Should I Stay for the Kids?

When a couple is in a committed relationship, and one of them is contemplating leaving, he or she may ask him or herself questions such as, “Is this bad enough for me to leave or good enough for me to stay?” However, when that same couple is in a committed relationship with children, there is a much more disconcerting thought that may enter his or her mind: “What would leaving do to my children?”

I am 41 years old.  I am divorced.  I am clearly not a psychologist or a relationship expert.  I am not going to furl data or research at you.  However, I have had the privilege of witnessing profound personal growth in people who were willing to dig deeper into the layers of this aforementioned question:  What would leaving my children’s father or mother do to my children?

When I hear people ask this question, I also hear the following underlying/interconnected  questions:

  • What would it do to me to see my children suffer through this pain?
  • What would it mean for my children to come from a broken home?
  • What will happen to me as I explain this to other people?
  • What will people think of me for leaving a marriage or partnership that doesn’t look “that bad?”
  • Shouldn’t I be able to tolerate it, at least until the children get older, so that I can give them a “stable” home life?

These are really hard questions that I am sure many a therapist has heard in their offices. These are questions that have been written into journals and secretly tucked under people’s mattresses where no one else can find them.  These are questions that are whispered in quiet corridors where lovers meet to have affairs that feel more comfortable to them than leaving the status quo.  These are questions that people ask themselves as they drink a bottle of wine every night in order to go to sleep, because numbing out is easier than answering these questions.

While I️ don’t know the answers to these specific underlying questions, what I️ do know is this: OUR CHILDREN NEED US, NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.  And when I say “need us,” I mean need US–the real, most true version of ourselves.  If we are in a relationship that does not offer us the opportunity to be the most REAL and TRUE version of ourselves, then staying in that relationship CANNOT be what’s best for our children.

When a mother walks into her home, and feels like she can’t be herself, that has a negative effect on the little people in her home.  When a girl looks into her daddy’s eyes and sees a person who does not love himself, that actually has a negative impact on that little girl’s mental health. When anyone walks into his or her own home, feeling broken-hearted because love doesn’t live in his or her marriage, his or her children will FEEL the effects of this sadness.

I know kids.  When I come to school to teach, and I seem frazzled for whatever reason, one of these insightful little people will come up to me and say, “Have you had your coffee yet?” BECAUSE THEY KNOW THINGS.  I don’t really wear makeup much anymore to work, but the first day I stopped wearing it, a five year old asked me the minute I stepped into the building, “What happened to you and where did your pretty eyes go?”

These are children–some of the most curiously perceptive people on our planet.  They FEEL things in the air and see between the lines.  They know when we are trying to distract ourselves from our lives in order to avoid living it.  And they definitely know when we don’t love ourselves.

They can also sense when our lives are unfulfilled.  They can feel when there is an emptiness in our hearts.  Our children know when we are pretending, and if we continue to show them that pretending is okay, they will begin to start pretending and stuffing their feelings down, too.

And one of my mantras for this year has been: there is no power in pretending.  We do not want our children to believe it is okay to behave like someone they are not. When we push down who we are and what we want, in order to avoid causing other people to experience pain, we aren’t actually LIVING, and are in fact, BETRAYING our truest, highest selves.

We must start to understand that there is a way of being that is authentic. And in this space of authentic living, we will find that what is good and true and right for us (and I got this line from Glennon Doyle, because she’s a genius) is going to be what is good and true and right for “our people.” And our people include, but are not limited to, our children. Now, this does not mean our children will not suffer pain. Divorce is painful. Painnnnnnnful. Heartbreaking, in fact, for adults, children, and members of the extended family. But–and I️ cannot ask this question enough-is it our job to protect our children from ever experiencing pain and heartbreak? Is that truly what being a parent means? Or, does being a parent mean to hold our child’s hand and show them how to be their truest selves, even when it’s hard and not popular or right?

Could it mean that we are actually doing our best parenting when we teach them that they can walk through pain and come out stronger and more resilient?

I️ don’t know about you, but for as much as I️ hate seeing my daughter in pain, what I️ would hate even more would be for her to never know the lessons that pain can teach. That grief can teach. That heartbreak can teach.

Perhaps if our children can learn to withstand heartbreak and grief and pain, they can learn to sit with others and have empathy for them, too, when they see them walking through the same. And when our children can learn to hold space for each other and practice empathy and compassion, they can change this very world.

The One Time I Earned a Pretend Medal

I turn the corner onto Virginia Avenue, and suddenly I see him walking on the sidewalk. Aaron (my ex-something-not really a boyfriend but something like that) is tall, dark, and handsome–my archetype, so he stands out.  I stare at Aaron through my car window, jaw dropping, unable to believe that he’s in my neck of the woods.

Why in the world would he drive an hour to have brunch at Milktooth?  I mean, Milktooth is cool and everything, but he’s NOT even a foodie.

Aaron spots me in my car, since I don’t have the foresight to close my jaw and stop staring at him.

Like, this is a photo of me in that very moment:


I have this feeling that the universe is conspiring against me. I want to evaporate into the rain puddles I’m surrounded by in the street.

Aaron waves.  I wave back.  I suddenly have a flashback of the time he made me a mimosa for breakfast and I didn’t have the courage to tell him that it was the worst mimosa I’d ever had in my life. I quickly snap back to reality as I spot a girl walking next to him, attempting to keep up with his long stride.

Now normally, this would REALLY bother me:  seeing an ex-something but not really a boyfriend with another woman. (I mean I’m kinda zen, but not THAT zen.) However, in this very moment I realize I have no reason at all to feel weird about it, since I’m about to do the VERY same thing: brunch with new man 😳.

I pull out my phone and text Aaron, “Hey!  What are you doing here?” followed by a smiley emoji so he doesn’t think I’m being confrontational.  I just need to figure out if he’s going into Milktooth (where I’m meeting my date, Justin), because if he is, I NEED TO KNOW THIS MINUTE SO I CAN AVOID COMPLETE AWKWARDNESS.

He texts back that his “friend” is visiting from Boston, and he just picked her up at the Indy airport and decided to eat brunch at Milktooth since it was ranked #1 on some foodie thing and BLAH BLAH BLAH I stop reading since I have my answer.

I find a parking space and immediately text Justin.

“Hi!” I say and then stop.

Because I have no clue what to say next.  This feels like one of those life or death moments, since I’m now sweating about the prospect of a FIRST (yes, I said first) date with a guy I really like (at least so far, over text) at a restaurant where I will have to watch another guy whom I have dated eat brunch with another girl.

I just literally CANNOT EVEN with this shit.

“Now is not the time to beat around the bush,” some gut instinctual voice whispers in my ear.  “Now is the time for ruthless honesty.”

I suddenly imagine myself wearing some kind of medal for being courageous, which feels ridiculous and yet soothing at the same time. This image somehow propels me into typing the next part of the text.

“Can we meet at a donut shop up the street?  I know you really want to go to Milktooth, but I can’t go there today because a guy I know is there on a date and I have gone on dates with him before and it would just be awkward.” Push send now, damn it, before you have second thoughts.

I push send and wait.  A minute passes.  Two minutes.  Finally I see those little dots on Justin’s side of the IMessage which tells me he’s typing.  I stare at those stupid dots because, in this moment, I believe they hold the power to decide for me whether or not this day is going to be shitty or half-way pleasant.  The dots suddenly stop again.  UGH.  I wait another minute.  Then the IMessage text comes through.

“Sure that would be fine lol.”

I was in shock that I was honest and he still wanted to see me. Like, I SHOWED UP as my awkward, embarrassed self and he still may like me.

This story happened over two years ago, and I’m still scared to show up as me. I continue to struggle with the fact that it’s okay to tell the truth from the start with someone about the awkward shit we feel and experience. Like, I may be someone who is easy to talk to, but I am not someone who is completely comfortable with being my awkward self all of the time.

Some of our most painful experiences stem from the times we have shown up to the party as ourselves, and people left the room. (Yes, this is a metaphor, but if you’re nerdy like me, it has actually happened literally too.)

Being myself is SCARY and I need to give myself medals for doing it.

Because, here’s the thing: there’s a part of me that knows that the only way I can find “my people” is if I tell the truth. There will be people who may leave the room when I show up as me, but there will also be people that feel my “realness.”

And even though Justin turned out to be a complete meanie (more on him some other time), I am thankful that I learned how to show up as me. Because it also gave him the opportunity to decide if he wanted to come to my party and help me put on my new, shiny pretend medal- the one I awarded myself for being me.

I am a Pokémon 

It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I am lying here in darkness and typing this blog on my phone on the eve of my 41st birthday. 

I am contemplating who I am and how I want to evolve. I’m like a Pokémon or something. (I don’t really understand Pokémon at all, but I know they, like, evolve, right?)

I want to continue to evolve and change who I am by changing what I do. In honor of my 41st year of life, I am sharing 41 truths I’ve learned as I have changed my thinking and my actions over the years. 

I love to elaborate. People who know me know that I’m the queen of elaboration and talking too much and overexplaining things.  But I will refrain from doing that in this instance because I only have a few minutes to write before my yoga class.

So here we go. How to evolve like a Pokémon, a.k.a, 41 random things I have learned:

1. Kids pay more attention to what you do than what you say.

2. A daily practice of meditation and prayer will change your life.

3. Judging others is not good for your health. It’s also a negative “low vibrational energy” way of thinking. 

4. Choose being truthful over being nice. 

5. You don’t have to be nice.  Like, really, you don’t. 

6. It is your responsibility to practice loving kindness, but this does not equate with being “nice.” It simply means you act in love for others and for yourself. 

7. The most courageous people show up even when they don’t feel ready. 

8.. That still, small voice inside of you will never let you down. It is there to protect you. It is the voice of God, speaking to you in quiet moments of truth. That is the voice that reminds you of what you need in this life, what to do next, and who you are. 

10.  When you are laughing you are healing. 

11. Practicing yoga helps you develop an understanding and compassion for your body.

12. Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. 

Geesh, I can’t think of anything else. Maybe I don’t know 41 things. I’m going to yoga and then coming back.

13. It is not our job to make everything sunshine and rainbows for our kids. It is okay for them to experience pain and discomfort, and we walk beside them in this experience without trying to take it away. This is how they become resilient, kind, empathetic adults.

14. You don’t have to wear underwear. 

15. Processed food can make you ill. 

16. Meditate and pray. I know I already said that but that one needs to be on the list twice. 

17. Do not be afraid of pain.

18.  When you feel sad or anxious, go outside and breathe in the outdoor air. 

19. Let people be who they are. 

20. Do not assume what others are thinking. Ever. Ask them instead. 

21. Things that matter are going to take some time. 

22. You deserve happiness, respect, and peace of mind. 

23. What we cannot see, we cannot heal. 

24. There is no power in pretending. 

25. When you’re angry, ask yourself, “What needs to be protected?”

26. We can do hard things. 

27. Drink lots of water. 

28.  It is beneath your dignity to maintain relationships with people who do not honor your self worth. 

29. Relationships that you have to keep a secret are not relationships that contribute to your freedom. 

I can’t think of anything else. I lied about knowing 41 things.

==================================

Hey! I’m back four days later, and I’m now too legit to quit, which brings me to my next truth…

30. Don’t quit on your goals just because they are hard or you’re having a brain freeze.

31. If you want to find your tribe, you must first find yourself. 

32. When choosing a life partner, consider first and foremost if the person is right for you (and your kids, if you have them). Family members and friends love to give their two cents, but when it’s all said and done it is you that must live with the person. 

33. Ask for help when you need it. 

34. Set boundaries with people. 

35. Get your “news” and facts from reputable books and research–not television news channels. 

36. Don’t write lists like these. 

37. I know nothing. 

38. Only you know what’s best for you. 

39. After all, I’m a Pokémon. 

40. When trying to decide whether or not you should stay in a relationship or marriage “for the kids’ sake,” remember that you being in a state of unhappiness is not healing for you or your children.  You being authentically YOU is what your children desperately want from you. 

41. You are what you love. So make sure who or what you are loving is good for you. 

Maybe Love Isn’t What I Thought

I bow my head in preparation for Namaste, as I hear my yoga teacher say, “As you go about your day, open your hearts to love.” I cringe. Yuck. I can’t. I don’t want to. When you love, you hurt. 

************

I am four years old. I am sitting on the countertop of my parents’ kitchen in Kokomo. My mom picked me up and sat me there because she is about to give me a spoonful of cough syrup. I ask my mom, “What is love?” She looks at me strangely, and cocks her head to the side as she ponders a response.

“Love is…caring for someone. Like, me giving you medicine now. That’s love.”

************

I am 25. I sit in the women’s Bible study at the Baptist Church. I look up at the pastor leading the study. I like her because she tells me what to do and I have been searching all my life for someone to just tell me what to do. 

“Love is a choice,” she says. “Pray for your husband. Show him love in your actions. You will not always feel like loving him. But you can make the choice to be loving.”

***********

I am 27. I am lying in bed in my apartment in Lexington, Kentucky. It is 1:00 am. My husband is not responding to my texts. I wonder if he is coming home. I feel sad because I know in my soul that he simply doesn’t give a damn about how his actions affect me. The words from the Bible study echo through me, “Love is a choice. Make the choice to be loving.”

And so I do. Again and again. If this is love, I hate loving. 

***********

I am 34. I look into my boyfriend’s eyes. He tells me, “I more than like you. I think I’m falling in love with you.” I repeat this back to him and believe it, because I feel it. I know it is a feeling, though, and feelings can be fleeting. 

When we break up 9 months later, I channel my inner Whitney Houston and tell him, “I will always love you.”

**********

I am 35. I do not speak to my ex boyfriend anymore and barely remember loving him. He is a memory. 

**********

I am 33. I see my daughter running at the pool at the YMCA. She slips, falls hard to the ground and has a concussion. I cradle her in my arms and carry her out of the building. I drive her to the doctor. She vomits and then falls asleep as I am driving. When I arrive at the doctor, I run in and tell the office staff through tears, “She has to be seen! Right now!!”

I know she is going to be fine, but I am afraid. I love this baby. She’s all I have. It doesn’t matter what she does. Love isn’t in the doing when it comes to her. It just is.

***********

I am 39. I tell a man I love him. He is not my boyfriend. It is…complicated. I tell him not to say it back because I am afraid he doesn’t love me back. But then I realize I don’t care. I realize I can love without receiving love in return. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. 

It is good, because it causes me to love without expectations. It is bad, because I forget that I am worthy of being loved in the same way. 

*********

I sit in hot yoga class. I am 40. My teacher repeats the same mantra at the closing of class. “Open your hearts to love.” I realize that I am not cringing this time though. Maybe that’s progress.

Perhaps love is not simple. Maybe it is layered. Maybe it is light and it is dark; sadness and laughter. Maybe it’s supposed to be scary because it requires courage. I am still terrified to love; but I begin to think that love is a lot like faith. When you have faith, it does not mean things will go as planned; it simply means you show up and are open to what may flow out of you and to receiving what comes back.

*********

Today, a week before my 41st birthday, I lie at home in bed, and take out a book I have been trying to read for some time, Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love.  “As we demonstrate love towards others, we learn that we are lovable and we learn how to love more deeply…We will always learn what we have chosen to teach.” 

These words are words I can now understand, but they are still hard to swallow. I want to love but not stop loving myself. Perhaps that is the whole point: what you put out will come back to you. In some way. In some form. No love is wasted.

What I’m Thinking About

During the last hour, the following thoughts have popped in my head: 

  • How do I unclog my bathtub drain since my landlords are being unresponsive?
  • Why did I ever let my daughter watch the Disney Channel WHY oh WHY oh WHY just shoot me
  • I wish that someone would deliver me Doritos
  • OMG Irma and Harvey. What can I do to help Florida and Houston? Me being stuck in bathtub water pales in comparison to that. 

But these thoughts don’t compare to a bigger thought that’s been on my brain: how can I fight the hate and racism I see aimed at people of color in this world? What do I need to change? And how do I convince more white people that this is important? 

It seems that many white Americans were shocked by what happened in Charlottesville. Among the people of color I spoke with, shock was not the primary emotion expressed. They have been fighting the battle against hate, stereotypes, and inequality for SO LONG. This is the narrative they have experienced. 

But here’s the thing. We white Americans need to realize it’s OUR story, too. It’s the story of our country. It’s a story that involves us taking responsibility for the disparaging inequality in our country that is fueled by hate, fear, and stupidity. 

I think that even the most “progressive” white people haven’t taken adequate time to really stop and examine the stories of the  victims of police brutality that have come into light over the last couple of years. I don’t think white Americans, including myself, have paid attention enough or felt enough empathy to FIGHT against the discrimination that is aimed at our brothers and sisters of color everyday. Every. Single. Freaking. Day. 

It concerns me that we are fueled by fear not based on facts. 

It concerns me that there are people in this country right now who have a disturbing idea of what love is. There are members of the white supremacist movement who say they are in it because they just love white people and love their country.  I’m speaking to white Americans now when I say… do you hear how disturbing and disconcerting that sounds–to use the word, love, to give you permission to hate? 

I was at a meeting last week where the topic of discussion was racism and inequity. A white woman had a sudden revelation. She raised her hand and said, “If people of color could have won the war on racism by themselves, it would have already been won by now. White people really need to see that. We need to join the fight,” and I looked at her in wonderment because I knew she was right. White Americans need to feel the urgency of this problem.

Part of doing the work and fighting the fight, is acknowledging that many institutions have policies in place which allow racism to occur. And the reason those policies are there is because racism is a pervasive and insidious beast. Have you seen this graphic? 

(Via Showing Up for Racial Justice)

Look at that damn triangle there. Look at the statements both inside and outside of it. ALL of this needs to be examined and carefully looked at by White people, including myself. 

How many times have people of color told their stories of inequality, prejudice, and discrimination to white individuals, and they haven’t believed them? How many times have white people stated that white privilege “isn’t real” or even that racism isn’t real? 

Do you know what happens when you, or a member of your family has experienced trauma, disparagement, or even violence, and you tell your story to another person and he or she doesn’t believe you? Or doesn’t think it could be “that bad?” Or tries to tell you a story about something that happened to him or her as a way to get you to stop thinking about what happened to you? 

I can tell you what happens. You become hurt, scared, or even angry. When you speak of personal or familial trauma, disparagement, or violence, and your story isn’t acknowledged or taken seriously, it can    actually make the trauma worse.

This is why I can’t tolerate someone saying, “All lives matter,” in response to “Black Lives Matter.” It’s like me standing up and telling you that I want to speak to you about women who are victims of domestic violence that need help, and your response is, “well all women need help.” 

Like seriously, what in the actual HECK is causing people to not listen right now?  I would say it is time to fight this war on racism, but the thing is, it has BEEN the time to fight for such a long time, that now it’s actually a time for urgent responsibility. I cannot ask you to fight with me if you don’t take responsibility-responsibility for the violence, discrimination, and inequality in our country that is surviving because it’s fed by statements like, “don’t blame me.”

Please. Please have the courage to show up with urgency. 

We are in this together

I’ve been writing a ton recently, but all of it feels too personal or too fresh or too dark or too much to share with the internet at this moment. 

And yet, here I am now, in my bed, trying to sleep, and I suddenly feel the need to write something. So I’m typing this blog out on my phone, and I guarantee you there will be typos and awkward sentences because I may not even proofread it. 

You guys, my students come tomorrow as I am entering my 18th year of teaching. I am excited. We (the teachers) are just as nervous and have just as much adrenaline as the kiddos who walk through our doors. And it’s because of one reason: we want to make this year their best, and we know how important that first day is for setting the tone of the school year. 

So here I am, thinking about those kiddos, and thinking about my own kiddo who is nervous.  She doesn’t want to go to school because she’s kinda wired like me in that she is a ball of nerves. But she’s doing it anyway, and took photos of all her school supplies because she absolutely loves school supplies, and she’s thinking of how this new school year is always a chance to start something new. 

Every school year, I am nervous, because it is new. And every school year, I am excited because it is new. It’s a rebirth. It’s a new opportunity to show up and hone my craft. It’s a new chance to be real and loved instead of shiny and perfect (Glennon’s words, not mine). 

This summer I participated in the Hoosier Writing Project and met a group of teachers who inspired me to keep writing and to keep teaching. I also traveled to Mexico for a yoga retreat in a remote location that was only reachable by boat.  At home, I went to the farmers’ market and went to the pool with my daughter. I cooked and I wrote a lot of stuff that was the darkest and deepest stuff I’ve ever written. I met some interesting men who weren’t right for me. I argued with my daughter but also let her sit on my lap as much as she wanted to. I let her watch a ton of television and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I took my dad who has Alzheimer’s and my child on a vacation to California and I felt so many emotions during that trip that I had forgotten how it feels to be so up and down. I cried at the airport when two TSA agents didn’t understand why the airline needed me to walk my dad back to the gate. A TSA agent named Svizak came over to me, and said, “We will make this situation work. We are in this together,” and showed me such kindness that I cried even more with him because I felt safe and understood.

That was my summer. It was lovely and beautiful and hard. And now, I am ready to begin again. 

We have got this. We can make anything work. We are in this together. ❤️ 

Happy Re-Birth Day to Me


9 years ago today, after laboring for 30+ hours, my daughter, Aliana, was born via Caesarian section at 7:50 am. After experiencing what my OB-GYN proclaimed to be a freakishly challenging pregnancy, that included sciatica, kidney stones, preterm labor, and gestational diabetes, it was mind-blowing to me that a human this extraordinarily healthy had actually been percolating inside of me for nine months.

On this day, June 15, 2008, I was 32 years old, yet I was just a shell of a person.  I had no personality, no likes or dislikes, and no idea how I had gotten myself into the mess of an abusive marriage.

And now I had this tiny, gorgeous human with a full head of curly black hair, that was staring at me with the deepest coffee colored eyes I had ever seen.  And somehow, those eyes were the only thing that ever could break me of my numbness.  You see, I could no longer disassociate from my life, because that would mean I was disassociating from MY OWN CHILD. 

In the intensity of her gaze, I imagined she was saying to me, “I am here.  I am LIGHT.”

Her existence broke me into a million pieces so that I would be somehow be forced to make a plan to put myself together again, because her eyes–HER LIGHT–showed me that she needed a mama who was whole, and that mama had to be me.

One day, I was giving her a bottle when her father entered the room.   I don’t remember what I had said that upset him so much, but he spat on me.  His spit ran down my face and dripped onto my shirt.  I didn’t react, as I knew that would make it worse, but Aliana did. She screamed at the top of her lungs and she no longer wanted the bottle.  Her screams and her terror reminded me of my own terror–reminded me that I needed to finally be terrified in order to be her mother. My heart of darkness slowly began to crack, and I allowed her light to seep into me.

Her birth was my rebirth, so in many ways, this day, June 15, is sacred to me and forever will be. It is a day that I was also born, as this baby was the one who brought me back to life.

Sometimes people say to me, it’s unfortunate that you and your ex husband conceived a child together, because that means you have to still communicate and can’t be completely unattached. What people who make these comments don’t understand is that if I hadn’t had my daughter, I might still be living in that marriage. Aliana’s existence propelled me into a completely new level of life, because I finally loved a person so much that I didn’t want her to live the way I had been living.  The love I couldn’t feel for myself, I could feel for her. 

Something deep inside of me knew that I could never be the mother she needed unless I could fully be myself, and the journey to self discovery started with her birth. 

Changing lives is serious business, and this girl wasn’t even planning on getting into that business; the universe simply deemed it so.

And for that I will always be thankful. Happy birthday, Aliana. 

Uncle Roy

I do not have a fancy house or amazing car or a six figure salary. But I do have something money cannot buy–I have an Uncle Roy.


Having an Uncle Roy is like having a dial a therapist, quite literally because he is a therapist and he always answers your calls. Even if it’s 2:00 a.m…especially if it’s 2:00 am.

Uncle Roy listens. Then he says something profound. Then once you’ve calmed down, he says something witty. And before you know it, you’re feeling centered again.

I have wanted to write about Uncle Roy for awhile, but I don’t know if any words I say can do him justice. I mean, how do you begin to describe a person who invested hours of his time in order to save your life?  The main thing I can tell you is this: everyone needs an uncle Roy.

When everyone had given up hope that I would leave an abusive marriage, Uncle Roy didn’t. When everyone was so sick of hearing me sing verse 742 of the same damn (metaphorical) song and dance, Uncle Roy still gave me the microphone and  said, “Sing louder, because you need to hear yourself. You need to hear your story and realize what’s really going on.” When everyone else told me that my situation freaked them out, Uncle Roy remained calm. When others backed away from me, Uncle Roy came closer.

Everyone needs an Uncle Roy.

When I started to date after my divorce and had dating anxiety, Uncle Roy made me laugh when I told him and Aunt Jeanne about some of the odd and strange men I met through online dating. I laughed and laughed until I couldn’t possibly be hurt or resentful or anxious anymore. Everything that didn’t work out was just too damn funny to be upset by it. But this just amazed me–how my uncle’s jokes could transform a situation that felt like a tragedy into something hilarious, all the while showing empathy at the same time. That’s a GIFT. “When you’re laughing, you’re healing,” he says.

When I became involved in a new relationship with a guy I really liked, my PTSD would sometimes rear its ugly head. It was during these times that my uncle taught me the important truth: “Healthy relationships are not fragile.” And this is what that means: there’s no need to overanalyze things that you did or your partner did or to fear that little mistakes may tear things apart.  Because if it’s healthy and good and the right fit, it will naturally work. And if it’s not, it will start to unravel. This is the natural order of things. You must let go and let it unravel if that’s what it starts to do.

Uncle Roy taught me that I don’t ever have to have all the pieces of a puzzle or all the information I’m seeking to make an informed decision. He taught me this: HOW YOU FEEL about a situation is enough to know how to proceed. If you continually feel unhappy in a certain relationship, your feelings are enough evidence to end it. If you continually feel anxious or resentful towards someone, that’s important information to pay attention to.  If you wake up in the morning and never want to go to your job, that’s a feeling that you need to deal with. If you look out your window and can’t stand where you live, that feeling is information.

You see, these are things that many of us don’t learn growing up. But it’s never to late to learn them. It’s never to late to listen to yourself. And it’s never to late to believe you have everything you need to solve the problem you’re facing.

Uncle Roy has not had a life without hardship. Without divulging too much of his personal info (however, he doesn’t know I’m writing this, because he cannot operate a computer), Uncle Roy went through a painful divorce in his twenties. He experienced the heartache that many involved fathers feel when they can no longer see their children everyday. He felt a deep devastation of betrayal in his life and it took hard work to just keep doing the next thing and not allow his depression to devour him.

But he did it. He woke up everyday, and did what he thought was the right thing to do. And just kept doing that again and again. He eventually turned his shit into fertilizer in his practice as a therapist. He began to help people understand that by doing the next thing, they would survive.  He continued, and still continues, to help others understand the fundamental philosophy of what he refers to as the acronym T.A.K.E., which stands for Tolerance, Acceptance, Kindness, and Encouragement–what he considers to be the foundation of healthy relationships.

I talk about my uncle all the time with others, because I love him.  And also because what I want people to understand is this: you only need one person in your corner. Just one.  And while I do not want to minimize all the incredible people who have played a role in helping me to change the trajectory of my life, Uncle Roy was so pivotal when I was at my lowest of my low.  And he was just there, showing up for me, and somehow never doubting that I could be my own hero.

All you need is one person.  Just one.  I love you, Uncle Roy.

Sit Still, Look Pretty

Sometimes it’s hard to be a girl.

“Why do you not want to give me another chance?” I hear the boingy Facebook messenger notification sound, and look down at my phone to see this message.

I am confused by this question, because I already told him why, several months ago. We dated almost five years ago. He broke up with ME. 

Five years ago when he told me that he and I just “didn’t fit,” I drove with my then four year old daughter all the way up to Fort Wayne to visit my aunt and uncle to escape the pain I associated with this statement. But you all know what happens when you try to escape your devastation, right? Those feelings of devastation end up hijacking your body. They cause you to lean up against the kitchen counter in your aunt and uncle’s home and find yourself sinking into the floor because you can no longer stand. The feelings then cause you to crumble and get smaller and weep and suddenly forget that your very aware four year old daughter is looking at you, and tearing up at the sight of your pain. 

Your aunt and uncle distract your daughter by taking her into the basement to watch the Disney Channel. This is good, because you need to cry, and so you do. You sob, crouched on the kitchen floor, with your back up against the cabinet, until you’re tired. 

And then you wipe your face, drink some water, take a hot shower, and realize somewhere deep inside of you, that you are still loved and still worthy of love. The voice that tells you this is very quiet, but you still know it’s true. 

Fast forward to five years later. You receive the aforementioned message from this guy who broke your heart, and you remember sitting on the kitchen floor at your aunt and uncle’s house, and all you can say is what. in. the. f*ck. 

But I (because we all know I’m talking about myself, and not you), decide to provide an explanation. 

“Ummm, you broke up with me. So, I got over you. You didn’t like me getting over you, and you unfriended me on Facebook, which is fine. But now here we are: you are messaging me on messenger because you don’t even have my phone number, and you want to know why I’ve moved on. We are at different places. I don’t know what to say…other than I ‘just know’ I don’t want to date you.”

He is quiet, and confused. Not satisfied by my response, but accepts it. 

The next day I receive this message: 

“Are you just trying to make me feel like shit, talking about how I ‘dumped you’? None of it makes sense. I have far more to offer now than I did then, yet either it’s not enough for you, or an excuse. Are you actually saying to me that you can do better, and that’s why we’re not at the same point in our lives?”

I feel these words like a punch in my gut.  They feel like a snake bite, venom pulsing up my arm and into an artery* flowing straight to my heart. 

I choose not to respond to his message. I move on with my day. And yet, I’m clearly bothered by it. 

You see, I was taught from a very young age that you don’t say “no” to others, if it causes them pain. I don’t know if boys are taught this or not; but I know that lots of girls are. We are subtly taught that being kind means being small and pretending to be happy. We are taught that if we say no, we must say it nicely, and that if we offend or hurt someone with our “NO” that it is our duty to ameliorate that. 

In very subtle ways, we are instructed to be peaceful and pleasant and pretty. We do not rock the boat. We apologize when we forget this, and acccidentally rock it. 
When a girl begins to date, this translates to “don’t overwhelm guys by being emotional or needy” or “if he doesn’t like your personality, you need to tone it down” or “don’t ever initiate anything, ever.”

It all comes down to playing small. 

And the problem with playing small is that when you play small, you are never truly being you. And more importantly, you are never truly free.  

I want to be done with playing small. 

I want to be done with feeling guilty for saying how I feel. I want to be done with not trusting how I feel. I want to be done with not trusting my thoughts and my logic.

I want to be loud and take up space. I want to show my daughter that it’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to say no, if saying yes means compromising yourself–ESPECIALLY if saying yes means compromising yourself. And while being kind and respectful to others is important, HONESTY and INTEGRITY and BOUNDARIES are just as important. So when it comes down to being nice or being truthful, I will hope she chooses to speak wisdom and truth.

Telling the truth is fundamental to our development as people–into our development of WHO God ordained us to be.

And we were not ordained to be small. 

*(It is arteries that go to our heart, right? Or is it veins? I don’t know and I’m too tired to google it.)

When you see your dead grandpa

While eating brunch today with Janet, I spotted this dear couple across from me. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the gentleman, and I realized it was because he reminded me of my grandpa–not only in looks, but also behavior. Like my grandpa, he had a hard time hearing, and asked the waitress to speak louder. He also bowed his head in prayer before digging into his food, just like my grandpa would have done.
Janet noticed my fixation on this man and asked me, “Do you miss your grandpa?”
And suddenly I realized that I really did. I cried big, blubbery tears at the table and dripped snot as I started talking about all the things I missed about him: his loving nature, his strength, his kindness, and his honesty. 

“I’m going to go talk to him,” I said to Janet. 

Janet seemed a little concerned about my plan, considering my face was covered in tears and snot, yet she was also supportive. “If you think that’s what you’re supposed to do in this moment, then do it,” she said.

“I’ll have to stop crying and get myself together first, obviously,” I said. 
Once I finally stopped crying and felt that I looked relatively normal, I walked over to him and gently touched him on the shoulder. 

“I have been looking at you and can’t stop thinking about how much you look like my grandpa,” I said, unexpectedly tearing up again. 

I suddenly realized that everyone’s eyes in the restaurant were now on me, and so as luck would have it, the blubbery tears and snot started again. 

“Aww,” said his wife. “Well, he is a grandpa. He has grandchildren.”

He looked up at me and locked eyes. I suddenly had the thought that because he was hard of hearing, that he had heard nothing of what I had just said and wondered who in the hell this crazy lady was who was dripping snot. 

I ran out of the restaurant and continued to cry but also laugh hysterically about how I had possibly freaked out this poor man.

But what I realized is this: our grief and our longing stay with us, especially when we don’t take the time to dig into them. They are right beneath the surface, waiting for the perfect moment to seep out. I haven’t cried about missing my grandpa in the last six years. My brain knows he is gone. 
And yet, my soul pines for his presence in my life, and seeks for someone to fulfill his place. It’s almost as if I had been waiting to see him, and he showed up in the restaurant today, reminding me of just how much I love him and want him to still be there: to still be the one I can turn to for wisdom, and to serve as my spiritual role model and mentor. 
I miss you, Grandpa Sommers. Apparently more than I even knew I did.