Morticia, Gomez & Cousin It

Da da da dum snap snap….da da da dum snap snap

I recently read the biography of the cartoonist Chas Addams (Charlie to those who knew him), popularized both by his New Yorker cartoons and the 1960’s television show, The Addams Family. His multiple marriages and many love affairs with socialites, actresses and literati made him the “talk of the town” in New York City. He was a sought after dinner guest, and a great friend to women and men alike. Greta Garbo, Joan Fontaine, and Jacquie Kennedy Onaasis were all women with whom he had relationships. Such was his outer life.

Addams also had three marriages. Each 120 degrees apart. As I read his life’s story, I became more and more curious about his inner life. Charlie kept a meticulous journal of events (his outer life), yet he never delved into the substance of those happenings (his inner thoughts and feelings). He expressed himself through cartoons, yet seemed to feel misunderstood by the public’s interpretation of his often-dark humor. He was fascinated with oddities, eccentricities and human disfigurement, yet attentive to his own rather calculated appearance and presentation.

Charlie’s first two marriages were to “Barbaras”- his second marriage to a woman whom he called the bad Barbara (BB), (the good Barbara having been his first wife). Addams seemed quite happy in his first marriage, which seemed relatively uncomplicated. However, his first wife wanted to have children and he found himself unwilling to father children. Their marriage reached an impasse and although he was sad to end his marriage, he found ending it inevitable as his wife wanted children and he knew he would never accede to her wishes. Barbara left amicably and of her own accord, and asked for and received no settlement. In stark contrast, his marriage to the second Barbara was rife with discord and complications. His many close friends didn’t like BB nor could they make sense of their relationship, yet he didn’t seem to care about their opinions. Addams seemed to either be “self-punishing’ and/or somehow “under BB’s spell”. He cowered before her, and equivocated to her every whim. BB was a creation of her own making- a lawyer consumed with moving beyond her humble family of origin, who spun fictions about her education and her personal background. After a very short-term marriage to BB, Addams signed over to her his home and rights to his cartoons. Years after their divorce (and her remarriage to a British Lord) he found himself negotiating with her over her rights and interests in his work, and much to his lawyer’s chagrin too often agreeing to her incessant demands.

After many years as a very eligible bachelor, Addams married again. This time to Tee, an old friend, a woman whom he’d loved for many years (although she was married to another man for much of that time). During his third marriage, Addams kept his apartment in Manhattan and lived with Tee only on the weekends when he went to her home in Westhampton. They seemed to have a simpatico; a similar sense fun, of bawdiness, a love of good food, beautiful craftsmanship, fine art, great dogs (Addams’ own dog was his constant companion) and recognition of the absurdities of life.

Addams expressed his love of design in his love of cars- it was a sad day for him when he could no longer keep his Bentley safely on the road. It seems somehow fitting that he died a quiet death behind the wheel of his parked car (albeit his Audi as his Bentley had predeceased him) after having had a terrific day of driving. And just as he wished Tee gave him a party, not a funeral.

Heidi Webb’s Interview with American Mothers Blog

Heidi-Rachel Webb: Finding Resolutions When Divorce is the Only Option
January 27, 2015 By American Mothers Leave a Comment

The D word.

No one likes to talk about. No one ever plans on it. But probably about half of those of you reading this have experienced it, or will at some point.

We’re talking about divorce.

It’s a subject we haven’t broached too often here on the American Mothers Blog, mostly because there isn’t much good or encouraging to say about it. It’s incredibly difficult on everyone involved and can have lifetime ramifications, particularly when children are involved. Rarely has there ever been a “smooth” divorce.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth talking about, not with nearly 50% of US marriages ending in divorce. We want to help take away any sort of stigma that may be attached to divorced mothers. Not every relationship is destined for success, and often divorce is the best path. It’s okay, and plenty of people come out of it even better than they once were.

We talked with Heidi-Rachel Webb, a divorce attorney based in Massachusetts. She is the founder and principal of Consilium® Divorce Consultations, a group that takes a holistic approach to helping clients navigate divorce that includes emotional health as well as the legal issues.

Heidi left a family legal practice to start Consilium in 1998, pregnant with her third child. Along with the success of the firm and the maintenance of a happy family, Heidi also finds time to offer extensive time to non-profits in her community.

We asked Heidi about what it’s like to deal in divorce all day while maintaining a peaceful family life, and what options mothers facing an irreconcilable relationship have, including divorce. If you’re finding yourself in the situation, or just have an interest in another successful BusinessMom, you’ll find some wisdom in her responses.

If you’d like to get in touch with Heidi, visit the Consilium website. You can also follow Heidi’s blog for more advice as well as insight into her personal life.

How does dealing with others’ divorces/separations all day affect your own relationships with your spouse and kids?

I suppose it makes me hyper-vigilant. I see how circumstances have less to do with outcome than resilience and response. As my kids have gotten older I’ve found that I talk to them almost in the “cautionary tale” sense, about how important it is to attend to and communicate in relationships, and about how to disagree kindly.

Is there really a way to balance work/family life, or do both just naturally bleed into each other?

Boundaries are huge in this work; both in terms of client confidentiality, and in terms of learning not to bring work home. As with anything, experience is a great teacher. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned how to be present with clients when I am with them, and how to be present with my family when I’m with them. It takes practice, but I’ve found that I’m more effective in both arenas when I compartmentalize in each.

Are there common threads to relationships that end in divorce? At what point is reconciliation not possible?

There are many surface reasons people initially give for a failed marriage (affairs, money, alcohol and other addictions, growing apart). Although there are a multitude of reasons, I’ve found that a lack of communication undergirds them all. Dishonesty, a breach of trust, and disagreements that turn personal are also elements that erode a relationship.
Reconciliation is not possible when one or both people decide they don’t want to put any more effort into their relationship. What one person would find intolerable, another wouldn’t find to be problematic at all. The issues are usually not what is key, but rather their impact, and whether or not a couple chooses to struggle through the causes or leave them behind. The right answer differs for different people. That having been said, domestic violence and emotional cruelty are often intractable and stem from deep wounds in one or both of the partners, and result in an inability to create constructive growth and change.

Are there some recommendations you have for mothers who still want their relationship to work?

When couples are at an impasse, or have had a betrayal in their marriage, couples counseling with a skilled therapist can be an essential element in creating systemic change and moving forward. Whether the therapy acts to heal the rift, or understand the wounds and underlying problems in the relationship, it will help both people gain clarity as they move forward.

What are some basics mothers should know before they begin the process? Specifically what can they do to make sure the kids’ best interests are served?

Children are best served when their parents can put themselves in their children’s place. Divorce is an adult choice but children often bear the weight of the consequences. Research with adult children of divorce reveals that they cease to remember, “play time” after the time of their parents’ divorce. Instead they often became their parents’ caretakers, or they spent time worrying about “whose house” or “whose day” it was. Stealing a childhood seems to me to be an unfair consequence of divorce. On the other hand, if through awareness, parents can instead attend to their children and preserve their childhood that would seem to be a gift. The challenge of course is in how to do that.Before taking any action toward divorcing, it is imperative to become educated about the laws of your state, and the possible paths you can take to achieve and optimize the outcomes for yourself and your restructured family.
Heidi-Rachel Webb is the founder and principal of Consilium ® Divorce Consultations.

The Consilium ® Process is a unique, proprietary six-step process developed by Heidi R. Webb and deployed solely by Consilium Divorce Consultations, which holistically addresses the key legal, emotional, and logistical issues people confront when facing a possible divorce, with the goal of charting the optimal path to achieving each client’s distinctive long-term life goals for themselves and their family.

Symbol Significance

Many years ago while in graduate school at Harvard taking a course in Counseling Psychology, I first learned that the Chinese Symbol for “crisis” was actually the combination of two symbols; one was for danger and the other for opportunity.

As my work has evolved I’ve often thought back to that course and that symbol, and how emblematic it is during a divorce and the restructuring of one’s life and one’s family. Divorce is certainly a crossroads and a crisis. It is rife with moments of danger- legally, financially and emotionally. However, it is also a juncture of opportunity, and a time that can be harnessed to optimize one’s legal, financial, and emotional goals. What undergirds our work at Consilium® DC is helping clients sift through the danger, and then shift and re-focus their energies toward opportunities that maximize their best futures.

In the spring of 2015, The Consilium Institute, will begin offering a course to teach the Consilium® DC Process to qualified lawyers who would like to become certified as Consilium DC Consultants or Affiliates. Stay tuned for more information to follow, and please feel free to contact us if you’d like to express your interest.

 

Less is More


My youngest child is sixteen years old. It’s been a long time since she had any real attachment to the multitude of stuffed animals that had found their way into our hearts and home. Somehow though, holding onto them seemed right for a very long time… until this past weekend.

Like the room with my daughter’s stuffed animals, Consilium ® DC has been bursting at the seams. We’re ready to launch a curriculum to teach our unique process that merges psychology and law, and that birthed the Consilium ® Process. We need space to spread our wings and allow ourselves to make CDC all that it has the capacity to be. The most immediate, available space we have is the space that was housing all those stuffed animals. As with all journeys, divorce or otherwise, we needed to start the next chapter of our process by clearing what is, and making room for what is to come. I took a very deep breath in. We then began to sort the much-loved animals. Though it was not an easy process, we found that of the seventy-five collected, only twenty were truly “keepers”. Fifty-five will find their way into new hearts and new homes through Heading Home, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness in Greater Boston. Heading Home provides life skills, financial literacy and job training, and moves people from homelessness to self-sufficiency. I’ve been fortunate to work with Heading Home to outfit apartments for families who’ve readied themselves, and earned them. And I’ve been privileged to witness resilience and strength in those families.

Giving those much-loved animals new homes gives me an opportunity to make room for the next stage of Consilium’s growth. I can now exhale that deep breath in.

 

Through the Eyes of Children

Warning: If you choose to watch this video, please do so having been forewarned that it includes language that is graphic and coarse, and will therefore likely be disturbing to anyone sensitive to, or offended by those issues. If you are one of those people, please skip watching the attached video.

Recently my son suggested I listen to a rap song written by Eminem, as he thought it would strike a chord with me and remind me of the time I spent working as a social worker for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (now the Department of Children and Families).

I listened. It was chilling. I listened again. It reverberated and resonated and tore at my heart. I’m attaching it here, Headlights by Eminem as a reminder of what keen observers children are (even, perhaps especially, when their parents are not watching).

The importance of a child feeling loved by his parents knows no bounds. The tragedy of a child feeling unloved by his parents also knows no bounds. The evolution of divorce in our country recognizes how important it is for a child to have access to both of his parents so that he can forge meaningful relationships with both of them. The inability to create those childhood connections can result in an adulthood forever marred by that loss.

The more the Courts have learned about the psychological impact of divorce, the more they have been able to attend to children’s needs. In 1975, Judith Wallerstein and her partners began conducting a longitudinal study about children of divorce. In 2000, she published The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, a body of work that has had a seminal influence on the Courts and society at large. One of her most important findings was that despite the benefits many adults feel they achieve at the time of their divorce, children often feel bereft at the loss of their family (no matter how unhappy the adults were being married to each other). It is unconscionable to ignore what we now know is true for children who experience their parents’ divorce, and therefore it is imperative that we attend to the details of a family’s restructuring and the very real loss children feel when their parents decide to divorce. Divorcing adults and the professionals who work with them to achieve their goals owe children nothing less.

The importance of a child feeling loved by his parents knows no bounds. The tragedy of a child feeling unloved by his parents also knows no bounds.

 

Give and Take Walls

This past weekend I was privileged to hear the sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy, talk about his work and the new installation of a wall he constructed locally. He began by talking about the first wall he built over thirty years ago, and told us it had been created in Scotland on land he leased from a farmer. It was built out of necessity. The farmer wanted a wall to contain his sheep and as a condition of leasing the land, Andy agreed to build the wall. But he did it while being acutely aware of the social nature of the landscape, and as a result he wanted the wall to have “give and take”. Therefore instead of dividing the property by building a wall straight down the middle, he literally created one that required a physical giving and taking of the land.

That concept got me thinking about co-parenting and restructured families after divorce. Oftentimes when people begin working with me they tell me that they want 50:50 custody. That always leads us to a discussion about children not being property or divisible assets, and then a further discussion ensues about their children’s unique needs, schedules, sensitivities and best interests. It becomes less a discussion of shared time and more a discussion about crafting the best possible homes for their children.

Co-parenting is a “give and take” wall.

Andy then discussed how his work began with impermanence as a theme. He would create something in nature, perhaps out of leaves or twigs or stone, something that time would inevitably alter. After creating whatever it was he was making, he would photograph it and then his work was done. Time and the elements would take care of the rest.

Eventually his work evolved to the creation of stone sculptures, and working in stone made him consider the geological and human passage of time. He cited two examples of that interplay. First, he described to us the meticulously maintained wall he built at Storm King in New York, and talked of it as perhaps being loved a bit too much. He then recalled one of his first projects, built long ago in Scotland, and how it had been largely ignored and was now overgrown and had taken on a life of its own. He described it as “a bit refreshing”. He seemed to like the idea that what were once new seedlings had now become trees, and other forest elements and animals had taken up residence in the wall.

It seems to me that both walls represent the next generation. One adheres strictly to its immediate forbears and strives to continue its traditions, and the other, more of a free spirit, grows in tandem with nature.

Both are supported by their undulating walls….Co-parenting is a “give and take”.

And Then We Switched

Just like in a marriage, during the course of a divorce husbands and wives sometimes find themselves switching perspectives. Sometimes the reason for the switch is clear, but often times it’s not so clear. Sometimes the switching is based on facts and financials, and sometimes it’s based on emotions and murkier terrain. Sometimes it’s based on style and sometimes on substance. It’s a complicated dance.

Sometimes when I meet clients they are questioning whether or not to stay in a marriage. And sometimes they are resolved to leave. However, it is always true that they have invested a part of themselves and their lives into a relationship, and they are at a vulnerable and trying juncture in their lives. I recall Kirsten’s anger at, and compassion for her husband. Her shattered dreams and financial woes. At times she felt she could never leave him, and at other times she felt certain it was the only thing she could do. Her heart and her head were in a tug-of-war.

I think the poet, Taylor Mali, succinctly captures the essence of this quandary in his poem called “And Then We Switched”. In reference to the breakup of his own marriage, and in talking about that poem he says:

“When one person seeks a greater connection through exploration and the other through introspection, the fights will always be about who is “remote” and who is “clingy.”

For Kirsten, initially navigating the path and forging ahead seemed paralyzing. There is no question it was difficult. The Consilium Process helped her create clarity out of chaos so that she and her husband could restructure their family and optimize their lives.

Follow this link to listen to Taylor’s reading of: And Then We Switched

Your Children Come Through You But Not From You

I can still envision the look on the face of my 10th grade English teacher when he passed back my excellent grade on The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It said: “Why wasn’t the quality of your work the same when we had been studying A Tale of Two Cities?”

With all due respect to Charles Dickens, and no matter how compelling his characters, I simply found the psychology & philosophy of Gibran’s prose to be much more interesting than Dicken’s perspective on The French Revolution. I still do.

Much of Kahlil Gibran has stayed with me through the years, and there are times I recall his words when parents begin to discuss or dispute custody or shared parenting. “Your children come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Kahlil Gibran- On Children- narrated by Dorna Djenab

We are not our parents and our parents are not us. However the lines are not hard and fast, but rather like a watercolor where the images seep between each other. To enable parents to bring their best selves to bear as they raise their children, it is imperative they gain clarity on their relationships with their own parents, and with one other. This is a difficult task for happily married people. When you layer that task on top of argument and strife it’s easy to understand how quickly tempers can flare and reason can become riddled with emotion.

It is my experience that when parents are reminded of how fleeting time is with their young children, they are better able to gain perspective on co-parenting: What’s worth fighting for, what’s worth fighting against, and what’s not worth a fight at all.

The Stories We Tell…

After seeing Neverland at the American Repertory Theatre, I got to thinking about how we tell stories- to ourselves, to our children, to our families and to our worlds.
What we choose to say, and what we choose not to say.

J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan and the inspiration for Neverland, certainly experienced his share of disappointment and tragedy. Nevertheless, he chose to write the fantastical Peter Pan, a story about hope and hardiness, as much as one about not wanting to ever grow up. Barrie’s first marriage was unsustainable, and the great love he subsequently discovered was cut short by his lover’s early death. From that loss he created opportunity, and made meaning from his sorrow. One hundred and ten years later, we can now read, watch and learn from the power of how he framed that story.

As a society, we often discuss divorce as a failing, and a time of destruction. There is no doubt that it is a sad juncture, a time of regrets and destabilization. However what if we also began to talk about it as a time of rethinking, rebalancing, and restructuring? How would that process change the paradigm? Could it then be seen as a time of opportunity? A time to evaluate not only what went wrong, but how to now make things go right. How different would that story look and feel to those experiencing it? Could that reframing give the children of divorce a construct of resilience?

The only option is not Hook’s threat that the “plank” must be walked alone, and over the jaws of a hungry crocodile. Just as when a sea captain confronts stormy seas, with great skill she can also realign her vessel, cut through the wake and chart a new course. It is our goal at Consilium DC ® to help you navigate your journey through divorce, and to help you optimally rethink, rebalance and restructure your family.

 

Rain and Rainbows

A beach vacation, time away, sunny days and sandy toes.

Those images had been swimming in our minds for a few weeks before actually heading off to North Carolina. However as our flight was landing the pilot’s message confirmed my weather app…a slight drizzle was currently coming down and more rain was expected as we were near, but not directly in the path of Hurricane Bertha. Soon after, the pouring rains began.

On day one it was fairly easy to be in good humor, remain optimistic and catch up on lost sleep.
On day two as the rain continued, disappointment reigned.
Day three left us with two stark options: Doom and gloom, or Agility.

We chose Agility. Think winter snowfall, pancakes and maple syrup, food, good books, board games and movies. It wasn’t what we’d expected for a summer vacation but we were all together and there was still fun to be had.

Day four. It’s not winter, and this really isn’t fun anymore. Two more options. Head home as my weather app tells me the weather is quite nice in Boston, or Iterate?

We chose to Iterate. After all, on days like today we don’t need sunscreen, and it’s just water coming down. We came here for the water so perhaps whether it’s falling on us, or we’re jumping in it doesn’t really matter so much. It’s warm out. We’re waterproof. Let’s go take a walk on the beach. I can still have sandy toes.

To add to my soaked body and my dampened mood was the fact that tonight was the eve before the second anniversary of my mother’s death. We walked up the beach and back down again trying to put context around life, and this particular night. And then just as the sun was about to set, I looked up and saw through the sky a partial rainbow. It was almost as if my Mom was checking in to say in her own inimitable way “tomorrow will be a sunny day”.

Day four was still overcast. Our options were now bearing down on us.
It was time to Reframe.

We only had three days left at the beach. Bertha was sending huge waves our way, and with the sun chasing off the clouds it was time to surf and swim. And then having reframed and prepared to move on, the sun began to shine, the sunscreen was needed, and the past three days seemed to fade away as quickly as the sun had dried the sand.

And almost like a poem written in the hidden quiet of time, a rainbow appeared. It covered the ocean’s breadth and took our breath away.

The philosophy of Consiium ® DC includes agility, iteration and reframing. To learn more please visit our website at ConsiliumDC.net