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.

How Poetry Is Saving Me

Almost every young girl that sees herself as a writer becomes a poet at some point in her life. For me, that was 17, and full of emotions that I didn’t know how to pin down without rhyming. My poems were moody, and ever changing, but they were also an outlet for how I was feeling.

I am now 34, divorced after a 15 year relationship, barren, a single mom for a special needs child, a mom of two children dead, a questioning Christian, a striving minimalist, and a business owner. Life has not been easy, or kind, and poetry is again a balm for my soul.

I listen to spoken word poets, I read books filled with rhyming words that soothe my soul, and set it on fire. I sink deep into words that are comforting, and understandable. I never thought that I would go back to poetry, but now I drink it in again. I can see that I have become dehydrated by the struggle that has been my life, and I need to be quenched by souls that relate to mine.

I have always had a love for words. Growing up, I was likely found in a tree, or a corner with a new book every day. The world around me was not always kind, and I wanted an escape. Words were my escape.

After my divorce, I wrote all the time. I filled journals, and blog posts, and little papers scattered about with my thoughts, my dreams, my fears, and my hopes. Words came out in ink, and filled pages with the pain of reality, and the hope of fantasy. Lists became my life. I had a list for everything, and I do mean everything.

Then my son died, my words dried up. I didn’t know what to say. What could you say when your heart was bleeding so profusely? I tried to write. I tried to make words into sentences that I could hit publish on. But, nothing seemed right, or good enough. Nothing made sense. It wasn’t right, because my world was all wrong. When you love someone so deeply, marriage shouldn’t end. When your 17 year old baby boy dies suddenly it’s not right to never hug him again. When the little girl you begged God to give you spends more time feeling frustrated, and going to therapies than being a little girl, you think about how you should be playing at the park, instead of filling out paperwork for yet another doctor. And when your body fails to preform the way it should, your world is not right.

So my words stopped. Everything spins so fast when it’s all crashing down around you. When you feel like Alice, falling down a hole, you try to grab at whatever you recognize. There was nothing about my life that I could recognize. So the words stopped.

Poetry started showing up in my news feed. It was suggested in ads. It was there on the library shelves staring back at me. So I picked it up. I read a few lines, and my brain begged for more. Give me more words that feed my soul. Give me more people that understand. Give me more pictures in my mind of what I had been feeling.

I drank in the words, slowly at first. Then I searched for more. My soul is still twisted with all of the pain, but a little bit at a time, the words are saving me. And I am finding that the more I drink, the more I am filled, and I start to hope that one day my own words will come again.

Looking For Myself When I Break

Cameron Brick

Note: I wrote this almost two weeks ago, and it is still a daily struggle. But I hope through sharing it that you will relate.

I haven’t been myself in a very long time. I became who I thought he wanted me to be. The ironic thing is, when I changed he didn’t want me anymore. He wanted someone else. And in the process I lost myself.

I lost my ability to say no. I lost that part of me that didn’t take any shit. I lost the part of me that said that I am worth standing up for. I lost the idea of who I wanted me to be. I lost the edge, and the beauty of being a soul who speaks her mind, and became someone who just let things happen to her. And I became someone who didn’t like being alone with herself.

I miss him, and I miss what we had, but tonight I needed more. I have needed someone to be there and hold me, and talk to me about the bad things happening, and tell me it was all going to be okay. I lost the ability to do that for myself.

I broke tonight. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand the pictures he was showing off of his new kids, or that he said he was talking to his girlfriend. He said it to me. A woman should never have to hear those words from the man she thought she would spend forever with. It was harsh and cruel.

I broke tonight when the crowd was on their feet cheering, and encouraging the boys on the field, because my son wasn’t out there any more. I look for him, and I don’t see him. I know that I won’t. He died. I saw it myself, when I identified his body. But I still look and hope to see him, and then I plummet into sadness, and heartbreak.

I broke today when we had to meet with the funeral home director to collect the death certificates, and copies of donation checks, and his ashes. When we realized what had caused the accident, and we all felt responsible in some way, I broke. I listened as his biological mom talked about all the grief she is going through, and I could say “ me too” for everything she said, but because I didn’t give birth to him, so my grief wasn’t validated.

I broke when the man who I married years ago was supposed to be there and didn’t show up. Because that meant that I was there without any support or back up. I was fighting for myself, and still collecting what he needed, and I was doing it without him. More broken promises.

I broke when a friend showed up to watch the game with him, and I was left out. He was my friend too. He had become my brother. He said those words, and yet I wasn’t a part of the conversation, the friendship, the bond that they still had was cut off from me, and I broke.

I broke as I held my dead son’s cousin while we buried her baby this morning. Another baby gone. Another mother crying out for her baby to come back to her. Another heart that will never be the same.

I broke when people that I had come to love had only harsh words to say. I broke when people that once knew me best, didn’t even see that I was not okay. I broke when I thought of all the loss I have had, and wondered what would be next. In 5 months I lost my husband to divorce. I lost my son to death. And all I am left with is my daughter. I worry what will happen to her.

And I lost myself. How could I still even have anything left of myself with all the brokenness? When your heart breaks into so many pieces how is it even possible to have anything left of yourself?

I broke. I did not explode. I wanted too. I did not stop living. I’ve wanted too. I just walked away. I needed out so badly. I needed away from all of the pain. I needed my husband to love me. I needed my son to hug me. I needed to not hear the cries of a childless mother. I needed to not hear the anger of a broken bio mom. I needed to not see the pictures of him with his new family. I need out. So I ran.

I stood up, and walked out. The game was ending. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I talked to a friend. She knew I was shutting down. I said that I was going to explode or go silent. She said I need out

I work all the time. I know that isn’t totally true, but I do work hard. I have too. I am now a single mom. The only child I have left alive is high needs. I have to educate her. Take her to all of her many appointments, and help her through all of this grief. I have to work to keep her warm, and fed, and clothed. And I still try to be a fun mom, and make her life better.

But tonight I broke. So I went to the place where my son died. It is the only place we can go to feel near him. Then I reverted 20 years. I drove fast. I drove back roads. I blasted Puddle Of Mudd. I sat in my cold car with a coffee and a pack of camels. I wrote on the side of the road. And slowly, after two hours, I started to feel okay. I started to feel like me.

Am I still mad? Yes. Am I still sad? Yes. Am I still broken? Hell yes. But it helped. I took myself back to a time where I listened to Alt rock, and drove fast, and wrote in the cold with my smokes, and coffee instead of going home to dive right into work.

When I did get home I put on baggy clothes, crawled into bed, and wrote some more. I grabbed books that have nothing to do with building a business, or eating healthy, or education. I grabbed a magazine, and a novel. I grabbed the laptop and music.

I need me. I need to find me again. It probably won’t always be in a Puddle Of Mudd song. But I have to try. Because for the first time in a long time I don’t feel quite so bottled up and stuck in who I tried so hard to be I felt like me. The girl that likes loud music, and fast cars. The girl that needs space to drive, and sit, and write, and be angry.

Parenting After Death

When a child dies, in some ways a parent does too. The hopes you had. The dreams you listened too. The plans you made with them for a future, and a life all of their own. They all die.

Losing a child of any age is horrific. I lost a baby in early pregnancy. It was horrible, and left damaging scars on my family. But, when you have come to know your child, you watch them grow, you see their smile, and you hold them tight….the damage is worse. I didn’t know that it could be, but it is.

I will never get to feel his strong arms hug me again. I will never get to see his beautiful smile again. I will never get to listen to him call me mom ever again. I will never get the late night talks, or midday texts. The pain in those lost things is heart wrenching.

I think of graduation, and college, and marriage, and babies, and jobs, and dreams I will never get to see with him. It almost immobilizes me. Parenting a dead child is the worst. You go out to the place you feel most connected to them. You watch their friends go on with the life that they were supposed to live. You wake up, and go to bed wondering what you are supposed to do with all the parenting you have left and can’t use for them. Even if you have other children there is a void that you just can’t fill.

People ask you how many kids you have, and you stumble because you don’t want to make things weird. People don’t know that you have parented a child so old when you give advice. People don’t know if they should say something or say nothing when they see you at the coffee shop, so they give you looks of pity, and hugs, and you love them for trying.

When you are parent with out your child the world looks different. I experienced this to some degree when I went through years of infertility, and again now. People complain about their own kids (and I’m not above complaining about mine) But you know the ones I’m talking about? The ones who probably should have stopped several kids ago, or maybe gotten a dog instead? Or there are the people that just can not, and will not get their shit together. Now I understand that some of these people have real reasons, I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the ones who just sit around, and leach off of other people. Hello, you were given a life! Live it already!

When you know that your child will not get the opportunity to live a long life it makes every thing just a little bit more harsh, or more beautiful. There doesn’t seem to be much of middle ground right now. So I look at my life, and what needs to change. How to move forward, asking what would I teach him about something like this.

Live.

Cookies For Cameron

 

I panicked a few days ago. I worried that I had never made cookies for my son. I text my ex husband and asked him. He couldn’t remember either. I was heartbroken and distraught. What if I had never made him cookies? Every mom should make their kids cookies. There is something special about your mom making you cookies.

My mom made me cookies when I was sick. She would put my sister and I on the couch and bury us in blankets, and then we would watch Bed Knobs and Broom Sticks, and drink hot totties, and she would make us fresh warm cookies. It made me feel so loved. That’s what mom’s do. But, I can’t remember if I ever did.

My mind raced to questions like “What if I failed him?” To me, not making my kid cookies was failure. I started to worry then about all the things I might not have done for him. Did I read to him? Did I take him to the park? Did I watch his favorite movie with him? Did I listen when he was hurting or confused? Did I love on him when he was sick? Did I do a good job at teaching him to be kind, and to love well?

I know I did. I can think of times when I have done each of these things. Except I can’t remember anything about damn cookies. But the rest of it…..I know I did it. Yet, I panic. What if it wasn’t enough? What if he didn’t know that I loved him as much as I did? What if, what if, what if…..

It’s the what if’s that I can’t dwell on. I can’t go there. I can’t think about them. They will immobilize me. I know that I did the best I could. I know that he knew my heart. Now it’s time to focus on what I do have left. It’s time to focus on my daughter.

Since my ex husband and I split up I have woke up so many days thinking about him. I redirect my mind by telling myself to focus on my kids, and work. This morning that was especially hard. I woke up thinking about life with my ex, and about how he is now getting some of the things that he wanted, things he couldn’t get with me. I was feeling alone, as I do most of the time now, so I thought-focus on the kids. My brain corrected myself to KID. You have one kid now. Focus on that kid.

My daughter needs a lot of care. Now that her brother is gone she needs more. She told me yesterday that with the split/divorce and then her brother dying the last two years bombed. I don’t want her to feel that way about her whole life. I want her to dream. I want her to grow. I want her to learn through tragedy, not stay in it. But, it’s hard. It’s hard as an adult, let alone a child.

I rarely make cookies, but my daughter enjoys them. Being gluten free makes cookies a little bit harder to do well. But, I want to try. I want to give her a chance to enjoy life, to enjoy the little things. to learn to live life, not stop. So I write schedules, and budgets, and make plans to live life.

And I ask my daughter to make cookies for Cameron with me.