The Color Mom-ster: A Story About A Divorced Mom's Dysregulated Emotions

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I will never get used to my kids leaving my house and spending a few days (or five) without me at their dad’s house. I’ll admit, sometimes the peace and quiet are nice for a little while. 

But my body never stops aching for my children. I talk a lot about ‘radical acceptance,’ so, no better opportunity than right now to accept that I will miss my kids forever. Still, I continue with my day and my life — because I have no choice.

When my kids are with me half the time, one of my daughter's favorite books to read together is The Color Monster by Anna Llenas. And truth be told, it’s one of my personal favorites too. I ordered it for her last year — a week before all the crap hit the fan.

“Are you all mixed up again, Color Monster? ”— Anna Llenas

It’s true what they say; our emotions don’t work well when they’re all mixed up.

Please join me while I painfully (but systematically nonetheless) put each emotion where it belongs and distract myself for hours on end from missing my babies by burying my face in my Android screen.

Happiness Jar

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My heart is happy for so many reasons. But first things first; happiness to me means many things. The five adjectives that come to mind when I think of happiness are: grateful, relieved, adventurous, better, and cheerful.

Grateful — I am thankful for my ex-husband making an effort to still be in the family picture. He gave me hell when I left him, but at least he’s taking some responsibility for his kids. Not all divorces are as ruthless as mine —some are worse. I am glad we both made it out alive to care for and co-parent our children.

I am grateful that my kids and I have a ridiculously soft place to land while we lick our wounds and get on our feet.

Last but definitely not least, I am happy to report an overall clean bill of health, even my ex-husband’s. I continue to go to therapy. I hope he does too. My kids have suffered significant trauma from their dad and me splitting up. But they are also resilient and doing the best they can.

Relieved — I’m just going to say it; I am relieved to not be in a relationship with my ex anymore. I will also take responsibility by stating that he was unhealthy and So. Was. I.

Adventurous — I feel free. Not quite a single-and-ready-to-mingle status, but I’m working on it. I am working on my future “adventures,” i.e., a lot of sex, by working on myself first. I’m gearing up multiple times a week and taking ten-mile bike rides to different towns. I’m writing articles I would never even dream of writing when I was married. And, quite literally, letting my hair down.

Better — Life is better in a weird kind of way. I wouldn’t choose my life now over my marriage and family. But going through the trenches of divorce made me stronger and more prepared for future life battles.

Cheerful — I find myself smiling a lot more these days. Yes, I’ve cried a million buckets of tears as well over the last few years. But all in all, my grins to grief ratio is 3:1.

Sadness Jar

My first thought was to skip writing about my Sadness for now and move right along to Anger. Which I suppose defeats the whole purpose of this piece, so I guess I’ll stay here for a while and sort stuff out.

Awful — Do you know what it’s like to see your kids’ lips quiver and their faces scrunch up in pain and know that you had something to do with it? It’s Awful. There’s no other way around it.

Bewildered — How did this happen? Why did this happen? What went wrong? What did I do? How do I fix it? Two years later, I still have so many questions — and no closure in sight.

Blue — Do you know where the phrase “feeling blue” originates from? There are many suggestions out there that refer to ‘a lifeless body’ or a reference to Greek Mythology when Zeus would make it rain when he was sad.

But I picked the following definition: back in the day of old Deepwater sailing ships, if the boat had lost its Captain or any of its officers during the voyage, blue flags would be flown, and a blue band was painted along the entire hull when returning to port.

I can only imagine, out of all the possible origins, why this one resonated with me. My guess is I’m the Mama Ship who lost all of her People in a Titanic-sized shipwreck.

Dead — Sometimes — I want to die. Let me clarify; I am not talking about suicide. I am referring to the feeling of losing everyone and everything in my life and feeling dead inside.

Yeah, that feeling.

Helpless — Picture my kids’ wet, cringing faces and me holding them until they can catch their breath while I hold mine. I can’t fix it; I can’t rewind; I can’t take their aches away. All I can do is hold them and try not to cry.

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Anger Jar

They say ‘anger is hurt turned inside out.’ That’s for sure because, over the last few years, I’ve been turned inside out, strung up by my toes, and almost eaten alive.

Crazy — You can’t tell right now, but my eyes are wide, and my blood is boiling. Divorce has made me lose my sh*t. Hard stop. Maybe not so much for my ex, but in a good way for my kids and me.

Determined — Don’t f*ck with me. And definitely, under no circumstances, poke a mama bear. Your a** is going to get eaten. My kids’ and my safety were threatened, and now I am determined more than ever to make a safe and sound life for us.

Uninterested — Even though I still love and care about my ex-husband, I could give a teeny rat’s behind about what he’s doing (unless it’s directly affecting the kids).

Hurt — I saved the (best) worst for last. It hurts so bad. Like kick-you-in-the-crotch-break-your-bones-natural-childbirth kind of pain. I’ve only experienced one of those three things, and the physical pain from pushing a human being out of my body for sixteen hours straight was insurmountable to what I’m currently feeling now.

Just sayin’.

Fear Jar

At one point, I feared if I was doing the right thing by divorcing my husband. Sometimes, it’s all so overwhelming that those same thoughts start to creep into my psyche again.

Alert — I am hypervigilant about everyone and everything. I think now they call it CPTSD.

Anxious — My crippling anxiety pairs nicely with my hypervigilance — if I do say so myself. I’m worried about the future, my kids’ safety, and living with my parents forever because I can’t afford a place of my own.

Brave — I feel scared all the time, every day. But then I throw back another cup of coffee and jump off that cliff into the unknown anyway.

Comfortable (in the Uncomfortable) — I’ve befriended Fear. I brewed him a cup of coffee, sat down at the table with him, and struck up a conversation. So far, it’s going okay — a little awkward, if I’m honest. But we have lots more to talk about, so I better get comfortable.

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Creepy — It’s bizarre to spend the better part of nineteen years with someone whom you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with and for them to be a stranger suddenly. It’s eerie to see my kid’s stuff in the house but no sign of them for days on end. It’s chilling to look down at my ring finger and not see the dent in it that I thought was permanent — like my marriage was supposed to be.

Calm Jar

It’s in those peaceful moments where I feel the clearest. Of course, sitting in those moments hurts a whole lot less when my kids are within a ten-yard radius, but all I can do is hope to Buddha that they’re okay and enjoy the silence until they are back in my arms again.

Cool — I feel an overwhelming sense of calmness as I lie in the bedroom I share with my eight-year daughter and listen to the tower fan oscillate. And also Cool in a self-controlled, well-thought-out, and non-impulsive way.

Curious — When I’ve managed to regulate my emotions either by exercise or writing, I allow my mind to wander into the Frightening Forest of Why without judgment.

Poised (and Kind) — I take immense pride in continuing to treat my ex-husband the same way I did when we were married —maybe even better than I did before. I stay focused on the facts and what’s in the kids’ best interest and hope to be on the same page someday with my ex-husband as far as co-parenting goes.

Different — There was a time, not too long ago, where I was a nervous wreck. I lived in fear and depression constantly. Today, and for the rest of my life, it’s my mission always to feel different than that.

Alive — I feel most revived when I’m operating from a calm place. And that’s about all I have to say about that!

Love Jar

At this point in life, I’m not entirely confident I know what love is. But I now know what it isn’t. And to that, I can only say, Cheers!

Light — Times have been dark, and I’m sure those black clouds will cover the sun at some point in my life again. But the difference is, now, I’m learning to love myself one sunrise at a time.

Grieving — What is love without grief? If I’ve learned anything from my divorce, it’s that true love is not a one-sided affair.

Gentle — For years, I’ve heard from my support system to be ‘gentle with myself.’ I finally can digest what that saying means in its entirety. All my life, I had enormous empathy for everyone around me. Unfortunately, by the time I did anything for myself, there wasn’t much of anything left.

Attractive — I can only guess that since I’m taking better care of myself these days, looking at myself in the mirror isn’t as horrific as it used to be. And I’m not necessarily referring to my physical appearance. I believe my heart and soul are magnetic as well, and I’m finally attracting good energy into my life.

Wide-eyed — I’ve been through a lot, and I have so much more to experience. I’m excited and terrified in equal measure.

Whew! Assigning each of my emotions to a jar felt fantastic — besides that whole part about feeling dead inside. I feel happier. And a lot less sad and angry. My fears have quieted down (for now), and overall, I feel calmer and like the love is flowing through every page of my being.

So, What’s In Your Jar?

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Divina Grey is a writer who has been featured in Medium, The Startup, The Good Men Project, and more. Follow her on Twitter.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.