There Are No Tears For You

This morning I buckled down to go through all of the court papers, emails and bullshit of the divorce settlement that has dragged on for two years as my ex sporadically hires an attorney to file motions when his obstruction and non participation don’t work. I long ago decided not to spare another tear for him, and I’ve remained stoic each time a roadblock has been placed in the way of selling our properties in New Hampshire or getting money the court has ordered him to pay. When I left, I had no job, a $500.00 bonus check from work, a cashed in investment and the belief that anything was better than remaining near him.

Eventually, I thought, we’d come to an agreement to split what we’d both worked hard for over the years and I would have the money to buy a house, fix it up, take my daughters on vacation, have some fun.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

And I am crying today, not because of the thousands in legal fees I’ve had to pay while he’s ignored the court and made excuse after excuse not to do the right thing. I’m not sobbing because he ignored my pleas when he wasn’t paying the mortgage on our NH home which jeopardized my ability to buy a home here. I’m not even weeping because he told me “no one died on his watch” and I am responsible for the death of my daughter.

I don’t cry for him.

I cry because the last weekend of my daughter’s life, when she needed me, I was too busy going through the last minute papers he’d filed with the court for an upcoming hearing. Instead of having a little patience and time for her, I was sucked into the giant fucking abyss of his trying to get out of splitting our marital property when I should have been with her.

That is why I break down and dissolve into tears. Every court notice, response, email, and summons is a reminder that I wasted the last few days of my daughter’s life worrying about this man who lives on spite.

Alana and I dreamed of the day the divorce would finally be over. She talked about finding me a man who loved and respected me and twirled me around a dance floor. We fantasized about the trip we’d take to Key West, the place we had the best vacation ever, and the things we would do. We’d straighten out her school loans and get her back to college. We’d live the life we deserved, away from the belittling and bullying we’d lived under in New Hampshire.

Our lives, already better in South Carolina, would only get better.

And now, every moment spent on fighting my ex is a reminder of all the things Alana and I never got to do because, as the Taylor Swift song Alana said reminded her of her father goes, “he’s just mean.”

So today, through the blurriness of my tears and the despair in my soul, I dive into the dirty business of my divorce and pray that this will be over soon.But make no mistake, I don’t cry for my ex or what he has done, I cry for my daughter.

 

 

 

I Will Love You For A Thousand Years And A Thousand More

Always a smile.

I am a writer unable to write since the death of my daughter. As much as I try to force the words to come, they are so interlaced with pain and grief that they stick on my fingers and won’t pass through a keyboard. It’s hard to type with eyes overflowing with tears. I wanted to write about a subject Alana always felt I should write about to remember her on the day my world changed and she died, but I can’t. Instead I’ll remember her by the words she wrote, and I read, at her Celebration of Life. Someday I hope I can write again, but for now I rely on her, like I did so much when she was alive.

Alana loved our family and that love extended past our nuclear family and encompassed all of the Maynes clan. In describing our family relationships, she said, “We’re not like, Oh, they’re my cousins. We’re more like technically we’re cousins but we were all kind of raised together, took family vacations together, tortured and traumatized each other. Just consider my cousins my younger sisters and brothers, that’s easier. Plus when I have kids they’ll be aunts and uncles, not whatever you call cousins.”

And she loved her sister, Sarah.  When someone complimented a hat she wore and asked where she got it, she said “My sister actually made it…special..just for me..” and she wrote, “Sarah’s gifts are always so coveted that I find myself getting quite territorial over them. Get your own awesome sister, people. Mine’s taken.”

When we moved to South Carolina she wrote: “Things that excite me about moving: 1) Being able to hug my Sarah whenever I want. 2) Big whirlpool bath tub. 3) Finally having high ceilings so I can jump up and down on my bed!”

She said “the hardest part of moving isn’t the packing or the goodbyes or coordinating traveling with 4 pets. It’s resisting popping all of the bubble wrap.

She thought personal space was a term coined by people who hated cuddling and the high point of her day was “the moment you walk in the door and your dogs make you feel like a rock star just for coming home.”

She loved her dogs, Pippin Pablo Escabar and Baxter Rodriguez and children. “Have a new found respect for those of you with daughters. I just spent a half hour getting a ponytail to hold up with a tiara and another half hour explaining why even though the dog is technically large enough to be a horse, we cannot buy him a saddle and ride him. Even though, it is an awesome idea and difficult to argue with the logic.”

Alana didn’t feel the same way about some adults, though, as she did with children. “Some days you’ll move mountains and change the world, other days you’ll be thankful to not pop off at idiots. Little victories,” she wrote.

She was an avid observer of the world. One day she saw a mother tell her young daughter in the check-out line, “You’re driving me crazy. Do you see anyone else dancing in line?” The little girl turned around to see if anyone else was dancing and Alana busted out running man and started rapping, “It’s tricky.” She wrote, “Don’t let other people dictate when you dance, kids.”

And she tried to hard to look for the best in people. “Just when I’m ready to get frustrated the universe reminds me in a two minute walk you can change someone’s perspectives.”

She excelled at the sarcastic comeback.

“A date told her, ‘I underestimated you girl. I thought you’d be all make up and shoes. Shoot, she replied, You do know what happened to the last man that underestimated me. She paused, Neither do the police. Turning compliments into awkward silences for 25 years,” she wrote.

She had a more difficult time figuring out the southern mindset:

“At work someone asked, You got a husband?
Nope.
You got a gun?
Nope.
Well, maybe you’ll find one down here.
Oh yeah! There are gun shops EVERYWHERE! I’m just waiting on my bonus.
*awkward silence*
She meant a husband not a gun, huh? For the record, this is a totally acceptable conversation to have in the South.”

One day at a gas station she overheard two guys talking about her and described the conversation.That ain’t her real hair! Hey, girl, that your real hair?
Yep. Wanna give it a tug?
Shit, come grab this girl’s hair, B! You thought she was rocking a weave!
So glad I rocked the natural curls today.

And as much as she tried, Southern men puzzled her. “So far every conversation has consisted of the following: Can I see your tattoos? What does that one mean? It gets hot here in July and August, did you know that? Where’s your husband/boyfriend?
Yes, look. It gets hot everywhere in the summer. I’m one of those independent Yankee women you’re mom warned you about, run.
I’m struggling with all the small talk.”

She wrote, “I am practicing being kind over being right.”

And she practiced gratitude. For those of you who don’t know, she struggled with mental illness and that informed a lot of the last few years of our lives together. One day she wrote:

“Jehovah’s Witness came by this morning and instead of talking of the evils of pornography or drinking we spoke of mental illnesses. This amazing woman has an adult daughter with bipolar and we shared the heartache and struggles of loving someone who suffers daily from a disease many people don’t understand.
I am so blessed to have Renee Maynes as my mother and support system. She’s taught me that I’m deserving of the love, patience, and the understanding she’s given me.
There’s no magic wand or quick fix for mental illness. There’s a lot of tough work, trial and error, moments of doubt and sorrow, but it’s so worth it.
Today I’m grateful for those who’ve opened their hearts to me and supported me when I wasn’t capable of thinking clearly.
I’ll end with this: the stigma of mental illnesses is alive and well. A lot of people will judge or brush you off. Call you dramatic or tell you to suck it up. Love those people. Educate them. Be patient with them. An open dialogue is the only way to change hearts and minds.”

Alana worked hard to conquer her demons and be a better person.

“Today I’m grateful for mistakes. The big ones, the small ones, the ones that set into motion a series of events that ultimately make you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. It’s easy to get caught up in judging yourself based on the mistakes you’ve made, but enlightenment comes from embracing them and seeing their importance.
Love to all my mistake makers today!”

And I don’t know if she actually wrote this, but it was in her notes and sums up how Alana lived.

“So, there were two choices: I could close myself off, resign myself to the fact that the world is an imperfect place and I could carry my hurt like a security blanket. Or, I could forgive myself. I could decide that loving people isn’t a weakness and trusting people isn’t a flaw. I could decide when others wrong me that’s a reflection on them, not me. That’s the beauty of it. Something that could have damaged me and made me bitter ended up opening my heart in ways I never knew. So, yes, I believe there’s always a choice.”

And when Alana was faced with the choice to be happy or be sad. Well, you know the one she made.

It’s only fitting I close with the toast she gave at her sister’s wedding. She was so happy to finally, as she put it, have the brother she always wanted in Dorri and so thrilled that her sister had found the man of her dreams. That night, under a warm SC sun, she stood in front of the crowd and said this:

“Here’s to life’s worries. Because in life you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re well or sick. If you’re well you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re sick you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re going to get better or die. If you’re going to get better you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re going to die you only have two things to worry about: Whether you’re going up or down. If you’re going up you have nothing to worry about, but if you’re going down at least all your friends will be waiting there for you!”

Until we meet again, I miss her today and ever day.

My Runaway Heart

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would suffer any indignity to remain with them? Someone you loved so fully you’d forgive them anything? Someone you couldn’t imagine living without?

I have. In time, I hope someone will love me with that level of intensity.

Leaving a relationship like that is hard. The mind is a great deceiver when the heart is involved. Sometimes to protect ourselves, we have to flee. And that’s what I did.

How many miles do you need to put between yourself and your broken heart? In my case it’s 1027 miles. That’s how far I had to run to allow my mind to accept what my heart had known for over five years.

It’s been a tough year. So tough that it’s been difficult to write and too dangerous to blog. Most of the venomous, mental vomit I’ve had to spew has been confined to composition books inked with my favorite Pilot G2 pens rather than committed to the internet to live on forever, a toxic reminder of a difficult time. Because even though I know leaving was the right thing, late at night my inner mean girl whispers that if I’d been stronger, I could have stayed and detached rather than running.

Image

But in leaving I found boldness and courage and the opportunity to remake my life into something I’m proud of. I’ve found that the things my old life told me I sucked at aren’t true. I can finish things. I can stick it out. I can take care of myself financially. I can be alone. I can make friends. I’m not great at everything I attempt, but I can ask for help. I make mistakes. I recover from them.

I’ve found my voice.

It amazes me how much of my old life was based on fear: fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear of being thought of as weak. Now I base my decision on my needs, and if things don’t work out the way I want them to, I make a new plan.

I’ve learned that even the worst plan can be reworked.

Most of all, I’ve realized that there is nothing worse than being with someone that makes you feel alone.

I left New Hampshire because I was weak. In leaving I discovered how strong I really am.

 

 

A Farewell to Dad

He wasn’t the best father, but he was my father.  When my sister called and asked me to accompany her and my brother to his deathbed, I went, even though I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 22 years. I did it, I thought, for my siblings. Turns out I really did it for me.

Our family picture after the death of my oldest brother, Rod.

Our family picture after the death of my oldest brother, Rod.

When we entered the room where my dad lay dying, he looked exactly like his father had 22 years before. His head, covered with silvery gray hair, was thrown back on the pillow, his mouth gaped open, and harsh, irregular breathing filled the room.  Though the nurses said he could hear us, he was unresponsive.

Unlike my grandfather, who died at home in his living room, my father began his death in an intensive medical care unit. Outside the unit a sign warned us to wear masks due to a flu outbreak.  He was on contact precautions so before we entered his room we added gowns and gloves to the masks that covered our faces. The constant beep of monitors and the intrusion of nurses to empty his catheter, titrate his medications, and turn and position him widened the space between us and him.

It was hard to break that space.

The death of a parent, even a parent that never embraced the traditional role and remained more of a Peter Pan man-child than a King Triton type of dad, is hard. When it’s a father you’ve only seen from a distance for the past 22 years, one you’ve ducked down grocery store aisles to avoid and maintained at least a one room separation from at family gatherings,  it’s a little harder.

In Al-Anon they say one can detach with love or detach with dynamite. I’d always seen my choice, dynamite, as irrevocable.  As I smoothed his hair, wrapped his hand around mine, and reminisced about our shared past, I realized I was wrong.

Even though it was too late to repair the damage done to our relationship, it wasn’t too late to remember the good times we once shared.

In the time we spent alone, I played him the songs we knew together and the ones I’d grown to love since then. Kenny Chesney sang “Boys of Summer” in the background and I talked about fall in New Hampshire, football games my older brother played in, and towns we had rivalries with. Willie Nelson crooned “Always on my Mind” while I told him about the toast  my youngest gave at her sister’s wedding and how it reminded me of him. Craig Morgan sang “Almost Home” as I retold stories of the friends and family that had predeceased him. Over and over, I told him it was okay to let go.

But, he hung on.

The palliative care nurse practitioner said he wouldn’t survive once they stopped the medications, but the medications stopped and he didn’t. Then they said the ambulance ride to the hospice might kill him. One last road trip, I murmured as the stretcher rolled into the Florida sun and bumped up into the ambulance, yet still he hung on.  We can keep him pain-free, they said at the hospice, but it might hasten his death. It doesn’t matter, we told them, yet in spite of the pain and anti anxiety medicine, he breathed on. We sat by his bedside and laughed, prayed, told stories, cried. We watched him take one agonizing breath after another and we held our breath each time they stopped. But he kept breathing.

It wasn’t until late the second night, with all of his children around his bed, that he opened his eyes, took one last breath, and died.

My clearest memory of childhood is my father’s lectures at the dinner table. He’d tell us look around this table, these are the only people you can trust. These are the only people who love you unconditionally and will love you even if you grow up to be a murderer, a rapist, or a thief. For years I joked about his low expectations for us instead of focusing on the other part, how much he loved us and how much he wanted us to love and look out for each other.

Perhaps he hung on to make sure we’d learned the lessons he’d taught us. Even me, the daughter who had ignored him for 22 years.

If we get to make our own heaven, I have no doubt he’s in a place where the Jameson flows freely and the stories and laughter never stop and he is surrounded by people who love him.

He wasn’t the best father, but he was my father, and, in the end, I loved him still.

Broken Hearts and Resilience

The recent death of George Jones had me listening to “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and thinking about people who can’t bounce back from a broken heart.  Those unhappy souls who, following the death of a loved one or a failed relationship, turn to unhealthy coping behaviors, such as alcohol or drug abuse and sometimes progress to suicide, intentional or not. “Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley tells the tale of a spurned lover, “We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time, but he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind until the night he put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger and finally drank away her memory.”  Country star Mindy McCready died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on her front porch a month after the man she called her “soul mate” shot himself on the same porch. Love can kill.

English: Broken heart sewn back together

English: Broken heart sewn back together (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Some broken hearts can’t be fixed.

Most of us who suffer a broken heart go through a period of intense mourning, but few of us plunge into a devastating tailspin from which we can’t recover. Why? In psychological terms, it’s called resilience, and it refers to the quality that allows us to be knocked down by life but return, sometimes even stronger.  Though it’s romantic to think our broken heart is a reason to give up and sink into depression, it’s not a healthy coping response. Believing we can mend and learn from the experience is.

And maybe that’s the difference between those who survive a broken heart and those who don’t. The survivors mourn the loss, remember the good times, and know that at some point there will be better times.

What We Shouldn’t Do For Love

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo ...

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo modified by author using Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Urban legends and medical lore are full of the things people do for love. The 22-year-old girl who lifts the car crushing her father. The mother who rushes into a burning building to rescue her children. The father who doesn’t know how to swim, but jumps into the water to save his drowning son.

There are some things, however, that push us to the edge of what we will do for love. Loving an addict is one of those things. It’s tough wondering when the phone call asking for bail money will turn into the one asking you to identify a body. No one’s morning should start in a bedroom doorway worrying if the person inside is passed out or dead.  Life is hard enough without a daily routine of second guessing whether to argue or remain silent. After a while, silence is easier.

Because, after a while you realize that no matter how much you love the addict, you can never make the right decision, say the right thing, or provide the missing ingredient to keep them clean and sober. No one is  capable of stopping the addiction except the addict. Until they admit their problem and get help, no amount of love will make them whole.

It truly is not you, it’s them.

And when you make the decision to leave, the heartache doesn’t stop. Who will take care of them if you’re gone? Make excuses to the few friends that are left? Divert the phone calls from work? Pick up the slack when they spend days in bed recovering from binges?

The pull to go back is stronger than a riptide. It sucks you back and keeps you in place.  To apologize, to make excuses, to take the blame. It’s familiar, comfortable, and as reassuring and necessary as the booze or pills are to the addict.

Until one day you realize that in order to save anyone, you have to save yourself first. You can’t move the car off a loved one if you’re pinned beside them. You can’t save someone from a burning building dressed in gasoline-soaked clothes. You can’t rescue a drowning man when he’s pulling you down with him.

You can’t.

Read all the fairy tales, urban legends, and medical myths you want on the power of love, not all of love stories have happy endings. There are some things love can’t fix. Addiction is one of them.

All you can do is save yourself.

Want more information? Check out the links below:

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon Family Groups, Nar-Anon Family Groups