L.O.V.E.

I have been having some of the most beautiful and poignant discussions around love lately. What it looks like, what it feels like, how it grows or fades, what it needs to blossom, and what it takes to make it go away.

Because let’s be honest, sometimes we do need to make it go away.

*this post might be super abstract for many of you. I have a very visual mind and will do my best to paint you a good picture with my words*

In my mind, love is a linear spectrum. It is all pink-hued and soft at the beginning; gentle, bubbly and quiet. As it progresses from left to right, the colors subtly shift from pinks to deeper pinks, (I would say mauve, but I abhor that color), to fiery reds, and deep blood-colored burgundies.

After careful consideration and lots of processing with friends, it is my opinion that this love-line, if you will, works something like this:

Everyone has their own love-line for every relationship they enter into (I am really only speaking about romantic love here). You have one whenever your heart finds someone – regardless of whether or not that love is reciprocated. It progresses from left to right and, for some people, it can start off explosive and fast. For others, it might be a slow and steady progression or perhaps a slow and steady surprise. It begins as infatuation, then perhaps a crush, then you might be struck dumb when you realize you have some serious feelings brewing for someone.

But here is the catch; new love can only progress to a certain point. That first tickle of love can only move forward on this continuum of love if it is reciprocated. If it isn’t, then alas, your love will get stuck there and you are essentially left with a heart that feels full to bursting and has no where to go.

Yeah, ouch. We have all been there and it hurts like hell.

Now, let’s say that you have that crush, you are head-over-heels for someone and that love is requited? That is when you have that forward momentum toward the far right end of the spectrum. That is when love can grow and deepen and blossom into a love that can last for years and builds itself a home in your DNA. That love can fade, but the essence of it stays with you forever. That is the love I have for my ex-husband. It will never leave – it is a part of me. And that is okay.

I need to address this aspect of ‘love’ as well: What if your love continues to move toward the right end of the spectrum without being reciprocated? It is my opinion, that perhaps you might have entered into a space of unhealthy stalker-like tendencies. I would venture to say that this is a psychological issue of some kind and you should seek professional help. I am dead serious.

So, how does a person who finds themselves stuck in the bursting, crushing-hard, love stage make it stop when that love is unrequited and has no where to go? Boundaries! Big, fat, hard, scary boundaries. The only way forward, toward letting go and healing, is to wean yourself off of the drug that is love and go cold turkey, right into a stage of zero contact.

Research shows us that falling in love is indeed akin to being on drugs.

This is an excerpt from a post by Shauna H Springer Ph.D.

Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and relationship researcher, conducted a series of illuminating studies on the brain chemistry of love. Specifically, she found that the same brain chemicals (that is, massive amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine ) are in play, and many of the same brain pathways and structures are active when we are falling in love and enjoying a cocaine-high.***

Consider the specific euphoric effects of smoking crack cocaine. In the short run, according to the website cocaine.org, smoking crack cocaine leads to enhanced mood, heightened sexual interest, a feeling of increased self-confidence, greater conversational prowess and intensified consciousness… “It offers the most wonderful state of consciousness, and the most intense sense of being alive [that] the user will ever enjoy.”****

You need to rid yourself of that drug that is love. Once and for all. Completely. Block a phone number if you have to, delete them from social media, steer clear if they are in your social circles. This advice may seem extreme, but for me, it has worked in the past and gotten me to a space where I was able to let that love fizzle and fade and come back around to a space of a deep and solid friendship with a former crush. But I could not have done that without the no-contact rule. It took a whopping 23 days and now he is one of my closest friends – and I don’t feel anything other than a deep, friend-love for him.

Once again, I am currently stuck on the left side of this love-line; the pink, effervescent side. It is unrequited, and I am in that space of having to back off and untangle my heart and travel backward and let go. Back to myself, alone. I love easily because I walk around with my big, open heart right on my sleeve. It finds connection in the strangest places and I have no choice but to go along for the ride. I have tried casual, I have tried slowing down, and though I did manage those things for a time, it isn’t really a comfortable state of being for me when my heart wants OUT.

But here is the thing – something I am coming to understand and accept about myself, is this:

When my heart gets involved, I don’t do casual. I don’t do half-assed. I don’t do lukewarm. I dive in headfirst, with a fearless and reckless abandon. I may be too much for some people, but the truth is, most people are not enough for me.

I was told once, by a wonderful guy, that he wanted to ‘steer’ the relationship, He told me that if I were the one to take the reins, I would drive us straight off of a cliff.

And he was right.

But I would rather have someone hold my hand and jump off with me, than go in circles, endlessly, forever.

 

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The Seasons Change (but sometimes we get stuck)

I was in my yard the other day and there were leaves on the ground – not on the trees where they SHOULD be; all green and perky, glinting with dappled sunshine. The leaves I saw were brown and crunchy; shriveled and dead, pathetic. I internally shuddered.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love fall. The colors, the smells, the crisp, clear air, the cozy feeling of sweaters and jeans and boots. But fall means one thing:

WINTER IS COMING.

I can’t talk about winter without saying things like; I don’t like winter! I don’t like feeling cold! I don’t like the lack of sunshine and daylight! I don’t like the feeling of being trapped inside and feeling isolated! I do not like snow!

But this post really isn’t about any of those things.

It is about this: The seasons are changing and time keeps moving right along; life is passing by. Fall is this epic shift of letting go, and change, and new beginnings. Death makes way for new life.

And life is flowing all around me – it keeps marching on, but fuck! I feel so anchored to where I am. Days are turning into weeks, weeks into months, and months into seasons.

I am standing still.

It has been almost a year since my husband left. One trip around the sun. Time feels like it’s in some sort of warp. I feel like he left last week. A year?! It just doesn’t feel real.

But it is.

The world keeps turning and I am standing still, feeling completely and absolutely STUCK.

I am stuck inside of my grief, and my hurt, and my heartache. I cannot shake them. Yes, I’ve made lots of progress, but there are still some days where I am literally rocked to my core with pain.

And all around me, life goes on.

Winter is coming.

My kids are doing as well as they can with their new life; split between the 2 people they love most in this world. They spend half the week with their dad and half the week with me. Of course they want their family back, but they are really happy and they are thriving. I imagine that my ex must be happy too. He has everything he ever wanted. He told me once that he is happier than he ever has been in his life.

And me? I am still struggling. Still aching for that family I want back. I am sitting in an empty house filled with ghosts, memories, and lost dreams. A future that will never come to pass. It is a life that is no longer real. It was the future I was counting on.

There are no guarantees.

I think this is just the rollercoaster that is grief. I think, perhaps, that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Feeling my feelings and moving through the pain and the trauma. Perhaps I am not actually stuck but just slowed waaaaaaaay down.

If it were possible, I would curl up into an emotional chrysalis, and hibernate right through fall, straight on through winter, and wake up when it was spring. I would bypass the rest of this so-called ‘grieving process‘ and skip to the end where I emerge from my chrysalis as a beautiful fucking butterfly.

But winter is coming.

And I have no choice but to go along for the ride.

 

Fuck. Yes.

Some of you might have already read, or heard about, Marc Manson’s blog post entitled, Fuck Yes or No. In it, he talks about radical and enthusiastic consent (albeit in a frustratingly heteronormative way). His take home message is a good one though:

Don’t choose someone or something in your life if the answer isn’t a resounding, “FUCK YES!”.

I want to surround myself with “FUCK YES!” from this point forward. Somewhat ironically, I think the key to this lies in the ability to say “FUCK NO!” and mean it.

This concept makes so much sense to me after this last year of saying ‘yes’ when I most definitely should have said ‘no’. I allowed people into my heart and into my life who really did not deserve to be there. I continually put my needs in the proverbial backseat just to fill a deep void within myself. I was so paralyzed by my fear of abandonment and my complete lack of identity outside of my role as a wife and a mother, I chose to be invisible. It wasn’t an intentional choice. At the time it was the safest choice, and because of that, it became my only choice.

My heart breaks for the person I was last year. It hurts to think about all of the ways in which I leaked myself out to everyone else. Leaving nothing of any substance behind. I want to scoop that person up into my arms and snuggle the shit out of her. I was so lost and so confused and trying so hard to please everyone else that I lost myself completely.

I am not the same person I was last year. And this is a REALLY GOOD THING.

Let’s talk about Boundaries!

We all need boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is so vitally important. ‘No’ to relationships that do not meet our needs, saying ‘no’ to overextending ourselves at work, or at home, or with complicated matters of the heart. Setting boundaries as a means of separating your emotions from others, and recognizing that your feelings belong to you and no one else, and vice versa, is huge. This is big work, people!

When we set clear boundaries with ourselves and with others, we are further developing our sense of self. If I say ‘no’ to someone, to a relationship that doesn’t serve me, I am exercising that part of myself that leads to empowerment and a clearer sense of who I am and what I want. I am flexing those mental and psychological muscles that perpetuate a confidence within me that reinforce this fact: even when boundaries feel scary and difficult, they make me stronger in the long run. I am holding onto core truths within myself and acknowledging that my needs, my desires, and my path matter more than literally anyone else. It is not selfish, narcissistic, or cruel.

It is vital.

I am setting boundaries with people; with relationships. I am setting boundaries with my children! Society sends this really fucked up message that once you have children, your needs take a backseat to theirs (this is especially true of mothers). I call BULLSHIT! Separating yourself from your role as a mother or a father is paramount and deserves a blog post all to itself (next time).

I am not settling for anything less than what I want. I am doing my utmost to stay in integrity with myself. This is REALLY HARD WORK; to say goodbye to people and connections that feel so good. Admitting the hard truth, that ultimately, these relationships will not serve me. It hurts! Saying no, letting go, drawing lines in the imaginary sand, feeling like I am letting people down if I don’t say ‘yes’, all the time, to everyone and everything.

I am an empath, a mother, a nurturer, an INFJ, and it goes against every fiber of my being to say ‘no’ to anyone. My tendency to leak myself out into the ether is so strong I am constantly checking in with myself. I want to help people be their best selves and discover who they have the potential to become. And this is so incredibly dangerous for me, my heart, and my relationships with people.

At some point, someone will say a resounding FUCK YES! to me. Until then,

I am only responsible for myself.

And I cannot save the damn world.

 

Saying Goodbye.

I am pretty sure I will cry my way through this post.

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had written a goodbye letter to my former life, my memories, my ex. When she brought the idea up, I got immediate chills and a touch of anxiety.

No, I haven’t done that yet. I have blogged about stuff as it comes up, but no real goodbyes yet.

I wonder why that is?

I used to have a very different life. I had a husband and a family. I had someone who lived here and loved me. Full time. I had a future I was counting on. A lifetime of companionship, family vacations, milestones, laughter, and love.

All gone.

When my friend asked me if I had said goodbye, I wasn’t sure what to write – who to write to – what my angle would be.

But I know who I need to say goodbye to now; with certainty.

My ex husband.

I love him still, but I have come to understand that I love the memories and the man he used to be before everything went to hell.

I don’t know who he is now. At all.

So, it would seem as though the time for me to say goodbye has finally come. I don’t want to. The thought terrifies me for some reason. Why is it so hard to let go?

Letting go feels like giving up. And I am not a quitter; never have been. But this is one battle I think I need to concede. For good.

This feels really scary for me for some reason and yet I know it’s what I need to do. It’s what I have to do. Much of this will make little sense to you out there, but these are memories and moments that mean the world to me. Or used to.

Here goes:

Goodbye to waking up every single morning with you. Goodbye to our children living under the same roof as their mother and father. Goodbye to having you to come home to, share about my day with. No more daily touch, check-ins, good mornings, or good-nights. Goodbye to ‘I love you’ everyday. No more finding you in the middle of the night next to me in bed if I can’t sleep.

Goodbye to our wedding day, our honeymoon, memories of being pregnant, you reading to my bulging belly, bowls of fruit; going through childbirth with you. Twice. Goodbye to taking care of our children together. Through sickness and hurt feelings.

Goodbye to laughing so hard we cried. Goodbye to inside jokes going all the way back to when we were 26 and 27. Goodbye to Vermont, California, and Colorado. Walks on the levee. Watching Sam toddle, watching Ellie learn to crawl. Sharing so many little moments. Vegas, Costa Rica, Kauai, Italy, Vieques.

I am saying goodbye to tiramisu (we need more espresso!) and 10 hour lasagna. Being crazy foodies together and fine dining where I wanted to stand up and whoop with joy because the food was that good. Mill Valley. Grad school. Lancelot. Mischief, Sam the cat. Driving all over Northern California looking for another Lab. Getting stupid drunk at least 500 times.

Goodbye to brewery hopping. Your grandmother. That first moment I finally noticed you when you gently touched the bottom of my foot. Summer at the shore. Ice cream, beach, family weirdness. Sex. So many birthdays! Christmas with my brother and the kids. Anniversaries. Ploo. Andu. Amu. Camping trips with just us. Poison oak, bocce ball in the forest. Camping trips with the kids. Shoving the pack-n-play into the tent when Ellie was a baby. The mosquito trip from hell. Yelling at a family of skunks. Food reward hikes.

Goodbye to all of the memories. Good and bad. I won’t get to see the person you have become. I won’t ever get to have another family vacation with you. The plans and dreams we had for this house are gone. The plans and dreams we had for our family, our children, gone.

It is all gone. Forever.

So. Many. Memories.

I am coming to realize that we drank the proverbial Koolaid without knowing it. We bought into the societal trap of the relationship escalator; find your ‘soul mate’, get married, buy a house, have children, get an education and a good job. We are told that if we do these things, we will be HAPPY.

But instead, life just happened to us while we were practically asleep.

We were asleep.

Everything was just “fine”.

But it wasn’t.

There is more. A lifetime of more. But I have reached my limit. It hurts too much. Which makes me believe writing these things out is the exact right thing to do.

Divorce is deep, writhing, bottomless, and exhausting.

And somehow, even with the pits and the bumps, I am doing just fine.

I am a survivor.

Giving In and Letting Go.

*I wrote this post yesterday; today I am just fine*

I cannot escape grief today. It is sitting on my shoulders and won’t leave me alone.

It keeps whispering in my ear things like:

He left you.

He doesn’t love you.

You are a fuck up.

Your kids are damaged.

This is all your fault.

You aren’t worth it.

I know these thoughts are not true. But my brain is insistent on producing them and I am so utterly exhausted that I don’t have the energy to fight back. I am walking with my arms wide open and my heart wide open, right into the maelstrom. I am letting the current sweep me away because I am too tired to fight against it.

I am not afraid of being swept away by my emotions anymore.

When you have PTSD, you become adept at keeping your emotions in check; it becomes second nature to numb out. Every single feeling is muted – dumbed down. Even happiness feels too scary. Your brain trusts nothing and no one; it is looking for danger everywhere, and for me that danger had always been a fear of feeling my emotions. And never trusting people not to leave and abandon me. I compartmentalized my emotions and my feelings toward the people I love(d) most in this world – my husband and my children, my mother, brother, and my sister. It breaks my heart to know that I unknowingly spent the last 30 plus years living a life of fear, and clinging to the lie that if I felt less, I would be safe.

That is no way to live.

But here’s the thing: I knew what it felt like to love with a reckless abandon that only a little girl who loved her father completely and unconditionally could. And then he dropped dead, right in front of me, and my brain broke.

I NEVER WANTED TO FEEL ANYTHING OR LOVE ANYONE THAT MUCH AGAIN.

EMDR is changing my brain and my life. I am awake, aware, and filled with love and life (and hurt and grief). And though some days are brutal, most days are not. I am learning to trust my emotions, myself, and the people in my life.

I am loved and I am enough.

Typically, when the negative and caustic thoughts pop up, I have been very quick to shut them off. I recognize them as unhealthy and unhelpful. But today, I decided to try something different. I am letting the thoughts come and wash over me; through me. I am releasing myself to the hurt and the grief and embracing a ‘bring-it’ attitude. It feels somehow better than the constant struggle to battle the thoughts away.

To throw up my walls feels exhausting to me now as it is not automatic or second nature any longer.

I am letting them come crumbling down.

For good.

The Guilt of Divorce.

Two days ago I told my ex that I wished our children had never been born.

And in that moment, I meant it.

Let me be very clear – I LOVE MY CHILDREN. They are amazing; kind, smart, loving, and a pain in the ass when they want to be. I grew them for fuck’s sake! I adore them. I really do. But sometimes, there is a resentment and a confusion around parenting that creeps in, and the guilt that goes along with this is nothing short of horrific.

So, in that awful moment, as I sobbed my way to work, I was thinking that maybe my life would be somehow easier without them.

Erase the children, erase the guilt.

Wishing my children would disappear is a selfish thought born of denial and insecurity. It’s me, projecting my sense of self-worth onto 2 people who didn’t do a damn thing to deserve this. This divorce, this hurt, this major shit-show of a broken childhood. Any of it.

(It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault).

I know that I feel this way at times because the single hardest thing for me to deal with as far as this divorce and my ‘new trajectory‘ goes, is the bone deep guilt I feel over breaking my kids’ hearts. I do not know how to settle this within myself. Sure, I see them, and they are happy and thriving. They are still their silly selves and the acute trauma from last fall after their dad left has eased.

But my guilt remains; steadfast, not budging, in my heart and in my gut. It makes me feel physically ill. All I EVER WANTED was an intact family. I never had that as a child. And now my kids won’t have that either.

My inner 9-year-old is hurting badly. Again. It’s grief. I am grieving as a wife, as a mother, and as a little girl who thought she had the life she always wanted. Jesus. That is a lot. No wonder this is lingering.

When they are with me, there is a constant unspoken reminder of a missing piece. I feel off-balance, off kilter, and longing for the family unit that we once were. I struggle to be present with them because they are a constant reminder of my own shit. My hurt, my loss, my guilt, my confusion. When they aren’t with me, I can ignore that. Do my own very, single thing.

I am redefining my life. I am rediscovering who I am. I am trying to rebuild my self outside of my role as a mother. I got swallowed alive by that role. And I harbor resentment toward my kids because of that. Again, not their fault.

When I feel as though I wish that they had never been born, I am also struggling with this fear that no one will love me if I have 2 nearly grown kids. We are a package deal and that is not for everyone. I am responsible for 2 human beings aside from myself. Who wants to take that on?

Sometimes I can barely take care of myself.

If they didn’t exist, I could feel my feelings and my hurt and my upset whenever I wanted to; whenever I needed to. When I have them, if I am struggling emotionally, I have to push my feelings down as I don’t want them to worry about their mom. I have a ‘game face’ – everything is sunshine and happiness when they are with me and sometimes I just don’t have the energy to sustain that. Do I show my emotions to them? Of course I do! I just can’t share the depth of those emotions during the times when the hurt and the fear and the ache is so primal it brings me to my knees.

No one sees that. That is mine and mine alone.

Okay, enough of this shit.

I want to tell you about my kids.

Sam is 9. He struggles with anxiety and his own sense of self-worth. He is an amazingly smart kid and loves with a sensible caution. He is a an introvert and a highly sensitive person. He loves bugs, Pokemon, reading, and his family. His laugh is infectious and when he gets going, we are usually laughing at him laughing than whatever made us laugh in the first place. He doesn’t like to cry and he has a hard time feeling his feelings. I worry about him. A lot. He looks just like his dad.

Ellie is 7 (soon to be 8). She is an empath and has a huge heart. I am constantly amazed at the depth and clarity with which she is able to express herself. She is a smart, kind, quiet, child. She loves with a reckless abandon and has a dry wit and silly sense of humor. She is a fierce friend and hero-worships her older brother but also stands up to him with a newfound confidence I am thrilled to see. She looks a lot like me.

I cannot imagine my life without them. Their love, their hugs, their laughter and their tears.

I own this resentment and this guilt, hurt, heartache, and confusion. It is mine and mine alone. And I will beat it just as I have beat the other shit that comes up.

One day at a time.

Why Holidays Hurt

It just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Why holidays – no matter how mundane – are so tough right now.  Each ‘special’ day has a specific memory attached to it.

Like last year, for example, for the fourth of July, I was literally trapped behind invisible bars in a mental institution. I was not allowed to go outside. I was with 2 convicted felons, a suicidal, bi-polar lead singer of a band, a couple of guys with PTSD so severe they had to be drugged because of the explosions, and a few of the counselors who were at least half my age. It was weird to say the least. The 2 people who I had bonded deeply with had left that morning and I bawled big huge tears after they were gone. I felt scared and alone.

The only thing that kept me sane on the fourth was the fact that I was headed home the very next day. My husband was taking the day off from work and he was going to pick me up. I was going to see my kids! Everything felt relatively fine…

But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

But that’s an entirely different story. Fuck. The fifth is going to be a tough day too.

I know where I was 2 years ago on the fourth; at the outdoor symphony with my kids and my husband. We heard some incredible music and then saw the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen. It was a great day. When the kids were little, they needed noise canceling headphones for the loud booms! and bangs! They would inevitably fall asleep on the car ride home. My husband would help carry them inside and put them into their beds. I do that myself now. And fuck, they are heavy.

These pesky little holidays, and the bigger more weighted ones, all have these very nostalgic memories attached to them. And those memories hurt like fuck. At least right now they do. They seem to pop up off and on all day long. I can’t escape the feelings of ‘could’, ‘should’, ‘would’ on those days. He ‘should’ be here with us. I ‘should’ be going to a BBQ with my friends and my kids. I ‘should’ not feel this sad or upset after 9 goddamn months.

But I am. It hurts a lot. Knowing that I spent much of the fourth at home with my kids in my bed, while the rest of the world seemed to be out having fun being social and BBQ-ing. I turned down 3 invites because I just didn’t want to deal. I didn’t want to be around people who were functioning and having fun.

Families. Intact families.

I don’t like having to pretend that I am happy when I am NOT.

I was a maelstrom of emotions yesterday and I felt like utter hell because I was with my kids and I had to shut off my emotions to some extent. Sure, I had a conversation with them about how sad I was, but the depth of that sadness isn’t really appropriate to let out in front of a 9 and 7-year-old.

It’s bone deep hurt.

It’s wailing, scare the dog hurt. And it keeps on coming. And I kept pushing it down waiting for a private moment to come undone.

It is grief and man does grief hurt and suck.

My new life, on this new trajectory, is configured very differently than it has been over the last 17 years. I do things alone now. Or with just me and the kids. Sure, it is hard and different and stings, but I know that there will be a time when it is normal and feels like a walk in the park. I am making new memories and building a new community.

My brand new, 2017 memory of the fourth of July?

Sitting on a blanket with the kids and a friend, waiting for the show to start, and having the sprinklers go off right underneath us. I got sprayed in the face; right in my eye. There was screaming and laughter – my son belly laughed so hard and the sound of that filled my heart up and made me laugh even harder.

It’s a brand new memory. A really happy one, and I wont forget that moment for the rest of my life.