Monday, September 6, 2010

Big Girl Panties

Tonight, I am sitting here at almost midnight with a horrible migraine. I am on the front porch watching the rain make puddles outside. I have been browsing other crafty ladies' blogs looking for the inspiration I need to get back into my sewing room.

I started to ponder what the last two years of my life have been like.
The moment became very emotional.
A little over two years ago, my husband and our little family moved to his new duty station in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was the hardest thing I had to do (at that point) in my life. We left a home that had become everything I ever wanted from life in Appomattox, Virginia.

It was the home our son was born in. It was the community I finally felt accepted in. We left neighbors who have become some of my best friends. It was the place I felt God made just for me.
This was not the first move we have had due to his career. It was not the first move I experienced in my life. I am very used to moving around. My father was in the Air Force and we moved a few times before I was 7. Then at 7, my parents divorced. I always thought I handled it well. But, as I get older, I realize that I did not handle it very well at all.
Our home in Appomattox seemed to fill places in my life that had no connection. It was just what I needed.

When we first came to Texas, it felt like another dream fulfilled. But, it has not been at all what I hoped. All my life, I thought the answer to life's problems would be to move to Texas. My father has been here for many years. I always loved to visit. It was so different from Las Vegas.

Living here would be the first time in over five years that my husband and I actually LIVED together 24 hours a day. Previously, his career with the Coast Guard has kept him gone more than I thought he would be. Our home was more like an overpriced hotel for my husband. We found that we had to get to know each other all over again. During the years that he came back and forth from the sea, we lived many parts of life without him. We learned how to function just our son, the dog, and myself. We did fine. But, it wasn't the same without Chris.

We spent the first year of our time in Texas fighting alot. We were under alot of stress financially. We had been unable to sell out home in Virginia and ended up renting it out for only a portion of what the mortgage cost. This was eating up alot of our money. There was constant worry something bad would happen to the house that we couldn't afford to fix. There was constant worry our renters may not pay their rent. There was a feeling that we couldn't move on. But, part of me deep down didn't want to move on. I wanted to go back to Virginia. With our friends. Where I first met my husband. We had so many happy memories there. I prayed our house would NOT sell. While my husband prayed it WOULD sell.

But, I knew in the end, it had to happen.

Finally we started to settle in to our home in Portland, Texas. It is a smaller town compared to Corpus. It is as close to the type of town we lived in when we in Virginia as we can get for now. There are hundreds of acres of farm lands. Everything we need is close by. There are great things to do with the family. Our apartment is not as big as our house was, but it really is nice. We have been blessed with great neighbors who are now close friends. We started weekly marriage counseling. We found a great church. Things were slowly getting better. More comfortable. Chris found a second job that would allow us to the opportunity to get out of debt without having to send me back to work, putting out son in day care.
Then came a phone call in April of 2009 that caused my entire life to explode. My step father, the man who pretty much raised me as if I was his own and had devoted 20 hours a day for almost 20 years to his wife and kids, was diagnosed with stage four esophogeal cancer. He had been given only months to live and was not expected to live through October.

In that moment, nothing mattered. I was not a wife. I was not a mom. I was not a small business owner. I was just a little girl. With a sick Dad.

This was hard for my husband to comprehend. He was never close to his father and has never really experienced having a loved one sick or dying. I couldn't explain this to my son. He just barely turned three.

Within two weeks, I was in Las Vegas with our son, trying the best I could to help my mother and Papa somehow. He needed treatment. The only place that could help him was in Houston, Texas. My sister was getting ready to graduate with her masters. My three younger brothers are still minors living at home. Mom was a home school mom, who hadn't worked outside of the home in over 20 years. She had to drop everything to care for our Dad and her husband.

I spent a month in Vegas. I don't feel I was much help. I tried. I knew they needed help cleaning the house, keeping the yard up, feeding the kiddos. But, emotionally, I was a mess. I didn't know what to do from one minute to the next.
Meanwhile, my husband and I were having our own issues, long distance. He felt my job was at home. I felt, at that moment, my parents needed me more than he did.
I never felt more torn in my life.

I returned home in June. I was not myself. I was unable to focus on anything. I didn't care about my business. It has pretty much gone from bustling to a stand still since that time. I have only made one quilt in the last year, where previously, I made at least one a month. I felt as if I was losing my mind and no one could understand.

Usually, I call my mom when things are hard. But, this time...I couldn't call her. She was having her own difficulties getting through each day. It felt selfish to be so upset. This is HER husband. He is ALL she has (in her opinion). I have my husband, my son, and my brothers and sister.

The stress between Chris and I was growing worse by the day. Eventually, I left Chris in July of 2009, after he lost his temper one day and started taking his frustrations out on our son.

I didn't want to leave him. I knew we, as a family, needed help to learn how to deal with all of the stresses in our life. But, I can't make someone get help who doesn't think he needs it.

July to October, I lived with my father and stepmother in Texas. I was able to get a part time job working evenings and I tried to figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing with my life.

My Papa was receiving his chemo treatments and eventually had surgery to remove parts of his body that the cancer touched. This type of cancer can regrow in exactly the same spots if they are not removed.

I found out in August that my Papa's company, which had been struggling due to the sudden collapse of the building economy in Vegas was basically being sold off, employees and all, except for him. His position was not included, as his boss felt that he would not survive anyway.

This meant that my parents had no income and no health insurance to help my Papa fight this cancer.

This stressed me out incredibly, as I couldn't even stand on my own feet, let alone help my parents financially. I didn't even have a bed to offer if they needed a place to come to, should they lose their home. I prayed to God to show me what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn't getting any answers. Except one. And I didn't like it.

I kept feeling like I should forgive my husband. I should go home. I should be a wife. A BETTER wife. I was supposed to be a mom. A BETTER mom.

My own mom kept telling me I had to put on my big girl panties. No one was going to save me from my problems. No one could tell me what the right thing to do was. She supported whatever decision I made. I just had to make one. My father and stepmother, we not as forgiving. Dad didn't want me to go home. He felt I could do better. But, deep down, I knew and still know, my husband is a great man. I couldn't do better than him, because he is the best. He is not perfect. But, when I took a long look at myself, I really wasn't so great either. I had become a spoiled brat.
I had been unable to get my husband to communicate with me except through a rotten attorney who really only cared about the money (too bad she doesn't get that neither of us really have ANY). One day, he called to speak to my son. I happened to be off work that day. I answered. Our son was sleeping. I told him that he would call when he got up from his nap. This day, my husband didn't hang up immediately. He hesistated. I asked him if we could talk. We talked for several hours. And by the end, we were both crying. We both knew, life wouldn't be the same without each other. It would not be the best life for our son, if we divorced. We didn't want that. We wanted him to have both of his parents. Functioning as happy, healthy, loving adults.

It took several weeks of long, emotional, and honest conversations about all the wrong we had both done to each other over the years of our marriage. We came up with some give and take solutions to work out our issues.

Finally on Halloween night, after a long, tiring shift at work, I drove an hour back to my Dad's packed EVERYTHING, and drove four hours home.

It has been almost a year since we returned home. It has not been easy at all. Some days, it seemed I made a horrible decision. But, even with roadblocks, we have made it through a very rocky period.

My little fabric shop is still open, but lacking the attention it needs. My house has not returned to normal. I took over Chris' night job. It is the first job I have had in over 7 years. Returning to the workforce after becoming a mom is very different than when I was single. I have had to admit that I cannot do it ALL. I cannot work full time and be an effective mom and a good wife to my husband. I initially was working Chris' schedule and quickly started earning more hours. Eventually I was promoted to General Manager and suddenly the entire store and all the employees were my responsibility.

One evening, after returning home from a very long day at work, I put my son to bed. He seemed to be doing well with his day care. He made a lot of friends and was learning alot. But, that evening, he broke down in tears. He told me the most heartbreaking thing. "Mommy, you don't love me anymore. I never see you. I don't have anyone to love me. You love your work more than me."

I was not expecting that from him. He is four now. He always seemed to take everything in stride. He never seemed to miss me that much. I felt awful for not recognizing his feelings earlier.

I could not sleep for a few nights after that. Every morning, when I dropped him off at school, I felt guilty.

I started looking at the benefits of the job of was working versus the benefits of working less and being a mom again. I realized I used to make more working only 20 hours a week in the evenings and then my son would never have to be in day care.

I quickly stepped down from my position. I know this was not convenient for my employer. It was really an awful position to put him and my co-workers in. But, ultimately, I knew it was the best decision for my family.
It has only been a few weeks. I am still readjusting. I am still trying to get the house back to the way it ran over a year ago. But, I am doing it.

I have often wondered why I have not had any energy the last few months. I cannot seem to get my rhythm back as it was this time last year. But, tonight, after really thinking about everything we have been through, it is no wonder I am tired. I keep fighting God's will.

I am at peace with the choices I have made. I know many people will never understand what is going on in my head. But, I had to finally put on my big girl panties and deal with my life.

Instead of letting is deal with me.

I have not dropped off the Earth. I will get the store back up and running. But, it will not come before my family. I will still work outside the home, but it will only be enough to pay down our debt (which won't be much longer at this point). I will be the wife my husband deserves and the mom my kid wants.
My Papa is still fighting cancer. But, I realize now that there is nothing I can do to change his fate. He knows I love him. I appreciate everything he ever did for me. He taught me alot about sacrifice and love. But, I have accepted that this is God's time now. I have to let him work.

God has saved me. He has brought me through the darkest moments in my life. He has blessed me with such an awesome life.

I thank him for providing me with my Big Girl Panties. They fit better everytime I put them on.