I’m moving y’all

(and I wish it were to the place pictured above – Lake Gaston, NC)

Due to, well a lot of things, I’m more active on my other WordPress profile than on this one – so please find me at http://explorator2017.wordpress.com/.

I’m going to be posting regular updates there, and, though I’ll keep this site up, that will be a better place to find me, and you may just find some familiar content there 😉

Sara

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Don’t be ordinary…

In love. In life. In parenthood. In anything. It’s a good rule – why be ordinary?

The above quote says it all for me as we head towards the big V-day. And I may not be going where you think I’m am with this. It’s not a “To heck with jerks! You go tell him where to stick it girl!” kind of thing.

We are all so incredibly unique. Nope – we’re not all special little snowflakes to be coddled and protected from every bump in the road. But we are unique.

No two people have exactly the same life experience, outlook, talents or challenges.

Valentine’s Day is bittersweet for many, sweet for some and just plain bitter for others.

We’ve heard it all, right?  ‘Love yourself first’ and ‘you can’t love another person until you love yourself’. And these are true.

We get totally sick of hearing them when  we’d rather have an awkward date with Mr. Not-Quite-Right than sit at home alone with take-out and binge-watching GOT one more night. There’s nothing wrong with going on that date if you are just looking for a fun night out, and everyone involved has a realistic expectation of outcomes.

But please routinely put in the effort to make those statements above true.

Don’t waste too much time on Mr. (or Ms!) Not Quite Right – buy yourself a treat instead – a handbag you’ve wanted, a ticket to a sporting event, a dinner out at a lovely restaurant – and it doesn’t have to be expensive – do it on a shoestring – a walk in the park or hiking expedition of your own can be so incredibly gratifying. Take a lesson in something you’ve been dying to learn – rock climbing or painting or whatever tickles your fancy.

Self-care takes a lot of practice – you might not have that rosy “I love me!” feeling. It doesn’t matter – do the thing anyway. Take the moment – if it’s nothing but stopping working on all the other things to read for 30 minutes and have a bath. Your heart, mind and body all three will thank you. (The rosy feelings do sometimes come! I promise!)

Next, let’s consider ‘Don’t expend energy loving someone who doesn’t love you more than you love you.’

A mouthful – I know. I’m no Oscar Wilde. But I think the point is important.

Once we remember how to love ourselves, we shouldn’t work so hard to love someone who doesn’t cherish all the parts of us at least as much as we do.

When you truly love someone, you even find ways to cherish the parts of them that drive you crazy.

My SO and I have this piece down. For example – he’s reticent. Completely. HUGELY. And it drives me totally bonkers most of the time. He doesn’t communicate AT ALL when he’s upset. Then I get upset because he’s not communicating – and then he’s upset that I’m upset, and it can get really stupid.

BUT – I’ve learned from his reticence. Running off at the mouth has always been a problem of mine – but being around him has caused me to slow down and consider more carefully the things that come out of my mouth. It has taught me that not everything needs an immediate response and sometimes it doesn’t need a response at all.

Still drives me nuts when he does it sometimes (and funnily enough was the most infuriating part to me about my dad! Wished I’d learned from him instead of waiting this long.) But it’s part of who he is as a person – and it does have value.

I *think* I’m teaching him something about empathy – which drives him bonkers. We have to stop before leaving DQ to say hi to the older fellow sitting alone with his cone. He has to wait for me constantly because I have a need to know EVERYONE’S story. I want them all. He was not previously overly concerned about other’s stories – or with sharing his own.

I think he sees through my crazy eyes that wanting to know about others, because you’re truly interested in their story, can be beautiful thing, and can create some wonderful bonds (and get you some fantastic stories!) He tells me routinely that it’s part of who I am – so he loves it too.

So if you’re going to be with someone, choose a person who is willing to think that you’re a special snowflake and treat you with all the care that should afford – but who’s also willing to push you and inspire you to being bigger, better and more than you were.

No one less is worth it – have many lovely friends and people around you – but don’t sacrifice your time and effort for someone who doesn’t cherish your soul.

Don’t expend energy loving someone who doesn’t love you more than you love you. 🙂

Where’s the merit in coping well?

Continuing on the theme of unseen illnesses, I think this applies to everyone to some extent.

And it frustrates the living crap out of me.

So here it is – just because someone is actually putting effort into coping with something doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

Whether it’s a stay-at-home mom or dad who hasn’t seen another adult socially in 6 months because they take care of all the details, or someone with an illness that doesn’t look like a chemo patient or amputee, many people you know are coping. Right now. Struggling to get through the day without hiding in a bathroom stall for a cry or waking out to their car because they “forgot their jacket” just so they can breathe.

It’s hard work not letting your emotional stress bleed on to others, and it deserves credit.

A good friend of mine and I have long said that there’s no merit in being a strong woman. Not that a) we actually believe that or b) that would change one damn thing we do if it were true.

But the feeling behind the sentiment is strong.

We are strong. We push through. We don’t throw our dirty laundry and open emotional wounds on FB for all to see.

But it seems as though, when you survive with the ‘stiff upper lip’, people don’t believe you might actually have difficult things to cope with, or don’t think you need help when you definitely do.

Those who let everything around them crumble without lifting a finger to stop the fall are seen as damsels in distress (or whatever the male equivalent is) – everyone rushes in to save the day.

And those who make some attempt to cope get…. nothing.

SO – here’s a clue. When you know someone who generally copes well, and they come to you with a problem – it’s HUGE. Just because they may not jump up and scream or cry doesn’t mean they’re okay. And if they’re talking to you – it’s because THEY NEED YOUR SUPPORT. They ARE reaching out to you – by even sharing with you. They’re likely not to beg – maybe it’s pride, and maybe that’s wrong. But it’s so.

When that person you know who seems to have it all together stops you to tell you about something difficult they’re going through – without gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair – STOP. LISTEN. and help if you can.

I promise you that they’ll never forget it – and that person who doesn’t panic – who can carry the world on their shoulders without looking for all the attention – you’ll want them in your corner one day when you have your own things going on – and you couldn’t ask for anyone better.

 

Holidays and Unseen Illness

So I just found The Mighty the other day. How I missed it, I simply have no idea. But it’s brilliant.

They have a blog prompt that is a Holiday Wish List for those who are dealing with or related to someone who is dealing with a condition.

I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed that I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease – in the midst of the divorce (and no – it’s not gotten better) and it’s meant some major life changes. Yes – I have measurable and permanent hearing loss. Yes – I get intense episodes of dizziness that vertigo doesn’t start to cover – it’s full-on equilibrium failure. But mostly I have friends and family who simply can’t recall that I have dietary restrictions, and think that because they can’t see it, it’s all in my head.

With that in mind – here is my Holiday Wish List for people with Meniere’s and all other ‘unseen’ illnesses. And it won’t cost you a dime!!

  1. We wish that friends and family would understand when  we have to cancel at the last minute. I promise I don’t use my disease as an excuse – but unless you’d like vomiting and my head glued to your (hopefully) bathroom floor for several hours – you’ll have to trust that I know my limitations, and am only bowing out because it’s worse for you. Trust that I’d rather be there than dealing with this.
  2. We wish people would stop giving us a hard time about our conditions. I know we use humor as a coping mechanism, and understanding an unseen disease is difficult – but please try. It’s *not* funny when someone with Narcolepsy nods off. It’s *not* funny when someone with Meniere’s wobbles when standing or can’t hear you on one side of their head, or when someone with high-functioning anxiety suddenly feels as though they can’t breathe for no reason in the canned foods section of the store. Yes- we know it looks and seems ridiculous. Yes – we can take a joke. Yes – we can occasionally pick on ourselves for these aspects of our diagnosis or laugh with you. But when it’s constant – it gets old. As much as you may be tired of seeing/hearing about/dealing with the result of our condition, we’re 10,000 times more tired of experiencing it.
  3. We wish people would PLEASE take our diseases seriously. Don’t ask “How’s the ear thing?” or “Still dealing with that panic stuff?” Belittling it doesn’t make it any less real. We’ve all been guilty of this – girlfriends dealing with PMDD or difficulty conceiving, high-functioning anxiety and depression, the list goes on and on – if you haven’t experienced it, and can’t see it – it’s easier to blow it off than to realize that it has very real and daily impact on our lives. We’re usually trying our best not to let it bleed over to you – just because we’re doing a damn fine job of coping (thank you very much) doesn’t mean it’s easy.
  4. We wish for graciousness. In general, as a human, figure it out. It’s not that hard. In specific, don’t get pissy when I politely decline your food or ask what it’s marinated in – (unless you’d like me to ruin your newly redecorated powder room – see above). No – I can’t and won’t drink your cocktail. Yes , alcohol content matters, sodium content matters. So does sleep. Further – IT SUCKS. I want to drink that cocktail – oh so very much! I want to eat that gorgeous hunk of salami. But the price is simply too high. And don’t get all crappy – I’m not asking you to provide me with a special meal. I’ll eat what I can, and have faith, I almost always have a snack handy that I can munch on so we all have a lovely time!
  5. We wish for Love. If you love me, love me as I am right this moment. This might get better or easier. It might not. I have to shoulder this load, I wasn’t given a choice – no one said, “Hey Sara – would you rather have Meniere’s or break your right arm twice?” You absolutely don’t have to walk this road with me. But if you choose to, do it with kindness and love. I don’t just need a kick in the ass to get over it. I don’t need your tough love. It doesn’t work here. Just love me, care for me, cherish me, and I promise to do the same in return.

Some bedroom-type rules for us gals…

Okay – everyone should read this post on Must Be This Tall to Ride

Seriously…

Right Now.

Have you read it yet?

Okay – now.

I LOVE Matt’s blog. It’s one of the few I actually manage to make it to most of the time when subscription updates come through.

I’ll bore you with similarities between his experience and mine later, but today I want to talk about sex. (Are you blushing yet? No? Okay – hang on, I’ll try harder)

So much of what he says NEEDS to be said, and I think some of it needs to be addressed from the female perspective as well. You need to go read this about his Magic Sex Potion for guys –  you’ll appreciate it!

While I 10,000% agree with Matt that a woman never ‘owes’ a man sex (unless he’s paid for it? You’ll have to read his blog to get it – and no this doesn’t address rape culture etc please see that note below), I think we have rather a good deal of  responsibility here.

If we run with the assumption that you’re in a monogamous relationship with a fellow (partner – I don’t care the gender – I think the rules apply) you’ve had *ahem* relations with, I think we need to follow some basic rules. ***

  1. Don’t lead him on. Don’t put on the sexy negligee and get him ‘riled’, if you will, with sexy talk and etc, only to let him down because he makes one comment that hits you funny. I’m not saying you’re obliged to give it up if he’s being a complete asshole or because he wants it now. I AM saying that we all know our lady-libido is tied to our emotions and mind, and it’s entirely too easy to let the emotional train jump the track and crash into the mountain-side for something that’s not worth the loss. It wrecks the entire evening. I speak from experience. Let it go – or shit – don’t – and fire back at him – let it be a little foreplay – and then go enjoy yourself – because you know in the end you really want to. It’s WAY better than laying with your mascara running down your cheeks with your back to him in some scraps of fabric that you don’t really want to sleep in anyway. ** Also don’t EVER go putting on the sexy stuff because you think you have to when you really aren’t in the mood – that’s just asking for trouble. Talk it out – then maybe bang it out – but don’t play mind games.
  2. Be Flexible. Yes – in all ways. 😉 A little yoga goes a long way for both of you. But seriously – this goes back to the previous point in not letting our emotions reign supreme. I don’t think it’s completely fair that we ladies always get the ‘last say’ if we’re grumpy, sad, tired, whatever the thing is today. I know you’ve been chasing kids, or fighting off the boss-monster at work all day. But if you’ve been talking up Thursday Night Sexy Time (because we all know we squeeze it in where we can between kids, cleaning, PTA, etc and so forth) for 3 days, suck it up (literally if need be?). Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it go. Literally focus on the sensations. Tell him you need some TLC and relax back and enjoy a bit of pampering. Then return the favor. It might take a little more work to ‘get in the mood’ but it’s totally worth it.
  3. Try new things! Be a little risky – look, just like Matt says – It’s difficult if you were raised in a conservative religious household to let go and ‘get your freak on’. It’s VERY hard to learn to let loose after morality has been beaten into your head for 20 years. Providing you’ve found a trustworthy (and I mean REALLY trustworthy) partner, be a little open to exploration! I’m not saying you have to do things you just can’t begin to stomach, I’m just saying that not all ideas are bad ones. That’s all. Getting the teensiest bit out of your comfort zone can be exciting.
  4. FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE COMMUNICATE. Okay gals – look. When we think we’re being very clear, half the time, we’re really not. Good grief, we confuse the hell out of other women in friend relationships, that should tell us something. Be very plain about what you do and do not like about your experiences with your mate! If they do something you love – make sure you tell them so – please don’t assume that they’ll remember you moaned a little extra that one time. Say to them, “Gee, Jim-bob, that thing you did when you ******* on Wednesday was frigging amazing – and it needs to go on the list of repeats please!” This one goes for the guys too. Tell us what you like and don’t. That’s the only way it gets better and better.
  5. Stop. It. With. The. P*rn. SERIOUSLY. Guys and gals. This is *not* what great sex looks like. These are not what normal people look like. People are lumpy and not airbrushed and waxed to the teeth at all times. As embarrassing as it may be, I can guarantee that some of the best sex of my life was when my legs (and so you can imagine what else) may not have been as smooth as I would have liked, and I managed to GTF over it. P*rn is not a substitute for a human, and if you cultivate an amazing relationship in ALL ways with your other half, you only need it if you choose you want it. And I PROMISE, guys, you’re never going to get the relationship you want when you’re addicted to it. I speak from experience again. If you can’t stop watching it, go get help – there are plenty of well-trained individuals out there who can help you stop and put you on the path to something better.
  6. Don’t kiss and tell – last one for now. I know we all love a good dish with our gal-pals over coffee or wine, and, yes, you will have that special friend or two that may know a bit more about this side of your life. But for crying in the mud – your sex life is *not* cocktail party or locker room fodder. If you want it to be amazing – keep it safe. And bitching to the girls about how he “won’t ever leave you alone” or “always wants it” will not improve your relationship or your sex life – communication, and possibly therapy, are the only things that will do that. And even bragging can break down the walls with your lover if they’re not comfy with it. If everyone is dishing and you get cornered – just let them know that ‘it’s amazing’ with a sly little grin and don’t divulge more. It leaves them guessing and keeps everything safe just where it should be!

So there – not a compendium by any means, but I think some good rules to start with.

I spent many years in relationships with sub-par ‘relations’ and feel incredibly lucky to have found someone who matches me well in these areas now.

But it’s partially because of what you’re reading above and partially because of Matt’s Love potion – I’ve found a guy who inherently knew how to make this potion – and it works. But he’d tell you from prior experience, that no amount of kindness can thaw a frigid chick either – so don’t be that girl.

Love to all!!

*** This is NOT meant to address in any way, shape or form rape culture or the implications therein. What you’re reading is written by a woman who has been a victim of this culture. It is intended to address, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, the responsibilities in intimacy we have to one we love in that way. That is all – if it pisses you off – well – sorry, not sorry.

Dear Mirena, it’s not you, it’s me… (Updated)

See bottom of post for update as of 2/8/17

***** Hi boys – warning, girlie TMI ahead. Skip this one, unless you’re trying to help a loved one through dealing with a Mirena nightmare, then read ahead. I’ll try not to be too gross*****

**** Also I am NOT a medical professional – blah, blah – this is just my own personal tale of Mirena woe – I’m not here to give you advice.****

*** If you don’t want to read my tongue-in-cheek rendition of this – skip to the bottom – I’ve listed just the facts there***

So, ahead we plunge – This is my story. It’s been a rocky road, and I know there are MANY stories out there of women who struggled with Mirena – and many more who had a great experience. No judgement or bashing here. Just my story.

 

Dear Mirena –

It’s not you… it’s me. Or maybe – it is you, actually.

Things started out so well about a year and half ago. You were a dream come true. Progestin to help with PMS mood swings, and birth control that no one had to think about – not that I had any need of the birth control, but it was nice to know it was there.

I’d had a VERY short lived fling with the NuvaRing just before we met – that was it’s own special disaster – and should have been a warning sign for me. But who am I to heed warning signs?! That’s just silly.

See, I don’t tolerate synthetic hormones well. I never have. I’ve been on and off birth control several times, and it’s never been great. Stomach upset, general malaise, and then the uncontrollable crying. That’s always the best.

NuvaRing had the same effect – within about 5 hours of insertion. I turned into a sobbing lunatic. I removed it immediately, but it took another 5 days for 5 hours worth of hormones to work their way out of my system.

I cried uncontrollably and at the drop of a hat. Despair was the tip of the iceberg. This was full blown hormonally-instigated depression that I couldn’t see clear of.

Now let me just say – I love the NP at my OBs office. I truly do- she’s gifted and intelligent and somehow manages to put you at ease in the most awkward of situations.

HOWEVER – medical professionals – I implore you. LISTEN to your patients. I know – you deal with some quacks. But when an otherwise reasonable woman walks into your office explaining that she thinks she has something similar to PMDD – it’s short-lived but intense and that her previous experience with synthetic hormones isn’t good, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY – STOP.

Listen. Please. Come up with a plan. One that takes into account ALL that she’s telling you. Most of us know our own bodies, and at least deserve a say!

I know, Mirena, I’m veering off track. I’m sorry. I thought we’d be a good fit too. Or I hoped anyway.

So the initial appointment was… painful… if I’m honest. A couple of days of cramping and  stabbiness – then, oh I don’t know, 3 MONTHS of bleeding.

Seriously.

But that’s within the range of normal I’m told.

So we power through that – and I spend a lot of money on feminine hygiene products so that we can continue our relationship.

Oddly just a few weeks after you and I get together, I have this odd episode of vertigo. It’s positional and VERY intense. The doctor, who knows I’ve recently had a cold, determines that it’s labrythitis.

So it fades after a while (read 2-3 months). But then I discover that I have more than a drink or two and my equilibrium completely leaves me. COMPLETELY. I’m on the floor. No matter where I am. Picking my head up off the floor is actually impossible, and this will last for approximately 10 -12 hours.

Back off to the doc I go – who thinks it’s Meniere’s disease. A specialist and an MRI to ensure that it’s not a tumor later – the ENT agrees.

Oh – and I forgot the hearing loss. That part is fun. It’s only in a certain frequency range and just in one ear. But it means I can’t hear the kids in the car – so we all yell. All the time. That’s nice. And yes – it’s tested and diagnosed by a professional. Is it recoverable? We have no idea.

So I cut out sodium. Because that’s one of the ways you deal with Meniere’s. My daily sodium intake is about 1000-1500 mg. Which is pretty low – salami and hard cheese – out (have I mentioned my love for antipasti?) Any pre-prepared food – out. But I sure as heck know how to ask for unseasoned meat at a restaurant….because that’s a skill we’d all like to have. Ugh.

So here we are, Mirena, you and I. You’re frequently uncomfortable. And I’m starting to feel down.

Did I mention that I’ve put on weight? Oh yes – 6-7 months in and I’m 25 lbs up. With no change in lifestyle to speak of. This is no laughing matter.

So now I’m depressed and uncomfortable in my clothes, and not eating salt. I’m hungry, grumpy, uncomfortable and well… miserable.

Oh, but you’re not done with me yet, Mirena – not even close – now you decide I need to be a little unsure about – OH EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE. Say hello to Mr. Anxiety.

Now I’ve experienced some mild anxiety before. I know what the heart racing feels like. I know what it’s like to talk yourself out of stupid decisions  (usually in regards to getting reassurance from a significant other) because you know how you feel isn’t ‘right’.

But this isn’t that.

This is certainty. Heart-pounding, heart-breaking certainty.

Mirena, you have had me plainly convinced that I’m a terrible mother, unloveable woman, with difficult children and an impossible life. It’s been completely miserable. And I’ve been so embarrassed that I kept it all in my own head. And that’s just ridiculous. You had me such a mess I couldn’t even reach out to those I love for help.

But no more Mirena – we’re over you and I.

And I already feel better. Just 24 hours in, and I feel like I have my brain back a little. I’ve done laundry. It’s not actually an impossible task. My sheets are clean, and my kids are happy. Look at that!

img_5643
This is my bed! I love it – and it’s all clean and nice – because Mirena no longer gets a vote!

I’m not unlovable, and you’re not in charge anymore. I’ve told people I love that you’re gone, and how I’ve been feeling and have nothing but love in return.

So thanks but no thanks – I don’t need what you have to offer.

Sincerely,

Me.

 

JUST THE FACTS:

  • Mirena was put in in March 2015 after trying NuvaRing. That was in for only 5 hours – which left me an emotional disaster. A couple of weeks later I had the Mirena placed.
  • Insertion was painful – and several days of cramping afterwards – OTC pain meds knocked the edge off, but could not get rid of discomfort.
  • I have a history of not tolerating synthetic hormones well – and minor history with anxiety. Never depression other than a short bout of PPD with both children.
  • Bleeding after insertion was 3 months long.
  • Weight gain began immediately and continued until leveling around 25 lbs higher about 7 months in. Was at about 130 pre-Mirena and have hovered around 155 since.
  • Weight has been impossible to shift – regardless of extreme dietary changes and consistent HIIT workouts and cardio.
  • Vertigo symptoms began almost immediately. I am *fingers crossed* hoping that my ‘Meniere’s disease’ resolves or improves as a result of removal.
  • Some Meniere’s symptom are  – tinnitus, or ringing in the ears – constant pressure in the ear – hearing loss – and loss of balance or equilibrium.
  • Moodiness began early, but has become increasingly extreme . Worst around PMS time. Loved ones relate it to ‘flipping a switch’. I’m okay, until I’m not. Then I’m impossible and inconsolable.
  • Anxiety has been VERY extreme. Relationship-sabotaging, with both family and friends.
  • Consistent but not constant discomfort randomly, but especially during ‘ahem’ relations.
  • Removed and almost immediate improvement in mood and outlook within 12-24 hours.
  • Began Chastetree Berry immediately after removal. This is something I keep on hand – it helps your body’s natural progesterone production. *fingers crossed* I’m hoping this helps to stave off the dreaded ‘Mirena Crash’. I’m also hoping that since my symptoms were so bad with it that removal is what is needed to stabilize everything!

** I am NOT telling anyone to go buy Chastetree Berry supplements and take them. They do work for me – but please get professional advice before taking anything new!**

I’ll continue to update this post as I see how this all plays out. If I haven’t updated and you’re looking for it – call me out, please!

Update 2/8/17

Sooooo – It’s been a while since the removal and here are the relevant things that have or have not changed.

  • Thankfully I did not really experience the ‘crash’ that so many people have. I was a little off for a bit – foggy headed and such – but nothing extreme. That has dissipated.
  • Crazy is totally gone. I get the mild stuff I used to always get a few days before my period (which I felt were extreme before I experienced Mirena bonkers), but there is none of the unbearable anxiety and weeping and despair.
  • Period immediately went back to what I’ve been used to my whole adult life.
  • Libido is much better than it ever was with Mirena and no pain during relations 🙂 .
  • Weight did not ‘fall off’ but I am able to work to lose weight, as opposed to breaking my back to no effect. I am still working through this 20 lbs but it IS moving.
  • Meniere’s symptoms improved, but not gone. (I wish I could say they were!) Fullness in ear is gone. Hearing loss has not improved. No ‘episodes’ since removal. I do still experience ransom tinnitus. I have maintained a low-sodium diet.
  • Mainly I just feel like ME – I have more patience with my kids and don’t constantly feel like I’m barely holding my life together. My circumstances have not dramatically changed – just my outlook!

If there’s anything in particular you’d like an update on – please buzz me!

Honest vs. Intentional

I’d like to talk for a minute about being honest vs. being intentional.

I don’t know about you, but through my life I’ve had several ‘mottos’.
“You ALWAYS have a choice – you may not like your choices, but you always have one.”
“Personal responsibility” I think that one speaks for itself.
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to” (this extends to questions you just aren’t *sure* you want the answers to.)

These have all been different themes since I was about 18. I felt strongly, even then, that once you’re an ‘adult’ you have to stop using “My mom did _______” or “The kids at school were ______” as a reason for not achieving what you wanted to.

Can the effects of traumatic circumstances be legitimate? Oh boy, you bet. But should you let them hold you back? I don’t personally think so. I think we should, as people, take responsibility (there’s that word again) for our future and do whatever work we need to in order to try tomove past these things. Easier said than done – yes I know.

My most recent motto is “Be honest, but be intentional.”

It’s hitting me in the face hard right now as we work our way through this divorce, which will finalize next week.

The ex (I’ve finally stopped calling him “not-yet-ex”) has a new ‘love’ – another one. He’s on his 3rd since we split up 1.5 years ago. This doesn’t really put a wrinkle in anything for me, but the kids are a whole other story.

This is where the rubber meets the road for me on being honest vs. being intentional.

If I’m HONEST with you guys – I have a ‘friend’. I have someone I’ve spent some time with. After a bit my kids have met his kid. We all have a great time together doing things we all enjoy – rock climbing or biking. And, if I’m HONEST, as much as I really do like and care for this person, when we’ve done things with the kiddos, there’s great INTENTION to the way that we do it.

We have a basic set of rules at this time. It’s something we both agree on.

Look – my kids have been through the ringer already this past year and a half. Their parents are getting divorced. Mom has moved out. It’s been emotional and messy.

The last thing they need is for me to add one more layer of stress.  So – when we’re together now, it’s all about the kids. HONESTLY, we hardly speak. We ll have fun – we all laugh and act silly. His kid and I hang out and have fun – my kids sometimes sit near him and snuggle up or hold his hand.

But they initiate it, and, for me, that’s the key.

Might this all be “more” down the road? Absolutely.

But we’re very intentional. I want all of these kids to feel like they were part of things and this all developed in a way that made it easy for them. This requires enormous amounts of patience, forethought and very calm, in spite of how emotionally-charged it can be, conversation.

My ex said “Well I’m being honest.”

And he’s not wrong. He is being honest.

I think I am too. “We’re good friends and I like him a lot. I think he’s fun. What do you guys think of him? of his son?” This is how this goes for me. All of these things are true.

I feel good about my response – just as the ex does about his.

I feel like my kids are getting to express their feelings and their opinions. It’s because we do these things, that they pow-wow’ed on my bed last night to chat about how they were sad about the divorce next week (because they know. I don’t believe in hiding that.) and how they didn’t really want a lot more change right now. They wish their dad wouldn’t get married right now. They already don’t feel like they get as much attention from him as they’d like, they say.

Because my relationship with him matters – and for their sake – I share this stuff with their dad. I try to let him know how they’re feeling. I can’t fix it for him – or dictate how he handles his new relationship- but I can at least pass along the info.

He’s completely comfortable with holding hands and kissing in front of the kids, leaving the them alone while they’re his home for the two of them to have alone time.

I’m not saying that these are things that should never happen – absolutely they should! I think the kids need to see a healthy relationship. Physically and emotionally as is appropriate.

But I also feel strongly that my particular kids deserve for me to be intentional and calm at the moment. Not caught up in another person. But present – for them and their needs and wants.

I think this whole situation has made me appreciate being intentional more. Patience IS a virtue. And good things DO come to those who wait. In the meantime, we’ll have a lot of fun, and some difficult times too, and enjoy the process – the natural progression – that this all takes.

 

 

 

Playing along…

Found Terrible Minds yesterday due to the linked post. So much humor and brilliance in one space!! Soooo – I decided to play along with Chuck’s Flash Fiction Challenge.

With a MAJOR caveat. I’ve never been a fiction writer. Ever. Like pretend I’m in 6th grade (though that might be insulting quite a few 6th graders) and this is for ELA. But it was fun.

His blog is brilliant – please go give it a read.

Here it is – based on The Idiomatic outcome “Practice killed the cat”

 

“For the love of God, stop. Please! Just stop. The neighbors think you’ve lost it, and I’m beginning to agree with them!”

It felt like the 10th time she’d said that today, but he couldn’t. It was compulsive. This need to rehearse the fouettes en tournant over and over again. It made him dizzy, but that didn’t matter now. In fact, it began to feel like reliving an old high.

He’d given up hope of ever being more than an understudy. He’d resolved this, and become happy with his place in the cast and the world. He and Molly had settled in to a quiet schedule around performances and her work. He was content.

Then at 8:14 this morning, the phone rang. The lead was out, severe stomach virus with dehydration. They’d actually gone so far as to admit him to the hospital. He’d recover, but they had to fill – and it was John’s opportunity to live the role, even if only for a day.

Mr. Mistoffelees was his. This was his shining moment and the fouette was the crowning glory of this role. Molly would never understand. Her desk job paid their bills, that much was certain, but the passion, the drive, the all-consuming fire wasn’t something she could relate to – at all.

“John – I know you’ve worked hard. And I’m so happy for you, but this is, frankly, ridiculous. Pictures are falling off the walls. The downstairs neighbors are threatening to call the police.”

He couldn’t even hear her anymore. It’s as though the need to maintain perfect balance and form while completing the rotations in his old, worn shoes on the highly polished hardwood had overridden his ears’ ability to process sound. Demi-pointe, turn, retire, turn, retire, turn. Over and over and over.

John began to feel faint, his vision blurry. He’d been ignoring the roaring in his ear, but he was starting to think that Molly might have a point. He should take a break. If he wore it out in practice, he’d be no good on stage. He had brush-up at 3 anyway.

He stopped with a final, sweaty turn and took a minute to catch his breath. “You know what, Molly – you’re right. Let me clean up, and we’ll go grab a bite and sit in the park for a bit before rehearsal. We should be celebrating. I’ve got this!”

Molly breathed for what felt like the first time since the phone rang. He’d been spinning like a top for the past 2.5 hours, and she really couldn’t take anymore. She loved him, but it drove her crazy when his good sense went out the window like that – it didn’t even have the courtesy to ‘whoosh’ as it went by.

Molly and John spent the remainder of midday walking, holding hands, talking. He was ecstatic, fairly thrumming with the energy of his excitement. She was giddy for him. There was giggling. There was kissing. There was a rose from a street-side flower vendor. There was the perfect intimacy of a rose-gold afternoon.

“Gotta run, babe. You’ll come backstage after, of course?”

“Of course, baby – I love you. Break legs!”

Brush up goes by without a hitch. The director is pleased. The stage manager can’t believe he’s hitting the marks so well. Off for makeup and costume and they’re set.

The show has run for so long, it’s hard to believe there haven’t been a million major mishaps. And maybe there have been. Maybe that’s the magic of theatre. We mostly never know. They cover up the minor injuries and illnesses. They make up for broken set pieces and equipment. They hold more together with gaff tape then we could ever imagine.

But this one couldn’t be covered up, and gaff tape was no use here.

John was shining and brilliant, on spot with every cue. Molly’s face hurt from grinning at his performance for so long.

Until that very last turn. Stage mics can pick up enough that granny in the last row heard the snap. There’s nothing like the sound of bone cracking, really.

Molly saw him go down. She knew it was bad. No one’s ankle should ever be at that angle. She’s a problem-solver though, already poised with what hospital to go to, which orthopedic surgeon was best. She was so caught up that it took her a moment to realize that something else was wrong.

“Why isn’t he moving? He should be yelling in pain,” she thought.

And the curtain dropped. The audience mumbled in concern, and time stopped.

Backstage, after the initial crowding around of cast members and quick drop of the curtain, they all began to back away. Slowly. Hands over mouths, tears begin to fall as they turn to one another for solace.

Molly rushed to the stage door, and was immediately let in. Continually bringing in treats for the techies has it’s advantages in a situation like this – they remember your face.

She ran, full-bore, to the stage and saw everyone standing stock-still – they either couldn’t look away or couldn’t bear to look at all.

She froze. And in that moment, she knew. He wasn’t moving. And he wouldn’t again.

The cast parted to let her through, and she dropped to her knees at his side. No wailing for Molly. Silent tears blurred her vision. There was no lifeforce there, no heartbeat. Just her John utterly still on the stage in this costume he’d waited so long to wear.

There was busyness then. The emergency crew left with him. Announcements and apologies that the show was over for the evening. It all went dark. Molly still can’t remember how she got home that night. Whether she slept or didn’t for the following three days. There were funeral arrangements, and family members rushing into town.

But she woke up from the fog when the call came from the coroner’s office.

“Were you aware of any heart problems?” “No.” “Did he have a family history of heart disease?” “No.” “Any reason you can think of that he would have had a heart attack? Excessive strain as of late in any way?”

“Yes. Yes there was.”

2.5 hours straight. Spinning like a top. Practicing for that role, for that one shining moment, until he felt sick. He’d said he was tired. But that was all. Some say practice makes perfect. But this wasn’t perfection – it was like the worst joke God ever played.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Practice did.

Not one more missed opportunity…

I’m still fleshing this out, so bear with me.

I’m certain I’m missing important opportunities all the time. Chances to make a point, better myself, be mom-o-the-year and et cetera.

BUT – I’m trying to seize the moments and opportunities more these days, and it resulted in a pretty important perspective shift this weekend.

The ex took off for the weekend with the new GF, and as it was a kid weekend for me anyway, this shouldn’t have been a deal. And really it wasn’t for the most part.  He made it to their school orientation before he took off (better late than never!) He called them a couple of times. Mostly it was an average weekend.

BUT – 5 nights a week, he spends about an hour and a half with them – his week or mine – so I can work at a barn to cover Sweet Pea’s riding lessons. And this starts on Sunday evenings.

The past 2 weekends that the kids were with me, he has forfeited that time on Sunday night. He’s had plans. He’s been known to randomly forfeit this time anyway – but not really consistently.

Today is the kids’ last day off before school. He’s off work. Yet somehow, they’re with me while I work from home.

Again, he’s forfeiting time with them.

I have historically not been very understanding of this.

I want him to step up, say, “I am off and want to be with the kiddos, please bring them to me.” But he doesn’t. Fact is, he possibly never will. He certainly didn’t when we all lived together, so this isn’t new.

But this weekend – I let it go.

Mostly (hey – full honesty here).

It still rankles a bit that he’s off while I work with the kids here. But it’s okay. We’ve been to the pool, and out for dinner, rock climbing and for an epic drive in the past few days. We’ve had plenty of snuggle time during movies ,and tonight we’ll cook out before they head to his house for a spell.

If I’m diligent and complete my tasks – we’ll head to the pool again here in a bit (we didn’t even have access to a pool when I lived with the ex!) and that’s not bad at all.

Every opportunity that he gives up is one more that I have. One more moment to cherish this VERY limited time I get with them. Sweet Pea is 9. She’s halfway out my door!!

So – moving forward – as opposed to being frustrated that he’s not doing what I’d like – I’m trying to cherish that I get those extra moments with these boogers who have my whole heart.

It’s not easy. And I’m sure it never will be – though I imagine it will get easier. In the mean time, I’m trying to relish every extra second that I get.

Why my relationship with my kids’ dad matters

Possibly uncomfortable topic I guess – and probably a misleading title.

Of course, the relationship any of us have with our exs matters. Good, bad, indifferent – it affects our children and our lives.

I should have said “Why it matters to me that I have a good relationship with my kids’ dad.”

I put a lot of effort into keeping things smooth with the ex and why is not necessarily a simple answer. Most of my friends don’t really get it – some downright refuse to support it – but it’s a conscious decision that I make every day. Here’s why.

It matters because I need my kids to see that people can act in a mature fashion. 

We’re the adults here. We haven’t always been mature around our kids. There was a time when there was more yelling than civil conversation and more stuff broken than was fixed. But we’re not in the place now. I want my kids to learn to learn that we can move past times like this and treat one another respectfully. I can’t tell them how they should behave as a reasonable adult human if I’m not able to model it.

It matters because I don’t hate him

And truly… I don’t. I understand this bit doesn’t work for everyone. I was not physically abused nor were my children, and etc. Our marriage didn’t work. Neither of us were kind. Neither of us are without fault. We went through some trauma as a family that we didn’t survive. But that’s the thing…. in our way we are surviving. We’re still a family. We can eat a meal together. We still make one another laugh. We still ‘team tickle’ the kids. How he’s feeling or doing also matters to me because that affects our kids. If work is bad or he’s upset with a family situation, maybe his patience is running low – if I can be sensitive to that – maybe I take the kids off his hands for the evening – we all get a respite. Everyone wins. The tables are turned, and he returns the favor. It isn’t possible every time, but kindness counts. And again – I want to model that for our kids.

It matters because I want them to feel love from us – simultaneously.

I think they need to be able to feel love from us not just when they have us one-on-one, but all the time. That’s hard to do when you can’t get along. How do graduations and weddings look then? I want those times to just be celebrations for my kids. I never want them to have a second thought of, “What’s going to happen when I put mom and dad in the same room? What about step-parents?” When someone asks them about these things, I want them to say, “We’ll sit them all on the front row – they’re cool” Or whatever answer it is that works for them.

It matters because our problems are not their problems.

This is one of the biggest pieces to me. The kids didn’t ask for any of this. They wanted us to stay together. They love it when we’re all in the same place. Sometimes that’s hard for the adults here; we’re frustrated, angry or sad. I’ve had to physically remove myself from situations previously. Then I could step away from my emotion and bring the reaction that I wanted to the table. He has done this too. And lest you think we’re not showing them humanity or trying to paint some messed up Stepford situation here, there have been plenty of times where the kids have known there was a showdown going on  – guns they are a blazin’ – and they’ve also seen it de-escalate and be resolved. But I think we owe it to them to put all the effort we can into helping the piece of their life story that involves us be one that they can be proud of.

Finally, it matters because of my heart…

My heart has so long held enough hurt and anger to fill pages and pages. I don’t want to spend any more of my time than is necessary in that place. I want my heart to feel all the love and joy that is out there for the taking. And I can’t do that if it’s already full of negativity. So, maybe that’s a little selfish – but oddly it’s one thing the ex and I agree on easily. Let’s all move onward and upward together.

I get that this all takes two willing parties to do. But don’t be mislead. This is much easier somedays than others. He’s not always kind or thoughtful. He doesn’t always do what he says. He doesn’t always put the kids where I’d prefer them in his priority list. BUT – I’m sure he’d say the same about me in some circumstances or have other, no less important, gripes.

The thing is that we keep striving. We keep trying. We keep pushing past our comfort zones into somewhere that’s a happier place for all of us.

Like I told Sweet Pea when she asked me how my heart felt when she talks about dad’s new “friend” – “If you’re happy, and your brother is happy and your dad is happy – how can my heart be sad when everyone I care so much about is happy?” And from that perspective -it’s pretty easy. 🙂

S