Guest Post: A Cycle Broken, A Life Redeemed

S is a friend of mine from high school.  She is a business owner and a mother of two boys.  This is her truth.

Sometimes the reality of my new life slaps me in the face like the midnight autumn air currently engulfing my city.  The breeze is a rarity in this part of the world; with the windows open I stare back at the blackness and it stirs my soul, bringing a smile to my face.

This is not a moment of sorrow—it’s a wakeup call—a chance to remember that God in His sweet grace makes all things new.

On paper my life looks like this: I am a divorced, single mother of two biracial boys, one of  whom is adopted, who owns a newly launched business that requires my full dedication.

Immediately following my divorce I was determined to be a strong, independent single mother and prove to the world that I was better than my tainted marriage. I sought the redemption I craved in financial success, but I crumbled under the pressure of trying to prove I was good enough. Praise God that in His mercy He rescued me from myself. He used years of infidelity and divorce to meticulously level my eyes to see Him again.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy.

THE LIFE MARATHON

Just a few years ago, a light mist fell over San Francisco as my best friend and I completed the 13th mile of our first half-marathon. T was fiercely battling Stage 4 blood cancer and was a keynote speaker at the Nike Women’s Marathon. For months, we trained for that day and in the final stretch of the race, tears flowed down our faces as we victoriously raised our arms in celebration!

It was a storybook ending, a moment when impending death collides with life, and the memory is forever etched in our hearts. Next to having children, it was one of my greatest life accomplishments yet, to finish something I had not even imagined doing four months prior or ever in my wildest imagination!

After the tears, hugs and photos, I reached for my phone and dialed the one person I desired to talk to the most—my husband.

By now, the rain mixed with sweat caused me to shiver, but utter joy and adrenaline pumped through my veins. I huddled under blankets and when I reached my husband he quickly answered.

Except—all I heard was crickets.

No “Great job!”  No “I’m so proud!”  No “Your hard work paid off!”  NOTHING!  I was devastated, but this feeling was not unfamiliar.  In fact, I knew it all too well.

Ok, in his defense I was states away, he was caring for our boys alone, he was overwhelmed and maybe even jealous that I was on a “girls trip” with my best friend as we completed a huge task on her bucket list together as she fought stage 4 cancer.  But Crickets, really?! I let it pass as I did so many times before.

It couldn’t have been more devastating, but it had always been this way.  From the day I met him I knew it. I knew in my heart before I ever married him.  I fought it.  I denied it. I rationalized and made excuses. I saw his pattern and choices, but all I could feel was my deep, consuming insecurity.  Seeing through the haze of my past pain, hurt, and abuse, I thought he was the best I could ever find.  I couldn’t let him go.  I would never find any man who would ever love me, accept me, and make a life with me.  So I married him.

I was still running on adrenaline from the race in San Francisco when I returned home and immediately partnered with Living Water International so I could raise money and have the opportunity to run the half Marathon in January 2011. The race is usually a lottery so raising money was my only opportunity to run.  I was determined to run that race! Fast forward to actually doing hardcore training this time, busting it in my sales career to earn a sales incentive trip for less than 100 sales consultants nationwide, all the while striving to be Supermom and Superwife every day.  I wanted it all for my family, my boys, and my husband, but it was never enough for my husband.  While I was trying to create the “all-American” family, he had other plans including years of unemployment, habitual betrayal and adultery, and habits I never imagined as a 5 year old girl dreaming of my prince charming and the sweet family that would be my future.

On the day of the race, my parents were cheering me on loud and clear at mile 4 or 5, and  I was thrilled.  My cousin ran every step of the way with me and I couldn’t have finished it without her.  I crossed the finish line and was literally running the last steps as fast as possible to see the faces of my sweet 3 and 6 year old boys and my husband…but they were nowhere to be found. Again, crickets.  Waiting to get to my belongings and ultimately my phone, felt like centuries.  Where were they? What could have stopped them from being there to give me a high five and a hug after I crossed that finish line? I wanted so much to share my celebration with them.  Devastated, in tears, and wanting to run away from life as fast as I could, I heard my husband over the phone say that he couldn’t find a parking spot close enough so he took our boys out to breakfast instead. Breakfast. Eggs. OJ. Denny’s. What?! Not meeting me as I finished my 2nd half marathon in our city, with absolutely nothing stopping him from being there with our boys to celebrate one of the biggest achievements of my life? To show those boys what can be accomplished with hard work and to see how amazing it feels?? NO. Nothing. No remorse, no sympathy. Nothing. Just couldn’t find a close enough parking spot.

That was THE moment.  That was it.  I knew in my heart I couldn’t do it anymore.  I knew I was enough.  After years of making excuses for him, rationalizing with myself and burying the pain of the adultery, the laziness, and the lies, I was done. I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t allow my boys to learn and make the same decisions as their father.  They had already realized Dad was out at night and then not at home in the morning. They had already realized he spent his days on the couch not working.  But that fateful day of the race…that was the day.  What could have been an unbelievable memory for all of us became a heartbreaking memory for me and no memory for my boys at all.

DESPERATE FOR A CHANGE

So back to that cool, crisp breeze on my skin as I finished my workload for the day.  We have a new life, a refreshing, crisp life. We are genuinely happy and although it is not perfect by any means I appreciate every day, every opportunity, and every chance we have to grow.  My soul shines bright, my smile is finally genuine and I know I made a step in the right direction to break the cycle… the cycle I swore I would never enter into and he promised would never be a part of our lives. The cycle that taints families all over the world. The cycle that turns a happy newlywed, into a broken mother and eventually a bitter, angry empty nester.  I took a stand for myself and my boys.

The last few years have been difficult and life changing for us with a new neighborhood, a new house, a new school, a new church, new car, new furniture, new friends and everything else new that comes with a divorce and starting a new life, BUT I know in my heart that one day my boys will appreciate it and realize that their mama stood up for herself and ultimately for them. I broke the cycle.

It is my hope that I broke a cycle of choices and patterns that I never wanted my boys to learn or even be exposed to. It is my hope that the broken cycle will allow them to love deeper, discern smarter, and see past the destruction of divorce and to the true love that life has to offer.  Life can be redeemed and our life has been redeemed… beyond anything than I could have ever imagined. We have new friends that love us like family, and I own a business that allows me to work from home and catch every memory.

For that I am forever grateful.

Tip of the hat to you, my friend.  You are stronger than you know.

Tip of the hat to you, my friend. You are stronger than you know.

 

Parenting in Action: Accidental Parenting

Sometimes, the greatest discoveries happen at the hands of completely accidental ineptitude. Alexander Fleming was basically a brilliant slob who discovered penicillin because his petri dishes were dirty.  Thanks, pig! Christopher Columbus brought about the European colonization of the Americas (for better or worse) by totally cocking up an exploratory voyage to Asia.  Good for you, bonehead!  And then there’s Daddyo and me, who finally made and implemented a decision on how to night wean our boy by forgetting to turn the baby monitor on. Well done, morons!

Boyo is nine months old  and until three weeks ago, was still waking up multiple times in the night.  Daddyo and I took turns going to soothe him, trying not to pick him up, trying to stick to a 60 second lullaby or shushing and a couple of thumps on the back (something I’m glad I don’t have to do in front of anyone, because truly, my boy likes a good, solid, are-you-sure-about-this thump.  A gentle pat simply won’t do.)  Good intentions must thrive on sunlight, because in the middle of the night, resolve dissolves into a desperation to do whatever it takes to just get back to sleep.  Having made the decision that our bed is ours and his bed is his, we never bring the baby in to sleep with us, but more than a few nights were spent on the couch or in the guest bed, just trying to rustle up a few more zzz’s for everyone.  Nighttime can be brutal.

My friend CE, whose son is almost exactly a year older than Boyo, told me once that it is her belief that every single challenge of early parenting has its roots in sleep deprivation.  I think she’s right.  It really is the insidious source of the woeful whitewaters of new parenthood that we are all navigating, trying desperately to keep our little craft upright.  Not having enough sleep shortens fuses, sucks energy, and dims the light of hope that hard days won’t turn into hard weeks and months and lives.  Sleep is the great equalizer and without enough of it, the delicate internal balance that new parenthood requires is incredibly elusive, turning even the most confident mother into a blithering, blubbering bewildered mess.  Nine months of doing the best we could without the most important tool in our arsenal was quite enough.  Daddyo and I decided we would have to book a padded room in the local nuthouse or else we had to take back the night.

As a first step in Operation Take Back the Night, we did some basic research into sleep training methods.  We read about progressive waiting and rapid extinction and were leaning towards progressive waiting, because to be totally honest, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around simply putting Boyo to bed and not going back in until morning.  (Plus, seriously?  It’s called rapid extinction??  Come on.)  So, okay, we had a rough plan and a weekend picked out to put it into action.  Go us!

Yeah, go us.  Friday morning dawned and at the first flutter of my heavy eyelids, I realized our bedroom was far too bright considering it was the first time I had tasted consciousness since passing out the night before.  The clock read 5:05.  I jumped.

Daddyo: [sleepily] You okay?

Me:  It’s 5:05.  Did you get up with the baby in the night?

Daddyo:  Um, no.  Did you?

Me:  No.

Daddyo:  Huh.

Me:  Yeah.

[A pause while we considered whether it was too early to dance a jig of glee.]

Me:  We better go see if he’s alive.

He was!  Alive and still asleep.  A miracle!  Our boy had slept through the night on his own just a single day before we were to implement Operation Take Back the Night.  Just as we began to clap each other on the back for having such a brilliant baby, we realized we hadn’t turned on the monitor in our room before we fell asleep.  We had accidentally employed rapid extinction and left Boyo to work out his nighttime issues on his own.  And apparently, he had.  Knowing that the method of sleep training is not as important as committing to it once it is employed, we scrapped the progressive waiting plan and focused our energy on allowing Boyo the time and solitude to soothe himself back to sleep.  We did that by keeping the monitor off and putting our faith in the universe that our boy would be safe and rested when we woke.  Instead of a weekend of slogging through the nighttime doubting of daytime intentions, we slept, greedily and solidly and without incident.

That was three weeks ago.  We haven’t turned the monitor on at night since and I have slept more in this time than I have in over a year.  I drank in great gulps of sleep, going to bed earlier and earlier until I finally said to myself, “If you go to bed before 7:30 again, the Retirement Police are gonna knock on your door and drag you off to Shady Acres.”  I couldn’t get enough and I was surprised to find that even with all that extra sleep, I still wasn’t waking as refreshed or feeling as though I had slept enough.  I suppose when you are as deep in a sleepless hole as a new mother is, it takes a while to climb back out of it.

Our accidental parenting victory was not without its emotional fallout, however.  I had some pretty serious guilt to sit with and sift through.  I had a hard time not knowing what kind of night Boyo was having, imagining him spending tearful hours wondering why his mother had abandoned him, alone and in the dark while she selfishly and carelessly slept. Even in the face of a parenting victory, I felt like a failure.  And worse than that, I felt like a cruel and selfish mother.  Even when my dutiful head tried to talk some sense into my discomfited heart, it couldn’t find words powerful enough to break the spell of guilt.    Once my guilty heart started to interfere with my newfound sleep, I reached out. My girlfriend KUD (who along with a handful of other mother friends are partially responsible for my still being sane and Boyo still being alive) talked me off the ledge, reminding me that although no mother is perfect, I am the perfect mother for my child.  No one else could mother Boyo better than I because he is mine and I am his.  What works for me is what works for him. Her reassurances helped me realize that I am simply putting my own oxygen mask on first, and as I have committed to doing just that for the entirety of my motherhood, I let go of the guilt.

Boyo sleeps for close to twelve hours now, and Daddyo and I sleep close to eight.  My guilt has receded, my patience is restoring, and my energy is waxing like a harvest moon.  We took back the night and we are flourishing.  All of us.  Sometimes, even we new parents get it right.

Even if it’s completely accidental.

Sometimes, the key to feeling successful is nice, low expectations. :-)

Sometimes, the key to feeling successful is nice, low expectations. 🙂