Kim D. Bailey gives us letters of encouragement in her column this week check it!
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
“My oldest child, Zach, had also been born as a girl to me. We named her Amanda Margaret Renee Lee. When “Mandi” was 10 she told me she was gay. I was okay, a little shaken up but really okay. Ten years later she told me she was going to start the process to transgender, female to male, and came to me first because, “I know you will be the most understanding and I need your support when I tell everyone else.” ‘
Kim D Bailey celebrates her son’s 21st today on #BTLOS
It’s one of those checkpoints of life: New Year’s Day.
Sometimes we make resolutions, aspiring to make goals out of dreams.
Other times, we swear off such lofty notions and go to our curmudgeonly corners, scoffing at others while we secretly wish we had hope.
I struggle between the two and, in the past, depending on how my life has gone thus far, I waver between hope and hopelessness.
2016 was not my most stellar moment in regards to my personal life, relationships with some people I desperately tried to hold on to, or in my ability to make money.
I’ve also grieved the election results, going through all but the last of the five stages–acceptance. I’ve settled somewhere between Resist and Rest, and have made it my goal to speak to the truth whether anyone likes it or not. I won’t win any popularity contests…but when have I ever sought to be loved by the masses? The answer to that is: NEVER. There are a few I still yearn to be loved by, but I continue to wait and hope.
However, 2016 began on January 1st with my first publication, a featured short story and a poem, in Firefly Magazine.
I was given the gift of a weekly column by Breaking the Legacy of Silence by Kim D. Bailey at Five 2 One Magazine in June. I’ve been published in several online journals and two print journals, and I was nominated for the Pushcart Prize by my amazing friends, family, and other writers when I was shortlisted by The Scarlet Leaf Review September 2016, with my nonfiction piece about confronting the man who molested me when I was 11-years-old, “I Took It Back.”
Firefly completed my astounding first year of publication by accepting a sequel to the short story from Issue 3 (above), in Issue 8, and closing out a successful year.
Other good things happened.
I met some exceptional people and formed beautiful relationships with a few.
I attended my first writerly conference in September, where one of my more fruitful relationships blossomed into a familial bond when S.C. McCole and I attended Jeff Goins’s Tribe Conference. He has become like a brother to me, and is the founder of Moby’s Mob.
I learned to love myself. As my other dear friend and fellow writer told me, “Look in the mirror, every day, and say, ‘I love you.'” James Stack. This waxed Al Franken from Saturday Night Live, but I tried it. It works!
Finally, I came out. After 50 years I admitted to myself, and the world, that I am attracted to women. Some of the younger generation out there don’t see coming out as a necessity, but for an old lesbian like me, it was a pivotal moment. It was a step I needed to definitively take in the demarcation of my life, the before and after (Look for my first column of the year with Five 2 One Magazine, on January 7th, where I shall expound further on the business of coming out and the prejudices the LGBTQ community still face.)
For now, I hope you’ll enjoy this song from Mary Chapin Carpenter’s album, Ashes and Roses.
Listen to the words. Her story of how the song was created is especially important.
“I dwell in possibilities/on New Year’s Day…”
Join Kim Bailey Deal for a trip down memory lane as she remembers her father in this week’s Breaking the Legacy of Silence.
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
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.
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.
I’m back with a Sunday Songs segment!
Today, I’m sharing a video of my all-time favorite singer-songwriter…yes, you guessed it…Mary Chapin Carpenter.
This song is from her latest album, The Things That We Are Made Of, Copywrite Mary Chapin Carpenter, 2016.
In The Blue Distance is a song that resonates with me. When I first listened to the words, I immediately thought of my son, Wesley.
No matter what, even when far away, I’ve known he has an understanding and compassion for me as his mother. His love is unconditional. It has always been so.
So today, I dedicate my Sunday Songs segment to Coach Wes. He’s an inspiration to many, but for me, he was a lifesaver from the day he was born.
As he’s grown into a respected and respectful man, coach, and husband, Wesley has never lost sight of what is more important in this life–love.
He operates with this concept in mind, no matter the situation. His love of basketball, his players, his dogs and cat, his family, his mom, his dad, his siblings, and his beautiful wife.
May we all be more like him, putting love above all else when the going gets tough.
Thank you, son.
The Blue Distance
Across the railroad tracks, down the gravel road
headlights throw a beam on the way back home
lie down, lie down, listen wide awake
to the trains that roll, to the sound time makes
It passes through the air like a summer storm
catching on my sleeve like a roses thorn
sometimes it whispers, sometimes it roars
flies like the wind, waits by the door
And I know you know and that’s all I need
When the light of day looks like night to me
When you’re far away and I’m all alone
I can’t explain, I know you know
It fills up my chest, it fills up my eyes
like an old glass jar filled with fireflies
sometimes I’m still, sometimes I sigh
sometimes I’m lost and I don’t know why
But I know you know and that’s all I need
When the light of day looks like night to me
When you’re far away and I’m all alone
I can’t explain, I know you know
In the morning light, before the heat sets in
call the dogs to run where the shade has been
across the railroad tracks lay your silver down
find it smooth and flat, stars for your crown
In the blue distance where our lives unfurl
at the edges of the sky, the beauty of the world
I know you know and that’s all I need
When the light of day looks like night to me
When we’re far away and we’re all alone
I can’t explain, I know you know
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.