Friday, October 19, 2012

Doing the Best We Can

Last week at the mediator, I had to confront Bryan about a lie.  I found out that he was laid off or fired months ago, and I had not revealed to him that I'd inadvertantly learned this information.

The mediator asked his salary, and he used old numbers.  I let it go.  The mediator asked him directly about health insurance, costs, employer coverage, etc. and he used the old information, even though I knew with certainty that he was now on COBRA (and that I was too; I'd been panicking about it because as a breast cancer survivor I know how vitally important health insurance is!).

He looked the mediator in the eye and lied.

In that moment, right before I revealed that I knew the truth, I felt so overwhelmingly sad for him.  His life is not going well, and he does not seem to have the tools to fix what needs fixing.

I spoke quietly, and my eyes were full of tears when I said, "I really hoped that you would bring this up so that I did not have to, but I know you were laid off a few months ago."

I think he wished that the ground would swallow him up in that moment, and I hated that I had to bring it up.  I believe he felt shame, and I was so sorry that I was associated with those feelings of shame....again.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Bryan suffers from clinical depression, and he doesn't manage his depression.  He is not in therapy, and I don't think he's taking meds any more, and yet he has classic symptoms of depression.   If I had to name one reason that our marriage failed, I would say that it was "untreated depression" or "undertreated depression."  He is a mere shell of the man I met and married, and bears no resemblance to his former self.  His humor, intelligence, and generousity have vanished, and in their place is anger, confusion, and closedness.  He went from being a person with many good friends to a person with few contacts; he went from being a great employee to....well, not great.  He went from being romantic to being self absorbed.  He lost his libido, his sense of self worth, and so much more, and I blame it on the depression.

So, sitting in the mediator's office, I saw all of this with great clarity, saw the pain he was in, and I felt deeply compassionate for him.

With that compassion came a new understanding: he is doing the best that he can right now.

I get so angry that he doesn't spend much time with our daughter, that he does the bare minimum in so many parts of his life, but especially in parenting.  I can not count on him to make sure she takes showers, or gets her homework done, or eats anything healthy, or goes to bed on time, or does any chores.  I get so angry that he expects me to do it all - every doctor's appointment, every birthday gift, every homework assignment (helping), every new pair of shoes.  I was so frustrated when we were living in the same house and he would sleep in every morning so that I would get up, make Katherine's lunch, serve her breakfast, get her backpack re-packed, etc. even though I was the one going to work and he was not.  I couldn't believe that he'd watch me flying around, and that when I walked in the door from work he'd watch TV while I cooked dinner and helped our girl with homework.  I found it astonishing, and it made me very angry.

But in that mediation, in a flash of insight, I think I saw it for what it is.

He loves his daughter.  He is taking less than he might from the house because he wants her to live in the house.  He's paying child support even though he's unemployed.  But he has nothing else to give right now.  He's doing the best he can.

He only has our daughter four four nights a month, and he usually only takes her for two of those nights (sending her to sleepovers the other two).  I have been so angry that he has given her so little...but suddenly I see it, he's doing the best he can.

Yes, I'm exhausted.  Yes, it takes a toll on me.  But I am so incredibly proud of the job parenting I'm doing.  I'm setting a good example, I'm raising a kind daughter who has a great work ethic.  Katherine and I have fun together (this weekend's agenda: a sleepover at our house with a couple "BFFs", a visit to a pumpkin patch followed by pumpkin carving and hot apple cider, Sunday School where I am her class's teacher, and then our new tradition: a quiet evening dinner followed by a movie every Sunday night), but still get homework done, eat veggies, etc.  I am working hard at work.  I'm balancing the oh-so-tight budget.  I got up at 5am the first fall day of rain to check the gutter in the corner where it causes problems, making sure that the water was draining away from the house.

I'm doing the best I can, and he's doing the best he can.  It's not fair, and perhaps I am owed much more, and perhaps Katherine is owed much more, but all anyone can give is their best.

So, I feel more at peace with him than before.  I'm so relieved that we are getting divorced - I can not have a partner who refuses to manage his mental health and expects me to deal with that fallout from that decision, and I can not live with lies, and I need to be married to someone I respect - but I see him differently now.

No, it's not fair.  However, I got the better end of the deal.  I CAN find joy in tiny things, I am proud of who I am, and I love my relationship with my daughter.  Yes, I have to work twice as hard, but I have more than double the benefits of that work.

 Tonight when I get home from work there will be three girls - Katherine and two of her besties - in my home, giggling and asking me funny questions about boys (they are at an age where they alternate between the idea that boys are weird and that boys are cool), and maybe we'll all dance in the kitchen to Carly Rae Jepson's summer hit "Call Me Maybe."  Katherine will roll her eyes at me - "oh Mom you're so embarrassing" - but then she will "accidentally" bump into me and I'll grab her arms and spin her in circles and she'll laugh and her friends will say "do me next!" and by the time the song is over I'll be out of breath and we'll all be laughing.  In the morning, her friends will say, "oooooh are you making chocolate chip pancakes?!" and they will be so excited when I say yes, because I have been informed that my house has the best sleepover breakfasts ever.

I know that this is all true, because this is how it always goes.  Or maybe we won't dance, but we'll bake together.  Or maybe they'll have me look up You-Tube videos on my computer, bands I've never heard of and would never listen to on my own (um, like Carly Rae Jepson) but which appeal to the tween set, and I'll indulge the girls because I love that they still include me on these activities, and because it always comes out who has a crush on who or what happened at school last week.  Sometimes they ask my advice about navigating a tricky friendship, or about how to ask their moms something.  Sometimes they ask how old I was when I got to do some things, or they'll ask me to tell them a funny story about when I was their age.  Then, they'll bounce off into Katherine's room, and I'll hear whispers and laughter, and sometimes they spend three hours without coming up for air, organizing elaborate fantasy worlds with Littlest Pet Shop, and I'll be able to light candles and read a book in the living room with few interruptions.

When it's bedtime, they'll talk longer than they're supposed to, and finally I will say "this is your last warning and so if I have to come in again I'm afraid I'll have to separate you" and they will stop talking because this is about the 100th sleepover for these girls and they know I mean it.  They'll say, "Okay" and they won't be upset at all; they'll roll over and go to sleep.  In the morning if I sleep longer than they do, they'll bounce onto my bed like a litter of puppies, and I will say "when are you girls going to learn how to make me coffee?" and they'll call out a chorus of "yuccckkkkkk coffee is so gross!" before they wonder if there is any hot cocoa available.

Bryan misses out on all this, and I feel sad for him.  He may not be treating me fairly, but still, I'm getting the better deal.

I am grateful for my life.  Thank you, Bryan, for giving me perspective. 


  1. There are so many emotions, so many hard moments.

    Focus on whatever helps you get through. What counts.

    Sending good thoughts your way.

  2. Your good thoughts are much appreciated, BLW.