Category Archives: Learning

Expectations Low, Hopes High

My laptop has a funny smell. And sometimes it overheats. I’ve had it for a few years now. It’s well past its warranty. I’ve even had it repaired once at a PC shop. They did a good job. But all good things must come to an end. I’m pretty certain it won’t last too much longer, but I’ll guess I’ll keep typing and just expect the unexpected. Normally I’d be happy that I’d have an excuse to buy a new electronic toy because an older one was done, but money isn’t endless these days, so I hope something works out in my favor.

I’ve learned to approach life that way these days. There’s an ideal in my head usually, but I’ve learned not to get too bent out of shape if things don’t go as planned, or imagined. Many times we may not admit that we have an idea in our heads of what we expect out of a person, situation, or just life in general. In almost 40 years, I’ve learned that the unexpected is inevitable, no matter how well we plan or control anything.

I have an aloe vera plant that I bought last summer. I bought one for my sister and ended up getting one for myself too because it was cheap. I don’t usually do well with plants, but I figured I could keep something related to the cactus family alive. When I moved, I forgot about it and it started to go a little brown and the soil really dried out. Great, only I could kill an aloe vera plant. Well, despite the look of it, I watered it and put it near a window. I’ve been slowly take care of it week by week and month by month. Today I noticed that it looks pretty good. It’s green and seems to be actually growing.

I feel like that plant – like a dried out lonely little brown plant, but I’m slowly improving day by day, week by week, and month by month. i keep taking care of myself and reassuring myself and turning negative thoughts around. I’m not sure what the future holds. All I know is that I’m okay today, I have a green plant, and tomorrow doesn’t look too shabby. Maybe if my laptop dies I’ll have money for a bright shiny new one. Or maybe not, but I’ll keep going.

Stifle Me Not

Withdrawal from My Old Motivation

It’s like I was super hooked on a drug and I’m still having withdrawal. I don’t even want the drug anymore, I was just used to it. It was my way of living. It became who I am, and so I just accepted my life that way. Now I’m lost and confused and lonely, and even though I don’t want that drug anymore, I’m not quite sure what else to do.

I’ve never been on drugs before, but I know reason for dependency on a substance is to go after the feeling that the drug gives you.

At first, I was going to make this analogy about my almost ex-husband. Then I realized it applies to my career. But I really think it applies overall to the way I’ve been feeling, or wanting to feel, for the last 15 years.

I have been a hooked on a feeling. A fleeting feeling.

I am driven not by who I am, or what I really want, but what I can do for people. I have been caught up in the stress of imbalance between doing what is best for myself and using that energy to make others happy – in my marriage, in my career, and even when I was a little kid.

I have been hooked on doing well in life to help others, to make others happy and proud. I went to college, I acquired skills, and I have always done well at nearly everything that I do in my career. The same thing in my marriage. I paid attention and strove to be the best wife I knew how to be for my husband (no matter how much he’ll say that I did not). If he wasn’t happy, I’d overcompensate or corrected my behavior the best I knew how. We wouldn’t fail, we would prevail despite the bills and the stress of raising a family. I could make this work. “I”.

I am of the “pleaser” variety. I get honest joy out of making others happy. It’s not bullshit, I’m not making it up. I didn’t fully realize the extent to which I like this until it was too late and I had served so many others in spite of myself.

I have served others in spite of myself.

And I lacked the boundaries to look out for my own well-being.

Others do not question it. Why shouldn’t they? They aren’t responsible for my boundaries. I am nice. Nice, and smart, and oh wait, I’m pretty too. I’m “perfect”. I take these compliments and I accept them because I like feeling like I did something good and I helped someone else. I like the approval, even if it doesn’t last long.

It feels strange getting to know this person that I am in this 39-year old body. I start to have regrets about what I could’ve done, should’ve done, would’ve done in my 20s or early 30s… but I’m recognizing the same “mistakes” in others as I’ve made. Who’s to say it’s a mistake? I’m the only one saying that. I’m trying not to beat myself up and label everything I did or didn’t do that led me to this place as a mistake… because at the end of the day, I’m learning from it.

If you learn from it, it’s not a mistake. It’s a lesson. Learn, move on, and do something different the next time is what I keep telling myself.

So here I am, having an eerily similar feeling to when I was 18 and first on my own at college. I didn’t know who I was – I was just out in the world trying to “make it”. However I’ve learned that if you don’t recognize your own wants and needs, your own purpose, you can wander aimlessly and stumble into serving the purposes of others instead of your own. That happened to me. I let that happen.

I’ve been cautiously taking each step like its the first time. I’m paying attention to my feelings. MY feelings. I’m trying not to discount the reason for my feelings – that is what they are for. If I begin to feel similar to before and don’t like it (fearful, anxious, unhappy, etc.), I’m trying to take a new direction… set a boundary – even if that means straying from the comfort of known territory. What I once was is no more – I can’t be that person anymore or I will be miserable. I can’t use those drugs, the happiness of pleasing others can’t be my reason for existence. I have to find what makes me want to live on my own without pleasing others as my primary motivation.

I’m searching for my new motivation. I buried it within me long ago and it’s just taking time to emerge. I suppose it will surface when I’m ready.

Stifle Me Not

 

In a State of Fine

Somehow more than two months have gone by without me posting anything. I’ve quite simply been busy.

Busy learning how to be myself again.

My first 90 days at my new part-time job have been less than moderately challenging. It is quite administrative, which leaves me craving something a little more challenging (like in jobs of the past), but I’m not quite there yet. This part-time gig is helping me (just barely) pay the bills and have the time I need for my kids. It is not, however, helping me have enough money to move and survive outside of my parents house.

I did manage to complete my 12-week human resources course that I started in September, and I passed the certification exam! That was quite the day. I was soooo proud of myself. It felt good to succeed at such big challenge that was all for me. Mine.

The point of getting certified is to lead to bigger and better career options. Now I need to figure out my next career move, but I’m feeling a little comfortable and stuck. Job searching is so draining and time-consuming. I know I have to do it again, but I’m still recovering from the 7-month long job rejection trail from March – October 2018.

I’m also still trying to get divorced. I don’t know how this takes so long when it’s really not that difficult at this point. We’ve sold our house, divided anything else, and have a basic plan for the kids. My lawyer quite frankly sucks. I informed her of how disappointed I am with her currently level of support and promptness. Within a couple of hours of sending her that message, I received and updated e-bill from the law firm for owing $0. The ball is currently  in her court. I’m ready to switch to someone who is more efficient and effective in the world of divorce.

Overall, I’m fine, but I could be better. Way better. I need some fun in my life. I’m gradually emerging from beneath the rock I’ve been hiding under. It’s been a long hard process, but I’m still swimming forward.

Stifle Me Not

Hibernating, Healing, and Making Slow Progress

I’ve been really trying to focus on my own well-being these days. I feel like I’m hibernating, and healing in the process. Its funny how, until you’re out of a certain situation, you’re so unaware of the reality of your life. It’s not really funny, it’s more sad and unfortunate.

I’ve felt so good lately, and been having so many realizations of what my old life was like – I’m amazed that I ever lived that life.

I can’t believe how suppressed and disillusioned I was in my marriage, especially now after being out of my old home for months. I only see my ex when we exchange the kids for visitation. Even though I kicked him out over a year ago, I still saw him regularly because he lived nearby. I didn’t realize how damaging his frequent presence was. Being farther away from him has done my mental and emotional well-being a world of good.

I have come to realize that in the past, every action or inaction of mine was so fear-based. I wasn’t afraid of being hit or scolded. I was never beaten or screamed at. It was quite the opposite. I was seemingly showered with love and affection and allowed to have all the freedom that I wanted…yet, I never felt free to be my own person.

Why? What was I afraid of?

I was apparently afraid of disapproval and ultimately not feeling “good enough”. Not pleasing him in the littlest way would cause me to overcompensate in any one area. It’s hard to explain without examples, so the example that is top of mind was my weekly grocery trip (aka my weekly energy zap), followed by alleged accusations of me being uncaring and having complete disregard for what my ex liked.

The Weekly Energy Zap

Each weekend, I would make a grocery list and go to the grocery store. My goals would be to: 1. Buy healthy meals for the week (and try to save money), 2. Get anything extra that he or the kids needed (wanted), and 3. Make sure I wasn’t gone too long or he would be mad when I got home.

I would happily drive to the store and navigate the crowd on a Sunday afternoon. Grocery shopping on any weekend afternoon is just a bad idea if time is a priority for you, however, that was the only time I had without kids. While shopping, I’d often get calls or texts from him about the kids’ behavior, or a reminder to pick up something else that wasn’t on my list. Fine, great, got it. I’d get stuck behind a slow-poke in several aisles, or have to wait in the dreaded deli line. Without fail, almost every time, I’d get a text while in the checkout lane – “how much longer”?

I’d get home and unload the groceries and balance the impatience of my children. Sometimes he would help unload the car, sometimes he wouldn’t budge from the couch or the video game he was playing. I would sometimes spend $250 for a week’s worth of groceries and he would ask “Did you get my iced tea?” (even though I just bought four other kinds of requested beverages).

When I first didn’t buy the tea, I didn’t think much of it. “Sorry, I forgot.” I didn’t think I was some worthless slug wife that can’t do a simple request for her dear husband. I was unfazed. I just worked a 50-hour week, cared for kids, cleaned the house, and just bought lots of food to feed our family. I was amazing. I was handling life.

It was bit-by-bit and day-by-day as the years went on that I became a puppet.

He would be disappointed about the tea, but he wouldn’t chastise me or get mad in any way. He would simply make it a point to buy the tea that week. He would save this tea example for weeks or months or years down the road to illustrate how much I don’t pay attention to him. The next time I went to the store, I made sure to buy more damn tea. From then forward, I always bought the tea.

One time I accidentally bought diet tea. He didn’t criticize me (too bad), but he again made sure to get his own regular tea and let me know how it tastes different from diet. He would even drink the diet so it wasn’t wasted. What a guy! He would even drink the diet tea. He’s so flexible. He’s so patient with his apparently brain-dead wife who can’t read tea labels.

I wasn’t beaten, but I was invisibly controlled and manipulated. And I allowed myself to be trapped. I allowed the opinions and perceptions of my spouse to impact my self-worth. Example after example would go into his mental database of ways in which I don’t care about him. And before I knew it, I was keeping my own mental database of how unworthy I was. It was a classic case of him projecting onto me, and I absorbed it all. I was like a sponge that soaked up much of what he spilled.

My self-worth became a dirty wet moldy sponge.

I don’t think much of what he projected was intentionally planned, and I creatively learned how to make excuses for him rather than ask myself how healthy it was to live that way.

This one example may not seem so bad. And to me, at the time, it wasn’t bad at all. It just was what it was. It’s the sum of the parts that made the overall whole so detrimental to me.

Hibernating to Survive

In nature, animals hibernate to survive. The purpose is to reserve energy when food is scarce.

I’m hibernating to survive. To heal. I’m working part-time so that I have energy left for my kids. I’m getting sleep. I’m learning to consider myself when I make decisions. I’m like a toddler figuring myself out.

This hibernation phase of my life has been invaluable. It’s opened my eyes big and wide to learn from the past rather than let me be a victim from it. Manipulation by others is so damaging if you don’t keep your own well-being in check. Whether a person intentionally manipulates you or not, it can happen so subtly; you don’t even realize it’s happening. Typically, if someone is manipulative, they have their own underlying reasons for why they behave that way.

I certainly have more healing to do. The real test will be if I encounter another person that spills ongoing sludge. Will I absorb it or speak up loudly and clearly and not make excuses? I certainly I hope I choose myself if that happens again.

Until then, I am peacefully resting and restoring my energy.

Stifle Me Not

 

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