Boundaries, the Path to Healthy Relationships

I’ve been reading a book about boundaries and self care. It has made me step back and look at the boundaries I set and how I accept the boundaries other people set. When reflecting on my life I realize just how far I have come.

I never used to have boundaries. Self care was almost non-existent. My life was about living for other people. This was my own fault. I never created boundaries. Never asked for what I needed. I spent so much time feeling like I needed to be the perfect wife and mother (I most definitely was not). I felt like I was running around supporting everyone else and just never really looked at what I needed.

I was afraid to speak up for myself. Not because I thought people wouldn’t love me for not being able to go to every game or be at every coaching event. But I was afraid I would feel like a failure for not being perfect. The truth is, I gave up boundaries for others. I didn’t understand that the root of my anxiety was, most likely, my lack of boundaries. I didn’t understand my depression was, most likely, my lack of boundaries.

I realized that if someone set boundaries for me, I didn’t take it well. I took everthing as a rejection. I tried to find excuses as to why I wasn’t really overstepping boundaries. I couldn’t handle when people set boundaries for me.

I always thought boundaries were for my work. Make sure to always keep things confidential. Don’t develop personal friendships with clients. Don’t disclose personal information to clients. These were the only boundaries I knew.

This book didn’t teach me boundaries. I have been learning them. I have a group of girlfriends that are so open and honest. Our friendships are not about following what others are doing. It’s about being real with each other. We straighten each others’ crowns, but we are also honest with each other, even when it’s hard. If I have hurt one of them, they tell me. I never intend to hurt anyone, but sometimes, we go through things and hurt people unknowingly. When my girlfriends have confronted me with what I have done, I have not tried to make excuses for my behavior and I have apologized. And I will admit, it feels good to accept those boundaries. And they have also taught me that I can set boundaries of my own, and it doesn’t mean I have failed.

Setting boundaries is still hard for me. But I can tell my kids that I would love a schedule of their plans when they will be at my house. I can tell them when I need help. And they rise to the occassion.

At work, I’ve learned that I need to set boundaries too. Sometimes I try to work so hard and get everything done as fast as possible. However, I have learned that I burn out if I keep going without a break. So, I have learned to take work at an even pace and work and make sure I am focused on doing the work throughly. If it isn’t fast enough, it will just show that I need the help. When I am struggling, Iam comfortable going to my supervisor and telling her I am struggling. I used to work through lunch to keep working, but now, I always take my lunch break.

And my amazing partner has taught me it is safe to set boundaries with him. Setting boundaries has kept our communication wide open and that is so important. If I need something, I know I can tell him, and he doesn’t get angry, he doesn’t tell me I am being selfish and he doesn’t make me feel crazy. We figure it out in a healthy way. Because we can talk so openly, we make a great team.

What it comes down to, is boundaries open communication in any relationship. It teaches us to talk with the people in our lives about what we need. It also teaches us to look at ourselves and accept the boundaries others set for us. And ultimately, it is the recipe for an amazing relationship with yourself.

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,

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.

Bridging the Gap…Healthy Communication in a Country Divided.

Let’s face it.  2020 has been a year like no other we have experienced.  Pandemics, a country’s economy brought to a standtill for quarantine, murder hornets, cicadas, racism and the worst political divide I have seen in my lifetime.  The unrest can make people angry, sad, afraid and hopeless.  I have been angry.  I have posted angry things.  All things I have believed, but angry.  We all have a right to be angry.  We all have our own beliefs and our own morals and we cling to them.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Until we find ourselves so closed off that we cannot grow.  I never used to look at my friends and think, liberal or conservative.  I have never been one to talk political.  But I will speak my mind about things I believe in.  I have found, more and more, that it causes a divide in friendships and relationships.  Heck, when I was on the dating sites people say, don’t swipe right if you associate with one political party or another.  What ever happened to decent, healthy conversation?

After my last relationship, I swore up and down I could never have a boyfriend that is conservative.  But here is what I have learned in the last year or so.  I have some amazing conservative friends with whom I can have very healthy conversations.  We can disagree on things, yet be respectful and actually hear each other.  We can also come together to find common ground where we stand together.  I enjoy hearing the other side of things, where I can take information in.  I can question without anger.  I can get honest and kind answers.  I may not change my thinking, but I can soak in the information I have received.  I can do the research.  I may come back with other research, and hope that person can soak that information in too.  Often, I may come back an say, “wow, you make some great points.  That is definitely food for thought.”  But I might also come back with information about my lived experiences, especially in conversation about social justice.  While I may not have experienced social injustice, I have certainly witnessed it through years of work. 

My boyfriend (yep, he is conservative) and I have talked quite a bit these last couple of weeks about what’s going on.  What’s amazing is, I don’t feel like I can’t speak my mind.  We have total respect for the other’s viewpoints.  He shares his military experience, I share my social work experience.  We have very different perspectives.  And we do hear each other.  While I consider myself liberal, I do not find that I consider my agenda a liberal agenda.  I alway try to follow my path and look at humans as individuals who deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.  I think my boyfriend feels the same about that, and that is why we can have these conversations. 

I have also had people that post terrible things on both sides.  “Conservatives are racist.”  “Liberals are idiot.”  These are on the kinder side of what people are saying.   I will admit, I do shut down when I hear these things.  When people are close minded and refuse to hear anything, I have to be honest, I dig my heels in and don’t want to hear what they have to say.  This shuts off healthy communication. I have no desire to be around people like that. They are part of the problem.

What is the saying? “United we stand, divide we fall.” Just look at our country, the United States of America. We are hardly a united country. That does not mean we have to agree on everything. But it does mean we have to work together. Right now there are some pretty powerful people (politically and economically, on both sides) that are benefitting from the country being divided. Don’t let them do that. Open your ears. Open your hearts. Understand that just because someone has different beliefs than you, different morals, if does not make that person bad. It makes them different. Don’t just listen to the media. Listen to what every day people have to say. Listen to lived experiences. That is a life changer. Let us work together to make this country a better place for everyone here. Let us work together, through healthy conversations, through healthy disagreements, to make this country a place of peace and unity. That starts with you and me.

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.

Thankful For Love

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that I have had a love/hate relationship. Even when I was married, often, my ex-husband was away on a hunting trip. I didn’t know if he would make it home for the day or not. If he made it home, it was amazing. If not, I was disappointed all day.

When I became single, well, it felt lonely because I didn’t have someone by my side. I became one of those single people whom everyone felt sorry for. I got to spend every morning with the kids, but, for dinner, they would alternate years at their dad’s house and with me. They can never know how lonely those years without them are. It doesn’t matter how much family is around, when my kids aren’t around, it feels so lonely. This was my 5th Thanksgiving living as a single woman. And, while it was supposed to my year with the kids (even though they are no longer minors, they have stuck with every other year), I was horribly disappointed when they told me they wouldn’t be with me. My son was having dinner with his long-time girlfriend’s family. I have been anticipating they would start doing holidays together, and I am so happy for him. Sophia decided to spend the year with her dad. It was a big sting, but not a suprise. So, I spent some time preparing myself, mentally, for a second year without my kids with me for dinner. What I really needed to do was take an emotional inventory of what I had in my life. My inventory consisted of only one word.

LOVE. When I look back at the last year of my life, I realize just how full my life is. Even on weeks that I sit at home for 5 nights straight, my life has been so filled. When I am home alone, it’s because I choose to be. I choose to take the time for myself. If I am feeling down, I have so many loves in my life that I am never really alone. This place is unchartered territory for me. Even when I was married, I didn’t feel this full. Now, I am exactly where I always wanted to be. I wake up with only my dog next to me. I make breakfast and eat by myself. But I never feel alone anymore. This is what people mean by living their best lives.

The kids got to my house last Sunday. I had such an amazing visit with them. We spent a few days together and it was such great quality time with them. I missed having Thanksgiving dinner with them. But in the end, Thanksgiving is just one day. I had a few amazing days with them. And it’s the little things they do that are huge to me. The hugs. Sitting at the table together. Cooking together. Joking around together. My Thanksgiving with them was all week. What more could I ask for?

This year marked the 35th year of the annual football game at my parents’ house. The game has evolved so much. It started as two families at a campground in Haymarket. When we moved to the country in 1986, it became a tradition. The game has changed a lot. I was a teenager when the tradition started. The game has seen some amazing gains…marriages, new babies, new friends, babies that have grown into young adults, their significant others. Some years there are 10 people that play. Other years, there are 25. But no matter what, we have a blast. The game has seen some significant losses too. Friends have moved away, one time players can no longer play, divorce, and mostly, the loss of someone who was like a second mother to me. One of the original players. She passed away right before Thanksgiving 16 years ago. Every year, we think about her. Her famous onion dip is always at the table, and my family will stand by the dip and talk about our wonderful memories of her. Our tradition runs strong, and so does her memory.

Dinner, just like for many others, is a tradition. The table has gotten bigger and bigger. It got smaller for a while, with the famous “kids’ table,” but they are no longer kids. So we have moved back to one table. What makes our dinners so special. Well, our dinner conversation. The things we say would make many people blush. We are rude and crude and sometimes we laugh until we pee ourselves. This year, as I sat at the table, surrounded by the family that I have so often taken for granted, I took in every ounce of love they had to offer. I didn’t feel alone at any point in the day. I felt surrounded and I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

My love life…well, it’s definitely existent. It’s a bit unorthodox, but with that, it has allowed me to grow so much in learning how to have a relationship, yet still be independent and enjoy all the family and girl time I want. Until now, relationships have always been a way for me to go from being someone strong, to becoming needy and/or unhappy and giving up everything for someone. That causes resentment and unhappiness. This go round, I have learned to communicate, that I don’t have to step away from friends and family, and that I am very lovable as a strong and independent woman. What’s awesome is that we do not complete each other. But we enhance each other, we understand each other, and we are there for each other. I have noticed, in the last 9 months, that when something amazing happens, or something bad happens, we want to share with each other. When my baggage gets to heavy, I can talk to him. I have to be honest though, I used to go to friends first, who would listen and encourge me to open up to him. He accepts my baggage and my insecurities and has never made me feel bad for having them. We work through them. And, that baggage has become significantly lighter. I still get insecurities, but it’s rare now. Very rare. But I never feel bad for having them. We face them together. He shares his struggle with me. I listen. We talk a lot. We have found a happy place together. A place of calm and comfort. And I don’t mean that complacent comfort where things fall by the wayside. It’s a comfort that we can be ourselves and know that we will accept and love each other. Yes, I said it. The “L” word. That scares me, when it comes to an intimate relationship. For a while, I couldn’t admit it. What if I lost myself again? But I have learned that I am strong enough to have that emotion now. I am strong enough to accept that feeling and know that I am surrounded by enough love everywhere else, that no matter what happens, I will always be okay. Vulnerability like this is actually a superpower, not a weakness. When I give love, it creates more love for me to give away.

I have let so much love into my life this past year that I am completely overwhelmed sometimes…in a very good way. And, by letting that love in, I have found that the love I can give has increased infinitely. It gives me more patience with others around me. I have been told by clients I work with that my smile has made their day brighter. A co-worker told me I was like a walking love emoji. My friends see it, my family sees it. And my gosh, I feel it. So, this year, my emotional inventory is all love. I am so grateful for all the love I have in my life. Love heals, it strengthens, and love pours out of you when you have the right kind. In the words of Roald Dahl, “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely.”

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family, to all my loves, to all the ones who were lessons in my life. May you all feel the love that I feel, throughout the holiday season and throughout the entire year.

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.