Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The meaning of Christmas

Seven years ago, Christmas marked the beginning of the end of my marriage.  Ever since then I have struggled with the holiday season.  It is a season of joy, family, giving and peace, but for me, it is also punctuated with feelings of loneliness, pain and thoughts of what "could have been."  I love the holidays but I also find myself looking forward to January 2, when the pressures of the season dissipate. 

I know I am not alone.  There are many who have suffered loss in their lives and the holidays are often difficult for them.

This year I will try to give myself the gift of acceptance.  The acceptance that the peace and anticipation of Christmas Eve will also likely bring me to a place of darkness; a place in which unpleasant memories come flooding back.  The acceptance that the holidays do not have to be joyful all the time.  I will try to give myself permission to feel those not so Christmas-y feelings and move through them.  Because allowing yourself to feel is truly the only way to get to the other side.

I hope that if you find the holidays difficult as well, that you will give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ms. Clean

As children, when my sister and I would ask my mom what she wanted for her birthday or Christmas she would always say, “A clean house.”  We would roll our eyes and sigh and try to figure out on our own what kind of gift we were going to buy.

Now that I am an adult and a home-owner and a mom…I get it!

There is something to be said for the calm and serenity that a clean house ushers into an otherwise chaotic and busy life.  The clutter is put away.  The house smells of lavender and Lysol.  The sink shines.  And with all of that, my soul feels content.

It does not always last long as the clutter reappears…sometimes slowly, other times in one big ka-boom.  The bathrooms will again show signs that boys with not-so-good aim often spend time there.  Crumbs will soon be seen on the kitchen floor because, for some reason, cats have not learned from their dog friends, that eating crumbs off the floor makes your family really happy.

But for now, I am just going to take a deep breath and enjoy my surroundings.  And when my son asks me what I want for an upcoming holiday, maybe he won’t roll his eyes when I say, “A clean house!”

Friday, July 22, 2011

The written word...

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Writing is something I have always wanted to do better.  In fact, sometimes the fact that I want my writing to be better actually prevents me from writing.  Ironic, since the best way to improve your writing is by simply writing more.  Every now and then I resolve to write more…on my blog or in a journal or on the computer.  Then I get busy or unsatisfied with what I have written (or both) and I lose whatever minuscule momentum I had.

So this time I kicked it up a notch.  I moved from thinking about improving my writing to actually reading web-based articles about how to improve my writing.  Lo and behold they all said to WRITE MORE! 

But a little gem of information was sparkling in a corner of one of the articles I read:  Download a program/app that lets you write in full screen with no cluttered menu bars or formatting rulers.  Now THAT sounds like a good idea.  I always love the idea of writing in a nice journal…with an appealing cover and crisp, white pages.  But writing is harder for me now due to my pesky carpal tunnel syndrome and typing is much easier.  After all, nothing deters you from writing more than your fingers and hand going numb!

So now I have a “journal,” courtesy of WriteRoom, on  my trusty Mac.  It does not satisfy my love of all things paper and does not have that wonderful tactile feedback of feeling the ink flow out of a pen and lie beautifully on the page.  But it does have the ability to use fun fonts that fit my mood as well as whatever color may speak to my soul at the time.  It’s not perfect but maybe it might provide that  bit of momentum that I need.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reflections

Keeping a blog that focuses on one's past is hard.  My past experience with my ex-husband is a part of my story, a part of who I am and will be a part of my future.  Sometimes I wonder if writing about these issues keeps me in the past too much.  However, I actually think it helps me continue to grow and work through issues as they continue to affect my life.  But it would be unfair to say that sometimes I think it would be easier to not to explore these issues.  Sometimes it seems easier to push those thoughts away and keep them under the surface.  But I know that in the long term that would be so much worse.

I recently thought back to why I started writing: to help others who may be experiencing a similar story and to help myself as I continue on my journey.  In the last few months I have heard from several women with similar circumstances to my own.  My heart hurts for them.  Our stories are similar but different.  Our paths may be parallel at times, but may go forward in different ways.  Everyone's story is unique, but one thing rings true - none of us deserved what happened to us.  But how we react to what happens to us in our lives is what we do have control over and that is how we will survive and grow and thrive.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Life is good

It's a phrase we hear a lot....from status updates on Facebook to logos on T-shirts, but what does it really mean?

I suppose that it means different things to different people.  Six years ago I would not have decribed my life as "good."  If asked to define my life at that moment, I am not sure I could have done it at all.  I was still married to my husband and trying to figure out if my marriage was going to survive his infidelity, sex addiction and attraction to men.  I was parenting our two-and-a-half-year old son primarily on my own, since my husband was not truly "present" as a partner.  I was adjusting to a new job and trying to balance new responsibilities.  I was dealing with depression and anxiety.  Our family was also coping with complexity of emotions surrounding the birth of twins to my sister:  one stillborn and one who, after an extended NICU stay, was thankfully home.  There was a lot going on.  There were certainly good moments, but I do not think I would have said that life was good.

But it is six years later and so much has changed - for the better.  In fact, I had a weird but oddly realistic dream a few nights ago in which my husband came back from the dead and experienced some kind of transformation in front of me (complete with light and the voice of a God-like persona) in which he became his "old" self...the one I thought I knew before I found out about all the secrets.  In the dream he wanted me back and wanted to reclaim his old life.  I used to hope for a moment like this during my divorce, knowing that it was impossible.  But when this moment appeared in my dream, my dream-self coped with it by saying no, I like my life the way it is.  Upon waking, I realized just how far I have come.

I know many of you reading this blog are dealing with various issues in your lives.  You may have just discovered secrets that have broken your marriage apart or you may be in the throes of a divorce.  I hope that you can see from my story that it IS a journey.  It is an unexpected journey that includes a lot of tears and hard work.  Unfortunately it is not all happy endings and in no way do I mean that I do not still have struggles (and I have blog posts to prove it!), but lives can be re-created and sometimes where you find yourself, although unexpected, is pretty darn good.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another step in my journey

It has been two and a half years since my ex-husband killed himself.  I am not callous or un-caring, but if I am honest, it was probably the best thing that could have happened in regard to my healing and my ability to move forward with my life.  My ex was not involved in our lives at all, but I knew he was out there and I thought about him from time to time - what he was doing, if he thought about us, if he was sorry for what he had done, etc.  I was fairly sure that he would never cross paths with us again, but I knew it could happen.  As time went on it got easier not to think about him, but he was still out there...and I felt it. While his death was traumatic and monumentally sad, it also brought a sense of freedom.  He was gone and could never hurt me or my son again.

His parents, my ex-laws, are another story.  We had not had any contact since I filed for divorce.  This was their choice, not mine, but it was a blessing in disguise.  They were a tie to my ex and it was easier to move forward without them in my life.  However, after the suicide, I held out some notion of being able to reconnect and have them be a part of my son's life.  I am not sure why I thought that things could be different...perhaps it is just the passage of time that makes you minimize the bad and idealize the good.

They reached out to my son about three months after the suicide.  We slowly initiated contact which progressed to include a couple of supervised visits.  Unfortunately I realized that just because you hope that things will be different does not mean they will be.  I had a gut instinct when I was with them that something was not right.  I suspected that their motives in rekindling this relationship were not in my son's best interests.  My life had been torn apart by secrets, dishonesty and hiding from the past and I was not going to expose my son to more of that behavior.  I told them that unless we could deal with the past and our underlying issues, through counseling, I would not support a relationship between them and my son.  I knew that anything less than an honest and healthy relationship was not good for him.  There has been no response.

But I still allow them to affect me.  Every now and then something happens that makes me anxious, reactive and angry again.  This weekend it was finding out that they had not told a close family member of their son's death.  I was angry that there were still more secrets.  I was angry that there is still so much I do not know.  I was angry that I still allow them to affect me this way.

After about 24 hours of nail-biting, anxiety and imaginary letters written in my head, I realize that I must find a way to let go.  My ex-laws are not healthy people.  They are dysfunctional and secretive and have problems that I can only begin to understand.  They will not change.  I will not be able to make sense of it or figure it out.  Rather, I need to let go and move forward.  As my therapist once said, I need to look at it in this way:  I crossed paths with insanity and I was able to get out the other side.

I will never understand them.  They will never be the grandparents that I had hoped they would be.  But the reality is that I do not need them.  My son and I have an incredible network of family and friends and we are not missing anything by not having them in our lives.

Accept what is.
Let go.
Move forward.
It is a journey...my everyday journey.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ex-Laws

I have left out one very important part of my story in this blog:  my former in-laws, who I often refer to as my "ex-laws."  I am not exactly sure why I have "left them out" but I am becoming aware that I need to process some things that relate to them and their place in my life in the past and present.  I do not have the time or presence of mind to blog about this right now...but this is my way of making sure that I do.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Visiting the past

I divorced my husband when  my son was only 2 1/2.  Although the inclination was to destroy everything that reminded me of my marriage, I realized that it was important to keep some things for my son.  Even though his dad had some major problems, he was still his father, and I knew he would want more information as he got older.

Last week, my son stated asking about seeing my wedding pictures.  Specifically he said he wanted to see me look weird in a big white dress and he wanted to see pictured of his dad.  I had not looked at these pictures in a few years and I expected it to be very difficult.  Interestingly enough, it wasn't bad.  We sat down, looked at the photos and shared some of my memories.  Those times feel like a lifetime ago...a different lifetime.

Although the collapse of my marriage was devastating, it is good to be able to look back and see how far I have come.  When it appears that your life is over, there is hope that it can be re-created.  It takes time and hard work, but it can happen.  It won't be the same life, but it can be good...maybe even better.

Monday, January 17, 2011

tears

I have healed a great deal since my marriage fell apart in December 2004.  But no matter how far I have come or how much healing I have done, there are times where the sadness and trauma of what I have been to rise to the surface and spill out in tears.  These "breakdowns" happen at the oddest times, usually without warning and most often at night when things are quiet and still.  When I first feel it coming on I try to suppress it - biting my tongue, focusing on some task or distracting myself by TV - but it waits, patiently and persistently.  I used to try to analyze it:  why am I crying, why am a not "over" this, etc.  But now I realize that the only thing to do is to feel it.  Let the tears come.  And get to the other side.  It happens much less often as the years go by...but I am not expecting it to ever go away.  But maybe that is just the way it is with trauma and life and loss.