Guest Writer Wednesday: Meredith takes back her power
Guest writer and my dear friend, Meredith, shares her powerful “unicorn” story. When I asked Meredith what “unicorn” she would be embracing in this guest blog post, she so eloquently and mightily said, “My unicorn is moving away from allowing myself to be a victim of circumstances to taking back my power by owning my truth and finding a place of empowerment.” Bam! I just know you’ll fall in love with Meredith by the end of this post. She’s like a warm (spiked!) apple cider on a chilly autumn evening. I can’t get enough of this woman! Please welcome Meredith to the Unicorn Mission!
Beginning My Second Act…
Growing up, one of my favorite books was Vampire Express. It was a part of the Choose-You-Own-Adventure series. While I was buried spine deep inside its pages, I felt “in control”. I got to choose my own destiny, even if it involved my own tragic demise. I bought the book during a school book fair and I read it until the pages almost fell out. It was an amazing gift to be able to have a perpetual “do-over” anytime life didn’t go my way.
My real life didn’t come with that privilege. My reality involved being raised by a narcissistic, abusive mother and an enabling father who was too afraid to fight her. Instead, he turned a blind eye and let me and my younger sister take the brunt of her anger. Mom was a powerful category 5 hurricane set on destroying everything around her. More often than not, she succeeded.
“Mommie Dearest” was able to conveniently forget any of the damage that she’d done during those storms just as soon as the wind died away. There were brief moments during my childhood filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies and hand-sewn Cabbage Patch Dolls with beautiful outfits. She would dole these out in the same breath as she lamented to anyone that would listen how she much she hated being a mother and that wishes she “had raised dogs” instead of children. Often the gaslighting and inconsistency were harder to handle that the verbal abuse or cracking belts and splintering wooden yard sticks. I often questioned my own reality; there are moments still where I wonder if I dreamt it all.
My domestic dysfunction led me to a series of adult relationships where I allowed myself to be treated poorly because I truly believed I didn’t deserve any better. I married (way too) young in an attempt to escape my reality and find the love and affection that I had been missing. I spent four years struggling with infertility/miscarriage before I was able to finally hold my own rainbow baby. It was easy to ignore an emotionally distant marriage while I spoiled my baby girl (and her sister 3 years later) with every bit of unconditional love I had missed out on. Birthing and raising these two beautiful blonde-headed little girls had been the first truly amazing thing I’d ever managed to do in my entire life.
Eventually our marriage deteriorated. We decided, in a last-ditch effort to fix our relationship, to move to Colorado to be closer to his family and escape mine. Our relocation quickly proved to be an epic mistake. Our marriage fell apart and his family (my “out-laws”) circled the wagons. They spent tens of thousands of dollars on half a dozen attorneys in a (failed) effort to seek sole custody of our daughters. Their pockets were deep. Mine were empty. I was outnumbered and outspent.
My “out-laws” attempted efforts to prove me an unfit mother was the worst thing they could’ve done to me. And the best thing they ever did for me. It woke a warrior within me and let me tell you, girlfriend was pissed. A wildly protective (if not a little crazy) Mama Bear came crawling out of her winter hibernation and she was seething and hungry and ready for a fight. Though I didn’t share his privileged family support, I made up for it in spades in passion, sheer anger, and determination. I became my own “jail-house lawyer” and studied family law statutes and case precedent until I was capable of standing before a judge and holding my own against his attorneys.
During the protracted legal battle, I was offered an amazing piece of advice provided by the most unlikely of sources: the very attorney that my ex-husband had hired to destroy me. His attorney and I had just had an incredibly acrimonious hearing in front of the judge. Afterward, he begrudgingly congratulated me on a solid win on the issues that day. He shook my hand, jokingly (or maybe not) called me a smartass, and looked me dead in the eye and said, “Should you ever decide to become a paralegal or go to law school, show up the day you graduate, and I’ll give you a job.” With that win and those words, the tide turned.
From that auspicious moment, I decided to try my hand at becoming a writer, not of books (choose-your-own-adventure or otherwise), but of my own story. Instead of being a victim of childhood abuse, I authored my story of resilience. Instead of believing I was destined to continue that long-standing family history of dysfunction, I authored myself a challenge to do better by my girls. I found my way into therapy and worked hard to improve myself. Simply changing my mindset, because I couldn’t change my past, allowed me complete freedom to transcend from the cesspool that my life could’ve been. Instead of being a victim of a toxic marriage, I authored my story of grace, gratitude, & grit. I authored myself being open to the infinite possibilities of an amazing “second act”.
Being the author of my own story, gave me the power to actually consider the words of the attorney instead of brushing them off because I didn’t think I was smart enough or determined enough to go back to school. Often studying at the same table as my girls, I buried my nose in a book the same way I had so many years before. I got lost in the words. I had my older daughter next to me at the table to tutor me through my first math class in 20+ years. I worked my ass off and graduated summa cum laude with my degree in Paralegal studies. I walked across the stage a mere 6 days before my beautiful rainbow baby graduated from high school with full honors, an academic letter, and a full scholarship from the very school where I had just graduated!
Before I went to my commencement ceremony two weeks ago, I stopped by my ex-husband’s attorney to thank him for his accidental guidance. We chatted and caught up, talking about our love for the law, our love of our children, and our respect for each other. Though I have no desire to take him up on his job offer, I will always owe him a debt of gratitude. One of the most mission critical parts of my journey of healing is to embrace the power of being appreciative for the blessings in my life. I am grateful every single second for every step (and trip and stumble) of my journey because it has brought me right here, right at this moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m proud to be where I am, especially in knowing from where I’ve come.
The mother wielding the belt did not break me. The family that banded together to support their son, no matter how his actions impacted his daughters, did not succeed in destroying me. Not then, and not now. I don’t share my experiences of an abusive childhood and a broken marriage to elicit feelings of pity. I share them because I know I am not alone. The number of people that have experienced abuse at the hands of a ‘loved one’ never ceases to shock me. For the purpose of my own healing, speaking openly about my experience removes the shame and allows me to find kindred spirits with whom I can share healing and growth.
Part of being an author of my story involves a conscious decision to own what has happened to me, looking each and every one of my demons in the face, and pull an Arya Stark (sorry for you non-Game of Throne-rs), and say “Not Today!” It involves recognizing my part in a situation so that I can work to not seek out a repeat performance of those toxic interactions from my past. It involves finding the ability to replace the anger I feel with an awareness of what each event from that point forward is seeking to teach me. I overheard a speaker on TV recently say that each time something negative happens, instead of bemoaning “Why is this happening to me?” to ask yourself “Why is this happening for me?” (I would love to appropriately credit this, but can’t find the original clip.)
My story has rarely been easy. As so many of us have, I’ve faced some situations where I felt like giving up. I’ve felt outnumbered. I’ve felt so overwhelmed that I couldn’t see my way through. By recognizing that I’m the one holding the pen, I can write myself right on out of that mindset and choose-my-own-adventure to a better ending.
I am embracing my second act and aging like a fine wine—a full-bodied red with notes of ripe berries, coffee, a little too much spice, and a finishing touch of crazy. I am passionate fan of the Notorious RBG. I have a slight addiction to HGTV and consistently manage to come up with overly ambitious home-improvement projects that eventually turn out relatively well after a good bit of profanity, sweat, & an embarrassing number of trips to Home Depot.
Laughing until I cry is my absolute favorite thing to do… ever. I am the luckiest mom on the planet with two teenage daughters who are compassionate, bright, funny, strong-willed, and strong-minded young women who will change the world. I am also blessed to find an amazing husband to share the second act with after the world’s longest “rough draft” marriage.
My handsome Wyoming cowboy has two incredible, talented, and inspirational kids of his own. One of the greatest side-benefits of my relationship with my stepson is having met the Original (O.G.) Unicorn, with whom I share a history of infertility struggles and a willingness to experience joy and growth through sharing ourselves and our stories openly. Kristen and Cory are some of my very favorite people on the planet. (I’m the colorfully crazy one in the middle!)
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