22 December 2017

A third option

There is one thing in society I’ve never been able to wrap my head around: being on long-term antagonistic terms with former lovers and romantic partners. How someone you once valued more than others gets discarded so entirely simply because of disagreements. This concept has always bugged me so much that several years ago, I started contacting not only all my old exes, but my husband’s, as well. Even the woman an ex dated before me. “Hi, I think it’s stupid that the world thinks we’re supposed to be enemies. Wanna fix it?” Every single one of them has been receptive to the idea, and every single one has turned out to be worth the effort.

But, of course, there is always one that is harder than the others. That Person. I’d fallen a little deeper, our split had been a little uglier, the misunderstandings bigger, the hurt greater. But I was determined. This person had once been a friend, one of my very best. Someone I’d shared a camaraderie with. I was determined that, somewhere, somehow, that still meant something.

I started reaching out cautiously. We started talking carefully. Further talks revealed that a lot of hurts we were both carrying were actually misunderstandings. That we were both genuinely sorry for our respective roles in what had happened between us and, believe it or not, we both still cared very much that the other was happy. We apologized; we forgave. And we kept talking.

Those talks provided enough foundation to start rebuilding a new adjusted friendship. One in which we make room for each other’s spouses. Root for each other’s marriages, careers, families. I’ve since built a friendship with his wife and spent time laughing with their kids. The anger is gone; the hurt is healing. I genuinely want him and his family to be not just happy, but incandescently so.

I won't lie; there are awkward moments that must be mucked through. We were lovers at one point in our lives, and there is no rule book for this. Lines must be drawn and maintained; respect must be observed. But it only adds to the worth of the entire endeavor, an element of honoring each other's decisions and families. It has opened me up to an empathy for all parties involved that I truly never expected.

For the most part, society has met this concept of reconciliation with raging skepticism. People literally cannot believe I’m friends with my ex again. With my husband’s ex. My ex’s wife. They think it’s unhealthy. That I simply don’t understand that it’s not “supposed” to be that way. That I’m foolish to make myself vulnerable to these people or to even consider trusting them. That something is inevitably going to go horribly wrong at some point. Or that it’s indicative that I’m still not over old feelings. Haven’t I heard the phrase “If you can be friends with your ex, you either weren’t ever in love or you still are”?

I’ve listened to their arguments; I’ve sincerely considered their words and done some honest soul searching regarding them. Am I being na├»ve? Am I still just hung up on old feelings? No. That’s not it. Instead, it’s the mindset that is wrong. Limited. You’re only constrained to those two simple options if you believe you can’t push through the hard part and sincerely reconcile.

Instead, the world operates under the concept that time heals all wounds. Just never revisit it again, and maybe it'll fade away forever. I call bunk. Time buries all wounds. Time distracts from wounds. But if we haven’t faced them properly, they still revisit us through reminders. Old songs or memories that shake our world and ruin our day. Why? Because wounds don’t truly heal unless we allow ourselves to go through the grief process to the other side. It requires being honest with ourselves and others. Being vulnerable. Apologizing and forgiving. Facing it. Only then do we have true mastery over those wounds and emotions, because we’re looking them in the eye and calling the shots, not just hiding from them and allowing them to manipulate us.

Is this easy? Absolutely not. It’s terrifying, especially at first. Both parties have to be willing to be painfully honest, not just with each other, but within, as well. There are moments in which hurt and rejection revisit you in such a palpable way, it’s physically painful. The old thought patterns that bubble up can surprise you. You have to be able to separate your real worth from your unhealthy learned behaviors. It takes real personal work...but it is so worth it.

I started this project years ago, but last night, I danced the night away with that ex and his wife at their Christmas party. Sometimes, just him and her, slow dancing like the husband and wife they are. Sometimes, just me and him whirling around the dance floor like 20 years haven't gone by. Sometimes, just me and her, heels kicked off with a crowd of other barefoot ladies. But the moment that mattered the most to me: all three of us, laughing and doing the Cupid Shuffle side by side together, as if it has always been this way. I had to take a second to step back and be grateful for that afternoon forever ago that I had the balls to send that first email. "Wanna fix it?"

There is a third option: real healing. It is hard, but the hard stuff is worth it.

26 March 2017

I hate Mother's Day

Confession: I hate Mother’s Day.

I’d love to be able to type some kind of eloquent, inspirational string of prose that speaks to my inner strength about how I’m right where I should be in life and I’m blessed in so many other ways and keep your chin up and blah blah blah. But I’d be a big fat liar, because the truth of where I am in my grieving process is that I effing hate Mother’s Day. And I don’t see that changing dramatically any time within the foreseeable future.

Ever since the sobering realization that I will never be a mom, it’s the one day a year I really struggle to stay positive. Normally, I have a firm grip on my reality, a conviction to be optimistic on this new path, even as I carve out what this path might be. But on Mother’s Day? In order to make it through without feeling repeatedly gut-punched, I need a crusty exterior, a coping mechanism of completely ignoring what’s going on around me. So as the world vomits reminders of my life-sentence-level failure from every conceivable corner, I hide.

This Mother’s Day, however, I have to perform. On stage. In a Mother's Day-themed show. Singing songs about how beautiful it is to be a mother. To honor a room filled with mothers. We’re even going to pass out flowers to every mother in the auditorium. I will have a very visible representation of what I do not have. What I will never have, no matter how much I want it. It’s salt in a wound that hasn’t healed, and I have to do the pouring. It is the complete opposite of hiding, and while it exhibits a strength I hope to have someday, I'm not ready yet. I'm not ready yet.

I don't trust that people understand how hard this has been for me. How hard this will be for me. To stand up there and deliver a stirring performance while attempting to forget that every word feels like a knife, and I’d rather be literally anywhere else. I expressed my hesitation to a single person. Their response: “Well, you have a mother, right?” It only reminded me of how forgotten and misunderstood one becomes once they're an "infertile". I haven’t quit the show yet, but I’ve considered it. Multiple times. I won’t split hairs or make excuses: I just don’t want to do this.

Most days, I retain my objectivity to the difference in perspectives. Most days, I understand. Right now? I'm just mad. What stage of grief is anger? Because I’m pretty sure that’s where I’m living right now. I thought I was past that part, but apparently you can get sucked backward. Just the fact that my everyday reality doesn't even register to most people as something to consider makes me indignant.

I don't even have a point to this post. I guess just to throw out into the world, to the very few reading this who can actually relate: you’re not alone. I know you feel like you are - GOD, DO I KNOW IT - but you’re not.

To everyone else, as you flood Facebook with pictures of your adorably misspelled cards written in crayon, your burnt breakfasts, your dandelions picked from the yard, your slobbery kisses and I love you, Moms, please remember this day isn’t easy for everyone. For some of us, this is the hardest day of the year.

Please be sensitive to that.