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 #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.

http://five2onemagazine.com/breaking-the-legacy-of-silence-18-i-thought-of-you-today-kim-bailey-deal/

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

 

 

 

Some Poetry

I’m sharing a couple of my previously published and/or contest winning poems with you today. I hope you enjoy them.

“Spirit Awakening” won first place in the Bartlesville Library contest in 1994, and was published by Firefly Magazine on January 1, 2016, in their 3rd issue.

“Mother” won second place in the Bartlesville Library contest in 1995 and this is the first publication of this poem, here on my blog.

 

 

Spirit Awakening

 

Drums are beating

from ancient places

as I open my eyes

to the filtered light

of a new day.

 

Chants are echoing

from ancient places

as I make hot water

turn black and smell

good this morning.

 

Tears are pouring

from ancient places—

my heart pounds painfully

as I try to remember

what my spirit

could never forget.

 

Beating-beating

drums, beating

air from Father Sky

fills my lungs

as ancient places

surround me

with light and open spaces.

Feet are stomping

from ancient places

from Mother Earth

the dust rises in a cloud

to cover my skin

brown and red.

 

Dancing to the drums

singing the song

I have always known,

my spirit is born

my teeth

honed.

 

September 1994 by Kim Bailey Deal

 

Processed with MOLDIV

Processed with MOLDIV

 

Mother

 

She is the Dancer delighting,

celebrating God’s creation

as she moves swollen-bellied in the nest,

preparing the home for birth

cleaning, arranging, waiting

for her seed to spring from earth.

 

She is the Wisdom Woman,

who at the right hand of God

now sits once man incarnate,

flooding the void of men and women

nurturing the spirits of babes

with blood, milk and skin.

 

She is the souls of children

rocking in their mother’s arms

listening to poems about stars and moons,

drifting on songs and lullabies,

carried to bed in oblivion

spied in the night by watchful eyes.

 

She is the bread of strength;

producer of life, enduring death,

blood and sweat drip from her brow

as she asserts her place with men

often feeling frail and forsaken

as on the Cross back then.

 

She is leather-faced and gray,

black-eyed in her golden years

rocking in solitude in quiet rooms

left with faint smells of young hair and skin

resting in the memory of exhaustion

laughter and lullabies, fiery men.

 

She is Mother Creation

crying in rains, rivers and seas,

laughing in the dancing leaves,

howling in the wind of winter.

A fortress for ailing spirits

though scarred by the Tree of Life

from which her bones yet splinter.

 

October 1994 by Kim Bailey Deal

 

 

 

Sunday Songs

I missed last Sunday, but this week’s Sunday Songs segment will make up for it.

My husband ran across this video, a young lady only 16 years old on America’s Got Talent, performing Rachel Platten’s Fight Song. The video of her performance, posted below, is nearly 9 minutes long. It’s worth your time to watch and listen.

Calysta is a cancer survivor. 

This resonates with us as my husband’s only granddaughter, Katherine, continues to fight for her life after having been diagnosed with a brain tumor (Astrocytoma) two years ago this past April. Katherine will be 13-years-old in August.

Katherine, holding the youngest grandchild, Jaxson, at his first birthday party. April 2016.


At the moment, Katherine is not cancer-free. She continues chemo treatment and regular visits to St. Jude’s where they tell her parents the tumor is still “glowing” but has not grown. 

We continue to hope and pray for a miracle.

One thing is certain. Katherine is a fighter. She’s a strong and tender soul. 

This song is one of my favorites. When it came out last year, I was driving a lot for the job I had at the time.

When I first heard the lyrics, I had to pull over as tears welled up and my body trembled. I sat in a parking lot off of Hixson Pike near NTB Tire and a Krystal, and I wept. 

I have fought my whole life to rise above terrible circumstances, grief, loss, shame, depression, and oppression. 

This song renewed a fire within, sparked a flame that had dwindled to a flicker, which now burns bright. 

Like a Phoenix from the ashes I rise. 

And so do Calysta and Katherine. 


May we all be such brave warriors!

FIGHT SONG–LYRICS:

Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves

Into motion

Like how a single word

Can make a heart open

I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion


And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time?


This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me


Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep

Everybody’s worried about me

In too deep

Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)

And it’s been two years

I miss my home

But there’s a fire burning in my bones

Still believe

Yeah, I still believe


And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time?


This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves

Into motion

Like how a single word

Can make a heart open

I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion


This is my fight song (Hey!)

Take back my life song (Hey!)

Prove I’m alright song (Hey!)

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

No I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

To hear Calysta’s performance and story, click here:

Calysta Bevier, America’s Got Talent, Fight Song (Originally by Rachel Platten published May 19, 2015)

To hear the original song, click here:
Official Video: Rachel Platten, Fight Song (2015)

The Night I Saw Stephen King At The Ryman In Nashville 

Last Saturday, June 11th, my step-daughter and I travelled to Nashville, TN to see Stephen King at the home of he original Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman.


When I learned months ago that this most prominent writer would be within driving distance, I set out to secure tickets as soon as they were available. They went on sale weeks before, and within 90 minutes they were sold out. I had lost all hope as it seemed I wouldn’t get access on the Internet to secure seats, but a writer friend of mine, Di Brown, sent me a private message and suggested I call the Ryman directly.

It was worth a shot. I called and got two tickets, seated apart, with an “obstructed” view. 

But dammit, I had them!

My goal was to get Kim in that building no matter what. King is her favorite author, and I wanted to do this special thing for her. She needed a break from her kids and husband, from being a stay-at-home mom, just to focus on something other than another person’s needs.

The whole trip was exceptional. I was pleasantly surprised how much I was getting out of it.

Kim and I spent our first girl’s day out together in the over three years I have known her. We had a blast. We ate at Cracker Barrel on the way, listened to music, and talked. 


Upon arriving in Nashville, we found a place to park not far from the venue, and started walking down Broadway. That place was hopping!

The heat was crazy, so we slipped into a bar where a live band was performing…none other than country music. We tossed back a couple of drinks and tapped our toes to the beat.

We did the requisite shopping and got some gifts for our husbands and the boys, matching Elvis shades, and contemplated tattoos. But we didn’t have time for the latter. Stephen King was almost ready!

As we parted to go to our separate seats, we kissed each other on the cheek and we waited as he was announced by the events coordinator and introduced by author Donna Tartt.

I don’t know what I expected, maybe nothing, but for the next 80 minutes Mr. King regaled us with stories about his writing and had the audience in stitches. Who knew? The master of “scary” is hilarious!

A couple of things he said stayed with me:

1. Writing a novel is like taking a row boat across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s tough work.

2. The only time I didn’t write every day was after my car accident and I spent a couple of months in the hospital. After that, I started back writing 30 minutes a day and worked my way back up to about four hours a day.

And this one filled my soul down to the marrow:

3. I guess I knew when I wanted to write when I found some old books that belonged to my father in the attic when I was about 9-years-old. One day there is an awakening and you realize, this is what I’m supposed to do. So you must do it.


One final thing will always stay with me, and it was the look on Kim’s face when we walked out of there with his new book, End Of Watch, in our hands. She told two strangers who chatted with us on the way out, “Hey, this is my step-mom and she’s a published author and has her own column!” 


I tell you, that went straight to my heart. It was a healing balm. 

May You Rise From The Ashes

A broken person is a person without hope. People become hopeless and break when they feel defeated by life’s messy ways.

Divorce, death of a loved one, loss of jobs, loss of all we have ever known, loss of a sense of belonging, fear that there will never be anything more than pain and sorrow.

We stay broken when we cannot process our grief and anger or rise above the fear and try to figure out how to go about life another way.
Those who are chained by the expectations of others, society, and their own guilt have a hard time being authentic in each moment. 

Hope, being oneself, courage to live one’s life despite any setbacks are how we become strong at our broken places.

It sounds easy, but it’s hard work. 

And anyone can do it. 

All one has to do is believe.


Put your shoulders back. Stand up straight. Raise your head.

And take that first step toward yourself.

You have waited a long time for this.

She Was My Tiny Dancer

On June 9, 1991 I went to Jane Phillips Memorial Hospital in the early morning hours. I was in labor with my third child, Robin. She finally made her entrance into this world at 11:05 am.

We knew we were expecting a girl. I was anxious from the contractions and the tornadic weather all around us that spring. We had moved to Bartlesville, OK only a couple of months before she was born as my former husband had obtained a job with Phillips 66 at their home offices in that city. 

Being far from my mom was nothing new. My oldest was born in Stillwater, OK nearly five years before. His dad and I divorced after one year of strained co-habitation and another one separated. I moved back to Florida where I had attended high school in Tarpon Springs, but my mom soon left for the other coast, so I followed her–a child myself with a one-year-old baby–and it was there I met my second husband when my mom, sister, and I went dancing one night. 

Robin was welcomed by her oldest brother Zach, who would turn five in less than a month, and her brother Wesley who was eighteen months old. My labor and delivery were seamless. I went home within two days of her birth and settled into my role as mom and wife, taking care of our little family and our home.


Unlike her brothers, Robin was a quiet baby and hardly cried. She sat for hours and studied her environment: the wheels on her walker, the texture of the carpeting, the books she could only grasp with her chubby hands, and the music videos I played for them. 

When she could pull up she stood and watched Sesame Street Sing-A-Long songs, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast, and the Disney Song videos all the while swaying her little bottom back and forth. The other kids and I would soon join her, all of us singing, dancing, and laughing.

When she was only five she wanted to learn dance in a formal setting. I would take her to the dance studio two times a week and she learned fundamentals in ballet and tap. As she got older she learned jazz. 

Artistic, she took her love for music and expressed it in movement. Though she wasn’t interested in playing any instruments, she enjoyed creating a visual art to the sounds she loved to hear. 

As she got older, she started taking her art in the direction of painting, sketching, sculpting, and fiber arts. She attended and graduated from Kansas City Art Institute after a prominent two years in high school art, where she was awarded a spot for the Quartz Mountain Arts Conference in Southwestern Oklahoma. Her art is still displayed in the main hallway of her high school in Bartlesville.


The other day I was going through some of my old papers and I found a poem she had written for me tucked inside an old journal of mine. It brought tears to my eyes. 

Then I saw the ceramic tile she made for me for Mother’s Day while in 6th grade, and the oil painting I did in a fever the morning after she and my youngest, Noah, had performed at the community center in their dance studio’s spring recital. 


It brought back such happy memories. My kids were my world and I reveled in their exploration of their own.

Today my girl is twenty-five, married, and has her own business making and selling jewelry as well as scarves that she spins and weaves on her own looms. She makes them all by hand and dyes them as well.

At least, I think that’s what she is still up to these days. Unfortunately, I don’t get to talk to her and haven’t for nearly two years. 

Nevertheless, she was my tiny dancer. My sweet little girl who loved to make things, go off on her own to dream and think, listen to her music, and write poems for her momma…has flown far away. 

Yet, my love for her cannot be quelled. I will continue to sing for my little bird until she finally flies back home to me.

And, perhaps we may dance together again.