Healing Trauma, Rebuilding Life with Dee Wallace
How do you heal after living through the trauma of divorce? How do you help your kids heal when they live through their own experience of your trauma? Whether you consider yours an easy divorce, or a hard one, the act of separating lives is traumatic, and the impact of trauma can sneak up on you.
As we wrap up this season of the show, we want to take some time to talk about that healing process and we have the perfect guest to help us do that. Dee Wallace is an actor and a healer, and she’s spent the last twenty years of her career in channeled healing work. She is an advocate and teacher in the art of self-creation and the author of five books on the subject. She’s also been divorced more than once and knows a thing or two about healing through trauma herself.
As an actor, you might have seen one of her more than 260 credits including E.T., Cujo, The Howling, and on, and on, and on. What’s more, her most important role is as “Mom” to Toaster alum Gabrielle Stone, who taught us all about her divorce experience in Eat, Pray, #FML.
Dee’s career and relationship stories make for an incredible conversation and we’re deeply grateful for her time, participation, and joy in the Toaster this week.
We’re setting up for a short break as we head into the holiday season and will be replaying a few of our favorite episodes over the next month or so, but we’ll be back with new episodes in February. We’re grateful for this community, and all of you out there working to save your most important relationships. On behalf of all of us on Team Toaster — Seth, Pete, Andy, Melissa, Ken, and Karolynn — we wish you a happy holiday season full of peace, love, and joy.
Pete Wright: Welcome to How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships from TruStory FM. Today, Healing Your Toaster From Within.
Seth Nelson: Welcome to the show everyone. I am Seth Nelson. I’m here, as always, with my good friend, Pete Wright. How do you heal after living through the trauma of divorce? How do you help your kids heal when they live through their own experiences of your trauma? As we wrap up the season, we want to take some time to talk about the healing process and we have the perfect guest to help us do that. Dee Wallace is a healer. She spent the last 20 years of her career and channeled healing work becoming an advocate and teacher in the art of self-creation. She’s the author of five books on the subject and along the way manages to keep her IMDb current with her over 260 credits, including E.T., Cujo, The Howling and on and on. Dee Wallace, welcome to the toaster.
Dee Wallace: Well, I will try and live up to that amazing intro. Thank you.
Pete Wright: We also, Seth, we got to remind everybody for our dear listeners, we may have buried the lead with that intro. That Dee also happens to play the role in real life of mother to guest number, episode number one, Gabrielle Stone, author of Eat, Pray, #FML. I don’t know if you remember that book, Seth. It blew my damn mind.
Seth Nelson: I remember that book and my girlfriend said, "And why is that on your nightstand?"
Dee Wallace: Yeah, you should have read it from a mother’s perspective.
Pete Wright: That was my first question.
Dee Wallace: That would really have blown your mind.
Pete Wright: How do you read that, Dee, Mom?
Dee Wallace: You know, Gabrielle and I just have that kind of relationship. She studied acting with me. She never heard me swear in the house. And the first day in class, she came up, she said, "Mom, do you swear like that all the time in here?" I said, "I effin do. I do."
Seth Nelson: Oh, Dee, you can drop the F bomb. You can say fuck on this show.
Dee Wallace: But we just respect each other, which is, I think, the basis of a lot of relationships and what the problem is. We respect each other as individuals who are creating our own life. I have told her all her life, all I want is for you to be happy and you do whatever makes you happy as long as that’s sending love out into the world and you are not harming another soul.
Seth Nelson: I love that last part about sending love out into the world and not harming another soul. My son is 17. We are starting to transition into the friendship aspect of having an adult child, right?
Dee Wallace: Yes.
Seth Nelson: When he’s 18, technically, right.
Pete Wright: It’s so weird.
Seth Nelson: It’s so bizarre. It’s glorious, though.
Dee Wallace: Oh, it’s magical.
Pete Wright: Oh, it is. It is. It’s just-
Dee Wallace: Oh, I love my relationship with Gabrielle.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, my parents, my mom, as our listeners know and Dee will share with you, passed away this year. But she used to say, "My greatest joy was having adult children." Now, right until the first grandkid showed up, which we all understand. But I tell my son something a little different. I say, "I, obviously, would love for you to be happy all the time. But if you’re happy at a funeral, you’re a psychopath."
Pete Wright: Yeah, right.
Seth Nelson: Something’s wrong with you, okay?
Dee Wallace: Yeah, yeah.
Seth Nelson: So I always say don’t search for happiness because sometimes it’s everyone thinks it’s right around the corner. If I just get that fancy car, if I just get that promotion, if I just get that raise I’ll be happy. But are you living a fulfilled life? Are you content on where you are? Are you going in the direction, right?
Dee Wallace: Yeah, and besides happiness starts within you.
Seth Nelson: That’s right.
Dee Wallace: Everybody thinks they’re going to be happy when they get the guy, or they get the car, or they get the job, or they get the money. Wherever you go, there you are. So whatever creates your unhappiness in the core of who you are, if that’s not addressed, nothing’s going to fill it up. Ultimately, you will find a way back to your unhappiness.
Seth Nelson: Pete, you’re looking kind of sad there, like what’s going on?
Pete Wright: No, you guys… Well, of course you got, of course I am… You’ve unleashed the wave of melancholy because at the same time that I’m thinking about my… We just had our Thanksgiving. For the first time my daughter came home from college and it was exactly that. It’s weird because this is a new relationship that I’ve never experienced with this person that I’ve known all her life and it is incredibly special. Also, it reminds me of holding her when she was one and that wave comes over you. But the other thing that gets to me, something you just said, Dee, is that there are moments that I go through the day that remind me that I am allowed to feel that joy manifested by myself, right?
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Pete Wright: That it doesn’t have to be a search for some other accomplishment, some other achievement. It can be… It’s okay for me just to feel joy.
Dee Wallace: Well, not only is it okay, it’s the highest state of happiness and joy that you can manifest. Because I can sit here in my office and just decide to feel joy and happiness. I don’t have to have a reason. I have a lot of exercises that I teach with my clients about this. But I want to address one thing that you said. How about if we look at relationships as expanding into new dimensions and start of it being new?
Pete Wright: Talk more about that. Talk more about that.
Dee Wallace: Well, I think that’s the problem with a lot of reasons for divorce is because we get married and I was me and he was him. Then we evolve and life evolves and kids come along and challenges happen. It’s a place of constant evolvement and if you don’t adapt to that evolvement, if you’re not open, if you’re not communicating about that evolvement, then you want to leave.
Pete Wright: I am inspired to a metaphor and it’s mostly become of the print that’s behind you. That, in terms of expanding into new directions, we… And I think about my own. I’ve been married for 20 years.
Dee Wallace: Right.
Pete Wright: I think about my own marriage and early on there is this thinking that it’s going to be a great tree. And something else happens in your life and there is this momentary experience where I think, oh, that’s going to be a new tree next to the tree. But it’s not a new tree. You can’t ever escape the one tree. You are just more branches of the same tree.
Dee Wallace: Exactly.
Seth Nelson: Along with that, Pete, is… And I think the tree analogy, because it’s a beautiful print that Dee has behind her of this very colorful, fall-like setting is the core of that tree. The trunk and the roots is what keep it stable.
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: Right? It will go into different directions and you can’t control it and sometimes it’s controlled by other things. Where’s the sun at that time? Is there shade blocking it? And that is just what happens in life, like Dee says. Kids come along, jobs change, you have all these stresses, but can you take on those challenges and stay true to yourself and don’t lose who you are individually? While at the same time managing that relationship that we call marriage?
Dee Wallace: Well, I think you have to otherwise you’re not happy. If you give up you to take care of everybody else, if you give up you to make somebody else happy, then you’re going to end up in resentment.
Seth Nelson: Right.
Pete Wright: Can we take a step back, Dee, and establish your bona fides on the subject of divorce?
Dee Wallace: Yes. I’ve been divorced three times.
Pete Wright: So you-
Seth Nelson: You know what we call that in my business?
Pete Wright: Tell me.
Dee Wallace: A pro.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. A pro, a frequent flyer. I literally have the donut cards that if you get three divorces, the fourth one is on me. They’re little heart shaped they’re little heart shaped punch outs that I do because it’s so clever. You know?
Pete Wright: So clever.
Dee Wallace: Oh, yes. Okay.
Seth Nelson: So-
Pete Wright: Right?
Seth Nelson: That’s right.
Dee Wallace: You know, I respected and admired every one of them. Every one of my divorces was amicable. We split the bills.
Pete Wright: Seth, that’s awesome.
Seth Nelson: Actually, in hindsight, I don’t want Dee as a client. It’s too easy. I like the tough cases.
Dee Wallace: But I think it’s important that if you feel that you’re not growing anymore, and part of that is because of the demands of the relationship that is put upon you, then something has to change or you have to leave because I’m not going to stop growing. I’m not, for anybody. I’m here to experience the greatest Dee Wallace, Deanna Bowers, that I can ever be. And that means ongoing, ongoing expansion.
Seth Nelson: But exactly what you just said, if I take it a little broader, you have a boundary that you set up.
Dee Wallace: Yes.
Seth Nelson: So you don’t lose who you are. You are more obviously ready, willing, and able to get into a relationship, right? But you have conditions on that relationship.
Dee Wallace: Yes.
Seth Nelson: And that is a boundary and those boundaries are healthy because you’re saying, "This is who I am. I’m willing to share portions of my life with you, but this part’s not changing."
Dee Wallace: Absolutely. There are times in my marriages where I have changed because it was worth it to me to change, to stay in a relationship that I loved. But I never gave up who I was. I could adapt to some of the things they wanted. See, I think really, guys, if I can get really deep here-
Seth Nelson: Here we go.
Dee Wallace: Okay. Scientifically, we’re made up of water, right? We’re over 90% water and water retains its memory from the beginning of time. And there’s my dog. Everybody say, "Hi, Freedom." So for most of those years of memory, women have been secondary citizens. Women have been property and it’s hard and it’s challenging for the male species, I think, to recognize what they’re bringing from all those forefathers that came before them that are really still kind of a part of their genes.
Seth Nelson: I was just having this conversation, Dee.
Dee Wallace: Oh, well, good. I’m glad I brought it up.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. I was talking to a woman about different views of marriage and she says to me, "Why would I want to be chattel?" Why, it… I just-
Dee Wallace: Well, there’s a perspective she needs to change, too.
Seth Nelson: I just started laughing because she’s hilarious but she was making your same point. Even today on first marriages with young couples, a guy might go to the woman’s father and ask for permission to marry. First off, I don’t understand why anyone does that because it’s hard enough to get a woman to say yes. Why are you going to try to get two people to say yes to this idea? But it’s never the woman going to the guy’s family. So these old property concepts still filter through in how we behave today. I think that it is really important for the two individuals getting married to cast those aside and say, "No one’s going to define our marriage."
Dee Wallace: Yeah. Thank you.
Seth Nelson: No, one’s going to define our relationship with each other, especially these bullshit societal pressures that we’re under. Flipping this to divorce law for a moment, when I got divorced, the great State of Florida in all of their brilliance required one parent to be named the primary residential parent.
Dee Wallace: What?
Seth Nelson: And the other parent was the secondary parent. This is in the last 15 years when I got divorced, okay?
Dee Wallace: Just another markup for Florida. I’m sorry.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. Let me say, yeah. I love my state. Let me tell you.
Dee Wallace: Oh, my God.
Seth Nelson: So, literally, on my divorce decree it says that I am a secondary parent and people would go to court and they would argue over this bullshit designation. When I signed it, I’m like, "Yeah, that’s fine." Boop. And they’re like, "What?" I said, "There’s no way in hell I’m letting a bunch of fat old white guys in the legislature that passed the law that was signed by a governor define my relationship with my son."
Dee Wallace: You bet.
Seth Nelson: That document means nothing to me.
Dee Wallace: Boundaries.
Seth Nelson: Boundary, that’s right.
Dee Wallace: That’s right.
Seth Nelson: That’s right. But it’s the same in marriages.
Dee Wallace: Yes. And the woman has a responsibility in this, too. Because if she buys into that, then she’s responsible for creating that in the relationship isn’t she? And so much of this, and I know I’m on really fricking thin ice here, but so much of this comes from religion, old and new. I just had a young client of mine, well, he’s more of a friend than a client. He just got engaged. They read from the Good Book the passage about how a woman belongs to her husband and must bow down to what the husband wants. And I’m sitting there-
Seth Nelson: I think it takes a lot to get Dee speechless.
Dee Wallace: It does.
Seth Nelson: And that was one of them.
Dee Wallace: I don’t judge, I’m not judging, but I’m saying that both partners have to know who they are and what they believe before they go in.
Seth Nelson: I know you can speak for yourself, but as a lawyer, I love speaking for others. So I think what you’re saying is I-
Dee Wallace: I said what I was saying.
Seth Nelson: But aren’t you also saying that relationship is really doomed? We got a problem here?
Dee Wallace: No, I’m not. I’m saying there’s not a lot of room to change.
Seth Nelson: There you go.
Dee Wallace: And grow if they go into the marriage with that agreement.
Seth Nelson: How often do you obey your wife, Pete?
Pete Wright: How often do I obey my wife?
Seth Nelson: Yeah.
Pete Wright: Everything we do, Seth, is handled by calendar invitations and so I either accept or deny or-
Seth Nelson: I do not want to see the, I do not want to see the emojis on that one.
Dee Wallace: What about, so, the night you have sex, are there little naked emojis on there or something?
Pete Wright: No, Dee. That’s scheduled as business time.
Seth Nelson: Dee is-
Pete Wright: And I have to say, we have kids so, of course, it’s not nights we have sex. It’s like Wednesday at 2:30, but it’s definitely agreed upon.
Dee Wallace: Hey. Daytime sex is great.
Pete Wright: I think this gets to, it gets to one of the things that I love so much about what you, about your work in terms of becoming an advocate and an empowerment speaker for rebuilding after trauma and after things that challenge us in our lives. This idea, I was introduced to this concept not long ago on another show of capital T versus small t trauma and I think divorce fits both definitions. So just for the sake of how I understand it, capital T trauma is the major singular event, transformational event, right? That is the car accident. That is the sudden loss of a loved one. That is a sudden… Something sudden that happens in your life that changes the trajectory of it in some way, shape or another permanently. It requires immediate recovery. And the small t trauma is the constant and pervasive and building, compressing trauma that you get daily. It might be manifested in terms of anxiety and depression. It might be in terms of-
Dee Wallace: Okay. I would really like to address this.
Pete Wright: Okay.
Dee Wallace: Okay. Everything’s energy. We all learned that in fifth grade. Energy is, always has been, always, will be. Is everybody in agreement with that?
Seth Nelson: I concur.
Dee Wallace: Okay. Energy is neutral. It’s not positive. It’s not negative. It just is, until we give it a direction. Now, I’m responsible for directing the energy of me. I get to choose my thoughts. I get to choose my feelings. I get to choose my perspectives, so I’m busy creating me. I would like to suggest, and the Dalai Lama kind of backs me up here. He has an interesting take on trauma. He said, "You know, it’s not the thing that happens that creates the trauma. It’s your reaction and your story that you keep telling about your trauma." That’s what’s traumatizing you the most. Two years ago, my daughter and I were doing a film together and she pulled up at 6:30 a.m. and I went, oh, how nice she’s coming by to go to the set with me. She walked in and the minute I looked at her face, I said, "What? What’s up?" And she gave me the news that my younger brother had just committed suicide. Now, in that moment, I have a choice. I can dissolve into tears and weakness. I can go, "Oh, my God. Why? How could he do this when my dad committed suicide? How can he do this?" There’s a million different ways that I have a choice to respond. And I looked at her and she put her arms around me and we had a cry and we got on the phone and we called all the family. Then I looked at her and I said, "And now we go to the set and shoot, right?" And she said, "Yeah, Ma. We go to the set and work." That’s what we did. But, again, so many people erroneously think they do not have a choice.
Seth Nelson: So, Dee, on that point-
Dee Wallace: Yes?
Seth Nelson: In the military, military members celebrate what they call Alive Day. It’s the anniversary of the date when that veteran almost lost their life in combat.
Dee Wallace: Oh, wow.
Seth Nelson: They call it their Alive Day because I’m still alive and I’m still here-
Dee Wallace: Oh, I have chills.
Seth Nelson: But my life is dramatically different than where it was before that roadside.
Dee Wallace: Oh, you bet.
Seth Nelson: Blew up, right?
Dee Wallace: Yes.
Seth Nelson: But it’s my Alive Day and that’s exactly what I think you’re talking about in the civilian world.
Dee Wallace: Yes, that you can choose to stay alive. You can choose to, okay, this was shitty and this is definitely affecting my life. I’m not going to deny that. And what do I want to choose? What do I… Do I want to choose to go on? I have clients that seriously, seriously, 20 years later are still talking about that day, whatever that day was. And [Dana Wyles 00:23:17], I love how she puts it. She says, "You know, there’s nothing wrong with your story except you keep telling it."
Seth Nelson: That’s right. If you’re telling that-
Pete Wright: Like a laugh line. Isn’t it amazing? I want that on a shirt.
Dee Wallace: But isn’t it true?
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Dee Wallace: And every time you tell it you are directing your energy to hold onto it and define yourself as it.
Seth Nelson: If you’re telling that story 20 years later, you’ve missed 7300 other days that you’re not talking about.
Dee Wallace: Wow, did-
Pete Wright: Count on a-
Dee Wallace: Did you just figure that out?
Pete Wright: Can you bill at that rate?
Seth Nelson: Yeah, I wish. I wish, Pete.
Dee Wallace: Well, I’m impressed.
Pete Wright: Well, this is, this gets-
Seth Nelson: Well, thank you.
Dee Wallace: Whether it’s true or not, it sounded good. So-
Pete Wright: I really, I mean, I really relate to this idea of the sort of taking the choice, making the choice of how you’re going to respond to a trauma. And I think this gets to, this is why I was leading into divorce satisfying both needs. Because we run into this experience when you’re finished with a traumatic divorce, having not experienced the idea of making a choice to live. Making a choice to not be burdened by that day the divorce happened. By that day-
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Pete Wright: There was such loss in my life. Instead, living with "things will never be the same" as if it’s a bad thing.
Dee Wallace: Exactly. Exactly. It’s an expansion. It’s a new chapter in a book.
Pete Wright: Yeah. A new branch on our tree.
Dee Wallace: Yes.
Pete Wright: On my favorite tree.
Seth Nelson: And here’s the other thing that there’s positive things that come out of divorce that people just don’t think about. Dee, you’re raising your hand, you go.
Dee Wallace: Well, yeah. There are.
Seth Nelson: One that I know in my life is my son has an amazing stepdad. We actually call him bonus dad when we’re just chatting with him he’s Steve.
Dee Wallace: Oh, how great.
Seth Nelson: But you can’t have too many people that love your kid.
Dee Wallace: What a great perspective.
Seth Nelson: And I’ve had the joy of having… See, Pete, even Dee Wallace is agreeing with what I say. It’s gotta be killing you, brother.
Dee Wallace: Oh, that’s beautiful.
Seth Nelson: And I’ve had the joy of having other children, not biologically my own, feel like to this day that they are. I love them so much.
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: And that’s just an expansion.
Dee Wallace: But you allowed that, you see. You allowed that to happen. You allowed yourself to accept that man. You allowed that relationship between he and your son.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. He’s awesome.
Dee Wallace: You could’ve been an asshole about it.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, I’ve fucked up so many other things, Dee, I had to get one thing right.
Dee Wallace: Oh-
Pete Wright: That is actually settled science. Let me ask you another question, Dee, related to all of this. There is this question of grief. How does a grieving process fit into this? I mean, you and Gabrielle went to work. But at somehow, at some point you, you grieve.
Dee Wallace: Oh, sure.
Pete Wright: What does that look like?
Dee Wallace: Well, I think it looks different for every person. Every person grieves differently. My younger brother had been a severe alcoholic, like my father. So I watched him kill himself before he did. It wasn’t, I have to say, a huge surprise. When my husband, Gabrielle’s daddy, died that was a whole different grief process for me. That was the loss of a soulmate, right? I guess I just learned at a very early age, and I learned from two incredibly strong women who raised me, your job is to go on. And I had a little girl to take care of, and I had a little girl to make sure I did everything in my power to take time to talk to her, to read books about death with her and then to create, at the same time, a lot of happy moments so that she didn’t learn to just dwell in the grief. I think that, again, is a choice. I’ll tell you, one of the biggest griefs, moments of grief I had is when I lost my last dog. Funny, I know, but we were soulmates, that dog and I. And the dog I have now, soulmates. It’s a huge loss. When I was holding her as they put her down, my last dog, and I probably wailed in that office and they left me there, for about 20 minutes. Then I came home and I got out some pictures and chose which one I wanted to honor her with and had a great thing made up. I took some positive steps to honor what I had lost, so that my grief started taking a different turn, a different expression if you will. But I think a lot of grief comes when we define ourselves as victims, you know?
Seth Nelson: Yeah. That’s true.
Pete Wright: Well, and that gets us back to the divorce process. I mean, especially to Seth, like the walking out of your lawyer’s office, not only do you feel like a victim of your own marriage, but a victim of the process. It’s hard and invasive and victimizing.
Dee Wallace: Well, I guess it can be. It wasn’t in any of the three divorces that I had, so I don’t think it has to be.
Seth Nelson: It certainly does not have to be that way. It certainly is to the point where people will say, "I’m never getting married again."
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: "Because I’m not going through that again." I explain to them, "The divorce was what really sucked." There were times in the marriage and things broke down but… And I think on this same front though, Pete, when you’re talking about and, Dee, what you’re saying about how you choose to grieve and how you can honor things that are lost, you can still honor the relationship that you had and the good times that you had.
Dee Wallace: The children you made together.
Seth Nelson: That’s right. That’s right. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, probably sending an anniversary card might not be appropriate, but I mean-
Dee Wallace: Well, it depends on if you guys still have a sense of humor about it all.
Pete Wright: That’s right.
Seth Nelson: That’s right. That’s right.
Dee Wallace: Which I’ve counseled couples that just have a really great sense of humor, and they got that they could still be really good friends, right? That didn’t work out so great as a marriage, per se, but as friends, it’s awesome.
Seth Nelson: This past Thanksgiving, just a week or so ago, my former spouse invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her, her family, extended family, my son was there. So I came down, brought some great wine, one in one of the big, big bottles. And it’s 12 o’clock on Thanksgiving day and her and Steve and I were there, everybody else was doing things. And Steve and I had been counting down like, okay, we’ll start at noon. And I’m like, "15 minutes to go, 10 minutes to go." I opened up the fridge and she just happened to be standing next to me and I look at her and I said, "How are you on commitment?" And she looked at me like, "What are you about to say?"
Dee Wallace: I like that.
Seth Nelson: And I pull out the big bottle, the jumbo one, not the two regulars, and I said, "Do you think we can commit to finishing this bottle?" And she goes, "Absolutely."
Dee Wallace: See, that’s what I mean. But, again, we’re back at choice.
Seth Nelson: Right.
Dee Wallace: You’re choosing to create and nurture that relationship. And the choice always comes first, always. Everything is a choice.
Seth Nelson: And it is a choice. It is a choice. There’s a million things that she has done that made choices positively over the last 15 years that have led to the friendship that her and I have to this day. I’ve made choices along the way. I got the nicest text from my former mother-in-law that said, basically, you know, "It was great seeing you. We’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished and everything you do for the kids and our friendship." And those are just choices you make along the way.
Dee Wallace: Oh, you bet. See, it doesn’t have to be traumatic.
Pete Wright: We’re dealing with some similar things. I want to talk back to the kids. I’m just having this flashback to watching my own kiddo go through relationships and one ended. And she’s trying really hard to make the choice for friendship and is running headlong into the cultural sort of expectation of propriety in friends, late teens, early twenties that used to be dating and parents thinking, oh, this isn’t necessarily… You should make sure you take somebody else so there’s always a third wheel. You don’t want it to be inappropriate because, you know, you have a new girlfriend now. You have a new boyfriend now. You don’t want them get nervous or anxious. And I have a real hard time with that. I have a hard time-
Dee Wallace: Well, I would look at them and say, "Thank you for sharing."
Seth Nelson: I’m stealing that one.
Pete Wright: Yeah. I feel like so much of that goes back to what you were saying about Corinthians that it is aged, like old fashioned. And it’s okay for it to be antique and move on. It’s okay to offer our kids rebuilding and healing after loss, even if it’s… It could be the loss of a parent, it could be a loss of a relationship to go forth and make that choice positively.
Seth Nelson: That’s right. And hanging out with your former spouse, people would ask me like, "How do you do that?" Or like, they’d be like, literally they say, "This is really weird but it’s amazing. It’s good. This is what it should be." But they always start with the weird. We always think it’s really not that weird.
Pete Wright: Right.
Seth Nelson: For us.
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: And then someone asked me once, like, "Oh my God, I saw your girlfriend hanging out with her ex-husband. Doesn’t that make you nervous?" And I said, "Out of all the guys in the world, that’s the one I’m least worried about."
Dee Wallace: [crosstalk 00:35:14], yeah.
Seth Nelson: She’s been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and sent the postcard, baby.
Dee Wallace: My first husband came in and studied acting with me for two years. One of my husbands and I are, that was Gabrielle’s stepdaddy, very good friends. He just called me the other day and we spoke for about a half an hour. You know, you get to define your life to a large degree how you choose to do it. Now, if somebody’s getting, if I’m a battered wife, I’m not going to stay.
Pete Wright: Right. Different choices.
Dee Wallace: And I’m not going to want to include him in my life anymore. Because if I love me, and I think this has to be the guiding pivotal thing that we ask ourselves, is this in alignment with loving myself? Does this feel good? Is this going to make me feel good about me? And if it’s not, you walk away.
Seth Nelson: There you go.
Dee Wallace: But see, women are taught to give ourselves up for everybody else, guys.
Pete Wright: Well, that’s what I was going to ask. When did you start figuring this stuff out? Because, I mean, now you say it, your old hat. You’re teaching it. You’re doing all this stuff. But at some point you had to learn this, right? Like at some point you too had to shake the yolk of tradition.
Dee Wallace: Yes. I was brought up in a very traditional Methodist home and my mother stayed a lot longer with my alcoholic father than she ever should have. Her answer to me when I asked her, after he committed suicide, was, "I stayed for you kids." I looked at her and I said, "Gee, I wish you hadn’t."
Seth Nelson: That’s what all the kids say.
Pete Wright: Every one of them say, yep.
Seth Nelson: Every one.
Dee Wallace: Do you know the trauma? Every single night, I lived through the trauma of my dad getting drunk, stripping off all his clothes. There’s a nice sight for a middle school kid, huh? And belligerently going after my mother for three hours. Never hit her. Never touched her. But the yelling and the emotional abuse, that’s probably what did it. Because I said I am never freaking ever going to stay in a situation where I’m not respected and honored, ever.
Seth Nelson: People don’t realize, the common theme that I hear is, "I stayed to protect the children from that," from the father turning the rage on them in this story that Dee’s telling me.
Dee Wallace: Yeah, well, I’d get out and take them.
Seth Nelson: What, right. What they sometimes don’t realize is seeing the trauma on a daily basis also has an impact.
Dee Wallace: Of course.
Seth Nelson: There’s other choices, right?
Dee Wallace: I think.
Seth Nelson: So, and look, I know that we’re… So everyone’s like, "Really? How can you get along with your former spouses? It’s so rare." It takes two.
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: I’m not saying that it’s easy at first and maybe some space and some boundaries are certainly appropriate to get to that point and kids do not do well when there’s conflict. Whether it’s a war torn country, whether it’s being in a home where there’s conflict, that’s where the problems come with kids. It’s not divorce. Divorce, when you look at the studies, when they’re high conflict, that has the negative impact on the children.
Dee Wallace: Oh, you bet.
Seth Nelson: And when there’s not, it doesn’t have to be.
Dee Wallace: Not only that, but most people don’t know this. How we see ourselves, how we see ourselves in the world and how we see the world seeing us, totally locked into your brain by eight years old. Eight years old!
Seth Nelson: Yeah.
Dee Wallace: So whatever you are verbally teaching and modeling to your kids forms their entire life.
Seth Nelson: That’s why, Pete, eight years old, short Jewish, bald lawyer.
Pete Wright: I was going to make that joke.
Seth Nelson: I was locked in. I was locked in, baby.
Pete Wright: Oh, I hate that. Oh.
Seth Nelson: You got to be quick, Pete. You got to be quick.
Dee Wallace: Oh, you guys are hysterical. Oh, my God.
Pete Wright: Well, I’ll tell you Dee you’ve got… You are on the… You got to talk about your, about Born.
Dee Wallace: Oh, thank you. Yeah.
Pete Wright: You’ve got five other books you’ve already done but now this is a whole new thing.
Dee Wallace: What this is, is a primer. It’s a summation of all my other books and everything that I know. It literally is a formula that’s easy to understand and it’s a lot of fun to read that will tell you exactly how to create and manifest your life. Whether it’s money, or relationships, or success, or health, all those things. There is a formula and it’s easy, guys. Creation is easy. I often jokingly say, "God created the world in seven days. How hard could it be?" Right? But you have to know that you’re the creator of you. On this plane, we’re given free will and free will comes with choice, which we’ve been talking about all hour. So I got up one morning during the pandemic when all the studios were closed and I said, "Okay, what can I create today?" And the first thing I heard was, "Write the book."
Seth Nelson: Yeah.
Dee Wallace: So I did.
Seth Nelson: Outstanding. I had that same experience during the pandemic, too.
Pete Wright: With another box of wine?
Seth Nelson: I woke up and I said, "What can I create today?" And the word milkshake popped into my head.
Dee Wallace: Hey, I would’ve liked that one too. I would’ve liked that one, too.
Seth Nelson: And I masked up and I went to the supermarket and I got the supplies, baby.
Dee Wallace: Well, Born, is a good milkshake for creation. Like that? Did you like that little-
Pete Wright: That was really nice.
Seth Nelson: I love that.
Pete Wright: You’re a pro.
Seth Nelson: That was awesome.
Dee Wallace: And I also have a beautiful, beautiful little children’s book called BuppaLaPaloo and the I Love MEs.
Seth Nelson: I love it so much.
Dee Wallace: And it’s about this little bear that… It’s going to be a series of books and the first book teaches about choice and how the little boy doesn’t know that he has the right to choose who he is, and he has the right to define who he is. And wouldn’t we all have been a lot happier in life if we had been taught that when we were young? It’s kind of an accompaniment to the adult book. I know how important it is to reach children at an early age with these messages.
Seth Nelson: My son was three years old and we got divorced when he was two-and-a-half and he was kind of sad. I said, "What’s going on, buddy?" He goes, "Well, Dad, when I’m with you, I just miss Mommy. I’m so sad."
Dee Wallace: Oh.
Seth Nelson: And my heart just was like, as a dad, I’m trying to do the right thing. And I said, this saved me, I said, "Well, how are you at Mommy’s?" And I was hoping he was going to tell me he was happy, right? Even though it was going to crush me, like, uh. He goes, "No, when I’m at Mommy’s, I miss you and I’m sad." I said, "Well, buddy, you’ve got a choice. When you’re at Mommy’s you can be happy and excited that you’re with Mommy because that’s how I am when you’re with Mommy. I’m excited and happy you’re with Mommy. Of course, I miss you, but I’m happy for you. Then when you’re here, you can be happy you’re here with me and we can miss Mommy." We call her every night. "I said, you got a choice. Do you want to be happy or sad?" He just looked at me and goes, "I want to be happy." Never came up again.
Pete Wright: Love it.
Dee Wallace: That’s exactly what the book is about. It’s exactly. Oh my God. Good for you.
Seth Nelson: So he calls his mom every night and then I called her back after he was in bed and she’s like, "Hey, what’s going on?" I said, "I just want to tell you we had this conversation," because I’m trying to be, keep her informed. And she said to me, and this was really like first six months after divorce or so, right? So it was still raw. And she goes, "Thank you so much for telling me because he’s been sitting here telling me how much he misses you when he is with me."
Dee Wallace: Oh.
Seth Nelson: "And it’s been tearing my heart out," and it’s good, but-
Pete Wright: But it also shows how early they can have those lessons impressed on them. That’s such an incredible message.
Dee Wallace: Let me tell you. Kids are more aware than we ever… They pick up everything. And that’s what I mean. You taught him a lifelong lesson there.
Seth Nelson: Well, I got one thing right, Dee.
Dee Wallace: Oh, I’m thinking you probably have a few more than that, dude.
Pete Wright: Beautiful way to wrap up. Although if you don’t mind, I would like to plug something else I’m a big fan of and that is this year is the 40th anniversary of The Howling, Dee. And you can get, Seth, I know you’re going to get over to Amazon right now. You can get the Blu-ray collector’s edition, limited edition, steelbook version of The Howling could be yours, but you better get it before it sells out.
Dee Wallace: And the 4K is amazing, the 4K version.
Seth Nelson: And I’m just saying, Pete, hold on, Dee, this is important.
Dee Wallace: Okay.
Seth Nelson: Because he’s sending me to Amazon to get this, I’d like to point out we’re recording this and Hanukkah is not over for me. And I’ve been going to my mailbox every day.
Dee Wallace: He got you there, baby.
Pete Wright: Waiting for that 4K. Oh, God. Why do I do this show?
Dee Wallace: Oh, that’s great. That’s great.
Pete Wright: Dee, you are a treasure. Thank you. Thank you.
Dee Wallace: Thank you, guys. It’s been stimulating and interesting and a lot of fun and not like most of the interviews I do, which was really refreshing. Thank you. Oh, and I started to say next year is the 40th anniversary of E.T.
Pete Wright: I know. Oh, my goodness.
Seth Nelson: That’s right.
Dee Wallace: I either feel very accomplished or very old, so I’m going to choose-
Seth Nelson: Choose accomplished.
Dee Wallace: That’s right, baby. That’s right.
Seth Nelson: Right. Choose accomplished.
Pete Wright: That is well-deserved. Accomplished, Dee Wallace, national treasure, and E.T. and The Howling and The Hills Have Eyes. Come on, forget it. What are… Are you working on anything right now? Are you working on… Have the studios opened up again? Are you masking up and going to work?
Dee Wallace: Oh, yeah. I have three films coming out and they have a beautiful little Hallmark movie on right now called Every Time a Bell Rings.
Pete Wright: Lovely. Look at that. All right.
Dee Wallace: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: Nice.
Pete Wright: Credits where credit is due.
Dee Wallace: And my book just launched a few days ago.
Pete Wright: All of the links, especially links to jump in and buy that book will be in the show notes. Everybody, thank you so much. Thank you, Dee Wallace. You’re a delight.
Seth Nelson: Thank you, Dee.
Dee Wallace: Aw, thank you. Thank you for that. Love you, guys. Love you, guys
Pete Wright: Thank you, everybody, for downloading and listening to the show. We sure appreciate it. On behalf of Dee Wallace, I’m Pete Wright and you know this guy, America’s favorite of divorce attorney, Seth Nelson. We’ll catch you next week right here on How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships.
Outro: Seth Nelson is an attorney with Nelson Koster Family Law and Mediation with offices in Tampa, Florida. While we may be discussing family law topics, How to Split a Toaster is not intended to nor is it providing legal advice. Every situation is different. If you have specific questions regarding your situation, please seek your own legal counsel with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Pete Wright is not an attorney or employee of Nelson Koster. Seth Nelson is licensed to practice law in Florida.
Seth Nelson is a Tampa based family lawyer known for devising creative solutions to difficult problems. In How to Split a Toaster, Nelson and co-host Pete Wright take on the challenge of divorce with a central objective — saving your most important relationships with your family, your former spouse, and yourself.