Joy is a Choice
I am mother to three gorgeous human beings most call children or kids. I am lucky to be their mother, lucky to be a mother at all. Prior to my children’s father I had never loved someone enough to risk children, later I had enough early miscarriages I had begun to think I wouldn’t be physically able when my son came and stayed.
While I have wonderful, deep, and meaningful friendships; I seem to not farewell in the intimate relationship part of human relationships. Perhaps I am too much, too difficult, too something…
As Celine Dion says, in her song Imperfections:
“I got my own imperfections, before I can love you, I need to learn to love myself”.
This line has applied poignantly to myself, my life, and my departed partner, so deeply so that these meagre words cannot begin to express.
It is important to remember imperfections and wounds are not our identity, but they do powerfully influence how we relate to another human being.
January my life and intimate relationship imploded. What followed on an emotional scale for myself was nothing less than devastation, it felt like a massive bomb had exploded in my home, in my heart, and I could not… for some little while make sense of the debris floating around me like something caught in a tidal wave.
I would look at my children and turn abruptly and leave the room because I could feel the sob ripping its way up my throat. I spent the first two weeks functioning in auto-piolet daze watching my children’s father make decisions and leave. Feeling as though he was ripping everything precious to me, to our children asunder.
I have run the gamut of feelings one expects when they have believed they will grow old with someone and that plan, that dream is ended.
Perhaps just perhaps the original meaning of happily after meant happily ever after no matter what.
This isn’t the same as insisting a couple stay together or they are a failure if they do not: it instead supports the idea that they will be happy no matter what life brings.
Perhaps real love is allowing life to happen while we are making other plans. Perhaps it is remembering to love those we have come to love along the way- including our own precious selves.
Perhaps real love is allowing love to shift and change colors from one kind of love into another. David Ignatow wrote, in a touching poem “I wish I understood the beauty in the leaves fallings. To whom are we beautiful as we go?”
When that big bad word divorce arrives along with custody, and parenting plan it is easy to go into fear, blame, and shame. But here’s the thing: we each as human beings can only know what we know when we know it.
No person, no matter how great the love can ever change us, make us heal, or fix us. All that will come when we are able and ready to deal with it. It takes two to make a relationship and two to break it. It isn’t about fault and blame.
And shame only comes when we allow our own minds to mess with us.
Or when we allow cultural shame to diminish us, or allow well-meaning but often misunderstanding people in our lives inform us of what we should do, feel, or think, people who are not informed of our innermost being and life challenges in the way we are as individuals are if we are honest with ourselves.
The ideal of love surpassing all challenge is hardwired into our societal conscience. And if we cannot we are broken; I beg to differ. I believe we can wreck lives by refusing to see the reality in front of us. Great love doesn’t equal shared knowledge or ability and this critical part must assessed in interpersonal relationships of every kind.
Perhaps we haven’t learned enough, perhaps its exactly as it should despite how hard it feels. Perhaps the powers that be know what is better for us than we.
Take a couple who they build a tight family structure. Then one day through much effort together and years of work, potential injuries, and trauma, along the way, they realize maybe one before the other that the way they are doing things in the relationship just isn’t working no matter how hard they try. By this time, they have children and though they differ dramatically in many ways one of things they share is love for their children.
So instead of ripping each other apart and tearing each other down they instead turn away from one another and face forward each becoming united in the shared purpose of not allowing the marriages end to traumatize their children or lesson their devotion as parents.
When we choose to do something different than others expect us to, we are often greeted with severe judgment and fear. How can we build a better society if this is our approach? How can we trust our family and friends if this is our approach?
How can we guide our beloved children into the future if we choose control, shame, blame, and fear?
Shame is a powerful weapon in our society.
“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable” (Brene Brown).
Perhaps divorce and custody as words only hurt so much because of the personal fear they trigger and the cultural overlay of viewing an ended marriage as failed.
There can be a great shame surrounding this tender and volatile time. So, if shame derives itself from being unspeakable, I choose to speak through my writing because I cannot bear that the thought that failed, fear, blame, and shame are what my children have to look forward to. Life is so much more!
Though I have my own imperfections I am so much more.
How can we go from shattered to hopeful?
In alcoholics anonymous it might sound like this doing Gods will: and a kind of acceptance of life and its changes we don’t fully understand.
In Judaism kindness is one the highest held actions, to embarrass, shame, or harm another is equivalent to the impact of death.
In Buddhism it might be called uppekha which defined simply means calm, non-attachment, even-mindedness or a total, full acceptance and letting go. It does not mean indifference, quite the contrary. In Buddhism there is no true love without Uppekha. For without uppekha love becomes possessive.
In Stoicism it may be as simple as recognizing we are not our feelings rather they are an integral PART of us.
So, love then is generous, engaged, accepting and non-controlling.
So take a leap with me: I remember a time when my boy couldn’t speak and could only fuss and cry in my arms early every morning when the lights were too much for his sensory processing and his sisters giggles intolerable, when I full bladder, sleep logged, and weary pulled a blanket over our heads to block light, held him secure, and covered his ears blocking light and sound to help him calm: I felt love.
The kind of love that accepts without judgment the reality and honors the other, somehow recognizing there is no other. I saw myself in my son and my son in me.
Recently, I watched my boy reason out puzzle blocks. I smiled remembering when he couldn’t ask for things or carry on conversation. When his Dad worried, he would never speak. But recently I watched him converse with his wonderful occupational therapist and couldn’t help the smile or pride in my boy.
Imagine how much better children might adjust to separate households where each of their parents are devoted to them and happy, kind in their expressions of their past partner.
Imagine how much better those children would be if their families from both sides still showed them the same or more love and attention then before the marriage ended?
How much more loved, supported and happy they would likely feel. How much more likely they would be to succeed in life with such support.
There are two primary things I did to move out of drowning in my own heartache for myself, my children, and my departed partner. I started taking action mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Mentally I began the work of redirecting my thoughts when they became hyper focused on loss. Instead, of allowing myself to stay on the fear freight train I made my mind get off and start thinking about next steps.
I created 5-minute dance parties with my three beautiful children, I read them stories when I was so sad all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and weep. I cooked food, and I did laundry, and finally I bought I and my children a safe vehicle of our own for transportation.
When I was finally able to get head my head above water emotionally, I focused in on my children, teaching them with games, and love. Finally, I was able to break out of the numb feeling of loss and realize perhaps there is more here than loss.
When our children are small we redirect their attention often to teach them self-regulation, to guide them away from danger, and so much more.
We sometimes forget that skill as an adult. When tragedy happens, great loss, or anger and anxiety erupts, we forget we have the ability to shift our attention to something else. It is a skill and like any skill it must be practiced to get good at it.
It can start small. It did for me, I started by watching my son dimple up when I made a funny face at him, his dimpled grin made me smile — even though I was sad. So, I fed that and found more small things to appreciate like how one of my daughters eyes shone when I paused and taught her something that made her more independent. Or how my other daughter would immediately change her bebopping loss of focus when I challenged her mental ability enough to engage her imagination.
We must redirect our thoughts and attention to something good and we may have to do this many times before it sticks.
It takes 30 days to make and break a habit. I am still vulnerable but I am picking myself up.
It is through consistently choosing joy and then taking action. If there is no follow-through the joy will wither as a passing moment. But you can feed the joy again and again and with follow-through action it will grow.
Every time that ugly little self-sabotaging voice pops up and asks you who do you think you are to succeed, love, be happy?
You do not allow yourself to stay with it. Instead shift your focus. Find something that makes you smile find something that helps another and do it, find something that helps you and do it.
And by help you: I don’t mean a gallon of Ice cream, a Netflix binge, a drunken spree and or retail therapy.
I mean hit the gym, start the business you have put on the back burner, dance with your children they are only this young once, start eating healthier, meditate, listen to music you love, read, read, read.
Joy is a choice. There is no life without loss sometimes tremendous loss, but life is meant lived, embraced, and you only get this life once.
Go live it with joy, take some action, AND redirect yourself when you start meandering down dark roads. Choose joy!
-For my children the great loves of my life. -