Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Long Goodbye

My friends, family and anyone who reads this blog knows I have a challenging relationship with my mom. My mom is a person who, for whatever reason, has chosen to fill her life with anger and resentment. For the past thirty years, I have tried reasoning, arguing, pushing, distancing and incorporating every communication model and method I could get my hands on. Nothing changed except my levels of hope and frustration. I always held hope that one day, somehow, something would happen and my mom would see all the opportunities for joy she has in her life. I held hope for her to be the mom I always wanted and needed her to be. I wished for her to embrace my nephews and also my son. She has repeatedly chosen not to. I have watched her push away friends and other family. I have been witness to her unleashing the most hateful and hurtful words on people I love. She has directed those hateful words to me as well. When my mom found out I was gay, she told me that I would ‘get AIDS and die and go to hell because that is what I deserved.” That is one of the milder statements to come from my mom.

And still, I held hope. People told me to give up and I didn’t listen. I would call or visit her for an hour and then need days to detox from the experience. For over two decades, I have been struggling with what to do. I turned it all inward, examining what I could do or say differently. I have come to realize what others in my life have known for some time. There is nothing I can do differently. My mom is making her choices.

Three days before this past Christmas, I stopped by her house for a visit. As always, I hoped Christmas would soften her just a little and as always, I ended up being surprised when it was the same experience that keeps repeating itself. I chose to stay quiet while my mom delivered her well rehearsed monologue for over an hour, berating me for being a bad person, a selfish and self-centered son who treats her as though she were garbage. I left that day and again, it was almost a week before I felt like me again. My entire life, I have watched her drive people away. Her best friend, her daughter, my niece and anyone else who comes into her life.

Just over a week ago, I received an email from her. The first line apologized for the last visit. I felt my hope rise as it always has. The rest of the email was full of the resentment, anger and hate that has come to define my mom. In the email she states that I have the characteristics and traits she hates in people. In that instance, I made a very difficult decision I had been battling for over two decades. Thursday evening I took a deep breath, exhaled and severed my relationship with her.

I feel both sad and relieved. I still hold hope that one day she will have that epiphany and chose for happiness, joy and family and at the same time, I also know that I can’t have her in my life in any capacity at this time.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saying Yes... Again...

March 7, 2009. I wrote and published a blog post titled Just Say Yes.You can read the post for yourself if you like, but basically it was about the decision to say yes to possibilities. At some point, I moved away from saying yes and moved toward maybe or perhaps later. From there it was only a matter of time until I heard myself saying no and then later, I can’t. I have said I can’t so many times. Too many times. I have said it aloud. I have said it to myself. I have put it on a loop and let it become my mantra. I can’t became a blanket. It felt safe. Safe is good. I’ve had a stroke. That is when I can’t started. I can’t walk. I can’t type. I can’t stand on one foot. I can’t run. I can’t (insert something here. I probably said that too!)

I can’t didn’t stop there. It started oozing into other areas of my life. I can’t be fit. I can’t be happy. I can’t be a good dad. I can’t be me. Me? In many ways, I have forgotten who I am. I shelved myself.

I became the partner.
I can’t be me. 
I became the business trainer and counselor.
I can’t be me. 
I became the dad.
I can’t be me. 

In between being a partner, dad and my job, I had absolutely no time to be me. I also didn’t even realize I had completely packed away who I was to be what was needed. I needed to be a good partner. I still do and I think I am. I also need to be a good dad. I think I do an OK job there. I enjoy my job. I’m very good at it. I have a great reputation. Robb knows. Robb can do it. Robb is the guy. I love the compliments. I love the trust people have in me. And at the same time, they have trust in a version of me. Me, and yet not me.

Just over a week ago, I hit a wall. I felt confined and suffocated. It wasn’t really triggered by anything and yet it was everything. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I started to feel scary things. Thing that were tinted with, I hesitate to even type it out now…

I love my family. I take great pride in my family. My family means the world to me. Ryder is the greatest love of my life. Ever. And yet, there it was. It wasn’t even really there. It was more like when you have a dream and you know someone is there even though you never actually see them. You just feel their presence. Yes, there it was, lingering just outside the edge of the picture. Resentment. When that word popped up in my head, it was shocking. It was scary. It was shaming.

How could I have that feeling when I am so in love with my family? My husband?  My son? My awesome-sometimes-frustrating-always-fantastically-perfect-just-as-he-is-son? It was a horrifying revelation. And since I have a very vivid and active imagination, I immediately projected decades into the future and saw how my whole family had fallen apart and John hated me, Ryder was in jail and I was miserable and alone and it all started at that moment. The moment I let my family down. The moment that slight tinge of resentment came into my life. Our lives.

Years ago, I was doing business with a company in Seattle. It was on a training visit that I got meet Deli and Halley. I had spoken to Deli many times on the phone and every word she said would sing through the phone with such authenticity, passion and so full of, well, Deli. Before meeting her, she became one of my favorite people. I loved her calls. She had me at hello, putting my spirits in a good place. I met her wife, Halley on that visit in Seattle. We spent a brief amount of time together and since then, we have always stayed in touch in that Facebook sort of way, liking updates, commenting here and there and then having the occasional conversation in Messenger. One thing I have come to LOVE about the universe or life or whatever name you want to give it, is when I can look back at seemingly insignificant moments and see those moments as the first steps toward something yet to be.

Halley and Deli have both been AMAZING sounding boards and my go-to people when parenthood rears it's overwhelming head. I knew Halley had been working on a book. Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living. I actually pre-ordered it months ago and it landed in my hands the morning following my resentment meltdown/revelation. I was still reeling from the shame and shock of it all when I opened to read the first few pages during a break at work. I was stunned. It was like Halley had channeled me. One of the first things she talks about, is the bullshit term of work-life balance. How we have so many places where we spend our energy. So many buckets to fill. Work. Marriage. Family. Me-Time. You get the point. Halley goes on to talk about how we attend to each one on an as-needed basis often times never getting to the Me-Time bucket. That was me. Ryder needs me more than anyone. And I gladly and freely give him my time. Time with him is my favorite time in the world. Even when I am at the end of my frustration rope, he is still my favorite person. His nose makes me smile. It would make you smile too. It’s so small and covered in freckles. He hates the freckles. I think they are spectacular! Anyway, Halley then goes on to talk about how, when she and Deli had their son, how she threw everything into being a mom and provider. And nothing into just being Halley.

I looked around for the cameras. Had she been watching me? Watching my life? I was only a few pages in and already I knew the reason for my meltdown. I had no Me-Time. ME-time. Not getting Ryder to bed so I could be alone for two minutes before dozing off to sleep time. I mean the Me-Time that charged my batteries. Fed my spirit and gave me joy. The Me-Time that let me be Robb. Just Robb. Not Robb the dad – although that is my favorite label! Not Robb the husband. Just Robb. I realized I had not only been neglecting the Me-Time bucket, I had put myself in a box and sealed it with duct tape. Not cool duct tape. Plain, boring, gray duct tape. I neglected and ignored myself. It was making me cranky. It was making me less patient. It was making me wade into the swamp of resentment and that was one place I definitely did not and do not want to be.

As much as I was loving Halley’s book, something was wrong. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I set the book down for a few days to let things simmer and to see what would emerge. Enter Cindy. Cindy is one of the people I have been so blessed to know these past two years. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. She lives about a two-hour drive away in St. George, Utah. But, she was in Vegas this weekend and we had lunch yesterday. As always, the conversation was wonderful and her energy infectious. I told her about Life, Incorporated and the epiphanies I had already in the first few pages of the book. Conversation drifted and "Year of Yes", by Shonda Rimes came up. I had seen it. I never read it. Cindy has. We talked about Christina Yang. Christina was my favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy. When Christina left the show, so did I. Inwardly, I am a lot like Christina Yang. I related to her more than anyone on the show. Something in me decides I need to read that book. Now. Before I read anything else. Before I finish Life, Incorporated.

I bought the e-book and the audio book just before leaving work and started it up as soon as I got in my car. Within a couple of hours, between the audio and e-book, I was over half way through the book. I realized what was missing when reading Life, Incorporated. I was reading saying maybe, possibly, and a few other things. But I wasn’t saying yes. I realized I could read that book all I wanted to, but like anything, if I didn’t say yes, it wasn’t going to do anything.

Like I did all those years ago, I decided I am going to say yes. Not just to possibilities, but to things that scare me - thanks Shonda – To things that will fill me with joy – Thanks Halley – To things that will make me a better dad and a better husband. I am going to say yes to Me-Time. I will say yes to playing more games. Playing more in general. Yes to being silly. Yes to being a badass. Yes to being me. And yes to saying no to I can’t.

Now I am off to restart Life, Incorporated. Because… Yes!