Monday, November 22, 2010

Gratitude List

It is the time of year when we look around and count our blessings. We are thankful for our gifts, abundance and friends. Funny how even the tough stuff we have gone through can seem like a blessing in hindsight- because we learn and grow through those experiences often more than we do through the good ones. I am grateful for so many things, here is a partial list..

1. My children- no surprise here. These amazing, delightful, strong girls who delight and challenge me and have caused me to stretch the imaginary boundaries of love. I have become a better person simply because I have been given the honor of being their mother.

2. My family and friends.. My wonderful sister with whom I have shared good times and bad and my brothers and parents... They helped give me a strong foundation for life. Even when relationships have been strained, there is always room for growth. It is interesting to grow up and become a parent yourself - you have a new realization that your parents did the best that they could with what they knew and with what they had. I am surrounded by some of the best people one could hope to have in their life. Friends who love, play, rejoice, support and cry with me. Friends who have helped me celebrate and who have lifted me out of despair.

3. My health. Since I work for a health organization, I am all too familiar with how challenging life can be when you become ill; when all you pray for is the chance to beat a disease and live. For instance, if you have ever had a health scare, you have had just a taste of the feeling that a cancer patient has- the fear, denial and fervent praying and hope that it is not to be true. When you are told that all is clear, relief washes over you and for a moment or two life stays in perspective. So when I wake up and can breathe, walk, see, hear, think, talk taste, smell... I need to remind myself that no matter what happens that day - don't whine, be thankful.

4. My home. I am blessed to have a beautiful home and live in a neighborhood filled with caring people. My house needs work certainly, but it is ours (and the mortgage lenders)- the girls and I have created a home, a place of refuge from the outside world that is warm, loving and happy even with leaky sinks and unfinished carpentry work. I simply love my kitchen. When you put it all in perspective, there is always going to be something to repair or improve but as my youngest put it.. "We are lucky to have a house, we could be like the people in Haiti who don't have a place to live." Enough said.

5. Books, books, books - and all the glorious combinations of the written word. I can escape for hours into a book. I always marvel at the talent of the writers whom I admire. Not only do they have the talent and vision - but also the guts, energy and drive to actually put it on paper and make it happen.

6. Opportunity. The ability to move forward, explore new options and grow my career and work life in different directions. It wasn't so many years ago that, as a woman, my choices in how I might choose to make a living and express myself were quite limited. I am thankful for the women who bravely went before me and opened doors, cracked glass ceilings and explained over and over again that having a vagina did not mean that you were any less intelligent, capable, creative or strong.

7. My faith and spirituality. I believe in God, a divine path, the spiritual connection of all souls and that coincidences are not accidents but little miracles. Faith is to me - a quiet knowing that I am protected and no matter what...things will be OK.

8. Differences. The wonderful differences in this sea of humanity around us- racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, age, sexual orientation, opinion, viewpoint and so on. Wouldn't life be impossibly boring without the variety and spice that these differences provide in life? I find people fascinating; especially those who are not like me. Isn't it interesting that all of these distinctive lives share the planet and are on their own unique journeys along side of our own?

9. The strength of my femininity. Yes, women are strong, powerful and feminine. It is a different kind of strength than that of a man but no less intense or glorious. It allows me to lead a meeting, guide staff and then go home and kiss the fevered brow of my child and nurture my family without missing a beat.

10. Men - Not necessarily from Mars but those wonderful beings who look at the world through such different eyes. Once again - thank heavens that they do. I love to get a man's perspective on the issues in my life and find that there is often a directness of focus with a man's opinion that helps me gain new clarity. Not to mention that it is quite lovely, as a woman, to be fully appreciated by a man. I don't always understand men and can get exasperated at times, but enjoy the process of trying to figure them out

11. Laughter - the bubbling up of joy as it spills out of you. I treasure a good laugh and would like to add a few more to my life these days.

12. Love. Love in all of its varieties - familial, romantic, platonic, any version is powerful. It is the ultimate softener of life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearts don't break..they break open

Another celebrity breakup due to infidelity... Seems like it is almost not news anymore since it happens so often. When you add those reported in the media circus to the number of everyday folks like us who experience it in a relationship - it seems as though infidelity impacts society more than one can imagine.

As someone who experienced the pain and I use the following term with full knowledge of its power - hell- of living through it, I always feel for the people involved when I hear of another story of betrayal. When I discovered my ex-husband's affair, I experienced pain and sadness on a level that I never had felt before in my life. I am talking about curl up on the floor in a fetal position and sob level of pain. I never thought I would smile again, laugh again, feel joy again and never heal. But I did- in fact I more than healed, I blossomed.

With the help and support of amazing friends and family, years of healing, a few sessions with a great counselor and a wonderful online support group I came to terms with it all:

* the reality of my new normal
* the loss of the dream I had for my family and creating a new one
* that the pain that would fade over time
* the understanding that it was not my fault - he had his own issues
* the knowledge that my kids would be OK- being from a broken home is much better than living in one
* forgiveness ultimately equals freedom
* love is more powerful than anything else on earth
* renewed awareness of my own power and strength
* that I can make it through anything
* experiencing pain makes you a more compassionate person
* that I deserve a faithful man

Marriages and relationships break down for lots of reasons and both parties can play a role in that disintegration of the partnership. However, the decision to step outside of the marriage with an emotional or physical affair lies squarely on the shoulders of the person who decides to cheat. There are other options to deal with marital unhappiness that do not disrespect the spouse and cause as much pain as that of betrayal. A few examples- verbalize unhappiness, try to make it work, marriage counseling or leave the relationship- certainly before beginning a new one.

As one of my friends puts it "cheating is a cowardly act- grow some balls or guts (women cheat too) and have enough respect for yourself, the memory of the relationship you once had, the vows you took and the person you had it with to leave it before you jump in bed with someone else." Seems pretty straightforward to me. It is also unfair to make the decision to have an affair to deal with unhappiness when your spouse is in the dark about your actions- they have a right to know that changes in the marriage have occurred and that vows and promises are being broken.

For me, the betrayal was far more painful than the divorce itself. I certainly learned that many who are having an affair are in a state of denial and fantasy that is often termed the "affair fog." Unfortunately, spouses are not in the same fog and pain caused is unreal in its intensity. Some couples make a marriage and relationship work after betrayal- if the cheating spouse takes responsibility for their actions and the couple commits to dealing with through their issues, often with a qualified counselor. Sometimes the result is divorce. In either scenario, I believe that the healing for the betrayed spouse begins when they take back control of their life and they make the decision to move forward in the direction that is right for them.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it through this and can come out stronger, more compassionate, with better clarity on your expectations and with a new perspective on what makes a relationship work. My divorce happened over five years ago and I am happier and more whole than I ever have been in my life. Through the experience, I learned more about love, forgiveness and re-birth than you can imagine. Yes, my heart was broken all those years ago, but it was also broken open and I am more free to love.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today I read the final version of something that brought tears to my eyes and left me feeling happiness, pride and peace. Lily had the assignment of doing a creative writing exercise about one of the most important people in her life. It could be a story or a poem, including song lyrics, and needed to describe why the selected person was so influential in her life. No, my child did not select her mother,,, she wanted "someone cooler, sorry mom."

Lily wrote about her big sister, D, -my remarkable step-daughter who is now a senior in college. Even though her father and I divorced over 5 years ago, I still love her as my own and consider D my step-daughter. She and Lily and Avery are incredibly close.

The story was beautifully written and conveyed emotions that my usually un-sentimental eleven year old daughter does not normally express in words. I would include the essay, but it is not mine to share, it belongs to Lily and her sister. They are her words, her feelings and not mine to give to others. I reminded Lily that the feelings that she expressed so originally and completely are deeply felt and shared by someone else in her life. They are quite similar to the feelings that her little sister, Avery, has for Lily.

I was reminded again today of the real meaning of family. It is so much more than the connection between parent and child. The connection of my girls with one another and between them and their big sister is deep, soulful and is not about me. We share love, of course, but it it absolutely fills my heart to the brim to see them together and to read about their love for one another.

The sense of peace that this brings to me as parent can not be fully described. They will have one another and can be there for one another long after I am gone. It is amazing to know that they will be in each other's lives when mine is complete. That may sound morbid, but it is a very real truth that gives me joy. They will treasure, value and lift one another up through good times and bad... just have my sister and I have in our lives.

Hooray for family- brothers and sisters, step-families, cousins, friends who are family.... The love will get us through anything.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Receiving vs. Taking and the Law of Allowing

A good friend of mine recently helped me out in a big way, he offered..I did not ask but had to decide whether or not to take the help. As I dealt with the question to I accept or not, another friend pointed out that even my language about the issue was telling. I was not "taking" something I was "receiving" it. Taking had undertones of selfishness, of perhaps obtaining something that was not mine to have, that I had not earned. Receiving or accepting had a completely different feel - it was gratefully accepting help from someone who, with good intent, simply wanted to help me and make things a bit easier in my world.

I have a hard time accepting help. I am very independent and have been for years. But independence aside, why do I push back or resist when someone tries to help me? My first inclination is to turn it down assistance under the assumption that I can do it on my own, don't want to burden or "owe" someone. I have actually grown alot in this area in the last five years. Life post-divorce as a single mom has pushed me to be more open to accept help.

As I delve deeper into the reason for my initial hestitation, several things come to mind. Is it ego - the idea that I don't need help? Is it a fear of being vulnerable- especially when the help is coming from a man in my life? I try to be a generous person and help out others whenever possible. So why is it so uncomfortable for me to be on the recieving end? The full answer is not clear to me yet but life is certainly pushing me in the direction of figuring it out. Funny how the universe seems to give us what we need to learn our lessons.

There is a theory out there called the "Law of Allowing." One of the premises is that the reason so many of us do not have the circumstances, jobs or people we think we want in our lives is because we simply do not allow it to flow to us. Allowing the good and even the challenges to enter life without judging, putting up walls and questioning why is tough for alot of us. Have you ever worked for something (a new job or business venture, a finished manuscript ready for critique, a relationship) or visualized it coming into your life and then - gulp - when it arrives you doubt yourself or it just can't believe it is real. The Art of Allowing is accepting the success, relationships and fulfilled dreams without the doubt or hesitation. We can allow it because we deserve it, are worth it and our act of receiving does not mean we are taking something from someone else. Maybe I have my answer after all and the art of allowing is directly related to my hestitation about accepting help from others.

The Art of Allowing - may just be what I need in my life.