I keep doing all this annoying work of self discovery. Ugh. Yes, I do love some of it. When I went alone to a hospital for a newborn twins photography session, I felt like a rock star. The hospital was an hour away in Gainesville and I sang my songs with my friend the radio. I ate Arby’s from. the drive thru and got extra horsey sauce. Those tiny humans and their parents were waiting for me to capture their first hours. Waiting for me? Me, alone. Independence and pride washed over me. Following my heart in my own direction.
Mim hates the baby photography and me pouring over the photos on the computer editing. She feels so jealous of me and my time. She curses me for thinking those babies are cute. Birth photography comes with extra challenges because there are so many unknowns. The timing is beyond our control. Mim and I can’t plan and prepare like we usually do. But I want this. I want to photograph families. I want the minute slippery details and the scenes of calamity and beauty.
(A cardinal just appeared at my window sill of the big picture window. It was my Dad reminding me that I am on the right path. Thanks, Aubee.)
I want to continue my deep dive into my own creativity. Writing. Storytelling. Making pictures. Documenting the love and power of a mother. Capturing the wrinkles and creases of a baby’s neck. I’m turning fifty this year and I’m not giving up on myself. I am becoming something.
I feel like quitting at least once a day. I nap like it is my job and my greatest desire and I wake up wondering why I used my precious time so unproductively. I get flabbergasted with my camera menu, editing on Lightroom, and bookpublisihing. I have no idea what I am doing and I’m not very good. I take a picture. I write a piece. I reedit and proofread both and see all; the flaws and lack of substance and I hide away what I thought was beautiful and worthy yesterday. Which me is right? The impostor, the critic, the Oprah guest, or the good ole me. Probably all of them.
I signed up for one of those online therapist but I quit. She gave me homework and she was so eager and aggressive in her help. I felt ill equipped and at a different pace. I quit before it started.
I am going to have EMDR sessions.
(click on words above to go to the website for EMDR Institute)
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
Last Sunday, I was taking a bath with my Country Living Magazine. I started crying when a page described using a fancy pottery mug made coffee sweeter by the sea shore. I wasn’t sure where the tears were coming from. I heard the theme song of a TV show playing in the living room. George was watching a show that was familiar but I couldn’t name. The melody was haunting. The tears continued. I wasn’t sure why the grief was back. I came out and saw it was Downton Abbey. I had liked the first season and maybe the second but I got so angry when the leads I loved would be killed off. But I knew the actors were not the cause of my deep sadness.
The mug, The seashore,—— The summer after the spring I read Walt’s phone texts from a woman breaking up with my husband and before the winter I found the emails of my husband comparing the same woman to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, our family took an epic road trip from Georgia to Maine. During our week at the Cape, Walt and I would wake up early and have coffee on the jetty while the kids slept on sandy sheets in a cedar shake cottage. In those early mornings, I felt our loved renewed. I believed in our future. Walt and I would grow old together.
The Downton Abbey theme song—–The school year was full of demands and responsibilities, but on Sunday nights, that melodramatic melody signaled time to relax. Walt and I would collapse on the fat leather sofa way too oversized for our little condo in Atlanta. It had been bought when we lived in a cavernous suburban house in California. Most nights I put the kids to bed while Walt watched Madmen or Weeds (both with equally memorable melancholy theme songs)by himself. But Sundays were different. I allowed the couch cushion to lean me into my husband. Even if I use the word husband ambivalently. I believed during those Sunday evening hours of public television. We sunk into the comfort of each other and the worn in couch. Walt would be asleep long before the credits. He could fall asleep as soon as his head hit a soft spot but he would wake in the night in sweats and nightmares. I would comfort and smooth the newly gray hairs on his head full of secrets.
The crying wouldn’t stop so I asked George to turn off Downton Abbey. About five years have passed since our separation. Maybe six. And I can still be blindsided by my own internal workings.
I got to talk to Tuck recently for an actual conversation. Y’all will be shocked to know that I cried. I hadn’t intended to but he listens so well. He is a giver and a lover. I love that boy. We shared our fears over Addy’s eating disorder monster showing up at our recent visit to my mom’s. He and I both heard her in the night. I told him how powerless I feel. How she refuses my ultimatums for treatment. Addy said in plain words- I am not going to treatment and I am not doing anything to get well right now. I cried out my apologies for not taking better care of Tuck while he lives in California. I haven’t sent him a bed frame that I may or may not have ordered in April. I never write him. I don’t call enough and when I do call, I don’t listen as best I could. He stopped me. “I’m twenty three.” He can take care of himself and he doesn’t need parenting. He is doing well working, going to school, surfing and he has a girlfriend. He suggested that Addy doesn’t need my parenting either. She is twenty four. She is getting married. I halfheartedly agreed and pinned that thought to the area of my brain called Later.
When Later pops back up, I think Tuck is right. I am unclear on what I should do for Addy or to Addy. Seems unlikely that I will drag her physically to a hospital.
It is so damn hard to change other people no matter how hard I try. Yes, I know that isn’t my job. I am in a period of shift. I’m not Addy’s protector. The monster’s voice is stronger than mine. Keeping her alive was an accomplishment. I pray she way way out lives me. I pray she feeds herself and her babies and her grandbabies and her great grandbabies cookies and lasagna and lemonade and bacon sandwiches.
My cousin asked me to glance over an eating disorder recovery book for therapists and practitioners so I could tell her what I thought.
85% of the book carefully and thoughtfully detailed the characteristics and effects and mortality rates of eating disorders. (Noting that one can appear fat and still have life threatening anorexia. The after school specials of the 80s and 90s taught us nothing.) I approved the information in the book and validated the science. The last 15% of text was on- OK, given how bad this disease is, how do we treat people with eating disorders? ED infiltrates the mind and body of a person with an eating disorder and the person loses the ability to distinguish their wholesome voice and their diseased voice. It must be so scary to not be able to trust one’s own brain. The last tiny section of the book suggested that we remind people with Ed that they are not their ED thoughts and the person has to ignore the intrusive monster. Addy has been with ED for half her life. She doesn’t remeber who she is without him. I do. I am compelled to remind her she isn’t ED. The OCD, anxiety, depression, and anxiety she experiences due to her brain not being fed imprisons her. Last we talked about treatment, she acknowledged that all those symptoms and entanglements would be so hard to recover from. I agreed and said she would have to change all her coping mechanisms. And how scary that must be. She said she can’t.
I recognize my own need for change of unhealthy patterns- not saving money, napping for too long, and ignoring my physical body. I’m lucky I don’t have a monster in my brain and my grown child is unlucky. I hate ED.
I think the birth photography offers me so much possibility. I once thought that the power and miracle of birth was so undeniable that it would be impossible for a human to disrespect his wife after witnessing such thaumaturgy. Right? Who watches a human being shape shift her vagina and reveal a tiny and complete human being- this human they made together. Who can forget this sacred bond and carelessly disregard this union? And men do it everyday.( I know women do, too. But for this conversation I will use man because that is my own experience.)
I listened to Glennon Doyle’s podcast We Can Do Hard Things on Betrayal. The validation I heard was helpful. She mentioned for a quick moment about the physical violation of an affair. And I want to talk about that. It is brought up occasionally by people fearing an STD or AIDS when they learn their partner is unfaithful. But beyond the disrespect of giving another a disease which holds its own unbearable weight, what about the lack of consent for the me in the relationship? So when Walt and I had sex for the last seven years of our marriage, it was under false pretenses. I did not consent to having sex with a person who was having sex with other people. I did not know. He knew. For seven years, when we had sex, he knew he was tricking me. Betraying my body. That is f_cking hard for me to heal from. My relationship with my body is fraught already. I doubt my beauty sometimes. I fear my fat some days. I doubt my sexual attractiveness— while knowing that I am a wonder. A marvel. Can my physical body trust my mind when I didn’t keep myself safe? I believed my power as a married child bearing woman could insure my security. But I wasn’t safe at all.
When I have lived through other traumas or difficulties, I join a group. I am an official card carrying member of groups. I know lots of moms all over the world who have children with eating disorders.
And my other CLUB is the mothers of children with disabilities. We support each other. We march. We console each other. We advocate for change while wearing matching t-shirts. We write bills. We celebrate each other.
But what club is there to join for women who have been cheated on? I do know other single mothers some of whom have been betrayed but we aren’t joining together and imprisoning our exes or resurrecting laws on adultery. We don’t create classes for young children to not become adulterers. (We should work on a name for this elusive club with some sort of anagram. Please help me and leave ideas in the comments.) We cry in our Diet Coke, buy the groceries, pick up the kids and cook supper. We even shrug wistfully, I hope my boys never cheat on their partners. I hope none of my children go through this same hurt. And our exes- appear never the worse for wear. They date around. And do their new women ever wonder the hurt they have discarded? Their time is their own. They come and they go. Pop in and out.
I know a woman and her husband left her and he moved in with his mistress and then had the gall to write a book selling himself as a life coach. He made money advising other humans when he should have been disgusted with himself.
With other life crises, we advocate for change. We research and grow and find strength in numbers. We heal through changing the world. We pull ourselves out of bed with the faith that our work will protect others. “No insurance company will be able to refuse a person treatment for a mental health condition.” Or, “no child will be segregated in a special education classroom when research supports full inclusion for children with disabilities.” What do we do with the men who cheat? What do we do for the women who are left as single parents without resources? How do we protect our children from repeating their parents mistakes? Where is the justice? What is the name of that club?
Another part of the Betrayal Podcast I loved, was when they discussed the idea that “it takes two to tango.” I had a marriage therapist ask me at Walt’s prodding what responsibility do I take for our marriage not working? Marriage is two people. What is my 50 %? And in the podcast they gave the example of a woman who doesn’t like her job so she comes home angry and depleted. Her husband cheats and claims it was because of her anger. NO. He has his own penis. He has his own zipper. He chose to betray the marriage. There were many more healthy choices to address her anger. I loved that validation. I did not willfully make choices to break our promises to each other. I don’t bear 50% of the responsibility of our divorce. That is bull.
I can work on being more fully human. I can grow. I can seek justice by not allowing Walt to ruin any more days- for training my mind to not give Walt power. I can pack my life so full of love and passion that Walt doesn’t have any room in my life.
(NOW was the name of my mom’s cigarette brand. She hasn’t smoked in decades unless we count when she and my sister hide by the dock.)