One Year Later…

Old Me Better

Growth is Painful, Change is Painful, But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.

It has been almost a year since I had my version of a hitting bottom, and no it didn’t include any kind of mood altering substance so much as a ridiculously cathartic crying jag. In that moment, if I recall it was being kicked out of the DMV for toddlers that “decorated” a patron’s shirt with red berry sauce, I knew something had to change. Everything in my life seemed off course, random, unpredictable, and out of control. Life was happening to me, and not because I was busy making other plans, but because I was busy treading water trying not to freaking drown.

At some point that day I made a decision to fix what was ailing me. I set forth on a new undefined path with really only one thing in mind, please oh please let things get better. I started this blog to share my journey and sometimes perhaps I overshared, or even offended, but the words and feelings were all my own, and not intended to harm or maim anyone. It was a process, a good dirty process that I hoped would be the kick in the ass I needed to build a life I actually wanted to be living in a way that would leave me feeling happy, in control, and satisfied.

Shake it out Florence and the Machine

Okay, you can stop laughing now. I know I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was desperate and writing has always been what makes my mind peaceful. Knowing I am not alone gives me courage. Breaking things down and sorting them out creates knowledge to move forward and plans for action. So I went online searching for happy, better life, peace, Zen, anything I thought would help what I was quickly beginning to think was a broken soul.

I discovered so many things online and in books and in sharing with others. I sorted through all the advice and suggestions and methods for living better and being happy. I tried on the many “hats” of change at times stepping far outside my comfort zone or taking risks I hadn’t been able to take before. I lost some friends, I made some friends, and I found a soul sister. I lost weight, I gained weight. I worked out, I binged on ice cream. I danced. I brought music back into my life (something gone since my sister died and took it with her).

It is hard to really cover all the steps I took to arrive here in this moment, one year later. It is hard to truly break down the impact that this past year, and all my efforts have really had. So I’m just going to make a lessons learned list, because maybe there is a lesson in there for you, yes even you. Maybe something in there will spark something in you, and you too can start a journey that only goes where YOU lead it. Because I can honestly say, with out a doubt, that my life is better, far better, than it was. I feel full, in control, happy. So if you don’t, you can.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Breathe- Sometimes breathing is all you need to turn a stressor into a pinnacle moment. I learned that when my patience was lost I had a much better response if I took a breath before opening my mouth. I learned that no moment in time is worth as much as the moment I take with that one cleansing breath, because all the moments after it are clearer, more focused, and easier to cope with. Not to mention nicer.
  2. Do something- No seriously, do something, anything. Most unhappiness seems to come from not doing, being too afraid to try, being too still to move. If you have a goal then step toward it, if you don’t then simply dance, but get up and DO something. Nothing will ever change without your participation, and the only way that can happen is if you freaking do something to make it change. I wanted to do more writing, I wanted to find other work where I could write something more interesting. So I wrote and wrote and wrote, this blog, my books, and silly songs. As a result, in April I applied for, and received, an awesome job working with great people that is closer to my dream job than anything I’ve had before. I still get to work from home, but now I feel a sense of pride in what I do, an excitement to “go” to work every day. The feeling is great, and I know in my heart that this job will help me attain the dream job, and I wouldn’t have gotten it if I hadn’t written this blog, they hired me based on this blog. I just have to keep doing something.IMG_4323
  3. Stop making excuses- I never made that many excuses, not out loud and certainly not for my situation so much as my inability to change my situation. But once I decided to just change what bothered me instead of finding an excuse about why I couldn’t change it, life got infinitely easier. It was far less work and effort to actually do work than to make excuses on why I couldn’t. No joke, the effort involved in doing nothing and letting life happen to you is remarkable. It’s only too bad it isn’t a great calorie burner. I got where I was because I had LET life happen to me and I had made a mess of excuses in my head as to why it couldn’t be changed. I clung to those excuses because it felt easier to do that than to let go. I can honestly say it is easier to let go, easier to stop making them.
  4. Live in the Now- this one almost couldn’t get more cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason now aren’t they? Once I figured out how to train my brain to be happy right now, consider this moment right now, I was infinitely happier than when I was planning or dreading the future, or lamenting and agonizing over a past I can never change. I recently went on a trip and my return flight was delayed by so many hours I had no hope of getting home that day. Instead of stressing and panicking or getting angry, I just thought eh? Could be worse, no big deal, what can I do with my extra night? How much more fun can I have? I’ll sort the rest out later. Sure it put a monkey wrench in my life, it meant my husband would have to change his plans, and my kids would be disappointed, but those were all things I couldn’t control and the NOW was one more moment with a friend. The extra night was like a gift from the universe, and we got to finish all the things we hadn’t completed. I’m glad I didn’t lose that moment to stress or worry. I’m glad that plane got stuck in Dallas.IMG_4358
  5. Eat right- I’ve always eaten better than most people, but in July of last year my son was diagnosed with Celiac disease and it meant a diet change for all of us. He can’t have anything with gluten, and in case you didn’t know this, gluten is in pretty much everything, especially if it is processed or made in a factory. This meant we had to change what we ate entirely. Now we never eat out, we eat whole foods, and my little one snacks on peas like they’re candy. We eat more fruits, and I have become a whiz at hiding veggies. I hate to cook, and I imagine I always will, but there is some self-satisfaction that I know everything that goes into my children’s little developing bodies, and I can honestly say it is pretty good stuff. Children’s Hospital even gave me the seal of approval with the dietician claiming she has never seen a more complete nutritional diet diary, like ever. While I hate eating gluten free I will say this, I am glad that I was forced to do the right thing for my family and myself. I am thankful we are now healthier. I can feel it, I can see it. On a side note I no longer have seasonal allergies… coincidence? I doubt it. So while I am not saying “hey go gluten free!” I am saying be healthy, make wise choices, don’t eat fast food or processed crap. Treat your body well and it will treat you well. I really do feel better.
  6. Take control of your finances- No brainer here but I suspect lots all of us suck at this. Last year we were drowning in medical debt from emergency surgeries and a deathly sick child. We weren’t even living paycheck to paycheck because what we made was spent before we even made it. This knowledge kept me up at night, and made my life burdened and miserable. We would never get ahead, our fate was sealed. So I took over, I had no choice, and we had to make some hard decisions and some difficult choices. We risked hurting others and missing out, but we really had no choice if we were going to save our future, and build a great life for our kids. So we plugged away for a long time and I am thankful I finally said enough. I no longer worry about money, and at the end of the summer we should be out of debt with the exception of our house and my student loan. There is no purchase that feels as good as money in the bank does.
  7. Keep seeking medical help, even when they think you are crazy- this one is serious, because if I hadn’t my life would have been forever altered. My son was sick all the time, almost from the moment we brought him home. He was born healthy, but he seemed troubled forever after. I took him to the doctor at least once a week and often the urgent clinic after hours. No one had answers and several of the doctors implied he was fine, it was me who was crazy. Long story short, after almost a year in a half I finally convinced someone to do blood work on him. I could feel it in my heart that he was dying. A day later I got a call asking me to bring him in right away, it was a Sunday. His blood work was terrible, he really was dying, and we didn’t know why. Thanks doctors, thanks a lot. I couldn’t even take a moment to gloat in being right, it felt like a race to fix him with the race to diagnosis him. We were the “lucky” parents who got to keep our son and heal him. We are the lucky parents whose child only has Celiac disease, and not a life threatening cancer. I would never equate what I went through to the lives of those less fortunate, it can’t be compared. But what I will say is this… had I not continued to fight for him, had I not insisted and finally gotten scary angry and pushy he would have died. On a personal note, after 20 years of feeling shitty with a “managed” thyroid disorder, I finally hunted down a doctor who would give me T3. It’s magic, sheer magic. I feel better in the last month on this new drug than I have since I was 21. I’m only sad it took that long to get a basic hormone available everywhere. I’m glad I didn’t give up, it was only getting worse. I’m just sorry I wasted money on specialists trying to figure out what was wrong, when all I had was a bum thyroid and a crappy string of doctors.IMG_3680
  8. Forgive but don’t forget- People talk about this one a lot. In essence I say you forgive so you don’t poison yourself with hatred and anger, but you never forget so you don’t let it happen to you again. When people hurt you, forgive them. When people repeatedly hurt you, lose them. Life is too short to keep taking punches, there comes a time when you have to say for my own well-being I must tell you goodbye. And that is not a bad thing, but a healthy thing. Never be ashamed or feel you need to make excuses for letting people go. Their drama should never be your trauma.
  9. Surround yourself with like-minded, goal oriented positive people- The best way to become something is to invite it into your life and soak in it. The best way to do that, is to find people who are on the road you want to be on, have reached a destination you want to reach, or feel the same way you do about life. People who have goals and motivation are intrinsically happier, surrounding yourself with happy people will make you happy. Misery loves company, but happy throws a freaking party like you won’t believe. So find enough friends to throw a party, even if you don’t throw the literal party, you should have enough people to bring a smile to your face every day. For you this may mean 1 or 10, for others just a select few, but however many just find those people and hold fast to them.IMG_4276
  10. Feed your soul- If you have stopped doing something you love, start doing it again. If you haven’t treated yourself in a while, do it. I had made a lot of sacrifices for the people in my life. I had bent over backwards and picked a bale of cotton in the name of making others happy and in the process I no longer was. I had lost what made me and I had lost a part of my soul when my sister died and the combination of the two had left me a husk of a person and a shadow of my former self. I recently took a trip that made me unbroken and all I can say is sure I had the best company a girl could ask for, but essentially we did everything I had been missing. We listened to music, drank wine, ate cake, sat on the beach, swam with rays, laughed, talked, trained dogs, took photos, did silly things, held hands, gave support, and mingled with sharks. It was a perfect trip, but beyond the fun and the sun it actually, miraculously healed the broken parts of me, and I came home feeling whole for the first time in four years. I feel like I should have felt selfish for taking this trip for a week away from my wonderful husband and adorable kids, but I don’t. I’m a better wife and mom, I am a better me for feeding my soul, than I have been the last 4 years being broken.DSC_0363
  11. Let go- This is a big one. You have to let go of the past and everything ANY BODY ever did to wrong you. This isn’t the same as forgiveness not really, but you do have to move past it all and stop using it as a reason for why you are how you are, or why you make the choices you do. You have the ability to make intentional choices in life that have nothing to do with how you were raised, who broke your heart, how you were abused, what chemical you were addicted to, or how the world is out to get you. Every day you make the choice to either let your past define you or to define yourself. I am not a victim, I am not a survivor, I am a participant. Once you realize that you are a participant in your own life, it becomes clear that participants get to choose, participants get to be active, participants don’t let things happen to them. And once you truly “get that” you can find a kind of happiness you have never known. Stop being any label anyone put on you, stop being a collection of mistakes or experiences you no longer want to define you. Make your own definition and start living to that. You are not your past, or what people believe you to be. You are whatever you choose to be, you can be whoever you intentionally work toward being. The choice of happiness is yours, but first, you have to let that other shit go.
  12. Be lenient on yourself- no one is perfect, you aren’t trust me. I was never really a perfectionist, and I am not one of those women who has a running inner monologue about my thighs touching, but I did dabble somewhat in a defeatist how did I get here attitude that had me overanalyzing choices I’ve made in the past and how my life might be different if only blah blah blah. The problem with this is, the blah blah blah doesn’t matter, I can’t go back and change what has been done, but I can only go forward and change what is yet to come. I remind myself daily that I am a work in progress, not a finished work of art, and that it is okay to be less than perfect because some of the most amazing and beautiful things are filled with imperfections.
  13. Do something that scares you- Maybe it’s a yoga class you know nothing about it, maybe its swimming with sharks, maybe it’s not saying every word that comes into your head, but whatever it is, if it scares you and inhibits your progress forward then just do it. Most of the time, when you get it over with, you feel stronger because it turned out better than you thought it would, or at least you are one step closer to being who you want to be or having the life you want to have.

Life isn’t perfect, I’m not sure it ever gets to be, and hoping for that might be setting myself up for failure, but it is pretty darn good. Financially we are right on track, and I feel confident we will reach our goals in life to be without money worries. Health wise my boys are doing well and I’m better than I have been in 2 decades, it feels good to have a body that works the way it should, and to not have to go to the cancer and blood disorders wing of Children’s Hospital every week.  We have what we need, and even some of what we want, and it feels good to wander the grounds with my dogs and kids hunting flowers and poop. I wake up with a smile and I actually sleep now. I still have blue carpet I hate, and a small mouse problem, but I have the things that matter, and I can appreciate them all now.

Life is Beautiful Keb Mo

This one year journey came with lots of surprises and strangely three bouts of flu, but I wouldn’t have traded the moments or the struggle for anything else or any other life. This life is the one I have chosen, this work is the work that I enjoy, this man is the man I want to grow old with, these kids are the kids I want to rock at night until they are far too old for that shit, this house is the house I want to mark with their heights and fill with our laughter, these friends are the friends I want to have adventures with and invite to my funeral, this moment is the one I want to live in, the one I choose because it has everything I need (and some of what I want), and that is more than enough. It doesn’t mean I won’t be striving for more, if anything I believe now more than ever that I can get more, it just means that each moment is one that can be oddly perfect even when sad, or not going the way I had hoped.

DSC_1111On my trip, my friend had to put down one of her beloved dogs, and it was oddly perfect. A handsome fellow she had spent over 10 years with. A man that had played witness and supporting role in her life. He was a really cool beast of a dog, and I am grateful I got to share his space and photograph his face. But the point of this is not the sadness of his passing, for it was sad and she still feels loss and I do to for her, the point is that even that moment was a good one, because I got to hold her hand, I got to share her sorrow, I got to ease her pain, and I got to say goodbye to a really really good soul. I got to witness a peaceful moment between friends that somehow made my heart hurt less not more. I hate to sound selfish and I’d bring him back healthy and strong for her if I could, but I also wouldn’t want to give up that moment we shared because it brought us closer to each other and helped build a bond that won’t ever be easily broken.

I’ve learned that to be with those I love is enough.

Walt Whitman

Every moment has the potential to be good. You have the power to make it so. You can choose to create a whole new life. I did. I made a life that looks a lot like the life from a year ago, but this time, I’m making it mine, and loving every moment of it. This time I am in control and it is truly beautiful.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Thank you for letting me vent this here. Thank you for the opportunities this blog has brought me, those I hoped for and those I could never have foreseen. There are great things to come. More great things to come. And you can bet, I will be sitting front and center having the time of my life.
Back Home by Andy Grammer

Living Gluten Free

My littlest has Celiac disease. I won’t sugar coat this for you, it sucks. Sure, he doesn’t have cancer or far worse ailments, I am both thankful and unbelievably appreciative of this. But he does have a serious disease that means he cannot eat anything with gluten in it. And let me tell you right now, just about everything has gluten in it. If you don’t know, then start reading labels. Essentially, anything with wheat, oats, or barley is riddled with gluten and that doesn’t even touch all the secret alternative names gluten goes by in the food industry. It is a good thing this girl has a background in chemistry and the ability to pronounce the unpronounceable because that is practically what it takes to navigate a grocery store with gluten free objectives in mind. I’m not kidding, when we went into Children’s Hospital for their tutorial on how to feed a Celiac patient I knew more than our educator and left her office feeling like she needs to find new employment.

So in support of my little auto immune challenged angel I made the whole house gluten free, and thereby everyone in it as a result. Now daddy still eats gluten all day at work and mommy will even sneak a slice of pizza or a sub sandwich every now and then, but other than that we are gluten free and the boys are %100 free. My oldest will even inquire while shopping if each item I buy is gluten free and can his little brother have it. Awesome, thoughtful, well beyond his 4 years in my opinion.

But this new lifestyle has left me wanting. I have a sweet tooth for all things and gluten free is not the diet of choice for those of us who swear brownies and cake are their own food groups. I’m not kidding that I used to be on a first name basis with the owner of my local Dunkin Donuts, as a matter of fact we used to eat lunch together regularly. So it has been a blow to my taste buds and a benefit to my belly that there really are no good gluten free items out there to replace my favorite stand-bys. And believe me I have tried a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.

But, all that aside, I have a guardian angel who gets me, I mean she really gets me, or maybe she gets having kids or maybe she just loves me, I don’t know, but this beautiful woman occasionally sends me gluten free foods to try and I will say she hits the mark more often than not and I have found some gems in her submissions. There was the corn bread that tasted like heaven, the pasta that actually kept its firmness and didn’t turn to a pile of mush. Se gets it, she really does.

In her most recent blissful offering she hit right to the heart of me, donuts. Homemade donuts. Oh MY GOD! It was like getting a bit of heaven delivered right from Amazon! I was super eager to try them out so I gathered the ingredients and then realized I was missing a key component. A donut pan, what the hell is a donut pan?!? I didn’t know, and neither did the two stores I went to looking for one. Then, out of the blue a second package arrives with , a donut pan! A heart shaped donut pan! So I set to work making my very first homemade donuts.

So let me say that first thing, this is a great do it yourself project because it really only has 3 ingredients you need to add, milk, egg, and butter; items even the barest of kitchens usually has. I was however somewhat off put by the box telling me this was a breakfast food. What? First, how dare you suggest that I don’t know when to eat donuts and therefore need your help to decipher the right time of day. And second, how dare you infer that donuts are a breakfast food when clearly they are an anytime you want to eat donuts food.  I mean what kind of world is this when others try to dictate when I eat a donut?? I will eat them 24/7 just like I always have thank you very much.

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Anyway, I digress. So I whipped together the mix, greased my heart shaped pan and filled it with what I hoped was yummy goodness. I put it in the oven and waited the 12 minutes until they rose all yummy and golden brown. Then I coated them liberally in melted butter and cinnamon and sugar provided in the box. I say liberally because lets be honest, I didn’t have high hopes and I figured butter makes everything better.

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Then I tried one, tentatively at first. Once you’ve been bit by a terrible gluten free dessert you get a little cautious and start taking small tastes instead of big bites. But this was different. This was delicious. Like on a whole new level, on the same level as gluten filled poison. I’ll tell you it was the best damn gluten free dessert of any kind I’ve ever had. It was so good I got sick eating too many of them at once. I was the little fat girl hiding inside me. I began to imagine ways I could hoard them away from my children. It was terrible and wonderful. Ah a moment of bliss filled sugar rushes.

But being the giving mother that I am, I did eventually offer samples to the two littles. And they both scarfed them down like a famine was approaching. Even my gluten free baby, who eats peas instead of cookies, finished his warm and moist donut without even offering it to his brother. You know it’s good if a 4 year old asks for seconds.

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So what I learned is that even if it takes awhile it pays to persevere. You can and will find your bliss if you just keep looking. Be it the perfect gluten free pastry or the perfect job, spouse, or dress, the right moment, item, person is out there. Its just a shame you can’t order it all on Amazon or try a bit of everything before you buy. So thank you Brittney for hanging in there, finding a donut pan, feeding my inner child, and making me believe in the unbelievable again. You rock my love and I wish everyone had a Brittney of their very own.

 

 

It’s Over, We Are Breaking Up

Relationships can be great, they can fill you with immense joy and make you feel special. But they can also have a darker side. They can inhibit your life, make you feel tired and less than your best. We have all faced these moments of reality when we realize we have outgrown a relationship or our relationship is actually hurting us. It isn’t a good place to be, the task before you not one you want to do. No one likes to be the bad guy, even if it isn’t your fault, pulling the trigger on a breakup can be hard. I’ve put it off for a long time now. I’ve been deeply seated in denial, looking the other way at all the negatives. But I can’t do that any longer. It’s time for this negative relationship to end. And while I will miss the connection and the fuzzy feelings I used to get, I know in my heart I will be happier, healthier and better prepared to face my life if I just get brave and say good-bye. It isn’t going to be easy, we’ve been together a long time, and there are others to think about, but I know in my heart it is time, it is right. I talk a lot about intentional living and making the choices for your own happiness. This is mine, my choice. So here goes. Let’s start with the ULTIMATE Break up song, just to set the tone.

Here is my goodbye letter, my dear John if you will, the real truth behind a relationship that no one saw behind closed doors.

My Love,

We need to talk. You should probably sit down. This isn’t going to be easy for either of us.  I have had so many wonderful nights with you that make what I am about to say so difficult. Every time we curled up together the world was so right, nothing mattered but us. I felt like I could conquer anything with you beside me. I felt like if I just held you close the rest of the world would drop away and all my troubles with it. I remember pulling you close, little by little relishing in your smell, your taste. I get chills just thinking about our time together. And that is why you have to believe me when I say, it isn’t you, it’s me.

I know, I know, who hasn’t heard this a million times before. Someone tells us it is all them, just to spare us our feelings. But today, at this moment in time, I know it is me and not you. I know I am not ready for the kind of relationship you want. I am not ready to settle down and remain still the way you would like. I am not ready for the public embarrassment or the hiding the private life we have together. Maybe I’m just to “out there”, maybe I just don’t understand commitment. Maybe I just don’t like how bad I feel the next morning after a night alone with you. Being with you, makes me feel bad.

It isn’t your fault, no really. You are exactly what you were supposed to be. Beautiful , enticing, exquisitely tasteful, smooth, decadent, luscious even. I don’t think I have ever had better. Really. I don’t just say that to cushion the blow. You are it. You are the top, crème of the crop. There is nothing out there that can compare to you. Listen to me when I say this, I am not leaving you for another, there is no other, I get that now. But I still can’t be with you. I still can’t give in to all those urges no matter how much I want to or how much my heart begs me.

I know you will find someone else. Being as awesome as you, you will pick up and move on, probably not even feeling the loss of me. That is what it feels like to be at the top I guess. I will move on too. I will struggle at first no doubt. I will feel let down every night when you are not there. I will feel empty and alone, forgotten and abandoned. I will look for you hopefully, maybe even stop into a store just to see if you are there; but I will not weaken, I will stick it out, because what is right for me, what is best for me, is to say goodbye to you. No matter how much I love you, no matter how sweet you have been. no matter how much I am wholly convinced you are my soul mate and I will never meet another like you, I also know I just can’t live this lie anymore.

Go forth dear one, go forth and prosper. Make a name for yourself, find a new love, someone new to coerce, to brainwash into not seeing our dark side, your negative attributes, because that is no longer me. I plan to go forth, fill that void with something healthy, fill that void with something that makes me feel and look good. That’s right, I am predicting the future. I think I owe it to myself, I owe it to my family. I will get stronger. I will leave you behind and one day I will rejoice in the fact that I no longer even think about you. I will no longer say your name in my sleep, I will no longer see you in my head when I feel stressed. I will no longer long for you at night, our secret time. Just you wait, I bet you won’t even recognize the woman I am about to become, without, YOU.

So my very Dearest Ben and my true companion Jerry, just know that this isn’t about you, not really. You are the tits at making ice cream. I will never forget how Chocolate Fudge Brownie made me feel in my soul. But I would like to forget how it made me look around the middle. It isn’t personal, except for me. If I am going to reach my goal and feel good, we just have to part ways. There isn’t room for a nightly binge of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in the life I am creating. There is no room for your worthless wasted 1500 calories I consume during our tryst because as we all know, a pint in a serving size, no matter what the carton says.

I’ll miss you B&J, I will. But I can’t take this anymore. It’s over. I’m done.

Love with all my heart,

Wendy

 

PS I hope you find what you are looking for Chocolate Fudge Brownie, I know I will.

But here is Inspiration, just in case I get weak. Surviving break up songs.