Honest vs. Intentional

I’d like to talk for a minute about being honest vs. being intentional.

I don’t know about you, but through my life I’ve had several ‘mottos’.
“You ALWAYS have a choice – you may not like your choices, but you always have one.”
“Personal responsibility” I think that one speaks for itself.
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to” (this extends to questions you just aren’t *sure* you want the answers to.)

These have all been different themes since I was about 18. I felt strongly, even then, that once you’re an ‘adult’ you have to stop using “My mom did _______” or “The kids at school were ______” as a reason for not achieving what you wanted to.

Can the effects of traumatic circumstances be legitimate? Oh boy, you bet. But should you let them hold you back? I don’t personally think so. I think we should, as people, take responsibility (there’s that word again) for our future and do whatever work we need to in order to try tomove past these things. Easier said than done – yes I know.

My most recent motto is “Be honest, but be intentional.”

It’s hitting me in the face hard right now as we work our way through this divorce, which will finalize next week.

The ex (I’ve finally stopped calling him “not-yet-ex”) has a new ‘love’ – another one. He’s on his 3rd since we split up 1.5 years ago. This doesn’t really put a wrinkle in anything for me, but the kids are a whole other story.

This is where the rubber meets the road for me on being honest vs. being intentional.

If I’m HONEST with you guys – I have a ‘friend’. I have someone I’ve spent some time with. After a bit my kids have met his kid. We all have a great time together doing things we all enjoy – rock climbing or biking. And, if I’m HONEST, as much as I really do like and care for this person, when we’ve done things with the kiddos, there’s great INTENTION to the way that we do it.

We have a basic set of rules at this time. It’s something we both agree on.

Look – my kids have been through the ringer already this past year and a half. Their parents are getting divorced. Mom has moved out. It’s been emotional and messy.

The last thing they need is for me to add one more layer of stress.  So – when we’re together now, it’s all about the kids. HONESTLY, we hardly speak. We ll have fun – we all laugh and act silly. His kid and I hang out and have fun – my kids sometimes sit near him and snuggle up or hold his hand.

But they initiate it, and, for me, that’s the key.

Might this all be “more” down the road? Absolutely.

But we’re very intentional. I want all of these kids to feel like they were part of things and this all developed in a way that made it easy for them. This requires enormous amounts of patience, forethought and very calm, in spite of how emotionally-charged it can be, conversation.

My ex said “Well I’m being honest.”

And he’s not wrong. He is being honest.

I think I am too. “We’re good friends and I like him a lot. I think he’s fun. What do you guys think of him? of his son?” This is how this goes for me. All of these things are true.

I feel good about my response – just as the ex does about his.

I feel like my kids are getting to express their feelings and their opinions. It’s because we do these things, that they pow-wow’ed on my bed last night to chat about how they were sad about the divorce next week (because they know. I don’t believe in hiding that.) and how they didn’t really want a lot more change right now. They wish their dad wouldn’t get married right now. They already don’t feel like they get as much attention from him as they’d like, they say.

Because my relationship with him matters – and for their sake – I share this stuff with their dad. I try to let him know how they’re feeling. I can’t fix it for him – or dictate how he handles his new relationship- but I can at least pass along the info.

He’s completely comfortable with holding hands and kissing in front of the kids, leaving the them alone while they’re his home for the two of them to have alone time.

I’m not saying that these are things that should never happen – absolutely they should! I think the kids need to see a healthy relationship. Physically and emotionally as is appropriate.

But I also feel strongly that my particular kids deserve for me to be intentional and calm at the moment. Not caught up in another person. But present – for them and their needs and wants.

I think this whole situation has made me appreciate being intentional more. Patience IS a virtue. And good things DO come to those who wait. In the meantime, we’ll have a lot of fun, and some difficult times too, and enjoy the process – the natural progression – that this all takes.

 

 

 

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Why my relationship with my kids’ dad matters

Possibly uncomfortable topic I guess – and probably a misleading title.

Of course, the relationship any of us have with our exs matters. Good, bad, indifferent – it affects our children and our lives.

I should have said “Why it matters to me that I have a good relationship with my kids’ dad.”

I put a lot of effort into keeping things smooth with the ex and why is not necessarily a simple answer. Most of my friends don’t really get it – some downright refuse to support it – but it’s a conscious decision that I make every day. Here’s why.

It matters because I need my kids to see that people can act in a mature fashion. 

We’re the adults here. We haven’t always been mature around our kids. There was a time when there was more yelling than civil conversation and more stuff broken than was fixed. But we’re not in the place now. I want my kids to learn to learn that we can move past times like this and treat one another respectfully. I can’t tell them how they should behave as a reasonable adult human if I’m not able to model it.

It matters because I don’t hate him

And truly… I don’t. I understand this bit doesn’t work for everyone. I was not physically abused nor were my children, and etc. Our marriage didn’t work. Neither of us were kind. Neither of us are without fault. We went through some trauma as a family that we didn’t survive. But that’s the thing…. in our way we are surviving. We’re still a family. We can eat a meal together. We still make one another laugh. We still ‘team tickle’ the kids. How he’s feeling or doing also matters to me because that affects our kids. If work is bad or he’s upset with a family situation, maybe his patience is running low – if I can be sensitive to that – maybe I take the kids off his hands for the evening – we all get a respite. Everyone wins. The tables are turned, and he returns the favor. It isn’t possible every time, but kindness counts. And again – I want to model that for our kids.

It matters because I want them to feel love from us – simultaneously.

I think they need to be able to feel love from us not just when they have us one-on-one, but all the time. That’s hard to do when you can’t get along. How do graduations and weddings look then? I want those times to just be celebrations for my kids. I never want them to have a second thought of, “What’s going to happen when I put mom and dad in the same room? What about step-parents?” When someone asks them about these things, I want them to say, “We’ll sit them all on the front row – they’re cool” Or whatever answer it is that works for them.

It matters because our problems are not their problems.

This is one of the biggest pieces to me. The kids didn’t ask for any of this. They wanted us to stay together. They love it when we’re all in the same place. Sometimes that’s hard for the adults here; we’re frustrated, angry or sad. I’ve had to physically remove myself from situations previously. Then I could step away from my emotion and bring the reaction that I wanted to the table. He has done this too. And lest you think we’re not showing them humanity or trying to paint some messed up Stepford situation here, there have been plenty of times where the kids have known there was a showdown going on  – guns they are a blazin’ – and they’ve also seen it de-escalate and be resolved. But I think we owe it to them to put all the effort we can into helping the piece of their life story that involves us be one that they can be proud of.

Finally, it matters because of my heart…

My heart has so long held enough hurt and anger to fill pages and pages. I don’t want to spend any more of my time than is necessary in that place. I want my heart to feel all the love and joy that is out there for the taking. And I can’t do that if it’s already full of negativity. So, maybe that’s a little selfish – but oddly it’s one thing the ex and I agree on easily. Let’s all move onward and upward together.

I get that this all takes two willing parties to do. But don’t be mislead. This is much easier somedays than others. He’s not always kind or thoughtful. He doesn’t always do what he says. He doesn’t always put the kids where I’d prefer them in his priority list. BUT – I’m sure he’d say the same about me in some circumstances or have other, no less important, gripes.

The thing is that we keep striving. We keep trying. We keep pushing past our comfort zones into somewhere that’s a happier place for all of us.

Like I told Sweet Pea when she asked me how my heart felt when she talks about dad’s new “friend” – “If you’re happy, and your brother is happy and your dad is happy – how can my heart be sad when everyone I care so much about is happy?” And from that perspective -it’s pretty easy. 🙂

S

Letting go of the reins

This is the hardest thing. Like ever, ya’ll

So I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve discovered recently  – I’m a total control freak. 

I sorta knew this already. But it’s smacked me completely in the face as I’m dealing with my ex moving on.

NOW – before anyone opens their yap – I’m actually good with him moving on and having someone new in HIS life. I’m not saying it’s not hard sometimes. I’m not saying there’s not emotion tied to it – but it’s something I can be okay with.

What I recently discovered is that him having someone new in our kids’ life is a different kettle of fish entirely.

Apparently it’s only news to me, but exes will do things we never thought they would. Things that are common sense to some of us, simply aren’t on the radar for others.

If you don’t think your ex would:

  • introduce a new ‘friend’ to the kids right off – they might.
  • let a friend stay the night – they might.
  • put off time with the kids for extra time with the friend – they might.
  • lie to you about what they have going on so you’ll help out and they get free time with the friend- they might.
  • count on the kids not ‘filling you in’ – they might.
  • have issues with the kids involving the split that they don’t clue you in to – they might.

 

No – my ex hasn’t done all of the above – but some.

And I absolutely had to deal with a meltdown from SweetPea (she’s 9) yesterday in the middle of a Mexican restaurant because she didn’t think we’d get divorced and she isn’t sure how to choose between her mom and a ‘new mom’ (they’ve been dating for approximately 2 weeks).

SIGH.

 

 

The desire to control so many of these things is very high.

I don’t like letting go of the reins. I like to give them a nice, solid death grip.

I don’t know how so many of you have done it with situations that are so much worse. Drugs and abuse and everything in-between.

What I learned this week is that I can ask myself honestly, “Can I let this go?” (Yes – outloud if possible – I look like an idiot in my car talking to myself and I just don’t care.)

Sometimes the answer is yes. One and done.

Sometimes it’s no – and taking the time to ask the first question gives my brain and heart the room to ask the others that are important – How would I like to handle this? What is a reasonable response? What would I like to see come of it?

And life is SO much better when I don’t react to him emotionally.

Some people thrive off of that – it’s where the small amount of control they exert comes from. But when we don’t react emotionally – we take away that power.

I may not be able to control him or his choices – but I can control myself and my reactions – and MOST IMPORTANTLY I can make sure that my example for my kids is what I’d like them to see. I can pick those reins back up with purpose, with the right mindset and attitude and steer that horse in a direction that I feel securely is healthy for myself and my children.

 

What do you guys do when you feel the need to take control of things? Anyone have other ‘tricks’ that work? I’d love to hear them!!

 

Fraught…

Oh friends – how these last several days have been fraught.

Fraught with anger, frustration, disappointment and so many other things.

Things with the kiddos have been lovely. Bug made great strides on riding his bike this past weekend and even received an award at school – this was one of those, “Are you sure that’s meant for my kid?” moments.

But times with the not-yet-ex, yeah. Slightly difficult. And am I being hard on myself about everything under the sun? Oh boy, you bet I am.

You expect that things are going to be fraught with difficulty when you’re in the process of dissolving a marriage.

I suppose I didn’t expect to be rehashing the basic facts of what started the dissolution a year in.

This is the fun of divorcing in a state that requires a year of separation. You’re meant to carefully consider why you’re leaving. Make sure you can’t possibly, even a tiny smidge, reconsider working things out.

And I’m swallowing the harsh reality that no matter what you tell someone about your motives for leaving, and how it happened, and how everything has gone down since, they’re going to believe what they want to.

And I’m learning that I have to be okay with that. It’s hard for me. I try to be a peacemaker. I ‘doormat’ myself too often, willing to back down for the sake of not having to fight.

Not caring what someone thinks is SUPER hard for me. But I’m learning. Or trying to.

I’m also learning that I have to continue to stand up for what I believe is best for the kiddos regardless. It’s so much easier to let things go when you’re married. Again, it’s all for the sake of peace. But when you’re apart – some things glare – and you have to go with your conscience and HARD.

I know this is growth, but for the record – growing hurts – a lot. And I’m sure I’ll see the beauty of weathering the storm and whatnot down the road, but right now a bit of shelter sure does sound nice.

 

 

The Reminder…

So a friend of mine and I have this thing we call “The Reminder”.

As I’ve said before, I’m very fortunate that the not-yet-ex and I have a surprisingly good working relationship. We have each other’s backs with the kids, and even manage to continue to be interested and support one another’s other endeavours. (It’s a bit unsettling to discuss his dating life – but it’s all or nothing, right?)

So it’s not unusual for things to go along swimmingly and to occasionally lose immediate focus of everything that caused the split. Then it comes….

The Reminder – it’s one of those moments that smacks you in the face and helps you recall why it is that you sit on a consignment couch in a relatively empty townhouse instead of on the much nicer sofa in the house you spent the past 12 years living in.

As I always say, I am completely certain that the not-yet-ex would relate similar.

We had one of those moments last night – he bowed out of hanging out with the kiddos while I closed the barn to support a family member in a tough situation.

I happened to get very bad news about a mutual friend – that I called to pass along.

….and had to stop talking about it to let him take a selfie while at a restaurant with said family member.

In the moment I was livid, absolutely boiling mad. I even made one of those passive aggressive FB posts I hate so much.

And he texted to find out what was wrong. Which I ignored.

And he called this morning to find out what was wrong.

I finally caved and told him – I’m angry. It was insensitive and it was wrong. This was important and about someone he knows and cares for. It was worth 3 minutes of his time.

And he got defensive. This is our MO – I tell him what upset me – and likely don’t phrase it in a productive way – and he gets defensive – and I get more angry – and we’re off.

But today an amazing thing happened. I stopped. I said, “You have every right to defend your actions. I have every right to be angry. The thing I don’t understand is why you care. I don’t understand why you care if I’m angry. This isn’t our thing anymore.”

And it felt so good. I have always played the peacemaker, which usually involves backing down for me. And I didn’t.

And the best part is that he backed off, not down. He said, “I didn’t call to fight. I called because I want us to continue to work well together and I don’t want anything like this between us. So I knew you were angry and wanted to clear the air.”

Well damn.

And it worked. We both let it go. We still disagree. But we got it out there, and moved on. I don’t want to hate him. He doesn’t want to hate me. So we don’t. We move on. We take care of the kids. We make jokes now and then.

I know I’ll get another reminder before long. And so will he. But we’re able to let them go and move past them – and it’s really not a bad place to be.

 

Revisiting my dreams…

 

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So not in the, “Wow! I had the most bizarre dream about crocodiles eating ice cream cones last night!” way. More in the “Who am I again? What do I like?” kind of way.

While it doesn’t take a marital split to find your self in these shoes for certain – I know MANY women, and men for that matter, who have had this same feeling while being happily wed – I just think it’s definitely very common among those who find ourselves on our own for the first time in a long time.

I’m not sure why we have the tendency to lose ourselves in relationships. I don’t know why we stop doing the things that we love or looking at our lives outside of the bounds of a relationship. But I do know it’s not uncommon.

As I find myself revisiting my dreams, it’s very surreal.

I wanted very much to be married when the not-yet-ex and I got together. I was so glad to have someone in my life who was stable and steady. We didn’t really enjoy the same activities – short of antiquing – we both love the heck out of looking at some old stuff – but we didn’t see that mattering. And I know that for someone people it doesn’t. But it did for us.

I love to hike and ride mountain bikes. I want to canoe and kayak and camp. I also love motorcycles and fast cars and old cars.

He loves to hunt -deer and turkey mostly – and ride 4-wheelers and cigars. Oh my he loves his cigars. And he didn’t even know he liked them when we started dating.

About 2 years ago, I had the opportunity to get my hands on my dad’s 1974 Triumph TR6. The car I learned to drive in. It needed work. It had been in my brother’s yard for years.All I wanted was to clean out our garage which hasn’t been used for a car in 10 years and have a space to work on this car. I was going to figure out how to buy it later but I wanted to be able to do this thing with my 78-year-old dad.

I was met with 100 objections. We don’t have money. There’s too much stuff in there. You can’t possibly do this on your own.

It was as though you’d just deflated a hot air balloon.

Realizing that someone isn’t behind your dreams anymore leaves you in a really sad place. Hopeless might be the right word. And if you asked the not-yet-ex, I am certain he could relate similar to you. Though I felt I always supported his hunting, I don’t think it translated for him.

So 9 months ago I had the chance again to get this car. I have my own place now. No garage, but a second parking place to put it in. I spent $50 for a flatbed tow, and now it sits in front of my house.

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This weekend I pulled the gas tank out. It felt good to get my hands dirty. I have carburetors to rebuild and wiring to redo. So much of the cosmetics need work as well. It’s going to take years.

But that’s all okay. Because a few weeks ago my daughter looked at the car and said, “Mom, this is a pretty cool car. And you’re going to fix it up?” “Yes, sweet pea, I am.” “So maybe I can learn to drive in this car too? And when I am older it can be my fun car like it’s going to be yours?” “Yep, babe, I would love all of that!”

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It’s had a bath since then, but still needs lots of love!

And so the dream lives on. Mine and now hers. And that’s exciting to see.

Time to go see what other old dreams I can dust off and inch my way toward making reality.

 

I didn’t work hard enough… really??

 

 

I had considered saying this nicely, but changed my mind.

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STOP telling all of us separated and divorced folks that we didn’t work hard enough, and that if we had our marriages would have thrived or at least survived.

Or love enough. Or cook enough. Or forgive enough…. Keep filling in the blanks – we’ll be here all day long.

Stop. Just stop.

Yes, marriages are hard work.

Yes, some people throw them away too easily.

However, most everyone I know who has watched their marriage discentegrate before their eyes KNOWS that they are hard work.

Chances are pretty good that they were doing a lot of work. Maybe both people were and it just wasn’t coming across. Chances are also pretty good they tried really hard to save it before throwing in the towel.

One thing I do know for certain is that you can do more damage when both parties aren’t seeing eye-to-eye for a very prolonged time than you’ll be able to repair.

If you looked at my book collection about a year ago, you’d see more self-help and marriage-help books than I can name. I’d spent positively years trying to improve myself and my marriage – my attitude, my looks, my homemaking skills – all of it. Yes, I am the child of divorce and was determined that my children wouldn’t be.

I can also personally attest to still having love for my not-yet-ex. He loves our kids and can still make me laugh.

HOWEVER- don’t you dare tell me that I should have just tried a little harder. That I didn’t communicate my needs clearly enough or otherwise. That 6 years of ‘working on it’ wasn’t enough. That because we still care about one another’s well-being we should fix it.

You. Have. No. Idea.

Until you’ve had the same deal-breaker-level problems in your marriage for YEARS – and no matter what angle you both take to attempt to address it (and you’ve tried them ALL) – it ends in yelling, accusations and resentment, don’t comment.

Until your spouse lets you know that they can’t ‘babysit’ the kids tonight because they’re busy – shut your piehole.

Until you’ve been accused ofbeing a terrible wife, husband, mother, father, friend, human, housekeeper, provider etc, sit back and breathe a bit – and stop judging the rest of us.

Not all of these things were my situation, but some of them were – and trust me, it becomes impossible to live, forget thrive, in that environment – for everyone involved. No one was happy. No one was kind. Everyone was hurt. Including, and most importantly, the kids.

One other piece of info – neither of us got married because we thought it would end in divorce.

We had the same kinds of dreams that you do. I wanted to rock on the porch with this guy with the grandkids playing in the yard. He’d take them hunting while I cooked and camped with them. We’d have a lovely old house we’d put work into that I could decorate at Christmas, and we’d take cassaroles to all the church functions to eat and socialize with all our friends. I honestly had the amibition to be married for 50 years.

But that wasn’t reality. Reality wasn’t that nice.  The reality is that through all of this he wasn’t very nice, and I wasn’t very nice either.

Reality is that when we finally walked away, we were actually able to be nice to each other again. And we were able to be the parents that we’d like to be again.

There are so many variations on this theme. And if you’d like to know why so many of us refuse to ‘prove to you’ that we did hard work, it’s because it comes out sounding like spouse bashing. And that’s not what we’re trying to do. Many of us have to work hand-in-hand with that person to raise kids. We don’t want to breed animosity, we’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime. We want to move forward and upward.

And, trust me, we’re happy for you that you were able to save your marriage. But sadly, that wasn’t the case for us, and it’s not for lack of trying.

Many times, I could honestly say that what another person is calling extra work, I call a drop in the bucket. Multiply it times 100, spread it over 6 years, have none of it help, then come have a cuppa and a chat with me.

Please don’t judge until you’ve worn the shoes. And for the record – when you’ve worn the shoes, chances are good you won’t judge because you well know that these are shoes none of us want to wear.