November 30, 2010

free your mind - and the rest will follow

biking through the surf on hilton head island

We've been ever so slowly going through the process of purging a good portion of our belongings. A process that has proved to be a lot easier for me then it has been for Nick.

I'm assuming my childhood; losing every thing I owned... twice (first time when my Mom went to jail, and the second when we made a cross country move in a hurry [1 day to sell everything... next day on the road!] in order to flee her abusive husband) has taught me not to become too emotionally attached to "things". It's something I used to curse when I was a kid, and all the way up into my mid 20's. I used to try to force connection and attachment with "things"; not wanting to be robbed my right to stuff.

I now find my history a blessing. I'm eager and willing to let go of unnecessary objects, possessions. It's easy for me to release this "stuff" from my life, knowing it's not the end of the world, knowing the most precious things to me are not found in a box, or on a shelf ... they're found in the people around me.

I don't like being surrounded with "stuff". It weighs me down. Clutters my mind. Not too mention ... it's a bitch to keep tidy and clean! I'm a much more simplistic soul. I feel best when in an uncluttered, free flowing environment. I feel a much greater sense of appreciation to the things in my life when there aren't so damn many things around!

Nick feels the same way, it's just a lot more difficult for him to unwrap his grip and actually let go. He's getting there!

With our impending release from the military literally right around the corner (blog coming soon, stay tuned) ... we're eager to really step it up and cleanse ourselves of all this "stuff". We want to start this new chapter of our lives fresh. Free and Clear ... mind, body, soul, possessions!

Our latest sweep of the place we donated more then 1500 DVDs, over 3/4ths of our book collection (we, mostly the kids, had a LOT of books). I cut my wardrobe by 1/2, again. Nick cut his by almost 1/2 as well. The kids sorted through and donated most all of their toys. Nick cut back his tools by 1/2. Furniture went. Dishes went. Linens, jewelry, wall art, priceless collectibles, etc. We finally made the decision to replace our big 8ft Holiday tree with our little 4ft table top "travel tree". As such, our ornament collection was reduced by more then 3/4ths.

That was a hard one.

Since our lives joined, we've had a yearly tradition of picking out one ornament, per person, each year. That's 5 new ornaments every year. Sometimes we'd find 2 or 3 "perfect" ones in a year. Sometimes the kids would pick one, and I'd get them another that I thought fit their personality for that year. So, we'd have our individual ornament(s). Plus a yearly family ornament. Plus a yearly "3 kids" ornament". Plus a special "us, couples in love" ornament. Plus one for the pets. Plus any we received from grandparents, etc. Each.Year! It all added up to a lot of ornaments. A LOT! This, too, I assume stemmed from my childhood. Not having any of my own treasures from growing up, I was adamant (over the top so) that I would collect as much as I could for the kids, so they'd have tangible "stuff" to take with them into adulthood. Collectibles. Memories. Treasures they could pass on through generations. I was a pack ratting fool trying to grab onto and save as many things as I could that would represent their childhoods for them.

It was extremely difficult to make the decision to let go of a tradition we've held dear for so many years. A tradition that had a lot of heart, memory, and money wrapped into it. We did some serious soul searching before coming to the final decision. And when I say we, I mean all of us... kids included. This was as much part of their hearts as it was mine and nicks. In the end, we all remembered how amazing our experience was at the cabin last Christmas. With our modest table top travel tree, few treasured ornaments, several strings of lights strewn about, and candles. It was absolutely wonderful. We loved the simplistic, hassle free environment we created. After reminiscing, it was an easy decision, for all of us. Tears turned to smiles, smiles turned to laughter, and laughter turned tearing down the ginormous tree we'd just assembled earlier in the evening, and pulling out our table top tree... much smaller in size, but packed with many amazing memories.

We could have made a pretty penny with everything we donated, but the ability to give is so much more fulfilling. Being able to open up my space AND help others in need ... it's priceless.

My heart and soul feel both lighter, and so much more full!

November 16, 2010

Forever Young... and grateful

Stress and negativity ... it ages you.
Ages the body. Ages the mind. Ages the soul.

Through it all, there is still so much to be grateful for.
So much joy to feel.
Here's a quick list of what I feel happy about right this moment ...

-rainy days spent snuggled up in bed with my kids watching movies.
-food. i love food. my current faves ... 1. guacamole salad with kalamata olives, and 2. orange juice. yum.
-new knives. no more cutting my fingers each time i slice through something.
-purging our "stuff". this has been a long process, but more and more we're drastically cutting down, and moving toward the more simplistic lifestyle we both feel drawn to.
-sweater jackets. love my sweater jackets.
-owens protective nature, rylans tender heart, and larsons insight.
-ice cubes. i've been crunching on a HUGE bowl of ice cubes while i take a piping hot bath. sooo enjoyable.
-the lighter green color of new growth on my house plants. i love the two-tone green color while it lasts.
-wrapping my arms around my husband, and truly feeling that we'll find a way to weather this. a feeling i don't feel often anymore, so i really relish in the moments when i do.
-my puppy. i'm not really a puppy person ... but i've really been enjoying her. she's so smart and loving!
-bob dylan and bob marley ... their music has been touching my soul more then usual lately.

and on that note ...
listen to it, feel it, live it

November 15, 2010

Go it Alone

A situation came up recently that brought back some old feelings of hurt. Feelings that I knew weren't fully healed, but it was still surprising to feel them bubble to the surface again.

Nick returned a phone call to his Dad the other day. A phone call that raised no questions about me or the kids (how are we doing, what are the kids into, how was larsons birthday, etc ... no mention of us).

I've been bugged by this. So many thoughts swirling around in my head. I can feel myself directing this frustration at Nick, and that's not fair. It's not him I'm mad at. I actually don't think I'm mad at anyone, per say. I'm just frustrated with the situation. I need to get thoughts/feelings out, and organize them into a blog; try to make sense of everything I'm feeling.

Growing up, I always had this optimistic/fairytale hope that when I married the love of my life, his family would become my family, and we'd all just magically love each other. I dreamt of shared holidays (my family and his), all together, laughing, creating memories.

Haa... pie in the sky, right? lol
Not reality. Atleast, not our reality.

Nick came back from Iraq changed. As I've said many-a-time ... drastically changed. During his first couple of years back he worked damn hard to severe ties with anyone and everyone who ever cared about him. He pushed, and he pushed, and he pushed until the only people left in his life were me and the kids (I, apparently, don't scare off too easily. Who knew?)

When he severed ties with his Dad, I did my best to keep lines open between our family and his Dad (through email, phone calls didn't happen. I called them once... the day Nick deployed to Iraq [he left within 24hrs, so wasn't able to make calls himself before leaving] I called to let them know of Nicks deployment, and what I heard back was "You didn't have to call, you could have just emailed". So, that was my one and only phone call to them). Nick didn't want anything to do with them, but I knew that our kids were in the middle, and didn't deserve to essentially feel tossed aside by grandparents who they have known about and loved their entire little lives. I was going to do what I could to ride out Nicks destructive cycle (not having a flipping clue of just how long that would take ...), while maintaining as much normalcy and connection as I could to the people he said he wanted nothing more to do with.

It wasn't an easy thing for me... extending the olive branch. Nicks Dad and I have never been what you'd call close. We've tossed around our share of judgement and choice words to each other during the first year or two (or three or four or five? it has all meshed together) of my marriage. I never felt as though he thought I was good enough for his son; that my family was good enough to marry into; that my gene pool was sufficient enough for his grandchildren. Yes, my feelings of not measuring up were made 100% bigger in my head by my own insecurities, but the basis of those feelings, I felt, were pretty on track. And Nick has, for as long as I've known him, had this level of insecurity about him (amplified by his injuries in Iraq). He avoided confrontation like the plague, and therefore couldn't bring himself to confront his Dad about the way he was treating me. He ignored it, and ignored it, and ignored it until his own frustration for not defending me ate away at him.

He left for Iraq dealing with it internally, and came home dealing with it internally. That self loathing for not defending me and the kids, on top of the tbi and ptsd from his time over there, he had enough. I know he worked up the courage to attempt to talk to his Dad once after he returned. I was left out of his Dad's Christmas newsletter. Which in itself wasn't hurtful; It was seeing that a boyfriend made it in the letter... that's what "shoved the knife into my back". His daughters boyfriend makes the family Christmas newsletter, but his son's wife (his grandchildren's mother) nah, no mention. Might seem petty, but it really did deeply hurt my feelings. I know that Nick brought it up, and all I heard from him after that conversation was 'That sonofabitch is just full of excuses"

That's when he said "fuck it, I'm not doing this anymore", and he wrote his Dad off. I encouraged him not act out of anger. To cool down and try to talk it out again. Nope, he was done.He was pushing everyone else out, and now he got his Dad out, too. It was perfect for him ... he didn't have to deal with much confrontation, and he was able to justify his actions/blame it on someone else.

So, not easy to extend the olive branch, but not as hard as I imagined. I knew that my kids would suffer if I didn't. As I said, the kids knew their grandparents. Larson remembered them, and the other two were so used to hearing stories and seeing photos of them that they felt as though they knew them. They loved them. It would hurt them to have these two people vanish from their lives. I also knew that eventually Nick would harbor great sorrow for pushing everyone out of his life, and I knew that I could help with that. I knew I could keep a connection alive while he went through his depressive cycle, and in time he would come out the other end; ready to let people in. It's quite easy to put myself aside for the well being of other people.

But, it didn't really pan out. Atleast, not in the way I had envisioned it.
I continually talked to the kids about Nicks parents, and I showed photographs of them (as I did with other grandparents/family members/friends. Moving around with the military ... stories and photos, phone calls and letters, it all helps to keep the kids connected to people they don't get to see often). But the effort wasn't really being reciprocated. The kids would ask if they could call and talk to them, or if we could plan for them to visit us ... but nothing ever came. Even their most simple request ... newer, more recent photos to look at ... nothing. No calls. No birthday cards. No visits. Nothing. It all abruptly stopped.

The most honest response I got was something along the lines of "It's hard to for us to maintain a relationship with the kids when we can't have Nick also. Nick made it clear he doesn't want us in his life. You guys are a package deal, it's an all or none thing.". While I don't share that mentality in the least, I can understand the undertone of the message. They were hurting. I mean, Nick is their son. I imagine it really painful to not have a relationship with your son. I imagine that pain is awakened each time you connect with that son's children. I imagine it's easier, less painful, self protective to just cut ties all together. It's a pain I hope I never feel. But at the same time ... my children have suffered unneeded pain because their Grandparents all of a sudden stopped calling, stopped sending birthday, halloween, valentines day cards, they stopped sharing their lives with them. Yes, Nick made the choice to cut them out of his life, but we have to acknowledge that they made the choice to cut themselves out of the kids'. It didn't have to be that way. I did what I could to make sure it didn't have to be that way.

I had to stop sharing stories and showing the kids photos because I could tell their feelings were being hurt. I would listen to them talking to each other ... "That's our grandpa, but not like our grampa grampa, just our grandpa. Grandpa, that means we love him even if he doesn't talk to us". It was heartbreaking and confusing for them, and I wasn't going to continue. Kids see and feel things on a level that is so deep, and often overlooked in adulthood. I slowly stopped sharing stories about them, and eventually the kids stopped asking questions about them. Now, on the rare occasion the subject is brought up, the kids don't automatically know who we're talking about. Like the recent phone call from his Dad. Nick mentioned to me that he called, the kids over heard and asked who we were talking about. It went something like this ...
Kids: "who are you talking about?"
Nick: "your grandpa"
Kids: "who?"
Me: "your dad's dad"
Kids: "our grandpa is dad's dad? I thought he was your mom's dad?"
Me: grampa barr is grammas dad (my mom), this is your other grandpa we're talking about. grandpa paul, dad's dad, the one who lives in nevada"
Rylan: "who?!?"
Owen: "dad has a dad??"
Larson: "ooh yea, the one with the fridge magnets, right?"
Me: "yep, that's the one"
Kids "cool. c-ya, going to play in the woods".

It's a sad and unfortunate situation, but there isn't...
I started to write the words "there isn't anything else I can do about it", but that's not accurate. I could put in a bunch more effort, and see if it makes a difference this time, but I don't think I'm going to do that. Not out of spite, or resent, or ill will ... simply out of exhaustion, and a desire to put my remaining energy into positive relationships. Nick isn't yet in a place of welcoming people back into his life, and putting in effort to maintain healthy relationships with them. Nor is he able to work through a problem/issue with someone in a positive and constructive way. He doesn't hold a level of security, confidence, and self esteem to feel he's worthy of being cared for, so he doesn't put his energy into healthy relationships. And I just don't have it in me anymore to pick up his slack in that dept. It's hard enough to find the time and energy to maintain a connection with my own family, people who make great effort to stay in our lives ... I just don't have any desire or energy left for relationships that are hurtful and not reciprocated.

I realized rather recently that there was another reason I was clinging so hard to keeping lines of communication between us and Nicks family open. More then the kids. More then Nick. I realized I was also doing it for me. When Nick pushed everyone out, I was the only one willing to stick around. He was (is) sick. The injuries he sustained in Iraq are lifelong. They're destructive and exhausting. I felt so alone in dealing with everything he threw at me. I felt so alone in trying to work through his issues, and help him. I felt so completely alone. It felt as though everything was riding on my shoulders. If, through his pushing, I gave in and walked out on him, like everyone else had, I would be signing his death wish. I literally felt as though his life was in my hands. It was an enormous responsibility that I was subconsciously asking for help in dealing with. By keeping communication alive with his family, I think I hoped they would hear the pleas (some silent, some not so much ... you've ready my blog, I'm not subtle), and come to the rescue. Come to help rehabilitate my husband; their son. Send support.

Had I realized this back then... I really don't know that I would have voiced any of it. No way to know for sure, but I'm thinking I wouldn't have. As time went by, it became apparent that I was in it alone. All of Nicks anger and depression came lashing out at me full force. Noone to help take the hits. Noone to weather the storm with. Noone to help shake some sense into this man who was (is) so obviously struggling mentally. It was just me. Only me. I felt abandoned. Not just by my husband, but by everyone who succumbed to his destructive pushing without thinking about what that meant to me and the kids. Without thinking twice about perhaps sticking around to lend a helping hand to the 4 other people in this family. I felt a lot of resentment ... resentment on top of all the previous hurt and resentment from his Dad over the years that I was not yet over.

I understand that most of that resentment was misplaced. Most of that resentment was purely my own doing. I felt I was too weak to take care of everything on my own, and I also felt too out of place to ask for help from his family. If I'm not asking for the help, it's not really fair to be upset when help doesn't come, right? I do get that. Yet again, if given the option to do it over, I really don't know that I would have voiced any of these feelings. I didn't feel comfortable enough, I didn't feel the concern was there, and for a good many years I had no clue what was going on with Nick ... it would have been hard to put it into constructive words. Hindsight gives a perception that is much easier to talk through and figure out.

Recently (over the past year), through the magic of facebook, I've been able to connect with some of Nicks extended family ... all of whose words have helped me in ways I will never be able to express. While I do still feel an enormous solo responsibility to weather this out with a man I pledged my love and my life to ... simple words of love and encouragement; genuine questions of care and concern ... they really do go a long, long way.

We had been struggling alone for so long. Life is so terribly short. Having good, supportive family and friends around really can help you through hard times. It was that outpouring of love and support from Nicks extended family that prompted me to again talk to Nick about his Dad. To encourage him to perhaps take a deeper look into his relationship with his father. Like I said, life is so short ... I encouraged him to really think about what it was he was doing, where it was getting him, and what exactly he wanted. What he wanted was his Dad back in our lives, but he also wanted to be able to confront situations in a constructive manner, so old resentments didnt start to boil, new ones didn't pop up, and we could all truly move forward. So, he picked up the phone, and gave it a go. HUGE step for Nick. Really, really huge. He took the first few conversations slow, kept it all surface, didn't want to jump right into resolving issues. That was his plan anyway. And then he realized that he was still not in a place of being able to confront situations in a healthy, meaningful manner ... the only way he could confront a situation was with both gloves on, full defensive stance, lots of anger and finger pointing. Not really helpful ... so he went back to ignoring issues all together, and the phone calls have severely slowed down. That's where we are now.

During this year of attempted communication between the two, the kids still weren't really being recognized. There was a phone call last year, Christmas time (or around there), ... Nick put the kids on the phone. I quickly scrambled to remind the kids who they were getting ready to talk to, so they wouldn't feel confused, and then after that phone call they had a lot of questions. Wanted to hear about them. See photos. Wanted to know when we could visit (they love to visit people, lol). So, with a lot of trepidation in opening them up to be hurt again, I answered all of their questions about that set of Grandparents. They were really excited to be reminded of these two people, but that was the only time they really talked about them (until the other day). I didn't bring them up again, and neither did they. It's a good thing, too, because there have still been no birthday cards or phone calls. No recognition. Nick brought it up to me. It was making him upset. But, as I said, his solution was to ignore the problem and continue being upset. I was a bit put off by it, but that's about as far as I delved into my feelings regarding it.

Although now, thinking about it... it did hurt.
And now, looking back ... all of the previous hurt I felt, none of it was ever really resolved in my head, so this new hurt felt magnified. I had thought that I moved past some of it, but it turns out I didn't ... When Nick pulled away, I immediately went into caretaker mode. Put all of my feelings aside to do everything I could to make sure we didn't lose his parents completely. And then all of the hurt that stemmed from that ... well, I didn't have time to deal with that, either, I was too busy dodging all of the bullets Nick was flinging at me. I never really stripped the feelings down to the bone, made sense of them, and let myself recover from them. All of that hurt and resentment came up to rest right under the surface a couple of days ago when we had that short conversation with the kids prompted by that phone call, and then it bubbled over after Nick returned the call, and there didn't seem to be much care or thought about the kids.

I chalked it up to Mama Bear syndrome. I felt my kids were attacked (in an off beat, ignoring, you don't exist sort of way), and I felt upset about that.

Not really understanding it, just feeling it.
Not putting it into words, just acting on auto pilot.
I was hurt. I was angry. I was frustrated with my anger.

And thats why I came here ...
to get it all out ...
to hopefully find some understanding and meaning in all of these swirling feelings.
Thought it's probably messy and hard for you readers to follow ...
I get it!
That's what I came here for; mission accomplished!

Now that I've made sense of these feelings, I can make the conscious decision to mentally move past my resentment. Especially since I am willing to be brutally honest, and know that my resentment really had so much more to do with me then anyone else. Yes, the hurt is still there. It's not yet fully healed, but I know that the way I feel and act isn't the way other people should feel and act (what a concept, right? lol). Maybe it's still too painful for him to be part of the kids' lives. Maybe he feels there are boundaries there, and it's not his place to cross them. Maybe he still feels pushed out. Maybe he's scared. Maybe, maybe, maybe ... I don't really know. If Nicks Dad feels it too painful/not his place to have a relationship with the kids, when he doesn't have a great one with Nick, then that's his right. He's allowed to deal with his grief and his pain whichever way he sees fit. I may not agree with it. I may not like it. My kids may be personally affected by it ... but it's not my judgement to make. We all deal with pain differently. At the same time, I don't have to continue to put my kids out there to be hurt. I can understand and empathize, but that doesn't mean I have to agree and engage in.

We don't have to agree on anything to have a good relationship, we just have to share mutual understanding and respect. Without being able to have constructive conversations about problems, it's just not going to happen. Nick is not in a place right now to have those constructive conversations with his Dad, and the relationship between his Dad and I has never really ever been there ... so, I'm not sure where that leaves us.

I wish it were different. I wish there was this great, close relationship between them and me (because a close one with Nick is just not in the cards right now ... hopefully one day). I wish I had a level of welcoming comfort to call them up when Nick is having an especially hard day, and it's wearing on me. Or call them to share a funny story about the kids. Or call them to ask about a specific holiday tradition they used to do that I was thinking about starting up.
But, we don't. Never have; maybe never will.
I'm letting go of my childhood dreams;
my fairytale hopes of one big happy family.

It is what it is ... and I'm learning that that's ok.

November 5, 2010

13 Months Old!

My glorious dreads are 13 months old now!
They're short and long
fat and thin
round and flat
straight and curvy
hard and soft

They continue to shrink, shrink, shrink. One of these months they'll start growing (will it be a month this year? next? lol), but until then, they're tightening up, and becoming who they want to be.

I love every inch of them!

November 4, 2010

Three Little Birds

Spending time uncluttering my mind;
Uncluttering my soul.
Lifting some unfair burdens off of my shoulders;
Lightening those on my chest as well.
Freeing myself from self inflicted chains;
Tossing out the balls with them.
Succumbing to the free flowing beauty around me;
and Opening myself up to possibility.
Transitioning from Surviving to Thriving...
Atleast for today.

"don't worry ... about a thing
'cause every little thing ... gonna be all right"

Three Little Birds
~Bob Marley

"Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry (don't worry) 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right!"

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', "This is my message to you-ou-ou:"

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don't worry!"
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing" - I won't worry!
"'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right" - I won't worry!
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Singin': "Don't worry about a thing, oh no!
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."