All the Single Ladies

It is here again, February. The month that single ladies seem to dread, and I am already hearing the complaints about “Singles Awareness Day”.  Every year on Valentines Day I end up making a Facebook post in response to all the posts by my single friends. This year I thought I would get ahead of the curve.

A little history of my history with Valentine’s Day is in order. Growing up we always made Valentines cards for family members; they were works of love involving doilies, lace, scissors and glue.  For many years when I was small we had small fabric hearts, which at Christmas would hang on the tree, then when the tree was put away, they would hang on a row of nails across the beam in the middle of the house. Some years we had a Valentines tree, pruned branches of fruit trees that were forced into bloom by being brought inside, we would make small valentines to hang on the branches. When I got older my dad would always bring home potted primroses, cards and candy for my mom and I.

Fast forward to the first Valentine’s Day I went out with a boyfriend. We went to a concert at our church, I can’t even remember who was playing. He picked me up, for the first time ever, and we were just so happy to be driving alone that we took the long way around to church. I had made him chocolate chip cookies. He had nothing for me. I still remember the sheepish look on his face as he handed me a lollipop he got from the sound room. Fast forward again, to the Valentine’s Day before I married that same boyfriend. He gave me a salad spinner, (I really, really wanted one) and inside it were snickers bars and homemade coupons for back massages. (Which when I ran across one, years later in our marriage, he refused to honor.) In nine years those are the ONLY two valentines days I remember. (actually, I remember one more…but that memory is terrible, and I would rather not talk about it.)

I have way more memories of family Valentine’s Days then of romantic Valentine’s Days. In the last 6 years of I being single again, I have had great Valentine’s Days with my family, we lay out our cards and gifts at each persons place setting for dinner. Several times my mom has made a delicious heart shaped pizza. Once I went out with a friend for dinner and a sappy chick flick.

Why do I tell you all this? Because being with someone is no guarantee of a happy, satisfying Valentine’s Day. And NOT being with someone doesn’t have to mean a sad, disappointing Valentine’s Day.

The point is: Valentines Day is just a day. It can be good or bad depending on what YOU make of it. You can choose to wallow in your singleness, be hyper sensitive to all the hearts and flowers, and make comments about how stupid it is. (And can I just mention, self-pity is NOT attractive) OR you can chose to make the most of the day, by showing those around you that you love them. Make cards. Have friends over for dinner. Decorate. Make it about giving love, not selfishly wanting romantic tokens. Don’t let one day ruin your month, your week, or even your day.

So what are my plans for Valentine’s Day this year? My best friend and I are taking our sons to their first rock concert. Definitely cracking up to be the most memorable Valentine’s Day date I have ever had.

Advertisements

Too Long

There is a saying that floats around on the Internet, I am sure you have seen it. It goes something like this: Depression is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of having been too strong, for too long. I used to think it was kind of stupid, because depression after all is a mental illness, a chemical imbalance.

I used to think it was stupid…until about a month ago when I started feeling like it was describing me. I am tired. Tired of always being strong. I can feel the depression creeping in, the apathy and despair and I can feel the hope draining out. And I try to fight. But fighting takes strength, and I am just so tired.

Having to be strong all the time takes its toll. Never having the luxury of falling apart, because there is no one to pick up the pieces. No one to pick up the slack. No one to hold you. No one to help you make the decision. Just you, all the time. It is too much for one person. We weren’t made for this.

I am guessing that most single people feel this way at some point or another. But I guarantee that ALL single moms (and dads) feel this way. Parenting wasn’t designed to be a one-person job. It is hard to constantly pour yourself out for someone, with out someone pouring into you.

There are two more quotes that were shared today by friends as I was thinking about this, and I thought they were rather fitting. The first one I thought was beautiful way of putting it.

“You don’t need another human being to make your life complete, but lets be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters in your soul, but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in this world.” – Emery Allen

The second more in depth

“To be loved but not know is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully know and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Timothy Keller

I am tired of being strong alone. I need some kisses on my wounds, I need to be known, I need to be liberated, I need to be humbled, I need to be fortified.

Resolutions

I am not a big fan of New Years Resolutions. Probably because I hate introspection. It is hard to think about what you should do, when you don’t want to think about where you are.

Twenty-thirteen was an interesting year. Full of high hopes and deep disappointments. The best of friends and hollow loneliness. The end of one chapter, but no start to a new one.

I find it hard to resolve to do anything except keep on living and taking life as it comes. The things I want the most aren’t things I can resolve to do. They are things that I have to let come to me. Things I can do nothing to make happen.

I am tempted to resolve to give up hope, so that I will stop being disappointed. But what is life without hope? So I guess I will just resolve to keep doing the next thing and keep hoping.

Thirty

Today I turn thirty. I had big plans for my birthday, as mentioned in my last blog. Not only are those plans not coming true, no plans are happening today. Both my son and I are sick, so celebrations plans have had to be postponed.  The one thing I most wanted to do on this milestone of a birthday, besides spending it with friends, was to thank my friends and let them know what they mean to me. So I am going to do that. This originally started out as a speech for my imagined party, but given the circumstances I thought I would share it here. The upside? You won’t see me cry as I try to get through it.

My life at thirty is totally different then I had ever planned, and it is better than I could have imagined, in large part because of the friends that have come into my life. At thirty I think I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and that is in due in large part to the people I am lucky enough to call friends. While there have been many people who have influenced my life in big and small ways over the last 7 years, these have had the largest impact on getting me to where I am now. I am going to list them in order of how long I have known them.

Justin- You are one of the few friends that carried over from my “other life” We have know each other since Jr. High, that is a long time to know someone. We haven’t always been close or even kept in touch. But you were there for me at my darkest moments. You were the only friend who walked with me through my divorce, who saw the good, the bad and the ugly. Who always listened, and never judged. For this I will be forever grateful.

Lia- You are an answer to prayer, literally. I needed a friend so desperately and I prayed and prayed for one. I wasn’t so sure about you at first, but I am so glad I took the chance. You have been the most amazing friend I could imagine. You have been with me through all the ups and downs of figuring out my new life. You always have a listening ear, encouraging words, and good advice. You always tell me how you are praying for me, and that means the world to me! I can’t imagine doing life without you.

Henry- If Lia was an answer to prayer, you were the answer to a prayer I didn’t know I prayed. For the last few years I have seen you more often that anyone else in my life, other than my family. There is something about seeing someone that often, you can’t hide. You see each other’s ups and downs and everything in between. Somewhere in the middle of nursing school you became more than just a friend; you became family. Watching out for me AND making fun of me, in true big brother fashion. You kept me from losing my sanity. Thank you for walking through life with me.

Elizabeth- When I met you I was in a lonely place in life, I felt like I just didn’t fit in anywhere. Then I met you; the crazy tattooed lady. And with some other friends we spent the summer just doing life together. No one cared that I was a single mom with a crazy kid, and for the first time since my divorce I felt accepted. I felt like I fit. You have seen me fall apart more than anyone else on this list, (which may only be twice, but still) you have seen me cry and eat Oreos off your floor. You have always been willing to watch my son when I need it, and have always opened your home to me. Thank you for being there when I need you.

Cara- Honestly, when I first met you I was a little intimidated by you. You were beautiful, funny, and confident. All things I didn’t feel I was. But as I got to know you, I couldn’t help but like you, you were real and honest and kind. As we became friends your confidence started to rub off on me, and not only was I no longer intimidated by you, I started to be less intimidated by other people and situations. You helped me learn to not take myself so seriously, to lighten up and have some fun. I needed that so much, thank you.

Aundria- When we started talking I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I have never become so close of friends with someone so quickly. But just like with everyone else on the list it was obvious that God had brought us into each other’s lives for a reason. After Baby was born, it may have seemed like I was helping you; but really you were helping me. You helped me see a purpose for my story, as I was able to use it to help you. I love your blatant honesty; it has helped me to be honest and real with you and with others. Thank for sticking with me, even when I could only be your Sunday friend.

The most amazing thing about this list is that, except one, none of these people were in my life just 5 short years ago. If that doesn’t give me hope for what the next 5 years hold, I don’t know what will.

Sameness

I write when there is something I need to get out. A thought, or an idea that just can’t be kept in, that has to be shared. Something that is real. Something that might help someone else. Not because I have all the answers, but because knowing you are not alone is half the battle.

I have had multiple thoughts and ideas lately, but when I start to think them through, I realize I have already written about them, and I have nothing new to say about them. This seems to be the story of my life right now. Sameness.

I had big plans for this year. I was going to graduate, find the perfect job as an OB nurse, save a little money, and move into a place of my own.  You know with a real kitchen, separate bedrooms, and (dare I dream) a bathtub. I was going to get my things out of storage and decorate for Christmas with ALL my decorations. Then I was going to have all my friends over for a dinner party for my 30th birthday. It was going to be wonderful.

But, as they say, life is what happens when you are busy making plans. I graduated. (YAY!) I got a job as a caregiver for my grandma. And I am still live in my tiny “studio” apartment. I can almost taste the disappointment. I can feel the walls closing in. The apathy of depression seeping in around the edges.

Change can be difficult. Sameness, when you are expecting change may be even more difficult. I am finding it hard to be grateful. I know in my head that I am so blessed with what I have. But in my heart I just want to be somewhere else.

Thanksgiving came and went, and I tried to make my November thankful posts on Facebook. But I only made a few. I know I have lists and lists of things to be thankful for, but I just couldn’t make many heartfelt spontaneous declarations of thankfulness. Now Christmas is upon us, my favorite time of the year, and I am just not feeling joyful. Yes I am aware that joy is a choice, but sometimes feeling it is good too.

My pastor taught on generosity last week, (If you think you have heard every sermon on giving that you ever need to hear, you haven’t.  Listen here. 12/1) and he drove home the point that even the poorest of us here are SO rich. Point taken. Then we started this Advent for Orphans calendar, where you put specified amounts of change in a jar for things such as: # of bibles or games you own, # of eggs in the fridge or cans of food in he pantry, or # of carpeted rooms in your house. I may only have one room, but it is carpeted, and heated. Has lights and running water, hot water even.

Nothing like perspective to make you feel like a ridiculously selfish spoiled brat. Perspective may not immediately change how I FEEL, but changing how I THINK is a start.  I may still want something different, but I can also be content with what I have.

In the midst of all the disappointing sameness I need to remember that there is a comforting sameness. The same God who has gotten me through the last 7 years, is the same God who is going to get me through the next 7 years. I have believed steadfastly that he has a plan for me, that he has the perfect job waiting, that he brings good things to those who wait. He stays the same, even when he doesn’t do things in MY timing. He stays the same.

Labels

One of the reasons I didn’t want to send my son to regular school is because I didn’t want him labeled. While he is extremely smart, he is also one of “those kids” and I didn’t want him stuck with labels that weren’t true. I had read the lists of symptoms for ADHD, and while he had most of hyperactivity and impulsivity traits, he had none of the attention deficit problems.

I homeschooled him in kindergarten, which was very much a village effort, as I was in my final year of nursing school. I kept my options open by applying him to a new charter school, whose philosophy of education I was excited about, both for K (he was 56 on the wait list) and again for 1st grade. When I applied him for 1st grade, I prayed and basically told God that if he didn’t get in then I would know that homeschooling him was what I should continue to do. He didn’t get in.

Over the summer my Grandma broke her hip and eventually was moved into my mom’s home on hospice. This removed my mom’s ability to help with my son, and also provided employment for me; while I continue to job-hunt for an RN position. As the school year approached, I was dreading it. I was overwhelmed and just didn’t know how I was going to make it work this year. But I just kept telling myself that this must be the right choice, because he didn’t get into the other school, that God had a plan, and it would all work out.

The Tuesday morning before school was supposed to start, I was driving home when the phone rang. I answered, and the voice on the other end told me that a spot had come open in 1st grade and my son was next on the list. I asked if I could get back to them by the end of the day and hung up the phone. My son was in the back seat, and I told him the news. He reacted with anger. When we got home, I left him raging outside and immediately went to talk to my mom.

I was so overwhelmed by the unexpected news that I just started crying. I was scared to make this choice, for what it might mean for him, and I was also relived. Throughout the course of the morning, I prayed and I talked to his dad, and to my good friend. My mom talked with Zachary about new opportunities and he quickly changed his tune, becoming excited about this new adventure. By noon I had made my choice, called them back and accepted the spot.

That was Tuesday. Meet your teacher night was Wednesday, and school started Thursday. We scrambled to find uniforms, met the teachers and showed up Thursday morning for drop off. I walked him to class, gave him a hug and walked away, he didn’t even ask for a second one. I couldn’t have been prouder.

But he quickly started struggling. He was getting in trouble quite often. Little things and big things. Some things could be chalked up to adjustment or being a 6 year old boy, but some couldn’t.

After the first time I volunteered in his classroom, I was mortified. I came home and researched ADHD diet modification. I KNEW he didn’t have the AD part, but the HD side was terrible from what I observed in class. That weekend I removed all artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and MSG from his diet. By Monday I was hopeful, as he seemed to be calmer. But I knew I was going to need more help than that. So I went to the Principle and Vice Principle. I told them I knew he was having a hard time adjusting, and I wanted to be proactive about it. I asked about a school psychologist, but they instead referred me to Youth Services, who in turn, because of his insurance, referred me to a private psychology office.

We had an evaluation and started regular appointments. And then he got suspended from school. Nothing I had been trying seemed to be getting through to him. So I went into crisis discipline mode, pulled him out of soccer, removed all the toys from his room, took away all privileges. It wasn’t easy, but his therapist suggested it and backed me up on it. She also said they wanted to do some testing.

Testing means labels. What could she want to test for? I racked my brain. I came up with only one reasonable option. At the next appointment she said they had gotten authorization, and they wanted to test him for Asperger’s. I wasn’t surprised, because that was the same thing I had come up with.

I had never considered Asperger’s before the mention of testing. But I had always known that there was something different about my son, and the way he related to the world. So it just made sense.

Not everyone felt that way however. Some family straight up denied it as a possibility, others tried to tell me reasons it might not be true. But my mother’s intuition knew it was the truth, it just made sense. My closest friends were the most understanding, making sure I was ok, then telling me that he is a great kid, and this wouldn’t change anything.

A few weeks later it was confirmed that his diagnosis was Asperger’s.

After all my anguish over not wanting to send him to school to get labeled, you would think I would be upset. I wasn’t. My main emotion was one of relief. Relief that he wasn’t a “bad” kid, relief that there was a reason for some of his behaviors, relief that with this new understanding, would come better ways to help him.

I also felt vindicated. Like finally I had an answer for all the people who looked at him and me with disapproval, or told me I coddled him, or I should spank him more, or best yet  “I know you’re a single mom and all, but you need to do something about him, he is just bad.” I felt like screaming to the world: SEE I knew he was different, that he wasn’t just trying to be bad. SEE I knew I was right for trying to understand his feelings rather than just making him do things. SEE I was right to talk with him and not just punish. SEE I was doing the best I knew how!

So now we are living with a label. Does it change who he is? No. He is the same sweet, funny, intelligent, artistic, articulate boy he has always been. And I have learned an important lesson: Not all labels are bad. They are not something to be afraid of. If it is the right one, they can help bring understanding.