October 13, 2014

A Treasure Trove of Trauma

So, I recently discovered that MySpace has FINALLY given people the ability to download their old blogs.  (Remember MySpace blogs?  Remember MySpace??)  My MySpace blog was the sole and absolute reason that I still have an active MySpace account . . . . I would sign into it annually just to make sure it was still there.  The blog was a landfill buried treasure of sorts, an almost daily chronicle of my life from about 2005 to 2009.  This time period was the most "evolutionary" period of my life . . . . or, in common terms, it was when my life shit hit the fan.  However, there were some really great gems of writing in there, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the literally hundreds of posts.

I'm not sure that was the greatest idea.

Let me clarify . . . it was very interesting to read my own writing, and there were indeed some real gems in there.  But I'm a Cancer, and we Cancerians tend to have a problem with dwelling on the past and have a hard time letting go.  Because of that, I try to keep a "present moment" attitude (with varying degrees of success).  So to go back and read through those old blog posts was like Harry Potter falling into Dumbledore's pensieve into a stored memory, and I was THERE.  All the hurt from my career and relationship disappointments came rushing back.  Needless to say, I've been in a bit of a funk lately.

I recently returned from a conference for lawyers' assistance programs, and the presenter in one of the sessions talked about the root of harmful behaviors being our desire to suppress feelings related to Trauma (big T) and trauma (little t).  Without attempting to summarize the entire presentation, basically the thing that struck me was that "little t" traumas (things like living in uncertainty, constant verbal abuse and criticism, lack of emotional support, etc.) can create the negative emotions that we seek to avoid, just as much as the "big T" Traumas (physical abuse, loss of a family member, combat, etc.) can.  (And comparing people's Traumas and traumas is pretty pointless . . . knowing you went through something truly horrific does not lessen the emotional impacts of my traumas on me.)  In that very moment, as I sat with tears streaming down my face in a conference center room full of lawyers, I realized that the partying, excessive alcohol, and other, um, "questionable" decisions made during that time period were the result of me trying to cope with my trauma, not because I was a bad person.  I was a hurt person.  And I realized that some of my "friends" during that time were merely taking advantage of the circumstances resulting from that hurt.

The therapeutic process (which was the original motivation behind AID in the first place) often involves opening and re-examining old wounds so we can understand WHY.  It's like a broken bone that doesn't set and heal correctly . . . in order to fix it properly, you have to re-break it.  And it hurts.  But there was a reason I needed to go back and read and understand what happened, what went wrong, and why I did the harmful and hurtful things I did to both myself and others.  From that understanding, though, I should be able to actually heal, instead of just trying to forget.

Maybe this has been a good idea after all.

February 1, 2014

The League of Evil Exes

(No, I didn't die or get sucked into a vortex.... I GOT ENGAGED!!  I also got a job where writing is 83.5% of my day, so it's like a chef that doesn't quite feel like cooking gourmet meals for herself at home.  But, more about that later.....I hope.)

I had a rather awkward experience at my daughter's basketball game today.  I was sitting on the bleachers with my fiance, minding our own business, when in walks my ex-husband with his baby momma and proceeds to walk all the way down to where we were sitting.  Then around half time, in walks his ex (let's call her First Ex), with whom he cheated on with and had a baby with Baby Momma, and she too proceeds to come all the way down to the end of the bleachers and sit right next to me.  She was the first relationship he had right after our divorce and they dated for a few years, so she is very close to my children (thus why she was even at the game).  She and I are friendly towards each other; our daughters are about the same age and are sisterly toward each other, and I'm not the one to unnecessarily burn bridges, so I guess you could say we are cool.  Baby Momma, on the other hand, HATES this particular ex, and pretty much hates me because she felt like I was taking her and my ex-husband's "side" when they were going through all their back and forth issues.  Um, I had nothing to do with any of that, despite the fact that Baby Momma tried to drag me into it against my will.

So here I am, wedged between First Ex and Ex-Husband and Baby Momma.  Aw-kw-ard.  And of course I'm talking to First Ex, because like I said, we are cool, and she's sitting right next to me.  But understanding human nature, I know she still had some bitterness leftover toward the Baby Momma situation, and by her sitting there being friendly with me, I know that also probably brought up some negativity in Baby Momma since she accused me (and my then 12 year old child) of taking sides against her.  Not that I allowed it to change my behavior-- after all, I am happily engaged to the man who I believe I was supposed to be spending my life with-- but I started to get a very pawn-like feeling as I sat there and watched my now almost 15 year old play basketball.

 I don't to be a part of The League of Evil Exes
One of my most favorite movies is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  If you haven't seen this fantastically odd piece of movie goodness (which I have seen at least 100 times), basically it's about a guy who has to fight and defeat, video game style, his girlfriend's Seven Evil Exes in order to have a relationship with her.  The seven exes have formed a "league" that has agreed to fight Scott.   As art often imitates life, I have seen time and time again where the exes of a guy will later become friends, whether or not its for the purpose of engaging in "He ain't shit!" sessions or just because they have something in common.  Either way, that's just not my style. Not only do I not want to be out here fighting my ex-husband's current girlfriend, I also have zero desire to form my own League of Evil Exes.

Over the past 6 years, I've been friendly toward my ex-husband's girlfriends, just because there's really no reason not to be, but I was never interested in becoming BFFs with them when they broke up and/or get together to talk shit about him.  Baby Momma tried that with me when she broke up with my ex-husband the first (second?) time, and I wasn't having it.  There is no need for us to become close friends premised solely on the fact that we used to date the same person and now realize the error of our ways.  First Ex and I have more in common than just my ex-husband both professionally and personally, so I don't have a problem being social with her, but we never talk about him.  Now, his most recent girlfriend (whom he kicked out of his house around the holidays and then promptly got back with Baby Momma), we really have nothing in common.  Again, we were cordial toward each other, but there is really no reason for me to be friends with her after the fact.

I really hope I was reading more into that situation today than what it was, because I don't like feeling like a pawn in the game of emotional chess.  But whether it was intentional or not, that's how I felt.  Other women may bond with their ex's exes, but personally I want no part of the League of Evil Exes.

January 14, 2013

Ink Battles

So The Ex called me shortly before the holidays, frantic, asking if I had talked to my son lately. One part of me was expecting some catastrophic news that he'd lost his scholarship, or that he wasn't coming home for Christmas, or that It-That-Must-Not-Be-Named occurred with some girl, but the more rational part of me knew that it was going to be some irrelevant bullshit.  This man called urgently interrupting my work day to tell me......

My son is planning on getting a tattoo.

Now, this isn't new news to me, as my son has been begging me to get him a tattoo since he was 16.  He had also "threatened" to go off to Boston and get himself a potentially questionable tat if I didn't get one for him before he left for school.  However, The Ex called me as if I could somehow stop this from happening.... from 1,000 miles away.

The last thing I want to see is my son mar his lovely golden brown skin with some ugly ink.  As a mother and an ink lover, that would hurt my feelings.  Badly.  Do I want him to go to my tattoo artist where I know he will get some quality work?  Yes.  Do I want him to spend a minimum of $250 to get a decent piece of artwork?  Yes.  Have I told him all of these things?  Since he was old enough to notice my ink.  

However, the reality is that he is a newly minted adult, and as we have all experienced, sometimes new adults want to exercise their blossoming adulthood by doing questionable things that totally piss their parents off.  And part of the appeal of a tattoo is the rebellion aspect of it.  Normally, the tattoo itself is enough to shock the conscience of the average parent.  But considering I, as his mother, have about $1,800 worth of ink myself, the idea of a tattoo is incredibly blase to me.  So perhaps this is just something he wants to do on his own without our assistance or intervention, just because he can.  I can admit that there is something less than appealing about your mommy taking you to the tattoo parlor. Not very independent.  Or manly. Or whatever sense of whatever that young men seek.  

Am I worried that he will choose a hack artist who will have his lion design looking more like a monchichi?  Of course.  Too many of us have been there, and are still here living with regrettable tattoos, or tattoos that we had to spend 10 times as much to cover up.  It's just a part of life and the maturing process.  Ultimately, HE has to live with whatever ink decisions he makes.  And he's a smart boy who has grown up seeing great tattoos, so he has seen and knows what is involved in a good tattoo.  While he may not end up with the best design in the world, I'm certain it will be a far cry from the atrocities I see on Tattoo Nightmares.

I guess I ought not be surprised that The Ex wants to control this decision in my son's life, just as he tried to control his decision about where to go to college.  But like the college experience, The Ex has never had the tattoo experience, and thus comes from a position of very little credibility on this issue.  And like the college decision, I just have to accept that this decision impacts HIS life, not mine, and that ultimately I need to let it go. Who knows, he may make another good decision, find a great artist in Boston, find a thirsty rich girl to fund the endeavor, and come home at Christmas with a piece better than mine, in which case I've wasted my worry.  Or he could come home with some crap, get the "I told you so" side eye from me, and I've still wasted my worry because at that point there's nothing I can do.  

My response to all of this was just to send my son a text letting him know I'd prefer for him to go to a good artist and spend a decent amount of money on a tattoo, reiterated my offer to get him a tat with my artist as a Christmas gift, but ultimately I understand he's going to do what he wants to do.  

I must accept my revised job description as a mother.  My heavy lifting is over.  It's his life. I've got to let him live it.


So, after calling Son on his bluff, he called back and agreed to my offer of giving him money for a tattoo in lieu of, or as, a Christmas gift.  I tried to schedule him an appointment with my tattoo artist, but he was all booked up and couldn't get him in before he goes back to school.  So Son did his own research found an artist, and this is the final result:

I'm actually glad it worked out the way it did.  He found his own artist and went to his appointment by himself and I only served in an advisory capacity when he had questions.  I'm glad he did it on his own an ended up with exactly what HE wanted.  He's happy, so I'm happy, and it all worked out the way it was supposed to.

October 15, 2012

Why don't you just GO AWAY??

Anyone who has been married or in a long-term relationship may have encountered this problem: your ex just will not go away and get out of your life as thoroughly as you would like them to. While you are in the relationship, it is ideal for your mate and your family to have a good, fairly close relationship. However, what happens when your relationship ends? What happens to her shopping trips with your sister, or his Sunday Night Football games with your brother? What do you do when your ex is lurking around on Facebook, commenting on your niece's dance recital photos, asking your cousin how her new baby is doing, or swapping inside jokes with your dad? This is particularly troublesome in divorce situations, when your family was, at some point, actually their family, and your family members weren't privy to all of the things that made you hate this individual to the point where you wanted to relationship to end.

These actions by themselves are a major annoyance to you, but then when you start dating again and develop a serious relationship with someone else, the problem becomes tenfold. I am actually experiencing this problem right now, and am somewhat at a loss as to how to address it. For one, no matter how serious I believe my relationship with my beau (of 4 years) to be, we are still at the status of boyfriend and girlfriend, not engaged or married, so the seriousness of our relationship could conceivably (if not realistically) be questioned. Perhaps my family is reluctant to completely cut ties with this person in favor of someone who, as far as they are concerned, could be gone next week. Now, I am exaggerating a bit; I know my family realizes that, after 4 years, my beau is more than just a passing fling to me, but I do think there may be something to be said about the "official-ness" of our relationship (or lack thereof).  Part of me feels like such a confrontation would be premature, and perhaps I need to just wait it out and the problem will take care of itself.

Secondly, I think a major driving factor behind all this is my ex himself. From what I can assess on Facebook, my siblings, cousins and friends aren't really reaching out to him; he is the one lurking and interjecting himself into their lives. (My parents are a bit of a different matter; I am convinced that they are pretty much clueless as to how anything makes me feel, and often go out of their way (in my mind) to still do things for and interact with my ex, presumably for the sake of my kids, but who actually knows). I really think he does this on purpose, to assert his perceived "status" among the members of my family, as opposed to my beau's new and growing relationship with my family. I know what you all are thinking: Just say something to your ex and tell him to leave your family alone. Yes, loved ones, I have already thought about this, but it is one of those situations where as soon as you let someone know that something they are doing annoys you, it only prompts them to childishly do it more because their mission is being accomplished. I feel like the moment I say something, I will just get that shitty little smug laugh that makes me want to punch him in the face, and my Facebook notifications from him will go through the roof. I just don't want to give him that satisfaction. I personally don't deal with his family at all by my own choice, but perhaps because I was never much attached to them in the first place.

What I cannot understand is how the ex's current boo-thang tolerates all of this. If I were her, I would want him to be focused on establishing a new life and connections with me and my family, not trying to hold onto the family of a chick who kicked him to the curb and going out of his way to remain a relevant factor among her people. If I saw my beau chumming it up with his ex's family members, I would be highly irritated and would have probably said something to him myself. But, for whatever reason, whether it's because she doesn't care or because he doesn't care that she cares (knowing him, probably the latter), her protests (or lack thereof) have had no impact on the situation.

All I know is that something must be done, and I have the uncomfortable feeling that it is not going to be pleasant or pretty when it does go down. I am trying to figure out a way to handle this tactfully and effectively in a way that doesn't make me seem like the Petty Bitch. After all, I do still have children with this person, so some level of civility must be maintained, but I also must protect my beau's feelings and usher in the New World Order in which he and I are (or eventually will be) a new family unit, and demand respect for that status. The fact that people have not figured this out on their own and changed their behavior accordingly already tells me that this will be a confrontation, not a conversation. Or perhaps I am blowing this out of proportion, and all that is needed is for me to shed a soft, gentle light on the situation. Or perhaps we just need to adjust our reaction to the situation and see it for what it really is: a pathetic, displaced man who is outside in the cold trying to peer in, and hasn't quite figured out that he just need to keep it moving.

For now I am just biding my time, plotting my strategy, and waiting for the appropriate circular stone-encrusted metal object with which to strike. But I still wonder... am I just overreacting? Is my ex stepping over the line? Is my family stepping over the line by not drawing a line? I just don't want this to be a problem that gets dragged into my new life and festers as resentment toward my family,or becomes a big ugly blow up that levels everything in its path. I just want my ex to go away and get his own new life and family, and leave mine the hell alone.

June 28, 2012

Think Before You Rant

Relationship problems. We all have them. Or have dealt with them. Most relationship problems are your garden variety, "Why didn't you take out the trash/You always hog the remote/You want me to put that WHERE??" type of disputes. But every serious relationship has gone through or will go through at least one Big Problem. The type of problem that has you wondering if you've made a mistake by even being with this person and whether you want to continue with that mistake. They are perfectly normal, and most of the time you work through them and live happily ever after.

But what about that time period between wondering and happily ever after? That time period when you are wrestling with your feelings and thoughts and doubts and fears and anger and sadness? Many of us make the mistake of turning to our friends. But you ask, isn't that what friend are there for? To support you and help you through your troubles? Well.... yes and no.

The mistake people make is by telling their friends every single sordid detail about their dispute with their mate. You do an emotional dump and just get all that nasty stuff off of your chest. Your friend makes you feel better; takes your side, validates you, tells you that you are right and that asshole/bitch was wrong and who the fugg needs 'em anyway?? And then you decide to work through your problems with your mate and everything is sunshine and kittens once again.

But, remember how you told your homeboy about how your lady slapped your momma and then made out with your third cousin? Or how you told your homegirl that your dude took your car and was spotted joyriding with scallywags on 38th Street? Yea, you may have forgave and forgotten, but your friend didn't. They didn't have the Power of the Poon/Peen benefit of in depth communication between the parties in interest to change their perspective on the situation. And the last thing your friend remembers is your vehement arguments as to why your mate is a piece of shit. However, now all of the sudden these friends are expected to act like nothing happened. It's like asking a court reporter to strike testimony or evidence from the record that the jury has already heard; it doesn't work in the courtroom, and it doesn't work in life either.

Most friends do play along with the legal/life fiction that nothing happened, and chalk it up to it just being typical relationship shit, because we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of this scenario. Nevertheless, the reality is that friends are placed in an awkward situation when you dump your relationship problems on them. Their loyalty as your friend is to you, and it is only natural that they don't want to see you hurt. By telling them about all of the details of your dispute with your mate, you are positioning your mate in your friend's mind as the Enemy, that person that made you hurt and cry. Friends aren't there for the make-up sex and reconciliation; they are there when you are at your worst, and that is what they remember. Even if your friends go along as if nothing happened just as you are, you have still made your mate seem like a horrible person to them, and that memory lingers. And in a way, you also make yourself look like an idiot fool for going back to them. Either way, it's just not a good look for anyone involved.

So, unless you have retained an attorney and are drawing up the divorce papers, don't tell your friends about every argument and craptastic thing your mate has done to you. And even then, people get back together (I recently had a friend do that, and the first time I saw her out with her no-longer-estranged husband was kind of aw-kward). Better yet, it is probably best to just keep it to yourself, because you don't know what is going to happen a day or week or month later, and most likely it'll be that you two will kiss and make up. Your friends can still be there for you for emotional support, but keep it generic. They can know that you are going through it with your ladyfriend/gentleman lover without having to know EVERYTHING. Also, pick and choose to whom you tell what. Some friends just know when you are talking shit or being irrational and have no problems telling you so, while others will take everything you say to heart and be ready to ride out on a bitch declare your mate Public Enemy No. 1. It is called discretion, and we all need to exercise more of it (and I won't even get started on Twitter and Facebook.... some people treat that as their personal open forum relationship therapy sharing session; we don't need to know all that about you and your boo).

Yes, the urge to relationship rant is strong, and we all succumb to it at times, and as human beings and social creatures we will continue to give it and receive it. However, next time you have to urge to get something off of your chest, just think about where that something goes, and what it does when it gets there.

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