Saturday, August 22, 2015

There, But For The Grace Of God

I read a lot. I mean, a LOT. I haven't made much time for the novels that are piled in my closet, probably because I prefer getting lost in a good story without being interrupted. We all know THAT won't happen. But I read lots of blogs, and news articles. And since becoming closely involved with an amazing group of writers, I read most of what they post online, and most of what they share. I trust their choices in reading material for the most part, and more often than not, I greatly enjoy what they suggest.

Many of the posts I have read are stories that were inspired by pain. I find it comforting, on behalf of many of my friends, that they find some healing in the expression of their pain.

Today, as I was reading about the inner struggle of one of these amazing writers, I was hit by a realization: 


I'm not sure I ever realized before what an incredible blessing that is. It isn't that I haven't experienced pain. Maybe I haven't endured the kind of pain some of these courageous writers have battled through, like sexual abuse, drug addiction and clinical depression, but I have known hardship and pain. But there was never any question in my mind or in my heart that I would bounce back and come out better than before. 

I don't know where my confidence comes from. I'm not sure if it's something my parents taught me, but considering my mother's own struggles with self esteem, I would guess her influence is not solely responsible for my titanium backbone. She DID always keep me accountable for my actions, and taught my siblings and me to be responsible for each other, so I guess that surely was the basis for my strong character and my fierce integrity. But the KNOWING I would never be held down, that is something of a mystery. 

I have written before about betrayal. I have been betrayed more times than the typical human should ever have to know. Some people, (like my mother), might think I have ALLOWED this betrayal to happen. It has been suggested (by my mother), that I am too nice, and too trusting, and too forgiving, and that's what leads people to screw me over. That suggestion comes from people who have a need to lay blame. It comes from the mindset of someone who thinks it's easier to be suspicious and bitchy, and keep people on the outside, than to ever be "made a fool of". Frankly, when people screw me over, I don't ever feel like a fool. I think, "How sad to be them". 

With all the rollercoaster of lifetime experiences I have survived, a lesser person may have buckled. A person who struggles with self doubt might have shut down and withdrawn. I have even heard too many stories of people who have taken their own lives over much more seemingly benign struggles than I have conquered. While all those stories leave me feeling horribly sad for those who tell them, it also makes me feel intense gratitude for the strength with which I have been blessed. 

Each of us has our own threshold for pain. Each of us has our own tolerance level for hardship. There is no doubt that what we are all able to endure is completely relative to our strengths. But it makes me wonder why one person can be so much better able to withstand a struggle than the next. Why do some people struggle so terribly, while others breeze through trauma? 

The only explanation I can wrap my head around is, it's simply by the grace of God that I am able to survive it all, unscathed. Or for those who don't believe, it's pure luck. However a person may choose to look at it, it's a gift for which I am eternally grateful.

During times of extreme stress, including (but not limited to), parenting a severely autistic child, (comparable to the stress of combat soldiers), some folks might think I am a perfect candidate for anti anxiety meds, anti depressants, cold, hard drugs...but I've never had to head down that road. I do reach for a glass (or a bottle), of wine from time to time, and I have certainly had my days where a good, stiff vodka cocktail would take the edge off. But for the most part, I really handle it all while standing on my own two feet. (And walking a straight line:) But I don't EVER, under any circumstances think that makes me better than the person who DOES need extra help. On the contrary, it makes me feel intensely grateful to have been so blessed. And it makes me want more than anything to be able to help those who DON'T find it so easy to rise above.

When I write about the challenges of my life, you can be sure there will be a point in the story where I survive. For me, the survival comes easy. The more I read about the inner struggles of so many others, the more grateful I find myself feeling for the ease with which I achieve that survival. It has taken me many years to realize how very blessed I am. Living within the bubble of my own existence, I never had the privilege of knowing so many people who fought so vehemently through hardships I have never faced, and who, by whatever means necessary, made it out alive. In addition to my gratitude for my own strength, I am also thankful for coming to know such brave and giving individuals, who share their stories in an effort to heal their aching souls, and to extend a hand to anyone else who might be hurting too. I'm not sure if others who read these blogs realize how much strength and courage it takes for some of these writers to share their stories. I wonder if some of the readers ever take a moment to really appreciate how much of a writer's soul goes into what they share. Not me, but the writers who really battle with the stories they share, and pull it all together to share them anyway.

As for me, I'm a tank. I'm a Phoenix. I'm the Honey Badger. I felt the need to put my epiphany into words. I don't ever want to take my strength for granted. I don't ever want to forget how easily survival comes to me, or how very difficult it is for others. I want to remember EVERY DAY to be grateful for who I am and what I have, and for the truly remarkable friends I have made, who share their lives in the written word. Those friends may have no idea what a gift they are, and how much I am affected by what they write. But by sharing these thoughts, I hope they will know how very much I appreciate who they are, and what they do. I am a better person for knowing them. I am a more grateful person. I am richer in all the ways that matter most. By sharing these thoughts, I hope I can remind even one more person to appreciate what others endure, and be thankful for every day we survive. It's all a gift. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fuck You, Tina Marie Ernspiker

It actually killed a few of my brain cells to even have read your post, Ms. Ernspiker, but after seeing so much reaction to it, I simply felt there was no way I could NOT weigh in.

I may not be a big, fancy, schmancy blogger like yourself, and truthfully, I only started blogging, mostly on Facebook, a little over two years ago. But what I have to say has value, even if it is buried in profanity.

There may be only a comparitively few people who check in to read my thoughts, but among them are a good number of folks who are helped by the things I share. I have written a great deal about the struggles through which I accompany my son on his autism journey. I have written about just trying to keep breathing in a hateful, broken marriage, and I write about the hardship of divorce. All of those situations can be pretty FUCKworthy. More importantly, everything I write about is real. Truthful. Genuine. Authentic. And I don't feel the need to sugar coat or gloss over the fuckity fucks because a tightass, pompous, holier-than-thou douchewad expresses a belief that my choice of colorful language  may indicate I am somehow less intelligent than she is. Does my language portray me as a neanderthal? Considering the positive changes I help bring to so many, anyone who might choose to believe me to be somehow intellectually beneath themselves, strictly based on my very sailor-like potty mouth would actually be making more of a statement about his or her own narrow mind.

I make a very conscious effort to keep from passing judgment on others. I slip. I'm human. But I would never presume to turn my nose up at anyone, simply because they DON'T swear. I don't roll my eyes and declare them to be uptight, goody-goodies. And yet, you feel you are somehow above me, and in a position to assume, and then post the judgment, that by using vocabulary you, yourself are uncomfortable with, I am trying to bait my readers with sensational language. Perhaps if you would pull that giant pole out from up your ass, you could stop squinting long enough to see that there are lots of intelligent words between all the bastards and cocksuckas.

I have family and dear friends who are ministers and devoted, churchgoing people. When I am in their presence, or in personal conversations with them, I show the utmost respect to their views, and curb my vocabulary. But on my blog, on my Facebook page, it's my chapel. I'm free to express myself as my thoughts and feelings pour out of my head and my soul. Do you know why I write it exactly as I feel it? Because it's real. It's human. People want to relate to experiences that are real. They don't want to read something that is heavily coated in whatever you deem to be PROPER, so they can feel like they are somehow not good enough, or that they are failing because they can't hold it together quite as well as you seem to be.

There are so many aspects of my life that would have made a lesser person break a long time ago. But I talk about it all. I write about it as a way of relieving myself of some of the weight of all the stress. I also write for other people who are just trying to keep breathing, and just need to know that on the days they feel like they a failing at life, there are other people who are not getting it all right either. And most of the time, my honest expression comes out in the very colorful sound of the streets of Brooklyn. Because I'm from the streets of Brooklyn. Glorious, badass, holier-than-thou-tightasses-would-never-survive Brooklyn.

Before I drop my mic on your snobby ass, I would just like to respond to a few of your points:

Yes, you ARE being self righteous.
If you're going to compare writers who swear, to a presumably suicidal rodent, you should do the research and realize it is a fallicy, and really just an adorable little creature. So thank you:)
Just because you are able to express yourself without swearing, doesn't make you better than anyone, and doesn't make anyone want to be LIKE you.
Yes, I CAN write honestly without swearing. But I prefer to write exactly as I speak, as if we were all sitting around the coffee table, freely and comfortably. No worries. No judgment.
I don't give a fat, flying rat's ass if you ever visit my blog. Nobody will miss you.
And I'm just going to keep my own blog rated F, for...well, you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Becoming the Phoenix

Going through divorce is hard. Every fight and painful event that led up to the divorce was harder. I'm sure HIS side of the story would paint me horribly. Some of it would be true. But one thing that is ABSOLUTELY true:

I never cheated.

He can NOT say the same.

I have come a long way since finding out the truth. Upon making the devastating discovery, I fell into a depression that consumed me for a while. I was stunned for a bit, and didn't have a clue what I was going to do. We have kids. I wanted him to leave, but I needed him to stay. It was a monumental inner struggle that lasted over two years, until he finally moved out. Those two years were ugly in many ways, but the transformation that took place in ME, as a woman, as an individual, can only be compared to the Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Discovering the man who promised to love me forever was, in fact, loving someone else, knocked the wind out of me. It pulled the floor out from under me. There is a grieving process that takes place when you are mourning the loss of "happily ever after", (which I now FULLY believe is an impossibly elusive myth). It is very much like mourning the death of a loved one. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance...they are all there to some degree. I could probably have added devastation, self loathing, temporary schizophrenic tendencies, and near homocidal rage, among other emotions. But once the tornado died down, I emerged, like a hunk of carbon rich rock that endured the intense heat and pressure occurring 100 miles beneath the surface of the earth, a shining diamond, precious and infinitely stronger than before.

Some of that tornado left me feeling empty. So much of what I felt and did was a reaction to feeling so deeply betrayed. And because I knew HER, (let's not go there today), it was even harder. I wanted to know everything.

How long was it going on?

How far did it go?

Did anyone else know?

Was I being laughed at?

Social media made it a THOUSAND times worse. We had all "blocked" each other on every social media outlet. I had no way of knowing if THEY were connected online. While he was still living at home, I wanted to know if he was in contact with her, but I was shut out. I couldn't check his phone or his computer. I found myself constantly driving past her house, and looking for where he parked his truck. The NEED to know had taken me over. I was so frustrated by NOT knowing, I would often find myself sitting on the floor in my bedroom, crying, unable to breathe, having chest pains. I was eating baby aspirin to keep from giving myself a stroke, because even though I felt like the world was completely falling apart, I still had kids who needed me. I was not much good to them for a few months. I would cry, and my daughter would cry. I felt like I was suffocating.

My daughter's face was what ultimately pushed me on my feet. I don't remember what it was she needed me for, but I do remember telling her, "Mommy just can't come down right now". And the look on her face was NOT of sadness or disappointment. It was a look of understanding. She understood that I was feeling so devastated, I couldn't drag my ass out of bed to interact with my kids because HE was home. I was teaching my daughter that when life gets too hard, it's best to just check out for a while. She was ten years old, and I was teaching her it was ok to just give up. I couldn't live with that.

And that was the day I made the choice to JUST STOP CARING.

I wasn't going to care if he was with her. I wouldn't care where he was. I wouldn't care if he lived or died. It was the greatest choice I made in the entire process.

I have to tell you, it WAS NOT easy. Most people don't realize how very much we are in control of how we will feel about a given situation. It really is as simple as CHOOSING to feel one way or another. But then, we have to COMMIT to feeling it. It takes careful thought, and every ounce of strength we possess, but it can be done. I did it. I completely convinced myself that I just no longer cared if he was with her. He might have been living under the same roof as I was, but he was not WITH me in any way. He had completely disconnected. So it didn't matter if he was with her. When I felt the urge to drive past her house, I would take a deep breath and swallow it down. Many times, I would tell myself out loud, "I just don't care where he is. You DON'T need to know. It doesn't change anything." I stopped asking him where he was working, I stopped checking his pockets, I started breathing again. I focused on my kids, and I focused on me. I began to heal.

Because I had no smoking gun, no naked photos, I wanted more than anything to believe I could be wrong. I wanted to hold out hope that we could fix this. I found out the hard way, he had other plans. When he snuck out in the middle of the day, I was blindsided. But because I had begun to condition myself to life without him, even while he was still here, I was better able to handle the blow.

At some time early in the process, I had started an anonymous Facebook page, to talk about my life. I talked about my kids, about autism, and about the failing marriage. I couldn't talk about any of what I was going through on my personal FB page. Nobody wanted to hear me "airing my dirty laundry" in such a public forum. But anonymously, I found people who could relate to my story, and that gave me strength, too. Life as a parent makes it difficult sometimes to have friends of our own. Being a parent to an autistic child makes having friends even harder. There was no one to talk to. My FB page saved me. I have found friends there whose presence in my life has become invaluable. There are frequent visitors to my page who are truly a part of my life. And there are so many people who relate to my story because it has happened to them. Every day, I hear a new story of betrayal. It breaks me all over again, each time a friend is hurting the way I was hurting. I want to fix it. I want to help them. I want to kick the significant other in the nads. I want to write the homewrecking whore's phone number across the cybersphere, and I want to go full on, Carrie Underwood-Louisville-slugger on the bastard's car. I won't do any such thing. But I want to help. I want to make it easier on my friends.

To that end, I have made a list of a few things the "recently betrayed" might consider, upon finding themselves in that emotional tornado:

1) Double check your privacy settings on your personal page. Make sure you check off the most private setting, where only your CLOSE friends can see what you post. And then post NOTHING about what you're going through.

2) Go through every person on your friends list, (yes, this is tedious, but worth the peace of mind), and edit the "friends list" setting to allow access ONLY to those you are comfortable with. If there are people you don't want to unfriend, but are not sure of how much you want them to see, switch them to "restricted".

3) Create an alternate account, in a name no one you know will associate with you. Then you can still search for those who have you blocked.

4) DON'T USE THE ALTERNATE ACCOUNT TO SEARCH FOR THOSE WHO HAVE YOU BLOCKED. Unless it's absolutely necessary. It sucks a piece of your soul when you get consumed by the investigating. And chances are, they have tightened up their privacy settings too, and you won't be able to see anything anyway.

5) MOST IMPORTANTLY, there will come a time when you realize this situation is eating you alive. This is when you will have to make the choice to stop caring. It is the hardest thing you will ever do, but the best thing you can do for your inner peace. Every time you feel the need to search, or stalk, or even peek, breathe deeply and tell yourself that neither of them should have that much power over you. If you feel like you have to constantly be wondering if they are in contact, or you always have to be searching and checking, it will eliminate any chance you might have to feel at peace. You have no idea how important that is.

Recently, my brother and SIL stayed at my house for a weekend. Early on a Saturday morning, my SIL got me out of the house to go Walmart shopping. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, she asked, "Where does he live? Let's go see if that bitch's car is there." I told her "I really have no need to know. I decided a long time ago that if he doesn't want me, it's HIS loss, and it just doesn't matter who he's with". She told me she couldn't believe I could be so calm, and that SHE would need to know everything they were doing, and would probably have beaten the shit out of them both. Yup. I get it. It's what I WANTED to do. But I can't go to jail. My kids deserve a happy, peaceful mom, and I deserve that for myself. Those two assholes have taken enough from me and my kids. I won't let them have my happiness and my peace.

To anyone who is going through this pain, you will get through it. It's going to suck for a long time before it gets better, but it WILL get better. And always keep in mind you are NOT alone. There are others who have been there, and can be an example of coming out so much better on the other side, or maybe they will just be a shoulder. Or an ear. Just know, it gets better. And if it makes you feel better, start an anonymous FB page and call it "Flushing the Catfish", or "The Trash Takes ITSELF Out". Or maybe YOUR page could be "Rebuilding After The Fire". Whatever you need to do, to convince yourself there can be life after betrayal, do that. And don't forget to dance:)