Where We Find Joy

james r eads- 2
Art by James R Eads

“Why not move into your house of joy
 and shine into every crevice!
 For you are the secret
 treasure bearer,
 and always have been.”

Eros and I have set ourselves a mission to be as healthy, happy and whole as we can be so that we are in the best possible place when we reconnect with our birth son some day. It will not do him or us any good to allow our grief to define our lives, to lose our aliveness along with everything else we’ve lost. As parents, we need to model resilience and the capacity for post-traumatic growth. For our own well-being we need to continue finding joy in life.

Our greatest joy comes from our relationship and the ways that we keep it vibrant. Our relationship has an aliveness that keeps us connected even when things are hard. The paradox is that our relationship is a constant underlying joy that exists no matter the heartache we feel about other aspects of our lives. The raw truth is that neither of us know that we could get through this loss without the relationship we share. Both of us know we would be in a much darker place if we didn’t have a life with each other to pour our love into. We are striving to shine our love into every crevice of darkness, to create a house of joy both internally and externally, because the alternative is too terrible to imagine.

For instance, today is Mother’s Day, which is now incredibly complex for me as a motherless daughter with my young adult children living in other states and the recent loss of my birth son. Eros typically works Sunday – Thursday. I asked him to call in sick to work today so that I wouldn’t be alone, and he happily obliges because he knows it will make a big difference in my emotional experience. While he cannot take my complex feelings and grief away, I don’t have to be alone in the dark and that is a big deal for the girl who used to literally sit in a dark closet when things hurt, both because I was alone as a single mom and because I hid the depth of my pain from others, especially my children. I’m learning I don’t have to hide nor be alone anymore. Eros shines a light for me every minute.

Eros and I have been together five years and we are still falling in love every day. We are partners in every aspect of life, which is a new experience for both of us. We were the caregivers and responsibility holders in previous relationships. We were the ones who had to keep everything together while our so-called partners refused to work and indulged their addictions at our expense. Together we share responsibility for everything while allowing the balance to shift between us as needed to accommodate my health limitations, need for income, creative expression, and other life factors.

What I’m recognizing lately is that we have a vibrant relationship, one that blooms continuously because we feed and nurture all the time. We compliment each other and express our appreciation daily. We flirt every day without expectations for sex. We only have sex when we’re both fully present to the desire in both mind and body, which means we have never had mediocre or disconnected sex. We are thoughtful with each other. I remember that he wants jalapenos when I buy groceries, he goes out late at night to pick flowers from the neighborhood for me. I take care of the dishes on Thursday night so he doesn’t think he should do them on his morning off, he runs to the store on foot or his bike whenever I need chocolate. We are present to each other. We pay attention when the other is speaking, whether it’s to share something silly or express something really important. We have conversations about the small and the big things. And so important – we find humor in our neuroses so that they don’t drive us crazy with annoyance. Together we make fun of my need to understand everything and his need to do everything his own way and they don’t become issues between us.

It has been a hard road getting here. It hasn’t always been sunshine and roses between us. We have both faced ugly behaviors in ourselves as they were mirrored to us through the other. Eros completely reformed his relationship with alcohol. I overcame my need to control my home environment and constantly criticizing him as a consequence. And we are both working to disarm the trauma-triggers of our past lives, which he reacts to by withdrawing so deep into himself I can’t feel him, and I react to by communicating violently (both loudly and using words as a weapon). Of course our trigger reactions are the worst possible button pushers for each other because the best relationships are possible between people who instigate the deepest possibility for healing and growth (the worst are where both partner’s wounds rule). It takes a lot of patience and forgiveness to keep our trigger reactions from damaging the relationship too deeply to bounce back from.

The important factor is that we both recognize we have pieces of ourselves to heal so that we don’t take the fear and pain of our past lives out on one another, whether our childhood traumas or our traumatic adult relationships. We both come to the table to work on ourselves and our relationship. We look at tools from thought leaders like Brene Brown and from the framework of non-violent communication to help us resolve disagreement and conflict with less unconscious pain and more conscious connection. We talk about how to get both of our needs met in both big and small ways.

I have learned with my relationship failures, both friendship and lover, that openly talking about our needs and how to get them met is vital to healthy relationship over the long term. It’s one of the most vulnerable aspects of relationship to lay bare our needs and allow ourselves to trust someone wants to meet them – and to face that they can’t always get met (disappointment is part of life and doesn’t have to be a relationship killer) – but it’s crucial to be vulnerable to prevent unspoken/unmet expectations from breaking a relationship. Think about broken relationships in your life. I bet often you will find at the foundation of it you could find an unspoken need that wasn’t met and then a triggered reaction to the disappointment, possibly on both sides. I know that’s what broke the family that formed around my birth son. Unfortunately, none of the other parents were willing to come to the table to discuss needs openly when the opportunity still existed and the invitation extended. To avoid both vulnerability and shame, verbal and emotional violence was used to further the distance and cause more pain. The relationship disintegrated completely as a result. I don’t understand how being mean to people we love seems like it is easier than being vulnerable with our needs when it actually causes us much more pain.

After recognizing the pain caused around unspoken and unmet needs, Eros and I have a willingness to come to the table with our needs, no matter how scary it may be. There is a lot less pain in our being vulnerable than there was in our avoidance and meanness. He’s expressed his need to hear words of affirmation as one of his primary love languages. I express my need to have safe space to process my big sensitive emotional responses to life. We both express our needs around our creative endeavors, he as a dj and me as a writer-artist, and support one another as whole-heartedly as possible in following our dreams.

We’ve been engaged for two years and finally set a date for our wedding. Initially we were waiting to get settled with work in Portland and save up the money for a sweet little wedding here with our son and chosen family. Then everything fell apart and we put the wedding on the back burner. Now that we are coming back into the light, we feel the desire to put the time, money, and energy into the magic of us. Our wedding will transform 2016 into a year of love rather than a year of grief for us. Nothing can diminish the magic and beauty of our love, as well as our connection to the child that came from it. He sparked into life because of this magic between us and he will be embraced in it again when the time is right for all of us.

Our ceremony will be in mid-August and take place on a beach in Humboldt County, where we still have a few beloved friends. It will be simple and it will be bright with love. We will travel up the Oregon coast after and honeymoon for few days in a cute air bnb on or near the ocean.

We are excited to have something so important and joy-full to put our attention into, and we continue to consciously foster joy in our daily life. While I write about my pain as a birth mother as part of my healing process, the truth is that there is equal joy in my life because of Eros and the magic we share.  This grief is bearable because of him. Because of his willingness to meet me as a partner, a lover, and an emotional creature. Because of his devotion and adoration, expressed daily through both word and action. Because loving him is my greatest joy.

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