Now that I spoil myself lavishly, I understand how small of an effort that is for me. I know how it feels to treat myself this way and I want to do it for those I love. When I get less than my small but constant expressions of love, and I’m willing to give so much more, I can see where I’m wasting my efforts.Read More
Modern dating tends to include texting, messaging, and social media. It’s really hard to not stalk social media or hope every text or call is from the only person you really want to hear from. When my kids are home, this is easy. I can get into housework, or yard work, leaving my phone on vibrate in my purse. It takes a huge amount of effort to not search for a profile, hoping to see a smile or what he’s up to.Read More
The phrase "working mom" is complex in itself. Moms work. Nonstop. From sons up to sons down and later still because some things can only get done after they are down. For most of my marriage I stayed home or went to work or school a few hours a week. For the most part I was home with the kids doing chores, finding hobbies, baking, crafting and carrying babies as a surrogate when I wasn't earning scholarships as a student. Most of this was concurrent multi-tasking.
Life for my 10 year old hasn't been okay since the separation started two years ago. All three still haven't smiled like they used to. I can see it in their eyes and the way it feels forced and fake. It's not obvious unless you have known what it is to fake happiness for someone else. I just had another talk about depression the other night and Kid2 admitted he still struggles.
For Kid3, his identity was the youngest in a family of five. When the family of five shifted to four, who he is became a fluid identity in a sea without a stable anchor. Add Mom and Dad living differently and having new relationships and he hasn't felt safely attached for a while. Not safely enough. He's been struggling since then with what is normal. He's seen a therapist. I try to do things with him around the house. Actually, projects and catching up on housework on weekends because I spend most of my week at work or driving are my new normal. I leave at 7:30 in the morning and don't get home until around 8 at night.
My latest project was to update my pond. Pictured is Kid3 several years ago. As for the pond, it's still evolving.
Yesterday morning was a hard one for Kid3. Honestly, it was a rough continuation of my day before. I left for work at 7:30 a.m.. I left work early at 3:30 that afternoon, then drove through traffic so bad over about 20 miles that I didn't get home until 5:45 where I picked kids up for an Awards night at my older kid's school, not arriving there until 6:15.
We sat through the ceremony, took a few pictures, dropped the boyfriend off at home where he could decompress, then drove around a little more before landing at a new family favorite ramen restaurant. We got home and the meltdown started.
There's a pattern. On days when school starts or they're going back to their Dad, my little one's separation anxiety ramps up and he refuses to go to school, begging instead to stay home with me. Yesterday morning I was trying to rush out the door and take a phone interview on my way to work (yay me! I'm over qualified for this entry level position and he'll keep me in mind if any senior positions open up that will pay more).
Kid3's tantrum was so bad that I was now 40 minutes late for work, but I had him sit in the car as I finished the interview and hung up. Tearfully, he told me he didn't want me to work. He wanted to get me fired. He was willing to leave because calling his Dad for support resulted in a threat to go back to court for custody. As tight as money is when I'm not working, he wants me to stay home with him. It feels good to be that wanted. At the same time, this tells me I'm neglecting his emotional needs and his separation anxiety is a symptom of him not feeling safe enough attachment to me to want to be independent.
That's heavy. That last sentence is full of density and I'll unpack it.
When my kids were little, their needs were simple. Help them rest when tired. Feed them when hungry. Keep them clean enough to be comfortable but dirty enough to have fun. As they're getting older and more physically independent, their emotional needs are shifting and they need more support. I need to help them feel so surrounded by my love that they feel it even when I'm not around. My youngest doesn't feel that right now.
A couple of years ago I read the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It explored the five ways we can express or feel love.
- Gift giving - He often asks me to buy him things.
- Quality time - He likes playing board games or being with me to watch movies or throw a ball around.
- Words of affirmation - He needs to hear that I love him and that I value what he says when he's telling me about his day.
- Acts of service - He often asks me to brush his hair or help him with personal hygiene. When he's happy, he's willing to do things for me.
- Physical touch - He likes belly massages and bear hugs.
He actively asks me to do or engage in these things on a regular basis. So basically my son has shown and told me that he needs all of his emotional love needs met and he's starved for love.
The greatest lesson about the book is that it taught that the way you show love isn't necessarily the way others need to receive that love from you and love means finding out how to fulfill the needs of someone else, rather than assume what works for you is good enough in the way most of us selfishly do.
In doing projects I choose and having him join me, I assumed he was getting enough love in the time together, but over the last few days he was showing me that he was not.
At the end of the day, my relationship with my son is a relationship. I can't assume what I've always done will always be enough because as he grows and walks in independence, his needs change and evolve. I want to be the parent he is willing to talk to. It's a relationship that needs time and attention to detail . . . Just like any other relationship.
If you had asked me what I was looking for in a relationship six months ago, I would have told you it wasn't a relationship. I was looking for company. I thought that was what I wanted, because it was simple. I wanted company for the nights when I didn't have my kids. Someone to laugh with over dinner or to walk with and discuss literature without grades and term papers being involved. I wanted a connection that was as superficial as I could easily commit to. Or not commit to. Mishegas. I wanted a heavy dose of mishegas with two helpings of batshit crazy lady. I pushed my boyfriend away. Repeatedly. Hard. For nothing he did, nothing I thought, and every spooked hint of the feels I had no control over. I pushed him away because I was falling in love. Somehow he is still around and even finds a way to love me back.
I was asking the wrong question. What I should have asked myself was, "what are you afraid of?"
There was something so profound about being completely vulnerable after my miscarriage. I let my walls down. I was defenseless. I wasn't looking for failure. I was in a space where all I could do was be loved and held. In that space my fear was muted by loss and I was able to live outside of that fear long enough to see what I was blinded to before.
My boyfriend is a really special guy. I wouldn't have seen it while asking the wrong question. He was supposed to be company, so when he wanted more, I freaked out and backed away while pushing him as far as I could.
Today I'm asking the right question: What am I afraid of? The answer was commitment.
I made a commitment. I was married and kept my vows. I never had a crush on anyone while I was still with my husband. I was faithful. That marriage and the dreams I held for our lives vanished without warning. I was afraid that if I committed again, I could lose it all again.
I talked to my nephew on Mother's Day and he told me that being Yessie on the prowl was what he knew. I was being who he grew up with. That was shocking to me because I didn't realize how easily I slipped into those old habits while online dating. I had no sex but I was just as broken as I was as a teenager.
I was afraid of losing control.
I worked hard to get my finances where I wanted them. (Recent grief retail therapy doesn't count.) I was proud of being able to lease a car on my own. I was happy with being able to do what I wanted whenever I wanted. The idea of someone else in my life that might try to control where I went and who I went with scared me. My boyfriend has a degree in finance and wanted to share his expertise and knowledge and I freaked out about financial abuse and control.
I was afraid I wouldn't have my space. We both crave each other while also needing space. I don't feel suffocated and had nothing to fear. We fit in the ways that matter.
I was afraid of losing my voice and not being heard. I didn't know how to ask for support or how to be a partner.
For Mother's Day my boyfriend bought me a leaf blower and weed whacker. Initially there were giggles. It's not traditional. Years ago I would have been angry. I like tools. I'm terrified of circular saws but I've been looking at Dremels for a while. I want to replace mine. The thing is, he was watching me. When we lost our twins, I was pulling weeds like I was exorcising demons. He wanted to support that. He watches me carefully and he can see shifts in my mood that I can't see. The projects I take on are balanced. He knows I have it covered and it's cute to watch him struggle with not taking over, but he partners with me and listens for what I don't say.
I was afraid of what co-parenting might look like. It was hard enough trusting my ex with diaper changes, let alone a new man who doesn't know my kids like I do.
I had this moment on Mother's Day where my boyfriend stepped into the step-father role with Kid3. He was teaching him how to use a BB gun. He showed him how to use the safety, and reminded him to point it to the ground. He even used a stern Dad voice in setting boundaries about needing supervision. It was a moment where my fear was replaced by that feeling you get when a man is being a great role model to your child. It's somewhere between heart bursting and melting while your libido reminds you that you are far from dead in all of those lovely and tingly ways. It was a moment where that lioness that protects her cubs also marks the territory that is hers. It was a terrific moment to be me.
I sat back on the porch and watched them and kept wondering what on earth was I afraid of.
I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids. They don't read my blog. They don't always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don't lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time. They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I'll remind them that he loves them as much as I do. When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn't mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence. They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won't help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad. Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father's child. I love my sons. Every part of their personalities is special to me. There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special. I know them and I know where they come from and they're my kids. I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don't want to.
We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It's how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.
My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy. I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me. I had that bond or connection, and I still do. The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her. Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her. I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.
When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home. It's instinct. When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children's Dad) to see where they fit.
Mom is different from Dad. There's a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down. Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.
With Dad, there's a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety. They will behave differently. It's not just me. Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.
When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me. The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming. My needs were neglected and it looked like anger. I was scary. Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave. They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.
Our home feels different now. I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility. I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I'm flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning. I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they're asleep before I am, and even if they aren't, they won't be punished for brains that won't slow down. I don't worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm. Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.
But I'm not Dad.
When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life. I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her. I let them know that if the men in her life don't give her a sense of value, she'll believe any boy that tells her he's the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.
My Dad has always been part of my life. To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk. I've become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times. Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile. It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn't the person I imagined him to be. He failed the rules I set for him in my head.
My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure. He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient. I was terrible to him. I called him "Penis" and sometimes to his face. I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him. It was years of patience and I couldn't see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom. Now I'm so blessed to have him in our lives. He's been a terrific grandfather to my kids. He spoils them. He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me. Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.
I'm lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews. They live separately from me, so I don't know all that happens as they parent, but I've seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring. Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I'm not writing about moms. He has been present and involved in their lives. He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement. He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness. That's a great Dad.
There's a holiday schedule for my kids. Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday. We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don't have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately. For Christmas I get Christmas Eve. My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse's families. Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal. I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal. I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love. He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did. I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.
I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me. It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child. I cringed. I couldn't go out like that. The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped. Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears. A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls. He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece. That is a great Dad.
It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that's not true. There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person. Just like moms, it's a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding. Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness. The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.
I had a conversation once where a man compared love and money as addictions. He seemed to love and hate both and wanted to know my perspective. I actually see this a lot when dating. It's when I really tease out what is important to a person. Having gotten through not having anything when my husband abandoned me, I've learned to appreciate simple things like sunsets. I've also learned to take care of my own material wants. I treat myself very well. When dating, I can sense when a person's self valuation only relies on material things. This doesn't usually lead to a second date.
I am more than what I possess and without owning who I am, I would own nothing.
Money can be an addiction. He said this. I can see it, but I have a hard time feeling it. I can always explore the concept though. My Target and Sears wardrobe sensibilities can use the stretch and imagine more, right? I love my Mom style even if my niece thinks I dress like an old woman. (Yes, it's okay to laugh with me.) It really is a stretch though. My wedding, rings and honeymoon were all under $500 and I was happy with it. I don't buy designer clothes, but I love those days when my sisters clean out their closets. I'm just not that person. I love beach days and museum trips. Dreaming big has always been a budget to hire someone else to clean up after my family and maybe weekend trips here and there. Otherwise, I'm happy to find serenity in my surroundings and wonder in a sunset. I don't see myself as materialistic.
If I were to give into my every whim, I'm sure Pandora would see me more often and I've have several charm bracelets and so would Victoria's Secret. Fresh flowers would probably be a weekly thing instead of moments when I walk past a bouquet that sings to me.
I imagined a life of immense wealth. I imagined the responsibility to my family and extended family. I saw questioning every relationship for the motives behind it. I didn't want that. There's a cost to that life and I'm not sure I would want that responsibility.
Even before I had to figure out survival and starting a career, I decided I didn't want to live to make money. I wanted my work to be something that flowed but never controlled my choices. But I get it.
There are more things to do and experience and it often requires cash. It can mean status and opportunity. No matter how hard you work or how carefully you save, you can always be content in having more. Okay. I lied. I can't imagine being that person that works hard all day every day without the space to enjoy a bit of respite in the warmth of the fading sun on bare skin.
Love is an intense emotion. I'm a firm believer that we make a choice to love or not love, and the feelings follow. We make a choice to let someone in and to find the ways we are similar and how we can relate to them. We look at who they are and how their paths fit with the ones we've walked in life.
There's a free fall. There's a moment when the emotion is too strong to fight and we fall freely, hoping that there is someone rising to meet us. We love the feeling and can't get enough. We want to be surrounded by love and covered in it's warmth, seduced by it's smell.
It's an addiction. He said it. I agree. We will do what it takes to have the love we need. We sacrifice our time and dreams and alter our goals. We give and shift what we don't have to make it work. We make love into our god and when this deity removes her favor, we are lost in the abyss of all we expected, showing us how far from the earth we've floated and the crash that is coming can be delayed but is inevitable.
Is it really an addiction, or is it just part of living and being human. Human touch is necessary for survival. Horrible science experiments have been done on infants regarding touch. Money is needed to secure food and shelter. Is it an addiction if it's a basic need? Then again, maybe I'm spoiled to have lived and loved, and been provided for and sheltered in ways I didn't expect.
Then again, what is an addiction but something we need so much that we would choose it over our wellbeing, survival and lesser relationships? I've done silly things for love. I can own up to being addicted to it, but in growth I'm learning that I am not deserving but worthy of love that is stronger than I am. And I'm damn strong.
At the end of the day, are your things taking care of you, or are you working hard to have more things that dissatisfy you?
The thing with standing in the empowerment of who you are is once you do it, you feel it when you aren't anymore. It would be awesome to be able to say that my break in writing was about profound revelations and delving deeper into who I want to be, but I spent the last couple of months trying to dig myself back into a life that doesn't serve me. I was in a relationship. I was being a girlfriend and seeing where I needed to grow. I enjoyed parts of being a couple. I kept looking at the cost of the relationship, and feeling that the benefits outweighed any sacrifice. I had a few moments of frustration that I wasn't taking the time to watch the ocean, or go hiking, but I couldn't blame him. It was the layers of my history telling me that being in relationship means being in service.
I visited my Dad on Sunday. Part of our conversation was about the God I was raised to love and serve, and he admonished me that I can't say I love God if I don't obey his laws. (I broke a few major ones in this relationship.) I left saying I loved him, and he said love is obedience. Just the day before I had seen my nieces. I told them I knew my boyfriend wasn't the one, but he was the one for now. I knew it was about being in the moment, but I didn't see when that moment ended, but they did. As I was telling them I wanted them to be authentic . . . I wanted them to stand up to their parents and aunts . . . stand up to me because "no" is an answer and never needs an explanation . . .
I got a call from my sister the next day. My nieces heard what I said, but I was showing up to them as a lonely and sad woman. The woman my family had started to get to know was disappearing under the weight of my relationship. I had grown into someone I was proud of, but I couldn't see how love and service, and sacrifice meant that I was putting him before myself and taking leaps and bounds backwards.
It was a weekend where I got feedback from my loved ones that shook me. I didn't wake up and snap out of it until a conversation with him that showed me how different we really are. It was a moment where I looked at the ways he wanted to control my finances and other ways I choose to live and it was a moment where I wanted to run. Having been in the situation before, I was lost again. Was I overreacting? Am I seeing things that aren't there? It was both familiar and terrifying. And it was time to walk away, but I wasn't sure. The next day we argued by text and rather than tell me how he felt, he started putting me down.
I watched a video on Facebook today and as it got closer to the end, I started sobbing. I may just be hormonal, but it resonated profoundly: [facebook url="https://www.facebook.com/AlexLeeWorld/videos/1105464309536408/" /] Once I ended the relationship, he begged me to take him back and as the second day wore on, he started a text stream of insults against me and my family, making threats and accusations. But I've been here before. It only took a moment to gaze in the mirror and remind myself of who I am. It only made me feel better about my decision to end things, no matter what my future without him looks like.
We were together about two and a half months, and I'm still trying to figure out how I missed the signs of abuse that are so clear today. He wanted to help around the house and made changes as improvements. He enrolled me in what he thought was best for my family. He wanted to lead my household but I couldn't give up complete control and he made that feel like a failure on my part. He made me feel like I was wrong to not relinquish the power I had over my home, even though I knew how ridiculous his request was to me, my children, my family and anyone else that knows me.
I wanted company when I started online dating. I found it. I was convinced that it was okay to spend time with "Mr. Right Now," but I know it's better to be alone than in a relationship that doesn't serve me and make me grow. I'm alone again and being single feels like freedom again.
When my ex first left, there was space. I had room in the closet and where furniture left bare walls. There was space in my bed and I always filled it with books or kids when they were with me. I had to adjust my cooking so I didn't always have way too much food. The new man in my life has been around a few months and the spaces I try to make feel tight. It's like a stretched rubberband. There are times that I see a shadow or hint of my past in our future and I stand back and snap in anger and he makes space for me, responding quietly and patiently. He might respond to a comment the way my ex did. He might blow off a concern the way my Dad does. He gets the full weight of what it feels like to know I am not afraid to be alone from the ways I keep trying to push him away and reject him.
And yet, the first time he took out the trash or helped with laundry before I asked, I started sobbing because I'm not used to that kind of help.
I'm fully aware I'm holding him responsible for a past he had no part in and I'm trying not to. He's listening. He's shifting from his own comfort as a bachelor and we're both figuring out how we fit.
At one point we discussed making space and I emptied a dresser drawer for him. There was excitement. There was fear. There was a stretch and space was made. It was a moment to celebrate in our relationship but for my eldest it was a space made that he didn't have room for. It didn't affect his things or his personal space other than being in the same common areas but it bothered him. He didn't make space.
I'm between jobs right now and the timing was perfect for my gallbladder to announce its existence. I just had it removed. Moving slowly, resting fully and asking for help (and being receptive of it) is a way my situation made space for the needs of my body without pressure of work responsibilities.
In October of 2014 I had pulmonary embolisms. There were several blood clots hanging out in my lungs. They could have easily taken a ride in my blood stream and ended up in my heart or brain with fatal results. My birth control pills tried to kill me and I take medicinal side effects seriously. I was told any pregnancy after that would require a shot of blood thinners daily until birth and then it would have to be quickly reversed.
My youngest was 8. I felt it was time for permanent birth control for my irregular cycles. My kids still wanted a sibling but they were open to adoption. My ex wanted more kids. My tubal ligation was scheduled. Just before I was ready for it, my ex told me he was leaving me.
Suddenly I didn't need birth control. It didn't make sense to have surgery and no one to help with the difficulties of post op. I was ready to make sure there was no space for more kids but it really didn't matter.
In the following 2 years I would lose about 40 pounds and my monthly cycle became regular for the first time in my adult life. I would become more patient with my kids and so much anxiety would melt in the shadowed beauty of a sunset.
I went from not wanting more kids to actively creating space for life.
We do this in every area of our lives. We allow things to happen or we do all we can to prevent it. We make time to exercise or we refuse to get out of bed. We make time for friends and loved ones or we find ways to be too busy for them.
Can you see the ways you make space and why some of the promises you keep making end up being consistently empty?
My writing feels broken. Life still moves at the speed of "slow down, WTF!"
That hasn't kept the words at bay.
My love life has been moving in a positive direction. It has made change for me and my boys and we're riding the waves as a family. For the most part we're okay but in one very specific way, we're not.
My firstborn is having a hard time with the changes and not having my home whole has made writing a challenge. How do I write about doing what feels good, when so much of what I feel is tied into how my son feels and the ways we're not blending our lives into ways where I can proclaim we're all doing epic shit.
Friday I drove myself to an ER after pushing through a job interview and saying I had a little indigestion. The chest pain was bad enough that I was crying. Not sobbing or asking for attention as much as silent tears and gritting my teeth through the nurse's questions. It was bad. I found my sense of humor. She was hiding out but given free reign, she's a bit snarky and had no patience for the whiny bitch next to me. (If a nurse or doctor is trying to help you after you go see them for help, don't bother trying to justify kicking them.) I was sent home after being given really good drugs and felt better through the weekend.
Monday morning I called an ambulance after a night of chest pain, vomiting and being unable to sleep. I know, pretty bone headed of me. I kept thinking, it hurts, but it's not as bad as the pulmonary embolisms. And then it was. It went from kinda uncomfortable to more painful than full on labor pains pretty quickly too. I think at some point I may have begged for death while running to the bathroom to vomit and it was only after getting through the night that I called an ambulance and had the paramedic act pretty bored as he realized I wasn't actually having a heart attack. They hung out with me and waited for another ambulance to take me to a hospital where I was taken in and tested and poked and prodded and drugged. The 7 am call included a transfer to my plan hospital and a discharge after 33 hours, with lotsa fun follow up appointments in my near future. Gallbladders are like lungs. They're supposed to function without using pain to grab your attention. If you feel pain, play it safe and see a doctor.
I kept thinking of my worst possible experiences and I held them up to what I was going through. I held up the past with the present in a way that let me see that I was not actually dying. I matched up battle scars to see that I've been through bad situations and it doesn't make the current better or worse. It reminds me there's no point in whining about it. I will get through it. There are no other options.
That moment helped me find the funny and crack some jokes. That comparison gave me the clarity to see that I haven't been able to write, but it's about me. It's not the boyfriend. It's not wondering what I can write or if I should. It's my relationship with my firstborn that makes me feel so shattered that the words stopped.
It's new territory. I get to learn and we get to stretch, and in time, this will be one of those battle scars in our relationship I will hold up. I'll remember how hurt I am that I have hurt him. I will remember how torn I feel by the directions my heart is pulling me in. I'll remember that in this moment and every moment around it, I've been trying to go by my gut and do what is best for me and my family, without sacrificing myself for my family. It's a marker.
I will see the parts that were broken. I'll compare them to the next terrible thing. I'll remember how we managed and the ways that made us stronger. It'll be okay. The words will flow again.
I was never a tennis player. I ran around a tennis court with my Dad once. It was some time right after high school on the open courts in Griffith Park. I remember having no control of the ball. I kept swinging my arm up and sending ball after ball over the fence walls and being the person to chase them all. It was just exhausting. I hated the experience. I'm sure there's a really bad poem about that day on my hard drive somewhere. I'll spare you the angst. Take that same ball and include a dog willing to run around and it has a whole different feel for me. I actually enjoy throwing the ball and watching a happy dog chase it down before it lands. It comes back a slimy mess of drool and it comes back with the expectation that the game would continue. You throw a ball for a dog to chase and there is an exponential growth of energy and excitement.
That poor ball though, right? You reject it. It lands and then comes back a mess. And yet it comes back. It bounces back. (Just grab it before the dog gets to really start chewing.)
There are lessons here.
I know more than one cancer survivor. The word "survivor" sounds very different from who these people are to the life they lead. I have never met a survivor that wasn't thriving. I have never met one that was afraid to say the important things. I have never met one that wasn't stronger than they thought they could be, brave in spite of their fear, or courageous through all of their physical pain. They have mastered bouncing back.
I know more than one person that has gone through a failed relationship and the bounce back isn't pretty. I spoke with a woman last week and our experiences were similar. Bouncing back was a long and hard journey that wasn't a bounce from relationship to relationship to mask what needed healing. At the end of the road we both came out stronger, but at the lowest points, even our mothers had a hard time seeing our pain.
We know how to be alone.
We're not afraid to be alone. We even celebrate moments alone and you can't threaten us with leaving. At one point it was terrifying to hear the sound of an empty home. It's possible to find a way to be comfortable sitting at a table for one in a crowded restaurant on date night. We know the devastation of a relationship that has ended and taken our dreams and expectations with it. We know how bad it can be and we know we survived with strength we didn't know we'd find. Most of the encouragement I had in the beginning was that I am stronger than I think I am. It was and is true. Who knew? Others that have been through it knew because I sure didn't. It's something you find out once there is no one around to rescue you but yourself.
We know how to roar.
We have learned how to listen to our own voice and we've found the courage to speak for ourselves. We do what feels right because we know there will be others willing to share their opinions without support and we know at the end of the day it's our choices with the weight in our hearts that will allow us to sleep or keep us up all night.
We know it can always be worse.
Finding your way through a life-change can knock the wind right out of you, and just when you think you can stand on your feet again, the ground shows you it can swallow you up without warning. You'll hear about friends going through a rough patch and you won't be able to fully empathize because you know it can always be worse and you know it has been, but you are stronger for it and you can get through it. You offer the nuggets of hope that helped you through the worst of it and laugh at the rest because that perspective shift is the control you needed to launch you past the pain.
We know how to ask for and accept support.
We know when to set our pride aside. It feels terrific to know we can do it all on our own,but sometimes we can't. It can be really hard to ask for support and humble ourselves, and know help doesn't look the way we want it to and it often comes at a cost, but we ask for and accept support anyway because we know we have to.
We learn that it isn't always about us.
A week ago I was humming to myself. It was one of those Mariah Carey songs that end up in ranges that even dogs couldn't hear. I was humming badly and someone walked in on me in the office kitchenette. I was embarrassed and tried to excuse myself but the woman walking in the room didn't even hear or really notice me. In her head and taking up her full attention was the world that sees only her as I was in my world that saw and cared about everything I did. Our worlds would have never met if I hadn't stopped her to draw attention to the fact that I expected her to see me.
The world that crashed around me was my world. In the beginning it was ugly and I was emotionally bleeding all over Facebook and to anyone that I thought cared about me. Some friends saw more than they wanted to. Some friends didn't see or know anything. Other people wanted the juicy details and my personal hell of a side show. Given space, some people will still really care, but not enough to be present. Maybe they'll offer space because they don't know how to react. Maybe they have no room for someone else's pain. Given time, will the opinions of others matter?
We know how to bounce back.
The thing about bouncing back is you are first launched. You are thrown far, and land hard in a way that throws you in places and ways you would never choose. You end up covered in things you would love to wash off and you accept that some of it is shame and part of that shame never belonged to you.
Shake it off. Newton's 3rd Law tells us every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Live boldly and prepare to be launched. You were born to fly.
A few mornings ago Kid3 was singing an Adele song and laughing about it. He found the funny without knowing what it was about, other than the many memes starting with, “Hello.” I asked if he knew what the song was about and I told him it was about getting closure and saying hello a long time after a relationship ended. Then the jaded bits came out to bite me and it’s worth looking at if it makes my inner cynic stand at attention.
Closure is about being able to move on from something that meant enough to destroy you a bit when it ended. It could be a relationship. Or a job you relied on. Or the death of a person you didn’t expect to die and refuse to let go of. It’s about accepting that something you loved and cherished doesn’t exist in your life anymore and knowing that it isn’t who you are. You are not a broken relationship and the past is not where you'll find your badassery.
The angry black woman in me said, “you expect someone that failed you while you were both in love to make you feel better now that you’ve had the time to move on?” I mean, true artistry looks like this woman in love. Even when you aren’t amazing, my heart full of infatuation can make something truly terrible look like I can’t live without it. I take your flaws and push them aside because living with them is better than living without you. Take that amazing artist interpretation, give it time and I may just see how much we really weren’t made for each other.
Time will show me the ways I didn’t give space or obsessed way too much over every single detail that seemed relevant but really wasn’t. I’ll see the ways I failed and pride will shove the reasons he failed me to the forefront. And closure sometimes asks us to reconnect to reexamine and release these things. But why?
I’m currently in a relationship. It’s new and I’m still in that happy phase so this really is a look back and doesn’t apply to him. But he's different. I can see the things I question and his answers shift my perspective. I'm different.
Looking at past relationships, there was a fascination in each man I cared about to the point that I wasn’t caring for myself. I wasn’t writing or finding time to be in my happy place. I was relying on him for happiness and that means I wasn’t happy. That neediness often made him (all of the hims) unhappy.
Take my unhappy ass, add a man who was equally unhappy. Subtract the value for our love and how much we cared about each other and it still didn’t add up to keep us together. In the ways we cared about each other . . . The ways we lied to soften the blow of rejection . . . Ultimately, walking away is the greatest rejection possible . . . And that care still couldn’t keep us connected. Time passes and for me that means head turning weight loss. I return to my happy place that shares way more than you’d ever be comfortable with. I start buying myself flowers and reminding myself of the ways I’m awesome that couldn’t be seen under the shadow of the man I placed on my pedestal, and let’s find that closure!
The reality for me is that I have never been able to find closure in a conversation with the men I once gave my all to. I couldn’t see how he might fail me until he did and once I had that hindsight vision of who he was, I see how he could have never been what I painted him as. I see the ways he could never even communicate what I needed to hear because he’s never been as open or emotionally self aware as I am. I held him to my standard and I know he’ll never meet another woman like me. I’ll never meet another woman like me.
For me, closure comes from hindsight and a vision of what my future should be. It comes in facing the ways I accepted less than I desired and taking notice of the ways I undervalued myself to prove to them they were worthy of my love, affection, time and desire. (My desire though... Not everyone can or should handle that much intensity.) I appreciate the times that were good. I relive a few of the good memories. I’m careful to see them with the perspective of someone that was once in love and is now happy and fulfilled in self-love. I can see the good for the good it was. I can also see the ways it was a relationship I would never wish on a loved one and I can stand tall as I walk away because the closure I needed was always in my control and not at the mercy of a man who failed me and odds are would repeat that pattern.
Find the good. Honor it. See the bad. Recognize how you accepted it and promise yourself to do better next time. Be open to love and let go of fear. That’s the closure you’re looking for. It will come in waves and surprise you when you least expect it to. Go with it.