Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy, I mean, happy!

So the last two days have been pretty amazing.  My fiance’s mom flew into town for a visit and we’ve been showing her the sights out and about our beautiful home, including a sea turtle sleeping in the sun, waves washing gently into the shore just a few yards away, and the gorgeous panoramic views of the ocean and the green, verdant mountains that stretch from coast to coast.   It’s so fun to share these experiences with her—watching her exclaim in delight to the balmy trade winds and the sunfilled skies, walking in the hurried and unhurried pace of someone on vacation who wants to take everything in at once and simultaneously relax by resting, eyes closed, on the sand—it’s like we are on vacation, even though we live here, because our day-to-day world normally takes over, and it’s easier to stop and smell the flowers when a guest is among us.

My future mother-in-law is warm and caring, just as I thought she would be, even though my contact with her has been limited over the last couple of months since we announced our engagement.  She immediately told me “welcome” to the family and gave me a genuine hug at first sight, we have joked and laughed and my fiancé has been happy and content, too, and it all feels good.  So good and peaceful.  And life *should* be good—so many positive things are happening in just the next couple of months—moving in together and getting married, an upcoming summer trip across the country, sharing sights and sounds and experiences as we travel, the start to blending my sweet little family into a new iteration of what “family” means. 

Having my future mother-in-law here also makes everything so much more real and true.  I’ve met his younger brother already, and face-timed his dad and step-mom, but as I meet more of his family and spend time with them--and seeing how they’ve been so welcoming towards me and my girls, it has shifted my perspective a few steps toward believing in the good in life and celebrating what is to come.    Our plans—suddenly not just sweet dreams and grand ideas, but genuine, conscionable  actions, embedded in love and stability.

Okay, yes this is a gushy post.  I guess it’s been a while since I’ve set aside the anxiety and simply embraced the positive and light and good things in our life.  The last couple of days, she has been saying how hard it is to be so far away, now that we will be a family, she will have to come visit more often.  It’s hard for her to get away from her responsibilities, as it is for us here, but it’s so nice to enjoy the connection of my fiancé and his family.  So I will bask in it a little while longer, for as much as I can and as long as I can.

Today, my heart is happy and full, and for once, I’m not afraid the happiness will disappear.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Right Way

I’ve been caught up in a bunch of e-mauls this week, and it’s been a complete pain in the ass.  Again.  There is a great resource for coparenting with an abusive ex, here:  <click>

I full on kicked into the “response process” and it helped some; after wondering (ok, agonizing) all day, I finally emailed a two sentence response, indicating that while we are in a disagreement, to continue the conversation with our court ordered co-parenting mediator.  (Who is sometimes effective, sometimes dismissive, and after spending time with her, I sometimes have to see my own therapist to process, because he uses the coparenting mediator as a forum to complain and I’m often doing the “response process” with her, too…but I suppose that’s another post altogether).

I noticed that lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on whether something I send or think or advocate or do, is “the right” thing.  In fact, I spend almost all of it.  It’s part of the “agony” of the response process.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I protected?  Am I leaving a door open for vulnerability?

And an attorney friend of mine responded to this question—hoping that my two sentence response was the right thing to do?—something that cleared the way, cue the sunrays and angels and clouds.

There is no one right way.  There is the way that I choose, based on a variety of factors, minimizing stress on the kids (and me), holding boundaries, protecting ourselves, and I need to stick with that choice and move forward.  Because no matter what decision I make, there will always be a response or consequence.  And when that response and consequence comes up, I will deal with it like I’ve always dealt with it.  So it’s okay to let go of “the right way,” and just choose and move forward.

I don’t know why I haven’t seen this before, and I hope I can hold on to this feeling like a u-haul truck has been lifted off my back somehow.  Because it’s true: it doesn’t matter what I do, and evidence has shown that no matter what I do, there will be a complaint or a nitpicky response or a light or heavy-weight emaul.  And I will deal with it.

Go zen warrior!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Lately, I’ve been wondering about the goodness in people.  I’ve been caught up in the headlines such as a little boy being bullied for wearing a My Little Pony backpack to school, and the bizarre reaction from the school about the backpack being a “trigger” for bullying.  Seriously?  The adults should know better.  I do love that at least there is a lot of support appearing around little Grayson, and thank goodness for that. 

Then I read an article about a woman who is being charged with murdering her fetus that was delivered stillborn, because she did drugs (yes, it’s true), but the fact of the matter is that the drugs had nothing to do with why the baby died.  NOTHING, NIL, NO RELATIONSHIP TO THE SUFFOCATION BY THE UMBILICAL CHORD IN UTERO, but the Mississippi prosecutors are proceeding anyway.

Man, I just can’t handle bullying little boys because they like ponies, nor can I handle the likelihood of this teen mom who just lost her baby going to jail.  My blood is boiling!  And half of it is boiling because I feel so insignificant and can’t DO anything.  Change the world!  Stop this bullsh*t!  RAWR!  Why can’t I wave a magic wand and make this earth a better, more loving, accepting place to which my daughters can grow and thrive?

So, with that in mind, I’m fuming at my inabilities.  I wish I could march on over to that school system and give the principal a piece of my mind.  Or that I could somehow hire an excellent attorney for that teenager who has more on her plate than any of us can imagine.  But I can’t.  And it pisses me off.

So what can I do?  Normally, I’d think about how I must concentrate on making a peaceful, supportive, loving home for my daughters.  To teach them social responsibility and to embrace their unique perspectives and teach them to respect others, and should they disagree, be informed about the disagreement, and then stand up for what they believe in, stand up against cruelty, love themselves so they know for certain when “love” is offered with the illusion of having to pay a price.  It’s a tall order.  I wish there was a manual for it.  I hope it’s enough and I’m afraid that it’s not.  It’s all I can do at the moment, though, and I want to be at peace that this is one difference I can make—if I can’t help those kids across the universe, please let me have the strength and consciousness and ability to help and nurture my own.   

But that doesn’t make the fuming go away about the injustices dealt into the world.  I wish I had superpowers and could DO SOMETHING.  So instead of doing something for them, I have to do my best to do something in my small universe.  To be the change I want to see in the world.  Those are nice and unbelievably hopeful words uttered by someone we can all look up to—and I wish and hope they are enough.  Please let them be enough.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Climate change

Some days are just emotional, you know?  You think you put all your ducks in a row and have all the lunches packed and the work deadlines met, and you even think you’ve done an ok job with the parenting and the supervising at work thing and…

Sometimes, you still wake up feeling depressed and sad.  I don’t know why.  Things are going really well the last few days, despite a handful of e-mauls from my ex. 

Yet, there is so much energy around responding to those e-mauls, too.  A support network is consulted, and at times, even my official attorney offers advice.  They say he continues to want to “engage” with me, to have “a relationship” with me, because he has lost control.  And with abusive people, losing control is just the one thing they can’t take.  In my case, it’s not only about the control, it’s about the shame.  That deep down, he knows what he did to us, and years later, he still can’t get over the fact that no matter what bright face he showed the court, and no matter how badly he painted the picture of me as an unfit mom, he knows it’s not true.  And on top of it, the court recognized the truth, which is why our outcome was so detailed and so explicit, yet he and his family cannot face the fact that he has an anger problem, and he did things that terrorized and hurt us.  So by not accepting it, he has to not only continue to ‘control’ the situation by sending long, engaging e-mauls, but he also has to show the world that I am the bad person and he is really the good person.  In any way he can. That, apparently, is the shame talking. 

Anyway, when his name appears in the inbox, I will spend sometimes hours on “the response process”—sifting through the crap, carefully choosing language that I think addresses the issue but does not engage too much, that keeps the boundaries firm and at the same time does not invite commentary.  Figuring out what is needless needling commentary that I can ignore.  And also calm down from stupid commentary that sounds accusatory and nitpicky. Next, I consult with people I trust.  Sometimes I call my therapist.  And if in a really gray area, I will consult my attorney because I don’t want to say anything that crosses a line or jeopardizes my carefully laid out and death-defying result of the best protection for my girls and me. 

I’m getting better at—I used to get the e-mauls and freak the f*ck out.  For hours, or longer, sometimes not be able to sleep at night.  That is the PTSD talking.  Now, I will have that initial jolt of terror, and it will calm down in about 5-10 minutes, depending on the content.  Then I focus on the “response process.”  And lately, I’ve figured out what I need to say and send it out for consultation, and am usually 85% there.  Sometimes 100%, and it’s just validation that I still need.  One day, I hope, I will be able to do it all on my own, with no consultation, because I won’t be triggered by PTSD, and I will be fully confident that I’m doing the right thing.  I wish that day was today.

But, it’s not.  So, like I’ve told others in similar predicaments—I must do the best I can in these circumstances that I’ve found myself in, and be as content with that as I can.  Sometimes I feel empowered, and sometimes, like today, I feel sad and tired and depressed.
Writing helpsbecause rather than having an unnamed, overpowering blob of unnerving emotion hanging over my head, I’ve now described it and shaped it and put it into words that make sense.  A kind of a-ha!  It’s okay to be exhausted by this kind of crap. 

The other thing is—despite the crapiness of co-parenting with what one of my favorite bloggers, Betty Fokker, would most likely refer to as an “asshat,” the view from the positive life that I’ve found myself in lately is unfamiliar.

We are not used to having things go well.  I am not used to having a peaceful, kind person around, who is genuinely interested in our well-being, loving us with no demands or price to pay.  I am not used to the calm life of no surprise eruptions and having the loudest noise in the house be our laughter, even when we get into a heated disagreement.  That a heated disagreement doesn’t turn into dishes breaking and slamming cabinets and threats and terror—that it ebbs and flows as we listen to each other and agree or disagree or agree to disagree, and there is still hugs, and laughter, too, it’s like learning a foreign language.  Or remembering a language I’d forgotten I knew.  I wish this view was familiar, and it is getting to be, and maybe that’s why I sometimes have this feeling of apprehension or shadow of sadness linger, because deep down I have the fear that an earthquake will come and swallow us up. 

We were used to earthquakes.  We knew how to handle them and what to do, where to hide, the many attempts to Red Cross ourselves back to a normal, non-earthquake state.

So I am careful and also a bit wary with this new climate, even though I love the calm.  I love our present and I love how we are preparing for our future.  My heart sings at the same time as it continues to heal from the shadows. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


We are becoming a blended family.  It is amazing !!!!  and frustrating !!!! at the same time.  

Amazing, because a wonderful, loving, lovely man is going to be part of our lives—for the rest of our lives.  Someone who is supportive and kind and whose heart knows no bounds and who will show my daughters that there are kind, responsible, adult men in the world who take care of their responsibilities, who do not ‘slough off’ their chores and jobs to someone else, who do not lose their temper at the most irrelevant things (or even relevant things) and throw things and break things, who is generous of heart and spirit and caring.

Frustrating, because at this point, the “blend” has not yet happened, and I keep explaining to my sweetheart darling, that until he is a more permanent fixture in our lives and in our house, he cannot be mr. stepdad, not yet.  Sure, he is welcome to support me and should someone not be finishing their broccoli at the table, chime in.  Sure, I love that he plays with the girls and helps out with homework, the 1 or 2 times he is around in a week.  But no, I’m sorry that it’s so hard to understand, but no, he cannot yet be mr. instant disciplinarian, not until we are fully blended.  Yes, he is very important, but he is not part of our family YET.  Soon, so very soon, but until then, we have to be careful about boundaries.

Because:  his presence of once or maybe twice a week is not established, not routine.  For them, when he shows up, it’s party time and celebratory time.  And that’s actually awesome.  They ask if he’s coming after work, they miss him when he is unable to be there due to work schedules, they run to the door when he does come, because they are excited to spend time with him.  He is a wonderful, happy, presence—a presence that is currently part-time. 

It’s amazing that he wants to step in and be a part of our lives, I am so excited and happy and appreciative of this.  That our relationship, built on love and mutual respect and sincere appreciation for our strengths (and weaknesses) is so strong, that now we are willing to forge a new, blended family together.  That over this last year he has grown to love and adore the girls, and they love and adore him, and that somehow, our relationship and our hearts have expanded three sizes too big to hold this whole family inside, safe and supported.

It’s frustrating that my ex has begun a negative campaign whenever he can, that when my daughters come home from a visit, they are suddenly ‘sad’ about the upcoming nuptials, or suddenly don’t want to call him their special name (NOT dad or daddy, as we’ve made very clear that they while we will be a new family, they will always have their father, so dad or daddy is reserved for their ‘real’ dad), because daddy is “not comfortable” with it.   

Frustrating, because while I’ve had three years to learn how to disengage and defend by being positive in the face of my ex’s negative campaigning, my fiancé gets frustrated and wants me to fight, to engage, to confront, to challenge, on any front that will end up only harming the children.  I think it might be an alpha male thing—he wants to protect us, but in an alpha male way.  Even after consulting with my amazing family attorney on what to expect and being counseled on how to react—we need to be careful.    We need to not provoke or drag out a pointless conversation.  And beyond and above, we need not put the children in the middle by ‘demanding’ to know what dad has said about this or that.  If my girls come to me with a concern, they need to know that they can, free of judgment or harsh reaction.  That they come to me at all is a sign that they trust me, and I see how hard it is when their dad says shit about me, we cannot do the same to them.

Amazing that no matter what, on the good days, I still believe that love and happiness and believing in the good in people will win out, and save the day, and it’s what is best for me and the girls.

Frustrating, because I do get triggered, I do have PTSD, and I worry that when I describe my PTSD triggers to my fiancé, he sometimes flips out and tells me to be more aggressive in ways I know will not be helpful.  I know this is normal, human behavior, and he has acknowledged and understands that the best advice is to follow the attorney.  It’s a learning process for him.

Amazing, that after all of the heartache and fear and terrorizing of the past, I’ve grown up and put on my big girl pants and did some very hard work in therapy, that allowed me to open up my heart and accept love that is kind and generous and doesn’t ask for anything in return, that doesn’t come with a price.

Amazing, that when my fiancé and I do have disagreements, it doesn’t turn into him throwing or breaking things or “making us pay” an emotional toll.  I’m learning that it’s normal to disagree without all of those violent trappings.  (I wish it wasn’t so amazing that it took me 20 years to learn this, but I suppose I’ll put that in the amazing category that at least I’ve learned it now.)

Amazing, that despite all the frustrations and challenges and worries about what my ex might or might not do, I can still create a positive, loving household with my children.  That we can blend and be a house of love and accept challenges and celebrate hopes and do our damndest to make our dreams become reality.    

Amazing that a life that I pictured so differently, is changing and becoming a life I could have never imagined.