Shedding

I believe that throughout our lives we’re meant to grow and learn and change. We’re not meant to be the same people at 40 that we were at 20; imagine how boring life would be if we were! Though I’m sure there are lots of people out there who haven’t changed at all (In fact, I think I might even know a few). I’m just glad that I’m not one of them. Life is meant to teach us, challenge us, cause us to grow. I’m not certain what the point is, otherwise.

Lately I’ve found that I’ve been feeling a little extra navel-gazey. I go through periods like this from time to time, when I find myself doing a lot more thinking and questioning about myself and my life. This usually happens during times of personal growth, when I’m being challenged and forced out of my comfort zone for one reason or another. Sometimes there’s a reason for this — some kind of major life event that causes me to stop and re-evaluate. Other times, like now, it’s like it’s part of a natural growth process, not really happening for any one specific reason or other…just simply “because life”.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my past and the person that I used to be. I’ve found myself being visited by old ghosts. Last week, while CBG and I were on vacation, we spent a lot of time cleaning and organizing and decluttering and painting our house. I’ve really been feeling the need to clear out the “old junk” that’s been hanging around.

Hellooooo, metaphor.

I can feel myself changing. Nothing big or drastic. Nothing earth-shattering or dramatic. Just a small shift beginning deep within myself, as I shed another layer of “who I used to be” to make room for “who I am now”. Much like a snake shedding its skin to allow for continued growth. I’m happy to say goodbye to that “old layer” so that I can make room for the new. I don’t want to be that same old person. I’m NOT that same old person.

I’m ready to move on.

Marriage: The Reality

CBG and I fancy ourselves good communicators. The truth of the matter is that while yes, we do a lot of communicating about many things, there are still plenty of instances where we actually kind of suck in the communication department. We both have a tendency to stick our heads in the sand when it comes to certain topics, which then do not get discussed.

We’re also a pretty low-conflict couple — for the most part. I’m not going to say that we never experience conflict because that would be an outright lie. Sure, we have arguments and misunderstandings from time to time. Using my own previous relationships as a barometer, I would say that our level of conflict is lower than average.

Which is good, right? Except that it isn’t. Because here’s the truth. We use our head-in-the-sand technique to avoid conflict in a lot of situations. If we don’t ever talk about it, then we don’t have to have an argument, right?

Wrong. This is a perfect recipe for anger and resentment to brew. And I’ll be honest, there’s been some resentment brewing in our house for a little while now. Nothing major, certainly nothing marriage-ending, but definitely enough to be a problem. A problem that should likely be discussed. Except…we’re not talking about it.

Fall and winter are tough months for me. I have issues with Seasonal Affective Disorder. So that means that starting early November-ish, there is a marked drop in my energy and enthusiasm levels. Now that we’re into our third week of November, I am exhausted, irritable, headachey, and over-sensitive. I am entering my season of, “just trying to make it through the week”. I have a SAD lamp that I use every morning that helps a bit. I am still running every morning — for the time being. I am taking vitamins and have done some research on some others that I should start taking.

These things will all help, marginally, but basically, life will be a struggle until about March, which is when I start feeling like myself again. This is my yearly pattern. Some years are better/worse than others.

I bring this up because I know that this adds to our problems with communication and conflict. I am irritable and over-sensitive a lot these days, making it difficult to avoid conflict. A lot of days I’m either ready to pounce, or I just don’t want to be spoken to. Dealing with SAD adds a whole other layer of difficulty to an already uncomfortable situation.

And it sucks.

But I guess that’s what marriage is all about, isn’t it? Recognizing that sometimes things suck and sometimes the person you’re married to kinda sucks. Sometimes you feel resentful toward them. Sometimes you say hurtful things and fail to apologize. Sometimes you just don’t particularly want to be around them. But still, through it all, you love them.  In marriage there’s this whole thing about “for better or for worse”. It’s easy to love someone and be there for them when they’re easy to love and everything is going great. The true test of a marriage, commitment and love is when things aren’t quite so easy. That’s what separates the good marriages from the not-so-good ones.

I know our marriage is one of the good ones. I know that we will get through this, like we get through everything that life seems to throw our way. At this point, however, I’m not even sure where to begin. And wow…that really stinks.

What I Always Wanted

As difficult as life has been over the past 6 or 7 years, when I really stop to think about it, I know that despite the difficulties (and there have been many), I’m also pretty stinkin’ fortunate. A big spotlight was shone on this yesterday afternoon, when I sat down with CBG, my ex husband, and my girls’ teachers for parent-teacher meetings.

Both girls got glowing reviews. Glowing! And it really made this momma pretty stinkin’ proud.

During Kiddo’s appointment, I mentioned to her teachers that I felt we had it pretty easy with her, since she is very good about taking responsibility for always getting her homework done. I mentioned that because she is at each house for 50% of the time, there is a lot of potential for chaos. Both teachers told us that there was absolutely no evidence of her having any problems at school because of this.

That was always one of my big worries. That I was somehow screwing up my kids because I didn’t want to be married to their father anymore. That maybe what that dark voice inside me said — maybe I am selfish for getting a divorce. That conversation yesterday really helped lay those fears to rest — at least for a while longer.

As much my ex and I have experienced difficulty in the past — and still do from time to time – I am grateful that the three of us are able to sit together in room at a place like parent-teacher meetings. It’s important for CBG to be there; he is as influential in the girls’ lives as their father and I. I him in their sense of humour and certain turns of phrase that they use. I see it in their values and the things they hold dear. He is providing them with yet another example of how a man should behave. Together, he and I are demonstrating what love and marriage is. He is an important adult in their lives.

Becoming a stepdad wasn’t something that came easily or naturally for CBG. It took time and effort — for him and for my girls, too. In the past he struggled with his ability to step-parent; we don’t always see eye-to-eye on every single thing. He is also a different kind of parent than their dad is. But different is good, particularly when it comes from a place of love; it is good for them to know that there are different ways of relating to one another and many different ways of showing love.

Because he loves them. And they love him right back. He brings many wonderful things to their lives: laughter, silliness, compassion, enthusiasm, kindness, respect.

When we all parted ways yesterday after the parent-teacher meetings, the girls went off with their dad and CBG and I headed back to work. But not before we both got big hugs and kisses and “I love yous”. When I became a single mom, I did it without a clear picture of what my life would someday look like. But now that I am here, it is better than anything I ever could have conjured up for myself and my girls.

family

Crazy In Love

Marriage has its ups and downs. I fully expected it, having gone through a marriage before, and having dated CBG for almost four years before we said “I do”. I’d like to think that we entered into this whole thing with some realistic expectations.

I will admit that there’s one thing I didn’t expect. I never really expected those moments of complete and utter clarity where I can feel the love I have for my husband expanding tenfold…in the blink of an eye. They don’t come along often, and many times happen when I least expect it, when he’s not trying to be particularly lovable or sweep me off my feet. They come in those instances when he’s just busy being himself, and it touches me deeply in some unexpected way.

I experienced one such moment on Monday.

CBG and I have taken this week off work together. Originally we’d wanted it to be our family vacation to Disney, but even though that wasn’t in the cards this year after all, we decided to spend the week getting some long-overdue chores completed around the house. De-cluttering, organizing, a few home repair jobs, and most importantly, painting those last few rooms in our place that we hadn’t gotten around to painting.

We started with our girls’ rooms, since we’ve been promising them for the last two years that we’d paint their bedrooms. They were both really excited about it, particularly since we’d promised them that they could help. We started with Lil’ Mo’s room first. I did the cutting in, and then when the time came, CBG helped her with the rolling part. I was in the room finishing up my part as he talked her through how to fill the roller with paint, roll off the excess, and then start rolling the walls. Throughout the whole process he was gentle, patient and encouraging.

As I listened, I found myself being filled with love and gratitude…love for my husband, and gratitude that my girls have such a loving, patient, encouraging and generous step father. A man who has learned to love my girls like his own; who stuck with it even though it wasn’t something that came easily to him.

And in that small moment, in the middle of an ordinary un-glamourous moment, my husband made me fall in love with him all over again. He swept me off my feet without even trying…and I realized, yet again, how incredibly fortunate I am.

The Power of “No”

Growing up, I somehow managed to learn that the word “no” was a negative word. I’m pretty sure it at least originated with my mother, who also taught me that “being nice” and being liked by others were two extremely important things. Saying “no” means that people might somehow perceive you as being “not nice” and less likable, right? So no isn’t something that should be said that often.

Well, you can guess how that worked out for me. I ended up being an adult with poor boundaries, who often said “yes” first, ended up regretting it, and then somehow lying to get out of whatever I’d agreed to. And when you’re a person with crappy boundaries to begin with, sometimes even when you do say no, that no gets trampled, and you get bulldozed by a disrespectful person with their own agenda.

I’m 40 years old and I reluctantly admit that I still have difficulty saying no, particularly when it comes to certain people. I still have a desire to be seen as easy-going and accommodating. I still want to be liked and seen as a good person, even though a positive opinion of someone else doesn’t actually mean that you ARE a good person. Perception really has little to do with reality.

Yesterday I found myself presented with an opportunity. I was in a situation where I really wanted to say no to something/someone, but there was that little voice in the back of my head warning me that I “should be nice” and say yes, even though I really, really didn’t want to. And to be 100% honest, the individual making the request didn’t deserve to have me be nice to them “just because”. This individual is wholly undeserving of my “niceness”, despite what I sometimes tell myself. Because also? “Being nice” to said person doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to return that niceness. In fact, the person in question often looks as my acts of kindness as opportunities to take advantage, or at least has in the past.

No more.

Yesterday, I took a deep breath and told this person “no”. Flat out. Maybe it will affect their opinion of me, and maybe it won’t. The thing I need to remember is that my self-worth isn’t based on their thoughts of me. I need to remind myself of this fact much more often.

And you know what? Saying “no” when that’s what you really want to say is pretty damned empowering. WAY more than being a dancing monkey to try and get others to like you, that’s for sure.

I’m already looking forward to saying no more often.

Nostalgia

I’ve been in a bit of a strange head-space this week.

I guess it started on the weekend, when I found myself going through boxes of crap, hell-bent on de-cluttering and lightening my load. I kind of feel like I’ve opened to the door to those old ghosts I was talking about, and now they’ve set up camp in my brain.

This week I went back and did a lot of reading of my two prior blogs, from a different time in my life. My girls were little, I was still married to my ex husband, I was a stay at home mom. Life was vastly different in pretty much all areas from what it is now. Reading those old posts made me feel strangely nostalgic for those old days, when life was simpler in a lot of ways. It’s strange, though, because despite life being simpler, it was definitely less happy than it is now in a lot of ways.

Last night, continuing with this week’s theme of “nostalgia”, I whipped up a recipe that I’m sure I haven’t made since the girls were tiny. It was once part of our regular dinner rotation, but something I just don’t make anymore. Curried lentil stew, definitely a comfort meal from days gone by, the smell of which transports me instantly to autumns of years gone by when my girls were tiny.

It’s strange to feel nostalgic about a time that I wouldn’t want to go back to. I’m happy with life as it is now. I’m happy with the person that I am now. I’m happy with the people who are in my life (and with those who aren’t). It’s just those damn old ghosts hanging around, haunting me.

It would seem that in addition to getting rid of the physical clutter, I’ve got some mental and emotional clutter to get sent to the curb as well.

Evolution

While working on de-cluttering over the weekend, I happened to come upon some old video footage of when my girls were little. Around one and three, I would guess. I popped it on and watched for a bit, a strange mix of emotions washing over me.

I didn’t appear in many of the videos (since I was behind the camera most of the time), so it provided me with an interesting glimpse into a typical “day in the life of Sunshine” when my girls were tiny. Looking back, those days seem like both a million years ago, and just last week — both at the same time. I can so clearly remember them at these ages — my two sweet little girls — and yet, so much has happened since then.

Most significantly, I was struck by how I am not the same person that I was back then. So much has happened to me in that time…a major depression and near nervous breakdown, the dissolution of my first marriage, the loss of a community of friends, meeting CBG, sustaining a long distance relationship for nearly four years, finally ending up together in the same city, getting married…if you had told the woman who shot that video footage what was in store for her, she never in a million years would have believed it.

It’s been an evolution. As my circumstances have changed, *I* have changed. I have adapted. I have thrived. Those things that haven’t served me have been cast aside (people, shitty self-perceptions, lies that I clung to for far too long), and I have come out on the other side of everything a stronger, happier, more independent and all-around better person. When those videos were made I had no idea where life was going to take me. And while a great deal of it was a hellish journey, as I look around at the life I have built and the person that I have become, I know that I wouldn’t change one bit of it.

Survival of the fittest at its finest.

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