Solid Walls Protect…But Do They Strengthen

I spent a long time being one of those “projects” I was needy, always needed to be reassured and couldn’t live my life alone. The last several years have forced me to find my strength. And finding my strength has had a huge learning curve. Strength comes in many forms. And each strength serves a different purpose. If I took inventory, it would provaly look like the entire inventory on Amazon. Very overwhelming.

My first strength was bricks. Bricks seem so solid. And, well, when you feel like you’re fighting the Big Bad Wolf, the bricks only seemed logical. After all, I had already been spit out by the wolf. I couldn’t let him completely destroy my life. Bricks are strong, but I had to figure out what to do with them. Have you ever bought bricks? You buy them in bulk and they don’t come with instructions. So, I felt the first step was throwing the bricks. I threw bricks at the wolf. I threw bricks at his family. The anger. I let the anger out. I screamed and I cried. I threw bricks at my family. They had no idea what I was going through. I needed to throw bricks and keep everyone at arms length. Words can be harsh and hurtful just like bricks. I used them and became proficient. I needed to be angry. My entire world was turned upside down.

But then, I learned about mortar. With a little mortar you can put the bricks together. Succumb to the fact that the wolf is going to come at you, as well as the other bad stuff. So with mortar, you can make a big wall. A strong wall. What’s amazing about brick walls is that big bad wolves can huff and puff and the wall will remain standing. So there I stood, behind my brick wall, keeping all the bad stuff out. It feels amazing. Huffing and puffing and I am safe. Safe and sound and, well, I am alone. That wall, it keeps everyone out, an it has no windows and no doors. But that was okay. I had learned that it’s not just the big bad wolf I needed to be protected from. It was the entire pack of wolves. So I waited it out. Waited for everyone that was going to hurt me to take their shot. I waited and waited until the huffing and puffing stopped. When it did, I was still stuck behind this wall, and I couldn’t see beyond it. I was alone. There was an emptiness. For someone who has so much emotion, so much love in her heart, emptiness is not a good place to be. Are solid walls really good?

So, I built a window. Just one. I could open it and let my family in. So they would come visit and they had a key to my window and could visit any time they wanted. But my kids, they were little baby wolf cubs and tended to stay close to the big bad wolf. So, they didn’t have a key to that window. I would only let them in sometimes. So, letting family in was wonderful, but being without my immediate family was still making me lonely. We have built an amazing relationship and I love my family so much. But, honestly speaking, it was also a reminder that my immediate family didn’t exist anymore. I needed another window.

So, I built another window. I wasn’t quite sure who I was building it for. Who I was thinking I would let in. But I built it. I joined a group on Facebook thinking I could find some sense of community and just watch it through that window. Not really let anyone in, but see it. But then one of them invited me to dinner, and she and I talked for a few hours. I opened the window a little. The funny thing is, she started working on events, which required me to climb out of that window and go out from behind my wall. I met more people each time I went out. That window seemed to be opening wider and wider.

During that time, I opened another window. I let someone in. I felt like I had to start looking for a man in my life. I needed someone to define me. A need like that will blind you and you won’t see that what you are letting in, is actually a sly fox. But I didn’t see him close that window, and all the other windows behind him, keeping everyone out. I could see my friends and family on the outside, but they are once again, at an arm’s distance. I try to open the windows, but I am being smothered. The windows aren’t enough. I forgot doors. Doors are much easier. But also more dangerous. What if the wolves can work their way in. Doesn’t matter. I take inventory. Strong family, strong friends…we can take on a wolf pack together. They have my back.

So I build a door. Not just any door. I build a huge, sliding glass door. The first thing I did with that door, was sent that fox straight through it, with his tail between his legs. And all my friends and family guarded that door with me. They didn’t have to guard it too long. I became stronger because of my family and friends. I saw how, with their help, I could fight off anything. And I looked out the window and realized, I had been stuck behind this wall for way too long. So, with a lot of help from the people around me, I destroyed the wall. I prefer to be free. I don’t want to be held back by my fear of what’s out there. I want to face those fears and know that I can conquer them because I am not alone anymore. The walls were only letting people trickle in when I allowed it.

There is a vulnerability in knocking that wall down. Sometimes, someone unexpected makes their way to you. I learned that I had everything I needed to be safe from all the bad stuff out there. So, when someone new made his way into my space, I had no walls to protect me, only my tribe of friends and family. I am vulnerable, but not in a bad way. I am open to new feelings, new experiences, because the walls are not there. I can let myself be vulnerable to someone new because the strength I have found with no walls, is like nothing I have ever known before. It doesn’t mean I won’t get it hurt by anything. But I will always have people around me that love me so much. Who are there for me. I won’t have to start from scratch, with bricks and walls with no windows. So I will bask in all my vulnerability and know that my vulnerabilty is really not a weakness. It’s this amazing strength to allow people into my heart, into my life, and reap the benefits of that love. Not because I need it to survive, but because they truly earned a place there. And if they are no longer there, my life will not come to a screetching halt. The strenght I have found will get me through so much…friends who aren’t really friends, difficult work days, money stress, job stress and a broken heart.

So, while solid walls may protect us, they also keep things out that may help protect us even more. Walls create an atmosphere of getting by alone. Bringing those walls down and opening ourselves up, can bring in much more strength than the strongest wall in the world. Because family and friends, well, they are much stronger than any brick you can find.

What’s Your Halloween Costume?

I love Halloween. The idea of dressing up always sounds like fun. However, I don’t usually have much to dress up for. I haven’t been to a Halloween party in years. I get some trick or treaters, but not very many. It’s a shame all this Halloween spirit goes to waste.

When I started working at the distillery, I was pleasantly surprised to get to dress up for Halloween. I went as a voodoo doll. It was a blast. Last year, I ordered a costume, but just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t dress up last year. This year, I made a bold Halloween decision. I have always wanted to dress up in a sexy costume. I have thought about it many times, but never had the confidence to pull it off.

This past year, I have spent a lot of time building up my confidence. I have been very successful. With the help of my friends and family, I have finally started believing that people like me for who I am. They like me no matter what weight I am. They like me no matter how crass my sense of humor is. They like me even when I am feeling down…in fact, they lift me up. They check in on me when I am feeling down. When my crown is crooked, they straighten it.

So, with some amazing friends and a confidence that continues to grow, I decided to be bold. I’m hot! I decided to wear my hot costume and own it.

So, I went as a Hooters Girl. I would never have done this before. I know what my body looks like. But I have learned to own what I have got and be proud of all of it. And guess what, I’ve got the Hooters to pull this one off. I had a blast at the distillery and at the end of my day, I was so proud of myself for having the confidence. You see, it’s still very new to me to have this kind of confidence. But I loved it. How did I do at work you ask?

I’d say I did pretty well. You see, we all have body types that may not fit the “mold”, but that mold is in our heads and haven’t you heard…mold is toxic. So be confident and break out that outfit or costume you have always wanted to wear and own it. Happy Halloween.

New Friends,Old Friends, Girl Friends, Boy Friends

I have learned that being in love doesn’t necessarily make us stronger, or even happier, but having love does. I don’t mean the kind you have from a significant other. I am talking about the love you have from true friendships. The kind that last a lifetime. The kind of friends that include family or feel like family. I didn’t realize I had some of these friends until a few years ago. Friends I grew up with that I still connect with. Friends I may not see or talk to every day, for whom I would drop everything for if they were in need. And they would do the same for me.

I recently had dinner with one of my best friends we have been together since she was born, three days after me. we see each other two or three times a year. and, get this, we live three or four miles away from each other. The truth is, life can get in the way. At dinner, she aplogized for being out of touch. My first thought was, “no need to apologize because I am just as guilty.” We are at different places in life. She is married and has kids at home. I am single and live alone. But that does not make me value our friendship any less. We do less things together, but the love has not changed. And when asked about my best friends growing up, her name always comes up. And my response following that is, “and she is till one of my very best friends.” She is one of those friends that when we get together, we pick right up where we left off. I have a few friends like that, whom I can pick right up with.

I just went camping with another of those friends. We went camping together last weekend. Not glamping, not with an air matress or portable gourmet kitchen. But good old fashioned camping. Sleeping on the ground, cooking on the fire, peeing in the woods and no shower. Yeah, didn’t shower for a day and a half. We played games by the fire, we saw a bear near the campsite, and we fought off yellow jackets. But the weekend was fun anyway. Well, except that I shared my sleeping bag with my 68 pound dog. I think I need to invest in a double sleeping bag so I can share with Marshall. It was amazing to spend the weekend with a friend that I talk to on almost a daily basis, but hardly get to see. We talked about our kids and life. He is one of those friends I have known since high school, but didn’t realize how important he would be in my life until a few years ago. We have seen each other through some tough break ups, tough times raising kids, and exciting times raising kids. We have cried a lot together. I am so grateful that we were able to really reconnect and grow such an amazing friendship.

I have written about my tribe before, but I have been truly blessed to have them in my life. These women came into my life in the last year or two and it’s as if they were always there. When FaceBook pops up and says, “It’s your Friendiversary” I am surprised when it says 1 year, or 2 years. How is that possible? I can’t picture my life withouth these women. There are very few days when we don’t talk. These are the women I turn to when something happens with dating, being a divorced mom or dealing with an ex. I turn to them for so much more, however, they are the ones that completely understand the trials and tribulations of being divorced and single again. We straighten each others’ crowns and speak the truth, even if it hurts sometimes. We do game nights and girls’ weekends. An impromptu text to have a quick lunch during the work day. People always say that the challenges in life are not a sprint, they are like running a marathon. You have to go slow and steady to maintain strength for the full run. These women, they help me sustain my strength. They give me strength. I hope I return that for them. When one of us needs strength, those of us that have it, give it willingly.

I cannot write about friends and people that give you strength without writing about my family. There is absolutely no way I would have gotten through all the things in my life without family. I am, without a doubt, loved beyond belief. I may not always deserve it, I may take it for granted, but I know it’s there and I do know just how blessed I am. My parents have helped me through a divorce, buying a new home, totalling a car, getting a new job, helping me with my dogs and thousands of little things around the house that add up to tons and tons of love. And let’s not forget two surgeries. My mom slept on a little chair after my last surgery so I wasn’t home alone. She helped me shower and had to help me take care of my incisions. Not a pretty job at all. While I may not always show how appreciative I am, I do know exactly how much they do for me and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for them and that I don’t think about how much I love them. And my sister…She has no clue how strong she is. She has been this incredible rock for her family. At the same time as she was being so strong for her family at home, she was helping me through a divorce. She would come to my house late at night and soothe me as I cried myself to sleep. She and I have gone through very different challenges in our lives. I don’t pretend to understand what she has gone through. But I have seen how she has handled it. The grace with which she has handled it all. She has not been through the same challenges as me. But what she offers me is a listening ear. Not suggestions, not a knowledge of what I feel, but someone who accepts me for my challenges and supports me and just hears me. She is too humble to even see the impact she has had on so many lives. Girl, I know you’re reading this. The strength I have found, the strength your family has, it’s you.

I can’t talk about family without talking about my kiddos. So here’s the thing, when I realized divorce was the only option, I knew I wasn’t the only one that would go through it. My kids were going to have to go through it too. Their challenges were going to be very different from mine. I also knew I wouldn’t understand what they were going through. My parents are still together. What I did know, was that they were not going to be burdened with the challenges I faced from the divorce. I was not going to burden them with having to take sides. They should be able to love both me and their dad equally, without having to feel guilty or like they are hurting us. I never wanted them to feel as though they would need to be my rock through this difficult time. I needed to be their mom and love them and get them through their challenges. The kids didn’t talk much about the divorce. I didn’t force it and I tried to always make it clear that I was there for them no matter what. It took me a long time to really be able to look at my relationship with them and appreciate what I have. You see, teenagers are tough. Whether they are part of an intact family, a blended family, or with single parents, they present challenges because they are going through their own challenges, that they are not quite mature enough to handle all the time. I had to learn to not take everything personally. Now, I can gain strength from them too, and they don’t even realize it. When I get a first day of classes picture it melts my heart that they thought of me. When I get a surprise that one of them is home and wants to spend time with me. When they ask me to come to a college game to get that experience, I feel like a million bucks. The phone calls and text exchanges I have with my kids are becoming something I look forward to. I used to walk on eggshells being afraid to say the wrong thing. Now, I can let most things roll right off and not take it personally. I will say, my kids expressed to me a little over a year ago, that they wished I had opened up more to them about the divorce. I don’t know if it is because there dad was very open with them about his feelings, that they needed my “side” to balance it out so they didn’t feel pulled in one direction. I have stood by my choice to not share that with them. That is their dad. I will not say bad things about him to make me feel better. They are welcome to vent to me about him just as they should be able to vent to him about me. However, I will not join in and perpetuate the frustration for my personal gain. It doesn’t help them. I will support them and protect them and be their strength, but I will not talk bad about him to them. In sticking with my morals, I have found such a happiness, and the kids seem truly happy for me. And when I see them enjoying school, I am thrilled for them. Seeing them happy brings me so much joy.

This, this is what I have been craving my entire life. To have such amazing friendships. Everyone is so completely important to me and I am truly blessed to have them all in my life. I can only hope that I bring them even half the joy and strength that they give me. Because of them, I can live my life free from anxiety, free from fear of being hurt by an intimate relationship, without putting up walls. I can be my true self with anyone and I don’t have to give a flying fuck if someone doesn’t like it. I’m surrounded by people who love me and do like me, so others are free to walk away. People may come into my life that make me very happy. And I will not put up walls and I will let them into my life. And I can go into that without fear of getting hurt. Because I know if that happens, I’m surrounded by love, and my entire tribe will pick me up and I will be okay. Having friends is powerful. Probably one of the most powerful super powers. You don’t have to have a lot of friends. You just need to have the ones that will let you be unapologetically you.

Finding a New Tribe

When I first got separated, I suddenly found out all my friends were mutual friends…and most were married. And, I realized how much I had neglected my friendships. I had a wonderful group of women who used to invite me to wineries and to go glamping with them. I always found excuses because I didn’t want to leave my family for a weekend, or even an evening. I regret that decision of giving up some amazing friendships. I still consider these women my friends and love them, but I isolated myself. So, separated and isolated, I was on a journey to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I started with old friends. I was able to reconnect with a few and go out with them some. But I still felt like I didn’t have a tribe, like I really didn’t belong. I joined MeetUp, but never went to anything. I realized I had anxiety about going somewhere with a lot of strangers.

What I really wanted, no needed, was a group of women with whom I could share my feelings, and they would just get it. Women who have understood the roller coaster ride of separation and divorce. Women who know what it’s like to put a smile on your face for your kids, so they don’t see all the tears you shed, and so they never see you as less than the strong woman you want them to know. Women who have to learn how to date again and trust again after a loss of a marriage. But how do you find a group of women like this, and seriously, they would have so much crap going on…how would they get along.

So, on a whim, I thought I would try social media. I didn’t feel like I had any other outlet for meeting people. I happened to find a group for women who were either separated or divorced. It was a nice group and every day the administrator would post very positive messages. Many times,these messages were spot on to how I was feeling. the administrator and I reached out to each other and met up for dinner. I was so excited at the possibilty of a new friend. I never imagined where this would lead.

Not long after meeting this woman, we decided to have a meetup at a local coffee shop. There were only a few of us there, but I could feel something changing. The group of us ranged from someone having been divorced many many years to someone who had only been separated for a matter of a few weeks. I made a couple new friends.

The group continued online and served as a place for great resources and even better support. sometimes, on really bad days, I felt comfortable sharing with the group. I always got support. I didn’t always like what someone said, but I took the advice and used it to better my situation. Eventually, there were more meetups, with a bigger group. Many were the same women, with a few new women to meet each time. It was amazing! We all had very different experiences, yet we all just knew what to say to each other, how to comfort each other. This last year, connecting with these women, has been one of the best experiences. We meet up regularly, as a group. But some of us get together outside the group.

Some of us have been in the dating scene. We all support each other in our endeavors and share our horror stories. There have been times I have laughed so hard I almost peed…okay, maybe I peed a little. But the adventures of dating will be another post.

Christmas, well, we got each other through the holiday. Those of us who did not have our kids on Christmas Day met up for a movie and dinner. We gave each other something to look forward to. We are working on a girls weekend. Something very inexpensive because, well, we are all rebuilding and pinching pennies. But, I cant think of a better group of ladies to spend the weekend with.

So, to my Tribe, thank you all for being so supportive. For lifting me up on days I struggle. Thank you for allowing me to help you through bad days. Thank you for listening to my adventures and sharing yours with me. Thank you for your honesty. But mostly, thank you to all of you for being the type of women to straighten each others’ crowns. Your friendship has been life changing.

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

I always try to go through life with a pretty positive outlook, but sometimes, life can get the best of me. Hey, I can’t be Wonder Woman all the time. But seriously, I just wrote about predicting, preparing and planning for those moments through which we know we are going to struggle. But how do we deal with those slap you in the face moments? What I’ve learned, is that those moments hit me when I am pretty exhausted. As my therapist has told me, I tend to attack life and try to make the most of it, but then I get so tired I crash and burn. So here I am. I’ve spent the last week or so worried about medical test results, working a lot of extra hours, trying to be super excited about dating in a dating world of men who really seem to only want one thing, and trying to figure out when in the heck I’m going to get my Christmas shopping done. Did I mention I haven’t been to the grocery store in 2 weeks. Yep, even a Wonder Woman goes through struggles.

I always say I never want anyone to dull my shine. I try to spread pixie dust wherever I go, however, sometimes I lose all faith and trust, and…well, we know what happens next. No more pixie dust. What next?

How do you hold onto your faith? I grew up going to church on Easter. I didn’t focus too much on my faith in God. I believed, but never questioned, never understood. To be able to see through the eyes of a child again. It wasn’t until after my children were born that I really wanted to explore my faith. Turns out my mom, my sister and I all decided, apart from each other, to start reading through the Bible, at the same time. I started taking Bible studies and going to church. I had a strong faith, stronger than I knew. I suffered from anxiety and learned to turn to God. Faith helped me through some very anxious moments. I felt like I was faithful and strong in that faith. When infidelity rocked my trust to the core, I turned to my pastor and I turned to God. What was wrong with me that I wasn’t good enough for my husband? I had two young children, no job, and no idea how to be on my own. I always said cheating was a deal breaker, but was I strong enough to call it off when faced with it? I wasn’t. I felt trapped, like I had no way out. So, my husband and I went to counseling and worked through everything and worked hard to make our marriage work. I felt like I made it through that dark period in my life with faith. I questioned it, I yelled at God, I was angry. But I was comforted, I was given strength and hope, and I was able to move forward.

After my trust was completely shattered I realized how strong my faith was. I continued with church. I was presented with an amazing job opportunity. Quite frankly, I felt as if the ground work was being laid for me to become a much stronger, more independent woman, should I ever be faced with having to go through life alone.

9 years later, my faith was still strong and it still continued to help me through anxiety. But then it happened. That silly trust thing…again. I had told my husband we would not survive another breach in trust like that. We didn’t. I saw it coming a mile away and I fought it and fought it. My self esteem was already in the shitter (sorry for the language). But let me tell you what infidelity does. It takes that self esteem out of the toilet and sends it all the way to Middle Earth somewhere. The feelings of unimportance, insiginificance, hatred for yourself; they all come to the surface. What was wrong with me? What did I do wrong? And the comparisons, oh the comparisons to the other person. I totally went there for a little while. I cried…I cried until I could barely see because my eyes were so swollen. I would get sick because my nose was so stuffed. My dog, he learned to run when I sobbed. I can remember what my prayers were. I used to pray that God would just take me out of the world and end my suffering. I was tired. I had no fight in me. I felt pathetic. And I felt like I had lost everything.

So, through all this, despite my very glum prayers, I tried to hang on to my faith. My church family was amazing. I continued to go to church, but my in-laws were there. I went for months and sat through services and couldn’t hear a word the pastor was saying, as I spent the entire hour fighting back tears and, yes, sometimes having to walk out in the middle of the service. My friends and my faith were here but I began feeling so abandoned by God. If my faith was so strong, why was he presenting me with challenges that I could not handle? Every week, I thought it would be better. I could be having a great day, but the moment I stepped into the church, I felt empty…even lost. I stopped going. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

It’s been over three years and I have gone back to church. My daughter plays her flute there on occasion and I always love to hear her. When I go back, sometimes it feels like I’m going home. Everyone is so wonderful and so welcoming. But I have yet to feel the comfort of God’s arms wrapped around me. I still talk to God, but I don’t have the confidence that my prayers are heard. I don’t know that my faith in God will ever be restored. At this point, I try to solely rely on my faith in myself. To know that I am strong and kind and that I’m not unimportant or insignificant. I try to go through life seeing the glass half full.

So, this brings us to trust. My trust in people has been completely rocked to the core. When I first started dating I didn’t trust that anything was real. It took a long time for me to find someone with whom I let those walls down. It was amazing! I could be me and I could let myself be vulnerable. Maybe life didn’t have to be so hard. Boy was I wrong. The silliest of arguments and he called it all off. Not only did he call it off, but he attacked my character and said some pretty awful things. So, at this point, I not only lost trust in another human being. I lost trust in my judgment. My red flags were up on our first date, and I let him convince me otherwise. My trust in myself is completely shattered.

But through this, I have some amazing family and friends that have seen me through pretty rough times. They have my back and I do know that. They are my cheering section and during those rough days, I can hear them all clapping their hands and yelling, “I believe, I believe, I believe!” So, I may never fully gain my faith in God, and I may always struggle with trusting myself and my judgment, but my family and friends will ALWAYS make sure I have my pixie dust so that I never, ever lose my sparkle.

“All you need is FAITH, TRUST and a little PIXIE DUST.” – Peter Pan