Blending

Life is a roller coaster.  Nothing is ever the same.  One moment, you’re enjoying vacations with your family, the next, your divorced, then you learn to love yourself and be completely content with living life with your family and friends and knowing you are not alone, even without a significant other.  And then, you meet someone, unexpectedly.  Life is filled with twists and turns, and sometimes even a loop-de-loop.  I have learned to raise my hands high and enjoy the roller coaster. 

So let’s chat about blended families.  Most of my girlfriends have younger kids.  The decision to introduce someone to the kids is huge, and you want to be careful with the kiddos of who you introduce.   With older kids, it’s a bit different.  My kids are only home during college breaks and the summer.  I really didn’t have to worry too much about introductions for a while.  But, one day, my daughter met him on accident.  He was trying to get out the door before she got home, but we were just enjoying chatting and lost track of time.  They met briefly.  It took a long time for me to really let him in and have her join us for dinner.  But once the meetings were intentional, I knew I had really let my walls down. 

I met his son too.  When he allowed us to meet, I knew he was letting his walls down too.  The intention of introductions to your kids feels huge.  There is the idea that you are that important that they want to share you with the most important people in their life.  Eventually, he met my son and I met his daughter.  Let the blending begin. 

When he moved in, he gave me phone numbers for his kids and his sisters, for emergencies.  I did the same for him.  I was really careful to not use them.  Blending and introducing young kids, I’m sure is super scary and challenging.  You have questions such is discipline and when to have sleep overs and leaving kids alone with the significant other and telling the other parent.  But, it’s difficult with adult children also.  Our kids have been so accepting.  That has not been a challenge at all.  We are both so fortunate to have children that want nothing more than to see their parents happy.  I love that about my kids and I love that about his kids.  But, my kids have a step mom (I have written about steps before), and she has never stepped on my toes as a mom.  Our kids are adults and they all have both their parents.  His kids have a mom.  My kids have a dad.  The challenge is to make sure the kids know you are not there to replace anyone.

I am someone who is in their lives because I love their dad to bits.  The three of us have a common desire, and that is to see their dad happy and smiling.  For that, I am so grateful to them.  I have no intentions of stepping on their toes.  I don’t need to be a mother to them.  They have a mom.  I would never want to replace that.  Just as I would never want someone to step in and replace me as a mom.  I will be there for them and be excited for their successes and want to support them through challenges, but when it comes to advice, I am here if they want it, but will never push anything on them. 

Meeting family has been amazing also.  My family has welcomed him with open arms.  They had been dying to meet the man that has put a smile on my face and allowed me to be completely myself.  It’s always scary introducing someone to the family.  But they love that he makes me happy. 

A month ago I went with him and his daughter and grandson to meet his sisters.  They were so completely welcoming.  They loved seeing their brother happy.  And to hear him talk about me, about the little notes I hide for him every morning, they could see his face light up.  His sisters and their families are amazing.  I loved hearing about their parents and growing up.  They pulled out family albums.  I just felt like I belonged.  We went to celebrate their father’s birthday.  The first birthday since he passed away.  I wanted to make sure I was respectful of that.  I stepped back from family pictures, so they could have their family moments.  They pulled me right in anyway. Blending…

Our families have not met, but we continue to grow together as a family unit. We continue to blend and I am loving every moment of it. I look forward to building relationships with his family and watching him build relationships with mine.

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,

Steps…Hard Work but Beautiful Views

Have you ever climbed the steps to the top of a lighthouse? It is really tough climbing those steps. But when you get to the top, the views are beautiful. But those are not the steps I am writing about today.

Most of my girlfriends are divorced. The idea of their exes bringing a new woman into the lives of their children is scary. Every experience is different, but I can share mine…

I can remember when I came to terms with the fact that this new person was in my ex’s life, and would be in my kids’ lives. I can’t lie. I was angry, hurt, scared. How is it fair that some stranger gets to spend half of my kids’ lives with them? I am their mom. It is unfair that I only see them half the time. I was hurt that my kids accepted her into their lives. I was scared they would love her more, and forget I was their mom. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face.

I can also remember when she first started coming to watch my kids play sports. It was the hardest thing in the world. I would sit in the bleachers, quietly, with tears in my eyes. When my daughter would look up to her, in the stands, my heart sank. I felt like I was losing her. Like my fears were becoming reality.

My daughter started coming to the house with cute new clothes. Was she taking her shopping? It broke my heart to think another woman was taking on a maternal role for my kids. It was probably the scariest thing I have ever faced.

My first step to acceptance, being grateful that she was coming to support my kids in their sports. She must like my kids to bring her very young daughter out, close to bed time, to support my kids. My daughter, looking at her in the stands, means my daughter feels loved. It was a step forward.

But then my daughter said it…she called her her stepmom (they weren’t even married yet), and she called her daughter, her sister. Honestly speaking, those words were so hard to hear. The fear started sinking in again. I mean, the word mom is in stepmom, so I was being replaced, right? My insecurities said yes. It was time to regroup.

I had to step back and realize, I was in rough shape. I wasn’t capbable of having a meaningful relationship. It was clear in my insecurites when dating. All my baggage was stopping me from opening up to anyone. It was the same with my kids. My insecurity was toxic. I cried a lot. My kids had a hard time seeing me so unhappy. It was never supposed to be their job to make me happy. That was something only I could do.

At the time, I relied so much on my parents and my sister and her family. I really didn’t have anyone else. I had friends at work who I could talk with openly, but when I did talk, I would cry, and that was not condusive for working. So, I found some girlfriends…nope, a tribe. A group of other divorced women who were going through or had been through this. These friendships were so fulfilling. They brought happiness to my life. I had to step out of my comfort zone to meet them and I had to open my heart to trust them. But the reward was true happiness. I became a different person….

I became a person my kids felt comfortable to be around again. I become fun. I smiled, I laughed. By this time, my kids were both in college. But I could look back and see, I never lost them. They never replaced me. What I learned was that they did not have to replace me. Someone new was brought into their lives who respected me, as their mother. I can remember my daughter’s graduation party. Her little sister was so excited to meet her mom. Kids are funny. They can’t pretend. So, when she was so excited to meet me, and gave me an adoring look, my heart melted. All this fear of being replaced was silly. Not only was I not being replaced, but I was very much a part of my daughter’s life and the life of her sister. Not because she knew who I was, but because I was a special place where her big sister would go for a few nights. And the look she gave me, told me she felt it was a happy place. It felt pretty special.

When my daughter was struggling, emotionally, with her Lyme, it was her stepmom that had connections in State College to get her the help she needed. The reality was, my kids didn’t just have someone new around them. They had her, her daughter and family and friends around them. More people to love my kids. More people to look out for them. And I am so grateful to her for what she has given to them.

I have had friends that are in the same boat as I am. Thrilled for the kids to have someone new in their lives that loves them. Others are still coming to terms with it and still frightened. The climb up those steps is a long hard climb, but if the steps are right and you can figure out how to get to the top, believe me, those Steps can lead to something beautiful.

Life In the Fast Lane

One thing I have learned from my divorce is that I am an extrovert. I love being around people. Don’t get me wrong. I love my space too. But being around others just brings me joy.

I love going out with my friends or hanging out with them at their house or mine. I love visiting with family and going in the pool or relaxing. I love spending time with my guy playing golf or poker or date night. And I love when my kids come over and just fill my house with sweet noise. Given the opportunity, I will get up very early and go to bed extremely late to enjoy the people in my life.

But here’s the thing…being active like that, it doesn’t always like me. For instance, last week, I had been going all week. I completely crashed and burned last Monday into Tuesday. I was so exhausted, I forgot all my coping skills. But it’s not just about crashing because I am so tired. I get so busy, that I forget how to enjoy being alone. How to enjoy time to myself. This is supposed to be calming and enjoyable. I can watch what I want on tv. I can sit around on my couch with no pants on. I can talk to myself. I can sing at the top of my lungs and dance around my kitchen (my neighbors probably think I am weird). I love doing these things, but when I live my life in the fast lane, and never stop, I forget how important that time is.

If someone asked me 5 or 6 years ago if I thought my life would ever be this full, I would have said, “absolutely not!” I was a total couch potato. Always watching tv or sitting in my craft room. I was a total fuddy duddy. I learned to really just take life and run with it, and run and run and run and run and CRASH.

But, this week, I realized, I am not alone in keeping busy and forgetting how to be alone. It’s been a tough week for a few people in my life this week. Whether it is going out to avoid being home, or running around always taking care of other people just to be able to not respond to the bad in our lives. It’s really hard to face things that aren’t going your way.

I have surrounded myself with warriors. If you are in my life, know that I think that about you. Whatever your battle is, you have faced it head on and may have other battles you are gearing up for. This is one of our missions. Take some time to be alone. Think about what you enjoy doing alone. Embrace that down time. Love ourselves and enjoy being with ourselves. We are such strong people. Learn a new craft, enjoy a book, exercise, start cooking. Enjoy life in the slow lane sometimes. You don’t have to stay there. Start slow. Maybe just plan a weeknight where you can relax. Make a plan of what you will do. Start adding tv shows or movies to your Streaming cue. By some yarn and hooks so when the evening comes, you have something to do. A drink….don’t forget a good drink. It’s absolutely okay to drink alone. After all, think of it as a date. A date with your biggest love…You.

Some Days, I am a Porcupine

Life can deal you a pretty crappy hand sometimes. I was having a fantastic week, a little exhausted from a fun weekend, but still fantastic. Then, it hit. I left work yesterday, excited for a day off, playing golf with one of my favorite people. Days with him are always amazing. I got to my car and a flat tire. I was doing okay. Got roadside assistance and was able to take my car to the shop. They didn’t have the tires needed. Okay, I was offered cars. I was able to find a ride. But I was starting to feel overwhelmed. I wanted to be home early and get some much needed sleep. I was way overtired. It was already 7 PM.

Miscommunications and misunderstandings on my part led me to not have a car. Which led to lots of feelings. Mainly, the feeling of being alone. Since COVID became a thing, I have felt alone. It’s wonderful to see family. But there’s no more freedom. Wearing a mask stinks. I hate that feeling of not getting enough air. Of being really hot. But it’s most important to protect the ones I love. But watching everyone sit with their family, while I sit at a table alone, it’s just a reminder that I am alone. Normally, I can laugh and joke about it (doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt). But exhaustion changes everything.

I become a complete porcupine. My quills go up and I push everyone away. I’m a jerk. And I am a jerk to the people closest to me. I’m sorry for that. If anyone tries to be nice, my quills get shot out. I want to be alone. I want to push people away. And then, I back pedal. I regret it and I’m sorry for how I acted. But, when I apologize, I minimize my feelings of aloneness. Just because I’m sorry…just because I’ve gotten past it…doesn’t mean those feelings are gone. It just means I have tucked them away for another day where I am exhausted.

I am so blessed to have friends and family I can call on when I need them. In these times, it’s hard. The people I love don’t need to be put at risk and there will always be a bit of hesitation. But I know they want to help. I’m grateful that I have people that teach me that I really don’t need to be a porcupine. I know I don’t. And I try to work really hard on that. But, when I’m exhausted, I lose sight of all the things I’ve learned in the last few years. I can’t see past this insecure person I used to be. Old habits die hard.

To my mom, my sister and my favorite golf partner, I’m sorry for pushing you away and being a jerk. I’m so thankful to have all of you in my life and even more grateful that you recognize that I’m not really a porcupine. In fact, when it seems like I am shooting out quills, that’s probably when I need you the most. When I push you away, it’s not a test and it’s not meant to hurt you ever. It’s me hurting myself because my insecurities come flooding back. And I don’t want you to see that I’m not always that Wonder Woman I worked so hard to become.

Unconditional Love…No Strings Attached

Those words…I think everyone longs to have that unconditional love.  But what does it mean to give it?  What does it mean to love someone so much that nothing can make you stop loving them?

I will never be able to say that I love perfectly.  But, unconditional love…many of us do that every day.  And it’s hard, when you love someone that can’t seem to receive it most of the time.  When you love someone that seems to dismiss the love you give.  Who doesn’t realize that the pain doesn’t come from horrible words spoken.  It comes from being dismissed.  It comes from using the things you love as weapons.  There are highs, when the love you give is received and even reciprocated for a brief moment.  But then, the you get kicked again. 

My hope is that my unconditional love is known and that I am the safe person.  Able to dismiss because the love I give will always be there.  I need to be dismissed, because the need to impress others, fight for the love of others is the most important thing right now.  Or maybe only one side of the story is known, and because I won’t share my side, there is anger. 

But the thing with unconditional love is that you can give it, but you don’t have to lie down and take the hurt.  You can stand up for yourself.  You can dish out tough love, let them know you are hurt.  Be willing for them to walk away.  And, through that pain, you can still find that sparkle.

Why is sparkle so important?  Well, that’s the source for unconditional love.  If you don’t sparkle, it is going to be so hard to not be a victim, but to accept the circumstances and try not to take it personally.  I can be kind, yet firm. At the end of the day, no matter how far gone, I will always be here to give you love, when you are ready to receive it, and to accept your love, when you are ready to give it. So, I won’t ask to spend time with you, not because I don’t want to see you (I have tried asking), but because I am tired of the rejection. I won’t call or text to see how your day was, because there is never usually a response. But, will message you every day to tell you I love you. I won’t expect much, as I have learned that only gets me hurt. But it is more so you know that when you are ready to give and receive love, I will still be here. I have always been here. I have always loved you, even though sometimes it has been from afar. I will always love you.

Forgotten Purpose

I promise, this is not another pity party post. The last one was doom and gloom. We are all suffering through this pandemic. Social distancing and isolation (alone or with family) are tests of our spirit. Being told to stay home is difficult. My first thought was home projects. But, that requires trips to Walmart or Home Depot or Lowes. At some point, that may be essential to my sanity, but I am just not there yet, to take that risk. So, when I am home, I do some cleaning, but mostly, I stream shows and movies. And I think, there has to be more purpose to my life right now than watching TV and doing puzzles. This was a conversation I had with my girlfriends the other day, in our group chat.

One of the asked if we all felt we were losing a sense of purpose. The monotany of being home. Waking up and doing the same thing that day as you have done the past 30 days makes it difficult to see the point. But, another woman spoke up with, “just curious what you felt your purpose was when things were normal.” Wow!!!! It’s not a question I visited daily. Yes, I have thought about the things I have done in my life and thought about it. But, what this made me do is revisit what I was living my life for prior to all this.

What I learned is that what I saw as my purpose was on a much larger scale. It was very broad. For a living, I help people. I provide them comfort when they are seeking help for mental illness or substance abuse. I am a mother and a friend. I support the people I love. I did have a sense of purpose. And how are those things different than now?

For starters, I feel like I don’t always have the ability to support the people I love. We are all going through such different emotions. When I am down, I know I don’t have the capacity to actively help someone through their emotional valley. Not because I don’t care, but because I am clawing my way out too. Loss of purpose. I am considered essential at work, however, I can no longer see clients face to face and right now, very few people are calling in. The connection is not the same. Loss of purpose. My kids are in their house up in State College. I don’t hear from them very often at all. Loss of purpose. Dinners, game nights, drinks, dates (human connection)…all gone. Loss of purpose. But, are all these things really a loss of purpose, or do I need to rethink how broad my thoughts on purpose are?

Another friend very wisely said, “I have definitely had days where I had to go even smaller scale.  When you’re really challenged, and finding too many days of doing nothing, just say to yourself, what is my purpose today? Or before bed, on a bad day, plan your purpose for tomorrow.  Make it small and easily achievable, then build on it.” I have spent years working with clients and telling them to break their goals down to smaller ones. But I couldn’t see it for myself. I needed someone to tell me.

So, I have started breaking it down. What a difference that has made. Also, I have to remind myself that to carry out my purpose it may look different than a month ago. But the purpose is still there. So today, my purpose is to work from home and help those who reach out. I can also reach out to others, but sharing with all of you. My purpose as mom is to reach out to my daughter, who is celebrating her 20th birthday today. To make sure she knows that even though there are stay home regulations, just because she is out of sight, she is never out of my mind. I will reach out to my loved ones and make sure everyone is doing okay. I have a plan to do an online Zumba class, to stay healthy.

Our purpose is way bigger than today, or tomorrow or even this month. But, during a time like this, or any other time, when it’s hard to see the big picture, break it down. You do have a purpose, things may seem mundane right now, but they are not hopeless. We are not the first to go through quarantine like this. But we are the first to be fortunate enough to continue to have outside communication, with all the technology we have. I have learned that web meetings and video happy hours are absolutely no replacement for human contact. But that is what we have for now, and we are not alone in that. Our purpose, is to make the most of what we have right now. Learn from it. Take care of ourselves and to make sure the people around us are okay, when we have the capacity to do that. Be kind to yourself. If the day is bad, let others take care of you. That is still a purpose. People want to be needed. So, if you are down, you may just be helping someone else with there sense of purpose too.

So, be kind to yourselves and take care of yourselves. Stay home, stay safe. I cannot wait to see everyone when we come through this.

A New Year, A New Decade…Living My Best Life

Not only do we have the clean slate of a new year, it’s a double whammy! A new decade. How were the 2010’s for you? I certainly haven’t kept the last 5 years a secret from anyone. The first five were unhappy. The next 3 seemed pretty unhappy, but were actually years of strength building…training for a marathon, if you will. The last 2 have definitely been so much better. But I have still been working on my strength training for that marathon. What kind of marathon, you ask? The Decade of Happiness.

This decade, I want to live my best life. This is going to be my Roaring ’20s. I have turned a huge corner, and this past year has been mind blowing…setting me up for the best years to come. The year started with a bang. I left my job of 11 years for a new job with more opportunity. The year ended with me being nominated for an award in that job. It’s a place for me to thrive and I am so happy there.

I have learned how to balance life so I am surrounded by happiness. I have learned to navigate what I am willing to compromise and how to stand up for myself when compromise is not an option. I can be an awesome mom, a great daughter/sister/friend and still be an amazing (there’s just no good label) girlfriend/lover/whatever it’s called. In fact, I think I have upped my relationship game. I have thrown away my passive aggressiveness and replaced it with healthy communication. Sometimes I still need help, but I am very aware of the need to communicate better. I have replaced my fear of being hurt by others, with a strength to embrace the love that people give back to me and a trust that I am loved back. The shame I felt with myself, the lack of confidence, has been permanently replaced with an “I don’t give a flying fuck” attitude. And, with all of these new replacements, I never compromised my core values. I am still kind to others (I just don’t let them walk over me), I am still loyal to those around me (but I will be more honest if something is bothering me) and I still have a heart of gold.

I have learned an amazing balancing act to live my best life. I can go out a few days a week with friends and family, yet still be happy curled up on my couch for a few nights with my pup dog. I find happiness in both and a need for both. I am not afraid of my relationships. Not a single one of them. My family, well, they are just incredible. They have always been there for me. I only hope that I can do even half of what they do for me. I lost the importance of family for too long. I don’t ever intend to do that again. Tears, laughter, sorrow, hurt, silliness…my family has been there through it all. They are my warriors.

I have found so much joy and peace in my friendships. I can count on my girlfriends to be honest and tell me when I’m an idiot. They tell me things I may not want to hear. And they catch me when I fall. We catch each other when we fall. We check in on each other almost daily, whether it’s a group chat or one-on-one. And my friends that I have had for years, well, we have our routine. I used to feel like maybe I had done something wrong when we didn’t connect for a while, but I have learned that no one has done anything wrong. We have our routines and we know that we would drop everything to be there for the other. I feel very comfortable with that.

And, I can’t forget my guy. He was my toughest barrier this year. What was supposed to be tons of fun turned into something more than I imagined. Quite frankly, it scared the shit out of me. I fought it and fought it. My girlfriends laughed at how I tried to keep him and my feelings contained in a box. But I woke up one day and said, “screw it!” I haven’t felt this way in such a long time. At least a decade. But the fear of my feelings was taking my strength away. There is such a strength in owning your feelings. So, I told him I love him. I didn’t say it to hear the words back. I didn’t say it because I thought that was what he wanted to hear. I said it because it was what I felt and I needed to stop being afraid. I needed to look at the strong foundation in my life and know that whatever happened when I said it, I would be okay. To know that those around me would catch me, if those words ended something amazing. To know that they would leap for joy with me if those words were repeated back. And to know that they would ground me and help me regroup if I wasn’t sure of the response.

What have I learned these last several years. Other people are completely out of my control. So, when my daughter says, “You do you,” well, thanks for the advice and I will take it. I cannot make someone love me. I cannot make friends like me. But it will happen naturally if I am completely me.

So, I have no idea what’s in store for me this decade. Life can throw some crazy curveballs. But I have my armor of confidence on and am ready. I will be living my best life. No room for fear. Just a decade of being myself. Being there to lift others when they need me, and knowing when to ask for help when I need it. With the foundation I have, I’m a lucky Wonder Woman. I will be able to conquer anything.

Thank you to all the amazing people in my life. Every one of you got me through some crazy tough times. Every one of you plays a special role in my life and I appreciate everything I have learned from all of you. So long 2010’s…Hello 2020’s! Happy New Decade!!!!!

Fake It, Fake It, Fake It…(Screw it, I suck at faking it)

My kids told me once that they hated it when I said “fake it ’til you make it.” My thought was, pretend I am strong and eventually I will be. Don’t tell a soul what I am going through. Sweep it all under the rug and it will evaporate or dissolve. The truth is, sadness is not water, nor is it sugar. It won’t evaporate nor dissolve. I also learned that hiding my sadness created tension in relationships and increased my anxiety. My behavior would become passive aggressive and I found myself alone and just expecting people close to me to recognize something was wrong. I found myself alone and anxious.

To say that I have solved all those problems would be a complete lie. It would also be a lie to say that I don’t struggle with falling back into those patterns. It’s a constant internal battle. I find it so much easier, at the time, to say something passive aggressively, then to say the hard things, like why am I struggling. My thought process is that if I am putting it out there, I am being a drama queen or I am being needy. I never want to bring people around me down.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that my pride gets in the way. I want people to see me as strong and not as needy. It’s taken me a long time to learn the practice of humility. To come off my high horse and say, “I am struggling today. I might need some help getting through this. I might need a shoulder to cry on. I might need you to just hold space for me and hear my sadness.” So, give me a moment as dismount my horse named Pride…

It’s been a little over a week that I have been struggling. It’s no surprise, as the holiday season can be difficult for many. I have had my Christmas tree up since before Thanksgiving. There is not a single ornament up, nor are there any other decorations up in my house. I have some presents, but really no inventory of what I have nor what I need still. I have been working my day job and I have been working my Saturday job in the evenings, during the week. Between all the extra hours and the stress, my body hurts. And it’s not the good kind of hurt, like the day after a workout or after a good “playdate” with my guy. I feel as though I was run over. My legs are throbbing and my shoulders feel so tight it hurts to move. I cry at the drop of a hat and I feel like the Grinch. This will pass and I know it will. On December 24, when my family celebrates Christmas, I will feel my body sink into a chair and relax. All the stress and anxiety will leave my body. But that’s not for another 9 days. Let’s be honest. In sadness time, that is eons. Nine days of fighting my pride. Nine days of saying, “I am struggling.”

What do I need during this time? Not much. There are times of sadness that we find we need to be carried through. This isn’t one of those times for me. I just need some open space to say what I am feeling. No advice, just safe space. If I tell you, “I’m fine.” call me out on it. That shouldn’t be confused with, “I will be fine.” I am very aware that what this is is temporary. A little extra hug, but if you see a tear, ignore it. Maybe some humor. Laughter is the best medicine. Just an extra message saying hey. My texts tend to get shorter, maybe a little colder, less fun emojis. I am not mad, I am not pulling away. But I am fighting dumping everything on the people around me. Ruminating on the feelings does no good, only perpetuates them.

I am so strong and have come through so much. But I still have a ways to go. We are all works in progress. I find that I write so much about strength and happiness. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and pretend my life is all that. I have tough seasons too. We all do. We can accept those seasons and learn how to run through them. And I don’t mean take a leisurely jog. Run through those bad mother fucking times like a defensive lineman runs through the O Line to get to the quarterback. Plow through that sadness. Straight through it. Own it. Feel it. Use the help of the rest of your line and break through. Sack that sadness and do that victory dance with your teammates. If that was only the first down, get back on that line and do it again. Look next to you. You are not alone on that line. It’s a team effort. Don’t let your pride forget you have a team. Be humble. Let them carry you when you need them. Or, let them just make the space for you. Whatever you need, use your team.

Don’t fake it. Own it. Say, “This shit is hard today!” My kids were onto something when they said they hated the saying. I am learning the power of owning my emotions and expressig what I need.

What is it about “I Love You”

True story. I was once told that when I said “I love you” it didn’t mean a thing. Ouch!!! When the person to whom you are married tells you your words mean nothing, that can be pretty hurtful. You see, I meant those words every time I said them. But I stopped saying them. Not just to him, but to others around me. My family. It was very rare those words fell from my lips. The only ones I didn’t stop saying it to were the kids. I was raised on “I love you” and I was never made to feel bad about it.

When I went to New Mexico, with my then husband, for a hunting trip. We would go to visit his guide’s family. Whenever the guide left or if he got off the phone with someone, he said, I love you. My ex asked him if he always said it. His guide seemed confused. He said, “Of course I do. What if I never get the chance to say it again.” This was only a few months before we separated. Hearing this guide say that, made me realize I wasn’t the issue.

When I learned to stop caring what people thought, I found those words again. I started to say it again to my family. I was able to be free with my words. But I also took time to think about who I could be free with those words. I realized I didn’t need to stop and think about who would hear those words from my lips. Because I don’t need to reserve the phrase for special occasions. I should be able to say it when I feel it.

So, when I say those words to you, it’s because I wear my heart on my sleeve and I feel that love. I won’t say it if I don’t. So, I let the words flow, if I feel it. But don’t be surprised if I ask if I say it too much. While I am very open with my feelings, I still feel the insecurity of being told I say it too much. I would never want them to lose their meaning. But the truth is, when I say goodbye to someone I love, I will always tell them I love them. Because, at the end of the day, I would much rather say it too much, than miss out and never have the chance to say them again.