From Shit… Roses

In any relationship, if there is work to be done in both of the individuals due to a lifetime of sweeping things under the rug, then 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. But what happens if you decide to avoid what may seem superfluous to your ability to maintain a healthy relationship, choose 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 gets 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. 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 that is the only way we can grow. And with this bit of information, as long as our partners have an equal ability to bring out the best in us, we can transform the manure of our lives into the fertilizer from which we obtain divine nourishment and soul quenching love.

**Ironically enough, I wrote and published this blog after watching an ad for Poo-Pourri. That shit is amazing!!

There’s No Place Like You

In the story of Dorothy Gale from Kansas we learn that it was in her all along. Everything she was made to feel she lacked she discovered in herself through the developing relationships she had with these other characters who had their own reasons for wanting to meet the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. Afterall, what is one to do without any brains, no heart and no courage? Suffice to say, they make it to the end of their very long journey and while Dorothy’s friends finally find what they felt devoid of, she feels trapped in a land that was once imagined to make all of her dreams come true but is without the comforts of home. Imagine her surprise, then, when she is told by Glinda, the Good Witch that all she had to do was click her heels together and say, “There’s No Place Like Home”. Alas, she had the power to go home all along! But you see, it wasn’t enough to say it. She first had to believe it. And had it not been for her incredible journey–the hardships, the friendships, the victories won in the face of adversity–those five simple words would not have taken on the same meaning and therefore would not have had the power to take her where she wanted to go… Home.

Home means different things to different people. Many say home is where the heart is. And certainly, my kids are my heart. But as a single mom I’m finding it is a challenge to create the kind of home I had envisioned for my family. First of all, I don’t feel like a family. And I never really have. Growing up I never did. Living with my husband and our kids I never did. Part of me questions whether I ever will. Part of me 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.

One of my dearest friends has a son who just turned 3 and today I attended his birthday party. Kids are the best, by the way. 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 kid and imagine what they make of this world. Are they any closer to a conclusion than I? And while being included in these types of occasions brings a certain joy, there is also an angst, a longing that weighs on me almost to the point of tears. And it is due to the fact that I am completely out of my element. I am surrounded by people who genuinely love and care for each other. People who can laugh and joke; who truly enjoy being together 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?

For someone who grew up feeling unsure of where home was and quickly learned to disassociate themselves from everyone else, including family, I can imagine what it’s like to get a taste of what it means to be a family, to have a home, and then have it taken away as if by storm. Except that in my last relationship I offered the taste and I’m the one who took it away. And I hate that this was ever a reality at all to cause such a familiar bitterness for him. But it is what it is and I cannot be blamed for someone else’s past. Nor can I be blamed for merely following my heart. Perhaps the answers have been inside me all along and the only thing I’m guilty of is overthinking things yet again.

Certainly, the head and the heart are sometimes at odds with one another. But to find love is to find a home. One must have the courage to believe it’s real in the first place, however, and not just somewhere “out there”. In the words of Dorothy, “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.”

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 of the book. I usually do my best Grover impression when reading this book to my kids, which they love and I must admit, it’s a pretty damn good impression.

Besides warning us to stay away, Grover tries everything to keep that monster from showing its face. From building walls to tying pages together, nothing seems to keep the pages from being turned. What Grover realizes, however, is that the monster he’s been so afraid of… is him. And so, he abandons his fear as he comes face to face with the only monster in sight–lovable, furry old Grover. And then he admits his embarrassment after having caused so much commotion due, simply, to an extrinsic fear that no one but him could understand.

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

I have witnessed myself as a monster. I admit to doing things to intentionally hurt others. A few of those things I can brush off as simply being a kid. 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 whole divorce process, I was a real mess. I mean, quite honestly I think I held up pretty good all things considered. Nevertheless, the anguish I did go 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. I’d grab him and pick him up off the ground during one of his meltdowns (he was barely 3, meltdowns occurred all the time, I can’t imagine how much the confusion of mommy and daddy not living together only exacerbated his “terrible 2” episodes) and I’d carry or half drag him to his room, sometimes plopping him down with no concern to hurting him, and then slam the door. How traumatizing must this have been for him.  And my poor daughter, just a stander-by, probably hating me for treating her brother that way. I’d get in his face and yell at him. During my last tirade I slapped him across the face as he laid on the floor (I didn’t think it was hard, but who knows, right?). He was 4 years old. Going through a divorce, feeling all those feelings 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 to handle. I knew 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 mother-type figure) I would always be there to comfort and love them. Not terrify and vilify them.

During my last counseling session, I was asked why I hold on to these guilty feelings. I couldn’t answer except to say that I was hoping the guilt would be enough to encourage me to refrain from acting that way ever again. But that’s not how guilt works. Making someone feel bad doesn’t lessen the likelihood of them repeating 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. I mean, how many of us are one step closer to becoming homicidal maniacs? Even if it is just a thought we entertain.

What I was encouraged to see is that guilt is a tool used to control. We seek to control the pain we and others feel. We award blame distinguishing one as right and one as wrong. And I have historically blamed myself for every rejection ever faced. It seems I have a strong threshold for pain. In my head, I am always an outsider. In my head, I am always the unwanted one. In my head, I am inherently flawed. So in my relationships, I have created situations which allow that image of myself to stay in tact. I’ve done it as a mother and I’ve done it in my romantic involvements.

I blame myself once the relationship ends. If it weren’t for me, in other words, I’d be able to find someone to share my life with. But who would want to spend their life with me? I ask myself. Who? No one, I retort. And so I throw myself off that pedestal. Afterall, people like myself strive to be perfect, aim to please, try to be everything to everyone. But faking perfection is friggin exhausting. And this expectation of perfection was quite evident in my last relationship. No one was “good enough” for him to even date for 4 years until I came along. Major compliment, right? Sure. But it’s a lot of pressure, too.

So maybe that’s why falling off that pedestal hurt so much. Maybe when he attacked my parenting skills I figured the gig was up. My imperfection was finally exposed. And I feared he would no longer love me. Fear will bring out the monster in all of us. When I acted like a monster to my kids, fear was at the root of it all. I was afraid of failing as a single mom. I was afraid no one loved me and no one ever would. My husband, a person I had spent over half my life with, stopped loving me just like that. The guys I was meeting just weren’t interested. I was afraid. And then I meet someone, he adores me, a year and a half goes by and he tells me he no longer loves me. I stopped being perfect in his eyes. So I am to blame for this, right? I pushed him away, I became untrustworthy. But the mistakes I’ve made have had much less to do with my actions themselves than believing I have been to blame for my relationships’ denouement.

My counselor had a lot to say about this. Trust my instincts, she urged, look deeply. Being loved and adored isn’t enough. Look at you, she demanded. You are completely lovable. You will meet someone who feels the same way and who not only sees you for all you are but also possesses the qualities you desire. You don’t need to settle for the first person who promises to love you. If you see signs early on that this person isn’t suitable to your needs, move on. Don’t hang on simply because you think you’re not likely to snag someone capable of loving you.

He never even said good-bye to my kids. They haven’t heard a single word from him in 2 months. My son called a couple weeks ago and left a message saying he loves him and misses him and wanted him to call back. But he never did. If that isn’t proof enough that he’s got a thing or two to learn about raising children, then I don’t know what is. And the fact that my kids still love him and would take him back in a heartbeat and continue to have nothing but nice things to say about him is nothing but testimonial to the type of parent I am and the love I’ve raised them in, wouldn’t you say?

Regardless, he’ll never see it this way I’m sure. So my analysis does nothing really except enable me to empathize. And this, in turn, allows me to have peace with what happened between us. It allows me to love. And forgive. It allows me to blame… no one. Because I see it all as life simply repeating itself in an attempt to resolve itself.

Love is a tool used to scare 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. And that will always be enough for me.

It’s the good advice that you just 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.

My kids have spent a lot of time at my parents’ house because my kids would go over there a few days a week whenever I had to work and they weren’t at their dad’s. This past year I was informed by my daughter that my father yells at her and throws a hissy fit whenever she spills something (which is fairly often there and more so than at home. This I find interesting). He will beg to know “how old she is”, questioning her capacities and making her feel stupid for doing something that wasn’t necessarily her fault. There is, afterall, a thing called gravity that sometimes comes into play. There is the fact that she’s a fucking human being who runs into things, spills and breaks things, makes mistakes. And it made 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’s very easy to lose your temper. I know I certainly do. 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 deny her of all she does to make up for what he doesn’t do, playing both mom and dad, by overriding her sense of calm compassion 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? Have you ever found this to be true in your own life and noted the parallels?

It really is 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. We’d rather pretend to know. And so we are doomed to wander this world without ever fully being a part of it; without ever really grasping our place in it and our potential to love and to forgive. Rather than wave our white flag and admit that we are unsure of ourselves, that there may be a chance our way of thinking and responding to situations is problematic, we choose instead to believe we have been wronged. We choose to place the problem outside of ourselves. We choose to reject the other person’s humanity and thus our own. 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, as I have done, to examine myself more closely and to ask myself these questions: 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?

And 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!