Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"How do you do it all?"

I get this question a lot. I wish I were half as heroic as some people seem to think I am. Just because I am a single mom in dental school doesn't mean I have it all together... lots of things fall by the wayside because I am so busy and pulled in so many different directions. My flaws: dear internet, let me show you them.

Exhibit A: my desk at school. Unfortunately this is its natural state. Okay, fine, it's actually a little less messy than usual. Yes, those calendars on the bulletin board are from December.

Exhibit B: my car. The check engine light has been on since last May. A piece of it fell off while I was driving down the highway a couple weeks ago. (It was making a strange noise which stopped as soon as that piece fell off, so I assumed it was for the best.) The oil hasn't been changed since... well... I guess Tyler changed it last. That means it's been... longer than recommended. I've had one headlight out for at least three months. In my defense, I did try to change the headlight, but I couldn't get the cover off so I gave up and figured that one headlight was better than none. Plus it makes my car look totally badass.

Exhibit C: my utilities. Paying the bills was always Tyler's job. Sometimes I forget to pay a bill until whatever it is I'm not paying for gets shut off. To be fair, this is a very effective reminder technique. Well played, cable company. Well played.

Oh no. Now that I've started listing my irresponsibilities, I can't stop. Sometimes I put meat in the fridge to defrost and forget about it for a couple weeks. Sometimes I put off taking out the trash until the smell forces me to do it. I have incomplete audits on some of my patients' charts that were due last October. I have a strange aversion to writing papers for oral surgery and so I haven't fulfilled a single oral surgery requirement since 2008. Sometimes I keep my Netflix DVDs for 3 weeks at a time because I forget that I have them. AHHH!! Can't stop!!

My point is. I don't do it all. It only looks like I do.

Now please share all of your similar stories in the comments below, to make me feel better. And if you have no similar stories and you actually do "do it all", please refrain from saying so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Irretrievable breakdown

So. I got divorced today.

It was kind of an out-of-body experience. Very surreal. We went to the courthouse for our hearing with all of our paperwork. Waited for the family court to open at 9am. Bickered a little bit about who knows what. Tyler made some comment about the next poor sucker who has to deal with me and I told him that maybe we just shouldn't talk if he was going to insist on making this worse than it had to be. Not a fantastic start to the day... but then, what exactly would constitute a fantastic start to the day you get divorced?

Anyway. We talked to a family relations officer for about 45 minutes, and she got all of our paperwork in order. Changed a couple of things in our parenting plan, most notably changing joint physical custody to primary physical custody for me, and increasing my child support a little bit. I forget what else we talked about. I couldn't really focus. I was mostly sitting there staring at this woman thinking that she must have the worst job in the whole entire world, and that's saying something coming from a dentist, don't you think?

Then we went before the judge. We stood together in front of a table and they swore us in. The thought passed through my mind that we were standing together in a room with wood-paneled walls in front of a man with a beard just like on our wedding day, and I desperately tried to squash it. The judge asked me a lot of questions, because I was the plaintiff. He went through our agreement with us and asked us if we agreed to everything and if we understood.

He asked me to raise my right hand and swear that I believed that our agreement was in the best interest of my child. I flinched. I could feel the tears coming up behind my eyes but I swallowed hard and did what he said. I spread my hands on the table in front of me and stared at them while he asked the same of Tyler.

He asked me if I wanted my birth name back, and I said yes.

Then he restated the terms of our agreement, said "I find this marriage dissolved on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown" and wished us luck.

That was it. We left the courtroom. Waiting for the elevator, Tyler said "Well that wasn't as painful as I thought it would be." I didn't answer or look at him. I started crying in an elevator for the second time since this whole thing went down and then we were standing outside. I said, "I'm so sorry for everything." He said he was too. Then we left. And that was it.

I couldn't shake this feeling, the entire time, that although the people we dealt with at the courthouse were very nice, they were looking at us and thinking that we were so young, and that we had a child. And judging us. Really, I'm to the point where I don't much care who judges me for getting divorced anymore, but it's the implication that I'm doing wrong by my child that bothers me. I mean, I'll be the first to tell you that I don't know the right way to raise a child. I don't. But I do know a couple of wrong ways. And staying with a man I don't love and can't get along with, out of some misguided sense of duty... that's a wrong way. And I can't do it. I won't.

I was in a weird place for the rest of the day. I couldn't figure out how to feel. I thought I'd be thrilled and relieved... I definitely wasn't that. I think it will take awhile to sink in. And it was all so official and cold and legal and draining that I just felt sort of numb. I texted my friends to tell them that it was final. (One of them sent me an email not more than five minutes later asking for my shoe size because I'm a bridesmaid in her wedding... really? Can we not hold off on the wedding-talk until I've been divorced for longer than 45 minutes? I told her "Whatever size is appropriate for the bridesmaid who gets the drunkest and bangs the hottest groomsman.")

At the end of the day, I got home from clinic and there was a letter for me from the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (how very official of them) informing me that I had passed my national boards.

And then I felt better. I have a job, I have the qualifications to start said job, I'm good at what I do, I can support my child. I have great friends. Caroline is awesome and hilarious and she's going to grow up in a peaceful and happy home. Just because today was painful doesn't mean I did the wrong thing. It just means that I didn't take any of these decisions lightly.

I've got my eye on the prize, and the prize is... happiness. For all three of us. Together, apart, or somewhere in between.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Same team

I don't think I took enough time to mourn the loss of my marriage. I know this because overall, as time passes, I feel sadder about it rather than more at peace. Honestly, I am a crier. But I really hardly did any crying over my divorce at all. Tyler, I know, did a lot of crying... and I feel awful about that. In the beginning, he told me, he would wake up in the middle of the night crying, or with his eyelashes stuck together with dried tears.

I've cried twice. That's it.

The first time was during one of our divorce counseling sessions that we went to in order to try to rebuild the pieces of our marriage into some kind of coparenting relationship. We were going through some of the issues that had brought us to that point. One major one was my postpartum depression and post-NICU PTSD, and Tyler's reaction to it. I was trying to articulate how it damaged me when he insisted that I just get over the whole NICU ordeal, that it was in the past. I tried to explain that it was something that had marked me as a mother, that had changed how I see my child. The counselor jumped on that and asked, "How? How do you see her?" And I cried. The really bad kind of crying, where you look away and desperately try to stop but tears keep pouring down your face. I must have sat there for five minutes, silently crying and unable to speak, until finally I croaked out, "It made me feel like she could be taken from me at any time."

The counselor looked at Tyler and said, "now maybe you understand a little better, the reasons behind her objections to you taking Caroline to North Dakota for several weeks at a time." Tyler didn't answer. He was crying too. After we left that session, we stood together in the elevator, tears still running down my face, and Tyler said "I wish we would have done this counseling a long time ago."

So did I. But it was just too late.

The second time I cried for my divorce, for my marriage, was last night. It came on suddenly. I had been moping around, thinking about our upcoming court date, and walked into my room (formerly our room) to go to bed. I saw our wedding rings sitting on my dresser. I picked them up and sat on the edge of my bed (formerly our bed) and stared at them in my hand. Thought about what they were supposed to stand for, what we let slip away, what we lost. And I cried.

I think that what I am grieving for is not so much the loss of him, but the death of the dream. The family we were supposed to be. We were supposed to be partners, parents, teammates. "Same team!" I used to scream at him when we would fight. "Same team!!"

We still have to be a team, though. Just a different kind. As they said in my parenting class, if you have kids, divorce doesn't ever mean a relationship is over-- it just becomes a new type of relationship. Even though we failed at staying partners, we are tied together for life, by Caroline. At times I find that almost comforting, in a twisted kind of way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Signed, sealed, delivered

Tyler and I met up today at my school library to finish and sign our divorce papers, and to do our taxes.

The whole thing is bizarre. I don't know how to articulate the feeling of sitting next to someone you used to be so close to, doing boring "married" chores like filing taxes, and then calmly writing out the sentences that describe how you plan to take apart your family.

"That said child shall reside with Mother. That Father shall have parenting time set forth from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, every other weekend..."

"That the Parents shall have the right to parenting time during each of the following Holidays and Special Days in alternating years..."

"That all major medical decisions and general welfare shall be made by the prior consent of both parties or further order of the Court..."

"The Parents are restrained and enjoined from attempting to coerce said child into false and negative beliefs about, negative or abusive behavior toward, or attempt to alienate said child from the other Parent..."

There were some arguments... some tense moments. But we wrote the parenting plan. We filled out all the forms. We signed it all. We made copies. And then we talked, in the car on the way back from the library.

Tyler told me that one of his friends said that it was no wonder our marriage didn't work, because I was in love with the idea of Tyler rather than ever being in love with Tyler himself. While I don't agree that it all fell apart because of me and only me, I do agree with that statement. That is kind of how I am in general. I like the idea of things... the way things sound. The reality is never so appealing. I liked the wedding part of marriage-- the anticipation, the big party, the pretty dresses, the flowers, the romantic vows... and then I hated the reality of married life, probably mostly because I married someone I had no business being with in the first place...

And that's what I told him. That I thought we fell apart because, like most marriages that end in divorce, we never should have been together at all. He nodded and we were both quiet for a long time. Then we talked about what we would have done differently, what we would do differently next time. If we'd ever be good friends. How it was better that Caroline was so young when all of this went down, so that she doesn't have to remember the bitterness and will only know us as coparents rather than as two angry people tied together in a miserable marriage.

Then he said, "I've got to hand it to you." I didn't know what he meant, and I said so. He said that he would never have asked me to end it, that he would have kept struggling and trying to make it work, that he would have rationalized things and lived with them. That it takes courage to put an end to a marriage when it isn't working out.

Even though it was me who filed, and he was dead set against it at first, I think that he was just as unhappy with me as I was with him.

So, the papers are signed, and we have court on Tuesday. Tyler hasn't yet taken his court-ordered parenting class, so I don't know if the judge will finalize the divorce, but regardless-- we've agreed on everything, and it's all down on paper. Signed, sealed, delivered. And ironically, that's the song that was playing as we walked into our wedding reception, holding hands and smiling, just three and a half short years ago.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"That class should be held in a spa"

I had to go to the first part of my court-ordered divorce parenting class yesterday. Boy, was that fun. I mean a real fucking blast. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do with half a day than sit in a classroom that smells like cigarettes and Axe body spray with a bunch of depressed soon-to-be divorced parents while we all talk about how badly we're gonna mess up our kids by getting divorced and watch pop psychology videos that had to have been made circa 1975.

I got so miserable during the class that I desperately took out my phone and started texting friends right in front of the instructor. Luckily my friends are downright hilarious and made me giggle despite all the gloom and doom around me. "Hey, maybe you can find a date for the formal there?" "Omg... why do they have to make divorce so trashy? That class should be held in a spa."

First we had to introduce ourselves and say one positive thing about our kid(s). And I shit you not, this one lady said about her 12-year-old, "she loves body piercings". I'm sorry. What? There are so many things wrong with this that I don't even know where to begin. She's 12? And loves body piercings? And you view this as a positive thing? And not only a positive thing, but THAT is what pops into your mind to say when you have to sum up your daughter in a single sentence to 15 strangers?

This is what I'm dealing with, people. This is what I'm dealing with.

Then we had to do this exercise where we all called out emotions that kids feel when their parents tell them that they are getting divorced, and the instructor wrote them all on the board. She was writing all kinds of things like "depression, anger, fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness" and now I'm not trying to say that those aren't all true because I have no doubt that they are, but I felt I had to step in at this point. I raised my hand and said "what about relief? I mean if there is a lot of conflict in the house, sometimes it's better for parents to split up. Isn't that why we're all here?" Everyone stared at me blankly and then nodded and then smiled.

The instructor did not write it on the board.

In all seriousness, it was beneficial, I guess, to talk about divorce from the child's point of view. Caroline is not old enough to understand what is going on-- Tyler hasn't really lived with us since he left for his trip to South Africa before the summer, which was in June, and she was only 16 months old at the time. She'll grow up not knowing anything other than her parents not being together. But I'm sure some of the emotions will be the same when she realizes exactly what that means.

Other messages from the class were things that I already knew and try my best to live by, like not speaking negatively of the other parent in front of the child, keeping schedules consistent, not using the child to hurt the other parent, etc. Always good to reinforce that.

Anyway, I suffered through three long hours of yet another way for the state to make money, I mean parenting class, and then drove like a bat out of hell to get to my 1:00 patient on time. Who then did not show up. Such is life as a dental student. I have to go to the other half of the class next Wednesday, which is the day after our divorce is hopefully finalized. Please GOD let it be finalized on Tuesday. I don't want to deal with this legal business anymore. I'd rather have a 12-year-old daughter whose most positive attribute is an obsession with body piercings.

Well... maybe I wouldn't go that far.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Valentine's Day and eff it.

Valentine's Day is a blast when you are getting divorced.

I know you think I'm being sarcastic because when am I NOT sarcastic but I'm actually not kidding. Today was pretty awesome.

If you're on Facebook, which I assume you are if you are reading a blog, you've probably seen all the billions of Valentine's Day statuses about how much "I loooooove my husband!" and "Tra la la la my boyfriend is the BESTEST!!" and lots of random hearts and squiggly lines and pictures of flowers and gifts and shit. Those annoyed the crap out of me even when I was married, but this year I find them especially grating. So I copied and pasted the one I saw most frequently:

"To celebrate Valentine's Day change profile pic to you & your spouse or significant other.. & state how long you've been together &/or how many years married"

And added:

"Started dating 06/04... engaged 08/06... married 09/07... divorced... NEXT WEEK, BETCHES!!!" And changed my profile pic to a wedding pic. In which I was vogueing and looked fab and half Tyler's nose was cut off.

Juvenile? Yup. Immature? Mmmhmm. Totally. Do I care? Not even a little bit. Normally I'd roll my eyes and label people who post shit like that as bitter drama queens, but today I just felt like hitting back a little and it felt awesome.

Luckily most people who are friends with me get my kind of humor and so it was, ah... an extremely popular status, hahaha. Judging from my friend count, it got me deleted by a couple people, but that's cool. Much easier than weeding them out myself. Because eff it, man. If society is going to rub their happiness in my face, I'm going to rub mine right back in theirs. Except mine has to do with finally getting divorced, and in my opinion, that's fucking hilarious on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Butterfly, Flutterby

Caroline's second birthday party was last weekend! It was butterfly-themed. Here are a few pics for your enjoyment... I didn't go all-out decorating like I did last year, but I did have boards the next day so that's my excuse. We all had a great time!

I'm two and I'm ready to party! And my mom's living room is a mess!

Cupcake #1: 10:00am. Just wasn't worth the tantrum. Few things are, to me, honestly.

Caroline and Papa (my dad).

She got a whoooole lot of presents... and a whooooole lot of Play Doh.

We had a butterfly pinata full of candy, which was especially popular with the dental students/dentists who were present... ironic?

Mom, why are you trying to BURN ME?!

There you have it... the butterfly party. Some year she will have a party that isn't some kind of bug theme. I guess I figure I'd better get in a bunch of non-pink-princess parties while I still can!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Sometimes I find blogging to be a little... tricky. This might come as a surprise, considering the things I've shared here over the past few years, but I'm actually a very private person in real life. (It helps that maybe only about five people I know in real life read this... as far as I know...) However, I do try to keep some topics off-limits. One of them was the trouble I was having in my marriage. I guess I posted the occasional vent when I was feeling particularly abandoned, but in general I tried to keep that between the two of us. And even so, there have been many things about our marriage and divorce that I have kept private, because discussing them here just isn't... appropriate, or fair.

I guess it's a fine line between sharing too much and just sharing my story. I try to walk it as best I can. I don't want to stop telling it, because I find it therapeutic and lord knows I need all the therapy I can get, and also because I know there are a lot of you out there who follow along with all my trainwrecks of various kinds, and hey, who wants to disappoint the internet?

So, I'm about to break one of my rules and talk about one of my off-limits topics. Because I need to. Because it's important to my story.

Men. Dating. Life after marriage. Let me preface all of this by saying that I do not involve Caroline in any of it. I don't want her to get attached to anyone who is likely to walk away. She doesn't need to feel any more abandoned than she will when her father moves 2000 miles away and stays there for the rest of her life.

I haven't been seriously involved with anyone since Tyler, although, as I type that, I wonder if it is exactly true. No one I've called a boyfriend, anyway. Mostly it's been a distraction. Recently, though, it was somewhat... more.

Letting people in right after a divorce is dangerous. Also stupid. Stupid is a key word here. Almost having a doctorate doesn't necessarily exclude me from being a total idiot, if I haven't already proved that point over and over again.

Needless to say, whatever it was (and really, it wasn't supposed to be anything at all) is over. It happened a little while ago and to be honest, I'm fine, but it's really made me slam on the brakes and take a good look at myself. Since I was 16 or 17, I've been in a relationship of one kind or another. When one would end, I'd leap headfirst into something else to distract myself. This is an awful pattern to get into. You end up with distraction upon distraction, and, if you're like me and you suffer from a depressing and somewhat pathetic inability to keep any kind of walls up, you get more involved than you should, every time. Eventually, you end up buried under all these distractions-turned-relationships and you have no idea who you are anymore.

I might be being a little harsh with myself. Or maybe I'm finally getting it. Maybe a little of both.

Regardless, I'm taking a break. Enough is enough. I need time to deal with myself, and focus on my daughter, and graduate, and get started with my career. I need to stop relying on other people to make me feel like I am worth something. I need to be happy with myself before I can ever be happy with anyone else. I feel like if I don't break this cycle, everything will be doomed to failure from the start. And I have to believe that I deserve more than that.

So no more. I'm calling it quits until I feel that I'm ready to stand on my own two feet in a relationship. No more distractions. I didn't end my disaster of a marriage and take control of my life just to throw it all away again.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

She's two!

I can't believe it, but my baby girl is two years old today.

I have her for her birthday weekend, which makes me very happy. I'm having her party here at our place tomorrow (I'll be sure to post pics!). Unfortunately this weekend is pretty stressful since I have two more days of board exams on Monday and Tuesday and Caroline has been very sick for the past week with hand foot & mouth disease. But my mom has helped me a lot with the party planning so I think it should go pretty well.

Okay. Honestly? I'm in a really weird place these days and would like to post about it but I don't want to drag down her birthday post... so I'll just save it for another day.

Here's the birthday girl from a couple days ago, in my bed with all her stuffed animal friends gathered around her to make her feel better.

I had to miss a lot of school (and boards studying time) staying home because of her illness, but I have to admit that it's always nice to spend some lazy days at home with my girl. :)

Happy second birthday, Caroline!!