Tag Archive | divorce

Giving Thanks for Forgiveness and Healing

This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year.  Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome.  Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down.  Being flexible becomes more important than ever.

Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart.   I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them.  However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.

When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.”  Guess what?  I was wrong.  He has changed quite a lot.  So have I, for that matter.  I got sober and grew up.  He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children.  I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family.  I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well.  Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix.  I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.

I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago.  We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage.  I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things.  He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole.  His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone.  As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.

They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family.  They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits.  They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending.   They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit.  There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉

My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family.  It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.

I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support.  My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday.  It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend.  We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.

This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that.  I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.”  I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family.  The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three.  Thank you, Lord.

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Stop fighting change before it knocks you out cold

A lot of people simply do not like change, and yet change is inevitable.  We grow up.  Our children grow up.  We get older.   There is not a thing we can do to stop those things from happening, aside from girding our loins, doing our level best to roll with the punches, and slathering our faces with the best anti-aging skin care products we can afford.  Still, time marches on and if we have acquired enough healthy coping mechanisms we learn to accept these changes, even if we do not completely love them.

Why, yes, I do take all of my own pictures because copyright infringement scares me silly, and well, it is just wrong!

Maybe it is because change scares so many of us so badly—the changes we cannot control–that a lot of us seek out constant changes elsewhere.  We change our wardrobe, hair color, jobs, cars and our cereal in the constant pursuit of something new that will make us feel new again, for a minute maybe.  Of course, all of these external changes do not change a thing.  Most of us are hurting inside somewhere.  I am not excluding myself from “us.”  I am right smack dab in the middle with you.

As I have mentioned before, I have an inspirational page on Facebook.  I started it because Running From Hell with El said that I should, and in some rare fit of lunacy, I did it.  I like my page, and I love the people who I have met on that page, but more and more, the Book of Face is hiding what the people who follow my page get to see.  They hide what I post so badly that fewer 5% of my “fans” (I HATE that term) see my posts.  This is because they want me to cough up a heck of a lot of money to promote each and every post and I just will not do it.  Sorry Charlie, er Mark…  So, here I am knowing that spending an hour a day scheduling my page is a waste of my very precious time, not because I do not care for the people who do see my posts, but because I have bigger fish to fry.

I have a book to write.  (I know exactly what you are thinking. You are thinking, “Yeah, that is what they all say.  They are going to write the next great novel, but it will either never get written, or it will be garbage.”  My book will get written and it is going to be a knock out, I assure you!  One of a kind!  Seriously…) It is right up there in my noggin waiting, but it is not going to fly from brain to page without me doing a little work.   That hour I spend on my Facebook page every morning should be spent writing.  Lord knows I have been told that a time or two, but I simply hate to be pushed.  It a nasty habit, but the more I feel that I am being pushed, the more I will push back.  I am also one of the best procrastinators alive.

I still have comments from last week’s blog post that I need to respond to, and it is not because I do not want to respond, it is just that sometimes someone says something that I need to think about.  I need to chew on it before I respond, and because I have terrible TMJ, this chewing can take me quite some time.  This is also why I do not chew gum, or eat Grape Nuts anymore.  There is just too darned much jaw popping to make it worth my time and energy.  If you make a comment after someone has made one of those comments I need to chew on, you will have to wait until the prior comment has been thoroughly masticated to death before I can get to the back log.

By that time, I feel so badly for not having responded sooner that I get paralyzed.  Last week, Renee A. Shuls-Jacobson suggested that I let go of the mess, and start sharing the message.  At the same time, Livvy at Real Manure told me that she had quit Facebook all together, that was the jaw breaker, because that has been on my mind quite a lot, and then Stephen at Life Revelation said something really sweet, and I have a hard time taking a compliment, so there I sat, stuck.  I am still sitting…

Here is what I know about all of these behaviors.  They are all based in fear.  I hate to be pushed because, even it is the opportunity of a lifetime, something about it scares the daylights out of me.  I will put off doing something that will benefit me greatly because something about it has me scared silly, and oftentimes, it takes me a while to figure out what it is that is scaring me.  I have put off scaling back on my Facebook page in order to write my book because something about making that decision has scared me beyond rational prioritizing.  At first I thought it was because I did not want to let anyone down.  That has pretty much been sorted out to all ego.  Then I did not want to appear to be a quitter.  I am so good at not quitting things that no longer serve me that is has almost killed me many times over.

I am not the only person who does these things.  I see it all of the time in my line of work.  I clean houses for elderly women and nearly every week now I get a call from someone who has been unable to keep up with their home for some time, but they have been scared to ask for help.  By the time they call me it has gotten so bad that they would sooner drink paint thinner than try to tackle it themselves.  They are embarrassed that they let things get so bad.  I go in and within a few weeks, it is manageable and they are unstuck and much happier.  I am sure that I am not the only one that sees this sort of thing.  I imagine counselors, and clergy, and doctors, and even lawyers see this thing all of the time, too.  People are put off making good changes because they are scared and embarrassed and there is that pay off thing, too, that Todd Lohenry mentions.  When I was getting my B.S in nursing and doing my psychiatric rotation, we called it the secondary gain.

Todd is right.  There is always a pay off.  If we choose not to make beneficial choices to change it is because the pay off, or secondary gain, is too great.  What is a secondary gain?  It varies from person to person.  Some people do not change because they like feeling like a martyr, or they like to be felt sorry for, or they like to blame the world, or make excuses, or they thrive on feeling miserable and angry.  People will come up with all sorts of rationalizations not to change.  “So and so would be crushed if I..” or “I have tried and it just did not work,” or my personal favorite, “That will never work.”  I like “That will never work” the best because at least it is true.  It you do not try it, it absolutely will not work and you are 100% right.  So, we all stay stuck until we realize that we would rather drink paint thinner than go on as we have been doing, when all the while we have been happily drinking the grape Kool-Aid of justifications and rationalizations under their various pick-your-poison guises.

I have not wanted to embark on my book because I am going to have to type out some incredibly painful truths.  I now know that I am not going to heal fully until I type out those painful truths, so I am going to do it.  It is not going to be fun, and I know this.  Only two people know this, but after some of the blog posts I write are done I cry for a good half an hour or more. It is all good, though.  That is healing.  That is release. Imagine all the tears that will be shed writing an entire book!  Don’t you fret now!  For every painful truth I reveal, I promise to counter each one with a lot of hope and inspiration, and at least one hysterically funny story.  It will be the- you will laugh, you will cry, you will become a part of it-sort of book.  And it will be based on a true story, too, because I do not write fiction.  No more grape Kool-Aid for me, thank you very much.

If you are stuck in a web of pay offs and secondary gains, the first step is to figure out what your pay off is, and why you are scared of giving it up.  The second step will make itself clear once your sort through step one.  If you are trying to heal from childhood trauma and have seen counselors before with no forward progress, please try again.  As Scott Williams points out, some counselors are just not good, and let me double that for psychiatrists, especially the ones who prescribe medications primarily.  I was told in nursing school that psychiatrists would be the weirdest doctors and people who I would ever meet, and that was the stone cold truth.

If you are thinking, “But my counselor/psychiatrist is super sweet and nice and he/she cares about me,” let me tell you a secret.  A counselor can be super sweet and nice and care about you and still stink at their job.  I had a psychiatrist who I absolutely adored.  He was one of the rare 2% of psychiatrists who was a nice, down to earth, regular guy, and funny, too, and he cared about me one heck of a lot.  He also had me drugged out of my gourd on nine different medications for years for bipolar disorder, which I did not have then, and do not have now.  You see what I am saying here?  Super sweet and nice count for something, but progress counts for a lot more.

If you are stuck in a bad relationship, get out, please.  You will make it.  You will be fine.  You will survive.  You will be happy again.  Also, since I am handing out advice like Tic Tacs tonight, if you do begin the divorce process, do not expect to get 100% of what you want, no matter how jerky the other party may be.  Aim for getting 50% of what you want.  It is called being realistic.  Maybe you will get lucky, as I did, and get 80-90% of what you wanted, and then you will get to be all overjoyed and so on, but start with realistic.

That is another thing about Facebook.  Poster after poster telling us to aim high, set the bar high, reach for the stars, and most of us end up curled up in the fetal position in a huge pile of expectations that were too darned high from the get go.  If you are already thinking to yourself, “This is going to be the BEST Christmas ever” you need to step back and plan on having a good Christmas, because we could all benefit by letting good be good enough.  Word from your mama.

If you are also wanting to remove yourself from the Book of Face, try reading some blogs.  Facebook is like a soap opera.  You could be gone for a year or two and nothing would have changed.  It is true.  I was in prison for six months with no Facebook and when I logged on after my release all I had missed was some birthdays and 100,000 Farmville requests.  (I no longer play Farmville!  You can stop sending me requests now.  It has been well over a year.  I also have no interest in Bubble Safari or Lucky7 Slots.)

Reading blogs provides fresh content daily from all sorts of different perspectives.  I am very fond of Journey Through the Chrysalis, Waiting For the Karma Truck, Morning Story and Dilbert, Tracie Louise Photography, Reflections of Life Thus Far, Roots to Bloom, and Teacher as Transformer.  That will get you started and this is a healthy mix of reality and lovely and pictures and prose and all good things.  There is another thing that I do not write.  I do not write poetry, because I end up sounding like Dr. Suess, it is a good thing I am about to let you loose, because this paragraph is nearly the caboose.  You see what I am saying?  Uh huh, I thought so.  Oh, one last thing….

You Like Me!!

Earlier this week, Yoga with Maheshwari nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I am very thankful for such a gift!  The rules were to thank the person who nominated me, which I just did, and to tell you seven things about myself, which I belief I have done within the body of this post.  I am also supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers, so if your name is hyper-linked and mentioned within this post, tag, you are it!  Do with it what you will.  You did not even see that coming did you?  You would have run sooner if you had, but I got ya!  Yes, I am a sneaky one…and I probably did not hit 15 bloggers, but I am tired.  Now go.  Make some changes for the better!  Yes, there will be pain, but I promise you will not die.  Yes, there will also be tears, but no one ever died from crying, although I am admittedly behind on a few seasons of House, M.D, so if I am mistaken, please accept my apologies and do the crying anyway.  You will feel better.  I can almost guarantee it!

The art of just being—Safe in your own skin

Several weeks ago I sprained my ankle.  I have a trick ankle–(I have always wanted to call some body part a trick whatever ;-)–but the only trick that this ankle does is to randomly give out from time to time.  This ankle has given out so many times in my life that I have lost count.  The last time it had happened was two and a half-year prior, and before that three of so years prior, only that time the trick had me tumbling down a flight of stairs and left me with a foot broken in two places.  Of course, the break took priority over the weak ankle, so I never mentioned it to a doctor, nor had I ever treated it properly when it is sprained.  This last time though, I quit what I was doing fairly soon after I had hit the ground, and instead of trying to carry on as I normally would have, I told my client I could not finish.  I went straight to the store and bought two bags of frozen peas, some ibuprofen, and an Ace bandage.

Once I was home, I wrapped the ankle, took some medication for the pain and inflammation, and I elevated my ankle and iced it every two hours and I did this for four whole days.  It was a bad sprain.  My son was with his father that week, so I could actually take care of my poor ankle the way I knew I should have been care for each and every time.   I learned a lot during that time I was laid up.  In the past, I had always hated being laid up.  I am a mover and a shaker.  I had a friend who once told me, many years ago, that even when I was sitting perfectly still, it was as if I was vibrating.  I chalked that up to being a high-strung, expressive, high energy person, and to some degree, I believe that is true.  But these days, I am not strung nearly as high as I used to be.  These days, I can just be.

I had no problem at all laying in bed with my foot up for hours while I read.  I greatly enjoyed laying on my couch just thinking while I iced my ankle.  I felt relaxed and I feel comfortable with just being and I felt more than comfortable with taking care of myself properly.  I felt at peace.  It was lovely.  Of course, I had a lot of time to think and I realized that even two years ago I might not have been able to give myself this  type care.  In fact, I am certain I would not have been able to, and three years ago, there would have been no way I could have held still for even twenty minutes to ice my ankle.  What had changed after a lifetime of moving and shaking?  I finally felt safe in my own skin, and I finally felt safe to be myself fully, and that has only happen in the last year or so.

I thought back to three years ago.  It was shortly after I had left my marriage and I felt happy and free, but I was not relaxed.  I loved where my son and I were living, and I was making life changing choices, but I was wound so tightly that, in retrospect, I am surprised I survived.  I kept having random panic attacks that just came out of nowhere, like the great heart attack that wasn’t a heart attack incident on Thanksgiving night of 2009.  My kids had been home, and we had enjoyed a splendid evening, and a wonderful meal.  With the exception of my little boy, they had gone off to their Dad’s, and I was downloading pictures when I began to have chest pains.  I finally called 911, and there was an ambulance ride, and my adult sons came back over to fetch their brother, and in the end it was all anxiety. As I told the ER doctor, “I think I really just need a good cry.”  After my EKG and lab tests were fine, he agreed, and sent us all home.

The stress of that time still floors me when I think about it.  I had left a hideous marriage with nothing but a child and  duffel bag of clothing.  I knew I was going to prison and I knew I had a horrible divorce to look forward to getting through.  On the outside, I looked fine, but on the inside I was terrified and stressed beyond what most people could handle.  One night I was knitting and I realized that I was sitting perched on the edge of the couch.  I then realized that I never sat back.  I could not relax enough to do more than perch anxiously on the edge of the couch.  When I laid my head on the pillow at night, I had to consciously relax my neck enough so that my head was actually on the pillow, not hovering over it.  Amazingly, I thought I was doing really well at the time, too.

Now I have survived the divorce from hell and all ended well.  I survived prison and while in prison, I got to the core of my pain from age 5 forward and I uncovered my authentic self and have learned to love, respect, appreciate, and care for her—for me.  I know now that the all of that high-strung, ever-moving, vibrating person was me working as hard as I could, with all the power that I had at my disposal, to contain a lifetime of unexpressed emotions and pain.  I certainly expressed emotions, but not the ones that needed to be expressed, and I certainly felt pain, but I drank to cover that up so I could go on for another day holding everything in and functioning to the best of my ability.

Those two years prior to going into prison were like transition in labor.  Things had kicked into high gear, and everything that I had been repressing was screaming to get out, but there was no safe place yet.  Prison was the safe place where there were two very safe people to guide me through the birth of myself and the pain that accompanied the birth.  Now I have no problem just being.  When I work, I work hard, and I move fast, but a lot of the free-floating, hard to contain, frenetic energy is gone.  I do not have to work anymore hold in pain, or sadness, or anger.  It is gone, for the most part, and anything new that crops up is dealt with promptly and easily.  I can and do take care of myself now.  I have no problem setting limits, and it is becoming easier for me to say “no” when I need to say it.  I feel safe because I know it is me who keeps me safe with proper boundaries, kindness, and self-love which is something I denied myself for a very long time.

When I had returned to work after my sprained ankle one of my clients said, “Well, you had a nice little break, didn’t you?”  The comment came from a woman who cannot care for herself to save her life, and the comment was intended to induce guilt.  In the past, I would have felt the need to defend myself, or to justify my actions.  This time I said nothing because I knew I did not need to justify caring for myself.  I just glanced at her, smiled, and kept working.  After a bit, she said, “You really needed to do that, though, didn’t you?  You needed to take care of yourself.”  I replied, “Yes, I did.”

I need to care for myself every day and I will continue to do it, even if some do not understand.  I am safe in my own skin.  I can just be now and that is a miracle.  The true beauty of it all, though, is the fact that now that I allow myself to be me, and I care for myself, everyone else gets to be whoever they are and that is okay.  The only person I have to live with 24/7 for the rest of my life is me.  I get top priority now and by ranking myself that way, everyone in my life benefits greatly.  What a blessed thing it is just being me–finally.  It was well worth the wait.

Anger, grudge holding, and the cure—Forgiveness

I’ve never been any good at holding a grudge, though I have admittedly tried.  In the past, I have been more apt to forgive easily.  Some would say too easily.  The problem was not that I forgave, it was that I also forgot, which meant that I stayed in bad relationships too long, or looked past completely unacceptable behavior, which kept me wide open for hurt after hurt, and certainly to abuse.  There is a middle ground, I believe.  We can forgive, let go of anger, hurts, and bitterness, and still remember that the behavior and actions were awful, and that we did not deserve that type of treatment.  We can then make healthy choices about who we keep in our lives, and who we do not.  Keeping anger in our lives is never healthy, nor is holding grudges, yet may people do, to their great detriment.

I know some lovely people who hold grudges and carry around things that should have been forgiven long ago.  We can all do this at one time in our life or another.  For instance, for the longest time I could not completely forgive my first husband for moving me away from the west coast, my family and homeland, against my wishes.  Despite all of the rotten things that happened during, and after, our divorce, we’d come to a point of forgiveness, but this was the one thing I could not let go of, try though I did.  I’d forgive him for the move over and over, and think that I’d finished the job, only to get triggered by something and realized I was far from done in my forgiving.

I hated that I could not forgive him completely.  It took me moving back to Montana for nine months, and coming back to Maine of my own choice, more or less. (The state of Maine fairly insisted that I come back to go to prison 😉  I am here by choice now, having realized finally that my home is wherever my heart is, and my heart is with my children, all on the east coast.  He also did something amazingly cool by taking my 7 year old into his home while I was in prison.  We talked two days ago, and when I got off of the phone with him I realized that it was finally done.  I had forgiven him completely.

There are a lot of what I term average grudge holders in the world.  I have a dear friend who has a friend she adores.  Of her she says, “She’s always been a very good friend to me, but there was the one time in high school where she said something that really hurt me.”  High school for her was about 60 years ago.  She carries other things around that she’s been unable to forgive, and they have added up, and I can see how they weigh her down.

There are other people who are masters at grudge holding.  They carries their grudges around with them, heavy in their pockets, and at the end of the day they take out their grudges, and look at them, and polish them up like precious jewels, then they return them to their pockets to carry around the next day.  Rinse, repeat.  So, why do some people hold grudges?  Many people use grudges to cut themselves off from the person who hurt them.  They feel that this distance protects them, but in reality it effectively cuts off the chance for positive communication, resolution, and forgiveness.

Chronic grudge holders often have anger problems that they are too afraid to face, so they hold grudges, and shame and blame, because it’s easier, and safer for them, than looking at themselves and taking personal responsibility for their part in the conflict, or events.   Grudge holders do not understand that people are human, and say and do things that hurt others, often with no malice involved.  The anger festers, the grudge grows and takes on a life of its own, and the person holding the grudge is left miserable, trapped my their own anger, and depleted of joy.  Oftentimes, their pride it too big to recognize just how badly they are hurting themselves with their undying anger.

When you are dealing with a narcissist, or a narcissistic sociopath, you are dealing withe a whole different ball of wax completely.  The narcissist, or narcissistic sociopath, will not just hold a grudge, they will hold a grudge and they will seek revenge, often stopping at nothing to right the perceived wrong.  God forbid you leave leave one of these people and try to divorce them.  The abuse that they exacted upon you will generally only escalate, and often they will use, and abuse, the court system to try to see to your ruination.  So distorted is their world view, and so disordered is their personality, that it is impossible to them to forgive, and let go, because they simply do not care what their vengeful acts are doing to others, even their own children.  They hurt, so they want to make you hurt, without taking a speck of responsibility for their own behavior.

I know a whole family who operates like this.  They blame and shame and tear down but never stop to see the hideousness of their own behavior.  The son held a grudge towards his parents for favoring his little sister, something he felt set him up for a life of failures.  This lead to several, years long, estrangements between him and his parents.  They’d say something he didn’t like, and he’s cease all contact with them for years.  I simply could not “get it” until I spoke to his parents during one of these estrangement periods.  His parents told me stories of his lifelong habit of lying, his inability to keep a job, and about the time, when he was 19 or 20, when he came home from work late at night and woke his father up several times in a row, so they told him to move out.  That had happened 25 years prior!  Yes, I did have an “aha moment” about the son’s behavior at that point.  It had been modeled for him all of his life.  I have seven kids and I have been awakened more than once by one coming home late at night.  My response was always, “Thank you,God!  They are home and safe.”  Then I went back to sleep.  Sadly, narcissists do not learn to forgive, and let go, and move on, nor do they want to learn.

Forgiveness is the cure for anger and grudges, though, and it is an excellent cure with many benefits.  People who forgive have less stress in their lives, lower blood pressure, sleep better, have a stronger sense of spirituality, better relationships, and are more loving and giving.  Forgiving people are happier, healthier people.  Forgiveness is good for you!

Forgiveness, like love, is not just a feeling.  It is a conscious choice and an definite action.  You have to make the choice to forgive, and keep working at the forgiveness.  This is especially true when the person you are working to forgive is still trying to hurt you.  Keep working at it anyway, for yourself, and your family. Forgive as many times as you need to forgive.  Ask God for help.  Forgiving does not condone the behavior, words, or actions, of the one who hurt you, but it frees you from needing to hold onto your hurts.  Freedom is an excellent feeling, and place to be.

It’s never too late to begin to forgive, and today looks like a great day to me. Like any dance, it will be two steps forward, one step back, but with practice and resolve, it is a dance that you can master.