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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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The Ego . . . Friend or Foe?

compassion-857727_1920One morning my daughter woke up in a panic.  She said she was terrified. She’d had a bad dream and apparently this dream rocked her to her core. Even though she knew it was a dream, and even though she knew the most likely cause of the dream—she’d watched a scary episode of a TV show UniKitty, she was still afraid.  She didn’t want to walk around the house until the sun arose or until I walked around with her. First, I had to make sure that I turned on the lights before we entered a room.  I didn’t get upset with her though.  I happily obliged her.  I understood her fear.  I could remember being a child and being afraid of the toilet flushing.  I would have this overwhelming need to rush to my bed and hide under the covers before the toilet completed its cycle.  And while I knew it wasn’t a logical fear, it was one I held for many years.

But beyond that, I understood because in that moment I felt as if I was able to witness the ego in the flesh.  Many psychoanalysts and psychologists from Freud to present have defined and redefined what the ego is. The ego is essentially our identity that is constructed of the thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves.  In the spiritual sector, and other sectors for that matter, the ego can get a bad rep.  Check your ego and humble yourself.  Don’t be so egotistical.  Don’t let your ego rule you.  These are just some examples of the warnings we receive regarding our egos.  We’re sold an image of the ego as a savage dictator and brat, hell bent on feeding its own desires well past satiation.  And sometimes that can be true. Sometimes the ego can operate like a toddler.  It can want what it wants without any regard for the consequences.  It can be bratty.  It can be ruthless in its pursuit to feel better.

But what if it’s more than that?  What if the ego isn’t actually a dictator?  What if the ego is actually just like my daughter this morning? Simply scared and asking for attention? What if our ego is actually asking us to shed some light in the darkness to illuminate those shadow parts of ourselves?  We tend to look at ourselves through cloudy lenses. We grade ourselves with high marks when we do those things which are pleasing to us or when we feel good.  When we don’t feel as good, or we feel we’ve misstepped, we tend to fail ourselves.  Perhaps our ego is our loving friend who is guiding us to look beyond the surface of what we see and to see ourselves fully as we are, without judgment.  But since we humans can be more than a bit stubborn, we don’t always take heed at its first nudging so it has to work harder to get our attention. It has to get louder. It has to start kicking and screaming.  Those are the moments where we are at what we deem to be our worst.  Those are the moments we look as if we are out of control. We’re fearful, angry, short-tempered, arrogant, and maybe even more than a bit selfish.  Those are the moments that in spite of knowing the fear is illogical, we refuse to walk around our familiar home until our mom walks with us and turns on all the lights.  But instead of it being about us getting out of control, perhaps we can consider that it’s more than that and that’s just the moment when we have the opportunity to gain control and begin to take the steps to accept ourselves. It’s the moment we get to turn on the lights to see things and ourselves as they truly are and not as they simply exist in our minds, which gives us a chance to accept ourselves and grow.  That’s a pretty radical thought, isn’t it?

Ego, just a three-letter word and yet so interesting. If we did not have an ego, we would be lost. Feeding it too much we would also be lost.

Lida van Bers

 

Where Are You Lacking?

Happy Friday!  It’s been said in a really important book that before you remove the beam from your neighbors eye, try removing the plan from your own eye first.  I always thought that was a caution to refrain from judging others. While I think it is, I’m understanding now that it’s also about recognizing that what you see in another just may be a reflection of you.

I was reminiscing with a friend about how my dad had a time reconciling that he had money and didn’t have to scrape to make ends meet.  It was funny watching him until I really empathized with him.  I understand that he struggled because while he had become financially well-off, he was still mentally in a space of lack. I also recognized that while I didn’t do that financially, I did do that in my relationships.  It’s interesting to see where that lack mindset shows up–and it does show up for a lot of us. Where has it shown up for you?

Forgiving and Learning

Happy Friday!  I have spent a great deal of my life hating myself and to be honest it hasn’t felt good at all.  But here’s what’s crazy about that.  For as horrible as it felt to hate myself, I continued to indulge in the hatred.  Part of the reason I hated myself is because I was judging and criticizing myself for all of my past mistakes. I was looking at myself through this lens of hindsight vision, expecting me to have behaved in the past the way I would currently  now that I am armed with all the information I have today.  It was incredibly unfair and abusive to do and while it has taken me some time, I have finally learned to release those wounds and forgive myself.  To be even more honest, it’s been one of the most glorious and freeing things I could have ever done.  I hope you have not been as unkind to yourself as I have been to me. But if you have, I hope you can forgive and free yourself and begin to love all the parts of you there are to love because you’re so doggone loveable.

 

Acceptance is the Way

I actually had no intentions of writing about this ever.  But for some reason, this issue kept showing up in conversations with others who were struggling with something similar and I felt the nudging to share.  I’ve said before that I’m a firm believer that we are not meant to hold our lessons in. We bring healing when we give our voices to share with one another.  We bring healing to others and ourselves.  I believe this unpleasant moment in my life brought forth some healing for me.  It wasn’t actually painful either. However, it was surely an Aha moment.

I have been divorced for 9 years.  I’ve said before how in spite of the trials of that relationship, my ex-husband has served as one of my greatest teachers because I’ve learned a lot about myself.  He didn’t fail to teach me yet again.  During the summer, we had a significant blow up that resulted in me having to call my cousin who happens to be a Seargeant for CPD and also me making the decision that it is best that he and I no longer speak.  It’s not something I’ve ever wanted. I actually hoped that by this point we’d have transitioned into co-parenting bliss. You know, we get along so well cause we’re actually friends.  Unfortunately, that is not the case and I doubt it ever will be.  Good thing for me is that I’d have been devastated if this had happened years ago. But as they say, when the student is ready, the teacher (and the lesson and test) appears.  And so did the test appear, hand delivered by the teacher, my ex-husband, and I was ready so I was not devastated.  I instead accepted it as it is.

While I won’t go into specifics, I will say that his behavior was unacceptable. From my point of view, it was a simple miscommunication.  However, judging from my ex’s behavior, it was about more than the particular miscommunication.  I probably will never know the full reason(s) behind it, nor do I need to.  Suffice it to say that he became aggressive–unnecessarily and unacceptably so.  He did so in front of our daughter and his other children.  It’s important to note that my point of this blog isn’t actually about him or his behavior. This is actually about me and what I took away from that.  I could easily point my finger at him and say he is horrible and call him names. But he’s not.  He’s just a mere man, going through life just as I am. His path is full of lessons for him just as mine is filled with my own lessons.  We have served our purposes in one another’s life and created a beautiful soul in the process. We have gotten all that we needed from one another and our time has come to an end.

Let me say that I’m one of those people who has no problem being friends with exes. I have actually never understood why one wouldn’t want to remain friends with an ex–bar there is no abuse or severe mistreatment.  I’ve always been of the belief that if you were a huge part of my life, I can’t understand why you can’t remain in a different capacity.  Suffice it to say that I don’t let go nearly as often as I should.  But that logic stayed with me through my divorce. As far as I was concerned, I had no major beef with my ex husband other than the fact that he was my husband. Once he ceased to be my husband, I was cool.  But that was selfish on my part because I didn’t give space for him to feel whatever he feels. Now he has never actually said it in words, but I fully believe the man hates me. And you know what? That’s ok.  Problem is, I wasn’t giving him the space for that. In my mind, we are parents and we are tied together for life (and we actually are). Since we are, we may as well be friends. But he doesn’t want to be my friend. I’m not even sure he actually wants to co-parent with me. And again, that’s ok.

Over the years, I have done what I thought I could to mend the bridge between us. I would offer olive branches. I would ask for talks to get to the bottom of things and clear the air.  He would have a list of grievances and even though I didn’t agree, I would agree with him to make peace. My logic was that he needed the win and if I gave it to him we would be that much closer to getting along.  Well, I was wrong. The moment I found myself standing in his doorway 9 years after our divorce having to walk away from his aggression is the moment I finally accepted that it just is not meant to be.  That’s when it hit me.  Aha! It took me 9 years to finally let our relationship go–even though I knew before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding that we were not a good fit.  And now it has taken me 9 years to fully accept that we are not and will not be friends or cordial co-parents.  And that’s ok.  Let me say  now that it will not take me another 9 years to get any other memo from this dead relationship. Lesson is learned.

Honestly, I could have saved myself the trouble if I’d accepted this years ago. Now please let me be clear. I am in no way assuming responsibility for his behavior on that night in July.  I’m taking responsibility for my role in not accepting things as they were prior to that night.  And to be honest, it has always been about me and not him.  I struggled greatly with choosing to end our marriage–even though I knew it was the best thing for us.  We just did not fit.  There was a big part of me who felt like a failure.  I failed at holding my marriage together.  Actually, I felt like a failure before that because I chose to marry a man whom I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold down a marriage with for long.  So as far as I was concerned, the least I could do was successfully co-parent with him.  It was bad enough our daughter wouldn’t be from a two-parent household. I owed it to her to show her parents who were mature enough to get along and work together.  I was especially charged about this because when I was growing up I saw my parents argue frequently over two things: money and me.  They disagreed often about the best course for me and I vowed I would never have that problem.  We’ve all heard about saying never, right?  In my mind, the least I could do is get the co-parenting right.  It was not acceptable to fail at both marriage and co-parenting. I wasn’t making space for the fact that doing what was best for everyone involved–including (and especially) myself isn’t actually a fail.

The other thing I struggled with is accepting that my ex does not like me. To be honest, I always felt like he didn’t like me–even during our marriage.  But that’s something that I hoped would change after our divorce and it hasn’t.  I actually think it has intensified.  There are people in life with whom you disagree regarding values and views on life, but you find you still like them.  There are those with whom you disagree and you don’t necessarily like them, but you do find them tolerable.  And then there are those with whom disagree and what’s more, you just cannot stand them. Their views and who they are just gets on your nerves and you do not like them. I believe I fall in that final category with my ex.  Who I am and my way of being bothers him.  The fact that I bother him so much has bothered me.  Can you say co-dependency? I was like a 6 year-old who just kept offering toys to get him to be my friend.  And it never worked.  And I never understood, nor would accept that it wouldn’t work.   My ex and I are fundamentally different and that’s ok. But I had to learn how to  allow it to be ok that we will not get along because of that.  But here’s what I finally get.  Because we are so fundamentally different, my ex sees me through a lens that is veiled by his own perceptions.  He sees a completely inaccurate intent from me when I do things.  No matter how many times I explain my logic and point of view, he sees what he sees and there is no changing his mind. That bothered me a lot.  It finally got to a point where I had to ask myself why it bothers me so much.  The truth is that it bothered me because on some level I still cared what he thought of me–not necessarily as a person, but as co-parents.  I told him when we divorced that I would never intentionally stand in the way of his relationship with our daughter and I meant that.  I have done my best over the course of our daughter’s life to uphold that bargain. I take that seriously. Our daughter is entitled and deserves to have a relationship with her father, no matter what is going on between us. So it bothered me to know that he sees me as intentionally doing things to undermine or disrespect that.  I had to come to accept that he is just one of those people who will never see me as I am.  And that’s ok.  He doesn’t get me. He never did.  But what’s more important is that I understand that how he sees me is not the truth of who I am.  It may be his truth.  But again, his truth is veiled by his experiences and his being and in no way does it dictate the truth to who I am.  And I can’t say enough that this is ok.

The other thing that I realized is that I just had to let go of control.  I’m a pretty laid back person and don’t think of myself as a control freak. However, in some ways, my inability to accept things was a form of me trying to control the outcome.  I’m not sure how long I was willing to go on this crazy ride with my ex, but I know I have gone for far too long and I was willing to do it to make sure that I got the picture that I wanted.  The picture consisted of peace and harmony. After all, wasn’t that in the best interest of our child? I was unwilling to accept that the peace and harmony would come from me letting things go. It has been several months now since that night and I haven’t spoken to my ex since. Frankly, it has been quite peaceful ever since. I can’t speak for him, but I’m willing to bet the same has been true for him.  I certainly hope it is.  And who knows? Maybe now that I’ve stopped fighting against things, some day in the distant future we’ll evolve into the picture I held for so long.  Or maybe not.  Either way, it’s ok.

If there is anyone out there going through turmoil in your divorce or post-divorce relationship, I encourage you to accept things as they are. Release whatever picture you have in your head of how things should or could be.   And for the love of all that is sacred, please don’t take anything personal!  You are reacting from your stuff just as your ex is reacting from their own stuff.  No one is actually right or wrong.  Instead, you are both doing the best you can–at least I hope you are.  I’m not saying you have to like it because you don’t.  But I do believe accepting things will bring you so much closer to peace.  I know it has for me.

This Is Us Really Is Us

So can we talk about last night’s episode of This Is Us?  I have long since become a huge fan of the show and I am not ashamed to admit that I cry at every single episode. Every. Single. One. Each episode touches me in a way that makes me think they can’t possibly make me cry any harder than I did on the previous one.  Yet, they prove me wrong each time.  They did not fail to up the ante yet again with last night’s episode titled, Memphis.

In this episode, we found our beloved Randall taking a cross-country trip (even though he’d told his wife it wasn’t a cross-country trip) to take his ailing biological father William to his old stomping ground of Memphis.  It was significant for both of them because William was dying of Stage 4 stomach cancer and this is on the heels of Randall’s nervous breakdown from the previous week.  If you follow the show, you know that Randall was adopted by Jack and Rebecca because William and Randall’s mother were drug addicts, so William left baby Randall at a fire station.  They reunited in the first episode when adult Randall showed up unannounced on William’s door step.  Since then, we’ve watched their relationship evolve from strangers to a more intimate father/son relationship.

Last night’s episode was so moving for many different reasons but for me, it was a beautiful vision of what I wish I could have had to experience with my father.  Death is an interesting part of life.  We all know it’s going to happen, yet we are ill prepared when it does occur.  I loved that Randall was able to spend his father’s dying days with him, learning about him, growing with him, and even usher him into his dying breath.  It was so beautiful.  And it brought me to tears.  I was a blubbering mess in my bed.  I cried sad tears for Randall because he was losing another dad, and right when the getting was getting good.  I cried for William because he got to end his life on a happy note.  At the end, he told Randall that he didn’t have a happy life, yet the two things that were good to him were the person at the beginning and the person at the end.

And through all of my tears, I couldn’t miss that there was a part of me crying for myself. Entertainment can provide us with such a gift, and that is the ability to shine a light on some of the realest, most intimate parts of life.  I can think of no more intimate part of life than death and dealing with the death of a loved one–particularly a parent.  The writer of This Is Us gave us all (well let me speak for myself) me such a gift because it provided a glimpse into a real  moment of a relationship.  We got to see a father and a son have honest, yet difficult dialogue about life and death.  It can be so difficult to have those conversations, but I truly believe that they are so worthwhile.

While watching, I recalled the moment my father died and I wished I could have had those moments with my dad. For a long time, I felt that I was robbed of that moment.  My dad was feeling under the weather one day, went to the doctor and next thing I know I was getting a call that he was on a ventilator after going through sepsis.  He remained on that ventilator for three weeks.  He was sedated for the duration of those three weeks as well.  We never got a chance to talk.  I didn’t get to ask him questions or tell him how I felt.  The closest we came to that was during week 3 when he awoke for a moment.  He was still on the ventilator, so he couldn’t speak, but he mouthed the words to me, “I’m dead.”  I didn’t take him seriously because he would speak like that when he was sick.  I brushed it off, but he shook his head No and mouthed the words again.  He even went limp to show me what it would look like.  I laughed because I didn’t want it to be true.  While I always say I didn’t realize he was warning me, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I knew he was telling the truth.  But I wasn’t ready then to admit that so I dismissed him and hoped he was wrong.  He died two days later. He didn’t get to die surrounded by mom and me.  No, instead he died alone in a room with doctors.  He didn’t get the peaceful transition that William received.  He crashed several times, was revived each time, until that final one where he just would not return.  That haunted me for years.  I wanted closure. I wanted to have been able to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and tell him it’s ok.  Since I never got the chance, I have envisioned how our final conversation would have gone if we’d been given the chance.  I feel like it would have gone something like this . . .

Dad:  Well Boops, it’s been real. But I gotta go.

Me:  Wait, don’t go yet!  There’s still so much more I want to talk to you about.

Dad:  Now what did I tell you? Be strong. I’ll always be with you.  You’re going to be fine. Take care of my granddaughter. Watch your back and be strong for your mama.  I’m counting on you.

Me:  Wait, you’re dying and THIS is what you have to say to me?  Not I love you.  Not I’m proud, but be strong?

Dad: I just can’t do right by you. Can I, Je’Niece?  I’m dying and  I still just can’t do right by you.  I told you before, I’m a hard man and I don’t make no bones about that.  Now I said I gotta go.   

Me:  Well dang, fine!  But don’t be a stranger.  And since you won’t say it, I will.  I love you, Man.  

Dad: I love you more.  

But I never got that moment. So I’ll have to live vicariously through Randall and William. It was a beautiful moment so I can live with that.  Thank you to the writers of This Is Us.  I cried some of the ugliest tears I’ve ever cried, but you gave me such a gift with each tear.

That Mother Wound is A Mutha!

Happy Friday and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! For many of us, it’s a wonderful day because it gives us a chance to celebrate our favorite women: Our moms! For others of us, it’s not as wonderful because mom is or was absent–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or e) all of the above. Mother’s Day can be a reminder that mom was the first person to betray us, disappoint us, hurt us. And what do you do when that happens? What do you do when mom is not the safe place we think mother’s ought to be?

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am hearing more frequently the phrase, “Love your Mother because you only get one.” Actually, I hear the phrase a lot in every day conversation. While I understand the sentiment, sometimes I think this phrase is used to give mothers a pass. Yes, there are some good and great mothers who love, protect, nurture and guide their children to the best of their abilities. But there are also some mothers who are not; and we fail to acknowledge that. Some mothers are cold, heartless, cruel, and unloving toward their children. In the case of the latter, it is not enough to tell the children, “Love your Mother because you only get one.” While I believe in offering Love to all, I also believe you have to accept people for who they are. Not every woman who carries and births a child is capable of being a true Mother. So to those who await Mother’s Day with dread because their Mother is not, or was not a loving Mother, I offer my love and encouragement. I hope that you are able to find the Love that you feel you missed from your Mother–because after all, it really isn’t missing. Like Dorothy in the wondrous land of Oz, it’s been in you the whole time.

I love you and wish you well today and always!

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