Category Archives: Learning

May 31st Lesson: Honesty is the Best Policy

It’s the last day of the “What Did I Learn Today?” Challenge for May. I started reflecting on daily lessons learned to give me something to do each evening, instead of wallowing in self-pity and beer. Okay, I didn’t drink too much beer. More tears than beer.

I did the two things I said I was going to do: I reflected on my day, and I was honest about what I learned. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from this entire month is that doing this wasn’t easy, but it is possible and it helped me be more self-aware.

Being honest with myself was a big reality check. There were nights after I put my kids to bed that I did not want to think about anything. Or I was thinking about too much at once. Many times I just wanted to journal about my day, complain about my soon-to-be-ex-husband, and whine about being unemployed. But how much value would that have added? It took some effort to see my days for what they really were and recognize what was impacting me the most each day. I had to be honest with my damn feelings.

Damn feelings.

I’m still going to keep it going, maybe not every single day, but there will be more reflecting and honesty with thy self. Learning is the key to growth. I’m in this little life pickle because of the choices I’ve made and because of the choices I’ve avoided.

Be super honest with yourself. Its easier said than done.

Stifle Me Not

May 28th Lesson: Soaking in the Moments

I’ve been fretting for so long, I don’t know what I’m worried about anymore. I’m unemployed and on the verge of divorce, but I’m still standing and I’m still living each day. I’m getting it done. It’s different than I’m used to, but the sky isn’t falling. I’ve been learning to just take it day by day. People give that advice all the time [insert eye roll], but I never truly thought it was possible. I thought it was just cliche advice that people say when they don’t know what else to say.

I took my kids to visit family this weekend. It was fun and relaxing. I can’t remember the last time I looked back at a holiday weekend and thought it was relaxing. I’m always so busy getting things ready, cleaning things up, and people pleasing that I don’t even have time to soak in the moments. All I know is that I usually prep everything that needs to go in the car (everything from toys to sippy cups to extra clothes and diapers), and then fast forward and I’m exhausted after the kids are in bed with no recollection of how I got there.

The funny thing is, I did all the same stuff today – the prep stuff and the clean up stuff. and everything else in between. And I’m not exhausted. The only difference was that my not-yet-ex-husband wasn’t there. And I just didn’t try so hard, and then I wasn’t resentful toward anyone for not helping me. Normally, I’d prep the bags for the car and my internal dialogue would kick in:

Why do I always have to get everything ready?

What is he doing? 

Why isn’t he helping me? 

Do I really have to tell him exactly what to do? 

But lately, when he’s not around for me to “rely” on, I only have myself and just have to get it done. I’m no longer draining my energy worrying about why no one is helping me. It’s just me! And I’m getting it done!

There are plenty of times when I’ve spoken up and asked for help from him. Sometimes he would automatically help without a word, and sometimes it could turn into a fight. I was often criticized for my tone and told “I can’t read your mind!”

All of this I know. And you know what, I could be harsh toward my husband sometimes, but that harshness didn’t develop overnight. It was a gradual build up frustration and stress and discouragement. And I let even the tiniest of his hurtful words tangle around my already burdensome thoughts to the point of causing myself personal anxiety.

I enjoyed this weekend with my kids. I soaked in the moments (the good and the bad). I was present, and I wasn’t worried about anyone other than me and my kids. I didn’t even realize it until I sat down to write this just now. I’ve been missing out on a lot of moments all because my energy was zapped from worrying about things I’m already doing. The dark cloud that made me doubt myself is lifted.

Today I learned that I’ve been learning to live day by day and soak in the moments.

Stifle Me Not

May 27th Lesson: It’s My Turn

Today is my not-yet-ex-husband’s birthday. We started dating at the end of 2000. Every year since 2001, I have focused all of my efforts on making this day special (and even the entire weekend, since it’s almost always on or near Memorial Day weekend). And since we’ve been married, I typically stress the hell out about what to get him as a gift and have a birthday party for him – make dinner, get a cake, and have his family over to celebrate. Then we would have his sister babysit and go out with friends.

All of my energy focused on him and him only.

Today I did no such thing. I stayed home and pet my dogs and cleaned all day. His mom had him and our children over for his birthday dinner and cake. He brought the kids back in the evening and I almost said “Happy Birthday”. But how awkward is that? Who wants “Happy Birthday” from their not-yet-ex-wife? I’m happy for the day that he was born. If not for that day, we wouldn’t have the smart sassy children that we do today.

This was probably the most relaxing Memorial Day weekend I’ve had in 17 years. It felt weird not to be busy as hell this weekend, but it was freeing at the same time. Learning today that I don’t have to always drain my energy into someone else. It’s my turn after all these years.

Stifle Me Not

May 26th Lesson: Embracing Newness

Yesterday I packed my kids’ bags to go with their father for two days. It’s a bitter sweet moment when they go off with their dad. I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on important moments, and I can’t protect them like the mama bear that I am. On the other hand, I need a breather to stop and have silence and make the thoughts in my head slow down.

They went off with their dad and I embraced the silence. And it made me sad at the same time. But I had a headache, so I embraced it more than usual.

I did a little yard work, showered, and headed to my sister’s house for a nice change of scenery. We got some dinner and then we hung out with some of her friends. They were very nice and welcoming. I got to see my sister in her element and interact with some new and different people. It was a nice distraction from not having my own kids and my state of life-in-transition.

I love home. Home is my comfort zone. But I need to get out and experience new places and people more often. I learned that I need to expand my world a little more. I’ve been wallowing in the comfort of my home and the cycle of my thoughts for long enough. It’s time to embrace some newness.

Stifle Me Not

May 23rd Lesson: Quitting is Not an Option

I got another job rejection today. Via email. That was fun. One minute I’m spending some quality time with my son. The next minute I check the one unread email on my phone and my world crumbles. Again.

Luckily my son went out with his dad today, so I had some alone time to recover.

It goes something like this:

What am I doing wrong? Am I doing something wrong? 

How do I not have a job yet? 

Am I too old? 

Am I overqualified? 

Do I say dumb things? 

How is this happening? What can I do to change it? 

[insert ugly crying face and tears here]

I then get a grip and give myself a pep talk. Every. Damn. Time.

Some days I can take a full day to recover. Some days I take a few hours. Today was about an hour and a half. Then I had to pick up my daughter from school. I can’t pick up my kid at school with a tear-stained face and doom and gloom attitude.

Before I knew it, my son was home from time with his dad and it was dinner time. There was no use in moping around.

Tonight I applied to two more jobs.

I’ve applied to 28 jobs since the beginning of March and have maybe talked to two of the employers. I have not had a face-to-face interview with anyone yet. This is discouraging beyond belief. I went from never having time off and making almost six figures to watching the grass grow each day and making more peanut butter & jelly sandwiches than I have ever thought I would in my lifetime.

One things is for certain that I learned today: quitting is not an option. I have to keep trying for my kids. If it was just me that I was worried about, I may have given up by now. But nope, quitting is not an option.

Stifle Me Not

May 22nd Lesson: It’s Not All About Me

Two nights ago my daughter wanted to talk. Said she felt sad. She’s sad her dad isn’t around every day and night. And I’m sad for her too. Last night, she wanted to talk again. Tears this time. Her dad was around for a couple of hours and then he left. She wished he could stay longer. I’m sad too – for all of us.

Tonight she wanted to talk again. Full blown tears. She’s worried about when we move, she won’t have any friends, she misses her dad, she doesn’t want me to get remarried (even though I’m not dating anyone openly or secretly), and she thinks that I’ll spend more time worrying about her brother than her.

This is harder on her little brain than I realized. Her brain is on overload.

I reassured her that her dad and I will handle the adult stuff and she doesn’t have to worry. I asked her to trust us and we’ll keep her involved and make the best decisions for her and her brother. I could see the weight lifting off of her little shoulders and the anxiety softening from her big blue watery eyes.

This is hard. If I thought there was a chance in hell that he would be a better partner for me, I’d let him back in the door so that this burden wasn’t part of my kids’ lives. All I know for sure is that I don’t hate my parents for getting divorced. I love them the same. And I’m grateful for the new wonderful people that they each ended up marrying. I know my daughter can’t see that now, but she will. I know she will be okay.

She asked me if I cry when she goes to bed. Oh, if she only knew. I just said that I did sometimes. She’s only nine, but she has such an old soul.

My little girl – I want to shield her from everything, but if I do, then she won’t learn from it. She won’t grow from it. I know she has to learn to deal with change and feelings – the good ones and the bad ones. I will help her through it the best I know how.

Today I learned that this new normal is harder on my children than I realized, and it makes me so very sad that it’s not all about me. It would be so much easier if it was.

Stifle Me Not

May 21st Lesson: Cleaning the Mess for Myself

I’ve been letting someone else (not) lead my life for entirely too long. If I don’t do it, who in the hell is going to do it?

Yep. It has become more an more apparent that I thought my not-yet-ex-husband was supposed to do this, that, or the other thing. In the meantime, I could have very well taken the lead, and didn’t. And now here I am, cleaning up what I should have picked up long ago. Learning to do things I should’ve learned long ago.

Today I cleaned out the garage. Do you know how many times I’ve cleaned out the garage in the 10 years that I’ve lived here?

Never. Nope. Not once.

That wasn’t one of my jobs. I just parked in the garage and got annoyed if I didn’t have enough room in the garage. I expected my husband to do it because it was a dirty man job. I worked, and I had my home wife jobs that I did, so why in the hell would I ever clean the garage?

My son was playing in the driveway and I got fed up staring at all the mess and dead leaves in the garage. I  got a lawn bag for leaves, a trash bag for trash, some boxes to categorize things, and got to work. I hung up yard tools, moved the snowblower to the back of the garage (since its May), put all of the toys on one side, cleared off a shelf for gardening items, consolidated things in boxes, and swept out the musty dirt and leaves.

And now I know what crap is in there and what isn’t. I had no idea about half of the stuff that was in the garage. Now it feels like its my garage and not someone else’s.

I also started cleaning up a corner of the basement that is most definitely the mess of my not-yet-ex-husband. It’s where he has dumped his tools and post-project trash for years. It just sits there and collects dust and dog hair and pisses me off every time I pass by it on my way to do laundry. I’m an organized person by nature, but when I know I have nothing to do with a mess, I am hands off and I will let it grow mold before I own it.

The garage cleaning motivated me. I went in the basement to switch a load of clothes and ended up getting a trash bag and some boxes and just started organizing the giant pile of man mess. It’s not done yet, but it’s enough of a start that I have a clear path to finish. Maybe when I’m done the entire basement will feel like it’s mine and not someone else’s.

Today I learned that I can take charge of a mess (even if its not mine) and make it nice for myself. If I don’t do it, who in the hell is going to do it?

Stifle Me Not

May 20th Lesson: Without Trust, Love is Lost

Today it has been seven months since I told my husband to leave our home. And he left without a fight. Just like that the house was eerily quiet and I was alone with my sleeping children in their beds. I made my decision.

I didn’t do it on a whim. I found him asleep on his recliner. His phone was laying there on his chest. I picked it up to charge it for him (no really, I did just want to charge it), and I see a text message from a recipient I did not recognize. I know the code to his phone, so I check out what this text message was about. It was enough evidence to change our lives forever.

I took an entire 24 hours to reflect on the past 10 years, I asked him one last question, and then I made the choice.

I don’t make important choices quickly.

It then took me a full week of wanting to throw up daily to make an appointment to see a lawyer. I’m a thinker. I must be sure that I’m making the best choice for me.

The biggest factor that helped me make my decision was this: What advice would I give my daughter or son years from now if they were in my same position?

I love my kids more than I love myself. I knew if I really considered what advice I would give to my kids, then that would be best for my own well-being. I struggle with making the best decisions for myself because I easily doubt my gut feeling and talk myself into a different direction that I think “should” be the right decision.

Several times in the past seven months, I’ve wanted to turn to my not-yet-ex-husband when he was around and throw in the towel and give him a hug and tell him to move back and let’s just be good parents and do the best we can.

Do you know where that would leave me as an individual human?

A big pile of comfortable nothing. I would be back at doing the best I can in life for someone that I don’t trust (other than with our kids).

The definition of trust: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something

If I can’t trust in my husband, how can I continue to choose to love him? Love is a choice. I’m not sure I can make that choice if my own state of being will be a big pile of nothing.

That doesn’t seem like something I would advise my kids to do.

This man hasn’t shown one ounce of an attempt to gain my trust back. My main observation is that he doesn’t want to. Or maybe he doesn’t know how? (and see, this is how I got myself in this mess – by coming up with well-fitting reasons that justify his behavior). But I’m done with making excuses for his actions. His actions.

He has gone to seek help for himself. He continues to be a caring father. He has been nice and cordial to me. He has helped me with some things with the yard and the house. When I became unemployed, he kept me on his benefits so I wouldn’t be without health insurance. He has worked overtime and has continued to let me take as much money as I need to get by without my paycheck.

He is still caring for his family. But the trust is gone.

And he still blames me for his actions. His actions.

Today I’m learning that the real acceptance is setting in. Sometimes it takes me seven months or so to figure it out. Without trust, love is lost for me.

Stifle Me Not

May 13th Lesson: Motivation from My Mom

Today is Mother’s Day. I went to visit my mom at her farm. Yep, my mom has a farm. She has lots of land with chickens, and tractors, and 4-wheelers. She has all the things I’ve never wanted in life, but it’s a nice quiet place out in the middle of nowhere to escape city living. It’s her little piece of heaven that she worked hard for and finally made a reality.

My mom has always been a working mom of 3 kids. She and my dad divorced after 14 years of marriage. I was 12, my brother was 10, and my sister was 5. My sister and I lived with my mom. My brother lived with my dad. We all lived less than 10 minutes apart and saw plenty of each other, so I don’t really see it as some sad story of a broken family. I’m not sure how my parents ever got married in the first place – they have nothing in common. Looking back, my parents whole marriage made no sense. I’ve told them this. They just shrug – they both got over it a long time ago.

During my teenage years between 13 and 16 years old, I watched my mom work long hard hours, and I helped clean the house and do laundry. I also spent entirely too much time watching my little sister (and helping her with her hair) and yelling at my brother to not do things that would burn the house down. I was the little home caretaker. I was home alone a lot. I could’ve seriously pulled some wild teenager shit, but I never did. Okay, maybe I did a little bit, but I didn’t have it in me to be too bad. It didn’t seem right.

My mom and I have gone through various mother-daughter phases. Of course she was my everything when I was a little kid. And she was a big role model for me when I was an early teen. She bought a little bungalow in the middle of her small old hometown so that we could be in a safe place with good schools. I watched her mow the grass and do yard work. She showed me how to balance a checkbook and told me the realities of what you can afford on a certain level of pay. She put up with me when I backed her car up into the neighbors car on the street (and she had to pay the insurance deductible). She didn’t kill me when my friends threw Zima bottles into our pool and ran away, leaving me to clean up the party mess (she made me go to church instead).

My mom tried her best to show me how to be smart and independent, but she also let me do fun girl things.

She let me talk too much on the phone and eat junk food. She didn’t censor what I watched on TV. She let me experiment with make-up (but wouldn’t let me leave the house wearing tons of eyeliner). She let me practice painting my own nails and plucking my eyebrows. When I was 11, she put braces on my teeth and throughout the process she would say “You’ll thank me someday,” (and I totally have many times). When I was 14, she let me get contacts so that I wouldn’t be so self-conscious about wearing my thick glasses. She let me hang out with who I wanted to be friends with and quietly watched as I made my own choices for who should stick around and who should go. Overall, she was about as non-helicopter mom as could be, but she wasn’t neglectful or uncaring. She just didn’t have time or energy to follow us around and monitor our every move.

My mom remarried when I was 16. That husband was a Loser (yes with a capital “L”). I moved out right after that husband moved in. She finally figured it out how much of a loser he was after it was too late. We watched my mom bounce back and get back to her old self after 7 long years with loser face. After that, she wasn’t going to settle for anything less than what she wanted and deserved.

She remarried again when I was 28 – the same year I got married. The next guy was a Winner and they were actually compatible. Too bad it took her so long to end up with her soul mate, but she finally did, and he digs the farm and chickens and living in the middle of nowhere too. I love that they are a match made in country heaven.

What I’ve learned from my mom through the years is to go after what you want and make sure you’re independent enough to do so. I haven’t agreed with every choice my mom has made, but therein lies the point – she has made her own choices. She has shaped her own way. She goes after what she wants and makes things happen. If something doesn’t go right, she learns and tries again. She got her farm. Thanks for the motivation mom. I will get my (non-farm) farm one day too.

Stifle Me Not

 

May 11th Lesson: I’ve Got This

Today I mowed the yard again. It was easier this time. The mower started right away and never stalled once. That was nice. It’s been a week since the last time I mowed, which was frustrating as all hell.

Are you all sick of me talking about yard work yet? It’s damn metaphor for my life right now. I can’t help it.

I was never one of those women that was all “I don’t mow the lawn” just because I couldn’t mow the lawn. It was because my husband always just did it. There was no big discussion where I announced that I wouldn’t or couldn’t do it, and he never said that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. He never cleaned the bathroom, and I never mowed the lawn. There were just some tasks that we each owned and didn’t share. I certainly wouldn’t have been sad if he cleaned a toilet as I’m sure he’d be quite happy if I mowed the lawn (correctly, his way).

So here I was today, confidently strolling through the yard with my non-stalling lawnmower. I didn’t even mow over anything dumb, like a bunch of rocks. Before I knew it, I was done. I gave myself some positive self-talk before I started and that may have helped.

I know that the next time I mow, it may not go as smoothly. There may be some challenge. But for now, I’ve got this. I can do this. Today I learned that I’ve got this.

Stifle Me Not