Collateral Beauty

10 years ago today, my husband Chris and I, stood before a judge and were granted a divorce. I stood like a strong tower before him, but in the darkness of a parking deck, I collapsed into a fit of sobs in my best friend’s arms and cried out to anyone listening: “Why?”

After adopting his son, bringing our love to life in two children and staring down my husband’s demons, this finality was incomprehensible. 


Everything that happened after that was a nightmare my children and I stumbled through with faith and the support, love and prayers of our friends and family. There was A LOT of friction and unimaginable amounts of pain. 

The players changed through the years but the game of broken promises and relationships remained the same. Every fall, in October, around our anniversary, I lost myself, my faith … my mind. 

Last year as it happened I found myself at rock bottom, right back where I had started and dug deeper than I ever had before into myself, literally. The recovery from that place brought about acceptance and forgiveness of any and everything that was ever formed against me. 

I found my way to an open and affirming tribe. 

I found myself. 


This past October, Chris would also find his rock bottom, the inevitable destination at the end of a very long road of self-destruction. When I received word, I fell on my face and made a fervent plea: PLEASE TAKE CHRIS HOME, let him find a peace that passes all understanding and finally remember himself. 

Less than a month later, a familiar voice found me by phone, followed closely by tears, words left unsaid and an absolution I thought would never come. 

In December we experienced, what our children proclaimed, a Christmas miracle, together. 


Soberity. Solace. Solidarity. 

I watched my children’s resilience shine. I marveled at the blessings of collateral BEAUTY. 


Despite everything, in spite of the odds, come what may, we are all going FORWARD, TOGETHER, to try and take what was lost and broke and make it right and something BRUTIFUL. 

On what might have been 8 years

IMG_7638I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

I’ve fallen out of love and back in since last year, just not with the same person. Occasionally, I really shake my dirt off and rise. More often, it seems as though Im sitting in my fallen hole, waiting to see if someone dares attempting my rescue or at least if anyone really notices that Ive fallen at all. That is partially my own fault though. I make-believe that Im ok when Im not. Perhaps, doing the same  thing…waiting to see if  someone dare look behind the curtain, or at least notice there is a curtain.

Maybe that’s all I have known love to be…a waiting game.

I just needed to change my perspectacles to see that maybe, just maybe, love is delicious ambiguity. An adventure, not a destination. Not anniversaries, but instead always  attempting to collect every possible experience we can together. It’s not the years in love, but the love in those years.

Im willing to take the risk. There will be times when it all falls apart at the seams, no doubt, but I’d just really appreciate, if just once, and once is all I need in this lifetime, if I could have a partner that will tug just as hard to bring them back together, over and over and again and again, as many times as it takes. That’s what I want. Not perfection, but a flawed human, with more heart than ego, willing to admit “I fucked this up and I need your help to fix it”, and follow through. Ah, the follow through. 

If anybody is wondering what the reality of remarriage is for me, that’s the only vow I want or that I ever wanted for that matter. 

Love without betrayal would be heaven, but Im not sure it exists. 

That’s what I’d like from the current love I’ve fallen in. I’d like this guy, who’s still a little stuck in the middle, as am I, to build a partnership with me. I’d like to fill in our newfound foundation with substance. I’d like us to brush the dirt off the other’s shoulder. I would like to constantly rotate the heavy pulling and lifting, equally yolked, so as one tires, the other bears more and vice versa. I’ll bend to  give him a boost and when he reaches higher heights, he doesn’t look down on me, but instead bends to pull me on level. Always give and take. You might think that’s 50/50 but you’d be wrong. It’s 100/100. When you give 100 you will inspire 100 to be given back. Never dictating it, but inspiring it.

Despite the fear of abandonment and the raw vulnerability, these are the contents of my heart’s desires laid bare. After everything, that’s no small feat and Im really proud to hold such confidence in being capable and ready and worthy of that kind of love.

If it took being broken open again and again to arrive at this capacity, I have no regrets.

 

 

 

 

Things to Expect before Calling it Quits

 As my marriage was ending, I struggled with shame, feeling alone in my own personal hell.
However, as my journey continued and I started to heal, I connected with others who had walked a similar path, and I discovered that I was not alone. Many voiced similar feelings experienced during their divorce, and more than once I heard “if only I had known what to expect.”

As homage to those that have split from their spouse, as well as those currently on their own divorce journey, I offer this communal list of what to expect:
1. We will doubt ourselves, and feel so afraid of the Unknown that we will reason that even though we are miserable, we are at least comfortable, and that we can endure an unhappy marriage.
We will try to convince ourselves of this, even though in our hearts we know that it isn’t true. But we will tell ourselves lies and reason with ourselves that we shouldn’t split—for the kids, for the finances, etc. We will bargain with ourselves because we are scared. Know that this is normal.
2. The roller coaster we feel when the decision is made to separate is unlike anything we ever experienced.
The regret, the grief, the pain, the confusion, the overwhelming, the fear, the desperation of wanting to be loved after our spouse is gone.
But even though we don’t know it, there is a weight that will slowly start to ease from our shoulders—the same weight that we denied all this time when we told ourselves nothing was wrong.
3. Our self-esteem may shatter, and we will be desperate for love and validation.We will think that nobody will ever love or want us again, and we may be tempted to date immediately and latch on to the first person who pays attention to us. We must resist this urge to attach ourselves, even if we have not had that romantic touch or intimacy for a long time. Trying to fill that void with another relationship robs us of the chance to heal.
4. Although we may tell ourselves that we’re fine, we will need a support system.
A therapist, a support group, good friends, or the non-judgmental anonymity of online forums. Whatever combination of systems we choose should help us attain two objectives: creating a safe place for venting, and helping us find constructive, healthy ways to cope with the divorce.
5. We will feel like we are getting sprayed with an industrial fire hose.
The number of “to-do’s” and “should-do’s” regarding emotions, finances, legal issues, custody and other logistics will come with incredible urgency. We will feel paralyzed and overwhelmed.
Understand that splitting is a process. Like any process, there are things to address immediately (safety, shelter, income), things to address a little bit later (understanding legal and custody issues, finding an emotional support system) and there are things to address longer-term (ensuring our separation agreement is something we can live with, making sure we and our children are adjusting). We will need to remind ourselves that divorce is like a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. We must save ourselves the stress by accepting that not everything has to be done right now.
6. We will have no control over our spouse’s behavior.
For serious offenses (threatening harm, cleaning out our savings account or wracking up debt on a joint credit card), we will absolutely need to take action. But there will also be annoyances that may not endanger us, but will anger us. It may seem like they are trying to make our life as miserable as they possibly can, which could result in a long, drawn-out, expensive, soul-sucking divorce—if we let it.
We will need to remember that although we can’t control their behavior, we can control how we react to it. Our decision to take the high road despite how they act is entirely up to us. Like most things during the split, it will be easier said than done.
7. We will be tempted to make decisions based on emotion, rather than logic.
We will forget that divorce is a business transaction––a splitting of assets and incomes. The logical part of us will understand this, but the part of us that is hurt may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business at all. During the legal process, we will be forced to choose our battles. Choose wisely.

This is what gets me: Part Three

This story will always be one of lost and found. I will always put it down only to find myself stumbling over it again. All my life, I will remember one thing. All his life, he will remember another.

But Im ok with getting lost, just to find myself and find my way again. I have to fall to rise above it all. Diving in without my wings if it means that I relearn to fly each time. Rising like a  pheniox through the fire, through the relit flames. Im grateful for each time that I get to discover, once more, what life is other than a cage to me. 

This is what gets me: Part Two

Today I had my epidural spinal injection. They were at the same hospital where I delivered my kids. In fact, the recovery room was the room I actually delivered Jedi in. I’ve written about what a strange experience it is before. Just like I’ve written about watching the episode of ‘Friends’, the one where Rachel tells Ross she’s pregnant and they have the sonogram and how it sent all these memories flooding back.

Today, I found myself watching that episode again and coupled with being in the same room I delivered my son, I was struck with such emotional pain that it took me back a little.

Back to a place I don’t like to be. I found myself back in the place where I question everything that happened in my previous marriage. Questioning how I ever let myself be in a situation like that. Examining every other moment we shared. Being disgusted at the way they have all been tainted. Wondering if I’m ever going to be able to look back on these memories that I should cherish with anything more than bittersweet melancholy. It makes me resentful and that’s a place I never want to stay. It makes me wonder too. Not that it would matter anyways but, I can’t help but wonder how he lives with the memories or if he ever thinks of us, or me, at all.

This is what gets me: Part One

This morning we were awaken with a BANG! that shook the whole house. A thunderstorm was rolling through just as the kids alarms were going off to ready for the school day, My thoughts, of course, went to wondering how long this storm was going to last and if I was going to need to drive them to the bus stop or to school altogether when me cellphone rang. It’s my Dad calling to say that the storm had woken him up too and that he’ll take the kids to school today. I hang up the phone even more grateful for my Daddy than I already forever am, when it hits me. THIS is one of the many things that never occurs to the EX. 

Does he ever wake up wondering how the kids are? 

How does he go about his day not knowing how they’ll get to school  during a storm, how their day will go, what they’ll eat for lunch, what kind of social situations they might need guidance navigating, what homework they may have, the things they’ll have to say about their day, whether there’s food to eat for dinner, if they’ll get their chores done or need a privilege taken away to motivate them or without those hugs and kisses before they go to bed safely tonight?

Resolutions

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to start blogging again.

I had kept a blog on Xanga for a number of years (remember that?). A great portion of joys and trials are forever there. However, most of these are now hidden, available to only a few select subscribers or just altogether private. I resent that mostly because it was a forced censorship that resulted from my divorce.

That’s a different story for a different day…when say we’ve finished cutting each grass blade on my acre, by hand, with child safe scissors.

In truth, I also find the Xanga interface boring now, but not writing somewhere left a great void for heavy sarcasm. I couldn’t resist.

Maybe I can import …

And here we are again. Blogging. Getting those thoughts which clog up my noggin out into the vast world wide web. Perhaps there is a more suitable place for them.

I could talk about it?

This tends to lead to people not understanding my dark humor which is then followed by judgmental looks. This way I still risk that chance of something being lost in translation, but I don’t have to see that judgmental thing. Yuck.

And there you have it.
A step in the right direction. Or at the very least…a step.

Parent Panel Speech

I just got done speaking at a cross-training seminar for various county agencies who provide services for at-risk youth on the “Parent Perspective”. The idea was to give counselors, special education teachers, MR/DD workers, county protective service case workers, etc, etc the perspective of the parent utilizing these services or involved with these agencies. A lot of times when these people are working with parents, they are so busy taking notes and developing plans and ideas of what they can or have to do in their head while they meet with the parents that they don’t always HEAR us. The ladies leading the training wanted them to do nothing but actually listen to the stories, behind actual cases.

When I was approached about this I thought it was an excellent idea. It still is an excellent idea. In fact – I recommend it. Brilliant! What better way to cut through red tape and get people from all these different agencies to realize how great the sum of all their parts is put together.

I guess I just didn’t realize how emotionally exhausting it would be to really relive the story of Pickle. It’s been such a long road. It’s so hard to talk about everything from the day I met my pickle, raising a child traumatized from a sexual assault, raising him as a step-parent to adopting him, his “Dad” walking out & now helping the Jedi, another traumatized child, cope from the exposure to inappropriate behaviors and aggression, and Pickle having to leave the home.

It’s difficult to share with a room full of strangers how to reconcile the dreams of the family you thought you’d have or even the ideas of what others think a family is, with the reality of what it actually is and living it day to day. I’m sure every mother/wife might struggle with that to some extent, but not everybody is dealing with having an adopted special needs child with such severe cognitive/psychological issues that impact the literal safety of the other children in the home that the adopted child must be removed and the overwhelmingly sense of guilt and failure the accompanies.

I got to tell them what services worked for me, what didn’t, what could work better. It’s hard to find enough words to express to the group how I might be another case they are working, that they can put away for the day and go home….but for a parent living it…this is my life, this is my child and I live it everyday and I do need help…lots of it….and so hard to admit it to yourself, much less ask for it.

I really hope the points came across and at the very least the prospective helps…someone…anyone…a little more.

That will be worth it.

The Note

I’ve decided the best way to deal with this situation concerning my terminally-ill ex-mother-in-law is to just say what I feel and mean what I say, in the most simplistic of ways and let her take it from there.
Really, that’s all I can do.

W,

I don’t know how to start this note or where it might end I guess I just feel that God has put it on my heart to write for awhile now. I don’t think I could ever reconcile the truth of what we have lived in the past few years with what you have been told. I just think it has been terribly unfair to you and I but especially the kids. I just want you to know that we really care about you, immensely. We love you and if you ever want to stop by and talk or talk about nothing at all, the kids would like that, I would too, and the door is always open. Ball’s in your court.

Stephanie