Lesson Learned

We are all a product of our collective experiences.  

It is easy for me to wish away the sad things that have happened in my life.  

But if it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

This, as Oprah says, I know for sure.  

But I’m-a-tell-y’all-what. 

Divorce is a terribly, sad thing.  

Particularly when children are involved.  

I was on my way to visit colleges with my step-dad, whom I had called “Dad” since I was two years-old when he announced, “Your mother and I are getting separated.”

Is it just me, or do you never ever forget that moment?

It’s like the world stops turning. 

Sure, maybe I had known it was coming in some sick and twisted way, but did I ever want it to truly be?  

No.

And yet, there it was.  

Worse, they were in business together and weren’t going to announce it to the very close-knit family company until January so now, I had a secret to keep. 

That Last Christmas, we rented a house in nearby Sandbridge Virginia Beach, Virginia, decorating the tree one last time, only to grab our individual boxes to keep the ornaments we each wanted when the week was over. 

It was the one of the saddest moments of my life. 

Fast forward 20 years later and now, who are we?

If you were my dad from age 2-18, does that mean you are my dad for life?

If we were step-sisters and brothers then, are we still?

Time passes, parents re-marry. 

Who are we now?

Collateral damage.  

Oh, but not me.  

Because I have my own future to tell. 

Divorce, my children will not know. 

Because we chose carefully. 

We waited until we met one another to make that kind of commitment. 

To be together until death do us part. 

To raise our babies with love and joy. 

To choose them. 

To choose us. 

Forever and ever.

Collateral Damage No More. 

Instead, lesson learned. 

This kind of love is forever.

I am Worthy

In my lifetime, I have been abandoned four times.

The first, by my stepfather after he and my mother divorced.

The second, in my early twenties by a best friend.

The third in my thirties by another close friend.

And recently by another lifelong friend.

Each time I racked my brain for answers.  What had I done?  How was I responsible?

If you know me at all, you know that I love learning.  I am an open book and daily, I shine the light on myself and all of my imperfections.

As a sought-after keynote speaker, my mother frequently listened to motivational leaders on our family road trips, long before TVs or phones in a car.  So, I listened to them too.

And what was drilled into me then has never left me:  Only I am responsible for my actions.  In each and every decision, I have a choice on how I will respond.  If I am wrong, when I make a mistake, it is up to me to figure out what happened and how I can learn from it so that I can grow into the best version of myself.  Growth cannot happen without mistakes and mistakes aren’t mistakes unless I didn’t learn from them.  They are lessons!

I remember so clearly the pain I felt the first three times.  I felt misunderstood and desperately wanted to defend myself.

After this last time, I asked my husband and other friends, “Please, tell me.  What is wrong with me?  If this has happened this many times in twenty years, surely this is on me.  What do I need to do to fix myself?  To be a better daughter, friend or version of myself?”

And then, without them saying, I knew.

I knew exactly what was wrong with me.

I realized how wrong I had been to take responsibility for something and someone I was not. responsible. for.

That these people are human, too.  That they make mistakes and it is their responsibility to learn from their own, not mine to try and fix the damage of the abandonment by proving myself worthy.

My mistake is my lack of self-confidence in knowing that I am already worthy.  I am loved by God, my husband, my children and the rest of my family and friends.

And for those who choose to inexplicably check out of our relationship, well, they can keep on walking.

Because I am worthy.

And it’s their. damn. loss.

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Dee Akright Photography

 

 

The Paver

Over the years, quite a few friends, especially those moving, have asked me how I’ve managed to make new friends.

The answers always results in a chuckle and long-winded story of me racing on my bike, knocking on doors, or running down full-term pregnant women to find a connection.

Any connection.

I’ve since realized my spider-webbed childhood is to thank.

4 half-sisters, 1 half-brother, 1 step-sister and 1 step-brother will do that to you.

Fit in.

Make peace.

Be the connection.

Pave the way.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Where We Belong

I’m the youngest of eight children.

Let’s allow that to sink in for a bit before I explain that I am from a “blended” family.

I’ll never forget, at 6 years-old, when my teacher asked me to draw a family tree.  I looked at her with a blank stare and no idea of where to begin.

How do you explain that you are the illegitimate, love-child of an affair?  Of a mother that already had one and a father that had four?  How do you draw the two-step siblings you later acquired when you were just three-years old?

It was tough to draw but never tough for me to explain.  I always knew my step-dad was my “dad” and my real dad was my “father”.

But not once, not ever, did I know where I belonged.

My childhood was all about trying to find my place.

Where did I fit in?

In elementary school, I attended the meeting for children of divorced parents- but mine had not yet separated.

At home, I found solace in our nucleus of  2+2, until my mom and step-dad divorced when I turned 18 and off to college I went.

My mom sold the house. My step-dad remarried into a family with two new sons and ceased contact with me.

I felt completely lost.

Thanksgiving was no longer spent with the two step-siblings I had called my brother and sister.  Christmas with my half-sister was shared with her father.  And holidays spent with my father’s four children had never been done.

Where did I belong?

I searched.  For many years, I looked for his face, his warmth and the security of his embrace.

And finally, I found him.

My husband.

And together, we created where I’ve belonged, all along.

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Management

A solution is what we seek.  Diagnose the condition, and prescribe the cure. Black and white. Case closed.  A temporary disturbance, a minor annoyance in the grand scheme but please, not this.  Not a problem that has no “fix”.  Continue reading