Mug Of Cold Coffee

I am unsure what is on my heart today, but it is heavy. We are entering into another school year and for my 7-year-old the excitement of starting Grade 2 is contagious. I am glad she is looking forward to the new year and making new friends. I am even happy to be going to do some back to school shopping, which will inevitably fall under my daughter’s critical eye. At 7 she has already developed a strong sense of what is “her”, and fashion choices are always either dead on or an epic failure on my part. Her independence is beautiful and terrifying. I can’t help but wonder when she will outgrow needing me.

She is fierce and so sure of herself. Watching her dive into new situations is a joy for me. My child has not yet discovered the art of second guessing and insecurity that will come in a few years. I hope she never does yet I know she will – and hopefully I will be able to guide her through that in a way that I was never taught. For now, she is able to vocalize her likes and dislikes in a way that is both assertive and respectful. Sometimes not that respectful actually! We work on that.

Maybe that is what I am struggling with – as my dear daughter starts Grade 2 I am realizing that she is growing up. The innocence and pureness that engulfs her now will not last forever. The ease with which she plays and uses her imagination will fade, as it did for me, as it does for everyone. The made-up songs and detailed games and hilarious drawings will some day be gone. There will be a day when the silly song she creates will be the last one, and it will be so devastating because I won’t even know it at the time. She won’t even know it.

I am comforted knowing that her and I have a deep bond, and that she knows that I adore her. I realize that she will likely pull back at some point, as I did with my mother, but I know that we have a solid foundation. I have worked very hard to establish the trust bond between us. I feel that even the divorce has strengthened the connection between us (as it has certainly done the same with her relationship with her Dad too). I have worked hard to tell her that I love her no matter what – there is nothing she can do to stop my love for her. We talk about how sometimes we can be hurt and upset with someone, but that doesn’t mean our love diminishes. How we can be disappointed but still have oceans of love. I think she understands, as best as a 7-year-old can.

There is so much that I have learned this past year, in watching my child grow. I am getting more comfortable to let her lead, and choose her path. So far, it has been in line with what I hope and dream for her, and I can only try to keep the same attitude when/if that path changes. She is a very spirited being, an old soul. I am often in awe of her. She inspires me to keep growing and learning and becoming more attuned to my authentic self. She builds me up in ways that I hope I build her up.

Grade 2 today, and in the blink of an eye it will be Grade 7, Grade 12 and then she will be all grown up. Bittersweet this is, this feeling of being needed and not needed at all. I suppose it is one of those Motherhood (parenthood) things that we just deal with. Or try to deal with that is.

My mug of cold coffee taunts me from the desk, and so I will go and throw it in the microwave and try to get on with my day. One last closed eye-deep breath-reflective moment, and then life goes on.

Unwanted Baggage

I carry with me a very large, horribly stained bag. It is unbearably heavy – every muscle in my body strains from the weight of it. It is ugly and filthy. I do not want to carry it everywhere I go. I don’t like it. This bag certainly does not match the life I am building for myself. I wish I could just take it off, leave it where it drops and continue on without it. But I can’t.

My ugly, filthy, heavy bag holds all of my insecurities, fears, doubts and shame. It feels like it is permanently affixed to my soul.

Recently, my partner expressed concern about “the bag”. Although, his words were kind and loving when he referred to it as “your past trauma”. It has also been called, “the root of the issue” or “the real reason this upsets you”. The bag has a lot of control over me. I hate the bag.

I carry a lot of shame in not being good enough. Throughout my childhood I never felt that I was listened to. My ideas were not valued, which in turn left me feeling like I was not valued. As an adult, I don’t think that was ever true. I know that my parents loved me and treasured me – but the damage was done. I accept that not everyone is going to hop on the idea train and fully embrace what I think. I am okay with having conversations, debates and sometimes heated arguments regarding opinions/wants/dreams. But when I feel like I am not even listened to, taken into consideration or worse, looked past – my bag starts to shake and wiggle and grow into this thing that overcomes me. And that looks like shame, anger, frustration. For me, feeling overlooked is a hard one.

Another fun fact about my bag is that it likes to make me feel critique in the deepest parts of me. If someone finds fault in something I do or say, even with the best of intentions, I blow. I am working on this, understanding that I am far from perfect (hence the name of the blog!). But it is slow going, it is emotional and I slip a lot. My partner is most loving, and does his best to live with this part of me that at times can be even uglier and smellier and far more distasteful than the bag. I think he might be a saint.

Did I mention yet that I hate my bag?

I know I cannot fix this by willing it to be, but I can make some promises to myself to hopefully aide in my journey of healthy living.

One – I am going to very consciously put that bag aside. Take out the trash so to speak. Or in my case, write down my triggers and light them on fire, while enjoying a rare glass or two of wine. I am going to verbally banish the contents of my bag into the smoke.

Two – When I am feeling left out/overlooked I will vocalize that. Even if it is as simple as a code word for my partner, or being brave and saying “This matters to me, could you please listen?”. I will advocate for me.

Three – When I get criticism I will endeavor to consider the intention instead of the interaction. Most times, when I do mention a “bag reaction incident” the person has no clue they came across as being critical. Funny, how things can be misunderstood so easily.

Four – I am writing on my mirror “I AM HERE. I AM NOT OVERLOOKED. I AM LOVED”. Daily affirmations. I hear they work wonders.

And lastly, I am going to practice gifting myself the grace I extend to others. I am quick to forgive those I love – it is high time I forgive myself.

So, I am going to take active steps to begin to bid adieu to my shitty old smelly bag of baggage – and lighten my load.

Parenting in Isolation – thanks Corona!

This past year has been long and trying. There have been so many ups and downs and twists and turns, it is hard to know how to process and deal with the chaos. Covid-19 came out of left field and left the world struggling to adapt. As adults, we are able to understand and rationalize all of these changes, and even then, we are struggling. We have solid support systems, an understanding of how this virus works and the wisdom behind the precautions. We made adjustments with how we conducted our working lives (many moving to home offices) and we all went out and purchased sanitizer and masks. I don’t think my house has ever been as clean as it was the first 4 weeks of the pandemic. We stocked up on toilet paper and pantry goods, made very careful and cautious trips to the dollar store for crafting supplies (sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!) and dug through our baking supplies for bakers’ yeast in preparation for all the bread we were going to bake. We downloaded Skype, Zoom, Teams and Messenger Video so we could see our families and friends.  We were so prepared and ready for whatever came our way.

But what about our kids? I remember that Sunday night before sh*t hit the fan, telling my daughter that she wasn’t going to school the following day. No daycare in the cards either. I was trying to be chipper and excited, while I was absolutely freaking out inwardly. How on earth was I supposed to facilitate online learning with my own work schedule? Were we even allowed to be outside? Could she go back and forth between my house and her dads? It was a few days of stress before the logistics were sorted out (thankfully she was allowed to maintain her parenting schedule and yes, we could go outside!). While I was a mess, my child was a champion. A real trooper – she kept a positive attitude and she was a true joy to be around. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and her willingness to step up and help out was a tremendous relief.

Somehow, we made it through and the new restrictions enforced became normal. Mask up, scrub your hands, stand apart, be quick – stay safe! We were unscathed and feeling confident. A full year passed and we were still all safe and healthy, no Covid here! Then I got the call – my daughter had to stay home because there was an exposure at her daycare. Daycare was closed and we were not to send her to school or see anyone. I booked Covid tests for myself, my daughter and my partner. Two days later we were tested, one day later my daughter was confirmed as positive for Covid-19. What the actual fudge. Isolated for 10 days for my daughter, and another 14 after that for my partner and I. It was a time of chaos in our home, trying to contact Health Services to figure out what that meant for our split custody schedule, what we were limited to, how great was the risk for my partner and I moving forward. Calls to the school to advise them of the situation, calls to cancel our vaccine appointments, calls to grandparents and parents advising them of the situation. A panicked call to work to advise them that I would do my best to keep my usual hours and productivity levels but couldn’t say for sure that would happen all the time. CHAOS. FEAR. WORRY. ANXIETY.

And then, my daughters wonderful spirit lifting us out of the darkness with her simple, “This is amazing! We are all together now and can just be together”. Enter humility, gratefulness and complete awe for this amazing little girl. Yes – now we can just be together. This is amazing. So we played, watched movies, did crafts, had lots of cuddles, started a few new books and really just enjoyed our time together in isolation.

I truly believe sometimes my daughter is the best teacher I have ever had. She views the world through such a pure perspective, in a way I forgot how to do long ago. Perhaps though, I can learn to get back to it and seek out only the good in each situation. I can hope anyways.

Struggling to “Mom”

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one” – Sue Atkins

Parenting is hard. Parenting prior to divorce is hard. Parenting after divorce is hard. Trying to include a new partner into the child/parent dynamic is hard. There is no question that all parents struggle to find the balance between discipline/boundaries and fun time. To navigate the ever-changing personalities and behaviors of their kids. To carve out the alone time required to refuel and recharge. To foster independence for our children but still walk beside them and teach them. To encourage asking questions but discouraging talking back.

At the end of the day, all parents want the best for our kids. We want them to be respectful, confident, contributing members of society. We want them to be kind and generous yet still maintain healthy boundaries. The end goal is to take all of our positive traits and gift them to our children, while leaving out the negative ones. We aim to foster humans who are good – people who can make a difference in our world.

I struggle with being a mom. Heck, I struggle with being MYSELF. I have a hard time gifting myself the self-love and confidence that I encourage and promote my daughter to have. I falter and fail, usually daily. Sometimes I wonder if I became a mom by mistake -surely, I am not equipped for this daunting task. Surely there is someone better suited than me. I look at so many of the mothers in my circle and feel so inadequate. They seem to have this natural way about them that I can’t see in myself. The seemingly endless energy to play dolls or craft. The joy they take in answering the same questions on an endless loop. The way they just sigh and smile and sip their coffee contently.

Sometimes I feel broken. Like I am missing an important piece of “motherhood”. There was no training for this. Everyone has advice during the pregnancy (sleep when the baby sleeps, take “you” time, enjoy them little because they grow so fast, laugh at the silly things, don’t sweat the small stuff, etc.) But how do we learn to deal with the fears and the feelings of inadequacy? How do we keep going when we are dead on our feet, when our hearts are so full of worry that we feel like breaking and when we cannot find an ounce of patience? How do we give of ourselves when we don’t have anything left?

I am sure dads feel the same way – mothers are not alone in this. So why don’t we talk about it? Why is there still this unspoken wall between what is okay and not? Is it the archaic belief that men can’t have fears and emotion? Is it that women are taught to confide in other women? Is it just too much, and we save our connections for something that is outside the scope of parenthood? A craving for intimate connection instead of exposing our fear?

I am the best at lifting up other women in my life – I can encourage and support and hold them as they spill out all their fears and worries. I feed them platitudes and set them back on their path. So why can I not do the same for myself? Is this a problem all women have?

Parenting is the strangest gift – it is hard and hurtful and tests us in ways we never could imagine. But the joy and the blessings we gain are immeasurable. It is a great mystery to me, this parenting gig. It is for life, it is sacred, it is rough.

But I wouldn’t change it.

Loss of Friendships in Hard Times

“Friendships cause heartbreaks too” – Wolftyla

For many years I considered myself a social butterfly, I had many friends and got on well with most people. As I grew up my friendship circle became smaller and was made up of good quality people. There was no room for drama or chaos – I was blissfully ignorant. It came as a huge shock to me when I realized that a lot of the people I chose to “do life” with were in reality not the quality of people I thought they were – my circle was mostly made of people who were manipulative and users. I discovered how to create healthy boundaries that protected myself, and fostered healthy relationships. It amazed me that once those boundaries were established most of my “friends” suddenly had huge issues. It was a horrible time for me, and I struggled to uncover my faults and my failures. I realized that sometimes friendships are not meant to last forever, I believe it was Oprah who said Friends are like Pants – some are stylish and great for a season or two, others are your favorite worn in jeans that, if taken care of properly, will last a lifetime. Once my perception of what friendship was, and how it was actually possible to have healthy friend relationships I made some very good and deep connections. I considered these women my “jeans” friends.

When we embark on a journey of change, we often overlook the inevitable loosing of relationships. As we grow and discover ourselves, we can shift out of friendships, that is expected. But it is the times of painful change that often come with unexpected losses. When I made the choice to leave my spouse, I didn’t consider the many relationships that would be caught in the middle. My sweet sister-in-law, whom I had loved immediately upon meeting (and considered one of my closest friends) was no longer comfortable speaking to me. My father-in-law, brothers in law, nieces and nephews were now all off limits. It was devastating to me, but I did accept it. After all, they were my ex-spouses’ family and loyalties were to be expected. Having half my family removed from my life was a burden, but I was able to deal with it through the support of my friends.

Until I lost some of those friends. Many of my toxic friendships ended abruptly – once I informed them of the separation/pending divorce I never heard back. Texts went unanswered, voicemails not returned. I spent many nights awake wondering what I had done, how to get my friends “back”. I devalued myself and tried to figure out the big flaw I carried. And then, ironically, I was on the giving end of the “ghosting”.

One friend in particular had just gone through the same things with her marriage a year prior to my separation – her and I were able to remain close for just shy of a year. I shared my heart openly and with a rawness that left me feeling vulnerable (but safe within the friendship). I thought she was doing the same. She was in a new relationship, and I was as well when things started to go sideways. There were red-flags happening in her relationship that I felt compelled to inquire about, where my relationship was going strong. She did a good job of explaining the red flags away, and yet I quickly became her sole confident for the issues in the relationship. She ceased asking me about my life, my struggles, my feelings. I stopped feeling comfortable to express my joy and my happiness in my relationship. It became on sided and I felt as though the entire friendship was about her issues with her partner. It began to affect my relationship with my partner in negative ways – and I was emotionally drained which had an impact on my ability to enjoy quality time with my daughter as well. I ended up backing out of the friendship after much back and forth. This was a woman who I considered a sister, but my mental health was taking a nose dive. I tried to verbalize my concerns and was not heard (or heard but not taken seriously). It all came to a head and I had to walk away. My heart was broken, my life felt disjointed – but just about a year later I can say with confidence and assurance that making the decision to actively allow for my own well being was worth it all.

I am sure that she questioned herself and the merits of our friendship, just as I had done. I am sure I am the villain in her story. But the funny thing is, I am healthy and happy. I have discovered a balance in the relationships I have today – a beautiful and delicate give and take. And yes, the heartache was hard and I am sad for the loss of the friendship. There are times I catch myself thinking “I’ve got to share this with her!”. But the gain that comes from making healthy decisions cannot be overlooked. And in reflection, perhaps some of my friends who disappeared when I separated were making the decision to walk away for their mental well-being. I hope they are doing okay, and I hope they can somehow know that I am too – and it is all okay.

Leap Of Faith

I remember being very enamored with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones when I was a child. He was brave, adventurous and handsome. I mean, who doesn’t love a man in leather? The movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” remains one of my favourite movies to date. The scene where he has to cross over the deep void is gripping – there is no mystery to solve or trap to overcome. He has to dig deep within himself and find trust and faith – and step out into “nothing” to move forward in his quest to obtain the grail and save the life of his father. That first step has me on the edge of my seat every time, that moment of truth, that leap of faith. 

In my own journey, I had to take a leap of faith to move forward in my quest to obtain personal health and to better the life of myself and my daughter. Even though I was not in a life or death scenario like our hero Indiana Jones, the hesitation and fear of the unknown felt overwhelming. Despite the chaos that was my marriage, there was comfort in the “knowing”. I had a steady income, I was a home-owner, I was somewhat stable. I had routine and constants – even if they were unhealthy for me. The unknown terrified me. I considered what life would be like for my daughter without the comforts of two parents in the same household. I was concerned about her ability to adapt to the changes that I couldn’t even explain fully to myself. And for myself, I considered what future partnership would look like, if I even found a future partner who would accept all my baggage, my fears and traumas and the most important thing to me, my daughter. Could I do life alone? Was it better than being in the situation I was in? There were thousands of questions and considerations to take and I had no answers. 

I needed to have faith. Faith in myself and faith in the feeling that this wasn’t the life that would nurture and sustain me. There was no healthy way forward on my current path. I needed to trust in the anxiety that being in the chaos brought me. I had to learn to trust that even if I was uncertain, I was certain that change needed to happen – and quickly. 

My leap of faith took me down a stressful and scary road, I am not going to lie. I moved out of my beautiful (and freshly renovated) bungalow on a quiet street into a very rundown apartment complex. There were nightly fights out on the front lawn and you could hear everything. It was a higher crime area than I had ever been in, and the vicinity to my city’s public commuter train didn’t help. Set two blocks back from a main road there were also several pubs and liquor stores close by. Vehicles were vandalized and broken into, drug paraphernalia littered the hallways and I was never really comfortable being there alone. I had my daughter half the time and I felt like I was always holding my breath on the Monday-Tuesday nights and every  other weekend hoping there wasn’t too  much of a commotion going on.  The apartment never felt like home. It was supposed to be my “safe place” and in reality it felt like anything but. There was also the strain of conflict with my ex-husband. We had verbally separated 3 months prior to me moving out, and had been sleeping apart since then – but there was a lot of pain and frustration and anger involved on both sides. 

Thankfully, my ex and I have found a very healthy and workable balance in our co-parenting dynamic since then. We are invested first and foremost in maintaining our co-parenting health for the sake of our daughter. Secondly, we do still care about each other, in a very complicated friendship kind of way. When he is struggling he shares with me, and vice versa. Since I met and began a relationship with my new partner, I have been careful what to share with my ex – but we are aware of the main stressors in each other’s lives. I believe that helps to keep balance and awareness in our parenting journeys. And I am pleased to say that my partner and I have taken a big step and moved into our own home (no more landlords or drug using neighbours down the hall!). 

Life is full of leaps of faith, some are easier than others for sure. There is always those uncertainties, the unknowns – where fear creeps in and threatens our idealistic existence. But, when we can step out confident, not in the outcome but in our ability to overcome and persevere – we are doing well.

Moment of Change

There is nothing worse than feeling foreign in your own life. Wondering how things got to the point there are, how did you lose yourself, how did you allow so much compromise in? It is lonely, it is devastating and it happens so slowly you don’t even realize – until you look yourself in the eye and REALIZE. 

For me, I reached that point in the early spring of 2019. I remember feeling “off” for months, maybe even years. A series of one thing going wrong after another led me to sobbing in the shower as my child and then-husband watched a movie in the living room down the hall. 

Nothing major had happened to cause the tears, no big fight or argument. It had been a fairly normal day up to that point. I found myself thinking about my parents (both deceased) and suddenly (and quite abruptly) a thought entered my mind. “Have I made them proud of the woman I became?” My initial thought was, of course! Then I realized that they were likely not proud of me. They would have been concerned that I had made concession after concession in my life, replacing things I have put so much importance on for things that made my partner happy. I had lost my spark. How had it happened? Where did I turn down the wrong road? How had I allowed myself to fade away? 

I started to think back over the last 10 years of my relationship, the years I spent married. And I realized that scattered in the good memories there was an underlying unhealth, festering like a mold. I saw clearly the problems that had been scraping away at me, the small comments, the big arguments and everything in between. Without getting too deep into my relational issues (out of respect for my daughter’s father), there were some big things too that despite attempts to repair we could not ever fix. Things that carved a chasm in the relationship, that over time grew impossible to bridge. 

I realized, sobbing and shaking in the shower, that I was not a person I recognized anymore. I did not have a fulfilling life. Don’t get me wrong, I adored my daughter and had some good friends. I had a beautiful home that was recently renovated to perfectly suit my tastes, and I had a job that allowed me to work part time and spend good quality time as a mother and friend. But I was not in a partnership that fostered respect, unity or equality. I was lonely. I felt misunderstood. Worse, I felt unloved and overlooked. I had drawn hard lines that were repeatedly crossed, I tried to establish boundaries that were simply overlooked, and I tried to assert my needs to be reprimanded for having them in the first place. 

As the water turned cold I realized that I had two options before me. I could continue on as if nothing was amiss or I could stick up for myself and demand better. At the time, I chose the first option. I needed to let myself absorb and process what I was feeling and make some informed and thought out plans for moving forward. I needed to heal from the damage that was done over the course of the relationship (even if I stayed in it – especially if I stayed in it). There was a need to set an example for my daughter. And above all, the need to find myself again and make my parents proud. 

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But as I toweled off I knew there had been a substantial shift in me. There was no going back from this and there was now the task of facing the unknown future that I couldn’t avoid or run away from. It was terrifying for me but also relieving to realize that I finally knew what was “off” with me. It was ME. But it wasn’t going to stay that way. I was going to take control of my life and make things better for myself, and for my daughter. That turned into choosing option two – sticking up for myself and demanding better. For me, that looked like separating (leading to our divorce) and creating my own home with my child. It was scary, but it was healthy. And as it turns out, in doing so I was (eventually) making things better for my (now ex) husband. 

“When a Flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower” – Alexander Den Heijer

Photo by Sourav Mishra on Pexels.com

Who Am I? And Other Loaded Questions

On paper, I am a 36-year-old divorcee and mother of a rambunctious 6-year-old girl. I am the loving (and sometimes not so loving) partner of a man whom is gracious and loving and kind to me, even when I do not deserve it. I work as an administrator in a field I am interested in, and am growing in my role with confidence and capability. I am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a lover and a confidant. I suppose, through the experiences of some, in their lives I play the role of villain.

As I recently celebrated my 36th birthday, Covid-Style, I found myself reflecting on my life. What is my purpose? What do I want for the future? How have I learned from my past? How the hell am I an adult, when I often feel so naïve and unexperienced? WHO AM I?

I have always been better at expressing myself through written words than verbally, and often thought that doing a blog would be a good way to process and sort through the chaotic mess that is constantly raging in my mind. So, I am going to start this blog. It is for me, but if anyone reads it – hopefully it will bring insight and inspiration.

I do not claim to be wise or educated in psychological matters. But I do have life experience and a hunger to grow and learn and better myself.

And so I embark on this – a journey of self-discovery, adaptability and growth.