Author Archives: WestyC1

Who Do We Blame?

I read an article this morning on Slate, blaming the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents for their accused crime.  I read it with two minds; one that would agree that parents directly, strongly influence how their children respond to the world, and another mind that forced me to think about my own son.  

I met my son, and his mother, 14 years ago.  He was a 5 year old shock of brilliance to me; full of wonder and innocence.  We built things together, went on movie dates, read Harry Potter before bed, played soccer.  I took him skiing and went camping with him and his scout troop.  We spent countless hours at the kitchen table doing homework and school projects, and went on day trips to D.C. to explore the museums and monuments.  I encouraged him to try new things, and tried to help him not be afraid to fail.  We were the best of buddies; for a while.   Something went wrong. 

My son is now 19 years old.  He is a drug addict.  We have had many stuggles over his drug abuse; multiple arrests, failing grades, lies upon lies, an assault that left me broken, boot camp, running away, and in the end, his departure from my everyday life.  About 2 years ago, I had to give him an ultimatum; live in my house and follow my rules, or leave.  He decided that he would rather live with his other mother’s relatives in Illinois, rather than stop the drugs.  I have not seen him in  2 years.  

While reading that article this morning, I wondered if those people who know my son, blame me for his actions.  Do they blame me for his drug abuse, his crimes, his deceit and abuse?  What is it that I could have done that would absolve me of this blame?  Is blaming me just an easy way of finding an excuse for what he has done?  I don’t know.  

What I do know is that sometimes, kids break.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t save our children from themselves.  My son became his own person, and although guided by others, and he chose to change his perspective about what I had taught him regarding right and wrong.  Once his perspective changed, my ideas began to leak credibility, until he no longer saw the validity in my words, and he felt he knew more about this world than I did.  I taught him to stand by what he believes is best for him, only to watch him choose something that will probably destroy him.   He is in serious trouble now.  I’m sure he didn’t see himself ever in a situation where his freedom might be taken away as a result of his actions, and I can only imagine what he must feel about the broken nature of his life right now.  When he was younger, he used to tell me, “Carolyn, you have magic hands. You can fix anything.”  I wish that were the case this time.  

So, am I to blame for my son’s perspective on the world?  No.  Do I hold guilt in my heart about what he has done, and what his life has become? No.  Will I accept the blame for the decisions he has made that have hurt others? No, I will not.   Why, you ask?  Despite all of my efforts, I was not able to fix him; but I know in my heart, I did not break him. 

I leave you with this question:  When bad things happen, who do we blame; the person committing the act, or the one who raised them?  I don’t have the answer to this question for everyone; only myself.  Just keep in mind that a parent’s influence can only guide a child so far in life. At some point, the child has to own the choices they make; and acknowledge the person they have become. 

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Crazy

Crazy like a fox.  You must be crazy.  She’s lost her marbles.  Plead insanity.  “One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.”~Tim Burton   Not playing with a full deck.  That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.  Bat-shit crazy.  Crazy in the name of love.  You have a screw loose.  Psycho.  Looney-tunes.  It implies doing the same behavior repeatedly, while expecting a different result.  Crazy days.  “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”~Mark Twain   Rowing with one oar out of the water.  Off your rocker.  Lost touch with reality.  Just plain nuts.

Throughout life, we all cross paths with at least one individual we categorize as crazy.  Not the silly, do anything for attention kind of crazy, but the absolute boldest and most honest reading of the definition.  Crazy.

I met crazy face to face.  I thought I had finally rid myself of crazy, but it seems to keep popping up when I least expect it.  Now, the only course of action I have is a complete freeze-out.  No contact.  No response.  No apologies.  No emotion.  No reasoning.  No rationalizing.  No bridges.  Nothing.

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s time to shake off the crazy and move forward with my life.


Stand

Stand up and be counted.  Stand for the weak.  Stand hand in hand with her in public.  Stand still in the dark until your eyes adjust. Stand when you hear the National Anthem.  Set your moral compass and stand fast in the right direction.  Stand up and be counted.  Don’t get caught without a leg to stand on.  Ask others to stand with you.  When your opponent falls, stand down.  Stand for what is right and ask others to stand with you.  In a world plagued with conformity, stand out.  Teach them to stand on their own two feet.  Stand on your tip-toes to get a better view.  When fear strikes, stand fast.  When being measured, stand tall.  Stand on the edge and look down.  Stand up in a boat.  When they say you can’t do it, dig your heels in and stand firm.  Stand side by side and feel your strength.  Don’t stand in her way.  When everyone else is gone, have the courage to stand alone.

Superman stood for truth, justice and the American way.  The Ironed Jawed Angels of 1918 stood up for the rights of women in America.  Ben Cohen stands up against bullying.  Gandhi stood for civil rights and freedom for all citizens of the world. The Stand; we’ve all taken it for one reason or another, and regardless of our motivation, we all stand for something at some time.

All too often, we wander through our days without giving notice to the many stands we take.  Whether we are defending others, promoting a cause, proving a point or showing our strength; we all stand.  I’ve seen it in action, been witness to the results, and even participated.  I’ve felt the fear, the power, the joy, and the helplessness that taking a stand can create; and still I stand.

It’s important for me, living in a world where the actions of others, whether reckless or calculated, directly impact my life and possibly the lives of others, that I continue to stand, both for myself and for those who can’t.  I’m not a hero or a savior, I don’t have endless wisdom or insurmountable strength, and I don’t want power or fame.  I’m just an ordinary person looking for other ordinary people who want to do extraordinary things.

It doesn’t take much to make good things happen; all you have to do is stand.


Enough?

In the grand scheme of relationship break-ups, when is enough actually enough?  What is the limit of aggravation and frustration one has to endure before walking away completely?

Think it through a bit.  You break up with someone you have spent several years with, and in the beginning you both try to keep things civil.  You talk about dividing the household, dealing with debt, pets, kids, joint accounts; all the things you need to resolve before you can move forward in life.  This so-called civil period can last for years or it can tank coming out of the gate.  For me, it ceased to exist as soon as I made it clear that I am going to take care of myself and stop taking care of her.

My biggest source of confusion about this whole break-up process stems from my ex’s inability to understand that I am not interested in listening to, dealing with, solving or even discussing her problems anymore.  I acknowledge that I have played a role in her inability to figure out the little things in everyday life; possessing a caregiver’s personality, I generally took care of the everyday things that life would throw our way.  Perhaps if I had demanded more input or action on her part, we could have prolonged our post break-up civil period, and I could have avoided being financially and emotionally drained.  Sadly, I realized my error much too late and now I am still paying.

Over the past year, I have been threatened with law suits, stolen from, lied to repeatedly, cussed out, told I need therapy, told I am no longer a parent, and basically had my character dragged through the mud; all because I said …”I don’t want to be with you anymore.”  I didn’t take legal action, I didn’t steal from her or speak badly about her to others; I have continually tried to be a decent person throughout the whole process.  What I didn’t realize in the beginning is that she really wasn’t interested in being civil, she just wanted me to be civil. I can’t anymore.  I won’t continue to offer the olive branch only to turn around and get slapped in the face with it each time.

Here is my point.  When you break-up, whether you have been together 12 months or 12 years, it’s going to suck.  Separating yourself from another person’s life is a gruelling task, but in order to continue on with your journey, you have to cut ties and seal doors that were once open to that person.  You can’t continue to act as though you are a couple while you are breaking-up; it doesn’t work.  When you finally start acting like exes, closing the door is a little bit easier; at least it is for me.


Remember

Remember.  Remember  your childhood, your family, your friends.  Remember your first true loss.  Remember to call home.  Remember how you got that scar.  Remember summer and sleepovers in the back yard.  Remember important dates, and if you can’t then write them down.  Remember to send flowers.  Remember your grandmother’s window box and all the love she grew there each summer.  Remember your first dog.  Remember your manners; please, wipe your feet, thank you, yes ma’am.  Remember the milestones that have imprinted themselves on your heart; remember who was with you, who held your hand who shared your laughter.  Remember her name, her scent, the color of her eyes, the taste of her lips.   Remember to stay safe; wear your seatbelt, look both ways, hold hands.  Remember everything you can.  Remember the path you are on; try to stay true.  Remember your senses; breathe, see, listen, feel, flavor.  Remember who you are and where you come from, because there will be those who will try to make you forget.   Remember, you did not get where you are today by forgetting where you were yesterday.  Remember.

How often do we forget?  Why do we forget?

I used to think that forgetting was simply a sign of a lazy brain.  At other times, I believed that forgetting was simply the mind’s way of protecting our hearts.  Today, I’m not really clear as to why we forget, but I am beginning to believe that our thoughts run in cycles that are somehow dictated by our current priorities.  We don’t place the same level of importance on things that are not currently waving in our present picture. The daily ins and outs of life; work, family, bills, car trouble, grocery shopping; seem to start crowding out the important things we should remember.

People often say, “Don’t look back,” but I think we have to look back in order to move forward.  Sometimes the memories we allow to push forward can be painful or angry, but we still need to remember them.  Forgetting does not change the past.  Forgetting does not release us from the obligations we have to our memories; they are always there.  We are all a walking conglomeration of events, all of which have had an impact on who we are today; forgetting is like giving your mind permission to cut out and discard parts of who you are.

It isn’t always easy to review your history, but it’s necessary.  Don’t forget. Remember.  Remember everything you can.


Think

Think. Think before you speak.  Think about the future and the past.  When someone asks you a question, think before you answer.  Choose your words thoughtfully and think about the feelings of others.  Think logically when chaos surrounds you.  Think about what you are doing and ask yourself if you should be doing it.  Don’t rationalize your words and actions based on the words and actions of others; think about what you put out in the world and make sure it delivers the meaning you intend.  Pause and catch your breath; just take a moment and think.  Think about everything and nothing, and if you still aren’t sure what you should do; think twice.

With so many people on the internet today, our words and ideas reach millions in a matter of seconds.  We post with wild abandon and often don’t give a second thought to what we have placed in the vast chasm of cyberspace.  It’s a problem.

I am very outspoken, and I have to admit that I am guilty of hitting that post button before clearly weighing the impact my words and ideas will have on others; passion, anger, love, excitement fear; all can cause a momentary lapse in judgement.  I want to believe that all of the crap I see on-line isn’t necessarily intended to be insulting, but I am often baffled at what people are willing to attach their name to before sending it off into the abyss where anyone with an internet connection can read it. I’m not talking about the rash political comment or the embittered post about an ex or the ever-present, poorly timed family photo; I’m talking about the calculated, unfiltered sharing of photos, comments and links that are ultimately intended to do damage.

Think.  Just think for a minute; a split second.  Think.


Seasons

 We met years ago.  Coffee chats, happy hours, vacations, 3Days, Christmas, arguments and make-ups, kids, family, mother’s day, cook-outs, beaches, crude humor and most of all love.  In and out of each others’ lives, sometimes days, sometimes months.  Picking up where we left off, feeling strength in our friendship.  Forgetting what pulled us apart, just grateful for the continued connection.  We drift in and out of the lives of others without explanation.  There is no rhyme, nor reason, to the flow and ebb of friendship; it comes and goes like the changing seasons of each year.  

Seasons.  Yup, it’s like that.  Friendship is kind of a fluid thing for me. People come into my life and stay for a while before moving on, and I understand that their season with me might be over.  Then there are the people who float in, almost unnoticed, set up shop in my heart, build a comfortable little niche, and stay season after season; those are my friends.

Friendship isn’t easy for me; at best it’s a leap into a big, dark abyss.  Let’s be honest, the infancy of friendship is kind of scary.  You meet someone and start to identify in which direction their moral compass is set, and with any luck you find yourselves on the same page about the important things in life; truth, family, love, morality.  You keep your fingers crossed with every new adventure until you finally start to relax into each other, and then one day you realize; friend.

With friendship comes change.  Life will pull you in different directions at times, and hopefully pull you back together again at some point; but true friends always seem to have a place marker in your heart somewhere.  You might not talk to them for days or weeks or even months, but you still save them a seat at the table and patiently wait for their season to bring them around again.  It will happen at an unexpected time; no reservations, no forewarning, no real reason.  They pop in for a quick hello, and you start to realize they never really left.

Seasons.  Yup, it’s like that.


Get Simple

 “I went broke believing, that the simple should be hard.”  ~Matt Nathanson

Sometimes life just needs to be simple.  Good coffee, cozy blanket, happy dog, a morning kiss.  Simple.

Take some time out of your busy day and simplify.  Empty your mailbox, clean out your car, don’t work late, loosen your tie.  With everything in the world working so hard at making us structure and micromanage our daily lives, it’s important to simplify from time to time.

It’s ok to stop and breath; let out a nice big sigh.  If all we are is a series of superficial engagements, we miss what’s really happening in our life.  Don’t miss it.  Get simple.


Awaken

 “Wake up!  Refuse to sleepwalk through your life any longer.  Wake up!  Open your eyes and dare to see the world in a new and different way.  Wake up!  Awaken your passion for life and awaken it in those around you.  Awaken yourself spiritually.  Find something larger than yourself to believe in.  Find a way to life yourself above the mundane.  Wake up!  Smell the coffee!  Take a long, hard look at all you’ve been missing, and decide not to miss any more.  Awaken your senses, your intuition, your desires.  Awaken the parts of yourself that have been sleeping:  the lover, the trickster, the artist, the maiden, the crone.  Wake up, and don’t go back to sleep.  Life is a dream, and to live it, you must be awake.”  ~Rachel Snyder

Wake up?  I have to be honest, I have never really felt like I was sleepwalking through my life, but I think I might have been.  I had to really give it some serious thought and reflect on the past a bit before I understood what I was doing.  It’s never intentional, ignoring the important parts of our life, but it tends to happen when we allow ‘stuff’ to get in the way.  I have accepted that I need to throw back the covers and rub the sleep out of my eyes, but that is the easy part.

I am conditioned.  That’s right, conditioned; get things done, don’t be lazy, work harder, do it now, lists and lists and more lists. I don’t blame anyone for it, I allowed myself to sink into the position of ‘worker bee’ because.  But droning through the days has taken a toll on my spirit and it was inevitable that I would break rank sooner or later.   I haven’t given myself permission to play and dream and explore for many years, and I am beginning to realize that there is more going on in my everyday existence than just a regimented schedule of responsibilities.

Life is different now, calmer.  I can explore and search and get lost in anything I choose. Sleep, write, play, read, create; I have choices now. Sometimes the training of my previous life peeks around the corner when I am needing some structure or feeling overwhelmed, and I can safely organize my day without fearing the bonds of my previous indentured servitude. I still have responsibilities and I still do things that need to be done, but the difference is I don’t HAVE to do them immediately.  A balance between need and want is possible.

Just like a kid standing in the center of a see-saw trying to figure out which side needs more weight to keep them from falling off, I have to decide which side of my life needs to hold more weight in order to keep my balance.  I’ve decided  that it’s ok to put my schedules on hold from time to time and let my spirit breathe a little.


Soften

 “Drop your shoulders and soften your stance.  Be softer with yourself, more forgiving.  Soften your approach.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to be interdependent, to receive as well as give.  Turn off the computer and write with a pencil, a piece of chalk, or a crayon.  Try not to be so hard on yourself.  Soften the shape of your body.  Let shoe five or ten pound come back and round out those boyish edges that are nota at all becoming.  Carry a woman’s body.  Speak a bit more softly; walk across the floor more softly.  Wear something that flows: a skirt, a blouse, a dress, a scarf.  Wrap a sarong around your middle.  Resist the urge to sound like the men at the office or the boys in the class or the guys on the team.  Give at least equal time to your softer, feminine nature, and feel its power.  The power is yours when you soften.”  ~ Rachel Snyder

I am a hard woman.  I have always considered myself hard and rigid, and I attributed it to circumstance and situation. Well, as life would have it, circumstance and situation have changed again, and I now have the opportunity to be soft.

Soft. Not a quality I have always embraced or even shared with others. Soft. Learning to calm my frustrations and let the little things stay little. Soft. Slowing down a bit and actually not caring about the time of day. Soft. Trusting that showing the softness of my soul will not cause me pain. Soft.

The shift from hard to soft is sometimes strange, but mostly it’s reassuring.  I don’t have to give up my strength; I can round off the rough edges and still be a force to reckon with when it is necessary.  Maybe showing all the things that rest in each facet of my identity isn’t really about picking and choosing what I let others see; maybe it’s about finding a balance between all of my parts.