Learning the Language - MetroFamily Magazine
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Learning the Language

by Shannon Fields

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Allow me to introduce myself…some of you may recognize me as the writer of the Healthy Family column and a handful of features over the years…still others may recognize me from the community, as an Edmond resident for over 20 years. Others of you may simply relate to my story…

I was blessed in high school to have many friends, and during a party in my senior year, I met the man who would become my husband. I fell hard in a way I’d never experienced. Suddenly, it seemed like the earth shifted slightly on its axis.  He made me feel like I was the only girl in the world. Before long, we were inseparable.

We married in 1998, when I was all of 21 and he was 22…in hindsight, far too young, but try telling that to a couple of kids who were in love and determined to save money on rent. We bought a house immediately, and a daughter arrived just before our second anniversary. Although she was a few years ahead of schedule, we were thrilled and spent the next several years learning the ropes of parenthood (our second daughter came along in 2003), working, finishing our degrees, and living life at a pace that any normal person would find utterly exhausting…but we simply didn’t know any different.

Once we graduated and had good jobs, and our girls became more self-sufficient, our lives began to slow down. It came as something of a surprise to us (to me, anyway) to discover we no longer had much in common. Somewhere along the way, a communication breakdown had occurred, and we had been too busy to notice. Was it really possible that we no longer shared the same interests? More disturbing, I wasn’t even sure we shared the same values. After nearly two years of separation, reconciliation attempts, and counseling, I decided enough was enough…I needed peace. I needed to move on, and it became startlingly clear to me in the last month that my situation was not going to change, unless I was the one to change it. I made the decision and asked for a divorce.

I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. Intellectually, I know it was absolutely the right thing to do. I know one day I’ll be happy that I did it, but that day hasn’t yet arrived. Sometimes I feel like less of a parent because of it, although our girls are adjusting well, and things between us have been more or less amicable. Quite simply, I often feel like a failure. I never thought I would be here.

“Here” is like a foreign country where I’m just learning to speak the language. I bought a house and worked day and night unpacking and making it into a home for the girls…or at least for the 60% of the time that they live with me. The rest of the time, it’s deafeningly quiet. I have to plan my life and their activities around a joint custody plan. I still cook way too much food for the three of us, but have somehow dropped ten pounds without trying, or even noticing until my friends started to become concerned. I have to watch every dollar, and plan my budget carefully. I have no idea what to do when my WiFi suddenly stops connecting or when we wake up without heat, both of which have happened in recent weeks.

There’s more to this foreign existence than not knowing how to fix a leaky faucet. I am dating again, partly because it fills the silence that now engulfs nearly half of my life…this worries many of my friends and family, who tell me it’s too soon. I tell them they don’t know what it’s like to come home every night to a place where there is no adult conversation. The truth is, I get asked out a lot, so I go. Often, it’s only once…that’s all it usually takes for me to determine whether or not I have a connection with someone…or any hope of developing one. I have had to learn how to blow off the ones who can’t take the hint that I don’t want to see them again. While my ex-husband settled into a serious relationship almost immediately, I know I’m not ready, and I have no idea when I will be. Maybe when I prove to myself that I’m capable of not only BEING a single mom, but being GOOD at it.

Right now, I’m busy trying to learn the language. I’m carving out a new normal for myself and the kids, and it’s harder than I ever imagined it could be. Sometimes I’m proud of myself and feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal. Other times, I feel like I’m doing it all wrong…but my good days are slowly starting to outnumber the bad ones. I’m starting to believe maybe I CAN actually do it on my own…and maybe eventually be happy, too.

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