The Bravery

“I want to be brave, like you.”

A close friend said this to me recently. Stopped me in my tracks somewhat, as I don’t feel brave, though her words humbled me. My intention in life is not one of bravery, it is merely to be who I am as an authentic kid of God. 

Upon thinking about it, pausing awhile, here’s what I believe bravery to be. 

~Bravery is telling others you’re not brave. 

~Bravery is facing oneself and admitting how ridiculosly hard it is – the entire shebang of YOU. 

~Bravery is writing or saying your own truth without excessive editing. 

~ Bravery is a cycle of learning. One not need be brave an entire life. 

~Bravery is having the kishke to press publish and go on with your day.  

~Bravery is asking questions and being ok with no answers. 

~Bravery is waking up, feeling alone and calling a friend. 

~ Bravery is laughing at yourself, with just a touch of self-deprecating humor.  

~Bravery is admitting your mess ups. 

~Bravery is owning your success. 

~Bravery is acknowledging behaviors. 

~Bravery is changing behaviors. 

~Bravery is making a difficult decision, be it baby steps or full on plunge. 

~Bravery requires thoughtfulness, compassion and empathy. 

~Bravery is believing in someone bigger than you. 

~Bravery takes time. It can not be rushed, pushed or forced. 

~Bravery is exercising unconditional love. 

~Bravery understands vulnerability. Vulnerability is the bravest of all. 

Take note, kids. You’re probably braver than you know. Keep on. 

We’ll find each other soon. ūüíú

Motherhood: Failure is Not an Option

“Living with a shattered sense of self is devastating. You feel like you are no longer valid, your value as a person has been negated, you have no purpose.¬† And when you have no value and no purpose you begin to question why you should live.¬†And the most devastating question I had to face was this: ‚Äúif I was a failure at what I considered the most important job of my life how do live with myself in the aftermath. Since so much of my self-worth was tied to my desire to be the best possible parent I could be, one of the major repercussions was that my self-esteem was devastated.‚Ä̬†

Renate DundysMarrelo

I failed as a mother.

Not as a human being, as a mother. There is a distinctive separation of the two.

Moms make mistakes, I get it. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. The kind of failure I’m speaking of is the most monumental: betraying a child’s trust.

A failing marriage has the capacity to become a¬†failure as a parent. Parenting is hard. Marriage isn’t exactly a slice of pie either. We look at other marriages, other parents, judge each other as if they’ve discovered something we haven’t. We’re all connected at the party. No one has the quintessential antidote for successful marriage or parenting. If it were the case, Dr. Phil might actually have to work as a real family therapist.¬†

The Behemoth Consequence 

Think about behavior, decisions you make. Think about the consequences of those decisions.¬†Think about how your child, at any age, would view you as a parent if you were to make a poor decision that would garner mistrust. Young adults don’t grow out of observing and watching their parents actions and behaviors. To break a child’s trust is the utmost betrayal a parent can make. It is for this reason why I judge others less harshly these days. Self-acknowledgement is a bitch. It’s pressing, humbling, lonely, unpleasant. Yet it is also necessary for the beginning of a person’s healing journey.¬†

As much as I’ve written on the painful issue of estrangement, there is a consistent yearning to subject myself; one voice, willing to tell her truth, to be judged,¬†criticized, perhaps verbally punched up a bit for speaking out on something excrutiatingly difficult to talk about. I welcome all of it, as there is little to be fearful of anymore. The release of vulnerability becomes an easier glide once you have the chutzpah to push through the shame. The more openly estrangement is discussed, the less shame one adheres to.

Your self-worth shall not be defined by mistakes made as a parent. My hope is you take time to think, process; realize you’re still going to breathe when failing. I’ve arrived at a place where I recognize my¬†failure does not equate with the kind of mother I was or¬†am, for I am still a mom. So are you.¬†

We’ll find each other soon. ‚̧

 

Age of Grace

She lives in a theater, she lives by the sea.

She lives in my soul, she lives within me.

I see her face, pieces in mine.

How I learn, her voice, still kind. 

We age together, though she is not here. 

She teaches the importance of releasing my fear. 

I see her differently the older I grow. 

Her death is a comfort, as I, too, will pass, I know. 

Parents and children, a curious bunch.

Let them be, for in time, there is much.

Relationships are complex, there is no other. 

Give, forgive, embrace the love and grace.

Gently and sweetly, I kiss my mother. 

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Connie at the Stage Door  Segerstrom Center for the Arts  1/7/2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessening the Illusions: Year by Year

With each year (albeit the still-on-occasional set back) I’m more apt to delve a bit further into the silent issue of family estrangement and write openly. One of the main reasons for this blog is to let you know how much I care; those who decided to stop contacting a family member and those who had little say in your estrangement.¬†

Since before divorcing end of 2012, family estrangement has been at the forefront of my life. I’ve been paralyzed with fear coming forth in my writing. Though now, at this point in my journey, I’m much healthier, more accepting. Vulnerability is part of my lexicon and I intend to muscle her up a bit. There is no soapbox. Only one voice willing to talk about something unpleasant, something that makes one squirm. To this day, estrangement has given me an undeniable quest for meaning of family.¬†

During the first several years, it caused unspeakable pain, serious depression, suicidal thoughts, an uprise of anxiety, significant and brutal feelings of unworthiness, isolation and self-loathing.  The grief of estrangement is unlike the grief of a death: one is finite, the other, ambiguous: both require their own processes in their own timing. One is not more painful than the other, they simply differ. 

There’s a couple of notions about estrangement I’d like to talk about, here, and in future posts. Not necessarily to dispel myths, rather, discuss certain assumptions.

You obviously were the cause of the estrangement. I thought you were a good mom. What happened is your fault.  

This is a biggie, if not the biggest assumption for most.


We are all responsible for our actions. No one is immune to consequences. Took me a good couple of years to figure this one out. When one finds herself knee-deep in the rabbit hole, she ain’t thinking too much about consequences for her actions. Yet, with each passing year, clarity reigns, as does acknowledgement for poor decisions I made years ago. My children were 17 and 21 at the time. Essentially they had two distraught parents that were so consumed with their own unhappiness, they weren’t emotionally available. This didn’t happen overnight. As their mom, I held on tightly to the notion – the illusion of family. Marriage was dissolving yet family was everything. I would do whatever I could to keep it together. This would become the main ingredient, losing myself in such a way, destructive behavior seemed the only way out. The girls suffered because of me and my decisions. The amount of remorse can not be measured. This, I accept. ¬†

Understanding unconditional love.

Mom used to say, “I never gave you enough guidance. Better to love unconditionally than to have limits on those we love.”¬†Like mom, I raised my girls with the kind of unconditional love given me. Like mom, there were few restrictions laid upon them to be someone other than who they wanted to be. I nurtured that most of all. It came as easily as breathing.

Perhaps therein lies the problem: I gave my girls too much power in allowing them to be themselves, yet not guide them by questioning how others might feel. All this talk of letting people be themselves without apology gets mixed up somehow. Where is compassion? Empathy for others? Did I not demonstrate the kind of compassion I felt toward others?

As mentioned a time or two before, there are no do-overs in the book of parenting. You don’t get that make-up test or extra credit points years after raising them. Yet, here’s what you get with unconditional love: a life-long journey of self-realization; the kind of love that blossoms with joy, contentment, curiosity and awe.¬†

Loving my children is the most important teacher I know, yet it is not what sustains a relationship in and of itself. Dig deeper. There is far more there….

What has unconditional love taught you? 

Keep on. 

We’ll find each other soon. ‚̧

Circumventing Holiday Maps

“Carin, I’m so sorry. One of the things that family does is share memories of the past. You should talk about your mother and your girls should share their remembrances. We keep the love and specialness of those we love alive in the sharing.¬†

It’s a common loss and sharing with family should help ease the pain. Then you create a cycle and establish a model for others to follow. You hold the memory of loved ones close to your heart and remember your mother with others who loved her.

Now you’re just alone and your daughters, who knew and loved your mother, are alone with their memories. The richness of your mother’s life is lost in the void between you and your daughters. ¬†

I’m praying for you that your mother’s spirit and eternal love will create a path for you and your daughters to find each other and share like a family again. Take care.”

~Supportive words from a dear friend some months ago. 

Coming up on my fifth year of holidays without mom or my girls, reflections are on par with Mulan singing the same fore mentioned song to herself.  Patterns make their way of regularity, only to dismantle and morph into a different zig and zag. Grieving for the dead and living, a process uneasily understood, somewhat explainable. Yet, our words are spoken and we yearn to be heard. 

 

Holiday maps offer winding roads far off our regular beaten path. During the holidays, allow yourself to feel. Ride the bending road. Know you’ll eventually find your new groove. Healing comes in increments. There is no certain path. God’s got that one covered.¬†

Here’s to you. Here’s to your family, including those you don’t like so much. Here’s to awkward Christmas gatherings and joyful hymns. Here’s to tolerance and love. Here’s to a dude named Jesus, born on Christmas Day, who had a pretty rad life. Here’s to coping with pain, holiday cheer and not-so-cheer. Here’s to appreciation, gratitude, mistakes and misgivings. Here’s to loss and acceptance. Here’s to open and softening hearts. Here’s to holiday maps and everything that goes with it.¬†

Here’s to us – you and me – who keep on. Keep the faith.

Peace, kids. 

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We’ll find each other soon. ‚̧

Me, Myself and You

Does a middle-aged woman need to be single in order to gain insight and grow as a human being?

Approaching four years post-divorce, my answer is pretty much….yes. Not to insinuate growth isn’t attainable while in relationships. Life is simply different without a partner.¬†

Granted, I was not single very long. That said, some relationships are more isolating than others. The end of my marriage was one of those.

Most of my life I always had a partner, an other. Beginning as a teenager, young adult to middle-age, not a lot of time spent with me, myself, my own person.

I do not recommend isolation. I do recommend being alone.

For the first time ever, I lived by myself. I was fifty-two years old.  

It was during this time, second half of 2012, mediation continued, house went into escrow and the girls graduated their respective schools (college and high school). Shortly thereafter the girls and their father moved to another house. Upon closing escrow, I moved into my deceased mother’s old house by the sea. My brother was living on the property that consisted 3 separate units: small main house, studio and upstairs apartment. My brother and I had lost mom January 2012. Uncertain we would sell, we spent the first six months learning to breathe without her. My niece lived downstairs in the studio, making for a cozy compound of our tiny misfit family.¬†We didn’t quite know what to do without mom or what life would look like.¬†

In sixteen months I grew more as a human being than I think I’d done when married. Turns out, it was also during this time, there began a new-found love affair with the ocean.¬†Steps away, I would traipse across the boulevard, catch a sunset, meditate on my favorite lifeguard stand at 14th Street. The amount of time living at mom’s was unknown. I made most days count and soaked each sunset or sunrise in as if it were my last. ¬†

For you see, divorce kicks you in places outside any semblance of normalcy. Either one treads the ride and learns, or….not. After spending a decent amount of time in various fetal positions, cocooned¬†in my small safety net upstairs, I began to face my reality. This would occur, a mixture of time, mental exhaustion, sheer and divisive decision-making skills. Reality bites, as the 1994 film reminds us. It bit hard and emerged, I came.¬†

My divorce was final December 31, 2012. I lived at the beach from August 2012 until January 2014. It was the most excruciatingly bleakest time in my life. The pain of loss, family, marriage, estrangement, my mental health Рall part of the process, kids. Not much growth without the above mentioned. More than anything, those sixteen months prepared me for today. The time helped solidify my convictions of what matters in life. It raised awareness and began the journey of questioning God, family, love, parenting, friendships and what committed relationships meant. 

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I am indebted to my beautiful mother, who knew the importance of questioning life. She wasn’t physically with me at the most painful time of my life, though I learned I could live on my own without her. I survived. Grow, I did. The last several years in a committed relationship with an other, I remain steadfast as an individual, my own person. He and I grow together, as one, as our selves. I won’t allow isolation in a relationship again. I will, however, embrace solitude, a time to reflect alone, to pray and meditate. It is because of this, I am a better partner.

My young friends, it’s cool to be alone, to question and learn yourself. I didn’t do much of that before marriage at twenty-four. Hold onto your beliefs. Hold onto you, your own person. You will grow, survive and thrive.¬†

We’ll find each other soon. ‚̧