“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, pave another one.” -Dolly Parton
I did what I had to do. My daughter says I have a habit of making short-term decisions; that I lack the ability to see the long view. Perhaps. Throughout my life I have put one foot in front of the other, looking down so as not to trip, rather than watching for what lays ahead. Somehow it has gotten me here. I have a tendency to panic, a fear of falling.
At 19 when my parents sold the house and moved on to their 32-foot sailboat to travel around the world, I panicked and married my prom date. We stuck with it for about ten years when I suddenly found myself alone and pregnant.
After some struggles and job-hopping, I decided I could buy myself some time by returning to school and become a teacher. This gave me more time with my toddler. Being a mom, a good mom, was important to me. If I didn’t have a sitter, she would go to class with me. If she was sick, missing a class was so much easier than missing an entire day of work. After two years, I returned to work but at a school, so our hours were pretty much the same and I had holidays and summers off. Even with a large cut in pay, I always felt this was a good decision for us, her and I.
In spite of me being really bad at managing finances, we got along pretty well. She went to school every day and I went to work as a teacher. On Sundays we attended church. In our free time we went swimming or cuddled on the sofa and watched movies. Sometimes we would spend a long weekend at the beach. She was good company and always made me laugh. We could’ve gone on like that; we were a good little family, her and I.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE WHITE PICKET FENCE
The problem is, I bought into the myth that we were not a complete family. To be complete we needed a house, a husband, a father-figure. You know, the white picket fence. As soon as I had the chance I remarried. That was a mistake. From the very beginning, I knew it was a misstep. This was not a slow recognition of miscalculation, rather from the beginning I tried to convince myself of something I knew deep down to be untrue. I tried to tell myself that he would learn to love me and to love my child; that I would learn to love him and his children. I tried. Really, I did. What was not there was not there. Each day became more miserable than the one before. Until one day, I just couldn’t live the lie anymore.
I didn’t know how to leave; I was not the abandoner. He was the one person who needed to leave and he wouldn’t. So, I did it wrong; I left wrong. I left and that was good, but I left in a messy way which was not so good.
That’s when I ran. I ran until I could run no more. Then I spiraled. It was ugly and it nearly ruined me. But the important thing is, I got up and climbed out of the hole. Every day since has been a step toward improvement. That is my story.