Kim was the first to arrive and enter my “babe cave” appearing slightly rattled. She had left her house in a frenzy just after her son’s snake, Karma, escaped his habitat. Linda walked in a few minutes later, her usual glowing, sunshiny self. It was then I noticed that Kim instantly settled into a more relaxed state once Linda was there. It was clear the moment we began talking that my cheeks were going to hurt later. Non-stop grins, endless giggling, and mischievous behavior were the norm for these two good friends. I was immediately comfortable and at ease.
Both Linda and Kim work hard and play hard. Through struggles, disappointments, and failures, they never stop moving forward. Each of them has achieved personal success using their breakdowns as steppingstones to victory. They never let defeat impede them from being better parents.
On her own, Kim arduously opened a successful and highly regarded yoga studio in Southern California, while redefining herself through an empowering divorce, and while raising two teenage boys. Linda, also a mother of two, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist still wedded to her college sweetheart. At Kim’s yoga studio, Linda is the much-loved yoga teacher, filling her asana classes with spiritual wisdom. Their friendship was formed around playfulness, mutual affection, and to provide a healing place for their souls to flourish in.
Kim and Linda are the yin and yang for each other. They balance each other in everything. Like the foundation stones beneath a bridge, they support each other above the ordinary flow. They are two opposites who clearly complement the dichotomy between them, while fortifying a strong bond of friendship.
We met a few days later to finish up our interview. I sat quietly while listening to them recall a conversation they had after a yoga class on a recent balmy Monday morning. They both sipped coffee: a bold blend, with an inch of steamed soy, and one pump of sugar-free vanilla syrup.
LINDA: Can you believe my darling daughter, Skylar, kept calling me in the middle of the final pose in my yoga class, Savasana? I reminded her that her calls and text messages stop my music playlist while I’m teaching. I’m wondering if there’s a way we can change that with the current sound system in the yoga studio?
KIM: Not sure. This has happened before. I’ll have to ask Bettie; I know she’s pretty savvy when it comes to this stuff. She shares her son’s techie tricks with me.
LINDA: Great! That would be helpful. Skylar said she was sorry. She forgot it was my Monday morning class. She’s been so frustrated. I get it. My sweet college-bound girl is still dealing with residuals from her first heartbreak. I wish I could make it all go away, but I can’t. I gently remind her of the importance of staying true to herself and not letting anyone steal her greatness.
KIM: We could all take lessons from that.
LINDA: That’s so true. As her mom, I want to make sure I power her up by saying the right things. I know she’ll be okay in the long run. Yet as she and I talked, I felt my own past pain surface. When that re-emerges from time to time, I start to question myself and my beliefs about best-practice parenting.
KIM: Well…don’t go there, Linda. You are an incredible mom. Do you need me to remind you about my abusive mother to put your concerns at ease? About the countless dishes she threw at me, or the ones she put in my bed with food still on them when she was drunk? My home life was volatile, to say the least. What you and Sky have is unbelievably special. I wish I had a fraction of your relationship when I was young with my mother.
LINDA: I know. I know. You’re right. It’s hard to keep my perspective at times. Gosh! When I think back to the story of how you ran away from home your junior year of high school; you were sixteen and all alone. My heart breaks just thinking about what you must have gone through.
KIM: I’ve blocked out so much of my childhood. Still, I have one memory that sort of sums up the insecurities I’ve carried my entire life. My mom attempted suicide once with pills. Watching my dad, who was a physician, drain her stomach while she lay sprawled in the tub was terrible, all the while he was blaming us for her misery. That is definitely imprinted on my psyche.
My mom was extremely damaging, filling me with fear nearly all the time. Thank goodness my father, a brilliant and funny man, showed me hope and kindness, emphasizing the importance of humor. I use that same approach with my boys to this day. I am my dad’s daughter.
Not too long ago, my youngest son and I had a talk about how my childhood experiences made me feel so insecure, yet strong willed enough to be in control of my life. I was constantly searching for safety and security. I shared the horrors of my mom’s drinking with Isaac, and how I bring that experience to our relationship, in addition to my love and fear for him, especially when he parties. It felt useful and timely to be honest with him.
LINDA: How did he respond?
KIM: Isaac had such compassion in his voice when he said he never knew about my childhood. He was sorry I had to go through that.
LINDA: Good for you! That was a brave choice to speak about that with him, Kim. I’ve always respected and admired the way you show your vulnerability. We are so much more open and exposed than our parents ever were. They never talked about their problems. My own mother always appeared composed and in control. That need to be perceived and seen as perfect was always present in public for us as a family.
KIM: Well, I’m a long way from the 1950s housewife with an apron, a warm welcome, and a meal on the table for dinner at 6:00. On the other hand, there’s you… (pursing her lips and smirking). I’m going to find an old copy of Housekeeping Monthly. They published an article, “The Good Wife’s Guide,” detailing how to act the proper wife.
LINDA: Zip it, Kimmers! You’re not funny. You’re being obnoxious! I don’t need that!
KIM: I, too, tell both Isaac and Asher, even at eighteen and twenty-two if they are being bratty. At the same time, I tell them I’ll always have their “back,” offering a stable, warm, inviting place for them to come home to if they need it.
LINDA: Those boys are both lucky to have you as a mother. Seeing my children’s pain makes me feel my own hurt from many years ago. I don’t want either of my kids to experience that sense of uncertainty. After my dad died in that freak accident, I fell to the ground in tears! I’ll never forget my grandmother saying to me, “Stop quivering child! Get up and keep a stiff upper lip for your mother.” Those words resonate discordantly even now. It was so difficult not to resent my grandmother.
KIM: I’m not sure you ever told me that story. If I had been there, I would have taken your granny out with a fist pump and admonished her by saying, “What kind of terrible person says something like that to a young child when their father has just died?”
Well, I love you dearly, my friend, and that experience must have been shitty for you. It clearly left a mark on your psyche. What in the world were you feeling at that time, and how did you get past it?
LINDA: It was awful at the time. I didn’t know what I felt. In fact, I believed I was not allowed to feel at all. I left my adolescence at seventeen, stood up straight as I could, and tried to be someone I wasn’t quite ready to be. Both my kids, Sky and Nate force me to look at my fears. If I didn’t, I would have stayed small, and my voice would never have been heard. I remember how good that felt, figuring out what I was afraid of, and then facing those demons, especially as my kids got older. I am proud of the way I modeled that part of my life for them.
There’s nothing better than knowing you did the right thing; there’s nothing worse than experiencing guilt when we make a mistake. However, mistakes force us to learn. I remember years ago making a vow to myself to find my own greatness and my own unique voice.
KIM: Funny, I never thought about it like that. I’m still finding my unique voice, even if it’s politically incorrect.
LINDA: Yes, many people misunderstand you, but I get your social gaffes!
KIM: It’s amazing how much we learn from our kids. Asher helped me become non-judgmental to practice empathy toward everyone. It always bothered him that people never took the time to get to know him as a person. That was one battle among many he fought while growing up. I understand now how experiences in our childhood can have so much influence thirty years later, which is why I ran away at sixteen. I’d had enough of my dysfunctional home life.
LINDA: It’s also heartbreaking to watch our children suffer. I still can’t believe all of Asher’s surgeries; twenty or so, wasn’t it, Kim? He was born with his intestines and liver outside his abdomen. Well, I think that says it all. I’m sure it felt like a never-ending nightmare, but you handled it so well.
KIM: Yes, it is called “omphalocele.” Only one out of every 5,500 babies are born with this birth trauma. Asher had fifteen surgeries before he was two-years-old. The first ten years of his life, we were in the hospital every three months. It was a constant, difficult parade to and from the hospital for years. His medical condition was complicated, yet he is flourishing now and functions well with a specific routine. His brother, Isaac is the opposite; routine is not his thing! He teaches me to love unconditionally with patience and humbleness, despite his behavior. He’s very social and often sneaks out of the house to UBER to his friend’s place.
LINDA: I remember a few of those times. You were a mess during the divorce! I can’t imagine raising two kids alone. I was always impressed by your fortitude. I nearly cracked watching you deal with raising two sons.
KIM: My divorce left me with a ton of pressure: financially, physically and emotionally. I felt I had failed at showing both Asher and Isaac how to be young men. When they needed boundaries, I tried to focus on short-term discipline, but that didn’t always work. Remember all the long-term goals I attempted to get them to understand? UGH!
LINDA: I do recall how hard it was for you to send Isaac to live with your ex-husband for those four short months during his sophomore year of high school.
KIM: What a fiasco that was! Giving him up for those few months was the hardest thing for me to do. It brought back my own issues of abandonment as a child. It didn’t take me long to gain clarity and realize my parenting skills were not so bad since my ex-husband also could not handle Isaac’s volatile state.
I was always worried that both boys were missing a male role model. This was my biggest concern. Yet over time, Isaac found a mentor in his Chemistry teacher, George, and Asher had his hockey coach, Ron, to offer support and guidance.
LINDA: You have every right to be proud of your boys and give yourself a pat on the back for your perseverance and stamina. We both deserve a pat, don’t we?
KIM: I agree! Our kids have such strengths, especially having been raised without a dad.
LINDA: You played the role of mom and dad, Kim. Now you can relax a bit and stop micromanaging everything. It’s healthier for you and for them to step out of their lives for a bit.
KIM: Yeah, it was tough to change my wired-in, panic-mode reaction to life. Thanks to you, Linda, and God, and AA meetings, I learned to stop allowing people to manipulate me, to maintain my vulnerability, and not remain locked inside my pain.
I’m not recognizable as the person I was five years ago. You guided and supported me through challenging periods with the divorce, running a business, raising the kids alone, and staying sober. We found exquisite moments of joy together. I’ll never forget your bits of wisdom and encouragement through those challenging times.
LINDA: We help each other, Kim, which is why you recently called for a “dump and pump” caffeine session remember? By the end of the day, I often forget why we started talking and just laugh at the absurdity of our lives.
KIM: Geeez, chattering about my childhood makes me a bit sad, but reliving some of the horror is a reminder of the source of my emptiness and why I drank to become numb.
LINDA: You have certainly come a long way from where you were five years ago; we shared so many late nights crying together. I understood only a fraction of the dichotomy you were in. Having family members who are also in recovery, I know what it’s like to deal with choosing sobriety. Due to your openness, this is when our relationship began to change course.
KIM: After my recovery there were many lonely times. I remember times when I would not get invited to gatherings because I didn’t drink. Being friends with you has upgraded me, but NOT completed me. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Who knew feeling powerless and authentic could be so therapeutic? Is that your phone dinging, again?
LINDA: Yes, hold on. Let me see who it is. Nathan just sent me multiple messages.
KIM: I love that kid, especially how he never flushes the toilet. I always look before I squat when I’m over at your house.
LINDA: It’s an ongoing challenge finding creative moments to connect with him. He’s extremely expressive, empathetic and intelligent, but doesn’t always communicate it. That has led to certain challenges. I explain to my husband that his fire is different than his son’s. He can’t expect Nate to have the same ambitions he holds. My mama-bear instincts come out. I want to be the protector of Nate’s sensitivity, giving him space to grow.
KIM: You know how much I love that hubby of yours. Yet I always say he’s from another planet. The other day, I was joking with him, telling him, “I only understand one-third of what you say to me.” You two are totally different people with diverse parenting styles, and childhood experiences. Yet you coat your nurturing with love, even when you disagree. I’ve experienced that firsthand and it’s clear that love and kindness are abundant!
LINDA: Ha! Being a wife and a parent is incredibly humbling. To this day, I continue to learn about myself through each of my family members. I recall as a college student, gravitating to helping others in pain and in need, even as I was coping with the hurt and trauma from my childhood. In grad school, I made my own therapy a requirement. Then I was forced to face my fears, my codependency, my perfectionism, my disordered eating, and my negative body image. Thank goodness I did!
KIM: I totally relate. For me it was similar. My marriage of sixteen years had turned out to be lonely and confining. It never felt true and rewarding. I stayed in the marriage for Asher and Isaac. They are my blessings. The marriage was just a piece of paper without love. It ended…
I’ll never forget the day I realized I needed to show my children something different. I wanted to live again. I had no appropriate role model for being a parent. That’s always has been a challenge in my life. I have often surrendered situations to God, asking for guidance, while I simply loved them and did my best.
LINDA: We can only expose our fears and find our truths. You have helped me do that. When I look into my children’s eyes, I see the reflection of my own soul. My good points and my shortcomings are right there in their eyes, right beside life itself. Both Skylar and Nathan consistently teach me lessons about my personal deficiencies. They are the ones that have unlocked my heart.
Lately though, I have become their guide as opposed to their caretaker.
KIM: Make sure you tell Sky that true friendship is about who is real to your face, and who stays real behind your back! Make sure you tell her!
I’ll enjoy and will always test your high performance standards, and talk crap about that inner prude princess of yours!
Sky sees all the warrior women you have in your life, and she’s constantly reminded of what a friend really represents. She is also becoming aware of the challenges and peer pressures to be met at any age!
Let’s be honest here: Look how you love “me” unconditionally, even when I bring out my fart machine. Should I go get it? Let’s have some fun in this coffee shop!
LINDA: No, Kimmers! Throw that thing away. You are so wicked!
KIM: I’m just sarcastic and silly.
LINDA: You’re a nut! Collaboration gives me purpose and helps me find my identity. I can’t wait to tell Sky. We were just talking about sorority sisters and the sense of community she gets from them.
KIM: I’m grateful for my friends at the yoga studio. They’ve helped me through my pain and difficult times.
LINDA: It’s never fun to marinate in pain or feel stuck and all alone.
KIM: I want to empower other women find what we have. What about hosting symposiums at the studio?
KIM: Sprinkle that therapist talk like pixie dust, and we can avoid the generational crap in the future!
LINDA: I absolutely agree, but I have to go now. Oh! By the way, did you ever find Karma, Isaac’s python snake?
KIM: Yes, he sent a text. It was lying on top of his speaker. I guess cold-blooded Karma likes rhythm and warmth, just like we humans do.