I've thought about writing this post (and apologies in advance because it's going to be a long one) for almost a year now, but I wasn't sure what to say or how to say it. I'm still not sure what to say or how to say it. But I do know that it's time for me to do this.
My life as I knew it, my life as I'd planned it, fell apart at the beginning of Labor Day weekend last year. You see couples sometimes who've been together for a while, and then they divorce, and no one is really surprised because they'd been at each others' throats for years, or they'd been just generally unhappy for a long time. If you know it's coming, you can prepare, emotionally and otherwise.
I didn't know it was coming.
Everything blew up Labor Day weekend. We talked a lot, we went to counseling. We put on a happy face for the kids and pretended everything was fine. We said we wanted to stay together and make it work. Two weeks to the day that everything fell apart, we sat on the covered patio with the fan blowing overhead and a breeze rustling through the trees, and we decided to end the marriage.
In debating the contents of this post, I thought a lot about the whys. Everyone wants to know why. How does a couple who looks 'ideal' on the outside fall apart so quickly? My friends were all stunned, and so was my family. "We never would have thought..." I heard that a lot last September and October. At the end of the day though, the whys really don't matter, at least not for this post. I'll just say that we reached a point where so much was broken in a really short period of time, that there just weren't any other sane options but divorce. Some things you can't fix, and this was one.
Still, the concept of divorce... it was just so foreign to me. We were on the cusp of our 8th wedding anniversary. We had a house and two children and two dogs and a life that we'd built together. Unraveling all of that was one of the most emotionally wrenching experiences I've ever had.
One of the biggest issues was the house. I knew I wanted to move back to Arkansas with the kids, and Mike didn't want the house just for himself, so we knew we had to sell it. The problem is that it was still half-finished. We'd torn out the built-in desk in the kitchen but hadn't put anything in its place. We knew we would have to put cabinets there, but that would mean a countertop... which wouldn't match the mauve laminate in the rest of the kitchen, so that would have to be replaced too. We had a big hole along the wall in what was the playroom where the unfinished built-ins needed to go.
I brought in the same awesome Real Estate Agent who'd sold us the house in 2007, and he put us on a tight time schedule. The market dips around the holidays, and he said we'd have our best chance to sell quickly the sooner we could get it photographed and listed for sale. We literally worked around the clock for weeks - repainting Meredith's room, packing up clutter, transforming the playroom into an office, sprucing up the garden and finishing the kitchen remodel, plus tying up all of the small loose ends - the little projects you tell yourself you'll get to 'eventually.'
I've heard people say that remodeling a home or building a home is a quick route to divorce, but Mike and I never really fought about the house. We actually made a really good team when it came to remodeling - I designed all the built-ins, and he built them. He sketched out the frames for the doors and then built them. We had reasonably similar tastes, and I don't recall us ever fighting about things like paint colors or type of tile. Even with divorce hanging over our heads and the extreme awkwardness of sharing a house with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, we managed the rest of the remodel just fine. It was a breakneck pace, but we did it.
I remember thinking how incredibly bizarre it was that we could finish the remodel as a team but be unable to salvage the marriage. I still don't have answers for that. I do know that living in the same house together for three months with divorce pending while trying to put on a happy face for the children was incredibly stressful.
Halloween and Alex's third birthday took place in the midst of all of that. He was Spiderman again last year (two years in a row - and he's considering being Spiderman AGAIN this year too), and he got a lot of use out of the costume with a Spiderman birthday party a week after Halloween. I'm very happy that we were able to provide a good Halloween for both kids and a great birthday for Alex in the midst of everything.
The divorce was remarkably amicable, all things considered. We came to an agreement on everything ourselves, from division of assets to custody of the children. I was pretty numb for most of it. I think you have to be in order to calmly and rationally divide up the contents of your life. After nearly a decade together, there was a lot to split up, but to be completely honest, aside from a few sentimental things like photos and art, everything else was just "stuff." You can get more stuff. The world is full of stuff. I was more attached to the house and what it represented than the things in it.
What really mattered most to me though was the children. Alex didn't really understand what was happening. Meredith took the news of the divorce pretty hard, and it absolutely broke my heart. Me hurting was one thing, but when your child hurts and there's not a lot you can do to make it better, it's a whole new level of awful.
I knew I'd need a lot of support in starting a new life, and I decided to move back to Arkansas with the kids. Mike agreed that it was probably for the best, so on December 1, 2012, I packed up the last of my life in Texas, loaded the kids and Dexter into the car (Zelda adores Mike, so she stayed with him), and I drove away. My attorney filed for divorce the following Monday.
I'd spent the last 4+ years working part-time from home, and I was now faced with the need to go back to work full-time. I'm exceptionally blessed in that my mother (aka NeNe) takes care of Meredith and Alex while I work. I'm also incredibly lucky in that I found a really good job pretty quickly. We arrived in Arkansas December 1st, and I wrapped up my work-from-home job at the end of the month and started a new full-time job the first week in January. I'm working in communications and development again, and I absolutely love it. I know not everyone can say that they love their job, but I really do.
Meredith started at her new elementary school the first week in December. It was an adjustment for her, of course, but we lucked out in that she was assigned to a really amazing teacher. Because of Meredith's developmental vision delays, we did a lot of vision therapy in Austin, and NeNe took over with extra tutoring to help Meredith get caught up in school. Mer was really struggling with reading when she started school in Arkansas, but by the end of the school year, she was doing so well that she even received a Literacy Award at school - and on her 'school' birthday no less! I'm SO proud of the progress she's made!
Being in Arkansas has been really good for us. I didn't grow up very close, geographically speaking, to my extended family, and it does make a difference in the type of relationship you have. I'm really happy that the children are able to spend so much time not just with my mom but with my Aunt and Uncle and with my cousins and their children and with my friends who are so close they might as well be family. If my dad were alive, he'd also probably be happy that his grandchildren are growing up learning important things like how to Call the Hogs at the University of Arkansas.
Check that out - two kids both looking more or less at the camera and all of the U of A mascots, minus Tusk, the live boar. In all fairness, Tusk doesn't come to gymnastics meets. Just football games, I think.
Anyway, it's obviously been a huge adjustment for the kids. Counseling has helped - a lot - but the reality is that divorce is something that affects their lives profoundly, and it's something they'll have to cope with at every stage of development. I wish that they didn't have to go through all of this. I wish that we could have given them the idyllic life in Texas that we'd planned. But life rarely goes the way we plan it, so we pull ourselves together and cope the best that we can and try to rebuild and move on.
Meredith just started second grade. Her goal in life is to be a Rockstar AND a Lawyer. No, really! She participated in a rock and roll day camp over the summer and loved it. She joined our church's children's choir, and she keeps everyone in stitches most of the time with the funny things she says and does.
And Alex just started 3-year old preschool. He's still tall for his age but has finally slowed down a little in the growth department. I'm no longer worried that he's going to be a giant someday. He wants to be Spiderman when he grows up, and he's still really obsessed with superheros. If he can't be Spiderman, then he wants to be a football player or a doctor someday. He says he's going to play for either Arkansas or LSU, but we'll see.
I'm hesitant to say a whole lot more about the children because their story of the divorce isn't fully written, and it isn't really mine to tell. I'm happy to say that thus far everyone in their lives is cooperating to ensure that they know how loved they are, and Meredith and Alex are both doing really well.
The divorce was finalized in March of this year, just a few weeks after the 10th anniversary of our first date. I had to go back to Texas and appear in court for the finalization. It was really just a formality, but one that had to happen. The kids had just spent Spring Break with their dad and had to be back in school, so I went by myself. I was worried I might spend those two days feeling alone and sad. It ended up being anything but - I have so many wonderful friends in Austin, and I managed to cram an awful lot of visits into one short trip. Three new babies had been born since I'd left, and I was able to see them all and get lots of good baby snuggles. I got to have margaritas at Chuy's with a bunch of my girlfriends and get caught up on everyone's lives. I met friends for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I laughed, I cried, and I consider myself so very blessed to have all of them in my life. Last fall I relied on so many of them, so many wonderful women who offered to babysit my children while we went to counseling or when I met with my lawyer or when I needed to pack, who met me for dinner or coffee or a drink, who let me talk through all of my emotions, who offered to bring dinner when most of the kitchen was already packed. I hope someday I can return the favor, and if I can't, then I plan to pay it forward.
I don't know what lies ahead for me, but I know that it will not be documented on this blog. 'Mike and McGee' is over. Our story is finished, and it was not a happy ending. I've had people ask me if I intend to blog again, and the honest answer is that I'm not sure. The kids are older, and as they continue to get older, I think they'll be less and less comfortable with the idea of their mother writing about their lives. I'm also not comfortable with the idea of blogging about my work either, so that cuts out two big topics of conversation right there. I am doing plenty of writing though - in between work and parenthood I started writing fiction again, and I'm working with an idea that I hope might someday become a novel. Perhaps someday I'll blog again.
I don't know what to do with this blog now. It was an online journal of my life for a long time, and I have so many great memories documented here. I had always intended to have books made of the posts on here, but I never got around to it, and now it seems odd to do so - spending money to print and bind memories of a life that no longer exists. Still, the idea of just deleting the blog seems wrong too. I guess for now it will stay here, as it has since I first started blogging in 2005.
I leave you with this thought:
The life that is waiting for me is a work in progress, and a year after the life I planned began to crumble, I am looking forward to what lies ahead.