Mr. “What If”

Almost everyone’s life story has a chapter titled “The One That Got Away”. The story line is almost always the same, someone amazing comes into the picture, but for some reason, doesn’t stay. The reasons for separation make up the climax of the chapter. The desire to stay with this person clashes with unforeseen events that change the course of the relationship forever. The end of the relationship writes itself a cruel paradox.

Sometimes both parties know why it ended, they were in two different places in life, one or both could not meet expectations of the relationship, or maybe there was too much distance between them. Sometimes the reason is unknown. Nevertheless, that person seems to leave a hole in the other’s life or a thought that never truly diminishes. Life goes on, other relationships come and go, but what about that “one that got away”?

I was seventeen when I met my “what if”. I had just left a relationship with who I’ll call Mr. Rebound.

(me at seventeen)

I came off of a bad breakup and ran into Mr. Rebound while out with friends. He was all wrong for me but I just had my heart broke. I wasn’t attracted to Mr. Rebound, but he made it known that he was interested in me. I felt a desperation to find someone who wouldn’t hurt me in the way I was hurt in my previous relationship and Mr. Rebound said all the right things. We dated for a while but something was missing, there was no spark and I couldn’t think of a relationship with him in the long term, so I ended it.

Some time after my break-up, Mr. What If and I were spending time together. I was a bit apprehensive because I had met him before, he was friends with my heartbreak. Spending time with him didn’t concern me, but the more time I spent with him, the more I felt a change in the way I felt with him.

When I started to have feelings, I began to overanalyze everything. Did his friend talk to him about me? Could I allow myself to be vulnerable again? Would I get hurt all over again?

His friend was my first intense relationship. I was very young and I had a hard time picking myself up after the breakup. Life for me was complicated beyond this breakup, so I decided to take everything very slow. I was afraid.

I was afraid of the feelings I was developing. I was afraid of getting hurt. I think he needed more than I was willing to give. As great as it felt to feel that spark with someone, it ended rather abruptly. He told me he decided to pursue a relationship with someone else. I was disappointed. I felt like it had ended before I allowed myself the opportunity to let go.

Of course Mr. Rebound was waiting with his promises not to hurt me. And because I believed all my fears had manifested, I went back to Mr. Rebound. The truth was, I was vulnerable and he interjected himself back into my life.

I gave up the passion I felt with Mr. What If for the promises of Mr. Rebound. I didn’t have to be afraid of my feelings when I wasn’t overrun by them. Sometimes control is lost in the moment and I tried to control too much with Mr. What If.

Many describe a good romance as a “whirlwind romance”. They get caught up in the emotions like the turbulent wind of a tornado, exhilaration and fear lift in unison. I have wondered what it would have been like if I would have just let go and let myself be taken in the updraft. I know I missed out on a passionate experience that could have broken my heart but that’s always a part of falling in love. Falling in love means letting go and losing that control. Why didn’t I see that great highs always come with the possibilities of crushing lows?

That’s essentially the mantra of a good life, live it as well as possible without fear. Fear kept me from experiencing the fullness of this relationship. Fear made me go back to a relationship that broke me emotionally and eventually ended four years later.

Staying or getting into a relationship out of fear is never a good idea because when a relationship isn’t pursued for the right reasons, red flags can be missed.

I missed lots of red flags with Mr. Rebound. I missed out on what I could have had with Mr. What If. Instead I was going through the motions, trying to convince myself that the “spark” didn’t matter. Relationships are worth going all in for, but with the right person and for the right reasons.

Once I realized I may have missed out on an opportunity to fall in love, I didn’t want to miss it again. This meant my first marriage ultimately ended in divorce. I was single for several months and I never had the opportunity to try again with him, so this chapter of my life closed when I remarried almost fourteen years ago.

Life has a way of using each experience for growth. Although I wish I could have changed some things in my past, my past helped shape who I am.

Every one of us has a story in our book of life that makes us ask, “What if I made a different choice?”

“What if I took the wrong job?”

“What if I moved to the wrong location?”

“What if it could have been wonderful?”

I don’t think the “what if” is as important as living life to the fullest to eliminate as many “what ifs” as possible.

Love without fear of heartbreak because a broken heart means one loved with all of their heart.

Live each moment to the fullest because you may not get a second chance.

So this is my chapter entitled “The One That Got Away”. Thank goodness it’s not where my story ends. There were still great things to come.

*d*

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Finding Your Perfection

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Today I watched you stand in front of your mirror, your face barely reaching above the top of the dresser – in one hand you hold your plastic curling iron, pretending to fix your long, dark hair for whatever pretend adventure you and your baby sister have planned for today. I know you both will grow up way too fast. I imagine you both crowding in that same mirror that will someday be too small for both of you to use. One day you will have no use for the plastic curling iron and pretend makeup you adore now. You will leave it and your childhood behind. Soon, you will quietly whisper about the boy or boys you are preparing to see. I know one day you may not want to tell me about your dates, and especially the young men that await you, but I’ll still be there, even if I’m still just watching you from the doorway.

Right now a young man can be anything you imagine. He can be as handsome and brave as one in a functional movie, but someday the choices of whom you will want to be with will be more complicated than you realize. I want talk to you about when you give your heart to another person. Your heart is beautiful and precious. I can only hope that you know exactly what you deserve. You won’t learn the majority of it from me, you will learn the most about men from the most important man in your life right now, your dad. I hope when you decide to date, you are willing to wait for someone who is as wonderful as your father.

I had a hard road before I met the man that I’d love forever. Once we met, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with him. It isn’t hard to love your dad, he has a generous smile and a warm personality. Of course, I thought he was the most handsome man I had met but it wasn’t just those things that made me fall in love with him. It was also his generosity, his willingness to give of himself selflessly, and his big, big heart. When we were together, it was like I found a missing part of myself, the best piece of myself. I knew quite soon he and I were supposed to be together.

When he and I met, dated, and fell in love, he demonstrated qualities that assured me he was a trustworthy man. His actions defined him as a man and who he would be as my husband. I was his equal, his partner, and I never worried about what he would do once he held my heart. He didn’t just compliment me, he helped build my confidence. He didn’t just talk with me, he had a genuine interest in me. This is all important because when the time comes, you will want to know if you are with someone who is just as interested in you as he is himself. You will know the relationship will last through the best and worst times because he made time to know you and hopefully you will have done the same. All of this is important because bad times in a relationship will inevitably come. If what is supposed to be the best part of a relationship brings out the worst in someone, don’t be surprised what the worst times in a relationship will bring out. You will want someone who cares about your well being as well as his own during hardships. I know because your Daddy and I have been through a lot together. When we vowed to love one another better or for worse, we didn’t realize how important that vow would be.

We have faced an artillery of difficult circumstances. For example, we never anticipated having a child with a life altering medical condition, or that I would also be diagnosed with one, all within ten years of our marriage. Both diagnoses bring stress to our marriage in various ways.  It is in these times that I have seen the best, not worst, in your father. He has been an example of how to truly love another. He gives of himself and his love selflessly and meets each challenge with understanding and prayer. When there is nothing but pain and hurt on the faces of those he loves, he is patient and non-judgmental. It may sound easy, but it isn’t. It is hard to smile when there is pain inside and I know he hurts too. It’s not easy to be the one person an entire family looks to for guidance and your dad does it so well. When he smiles and says, “It will get better,” and you can have confidence in his words. He can tell me he loves me and thinks I more beautiful than the day we met and although I don’t believe I am, I believe him.

So girls, one day I hope you will wait and seek a man much like your dad. He isn’t perfect, no one is but he’s pretty close. We are all very flawed but love and the love of someone who truly loves you can make a relationship that feels nearly perfect. Until the day you leave us for a family of your own, we want to love you the same…….. imperfectly perfect

Love,
Mom (*d*)

Pondering the “What If” in Life

It’s Monday and Kristie’s day began before most of the world opened it’s eyes. It’s 2 a.m. and one of her two sons is ready to start his day. Kristie rubbed her eyes, dreary from numerous days of scattered sleep.

“Can I get up?” asked her youngest son Blake standing next to her bed

“Go back to bed, it’s too early.” As he wandered back to his room, Kristie knew she shouldn’t get too comfortable. She knew he would come back and he’d probably ask to go to the toy room. Several minutes later, he was back. ” Come on,” she said as she walked with him to the toy room. She laid on the couch and he grabbed his iPad. She didn’t look forward to the next four hours of interrupted sleep on the couch.

On this morning Kristie couldn’t sleep. She settled on the couch and made her best attempt but couldn’t.  Instead she ended up watching her little boy. Her mind began to wonder about all the things surrounding Blake and her oldest son, Drew. She began to rehash the “what-ifs” and all the other parts of her life she tries not to think about. It’s the same inner monolog that plagued her when her oldest son Drew was born, it’s the same crushing thought that wonders what life would be like without Fragile X Syndrome. What if their two boys never had it and what if she never carried it? “What if,” she wispered to herself.

She began to wonder what their life would have been like without all the harsh looks, awful critism, and impossibly difficult days in the  fifteen years since Drew was born. She recalls the worst of moments when a harsh stare was enough to make her family feel unwelcome and how a terrible comment like, “You should stop having those defective children,” seemed to cut her to her soul. She could still feel the same sting she felt fifteen years ago when it was confirmed that Drew had Fragile X.

She sleepily closed her eyes and  began to dream, or maybe it was her imagination but when she opened her eyes, both of her boys stood in front of her. “Hi Mom!” They spoke with unbelievable clarity, each offering arms open wide. “Thank you,” she heard from both boys harmoniously. In her  confusion she also heard, “We know it’s been hard, sorry Mommy.”

“No babies, don’t say that.” She thought she had spoke but the words didn’t come out.

“I love you.”

“I love you ”

Each boy embraced her. The very real feeling startled her awake. It was Blake. He was pushing on her arm. He wanted to watch a movie. It was 4 a.m. She got him settled again, all the while playing back the vivid vision in her head. She returned to the couch and now she really couldn’t sleep. She felt a gnawing in the pit of her stomach. If getting carried away with an impossible notion where her boys weren’t plagued with Fragile X wasn’t enough, she felt like she got a very real glimpse of it. She was very certain her boys would never fully understand the difficulties their family faced daily. The boys didn’t know life without Fragile X, it’s all they knew, but Kristie couldn’t help but wonder.

What would it feel like without the cloud of anxiety that seemed to hover over her boys. The anxiety that make daily schedules a must, especially when plans change outside the normal routine, small difficulties a big deal, and outings that often feel more like a production. The anxiety that causes fear of the unfamiliar. The same fear that causes tension between the boys and sometimes leads to physical outbursts. Most importantly, what would life be like without her own anxiety over every decision made in regard to her boys?

Kristie and her husband wanted to be prepared because they knew they could not afford take the trial and error approach to parenting. They knew they would need support and help with the decisions they would have to make for their boys and a foreknowledge of how to deal with the issues that come with Fragile X. They have attended meetings and conferences to help navigate life with their two special boys. She and her husband couldn’t simply ask, “When will Drew start school?,” they asked questions like, “What’s an IEP?” and “Will this school be able to accommodate his special circumstances?”. They couldn’t anticipate developmental milestones, they had to work hard to help the boys reach them. Each day is hard work and she and her husband often feel like they are fighting an uphill battle. They fight everyday to make life fulfilling for their boys while trying desperately to somehow fulfill their own needs. So they do wonder what would life be like if every decision didn’t feel like a thread that could pull the complex tapestry of their lives apart.

Kristie blinked heavily, “It’s six Blake, let’s get a shower.”

At this age both her boys should be taking showers independently but both boys need help as developmental delays and anxiety keep them from doing it without assistance. Soon she would have to wake Drew who is often hard to get out of bed and often difficult to bathe.  After the routine of morning showers, Kristie either feels ready to approach the day or ready to go back to bed. Today was difficult. Both boys needed plenty of help and verbal cues to prepare for the morning. It felt like an entire day was packed into a mere few morning hours. Already tired and exhausted, she began to make a schedule for the day, but today was proving to be too much. She began to cry.

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Drew and Blake saw her crying. Drew nudged her and said, “You’re a sad little Mama,” and stormed off but Blake stood for a moment, looked at her, and began to cry.

She couldn’t help but smile through her tears. She looked at Blake and just like any other mom, she saw her baby and wiped away his tears. But Kristie became especially grateful for this moment. There was no anxiety, schedules, or questions, just a moment where she could cry with her little boy. It was a moment when he was moved by her sadness. This small moment reminded her of a great many things.

What would she be like without Fragile X? Would the small and grace given moments such as these be as special? Would she see the world with the same set of eyes if her life wasn’t entwined with it? Undoubtedly, the disease has laced each day with challenges most families will never face, but it has also allowed life with her boys to teach her many things.

She knows patience is not given but learned. She knows even when she has felt like she has failed, there is always an opportunity to try again.

Grace is invaluable. She knows why it is needed because she knows she has needed it.

Love should be given blindly and love is not defined by another’s capacity to reciprocate that love.

“I love you Blake,” she said as he left the room. Kristie wiped her own tears, reminded of why she makes it through each day.

She has been given a gift and although she can’t help but occasionally wonder “what if”, she knows she is filling a greater purpose. Kristie is the woman God has intended her to be, a woman who serves as an example of His unending love and grace. Kristie sees the world with compassion because she has needed compassion, she has patience because she has to endlessly practice it, and she loves her family as selflessly as God wants to love each of us.

Yes, Kristie has grieved the life she envisioned for her boys, she still prays for easier days, and still desires understanding from those she comes into contact with, but with it, she has an opportunity. She knows there will be days when she will wish the world would love and accept her boys as she has but it won’t, she struggles with the inevitable bullying and dirty looks that frequently come their direction, but you won’t see her deny the blessings she has received through each of her boys. Life for Kristie and her family can be hard but they truly love the life they have been given despite the difficulty. They have been given the rare opportunity to show others that true joy comes from the foundation in which you stand.

Kristie knows that on days where she feels like she has had enough, she can still stand because she chose a solid foundation in her faith. It is faith in a God who provides the most joy in what seems to be the most difficult of situations and shines an example of His love through her life. God often uses the broken to do His best work because oftentimes the broken are already asking for His guidance through prayer. No doubt this is Kristie.

At the end of the day, she can look back and thank God she was blessed with another and thankful for the strength to endure. Soon enough the day will start again and she may be tempted to wonder “what if” but she can be assured she will remember why she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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*d*

A Lesson in Friendship

It’s no secret, I like different and I would love to start a new and unpopular way of thinking that praises the vast differences of the human race. I would love to think we could be a world where people would truly learn to love blindly. I want to share a story with you about my son with special needs and how he might know the very best way to love.

I normally would not go into a debate about social issues and I do not want to with this post. I only want this story to be one to ponder the next time you see strife over various differences in our country.

I believe I have the freedom to believe and the free will to choose my own personal convictions. I also respect the beliefs of others and their freedom to choose their own convictions. That is what our country is all about, right? Freedom? The problem is the inability people have to respect the differences we are all allotted. It can also be difficult to find a middle ground that satisfies an infinite number of beliefs. Here is something that could make the conflict a bit easier to swallow; if your opinions or beliefs differ from another, you have the option to choose kindness. It isn’t likely the debates and arguments will ever end and we will not likely satisfy the millions of varying beliefs, but we can always choose to be kind.

Kindness is something I didn’t have to teach my disabled son. He cares nothing about the differences everyone else is fighting about and he most likely will never fully understand the complex moral debates that have been going on for decades, he’s just nice. He knows how to make friends even though he can’t communicate like a typical child. He calls everyone he knows his friend. Here is a story about my little boy making a new friend.

Last week my aunt came in from Arizona. It has been a long time since she has returned home for a visit and this time she didn’t come home alone. My aunt is gay and she came with her wife. It is the first time we met the woman she has devoted her life to. I hope they enjoyed their time with family. We played games, sat around a campfire, and ate lots of food. My aunt’s wife also made a friend, my seven year old disabled son. She didn’t flinch when he brought her his iPad and wanted her to play. He was rather insistent but she didn’t seem to mind. She sat and played, talked, and made funny videos with him as long as he wanted. He didn’t care that she was new to the family, he could care less about how she dressed or who she married, he liked her for who she was and she liked him the same. She may have noticed that he was different but she didn’t withdrawal from him any of the numerous times he wanted her attention.

To understand this mother’s joy over this event is to know that I understand that it can be hard for some people to interact with my son. He doesn’t always ask to play and he often uses in your face tactics to engage playtime. I understand he can make someone who doesn’t know him very well uncomfortable. But what I saw was a new friendship between two strangers that could have been mistaken for one of life long friends. These two friends really liked each other and no amount of difference between them mattered.

The day after my son met his new friend, he sat with his iPad and watched the videos they made together numerous times. He even remembered her name. After he had his fill of videos, he stood at the door and asked to go to grandma’s house because that is where his new friend was staying.

Those two saw each other as each one of us should see each other, potential life long friends. Their friendship is blind, as it should be. Too bad too many people miss out on a great friendship because of differences. It’s a shame many can’t stand by their own personal beliefs while still embracing those who oppose them. The debate isn’t about beliefs, it about the condition of the heart. My little boy calls those who treat him with kindness friends, it’s that simple. Maybe this friendship has more to teach us than we know.

*d*

Three is a Crowd in the Legend of Me

Everyone has a brood of exes and as my co-blogger has pointed out in her last post, running into one can be, well, interesting. I have three major exes in my life, one ex-boyfriend, one ex-fiancee, and an ex-husband. I have been fortunate to avoid all three for the last twelve plus years. Sure, there is Facebook with the occasional photo but that is a picnic compared to the awkward confrontation. Fortunately my ex fiancée (I will call him Penny Roller) moved out of town and then out of state, my other two exes are still local but I moved away for ten years, thus making a run-in very unlikely. I have since moved closer to my hometown so running into my ex-boyfriend (we will call him Duff) and ex-husband (Holes) a real possibility.

I don’t look forward to the awkward day I am face to face with my past so I hope it never happens. Running into Duff wouldn’t be so terrible. Despite my memories of his rather mopey mug, he was a nice guy and I worked with his wife after high school and I really like her. After sixteen years, I wouldn’t know what to say to him. The last conversation he and I had, we were high school freshman. Penny Roller would be an interesting encounter. We got engaged in high school and he abruptly ended our relationship. I found my own type of closure but there is too much in our past that would be hard to avoid. There are more humorous moments in our shared past as his nickname implies. He dropped out of high school and joined the army while we were together but between these adventures, he worked sporadically. I remember him rolling loose change to afford to put gas in his noisier than necessary truck to “go mudding” (yes, driving your big ol’ truck in an overabundance of mud is a thing in our state) or buy cigarettes. What I boiled down to was a literal notch in his headboard (he had quite a few). The dreaded meeting would be with my ex-husband, Holes. The darker details to this relationship are spelled out in one of my previous posts. He was the man who had obvious red flags that I somehow ignored. I married him out of guilt and fear of hurting his feelings. I ignored the moldy dishes that were rotting in his sink, the odd collection of figurines (earning him the more humorous nickname Senior Nutcracker), and obvious self-centered behavior. I didn’t want to be another disappointment in his life so I chose to turn a cheek to his lack of interest in aesthetics. Holes had a regular rotation of holey clothes and stories by the time I walked out the door. I know how he is and I anticipate an encounter would entail him telling me how terrible of a person I am.

My trio of exes are a string of examples of my self-loathing behavior. I ended the relationship with my ex-boyfriend after we dated a good portion of my freshman year. Things got awkward with Duff when we stopped socializing with friends and I began to feel like I was married at 15. I left him and began dating Penny Roller. I was taken with him, so much so that I often thought of him long after I married Holes. Penny Roller was one of the many reasons I ran away and right to Holes. I had little confidence in myself and thought I needed to settle for the dependable Holes over the Penny Roller’s antics. I didn’t give myself a chance to swoon over other boys (aside from my life long obsession with Wesley from The Princess Bride), but I did have my share of dates between the three. My legend was just a fable, tucked quietly away in the corner of my mind.

It took a few hundred half-witted smiles, several empty boxes of cigarettes, and a shelf load of odd knick-nacks later to finally break free of my trio and meet my legend. I am still amazed by him today. The day may come when I encounter one or all three of the ghosts from my past but despite what happened, I am finally confident in the decisions I have made. I know a chance encounter will no longer bubble up lingering feelings because I know I am exactly where I am meant to be. What memories I choose to hold on are the ones I can laugh at and others that solidify the best decision I ever made.

*d*

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Wesley: “As you wish.”
Me: “Giggle, giggle.”