2,500 WORDS


2500 wordsSo, last night I wrote 2,500 words.  I sat on my bed and furiously typed out 2,500 brilliant, meaningful, heartfelt, deeply emotional words.  I had been struck by an article a friend sent me to read about abuse and, as a result, out of me leaked years worth of pain and struggle.  I positioned myself in my comfort zone and told my story as it relates to my family and the abuse I endured.  I let it all out.  Then I closed my laptop and put it to rest until today.  I would revisit it, I decided, and refine the message, pretty it up and then publish it so I could share my story with others.  Others who might have experienced the same pain.

Then, in walks my pesky best friend.  You know, the one I always talk about who loves to provoke me to think differently.  Well, he was up to his usual tricks again today.  Last night, right before I sat down to write my blog, he texted me asking me if I had some time to catch up today.  “Sure,” I said.  I always enjoy a good chat with my pal.  It was about time for us to trade stories about our holidays, the weekend, all the highs and lows.  We talk almost everyday for work but have to work hard to commit to personal time when we don’t see each other.  I was looking forward to some light-hearted banter.  After all these years, I should know better.

We scheduled some time this afternoon to talk and it started out all hysterical laughter.  We swapped funny stories for a little bit and then he said, “Let’s talk about your recent blog post.”

Uh oh.

I adore my best friend.  He is one of the most honest and sincere people I know.  He is not afraid to tell me where it’s at (albeit in his own trademark style) and he is fully committed to helping me be a better person.  Next to my husband, he is my main confidant and I trust him implicitly.  I rely upon his perspectives and his prompts to help me move forward with my life.  Today, he abandoned all pretense, ignored any boundaries that might still exist between us and stepped right over the line into my space.  He delicately, with the force of several mack trucks, pushed me right out of my comfort zone…

…and I kinda liked it.

We had what I would call an intervention.  And, as a result, I shelved my 2,500 words and decided to write these instead.  And, I dedicate this to my friend because he definitely inspired them.

I’d like to introduce you to me.

My name is Tammy.

I am 46 years old.

I am an extraordinary person.

I have survived a childhood filled with dysfunction and abuse and managed to create a beautiful life for myself.  It is not a perfect life, by any means, but I love it.  I have been married to just one man and he is, without a doubt, the love of my life.  We met when I was still broken and bruised and he has worked tirelessly to help put me back together, despite his own pain and struggles.  He committed his life to me and our children and, for that, I will be forever grateful.  We do not have the most perfect marriage but it is one that works for us and we have learned, over time, to never try to compare ourselves to others because our lives are completely unique. We have trudged through swamps together, finding our way out of histories that never represented the lives we wanted to be living.  We have battled our own personal demons and collectively struggled emotionally, financially and in every way imaginable yet we still find our way back to each other – our home bases.  Part of the reason why I am the person I am today is because of him.

We have two amazing sons who know nothing of our histories except the small fragments we have shared with them.  When they are old enough and mature enough to understand, perhaps we will share our stories with them but only if they express an interest.  I don’t believe this information is pertinent as it really is not part of their story and, frankly, it is not so much part of ours anymore either.  However, I understand that at some point, they may want to get clarity about what happened in our past that prevented them from having extended families.  We make a great effort to not allow the complications of our childhoods seep into their lives.  While we cannot relate to our children’s lives, we do our best to not let our experience inform how we guide them.

Our lives are centered around our children simply because we made a commitment to ourselves and each other that we would break the cycles of abuse that existed in our families and allow our children to have a different experience and, hopefully, a different outcome.  We are centrally focused on that ideal and know that, despite our best efforts, we are not the best parents.  We probably over-indulge our children a bit because we are overcompensating.  We have a lot of on-the-job training and don’t have a lot of reference points.  We have no familial village to rely upon but we have surrounded ourselves with people who also shower our children with love so they never feel like they are missing anything.  And, I know that is mostly our issue, not theirs.

Amazingly, both of us have a strong moral compass and, even more amazingly, we both have strong cores.  Somewhere along the line, we built a foundation together that made us each so much stronger yet sometimes we forget about that.  We neglect to reaffirm this aspect of our lives and find ourselves falling, with arms flailing before we realize that there is someone there to catch us or simply lend a hand to pull us back up.  It is the influence of our dysfunction that gets in our way of being functional. Our greatest moments as a family are when the four of us are together – eating dinner, lounging on the couch, traveling somewhere in the car.  We all laugh, we sometimes fight, we are fiercely sarcastic and we love each other so much it sometimes hurts.  It is hard for me to process sometimes because it seems so unreal, but this family – this life – is what anchors me.  Is it what allows me to be the person I am in the rest of my life.  My home is my safe space.  Despite the mess – sometimes extraordinary mess – and the chaos that swirls around us with schedules, financial matters, work, personal challenges, we find peace.  And, again, I am grateful.

I am incredibly intelligent and really, really good at what I do.  I cannot explain to you what it is that I do because it encompasses a multitude of things.  I have transformed myself from a career in licensing in publishing to a workplace consultant, helping companies improve their workforce through training and coaching.  I tapped into skills that I never believed I had and embraced my entrepreneurial spirit almost 5 years ago when I decided to give up my corporate career and brave a new path for myself.  I underestimate the courage it took for me to leap off the ledge and do this and, trust me, it was not a smooth ride.  I have tripped and fallen so many times and, just as quickly got back up and restarted myself.  Just today my husband reminded me of what a driven and focused professional I was when I was working my corporate job and how he watched as I struggled through my life as an entrepreneur, encountering individuals who tried to kill my mojo and made me question my strengths and abilities.  I am rebuilding that and am breathless with anticipation about my latest work with my best friend and our third partner in an exciting tech start-up.  Often people tell me how courageous they think I am because I take risks in life.  They are right.  I am very courageous but I don’t always see it that way because it is just the way I have always been.  I am a survivor.  We tend to take more chances because we do what we have to in order to make things work.  We think outside the box.  I guess it is one of the perks of having lived my life.  My own silver lining.

I am absolutely passionate about my work and love every second of it, even some of the more dramatic and difficult moments because it helps me to grow.  I bring everything I have to my work and love to be inventive and find ways to change people’s lives.  I am moved by seeing others shift.  I am learning to find that same passion in shifting myself.  I am determined to continually grow and move beyond the traumas that held me back for so long.  I’m committed to changing my approach and acknowledging that the only thing that can hold me back now is me.  And, that awareness is liberating.

If I were not seeing my friend’s face in my head, challenging every word I choose to share here, I would suggest that I am a complicated person.  Instead, I am going to suggest what he might say which is that I am actually more simple and straightforward than I give myself credit for.  I absolutely have complexities and I certainly make my life more complicated than it needs to be but I don’t have to.  My needs are very basic.  I want to give love and to be loved.  Nothing much else matters.  I thrive on the human connection.  People move me.  I am fascinated by people and, those that I have a strong connection with, fill me up in ways that are indescribable.  I am fiercely loyal and will cut you if you dare to hurt someone I love.  I have a little nest, a cocoon of sorts, where I keep my peeps and I live to protect them.  I love to laugh and enjoy lighthearted fun.  Yet, I am a deep thinker and continually contemplate the world and how I fit into it.  I am fascinated by the human experience and love to write to help peel back layers of my own onion as well as help others to peel away their own.

If I wrote this yesterday, I would tell you that I am a product of my abusive childhood and I live with shadows of my past haunting me.  However, today, I choose not to share that about myself because it is time to put that on a shelf.  It is ready to be archived as a former version of me.  It is definitely part of my past and informs how I see the world but it is not a reality for me any longer.  I have grown and learned so much about myself and my challenges that I am no longer a victim of my past.  I am the architect of my future and, included in that blueprint is not the story of my abuse.  I cannot erase that aspect of my life and I will never forget what I have overcome.  I am so proud of where I have come to, sad about where I have come from and am committed to only looking forward.  I have spent many years looking backwards as a way to compensate for my shortcomings and I am choosing to let go of that.  Difficult as it might be, I am reframing my picture.  My landscape is shifting.

In the end, I have only one real fear in life.

Not being loved.

I crave love, as many of us do, and it influences everything I do.  Love is my guiding force and, when I love, I love hard.  My love is all-consuming.  Both giving love and receiving love heals me.  Love is the antidote to anything bad that ever happened to me.  While I was not loved as a child and did not come from a loving family, I created one.  As a result of the life I have created for myself and with my husband, I have lots of love.  And, perhaps for the first time in my 46 years, I am ready to receive it all.  I am ready to love myself.  Actually, I already do.  I just forget sometimes.

I shared in my blog several days ago what a difficult year 2013 was for me and I have reconsidered some of my thoughts around that.  I will not refute a lot of my reflections on my battles with myself because they did exist but, upon re-examination I realized that, with every word I wrote in that piece, I was begging myself to take a fresh look, to try something new on for size.  Through my words, I was telling myself to stop fighting.  I no longer need to swim upstream.  I am ready to see a reflection in the mirror that resembles what everyone else sees.  I am willing to accept this person for who she is today.

So, in order to share a little bit more about me, I will tell you about my year – a transformative one in my life.

I tackled a lot of demons this year.  I let them out of their cages and let them run rampant.  I waged a war against myself because part of me was desperately trying to let go out the past and another part was hanging on for dear life because I was traveling through murky waters and it was scary.  So, I hung on to ideas about myself that were familiar and resembled what I looked like when I was most scared.  I bravely traveled down unpaved paths, turning corners where I did not know what I would find and I survived.  I tripped, I fell, I got back up, I fell again and I got back up again.  I learned that I can count on people to be there for me even in the toughest times.  I learned that forgiveness can happen and that fences can be mended.  I learned that I can trust people and that I can trust myself.  I can believe in myself.  I can count on myself.  I learned that the worst case scenario is not the only option and that, sometimes, things actually work out better than you might expect.  I discovered that I do not have a black cloud hanging over my head and the only reason why it is not there is because I allowed it to move past.  I discovered I have a sandbox in which to play and learn about myself that is safe and secure and that there are certain people in your life who will have infinite patience and unwavering love for you despite your own best efforts to push them away.

2013 was an amazing year and, while I might want to go back and revisit it with a different lens, I know that everything that happened was an opportunity to propel me forward.  Should I choose not to take advantage of that, it’s on me.

So, there is my revised 2,500 words.  2,500 to help let you know who I am and where I am headed.  When we meet again in 2014, our work is about moving forward.  It is about new learnings.  It is about the highs and lows of this new framework.  It is about looking at the world through my new glasses.  I don’t pretend that it will be easy and I know I will have to keep checking myself to ensure that I am not falling into old patterns of behavior or relying upon outdated benchmarks to measure my life.  I will share my foibles, as I always do and I will know that I am surrounded by love to help me make my way through.

MARRIAGE


marriage“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Unknown

My husband came home from work today, after hanging out with some guys at the bar to watch the Masters, and said “I think we are becoming a minority.” Knowing my husband as I do, I could have gone in so many different directions with that comment. I looked quizzically at him and, as has happened hundreds of times in the 21 years we have been together, he realized I had no idea what he was referring to. “It seems like we are the only ones left married,” he said smirking. I laughed, knowing he was being facetious but I also stopped for a second and took in a deep breath. He is right. Maybe it’s because of our age, maybe it’s because of where we live, maybe it’s because of our circle of friends and acquaintances but, whatever the reason, it seems like every day we learn of more and more couples splitting up. Today he learned about yet another and, as is always the case, it sends chills down your spine. You can’t help but wonder if one day it will be you. I cannot deny that there have been moments – more than I care to admit – that I wondered if our marriage would survive.

I entered into marriage completely clueless. I had no role models. I had no reference point. Frankly, I had no interest in getting married. I had determined, at a pretty young age, that I wanted to have a fantastic career and would not submit to giving up my dreams for any man. And, I certainly did not want to have kids. Sure, I was a feminist. I was also broken from all that I had experienced in my childhood that I couldn’t even imagine a reality where I could be happily married. By the time I was in college, my mother had been married and divorced 3 times and was on her way to her fourth. My father had 2 under his belt and my sister, 14 years my senior, had just split up with her husband. She would go on to marry 2 more times. I wanted nothing to do with all this. I was not interested in participating in this ritual that seemingly always had an unhappy ending.

I was a serial dater after I got out of college. I would meet guys, date them, break up, find another, date them, break up, find another and the cycle went on and on. Nobody lasted more than weeks or maybe a few months and the relationships never went very deep. I had so much intimacy with all of my gay boyfriends that I never felt needy in that way. If it were not for sex, I would have been content to hang with my gay posse forever, collect some cats and become a living, breathing stereotype. I simply did not see a pathway that would ever lead me to wedded bliss. I had a great career, was starting to make some money and had, what I believed to be, a relatively glamorous life. I worked for a major movie studio optioning books for movies so I spent my evenings going to plays, movie premieres, parties, fancy dinners – all surrounded by the largest group of gay men imaginable. I guess, perhaps one of the reasons I could not see the pathway was because there were not very many suitable candidates crossing my lane.

I met my husband when I was 24. When I think about it now, I realize how I was still an emotional amoeba. I simply knew nothing about the world yet I had lived what felt like 5 lifetimes sorting through the turmoil of my family’s drama. We met as friends – he and I were both dating other people (he was living with someone!) so there was no pressure on the relationship. He seemed like a nice enough guy and, much to my amazement, I found myself quickly intrigued by him. The relationship became romantic very quickly and, after we sorted out our other conflicts, we started dating for real. Both of us being somewhat impulsive, dating lasted about two minutes before we fell remarkably, passionately, overwhelmingly in love. He was my soulmate. I could not imagine how I could spend one minute away from him, which was extraordinarily difficult since he lived 3000 miles away on the other side of the country. We managed to find ways to see each other several times a month and each visit was filled with anticipation – heart-racing, soulful expectation. And every goodbye was marked with tears, sometimes painful and gut-wrenching, because we could not imagine how we would be able to fill our lungs with oxygen without the other to move the diaphragm. We so quickly became a symbiotic unit and every thought I ever had about not wanting to marry went out the window like a paper floating away in a brisk March wind. My fears or uncertainty about how I could sustain a relationship seemed foolish and immature. Here I was madly in love and all I could think about, even at the tender age of 25, was how fast I could begin my life as his wife.

We got engaged in less than 6 months and just a little more than 2 years after we met, we walked down the aisle in a lovely spring wedding and began a whole new chapter in our lives. We set out to right the wrongs of our parents. We vowed to do it differently. We committed to break the cycle. We blindly, ignorantly, whimsically set out on what seemed like a perfectly paved pathway together.

Next month will be 19 years since that lovely spring wedding. 19 years – nearly two decades! In contrast, his parents’ marriage lasted 13 years, my parents stuck it out for 15 before they separated, my sister’s ended at year 14. There was a moment, several years ago, that we realized that we had hit some magical milestone in our family. We were officially the longest married couple. We made a toast. And returned to our blissfully banal life. We have expanded our symbiotic union by two with sons that keep us grounded and focused and remind us why we decided to enter this extremely challenging and complex obstacle course.

In 19 years we have had more than our share of fights and far too many moments, through tears, that we each gritted our teeth and questioned our beliefs. That perfectly paved pathway has revealed many cracks, uprooted roots that have pushed up the concrete and we have tripped and fallen many, many times. We have been challenged to find the intoxicating love that left us in tears when we could not be together every moment of the day. Now the tears were rage-filled and that love was nowhere to be found. Well, actually, it was buried beneath piles and piles of hurt feelings, unkind words, bad choices, anger, resentment and all the wonderful things that are often hallmarks of long-term relationships riddled with financial woes, exhaustion from child rearing and general disappointments that life did not turn out to have the fairy tale ending you dreamt of. For some couples that is where it all goes awry. For many, the challenges become too untenable and the relationship dissolves. For us, we had many sleepless nights, raging battles and days where we could barely look at each other because we loathed the sight of the other but we pushed through. Perhaps the fear of splitting up was more overwhelming than the notion of trying to tolerate each other another day, but we persevered. Despite our efforts to hold it together, I was certain we were doomed. Everyone around us seemed so happy. Their marriages looked so healthy. Everyone seemed to be having sex ALL THE TIME while I couldn’t muster the energy to even think about it most of the time. Everyone appeared to be blissfully in love, even after the trials of marriage had weathered their bond. They all seemed to have a healthier, stronger, more powerful attachment and I didn’t see how my marriage could ever compare.

The joke was on me, of course. Sure, some couples seem to have the good fortune of peaceful and loving relationships and personalities that are not like firecrackers with short fuses and a lit match. Many couples, however, put on a good show when everyone is looking in order to make the pain of their own unhappiness less visible in hopes that it will make their misery more manageable. They sweep it under the rug and put on a good face, hoping no one will notice, existing in silent desperation. For me, I had to learn to stop looking around for comps and spend more time looking at my own relationship and understanding what it needed to work properly. When I searched my soul, I knew I loved my husband on the deepest level and could not imagine a life without him. I needed to focus in on that and stop worrying about the window dressing. None of that shit mattered.

As I watched so many friends delight in the sparkle of new relationships after their marriages ended and they were reborn into these new loves, I had to dig deep to find a way to reconnect with the man who changed my life and brought peace to a war-torn girl. I doubted, I questioned, I ached, I cried, I searched, I begged for mercy. And then I fell in love all over again. This time, I fell in love with the old pair of shoes lying in the back of the closet that I had forgotten were hiding out, stuffed underneath some boxes of new shoes that were so shiny and inviting. I slipped into those shoes and they felt warm and comfortable, and my feet knew exactly how to mold themselves into the leather. They were perfectly suited for me. I exhaled and I opened my eyes wide to find that nothing ever changed between my husband and me. We still loved each other deeply – in fact, we were much more in love than we had ever been but we had lost our way. We fell victim to the complications of life. We stopped paying attention, took our eyes off the road as the car careened into the woods. It was a bit dented but still ran pretty well and just needed someone to get behind the wheel and steer it onto a new road.

I love my husband more today than I ever could have imagined that pretty spring day 19 years ago. I look into the eyes I have stared into millions of times and I see our lifetime together. Soon we will be together longer than we have not. Now we fit together like two puzzle pieces that slide together so easily. There were days we had to shove ourselves together, taking a second look to see if, in fact, we were the right pair of pieces but, now, it is easier. Sure, we still take each other for granted at times and we still have trouble finding time and energy to have quiet intimate moments but I know, without any uncertainty, that there is no one else I would travel the road of life with. We are a real story, a 3-dimensional, full-color, reality of married life. We are imperfect, we hurt each other, we make mistakes. And, we love each other with everything we have. And we fall in love over and over again.