Forward Motion

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end” – Robin Sharma

The last few months have been intense in my household. The renovation project finished and we spent a few months waiting for a sale, sometimes patiently and with great optimism and other times with great anxiety and despair. Completing the project was a fabulous feeling and we celebrated greatly. We spent the next while catching up on housework in our own home, relaxing as a family and taking a few much needed trips (camping and out to the lake house). Reconnecting as a family, especially my partner and I, was critical at that time and the burdens that we had carried during the project were lifted.

We received an offer on the project, much lower than we hoped and we will not be making profit on this project. It is disheartening, but we learned so much and are ready to move forward to the next project with fresh eyes. The growth and learning we received through the project was extensive – and we are encouraged going into the next stage.

Once I had the chance to recharge and regroup, I dove back into my Fundamentals of Real Estate course – and after much hard work and studying I passed my exam, with a high score that surprised and motivated me. I feel such relief having that course completed. Going back to school in my late 30’s was a very uncomfortable and scary undertaking. I am extremely proud of myself. I finished the second required course for my licensing and am waiting to book my exam and complete a Criminal Record Check. It is fascinating to me that learning and retaining information is much easier when the student is interested in and passionate about the subject matter! I am excited to start this new path. My partner is working out what he will be doing during the “in between” times, when we are waiting for a sale and before we get our next project. There are a few options, and we are confident we will find the one that works best for our family.

BUT – change is hard. I am particularly resistant to it. I tend to overthink most things in my life, especially when I am facing either a decided change or a forced change. Part of my ongoing therapy is working at becoming more at home with myself and trusting my instinct to guide me. I am also working to build my self confidence and outlook regarding my self worth. I feel that, because I am not as strong in those areas, I put entirely too much value on the opinions of those around me. So when I make a decision there is a lot of weight put onto what I perceive others will think or feel. Really not healthy, but something I am working on. Trusting my instincts – how the heck do I do that?

The stresses that my little family has been dealing with are mainly focused around “changes” – I am learning that my daughter, despite being so carefree and easy going, relies heavily on constants. When things change abruptly she has a very difficult time coping. I am worried that I can’t give her the tools to process change right now, but I am optimistic that as I learn for myself how to cope I will be able to pass those skills to her. I am motivated to become the best person I can be, through counselling and life experience, and that gives me great hope for my daughters ability to adapt to change.

It seems to me that change and uncertainty are pretty constant. We can rely on the truth that things can twist and turn, plans crumble and we have to learn to adapt and refocus. It really sucks sometimes! For me, it is hard to wrap my head around not having control of so many things. It is uncomfortable, it feels “icky”. My therapist has advised me that I should start to “sit in the discomfort” and then once the situation passes look back and analyze/reflect. Did anything bad happen? Were the things I was so anxious about happening actually happen? Did I learn something? Did I grow? Did I possibly actually enjoy the situation once I relaxed into it? Social anxiety, change, uncertainty and learning self esteem feel like a huge recipe for disaster – but I suppose that when I can grasp control of myself and my actions (and reactions) I can take the disaster and turn it into growth.

I opened this blog with a quote, “Change is hard at first, Messy in the Middle, and Gorgeous in the end”. I feel like I am entering into the stages between messy and gorgeous – and I am so encouraged and excited!

This duckling is turning into a swan folks.

Surviving Life’s Fires

The Phoenix invokes thoughts of rebirth, rising from the ashes, overcoming obstacles and starting fresh. It is associated with words like: survivor, strength, and defiance – to name a few. I wonder, if it might also bring up words like: trauma, devastation, fear, overwhelming uncertainty. There is also often a sense of grounding that is associated with fires – who else has sat by a fire pit staring into the flames, lost in reflection. Something about the flames strip away the noise of our busy lives and allows room for the “real” stuff to be exposed. Fires can be beautiful and healing, just as they can be destructive and terrifying.

My sister recently lost her home to a fire. The cause is unclear, it could be arson or faulty electrical components in a vehicle. I suppose it matters for insurance purposes, but the devastation is the same regardless of the cause. Everything they own is burned. My sister and her husband are two of the most selfless and loving people I know. In addition to their own 4 children, they foster 3 brothers as well. Their oldest is working out of province, so it is the two of them with 6 children, two dogs and two cats, along with various other amphibious pets. Life is usually chaotic for them, and throwing in a massive house fire has understandably put them into panic mode. They were able to get everyone out safely, as they were home at the time of the blaze, which was late evening on a school night. They were graciously offered lodging (free of charge) for a few nights with food provided, and since they are foster parents they receive additional lodging as well in a fully furnished home. Luckily, the home they were living in was a rental and they get possession of the home they recently purchased in a month’s time. The community has rallied around them with monetary and clothing donations. My sister, A, remains positive and thankful during this horrible time. She speaks to the support and love of those stepping up, and above all A is deeply rooted in the fact that everyone is safe and alive. I am in awe of A for the strength and resilience she is showing through this. It kills me to be in a different Province and unable to be there for long hugs and practical assistance. My distance has given me a lot of time to reflect upon this fire, and the far reaching impact that is a result.

I started to reflect on what I would do if a fire ravaged my home. What would I do? I don’t have a fire safety plan in place. Perhaps that is something to get working on! I look around and see my beautiful artwork and photographs. I see my mother’s rocking chair, complete with a chewed off runner from our first dog when I was a young girl. The bowls and serving dishes passed down to me, the artwork and drawings proudly drawn and painted by my daughter. I see antique wood working tools from my fiance’s grandfather, and countless books that each hold a special place for me. My rugs, couches, our 100 year old dining table and chair set. The guitar that sits in the corner of my favorite room, which was the last gift I received from my father before he passed. The clear glass shot glass from Mexico that my mother sipped Tequila from, the horse painting done by a close friend in memory of my parents. Countless journals and photo albums containing my history. All of these items that, while logically are replaceable, contribute to defining who I am.

I am reminded that although material things do hold meaning, what holds the most importance is our family and friends and the relationships that we cultivate with them. There is a quote (although I cannot remember where from) that basically says “Home is where I am with you”. And that is true, home is where we are bathed in love and support, where we are with those we love, where we are safe. In watching my sister A go through such a traumatic loss, I am determined and motivated to ensure that I am placing higher importance and priority on the people in my life. Fostering deeper connections and realizing how they are best supported is of utmost importance at this time. Equally important is to ensure that I am supporting myself, both mentally and physically. (That journey is for another blog post though!).

I suppose my main reason for posting this is to remind myself that the people in our lives are really the only thing that matters. How we treat them, support them and love them. Material items, while they are important to use, can be replaced. New items can become treasured family heirlooms. The memories we attach to objects will never go away, even if the item itself is gone. In a way, seeing my sister go through her loss is acting like a mental refresh, or renewal. I can adjust how I view the world around me, the connections I have made and make adjustments as I need to.

Fire – it is wild and untamed, destructive and terrible. Fire is renewing and beautiful. Fire, like humans is a complex and wonderful thing. How we respond to the fire, that is determined by how we choose to view the aftermath.

Into the Pit of Dispair

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are” – Soren Kierkegaard

Spring is cautiously making an entrance in our corner of the world – with childlike hopefulness we cross our fingers that the snow is finished for the year and that the heat is coming soon. Leaves are budding, the squirrels are doing their mating dances and birds are returning to our skies. Days are warmer and there isn’t a pile of snow or ice to be seen – even the mounds that were once snowmen in schoolyards have made their exit.

It is hard not to feel inspired and hopeful. There is a certain way about Spring that practically begs for joy. Sitting on patios with a cold drink and good friends, considering cleaning up the yard exciting instead of a chore, feeling motivated to walk because it is pleasant outside – the shift of attitude is unmistakable. I am thankful for the hope, for the calming birdsong and warm winds. The anticipation of flowers and greenery brings peace to my mind. For me, this cannot come at a better time in my life – I am in the throws of dealing with a mental health crisis.

Mental Health Crisis. That is such an ugly combination of words. I am not surprised to be here, embarrassed and ashamed, but not surprised. I have been putting off dealing with my “shit” for a long time now, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me. Previously in this blog I have touched on a few of the traumas and less desirable life events I’ve lived through, and I apologize for the overlap now, but I feel listing them out will be helpful for me as I process. As I have said, I am not sure if anyone even reads this but this blog is a way for me to express and sort out my life and mind. It isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows, I am trying to be more vulnerable (ahh! Scary!) and raw and open and honest.

(Disclaimer: trigger warning for trauma)

My big life events as I can recall them, likely out of order: adopted at a few days old, mom lost her hearing when I was 2, mom had lupus and complications as a result, adopted older brother dealt with addictions most of his teen years, never feeling accepted by dad’s very religious family (as a result of being adopted), being compared to cousins on dad’s very religious side of the family, very close family friends going through a horrible and traumatic divorce that was the result of an affair which affected multiple families in our tight knit friends group, dad getting a brain tumor when I was 17 and passing away 10 months later, moving out in a panic at age 18, being assaulted by a roommate and not disclosing to anyone except two people (one of whom was my boyfriend at the time), breaking up with boyfriend at the time (my choice, I was unable to handle the events of my life at the time and now realize I was self sabotaging), entering into a period of life where I was drinking too much and taking risks with my life, throwing myself into an unhealthy relationship and moving to a new town with a new boyfriend, being in another unhealthy relationship with a roommate (it didn’t get to assault but could have easily gone that way had I not smartened up and left), breaking up with boyfriend, continuing to abuse alcohol, getting engaged to someone after just a few months, becoming pregnant, getting sober, breaking off engagement, surrendering the baby boy for adoption, back to drinking heavily, meeting my ex husband and entering a very rocky and unhealthy (for both of us) relationship and marriage, having my beautiful daughter, meeting my birth mother and her family (we have a wonderful relationship), loosing my mom (adoptive) suddenly, being taken out of my paternal grandmothers will, being lied to and harassed by his side of the family in the wake of my mothers passing, cutting ties with them, deciding to leave my husband, reconnecting with my now partner (who is the same man that I was seeing during my assault), buying a home together, having to put my dog down at 13 years (she was like a trauma dog for me), loosing our jobs, starting a business, getting engaged, dealing with Covid for 2 years….PHEW! It is no wonder that I am a mess, as I have not actually DEALT with any of this.

I can only describe what I am experiencing as treading water, with every passing day my mouth and nose get closer and closer to dipping under the surface of the water. Black, thick water that clings to me and tries to pull me under. it has taken a toll on my relationship with my fiance, the way I parent my beautiful daughter and my friendships. I feel myself shutting down and taking space, even when I want nothing more than to be with friends. I am unsure and timid, and I feel like my brain is everywhere.

At the gentle insistence of my partner I went back into therapy and have been making good progress. I am working to “rewrite the toxic and untrue narratives” that I adopted while growing up. Imagine my surprise to learn that: confidence is not arrogance, pride was not gloating, curiosity was not bothering, joy was not being hyper, questions are not disrespectful… this is life changing stuff for me. I also am now working with a second counselor with my fiance to address our stressors and inter-relational issues.

I am also, finally, addressing the sexual trauma I’ve experienced in my life. Slowly, and very cautiously, I am unpacking that mess and finding my worth exists still and I have much to offer. I am learning how my mind and body work together, and sometimes against each other, as a result of that. I am learning how to express this to my fiance and am actually starting to believe him when he expresses that he desires me as I am (even with some extra Covid weight).

I got a decal for my mirror that says “You’re Beautiful” and it greets me every morning. I am learning to love who I am, where I am, as I am. Because other people love me just as I am! My daughter told me I am the most beautiful person in the world – “Because you’re my mother and you are my whole heart”. And I love that, and it makes me so happy.

Emotional breaks make space to explore and dive deep into oneself. There is an opportunity to heal and grow and learn. And I hope I am doing that. I hope I am making positive steps forward. All I can say for certain today is: I am climbing out of the pit of despair one tiny step at a time and it feels glorious.

I look forward to the day when I look at the “you’re beautiful” decal and say, “I know, right?!”

(If anyone actually reads this, Thanks for sticking with this blog. It’s all over the place!)

Renovate, Remodel, Renewal – and not just the house!

I realized that I haven’t blogged since September – how has it been that long? I have been in a whirlwind of chaos and have been navigating life changes and facing fears left, right and center. I would have really benefited from blogging, now that I think about it!

My darling daughter, who is has just had her 8th birthday, has been thriving in second grade, despite my initial fears about Covid regulations and her ability to fit in and make friends. I feel awful having totally underestimated her. She can teach me a lot about self-confidence, walking to the beat of her own drum, and loving who she is – as she is.

My partner lost his job in October, the Thursday before Thanksgiving (yes, we are Canadian!). With that came a huge period of fear and panic on my end, and a somewhat alarming nonchalance from him. Once again, I could take a few lessons in self-confidence and certainty in everything working out. Maybe this is a pattern/theme? We spent a lovely long weekend at the family cabin and enjoyed the lake views and walks through the woods with our two insane dogs. Although I was exhausted, underpaid and overworked, I remained thankful to still hold my position with the property management company, and was eager to continue my working from home. My partner decided to do a few minor improvements in our home during the first few weeks of his unemployment, which was great as it gave him something to focus on and afforded me the opportunity to be productive as he was now home all the time. He expressed how much happier he was than when he was still working for the company. As a carpenter and project manager, the stress and pressure he endured was taking a huge and detrimental toll on him (and in turn our home life). During this project time, I posed a question: “Why are we not doing renovations together instead of working jobs we are both unsatisfied at?”

We made a business plan and presented it to our investors, then worked out how to start. As this was unfolding, I was laid off late November and fell into complete panic. I began to job search immediately, and much to my dismay realized that the job market was essentially dead. Upon talking to our investors, the decision was made not to seek out another job but instead to dive headfirst into unknown waters.

So we began the journey of self employment, which has been both exciting and terrifying. We started our own home renovation company, drawing on his skillset for finishing carpentry and construction, and my admin background and eye for design. Learning to communicate more efficiently and designating our own areas of ”control” has been a daunting task to day the least. We both crave feeling in charge, which is rough waters to navigate when living and working in partnership. There have been many arguments, many apologies and lots of making up. Now, 4 months in, we have finally reached a place of zen in the working relationship.

I have started working towards obtaining my Real Estate License and my partner has been doing an amazing job at turning the very original condition project home into something beautiful and welcoming. I still go to the project, but have been taking a more administrative approach and also working through some of my mental health needs (apparently past trauma and issues don’t just stop affecting you, even when there is a pandemic happening).

It’s been a whirlwind, but things are starting to come together, and in the midst of renovating this project house I think we are starting to renovate ourselves too. Breaking down the useless walls, creating a warmer and more functional space. Paying respect to the bones that brought us this far, and keeping space for growth and refreshment.

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.