A Lesson Learned From Walking In The Rain

I walked to the gym tonight to do some yoga. It’s about .5 mile each way.

I’d been in a funk and I needed to breathe. I realized once I got there that I only had about 20 minutes because of a cardio class that was coming in. That frustrated me but I carried on with my practice, feeling rushed. Not quite what I had imagined.

While I was there, though, a giant rainstorm rolled in, quickly, as they do in Florida. It was so rhythmic and calming that the storm actually brightened my mood. It made me slow down my practice. It made me breathe deeper and longer. It made me more mindful somehow.

There’s just something about a good, evening rainstorm sometimes.

As I finished up my practice, it was raining so hard that I couldn’t walk home. Only, no. It wasn’t that I couldn’t. It was that I didn’t want to. There was no lightening, so, no danger. It was simply that I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get wet and soggy and cold and uncomfortable.

So, I sat there. 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes went by.

I started to wonder when the storm would pass. I grew impatient because I was getting hungry. A gentleman sitting next to me, also waiting out the storm, looked at me and said, “I just looked at the radar and this storm isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make peace with it”.

What wise wording. Make peace with it. Make peace with the discomfort, essentially.

His comment sent my brain down a metaphorical highway and got me thinking…

Our species isn’t very good at making peace with discomfort- physical or emotional. We are beings that will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. We’ll pop a pill at the slightest amount of pain. We’ll write off friendships or relationships when things get complicated. We’ll guzzle alcohol at when life gets stressful.

We don’t want to sit with the lesson. We don’t want to learn what’s being taught. We just want to make things easier on ourselves and take the path of least resistance.

A very wise friend once said it so eloquently, though, “Nothing truly goes away before it teaches you what you need to learn”. And she’s so right.

Whether it’s a reoccurring bad dream about someone you’ve wronged, a romantic partner you can’t let go of, a friendship that you can’t seem to reconcile, a job that you know isn’t right for you but you stay…the lesson hasn’t been taught yet. Or more likely, the lesson hasn’t been learned yet. We must listen carefully.

And you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to work through it all.

That storm wasn’t passing tonight. So I took off my flip-flops, yanked up my yoga mat and walked through it.

It was simultaneously exhilarating and fun to walk through the rain. I felt like a kid walking barefoot through puddles. I was wet and soggy and cold when I got home. But the discomfort? It was momentary. It was fleeting. That feeling of freedom and airiness while I was walking in the rain far surpassed my discomfort. I felt really good when I got home. I felt lighter.

I needed that release of walking in the rain. That was my lesson. Right in front of me, yet hidden in my reluctance to be uncomfortable.

But. You just can’t get to the lesson without testing your comfort zone boundaries. Lessons are never easy. They’re never uncomplicated. There doesn’t seem to be much of an education in things that come easy.

It stopped raining five minutes after I got home. That storm wouldn’t pass until it taught me the lesson. I just needed to listen.

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Be My Friend So I Can Beg You To Stay My Friend

I’ve always had a problem with fitting in. Not exactly the proverbial “I hated high school because I was an outcast” type of not fitting in. My problem always has been wanting everyone to like me. And I mean everyone.

I moved to Florida from the suburbs of Chicago when I was 10. It was the perfect age of late elementary school, early hormonal issues, to be transplanted in a new environment. It was just enough of a wake-up call to realize that the world is much bigger than it had previously appeared.

I noticed from the first day in my new place that I didn’t fit in like I did back in Chicago. My friends had been my friends since toddlerhood back in my comfort zone but now? Now I had to make new friends with different personalities, being the dreaded “new kid”.

It wasn’t easy for me.

I’m an introvert by nature, which some have a hard time believing about me, but it’s true. I come off as standoffish in new environments, around new people, because I’m not very confident. I’ve always been this way. So, in fifth grade, in my new school, I was bullied for being a “bitch”, which was really just me being…a quiet and scared introvert.

I didn’t make friends easily and what that taught me back then was that I needed to try harder, only I didn’t know how to try the correct way by just being myself and attracting others most similar to me.

I ended up joining “team bully”, trying it on for size, throughout 6th and 7th grade so people would like me. It didn’t feel right, but I did it. It momentarily felt good to be a part of something, of a group, instead of the outsider. I tended to become the people I wanted to be around, even if those people weren’t good people. I wanted to be liked. I would chameleon myself to fit in, I would say and do things to fit in, I would gossip just to be the person “in the know”, to get attention.

By 8th grade, the bullies started to fade away, for the most part, and I found my people, I found my tribe, a healthy tribe. I was popular in high school, but only because it was way too high on the priority list for me. I tried too hard. I wasn’t always myself to achieve that popularity. I tended to be who others wanted me to be or expected me to be.

I wanted to be perfect for everyone.

Clearly, none of this is drastically uncommon for these teenage, school years.

Only, it didn’t really change in high school, or college, or beyond that for me. Well, some of it changed just by merely maturing and getting to know myself, but underneath the surface, I always really want people to like me.

There’s my confession:

Hi. I’m Vanessa, I’m 40, and I still really want people to like me.

Ridiculous, right? I know. But it’s who I am.

Many of you reading might say, “Oh, I stopped caring what others think a long time ago!”, and if that’s 100% true, good for you. I want to be you when I grow up, but if you think back, I’m guessing there have at least been a couple of interactions or situations in which you were maybe the smallest bit concerned with how you were perceived. Maybe you bit your tongue when the other soccer mom was yelling on the field, maybe you changed your shirt because you felt like you looked pregnant, maybe you lied about the reason you canceled plans… Dig deep.

So, that phrase we hear all.of.the.time. of, “Who cares what other people think of you? You shouldn’t care and just be yourself!”.

Yes. True. That’s very true. But it’s not so easy. I care too much how others perceive me.

Therefore, when I lose someone, a friend, a relationship, I have a really, really difficult time letting go. Or even when I argue with someone I care about, I need to fix it right.away. I need to work through it, over-talk it, over analyze it, until its the deadest of the dead horses.

I’ve been ghosted by quite a few friends within recent years and my marriage failed within those years, too. Literally, friends that I had for years that I’ve never heard from again without any kind of falling out. No response to texts, phone calls, etc. I think this is a bizarre way to end any kind of relationship but I’ve done a lot of work trying to figure out why it’s happened.

What did I do wrong?
How could I have done things differently?
What can I learn from these losses?

All healthy questions to ask myself, all normal responses to try to validate the loss, but where it becomes toxic for someone like myself is when I believe this is solely on me as an individual, that there is something inherently unlikable about me, or maybe many things, that must be changed. That if I change- I change my ideals, my beliefs, pieces of my personality, as much as I possibly can, I will then be loved. That maybe, if we don’t say what I want to say out loud, I keep our feelings to myself, I just blend into the wallpaper, that I will at least have the security of people liking me.

But here’s the thing: that’s not how it works. This thought pattern is unhealthy and exhausting. 

There’s a fine balance between introspection, (working on my flaws, acknowledging downfalls, realizing where work can be done), and flat out changing who I am for others. It’s a tight rope and it’s tricky.

We all know that begging people to be, or stay, in our lives doesn’t make sense. If you have to beg with incessant one-sided communication, it isn’t worth it. If you have the perception of being the one putting in all of the effort to a relationship, it isn’t worth it.

Neither is changing yourself for others’ comfort or attention.

Some things just aren’t worth trying to figure out or fix. But when you’re a fixer, when you’re a control freak, and when you truly care about someone, this is the toughest part: letting go.

Let it go. Let.it.go. LET.IT.GO.

So, I’ve come to realize that this might just be my biggest character flaw. This need for people to like me, even when it’s clear that I’m the one driving the relationship. I’ve realized this probably too late in life, but at least I’ve realized it.

I’m working on it. Working on liking who I am, always, and learning to turn the obsessiveness off when others don’t like who I am, what I say, and what I stand for. Working on realizing that not everything can be fixed or mended. Working on realizing that sometimes…it’s them, it’s not me.

And that’s ok for them not to change who they are, too. We can’t expect that from others just as we can’t expect that from ourselves. We all are who we are.

The quote “People come in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” is one to live by.

Not everyone is meant to stay forever. We are ever evolving, always learning, always growing, so it cannot be possible that all people can stay in our lives forever. You can’t always stay on the same path, you can’t always grow together, and ultimately, dynamics shift and if your relationship stands that test, wonderful, cherish that with every ounce of your being, but it might not always be the same and it might even fall apart completely. And that’s ok.

Self accept. Self love. Be who you are and say what you need to say. It will work out how it’s supposed to.

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The Function in Dysfunction

I talk a lot. Sometimes too much. I’m an over-sharer and sometimes I feel the need to word vomit in the most simple of conversations. It’s just who I am. Too transparent. But it’s certainly led to some interesting conversation.

I was talking to someone affiliated with my work world, someone I had just met, and she was asking me about life, in general: kids, vacations, etc. Just small talk. She asked if I was married and I said my usual, “No, but her dad and I are still in a relationship. We’re together but don’t live together”.

She gave me the same perplexed look that everyone else does. People don’t understand this type of unconventional situation. I get it. She is quite a bit older than me so she seemed more concerned than most do about my answer.

And then she said this: “Well…that’s an interesting set up. So much dysfunction for kids these days. I guess broken homes are the norm with all of the divorces. No one stays together anymore.”.

Dysfunction. I loathe that word in relation to describing a family.

Broken. I loathe that word in relation to a home.

It got me thinking- why, and how, on earth did we ever start describing families of divorce as “dysfunctional”?

Totally rhetorical but my annoyance remains.

This idea that divorce is synonymous with dysfunction and brokenness should not be perpetuated. Those are temporary states, or emotions, within divorce at times, but not adjectives that should describe families.

What a horrible label. It’s something that I have heard less and less of since divorces are so common, but these ugly words we use to describe families that aren’t the fairytale version of marriage and family- “dysfunctional”, “broken”? Let’s stop that.

My family is not dysfunctional. My family is not broken. And my child does not need to think otherwise. If her father and I would have stayed in a marriage, a relationship, which, at the time of separation was completely unhealthy- arguments, tension, unhappiness, amongst other things- wouldn’t that have been broken? Wouldn’t that have been dysfunctional?

The difference is now, yes, she has two houses. She spends the night at one house twice a week and the other house the rest of the week. There are challenges that go along with this. There is navigation involved. There were certainly concerns for my child when this drastic change was made, but at the end of the day, she has two parents that love her. She has a family that functions despite the title of “divorce”. We all still function. No one is broken.

Hearts might have been broken, sure, but they’re in some phase of repair and they certainly won’t stay broken, so let’s not call anything broken. We were living in more dysfunction before, prior to divorce. So let’s not call our new normal dysfunctional. Let’s get rid of that ideal, of that perfection, in relation to what families look like and how they function. Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. We all know this. Let’s stop with the stigmas.

Everyone functions because they have to. They navigate their new normal- all of us do that have been through a separation and a divorce. None of it is easy, most of it is not pretty. And it can certainly get downright ugly. But it was most likely ugly as the textbook definition of marriage, too.

It’s redefining. Not dysfunctional. Not broken.

We know our children do not go unscathed by divorce. We, as parents, we know this. We do not need ugly labels to reinforce this, however. We do not need this global idea that we simply gave up on marriage, that it was that easy. That we didn’t try. No one lives behind our closed doors. Only we know our reasons, only we know what we had to do to function and thrive the best way we know how.

This obviously also goes for divorced families that now have new marriages, maybe step-children. They’re beautiful, extended, blended families. At least most of them are. Not all of them are the families pictured together at the kids’ soccer games, or at Disney together, as one big happy family, donning the shirts labeled with their specific role in the family, (this just isn’t realistic for every family of divorce), but they all function to the very best of their abilities. They all love.

Once again, love wins. Love for our kids, it wins. Always. We, as parents, make every decision with our children at the forefront of our minds. That’s what we do. And the last thing we want is for them to be labeled as “broken” or “dysfunctional”.

Can we do better, collectively? Can we look at a divorce situation objectively and just silently acknowledge that this family did the best the could then and they’re doing the best they can now. I did not grow up as a child of divorce but so many of my friends that did are badass, full-functioning, successful, functional people. No worse for wear and definitely not broken.

All families are beautiful. They are all unique. They are all functional in some way, shape, or form. They do not need perfection. They just need love.

 

 

 

 

In Support of Unconventional Relationships

If I had to guess, I would say that those who know me at all would describe me as “unconventional”. It’s definitely been said about me. I’m not sure if that’s a nice way of calling me bat-shit crazy but it’s an adjective that I’ve learned to embrace.

I’ve never liked conventionalism or rules of any kind, really. I remember my dance team coach from high school particularly hated that about me. She would have a certain dances choreographed, coached us in a very methodical way, and if I saw room for improvement or an opportunity to interject an opinion, I wouldn’t let that moment pass. I wanted to do everything different. I’d speak up with my unsolicited opinion and it was usually met with an eye roll and a reprimand. She called me “un-coachable”. I called it “thinking outside of the box”.

And that’s the way I’ve lived my life: outside of the box. Relationships included.

After leaving my first marriage and falling in love with a man who was almost 8 years my junior, (who would later become my second husband), a friend said to me, “You always just do whatever it is you want and things just seem to work out for you”. Well, yes. Things do work out. Because they have to. But I think what she meant was, I don’t play by the relationship rules.

But everyone has their opinions on others’ romantic relationships. Imagine if we didn’t have such opinions. Where would our entertainment and conversations come from? Reality television was solely founded on the premise that we must know, and have intimate details, of others’ romantic relationships. The popularity of soap operas, movies, sitcoms, celebrity gossip shows… you name it, most forms of entertainment are centered around who’s fucking who. Period. We are a species with gross curiosity of how others manage their romantic lives. And it clearly  must be discussed amongst the masses.

I’ve recently noted quite a few headlining relationship changes, and not just because someone of notoriety got divorced from some humdrum marriage. Nope. Unconventional relationships are becoming more the thing these days.

Best selling author, Glennon Doyle-Melton shocked us all after revealing she left her husband and soon entered a romantic relationship with another woman who she will now- gasp- marry! Good for her. I think this is amazing news. Love wins.

More recent news revealed that the founder of Scary Mommy, Jill Smokler, stayed in a marriage after learning of her husband’s homosexuality for more than a decade.  Jaw.Drop. But, guess what? I get it. He was her person. There was love. Love won.

Talk about unconventional.

I mean, I don’t know if I can top these stories but I’ll try, only because it’s all the rage: I’m currently dating my {second} ex-husband and father of my child.

The background: We started dating in late 2002. He was just 18, I was 25. You read that correctly. May-September at it’s finest. Mrs. Robinson. Cougar. Robbing the cradle. Yes. That. Whatever you’d like to call it. It was chemistry and it was tangible and it was real.

We moved in together in 2003, got engaged in 2007, got married in 2008, had a baby in 2009.

I publicly bared my soul in writing about our split in 2014. They were very dark days. We divorced in early 2015.

After I started to rebuild my life and the pain subsided, I still felt as though I was missing a limb. This feeling went deeper than just that of divorce grief. He somehow felt…inevitable to me. The divorce felt more like a hiatus and a time to take a breath, as odd as that sounds. That portion of our relationship needed a finale, an ending point. I had to let go of what it was.

I really searched my soul for my stake in our relationship failures, learned so much about myself, and dug deep for what it was I wanted from someone else, from a partner. The answer was: I wanted him. He is my person. I didn’t want another person. I was fine being alone but also wanted this person. Flaws and all. I wanted all of him. And I didn’t want to change him like I previously thought I did.

It took me awhile to process what this looked like and to make sense out of loving someone, still, who might not have made the best choices in the past. I’ve previously written about being addicted to him, so perhaps some of it is that piece, but it also really comes down to plain, old-fashioned love. It can be difficult to delineate the two, but I digress.

If I’m being honest, it’s very much a work in progress. Old issues don’t die easily. I’m not simplifying it or dismissing our past. None of this happened without thinking and over-thinking and discussing and over-discussing. We are two imperfect people who love each other.

So, we currently date. We do family days at the beach. We take vacations together. We even own a house together in a foreign country with intentions of someday living there. Together.

No, we don’t currently live together, we’re not married, and we really don’t discuss these components of our relationship or what our future looks like. I don’t know that we have a label, which seems to be what outsiders looking in want to make them comfortable and cure their curiosity.

But. We just…are.

We love each other. We raise a child together. We enjoy each other. And when we don’t, we have our own spaces to retreat to. We came back to each other in an unconventional way and had to learn a new path because love persisted for us. It was never lost. We just had to redefine it for ourselves. And it just works for us this way. It might not work forever. But it might.

It’s weird. It’s different. It doesn’t make sense to almost anyone else and, listen- it doesn’t have to.

Everyone’s relationship journey is different but you know what’s the same universal truth? No one likes being judged or ridiculed for their relationship choices. And…everyone loves to be loved.

That love looks different for everyone.

And no love goes without trials and tribulations. Not one person reading these words can say they have a perfect relationship. It doesn’t exist. We all recognize that judging, commenting and ridiculing others’ love does not make sense. Love is not one dimensional. It’s multifaceted and certainly complex. Unless you live it, breathe it, sit with it everyday, you cannot say you know what’s best. You aren’t allowed that opinion, no matter how right you might be as an outsider looking in. It’s not yours to have. We complain to our friends and family about our relationships because we’re looking for support, commonality, an ear, a shoulder, an ally at times. We are not looking for definitive answers because there aren’t any.

Love persists. It ebbs and it flows. It gets messy. Sometimes you can clean up the mess… but it will look different when its put back together. And that’s ok because it might still work. It might get lost but it could be found again. It might have some road blocks but it might create a new path. You just never know.

So, the next time I hear a news story with someone else’s relationship truths or a friend comes to me with relationship woes, I will try to find the amazing in the story. I try to find the why for them; what was- what is– the why of their love? I try to find the love in their story. I will support that love when they want me to and I will hate that love if that’s what they need. No matter what the story is, it isn’t my story to tell so it won’t look the way mine would.

But love is an amazing thing that has a way of working itself out sometimes.

And we should all hope for that for one another.

Love wins. No matter what it looks like to everyone else.

 

 

Being On Both Sides of Infidelity

There are so many shared theories on infidelity. I’ve read them all, been lured into clicking on all of the articles. How a woman’s reasons for cheating are different from a man’s. How women seek attention, wanting to fill voids and how men look for the physical. I’ve analyzed it all with the best of them.

I don’t know there’s any merit to these theories, really. Everyone’s reasons for cheating are different. Everyone’s path to cheating is different. Some couples’ willingness to work through cheating and stay together are all different.

There’s no formula to cheating, as much as we’d like there to be so we could avoid it. No matter how many articles are written that analyze or predict it, no matter how many red flags there are in a relationship, no matter how many lists we read about the signs of cheating, no matter how much justifying is done, it happens and it will continue to happen. It’s terrible but it happens.

I do believe there is a constant truth about infidelity and it’s quite simple: we are selfish beings that want and crave attention. Period. And most times, we don’t want to do the real work with our partners to get to a healthier place. We take the path of least resistance. Cheating on a partner is an act of selfishness and cowardliness that begs to be judged, (and trust me, I do still judge when I hear stories of cheating spouses), but few realize, or will admit, that it could be any one of us on either side of infidelity. We want to believe it would never be us, or happen to us, yet it is and it does.

I’ve been married twice. I’m now twice divorced. I choke on typing that in solid print. It’s embarrassing to me that I failed at marriage twice.

Many people in my life might not even know about my first marriage. I even tend to forget. I was 24 and was in a rush to be in love, to be loved, to be married, to do what all of my friends were doing.

I was set up with a guy on a blind date. He was kind-hearted, funny, and he adored me. Our relationship moved much too fast. We moved in together after only 4 weeks of dating and we were engaged within months.

If I’m being totally honest, I never loved him. I knew that from the start and I ignored it. I wanted the wedding, I wanted the adoration. I was really good at pretending. We had very little in common but in retrospect, I didn’t even know myself well enough to know what my needs and wants were at the time. He was a good person and he deserved more. I was on a rebound from a long-term love when I met him and he paid the price. It’s unfair and it was shitty but it was the reality.

I made a conscience decision to cheat on him only 3 months into our marriage. Not to be confused with a premeditated plan to cheat. I don’t know that anyone actually does that. Not many look to outwardly and blatantly lie and live a double life. How many times have you heard, “It just…happened”? And it does, just happen. This is not a dismissive or an excusable fact but it is the truth. Cheating is really about trying something on for size, seeing how it fits.

I met a guy at work, a much younger guy, that I had a ridiculous amount of chemistry with. Because he was so much younger, I didn’t notice the chemistry immediately but when I finally acknowledged what was happening, it was over. I was involved. I was emotionally cheating from that moment on and physical cheating wasn’t far behind.

Once the physical relationship began, I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize and one I absolutely couldn’t face in the mirror. I hated myself but not enough to stop the affair. I knew I was in love with the person I chose to cheat with. I knew I had to leave my husband, and I did, after only 5 months of marriage, 2 months into the affair.

It was awful, being on that side of infidelity. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t an adventure, and it didn’t feel good. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and the lies felt like razors punishing my lips each and every time I had to tell a lie. It wasn’t in my DNA to pull this off, nor did I want to. I was too consumed with how people viewed me to be honest with myself, and with him, about not being in love, about not wanting to get married, and about what I needed from a relationship.

Love and lust stole all logic from me. That’s not an excuse but it’s what happened. I allowed that to happen. I should have stopped the affair, been honest with my husband, left him, knowing I wasn’t in love, and stayed on my own until I gained complete clarity. But, I didn’t. I was too afraid to lose love.

I left my husband for another man.

I’ve never outwardly admitted this to anyone before. Not to my then husband, not to my friends or family, and not to myself. But that’s the truth. I live with guilt about this every single day, still. I never forgave myself completely. I broke someone’s heart in the worst imaginable way and it was unforgivable.

I married the “other” man in this story. And infidelity came full circle 5 years into our marriage, 12 years into our relationship. It was me on the receiving end of betrayal.

I’ve never been convinced about the concept of karma. We all talk about it as though it’s real but I’ve, more often than not, thought of it as a coping mechanism, something to make us feel better when we’re wronged. However, my second husband’s infidelity sure did feel like karma. It completely broke me as a person. I allowed it to completely break me and it felt awful. I wasn’t just broken, I was shattered. I hated myself. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. My self esteem wouldn’t let me. And I felt like I totally and completely deserved it.

It felt eerily familiar.

As much as I wanted to play the victim, and at times I did, it was undeniable that this happened for a reason.

My darkest moments lie within both sides of these infidelities, within these betrayals. And within dark moments lie truth and learning. I learned what I am capable of. I learned what rock bottom looks like. I learned what complete loneliness feels like.  I learned what self hatred is. On both sides, all of these same lessons took place and looked very similar.

Oddly, or perhaps not odd at all, this all brought me to a path of self acceptance. It was all within the learning. I just needed to pay attention. Cheating is simply a symptom of much deeper issues and if it happens to you, no matter which side you’re on, you just need to try to pay attention to the message. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty, but you.must.listen.

If you listen closely, it should peel back every single layer of your soul and teach you what you need from a partner. It should teach you to rebuild your heart. It should teach you how to love yourself.

These lessons are so very costly, though. No one comes out of betrayal unscathed.

I forgive myself. I forgive him. But. The scars are brutal.

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The Shedding of Things

I recently cut my hair. Most people I interact with on a daily didn’t even notice, even though it was a drastic change for me. But that was ok. It felt amazing to shed the weight and to feel a change. A friend quoted Coco Chanel to me after learning of my hair cut and said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life”. And I did.

Soon after that, within days,  I decided to sell my furniture. The furniture that I had for the duration of my relationship with my ex husband. Just, shedding… things.

Soon after that, within days, I decided to shed my addiction.

I firmly believe, the older that I get and the more I learn, that we are all addicted to something. Addiction is a frightening word but if you really analyze your life, really dig deep, I can almost guarantee there is a vice. There’s the obvious: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling, sex, caffeine. Then there’s the less obvious: maybe sports, exercise, behaviors, and maybe, just maybe…even people.

I am addicted to a person. I am addicted to the person who has betrayed me time and time again. I am addicted to the love, the hate, the chaos, the bad, the good, the ugly, the borderline emotional abuse, the lust, the hope, the everything. I just recently, within the last year, have admitted this is an actual thing. Being addicted to a person and codependency is very real.

We’ve been divorced for over a year and separated for over two. People get divorced everyday and move on. But with addiction, it’s not that simple. I never completely quit him. I never allowed myself time. I never kicked the habit. I never gave up the high. It’s an addiction that lives in my soul. An addiction to the person I once saw as my second heart. The grieving became too much, and the loneliness became even more. I would dive right back into text messages and calls and obsessive thoughts, just wanting my fix of him. I just wanted to feel better. I could not handle being dope sick. It’s a weakness. And he certainly knows this.

No, I never planned on a complete reconciliation. I never wanted another marriage to him or cohabitation. I just wanted him in some form. I wanted him to love me or just want me. I wanted some semblance of a family. I wanted to force that. I wanted him to be different than he was and change old behaviors, shed addictions of his own. With or without change on his part, I just wanted him. I wanted the safety net of him and the support. I wanted the late night texts and the random intimacy. I wanted to dismiss all of the betrayal and pretend that this hybrid of a relationship we had was ok. It was unconventional but it was ok and it was good for me and therefore good for my daughter. He said he wanted me, too, as he always has, but his actions prove otherwise, as they always do.

I fooled myself into believing that I had control, as most addicts do. I made my rules, as most addicts do. If I only saw him a couple times as week and we only vacationed together, it wouldn’t become dangerous to me. Heartbreak wouldn’t be eminent if I just followed my own rules. But then the rules are stretched and a bigger dosage becomes the new rule.

And then there’s an event, an overdose of sorts, as there always is with addiction. A rock bottom moment where I have some self reflection and wonder what the fuck I’m doing. The danger is clear and the denial subsides. This is the moment to take advantage of and bail. For good. Some of us in addiction have had several of these rock bottom moments and we just hope that this time will be the one that will stick. I will make it stick this time. I have to. I have to be ready to do the work. I have to actually do the work.

I’m detoxing. I’m shedding.

The first hours were strong and full force, cold turkey. There’s a fierce confidence within those initial hours and a certainty that I will never look back. I was empowered by my independence and my courage to move on.

As the hours passed, the pain set in. Gut wrenching, real pain. That realization that the void is sneaking back in. The fear is sneaking back in. The reality is there staring me in the face. I am alone and I have to find a way to be ok. In reality, I have been alone for a very long time and my drug of choice has only been there to lie to me, pretending to ease my pain and fill my void. It’s a pseudo effect, a pacifier.

I have to break habits and that’s what it’s about. That’s the simplest answer to addiction: it’s just a habit that must be broken. Because with most habits that lead to addiction, it can literally or metaphorically kill you.  Being addicted to this person, I am giving myself away piece by piece. I am killing my spirit. I become unrecognizable to myself in the throes of addiction, as many of us do. How can we not if we’re giving so much of ourselves to someone or something else? It dims our light. It prevents us from being our truest form.

Every time I use again, I am saying it’s ok. It’s ok to allow myself the betrayals, the lies, the empty promises. I am saying it’s ok to settle for someone that cannot and will not give their all to me. I am saying this is good enough for me but above all, I’m saying it’s good enough for my daughter. I’m teaching her that a person who should be a partner, but is too caught up in self desires, is acceptable on his part-time schedule. No. No, this is not what I am willing to allow her to settle for in life.

It’s not about winning over this addiction. No one wins. No one gets a medal. It’s just about surviving it and finding a greater version of myself through the process. I know I’m here somewhere, whole and complete. We are all complete on our own if we allow it. This ideology of having a “better half”, or just an “other half”, is complete and utter bullshit. We are not all halves walking around in need of someone else. Getting out of that mindset is crucial. I have to allow it; trust the healing process.

They say that 21 days kicks a habit. Day 6. Dope sick and still in pain. But it is better than the alternative of self destruction. Freeing my heart of this will allow for so much more on the other side of the pain. It will be cleansing, this shedding.

I will not give myself away anymore.

 

 

Co-parenting is an art, not a science.

As a human race, we are inherently nosy beings. We love to know things about others’ lives. We thrive a little, or maybe a lot, on gossip. We love to be voyeurs, watching and judging, saying how we would do things different, or maybe even admire a lifestyle.

Some would argue that this is not true for everyone, but I will be bold and say it is the truth for most. If you watch any reality TV or have any social media page active in your name, you’re nosy. And hey, even if you don’t scroll Instagram or watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I guarantee that if you heard word-of-mouth of a friend getting a divorce, your first thought would most likely be, “Hmm, I wonder what happened?!”.

Some call it curiosity or concern but I’ll call a spade a spade and say nosy. I’m so very guilty of it myself and being nosy can be a terrible characteristic but for the most part, I do believe it’s harmless. Plus, many of us invite the nosiness and even the judgement by putting ourselves out there on social media or ::ahem:: a very personal blog. It goes both ways.

Lately, I have received a lot of blunt questions about how my ex-husband and I co-parent, questions such as, “Do you share 50/50?, do you get child support from him?, do you pay him alimony?, do you still spend time together as a family since neither of you are in a relationship?”. Even strangers will ask me these questions.

I truly do not mind answering at all. Those that know me know that I’m a pretty open book. However, I’m throwing caution out there to those that ask these questions to any recent divorcee with children: these are deeply personal questions that might make some people uncomfortable answering. That goes for questions about divorce, too. The whole “what happened with you and your ex?” question? Yeah, that’s complex as hell to answer when I run into you at Target, but again, I don’t mind answering. In my mind, it’s better to ask than to assume. Ask me anything, it’s totally ok. I’m giving you permission.

But let’s talk about judging the way people co-parent, or better yet, the way they judge how divorced couples should act.

It’s so interesting to me how people react when I tell them that my ex and I are still close, that we still host birthday parties together for our child, that he is still very involved in my daughter’s life, that him and I still care about each other and even spend time together as a family. And, we are even going on a summer vacation together as a family :::gasp:::

The look of shock or the words of “REALLY?! Wow. That’s great but isn’t that weird?!”. Um, no, it isn’t. I married this person, I had a child with this person, I lived with this person for twelve years. Perhaps it might be a bit odd if him or I had a significant other in our lives but even then, you hear about close ex relationships even in those circumstances. Because, well, children kind of deserve to have two parents that can stand one another.

The thing is, co-parenting and living as a divorced couple means something different for everyone. Everyone has to find what works for their family because like it or not, you are still a family. That could be, no, that WILL BE ever changing, what works and what doesn’t, but there aren’t any rules. Not all divorced dads are deadbeats and just because it’s on record that there was infidelity or addiction or whatever it was that resulted in the demise, it doesn’t always equate to hatred or punishing the other party.

As a matter of a fact, my ex and I have have not gotten along this well in about three years, no joke. This is not a coincidence. This is a result of hard work on both of our parts to make Lily our focus. Relationships are complicated, parenting is complicated, marriage is complicated, divorce is complicated. Kids feel all of this and at the end of the day, they just want everyone they love to be happy. It’s that simple for them.