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Kids are Resilient, and Unicorns are Real.

My kids are incredible humans. They’ve been through a lot in their lives, which has shaped them into kind, compassionate, wise young people. My son and I were up late the other night talking about relationships, when he said something amazing to me.

“I don’t want to settle, mom. I see how happy you and Matt are, and I want that kind of love. I want to wait for something like that.”

His sweet words brought tears to my eyes, and I realized that he has watched me come full circle.

My kids had a front row seat for some of the worst years of my life. One of my greatest regrets as a mother was that I stayed in a toxic, broken marriage for many years longer than I should have. I was weak, depressed, lonely, disengaged, and hopeless. I felt trapped. Lost. I wasted precious years believing that I deserved to be miserable, and wore my wedding ring like shackles, all the while believing that I was doing something good for my kids. I didn’t want them to be from a broken home, then I realized that it was even worse for them to be living in one.

I hated the example I set for my kids. Having grown up in a home full of dysfunction and abuse, I knew that unhappy parents couldn’t raise happy kids. I really wanted to give them the healthy, happy home I wished for all my life. I wanted to give them the mother I needed when I was small. I wanted to model a healthy, loving, supportive marriage for them.

Instead, I allowed things to happen in our home that never should have. I avoided our problems, just like my mother did, just like I always said I wouldn’t. I was little more than a doormat for most of their childhood, unable to stand up for myself or for them.

I felt like a failure.

When I finally left his father, my son was twelve. He watched me twist in the wind, hollow and afraid. I thought leaving would be the key to my happiness. I didn’t know that just beyond our picket fence was the wilderness I would have to wander through to find a version of myself I could stand to look at in the mirror.

My kids watched me claw my way through returning to the workforce after nearly a decade of being a stay at home mom. They watched me pull myself out of the pit of my own self-loathing, go to therapy, and learn how to love myself, express my emotions in healthy ways, and find my voice. They watched me become empowered, confident, and free. Magically, we all began to heal and adjust to our new normal as a family of three.

Mid-metamorphosis, I took an intentional year of celibacy and solitude. I put a ring on my own finger, and I dated myself. I spoiled myself rotten with little gifts. I bought fresh flowers every week to keep on my kitchen table. I tried new things, met new people, traveled alone, took myself out for solo movie nights, and fancy dinners in pretty places. I took all the time, attention, energy, and love that I would have poured into a relationship, and poured them into myself . I got to know myself without the expectations and opinions of others, and let go of years of pain. I discovered interests and talents I didn’t know I had. I started building the life I wanted to live with intention and purpose, instead of letting life happen to me.

When I emerged from my chrysalis of self-care, I was a completely different person.

I didn’t think I would ever get married again. I was prepared for a long happy life with a herd of shelter cats in our modest home with a small library in it. I think in our culture we assume sometimes that single people are lonely. I was never lonely. I was active, engaged in a community of wonderful friends, volunteering, practicing yoga, dancing, becoming a published author, advancing in my career, and going on all kinds of adventures. I was finally happy- happy with myself, and happy by myself. The last thing I wanted was to fall down another rabbit hole to hell and end up in another miserable marriage.

But, then, I met Matt. As hard as I tried to analyze and over analyze everything he said to find the lies, there weren’t any. He was genuine and kind. When he made a promise, he kept it. When he said he would do something he did it. When he said he would be somewhere, he always showed up. It was super weird. I had never seen anything like it.

Matt is the quintessential Southern gentleman. As it turns out, chivalry is not dead. He opens doors, he pulls out chairs, he holds a strong arm across my chest when the car comes to a sudden stop, he treats people with respect and goes out of his way to help when there is a need, he calls me Beautiful like it’s my name. He’s an amazing dad to his daughters, and has become a huge part of my kids’ lives as well.

As our relationship grew deeper and we peeled back the layers of our lives and began to mesh them together, I realized that I had waited my whole life for him. He is the gentle, loving father I wished for as a little girl. He is the attentive, affectionate, sweet, supportive man that I wished for all the years my soul atrophied in the hands of a man who couldn’t love me. I had lived my whole life believing that my expectations were unrealistic– that kind, loving, honest men didn’t exist. Then, I met Matt, who is basically a unicorn, and my wishes came true.

I can honestly say that my relationship with Matt is the first healthy relationship I’ve ever had with a man. We come to the table as equals, we communicate effectively, we support each other in everything we do, we work hard together, and oh my gods do we play. Life is fun, and exciting, and we just seem to get better and better together. I never thought I would get married again, until I saw how wonderful a marriage could be if you find the right partner and invest the time and attention it takes to cultivate a happy life together.

I still regret that I wasted so many years being unhappy, and that I wasn’t fully present for my kids. I wish I had given them the best of me, and a better example. But, I am so grateful that they got to watch me fight for my life and become the woman I was born to be. I’m grateful that with my husband-to-be, I can show them an example of a strong, healthy marriage now. Truly, knowing that my son finds our relationship worthy of emulation is an honor. It makes me feel like I finally got things right.

I’ve heard children of divorce say that they will never get married, because they don’t want to live through the hell they watched their parents suffer, or put their own children through the pain that comes from unraveling a family unit. It makes my heart happy to know that my children are resilient, and that our divorce didn’t destroy their desire to find love and make families of their own someday.

In 78 days, my sweet son will walk me down the aisle, where Matt will be waiting with our daughters. Matt’s dad will read some pretty words, and tell us to exchange rings, and we will promise to love and cherish each other until we are parted by death. I will make that promise and mean it with my whole heart. Because, if life has taught me anything, it’s that unicorns are real, and when you find one you keep it and take really good care of it. Marriage can be tricky, and life is never certain, but when you have a partner who is willing to get in the trenches with you and help you find your way back out, you do everything you can to meet them with the same level of compassion and commitment.

It is my hope and wish that seeing the changes in me, and the contrast of my life today as compared to a decade ago will help my children find their own unicorns out in the world. (I’m pretty sure my daughter already has.)

I want them to love themselves enough to enjoy their own company until their perfect partner arrives to elevate them and take them to that next level of happiness and fulfillment in their lives. I want them to experience honest, unconditional love and mutual respect. I want to continue to show them what a happy, healthy marriage looks like, and how to work with their partners to make all of their dreams come true.

I’m grateful for every experience that brought me to this place in my life, where finally, I feel like I’m giving my kids an example I can be proud of. I hope that if nothing else, they can look at my life and see how powerful it is to invest in yourself and make necessary changes. When we do the work to become our best selves, we attract the right people to help us continue growing and evolving. And when we find that perfect partner, literally anything is possible- there are no dreams too big when you find your unicorn.

 

 

 

Photo credit: PxHere

 

 

 

 

 

What if we’re all just doing the best we can?

I remember standing in the kitchen with my mother at age thirteen. “I’m going to get out of here, go as far away as I can, and never look back.” I said, with the kind of absolute certainty that only an angry teenage girl can proclaim such a thing.

A decade later I made my first cross-country move. I thought that removing myself from the place I was born and raised would fix everything. But, as they say, “wherever you go- there you are”.

I hauled my emotional baggage around for two more big moves and at least a decade of miserable marriage before getting serious about unpacking all that shit and dealing with it. When I was finally ready to heal, I had to burn everything to the ground and start from scratch. It was a gloriously awful time of self-reflection, evaluation and love. I learned, grew and thrived more than any other time in my life. Still, forgiveness felt just out of my reach.

I felt my anger was justified. People were not kind to me when I was small. The ones who should have been there to love and protect me failed. I suffered abuse and trauma that no little child ever should. Even worse, I was told that I deserved to be treated that way. As little children do, I believed the grownups who told me I was worthless. I believed that there was something wrong with me, that I deserved to be abandoned and abused. I believed that I was not worthy of love.

It was from this place that I chose abusive relationships with men, punished and sabotaged myself constantly and held myself back from the good things in life. I didn’t believe I deserved to have anything good. I didn’t feel worthy of love or success. I gave my power away without a fight, without even realizing I was doing it.

I spent a lifetime feeling alone in my pain, separate from all the “normal people” and their pretty little lives. I kept myself isolated in a cage built from my own shame and self-loathing all those years, suffering in silence. When I finally found my voice and began speaking my truth, I was overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and support from friends and strangers alike. I was shocked to hear the chorus of “me too” echoing all around me.

Suddenly, I realized that I was not alone. I was never alone. There are so many of us in hiding, afraid to share our true selves with the world around us. No matter how terrible our stories, we are never alone in our suffering. Knowing this helped me see my childhood in a different way.

Looking back on my life, I now see that the ones who hurt me did so from their own pain. Maybe they were also abused when they were little children. Maybe their lives were difficult and stressful, and they weren’t able to cope. Maybe they lacked the foresight necessary to know how their actions would change who I am. Whatever the reasons, forgiving them was vital to my healing.

Forgiveness is not making excuses for people who treated us badly. Forgiveness is not saying that we were not harmed by their actions, or that what they did was okay. Forgiveness is making the decision to let go of the anger, hurt, resentment and fear- the emotional attachments we have to the events- so we can move on, unencumbered.

As I let go of years of resentment and hurt, I began to see people with more compassion. As I accepted the apologies I would never receive, I also accepted that the terrible things that were done to me, didn’t have anything to do with me. I didn’t deserve to be abused- no matter how many times people told me I did.

I was not born with some great flaw that made me less whole or less worthy than anyone else. Knowing this allowed me to love myself more completely, and live more authentically. I stopped holding myself back, and stopped letting other people choose my boundaries for me.

I realized that the ones who hurt me did so from their own wounds, and the ones who failed me did so in their own fear and avoidance.

We’re all just doing the best we can.

In our human limitedness, in our small perception of the universe, in our egos, our denial, our own wounds- we all fall short of perfection. Perfection, after all, is a myth. It’s an ideal we are sold to foster our insecurities. Perfection is not possible, and therefore, not a fair expectation for ourselves or anyone else who is just doing their best in their limited human form.

Today I feel more at peace with my past and my family. I know that I am whole. I am worthy of all the most wonderful things life has to offer.

I know that surviving my past has helped me become the strong, resilient woman I am today.

I know that sharing my story has helped many others like me reconcile the terrible things they’ve endured, and find their own fortitude.

Today I know that forgiveness is freedom. And, freedom is attainable when we accept that people are imperfect by nature. When the failures of other people hurt us, we are not to blame. We can let go of our pain and shame and live the big beautiful lives we deserve.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Max Pixel

 

He Helps Me Believe.

Five years post-divorce I thought my healing work was done. I thought I loved myself with the full capacity of my heart and soul. I thought my outlook on life was as rosy as it would ever be. I thought I had everything figured out. Then, life sent me a wonderful surprise, and I fell in love.

Falling in love seems to be the worst thing that can happen to a writer like me. Where does one find inspiration in a happy heart? And, how does one convey in words the deep swirling, ecstasy, bliss and fear that occur simultaneously while opening our hearts to a new partner? If I were to try to put that complex emotion into words, the most simple, honest way I could describe my new love, is this: He helps me believe.

He helps me believe that there are still good men in the world. He shows me every day that chivalry is not dead. The Southern gentlemen I thought only existed in movies are real life unicorns who walk among us. It’s more than opening doors or buying flowers. It’s holding me in the safety of his embrace while I sleep. It’s his strong arm pressed against my chest when the car comes to a sudden stop. It’s the way he keeps his promises. The way he jumps up from the dinner table to wash the dishes after I’ve prepared a meal. The way he creates space for me to be exactly who I am, and encourages me to follow my crazy dreams. These romantic gestures come so naturally to him, sometimes I don’t know if he even realizes he’s doing it. But each time he does, he helps me believe a little more in the power of  those little, everyday things that make a person feel honored, respected, and loved.

He helps me believe in the power of real, raw, passionate, beautiful physical pleasure. Sex that does not hurt. Sex that does not demean or degrade. Sexual expression that allows for fantasy and fun, and deep soul connection.

He helps me believe that my satisfaction is important, and my body is wholly adequate and desirable.

He helps me believe that I am ok, after years of believing I wasn’t. And in that, I see how very wrong I was to hate my body, and punish myself for the misdeeds of others who failed to see her as sacred and perfect.

He helps me believe in daddies. Daddies whose hands don’t hurt their children. Daddies whose words empower and encourage. Daddies who provide for, protect and nurture their little ones.

He helps me believe in daddies who read bedtime stories, kiss booboos, build erupting volcanoes for science projects, and get a little choked up when their baby nails their flute solo.

He helps me believe in daddies who stay. They stay because leaving their children would be like cutting off their own hands. They stay because they intuitively understand that their engagement in the lives of their children is vital to their wellbeing. They stay because they know how their relationship with their children will influence all future relationships they have with men.

He helps me believe that the kind of daddy I wished and prayed for as a child was not something I imagined, but something very real that a few really lucky little girls get to experience in this lifetime. This gives me infinite hope that the husband I dreamed of is also real.

He helps me believe in fairytales and super-heroes . Even though this princess is totally capable of saving herself, it sure feels nice to have a prince hold my hand through the hard stuff. Sometimes, he rescues me and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the way he gives himself to me so selflessly. The way he protects me, and supports me through life’s challenges is something I’ve never experienced. He reminds me that sometimes home is a person, not a  place. That safety, comfort, and love can be embodied by those who wish to extend such things to the ones they cherish.

He helps me believe that we can build a life and a future from a place of pure honesty. Our only motive to share a big, happy adventure together.

He helps me believe in love. Real love. The kind of love where both partners give and take equally. The kind of love that allows both partners to be exactly who they are in the world and inspires them both to be the best versions of themselves. The kind of love that allows for disagreements with kindness and respect, and celebrates milestones and victories for each individual as victories for all.

He helps me believe in me, in us, in families and forevers. He helps me believe that the best years of my life haven’t happened yet. He helps me believe that we are an unstoppable force, and nothing will keep us from accomplishing all we desire together.

 

Photo Credit: Le pont des Arts

The End of an Era

The time has come for me to retire my first blog, Dysfunction Diaries.  It’s a bittersweet decision for me. I started that site about eight years ago. It was vulgar, irreverent, and usually hilarious. It’s where my writing career began- poking fun at my family and all the ridiculous things they do.

Dysfunction Diaries gave me a space in which to find my voice. It helped me begin to see myself as a writer. The feedback and encouragement I received while creating Dysfunction Diaries ultimately gave me the confidence to start writing my book, to join writing groups, take classes and workshops, and eventually to reach out to Elephant Journal with my work.

As I’ve grown as a person and an artist, my writing style has changed significantly. I’m much more interested in sharing my story now in a way that can help others. I’ve got a crazy story, and I know that the desire to tell it has led me to my purpose on this earth. I am truly grateful for every experience that has brought me to this moment, and it is always my sincere hope to uplift and inspire others with my words.

As I move into this next chapter of my life, I will not forget where I came from. I plan to honor Dysfunction Diaries by self publishing a collection of short stories from the site on Amazon later this year. It seems appropriate to allow Larry and the gang to live on even after the site has been put to rest.

If you’re a new reader, or you’ve been with me since Dysfunction Diaries began- thank you.  I appreciate you supporting me, as I make my dream of becoming a published author come true. I am the luckiest girl to always be surrounded with love and support. I couldn’t do this alone, and even if I could, I just wouldn’t want to.

Namaste

xo Nee

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