A Divorce Is A Divorce Is A Divorce

Language is simultaneously liberating and limiting. When you finally put into words an experience or a feeling, it goes from being this intangible “thing” to something real, at least for me that’s true. After all, it’s the reason I write, to make sense of this thing called life. At the same time, words can limit you.

Take for example the word divorce. Up until a few weeks ago, it was the only term I’d ever known for the process I’m currently undergoing with my soon to be ex-husband. It’s a heavy word and with each utterance reminds me of how immensely it sucks. However, “divorce” fails to really capture the complexity of the situation -  there’s him, there’s me, then our two daughters, there’s custody, there’s a visitation schedule, there’s co-parenting, there’s single motherhood, there’s being single, then my feelings about everything, my daughters’ feelings about everything, and, of course, the constant desire to just be done with it, to be at the other side of this very hectic time in our lives. So “divorce” oversimplifies a very multi-faceted process.

Imagine my delight when Gwyneth Paltrow announced she was separating from her husband, Chris Martin, and called the process “conscious uncoupling.” It sounds like something that floats down from the clouds, a stray feather off cupid’s wing, come to gently rock your marriage into eternal slumber. It made my unexciting divorce seem like this sacred shared process of unhinging two lives into two very whole, separate and thriving entities. And don’t get me wrong, I will come out of this with my own whole, separate and thriving life, and wish the same for my ex, but realistically we’re each going to accomplish that on our own. 

I’ve come to realize perhaps being limited by our language isn’t always a bad idea. Maybe we need words that box us in and put us face to face with the unpleasantries of life. The same way we need words that set us free, we need words that give us a good slap across the face. I have to get real with myself. What I’m experiencing right now is much less kumbaya than holding hands with my ex into this next chapter in our lives.

While conscious uncoupling seems to capture my very crunchy, touchy feely, let’s-talk-about-our-feelings philosophy about life and love, what I’m going through right now is a fucking divorce.

I liken the divorce process to the crazy winter we’ve just had – cold days, warm days, sunny days, miserably freezing days, snow days, rain days, summer in January  days. I’ve had good days, bad days, amazing days, craptastic cry in my car days, brought to my knees in gratitude days, even ho-hum ordinary days. Most days are fine, good and great really, but the emotional process doesn’t stop just because I have a smile on my face.  The road is bound to be a little rough when things come to an end, especially when matters of the heart are concerned. The poetry of “conscious uncoupling” does the mourning process after a marriage ends a disservice. It coats everything in a layer of zen that’s uncalled for, at least for me. I want to feel the emotions that come along with divorce. I want the good and the bad because I know the only way to get to the other side isn’t around or over or under but through.

So conscious uncoupling is a lovely concept for Gwyneth. If it’s poetic language I’m looking for, there are always the years leading up to our separation, and eventually our divorce, which were a bit of unconscious uncoupling. Right now, I’ll take divorce with all its jagged edges. It’s a reminder that it only gets better from here. I’m going through a divorce, a chapter in my life, and I won’t be defined by it. It’s not pretty or flowery or graceful. It’s heartbreak and it’s ugly. Luckily, the heart, much like the phoenix, has a knack for rising from the ashes.

Because much is lost in interpretation, and all reading is interpretation, I want to be clear this, and anything I write about divorce, is about the journey my heart is mapping during this experience.

A Letter To My Daughters On Feeling Entitled

Girls,

It took me almost 3 decades to realize I suffer from the good girl syndrome. It afflicts me with requiring permission to pursue the things I truly want. Permission from anyone and no one in particular. I was taught the world was mine for the taking but I had to be polite about it. I’ll be damned if I pass that on to you.

I want you to feel entitled.

I want you to feel entitled to every opportunity you’re willing to work hard for. I want you to know nothing is beyond or above or out of your reach. I want you to know nothing about you, inside or out, hinders your ability to try your best. Nothing about you makes you less worthy of the “American Dream” or whatever dream guides you.

I want you to know you are entitled to all the bounties of this existence.

I want you to feel entitled to things big and small. Entitled to follow your gut, your instincts, your hunches without explanation. Entitled to have spectacular years and years that get you to the next spectacular year. Entitled to like people and love people and ignore people and cut people off who don’t deserve you.

I want you to feel entitled to be happy. Entitled to be fulfilled and satisfied and still hungry for more. I want you to know your desires deserve exploration regardless if the road ends in triumph or defeat.

I want you to know your first breath was the ultimate, and only, green light for pursuing the life you want. And more than anything, I want you to be entitled to be you, wholly and truly, absolutely nothing less than all of you.

And I’ll be here living my own journey alongside yours, you inspiring me to kick permission to the curb and me inspiring you to live out loud right this second.

Love,

Mami

One Question To Nurture Self-Love In Our Daughters

I’m on a mission to raise daughters with a deep sense of self, a profound love and respect for themselves. I start with myself. I watch the words I use to talk about myself. I make sure they witness me in pursuit of my desires. I care for myself as much as I care for them. I focus on our family culture. There are shows and toys and products not allowed in our home because they don’t promote the kind of self-worth any woman should aspire to have. We pick books and films with strong female characters. We have firm family rules -speak, touch and act in kindness towards everyone including yourself. And more recently, I’ve started very directly addressing the issue of self-love with my girls. It happens at bedtime.

Bedtime is sacred in our house. It’s a sequence of carefully orchestrated rituals that lull my girls to dreamland. There are some standard components which have stood the test of time from their early baby days to now – always a story, always the same sweet whisper in their ear, the addition of a song comes and goes with the seasons (late summer nights, not so much…early winter nights, yes, please), massages are a favorite, a candle always adds to the magic. Dearest to me, though, is the time we spend before bed, talking.

Every night, my girls and I talk about what we’re grateful for and what good we’ve done for others that day. It’s a practice which leaves us all a bit warm and fuzzy inside. I love knowing they’ll be lying their heads to sleep with thoughts of how blessed and kind they are. I also believe our ritual allows them to learn to reflect and see the goodness in every day and in themselves.

On more than one occasion, my daughters have given thanks for themselves. Which made me realize bedtime questions are a powerful way to encourage the values I want them to embrace, especially self-love. With this in mind, I added a new question to the mix -

What do you love about yourself?

We’ve been doing this for about a month now and the answers are always a sweet surprise. My daughters love their artistic ability, their loose teeth, their dance moves, their singing voices, their assertiveness, their contribution to making our family great, the silly song they made up, their imaginations, their reading ability, their love for math. And when they seem to be stuck, I lead by example. I love my curiosity, my arms that allow me to hold my girls, my ability to write with passion, my smile, my baking skills, my role in teaching my girls to read, my lips that get to kiss them.

raising confident daughters

Little by little, night by night, I want them to know there is never any shortage of things to love about themselves. I want this to not just be a value we talk about in theory. I want them to get in the habit of reminding themselves why they rock. I want that habit to turn into something like their breath which happens on autopilot. Mean girls and misogynist media and so many other outside forces are going to try and bring them down throughout their lives. I don’t want their own voices to ever add to that noise. So I work hard at showing them how to love themselves. I want to be sure they’re rooting for themselves as much as I am. 

How do you encourage your daughters (and sons) to love themselves?

Prayer, Gifts, Gratitude, & Farewell

This is the post where I bid adieu to 2013, a roller coaster of a year. It started out as 3 different posts and as this last day of the year draws to a close has morphed into this novel. Long but from the heart, see ya later 2013. 

PRAYER

prayer
noun
a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship - Google

noun
it’s truth, it’s all prayer -Ann Lamont to Oprah while discussing her book “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”

noun
sacred vulnerability - Carla Molina, after a year of bumping into prayer unknowingly

It began with surrender, a word in a magazine article. It put a name to a necessary skill I had yet to master. There it was meeting me when I needed it most, answering a question I hadn’t asked (in words). And because I’m no ungrateful fool, I’ve carried it with me ever since. When life feels harder than it should, I pray.

Surrender? Surrender! Surrender. 

I’m not a praying person, at least not in the traditional sense. I spent the first 15 years of my life in the Catholic school system so prayer began for me as an exercise in memorization, recitation. All of it rooted in following the rules. Through their repetition, those Hail Marys and Our Fathers, despite my sometimes less than holy intention (autopilot, anyone?), those prayers became a blanket in winter.

Over a decade later, prayer has shape shifted. Not so much into something completely different but more into itself, what it was always meant to be. The beginning of my life knee deep in “prayer” taught me the mechanics, how repetition and routine can be the calling card of comfort. A comfort called love/faith/hope/whatyouneedrightthissecondtokeeponkeepingon. A good deal of living thereafter, I let go of the formal practice of prayer and spent time in murky waters figuring out what prayer means to me. And this I admit I did rather loosely, in fits and bursts of inspiration. As a mom of two young children, I’d venture to say I thought about prayer maybe twice a year.

This last year, however, has been, subtlely, a return to prayer. I’d read a concept or quote and be hit with knowing I was meant to pay attention. Like the souls I meet in life, who present themselves when I need them most, I believe the same is true for ideas. Sometimes the messenger is a person and other times just words on a page or screen, lyrics in a song, a scene in a movie. It’s a beacon for something I already know, leading it out of spiritual storage into my present heart.

In childhood, prayer was about paying homage to something greater than myself. Today it’s about a relationship, a conversation with the universe (yep, I went there).

Prayer is a sacred vulnerability to be where you are. 

So today I wanted to share the prayers that found me this year, over and over again, that I’ll carry well into the new year and beyond.

Gratitude Prayer
When I find myself turning away from love, not rooted in kindness or patience, when my kids have worn me down to my last straw, when shit hits the fan, when everyday feels like a Monday, I give thanks. I give thanks until I’m rooted in love again. The roof over my head, the smile from a stranger, a friend’s phone call, our dog in bed every night, my daughters’ laughter, a good hair day – from the minuscule to the magnificent, be grateful for it all and everything before seems quite trivial.

How Do I Want To Feel Prayer
In the same instances I call on my gratitude prayer, I find it helpful to also question how it is I want to feel. In motherhood, career, relationships, at home, in the day to day, in all of it, how do I want to feel about these moments that make up the whole of my life? Never underestimate the power to reframe situations; it’s the difference between a good day and a bad day, a life well lived and one regretted.

Be Where You Are Prayer
Sometimes it’s not about changing anything but simply being where you are. Surrender. Life is a simple journey that we complicate for ourselves. It may not all be a walk in the park, but we can certainly make the challenging times easier by resisting less. Let it be. 

prayer is sacred vulnerability

GIFTS & GRATITUDE

These prayers were amongst many gifts I received in this year of highs and lows. From my daughters to our new home to my family to our new pup, I have much to be grateful for in 2013. However, what has stayed with me the most is the love that embraced me after my separation. Friends, old and new, near and far, came to me in kindness; it floored me. Friends I haven’t spoken to or seen in years, reached out to remind me of the friendship between us. Friends, who are really just a bit more than acquaintances, reached out to me in random moments, often with nothing more but an “I’m thinking of you” or “how are you and the girls?”  Every time it brought me to tears; it still does.

It made me realize how important it is to have a community, to stay connected. How every life we touch truly stays with us, how no kindness goes unnoticed. How this is no solitary journey and if it ever felt like one, it was my own doing. 

So thank you, friends, for holding space in your hearts and thoughts for me and mine. It’s a kindness that heals and illuminates all that is right. 

FAREWELL

This year still has a few hours left so I won’t wish it away making any claims for what’s ahead (that’s tomorrow’s post). Simply, I will sit with the lessons and gifts of the last 365 days and give profound thanks for the experience.

You were a bitch, 2013, but there is too much light in my life to focus on the shadows. So long, farewell, auf wiedershen, goodnight.

Listen To Your Mother Providence 2014

It’s with a mountain of joy in my heart I share I’ll be producing and directing the 2014 Providence production of Listen To Your Mother! Bringing the show to Providence last year, touched my life in ways I could never have imagined and expanded my heart in a million different directions. Aside from my daughters, birthing them, raising them, witnessing them, Listen To Your Mother stands as one of my greatest and proudest accomplishments. That I get to do this on a yearly basis is a gift.

Some people run marathons, others go yoga, others create with their hands or even cook. Me? I produce and direct Listen To Your Mother Providence. It’s my high, my bliss, my cloud 9. Why? I’m first, second and last a storyteller/keeper. I want to tell my story. I want to hear your story. I want to SEE you. I want vulnerable and honest and real. Most of all, I want everyone else to bear witness to you.

Take a moment to take in the incredible movement Ann Imig has created. This video is a perfect example of what happens when you unleash your passion into the world. It grows and grows and grows. From a one city performance in 2010 to 32 brave cities in 2014, here’s to another life changing season of Listen To Your Mother!

Be sure to visit the official announcement on the Listen To Your Mother site to welcome the new cities of 2014!

 

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