Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Remember me? I'm the one who had created my own version of Pandora's Box for the explicit reason of avoidance. Rather than confront an uncomfortable conversation, occurrence, or feeling, I would simply make a deposit into the box and move forward in my life, or so I thought. I realized much later that I wasn't truly moving forward. How could I have been moving forward when in truth, I was stuck in a pattern of boldly familiar avoidance? It was finally time to free myself from that old established fear, and break the evasion pattern! As a classroom teacher, I was accustomed to formulating a lesson plan, but when I tried to create a plan to accomplish this goal, I had no idea where to begin. Too bad that Nike had not yet invented their now famous slogan, "Just Do It," because I could certainly have gained wisdom from that advice. In fact, after experimenting with a variety of unsuccessful attempts using other ideas, this was exactly what I discovered...just do it, inch by inch, step by step. Such a simple concept with many convoluted predecessors. The power of those three words was almost lost on me due to the sheer simplicity of its message.
I spent days crafting a my talk, speech, presentation or whatever you want to call it. All I know for sure is that I had never put so much time and energy into writing. Throughout my college years I would certainly put quality effort into the assigned papers, but those were education centered, not personal accounts of a relationship. It felt as though the more I wrote, the deeper I connected to my years spent with Jon, giving me new insight into our time together. It gave me a more profound understanding as to why our relationship had little chance of survival unless I had been willing to deny my core value system. Reflecting back all these years later, I was grateful for having the courage to face this task because it allowed me a much needed clarity concerning the demise of our marriage. Now if only I could get a stand-in to present my
material to the high school students. Since that was not an option, I wanted to create a daily mantra that would keep me focused on a positive message. Eventually I chose, " I know I can do this, I know I can do this..."
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Do you recall the kitchen duty I had very willingly volunteered to perform? Well that safe plan blew into many tiny pieces on the day I received a letter from Suzanne offering me an opportunity to give one of the speeches at the retreat. What?! What?! Me give a talk in front of a group of high school students? She should have known me well enough by then to understand that there would be absolutely no possibility of me accepting her invitation! The letter asked if I would write and present to the group my story of the effect of love vs. infatuation in my own personal relationship. After the initial shock subsided and my heartbeat returned to normal, the first coherent thought was that I would immediately need to call Suzanne and gently explain to her that I was not prepared to openly share the experience of my private relationship, marriage and divorce from Jon, and definitely not in front of Jessica and her peers. I was sure she would understand my reluctance and put me back on kitchen duty where I would feel safe and secure.
It didn't take me long into my conversation with Suzanne to realize that my negative response to her request was not going to be an easy sell...for every apprehension I shared, she had a reasonable argument for me to reconsider. My unconvincing facade of inadequacy was quickly falling to pieces under my close scrutiny of the courageous trust that Suzanne presented for me to process and consider. I was left with an unmistakable truth that I finally had to confess to myself. It was challenging for me to own this fact, much less declare it out loud, even though I was only admitting this reality to myself. The only obstacle in my way was fear, fear, fear...that nasty, ugly shadow that I had done almost anything to avoid, yet there it was, staring me in the face. I knew there was only one way for me to handle this, I needed to face the fear and walk through it with dignity and courage! How does a truly frightened person accomplish this feat? I think I was about to find out!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
All the hours of carefully opening and examining the rancid contents of Pandora's Box with my trusted therapist was beginning to help me understand the profound price I had paid for my avoidance of facing conflicts and my fear of sharing honest emotions. I was deeply into the process of clearing the air surrounding me by identifying and working through the years and years of dead stagnant energy, unfulfilled dreams and insincerity that had kept the exterior of many relationships superficially connected. I was well aware that in order to continue making positive steps forward I would need to step into an authentic world of communication, a world where I would most definitely be an awkward novice. I was open to walking through this new form of communicating because it felt like this would be my way to rediscover the brighter shades of possibilities.
What happened next was serendipitous. Don't you love when life gifts you with someone or something totally unexpected and yet deeply needed? It all happened so innocently. You see, it was time for Jessica to be confirmed, so it was natural that I would I attend the first meeting with all the students and their parents. Each family was given a questionnaire asking what type of volunteering opportunities parents would be willing to participate in throughout the year. I quickly signed up to help during the weekend retreat that would take place later in the year. I offered to help prepare the food, serve the meals, clean-up and assorted other kitchen duties throughout the entire weekend. It felt like that would be a safe yet useful way for me to help. Suzanne was the pastoral minister in charge of running this retreat experience each year for the teenagers. I had met her briefly during church related events and I was immediately drawn to her positive energy and authentic interactions with the adults and students. She was a role model for how I would love to be able to communicate with the people in my life. Not only that, but she was bright, funny, creative and very loving. Yes, she was the gift that was delivered to me at exactly the right time and place for where I was on my journey. I gave many prayers of sincere gratitude for her arrival, but little did I know that she was also going to offer me invitations to grow and change in ways that both excited me and scared the shit out of me!!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Sit back and enjoy another addition of photos. I had to look through boxes and boxes of old family pictures in order to assemble this assortment, and I ended up organizing and sorting as I went through the process. It took me weeks to accomplish this task, or I should say partially accomplish this task, as Jim informed me yesterday that there are still a few more boxes...
Jessica is only four months old, and we're out on an early spring day soaking up the fresh air and abundance of nature. How do you like my long hair? Remember, these were in my hippy days of making candles in our basement to sell on the UW Library Mall. Jessica would come with us and we'd throw out some blankets on the ground in the mall and sell our homemade candles. Looking back, I wonder what made me comfortable with living day to day with little sense of the responsibility involved in being a parent and a lack of focus on future income potential. Maybe that's the definition of hippy.
Who needed fancy toys when you could play with your mom's hair? Our needs may have been quite simple, but we did share an abundance of love.
Good-bye to my hippy days and hello to the more responsible side of my life. I got this new haircut a short time after my divorce from Jon...it just felt like the logical time to manifest outwardly the changes that were occurring inwardly.
This picture brings a big smile to my face because it captures the glowing essence of Jessica's true personality...open, honest, alive with wonder and curiosity as she confidently shares her thoughts, feelings, questions and beliefs.
Kindergarten in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This was the year Jessica questioned me about getting back together with Jon. We have certainly shared a rich history of love, growth and trust.
This school picture shows the mole that was malignant. Look closely on the side of my neck...I think it looks harmless. The picture was taken about three months before my surgery.
We were on our yearly family vacation when Jim took this picture. I had recently stopped wearing turtlenecks, so I wasn't sure about having a photo taken, but Jim can be persistent. I think I was still trying to talk him out of it when I heard the click of the camera. What was I so worried about?
Jessica and I have always shared a profound bond. I think all of our years together as a two person family helped solidify our deeply rooted love.
Do you remember the joy-filled family Christmas mornings I wrote about? Well, here one is in all its chaos, mess and love. You can't see me, but I was sitting next to my brother-in-law, Greg, about two feet away from Jessica and out of the shot. Those of you who know our family will notice that there is indeed an interloper in our midst...maybe because he/she wanted to bask in the obvious love we shared. Who is able to spot and name our uninvited guest? A little aside to my friend Susie...does the bookcase in the background look at all familiar?
We gathered for the fiftieth anniversary of my parents, and that's the special occasion for which I wore a skirt. We celebrated for the entire weekend...love, love, love was omnipresent. I truly treasure the love I share with my brothers and sisters, and the foundation of our connection was grounded in the relationship my parents modeled for us.
It's always fun to see a picture of the five of us because time goes by so quickly, with each of us looking different with our hairstyles and fashion choices...the changes make me smile. Do you notice how our dogs are an integral part of our life? These are Tyler and Muffles, our very first dogs who brought unconditional love to our lives for many years...such a gift.
Here's our whole family. Jim, being the official photographer, would casually arrange all of us, set the timer on the camera, and then quickly jump into the shot. Do you notice that this is the same living room from the photo taken many years earlier when I was quite young? Look, no more yellow rose-filled wallpaper.