Chuck it in the F@$k It Bucket

Learning to let go of things that are not meant to be, is one of the most freeing things someone can do.  I was just catching up on FB and read a post by one of my friends.  Her journey of single life started around the same time mine did.  Our journeys are different, but it still resonated with me.  It was a time of reflection.  Exactly what did I chuck in the f@k it bucket.  What are the challenges I faced?  What have I accomplished?

That list is pretty extensive.  It’s a list I am so proud of.   The last 6 years have been such a test for me.  I had never lived on my own before.  I had never really dealt with “grown up” bills on my own. I was fortunate enough to never have needed to work at more than one job, until I lived on my own. At one time, I worked 3 jobs at a time. I had never been on a plane that went over the ocean. I had never made a long road trip on my own with the kids. And I had never realized it was okay to stop putting everyone else first for fear they wouldn’t like me anymore.  And I never thought I would ever, ever, ever, let anyone into my heart, much less my home and my family again. These are some of my greatest challenges, that have turned into some amazing accomplishments. 

I realized I was living a life of fear.  Fear of failure, fear of dying, fear of not being liked, fear of failing.  I was carrying a huge load on my shoulders. Most of us do.  It was time to lighten that load. 

As with many divorces, I had to move.  I live in a pretty expensive county and rent, on my private non-profit salary would have been unaffordable.  Leaving the area was not an option.  My kids are here.  My parents and my sister are here.  That’s my support.  With a lot of help from my superstar mom, I was able to purchase home.  And let me tell you, I love my home.  It’s the perfect size, in the perfect  location.

Bills. Ooooof. No fun at all. I didn’t know what was in our bank account. I had to open my own, to start separating things. It was scary. Taking over bills was not the scariest part. At first, they were split based off income. But, once the house was sold, all my bills were my responsibility. F@!ck it! Let’s do this. Face it head on.

When the kids were born, I quit my job and stayed home with them. I wanted to do that. It was something my mom did for my sister and I and I wanted, and had the luxury to be able to do it, Don’t get me wrong. When I say luxury, that, by no means, means it was a cake walk. It was hard. One of the hardest things in the world. But I never regreted it.

When my youngest started school full time I decided to volunteer for a local non-profit. I never had a clue it would lead me into a job that would be a huge part of my life and a source of strength, for the next 11 years. I had always thought I wouldn’t be able to go back to work. I never got my master’s degree. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anything. But this job, was huge for me. When I moved to my new home, I could afford it, but being single and making friends means going out to meet people. That isn’t always cheap. I met someone that helped me get a job at a local distillery. What fun that was. I met so many new people I learned how to mix some delicious drinks. And I had a blast. But, a friend that had worked at the distillery started running the restaurant at a local golf course and needed help. So I became a cart girl at the course. 7 days a week, I worked, Did I mention my first job was sort of 24/7. I would get calls at all hours and took on call shifts on a regular basis. But, for one summer, I said f@!ck it, I need money to have some fun. So I worked 3 jobs, 7 days a week. It wore me down. Finally, despite knowing I was letting a good friend down, I had to say f@!ck it. I can’t do this anymore. I realized I had to focus on myself. I knew finding someone would not make her life easier and I was really frightened she would be upset with me. Not because she is likee that at all, but because that’s my fear. Letting someone down and them not liking me anymore. But guess what. She definitely still likes me and we are still friends and I adore her.

Did I ever mention a huge fear of flying? When I was married, we had an RV and travelled cross country. If I knew I had to get on a plane, I would have anxiety attacks for months. So, post divorce, my daughter’s flute choir planned a trip to tour the Tuscan region of Italy. F@!ck it! I am getting on a damn plane and flying across the ocean…not just with my daughter, but also with my sister. What an amazing trip. I have blogged about it, so I won’t go into details. But the experience I had, just by letting shit go. What’s next with international travel? I have my fingers crossed for some hiking in the mountains of Austria.

When I first got separated, my daughter’s flute choir was traveling to Orlando to play at Universal. We had all been planning to go, but it turned into me going with the kids and one of my son’s best friends. I said f@ck it. We drove to Disney first, then travelled to Universal. That was a trip I never would have thought I could have done by myself. My son and his friend drove a couple of hours, but I did most of the driving and it was so empowering. To do the parks and the drive with the kids was amazing.

Learning to say what I need to say, and not worry about whether it will make someone not like me has been one of my greatest challenges. I had to fall in love with myself to be able to see what kind of person I am and to be able to let go of people, if they couldn’t accept me for who I am. So…f@!ck it. Here I am. If you don’t like it, you can walk away at any time. If you don’t treat me well, I can walk away at any time. In these last several years I have found that I had an amazing foundation of a support system with my family and a few friends. And then I built onto that foundation with some equally amazing friends. I am surrounded with people who love me for who I am. Whe treat me the way I deserve to be treated. I’ll be honest, some of them don’t always say the easy things. I don’t always like what they say. But they always help me grow. They always encourage me to continue on my path of loving myself.

I dated for a while. Hated it. The dating world sucks. I had learned to live on my own and I found that no one was worthy of letting in. One guy mentioned moving in. I said no and he lost it. F@!ck it! That was scary. So long. So, I stopped looking. Then, one day, a random person completely changed my world. Well not at first. Walls were up. I had someone to hang out with. That enjoyed the same things as me. I told my girlfriends, he’s in a box. He was not going to overflow into my life. After a few months, my girls would laugh when I mentioned the box. It was a super flimsy box. But I spent a lot of time protecting myself. Protecting my heart. But the effort he put into us, just floored me. So, guess what…FUCK IT! Welcome to my heart, welcome to my home, welcome to my family.

Chucking my fears in the f@!ck it bucket has completely opened up my world. I still have fear. Sometimes it gets the best of me. But it is no longer the driving force in my life. Living my best life is the driving force now. It doesn’t come without risks. I know that. I don’t expect my life to be perfect. There are going to be some really hard things in life. In fact, there are challenging, scary things now. But I have the strength, the self-love, and the support to know that I can get through anything life throws at me,

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.

Confidence…a key to success

My new job started a little over a week ago. The onboarding process is exhausting, to say the least. I have been in all day trainings for 4 of the last 6 days. My head has been spinning, but in an amazing way. Starting something new can be so scary. I was worried about whether or not I would know what I was doing. Will I know what to say when a client asks me a questions? Will I know the right resources?

The longer I was in training, the more I realized how much I was going to really like my new position. And, I realized, the approach they take with clients, well, I am very comfortable with it. It’s the approach I have always taken with clients. Turns out, I don’t need someone to teach me how to treat people with dignity. I do that already.

After two days of training, I finally was able to go to my office and get my desk. Can I just say…I love my new office! It is so cozy and spacious. I have an office to myself, yet, people walk by all day long, so I never feel alone. I am surrounded by people.

When I first started, at my previous job, I can remember how nervous I was to even say hello to a client. I was completely intimidated. What if I don’t know the answer to one of their questions? What if I tell someone the wrong thing? And worse, what if someone gets angry with me and yells at me (I hate confrontation)? And…all those things did happen at some point. But I learned that it’s okay. If I can own up to my mistakes, if I can remain calm under pressure, everything will be okay and I will be successful.

So, moving on to my new job. I have been able to carry my entire toolbelt of learning with me. And yesterday, when I was told I was going to be answering the calls for clients seeking services, I never hesitated. I knew I wouldn’t know the answer to everything. I also knew I would give people answers they didn’t necessarily want to hear. But I also knew that I had the tools that made me feel comfortable asking if I could call someone back because I needed to find the answer for them. I also knew that I have learned to have the patience for someone who may be angry with my response. I can remain calm with them and validate their feelings without taking it personally. And, I knew if someone called speaking a different language, I would not panic. I would know exactly how to take the call.

So, how was it? Most calls, I was able to answer with confidence and the ones I didn’t were grateful that rather than giving them the wrong answer, I took the time to get the right one and get back with them. If anyone was upset with my answers, they never yelled and all was calm. Now, working in the mental health field, I am certain that it will not always be calm. But I have realized that if I can go into the day confident with what I know and confident that I can find the answers for what I don’t, the people around me will feel confident as well.

Closing A Chapter

Life is always full of fresh starts.  Sometimes, we don’t always recognize the new beginnings.  They just happen.  Other times, we anticipate them and have time to be afraid of what is next.  I just reached a new chapter in my life that has me both excited and nervous.  After 11 1/2 years, I have made the decision to leave my job at the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.

This job has been such a huge part of my life for so long.  I have grown so much from when I first started working there.  I remember coming in as a volunteer, ready to save the entire world at one time.  Silly me!  In all seriousness, I have eaten, breathed, and slept this job for a very long time.  This has been my passion.  When people ask if I work full time or part time, my response is normally, “Neither, I work most of the time.”  Most of my friends and family see me with my phone firmly attached to me.  Sometimes, it’s two phones.  I have left events and holidays to attend to something at the shelter.  It has been challenging and exciting and amazing!  Nothing can ever compare to what I have learned at this job.  When people ask what I do, they usually don’t quite know what to say at first.  Their next response is, “That must be so rewarding.”  I laugh inside a little.  Working at a shelter, well, rewarding isn’t normally the word I would use.  Sometimes, I have felt like I was living with a rebellious teenager.  Sometimes, it was like I was watching someone run a marathon (I can cheer for them, but cannot get them to that finish line).  Sometimes, it was like being in a room with 100 Dementors.  What people don’t realize is that domestic violence does not come in one size or shape.  Survivors do not come to us and cry and ask our suggestions and follow them to a tee.  Nor do we expect that.

The people I have served for so many years are survivors.  Some may be terrified of everything and others may be angry at the world and come across as mean.  Survival skills come in all forms.  But what always amazes me, is how these individuals have learned to overcome the traumas they have gone through.  They have every right to be bitter and angry.  I don’t normally take it personally when someone verbally attacks me.  While directed at me, it’s usually not about me.  But, there are days you just can’t leave that at work.  Some individuals are just drowning and figuring out how to get out of a depression and they can’t seem to reach the surface.  As an advocate, my job was to support the survivor in the choices he/she/they made.  Sometimes, that came naturally.  Other times, the support was there, but I had to walk away and just cringe.  But as long as I was supportive and nonjudgmental, they knew that if they made wrong choices, they could always reach out for help and would never be made to feel less than the Wonder Women they are.

My daughter’s First Grade teacher used to have keys to success.  The one that always stuck out in my head was “Failure leads to success.”  Thanks Mr. Chandler.  It’s true.  We all make choices and fail sometimes.  However, if my survivors fail, and know they can come to me and I won’t judge, they are not as afraid to try again.  And they may have more failures.  But with continued support, eventually, they find success.  Sometimes the success comes faster, sometimes not.  Patience.

I have learned all about taking things for granted in life.  That my culture is not the only culture.  Cultural sensitivity has become a huge part of my life.  My clients have taught me so much in so many areas about this.  I have learned that while faith may be a very cringeworthy topic of discussion to some, it is very important to me.  While I do not get into faith discussions with my clients, I do find I ask about their faith.  It’s an amazing way to connect and serve my clients in the best way possible.  I can be mindful of set prayer times, dietary needs, connect with faith services a client may be comfortable with, and make sure the safety plans I offer conform with their beliefs.  And I’ve learned that I take what we have in out first world country for granted.  I have had clients that didn’t know what went into a refrigerator or how it worked.  Working with LAWS has forced me to open my eyes and see the entire world, not just what was in my little bubble.

But what most people don’t know about LAWS, is that there are so many amazing people who have worked there and that still work there.  It’s a group of the most amazing and supportive people.  I went through major life changes, and I’m convinced LAWS had a lot to do with my survival.  When I went through my separation and divorce,  I went through the tool bag of survival skills I gave my clients.  I could not be a hypocrite and give up, while encouraging my clients to accept the new life and rise from it.  And my coworkers, well they were amazing.  I was able to lean on them for support.  I survived my divorce with flying colors and found that I had become my own Wonder Woman.  Moving forward and working with clients, I was able to have so much more confidence when talking with them about surviving life changes.  That gives some of them more confidence to make changes.

Moving forward, I will be continue to work with clients and providing assistance.  I look forward to meeting new coworkers and meeting new clients who will teach me even more about myself.  Change is hard, but necessary.  I will always be grateful to everything LAWS gave me to be able to make all the changes in my life.  And for raising me to be Wonder Woman.

Holiday Blues

Holidays can be such a difficult time when you don’t have a partner with whom to share it. For me, I spend Christmas Eve with my kids (who spend most of their time on their phones…snapchatting their dad), my parents and my sister and her family. While it’s always a wonderful family filled day, and I know thay my family makes sure I have extra gifts to open so I’m not sitting around watching everyone else open (Mom, I know you read this, and thank you), there’s still that underlying feeling of being all alone. Even when I have brought a significant other home, it has felt awkward and lonely.

So, when it comes to Christmas shopping, I hate it. I was never good at it before. But now, I do anything and everything to avoid it. This year, I have done all I can online, but I’m still not close to being done. Between holiday parties and work, I have Sunday to get it done. When you are already pretty down about it, dealing with crowds who are feeling pretty similar, is just no fun.

This time can be rough, but we will get through it. One of the tools I use is to count down the days. So, today is Friday. I have 3 days to complete everything before Christmas Eve. If I want to scare myself shitless I can say to myself, “Wow, you don’t have much time.” So, to make myself feel better…I say to myself, “Wow, you don’t have much time.” Wait! Before you think I’ve lost my marbles, hear me out. The first meaning is, holy cow! you have so much to do and so little time. No way will it all be done on time. The second is simply, hey, there’s only 3 mor days for you to worry about this and then you can sit back, relax and enjoy the family time. Yes, the next 3 days are going to be sooooo hectic. But it’s three days. It’s like a really busy work week. I really should get all my holiday shopping done throughout the year, but who am I really kidding. I say that every year, and every year, here I am. So my New Years Resolution is to stop lying to myself and just know I’ll be procrastinating for Christmas again next year.

So, how do I plan to get everything done in the next three days? Simple. Tonight, I’m going to spend it with my girlfriends for a wonderful holiday party. Tomorrow morning, maybe some wrapping of what I have and figuring out what I need. But I work all day tomorrow, so I’ll be gone from around 11:30 am until around 11 pm. So, instead of 3 hectic days, I’m giving myself Sunday. One day to get it all done. But first, I have to go to church to watch my daughter play flute. So…1/2 a day. I won’t be putting on any old big girl panties to tackle Sunday. It’s a day for my Wonder Woman panties.

So. Happy holidays to everyone reading. I hope that even if the holiday season is a tough time for you, you can choose to look at the positive and realize you are so close that you can soon get to a time where you can relax.