I am officially on Spring Break. If it were 1987, I would be headed to Ft. Lauderdale with three friends and a case of Little Kings. I would also have bigger hair and smaller boobs. But alas, it is not 1987, I am not 18, and I am not headed to Ft. Lauderdale. I am staying at home, happy to be doing absolutely nothing except arranging my sock drawer.
Thinking about Spring Break and the beach, however, reminds me of one of my most favorite vacations. It was 2010, and I was about to graduate college after eight long years of working full time and taking classes part time (except for the first and last semesters, in which I worked full time and carried a full load of classes, forcing a self-induced period of sleep deprivation from which I have yet to fully recover.)
My older son, Jake, was also about to graduate, but from high school. He had made grand plans with his girlfriend and two other female friends to go to Hilton Head, but his plans were about to be foiled when the hotel required an adult over the age of 21 to sign for the room. A mother was required, and since he knew I was sleep deprived and probably would nap right through his romantic interludes, I was just the mom to ask.
I hesitated for only a moment when asked, as it was an expense I couldn’t afford as a single mother with $50K in student loans looming, but I needed badly to get away from some things in my life. I needed this Spring Break getaway more than I even knew at the time. Thank God I said yes.
At that time, in March of 2010, I found myself at the gurgling, bloody end of a two year relationship with a guy I’ll call Steve (because that’s the asshole’s real name and we aren’t pulling any punches here) who was a raging alcoholic. Not a fun drunk, but a depressed one, and one who liked to drive, and thus had a string of DUI’s hanging over his head.
My first inclination of a problem came about six months after we began dating, when he cancelled a dinner date with Jake and me. He called me crying, obviously drunk, sloppily apologizing. I hung up from that phone call and immediately said to myself, “Shit, I didn’t sign up for this.” But unfortunately I had. I was a fixer. I was a commiter. I ignored the enormous red glad covering my head and I stayed with him. For the next year and a half, I went to Al-Anon meetings. I went to court with him after yet another DUI. I drove him around when his license was revoked, which was difficult considering he lived 45 minutes away. I avoided being kicked by him when he was enraged and abusing his furniture. I went to therapy with him and listened to him lie about how things were going. I took the blame when he said repeatedly that I was why he drank. It was exhausting.
Just before leaving on vacation that spring of 2010, I attended an Al-Anon meeting at which I listened to a woman speak about her 20 year marriage. She looked like hell as she spoke of a life of just waiting for relapses. I sat there, horrified, and the thought occurred to me that if I stayed with Steve, this would be my life in 20 years. But, I finally realized, I was not married to him. I had not committed my life to him. I could leave. I should leave.
A week later, as I stood on a sandy beach at sundown, with the sand between my toes and a cell phone in my hand, I did leave. I had to drive halfway across the country to be brave enough to say the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” And with that, it was done. I didn’t even cry. I ran back to my hotel room, hugged my son, and slept for hours. I was joyous when I awoke. I had taken a ton of baggage on vacation with me, but would return home with a lot less.
I finished my semester with renewed energy and looked forward to a life filled with hope and strength. I had no idea that just around the corner, the day after my graduation two months later, I would meet the absolute love of my life. I wasn’t looking for anyone when I met Gregg. I was just happy to be myself again, a little wiser.
I suppose some people would consider my Spring Break 2014 Sock Drawer Extravaganza quite boring, and to that, I say, “Pssshh.” I like my home. I love my life. I wouldn’t trade it for all the warm sand in the world.