All the Turbulence that is Marriage: Please Fasten Seatbelts

Through a conversation with my hubby the other night, we stumbled upon the title for the marriage memoir I’m hoping to write.

When you’re retired; which means tired all over again, you lounge and talk about the good ole days, even when they meant you were the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. We both even dream of doing our old jobs in our sleep.

As if we’re not tired enough…

My husband is a man of few words. But, he lights up and loves talking about his air traffic days, his love of weather patterns, and his thirty-four year career. He says he never dreaded going to work and loved that no day was exactly the same. It’s an intellectual job, not a lot of physicality to it, but he’d come home each day exhausted from the mental acuity and shift work it required. Once home, he was far from wanting to control anything.

That job was left to me: the Charge Nurse. The parentified child in childhood. And that worked for a very long time. Until it didn’t.

Please fasten seatbelts.

As he was describing correct phraseology as an Air Traffic Controller; something I’ve heard him recite for almost twenty years now, my ears perked-up like never before hearing this one phrase.

“Wait, what was that phrase again?

When he said it again, I yelled, “That’s it! That’s the title for our marriage memoir!”

I won’t tell you what it is now, [enter dramatic music,] but it’s a ridiculously good title for my third book based on all the turbulence that is marriage.

If you’d like to listen to my husband controlling air traffic, you can listen here.

The video/audio is called a “tape talk” where he was being evaluated by a supervisor for proper phraseology. It’s from his ATC communications from approximately the late 1980s or early 90’s.

He was a controller in the Air Force just before the strike of 1981, and was hired by the FAA in 1985. He worked at O’Hare tower (ORD) before working at Cleveland Air Traffic Control Center (ZOB ARTCC) in Oberlin Ohio. He retired in 2014.

I love when you’re doing something else; swimming, painting, riding biking, talking… and out of the blue, the Universe throws you a crumb. Thank you! 🙏🏼

Now, if I could just finish book two.

Currently, I’m still writing, but deciding where to stop the second memoir. In my opinion, a great memoir is about a superb ending that brings it all around on itself again. And sadly, sometimes the story we set out to write isn’t the one that gets told.

It’s a huge job to figure it all out, but one that I love dearly. I’m in love with trying to control the narrative at first, only to have it take on a life of it’s own halfway through when you become more of a receiver and less of a writer. It’s thee most fascinating process, ever. And I’m grateful I have the time to do it.

If you’re interested in part one, you can buy it here.

If you’d like to see the book trailer my hubby made for me on iMovie, you can see that here.

Errr. This is your Captain speaking, You may now move about the cabin freely.

Just kidding!

Coming up for Air: When Self-Help Becomes Self-Abuse

Reading self-help and attending counseling for a lifetime can start to feel like abuse-of-self after awhile. With each new book I crack, my body asks, “When are we going to be okay the way we are? Why are we never enough? Why is it that we have to change?”

I thank god for the privilege I’ve had to self-help books and counseling throughout my lifetime, even when I was poor and on welfare.

But, excessive reading and searching for something outside our own inner knowing only reinforces our less-than opinions that others have liberally applied to us, and not always in childhood.

So, I chose to read for pleasure. On a pool day.

Self-help and growth as a human is wonderful, but it should also involve play and coming up for air from time to time. Constantly rolling in the deep, and diving deeper and deeper with little rest doesn’t make us stronger, faster. It can weaken us and take us under, drowning us.

Some myths about a water drowning:

*Drowning people yell for help.
*Drowning people wave and thrash about wildly like in the movies.
*A drowning person is capable to assist in their rescue.
*Drowning takes a while.

These are also fitting signs for other types of drowning.

— Drowning in trauma we rarely talk about.
— Drowning in self-doubt, we’re embarrassed to bring attention to.
— Drowning in grief that society expects us to “get over already.”
— Drowning in fatigue from a lifetime of trying.

Trying is good. But, excessive trying can make us weaker, sicker, and can take us down faster. ILL health is the result.

So, on days your body is asking you, “When are we going to be enough?”

Say, “Today, sweetheart, today.”

Float. Find pleasure. Play.

It’s all part of the process of becoming.

Maybe even do a handstand?

Die Trying: Say No to Learned Helplessness

My parents didn’t teach or model these behaviors to me, but I was able to go on and teach my own kids self-trust, self-love, and self-acceptance because I learned how to source them for myself.

This meme is written to encourage parents to teach and model these behaviors to their children and that’s great. We need parents to parent the kids they choose have. But, for adults who weren’t taught these things from their own parents, this can sound as if they aren’t able to do these things for themselves. And sadly, if they have kids at home they may just think, “I wasn’t taught this, so I can’t teach it.”

Yes you can. By remembering what you wanted and needed as a child.

Don’t let memes like this keep you in learned helplessness and excuses. Therapy, reading, writing, thinking, and feeling are your friends for life for all things healing when you find yourself under the rubble of a fractured life. Everything we need to surpass our own raising is right there within us. It’s a choice.

I was a young mom and learned to parent myself while parenting my son. I read parenting books as we grew up together to find out what we both needed. And I still made mistakes.

I allowed my son to stay home from school too many days in a row for mental health days because I wanted to cuddle him and missed him while I worked. I also spanked him, yelled like a lunatic, and cried. A lot. I spoiled, gave in, held firm, led by example, failed and fell on the floor in a heap of exhausted flesh. I laughed and played, lectured and raved and showed up completely imperfectly, 150%.

So, decades later, when my relationship with my adult son fell apart, I was confused and devastated. My therapist said that mothering him was where I found my own secure attachment, and I was lost without it.

I’m mothering just myself these days. Unlearning what needs to go, owning what I did I right, admitting my wrongs, and relearning a new way of being in an ever-changing world. It’s a big job again. Most days I’m confused and exhausted, because the world is the biggest narcissist of all. The closer to kicking a goalie you get, the more they move the posts. But, I’m still here: trying my best.

What I’ve learned by writing memoir is that what we do today in the parenting department will be considered wrong two generations later by parenting experts and sometimes even our children. And regardless of the advice we follow, or don’t, sometimes relationships get strained and we need to take a break once children become adults. But, none if this is an out for not doing the job today. Right now. Right in front of you.

So, do your best and be ready to throw yourself under the bus about your own parenting mistakes because I can assure you, you’re making some doozies. You’ll read about mine in my second memoir.

You’re also doing a remarkable job. I commend you for showing up for your kids when no one showed up for you.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Just doing the best we can, showing up, connecting and thinking; “What did I need at this age?” is just about the best anyone can expect.

Growing up is a hard job — and if we’re doing it right, we do it all our lives. Be engaged enough and aware that all of life is for learning about ourselves and caring for others. Don’t give away too much of your power on the healing path. Try not to be too serious, but seriously show up.

We can go on to learn to trust, love and accept ourselves as we are, through parenting our own children— without permission, teaching, and modeling of these behaviors from our own.

When we use our awareness of life as a teaching tool, our feelings to guide us, and our brains to think for more than just this moment, we’ll have given our whole hearts to our roles as parents.

I wrote this little poem today in my morning pages:

Life is about patterns

Until it’s not

And what breaks patterns

Is thought

Remembering then

Showing up now

Living in the middle

is the only how.

Say no to #learnedhelplessness #dietrying

Looking at Old Photos: An Exercise to Help You Reconnect To Yourself When You’ve Forgotten Who You Are

My 2001 interview with Oprah, Lol!

I’m going through old photos while working on my second memoir and found this memory today.

This one is from a trip to Las Vegas in 2001 where I visited Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I am a huge fan of Oprah, so when I ran into her that day, of course I let her interview me for my upcoming best-selling book. Lol! 😂

I was writing my memories out by hand back then for the book I wanted to write someday and was filing them away in my 3-ring binder.

I used to sit and watch The Oprah Show every chance I had at 4pm and still have the notes I took on the episode where she interviewed authors of memoir on how they approached their writing process.

This exercise of looking back at old photos is helpful for reconnecting to our old selves to see how far we’ve come, and to see how much further we have yet to go. It’s also helpful for abuse survivors who have endured decades of psychological abuse to help us reclaim who we’ve always been at our core, before toxic people projected who they are onto us.

This photo reminds me what I’ve known all along. I’ve lived authentically and genuinely from my heart. I’ve approached my big, convoluted, noisy, messy, busy life with a huge sense of humor, a love of life-long learning, the strength and dedication to keep my word to myself and follow through on my commitments, while showing up for my roles and responsibilities and continued to dream big!

And here I am. Still smiling and laughing. Still learning and growing. Still strong and doing. Still keeping my word. Still showing up. And still dreaming big!

I’m also still very realistic about what a long way I have yet to go, to get to where I dream of being. But, the most important thing about this is I kept my word to MYSELF to write that first book! How is that for learning self-trust, self-love and self-acceptance on your own?

Don’t allow the community that teaches about narcissistic abuse tell that you don’t know how to teach yourself or can’t. If what you see is good and you’re happy with that, keep doing that. If it’s not, have the guts to change it.

And, don’t let narcissistic family project onto YOU who they think you are, or should be, in order to make them comfortable and to keep you in learned helplessness. Be defiant! Be a force to be reckoned with! They’ll get over it. Or they won’t. It’s their choice to make.

Dream big or go home, baby!

projection #protection #dream #do #create #laugh #learn #grow #loveyourself

Use Your Pain for Fuel

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When I sought counseling after being discarded by my mom, the counselor asked what my goals were for my sessions with her. I said,

“Help me grieve the death of my parents — who are still living.”

It’s been sixteen years since I was discarded by my dad and brother, and three and a half years since being discarded by my mom. All of these discards caused tremendous damage, but being discarded at age forty-six by my mom, dredged up everything for me. Absolutely everything. Things I thought I was completely over, now sent me reeling into the abyss.

This is an article about how the death of a parent impacts the adult child psychologically and physically. The pain and torment of narcissistic discard is no joke.

Even as a nurse; someone well aware that the grieving process isn’t a linear, chronological undertaking, and is something that looks different for everyone, I think I still naively hoped for a process that would be something I could just breeze through like steps one through five, check, check, check, check, and check. Like homework.

I was in so much pain from being discarded by my mom, that some days I thought I might die from the sheer weight of the pain I carried within my chest. Other days, I wanted to die just to be done with it all. I couldn’t get my head from spiraling, “What did I ever do to deserve this?” — As all this was happening, I also had a few long-term friendships that were falling into disrepair, marital problems, and ‘other’ family issues I’ll get around to discussing with you all some other time.

I thought the counselor could give me some tool to help me get through the pain I was grappling with so I begged her for reading material and homework on anything she thought would help me. I needed answers.

I told her one day as I arrived with my homework in hand that I wanted to stop writing my memoir and focus solely on the grieving process and heal this shit once and for all. She smiled and let me tell her what I thought I needed as she sat quietly with her hands folded in her lap.

Oh, how funny that is to me now.

And I did stop writing my memoir. For a while. I had to. I was advised to stop when I started to stutter in counseling as I did in childhood as I sat and talked about what had hurt me. I was reeling with emotions I had buried for four decades. I had to get out of the tailspin I was in and regroup and refuel.

So, with some time and a few months worth of sessions under our belts, my counselor led me to the conclusion that within the rubble of my despair I wanted to put aside, lay the rubies and diamonds I needed for the long haul. I needed to put “that” together with “this” and tether it together somehow into a meaningful life. I had to integrate what I was learning there, with where I had been, and where I saw myself going. I had to stop compartmentalizing. I had to stop disassociating. Wounded child by night. Extra Super Do-Gooder by day. She reminded me that letting the dream of writing my book go in order to process yet another discard would only hurt me and stop any progress I had made in my self-discovery and recovery of my strength. So, with her encouragement, I decided to use the pain of my mother’s discard as fuel for my journey to write Steel Town Girl. 

Grieving the death of parents and a sibling while they’re still alive is a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s confusing grief. Even this far out. Even with writing a childhood memoir about it, it’s still a muddy pit of despair I have to dig through alone, sometimes daily, in order to survive.

I find myself asking, “What is this I’ve found? Why does it feel this way? Is this mine, or does it belong to someone else?” I’ve definitely found some jewels to keep, but I’ve found a lot of rocks I had to throw back in.

It hurts to be rejected by the very people who made us. How do we trust others in a world like that? How do we learn to love others with role models like that? How do we believe in a god after being handed this lot in life to carry? 

The answer is, “I don’t know?” My question is: “What else can we do?”

With the tools I was given in counseling, I now know that healing this abuse pattern is a lifelong journey, not something we do once and we’re done. Just knowing that provides a sort of acceptance I didn’t have before. We will grieve now, and grieve again at the time of our parents ‘actual’ death and at various points in between. There’s no way around it, really.

Another tool I was given that has proven to be invaluable in feeling your way through the convoluted mess that is the narcissistic abuse cycle of idealization, devaluation, and discard is trusting yourself and your intuition regardless of what others tell you. If you feel abused, you are. If someone tells you otherwise, ask yourself if they could, in fact, be one of your abusers. 

Turns out, that once you know about this spectrum, you see it everywhere; some people in your life will be high on the spectrum and will be unreachable, while others will only have traits. But, you’ll be delighted when you’re able to go back and see old behaviors and people with new eyes. You’ll see why those old friendships crumbled and people left your life. Hint: You’re growing, they are not.

Somedays I think I’m closer to healing than ever before. I’ll feel like a snake that’s shed its old skin and I’m ready to take on the world. Other days I can barely breathe from the black pit of sorrow that still lurks in my chest. 

I am not the same person I was when I started this memoir writing journey. And, if writing my memoir has taught me anything about myself it’s this: 

I’ve done a lot of grieving in my lifetime. And I’ve done most of it alone. And I’m still sifting through. A day at a time.

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Looking for rubies and diamonds