Another Christmas Past

This year Christmas was different. Different than it has been for nearly 20 years. I was not invited to my ex-husband’s parents’ home to celebrate the day. In fact, there was no discussion. Simply a text that asked if taking the boys at noon and returning them later that evening would be an acceptable plan. And that was how I came to find out I was not welcome. Texts from my mother-in-law voicing I was in their thoughts didn’t quite make me feel any better. As they did not express any consideration either. I will say my parents have and continue to let my ex-husband know he is always welcome to a family gathering even if to just stop by and say hi to family members he no longer sees. But…he never does.

I thought I was okay. I had time to mentally prepare myself for the day. And truthfully I was with my boys, the most important part of the day, all morning. But when my house fell silent and the emptiness started to invade me, I made a last minute decision to go to my brothers. He and his in-laws had already expressed a desire for me to join them. In fact they somewhat pleaded this case. And with all their sweet intentions and definitely heartfelt words, there was a feeling of pity splattered on top that never sits well with me. The last thing I want is pity. I overlooked this and headed north just the same.

I was greeted by my sweet nieces taking me by the hand and excitedly showing me all that Santa left that morning. Their hugs were medicinal. My brother and his wife have a simple way of exuding love. It lacks any unnecessary negativity, stress, and certainly is never pretentious. As a result, my mood was stable and I felt fairly balanced…until I returned home.

I couldn’t deny the excitement of my boys, particularly T. He was floating on air, bouncing, happy. And I did all that I could do to try and smile. When my ex-husband asked what I did, as I knew he would, I reluctantly told him. In his mind I had a good day, I did something and was with family. “That’s great!” Oh, how I wanted to scream and cry and curse right then. It wasn’t until I lay in my bed all tucked in under my covers later that night that I cried. A release in many ways I was not expecting. I woke to swollen eyes that caught co-workers attention. I felt so vulnerable and exposed.

So yes, another Christmas passed by..this one less extravagant than ones prior. I have no amazing stories of the day. I have no report of any epiphanies realized. I only have a shift. Another shift. Hesitantly looking forward to the new year, I remain bruised.

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Messages

I once wrote about wishing I could go forward in time to see my boys okay – as a way of giving me peace today. Having a knowledge that in the end, it will all be okay. Lately, I have been having discussions with T, in response to his observations about his father, about life really and people. Truthfully, I have found it somewhat difficult walking a fine line between speaking negatively about his father’s actions/words and providing some clarification and lessons. As T gets older and starts to understand more I’d like to be able to offer positive words to ignite a knowingness in T that he does not have to follow his father’s path. And I speak specifically of T simply because of his recent conversations with me, but hope D hears me as well. At the moment D is muddled in between being a 17 year old, stubborn, on-the-verge-of-fleeing-the-nest-but-keeping-one-foot-cautiously-in-the-door, defiant, and yet loving and happy young man. He knows his father, but he so desperately wants his father – on the surface I don’t think D is even aware of this feeling – consciously anyway. I, as his mom, am left in a challenging corner that I have been arduously working to maneuver. Which leads me to the purpose of this post. There have been so many messages I have hoped my boys receive from me and understand and keep with them as they grow.

  1. Always hold the door open for others – not just women, but everyone. A small gesture of kindness truly can spark a light of hope in someone’s day.
  2. Be unselfish in your life. The world is bigger than you and I. Know when you do for others, you actually benefit just as much.
  3. But..remember to take care of your self. When you grow your being in a positive light, when you feed your own soul, when you treat your mind, body, and spirit as the temple it is, you will evoke happy energy.
  4. Your past does not define your future. Every single day you have a choice.
  5. Exercise. It not only strengthens your muscles, it strengthens your mind.
  6. Volunteer. Give to charity. Make a difference. And don’t forget the Starfish Story.
  7. Respect your partner. Take a deep breath and please think before you speak. Words can’t be taken back. YOU own your actions and your words.
  8. Family. Don’t ever give up on family.
  9. Truth. In your life, be truth. Speak it, show it, and model it.
  10. Be kind. Remember you have no idea what someone has gone through, what they have endured or experienced.
  11. Don’t forget to respect others and yourself. We are all human beings existing in a shared space.
  12. Don’t get caught up in the small details so much so that you lose sight of the bigger picture.
  13. Someday if you have you own children, relish in each moment, every stage of their life, plant seeds of confidence, and self-worth, and love in their hearts with your words and your actions.
  14. Go to bed every night saying “Good Night, I love You” to at least one person.

I am sure I could add more to this list and maybe someday I will. But know my beautiful boys, I love you with all my heart. Everything I am and everything I do, is because of both of you. You are my heart. You are my soul. You are my breath. Please forgive me for the mistakes I have made as your mom, but know I have tried and will always try to do and be my best for you. You are my reason.

Grief Will Stay

“I don’t think you will ever get over the grief.” These are words spoken to me from my counselor a few weeks ago. Having a family, being a mom was my dream. And while I will forever and always be a mom, the dream of family has become fleeting. I will never have it now. One of the unfortunate consequences of divorce is along with dissolving all that is unhealthy, all that is good is gone as well. Try as I might to act like a sieve to catch the little shiny pieces, the holes are too big and all washes through. It has been so tiring on my soul.

My brother continues to tell me to lose all expectations to avoid continuous disappointment. But this is so hard. I have become a single parent in almost all aspects. Do you know how hard it is to parent a 17 year old boy? I envy those who can go to bed at night with someone alongside them. Someone to discuss the day, to problem solve, to truly be a partner in all of life’s challenges. I won’t use running solo as an excuse to be less of a mom. Trust me, I am doing all that I can to steer both of my boys in the right direction. But I confess there are moments I feel I teeter on completely breaking down.

As much as it hurts to continue to feel grief, it’s here to stay. Yes, grief won’t leave. But, it may be time for me to work on accepting the grief, letting it lay where it may fall. I can not change grief. I certainly can not go back in time and change my dream. But I can accept.

“Growth is uncomfortable because you’ve never been here before – you’ve never been this version of you. So give yourself a little grace and breathe through it.” – Kristin Lohr

Christmas Eve!

It’s Christmas Eve! I would LOVE if I could just pause this day. So many wonderful memories since I was a child are wrapped up in this holiday. My boys are the same way. My youngest was given a writing prompt at school to write about Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. He chose Christmas Eve. Mentioning family, tradition, his cousins – he “gets” it. My oldest loves the lights as we drive home from my parents at night. Should I even mention that their father has chosen to spend the night with his girlfriend – forgoing an HOUR with his boys and seeing his nieces (my brother’s girls) who adore him because “my time is limited with (her).” Hmmm….but his time doesn’t even exist with his youngest son tonight. The very night that T holds close to his heart. And D just asked “why isn’t Dad coming tonight?” How do I answer that? And why is that my job? And by the way, if I did answer that question honestly, it wouldn’t sound very nice. But I digress.

Tonight is going to be wonderful. Amazing. And I intend on soaking up every single minute. Some traditions change. Life evolves. Right now I am looking forward to new adventures. New memories. New.

I wish everyone a very, Merry Christmas! May your night be filled with moments that you can cherish.

Her…

So…a week ago I met her. Leading up to the moment of seeing her for the first time, I was in denial? I know there was a part of me that blocked all feeling. But, I did feel strong. And ready. I couldn’t help but notice her hand shaking as she tried to pass the money to the employee.  She insisted on paying for my tea as well. We made general introductions, shook hands, and sat down. Peering over our cups of tea, our eyes connected and of course a bit of uncomfortableness permeated the air. “Ask me anything,” she said. But, I made it clear – I hope – this was not a test in any way. Only a means to make things easier for all, but most importantly my boys, as we move forward.

My goal was to relay two points. Two views, maybe even two hopes.

Firstly, I do not want my boys to feel bad or as though they are somehow betraying me when they ultimately spend time with her. I want to be able to ease their concerns, worries, possible confusion by letting them know it is okay. And I wanted to be able to do this from an honest stance. A personal stance. And so I simply expressed I’m trying to make this easier for all. Realizing D was sixteen now and has the right to express not wanting to meet her, of this she was understanding and it was she in fact who expressed this point. “Whatever you (both) feel is right.”

Secondly, I desire to grow my family, not diminish it. I explained how important family was to me. Holidays and Birthdays being a gathering I wish to continue for my children – they are the heart of both. I let her know, although I understand it will take time, I hope she can join and welcome her as a part of these celebrations.

We talked much like new friends, sharing our histories at a level. Our education, our children’s sports, places we lived and why, jobs, and even more personal matters – one being her recent experience with Breast Cancer were all discussed over the course of our two hour meeting.

By all accounts, she was intelligent, pretty, hard-working, a dedicated mom, and while seemingly strong, a hesitant, soft, vulnerable, yet loving core was evident.

Each step I make during this process, I think “this was the hard part right?” There have been so many “hard parts” I am starting to think there will be no end to them. However, I’ve noticed I am getting stronger. And more aware. But as with most, there is more work to be done. Shifting perspective, saying goodbye and saying hello. It’s change.

 
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Where is Hope?

As if to suddenly have cold water thrown in my face, hope has appeared to have left the room. Sadly, it feels like it has left my life. Boiling, festering, lingering, holding strong – all the hurt and disappointment. Grabbing hold of the present, the moments of light. But the clock outsmarts me. Poof – it’s gone.

Drops of guilt, remembrance, dreams, memories, love, and pain wash down my face. But it doesn’t feel cleansing. “Is everything okay? You said there is a lot on your mind.”

Yes, yes there is. Don’t you know? Can’t you feel? Tomorrow would have been eighteen years. Tomorrow, eighteen years ago, was and still is one of the best days of my life. Laughter, love, family, possibility, and hope.

Please tell me. Where is Hope? I need you.

Trying

Trying equals effort. Some days, it feels too much.

I received an article in my inbox today referencing a study that linked a father’s mood to his children’s development. The article peeked my interest as it was titled “Dad’s Bad Mood Affects Kids, Big Time.” (To read the article click here) I immediately felt validated in some way. Sounds silly I am sure. But I firmly believe our moods, stress, outlook, our state of being, all have energy that is shared.

The energy in our house was like a tornado. Intense, thrashing, silently destructive. It was picking up speed and strength. The only way to stop it, was to somehow get out of the center. The force so strong, it seemed impossible. Until there was a clearing one day, a small opening. And so to save my family, I reached through that opening.

But what lay on the other side was not simplicity nor pure bliss. Struggles remain – this is life after all. The energy however has balanced. Sadness lingers just the same.

But I am trying. With all that I have, I am trying.