Last night, at visit #4, my ex dropped a very large bomb.
Before that, he dropped a smaller bomb.
He asked me to take down a picture of Sami on his photo website where there is a Star of David painted on his cheek.
I explained to him gently that Sami himself asked for that Star of David on his cheek, and that it was a Hanukkah celebration and very innocent, not an anti-Arab demonstration, and that he is half Jewish, and that I encourage Sami to be proud of his Jewish and Muslim heritage.
My explanation seemed to convince him, so he apologized.
Then he dropped the large bomb.
“My wife is pregnant, in the early stages. It’s probably too early to tell Sami, don’t you think?”
I just stared at him, probably with an extreme amount of hostility. I felt like I stared at him for a very long time.
“What do you want me to do about it?” was the only thing I could think of to say.
“Oh. Nothing!” He stammered. “You don’t have to do anything, I’ll tell him–”
“No — Why are you telling ME this? I don’t want to know,” I said.
Which wasn’t entirely true, but mostly true. I was in shock. I mean full body shock, as in the blood drained out of my extremities. He often has that effect on me.
My ex has three families now. One in his country, and two here in America. We are the ghosts of his past life, too close for comfort.
My grief at hearing the news of his wife’s pregnancy seemed like it would swallow me whole.
“Just go,” I said quietly, as he bent down to pick up a few toys.
After I watched the lights of his car disappear down the street, I cried harder than I can remember crying in a long while. Sobbing, shrieking for the ease with which he replaced us, the death of any possibility of repairing what has been so utterly broken.
And the very worst of it: I cried because I wished it was me carrying this baby and not her.
I called my beloved teacher, and she actually walked out of her daughter’s Girl Scout meeting to talk to me for several minutes.
“I already know how to sell cookies,” she said, making me laugh through my tears.
She reminded me that my job was to be just this sad, to cry just this hard, to be just this broken, and not to look away from the magnitude of this suffering, so I can see that this suffering is not me. Suffering comes and goes, comes and goes. This is life. She asked me not to come up with a phony way to tie up the loose ends and make it look prettier. She gave me permission to be messy.
“Nothing is still. All of it is waves. And we all get wet,” she said.
Sami witnessed my intense tears. I wanted to much to hold them back until after he slept, but the dam broke.
“Mama, are you crying?”
“Yes honey, Mama’s crying. But I’m OK, and you’re OK, and Mama loves you.”
“Are you frustrated?” he asked.
“Yes, a little.”
“Are you sad?”
“Yes honey, I’m sad. But I’m OK.”
I walked through the bedtime routine numb. So distracted and distraught that I poured bubbles into Sami’s bath, though he has been in a staunch no-bubble phase for a while. I cried through the stories I read him, about trucks and fire engines, and space shuttles. I tried to hide my tears so he could focus on the stories, but he saw them.
That night, the last thing I did before I went to bed was to write my ex an email requesting that he not speak to me right now but communicate through writing instead, unless it directly involved one of Sami’s immediate needs while he was visiting him. I desperately wanted to protect myself from his bombs that shatter me so completely. I know it was futile and very, very unskillful.
I went to sleep and dreamed that I had convinced him to convince her to have an abortion and to come back to us.
Bombs are dropping on Gaza.
And today, my ex and I threw bombs at each other. I wanted not to get caught in the war, not to add more aggression to the planet, not to cause harm, but today I did. It is my aspiration to soften and open my heart, but today it was small and hard and mean.
I fought back. I fought down and dirty. The emails and accusations flew. I talked about consulting a lawyer to get a legal visitation agreement, even though I don’t know if that is what I want to do. We clawed and nailed at each other via email. I took pleasure in refuting his accusations, in making myself right and him wrong. Today was not my finest day of mindfulness. Pema Chodron talks about “refraining” from harming others. Not a sexy word, but I wish I had found a way to refrain from acting out my pain. No one is winning here, especially Sami.
We are now at an impasse. He refuses to come to the house to see Sami, and I am not yet trusting enough of him to let Sami stay with him. He is insisting on starting overnights immediately. I can’t yet allow that.
He dictated his terms to me and I refused.
You agree on me seeing him as I want or not at all, was his response.
He accused me of making this trouble because of the fetus his wife is carrying. As you know, Gentle Reader, I was concerned about giving Sami over to him quite a while before I knew about the pregnancy.
I think it’s too soon and not healthy for Sami. Plus, I don’t trust my ex. I am suspicious and I can’t shake it.
Maybe someday Sami will hate me if my fear of losing him drove his father away yet again. I know, I know, I am taking ownership of his father’s crazy game of making me responsible for his desertion.
My gut tells me that he is looking for another convenient way to get out and make it my fault, again, because I was too “unreasonable” or “guilt-inducing.”
I am willing to compromise, but I am not ok with his pace.
I won’t let him bully me and threaten and intimidate me. I need to do what I think is right for Sami. In my last email I left the door open to finding a mutually agreeable solution. But I said if we could not, then maybe we would need some outside help.
I wish there was a Truth and and Reconciliation Commission to heal this war between my ex and I. We are an example of failed Jewish-Arab coexistence. We are, in some ways, a microcosm of what is happening in the Gaza strip, trying to kill each other with verbal bombs.
It is always the innocent children that pay the highest price for the violence of adults.
I don’t know what is going to happen next. In my heart, I suspect he has retreated once again. But we’ll see.
(The odd side effect of this is that I have completely lost my taste in dating. The compulsion to check my inbox for new messages from men who answered my ads has just up and left me. Tonight, I feel completely indifferent about all of it. I’ve retreated into this small world where I can only face what is right in front of me. The thought of even responding to an email, let alone planning a date, is too much to bear.)
Sometimes it’s all too much to bear. But bear it we do. We always do.
“The good news is that it doesn’t kill you,” said my teacher, “The bad news is that it doesn’t kill you.”
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.