Things Which Once Caused Me Shame

Buh-Bye Toxic Shame!

Recovery for me has included unburdening of generations of the toxic shame imposed on me. I now have the tools to identify what is mine to amend and for what exactly what I am responsible. I can not and will no longer be sorry for: existing, feeling and thinking differently and deeply, speaking my truth, attempting to meet my own most basic needs or taking up space.

As a girl and young adult, I was truly sorry, all of the time, for all of the things. My constant thoughts and words, attempts to seek forgiveness: “I am sorry I felt that way. I am sorry I reacted that way. I am sorry I made you feel that way. I am sorry I made you act that way. I am sorry for my skin color, my birth name, my skinniness, my height, foot size, my voracious appetite, limiting food preferences, my screaming angry family, the shape of my nose, my anxiety, my insecurity, my despair, the clothes I wear, my family’s religions and ethnicity, the weird foods served in our house, my mother’s appearance and personality, my father’s accent and Egyptianness.” I am done being sorry. I was ashamed of my shame. I felt good about one thing, my cat. I am definitely sorry for pain or trouble caused by me. When we know better, we do better. While I do affect how others feel about me, I repeat, as many times as I need to, I do not make another person lie, sneak, steal, gossip, cheat, do drugs, abuse, deceive. I am just not that powerful. 

You know what I am now sorry for, what I apologize for, what I am willing and able to amend? Those moments when I could have done better. I am sorry for things I have said and done that have caused harm(not upset or displeasure), but legitimate harm, knowingly or otherwise. I am sorry and work daily to be intentional with my words, attitudes and behaviors. This requires a lot of unlearning- dumping of learned behaviors and faulty beliefs, adopting a better way.

I learned to exist in shame and that the burden of shame was the price to be paid to and extracted by those “claiming to be right—living in a state of rightness”. Sadly, I took up the practice of shaming and punishing others for disappointing or frustrating me. I think in the world of therapy, behaving this way, is referred to as offloading shame. Unhealed shame does not go away without intention and commitment to doing the work to heal. Shame is healed or passed on and perpetuated, manifesting in— Recklessness or over-controlling of people, food, drugs, sex, exercise, cleaning, shopping, people pleasing, striving for perfection, strained hot/cold relationships, bad marriages, unresolved conflict, egg shells forever…

Striving for perfection is the opposite of healthy striving– rooted in shame, not self-love or self-esteem.

To be armed with shame resilience, a healthy sense of self, knowing where you stop and others begin, with the appropriate sense of accountability, this is an advantage I can offer my children. They get to make mistakes, amend, and move on. They need not be perfect or sorry. And fuck anyone insisting otherwise. They will not be manipulated and diminished in these ways, without knowing what is happening. For now, they are small and being placed in conflict, just trynuh survive. But they, at least, know what IT is, that uneasy feeling in their guts telling them something is not right….and that something is NOT them and not their imagination. THIS is the fight of my life, to spare my children from the legacies of shame, addiction, and very sick entanglements.

Oh and you know what else I am sorry for–for participating in my own abuse and neglect, for submitting myself to others who thought it ok. I will spend the rest of my days taking better care of me and walking TF away from anyone suggesting that I(or others) earn or deserve pain and fear, which they will righteously impose. Even as I stumble, on my way out the door, my head is high and my shoulders square. When you hit my boys or me with your shame issues and vibes, we are Returning To Sender.

“I decided that the single most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do, was to show up for my own life and not be ashamed.” ~Anne Lamott

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Goddammit Magda

Friday after school, we had an unusually peaceful few hours before going to pick up dinner from our favorite BBQ place. Often, the time between after school and dinner can be trying. Both boys returned from school, busied themselves with chores, books, and playing without incident or a tantrum by me (begging to be allowed to focus and finish my work).

So, I placed our dinner, a hefty bag of BBQ, Brunswick Stew, and MacnCheese on the counter, while I washed up. The bag toppled as my younger son reached for it. It seriously exploded as it hit the floor, shattering the containers sending the macncheese and stew in all directions. My son, immediately distraught–flopped into the dog’s bed and put his hands over his face. First, my heart broke for how bad he was feeling.

BUT THEN I felt something so magical, which defies articulation, the miracle of being able to hug him and tell him: It is ok. It was an accident. If he had been agitating his brother or me or horsing around, I would have lost my shit and surely defaulted to shaming and guilting him. Old habits die hard. He was bummed that the stew, which was my dinner, was completely lost. I assured him: “It is fiiiiine, I am disappointed by my lack of stew and the reason I am not mad is because it was an accident. Accidents happen and I can eat some BBQ with you. There is plenty. I will have stew next time.”

Inappropriately, of course, I added, while scooping up the mess with a spatula into a trash bag, “Save your guilt for when you are being an asshole to your brother or me. That is something to feel bad about.” I continued by sharing that guilt is for those moments when we have knowingly made choices that cause trouble. Shame and guilt are not for– accidents, circumstances out of our hands, or things we do not yet know.

Fuck shame, shaming, and shamers. That is what I say. I used to feel so terribly ashamed for things that were said to me or about me by others. I used to feel ashamed for the unkindness which I was taught that I earned. But recovery teaches me to reserve shame guilt for only my own poor choices. AND No matter how bad my choices, I am not even a tiny bit responsible for someone else’s behavior. EVER. It is not possible to effectively impose shame on a person who has been inoculated with shame resilience. I think repeating and continuing deceptive and hurtful behavior is shameful and shameworthy.

I am working with my sons to illuminate the difference between shame and guilt. To be willing to be taught but not controlled by them. Shame says “I am a bad person and deserve bad things.” Guilt says “I did a bad thing and can do better.” Either way, amending is the best way to get through to the other side. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to amend. It always takes courage and humility and those can take time too. Shaming and blaming will lead to nothing good or wholesome. We are learning to recognize those who try to gain advantage in those ways. They are not safe.

My older son lightened the moment by saying “Goddammit Magda, this is why everyone hates you.” We laugh endlessly over family experiences that once brought me shame. My boys know and get me and love me and all the awkward painful stories which I share with them. Whenever something is fucked up and we don’t know why, one of them will always say “Magda did it”. Poor lil Magda.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Together, We Belong

My boys are still young enough that they are more interested in what feels good and right than what hurts and upsets. I love that they are always asking about our next plans with Favorite and Sweet Greg. Even when we have just said good bye to them, my sons are asking when we will see them next.

The sense of belonging they experience with them, is priceless. I suspect my boys recognize, but cannot yet grasp how they are so deeply loved and welcomed without condition– free from weird, dirty, secret emotional contracts.

My boys know, without doubt, they can call and go to F and SG for anything– always, no matter what. The emotional safety and security is greater there, I am guessing, than anywhere else in their little lives. Those bonds are not only squeaky clean, but also free from the rigors of parent/child conflict and stress. Favorite and Sweet Greg are always interested, available, and fully effing (mind blowingly so) present for all of the words and feelings– and the fun too.

Thank you Favorite and Sweet Greg for being sources of genuine and undeniable togetherness. Your lack of malice and ill-will for their father, in spite of what you hear and witness, is brilliant and healing. What a gift to US. Your loyalty to me does not require you to hate him, and I think that serves us all, quite well. The burden lavished upon my children by their father and “his people” is heart-breaking—but manageable, because of you. Thank you for being consistent and plentiful wellsprings of emotional safety.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

The Exact Right Words

When you are raised having your words and feelings ignored, dismissed, challenged and twisted to be used against you, you may, as I did, dedicate much time to seeking the exact right words (once realizing volume and profanity do not work in your favor, ever) to express a thing so that you may be heard. Not realizing that the people to whom you are speaking have no intention of hearing you, and need, at a cellular level, to not hear you. Because knowing a thing, means (for most of us) having responsibility to take informed action.

There is a very consistent pattern and dynamic in households where generations of those affected by addiction are in control: A difficult or uncomfortable thing gets said but not acknowledged, and if you say it again, you are accused of nagging(not moving on) and then questioned: Why are you still saying that? If the thing is expressed with emotion, your tone gets policed while the content is discounted. That situation made me a lunatic, first with the people to whom I am related— and then in a marriage to a man who is wired identically to my relatives.

Relatives is the word I have now connected with, to identify those to whom I am linked genetically. It felt awkward calling them “my family” because of the clear lack of connection and regard I experienced with them. Saying “family” felt like a lie, a pretense. Also the word love felt similarly. “I love you” was routinely said before bed and for goodbye. But by my definition of love, which says that– love sees you, hears you and protects you, unconditionally- we did not love each other. That is not a type of love I experienced with my relatives and ex-husband. Ever. And it made perfect sense when I said “I love you” in my troubled relationships before recovery because I used the phrase according to how I had learned to love and be loved. I 100% loved my husband the same way I loved my relatives. And he loved me as they did—it was painful for all of the days in which I refused or was unable to pretend…most of the days. We all agreed if I could just be different, we could be fine and happy and together. Like a family.

I infrequently tell Sweet Greg that I love him (Because of my 40 years of shitty broken “love” with chemically dependent and emotionally stunted people(no resentment there. ha!)) What Greg and I have and do is different, deserving of a another word. Also, I refuse to call Greg my boyfriend. Not only because that word got ruined, but because I am old AF, not 12, and he is much more than a BF. I don’t say partner, because that feels awkward and to me, implies that we live together or that we are gay. He is just My Sweet Greg. And calling him my companion sounds as if he is paid or like we are in our 70s. There are no right words!

Even the word “boyfriend” was uncomfortable in referring to men whom, for years, I tethered myself. Because I noted other women enjoying thoughtful, kind love, joy, gifts and fun from dedicated boyfriends. I would label the man in my life my boyfriendy-type-person (BTP), which would at least make me laugh. I had come to believe that if I were verrrrrrry lucky, I miiiiight be able to find one man who would tolerate, ignore me, sleep, and share meals with me, forevvvver. I hoped to be so lucky.

I recall my last conversation with my mother, in which she demanded I get over the betrayal(which she insisted did not happen(ironically while it was still happening)) and just come to dinner like a member of the family. I responded to her by saying: “There was a time when I would share beds and meals with people who treat me as if I am unworthy and naughty. That time has passed. I have changed and that will not work. ” I got up to leave and she said; “I wish you well, Maggie”. I let myself out and she locked the door behind me and those were our final words, as I knew they would be. She and my sister continued to circumvent our issues at the expense of my children’s peace by meeting as a family(by their definition) with my ex and our children therefore knowingly dividing us as co-parents, probably forever. Hate is a very strong word…but in this case feels the closest I can get, to naming the feeling I have for what they do to my boys’ parents in order to meet their own needs. They are winning the war of their design and choosing, while my boys lose.

We are related, only by the co-incidence of my birth. Whatever is felt for me, is nothing that has ever been healthy for me. The behaviors and choices of my mother and her family are about them, reflective of their values, beliefs, and way of being in the world, AND not a reflection of my worth or lovability. They are her family, my relatives. And it is plain to see how they would appreciate an emotional similar-ness to my ex-husband and his divided scapegoated family.

Al-Anon has introduced me to new language and experiences of: myself, others, faith, wholesome love, kindness, family, belonging, boundaries, connection, self-esteem, service, detachment, and serenity. I have experienced each of these, for the first time, in this program of recovery, and never with my relatives. Repair or repeat. For nearly 10 of my 50 years, I have been working slowly to repair what I hope to not repeat.

Love is not easy or without pain and struggle but it, I believe, to be benevolent, a promise, and a commitment.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

On Being Psycho

Happy Valentines Day, y’all ♥️

My favorite part of my relationships is the laughing endlessly, together, over exactly how unreasonable we can be, at times, complete lunatics, incapable of acting or thinking right. 

Sometimes being reasonable is not possible and that is ok, because we can acknowledge that, learn from it and laugh like crazy while being merciful with ourselves and each other, as we call out our own disturbing behaviors and thinking. It is not possible to move on and to heal from things without first acknowledging them. Having a loving witness is key.

If we were to pretend we were perfect, we would miss out on getting to know and grow ourselves. 

Honesty is the height of intimacy— the only real perfection and the truest form of strength and kindness. Strength is not in denying or hiding pain and struggle, but being with them, willing to be taught by them, while being able to laugh at ourselves, our imperfections.

For the record, I do not consider myself a psycho but do admit to behaving like a deranged person—on many occasions. I think actual psychos are the ones who cannot consider that they have moments of behaving from a place of being unhinged and terrified ….because they do not even recognize it as problematic and are unable to contemplate having behaved badly.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

The Things We are Learning

“My family upbringing lacked courtesy, respect, calm responses, and forgiveness. It has taken me years to learn how to pause, reflect and choose a more loving response. For years I allowed an (unwell person) alcoholic to use their weapons of anger and anxiety to provoke me. I didn’t understand the dance or merry go round.” (from my sponsor in today’s meeting…I adore her)

To have the opportunity to mature emotionally and spiritually, and to heal, to unlearn, to create a better experience, is nothing short of a miracle. Learning to be gentle and to remember my intent, is hard as hell. I lack desire to win or silence another. I want to connect, serve, heal, and grow together with my people. But often, when I am overwhelmed, particularly in parenting, my natural reactive instinct is to attempt to win/dominate, in order to get a handle on things. I am not fixed, but I am so much better because of the shitty marriage which led me to the rooms of Al-Anon. Without it, I shudder to imagine the type of mother I might have been.

There is a word for IT, a name for the cycle and legacy of twisted perceptions and troubled relationships. There are places to go (meetings) and people who want to hear, share, heal from the family disease of addiction. It affects everyone, even the pets.

It is shameful and heart breaking to recall how I went from building my life around my angel of a dog “King Simon”, to, after marriage, wanting to have him put to sleep, when his needs (which had not changed) seemed too much for me. It required everything I had to manage life with a man, who was icy cold for days, sometimes weeks at a time, returning to warm and friendly without explanation. It was as if I were expected to respond like a faithful dog–eagerly awaiting, unquestioningly at the door, to be allowed to return, for touching, playing, and closeness. I gag to recall.

I am not wired that way. I am a deep feeler, feeling it all, unable to limit myself to feel only the things he wanted me to feel. My inability to remain vulnerable under those conditions has been collectively labelled as “holding a grudge”. It is actually just being too confused by and scared of a person, to feel closeness. I recall regularly trying to explain that I can not be terrified, angry, ashamed and horny all at once. For me, those things do not happen together. This dynamic mimics my experience in my family–not the horny part, though there was unwanted touching and closeness. Gagging again.

I had been groomed to believe that OUR only problems were my thin skin and my inability to just move on. My reaction of being hurt was the issue, not the harmful words, silences, behaviors. Recovery taught me that I was responding to pain and fear by feeling frightened and hurt.

It is not my job to feel less and to pretend as if things are ok. For as long as I am willing to pretend things are ok, they will never be ok. Healing has divided me permanently from those who refuse change. Healthy boundaries have rendered it impossible for us to be together. Yes, it runs in the family, generations of unhealed pain. And it stops here. I will heal, so that I may not hand IT directly to my children.

I see both in my ex’s family and my own, the ones who feel more and speak more get picked off. Those who feel less or learn to numb the pain and ignore, become favored and develop a sense of righteous entitlement. While the feelers, the canaries in the coal mines, are cast out.

Of my two sons, I have a deep feeler, one who feels all of the things and one who appears to be affected only, by not getting his way. He is readily able to ignore, pretend, and move on as if a thing has never happened or mattered. I worry for them…coming from parents who have siblings who differ in these ways and who remain terminally estranged. We learn what we live. It is time to learn and live differently.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Say Yikes and Move On!

“I set boundaries today, in good faith, with anyone who disregards my thoughts or feelings. Disregarding and disrespecting are different from disagreeing.” (wise words of my sponsor, in today’s meeting)

People pleaser, Pollyanna, Martyr (PPM) types behave as if openly and honestly disagreeing, is disrespectful and they tend to respond with entitled, but passive aggressive retalliation toward those whom they perceive as challenging or confronting. PPMs have not yet learned to accept differing needs and experiences. With them, honest communication is not possible. They simply do not know how. They tend to opt for a full on war (in which there are no rules) over an open dialog which requires fairness and honestly speaking and listening to challenging differences. For optional relationships, I have been advised to just say YIKES, and move on.

For non-optional relationships, setting firm boundaries around my right and responsibility to be treated(and to behave) with dignity and kindness, has been an edifying experience, allowing the bully to cook their own goose(while sparing me from the intense and habitual desire to tell them about themselves, in ways which make me feel bad about myself). Hostile reactions to healthy boundaries, reveal their true nature, but only to those courageous enough to look closely. Have courage. Look closely.

Choose genuine kindness and authenticity. Always. This is what I am learning and trying to model for my sons. One day at a time. Kindness, boundaries, healthy conflict resolution, detachment. All new and unfamiliar ways of being.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Educated by Tara Westover

I am on my second go-round of this riveting and relatable memoir, as it is generously providing words for thoughts which previously, I felt unable to put together for myself. To say that Tara Westover’s life was brutal, unbearable, would be an understatement. And still, I feel something not unlike coveting, for her. In addition to the abuse and dysfunction, the Westovers share a rich rural culture, deep religious conviction and practices, and the work of a family business– the family is bound by much more than coincidence of birth, a shared roof, and mental illness. Tara and two of her brothers experience trusting, protective, and lifelong closeness.

Additionally, she is able to discover a joy and talent for singing, learning, reading, and writing, which allow her life to become defined by more than what happened within the family. I often feel as if my rejection and abuse define me, because I really do not recall much more– like it is all I know of myself and my family. Recovery teaches me that I am not what happened to me. I am what I am willing to learn from it. Below are a few, not necessarily, fluid or cohesive thoughts, motivated by the words of Tara Westover, some of which incorporate chunks of words taken directly from her.

I came to see that the truth is this: It was not that I had done something wrong(although I have done many wrong things), so much as that I existed in the wrong way. There was something impure in the fact of my being. There is something different about me and that something, those differences are very bad, unforgivable–wrong at a cellular level. I am a bad daughter, a traitor, and my silence and compliance are the least I should offer– and I will do, not even that.

Not knowing for certain what was true and real, still, I refused to give way to those whom claimed certainty, and presented themselves as the gatekeepers of truth and history. I often thought that shame and alienation were results or byproducts of the conflict, and now I see how those served as both the purpose and motivation. Cruel things said and done were aimed at exactly those outcomes and delivered fortification and pleasure to those whose camaraderie rested on the shared need to reduce me, to gain submission OR to make me pay.

It was of comfort to believe that the defectiveness was exclusively mine, because this allowed me to hope that it was under my power to make US be healed. I wanted to believe that. The family system needed also for me to believe this. When I stopped believing and trying to do the impossible, when they could gain no traction from my reactions, it was OVER, in first my family and then my marriage.

When my own mother consistently refused to listen to or hear me, it made me stop listening to and believing myself. This is surely a contributor to the feckless belligerence, the profanity and the volume, my desperate and reactive attempts to be acknowledged, listened to. Sadly, we know too well that this insane behavior is readily dismissed and steals the show. Leaving witnesses fixated on only the unfortunate reaction to the thing which everyone refuses to speak of.

It both pains and liberates me to recognize that what a person knows and believes of a person, place, or thing, without first-hand experience, is limited exclusively to what they are told by others.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Unity v. Division

The messages of non-love which are cruelly and generously heaped upon my boys, by older members of their genetic families, require daily dispelling. The demystification is endless and I am grateful it is possible to speak openly with them about their having been made foot soldiers in a conflict, they are not yet old enough to comprehend. Fuck, I am 50 and still cannot get my head around it.

Our daily reminders illuminate:

-how partial truths and changing truths can make a person feel crazy and anxious. People attempting to dictate and manipulate our realities, make us doubt ourselves rather than those claiming a monopoly on the truth, which is subject to change based on their own moods and personal desires.

-how in healthy families, healing the family is winning. Avoiding getting picked off, or being on the more favorable side of the cross hairs, is the exact opposite of a win for a healthy family. Hustling for favor, is a game common, to families riddled with addiction and mental illness. The sick system relies on fear, shame, guilt, winners, losers, scapegoating.

In our home, we do not wish to beat or be beaten by each other. We value and prioritize unity. Triangulation and alienation leave parents and children painfully divided and siblings the same. Entire sections of family divided. Who wants that?

Here is who… Spiritually and mentally unwell people, extracting reverence and victory, at all costs, in order to feel ok about themselves. They are the ones who want insist on this. Because, in our home, we are blessed with recovery, we are learning and practicing a better way. A third way… I will not sit back and watch as my children are taught that pitting themselves against each other, me, or another is a good way to be in the world. That is poison. (Winning is for games and wars.) That mentality stems from generations of addiction and perpetuates addictions of all sorts. We will not abide.

My children have grandparents on all sides who will go/have gone to their graves while not speaking to their children and having their children not speaking to each other. I can think of little, that is more horrifying. I would prefer my boys align together against me, than ever, against each other. They belong to each other, not to US, their parents. They have been entrusted to us.

I continue reminding them. “I see your pain and it is big. I also see your courage and it is bigger. Together, we can do hard things.” (from Glennon Doyle Melton)  Just because a thing is hard, does not mean it is wrong.

With trusted others, we do not fear loss of favor or connection. Ever. We are for each other. This is how we identify people as safe. Do we need to act a certain way to be treated well and to be safe and welcomed…if so, they are not safe. Those are not our people. Though, we may be forced to engage, at times (until we are old enough to make our own choices).

The feeling of belonging, shared values, and a deep sense of empathy, will lead to unity and trust. The world has enough hate and division. We will not knowingly add to that. We will be intentional in our daily efforts to be more “for each other”, than against each other. We continue to work on ourselves and to accept those relationships which will grow with us or die.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Learning to Belong

As far back as I remember, I did not belong. Anywhere. I was different from the people to whom I am genetically linked, and treated by them, in ways which I found to be unacceptable. I failed to enter the world and that family knowing how to graciously or effectively accept or reject their treatment of me. Belonging to or with them seemed to imply that I had to be like them or to tolerate their reaction to my differences.

I wanted to be like them as little as I wanted to be with them, and being without them did not appear as a viable option. Often, I believe, the one thing we shared, besides blood, was how little we thought of me. I did frequently hope for divorce of my parents, though the idea of going with my mother was only slightly more terrifying than going with my father. I frequently wished (out loud) myself and them dead, only as a means as an exit to this thing called our family. In this environment, I learned some very unhealthy ways of being “together” with people. I was terrified and ashamed, every single day. I learned to react harshly and judgmentally to those who differed, struggled, or inconvenienced me, in any way. I learned that if you keep someone else in the crosshairs, you may feel safe for a while. You could always find or select a common enemy, someone to gossip about, exclude, or persecute. I learned what I lived. I am unlearning as quickly as I am able. Definitely a work in progress.

From one of my Al-Anon sponsors, I heard a story about belonging ,which changed my view of myself, as it had been shaped in relation to my mother and her family. I will attempt to do the story justice:

There was once a mother squirrel with a baby, who differed from the others. It was similar, with fur and four legs, but it looked and behaved in ways which were unfamiliar. Mama Squirrel was troubled by the differences. She surveyed other squirrels from her pack, who agreed, her baby was either a naughty or defective squirrel. As it turned out, the baby was not a squirrel, it was a baby bunny, wanting and needing bunny things. Just as the mother squirrel was squirrel by no choice of her own, baby bunny was 100% bunny, by birth. In a dynamic of acceptance, neither were right, wrong, or bad, just different.

Efforts to squash the differences were damaging.

While bunnies and squirrels have similarities, they are not 100% compatible in their needs and preferences. And that is ok. A bunny from a non-accepting squirrel family, may need to go elsewhere in order to learn all of the skills to live its best bunny life. Being labeled broken or naughty and collectively diminished and shunned, did not allow for a sense of belonging, purpose, or healthy connection–in my experience as a bunny in a squirrel family. I am 100% not like them, besides in the ways that I learned.

Ok, I totally muffed up the story. Without intentional acceptance and understanding of the differences, genuine connection and belonging were not sustainable and this bunny did not learn to thrive. I recall my mother insisting she treated my older sister and me, exactly the same, so what is MY problem?? We were not the same at all. As a mother, I learned early on that my boys have needs which differ from my own and from each other and it is my privilege and duty to explore how to get their needs met and to teach them that their needs are real and could and would be met.

Recovery taught me what I had always needed to know about belonging. While it can be faked and forged, it cannot be forced. Belonging does not mean being the same, it means being exactly how you are and still being connected in a way that is meaningful and good. Just as the parts of a puzzle or a piece of furniture requiring assembly, belong together, the individual pieces are not identical. They fit and rely on the differences for their strength.

In meetings, I love hearing how our Steps protect me from me. Our Traditions protect the group from me, and our Principles protect the world from me. By practicing the steps, traditions, and principles in all areas of our lives, we find healthy belonging–it becomes clear when there is unity of purpose and shared values and also when those things are not present. Recovery encourages us to identify healthy beliefs and behaviors and to participate in ways which are mindful of our group, as well as our individual members. Everyone has a voice, everyone matters, belonging is a natural consequence of sharing purpose and principles or NOT. Our fellowship is guided by the principles not by individuals(moods and personalities). Belonging is optional. There are no requirements for membership and you can not be kicked out. Though you may find that if you prefer to be “right” and in charge, to genuine unity and shared purpose, that healthy recovery groups may not be for you.

Desperate Willingness was my first step into recovery. Willingness to admit that the way in which I have lived and believed, did not work for me. It could not continue. For me, I got to stop hating myself for not being a squirrel and to stop bucking against the squirrels for not accepting me as I was and to accept that I was not one of them.

I was not broken(well, by this time, I was very effing broken, but I was not a broken squirrel) or worthy of unkindness. Unsurprisingly, I chose marriage to a very similar squirrel. I think he and I were in agreement on only one thing: I was broken and once fixed into a cooperative squirrel, who preferred and thought identical squirrel things, we would be fine. I fled one set of squirrels, only to submit myself to another. Because I had not yet healed from the damage, I repeated the dynamic–sought another source for harsh and demanding rejection and disapproval.

Once we became parents, I had no energy or will to continue in this way. Program taught me about my responsibility to Live and let live. Much easier said than done. BTW! I had never learned to live or to let live. I had moved through life like a pinball. Without any source of Good Orderly Direction.

In the rooms of Al-Anon, I began learning about healthy connection and belonging and I began to prefer it. Learning to belong, included learning to acknowledge people and places that were not a good fit for me. Poor fit is not a problem to be solved but maybe just an unpleasant fact. Any person or place inhibiting my self care and self love, is not a good fit for me. Neither I, nor it/them need to change. We are just not meant to be together. Everybody gets to be exactly as they are, just not at the expense of others. Acceptance allows for people and places to be as they naturally are without forcing, denying, pretending, and punishing. Whoa! Right? I know.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

The Quality of My Thoughts

When the people you are tethered to in childhood or marriage are the same ones who kick your feet out from under you, it fucks up your belief that things can ever be ok, or better. You doubt that people are who they say they are. It becomes difficult to make plans and choices and to envision a future of peace or emotional security.

When the feet kicking is sneaky and the reaction to IT, is more observable than the attack, it is damaging beyond words. This is how you make a person crazy. You undermine and sabotage their peace and then pretend you didn’t or you blame them.

After another night of disrupted and poor sleep, the quality of my thoughts is spectacularly bad. My worries for my sons over the stress imposed by the very intentional divide of our little family is immeasurable. My sons associate my sister and family of origin with being divided and separate. Their resentment for their father is growing, while their trust in him is shrinking. My older son’s inability to hide the pain, separates him from his innocence, as well as from his brother and father, who are quick to silence and judge his struggle. What a nightmare.

I feel hopeful that with a night of sleep and mental separation from the thinking of the thoughts, this will feel less heavy, or at least more manageable. Just for today. I can do hard things, one day at a time, together, with you.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

Formatting Errors v. Compatibility Issues

Labelling the Formatting Issues as errors is part of an ongoing joke between Sweet Greg and me. As I said, we really do not get angry with each other and the times in which we have, we attribute to what we now recognize as “formatting errors”. For us, this means, that possibly, the person who is angry is rightfully so, because the other person said whatever they said the “wrong” way.   And if they would have communicated correctly, there would be no problem.

Greg and I are blessed with compatible operating systems. We prefer for life to be quiet and slow, not too peopley, and with minimal plans and schedules on our weekends. We enjoy down time together, separately and simultaneously while in the same place. I tend to need more space than him, maybe from damage and recovery or maybe because I was born this way. Either way, it is a fact, not a defect or a problem. Greg is not offended or challenging of my reality and the needs which make me uniquely me. He loves me unconditionally in all of my most Maggie-est of ways, not in spite of my Maggie-ness but 100% because of it, even the prickly parts. God bless that man.

The one time, in which I recall being genuinely (and irrationally, of course) angry with Greg, I mistook a compatibility issue for what was, in fact, a formatting ERROR. We were both happy and relieved to identify this thing, which for so many people, tears them apart, because they have not learned to recognize “it”.

Greg and I spend our kid-free weekends at my house. (We do not spend nights or share beds(unless on a trip)) in the presence of our children. He brings his sweet Golden Retriever, Sydney, who is always welcome. AND– like all Golden Retrievers, she shits and sheds. Greg would see me vacuuming or poo picking and ask if I wanted “help”. I would say, “No, I got it” and be resentful AF. I allowed this to continue for months until I wanted to end it with him.

See, I did not consider it “help”, for him to clean up after his own dog. I considered it his job. It was not a gracious favor, because if not for Sydney, I would not have the tufts of hair and additional poops to manage. But because he called it help, I would not allow it. Conditioned to “favors” and help, bound by fat strings and a secret price, to be extracted later, I could not accept. Insane. Truly. When I confronted him and attempted to shame him and label him irresponsible and selfish, which he is not, at all–it became clear what was happening. I was accustomed to dirty, indirect communications with weird secret emotional contracts to which I unknowingly entered, first, with my family, then in my marriage, I had no understanding of what it was like to deal with an emotionally present, generous, and direct communicator.

Sweet Greg and I enjoy high level compatibility and still experience formatting issues, which turn to laughter instead of divisive arguments. We each loathe talking by phone, needless complexity, indirect communication, we laugh at ourselves and each other, own our mistakes, apologize, and care deeply for the other’s peace and comfort. Finding food is generally our biggest challenge. There is never anything to eat…anywhere. Ever.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/

No Means No

This morning, over breakfast, my older son(S1) asked if Greg and I ever get mad at each other. Of course, I did not offer a short response to this. I asked if he has ever seen us disagree and he said: “yes but you guys never get mad. ” What an excellent opportunity to explain that it is possible to disagree (with trusted others) without becoming angry, being, mean or disrespectful, which is something I only learned in recovery.

This reminds me: When we were living in CA, and the boys were 4 and 5, we had a neighbor friend named Ethan. Ethan was zen, reasonable and kind, this gentle Vietnamese little Buddha of a guy. I would always offer Ethan food and more food and he would politely decline. When I kept asking, he would say so wisely: “Maggie, No means no.” And I would just love it(without knowing why). and I would repeat it and still chide him to eat more than he wanted, just so I could hear him say it again.

But see, when you grow up surrounded by people who do not listen when you say no….who pretend you did not say it or attack you for saying it, you do not learn about the boundary of NO. So, tiny little Ethan was my first model of healthy boundaries via the direct statement of “NO”. No is a complete sentence and it is not mean, or a crime.

Give it a try. You are welcome. Now, I am your life coach.

So, I reminded S1 of our friend Ethan and then went on to tell him of the only time I recall Greg ever getting angry with me, and still not being mean. We were in our first year of dating, and in the car. I thought something was funny and reached over to grab and squeeze his knee as I was laughing (something I do—grab you when I am laughing). He said calmly “Please do not squeeze my knee”. Because, this was unfamiliar behavior, I did what I knew, I reached over and squeezed it again, asking; “you mean like this?”(so assholey, but this is what I knew). And he was like; “Seriously, I do not like that. Please do not do it again, ever.” Mind blown. I kid you not, that I said these words to him: “Oh my gawd, where did you learn that? Did you fucken invent that?” I had not ever observed a person to honestly and directly say No in this way. Without heat, volume, profanity and totally serious about it. Greg is amazing at saying No to me and I am getting better at saying No appropriately and honoring it when it is said directly, to me. Directness is essential. Passive aggressive no is more damaging than aggressive aggressive no because it creates unspeakable conflict and confusion…but looks better on the surface.

I can think of little which makes me feel more loved and safe than knowing that No means No. We are each allowed to say it and mean it without being mean or being hurt. Here is an example I did not share with S1, but hope to remember and so, will share here. In our first months of getting to know each other, Greg and I were kissing and he did something with his finger along the edge of my ear.(This was before he taught me the magic of NO). I pulled away with his face between my hands and said “do not ever fucken do that tickly bullshit again, please”. He processed it with grace, zero resistance. Later, I asked him “That was a little harsh, huh?” Without judgment, he replied: “Yeh you prolly could have been a lil more gentle about it.” I asked for an example. Boundaries 101. He said: “Maybe, like, hey I do not like that.” How could it be that I could say I did not like something and a person would stop???? Is this for real? The exact opposite of my family and marriage experiences. Boundaries, Gentle Truth Speaking, Consideration, Intimacy……These are the miracles of recovery. Without the work I am doing, I would never have appreciated someone as healthy as Greg. I love when he says No to me. I love learning how to say No better and that people who are healthy will respect it, even if they do not like it. People really show you who they are when you say No to them.

Favorite and I get big kicks out of saying No, cleverly to each other. I look forward to a time when saying no to my children will be more effective. And when No really will mean no. I am a work in progress. The second part to this lesson of No, is learning to discriminate between when a person has displeased us and when a person has genuinely done harm.. Having a clear and direct boundary and Saying No are healthy— not harmful….but definitely won’t win any prizes for people pleasing. And if people require me to please them, they are not my people. That is neither my job nor intent.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

For shorter, more frequent and fun posts, connect with me on Instagram by clicking the pic- Wholesomebadass. https://www.instagram.com/wholesomebadass/