What Loss Can Do

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Loss can crack you open

Until you almost break

Or until you break

And either stay broken

Or put the pieces back together

Ignore the cracks?

Embrace the cracks?

Seal the cracks with love and gratitude?

The cracks remain

Loss can make you feel

Too much

Too often

Too fully

Or just enough?

Loss can remind you

That you cared that much

That you could again

That some things do matter

And some things don’t

Loss can make you choose

To live with it

To accept the deal

To risk its barbs

Again

And

Again

Loss can make you

Realize

It’s worth it.

 

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On parenting and the speed of time…

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I was just speaking with someone who has a six year old.

It brought back memories of those days—long and full of Legos and questions and battles over getting in the bath followed by battles over getting out of the bath. Nights were filled with cuddles and kisses and remembrances of the day, as if the day had been a fairytale set in a long ago time with vibrant characters and morals easily extracted. Having witnessed that innocence so intimately brings me to tears, even now, especially now.

Six years old. That was my younger son’s age when my ex and I split, when we attempted to penetrate his naive determination that things are like this or like that, with an alternate reality, that things are really about to be a whole other way. An inconceivable way.

It’s impossible for me to know if time would have sped up otherwise, but our world spun off its axis and sparked a sort of chaos and warped speed that never slowed. It’s felt like skipping and tripping and sprinting and juggling ever since. Even in my quietest moments I don’t feel I have caught up to the present. It’s better. I’m closer to being in my skin again, like the younger me but with more humility and willingness to cede control.

My kids now tower over me (both more than 6 feet tall) with deep voices and man gestures. I find myself daily saying out loud, “who are you and where did you come from?”

And I think maybe that’s just how parenting goes, no matter how present you are, no matter how conscious of the adage that “time flies so fast,” there is no way to avoid the inevitable moment where you wonder where the time went and how these adult looking people are lumbering through your house, with insatiable appetites and distinct, passionately espoused interests and world views.

I’ll never know how things would have evolved if my marriage hadn’t ended. Life knocks us all on our asses in multiple ways. Perhaps there’s just a limit for how long one can remain in what feels like an intact, manageable existence, to the extent that time doesn’t seem to be running ahead of us.

You tell me? Do you relate? Is this part and parcel to raising kids in general? Specific to divorcees? I can only assume any trauma or upheaval can have such an effect. I’m interested to know how other parents have experienced the passage of time…

Life Lesson: “You can’t just play defense!”

Silhouette of a Teen Boy shooting a BasketballLast week my dad came to watch my 12 year old son’s basketball game. The opposing team was really aggressive but our team was maintaining a fat lead (around 15 points). I turned to my dad and said, “They just have to keep them from shooting right? Just hold them off to win this thing.” My dad’s gaze shifted from the court straight to me and with exasperation, he exclaimed, “What? No, that’s not how you win. You can’t just play defense!”

Immediately I personalized this comment. With a chuckle, I affirmed, “yeah dad, I get it, you’re right.” His focus was back on the game when I muttered, “hmm, this could explain a lot. I’ve been playing defense. It might be time for me to play offense.” I hadn’t even intended for him to hear that part but he swung his head, looked me dead in the eyes and said, “yeah, it is time for you to play offense. Get moving.”

The game turned into a nail biter with both teams playing hard and giving 100%. My son’s team won by only a few points. No doubt, if they had let up at all, it would have been a loss.

Ever since, I just haven’t been able to get my dad’s message out of my head. Only a month ago I wrote about feeling like a fighter on the ropes needing to stay in the ring. I’m tough. I’m ready. On alert. I’m playing defense. All the time. No wonder I’m exhausted. No wonder it’s hard to muster, not just energy, but enthusiasm.

We all take hits in life and get thrown off our game. It’s so interesting to me to suddenly become aware that ever since my husband left my approach to life has been one of warding off trauma and difficulties—protecting myself, protecting my kids and doing a great job of it for sure. But not fully directing my own life, not really living 100%.

Dad’s wisdom was so simple and so universal. Now, I’m contemplating how I can translate my awareness into action. I know for one thing, I’m going to have to start taking more risks.

This was my son’s first season playing basketball and he had the guts to take shots when he wasn’t sure he could make it. It looked like fun and it worked. His whole team took and missed a lot of shots but ended the season undefeated. I’m going take a nod from those champs and start doing the same.

 

Time to Buck the Fuck Up!

Ugh, I feel like such a wimp sometimes. The demise of my marriage completely knocked me on my ass — to a degree that is very hard to rationalize. Though I know many can relate to my experience and of course I understand my own psyche, I’ve often said to myself, “come on, big fucking deal, your marriage ended, happens all the time, get over it already.”

Well, I’m finally over it. I mean over the break up, over the loss of the vision I had for myself and my kids, over the disappointment.

But one of the most annoying things about traumatic events is that typically when it rains it pours. It’s like when a boxer is on the ropes — that moment of weakness leaves him open for more hits and the more times he gets hit the harder it will be for him to get back up. But he gets back up, he has to. And you just don’t know until the damn thing ends if that worn out bruised and bloody disoriented mess of a person is going to pull it all together and win the match.

I’m not bruised and bloody, but I was a disoriented mess of a person for a long stretch after my husband left. And I’d get back up and get hit back down. Whether it was drama with the ex, dating disappointments, work prospects falling through, a friend’s betrayal, or some other let down, every hit seemed to weaken me further. Each blow sent me spiraling back into that pit of insecurity, with panic attacks, nightmares and pervasive self-doubt. The thing is though, each time the recovery has been shorter and more informative.

This shit comes with the territory of being human. I’m not in a war-torn country, I am not starving — I am not suffering the fate of many, if not most, people on this planet. I am simply alive and facing the music.

So, today it occurred to me that I need to buck the fuck up. It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad or feel insecure or get hurt again, it just means I need to keep my big girl panties on and keep going.

At the bare minimum, bucking the fuck up can mean just staying alive. Yes, that counts. If you’re depressed, just staying alive is brave and bold. And hopefully from there it is getting out of bed, engaging in life, taking some risks. And if you get hit one, or two, or three times, take a breather, lick your wounds, and then get back in there. None of us know what is coming next and when some gust of inspiration, fortitude, or kismet might propel us forward.

It would be so lovely if we could give ourselves credit for getting up off the ropes and back in the ring. When in the midst of despair, it takes great courage to respond with a renewed commitment to risk loving, caring, and engaging in life. It takes awareness to appreciate that it may seem to get worse before it gets better, that our resolves may be challenged over and over again. This is how the best stories unfold, how we get to know our own strengths and weaknesses and how we discover who we really are and how to fulfill our own potentials.

There are so many diverse and inspiring quotes about courage. When I read them I feel humbled and sort of ridiculous for thinking there is anything particularly unique about my journey. The greatest thinkers have made it explicitly clear that they had to buck the fuck up and so must we.

Lighten Up And Laugh

Kid with the screwed-up eyes

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow. – Oscar Wilde

Things have been pretty heavy around here (on earth) lately.

The planet is in peril. Politics is corrupt. The middle class is dwindling. Racism is rampant. Wars are ensuing. Hunger and disease abound. There’s a lot to be upset about.

I, and everyone I know is struggling to get by, to stay optimistic, to balance our ideals of what the world should be against the reality that there’s so much we can’t fix or control.

Confession:

The other night, in an effort to lure my children away from electronics and compel them to spend some family time, I agreed to play Cards Against Humanity with them. The game is patently inappropriate and not intended for those under 17. I perused the cards and decided that a) in light of all the violent shit they’re exposed to in movies, video games and even literature, this was pretty palatable. b) this is probably how they converse with their friends and I could get a glimpse into what they know and don’t know.

Well, hilarity ensued and within minutes I found myself laughing to the point of tears and  nausea. My kids were equally amused, having free rein to use profanities and observing my overt discomfort. As I struggled to catch my breath, it occurred to me, I don’t laugh enough.  

When my kids were little, there was so much play and laughter in our home. Everyday moments cracked me up and I found myself dressed up, hiding in forts or chasing someone through a sprinkler.

As the kids have aged, with their dad gone most of the time, me stressed out and dealing with “serious” grown up concerns, and their individual responsibilities mounting (homework, social pressures, puberty etc), there’s been a void where joy and enthusiasm used to be plentiful.

It’s not to say we never have fun. We do. It’s just, I’m charged with so much hustling and haranguing, I’ve kind of become a bit of a sour pill a lot of the time.

I’m upset about world events and passionate about so many issues. But, life is short and it’s definitely time to lighten up.

I absolutely CANNOT recommend playing Cards Against Humanity with kids under 17. I doubt we’ll do it again anytime soon. However, I do recommend—with the holidays approaching and amidst all the stress on us grown ups to make everything just “so” for those we love—don’t forget to have fun! Play! Laugh! Put on some music and dance your heart out. Find something to smile about.

Thanksgiving is the time of year to express our gratitude. For many of us, it is also riddled with challenges in the form of family dynamics. Of the many things I have to be grateful for, humor is moving up to the top of the list. I intend to laugh my way through Thanksgiving dinner and hopefully find some creative and age appropriate ways to have more fun both with my kids and without.

Here’s to a happy, hearty, humorous Thanksgiving (and beyond)! 

Divorce, Shame and What Century Are We In?

I have these bouts of feeling back in my skin. Thinking I’ve found my new normal and having regained my confidence, I put myself out there in one way or another — professionally, socially, romantically. Before long, I find myself cowering in my cave, wanting to shelter myself from the inevitable slings and arrows of real life.

I’m in the cave stage at the moment. Continue reading

There’s Something About a Wedding …

Beautiful flower wedding decoration
Since my husband and I split up, I’ve become a bit cynical about love, monogamy and marriage. But, yesterday as I sat under the ornate high pitched ceiling of an old Catholic Church awaiting the entrance of the bride, the anticipation summoned a youthful optimism and simple delight that only weddings can conjure. Continue reading

Death, Divorce and “The War of Art” …

It’s been over five years now since my husband and I split up and about three and a half since I gave up any hope for reconciliation.

Looking back, what fascinates me most is how I could have possibly sunk so low, how my identity and sanity could have been so rattled by the unilateral move of another human being. It’s not that I don’t understand intellectually—my family is everything to me. But, how could I have forgotten the inevitability of loss and suffering in some form? How could I have deemed myself immune from having my reality shattered in one way or another? Continue reading

Braving Christmas Alone…

For the first time in my life, I am fine with being single. I’ve enjoyed the lack of drama and the ability to spend my free time as I wish, shave when I feel like it (and not when I don’t) and just run my own show.

But, tonight, I caved. I cried. And I realized that, while I don’t miss my ex anymore, I do miss having my family together for the holidays. Continue reading

I, Cliché…

“Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.” -Benjamin Franklin

I saw this quote last night and it hit a nerve. Continue reading