Posted by: shelliejelly | December 22, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #70

1. Sabine’s eyes lighting up as she talks of Santa coming

2. Snow angels

3. The dog’s snout in new-fallen snow

4. Knowing that days are getting longer

5. Looking forward to renewal, a new year, hope

You can be grateful, too.

Posted by: shelliejelly | December 16, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #69

1. Finding my way back

2. Parking the car, both Sabine and I getting out and either racing to the door or holding hands across the street. “Do you know what we get to do when we get home?” I ask every night. “What?” she always asks in return. “TURN ON OUR CHRISTMAS TREE,” with both squeal with delight.

3. Buying new calendars

4. Patchouli Lavendar Vanilla body oil from Sabon—makes me want to eat my arms!

5. Quiet nights, both inside and out

Tis the season, go, be grateful.

Posted by: shelliejelly | December 8, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #68

1. Slipping on ice while holding Sabine’s hand. She grabs on tighter, offering help. All that heart in her 3-foot, 2-inch frame makes my eyes well.

2. A teacher I don’t know stopping me outside Sabine’s school as I’m leaving after dropping her off. “Are you Sabine’s mom?” followed by a heartwarming story.

3. Sabine “hugging” her Christmas tree every night before she goes to bed.

4. Being in a position to help

5. Finding new music that speaks to me.

‘Tis the season. Go, be grateful.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 30, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #65

1. Paul Simon’s music; I love his voice

2. Interviewers that can make you feel like a part of the story; I love watching Diane Sawyer interview people—she has such a gift.

3. Oatmeal in the morning

4. Getting through a particularly difficult day

5. Reaching outward; looking for connection instead of isolation

You can do it too.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 24, 2009

Building, building

I’ve always prided myself on doing what is right; I haven’t always succeeded, I can admit that to myself. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been trapped in this feeling that I can somehow manuever the various, disparate details and actually create an outcome—my life becoming a mathematical equation where if a, then b will equal c. If I’m kind and loving than I will find someone who is kind and loving to me. If I do well at my job and am a good employee, I will succeed.

Even I understand my belief—a belief that doesn’t take into account or perhaps willfully ignores that life is, often, random and uncontrollable—is childish and unsophisticated. I can’t, it would seem, just let it go, however. Why am I the owner of such grief when I’ve done my best to be a good person? Why are people who are selfish and mean-spirited thriving?

I am solely financially responsible for myself and my three-year-old little girl because O. was fired from his job in July and hasn’t found work. My parents help me, but I can’t bear to take anything from them other than what I absolutely need to; they’ve done so much for me already. O.’s parents are worthless, and I don’t say that lightly because I believe in being generous with my feelings when I can.

The truth is, I’ve given O. and his family the benefit of the doubt for more years than I care to think about right now. Be generous, give of yourself, it’ll come back to you. For this effort, I’ve gotten little in return outside of heartache and excuses for behavior that’s inexcusable. You rise above and good things will come.

But good things haven’t been coming, and I know I’m not owed anything. Much of what is going on right now is my own doing, and I am angry at myself for not taking better care of my own feelings.

“I just want O. to have a good life,” I once told my best friend. “And I want the same thing for you,” she responded, saying, without really saying—you can do better; you deserve more.

More and more these days, once Sabine is safely in bed, I sit on my couch and stare, wondering how I’m ever going to get somewhere good again. All I see when I look ahead is more struggle, more heartache, more excuses. And I’m tired, just plumb exhausted, but I don’t know how to just let go and accept that O. is never going to be dependable, probably never going to have much to offer beyond the predictable disappointment.

I need to clear the rubble. I need to start from scratch. I need to stop the anger and bitterness from creeping up from my toes and grabbing my heart in a strangle hold. I need to let myself take care of myself, adjust my own expectation of myself and the world. I need to move forward, shuffle off, as best I can, the burdens that are no longer mine to bear.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 22, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #63

1. Fabric softener—something so simple yet I feel pampered when I use it

2. Looking at pictures of Sabine only a few minutes old. Impossible to think of how fast the time is going, how huge my heart has become

3. Being proactive

4. Making the best of it

5. Having the exact size batteries I need at the time I need them

You can be grateful, too. Won’t hurt a bit.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 20, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #62

1. Sunshine after days of gray

2. Helping someone grow their perspective

3. Laying on the floor coloring with Sabine, taking direction from her, “Mama, do you want to color this cherry red?”

4. Leftovers

5. My dog’s enthusiastic greetings, tail whipping back and forth, kisses all around

Go on, give a little gratefulness.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 18, 2009

I’m all lost

A recurring theme in my divorce is the almost obsessive need I have to get it right. I subconsciously try to put all the pieces together so that Sabine will get through this part of her childhood with as few scars as possible. I want to believe that all the right moves will secure her heart, keep her from ever feeling torn or betrayed or abandoned.

But somehow, even while scrambling around doing everything within my power to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening, I know some of the outcome is beyond my control. Knowing and letting go of the impulse to try and control the process, however, is difficult. I don’t want to fail again. I don’t want her to grow up regretting I’m her mother.

Some of Sabine’s recent drawings are of sad people. She’ll draw her family:  me, O. and her, and then, sometimes, she’ll include another little body who has tears. She’ll point to the stick figure and tell me he’s sad. Why? Because he misses his daddy, she most often responds. You know, Sabine, if you’re sad and missing your daddy, you can talk to me about your feelings.

I don’t push; I don’t force; I don’t follow her around asking every minute or two if she’s okay. I understand that even at three a part of this journey is hers alone to make. But I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t want to press her against me, somehow breathe into her everything my heart, my mind, my body knows about her place in this sometimes confusing world. There is so much love around you, little girl. You are wanted and valued in ways you’re much too young to understand. You change lives for the better, and every day I get to watch you navigate your way in this world is astounding to me. I see new possibility because of you; I feel more myself because I’m your mother.

Some of the problem, too, is that I myself am lost at times. Tears well up in my eyes at the most inconvenient places as I think, This is my life now, alone and single. A tangle of avenues converge upon me and I have no idea which one to choose, which paths I should try and which paths I should continue to throw road blocks up against. There are days I want to be angry and bitter; there are days I want my old life back at whatever cost to myself; there are days when I feel free, at last, from the burden of having to drag a partner behind me instead of walking side by side; there are days when I feel so guilty and heartsick I can’t help but think I’m paying a penance.

And I wonder, how can I help Sabine find clarity when my own vision is so horribly distorted? You can’t, I admonish myself on my worst days. You’ll find a way; you’ll both find a way, I allow myself to believe on my best days.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 16, 2009

Grace in Small Things, #59

1. Listening to my gut

2. Sabine running toward me, arms outstretched, and I snap her up and she squeezes me so tight I know she loves me with all of her heart.

3. Being honest with myself about my grief, my fears, my confusion while all the while knowing, too, that I am one lucky person

4. My Blackberry

5. Video conferencing; I love being able to see my mom and dad while they winter in the south, especially the huge smiles on their faces when they talk with Sabine.

Be grateful.

Posted by: shelliejelly | November 12, 2009

A lifetime of unluck

The moment he said it was over, I didn’t have time to think of anything beyond the immediate future: Taking the ring off my finger, walking over and handing him a few things he’d forgotten to take when he moved out the month before. A flood of emotions swept over me in rapid succession, anger being at the top, followed by relief, sadness and regret just a trickle beneath them both.

Only when I’d had time to stand still, to sit on my bed and cry into my phone as my parents and brother busied themselves with details like how I was going to get O. off of my mortgage, did the gravity of what was happening hit me. I never wanted to be divorced. Divorce feels like personal failure, like I had one chance to get it right and simply watched dumbfounded as three balls sailed right past me, the ump screaming “You’re out!”

And then I thought of Sabine, and sighed deep aching exhales, lost in the feeling that I’d ruined her. Please forgive me little girl; I never meant for this to happen. Because for me, the divorce wasn’t our failure, it way my failure.

Even today I can’t get past the feeling that I’ve muddled my life so completely there’s no room for redemption. I’m standing in the middle of untamed territory, eyes frantically sweeping a landscape I don’t recognize and actively dislike, no way back, no eraser to wipe the slate clean. I’m tainted. I’m tarnished. I’m branded by a past that serves up more anguish than delight.

“I feel so unlucky,” I tell my mother. “Well, you have at least one piece of luck,” she responds, listening intently to Sabine’s conversation with her Papa in the other room. “She must be my lifetime’s worth,” I answer.

If Sabine is my lifetime’s worth of luck, I’ll take it. But what about her? Am I her lifetime of unluck? O.’s diagnosis of bipolar unhinged me a little; his illness made him unavailable, responsibility after responsibility being heaped upon my shoulders until cracks in my foundation started forming. Stoic, perfect mess who only wanted to get things right.

My voice would get shrill, my words shorter, clipped as I asked her, for sometimes the 100th time, to get her shoes on, get her coat on, we need to get going to school and to work. She resists, sometimes, and I raise my voice, sometimes, and in that high-whine plea is more personal pain than need for her to actually get done what I need her to do. She was 19 months when he left; she is three years old now and can’t possibly discern the subtleties of my emotions. She can’t possibly know that my weary annoyance has nothing at all to do with her, my bright spot, my north star.

After these moments, she often asks if she can give me a hug, pulling away to ask: “Are you happy now?” I smile and try to convey in this expression, my arms holding her tight, thumb caressing her back gently back and forth, a whole host of truths: Happiness is complicated, fragile. Happiness is sometimes elusive and dormant, but always part of my extraordinary fate, my privilege of calling her my daughter. Happiness can’t be bullied out of existence by sadness, trial and struggle. Most importantly, you, little girl, aren’t responsible for my happiness.

I want to take this burden from her, set it in the corner, watch her skip around it oblivious of its presence. I want to undo a lifetime of unluck, to give her all the happiness she can hold.

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