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The Language of Love

I’m pretty sure that one of the most important things about having a successful marriage is learning to show love to your partner in ways that they appreciate. It’s not an easy task, because I’m pretty sure that most of us do the opposite; that is, we show our partners love in ways that we ourselves want to be loved. It’s easy to think that, “Hey, because I like this, then surely my partner will, too.” I spent a lot of time thinking that in my first marriage, assuming that my (then) husband would appreciate the ways that I chose to show him love.

I had it all wrong.

I’ve come to realize that the best (and only good way) to love your partner is to figure out the ways that they want to be loved, and then respond to that. Showing love is less about the giver, and more about the receiver. Doing things for the one you love that maybe you personally don’t enjoy all that much, but doing it anyhow because it’s something that they absolutely love. After all, loving someone should be about being unselfish, at least some of the time.

I feel like CBG and I have made a lot of strides lately in this department. We’ve been working on communicating the ways that we each want to be loved, and the other has been making an effort to meet those wants. I’m not even talking huge gestures, but more like small, daily acts that reaffirm over and over again, “Yes, you matter. I will make an effort for you, because your happiness is worth it.”  For me, this meant offering to watch one of CBG’s favourite TV programs with him (turns out, I actually love it too – who knew?). For CBG, this means making an effort to suggest things for us to do together (even something small like going out for coffee). These are just two small examples of how we are each making a small effort to love the other in ways that we know they want to be loved.

It all sounds simple, but the truth is, it’s a habit we fell out of for a little while there. We were each so focused on ourselves, and why our own needs weren’t being met, that we didn’t stop to remember that a happy and well-loved spouse will show love in return. Now, every time CBG supports my silly ideas (like our own personal Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day), or whenever he makes me laugh with his antics, I remember that those are things he’s doing for me. Because he loves me. And that makes me want to do something in return.

Give and take, and speaking each other’s love language. That’s what its all about.

Life Lessons from a Forty-Something

The older I get, the more I think about aging. I know that there are plenty of people out there who hate it, who fight the whole process tooth and nail. Now, while I don’t exactly enjoy those growing morning aches and pains, and the thought of death rushing headlong toward me, I have realized that for the most part, I have actually been enjoying growing older. Lets fact it — it’s way better than the alternative – there are plenty of people denied the privilege of growing old. I feel like every year I spend on this planet are a gift, not to be wasted.

(Or, maybe wasted a little bit, like when the new season of OITNB comes out on Neflix. Y’know….priorities and all that.)

For the most part, I realize that life is only getting better as I get older. There’s something to be said for being a forty-something woman who knows herself, over being a twenty-something woman who doesn’t really have a clue. I’m still a work in progress and hopefully will be for a good long time to come.

Here are some things I know at forty-something that I certainly didn’t twenty years ago.

  1. I can’t control other people’s reactions to me. All I can do is my best to communicate clearly to others, and then let them take it from there. Some people will get it, and some people won’t. But trying to control their choices is only an exercise in crazy-making.
  2. My own self-care is the greatest gift I can give to others. Although I’m not perfect at it, I’ve certainly gotten a whole lot better at this whole self-care thing over the years. And gone are the days when I allow myself to feel guilty for it. No freakin way. I’m a better mother, wife, friend, employee and general human being when I make the effort to take care of myself properly. You’re welcome.
  3. Not everyone likes me – and that’s okay. When I was younger, I really scrambled to try and make everyone like me. All that did was leave me exhausted. It also meant that I was constantly trying to be someone and something that I wasn’t. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that hey, guess what? I’m not everyone’s cup of tea….and there’s nothing wrong with that. The only person I really have to make sure likes me is me – and if I focus on that, on being an integral and likable person to myself, then those closest to me, those who “get” me, will feel the same.
  4. So much more can be accomplished with self-love than with self-loathing. I used to try so hard to change myself out of hatred. I would see something about myself that I disliked intensely, and would work to try and make myself better. I’ve come to realize that attempting to change for those reasons just doesn’t work. The best way (and the only way to make it stick) is to change yourself out of self-love, because you know, deep down, that you deserve better. Loving change is always the best.
  5. Mistakes are the best learning tools. I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect. I have made a great number of mistakes in my 42 years on this earth, and I know that before it’s all said and done, I will make many more. But as cheesy at it sounds, those mistakes have been great learning tools for me. I have been able to learn something valuable each time I’ve screwed up. I can’t say that would be the case if I’d always done everything perfectly my whole life.

Instead of being sad that I’m getting older like some people, I choose to be happy about it. Because really? We all only get better with age. 🙂

Finding Joy Again

I had one of those big realization moments the other day when I was out running.

Ah yes, running…the big metaphor for life.

I was thinking about running, about how I recently hit my two year running streak milestone. A big moment for me, for sure. But despite this milestone, and despite continuing with my daily running, I really haven’t been giving it my all. I go out there every day, completing my runs, without challenging or pushing myself. In fact, I’ve been basically half-assing it for a while now. Phoning it in.

And as a result, I haven’t been feeling nearly as joyful about running as I once did.In fact, there are many days when it had just been just feeling like a chore. And really, if it’s going to feel like that, what’s the point anymore?

It’s not just running that’s been feeling this way lately, either. The truth is that I’ve been phoning it in when it comes to a lot of things in my life. My friendships, my career, my parenting, my personal development, my marriage. I’ve been on autopilot when it comes to my life, just like with my running. Just showing up and doing my thing, not challenging or pushing or bettering myself. Which is all well and good of course, but not the kind of person that I ultimately want to be.

I’ve been feeling kind of stuck lately, in all these areas. It’s a frustrating spot to be in, feeling like I’m not getting anywhere in my life. Though I could blame plenty of things — my job, my friends, my ex, CBG — the truth is, the only person responsible for these things is me. I’m the person who hauls my butt out of bed in the morning for those uninspired runs, just like I’m the person who chooses to sit on the couch every night instead of coming up with fun things to do with CBG, or who doesn’t bother pursuing the other things I love in life.

Me. I’m the person who has been making the choice to be stuck in life lately. And just like I’ve been making the choice to be stuck, I can make the choice to be un-stuck, too. And that’s that decision that I’ve made. I made the decision that it’s time to get out of the rut that I’m in with my running, and with my life in general. It’s time to find the joy again — in the miles, my friendships, my job, and my marriage.

And most of all, with myself.

It’s time to stop phoning it in.

On This Day

This morning Facebook showed me an “On This Day” memory that I wasn’t expecting and particularly didn’t want to see. A couple of wall posts from eight years ago, from a person who hasn’t been in my life for quite some time. A person that, for a number of reasons, I would prefer to not be reminded of.

And yet, I am. Every now and then a reminder pops up in one place or another. A reminder of my less-than-awesome self, from a less-than-awesome time of my life; a woman that I barely recognize anymore. A woman who wandered off into sad, lonely territory, who lost her way, and herself. I usually try to push those reminders away; after all, nobody enjoys a spotlight being put on our lesser selves.

It took me a long time to put the woman that I once was behind me. I still see her lurking in the shadows some days. I’m not perfect. I don’t always make perfect choices. I’m not always easy to love. Some days I am weak and selfish and downright broken.

But we all have those days. Now that I am more close to being the person I always wanted to be, the more I am able to forgive those less-than-awesome days, and the more I am able to forgive myself for that particular time in my life when a string of less-than-awesome days slid into a less-than-awesome year.

This morning I realized that those reminders are actually a good thing. They allow me to see how far I’ve come, and more importantly, they remind me of where I never want to go again. Because even though that “old Sunshine” might lurk in the shadows now and again, I’m not that person anymore. We all need those little nudges from time to time to keep us heading in the right direction…and to help us be grateful for where we are.

On this day eight years ago, I was a shadow of a woman, desperately looking for something in all the wrong places.

But on this day – today – I hit the ‘delete’ button with a smile…thankful for the reminder, but realizing that having it hanging around wasn’t going to do me any good. I need to keep moving forward. I’ve found my ‘something’. And the beauty of it is that it was in me all along.

Thanks for the reminder.

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Lessons From a Year Long Running Streak

So…as I wrote about last week, I recently completed a year-long running streak. (And felt like a certain fictional character in the process). I’ve been thinking about this accomplishment of mine a fair bit these past couple of weeks; specifically about the lessons that I learned during the process.

So what did my year long run streak actually teach me? I have thought long and hard about this question and have come up with three very important points. I have definitely learned other lessons as well, more personal ones, but these are the main three that I think a lot of people (runners or not) can relate to.

1. There are very few legitimate excuses for not getting exercise.

For years I struggled with getting myself out there to run. I grabbed onto any excuse I could find — it was too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy. I was too tired, too busy, too sore, too stressed out. Here’s the thing I’ve learned about excuses. If you go looking, you can always one. The truth is, though, there aren’t very many real, legitimate reasons for not getting exercise. Period.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to go on a year-long running streak, not at all. But whatever your chosen activity is, and whatever your weekly goals are, you have very few excuses for not meeting them. The simple fact is, if something is important enough to you, then you need to make it a priority in your life, and you need to make it happen. Period.

Excuses are lame. Don’t be lame.

2. Running is much more a mental game than a physical one.

Sure, there’s a certain amount of physical ability required to run (or do any kind of exercise), but the truth is that it is someone’s mental fitness that determines how successful their exercise goals will be. Not only do you need to work on training your body, it’s also important to work on training your mind. It takes a special kind of focus to be able to lose yourself mentally so that you’re not thinking about every single step on a 5 or 10 km (or longer) run. If you can’t do that, then running is going to truly suck. And if it sucks, then you’re not going to keep doing it.

3. Goals are essential.

My goals changed over the course of the year. At first it was just to run as many days in a row as possible. And then, as certain milestones began approaching, I would promise myself to meet them and see how I felt after that. As I was getting up do day 80-something, I made a deal with myself to hit at least day 100. Then as I was around to day 140-ish, I knew I wouldn’t stop until I hit 150. I’m just not the kind of person to willingly quit a streak on day 167. Or 172. I just can’t do that. And then, of course, as day 365 began getting closer and closer, I knew I wanted that to be my next goal.

And now that I’ve passed day 365? I’m not so sure. We’ll see how I feel once day 400 hits. 😉 I’m hopeful that maybe there are more lessons to be gleaned from all of this.

 

 

Nostalgia

This past weekend I got to thinking a lot about how far I’ve come in the past six or seven years.  Specifically I got thinking about Easter weekend, six years ago. It was during the time that CBG and I were broken up (and it really seemed like we weren’t going to get back together). I was working hard on moving on with my life — finding peace with the end of my marriage, and my still relatively new status as a single mom.

That Easter marked my first holiday totally on my own with my girls. My ex and I were split at the Christmas before, but still living in the same house. We did our uncomfortable best to try and have one last “normal” Christmas for our daughters, even though it was pretty much hellish and awful for us both.

So Easter was a Big Deal for me. There was a lot going on. I’d only been living in my new place on my own for a few months. CBG and I had broken up. I was dabbling in the dating world to try and forget all about him (and how much I still missed him). I was abandoned — rather traumatically — by a group of friends who once professed to love and accept me no matter what. To say my ex and I weren’t getting along was a massive understatement. I was unemployed and terrified about job prospects. I was struggling with finding my way a single mom. I was dealing with depression and anxiety on top of everything else.

It wasn’t a good holiday for me.

Still, I did my best to make it good for my girls. I did my best to set aside my own self-pity to ensure that they had a good Easter. One thing I do remember quite clearly, though, which was putting the girls to bed, filling their Easter baskets, and promptly crying. Crying out of fear for the unknown, loneliness, grief for the life that I’d lost. It was a lot to deal with. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how life was going to work out in a positive way for me. It seemed almost impossible.

And yet…here I am. Six years later life looks so much different. My two little girls are growing into two thoughtful, kind, intelligent, compassionate young women. I know that I have a lot to do with that. I am married to the love of my life — a man who respects me and loves all the parts of me. I have friends who genuinely care and who I can count on when life gets tough. I laugh. I feel joy. No, life isn’t perfect. And it was a long hard road to get to where I am today. But life is good…and for that, I feel incredibly grateful.

On Saturday night I wrote this on Facebook:

“If I had a time machine the only thing I would do is go back and tell the Kelly of six years ago one thing: ‘Have faith. Everything is going to be alright. Better than all right. All this is going to be worth it’.”

I don’t regret the difficulties I’ve had to endure to get to where I am. All those tears, all that heartache, all the struggle has brought me to where I am today. Sometimes in life we’ve just got to buckle down and get through the tough stuff to reach a better place on the other side. But when you do…it’s so very, very worth it.

 

Life Lessons From My 10 Year Old Daughter

So yesterday we got dumped on with another snowstorm. Although annoying, it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world; it is winter, after all, and not like snowstorms should be unexpected for those of us who live in this part of the world.

CBG and I went out to shovel mid-evening or so. We were tempted (well, he more than me) to leave it all go until morning, but I was convinced that doing one round in the evening, even though it was still storming, was likely wise. As we got dressed up to go out, Lil’ Mo (who will be 10 in a few weeks) piped up, “Can I come help?”

Well, naturally I’m not about to turn down an offer to help with shoveling; after all, many hands make light work. The three of us went out and cleared the stairs, sidewalk and driveway in no time flat.

As we were coming back in, I commented to CBG that I actually kind of enjoy shoveling; the exercise and fresh air are nice.

That’s when Lil’ Mo piped up. “I think that it’s better to be in a good mood about shoveling. I mean, you know you have to do it, so  you might as well be in a good mood about it. Being in a bad mood only makes things like that worse than they need to be.”

I forget sometimes how much of a thinker Mo is.

You’re right,” I agreed. “And this is true with a lot of things in life. Sadly, a lot of people haven’t figured that out.”

Attitude really does go a long way in life. Thanks for the reminder, kid.