Understanding

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If you have read this blog before you know that I have been struggling with B’s decision to take a “business” trip to Asia without me. For the past several years we had gone together to try to build closeness in our fragile relationship. I appreciated those times together, the shared experiences and, of course, time away from the kids. So I was hurt when he said he was going alone. Then when I asked about something that seemed odd he admitted he was going somewhere else too. I fretted and wondered if he would have even told me about this new itinerary and I felt betrayed because it brought back past business travels in which odd things had happened. But it was more than that, this anxiety I was feeling, anxiety that felt all consuming and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Until one night I realized it was rooted in fear from the past. Fear because the last time we were apart for 10 days, when I arrived home he wanted a divorce and it brought me back to two years ago when I lost my rudder. I can only imagine this is what PTSD feels like. Bleak, scary and uncertain.  And while I knew that our relationship wasn’t in the same place it was back then my raw emotions couldn’t process that fact for emotions are funny things and whether accurate or not they pull at the soul and can stretch you out of shape.

So now he is away on “business”and not a “vacation” as I insist it is. And B didn’t bother to tell me that even though he would arrive in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, he wouldn’t actually be engaging in any sort of business activity until Tuesday. I’m sorry, in my mind that is a vacation. Now I could be really upset about this. Not that he wasn’t really doing the business that he insisted he was but upset because once again the pattern of 1/2 truths has appeared to prevail. But this time I am working on really trying to see this in a different light…I hope I can succeed.

It has taken me a while to realize that not everyone loves us in the way we think we need or in the way we would like. Often, they just love us in the way that they are capable of loving us often to our disappointment or dismay. If life were ideal I would have complete and utter honesty but that is uncomfortable for B because he grew up not being allowed to express his feelings and he doesn’t feel he can express his feelings to me.This hurts though I have brought some of it on myself. B feels that to express his needs is shameful or selfish and as a result he hides them to himself and from others. So while I would have loved for him to be honest and say “I don’t have any meetings until Tuesday but I have decided that I need a few days to relax and have a few days of ME time,” he couldn’t allow himself to do that even though I asked him to just be honest and admit he wanted time alone.

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So instead of being upset about the fact that he was a little less than honest I am trying to see his actions as those of a man who cannot ask for what he needs. A man who does not believe he deserves time alone. A man who believes anything he wants that does not involve his family is selfish on his part. Sure, I wish he had just been 100% honest but if I look through into his soul I know he is incapable of focusing on himself. And so I am trying to let go of the fact that he cannot love me as I wish but instead loves me as he can. It is flawed and sometimes it hurts but at this point in life this is how he loves. So I can choose to be angry or I can choose to accept knowing he is doing the best he can at this point in time. Today I choose acceptance…I hope I will choose it tomorrow too! For I deserve it and so does he.

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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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B’s List Of What He Wants

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Yesterday I posted what I wanted/needed in my second half of life. Today I am posting B’s.

First of all, just so you know, I asked B if it was okay to post this. To my surprise he said yes. This is his list of what he wants in the second part of his life with me. It won’t come as a surprise to those who know us that his list is very different than mine. Much more compact. Remember, I’m the one with the words. Yet, what he wrote touched me deeply because I knew it was from his heart and soul. All of it.

The morning we were to go to breakfast to discuss our relationship; I got into the car and our wedding picture was there along with some flowers. B said that before we went to breakfast he wanted to read what he had written and so with tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat this is what he read:

372 DAYS TO FIX THIS

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When I began this blog it was with the intention of blogging everyday for 365 days as I fought to keep my marriage intact. I didn’t because life got in the way. A lot. Life has a tendency to do that when you have a husband, 5 children, a dog and 3 grandchildren.

I purposely decided not to blog about reaching 365 days on the one year anniversary of B telling me how unhappy he was in our marriage and that he might want a divorce. I didn’t want to “celebrate” much less acknowledge one of the most agonizing days of my life. That day, one year ago, was a full of intense pain, enough tears to officially end the drought and it lead to months of increased struggle, anger, and hurt. The “I Think I Might Want A Divorce Day” brought me to my knees and my life changed at that instant. Thirty years of togetherness, memories, marriage and great sex were on the verge of disappearing in a blink of an eye. I am not sure why but on that day I asked B to give it 365 days to fix our broken relationship and with it a blog was born. Six hours later he left for a week to take the boys to scout camp.

Frankly, it was never my intention to spill my guts the way I have; nor allow my anger and dismay to swallow me whole with witnesses along to pick their way through my mess. But I did and it did. I am not really sure what I expected when I started writing but the rawness of some of my early posts bring me back down to earth with a thud. Divorce was for other people. Not me. Damn it.

There are many things that have happened this year that have stretched and surprised me. The major one was that at some point in the past year B and I reversed roles and I decided I wanted a divorce but to my surprise he didn’t. That was an awakening and hurt almost as much as when he said he might want one. Frankly, I didn’t know quite what to do with that. But we both know that with three kids in the house, two of them with autism and other issues that impact our marriage in a big way; that divorce would be akin to picking up tiny pieces of a huge pane of shattered glass and that someone would get cut. Deeply.

I wish I could say I handled all of this with grace. I didn’t. I did however get a therapist whose help has been invaluable. She has taught me to be mindful. To sit with things and let them brew without my influence. We have also been going to joint counseling and B now has his own counselor too so that he can learn to express himself rather than keep things bottled up inside for years.  But the best thing we did was attend a Marriage Encounter weekend. It is what has started us down the path towards healing, understanding and really listening to one another. I am not sure that had we not attended that my blog would count off 372 days. Really, it made that big of a difference. We just had to be open to it even though we are not Catholic and the things were heard were nothing more than what we would have heard at any religious gathering. I urge any of you who are struggling in your marriage to at least consider attending.

The changes I have made over this past year have been accomplished through a lot of hard work and perseverance . At times I have taken one step forward and two steps back. Those steps have been humbling, courageous, and have often felt like I had a huge splinter in my shoe while I was taking them. I have had to do a lot of changing. I used to try and live my life with a guarantee arm-wrestled from others…an impossible task. I try not to do that anymore. The biggest thing I have accomplished to date is that I have stopped yelling. That was a major victory and has changed our family for the better in so many ways. I am now working on trying to remove a sense of harshness from my voice and it is a challenge to say the least.

I have implemented many new ways of doing things and new ways of considering how to occupy my place in the world. This is what I have done that has been helpful for me:

  1. I listen to the Meditation Minis podcast by Chel Hamilton. It’s free and it is only 10 minutes a day. Those 10 minutes have allowed me to decrease the negativity I has feeling in my body and mind and replace it with acceptance and positivity.
  2. Thanks to my therapist I now have a Place Of Mysteries. This is a place in which I put on a shelf things I do not have enough information about so I do not carry them around with me. I then examine them when I have more facts so that I can make intelligent decisions.
  3. I am working really hard on not saying things the moment I think them. I now try to let my thoughts gels before spouting them.
  4. I try to look for the good instead of the negative
  5. I make a conscious choice all day long to CHOOSE LOVE. When things irritate me I CHOOSE LOVE and try to act accordingly.
  6. I try to give the benefit of the doubt to the positive attributes I know that B has instead of jumping to conclusions.
  7. I try not to TIME TRAVEL to the future and the past. Instead, I try to stay in the present collecting the golden nuggets of life that are in the here and now.
  8. I try to think rather than just react and ask for time to do so when more time is needed.
  9. I get more sleep realizing that there is always tomorrow to get things done.
  10. I keep a sex calendar which serves as a gentle reminder that too much time has slipped away since our last loving encounter.
  11. I work on being mindful of what is going on around me and within me. I have slowed down to really think about the ramifications and unintended consequences of what I am doing.
  12. We dialogue every night in the way we learned to do at Marriage Encounter. This has allowed us both to learn more about what the other is feeling and gives us a loving perspective in which to view our mate and his/her actions. Dialoging gives us the time to ask questions and clarify, not just assume what is meant by words/actions.
  13. I have lost weight but not for him. It is for me only and it shows.
  14. I am learning to just sit with things and not try to force a desired outcome.
  15. I am trying to learn to do things with joy in my heart while doing them. After all, the house does need to be cleaned so why not do it with joy instead of resentment?
  16. We try to have a date night every week or so. Time spent with each other without the interruptions of family life has allowed us to look at each other as individuals with unique feelings instead of as just Mom and Dad.
  17. We have a GRATEFUL log that we keep to remind us of all the wonderful things the other has done for us and is useful to pick-up and read when things are a little bit off.
  18. Whenever I feel like I am getting “hooked” I try to take a pause and relax.
  19. I have come to realize that life is not static. We are fluid beings and as such things will change. I don’t have to stay “stuck” in a particular way of acting or doing things especially when it is causing me or my loved ones harm. I am sowing seeds everyday that will blossom as suffering or joy depending on how I plant them and care for them. I try to keep this in mind as I interact with others.

So a year as come and gone. A year in which I did not get divorced or separated although we came close. A year in which we both worked hard to improve ourselves and our marriage. It has been a lonely year that has been frightening yet also enlightening. We have had to expose our own vulnerabilities as we have attempted to open up to one another in very deep and personal ways. And as painful as it has been I am grateful for it because I have become a better person, a better partner, and a better mother because of it. I have grown and become a better me. A person I am proud of and a person who is more comfortable in her own skin. And I have a marriage that is better than I believed would ever be possible. Does this mean that in 365 days I was able to “fix this”? Heck no. Does this mean I have a perfect relationship? No. Does this mean we will be together forever? I think the opportunity for that has increased tremendously but I no longer try to look for guarantees because there really are none for this type of thing.

What I do know for sure is that once again B is at camp for the week and this time when he left my heart was filled and my brain was quite. For this time around, I have a confidence in myself  and a belief that together we can conquer those things that are holding us back. Things may not be perfect but they are getting better everyday and that is really all you can hope/work for. But perhaps the most important thing is that I am happy, really happy, and sometimes even joyful. I am becoming who I want to be as I enter into my mid 50’s and discover what it is that is really important to me and what I can leave behind.

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So thank you for sharing this journey with me. I am sure there have been times you have wanted to kick me in the ass. I am sure there are times where you would have liked to have screamed “WAKE UP.”  But believe me I have felt your loving arms wrap around me and hold me close when there was no one around to do so. And for that I will be eternally grateful!

 

Forgiveness

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Tonight it was my turn to pick our dialoging question and I chose one to address something that has been weighing heavy on my mind. It was a difficult statement which forced nothing less than that kind of down-on-your-knees honesty and a period of tough introspection on my part. The statement was:

Please forgive me for ______________.

As part of a married couple, I think that way too often we just expect to be forgiven for our misdeeds because, well, isn’t that what you are expected to do for someone you love? Too often we ask for forgiveness without stepping into our love’s shoes and trying to image the pain we may have intentionally or inadvertently caused them. Too often we expect to be forgiven when we have not taken the necessary steps to repair the damage we have inflicted. Yet, when we really stop to consider what we have done and ask for true forgiveness we find it harder than we ever could have imagined. Why? Because we  have to really look inside of ourselves, examine our motivations and sit with the various hurts that we have caused others by our actions. It is tough slogging-through-the-mud kind of stuff.In addition we often fail to:

  1. Consider how our actions were responsible for the feelings invoked in both parties
  2. Think about why we did what we did and then take responsibility for it
  3. Examine how our past has influenced our present day behavior and in order to do better in the future we have to unpack the past.
  4. Recognize our actions as continuing pattern of behavior and then evaluate if it is serving us and our loved ones well
  5. Notice how our actions may have led to a reaction from our spouse that is justified under the circumstances; but then turn around and use their reaction to justify our own less-than-stellar behavior

I have to confess that I often find asking for forgiveness to be difficult but not for the reasons you might think. I find it difficult because by asking I am risking that the other person may say “No I don’t forgive you.”  Or I might have to change. In addition, by asking for forgiveness it forces me to examine those parts of me that I do not enjoy recognizing in myself which then forces me to abandon the luxury of blaming my spouse and instead I have to look inward…which is not always an easy place to go.

Asking for forgiveness is scary. Asking for forgiveness is humbling.Forgiveness takes practice. It is an art. Yet, asking for forgiveness by our mates is also necessary so that we can forgive ourselves and move on. For it is only in moving on that we can become all we were meant to be.

Please forgive me for_________. It is the only way to start.

 

Cheating A Little…Adoption

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So today I am cheating a little by putting up something I wrote several years ago. Why am I cheating? Well, I am getting ready to leave for Chicago tomorrow because Gracie has a big diving meet there later in the week. So I am super busy getting everything done that needs to be before I go which means I am too busy to write something. Thought I would leave you with something to think about.

 

If you are an adoptive parent especially one who is parenting a child of a different race then you know how many times you are broadsided by some stranger coming up to you with the expectation that they are allowed to ask any one of a million stupid questions right in front of your kids. It never ceases to amaze me the words that come out of a complete strangers mouth. Lately, I have not had to deal with this quite as often as in my children’s younger days so imagine my surprise when in the course of 24 hours I had the following exchanges with some people I have never been formally introduced to and will most likely never meet again.

I have to admit that I was a little evil with the woman at the Mini Mart but gosh darn it I had just been in a video arcade with a bunch of screaming kids for two hours. That is my excuse for my encouraging ignorance rather than making the time to educate.

So yesterday the kids and I go into a Mini Mart and first thing out of the cashiers mouth as she looks at Gracie is… ” ahhhh she is so cute…”

(Okay, I can feel it coming on. Let me see if I can read your mind and finish the sentence for you sweetie)

“Are they your kids?”

(I knew it. If I only had a nickel. I always know when we start out with a she is so cute it will be followed by nosey questions. But today I was prepared)

“Yep they are all mine.”

Funny look crosses her face.

“They don’t look anything like you.”

“Yeah I know.”

“I think they look Asian”

“Well, my ancestors are English and German”

“Their dad must be Asian then”

“Nope. Here is his picture. ( I pull out my husband’s picture) See, He is German too. Oh, and here is a picture of my oldest daughter.” (Who is as pale skinned as they come)

She stares at it, looks down at the kids and back at me. Confusion is written all over her face.

“Yep, the doctors don’t understand it either. They think it has something to do with drinking too much of the water when we went to Asia. Bye now.”

Yep, I know, a little devious and mean of me but after the 100th or so conversation that goes this way sometimes you just crack. That is my excuse for my very rude behavior.

 

And then this afternoon it happened again.

I was in the Super WalMart. Up walks this 50ish man.

(Oh crap… here is comes I think to myself trying to turn my body away but can’t get turned fast enough.)

“I know you get this all the time”……

(“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Don’t you F’ing say whatever is about to come out of your mouth,” I am thinking to myself)

“…but are your kids adopted?”

(Hmmmm should I go with the I just broke my ankle tactic to try to get out of here?)

“Are they from the orient?”

(Oh God…not one of these I just can’t take it today!)

“They were born in South Korea”

“Is that the communist country?”

“No, that would be North Korea”

“The reason I ask is because I have adopted eight of my own”

(Okay, maybe I can put my guard down a little because as an adoptive parent surely they must “get it”.)

“We got them in all colors. We have two of our own and then we got a Mexican one, and a black one and this one here (pointing to a I would guess 16 yo) well we don’t know what she is”

(Oh God help me and get me away from this idiot and let me find the social worker who approved this moron and get her license taken away)

“And one we have now is 3 and her Mom is in prison and the man she named as the father well his DNA didn’t match so I think we are going to get her thank god.She doesn’t need to have a loser mother like that.”

(Nor a loser adoptive dad like you who tells her entire life story to strangers while she is listening and wilting inside. This poor kid will need lifetime therapy thanks to Daddy O here. UGH)

“Sounds like you have a lovely family. We have to keep shopping. It’s nice meeting you.”

And just when I thought I was done I ran into him two more times and each time he starts a conversation and once his daughter looks at me as I pass and says

“Do they all have the same mother?”

“Why, yes they do. It’s me!”

 

It is after these conversations and situations that I feel for my children and all adoptive children everywhere. Intrusiveness is what they know. Being on display through no fault of their own is how they live. Being questioned by strangers and not wanting to seem rude is the norm for them. Having their own personal stories questioned with strangers trying to take them out and put them on display to feed their own curiosity is hurtful, annoying and separates them from “everyone else.”

When we first adopted it was difficult to know how to respond. Just how far do you go to keep your child’s story personal and theirs alone until they decide what, if any, parts they want to share. Now I just respond with, “Why do you want to know?” Usually that makes people think but not always. Sometimes no matter what you do you cannot shut these amateur sleuths up and you just have to be rude and turn away for the sake of your family’s mental health.

So the next time you see an adoptive family like mine please, no questions. Just smile and say, “You have a beautiful family.” I guarantee I will know what you mean. Then, if the timing is right, I will be glad to stop and talk to you about joys and sorrows that are involved in adoption. And I will share because my life has been enriched by adoption … but I will no longer allow your curiosity to intrude on our lives unless it is on our terms.images.Please forgive me for my “rudeness” as I will forgive you for your “nosiness.”  Amen.

 

 

 

Practicing Forgiveness…328 Days To Fix This

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Lately, I have been contemplating forgiveness and what it means to truly forgive myself and others. It’s often one of the hardest things to do. Yet, practicing forgiveness is often the most important thing we can do for our own mental/physical/spiritual health for it helps reinstate a positive outlook on life.

Forgiving someone is often problematic. It often is needed at a time when emotions are high and feelings of wanting to hold onto the righteous anger we are experiencing are at their peak.

So what is forgiveness? The best definition I have heard is that forgiveness is a shift in thinking that allows us to stop wishing harm on the wrongdoer. Instead we focus on feelings/actions that allow us to restore good feelings with that person who has inflicted pain. It means we begin to strive for unity with that person and search for understanding/meaning in what has happened.

Sometimes forgiveness is impossible but the majority of time it is doable. These are the things am reminded of as I work to practice forgiveness in my own life.

  1. Don’t keep bringing up the past. What’s done is done and it can’t be changed. Admittedly, I do not do this as well as I should.
  2. Give the benefit of the doubt. Believe that your partner did not set out to intentionally hurt you. Hard to do in the midst of pain.
  3. Accept an apology when offered. It doesn’t mean you have to be “over it” it just means that you are working towards that end.
  4. Don’t wait for the other person in your life to apologize. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t. Choose to forgive so you can move on and because ultimately forgiving benefits you.
  5. Be kind instead of right. In doing so you allow for faster healing between you and your spouse. You also set a positive atmosphere for future discussions with your mate. When you are kind it is noticed and kindness often comes right back to you in return.
  6. Try to remember that we are all humans. As humans we all make mistakes. Remember how when you make that next mistake you want to be forgiven in a kind and loving way.
  7. The harder it is to forgive someone, the more I am responsible. Letting go of hurts/anger is difficult but can be done. If you continue to not let it go you have to look at those parts in yourself that won’t and figure out why. Does this inability to let go truly stem from this incident or are hurts from your past keeping you stuck.
  8. Sometimes you just have to remember that they are responsible for their own wrongs. It doesn’t always have to do with you even though you might have caught in the crossfire. Let them own their actions so you can let the anger/pain go and get back to being you.

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