Lessons Learned


On December 31, I promised a more intimate peek into my life these days. Over the past few years, I have intensely valued my privacy with all things personal. But you’re a blogger. You’re supposed to spill your guts, right?

Not exactly, Einstein.

The beauty of having my own space here on the Internet is that I have final say regarding what I share or do not share. For instance, I wrote an intensely personal post about this past Saturday but chose not to post it because I don’t want to ruin the beauty that was Saturday.

However, I do have something rather personal to share today: I have learned a few lessons over the past few years as I have moved from marriage to divorce to living with my parents again to girlfriend and co-step parent.

Those lessons, in no particular order, follow:

1. Focus on the act, not the response. I am happiest when I am doing for others, particularly when it makes them happy. Service is my language. I realized that for quite some time, instead of focusing on the act of giving/doing, I was focused on the response. When the response was not what I expected, I would become disappointed. Now, however, I work to focus on the actual act of doing/giving. It doesn’t matter what the response is as long as you have done your best with a full and giving heart.

2. It is okay to have emotions. You are human, yes? Not Vulcan or Android. We have emotions and they are all over the place. It is okay to own your emotions. Now, if your emotions are interfering with day-to-day living and causing rifts with others in your life, then they may be worth exploring with a professional. But do not ever let someone make you constantly second guess your emotions and reactions.

3. Take time for yourself. You matter. As I said in a post the other day, it is impossible to fill an empty glass with water from an empty glass. Time for yourself does not have to cost a thing, it is not something which is out of reach unless you make it out of reach. It can be as little as making a favourite tea or coffee. Or watching a favourite show, reading, singing, exercise, sewing, knitting, etc. It’s about doing something that sparks your soul and is an essence of you. Yes, you are a mother, a wife/girlfriend, sister, daughter, cousin, whatever.. but you are also YOU. Remember that and don’t lose yourself in what everyone else requires of you.

4. It is okay to need help. For some reason, we, as women, have been conditioned to not ask for help. In days gone by, women had plenty of help nearby. But with the destruction of the extended family and increased reliance on self, that help has faded into the past. Now, we go online and ask for advice from friends who are nowhere near us geographically. Some of us are fortunate to have friends and family nearby but others are not. Research your area – find the Mom’s group, maybe look into a daycare. Accept help when it is offered. There is no shame in saying yes or giving yourself a little bit of breathing room. If you were in need of oxygen, you’d put on an oxygen mask pretty darn quickly, right? THIS IS JUST LIKE THAT.

5. Laugh loudly, deeply, and often. When things get bad, don’t forget to laugh. Laugh at the inappropriate. Giggle at the ridiculous. Find people who appreciate sarcasm and humour. Befriend them. They will be your light when everything else is pitch dark. Laughter is the best medicine (unless, of course, you have a cracked rib or a weak bladder….then it’s just painful or messy). This, more than any of the other lessons, is what has kept me afloat through all the dark. Laughter. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who was incapable of laughing at themselves or at life. We’re just not here long enough to be serious all the time.

6. Find the beauty in the smallest of things. Take nothing for granted. The smallest moments, the sparkle of snow on a sunny day or a smile from a child – these are the things that stay with you. The best moments don’t happen on Instagram. They happen when we’re simply living. I have learned to unplug and leave the Internet behind because while I adore the friends I have made in the land of the World Wide Web, I love the real people in my life even more and do not want them to ever feel I take them for granted or that they are less important than the people who live inside my computer/phone. A funny thing happens when you take the time to see the beauty in everything – everything becomes beautiful whether it really is or not because it really IS in the eye of the beholder.

7. Be spontaneous. Sometimes, life requires planning. But the best life is lived spontaneously. It’s about saying yes to opportunities in the heat of the moment and following through. It’s about living outside your comfort zone. Life is meant to be lived. I am still working on this one myself but it’s one I really hope to dive fully into this year. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, mind you. It may end up just being a quick trip somewhere to run an errand for the heck of it. Or it may end up being a surprise weekend away. Regardless, spontaneity is about telling the rigors of your daily schedule to go to hell and running with opportunity.

8. Throw yourself into a hobby. For me, my hobby is cooking. Cooking was formerly my escape but now, it’s something I truly adore doing. I love finding new recipes and trying them out. I have cooked more in the past 18 months than I have ever before. Breads, Asian soups, bacon wrapped meatloaf (YUM!) and other various recipes that I’ve discovered or even just made up completely. Picking a new hobby is challenging and gets your creative juices flowing. The bonus to cooking? You get to EAT your creation…and make other people drool over them.

9. Let yourself cry. You would think being okay to cry would belong with “it’s okay to have emotions” but I am separating this one for a reason. As a divorced mom, there are times when I just need to bawl my eyes out because well, there are a LOT of emotions you go through during a divorce. I have found that crying is the one thing that I deny myself. Not just during my divorce, but overall. I have never been much of a crier. But sometimes, you just need to cry to release all the emotions inside. Give yourself permission to do so. I have a few movies which will trigger crying and I am not afraid to use them. (Simon Birch, My Dog Skip, and Hachi are total tearjerkers. I also bawl at Rudy.)

10. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. You are you. Everyone else is not you. Just because someone else who started the process at the same time as you is doing better than you at the same point that you feel everything is falling apart does not mean that you are failing and they are succeeding. All that means is that you are processing things at your speed and they are processing things at their speed. It’s okay to go slower. It’s okay to go faster. Be the best you that you can be and you’ll be just fine.

11. Steep yourself in your faith. Regardless of what your beliefs are, find and connect with like-minded people. For me, this is the Christian faith. People who are members of your faith will know how to respond to any faith-based challenges which may crop up. Sometimes they may be a bit heavy-handed, but if it weren’t for prayer and the faith-strong in my life over the past few years, I honestly do not know if I would have survived. I am eternally grateful.

The Best Part of Peer Support


One of the things I adore most about what I do is getting to know PEOPLE.

I tell you, people, for the most part, are amazing, especially those who are fighting back against the hard.

Their spirits are indefatigable and their hearts are so full of love they long to let spill out. There’s a lot of laughter because laughter is honestly, one of the best medicines out there. So sometimes, we get crazy. Like last night.

Yesterday’s conversations ranged (at least the ones I was involved in) from mini-woolly mammoths to a full on Twitter-sing-a-long of “Part of Your World” with a bunch of fabulous women from the #PPDChat community. Thing is, the sing along was spontaneously inspired because I was watching a program about Mermaids (which, um.. we won’t ever mention again because yeah…).

Bottom line – there’s that tremendous sense of community and silliness.

You KNOW you’ve found your tribe when they inspire you to draw something like this:

PPDChat Woolly Mammoth

Yep. That’s a mini Woolly Mammoth smooshing Velma (intrusive/negative thoughts).

That’s love, people.

Being Me


Growing up female is tricky business. There’s so much we’re expected to do, expected to say, nod, smile, grin, hide the negative, put on your happy face, kiss ass, kick ass, love this because everyone else does and OH MY GOD don’t do that because it’s not lady like.

I’d like to take a second to thank my parents for not raising me to bow down to those around me but instead taking the time to encourage me to question everything, dig deeper, be strong, to foster my desire and passion for writing, and above all else, raising me to be HAPPY.

Sure there are things they wish I was doing instead of what I am doing right now, a vision they probably had for my life but they have always supported me…or at least made me feel supported in whatever I chose as my path.

So for me, when I’m not happy, I have failed. When I’m not myself, I have failed. I haven’t failed when I don’t kiss someone’s ass just because I should. I haven’t failed because I haven’t achieved some sort of materialistic goal. I haven’t failed because things aren’t in some sort of perfect magical sublime order (although my OCD disagrees vehemently with that statement).

Things could be better, sure. I’d really love to be employed. That would rock. But I’m not. What I am is fulfilled. There’s not a paycheck with that, no, but there is peace, happiness, and a strong sense of self. I am doing, right now, exactly what I am meant to be doing.

What anyone happens to think of that does not matter to me.

It doesn’t matter to me that someone thinks I *should* be getting paid. Or that I *should* be doing this or I should have tried harder at that. Wanna know why? That worry is theirs to bear, not mine. That worry is not on my back.

I’ve survived hell more than a few times. Yes, others have gone through worse hells but this one, this one is mine. Filled with potholes of chronic pain, Postpartum Mood Disorders, loss to cancer, addiction of a spouse, a special needs baby, divorce, and the struggle to redefine myself after living an a hostile environment for so very long – an environment which I allowed to completely turn my sense of self inside out.

I’m writing this in response to a post over at Schmutzie’s place entitled “We Can Become Known”. Go read it. I guarantee you’ll be empowered to write a post of your own. If not, it’ll give you something to think about for a bit.

When I was in therapy, one of the TOUGHEST things my therapist asked me was “Do you know who you are? Really know who you are?” Then she challenged me with this beauty…”I don’t think you’ve ever truly shown your true self to anyone, not even to yourself.”

Wow.

You try sitting across from someone who has just said this to you and stay tear-free as you realize, “Fuck. No. I haven’t. FUCK. Who the hell am I???” Yeah. That session rocked my world.

Do I know who I am now?

Yeah, sorta, kinda, okay, maybe not but sorta…um… what was the question? I’ll be figuring out who I am until the second I take my last breath because I believe every experience, every exchange, changes us to a certain extent. Maybe not to our core (although there are those type of experiences out there – trust me – I’ve had a few) but they change us ever so slightly.

For the first time in years, and I do mean, in YEARS, I am comfortable in my own skin. I am comfortable in my own head, in my own soul. I’ve hit the trifecta and baby, can’t nobody stop the trifecta.

The best part of all of this? I’m with someone now who loves me for ME, supports me, and is happy to just BE himself with me. Seriously, y’all.. this is the hollywood ending. I’m not gonna lie and say it’s not work, because it is – but when it’s honest, compassionate, filled with trust, and adorned with love – it’s a hollywood ending even if there is a lot of behind the scenes work.

All that hell I’ve been through makes it worth that much more.

I’m growing bolder in lifting the veil off the person I’ve become over the past two years, figuring out how to translate it all into words which sit on a page (or the Interwebz). Like a giant glacier, I am thawing in the ever-warming world, water oozing into a waiting and welcoming ocean.

I may not be perfect, but I’m me.

And in the words of Amy Poehler (via Tina Fey via Schmutzie’s blog):

“I don’t fucking care if you don’t like it.”
Because I’m done bending over and making people happy just because that’s what the world expects me to do – I’ve never been very good at it anyway.
Besides.
As Laura Thatcher Ulrich once stated, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

Start your day with a #listof3


Last summer, I started doing something on Twitter I’d recommended to new moms fighting battles with Postpartum Depression previously. No, I wasn’t struggling with PPD again (it’s been nearly six years since my last episode), but I was low as I struggled to make sense of the world in the vortex of divorce.

Every morning, among my first tweets, there would be one which read something like this:

“This morning, I’m grateful for: coffee, hiking, and good friends. For what are you grateful? #listof3”

It picked up steam and others in the #ppdchat community (a hashtag based community available 24/7 for support & information and a moderated chat every Monday at 1pm & 830pm ET) began to use the #listof3 tag as well. Then it spread. It’s not a huge community but on mornings when things aren’t going quite well or weeks when I’m in the dark, the #listof3 brightens my day. It also brightens my day to see others randomly using the hashtag in the morning even when I’m not.

There’s a #listof3 for the evenings too – I don’t do it as much – in the evening, list three things which made you laugh (a small smile counts if it’s really dark in your life).

The main goal of this exercise?

To re-purpose your day, point your mind on a positive path, and allow gratefulness to become an intrinsic part of your daily morning routine. As gratefulness entrenches itself in your life, it changes your outlook.

Today, I’m grateful for good food, a good swim, and a good man in my life. For what are YOU grateful? Tell me in the comments!

Whatever Wednesday: My fabulous new anti-oxidant diet


Pssst. Have you heard? There’s a new diet in town and MAN is it sexay!

One part yellow kernel to one part cocoa bean.

Whooooo-weeeeeeee!

I cain’t wait to get this one going!

"Caramel Popcorn drizzled with chocolate" by EdwardKimkuk @flickr. Original photo sourced here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodwood/4835402465/

I’m gonna eat Chocolate Popcorn for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack. I may even adopt the Hobbit habit of Second Breakfast. And Elevensees.

Hell. Tea Time? All over it. Screw cucumber sandwiches. Gimme a giant ball of popcorn slathered in rich dark chocolate please.

Or if I want to be more ladylike, two pieces of popcorn with an M&M smooshed in between them. It’s practically a Ménage à trois of health!

Nom.

I’ll be healthy and svelte in no time, right? Right?

I wonder if I can scrounge up a prescription for Ambien. You know, for mindless trips to the kitchen in the middle of the night. Or wait, is that Lunesta? I can’t remember. I’m too busy day dreaming about a pool full of puffy popcorn coated in a lusty sheen of chocolate. Mmmmmm.

Paula Deen’s got nothing on this new diet. Butter Schmutter, y’all.

Chocolate makes you thinner.

Popcorn is packed with anti-oxidants. Just like chocolate. Which, you know, makes you thinner.

It’s a win-win situation, right?

Especially for Oral-B. Because you know, kernels.