Friday, September 24, 2010

If you like where you are, you can't complain about how you got there.....

It was a whimpering sound like a wounded animal would make. It was something in between a wail and a moan. It came from way down deep. I couldn’t not do it or suppress it. It was like an involuntary gag reflex. You don’t want to throw up and you try really hard not to, but it just comes rushing up to the top of your throat anyway.

I sat outside the courtroom on a wooden bench. The air became very thin. I couldn’t breathe and gasped as the pitiful sound continued to heave up from somewhere inside me. They told me to put my head between my knees. There was a very real, visceral sensation of pain somewhere in the depths of my gut. It was like the queasy, hollow feeling you have when you have drank too much the night before and you just feel all empty and inside out the morning after, but much more immediate and intense.

The judge had just announced his decision to take custody of my two sons away from me and give it to their father. Not only that, he had also decided that he was allowing my ex-husband, who lived in the same city at the time, to move out of state with them.

I had tried to commit suicide three months earlier and was brain damaged and still emotionally unstable even though I tried very hard, not at all convincingly unbeknownst to me at the time, to put on a charade of being neither. While I definitely did not think so then, it was absolutely best for the kids and myself.

I could not and would not have devoted the energy needed to heal from my brain injury or focused on my emotional healing had the kids stayed here…even living with their Dad. Being without the kids has allowed me to mature emotionally (about time), determine who I am and what I am about other than being a mother, find and develop strength I did not even know I had, and, among other things, learn to be comfortable with solitude. I even prefer it now. Go figure.

The children, on the other hand, have gained an invaluable opportunity they would not have had otherwise to get to know their Dad. Teenage boys need their Dad. I cannot teach them how to be a man. He has also modeled for them a whole different way of life than I would have and exposed them to a vast array of things. Great for them. They have even had the experience of gaining a younger brother. So, my youngest, has gotten to be both the youngest and the middle child. Interesting. I think he kinda likes being the older one now.

Funny, how what scares us the most and what we try to flee from like a bat out of hell, oftentimes, proves to be the most beneficial with the most growth and wisdom for us if we relax and allow ourselves to move through the experience, let things just unfold, and not tense up and resist.

Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun, in her book When Things Fall Apart writes:

We regard discomfort in any form as bad news. ….feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy and fear instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we are stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s wherever we are.

When something “bad” happens, don’t be so quick to judge the situation. Nothing is good or bad in and of itself. “Good” and “bad” exist in your thoughts, in your perspective, in your brain, and you have the power to change and control this.


  1. I came upon this posting almost as a matter of chance (if you believe in chance, that is) The raw honesty expressed here is indicative of a great maturing. As your boys grow older and they come to understand things about themselves, their world, and what transpired in your life to bring you to the actions you took, I hope they learn from your honesty and share in your growth. It is a gift that they might not now appreciate but it will serve them in their lives and carry them through difficult times.

    I'm glad to find that you're reading Chodron. I was given her book by a friend and Buddhist teacher at the time of my accident. It was a great gift, not only for getting me through the aftermath of the crash, but for reinforcing what I knew to be true.

    Continue growing. Your boys will be swept along in your wake and they will become better men for it. At some point, they will be back with you and continue to learn from your situation and from what has risen from the ashes of the phoenix.

  2. Mark, thank you so much for your understanding and encouraging words. I do know that I am living the reality I created and that I am creating a very different one for the future. I also know that my boys are only benefiting from my example and my growth.......but it never hurts to hear it again!

    You know I love the analogy of the phoenix. It is my symbol! Just got a tattoo of a phoenix...did a blog on it a while back.

    Chodron is my hero. Can't get enough of her. Her teachings have guided me through this journey and have been just what I need to hear at the time. So much wisdom. Glad they spoke to you too! Again, happy birthday! Still celebrating?

  3. What I realize about parenting is that it doesn't end at age 18. The needs they will have for you to be with them, guide them, be friends with them, and help them, will be even greater as they become adult men.

    Often I have to tell part of my life story. A big moment was when I was 18 and burned on 70% of my body in a boat explosion. Almost the very first sentence after I say that fact is 'and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me'. I don't want anyone hearing that story thinking for a second that it was a negative experience. It wasn't. It was a painful experience, yes. But that does not mean it was negative.

    Much of who I have become as an artist, and as simply a person in the world, stems from the lessons I learned during those 7 weeks recovering in Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY.

    In the same way, much of who you are, and much of how you are helping people in the world, stems from that painful period of your life. The world has benefitted greatly from you being able to take that pain and build it into something insightful and strong.

  4. Napkin Dad (??? interesting tag:) Thank you for your kind words. I agree with you 100%,and I love the way you express your experience. Exactly. While it has most definitely been terribly painful, it has not been negative. As a matter of fact, it has been incredibly, positively transformative, and exactly what I needed to grow and become stronger and more fully alive. I like to call it a blessing in disguise.

    It has also taught me not to judge anything as good or bad which kinda makes me fearless. A great feeling. Everything just "is." How I experience it is up to me.

  5. Hi Debbie, Sorry to go off-topic but yes, still celebrating. Can't find a good reason to stop. This weekend is the BikeMS Waves to Wine ride. It's going to be a huge celebration!

  6. Judith M. HamptonSeptember 25, 2010

    You describe a moment that I shared with you in such painful detail. The person you were then and the person who writes this blog are now worlds apart with a universe of work that fostered your remarkable growth between then and now. Work that you sought out and pursued without much assistance, a tribute to your tenacity and determination. I'm proud of you. Love, Mom

  7. Whew! It has been a heck of a journey. I am sure it has been also for everyone around me as they go to know and adjusted to the new me. It is like getting a whole new daughter...only better! Thank you for your positive thoughts now and the encouragement along the way! Love to you.

  8. Wow Debbie, this posting sounds like taken from fiction. You are a courageous woman, one that I admire so much. Thank you for sharing your life with the world because through them we find light to hope and comfort to our tears. It has been a blessing to connect with you and I wish you all the glorious blessings that one can have, among them, Joy, Peace and Strength. Hugs! Roxana

  9. This life story has been so encouraging to me, it's hard moving on with life when things get so hard but we can do it if we keep trying and never give up on ourselves and all those who truly love us. I get very depressed at times but having the support that I need helps me to deal with things a lot better.

  10. I want to impress upon you the one thing I did not know or have faith in when I was depressed. What you feel is TEMPORARY. it is not forever.

    I now know that life is a roller coaster. Even now, it has its ups and downs. The thing I remember now is just to stay in my seat and enjoy and appreciate the hell out of the ups and to even see the good that is there in the down cycle. Both are always present.

    I have also learned tools to change my thinking and to keep me more on an even keel such as meditation, thought reframing, visualization, etc. Put together your own tool kit.

    Please visit my new website and blog at The best to you.