Friday, February 28, 2014

Has It Really Been Two Years?

Two years ago today, I wrote a blog post about an old HS classmate who I had reconnected with through Pinterest and how our friendship grew to a deep respect and innate connection in a matter of a few weeks. I've reposted it here but feel free to skip to the end for my point in bringing this up ;-)

Level Jumping On Friendship  [posted 2/28/12]

I've been reconnected with an old high school classmate. We were not friends then, but over this last week I feel that we have become so.

He will no doubt be reading this so I feel I must choose my words carefully. All of our conversations have been open and honest but they have been private and for that reason alone, I feel protective of sharing. But I do want to share a bit because I think it is an experience we all can grow from.

We have been filling each other in on the last 20+ years. Surprisingly though, we've only just touched on the broad strokes of life - the where did you work, where did you live, when did you get married. Instead, we've been discussing at length who we have become and how we came to be who we are in a very exposed and frank sort of way.

I'm certain that this level of intimate conversation, for most, is reserved for only the very closest of friends and family. For whatever reason, it seemed utterly natural to start our new friendship this way. There was no facade, no shined up version of ourselves, only truth... sometimes glaringly so. And because of it, we have compacted decades into three phone calls and an on-going facebook message.

But as is my usual course of action, I question things.

Is there a reason it happened this way? Am I seeking more depth in my friendships and so I initiated level jumping and he just came along for the ride?

Have I tired of friendships whose depth only goes as far as talking about what's on sale at the grocery store? Have I allowed myself to get mired in the day to day of life?

Or maybe this is the better way to friendship? No games, no charades, just me, just you.

But there is one more piece to the puzzle. The fact that while we have written and spoken, we haven't been face to face. Does that still give us some anonymity? Are we being as truthful as we think? Are even our issues and conditions and flaws presented with some panache through the written word or in the inflection in our voices?

If you are reading this C, you are no doubt regretting finding me in the first place ;-) But I did tell you this about myself. I question things. I wonder about things. And many times, this is where I come to ask these questions - throwing them to the wind and hoping that someone, somewhere has an answer that will give me some new perspective.

For what it's worth, I have been honest, perhaps with a nod to stand-up comedy in my "prose" but still, that's who I am too ;-) I hope that we will continue to be friends.

So if you are wondering if our friendship continued, the answer is yes. He is the only person who knows me completely - the good and the bad. The person that I go to when I have a problem I can't wrap my head around. The first person I think of when I have good news to share. And after two important and world changing years for me, I can't imagine life without him. He is in fact, my best friend.

We recently had a monumental falling out. It was completely my fault.

Because I'm still carrying huge steamer trunks of old baggage from my past, without much provocation, he bore the wrath of every pent up anger filled corner of my psyche... just because he is a man. And he took it like a man too. By saying goodbye.

It still makes me numb to think about it. How I could destroy such a rare and unique gift that was our friendship with one incredible lapse of sanity!

In recent months I have learned to accept that every mistake is an opportunity for growth. It was a wake up call to just how much more work I have ahead of me to achieve inner peace. It was a sign that I perhaps need to step back from all relationships and assess what I bring to them. It was a warning that even the strongest of bonds can break.

Thankfully, not entirely.

We are back to talking. We are back to discussing. We are somewhat back to normal. An early version of our normal. The one from two years ago.

Perhaps level jumping is not the way to go. Or maybe it is but only when two people are ready for the responsibilities that come with such a precious partnership. Or maybe, this is just the nature ebb and flow of a friendship that is so special.

I never believed in the concept of soulmates. I thought it was just a somewhat juvenile romantic illusion. But if I allow myself to find the truth in the term, I believe he is mine. And if you think about it, two people bound by the bond of friendship for all eternity are going to have bad days. It's how they move forward from them that makes the difference.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Haiku To You

I guess it was about a year ago I started and stopped (remember - great at beginnings) writing haikus. It was a way for me quickly express what I was feeling in the moment and provided a temporary burst of creativity.

It was suggested that I begin writing them again and I plan to add one to each new blog post. And since this is a blog post about haikus, let's jump right in. 

Weary from the fight,
I long for your comfort, ah,
My true love, my bed. 

Haha. Guess I'm tired. I'll try again tomorrow, when I'll be praising my shower for washing away all that makes me feel unclean and my favorite sneakers for their comfort and support during life's uphill battles. ;-)

Friday, February 21, 2014

It Has Come To My Attention

Learning about oneself is fascinating. Accepting what one learns is absolutely terrifying.

I'm reminded of an old early 80's song that goes... "I've been to paradise. But I've never been to me." I'm not sure I ever understood that song then but I get it now. I've lived a very good life. But it never seemed to be one truly suited for me. Not the real me, not the authentic me. I made what I had as wonderful as I could, but it was ultimately not satisfying. And accepting that was my first big challenge.

My life, a gold box,
Filled with the promise of jewels,
But empty to me.

How could such a good life, enviable to many, bring me so little joy? Because, I would come to realize, it was a life not lived. It was an existence. Free of creativity and passion and the stuff that makes our hearts soar.

In fact, it was not only a life void of those things but it one ruled by fear, mine as well as the fears of those around me. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of loss. Those insecurities became my mantras. "I'm not smart enough, talented enough, rich enough, attractive enough, good enough." The emotional and psychological weight of that self inflicted abuse weighed me down physically as well and in my first three years of marriage, I gained 75 lbs. But I can't blame who I was solely on my relationship to my husband. No, the patterns were formed well before that.

As a parent, I have made conscience choices to make a break from how I was parented. If I have given my daughter nothing else, it is the freedom (or at least a large percentage of it) to be who she is, to follow where her life goes, to dream big, to embrace her uniqueness, to love herself. It goes against everything I was brought up with and everything that comes as a first response to me based on my own insecurities. I find myself wanting to "fix" her, much the way I was "fixed" as a child. But I remember how that made me feel and I remind myself of who I became as a result. And I let her go to school with two different socks and her hair unbrushed. And I don't make her stop singing off key (unless I have a headache). And when she says she wants to be an artist or an author, I don't tell her there is no future in that - I tell her, 'go for it'! And I use the word 'weird' as a compliment and she loves it because she knows it means special; not better, just her.

For over 40 years, I lived a life that was a dream to many, sometime to aspire to - an affluent upbringing, an education, a career, a husband, a family, a home, etc. Suburban bliss. And if I could have ignored the pull of my own dream, that dream that was just mine unique to the masses, I could have stayed quite happy until the end of my days, not accomplishing much but being the standard. But that little girl inside, whose dreams were never fulfilled, has been screaming for attention and I just couldn't allow her to go unnoticed a moment more.

Once it had come to my attention, there was no going back.

I want a chance to truly live. To take leaps of faith. To make miserable mistakes. To believe in the impossible. To do it all without fear of failure or ridicule or loss. And to know that no matter how far I may fall in pursuit of my dream, that I can always get up. Because I am not all those things I used to tell myself. The real me is quite the opposite.

I hope one day that my life serves as a cautionary tale. Not because I survived drug abuse to get clean, not because I survived poverty to become wealthy, but because I survived a lifeless dull existence on the road to finding a meaningful vibrant life.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It May Not Be All My Baggage, But I Left A Suitcase At The Door

Personal growth takes work. Determining problems, exploring their origins, devising plans to eliminate them. And even once you've done all that, creating the proper environment and timing is key. But sometimes, the stars align and present you with an engraved invitation which reads:

You Are Invited To
A First Step
In Freeing Yourself Of Your Past
Traumatic Experiences.
Please Join Us Now. 

Today, I received a phone call from my father. He rarely calls so I'm always a bit nervous to answer the phone. Not because I think it will be bad news like the passing of a relative. But more so because I feel a dressing-down coming on. Suffice to say that even at nearly 47, I feel like an anxious child ready to be scolded for something I didn't do. And today was no exception.

He began the conversation by telling me that my daughter had not spoken slowly enough to be understood in her voicemail message to my stepmother for her birthday the day before. He continued by saying that I should also have called to wish her a happy birthday directly. He used the phase "You should do 'the right thing'."

Now before I continue with where this conversation led, I feel it necessary to point out that my father in no way determined this on his own. Without a doubt, he was TOLD to tell me that not only had I not done my step daughterly duties but that I clearly was misguiding my daughter in how to address her step grandmother. This is a pattern that I have endured for over three decades. As a child, I had no recourse. No one to defend me. No voice in the matter. As an adult, the pattern continues.

But it was the wording of "you should do 'the right thing'" that gave me the opening. It was a gift that I readily accepted. With more composure than I would have thought possible and with a clear head and voice I replied "Are you actually calling me to discuss what is 'the right thing'?" And as if I was reciting a script I had rehearsed a lifetime, I went into the clearly defined sequence of events that had taken place over the last six months and well before.

Last summer I told my father that my husband and I were separating. I had discussed my marriage with him and the problems we were having for the last two years so this was ultimately not a surprise. At the end of that conversation, he offered to tell my stepmother the news and I eagerly accepted. Her erratic and irrational behavior is well know by everyone she comes in contact with so I thought it best that he deliver this. At the time, I thought "Dad is finally taking a bullet for me." That turned out not to be the case.

Weeks went by and I heard nothing from either of them. A month later, I called my father and asked if he had told her the news. He said he had. I took this an opportunity to call my stepmother directly. She answered the phone with a tone I had heard all too often throughout my life. The simmering anger masked by condescension. She told me she was too busy to talk but she'd tell my father I had called. When I told her that I called to talk to her, she said, "I'm busy" and hung up the phone. I was furious! How dare she take my tragedy and find a way to play the righteous victim. I called my father immediately. I told him what happened and his reply was the final slap in the face "She can handle it anyway she'd like. I'm busy. I have to go." Click.

Months went by with family functions and holidays. My father would call to make plans but I did not answer the phone. When we were together, it was only the most superficial of conversations. In her usual passive aggressive way, my stepmother gave me a tote bag for Christmas with my husband's initial on it.

The new year began and with it, a new career for me and a brand new life. Both of them found ways to dismiss my new role and point out my inevitable failure.

"That's not something I would say. Besides, you stopped taking my calls." my father said in reply to my telling him about the hang-up. "Dad, with all due respect. You said it! And it hurt! And that's when I stopped answering the phone."

I proceeded to tell him that my stepmother's behavior towards me during this time in my life was appalling. That her behavior in general is abrasive and aggressive and tyrannical. That she has put me in the position of defending myself against her complete fabrications of the truth for the better part of my life. AND, that you, my father, have put blinders on to the entire situation.

And I said it all without a waiver of my voice, without a tear, and without agitation.

Then something completely unexpected happened. Unprecedented! My father agreed with me.

He agreed that her behavior is everything I said (he may have even added bitter and nasty). He agreed that he does avoid the issue because he thinks I can handle it (though I didn't remind him that I was only 10 when she came into my life; clearly I couldn't handle it). And he apologized. Not specifically but given that he has never done that before, I took it as a win!

He then said something odd that I will have to give some more thought to. He said I have his "permission to defend myself" and to do so "especially in his presence". Now, I don't know if I need his permission but I have to admit, it does make me feel as if I have the green light to take the low road once in a while instead of the path of the scared child 'doing the right thing'. The "in his presence" thing is, I'm sure, a power in numbers scenario. He's scared of her too.

Bottom line, today I felt the power to stand up for myself. Truly. Without tip-toeing around politeness and 'good daughter' etiquette. Without being scared of what might come, who'll be angry at me, who'll be disappointed in me. I stood tall, made my point, and concluded with my head held high. It was a victory for what has been right all along. And most importantly, it was a first vital step in releasing my past fears, anxieties, and anger, forgiving my father for turning a blind eye, and moving onto a better future clear of anything that hampers my growth.

You see, through therapy I've come to realize that the anger I held from my past was seeping into my present. I couldn't just release it and forgive, like so many others can and do. It was a constant reminder, in some strange way, a badge of honor, that I have endured something profound for many years. But I learned that it comes at a price. I would never be free of the burden as long as I wore the badge. It's time to let go.

The past is behind me. I'm not going there. I'm traveling forward. I'm leaving my suitcase and I'm only taking a carry on... to be unpacked at a later date ;-)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hello Again!


It's been nearly two years since I sat down to this computer to write on my blog - this little piece of me where I asked my questions of the universe, vented about those things that struck a nerve, smiled as I wrote about situations that gave me hope.

I left to write my book. You may recall my saying that I'm all good beginnings. Well, I still am... good at beginnings. I did start. And that's where it ended. It turned out that the two years in question were filled with many more events which took up my time and attention. And once again, I put aside my dream of writing.

My life took turns I didn't anticipate - some that were painful, others blissful. I realize now that the last two years were providing fuel for a collection of books with themes ranging from mid-life epiphanies and demise of marriages, to stumbling upon your soulmate at the wrong time. When I finally do get back to writing, I won't lack for material.

I've learned a great deal about myself during this time, not the least of which is that I need a lot more work to become the person I aspire to be. I've learned that I carry more baggage from my past, my childhood specifically, than I could have thought possible. I've learned that I am capable of change and growth and forward motion and that I'm not so "set in stone" as I once touted being. And I've learned that that gnawing in my gut for the better part of my life was the real me wanting more of the spotlight than the persona of me I created to please others. It's been a big two years.

I started therapy.
I accepted the painful truth that my marriage had been on life-support for years.
I separated from my husband just shy of our 18th wedding anniversary.
I started a new career after over a decade of being an at-home mom.
And I fell hard and fast for a truly amazing man but ultimately ruined the relationship by not taking the time I needed for myself to shake off my past.

I know now that what you put out into the cosmos, you receive back. The gardener would say "you reap what you sow". I had been putting out anger and fear and insecurity and I was receiving the same in kind. Now, I try desperately to view life from the positive. And when I'm in the zone, oh my, my life is wonderful and I can feel myself shine. But all too often, the old negativities creep in and take hold and more times than I wish to admit, I am powerless to them. It's not an excuse, just a reason to work harder at being better. That's what this was after all... Blogging To A Better Bonnie.

I've decided to come back to this blog. Stretch my writing muscle, as it were. The books will have to wait. I have much too much going on in my life right now: single motherhood, 100% of the responsibilities of house and home, the learning curve early days of a new career. And just as important if not more so, the time and work that must go into my personal improvements. For every step forward I make in my internal development, I discover more that needs work. But I remain committed to any change that improves me. And I think writing here again is a step in the right direction.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to write again. I've missed it. It is a part of me that yearns to be heard. I won't deny her anymore. She's back! :-)