The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I tell you that I’m leavin’,
You can’t believe it’s true!
You say….
Girl, there’s just no livin’ without you.
Don’t take your love away from me.
Don’t you leave my heart in misery.
‘Cause if you go, then I’ll be blue,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Remember when you held me tight,
And you kissed me all through the night.
Think of all that we been through,
And breakin’ up is hard to do.
They say that breakin’ up is hard to do,
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up I wish that
We were makin’ up again.
I beg of you don’t say goodbye,
Can’t we give our love just one more try?
Come on baby, let’s start anew,
Breakin’ up is hard to do.
Written by Howard Greenfield, Neil Sedaka • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I arrived home Friday to a man who was so sweet I wondered where he had been for the past year-and-one-half. Since I had told him that I want him to leave, of course, there has been a change….there always is for this type of thing. I guess it is to be expected. Shaking things up puts the boulders on top until time slowly sinks them back to the bottom. Some things never change.

He missed me while I was on the coast. He believes you don’t let go of something we have had this long. Or so he says. Now when the fear of losing me is closer than he had  ever dreamt. Filling the pill boxes, carpooling, doctor appointments. Is it me he wants or my numerous occupations…nurse, taxi driver, cook, house cleaner, bill payer, laundry folder…the list is almost endless and so is my need to know.

We talk. I am insistent. He is adamant we need to keep trying and he is staying. I suggest that he take my letter to his therapist to see what she says. I tell him I bet that she will say that he should take this time for himself. I also tell him that I want him to give his therapist permission to talk to mine to see if there is any middle ground there. He agrees. We talk late into the night without hurting each other. What do you know!

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The next day we go to lunch and start talking about separation. It is not a pleasant conversation with plenty of “My lawyer said this” and “My lawyer said that.” That little exchange gave us a preview of what was to come and neither of us liked it. Yet, one thing has changed. Paul is noticing that we are apart more than together and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. He wonders why we have to leave? “Can’t we just be a family again?” he asks. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it shaking the earth under his feet.

Later, we decided to look at our calendars to see what kind of leaving can be done during the month of March.

Shit! I totally forgot that I leave with Gracie on Wednesday on a cross-country trip for a diving meet. Gone until the 7th.

B leaves the 10th for a business trip to Canada and Pennsylvania. He comes back the 17th.

The following week is the Highland Games that we have both committed to.

The next week is our anniversary with a trip to the East Coast to see our son. Neither of us wants to give that up. It should be interesting. Hopefully, we can communicate like the middle-age adults we are suppose to be rather then using our usual two-year-old communcation methods…me,me,me…you,you,you. Never just us.

Now we are into April.  Two more diving meets within the first two weeks and a business trip to Colorado. In between all of this, I am trying to become a volunteer for hospice which will require training.

All of this to say…who has time to break up? Doesn’t mean we won’t. Just means that there is a lot of booked time away from each other this coming month. Yet, Paul is noticing and he is upset. Asking why one of us is gone so often. A small earthquake is rocking his world and he feels it. Deeply.

I think it is just what we need. It may not be my original plan but it’s good enough for now and sometimes that is all you can ask for.

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Storms and Baggage

I wait in the shallows

Like a fish hooked to a line

Splashing frantically

Mistaking love for oxygen

Your words driving me backwards

As you release the hook

That has pierced my lip

And held me still for so long

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Like a gale churning and throwing

Our life far, far away from

All we knew

I am here

You are there

Yet, your words

And sometimes the lack of them

Take me under

Scraping the sandy bottom

Of what our relationship used to be

I think I can no longer be with you

Because you do not know who you are

And in not knowing

You drag me down to skin and bones

Clinging to life, yet lifeless

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I am a soul who still wants to dance

Unafraid of your pronouncements

Of whether that movement

Is good or evil

I want to feel the wind for myself

Let life wash over me again

Unhampered by your sea walls

Meant to keep the shoreline in place

I have done the work

I was meant to do

Have you?

For now I wish

To let the unknown be born

Let the necessary changes occur

Which will free us both

As we are no longer one

We are now separated by a quay

Of hurts larger than the boulders

Which have created it

I want to find wisdom

In how I am living

In what I am feeling and doing

Touching and tasting

No longer content to munch on stale bread

I want the life force

Of action and touch

I want to look outwards

Not back towards your shadow

Which tries to hold on to mine

Refusing to free it

But now…finally

I’m throwing my baggage to the sea

So once again I can be me

Do not try to retrieve it

There is nothing new there for you

All it contains is what

You already rejected

Time and time again

No, let that baggage float out to sea

While I go pack again

With those things that are

Meaningful just to me

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Things

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Tomorrow I leave for my week away as a trial separation. It is a relief. I am tired of feeling like I am never doing enough, not being enough, not being who he wants me to be. Every night B comes home and it feels like there is more distance between us. The hurt and disappointment between us bigger than any wall Trump could envision and I don’t know how to get over that wall or if I would even want to anymore. Of course, this is how I feel now…in another hour…who knows?

Today I found out that while I am skydiving tomorrow he will be visiting his own lawyer. Somehow bringing his lawyer into the situation seems to create hurt and distrust for both of us if we had not. Or maybe it just makes it crushingly real and that the hurt you feel now could magnify 100 fold with lawyers involved. Or maybe its the anger that would sharpen its mighty claws. Either way none of it feels good.

About that skydiving trip tomorrow…I think it might be canceled due to the rain. Talk about being bummed. I have been looking forward to this kind of like going to the dentist and requesting no shots of novocaine before the drilling starts. Sometimes you just need a challenge that will show you what you are made of. Sometimes you just need to know you are made of steel instead of marshmallows and grit instead of rose petals.Sometimes you just need to reassure yourself that you are really alive despite the numbing pain you are feeling throughout much of the day.

By tomorrow night I will be sitting on the deck (probably in the rain) watching the waves. Maybe I will even be lucky enough to see some whales. And I will feel what being without YOU forever might feel like. I expect it might be akin to an addict who needs her fix to feel whole. But if I am where I think I am in this entire process I think this time will be mine…all mine…with no expectations and no feeling that I am disappointing YOU. And maybe I will even be thankful for all I have learned in these past 18 months which has made me stronger and more sure of what I do and don’t want in my life. I may be 56 but there is a lot more of life to look forward to. And I want to see where it takes me as I go slowly into my twilight years. Frankly, I think they will be a blast whether YOU are with me or not but I secretly hope that you will be holding my hand.

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Sitting With The Pain

Since I started seeing my therapist she has been urging me to just sit with things and honestly I thought I had been. But these past two weeks have been a real revelation to me as I finally understand what “sitting with things” really entails.

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The first thing is that I am just sitting and observing my feelings in a detached sort of way. Not depressed, not numb, but just watching as if my feelings were a movie. Watching the shadows, the lighting, the words that come out of the actors mouths and the body language that accompanies these things. And I have to say that it is one of the most freeing things I have ever done for myself. No explosive reactions just observation and the time needed to think things through without a time line.

Another thing that has happened as a result of my sitting with things is that I have no need to determine the outcome or push for what I think the outcome ought to be. I realize that I have wasted so much of my energy over the years trying to bend things to my will. I have always tried throughout my entire life to produce the desired outcome I envisioned at all costs.  The result of letting this go: more energy, more happiness, less anxiety and frustration.

Sitting with things as I am doing it now is delightful. I feel no pressure to make immediate decisions. I feel that reflecting at my own pace instead of reacting instantaneously  is allowing me to have a deeper experience that is bringing greater understanding as to how we have gotten where we are. And even if we separate it is bringing a much needed peace to my heart in knowing that I am better off for this entire experience and can bring a whole person to the table when this is over; instead of just a shadow of my former self, as a result of taking time for deep self-reflection.

So although I will confess that ending a 30+ year relationship is not what I thought would be on my radar just a few short years ago, I find I am growing in ways I have not in a very long time. Important ways which my soul desperately needed and of which I was unaware. I have no idea what is ahead but I suspect there will be many tears which will water the flowers in my soul’s garden and bring forth the life hidden in seeds I am planting for the future. I know not whether we will walk this path together or if I will be journeying all alone but either way I now know that I am stronger than I was when this all began and that is a gift that I will always treasure.

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P.S. My first biggest fear my entire life has been heights. I hate them. My second biggest fear has been divorce. But on Friday, February 17, I have decided to take on my biggest fear and jump out of an airplane. I have two notions about this:

  1. I figure if I can take on my biggest fear than anything my second biggest fear throws at me I will be able to handle.
  2. If the chute fails to open I just avoided a potentially messy divorce.
  3. Either way I win
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  5. If she can do it so can I

The Importance Of Protest

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Today I was amazed at the number of women who were upset and “appalled” at the women who gathered together to march and show solidarity for women and the issues that touch their lives.

One of the proudest moments of my life was marching with the Mothers Of The Plaza de Mayo. Marching can do incredible and meaningful things, correct wrongs, and bring important issues to the forefront…this is an example of why.

Between 1976 and 1983 thousands of young people went missing under the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires. Nothing was able to stop this until a group of very brave women began to march every Thursday seeking answers to the fate of their loved ones. They marched in defiance of their government’s state terrorism meant to silence all opposition and those asking questions/demanding answers. It was their unceasing presence that finally helped lead to the downfall of a government that murdered approximately 30,000 people.

Today these same mothers can still be found, in wheelchairs and on crutches refusing to let their voices be silenced. They may not have made a difference to their lost children but they saved the lives of thousands more. That was one of my proudest days…marching with these brave and determined women.

I hope that today was one of your proudest days as you marched in unity all over the world. (Now that was a surprise!) Be proud of yourselves. Pat yourselves on the back. You have joined woman all over the world whose protests have made a difference…sometimes it just takes a while to know exactly what that difference is.

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The Truth About Ourselves

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During the past 18 months I have learned that sometimes navigating the truth about myself takes me through deep, muddy waters that leaves my soul chilled to the bone. But the wonderful thing is that I can change, if I so choose; all the while knowing that meaningful change takes time. For change is a process, we cannot rush it, and it will happen in its own time.

There is a beautiful prayer I once heard written by a Benedictine nun which goes something like this: “Dear God, show me the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”

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And it is really true that there is beauty in who we are and what we do even if we fail to recognize it. Sometimes it is buried deep and you need a bulldozer to dig it out. Sometimes that beauty sits on the surface of our souls. And sometimes we just have to let a little bit of light in to let it reflect all the amazing facets of our personalities that are like a diamond which shines and dances across the room. Most importantly, we don’t need someone else to validate this beauty in us. It is there for us to enjoy alone if that is what we please.

We can see ourselves as even more beautiful through our own eyes when we view our own truths about ourselves and acknowledge those truths.  Some of those truths will be transitory while others occupy a more permanent place on our journey but the most important thing is to grant ourselves grace while moving forward with eyes and heart wide open and refusing to punish ourselves any further for those times in life when we just didn’t know or do better. We are all imperfect and it is a waste of time to cling to “what was” instead of trying to make “what is” even better.

So with this in mind, today, as I go about these minutes that are granted to me; I will try to be kind to myself because if I can’t even grant that simple thing to myself how can I expect to be kind to others?  I will also try to bring myself into, and be mindful of the present moments that I am witness to, knowing that things are the way they are suppose to be right at this moment in time. And I will bask in these moments of newfound acceptance knowing all the while that change takes time and I am doing the best I can right now to find greater peace and understanding through the transformation that it occurring deep in my soul.

I will be patient.

On Giving Love When You Have None Left To Give

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Sometimes my house is pure 100% chaos. Sometimes it is as quiet as a lamb. Most of the time it is somewhere in between. But then there THOSE TIMES; the times when Andre digs in and NOTHING I can do will change the trajectory that we are about to embark on.

Change for Andre is difficult. It often is for those on the autistic spectrum. Sometimes that change is as small as using grape jelly as opposed to strawberry on Andre’s PB&J. But more often it is something along the lines of telling him to do his chore.

“Andre you need to empty the dishwasher!” (for the third time)

“I dun’t want to”

“There are lots of things I don’t want to do either but they must be done so empty the dishwasher. NOW”

“I dun’t want to”

This I dun’t want to would go on 100 times if I permitted it. Usually at this point the conversation will escalate to one more warning. Then I head upstairs (with him trying to stop me…pulling on me or poking at me) and take all of his electronics and tell him that he can have them back when his chore is done.  This is followed by ten minutes of attempted manipulation, threats (I’ll put your phone in the sink if you don’t give me back  my stuff) and flat out increased defiance. Finally, Andre will realize that he has gone too far and then resorts to such things as:

“Tell me you love me mom”

“I need love. Give me a hug NOW.”

I want a kiss NOW”

Along with all the demands he begins hanging all over me DEMANDING a hug or a kiss by clawing at me.

Of course, by this time I am worn out and tired of the CRAP. I try to remember where this is coming from inside his head (fear of abandonment/fear of being unlovable/anxiety) and react accordingly. But there are times when giving him what he needs (a hug) feels so ugly and disingenuous after all the chaos and manipulation that I find it hard to wrap my arms around him. I find it hard to find a place in my heart to grant him the grace that he needs. Most of the time I manage to dig it up from G** knows where but there are times it is almost impossible to find and it is at those moments when I feel like I have been swallowed whole, the best parts of me ripped out and flung far and wide. It is at these times when I start crucifying myself for not being able to give my son what he needs because it is such a little thing that feels so big.

Luckily, most of the time I do not get to this place of self torture because as I start to fall down the rabbit hole; I get ensnarled in the tree roots and find a foot hold to make my way up again. But there are times that I would like to keep falling down that rabbit hole just to feel the impact upon landing. To feel the brokenness that results. And when that happens it makes me realize that is probably what Andre is feeling (the impact) and then I find I can go over and give him that hug. A hug that will ultimately mend us both. A hug that that tells him that I love him and he loves me and that we are in this thing called autism together. Forever.

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Complacency

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Throughout almost my entire life I have often taken on what I have “perceived” as injustice. I have fought to change things within the school system for my kids.I have tried to protect my patient’s autotomy and rights. I have stood alongside like-minded people as we protested for change. I have said the “unpopular” thing that has needed to be said but few wanted to. But all of this concern comes with a price. It extracts a huge part of the stillness and the gentleness that you need to go through life without going crazy.

When I was younger I used to look at older folks and wonder why they had gotten complacent and just accepted the status quo. I swore I would never be like that…but I am becoming that way and frankly I think that I might want to. Because the amount of energy I expend trying to right the wrongs is tremendous and I just can’t afford to do that anymore if I want to stay sane and live a peaceful existence.

This reflection is a result of last night when I attended the annual contract signing meeting for our diving club. Sure it’s a small blip in the scheme of things but I had concerns that the owner was not coaching our children as much as was expected/promised and she is the expert as well as a judge. She knows her stuff but she has a habit of blowing off parental concerns or saying things will change and she is not held accountable so nothing changes. So in the meeting I stated that she had missed at least two rotations of 50% of the practices which caused a big to-do with some of the other parents. We are paying a lot of money for these lessons and I want to be sure that what is promised is actually being delivered…which it is not.

Needless to say, I went home totally stressed and disappointed. Some of the parents who felt the same way did not have my back like promised. Sadly, in the end I accomplished nothing and pissed off some people because they are YES men to the owner of the club. And of course there is the unspoken feeling that if you say something it will effect your child’s coaching.  SIGH.

Last night I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned for hours and I woke up feeling stressed and unhappy that I took on something that needed to be said but will be paying a price for it.  My peace of mind is disrupted and the “happy place” I have been cultivating inside me for the past year feels anything but. And if I am honest, when I look back the amount of time I have spent fighting the “system,” whatever it may be, has most often not produced the results I had hoped for. And so I have concluded that I must stop fighting the fight because it is so disruptive to my own soul.

I would like to think that despite all of this I will do the right thing if called upon. I think we all do. We like to imagine that we would be the ones hiding our fellow Jewish citizens in our attics should the need arise. But yet, I have to wonder if complacency in the small areas of life soon reach into the larger and more important ones. I wonder too if complacency makes us lazy, afraid, and unwilling to risk our own comfort for a greater and far more important purpose; if it becomes our new a comfortable norm.

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And so today, I am leaning towards incorporating complacency in my life which essentially to me means putting my comfort ahead of everything else and sticking my head in the sand.  It means not rocking the boat, not championing a cause and not trying to fix things. For it appears to me that if you want to cultivate some sort of inner peace you can not do these things.

Frankly, complacency scares and disappoints me, but at my age, unfortunately, so does the fight.

 

 

 

 

Religion’s Impact On Marriage

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My husband and I come from very different religious backgrounds. He was raised Catholic with a mother who fought for the anti-abortion movement. His father, in his later years, returned to the church where he attended on a daily basis with truth and conviction on his side.

I was raised Methodist. My father is an agnostic who doesn’t have much time for “religious nuts.” His term not mine. He met his current wife at church while still married to my mother. A divorce ensued. For this reason and others that have occurred within my marriage religion to me often feels problematic, unsafe, and hypocritical.

Anyway, B is much more of a straight line liberal Christian believer and I am what I would call a seeker of religious tradition from several faiths. I attend a liberal church with B and our family but I also like attending the local Buddhist Temple and the Unitarian service. This has at times caused issues in our marriage. B believes we should go to church almost every week and feels if I do not attend with him it sets a bad example for our children. He believes church should be a family affair not two people going to separate services at differing religious institutions. And while I agree that might be ideal I don’t want to be bound to convention or ideas of what one must do to prove that they are indeed religious a/k/a a “good” person. I want to be free to explore/learn those things that meet my spiritual needs whatever they may be that week.

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Along these lines it has recently occurred to me that if we are indeed a unique creation of God then that must carry through to all parts of our lives. I am unique. I like books, horseback riding and meditating every day. B is also unique. He loves to play his bagpipes, he rarely reads a book, and he wakes up in the morning (every morning) to read the Bible. It seems to me that while religion gives a nod to the uniqueness of us all that it should follow this would also be true concerning religious preferences and beliefs. Why is it we expect that because we are all unique we will have different preferences and yet somehow, for the most part, couples are suppose to have almost identical beliefs when it comes to God? In almost all areas of life this is not expected but in regards to religion the expectation is there held fast and tight by society and often by couples themselves. I mean up until recently people of differing faiths were often ostracized by their own families if they married outside of their religious traditions.

Personally, I like to think that by exploring different religious perspectives, I have the kind of faith needed to fill in the cracks that most people find exist between the discrepancies  in what they personally believe and what they are taught they must believe if they are following their religious traditions “correctly.”

Sometimes I wish that B could just accept that for me attending church with him is a gift for us both. It shouldn’t matter why I am there just as long as I am and I want to be. My reasons should be mine alone and not some sort of test regarding whether those reasons are “good enough” or if this makes it so we are not “compatible.” And while, for the most part, B is not that uptight when we don’t see eye to eye on how we both practice our spirituality; I know that he wishes that we had this common bond in which our ideas meshed together in a way that would strengthen our relationship instead of  emphasize our differences.

Perhaps someday my spiritual believes will align more with B’s… or maybe not. But one thing I do know is that I don’t want religion to further divide our marriage. It is foolish to expect that we will be thinking and feeling the same way at the same time. So I just hope that God’s love will shine bright enough to light the way along both of our spiritual paths, whatever they may be, as we journey through live/marriage together.

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