The Unbreakable Bond

On the cusp of the new year, I find myself reflecting about relationships. Real relationships. True connections. Eye contact and hugs and feeling safe enough to be your authentic self, whether that’s letting go and crying or just saying what’s in your heart and knowing that you won’t be judged. Dear friends who take the time to listen and really, truly hear.

Real relationships make me grateful this December 31st.

There is B., who has known me since college, who not only went wedding dress shopping with me, but also was the one who helped to get me dressed on the big day. Who talked to me every day after I gave birth, while I wept uncontrollably from exhaustion and hormones, whose emotional support got me through the awful first weeks of nursing, and years of a difficult marriage and divorce. She is my true touchstone.

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I will always remember the conversation with a work colleague and friend C., who shared her love of yoga with me, who told me I should try it—at the studio she went to—because I would love it. I listened, and she was right. So very right. And it opened up a whole new world for me.

There is A., whom I met in childbirth class, who then was the first face I saw in at the new mother’s support group that would become my second family for months and now, years. She sees me and hears me.

Despite the fact that I hadn’t spoken to one of my oldest friends and nursery school classmates, C., for more than 30 years, did not change the bond we shared and reestablished as adults and mothers. We never have to censor ourselves or hold back. There is no small talk or bullshit. It’s real, 100% of the time.

The marketing director G. at my local Y who was willing to have coffee with me, hear about my career goals and tell me about a job opening, which got me back into the workforce after a six-year absence. That job was a game changer, as it lead to my next job and then my own apartment. G. may not realize how instrumental she was in helping me to get my life back.

There are so many more, S.W. and S.F. and D.C., so many women who have given me some of the most incredible gifts through their friendship, compassion and hearts.

What I also realize is that my most difficult, painful relationships have taught me the most about myself. I have actually been grateful to learn what I dislike, what I will no longer tolerate, how I do not wish to act or be. They are critical pieces that have been shaping me and showing me truth. Now that I can start to see these relationships through a mirror of learning, I feel a healthy distance from what no longer serves me. It’s a process, for sure.

For me, 2016 was about making great strides emotionally. I am stronger. So much stronger. My true friends have bolstered me throughout this journey. And I hope, with all my heart, that I have done the same for them.

Happy New Year to all my friends.

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Thanks for Making Me a Fighter

I’m in one of my happy places, leisurely drinking coffee on a child-free Saturday and thinking about how I will spend the next delicious 48 hours, and I’m listening to Christina Aguilera belt out “Fighter” from her “Stripped” album. All of a sudden, I get it. She’s thanking someone from her past who used to have a very negative influence on her, but all those experiences made her stronger. Wiser. Smarter. Made her skin a little thicker.

And so it is with me, too.

Over the past two years, I have evolved from feeling overwhelmed about my divorce and managing this new life on my own—to being a confident employee, mother and friend, who, on many days, has got this. Granted, there are plenty of days where I still feel overwhelmed—I mean, who doesn’t as we try to “balance” work, children, social lives, and family? Being overwhelmed as a mother, I often think, is the new normal. But, what I know for sure, to lovingly borrow one of my favorite lines from Oprah, is that I am showing up for my child. Truly and mindfully, showing up for her.

Every night, I pack her a healthy lunch with a special treat and a note. Every night, I listen (or watch) her read and I feel joy about her love for words and books. Every night, we choose clothes for the next day that will make her feel good and happy. Every night, I cuddle with her, kiss her face and hair, and I tell her to have sweet dreams and that I love her.

Since being on my own, I am struck by just how much stronger I’ve become. Not only for my daughter–because it’s often easier to be stronger for your child–but also for myself.

With this beautiful distance from the situation that buried me into one of the darkest places of my life has come incredible light. Self-possessiveness. Power. And yes, it has made me a fighter.

It reminds me of a powerful passage from Tillie Olsen’s Yonnondio (for all of you American women literature fans), one that I used for a class presentation during my junior year in college. This novel follows the Holbrook family during the late 1920s as they move from the coal mines of Wyoming to a tenant farm in western Nebraska. One of the themes is about motherhood and sacrifice, a theme that very much resonates with me. Towards the end of the book, the baby, Bess, grabs a “fruit-jar lid” and begins slamming it down, over and over again. She is at once feeling her power in her ability to make something happen. To make this powerful noise. To be heard.

I stood up in front of my literature class, with a glass jar, and as I read the passage about Bess slamming her jar, I banged mine. I can do. Bang. My classmates were rapt. I felt completely in command and in my element. I can do. Bang.

It was one of my most memorable academic moments. I loved how I felt, and these days, during my best moments, I feel just as confident and powerful as I did back then. I can do.

 So now I can elevate the most negative experience of my life to a new place. It has made me who I am today.

I am a fighter.

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