Once upon a time there was a prom and a personal determination to look phenomenal while being comfortable. To accomplish this, I slid on a gorgeous teal dress shirt that popped against my skin and then paired it with a fitted black suit jacket. One pair of ultra-black skinny jeans, some black and white high-top Chuck Taylors, a blinged out bowtie choker, a dash of red lipstick, and a head scarf from the Mother Land later; I was in peak “steal your girl” mode and immensely comfortable.
My father, on the other hand, was on the verge of an aneurysm.
He tried to persuade me to wear a dress. It was prom season and there was no shortage of gorgeous dresses I could scoop up for the night. I wasn’t interested in getting zipped into anything and when I informed him of this, he offered to get me a nice skirt and new top. Anything other than what I had picked out he pleaded. If it was feminine presenting, he was willing to buy it. I declined each offer, completely comfortable in what I had chose for myself. When my best friend arrived, he tried to persuade her to talk some sense into me. “She can’t go out like that” he insisted. My bestie, the amazing woman she is, brushed him off and stated that as her date I was dressed as I should be. After my father clutched his invisible pearls, we snapped some pictures and went out into the night, my father still shaking his head in disapproval as the Lyft drove off.
This was less than a month ago.
Growing up in a conservative Catholic family it was always made clear that men were to be men, the guiding sources of wisdom that were often incapable of controlling themselves. And women were to be women, silent, subservient, and the reason for all of man’s problems. They were created for each other and bound to the duty of continuing god’s perfect design through procreation. Anything outside of god’s perfect design was to be beat out of us until we submitted to his grand plan. Members of the LGBTQA+ community were at the top of that list. I spent my youth being a “tomboy”, refusing to believe that my gender could limit what I was capable of. I fought every dress I was forced into. Every pair of stockings would magically rip. Every belt lashing was a reminder that if I didn’t cry then, ultimately, they couldn’t win because they wouldn’t know how weak I was. When I was 18, I made the decision I had been raised to make when faced with pregnancy and gave birth to 7 pounds of potential. Someone once told me that my oldest son has a “very Christian name”, and it’s true because I was deeply engulfed in my faith when he was born. So much so, one of my dearest friends worried about coming out to me because they didn’t know how I would react.
Loving people who didn’t fall into god’s perfect plan and struggling with keeping who I was tightly boxed in, I found myself spending evenings pouring over my bible. I would read passages aloud as I held that small human who was full of potential. As the small human grew, another joined the fold, and the political landscape required I jump down off the fence. I found myself struggling to hold on to the faith I had been given. Eventually, I put the bible on a shelf and said goodbye to my faith. I had finally realized that the only way I could be a good mother was to shed what I had been raised with and create my own playbook. In the process of raising children brave enough to be who they are, I had to learn to accept myself. Every bit of who I am. From my natural hair and melanated flesh to my orientation, presentation, and lack of faith. The box that was prepared for me in my youth didn’t work with my parenting and the example I wanted to set for my children on how to live life unapologetically happy.
I never wanted my children to feel like they had to conform to someone else’s beliefs of who they should be. It was important to me that they grew up knowing they would be immensely loved, unconditionally, no matter where they fell on any of the spectrums that we use to define who we are as people. I've welcomed freedom of expression in how they present to the world. From jeans and sneakers to dresses and nail polish, they are free to explore and determine what is and isn’t for them. They are still working out who they are, with zero fear. While Professor Chaos and General Disarray identify as male, Stormaggedon identifies as non-binary. The fact that they felt empowered to say “I’m not male, don’t call me sir” makes every shackle from my youth that I’ve had to shed, and the pain that accompanied it, worth it. I never wanted my children to feel like they had to hide who they were from me. I never wanted them to know the pain of trying to squeeze themselves into a box that they clearly didn’t fit in. I wanted them to be free to be who they are and, in the process, I freed myself to do the same.
Parenting has had the greatest impact on who I am as a person. I’ve had to ask myself, with every decision I’ve made, “If this is the last choice I get to make upon this earth, is this the legacy I want to leave behind with my children?” It’s a heavy question to weigh. We’re given 18 years to mold humans, while navigating our own bullshit, it is simultaneously a selfish and self-less act. It doesn’t seem to get any easier but, I take solace in knowing that with hard work and a lot of personal growth the legacy I leave with my children will be better than the one that is being left with me.
At the end of the day, if we’re free to be who we are, and celebrated instead of persecuted, then there is no greater legacy to leave.
What legacy are you leaving?
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
Second weddings are strange. From debating on if you can wear white, obviously, the virginal jig is up when you’re walking down the aisle with three kids. To who gets an invite, it’s a no on your ex folks. It can be overwhelming. Factor in the immense anxiety that accompanies remarriage and you’ll feel like you’re drowning in a sea of bullshit instead of a comfortable bottle of wine.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
Lemonade. An album that became a cultural phenomenon and changed the game. I’m not a music blogger, so this won’t be a dissection of an album that dropped three years ago. Instead, it will be a reflection on the way the meaning of songs can change as we move through the various stages of our lives.
Three years ago, Lemonade filled the recesses of my mind with empowering lyrics I needed to hear. From the raw pain of “Hold Up” to the give no fucks boss bitch anthems of “Sorry” and “6 Inch”, I had words to scream when I failed to find the courage to speak. I cried into bottles of Jack and Captain Morgan while listening to “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. Most of all, I found hope in “All Night”.
That was three years ago.
Today, with all the clarity and wounds of the past three years, I see Lemonade differently. It is still a stunning piece of work on the emotional weight that comes with pouring yourself into another human being and being left with nothing in return but heartache. Now, though, the songs seem less like declarations to the source of one’s pain and more like letters to oneself urging the tortured to turn their pain into something glorious.
I no longer see “All Night” with the rose-colored glasses of hope. I no longer blast it crying out for a love that seemed to elude me. This change, though, has nothing to do with my current relationship status. Over the last three years I had to find the courage to love myself wholly in all my brokenness. I had to learn to give up the fantasies I was sold from a young age about love and family. Instead, taking time to carve out what those things meant for me in the remnants of my soul.
I had to find the truth beneath the lies I was told and discover the truest love of all was the love I had for myself. As bitter as they may have been to accept and grow from, I had to learn to see my own scars and kiss my own crimes. I learned to trust myself and not fall victim to the people who wanted to consume me but never fully see me.
True love is a remedy for an aching heart and is absolutely the best weapon against pain. But life has shown me that it’s foolish to seek that remedy in another. We must arm ourselves with an unwavering passion for who we are, the good, bad, and downright ugly; if we ever want to make headway on the road of healing from that which tortures us.
It’s not an easy road to travel. So, remember to offer yourself the sweet love you deserve. Life’s too short to spend it forgetting to love the one person you’re guaranteed to be with forever.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
We love our holidays and celebrate them with wild abandon. Each has traditions that have been tweaked and fine tuned over the years. New Year’s Eve is no exception. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our annual countdown to midnight, we do end of the year interviews. For the past six years, I’ve pulled out a list of questions and placed each of the Bringers of Mayhem in front of our Christmas tree. It is one of our traditions I look forward to the most each year. As they have developed as individuals their answers have morphed from simple words into eloquent thoughts. Watching this change happen every year has been immensely enjoyable. In accordance with my “if I want you to do it I’ll do it too” parenting style I would also position myself in front of the camera. I didn’t put much emphasis on the way my answers changed. This past New Year’s Eve my sister had a request that The Bearded One and I answer some couples questions. While this may seem like an adorable request to make of a newlywed couple he and I weren’t feeling the newlywed love vibes.
Our first holiday season as married partners attempting to blend our two worlds was a series of train wrecks. Factor in holiday financial stressors and we weren’t feeling anything but frustration. My sister knew this. My sister is one of my closest friends and my rock. She also firmly believes that 90% of relationship problems can be solved when you remember why you’re building your life with that person. The other 10%? Well that’s what divorce lawyers are for. I won’t say she’s right, because she already knows she is.
So on New Year’s Eve, The Bearded One and I sat next to each other, engulfed in our strife, and answered questions while my sister live streamed it on Facebook. By the end, we were laughing and she was asserting we are a strange couple. We are. But sis, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wandering around the woods at night as long as you’re prepared! Did the Q&A solve all our problems? Absolutely not. That’s what therapists are for. But, working on your shit should be fun sometimes and answering random questions about our life together was fun. Later that evening a few friends shared they would love to see us answer questions again. We figured why not, but the questions would have to come from others. The decision on when it happened was tossed into my court to figure out. After some thought, and seeing how busy our life is, I settled on twice a year. May and December. Yeah, next month. Surprise!
Here’s how this will work, on May 10th at 9pm we’ll go live on the Malice in Wonderland Facebook page. Questions are due by noon on the 10th. Either comment them below, send them through a Facebook message, or text me if we’re cool like that. We’ll hang out for about fifteen minutes on Facebook. If we make it through the questions sent in then we may take some during the live feed but do NOT bank on this. If there is something you want to know, and there is literally no limit to what you are allowed to ask, then send it in by NOON on the 10th!
I’ll post the aftermath either on here or YouTube or both. Who knows. Like with my life, I’m making this shit up as I go and calling it a plan when it all comes together.
If you got questions, get to asking!
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
Divorce is rarely easy, but it is often necessary. When I announced The Ex and I were splitting it was like the shot heard round the world. Everyone in our respective circles lost their collective minds. We had put up a good front for a long time, a really long time. And in one moment it became clear that not all that glitters is gold. But when you’ve spent your formative years with someone, while simultaneously coming from a religious family and living in a society that puts marriage on a pedestal, there is a tremendous amount of push back. You go from being “figured out” to having an asterisk next to your relationship status. You are now outside the realm of what’s expected and while you’re working through the pain, rage, and lingering love, everyone wants you to go back to the what they understand. You’re inundated with excuses made on your previous spouse's behalf and reminded that marriage is work. And of course, there come the pleas for you to pray on it and trust god. These fall as acid upon your broken godless heart; burning any hopes that your chosen path will be walked with an entourage of loved ones by your side.
I found myself standing on the path to my future but for the first time, there were no light posts. No more destination points. I was fully in charge of how life proceeded and often felt wholly alone. So why continue on the road of darkness and uncertainty? Why not take the easy way out and go back to what everyone expected?
Well, for starters, I’ve never been a fan of doing what others wanted me to do simply so they can be comfortable; especially if it was at the determent of my mental and physical well-being. More importantly, I had to consider my children. Godless parenting is more than raising kids who question religion. It’s about raising children that question the world, the institutions in place, the traditions, and how they wish to interact with the arbitrary societal expectations. The heart of godless parenting is teaching our children how to be designers of their own lives while simultaneously teaching them how to be decent loving human beings.
When it came to my first marriage I realized that The Ex and I had reached a point where the only healthy way forward was separately and the only way to ensure I taught my children how to love and respect themselves was to first and foremost love and respect myself enough to end my toxic marriage.
When I broke away from religion a little more than a decade ago I did so in order to live an authentic life where my children saw that it was OK to not have the answers and that we owe ourselves and others more than “because god did it" or "that's what the bible says" responses. We owe ourselves a doctrine of love and respect and not for a blind authority, but for ourselves and humanity.
Since I reset the narrative of my life I’ve been fortunate to be the person other friends turn to as they love themselves enough to show their children what bravery looks like.
Is divorce easy in a society that still overwhelming expects us to fall to our knees and maintain the status quo? No. Does it mean it’s the worst thing in the world? Absolutely not. Sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do is let people go so that they, as well as we, can find happiness and live our collective truths.
It is imperative to me ,while raising godless heathens, that they see an example of someone living an their authentic truth founded in free thought. This means showing them that sometimes being brave means breaking toxic traditions and setting out in the world on a road where they are the navigator and nothing is written until it’s finished.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
I was going to start this by saying it’s been a while but apparently, it’s only been about a month since my last post. Congrats to me for slowly creeping toward my goal of posting once a week again. So, what brings me to this junction of thoughts and virtual paper today? A theory. Yup a theory. Not a scientific one. This one is about work-life balance and a stove. I was introduced to the four-burner theory during a small business support group. For those who are unaware of this theory, like I was, pull up a seat and let me give you a quick crash course on it. This theory approaches our lives as if they are small four-burner stoves. Oh, you thought you were one of those grand stoves with six or eight burners? Me too. But apparently, in this theory, we’re not. We’re all tiny stoves that are slightly broken because in order to be “successful” you must cut off burners. So, if your existence was a meal, for this meal to be tasty you can only cook two items at a time.
Now each burner is an item. You have your family, your friends, your health, and your work. No hobbies. No spiritual or personal growth. Just your family, friends, health, and essentially wealth. When this theory is brought up in the work/life balance discussion success is usually meant in terms of one’s career and not overall enjoyment of one’s life. Since being introduced to this way of dissecting our lives, I’ve bounced around in my head what success means to me. I don’t see my life as a simple stove where only two burners can work efficiently at the same time. I know I can’t have ten burners going full blast at once. That’s a level of anarchy that I’ve been there and got the t-shirt for and have no desire to ever recreate. I get the general gist of this theory and the notion that we do have to occasionally put some things on the “back burner” so to speak in order to focus more on other areas. I hate the way this theory breaks elements of our life down into burners instead of realizing those are the meals we’re creating for the feast that is our life, though. My life is more than four burners. And I don’t gauge my success in this life by how well the work/wealth burner is doing. I gauge my comfort, as well as my family’s, by how well what I’m cooking on that burner is doing. But it isn’t the meter I use to determine if I’m winning at life.
There’s more to a successful life, for me, than having a winning career. There are moments with my kids, laughter with friends, self-discovery, and new experiences. Because of those things I’d rather tweak this theory to be a more accurate representation of the richness of our lives. Yes, there is give and take, but it doesn’t mean a burner has to be shut off. Simmer is a perfectly legitimate setting to use in cooking whether literally or figuratively. True to form, I crafted my own life theory and I shall call it the Feast of Life.
How does it work? First, let’s throw out that crappy four burner stove and upgrade ourselves to one of those commercial grade six burner stoves with a griddle and not one but two ovens. With this we can really do some cooking, but before we start throwing down in the kitchen, we must first know what courses we want to make and what ingredients we need to ensure a delicious meal. Every quality chef has a plan before they bust out the hardware. I’ve spent the greater part of last year breaking down the ingredients I need in my life and exploring the configurations of those elements that would yield a feast I can be proud of.
While the four-burner theory is a quick and easy way to dissect our lives, it doesn’t challenge us to dig deep into what we need to truly be happy in this one life we have. Sure, career success is great but is that truly what will bring you fulfillment in life? If so, awesome. If not, then what would? Now’s your time to sit and marinate on that. What areas of your life do you want to be remembered for? Break the notion that a successful life is one that can have a price tag put on it. Instead, look at what ignites that spark in you and run with it. That’s your main course. We all have one, it’s the area of our life that sustains us and breathes life into our existence. It’s the guiding hand as we're moving through this world making vital and even benign decisions.
For me, my main course is family. According to the four burners theory I need to put that on the front and crank that burner up to high. Easy. Except not really because nothing worth having in life is as simple as tossing a pot on high and calling it a day. To be able to call my life a success I had to take it a step further and look at what makes up the meal that is family. My kids are a given. As well as my spouse. But there’s more there. The Ex is family too, for better or worse we’re in the business of co-parenting the bringers of mayhem until we take our last breaths. Then there are the relationships with my parents, siblings, friends who became family, and various extended branches on my family tree that are important to me in one way or another. Each connection is an ingredient, family is a complicated dish in more ways than one; which means it gets three burners and part of the griddle. And half the bottle of cooking wine, but that’s a post for another day.
It’s up to you to determine how best to tackle your main course. What needs to simmer or be a rolling boil and when those things need to happen. The relationship with my boys is always on high, but once they are grown and living their own lives? It’ll get turned down. Life is fluid and our cooking should be as well.
Alright, we’ve got our main course bubbling away, what’s next? Our soup of course. Not a soup person? Well for the sake of this metaphor pretend that you are. A soup only needs one burner set to a nice steady simmer so the flavors can blend together nicely. You stir it every so often, check the flavor, and add a bit more kick as needed.
For me, I call that dish friendship. It’s dependable and brings comfort all year long. Especially in those moments when life seems bleakest. It’s complex, but not in the same way my family relationships are. It’s a meal I can survive on, and Thor knows I have, but I need both it and my main course in order to thrive in this life. What you set in your soup pot is the element of your life that won’t implode if you look away for five or ten minutes to tend to another dish but is still vital in creating a memorable feast.
We’ve got our main course and our soup dish. That still leaves us with two burners, two ovens, and the rest of the griddle. For me, the remaining burners and griddle space belong to my side dishes: health, career, and personal growth. The number of side dishes you have will be determined by how much of the griddle and how many burners you need to cook your main dish. Your side(s) are those things that compliment your main course without overshadowing it. My health, career, and personal growth are important elements because they aid in creating a well-rounded life by providing the tools I need to maintain the parts of my life that matter the most to me. What are the elements of your life that compliment your main course without demanding to be the star of your feast?
At this point, we’re breaking a sweat and the kitchen smells amazing, but we still have two piping hot ovens ready. What are those for? They are the bread and dessert courses. Also known as the filler and icing on the cake. These are the things that one could do without in their life but having them brings great joy and ensures a fulfilling life feast. For me, those are hobbies and bucket list items. These are items that aren’t tied to personal growth but instead add to the overall joy in my life. Things like tattoos, running a race, or celebrating New Years in Sydney aren’t vital to my satisfaction with life, but accomplishing these things did and would add that extra something to my feast that would ensure I went out of this life stuffed and victorious by my own standards.
Everyone’s feast is different. Everyone is fulfilled in life in their own way. For some their main course is work and their baked goods are their relationships with family and friends. Only we can decide how our feast will be constructed. It is our job as the head chefs of our lives to take the time to sit down and look at what success and life fulfillment truly means for us and then set to work cooking a feast that will be enjoyed long after we’re gone.
Our lives aren’t easy bake ovens or simple four-burner stoves where we can turn two off and keep on trucking. It’s time we turned the work-life balance narrative on its head and realize it’s all part of the same life. Balance is a lie. We’re all in search of fulfillment. Balance is just the hustle they sell you to keep you slaving over a small stove. Get a bigger stove and cook up the life that brings you the most joy. You’ll be glad you did.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
Motherhood is exhausting. It is a never-ending cycle of caring for other humans. Humans who go from helpless animals to smartass animals to adult animals that need to borrow $20 you know damn well you’ll never see again. Motherhood is even more exhausting when you’re doing it solo, even if you have what you thought would be a partner in the parenthood struggle.
For 13 years I cleaned butts, scrubbed vomit out of couches, answered the rapid-fire questions of growing inquisitive minds while trying not to completly loss my cool because “mom, why” must be some form of psychological torture; all with little to no assistance from The Ex. There were moments of helpfulness that usually came on the heels of hours of nagging, threats of divorce, or us having an audience he wanted to impress.
Even though there was more joy in my mothering when I finally decided to officially do it all on my own, instead of spending another decade begging for help, I still found I had moments of wanting to resign from motherhood. Moments where I wanted to hear “why not one more slice of cheesecake and a double shot of that tequila” instead of “mom, why can’t I poop out of my mouth”. Moments where I was sick of cleaning something or explaining something for the 20th time that day.
Moments where you long to resign are scary because they can breed resentment. We all struggle with those moments. I struggled with one of those moments this morning.
After the Monday that began too damn early and seemed to never end, I settled in for a night cap and proceeded to binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel because I needed the laughs and the solitude. After four episodes of relating to Midge way more than I thought I would, I dragged myself to bed.
A few hours later, there stood before me Stormageddon. His stomach hurt.
I had two thoughts as he stood there. The first was, “well that’s what fucking happens when we’re picky at the dinner table” and the second was, “I don’t get paid enough for this shit”. I rolled out of bed and got him sorted while the feelings of resentment and exhaustion began to simmer under the surface. I wanted to cry. And I wanted to scream at my hormonally unbalanced self for wanting to cry. Seriously though, who else in their 30s is fucking confused about what their body is doing?! None of this shit was covered in health class, which would have been helpful! Instead, I lay in my bed fighting tears, anger, and crafting my “I quit” letter when a little voice comes from across the hall and another voice comes from across the bed “I got him, you sleep”.
I will admit I suck at remarriage. I’m bitter, demanding, and have zero idea how to let someone help me raise a family because, I have zero experience with someone genuinely wanting to help me raise a family. I laid there unsure of what was happening and running through my head all the times The Ex had said he would help and then held it over my head. Then I heard vomiting and the mom guilt replaced all the “I quit” feelings.
We must be there for our kids at every single moment, right? If we’re not we’re failing them, we’re abandoning them.
That little voice in my head that tells me I’m not doing enough is partly thanks to society and partly thanks to The Ex. And as the urge to run into the bathroom and do the mom thing kicked in, the words “It’s OK buddy, I got you” poured from the bathroom. So, I laid there and listened as The Bearded One reassured him that it was OK, explained why our throats hurt after we throw up, and even taught proper vomiting techniques to minimize mess.
Who does that at 5:30 in the morning? Morning people who are fathers do that, apparently.
I continued to listen as The Bearded One tucked Stormageddon back into bed and found that when you carry the load of parenting with someone who wants to carry it with you, the desire to quit diminishes. Will I still have days where I tell myself it’s five fucking o’clock somewhere as I uncork the wine? Absolutely. But the more this guy who looked at me and my brood and said “I volunteer as tribute” continues to show up for us the smaller my fantasy wine cellar gets.
So, to all the moms who have a partner occupying the space next to them every night I challenge you to put down your resignation letters, cork your mom guilt, and let him take over sometimes. And if you find that he won’t, then I encourage you to consider letting that dead weight go.
Because at 5:30 this morning my son learned that men can, and should, be there for their kids too. That men clean up vomit without bitching about it, that they can show compassion, and concern, and help you feel safe. That men support their partners and recognize when they’ve reached their breaking point and don’t guilt them for being human and needing rest. My son saw an example of healthy involved fatherhood that comes from a place of enthusiastic choice instead of resentful obligation. And at the end of the day I think the best gift we can ever give our children is the example of healthy relationships and the courage it takes to move forward when those relationships aren’t present.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go but rather learning to start over.”– Nicole Sobon
Six months ago I did something I swore I would never do again, much to my and my close friends surprise. I signed on the dotted line and became someone's wife once again. And while everyone gushed and fawned over us, I found their joy failed to penetrate the recesses of my heart which left me sad, angry, and confused. There are a barrage of personal questions after a marriage, “are you changing your name”, “are you going to have a baby together?”, “how does your husband feel about x, y, and/or z”, and with every “no”, “what does his feelings have to do with it”, or eye roll I dished out I found myself wanting to scream and run away.
Adjusting to a person in your personal space all the time is hard enough without the intrusion of society and their opinions and desires. I’ve found the transition from singledom to holy matrimony to be far more emotionally tumultuous the second time around. I know what marriage entails and I knew how I felt after my first go around, so I figured I could totally handle this. I was wrong. Generally speaking, I can and am handling marriage. It’s work, as it always has been and always will be, but a second marriage opens a Pandora's box of emotions I wasn’t ready for. And frankly, six months in I don’t believe I’ve even scratched the surface of them.
We all go into the phases and stages of our lives with varying degrees of expectations, these expectations are rarely based in reality because we form them from a place of hope and childlike fantasy. I knew going in that marriage is work, always and forever. What I didn’t expect was how much of that work would be processing my own feelings of grief and anger over having to start over again with someone who hasn’t had 15 years to craft a Rayven strategy guide nor the cynical bitterness of a failed marriage under their belt.
I didn’t experience a honeymoon phase this time around. I went from nervous laughter and smiles in wedding photos to sitting in a ball on my couch at two in the morning wondering if I should cry or scream. I have a good mate this time around and he genuinely wants us to work together to build a legacy that will last long after we've both parted this life. Whenever we discuss our future life together, in my head I see my two paths in the woods. On one sits the life I built during and after my first marriage. On the second road sits the foundation for this marriage. The grief and anger seep in when I remember that I have to tear down those old buildings so I can collect what’s salvageable and then begin on the new building. Brick by brick, I have to start over again.
I hate starting over. I’ll admit it, it’s not something I’m a fan of. Why? Because not only do we have to give up parts of our life we enjoyed but to some degree when we start over we must also own up to our failures. A number of my close friends and family will climb upon their soapboxes and proclaim that I didn’t fail in my first marriage. It wasn’t my fault. I, on the other hand, prefer to use the soapbox for kindling and pray that the fire manages to burn the what ifs and could have, would have, should haves from my mind because we all play our parts in the success and failure of our interpersonal relationships.
I failed at marriage. Then I spent the years that followed relying on myself to survive and when I was really lucky to thrive as well. While I had always depended on myself, during my singledom I also learned to love myself despite years of self hate and a closet full of horrible coping mechanisms. I had failed and started again, on my own terms, with all the bitterness necessary to ensure I never had to fail again. And then with a few simple words spoken in a friend’s backyard I put myself back in the firing range of failure.
I learned, as I spent the first month navigating a new marriage, society, and my own emotional baggage, that I’m not alone in my remarriage grief and anger. These feelings permeate across race, religion, orientation, and possibly gender (though to be honest I’ve yet to ask any men). These feelings cut right to the heart of our humanity, desperate to be loved and to belong yet shackled by our own fears, desires, and shortcomings. The grief and anger crawl into our hearts and challenge us to jump towards our tomorrows even if we aren’t sure the parachute will open.
While I’ve attempted to write this piece in my head for the past few months I’ve also struggled with the direction to take my public writing. There are a number of pieces that I’ve written over the past few years that have never made it on this blog for one reason or another. Usually, because I wasn’t emotionally ready to share it. While I haven’t reached a state of equilibrium, and I probably never will, I do want to share more. When I started blogging nine years ago it was a way to share my little slice of the world and the ramblings that rolled around in my head. Over the years, I polished the image of the homeschooling military family doing their best to bloom where they were planted into my own sweet delusion. I did such a fantastic job that everyone was shocked when that image blew up and that “perfect” family turned out to be another dysfunctional statistic.
There won’t be a perfect family this time around. Some days there won’t even be an OK family. So far in life I’ve learned the only guarantee I can make is that things will change and that it’s far better to be transparent than to live in denial. Life has changed. I’m no longer doing it all on my own, and that carries with it its own set of pros and cons. Sometimes I’ll share them. If you relate to them, great! If not, well I’m not cheesecake, I can’t make everyone happy.
Rayven Holmes Copyright(c)2018
“A bitch is what they call a woman when she no longer has the patience to deal with the bullshit. A bitch is what they call a woman who serves a hot a plate of rejection to any man who isn't worthy of her attention. Men who call women bitches for calling them out on their shit are bitches themselves.”― R.H. Sin
Several posts on this blog deal with healing or the long, often dark, road of healing I find myself stumbling through. I’m still struggling to find the right words to describe various aspects of that journey, this is in part to me wanting to maintain a sense of peace between The Ex and me. I’m aware that several the views I get on my little slice of internet real estate come from women he has some sort of involvement with. Their views turn into questions that they end up fielding to him leading to long text messages about how I’m still the source of all his problems. Wanting to ensure a smooth and joyous transition from solo co-parenting to blended family life when I got married this past May *it was a beautiful wedding and I promise I’ll write about it before the year is out* I made a personal decision to bite my tongue. It was for the greater good. I was right back into old thinking because I forgot that people don’t change who they are on a fundamental level. They may grow, but that takes work and it’s obvious when it’s happening. Sipping the greater good Kool-Aid had me thinking I could be friends with someone who routinely disrespected me for over 15 years.
We’ve all done it before. Attempting to keep the peace. To build bridges. We get so busy attempting to lead a round of kumbaya on the life raft that we ignore the asshole eating all the rations. Then we’re left floating with only a ukulele to eat and a poorly sung tune in our heads wondering why we didn’t see what was right in front of our faces until now. I’m the idiot on the raft with the ukulele, except I’m done singing. I’m done with locking every useful pieces of writing on healing and growth into Pandora’s box for fear it may disrupt the delicate harmony that is only an illusion anyway.
Over three years ago I wrote about the illusion of perfect. And even as I step firmly into the next season of my life, I’m still plagued by the notion of maintaining harmony and that perfect illusion. The only way to really break the cognitive dissonance I’ve swam in for years is to climb out of the pool and compare the illusion to reality under the harsh light of day. That’s hard and painful, but it must be done.
In the illusion, The Ex sees me as a person worthy of dignity and respect. We’re able to be friends and his priorities center squarely on the happiness and well-being of our children even when it stretches beyond what would bring him happiness. In reality, he still views me as an ungrateful unbearable bitch that wakes up each day hell bent on making his life difficult by attempting to hold him accountable in his role as a father and a human being.
In reality, we can never be friends. In reality, any moments of harmony are fueled by selfish desires and far too many streaks of niceness on my part that even after nearly two decades of the same behavior I still can’t seem to shake. In reality, anything I do that is not done to directly benefit him makes me a bitch for all seasons.
In the illusion, that realization doesn’t bother me. In the illusion, I am untouchable. In the illusion, I am healed.
In reality, though, the illusion is a lie and that word still finds a way to cut open all the wounds I have spent the last three years painstakingly trying to heal. In reality, the voice that has told me everything is my fault and I’m failing at all the things still gets in. In reality, I want to throw things and scream because why the fuck is that voice still there. How much more therapy and red wine do I have to go through before I’ve permanently hog tied and duct taped that fucker out of existence?
In the illusion, that question has an answer. In reality, I know that question can never be answered. Like the steady hand of depression that voice is always waiting in the shadows, looking for a wound that didn’t heal quite right.
While I could end this post on that note, I won’t. Why? Growth my friends. That painful never-ending process of becoming the best version of yourself. It tells me I can’t end it there, because while I know my demons live in the shadows I’m not afraid to face them anymore. I greeted assurances that I was a bitch with hopes that he receives a clearly much needed hug. I bare my scars for The Bearded One *blog name for the new husband* so he knows the landmines that will dot the landscape of our lives and can help me tear down the wall I built up around my heart, because stumbling through the dark is far more enjoyable when you have a hand to hold.
There is still growing and healing that needs to happen. And while the illusion can be nice, hell even palatable at times, reality has red wine and cheesecake, so I might as well get comfortable there.
Rayven Holmes (c)2018
In response to another day in the patriarchy, women have taken to changing their profile pictures on social media to a black box theoretically removing themselves from society in a poor attempt to get men’s attention. I have feelings about the whole situation. Yes, my cold dead heart still has feelings and none of those feelings are in support of silence. I find the whole notion that if we disappear men will suddenly ask “what the fuck is going on” and take notice of our pain to be poorly thought out and laughable. They want us silent.
Everything our society has done since the dawn of Abrahamic religions has been to silence women and dismiss our pain. Why in the world would they start to care now about our silence when most are still having to be told to respect the person they share their damn bed with? Newsflash, they won’t. I say to hell with our silence. Don’t black out, shout out. Openly share your experiences as a woman at whatever intersections you exist (race, orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.) and like the brave woman who cornered Flake and demanded he look at her when she spoke, do the same to the men in orbit around your life. Demand they stand in your truth with you because you are someone and your life has value.
To hell with their comfort. To hell with their feelings. To hell with our silence.
We have built a society on giving men a pass, allowing them to exist in a world where they are free to lash out and be incapable of self-control while ensuring there is always an excuse for them. I’m sick of that world. I’m sick of listening to excuses that flow out of mouths with a sickening ease that I’m expected to swallow with a smile. I’m sick of shouldering the burden for someone else’s bullshit and inability to grow. I’m fucking sick and tired of being on the other end of a man’s inability to regulate his fucking emotions or to simply grow the fuck up.
With every joke and dismissal of women’s lived experiences that have filled the void around me there is the booming sound of a fist through a wall, of fingers around my neck, of a childhood spent scared of sleep because the nightmares reminded me that no one ever comes when you scream. I’m so fucking sick of living in a world where men can act like a bunch of bumbling buffoons whose voices get to trumpet over ours. I’m sick of our silence ladies and I challenge you all to be silent no more.
Share your stories. Discuss your reproductive health around the water cooler and the dinner table. Demand people look you in your goddamn eyes and hear your fucking words. Share the stories behind your scars both visible and invisible. Do not retreat when the men around you inevitably engage in their dismissive behaviors, instead inch closer baring your scars, the testament to how fucking far you’ve come. When men speak over you pretend you didn’t hear them and continue speaking because your words have value. Live your truth out loud in all its fucking glorious colors. Don’t sit around waiting for them to listen or notice. We don’t need their permission to change the world ladies, we only need our voices.
With all that said, I also understand not every woman can speak because either their safety or ability to keep a roof over their head would be in jeopardy, and that should be openly discussed as well. We must scream twice as loud for all our sisters who are forcibly silenced.
If we have the privilege to speak, now is the fucking time to exercise it.
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