This past weekend I took the stage for the second time as not just the producer and director of Listen To Your Mother Providence but also as a cast member. Below you’ll find the piece I read. I debated for a long time whether or not to be in the show. I knew I wanted to talk about my life right now, separated and getting divorced and single. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready to be so publicly honest. I began writing and felt so uncomfortable as the words spilled out – there was an unpleasant tingle just under my skin, I felt restless and wanted to step away from the computer and when I read parts back to myself, my voice cracked. That’s how I knew I had to keep writing. Listen To Your Mother is a reminder that however unique your story is, there is someone out there who needs it as much as you do because they’re going through something incredibly similar. It’s about an audience of strangers bearing witness to my story but also about my story being a beacon for someone else to recognize their story is important and that they’re not alone. For you and for me –
Eat, Pray, Sleep
“I can’t do this anymore.”
Those are the words that launched me into single motherhood.
Standing in our kitchen, no more unhappy than we’d been the last couple of years, doing the mundane tasks of marriage and parenthood,
“I can’t do this anymore.”
5 words is all it took to start the hardest year of my life.
Moments like these, the ones that drastically altar your life from one second to the next, they never happen like in the movies. There’s no change in music to foreshadow impending heartbreak or gut wrenching sobbing begging someone to go or stay or change their minds. Nope. It just kind of happens.
As it happened to me, 3 distinct thoughts ran through my mind.
First, I thought about how much relief I felt. I was relieved I wasn’t the one making the decision to separate, and eventually divorce. An immature part of me wanted to be free of blame for the emotional hurricane waiting for us around the bend. My relief made me realize I was willing to endure many more years of misery in the name of family. My relief put me face to face with how lonely , sad, and unhappy I truly was and how little I was willing to stand up for myself. My lack of action, though, was in itself a decision that holds as much weight as any of the other factors that contributed to the end of my marriage. With all my talk about authenticity and living out loud, my relief put a spotlight on the one area of my life where I couldn’t dare greatly, that I couldn’t pursue with vulnerability.
As quickly as thoughts of relief came to mind, my thoughts went in the opposite direction of deep and introspective to the frivolous and silly thought of Disney World. I thought, “I’ve got to be the first one to take them to Disney.” Mature and logical, right? Despite my separation being as amicable as amicable can be when lives are torn apart and hearts are broken, fear still rears its ugly head. All the promises and dreams of “family” get shaky. What dreams seemed once owned by “us” feel left in limbo. And I know no one truly “owns” these dreams. We both harbor them with the same affection as before but shaky ground is ideal terrain for fear. And Disney, well, it’s a big, silly dream and that quick passing thought is a reminder that separation and divorce make rational human beings think of the most foolish things.
Case in point, my next thought was of Julia Roberts. I thought, “This is my Eat, Pray, Love moment. I get to start over, find myself a James Franco to distract myself, travel to Italy and India and Bali and, best of all, I get to find my own Javier Bardem. I envision Julia, with her iconic toothy grin, globetrotting, learning languages, meditating, finding herself. Quickly, I come back to reality – I’m a mom with two kids. This is not Eat, Pray, Love.
It’s more like Eat, Pray, Sleep. Or Eat, Pray, Torture Myself With Every Romantic Movie Under The Sun, then Sleep. Despite a desire to shed my old life and start a new, the mother in me could never drag her daughters along a soul searching journey around the world. Someday we’ll travel the world together but certainly not to run away from our lives.
Since that fateful afternoon, I’ve learned a lot about single motherhood. It’s everything and nothing how I imagined.
Single motherhood is cradling my first born in my arms as her body heaves while she’s weeping over the news of the separation. She’s 6 and barely fits in my lap.
Single motherhood is getting flooded with messages from friends offering their support and love and their own stories of love and loss. They are friends I see everyday and friends I haven’t seen in over a decade.
Single motherhood is crying at a stop light when Pink comes on the radio crooning, “we’re not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again.” I held onto those lyrics for a long time before things “officially” fell apart.
Single motherhood is crying when John Legend comes on the radio serenading me with, “Cause all of me, loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.” And I cry because I realize despite all the heartbreak, I’m still a woman who believes in and hopes for love.
Single motherhood is talking on my cell phone…again, that’s talking not texting…more than I have in the last 3 years. Laughing and crying on the phone with friends in some of the hardest and best conversations of my life.
Single motherhood is almost peeing my pants listening to my best friend trying to make me feel better about my chances for finding a man with heavy warnings about the perils of online dating. She insists I stay far, far away from the wackos online unless I’m looking for a serial killer.
Single motherhood is coming face to face with how I drown my sorrow. For some it might be a glass or two or a bottle of wine, for me it’s daily stops at the drive thru for an apple pie and a coke followed by an evening on the couch watching Sex and the City.
Single motherhood is kicking myself in the pants to get off the couch and get shit done. Because even though I want to disappear sometimes, I’ve got two pairs of wonder filled eyes watching my every move. So I put on a smile and go through the motions and one day they are no longer just motions but living.
Single motherhood is awkwardly talking to moms on the playground not knowing what to call my ex. Technically he’s still my husband but just calling him my ex sounds like I’m talking about a boyfriend. I’m trying to be honest, for everyone’s sake but mainly my own. So the easy answer is “their father.”
Single motherhood is learning to recognize tantrums that are tantrums and tantrums that are pieces of their broken hearts. Maybe she’s pissed about sharing, maybe she’s working through the weight of her whole world changing in less than a month.
Single motherhood is falling in love with my friends again – for listening when I need to let it all out and for telling me the hard truth when I need it.
Single motherhood is knowing sometimes I won’t be able to talk to my family and certain friends. They love me deeply but my natural inclination to gently chart this new path is too much a stranger to the anger they’re feeling.
Single motherhood is seeing that single motherhood is just as much about my own womanhood as it about being a mother.
Single motherhood is nothing like what I imagined. As a naïve kid I welcomed single motherhood, even sent it an invitation. I said if I wasn’t married by 30 ( my definition of old at the time ), I’d simply have a baby with a friend and be the single mom version of Carrie Bradshaw. Yeah, like Eat, Pray, Love, I was way off.
These are different lessons than I anticipated. Some harder than others, some way funnier than others, all of them exactly what I need to close one chapter and begin another. I won’t be following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps but I’ll take a word of wisdom from her, “This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
Life is a grand story and every moment, good and bad, is a page that’s moving things along. This page is Eat, Pray, Sleep tomorrow, perhaps, Eat, Pray, Love. All that matters is that I keep on trying, broken heart after broken heart. It’s about always trying for something or else we’re not really living.
A word on the topic of separation, divorce and single parenthood. This is my experience as someone who feels deeply. I’ve met many people since becoming a single parent who have gone through their own separation and divorce or are going through it right now. I’ve learned we have a whole lot in common but we also differ in many ways. Maybe you’re the one who left or the one who got left, maybe there’s an unpleasant reason or perhaps there’s nothing major that broke the camel’s back (from first hand experience, this in many ways is harder than having a Reason), maybe you’ve moved on quickly, maybe (like me) you’re ready to enter a convent until the kids are in college, maybe you’re going through the emotions now, maybe you’re going through the motions now, maybe, maybe, maybe. What I’m getting at is be gentle if you know someone, an adult or child, heck even yourself, going through a separation or divorce. It blows big time and all we need is friends willing to bear witness not ignore the elephant in the room.