Another year has gone by…on Friday I’ll be another year older. Wiser? Eh, in ways… The changes in my life between July 1st 2021 and now are too many to list. A year ago today I was in Memphis with Bev. Exploring Graceland for the first time. Learning about Elvis and not having any idea I was interested…left with a hunger to return. Even then not seeing the running I was doing to avoid the work I needed to be doing. Healing from the inside out – looking hard at where you are broken – is time consuming and challenging. But worth EVERY minute of the work. Life is so much bigger when you can look beyond yourself…
Sometime in the last year I found a peace inside that you can’t understand until you find it. Not a mediating yoga statue kind of peace but an I’m ok, life is ok, and everything is gonna work out kind of peace. Is everything in my world perfect? Nope. I miss my son. Always will but am proud as hell he’s living his journey his way. I didn’t learn to do that until 40+ years old. Has life moved on past a point I couldn’t see a year ago? Yep. A year ago I didn’t know who I was outside of Lee & Em’s mom and Fred’s widow. I didn’t have a real relationship with my oldest kiddo. I lived to work before and now I work to live. Sad, really, as I think about it now but I had absolutely no idea who the hell I was. My life revolved around other people. My existence was to serve others. I was used to being the nucleus of other’s worlds. When those roles didn’t exist anymore – not in a full time need to be fulfilled way – what the heck?
What I found, through counseling and prayer, was someone inside that I kind of dig. I found my girls. I found the parts of me I can see in them that I was missing before. I have some cool as hell daughters y’all! I found sunshine again. I found someone to love me who I love deeply. I found a heart that wasn’t broken beyond repair – it just needed some work. I found a heart that can love deeper when it’s healthy than it ever could when it was scarred and traumatized.
But more than all of that I found a voice. I found the wild child inside that wants to drive a Jeep and have crazy adventures and be unapologetic about it. The woman inside who was too afraid people wouldn’t like her if they saw THAT woman. That woman lives forefront now. You may not like all of my decisions but I live by what I believe is right and by what I, me, myself and no one else has to live with. What I think matters. What I have to say may piss you off but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. I could light a fire under a lot of people with issues I’ve found I am deeply passionate about.
But back to Friday. Birthdays wig me out. There is some trauma that is still there from childhood (my parents sucked!). But already the love and thoughtfulness Tim and the girls have shown has made this year different. It stinks Tim and I will be apart on our birthday (did I mention we share a birthday?!?)…but it’s been a special day already. I’ve got a big week planned with people I love dearly and that, my friends, is what life is all about.
Live LOUD peeps. Life is too short to do anything but!
It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.
Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.
I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.
I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.
I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?
It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.
For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.
Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.
My counselor says that I am bad at seeing life as all or nothing. At LIVING life as all or nothing. Examples. Life is all good or it’s in shambles. I have to be perfect at my diet, exercise, work, etc or I am a failure. I have to be the best at how I do everything or I am letting down those closest to me. I have to love the best and do everything for everyone no matter what the effect on me.
Two years of counseling later and I still struggle with it. But have learned the signs of the rabbit hole enough to *sometimes* prevent myself from falling down it. Or at least enough to prevent myself from exhausting myself trying to be everything to everyone and putting my own needs last.
Here’s is the thing about all or nothing. That’s the same as black or white. But! Life is shades of gray. It’s messy and smudgy and requires a tree to bend in the wind lest it break.
It’s being patient when you’ve dieted good all week but eat a plate of Mexican food on Friday night. Diet isn’t over – you just had a treat. It’s getting back on the exercise plan after a week of coming straight home from work and watching TV and having popcorn for dinner because work is insane. It’s forgiving those closest to you for being inconsiderate and hateful instead of compassionate and kind. It’s giving someone the benefit of the doubt who you have only seen at their worst.
Living at extremes isn’t a healthy place for me. Living day in and day out terrified of my world changing caused me to hold on too tight. Finding balance, finding the gray, is still a daily challenge. Keeping a brain that is used to handling the worst life has to offer from going first to the dark place and never thinking of a positive alternative is hard as hell.
But learning that you are never too old to change? Definitely worth it.
“Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, trying, learning, and being grateful.”
Never stop learning y’all. Never stop believing in yourself. In humanity. In the power to change yourself and that better things are on the horizon.
I’ve heard all my life people say “what a difference a year makes”. Thought it was horse poo quite honestly. But 2021 was that year for me!
I started 2021 broken. Angry. Scared. Grieving. Did I mention angry? Sheesh. My whole world was flipped upside down. I couldn’t see daylight. I certainly never dreamed I would be where I sit today. Is everything perfect today? Nope. Would be lying if I said otherwise. Is it light years beyond this time last year? In every way conceivable.
Many things make up the changes. My counselor would tell you it was my own hard work. My brain would tell you it was my counselor and my tribe never leaving my side until I was steady…and unrelenting prayer. In 2021 I finished two prayer journals and reading back through them you can literally see the progression of my year. From prayers to survive the day, to prayers for my children’s health and safety, to the now thankful prayers for my blessings that start every day. 2021 took me to my knees and God was there.
I learned a lot about myself this year. I was reminded (again) that God made me a survivor and no one, not even my own family, can break me. I learned I have a voice and I am free to use it – and what it has to say will not always be liked and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I have to silently hurt.
I learned there are very bad people in this world who prey on people who are hurting (the dating world is an ugly place y’all) but with prayer God will put the right one right in front of you. I learned that despite years of telling myself people are lucky if they get one love that is not, in fact, the case if you open your heart and mind to God’s plan for your life.
Most importantly I learned happiness comes from the inside. It is not a result of anyone or anything. No one can bring you happiness or make you happy if you don’t do the work on yourself. They may make you feel that way for a short time but true overwhelming can’t stop smiling joy comes from a place inside where you have done the work on yourself and understand yourself. THAT is the biggest lesson 2021 leaves me with. I’ll never depend on another to bring me happiness. I will enjoy having a partner to share happiness, joy, and adventure with but will never lose sight of what I need to do for myself to take care of me. That doesn’t make me selfish or self centered or any of the other “self” derogatory labels – it makes me healthy and whole.
Blessings in 2022 y’all. It’s gonna be filled with love, laughter, and adventure in my world.
I have long believed that there are places that live in our heart that, when given the chance to return there, fill your happy tank in a way that is indescribable. Hot Springs as a whole is one of those places but within that magic town is a winding road up to the mountain tower. It’s tradition for our family to drive it before we head out of town. It’s also become tradition to take more than a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of the area.
For me, today, this road had a different message. Today I could see the connection between this winding road and the path I’ve been on the last few years. I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape that masks the possibility of falling right over the steep edge. How many times have I fallen off the edge as I’ve worked on healing? How many times have I failed to appreciate the beauty that lies even in the fear and the pain? Too many to count.
Today I saw a road to follow that you can’t see the destination. I just have to start down it and have faith that around each corner or dip in the road that same road is still under me and in front of me carrying me to the next destination. I know that some of the positive message I took from this place is a reflection of the peaceful happy place I have reached in my heart but somehow it feels bigger than that.
How many time do we deviate from the path because we focus on one of the tiny details on the side of the road instead of having faith in the road we’re on? Faith is a hard thing sometimes. As humans we think we can fix, control, or change things that are out of our control. The reality is that we can’t change a thing. We have to put our faith in God and the road ahead no matter how hard.
The road I am on now has me focused on the future. On chasing dreams and having a life filled with joy and laughter. Letting go of the illusion that I could change anything about the road God set me on has cracked open my heart so wide it’s breathtaking.
Don’t be afraid of the road. Have faith and just start the journey. It’ll make you happier than you could ever dream of if you focus on the beauty instead of the pain.
I had a long convo with a close friend last week and through the twists and turns of that conversation came the idea of dealbreakers.
When we are young and chasing the youthful love that our 20’s bring we don’t think of what WE need. Life just feels good and is intoxicating. It never occurs to us that we can say “you are a nice person but not the person for me” because…. Mainly because at that stage of life we don’t know ourselves – let alone know how to really see people. Be it friends or lovers our emotions rule over our heads and the gut instinct you develop from life kicking the crap out of you just ain’t there yet.
But when you find yourself at the mature phase of life, seeking out someone worthy of your time for whatever reason, the rules are different. You know yourself (or should) better than you ever have. You know what you are looking for and admittedly it can seem like a needle in a haystack. But following the idea that there is a glove for every hand – settling for someone who only checks two of your ten boxes just to not be alone is insane.
For me personally? I’ve had love and I’ve been treated like a queen. The standards are high. A huge dealbreaker this time around is anyone who doesn’t have at least a little wanderlust in their heart. Seeing this huge world is the focus on the next chapter of my life. I’ve done bills and babies and hectic schedules. I want to sit on a patio in Greece and watch an incredible sunset with someone who will appreciate it as much as I do.
That someone should love animals and be able to handle craziness that comes with my nutballs. Be able to melt at a pair of puppy dog eyes as quickly as I do. Be open to the zoo that lives in my heart.
Must be a southern gentleman. Someone who makes me feel safe while making me laugh – at myself and everything else. I’ve had too many tears…laughter is required in this season.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’ve only dipped my toe back into the dating world as it is a SCARY place after almost 20 years of being devoted to one person. The world has the same number of nutballs as it always did and I’m afraid of being a magnet for them. 🤷🏻♀️
But it is empowering to know that with a mature heart logic can at least have a chance over lust. Fred always told me I wasn’t meant to be alone – I have too much love to give. I used to dismiss him when he said that. As I’ve healed I realize he is right. I have so much I want to do and see and while I don’t NEED anyone…having someone to share it with is how God intended life to be liven.
I am listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly and I’ve had to learn how to drive, listen, and take notes to not forget the key sentences that grab my attention. It’s a balancing act I probably shouldn’t be doing but ya know. 🤷🏻♀️
One such profound sentence – “There is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.”
You know those books you read (or listen to) that make you squirm with their dead on application to your life? Brene speaks about perfectionism being a cover for shame. As a shield for vulnerability. Lots of squirming going on over here….
As one of the perfection seeking individuals Brene is directly speaking about in this book I’ve gotten quite good at hiding my “cracks”. Or so I thought. A little extra good deed here, a little extra work there, just keep it all together and surely you must have it all together – right? Keep spackling those cracks no matter what. Somewhere along the way I got the idea that if I didn’t show any flaws people would love me more. Or more people would love me. Not sure which.
The work I am doing in counseling tells me that idea stems from an abusive childhood. Being told constantly that I wasn’t good enough. To do better. To do more. To be seen and not heard. To be quiet and not cause any trouble. To not have an opinion – and if I did keep it to myself if it will hurt someone else’s feelings. To follow the rules – no matter the cost. Even if that cost is my love tank constantly being on empty. I have an 8 year old inside me starving for love. Even now. Even after having been married to the most perfect and flawed but loving man on the planet. A man that knitted together a family to bring love and joy he always craved and a family that completed me. How can that be? How can I have known the love of my life and still feel starved for love? How can I still have cracks?
If what I am taking from Brene’s words is correct (and goodness knows it’s only my interpretation) then my understanding is this…. Those cracks aren’t all bad. Those cracks left from childhood allowed the light that was my husband into my heart. Those cracks let me be vulnerable enough to be a mother – the hardest most flawed job in the world. Those cracks are allowing me to discover, finally, who I am without the responsibility of another soul except the sixteen paws that love me unconditionally. Those cracks promise to bring love and light to my life again. I don’t have to be perfect. I just need to be vulnerable and have faith. Through having faith even when I want to just hide I know the light will come again. Because I still have plenty of cracks. ❤️
“You can only love others as much as you love yourself.” – Brene Brown
When this sentence came out of Brene’s mouth while listening to her audio book “Daring Greatly” I hit the rewind button. Again. And again. And again. Since entering into counseling in September 2020 one of the themes that we keep circling back to over and over again is self love. I honestly had no idea what that phrase meant. To the point I asked my counselor “what do you mean when you tell me to practice self love”?
For me, at that point of my depression, it was stuff that should have been easy like eating and showering. For anyone who doesn’t struggle with depression you simply have no idea how hard those two things are in the middle of a really bad dip into the black hole of depression. For those of you who have been there – you know what I mean. Weeks upon weeks of just daily thinking about “did I eat today”, “what did I eat today”, “when was the last time whatever I did eat stay with me”, and “when was the last time you showered” ruled my life. Feed the dogs daily? No problem. Fuss at my kid to make sure she ate? Again, routine. Show even the smallest amount of kindness and mercy to myself? Not a chance.
As I sit now somewhere about six feet above the very bottom of the place I got to in my my mind (but by no means anywhere close to out of the black hole) in the last year I am thankful that showering has become routine. Food is still a daily thing but that has extenuating circumstances that coincide with my ongoing gut issues. Some days eating really is just not worth the trouble. Having gotten somewhere a mile up the road past those issues my brain circles again to “what is self love”? My counselor now talks about thinking about the 8 year old little girl inside me who has been through physical and emotional abuse and how I would have protected her if she was my child. The things I would have done for her to make her happy. Those are the things I am to be working on now. When I get all that figured out I’ll let ya know.
But I think the reason Brene’s statement echoed like a gunshot in my head is I have always given 1000% to those that I love. Or in my mind I did. That one sentence opened up the Pandora’s box in my mind…if I had been able to take care of myself all these years could I have done better? If I could have told myself “good job”, or “it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if it makes you happy”, or any of those things that we should be telling ourselves when we are happy and whole…could I have done it better?
As I am in a season of my life where maturity and time on my hands has given me reflection it’s easy to armchair quarterback now. To cringe and go “geez I probably could have done that better”. Hell, it’s easy to see why others are judging and re-writing the past with no knowledge of what it was like in the moment. It’s also easy to see where those around me are struggling with loving themselves enough to be happy and whole. My “fixer” nature wants to jump in and share what I’m learning. On some occasions I do, but I recognize now that we each have to know ourselves and love ourselves enough to recognize the unhealthy cycles we are in and make the changes for ourselves. I’ve spent to much of my life TELLING people how to fix their lives instead of just leading by example.
I know I’m not done fixing myself. I also know I’ve always put myself last. Isn’t the best form of self-love now to keep working on ME the way I should have done all along? Will I be able to love those I love most better if I keep on with this journey I am on? The answer is a resounding “YES”. Since I have no desire for the second season of my life to be as pain filled and traumatic as the first season…I’m gonna figure out this self love thing. I’m gonna figure out how to tell the girl in the picture that she is worth something – if not to anyone else than to the creator who made her.