On how to miss your children.

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

I miss them.

Whenever I come to this empty white box to write, those are the words swirling around in my head.

Sometimes it is this straightforward, gut-wrenching, I miss their smiles and I cry if I think about it too long kind-of missing and other times it’s a quieter, ongoing longing, missing knowing how they’re doing and missing their sweet little voices. But I miss them all the same. It’s this pack I carry with me everywhere, the missing them.

We are exactly two years into this journey of long-distance parenting. I can’t even explain the pangs in my heart typing that out. Two years. There are so many things that I have missed in those two years.

It has got easier, I will admit. But it has taken work. AJ and I had to make a conscious effort to take things out of that Missing Them pack that had no business being there, to make it lighter, to make it through. Guilt [did we do enough? are we doing enough? will it BE enough?], regret [if only we had known, if only we had done more while we had the chance, if only…], anger [she manipulated the situation, she is manipulating the situation, she will continue to manipulate the situation]. But unpacking these things, the guilt, regret, anger, and so on, it makes room for other things. Things like hope, faith, preparation. Happiness even.

I feel like I have figured out the right way to miss them, finally. Looking at old pictures and smiling, telling stories with AJ and laughing, sometimes choosing to let the grief in and to feel the void. There is no right way to live across the country from your child, of course, but it’s that whole thing about letting something go so it can return to you. When I stopped focusing my grip so tightly onto what I had lost, something more precious, more beautiful has returned.

I don’t want to live my life in and around the spaces the kids leave behind, walking in sadness with the ghosts of their laughter. I want my life with AJ without the kids to be this incredible, abundant, breathakingly beautiful thing so that every time they walk back into our lives, we open our arms wide to welcome them back into the fold.

I was worried it was selfishness, letting go of my sadness. But it’s not. It’s just another way to love them with my whole heart.

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My hill

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I am so terrified of what comes next.

If you follow me on twitter, you know the last few weeks have been incredibly stressful and trying. There is some crazy ass shit going on with Andy and it is so much bigger than me.

I have been keeping this blind faith that the missing pieces will come together and we’ll have a clear path of how to proceed. But honestly? I have been waiting for something external of myself to force my hand. I didn’t realize how foolish that blind faith that everything would become clear was until tonight when I heard these Mumford & Son lyrics (“get over your hill & see what you find there”) and realized the thing obscuring my vision is myself.

No one is going to help us navigate this mess. No one is going to do it for us. We cannot allow ourselves to be victims of the circumstance, we have to champion our cause.

Every bone in my body is fighting me on this. I do not want to sink away every penny, I do not want to go back to writing document upon legal document only to realizing we’re combating lies and psychosis. I had made my peace with the hand we were dealt and have worked so hard to let go of all my expectations and just accept our life for what it is.

Do I want to open that door again? Risk everything? Change EVERYTHING?

Yes, of course I do.

It’s just a matter of how.

 

Thankful.

November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Two days ago marked five and half years since my first date with my husband. We have been on such an incredible, vexing, heartbreaking, life-changing journey in that short time.

I caught myself in a moment on Monday. Somehow, this is the first time in the span of that journey that I feel like we are on solid footing. Things with the kids are relatively stable, we live where we want to live, we are in a place where we can start to have real plans and real dreams and real goals.

The skids came out for Thanksgiving and I could weep with joy (and have, in fact) at the success of the visit. There was no testing of boundaries, no struggles with learning how to be in eachother’s space again, no “I’m missing out on Thanksgiving with my mom” tantrums, no pain. It was just this celebration of our love for one another and pure happiness at being together. I don’t know to what, precisely, I should attribute the change. Was it the kids responding to the visible changes in AJ’s & my emotional expression after months of therapy, was it that they are getting older and better able to cope with the transition, was it that they truly missed us?

I wish I could have done a Right Click–>Save As to so many moments over the span of the 5 days they were with us. Like the moment we picked them up at the airport and how we were able to watch them warm to our repeated hugs and smiles until they were hanging all over us and laughing. Or sitting on barstools having coffee (steamers) at the fancy cafe with Olivia and hearing her pour her little heart out to me. Or Andy putting his head on my shoulder, picking up my hand, lacing his fingers through mine, and telling me “I really DO love you.” My heart could not be more full and I’m worried it will spill over and I will forget some of the smaller moments and stop being as completely grateful as I am in this moment.

This may be fleeting. Everything could change tomorrow or next week or next month. But today, I am so thankful for my life.

Learning how to love unconditionally.

November 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

“How are you feeling about them coming out soon? What are your expectations?”

I don’t know…I guess I’m not sure which kids to expect to pick up.

“Don’t worry about which kids to expect. See past all of that to who you know they are.”

Three weeks ago I had this conversation with my therapist. Yesterday it hit me: I don’t care how they act, I don’t care if none of it is perfect. I love those kids and I want to see them.

(By the way, if you’ve been wondering if therapy might be a good idea, the answer is always yes)

I’ve been on this journey of learning what unconditional love means as a stepmom. Both in the figurative sense, since the kids became a part of my life, and in the very literal sense over the past 6 months since I started therapy and began working on being purposeful about my relationship with them. I wanted to know what it means to love my stepchildren unconditionally and how to go about loving them. I’ve carried this worry with me for so long that I don’t love them enough or in the right ways. I didn’t give birth to them, how can I love them the way a mother should?

Andrew, my stepson, is so challenging. I felt like I fell in love with Olivia almost immediately upon meeting her. She was so young (just barely 5) and completely adorable. I think it would have been impossible to love her. She just came into everything wide eyed and open-hearted. But not Andy. He was so confused and unsure of what to do, who to trust, how to act. He fought, he tested boundaries. I worried that I would never figure out what or how to love about him. He was just hard work.

I worked hard on figuring out Andy. Through all the tumult, I fought my way into understanding him. I had to be consistent, tough at times, kind at others, but always consistent with my presence and my care for him. I didn’t understand what that care was in those early years, I just knew I had to be there with it. Fake it till you make it. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it mattered to him that I was in his life at all, but I understand now that his pushing was him testing my love for him. And thank god I did not waver. Fast forward to this summer and he’s confiding things in me that he won’t tell anyone else in his life. And tears spring to my eyes when I hear his voice on the phone, from 1500 miles away. It has been so much work, but I know him. I know his troubles, his outbursts, those are just expressions of the pain he feels inside. I just want to wrap up that pain and hold it in my heart. I can’t take it away, I can’t make it better, but I can love him no matter what. That I know how to do.

And Olivia, I might have let her drift a little too far in recent years, being so focused on her brother. But I know she is going to come to our house and look for her familiar things and know we are her family here, too. I don’t need to be afraid of how she’s going to react to me since she’s realized she has the power to refuse to talk to me on the phone. I know she’s trying to be a peacemaker, trying to keep her mom happy. And I love her for that. I have come to realize that her pushing back might look different from her brother’s, but it is the same pain and I can wrap it up and hold it just the same.

I love them both so much. I may not get to see them every day, I may not pack their lunches or know the names of the parents on the PTA, but I know these kids. I’m not going away and they’re not going away. They can push and push and push–and they probably will–and I will still love them. Every heartbreaking moment for the rest of my life.

In my wedding vows, I promised to love those two as if they were my own. That seems so foolish now. I can’t love them like a mom does, not at all. I love them like only a stepmom can. I had to work for it, to earn it. I had to fight to get to know them and I as a result I will never take a single part of them or their place in my life for granted.

I don’t love them because I have to or because biology tells me I do. I love them because they are a part of who I am.

Good enough.

October 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m struggling with feeling Good Enough today.

I had a fantastic weekend, full of all those things that makes one feel like a happy, productive human being.  I had this great post all composed in my head and then by the time I sat down to write it, everything fizzled down to a disappointing wet fart.

Sometimes I find life to be so hilariously inconsistent. What brings me joy one minute can make me feel so inadequate the next, even simultaneously. Just the stupid innocuous act of cleaning up and preparing the files on my harddrive for a backup left me feeling not only incredibly satisfied for having completed a long-avoided task, but also completely frustrated at things in the past that I couldn’t change. Sorting out the file of legal documents and incriminating screen shots and emails from years gone by just made me feel so helpless, powerless, stupid, even. And then, completely unrelated to that, my s-daughter was a bit of a brat to me on the phone. So when I get an email from a potential photography client, instead of feeling elated that things are finally happening for this whole freelance  thing, I just sat there feeling not Good Enough, my mind swirling with all the reasons that this person might ultimately decide to reject me. And searching for solutions to the unanswered questions (where to do the shoot, looking for inspiration for poses) just filled me with even more self-deprication. Ugh, and let’s not even talk about how I’m supposed to be at 8 lbs down today and instead I’m only at 3. 

I mean, shit, can I do anything right?

I know the answer is yes, that I do lots of things right and even when it’s not right, I’m doing my very best and that itself is good enough, but a lot of the time, it just doesn’t feel that way. I want to be the best damn accidental freelance photographer there ever was, with my bottom of the line Canon that every other mommy blogger owns. I want to effortlessly shed all the pounds that years of self-loathing help me piled on. I want my s-kids to see me as this beacon of light and love and not hurry to get me off the phone so they can put in their required time with their dad and get back to whatever it is that they were doing. So, okay, my expectations are a little unrealistic.

I know I need to give myself a break, to celebrate who I am and not who I am not. So, yes, I have the cheapest DSLR I could find, but I still take damn good pictures. Even when I just had my little point and shoot people liked what I was doing. And I haven’t lost all the weight as quickly as I have wanted, but in 4 weeks, I have made significant progress in changing old habits and making new. And as far as the s-kids go, well I can’t change what happens when they’re not with us and I can’t expect them to have maturity that some adults never muster up (ahem, their mom). But I can love them, I can not take it personal, I can have the maturity they can’t.

And on days when I want to beat up on myself for not having the grace be comfortable in my own skin, I can remind myself that everyone feels like that sometimes, and it is okay to feel vulnerable.

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