Queasy Friday Morning

sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can feel it
can you feel it?
the trembling and
the quake?
hands shaking as the
eyes they open

people my women
me are waking up
to the truth
to the power
to the constant sense
of not enoughness

to being judged
to being threatened
to being emotionally
physically and
sexually abused wiithout
even know what was
going on

you are not crazy
you are not too sensitive
you are not controlling
you are not too needy
or co-dependent
you are not asking for too much

you do not need to wear
more makeup or
prettier clothes or
lose ten lbs or
change your hair

you are we are waking up
and the newness is raw
and terrifying and makes
us look at the world in a whole
new way. don’t stop.
don’t blink.

“this is not really happening
you bet your life it is”

it’s okay for you to scream now
that would be an entirely
appropraite and rational
response in fact go ahead
and ROAR.

Poem for the First Day of School

linusI wanted to go for a walk

But the rain came
In waves in swells
Like it was pouring straight
Out of my heart my soul
But it was MY sadness
(And my happiness)
So I smiled and said, “Yes.”
To it all.

To myself and the contradiction
To the desert and the ocean
To the mountain and the valley
To freedom and the prison
To solitude and community
To the absolute and the uncertain
I said and say, “Yes!”
To it all.

Now, I walk down the aisle
Most Sundays and renew my vows
To Christ and to myself and to the
Work while Mary watches over me
With Saint Michael on Her right
And God…well. He must be up there
Somewhere pleased with himself
Chuckling as he whispers, “Yes,”
Over us all.

Shit They Don’t Tell You

IMG_0005-5Ever since the birth of my first son, I’ve been threatening to write a parenting book called, “Shit They Don’t Tell You.”  There are probably a bazillion books on parenting out there.  Most of them seem to be written for some super mom who only exists to make the rest of us feel bad about ourselves.

One of my favorites is a book called “New Parent Power!”  A well-meaning family member gave it to me and I’ve never read it.  The reason why it is my “favorite” is the same reason why I’ve never read it.  The damn thing is 572 pages long.  What parent has time to read a book that is 572 pages long? I mean, it is probably a great book that is chock full of sound parenting advice that could change my life on a daily basis, but I’ll never know because I’m trying to raise three boys into men.  If I have time to read a book, it is usually one on how to keep my own shit together and not one about better discipline strategies.  Yes, I see how they are both related but come on! I devote SO much of my waking hours to my kids or my work, and when I read, I want to read for me!

But, as usual, I am digressing.  What I started this post to talk about is my own “book,” which I have finally surrendered to – for now – just being a blog, and the shit they don’t tell you about being a parent.

I mean, ask any mother about the actual birth of their child and they will go into enough gory detail to give Stephen King a run for his money.  But if you were to ask them what it’s like to raise a child, they seem to lose that thread of vulnerability and honesty.

Let’s be honest.  This could partially be because we are all in shellshock and can barely remember what we had for breakfast much less describe what our day to day lives are like.

Generally speaking, we humans tend to remember the negative things that happen to us over the positive ones.  This ability to focus on “threats” to our safety is actually a survival instinct.  When we were living in caves, our ability to notice the saber tooth tiger over the butterfly would keep us alive.

But in modern times, when most of us don’t live with such physical threats, that same ability has become a liability.  Now, instead of allowing us to notice the saber tooth tiger, we instead focus on the one negative thing that our spouse or our boss or our best friend said to us in a two hour conversation that was otherwise filled with positive things.  Afterwards, our thoughts return only to the one negative one.

For mothers, I think there is a similar survival mechanism.  This one, however, doesn’t ensure our own survival as much as that of our children and our willingness to continue to procreate.  In a day full of temper tantrums and cleaning up bodily fluids, if someone asks how our day was, we instinctually focus on the one or two moments when things were good.  We share the moments of joy that we had with our kids that day.

Perhaps the survival of our entire species depends upon a mother’s (or father’s) ability or need to focus on what went right that day rather than what went wrong.  But perhaps it is not the survival of our species that is at risk but rather our own shame.

It takes a strong woman to admit that she feels like she is flailing everyday as a parent and that every day feels like a crap shoot where she misses the mark more than she hits it.  I think that this fear that we are getting it wrong stems from the gross misconception that we’ve all been fed about what it takes to be a parent.

I_0082If anyone could every really convey how fucking hard it is to be a parent, I’m not sure that we’d do it! I mean, of course, we would because of the whole irrational, biological imperative to make minions of ourselves and our spouses.

There is so much that nobody tells you about being a parent! There is so much shit that we don’t dare share with one other either out of own sneaking suspicion that we are the worst parents ever or, let’s face it, because it’s so gross and hard and ridiculous, who would believe us anyway?!  Certainly not a woman whose biological clock is ticking so loudly that she can scarcely hear anything above it.

Anyway!  The title of this blog and the book I’ve long joked about writing is “The Shit They Don’t Tell You.” So, I want to share with you some of the things that I (along with countless other parents) have had to learn the hard way.

1)  If you are currently pregnant and reading lots of books about pregnancy and childbirth, please stop immediately.  Whatever you think you are planning, something else is most likely going to happen.  Trust your OB or your midwife.  Trust your body.  Instead, start reading books on how to actually take care of your baby because you won’t have the time or energy to do so once they are here.

shutterstock_828694812) Within in the first 48 hours of bringing your baby home from the hospital, you will be convinced that you have ruined your life. I try to tell this to all women who are about to become moms.  I don’t do it to be mean or to scare but to let them know that when it happens that it is normal.  I also quickly reassure them that they have not, of course, ruined their lives and that it very quickly gets much, much better.  Having that first baby is like hitting a brick wall.  Luckily, Mother Nature makes them so freaking cute and floods our brains with oxytocin so that we soon fall in madly in love with our babies and we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep this tiny creature alive.

3) Motherhood doesn’t come naturally and you may not even like – let alone love – your baby at first sight.  This is actually a completely common and normal phenomenon.  Want to know what my first thought was when I saw my first son for the first time?  “Oh my god.  I’ve given birth to a little Mexican.”  His father, my second husband was a beautiful Hispanic man (and still is though we are no longer married) so, trust me, I am not a racist and I apologize if my frankness offends anyone.  However, when the nurses first showed me that furry, red-faced creature with a shock of black hair, my brain could not comprehend that baby had come out of my body.

I feel like I would be remiss not to mention something about postpartum depression and/or anxiety at this point.  It is real and I personally believe that all new moms have one or both to some degree.  Your body and your life are turned upside down and, of course, there is going to be some fall out.  If you are struggling with either, know that you are not alone.  I personally had postpartum anxiety after all three of my children were born.  I survived and so did they.  I reached out to my OB and my therapist and my girlfriends and I strongly advise you to do the same.  Again, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

4) Your children will literally beat the crap out of you.  From the time they can climb up your legs and into your lap until around second grade, they will want to be in your lap or in close physical proximity at all times.  And it hurts.  They aren’t gentle.  They are rough.  They will scale your bare legs like Everest leaving a trail of bruises and scrapes in their wake.  They will punch you in the face.  Sometimes this will be an accident and sometimes they will be overtaken by their own excitement and do it on purpose…not realizing that it will actually hurt.

You will be snuggling sweetly in bed and before you know it, you will be in a WWE wrestling match and your toddler will throw himself at your face and accidentally shove the entire length of his thumb up your nostril giving you the first and only nosebleed of your life.  If you are lucky.

You will be playing joyfully with plastic tubes and pretending they are trumpets when your four year old will suddenly give you a round house kick to the face causing the plastic tube to cut your lip in two places and chip one of your front teeth.

shutterstock_755497665) Living with small children is like living in a bio-hazardous zone of filth.  If anyone really knew the amount of vile, bodily fluids that parenting involved, the human race might come to an end.  Your children will sneeze massive gobs of mucous in your face, in your car and in your hair.  Your infants will spit up on you so many times that you will become nose blind to the stench of sour milk emanating from your clothes and you will wear stained clothes out of the house because they are “not that bad.”

You will be taking a happy family bath with your newborn and your husband only to see your husband leap out of the tub in horror when you both realize what that green cloud is that is slowly creeping towards the surface.

You will have vomit sprayed down your back as you try to comfort your sick child.  You will have poo explode straight into your face as you carefully try to remove what you know is a diarrhea filled diaper.  You will be peed on by your newborn son more times that you can count and your entire kitchen and dining area will be covered in a layer of food that never seems to completely come off.  You will regret all those times you judged your friends who had kids before you for how messy their house was.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart and speaking of…

6) Your heart will be torn so wide open that it will never be the same.    There is this great quote from Elizabeth Stone that says, “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  You have never felt such vulnerability as you will once you have a child loose in the world.  Every playground insult hurled by another child will cut you like a dagger.  Every fever, every rash, every boo boo experienced by your kids will feel like your own.

Having children makes you a better person whether you like it or not.  They drag us – often kicking and screaming – into real adulthood and into being less self-centered because their survival literally depends on us.  But not to get too melodramatic here because humans have been having and raising children for literally centuries.  Relax.  You got this.

shutterstock_1505375847) Your children will become the ultimate experts at pushing your buttons.  It’s like it’s their job and one of the reasons that they do so pulls us along our path of personal growth.  The upside of this is that, once they get a little older and able to have conversations, those conversations will be some of the best of your life.  Because, they are your offspring and they get you and know you better than any other person ever will – except maybe for your own mom.  You will laugh at their jokes and be amazed and thrilled as they begin to develop their own opinions about the world.

A couple of years ago, my oldest son came home from school one day and, with all seriousness, asked, “Did you know that some people actually believe that unless you were a Christian that you are going to hell?”  I smiled and said, “Yes.  That’s actually what I was raised to believe but don’t anymore.”  To which he responded, “That’s crazy!  There was a kid at my school today who told this other kid that he was going to hell because he didn’t know if he believed in God.  And I defended him because I think that’s crazy.”  My heart was bursting with pride.

8)  Finally, I just want to say that it’s a crap shoot every day.  Experts seem to agree that children may need consistency and routine in their lives but, man, it sure doesn’t always feel like that.  Every time you think you’ve got the bedtime routine or the homework routine or the “what the fuck to eat for dinner routine” nailed down, they change.  They grow.  They adapt.  The result is that what worked yesterday or for the last six months stops working.  So, you are forced to grow and to adapt.  That’s what true parenting is all about.  Constant growth.  Perpetual flexibility.  Constantly questioning yourself.

I want you to pay close attention now, because this is the most important part:  YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG.  This parenting is hard as hell.  But the payoffs?  Love to the moon and back.

Okay, I’ll add in one more.

WY1_45529) Your kids will love you like you have never been loved before.  Unconditionally and wholeheartedly.  They love you on your good days and they love you on your bad days and all that they are really asking for in return is for you to love them back.

That and whatever latest version of the XBOX is out.  And pizza.  Trust me.  It’s worth it.

 

The Truth About Your True Calling

shutterstock_126974837If you have been on my list or following me on Facebook for a while, then you might remember how I used to talk about how important it was to find “Your True Calling.”  I was advocating that you quit your corporate job so that you can follow your passion and that was the only way that you could truly be fulfilled.

Yep.  That’s right.  I wanted you to quit your cushy, corporate, soul-sucking job so that you could free fall into entrepreneurship with all the uncertainty and chaos that choice brings.  I wanted you to do that because that’s what I had done.

And I was terrified shitless that I was wrong.

I had done so because that’s what other teachers and coaches had told me that I had to do.  I had been led to believe that we all have this one special gift and that the most important thing in life was to figure out what that one thing was and monetize so that we could quit our corporate jobs and finally live the life of never ending bliss that we were meant to.  You know…follow your bliss and all.  Right?

I can now safely say that, in fact, I had it all wrong.

I had it all wrong because I was still operating under the completely misguided assumption that how we choose to earn money to support ourselves and our families actually defines who we are as a person.

How I choose to pay my bills does not determine my worth as a person. Moreover, that assumption actually belittles what each of our true callings actually is!

Which is to show up and do the work of just being our unique, authentic, weird, imperfect, irrational, shadowy, light-filled selves.  Let me tell you that is freaking hard enough without adding onto it this idea that there is only one thing on earth that we are here to do!

Hardly a minute of our day goes by that we are not asked to compromise ourselves or our integrity or silence our own voices in some way.  Whether at work or among friends or even in our closest relationships, the Universe is always giving us the opportunity to say YES to being ourselves and to fully being alive.

Your true calling is you.  100%.  No holding back. No trying to fit in or making anyone comfortable by being less than you.  It is work.  Your great work.

Not to say that we don’t each have special gifts or talents because I personally believe that we all do.  However, not all of them are that obvious or meant to be monetized.  How many dreams or great ideas have you abandoned or ignored because you knew you couldn’t make money at it?  What if that didn’t matter?  What if you did it anyway?

But, again, what if your great work had nothing to do with any of that?  What if your great work was learning to set boundaries with your family?  What if your great work was leaving that toxic relationship?  What if your great work was getting out of bed every day and taking care of your children? What if your great work was learning to say NO and to putting your own needs first?

Because, guess what?  I think it is!  I’ll say it again.  Your true calling…is you.

Serial Killers vs. Triathletes

I recently read “Lust and Wonder” by Augusten Burroughs.  My favorite quote from the whole book, which was great, was something like “Not that there’s anything wrong with people who run triathlons it’s just that I have more in common with serial killers.”  Or something like that.

I knew exactly what he meant.  Three years ago, just before I quit drinking for the second time, I decided that I was going to run a triathlon.  I hired a trainer who specialized in triathlons.  I bought cool new racing-style swimsuits, a swim cap and goggles.  I bought a fancy new road bike in my favorite colors that came with clipless pedals.  Need I say more?

Okay, for those who don’t know, clipless pedals mean that you wear these special shoes that clip into the pedals so that you are stuck there and can’t get your feet out in time to catch yourself before crashing to the ground, which I did.  A lot.  I fell so many times that my knees looked like shrapnel.  One time I fell and hit my head so hard that I’m sure I would have had a concussion if I hadn’t? wisely been wearing a helmet.  My trainer would just look on in bewilderment as I fell again and again and again.  “It’s easy,” she’d say.  “Just clip your foot out, squeeze the handbrake and then put your foot down.”   But every time I’d try to roll to a stop my brain would seize up and get the order of those three simple events all mixed up and I would end up panicking with my foot trapped in place as I crashed to the ground.

And then there was the swimming.  My trainer had an above ground, endless pool in which I tried not to drown two Sundays a month.  Again, my brain seems to be missing some ability to follow the proper breath to stroke sequence.  I swallowed so much water I always walked away feeling like a bloated whale.  That couldn’t swim.

Finally, I just threw in the towel.  I sold the bike, which I had become literally too terrified to ride, on Craigslist.   I looked into the frightened eyes of the new owner (who was really buying the bike because her husband wanted her to) and I wished her the best of luck.  I haven’t swam a stroke since.

So, what’s the point of my telling you all this?  Well, when I read that quote from Mr. Burroughs, I was like, “YES!  Me, too!”  Not that I really believe that I have more in common with serial killers, but I am certainly learning to appreciate the value of accepting my limitations and loving myself for who I am.

I wanted to finish a triathlon because I wanted to feel powerful and strong and like I could do anything.  The truth is that I don’t need to kill myself on a road bike or in lap pool in order to know that.

I am powerful and strong simply because I get out of bed every day and take care of my kids and fulfill the duties of my job and do it all (for the most part) pretty damn well.  I think that we as women generally don’t recognize our own strength and tend to dwell on our weaknesses or what we didn’t get done.  We lie in bed at night recalling our regrets and all the things we forgot to do rather than celebrating our wins.

I’m not suggesting to go out and get a gratitude journal.  Sometimes a gratitude journal is about the last fucking thing we need to do because it turns into just that – SOMETHING ELSE WE NEED TO DO.  I would argue that most women are extremely fucking grateful for everything that lies outside of ourselves.

Over this last weekend, I had a private session with one of my favorite yoga teachers and she told me that, over the last year of my life, I had been in a triathlon.  She didn’t even know my history of trying to train for one or my recent obsession with the Augusten Burrough’s book.  But that’s the magic of being awake.  You notice when worlds collide.  You are aware of the moments when spirit is speaking to you.  I had wanted to complete a triathlon and so I did but one that tested my mental, emotional and spiritual endurance rather than my ability to run, bike or swim.

Honestly, I’m not certain that I’ve reached the finish line yet but I’m pedaling as hard as I can. As they say in AA, “when you’re going through hell…don’t stop.”

A Personal Covenant with God

IMG_0451I started a graduate school program at the beginning of this year.  Last year when I thought my marriage was salvageable (it’s not), I applied and was accepted to a masters in counseling program at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest here in Austin.  It is a beautiful place and community so obviously in God’s good grace that I chose to begin the program despite my ongoing marital issues.

As a compromise, I chose to only sign up for one class instead of three.  What does the Big Book say? Progress not perfection?  I signed up for a course with a very long title but that is generally referred to as American Religion.  The point of the course is to prepare future counselors, chaplains and spiritual directors to be able interact and serve those who are of a different faith than their own.

In nine weeks, we have covered the basis for religious freedom in America, American Protestantism, American Roman Catholicism, African Americans and Latino Christianity, the Church of Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yeah, I know.  It’s a lot to cover in such a short time and often my classmates and I feel as if we are trying to drink from the fire hydrant during lectures.

But it is great.  For three hours, I don’t think about my personal life.  Except for how my own religious upbringing has impacted my worldview, which never ceases to amaze me.  Especially this week’s lecture on Judaism.

I feel the need to say right now that I don’t know that much about Judaism.  I promise to do my very best not to offend anyone or get anything wrong but, if I do, I ask you right now to forgive me.

Our professor was especially enthusiastic this week because Jewish-Christian relations ancient and modern are one of his passions.  During the 2.5-hour lecture, our professor really drove home the core concept that God made a covenant with the Jewish people and that this covenant is irrevocable.  For Jews, keeping the covenant ensures blessings for themselves and all earth.  In ancient times, that covenant was tied to carrying out certain practices in the Temple in Israel.

When that Temple was destroyed, the Jewish people were left in a crisis of identity and faith.  How do they keep the covenant without their Temple?  What eventually emerged was the belief that living their lives in accordance with and by the study of Torah was how they could keep their covenant.

I will not dare to delve deeply into what Torah is but here’s an article I liked that does.  At a very high level, Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament and the word Torah comes from Hebrew and means “instruction” or “guide.”  My favorite description from my lecture notes is “a blueprint for all of God’s creation.”  A blueprint. Now that’s a word that my Western mind can wrap itself around.

As I was sitting on the floor of my shower this morning, willing myself to get up and get on with my day, the idea of this sacred covenant kept coming up for me.  I felt envious of this idea of an irrevocable covenant with God.  I longed for my own set of instructions or guide by which to live my life.

Also central to Judaism is the story of the Exodus when God liberated the Jews from Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.  (Forgive me if I start to mingle my own religious upbringing here.)

I have literally moved from the home that my husband and I shared and, while it has done wonders for my nervous system, I still feel as if I am living in a foreign land.  I often joke that I feel as if I am in the witness relocation program. I have been liberated but I also often feel like I am lost and wandering in the wilderness.  Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for God to come down from heaven and personally hand me my own set of Ten Commandments.  As if the original ones weren’t good enough.

What I started to think about this morning was, “what is my personal covenant with God?”  Clearly, he has had a lot to share with me as evidenced by the everyday miracles I have been witness to.  His desire for me show up through the many teachers in life like my kids, my dental hygienist, my yoga teachers, my therapists and my girlfriends.  And, yes, even my mom.

What if all these sometimes spiritual but often mundane bits of advice and ordinary acts became the sacred rituals of my life?  What if flossing my teeth EVERY night became holy? What if packing my kids’ lunches became sacred? What if dragging my ass to yoga or – better yet – sitting in a chair and WRITING A BLOG POST was part of how I kept my own covenant with God?

The best part of what I learned in class the other night was that because the covenant between Jews and God is irrevocable, if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain, God does.  Once they return to him, God always welcomes them home and their covenant remains intact.

I believe that God keeps this covenant with all of us.  We each have our part to play in the blueprint. I may not floss my teeth every day or I might go months without writing a blog post but anytime I do God is waiting there to welcome me home.

Can I Get a Witness?

shutterstock_352291811From this day forward, I do hereby lovingly swear an oath of allegiance to my own authentic self.

I no longer settle for anything less than my heart and soul’s desires.

I am only available for healthy, loving and respectful relationships.

I no longer allow those who dwell in darkness to use my essence as their source of light.

practice the art of radical self-acceptance and only hold space for those willing and capable of doing the same for me.

I no longer dim my light to make others comfortable.

I open up my home and heart in service of my sisters everywhere and the divine feminine.

I no long allow the distorted masculine to creep its way into my home or heart.

I forgive myself for what I could not see before the light came on.

I no longer put compassion for others before my own safety.

I am from this day forward the sovereign queen of my own home and heart.

I am the love of my own life and commit to 2016 as the year that I am the partner that I always wanted for myself. I claim and declare all these statements to be true.

I will not fall back asleep.

I chose the truth over comfort and deception.

From this day, January 1, 2016, I am lovingly, compassionately, defiantly, faithfully awake.

In love with myself with my whole heart, Jenni Bevill

When Enough is Enough.

shutterstock_292158296

A few weeks ago, I was on a weekend yoga retreat here in the Texas Hill Country with my two all-time favorite yoga teachers.  Even though it was just two nights away, it was luscious space to sit in the sun, journal and laugh with girlfriends.  In short, heaven.

On Saturday, one of our teachers asked us to ask ourselves what it was that we were saying “no” to in our lives.  The sort of theme of the weekend was how to enlarge our emotional/spiritual containers so that we can hold all of it…even the parts that cause us pain or disappointment or even shame.

Of course, for me, it was the thought that the current state of my life and my business would stay the same.  I felt great resistance to the idea that “this is it” and that just raising my boys, writing blog posts and leading monthly circle was all there was ever going to be.  I wanted more.  I have more to give.

After a short practice, we were invited to wander off into nature and listen to what it had to say.  Earlier that day, this same teacher had commented that, of all the scriptures she had ever read, nature was by far the wisest.

So, with journals in hand and determination in heart, we all set out.  I walked outside of the studio and started looking around everywhere for inspiration.  “Come on, Mother Nature,” I said to myself, “Show me something awesome.  Something profound.”

Off in the distance, I saw the tree line that led into the woods and I headed towards it.  “Yes,” I thought, “THAT’S where I need to be.”  But on the way, I happened to glance over at a small, metal sign that was sticking up out of the ground.  It read:

In loving memory of Janet and Ken Anderson. 

May all children and parents be so loved.

Or something like that.  I started walking on, but then I noticed that just in front of the sign was a barely visible, metal landscaping border.  You know…the kind used to section off flower gardens.

It suddenly dawned on me that the sign was sitting in what used to be a flower garden.  Obviously, someone had taken the time to dig the bed, place the metal border and plant beautiful flowers in loving dedication to their parents.  But now…

It was a total, shit show.  Whoever planted that garden walked away a long time ago and never came back.  It was overgrown with dying and dead plants. This, I decided, was my place to contemplate.

“I have no idea how this happened.  All my maps have been overthrown.  Happenstance has changed my plans so many times.  My heart has been outgrown.” 

~ Wilco (of course.)

I plopped down my blanket on the grass and practically demanded that this overrun and exhausted garden show me something.  Anything.  What story did it have to tell?

At first, I thought that maybe I was supposed to look for signs of life in something that seemed to be so obviously dead.  I stared intently.  I saw a spider that had made the garden its home but not much else.

By staring intently at two bedraggled bushes for several seconds, I did eventually realize that they were actually rose bushes.  But they were so neglected that they had become all scraggly limbs and thorns with not a petal in sight.

Slowly, my lesson from nature began to emerge into my mind.  Essentially, it was this…

You can’t plant a garden and then just stand back (or even walk away) and expect it to grow.  Sure, creating and planting a garden takes a lot of initial planning and some sweaty implementation time.  The real work, however, is in the aftercare.  It is in the coming back to care for day in and day out.  Even when you’re tired.  Even when you don’t want to.  Even when the kids are crazy and you just want to run away.

And this metaphor works for just about all good things in life.  Marriage.  Kids. A business.  A ministry.  A garden.  You name it.  If it’s worth having, then it’s going to take work to maintain it.  To grow it.  To keep it alive.

At this particular time in my life, the metaphor of marriage spoke the loudest to me.   You plant your garden with a wedding.  All your hopes and dreams and well wishes go pouring into the soil.  I think that most of us believe that’s all we need to do.  We found our soulmate, made it to the chapel and now we can just sit back and relax.  Anyone who’s been married for more than a second knows that’s not how it works.

A marriage takes work.  Mine included…and at different times during its course, I have shown up to tend to it with varying degrees of success.  There were periods when I went all OCD and tried to keep out every weed.  There was a year when I almost completely turned my back on it while trying to grow my coaching business.  I’m not beating myself up about it.  I’m human after all.

But the question on my mind today is…when is enough enough? Is there a point where it’s too much work?  Where you are too different? Or too hurt?  Too betrayed?  Can a marriage reach a point where trying to keep it going at all cost becomes an exercise in masochism?

As always, I have movie quote.  This time from the move The Mexican.  The homosexual hitman played by James Gandolfini asks Julia Roberts…

“If two people really love each other, but they just can’t seem to get it together, when is enough enough?”

The answer, at least in Hollywood, is NEVER. But I just don’t know.  I’ve also been reading Conscious Uncoupling by Katherine Woodward Thomas and her explanation of the brain as a social organ that is driven to keep us in a relationship at all costs.  Even to our own detriment.

I left the retreat with this question.  I have shared openly that my marriage has had its troubles. Two days after the retreat, through the most bizarre set of circumstances that it could only have been the hand of God(dess), my marriage revealed that its garden…its bed…had deteriorated far beyond my wildest dreams.  I was left asking myself the bottomless and shapeshifting question of whether this time it is enough.  Enough sadness.  Enough pain.  Enough lesson. Enough awakening.  Enough.

This reality was truly the thing that I could not be with.  It took me three years to fully awaken and allow in the truth. It was more than I could live with.

I ask my husband to move out.  We are separated.  Enough is enough.  The marriage we had is dead.  I buried it in the backyard underneath the fig tree.   I am not filing for divorce and I’m not really even angry with him anymore.  He has always done the best he could.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I have to stay. I am in limbo with my questions and just waiting…for what truth has yet to be revealed.

In the meantime, the separation has given me this incredible sense of spaciousness in my life. Every day I feel like I have found myself again.  I have plans for the future that light me up inside.  Am I sad? I am heartbroken.  I am grieving.  And yet I also feel so completely fucking alive. My motto for 2016?

“Out with the old…In with the True.” ~ Jeff Brown.

I know.  I can’t believe it’s not Wilco either.

Please trust me.  I’m not telling you all this for your sympathy or even your empathy.  (Well, maybe your empathy. I mean, that’s what being vulnerable is about after all.)  I’m telling you this because I am a story teller and that’s what we do.  We use stories that are sometimes made up and sometimes the truth to teach, inform and inspire.  I do it because it gives meaning to what otherwise could be such a devastatingly dark time in my life.

I also do it so that you know that you are not alone.  Even in the stickiest, messiest, no idea what’s going to happen next week much less tomorrow situations… I am here with you.  I truly believe that all my experiences are part of God’s great plan to make me a better writer, mentor, parent, and human.  They better equip me to serve…especially other women who walk a path similar to mine.

The Bad Side of Boy Crazy Part II

shutterstock_329686934I went to prison a few weeks ago.  No, I did not go for finally killing my husband or kids but as a volunteer with a local non-profit called Truth Be Told.  Truth Be Told works with women who have been incarcerated by helping them tell their stories of how they ended up in prison.  The stories don’t focus on the crime that they committed but on the life events that led them there.  Truth Be Told works with a group of women for several weeks to tell their story either through writing or speaking or movement.  At the end of that time, the women participate in a graduation ceremony where they share their story.  Truth Be Told takes a small group of volunteers to attend these ceremonies and witness these women bravely sharing their truth.  I went to prison in order to be a witness.

I won’t even bother to try to put the experience into words because there are none in the human language that would do it justice.  Their stories and their willingness to survive and forgive themselves at any cost are beyond what can be found in the dictionary.  They can only be felt in a touch, an embrace or a moment when eyes lock and souls connect at a level that defies race or class or religion.

Among all the stores, however, is a common thread.  They all seemed to center around drugs…and men.  Either an abusive father or uncle or boyfriend that introduced them to meth (mostly) and these women who were desperate for love and affection and escaping their shitty lives at any cost said yes.  Yes, to a life of crime.  Yes, to betraying their families and (worse) themselves.  Yes, to allowing the best of themselves to be traded away for some small cold comfort.

“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghost? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for cool breeze? Cold comfort for change? Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”

~Pink Floyd

There was one woman in particular who talked about how her mother used to take her out of the bed that they shared so that a man could take her place.  She talked about how she could hear them having sex through the walls and the noises that her mother made.  She talked about how she learned at a very young age to use sex for love and attention.  She began to dress herself as provocatively as possible because it made her feel good to be wanted.  She traded away her childhood and her innocence and her dignity before she had the capacity to understand what those things were.

And so did I.  And so did most of my friends.  But by the grace of God or socioeconomics we just never ended up in prison.  Remember that coffee date I had with the long lost friend?  What she and I ended up talking about that day was how promiscuous we all were and at a very young age.  We had one friend who had an affair with a married man in his 30s who was her boss. That friend couldn’t have yet been 18.  What the fuck?

Looking back I can see how desperate we all were for love and affection and the only way we knew how to get it was through sex.  We could use sex or the possibility of it to get somebody to pay attention to us.  We did this because somehow we had gotten the message that it would make us more valuable. We weren’t enough on our own.  Our lives only meant something if we were attractive enough to get a guy.

Until puberty we had all been achievement junkies and derived our value by making straight A’s and being the teacher’s pet.  But once we developed breasts and boys started to notice us… it was over.  We spent the next I don’t know how many decades chasing some relationship or weight loss goal or eventually a job that could complete us.  Always looking outside ourselves for validation of who we were and what we’re worth.  Never pausing to look inward out of fear of what we’d see.  What we had to choose to ignore in order to shed those blue jeans in the backseat of a car on a school night.

We would have seen the lost, lonely and completely fucking terrified little girl who couldn’t for the life of her understand why we were letting these boys touch her down there.  The one who was confused by our newly felt sexual desires and just wanted to slow the fuck down.

We would have seen the truth that nothing or no one would ever really make us love ourselves if we didn’t think that we were worth it first.   Like a drug.  Like meth. We used boys and their fumbling affections that were only given in exchange for even the possibility of an orgasm as a replacement for love.  For God.  For realizing that at the end of any day or life the only real thing that we have to come home to or comfort us is ourselves.

And it breaks my fucking heart.  How I wish I could go back to myself at 15 and beg her to stop.  I wish I could hold her and tell her she was worth the world just for being alive.  I would tell her that it’s not her fault that her daddy left.  And that no drug or drink or boy or even food would ever fill that hole inside her heart. That she could only slowly fill that hole back up with self-respect, self-esteem and self-love. That she was absolutely the only person alive on this planet that could ever actually make herself feel better.  And that would only happen by faith and choosing to lean in to a loving presence that she had grown up referring to as God.  But that God didn’t care what she called him as long as she turned to him for her sense of self-worth.

So, that’s what I mean by Boy Crazy and the bad side of it.  Is there a good side? Man, I just don’t know.  All I know is that I’m sick of trading a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage.  Are you?

The Bad Side of Boy Crazy Part I

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have begun working with a Spiritual Path Healer.  What the heck is that, you ask? Well, in this case, she is a woman who is able to connect with angels, spirit guides and loved ones who have passed over.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking.  CUCKOO.

Believe me, I am right there with you about half of the time.  And, yet, I want to believe so the other half of the time, I really do. Plus, I was actually referred to this healer by my primary care physician who is a Board Certified M.D.  She also happens to be a functional doctor, which is why she is so awesome.  This is the very same functional doctor who literally saved my life a few years ago by calling bullshit on my drinking.

I tend to take her guidance to heart.  So, I made an appointment to see this healer for me and my husband.  This is why my doctor suggested that I see this healer in the first place.  Because she wanted to see what the healer had to say about how safe it was for me to remain in my marriage.  She did have some very interesting things (that totally rang true) about that, but my marriage is not really what I want to talk about today.

Today, I want to start a conversation about what it means to be “boy crazy.”  But I bring in my spiritual healer because she has informed me that, in order to really heal myself, I will need to heal my inner child.  She sent me home with instructions to gather several pictures of myself throughout my childhood and then sit down and take turns with my inner child on writing about our memories.

I know. I know. But she’s right! I know she’s right.  I know that the issues that I struggle with today stem from my childhood.  I have, of course, begun this work and, I have to say, that the first time I tried it…it blew my mind.

First, however, I had to go out to our storage and dig through my giant plastic bins in the Texas heat to find photos of me from my childhood.  The funny thing is that most of the photos I was able to find were all of me with dudes on dates.  You know, prom, winter formal, etc… At first, I started to leave all these but then…a little voice in my head (a spirit guide, maybe?) suggested that was exactly what I was supposed to find.

I went back inside to the cool of my home office and began to write.  First, I wrote about the first memory that came to mind from my childhood that I have discussed with my therapist on many occasions.  Then I asked my inner child to write about one of the memories.  I’m not even kidding you that my handwriting began to change.  I started to write much faster and bigger and about memories that I hadn’t thought about in years.

I recalled a time when I betrayed the trust of a dear friend by getting drunk and making out with the guy that she liked.  This was on New Year’s Eve in 1989.  I was 18 years old.  I have felt guilty about this incident ever since.  I never made amends with my friend and have only seen her once since then and that was decades go.

Why would I do that to such a dear friend? Why was I so desperate for attention that I would betray my friend and my own integrity?  Then I began to think again about how all the photos I had found were of me with boys.  Boy crazy.  I was boy crazy. But not in a good way.  In a way that betrays a deep-seated belief that I am not enough on my own and that I believe that I need a man on my arm to be worthy.

As I wrote on behalf of my inner child that day, she told me that despite the fact that I had lived my entire life in fear of being abandoned that I had actually been the one to abandon her – ME – over and over again for the silly sake of getting attention.  I had sacrificed my own needs (her needs) and wants and personal truth in order to get some guy to love me.

The pain of this truth still vibrates through my soul because she is right.  I have betrayed not only my inner child but also my own children because I have been operating under the crippling delusion that I am not enough on my own.   Not always for the sake of a man either.  I have also turned my back on my truth in order to please a friend or get a job.  I have sacrificed my own needs in order to take care of someone else’s.

I made a promise that day to my inner child to strive to put ourselves first.  Am I always perfect? Of course not.  That’s the work!  The awesome part is my life coaching programs are all centered on supporting other women to do the same.   By teaching you, I remind myself.

Oh! I almost forgot the coolest part.  That dear friend that I betrayed so long ago? The one that I hadn’t seen, or thought about or heard from in like 20 years? Two days after I did that inner child work, I saw in her in a coffee shop.  Both of us were stunned beyond belief to see each other.  We met for coffee a few days later and talked for three hours.

The subject of our conversation? Boy crazy. Stay tuned for the Bad Side of Boy Crazy Part II.

Until then, say yes to yourself and hell no to pretty much everything else.

Xoxo, Jenni B