In the throes of teen angst

I often share stories and insights from raising my meanager. People ask about it, reach out to me, thank me for it, you get the gist. Most times, I’m questioned if he really is mean and while the answer may vary depending on how he’s been the day I’m being asked, for the most part, he is not. He has teen moments, has begun his hand at trying to be sarcastic and witty, is becoming slightly moody, and sometimes is just downright pissy. More often than not, he is kind. He is caring. He is reserved.

Raising our meanager has not come with ups and downs, as I’m sure it is for anyone else in our shoes. Every time I was pregnant, I wished on everything and anything that I wouldn’t have any girls. I remember when I was in my adolescents and let me tell you, I could NOT handle myself if dealt the same cards. I was by no means the worst kid ever; I wasn’t a teen mom or became addicted to drugs, I didn’t have loose morals or party all night long at random houses, but I wasn’t an angel and I always thought I knew more than my parents. I had an attitude, I was miserable and made everyone else suffer along with me. No part of that made me want a daughter. Except, having boys hasn’t been balls easy (pun intended).

Having small men is constant energy. They are loving, curious, problem solvers (for the most part) but challenging. Raising boys has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Throw in the mix that we are raising them in a two female household, where neither of us has experienced wet dreams or random erections. Where we don’t understand the voice changing and giggle when the meanager speaks. We ask him questions in front of friends so they can hear the differences also, except he has caught on to that and is refusing to appease us. There’s the new fuzz above the upper lip and the increased body odor smells. We don’t physically and emotionally understand any of these things and yet we are balls deep in them, too.

For the most part, my meanager has been withdrawn. He spends most of his time in his room, where we let him escape the ridiculousness of his younger brothers because we understand he needs space. We ask pesky questions sometimes (read: I do) and from time to time we force him to engage in conversation or time spent with us. If he’s been particularly difficult, like failing a class and not getting his ish together, we might take him to Costco and make him hold our hands (read: me), gush over him and try to kiss him in public. Being a mom can be fun some days, friends. He almost always takes it in stride and knows we love him. We have each taken a role. He talks with Ku when he has girl questions or topics he feels I’ll blow out of proportion (as if that’s even possible). He comes to me when Ku isn’t around, because he’s convinced she’s more chill than I am.

I know, it’s damn frustrating.

And then there are times he sits down and asks me in his serious, sounds like he has a big loogie sitting in the back of his throat voice if he can ask me something. And I see a storm in his eyes that carries some emotional anguish. It could be something silly and yet it’s not for him so I take it serious and brace myself. I never know what’s coming but I know it has to happen.

“Mom, have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”

And there it is, a sucker punch to my side. I’m always on the fence with how real, how honest we should be with our kiddos. I mean Ku and I, because I fully understand every parent will have their own opinion of what is best. Sam is fourteen and I’m not so sure how in depth and raw I can be with him yet. Yes, I feel my chest tightening but I have to say something that makes him feel heard, understood, listened to. I decide to be real for a moment, because I don’t want to lie to my children, ever.

I tell him yes. That I remember being upset as a teenager, feeling like my parents didn’t understand me, didn’t care about me, that I was second to their business and their time. That I was fat and got made fun of, that I never got invited to sleep overs or parties. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t good at sports. I was miserable a lot of the time and sometimes I thought about ending it all. I didn’t tell him about how I turned to cutting to feel better and have scars that will never fade from it. I keep it short and simple and then I ask him if he ever has.

“Yeah, after you and Dad split. I was really sad and thought I would never see my Dad again,” he shared. That makes sense. I had a protection order against him, he didn’t know our new address or phone number because he had gone from crazy to psychotic in the blink of an eye when I left. He was only allowed to see the children with supervised visits, which he refused to submit himself to. He went a long time without seeing his children and it was all of out selfishness. He wanted to know what would happen to him and his brothers if I died, where they would go if both I and his dad died. Things were clearly weighing on his mind.

When I think back to my decade of abuse in a violent, toxic relationship with their Dad, I find myself at a crossroads. On the one hand, I’m grateful that he never hit me in front of the kids because I can’t imagine what that would have done to my children internally, except on the other I feel like they still don’t fully understand why the divorce happened. Sam continued with the hard questions last night, asking me if I was sad the whole time I was married to his dad, why I didn’t leave sooner, how bad his dad hit me, and why.

“Why would he need a reason, Sam? Wouldn’t that be justifying doing something horrible to someone when really, there is no excuse good enough for hitting someone you said you would love and honor?” I asked him. And his response was unexpected but reasonable. “I’m not saying a reason makes it okay. I just want to know why he did it.” Except, there’s not always a reason. Often times I think he felt out of control so he would pick fights with me and goad me into answering back to which he would explode. Or I wouldn’t meet his expectations and he would lash out. It was many reasons and yet none at all and so how can you fully understand that?

Sam asked me about his dad’s family and how they treated me, he shared what he witnesses of how they treat his stepmom. He asked what brought me to finally leave and I was careful to be honest without unnecessary details. The whole time we talked he had silent tears slipping down his face and I felt like something deeper was trying to surface. Every now and again Sam does this. Just asks me a question out of the blue, with no notice and I never feel like I answer correctly. I always feel blindsided and yet realize it’s an important moment for him. And I always wish there was a manual I could reference because unless you’re prepared for these things, they just leave you feeling inadequate.

Throw in talking with your child about these deep issues you are still working through. He wasn’t done, though. He had looked over our list of attendees on the kitchen table and had seen that my Dad was a no. “Why isn’t Tan (what they’ve always called him) coming?” And when I explained that he wasn’t okay with our marriage, he asked, “But doesn’t he love you?”

It was hard not to tear up with him. Not only was he asking me some of the hardest questions of my life, ones I’ve asked myself a million times in private, he was hitting on some pretty raw situations. Yes, I know my father loves me and I don’t want to judge him on his not coming to our big day. I’ve accepted he won’t be there. I asked him so many times, hoping he changes his mind. He doesn’t comprehend it and for him to attend, he would have to in his opinion, so he can’t bring himself to be there. I get it, because I choose to. And I love him because regardless of our differences in opinion, my ability to love him isn’t hinged on this one moment. Yes, it’s major to me. It’s monumental to both Ku and I. I am simply choosing to try to see things through his lens and agree to disagree.

Last night was tough. Yes, I found being honest pretty difficult, but I also wanted to answer his questions without projecting my own feelings into our talk because I don’t want him to feel how I do out of solidarity or obligation. I want him to hear me yet draw his own conclusions and thoughts without just being upset with his father or my dad. And just finding the bravery alone to initiate the whole thing with me, the one who is less chill, was pretty awesome, regardless of how much I struggled through it. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be googling how to have difficult yet meaningful conversations with teenagers because shoot me before he surprises me again!

 

The trigger effect

forgivenessA car door slamming shut outside. Unexpected people walking up behind me. Fast movements out of the corner of my eye. Our account balance dipping below a certain dollar amount. Roses and tiramisu. Innocent questions about silly things like dinner or what I did all day. Tall men who tower over me.

All such different things but each with the same effect on me. They are triggers. My triggers that instantly put me somewhere scary, places where my breath is stuck, my heart is racing. They make me disoriented, flood me with adrenaline and put a wall around my brain within seconds.

A friend recently compared herself to me. She said she was an open book, just like I was and I really pondered that comment for days. Maybe even weeks. Am I really that open, I wondered? Yes, I put myself out there and talk about very vulnerable moments in my life. Are you an open book if you only share certain chapters? I will answer almost anyone’s questions as honestly as I can, and yet I think so much of me remains hidden. There are easy things to talk about such as being a mom raising three boys with my wife by my side. I can talk about my weight and what I’m doing to get healthy on the inside and even how I’m helping my brain and my mind feel better. I like to share love stories, laughter, the stupid things I do because the journey of rebuilding has been such a beautiful process. Even the lows are incredible highs compared to before.

I couldn’t even think about my decade long of surviving domestic violence until recently. Watching anything remotely like what I had put up with on TV gave me anxiety, made me look away with pain and disappointment. Friends would ask me some questions and I would freeze up, trying to figure out how to change the conversation immediately. Yes, I bring it up now, but still mostly in written form. My throat seizes up. It doesn’t even take asking. It could happen at the drop of a dime at any one of the triggers listed above, many more I can’t think of at the moment. For ten whole years, I was in flight or fight with sprinklings of okay moments I could handle. It wasn’t always horrible but I always felt unsafe.

About a year ago I downloaded The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and would play it whenever I drove somewhere. At first I told myself that I had picked it out of a long list of books I wanted to read because it popped up on the “recommended” list and was on sale. The reality is that I needed this book in my life; forgiveness doesn’t come easy to most but it was undoable for me. I held on to things so fiercely. I began to listen to it with this “I will never forgive him” mentality. Let’s hear what Desmond has to say. Either way, I will not forgive him. I will not forgive them because I had an Arya Stark list of who had egregiously wronged me and it was written in stone.

bof

The book began and I was surprised at how calming it was. Desmond Tutu narrates it and while his voice is nothing close to monotonous, he manages to maintain his voice at the same volume, with inflection and emotion but never overwhelming. I found I couldn’t listen to it with the close-minded mentality I had hit download with. Little by little I found myself excited to drive somewhere. My commute to work was pleasant now, enriching my thoughts. I still felt like I couldn’t figure out forgiveness, but I kept listening. My heart was yearning for something and this was helping me listen.

**If you think I’m about to say I finally forgave my ex to which your response will be an eye roll or something equally justifiable, please bear with me.**

“Forgiveness means you are given another chance at a new beginning,” he said gently. I needed him to say that without fire or passion. I needed it to creep into my heart through the breaks and the cracks, and somehow he knew that was the only way. When I heard that, I parked my car in its normal stall, turned it off and took a few deep breaths. I have been so hell bent on rewriting my shitty first draft. I was CRUSHING it, in my opinion even though I knew I had some major road blocks. I didn’t think this was one of them. “If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.” When he said this, I literally stopped in my tracks. Well, un-literally, as I was driving, but my thoughts did! It was in that moment that I realized I didn’t endure 3.650 days (plus some) of mental, physical and verbal abuse to spend ONE MINUTE more on it. “When we forgive, we take back control of our fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.”

And that was my ah-ha moment, friends. It was in that moment that I realized I needed first and foremost, to forgive myself. And I needed to forgive FOR myself, as well. The thing is, reading (or in this case, hearing) something said to me, no matter how absolutely perfect and full of sense it is, doesn’t fix the problem automatically. It still takes action. Requires a sense of desire, at least, to move forward towards that. One tactic Desmond shares, some wisdom he so graciously shared, was to give your hurt a voice. Don’t brush it aside and pretend it never happened, but rather, talk it out, talk about it with friends, write your thoughts down in a journal, pick a rock and name it your hurt. Carry it in your pocket and rub it in your hand and when you’re ready, place it somewhere. Leave it there. Behind you, rather than carrying it with you on your person.

I only did one of those things, and it was to begin journaling about it. Except, it was kind of an accident and it happened without me realizing it. That journal is this blog. Did I start this whole endeavor thinking, “What about my past life of hell am I going to share with my friends today?” No. But little by little, I keep thinking of things I want to share and often times, it’s about that. It makes perfect sense to me. My past marriage was wrought with so much pain on so many levels. I didn’t jump out of a vehicle and run for my life one night, five years ago to just move on and get over it in one day. Hell, it took me almost three years to even really start saying something to someone other than Ku. If someone would have said I would join the board of DVSAS even two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I might have called you a liar. Even reaching out about joining gave me sky-high anxiety. And it was in that second that I knew I had to do it. Enough with being comfortable. Enough with wallowing in my inner pity party. I had to continue rebuilding and this was me staying on that path.

While listening to Desmond’s book has opened my heart up to understanding forgiveness, not just in the case of my ex-husband, but also other travesties I’ve held deep inside, I will say I didn’t come out SAVED by it. A book isn’t saving me any more than any one thing will. It merely provided me with some necessary tools to begin my own process. For me, forgiveness has become less about letting someone off the hook for something they may not even be sorry for, but freeing myself from all the negative energies that were binding me to them.

So, what about those pesky triggers? I can talk and talk about the act of forgiving; feel really good about life in general, and then I’ll hear a car pull into the garage and the door slam shut and before I know it I’ve jumped off the couch and rushed to the kitchen to pretend I was busy preparing a dinner I hate because I can’t cook and I already know nobody will like it. Except it’s Ku that walks in the door, excited to see me, giving me a hug and a kiss and I act like I wasn’t just in freak out mode, like I am not scrambling to make something because I remember that she was cooking dinner tonight. I hear one of the boys come in from playing outside and they are happy and everyone’s smiling and I realize I’m not in a small apartment with almost no furniture with someone yelling at me, pushing me against a wall. And it’s been over FIVE years.

Two weeks ago I attended a work luncheon about preventing bullying in the workplace. The facilitator was a retired law enforcement official. He was squirrelly, spoke robustly, but never made me feel intimidated. I suppose that matched the theme of his session, now that I look back. He went over what bullying is, why people do it, what to do if you see it happening, and why people don’t step in when they witness it. I found myself listening more for information that I could take back to my kiddos, especially Abraham. I wasn’t listening necessarily for myself, but rather to pass on when I saw fit. And then a face in the crowd asked a question that he read into deeper. He had said earlier that he estimated about 70-80% of any given crowd has been a victim of bullying, which he defined as an abuse of power that is repeated. He began discussing triggers, because we tend to respond differently to conflict when we personally feel triggered.

I perked up because I know I have some. Fearlessly, and I’m not sure where this came from, but I shot my hand up. It had just the right amount of gumption, because he saw it right away and called on me.

“Let’s say you recognize a trigger. How do you desensitize yourself from it?” I asked him. He looked around the room. “Does anyone else here want to know? It’s not really what today is about, but if enough people in the room are up for it, I can take a moment and give one desensitizing trick I’ve learned.” I’m guessing enough heads bobbed yes for him to dive in. “Here it is,” he said.

Step 1: Take a handful of deep breaths. Really deep breaths. Breathe in slow and breathe out slow.

Step 2: Tell yourself the date and where you are. This helps bring your brain back from whatever memory it decided to visit. It confuses it, stops the synapses mid-way and recalls them to somewhere else. Somewhere safe.

Step 3: Tell yourself you are ok. Say it as many times as you need to.

It could sound like this: Deep breath. Deep breath. Deep breath. Today is Monday, May 22, 2017 and I’m in my kitchen. I am ok. I am ok. I am safe. I am ok.

I don’t remember much of his other content. I’m glad he answered this and gave us some help. I’ve tried it out twice now and so far, so good. While I hope I don’t need to use it anymore, I know that isn’t logical so I will keep applying it, keep saying it, and keep breathing because I am okay. I am safe and I am happy.

And thank you for reading this. You are helping me heal.

Crazy Vee

 

 

A Mother of a Day

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As we spent yesterday showering our Mother’s with a barrage of photo collages and lovey dovey sayings, I thought back on my time in this club, my very short almost fifteen years. One I used to think I wanted nothing to do with it, a membership that is wrought with judgements and finger pointing, defending, crying, feelings of absolute inadequacy and failure. A clandestine understanding of how to lose your shit, the million and one ways to ugly sob into your pillow, and the overwhelming love when you get handed a dandelion because the pretty flower had to go to you.

I was twenty when I found out I was pregnant with Sam. I spent the whole pregnancy in one dark spot or another, for so many reasons. Mostly, in utter disappointment with myself. I had imagined the trajectory of my life a completely different way and this felt like failure. Having grown up in a restaurant, many of the patrons felt close to me and had no qualms sharing their thoughts about my choices with my young self. More than a few shared their surprise. “You’re so smart, though!” some said when they heard. I was constantly defending myself and it was one hundred percent because I was right there with them. I get it. A small town girl saying she wasn’t going to be a mom or a wife right away and that is ALMOST EXACTLY what I did. One thing I was adamant about, though, was that becoming a mother didn’t make me any less smart.

Mother’s Day is a weird holiday. Yes, I love the concept behind it, but it gets so murky, so dirty and it takes away from what it’s trying to be. For me, the idea of what a mom is has changed numerous times in my first half of life. My parents divorced when I was two years old and I was lucky to get to stay with my dad. He met my mom (she’s mom in my book, no step-anything about it) in one of the best cute-meet stories I’ve ever heard. It isn’t mine to share, but let’s just say he was adamant he would get her number…

My mom chose to take on a role that wasn’t optional to her. I think there’s an inane amount of beauty in that, alone. I see the same majestic loyalty in Ku, just being a pivotal part of raising the boys with me. Being a step-parent seems like such a hard title, one that I cannot understand and it’s what I’ve been around since a young age. From the beginning, I was harmed by the ghost of my biological mom, although not because she died. She’s still very much alive, but she wasn’t in my life. She wasn’t around to see important milestones in my life and it was through no fault of anyone but herself. I want to judge her harshly most days and on good days I want to forgive her. Sometimes I think I have but I just never really know. She was battling her own addiction demons for most of my formative years and that kept her from being able to keep her word to me at any given time. When I think about it, I feel like she failed me. Because of her, I take it very personally when someone tells me yes, they’ll come to something with me and then they don’t follow through. If you say yes to me, I take it as a blood oath. If you don’t show up, I have a very hard time letting it go. It tears me up. I call her a ghost because she would call when she could, make impossible promises and then not show up. It haunted my soul. I always believed her.

“She said she would be here on my birthday,” I would tell my Mom as I peeked out the window on April 10. Then she would try to pick up my broken pieces and attempt to put me back together when she wouldn’t. She had to have known EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. that my BM (biological mom) wouldn’t follow through but she never let on, she never bad mouthed her. I was always so heartbroken and I never once stopped to think how it affected her, too.  How did she constantly soothe me as I was aching inside? Or when I would get mad at her for parenting me so I would say the easiest insult I could think of because I was young and children can be a-holes. How devastating must it have been to hear, “You’re not my mom!” from a kiddo that made you one? She is the unconditional mom.

When I was eleven, I moved to Mexico with an Aunt and Uncle for a year and a half. It was an incredible experience and helped me understand and learn my culture, proper Spanish, and family values. My Aunt became like a second mother to me, who taught me basic cooking skills, let me watch her put makeup on, told me about periods. She asked me questions about my BM, scolded me when I was getting too angry about it all, hugged me and held me tight when she could sense I needed it. She was tough love and deep love and gentle. She never trusted my ex-husband, took me aside and told me I deserved better. She adored meeting my Sam and told me I was an incredible mother full of love and she attributed it to all my heartache over feelings of inadequacy with my own experiences. “You are compassionate with Sam because you want him to know he’s loved, because it’s what you’ve been searching for,” she astutely told me one day. She was never more right about anything. We lost her to cancer a number of years ago and I think about the life lessons she taught me all the time. My aunt was a deep love Mom.

I remember hearing once that if you want to know what kind of a man someone is, to watch how they treat their mothers. It sounds legit, makes perfect sense but I am here today to tell you that is a CROCK OF SHIT sometimes. My ex-husband treats his mom like a queen and told me to my face that she came before me. He hit me in front of her once and she said to me, “You should have stopped arguing. He wouldn’t have hit you if you had stopped snapping back unnecessary comments.” Not all mothers are nice. Many are wearing blinders. It doesn’t even matter if your child is old and grown and pretending to be mature. Those blinders don’t always come off. She never liked me and the feeling was mutual and I’m so thankful every day that I don’t have to see or speak to her anymore. Her and her son hold no more power over me and it’s a beautiful feeling. She is the narcissistic mom. She’s not the only one I’ve known.

And then I met an absolute angel. Ku’s mom (and a lot of her family) are what I needed to see in terms of what a family can be. Even if it’s blended differently, even if there’s some divides, her mom has helped show me that amicability is absolutely possible, that motherhood doesn’t stop at any one age, that you will always worry about your littles, and that asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Asking for help is okay. Sometimes you have to say things to yourself more than once so it sinks in. She teaches me how to be more thoughtful, how to love harder, how to let go when you need to, when trust is warranted, and how to talk about hard situations. I am so thankful she is in my life, all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. She is a thoughtful mom.

What I’ve been trying to say is that motherhood is a messy business. It isn’t always a happy feeling and one day a year doesn’t make it better. Sometimes motherhood is wished for, prayed for, pleaded for. Other times it happens when you weren’t expecting it, didn’t think you wanted it, don’t know how to do it. There’s the accidental mothers, the choose to be moms, the I’ll-be-what-you-need-me-to-be moms who fill voids and roles that you desperately seek. It’s a title with many sub-titles and those with the sub-titles, the prefixes, the add on, get inexcusably forgotten. It takes away from what they deserve and makes them feel less worthy. And almost every mom is a worthy mom.

A big I LOVE YOU to my Mom, my Aunt watching over me, and my Mother-in-Love. So much love. And to my Mom Friends, who inspire, motivate and encourage me to be better. Love to you, also.14264074_804611123011068_8170020838427018602_n

 

 

 

 

 

When did you know?

 

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It doesn’t get much cuter than this!

 

When people ask me who I am I never think “Lesbian.” I almost always describe myself as a mother, a wife, an aficionado of wine, a lover of fat babies and children in general, a jokester, a wit mcgrit, a rhymer in an un-rapstar kind of way, a smart-ass, a badass, a babe. I dig the Gilmore Girls, Game of Thrones, reading of all sorts, writing; I am a Human Resources professional, I’m a developer of people, curator of ideas, a doer, a shaker. I’m ALWAYS A BOSS.

And yet, I’m asked often times the same question. I’m quite alright with it, so if you’re reading this and cringing because you’ve also asked me about my sexuality in some way, shape or form, don’t think for one moment it has offended me. It hasn’t. I welcome it, in honesty, because I’m also thinking my way through it for better ways to explain what I feel inside of me.

We have somehow become a society of labels. Sometimes those labels fit us so well, like wine-lover, and others we want to immediately throw out the window and not accept, such as overweight. We don’t always want to be just one of them, sometimes we want to add more to our plate and other times we don’t even know we have earned a new one.

I feel like that last one was my case, five plus years ago, when I fell in love for real, for the legit first time, forever. Not once did I stop and think about the gender of who I was falling for. There was no time for that. It was more of an excitement, a rustle in the air of emotions and charged feelings. What I have continually tried to explain is that I never once stopped and said, “Whoa, I’m in love with a girl.” All I could think was, “This is love. This is real.”

I don’t have a coming-out story like some do. Telling friends or family I was gay just never happened. At least not like it did for a lot, who maybe realized their attraction at an early age and tried to hide it. Or understanding how you want to look or dress and then “breaking the news to your people.” I can’t say if it’s because I didn’t know, or didn’t recognize. My sharing of a love story was me introducing her to family and friends. Just pulled the band aid off and did it. I didn’t worry about it one bit. I wasn’t scared. I was so damn excited about turning a new leaf, changing my life, taking a plunge, not in loving her, but in throwing away my shitty first draft and starting over. My loving a woman was the last bullet point on a new outline for life. It wasn’t saying, “Hey everyone, I love a woman.” It was me shouting, “Hey everyone, I AM IN LOVE.”

When the questions eventually started, because they inevitably do, that was when I realized it was a major change for people. Apparently you can’t drink coffee with cream your whole life and then cold turkey go to black (or vice-versa) without having to explain the ins and outs to people. They hit you with a stack of ideas that could make it acceptable. It’s not always the same but can look something like this.

“Ooooooh, it was probably because he was abusive to you. Are you scared of guys now?” No.

“Is this a phase? What if you change your mind again? And is this weird for your kids?” No.

“Was he not good in bed? You just decided to give ladies a try? He was just that terrible?” No.

And the ever perplexing: “That must be really embarrassing for him. His wife leaving him for a woman?” WHAT THE WHAT?!?!! Sure. Let’s all take a moment and have a moment of silence for the asshole that still haunts my nightmares. Let’s hope his miniature man balls can take such a blow. Sheesh.

People want to know what brought it about, they want to find reasons in the chaos, they sit and rack their brain about why you made this choice. And yet I don’t remember ever clearing choosing a woman. I merely let my heart decide. I can’t even say if I would be with another woman if something happened to us. I just know that I have never felt so connected to a man. I haven’t felt this immense, overwhelmingly beautiful pull to a man. What I can say is that the universe knew it was time for me to be happy and placed the PERFECT person in my path. I was luckily paying attention. Sometimes we aren’t, though. Right? There could very well be many of us who had amazing options right in front of our face and we chose to look right through them. It can be a best guy friend who wants to give a relationship a shot but you aren’t up for it, because you don’t want to lose a friendship. It could be the “nice guy” who just doesn’t make you feel butterflies in your stomach. It could be the ex of a friend and you can’t break the girl code. It could be someone of a different ethnicity or your same race who you’ve sworn you would never date because of it. Either way, it comes out in your questions to me.

I won’t say Kulia and I haven’t discussed what this is for the boys. It was really more of a slow process, because they were dealing with the divorce, which was hard for them. There were so many changes with that and a period of time they didn’t see their Dad due to a restraining order. That was the hard part and so we handled them gently. She was there as a friend and a confidant for them. She was around in such a seamless way and eventually, when it was time, we got a place together and they never batted an eye. She was so safe for them and they could feel it and they wanted her to live with us. We never openly engage in PDA around them, minus holding hands and an occasional peck on the lips, but not because we are two ladies. It’s because it’s not appropriate, even if we were hetero. There’s a place and a time for such acts, and we have never thought it was to be in front of the kiddos. We let them slowly understand we weren’t just best friends but also in love. We are respectful to not flaunt our relationship at their school events or outings but we also don’t hide it. We have always operated with 100% honesty, with them, with our family, with our friends, and with anyone who asks.

I promise that. Always honesty because I haven’t felt for one second that our love is not a beautiful thing. I hold her hand with pride, I smile when I call her my wife. I love that the boys couldn’t imagine life without her. I won’t hide it and I won’t shy away from any questions in regards to it. You have any? Hit me with them! I will always answer them. All I’m saying is, love has never been a choice when it comes to her. She was always meant for me and me for her and we had no say in the whole, entire matter.

 

 

 

The Birth of Vee

Being as I have officially reached my half-way point in life, at 35 years, I can really reflect on the last half of my life and have some real talk. Both with myself, and with my friends.

My whole entire life (well, the first half, stop correcting me) I was known as Virginia. People have forever been trying to give me a nickname. Seriously. There is the EVER ANNOYING Vicky, Ginny, Ginger (!?!?!), Vagine (but in the gross sense because kids are mean), and Virg. Ewwww. I never took a liking to a single one. I only ever answered to Virginia. I get asked all the damn time about if I realized I’m named after a state (and I mean, HOW COULD I NOT KNOW, LIVING IN THE USA!?!?!?!), they play the “There REALLY IS a Santa Claus!” with me, they mention queens, etc. Name games are so fun unless they are about you. It’s slap-your-knee funny except it isn’t. Everybody in my life called me Virginia.

And then my life stopped on April 14th, five entire years ago. And Vee was born.

It wasn’t foreseen but it should have been. For a legit decade, ten years, 3,650 days give or take a few, I had been living in my own personal hell. Granted, there were good days. Of course there were. I won’t say it was non-stop. It just gradually began to feel that way, slowly, like you’re falling asleep. Little by little, Virginia was fading away as each day, week, month, and year passed. That light I had been born with was dimming. I could see it and yet I couldn’t find the strength to relight it.

It’s weird, what trauma will do to you. It’s even more bizarre what repeating trauma does. To you. Today I woke up and felt blah. It’s unlike me but it does happen. My head and my heart very rarely are on different pages, because for the better part of the last five years I have been trying to rebuild who I am, because I gave myself a chance to start over. I talk so much about rewriting your shitty first draft but five years ago, ON THIS DAY, I threw away the whole damn book. I grabbed a new pen, found page freaking one, and started the HELL OVER. Today, though, my head was happy and my heart was heavy. I already knew why, though. I’m forever remembering numbers and dates and moments in my life. I can’t help it.

When I met Kulia, forces in nature began to bring us together. First with daily lunch dates, even though that’s not the right way to describe it. I hadn’t told one single person about what I had been going through for the past ten years and yet with her, I began to feel like maybe I could. How do you reach out to your family and friends, out of what would seem like nowhere, and say to them, “I’ve been a victim of domestic violence for the past decade?” How do you start that conversation? And what would they do? If they hadn’t seen it, or noticed it, or even wondered the whole entire time, could you trust them to know what to do? And WHAT DO YOU DO? That’s the real question. It is the question I had been asking myself, over and over, every day, for the past 120 months. It isn’t lost upon me that if one of my friends had come to me and said ANY of the words I had about what I was going through, I wouldn’t have known where to start, either.

I’m not blaming anyone for not helping me. I couldn’t even help myself, guys.

She (Kulia) talks often about how she thought I was happily married when we met. It isn’t just that I was putting on a show for anyone, but more because I can find a reason to smile every day. I had my boys, who I will forever acknowledge as my life savers and that wasn’t lost upon me. Without them I don’t know if I would be here, today. I had a fantastic job. There were positive things in my life and I used them as a shield. My smile was my sword. As we learned more about each other, I felt safer. I started to feel like the old me. I had a sincere laugh around her. Without knowing what she was doing, she was bringing me back to the ground, because all I had been doing, what was helping me deal, was floating outside of myself. I rarely felt like I knew who I was. She started to help me remember.

As I remembered how to blossom he noticed the changes. I started to find words to tell him that I used to be afraid of saying. I started to defend myself. It didn’t take him long to piece together that it was around the time her and I became friends. Except this time, I wasn’t getting convinced to stay. I told him I didn’t love him. I told him I never had. And he lost his damn mind. He started to pull the boys into it. Brought Samuel into the living room and demanded he choose, in that moment, if he wanted to live with him or with me, should we split. I started to see a maniac emerge, when all I had known was Devil’s Rage. When I wasn’t home he would harass my phone. He had to travel to the mainland for a few days and I didn’t answer his calls one night. He was upset I had gone out to dinner with friends and before I knew it, there was something like seventy-eight missed calls on my phone.

The more psychotic he became, the more I knew my life was becoming precarious. I read a statistic recently that said that 50% of domestic violence victims lose their life to their offender. It brought me back to those moments. He came home and big fights happened. More and more frequently and I didn’t know how to stop them anymore. I didn’t even want to. One day on my way home from work, as I walked there, he called me. “I’m in the car. With your kids. We are headed to the airport. You’ll never see them again.” And then out loud, in a scary voice, he said, “Tell your Mom bye, boys.” I tried to run home, frantic, because I didn’t doubt any of it for one moment, but I wasn’t a runner then. I couldn’t go more than ten seconds without having to stop and catch my breath. I never hated my body as much as that day, thinking I would never see my children again.

And then April 14th. My REBIRTH-DAY. Another dinner date with friends. Kulia was with me. As we enjoyed our meal and some wine, he called. A lot of times. I wouldn’t answer because I was hashtag OVER IT. Of course, he made it about the boys. “Abraham is sick and has a fever and there is no medicine in the house. I bet you don’t even care,” his voicemail said. So, I told her I had to get home. She took me to get medicine and then dropped me off. The next time I called her was for her to find me at a busy intersection.

I won’t go into everything that happened that night. I don’t even think I remember all of it. It was one of the scariest nights of my life, and then the best. Without thinking about it, without giving it a second thought, I found myself, less than four hours later but what only seemed like four minutes, jumping out of a moving vehicle and running, again, for my life. I didn’t have my kids with me. The threat of them leaving the island was still very real but I couldn’t stay with him and give him ONE MORE DAY with me, not one more moment. I had to trust that he would keep his word, just this once, and not run off with my little men.

When I told my Dad about it, for the first time and not without some anxiety, a few days later, he said he was proud of me. “You have to show yourself some respect, Mija,” he told me. And it finally made sense. We went on to have an incredible conversation about divorce when I got back to the mainland, a couple weeks later. It was one of the best conversations we had as father and daughter, in a way we never had before.

Whenever I think about that April 14th in my life, I feel my heart race. It has replayed in my dreams many times. I can’t escape it and this is the first time I’ve woken up on it and not hated the day. Never because of what I did to help myself, but more because of what had to happen for me to find that insane second of courage to finally do it. I feel like this is the first time, in the past five years, that I woke up and felt like I had finally forgiven myself for it, which seems backwards. Shouldn’t I be so proud of having done all that?

Yes, I am. But it’s hard to acknowledge every piece of that puzzle, for me. Sharing my story has helped me move forward, but it has come with a price that I didn’t know would be paid. Thinking about it keeps it fresh in my mind. My heart gets tender, my brain wants to forget, my body finds itself in fight or flight and I can hardly breathe sometimes. A friend told me recently that she’s like me, an open book. I agree to an extent that I can be, but so much remains off topic. So much still, hasn’t allowed itself to come to surface.

And then I try to imagine how Kulia must have felt, to get a call from me just so many hours after she had dropped me off, at a place she knew I wasn’t safe in. She had to have known that it wouldn’t be a happy call, although it was the happiest call, too. And to put herself out there and be vulnerable, without knowing what could come next. I try to remember that when we argue. That even when I’m upset with her or her with me, she has never made me want to jump out of a car and risk injury to myself. She’s never made me feel like I’m garbage or unwanted. She’s never made me think the next breath could be my last. When she answered my phone call, she never said no to me. She took Vee and made it feel right, made it feel like love.

She’s continued to encourage me to find this voice and use it. When I said I wanted to be on the board of the local DVSAS (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services) in the area, she knew it was the place for me.  And it happened! I was just voted on, unanimously, by the board this week and begin a new chapter, as a Domestic Violence Victor. I can use my words and my love to help others in this community. My mid-way point has just continued to get better. It feels amazing to be seen as someone who can make an impact. I mean to do just so.

I will never say starting over is easy. It was the fourth hardest thing I’ve ever done, and yes, I keep track. I have found so much beauty, though, in those moments. I’ll continue to share them with you all, as I find the voice for them. And April 14th will no longer be a dark day for my life. It is light and I will honor it.

Happy REBIRTH-DAY to me!

 

In the Corner of Co-parenting

Almost five years ago, when I was working on my divorce from my ex-husband, the most irritating thing (for me, at the time) was that Washington state obligates both parents to attend a six hour “Co-parenting” class. It behooves me that you can get married with no obligatory wait time or trial period, no education in the aspect. Nothing. You pay a fee and set an appointment and before you know it, you can say “I do,” in front of a judge.

But to get divorced. Now, there’s a feat. And if you have children together, it’s even more daunting. There is the mandatory Parenting Plan, that establishes so many rules and expectations, such as drop-off and pick-up times, who gets whom when, the ever exciting tax reporting rights, etc. And then this class. You need to devote a Saturday to listening to someone chat about co-parenting and receive an attendance certificate at the end before your divorce is signed off on. In Washington. By the time you get the seal of approval no less than half a calendar year has passed and you are more than ready to be checking single on your W-4. Hell, you might even have a party.

I showed up on my Saturday with a headache, tired eyes and no expectations. It was pretty full and I remember thinking that this was a lot of broken families and broken hearts in this room. Divorce is most definitely the right action for some but it doesn’t come without a lot of work, pains in your rear and tears from your children. I remember nothing about the person who facilitated the whole event. I do, however, remember many of the points.

First, I want to set something straight. I SINCERELY admire any parent duos who decide to call it quits on their marriage but can still remain civil and respectful to each other for the good of the kiddos. I absolutely think HANDS DOWN that those are amazing anomalies. They are not the norm but they should be acknowledged, cherished, celebrated and revered. I cannot say I envy it but I’m in a different position. I’m in an opposite ballpark, playing a different sport, where there are no rules and tons of restrictions, lots of aggravating circumstances and lacking in the breath of fresh air category.

I want to say that there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between co-parenting and parallel parenting and sometimes it’s not such an easy choice, no matter how bad you want to do one or the other. This has been the case with me. I don’t have that sunshiney split that still brings everyone together. I don’t want it. For us, it will never work. I recognize that and I believe it to be healthy, because often times people tend to judge and want to put you down or make you feel bad for knowing what is right for your family. AND YOUR SANITY. I knew, once I heard the speaker differentiate the two, which group I would be in until my kids were grown.

Parallel parenting, which I’m a queen at, is where each guardian is doing the parenting on their own. They don’t communicate with each other, mostly because they can’t. Whether it’s because they don’t know how to in a healthy way, or because there is a danger in them trying to work things out, or there’s no respect in at least one of them. Any shadow of a doubt for one of those criteria puts you in PP. The adults are disengaged, with limited contact regardless of where the kiddos are. While there can be circumstances of trust being rebuilt to lower hostility, I don’t see that in our future.

One of the points of the speaker, on that obligatory Saturday, was to understand common triggers that make arguments. Oddly enough, the number one reason exes fight when exchanging the kids is clothing. Hearing that, I made a mental note to try my damnedest to let articles of clothing roll off my back. I do. Try my hardest. It has been a hard promise not to break to myself. Sometimes I want that stupid effin jacket to come back home! Or, on the flip side, I still don’t like the style of clothing he buys them. But at least he does and I try to remind myself that even though he likes douchey clothes, they aren’t going to grow up to be douches. Silver lining, right?

The other was to verbally allow them to continue to love their other parent. This was a big one for me to hear and understand, because one of the stipulations of the parenting plan was that neither parent nor anyone around the kiddos could verbally bash or speak ill of the other parent. I put that in there for a reason. I know him and his family. They live on rather high pedestals that most common folk can’t ever reach the heights of. It was no secret that they never liked me and they often spoke ish about me when I was in the room. I didn’t expect for one second that they would honor it but it gave me a basis in the event my boys ever came home and shared things with me. I was lucky enough to be granted almost full custody of my mini-men, which meant the most time with me, so I wanted them to know that them loving their dad was okay. Kids never want to choose a parent, unless of course they are meanagers and pissed off at you for not being their friend, so telling them they are allowed to love their other parent gives them permission they want but won’t ask for.

One of the biggest benefits is that it removes the children from being witness to toxic parental conflict, which is probably why the divorce is happening. It removes unrealistic mutual cooperation expectations and allows both parents to be equal contributors to the development of their little humans. I don’t know about you guys, but whoever can do that isn’t gonna hear any flack from me! No judgement! Not from me!

Whether it’s you or your friends or maybe some acquaintance of yours that are going through some type of broken parenting, don’t be that a-hole that wants to say that one way or the other is a choice. I’ve found that to be untrue for most people. Even in my case, I didn’t have that ability to say I was going to be the bigger person and put my differences aside, for so many reasons. Whatever option works for you, embrace it and continue to do what is best for your babies and will teach them love and respect. Isn’t that the ultimate goal, anyway?

Everything in love and respect.