All You Need Is Love

Recently, several people I know have personally come to me and expressed to me their difficulties in raising or even entering into a relationship where a child already exists. How can you know that you can love that child the same as your own, especially if they are challenging?

I’ve never been a step-mother. I’ve never been a step-child. So when I divorced and my son was 5, my ex-husband took up almost immediately with the woman he is currently married to now. Whether the timeline on that fits is neither here nor there to me, my only focus was did she treat my child differently? When he told me during a car ride that she had a framed picture of just him in her house, the relief I felt was immense. She cared enough to put him on her wall- just him. She wasn’t me, but I felt like I could trust her then.

I remember another time on a car ride my son slipped and said he loved this woman, and I remember the fear he seemed to feel as he scrambled to assure me, his mother who was alone that he loved me more. I stopped him. I couldn’t let him feel torn apart by love. Love only enhances our lives, and I told him that. I told him to never be afraid to let someone love you or to love someone, because we need more love.

I have a friend, Sheri, who let’s just be honest I have a strongly bonded parasocial relationship to a media persona that I highly admire and respect, but because this is MY BLOG- SHERI LYNCH IS MY BEST FRIEND.

All kidding aside, I’ve listened to Sheri talk about her real life both on the radio and on social media. I’ve met her once, I believe and even though she punched a man in the face for scaring her grandmother (because Philly, ya know?) she is one of the kindest people you will ever meet.

I bring her up for this- when I first began listening she was dating her second husband at the time. This man would later father her two daughters, but he already had a child before they entered their union. What I always loved is that Sheri always referred to him as her “Bonus Son”. Think about that? Disney has vilified the “step-mother/step-child” concept but a BONUS? Everyone wants a bonus.

But what if that bonus feels more like a pain in the ass acting out all the time making you want to pull your hair out? What then?

I’ve been asked this many times and I’m not sure why as I claim to be no guru on parenting- but, I have the innate ability to look at another viewpoint just to see how something could occur.

Think about it. You’re maybe 6 or 7 years old, and for the sake of making things less complicated we’ll say a father has remarried and had more children with his new wife. How would you process that? Remember you don’t have the ability to process things like an adult, so- maybe you’d feel a little bit like this isn’t YOUR family. It’s Daddy’s new family. Maybe it’s Daddy’s new family he loves more. If I love this woman he loves is that betraying my own mother?

I know children don’t think conceptually like this, of course- they act out. They aggravate. They draw attention to themselves to remind you they are there. They make themselves difficult to love to see if you really do love them.

How does one get past that? Again, I admit I have no experience there, but I would imagine if it were me, and I knew the relationship was solid and permanent I would meet that child where they are in their relationship with me. I would ask myself would I be as irritated by this if it were my own child doing it? I would try to spend one on one time doing something fun with just them. I would do my best to bond the way you do in any relationship. Get to know one another one on one.

Turn that step into a bonus 🙂.

She Used to be Mine

This sums up me right now.

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and its patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used be, although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl

She’s imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine
It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person and makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest, I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over and rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew
Who’ll be reckless, just enough
Who’ll get hurt, but who learns how to toughen up
When she’s bruised and gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck
And be scared of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day ’til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone, but used to be mine
Used to be mine
She is messy, but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.”

Letting Go of the Love that Hurt You

In the early spring, on a wild jaunt after work with my friend Melanie (at the time at least), after a few drinks at the Blue Monkey- I decided to run up the hill and have my fortune told.  She read my cards, but what I most wanted to know was could she see me in my palm. She told me many things about myself- things she couldn’t know about my deepest hidden away things.  So I honestly don’t care if you believe this story or not, my friend, because I tell it earnestly.  And what is anything that the mind doth not make it so?

She read my palm, and then offered to read my cards for me.  I figured, why not?  And she read the cards in a way that told a story I understood.  She said to “remember who you are in the universe”, and that I would “have to face my past to receive my blessing; I would have to get over a pain I have held onto, and that I need to stop swallowing my words.”  I thanked her for her reading and pondered it, but be it power of suggestion or divine intervention- I care not what you believe- I began to wake up.  Something happened and I can’t describe it now to you even if I tried.  I who am never at a loss for words; words fail me here.

I’ve lived a life of a lot of pain.  It’s been pain I compartmentalized and shoved away and refused to feel, and I built strong strong walls so that I could be the strong one to protect others.  Like a dragon or a fire bird, my skin had to be THICK.  So I can truthfully say that by the time I met my husband at the tender age of 18,  I had never loved.  I had never really let that kind of love in.  So many things I did on autopilot then.  I just followed what felt like the natural order of things and I was grateful for the reprieve of being taken care of for a change even though it came at the cost of my freedom and at many times; my dignity.

But I longed for a child.  Yearned.  Ached for a child.  We had been married 4 years and he had basically told me after that he didn’t want children, he just wanted me.  He had told me he would have kids because that’s what it took to get me to say yes.  I was devastated and isolated and I didn’t know what to do, because I had access to nothing.

So I prayed.  Every morning on the way to work, I prayed the same prayer with my whole heart.  I was more mainstream back then; more what I thought people thought I should be.  I still pray to the same higher power, just differently now.  But anyway, I prayed and prayed and prayed for God to change my husband’s heart.  And for one brief shining moment, he did and I got pregnant IMMEDIATELY.

And my husband hated me for getting pregnant so quickly, but who cares about him?  I never loved him.  I’m sorry, I tried, but I never did.  I had never loved.  Not like this.

The pregnancy was a dream, and I glowed like I was lit from within.  He made fun of my weight gain and cravings and called me a “pregnant yak”, but again who cares about him.  I wasn’t falling in love with him.  The birth was difficult.  I don’t remember much of it.  The weeks following were worse because my husband had no interest in being helpful to a now wife who had major surgery and an infant he hadn’t really wanted.

(I tell my TRUTH HERE-  it is MY TRUTH.  So if you are lurking know that always.)

It took me 3 weeks to bond with him because I wanted to be PERFECT for him, and it felt like I failed left and right in the beginning.  I didn’t deserve him.  What had I done?  He was so perfect, and I had brought him into this mess.  The guilt, oh my god the guilt and depression that set in.  His birth was the undoing of our marriage, because I loved our son.  Not in a romantic way of course, but as he grew and developed and began to talk and point and speak I fell madly in love with every layer of him.  He fascinated me.  He frustrated me.  Sometimes he made me want to pull my hair out, but oh my god how beautiful he was.  How smart.  How absolutely perfect and handsome in every way.

When we divorced, I only wanted to come home with my son.  I wanted to be fair.  I didn’t want anything from him but child support, but he was angry.  How dare I think I was going to leave him.  HE was going to leave ME, and it made him more angry that I didn’t really care which way it happened, just let me go and we’ll make a fair arrangement for time with our son.  But that wasn’t good enough.  That wasn’t harsh enough.  That wasn’t punishment enough.  He was going to humiliate me and take the only person I have ever loved.  He succeeded.

And I’ve worn his absence like a Scarlet Fucking Letter for 10 long goddamn years.  What kind of mother doesn’t get custody of her child? A crackhead?  A child abuser?  What are you not telling me?

I’ll tell you the kind of mother who has her 5 year old son ripped from her arms.

She’s the kind that was naive.

She’s the kind that had no access to the money or even knew what the bills were.

She’s the kind that may have fought like a demon with him, but did as she was told.

She was isolated.

She was stuck in a state of arrested development clinging desperately to her child.

And they took him, and I could tell you  the rest of this long ass sad story of mine, but I won’t because I can skip it- for now. It’s not a part of THIS story.

For 10 years my sorrow over the loss of my only love- the love I let in- the love that feels like my own heartbeat- has hung over me like a pallor. I have clung to every moment I could have with him. I have tried to impart to him the most important of my life lessons that I can impart in the shortest of times.  Skip the small stuff; focus on the real life lessons.  You only have a minute and they are grown.  Now divide that down to a second.  That’s me.

This year, my 40th, has been a year of extreme breakthroughs and transformations.  I haven’t seen my son in 3 months.  He won’t come see me.  He’s mad about his PS4 game system that I’ve grounded him from indefinitely.  His father isn’t helping, but who cares about him?  He’s never been helpful.  No, I’ve clung for so very long to my baby boy; my dearest love.  I have feared to love again, for fear it be ripped away from me again.  I’ve essentially closed myself off from love.  My son is the love I have to let go.  Not that I have to stop loving him.  Of course I will never stop loving him.  I love him eternally and unconditionally.  I have to let go of the hurt of loving him.  I have to let go of the time that we missed that I can’t change and will never get back.  I have to stop clinging.  I have to let go.  It’s tethered me here for so long and for what? I have to trust I have used my time with him wisely.

If you don’t want to see me, don’t.

If you don’t want to forgive me, don’t.

If you don’t want to be my friend, don’t.  It applies to so many areas of my life, really.  If you don’t want to be in my life, don’t.  I’m going to start living it out loud.  Be in it, be out out of it, but make up your mind because things are about to start to get really interesting now that there are no limitations.

So don’t miss out.

 

Walls

For much of my life I have built walls. I’m a master builder and my walls are thick and strong. I compartmentalized these walls to hold everything inside it locked up tight. It’s a defense mechanism learned from an early childhood of uncertainty.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m dramatic, and I like to make people laugh, and I have a sharp tongue. They mistake my walls for confidence, and sometimes I do, too.

Walls are built for two reasons: To keep things out, and to keep things in. For so long I have beaten on the walls of my heart begging to be let out. Knowing I was not being heard through these walls. These walls were strong. They were built out of fear, and anger, and resentment. They had been fortified with abandonment and disappointment and distrust.

I was angry at these walls that kept me from feeling; from getting close to people. I was angry at my inability to break them when I had built them myself. I was angry at my anger.

But just as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,” I realized screaming and beating on these walls in a frenzy only made them stronger. It only made them higher. It only made them harder to break in or out.

But then something happened to me, and I struggle to find the words to even explain what it was other than it was like waking up from a long sleep. I began to fill in the gaps of things I had pushed away and face them. I found the way to break the walls, but what I didn’t know was how sheltered I had kept myself beneath in my own darkness. I cried. I cried a lot.

And then I forgave. I forgave a lot, starting with my father.

I expected more than he had to give me growing up, things he wanted to give me but he just didn’t have it at that time to give to me. In my own breaking, I saw his humanity. His fragility. His hurt. How his hurt made him hurt others. How he tried to numb it and fill it and make it stop hurting. Laying down our anger and picking up mercy and love is the path to grace, and I don’t mean that religiously, although you can take take it that way if you wish. I mean it spiritually, because that has everything to do with what we are.

I surrender to this being my path. It’s not how I planned it, but it’s the path I was given and I will travel it and live it to the best of my ability, and hopefully without these walls my voice, my divine gift- misused for so long- can finally be heard. Everyone has their demons and everyone has their delights. When you look with mercy you find more delight.

“We looked for the good in them, and we found it.”- Pollyanna

It’s the GRINCH

I’ve decided to make my home a “Christmas Free” zone this year. I can’t honestly tell you the last time I or if I’ve ever just “skipped” Christmas, but it just feels too much to bear this year. 10 Years ago was the last Christmas I was married. That year a battered women’s shelter had reached out to me to see if they could add me to their angel tree list. My son on an angel tree. I hated myself for that. Just the year before I had been able to spoil him and here we were accepting charity from a charity I had many times supported families.

But, I still pulled out the Christmas tree that year in our first little apartment. It engulfed the room in it’s size having been purchased for a much larger space. We made the Christmas cookies. We read the stories. We watched the movies. And even thought I cried what felt like a ocean of tears that year and beyond, he was still mine for a little bit longer.

By the following Christmas his father would have absconded with him, and we would go at least 2 Christmases without one another. I try so hard to find forgiveness in my heart for the magic of when our son still believed being taken from me. I had always made Christmas warm and beautiful and inviting. I did it for me, and when my son came along, I threw myself into it. We would dance around in the front yard on Christmas even tossing glittered “reindeer food” in the air as we sang as loudly as we could. That was the last one, right before everything crumbled.

It’s been a long 10 years. Mostly Christmas is spent rushing around the day of to get him back to his father as quickly as possible. I’ll never be done with the sentence he served of desiring my freedom my mistake made by a 20 year old child.

And here I am, 10 years later in much the same position I was that Christmas. This year has been a year of transformation and its positively broken me down to the barest and most raw form I’ve ever been. I don’t “need a little Christmas right this very minute,” I need my son, to get this derailed train on track and a very very very long nap.

I feel completely defeated and I don’t honestly care who knows it or what they think of it. So please no candy canes and Merry Christmas.

When Darkness Comes

My scale battery went dead a few months ago.  I made a mild attempt to find a replacement battery, but gave up finding anyone who actually worked at my local Walmart.  Apparently there you wear a vest and get a paycheck.  Easy enough.  So I never replaced the battery.

Just add the battery for the scale to the long list of very easy and menial tasks that I can barely manage around the house these days.  Some days just moving around and looking human takes more effort than I feel I can muster and yet still I manage.  But, each day I feel myself a little smaller; a little less of me there.  Depression has it’s way of eating you from the inside out.  Clothes I could barely fit into a month ago slide on with ease and are almost loose.  However, this isn’t for vanity.  It’s a desire to shrink; to shrivel.  A desire to be less noticeable; less of me.

Depression is a liar, but it’s a harsh smooth talker.  Depression tells you that if anyone really knew you, they would hate you.  It tells you that no one in their right mind would want someone so fragile and broken. So many pieces to put together, and who knows how long the glue will hold.  Depression tells you you’re fat and ugly and worthless, and it doesn’t matter how loudly people say otherwise-Depression speaks with a loudspeaker.

There are times when Depression can be a monster that threatens your life, sometimes over and over again.

Depression is not weakness of Faith.  It isn’t being a “Negative Nelly”.  It’s a faceless life force drain that makes you feel like you’re in a pit you can’t get out.

Depression is not for the weak.  Depression has no prejudices against social status.

Depression is an equal opportunity destroyer.

Depression can laugh like Robin Williams.

Sing like Chris Cornell.

Depression can be sudden and swift like a tsunami.

Or it can be quicksand.

What depression is not is a personal failing.  Check on your people, especially during the holidays.

 

When the Sun Goes Out

My son hasn’t spoken to me in at least 2 months. I grounded him from the PS4 because it was interfering with the brief time we did have together and he tried to speak to me as though he were man of the house I pay for and provide all things.

I let him know what time it was.

He’s punishing me by refusing to see or speak to me. I know he’s being a teenager, but I don’t think he’ll ever realize how leaving me now has made the world a little darker when it was already hard to see. Leaving me now was the worst possible time to go.

My son was always my short reprieve from solitude. Laughter. Eating junk food. Staying up late all weekend. Hearing how he sees the world and thinks. Ever since he was a baby I’ve eagerly awaited each layer of him that unfolds. Looking at him now I’m amazed at how angular and handsome he is becoming. God I miss him.

But, I don’t want to force him to see me because that rejection is more than I want to subject myself to right now.

I have nothing to offer in sage advice on this matter. It hurts too much now to look at it objectively.

I just hope one day he wants to come back.

Life is messy.

—Aphrodite in Real Life