The last sunset of 2013 from Stinson Beach…
Happy New Year, kittens. I’ve missed you and the keys.
Did you feel a little claustrophobic over the last few days? If so, I know why. You holed up with me after the clock struck midnight and helped me open my eyes. We sat in the dark and batted some theories back and forth. You wouldn’t let me bob and weave and talk myself out of what needs to happen. You were magnificent. Especially when I said, It’s just not necessary! And you said, It’s beyond essential, mandatory, and you will be so very grateful!
That’s when we hugged. I grabbed the toilet paper (because I ran out of tissues…a few weeks ago), blew my nose for a solid minute, and we fell asleep in a heap. A happy heap.
But we really shouldn’t jump ahead…
New Year’s Eve Day dawned. I expected a clear blue sky like every other day as of late. The weather has been disturbingly spectacular. And that day did not disappoint. Although it started out softened with clouds, it morphed into a warm and sunny Winter day, NoCal style. The Dudes and I extended an invitation to several of their school chums and parents before the holiday break to join us on Stinson Beach for a play date to close out 2013. The Universe doesn’t take a holiday, so I was not surprised to look around the group that gathered and see a widow and three divorced moms, one with an additional tiara signifying a victory over breast cancer. A fourth divorced mom arrived at sundown.
Single parents gather in clusters. Like redheads. It’s true. If you see one redhead you will see four others before the end of the day. We tend to flock. In the case of redheads I believe it is a defense posture. For single parents the subset rule goes into effect. While our married friends don’t judge us (although some may have misplaced envy), they might subconsciously feel bad for us, and nobody wants to feel bad on New Year’s Eve.
Long before red and green M&Ms filled the candy aisle I knew The Dudes and I would be on Stinson Beach for New Year’s Eve. The tide calendar showed that a negative tide would arrive, revealing building sized boulders at the southern end of the beach, exposing to those who made the trek down the marine life that normally bends gently with the water’s pull, lit with sunlight diluted by saltwater.
The other exposure that happens during a negative tide is that which occurs at the hot springs. People get naked. The kids were really hopeful that they would see one of these rare naked bodies. A giant whale could have beached itself and coughed up the cast of The Wizard of Oz and they would have run right by on their way to find the naked people…all the while saying, Ewwwww, naked people!!!
I would have said something different had I the fortune of ending the year with a sighting involving even a naked forearm.
We were all momentarily disappointed by our Rated G outing, but so much else happened that day. For each of the adults that gathered. And, I imagine, for the children as well. They, too, have all experienced the pain of loss recently. As I write these words it’s just now crystalizing for me how magical it was for each of us and our children to come together and close out a year that brought so much change to our families.
I wonder if we all had epiphanies that day.
The day before New Year’s Eve my former spouse asked for The Dudes to call for end of year wishes and telephone kisses. At one point during the conversation the Tall Dude’s eyes met mine as he said into the phone, Here’s Mom, Happy New Year! I brushed off the handoff and said, That’s okay, honey.
He ended the call.
I don’t talk to my former spouse unless it’s about a co-parenting issue. I certainly didn’t need to wish him a Happy New Year. I wouldn’t give good wishes to someone who betrayed me, used me, and lied to me thousands of times. There is nothing abnormal about avoiding someone capable of such behavior. I don’t proactively socialize with people who screw other people over, much less if I’m the one they are screwing. You probably don’t either.
The next morning, on the 31st, I spoke with Melissa, my all-seeing friend to center in on my Mom’s transition away from the 3D. (I’m not avoiding the words death or dying. This is a transition.) She had some beautiful guidance to share. I felt my heart open, my eyes refocus on the subtleties of life instead of the hardcore realities. The Tall Dude’s expression at the moment he ended the call with his Dad materialized, larger than life. It was as if a movie theater emerged in my tiny, pitched roof bedroom, a chair slid into the back of my legs and somebody shoved popcorn in my hands as I fell. Orchestral suspense had been building like the quiet scenes right before the ax hits the door or the severed head falls into view from within a sunken boat. My eyes reflexively pressed closed.
He needs to see me talk to his Dad. He needs me to talk to his Dad.
He needs to see us as a family. He needs us to be a family.
I wanted to stamp my feet.
Really? C’mon. Haven’t I done enough? I’m spinning magic, I’m present, I’m making good choices, I’m a grounded parent. I am making wonderful childhood memories with The Dudes. Leave the DBF (divorced best friends) to those who divorce without the complicating factor (ugly betrayal) of infidelity.
Tension seeped around my rib cage. Just the thought of spending time with him made me feel so dense and heavy.
No. I don’t need to do it. We will all be okay. Our (The Dudes and me) happiness does not hinge on me spending time with my former spouse. I don’t want to expose myself to his energy. Eventually they will understand.
I dusted the popcorn off my pants and got up. The End.
We wove our way south on Highway 1, hugging the lagoon. Flocks of shore birds and a gaggle of seals sunned themselves. The Dudes were stoked to see their school friends. The Tall Dude had on his skate pads and helmet, not wanting to delay skateboarding for even a moment upon our arrival in the parking lot. I let the thoughts of New Year’s Days past drift right on by, preferring instead to stay in the moment and focus on thoughts that would lead to growth.
I need to be very conscious of my emotions, see them, acknowledge them right away, like long lost acquaintances, some of whom I may not wish to spend much time with but should not ignore. Everyone, my former spouse included, has lessons to teach me. I am open to the magic when I do not resist. Which means that I need to have boundaries in place. Those boundaries insure that I don’t let emotions twirl me like a baton, that I observe instead of get consumed by the events unfolding around me, and that in the moment I am able to remain centered.
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.
I thought of this potent quote sent to me by a kitten (thank you, love you, owe you, T!):
An old Cherokee told his grandson,
“My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”
Since first reading it I have come back to this quote numerous times and shared it with The Dudes as they make choices about which wolf to feed.
By the time we arrived at the beach I felt grounded and open and absolutely devoid of anxiety. I was totally at peace.
A big surf greeted us, crashing on the sand sending billows of spray into the air. The water behind it glittered. Shore birds dove in for snacks and a brave man swam laps, doing his best seal imitation on a beach known for Great White sightings. We spent the day herding kids and letting the boys know that if their wrestling resulted in broken bones they were on their own getting to a hospital. A friend baked us a tower of cookies with a clock striking midnight perched on top. After burgers from the Parkside, the children pulled apart the tower cookie by cookie, not caring that their hands were covered in sand.
Crumb covered smiles were everywhere. I threw gluten to the wind and ate one in four bites.
It was a waltz kind of day. People coming together and then drifting apart, spending time alone at the water’s edge and then gathered on a blanket. I worked out my Peyton Manning arm with a football (Honestly, how could my brothers have neglected to teach me the proper way to throw a football all those years? My spiral is spectacular. I could have been somebody.) and climbed the dunes to check on the older boys who left on a solo journey to the hamburger stand. They were SO stoked to be able to venture off without a parent shadowing them. Little did they know…we checked up but didn’t hover.
Late in the day I left for home to get the Tall Dude’s wet suit. He begged for me to retrieve it so he could get in the water. While I’m certain he wanted to show his friends how he could body surf, I could also see his soul begging to be able to ride the waves and let the buoyancy of the water lift his energetic body, lift his spirits. By the time I returned they had ventured down to the boulders. With wet suit in hand I quickly set off to catch up as the sun neared the horizon. With no warning, not even the tiniest hint that a gargantuan shift was imminent, in rushed this:
You promised him a family. You didn’t promise him you’d be married to his Dad, he understands that is now over, but you promised him a family. So you’ll give him a family.
I didn’t resist it. I didn’t feel nauseous at the prospect of what this might mean. There was not an ounce of dread.
Instead, I felt overjoyed because I KNEW inside that I had discovered, with the guidance of the Tall Dude, an important milestone in our relationship, the relationship I have with my son. I saw the agreement we made to each other. If I didn’t fulfill this agreement, he would be angry at me. Which in and of itself is not a problem. Anger exists. How we deal with it is the secret to moving through it without scarring. That was where he would get in a snag. He doesn’t want to be angry at me, with me. So, instead, he would bury it. And the wound would fester. And his life would be altered because we didn’t fulfill the agreement we made to each other.
The fork in the road appeared again. I had a choice. Veer to the left, away from spending time with my former spouse, and I would insure a tumultuous time for the Tall Dude and me, literally and karmacially. Take the right road and, much to my surprise, I would experience joy. Pure and total joy. Magic on steroids. I would make room for more love, greater gifts. I would be a giant leap closer to living an Ego-less life of bliss. My vibrational energy would be so gorgeous I would manifest my every need being met perfectly.
I looked right as the sun met the horizon and watched it melt into the sea. Up ahead I could see the Tall Dude in his bright green shirt, the one with the Great White on it. We ran to each other. He plowed into me with a hug, so grateful I retrieved his wet suit. Moments later he was riding in waves after promising me he wouldn’t go in above his knees. (I didn’t want him to be the lead story on the news that night.) Our bond was yet again strengthened when he made the choice to head to the waves after we had arrived back at the blanket. It was near dark. I couldn’t find him. Down at the water’s edge I saw a dark figure which would soon be consumed by the darkness itself. When he turned to see the speed at which I was running toward him he burst into tears.
Never go into the water without getting my direct permission, I firmly stated. Our eyes met. His filled with tears.
You scared me, Mommy.
I’m glad it was only scary and not a tragedy. Never go into the water alone. I would have not been able to see you if you got knocked over by a wave. Do you see how fast darkness comes? We turned to look at the water and saw white foam and endless black. It’s okay. This is how you learn, love. I’m not mad; I’m grateful you’re here and that you now know better.
As we walked back to the blanket, our arms wrapped around each other, I expressed gratitude for the teaching moments the day held. It was an unexpected grand finale to a year of growth and really good choices.
With darkness descending we gathered our belongings. We agreed that the proper way to wind down would involve a cocktail and the Sand Dollar.
I indulged with a perfect margarita, the last before I climb Mt. Rainier, and soaked in the scene – school friends gathered at a table in a tiny beach town far away from the normal day-to-day. Adults in various stages of healing and grieving and growing relaxed and maybe a bit relieved that the day held such peaceful energy, even with a few meltdowns that are to be expected when bodies, emotional and physical, are tired. When wounds are struggling to close.
Mr. Wild Card was there. He came over to say hello. It was like the old days. The Dudes goofed on him, he played back, we shared a warm smile and wishes for a magical new year. We were perfectly at ease in each other’s presence, happy to see each other.
That night as I lay in bed I wondered how I would be able to pull off the task that lay ahead, swinging back and forth between thoughts of It’ll be easy! and I will never be able to do it without feeling fake! (label, judge, label, judge) Like the ghost of Family Future, you kept showing me how it would not only be possible but lead to a truly clean and pure and honest life where my actions were not being controlled by my Ego. I reveled in that thought. I knew in my heart that I would be filled with strength and beauty and unconditional love for living up to the commitment I made to The Dudes. That by giving them the family that I promised them I would be creating epic momentum for an avalanche of gifts that I’ve earned. That I deserve.
I knew that by making this choice, by choosing the right road, I would find my Holy Grail. Literally.
I would achieve spiritual wholeness.
Which is way more beautiful than being righteous.
Sexier than a tiny bum.
More fulfilling than a hot kiss.
One hell of a way to start the New Year.