About This Palette
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I’m so sorry this is so long. I just don’t know any other way to tell these stories. I'll totally understand if you don't feel like reading them.
Blue Child — Being a mother doesn’t exactly count as a “moment,” but my son, Kevin, has unequivocally changed me and shaped who I am today. You see, he’s an addict and has been doing substances since he was 15 (he’s now 37). When he was in his teens, I vowed to myself that I would somehow “love him through his addiction” and never give up on him. Upholding that vow has been and still is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Over the years, I’ve done all the “right” things, but I’ve also enabled him in ways that would curl your hair. I’ve lived through nightmarish moments in hell, when I’ve begged and pleaded with God to give him (and me) peace. And I’ve had to reconcile my faith in God with the fact that those prayers largely go unanswered. Still—and in spite of my son having developed a pretty wretched personality over the years—I haven’t given up on either him or God. I just wonder what is the lesson God so wants me to learn.
Dashed Dreams — It took me three rounds of college before I finally graduated at age 30. During my last round, I became extraordinarily close with one of my professors and his wife. Our bonds were visceral, ethereal, and passionate, and we spent most of our free hours together, often planning the life we would share in Oregon when both she and I graduated. Besides earning my degree, I was also working full time. And because I had a good relationship with my ex-husband, we were able to agree that my son should live with him while I worked and finished my degree. My ex swore over and over that he wouldn’t try to keep Kevin when I graduated, even though he knew my plans to move with him to Oregon.
Within days of my graduating, however, my world fell apart. My friends headed west with my car (I was going to arrive later by train), and soon thereafter, my husband obtained a restraining order against me and had it served—along with a custody suit—while I was at work. At the time, I had an EEOC complaint against the company, and it was just waiting for an opportunity to fire me. And within a week, I lost my job. Then, because I had no job, I lost my apartment and had to move in with my parents. So, within two weeks, I lost my best friends, my car, my six-year-old son, my job, and my home. I was facing a custody battle and an EEOC battle, as well as a fight for unemployment benefits because the company contested my right to receive them.
This devastating turning point led to a long downward spiral for me. Although I did find a new and better job, I sobbed and shook every morning in the shower with sheer hate at my ex. I spent my free weekends drinking and doing drugs and sleeping with more men than I can count. My parents criticized me for being such a bad mother. I lost the battle for unemployment benefits and cancelled the EEOC complaint because it was all too much to handle. And I entered a bad relationship that ended with me being beaten up.
Eventually, the nightmare ended. The long, nasty legal battle ended in an unwanted but unavoidable joint-custody arrangement. I even became an advocate for battered women. I came to see that, my whole life, I had thought of myself as a victim (of my parents), and I gradually, determinedly changed that part of me. But perhaps most of all, I learned that hate kills—that lasting, blind anger eats you up inside and destroys all goodness, hope, and love. The lesson didn’t take permanent, deep roots for another few years, but it started me on my quest for inner peace, which I have, for the most part, found.
The Big Affair — About a year after things settled down, I met my soulmate and fell passionately in love. It was the love I had always longed for and believed could happen. It was the stuff poets write of. But it was doomed. My lover was not only married, but also my boss. I felt betrayed by God. He had finally granted me the love of my dreams but wrapped it in a wedding band that made the love impossible to last. In a heavy state of depressed anger one night, I cursed God, turned my back on him, and swore I would deny him all the days of my life.
My boss’s job was to move the magazines I worked for from Kentucky to D.C. (his home), and he wanted me to move with them. He adored my writing (it reminded him of F. Scott Fitzgerald) and believed wholeheartedly that it and I would blossom on the East Coast. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I knew the relationship couldn’t last, especially once he was back home with his wife and children. In fact, the anguish of the ill-fated love had already started tearing us apart. It was during that time (and this is so hard to admit), I became pregnant with his child. With gut-wrenching grief, I decided to end the pregnancy and have my tubes tied. Then, I renegotiated the custody arrangement with my ex, packed up everything, and followed him to D.C.
Once there, the relationship flailed, and soon, it was as if he barely knew me. Finally, within two months of moving, I walked into his office, handed him my resignation, and walked out the door. Now, I was all alone in a strange, big city. I’d given up everything, had no job, and knew I would never let myself be employed again. So I started trying to earn a living by freelancing. And I started praying.
Every day, I got on my knees and prayed for God to forgive me, for him to guide me, help me, save me. To please take me back. When I wasn’t praying, I was trying to get freelance work or working a nighttime telemarketing job.
Finally, I was down to my last $600. It was just enough to pay for my next month’s rent or for a move back home. I was filled with utter and complete despair, not knowing what to do. As I walked toward my apartment the midnight before my rent was due, I was sobbing and begging God to show me the way. I pleaded, “Please, I’ve done everything I know to help myself. I’ve begged for your forgiveness and tried to live the life you want me to. But I don’t know what to do, and I am paralyzed with hopelessness.”
I was still sobbing when I climbed into bed. Then, ever so gently, a light filled the room, a great peace descended on me, and these words filled my being: “Just as you love your child, so, too, do I love you.” And with that, an enormous rush of love flowed into me, and I fell soundly into deep sleep.
I was awakened the next morning by a phone call offering me my first freelance job. Later, I found $20 on the sidewalk. And little miracles just kept flowing my way, telling me I should stay.
For the next six months, I quite literally had a love affair with God, and through that unparalleled love, discovered my soul and God within me. No other love compares to that of the Divine. It is the stuff that poets write of. And it changes you forever.
Blank Slate — Although to love and be loved has always been my ultimate goal, it took me many years, even with God’s help, to work through my “psychology” and learn how true, healthy love works. I always tried to love people the way I wanted to be loved, thinking they would give back to me, in turn, the kind of love I gave—the kind I needed. I finally learned that’s not how it works, starting on my 50th birthday. This is, again, another long story, but I’m going to spare you the details. Suffice it to say that, on that day, I was suddenly and abruptly betrayed by not only my two closest and dearest friends, but also my husband. Shortly thereafter, I was rejected by my parents, mostly my mother, who didn’t want me near her as she struggled with lung cancer (I’m an only child). And another dear friend, caught up in her own life, faded into the background.
It was as if all love had been stripped from life, and it took me almost 18 months to recover from the loss. I lived liked a hermit, talking and being with almost no one, except my husband. I was empty, a blank slate. I knew I would come out on the other side at some point, but I wasn’t sure who I’d be when I did.
Normally, I would have sought counseling for such a major life event. (My motto has always been, “When the going gets tough, the tough get counseling.”) But this time, I chose not to analyze and to let what would be, be. Let whatever handwriting would appear on my blank slate to happen.
Eventually, the conclusion I reached, the writing on the slate, was that I was never going to be loved the way I wanted to be. That made me horribly sad, and I had to fight to keep the reality from turning me bitter. But ultimately, it was my life’s most freeing self-revelation. I learned how to fill the emptiness myself, in healthy ways. I stopped trying to please others and gave myself permission to not love those who seemed to love me but really didn’t (e.g., my in-laws). I also learned what true forgiveness is and gained the ability for compassion and acceptance of most people—without expecting, wanting, or needing anything in return.
Going Home — When I was 53, both my parents became quite ill, and I went back to Kentucky to care for them—filled with joy at the opportunity to show and give them all my love. But what started as a fairly straightforward caretaking mission soon turned into a grueling, lonely, intense six-month battle that culminated with my having to make the decision to end my dad’s life support and my losing of my “whole” mom to partial dementia.
Despite all the things I had been through in my life, that period was by far the hardest I’ve ever lived through. Indeed, about a year later I was diagnosed as having a very mild case of PTSD. It passed, of course, and my mother lived with my husband and me for 7.5 more years. Nonetheless, the event changed me forever, opening my eyes to how incredibly strong and brave I really am. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
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