Thursday, November 24, 2011

From the roots...

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. This year, more than any other, has been one of newness, growth, expectation, disappointment and change. We all have those crossroads in our lives and I have been traveling mine, making rail switches periodically until I could reach where I am today. More than any day, this is the time I can look back and see the places I've been and where I'm heading. It's my "new year" and I'm going to share it with you. Why? Because it's about hope and renewal, and if you read this as a pity party, then reset your mind. See it with me.

Two years and a month ago, I left my husband. I won't go into detail, but he took everything from money to the remaining vestiges of my pride and self-worth. I was a broken woman with two broken children. It was with a lot of fear that I packed up my car with my two beautiful daughters, our cat, and the clothes we owned, and began a two day drive to another State where my parents were waiting to take us in. On the way, I stayed at the house of one of my publishers. Her sense of humor and energy brought life back to my children and dried the tears I'd been shedding for the man my husband could have been, but wasn't.

I arrived at my destination the next day, and spent the following year getting my girls back on track with their self-confidence. It took a lot to rebuild their security and to let them know that the three of us would weather on just fine, even when their father began his campaign against me to our former (powerful) community. My kids knew the truth, they'd seen it, and their relationship with him was changed forever.

A year later, I had enough to venture out again. My family wanted me to stay, but I knew better. I'd already been hiding my writing from them for a full year, but it was challenging. With no locks on the doors and me working about seventy hours a week from home, there were constant interruptions and opinions about what I should be doing with my time. And from their view point, I understand. All they knew was I barely paid the bills and worked like a dog doing something obscure online.

November 8th last year, I left a second time and set my sights on Grand Rapids, Michigan. There were a lot of factors involved. But the biggest hurdle was that I had purchased a home here with everything I had after the divorce finalized (no, y'all, I got a fraction of what he stole from me and next to nothing in child support) and the couple in the home refused to move out.

Two friends stepped up to save me when my family deserted me. Again that's another story, but suffice it to say homelessness is not something I chose for myself or my children. For three weeks we lived out of a motel room, wrangling the cheapest price I could and hiding our living situation from the schools. My kids would have been kicked out of school, had they known we weren't in the area.

At one point we lived in a motel that housed a prison penitentiary and the morning commute to school meant squeezing through a throng of over muscled men with fresh cuts and bruises who were a little too interested in us. Through it all Bronwyn Green and Brynn Paulin kept me sane. Bronwyn cooked dinner for us every night without fail. She did our laundry and invited us to her home for hours each day. She was literally my angel. Brynn Paulin, who had just moved, opened her home to me during the day so that I could work. She invited me in to her community of friends (non-writing related), and invited me to gatherings the reminded me what normal was supposed to look like.

A year ago today I had Thanksgiving with Brynn's family. I thanked her several times, but I still cried on my way home for the generosity shown me that day. And that evening, the couple finally moved out of my house and I wasted no time getting in.

A lot has happened in a year. There have been trials and challenges through it all. There have been adjustments and relationships working things out whether between my children and their father, or me and which church I attend, but we've never forgotten how it could have been.

Last year changed our lives. I grew up, which is a weird thing for someone with two kids to say. We're starting new traditions and we're keeping some old ones. But most importantly we value the lessons we've learned along the way. There are people who are family because we were born into them. Then there are those that are family because you chose them and they can become more integrated in who you are than those who share your blood.

Family, both types, have hiccups along the way and that doesn't mean they are less important to you. On the contrary those adjustment periods are because they mean so much to you that you shift and sort yourself to make the fit that much better.

We go through phases. Your sister might always argue your ear off. Your mom will never be satisfied with her cranberry sauce made fresh and differently every year. Your brother will never stop being self-centered or rude to his wife. Your dad will never understand what you do for a living and he will never stop grumbling about whatever political party he hates most. Football and parades may always be the Thanksgiving issue and you may think your sister in law should get a clue.

Your friends may be near or far, unhappy or distracted. You may have had recent disagreements or ones that have festered. But your friends are yours by choice. Remember why you have them and what they mean to you. Yes, even if they're in another State. Friends, good ones, are hard to come by. Then imagine those friends around the table with you today. Look at them in your mind's eyes, sitting side by side with your relatives. They are more than the individual but the sum of the whole. And that's just one equation that will never change. These people are your family. Remind them, while you are reminding yourself, how important they are to you.

While you're at it, start a new tradition if the old ones have grown stale. Heck, start one if you yourself have grown stale. This year, we instituted a new one that we've pledged to carry into our gray hairs. All Thanksgivings at home, whether alone or with other invited guests, will be in pajamas. I don't care if you have fancy hair and footies, or long silk robes and undergarments in place. It's all about the comfort. But um, please wear pants.

And while you're at all this reflection and change.... have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

<3
Mia

20 comments:

Bronwyn Green said...

This is a great post, Mia and it made me pretty teary. You've done awesome things over the last year - be proud. Very proud. :)

Jen B. said...

Happy Thanksgiving! And congrats on finding the strength to move on!

Harlie Reader said...

Mia, I'm crying over your post. Sometimes, you have to leave; move on regardless. You, Mia, had to do what you needed to do for yourself and for your girls. Never, ever forget that. I'm glad that you have found support in your community now and have a circle of friends that you can depend on.

Be strong and stay strong. Keep moving forward. You are better off and so are your girls. Don't forget that.

Harlie Reader said...

Oh and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Mia Watts said...

@Bronwyn, you know what? I AM proud of me. I'm also insanely proud of my kids. :) And above that, I'm honored to have somehow made a friend like you. Don't know what I did, but it must've been good.

Mia Watts said...

@Jen, Happy Thanksgiving. I sooo owe your brother an email. LOL. Tell him I said hi and hey, are you going to the next AAD?

Mia Watts said...

@Harlie, I've had a lot of tears over these two years. Hell, the fifteen before weren't fun either, LOL. I'm glad to say that as hard as it was, this is so much better. I'm in a good place, especially with the friends I have.

Thank you, Harlie. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your encouragement.

Jenny Gallegos said...

Wow! that's one touching story. You really had a rough couple of years. You're a tough woman. Stay strong! :) God bless! :)

Mia Watts said...

@Jenny, you know, it's kind of funny I guess, because I don't see myself as particularly tough or strong. Mostly, I feel like a screw up who should've left a long long time ago. I was so afraid to leave. So afraid I couldn't do better than what I already had. I think a lot of women get trapped in that kind of thinking. The truth is, what we know ISN'T better than the unknown. I just had to figure it out for myself... and get pushed to the point where fear wasn't nearly as scary as sticking around.

Eileen said...

wow, what an amazing post. It took courage to change your life the way you did. I understand what you mean about types of family and friends you share your life with. I love the new tradition of pajamas for Thanksgiving! sounds comfortable to me.

Jen B. said...

Hey Mia! I just left my brother at my sister's house in FL. So sad, Thanksgiving is over :( I'll tell him hey when we talk later. I would love to go to the next AAD but my husband is so not feeling it! I really want to go to NOLA. I have a few months to work on him :)

Kelly Kirch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mia Watts said...

@Eileen, Well thank you! I'll take my compliments where I can get them. ;) Also, I'm so looking forward to another year of pjs and turkey. I think next year, I may have to invite guests. What a riot that will be!

Mia Watts said...

@Jen, Just think, if you come to NOLA we can all ghost hunt together. LOL. C'mon Jen, you can do it! I barely got to talk to you at the last one. I so need to make this happen.

Jen B. said...

If I can figure out a way to get to NOLA, I will do it. I really enjoyed AAD (even with all of the weirdness with my husband being injured and his operation). Tonight, I just need to sleep off the exhaustion from travelling! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Mia Watts said...

@Jen, Ugh hon. I'm so sorry he hasn't been well. I hope next year runs more smoothly for you. And selfishly because I'd love to see/meet you again.

DHM said...

You've humbled me with your courage to share your history. It has really helped to put things in my life in perspective. God bless you and your children. An abundance of success in your writing. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

Mia Watts said...

@DHM, Thank you. The girls and I had a great time hanging out together and cooking. It's not terribly exciting but the three of us have a great dynamic and we're incredibly grateful for each other. I don't know how humbling that is, mostly I feel like I stumble through life trying to make improvements along the way. LOL. On the bright side, when you hit bottom, there's nowhere to go, but up.

Regina Carlysle said...

I totally understand the whole 'hitting rock bottom' thing and you have climbed yourself out of this mess in grand fashion. Sorry I'm late in commenting here but I'm so proud of you honey. I'm glad we're friends.

Mia Watts said...

@Regina, I am too. It was so awesome to have you nearby when I lived in Texas. Any chance you want to move to Michigan?!?! LOL.

Love you honey.