for the degradation of the relationship between me and my mom. Seeing him, hearing his voice brought me back to those dark, nightmarish years of abuse. Walking into their house sent me spiraling down a funky rabbit hole of despair: the stench of cigarettes in my hair and on my clothes, the cobwebs of awful memories clinging to my face and limbs.
Her dying freed me of him. Apparently, he didn't get that memo.
His letter stunned me. It also made me laugh. Not because it was funny (although it is kind of hilarious) but due to the absolute absurdity of it. The gall! The huge font! The "over" at the bottom of the page just in case I'd been reading it and couldn't figure out I had to turn the paper over to find his closing remarks.
His narcissism has never been more obvious. Actually, I think someone teaching a class on personality disorders could take this letter and use it as a teaching tool. "Class, let's dissect this one: first, let's count how many times the writer of the letter uses the words I, me, and my."
For a while his words stuck to me like those icky memories. I composed a reply in my head...the first one was simply "Fuck you." The second one was wordier.
Here's the letter. I blocked out his information because even assholes deserve some modicum of privacy. But the rest of it? Fair game.
Yes, it was addressed to both my brother and me. He sent one to my brother, too.
- You are the enemy.
- My kids are not your grandchildren. They never were.
- Maybe you should have let mom move to California to be with you. Just saying.
- You were 22 and you entered into a relationship with a married, 35 year old woman who had two kids. Cry me an effing river, dickhead.
- Your parents failed miserably.
- There is no line a 9 year old kid can cross that would make it okay to hit them. Or kick them, slap them, throw ceramic coffee mugs at their heads and chase them through a house while they scream for help.
- The only thing I'll give you credit for are 40 years worth of nightmares and trust issues. Also, the fun way I flinch when someone near me raises their voice. Thanks!
- You'll get our social security numbers right about the same time we invite you over for Sunday dinner. In other words, don't hold your breath. (or, do hold it? For a long time? Please?)
What distressed me the most about this letter was how it made me mad at my mom all over again. Five months have passed and while there are still tough moments, for the most part I have come to a kind of peace with all of it. After reading this letter I felt the resentment, felt the betrayal, felt the impotent rage. It has taken a few days, several miles walking the dog and some good late nights at the gym to get rid of it, but it's gone.
We now return to our regularly scheduled happiness.
* an explanation of the gym, since there are a few people out there who like to keep track of how I spend my money: we have the pauper's scholarship at the YMCA. For $60 a month all five of us can use the gym to workout, take classes or just go play basketball. We use our membership, on average, four days a week. The health insurance I get through work has an incentive group that I participate in...aside from getting Amazon gift cards for simply exercising, they also offer a gym rebate of $350 a year. So, our membership ends up being about $30 a month. Less than two therapy co-pays! #winning