As always... You Make the Plan, and Then the Plan Presents Itself....
We don't fight. Ever.
The worst fight of our entire friendship/relationship/partnership happened Wednesday night, after I signed to write on a cable series, but had to limit my contract in order to move back to Chicago.
"You have built something from absolutely nothing in less than three years, and you're about to walk away from all of it! Because that guy you married is an overgrown three-year-old who can't deal with his own shit? You're going to keep being his puppet?" He screamed at me, "Give your children some credit, Jennifer. They know. Didn't you know as a kid? Aren't you twice the mother you are now because you aren't looking over your shoulder and scraping by?"
"They need me. I promised them I was coming back," I sputtered out through my tears.
"You do go back. You've been back 104 times. You spend $1500 a month on them on top of that. TWENTY SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS LAST YEAR. You have swallowed your pride and put them first instead of engaging in an endless war you will never win. You're freaking out because you know this. You told me what it did to your dad and look at you, this isn't the usual Monday doldrums you have after a visit home, this is the brink of a full on emotional collapse. You are handing that asshole your life, your work, and your success, and he hasn't earned it. Not a bit of it. Not then, not now, and not tomorrow. I'm not watching you do it."
And he left.
And I went into a full-on weeklong emotional collapse.
Many of you reached out after I shared what I did yesterday. I appreciate it, and while I am very stubborn, I do take in what everyone says and do listen, even if I seem slow on the uptake of advice. I'm one of those who has to marinate for a minute and let the lightbulb go on by itself. The more I feel badgered about things, or the more people try to convince me of something, the more likely I am to dig my heels in and be the most stubborn individual on the planet.
But I listen.
I am in a very impossible position. I can either have my life as it is now, where I have very limited access to my kids, unable to enforce any laws or custody orders because I live out of state, or I can go back and be a part of my children's lives, raise them, and have the torment and fear of someone who can't seem to let go always around the corner.
Yes, I have built something of an empire in the last couple of years. Where there was writing famine when I first moved to Atlanta, it is now the production capital of the world. That bubble will burst in the next five years or so, as it does with every state that is at one time or another the industry's darling, and Chicago is now the desert. There's journalistic and literary opportunity in Chicago, and some digital media, but not as it is in Atlanta. My income would be cut in half with huge legal bills, a higher cost of living, and someone who may or may not be lurking in the shadows.
So, how do I make it all work? How do I keep my promise of coming back to my kids, and keep everything afloat in Atlanta? How do I manage someone who simply insists on acting like an insane person? How do I do it better than my father? How do I learn from him, yet avoid the big mistakes that impacted my life and his permanently? There has GOT to be a way to make this work that doesn't end with me driving off a cliff at some point.
As with everything, the solution came to me on the treadmill. What if I were deployed overseas or something? I wouldn't be viewed as some kind of monster who abandoned her children. I would be a mom at work to provide for her children. My time in Atlanta is no different. I'm not chasing dick, living the carefree party life, and ignoring my children...
I'm working. For their future security, for our future security. If I were a man, no one would think twice about my decision. And honestly, I don't think anyone harshly judges me for being here anymore. Since I've become very public with what I've been up against all of this time, those who have wanted to burn me at the stake have calmed down quite a bit. I also don't worry about the kids being indoctrinated with lies about me, after Mother's Day, and the fact I show up no matter what, I know without a shadow of a doubt that they are keen to what is going on and know I am doing the best I can.
I'm not going to go into detail because I don't ever show the playbook, but there are ways for me to establish residency in Illinois, exercise my rights, and have accountability without lighting my career on fire in Atlanta to achieve it. Is Atlanta my first choice? No, but for right now, working here is the necessary choice. Everyone's right, it would be goddamned foolish of me to walk away from something I singlehandedly built from nothing to indulge someone's temper tantrums.
So my decision for the next year is made. I will live in Illinois and work in Atlanta. There are ways to simplify my life here in Atlanta in order to make a 50/50 split work. It's a much easier task to tackle than trying to take on this albatross of suck in one fell swoop.
A LOT changes in a year. A year ago this week, I submitted Trash With Money on an utter whim. Now 50% of my work is screenwriting professionally. A year from now, I could have a best seller on the NYT list, a partner in Chicago with me, and things are totally different. I have no idea.
What I do know is, the plan has presented itself.
I will live in Chicago, work in Atlanta, take what organically comes my way, and my sanity, for the most part, will remain intact. I'm a lucky girl to have roots and resources in two cities. Now, it's time to start seeing it that way.
I forgot for a second that overgrown toddlers don't run my life anymore. Nobody runs my life but me.