Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Make the amends we can... for our KIDS!

Meet McKay and Logan. For most of you, you already know McKay, he is my eldest son from my first marriage, but Logan is a new introduction. He is McKay's brother from his dad's side. He is 2 years old and a bundle of cuteness.


What does the littlest orphan say on Despicable Me? "He's so fluffy I'm gonna die!" 



That is how cute this kid is. Or at least, I think of this quote when I want to squish him! Speaking of a gaggle of cuties - these take the cake:


I will introduce you to this adorable bunch the same as I did the above: Most of you have met Terrick, AJ's eldest from his first marriage, the following are his brothers from his mother's side: Ken Kai, Tevon, Tayden and Briaden (not sure on the spelling of that last one, pronounced "BR [long I] den") Whew! and I thought I had a full house, could you imagine? Here's an average day at homeschool for these boys: (and yes, they are all boys, she gets kudos for what it must take to keep them all on task!)

pssst - Terrick's mom also has her brother's two kids kicking about from time to time; plus a friend of hers 3 or 4 kids. Personally? I lose count and I would probably lose children too, not her though...she is tough as nails when it comes to what these kids can dish, and they all seem to be smiling all the time, I suppose I could write an entire blog about her secret, if I knew it!
Could you image what it must be like to go on a road trip with this many children? Well, we don't have to, she obliged me with a sneak-peak of what that looks like too!:

I'd call this a bus, not a van!Just look at them all!
Right....the point, when it comes to this many adorable little smiles and pudgy, squishy cheeks I easily get off topic, please bare with me! 

Question: What would most people say is the hardest part of their lives when dealing with a mental illness? 
Answer: Interpersonal Effectiveness.


Sure, there are a lot of difficult aspects about one's life with a mental illness, but making it work with the people around us tends to be one of the most strenuous struggles, because it matters. People need people. If you seclude yourself because you cannot seem to get along with others, or they have done this or that to you; you will sink further into your despair. Solitude is a killer. So what do we do? We work with what we have. We make the interchange with others as effective as we can. This is a truism that cannot be denied. Reflect on this, whether there is a mental illness in your family or not, isn't life truly about our interaction with the world around us? And let's face it folks, there are some 6.8 billion people in the world around us. That is a lot of interpersonal relationships to tend to. So it is agreed, mental illness or no; interpersonal effectiveness would be a skill that would be top priority for many.  

OK, having said that, back to the picture I am painting. So, in life we have all made many, many, many mistakes. Another valuable truism to accept (possibly even radically accepting it!) - if we can learn from these mistakes, we greatly increase the odds of not making them in the future. Wow. What does this entail? 

Honesty...with yourself. 

What is truly going on inside? What were things about an experience that you could have done differently? What are you responsible for? Honestly. I am not implying that you start calling everyone in your past and having a deep heart-to-heart with anyone you may have wronged, it isn't about that. Rather, if you take inventory of your faults in classic DBT style: observe and describe; what do you notice? and how can you use that information to make interpersonal effectiveness more likely? 

There is something wonderful that happens when you look at yourself this way. When you get to know such deep things about yourself as accepting responsibility for past mistakes you become a better person and a more valuable mate, friend, mother, father, brother, sister, etc. 

Alright, so some mistakes are much bigger and harder to swallow, much less accept responsibility and grow from. It is extremely healthy for us to make amends in life. To have closure and acceptance. This all is at the core of Radical Acceptance.To have a happy, healthy and effective life worth living, it is what you do after you have radically accepted. What forward motion have you done in order to put "radical acceptance" into action? This is where making those amends comes into place... especially when there are children involved. When you get there, life can be so enriching. Truly. There are some things in life that you will be missing if you avoid this one. 

I for one can say with confidence that I would have missed out on the beautiful lives of Logan, Ken-Kai, Tevon, Tayden and the precious one that I massacre his name every-time I have to write it...Briaden had Aj, myself and both of our ex-spouses not made these amends. It takes work by all of us, a lot of hurts that cannot be undone are out there just waiting to scar someone further. Lurking wrongs that perhaps could easily burn someone. Trust me when I say, I am not implying that anyone is looking for ways to through a wrench in the deal, not at all, I am purely speaking of a piece to the human experience.

Many of My DBT Life readers suffer from past trauma. This is not a shocking understanding, mental illness walks hand-in-hand with trauma. There are a lot of things in life that can traumatize people. Horrible, monstrous things that one cannot even put words to, mush less whisper the ones that do come to mind. One of those traumatic experiences is divorce. If you live in the United States, a shocking 46% of all marriages involve a remarriage for one or both spouses. General failure rates are almost 50% of all marriages ending in divorce in the U.S.; with 60% or more 2nd marraiges reaching the same fate. Frightening figures, yet those are just numbers. These are peoples lives, their promises and dedications that are involved. It is often said that divorce can be more devastating than a death. How so, you ask? If you figure with a death the person is gone and you no longer see them. You mourn their loss and they are gone. A marriage mate that is gone is not permanently gone. You mourn their loss, and they are still around. Perhaps not at the dinner table with you, or in cases of no children in the marriage you may not even ever see that ex-spouse, but they are there. Somewhere. They didn't die. In cases with children, as AJ and I experience, those mates are still very much alive and still very much apart of our lives now. Our children are the glue that binds us, and not "just until the kids turn 18" crap. This is a lifetime deal. When Terrick is 22 years old and getting married, his mother and AJ will be there. When Terrick's wife gives birth to his first daughter at the age of 34, his mother and AJ will be there. When McKay is 48 and his son graduates high school, his father and I will be there. See how this works? So as with any other traumatic event, no one sits around pining or blubbering about the past, but the marks are there. The scars run deep, especially in the case of mine or AJ's less savoring mistakes that we may have inflicted on our ex-mates.

Amends...for who? Well, a personal satisfaction for one. It makes you a more effective person in life. But in this particular example, the amends are fueled by those babies smiles. Radically accepting something about yourself comes a tad easier when you do have that kind of motivation I must admit. 

So just a quick look at what we have:




When AJ takes Terrick to school on Friday's he drops by Terrick's mom's house and picks up one of his brothers that affectionately refers to his ride to school as the "AJ bus". I am blessed with the opportunity to have Logan over every Monday. We would not get any of this if we had not employed radical acceptance and then acted on that acceptance. What a shame it would have been to miss even a second of these kids' precious lives. I personally am proud to be able to be a part of it. 

All trauma is traversable. All of it. It just takes different maps to get through different trauma and a willing heart to accept whatever may come of our personal observations about ourselves. 

The coup de grace for me:

2nd annual group photo of ALL of the monkeys, even my niece is in this one!

So here is to acceptance and change and loving every sweet moment of success with it! 

MJ