Happy Anniversary?

I haven’t shared this pic in a few years. Evan and I have been (in all technicality) married 12 years today. 3 years ago, but really probably 5, our marriage disintegrated. Or exploded. All of my worst nightmares and fears came alive. I didn’t want to be a single mom, I didn’t want to have a failed marriage, Christ, back then, I couldn’t fail period. I had to be perfect. In the last five years: I have been to the mental hospital 5 times, I cheated on my husband with a man I met in the first mental hospital, and our marriage became an exercise in masochism and sadism. Evan and I turned what once was overwhelming love – reading our posts for all our anniversaries could make me cry if I wanted to – into overwhelming hate. Our lives were the manifestation of misery: internally and externally. In the course of those years, in addition to my hospitalizations which were usually 2 or more weeks at a time with 3-6 months out of work for recovery, Evan lost his job for 3 months, I had to be out of work with no disability or pay of any kind, oh right and we have 3 kids. I don’t know how we survived the amount of stress we endured.

When the fight happened, I was relieved. Things were so bad, I was thrilled our marriage was over, but embarrassed about how it all went down. I was embarrassed about the affair, I was embarrassed about all my dirty little secrets not being kept anymore.

Sitting here now, I don’t have a single shit to give. Everything in those paragraphs are the past, and it is the vehicle that brought me to the present. In the present, I am back living with Evan and our family is together. I could say that’s a failure too: I “couldn’t handle” being a single mom, I went batshit crazy, etc. But failure is a beautiful part of life that puts you in the present. The present is always where we need to be, and it is always perfect.

Evan was there for me in the darkest nights of my soul. I was screaming about demons on my radio and people on the internet coming to kill me. He was there. He told me to come live with him when I realized I didn’t trust my own mind anymore, and I couldn’t afford my place while being out of work on disability.

How many couples could go through the hell our marriage went through? How many could come back to being each other’s best friend and support system? When we separated, once the emotions calmed down (and the court orders lifted – it was that bad) we promised each other we would figure this out. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life raising the kids and hating their daddy. I couldn’t conceive of holding on to anger that long. We promised each other we’d be friends for our own sanity and the kids. We didn’t want them seeing anymore fighting or anger. Our family suffered enough. We never divorced, we did all the custody and everything between us, and we let ourselves heal.

I never stopped loving Evan. He never stopped loving me. A year ago, we were terrified. I was moving back in and we were both scared it would be terrible. Things had gone so badly, what if….? I have a storage unit full of my stuff from Brookside, because what if I had to move out? A month ago, we started moving some of that into the house and getting rid of old stuff like our 12 year old couch. Because everything is great. A year ago, I couldn’t see me typing this. I couldnt see me happy and glad I moved back in. I couldn’t see Evan and I talking about a future or even an us.

Then I see my face in this picture. I see how blue my eyes are. I know how nervous I was to be getting married, I was 5 months pregnant with Tyler. This is my favorite picture of me. This was the happiest day of my life, and I was marrying my best friend. One thing the last 12 years has taught me is an expectation is a built in disappointment and this can work both ways. I expected my marriage to fail, because I focused on the negative. I expected my life to go to hell, because I fought everything I am, because I hated myself.

The girl in this picture is beautiful, but she wasn’t actually happy. Her insides were tortured, her mind was tortured. She loved Evan a lot, but she also thought Evan was going to make her happy. The woman typing this exceedingly long memoir is beautiful inside and out, she still loves Evan, and she knows the only person who can make her happy is herself. So her smiles are bigger, her words are truthful, fearless, and without judgement. She doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about her, because she used to think a lot worse, and she made her life a living hell hidden behind masks and lies.

12 years ago, I married my best friend. It was the best decision I ever made. Today, I am raising my kids with my best friend, and through the insanity of this journey, I have found my other best friend: me. There are no words to express my love and gratitude for this life. It’s beyond my expectations – thank God. A lot has changed in 12 years, but the one constant has been love – even if sometimes it was standing upside down as hate.

A New Mother’s Day

It took becoming a mom to teach me about unconditional love. Somewhere along the line, I became convinced no one could possibly love me. Even as a mom, I felt so undeserving of my family for so long. I would constantly push myself to insane extremes to be the best mom because the truth was I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be a mom. To be anything. This constant belief I was a failure, terrible person, etc etc plagued me. My 20s and early 30s were a constant battle of running to and from this belief. I had to prove to myself I deserved this, yet never succeeded. Happiness was in the next milestone.

Thoughts will dictate your reality. They become self fulfilling prophecies. I’ve ruined my life so many times in 2 decades. Yet that’s not true, because I’m here.

What kept me here was them. My kids. Because I knew deep down if I could love them as much as I do, then I cannot possibly be as awful as I think I am. It was learning to treat myself like I treat my kids that taught me to love myself. I don’t go around berating them for every mistake or lording decades of unforgiven crap. I ask them more often than not what can they learn or how can they make better choices. They’re not perfect and so neither can I be. If I screw up, if they screw up, it’s learning.

The most incredible freedom and peace come when you just stop hating yourself and calling it everything else. I wasn’t a perfectionist, I was a masochist. I wasn’t anything but self loathing. And deep down, I was terrified I was teaching them.

I could hate myself for everything, or I could see how much the kids have learned in our journey. They see love in action. That love is not perfect or happy all the time. Love is a never ending series of choices. It’s learning to be human together. Love is there no matter what.

The coolest feeling on this Mother’s Day is feeling the kids love for me, feeling so much love around me, and feeling love within me. I can’t honestly say I’ve felt this way before. There is a peace that I cannot describe. I don’t see my failures, I see growth, I see love and I feel joy. I know I set an example for them, and now I feel like I am a good example of loving yourself – maybe even to the point you finally just don’t give a shit what anyone has to say or think about you.

Being a mom is a journey to yourself. That might sound odd, but we all learn from our relationships and the most profound relationship anyone can experience is raising a child. There is a love that is so transformative, it changes everything. Suddenly the flaws, problems, mistakes, etc take on a whole new depth and real ness. Before, you were just screwing up your own life, now you could screw up someone else’s. I think so many of us try to be perfect, only to realize we’re losing our minds – worse yet – our souls. We forget who we are in light of all the things we want for them. We don’t want them to hurt like us or make our mistakes. Then, you start to see the reality of yourself. You see how much love you have, and hopefully for most you start giving yourself that love. Because you know you’re teaching them. And you want to teach them how to love themselves. And words aren’t good enough. I watch them grow as much as I see me grow. I teach them all the music that has changed my life, I show themAll the things that heal me. We all know letting things go is one of the biggest challenges in life, and no more poignant reminder exists than knowing you’ll have to let them go one day, as they become adults. And knowing I can’t make them happy, I can only teach by example, has let me let go of so much and just experience the beautiful journey of being mom. Everyone does their best everyday. And love and compassion are what makes us all our best. It took becoming a mom to teach me that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.Being a mom is a journey to yourself. That might sound odd, but we all learn from our relationships and the most profound relationship anyone can experience is raising a child. There is a love that is so transformative, it changes everything. Suddenly the flaws, problems, mistakes, etc take on a whole new depth and real ness. Before, you were just screwing up your own life, now you could screw up someone else’s. I think so many of us try to be perfect, only to realize we’re losing our minds – worse yet – our souls. We forget who we are in light of all the things we want for them. We don’t want them to hurt like us or make our mistakes. Then, you start to see the reality of yourself. You see how much love you have, and hopefully for most you start giving yourself that love. Because you know you’re teaching them. And you want to teach them how to love themselves. And words aren’t good enough. I watch them grow as much as I see me grow. I teach them all the music that has changed my life, I show themAll the things that heal me. We all know letting things go is one of the biggest challenges in life, and no more poignant reminder exists than knowing you’ll have to let them go one day, as they become adults. And knowing I can’t make them happy, I can only teach by example, has let me let go of so much and just experience the beautiful journey of being mom. Everyone does their best everyday. And love and compassion are what makes us all our best. It took becoming a mom to teach me that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.I am so incredibly blessed to have the best teachers in the world showing me the wisdom of life and love. My children. Being their mother is tough! Being patient is tough! Feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered is tough! Loving them no matter their behavior, choices, etc is easy. And the same is now true for me. So thank you to them, thank you to the people who are walking this journey with me. Thank you to Evan, who has been there for me in the darkest of times. Thank you to all the moms who came before me. Thank you to my mom.

Strong women raise strong families. Women teach and nurture their families and lead by their example of love. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by so many strong women, and if you don’t think that’s you, look around at all the lives you affect and remind yourself it is. And if you’re a dude, switch the genders 😊😉❤️

Frantic is the New Calm

Everything is chaotic and frantic. Busy-ness is held in esteem and stillness is viewed as laziness. For over a year, I have not worked because I am on disability and every day, I give myself a mental barrage of why I suck for how little I am doing. I am not accustomed to life like this. I am accustomed to jam-packed schedules. Frankly, I feel best when I am racing around like a lunatic because I feel “productive”.

Yet, I’m not productive. I’m running around like a lunatic. Sure, I’m accomplishing things, but I’m not producing. Sure, I’m doing things, but I’m not living. To live is to experience. How much do any of us actually experience on a given day? How often do we look around and experience our lives versus doing our lives?

I tend to think in terms of my obituary. Will any of the stuff I frenetically do even remotely go into the paragraph that sums my life? My job most likely won’t even be mentioned. What accomplishments will I even have? Happily, I think on how all these problems that I think are so huge and need so much fixing will also die with me, so I stop stressing about them. My life will be represented by a date – date. What fills the dash?Realistically, the people I am surrounded by will go into my obituary. I will be a “loving mother, beloved daughter, and loving wife (maybe)” But will have actually lived those words? Will you?

How often do we even experience the people around us? Do we experience life and love with them? Do any of us actually understand the meaning of love? We all say it a lot, but do we live it?

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Aren’t life and love synonyms? Our grammar has limited our understanding of both because they have both been filed as nouns, not verbs. Both life and love are experience and action. Yet, how do our actions contribute to either? As we jam pack our schedules, do we create space and time for life or love?

For most of us, we believe love is the opposite of hate. I disagree. Apathy is the opposite of love. Apathy is how most of us exist. How do you feel when you hear birds singing? How do you feel when your children are talking to you when you are trying to check Facebook? How do you feel when you are eating dinner quickly to get to the next thing? Apathy pervades our consciousness more than any other emotion.

It is not intentional; it is worse: it is a byproduct of our refusal to experience life. In our incessant need to get to the future, we lose the here and now. Everything is a building block to some eventual reality where happiness will be. Everything is a means of escaping whatever reality we do not like. Apathy is a relief from misery, which is the more common reality for most of us. Misery is so commonplace now, it feels like happiness. Is it really happy to not hear birds singing? Is it really happy to not have conversations with people where you hear what they say and respond? Is it really happy to be doing as many things as possible at once?

A computer runs multiple processes, and we have created ourselves into the best damn computers in the world. We are more robotic than human. We go from one prompt or command to the other, with no experience of either. It is a fear of idleness that pushes us to constant extremes. We have to have something to show for our lives. We have to do something. We have to be something.

What if the purpose of life is to learn how to live? What if the purpose of life is to learn how to love? If we honestly look at our lives to this point, do either hold true? Are we beloved and loving nouns, or are we dynamic verbs of experience with ourselves and those we say we love?

Until a year or so ago, I operated under the belief I would die and go to heaven and THEN it would all make sense and be better. Then, I came to wonder if earth is heaven. The Buddha sat under a mangrove tree and achieved enlightenment/nirvana, which was right here on earth. Jesus did not say we had to die to get to heaven, he said we had to become like children to know heaven. The Hindi view of life is that we are all gods playing life. No one is pointing up in these explanations. Each is pointing in.

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Each is pointing us to love and innocence, yet even our kids are overwhelmed schedule-wise. They are smaller versions of adults now and not in a good way. Yet, when you watch a child play, you can see the wisdom of aeons. There is no tomorrow or yesterday as they drive a car and smash it into whatever imaginary villain they’ve created. Their imagination is unfettered, and so too, are they. The only fetters that exist for our children are the ones we “wise” adults place on them. All that we have in this life came from imagination. Every tangible object in our existence came from someone’s mind and imagination. The very screens most of us are addicted to lived in Steve Jobs’ mind.

When was the last time we sat and imagined? When was the last time we were productive in the sense of producing/creating? When was the last time we indulged a dream as more than “childish crap”, ignoring the fact that the very man many kill, fight, argue, and hate in His name told us to do the childish “crap”? It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?

We all think of ourselves as wise because we are grown-ups, because we have more years than kids, yet what do we have to show for those years? Anything I created outside of this blog was to make someone else richer or make someone else’s dreams come true. It certainly didn’t make a lick of mine come true.  But my dream of being a writer was silly and unrealistic. We ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, and smile somewhat condescendingly because we all know the truth is we’re going to ruin these kids dreams just like we ruined our own.

It’s not our fault, look how busy life is. How can any of us have time to dream? We have to live! We have bills to pay! We have to make money to survive! We have to work 40+ hours a week to (most of us) exist in an asston of debt, rarely have fun, and rinse and repeat daily. We may go to church and hope for a better reality after we die, or attempt to live as Christians or Buddhists or whatever now, while we miss loving and living. We follow the rules, not understanding they were given to us as guides to help us find life and love at the exact moment of now. Not a minute from now, or years from now, or after our death, it is wherever you are reading this as you read it.

The painful truth we all know deep in the back of our minds, as we race around avoiding it is that it IS our faults. We each created the life we live, because consciously or unconsciously, we create our lives. It is through living our dreams that we can consciously create happiness, but most of us ignore that and blame everything else for our own created misery and imbalance.

It is difficult to realize how imbalanced we are because it is rare for us to be balanced. If we knew what it felt to be balanced, we would not want to feel any other way. The Pythagorean definition of music is “A Perfect Union of Contrary Things”. The creativity and flow of music are balanced by the harmonic precision of each note, adhering to a time and beat, that was created by years of discipline and practice (or autotune). We have two sides of our brains: Logic centered left, and creative centered right. In order to be balanced, both must be utilized, but most of us exist solely in left analysis with all right creativity dismissed as childish crap.

Is there anything more beautiful than a good song at the right moment? Is there anything more beautiful than the spontaneity of a laugh? How often do we allow that experience to permeate our being? The opposite of action would be inaction, and the opposite of busy would be idle. When do we bring these opposites in our reality? Why do we view these opposites with scorn and dismay? Vacations must be earned. Downtime must be earned. We teach this to our children now, and then we wonder why mental illness and diagnoses on the autistic spectrum are rising at alarming rates. How many kids do we know with ADHD? We have to medicate our kids to get them to conform to this sick reality we have all created for ourselves. Can any of us sit still for 8 hours straight? Most of us can’t even do one task at a time anymore, and we are lauded for our multitasking abilities.

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How can we experience anything when we are so busy doing everything? How can we experience balance when being imbalanced is required to survive?

It is time for all of us to make serious changes, and it involves doing less and being more. As Lao Tzu said,

“You should meditate 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy. In that case, meditate 1 hour.”

It is time for the opposite of frantic to come back into our lives, and it is time to live and love life the way we were intended to, as grown-up children. Fully capable of experiencing and appreciating the gift we have in every moment.

 

Rest In Peace Tripp-a-Doo

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I wrote this on my Facebook, and I’m putting it everywhere. There’s so many people who loved and followed this family, and I think it’s a collective pain, though pales in comparison to what Stacey and Bill and so many parents have and are experiencing. I have followed the story of Tripp, Stacey, and Bill for years. They have been such a source if inspiration and love for me to see. I remember donating to these same charities as I was in recovery before. I’m so sad to hear of Tripp’s passing, and I don’t want to send only prayers when I can help in any small way.

I just figure anything to shed some light on dark days is worth it. I’m going to hug my kids a little tighter today.

Tripp Halstead/Team Boom Donations

Sunshine On A Ranney Day

Ride To Give

Also my local food bank: Pennridge FISH

 

Using a Tough Convo to Empower

I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.

My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.

My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?

I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”

I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.

I Am Santa Claus

 

My oldest is 11 years old. I knew last year the clock was ticking on his belief in the Big Red Man. I’ve heard so many parents say once kids stop believing, the magic dies. Last year, I began asking why we lie to kids about Santa. Why do we concoct this huge story just to ultimately tell them, “Actually that’s not true. Enjoy your shattered dreams” (maybe that’s dramatic).

I wrote here about changing my attitude with Christmas. I had lost the magic of Christmas myself because I viewed it as a consumer-driven burden. A part of this feeling was: I’m setting my kids up for this huge disappointment! One day, I have to sit down and tell them Santa isn’t real?

I’m not saying I’ve mused on this for a year straight, but it has been on my mind. I knew this would be the last year my oldest would buy the Santa story, if at all. I went for a long drive a couple days ago, because I was overwhelmed with people (read: my family haha) and I just needed time to not think. With some loud metal and the open road, I figured I could clear my head and figure this all out.

The solution dawned on me in everything I was doing already. It’s simple and I don’t understand why I wasn’t seeing it. I am Santa Claus. Santa is the metaphor of goodness, kindness, generosity, and love. We invented a magical story to capture children’s imagination and wonder, but the true magic is in the truth. Every year, their father and I bust our butts to create magic. That’s not even Christmas, that’s every day.

We don’t need a fat guy in a red suit to be magical.

mag·ic
ˈmajik/
noun

 

1.
the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

Is there any force more supernatural than love? I’m not talking about the stupid crap we are sold in movies and everything. I am talking about action. Doing what needs to be done and transcending your own ego to care for others. Thinking inside the box of our ego is our natural instinct. Supernatural is love and compassion.

I kept thinking I had to come up with a way to “make up” for killing Santa Claus to my kid or lying to him, or whatever. I view everything in this world as energy. Energy cannot be destroyed. If I talk to my child, I can transfer his belief in a magic that does not exist as presented into the magic that exists in every moment of every day. I believe my kids are wiser than I am, as it is. I did not want to avoid the conversation, and I wanted to sublimate the energy of his beliefs. To me, he could either doubt everything remotely magical, or I can teach him to see the magic in every moment.

We told my oldest that we are Santa Claus. That his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and everyone in his life are Santa Claus. We explained the story is not true – there is no one at the North Pole, but we tell that story to teach little kids the magic of Christmas – the magic of love, kindness, generosity, and gratitude. Since he is a big kid now, he’s old enough to hear the real, true magic. Santa Claus lives in each one of us – in our hearts, not the North Pole. If he thinks back on all his Christmases, that was Mommy and Daddy making magic. Magic is very, very real, and we don’t need a special person. We are all able to create magic – even if it is a hug, a smile, or any kindness.

We welcomed him to our Santa Claus club and told him he is Santa Claus now, too. He has to keep the secret of Santa until his brother and sister are old enough to join the real club. We invited him to stay up late with us on Christmas Eve and be Santa with us.

My son was smiling. “I am Santa Claus?”

“Yep, buddy. Every person you meet is Santa Claus – some just don’t know it yet!”

We showed him some of the gifts his brother and sister are getting, and we emphasized that he’s a big boy, and this is a HUGE responsibility and we’re trusting him to keep the secret. It’s part of being in the club.

He just kept saying, “I am Santa Claus!”

It’s a pretty cool way to teach magic. I couldn’t kill his magic. I want him to see he is magic. It was nice to learn it myself. You get older, you get dumber. So grateful for my wise little man teaching me to be a wise old woman. Instead of seeing $$ signs, I’m seeing the magic of being the magic – in every way.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Merry Christmas, Everyone! Thank you so much for reading. How have you handled the Santa Claus situation? Maybe this inspires a few convos!! Thank you for liking, commenting, and sharing my writing! 

Changing my Christmas

I’ve looked at Christmas as being forced to spend money I do not have on a bunch of shit no one needs. This year, I have been particularly vocal about this materialist society killing everyone’s understanding of joy, happiness, peace, fulfilment, etc. No material good gives happiness. Happiness comes from within. To me, happiness and love are synonyms, and no thing shows or gives love or happiness. Happiness, love, and Christmas are actions, not words and not gifts.

Am I angry about Christmas? No. I just had the simple realization that I spent 1 or more months of my life spending money, preparing, and doing shit for one day. Christmas became a burden. It was a neverending series of compounding expectations, which ultimately created a stressed out and exhausted me. I said to a friend: “No single day can live up to that amount of effort. The ROI (return on investment) is fucked. This is why we’re all so goddamn miserable. We spend months of our lives delaying being happy for a day.

The inevitable feeling I always had to tuck away on Christmas night was “All that for this?”

There are a lot of people questioning why we have a holiday that makes us feel obligated to go into debt for our loved ones, etc. I’ve felt this way for so long, but I assumed it was me being weird. Everyone else seems happy. Clearly, my overwhelmed, exhausted, etc. state was my fault.

I have always looked at Christmas has a metaphor of our best selves. We’re all happier, more loving, kinder. Why, then, do I need to work so hard to achieve that? Why do I save it for a day? I can throw tons of synonyms to describe happiness or being happy. Or, I can give the truth: it’s your choice. Happy is a feeling which is a reaction. Every feeling you have is a reaction, and what you do with that reaction dictates your response. Your response is your choice. All feelings are transient and temporary.

Part of my problem with Christmas is the expectations I would set for myself and my family. I wanted to create amazing memories and moments as well as find the perfect gifts for everyone. I created so much anxiety and insanity for myself in this desperate need to have the best, be the best, etc. I’d have images of these perfect festive scenes that never came to fruition. Most of the time I’d be so damn exhausted, I’d feel like I was barely there anyway. Last year, I focused on taking better care of myself at Christmas time. I cut things off the to-do list, focused on meditation, yoga, and journaling to help me stay calm.

Happiness is cultivated in your mind. For years, I pretended to be happy as I ran around like a Christmas-y chicken with my head cut off. In reality, I cultivated guilt, expectations, and disappointment. It was me trying to make up for being a “shitty mom”. I don’t know why I believe so deeply I’m a shitty Mom, except to say, I look at the expectations of society and I don’t match. Now, I’m thrilled I do not match. I finally understand parenting and happiness are not one size fits all. In striving to achieve Facebook-worthy statuses, pictures, etc. I was robbing myself of genuine happiness and authenticity. I’ve found greater happiness in the smallest situations than in all the convoluted schemes I’ve contrived.

My kids don’t understand money, etc. Why would they? That’s when I saw the stupidity of my expectations: my kids have no concept of all the shit I’m doing because Santa does the work. They have no concept of money because kids do not understand the stupidity adults live in. All the expectations I would place were with all the time, energy, and money I’ve put out, and the kids have no way of understanding or appreciating that.

Christmas is a consumer-driven holiday. There’s nothing about Jesus in the money I’m spending, etc. Jesus is in the hugs I give my children, and the I love you’s and the giggles while we make a mess baking cookies. None of this is dictated by a date on the calendar – originally the solstice, which was taken by Christianity for Christmas, to drive pagans to Christianity. Now, it’s been taken from Christians by Corporations & Credit Card companies to drive everyone to debt. I was wondering how I can get away from this consumer crap. I don’t want my life dictated by shit. It could be the nicest whatever, ever, but at the end of the day, it’s stuff.

Yet, my kids want presents. I can’t say, “Well your mother has realized society is idiotic and we’re abstaining this year.” This is my problem, not theirs. So, I changed my attitude. Everything in this life is a tool or a weapon, depending on your choice. A lot of people mistake what Buddha taught regarding attachment. It’s not to have nothing, want nothing, etc.

It is to cling to nothing: no moment, no thing, etc. In the fleetingness of Christmas, my greatest disappointment was it was just one day. One hour, really. I’d spend days upon days wrapping presents, and within an hour all that time was scattered on the floor for me to clean. If the kids hated a present, I’d be upset.

I don’t think Buddha would advise me to change anything but me.

Instead of buying gifts, I thought in terms of investments. I am investing in my children’s happiness. Sometimes, you make a good investment, sometimes bad. This lets me detach from the expectation of outcomes – happy, sad, indifferent. It’s an investment, and we shall see how it goes. I did my purchases with the word “Tool” in mind.

Attachment is allowing something to control you, versus you being in control. If you are constantly chasing stuff, money, tail, this controls you.

Reaction/Response. A reaction is a base instinct. A response is controlled. It’s a higher level of being. The way words get interspersed leads to a lot of confusion in this regard. The things I purchased were with helping the kids connect with passions, hobbies, and ways of cultivating happiness for themselves. What they do with these gifts is their choice, and if it goes to waste, I’ll consider it a lousy investment. I won’t get upset, etc. because I know I did my best, and I know they choose happiness for themselves. I’ve been talking to the kids about gratitude almost constantly. Pointing out everything we all take for granted – hot water, our home, food, etc. I feel like we all so easily get caught up in the “buy me, buy me” we forget how lucky we are. I forget I’m fortunate to even be pissing and moaning about buying presents or baking cookies.

Many believed I was “anti-Christmas” this year, and I’m not. I’m anti-killing myself for a bunch of crap no one needs. I’m anti-anything that doesn’t cultivate happiness.  The way I was doing Christmas did everything but cultivate happiness. It dumped a ton of happy feelings in one day, a fleeting, transient thing. In changing my perspective, outlook, and actions, I’m showing the kids with the example to take care of themselves, and create happiness and love – every day, not just December 25th. Nothing I did over the past month was really about Christmas. It was just about being a family and loving each other. Christmas is a day. I won’t kill myself for a day anymore.

Some changes I made:

  1. No More Wrapping. Too much time and effort with NO payoff. I’m killing trees and myself for, what? A pretty picture?
    • Solution – I bought a ton of adorable cloth Santa Sacks. I put presents inside and place sack under tree. Done.
  2. I’m making investments, not buying gifts
    • Obviously, the kids got a few toys. More than that, though, the bulk of my money went towards developing hobbies: a snake for my youngest, because he’s wanted a pet, and I thought responsibility/caring for an animal would be good for him. My daughter wants to be an artist – she got an art kit and art desk, and my oldest is getting a telescope because my motherly instinct is telling me exploring the cosmos is right up his alley.
    • Not just kids, though. I focused everything I bought as an investment in someone else cultivating happiness or a better life. Re-discovering hobbies/joy they had as a kid, etc. It challenged me to be creative, attentive, and do more than just mindlessly buy crap.
    • I’m creating opportunities to teach gratitude – for the people in our lives and the tools we have to create happiness
  3. I listened to myself
    • When I was tired, etc. I just listened to my body. There is literally nothing about Christmas that is more important than my health and wellbeing.
    • I blew off friends/commitments if my energy was low
    • I did not do more than I was capable of doing
  4. I am staying present
    • The magic of Christmas and in my mind, the magic of life is in the smallest moments. I overlooked them in my hyperfocus on the “big day”. Singing and dancing to “Must be Santa” with my baby, ignoring an overflowing sink of dishes to play dolls with my daughter, etc. Christmas is tomorrow. Right now, I’m ignoring my overwhelming children and taking a time out to blab on here, because I’ve been too busy/tired to write. 😉 balance!
  5. I’m not perfect
    • I am not perfect
  6. I’m the only standard I’m holding myself up to
    • Did I do my best? Perfect. 😉
  7. I made Christmas, love, and happiness synonyms.
  8. I am grateful

This is not just about Christmas, these are attitudes and thought processes I’ve been cultivating. I’m not spending 364 of my life looking forward to 1. I said this month, I’m not spending 30 days or whatever prepping for a day. I spend 365 days a year cultivating love and happiness – in myself first, and through sound investments 😉

Raise or Raze?

When I became a mom, like most moms, I thought my job was to raise my kids. I became obsessed with being a great Mom. In truth, I became obsessed with making sure everyone saw me as a great mom – including my kids and my husband. Internally, I saw myself as a fuck up, failure, and fraud. I attempted to be a perfect mom, to hide my Imposter Syndrome.

Being-okay-with-imposter

In raising my children, I razed myself.

raze
rāz/ verb
1. completely destroy
There are many relationships that can be described in those 7 words. The problem is, the wrong raise is used in the second half of the sentence. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is we can make another person happy. Our spouse, children, random person on the street, and so forth. We cannot make anyone but ourselves happy. As a parent, you care for and provide for your children, but we cannot make them happy any more than we can make them breathe.
I have proved this to myself every Christmas morning, or even every time I’ve devoted any amount of time cooking. For one, if I place an expectation, I’ve immediately placed a disappointment. No reality will ever align with what I’ve created in my mind. Since it doesn’t match, I will be disappointed as opposed to surprised. For another, my child (spouse, etc.) will choose what they do with my gift/meal/expression/words.
Happiness is a choice we each make for ourselves.
As every mom knows, your child’s likelihood of eating is inversely proportional to the amount of time you spent cooking. Chicken nuggets are the nectar of the gods versus your home cooked roasted chicken is “This again?”
That understanding did not exist years ago. The world itself rested on my shoulder. I had to make everyone happy (except myself, of course). I looked to everyone else to make me happy. No one was making me happy. There were happy moments and happy times, but it felt fleeting. I realize now they were moods and moments.
True happiness is a state of being.
It is a perspective and a constant choice.
In my desperate attempts to make everyone else happy, I ran myself ragged. I worked 50-80 hour weeks because I wanted to make enough money to buy a bigger house. When I wasn’t working, I was assuaging my working mom guilt by doing fun and exciting activities for the kids since I barely saw them. I don’t want to go into the play by play, but at the height (or bottom, I suppose), I was going to the gym for 1-2 hours, while actively bingeing and purging almost everything I ate. After my marriage disintegrated, when the kids were with their dad, much of the same commenced, except I’d add liquor/beer/sex to the fire. I was on a mission to destroy myself.
Then, one fateful day, I vomited at a bar when I was out to dinner with a friend. My hair had been falling out for a few weeks, but I was blaming it on everything but the truth. I saw blood in my vomit. I realized I was actively killing myself. For all the suicidality/intrusive thoughts/etc. that come with depression and the alphabet soup of my mind, there it was: I was killing myself. I couldn’t deny it any longer. The clock was ticking. I was going to leave my children motherless if I did not get my act together. Or, really, if I did not drop the act.
I was a fraud. I wasn’t happy. I was miserable. Not even my kids could make me happy. If anything, I was parenting them in fear of them becoming me. Talk about do as I say, not as I do. “Children, you can be and do anything you like, just for the love of god, don’t be me!” is what I would say without saying. Children learn by example, not words. Children are wise sponges. The day after I saw blood in my vomit, I offhandedly told my daughter we were going to grab food because I was hungry, and I saw relief on her face. Imposter Syndrome, indeed.
I projected my need and desire for happiness onto everyone because projection is what everyone does. All parents project their un-reconciled crap onto their kids. We can either raise or raze our kids, as well. If you are not a parent, don’t space out, because you can think of your inner child. You do not even have to have trauma: you could have the best childhood in history. We all have unreconciled crap projected on us. Life is the sum of happiness and trauma when you think about it. One second, you are happily chilling in the amniotic sac in your mother’s womb. The next, you are cold, screaming, and getting smacked by a doctor. Our minds conduct janitorial services and clean away memories of trauma, we forget, we repress, and we project.
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Our parents had things they wanted to do and be, they had fears, etc. and all of that was projected on us as kids. You can see that nowadays in helicopter parents. Those parents are so afraid for their children, they don’t let their children be children. Inside all of us as adults, our inner children wait to be parented. My life as an imposter was really an inner child throwing one raging tantrum of repressed emotion, fear, and pain.
As children, we were much wiser in many ways then we are as adults. The world makes us forget simplicity. A kid is happy playing with a box, as many frustrated parents can laugh at the discarded flashy toy off to the side. A kid greets each day as a new adventure, forgetful of yesterday and tomorrow. A kid eagerly learns and takes in the world with curiosity and minimal fear. Adults teach the kids the fears and anxiety by example and projection.
None of this is typically intentional. If anything, most parents have the best of intentions! The exceptions would be childhood abuse, paedophilia, and horrible things like this which create traumas that no child should endure which create adults with pain that is indescribable. If the adult child has children, they tend to repeat the cycles of abuse, and this is a viciously complex issue. At the same time, in these cases, as with any psychological condition: you are often taught to re-parent your inner child. Other terms: Core wounds and core beliefs, Mother/Father Wound, Fixation…You begin to see patterns in relationship types: co-dependency, enabling, narcissistic, toxic, and so forth.
Unhappiness is the result of happiness sought outside of self.
Parents can have co-dependent and toxic relationships with their children. I have seen many mothers who have lost their identity to their children. They are only ___’s mom now. They have no interests outside their children. Their happiness is dependent on their child’s happiness and they believe they are the purveyors of that happiness. Unfortunately, when their children begin developing their own identity and independence, these possessed nouns are lost, because who are they? What do they do with their time?
As a possessed noun, I could not contend with my guilt over my co-dependent, toxic marriage ending, my guilt in turning my kids into “statistical broken home kids” and feeling like a complete and utter failure. Naturally, I drank away my sorrows and did everything I could to escape them. Then I saw I was dying, and I realized I better start living. I started writing, I started learning who I was. I started doing the things I loved doing when I was a kid – writing, collecting crystals, meditating, reading, listening to music, etc. I began finding a life outside of my children, and I saw the reality that my children were perfectly happy whether or not I was around. The sun still rose and set without me. It was magical.
I am all that I am. There is no more imposter because I look in the mirror and I love the woman who stares back at me. I peer out in this world no longer afraid of exposition.  Fortunately, I razed myself and destroyed a life that was destroying me.
Occam’s razor (Razor, same root as Raze) keeps all of this rather tidy: the simplest solution is usually best. Why spend all this time hiding lies, when you can be authentic? Why spend all this time trying to make everyone else happy, when I can choose happiness? I can smile my real smile, and let my example teach my children. They can choose for themselves from there; same for anyone else who crosses my path.
Which raise do you use with yourself and others?
Thank you for reading, sharing, comments, likes, and follows!!! I’m having so much fun putting these concepts together, and I generally hope this is thought provoking 🙂 I’m on Facebook & Twitter – Social Media Links on my page…Still getting everything set up!!

New Chapter

I was in 7th grade when I realized how much I loved writing. Until that time, I struggled to express myself. It was never that I had trouble talking. I am a chatterbox. Talking about how I actually felt, on the other hand…. Talking about the truth, on the other hand….

I had lots of lies: white, omission, and so on. As I grew older, I became much better at lying. I remember in High School worrying that I would blur the lines between my lies and the truth. I reassured myself I could always write, and I would be fine.

Once I became a “big girl”, I stopped writing. As a matter of fact, I simply handed the authorship of my life to everyone else. I still talked, I still smiled. I was perfect, so I did not have anything to worry about. I am unsure who I lied to more – myself or everyone else. Is it actually a lie if you are simply attempting to avoid causing pain?

I did not want to deal with any of it, so I had thought perfection was the best way to cope with everything. I realize I’m being very unspecific. Why should I be specific? I don’t think much of what I am writing here is unique. I know plenty of people who paint on smiles as they die inside.

I said to a friend the other day, “I used to be a dead girl living. Now that I am finally alive, I look around and see a lot of dead people. It keeps me compassionate and humble.”

There is nothing more dangerous than the lies we tell ourselves. Yet, as I have come to find; there is nothing more beautiful than finding your truth hidden inside the lie. Throughout our lives, we have been conditioned to think everything is good or bad, but that is nonsense. Every bad thing in my life has made me stronger, smarter, happier. I’m sure the same is true for anyone who reads this.

I will keep my first post brief and vague, because what’s life if not for intrigue? No sense prattling on for years.

The most beautiful gardens grow in shit.

Our lies are only lies until we see the truth.

Mistakes can be viewed as painful or as teachers, but either way – it was a lesson.

A fool who persists in his folly will become wise ~ William Blake