You know, I really don't like to hear whining. That's a very negative thing for me to say. I'm sorry. I've always been an objective person, I think. Maybe to excess. This character trait looks like naivete at times; I know. I've been accused of wearing rose-colored glasses on more than one occasion. I expect the best from people. Discussions with undertones of negativity usually spur my brain to jump to the most positive aspect it can find - and then it follows that thread on a more encouraging trail.
As I've mentioned in past posts, I always try to keep it positive. Yes, always. (Let's emphasize the word TRY there, also. EVERYONE has issues; and I'm not exempt, believe me!) Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat... and especially Facebook - I use my social media feeds to connect with my friends and family. Of my 650+ friends on Facebook, less than a handful of them are people I have not met in person, or communicated with in some other form (outside of Facebook). I am acquainted with them all! Most of them know me as a "put your best foot forward" kinda gal. I like it that way. How could this new grandma who posts all those cute pics of her family be a negative Nelly? I don't think so.
My personal journal entries are even pretty positive. I won't call myself out directly on things I've done wrong... even in private. I always jump right to the most positive solution I can find for the issue at hand and start writing about that, sparing myself the negative self-talk. What good would THAT do? It's less stressful. It's how I cope. I don't know where it came from, but it works for me... most of the time.
So, what on earth was going on in my last post (The Purpose of Struggle)?! It really was the most negative thing I've ever published. Comments about always identifying with the victim side of my personality, hiding the real me from everyone, not wanting to spend time with my own kids - SO not me! I was whining. I was complaining. I was wallowing. And... I'm not sorry.
I am not sorry, because it's who I really am. I don't like to (or want to) hide the REAL me. What you see is what you get. That's what I learned from that post. If anything, I feel bad for not reaching out to someone at the time when that all happened. I can't apologize for spilling my guts to you guys here on my website though. These are exactly the kinds of articles I've always wanted to write; but couldn't figure out how to, without being offensive. I have a lot of experiences to discuss - negative ones. I am a REAL person. I have REAL issues. And, I think I've figured out some pretty positive, workable answers for some of those issues. With my overly-objective personality trait, I can put an optimistic spin on almost anything. I feel like that is a gift I have been given. I feel like I should use this ability to help others. Does that make sense?
I have received several private messages, phone calls, and even had personal, face-to-face visits with people after writing about certain topics on my site. They have all been positive responses and thank yous. I am seriously humbled... and encouraged. Not to tip the scale into bragging; but, I am so happy to turn this seemingly negative character trait of mine - "those rose colored glasses" - into a constructive, encouraging counseling tool. Taking this route has enabled me to learn lessons from my own stupid mistakes, as well as the unavoidable challenges of life; and then, turn around and help others clear the same hurdles that I knocked over. I think that is the epitome of WIN/WIN!
I stopped making typical New Year's resolutions years ago. Instead, I am resolving to be as REAL as possible... all the time, not just this year. If that means showing my negative side to the outside world once in awhile, so be it. It's me. It's who I am - flaws and all! (Well... some of them. Lord knows you don't need to hear ALL about my bad side.) If I can figure out a way to make that undesirable situation smell like roses... you bet you'll see it here first. I promise! For the times that I just can't dress it in upbeat clothing, I'm sorry. You're going to hear about it anyway, if I think it will help. As for the rest - not sorry. In fact, I'm happy to help.
I seriously believe I just had a major breakthrough, and I need to write it down before it escapes the loose clutches of my brain... as it usually does. I've never experienced this particular train of thought before; but whenever one of these revelations happens, I am usually too busy to write it down. This morning, I was just lying in bed thinking, 'It's Sunday. I have tomorrow off (holiday). I have another day to take care of any pressing responsibilities this weekend. Go make coffee and get back into bed. Yay, me!'
I was scrolling through Facebook, and came across a post from a life coach I discovered a few weeks ago. She talks about claiming your "badass personna" and getting rid of your "victim, survivor mentality". Well... I happened to identify with that. Here's where my mind jetted off to after only reading snippets of her post.
I have been in survivor mode for... ever; even before I got married and had almost half a dozen kids. I've always identified with the victim side of my personality. I have been a victim of domestic violence. I was a victim of emotional abuse. I am currently a victim of financial stress. I am always fighting hard against something... or not.
At one point within the past... 15 years, I sunk into a deep depression for a few years. It happened when my kids were little, and we had so much going on in our lives that barely anyone even noticed. My husband did. He tried to help, but was not really equipped (emotionally) to do so. He quietly resigned to just picking up my slack whenever he could break free from his self-imposed, work-a-holic lifestyle. I had no desire to spend time with my kids; so he would take them sledding or to church events, and help them deliver their paper routes all over town; while I sat at home trying to figure out what to do with myself, staring at the wall, or doing mindless chores like dishes or laundry.
As I write this, I feel like such a hypocrite! One of the things that I struggled with most in my life then was the fact that we hid who we really were... from everyone! The picture perfect family that everyone loved, admired, and adored outside of our four walls, was totally different on the inside. Here I was... selfishly depressed, not reaching out for help, not able to. I know it wasn't my fault... now. But, back then, all I could feel was guilt, shame.
I had friends. I had family. Would I turn to any of them? Reach out? Nope. Couldn't. I had my image to protect. We were "super family". We had our s*#t together. I remember a comment someone made once regarding her son's perception of our family dynamic. He said he hoped he could have what we had someday. He wanted "that kind of family". I cringed inside when she said that. My thoughts: 'if he only knew".
Oh, I don't mean to be so negative in my recollection. There were good times; and I have a lot of good memories with my kids growing up. They will tell you the same thing. But let's also be realistic. No family is as picture perfect as they may seem. I can see you nodding in agreement. They will agree with that too. This is just a snapshot of one moment in my life. It's where my mind went to find a good talking point for this post.
I want to stop here for a moment to reassure you that I am so very, very proud of who my kids turned out to be, in spite of the struggles we faced as a growing family. If anything, I believe the ups and downs of our daily lives reinforce our strengths, help shape our coping skills. My kids have grown into capable, resilient adults. Strong. They lead productive, meaningful lives. They support each other unconditionally. That has always been my goal (I always wanted a big family) - that they would be close. I feel like I've succeeded in that respect.
You've all seen that meme on Facebook, right? The one that says, "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." Well, through my (very personal) posts here on my website, that is my aim. Not only to always be kind, but maybe even help someone to realize they are not alone in their struggles. What I learned so many years ago, during that awful time of depression, was that you can be surrounded by gobs of people, even many who genuinely care for your well-being, but you can feel so lonely, isolated. You cannot sincerely believe that anyone wants to help, or even cares. BUT, what I now realize is that they do. Because I do. I care. I understand - because of my own personal experiences. I've been there, done that.
I have always strongly ascribed to the belief that God did not put me on this earth to be miserable. I have a purpose. He put me here for a reason. I've questioned what that reason could possibly be for most of my life. And I am not claiming to finally have an answer, but... I have to believe it has something to do with this - the fact that I've been through all this stuff. Why? What is the reason? What am I supposed to do with these experiences? Wallow in grief, self-pity? I am SURE that is not it!
I've learned a few things about me recently; and it's a good thing, because I have been focusing intently on finding that elusive purpose. I am outgoing. I like to write. I want to help people. I have a LOT of personal experiences to draw from. I want to turn the negatives into positives. I'm objective. A friend of mine told me this week, after I said I would tell her about this bad thing I went through if it would cheer her up about her situation; 'That's just like you - turning it around for someone else's benefit!' (paraphrase) I took it as a compliment.
So, here's my point. Admittedly, my posts on this site are usually very personal. The reason has become crystal clear to me now. While they leave me wide-open, vulnerable... my struggles, openly-confessed, might help someone else to realize they are not alone. Isolation is not required. You don't have to be an island in trying to figure out your life. Reach out to your friends, family, or even professional counselors, therapists. There is no shame in talking to someone about your problems. Truth be known, there are people out there that really do care!
This is not a totally selfless venture on my part. I get a benefit from publishing my innermost thoughts here - or at least from writing them down. It's my therapy. Here is an excerpt from my journal, word-for-word:
Dec. 19, 2017
So, so much on my mind today. So many different emotions, I almost don't know where to start. Serves me right. Haven't taken the time to sit down and spill my feelings out onto the page for a few days. Yes, I've had a lot going on, but that's no excuse. I can't keep everything bottled up inside. I've learned that about me recently. Actually, I've always known it, I think. I can only ignore it for so long. If I'm not careful, it gets clogged up in my heart and has to let loose all at once, like a dam bursting. That gets very messy, and sometimes people get hurt. Simple, preventative measures, letting it spill over the edge slowly, a little at a time, only releasing the valve occasionally - helps. Just put the words on the page, Tammy. You don't even have to read them again. It makes you feel better instantly... relieving the pressure like that.
So, you see? Mutually beneficial, right?
Ok, I'm not suggesting that you should write, if that's not your thing. But, find an outlet. Talk to someone. Run. Read a good book. Get a massage. Go skydiving! Do something that not only takes your mind off the actual problem, but gives you a break from the harsh realities of life that you are so often dealt. Point is... take some time to figure out how to release all the negative. Don't let it take over. If you can't think of anything, come here to my blog. I have no shortage of crises in my life to write about. Maybe you'll identify with something. ;)
Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts. I hope it helped. I know I feel better. :D
My earliest childhood memory came to mind today, as it often does when I am reminiscing. This little girl, three or four years old, happily toddling across a hardwood floor in the living room of the home she shared with her parents and two little brothers. Light streaming in from tall windows, carrying sparkling fragments of Northern New York dust down to land gently, silently on the coffee table behind her; while she straightened the colorful, crocheted blanket on the back of the monstrous sofa. Standing on her tippy-toes, she was barely able to stretch her little body across the cushion to tug on a tassel. Music was coming from somewhere, maybe the big console tv in the corner, or from the record player in the next room. There was always music. Maybe that’s why, to this day, music is so important to her. At the end of this little reverie, my parents appear in the doorway to the dining room – smiling, happy.
This nostalgic vignette sheds light on another constant in my life – HOME. My happy place. The one constant I can carry with me… even when I’m not there. The roots of which, dig deep; even though the familial foundations were short-lived. My parents divorced when I was five.
Fast forward almost 50 years to any Saturday morning. My iPhone is plugged into the soundbar on the entertainment stand in the corner, filling the whole house with tunes from my favorite Spotify playlist. I’m flitting around the living room, Swiffer duster in hand, sometimes pausing to belt out a chorus into the yellow-handled ‘microphone’. Diffused light flowing through the sheer curtains that cover the big picture window behind the faux leather sofa (no blanket) carries equally sparkly Nebraska dust particles into the room (no coffee table). Katy Perry, Juicy J, and me… we’re warning everyone to beware of the Dark Horse that’s “comin’ atcha!” Water the plant, dust the piano, sweep the hardwoods; “… cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine, there’s no going back!” Just me… and URL, my 10 year-old miniature schnauzer. He is not phased at all by my dance moves, but is patiently waiting for the area rug to be vacuumed so he can roll around on his back, flailing all four legs in different directions. I call it frolicking.
This is not exactly the scene you would expect to witness in the home of a divorced mother of five, who’s been on her own for the past seven years; juggling work, bills, matters of health & wellness and dating after age 50, is it? Juggling sounds like I'm handling things flawlessly; like those balls are swishing through the air one after the other without even a little hitch. Not! Balls have been dropping all over the place! I have scrambled for what seems like forever to retrieve one while another gets away - like wrangling five very young children for "perfect" Christmas card photos. It suddenly dawned on me today though, over the past several years, I have somehow managed to organize my personal disasters into their own neat little cubicles... somehow. How did that happen? How did I find my way back to this seemingly calm, happy place?
I don't know exactly when I started doing this, but Sudoku puzzles have become my Saturday morning ritual - before any cleaning commences. I wake when I'm ready. No alarm on this day. I shuffle out to the front porch in my pajamas to retreive the Tribune. Hopefully, the carrier didn't chuck it too far down the sidewalk since I'm dressed this way. Grind the coffee beans. Add cold water. Push the button. A few minutes later, I am sitting at the kitchen table or, in the summer, on the back deck with my coffee in hand, paper folded neatly in a small square, exposing only the puzzle. Saturday Sudokus are the best. They're five stars. The hard ones. I love a challenge!
I'm guessing anyone who likes to work these puzzles has a method, a system that they use to figure out which numbers go where. I don't. Not really. I kind of work it backwards if I'm honest. Huh. I just realized that. I also read the paper from back to front. Not sure when I started doing that either, or why. Hmmm... Back to my puzzle. By backwards I mean, I figure out where the numbers CAN'T go, and by process of elimination only one empty square remains. That's where this particular number has to live! Simple, right? No. This is a five star puzzle, remember?
Have you ever seen a movie where the main character is a genius kid solving a cipher? All the letters and numbers get blurry and float around the screen until one by one they become crystal clear, and the puzzle pieces all fall into place. That's kind of how my puzzles work. I know. Weird, right? The numbers don't actually jump off the page and float around. Don't send your letters of concern just yet. lol!! But, when I pull the paper back away from my face (I'm not doing it because my glasses are still on my nightstand. Haha!!), I can see all of the numbers at the same time. It's easier to see what's missing. I can see a lot of 7's, so I look to see where the few that are missing will fit. Before I know it, my puzzle is done and it's time to clean the house.
Up close, the hard things in life look daunting, confusing. If we step back to view the big picture we can see what is missing. Think about it. A major life event... could be divorce, the death of a sibling, your kid's medical condition; how do you deal with it? There will be a lot of information to process. There will be a lot of emotions involved. It can be messy. When you're in the middle of it, you can't see through the tangled, gnarly knots of pain and confusion. It will seem like you'll never get back to dancing around the living room again. And you won't, if you stay there. Step back; find a clearing. Take a deep breath and take in the view. From this perspective, you can see more clearly what needs to be done.
Seven years ago, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I was getting divorced. I had been married for 19 years. Four of my five kids were still living at home. I did not have a career, or even a job. We homeschooled. My ex was in no position to help financially, even if he wanted to. It was Christmas. My family was 1300 miles away. I spent whole days in my bedroom, curled up in a ball on my bed, crying, agonizing, worrying myself almost to death. I really did feel like I was dying. My life was an absolute mess, but I still had all these responsibilities!
It is only now, looking back at this terrifying, gut-wrenching time in my life, that I realize what I did. I took a step back. A really, really big step! I packed up the kids and went home to New York. We stayed for six weeks. Some of my kids went to public school for the first time in their lives. I looked for a job, and a place for us all to live. In the meantime, all five of us crammed into my parents' two bedroom double-wide. Yep. Very cozy. My intention was to stay there, in New York, finish raising my family, pick up the pieces and move on with my life. That is not what happened. But, six weeks was enough time to think things through, regroup, make a plan. I was able to look at the 'big picture' from the safety of my parents home. I took a time-out; gave myself some space.
Here we are, seven years later, back in Nebraska. All of my kids are adults now. I have a beautiful one year-old grandson! I go to work every weekday, and clean my house on Saturday mornings. Yes, most times I'm dancing and singing along with my music... after my Sudoku puzzle is complete, of course. That rough patch is behind me. There have been others; some equally devastating. But, now I have insight. I know what to do when the going gets tough. I step back, take a long view, breathe. Then, I get to work. It's not always easy to take those hard steps, but hindsight is a great teacher. I call it big picture thinking. Next time you find yourself in a tight spot, you should try it. It works!
I write. A LOT. You might not think so, because very few articles have shown up on this site... where I keep promising to add more. My writing is mostly personal. I have journals packed full of the meanderings of my mind. Lately, I've been struggling with a few things, so pages and pages have been filled. It's my therapy. Occasionally, I will have a break-through, like I did this morning; and I feel an urgent need to share with my close friends who may benefit also.
Let's get right to it; shall we?
At the tail-end of this past summer, matters of the heart suddenly jumped to the forefront of my everyday life. After seven years of desert conditions, it felt like giant waves of cool, refreshing water just filled every dry, cracked area of my heart. Yep! I met someone. It was wonderful while it lasted! Then it was over. Just like that. My point has nothing to do with the actual relationship itself, so those details are not important here. I will tell you, it was good. I have emerged with a fascinating new friend, whom I will always think of fondly.
Because the relationship was always positive, I found it very difficult to cope with the loss. I am a deeply emotional person, and he was... not. It's okay. People are different. Honestly, I think that was the attraction. You know what they say about opposites. I went through all the stages: denial, rationalization, self-deprecation, blame, anger, hurt... A close, personal friend of mine could tell you what a roller coaster of personalities I have been over the past several weeks.
I believe all of this is a good thing. Those steps are important. They should not be left out. Healing is messy sometimes. Okay, it is probably always messy if we're honest. But, healing is the end goal. It must take place before moving on. You can't drag all of your old wounds around with you into the next relationship. It will be flawed right from the start. Every new person you meet will have to deal with your old hurts... directly or indirectly. That is not fair to either one of you. Some people get stuck here, and decide all relationships are hurtful, so they stop hoping. I refuse to do that. I know I am not here on this earth to be miserable.
Here is where I tell you, there is always a silver lining. Always. You have to look for it. Sometimes the clouds are so dark, and so big that it's hard to see past them. But... they are movable. They're not solid. You can push through them, or skirt around them. They really only look like monsters. It's an illusion. Has anyone ever told you, "This too shall pass"? Believe them! It's true!
I have a very objective inner voice. It likes to play hide and seek though. Fortunately, it has very good timing. Just when I think, 'I can't do this. It's hopeless', my voice tells me, 'You've got this! Have faith in yourself.' That's what happened this morning.
Here is the analogy that played out in my journal:
Your heart is like your child. It is YOURS to take care of, nurture, teach. It is your responsibility to protect it. You are its caretaker. Just like your very own child, there will come a time when you need to let it go out on its own, to find the place where it belongs. You cannot place it there. It has to find its own way. If you truly love your heart, you will be less likely to just let it go prematurely. You'll weigh the decisions affecting your heart more carefully. You'll watch out for its well-being. What it boils down to is... self love. You have to love yourself first. If you don't, your heart will not be prepared for the great big, real world out there.
Okay, so this all sounds a little daunting. No matter how you come to parenting, at some point you realize this is your baby... literally! It's your ballgame. You call the shots. You are in control. You have to be. Yes, it is a huge responsibility to parent your heart; but, there are also tremendous rewards waiting for you. I fervently believe this! Parenting requires faith.
One of my favorite quotes: "What if I fall?" "Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"
If you've been nurturing, paying attention to what your heart's needs are along the way, it will grow wings. When you get to that jumping off point, you'll be able to fly.
Up to this point in my life, I can tell you... my heart has only experienced this wonderful, soaring flight pattern once or twice. I've had a few false starts, and had to fly the plane back to the runway for refueling. And, I've had some pretty long flights, full of turbulence. I've even crash-landed a few times. But, I refuse to close the airport just because life gets rough sometimes.
As for those hurts and scars - healing. Healing takes time and attention. This applies to all kinds of grief. Some things are just not in your control. I've lost a few loved ones in the past couple years. I thought my heart would break right in half, and be unrepairable. It's hard when you can't control the outside situations that affect your heart. The key is to build up your heart to be strong. When things like that happen, you'll be able to withstand the blow. It's like wearing a bullet-proof vest. Yes, there will be bruises, but you won't die.
Love yourself. Nurture your heart. Be a good parent. Don't stop caring about other people. These things make your heart strong. When the time comes... you'll be ready for take off! ;)
As for me, I can now return to my regularly scheduled life. All those emotions have been sorted out and placed in their respective cubbies. They make sense to me now. Sometimes, one of them will crawl out and try to wreak havoc; but, because I'm paying attention, I can wrangle it back to where it belongs without too much trouble, hopefully. In the meantime, I will be preparing for the next... or last flight.
Someone asked me the other day, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Yes, I'm 51; but, the question caught me off guard. In truth, I was a little ashamed that I didn't have a well-thought-out answer. I thought to myself, 'Shouldn't I be that person by now? I've had this many years. Surely, I'm there, right?' Sadly, I admit, my feeble answer... "I don't know".
I think the universe was focused on me during that conversation. It seems as though a path has been cleared for me to do some soul-searching this weekend. I've found myself sitting smack in the middle of a four-day weekend with no obligations pressing me for attention. No commitments. No schedule. No kids. Not even my dog! No REAL responsibilities to speak of.
So, what is a woman to do with all this time on her hands, and a burning question in her heart? Think. Ponder. Wrestle with her conscience. Then, write it all down. Well... that's what I do anyway. Writing it down has always given me clarity. When I'm done writing, I usually have my answer.
Initially, I wrote everything down in a journal. At some point (roughly 13 years ago), I started publishing my thoughts on a website that I built myself. You are here. (Thanks, by the way, for being interested in my ramblings.) I still write all the personal stuff in my journal; but sometimes the not so personal stuff ends up on this website, when I feel that others might benefit from the solutions I come up with. Because I have received private messages and phone calls after publishing some articles, I know that some people DO benefit. I am encouraged and humbled. Thank you.
So, what do I want to be when I grow up? I thought I knew once. A lot has changed in the past several years, and the person I thought I was going to be has disappeared completely. Just like that. Poof! Gone! Where did she go?
Life has a way of throwing you for a loop sometimes. It's easy to get so caught up in the chaos, that you lose yourself, the identity that you thought was yours. Here is where you need to step back, take a deep breath, and recognize this moment for what it is... a turning point. Take some time to think about where you are. Try to find the lesson in your circumstances. Usually, I start with all the negative, yucky feelings I'm having. Be glad you don't have to deal with THAT anymore! If you're feeling shame or guilt, congratulations! That means you are human. Take the lesson from it, and don't forget what you've learned. Now... move on.
Then, realize you have a golden opportunity to change things for the better. You can start over, and shape your path yourself. Think about the things that make you happy. Realize that you can NOW incorporate those things into the new you. It's YOUR life. You are in charge. Don't be scared. You are already coming out of this sharp curve, headed for a straight-away. You are in control of you!
Well, there now. Was that so bad? Guess what I just figured out. I like to write. I like to help other people. In turn, my writing helps me feel better about myself. It gives me confidence. It gives me clarity during the confusing turning points in my life. I'm thinking maybe I should revive my neglected little website and start writing a few more articles. I might never make money doing it, but I already have a job. And if it helps someone else, all the better!
I am already grown-up, and I am a writer. :)