Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exes and Nos

I’ve never been very good at saying no. Don’t get me wrong: I have a strong personality (some of those closest to me on occasion call me bossy, though I’m not sure that’s accurate), and I’ll tell you like it is. But when someone comes to me and needs something, I will usually do whatever it takes to help that person out. Raise money for leukemia research; run in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer race; make a casserole for a new mom; take in a stray animal and find him a new home (trust me, I’ve done this many times and will continue to the dismay of my mother, who usually ends up helping in some way); pick a friend up from the airport; feed a friend’s cats when she’s away; keep friends’ children on a moment’s notice. And saying yes in situations like these, I believe, is a very admirable trait.

However, being a “yes woman” can have its downsides. Since I had my daughter, I’ve realized what it means to be truly unselfish. I don’t believe you can be a good parent without understanding that concept. But as a single mom, it’s really easy to become stretched thin if you don’t have the personality to say no now and again. I struggle with it every day, especially when it comes to Kensie’s dad, my ex. When we first separated, I had hopes of reconciliation for our family. So when he asked me to bring her out to California for Thanksgiving (on my dime) to visit his family, I did. When he asked to come visit her here and stay at my family home, I let him. When he asked me to take time out of my family vacation in San Diego to cart him and his daughter all around town (again on my dime) and drive all the way up to L.A. County to see other family and friends, I did. During those first few months we were apart, I never said no.

The more time that goes by and the more distance that I put between the person I was in that bad relationship and the person I am now, I can see what my family and friends around me saw. I can see the manipulation, the degradation, the narcissism, the flat-out disrespect I got from him on a daily basis. Even now, though I get no support from him financially, physically, or emotionally and am verbally attacked by him on a continual basis, when it comes to our daughter, I have still allowed him access through phone calls and pictures, and the occasional chat about her well-being. All of the access he has to her (which, by the way, most people in my circle think is ridiculous under the circumstances) I allow for her, not for him. I know that someday, no matter what, Kensie will love her daddy, and I must respect and nourish that in her.

But the past few nights, after numerous late-night text and voicemail attacks (and one actual conversation), I have decided that it’s time to say no. No more will I allow him to attack myself and my family. No more will I allow him to manipulate me into getting what he wants. No more will I allow him to use her to get back at me for what he thinks I did to him, when everything I did was for her. No more will I allow him to darken my spirit, disrupt my universe, and corrupt my psyche. Today, for me, for my family, and for my daughter, I say, “NO MORE!”