I just spent the most incredible weekend with the most amazing women on the planet. I got to go to the 3rd ETAAM (Early Trauma and Attachment Annual Meeting) in Orlando. In most circles, Orlando means Disney. In my circle, it means "Oh my Gosh!!! It is the most incredible weekend you will ever experience in your entire life." It means you get a chance to be yourself with 89 other moms who parent trauma and totally know where you're coming from. It means you get to laugh, cry, eat, soak up the sun, walk or run a 5k, hoop, laugh, watch the honey badger, meet people you only know from the internet, sing songs, laugh, relax, get henna, hot tub it with 9 other ladies, laugh. I can go on forever about how life changing it really is. I met women who have and will continue to completely shape my life. I got to be me, and I am so awesome. I took so much baggage with me, litterally and figuratively, and I came back with a new and refreshed outlook on my life. Orlando gave me the chance to find the "truths" that will help me to make the changes I need to survive and thrive.
I was about three seconds from e-mailing the person in charge and cancelling my resevation. I had it all typed, but I didn't send it. Going to Orlando was so far out of my comfort zone. I am excrutiatingly shy. I am socially backward. I am weird. I know all of these things. It has taken me years, but I have been able to embrace these facts and start to fully love myself. I didn't want to be thrown into a group of women who would see that I am shy and backward and weird. I'm okay with it, but I didn't want them to have to be okay with it. I wanted to be awesome, and social, and incredible, and I knew these are qualities I do not posess. I was going to be in a villa with 9 other women who exuded confidence, love, and beauty. On the awesome scale, these women are off the chart. I weigh more than I ever have in my life. I chipped my front tooth a month ago, and it left a gap between my teeth that causes me to lisp, (and occasionally spit.) My hair has a mind of it's own. When I get nervous, my body emits an odor that is not the least bit flattering. If I wore overalls, I would be the epitome of "Iowa white trash." I am almost deaf in my right ear and have a 50% hearing deficit in my left ear. I read lips quite well, if I can still hear a little bit of what is going on. People think I am staring at their face, but I am really just reading their lips so I don't miss what they are saying. I'm what my mom would call "an odd duck." When I compared myself to these women, I sucked. I didn't want to suck for a whole weekend. I can do that at home and for a fraction of the cost!
Friday morning, I got up at 3:00 a.m. I figured if I put on some makeup and did my hair, I would feel a little more confident. My hair decided it wanted to do this "Adele" imitation. She can pull it off (and win a million grammys on top of it!) I, however, looked like I was wearing a hockey helmet on steroids. I threw on some makeup and decided that no matter what I did, I would not make my terrible self image go away. All the way to the airport, my husband made it painfully clear that I was being selfish by taking this time for myself. He was angry that I had told neighbors to check on him to make sure he didn't need anything. In his mind I was telling him he couldn't do it without me. In my mind, I knew what it was like to parent alone, so I wanted him to have all of the help he could get so he succeeded while I was gone. His anger won, and I promised I would never take this trip again.
Three planes and several hours later, I was still reeling from the fight with husband. The last thing I wanted was to be loved on by a bunch of strangers. All I really wanted was to be loved by my husband. The women were unbelivable. So understanding and sweet. Shortly after getting to our villa, we got a call that there were flowers waiting for me at the main gate. My heart really wanted an apology, but I got lillies, instead. I needed to be alone to process what I was feeling. I went upstairs and sobbed for about half an hour. When I finally got myself back together enough to go back downstairs, no one was judging me, telling we what I needed to do. They just let me join the "party" at my own pace.
The rest of the weekend was so amazing. I felt so accepted by everyone. There were even women there who wanted to meet me. They had read something I had written that had inspired them and they wanted to meet me. I didn't get to meet everyone that I wanted to, but the ones I did meet were so inspiring. There's a saying, "If everyone put their problems in a circle, we would all choose our own back." I've always thought I'd like a chance at someone who doesn't parent trauma's problems. After this weekend, I know I would choose anyone of these mamas' problems, but only to help carry them and ease the pain. I have never seen such grace or strength in all of my life, and if I really look inside myself, I will see that I posess some of that grace and strength, just because I am a trauma mama.
I stayed an extra day, because I knew I would need that time to process everything before I went back to "ground zero." I also needed time to finish my Capstone paper, but I didn't know that when I booked my motel. At the time, I wished I had just gone home, but in retrospect, it was the perfect choice. I had the most relaxing, reflexive time of my life. It gave me time to find some truths about the weekend, my marriage, my kids, and my life.
I am worthy of love. Love from others and especially love from myself. It doesn't matter how backward and awkward I feel, I have something to add, even if it's just to share my big girl panties, my singing voice, and a witty quip or two (or ten!) I need to get past the self-judgement and realize that I have something worthwhile to give. I may never know exactly what that is, but I will never stop looking for it!
My husband loves me. He is angry for so many reasons, but it is not because I went to Orlando. He also feels like he has nothing worthwhile to contribute to our life. The kids listen to me. They show me they love me all the time. It doesn't come easy for them to show him they love him. While my insecurities come out in silence, his comes out in anger. We need to lean on each other and work on our insecurities together. He is my "Love of a Lifetime", and I hope I get a lifetime to prove it to him.
Hockey is my favorite sport, but I will give it up if it means I can help my daughter. Even though my kids drive me crazy, I would die for them. I needed a break so that I could realize that it is my love for them that keeps me going. Without my husband and my kids, well let's face it, I would still be awesome, but I don't want to be that kind of awesome. I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and the potential for growth, for all of us, is staggeringly beautiful. Not sure if that's a word, but it works. We are all survivors.
I am one smart cookie. I aced my Capstone paper while on vacation. I kept my 4.0 and got to spend the weekend with 90 angels on earth. I rock!!
RAD sucks. There's no other way to put it. It affects every life it touches, even if that person is unaware that RAD has entered their life. I hate RAD with every fiber of my being, BUT, it has made me the person I am today. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. I am more patient. I will fight for my family with everything that is in me. I will not give up, on my family, or myself. I am starting to really like "me." I may never be as confident as the incredible women I spent last weekend with, but I also realize, they may not feel that confident, either. It is also usless for me to compare myself to these women. I am not them. I am me, and I am getting better with every breath I take. To quote a sign at the restaraunt we ate at in Orlando, "I'm so awesome, I sweat glitter." I'm okay with the whole sparkling thing. I can pull that off.
Every picture I see of myself that was taken in Orlando makes me want to gag. I don't think I will ever see past my exterior. No matter how much people tell me I am beautiful, I can't believe them. Unfortunately, this is one of my biggest truths. I can hear people tell me that I inspire them, or that I make them laugh, but my mind won't believe it. I've parented RAD so long I'm used to people lying to me. In my heart, I want to believe they are sincere, but my head tells me that they are being nice. Someone told me once that I over-think everything. Wow! Could that be possible? Do I really think about things and analyse them too much? Maybe I should just believe people when they tell me something, but then, I might miss their subtle suggestions that I am weird and I should just leave them alone. I don't know. Do you think I over-think things?
No matter what, Orlando was one of the best experiences of my life. Whether or not I will get to make this an annual event, remains to be seen. I got so much out of this experience. I have a support system, I love some new people- ones I would never have met if it wasn't for me parenting trauma, and I found my inner "honey badger." No matter how much I doubt myself and my character, this one truth will ever remain~~I am worth it!