Friday, May 5, 2017

Being Ghosted and Finding Closure

Yesterday as I browsed through the "On this Day" feature on Facebook, I came across a post from 10 years ago.  It mentioned a boyfriend I had during graduate school, Hector.  I hadn't thought of him in many years, but reading the post brought up a long haunting question: What ever happened to him?

Hector and I had only dated a few months but I thought things were going well.  I was living in Stillwater, and he was a 2 hour drive away in Wichita, KS.  I looked forward to jumping in my beloved jeep and heading there for weekends, and he made the trip to me many times as well.  We were happy go lucky together, and things clicked right away. I was smitten and clueless, clearly less focused or concerned on the future than he was, and while the things started great, it didn't end that way.

In retrospect, I now see there were very early warning signs I did not heed.  For starters, on our first date Hector came clean that he was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  I shrugged it off, he said medication had helped him level out and I had not recognized any behavior that indicated he struggled with the disorder.  In truth, I had very little personal experience with mental illness and I was interested in him enough to look past what should have been "a proceed with caution" warning sign. I didn't ask questions, didn't worry about it and didn't allow it deter me from getting close with him.

And then there was his recent divorce, and 2 year old son.  He did not open up to the cause of the divorce, but it was clear it had been pretty ugly.  Again, 20-something light hearted me decided he wouldn't have joined the dating website (we met via match) if he wasn't ready for another relationship.  I knew sharing custody of his son meant his feet were firmly planted in Wichita but I had no problem with long distance dating and was carefree about where life would take me after I finished my graduate degree.  The reality was he was carrying some very big baggage, and I had not considered what it would mean for a child and ex to inevitably play a role in our relationship.

And the last kicker was some relationship issues he had with his mother.  Hector's mother was a Jehovah's Witness, and he shared some pretty heart breaking stories about not celebrating birthdays as a child. It was clear he was bitter, angry and somewhat shunned due to disagreements with his mother on how to live his life. What little interaction happened between him and his mother was not positive, and I don't think she even knew we were dating. I knew their history was painful for him to discuss so I only got snipets, none of it good.

I wasn't familiar with the term ghosted, until it happened to me.  There I was, head in the sand thinking despite everything I knew about him and his past, things were fine.  And then Hector simply disappeared.  One day he just stopped calling or answering my calls. I never heard from him again and really didn't know why. I was confused.  Then worried. Then heartbroken.  I even checked the obituaries a few times sincerely wondering if maybe he had died and no one in his family knew to contact me.  Eventually enough time passed that I got the unsaid message, things were over.

A few years passed and my curiosity got the best of me. I sent a few emails to him trying to get some closure.  I wrote out silly stories of the reasons I imagined had caused his disappearance; alien abduction, joined the circus, got married in Vegas, amnesia.  I just wanted to know what happened but despite the fact that it has been several years since he ghosted me, he didn't respond.  My curiosity faded, my life moved on.  The end of the relationship had been hard, but now it just felt like a lingering question; why had he handled it so poorly?

Yesterday, after facebook brought old memories to light, I decided to look him up again.  I found him easily, he was still working for a dual language school in Wichita.  I shot off a short email message, just wanted to see how he was and explaining how facebook had reminded me of him.  Apparently, it takes a decade before a coward writes you back. Within the hour, and much to my surprise, he wrote back a simple response.  I took the opportunity and replied with my burning question that was 10 years in the making: Why did you just disappear instead of having a conversation about breaking up?

It turns out closure really isn't ever what you think it will be.  In the email conversation that followed it was clear Hector's version of history simply filled in the holes as he saw fit.  He claimed while the break up was abrupt, he did end things, he recalled a conversation that never actually happened.  He did apologize for not responding many years ago, and admitted he didn't handle things well.  I should be glad for that.  But it was still a surprise for me how differently he remembered our story.  Our conversation certainly didn't clear anything up for me, and I realized even after hearing from him I was no better off.  The biggest thing I learned is that I needed to accept things as part of my story, even when I don't understand them or deserve better.

I believe the truth is more likely that Hector hit a low/depressive phase with his bipolar disorder, and by the time he had climbed back out the damage was already done to our relationship.  I should not have expected him to be upfront and forth coming with an admission like that, even after a decade had passed.  Its also pretty fair to assume the divorce and his other baggage were things Hector still hadn't fully rebounded from, and he had a lot to get together before a serious relationship would have been possible.  Or maybe he just wasn't that into me and much more immature than I realized. It really wasn't the end of the relationship that had hurt me (though there were many tears!), but more how it was handled.  After emailing with him now, I realized I was holding on to some anger at how he treated me.  It was well overdue for me to let that go, regardless of his admission of guilt or version of the story.  So I gave myself closure, because even though I still don't really know the full story I am ready to stop asking questions.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

No to Kichline Ave, Yes to Madison Ave

Now that we are settled in Bethlehem and getting used to our 3 story condo, I can more clearly see how this location is a good fit for my family.  It took some time, and honestly the condo still doesn't quite seem like home to me.  I attribute that to the fact that I know this is likely to be only a 3-5 year home for us, and I already day dream of the next place.  I have caught myself many times feeling discontent, lacking the grateful attitude I should display for a home that suits our budget and new lifestyle.  I don't really want neighbors so close that we share a wall, and yet I don't hear a peep from either family on our left or right.  I don't like city living, yet we have a great location for both work and school.  I yearn for a yard, but I am so close to the Reger farm that I can visit easily. I despise traffic, but happily make the 75 minute drive into Philadelphia to spend time with my nieces.  I trug up 2 flights of steps but I adore the layout that gives me my own living room and fireplace.  I lost a huge kitchen but I fit my entire family around the table at Christmas (the first time I ever could host a holiday!).  Its hard to keep repeating my complaints, they really aren't legit.
Front door and garage
Back porch and small yard

Perhaps this whole list of wishes and wants doesn't align with what I need right now. I'm overlooking whats in the best interest for my family during this stage of life.  I have taken for granted the fact that God is in control and knows what I need, in times more so than I do. Reflecting, I am glad sometimes God says no to my prayers.

Shortly after the big move from Oklahoma, I was scrambling to do a house hunt.  I had made the mistake of expecting to rent while Chet returned to school, only to find rentals were extremely expensive and hard to find in Northampton county.  Now that I realized buying, even a property we expected to own for only a few years, would give us more space, higher quality and save us hundreds per month, I quickly began to visit properties.  I feel in love with an old home in Hellertown, and quickly made an offer.  It was clear the place needed some love, but it had amazing bones.  I loved the huge glass sunroom on the front of the house, original pillars in the living room and a gorgeous wooden banister. Perhaps the biggest selling point was a huge 1/2 acre yard, unheard of in the area and would help me keep some of my country roots.  I planned to set up the trampoline, a camp fire pit and make a picnic spot. I could easily picture the playhouse we could set up above the garage and the basement storage I never had before!  I looked past the clear need for electrical work, updates, and tiny bedrooms.  I even ignored the poor "do it yourself job" on the woodwork in the garage and incorrect dry wall in the basement. It was also a foreclosure, but I wasn't discouraged because our home in Oklahoma has also been bank owned and the process went smoothly and gave us a great discount.  I think I became a bit blinded to the amount of work the house would need, and the skill set it would require that neither I or my husband possessed. The real estate agent warned me, the cost alone for the inspection and utility connections would add up and foreclosures rarely had the option to request repairs for any issues inspection uncovered. But I was convinced I didn't need perfect, I needed a home. I saw this house as an answer to prayer, we finally had a plan and learned our offer had been accepted. The price was right, the yard was amazing and everything else would fall into place.

Except it didn't.

I was only a few weeks into my new job before my first Lehigh career expo, a very busy day that kept me hopping. I learned that same day in the middle of the event chaos, that there had been a miscommunication with the contracts and the whole deal was off.  Just like that my plan was up in smoke.  I did not take the news well.  Frustrated and frantic, there were tears and stress.  I called Chet and vented... how could this happen?  What would we do now?  We were back at square one with no leads while the timeline to his move to join me in Pennsylvania was quickly approaching.  It was a terrible time to house hunt in the area, prices were high and the options were terrible.  Why God?  I am not a girl who does well without a plan and I had no house, no plan, and no time.

Fast forward a few more weeks and many (many, MANY) more house viewings and I began to look at my house hunt very differently. I had put several other offers on other homes only to be outbid every time.  I saw houses that were too small, flooded, outdated, and bathrooms in pink, blue and purple. But one day I agreed to consider a condo that was updated, had more square feet than the other properties and needed no maintenance.  After a tour it was clear I needed to compromise on a condo. I say compromised because I really wanted a yard and a rancher.  But reality was the lack of outdoor work is much better than the benefit green space would provide us.  We have a much more updated, spacious place now and its perfectly in budget.  Its not my dream home but I think God knew what he was doing when he took away the Kichline Ave house and sent me to the Madison Ave condo.  In the prior weeks I hadn't trusted his timing and his plan and the only thing that caused was stressful times and loss of sleep on my part.  Its a very hard thing to give up control and this was a lesson I learned the hard way.  Sometimes God says no because he has better things in mind.

I drove by the kichline house the other day.  I am not sure if its still for sale but it clearly has not be lived in yet and has yet to be connected to electric and water.  I no longer was blinded by the property's potential and noticed the crumbling sidewalk, broken siding, and run down neighborhood.  I heard the traffic from close by 78 and was put off by a shady looking neighbor.  I looked more closely at that same front porch and this time I noticed chipping paint and old glass.  I remembered my mothers face when I took her for a tour and all the issues she pointed out; electrical sockets pulled from the wall, holes in the dry wall, mold in the basement and the wrong kitchen outlets.  It annoyed me at the time but now I realize she was clearly seeing all the things that would have cost me dollars I didn't have.  God told me no.  It was so hard to hear at the time, but now I am thankful.  I drove home from Kichline ave that day, to a place that's just right for right now and that's just fine with me.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Baby Blues

 It was likely the sentiment of the holidays that brought it back up, or perhaps it was simply the fact that my heart is still broken, but I have relapsed into the baby blues.  A sadness, yearning for another baby haunts me, part pain for the pregnancy I lost and part desire to have another child. Some days it is only a pebble in my shoe, I am aware it’s there but it doesn’t stop me from going about my day.  Other times it’s a rain cloud, hovering over me and dripping sorrow into every part of my day.  Today is a rain cloud day.

For so long I was fine with the idea of only one child; my pregnancy was a nightmare and my emergency C-section was not my plan, but once the urge for another baby came, it may have ebbed and flowed but it never went away.  And the hope that skyrocketed and then plummeted so quickly with my miscarriage broke me in a way I never could have expected. I honestly don’t think I will ever “get over” my lost pregnancy.  I remember waiting in the ER for a doctor after the bleeding started and thinking over and over “This was my last chance”.  That fear became a reality: the baby was gone and no other pregnancy happened.  Eventually, with my job search and big move, I stopped trying.  It no longer was an option for a lot of reasons.  A second child now would be very hard on both my single income budget and struggling marriage.  After only a few months in my new position, I have very little accrued paid sick leave, certainly not enough to take maternity leave.  Time is not on my side, at 35 I am medically considered the dreaded “advantage maternal age”. I no longer have a home with an extra bedroom and all my baby things were passed on or sold for our move across the country. But the facts don’t seem to change my feelings on the topic.  I have tried and failed to rationalize away my want for another child.

Right before the Christmas break I attended a holiday party with my new co-workers.  As expected, we made small talk of upcoming plans and family gatherings.  While telling us of his upcoming trip to Chicago, one co-worker shared how he was an only child and still gives his mother a hard time about it.  He talked about feeling like he missed out on siblings, though he has many people in his life he is close with and would visit during the break.  Of course, he did not know my story nor could he have guessed how much this would strike a nerve.  But suddenly for the first time, I pictured Reagan as an adult returning home for a visit to just me.  No sister.  No brother.  No sibling time.  No nieces or nephews.  This mental picture broke my heart all over again.  Would that really be enough for her?  Would it still be special and fun to come home to just parents? I already had guilt about her lack of playmates at home, now I realized in some ways she would never outgrow that.  So much of the joy in my adult life comes from time with my sister and nieces, what could replace that for Reagan?

For a while we had hoped adoption would be an option, and perhaps one day it still will be, but for now it is out of reach financially.  We even dropped the idea to foster because though it could lead to adoption, it also might not and I would have to be invested in the primary focus of reuniting families (not adding to my own).  

Opening up about my miscarriage to others has definitely lead me to a support system.  It has sadly happened to many that I know, we share a horrible bond. And this year I have seen a lot of rainbow babies, born to friends who had previously lost a pregnancy.  Though I am thrilled for them, I am starting to feel more and more alone in the fact that there won’t be another baby for me.  In part, I won’t be able to heal by welcoming another child.  I am becoming more isolated in the fact that my miscarriage was my last pregnancy, and I am still left with wanting what I lost.  My mother has assured me that every mother feels sadness and pain at realizing the season of babies is over but my burden feels much heavier and deeper than that.  I am not sad, I am broken. 

The spark in this darkness has come during the times I find myself huddled with another friend sharing tears over similar pain but using the moment to also talk about God.  Though many friends let me speak about my loss, it has been the ones who have experienced it as well that truly understand the hurt. When I share my feelings about the painful experience and also show them God deep inside my broken heart I believe it has allowed me to share my beliefs in a deeper, more impactful way.  It is no small thing to bring Jesus into that conversation, and I hope it leaves a deep imprint on others the way I have allowed God to stay with me. 

My daughter is a real blessing, one that I appreciate all the more now.  And I know she feels loved by her family and has two amazing twin cousins that she will share a childhood with. Being an only child won’t mean she suffers but I can’t deny that she will be missing the unique bond of a sibling and I can’t deny the ongoing desire of my heart.  This is a challenging chapter in my life as I learn to be at peace with what I lost and find appreciation for the family I have.  I still struggle, how does one accept there will not be another baby?