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Seeing the Forest Beyond the Christmas Trees

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The NMSA Chronicles (Not My Story Anymore), -ANONYMOM

Sometimes when you’re deep in the thick of something, you can’t really see the situation fully.  In hindsight, I knew I was in a bad relationship, but I was certainly addicted to potential, and it wasn’t ‘just’ a relationship, it was a marriage. I was committed; I gave it everything; I wanted it to be everything, and I was devastated when it turned out not to be.  

Somehow along the way (and back in the day), I subconsciously decided that my self-worth was to be measured by the success (or lack thereof) of my marriage, after all, I was of the mindset that ‘family is everything’; so, if my marriage failed, then I was a failure. 

Needless to say, I held on tight; even when the ship was sinking, even when I was being verbally abused, even when I knew I was both mother and father for my children at all times as I was the only trusted, present, mindfully involved and ‘safe’ parent. Truly and regretfully, by staying so by default, even though I was and have always been a very involved, loving-kind Mom, I wasn’t completely offering them (at the time) a clear perspective on a healthy relationship, or ‘healthy boundaries’, to say the least. 

Wow! If only I could have told my younger, much more naïve self what I know now. 

I still believe Family is everything, but I also know to be true that, as one of my dear lifelong friends told me long ago, that a divorced marriage does not yield a ‘broken’ Family and that quite the opposite is often true. Oftentimes staying in a dysfunctional/abusive marriage is a much more ‘broken’ situation than consciously becoming and embracing a loving united and complete ‘Family’ of Mama Bear and her two little cubs going off together solo, actively detaching from the domestic situation they have grown accustomed to, in the wild to seek truly safe shelter, deep companionship, and lasting community: that’s Family.  

“Friends & community are the Family we choose” is a mantra my children and I live by, as most of the ‘drama/trauma’ is behind us and we are surrounded by a beautiful plethora of heart-centered, amazing beings that truly do light up our lives.

It’s difficult for those who have not personally been in the predicament to understand both the simplicity and complexity of ‘staying’ in a ‘bad’ relationship, especially one that involves marriage and children.  Oftentimes, it is ‘easy’ for those who have not experienced this scenario first-hand to ‘judge’ or be impatient or dismissive of the dynamic or sadly of the friend involved in the dynamic. 

For those of you standing by and for someone going through such things, keep loving them proactively, patiently, and mindfully in all the right ways; they need it.  For those of you personally going through such an experience, be strong, speak up, let your friends in, you are enough, don’t give up, you are not alone, time will heal, have faith, be good to yourself and have mindfully healthy boundaries; the best is yet to come. 

Be as patient as you have to be but also as smart as you need to be. Life is short; time is precious and your big beautiful future is waiting for you.

Some of the brightest, strongest, most independent, and wonderful individuals stay in circumstances they should walk away from… and for their own reasons. 

Sometimes it just takes time. 

Personally, although my marital relationship ended years ago (and way beyond its expiration date), I’m still having wake up calls, or better yet, gentle reminders; one of which just happened today.

I share this with love and hope and grace; This is not a sad story (and thankfully this is ‘Not My Story Anymore’), this is insight into the fact that the Future is Bright, oftentimes much brighter than you can even see until you get out of the woods all together. 

Sometimes you don’t realize how stressful something is until it actually ‘isn’t’, and the space between the two experiences is rich with deep understanding, endless gratitude and eternal peace.

Each year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we would decorate for Christmas, make our gift lists, tuck them in the monogrammed stockings that adorned the fireplace, donate ‘toys for tots’ in the local drop-box and pile in the car to go and pick out our Christmas tree.

Everything always went well that day, until the ‘Tree Hunt’. “This one’s too tall, this one’s too wide, this one’s not a Frazier, this one’s too expensive, That’s ridiculous, Charlie Brown’s tree puts this one to shame”… it was a very stressful, certainly not festive, and a painstakingly, seemingly never-ending process that without fail, ruined the Christmas spirit that we began brewing, tending to and honoring early that day.  Nobody was ‘right’ about the tree, but the person with the loudest and most stern and stubborn voice, the person who drove the car to which the tree would be tied atop, the person who seemingly, annually, perhaps intentionally, awkwardly at least, and painfully at most, caused the terribly inappropriate expectedly unexpected debacle of the annual spirit-squashing tree squabble.

(All things considered, the ‘argument just for argument sake’ should have certainly been somewhat expected and perhaps somehow better planned for, and potentially avoided, as even on the years we were ‘politely’ quiet about our particular preferences, there was a verbal challenge to our disengagement in the selection, but with each passing year, there’s a dual energy at play; acceptance that ‘it is what it is’ along with a sprinkle of ‘great hope for change’ and vision can sometimes get clouded by hankered fairy dust).

This year (mind you, many years since the divorce) for one reason or another, is the year I noticed the extreme difference of how peaceful, sweet, simple, festive, nice, joyful and fun our annual tradition on the Friday after Thanksgiving is: waking up, having coffee, putting the Christmas music on, making breakfast, decorating for Christmas, making our gift lists, tucking them in the monogrammed stockings that adorn the fireplace, donating to ‘Toys for Tots’ in the local drop-box, and especially going to pick out our Christmas tree.  

The lack of tension was pleasantly tangible… palatable, cushiony, fluffy, sweet… like a big, fat, squishy, happy, pristine marshmallow. I’m not sure why this year’s tree-selection process was more peaceful and potent than all, as there have been more than a handful of years between, but I attribute it to gratitude being a key element to presence, of being and becoming; And to time being a key aspect of healing as newly planted, vibrant roots grow deep (even beyond the depths we see and know) and to friends showing themselves lovingly, willingly, consistently, proactively, and faithfully as Family. All an indicator to me, non-expert that I am, that yet another level of healing is complete. 

I’m very happy and beyond grateful that the annual tree squabble is NMSA (Not My Story Anymore); I’m thrilled that my children and I are no longer in explosive company waiting for the ‘other ornament to drop’, but I do know that change takes time and mindfulness, as does healing and awakening.  

What a gift! 

I look forward to many more unexpected and welcomed moments of awareness such as these. 

I look forward to celebrating many more drama-less, trauma-less, nonsense-less, sweet, simple, and spirited Christmas Tree ‘Hunts’. 

If you or someone you know needs counseling guidance/ assistance or intervention: ask a trusted friend for a referral, contact resources listed in your local church or community/township website (call 911 immediately if an emergency), seek marriage and/or personal counseling, reach out to organizations such as The Laurel House (610.277.1860), LoveisRespect.org, browse your local bookstore, or visit amazon and check the summaries, ratings and reviews.

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