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.

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.

 

 

 

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

Letting go of the reins

This is the hardest thing. Like ever, ya’ll

So I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve discovered recently  – I’m a total control freak. 

I sorta knew this already. But it’s smacked me completely in the face as I’m dealing with my ex moving on.

NOW – before anyone opens their yap – I’m actually good with him moving on and having someone new in HIS life. I’m not saying it’s not hard sometimes. I’m not saying there’s not emotion tied to it – but it’s something I can be okay with.

What I recently discovered is that him having someone new in our kids’ life is a different kettle of fish entirely.

Apparently it’s only news to me, but exes will do things we never thought they would. Things that are common sense to some of us, simply aren’t on the radar for others.

If you don’t think your ex would:

  • introduce a new ‘friend’ to the kids right off – they might.
  • let a friend stay the night – they might.
  • put off time with the kids for extra time with the friend – they might.
  • lie to you about what they have going on so you’ll help out and they get free time with the friend- they might.
  • count on the kids not ‘filling you in’ – they might.
  • have issues with the kids involving the split that they don’t clue you in to – they might.

 

No – my ex hasn’t done all of the above – but some.

And I absolutely had to deal with a meltdown from SweetPea (she’s 9) yesterday in the middle of a Mexican restaurant because she didn’t think we’d get divorced and she isn’t sure how to choose between her mom and a ‘new mom’ (they’ve been dating for approximately 2 weeks).

SIGH.

 

 

The desire to control so many of these things is very high.

I don’t like letting go of the reins. I like to give them a nice, solid death grip.

I don’t know how so many of you have done it with situations that are so much worse. Drugs and abuse and everything in-between.

What I learned this week is that I can ask myself honestly, “Can I let this go?” (Yes – outloud if possible – I look like an idiot in my car talking to myself and I just don’t care.)

Sometimes the answer is yes. One and done.

Sometimes it’s no – and taking the time to ask the first question gives my brain and heart the room to ask the others that are important – How would I like to handle this? What is a reasonable response? What would I like to see come of it?

And life is SO much better when I don’t react to him emotionally.

Some people thrive off of that – it’s where the small amount of control they exert comes from. But when we don’t react emotionally – we take away that power.

I may not be able to control him or his choices – but I can control myself and my reactions – and MOST IMPORTANTLY I can make sure that my example for my kids is what I’d like them to see. I can pick those reins back up with purpose, with the right mindset and attitude and steer that horse in a direction that I feel securely is healthy for myself and my children.

 

What do you guys do when you feel the need to take control of things? Anyone have other ‘tricks’ that work? I’d love to hear them!!