Posts from the ‘divorce’ category

Lori Out of Darkness

Have you ever lived your life on auto-pilot? You know that feeling…like when you’re driving down the freeway and your brain disappears into thought for a moment while your eyes focus on the car in front you when you find yourself nearly 5 miles down the highway and you kind of think to yourself Wait! How did I get here so fast? Not in a dangerous sort of checked-out way. Alert and engaged, but not paying close attention to all the details around you.

I think most of us slip into moments like this in our life. It could be in your job. It could be in your friendships. It could even be in your parenting or your marriage. The suck of routines, habits and repetition can get the best of anyone.

There was a time in my life where everything was a bit blurred. I went through the motions of “getting things done” and chalked it all up to “happiness” and “comfort.” I later realized that during that phase, something inside me was slowly dying.

Imagine, if you will, having to wrap up your arm, place it in a sling, and no longer being able to use the arm to do every-day things. You cannot move it. You cannot wash it or care for it. You cannot allow it to see the sunshine. You’re still the same, happy person you always were, but you cannot use your arm. OK. That’s manageable, wouldn’t you say?

Days and weeks go by, and the arm gets weaker. The cells in the arm start to deteriorate, and Atrophy sets in. It’s a slow, gradual process. The arm has been neglected. Your demeanor changes. You’re happiness turns to complacency, because you’re used to having to function under the circumstances. And you feel as though you have no choice, because that is the lot you were dealt.

This is exactly what it feels like when you’re living a life feeling controlled and manipulated by something or someone. It can be an addiction, a parent, a spouse, or even a child. When you’re living in this situation, you go through the motions of life and the color and energy within you is trapped.

But a day can come where you can unwrap, move again, and stand in the sunshine. It starts with believing in yourself and not allowing something or someone to confine you or control you. How can I do that, you ask? Start small:

  1. Pick up a skill, hobby or interest you had in your childhood or when you were happiest. My start began with photography and scrapbooking. I dove straight in and remembered how freaking amazing it felt to do something just for myself. Doing this small thing for yourself will build your confidence in you and your abilities.
  2. Spend time outside! Breathe the air. See the beautiful things around you. Take a walk and allow yourself to dream of a life where you are in control and moving forward. DREAM!
  3. Laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. If you’re on auto-pilot, chances are that you aren’t laughing very much. Schedule a girls night at your house and eat junk food and wear sweats and dish about your latest awful days, dates or sexy crushes.
  4. Turn up the music! LOUD! For the 2-year period post-divorce, I woke up every day, turned on a music channel on our TV, and blasted music for all of us as we got out of bed and got moving in the mornings–some of them were difficult mornings. I did this more for myself than for my kids. I didn’t realize the impact it had on my kids until the other day, when I turned some music up (loud, of course) in the morning and my youngest said, “We haven’t had music on in the mornings like this for awhile. I remember when we did that in the old house all the time!” She liked that routine and missed it.
  5. Do push ups, or sit ups, or both. I know this sounds lame, but if you do a few every day you will get stronger. You will feel stronger. You will be stronger. And strength within gets a boost when your body is strong.

It’s amazing how these 5 small things will wake you up! You will see with more clarity. You will begin to feed your soul. And most importantly, you will start to live with more purpose and be engaged more.

My life is filled now with laughter, hope, love, and anticipation, and it all began with these 5 things. Opening your eyes doesn’t have to start as the result of a big shift in your life like mine did. That journey can start when you choose to snap out of it and turn off the auto-pilot.

One of my favorite quotes I found after I got divorced is a daily reminder to me that I do not have to settle or tolerate something or someone that is not good for me, and I leave it now with you:

We cannot make the sun shine, but we can remove from that which may cast a shadow on us. ~Rev. C.H. Spurgeon

Remember that your power and energy should go to yourself. Don’t waste it on someone who isn’t worthy of receiving it. Walk away from those things or people that are nothing but darkness. Embrace the light.

 

 

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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Cooler weather and a new schedules as school begins make me happy, and Halloween runs as a close second to my favorite holiday, Christmas.

My kids are getting older now, so the holiday is changing for us. No more scary music playing out the windows or silhouettes of witches upstairs. Now it’s about “teen things” and all about friends. This year they are at their dad’s house for the holiday, and I’m looking forward to doing my own thing.

A friend asked me today if I missed the days when they were small, and I most definitely do. I have such fun memories of the Buzz Lightyear, the 50s poodle skirt girl, the Dorothy and the ghoul dressed in black. But I also have memories that cloud my mind.

Halloween 2002 was the day I found out I was pregnant with my fourth child. My ex was unsure he wanted to have more kids when we discussed having a fourth, but I felt there was one more baby waiting for us up there in heaven. We agreed we would “try” for a month or two but we really weren’t “trying” that much at all. To say I was shocked when I found out I was pregnant is probably a large understatement. Shocked, but absolutely thrilled!

On Halloween evening, I was nervous when my then-husband came home. How would I tell him? Would he be happy? Or upset? He came home from work in a grumpy mood, so I kept the pregnancy to myself as we walked around the neighborhood with our 3 kids. We walked house-to-house, and each time I would try to think of something cute to say to tell him we were expecting, but I just couldn’t find the words.

Later that night, after getting the kids settled with a few of their favorite treats in the other room, I sat at the kitchen counter separating candy into piles. My then-husband watched as I was going through Kit-Kats and skittles and said to me, “Maybe we can actually have sex tonight…you probably have cobwebs growing in your vagina, it’s been so long.”

I could hardly believe my ears. My blood pumped inside of me, and I was angry he was lashing out in the passive-aggressive way as he always did to make me feel guilty. Note to husbands out there: this is NOT the way to make your wife feel special and loved and close to you. It pisses her off.

I stood from my stool, dropped the candy from my hands and said, “Oh really? Well, I’m pregnant, so it obviously hasn’t been that long, now has it. Congratulations.” and I stomped upstairs.

Why would a husband say such a thing to his wife? Why would the person who was supposed to love and cherish me treat me like I didn’t matter one ounce and my feelings meant squat? Who the hell knows? Today, I know better and don’t have to tolerate any of it. That day was not the best of days for me, I must say. But my beautiful girl arrived 8 months later, and she is one of the greatest things in my life.

Halloween will always be a favorite time of year for me. And no bad memory, even that one, can ruin it.

*image: Flickr

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Over the past few years of my life, I’ve learned to maneuver and grow post-divorce. Some days have been easy. Other days, not so much. Writing, reading, and focusing on myself has given me strength and opened doors for me that I never imagined possible. I’ve met wonderful people, received strength and support, and share my thoughts and life with others as inspiration or simply for an “I’ve been there.”

I did the work. I spoke to a counselor and was sure to look inside so I didn’t repeat the same mistakes moving forward that I did in my childhood and during my first marriage. I’ve read tons about narcissism and NPD personalities, and I’ve now learned how to stand up for myself.

As a child, I tried to please everyone around me. One of those people was my mother. As I grew, I noticed that she eventually began attaching herself to my life more and more. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I had the guts to let her know that I needed her to work on her own life rather than depend so deeply on me for happiness. I wasted many, many years trying to please her and do what I thought she wanted me to do. Dumb.

The concept of the parent who lives through his or her child is familiar to anyone who has stood on the sidelines of a youth soccer or baseball game. The narcissist’s reaction to her child’s life is qualitatively different. It’s not just annexation; it’s the redrawing of the borders to completely absorb the other life into her own. (Huffington Post)

This article from Psychology Today speaks volumes about narcissists and their victims. Sometimes you cannot even try to understand where their brains are, because it’s just not possible. How can a parent try to control her child so much that her child would rather be over at a friends’ house than be at home with her? Why is it that a narcissist tries to take-over and control everyone around them and squashes the real, deep development of the individual?

But, enter the condition of narcissism. What if you married a narcissist who is all about what is good for him or her, rather than what is in the best interest of the children? The narcissist makes unrealistic demands, is not emotionally connected to the children, may be emotionally abusive or worse, but will fight to the end to gain revenge or fight in the interest of his/her own needs. The fight may be economically based, or more likely what is known as a narcissistic injury. That person will never get over or forget that you filed for divorce or abandoned them, and will continue to make life difficult for you and the children. What do you do?

To reiterate, if you marry a narcissist and then divorce that person, the narcissist will not forgive and forget. They do not move on easily. They cling to “how could you abandon me or do this to me” and the anger lingers for long periods of time, sometimes years and years. To imagine that one could process through an amicable divorce with a narcissist and stay friends and co-parent in a reasonable manner is not realistic with narcissists. They do things such as excessively disparage the other parent, resort to making up unfair and untrue allegations, and do not want to financially support the children because that somehow means to them that they are giving money to their ex-spouse. Their entitlement needs get in the way of fairly dividing property and money and in the end they do not think of what is best for the child or children. They think about what is best for them! “It is my parenting time!” “You cannot have sporting events on my time!” “Your mother (or father) is taking all my money.” (Psychology Today)

If you are dealing with a high conflict individual in your life, don’t try to understand them. You won’t. But you can get educated! Spend time reading. Spend time learning. Surround yourself with support. Most of all, understand the disease. Because, as Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

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It’s amazing the vantage point you have when you carefully follow a path, one slight step after another, and reach high ground during a long journey.

If you look one direction, you see where you came from. Your eyes analyze the terrain and you may even be surprised at the progress you made to get to the sunlit spot where you stand.

As you turn your face to the sun, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride for all the miles you’ve covered, the danger you’ve faced, and the challenges you’ve overcome along the way.

Standing on this high ground, you can also see the path that is outstretched before you. What a glorious thing to look beyond and feel the adrenaline rush through you as you consider which direction to go, what experiences might lie ahead, and what obstacles may be in your way.

The thing about being on high ground, is only the people who have taken the high road, walked the walk, and put in the hard work along the way will be blessed enough to join you for the rest of the journey. For this, I am thankful. Because carrying someone along the path only to realize they didn’t belong there can be an exhausting thing.

Tonight I stand on high ground. I feel the sunshine, warm on my skin, and deep love surrounding me as I stand here with my husband and my kids. My journey has been long, my obstacles large, but those obstacles are very much desperate, insignificant, and left in our past.

Here’s to the journey. To loving along the way. To knowing that life is about people, emotions, caring and giving, because those things are what bring you love and happiness.

For those of you who are still on your journey through divorce, or for those of you trying to co-parent with someone who is a narcissist, remember this…high ground is safest in a storm. Your children can see the clouds and lightening around them, and you are their safe spot. Keep walking the high road. Your kids see who walks the journey with them because they see with their own eyes from their vantage point. Walk with them. Walk together. And enjoy the next phase in the journey!

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During the first 3-or-so years post divorce, I found myself trying to keep everyone happy. My kids had issues with their dad, their dad would get mad at me and blame me if they were rude to him or voiced how they didn’t want to go to his house, the list goes on. He’d say I was turning them against him.

I found myself more in the position of mediator than mother/ex. I’d try to help my kids understand that their father wanted to see them, but they would reply with a, “That’s not fair! So-and-so invited me over tonight!” And so the battle would begin.

I took on the negotiator role–trying to make it a win-win for all parties. All that caused was more stress, more pain, and more problems for me. All of them were being heard, but I dreaded any time an argument would come up between one of them and their dad. I was stuck in the middle and a pawn in a vicious, frustrating game.

I learned a lot of lessons along the way. When my kids were younger, I supported more. I stepped in more to help with the communications with their father when he was being demanding in his “my way or the highway” style. They wanted me to back them and he wanted me to jump every time he said to. (Please note that when a decree says something, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it exactly HIS way. You just have to do what the decree says.)

The day has come where I’ve turned the kids’ relationship with their father over to them. I can’t force a 17 year old who is bigger than me to get in my car and go see his dad during the specific court ordered days. Hell, I’m lucky if he has time to squeeze me into his schedule!  But I always allow him to go when he gets an idea to spend the night up there, out of the blue. And if my 11 year old is broken hearted because she realized her dad has lied to her, I don’t defend him any longer and make up excuses for him. I simply tell her, “I’m sorry” and that she needs to reach out to her dad.

Just because some of us were once married to a narcissist and did everything his way, when and how he said, does not mean we have to continue to do it his way. Nor do we have to make his kids do it exactly his way. Now, try getting the NPD personality to accept that–that’s like moving the great pyramids of Egypt. Ain’t likely!

I know it may be difficult as a mother with young children to step back and not get caught up in the game your ex plays when he throws the kids smack dab in the middle of his manipulation. And your role now is important–first and foremost to look out for them and be an advocate for them. But as they grow, remember, you are a mother, not a mediator. Give your kids the confidence to speak their true feelings and not be afraid of people. Remind them that sharing how they feel about something is justified and human. They don’t have to put up with put downs, and it’s okay to tell a parent how they feel.

if a parent can’t respect that in them, that’s their problem.

 

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