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To The Children I Never Had

The tears are big, ugly tiger tears. I thought they were nearly extinct and had been safely caged – but the emotion behind them became too strong to hold back.

It was the perfect storm. Before I could see it or even feel it, the anger and distress crept up within me.

The layers of socially acceptable facades began to crack, one under another…quietly caving into the emptiness of my wounded soul.

There were crevices that seemed to have been filled with emotional caulking – but maybe the years of emotional and spiritual work/growth were merely a plug in the dam that was about to burst.

And Mother’s Day is just enough to trigger the motherless-ness of this life. The depths of this emptiness vary but I’ve learned I am living on a fault line and the emotional tectonic plates can slowly shift without me heeding any of the warning signs.

Although I am a step-mom, I know with more conviction than I’d like, that being a step-mom is not being a full-time mom – either biological or adoptive. My experience on this journey is one of internal conflict with paths of love and anger, respect and apathy, hope and hurt.

There are days I feel cheated, frustrated and just flat out angry. Then there are days of relief, gratitude and joy of my availability to others.

Writing has helped my awareness of the warning signs before an emotional earthquake. Reading what others have written through their journeys has given me hope that I’m not alone on this deserted island of childless/co-parenting/split-custody step-moms.

Several months ago, I sat down in a quiet restaurant to grab some lunch between errands. I was cruising through FaceBook posts and came across a shared post with a title something along the lines of “Things I Want to Teach My Daughter.”

As I read it, the pain and sadness leaked out of my eyes and the words of my own letter flowed.

I’m not sharing this for pity. I’m sharing this for my fellow childless women to let them know they are not walking this path alone. I’m sharing it with a hope of shared respect and appreciation for all types of mothering.

I am honored to mother so many children, teenagers, women, men, and couples walking with them on their journeys. This is my silver-lining in the pain.

To the Children I Never Had

I’m not sure why you never happened.  I don’t know if it was your blessing or mine.

There were years you were wanted.

Fiercely and desperately.

You were not mine to be had and I was not yours to raise. (Yes. I said that. You would have eventually been raising me.)

I don’t know why. I can guess & hypothesize. I make up great stories about the whys.

I try to make sense of it sometimes. And, I uncomfortably admit, that I celebrate it other times.

I have moments of deep heartache when I think of who you could have been…of what I could have taught you…and of what you may have taught me.

There is guilt that I didn’t MAKE it happen…I was told it was possible – modern medicine could have assisted in your being. And that would’ve meant some sacrifices on my part…

This is where the guilt comes in. That’s selfish. That’s the voice that haunts me. Had I been willing to sacrifice – had I not been selfish – you may be here.

And maybe you weren’t even meant to be from my womb. I could’ve found you. I started to look for you a couple of times, but I’d heard and witnessed the heartache of adoption. I have also seen and felt the joy of adoption, which encourages the self-indulgent and egocentric voice to swaddle me in shame.

I have to make peace that we are where we are meant to be. I have to believe that being a woman without children does not discredit my being. I have to accept that you & me, kiddo, just wasn’t our destiny. 

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC

Love with Grace

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things ~ Bono

Year after year, I see the wounded wobbling into my office around this time.

The Expectation Train derails and causes mass casualties between December 25th and February 14th.  Most are still injured following a fall into the Disappointment Ditch of Christmas.   So the forecast of a Failure Frenzy on V-Day is pretty predictable, with a 95% chance of resentment.

Isn’t “love” a beautiful thing?

We do this to ourselves though. As a society, we allow the hype of media and advertisers to woo us into the fairy tales of candlelight dinners, sparkling gems, and imported chocolates accompanied by fine wine.

Although there is a piece of us living in reality, the fantasy can be all consuming…and quite damaging. Especially when we keep these ambitious hopes sequestered within, setting up the Failure Frenzy that much more.

Here’s the deal – when we live each day with intentional love and authentic connection, the pressure to fulfill made-for-TV dreams becomes null and void.

But what is ‘intentional love’ and ‘authentic connection’? It’s being able to state your truth – your joys, your worries and your annoyances with respect and consideration. It’s being an adult in a mutually caring relationship.

It’s the ability to reframe the coffee rings on the counter from a malicious act of personal contempt to a love note, letting you know your husband is home, safely sleeping beside you at night.

It’s the choice of listening with the goal of curiosity rather than the motive to be right.

It’s putting away the scoreboard and picking up the pom-poms to be the personal cheerleader of the one you have chosen as your lifelong confidante, companion, and lover.

It’s pausing to think of your own worst traits before you opt to recite the peculiar pet peeves you’ve catalogued of your spouse’s.

It’s saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to make this better?”

Intentional love and authentic connection is grace in action. It’s believing the best about our partner and trusting they believe the best in us. In this world of fear and anxiety, let’s not add to the turmoil – let’s love with grace.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC


Rebecca Townsend

Beginning Behind

VULNERABILITY WARNING: The content of the following blog has a vulnerability rating of 92 (that was a B when I was growing up). This blog may make you uncomfortable. It may cause you to think differently of me as a result of the humanness exposed. Continuing to read may cause you to disapprove of me or cause you to like me more. If you like me just as you believe me to be, you may not want to read any further…

It’s January 19th and I feel like I’m already so far behind. I could actually strike the words I FEEL LIKE (notice, I did?). The truth is I am very late to this party of 2016.

I just took down the Christmas decorations on Saturday, January 16th. Yes. That is 22 full days after Christmas. I had not touched anything – the stockings were still hung, every ornament was still on both trees, nativity scenes were displayed in full glory – even the Wise Men were surprised they were still hanging out 10 days after their arrival. Come to think of it, I can’t even claim all the decorations are packed away – I just remembered one of the door wreaths is more Christmas-y than winter wonderland…sheesh.

Our New Year’s cards to send to family and friends arrived on January 12th; the return address was embossed on the last envelope yesterday. However, the address labels aren’t printed and handwritten note haven’t been penned. I think February 1st is a reasonable goal.

I have zero specific intentions or dreams written down for 2016. Oh, I have well over 50 in my spaghetti noodle brain – but they’ll get lost in the spinning if I don’t purge them onto paper soon.

Most people lose weight between January 1st and 15th.  I opted to gain 5 pounds last week while I was working at one of my favorite healing places on earth, Onsite.  I’m juicing 2 meals a day this week in an effort to break even, but my hanger has interfered with all other efforts of balance and peace.

And because I feel the need to discharge all of this shame and disappointment in myself, I have to lay the blame outside of myself.

I have no more room in my soul for one more ounce of shame!

So, I’m blaming it on the Gregorian calendar. It’s an innocuous thing to indict. Pope Gregory XIII died in 1585 and I’m certain he is due for some modern day accusations.

See, I really don’t like it when January 1st falls on a Friday. And in 2016, New Year’s Day was on a Friday. If Pope Greg would have channeled his inner perfectionist, he would have put in some rule about January 1st always being on a Monday. Can I get a resounding “AMEN” on that?

There’s something about starting new things on Mondays that make me feel like I’m beginning on a blank slate.

Why would you start new habits on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays? It ruins a perfectly good weekend!

Monday is the beginning of a work-week and starting a new habit is work. Creating new patterns and behaviors is a struggle and can be overwhelming. The thought of having energy to kick-start an initially life-sucking practice at the end of a long week makes me want to curl up in tornado safety position and rock myself into emotional safety.

I find it very annoying when The Engineer says, “On January 1st, I’m going to stop eating gluten and dairy.” Or, “I’m going to work out from 5am to 6am.” Or, “I’m not eating after 7pm.” He doesn’t expect me to join him in his endeavors. He never assumes I’m game and he never pressures me to join him in these shenanigans. But, seriously…what do I do?

Oh, I eagerly grab the Guilt by it’s horns and wrestle to wear it as scarlet letters broadcasting, “NGE: Not Good Enough.”

Not this year. At the end of 2015, I looked at my January calendar and saw all the fortune I had scheduled. I decided to try to view my calendar as full of opportunities – not busy-ness. I knew The Engineer would be traveling as soon as the holidays were over and I could see the potential for frazzled living.

I chose to offer myself grace and compassion. Gifts I easily give to others, yet struggle to receive for myself. I chose to speak gently to myself even when the messages of “being behind, not being organized, not as good as so-and-so” were as loud and dark as a Black Sabbath concert. It was and is a struggle. Yet, I know I am not alone in trying to walk away from these messages delivered by age-old traditions, family customs, social media, and societal expectations.

Knowing I have fellow travelers makes this journey towards harmony and connection easier and exciting. We are created to be connected in our love, in our shame, in our guilt, and in our joy.

How are you trying to pave a new path according to your inner yearnings? Let’s start a conversation to walk beside one another on this journey.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC

Christmas: The Birth of a Step-Family

© Sing Lok Che

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.  

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have had felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

For those of us who are a step-family, it always gives me strength to realize their were probably times when there was tension at the dinner table or discord amongst Mary and Joseph about what consequences Jesus should have for separating from the group to hang out in the temple.

As a step-mom, I’d be lying if I said that when I look across the dinner table at my step-sons chewing with their mouths open and their elbows on the table that I saw young Jesuses. In those moments of trying to instill life-long skills for the 900th time in the last six years, I feel like Cruella de Vil rather than the patient and loving step-parent I envision Joseph to have been.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…well, unless you count the Almighty God. But shouldn’t that be whom we are all co-parenting with?

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…

Well, actually, they did. When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody, moving between houses became the reality of this step-family.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronts Jesus.

I find it interesting that Mary is the one to confront Jesus. In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. But in nuclear, biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.

Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!” Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, apparently surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus’ time in His Father’s house, doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with Joseph, who had raised Jesus as his own.

Biblical scholars have noted that following the incident of Jesus in the temple, Joseph is not mentioned any further in the Bible. It is not clear when Joseph died.

I wonder if he died with a broken heart. After raising Jesus with the love, passion and integrity, as he would have his own biological children, it must have been painful for him to accept the new co-parenting arrangement with God.

Sometimes, step-parents will suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

Maybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism. Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Believe. Hope. Love.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2015

This blog first appeared on Rebecca’s site in December 2014.