Redefining alone 

Every other weekend I have to see my ex husband. He brings his new girlfriend with him every time he sees me. It’s his way of proving to me that he’s moved on. It’s his way of rubbing it in my face that I’m alone and he isn’t.

But maybe alone isn’t what I think it is. A good friend of mine told me that maybe what I need to do is redefine what it means to be alone.

Dictionary.com defines alone as:

  1. Separate, apart, or isolated from others: I want to be alone. 
  2. To the exclusion of all others or all else: One cannot live by bread alone. 
  3. Unique; unequaled; unexcelled: He is alone among his peers in devotion to duty. 

In looking at definition 1, I’m certainly not alone. I’m not isolated from others. But in many ways my ex is alone. He has separated himself from his family and his friends. He keeps himself isolated and alone. I don’t. I have amazing friends and family who care for me and check in with me on a regular basis. I have people in my life that I can turn to to make me laugh, that I can depend on when I need a shoulder to cry on. I have people in my life that let me vent and that build me up when I’m down. I have good people in my life who remind me to be gentle and patient with myself.

According to the second definition I’m also not alone. My ex tried to keep me alone when we were together. He tried to control me and keep me away from others both physically and emotionally. Whenever I made a connection with someone, he would try to turn it around and keep me away from them. He made me doubt their intentions. It was actually one of the turning points in our marriage. He tried to ban me from seeing a friend I had made at work and tried to force me to choose between him and my friend. I don’t know why I refused to give up this friend but I just wouldn’t do it. It was the first time I had really said no to him about his controlling behaviors and he spiraled out of control.

As for being unique, I’m not alone in that way either. That is one of the great things I’ve learned through blogging and through connecting with people. I am divorced. I was lied to, manipulated and threatened by the man who promised to keep me safe and love me forever. But I’m not the only one. I have a strong group of women I connect with who are going through similar situations. We talk, we share, we connect and we commiserate. While unfortunate, I’m not unique in what I’m going through.

So I guess it’s not so much about redefining being alone, but defining it correctly and realizing that I am not alone. I do not currently have a significant other in my life. But my life is filled with many significant others who love me and care about me. I am not alone.

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Holding

Great, simple, post. I love the message here.

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

We push people away because we are afraid of letting them in and being hurt when they leave.

We grasp on to people that are not good for us because we are afraid of being alone and someone is better than no one.

Pushing and pulling are fear, not love.

Love is holding.

Loosely enough so that each person has the freedom to grow and change.

And firmly enough so that each person knows they are supported.

It is trusting the other person enough that they want to stay even if they have the ability to leave.

And trusting yourself that you will be okay if they do.

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STOP

How do we make it stop?

I’ve lived it. I see it. I hear about it all too often.

But I don’t know how to make it stop.

I’ve lived through two horribly abusive relationships.

I have pictures from my first marriage. I have pictures of the bruises he left behind. I have pictures of the hole he punched in the wall an inch from my infant son’s head. I have pictures of the welts left on my arm from where he shoved me up against the wooden edge of the bed. I have pictures of an actual footprint on my leg where he kicked me. The physical bruises heal. The emotional scars don’t.

When people saw the bruises they felt bad. They said it was awful. They understood why I left. Physical abuse is horrible to live through. It is terrifying. It is debilitating. It is demoralizing. But in some ways it is easier than emotional abuse, because it can be seen. It can be defined. And it is not tolerated.

My second marriage was also abusive, but it was emotionally abusive. An emotionally abusive and controlling relationship is hard. It’s harder to identify. It’s harder to recognize. It’s harder to explain. It builds up over time. It is a series of doubts, manipulations, and incidents that sneak up on you.

It is hard to realize what is happening, identify it, name it, and get out of it. It feels weak to say, “He’s mean.” There is no bruise to say, “Look what he did.” In the end, it is the realization that it is bad, unhealthy, and wrong. I have scars from my second marriage. I have scars of fear, of self-doubt, of intimidation. I have scars from the emotional abuse.

I’ve lived through it. Both the physical and the emotional abuse. I’ve heard about it from other women. I’ve heard stories of intimidation, stalking, and manipulation. I’ve heard stores of lies, deceit, and falsehood. I’ve heard from other women who have experienced similar types of abuse. I’m surprised saddened by the sheer number of women who have experienced some type of emotional abuse.

Working in a middle school, I see it in our young girls. I’ve witnessed the terrors of young girls who are already getting themselves into abusive relationships. I’ve witnessed these girls believing it is their fault. I’ve witnessed them being taken advantage of for being kind, compassionate, and wanting to fit in. I’ve witnessed the extremes they go through to feel “loved” and “accepted.”

I see, I listen, and I cry. Sometimes with them, always after they’ve left. I cry for the innocence lost. I cry for the wanting. I cry for the pain and desperation in their eyes.

What I don’t know how to do is make it stop.

Must have’s for a new man

I am dually terrified, and not because Halloween is coming. I’m terrified about relationships. I’m terrified about the idea of putting myself out there and getting into a relationship again. I feel like this is an area where I am not very successful. But I’m also terrified about the idea of being alone for the rest of my life.

I’m not sure which one terrifies me more. I think that fluctuates day by day. But in what can only be defined as a positive move, I began thinking about what I would want in a man if I were to ever date again. I guess it’s a good thing that I am even thinking of dating again. Maybe it means there is some healing going on. But I admit to being tentative and scared that I will fail again.

My list, of course, starts with my boys. They are the most important people in my life and if anyone wants to be in my life, they have to understand and appreciate this. I know no one will love my boys as much as I do, but they are so important to me that it is essential for someone to be in my life that they must care about my boys and figure out a way to build a relationship with them. My ex couldn’t do this. He was jealous and controlling of everyone I talked to. He could never comprehend my relationship with my older son, his stepson. He was so jealous that he became angry and resentful of my relationship with my younger son, his biological son.

Religion or more specifically spirituality is also significant to me. I have always been a deeply spiritual person. My connection to a particular organized religion has varied throughout my life. I have often gone back to Catholicism because it was what I was raised and where I thought I was comfortable. But I wasn’t. I disagree with many of the Catholic Church’s tenants and beliefs so I have spent a lot of time exploring churches. I am currently a practicing Presbyterian but bigger and more importantly than the actual religious affiliation is the fact that I now know what it is like to have a church community where I can really belong.

If I were to get involved with a man again, I would want him to have some type of religious conviction and spiritual belief. My first husband was the son of a Lutheran pastor, but he was not very spiritual. He actually resented the church and the people of the church because he felt that they took away some of his family and his father because of the demands of being a pastor’s son. My second husband went to church because I went, but he really didn’t believe and he was not invested. Spirituality is something that is very important to me and something I value in a partner.

That is the next thing. I want a partner, a companion, a friend. Someone I can count on and rely on. Someone who is there for me, as I would be there for them. Most of my previous relationships have been about me being there for and giving up myself for my partner and not the other way around. I want someone to do things with and share things with and talk about things with. I want a partner who is invested in me as I am in him.

Doing things with a partner would mean that we should have some things in common. I love football. You would think as a woman that would be an easy sell to a man, but so far, no good. I like watching football. I like going to football games. And at some point in my life, I would love to travel to different stadiums to watch football games. I would like to do that with someone who would enjoy those games with me. I’m hoping that somewhere out there is someone who can appreciate a woman who is passionate and knowledgeable about football.

As I began contemplating this list this weekend, I went to church on Sunday and saw an even better list to live by. The front of the bulletin said:

Clothe yourself with:

Compassion,

Kindness,

Humility,

Gentleness,

Patience

And above all else, Love.

What more could I ask for. As I look to find someone to share my life with, I will first try to practice the qualities I want to find in others: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience … and above all else, LOVE.

Forgiveness

Sometimes I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word forgiveness. Dictionary.com defines forgiveness as: the act of forgiving or the willingness to forgive. It goes on to define forgive as: to grant pardon for the remission of an offense, or to give up all claim on account.

As I look at forgiveness I think about the last definition mentioned, the one referring to giving up all claim on an account. That means no more holding a grudge, or “you owe me”. To me it means that I have given up claim on whatever the person did to wrong me. But it does not mean that I have to continue to allow them to wrong me.

Sometimes this is where our society gets a little messed up. I have been in abusive relationships in the past (far more than I would care to admit) and I am trying to focus on forgiveness as a release of any claim that connects me to my abuser. I forgive those people who abused me because I need to get them out of my life and not allow them to have control over me. Forgiveness does not mean allowing them to continue to abuse me. Instead it is about me releasing my connection to them.

One of my past abusers is someone who has remained in my life, my brother. While I choose not to see him, spend time with him or include him in my life, he is still a part of my parent’s life, and therefore I know what is happening with him and I do occasionally have to see him.

I recently learned that he is suffering from cancer. He is going through radiation and chemotherapy and is in a hard place in his life right now.

I admit to not knowing exactly how to feel when I first found out he had cancer. I wasn’t really sure how to react. I wasn’t happy or relieved as I thought I might be. I also wasn’t sad or despondent as I might be for another one of my family members.

My first reaction was worry and concern. Worry for my parents, as they are the ones who have taken on the responsibility of caring for him. Concerned for my nephews, his sons, who are also the ones who have to deal with this first hand.

I am at a place in my life where I can honestly say that I forgive him for what he did to me. It has definitely taken me a long time to get there, but I do forgive him. But in a selfish way, I did it for me, not him.

I used to fear him. I used to hate him. I used to make myself sick thinking about him. But in my forgiveness I found freedom. I am no longer fearful of him. I no longer hate him. I no longer get sick thinking of seeing him.

I am working on forgiveness of my ex-husband. That one is more raw but I know that I need to forgive him for myself to move forward.

Genuine happiness

Not every happy birthday wish is genuine. Sometimes it’s just for show.

happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. I don’t care so much about my own birthday, but I love to celebrate my friends and their birthdays.

I am a principal of a middle school. Somehow the kids and the teachers always find out about my birthday and I’m usually a pretty good sport about being sung to by the students all day long. But I remember one birthday when my ex-husband and I were still together and working at the same school and I wasn’t very gracious at all.

My ex-husband planned to surprise me with a cake in the cafeteria when I was on lunch duty and have the kids sing to me. I suspected something was going on, and rather than just go along with it, I resisted. Practically making one of my friends, the social worker at school, drag me into the cafeteria. The kids sang, we had cake, and it was great. But I was pissed about it. And I didn’t know why.

As I look back on that time now, I realize that one of the hardest parts of us working together was that the person other people saw (and loved) at work, and in public, was not the person I went home to at night. Everyone thought he was so sweet and wonderful, but the man I was with at home was angry, mean and spiteful.

We were living a lie, and I think at that time in my life, I was finally starting to realize it, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but our life was most definitely not perfect, in fact it was pretty miserable.

He made such a big deal about being this great guy in public that it made me feel bad about the way he acted it home. It made me doubt myself. I was mad at him that birthday because he wasn’t trying to make sure that I had a happy birthday, he was trying to look good in the eyes of other people. So the birthday gesture didn’t feel genuine. And the fact that he continued to fool people, and still does, made me mad then, and is something I still struggle with now.

Even though I was alone for my birthday, every “happy birthday” that was wished to me felt genuine. The students, the teachers, my friends, my family, my boys, all wished me a happy birthday because they wanted me to be happy. Which [even as I sit here crying as I type this] makes me realize that I am a very lucky person. And I genuinely did have a very happy birthday this year.