Thursday, December 8, 2011

His Side has left the building

... along with Elvis and my battle to balance hope and disappointment.

As an overachiever, I didn't end this battle after quiet contemplation. That's too simple. ::eyeroll:: There were neighbors... and cops... and domestic violence papers... and changed locks. Thankfully, two guests didn't show up to the party: Tears and Regret.

Lemme go back. His Side recently made a remarkable move. He reached out to medical professionals for the help he needed to fight his formidable demons. I supported him as a friend, allowed him to remain in my home, and actually witnessed a marked improvement. He stopped drinking, gave up his tendency to try and control everyone (but himself), and conducted himself like a rational person experiencing a prolonged moment of clarity.

Then came the lapse. The meltdown.

He decided to get drunk on the vodka we purchased for friends and lost his damn mind. Seriously. And literally. He went to that place where the light behind his eyes go dark, reality escapes him, and a target must be sought. As I sat silently waiting for the storm to end, he couldn't stand my unwillingness to engage... so he threw me to the floor. By. My. FACE. It was the mush heard round the world. I hit the floor like a rock and went straight for the phone to call the police. He twisted my arm until I let go the house phone and took my cell. I got my son out of bed, went to the neighbors, and called the cops.

To make a long story short, I opted not to press charges so long as he was removed from the home. To his cousin's he went in a police car, as I stared at the police report - wondering how I endured the patience and longsuffering of hope.

Even as I sit here, 3 weeks later, I have trouble finding the words to express how this has changed my life. I am so satisfied that my daily energy isn't spent trying to help somebody who floats in and out of helping themselves. I cook more, relax more, and enjoy the slow process of getting my house back into order. Yet somehow, I don't regret the time I spent loving His Side and hoping he would win the fight against his heavy baggage. Hell, I still love him, but from AFAR.

Even though his apologies have been heartfelt and sincere, I was relieved to see the moment he realized there is no way back into my life. While he fights a new demon - the weight of regret - I relish the freedom of releasing all of his baggage back into his care. Unlike the past, I don't feel concerned that he may not make it. I'm alright with his success or his failure because I let it go without the remnant of feeling any responsibility.

Sadness, embarrassment, and lonliness were fleeting feelings. But this satisfaction I'm feeling is permanent.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A humor break since laughter is my lifelong friend...

A psychiatrist conducted a group therapy session with four mothers. "You all have obsessions."

To the first mother, he said, "You are obsessed with eating and even named your daughter Candy." He turned to the second Mom. "Your obsession is with money and named your child Penny." He turns to the third Mom. "Your obsession is alcohol and you named your child Brandy."

At this point, the fourth mother gets up, takes her little boy by the hand and whispers, "Come on, Dick, we're leaving."

Seems to me that last mother should have had more than one kid, but I digress.

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tears of a clown.

The tears. The TEARS. I can't take the tears. Don't tell me what a wonderful woman I am and explain how devastated you are that you have to leave my circle, my home, my LIFE.

Too little. Waaaaaaaaay too late. Like giving a whale a tic tac for bad breath after tooth rot sets in. A waste of time. A useless gesture. At worst... foolish.

I've seen these tears before. Don't tell me what a blessing I've been to you. Don't tell me I'm beautiful, sexy, fun and funny, sweet, and an unbelievable best friend - when you can't control yourself long enough to respect me as the woman you described.

For once, I'm not moved. I can't respond, except to tell you what a relief it will be to be away from you and watch your shadow fade into my rear-view mirror. In fact, as I explained to you over dinner, we'll both be relieved - just for different reasons. My reasons are obvious. For you, you can stop pretending that you ever intended to honor me and quit taking advantage of my love, patience, friendship, and help.

I'm no longer disappointed in you, because you showed me who you were and I didn't listen. Unfortunately, you waited until I was invested, and I boiled with the proverbial frog. That damn frog is the only way I can explain why it took me so long to jump out of this pot. I doubted my ability to see straight. That scares me the most. I'll never distrust myself again.

I thank you for every good time we had. They were just as real as the lows.

I created a category called "breakups" for this blog. It's almost strange to have to use it now with such finality.

I love you although there's no place left for you in my life. In the bittersweet end, I'm okay with that.

I stole the pic from here. So sue me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Under the wheels and into the rearview mirror goes HisSide in my mind...

Don't shop when you're hungry. You may buy too much.

Don't blog when you're angry. You may say too much.


Under the wheels and into the rearview mirror goes HisSide in my mind. I'd only consider hitting reverse to hear that "THUD" one more time...

I am tired, sleep-deprived, hurt, and angry. My exterior says I have this cocktail of negative emotions under control because my pressure-cook valve isn't at critical mass. I suspect my calm represents more emotional exhaustion than some enlightened state of "letting it go."

Last night, in an epic failure of manhood and maturity, HisSide erupted into an absolute meltdown after his ex-wife stole some money from him. She ran off into the night, leaving me the blindsided convenient target for HisSide's unchecked, unattended, and totally unhinged emotional ANGER.

Yelling in my face with spit flying. Balled fists. Threats of smacking me. Screaming "stupid," "idiot," in my face. The tirade was so long, so unprovoked, so surprising, and so BITTER, that I eventually cried. To which he responded, "You can save that act for somebody else."

You see, I learned to time these things with HisSide. I knew when it was coming. But this one hurt like no other. I paid the train fee and provided the transportation to meet her to split the check from the sale of their old home. I gave him the last change in my pocket so he could eat in the train station while he was there. I listened to his hurt as he described the way she gave him less than his half and literally RAN from the bank with the man she cheated with years ago during the marriage. I met him at the train, hugged him, rubbed his back as pain and anger took turns flashing through his confused mind. "I never thought she would do that to me." I played his favorite computer game with him when he wanted to take his mind off things. And I did my best to absorb the blow when the tirade against me started. Until enough was enough.

I don't want to get too sidetracked, but I had her number AGES ago. This is the same ex-wife who gave it to him up his ass five years ago when she scammed him into living in their old house rent free. I offered to draft a lease for him. I warned him he was placing himself in a precarious position. End result: She never paid a dime and the city took the house for a tax lien. I knew from their phone conversations she was a trickster. Strike one.

Fast forward five years later, the city finally sold the house and sent the check for the profit after the lien was resolved. "Don't trust her to give you your half. Get that check here and send her half to her. Not the other way around."

"But she would never do that."

"She fucked you on that house in the first place."

I was right, but somehow I paid the price for his folly.

HisSide is the only person ON. THIS. PLANET. to ever treat me this way, and yesterday was one of the lowest points of my life. Although I parted romantic ways with him over two years ago, I don't want to believe he has the capacity to treat me with such horror. But we've been here before, so why am I so hurt? I already know who he is, when he isn't the man I fell in love with. He's an inexcusable monster who I spent too long making excuses for.

How did I get here?

He screamed that he KNOWS I found somebody else since I broke up with him 2 years ago - an accusation he hurls when his Emotional IQ drops to Infancy. He's only half right. Although there isn't another man, I am open to dating and placing myself in a position to give love and get what I deserve in return. (Anyway, how stupid do you have to be to believe that screaming at a woman would make her want you back, anyway? Asshole.)

Is this what some people call the process of "falling out of love?" Nah. I don't believe that. I love HisSide as much as I did 4 years ago. To me, this is a process of placing the love for myself above any hopes that he'll grow up and grow a pair. I see how abused women get caught in a cycle. They skip this last important step and neglect to show their jerk THE DOOR. Love ain't they key. The key is RECIPROCITY! And I reminded HisSide that the doorknob needs to connect with his his ass ASAP.

I learned all I needed to learn about inviting madness and giving it a warm place to call home. I am remarkably thankful for the lesson HisSide represents in my life, primarily because I'll deeply appreciate the future joy of loving and getting a little tenderness in return.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Overheard during prime time...

Me: C'mon. Turn the tv off.

Him: I'm watching this.

Me: If I strip naked and stand in front of the tv, will you turn it off?

Him: Depends on what you're doing while naked.

Me: Hmph. I'm gonna sit down...

Him: Well if you sit here, I'll turn the tv off.

Me: ::blank stare::

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mothers and Daughters: Amen to the life coach

This blog is all about relationships. Although I primarily focus on my in-and-out relationship with His Side, I have been a spectator, advisor, player, winner, loser and radical fan of deciphering the code that governs all relationships.

A recent blog post about the tentative relationship I have with my mother led me, via a Google search for artwork, to a woman named Marion. She's an ICF accredited life and business coach with a cool blog called The "Second Half" of My Life. Marion managed to capture some poignant points about mothers and daughters in her blog post:

Mothers and Daughters: 9 Things They Should Know About Each Other

I am tempted to print and send the entire post to my mother in hopes of achieving the relationship we both claim to want. I haven't decided on the wisdom of possibly spinning mother into a tornado of twisted spitfire fueled by the offensive thought that I'm judging her. So for now, I'll invite you to see what Marion has to say.

I added the link to my sidebar because it deserves its own space in the landscape of this blog.
Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mothers and Daughters: One relapse and recovery at a time.

For sanity's sake, I accepted the wisdom and spiritual guidance that I can't, shouldn't, and simply won't concern myself with trying to change another human being. I have my hands full with ME, so why partake in the silliness of believing I know enough to adjust somebody else's behavior. Aside from solicited advice and addressing outright abuse, I value my peace over misguided control.

My readers already know how I was slow to accept this reality in dealing with my mother. I took long... too long... in deciding it was more important to adjust myself than holding high expectations of what she needed to do to improve our relationship. That was the best decision I ever made.

Today, on top of a series of personal dilemmas with my job, my health, and other nuisances that life can bring, I almost relapsed like an alcoholic trying to socialize in a bar.

My 12-year old gave me a long and frustrating story of a verbal tirade about me earlier today - from calling me a liar, to once again, complaining about His Side's presence in my life. She lured my father and both of my sons into the fray. My body betrayed me as I felt despair, anger, and frustration wash over me. Heat pricked my entire body. My eyes stung with angry tears. I stewed in the car as I drove towards home, wondering why she picked this time in our relationship to attack again - and have the nerve to be WRONG. We just took a beautiful family trip together. Where is this coming from?

Apparently, my ex-husband didn't take my son birthday shopping during a recent visit. He was keeping my son because I was invited to an engagement late in the evening. Somehow that made me a liar about why my son was visiting his father.

But something happened during that ride. I can only describe it as a "calm resolve" resulting in a deep desire to remain free from the paralyzing emotion I used to feel when her own spite and control issues got the best of her.

I walked into the house and cradled the phone in my hand. I looked at it for a moment as if I expected the phone to give me the last bit of advice I needed to handle this. For a moment, I considered avoidance as a solution. But in too many ways, that silence would scream a lie I simply couldn't live with. How is cowering better than fighting the wrong fight?

So I made the call. Without judging her behavior or psychoanalyzing her into submission, I respectfully exerted my disappointment and offered an option to improve the relationship she claims to want with me. I explained the birthday incident sans the usual tone of trying to defend myself. Without blaming her, I gracefully laid out what I desire for her and my children:

  • Children shouldn't bear the weight of hearing their parents criticized. It isn't fair to them and it creates unnecessary rifts in the family.

  • Hearing an accusation against me from my child hurts and integrity says to approach the accused.

  • The fervent attack against me with little information, in my absence, turns an apparent misunderstanding into an unfortunate roadblock. And it hurts.

  • I expect the respect of a conversation before the fever-pitch of anger takes over.

  • I'm at a point in my life where I don't want to fight about these things, and your claim that "I get upset" is a function of the argumentative way you approach me with your opinion.

  • I want a peaceful relationship where I can come to you with girl talk instead of trying to avoid sharing with you.

And a miracle happened. She agreed. Not the bitterly angry agreement that gets thrown on the table to end a conversation. The inflection in her voice indicated she wants to do this differently.

She made her own request, "Don't lie to me. I want the truth." In fairness, I admitted that I simply don't tell her things to avoid her criticism, but I'll never look her in the face and lie. I went over a major issue she thinks I lie about, and for the first time since this problem started, we had a conversation that revealed things she simply didn't know about it.

I couldn't have asked for a better moment with her. For 10 minutes, I had the mother I always wanted, one who listened without criticizing, one who promised to value girl talk over controlling criticism.

I have no idea or preconceived fantasy about our relationship past this day. She may or may not keep her stated resolve about the way she communicates with (and about) me. The best part is IT. DOESN'T. MATTER. I did my due diligence in the way I chose to address her. I have to believe there's a reward, even if it's just keeping my blood pressure low, for acknowledging her right to do what the hell she wants.

Today was a win. Not because mom said she would do better... but because I left the decision up to her while guarding over my own integrity. That's freedom at its finest.

Photo lifted from this site for IFC Films.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love, American Style

One lazy morning, as I flipped aimlessly through the channels with hopes of finding some mindless entertainment, I stumbled across a well-known television pastor whose words gripped me. I don't recall the direct quote, but he described the prevailing expression of love as 'a thin veneer of acceptance that is easily scratched away when human frailties and flaws emerge in the object of our affection.'

That's love. American style.

I won't pretend that our limited human experience can fathom and sustain the pure God-like love the pastor went on to preach about. In fact, it is a promise of the human condition that we'll be flawed in ways that make us quite difficult to tolerate. Even when we think we have it all together, we're still a pain in somebody's ass who just may love us in spite of...

When I assess my own history with that thang called "love," I can see where appearances, circumstances, personal resumes, and other surface "veneers" played a role in choosing mates. I know for a fact I was doing the best I knew how at the time. I had no clue that I often made choices like a frazzled mom shopping while hungry after a long day. The groceries all look good until you get home, open the bag, and see the excess of junk food that seemed all-too-perfect on the shelf.

And all of this leads me to...

My girl Negril is the only person who knows and understands the trials, tribulations, and uncertainties I've faced while navigating my relationship with HisSide. He is the object of my true love. His flaws are many, to the point where I understand the need to be away from him. But not once in the throes of his deepest personal battles did I love him any less. Even when I became a convenient target... Even when forced to put some space between us... Even when he wanted to blame me for problems he's had for longer than I've known him... I loved him and did what I could to help him. When asked, he'll tell you the same.

We remain friends that can't stand to be away from each other. The feeling is mutual, but then again, love isn't a "feeling" anyway. It's the energy that keeps you attached to another while doing what you can to make their life better. Because their pain is your pain. When they hurt, you hurt. And for no material reason at all, you can't imagine life outside of their presence because their soul is woven into your outlook.

We're like two children on a playground. He knocked over my blocks. I kicked his sandcastle. We cried. Then we made up and kept playing.

It's been about two years since I broke-up with HisSide. But he's still at home and we still love each other like crazy. I requested that he leave because the reality of some human frailties means making hard decisions. I still don't know where this will take us. But I know I love him and I am loved in return.

I wouldn't have it any other way because I want more than Love, American Style.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The most important relationship in my life

I am deeply fascinated with relationship dynamics. Mothers and daughters. Men and women. Parents and children. Even political "relationships" like liberals vs. conservatives. But today I was hit with an urgent, almost electrical need, to address a relationship I rarely discuss - my relationship with myself.

Many would argue that a relationship with God trumps all others. But as I approach age 40, I can't relate with Him, the parental units, the kids, His Side, or the damn Pope until I get a love fest going with the me inside this skin.

You see, I can name what I like and dislike about the people who surround me. I can name the ways God has been good to me. Dammit, I can even tell you what I respect about the differences in liberal and conservative political views. But I would be stumped for words if asked about me. Sure, I could describe my job and my roles in life as they relate to others (e.g. motherhood). I could even repeat the ways that other people describe me and I feel slightly horrified that I would need the references.

No worries... I'm not having an identity crisis that will lead to a self-discovery journey while backpacking across Europe. But I do crave an experience with myself that I can articulate with the same colorful clarity that I use to describe my attachments to others. Those attachments are important. But they're only reflections that can be distorted like funhouse mirrors.

The year 2011 entered with a fizzle for me. For the first time, I didn't receive the new year with an open heart and open arms. I didn't join the usual rally cry "this is going to be my best year yet." But alas... it just might be.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Emotionally Abusive Mothers and Adult Daughters: Part 4 of 4

Subtitled: And joy comes in the morning.

From the time I was young until this very day, witnesses have commented on my relationship with my mother. They’ve called her everything from bipolar to mean to simply jealous. Books and blogs that deal with emotionally abusive mothers describe everything from Borderline Personality Disorder to Narcissism. Hell, I have stories that could support any one of those theories. Several years ago during an innocent car ride, she sneered at me “You look just like those women your father cheats on me with… light skin and big boobs.”

Even though one or more of those theories could be true, I subscribe to the basic idea that my mother is chronically and fundamentally unhappy, attempted to relive her life through me (“live vicariously through me,” as she says), and punishes me like an out-of-line prisoner for attempting freedom.

I took the long route to get here, but last night’s a’ha moment may have saved my life. Mom had another epic mental breakdown because my 18-year old son will travel by train to see his father this holiday. His father and I agreed to this and I helped my son arrange for his ticket. Mom believes his father and I should drive for hours on dangerous Christmas Eve-roads to “exchange him” instead.

To make this long story short, she told both of us off over the phone. One at a time. And of course, my tongue lashing came with a sprinkle of unrelated insults, unfounded accusations, fake tears, and a self righteous hang-up. In times past, I may have joined in the escalation – flustered and crying and raising my voice. Not once did I raise my voice or disrespect. In fact, she commented on my calm with disdain. I suspect she was angry that I wasn’t moved by her next epic meltdown. She did all of that in front of my 18-year old son who was sitting on a couch in the same room with her. What kind of mother and grandmother DOES THAT?

After bitter tears of hurt, I finally realized with amazing clarity that it JUST DOESN’T MATTER. It doesn’t matter if I don’t raise my voice. It doesn't matter that I was too big when I carried weight and too small when I lost weight (true story). It doesn’t matter if I use a plane or a train. It doesn’t matter if I post my straight-A report card on her proverbial refrigerator. If I’m not doing something that makes her the center of my world to soothe her emotional needs, then I’m doing something that deserves her verbal abuse. Period.

Today, I freely give up on feeling guilty for ending the plight to please her.

I gladly release myself from pretending to be an extension of her and for protecting her public image to my own emotional detriment.

I readily give myself permission to feel adequate, a feeling I once ran from to escape the cognitive dissonance of having a mother who said I wasn’t.

With relief, I throw away the need to make or accept one more excuse why it’s okay to disregard me as a grown woman and a mother.

With a sincere heart, I can say: “Mom. I love you and forgive you. You don’t ever have to change a single thing about yourself. But I won’t subject myself to this anymore, and I’m willing to gracefully part ways with you if you won’t respect me as more than your whipping post. You aren’t welcome to project your emotional shortcomings and unmet needs onto me – either directly or indirectly through my children. You don't have a right to interfere with my personal life or give unwanted advice. And most of all, I HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE THIS LIFE UNDER THE TERMS I SET FOR MYSELF AND MY FAMILY.

Bonus Link for your Reading Pleasure:
FAMILY JEALOUSY-The Shameful Secret Behind Abuse And Betrayal

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Emotionally Abusive Mothers and Adult Daughters: Part 3 of 4

Subtitled: Control, Family, and Secrecy.
When we left Part 2, I had just returned home as a single mom at the age of 21 after having my son.
One day during dinner, as we all sat in the kitchen with the baby quietly watching us eat, mom told me about a social organization for single parents. She went on and on about this “wonderful” organization and the social status of some of the members. I wasn’t really interested, but I promised to check it out (with the aim, once again, of making her happy and escaping her criticism). The escape wasn’t a clean one, because she ended her speech with, “When you go, don’t tell anybody that you’re my daughter. I am so embarrassed of you.”

Tried as I might to keep a straight face, a steady stream of tears betrayed my efforts to conceal the physical pain of betrayal throbbing in the center of my chest. At that moment, I didn't understand why she had interrupted my new life in another state and asked me to come back home if I was such an embarrassment to her? In reality, it was the only way she could get me back under control and criticize me into submission. My father yelled at her, and I simply continued to eat my dinner. This was the only mother I knew, and heck, I was under her roof… right?

I spent the last 5+/- years searching for ways to understand why my mother didn’t love me enough to stop hurting me. Although I received spankings, slappings, and snatchings, by far, nothing hurt more than the things she said to break my spirit. During my search for an answer, I continued the pattern of seeking a hint of approval. At times, that search meant presenting my accomplishments; much like a child posts a good report card on the refrigerator. Other times, that search meant concealing a personal failure or disappointment; with the knowledge she would criticize me in that moment and throw in some old failures to increase the sting.

I can't think of one self-inflicted prison more demoralizing and emotionally destructive than seeking the approval of a person who can't be pleased. It's like throwing yourself off a cliff repeatedly until you're so broken you can't drag yourself to the peak anymore.

While you're waiting for Part 4 -
Bonus Link for your Reading Pleasure:
Cutting Ties - Knowing When It's Time To Walk Away