a poem for the mournful

Whether one existed or not
would make no difference to me;
It’s alive or it’s not
has no bearing upon my soul.
I feel the weight of it not,
I feel its presence no more.
I yearn not for its taking,
I hear not of its voice.
I ration now not with its reason.
A tide
sweeps life
into the current
of the ever-after.

From Shit… Roses

In any relationship, if there is internal work to be done due to a lifetime of sweeping things under the rug, once the “honeymoon” phase of the relationship is over and shit gets real, shit is going to hit the fan. And unless you’re prepared to get knee deep in some shit, that relationship will not survive or thrive. What happens if you decide to avoid what may seem superfluous to your ability to maintain a healthy relationship by choosing not to deal with your shit and instead head straight into another relationship? Shit. That’s what happens. So put on your rubber boots ‘cuz it’s about get messy! Whether you’re over here with this person or over there with that person, shit is still shit. It has a way of getting stuck to the bottom of your shoe and as you sniff the air you may wonder, “Where is that smell coming from? Surely it’s not me.” But it is you. And it’s not going anywhere until you deal with your shit. You will continue to choose (unconsciously) and welcome into your life people who have the potential to bring out the worst in you. It is as if we know that struggling through shit is the only way we can grow. And with this bit of information, as long as your partner has an equal ability to bring out the best in you, you can transform the manure of your lives into the fertilizer from which we obtain divine nourishment and soul quenching love.

(Side bar, this was written and published after watching an ad for Poo-Pourri. That shit is amazing!! Partly because it’s preventative; one sprays it before they poo. I think there’s a lesson to take away from that, too.) šŸ™‚

There’s No Place Like You

In the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas we learn that it was in her all along– she had the power to turn her dream into a reality, one that had all the comforts of home she had taken for granted, but now wished for more than ever.

Home means different things to different people. Many say home is where the heart is. Certainly, my kids are my heart and my home. But as a single mom I’m finding it difficult to create the kind of home I wanted to raise my children in.

One of my dearest friends has a son who just turned 3 and today I attended his birthday party. Kids are the best. They say what they’re feeling, they do as they please; there’s no pretense. I think that’s why I generally enjoy my interactions with kids and will initiate more conversations with them. They’re simply fascinating. When I’m around them I like to try and recall myself as a child and imagine what they make of this world. Am I any closer to a conclusion than they? (Not always.) And while being included in these types of occasions brings a certain joy, there is also an angst, a longing that weighs heavy on me due to the fact that I am completely out of my element and I want what I haven’t got. I am surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for each other; people who like to laugh, not at each other but with each other; who enjoy each other’s company and with such ease. No pretense. Just togetherness. There’s cooperation between husband and wife. There’s years and years of devotion. How do they do that?

As someone who grew up feeling out of place in my own home and family, I can relate very much to Dorothy. Where is home and how will I know when I’m there?

Maybe Dorothy was on to something when she said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” But part of me also wonders if I just needed to trek down this winding road of despair before my wish could be granted. Because up until now I doubted whether family was all that important. I minimized the tremendous amount of courage it takes to create an everlasting bond between two people. And now I want it more than ever.

To find love is to find a home. I would just like for it to be more in my backyard and not somewhere “out there”. I’m clicking my heels together, I’m saying the magic words……

Dammit, where’s Glinda when you need her?

The Monster At The End Of This Blog

In “The Monster At The End Of This Book Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover” (from Sesame Street), a Little Golden Book I remember reading as a child and now read to my kids, the audience is begged not to turn any pages because Grover is terrified at the thought of there being a big, scary monster waiting on the last page. (I usually do my best Grover impression when reading this book to my kids, which I think I’ve nailed.) Besides warning us to stay away, Grover tries everything to keep that monster from rearing its ugly head. However, from building walls to tying pages together, nothing seems to keep the pages from being turned and what Grover finally realizes is that the monster he’s been so afraid of (spoiler alert!)… is him. That’s when he abandons his fear as he comes face to face with the only monster in sight–lovable, furry old Grover. Then he admits embarrassment after having caused so much commotion simply due to an extrinsic fear that no one but him could understand.

As a child I too was terrified of the possibility of monsters hiding under my bed or in my closet. But as an adult, the only monster I’m afraid of… is me.

I have been a monster. I admit to doing things to intentionally hurt others. A few of those things I can brush off as simply being part of growing up and learning how to process through my emotions. But other things, bigger things, more consequential things I have done as a mother to my kids.

The year following my ex-husband’s affair, during the bullshit that is the divorce process, I was a total mess. The anguish I went through was at the expense of my children so no one else could see that I was slowly unraveling. I’d scream and yell at them for no reason. Or at least, no reason good enough to make them feel so bad. I began spanking my son which is something I told myself I’d never do. He was 3-years old at the time, so melt downs and tantrums were inevitable, but not something I was equipped to handle. I’d grab him off the floor and carry/drag him to his room, sometimes plopping him down with no concern to hurting him, and then slam the door. I would yell in his face and on one occasion I slapped him (not with all my might, but that’s not the point). How traumatizing must this have been for him.Ā  And his sister, just a stander-by, probably hating me for treating her brother that way. I hated myself for the same reason. Going through a divorce, feeling rejected and terrified and angry after my husband abandoned our marriage to start a family with another woman, on top of dealing with a tantruming toddler was just too much for me. I had become a monster.

But then things seemed to level off. My son got older and I moved on. I found love again. I found peace. But I’ve never gotten over the guilt of those days; those vital, young and impressionable days. The days I should have been reassuring my kids that although things were changing at a rapid pace (new home, new family, new siblings and live-in mother-type figure) I would always be there to comfort and love them. Not terrify and vilify them.

When I was going through counseling years later, I was asked why I hold on to feelings of guilt. I couldn’t answer except to say that I was hoping the guilt would be enough to prevent me from acting that way ever again. But that’s not how guilt works. Making someone feel bad doesn’t lessen the likelihood that they’ll repeat a behavior. In order for any change to take place there must be forgiveness. There must be an openness and willingness to accept our humanity, not resist it. We are all human and we are all capable of doing some pretty horrible things.

What I was encouraged to see is that guilt is a tool used to control. Through shame we seek to regulate the pain we and others feel. We award blame distinguishing one as right and one as wrong. I have historically blamed myself for every rejection I’ve ever faced. It seems I have a strong threshold for pain. If it weren’t for me, in other words, I’d be able to find someone to share my life with. In my head, I am always an outsider; always the unwanted one; inherently flawed. Rejection is my biggest fear and fear will bring out the monster in any of us.

When I acted like a monster to my kids, fear was at the root of all my destructive behavior. I was afraid of failing as a single mom. I was afraid I would never be able to offer my children the kind of family I have always wanted for myself. I was afraid no one loved me and no one ever could. If my husband who I had known more than half my life could just up and leave, what’s to stop someone else from doing the same?

People like myself strive to be perfect, aim to please, try to be everything to everyone. But faking perfection is friggin exhausting. And when we fall off some imaginary pedestal we look for others to blame so that for at least a moment we don’t have to face ourselves.

I’ve spent my life building walls and tying chains around my heart. Except now I’m willing to abandon my fear and start facing myself. I’m ready to stop pointing fingers and accept responsibility. It’s time to forgive myself so that I can teach my children to embrace themselves, imperfections and all.

Love isĀ a tool used to scareĀ monsters away. And I am surrounded by it. A week ago I was walking my son into his school. We were holding hands and preparing to say our farewells. “Who’s the best mommy?” he repeats out loud with a huge cheesy grin on his face. He thinks it’s me, regardless of all the ways I’ve hurt and frightened him. And that will always be enough to keep the monster at bay.

The Good Advice You Didn’t Take

When that beer spilled, my world opened. His reaction called me to release myself from bondage by standing up for my son the way I wished my mother had done for me. And really, this scenario is all too familiar. No wonder it elicited such a strong response from me.

When my children were younger, my father relished in his role as their grandfather; his temperament seemed to soften since my youth and I thought perhaps he’s changed his tune for good. …Until recently when I learned that he yells at my daughter and throws a hissy fit whenever she spills something. He will beg to know how old she is (a rhetorical question, though it’s not like he’s keeping track), questioning her capacities and making her feel stupid for doing something that we all do. There is, afterall, a thing called gravity that comes into play. There is the fact that she’s a fucking human being who runs into things, spills and breaks things, makes mistakes.

It makes me angry and sad for her the way I was angry and sad for me growing up. Because there was never an apology on his part. There was never an acknowledgement that he overreacted and in the process hurt people’s feelings. As a parent, it can be very easy to lose your temper. I know I certainly do. Sometimes I forget to put things into perspective. But then I try as much as possible to own up to it, reassuring my kids how much I love them and that I’m simply doing my very best just like I know they are too.

And my mom… she never spoke up for us. She never spoke up for herself. She allowed a man who otherwise wished to have no part in his children’s lives tear us down for essentially doing nothing wrong. She allowed him to override her sense of calm compassion and understanding with his raging tyrants.

So isn’t it ironic that I have watched the same story play out right before my eyes now, in my adult life, where roles have merely been shifted or reversed? It’s interesting to note the parallels. And it’s amazing how we continue to place ourselves in the same roles and situations time and time again in order to be some place in which we are comfortable–we don’t want to be UNcomfortable! Because it reminds us of all we don’t know. Too often people would rather pretend to know. And so they are doomed to wander this world without ever fully being a part of it; without ever really grasping their place in it and their potential to love and to forgive. Rather than wave a white flag and admit that they are unsure of themselves, that there may be a chance their way of thinking and responding to situations is problematic, some instead choose to believe they have been wronged. They place the problem outside themselves. They choose to reject another person’s humanity and thus their own. But our perceptions exist merely as one way of looking at things, not the only way. We must open ourselves up to this certainty or face disappointment after disappointment, failed relationship after failed relationship.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, no wonder I’ve felt so out of my mind in my relationships. But if I am to stop these patterns from continuing, if I am to ever adopt a more progressive way of solving problems, then it is absolutely necessary that I step back to examine myself more closely and to ask myself questions like: What qualities in a person am I traditionally drawn to and Why? On the surface it may look one way, but What are they really there to show me?

So I wave my white flag which is tarnished and tattered and heed to the wisdom found in a fortune cookie, “There is no mistake so great as that of being always right.” My father can’t stand to be wrong. And it seems pride and arrogance are qualities I’m attracted to. Big egos. No wonder. But yet I resist. I resist because I am on the higher path. A mountain is made of many winding roads. And this is just one of them.

If food is love, then…

…when I finally do find love again, I won’t be settling for no Splenda love. I want synthetic-free love. I don’t want margarinized, watered down skim love. Give me full-fat, gristle and all love. I want spicy love. Give me acidic, heartburn inducing love, so long as it’s followed by some soothing, calcium rich love. I want whipped cream with a cherry on top love. I don’t care how hungry I get or how much of a sweet tooth; I will not confuse something that’s artificially sweet for something that genuinely tastes good. I’ve tried enough phony substitutes to know by the nasty aftertaste that when something promises to be good for me, I should always trust my taste buds. Written in the fine print, sugar stand-ins reveal their potential to cause health problems including cancer. No thanks!