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)2018 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.
Grief doesn’t always come from death. More often than not grief creeps in during the everyday comings and goings of our existence.
I've said countless times that I loved the interpretation of the sadness in the movie Inside Out. I felt like it was an accurate, kid-friendly way to break down the stages of grief, the depression that ensues and the light at the end of the tunnel when it's acknowledged and handled.
I loved that it wasn’t a death that caused her grief, but instead a move, or a typical life change, that threw her into grief. Because we often ignore the way change shifts our lives and sends us into those familiar stages.
Those stages don’t always proceed in a nice neat order. Sometimes they bounce around, sometimes we live longer in one stage than in another, sometimes we skip stages. For instance, I tend to skip shock or denial. Whatever happened, happened. I usually breathe deep, go numb, and move on to whatever needs to be down in relation to the change. I prefer to move on to the whole burying my pain, swimming in the anger, and depending on the situation either dipping my toe in depression or diving into the deep end. The anger and depression pools swirl in and out of each other. They're toxic, but they feel like home, so I always linger.
Grief and I, like depression, are old friends so I can always tell when I’m shifting and make the necessary choices, be they good or bad, to deal with it. Self-awareness is a useful bitch to have in your corner. It doesn't mean you'll do better every time, but it will help you see yourself clearly and accept who you are. As I circle the drain of anger, I never bargain because I don’t negotiate with terrorist, I’ve found that a mixture of age and intolerance has made the list of shit libel to set me off varied and long.
Since I’m sitting in the airport with nothing else to do but write, I figured I’d take some time to list all the things that make me stabby because it should be good therapy, right? Well… not really. Instead, I realized that The Ex’s statements about me valuing perfection, and being unyielding or unwilling to compromise on a number of points are actually true. I have a set of values that are essential to how I live my life and who I allow in my life.
Those values aren’t negotiable. Anytime I feel like I’m negotiating the limits of my values I become annoyed. And when I’m working on grief? It enrages me. I become incensed that anyone would believe they are that special that they get to trump my value system.
While our society attempts to punish us for being unyielding, demanding we compromise in order to conform to its standards, I say fuck that. If you stand for nothing you fall for anything, right? So don't fall. If you have values that are paramount to living a happy, healthy existence, that harm none and you aren't forcing someone else to live them, then do you. We may not see eye to eye on those values but, there are billions of people on this planet and we don’t have to kick it together. Truth be told if I can’t be true to me around someone I’m not going to want to kick it with them, plain and simple. So why should anyone else force themselves to tolerate that which they deem intolerable?
While I do believe we all need to diversify the circles we move through to make us well-rounded human beings, I don’t believe we should ever sacrifice our principles and values in hopes of “understanding” every human we encounter. So, if I cuss you from here to the moon, or burn the bridge that connects us, please take it personally. It means you danced on the wrong side of the value line that I draw between myself and others. And I’m not sorry.
Rayven Holmes (c) 2018
"There were once three brothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight —"
People often ask if I’m scared of death, since Atheist don’t believe in an afterlife, and my answer has always been some version of no. After I divorced the idea of eternal damnation, I was quite alright with the idea of death. It was a certainty, and while I didn’t (and still don’t) want it to happen anytime soon to me or those I love, its presence created an odd purpose to my existence. Life has meant everything and nothing at the same time. It is whatever I deem it to be, the legacy I leave behind is my eternal life, and I’ve always labored on the notion that I had plenty of time to carve it.
I was comfortable with the notion that I had time to chip away at my legacy. And then I found that notion teetering on the edge of a bed whose owner looks a whole lot like me and who only made it to 53 before life and death decided to engage in a game of chicken with her existence.
Death never lets us forget that it knows where we are.
We don’t get to collect invisibility cloaks, resurrection stones, or Elder wands. There are no hallows to help us conquer death. There are no disks in our necks or elixirs we can ingest. We can barely conquer life, how grand are our egos that we believe we could ever conquer death?
It will come for us all, with no hesitation. So what do we do until then? What do we do with this one short life? I have asked myself that question time and time again, and even more fervently this past week. Death always lays the groundwork for sadness, fear, and despair when it knocks, even if it’s just opening the door and not taking a soul, but it is us who decides how we tend the soil and reap the harvest that it leaves behind.
It’s up to us to decide if we’ll reap the despair or use the harvest as a catalyst for greatness and allow it to nurture those things we thought we could put off until everything was just right.
So, as the winter melts away and gives way to the new beginnings and challenges of spring, what my friends will you do with this one short life?
Copyright(c)2018 Rayven Holmes
Sixteen years ago I saw my biological mother for what I thought would be the last time. It was a conscious decision I made, and one I've frequently had to defend from “well-meaning” outsiders who didn’t know or even remotely understand the complexities of the relationship between us. Despite the barrage of opinions, I had made peace with the reality that the next time I saw her it would be in an overpriced pine box and I refused to abnegate that peace.
Now I sit the dark corner of a hospital room, as machines beep and tubes dot the landscape that is my mother’s body, and I find myself swimming in the gray matter that is our relationship and the conflict that my previous peace has now brought me to.
I had always assumed, foolishly, that her life would pass unnoticed by me and my children. I’ve worked hard to maintain and build relationships with people who exhibit the qualities I expect in parents and grandparents. Today, though, my children met the woman responsible for my existence. They looked upon the nearly lifeless vessel that housed me for nine months and said “hi” for the first time.
I can justify my decision to live my life as if she didn’t exist. I know exactly why I can’t bring myself to say “hi mom” and take her hand like my grandmother has asked me to do. And while I can, and have, climbed that decision mountain and offered myself up as a sacrifice to the unyielding pain that burns in my chest to prove that I fully support that decision. I can no longer say for certain that it was a good decision.
Yes, it was the right one for me. It is one I would make again. The possibility of what my life would have been if I had made a different choice fills me with more dread than the numbness from nearly two decades of estrangement.
Was my decision a good one? Is any decision ever good or bad? And by whose standards do we judge that?
People are always quick to pass judgment on the merit of our choices these judgments are usually based an individual's happiness in relation to the choice that was made.
What if our choices are neither good nor bad, but a pile of possible feelings that we reach into when it suits our needs?
There are at least half a dozen people who feel strongly that I made a bad choice. Be it my decision to keep the demon that is this relationship caged or to drive here and stare at the void between the two of us. On the flipside, there are at least half a dozen people who believe I’ve made a good choice either way.
Then there’s me. No longer the brash teenager, I'm now a bullheaded adult contemplating my own mortality and what it takes for any of us to be redeemed.
I don’t regret my decision. I don’t even know if I’m sad that my children met her under these circumstances. I’m living in the reality that decisions are neither good nor bad, but instead, they are life’s little purgatories where we wait for the shoe to drop.
And if we're lucky, we don't walk out of those purgatories with regret.
Rayven Holmes Copyright(c) 2018
“You’ll get your moment.”
“A moment? Moments are short. I won’t get any time at all.”
“Time is subjective, a moment is however long you deem it to be because a moment is a segment of time.”
That exchange between my middle son and I took place a few days ago, but it got me thinking about moments. Last year, fed up with never keeping my goal to take a certain number of pictures a day and looking for an easy way to grow the content on my Instagram page I started #Project365.
I wanted to give myself a tangible goal while getting the opportunity to explore a platform I was skeptical of using from a personal and professional standpoint.
I gained so much from the experience, though. I got to tell the story of my year with just the words spoken through the images. Looking back, each one of the photos was a moment in time. Moments of joy and pain. Moments of exhaustion where I’m surprised that I managed to take a picture at all. But taking a photo a day became a habit, this little invisible task on my daily checklist that carried great weight for me. This gave me insight into how I operate and hold myself accountable. Which has been an invaluable lesson as I work to create or destroy personal habits and ways of thinking.
There were also days when I pulled shit out of my ass, a meme shouldn’t count as taking a photo, but I gave myself some wiggle room with screenshots. Which meant I learned to give myself wiggle room without also giving myself excuses. I learned how to turn the camera on myself and love it, even the "not pretty" images. I learned to see beauty in my changing body and appreciate it. I learned to see me and my life and love it for all the things it is and never will be.
I told myself, when I started this journey last year, that I would do 365 photos and then I would be good. As I sit here, 365 plus moments later I don’t want to stop. No, I want to expand. I want to dig deeper and do a bit of experimenting.
For those who have been reading my ramblings since 2009, you’ll know that I don’t write publicly as much as I use to. I’ve beat myself up about it a lot over the last two years as I’ve fought to find the strength to make the words I write scream louder than the noise in my life.
While I would love to say that I’ll do a post a week or even a post a month, I won't make that kind of commitment this year. I won't continue to beat myself up over not doing the things I once did either. My life changed, and so did my commitments, and that's ok.
I can make a commitment to give more life to our moments, though. Allowing my Instagram account to turn into a microblog of shenanigans and new beginnings.
And I promise when the moments in time require more than the 2,200 characters Instagram allows, I’ll write them here.
Until then, this is where you can find us, our shenanigans, and my personal insights: @ravradsolutions
For the newbies and those who like to reminiscence, I will be moving more of my old posts over to this website throughout 2018. So there will be plenty to read and see over the next 365 days if one is so inclined.
or leave your questions and comments below.
But remember, the troll in the dungeon eats all the snide remarks.
Copyright(c)2018 Rayven Holmes
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