I Changed My Life : You Can Too

As a married woman I took my husband’s opinion very seriously. I didn’t follow everything he wanted but I did try to look appealing, and pleasing to him. I often had red hair, wore dresses and skirts, started using more makeup, and swapped out my black clothes for color. I didn’t mind this most of the time. I enjoyed doing things that seemed to make me more attractive to him.

After our divorce I wanted to feel more attractive to myself. I got bangs- and it looks fierce. I dyed my hair black with added shades of purple and blue. I learned new ways to wear my make up. And I reverted back to a black and gray wardrobe, wearing mostly skinny jeans, t-shirts, and leather jackets. I started to feel comfortable in my own skin again.

There were other things too. I stopped spending my nights watching TV-it was his way of ignoring me. I started working harder. It wasn’t that I didn’t work hard before, but what was once a list of hobbies became my source of income. I have to support my daughter, and myself. I am determined to do it my way. To stay home with my daughter, as I have always done. In the last three years I have ran five businesses, and taken on some odd jobs like being a nanny and painting a house. Best of all, some of those jobs have been lifelong hopes made into reality.

I have also been able to minimize the amount of stuff in my home. My daughter has not enjoyed this part of the changes as much. But, I find so much freedom in it. I grew up in a full house. I have many siblings, and that means we had a lot of stuff. Over 14 years of marriage, we had accumulated a lot too. So when I really started to embrace minimalism it was a sigh of relief after years of finding our worth or being overwhelmed with all we had consumed. I am no where near as free of stuff as I would like to be, but taking only an hour to clean my house a day, having space in my home, and knowing that we have what we need but are not overwhelmed are steps in the direction I want to be going.

There are other areas that I haven’t changed as much in-but I’m working on it. One of the main things I’m working on is not letting myself be used. I’m the oldest of 10 children. I was attempting to be a submissive, obedient wife. I was active in the church for decades. I did what I could to serve others but never stopped to ask myself if that is what was best for me. I spent years upon years of my life reminding myself to keep my mouth shut, and do what is asked of me.

Not all churches/families/marriages are like this, but mine was. I learned to always say yes. I learned to put others first all the time no matter what consequences it held for me or my kids. That is still the behavior that follows me and challenges me to this day. I still have a hard time saying no. I, sometimes, still jump when I’m told too, and especially if it comes from specific people. But, I am growing, and learning.

I’ve also seen changes in my parenting. I used to follow the lead of my husband, and before you misunderstand me, He loves his kids, and was a great dad. But I wasn’t the best mom I could be. I always put my husbands wants first, and didn’t give the attention I should have to my kids. I didn’t choose him over them intentionally, but it happened. I really came to recognize this after we split up. I started seeing my son more often, going to lunch and movies with him. I tried to make it to every single sporting event. I am still not sure why I didn’t do this before, other than I was so wrapped up in being a good wife that I forgot how to be a present mom. I had also become my daughter’s caretaker instead of her mom. I did what as needed for her challenging health, but I stopped having fun with her. This is something that being single has allowed me more time for, and as we have faced hard things I have made more time to rest and play with her.

When life changes you can choose to stay stuck in the same cycles or you can adjust and improve. Sometimes you do both in cycles. So today, I am again evaluating what needs to change, what things I have in my life because I want them, and what things are a result of someone else’s influence.

To keep moving forward, you have to keep evaluating. Spend time learning about yourself, what you want, and how to accomplish it. Spend time reading, writing, and letting yourself absorb what you take in. That is how you bring about change.

Keep Fighting : Thoughts On Depression, and Loss

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

There is never a break in the heartache. Sometimes the pain just subsides. But it’s always there. Barely below the surface, and waiting for the protective layer that is starting to scab over to be ripped off again.

Words cut deep. They strike your soul, and rip it apart so that all the pain is exposed and bleeding red.

Life never lets me fully heal

Some people fare better than others. I am not one of those of those people. I catch my breath after a heart beating, and another one begins.

This life can be cruel to those with a fragile heart. And, while I am strong in every other area it is obvious that the inner me, the one that loves, and dreams, and never lets go, is the part of me destined to never be whole.

I never gave up. I saw who he was, and I still believed in him. Now, I see him being the man for her that he never was for me. I can’t keep thinking that he loved me when clearly he didn’t. He broke me. I loved alone, and I lose what I love. It always happens.

I’ve been trying to survive. Waiting, and hoping, but I never had a chance. I’m not okay, and I want to be broken. Being fixed just means I will be broken again. It always happens.

I lose what I love. My soul was intertwined with his, and now it is shattered.

I had a great love. I had a son. I knew who I was, and lived out my days serving in that capacity. Now my love has broken me, and is off healing another. My son is dead, and everything I thought I was has changed.

When your soul goes through the pain of being torn apart, and losing all you love, recovery is a long road. I’m not sure it every stops. You can keep walking it, and hope that in the end you get to somewhere beautiful. But, it is painful, and tragic, and the hardest thing you will ever do. You barely catch your breath, and you want the warmness of giving up. Sometimes laying wrapped in a blanket in the silence is appealing, and you just want to go there.

I am trying to figure out how to keep going. I have a daughter left that needs me, so I don’t have a choice. Becoming emotionally, and mentally strong is a choice. I could give up right where I’m at, and be comfortable in my pain. But, that doesn’t serve anyone well. So I keep going.

I get up in the morning, and I put on clothes. I eat breakfast. I take my meds. I clean my house, and make the meals, and work. I snuggle my daughter, and help her with school. I run my errands, and text my friends, and I do it all because this is living. I don’t always want to, but I always need to.

It may be just going through the motions, but that’s something. Going through the motions will get me to where I need to be. Not today, or this week, or even this month, but eventually.

I know, I will never be the same. Loss does that to a person. It changes them to the core. But, at least I’ll be a person. So many days I wish I could just be a robot. Get my stuff done. Not feel a thing, and have no issues speaking my truth, and sticking to my boundaries. But, that isn’t really living, now is it.

Depression, sadness, and an overwhelming need to be alone in the mess, it all hits me every day. It isn’t a stranger, it is close, and inside me. It is comfortable, and friendly, and it swallows me some days. I know it swallows you too. Find the little things that connect you to life. You will have battle scars. Things that you had to fight though to become who you want to be. You will hurt sometimes, and you will have to fight your way out of it again, and again, and again.

Keep fighting.

Loss Didn’t Make Me Strong: I’m Just A Determined Mother

I’m learning that I will never feel the same. I can never go back. I have lost so much, and no matter how much I have to live for, I will still never feel the same.

I’m more broken than I’ve ever been. But everyone says I’m so strong. I didn’t really get a choice. You don’t when you still have kids left to care for. You either abandon them, or step up no matter how hard it is. That’s the thing most people don’t realize. You don’t always become strong. Sometimes, you just don’t have a choice. You can fake it, you can push through, you can deal with it, but what you cannot always do is choose to be strong. Sometimes, it’s just what has to be done.

My girl still needs me, and will for a long time. So when my husband left, I couldn’t give up. When my home, and life, and work changed because of that, I couldn’t give up. When my body tried to fail me, I couldn’t give up. And when my son died, I still couldn’t give up.

In those moments, I didn’t have a choice. Sometimes, I think that it would be nice to get in bed, and stay there for days, feeling sad. Sometimes, I think it would be nice to have something to numb the emotional pain. Sometimes, I think it would be nice to pick up, and leave my life, and everything that reminds me of what I have lost.

But, I keep going for her. My little girl that doesn’t sleep, and takes things way to literally, and loves to create messes, and talk about Paris, and fashion, and dolls. I keep going because she deserves better than the life she has been dealt, and the only way she is going to have that is if I keep going.

Sometimes, as a parent, you put yourself aside, and you do everything you can to change things for your kids. I have had three children. Two are gone. I will do whatever it takes to give my one remaining baby a chance at the life she wants.

It’s not strength. It’s not being amazing, or powerful, or any of those empty words. I am crushed, and broken, and shattered. I am grieving, and hurting, and angry. But, I am a mother. It is just pure determination to give her more than this. Just because we have lived a life with so much loss does not mean that I will let her whole life be defined by that. That is who I am. No, not everyone responds this way. That’s okay too. I can admit that I occasionally get jealous of the people who can just fall apart.

But, I am determined to give my girl more than that. It’s not strength, it’s just pure determination that she will have more than brokenness in her life.

What Do I Know? (The scariest, most honest thing I have ever written)

I’m scared to share this with you. It’s more open than I usually am. But, last night I was watching videos on Instagram under the hashtag “what do I know” and I was compelled to write my own. I knew I had to share it. I knew I had to be brave enough to be open. I don’t know why, but I know I have to.

So here is what I know….Here is my truth….

I know that grief doesn’t have a timeline, and will never fully go away.

I know that I will fight for everyone but I won’t fight for myself.

I know that loving someone does not mean that they will love you back.

I know that loss changes who I am at my core.

I know that I can’t be my best self when I am surrounded by chaos.

I know that I avoid my feelings because I’m afraid of what they will do to me.

I know that most of my decisions are based out of love, or fear.

I know that I am addicted to coffee, nicotine, and words on pages.

I know that I make lists so I don’t forget things, but also that they are the story of my life, and I’m afraid my life will be forgotten without them.

I know that I give wise advice to others but struggle to speak truth to myself.

I know that I fail a lot, but I can’t ever seem to give up on anything.

I know that I am afraid that one day everyone will have left me.

I know that I am responsible, and hard working.

I know that I hate resting because it feels like giving up.

I know that my love will never heal him, but that I still hope it does.

I know that I believe I failed my son.

I know that I try so hard to contain how crazy I really feel.

I know that I will give up my dreams to make sure my daughter’s dreams happen.

I know that the color black makes me feel confident, and comfortable.

I know that taking pictures makes me feel better.

I know that I will never stop pushing myself to be better, because I am always hard on myself.

I know that books are comforting to me.

I know that I am strong, but that I don’t always want to be.

I know that I have very little physical contact with people, and that most of the time that feels safe to me. But sometimes it just makes me sad.

I know that I am afraid to let people get to close because I think that I will always get my heart shattered.

I know that I have lived through more tragedy than most of the people I have ever known.

I know that I am always completely exhausted in some or most areas of my life.

I know that most of the things I am good at are not a result of talent, but of hours upon hours of hard work, and self discipline.

I know that my life is not at all what I hoped or thought it would be.

I know that I have a very hard time letting go.

I know that I see value in almost everyone, but I still think that I am worthless.

I know this list freaks me out because I know that I have a huge fear of being open, vulnerable-of being seen.

I know what it feels like to hold the hand of someone who just died, and to kiss their cold face.

I know how to plan a funeral for a teenager.

I know how to bake amazing cakes, and breads, but that I also very often forget to eat.

I know how to use tools, change a tire, chop wood, and stamp leather, but also how to plan a party, cook a feast, clean a house, and apply makeup.

I know how to comfort a child, reason with the elderly, and defend my peers, but not how to stand up for myself.

I know how to throw a punch, and how to keep the peace, when to be quiet, and when to be blunt.

I know that I am still learning how to not let myself be used by people who claim to be friends but only take.

I know that I really know very little, and I am still learning to say I don’t know.

Movies At Midnight: Lessons For Lily

We don’t sleep much around here. My daughter has never slept well. The night she was born I started walking the floor. Between the hours of 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. she cried, and cried, and cried, and wouldn’t sleep. Every. Single. Night. We would take shifts. I would walk her, and sing in the evening until her dad got home at 10 and took over. We have been lucky on the nights she sleeps through. As if getting to sleep wasn’t bad enough, she also can’t stay asleep. Several sleep studies, medications, and every wives tale you could think of, and still it’s a difficult thing for her.

I understand. I am fairly nocturnal, although not as much as I used to be. I would stay up until early morning hours to read, write, clean, or work. These days I try to be a little more careful with my body. But it was no surprise that my girl turned out just like me. Every night we take our pills, fill our water, and then she goes to bed, and I work a few hours more. She is usually still up a few hours, but thankfully has gotten better at staying in her bed and winding down.

Tonight she couldn’t get herself to turn off. I always send her back to bed and firmly tell her to try again. I don’t know why this night was different. I don’t know why I needed her to have some good memories of not sleeping. I just kept thinking that if she looks back on her childhood, and all the times she got up, and I just got irritated would be sad.

Why couldn’t I make a few good memories for her too? Why when she looks back does all she have to see is me being firm? There really was no reason whatsoever. If I was firm, and sent her back to bed then she would always remember that. But, I wanted her to be able to someday tell the story about how I gave her a little fun.

So I stopped working. We gathered up all the pillows in the house. We crawled into bed, and put on a movie, and snuggled up. I’m telling you, she was asleep in less than an hour. That’s a pretty good amount of time for us. She calmed down, and closed her eyes, and sleep wasn’t far behind.

She was thrilled when I told her what we were doing. She was so happy that I put her before working. She was happy when I let her watch a movie at midnight, and she is now peacefully asleep.

The memories we make with our kids are often worth more than we know. As adults we get busy, we work a lot, we balance all the balls, and we do so much out of obligation. We often forget to stop, and actually see the tiny humans we are surrounded by. They are learning from us. Their worth, and safety, and perspective are all tied up in what we portray to them in their younger years. If we put everything else before them, we teach them that they aren’t worth as much as work, or obligations. If we push them without any time to be a kid at play or resting, we teach them an unbalanced life that could lead to many health problems. So much of what we do teaches them how to do life. Are we teaching them in a way that we will be okay with later in life?

I wanted to teach my girl tonight that she is worth more to me than work. That she can come to me when things aren’t going the way they should. That sleep, and rest are important, and perhaps not always easy to come by. I wanted to teach her that sometimes it’s okay to have fun, and do something that makes you happy no matter what time it is.

I wanted her to have the memory of movies at midnight.

Retrain Your Brain: Battling The Insecurity In Your Mind

My biggest battles happen in my mind. As a person with anxiety my thought life can be challenging. But, throw in leftover insecurity from a lifetime of feeling like I’m not good enough, and I’m a mess. Add being a single mom to a high needs kiddo, and put all of your financial dependence on weather or not your business succeeds. It all throws some pretty heavy punches toward my thought life.

I spent most of my childhood, and teenage years feeling like I was never good enough. I was the oldest in a large family, and through some very religious years I was overwhelmed with never measuring up. This brought about a strong reaction of anger toward everyone, especially myself.

As a early 20 something I had nothing holding me back. I was happy, in love, and confident that I could accomplish everything I dreamed of. It is the only time in my entire life that I can remember not feeling negatively about myself. A brief calm in the middle of a stormy thought life.

Fast forward a decade, and I was again full of insecurity. My confidence was crushed long before I realized it. I questioned myself constantly. I tried to please others, and felt like a failure if I didn’t seem to measure up. I couldn’t accept anything good from anyone. I was broken down, and couldn’t seem to get back up. It’s taken me years to even start to undo the damage that had been done, by myself, and other people.

Part of being confident is feeling comfortable in the body you are in. I had gained a lot of weight, and gone through some pretty serious health problems. I was not comfortable in my body anymore. It has taken years of careful eating, movement, supplements, and challenging my thinking to even feel okay in my own body. It’s definitely not a daily occurrence. Occasionally though, I will get dressed, put a little effort into my hair and makeup, and feel like a rock star.

The biggest thing about building confidence is changing your thinking. It’s also the hardest thing to do. I felt worthless for a long time, and I still struggle with it today. I let my value be wrapped up in other human’s ever changing opinions of me. It was the worst thing I could have done to myself.

A few nights ago, my daughter had some girls over to paint nails, and watch movies. I overheard one statement that amazed me. It wasn’t said to be applied to life, but it works!

She declared “You are entitled to your opinion, but it doesn’t matter to me. I’m going to do what I want!”

Imagine, if we responded to other’s opinions of us with this statement? How free could we be if we were willing to dismiss someone else’s opinion as just that, their opinion. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider what others have to say, but we don’t have to let it effect us to the degree that most of us do. We have enough of our own thoughts to worry about without adding others thoughts to it.

But, how do we take control of our own thoughts? It takes a lot of redirecting your negative thoughts to more productive ones. It’s not easy. It takes time, work, self control, and a whole new set of statements to change the way you think about yourself.

I’m not one to tape up encouraging post-it notes, or hang fluffy sayings on my wall. But, I do love lists. Making a list of lies vs. truth is part of what keeps my thoughts focused in the right direction. Having a friend to talk through the thoughts when they hit me, and journaling with the intention of getting out the crap, and seeing the truth are also helpful.

Retraining you brain is a lifelong venture. We can’t expect to change our thoughts all at once, or to stay in a good head space once we are there. Work is always required to build a healthy mind, and to keep it that way. The internet is full of hundreds of ways to do that. I encourage you to spend a few minutes to find things that work for you.

The Pain No One Talks About

Today would have been our 15 year anniversary, if we had stayed married.

Our divorce was final 10 months ago. I didn’t want to divorce. I still loved my husband. I thought we would always be together. I was shattered. Almost a year later it still crushes me.

When you get divorced there is this expectation that you are happy to be “free”, or at least that you wanted it. I didn’t. When you get divorced people expect you to move on in a few months. I didn’t. When you get divorced people expect you to put up walls, and stop talking to your ex, and look at building a new future with someone else. I didn’t.

I don’t know that divorce is as cookie cutter as many people make it sound, but I also know that I don’t fit the stereotypical idea of a divorced woman. I have several friends that got divorced around the same time I did. They have all reacted in fairly the same way. I have reacted in the opposite. They have gotten new friends, new clothes, new men, new attitudes about men, and a new lease on life. I didn’t.

I’m okay with responding differently. I am still strong. I am still smart. I am still a hard worker. I am still capable, and resourceful, and creative. I didn’t discover a whole new me, I found the old me. I still have a lot of hangups that need work, and I don’t need to pile on new stuff that might get in the way. I just need to make it through days like this.

Today, on what should have been our anniversary, I have teared up at least a dozen times. I thought about the day we got married. I thought about our song. I thought the night we got together, and many other moments that we had in out years together. I was sad, and angry, and it hurt so much I could feel it physically. I thought about ignoring him all day. I thought about so many things that made up our marriage, and divorce. It was a hard day.

There is nothing that can make this day better. I had to go through it. I couldn’t numb the day away. I couldn’t act like it was just another Wednesday. I had to feel it, so I can move on. The moving on is hard too. But, it starts with letting myself go through the hurtful, hard things to get there.

Maybe you aren’t divorced. Maybe you have something else today that is hard, and painful, and that you really didn’t want to happen. Go through it. Feel it. It won’t kill you, it only feels like it should, then little by little you can let it go. It’s the only way. You can’t reach the other side without letting go. You can’t carry everything with you, it will weigh you down, and you will get stuck. I know, because I still try to get out of the mess without letting go. It doesn’t work. It won’t work unless you let your self feel it so you can put it down. It won’t all happen in one day, or week, or month even.

But, hopefully, some day soon, it won’t hurt as much either.