The Art of Letting Go

I wrote this one in June 2013, out of reaction to some situations where the art had not been perfected.

My former father-in-law used to have a saying. “Love and hate are two sides of the same coin.”

He often said this to me after his son and I had gone our separate ways. I clearly remember one particular visit, when I went to pick up my oldest child in Tulsa. It was the custom for my ex-husband and me to meet at his parent’s home when it was time to exchange our child for visitation, etc. I had remarried and we were living about an hour north of Tulsa, where my second husband worked and I stayed home with our children.

During this particular visit, when I had my other two small children with me, who were probably around ages four and five, he said this to me again. “Love and hate are two sides of the same coin, Kim.”

My former in-laws were always kind and respectful toward me, as I was to them. However, I still held some animosity toward their son for his decision to divorce me so soon after we married and had a child. To make matters worse, he had a new woman in his life who would often accompany him during these exchanges. Her arrival only increased the tension and I often found myself upset, angry and hurt, and resentful. I won’t go into the details here, but there was a clear lack of boundaries with her and a lack of respect for me. Anytime we were in the vicinity of one another, I watched every move my ex made, despite my continual declarations that I had no residual feelings for this man who, in my view, had completely broken my heart and shattered all of the dreams I held.

My ex father-in-law was an observant and wise man. He was a psychiatrist for the Veterans Administration and he rarely had a lot to say in most situations. However, when he did speak, it was something profound and thought-provoking. He was probably the first person I knew who encouraged me to find my own voice and set boundaries, in his subtle and observant way, of course. I was young and naïve and I had very little understanding of boundaries and expressing myself. I kept most of my thoughts and feelings pent up inside. If they did emerge, they were a jumble of disorganized thought or a storm of emotion. I could not effectively communicate them and I know most people could not understand. Still, Dr. Lee made attempts to show me where I needed to work on saying, “No” and to express myself to others, my needs and my thoughts, not only looking to them for theirs and going by what I thought would make them happy or to keep the peace.

He came to me in their spacious kitchen as I was having a bit of a mental tussle with his son. I was standing at the sink. I remember it like it happened just a few minutes ago. I was upset, twisted up inside. My ex wanted to take our child a few days earlier than we had agreed upon. I was not especially happy with this turn of events because I already had plans for those days for all of my children to do something together.

I said, “I want our kid to spend time with his brother and sister, too.”

My ex-husband’s snide remark was, “Well, they really are only half-siblings. A couple of days won’t make a difference.”

He then walked off towards his new woman, and both of them had a smug look on their face. I turned toward the window above the kitchen sink. The stress of confrontation was too much for me—in fact, this character trait remains today. Dr. Lee came to my side. He was gentle but direct.

“The ball is in your court, Kim. What do YOU want to do?” He looked into my eyes and I felt myself cringe from the indecision, but I found strength in his inquiry.

“I want to keep my son as we planned. If his dad wants to do something, he can do it on his time.” I answered, looking at Dr. Lee as I spoke.

“It’s settled then.” He replied. He then turned and walked away.

I looked toward my ex to see his reaction, but he was ignoring me, or so I thought. I thanked his parents and left, wondering what he was saying behind my back, wondering if he had any compassion at all towards me anymore, or if this was how it was going to be every time we met to exchange our child for visits.

Inside I was a jumble of emotion. I was so angry. My ex should have understood my wishes and been respectful of our agreement, right? I gathered my kids and we drove home. I fumed as my children talked and giggled in the back of the van. I kept thinking about what I could have said differently, or what my ex should have done differently. I felt guilty for asserting my decision and expressing my own wishes. I played that scene, and many others involving my ex, over and over in my mind. In short, I was a mess.

It took me a long, long time to understand that I was allowing this person to continue to have power over me—to control my thoughts and feelings, and even have an effect on the quality of time I spent with our son, and even my other children. Furthermore, I allowed him to come between my second husband and myself. My feelings towards my ex, whether they were love or hate, regret, bitterness, resentment or anger, or guilt—were keeping me connected to a man who never loved me as I should have been loved and who had broken our vows and betrayed my trust more than once. When we first separated, he could often be heard saying, “Let’s remain friends.” Such a concept can be a slippery slope, though. The word “friend” can be misinterpreted or misused by one or both. I thought it meant that there was some hope for our relationship and we may actually get back together. In actuality, it was my first husband’s way of getting what he wanted from me and there was nothing reciprocal about it. I was clinging to the idea of “what could or should have been” in my mind, and to a person who had no respect at all for me as a human being, a woman, a wife or a mother.

Unfortunately, I did not completely learn this lesson until well after my third marriage ended in divorce and after having my fourth child. Several more years passed as I was alone, or in intermittent and terrible relationships, as I continued to allow him and others to have power over my thoughts and feelings.

My second husband, Thomas, and I went on to divorce as well. I remarried and had a child, and soon divorced from him, too. We all lived within minutes of one another in the same small city north of Tulsa for many years, doing our best to be a father and mother to our children, though separately of course. Even years after my second husband and I divorced, we got along and made sure our kids were the focus. For the most part, with a few misunderstandings along the way, we kept our own personal business out of it and did not burden our kids with our junk or confuse them with inappropriate contact. They knew, and had accepted, that their dad and I were divorced and there was no going back. Mutual respect was probably the most prominent theme for us.

Unfortunately, it did not go as well with my third husband. There were many years of fighting and bitterness with that individual, with some dire consequences.

One day, as Thomas and I were finishing up after having made plans for our daughter to go off to college, we took our dogs for a walk. Let me tell you, I had carried a lot of guilt over this relationship. I had not honored him as a person by marrying him and still being so connected and enmeshed in my former relationship with my first husband. I had broken my promise to him and broken our lives apart. I then married someone else, whom I had no business marrying.

I was feeling some angst about it and I finally decided to ask Thomas how he was doing with all of it. We had been divorced for several years and he had never remarried. Despite not being in love with him, I did care about him as a person and as the father of my kids.

Thomas’ reaction surprised me. He was also a man of few words, like my former father-in-law, and I didn’t expect him to say much at all.

“Well, at the end of the day Kim, you just have to let it all go.” Then he smiled at me and we walked our dogs back to his house, and I went home, feeling a peace I had not felt in many years.

Now, this is where the revelation appears.

My connectedness to my ex-husbands was always, for me, about the kids. But I didn’t realize that I also kept a connection with each of them, even my youngest child’s dad, with some kind of emotion: resentment, guilt and hate being the top three for each of them, respectively. I let the connection I held with each one of them affect my thoughts, and inevitably, my actions and my reactions.

I finally became completely disconnected from all three of them, emotionally and mentally, after I moved away from Oklahoma for good and began to live my life on my own terms. I no longer looked to any of them for any approval, forgiveness, understanding, or compassion. I no longer expected them to care about me or my thoughts or feelings. I no longer wanted them or a connection to them…for anything at all.

The evidence of this was made clear recently when my husband, John, and I went to Oklahoma to my youngest child’s graduation. Three of my children were present, as well as my ex, the father of the graduate. His presence, though somewhat awkward, did not hold the kind of power over my mind and emotions that it had once held. I wasn’t fuming inwardly that he was there. I wasn’t mentally imagining the things I wish I could say to him for all the injuries, real or imagined that he had perpetrated on me. I just didn’t think about him at all. We had a nice graduation dinner with the kids, attended the graduation, and enjoyed ourselves despite his presence. It was peaceful…and I realized I was finally free of the bondage of my old ways. I was civil towards him, but I mostly just didn’t notice he was there, and focused on my kids, whom I rarely see. It was a very good visit.

We often think when we divorce or a relationship ends that we have let go. We move on. We re-marry, have more children, and go on with our lives. However, when we cannot be in the vicinity of that other person without letting him or her affect our thinking and emotions, our actions or inaction, we have not let go and we are not disconnected from them. In fact, we are enslaved by our connection to them. It can corrupt our current relationships, take away from our time with our children or later on, grandchildren, and further degrade our own sense of self. Sometimes we turn to our former partners in times of loneliness, for a familiar touch, only to find that the lack of true love and kindness remains. They will never see us as we should be seen, accept us, build us up, or honor us. Nor will they ever love us as we should be loved, unconditionally, with respect, kindness and compassion.

The art of letting go is simple, but we make it difficult and complex. We must truly cut the ties. We must burn the bridges. We must be willing to let go of what might have been and the grief of a dream lost, or the guilt from leaving, or the expectations we place on how it should be now, or the hate or anger we feel towards that person for what they did to us. It is the only way we find true healing and peace, and it is the only way we can fully embrace the here and now and those in our lives who love us the way we deserved to be loved all along.

© Kim Deal
June 14, 2014

Breaking the Legacy of Silence #34 For Parents, Family, and Friends of LGBTQ/Non-binary/Gender Fluid Individuals: Part 2 How to Effectively Support Your Loved One When They Are Facing Community Social, Political, Economical, and Religious Biases | Column | Kim D. Bailey | FIVE:2:ONE

“It’s in our relationship to God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Adonai, The Holy Spirit, Wisdom, Great Spirit, Mother Creation, or a Higher Power. Some agnostics or atheists may have their own views and names. That’s okay. The point is, it’s the relationship with such a power, others, and ourselves that bears out our legacy. If our relationships aren’t healthy, nothing else can be. So, we must start there. Whether it’s in church, synagogue, temple, a mosque, a sweat lodge, a vision quest, or meditation—we reach others by reaching the essence of our being. That essence is love. Even in the Christian Bible, the Torah, the Quran—all Word comes down to the relationships we have, not self-righteousness.”

Kim D Bailey talks more about parents and the LGBTQ community in the second part of her 5 part series.

Breaking the Legacy Of Silence # 33 For Parents, Family, and Friends of LGBTQ, Non-Binary/Gender Fluid Individuals, Part 1: When Your Child Comes Out to You as Transgender | FIVE:2:ONE

Breaking the Legacy of Silence #18 I Thought of You Today | Kim Bailey Deal | Five 2 One Magazine 

Join Kim Bailey Deal for a trip down memory lane as she remembers her father in this week’s Breaking the Legacy of Silence.

Sunday Songs: This Is Love, by Mary Chapin Carpenter

If you ever need to hear a voice in the middle of the night
When it seems so black outside that you can’t remember
Light ever shone on you or the ones you love in this or another lifetime


Two years.

A moment, and a lifetime.

On this day two years ago, my youngest two children disowned me. Their reasons are their own, and I have given up trying to understand them.

I have also let go of the guilt that their reasons are possibly all my fault, because they are not, at least not entirely.

Yes, I’ve had something to contribute to their cold indifference and righteous anger, but in the end, their refusal to acknowledge and respect me as their mother is completely on them as they are grown adults. They continue their estrangement knowing full well there are other options, and knowing I am utterly transparent in my remorse and regret for all things I did to hurt them.

What remains, however, is grief. A grief so pure, so all-consuming at times, that for the most part there are no words or reprieve.

My husband has held me countless times as I have broken down and cried without any explanation. I have sobbed alone in the car, the shower, into my pillow, and while looking at photos of them as children and young adults.

Still, I have carried on with my life to fulfill my purpose as a crafter of words, with some small success, and I remind myself each day to remain grateful for my other two children, family, and friends.

That said, what does a mother do with her grief in such circumstances?

I know I am not alone. I’ve heard from many who have read my blog and know my story that there are other moms and dads out there whose children have severed relationship. They have probably heard all the inept responses and platitudes I have experienced. No one can speak to such a situation unless they’ve been there, and that is okay. There are many situations I have no idea how to speak to as I have not gone through them. None of that matters.

What matters is that in our grief, we are able to express it in healthy ways so we can heal. While there are wounds that seemingly never heal, there are times when we can have some relief from the pain.

As a breaker of silence, I refuse to withhold all of my thoughts and feelings just to keep others comfortable. Believe me, I tried that for years, and did more harm than good.

I developed an eating disorder in my mid-teens. Stuffing my face with food, then purging it, and often denying myself food at all. A cycle I repeated over and over, until I felt numb and disconnected. Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, compulsive overeating—they are not unlike drinking, taking drugs, gambling, sex and relationship addiction, or any other kind of mood-altering activity. The subconscious and overarching goal is not to feel. I was all at once an expert and a complete failure in that regard.

This week has been hard. While I learned that my cousin passed away after a two-year battle with liver cancer, I also held my breath, anxious and melancholy, anticipating this day. Add to that so many other complications of life such as disease in family members and friends, deaths, my own health issues that have forced me to accept some physical and emotional limitations, reality has been hard to swallow.

Rather than stuff it all down, and ultimately either restrict the food my body needs or start a binge and purge cycle that mimics how I ultimately suppress and express my feelings, I did something else.

I wept.

After my tears began to subside, I began putting words to paper. At this point, bleeding on paper and on this keyboard are my only healthy alternatives. I cannot succumb to my former impulses to numb out with unhealthy eating practices, depression or anxiety. Nor can I put on my Nike’s and run, seeking isolation or another world, as I’ve been known to do.

No, here and now, I have to be present in the moment and let the pain wash through me and onto the page. I have to let others know they are not alone. I have to remind myself that despite my broken heart, I still have something of value to contribute to this world.

Rejection and abandonment used to be the mainstays of my life dynamic. I pushed people away and built massive walls to keep them out so they wouldn’t hurt me by leaving me, or realize they didn’t want me in the first place. Perhaps this is what my children are mired in right now. I really do not know. However, I do know the pain of that place, and I hope they learn faster than I did.

Meanwhile, in this moment, all I can do is love myself and remember I am loved by others. How I express that is here, in my words, as a declaration of strength in the weakest moments, and a promise that we don’t have to be disconnected and alone.

It’s our choice.

So, for anyone who may be grieving for something or someone lost, or who may be mired in anger, resentment and disconnection, here is my voice and my hand. May they speak to you, and comfort you.

This Is Love by Mary Chapin Carpenter with lyrics, Rounder Records 1994




Breaking the Legacy of Silience # 6: Bailey Strong

From where do you draw your strength? Here is my latest column, an intimate look at where my strength comes from and how I’ve overcome the obstacles in my way to find it.

Sunday Songs

Today I’m sharing a song by Mike + The Mechanics, titled The Living Years.

Source Wikipedia

For those who may not remember or be familiar with the song, it speaks to a son’s regret for not having been closer to his father and for holding resentments and keeping distance from him, and realizing this was a mistake after his father passed away. He’s still young, and has children of his own, when his father dies. 

This song resonated with me from the moment I heard it when it was released back in 1988. My own father had passed away in May of that year at age 41, and I was a young woman age 21 with a new baby. My dad and I had been somewhat estranged because of so much resentment I held about his leaving us when I was 13-years-old, and other difficult occcurences that my young mind had trouble processing, much less forgiving. 

I wasn’t there when he died. He lived near St. Petersburg, FL and I was in Oklahoma. His death left me with grief so complicated it took years–nearly a quarter of a century–to come to some place of peace, and to forgive myself and to forgive him.

I implore you, don’t wait. If you are at odds with someone–your parents, children, siblings, other family, or friends–rise above it and tell them you love them anyway. 

My beautiful daughter and handsome son. I miss them.

It truly is too late to do so when we die.

You can listen to and watch the YouTube video Here

The Living Years

Every generation

Blames the one before

And all of their frustrations

Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner

To all my Father held so dear

I know that I’m a hostage

To all his hopes and fears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper

Filled with imperfect thoughts

Stilted conversations

I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it

He says it’s perfect sense

You just can’t get agreement

In this present tense

We all talk a different language

Talking in defense 


Say it loud, say it clear

You can listen as well as you hear

It’s too late when we die

To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel

Between the present and the past

We only sacrifice the future

It’s the bitterness that lasts

So Don’t yield to the fortunes

You sometimes see as fate

It may have a new perspective

On a different day

And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in

You may just be OK.

Say it loud, say it clear

You can listen as well as you hear

It’s too late when we die

To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning

When my Father passed away

I didn’t get to tell him

All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit

Later that same year

I’m sure I heard his echo

In my baby’s new born tears

I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear

You can listen as well as you hear

It’s too late when we die

To admit we don’t see eye to eye