For the first time in almost six years, I'm officially living alone again; just me, my two kids and our tiny dog in this giant house. I re-signed the lease in my own name - JUST ME - a few weeks ago, which means I get to live here for at least another year. The first thing I did after Alex left for school on Friday was to hone my inner Monica Geller and pay all my utilities; even bills that haven't ARRIVED yet have been paid. I'm a month ahead on rent.
I haven't fully been able to support myself this way since before the kids were born, at least not without roommates or partners to help with the overhead. Needless to say, this feels AMAZING, like I just clicked my heels, said THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, and here I am. But holy jeebus, this has taken a lot of work. Actual dollar-paying work aside (September will mark 5 years as an esthetician!), the emotional work it's taken me to get here has been fucking HARD. I earned this house. I built it out of tears. And it's MINE, damn it.
It helps tremendously that I seem to have quit drinking.
I don't think you can really know how much money you spend on booze until you stop spending it, but holy shit, it was a lot. And it wasn't just the doubling of every restaurant tab (which because I'm a giant snob, wasn't ever the cheapest...), but the nightly $40 trip to the grocery store for wine and last-minute dinner supplies. I haven't had to do any of that since I quit drinking. It's been close to three months now and the most surprising thing is how little I even notice it. I never even decided to make sobriety a goal, which is almost exactly how I quit smoking. I just didn't buy another pack of cigarettes that one time and then continued to make that micro-decision every day until it wasn't a decision at all. I'm already there with the drinking - I just never had a drink after Patrick left and now I only really think about it when confronted with a good wine list at a nice restaurant; even then it's mostly an acknowledgement of the travesty of having learned so much about a thing I no longer give a shit about. And that's the truth - I really don't care if I never have a drink again. My life is so much more intoxicating without alcohol in it.
People keep asking if Sean has moved in yet and even though neither of us can remember the last time he spent a night at his apartment, no, we haven't officially taken that leap. I'd love to stay at his place in Portland more often, but Miss Lola isn't allowed in his building and I couldn't bear to leave her alone all night. Normally I wouldn't have a new boyfriend around my kids this much this fast, but it's different this go around for a number of reasons. His 2:00-midnight work schedule means he's gone from the time they get home from school until long after they go to bed, so the overlap is only a couple days a week, which is only good for kid-weeks since none of our days off are the same. If he didn't spend the night, I'd pretty much never see him. (And holy shit do I want to see him.)
Even though I had the opportunity all along, Sean is the first new person I've dated in almost two years. Yes. You read that correctly. I put my whorepants out to pasture a long time ago. I keep wondering why if I just end up defaulting to monogamy anyway, why judge myself? It saves me a lot of heartache to just accept that while I agree with polyamory in theory, I happen to be better wired for one partner. Sean made a similar decision a few years ago himself, so our choice to be monogamous is 100% intentional. I'm not changing to accommodate his needs, either, nor am I settling for an imperfect match while keeping my options open like I did in previous relationships. I'm just finally realizing it's okay to ask one partner to meet all my needs, and if that man is the right man, he'll be not only capable of that level of commitment, but enthusiastic about it. We're leaning into that trust together and we're both surprised at how NOT scary it is.
Sean isn't just another one of the stallions in my stable, he's the whole damn stable. And he was very clear with me from the get-go: he wanted a family. With kids. They didn't need to be his own loin-fruit, but for some reason he wanted to experience that bittersweet form of torture anyway. So it really matters to both of us how well he gets along with my children. I'm neither proud nor ashamed that I've already lived with two different men since my divorce. For over two years each, these men lived with my children and neither of them has said a word to my kids since we broke up. Not even a good bye. Neither of the men I loved ever loved my children.
I'm not doing that to them again.
This time is going to be different because I want it to be different and I can MAKE it different. I have never possessed this level of self-control before. The way Patrick treated me during and especially after our break up turned out to be The Worst Thing that has ever happened to me. In forty years no one has managed to hurt me or devastate me more than he did, but until this paragraph, I have not published a word about it. I have wanted to. So badly. I've started dozens of blog posts. I have written allllllll the words. Thousands upon thousands of them. I've even written about NOT writing anything and instead publishing screen shots of the ugly things he and his people have said and just letting them speak for themselves.
Not speaking my truth has been infinitely more difficult than not drinking.
But just like my house, all of those words are mine now. I can still share them if I want to, but sharing them doesn't make the truth more true. Exercising that self-control and keeping those words to myself has given me more power than I ever could have imagined. I have never felt this strong in my whole life. It occurred to me recently that this must be what it feels like to be a man - to possess the kind of power that can devastate and destroy those who are weaker than you. The good ones never use that power for harm. I wish Patrick had been a good one. I wish he had been the man he thinks he is. That was the man I thought I loved. Sadly, that man is a figment of Patrick's imagination. Even sadder -- part of me knew it all along and still allowed him to use that power to hurt me. I definitely have regrets about our relationship and even some genuine remorse about the way things ended, but my biggest regret was not listening to myself.
I drank every single day I was with with Patrick Curtain. For two and a half years I drowned my own voice in champagne. I was still never quiet enough for him.
This time is already different because I'm different.
I can hear my own voice again.
Sean is listening too.