Category Archives: relationships

Hanging Tough

The New Kids on the Block aren’t so new or so together as they used to be. Prince has passed on. Robin Williams let go of life. Every day another shining star from our childhood dims from this earth into the subtle distance of memory. Our parents are aging or dying, and our favorite high school hang outs are closing or being torn down so that new Starbucks and Targets can emerge just like in every other city across America and beyond.

Life is like that. The older we become, the faster time flies by. It’s something we hear every day from our friends in real life to our virtual Facebook newsfeed friends.

And yet, here we are. We are leading our nation into new places, with new positive outlooks and perspective. Some would say we are becoming more self-aware, opening our minds to different cultures and lifestyles. Others would argue that we are moving further away from God. But something on which we can all agree is that life is a great big circle. We live, we learn, we die. It’s in that learning part that we learn purpose, and consequently feel what it truly means to be alive.

We exist day to day. We commute to work, milk our lunch breaks with the little errands we have no other time to complete, hustle back to work, and then commute back home & off to the extra stuff that makes us happy, but that we have to pay to do. We parents make choices that either enrich or compromise our children’s growth, and we constantly strive to find balance between the happiness of our children and the fulfillment of ourselves.

Life is like that too. The older we become, the easier we achieve balance, because we learn to meet our experiences halfway. We learn that just going through the motions is surviving, while growing through the emotions is thriving. But we are forced to be uncomfortable. Change does that. Relationships do that. And life demands that. We were not accidentally placed here on this planet simply to procreate. What would be the point in that? We are not amoebas. We are not ‘mere animals’. We are humans, with brains and feelings, and logic. If you ever doubt the reasoning behind the creation of Eve, try to live just 30 days completely solo, with no human interaction. We were not wired to be islands. We were wired to be continents, made up of millions of tiny countries.

Sure, it’s extremely important that we as individuals are strong and independent. But just being strong and individually independent isn’t all together satisfying. No. What truly satisfies us, and the human condition demands it, is the fulfillment that stems from having an overwhelming sense of community. So that when one of us dies, the ripples transcend us. We unite, become stronger, and emerge as complete and joyful as we were intended and created to be.

As an only, and as a human, I have always toyed with the idea of just going off alone and becoming this very self-sufficient, self-satisfying person. I would live off the land, disconnect from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, and morph into this superhuman specialty who depends on no one, and needs nothing for her survival. And then I watched ‘Into the Wild’. My world was forever changed.

My own life has echoed the theme of Chris McCandliss’s life, even though I never burned my money, threw away my car, and escaped to Alaska only to be killed by a tiny little berry.

Sorry for the spoiler alert.

But we can all learn so much from his story, and from the stories of all those great stars we looked up to as kids. Life is short. We are individually okay. But as a unite, as an unbreakable body of Christ, we are so powerful, just as God intended. Don’t deny your true self. Don’t deny your purpose. Don’t deny that you need others. Even if those others hurt you, you are better off for the experience.

Life is like that.

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Letter to an Ex X

Dear X,

If I had known what I know now, we wouldn’t have gotten married. We wouldn’t have had an amazing child together. I wouldn’t have stopped trusting so openly and without cause. I wouldn’t have been carrying around baggage. I wouldn’t question myself on every single decision. It’s likely that I wouldn’t have sold the family business. I wouldn’t question my mind.

But it happened. You conned me. You fooled me, my mom, my family, and your step-son. When it comes down to it, you felt unworthy. You started using more routinely. Because, I believe you were already using. You decided that you couldn’t do it without superhuman characteristics. So you sold your soul, and your wife, your ‘sons’, your dreams, for something that made you feel so good at the time.

I have a hard time understanding, because I haven’t been there. I won’t even take antibiotics. But I have been addicted to things. I ‘needed’ cigarettes for many years, and diet coke, and sugar. So that makes me just as ‘bad’, even though I manage to hold a job, pay my bills, pay for our child’s holidays, birthdays, school functions, soccer, karate, church functions, and playdates.

I have accepted that you will never be a part of anything financial in our child’s life. That you will forever disappoint him because you cannot test clean. I’ve watched every episode of Intervention. So has my boyfriend. We have talked in great length and depth about how we will never unburden ourselves or Ethan from this massive web of destruction you have casted upon our lives. I have had nightmares about what you are doing to destroy your life, and how that affects our son. He loves you, but he accepts that you are not here. You cannot be there for yourself, let alone him.

You talk as though everything wrong you have ever done is in the past, yet you have zero proof that you are any closer to that next milestone of where you ‘should’ be. You have clued me into how you cheated on your lab tests. How you used until 3 days prior, and then switched to suboxone – the very drug that now, people are getting hooked on. The very drug that could kill someone like me. I didn’t deserve this, but no one that lives through the cleaning up of an addict does. Why should I be immune?

I shouldn’t. That’s the truth. It was God’s plan for me, and God will continue to see me through. Losing our home, my car, your job, your income, your support, is not the worst of it. In truth, the worst of all of this rests in something much deeper.

Our child has learned that he can only depend upon one of us. Now, he is happy to lean on anyone else. This creates the gang-mentality that I will likely have to always combat. I always dreamed of having the family I didn’t have. That will likley never happen because of the environment your addiction has created within our lives. But as a Christian, I am supposed to forgive you, accept you, and turn the other cheek. And this is the worst part. I hate myself for not being able to do any of that.

You have ruined my life. You have ruined our child’s life. Instead of starting from the bottom and working our way up, I am forced to start in the trenches. Our son is 8. Your addiction, you say, began when I was 5 months pregnant. You are repeating what you knew. I am a workaholic, repeating what she knew.

You had a horrible childhood. Your parents both had serious issues, and were heavily medicated. They spent most of your childhood unemployed because of it. Guess who gets lost in the shuffle?

I refuse to disappoint our child. He deserves a family who shows him love, who teaches him how to love unconditionally. I may not be able to reconcile what you have done, but I can work to improve the future of our child. And while I may have spent the bulk of my life believing that I don’t deserve more, I believe that I absolutely do.

So my plea to you is this – please work on you. With everything you are, and everything you ever wanted, work on you. Make strides in that direction. Go to meetings. Make valuable friendships, based on trust and clean living. Pray. Listen to what God has to offer. Earn a living. Be a grown-up. Show our child what it’s like to be a man.

We will take your recovery seriously when you do the same. When you’re finished with the lies, the manipulation, and the fiction. Our son wants his dad back. You told him the truth. Now live the promise. I refuse to assist in the lying, in the promises, in the fairytale. The work is yours to do. Whether you do it or not, our child will feel loved, with or without you. It’s your call. I cannot do it for you, and I cannot help you anymore.

If anyone out there is contemplating destroying their lives, consider this. When you were a child, you had those lucid, beautiful moments. You will continue to experience those, but not if you are leaning on substances. Those are lies. BE YOU. Naked. Truthful. Genuine. And vulnerable. Beauty is found in solace and serenity. Not in substance.

Solitary Contentment

Do I enjoy alone time? Absolutely! I always have. I can remember as a young child, sitting in my room, listening to albums & playing paper dolls for hours on end. On some days, the only reason I left my room was to eat. Truth be told, If I had been blessed with a real working kitchen in my room (at least with a microwave, fridge, and pantry), my mom and dad probably would’ve entirely forgotten me!

While mom was busy taking care of my dad, I was busy amusing myself. Not that she didn’t do her part of the raising, but the ‘entertaining’ part was up to me, especially after dad’s kidneys failed.

As only children, most of us learn at a young age how to self-entertain, self-console, maybe even become self-aware, and have a strong sense of self-love. Maybe that’s why we (as a species;) come across as so self-absorbed. In reality, most onlies that I know are actually so self-aware that we can become rather lost in our own thoughts and appear to not care what others are feeling or thinking at all. BUT also in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us truly want to understand others, but we’re too afraid of putting ourselves out there, which is really what it takes to form healthy relationships.

As onlies, we don’t always know how to relate to others or how to reach out and ask others for help. When we feel as though our worlds are crumbling, many of us turn inward, to the only person we can fully rely upon; ourselves. That’s not to say that people with siblings aren’t the same way at times, but I would say that onlies have nailed the whole solitary confinement thing….to a fault.

I remember when my boyfriend (also an only) and I started dating. We fervently read every article and blog we could find on ‘only’ couples… ‘only’ to find discouragement and disappointment. Most opinions and stories erred on the side of either ‘don’t do it’ or ‘it never works out’. After almost two years together, I think we would both agree that this is not true. Like any other relationship between any two people, effort has to be made, people cannot take one another for granted, and compromise and full communication should be practiced daily.

In fact, I would say that the most difficult factor in an only dating an only is that we are so fiercely wired to turn inward when we don’t know how to react to an emotion that we choose instead to bottle up the hurt. While my boyfriend and I rarely fight, I can honestly say that any and all of the disagreements we’ve had have resulted from one thing; a lack of communication.

Lesson… in progress…

Still, communication takes lots and lots of effort from both people. Leaning on each other when we’re accustomed to sucking it up solo is the first step. While that feels a bit awkward and out of our neat little boxes, it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as I had expected. I think this is monumental and essential for all couples, but especially for relationships involving two onlies.

While one only can understand another only better than anyone, we also tend to have the same passive aggressive tendencies, and let things go on far longer than we should. It’s far easier and less confrontational to shove those small disagreements under a rug than to sweep them out into the open and work through the kinks. Unfortunately, as we all know, if you gather enough small things together they collectively become a very huge thing. That huge conflict under the rug becomes a major obstacle over which neither of us can avoid tripping.  And because we really ARE two separate people, with two separate pasts and two separate loads of dirty laundry baggage, we’re not always going to completely understand. And that’s okay.

We all come at these relationships with our own muddled perceptions, and whether we’re onlies or otherwise, it takes oodles of communication, effort, and determination to build a strong healthy relationship. But above and beyond everything else that takes effort in this world, love is worth every last bit of blood, sweat, and tears. After all, we may have come into this world alone, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to live a lonely life. Like my good friend Michelle always says (and I couldn’t agree more), there really is a ‘lid for every pot’.

Evil Ego

Between two loving beings, there is no room for ego. There is no room for impatience, nor fear. There is no room for doubt, or hurt. But inevitably, in every relationship or friendship, the closer we become, the more likely it is that the ego will try butting in and messing everything up that you’ve worked so hard to build. Why does this happen?

In my very humble, very human opinion, it happens because the bigger the love grows,  the bigger God becomes and the more the ego feels threatened.

You may have heard people say that the devil is trying to win someone over. The ego is the devil. He can destroy the strongest of castles, harden the softest of hearts, and possess the humblest of people. What he can’t do is continue to exist in the shadow of love. We have to recognize the evil ego and stop his flames before they destroy us. It’s an every day battle, and then sometimes it’s not. But when couples have been married for decades they say (and they always do), ‘it hasn’t always been easy’, this is what I feel it boils down to.

There is no reason to feel attacked by those negative feelings when the ego gets out of control. No. We should recognize what’s happening and understand that the love we feel, the glue that holds us together, must be strong and wonderful stuff if the evil ego wants so badly to destroy it. We should feel flattered.

So, be flattered, and then destroy it. Every last bit. We can’t control the behavior of others, but we can control our own. We can choose to feed that ego with anger and watch it overtake our lives and relationships, or we can choose to feed that love with tenderness and devotion and watch God grow instead. We have that choice.

As for me…

This month, it will be four years that I’ve been the only adult in my home. That’s the longest I’ve ever been ‘head of household’. Ever. Right now, as I’m interviewing for jobs, there is on consistent theme going on in my conversations. I am Robin. I am the sidekick. I am not Batman. I may be at home, but I don’t want to be full-time, all the time, day-in and day-out Batman. I just don’t have it in me to be the happy boss lady. My mom was the boss. I was the minion. And maybe I wasn’t okay with that until she passed away, until I HAD to be Batman and was forced out of my sidekick flip-flops and into my superhero boots. Still, that has been my epiphany. Some people are born leaders, and admittedly, I always thought I was one of those. Maybe in a way, I still think I am – on an emotional intelligence level but NOT on a business level. 

I am the girl who will give everything away if it’s up to her, and no one is telling her to do otherwise. I am the girl who understands people’s hardships a little too well, and will cave in to their sob stories. And guess what? I don’t want to change a thing. I could’ve become hardened by now. By the grace of God, I haven’t. Have I grown wiser? Yes. At least I hope so. Have I stopped caring so much what others think? Yes. That sort of ended with the passing of my mom. So what’s a girl with sidekick talent and no live-in superhero to do? 

Wait for it.

That’s all. Don’t dive in. Don’t rush things. Just wait until his time is right. Can I get an Amen?!

After two divorces, the absolute LAST thing I want in my life is a husband who is NOT ready to be married, or be committed, or say ‘forever’. Robin is Batman’s sidekick because he respects his superhero and his superhero is respectable and committed as well. Robin didn’t just start following Batman around one day in hope’s that maybe…just maybe he would be accepted. There’s is a mutual friendship, and a mutual commitment. That’s how it should be. That’s how a marriage should be as well.

I don’t know, but I’m pretty certain that Robin could handle his household just fine without Batman. He could pay bills, do laundry, handle the kids’ fighting, keep the yard tidy, shop for the groceries, get the mail – he could do all of that perfectly fine without Batman. Batman could do all of that without Robin. 

But no man (or woman) was created to be ‘a rock’ as Simon and Garfunkel would say. We were made for each other, in our own time, when we’re both ready. Because while both Batman and Robin are perfectly fine alone, together they save the world.

We will also save the world, in our own little way. Until then, we have daydreams and roadtrips. We have weekends and long talks. We have time to savor. Time together, until we have all the time we are given  and we are ready to fly as one. 

Changes

Changes. Nothing moves forward without them. No one gets uncomfortable without them. Everything stays the same without them. We are human. We are not equipped to stay the same, but we’re also ill-equipped when it comes to instigating our own changes.

A new pair of shoes has to be ‘worked in’ before they can ever become anything close to resembling those favorite comfortable shoes. When we move, we are faced with working out a whole new routine; the best route to the grocery store, how to avoid school zones, the nearest gas station, the nearest church, new neighbors, new schools, new teachers, new postman.

It feels like starting over. WE are now the strangers, the freshman, the low man on the totem pole. When we change careers, the same thing happens again. We are now the one in training instead of being the trainer. We have to follow others until we work ourselves into a new routine. We, who once lead, now are shadows, learning our way but leaning on everyone around us. There is a sense of vulnerability, of humility, that kicks in & takes over our thinking.

But while some change is forced on us by loved ones or circumstances (i.e. getting laid off, divorced, a death in the family), lots of change is pre-meditated and intended, even initiated by the changer. Those changes are fun. We don’t tend to change careers unless we are unhappy, and we don’t tend to ask for a divorce if we are content and happy with our current spouse. If we liked where we were, we wouldn’t choose to leave.

For many of us, those conditions have to decline to the level of deplorable before we even flinch. Why? Because change takes more energy than we have to muster when we’re so miserable where we are. One of my favorite things about being human and having free will? Having the opportunity and the freedom to wait for the right time to make changes.

You hear people say that there is really ‘no right time’ for anything, be it getting married, having babies, changing careers, deciding to live a healthier lifestyle, whatever. I disagree. The right time is exactly at that moment of your day, your week, your month, in the middle of the night, where it hits you and you know that you truly are FED up with that area of your life. In THAT moment it really doesn’t matter that you don’t have enough savings yet, or that you may hurt someone else’s feelings in the process. When it’s time, you will know, and in that moment, you will relish in the freedom of free will and know that, because it’s time, everything will work out in the end. And whether you end up where you want or not, you can at least say that you did your part. You took the path with your full heart. There can be no regrets.

how this only prevents the lonelies

I remember as a child, sitting in the room of our little basement rancher playing paper dolls for hours on end.   My parents would be doing their thing. Typically, dad would be down in the basement building go-carts, or out in the carport waxing his super cool Knight Rider Trans-Am. Mom would be downstairs as well doing 6 loads of laundry that had accumulated through the week. I didn’t know what boredom was. I’ve never known the meaning of boredom.

Today was the ultimate only day. My boyfriend is gone on vacation, both of my boys are at their other homes, and my Hayley dog and I have had the day completely to ourselves. The only exception was that I watched my youngest play in a heartbreaking soccer game this morning, so I was afforded the pleasure of mingling with my parent friends & running up and down the field yelling for just one more goal. At that point, I had already had breakfast, worked out, showered, and succesfully landed myself at the start of the game with minutes to spare. That’s very unusual for this fashionably late little lady..

After the game, I stopped by the car wash, scrubbed and detailed my Sante Fe that I hadn’t driven in over a year, making sure to finger nail all of the nooks and crannies for french fry crumbs & other funky unmentionables that had gathered in inconvenient cracks and crevices. I came home, ate lunch, felt sleepy, and proceeded to change into my swimsuit for a sunbathing siesta. Why not? Time has been my friend today afterall. Time was my buffet, my smorgasboard to fill however I chose. After about 30 minutes of laying there upon awakening, trying to decide if moving my tired muscles in order to arouse them back into production was really worth it, the workaholic part of me won out. So I got up, mulched, and pulled, and tugged, and weeded out in my three small flower beds until sweat was dripping, and my face had turned a brighter shade of apple.

That would have probably been enough, but not for me. I was on a roll. I came back inside, folded two loads of laundry, and worked out yet again. I finished the day with shorts shopping and a visit to Earthfare. In between some of that, I talked to my boyfriend’s mom, who had called to tease me about picking up Doug. We had our usual banter over who would get the privelege, but I finally won out. The call from her pretty much made my day.

I wouldn’t want to be alone every day of my life. I have a strong belief that we all need people. But having this day by myself was refreshing. There was no tv watching, although there was lots and lots of music. Hayley got more than her fair share of dog walks, and my own thoughts never failed to keep me entertained. I miss my boys. I miss my man. But what I learn on days like these is that I also miss myself sometimes. It feels good to be reunited with me.

Joy Ride in the Cadi

I drive your car now, the Cadillac. The very one that I teased you about. I remember saying that you were too young to drive such a car at only 63. ‘Cadillacs were for old people’, I said. I still see them, the clones of your car, and even though I’m in yours, I still look for your burst of blonde and your bright grin. I wait to see how fast you’re going so that I can scold you for your lead foot later. I miss that lead foot.

I fell in love with her a few months after you passed. I made a weekend trip to Nashville and began to truly appreciate her smoothness, her dependability, but most of all- her power. Her power was like butter for my crusty bitter grief, like a soft and sleek lubricant for my blistered mood, and fast couldn’t go fast enough for this used-to-be granny driver. There is something consoling about speeding, something that screams ‘Life is short. Make it count. Feel alive!’. Anything that reminds me of your warm hug, your proud smile, and your glassy eyes that almost never shed a tear have been like blankets I carry along to console me when the world turns cold.

I’ve driven our car now on lots of trips. It carries me well, with lots of room for all of my baggage, warm seats for my cold rump, and lots of nifty compartments still housing your chap stick, your lighter, and your hand cream. You might even say that I’ve accepted this granny car with open arms.

But….

There is a downside to our Cadillac. You’re not in there.

If I go with someone else, and pull back into our parking lot at work and see your pearl white heap of pride, I feel instant giddiness like I did when that car was a beacon of hope because you were inside our office, waiting to direct me, waiting to fill my ears with your laughter, your gossip, or your story about the movie you slept through last night. It’s like that dream that you really wanted to have, only you had to wake up and face the reality of it’s falseness, only to realize your heart was broken again. It’s like being dumped over and over and over and over….

Would I change those memories? Would I erase them from my mind? No way! I carry you with me regardless of whether or not I carry your ‘stuff’ or not. Those things no longer matter to you. I do. I always will. The fact that I’m a mom too tells me that.

So when you’re up there watching only the happiest moments, when your legacy swoops in and fills me with the courage I never summonsed in your lifetime, that’s when I feel you the most. That’s when I know. This is our Cadillac, and yes…you are still driving. 😉

Focus on What You Want

We all need downtime, and we should all make room for that in our lives. What that downtime looks like, is not the same for everyone, or every time. I love writing, but sometimes the juices aren’t flowing in the direction that they should, and writing becomes a burden rather than a pleasure. Downtime is not the time for burdens.

In similar news, I started the week meeting with a bunch of my favorite women at a Reiki gathering. I received and shared so much during this gathering that I could write a novel. One of the topics we discussed was how we were all in transition periods of our lives. Some of us knew where we were headed. Others of us did not. What my dear friend Carolyn suggested was that we all ‘Focus on What We Want’, even if we didn’t know what that really looks like. We know what it ‘feels’ like, and that’s where we could zoom in, and experience the emotion. I can do that so easily that I can almost ‘taste’ my dreams!!

When you really think about it, it’s easy for us all to get so wrapped up in the self-pity trap that we forget how to focus on those things for which we are grateful. We forget the blessings, or at least choose to focus on the pitfalls instead, and we do this even though we KNOW better, because we are silly humans. I get it. It’s not always easy to focus on the rainbow above you when you’re stuck drowning int he quicksand below you. We must clear it away. We must clear away the muck before we can shine the gold that is our intended purpose – the life that brings us joy.

My friend and fellow blogger Karen wrote today a very vulnerable post about a crossroads she experienced many years ago after her father passed. She wrote about losing her joy, about how she went through the motions of life, and rather than experiencing joy or zest, she had wanted to end her life at that pivotal time because without joy, life is not worth living. I’ve been there too. Sometimes because of death, other times divorce, and still other times because of financial setbacks over which I had little control.

But joy is fleeting. We cannot feel it all of the time. If we NEVER feel it, then we are depressed. If we sometimes feel it, then I think that means we’re okay, that we have balance in our lives. Still, I can’t think of any reason not to focus on JOY. I think we all should focus on joy from time to time. The more we focus on something, the more likely we are to attain that.

So get out there and Focus On What You Want, but don’t forget to savor and feel gratitude for what you already have.

Three Peas

Yesterday was one of those days for which I live.  The sun was warm & productive, kissing the whole city of Knoxville with its make-up love; apologizing for the brutal winter.  Everyone was outside. Dogs were sunbathing. Dog lovers were giving snuggles while catching up with their human companions. Kids were actively playing games with their newfound friends after over a month of frigid cabin inconvience. And most of my little family and I were at the Beer Market, a quaint but crowded patio where all of these sights gathered to create the perfect Saturday afternoon hangout. While we didn’t ‘partake’, I was priveledged to have met more of Doug’s friends while Ethan made fast friends with their kiddos. Ethan did NOT want to leave, but the surpirse party was over before we knew it.

Doug’s tummy was all kinds of hungry after, so we ventured out to Big Ed’s Pizza (the legendary pizzeria where neither Ethan nor I had ever been). We are all pizza freaks, and we have our spots, but I was never fully satisifed with my ‘favorites’ because, from all I had heard about Big Ed’s, I had NOT yet experienced the best East Tennessee had to offer in terms of savory sauce, top crust deliciousness, and melty creamy cheese. Until yesterday. When my first bite felt more like a first kiss, and Ethan sighed, saying ‘This is just too good to be true. This tastes like Heaven!’.

Doug and I were in savory SHOCK. For Ethan to say that about any food, is quite simply UNREAL.

The feel of the restaurant in its rich, old, rawness, only made the coming together of flavors more authentic and melodic. Doug and I had the grown-up version topped with mushrooms, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, and onions, and we agreed that it was the perfect pizza.

From there, we landed at a playground where the ‘kids’ played, and the ‘grown-ups’ played hide-n-go-kiss beneath the monkey bars.  Doug and Ethan ran off their dinner & passed football until the sky was almost completely black and the day tucked itself in for the sweetest of dreams.

This morning, as I reflect on yesterday, I am humbled by the thought that ‘ordinary days’ to other people feel more like Christmas to those of us who have wished for simple family time. That sounds, even as I read it, like a pity party. But that’s not how it feels. I am grateful. No matter how few and far between these days are, they are mine. They are ours. These are the days that make all the hard stuff more bearable, and make the happy stuff more possible.

My favorite days are when we are ‘four’ – Doug, me, Jason and Ethan. But on the days where it’s just we ‘three’, we are three peas in a pod. Playful. Positive. And don’t forget the Pizza.