I have avoided writing this just because of the nature of the topic. I didn’t want to solidify it as having actually occurred because it hurt me so deeply. I have attempted a few blog posts only to promptly delete them because I still hadn’t found a space of forgiveness, which is so crucial to me. I know many of you read them since you commented on them. Thank you for your support during a difficult time. God knows I needed it. I, though, feel like all people deserve love and the chance to redeem themselves without me condemning them.
This is not a condemnation at all. I want to make that clear. This is me recording this in order to release it. Tomorrow is the end of the Mercury retrograde and the Fall Equinox. It is a big energy shift within the universe, and I’m ready to take full advantage of it. Holding onto this occurrence does not serve me or my family and I am finally ready to let it go.
On Memorial Day weekend my husband and I went camping. We visited with my family, and it was our first showing as a recommitted couple since our separation. It was a pretty big deal since we hadn’t been reunited for very long. We were celebrating our family life, our children, and expressing gratitude for being able to have the opportunity and willingness to make amends.
However, for us to be successful we both had to let go of a lot. We did so relatively seemlessly for one another. Our families of origin were another story.
For me, I had to come to terms with the physical abuse and chaos I suffered as a child and in my first marriage. I had to agree that I had unresolved trauma that I needed help with. I began EMDR counseling shortly afterwards to reduce my unnecessary fight or flight response to conflict. I also went back on Prozac.
For him, he never addressed any issues with his family of origin in his past. He hasn’t received any counseling or done any work on emotional self. He had a “perfect family” as he always expressed to me. I always thought it odd that he had a perfect family and such a limited relationship with his parents, siblings, and extended family, but who was I to judge? It seemed to work for everyone… until I had Leif.
This precious little one awoken something I had never witnessed before in my husband’s family. He had done a good job of keeping everyone at arm’s length prior to his birth.
When I had our son, my mother-in-law took it upon herself to let me know how I was to raise her grandson. Unfortunately it didn’t align with how I felt I should raise my son. I respectfully let her know this on multiple occasions, but she was insistent that I do it her way. I finally said, “Look, you are my husband’s mother and no one can ever take that relationship away from you. I respect it tremendously. However, if you want our son raised a certain way, you need to take it up with your son.” I then blocked her from communicating with me online. She took major offense to it, and my husband ignored it. He told me that I should just agree and do what I want. I countered with that being inauthentic and dishonest, and I had the right to set that boundary. She never apologized and maintained her stance, and I avoided her as much as possible the one week out of the year that they visited.
It seemed to work out alright. They swept it under the rug and I maintained my integrity. I didn’t back down on my boundary regarding making personal decisions for my child between my husband and I. However, when we separated, she took it upon herself to come up and “help” with child rearing. My husband said he eventually had to ask her to leave because he felt that her help was more detrimental than him parenting and using the help of our neighbor. (She is an elderly grandmother that has “adopted” our sons as her own. The worst she does is let them watch cartoons and eat Cheerios. We can both live with that.)
Before she left, she informed him, “You know what you have to do, right?”
“No, I don’t know. What do I have to do?”
“You need to meet with a lawyer about filing for your divorce.”
He heeded her advice and met with several attorneys and cut off my access to our finances. Finally he met with one that said, “I see you’re still wearing your wedding ring.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“That tells me you don’t really want this to happen.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Then why are you here?”
And then it clicked. He was there because he was told to be there. He lived most of his adult life as he was told to live it. He didn’t live his adult life as he desired to live it, and he had the capacity to do just that.
I moved back in within a week. I had the man I met when we were dating, before he started being given “advice” on family life. I had the man that trusted his intuition, desires, hopes, and dreams without consideration for pleasing his omnipresent parents or society at large.
So to celebrate, we went camping. He had this newfound knowledge about himself and a freedom he hadn’t experienced in a very long time.
That Friday evening he had a conversion episode. In mental health terms, this is a physiological response to childhood trauma being cognitively recognized. It is actually a form of a panic disorder that results in disassociation. However, there is a lot of parallels between this and the symptoms of kundalini awakening. There are also a lot of spirit psychologists that align these two as a release of trauma and realigning with your true self, as one with God, not the “self” that has been projected upon by others.
It scared us all. I thought for sure he was having a heat stroke. He lost his vision, control of his body, and was sweating profusely. I called 911 but it took over an hour for the ambulance to get there. I kept ice on his back and under his arms. I undressed him. I kept him from falling and forced him to stay mentally present with me so he wouldn’t lose full consciousness.
My 11 year old went and got the people camping next to us. One was a nurse and she came and helped me ice my husband. Another woman went and got the game warden who directed the ambulance back to us. I somehow, by the grace of God, was able to keep my 3 year old and our German shepherd in the tent amongst the chaos. I don’t know if I have honestly prayed harder in my entire life. My sweet boys and dog were my heroes that night. They really showed a maturity that I didn’t know they had the capacity to embody.
It took 3 men to carry my husband down an embankment, load him in a truck, and drive him to the ambulance. If you haven’t gathered, he is a big man. He is about 200 lbs and 6’0.” He is often referred to as “the Viking” in his circles.
I loaded up my car with the kids and the dog. At this point it was 1:00am. Our amazing neighbors moved all of our belongings into our tent for us while I did this. I never got their names, but I will never forget their kindness.
I drove the kids to my mother’s and beat on her door at 2:00am. She took in the dog, and tucked the kids into her guest room. I told her I would be back as soon as possible.
By the time I arrived at the hospital they had already released him. He didn’t have any clothes so I grabbed some out of his work bag. His shoes were also at the campsite so we picked up a $.99 pair of flip flops at Wal-Mart. We made it back to my mom’s at 4:00am. She was fully dressed and sleeping on the couch. I loved her so much for being a place of peace amongst our struggles in that moment.
My husband and I fell asleep on her other couch and were awoken a few hours later by our youngest. I thought the worst was over. We were all exhausted, but everyone was okay. I was filled with love and appreciation for how well things turned out. It could have gone a number of different ways, and this end result was better than anything I could have imagined.
Before we even made it home, though, his mother started calling and demanding to be spoken with. He texted to let her know everything was okay. He would call and update once everyone was rested. He didn’t do it soon enough for her. She accused me of “poisoning him to get the glory of saving him.”
“Poisoning him to get the… Glory… Of saving… Him.“
It has taken me months to even wrap my head around that. Like I said this happened Memorial Day weekend and I’m just now at a point where I feel confident in being able to release it. I still don’t fully comprehend it, but it took me at least a month to accept that she actually said those words… About me… To my husband.
Never mind the fact that doing something like that would put everyone and everything that I hold dear at risk. What if I couldn’t have contained Leif and the dog when all of this was going on? What if Leif, in his anxiety, ran off into the woods? What if my oldest son wasn’t able to help me?
What about me says I’m willing to put my children and family at risk in that way?
I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself this question and I still have not found an answer. I haven’t found an answer because I’m not sure there is one. I’m not sure that statement really had anything at all to do with me.
But it had everything to do with the person that verbalized it. My husband said it was like his first realization was one smack in the face by the universe. He said this one was a back handed slap in the other direction to ensure he got the point. And I think he did. He told his mother he needed space from her and didn’t communicate with her for almost a month until he got news July 2nd that his father was having emergency heart surgery scheduled for July 5th.
We made arrangements, and packed up the kids and the dog for yet another impromptu adventure. A vacation to Florida in July. It is hot in Florida in July. It is hot there in October. The only reasonable time in Florida is January. However, we went anyway, and the reason was twofold. My husband wasn’t sure his father would survive since he is elderly, and he wanted to talk to his mother face to face about what she said about me. This was the first time in our decade relationship ever visiting his parents.
We showed up on July 4th to watch the fireworks in their community. He tried to talk to her then and she ignored him. His sister stared at their mother incredulously the entire conversation. We went and visited a few sites within 2 hours of their home over the next couple of days. His father successfully went through the surgery and felt well enough for a return visit on our way back north. My husband attempted to talk to her again. She refused to discuss it, so he gave up. We packed up and we left.
He gave her another two months to approach him and still she didn’t. I became pregnant and he knew he needed to tell his parents, but he also knew that he couldn’t accept her continued treatment of me in such a negative way. For the first time in his entire life, he set a firm boundary with his parents. This is what his email said…
I hope that all has been well with you, Dad, and Meridith since our visit. It has been almost 2 months since we were there and I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you to share some good news as well as clear the air some in hopes that everyone can move forward in a positive direction. I love you tremendously, and would love for you to be a part of both mine and my family’s lives moving forward, but I need to make sure that we have a level of mutual respect and understanding that facilitates a healthy relationship between everyone involved. I am asking for a few things that I feel would communicate the level of respect that I would expect from anyone in my life and my hope is that you don’t find any of this too difficult or find offense in any of it as that certainly isn’t the intention.
I think that the biggest item that I am asking for is that you treat myself and Chelsi both as adults and as equals. Neither of us are asking for your approval or disapproval, we simply want to live and let live. We are here to listen to you without judgment and expect the same from the people who are in our lives. Each of us are unique human beings with strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, emotions, and our own way of seeing and processing the world. We aren’t looking for anyone to solve our problems, nor do we feel it necessary to solve others problems, but we do give and expect to receive some level of empathy if we express something that we are struggling with. I know that sometimes this is hard – I struggle with it as well, both as a parent and as a spouse, but it truly goes a long way towards building relationships. In an effort to clarify what I am talking about, this video may help: https://youtu.be/-4EDhdAHrOg. I think that in the past there has been a rift created, especially between yourself and Chelsi, due to a misunderstanding of a request for empathy, or a situation that calls for empathy, vs. a request for help. Sometimes it feels good just to know that you are understood, the problem doesn’t seem so large then, and often times having understanding from someone and feeling connected is enough for us to make the changes or decisions to help ourselves.
Secondly, and what I often feel is lacking in the way that you view me and my family in our relationship with you, is that we are all individuals. Who we are as individuals is not a reflection of those around us or those connected to us. What you may want for me, beyond health and happiness, may not be what I want for myself. Being able to freely love me and my family for who we are as individuals is liberating for both sides. With that comes the freedom for you to be who you are, just as you want to be in any given moment, and it affords us that same freedom. I have long felt, ever since I was a child, that I had to fit an image that you had created for me in order to gain your love and acceptance, which left little room for me to explore who I was as a person. It wasn’t until I moved to Wisconsin before I felt that I was truly able to start working on those questions. I have often felt pressure from you to be something that you envision for me, rather than to fully be my authentic self, even as an adult. In the past, I have tried to be someone else in an effort to gain your approval based on the things that you have voiced that I should have or do in my life, or your reactions to things that I have said and done. Unfortunately, that has not filled me with happiness because it is not my path, it is the path that I feel that I have been pushed down in order to receive love from you. I cannot do that any more as it has contributed to my unhappiness, feelings of not being lovable or good enough as a person because I based my happiness on trying to gain your approval. What we may or may not do as people, what we may or may not achieve in our lives, has nothing to do with you as a person or a parent. You have done your job and dedicated a huge portion of your life, making sacrifices to teach me how to function in the outside world, keep me fed, housed, and safe. I will always be grateful for that and the fact that I was given the resources to be successful in life. Now it is your time to know yourself and enjoy each day knowing that I am happy and loved in a way that works for me and my family – how each of us achieves that is inconsequential to anyone but each of us individually as long as we aren’t hurting ourselves or others.
Lastly, I feel that I need to voice a disappointment from our visit. After we talked, I had hoped that the impact of your statements regarding Chelsi and the possibility that she may have had something to do with my conversion episode (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/conversion-disorder/basics/definition/con-20029533) would be made clear. Unfortunately, I felt that the blame for them was put on me. I understand that there may have been many reasons that you might be concerned, as you expressed to me when I was there and via messenger at the time. Regardless of those reasons, she still read the conversation, whether it was assumed to be private or not, and I expressed to you what a profound impact that it had on her and how deeply hurt she was that you would think that of her. I also expressed that if it weren’t for her, my outcome may not have been as positive since I was suffering from heatstroke as a side effect of the episode. Not once did she lose her cool, even though she was terrified the whole time – she assured me that everything was going to be OK, that her and the kids were fine, and that there was nothing for me to worry about, which was essential for me in the midst of an episode brought on by stress to begin with. I had hoped that after we talked, you would be able to apologize to her or at least thank her for her efforts. Therein lies my disappointment and hurt coming away from our conversation. I cannot ask you to do this as I don’t feel that it is my place to tell you when to apologize, but it does cause me concern for our relationship going forward that there was no effort made to undo the damage that was done. That being said, I know that I never truly learned to apologize until the last couple of years, so it may honestly be a skill that we are lacking as a family since I often used to act in a very similar fashion to what I have observed in you. The great thing about that is that we can always learn and grow to be better and more effective people if we choose to do so! I will leave this with you as a take it or leave it item, but I feel that it applies not only to this situation, but is a useful skill throughout our lives: http://mineelachandmft.com/a–genuine-apology-requires-empathy/. Again, do what you feel is right, but I know that it has been helpful to me as a person on many levels.
I truly want to have you in my family’s lives, but I feel that requires some healthy boundaries to be set in order for everyone to feel valued and respected. I ask that you think about this and I am happy to have a dialog with you about it if you have any questions or anything that you would like to express.
Now for the news…..
Chelsi is expecting around the end of April next year. Although it was a bit unexpected, we are very excited and joyful about it and look forward to another little one in the house. We plan to leave the gender a surprise until birth and are in the process of getting our priorities lined up before then. There is a lot to do, but most of all we want to thoroughly enjoy the process as it evolves. I don’t feel that I could have asked for a better mother for our children than what I have in Chelsi – she loves our kids to her very core and amazes me every day with her ability to provide a loving and nurturing sanctuary for them within our home.
This was his response from his father…
I have read the subject email that you sent to your Mother. Your micro self analysis of your personal emotional and enlightening struggles from within yourself and between you, Chelsi and us has and is the personal struggles and growth maturity that I assume everyone goes through during their life. We are your parents and yes we have had and still have high expectations for you and have tried our best to guide you forward on your successful life journey. You did not and have not disappointed us as we have always been proud of you and your successful accomplishments and even a limited few failures that you gave your all but did not quit. Don’t you and Chelsi have similar high expectations for Leif and don’t you parent him by guiding him to be the Son, Individual and Person you want him to be? After you finished college you were on your own, we no longer tried to guide or help you unless you asked for guidance or help. You asked for help when with late night phone calls you had Chelsi arrested and you needed your Mom to drop everything, cancel appointments and drive straight through to Hendersonville. Was this trip by your Mother an act of Family Interference, Empathy, Mothers Love or Action taken to Respond to a Son’s obvious cry for Help? The last three reasons are the ONLY true and correct ones. In your email you are expressing exactly what we want for you and your family. We do not ever want to interfere in your life and if at your age you still feel that we expect you to be anything other than yourself to receive our love you have totally misread our actions or reactions for the past 20 years. Our only concern was, is and always will be your and our family’s welfare and happiness.
In you email Empathy and Apologies seem to come up and since they both are a two way street, I want your opinion about the words empathy and apologies? Please put yourselves in our position when Leif was born and assume it is now 20 years into the future. Leif gets married and his wife has their first child, your first Grandchild! You and Chelsi are very excited and travel 800 miles to spend a few days to visit and help Leif his wife and you celebrate this momentous occasion. When you arrive and call Leif, your son, to let him know you have arrived you are then informed that you are unable to even see your new grandson at that time? Would this make you feel accepted, welcomed or just totally ruin what should have been one of the happiest moments that you and Chelsi, as grandparents, could ever experience? At the time of Leif’s birth and even today, we as your parents, are not so self centered as to expect some type of an apology for this lack of empathy, understanding or hurt personal feelings because then and now I believe that we are Family and our parental love and excitement for such a special lifetime occasion certainly out weights any and all hurt feelings? Anyone who gets mired in the past usually loses future fulfillment.
Life is always at least a two way trip, give and take, and we all like to rationalize ours and others behavior. Now I want to direct this following comment to you alone. You went into some detail about how your behavior and evidently your unhappiness was probably due to your trying to find love from us by doing things that you thought were our expectations but not yours? You should review the total experiences of our love for you not just our high expectations. You also did many things that were totally opposite from our good expectations and we supported you and loved and respected you even more as you worked your way through these life learning experiences. You then, in your email, stated your disappointment about your visit with us in July. Evidently you feel we owe Chelsi and you an apology because of our deep and serious parental concern actions for your safety and welfare. It certainly did not make us feel positive about your security after late night wake up calls and a few sleepless nights a number of times when you had Chelsi arrested and told us about her behavior patterns and protection requests. You identified your unhappy behavior as a result of our expectations of what you thought we wanted for you yet you are now blaming your Mom for not reacting favorably to your expectations. Is this fair to expect and or blame your Mother for not performing to your expectations? We never stopped loving or supporting you when you may have failed and needed us and we will always have your back.
I really don’t understand what you mean by, “I want you in my family”? Are you telling us that to get your approval and be allowed into and associate with your family that we must conform to expectations and boundaries set by you? Isn’t this the same reason that you give for your unhappiness all these years but only in reverse order?
You both will always be part of our family no matter what your expectations or behavior toward us may be. Resurrecting this past unfortunate incident or other similar family incidents will not heal past family wounds while we should be focusing on future happiness and cohesion. We have all suffered from these conflicts and they need to stop forever. Please help and search for peace and understanding from all! This issue is closed as far as I am concerned, I don’t have enough time left in my life to worry about hurt feelings with sleepless nights and allow others to make us more unhappy. When Momma isn’t happy, no one is happy as you have found out. Others already are giving us no relief from continual parental concern and worry that is taking away the retirement happiness we had both envisioned, planned, labored and saved for such a long time before moving to and settle at our Utopian retirement on a Southern Golf Course. Whatever you mean with the first sentence in this paragraph I hope you can live with it without it haunting you for the rest of your life. We will continue to be your concerned parents with mega expectations for your individual and family success, happiness and welfare regardless whether we qualify for meeting your criteria to be welcomed into your family. Perhaps we should strive to obtain the same type of relationship you must have with Chelsi’s Mom and Dad to qualify us to your standards of acceptability? If so, please tell us what is required and we will review and accept or reject your conditions if they meet or fail our standards.
I personally am elated that you have found the happiness that we all search for and many never find but apologize if it was delayed so long because of your misinterpretation of our expectations for obtaining our love and acceptance that you have always held in your hands but evidently didn’t know was always there in your own possession. We are also happy about your expected addition and pray everything goes well with Chelsi’s health growing and delivering a healthy child made to your preferred gender and specifications. Have you told Leif yet and is he excited?
This was followed up with a congratulatory card addressed only to my husband on having a new baby.
This is hardly my vision of a “perfect family.”
There are many things I could argue against in this response. Many things. Just I, alone, from my perspective, could pick this apart in a relentless fashion from my own experiences with them. I won’t, because I honor their perspectives. I empathize. Sometimes I feel that is an unfortunate trait, but I empathize and am saddened by this choice.
However, I could empathize in human fashion as well, assuming it had nothing at all to do with me. So I am going to allow you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions. My husband and I have both already done so, and we feel very confident in moving forward with our choice for our family. It isn’t ideal, but we feel like it is in the best interest of both ourselves and our children.
And, so, having recorded this, having mulled over it, having cried many tears, having lived with a broken heart for many months, I release this as it no longer serves me.
I have received the message loud and clear. There are some things that I am involved in that have absolutely nothing to do with me or who I am as a person. They have everything to do with the person delivering. I do not have to be on the receiving end while I may still love them, forgive them, and pray for their peace and happiness.