Somewhere in Rainbows

My parents met in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University in the mid 90’s. My mom was in a sorority, my dad a fraternity and they hit it off at a Greek mixer. I came into existence in 1995, they subsequently dropped out of university and moved to Louisville to raise little ol’ me. Two and a half years after I was born, my sister came into the picture, and a year or so after that my parents got divorced. My dad stayed in Kentucky, but my mom needed to move to Indiana to be closer to my aunt and nana.

Every other weekend, every summer, and alternating holidays would be spent at my dad’s in Kentucky (this schedule not strictly followed as I got older) and all schooling would take place in Indiana. The driving distance between my parents was a lengthy three hours; which is short enough to be doable, but long enough to be slightly painful. The divorce wasn’t easy on anyone. It was never a smooth, simple thing. It was uncomfortable and it always felt like someone was deeply hurting more than the other, no one ever on the same wavelengths, and everyone seemingly took turns over-vocalizing the pain in what was usually not the most constructive way. Essentially, none of us made it through unscathed.

When it was time for me to start kindergarten, my mom soon found the Catholic elementary school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson, that seemed like the best fit. Quickly upon starting school, I was also signed up for this afterschool program called Rainbows which took place every Tuesday. A few other kids and myself would all get a ride over to the slightly larger Catholic school in town, we’d dash out of the car for bomb milk and cookies, then talk about our feelings for an hour or so in small groups.

Pretty quickly, all of us kids realized the common denominator between us was that we all lacked a nuclear household.

Rainbows created this community of kids and a safe space that essentially validated our feelings. All of them, every single emotion we felt… we were told it was normal.

If I’m being honest, I don’t remember nearly any of the particulars in those little lessons we had within the small group talks. I was in Rainbows for years, yet I genuinely don’t remember what we talked about each week. I just vaguely remember the constant undertone of reassurance that nothing was our fault, which I understand is a common thing for kids with divorced parents to feel. Though I did (and do) feel responsible for my parents marriage, never in my life have I ever felt to blame for my parents divorce.

The primary memories that stick out from Rainbows are the relationships that it created. There were so many adults that felt (and still feel) like an extension of family, and the best friends I had in that lifetime have transcended into adulthood. All of the friendships, even the ones that didn’t quite withstand the test of time, were/are priceless and heavily impacted my life. They’re the people who just got it. It’s always felt like yes, we’re all in our own boats, but we’re still in the same ocean weathering similar storms.

Rainbows encouraged a deep level of empathy.

We were this group of mismatched kids, varying in age, personality types, and all with different stories: some kids lost a parent, some lived with grandparents, some parents were divorced but still lived close to each other (these were the ones I was most jealous of), some kids didn’t know one of their parents at all – the list goes on. Yet throughout the lessons, we were made to feel that yes, our situation sucks and our story may seem harder than the person’s next to us, but that doesn’t invalidate that person’s pain.

All pain is valid, we are not here on this Earth to decide who gets to feel and what it is they feel.

. . .

In deciding to write this article, I googled Rainbows for the first time ever. Finding out that Rainbows was founded by a woman was not surprising, but it did bring a smile to my face (#girlpower). Rainbows, actually fully named Rainbows for All Children, was founded in the mid 70’s by Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys. She was devastated when her marriage ended and found solace in a support group. It didn’t take long for her to realize that her sons could also greatly benefit from such a group, but her search for this came up empty. Thus, Rainbows for All Children was born.

“Working with other concerned parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for the children in single parent homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. Suzy knew more needed to be done. She started working on a curriculum, the foundation of Rainbows for All Children, for children who experienced loss. The curriculum was designed to provide grieving elementary school children with an understanding of their new family unit, to help build a sense of self-esteem and to give them the tools to properly cope with their loss.”

Rainbows for All Children

. . .

Ultimately, it seems Suzy understood that relying on a child’s resiliency isn’t always the best or only answer. Just because kids have the ability to quickly bounce back on their own, doesn’t mean they should be left to their own devices to do so. I mean, think about it: why do adults go to therapy? Typically to finally unpack all of that compartmentalized childhood trauma. So when you think your kid is “getting over it” and “bouncing back” – it’s possible that they’re really just saving that pain for later.

Rainbows is very much still operating today – head to their website to learn more!

What is Home?

I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.

Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!

After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.

All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?

Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.

My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:

  1. We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
  2. I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?

Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”

My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.

So, again, where is home? Where do I go?

I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.

I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?

My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”

But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.

I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.

It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.

1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.

Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.

Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.

Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.

.

2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.

Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.

Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.

.

3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.

I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.

Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.

. . .

I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.

AKA -> homesickness.

All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?

I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.

Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.

Finding Peace

This article is the conclusion to a journey I began years ago. I’ve shared some personal stories about domestic abuse, some destructive coping mechanisms I used, and now it is time to talk about the peace I found after it all. I kept reiterating in my previous articles how we are not the victims forever, and I stand by that to this day. I wouldn’t be where I am without these humbling experiences. I grew my own wings that my gut was trying to tell me to do for years. With the help of my friends and family and self-determination, I was able to be the woman I always knew I was.

Initially, I was scared. I had no money, no motivation, and felt like my career was in the hole, and I had to block out a lot of people in my life. But what was really happening was that I was saving money, building stronger relationships with my close friends, and truly focusing on myself for once. I found myself developing a skin routine and a forming a healthy diet. I planned my future. I went back to college and now am on a path to graduate in a year.

What also became a constant in my life was spirituality. I never had been a religious person and I’m still not. Yet, I found spirituality really explained and helped me with a lot of things that have happened in my life. We all say cliche things like “everything happens for a reason” and “there are no such things as coincidences.“ Heck, I truly believe all that now! I believe people are put into and removed from your life and it’s all apart of the journey. Some people are not meant to be along for the ride and that’s okay. I came to the conclusion that I could find peace in knowing the things I can control vs the things I cannot and should not force. I have everything I need in my life to make the difference I’ve always wanted to make.

I made a vow to not let another person, especially a man, ruin or disrupt my inner peace. Yes, there are days where that was very hard to do, but ultimately, I am happy without the stress and chaos. I truly am blessed to have gotten to know the side of a man that I never thought I’d see again. I had been given a gift in the form a gentle, kind, selfless, respectful human. My boyfriend was put into my life and I have cherished every waking moment with him. He is a significant factor that has played a huge part in my searching for peace. He helped me realize that just because I was a victim and enabler before, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again and that is such a relieving feeling to know I’m still able to love and to be loved.

For the women or men that have walked in these shoes, there is happiness and success resting on the other side of this hill. Peace is found in many forms: a loving friend’s smile, a cup of coffee in the morning, and instead of thinking about your troubling past….you think about your exciting dreams, a week secluded in the woods watching the sunset, connecting with a religion or your spirituality, starting a self care routine, or even writing about your journey and being able to appreciate the things currently around you that you never thought would come from it. We all deserve peace and you will find it.

. . .

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

Honesty: Humility: Growth

This part of my story is pretty real and raw. This is the part I am not proud of. However, it’s important to share because even after I left John Doe, I struggled with self-identity, structure, discipline, and self control. I decided to make a few decisions that ultimately put myself in terrible predicaments and changed my life, but in some of the worst ways. I searched high and low for closure and answers, but all I found was temporary satisfaction, disappointment, and trouble.

There were weeks I spent several nights at bars, drinking heavily. I made many new friends and developed a social life I never had before. I was getting attention from people, but not all of it was positive. I decided to explore the dating scene and embark on a new adventure to “find myself”. Well I admit the alcohol abuse played a part in some, if not all, of my poor decision making. I found myself getting involved with a few people and making decisions I should not have done. I was naive and very trustworthy of people when I should not have been. They lied to me and I should have known better because I always have acted better in that sense; I have always preached to my friends about being safe and making good choices and not jumping into things without completely evaluating everything. I have always told them to think about the consequences before acting. I have failed to listen to my own advice. However, feelings and actions do not justify an individual hiding important information from a person.

I refer to these few months as me being crazy and doing things I never had the chance to do. So many people told me it was okay, and that this was normal. Now looking back, it wasn’t. Or if it was, I didn’t want my normal to be like that. I changed my behaviors and decided this way of life wasn’t for me; I stopped casually dating and became very selective. I have been left with physical scars now and life has been altered for me in ways I never thought would be. I never thought it’d be me. My advice here is never forget who you are. Try to stick to your morals and be very careful who you surround yourself with. Acknowledge that theses mistakes may be made and if they already have been, understand how you got there and try not to do it again despite the temporary satisfaction and attention.

One evening I was leaving a bar and I made one of the most terrible decisions ever, I chose to drive home. Well, that ended with me in jail for the night and with a criminal charge. I was beyond embarrassed. I did the very thing we all should never do – drunk driving. Thankfully, I was not in any accident or anything like that, but it still scared me and changed my life in many ways. I stopped drinking heavily and set limits. My advice here is clear, do not rely on substances of any kind to cope with heartbreak, depression, or grief. I know it’s harder than it sound, trust me, but this was one of the worst things I ever did and I have residual effects from it. Again, trust your friends, family, therapist to help you through hard times. Talk about your feelings.

Another topic to touch on is what I realized and came to accept and admit to. I looked back on my relationship and saw things I did that contributed to an issue, unknowingly. I realized I was going out to bars more, spending more money than I should have. I also acknowledge that listening to your partner is important and communication is key in working things out. In my recent article, I mentioned that I would ignore John Doe’s requests of being left alone when he was in a fit of rage, all because I thought that was the right way to handle it all. It wasn’t and it was wrong of me. However, being honest with yourself and others is a growing process too. I was also an enabler and turned a blind eye to a deeper issue at hand for years. Admit your faults. I will never deny what I did during and after my relationship because it was a stepping stone for me to find my peace and it allows transparency. Again, doing these things still do not give a free pass for anyone to be abusive. It is important to understand that.

I went down a path of destruction, and nothing I was doing was benefiting me. I was getting no answers. I had no closure. What was I even doing?

My decisions I made during and after my separation were wrong and foolish. I made choices and rolled the dice of life. I’m not perfect and I will admit this and the things I’ve done. I’ve used these experiences to help educate others who are struggling with coping from loss—that be of a loved one or maybe even a divorce, failing relationship, stress, etc. I was ashamed but again, it’s part of journey. It’s also to make people aware of how important it is to be honest with oneself and grow from these things. It’s a chapter in my life that has closed and left me with valuable lessons.

My advice here, is anyone trying to overcome such things like stress, divorce, separation, loss of a loved one, whatever it may be — should seek out help. This is something I never did until later. I could have avoided the trouble I got in after the separation if I just had better coping skills. My advice: keep communicating with people. I will say this time and time again, talk with your family and friends. Maybe seek out a therapist or counselor. Whatever you need to do to be safe and healthy while you heal from the wounds that life left you with.

What is just as important as healing, is being honest with yourself, learning from your mistakes, and taking back control of your life. We all have one chance at life, and we need to respect ourselves more. We are worthy of that.

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

I Needed Saving

Many of us grew up with like-minded aspirations of falling in love, getting married, starting a family, and making memories with them. This is the story of my first love.

I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 21 and divorced at 24. I lived a life of domestic violence that was somehow disguised as happiness and common place struggles. I spent 9 years of my life dedicated to pleasing him, caring for him, nurturing him, and ultimately enabling him. We had the best times and we had the worst times. I never saw the damage being done to me and my soul until I hit a breaking point. I found myself exhausted from just waking up every morning. It was to a point where I just didn’t want to wake up anymore. I share my story with the hopes that other people that were in my shoes will not wait until it’s too late to see the warning signs of an abusive and toxic relationship.

We met in high school, 2009. We were honestly smitten with each other. We just clicked. We would talk about everything and anything together. We found ourselves spending an incredible amount of time at our local park, as that was the only thing really to do at the age of 13 with no means of transportation. We had so much in common: Passion for music, love for animals, the outdoors, video games — just to name a few. We had all the right ingredients to have and build a solid relationship. And that is what we did.

In the beginning, he made it clear he liked to smoke marijuana. I made it clear I was not okay with it. Him choosing me over the drugs was the best case scenario. Well, I found out later the first year of our relationship, he was lying to me and he was still doing drugs behind my back. We came to an agreement and I caved in and continued my relationship with him because he meant more to me than a “harmless” joint. With that behind us, he continued to show me love and kindness. He respected me and listened to me. We gave each other a reason to keep pushing in life. We were living the dream. Little did I know, he would be the reason why I wanted to stop pushing in life and what made me want to give up.

Fresh out of high school, we both went to college. We had dreams and goals that we shared together and set forth to make happen. Well, life happened instead and we both wound up dropping out and moving in together and took on full time jobs. Things were rocky, but I saw that as typical issues couples go through. I never understood the severity of the yelling, cursing, and occasional abandonment. He always came back and apologized and cried and said he would never do it again. I believed him. Every. Single. Time.

We got married in 2016. The wedding was not ideal. But it wasn’t what mattered to us. We loved each other and we wanted to share it with people who loved us too. This is when the verbal abuse escalated to mental and psychological abuse. There would be days where he would twist stories around and I believed them to be true. I was the perpetrator. I broke him. I never loved him. I used him for his money. I believed I was this monster because he was the one with chronic depression and I was not. At some point, I asked myself, “Then why doesn’t he leave me if I am this way?” I reached out to my good friends who honestly never knew anything behind closed doors; from an outsider’s view, we were the perfect couple. This is when my friends and family started getting concerned. Well, I sometimes listened to them but explained they will never know what it’s like living and loving a person with mental illness. They won’t get it.

I felt alone. I felt isolated. I felt like I was fighting a battle that was never going to end. The days of him attempting suicide were escalating and it seemed to be his shield or defense against me speaking out or retaliating. He was slowly losing his control over me because there was something in my head that clicked one day. I decided enough was enough. I sat him down and had a very deep conversation about respecting me and how he needed to do better and I was no longer tolerating his abuse. He acknowledged his wrongs, like always, and we went about our life together.

In 2018, we split up. We needed space, I needed space really. He did not take it well. He kept blowing up my phone, trying to force himself back into my life. He would get super understanding and be peaceful but then the next day, he was calling me a crazy bitch and that he fucking hated me. When we did see each other, that was the first time he got physically abusive. Sure he’s put holes in our walls and wrecked cars out of anger but never once laid a hand on me. It was the first and last time that happened. It was over. The police were involved and he was gone. That was my wake up call.

My rope was at its end and I was either going to hang from it or swing and jump from it. I chose to jump and take my life back. And boy, I have never looked back, only to reflect on the signs I chose to ignore.

I want people, especially women, who find themselves in my shoes to know lying, cannot be tolerated. Name calling, cannot be tolerated. Using suicide and mental illness as a crutch to manipulate you, cannot be tolerated. Punching holes in walls or destroying property, cannot be tolerated. All these are signs that lead to domestic violence of every variation. We wind up being the enablers but that is what happens when we are THE VICTIMS. However, we aren’t victims forever. We are survivors and there is life after all the chaos. It’s not easy. We will have our fair shares of struggles. Best advice: use the resources given to you: your friends, family, work place, hobbies. Do not deny help as we want to, it’s necessary and will only make the process easier.

My divorce was finalized on a summer day in 2019. This is known as the day I was finally free. I no longer needed saving.

If you or someone you know is being affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 1-866-9474.

You are not alone.

New Age Christianity

Growing up, I spent my life bouncing between Pendleton, Indiana and Elizabethtown, Kentucky – distance between the two is about 3 hours driving. The back and forth, as one could guess, is due to my parents divorcing when I was incredibly young.

In all fairness, now I can reflect that my parents were also incredibly young.

They had a blossoming relationship in college – having met at an esteemed Greek mixer party at Western Kentucky University. One thing led to another, and here I came into existence folks.

My parents did the sensible Kentucky thing by dropping out of college, getting hitched, and embracing family life.

A couple years later I had a sister, and a bit after that I had two homes in two different states, two Christmases, two birthdays, more siblings, along with summers and every other weekend in Kentucky with Dad and all schooling went to Mom in Indiana.

The divorce is when my life became severely complex, and even though only being 3 going on 4, it was clear that if I adapted and rolled with the punches, life would be easier.

After the divorce, both my parents took to God.

In Indiana, my mom was able to put my sister and I into a Catholic private school, St. Ambrose, in Anderson. Religion was a firm part of the curriculum and equated importance to that of Math and Science, we went to mass as a school once a week – or more if there was a holiday. In addition, my mom, sister, and I went to mass together over the weekend.

St. Ambrose is where I did most of my growing and where I found the most foundation for being the caring, compassionate person I am today. St. Ambrose didn’t teach the hate or harshness that Catholics have the rep for. No, St. Ambrose full frontal lectured to show unconditional love and kindness to all those who cross your path, and it was made clear if we retained nothing else, this we must retain.

In Kentucky, my dad and step-mom bounced around church shopping for a hot second until settling on where we still attend to this day, United Memorial Methodist Church, in Elizabethtown.

This was so different to being Catholic.

Often, my siblings and I went to Sunday School instead of being forced to sit through an hour long sermon, but as the years went by we were sitting in the sermon instead. I learned through the Methodist Church that there are many different ways to praise God together. There can be a full band playing Christian songs you’ve never heard before, praising God in a church doesn’t have to be mechanical acts that you need to learn and memorize – there’s no earning any rights of passage or “leveling up” if you will.

Overall, I really learned that there is no wrong way to get with God.

I also learned that I don’t need to choose one way or another either. I have the capacity to embrace both just fine.

In fact, I learned I have the capacity for more than that.

In high school, my friends and I began dabbling in tarot cards – which is a hardcore Catholic no go.

Tarot cards are devil’s work.

But I had a really hard time understanding, I mean, if God is such an awesome God, why will he damn me to hell for channeling the very intuition he gave me?

I decided very early on, that the God I was raised with wouldn’t damn me to hell for dabbling in tarot cards and other New Age practices.

Quite frankly the minute I believed that in my heart of hearts, more doors opened.

I’m still very much on a self-discovery spirituous journey, but what I can confirm is I believe in higher powers and I believe in fate.

I believe the higher powers consist of not only a traditional God that is male, but also a higher Feminine power *think Virgin Mary vibes on steroids*, and I believe in the power of the earth and the spirit.

I believe in complexity, I believe in power, and I believe in coexistence.