Human Being

Human being, not human doing. We are here to be, to experience. Others are here to experience BEING and they are also a part of our experience. Every human experiences “being” differently. It’s truly an art form and every one is their own artist. We are quick to judge art that doesn’t look “good” according to our standards, and quick to applaud that which soothes, intrigues, and inspires us. 

There are those we let in and those we keep out of our experience of “being” human. While everyone is unique to our experience “Special people” are those we are drawn to (like family, friends, lovers, etc.) who are equally here to experience “being” human with us. The problem is that we get attached to the roles we think they should be playing, and become ruffled when the image we had of them in our mind isn’t what we thought. So we become frantic trying to find a way to shape them back into the form we wanted them to take in our life, and at that moment the experience is lost.
It is lost because we aren’t there to experience them anymore. We are there to control or to get a specific outcome that pleases us, or to mold people into something that makes our life more comforting or less threatening. Our experiences become expectations and desires.

Desire… wanting a specific outcome from an experience… it’s what makes the pursuit of the experience so exhilarating. It’s the fuel to the fire of our motivation. But the journey is where the treasure lies. This is what human BEING is all about. 

You Just Are… Beautiful

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“Who am I?”

“What is my purpose?”

There are probably two kinds of people in the world: those that are curious about who they are and what their purpose is in this world, and then those who either don’t care or simply don’t worry about it.

For those that simply don’t care, life is probably pretty straight forward. They get up and just do whatever it is they think they have to do in that moment. While it seems unproductive, it also sounds pretty nice… Just to “be”…

Then there’s the curious ones (like me), the ones who spend a large chunk of their time on what feels like an endless journey trying to get the answers to this existential crisis.

What would it be like to just “be”?

Take flowers for instance: Jasmine never wishes to be lavender. And while both smell amazing, both are equally beautiful and wonderful just as they are. Jasmine doesn’t compare herself, wishing to smell a little more “lavendery” and lavender doesn’t build up resentment because jasmine can vine all over the place. Neither get jealous of the other if someone picks them instead of the other. They just “are”. They serve their purpose in the world, and thrive. They fill the air with their fantastic aromas, bringing joy and inspiration and peace to all around them.

What is their purpose? Some kids pick them and rip them apart, some get eaten or even pooed on by animals, some get trampled on, some get to be decor in some old lady’s hair, some get to run free in the wild living out a long life…and some get to be put in pretty vases in someone’s kitchen table having their lives cut a little shorter than planned…You just never know…

A flower never knows, nor has an awareness of “who am I?” or “am I beautiful?”, it just is. It may spend it’s entire lifetime never knowing or feeling or being aware of the amazing beauty it has… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.

So perhaps we must be more like flowers in this sense. If we become aware of who we are, what is our purpose, or even if we are “beautiful”, that is great! But even if we don’t, it doesn’t mean we have no purpose. It doesn’t take away our value. It doesn’t mean we are not beautiful. We just “are”.

You Just Are…BEAUTIFUL.

The Cure for Loneliness?

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This week marks the 3rd month since my husband left and the feeling of loneliness has suddenly crept up on me unexpectedly. Trying to figure out how to overcome my loneliness, I started by asking myself, “how do I cure this loneliness!?” And so I started thinking of times when I did NOT feel lonely, and decided to do more of that.

This is what I got:

  • Laughter
  • Doing what I like (activities)
  • Talking to someone
  • Feeling of being heard
  • Sense of enjoyment in small things (like a great cup of tea/coffee, wine and cheese, or the smell of jasmine flowers in the wind, just for an example)
  • Being/going somewhere new
  • Trying something new (food or activity)
  • Playing with my kids / watching my kids play
  • Walking my dogs
  • Being in nature
  • Helping others
  • Dancing
  • Writing/Journaling/Blogging
  • Learning something fascinating
  • Reading a good book
  • Listening to friends talk about their lives
  • Changing the environment
  • Traveling
  • Warm baths
  • Getting out of my comfort zone

Then I asked myself: why is loneliness so bad?

Maybe it’s not..

Actually, if we don’t get used to loneliness, we will always run from it. And sometimes it’s inevitable. Maybe it’s something that once we are able to “deal with it” it doesn’t overpower us or cripple us and lead us to do things that we later regret. It doesn’t put us in unhealthy relationships for the sake of “not being alone”.

Being alone and being lonely are two totally different things. Being alone is a great thing to do sometimes. Pooping for example, is a great thing to do by yourself alone… Feeling lonely, however, is feeling disconnected. So we desperately search for some kind of connection, even if it’s shallow, fake, or damaging to our well-being. That leads to us feeling MORE lonely, not less. Like a drug that temporarily leaves us feeling “relaxed”; the moment it wears off, we are back to our feeling of loneliness, and we immediately grab for our drug of choice again- and sometimes that drug of choice is not just something we put into our bodies, but things we do with our bodies or what we allow to be done to our bodies.

The moment we are able to connect with ourselves, we realize that the thing we were running from the WHOLE time was never loneliness, but ourselves. We were running from ourselves, our feelings, our emotions, and after being away from ourselves for so long, that abandoned “place” has been left messy.

REALLY MESSY…

So let’s go back to ourselves, clean up the mess, and find peace so that there is nothing to run from. When the place we come back to is all cleaned up, it starts to really feel like “home” and being “home” starts to feel good.

It becomes a place that we not only find comfort and peace at,
but a place that other people genuinely find peace and comfort as well.

This makes us happy people and makes us better partners, parents, lovers, friends, workers, you name it.

There is only one way out of our suffering and that is through it. The longer we spend running away from it, the longer we’re going to spend our lives thinking that something is chasing us. We run, and run, and run away from that loneliness, not realizing that no matter how fast we run, it’s not at our heels, its INSIDE us. We CAN’T run from it…

After we have run as far as we could run, feeling exhausted and defeated, with no more distractions at our disposal, we have no where else to go…but… inside.

So why waste any more time? Go inside and say hello to this loneliness. Clean up the mess, and finally feel at home, be at true genuine peace, once and for all. Then throw a house-warming party and invite all your friends. Now it’s party time!

Work In a Relationship 

I was with a friend at lunch who was talking about struggles with her boyfriend and I was caught of guard when she said, “I want to get married. If we get married, all these problems will go away…”

This morning I reflected on that. What is it that makes a relationship “work”? I can’t speak for everyone but what I’ve come to believe is that, regardless of a paper document confirming the legal connection between two people, what really makes a relationship work, is…”work”.

I know I’m going to get a lot of people that are going to say “if it takes work then it’s too much and you should just walk away.” That’s of course not the kind of work I’m talking about. The work I’m talking about isn’t helping around the house or being patient enough to sit and listen to your partner complain or talk about stuff you’re not interested in.

The kind of work I’m talking about is the commitment to stay when you want to run away. The capacity to hold your partner’s flaws and not hold it against them. The work of doing your own personal and emotional healing so that your own emotional baggage doesn’t become a subconscious and silent weapon of attack on them. The work of being able to say you’re sorry and admit when you’re wrong. The strength to overcome your own fears and insecurities so that they don’t cloud your judgement and bring you to do or say things you’ll later regret. The capacity to step back and allow your partner to work on their own problems without your intervention. The work of trust, faith, acceptance. The work of looking at a flaw and instead of seeing it as a problem needing fixed, a starting point in the relationship to ask yourself, “can I fully and wholly embrace and accept this or is it a deal breaker?” And if you’re already in a relationship, being able to see the flaw and ask yourself, “is this something I can let go and be content with?”

The list is probably endless, but it really all boils down to the work we do internally, learning what it really means to LOVE another person, to love yourself, and not get stuck in that one way road of “what my partner is or can do for me” or the masochistic “I must kill all parts of me to make my partner happy, and then once they are happy I can be happy.”

It’s about being real with what is. Because what is is all that there is. What comes after that is the result of love or lack of.

This Takes Courage, But Mostly Determination To Heal

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Finishing up the book, “Love Your Enemies” (Salzberg and Thurman) they provide some “at home” meditation practices. Since I’ve taken several meditation courses and practice daily, the loving kindness/compassion meditations were no stranger to me. The idea that you wish well everyone, including those that you don’t like, is actually very effective in cultivating compassion and getting over a lot of unresolved anger and bitterness- the poison to your soul.

But one of the meditations the authors recommended in this book, while similar to the “I pray that ___ receives all he/she wants in life, including the experience of inner peace, joy, and unconditional love” thing I’ve been doing, had a drastic difference in that it required me to see my “enemy” as my “partner”, my teammate, and someone “winning the battle with me”.

It’s hard to change our image of someone we’ve determined to be an enemy into genuinely believing they are an ally. And maybe this isn’t something that can be applied universally…I don’t know… but you never know until you try! So I tried.

The idea was to open your mind just enough to consider that your enemy sees you just as horribly as you see them, and then see yourself just as they see you. I know my ex-husband saw me as a controlling, selfish, bitch. He said I was manipulative, judgmental, and crazy. Of course I didn’t want to see myself as that kind of person! Me? Nooooo… All of those horrible things? But seriously… why not just try it? So I did.

Ok.. So here I am, standing in front of him (this is in my imagination) and I’m a manipulative, judgmental, crazy, controlling selfish bitch. Ugh… I don’t want to be anywhere near this person. I can’t talk to her, I can’t share my feelings. I don’t feel safe, and I want to be defensive with everything she says and does. I want to give her the cold shoulder or maybe just pretend she doesn’t exist! I can feel my bitterness and anger toward her grow. She talks of love and forgiveness, but she’s so bitchy and crazy! I hate her!

Ok…now step out of that. How did it feel? How does this person feel whenever they think of you or see you?

It felt horrible! I am not that person!

Great! Now think how the other person feels when you put ALL of your judgments and opinions about them on them. Even if you don’t say it out loud, even if you think you can fake your way to a “pleasant” encounter with them, your feelings about that person pour out of you through your attitude and behavior even if you don’t think they do.

Can you now try and paint a positive picture of them in your mind? Can you? Just for pretend. Just for fun. Try. Try to see them as being extremely happy, full of joy, and having all the things they want in life, a new lover, a new child, a new home, maybe even having tons of money and going on really awesome vacations with their new family… (oh…I can feel my heart sinking already…)

As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “if you’re really daring, imagine your enemy winning the battle with you, imagine your enemy being happy to see you!”

Yes…the natural instinct/reaction for me was a defiant “NO!”

But keep in mind, this is all just pretend. You are safe. You can pretend…

Ok…So I did…

The end result… magic.

Salzberg and Thurman state, “in visualizing yourself from the enemy’s perspective, you start to see that what makes you vulnerable to your enemies is your SENSE of being fundamentally different from them…When you truly grasp that it is the projection of your own hurt and anger and fear that turns someone into your enemy, it releases the energy you previously invested in defending yourself and your ego.”

It took a bit of creativity and imagination to paint my ex as my co-partner in winning the battle. I had to think of ways in which we were winning together. Where in this life were we partners, happy, successful, and united?

I came to realize that even if the marriage didn’t work out, and even if he never loved me, he and I are the Mommy and Daddy of our baby, literally, FOREVER. We, together, created this magnificent, amazing, miracle. Not only did we create this miracle together, but we are also on the path together to raise him to the best of our abilities. We can make it a pleasant path or a miserable path, and we, together, get to make that decision (the battle!) The commonality may not be the “method” or “beliefs” about what is the best way to raise our baby, but the hope and intentions for making the best life for him are the same. The hope and intentions for making the best life for ourselves as well, is the same. We also partnered up in the marriage, and we now have the same path in life moving forward: both of us have to navigate our future lives, fill our lives with joy, peace, and love. How we go about that might be different, but we are technically on the same boat. So why do I need to get in his way as he navigates his path? And why should I allow him to get in my way?

It’s tempting to hold things against him, the betrayal, the abuse, and hostility. I could hold that story and keep it with me as I move forward on this journey. But why would I do that? What purpose does it serve? How does that benefit me? What joy does it give me? How does it serve my baby and his future? It doesn’t. So let it go already. Let the story go and re-write it into a heroic wonderful ending.

The more I see him as this “partner”, the more I grow to truly love (i.e., accept and respect) him, and genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that he finds all the happiness he can get on his journey. Instead of spending my precious energy feeling bummed that the relationship didn’t turn out the way I had expected, I can spend that energy resolving my personal feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy. How amazing and empowering it is to be able to transform that negative feeling into one of support, compassion, and cooperation.

Yeah, I didn’t get what I want. That’s life. How long do you want to spend bitching and moaning about that? Transforming all that sadness into something so much more powerful and wonderful is where we BOTH come out a winner. As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “now that enemy you so disliked becomes your ally: your teacher, your helper, even – dare I say it – your friend.

He may never know about any of this, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter. The next time you have an encounter, you can be positive knowing that the energy radiating out of you toward him is that of loving kindness, cooperation, support, compassion, and good will.

And the next time you have a slight feeling of negativity creep up, continue to practice this meditation. Because the fact of the matter is, we’re all just walking each other home.

Tasting the Sweetness of Life

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About a block away from my home is an orange field run by local farmers that sells a huge bag of oranges for $5. The look of the oranges is hideous. Even after washing, the oranges come off dirty, with uneven skin, and flawed. But when I eat the inside… it’s the sweetest orange I’ve ever tasted. What’s funny is that I’ve gone to farmer’s markets, organic markets, and even non-organic markets to find the sweetest fruit, and no matter what they look like on the outside, I can never tell (without cutting it open and tasting it) if it’s going to be sweet or not… Have you ever got stuck buying a bunch of fruit that looked delicious and none of it tasting any good?

That famous cliche “it’s not what’s outside, but what’s inside that counts”. We all know it and say it, but do we really “know” it? When we talk about what’s “inside” what are we actually talking about? Our character? Our values? If we’re nice or not? If it’s not our bodies that matter, but what’s inside us that matters, what exactly is that thing inside us that matters? Let’s be honest. Is anyone’s “insides” truly perfectly wonderful and sweet? Sadly, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that more often than not what we often find on the inside is NOT a kind, humble, generous, compassionate amazing human being, but an insecure person in some way- a person who suffers and struggles and, like all human beings, makes tons of mistakes. So if that’s what matters, then I’m not sure either of the two are an ideal “thing” to put all our attention on.

What if what matters, isn’t either of those (neither or body or mind), but something we totally overlooked? We get so distracted with what we look and feel like inside and outside that we completely forget about the possibility that…maybe…we’re still just picking at the surface. We’re obsessing about the peel of the fruit, and totally missing the real sweetness…

Yesterday, a good friend of mine sent me a video of Sadhguru, who spoke of life as we know it as simply the peel of the fruit. He spoke of the surface of life being our body and mind, and the basis of our life being something beyond our immediate five senses. Take for example when we die: Our body and mind are gone, yet our loved ones are grieving us. What is it they were grieving? No one cares about the dead body or the dead organs inside. Yes, while on Earth we have to feed our body and take care of it, but the only reason the peel of the fruit means anything to anyone is because of the fruit it carries inside of it. And so it goes with our own lives, we get so obsessed with the peel that we completely forget about the fruit!

Sadhguru said, “If you are eating the peel of life, how would life be? It would be bitter! The problem with the peel is that it has spots of sweetness in it.” The little chunks of sweetness in the peel are only because of the fruit, but if you go beyond the peel, and taste the fruit, how sweet our life must be!

We spend ridiculous amounts of time looking for joy only within what our immediate five senses can grasp: touch, smell, taste, hear, see… We cling to temporary satisfactions like food, drugs, sex, alcohol, and shallow relationships wishing, hoping, preying that they will keep us satisfied long enough that we won’t realize we’re wasting our life away nibbling at a bitter peel. Those things are not the fruit! It is all the peel…just fleeting moments of temporary satiation that only drop us back into that emptiness…that feeling of…something missing…

What if every day was spent eating the fruit and not the peel? How sweet would life be? Sadhguru said that living our life eating the peel is like living life only with the intention of eat, sleep, reproduce, and die. If that was our only purpose on this Earth, then what is the point of our intelligence? What is the point? The fact is, that “something missing” in all of us is a desperate search for connection, love, meaningful relationship, a sense of purpose. If our only purpose is to eat, sleep, have sex and die, we don’t need this kind of human body to do such primal things. We are better off being a dog, or a cockroach.

We are humans on this Earth, with an AMAZING potential and purpose. Our intelligence has brought us so far and so quickly, but we are currently at a stand-still because we have gotten so used to eating pith and peel, happy when we’ve managed to find a sweet spot, and disappointed when the rest of it is bitter nastiness. Yet we still eat it! We’ve totally lost sight that fruit even exists.

So with that my wish for you, me, and all of us is that when we come across the sweet and the bitter parts of the peel, we recognize it as simply the peel. May we remember that life is not what’s outside, but what’s inside. Life is what is contained within the peel. Life IS the fruit inside all the bitter and sweet spots. The real lasting, juicy, wholesome, unchanging sweetness is…YOU.

A Journey to Inner Peace

I think we spend our whole life wandering for something we lacked at some point in our young lives. For me, it was a relationship bond. Since I didn’t get it from my parents or siblings, my whole childhood and young adult life was spent on a subconscious journey looking for something or someone that would make me feel “bonded” like one would feel in a deeply intimate relationship found in a parent-child relationship. That feeling of being unconditionally loved, protected, supported, maybe even adored… Even if I thought I had found someone to fill my void, somehow I always felt afraid, anxious, and isolated. Would they leave me? Hurt me? Abandon me? Abuse me? Betray me? I felt as if I was a beggar for “love”, and that even a small crumb of affection was enough, so long as I felt someone “cared” about me. This was truly a life lacking inner peace.

What I’ve learned through years of failed relationships, rejection, and loss is that we will always feel fear, anxiety, and “lonesomeness” if we are always looking for strength from external sources (other people, money, sex, drugs, you name it). It’s cliche and frankly pretty annoying to hear that over and over again, but unfortunately (and fortunately) it’s true. It’s unfortunate because that leaves us completely responsible for our own inner peace and strength. It’s fortunate because that gives us complete power over our own inner peace and strength. When we are at peace, genuinely, from the inside, there is no sense of lack. We feel full and are thus not grasping at the false sense of security we cling to on external matters like money, what our body looks like, and the “bonds” of relationships, etc.).  In other words, we are at peace with what we have and who we are, and we are not obsessing over what we feel like we need or currently don’t have.

I was always looking for security in the bonds of relationships when I was supposed to find it in myself. Even now as I am grieving the loss of my marriage, I have to be honest about what it is that is shaking my inner peace. Is it truly grief? If it is grief, how much longer is it going to be grieving before it’s me just throwing an extended self-pity party? Perhaps this sadness is me feeling bitter for not getting the “bond” I was hoping to get through my marriage.

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If I had to be brutally honest, the ironic thing is I never “really” had it in any relationship. That “bond” never existed in any previous relationships, nor did it exist in the marriage I was so desperately trying to hang on to. The reason I didn’t have it wasn’t necessarily because the people I was with were jerks (most of them were! But that’s not why I didn’t get my “bond” I was looking for). The main reason was because I was looking for it in the wrong places.

I was SO desperate for that bond that I kept desperately grasping for that thing that I’ve never had like a mad man blindly grasping for anything in the darkness. I started noticing a pattern in how my relationships developed. When I thought I was close to getting that “bond” or even thinking that maybe I “had it”, somewhere in my subconscious I may have thought that it was something I was naturally entitled to, and thus when my relationships didn’t make me feel secure the way I thought they should, I got angry.  I lashed out. I blamed. Maybe I even subconsciously believed that the other person “owed” it to me…?

But is it possible to miss something you never felt? Is it possible to grieve something you’ve never had and thus never “lost”? If I had never known the flavor of chocolate, would I live my whole life searching for my long lost chocolate? Maybe I had a sniff of it, or thought I saw someone else with it… or maybe I even heard an amazing story about it and it peaked my interest so much that I set out looking for this amazing chocolate…It sounded divine…It sounded like heaven… “I MUST HAVE THIS!” I told myself…

Getting out of meditation is usually when I get my “aha moments” and today I had this one:

“Just let it go. You never had it and you obviously don’t have it now. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have it, but just that you don’t need to throw a fit because you can’t have what you currently don’t have. If you really needed it, you would have it! The fact that you don’t have it and have made it this far in life, means you don’t need it. At least, for now…”

**Granted, I actually do have this with my children, and with so many of my friends and family members. Sadly, I was only looking for it in a romantic partnership and thus couldn’t see that I had it already.

While I can’t say this is true across the board, it just resonated with me today. It told me it was time to get over it and live life already! I’ll be fine! Just like I’ve always been! Me chasing after something I obviously didn’t need has only gotten in my way, kept me from my purpose and passion, and created unnecessary suffering. Ugh…so much needless suffering… Why would I do that to myself?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and valued, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in a meaningful and loving relationship, but there is something seriously wrong about demanding it and throwing a fit or allowing your happiness and inner peace to disappear if you don’t get it.

Reminder to self: 1) If you want something, you have to be willing to give it, and screaming and demanding shit isn’t going to make you or anyone happy. BE LOVE. That shit makes people happy, including yourself (yup, even when things aren’t going your way). 2) Sit tight! Enjoy the ride. Literally, that’s your only choice at this moment anyway! By being love, you get love. By being present, you find inner peace. And THIS is where true strength and joy are found.

Soulful Detox Moment for Reflection #2: Conscious Evolution

The next phase in your evolution:
It hurts like a bitch. But it’s a good hurt. It’s the hurt of freedom, and that freedom hurts less than the hurt of living life asleep.

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It’s scary, but you have the courage, strength, and determination to go.

It’s time now. Wake up! Let’s go!

Co-Parenting With The Enemy

It was about 6 years ago that I was, on a daily basis, exchanging hateful emails with my older son’s father about the divorce and custody issues. Sadly, we spent 5 whole years battling each other in what felt like an endless litigation and tens of thousands of dollars. The result was completely broken trust, hostility, and a very negative and hateful image of the other person. What once brought us together was tearing us apart, and the only one suffering the consequences was that precious thing in the middle- our son (but we couldn’t see that because our anger and fear was blinding us).

I could write pages and pages about the hateful back and forth we had for so many years, but I won’t. To summarize, it was two very bitter demons threatening and being defensive and overly reactive. Things were so bad, we had a court-ordered co-parenting therapist come between us to help us communicate, and even one year of that wasn’t bringing us anywhere closer to cooperating or co-parenting. Sadly, out of lack of trust and a deep hatred toward the other party, we signed our 30-page court order, and several stipulations and motions later, we were on our way to litigation-free co-parenting. It was a rocky transition, living without having our attorneys as the go-between. It required us to…(gasp!) communicate. Living with such a build up of animosity toward each other, for the first year, we didn’t have the capability of communicating, because everything that came off our tongue was laced in mistrust, anger, and fear. It was easier to just live off the “rules” (the court orders, motions, and stipulations).

It wasn’t until nearly 2 years later that we were able to be flexible when we couldn’t. What changed? We stopped seeing each other as the enemy and started (FINALLY!) seeing each other as our son’s “other parent”. But more than that, we started really understanding that the only victim in any of this was not ourselves, but our son.

That was hard because for the first several years we didn’t see each other as “the other parent,” but as “that horrible parent-wannabe that doesn’t deserve to breathe on this earth“. For a long time, both of us were rationalizing our own bitterness and defensive mechanisms as simply “protecting MY son” from “that evil person”. Changing that image was dependent on letting go of our pain, our sad stories, and broken expectations, as well as forgiving the words and behaviors that we couldn’t see were rooted deep in resentment and fear. While letting go didn’t come without a fight, slowly, little by little, we let go.

The awkward and humbling feeling of accepting that maybe  it wasn’t just the other person…but maybe I was also responsible for the hostility and inability to co-parent. What got me thinking, was, at one mediation appointment, the mediator said, “you can’t come to every decision with an automatic NO in your mind. You have to approach everything with an expectation of saying yes, and then consider what implications that ‘yes’ could have.”

The point wasn’t to be a pushover and say yes to everything, but to get us out of our habit as seeing the other person as the enemy and train our minds to WANT to cooperate and co-parent, even if we don’t get things exactly the way we want, and even if it means we have to be a little uncomfortable with the other person parenting in a way that we don’t see “to our standards”. Of course we have to consider safety. If the other partner is abusive, we are not going to jump into a “yes!” Fortunately, for me, my son’s father was not abusive (for clarification purposes, my current husband IS, but not my ex).

Eventually, we became flexible on things such as make-up days, exchange locations, and who buys clothes and shoes this time. Flexibility turned into cooperation, and cooperation turned into co-parenting. Co-parenting rebuilt the respect and trust we had toward the other parent. When I went through this most recent separation with my “new” husband, my “ex” was even supportive and helped in many ways like bringing dinners to the house so I didn’t have to cook, taking the dogs every other weekend so that I wouldn’t have to worry about walking them with the kids, and even providing emotional support with words like, “you’re a great mom to the kids” and “I’m sorry you’re going through that…I wish you could have made it work out…”

Still, 6 years of hostility and litigation tends to leave a bit of a scar. We still struggle with fully trusting the other parent, but our intentions are there, and the bigger picture is clear: It’s not about us, it’s about the kids. We both just want the best for our son. We both want to be an important part of our son’s life. We both want happiness and peace for ourselves as well. How we go about that may be different, but it should NEVER come at the cost of our son having to witness his two most favorite and important people in the world being unable to get along and co-parent.

We determined that being the “best parent” for him meant being the best co-parents. Co-parenting after divorce is hard enough, but it’s nearly impossible if you see the person as an enemy.

Now, I’m stuck reflecting on those days in bitter litigation from the ending of my first marriage. I move forward in what feels like a re-run from the past, forced to communicate with my current husband about our pending divorce and our baby’s future. What kind of child custody schedule will we have? How do we communicate? What part am I playing in preventing a positive co-parenting for him?

I have days when I wish I could just stop all of this and beg for my marriage back. I miss my husband, I miss our family. Unfortunately, the reality is he loved his addictions more than he loved me. He loved his addictions more than he loved the idea of having a family. That comes with tremendous sadness and the feeling of rejection, neglect, and abandonment… I was tempted to see my husband as the enemy. I was tempted to put all the flaws I saw in him as my husband (and human) on him as a father. If only he could get sober! If only… If only we could find a way to save our marriage… But the truth is, as much as I loved this man, the man I loved was too deep into his addictions to know, see, or want anything different than his choice of lifestyle. His addictions caused him to be abusive, angry, and neck deep engaged in dangerous sexual activities, alcohol, and gambling. And if he was that same person when our baby was under his custody, I would never know. Unfortunately, California Family Law doesn’t see a problem in that.

I was forced to conclude that I had two choices: I could spend the rest of my life worrying about it, full of anxiety and emotional stress, hypervigilance and being a nervous wreck all the time (all the while deeply hating and resenting him for exposing our child to such horrendous and despicable behaviors), or, maybe…. I could spend my energy elsewhere, trying to be the best mother I could be.

This was the only place I had my power. This was the only place I could make a difference in my children’s life. The more I look back on the years I spent in litigation on the first divorce, the more I realize that it simply wasn’t worth it.

I will never return to a loveless marriage, and I will never go back to my ex-husband, but what I learned out of the 6-year hell of litigation was that eventually all those angry bitter feelings go away and you are left with the reality of…what purpose did it serve? What purpose did it serve the kids? What message did it send the kids? What kind of skills did we teach them in building healthy relationships? What messages did we send to them about love? Family? Resilience? Forgiveness?

Or are we still stuck in our self-centered mind, defensive, offended, and bitter?

Sadly, addiction is a disease that has the power to completely wipe out any rational thinking. Addiction is the escape hatch from accountability and responsibility. It’s so powerful that it can kill your opportunity for ever really feeling any kind of meaningful loving relationship and it will tear at your soul with guilt, shame, and regret. But deep down inside that sad and confused soul is someone who just wants to be loved.

I realize now that so long as I see my husband as an enemy, my behavior and attitude toward him will reflect that. Deep down, I do genuinely fear the safety of my baby when in his custody. I worry about the exposure he has to my husbands endless line of prostitutes and escorts, his over consumption of alcohol, driving under the influence, and his reckless gambling. I genuinely fear for my baby’s life, physical, and psychological well-being. But like it or not, California Family Law generously puts the children’s lives equally in both parent’s hands, and in this case, I have no other choice but to pray to God that he will be ok… My power, unfortunately, does not lie in trying to force California Family Law to change their policies. It lies in being the best role model I can be for these kids.

One day, I hope to have the same cooperative, supportive, co-parenting relationship I have with my first husband with my current husband. Sadly, my husband doesn’t have to be cooperative or feel the same. He can continue to be, think, and believe what he does. We cannot control a lot of things, and that can be VERY SCARY and uncomfortable a lot of the time.  That is an extremely difficult pill to swallow, especially as a protective mommy. But I have hope that regardless of what my husband chooses to do in front of our baby, love will endure. Hope will endure. Goodness will endure. I have no other choice but to hope. The sooner I can take my part of this co-parenting role into a positive place, perhaps it will pave the way for the other parent to follow. And even if it doesn’t, I will have set an example for my children.

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Here’s a picture of my first husband and my baby, the son of my current husband, at our Annual Easter Egg hunt.

I’m Going to Die…Eventually

I’ve been thinking about death a lot these days. I had recurring dreams about my own death for several days in a row that I began to wonder…am I going to die?

 

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Death is serious and I hesitate to talk about it because it hits home to so many, and it hurts. Losing a loved one hurts. A lot. But this week, I took some time out to think about my own death, and what it could actually mean for myself, my family, and my friends. It was dark, and depressing because what I came to conclude was that my children would be left without Mommy, and left to live with very careless, dangerous, and emotionally unavailable men. The feeling of powerlessness over that consumed me and brought me to my knees. What if… this day was my last day? What if this week was my last week? What if this year was my last year? What kind of memories have I left for my children? What kind of hopes and dreams have I inspired in them? How much sense of value, worthiness, and self-love have I instilled in their hearts? How would they remember me? What parts would bring them grief? What parts would bring them joy?

 

It was a sad week for me, but it left me with the conclusion that, I don’t know how much longer I have. I could have another fifty or sixty years. Or, today might be my last day. Because I never know, because tomorrow’s breath is not guaranteed, why would I waste another second not trying to make this day the best?

 

In doing this reflection, I realized that in order for me to take my life seriously, part of me actually DID have to die. Not a physical death, but the death of old, useless beliefs that do not move me forward in my conscious evolution and purposeful intentions of leaving this world just a little better than when I fell into it.

 

When I began my “spiritual journey”, I came across a word that at the time felt threatening to me. The word was “detachment”. In the midst of betrayal and infidelity, the idea of keeping the focus on my own recovery, healing, and overcoming the trauma sounded and felt more like “turn a blind eye to the offender”. It was hard to see that it was actually advising that, if we keep our focus on the offender, we will always be in fight or flight mode, stuck in a state of hypervigilance, stress, anxiety, and fully enmeshed in the other person’s life. This prevents us from attending to inner healing that is put on the back burner and not being tended to.

 

It might be different for everyone, but my understanding of detachment came in phases. The first phase was thinking that I was not allowed to think about the offender (in this case, my husband’s sexual affairs (past or present)). I thought I was not allowed to think or feel about how horrible it felt being betrayed and lied to. It felt like I was being advised to deny my feelings and sadness. What I came to learn through therapy and spiritual practice, was that you gotta grieve, and grief is an absolute MUST in healing. However, grief is only the beginning, not the end, of the healing process. After that, there’s a time to let it go. But to let it go meant that I had to be really honest with myself and identify if I was ruminating over the events/offender, or truly grieving. For me, grieving was about two and a half months. After that it became pretty clear that I was simply ruminating. I was able to recognize the difference as one of the tell-tell signs was me starting to feel bitter, negative, resentful, and angry as I replayed the past grievances that, for the most part, were not even relevant to the real problems, and sometimes the thoughts were putting me into a negative spiral of sadness, despair, and extra pain. It was not helping me heal, but more like “picking at scabs”.

 

When I realized that I was causing myself unnecessary pain by ruminating, I used the 3-second method, which was this: If I found my mind wandering with thoughts about the offense, I would allow myself to think about the issue for 3 seconds and then automatically change my focus onto something positive. Eventually, through this exercise, the next phase of my understanding about detachment came.

 

This required me to change my story around the issues. I decided to stop seeing him as a perpetrator and more of an “angel” of sorts. Through his horrific acts, I was pushed to dig deep within myself, and uncover some pretty embarrassing character defects of my own. I was also pushed far enough to realize my worth, my value, and what I really wanted in life. This “angel” had brought so much darkness into my life, that I had no other choice but to decide if I wanted to stay in darkness or shine as bright as I possibly could so that I could at least find my way out. This “angel of darkness” was a further catalyst to my spiritual growth. Without him, I would have stayed stuck in a stale place in my conscious evolution. I was codependent, and afraid. I put on a façade of strength and confidence when in fact I was a nervous wreck always holding back and making excuses of why I couldn’t move forward or pursue my passions. My goals, my dreams, my passions were all on the back burner. But in all honesty, I am not even sure I recognized or knew what my passions were at that time. Perhaps, it was through the suffering, dark coldness that I discovered them?

 

The monstor image I had of him in my mind, became softer. Anger turned to gratitude. The next phase of my detachment felt like depression though. I was sad. It went to a pretty negative place. I wondered, “if all of this suffering is for some greater purpose, why should I care about anything? Why should I want anything? Why get mad, sad, or even happy, if none of it is supposed to matter? If I can’t do anything about anything, and everything is out of my control, why care? Why bother?” At one point, I was convinced that this life seriously sucked and I had absolutely no hope that it could ever be a life of joy. It felt a little like “punishment”. This was a hard phase to get out of.

 

The key to that part, for me, was realizing how extremely self-centered and self-absorbed I was. I was only looking at it through what I was getting out of it. What we too often fail to remember is that joy comes not out of getting, but giving. When we do good, or see others do good, we feel “good”. When we do bad, see others do bad, or even dwell on our own miseries and failures, we feel “bad”. What’s worse, is especially when we see other’s successes as a threat to our own, or somehow playing a part in our failure, or competition to our personal success, we feel bad (and in most cases, threatened, and angry). So when we see our loved one walk away from us, no matter how many years we swore that we loved them unconditionally, we do not see them as our loved one anymore, but as an enemy or a threat to our goals. We carelessly misuse the phrase “Oh, I’m just detaching…” We confused completely disconnecting that part of us that loved them very much with detaching.

Hell bent on making it clear to the world that this person had strayed from our tightly held expectations that they should be or do differently than what we wanted, and thus they are in the wrong. Instead of caring about their wellbeing and respect their choices, we shut down and say we’re just “detaching” because detaching keeps us focused on ourselves.  This is they way I processed detachment for several years.

 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t helping me heal. Determined to heal, and determined to stop feeling so bad, I saught the advice of a spiritually-awakened friend. I had to commit to praying for my husband morning and night, that he would get everything he wanted in life, and that he was embraced with unconditional love, inner peace, and genuine happiness. The first week was white-knuckling it and took every bit of strength and energy for me to even mumble those words in my mind, much less outloud. Getting through those prayers for the first week was torture. But after 2 or 3 weeks of praying morning and night, it was when I was able to genuinely feel it and mean it.

 

The next phase of my coming to understand and grasp what detachment really was, was learning how to understand and accept that everything was out of my control. I couldn’t control what he thought, felt, said, or did. No matter how much I changed, he continued to be mean, verbally abusive, hostile, and deeper into his sexual addiction, alcoholism, and gambling. But this time, since I no longer saw him as an enemy, but an “angel”, and because now I genuinely wished for total joy and love for him, my attachment to what I wanted to be different was no longer there. I was at peace with the fact that he was who he was, and he does what he does. I no longer felt a need to respond emotionally or verbally to his prompts. Through gratitude and changing the way I saw him, my faith and hope grew. I came to realize that perhaps all of this was an opportunity for me to grow, evolve, and learn something very important. I had a nudging sense that if I could process this “opportunity” I was sure to find…joy. This was something I felt very confident about, and looking at how I had processed everything in the past, and how futile it was, I knew there was no turning back to old thought patterns and behaviors. For sure, something about me had to “die”.

 

Detachment finally meant accepting reality, being honest about my reality, and embracing it. In doing this, we don’t feel sad. We don’t feel depressed, and we don’t feel hopeless, as I had originally thought.

 

The only sad part about it was that loss is a part of life, that just like everything else, must be embraced. We don’t want to do that because we tend to think that if we “embrace loss” it means that we don’t feel anything- that we’re cold-hearted and don’t care. But what I’ve found in doing this spiritual practice, is that only by embracing loss, we are then able to truly value life. The reality of loss, when embraced, shakes you just enough so that you can finally appreciate it ALL, in its entirety. We step out of our selfish expectations of perfect partners and friendly like-minded people, and see that darkness makes light precious. Death makes life precious. Mean people make kindness precious. We begin to truly cherish everything good in our life. We realize all that nonsense, that bullshit- it’s all a distraction from what really matters.

We stop looking at what we’re getting out of it all, and realize that the real power of change is in what we’re willing to give, and how much we’re willing to love.
The death that I was sensing was this belief that I had time to be angry and insecure, and that I was justified and deserved the opportunity to take that bitterness out on another person. What needed to die was the belief that my passions would simply unfold once I got what I wanted, the way I wanted it, and then had the motivation to pursue them. Life is short, and we’ve got a lot of evolving to do on a conscious level. There is tremendous fear in detaching from that which is holding us back from our true potential and conscious evolution. We attach to relationships, jobs, material things, and the false sense of security they bring, and when those relationships, jobs, and material things are torn away from us, we realize and regret that our foundation was mistakenly placed.

 

I am starting to see how easily distracted I become when I see things as “not going my way”. Instead of keeping true to my personal values, morals, and holding strong in my integrity and what I believe my purpose is in life, I get side-tracked and react to things I don’t like in ways that don’t reflect the person I wish to be. This distraction has gotten the best of me. For the majority of my life, however, my reactions to unpleasant events were a protective mechanism. And while it seemed to work in my childhood, as I grew up, my habitual patterns and reactions to those distractions put me further from my goals, and way out of line with my values.  The person I wished to be remembered for, when my time does come, to leave this world.