“Didn’t you notice me?” He asked.

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“Didn’t you notice me?” He asked.
By Bernadette A. Moyer

boy

It was 1976 and I was just seventeen years old as I was running up the stairs in our Allentown house. I was in a hurry and anxious to talk to my mother, I swiftly ran past a three year old little boy named Brenden, who caught my attention when he said so confidently and so clearly ”didn’t you notice me?”

He was calling me out. Brenden was a child that I often babysat along with his older sister Ariane and three other siblings. I liked the name Ariane so much that I named my own daughter after her. They were the children of a Baptist minister and his wife; they were friends of my mother and our family. The kids were all adorable and each child was confident and proud.

It is more than 40 years later and I will never forget that day and that a three year old said what needed to be said, he stopped me in my tracks when he asked me “didn’t you notice me?” I felt awful and I made sure he knew that I not only noticed him but appreciated seeing him again. I apologized for attempting to run past him. All he wanted was acknowledgement. I never intended to “not notice him” but clearly my actions said otherwise.

I read much more than I could ever write and I see posts that I read but never comment on although they often strike a chord with me. Every single day sometimes multiple times in a day I hear from or read about families that are broken and relationships that have ended. More and more families have estranged family members. There are family members that have decided not to acknowledge other family members.

Often during the holiday season the wounds, hurts and heartaches resurface with greater intensity. Everyone wants that Norman Rockwell like Christmas and yet few families really experience it. Someone is hurting, someone is missing, and many things in the family are different. Mom and dad have adult children that not only don’t “notice” them but literally want nothing to do with them. Overall the parents are bewildered and the adult children feel justified.

In just about every single case, the narrative is pretty much the same the adult children say they were “abused” it was mental abuse, or verbal abuse or physical abuse or all three. They all had “terrible childhoods” and now mom and dad must pay. They must pay by “no contact” or by not being accepted and noticed. It is an intolerant response.

Most all of the parents I have spoken with declare that they loved their kids and did the best they knew how, they did their best with what they had and what they knew at that time. Many parents never saw it coming and most of the adult kids seem to think little or nothing of it. Bad parents must be erased, period.

What you learn though in life is that it is never ever that simple. Relationships are complex and complicated. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. The longer you are in any relationship the wider the range of experiences you will share.

Like Brenden, a small child, I used to take it all in and onto myself; I used to be willing to accept the feelings and the responsibilities that went along when someone, anyone decided to cut me out of their life.

Then one day I woke up and accepted that I am human, sometimes I do great and other times not so much, but at the end of the day I am only responsible for my actions. I take 100% responsibilty for the things I do and the things I say, how other people treat me is about them, it was and is never about me.

The way we treat other people says so much about us, it is never about the other person, our actions, our decisions are all ours. We own them. Just like our feelings and our emotions, they belong to us. Simply put, your anger is your problem.

When I woke up to it I realized that absolutely nothing other people do is because of me, it is always because of them. People do what they do and people create their narrative often so they may justify their own behaviors and all their own decisions and actions.

What kind of son or daughter looks good when they have cut mom and dad out of their lives? Zero and none at all and so it is determined that mom and dad must be the “bad” ones because it surely isn’t going to be their adult children.

The same thinking can be applied to marriages that break apart or most any other relationships that end, someone is declared “right” and someone else is declared the “wrong” one. That’s just what we do, a couple decides to divorce and we want to know who is at fault? Yet again it isn’t that simple.

Relationships succeed or fail because of what both sides do; both parties contribute to the success or to the failure. The success is because of both people as is the failure. It is never ever just one sided. I always try my best to live by the golden rule, treat other people in the way that you, yourself would want to be treated. If you wouldn’t want something done to you, you probably shouldn’t do that same thing to anyone else.

We beat ourselves up when relationships don’t turn out like we think they should, we might be better served if we just accept that we have done our best, acknowledge our own portion and learn the lessons that each and every relationship can teach us.

At the end of the day and at the end of this life, we ask ourselves about what do we need and what do we want. For most all of us that answer will be peace and to be acknowledged that we were here and that we mattered.

As we age, we learn that we can come to peace after we did everything we can to right our wrongs and to trust that with God comes the entire acknowledgement that we will ever need.

You can’t fix someone else, you can only be the best person that you can be, it has been said that if you can’t fix it, it probably wasn’t your problem in the first place.

“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past, let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John F. Kennedy

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

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Living a Lie

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Living a Lie
By Bernadette A. Moyer

illusion

My husband is famous for saying “he/she is just living a lie.” Sadly we have known more than a few people like that, people that create a narrative to help justify their own poor behaviors. There are people that knowingly lie so they don’t have to accept responsibility for their circumstances and life choices.

We live in a world where “political correctness” often takes the place of harsh reality. And many of us actually bless it and go along with it. You can declare what sex you are! I recently filled out an application where I was asked if I was male, female, and other or does not wish to declare. Next thing we will be able to adjust who our parents are if we can fill out forms like a birth certificate and “declare” whatever sex we are then maybe the next step is we can also “declare” and decide whoever we want our parents to be regardless of who they truly were?

The definition of “mental illness” used to be defined as living in an altered reality and yet in our culture today we almost promote it.

I remember so vividly back in the 1980’s telling my mother that her husband was a child abuser and I will never ever forget her response to me, “we will never speak of this again” she said.

What she meant was I will never speak to you again. Think about that response? Not something like he would never do that or why on earth would you say that? But “never speak of this” she knew the truth and she lived more than 30 years with a lie. She was living a lie. It was easier for her to deny the truth than to face the cold harsh reality.

What made it even harder to witness was how she aligned herself with others in the family that would also provide cover for her and go along with the lie because the truth was just so hard to accept. Who on earth wants to be married to a child molester or have one in the family? In order for her to believe the truth she would have had to leave him and she wasn’t going to do that.

I couldn’t live her lie, I couldn’t live with it for me and I wouldn’t put my three children around someone that was known to me as a child abuser. There were no winners but I knew I did what had to be done. And even though I seldom spoke of it, let’s face it; it’s pretty embarrassing having a known child abuser marry into the family. Initially I didn’t want to embarrass my mother and I didn’t want to bring further harm to the child who trusted me enough to confide in me. Then one day you realize that by NOT speaking out and by not speaking the truth you have contributed to making yourself the scapegoat and a target.

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The problem with living a lie though is that seldom is it innocent and seldom does it just include or affect just one person. It has been said “you are only as sick as your secrets.”

They say that many abuse survivors go into an altered state to protect themselves when they are being abused. PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions or other threats on a person’s life. Many survivors can’t face the truth. It is just so painful and therefore some will create an alternate reality.

For almost 20 years now I have been a part of several support groups for estranged parents of adult children. I knew that pain from both sides. I knew it from my mother and years later I would know it from my daughter. I have been supported and I have supported many others through their shock and pain and disbelief. It’s messy. Most parents take it on themselves blaming themselves and looking at what they did, didn’t do and could have done differently. After all we were the adults, we were the parents we were the ones that raised them.

What I have uncovered in many circumstances and from speaking to parents as well as the adult children that estrange is that often it starts out simple enough, something was said and done or perceived as a wrong and the child decides to dismiss mom and dad from their lives.

But … and a big but as time goes by it becomes more and more difficult to return. Much has happened and typically the adult child has others in their ear it could be a spouse, a husband or wife a friend, a family member someone that usually has an agenda of their own. The adult child doesn’t want to be the “bad” one because what “good” adult child throws mom and dad away and erases them from their life? So mom and dad have to be the bad guys.

Recently I had an adult child confide in me that they literally sought out others in the family that would side with them. Anyone that already had issues was a new alliance in the estrangement. Sides are drawn and sides are chosen, again making any meaningful reconciliation virtually impossible.

The road coming back becomes littered with more and more lies … they lie to protect themselves, they lie about their families, they lie about mom and dad and in being a “victim” many reap the rewards of victimization. So the lies continue.

One lie typically leads to numerous other lies and sadly and eventually they end up living a lie … it has been said, “The only people who are mad at you for speaking the truth are those people who are living a lie. Keep speaking the truth.”

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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57 Things I Learned in My 57 Years

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57 Things I Learned in My 57 Years
By Bernadette A. Moyer

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1) My life and my happiness is my responsibility, period.

2) Kids will come and kids will go, build a life that is meaningful long after their departure.

3) Don’t take it personally, nothing other people do is because of you, it is because of them.

4) Gather as much information as you can and then make informed decisions.

5) Pick the guy who believes in you, supports you, loves you and thinks you are beautiful.

6) Bad boys are just that, bad.

7) Trust few but always trust in your own inner voice.

8) Every single day is a blessing.

9) Nothing lasts forever, this too shall pass.

10) People will come into your life and people will leave your life, let them.

11) You are beautiful just the way you are, believe it! No one knows your heart like you do.

12) Work hard, go that extra mile but play hard too.

13) Nature offers peace every single day and in every single season.

14) Animals have incredible souls and are capable of the most love and loyalty.

15) Writers write.

16) Estrangement is strange. It isn’t normal and there are no winners.

17) Trust someone the first time they reveal themselves to you.

18) Marriage requires ongoing efforts and commitment grounded in genuine love and care.

19) Surround yourself with people, places and things that you love. Create your own beautiful life.

20) I was a shy kid that stuttered; today I could debate with the best. Where you start is just a start.

21) Never ever give up on yourself.

22) Campy as it sounds, “Into each life, some rain must fall.”

23) Learn from it and then get over it!

24) Beauty exists everywhere and so does ugliness.

25) Good people can and do make bad mistakes.

26) You are not defined by one person, one experience or single life event.

27) Everything that seems bad really can be turned around and into something good.

28) Be a life-long learner. There is always something new to learn.

29) Gratitude is an attitude.

30) Life goes on …

31) God is good. In an ever changing world God is my salvation.

32) Family is so much more than blood; it is the people that love, support and see the best in you.

33) Girlfriend time is always time well spent.

34) Stress less. Pray more and worry less.

35) Eat the good foods and exercise. Life is about balance.

36) Make love, lots and lots of love.

37) Negative people are just that, negative.

38) Take the time to get to know yourself and always be your own best friend.

39) There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

40) Peace is always possible.

41) Stability doesn’t have to be boring.

42) Make something build something bake something create more. Just do it.

43) Build on a solid foundation.

44) Embrace change. Don’t fight it be open to new things, new people and new experiences.

45) Painful lessons are lasting lessons.

46) Pretty comes and pretty goes but being nice will last forever.

47) Share as much as possible but don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted.

48) Hatred and anger doesn’t look good on anyone. Not ever.

49) Forgive but don’t forget.

50) Not everything ends with “happy ever after” but that doesn’t mean your happiness has to end.

51) Give back! Every single person has something to offer.

52) Never wrestle with a pig, because you will both get dirty and the pig likes it.

53) We all have a birth date and a death date, no one gets out alive. Enjoy everything in between.

54) Getting old is a gift, cherish it.

55) Wisdom is born with age.

56) Breathe. Take long deep breathes.

57) Most things can be cured with a long hot bubble bath, a cup of tea or a glass of wine and a big warm embracing hug!

BONUS!

#58 Just because someone said it, doesn’t make it true.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

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Don’t Tug That War

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Don’t Tug That War
By Bernadette A. Moyer

peace by bernadette

Remember tug of war, that game where two sides came together and who ever tugged hardest won? It was a battle of might putting two sides against one another to determine a “winner” the winner being the team that literally dragged the other side over to their side.

There are people in life that enjoy this game; they thrive on building their team and then literally trying to drag you through the mud so that their side wins.

Just a few days after her 50 year old daughter “Jane” (not her real name) was found dead in her bed her mother called me. The mother was living in Las Vegas and her daughter in Baltimore, they had been estranged for many years and even when they were in communication it was a difficult relationship.

The mother said “I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I will be talked about if I show up for the funeral and I will be talked about if I don’t show up. I don’t really have the money for the flight so I have decided not to come.”

I told her I understood and how difficult a decision it must have been for her. This was her mother, a mother who already had a daughter die at age 29, a mother that tried to understand this second daughter who almost always tried to create a tug of war with her mother. This was the mother who brought “Jane” into the world, the mother who raised “Jane” and the same mother who now has to grieve her daughter’s untimely death.

As I am writing this I hear from my “Soul Sister” Gwen who brings a great word to me “release” and how we must learn to release things, situations, events and people that only want to hurt us. Gwen talked about nature and the animals and how they are set free.

Release, think about that for a minute so what could you release and set free that is not healthy and is harming you? (Thanks Gwen I will definitely be meditating on “release” today, what a gift you are to me!)

And what about the game tug of war? What happens if you decide that you are not interested in playing and you don’t tug back?

Recently I told my husband that if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have pushed our kids so hard to succeed. His immediate response was, “but that’s what parents do!”

Today I think more and more about accepting people and situations as they are and not as I have so often chosen to view them through rose colored glasses. Always wanting to see their highest potential and pushing and coaching for them to be their best.

The easiest way to peace is to give up the resistance, accept it, leave it, release it and don’t tug that war!

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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Growing Up Maturing and Viewing Life Differently

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Growing Up Maturity and Viewing Life Differently
By Bernadette A. Moyer

GrowUp-Series

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways.” Corinthians 13:11

Remember when we were young and we knew it all? Then we became an adult and realized you don’t even know how much you don’t know.

I was that strong willed teenager who thought way back then that I knew much. I raised a few kids that also as teenagers thought they knew it all, only to experience real life as an adult and then understand so much more. With some maturity and with life experiences we tend to view life differently.

Maybe as a child we have nothing else to compare our life with or maybe we just haven’t had many experiences yet to see things for how and what they were.

Our 25 year old daughter called a few days ago and in that conversation she stated, ”I have so many good memories from when I was little. I had so much fun then.” This was a far cry from her words and actions as a teenager. She was estranged from us for 7 years and in those years she struggled, fell down and picked herself back up. She needed to learn in her own way.

So what changed, was it her childhood or her perspective now as a maturing adult? Clearly her childhood didn’t change but her outlook on life surely has. My response; “you were just too young to appreciate all that you had.” And she was young.

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It takes tremendous courage to be honest and to own the things that we might have said and done as a kid that later in life as a mature adult we can honestly say I know better now!

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Enablers

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Enablers
By Bernadette A. Moyer

"Hello, my name is Roberto, and I will be your enabler this evening."

There are all kinds of enablers some may be knowingly enabling and others unknowingly. My father was an alcoholic and my mother the classic enabler. It was a typical co-dependent relationship. I am sure she thought she was helping him. She was a registered nurse and in a “helping” profession. She loved him and supported him and stayed with him even when his behaviors dictated that she shouldn’t have.

As a parent I am sure we enabled some behaviors that we would not have accepted from any others. We loved our children and often thought we were helping them. If we had it we wanted to share what we had with them even after they became adults. This often showed itself in “arrested development” the more we did for them, the less they did for themselves. This often leads to resentment on their side and our side too.

There is often a fine line between helping and enabling. What I have learned as a parent is that as hard as it is to watch your child fall and fail you have to step back and let them pick themselves up. Trust that they will figure it out, it is part of learning and growing up. Once they learn to pick themselves up they start to build their own confidence and become successful in life.

I hear about “enablers” quite often in my estranged parents support group. This is usually a person or a family that supports the “victim” the “co-dependent” and helps them to go against their parents. The “enablers” support them in making decisions they might otherwise never have made without the assistance of these “enablers.”

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A friend’s daughter recently was married and mom and dad were not invited, to make matters worse the grandfather gave the bride away. The grandparents took the young daughter in and supported her in estranging from her mother and father. What were they thinking and why? These are life altering decisions that will last forever. Dad is not only feeling betrayed by his own daughter but by his father too. Would the grandparents want this to have been done to them?

What should they have said and done? How about go home and work it out, all teenagers and young adults have struggles with their parents, you only have one mother and father, we love you but you have to go home and work it out.

I experienced this twice now myself with both my teenage daughters who found women to take them in and go against mom and dad. And it was always over a boy. One woman I never met even though I asked to meet with her. She “enabled” the behaviors of a struggling teenager. This woman has now raised my grandson who recently turned 18, my grandson who has no real relationship with his birth mother and who never met his maternal grandmother. So who won here? And I am left to wonder what kind of woman involves herself in another woman’s family without even meeting them for yourself and making your own opinion? Who has a better life because of her “enabling?”

Second daughter returned home seven years later, she sees now in her own words that she was “young and dumb” she got used by people that “enabled” her poor teenage behaviors. She admits to being a “defiant teenager” sadly the “enablers” used her for their own gain.

I think a lot of “enabling” points back to ego, thinking they know better or are better. Today I don’t question the young teenager who naturally rebels against her parents as part of growing up but I do question the real and true motives of the people that have enabled them. What was in it for them?

Motives, agenda and egos all play a role in the type personality that enables, ask yourself what is your true motivation and agenda and what part does your ego play? Are you helping or are you hurting? If you are doing things to impact another family that you would not want anyone to do to your family that is probably a good litmus test.

If you really want to love others and help others, stop enabling and start trusting that the people that you think you are helping will figure it out for themselves, they will! And they will love you and appreciate you all the more for not stunting their growth and allowing them to develop into their own mature and successful selves!

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The Lost Child

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The Lost Child
By Bernadette A. Moyer

lost child

My grandmother on my father’s side, (my nana) lost a son (Jimmy) when he was just seven years old and just weeks after his first Holy Communion. She never got over it. It was an unexpected illness that quickly took his life. I imagine that a part of her died too. She talked about him all the time. She cried about him often.

I was just a little kid that visited her and I knew very little about death way back then, but I sensed enough to know and witness her heartbreak, sadness and uneasiness. She was tormented by her loss. It showed itself in her verbal and consciousness and stream of thoughts and words. Her actions showed intense grief. Today I can’t help but wonder how different her life might have been if Jimmy had not died so young.

The lost child changed her; it changed how she related to everyone including the remaining family members. How did it affect her marriage? How did it affect her relationships with her remaining four children? How much of the way that she was determined how her children became? Really we can never know but I think a reasonable person could agree that everything and everyone in that family was altered as a result of such a loss, like the loss of a child.

We can lose a child to death, to estrangement and to mental illness, where there maybe different types of loss, losing a child brings a wide range of emotions with it. We lose a piece of our hopes and our dreams. We lose a piece of ourselves and a part of our futures.

Mothers put so much of their own wellness on how their children are doing; they want their kids to be healthy and happy. I’ve read somewhere that “a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child.” I sure hope that isn’t true, but I do appreciate the thought.

I’ve never known the death of a child, thank God, but I have known losing a child. My first child was lost to me through estrangement on July 4, 1998. This year marked 19 years, she has been gone longer than I had her. For me she is a lost child. I too grieved her intensely and often talked about her too. I think that we talk about our lost children so that we can somehow keep them alive. It is all so unnatural for any parent to lose a child, regardless of the type of loss and a loss is a loss.

I changed. Initially my world was forced into an upside down position. Everything that I once held so near and dear in my own life like being a mother was shattered. I had to look at myself, I had to look at her and I was forced to look at everything. Being a mother meant everything to me, perhaps more than it should. I was consumed with grief. I went through all the stages from denial to acceptance. It felt like a death to me. A death of my child and a death of a part of myself, today I am different, very different. I see from a broader perspective from more of a life experienced, my head learned much, my heart initially shrank but then as the years passed by my heart grew larger with more acceptance and a greater understanding. Funny how that can happen, but it did.

Remember when the best stories ended with the phrase; “and they lived happily ever after”? After you experience enough life you soon realize that not everything ends with “happy ever after” but that does not mean that your happiness has to end.

You find new and different things that make you happy; you learn over and over again that true and sustained happiness comes from within.

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