The Dudes and I taking in the first sunset of the New Year in the Pt. Reyes Wilderness
When I was in second grade I went over to a friend’s house after school. That’s what we called it way back then. Going over to a friend’s house after school. Not a play date. Her name was Janet and she wore her hair in Pippy Longstocking braids. Every single day until Sophomore year in high school when she discovered big hair was actually cool. We drove up the steep hill to her home and climbed the stairs to her front door, pulled off our snow boots and crowded into the small galley kitchen for cocoa and cookies.
Her grandmother, who lived with her, set down a plate of cookies on the two-person formica table that fit snuggly against a wall covered with yellow flowers and ivy on the borders. Janet thanked her Nana for the cookies.
My grandmother’s name is Nana, too, I said.
Oh, honey, my name isn’t Nana. It’s…(insert old-fashioned name here. My memory isn’t that great.)
Well, my grandmother’s name is actually Nana, I said with absolute certainty.
Actually, I was totally wrong, My grandmother’s name was Mabel. A name, I predict, that will surge in popularity over the next 18 months. It’s a sweet, pretty, playful name. Just watch, a Victoria Secret super model is going to show up with the name Mabel, then Drew Barrymore will name her soon-to-be born daughter Mabel and shazam, Mabels multiplying like fruit flies all over the world.
Bet you ten bucks.
Just as I was wrong about my grandmother’s name being Nana, but so certain I was right, I was also wrong about my New Year’s Eve day epiphany, and equally as emphatic that I had read the signs accurately. Thanks to the kittens and multiple signs from the Universe, I have come to understand and accept that my family has evolved from an intact family of four to a family of three forevermore.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
The sea air and soft sand, laughter and friendship, and perhaps the margarita, all contributed to me misinterpreting the message being sent through the Tall Dude to me that day. I thought I had nailed it. I should have known that my Ego, in stealth mode, was hard at work just by recognizing that I thought I could make the Tall Dude happy by spending more time with my former spouse.
Right there…the Ego in all its glory. All powerful and mighty ME could make another human being happy.
Happiness comes from within. No one can make me genuinely happy. I can experience (share) happiness with another person, but they can’t make me happy. And if I am sad or mad or angry or anxious or pissy it’s because I choose to be. No one can make me angry. I make the choice to react to a fact or situation with anger. Now, there’s nothing wrong with anger, unless I unleash it on someone else, but emotions of all flavors and forms are at their best when we take responsibility for them, observe them, feel them. And then release them.
So there I was thinking (that should have been a tip off right there…thinking) that I could wave my magic wand and make the Tall Dude happy by getting the ‘family’ back together. Silly me.
After asking for your help, and receiving it (thank you!), I spent the weekend alone pondering the fork in the road. I was surprised at the passion with which kittens responded saying, NOOOOO! Don’t do it!!!! The snow kittens to the north were especially emphatic. (Canucks are passionate people; it’s how they stay defrosted.)
Could I be that off base? It felt so right at the beach. These comments aren’t suggesting I watch my step or exercise caution, but that I risk losing all the ground I have gained the past two years if I start spending time with my former spouse in an effort to make The Dudes feel better.
Nah. I can do it! I have boundaries! Pft.
And then I chose to bop on over to Facebook and see what my FB friends did for New Years. Oh, look! A picture of my former spouse on someone’s timeline. And a comment I found insensitive written beneath it. I chose to make a juvenile move and reduce my reaction to 140 characters. Shame on me. As soon as I hit tweet I regretted it.
Ringing in my ears was this: Do not engage. Do not engage. Do not engage.
Lesson learned. Again. I’ve also decided to bow out of my personal Facebook account, which I visit about four times a year. Not because I need to, but because I just don’t have any use for it. And I feel guilty when I don’t respond to pictures and posts and such. Instead I’ll stay in touch with people the old-fashioned way. By phone or (GASP) handwritten note. Or email.
As the emails and comments poured in I calculated the split – 98% of you thought I was nuts to ‘go backwards’, to attempt a relationship beyond a cordial co-parent. I braided your comments together, hoping to get to the end and find the common issue.
I cannot trust my former spouse.
Infidelity. (Which is one part deceit and two parts betrayal.)
It’s absolutely that simple.
The next morning I was sorting through pictures for my end of year photo album I send to my family. I came upon the pictures I snapped for the blog of the anniversary card my former spouse gave to me six months before I found out about his multi-year affair. The one where he said he is blessed to have me in his life, that I’m his angel and that he’s looking forward to going on this adventure (our move west) with me. That I make him a better person.
As if it was yelled through a megaphone, the word TRUST rang loudly in my ears.
Then I zeroed in on that last line – You make me a better person.
No I don’t. And I don’t make you a bad person. I don’t make anyone anything. We choose to be who we are, we choose to do what we do, we choose to feel the way we feel. And our actions are our choices, too. We are responsible for our selves.
The final sign from the Universe that I was making a giant mistake of my own was a series of interactions with my former spouse on Monday. Because I wouldn’t alter our plans to get to the airport at the last minute to have dinner with him I’m a difficult person. And then the anger.
I don’t need to go into any more detail. And I can see your expression from here. (See!? We told you!) After I collected The Dudes, and remained centered despite efforts to upend me, we set off for an airport hotel – stay and park free is the only way to go when you have to be at the airport at 6AM. On the drive south I pictured that fork in the road again. I thought back to my words…
I am here to observe. To engage in a human life, fully present in the moment. Not running up ahead. Not buried in the past. But right here, right now, observing it all so that I can spot the signs and feel the magic.
As these words, these ideas, floated inside I felt myself stabilize. I visualized a fork in the road – the left lane dropped out of sight and then rose and fell and rose and fell through hills. While pretty, it was also pretty beat up. The road to the right S-curved its way through the hills, leaning into them making each turn easy, tight, smooth. It’s the kind of road that makes driving exhilarating, fun, sexy, engaging. Not tense like a battered road that tosses you about as you crane your neck to see over the next rise.
Triple bolded were these: Not buried in the past. Stabilized. Exhilirating. Fun. Sexy. Engaging.
That is not a road that my former spouse and I will ever travel together. Ours will be one of empathy. Patience. Tolerance. I hope.
After arriving at the hotel I went online to check on the…drumroll!!!!!!…POLAR VORTEXXXXXXXXXX!!!!!!!
(The media loves a catchy moniker. And I am super grateful I don’t live in the midwest.)
A caption to a picture of Drew Barrymore caught my eye. It referenced her lack of a relationship with her estranged mother. I linked through. (That’s how I came to learn she is pregnant with a girl. I’m not very up to date on pregnancies these days.) Of course, she was speaking right to me. Paraphrasing, she says that she feels okay about not having a relationship with her Mom. She just can’t have her Mom in her life right now. She has embraced the family of her spouse, identifies with them and their values, and is relaxed and at peace. No drama. In fact, she describes her life as rather boring.
(Drew, life is not boring. You know that.)
I thought back to more of your words. (I’d quote them here, but I’m in midair over Iowa and don’t want to pay for wifi. It’s a matter of principle. It should be free.) I didn’t promise the Tall Dude a family, I promised to be his Mom and love him unconditionally all the days of his life and beyond. I didn’t promise him a life without heartache. That wouldn’t be a life. And a promise I could never keep. His experience on this planet is his creation. He’s not a puppet on my strings. I don’t want to control him. He is good at expressing his emotions, and he will be good at building a productive relationship with them.
I’m here to teach him. The most important thing I can teach him is that happiness comes from within. On the beach on New Year’s Eve day I was moments away from teaching him that his happiness is tied to other people, external events, how others feel, how he feels about others.
I don’t know much about the technical definition of co-dependent relationships, but I’m pretty certain that those are hallmarks of how to train someone to be co-dependent.
One kitten said, You will confuse him…
I need to keep this simple. For everyone involved. Attempting to create some new kind of family-ish thing with my former spouse would have my Mom saying, Life isn’t complicated until you yourself complicate it. My Ego wanted to get in there and complicate things. My goodness has it mastered the art of being subtle! I nearly fell for it.
The only responsibility I have to my former spouse is to be cordial to him and a very present and loving and patient co-parent to our sons. That’s it. We operate better when we’re pleasantly apart. Not in each other’s way. He is (thankfully) a present Dad. I am a present Mom. I am a better parent then when I was married. And now I have the opportunity to teach The Dudes about healthy relationships.
It became clear to me over the weekend as I realized that I misinterpreted the signs that I am not supposed to recreate the Tall Dude’s birth family. It exists in its present form for a reason. That smooth road that hugs the curves and gracefully meanders over hill and dale is the road I am on now. It’s different by design. It doesn’t look anything like any other road I’ve traveled. It feels different, too.
I’ve been on this road for a while now. Completely content to drive alone upfront while The Dudes are in the back. For months I’ve had no burning desire to couple up. It’s real comfortable, this little triangle we have. I don’t plan on changing it, but I did discover the real Epiphany of New Year’s Eve day:
That feeling I had was real – pure joy, spiritual wholeness. As the sun set and 2014 came to be, I felt complete. Longing for nothing, for no one.
Happy from within.
I promise – no more crazy talk.
PS: Thank you, again, for your tough love, loving guidance, epic wisdom. So grateful for your presence here.