Be Kind…

Be Kind…                                                                                                                             (for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about)

I don’t know about you, but this quote seems to pop up in my social media more often than any other. It resonates with people, because it is true. I look around me and see people fighting battles all around me every day. Chronic illness, temporary severe illnesses, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a child, deployment of a loved one, having to move, being single, the list could go on and on, big and small things. Everyone’s capacity is different, what could be no big deal to one person, is devastating to someone else, because we all have our own stories.

I don’t know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes, but parts of my story help me to understand and empathize with parts of other people’s stories. The stories I understand best are those of single moms. We may not have all arrived here the same way, but here we are, and it is hard. I can’t say it is harder than anyone else’s hard, because I haven’t walked there. But it is frustrating when people compare things to my hard. When someone says they are “single momming it” because their partner is gone for the weekend/week/month, it is like saying to someone with a chronic illness, “Oh I know how you feel, I had the flu for a whole week last year” No. You don’t. That experience gave you a tiny glimpse, a taste, it allows you to have empathy, it does not allow you to claim or understand what fighting that battle is like.

I am not saying it isn’t a hard battle when you are left alone with your kids, when you are used to having someone there. There is no doubt it is rough. But you likely went grocery shopping and stocked up before they left. You likely didn’t plan any major events for that time. You likely get to call them at the end of the day and tell them how it went. And most importantly, you have an end date. A finish line. A point to look forward to where the battle will end and life will return to normal. I don’t have that luxury, and neither do my fellow single moms. This is our life, this is our normal, everything resting on our shoulders. Every.Single.Thing. There is no one to pick up the slack. There is no one to talk to at the end of the day. There is no one to fill up our bucket as we continuously empty it. It is exhausting, with no end in sight.

How do we be kind when we haven’t been there, done that, got the t-shirt? Don’t compare and don’t discount. I won’t discount your experience; I haven’t walked in our shoes, but yes I know it is hard to be alone. I will listen; I will ask if there is anything I can do to help. Don’t compare, empathize. Instead of comparing and saying you know what it is like, say wow, this is hard, I can only imagine what it is like for you all the time. Ask questions, listen, offer help. This life is isolating. Be kind.

Dear Fear,

 

Instagram is by far my favorite social media platform, it is clean, and uncluttered. I have found so much inspiration there. (Now if only I could just bring myself to ditch that time waster of FB). I was scrolling through my feed on my lunch break at work the other day and came across the above image re-posted by a friend of mine. It literally took my breath away for a second. So good.

Addressing your fear, acknowledging it, giving it a voice, but not giving it control. (Even of the radio.) Fear is something I have dealt with throughout my journey, at different times and in different ways. It is indeed familiar. So familiar that sometimes it sneaks right in and starts making suggestions without me even noticing. But I have gotten better at recognizing it over the years, and better at shutting down those suggestions before they start taking me on detours. But every time some new situation or choice arises, it is there, that familiar tightness in my chest, that ‘what if,’ worse case scenario playing in my head,

The sooner I recognize it, the easier it is reason myself back to reality, a process that sometimes has to occur multiple times a day. Sometimes that requires listening to fear and walking with it for a while. In one of Beth Moore’s bible studies, she says something to the effect of, to break fear’s hold on you, sometimes you have walk out with it to the end. This seems counter-intuitive, but in order to do this you first have to recognize what it is that you are specifically afraid of. Often times we have a fear response but we can’t really put into words what exactly it is we are afraid of, and we just end up with this vague anxiety that paralyzes us. Secondly, once you realize what exactly you are afraid of, you go there. You go there in your mind, you walk with fear down that horrible path of ‘what if’. When you get to the end you sit and look around and see if it really as bad as you thought. Is it really the end of the world as we know it?

For me, this is what this looks like: Ok, this would hurt, this would be hard, this would be difficult, BUT if I end up here, is God still in control? does he still love me? will he teach me and guide me and give me the strength I need to walk through this?  And once I have sat in that place and looked fear in the eye, the answer is always, yes. Yes, He will be enough even in that place, and suddenly fear loses all control.

It goes back to the question I have asked myself every step of this journey. “If I really believe what I say I believe, then what? If I believe what I say I believe, then I simply can not let fear drive.

A Tale of Two Selfies

Well friends, it’s been a LONG time since I wrote. The radio silence has been equally due to two things. I have been busy and haven’t had anything to say that I wanted to tell the world. Many things have happened and much growth has occurred, some deeply private that I haven’t wanted to share on a platform like this, others have been smaller, creeping changes that haven’t screamed loud enough to get out of my head and on to paper. So what caused me to write again? A selfie. Profound.

A month or so ago, I was in the bathroom washing my hands, looked in the mirror and loved my hair, so I took a selfie. I looked at that picture and I loved what I saw. So I made that picture my profile picture. Now that may seem like a pretty ordinary set of events. But it wasn’t. It was significant.

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Up until about a year ago, my profile picture had always been a picture of my son and I, or of a friend and I. My identity was not my own. In my life, I have been daughter, wife, mother, student, and friend. And I have lost myself in all of those roles. This year I feel like I have finally become my own person. I am a mom, and a nurse, and a daughter, and a friend, I am all of those things, and none of those things…because I am ME. And I am starting to like me.

I moved out of my tiny studio of 8 years, into pretty much my dream house, this year. It is amazing what physical space can do for you. I also moved away from the property, family, neighbors, where I have lived for practically my whole life. It is amazing what emotional space can do for you. I also started my dream job as a postpartum nurse. It is amazing what a career can do for you. My ex-husband remarried this year. It is amazing what FINAL closure can do for you. I started my son on meds this year. It is amazing what finally making progress can do for you.

Now don’t get me wrong, with all those changes, it wasn’t all roses and rainbows. It was hard, ridiculously hard at times. There were many times I laid in bed starting at the ceiling wondering what the heck I doing and how was I going to keep this up, and was this ever going to get easier. And I still wonder that sometimes. But in an advent devotional before Christmas I came across this phrase. Make room. And that has become my motto of sorts.

Make room. Make room for God. Make room for people. Make room for me. Make room to breathe. I don’t have any of those things figured out, but I am working on it. Part of making room, is letting go of expectations. I am making room for God, by dropping my guilt when I don’t meet the self imposed expectation that I should have a quite time every day. That gives me the freedom to breathe Him in and make room in little ways that snowball into bigger ways. I make room for other people, by dropping expectations, by not defining, by letting people be who they are. I make room for me by dropping the expectations I put on myself, by taking time to breathe, to rest, to connect. And the crazy thing is that since I have given myself the permission to binge watch Netflix or take a nap on a day off…my house has never been cleaner. By giving myself some room to rest and take care of myself, I am much more productive at other times.

So back to the selfie, I looked at this picture I took and I saw this cute, smart, funny, confident, content person looking back at me. I had never seen that before. Later that week I got on the scale, and realized that I was almost back up to my heaviest weight again. And I thought about that selfie and I laughed! Because it so perfectly illustrated the old saying that weight is just a number. I went looking for an old picture from when I was at that weight before. And it was a picture of a totally different person. I tried to remember what it was like being that girl. I know I didn’t feel cute, how can you when you are not comfortable in your own skin? I know I didn’t feel smart or funny, how can you when you feel helpless. I know I wasn’t confident, how can you when you are ridiculously insecure. And I know I wasn’t content, I wanted so much more out of life and how no idea how to get there.

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Guess what. I didn’t get there. A year after that picture was taken, my whole world started to crumble and the life that I thought I wanted disappeared. I had to start over from the ground up. I had to decide who I wanted to be. I never expected to be the person I am now, I never set out with this goal in mind. But I have picked up the pieces and slowly put them back together and become a whole person again. A different person. A stronger person. A person with more capacity to love. A person with the capacity to love myself. A person who is better for having been broken.

And that my friends is why you should take selfies now and then. 😉

[Not] An Apology

After my last blog post I almost wrote an apology. Posting something written while crying is probably not the best idea. But I did. And the next morning as people started commenting on Facebook, telling me that everything was going to be alright and things would work out, I felt bad. I didn’t write it because I wanted pity or attention. So I almost apologized. But I didn’t.

My writing process it probably different from most (everyone’s probably is). I don’t do rough drafts, I don’t start something and come back to it. I usually have some idea, some thought, that starts to bother me, and I muse on it for a week or more and then when I can’t stand having it in my head anymore, I sit down and write. And it usually goes in a direction I didn’t anticipate. I revise as I go, and then when it is done I send it out into the world. Because I know if I leave it, I will decide that it isn’t good enough, or doesn’t need to be said, or something along those lines.

The last blog post was no different, the core was something that had been kicking around for a while. The crying my eyes out while writing was the unanticipated direction. That fact that my process was the same is what kept me from knee jerk apologizing, and that gave me time to think it through. And I got a little help in my thought process.

First I heard the song “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissett, and I while I am not recommending the song (you have been warned) the chorus makes a good point. Singing to an ex, she says “I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away. It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me.” As I talked about in the last post the fall out has really been bothering me lately. I feel like it has been 7 years, I shouldn’t be dealing with this anymore. So that last line, really hit home, it ISN’T fair to deny the fall out. The course of my life was drastically altered by someone else’s choice. That is fact. And that fact is still affecting my life today. Just to be clear I am not advocating playing the victim. We all have to take responsibility for our own actions. I have worked hard to stand on my own two feet. But that doesn’t make it easy.

The Second thing that helped solidify my thought process was this blog post about being a single mom on the Huffington Post. What we do is not easy. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love it. That doesn’t me we would trade it for the world. It just means that it is hard. And it isn’t fair to expect us to pretend that it is not. The whole reason I started this blog was to write about the hard things, with the hope that just one person will read it and know that they are not alone, know that what they are feeling is normal. So I don’t apologize for my last post. Because someone out there needed to hear it. Someone out there didn’t need it all tied up in a neat bow with all the answers. They needed raw, they needed real, they needed to know they weren’t alone.

Broken Dreams

I am getting rid of my son’s baby stuff. I kept everything. When my son was a baby I was just sure that a wonderful man would come along, I would get remarried and have more babies. So I kept everything. Clothes, bedding , toys, furniture, accessories of all kinds. As he grew older, I just kept putting the old stuff in storage. My storage unit, which once had plenty of space, slowly filled up. Well my baby is seven now, there is still no man on the horizon and the thought of having another baby has become decidedly less appealing. So I am purging. Everything.

But as I worked in my storage unit. I looked at all the other things, that have been in there for the past 7 years. Tables and chairs, cake pans, special linens, art, all the things to make a house a home. And I thought, at what point do I give up on that dream too? At what point do I give up on ever being able to gather friends around my table that seats 8. At what point do I give up on having a kitchen I can bake cakes in? At what point do I give up on having space to display the things I love?

When I took a Divorce Care class, years ago, they told us to make a list of all the things we had to grieve the loss of. Not just the loss of your spouse, but the loss of the plans and dreams. The thing is, no one told me those losses would continue so far into the future. I have healed. Most of the time I don’t even think about it much. But lately I look around and I see that there is still so much fall out. There are the holes that I wrote about last year. But there is just the everyday drag, and the feeling that none of this should have been like this. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I have learned and the person I have become for anything. But I just want something to be different. Something to make it a little easier. I want someone to wrap me in their arms and tell ME it is going to be all right. Tell me not to give up on my dreams. Tell me that someday I will be able to sit around my table with friends and celebrate that this chapter is over.

 

 


Build the Cities

Have you ever read something many times and then something suddenly jumps out at you? And changes the way you think about things? I began reading a Beth Moore book this last week and the main passage is Isaiah 61:1-4. I wrote it out and highlighted the parts (italics here)  that she pointed out were part of Jesus job description, thinking that would be key to focus on, the things that God is going to do for me.

 

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor

and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the LORD

for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

that have been devastated for generations.

Isaiah 61:1–4

 

I taped it to my mirror and started reading it. But after several times through what jumped out at me were not the highlighted portions, it was the plain black section at the bottom. The parts that start with “they,” meaning, our part, not Gods. It doesn’t say God will rebuild the ruins, it doesn’t say he will restore the devastation. It says we will.

God’s part is to comfort and heal our broken hearts. God’s part is to set us free. God’s part is to give us joy instead of sadness. Once he has built us up, it is OUR job to build up the rest. We will be the ones to take the ruins and rebuild something new and full of life. We will be the ones to change the generational devastation. This is our job, not God’s.

Now don’t get me wrong, God plays a part. Obviously. He frees, and heals and strengthens us, without Him we would not be able to do a single thing. But once he has done his work in us, in our hearts, it is then our job to go out and do the work in our lives, in our families, in our world. To build the cities and bring him glory.

As this just hit me while reading the passage this week, I am still working out what exactly this means for me. What it is God is trying to teach me. But it seems, on the surface, that I should do less waiting for God to drop the perfect life in my lap and more creating of a life that will bring glory to Him who healed my heart and set me free.

 

 

Alone

I have heard this sentiment so many times and in so many ways. I think it is wise and totally true and something everyone should learn. I thought this was a good version, and the painting is hauntingly beautiful.

10151416_675032745883776_2157172414783979823_nHowever, it makes me want to scream.

So much of this type of advice is presented as a formula: Learn how to be happy alone AND THEN you will find someone. When you don’t NEED someone anymore, THEN it will be the right time. When you stop looking THEN someone will come along. Well guess what? I am happy, I am not needy, and I have stopped looking multiple times…and NEWSFLASH: I am still single.

I have learned HOW to be happy alone. But it doesn’t mean I WANT to be alone. I WANT a companion. I want someone to go on adventures with, to share the wonder, someone to be the second driver on awesome weekend trips, someone to talk to at the end of the day, someone to laugh with, someone to cry with, someone to be honest with, someone to do the dishes at the end of the day when I have nothing left.

In the past 7 years I have been in one relationship and gone on 4 first dates, and exactly zero second dates. From each one I have learned something new about myself, or about what I want. Being divorced makes you realize idea of “The One” is ridiculous. I believe there are multiple people out there with whom I could have a happy successful marriage. And with each of those people life would probably look very different. I am not picky, but there are certain qualities that have to be there. I know what I want, and maybe that is the trouble. I don’t see the point in “dating” for fun when I don’t see it going anywhere. As a single mom my time is precious.

Somewhere near the top of the hard and awkward list is being a divorced, single mom and tying to date. The number one issue is time, how do I carve out time for myself? And when I can, do I really want to spend it awkwardly talking to someone I don’t know over coffee? But wait, I have to meet someone first. How am I supposed to meet people? And where? And with whom? My friends are mostly married with kids, so they don’t go out anymore. I don’t really have many single friends, because, you know, I have a kid. And on the rare occasion that I do go out I want to have fun, not spend my time figuring out how to meet people. And on top of all that I am just naturally awkward and probably would have no idea how to respond if someone was actually interested in me…much less know how to show that I was interested.

Everyone tells me I should do online dating. But I just can’t bring myself to do that. There is too much personal history relating to my divorce to make meeting people online seem ok for me. Someday I might be able to work past that, but not today.

So where does that leave me? Alone. Happy, self sufficient, and not looking too hard…but very much alone.