Sunshine and roses… and unicorns.

Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone.'”

Brené Brown

“How are you?”

“I’m holding up fine. How are you?”

“Hanging in there.”

And so the conversation goes. But are you ‘fine’? Are you ‘hanging in there’? Or is that just what you say so that people can’t see you breaking inside?

Why do we all feel like we need to be fine all the time? Let me tell you what FINE stands for. Fucked up; Irrational; Neurotic; Emotional. FINE. I am definitely fine. And I am not ashamed to admit it. Some days I am more fine than others. Some days I am feeling happy and completely in control. Right now, I can monitor those emotions on an hourly basis. Not daily. I think most people can relate. Actually, right now, I think every single person can relate. So why are we so determined to always be ready with the answer, ‘I am fine’. Let’s be honest.

In the age of social media which we are so definitively and irrefutably immersed in today, we are constantly barraged with positive messages. Messages of how to brighten your day. How to practice gratitude. How to smile amidst the chaos. Sunshine and roses people. Sunshine and roses. But what does this do to some of us? I will tell you what it does to me. It makes me feel sad. It makes me feel angry. It makes me feel alone. Am I a positive person? Yes. I most definitely am. But am I positive all the time. Most definitely not. Neither are you and neither is the cute little princess posting rays of positive sunshine streaming out of a unicorns ass 3 times a day. It is not realistic. So instead, can we please be real?

I was recently referred to Brené Brown and had the pleasure of listening to her talk about empathy. I highly recommend it. Empathy is what we need right now. Not sympathy. I don’t need to hear ‘I know things are tough but at least you still have your job’. And you may not need to hear ‘I know you don’t have a job but at least you are home with your family’. We are all dealing with our own unique challenges right now. No matter your story (and there are so many stories), what we all need is to listen to each other. We need to share our vulnerabilities right now and not be afraid to show them. We need to allow others see us sweat. Or cry. Or scream. That is how we will know we are not alone.

You may think that letting this go, letting this out is going to make you weak. That negativity has won. Believe me it hasn’t and it won’t! This thinking can not be further from the truth. Being honest with yourself and those around you just releases those feelings. And when you release those feelings, you make room for other things. Like, maybe laughter. Maybe relief. Maybe serenity.

So. Be vulnerable. Be sad. Be real. I am. Put your broken hearts in the window and maybe tomorrow, that unicorn will stop by with his tail wagging, lick your cheek and give you a big ol’ smooch! Oh, and laugh people. Please laugh. I am doing that too as much and as often as I can. Don’t ever leave that out.

Fill your own damn cup.

“The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.”

Steve Marble

We are in a strange time. I promised myself when this all started that I would not write about the ‘C’ word. But I promise, this isn’t about that. It is inspired by isolation which is a product of that. So it is not about the virus thingy.

I have spoken to so many people that are practicing self-isolation during this time that are struggling with it. I am too. And at first, I was angry with all the complainers. All the pouters who whined incessantly about how hard it is to stay at home. Stay at home with their children. Or their spouse. Or their roommate. Or some or all of the above. Stop whining! Seriously. I am sorry if I sound harsh but for the love of Pete, STOP IT!

But wait!!! I am NOT going to preach to you about how you should take advantage of this time to reconnect with your spouse, your children, your family. I am not going to preach to you about how great it is that you have the time to get at all those neglected projects completed. And I am certainly not going to preach to you about how grateful you should be for your health. You already know all that. All of it. We hear it every 10 minutes. Blahhhhhh.

This is hard for all of us but it dawned on me this weekend that maybe I have an advantage. I have lived alone for the past 4 years. So I guess I am used to it. Yes, my social calendar has been wiped clean. Yes, I am bored silly of television (never watched it much in the first place). And yes, I am missing my gym. But I have learned something over the past 4 years of living with me, myself and I. So this is what I want to share.

Take this time to re-connect with YOU. I have learned that I don’t need others to make me happy. I make me happy. Me, myself and I. So think about that. Really think about it. What makes you happy. And don’t say your family or your friends. Sure they do. But that answer is not allowed here. Think about it again. Stop relying on others to fill that part of you that fills your cup. Figure out who you are. Learn something. Improve your health. Meditate. Challenge yourself. Do something that makes you proud of you. Not something that makes someone else proud of you. Just you. This is just about you. Only about you. What makes YOU happy. Believe me this is a tough one and it does not come easy! But it is so worth it. So try.

I read an article a couple of years ago about healthy relationships. About choosing the right person. The article talked about not finding someone that made you happy, but rather, finding someone that can share your happy. That really resonated with me. And I see so many people out there searching for relationships because they think that will make them happy. They don’t want to be alone and I get that but if your happiness depends on someone else, well I am sorry to tell you but you are barking up the wrong fru-fru rainbow. Just imagine how great life could be if you figured out how to fill your cup all by yourself! Imagine.

Pretty cool I think.

Book 2, Chapter 1.

I have been challenged to write a new story.  To close the cover on the old one.  I have embraced the first book.  Book 1.  I have held it close and I have kept it warm.  I have loved it.  And now it is time to free it.  I am not sure if I can do this.  That book defined me.  That book created me.  If I let it go, then what do I have left to keep me feeling tethered to the ground.  It is all I know.  In this journey with so many unknowns, how do I let go of the one thing I know most intimately.  Cover to cover.  How do I cut that tether and risk floating without a safety line.  Floating, testing gravity.  Freely drifting.  Freely rising.  Letting the wind take me to new places. 

I will continue to refer to that first book.  It is reaching people and that is the point of this.  I will continue to try to reach people to share that first book.  But reader, you too will one day need to write a new story.

Chapter 1.

I am standing in a field.  I am looking up with my face turned towards the sun.  The sun feels warm.  It feels comforting.  I smile.  I take a deep breath.  I look down to the ground to see where my feet are connected to the ground.  But I can’t see my feet.  I notice my feet are encased in a box.  At least it looks like a box.  Upon closer inspection, I see that it is not a box after all but a book.  A very heavy book.  A beautiful book with a lovely leather cover.  But it is heavy and I cannot move.  I want to explore this field, this meadow filled with flowers.  But the book is keeping me in place.  I reach down again and I lift the cover of the book.  As I lift the cover, my feet start to lift.  The weight of the book can no longer hold me down.  I begin to float.  I being to drift.  I reach out and feel the wind breathing softly on the palms of my hands.  I smell the flowers in the meadow.  So much stronger as the distance between me and the ground, the book, increases.  I look up again and I notice how blue the sky is getting.  Brighter.  Intensely, gloriously blue.  The wind lifts my hair.  Making me feel lighter with each touch.  I lift my face again to the sun.  I feel the warmth.  I smile. 

Chapter 1.

I shall not take for granted.

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”

John F. Kennedy

As you should know, I am a huge advocate for health and wellness. So with everything negative going on right now I would like to take this opportunity to speak of my passion for this subject. And to make this statement… I will never take my health for granted!

I have worked very hard on being healthy. Both physically and mentally. And because of that, I don’t get sick very often. I catch myself saying “I am fortunate I don’t get sick very often”. I am not fortunate. I work for it. I focus my energy on it. Don’t take health for granted. Just don’t. It is life. It is your life.

I see so many people believing that exercising is about looking good. It isn’t. If that is the only reason you exercise. Pause. Re-think. Health is not about looking good. It is about feeling good. I also see so many people who look good but feel terrible. They struggle with low energy. They struggle with depression. Anxiety. Chronic pain. So if you don’t think you need to exercise because you still fit your jeans from high school, I ask you again. Pause. Re-think.

Exercise has everything to do with your physical and mental well being. So please don’t say you need to exercise just to lose weight. Try this on for size instead. ‘I need exercise…

So I can play longer with my kids,’
So I can focus better on my job’.
So I can live longer without any ailments.’
So I can fight off arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis.’
So I can have more confidence.’
So I can be a better me!!!’

If you can try those on and one or more of those fit… you are on your way there.

You may think I decided to write this because of the virus currently in our news. It was not my motivator. Just timing. I write this because I am recovering from a chest cold. Nothing major. Just put me down for the count for a week. Which in itself is not that bad. But it came a few weeks after recovering from my first cold in 4 years. So I was down twice over the past 6 weeks. It caught up with me. My energy fell. All the effort I put towards making me a better me and climbing up this mountain that is my journey became too much. I stumbled. And it didn’t feel so good. I had to work twice as hard to get back up. Remember ‘stand the fuck up’? I did. But it was hard without my health. So that is why I chose to write this. To remind you, my readers, take care of you. To remind me. Take care of me. Life is precious. Health is everything. Without it, we have so little.

Now go be a better you! Please.

And then there was the angry phase.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what the storm’s all about.”

Haruki Murakami

I am currently recovering from my second flu bug this month – yes I am no longer on speaking terms with my immune system! However, the down time has allowed me to focus gratitude on not only my health, which we so often take for granted but also gratitude for all of the many emotional phases I have passed through – remember that roller coaster I mentioned? These emotional phases are all necessary. Not all pleasant. But all necessary.

The most unpleasant phase I went through was the angry phase. I have never been an angry person. Anger makes me uncomfortable. Whether it is coming from another source or from within me. I don’t like it. I haven’t had a lot of experience with anger from within. I don’t get angry very often. I let things bounce off me. Mostly because I just don’t believe in wasting energy on anger. It is exhausting. Life sucking. A waste.

So the anger phase was a tough one for me. I feared I was becoming something I never wanted to be. I have seen so many people carry bitterness and anger around with them from hurt. From rejection or from mistreatment. Whatever the reason.  I didn’t want to be that person.  I am a happy person.  I am a happy person because it is my favorite emotion.  I choose to be happy.  I am not good at anger and resentment.  Yet I found myself harboring that emotion far too often.  Wanting to lash out for small insignificant reasons.  Just to show people that I no longer trusted them.  Any of them. 

I lost my faith that people were honest.  That people didn’t play games.  I doubted almost everyone outside of family.  I was still a happy person but I was no longer a trusting person.  I believed people because they said they were being honest and would never lie.  I believed it and I shouldn’t have.  I believed it because I wanted to.  Because it left room for hope. 

What broke me at that time is that people just couldn’t be honest.  It saddened me, it angered me, and it broke me a little more every time.  I just didn’t want any more games.  Any. More. Bull. Shit.  I was so very very sick of it.  I just wished, still wish, that people could understand lies don’t hurt less.  They hurt more.  They are selfish. This is what made me bitter and angry.  And it scared me.  I didn’t like those emotions.  They simmered and they festered.  And they surfaced unexpectedly.  I was afraid of them and who they might make me become.  I fought them and I still fight them. But sometimes it was easy to let them win as at least the bitterness and anger protected me.  It had a purpose.  A purpose that I thought I may need to survive. So I let the phase run it’s course.

What I learned through this phase was that none of this made me feel bad about myself.  That anger can be okay. Hurt is okay. I didn’t let it win as I have come too far for that. I am no longer the person that lets other people make her feel less than.  I am a great person and I am amazing.  And I don’t care if you tell me that or if you don’t. If you think that or if you don’t. What matters most is that I believe it.

And so I made it through the anger phase. I got back to my happy place. Where I choose to be. And choice is amazing. Control is amazing. When you don’t rely on others to be in a happy place. I believe only then can you truly share your happiness with someone. Only you can make you happy. Only you can make it through each phase. It is your journey. Lead.

Trusting the broken instincts.

“For it is only when we see the full extent of the damage that we can go about fixing it. Becoming whole again. Cautiously, optimistically, gloriously whole again.”

In the past four years I have met many new people. Each of them have affected me in different ways and contributed to my growth. I have learned. Good things. Bad things. Things about myself. Things about them. I have been told so many times to ‘trust my instincts’ but I never felt comfortable with that. I question my judgment every day. Every. Single. Day. How can I not? I made a very bad judgment 28 years ago. That bad judgement lasted 24 years. But I learned valuable lessons from it. I had to dig deep for the why of those lessons and still pick away at them. Digging. Making sure I don’t make that same bad judgement again. ‘Trust my instincts’. Where were those instincts then? My instincts lied to me. If a friend lies to you do you trust them again? Or do they need to earn it back? If your instincts lie to you, do they need to earn your trust back as well? Hell yes. My instincts betrayed me and I am angry with them.

I was getting pretty sick of being told to just ‘trust’. I have given that trust away before only to be kicked in the kidneys. So when someone I recently met wisely pointed out to me that my instincts are damaged and that trust needed to be earned back, I felt like a weight of a small world just lifted. The heavens opened up and angels sang! Ok… exaggerating. But seriously. Someone finally made sense. Someone finally understood that for someone like me, trust is an incredibly fragile thing. Even I didn’t realize how fragile.

So. No more jumping in with both feet blindly trusting that stupid instinct. No more getting kicked in the kidneys. Eyes wide open. Still moving along one foot in front of the other. Still being me. Still leading with my heart. But. Be present. Be kind. Be open. Be cautious. People aren’t always what they appear to be. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. Maybe it just means their instincts are also damaged. Maybe they too are fragile.

Thank you my new friend P.S. for allowing me to see the damage. Really see the damage. To stop denying its existence. For it is only when we see the full extent of the damage that we can go about fixing it. Becoming whole again. Cautiously, optimistically, gloriously whole again.

The instruction follower.

“The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

Sheryl Sandberg

I have a talent for art. I have always been good at it. It has always come naturally to me. Illustrative mostly. I can look at a picture and draw or paint it quite accurately. However, I did not seriously pursue this talent for most of my life. As a kid, it just never occurred to me that it should be something I should focus on. As a teenager, I transferred that talent into design and pursued graphic design as I thought that was a viable career path.

I met my ex-husband trying to pursue that career path. He hired me as a part time graphic designer. Fitting that our relationship began as he, the employer and me, the employee. He the boss, me the instruction follower. But once his business failed, I needed a job. So. After some exciting career advancing opportunities in telemarketing and retail clothing sales, I became a business administrator.

However, about 15 years into these various administrative jobs, I started to dabble once again with art. I started to do pieces as gifts. And then people started to ask for more. Finally, when he received a job opportunity in a new city, I had to quit my day job. Which incidentally was the first job I had ever had not in administration but in project management. And I LOVED it! It was a turning point in my journey and deserves it own post… later.

Back to this post…

Things were financially comfortable at this point. So I was in a new city with a chance to do something for me. I started to pursue my artwork seriously for the first time in my life. I hit the pavement marketing myself. I met with home designers. I met with art galleries. And I worked at it. Painting almost every day. I was getting good. Really good.

Yet through this all he never once complimented my work. He would tell me if he didn’t like something. Of course. Criticizing seemed to come easy. But not once did he tell me something was good. That I was good. I even showed in a successful art gallery with well known local artists for over a year. And still. Not one word of encouragement.

Eventually the financial comfort was no longer there and I had to go back to work. The art career was over. Yes, I could have still pursued it. But if you are understanding this story, my story, by this point you understand that was not an option. The art took a back seat.

So get to the real point of this post…

Years later, we were hanging out with a neighbor and he told this neighbor a story of how he tried to paint one day when I was at work. He took a small blank canvas and got out my paint and went to work. He confessed to the neighbor that he thought it would be easy. He confessed to the neighbor that it turned out so bad, he buried the canvas in the trash so I wouldn’t see. I never knew because he never told me. And he still didn’t. He told the neighbor. He did not tell me that he could not do what I could do. That I could do something better than him. He could not tell me. But he could tell the neighbor.

What I painfully felt that day is that he would never let me succeed beyond him. It would never be about me. I have done extensive reading into insecure and controlling personalities. Call it self-absorbed. Call it narcissism. Which are not the same by the way. But call it whatever you want. It is not healthy. It is not a partnership. It is lonely and it is heartbreaking. And no matter how much you think you can fix it. You can’t. You will always be the lesser one.

You will always be the instruction follower.

I am an excellent masonry.

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself”

unknown

I build incredibly strong brick walls. They can keep anything and anyone out. The walls are so solid it would take an army to break them. Luckily I have an army. My corner.

My walls took 24 years to build. Brick by brick. Layer by layer. They became bigger. They became stronger. I have been trying to dismantle those walls for 4 years now. Brick by brick. Layer by layer. As I dismantle, the walls weaken. They are cracking. The foundation is old and ugly and so the walls are cracking. The dismantling is becoming easier.

I did not intend to put the walls up. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But once they were up, I thought they kept me safe. I thought they provided protection from a hurtful life. And they did. They also hid my vulnerability. They made me appear stronger. And they kept people out. All people.

They also kept me in. One of the tools I taught myself in order to cope was to verbally abuse myself before he could. I found that if I beat him to the insult, it took the opportunity away from him. If I called myself stupid, there was no argument to start. So I verbally and emotionally abused myself. Stupid, fat, ugly. I covered them all. I became very good at it. So good at it that the inside of those walls started to become not such a nice safe place anymore. I could walk away from him but walking away from me proved to be far more difficult. What do you do when hate lives on the inside of the wall?

Those walls were the ultimate barrier. Breaking them down is not only letting love into my life, it is allowing me to let go of all the hate that was locked inside. Allowing me to love myself. Because I should. Because I am worthy. We are all worthy.

And so the walls are coming down. It is taking a long time for I am an excellent masonry. But I am also becoming an excellent wrecking ball operator!

The people in my corner.

“You want to come in my life, the door is open.
You want to get out of my life, the door is open.
Just one request: 
Don’t stand in the door, you’re blocking the traffic.”

Unknown

Building relationships. This is a big one. I am not talking about romantic relationships. I am talking about friendships. This is about who we have in our corner. About how we build our corner.

When you have a life altering chapter in your life, your world is forever changed to varying degrees. You may discover that the people in your life will want to be a part of that change… or not. I discovered this. I am discovering this. As I adjust to my new life after my divorce I am becoming aware that not everyone is fitting into this new world. And not because they are bad people. Not at all. I am redefining myself and discovering who I am and who I am meant to be. How I treat people has changed. How I expect to be treated has changed. And not everyone understands that and that is okay. After all, they didn’t change and they didn’t ask me to change. And deep down, I didn’t. Life changed.

When I was married, I was the submissive personality. I felt I had to be to cope. But the side effect of that was becoming the submissive personality in most of my relationships. When I finally sat in the driver seat of my life, that shifted. Not everyone liked my driving. Not everyone wanted to go in the direction I was going in. So they simply got out of the car. Understandable as I can be directionally challenged. My friends who have driven with me will appreciate that I willingly admit to that! 🙂

Meeting new people can be difficult but I think I am slowly figuring it out. Figuring out who does fit. Who wants to be along for my directionally challenged journey. I am so much stronger now but I still need powerful people to challenge me. To test me. To make sure I am going the right direction even if they have to tell me to turn right more than once. And they still need to have the patience to let me drive. Sometimes taking them on the scenic route. Secretly hoping that I will take them on the scenic route. Because oh how fun that scenic route can be.

These are the people I am gathering in my corner. New people. People who have always been with me. People I haven’t even met yet. These are my cheerleaders in my corner and what a great corner I have!

A new best friend.

“Do not touch me and keep your soul out of your fingertips… Die into me or don’t come to me at all.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Loneliness is proving to be tougher than I thought. I am surrounded by friends and family. I have a full life and I am happy. Yet there is that hole. Something missing. I spend my days full and loved and still go home alone. And wake up alone. I wish I would be okay with this. I want to be okay with this. I want to fully appreciate all that I have without feeling the presence of this hole. This stupid aching hole.

When I was gathering the courage to leave, I came to terms with the possibility that I would spend the rest of my life without a partner. I was okay with that. Anything had to be better than what I was living. If I had to do it again, I would make the same choice over and over. But I did not expect to feel this ache. This ache angers me as it is an invasion of my happiness. Yet I refuse to settle for something that just exists to fill that hole. That is not my fairy tale and I want the fairy tale.

I want the fairy tale and in that fairy tale I have a new best friend. My old one didn’t work out too well. He made me feel worthless. He made me feel unwanted. This was someone that I thought, I hoped, would be my best friend. I was foolish and naive.

I am still struggling to overcome the damage from my last best friend. Honestly, I am not sure I am ready for a new one yet. But I do know that if and when I am ready for a new best friend that he will be kind. He will be strong. As strong as me and as weak as me. It takes strength to be weak. He will take me to places I need to go when I don’t want to go. And when I stubbornly resist – and I will – he will carry me. And I will carry him when he is tired from carrying me. He will teach me and I will teach him. He will get angry with me and I will get angry with him. And he will kiss me like I am the only other person in the world because he will be the only other person in the world.

My best friend will lift me up and push me forward and make me a better person when I don’t know how to be a good person.

He will be my fairy tale. He will be my best friend. And I will not settle for less.