The Unexpected Joy of My Divorce

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Photo Credit: The Leo Loves

I was sitting on a secret for almost a week before I decided to call my father. He had noticed I was distant the past few months but I didn’t let on that it was anything more than stress at work, stress with the kids or the usual busyness of life. I could tell he wasn’t buying it when his replies became, “Ok honey, just know I’m always here for you.” It was ripping my heart out that I hadn’t told him yet, but I just wasn’t ready for it to be real.

So the day that my then husband and I chose to tell our parents about our separation, well, let’s just say it was dreaded. I called the man who had been the one person in my whole life who believed in me. Not the only person, but the constant. As the phone rang one after another after another, I almost hung up, as if it was a sign that today wasn’t the day. The lump in my throat held the biggest disappointment my father would ever know.

One thing I had already decided was that I would not be telling him I was in love with a woman. I wanted to be honest with my father that day, not kill him. I fought back the tears as I heard the last ring cut short, and his voice say, “hello?”

The pitch of his voice told me he was surprised to see my call coming through. Being that I used to call or text him every day, you can only imagine the assumptions he had to play with when I ghosted him. I gathered my courage and prepared to let my father down. The man who I built my entire world around. The only man I ever sought approval from. My biggest cheerleader is about to find out that his perfect daughter is flawed.

I swallowed the lump in my throat rather than choke on it and held the tears back for now and told my dad that things aren’t quite what they seem. My marriage has fallen apart and I no longer want to be married anymore.

The silence killed me. My step-mother was also on the line, and I kept imagining the looks they were exchanging on the other end of the telephone. I knew my father was trying to wrap his head around what I was saying as I stammered through my explanation, broken and incapable of making sense. He read my desperation and fear. Desperate to be told it would “be ok,” and fear that he wouldn’t love me anymore.

So he began to speak. He spoke slow, and clear. Anyone who knows my father knows that he’s a man of few words when it comes to feelings. He prefers to skip over that part and acknowledge emotions in short spurts, preferably during milestone moments. But when it comes to me, he’s all-in 365 days a year. There’s no holding back with his baby girl.

“Oh honey, I knew something was going on. I thought you might be having a hard time. I am quite surprised and have many questions, but that will wait for another time. I love you, honey and nothing will ever change that. And you need to be happy. Life is too short not to be. I will always love you, ok?”

My father has been married to his 3rd wife for 20+ years. Often times I speak with him about things that he’s not experienced in, but this, he’s been here before. He has experience here and his love and understanding was the most pure that I’d ever felt it.

In that conversation, he didn’t break, because he knew I was breaking. He didn’t pry, because he knew there was more to the story that I wasn’t ready to share. And he didn’t react, because he knew I was anticipating the worst.

Two weeks later I told him I was in love with a woman I work with. But to be honest, I was more nervous to tell him about my separation than I was about switching teams. He loved my ex-husband very much and still does. I wasn’t the only one married to him, so was my whole family. This wasn’t just my loss or his loss, we all lost.

So, when I came out about Her, I was prepared for shock, and dismay. I was never fearful of disapproval because my younger sister is gay and my father has been nothing but accepting. But his reaction floored me. I cried from sheer unexpectedness. He said to me, “Yea, I figured.”

“I’m sorry, WHAT?! What do you mean, you figured?”

He went on to shock me over and over again during that conversation. He gave me some of the best advice I have ever been given, and he single-handedly saved my life in the 30 minutes we spoke. Because what I didn’t know was that I was about to embark on the hardest year of my life. I was going to need him, his compassionate heart, his open ear, his steady shoulder, and all of his love every-single-day. I was going to need a best friend. When I no longer had one, he became my best friend. I was going to need my Daddy in ways I had never needed him and ways he couldn’t have imagined he’d be needed. And I was going to need to reflect back on that conversation just to get through the days to come.

To say he rose to the challenge of fatherhood would be an understatement. I know he had days of sadness, confusion and helplessness surrounding my divorce. I know he had questions that he waited months sometimes to have answered. I know he had an opinion on more than one occasion, but I would never know it. Not one time did he make me feel like I owed him anything in the process. He let me go to him, and stopped everything to be there when I did.

He gave me the gift of acceptance, unconditional love, and joy. I have always been close with my dad, but he has truly been the most unexpected joy of this whole godawful thing called divorce.

Just the other day I called him with a lump in my throat. That lump disappeared when I heard his voice and cried my eyes out. He calmed me down, normalized all of my feelings and said, “You need to come see me. You need your daddy.”

“Yes, daddy I need you. I will always need you.”

When the Kids Leave

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Photo Credit: Pexels.com

Ok, so here’s the honest to goodness truth, divorce sucks. I know, shocker. The process is horrific, painful and gut-wrenching. Sharing custody of your children can really suck, too. But it can also give you, as a parent, the break you never knew you needed. I can’t tell you the last time (before my divorce) that I had two consecutive days of silence at home. It never existed, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it all the time, or even most of the time.

It takes me less than 24 hours to not just miss my kids, but yearn to smell their skin and breathe in their sleepy, smelly breath. It can turn a sane person crazy. And by day two, I’m running to their door to embrace them and kiss their fluffy cheeks smeared with crusted peanut butter and Doritos. Let’s just say, I’m THAT mom and I don’t do well without my babies.

But holidays without the kids, that could cause death by a broken heart to any parent. The longing for your children, the deafening silence, the loneliness, it’s compounded intensely during the holidays. And it SUCKS.

Catch me on a Monday morning after having them since Friday and I’m singing a different tune. I’m overwhelmed, sleep deprived, lacking patience and edgy. A few days off doesn’t just sound good, it’s a necessity for my survival. Then as co-parents, we ask ourselves, “how do single mothers without shared custody do it?” It’s a vicious cycle of guilt, love and overwhelm that literally depends on the day.

But the holidays; I’d do anything to hear my child whining because there’s a “vegetable in my spaghetti.” I’d do anything to hear the call from the bathroom to “COME WIPE MY BUTT!” I’d do anything not to sleep all night because I’m sandwiched between two heaters who have no concept of personal space. I’d do anything.

And it sucks, because there’s absolutely nothing I can do.

But what I can do is plan for the reunion. I call the first night of reunification, “the honeymoon.” We will embrace, kiss, snuggle, tell each other how much we missed each other, and do all the things we missed doing. Then, we’ll plan for the weekend. “Let’s get a Christmas tree this weekend! Let’s go to Chuck E Cheese’s! Let’s see a movie! Let’s go to the beach!” We will talk about how we will do ALL THE THINGS together!

Then the kids will begin fighting because they are brothers and that’s what they do. My anxiety will start to heighten, and I’ll raise my voice for the first time since they came home. From there it’s all downhill, because once mom has raised her voice, it’s a free for all to piss her off. The overwhelm kicks in and empty threats start flying like Nerf darts to my ass.

I’ll lay in bed thinking about that one week I had without them. That agonizing week where I was empty and almost dead inside. That week where I was sure I might die of a broken heart. I’ll wonder why I didn’t enjoy at least one solid hour of peace. Being a mother will once again confuse my mind and play tricks on my heart.

I’ll swear to myself that next weekend, I’m going to do a spa day. I’m going to do so many things for myself without guilt. I’m going to go out with the girls for drinks, and stay up past 10pm. I’m going to go on a road trip without a plan. Next weekend I’m going to do ALL THE THINGS for myself and soak in every second of freedom. But first, I’ll give myself a pep talk and pray about getting through this weekend with the kids.

“Dear Lord, 

Give me strength to withstand the backtalk I am about to endure for three days straight. Give me courage to rise above the farts in a literal way so the smell does not torch my lungs. Let the love flow out of me like the darts my pre-pubescent son shoots from his eyes. And most importantly, give me patience to survive the whining, because while it will likely be the death of me one day, I’d be so happy to survive this weekend in order to make it to my spa day next weekend. 

Amen”

The weekend will come and I’ll dread when they remember their grand Chuck E. Cheese’s idea, but instead they’ll ask to go on a bike ride to the park. I’ll wait for them to announce all the toys they want to take to the beach, but they’ll choose to relax and binge watch a Netflix show together. And as I plan for how I’m going to rearrange my whole house to fit the nine foot tree they’ll pick out, we will spend Sunday in the backyard doing sidewalk chalk and watering plants in our pajamas.

We won’t do any of the things we said we’d do this weekend. It will be unexpected, off the cuff and fulfilling. It will contain laughter and skipping a shower. We will be taken off guard by its greatness, it will go by in a flash, and it surely won’t go according to plan.

It will be so much better, just like parenting.

And then they’ll leave. And I’ll feel empty inside.

But they’ll come back, with a vengeance.

 

 

The Problem with Change

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Do you like change or do you hate it? Do you thrive off it or does it paralyze you? Are we meant to stay the same forever, or does learning happen in the process of change, growth and evolution? I think we all know the answer, so why are we all so damn afraid of it? Why does the idea of change feel like a death sentence?

I grew up surrounded by change. My parents divorced at a young age. We moved around a lot and I was the new girl in class at several different schools. To this day, I hate being the “new girl” anywhere I go. Experiencing so much change in such a short amount of time caused me to despise it. If I did nothing else as an adult, I promised myself I’d avoid change at all costs in order to protect the greater good and me. I wouldn’t ruffle feathers, I would consider everyone else before myself, I would play it safe and I sure as hell would not put my kids through what I had been through. Maybe not the most realistic outlook, but how many 11 year-olds do you know that are realistic?

How we are raised has almost everything to do with how we will eventually see the world. It has much to do with what we will want or not want for our futures and for our families. Our desires and goals will stem from the traditional ideals and values each of our family units prioritize and experience during our upbringing.

I decided as a young girl that I would marry one time, have babies and raise them to accept everyone as they are, as they wish to be, and that also meant acceptance if they changed. Well, with the exception of me. I wasn’t allowed to change. Change for myself meant failure; failure to uphold the plan, failure to follow-through, failure to live up to my own expectations, and therefore everyone else’s expectations of me.

Entering adulthood, becoming a mother and wife quickly awoke me to the realization that my perspective may not be the most conducive, and I may need to bend a little in order to make room for my own happiness. A slow process of change began to happen. But I’d draw the line when it came to my family unit. I had decided that I’d forever have my picture-perfect family, because I didn’t have one as a child, and life would have been better if I had, obviously.

For someone who was so accepting of others, I wasn’t very accepting of myself. I couldn’t change; I wouldn’t change, even if I was unhappy, because I had to prove the little girl in me right. Keeping my family together would be the best thing for all of us.

So when it wasn’t the best thing for me, a change in me began to take place, one I didn’t know was actually happening until it was too late and something had to be done. Something had to give. I had to make a change. I had to change.

“What a failure I am! I can’t even keep one damn promise to myself. I can’t just suck it up and do it for the sake of my family, or at the very least, my children. What an awful mother I am and an even worse wife.  Who do I think I am to believe that I deserve something for myself? What happened to doing things for the greater good, Alison? Who the hell have you become? No one even knows you anymore. You’ve changed!”

I truly believed that because I changed, that meant I lied. It meant I lied about what I wanted, what my intentions for my family and our future actually were. It meant that I was no longer worthy of the love of others because I had unintentionally fooled them and myself. And now they’ve shunned me, or spoken the most untrue words behind my back, or forgotten me. And I believed I deserved it.

I believed I deserved the abandonment, and the hateful words flying at my phone and at my face. I believed I deserved to suffer because after all, this was my entire fault. The greater good was no longer good. It was disappointment, shock, sadness and judgment. I had changed.

I didn’t mean to change. I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to suffer. But I changed and I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t even tell you the moment it happened. It was gradual, suppressed, ignored and denied until it could no longer be. And here I am, changed.

I am also free of my own failures, failures that were never failures but hard lessons. I am free of my own expectations, because I never expected to change, and yet it happened, and that’s ok. I am free of my own judgments. I am free of my own disappointments.

I am free.

I have changed.

Thank God, I have changed.

Introducing the BLOG Store

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Well if this isn’t a long time coming, I don’t know what is! I’ve had SO MANY requests for a Store on the blog. What I hear most often when I write memes or little quips is, “I’d totally wear that on a shirt!”

Well, NOW you CAN!

This is coming to you, my loyal subscribers first, and I’m going to give you a code that will give you $5 off all purchases up until November 25th. The code to enter at checkout is HONESTY. These t-shirts will make amazing holiday gifts for the moms in your life. As of now, I have womens V-neck t-shirts of the best quality!

IF you’re looking for a different style (crew neck, sweatshirt, etc.), all you have to do is leave me a comment or shoot me an email through the ‘contact’ tab and I’ll be sure to add it to the availability.

I’ll be adding more to the store soon, so stay tuned!

To the Ones Who Left, I Will Always Remember

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Photo: pexels

To the Ones Who Left,

I don’t think we understand the magnitude of pain until we experience it, live in it and see it through to the other side. At the beginning of my separation from my now ex-husband, my life was in chaos. Literally deconstructed. Emotionally devastated by a life changing decision I made. The impact it had on my family, chaos doesn’t even begin to describe it.

You see, I know I made a decision; one you do not agree with.  You see, I know I hurt people for a sake that you may never choose to understand. You see, I know some of you will read this and say, “I’m not the one who left her! She left all of us!”  Well, I guess that could be true, depending on how you choose to see it.

If you remember me, you remember I’m a good person. If you once loved me, you know I have a warm heart. If you cared for me, there was probably a time I helped you through something (without judgment). If you laughed with me, you probably liked my sense of humor. If you cried with me, we probably had a bond. If we had heart-to-hearts, we were probably vulnerable with one another.

But now you don’t know me anymore. And you’re angry. You’re angry that I changed. That I hurt people. Maybe I hurt you, indirectly and unintentionally. Maybe you’ve labeled me selfish, a user, a bitch, a villain…spoken bad about me to people by whispering in their ear, who in turn whisper in mine. I know who you are, and I know what you say.

You’ve judged my decision, and come up with your own opinion of what happened in my life, my marriage and why I walked away. And you’ve decided I’m not worth your time, your effort and you’ve given up on me.

We all grieve in our own way. And before I could come to all of you and explain my pain, I needed to attempt to understand it first. I needed people in my life who would wait for me, without judgment. I needed people not to create their own stories about me, but wait for me to tell mine. I needed unconditional love, not to be left out with the trash. I needed you NOT to take it personal. I needed it NOT to be about you. I needed time. Time to catch my breath, so that I could grab the hands that reached out, that waited for me and didn’t give up on me.

But many of you let me go. And that’s ok. I’m not mad at you. I understand.

But there’s something I want you to know. I will always remember you. I will remember being in your wedding, and crying as I stood next to you. I will remember listening to your problems and reconciling mine with you over a glass of wine. I will remember being your roommate and dancing together until the sun came up. I will remember your birthday every year. I will remember going through births, deaths and everything in between with you. I’ll never forget. I’ll always remember with fondness, a bitter-sweet feeling swirling in the pit of my heart. I’ll smile when I hear that you got married, that you’re having a baby, and that you’re happy.

But I’ll also be here if things ever fall apart, if things change course or if your life ever deconstructs. I’ll be here without judgment. I won’t talk bad about you. I’ll listen and try to understand. And if I can’t, I’ll be there for you anyway. If you don’t return my calls, I’ll keep calling. I won’t take your heartache personal. I’ll create a safety net for you, should you ever need to use it. I will be a safe haven without question.

Because I could never forget what we’ve shared or the times we’ve had. Because I will always love you, unconditionally. Because no matter the choices you make, I will always remember who you are.

And you are good.

I will always remember you are good.

 

 

 

‘Coming Out’ Set Me Free From Anxiety

 

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Image via: Alison Chrun

I’ve suffered from anxiety in one form or another since high school. I didn’t realize it was anxiety, however, until just a few years ago. I always classified myself as high strung, and stressed, but never anxious. Anxious always meant something was wrong with you, and as a teenager, the last thing I wanted to be was different.

Fast forward to my early 20s and the anxiety increased once life as a young adult began. College, work, bills, relationships; life’s growing pains were in full effect and I wasn’t coping very well. I broke up with one relationship and quickly moved on to another. I partied like most young college students do and distracted myself with goals, and piling more things onto my plate than I could handle.

Depression would sink in every so often once I realized I was overwhelmed and moving too fast. Little did I know it was depression, though. I labeled myself an introvert, mildly anti-social, a party pooper, but never depressed.

I continued to feel unsettled for the next decade. Distracted by starting a family, continued education and always wanting more more more. I couldn’t sit still mentally. If I wasn’t doing something to elevate me to the next level, I wasn’t doing good enough. I moved through life chasing this happiness and fulfillment everyone spoke of. I was sure I would get there eventually, but when? When was enough, enough?

Once my world caved in and I separated from my husband, I felt more feelings and experienced more emotions than I ever knew was possible. As chaotic as my head had become, it was imperative that I simplify my life and only do what I was able to do for the sake of not losing my shit. Life consisted of getting out of bed every day, showering, caring for my children, getting to work, attending therapy and taking my Zoloft.

To say I felt like I was drowning is an understatement. To say I was in a dark place is sugarcoating it. I was down, I was out, I was broken. Leaving my marriage for a woman, well it wasn’t received well. I mean how could it be? I was barely able to accept my new reality, but it was me. I felt more me then I had ever expected to feel. That in and of itself was confusing. How could I feel so comfortable in this new reality without ever seeing it coming?

I took my own self by surprise when I came out as a gay woman. People tell me I’m not gay all the time. They tell me that because I had never felt these feelings for a woman before, it must be a fluke, or a unique situation. Well, to be honest, I really don’t care what anyone calls it. I’m least interested in a label or trying to figure out what to call myself, because I am comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. I am still, and that’s something I never thought I could be. My anxiety has decreased tenfold, and I don’t know why or how.

I mean, I could hypothesize. I could say that therapy and the chiropractor have something to do with it. I could say that my newfound independence has something to do with it. I could say that it’s because my self-care has increased by 100 times. But I could also say that I am living my life honestly, as a gay woman. I could share that I feel like if I never achieved another goal again, I’d be so happy with the woman I’ve become in this life and relationship with myself. I could say it’s because I’ve found my truth and I’m living it out loud.

Maybe it’s everything combined. Maybe it’s none of those things. But I feel good. I feel still. I feel like I can pause, breathe, recognize things around me that I wasn’t able to before. I feel at peace. I feel authentic.

I’m not saying I’ll never feel anxious again, I’m not saying I’ll never feel depressed again, and I’m sure as hell not saying I’m going off my medication, but I’m saying something is different. Something is really, really different.

The obvious? I’m living my life as a gay woman. The not so obvious? I’m genuinely fulfilled and I’m slowing down in the best way possible.

 

The Outcome

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be writing this article. I mean, I can write about a lot of things and express a lot of emotions, but this, I wasn’t expecting this.

As many of you know, I’m going through a divorce. I never thought I’d be doing that either. The “D” word actually makes my stomach turn to say. It’s a word I would use to describe the tumultuous end to my parent’s marriage, but not my own. Although I can say there’s nothing tumultuous about my relationship with my ex-husband, another word I hate, the “D” word still doesn’t feel normal or like it belongs within 10 feet of me. But ultimately it did. And it still does. And I’m sure it will get easier to say, and be.

But the truth is, I left.

I left the perfect marriage because, well, first of all it wasn’t perfect. So for those who believed it was, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. And for those grieving the loss of “us,” my condolences. Imagine how we feel.

Just because I left, doesn’t mean I wanted to. I had to. It wasn’t a choice. And it sure as hell wasn’t easy. So for those who think I left, moved on without a care and am waving from my high horse, please, get a grip.

I ran into a conflict. One that could not be ignored. One that could not be “fixed” in therapy or in any other way. One that stopped me dead in my tracks and still has me baffled at times.

I’m a monogamist. I have never been a casual dater. I’d been boy crazy as a young teen. I had a high school boyfriend who I was infatuated with for a long time. Then I fell head over heels for my husband. 3 years later we were married. 1 year later we had our first son. 4 years later we had our second son. And in the same year that we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary, and 14 years of being together, we were also filing divorce papers.

Because there was this “thing” that plagued my heart and soul for the last several years of my marriage, this question that I thought could never be answered, this mind-fucking tug of war between my heart and my head that ripped me to pieces over and over again. This thing that I couldn’t put my finger on, blindsided me. I was given no warning. It was a reality so far from what I was expecting. It cured the plague, it answered the question, and it put me back together.

I fell in love with a woman.

Before anyone goes labeling me, and placing me in a neat little box to confine and talk about, please beware, I am the last person to care about a damn label. I don’t do well in small confined spaces, and I don’t give a fuck who has what to say about me. That will never stop me from living my life and loving who I love. Maybe it’s my age, my field of work, or my lack of fucks to give, but nope.

Am I gay? Bi-curious? Bisexual? Straight? Confused? Going through a phase? (That’s my favorite.)

I had never looked at another woman in a romantic way. I had never entertained the idea. I have always thought women are beautiful and strong and fearless warriors, but don’t we all? Was I naive? Out of touch with who I really was? Oblivious to my own desires? I would argue against all of those things, but what do I know? I mean, how the hell do I know anything anymore? I thought I knew myself, but that was thrown out the window when I met her.

She was beautiful, kind, sweet, generous, funny, and her positive energy was infectious. But it became more than that. I connected with her on an incredibly deep level. This quest I had been on for most of my late 20s and all of my 30s to find what was missing for me, was exhausting, maddening, and devastating. I was sure there was something wrong with me. I felt misunderstood and undeserving of the life I had because I wasn’t fulfilled. My heart wasn’t whole, and my spirit worked tirelessly to maintain consistency for those around me.

I was sad. Suffering at times. But quietly, because from the outside looking in, this just shouldn’t be how one feels or reacts to such a beautiful life. And I didn’t know what was wrong, and that made it impossible to fix.

But She. She walked into my life, and just fit. As if I’d known her forever, or in another life. As if my quest was for her. As if my uneasiness, my anxiety, and my restlessness had all been heightened because I didn’t have her with me. I had found my peace.

I had no more questions. I had found the answer. And I was sure. I had never been more sure of anything before. But I was married, with the perfect life to the perfect husband with the perfect kids. We had the perfect plans for our perfect future.

But I had to follow my gut, and my heart. And it fucking sucked. It hurt people I love. It shocked people I love. It pushed people away, that I love. It’s sucked the energy out of me for a period of time. It’s riddled my heart for a moment. It’s tested all of my beliefs and expectations of who I am and what I stand for.

It’s been humbling. And I wouldn’t change it.

I don’t know who people will see after reading these words. I don’t know what people will think or say or feel. And that’s ok. I’m at peace with the outcome. Because the outcome is, I am a human being in love with another beautiful human being.

I am happy. I am whole. I am peace. I am love. I am me.