Friday, December 30, 2016

Requiem for 2016

In so many ways, 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year.  I feel like half of my childhood died this year and don't get me started on the election and the ramifications of electing a dangerous and ignorant man who may or may not sell us to the Russians.  It seems like so many people are hurting, struggling, in pain for so many different reasons.  My personality is such that I absorb all the negative emotions and add them to my own plentiful supply.  It has been a hard year for that, particularly the last 6 weeks.

But there have been so many happy moments as well.  Moments when I surprised myself with what I was able to do.  I took a burlesque class and performed in front of people.  I took Madeline on several trips, just the two of us. We did a pinup shoot and a tintype one as well.   I saw a bunch of Broadway shows and concerts that made my heart happy.  We have new people in our life that care about us.  Madeline loves her new school.  I got to tour Paisley Park and walk where Prince walked.  I went on my first date in 17 years.  I did a solo trip around Colorado.  I dyed my hair red.  I went into therapy again to work on becoming the me I'm meant to be.

I look at that list and know I should give myself credit for doing all that.  But I know I could have done more, been more.  But I am paralyzed by fear.  Fear of what people think, being laughed at, feeling the fool.  So instead of doing something I want to do, I do nothing.  Frozen by fear.  Sometimes the sheer number of choices possible to me is overwhelming.  When you are used to being defined by your connection to other people, trying to redefine and know who you are is a skill one has to relearn.

I have not achieved all of what I was hoping I would in 2016.  I feel like I stalled on personal growth and am disappointed.  I know beating up on myself serves no purpose, but there has been a fair amount of that this year.  Feeling I should be more, over more, healed more.  I can objectively see progress, but I feel it isn't enough.  I'm impatient, wanting my new life now.  I am working with my therapist on a bunch of garbage that is painful, sad and hurtful.  And it has been so hard and made my emotions boomerang all over the place.  But Aurora, my therapist, tells me this all means I'm on the right track.  That the sludge has to be gotten through in order for the dam to burst.  There is no time table and it will happen in good time.  I am ready for my life to burst open.

I have no idea what to expect from 2017.  It is all so up in the air right now. Madeline and I are headed to NYC over spring break and I would really like to do another big trip in the summer or fall.  Travelling as much as I can is one of my goals for 2017.  I have goals for 2017, but no resolutions.  I do have a word for 2017, one that I am concentrating on.  It is "brave".  So many things in my life that I am not doing comes down to me finding the bravery within.  I have to defeat the fear.  It has run the show for far too long.

To 2017 - my year of living bravely.

Monday, September 26, 2016

We are Family

Family is a word that encompasses so much, yet doesn’t begin to capture the complexities of the relationships within.  When you go through a divorce, you can’t help thinking about family, what it used to look like, what it looks like now, what it will look like in the future.  The communicating, the navigating of feelings, the new people brought in or not brought in, new names, new definitions.  It can be overwhelming and seem completely impossible.  And yet, if no one gives up, if you continue fighting, a breakthrough starts, so slowly at first it seems like one is imagining it.  And then you arrive at a new normal, still working through issues as they appear, but more settled.

I am lucky in a sense that this is even an option for me.  I realize that for many divorced couples, the best that can be accomplished is a polite and cordial relationship.  And even that may be beyond what can be achieved.  I am not saying that this was easy to come by, far from it.  I had to get over a mountain of pain, hurt and anger to get here.  And Brian had his own demons to wrestle with. 

But we are still a family, a family of three.  We may add other people to this mix as time goes on, it may change shape or it may disappear altogether.  I’ve stopped assuming what the future holds.  A major life event can do that to you.  But I love Brian and always will.  He has been my best friend for the better part of two decades and I cannot bring myself to throw that huge a part of my life away.  Our relationship will never be what it was before and that is how it should be, though I still get sad about that from time to time.  But we are creating together what this new iteration of Melissa and Brian’s story is.  I know that I am seen as a fool or idiot by some and that we are confusing or too much to deal with for others.  But my daughter is the beneficiary of her parents not just being cordial or being solely co-parents, though we are that, but true friends and family.  And I am a beneficiary as well.  I keep my best friend, my family for so long, as part of my present.  I may lose potential romantic partners because of this and that is fine.  When your life gets blown up, you get to choose what the rebuilt version looks like.  Our family unit, different, but still intact, is too important for me to sacrifice.

When you divorce, the extended families are affected as well, thrown into confusion and forced to pick sides, especially when one or both of the former spouses get into a new relationship.  There is no side to pick, there never was.  The only side is Madeline’s.  Was there bad stuff that went down?  Yes, there was.  Was it forgiven by the parties involved?  Yes, it was.  My personal hope is that anyone that enters Brian’s life will become a friend, to me and to Madeline and vice versa.  But that is each person’s decision.  I hope that someday the whole family will be healed.  But I can’t force that as much as I would want to. 

We are an unconventional family, a unique one to say the least.  But one of the things that I am most proud of in my 43 years is what we have rebuilt from the ashes.  It will stand as one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.  It will continue to be hard from time to time, contentious, frustrating and painful.  But it will also continue to be imperfectly beautiful, loving and as weird as we all are.  The Ball family has been battered and bruised, but we’re still standing.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

One is not the Loneliest Number

I am approaching my one year anniversary of being divorced.  It is not something to celebrate in the truest sense and yet, it is.  I think about where I was one year ago and I can see how I have evolved and grown.  The work is not done by far and the roller coaster ride continues, but it is better than it was.  I tend to get wrapped up in the day to day and I don’t realize the tiniest of baby steps taken on a daily basis have started to accumulate.  It’s hard to look back a year, even two years ago and believe I made it through.  But I did.  And I continue to.

A big priority for me personally these days is being ok with being alone.  For a lot of people, when you end a marriage or relationship, the overwhelming urge is to replace the person you lost with someone else right away.  I’ve seen it happen time and again.  I felt the urge myself - to immediately run out and find someone who would make me feel worthwhile, beautiful, interesting and important again.  I got on all the dating sites, tried to find someone, got depressed with what was out there and despaired that I would never feel worthwhile again.  I tried Meetup groups, trying to find friends, men, anything that would help the loneliness, the loss.  But ever so slowly, in such small ways that it was barely noticeable, I started to back off, to not feel the panic, the urgency, to fill the space in my life.  I was content to sit with myself, to spend time alone, to enjoy my own company.  I go to movies alone, I read alone, I watch TV alone, I sit in coffeehouses alone, I even travel alone.  I just did my first solo trip and have planned another one, longer this time, for September.  I am not a hermit and spend lots of time with my daughter, my book club ladies and some people at work.  I even had my first date in over 17 years a few weeks ago.  The man was very nice and wanted to see me again.  But I wasn’t feeling it.  Instead of grabbing on to a man to make me feel good about myself, even if I wasn’t interested, I let him down politely and easily.  I’ve realized that I want people in my life that add something to it, not people that fill holes I have in myself.  I am ever so slowly coming to accept that I am ok, just as I am.  I don’t need other people to tell me that or make me feel it.  I have to love and accept myself in order to have healthy relationships going forward.  The longer I am alone, the more at peace I am with being that way.  Someone is going to have to be pretty amazing to have me add them to my life and I am ok if that never happens for me again.  I have a life to lead that is more than just a romantic relationship.  There is so much more for me to do, to see, to be. 

I am far from perfect at this and it is all very much a work in progress.  I am still terrified of doing certain things and try to talk myself out of doing them.  I am a coward just as many days as I am brave.  But I am fighting, every day, to make a new life, a better one.  There is a quote from Carl Jung that explains this journey perfectly: “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”  I am perpetually terrified, but still in the arena, fighting this fight, to be me and to be proud of who that woman is.