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.

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.

Holiday Blues

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

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

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

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

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

Predict, Prepare, Plan

Let me share with you what Christmas looks like for me. Since I was little, my family has always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve night. We have a wonderful dinner and open presents. It’s amazing family time. When I was little, on Christmas Day, we spent the day in our jammies, playing with our toys. We had leftovers for dinner and it was a day for relaxation. When I started dating my ex (I was still in high school), Chrismas Day was spent with his family. When I got separated, the division of Christmas was a no-brainer. The kids spent Christmas Eve with me and my family and they went to their dad’s on Christmas Day. But I had never been alone on Christmas Day.

July 4th is my son’s birthday. It used to be a huge celebration. When I was married, we had a huge party with the family and all our friends. In the evening we always had the big fireworks. It was a big family day for us. This has become a tough day for me. The kids come to my house in the morning and I make homemade chicken and waffles (my son’s favorite meal). Usually they bring a couple friends over also, and we do presents. But, for fireworks, the kids usually head to their dad’s for his birthday dinner. I have an amazing view of the fireworks from my house and I watch them with my neighbors. But I don’t have my kids with me to watch the show. It’s not just the divorce, but a part of kids growing up that creates this time, but it still happens.

I can remember how tough those first nights home alone were, when I first got separated. I hated not having the kids home with me. But, when I found out my kids had been staying with their dad, at his girlfriend’s house, for months, without tell me, well, that made me being alone in my house even tougher. This was more unbearable than Christmas and July 4th.

I think now is as good a time as any to talk about a strategy for defeating those moments that can bring you down. It may be a weekend alone, or going to event and knowing you have to see your ex, or, it may be the ex’s year for Christmas. These moments happen all the time. Some of them just smack us in the face, but there are some for which we can emotionally prepare. Why let the predictable moments smack us in the face when we can be ready for them and kick those moments in the ass. My counselor gave me great advice on handling these moments. So I would love to pass this advice along to you.

There are moments we dread. We just know they are going to stop us in our tracks. This is where the Predict comes in. Do inventory. Check your calendar. What difficult times are coming up? Make a list of those times.

Now that you’ve predicted those moments, it’s time to Prepare. How are you going to feel? What is going to make you feel better? Will being with friends help? Or how about a bubble bath or reading a book? Maybe an entire weekend away will help. Prepare yourself for how you will feel and what you will need in your life to get you through.

Make a Plan. Try to make them as early as possible. Call a friend and plan a night (or a weekend) out. Have something set up to do at home (maybe cook a gourmet meal, with dessert, and hit up Red Box and watch a good movie). Whatever the plan, make it as early as possible. Once you have a plan, you will look forward to the moment and kick that feeling of dread right in the ass. See, you’re Wonder Woman. You did it!!!

So, with the holidays coming up, some of us may be in the need to predict, prepare and plan. It’s a tough alone holiday. Stores are closed, restaurants are closed. But guess what, the movie theaters are open. There are some great movies coming out…Mary Poppins, Rocket Man… Whatever you plan, be excited about it!

How Do You Do Holidays/Birthdays With the Father of Your Children?

I can remember when I first got separated. It was the Sunday before Mother’s Day in 2015 and two weeks before my ex-husband’s birthday. The very first question that came to mind was, how do I do this? Can I do this? Well, I put on my big girl panties (and yes, they are Wonder Woman panties) and spent Mother’s Day with my kids and my family, but no husband. He went out of town. My kids were 15 and 16 at the time and knew enough to make sure I had something for the day. Neither could drive. My daughter used my Cricut machine and made a beautiful, homemade box. They went through the pantry and put 3 Hershey Kisses in it. The look on their faces broke my heart. They felt terrible about what they gave me. They have no idea what that gift meant to me. After 24 years of being with the same man, less than a week after we split, he could not find the courtesy to help them feel good about Mother’s Day, yet they did everything they could to make me feel better about one of the toughest days of my life. What I learned that day was that I would NEVER allow my kids to feel guilty for not having something for their dad.

One week later…it’s their dad’s birthday. I invited him for a birthday cookout. My daughter made him a cake and I took the kids shopping and the three of us picked up a nice gift for him. We made it a lovely day, and the smile on the kids’ faces was so worth it. That would be the last of the holidays/birthdays we would spend as a family.

When my birthday came up I got an Ipad. It was nothing the kids would have ever picked out for me, and nothing I really wanted. I called it my good riddance gift. He had already shacked up with his girlfriend and just wanted to say he did something nice. Guilt. After that, the kids were pretty much on their own for gifts for me. I think he helped them if they asked, but, for the most part, they got help with ideas from my mom.

I was still determined to make sure they never felt guilty. He had one birthday that they did not have anything for him. My son was old enough to drive and I asked them about a gift. They assured me they had it covered. They didn’t. Boy did I get an ear full. I felt bad for a bit, but then I thought, he is living with his girlfriend and the kids live there half the time. At this stage, shouldn’t she be helping him? So, first question to you folks. If your ex has a live in partner with home your kids live half the time and get along with, shouldn’t the partner be the one to help the kids shop? I feel like it would be a bonding experience as well as something the partner would want to do for someone with whom they are in a new relationship. Well, she never helped. Honestly, the kids always said she had no clue what to get him. After not getting a birthday present one year, I physically took the kids out shopping to make sure they always had something. I’ve received so many thank you texts from this man, thanking me for the wonderful gifts I helped the kids get. From concert tickets to amazing cooking appliances. I never spent a dime on him. My kids were old enough that they had jobs. They told me their budget and I helped them. Had they been younger, I would have paid.

Now that my kids are adults, will send them a gentle reminder, but no more assistance. If they don’t do it, they can feel guilty. They have the means to do it on their own now.

For us, Thanksgiving and Christmas weren’t so bad. My family has a big football game every Thanksgiving. The kids come for that ever year and they alternate where they are for dinner. This year, they were with their dad. I had dinner with my parents and my sister and her family. Christmas was the easiest. We always celebrated with my family on Christmas Eve. I grew up celebrating on Christmas Eve in Upstate New York. When I asked about that, I was told New York is closer to the North Pole, so Santa gets the presents there earlier. Woot! Early Christmas for me. So, doing the whole family thing didn’t have to change that. Me and the kids still spend the day with my family. They get up early Christmas morning and head to their dad’s house. Christmas in my house is quiet. I go to my sister’s for breakfast and then head home and relax. I may watch movies or read a new book I got. This year, me and a girlfriend may catch a double feature at the movie theater. I’m looking forward to it.

The question comes up pretty quick when you first separate. How to handle the holidays and birthdays. My suggestion is to not worry about what the ex is doing when it comes to gifts. Be yourself and do what is best for the kids. Don’t feel like you have to exchange with that person. But there are many relationships that end amicably and gift exchanges may be in the cards. That is so amazing and kudos to you both. Either way can be done in a healthy fashion so the kids understand that life goes on and it’s going to be okay. They pick up on our cues. No matter how sad or angry we feel, don’t let the kids see. At some point, it’s okay to let them know you are sad or hurt, but let’s not make it the holidays. Let them be kids and enjoy it.

So, I’ve shared my adventures, but there are so many more ways it can be done, as opposed to my “everything is separate” way. One of my girlfriends spends Christmas morning with her ex-husband and their family. They do a gift exchange, but the presents they buy for each other are from the kids. They buy the kids’ gifts together. I think this is a great way for the kids to see that their parents can still get along. It makes future events, such as weddings, birthdays,etc much more comfortable.

I have another girlfriend who just got back from an overseas trip with her soon to be ex-husband. They took their kids out of the country to visit his family over the Thanksgiving holiday. I watched her post pictures of her trip on Facebook. It looks like they had a fabulous time. As for Christmas, they are with Dad, to celebrate as his family celebrates, on Christmas Eve. but go back totheir mom’s house that night so they can wake up Christmas morning there. Dad comes over super early Christmas morning in his PJs and they all spend Christmas morning together.

I love hearing what everyone’s traditions are. While my divorce was not as amicable, we make it work and try to make things comfortable. But hearing other traditions shows that there is definitely hope and they holidays don’t have to be a source of anger and sadness. Please share your traditions too. We would love to hear them.