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.

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.

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.

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.

Living in the Moment

Call me unorganized. Call me a hot mess. Call me whatever you want. I don’t like to plan my life in advance. Of course, I have goals and I plan ahead for things that should be planned ahead. But I don’t make lists (or if I do, I don’t look at them anyway). I pack for trips the day I leave. The idea of an impromptu road trip is so completely exciting to me. But it’s also important to have goals. I have them. But I don’t necessarily have an outline to follow on how to get there. I’ve learned that if I have step-by-step instructions, I typically veer from them and am so disappointed in myself.

I have learned that outlines tend to be a straight line to a goal. They’re neatly laid out. That’s just not me. Remember the spirographs we used to use when we were kids? That’s sort of how I get to the end of something. I will go in circles and seem like I am getting nowhere. But I will meet my goal and have some amazing experiences along the way. For example: hiking…I love it and would love to do it more. I would love to do weekend section hikes on the Appalachian Trail. Seems easy enough. Get the gear and just do it. Well, not so easy. I don’t have the money for the gear. I don’t really have anyone that has the ability and/or interest in doing a section hike right now. And I don’t want to do it by myself. But, I will go around in circles getting there. Start with shorter hikes. Go camping. Really, just anything outside.

Being happy in life. What a huge goal. And not always easy to achieve. Defintely not a straight line. You know, throw in a failed married, some failed relationships, work hardships, heartbreak, money issues and you definitely don’t have a direct route to that goal. It can be frustrating, but when you stop to think about it, those curly paths are how we grow. How we strengthen ourselves to face other challenges. How we learn to be humble. Without the twists and turns, I would have missed out on so many things that are contributing to my happiness. A failed marriage led me back to a better relationship with my family. heartbreak of lost friendships led me to my tribe. Lack of money led me to enjoying and appreciating the simple things in life.

So, a straight line doesn’t necessarily lead to the happiness that is your goal. If I followed a straight line, I would still be married. And quite frankly, I wouldn’t be happy. So, why plan. I try to learn from each experience I have. I don’t want to look too far ahead. And I won’t be too hard on myself when I don’t follow the path that makes the most sense. I will enjoy the adventure I am living. I will live in the moment, even if it means going in a circles like a spirograph. After all, when you look at the final product of the spirograph designs, they are pretty beautiful. When I look back at the life I have led so far, even with the stuff that hurt like crazy, it has been a beautiful life. And it gets more beautiful each day.

Down, Lazy or Self-Care

It’s so funny how we respond to rainy days. Especially weekend rainy days. For me, I look forward to it. And when they fall on a Sunday, I make all kinds of plans to work on things around the house. I typically work six days a week. So Sunday’s, when it’s beautiful out, I love to get the dog and spend the day outside, if I can. I find the rain has a way of slowing me down. I look forward to staying in. I have grandiose plans of going to sleep, at the end of the day, with my house completely spotless, laundry all done, and a freezer full of prepared meals.

So, what does this rainy Sunday look like for me?

It’s 2 pm and I am still in jammies, cuddled with the dog. Notice the laundry basket in the background. I’ve folded one load, but defintely moving slow. My floor has pieces of Marshall’s rope toy all over it, and I haven’t made my way to the grocery store to get food for the week (so much for those prepared meals). I’ve barely gotten anything done.

So here is what I struggle with. I have been pretty tired today. I have been busy all week, between work and being with friends. I’ve had some late nights. So, when I sit down and relax, am I being lazy, or is this wonderful self-care? The longer the day goes on, the more down I let myself get frustrated, because I have done almost nothing I had planned to do. I have been kicking myself most of the morning for not wanting to get off the couch. For wanting to binge watch shows that I have fallen way behind on, for wanting to snuggle with the dog and watch football. It got me thinking. Why am I so angry with myself?

The truth is, I am terrible at self care. I am awesome about reminding others to take care of themselves. That it’s okay to be a little selfish and take time for themselves. But, when it’s time for me to do just that, I can’t…or maybe it’s just that I won’t. Why can’t I take some time for myself and enjoy it? Why do I feel like I can’t just relax and do something I enjoy without feeling guilty for not doing things around the house? Is it because I feel lazy for just wanting a day to relax?

As guilty as I feel, I know I’m not lazy. I also know I’m not feeling down. I’m feeling guilty because I have chosen to take some time to take care of myself and take a much needed break from a busy week. I have no issue relaxing if someone is here with me. But what is keeping me from relaxing when I have time to myself? I look forward to time to myself. I can watch what I want, I can do crafts if I want, I can nap if I want. It’s something I have to learn to do for myself.

What I need to learn is how to balance all this. I still have to get things done around the house, but surely, I can also take some time for myself and not feel guilty. I’m always open to suggestions. Tell my how you pratice self-care. And how do you balance being productive at home and self care?

I look forward to hearing your responses.

Self Care…What the heck is that???

I have gone through a divorce and survived. I have worked three jobs at the same time for seven days a week and survived. I have raised two teenagers and survived. I have flown over the ocean (a fear I used to have) and survived. I have done the online dating and survived. I have bought my own home, lost friends, found some amazing friends and I have transitioned to a new job. All of this, I have survived. At this point, I feel like a picture of Linda Carter should be inserted.

I can do all these things, but what I have the most difficult time with is self care. And I don’t just mean going out and doing the things I want to do. I get out with family and friends plenty. I struggle to get my health under control. After a doctor’s appoiment this week I realized, I am just not taking care of myself. When I am home alone I don’t cook for myself. I don’t even sit down to eat. I can’t stand sitting at my kitchen table eating alone. That’s supposed to be a family place. I sit there when the kids are home. My little, cluttered kitchen table feels so big and empty when I eat there alone. So, I usually make something quick and easy. Maybe a bowl of cereal. But then I get hungry and snack.

Anyway, after my trip to the doctor and many times going and seeing how high my A1C is and my triglycerides, I realized, what am I waiting for? Why can I not be disciplined enough to eat healthy and get myself to the gym or out for a walk. Would I like to lose some weight…absolutely! But, honestly, I’m comfortable in my own skin. But what I do want, is to be healthy. I would like to bring all my numbers down (well, except my good cholesterol, that’s the only one that’s low – too low) and hopefully make a huge lifestyle change that I am happy with.

What am I doing to change? Right now, I am cutting milk. Ugh! I love milk. I think I could drink a gallon a day. When I’m thirsty, I don’t go for water, I want milk. Not good. So, it’s been removed from the house. I can’t even resist it. Grains, gone! No more bread, rice, or pasta. From now on, it’s cauliflower rice and lettuce for bread. I can live with that. Aside from the milk, I am missing crunch. Chips. I don’t eat them often, but they are great to get that crunchy craving gone. Thank goodness I have zucchini in my garden. Homemade zucchini chips are amazing. I have been doing this since early this week, after my appointment. I have to say, I feel better. I don’t feel bloated. When I check my sugars, they are getting lower. Still not good, but I know it won’t happen overnight.

Now to introduce exercise. I have some classes at my gym that I love. I go occasionally, but I am the best at making up excuses to not go. They are all good excuses, but they certainly are not good enough to compromise my health. So this week, I am going to try to go to 3 classes. I will add them to my calendar so I cannot fill the time in with anything else.

Doing this alone, can be tough. But I find having a group of people to whom I can be accountable is amazing. People who may go to classes with me at the gym. I go to Ida Lee. I would love to meet people there. It’s always more fun to go to a class and know people, and to know people will miss you if you aren’t there. I really enjoy Pound and Zumba. However, there’s a Bang class that looks amazing! I would love to check that out also. And Yoga. I miss yoga so much. I used to do a fun Flow Yoga class at my old gym and miss it very much. It might have been the massages you get after. I am not near as flexible as I used to be, but that will come with time. I can remember my first yoga class ever, I could barely do anything. I even had to modify child’s pose. I will get back to it. Anyway, if anyone is interested in taking a journey with me, let me know. I would love to have company with this. After all, look at what I have survived already. If I cannot get my health self care under control, I just won’t survive.

Misery Loves Company, Happiness is Contagious

***I want to start by saying I do recognize that there are many people with mental health issues that cannot just simply change their thought process. Maybe this will be helpful and maybe not, but I am in no way minimizing your personal struggle. I’m simply sharing my journey for going through storms in my life.***

Yawn!!!!!! Did you just picture someone yawning? Do you feel like doing it now? Seriously, I am yawning now, as I am typing. If yawning is that contagious, just think about all the other energy we put out. It’s contagious too. And some people emit the energy much more than others.

When I used to work at the shelter, I always said, one person can change the entire atmosphere of the shelter. I had clients who were nice as can be, however, when I would walk out of my office and see that person, all the energy I had was sucked out of me. It’s wild how one interaction can do that. As an empath, I am able to really feel the emotions of others. Sometimes it is a gift. But I have also learned that my energy can be pretty strong too. If I’m down, the people around me will know it. If I surround myself with happiness, that will be very apparent also.

Have you ever noticed that when you sit around with friends and one starts talking negatively, most will follow suit. There may be jokes and laughing, but that underlying negativity is still there. Facebook is a great example. Someone posts something and someone argues. All the sudden, the conversation is about the negativity, not the post. People get sucked into drama. I don’t know a single person who truly enjoys having drama in their life. Yet, we surround ourselves with drama (tv shows, gossip, politics…).

I have learned that for me, it’s easy to be negative. That’s the easy way for me. And, if I am miserable, I typically find someone who will join me in my negativity. I mean seriously, if you aren’t happy, do you really want Happy Harriet coming up to you and saying, “Look on the bright side,” or “just think of the good that can come out of this.” Honestly, I would want to punch her in the face. But here’s the thing. If Happy Harriet can get past my negativity and keep being positive, that happiness will most likely start to rub off on me, and me negativity will soon turn into happiness. And, while it’s not as easy for me to let happiness take over, it feels better. So, I have tried to make a conscious effort to let happiness drive me.

In the last couple of years I have focused on keeping a smile on my face and trying to find humor in things that would normally bring me down. It has made such a huge difference in my life. I used to think I was a Negative Nancy…well, I was a Negative Nancy. But I also thought I was surrounded by negativity. It turns out I may have been bringing out the negative in the people around me.

As I started having a more positive outlook, my conversations became less and less negative. I began to laugh so much more. I forgot how good it was to lauch and let my dirty sense of humor out. I could feel weight just falling off my shoulders. And suddenly, the people around me were smiling and laughing too.

I used to say “fake it ’til you make it.” My kids hated that saying. I didn’t really believe it either, until I felt it. You can fake happiness until you find it. Happiness is so contagious, that it can put a real smile on your face. Now, I walk into a room with a smile on my face. Because, if I have a choice to bring people down or help them stand tall, I will always choose to help them stand tall.

Just When You Get a Handle on Things

I have been through the separation and divorce process. It’s a roller coaster. But one thing I remember, is that just when you feel as though you have a handle on things, you realize how close you are to the actual divorce being final and BOOM! You have to find a place to live. Leaving the place you have lived and not knowing where you are going can be so scary.

I lived in my home for 11 years. My kids were raised in that home. We had family gatherings, birthdays, nerf wars, pool parties, lots of first days of schools, lots of movie nights… Sophia learned to cook in that kitchen. Our amazing dog, Shiloh, is buried there. The thought of leaving all that was heartbreaking. How could I leave all those memories? Not to mention, where was I going to go. Do I rent? Do I buy? What can I afford with my salary. It became very real that I might have to move in with my parents. I love my parents so much, but at 43, and dating again, I really did not like that option. I needed and wanted my independence. I can’t tell you how much I cried about not knowing what was next for me.

I realized the only option for me was to buy. I couldn’t afford rent in Loudoun County. I also knew I no longer wanted to live in the same town. Quite frankly, it was too small and I really had no friends keeping me there. Everyone was too busy with their lives and I certainly didn’t belong in any group.

So, the house hunting began. It’s very difficult to not just jump at the first place you see, due to sheer panic. But, with a lot of help from my mom, I had the patience to wait for the perfect home.

But this isn’t about my perfect home and loving where I am now. It’s about realizing that sometimes, we feel like we have everything under control, only to find another hurdle in our path. A big hurdle. It’s the idea that when you get divorced, if you have children or something else that keeps you connected with your ex, you will always be going through the divorce. Things happen that can knock the wind right out of you. Things you were never expecting. I still continue to have the wind knocked out of me, but I have learned that I am in control of how much power I give someone. And I am done giving someone else power over me. Not in a way that brings me down.

A couple of years ago, when my ex knocked the wind out of me, I couldn’t breathe for days. I would get so down. Now, when the wind gets knocked out of me, I step back and wonder why this person still has power over me. This is someone who I would never choose to be friends with, if given a chance. I can be nice, and get along very well, and I will mean it. But, I really don’t care what he feels about me, so there is no reason I cannot hold strong to my boundaries. So, that’s what I do. I stick with my values, with my boundaries. If my kids get mad, it’s okay. Some day they will understand where I am coming from. If their dad gets mad…well, I really don’t care.

No matter how long you have been divorced, if you have children, the ex will always be in your life. Figure out what you are willing to compromise and what you are not. For me, I have learned that sticking to our Property Settlement Agreement is a much better way to handle things, because it’s binding and easier to set my boundaries that way. Know what works for you and stick with it. Don’t let someone rule your life and your emotions, even if you can’t get them out of your life for a long time.