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Have you ever seen the Chris Rock standup where he rags on n***as? “A n***a will say some shit like, “I take care of my kids.” You’re supposed to, you dumb motherfucker! What kind of ignorant shit is that?” (Yes, the “n” word is more offensive to me than shit.)
Well, I think I’ve been acting a little n***erish lately. Or at least I need to be on the lookout for slipping into a similar mindset. I’ve done my share of handwringing (even if it’s only in my head) about the burden of my responsibility… and how unfair it is that it all falls on me… and there’s been lots of giving myself a free pass for fun because, you know, things are sooo hard. Ugh, smack me. Would I have it any other way and not be the one responsible for my children? Hell no. Do I deserve to have fun? Hell yes, but it’s because I deserve to be a well-rounded person, making time for the things I find rejuvenating. Not because I need payback for making the hard decisions and being the grownup.

I signed on for this when I had those kids — granted, I had no idea the reality of what that’d mean but I signed on for this. And my love for them has me fully invested in making the right decisions for them and that’s the biggest, best motivator I could ever have. So I cannot insult that love by turning it into some loathsome thing that I need to escape at times. (But every parent I know recognizes that feeling of needing to be away from their kids sometimes.)  Balance. I know that is what it’s about. And if I keep my mind right, it will all work out.

I’m waiting for a realtor who is coming to assess my house. I’ve cleaned as much as I can and it barely made a difference. I’ve warned her about the state of disrepair. She reassured me that she’s not there to judge. And yet… you know that’s exactly how I feel. Like it’s super clear that I couldn’t hack the last year of my life with the intelligence and mental juggling necessary to work full time, keep my kids on even keel and maintain a house I can’t even begin to afford on one salary. Yeah, intellectually I know that I did the best I could and damn sure could have done worse, and yet…

I did it. Two weeks ago I ran the half marathon I’d set as a goal just four months before. It was an amazing experience — running around Central Park, down Seventh Ave, through Times Square, and down the West Side Highway. I cried at mile 11, not because of any pain (though that is about when every lower joint I had began to complain to me). I cried because 10 months before I didn’t know how I would get through a day, much less run such a race.

Back then I was suddenly an overweight single mother with a certifiably crazy, vengeful ex and self esteem dipping to dangerous lows. I was unsure of my decision-making skills, having practiced them little on my own over the last 20 years. But on that March day, a 30-pounds lighter me who had negotiated one hell of a year was going to finish something for which I’d methodically prepared. I’d reinforced for myself that I can set a goal, make a plan, and accomplish said goal. Nothing could beat that feeling… though that shiny old-school subway token-like medal they gave out at the end was nothing to sneeze at.

Well, I rode that high for the rest of that day and most of the next. Out of nowhere I’d think, I did that! And it felt good. But it didn’t obliterate the rest of my life’s problems. But at 5 p.m. day after my triumph, which was a week after a trial for his mini idiotic crime spree last year, my husband of 16 years was convicted and immediately remanded into custody. I’d been tied up in knots about it all for weeks. I’d come to realize that didn’t need him to go to prison to feel like justice was served, so I’d agreed to having the DA’s office offer him multiple plea bargains that had no jail time. But his delusional thinking, bad choices, or just plain old craziness, kept him from taking the deals and off to trial we went. And now he’s facing a year in prison. And I had to tell our children.

On top of that I’d finally been served with foreclosure papers. Not totally unexpected but still… I couldn’t shake the feeling of failure. I know that my situation is unique, and no, I can’t afford to keep my house on just my salary. But I still felt like I could have handled his better. It reminds me of my inadequacy in dealing with my finances and just pushes all my self-criticism buttons.

So by the the night after the race I was firmly reminded that those 13 miles were essentially just one step in my rebuilding of myself. There are many finish lines to cross in achieving the life that I want. And I just have to put one foot in front of the other.

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