Sunday, October 23, 2016


Nine years ago tonight, I was walking the halls of Kapi'olani Medical Center, trying to power my way through what would end up a 25 hour effort to get my cervix dilated to 10 centimeters so that I could meet my son - a big, strong, healthy boy who just about broke me in two.

I was living in a strange place where I didn't really know many people at all. My family and friends were halfway around the world and I felt very isolated and alone. I worked from home and didn't have a chance to interact with other people much, outside of some of the neighbors, none of whom I felt any particular kinship with.  Hawaii is a beautiful place, but without any family or real friends or sense of community, I found it to be very provincial and an unpleasant place to live. I honestly don't have any desire to ever go back.

Now I am in Denver, on the eve of my wonderful son's 9th birthday. And as much I truly enjoy living here - as much as Denver, as a place, is the best place I've ever lived - I'm once again finding myself feeling very isolated and alone.

I've mentioned in the past how extremely compartmentalized my life feels. Half the time, I am a single mother, with everything that that entails. My children are vibrant and beautiful and energetic and busy and difficult and all-consuming. We fill our days. I try to establish routines but also to infuse them with as much of my essence and love as I can before they have to leave and be without me again. I often feel like I am failing and flailing. I do the best that I can, but deep down, I don't believe that it's enough.

I see them struggle emotionally sometimes, especially Zeke. I wonder if it's just them being them, dealing with the trials of growing up as they normally would. Or maybe the divorce messed them up - maybe I messed them up. I feel guilty, like I have failed them. Like I am unworthy of them and of no good to them. (Add to this all the other reasons I regularly feel like I'm an abject failure at life, and you've got a real recipe for me in a laugh-a-minute mood).

And then they're gone for a time, and my life utterly changes. I don't have lunches to make in the morning, I don't have to get them up and out the door and to school. I can leave work late and go get a massage or meet friends out.

But mostly I'm alone.

I have friends and a little bit of family here.  But people are busy with their own lives and families, and trying to coordinate everyone's schedules to get together means we're having to plan weeks or even months out. My mom and I talk and lament that if we were closer, we'd see each other all the time. But we don't, and we can't.

Thought it doesn't often seem like it, I am self-conscious and naturally a bit introverted, so I feel awkward and unwelcome trying to include myself into other peoples' lives and events. It's easier to be alone because the emotional effort it takes to not be alone is so exhausting.

And sometimes I don't mind being alone. But lately, I've felt crushingly lonely.

The birthday month - the month including and in between the kids' birthdays (which fall exactly a month apart) - has been hard.  Both weekends, the kids have been with their dad and had birthday parties there that I have not been allowed to attend.

It has been overwhelmingly hurtful to me, far more than I could have anticipated. Partly because it's so hurtful to them - they repeatedly told me they wanted me there and asked why I wouldn't be, and all I could say was, "because I'm not invited." But it's also hurtful to me. And it's bewildering, because it's a course of action that I would never take in a million years.

It's just two days out of the year. People try to comfort me and tell me that I have to let it go. That I shouldn't let it bother me. That there's nothing I can do about it, so I need to get over it.

I know that they are right. That everything they are saying is true. That if I let it get to me, I will be allowing myself to be consumed by something that I can't control.

But the pain has been intense. I thought that as time went on and the reality of the divorce and the split custody situation became the norm, that I would get more used to it. But rather than getting easier to deal with, it has gotten harder, particularly on their birthdays. My birth days.

I try to think and reason and write my way out of it. Or go on long, grueling hikes like the one I did yesterday (I got lost and ended up tacking on an extra mile and a half, so by the time I got home I was toast).  The exertion pushes the bad feeling away, if only for a little while.

But then the feeling comes back. And I realize that the advice people try to give - don't let it get to you, don't take it personally - isn't what I need. I don't need to be told to let it go, at least not initially. I need to allow myself to feel shitty until I don't feel so shitty anymore.  I need someone I trust to envelop me in a hug or just hold my hand and say, "I know you feel awful, and I'm so sorry that you do. It sucks."

I will write Zeke his birthday post tomorrow, celebrating all of the reasons he continues to delight me and fill me with love and pride. For now, I will allow myself to feel hurt, because I am.


  1. Wise woman. No sense trying to feel something you don't. Just feel it and really it will eventually change. Also, sometimes we make choices to take action. I ended up away from my child for 31 days this past summer through a fluke of a custody order translation that was weird (with which I did not agree). My son's father did not let me call him on the phone. Nor did his father give him the postcard that I mailed him. I felt pretty awful a lot of the month. And you can bet that I will not be letting that happen next summer. Even if I have to go to court. But then there are things that I let slide even if I don't like them. We make our choices. I wish I were there to give you a hug and have the same custody schedule so that we could hang out as childless humans or as mothers on our matched days. Love you.

  2. I saw Glennon Melton speak last week and I just finished her book, and she has a different theory about pain and loneliness. She says to run toward it, that there isn't feeling better until you deal with the pain. If you ignore it or discount it, it will continue to fester or consume you. Instead, run toward it, deal with it - whether with hiking or crying or hanging with friends or whatever helps - and then you can deal with that pain. I wish you were still here so I could give you a big hug and hang with you, and I know that won't fix it but at least might help. I would be pissed, too, and lonely, and hurt. Just know that you are loving and a wonderful mom and Z and J are lucky to have you as their mama. Love you so much, friend.

  3. Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry for your pain, I can identify so much. I too find it exhausting to buck up and be optimistic, sometimes I just need to lay in bed and cry. It has been a year now that he's been taking my babies to sleep overnight at his house, only two nights a week, but I'm still not entirely used to it. I try to enjoy my "freedom", and sometimes I do, but sometimes it just hits me when they are driving away that this feels so wrong. Or I'll go out and have a fun night and come home to an empty house and feel the deep loneliness. Not just for the kids, but especially thinking I will never get to lay next to someone again who I fully trust not to leave me. Please e-mail if you ever want to talk more or candidly vent, especially about dating, uff da, it is stressful.