WEEKLONG COUNTDOWN LIST: THE 5 MOST SIGNIFICANT TURNING POINTS OF MY LIFE SO FAR, RANKED BY IMPACT

Inspired by @veshecco and @jenna I'm making this insanely long so y'all don't read it that carefully.
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    This is a terrifying list topic and I'm not sure I'll ever make it to one. The biggest turning point in my life so far is a VERY rough clusterfuck of things I couldn't have ever imagined happening and I really hope that it doesn't stay the biggest turning point forever, but I'm worried it might.
    I hope this list doesn't make me seem cold, but we'll start here and see where it goes. 🤷‍♀️
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    5. LOSING JEALOUSY/GAINING SELF CONTROL
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    I was separated from my husband for the second time(maybe the third? It's hard to remember.) I was 23 and had three kids under 4, I was living at my parents and going to school all day, playing with the kids for an hour, then going to work at Meijer for the 5PM to 1AM shift. This is the period of time in my life when I had a pager, folks, just for
    Context, and the internet was young. I met a guy online and for the first real time in my life I thought about attraction and sex and just liking someone with no stress of being IN LOVE or emotionally desperate. He changed my whole way of thinking in a few months. I never felt freer than when I let go of the idea that I was supposed to be jealous and upset and that there was anything I could do about how other people acted. To this day, I'm grateful he was my friend exactly when I needed him.
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    4. LOSING POTENTIAL/GAINING PURPOSE
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    I was about a month pregnant (can you be just a little pregnant?😬) when I graduated high school in 1993. I had strict parents, I was graduating from one of the best schools in my state, and I had a full ride scholarship to college. I also had ZERO ambition, ZERO drive, and other than (GASP!) having sex at 18, did just about everything I was told.
    I was sure I was going to have an abortion, and in late July I was sitting in the Planned Parenthood(Support them! They do good work!) office on Auburn Street in Cincinnati, waiting with ZERO qualms for my appointment and for the rest of my life to start, when my boyfriend said "Hey, let's just do this, get married, have a kid, have a life."
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    And, with that magical 🙄proposal, I saw everything slipping away. The incredible pressure of the future and my worries about college and careers and the loving but sometimes harsh judgment of my parents. The thousand tiny voices that screamed at me every day that I wasn't living up to my potential, that I didn't really love(or like) my boyfriend,
    That I didn't Know how to love even. One thing I did know was what being a mom would be. I knew it meant all-in, it's me and you kid, from now until forever. I didn't know much about love, or what being a wife would entail, or about how so many people would think(to this day) that this was the moment my life was ruined (it isn't and wasn't) but I KNEW what loyalty meant and I set my allegiances that day, drew my lines and pledged fealty. I've told each of my children that this decision was
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    A mistake, impulsive, even cowardly; that even though things turned out ok, that they should choose differently if they find themselves in the same position. But I held tightly to the idea that commitment to the cause was a worthy endeavor, and I've raised kids I want to be my friends for 80 years, so I hope that's enough purpose to hang a life on.
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    Ok, this list is going to get darker soon, so take a look at how great this post my daughter made for siblings day is. Made me freaking cry twice.
    Keep this part in mind, the RESPECT and the KINDNESS from young men while you read the next part. I dragged ⬆️ out of ⬇️ as carefully as I could. I hope I did a good enough job to leave it all in the past.
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    3. LOSING EXPECTATIONS/GAINING EMPATHY
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    Ok folks, sooooo, I've been punched in the face a lot. Like, 80s action star you think would be better at fighting by now, a lot. And I know you're thinking to yourself, "Boy Jen's face is wayyy too pretty and her nose is so straight, I don't believe it!" But you'd be wrong.
    The first time I was pregnant and newly married. I went to the vaginacologist and my regular doctor wasn't there, so I saw her male partner. I made the mistake of saying something and ended up with a jealous husband and a black eye. A lot of things can happen to you when someone you think loves you hurts you. You can end up scared and quiet, tongue-tied and fearful and bitter, but I was lucky.
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    At first what I ended up was fat. I put on 80 lbs. with my first pregnancy, all in the last 4 months. A big skin sweater to hide myself from the world and the unasked for attention, to make myself invisible. But it didn't work. I gained as much again with my third child. People still liked me and I still had friends. It didn't make me less
    desirable to him or others. It didn't tank my self esteem or my voice. I was always tall and strong and I felt that even more now. My body was powerful and competent and kept me safe. I didn't have to punch back to be ok, I could speak my mind and no matter how frustrated or angry he got, he couldn't take my power. He was always the one with problem, the one that couldn't make himself strong, and instead of being afraid I just felt sorry for him. He had no way to take what he wanted from me.
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    This isn't a feel good fairytale. I was hit a lot. I wore a lot of makeup and I lied to a lot of people. But the older I got the more I thought of him as a child who just didn't have what he needed to survive. Think of a seven or eight year old. Old enough to understand consequences, but red faced and so angry that he is screaming and crying
    And kicking. And you have the solution to his problem. You know that things are not that bad. You want to hug him tight and soothe him and wrap him in cotton wool but he won't stop kicking so you can protect him. He could have EVERYTHING you have, the loving family that would treat him like their own, the close bonds with kids ready to WORSHIP him, a secure and loving partner who had already pledged her loyalty, BUT HE NEVER CAN STOP LONG ENOUGH TO SEE.
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    But I saw and I learned. I did a good job building a membrane between him and our children. I did a good job realizing that I had to let go of my expectations. That you really couldn't expect anything from anyone. That there was a freedom in taking someone purely at face value. That you could teach children to love someone for what he could offer
    And still see how they should never grow up to be like him. When people hear me talk about this they are surprised that I still talk to him, that I still say we are friends, good friends, that I don't hate or blame him for much and that this aspect of my life doesn't bother me that much. But how do you fault someone for not being what they couldn't? How do you say something or someone is unforgivable and still hope you'll be forgiven for the "unforgivable" things you've done?
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    I'm not sure you can. I couldn't.
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    2: LOSING FIDELITY/GAINING(?)PERSERVERANCE
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    This title isn't about sexual fidelity. That was looong gone by the summer of 2004. It was hot and June and Ray Charles had just died and Georgia On My Mind is playing everywhere. This is kind of a ridiculous story.
    I'm separated from my husband for the 8th? time now and living in a townhouse with my three kids. I work full time and go to to school full time on Saturdays and spend Sundays watching soccer games. I have a group of friends who live in my complex and on Friday and Saturday nights we sit outside and drink and play games and the kids run around the park that backs up to our backyards. Sometimes we get flashlights and explore the abandoned subdivision that's just on the other side of the woods.
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    It is a GOOD LIFE. It's the best I've ever had as an adult. My job is good and the kids are happy and I think that everyone thinks I've shut the door behind me but I haven't.
    Every Tuesday and Thursday I leave work and drive over to the other side of town. There's a bar there that serves double crown and Coke at happy hour for FOUR DOLLARS!!!! I down two and have quick and dirty sex with my husband like some sort of hedonistic crossfit. The door should be shut and I know it but it's not. He has a girlfriend and I know it. I don't have to shave my legs or be clever. I don't have to remember what to say and what not to. His girlfriend is pregnant and then she's not.
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    And then he starts to come to dinner and I know the door should be shut but it's not. And Darrel is ten, then turning eleven and he tells me the door should be shut and we fight over it because he is a kid and I'm the mom but he's right and I know it and the door is wide open and also not shut.
    And he moves back in and nothing is different. And I know it won't be and I'm a huge failure to myself and others and maybe I'm just hanging on and working for something that I don't have any hope of attaining so I don't have to think of something clever to say. And my fidelity to myself and the life I was trying to build is consumed by this and all I'm doing now is keeping my head down and walking on the treadmill and not looking at the clock and it's all Ray Charles' fault.
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    And it was a big blow to me to realize that I could forgive so much and be strong through so much and finally get to a good place, just to be laid low by loneliness, or laziness, or a combination.
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    1. LOSING LOYALTY/GAINING A BOX OF FREEDOM
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    For those of you reading this far into things, I'm going on vacation today, so the last part will be delayed some. It's pretty sad, so I'll let you know if I don't get to it. 💞💞💞
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    We are alone. Islands living together in the same house. Watching the same shows, eating the same food, talking across each other just to hear ourselves speak. Our house was an impulsive terrible decision and is proving to be a money pit. We each work an hour away and don't mind the drive, two hours less a day we don't have to fill with each other.
    I'm dying for escape, for something ANYTHING to happen.
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    He is having an affair again. I don't care enough, enough at all, but one Tuesday night in October, we are relaxed and happy and finally catch eyes and have a "come to Jesus" talk. He has the light and is ready to try again again again. I don't want to but I say ok. It's what I do. I'm loyal to the cause, I try again. He goes down to break it off,
    but she won't stop crying, one more night he says. Ugh, that just means this night was one wayward night and it's more of the same ad nauseum infinitum. I'm tired and I don't care.
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    So after work Wednesday he goes and his mom starts calling me around 6, calling, do I know where he is, he's not answering his phone, she's frantic, I try to call him over and over and it's finally 4am when he gets home and we get in our jeep and take the kids to my parents and I drive us to the Kentucky-Tennessee border and it's raining.
    It always seems to rain when children die. That grey relentless rain that saps everything from you when there isn't much to take. His sister is in a coma and stabbed and burnt and we don't know if she's going to wake up. My nieces and nephew are gone-stranger, gun, duct tape, rapeknifebloodfiregone.
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    And we get to the hospital and there are no adults. There are broken mothers and flabbergasted friends and fathers swearing empty promises of shotguns and late night raids. There is a good cop who sits beside her Day and night, waiting for her to wake up and say anything that will help him. There is a husband who is talking but not to me.
    And there is me. I arrange food and hotel rooms and a flight for my 19 year old sister-in-law to fly home from her vacation. I take my 22 yr old pregnant sister in law and my 19 yr old niece and drive them through the night 100 miles to the airport. I break the news in a parking garage and tell comforting lies about a god I don't believe in and an afterlife I won't ever see. I don't say-you don't know what you're going to get. I don't say-each life is a whole life and that's it.
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    And I'm not the one with the hugs and the comfort, I'm only the one with the words and the car and I drive back through the rain responsible but really alone alone.
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    And we get home and my job fires me and Mike's job says we've never heard anything so horrible and gives him 12 paid days off and everyone that works with him the afternoon off for the funeral and they send a giant bouquet of flowers.
    And I wonder why that is but maybe that just how life is. You don't always get out what you put in.
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    And I get a black eye before the funeral even though there is nothing left to fight about, so I don't go because they are my family too and you don't make yourself the center of attention when you aren't and you don't hurt people who can't take anymore. And you look like the uncaring monster and no one corrects anyone but you aren't you AREN'T.
    And I take everything that matters to me in the world, a painting my 12 yr old sister bought me at the dollar store and gave me when I got married, a vase I bought myself in Michigan with my very first credit card, a platter with a medieval scene that makes me happy every time I see it, my overwhelming guilt at the all encompassing relief I feel, and three kids who need to be taught about vigilantism and evil and capital punishment, and the difference between feelings and principles,
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    and the empty place where the hope I had that I'd have help teaching them these things and other things and everything they need to learn used to live.
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    I leave everything else behind. I promise not to ask for child support if he just throws things out. I am done taking care of things I don't care about. He readily agrees.
    It's not hard to still be friends when you don't have any investment left. It's not hard to still be friends when someone owes you and they know they do. It's not hard to be nice when you don't care.
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    And I go home and I make my life very very small.
    And it still is. And I might want it to stay that way forever.