I have learned so much about myself and how I choose to show up for others over the last 3 years since my separation and subsequent divorce. I am now engaged to a man who knows more about me, my real and authentic me, than anyone has ever known. For years, I hid my trauma. I cloaked my sadness with alcohol and nicotine. I made self-depricating jokes that actually expressed how I felt about my body and desirability. I accepted being seen through the lenses of others, most of whom were kind, but the ones who were cruel were the voices that resonated. Although she had died three months before the sentence was uttered that not only ended my marriage, but broke my heart and brain, Aunt Barbra (Baba as she liked all the kids to call her), was a major inspiration for my healing and rising from the ashes to become what I am today.
She entered our lives around my Bat Mitzvah. She had joined the congregation after her parents had both passed. She was single, had a great government job, a stinging wit and sense of humor, and a singing voice that could put angels to shame. She held so much love and joy in her, it was almost impossible to know the trials and tribulations she had survived. Amongst the stories of proposals she’d refused on ski slopes and loves she’d had that she may have missed, but never regretted not compromising her beliefs or comfort for were the deep dark tales of her childhood. Her mother was not kind to her. She actually ended up committed at Bellevue in her early teens. She escaped and fled with the help of a family member to Arizona. She joined a hippie commune and lived there for years. Eventually her uncle tracked her down and brought her home. She had to sit in a chair at Woolworth’s for 5 hours so they could detangle her hair before going home. She had to go back and finish high school at 20 and then got a job for the federal government which she kept until she retired. Now you have a glimpse of her history…a puddle of information of this woman whose life stories could fill the Grand Canyon.
So, like I said she joined our congregation when I was barely a teen and by the time I was 14, she had become a part of our family. Here we are at the family Passover Seder that year. She had become my mom’s chosen sister, a might-as-well be daughter for my grandmother, and our “Aunt Baba.”
I, of course, remember her ever so fondly, but the reason she became my rebirth role model was actually because of a sentence that started to repeat in my head from my ex-father-in-law. After having been around her for several holidays, birthdays, and famliy gatherings, he had told me why he liked her so much. “I’ve never met someone who just says what they’re thinking so much. She’s just so real.” he said. And all I could reply was, “Yup. That’s her.” So, when I was struggling with issues of self-disgust, self-doubt, and the loss of self that had happened during my marriage, I took comfort in striving to be like her. I no longer wanted my beauty, size, and worthiness of love to be parameters I allowed others to place on me or define for me. Those were mine. I needed to control my own narrative and define my worth for me.
I don’t think I’ve ever met someone else in my life so honest with herself and others. Sure, she would talk some shit here and there, just like everyone else. Except, unlike everyone else, she would eventually not be able to keep herself from sharing her opinions with said persons. I wonder how many jobs, gigs, friends, lovers, and family members disowned her for this behavior. I loved it. She was so sure of herself that she felt no need to hide any of her “bad” or “undesirable parts” It made her a true friend, confidant, and someone I was not only proud to call my aunt, but also to have my kids call “Aunt Baba” when they came along. To this day, one of only a handful of words my son with non-verbal autism can muster is “baba.” It’s not a coincidence. She had that much of a force. She loved everyone she treasured fiercely. If you were loved by her, you never doubted it. And falling in love with her was inescapable if you valued truth, honor, and loyalty…or just adored her for her aura and spirit.
So, why am I sharing this with you? Why should you care about this woman you never met or the impact she had on my life and then recovery of self even after her death?
I have learned my lessons and I strive to share them with you. I have awakened to the fact that lying to myself made me lie to others. I was not happy in my marriage, but I pretended to be because the fear of being alone and having to raise my kids alone was so debilitating. I walked on eggshells, allowed my views and values to be diminished, and believed that any ill-will, resentment, or verbal abuse were totally warranted because I was a “fat piece of shit who should die in a fire.” I stayed small and tried to take up as little room as possible. And I was that way for over a decade.
All that time, I had a role model. She was in my home. She participated in all our major activities and even stayed with us sometimes during deployments. She told me a thousand times that I was good enough and smarter than I realized and deserved love and passion and that she wanted what was best for me and the kids. She modeled how self-love, self-compassion, even having a sense of self, and of course not hiding or lying to yourself or others can bring you joy, satisfaction, and self-made positive reinforcement. She used her costant self-honesty to curate a world and relationships to her liking and did not compromise or cower out of fear of being alone.
That is why I’m sharing about her here. I have that power and strength in me now. I have been dating since I was 15 and I did not have this until I was 41. There was no way anyone could have made me happy before I made myself satisfied with me. There was not a chance that anyone could have made me believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they truly wanted to be with me until I was aware that being alone is not the enemy unless unless I hated myself. Thinking about her blunt and wise cracking honesty made me very aware of the friendships that should have died a decade before and not to mourn their loss resulting form my divorce and newly found singleness. I have killed the Jeni that allowed cruel and untrustworthy people to create her narrative and have risen from the ashes like a phoenix of self-love, self-respect, and availability for true love. It is in her honor. And it is what I want for you.
Drop me a message and let me know if you’re ready to begin your transformation.