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Being Me

Being me has always been an issue for me.  There is no me.  When I am with this person I am this version of myself, and this person this version of myself.  Its akin to being a chameleon.  I have been accused my whole life of being a pleaser, a ghost of myself in order to seek attention.  This is not exactly true.

I have been searching in me for the last several months.  Since Bob has entered the center stage I have altered myself to fit this new life we have together.  When we were just friends drinking beer on the porch I was one version of myself, now that we are playing house together I need to be another ghost of myself.  This is not a lie.  This is not a ploy to make him love me more.  He loves both parts of me.  This is me adapting to my requirements.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Watching my children, who are watching my transformation with keen eyes, I have seen that even with my own children I am different ghosts of myself.  This unsettled me at first.  I was uncomfortable with seeing myself as a person who cant even be authentic with my own children, but then I saw it.   The golden ticket to take away from this is that each of my children are distinctly different from each other, they have been raised with me meeting them where they are.  Not forcing them to be someone who they aren’t in order to spend time with their mother.  This has allowed each of them to grow and explore their own wants and needs.  The biggest portion of this that matters is that they feel confident in talking to me on their terms, talking to me about absolutely anything that is bothering them or that they are trying to work out.  I know exactly how to calm each of them and which of them can be best put to which task.  Knowing them this way has allowed us all to work together as a unit that has accomplished amazing steps.  We have been through alot.  Together.  As ourselves.

This knowing people is how I have survived this long flying under the radar.  This is also why I have no true friends.  People come into my life.  They reveal what they need from me and I graciously provide it.  Then they grow past me or simply move on to some new stage of life and leave me where we met.  They don’t look back and search for me because they no longer need what I provided.  I just fade away.  I am not unique.

This bothered me for many years.  I felt untrue.  I felt like there was something wrong with me that I was so easily walked away from.  That some how I was less of a person if I wasn’t unique.  The recent introspect that has brought me around on this is my relationship with Bob.  I am not conforming to what he wants.  I am falling into a role.  I am doing this to make his life better, happier.  But it is not without return.  I can read, I’ve returned to writing, my children see a calmer me, they have laughter in their life.

I need structure.  I need a man who can set me in the direction of my goals and push me to reach them.  I need a family that has space to be themselves.  I need Bob.

He doesn’t give me a list to do but knowing him as well as I do I know what will make him calmer.  What will ease his distress.  What causes laughter to erupt from his belly.  What gives him peaceful moments with the children and myself.  This could be seen as me pleasing him, giving into him, bending to his will.  Except he doesn’t ask any of this of me, never requires anything of me.  He is extremely pleased with me, or at least he says he is, but it is in no way dependent upon me fulfilling any specific void in his life.

We are both still healing from past chaos.  This love that we found is respectful of those scars and open gashes.  They are looked at and examined not ignored or brushed under the table.  He allows me to feel seen.  I feel heard.  Not silenced, not shushed.  He meets me where I am and joins me in my moment instead of forcing me to meet him in order to be acknowledged.  I hope this is how my children feel about my relationship with them.  I hope that they raise their children the same way.  I hope that my new step-children can settle into this new way of being.  This new calm we have created.

Concrete Shoes on the Moon

Today Mia pushed past a fear of hers.  She rode on the public bus and survived.  This sounds like a small feet, but to her it is the equivalent of walking on the moon in concrete boots.  She did the whole panic thing, sweaty palms, hyper-focusing on her phone, tapping like a fiend on her leg.  To me it was amusing.  My dis-associative disorder comes in handy when people close to me are in distress.  I know how that sounds.  It sounds like I am a bad parent, it woos people into believing that I have no feelings for people or that I have little sympathy for others.  It is actually quite different.  I see everything from an analytical point of view.  An unemotional one which allows me to step back and take in the whole situation.

Mia has many of the same traits as I do in this aspect.  She has a tendency to step out of the situation and not be present.  In the heat of the moment, she goes into superwoman mood.  Put her into any situation that she needs to accomplish a goal and she excels, but put her into a spot where she can’t focus on the outside and instead must be present and accountable to herself and she falls apart.  This makes me nervous.  It makes me pause and reflect on the things I have passed along to my children unintentionally.

My oldest daughter, Kat, whom I have written about before, turned out ok.  Well, let me rephrase that, holding her life against the new mirror which I have discovered, she is better off than me but not all that main stream.  Which means that I have accomplished my goal.

Before having children, I swore that I would parenting like my dad.  My dad, while growing up, was less like a father and more like a friend.  At the time I had mixed emotions about it.  I wanted a parent that was involved.  My mom worked a million hours and tried her hardest to put a roof over our head and food on our table.  My dad did not work, did not pay child support, did not provide a roof or food for us.  What my dad did do was show up for everything.  He ran me to all of my activities, was involved in my Girl Scout troop, later on dropped me off at the train station for Senior Skip Day, drove me both to and from college every weekend.  He was the first one that I called the day that I got my first tattoo, my first piercing, when I was too drunk to drive, when the man of my dreams broke my heart, when I was depressed or anxious or down right suicidal.  My dad never missed a single emotion in my life.

I am hoping that I am that parent for my kids.  As well as the one who helps put a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.  When my oldest were young I succeeded at this but not in a healthy way.  I left their dad when they were 4 and 2.  I pretty much immediately moved in with my second husband.  They got lost in the shuffle quickly.  I was the one who was the absent parent but at the same time the most prevalent one.  i was at every doctors appointment, all the field trips, there to wake them and changed the majority of the diapers.  I worked 80 hours a week, took 18 credits at the local college, helped raise an additional 3 young children part time and bore 2 more.  I am exhausted just writing it, nonetheless living it.  I also lost a baby in this time frame.  Their life was chaotic and angry and full of aggression.  The relationship that I had with my second husband was not a quiet one.  The police were involved and so was my family.

Through all of that, they bounded stronger to No 2 than to me.  This made sense to me at the time.  They spent more time with him having fun.  My time was forced and required.  They also felt the strain on the money end if I took off to do something with them.  The fights were horrendous and frequent.  They oldest became the hand off.  Whatever baby I was holding would be thrust at her amid screams to “Run!”.  This was not how I wanted to live but I felt trapped and unable to alter the course I had chosen years before.

When I finally left him, it was in typical blown up fashion.  There was cops, my parents, a PFA and Children and Youth involved.  I was made out to be the bad person and I of course made yet another rash decision.  We jumped from the frying pan into the fire, right into HIS arms.

During our stint with Him, I lost both my older girls multiple times.  Not through legal means but because they chose not to come visit me anymore.  Part of me was relieved.  It hurt the core of my being to not have them with me, to have them blatantly tell him I wasn’t worthy of being called their mother, but at the same time a good portion of me knew they were at least no longer in the line of fire.  He had special venom just for them.  The poison that he spat at them was the same that had been spewed over him, his whole life.  They were better than Him, had a much brighter future and because of that He needed to make sure they never succeeded.  It was his special pleasure to bring everyone around him down to the level he believed that he was, to never allow the light to shine into our family, even when there was plenty of it to go around He just couldn’t fathom that there was any at all.  He could look at a piece of gold and convince himself that it was Fool’s Gold.

Leaving Him started to bring back my girls.  Started to show them that I was done with not being loved.  Done shutting out the world so that I could sit in the middle of the anger that I was convinced I deserved.  They are still angry, hurt and feel like I am a dollar short and a day late, but I have been friended on their Finstagram accounts, asked to go get tattoos with them, messaged at 3 am when they were not only sad but happy too.  I am finally becoming that parent.  The one that I wanted to be all along.  The one that rides that line, not friend but not parent.  I hate to seem cliche and hear me out before judging, but they are raised all ready.  They can provide for themselves, have good moral character, know the difference between choice and peer pressure, and now they are looking for refining.  They are looking for the reassurance at 3 am that no matter what they are going through at that moment that it is indeed the most important thing to someone.  To know that their choices are acceptable and that if they have that feeling in the pit of their stomach someone is there to help sort it out.  If I judge, if I parent then the drug question is answered by a 20 yr-old, the birth control hidden and the date rape never avoided.  They are ridiculed by their friends for sharing with me.  I see the humor in their smiles when they say that I’d rather know than receive the dreaded call at 2 am and be blind sided.

The concrete boots that Mia felt this morning didn’t alter the course of my plans.  Instead it strengthened the relationship between her and I.  She saw that her fear was not cuddled, not fanned, not ignored, but instead acknowledged and respectfully dismissed.  She survived just like the two before her.

The concrete boots seem less scary when you walk in them next to someone who knows what they feel like.

Silence is Never Golden

Continuing in the same vein as the last post, here is more on sitting in discomfort.  I wrote before that discomfort is not something that I do well, and it isn’t.  Erin, my therapist, has been asking me to sit in it more and more, so has Bob.  Erin has intentionally set forth small goals for me to ponder and muse over.  This blog is the product of those goals.  She asked me to journal about my feelings several weeks ago.  I don’t journal well.  I felt uncomfortable writing about myself, and my feelings are so far down the list of importance that I believe they may have actually fallen off the end.  Or jumped to their death for lack of attention. Either way, journaling is not for me.  Now after the god awful amount of creative writing classes that I have taken in college, I have mastered the ability to write about myself with a fictitious flair and a smidge of humor.  Hence the blog.

I feel better knowing that most of the people who read this will assume that some of this is an exaggeration of the truth.  People who know me have repeatedly told me to write my life story.  Not because they think that I’m a remarkable person but instead because they know the same thing I do.  No one will ever believe it’s not fiction.

So with all that in mind, more on silence and discomfort.

The past few weeks have been malleable.  We, Bob and I, have continued to try and begin the process of combining the families into a new unit.  This has obviously met with a good bit of discomfort, resistance, and straight out shenanigans.  The routine has settled into a bit of a rhythm.  Dinners together three nights a week and on weekends, multiple large spans of time where one of us has all the kids so the other can work, and free for all weekends where the rules are bent to include everyone.  There has obviously been better days and worse ones but in the overall, no one is dead.  We enjoyed time with my older children and even made it for a day trip to a Fairy Festival.

The discomfort comes when I request time for myself.  For instance, last week I was sick.  So was everyone else but I got the worst of it.  Chris, our live-in friend, thoughtfully chose to leave me at Bob’s and take my kids back to my apartment each night.  Now, don’t get your panties in a bunch.  They came every day just like we have been so we ate dinner together and did school work together but at night Chris and Dan took the girls back home to sleep.  This allowed me to get up in the morning, get Bob’s kids off to school and then lay back down and sleep for several more hours.  Because of this downtime, my cold went away faster and my kids were still taken care of.  Yes, I am explaining myself. Yes, I feel like you are all judging me.  Why?  Because I am still at the point where I don’t deserve me time.  I don’t deserve to be able to rest when I’m sick.  I have multiple people in my life right now that all help to support me, financially, emotionally, physically.  Yet, I still sit here in discomfort and feel ashamed of taking their help when I needed it.

This leads me to cower under my children’s rebukes.  When they fight the system and demand me and only me, I feel horrible.  I go down the list of reasons why they deserve so much better than what I have to offer.  The deep breath that I need to take is that they do deserve so much better than what I have given them but that what I have to offer right now is a healthy relationship, a strong family unit, a financially secure household, and a stable me.  All of that is exactly what they deserve.  Exactly what every kid needs and what every family should aspire to.  Are we perfect?  Not in the least bit.  Nor will we ever be.  But I have helped create this with Bob, we both are happy and plan on continuing this life path together.

My discomfort is not just my own.  My girls are scared.  Scared that we will fall right back into the same trap we have been living in for years.  Find another bad situation to mire ourselves in for the next 10 years.  I’m still afraid.  I’m still amazed anyone would want us, would love us, would agree to take us on.  This is different already though.  I can leave whenever I want.  I have my own apartment and make my own money.  There is nothing holding me to him except mutual affection.  We are both struggling still to see how this all fits together and it won’t be solved anytime soon.  The difference is that we are searching for an answer together.  Not one that solves our own problems but instead one that solves our problems.  We both are working towards a common goal.  And right now that common goal is as simple as we want to be together.

 

Family is a curse word here

When I write, I refer to my family.  And when I refer to my family, I count in all the miscellaneous miscreants who call me mom and some that don’t.  This causes my children quite a bit of distress.

This is my fault.  I have drug them through an extremely abusive relationship with Him.  I did not force the girls to call Him dad but they did.  He was the dad figure in their life for 8 years.  When he was in a good mood and doing well they reaped the benefits.  He would shower them with gifts, taught them how to cook, would have pillow fights, tuck them in at night and be that dad on every field trip.  But when he was in a bad mood or not doing well, let’s just say they knew it.  He was verbally abusive, would call them names, tell them they were worthless, scream at them to pack their bags and get out.  That was if He would even come home.  He was a runner.  Worst of all was my response to all of this insane behavior from Him.  I gave in.  He came first and it was the worst decision I ever made.

So family to my girls is a curse word.  I have always raised them to claim those as our own not because of blood but rather a mutual choice.  They have multiple aunts, uncles, cousins and even a brother who they share no blood at all with.  That being said, they are not ready to add another dad or any more siblings, for that matter.  How does this work then?

The struggle right now is that the things I have surrounded myself with, push their comfort zone.  Makes them sit in discomfort and no one likes that, everybody squirms when their comfort is at risk.  The trick right now is to teach them to sit in it and not fight it.  I, myself, have notoriously not done well with this, instead, kicking and scratching my way back to my comfort zone.  I should expect nothing less from them.

Here is the difference.   Here is why they stopped resisting.  I see now that they have sat long enough outside their happiness to find a larger circle, to see that this too can be ok.  It has not become comfortable, yet, but it is at least not painful.  There are still more baby steps ahead of us but our family can handle anything.  If I have taught them nothing else, I hope they have learned to persevere, to hold on to each other through death, destruction, blood and fire because all the above will be thrown at them from time to time.  Life isn’t about avoiding those things but instead about becoming a Phoenix and rising from the ashes more amazing than before.

Parenting 101

Sitting here in retrospect of my life and my parenting ability, I may suck at many things but I have freaking awesome kids.  Not in the well mannered, picture perfect kind, but in the strong, confident, open-minded, non-judgmental, true to themselves kind.  They are tattooed and pierced.  They do not conform to the norms of society.  They come to me and openly talk to me about things most adults can’t bring themselves to talk about in intimate relationships.  Drinking, drugs, sex and rock and roll.  

I know they see things differently but I have never looked at my kids as a disappointment.  Never felt let down by them.  I may not like them all the time, may disagree with their choices, but they have never given me reason to not be proud of them.  

My girls are not the reason I live.  They are not the driving power behind my choices.  They are however an integral part of my definition of self.  Without them I would not be a mother.  Without them my life would be boring.  Without them my dreams and desires would feel black and white, not vivid colors.

I’m going to preach for a moment.  Too many people hang their hat on their children’s success as their own.  Children make mistakes, they make bad choices, they don’t conform.  Hell, I am a prime example of that.  I am nothing like what my parents thought I would be.  It has taken me this long to not feel like a disappointment to them.  I hope my children don’t need 42 years to feel my approval.  

That all being said, my inner struggle for self worth has lead me to believe that I turn everything I touch into a steaming pile of shit.  My kids, my life, my self.  The horrible self-defamation that travels at an alarming speed through my head every single moment of every single day has finally started to slow down.  Not by much.  Only enough to give me a moment to reconsider.  So now I sit here constantly fighting with myself.  It’s like the comical pictures of the Devil and the Angel on the shoulders.  The thoughts that whip through my conscience and than the booming voice of reason that screams nothing in particular just to distract me.  I don’t need to be talked out of the negativity.  Instead, distracted long enough to hear the cajoling voice of Bob, Erin or Justin.  They are my …

What are they?  Not my voice of reason.  That would imply that their opinion matters to me.  That I will follow their suggestions.  A good portion of it is me being reminded that some else cares what choices I make.  That they won’t judge me, don’t really give a rat’s ass what decision I make as long as it’s my decision.  To have push back.  To bash my horrible anxiety with a baseball bat.  To scream from the sidelines that my choice is a good one for me no matter what the outcome is because, even if it ends up not fulfilling all my hopes and dreams, it will teach me something.

I’m eternally grateful that I can learn from my mistakes.  Much to the chagrin of my mother, it isn’t always the lesson she thinks I should have learned.  I have learned a significant amount about myself from my three horribly failed relationships.  Things people don’t normally figure out.  I didn’t learn that I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, but I did find out that I am great at running a large family, the logistics part, the scheduling, finances, the moving cogs of everyday life.  I didn’t learn to walk away when things get bad, but I did find out that letting someone in doesn’t mean giving up myself to them.  I didn’t learn what kind of spouse is best for me, but I did learn that to feel authentic around the man I profess love to does not feel bigger than life constantly, sometimes it feels so small you have to sit quiet to even begin to hear the song in your heart.  And the biggest thing I learned is that through everything I’ve put myself through, I don’t conform to the norms of society, I don’t fit into a box, but I still found a safe place to be me.  I had to build it but it does exist.

My daughter is frustrated with me for not helping her repair herself after Him.  Showing her that I can repair myself, that I am not a completed project but instead a brilliant, quirky, cult classic novel still being written is the only thing I have to offer her.  The knowledge that repairing yourself isn’t a final draft, but a rough draft.  That we are all stories written and rewritten, multiple times, by many different authors and only once we die is there any thought of a final chapter.

I am not Mary Poppins or Mother Goose.  I’m probably far more similar to the wicked witch or the evil queen.  My kids are anything but perfect.  They hate me, haven’t spoken to me for extended periods of time, and generally feel as though I suck.  But …

My kids are amazing.

Go To Bed For God’s Sake

Conditioning is an odd concept.  The thought of your thoughts, actions and deeds not actually being your own cognizant choice but instead something you have been Pavlovian trained to respond to, creeps me out.  Add into that the idea that conditioning is not blatant and you have a whole shit storm of undoing when you leave a bad relationship.  

I allowed Him to do a job on me.  Gave Him permission to rule my life.  Handed Him the reigns to my gut reactions.  Wow did He run with it.  

Since Bob and I have officially agreed to move in together and get married, not necessarily in that order, the expectations have slightly shifted already.  Trying to realistically look at this and place the cause of the shift appropriately while of course having no way of truly knowing what Bob is thinking, it seems like we have both altered slightly.  It feels as if he is pulling away.  My gut reaction is to self blame and hold on for dear life.  

Let’s really look at this though.  We have been dating for just over two months,  and we have been best friends for almost 3 years.  After we were both single, there was a real struggle of what next.  Since the beginning we loved each other.  There is no reason to mince words anymore.  It was that love that only comes once in a awhile and that gives you the nerve to put your whole situation on the line for the chance to just see the other person.  We never crossed the line before we were both single,  it wasn’t easy sometimes but I’m glad we didn’t.  Starting out now I don’t have any guilt.  I can honestly say we did this the right way.  

In January, he became the biggest part of my life.  He became larger than life.  And that’s when I realized that he isn’t who I knew before.  He is romantic, touchy feely, grouchy, tired, cute and cuddly.  He is also still reserved, understanding, patient.  My best friend.  As far as boyfriends go he is not terrible as he proclaims to be.  He is also not perfect.  He doesn’t know the details of my life with Him enough to not trigger me almost daily.

My struggle is how do I explain my triggers without making him feel like he is to blame.  How to express the “it’s me not you” cliche as truth, not projection or self shame.  After talking through most of this with Erin over the last year, I clearly see when I am falling into an unhealthy thought pattern but it is incredibly hard to stop myself from following through.  The tendency to smother or to strap on the cilice, to make life so miserable that there is no hope of recovery, is near impossible to shake loose completely yet.  I am starting to be able to duct tape my mouth shut long enough to not be bratty.  I’ve almost gotten to the stage where it isn’t always my fault and sometimes even able to talk myself down instead of morphing into a psycho girlfriend in T-minus 5 secs.

But then last night occurs.  I have this thing where I have to be near him if we are home together.  Usually like up his ass close.  I’m starting to be able to pull away from it but it is slow going so far.  And going to bed without him is unheard of.  I will sleep on the floor next to him, or kneeling next to him with my head on his lap before ever venturing to bed alone.  This is a conditioned fear from Him.  If I went to bed alone, He would either not come home or run away, giving him several hours head start before I would even know he was gone.  If He went to bed alone, I wasn’t welcome in my own bed and had to sleep on the floor.  God forbid I got out of bed before Him.  The accusations of where, what, why and who would last for days.  How do I break this?  I went to bed alone last night for the first time.  It physically hurt.  I almost cried when Bob finally came to bed, so thankful I wasn’t rejected.  Unfortunately, I had already spent two hours hyper analyzing the 20 million things that I have done to push him away and all the minute signs that he exhibits to prove that he is frantically searching for a kind way to break up with me.  The shadow of those things haunted my dreams and linger in the corners this morning.   What are the right words to use with him or do I even bring it up?  It’s not his problem but I don’t want him to get struck in the crossfire.  I’m also ashamed of even feeling this tied up over simply going to bed.  I laid here last night lamenting over how much of a baby I am, how ridiculous, how idiotic.  I had stooped to the lowest levels of self loathing.  I felt comfortable there wrapped in my old friend, hatred.  

And I absolutely hated myself for it even more.

Oh the holidays

So the struggle of meshing families and dealing with such large personalities always rears it’s ugly head around a holiday.  There is always high anxiety, multiple displays of anger, several awkward moments and massive migrianes.  

But does it have to be this way?  Holidays have always been a trigger for me, starting from as early as I can rememeber.  There was an intense sense of familial responsibility and an inner struggle to not piss anyone off for those few hours that require my attendance.  I have chosen to partner with people who also have large, vivacious, rowdy holidays inevitably causing me more anxiety and significant amount of inner turmoil.  This, I am seeing for the first time, has been a self fulfilling prophecy.  If I make the holidays more difficult, more challenging, more exhausting then I will inevitably have a melt down and it will be disastrous.   

Enter my new self.  I said no.  I said I can’t.   So instead of things being overwhelming they went slowly and calmly.  There was laughter and new bonds forged, there was good food and great company.  No one screamed, no one hid in the corner.  When the kids and I started getting over stimulated we just left.  Graciously and thankfully, without any remorse and even less chaos.  

I’m grateful for the new me.   Thankful for the new family that is forming around me.  It may not be traditional or accepted by all but it is mine.