Release

I had a long time friend of mine whom I met through my ex-husband recently revealed to me that my ex-husband cheated on me the entire time of our relationship and marriage.  As he described to me how my ex-husband was able to hide his indiscretions I felt everything that I thought I knew about myself and my life fall blow away like ashes.

I thought I had been loved once, even if it was ever so briefly.  Even if it was just for that moment he lifted my veil to see my face on the mountainside we chose to marry: I loved him in that moment as much as I knew what love was at 20.  I had my misgivings, but I remember feeling joyful and happy and loving him in that moment.

But no.  He didn’t.   Apparently, the one who took the photos claimed to be the one who loved me that day.

I don’t think he loves me either.  I think he loves the idea of me.  He loves the memory of a naive girl who was well-spoken and had read a lot of books.

I confronted my ex, who of course denied it.  I cried fresh, deep, heaving, salty tears over a love that never happened.  In the course of life, things that happen to you become a part of who you are as a person.  For so long now, I thought I had been truly loved once, even if he couldn’t love me the way I needed to be loved.  I thought I had been loved romantically at one time.  Now, at 40 I’m finding out, no, I’ve never been loved by anyone.

It’s so easy to be bitter about that.  It’s so easy to sink into the despair of the hollowness the lack of love an companionship can sometimes bring with it.  Those are very heavy things for me to carry, so I’m going to put those down and forgive him for not being able to give me what I needed: Love and Faithfulness.  As hard as it hurts to now know, I must find gratitude that I am birthed anew.  I have the opportunity to be truly loved for the first time ever and, friends, that’s something to look forward to and be grateful.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons I learn from people I meet in life.  I learn from each experience good and bad, but I realized the other day how self-centered that was for me to only think about what I have to learn from others.  We are here to help each other, but we have to have something worthy to give.  Your pain could be another person’s saving grace.   We each are being molded, and I have often found the ones who have been under the most pressure and fire have the most beauty to give to others.

It’s ok to feel sad, or angry- do not live there.  Feel it, come to terms with what you cannot change and release it.

Release it, my friends.  Release it.

The Bending

One of my favorite authors is Khalil Gibran who wrote: “The Prophet” among other books of prose.  You would probably recognize some of his works as many excerpts of this book are read at weddings.  However, my favorite poem by him is “The Prophet Speaks of Children”:

“Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

It is the last two lines that often echo in my head.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

I got Mimi around 2 weeks after my ex-husband refused to drop our son off to me for the court-ordered schedule.  As sad as this may seem to sound, it had just been me and the cat, Duchess, ambling through our lives living for the moments when my baby would return.  Now my baby wasn’t returning.  I never dealt with that and how extremely painful that sorrow was (is).  I rescued a breeder dog Shih-Tzu.  I rescued another forgotten mother thrown away when she was no longer considered useful.  I poured all that sorrow into love for her.

That season of my life was around 10 years ago.  She was with me, as was Duchess.  As relations improved with my ex-husband and I saw my son again, I still had them both.  I had a family of sorts to take care of again.  Through the years I had to learn to live in two worlds.  One world, I was a single woman on my own, career, education, and a group of single friends to hang around.  I’ve dated…A LOT.   I’ve dated enough to know I don’t want to date anyone, at least right now.  The other world I was a mother trying to raise a good kind human being. I compartmentalized a lot.

When change comes about, it shakes things up.  It knocks you off your stance a little.  Sometimes people clear out.  Those aren’t your people.  It’s been a tough season for me lately, and people I thought would be forever-friends have cleared out.  I am at peace with that.

I am also at peace with the fact that my beloved little Mimi is gone, too.  I think she brought me to where I am supposed to be because I can do this by myself now.

I looked around my apartment yesterday in the silence of the waning afternoon sun and thought of the day I brought her home.  I had a little run-down musty apartment that we almost froze to death in that first winter.  I had a hodge-podge of furniture people had given me.  It looked like the home of someone who had never taken care of herself even though I was around 30.  When my son was gone, many nights I sat curled up weeping.

My apartment now is warm and comfortable and inviting and is filled with reflections of me and my personality and I love to come home now.  My son and I have fun-filled weekends of quality time where we talk and laugh.  She helped bring me so far.

He’s almost grown now.  She is gone now.  Our lives are changing now; again.  It’s time to come to peace with the fact I can’t change how things went.  It makes me sad, yes, but maybe he got more quality for the smaller quantity of time with me.

It’s ok to feel it.  It’s ok to feel.  It’s ok to bend.

 

 

Now What?

Lately, I’ve been consumed with the question, “Now what?”

“Now what?”

“Now what??”

I have been told over and over not to worry and to have patience.  That everything is unfolding as it should be.  But to be honest, it feels like a total shit show.

But, isn’t change always a shit show?  We get used to how things are.  Maybe we cling a little too hard because we don’t know what happens next if we let go of what we have now.

I have lost many things in my life.  Many important and beautiful things.  Things that made me a better person.  Things that taught me lessons that I can now impart to others.  I think that’s the beauty of it.  Everyone we meet teaches us something or walks with us a ways on our journey, and some stay and some leave because their time in your story is over.

I’ve had a dear friend now for about 4 years.  I love her very much I do, but alcoholism and an unwillingness to make changes for the better have unfortunately ended a once beautiful and fulfilling friendship.  We all make our own choices and unfortunately, the choices she has made for herself do not align with my values or the goals I wish to reach in my life.

She always told me you become the 5 people you are most close to or spend the most qualitative time with them.   I’ve lived with so much chaos, and drama, and regrets that I see no reason to continue on that path.  It’s a choice I have made.  It’s one I wish she could come along for the ride with me.   She has her faults but she was always a lot of fun.

We spoke for the first time in about 2 months since the fiasco of my 40th birthday.  She still doesn’t get it, and I forgive her for that.  She’s angrier I called her an alcoholic and said she needed AA.  She does, and she does because I love her and want the best life for her. She was angrier that I stood up for myself and spoke my truth.  She can do better and deserves better.  However, you cannot expect from people what they do not have to give even to themselves.  A true friend would have been there like I always was for her.  A true friend would listen and talk it out.  A true friend would not abandon.  Still, I will always treasure her and the fun times we shared, but that chapter is over, and a new chapter begins.

New friendships.

New travels.

New loves.

New experiences.

I want to be clear and present for all of it.

Now what?  I’m thinking anything I want.

Thank you for being my Best Girl

She came into my room this morning. The cat was curled next to me in her usual spot. Mimi had long sing been unable to jump up on the bed or couch unless she specifically asked which was rare. I had tried to make her as comfortable as possible before I went to bed because I knew our time was short. She came in to wake me up to tell me she couldn’t take the pain anymore. She was wheezing and crying, and as I lifted up I saw her stagger to the other side of my bed and place her head against the wall.

Neurotoxicity. Most likely from the medication needed to treat her skin that had just been eaten up with mites. Her immune system just couldn’t fight it anymore.

Mimi was a rescue dog from a puppy mill. She had been a breeder dog kept in horrendous conditions up until she was 5 and the mill was raided. Timid yet still so incredibly sweet. We met as two broken childless mothers. Mine absconded by my ex-husband just a week or two before, and hers were taken as soon as they could wean. I needed so much to take care of a “baby” after all that’s what I had been doing for 6 years. She needed someone to love her and see that despite the fact she had a rough beginning there was something golden beneath all that shorn hair, sad eyes, and bony exterior.

She was sitting in a kennel in the back with a few other rescues. She just sat there staring off into space. I knew from that moment she was mine. That she needed me as much as I needed her. She was passed over several times before she got to me and each time I was certain they would take this jewel I saw in this scrawny little Shih-Tzu.

When they brought her to me they warned me she was special needs. They warned me she would need extra care. I was newly divorced. I was surviving on peanut butter and bread at the time and while some may have said it was not a wise decision to take on a special needs dog when you know- you just know. I knew.

That was in 2009. She never was the type of dog that enjoyed a walk. She much preferred a good snuggle and a nice pillow. She loved breakfast and dinner and any snacks in between- doubling her weight the first month earning the nickname “Chubba” and “Fatness Everdeen”. Mimi, aka Marilyn Monroe (because despite her exterior she was a beautiful and glamorous little soul) was deep, deeply loved.

I knew when I adopted her that they thought she was about 5; old for a new adoption. I knew that she had chronic health issues. I knew at some point they would only get worse. But I also knew that I was going to try to give her the absolute best life I could and she would never want for love and affection ever again.

She saw me through the most trying time of my life. The nightmare that I thought was over (the divorce) started all over again with the refusal of visitation. She was there for me with a cuddle, or a funny trot, or a toy to distract me. Her once lush fur has soaked up many of my tears. Even though I am not religious (at least not conventionally) all I can think of when I think of her right this moment is Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

And I have, Mimi.

I promised her a forever home, and I am grateful to those who helped me make that promise a reality.

That sweet soul came into my life and rescued me, and I rescued her right back.

I graduated with my masters on Friday, and she lasted until today, the 13th; a very significant number in my life. It’s also the number of change and transformation.

She was here as long as she needed to be, but god I wish she could have stayed forever.

I held her to the very end. They came in and asked if I wanted to wait a few minutes, but she was crying and in pain. It wasn’t fair to ask her to hold on for me any longer. I had already told her how grateful I was for our journey and how she was my best girl.

She always will be.

Commencement

This is the week.  I’ve finally made it to the week of my Master’s Commencement ceremony.

I’ve hung up my gown.  I’ve decorated my cap (which I did not do for my undergrad) with the words “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

As I look at it drying as slow as a glitter glue project has EVER dried, I keep thinking to myself, “You’re finished.  You did it and you’re finished.  You persisted and now you’re done.”

But that’s not commencement at all, is it?

To commence is to begin.  In fact, the dictionary defines the word commencement as “a beginning or start.”  For something to start, something has to end.  Endings can be sad, but that is the nature of the Universe and balance.  So at my commencement, I may be ending my academic endeavors and this current chapter of my life, but I am commencing toward so much more.

Every day is a new day to commence.  It is a new day to begin.  It is a new day to let go of old hurts.  It’s a new day to forgive.  It’s a new day to try again.

We all have old hurts and wounds that weigh us down.  They make us bitter if we let them.  Commence letting those things go.

We self-censor ourselves out of fear of what others may think of us.  Commence to embracing who you are fully and surrounding yourselves with those who speak life into you.  I think sometimes more strife comes from people being afraid to be different, or have others be different because there is a safety in sameness.  Commence trying the road less traveled.

For me, I have a lot of hurt and abandonment issues that I’ve carried for far too long.

I have chosen my masters commencement to commence healing an old wound.  I hope he comes to watch me succeed in the face of all that I have endured.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

It is now time for Commencement.

Commencement to a new chapter.  Commencement to new healing.  Commencement to finding forgiveness. Commencement to seeing others as fallible and on their own journey.  Commencement to let go of perfection, for perfection lies in the imperfect moments of our lives that lead us to the beauty of where we are right now in this moment.

You are breathing; in and out.  Hopefully, you are fed.  Things may not be the way you want them to be, but it is a new day, my friend, and I want you to have it all.

Commence.

Dear Agony

 

Some people don’t get my attachment to music.  I was raised to be a vocalist.  My grandmother loved musicals, and I love her so much I think I just willed myself to become what she loved.  Growing up I was always the star.  I honestly thought I WAS Shirley Temple when I was 3.  Music has always been an escape for me.  The only instrument I ever learned to play was the piano and I only ever learned to play by ear.  I got away with that for years until one of my teachers picked up on the fact if she didn’t play it for me first, I couldn’t learn it.  All those years pretending I could read music ha.  I quickly switched to voice.

I’ve always sung.  Even before I could talk, I would sing to myself.  In chaos, music can be very soothing.  Singing was always very private to me when I was young.  I didn’t want anyone to hear me, even if they thought I was good.  Since I used music as an escape, it felt like an intrusion to have an audience.  I eventually grew out of that, but still prefer recording in a studio to performing on stage.

Still, I become deeply connected to music.  The first musical I ever memorized was one of my grandmother’s favorites: My Fair Lady.  The next was Funny Girl.  We would listen to the cassette tracks as we drove to and from my music lessons that she paid a pretty penny for I’m sure.  Musicals are my connection to her.

I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a very chaotic household.  When I was a teenager, I discovered Grunge rock.  It fit my angst perfectly and I had never quite heard guitar riffs like Nirvana, or the gravelly voice of someone like Eddie Vedder.  However, by my second listen of the Counting Crows “August and Everything After” I was in love.  I played that album over and over and felt every word of it.  All the symbolism in Adam Duritz lyrics moved me.  When I hear it, I’m 15 again.   When I hear their follow-up album, I’m 18 again.

The song I posted is a cover by Kevin Staudt of a Breaking Benjamin song written by Ben Burnley, the founder of the band in September 2009.  As many may know or have read that was the year I got divorced.  That was the year I lost everything.  That was the beginning.  I’ve listened to the original version many many times and cried deep salty tears over it.  I’m not sure what Ben felt when he wrote it, but I know how the lyrics always connected to me.

“Dear Agony, just let go of me/ suffer slowly/ is this the way it’s gotta be?/ don’t bury me/faceless enemy/ I’m so sorry/ Is this the way it’s gotta be?/ Dear Agony.”

September 2009 had been the month that my ex-husband refused to allow me to see our son anymore.  It’s weird how music becomes attached to a memory.

This cover is by Kevin Staudt and it’s absolutely breathtaking and hauntingly beautiful the way he covered it.

“Somewhere far beyond this world/I feel nothing anymore.”

People have often asked me or marveled at how I’ve been able to handle what happened with my son. He was snatched away and I’ve listened to him grow up over the phone.  It’s a pain I’ve learned to compartmentalize.  I’ve learned to compartmentalize a lot of trauma.  For the most part, I’m high functioning–but every space has its limit on how much you can fill it before it spills over.

You think about all the pain you’ve experienced in life.  All the wrongs.  All the wounds.  All the maliciousness.  All the hurt.  You can stuff it away in a closet, but you open the closet and it’s still there.  Hiding it away isn’t dealing with it.

“Don’t bury me/faceless enemy…I will end where I began

I recently watched a video of a woman who was a Mengele Twin.  Mengele was a Nazi who performed human experiments on Jews, and specifically twins (if anyone reading doesn’t know).  Her story of what happened to her was heartbreaking.  I think I wept through it at least 3 times. I cried not just for what happened to her but by what she did. She FORGAVE Mengele.  She forgave the one who hurt her the most in the world and took everything from her.  In that forgiveness, she found emotional freedom and peace in doing so.

I’ve decided I’m going to work on that.  It’s a long list of people to forgive, but I think the hardest one for me will be forgiving myself.

I graduate with my Masters degree in 3 weeks.  My initial plan had been to celebrate by going to the Breaking Benjamin concert in Atlanta that weekend since their music has been so influential to me this past decade.  I wanted to meet them again.  But…my “best friend” was supposed to go as well, and…well if you’ve read the previous posts you’ll understand why we aren’t going anymore.

Still, I am going to walk for my commencement.  Even if no one is there to see me do it, I’m going to keep going just as I always have.  I’m putting on my cap “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

And as with everything I persist in doing and put my mind to, I’m going to work on forgiving and letting go and moving forward.

“And I will find the enemy within
Cause I can feel it crawl beneath my skin”

Dear Agony, just let go of me- this is not the way it gotta be.

 

The Phoenix Ever Rises

I have a Phoenix tattooed on my left shoulder blade.  I thought about that tattoo for years before getting it. It wasn’t that I was scared to get it, it was that I wasn’t sure I had earned the right to bear it on my skin; to wear it as my badge of honor.  It would be a testament to what I was made of, and I needed to know I had earned it.

I had survived the divorce.  I wore the fact that my son was taken from me because I was poor and blind-sided and naive–I wore that as my Scarlet Letter for years.  People look at you funny when you’re a woman and you don’t have custody of your child.  You feel the need to over-explain.   You feel the need to defend.  You feel the need to open up your wound to anyone that looks at you even slightly cock-eyed.  No, I wasn’t an alcoholic.  No, I wasn’t addicted to drugs.  No, I wasn’t abusive.  Then finally it got to where when people I didn’t really know wanted to pry I just said, “No.”

“No’ is a complete sentence.

(I learned that from Dr. Phil.  Don’t you judge me, Earl!)

(Also, if you don’t know that reference, can we even be friends…stranger on the internet reading my inner monologue?  Can we??  Look it up.  It’s funny.)

It’s easier now that my son is older to say he just “lives with his dad.”  He’s at an age now people don’t question as much, and I feel less and less-inclined to answer when they do pry.

Right after the divorce (maybe 6 months) my ex-husband filed to have my visitation revoked.  People always talk about what is right and fair and just, but truthfully whoever has the most money gets the most “justice”.  I went 10 long months without seeing our son, and then was placed in a supervised visitation program where I saw my son for an hour 2 times a month with a monitor only when school was in session.  So I still sometimes wouldn’t see him for month here and there.  Even the center asked why I was there with no follow-up hearing when there was no record of abuse.  The truth was I was waiting out the original judge to retire.  That took a year. He never would accept a motion for a follow-up hearing.  I was personally more terrified they would kick me out of the program for being there so long and I would lose what little contact I had.  But they told me no, they loved watching me interact with my son and they only desired I look into a follow-up hearing.

Which I did–finally–after the original judge retired.  I handled my case on my own or Pro Se as they call it.  A month prior the hearing my ex contacted me to meet up.  I won’t go into the details, but I will say this- the devil is always in the details and that is how I got my visitation back.

Yes.  Just my visitation.  That’s another long boring legal story.

But I cherish that visitation with him.  We’ve made some amazing memories; memories that maybe we wouldn’t have had otherwise.  We have similar senses of humor and personalities.  I feel as though he and I found our way to each other regardless of obstacles.

It wasn’t until I won in court, that I got my Phoenix tattoo.  It was done by a wonderfully talented local artist.  He free-hand drew it on me.  I’m sure I drove him crazy, but this tattoo meant something.  It’s a Phoenix with the Japanese peacock feathers aflame, and the wings outstretched ever rising, with the head being a mix of European Phoenix, fierce and bold- Dave Rankin did a beautiful job.

I didn’t want it to appear that attaining the new bird was fulfillment.  We should never be completely fulfilled.  That leads to complacency and pride.  We should always seek more.  We should reach ever higher, knowing that transformation happens over and over during lifetimes and for lifetimes.  Out of the embers we rise over and over.

10 year ago my world crumbled to ashes.  It has been a very long painful journey of growth.  I’ve beaten a bonafide lawyer, I’ve tried to impart the most important life lessons I can in the short time that I have with my son, I’m almost finished with a Masters degree.  And yet, things still crumble and fall to ash when change is coming; like knocking down the old building to create something new.

Something new is coming.  I can feel it.  The old is falling away and there is a part of me that deeply mourns it.  I am thankful for the good times and the memories, but I need to move on from this place where memories hang on everything.  I can rebuild again.  I know what I’m made of now.  Some days you just want to ball up and hide away from the world, but change doesn’t exist by staying in a state of arrested development.

It’s time to rise again.