Co-Parenting : Forgiveness Required

I may need to do a search through all the posts on this blog to find it, but sometime back in 2011 I wrote a piece about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness, how and why and the importance of it all. Four years later I can finally report back.

Four years ago I was still rather bitter about getting divorced. Hurt and angry, but I had decided that maybe forgiveness was the approach for me. So, I took a deep breath, said many prayers and chose to forgive my ex husband for his behavior while we were married.

This was not an easy choice.

There is something that happens in a break up that makes everything seem worse. Everyone you know chooses a side. You may think that I mean his side or my side, but I don’t. They decide how each single parent should co-parent when the other party hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain during the marriage.

The most popular among my peers was the one that removed my ex-husband from not just the marriage, but from our life. As though POOF I had two kids and POOF I magically get a check every month to help cover their living expenses.

I was so angry at the time that I do have 100% parental custody. I could fly to China tomorrow without my ex-husbands permission and he would just have to deal with it. I won’t…but I have the ability. Anger makes us do so many things.

Then I thought about simply arranging supervised visitation. Only I was so poor. We were barely scraping by so there was no way to cover the cost of providing supervised visitation. I was quite irrational at this point so I maintained our distance. We saw my ex-husband about once every few months and not for very long, a couple of hours at most.

Then something I found sadder than the possibility of having to see my ex-husband on a more regular basis. It was our sons. They didn’t know him.

As a child of a single family home I know what that is like. My father was not a good person, at least as far as his behavior back in 1985, but we were raised by my mother and maternal grandparents. I had a relatively happy childhood. We had our drama, but what family doesn’t? Perhaps we had more drama than average, but I think we are all more interesting to talk to because of it…anyway. That’s a different story. I didn’t know my father. I knew what other people thought of him. I knew where he was from and what I thought of the people from that place. But I didn’t know him and that is a great cloud over the happy times. All of those times I saw my friends with their dads were sad times for me because I had never known what that was like.

As I became an adult I tried looking for my father to no avail. He didn’t want to be found in the digital age and therefore had no digital footprint. That didn’t mean the sadness was gone. “Who was he?” “How was he?” “Did I have other sisters or brothers?” “Did I have a step mom I didn’t know about?” Always having those questions is sad. I didn’t want that for my kids. Who was I to make that choice for them?

That is what I found to be this sad thing. I was an adult who had lived in a set of circumstances that made me mad. So mad that I thought it a good idea to remove the person that held the other half of their DNA in his genes.

But was I so angry that I couldn’t find it within myself to forgive a man for his behavior? How could I call myself a good person if at the first test of faith I proved to have none? It is no secret that I am a Christian, perhaps a different breed than the ones you read about, but I try to have a simple faith, based on love. In our church we are taught to love and forgive.

I was faced with two options.

One my kids didn’t really remember who this guy was that we sometimes saw really was, so we could just gently fade away and he could become a memory.

Two embrace the pain, and allow them to fully know their father and make the decision for themselves.

To do the first would have been the easiest choice for someone as angry as I had been. He didn’t know where we lived, who we hung out with, where I worked, all I would have had to do was change my phone number and we would have been done. Simple. Clean. Heartbreaking for him and for me. I would be setting my kids up for the same thought process I always had. Always wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be loved by the people who are supposed to love you the most.2015/01/img_2354.jpg

So I embraced the pain. The hardest and easiest choice on so many levels. The cold aloof anger has been replaced by hesitant resolve. Hesitant because everything we went through leaves a mark on the psyche, but resolve because it has turned out to be the right thing to do. My kids are 4 and 8 now. They know their father. They’ve seen where he sleeps and we know how he lives, where he lives, and why he lives.

Over the last four years we have fought and cried and been angry for past ills all over again, but there has been so much forgiveness and contrition. So much of what we have worked through together has made us better people for our next partners. We know more of how each of us failed the other that we will continue to work hard to not make the same mistake. We know that finding that next perfect person for our new selves will be hard, we each have a longer list of must haves…okay at least I do..but I am optimistic about the prospects.

Forgiving him has taught me more about my faith than any pastor could ever tell me. Forgiveness is not something that you do once and it is done, it is something you do every time you wake up and face the day. It’s choosing who you are and not wavering from that path every single morning. Choosing your words and actions before your emotions, and never letting the bad times get the best of you.

It’s also choosing to put the best choice instead of the popular choice.

Special note…A physically abusive spouse should be handled differently. An alcoholic husband or wife who did not exhibit abusive traits is very different from an abusive spouse. Alcoholics tend to only want to inflict pain on themselves though they learn to manipulate what they want out of people to get what they want. That’s how so many nurturing people become enablers. It’s like they can smell your ability to empathize on your sleeve don’t fall for that either.

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Brief Observations

I guess I don’t ask enough questions of other people.

I don’t want to know too much about their situations, well because I remember what is was like to want no one to know what was going on with me and my life.

When someone seems – off – I just accept it as their eccentricity and work around their temperament. I make sure they have essentials, but don’t pry because I just don’t want the conflict in my life. I don’t care what you do with you as long as you don’t bring me into your mess.

After a decade of being neck-deep in a mess I put my big girl panties on and jumped ran out of this mess. Although at times I still feel like resolving it consumes all my energies.

I got burned – bad – but I’m recovering, so I’m cool.

Only I’m not.

Just when I think things are normal they revert to “Megan normal.” My problem is that I don’t know how to say no. Not the reason’s in the song “Can’t say no”

I simply have a soft spot for people in the mire.

I think everyone deserves a chance no matter where they come from. I think I have automatic faith in others, but once that is broken I kick myself.

“Why couldn’t I have seen this coming?”

“Why couldn’t I see the signs?”

This isn’t just with my ex-husband. This is with anyone.

To me this is how we should be. We should have faith in the rest of our species to do what they are supposed to do.

Only they don’t. Then we get mad. We shut ourselves down, and we build iron barriers between us and the rest of the world.

As a person who is codependant I have to work extraordinarily hard to maintain boundaries. I regularly forget they exist and I know that I need to consciously reconstruct them all the time. It’s like this constant thing I have to logically think through. I can do this. I can’t say that. I can see this needs to be done. I shouldn’t do this or that.

For most of the human population this is normal behavior, but for me it’s not.

It’s attachment issues. Totally acceptable if the attachment is to solid, stable individuals, but normally it’s to twisted, addicted, drama driven idiots. This includes friends.

I am a born listener and fixer. Try as I might I can’t fix everyone. When I was 17 years old I was driving in a car with my great uncle’s new wife and she just started pouring her heart out to me. I just stared straight ahead and listened. I didn’t know my uncle really well, in fact I hardly knew him at all. I had just met the woman going all stream of conscious on me that day.

When she was done it’s like she woke up. She apologized for telling me all the gory details, but she felt I could help her.

I couldn’t.

Honestly – I had never even been on a real date at age 17. I didn’t know the first thing to say. So I whispered a prayer and gave her a hug. I don’t know where she is now. Her marriage only lasted a short while after that, so maybe that was her answer to her problems.

That was the first time someone had ever done that, but it’s been repeated thousands of times, besides the friends that I grew up with – which in itself had gotten me into trouble. I was a bit of a gossip, until this one time a parent confronted me and I don’t think I have really gossiped again.

It’s one thing to hear a story – it’s entirely different to repeat it. I am still reminded of this when I hear something juicy and want to share, but then I remember how that felt so I don’t.

Can you tell I am trying to figure this whole codependant thing out still? I’m told it’s like alcohol or drug addiction. There is not a defined recovery pattern. There is only the day-to-day.

Each choice I make to spiral or to soar. Each relationship, real or imagined, a step to recovery.

I long for a relationship, a lasting, healthy relationship, but almost two years I still wonder if I will ever be able to let someone in. Well, maybe not let someone in, but let them in and not become everything.

This is a delicate balance that is foreign to me.

My delicate balance – Solid ground vs. a Free Fall

Single Parenthood is Trying

Holy Tuesday Batman!

It is Easter week and I am sitting at my new desk, typing on my new computer at my new job. I love it here. I can wear jeans and tennis shoes every day and if my hair is a little bit wind-blown no one cares. Alas I love riding with the windows down and the radio loud. This is the kind of place that likes people to stay 30+ years and retire.

This I could get used to.

So, what is going on with me? Besides the shiny new digs? Plenty…

My ex-husband was readmitted to rehab. Yes. It was less than a month before he gloriously (not really) fell off the wagon again. This time though I was not a witness and didn’t try to attempt to save him. I think this should get me life lesson points or something. I didn’t run to his side when he was released from his last rehab facility. That I know gets me points. As that seems to be all I have done for the last 6 years.

In the three weeks I was working at the restaurant where we met I told few people the depths to which we sank in our personal life since disappearing from there so many years ago. The one person I did speak to (because he was our roommate before we had children) got completely irate and my ex should be glad he has disappeared again. That sort of made me sad. Not that he didn’t understand the events of the last 6 years until they were explained by me, but because I never realized how bad things were.

Love Survival really is blinding…

Well…most of the people at the restaurant I avoided like they were the plague for the last six years, but it is in seeing them again that I realize the ex husband was the problem…yes…again.

But guess what – I got the two best parts of him in our boys. Elijah and Michael are amazing.

I have been having problems with Elijah’s anger and behavior, but it is not the end of the world. Although…apparently I think I am yelling too much. Yesterday he told me that I would have been happier if I had never had kids. WHERE DID THIS IDEA COME FROM!? I grabbed him. Hugged him. Talked to him. Held him for a minute while I fought tears. I explained that I would be miserable without them. They are what wakes me up every day and brighten my thoughts every moment. They make me.

I told him to NEVER think that. EVER!

Michael on the other hand…he is nearly two. Any parent knows what that means.

This is the age that we do occasionally wish we weren’t parents because everything is a struggle.

He is trying to exert his independence while I trying to shelter and control. He wants to walk by himself and not hold my hand. He doesn’t realize that I want to hold his hand because the cars will run him over or dogs might eat him. (Not my dogs…I don’t have any…but someone’s.) I do not remember this happening with Elijah, but every night is a battle at bed time. He doesn’t want to sleep in his bed, he doesn’t want to sleep at the appointed hour, he doesn’t want to bathe, he doesn’t want to drink milk anymore. He doesn’t want to listen anymore. He gets frustrated by his inability to communicate and he is willful.

Needless to say evenings have been FUN lately. (Grumble grumble)

This reminds me of another conversation I had recently with Elijah, and what I found in his bag yesterday morning as I was getting him ready for school.

He wants a dad.

Have I told you guys this yet?

He asked me to find a new dad for him because while he loves his dad…the distance and sobriety rules for seeing his kids…he doesn’t see him. Heart crushing agony there (at least on my part.) I feel HORRIBLE for him! It brings up new anger issues within myself. All the things that I hate my ex for rise to the surface when these talks happen. Then there are the papers that I found in his bag. They must have had a “What do you want to be when you grow up?” day.

He wants to be a dad. That’s it. Not a policeman. Not a doctor. Not a pilot. A Dad. I admit to crying a little.

I reached out to my girls group and one of my good friends explained that he doesn’t want to be HIS dad. He wants to be a good parent. He wants to do stuff. He wants to show his kids how to play in the sand and enjoy mundane things.

He wants to be like the person who is raising him.

I hope she is right. I hope that this isn’t another attempt at telling me he wants a dad.

I haven’t talked to him about it yet. I think I will tonight though because he doesn’t get to watch TV or play with toys because he has been lying about his behavior marks lately.

This is the most wonderful, challenging, heartwarming, heartbreaking experience I know of…and it’s only going to go on and on.

So…anyone know any single dads that want a chubby Italian wife with two gorgeous boys? 😉

EDIT: I think (as it is Holy Week) I should say one last thing. I am surviving because I believe that God will never give you more than you are able to handle. He is truly the one that keeps me in His hands and provides for me every step of the way. Without Him I am nothing. Every step of my struggles this last year has only proved that He is making my path. Not me. After looking over my life experiences I can see why the points fit together as they do. Why I had to go through every thing I have been through since childhood. These are the things that God knew I would have to go through to get me where I need to be to be the best I can be.

Home is not a Location

Yesterday I asked…What is home to you? Is it a person, a place, a thing?

I have always thought like Pumba…”Home is where your rump rests!” I was 15 when The Lion King came out and since we moved so much as children I found truth in it. Home really is wherever you make it.

Or so I thought at 15.

Now at 31, I am reconsidering. I think, like a commenter yesterday, that home is the feeling of comfort that you have in your soul. A wholeness not brought on by location or surroundings, but grown to fruition within ourselves…or at least I’m starting to think anyway.

I’m not there yet. I learning. I’m growing, but I’m not there yet.

I have been researching my own past to try to determine when life changed so dramatically for me that it creates tension where there should be none. Since it is February 21st is doesn’t take long for me to understand when that break happened.

When I became a shell and less of myself.

By this I mean that I have spent the last 15 years trying to fill a void that can’t be filled by anyone but myself or God. I believe I have a strong faith in the Lord, but it is today and this day for the last 15 years that makes me know I am weak of faith.

Maybe it’s just this day in particular that makes my faith weak.

February 21, 1997 is the day we confirmed and found my grandfather’s body in Lake Buchanan. He and our pastor had been fishing and got caught in a storm on February 19th. They suffered hypothermia and drowned.

I cried for days, weeks, years even.

At first I had the rest of high school, my activities and my job to fill the time. To fill the void.

I thought little but of the schedule and what had to be completed for the next goal to be reached. For the next accomplishment to be met. As good a show as I could put on I found no happiness in any of this. I finished high school in 1999, without a plan. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Go to school. Don’t go. Get a certificate in a profession. Just go to work. I had no freaking idea.

June following graduation I watched my 2 year-old niece. Just me and her for the whole month. I stayed busy, we went places, we did stuff. July I went on a trip to Europe. The first week planning, two weeks there and the last week of the month I had a decision to make.

Go to the recruiter and become a military private or go to school until I figured out what I wanted.

I chose school. Then I got bored. Some people just aren’t built to sit and learn in a class room. I’m one of those…but may still go back. I’m deciding that now.

When people ask if I would repeat high school again…go back in time…knowing what I know now I respond immediately with a yes. I would go back because I would have knowledge of the accident that was to come and I would spend more time with my grandfather. I would listen to his words and take notes on how to do things. I would want to be near to him. I miss him. Even now as I write this out the tears flow…and yes I’m at Starbucks. Receiving stares from people who know nothing of what I write.

Each of us have an adult that we are close to in our youngest days. For me it was him. I know he wasn’t perfect, but I worshiped him.

I lived with my grandparents from age 12 until I was through high school. The first years we were there I could be found, when I wasn’t at school, helping my grandfather. We had a garden, we built a shop, we made a bigger garden, we fixed up the house, plumed a sprinkler system, and I learned more than I can ever remember. I was his shadow.

The gravity and immediacy of this loss have haunted me. My dreams. My fears. My life.

I feel myself getting close to people and then immediately recoil knowing that some how I will lose them and I don’t want to feel that kind of pain. The pain that rips your soul from you…even if just for a while.

I can honestly count the number of people I have allowed to get close to me since high school on one hand. The people I still depend on for emotional support don’t need me to dig into those feelings. They have always been here and they don’t need me to mention it.

I am trying to open up to people. Trying to not push as much as I want to, I know sometimes I am an utter failure in this, but I’m trying.

I have tried to fill the void of his loss with rebellion. Yes…I rebelled, but I’m not much of a rebel.

I have tried to fill the void with a marriage. Terrible idea.

In my need to be whole I try to patch up the broken. I try to fix the other people I see in need. I can recognize the pain in their eyes because I feel it in me. I recognized that pain in my ex husband’s eyes and made thousands of failed attempts to help him. Ending with the realization that you can’t fix what doesn’t know is broken.

Behaviors learned from parents are the hardest to break. For me it’s chocolate, coffee, and delicious food, for my husband it was vodka,  prescription drugs, and ignorance. If there is a problem take something…it will disappear.

Only it doesn’t.

The problem is there for the partner – the true partner – in a marriage. They are forced to handle the situation and eventually because they are broken themselves they just learn to tolerate the experience. The life that would drive a normal person from the relationship becomes their link to wholeness.

I was happy because I was making him happy. Innocence and inexperience are tragic flaws in the hands of an addict.

Relationships with everyone I was close to became secondary to the relationship I had with him. He became my home because together we were one.

It is a tolerable existence when it is just two people living life together. You know there will be ups. You know there will be downs. You learn what will fill the downs to make them come back up. You live life as they teach in AA, “one day at a time” but nothing is ever normal to the world on the outside looking in, even if it seems normal to you.

Then the two create a third person. A child, helpless and innocent. A person that needs protection. A person that needs your constant attention.

Eventually you recognize all that is broken in your life. I had the realization that I was still broken.

Broken of spirit.

Broken in soul.

Broken to the point of not remembering who I had been. I tried to leave…but the hole would tear back open.

The hole that had been left by the death of my grandfather had been filled by this man, although I didn’t understand this fact. So, I would go back. I allowed myself to go back because he made me feel whole. He made me feel like I was home. I found comfort in the pain because it gave me a reason to be where I was…I was home.

It’s funny how so few letters it takes to change hole to whole to home.

Where is home for me?

I now understand that it is not in location. It is not in the people that surround me.

I have to find it with in me. I thought I had found it within me, but days like today…or maybe just today…I recognize my void is still here. Still waiting for me to fill it. Still waiting for me to understand what I have missed all these years.

If you seem to be in a holding pattern, as I explained yesterday, what do you think you are missing?

I think if we figure out the source we can find the resolution that will create wholeness.

Where are you? Your roots?

Recovery Part II

Today is Valentine’s day. My friends keep telling me it’s Singles Awareness Day. I keep telling them, no it’s Liberation Day. The newly single have a bit of a different perspective even if we’ve been working on it a while.

Part of recovery is the acceptance of yourself. Being comfortable in your own skin. Being happy alone with a movie and an empty room. This is a slow road. It’s one of those roads that is different for everyone, in length and in topography.

Imagine you are on a road trip. You gas up, you load up, you’re ready to go and excited (or at least built up the edge to go.) Let’s say your setting out for the three thousand mile trek from Houston to Seattle. Every now and then you have to stop for gas. You have to stop for food. You have to stop for drinks and for breaks to stretch your legs. You leave the jungle of this massive city and hit a few bumps about four hours out. You hit the hill country, you survive and now you’re out in the plains. Smooth sailing for a long time. The road is pretty straight. you have a few bends, but on the whole you’re feeling good. You’re making great time. Then you have to stop for gas. Then you have to stop for the night. The next day you arrive in New Mexico, passing through the mountains which can sometimes be treacherous. Eventually you’re back in a plain, or at least a valley. You’re tired of sitting in the car but you know that it will be worth the pain. This pattern repeats for a few more days. You get excited, you get bored, you get disgruntled, but you power through and eventually you reach your destination. It’s there sparkling in the sun (you happen to arrive on a sunny, warm day.)

This is recovery.

Starting the journey (even if half forced) you get excited. You gather your resolve. You know what you are looking for and you go after it. Sometimes though you get lost or you reach a point that is bumpy. Sometimes you have giant mountains in your path, but you must conquer them. You must go forward. You must put this one choice in front of you. You have to make a conscious effort to reform your world. You must change your way of thinking, of coping, of loving, of living. You and no one else can take this road. It is a lonely road.

It’s the goal that you’re after though and you have to keep that in your mind. Somewhere in your subconscience you have to remember what you are seeking even if it would be easier to numb out or ignore the world. When you get that way you turn on some music. Begin to clean the house, because while you cleanse your home you cleanse your mind. Buddhist monks (I think) teach you that your surroundings are a reflection of what is going on internally.

If you are surrounded by disaster that is the reflection of self.

Even if you have to start small, you have to start somewhere.

Take it.

Own it.

Part of recovery is finding good support. Whether that support is from family, friends, a community group, church or Al-Anon, get support. If the people you turn to do not support you drop them like a hot plate.

They don’t deserve the best of you if they can’t accept the worst of you. (I believe Marilyn Monroe said something to this effect.)

I know some that may be reading this may believe recovery is only for addicts. But it is not. It is for anyone who is surviving something in their past. Anyone who has been to their own hell. Anyone who is the victim of abuse, violence, a crime. Anyone who is hurting from the choices they have made on their own. Labeling the process seems trivial and many times it is not given this name, but really that is what we are doing. We are recovering.

Below are some resources from the web for any number of possibilities you would need to be recovering from.

Depression Alcoholism Abuse – Mental/Physical Eating Disorders

There are so many more. A base website for anything that you may have encountered is HelpGuide.org.

If you are simply at a point in your life where you need to change something reach out to friends. Call your EAP and set up to see a counselor. Work through it, life is so much better once you work through everything that is going on inside.

One of my favorite things to do is listen to music. Over the last year my favorites have been (and not in any particular order)

Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

Eminem – Recovery (He speaks to exactly what we are all going through…if bad words bother you don’t get the explicit version.)

Ray LaMontangne – Gossip in the Grain

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Blue October, Christina Perri, Adele, Cee Lo Green (When I am in a mood I love F— You…it sets all right with the world), Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, Florence + The Machine (Bury that Horse), Kings of Leon, Journey, Chevelle…I could go on and on.

I simply find music that speaks to me. Find yours but make sure it sends you a positive message. Reinforce what you are trying to do, don’t hinder progress because you’re not really listening to it. The brain hears everything even if we are being passive.

Surround yourself with positive energy, positive people, try to be a light in the dark for others. It is a fact that if you help others in your darkest hour it will help light your own way out of the darkness.

Above all remember that we are all struggling with something. It may not be right there on the surface, but it is there. It is very real to them.

Live in peace, love, and kindness to all.

Recovery

It’s late. I am at my mother’s and my kids are asleep on the couch. I am left in the dark to my thoughts. I am thinking about a great many things. One the fickleness of life and the surrender of ourselves to fate.

Then I hear about Whitney.

It is sad I think that the first thing that sprang to mind as I read on twitter that her publicist announced her passing at 3:30ish this afternoon was the drugs. I wonder what will come in the days ahead. Will we learn that this was drug related?

We are all thinking that…but it really doesn’t matter, she is gone so young. 48 really isn’t all that old. If you think it’s old…then you’re too young to really understand the impact drugs can have on your entire universe. This is what I have learned in my years married to an addict.

We are ALL in recovery.

We may not realize it but we are all overcoming some point in our past that made us make this choice or that to bring us to our present point. We have issues with our childhoods, some real, others imagined. We had the teen angst of the 90’s and the apathy of the generations that have followed. We have mommy and daddy issues, we have abandonment issues, we have sibling rivalry and frenimies.

We are all on some level having to figure out how to get over something.

One of the main problems with addiction is that emotion maturity stops at the onset of the addiction. You aren’t learning sober coping mechanisms; you are learning to numb yourself to your feelings. Pills, Coke, Pot, Alcohol, Food, Sex…the list could go on…these are all addictions that we turn to when we just want to feel happy.

Who doesn’t want to feel euphoric 99% of the time?!

I know I do. I think the difference between my exhusband and myself though is that I learned proper ways to cope and stay in control from a very early age. But I had to…life didn’t really hand me all the good cards. His life was easy and carefree. Yes, he had a stepfather, but he was pretty great. D was always a bit of a rebel.

My personal belief is that it’s in the struggle when people find strength. You have to fight for something to truly appreciate it.

Not everyone’s struggle is the same, some people never will struggle with addiction or with finances, that doesn’t mean that they have fewer problems than the next person, that just means their struggle is different. You might never know what they have been through. It might be just below the surface. It could have been in their past. It could have been surviving cancer as a child.

We never know what another person is struggling with but we do know our own struggles. If you haven’t had a struggle, just know that eventually or really inevitably something will happen that you will have to deal with the emotional roller coaster.

Even as I say that I still know that even the person who has the best luck out there is in recovery. They still feel slighted for some unseen injustice.

We are all in recovery.

Whitney’s passing makes me sad. She has been in recovery, she has been in and out of rehab so many times. People look down on her for her struggle when really she should be praised for trying. She knew she was better, but the addiction was stronger than her spirit. Something was broken inside that she wasn’t allowing to rise to the surface. She squashed it down where it wouldn’t blemish her public persona. Some people would rather be seen as addicts than whatever they really are, so when they get treatment and don’t discuss the core problem. When they don’t allow the therapist to do their job, it festers like a wound earned in battle.

No matter how much time, money, and energy is put into becoming the best you can be if you have a festering wound it will eventually need attention. It will demand your full attention and might kill you.

To be continued…

Thinking about a book

As I am preparing to change my stars I chose to take this morning and revisit some of my past. I drove out of my apartment complex aiming for the nearest Starbucks, instead I turned right and followed the street to the bay. Turning up Boulevard I saw it, this place that I called home for so many years. From the outside it looks the same…from the inside there are only minor changes. They no longer use old beer boxes to hold the condiments, they have added a side bar. There are all kinds of little changes…but the biggest change are the people. Most of them haven’t changed which is perhaps why I love it so much. (And I say it is the biggest change because turn over is so high in most restaurants and offices these days.)

Just for the record my mother thinks I am crazy for loving this place, but I do.

Driving down 646 I thought of a book I should write…not saying it would sell, but for the right audience it would be a hilarious endeavor.

“The Tales of an Aging Partier”

I can’t say that I was a partier, although I have done my fair share in this life, but I could write my stories and the stories of some of my favorite people. I would be a shocking read for some and the Southern Baptist Convention would surely protest. Because the first line would be…

“I’m a Baptist. A closet drinking, Bible thumping, Southern Baptist, who happened to fall in love with a place called Noah’s Ark.”

Then I would go on to tell you tales of the cook from Southern Louisianna who I could only half understand when he got good and drunk. His girlfriend we called Goldie, who isn’t so Goldie since his over dose. The other cook who exuded danger, only to find out that he was a convicted felon. Convicted for manslaughter, but it should have been self defense…if I am to believe the tale. He was amazing and troubled and kind. Unbelievably kind, until he drank Jack Daniels…then he wasn’t very nice and I was never there for that. I only witnessed the aftermath.

Then there were the B’s. We each had a name Baby, Queen, Baby Girl, Princess, Mama, etc…all different kinds of B names. B standing for ehem…a female dog…Not that I have been opposed to cussing on this blog, but I don’t agree with the term for these women.

These just happen to be very strong, independant women who have been hurt. They chose husbands badly, are defending what they have…sometimes by the skin of their teeth. It is an unforgiving existence. Always on your feet, always smiling, always seeming to be carefree…all the while wondering am I going to make enough to cover rent this month? Are the kids fed? Will the new babysitter walk out and leave my kids like the last one? Will my crazy ex show up and start something?! (None of this was ever expereinced by me while I was here…but I was a witness in the lives of many.)

Sitting here I remember the parties, the alcohol, the poker runs, and I think of the smiles mine and everyone elses. When you think of a bar you think of fun. I think mostly about the misery. This is not a life that 99% of the people reading this post have ever experienced. I hope you never do.

To imagine briefly what it is like listen to songs like “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer,” “Highway to hell,” and “I love this bar.”  See you didn’t know you would get a play list today. 🙂 Oh a film you could watch is Patrick Swayze’s “Road House.” Okay, so not quite as violent, but just as lively.

It’s a biker bar, for lack of other terms…for some it was featured in films, and for others…it is hell.

Still I love it here. I love the dysfunction, although I don’t ever want to be part of it again. I love the smoke, the atmosphere, the wild banter between barmaid and patron. In my day we kept riding crops behind the bar.

Now that you have read all of that…imagine being an extremely innocent 20 year old girl just moved in from a land where there were no bars and working here. I had worked for elegant bed and breakfasts to that point, quiet time between guests consisted of cleaning up and making the inn’s shiny so that other people could fullfill their dreams. I witnessed fantasy weddings, elegant buffets, learned practical tricks for preparing breakfast for a 100 guests with just a staff of three. I learned how to fold the impossible fitted sheet!

What I should have done when my mother said take this job at $9 an hour and stay in our hometown, I should have taken her offer. She was the head of HR for her company…I could have learned to budget. At the time I didn’t think it was enough to live on…oh what I learned…

We move down to what I have (over the years) refered to as the armpit of America and then found this job, working in this bar. “Coyote Ugly” had just been released and I admit I had this romantic perception of what it would be like. For the record, that movie only released the romantic parts.

Wow – my experience here opened my eyes to the fringe.

I learned too much about life here. I learned that people can be cruel and heartless, but that those same people will fight to the death if someone outside the circle tries to injure their circle. I learned a bit about bikers, a bit about rebels, a bit about gangs, and way too much to tell you on a blog post. I was an outsider from a world they hadn’t known and I got my education from the School of Noah’s.

Coming here I feel like I am at my Alma Mater. We talk about the old days. We lament the friends who have passed through over doses and accidents. We have seen many tragedies through drug use and even more because our friends ride Harley’s and refuse to wear helmets.

I would love to go to junior highs and high schools and teach the kids tell them….you see this path? I know this path looks like fun. I know this path looks exciting and charming and like something you would like to do…but don’t. Even if you don’t go on to be a doctor or a lawyer or wildly successful you owe it to yourself to be more.

I learned that…eventually. I quit here about three years later. Scarred and scared and hindered by a husband…not aware of the potential that existed. Still trying to work through all the experiences.

I think a book that tells the stories good or bad would be something many would read. I couldn’t add pictures. I would probably have to give someone here a cut of my percentage, but it would entertain.

Live and Love now

No one wants to look back at their life and say I should have fallen in love more. Or that I could have helped this person more or done this differently. No one wants regrets or their good memories to fade. No one wants to feel pain and the utter agony of losing someone they love.

The problem is that all of these things happen. They happen all too often.

A few years ago while I was at work a man sat down in my office and started talking. We took brief breaks from the conversation, but always picked right back up where we left off. We talked about everything from the weather to the kids anything, no subject was forbidden.

We spent hours talking everyday into the wee hours of the morning when we would finally fall asleep. We were friends, then best friends, then something more.

When I finally found out about all of his problems I did everything in my power to try to help him. It was in one of a hundred or so evenings spent talking late into the night that I found out he was an alcoholic. He had a temper. He had an abusive past. That he had dated a friend of mine, but they didn’t get along at all. (Chel I spoke of her death a few weeks ago.) He could be trusted to a point, but he could barely trust himself, so I couldn’t put complete faith in him either.

I learned just as much about myself from this relationship. Mostly that I didn’t want to live with an alcoholic ever again. I thought he was different from my husband whom I had been separated from for months, but he wasn’t. They were the same. He just came with a giant house, flashy car, he was gainfully employed (for a time) and he was doting. Anything I needed he just gave it to me.

I learned here that material items don’t matter. I learned that no matter what it looks like from the outside it can be a train wreck on the inside. I found out that I would rather live in the dumpiest apartment that contains honesty and love, than the biggest house built on distrust and disillusionment.

After an afternoon invasion by his ex-wife I learned some terrifying information and began to try to get him to commit to a rehab facility. He said he didn’t need to go. So instead he had a breathalyzer installed in his car. So that he could prove to me he wasn’t drinking. Well…he just stopped going anywhere. He stopped showing up at work and left major projects to the help. He was troubled and I felt stuck.

About a month and some very persuasive phone calls from his daughters I was finally able to check him into a facility. He was committed to a 30 day program and had high hopes. Imagine my surprise when four days later his ex girlfriend drives up with him and he says “he’s all better.”

I left two weeks later. I cut myself out of his life, disappeared off the radar, threw the cell phone he had given me into a trash can in Milford, CT. He had been calling every day telling me that he had made a mistake, and that he loved me and wanted me back. I wanted him to get run over by a car and die. He hurt me, he hurt people I care about.

But I loved him. I guess that’s really how abuse plays out. We love them in spite of the things that they do to us. I didn’t throw the phone away because I was angry with him. I threw the phone away because I would have broken down and let him come get me. Eminem’s song, “Love the way you Lie” that was us.

Gasoline and fire.  It was intense and crazy. I don’t recommend it.

Fast forward to Sept. 22, 2011, I get a random invitation to friend him on a social networking website. I replied telling him he should kiss my tuckus, but we have been emailing ever since. Until about a week ago.

Yesterday I found out why.

My heart is a little fragile lately and now it’s a little broken. He was actually hit by a car trying to cross a street. I don’t know if he had tried mixing alcohol with his medications, all I know is that he was taken by life flight to the medical center. He was on life support until Friday and then he was removed from the machines that were allowing him to continue to live.

I think if I had heard this news before Sept 22, it wouldn’t have hurt so much. I was still angry. I was still caught in the past pains we had caused each other. He had apologies and explained everything that had happened since I left. I had explained a few things to him as well and now…now none of it matters.

I implore you to tell the people you care about what you are thinking. Don’t waste a minute on feeling bad for yourself and your thoughts and your fears. We all have them wouldn’t you rather be afraid and with someone who can relate, than detached and with someone who simply wants to use you?

Live now. Love now.

Don’t waste a second because you never know which second is your last.

Renewal

Despite everything I have been through I am a hopeless romantic. I think there is one boy meant for me and I think that I am meant for him. I think that our experiences and trials will make us each perfect for the other.

I am strong-willed and strong voiced. I have issues with my past, but I am willing to put them aside for my ideal. My mother-in-law who is absolutely precious to me has presented me some tips from Al-Anon on the next steps in my journey…I think I will share them with you all.

I am, honestly, not sure if I can follow them, but I will try.

For starters, after the end of an alcoholic marriage there should be a waiting period of a year. During this year you are supposed to find yourself, get reaquainted with yourself, and learn all about the new you.

This is the step with which I find most reason to give pause. This is the problem.

I have been waiting a year. It was not a great year of self-discovery, but it was a year of contemplation. A year of thinking about the past and working out the hatred. Lord how I hated my husband for the things he had done.

My time for hatred is done. This is now time for renewal. Time to forgive past injuries and work toward making life happy again. Forgiveness, at least for me is a major step in regaining control of my life. I have to forgive and let go in order to move forward. I am swallowed in darkness when I am unable to forgive.

It is in forgiving and moving on that I find the light.

She also presented to me the concept of a list, figuring out what I want. Write down a list of characteristics that I hope to find in my ideal person. (No I am not sharing that list.) 🙂 I think I have some idea to what I want, but the list is long.

Definitely want someone who, like me, can communicate.

AND someone who can over look certain character flaws, like my incessant need to mess things up even when we are good fit.

OR the words that come flying out of my fingers and land on emails that should be edited before being sent to save them from being hurt and never talking to me again.

Oh hindsight you are a devil.

It is in our darkest hours that we find the light, and when that switch is flipped it is hard to turn off. Even when you have no business accepting an invitation you do and then you get stuck. It is us that want to live in the light who constantly try to bring back the darkness.

In my meeting a week or so ago a woman said, “Sometimes you create the chaos that has to be fixed because you know how to do that. You don’t know how to live without the chaos. You can’t allow peace to reign over your life.” I wrote it down and have tried to read it and think on it every day. This is so true for me and my life and my God in heaven I hope you can allow me to let the peace in.

So I am learning. I am growing. I am trying to not rush. I am trying to stay away. It’s not that I want to, but it’s what may save me in the end. I am nothing if I am not for myself.

Lightbulb

My sister-in-law had a moment of clarity today that I am loving. 

“Just because someone needs you doesn’t mean they love you.”

How true is this?! My goodness! How often do we fall for the wrong people? How often do we look at what they can do for us instead of at the quality of their character?

I seem to think that if you say “I love you” in the first days and weeks of a romance you’re really saying “I need you.” Sure it could blossom into something more, but you are really just reacting to the things that they have done for you.

Need and love can feel the same when you are infatuated with someone. I don’t want to think that I am with someone out of need. There is something crippling about that. It just seems to me that you wouldn’t have anywhere to grow if you were in a relationship based on needing what the other has got whether that is monetary, emotional, or psychological.

I have been in a codependant relationship for my entire adult existence. I know what it is like to be the person needed. I know what if feels like to feel inadequate. I know what it’s like to want to try to be what this person needs but falling short; and being blamed for their shortcomings. This is not a relationship that I recommend. This is not a relationship that I want to continue, ever, no matter the phone calls of anger, desperation, or uninhibited sorrow.

I have grown.

I think that if you are not allowed to grow you will die. There are many styles of growth personal, interpersonal, professional, and mental. As we age and have experiences we evolve. We follow different paths and make choices and learn from all of it. How are you going to remain the same if you go through all this?

The expectation to remain the same at 30, as you were at 20, is unrealistic.

This reminds me of one of my other favorite quotes from Lillian Gershwin. “People change all the time and forget to tell each other.”

That is something that in a codependant/alcoholic/addictive relationship you don’t understand. You must communicate with your partner, and if your partner is in a stupor for 90% of your time together there is no communicating. One day 10 years later they wake up and expect you to be the same person. It’s just not reality.

I was writing my story down the other night just so that I can have a reminder of the hell I have gone through, and it is so ridiculous that I even stayed for as long as I did. (No this isn’t meant to slam him.) This is just a statement of fact. So many times I should have cut my losses and left and yet, I couldn’t.

I didn’t see that all that was going on was him NEEDING me. He needed me to pay the bills and make sure life was in order so that he could live in his unconsciousness. I was pathetic thinking that was all I deserved out of life.

This leads me to my lightbulb. This leads me to thinking my sister-in-law’s moment of clarity was just amazing today, because I have been thinking about that relationship a lot lately.

I don’t want to be needed. I want to be loved. I deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and gratitude. For that person, who ever they may be, I would give the world. I would take care of them better than they could comprehend.

Don’t we all deserve that though? Don’t we all deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, gratitude, and love?

I hope that my little lightbulb helps you examine your own relationships and see if there is some way that you could improve them. Either improve them or understand that there is nothing you can do that will improve them. If you are where I was a year ago realize there is so much more out here.

There is life. There is love. There is hope. There is happiness.

Love and hugs to you this Wednesday!