Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Two summers ago at this time, my sister Meghan was a few weeks away from getting married. In preparation for the whole bridesmaid thing, at the beginning of the year I had started a get-in-shape routine in earnest. Meghan, who has run the Twin Cities Marathon about six times now, had somehow talked me into signing up to run a half marathon, in spite of the fact that when I registered for the race in March, I literally could not run around the block. But I was committed to doing it, and by July 2003, I could run around Lake Calhoun three times in a row.

I had joined an online diet support group that proved to be the keystone of my new fitness regimen, and as a result had dropped from the plus-size department to the “normal” size women’s department. I was taking writing classes. I wasn’t dating anybody, and I actually kind of liked it that way. My financial situation was beginning to get a little sketchy, but I was optimistic that things would improve soon. I completed the half marathon (verrrrry slowly), and the wedding, it was just beautiful. When I look back on that summer, what I remember most is how great it felt to be outside in the sunshine, running around the lake, seeing the people and the dogs and the sun on the water, feeling strong and amazed that I was actually pulling it off. Who knew?

A year later, everything had changed. The ex had stopped paying child support and had made it clear he wouldn’t be paying any time soon. I gave up the writing classes, and then the online support group when I could no longer afford the dues, or even Internet access, for that matter. My running shoes needed replacing, but the $100 it would cost to buy new ones was absolutely out of the question. So I gave up running, too.

I held on as long as I possibly could, but in the end it came down to a choice between two extremely unattractive options. Either I could sell my house, give away my dogs and move my kids into a rental unit, or I could file chapter 7 bankruptcy. I chose to keep the house, which, a lot of the time, felt like I had chosen to stick my head in a noose and was now standing there waiting for the chair to be kicked out from under me. What I remember about last July is the relentless feeling of desperation that I lived with 24/7. The summer before seemed like a different lifetime. I was on the verge of total surrender. A half-step from hopeless.

So in September I bit the bullet and started working at Old Navy. In October I changed positions at my full-time job to one with much more opportunity, if not more money. By Christmas, my Ho and I had become surprisingly tight, and when he and I toasted the new year, I was not unhappy to kiss 2004 on the ass on its way out. The Demigoddesses had proved to be much more self-sufficient than I had given them credit for. I had a lawyer and a court date, and I had learned a few things about getting by.

When spring arrived, I was working both jobs and shuttling the Demigoddesses to and from wherever their various activities required them to be. My ex had moved away with his new wife, so my girls were seeing their dad only sporadically (and when they did, they frequently came home upset and crying, but don't get me started). Breaks for me were few and far between, and although I still had to be very careful about money, overall, things had come a hell of a long way toward better. I could have afforded to buy a new pair of running shoes, and thought about it. But there was simply no time. My days were fuller than full, and anyway, my left foot had been giving me some painful trouble.

By the time I wrote this post, I didn’t really even need the child support any more. Relations with my ex had changed from desperation to a matter of principle. My kids are entitled to support from their father—financial and emotional. The unfortunate awareness that I can’t do a thing about his deficits in the emotional department had made me that much more dedicated to making damn sure that the financial piece, at least, would happen. Which is why I declined the “deal” he came up with after I wrote that post. He was fairly annoyed about that. He balked at the counter-offer I proposed. And then, just when I thought we were finally headed for court once and for all, yesterday afternoon we reached a compromise. The papers are being drawn up right this minute.

Rather than feeling relieved, though, I spent most of last evening feeling anxious. Had I done the best I could do? Were my kids really getting everything they were entitled to? Should I have fought harder and held out longer? Even the happy thought of submitting my two-week notice at Old Navy didn’t help, and I went to bed feeling unsure.

But last night, I dreamed I was running. I woke up this morning feeling at peace. And now it appears that the problems I was having with my foot are gone. I think it’s really over.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that rock I'm clinging...
Since love is lord of heaven and Earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I think I'm going shoe shopping.


Katie Burke said...

I am a family law attorney, and I think deadbeat dads suck. I applaud you for advocating so well for yourself and for the demigoddesses. May they never have to shed another tear at the hands of this man. It is inspirational to hear how far you've come.

Meghan said...

I am now teary-eyed because I am so proud fo you for surviving in tact - stronger in fact, and out of relief that you are finally seeing resolution, and that you had a lovely dream and can start runnung again. hallalujah.

jlb said...

You are a strong woman. You should be so proud of yourself for doing right by you and the demigoddesses. People like you amaze me.

Brooke said...

Good for you! I think I'm hooked on your blog now.

I'm getting back into running after a year away from it, too -- although it sounds like I've had an easier time of it.

For me it was a knee injury that knocked me off course, which (combined with National Novel Writing Month and a lot of really good lemon bars at the cafe where I write) sent me into a spiral. Details are here: http://odiouswoman.blogspot.com/2005/03/sartorially-speaking-i-have-given-up.html

Anyway, good for you for fighting back and making your ex do what's right for his kids financially. That takes a lot of strength.