CONTROL😬

Control is an illusion. When we most believe we are in control of a situation, we are actually out of control.

I believe the driving force of the need to control is fear. An acronym for fear is “False Events Appearing Real”. We fear what will happen if we let go and let life happen. I have found that when I let go of trying to control the world around me, my life is fuller and a lot more peaceful. When I keep the focus on myself, my relationships are better and I am less anxious. It is not an easy thing to do, letting go, especially when the need to control life around us was developed out of necessity to help us survive physically, mentally or emotionally. It’s hard to tell ourselves that part of our lives is over and there is no longer a need for what is sometimes called “white knuckling” (holding on so tight that your knuckles turn white). Like an addiction, letting go has to be done one minute at a time because the need for control touches every area of our lives. Try asking yourself in each situation:

  • “What am I afraid will happen?”
  • “Is my fear really logical?”
  • “What am I running away from?”
  • “What am I hiding from?”
  • “What will happen if I don’t try to control this situation?”
  • “Am I helping or hurting?”
  • Is this my business?

I struggle with control issues. In the past, I could spot them in others but didn’t see them in myself until I realized that I have a need to control what others think of me. When I came to that realization, I began to look at possibilities in other areas of my life. I see it in my writing, the need to give every detail of every situation in order to ensure that the reader perceives what I have written as I believe they should. I cannot control what someone takes away from my writing just as I cannot control what people think of me. Every person is made up of life experiences and they have developed their individual beliefs, interests and opinions. Still it is difficult to let go of the illusion.

I feel that I have to make excuses or give reasons for any thing I say and/or do so that I can control how it is received. I try to make others understand why I am the way I am. It may be acceptable in this venue because we are all striving to learn from and support each other but it doesn’t work in my everyday life. My new goal is to accept myself as I am and stop worrying about what other people think of me because I cannot control their perception of me in any way. We have a saying in Ala-non, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It took me a while to make sense of this saying but that was because I didn’t get the concept behind it. Yet, when I look at it as meaning as, “I cannot control what others think of me” the meaning is clear.

If you believe in God, the concept of “letting go” is simply “Let God and Let God.” Letting go is learning to trust that things will work as they are meant to. I have a friend who has a sticky note on her mirror that says, “(her name), Thanks but I don’t need your help today, Love, God.” Another tool that some of my friends use is a God Box. When something is worrying you, write it on a piece of paper and put it in your God Box. Once you have placed the problem in his hands, let go of it. This will only work if you let go of the situation. I have a tendency to turn it over then take it back, turn it over, then take it back like a Yo Yo.

God doesn’t expect us to let go of the steering wheel. For example, we can’t say, “I can’t pay my bills God, you take over” and sit back and wait. He expects us to use the knowledge and tools we have to solve problems to the best of our ability. If you are not a believer, the concept of letting go still works. When we try to control a situation, we usually end up making the situation worse, so just let go.

The burden of trying to control everything around us is stressful and exhausting and it’s not our job. What would life be like if we just put that burden down and put that energy into something more positive? Would it feel like freedom?

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Step-mother-ing Part Two

2hearts     When we got engaged, Danny and I felt strongly that the wedding should be formal, in a church, and have the kids included in the ceremony. We wanted them to understand that this marriage and joining of family was a serious commitment for all of us. It was a beautiful wedding on Valentine’s Day in red and white and the reception was in a historical community center with a DJ and fajita buffet. Danny wore socks that his ex had given him and boxers that I bought him, complete with hearts, and I wore red shoes. I have never been jealous of his ex with regard to their relationship so though I shook my head at his lack of concern, the socks represented his observance of Valentine’s Day. Our son, the best man, gave a toast saying that he was glad I was in his dad’s life because it made him in a better mood. He was 17 at the time.

13778409-graduate-girl-cartoon     I set an example by getting an Associates Degree, having a home free of alcohol, attending church and maintaining a good work ethic. If that was all they needed, it would have been easy, but I couldn’t control the world outside our home or what had come before my appearance on the scene. To add to the challenges, I had no clue as to how to be a good mother or even a mother. I thought that my commitment to their well being would be enough. Our son went through some serious problems but has his own family now and is a devoted husband and father with a good work ethic. Our youngest daughter graduated from college with3363355-graduation-diploma-shallow-depth-of-field a high GPA and is a good wife and mother of 2 twin toddlers of 2 years old, a 4 month old baby and a teenage step-daughter. She handles it well because she is organized and keeps everyone on a schedule. Our oldest daughter is going through a difficult time but is working to repair the damage done to her life by choices she has made. Problems the other two children went through were obvious but not with this child. She was quiet and shy and the other two were getting most of the 6501912-portrait-of-sad-lonely-girl-with-umbrella-outdoorsattention with their acting out and getting into trouble. As an adult, she is struggling to come to terms with feelings she has repressed all these years. Though I have always tried to be there for her, it was not enough and that makes me sad. Could I have done better? In some ways yes, however, I wasn’t the problem. As a result, damage has been done by her actions and she doesn’t seem to understand that you can’t just say “I’m sorry” and make it all go away. When trust has been lost, hard work has to be done to gain it back. She is on the right track and has a lot of support.

      I have always reminded myself that the children were in Danny’s life before me but I still struggle with my need to be #1 in his life. I have never asked him to betray his children for my sake but his sense of fairness seems skewed to me.  What piper2_17245_smhappened to the words “forsaking all others” spoken in our marriage vows? Of course, I don’t ask him to forsake his children or anyone else, my point is that as an adult and his wife, I should be his partner not treated as one of his children. That being said, he is an awesome husband, father and grandfather. His grandchildren follow him around like he’s the pied piper and each child feels special in his eyes. The problem, as I see it, is the children tattling to their dad about any disagreement they have with me. I have told them he is not my “daddy” so they need to talk things out with me when we don’t agree. When they have come to him, Danny has felt the need to mediate which sets up a resentment, at least on my part. I have always left the door of communication open which works in theory but not always in reality. I do understand that he is afraid of losing their love and I am afraid of losing his. My solution to the problem is to step back from my involvement with the kids, letting Danny and their mother take the reins without my interference. This solution has been great for me because I have more peace in my life.

22673131-child-with-gift-box-near-white-christmas-tree-isolated     One of the nice things about the grandchildren is that there is no step, I am just their NeNe. They are beautiful kids with outgoing personalities and each one is unique. I’m not exactly the fun grandma, I’m the gifting grandma. I love to shop for gifts that that will suit each child hoping to convey that I have paid attention to their individuality. I want to believe that my gift is in gifting. Sometimes I fail but often I am right on the mark. I will not let myself believe that I bought their parents or am buying them because its a personal delight for me. Its sorta like problem-solving and I love problem-solving (as you can tell if you have read my posts).

     Danny and I finally have our house to ourselves and are enjoying it immensely. We are working to prepare ourselves for moving to the mountains where we will only have each other, communication being the key. This has been Danny’s dream for at least half of his life and has become mine. Our families are not happy about it but we need and deserve this. We are happy in our relationship and looking forward to our adventure.

UPDATE

I have been reassured, since this original post, that my sister’s family and my mother are happy for me but jealous that I will be living in ski country. lol

Yep, that's he and me in our rover driving through the San Juan Mountains.
Yep, that’s he and me in our rover driving through the San Juan Mountains.

Step-mother-ing – Part One

 

Wicked Stepmother Stigma

    When I took the position as Stepmother, I realized with the position comes stigma. When the word “stepmother” is uttered many people envision “the wicked stepmother”. It doesn’t help that there are always stories in the news about a stepfather or a stepmother or boyfriend or girlfriend of the parent abusing kids, physically and/or sexually. I was told over and over again by my counselor and anyone else who felt it necessary, that I would always be only their stepmother, never their mother. I was offended by these warnings because I never had any intention of trying to take their mother’s place. What I wanted was for us to be a family and for the children to have my love and support. I wanted to help them have the best life possible with Danny and I, giving them a stable, comfortable home base.   

Explanations could be dicey.

    I do, however, refer to our three children as “my” or “our” children because I never wanted them to feel any different. Also, I did not want them to feel they had to make explanations about their parents which could be dicey for them. Even before Danny and I were married, we became a family. Since Danny had custody, I  believe it was because they needed me to fill the void left by their mother’s inability to be in their lives daily. This was evidenced by their behavior once we all decided that it was o.k. for me to sleep in their dad’s room. That move forward did away with the usual arguments over which of the two girls I would sleep with when we spent the weekends together.  A calmness came over the household like this was what they were more accustomed to. It was like having a mother figure rather than Dad’s girlfriend.

 

Day by Day, Month by Month, Year by Year
Day by Day, Month by Month, Year by Year

   While being a stepmother has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done, it has also been the most difficult. If you are considering taking it on, be aware that it is a serious commitment. Just loving each other is not enough because I promise you that love will be challenged on a regular basis. When you are a bio-mother, you grow with your children day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year but as a step-mother, you are already in the year by year. Your husband has already developed a relationship with his children as has their mother, and you are just getting started.

 

 IMG_0153    When Danny and I met, we were both coming out of marriages with chemically dependent spouses. Bad timing, you bet, but we got into couple counseling right away because we knew about baggage. When the children and their therapist decided it was time for me to meet them, we had dinner at a restaurant. I was nervous but brought pictures of my cats hoping it would be a good conversation starter and it was. The dinner went well and when we returned to their house, they introduced me to their cat.

 

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     I was asked to join them in family counseling which included their mother. Family counseling went well because we were all on our best behavior but out in the real world, not so much. I did my best though there were problems with their mother. Out of respect for the children and their mother, I will not go into detail. Yet, we were able to come to an understanding about my role in her children’s lives and we still have our moments, but only in the background. As a stepmother, I highly recommend setting aside one’s feelings about the person and respecting her position as the children’s mother. I call the kids’ mother my ex-wife  in-law because there will always be family ties between us. Danny cautioned me early on that, as the children’s mother, she would be in our lives for the rest of our lives. I learned acceptance from her family who encouraged me to be comfortable in their presence, acknowledging my place in Danny and their grand-children’s lives. We often have family events together so that the kids don’t have to do double duty. It depends from event to event, year to year, on how well we are all getting along. We are a blended family made up of high strung individuals and all it takes is one person to say the wrong thing and the shit storm starts. Don’t get me wrong, there is never a free-for-all, again, it is all in the background but drama is always the motivator.

12358046-vector-illustration-of-justice-scales     The hardest thing for me to handle has always been having joined a family already in session. It hasn’t been easy for Danny having to balance his loyalty and attention between his children and his wife and even now after 20 years, it remains a struggle. We didn’t have that alone time that newlyweds need to adjust to living with one another. One would think that having had so much counseling and having dated for three years, we would have had it all down but though we spent most weekends together as a family, I never moved in until we were married.

 

12418478-coraz-n-roto-con-el-rbol-blanco-y-dos-p-jarosContinued in Step-mother-ing Part Two

 

 

Emil

     Emil was my maternal grandfather for whom I feel nothing but pity. He was an alcoholic and a pedophile and I wish I could totally discount him, but I cannot. He was, after all, my mother’s beloved father. Is love blind or do we only see what we need to see?

My grandfather was born in 1900, the year one of the worst storms in history all but wiped out Galveston Island. As this was before hurricanes were named, it has always been referred to as “The 1900 Storm” or “The Great Storm”. Galveston Island is located approximately 50 miles from the town of Alief where my grandfather was born. Could it be a coincidence that his birth and a severe hurricane occurred simultaneously? Could it have been an omen?

Devastation of Galveston Island, Texas

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.
Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.

Emil’s family immigrated from Bohemia, now Czechoslavakia. My grandmother, Anna, always told me to never marry a”Bohunk” (slang for Bohemian) and though she never gave me a reason, I think even as a young girl I understood. I don’t have much information on timing but at some point, Grandpa followed his brothers to Galveston Island when they went there to work for the newspaper (he took a job but I cannot recall what it was.) In Galveston, he met Anna and no one still living seems to know how they met or anything about their early marriage. One of Anna’s sisters did often say that my grandmother got pregnant “every time Emil hung his pants on her bedpost”.

Emil and Anna were always poor and lived in a small house with 2 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was a passageway to the bathroom from the living and remaining bedroom areas so it was the kind of house referred as a “shotgun” house. The house was on stilts, typical of Galveston homes, in order to prevent high water damage. They had five children, all of whom they raised in the little house. In later years he and my uncle had a shrimping business and were very close.

I never felt any love or affection for my grandfather, he just was. I never felt any animosity toward him either because sometimes a child’s mind has a way of protecting them from the truth. Most of the childhoodmemories I have of him are pretty mundane even though we were around him quite a bit. What I remember follows

  • He told me to hold a spoon full of sugar in my mouth to get rid of hiccups.
  • When he passed gas, he said he stepped on a frog.
  • He had rabbits and Beagles, the rabbits became dinner.
  • He once let the grand-kids ride on the running board of his truck and my grandmother yelled at him for it.
  • He helped my father work on cars and other projects.
  • He would sit me on his lap and bite my cheek. I have read that cheek biting is something that pedophiles do for whatever reason.
  • He called me “Pat”, a name for which I have an intense dislike to this day. When people call me “Pat” or ask if I am called “Pat”, there is an unreasonable anger that wells up in me and I have to work to keep it from showing in my tone of voice.

As the story is told, my grandfather lost his mother at an early age and his father never remarried. My great-grandfather was rumored to have been a bit of a tyrant. Two of grandpa’s sisters, in my mother’s opinion, were distant and introverted. Family lore has it that my great-grandfather physically abused my grandfather and Mom suspects that he molested at least some of his daughters. One of my grandfather’s sisters ended up in a mental health facility as a result of a “nervous breakdown”. My mother’s observation of her grandfather is that he was stoic and unfriendly though she was around him very little..

One of my grandfather’s sisters was a constant in my life. She was a very strong and independent woman having the opposite personality from her two sisters. My great-aunt called my grandfather “Brother” and he called her by her last name, “Fenack”. My uncles called her “Aunt Fenack” but the rest of us called her “Aunt Louise”. I asked my mother why Aunt Louise was so different from her sisters and my mother said she thought it was because Aunt Louise married “up” meaning that she married “money”. I’m not sure what happened with her husband since I never met him and never asked. Aunt Louise raised her granddaughter after her daughter was shot and killed by her daughter’s husband who ended up in prison. Aunt Louise was very strict with her granddaughter, parenting possibly learned from her father or possibly because she was afraid her granddaughter would follow in her daughter’s footsteps. Aunt Louise late, late in life married my grandmother’s brother when they were in their 80’s. Aunt Louise had Colin Cancer and would not marry him until after her cancer surgery. When she was cancer-free, they married but the cancer came back. They were in their 90″s and his family had to remove him from the home he and Aunt Louise shared and take him to live with them. Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny had opposite medical needs; she had to have the house hot and he could not tolerate the heat. Aunt Louise eventually died of colon cancer.

See Continuation in “Emil” Part Two

Picture Credits:

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Description: Historical map of Bohemia (Bohemia proper – pink, Moravia – yellow, Austrian/Bohemian Silesia – orange), Source: German Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1892, Author: Photo made by User:SebastianBreier,  License: Public Domain, because copyright expired

Description: Hotel Galvez and Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, http://www.wyndham.com/property/GLSHG/Images/18122_x1.jpg.