This is a post about Hermione Granger, Inception, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I promise. It's just incognito. It is also partially about the politics of being female, and of being a mother, but you might need to read between the lines.
I group my feelings into two subgroups: Relevant and Irrelevant. If they are Irrelevant, I like to detach from them, and generally can. If a feeling is relevant but cannot be controlled sufficiently to make progress in a situation, I group it in Irrelevant anyway. Most of my feelings about my son are in subgroup Irrelevant, since his feelings are the only ones that matter.
I mastered my detachment skills the morning after my ex-husband (let's call him EH) called his parents and had them take my son. I don't see the point in overburdening this with a description of how I felt. Either you can feel the edge of what it might be like, or you can't, and I don't know how to help you with it.
The next morning, I woke up and made breakfast. I picked up EH's living room. I picked myself up off of the floor, dusted myself off, and continued on as a completely different person than the one who had finally fallen asleep a few hours before. I mean, certainly I had all of the same feelings that I had possessed before, but put them in a box and tagged them Irrelevant. I absolutely had to, or I would have lost my mind, and I had a baby daughter to care for. This wasn't even about choosing my own health; it was about choosing hers.
(I did all of this without appealing to God or gods, despite my nominal theism of the time. Sorry to insert an Atheist Aesop here, but I think it's truly tragic that so many people do not realize their own strength when dealing with difficulty, and have to credit it to something external. No, you are strong.)
I continued with my life and learned the hard way to make decisions. I mean, the "decisions" to enlist at the end of high school, to get engaged, get pregnant, and get married at nineteen can only be considered a decision by the broadest of terms; I had never learned to think for myself, and just let things happen to me. (That's the nice thing about the military: it is profoundly easy to simply follow orders.) I had never learned to take responsibility for myself, much less for someone else, and just kind of let shit happen to me until, at twenty-three years old, I found myself in that living room without my child.
Self, meet adulthood.
Having felt worse upon meeting adulthood than I ever had because of sexual assault (very few things trigger me about rape, but I have a very rough time with triggers for this event), I kept breathing. It was like a near-death experience; I looked down on my broken, bleeding body, and said, "Nope, just going to continue on without that mess, thanks. IRRELEVANT." I'd say that a part of me died that day, but it's still there. I just don't have use for it, and it will not benefit anyone else in my life, either, this ghost-me, so I don't pull it off of the shelf. I just kind of wipe the blood off of my shoulders when its get on me. No, thank you. It has to be like something that happened to someone else, or I would suffocate. I don't particularly care if it's healthy, because the question is not whether or not it's healthy. The question is how I get up every morning, and this is how.
I still can't get through some songs. Like Seal Lullaby, that we're singing. Half the time I stand there, statuesque, mute, incapable of using my favorite means of expression to say, even to an audience, even essentially anonymously, that I love my children, son and daughter both. I can't say it, because that body will come tumbling down on my head and get blood all over me. That's a messy affair. I know it's noticeable that I can't get through singing it half the time because I'm one of the more assertive altos, and our director looks at me strangely. Whatever. I have a bleeding body marked Irrelevant falling out of my closet on my head. I think y'all can manage this one without me, thanks.
The only time I actually say how I feel is during another song, when we have to shout in a foreign language, a few words, anything, and I shout, "Extraño mucho a mi hijo!" God damn it, I miss my son!
The problem is: this is not only related to me. This affects my son as well. I can carry this burden myself. I'm big, I'm strong, I've lived with this for a long time. Please, let it just hurt me. I have the skills to cope. I'm used to having the weight of the world on my shoulders. I can deal with this as long as it's just my own bleeding body in my closet. Mine is Irrelevant.
No. My son still has abandonment issues. I don't know how well he remembers that night (he was three and a half), but he's terrified that he'll never see me again. While I'm busy trying very hard not to answer any questions he might have because I am simply not willing to undermine his father, EH is telling him that, if I had gotten to take him back to Texas, they never would have seen each other again. I tell him otherwise, but I'm not the main one talking to him. I can tell him that I wanted him desperately, that I have my own bleeding body stuffed in a closet and have ever since a night he might not remember, that I would tell him my feelings about it if they weren't Irrelevant, but it won't mean anything because I'm not there. They are. I got very, very sick last night of saying the words, "It's very complicated" to him. I think he deserves better, but, by the time he'll be able to understand better and will be out of his father's house so that I can tell him honestly, he might hate me. I don't know. I might if I was him.
He has two parents there who love him and care for him, and the decisions, both of myself and others, that got us to this point, aren't particularly relevant to that. I am not there. I am Irrelevant. They are. And still, he, the only one with Relevant feelings, hurts.
The first time he went away with his father, for the three months of the summer of 2005, I saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" very shortly after. That movie hits ms like a cannonball to the stomach, and it did at the time, too, but it's not the storyline. It's the idea of being able to erase agonizing pain like that. I asked myself, what good am I to my son? Do either of us need to hurt this much? But, of course, he was coming back to me, so I dismissed the very painful thought.
That's not the case anymore. When EH's girlfriend adopts him, we will be signing paperwork allowing me to continue to have the same visitation and contact rights, and I appreciate that concession. It is being made for his sake, not for mine, which is as it should be, because I am an unperson in this situation. I am a big person, and I can handle big feelings, but we have to consider how he will feel. He would be hurt by the loss of myself and his sister, and I don't know whether to be bothered or happy at that, because I would rather him not hurt. I dread my daughter getting older and really understanding the situation and hurting like I do.
But let's be honest: He's never coming to live with me now. There is never any chance of shared custody. I am signing away my son, for his good. I gave him my blood up until his birth, and I have not stopped giving it since. I wish that I could show him how much I love him, but there is just no way to do it aside from doing this, and, ironically enough, this will probably give him the impression later on that I don't. How am I supposed to show love? My love is Irrelevant.
And I wish I could do this to him. It would be so much easier on him, and I could carry this alone. He has a mom, and he has a dad. He has a life. The only source of pain in his life is my absence. I could handle all of this tumbling down on me if it would spare him, but it won't. This isn't a dream, I'm not waking up and coming home to my child, and there is no forgetting. I chose this reality. I sign away my son, as simple as that, because it is what any mother would do in this situation.
And I think it's going to get uglier from here. It's become more and more the case that the only thing I obtain from loving my son is pain, and I wouldn't change my loving him because of it, but. It's Irrelevant, but this is putting it in the spotlight. I am losing my son in most possible ways. I'm glad that I don't have to handle it alone this time.
I don't really have anything else to say. This is a shit-mess of a post, but whatever. I need to breathe.