“But there never seems to be enough time…” ~ Jim Croce

So, one day O’s dad came home from work when I was 8 months preggy and found me sitting on the living room floor shoveling Oreo’s down my gullet, watching All My Children, and bawling with umpteen parenting books spread all around and all open to different chapters. He sighed, stomped into my pity bubble, scooped up all of these tomes and proceeded to chuck them in our dumpster. And yes son, this is before us old folks regularly recycled.

Trust me, this was an act of mercy. I don’t know about you all but when anything happens to me, I turn to books to try to figure things out. The only problem with this is that every book has conflicting advice, ideas, and tips to use for such a task. For example, EVERY parenting book I was reading on that day of infamy said something different about ‘how’ to raise my baby. Every one. I was so befuddled I thought about calling my OB/GYN (who had the bedside manner of a turnip 😳) and telling him I was calling off this ‘birth thing’ that was ultimately B’s fault. But know what I figured out after being a new ma for a few months? That they were all right. And all wrong. And my job was to do the best I could with the personality of the little guy I had and hope for the best. Luckily, it worked. Very well.

And now? I find myself doing the exact same thing with books on grief. I’ve read tons of info on ‘how to grieve in the right way’ and if I put into practice all of these, I’d be once again bawling, watching soaps throughout my day (which I actually wish I could🤔 ) and gaining 10 pounds a week. Hmmm.

However, I have come across advice that does help me and while searching I found this from Everyday Health (paraphrased):

“Saying goodbye to a parent is a life-changing experience, marking the end of a bond we’ve known for our entire lives (Heidi Horsley, PsyD). Until it happens, we don’t know what our lives are like without our parents and to have them gone can be traumatic, whether it’s sudden or expected.”

“Our biological parents give us life, and the parents who raise us (whether biological or not) shape our lives in really big ways. They’re with us from day one, forming the foundation of our identity.” (Alexandra Kennedy).

Research show that people continue to report trouble sleeping, concentrating at work, getting along with people, and a strong emotional response one to five years after losing a parent. Other research suggests losing a parent puts someone at a higher risk of numerous negative mental and physical health outcomes, including higher likelihood of binge drinking, self-esteem issues, and overall decline in happiness. This evidence also reinforces that parents often play critical roles in our self-confidence and sense of purpose throughout our lives.

Carmen Chai

Honestly, reading this comforted me in a way nothing else has because it helps me to understand the gut-punchy feeling I’m walking around with and why I have such a hard time accepting ma’s death itself.

Ma really did play such a role in my self-confidence…no matter what else might be happening around me, ma ALWAYS supported me and believed in my abilities to handle whatever it might be. I did feel a sense of purpose being ma’s daughter…that was (and I guess still is) a HUGE status for me and at night, when I’m used to talking to her and reviewing our days together, brings that home to me. I know how much I needed her attention and love and how ‘less than’ I feel by not having it now. She made me feel like I was so important in her life too, and never passed up an opportunity to show her appreciation for me.

Crystal Raypole wrote a great article in Healthline and gave 10 ideas for how to navigate through grief which is a great compilation of advice I’ve read elsewhere. Some of these are easier than others…and some are going to take me a lloonngg time to either begin or traverse through.

The first couple are to both validate your feelings and then allow yourself to fully experience the grief. OK. These are the toughies. I keep apologizing to people for being in such a ‘sleep walky’ type of existence right now and when others ask me how I’m doing, I always say OK which is actually not the truth. I know saying fine isn’t true at all and saying horrible probably is a bit harsh to put on someone else, so OK is my go-to right now. However, a friend of ma’s, T’s and mine said this yesterday: “Fine simply means fucked, insecure, neurotic and emotional.” I guess with this definition, fine really does sum up my day to day right now. (Love you, Teeeny 💘)

And fully experience the grief? I think this is different for everyone and right now, I can only take it in dribs and drabs. I find myself vacuuming yet again when I feel these waves come upon me and I know that if I open that door, I’ll drown right now. I eventually will…but right that that tsunami would be way too much.

At a walk for cancer research.

Caring for myself is one I’m working on and I definitely have support from the fam but what’s ironic is this: I get to crying over ma and start to call her so I can talk to her about it…after all, that’s what I always did when I was upset. What a tough habit to break.

Sharing and honoring memories is another idea and T and I are doing just that in a lot of ways. Ma made so many beautiful quilts and we have given a quilt to all of our family, ma’s friends and neighbors, and are going to have the rest professionally cleaned and then donated to the local Cancer Care center for them to give to those getting treatment. This is the same place where we asked for memorials and it honors ma’s 25 years of having been a cancer survivor. We know she’d love knowing others getting comfort from what she made. Every time we talk, T and I (and O and I too) share memories and some make us cry…some make us laugh. And you know, having T is a gift. Only she knows what I’m feeling since she’s struggling with it too…we are truly a team in this loss.

Finally, a suggestion I’ve seen in various places as well says to forgive the person for past wrongs, unresolved issues, etc. Here’s a true testament to ma: I don’t have any. I know people make the dead into saints when in fact, no one deserves that title. However, ma was an amazingly, perfectly imperfect parent and she was there for T and I no matter what. We were lucky that we got to talk to her so much up until a couple of days before she died, and at one point she tried to apologize to me for having married her ex husband (yes, he’s a fucking bastard and had he shown up at her funeral, my nephews and O were going to ‘escort’ him out 😠) and putting T and I through these horrible years of domestic violence and the abuse he heaped on us as well. I stopped her. I told her she didn’t need to apologize…she needed to absolve herself of any guilt she had towards us because he was the abuser…not her. And I know that she was the one that had to ultimately understand when she could get away from him with her life. How can we blame her for going through hell? I blame him.

Maybe I’m reading too much about this grief thing and maybe I think that by doing so, I’ll glean quick fixes to this shattered life. The best thing I’ve learned is this: it’s going to take a LONG time to grieve ma…I’m going to feel things in my own time and way…I’m going to have to re-learn life with having a ma in it…and I have to make sure that the life I have is lived to it’s fullest and the people who are in it simply know how much I love them. If T and I can both do this, I think ma would be proud.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

Forgive? OK. Forget? Hmmm.

So, my son and I were yacking while doing dishes last night, and we got on the topic of forgiveness.  You see, his best friend found out his wife was cheating on him.  After a week of thinking about it, the friend decided to go back to her to give their marriage another shot.  I told my son I thought it was great they were going to try to build up their relationship again, and O said this: “Mom, you can’t do that.  It will never be the same.”  I argued and said it could be, if she worked diligently at building up trust.  Again, he said: “MOM…it will NEVER be the same.  He won’t be able to look at her the same way ever again.”

So I’ve been pondering this for a couple of hours, and I’m thinking he may be right.  (He’ll probably be floored by that sentence if he reads this…rarely do we ever tell each other we were right about something).

Anyhoot,  let’s look at forgiveness.  To forgive something is to release it from yourself.  To let it go.  “To remember without anger.”  (I don’t know where I read this, but I love this particular definition).

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If I lend you a thousand bucks, and expect you to repay it, that’s only right since it was a loan.  BUT, if I say “Follower, I forgive you that loan.  You’re clear.” that’s something else.  You have been released from the burden of that loan.  I can’t go back later and say, “Hey, forget what I said, I want my money back.”  NOT FAIR!  I have already forgiven the loan.  Excused it.  Cleared it.  I wiped your slate clean.

Get my drift?  You can’t say you TRULY forgive someone if you are going to keep bringing the issue up.  Keep picking at it.  Keep looking at it under a microscope.  If you say “I forgive you”, then you pack it away and lock it up.   Let’s take a look-see at  cheating, something so many people will face in their relationships.

As we know, forgiveness isn’t always asked for by the person who cheated.  It may not be ‘fair’ to give it to them.   The person may not deserve forgiveness at all.  So, you have to forgive them for YOU.  You.  Because if you don’t, the anger, betrayal, hurt, etc. will feed off of you again and again and again.  But, forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.  It means you have become smarter from the experience you went through.

I know of whilst I’m speaking (I feel like typing formally tonight and am feeling quite British after watching Rocketman for the 10th time.)  As I’ve said in past posts, my last partner cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend during our 3 year relationship.  The first time was during a month stint when she was visiting from another state, and decided to stay with his family.  He was living with me at the time, but chose to sleep over at the family home too.  You know, just to protect the stuff (old clothes that no longer fit) he still kept there.  Mind you, he hated staying there and never did after he moved in with me,  but ya gotta protect those pants.

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Then, he cheated on me the last time I saw him in October:  Him naked…with another woman right there.  So I ASSUME it was cheating, although I didn’t actually SEE it.  For all that is holy, I am grateful for at least that.

After that first summer of his cheating a couple of years ago, I couldn’t forgive.  No way, Jose’.  I think it’s probably because of a few things:  first, he lied to me the entire year before he cheated in that he assured me he never spoke to her,  never made plans to see her, never e-mailed her and blah blah blah.  Second, it was over a month period, with a week here and there in-between seeing her, and he swore to me, actually held my hands, & looked me in the eye, and promised me it would never happen again.  Because he loved me. Not her.  (When she was here the last time, he proposed to her.  Just saying.)  And I took him back.  Again.  Again.  And again.  (Don’t say it…I know what you’re thinking).  Then I said I forgave him.  I lied.

I wanted too.  I truly did.  I loved him so very much.  I was deeply invested in his life.  His kids were a joy to me and I still adore and miss them terribly.  I saw so much in him he never saw in himself.  I understood his personality disorder because of my mental illness.  I knew he had PTSD from his 3 tours in the Middle East.  I wanted to give to him everything he never got from his family.  I wanted to forgive him.

So, I said the words, and I thought I meant them.  I was ready to go back to the way things had been (which wasn’t a good place either when you think about it.)  I said: “I forgive you.”

Freedom concept

But I couldn’t stop checking his phone.  He had lied about texting and calling her for an entire year BEFORE the cheating…I had to see his phone all of the time to make sure her number didn’t pop up.  And yes, I’m sorry to say I checked his cell billing too.  When he’d be out and about while I was at school, I’d ask him where all he went.  I looked at envelopes in his mail to make sure she wasn’t writing to him.  And this pissed him off.  In fact, he told me this behavior was why he was cheating again.  Because I was making HIM upset due to this invasion of his privacy.  It made him stress out.  It made him uncomfortable.  So guess what I did?  I apologized.

You can say it:  “What the fuck, Kristi?”  After I thought about it, and it didn’t take long, I realized  he had deserved all of that.  And more.  Hello!!!  YOU’RE the one that cheated.  YOU’RE the one that lied.  YOU’RE the one that broke the trust I truly had in you.  I trusted what you said.  What you promised.  What you swore.  You broke all of these things!  Your cheating had to have some consequence, and that invasion of privacy was a small price to pay for what you put me through emotionally.  You brought it on.  You let it in.

Now, here’s the irony of the situation.  I was thinking about him last October, after an argument we had on the phone.  And while I was stewing about it, I finally realized I had a choice:  I could forgive him and rid myself of this horrible behavior I hated to be doing,  the angry feelings I was feeding into everyday, and the words I’d say to hurt him like he hurt me; or, I could continue being with him in a way that caused so much stress and rife in my life, that I was making myself sick and ashamed.  So, I chose the first.  And here’s what happened:  I said to ME, “I forgive you, Guy.  I’m letting it go.”  And I swear that the burden I’d been carrying for those couple of years began to lift off my shoulders.  I know it sounds preachy, but it did.  I could finally remember all those things without anger.  I packed it away and threw away the key.  It was such a relief.  So I went to tell him the next morning and you know the rest (as does his girlfriend who screamed at me in the hallway of ‘our’ apartment).

“Well,” you say, “guess you shouldn’t have forgiven him after all, huh?”  Yes, I should have, Grasshopper.  And yes, I have forgiven him again.  Not because he’s asked.  Not because he’s deserving of it.  Not because he’ll even know.  But I do.  I flushed the anger, humiliation, embarrassment, hurt, and broken heart right down the crapper.  It was great to see it spin down that hole.

I’m never going to forget any of this.  It’ll fade.  It’ll become something I don’t tear up about at times, but it will always be there.  I’ll always remember, and I’m building up better boundaries, trusting my instinct more, and working on my self-love because of it.  I’m remembering without anger.  I’m forgiving, but not forgetting.  Instead, I’ve turned all of that negative energy into positive stuff I’m using for me.

And to tell you the truth:  it feels fucking great.

Kristi xoxo

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