1. putting talk into action

The idea of starting a blog for me was born a few hours ago during an evening out with a dear friend. It is not so often that the two of us get to have deep-connection girl time and it is always inspiring. What a blessing to have found others on this journey who I feel so understood by, and so connected to. She suggested I start a blog, and being the type of person who puts talk into action quickly when it feels right, here I am.

This blog is a tool for me as I launch into the next phase of my being–one of expansion, along with the dissolution of self-limiting beliefs and actions that have had me living a much smaller life than I was meant to.

Also, my intention is for this blog to inspire others to examine how their own, beautiful souls have been trapped in tiny boxes they built for themselves–either by believing what others have told them verbally or non-verbally about who they are, or by feelings they have within–separate from how others perceive them.

The time is now for deciding whether you are ready to set yourself free–and I ask myself that same question. It is too easy to put out our own fire. Believe me, I have been dousing mine for over four decades. No longer–I intend to light mine, keep it lit and watch it blaze. Won’t you join me and step into your own magnificence?

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2. vulnerability

To be perfectly honest, while it feels good to write this blog, the thought of actually sharing it with people makes me very uncomfortable. It is so easy to talk to people, which I have spent my life doing, and analyze aspects of my life with them. Writing it down feels quite different. Making yourself vulnerable when you are accustomed to presenting a very confident, public self-image is uncharted territory for me. I find my brain thinking about who will read this, if anyone, and if so, will he/she think this is any good, etc. In order to fully embrace magnificence, I need to be willing to show my insecurities and be vulnerable.

I guess there has always been a disconnect for me, as I imagine exists for many people, with what we know and what we do. I know what I need to know to live my best life ever, yet often sabotage my efforts. I become my own worst enemy, believing somehow that I need to limit myself and sell myself short. Where that came from has been discussed in many therapists’ offices. I am done talking about it. It is time for action now.

The important thing is that I am here, easing into the magnitude of what I am capable of being; of what I already am.  Getting comfortable with who I am; the deleting of negative tapes that run through my mind with the voices of various players in my life. What felt like conditional love, peppered with judgments, offered by a partner for many years, still has a running reel. I hear echoes of doom-and-gloom sayings from a parent who frequently worried, with the best of intentions. My own self-limiting mantras about not being good enough, deserving enough, thin enough, worthy enough, etc.

It takes strength and awareness to not surrender your power to those voices, and to turn the volume down on them once and for all. First step is recognizing that they are not yours. Next, crank the volume on the quiet inner, knowing voice that starts out as a whisper. It is time to amplify that and trust your inner self that lovingly wants you to live up to and beyond your potential. You are the DJ–take care with what you choose to listen to. Your happiness depends on it.

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3. separation to find myself, part 1

The first time my husband and I separated lasted about six months (approx 2 years ago). It began when I had reached my limit of dealing with what I experienced as negative energy in our relationship.

We both had a hand in a marriage that felt like, try as we may, we could rarely get on the same page. It was as if we were in two different books and were competing with each other to be right. Tired of being unhappy, and tired of going to therapists together and tired of being stuck–one day, I put an end to it (or at least temporarily). You see, I had been working on myself in therapy, and I had begun to realize that my outer life no longer felt congruent with my inner life. The negative self talk was quieting and I was getting to the point of really wanting to be appreciated and cherished, as I was doing with myself. The critical, controlling energy coming at me was too much to take anymore.

I wanted a marriage based on love and support, on deep caring and friendship. A marriage where we could be vulnerable, let our walls down and reserve that intimate space for only each other. He said I should not put that kind of pressure on anyone, that I had too high of an expectation. That nobody (at least not a man, in his opinion) was capable of that.

Sure, we had some connection, spending almost two decades together in friendship and love, and had created a beautiful family and run the “business of family” very well, but as far as deep connection, it wasn’t there. And I craved it.

He insisted that if we had more things in common and had hobbies together, it would be there. If we could DO more things together. It was the old chicken and the egg story–I felt like we needed to BE together before the DOING would get us anywhere deep, besides having a nice time. Perhaps we were both right about our approach, but when you have years of resentment built up (of non-supportive, criticism) it was hard for me to want to go away for the weekend with him alone. While still in the marital home environment, I didn’t feel quite strong enough to work on myself to become the best that I can be, and knew that the first step was to not live with him.

For a few months we took turns “nesting,” not wanting to disrupt the kids’ lives too much. In the beginning, he found a friend with a room to rent closer to his job, and I stayed at a friend’s house, and then rented a room at another friend’s house. I recall some very early days where I had a backpack of things in my car, driving around figuring out where I was staying and how much time I had to kill in a parking lot crying or talking on the phone with a supportive friend as I waited for my landlords of the day to come home. A totally bizarre feeling, considering we owned a beautiful, big house with my name on the deed, too.

I don’t know at what point I decided (on a subconscious level) many years ago that a marriage lacking in many qualities that I value was good enough. I think I thought that with enough interest and effort things could get better between us. Early on, I developed coping skills to shield my sensitive heart from his frequent criticism and judgement. Of course, I played a 50% role in this, and I am sure that I was not his ideal mate either at times, but this blog is about me. What made this all so difficult, and why I lasted so long in a not-so-great marriage, is that I had a very nice pair of rose-colored glasses and I frequently put them on. I could talk my way out of listening to my inner voice and justify why ending it was not the way to go. I was also bound by my belief that divorce is never an option–that things are always able to improve.

My parents had a mostly happy marriage from what I saw, and had some basic components that I had been looking forward to having when I would get married. I remember my dad arriving home from work and kissing my mom every single day. They would sit down at the kitchen table and he would update her about his day, any office gossip and ask her about hers. I loved witnessing that simple connection between them. I wanted my husband to come home and kiss me daily and show that he was happy to see me.

My husband had a very different childhood, with his parents divorcing (more or less) when he was very young. The kiss after work “fantasy” that I had was a pretty simple one, compared to knights riding up on white horses (which I did NOT expect). When I explained this concept to my husband, I was met with comments like, “Well, if you want that then you initiate it,” (which I did to no avail multiple times), and, “I will do that only if I feel like it,” (which he mostly didn’t feel like doing), and, “Why would you want to hear about my day at work? Why are you so nosy?” Obviously, I was barking up the wrong tree and felt like a punished little girl for asking for love and connection. I will not even begin to psychoanalyze why this was so hard for him, that is his work to do–if he is even interested in going there.

This blog is going on pretty long and I have not even gotten to the part about us getting back together, facing a life threatening situation with our son, and us being separated now for the second time (and on a whole new level–with me being in my own home for the first time in over 20 years). To be continued…

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4. the unthinkable

Around April 2012, after secretly dating one another, husband and I abandoned our off-week homes and moved in again to the family home together. It felt so good to experience the early excitement of a relationship with him again. Time apart had made us appreciate each other and we were behaving our best. So glad for the extra help that another adult in the home provided, and the affection we could share, we were hopeful for a more positive life together. We felt determined to seek counseling and develop new skills to finally deal with all of the issues that had been swept under the carpet.

Then, a few weeks after reuniting, our 10 year old son had an MRI of his head because of a weird vein above his eyebrow. Minor stuff. Let’s just have a look to see that everything is okay. Well, when the MRI results came back, the doctor told us they needed a follow up cat scan to rule out a brain aneurysm. What the?? The idea of that could not even fit into my brain. I brought him to Duke for the cat scan and the events that followed were so surreal.

The cat scan led to a confirmation that, yes, there was a giant aneurysm in his left internal carotid artery that had, amazingly, not ruptured. He had been an avid soccer player, had been on a tae kwon do sparring team just a year before (that we thankfully had quit), and was an overall active kid, biking and running to and from school. The thought that there had been a ticking time bomb sitting in his brain led to all sorts of worries of what if? There was no time for that.

What followed from the moment of knowing to now is nothing short of a miracle.

Once you know, you can’t not know. Your world becomes about the aneurysm, a word that only the day before you could barely even spell. Or you had only heard stories from friends about people who knew people who had died from them in an instant.

My research and networking skills went into full force. Decisions had to be made, procedures had to be booked, and we had to work as a team. That is where husband and I excel. In the “business” of family, we rock. We are both action-oriented and rational in time of crises. We put our heads together with the doctors and decided stents were the best option.

There were so many events, new and scary physical and emotional experiences in and out of hospitals–too many to list or run through chronologically at this point. The gist is that my son underwent 4 surgeries from June 2012 to February 2013. Multiple hospitalizations, google calendars filled with medicine schedules that continue to this day (thankfully no more high steroids, just blood thinners) and appointments. MRIs, CTAs, blood tests, angiograms, neurosurgeons, eye doctors, and more.

Summer of 2012, shortly after his first surgery, he became legally blind because the aneurysm was still growing despite the pipeline stents that had been placed in there. It was compressing his optic nerve because of its location and size. They administered high steroid doses that messed with his body (hunger, hair growth, joint pain, stretch marks, etc.) to try and save his eyesight. We spent many nights by his bedside in that ridiculous chair/bed for parents where you couldn’t sleep even if you could. Three stent operations (consisting of 7 stents total, with 3 layers), and the ultimate–when all else was failing to stop the growth of this giant aneurysm–a double brain bypass that we flew to Phoenix, AZ, for on a moment’s notice in February. The top brain surgeon was there and we knew we only had one chance for this surgery.

Looking back, it was a mountain of medical moments, ever changing each week depending on his eyesight (which fluctuated an enormous amount and precipitated emergency surgeries that turned simple office visits into terrifying events). “Don’t let him eat or drink and head directly to the admissions desk. They are waiting for you there,” I heard the frantic voice of his surgeon’s nurse practitioner say as I answered my phone on our way out of the neuro-opthalmologist’s office. He had had an MRI that morning and they decided an emergency angiogram was necessary and more possible stents. The pain of telling your hungry 11 year old that no, you are not going out for sushi as promised, after all of these appointments. You are headed to the hospital instead and you are not even allowed to drink any water. That happened twice, making it pretty scary to trust that you really are just going for a scan or a doctors appointment. Too often he got the shock of a lifetime that there was more to it, and no time to prepare mentally. He was absolutely darling when he would ask, “Do they really need to do this?” And when we would answer, “Yes, honey, I am sorry but they do,” he would deal with it, because he had no other choice. He developed the skill of dealing pretty early on in this experience, because fighting with reality just made it harder to accept, and you still had to deal with it anyway. There was no way around it.

I could write volumes about what it feels like to have your child become blind over the course of a few weeks, to have to help them find the water that is right in front of them on the restaurant table; what it feels like to kiss them goodbye in the operating room–not sure if you will see them alive again; and what it feels like to put all of your faith in the universe, your child’s body and the medical professionals entrusted with them.

I think before this unfolding in our lives I had been more controlling. This experience completely dismantled that in me, and forced me to let go and surrender. It has given me a perspective on life that is trust based–“it is what it is” took on a whole new meaning. My son has taught me to deal with reality in all of its ups and downs, and to go with the flow. The sooner you accept it, and make peace with it, the happier you will be.

His favorite sayings are, “You can’t have stars without darkness,” and, “When life gives you lemons, make orange juice.” He serves as a bright star for me. The friends we have met along the way on this medical adventure, the life lessons we have gained, and the perspective it gave us are truly gifts that came in a very unusual package. When people hear our story, they assume we must be angry  about what we have been through. I feel quite the opposite is true.

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5. love and loneliness

These days, a few months post-separation, I am feeling many opposing things at once. I revel in the freedom and joy of having my own place to live–embedded in that is a bit of down time that I really haven’t had in more than 10 years. I was the very hands-on mom, having lost my own mom when I was only 13, I was determined to really be there for my kids for as long as I can. Perhaps making their lunches while they are already in middle school is over the top, but part of me really enjoys it and is thrilled for the opportunity to help them.

It is a very odd sensation living apart from the person you’ve been with for so long. Even if part of the marriage was difficult, there is a certain level of habit and attachment that inevitably forms when you share close quarters. There is a sense of companionship and security that is so darn comforting, I find myself overly remembering the “good times” and talking myself out of the truth of the not-so-good times. A good use for those handy rose colored glasses.

Rational thoughts of, “I can get along well with so many people–there has to be a way to live in harmony with him,” fill my mind. “We love one another…we just need some better communication skills.” “Why would you throw out two decades together for some skills we can probably build with the right attitude?” “He is so cute and I am still attracted to him.”

What I can’t lie to myself about is the fact that I have an overall sense of peace and calm in my home that I could never seem to have living with him. I am so tuned in to creating a space of love and support for me and my kids, that while it is not perfect, it feels close to that for me.

The loss of adult company on a day-to-day basis has brought a sense of loneliness but has also made so many things easier (no more fighting/negotiating about who is doing the dishes that night, who forgot to take the trash out, who is cooking, etc.). All of those chores are simple when it is just me. The things that used to feel so complicated–creating schedules for pot washing because he would not be willing to go with the flow on that one–if it was his night, he would do it. If not, forget it. No help there. He needed a plan and a schedule to follow so he could know when he was free to do other things that he wanted. That leaves no room for, “Honey, I really feel tired tonight. Can you do them instead?” Deviating from what was planned was hard for him. These schedules of duties wouldn’t last very long, however. Soon enough, I was back to doing most of the work again for one reason or another.

His brother came to live with us for months (he is still there with him), and I was truly astounded at how willing he was to help around the house. I showed him where the bathroom cleaning things were, and he just cleaned it. And cleaned it again without being told, or begged, or asked, when it was necessary. That literally shocked me. Pretty pathetic, huh?

I consider myself a very intelligent woman. And even I fell for the way that husband talked to me. If I asked him to clean a bathroom, he would refuse and would twist it around in many directions to make it my problem–“Why don’t you hire someone to do it?” “Why don’t you teach the kids to do it?” What I wouldn’t have done to hear a simple, “Sure, honey. Anything for you.” There was never, or rarely, a sweet giving in to me. Everything had to be a discussion that would get analyzed and a plan would be made.

Stepping into magnificence in the relationship arena means that I am appreciated, loved, cherished. I am creating that for me already–through my own relationship with myself. I admit that while I was deep in the marriage, I was not cherishing me and did not feel the space to really value and love myself. I do now, and while it feels overdue in many ways, I know that everything happens at the perfect time–so I am just grateful that it is now.

I imagine a man who can look me in the eyes and express his feelings–a man who does not fear being vulnerable or intimate; someone who knows who he is and the value of close relationships and acceptance of themselves and the other. And of course, it will be reciprocal.

Is that too much to ask? Should I settle for less than that? People have told me that it exists in the world. It is my intention to have it. I have so much love to share–I am tired of having everything be so serious and complicated. With the losses I experienced in my life, and the awakening I have had through my son’s illness, I know that life can change in an instant.

I remember watching Leo Buscaglia as a child on PBS with my mom. Her favorite line was, “Give the red rose now!” She ended up passing away at age 47 and I was well aware, even at that young age of 13, that you don’t take people you love for granted. Life is precious, people are precious, this journey is precious.

Sometimes loneliness hits me like a ton of bricks. I have Libra moments of bargaining with myself that this is not the best path for me–to return to him and end this feeling. Is that the part of me that feels terrified of my  blog name–steppingintomagnificence?

I must learn to make friends with loneliness because it is definitely there, and to remind myself of what I already know–that I am really never alone. Also, the uncertainty of when and if I will have the kind of relationship I desire with another person. Affirmations, visualizations, breathing, and love will help it manifest. For now, I just sit and feel uncomfortable feelings and know that this too shall pass.

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6. I’m Back?

Well, been riding the roller coaster of emotions that accompany me most of the time now. Got pretty freaked out about having written the blog entries and walked away for a bit until I was sparked again by some lovely comments from Victoria. I am an introvert by Myers-Brigg definition and really avoid the limelight. I was encouraged recently to sign up for a comedy improv class that will really push me out of my comfort zone and am already half-dreading that in a way but know that it goes hand in hand with stepping into magnificence and being comfortable with ME so…I signed up. Will post more about that challenge in January.

I have really been hunkering down and reading a lot of love, light and self-help/spiritual-type books. All to convince my subconscious that it can trust me and we can walk away from everything that we have known (or believed) to be true for so long. The issue is that it is so hard to do. On the other hand, I find it is harder and harder to NOT do it–knowing what I know and knowing what I allow myself to see.

The control and manipulation are so craftily done that even I am blind to it sometimes. Thankfully, my therapist helps clear it up for me and is helping me fashion a new barometer to gauge what is and isn’t loving. My experience of love has been skewed and I find myself thinking I am crazy to let him go when some things feel like they work. I remind myself that there is an enormous cost to even consider staying with him–and am frankly BLOWN AWAY that I even consider that at any moment. I become invisible in the relationship, and in our couples’  sessions with the therapist until I chime in…and so much is about what he wants, what he thinks, etc. I guess that works for me on some level (sad to say), but the more time I spend alone–practicing self-love and appreciation and digging deep into the spiritual being that I am and all of the love that I am a part of in this amazing world–it allows me to feel the stark contrast of how I am around him.

I am faced with having to jump into the abyss, and trusting that all will be well–and, in time, even better than well. I have avoided jumping, I want to avoid jumping. I HATE the idea of jumping. I just want to stay put. It is easy to feel fired up to launch ahead full speed and then I get scared and want to crawl under a rock and cry.

The fact that I don’t have the courage to just fucking END IT is really scary. I can’t reconcile that with how wonderful I feel about myself through this long journey and how I know exactly what I deserve and will get. That part of me is SO STRONG. It feels so great. And then there is the part of me that is still somewhat negotiating whether or not to work on the relationship. Knowing what I know, being the forever optimist that he will allow himself to be vulnerable on any level. I have yet to see it, or more importantly, to feel it. Is is just the dream I had for us that I am clinging on so desperately to? Is it the glimmer of sensitivity that shines through every once in a while from him? Is that enough to justify such a long pause?

I face the inevitable upcoming holidays spent apart from my kids and some of them with my kids. Both of those scenes feel uncomfortable because someone will be missing. There is a void that I need to let sit empty and feel the emptiness, and allow it to be there. There will be no way around it. I think I will just have to sink into that hole for a bit, and then I will hopefully realize, when I peer out from there, that I am grateful for this pain, for this chance to take my power back and use it to shed light and love on those open to receiving it. Starting with me.

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