The last week or so has been an emotional nuclear bomb for me and my family. Not just my immediate family, but my WHOLE family. By WHOLE family, I mean my husbands ex wife and her family too! I know… seems crazy for those that aren’t in it. I can only imagine.
I’ll start at the beginning…
I met my husband when I was 22 years old… almost 23. I jumped into a family that was already established and jumped in head first. I knew nothing. I wasn’t a parent. I’d only had one other truly-serious relationship and that was as dysfunctional as they come. I joined this family with an open heart and an open mind, but looking back at it now, I was SO naive. I had no idea what I was doing. I can say now that I didn’t truly grasp what I was getting into.
I often wish I could go back and do it all again. There is so much I would change. You know that whole hindsight is 20/20 thing? So many situations I would have approached differently. But, as we all know, I can’t do that… I can only move forward. I can’t regret anything, we could all drown ourselves in regret if we dissected every situation we have gone through in life. Everything we’ve been through got me, and us, to where we are now and as bumpy as the road has been, it has been my road and I own it, faults and mistakes and all.
The years have been both long and short and we have been through a lot. Together as a whole family (including exes), and separately (just us); graduations, birthdays, good days, and bad. There were so many things we should have worked on together and didn’t; situations we should have approached as a united front and didn’t. But again, we can’t go back. We have to live with our decisions and deal with the consequences of our choices and actions.
Last week we spent three full days going through some tough counseling together… as a whole family.
It included myself, my husband Zach, Zach’s ex-wife Julie, Julie’s mom Helen, and my step kids Jake and Ariana. It was tough. There were a lot of walls up through the first day. You could tell between all of us that it was uncomfortable. There were old feelings, hidden feelings, and some resentments from the past. But we chose to all come together to work hard as a family to help Ari, and in doing so, we all helped each other to heal a little too. We worked to heal from the negativities of our past and move on to a better future for us all as a collective and whole family.
By the end of the third day you could physically see in all of us the walls that came down around our hearts. The barriers we had established to protect ourselves from past hurts and struggles were falling. We shared everything. All of us. We spoke of love and family. We shared our fears and insecurities and even our faults. As a group, we came together and healed our broken hearts with the intention of helping Ari heal. What we didn’t expect, was to come together and heal our family. As much as we have fought it in the past with our walls and barriers of ‘protection’, we are a family.
We spent three solid days crying and sharing and trying to grow as individuals, and as a family. I, myself broke down in tears admitting my faults of the past. Admitting mistakes we’ve made to ourselves, our loved ones, and strangers. In the past it was so easy for us to use negatives to bond and feel like we were somehow winning something over the other parent. None of us was innocent in that. The kids used those situations to help hold up a wall between our houses. We all used it to keep secrets and feel like we were somehow winning some secret war between us to make us feel better.
There was a sort of secret competition between each of us parents and each of our houses. Who could parent better? Who could buy the better gift? Who could plan the better vacation? Who spent the most money?
You want to know what all of that didn’t do?? It didn’t make anyone truly feel better. It made everything worse. It made our lives harder. It built up barriers between us. It caused unneeded fighting between households. It taught our kids to lie and cheat; each other, us, and even themselves. It truly harmed them and us, and it took us nearly 14 years to see the harm that it has done.
I’m feeling ashamed of parts of my past.
I’m feeling sorry.
I am sorry to the kids for it taking this long to realize. It has taken fourteen years to see where we were, what we have done to each other, and realize that we need to move forward as a true family unit.
I think it’s hard for those that weren’t there with us, to truly grasp the epiphany of what we learned. We’ve trained our loved ones to be our protectors. They love us, of course they want to protect us. They are the ones we went to in order to vent out our drama. They are the ones that held our hands and vilified our feelings when we were hurt and felt we were wronged. They are the ones that backed up our feelings of hurt or anger when we felt wronged. Our proctors. They come in many forms; they are our parents, spouses, and friends. It will be impossible for them to fully comprehend what we learned. We have trained them to hold those walls of protection up around our hearts. They will continue to harbor old fears and resentments for us, all those things we shared about our past. But we can’t allow that, we need to retrain them to see how important it is to move forward together, and that will take time.
We are all moving forward.
Moving together as one family.
For me, it’s important to let go of my worries and my fears of the past and set them free so I can move on. We love our protectors but it will be hard for them to do the same. This is our collective battle and we don’t need protection from it anymore. We need strong truths thrown in our faces, especially if it hurts, so that we can say our apologies, be forgiven, and heal from it and move forward together. This is our life and not a battle and as good as it feels to have someone in our corner fighting for us, we can no longer allow that.
I know that my shield isn’t fully retracted. There are years of fear, embarrassment, heartache, resentment, lies, and secrets that will take time for me to fully let go of; but it needs to be done I want it gone. I will work my hardest to swallow my pride and push those walls down, as much as it hurts. Not just for me, but for my family, and that includes everyone, even Julie.
If my husband can not only hug his ex wife, but allow her to hug him back and kiss him on the cheek!
Then I can do anything! We will all be better for it! If not for us, for our KIDS!
There is something Julie said to me that spoke volumes and I will always it hold dear, no matter how hard things get:
“It’s so much about all of us and not just Ari. Jake, Ari, and Ryleigh need us to be healthy but Zoie, Cash, Cassie, and Charlotte need us to move forward. I refuse to go back to a place of ugliness and hatred.
We all must do our best to move forward unless backwards is needed to help someone I care about to heal.”
The biggest thing we realized in these days of pain and emotion, is that we are friends. I think we’ve always wanted to be friends but with those walls and protections up, we never really allowed that to happen. I genuinely like Julie and her whole family. I’ve allowed my own insecurities to cloud that.
From this point forward we are done being enemies and will embrace truly being friends.
Our family will be better for it.
Family Is Everything!