Relationships Aren’t Disposable

Several months ago a friend posted something to the effect of, “life takes many turns.” It was a phrase I held onto when one of my online relationships fizzled.  I thought it was real until I realized I was being catfished.  Again.  My catfish history has lead to my 9 day series on Anatomy of a Catfish, and here is the first post in said series. It’s not all roses but it’s not just piss, either.

I was again on Facebook today when another friend posted about unfriending and blocking people.  We take that for granted, don’t we? With the superficial aspect of online friendships, we have the full ability to cut someone off and we can choose to not acknowledge their existence.  It’s easy.  It’s a button and a confirmation click and you don’t have to see them and you can stop them from seeing you.  When my ex first left me and I felt abandoned and attacked by everyone that knew us both, I did lots of blocking.  I’ve since unblocked people.  Less freakouts on my part mean I’m more passive about the secret fan club I may or may not have.  Now there’s a handful of blocked people and they’re only men that didn’t take my direct rejection as hint enough to stop asking me out.  (Please don’t try to woo a woman by telling her she doesn’t know what she wants when she tells you it’s not you.)

I even fully ghosted a man once.  Months later he called me from a different number to ask why and it’s not something I choose to do as easily.  It’s human nature to need acknowledgement.  I knew a man that was big on ignoring people.  Maybe I still know him.  I don’t know if you ever know anyone right now.  I’m a little jaded. I can admit it though. We were at a gas station once and another man walked up to his window to ask for money.  The person I knew ignored him.  The acknowledgement probably hurt more than the money that wasn’t given.  It’s important to humans to be seen.  It’s who we are. There are selfies for that reason. Personally, I have a whole blog with stats and everything.

Where is the social aspect of social media? Don’t get me wrong.  I love Facebook.  I give my Facebook feed more of my free time than I give my blog. I get to spy on friends and watch their lives without taking time out of my life to actually see them in person.  I can share inspiring videos and things that make me smile.  I can share snippets of my Mommy Moments that look like snark and dark humor.  I can wish someone a happy birthday and even though that may be my only interaction with them or their page until next year, I can make you believe that phrase I typed means I hold you close to me.  Because in that moment you do. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of my friends and really do stalk them all day and night.  At the same time, I can’t tell you the last time I drove to a home or restaurant or cafe for a moment to really engage with someone outside of my kids.  It’s totally me.  As it is, I rarely feel like there are enough hours in the day to do the things that I want to do the most.

Life would be different without social media.  I would probably make a greater effort. I mean, all of the meaning we feel in life is a reflection of the relationships in our lives.  As much as I’m big on my loner moments, I’m still very affected by my relationships and the frustration I feel with the amount and quality of interactions I rarely make time for.  When I was younger I would call my grandmother or write her letters.  When she passed, I found that she kept all of them.

Today I can share a picture and tag my mom and she doesn’t need me to make the same efforts.  My mom takes Facebook photos and prints them out.  At the same time, social selling has become so easy because of these relationships.  People I know and have trusted are a few finger strokes away.  There’s a whole network of people I have met or know through a network or two that share certain visionary ideals and their pictures and thoughts give me a daily boost of hope.  My point is we all need to dig deeper for a more meaningful relational experience with our friends. With the fast pace of life as a mom, I understand how busy we can all get.

Yes, I just admitted I’m not as involved in relationships as I really want to be. There are friends I’ve known since I was a little girl and friends from high school that I would love to spend some time with.  There’s a 3 month old I am dying to hold and sing to, but I haven’t made the effort.  I see his adorable pictures and pick apart the ways he looks just like his Dad did when we were all young and loving our terrible choices for after school entertainment.

What about applying the superficiality of online relationships to real life? In school we were forced to see the same people over and over again.  If you started a relationship that ended, you might get stuck with that same person sitting behind you. Talking about the new person in their life.  Making you miss them and showing you all of the reasons why you really shouldn’t. You grow up and sometimes there’s a spark at work and you consider that career move a little faster than you might have.  Or, like me, you go through a nasty separation with kids and have to do a custody swap.  We were lucky enough to have a judge wise enough to make most of those swaps happen from the kid’s schools.  If I’m lucky, I don’t have to see him.  But at the same time, we still have to see each other at functions for the kids and on custody swaps during vacation times.  It’s frustrating because at one point we were close.

That’s the point of relationships, right? At one point you move from strangers with nothing in common to people that share interests.  You become people that share a history.  Post relationship we might be able to be friends instead of picking fights.  That rarely happens for me.  A relationship ends and either they still love me or hate me.  There’s no in between that fades into friendship. But when we blocked each other there was no fuel to fight with. It was convenient.

The thing with relationships it that they don’t just end.  Months and years later, you might hear a song or smell something that brings you right back to where you were when you remember a special memory.  The people we love or have loved will leave indelible marks on our hearts and it’s okay to honor that.  I think it’s okay to tell someone what they meant or mean to you, even if there is nothing reciprocated because there is too much hurt to allow something like that to land.  The beauty of love is it can be unconditional.  You can give it without expecting anything in return.  You can offer it, knowing that it may always be unrequited. Giving love without it being returned can be painful.  It helps to remind yourself that your expectation meant you weren’t giving it unconditionally.  That expectation was the cost of the love you offered.

Relationships aren’t meant to be convenient.  They aren’t meant to be one sided either.  My late aunt once gave me the best marriage advice.  You give as much as you get.  That’s part of the deal.  The relationships we have take effort and communication.  They need time and intentional connection.  With all that we have and all that it takes, and our individual needs to be seen, acknowledged and loved, is it really that important to cut someone out of your life?

 

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Self Limitation: What is Stopping You is Often Just You

A Facebook friend posted a query:

What if your glass ceiling is actually a mirror?

My favorite answers were:

  1. Well then you see your limiting beliefs.
  2. Then I guess you’d look up and see the only thing truly holding you back.
  3. Discovering what you have not been willing to see . . . jump through the ceiling to go to the next floor of your possibilities and become unstoppable.

Yes, I know some intensely visionary beings of light and they live in possibilities that not everyone can imagine. I’m very grateful for the network of ideals that flow through my Facebook feed.

How often do we stop short of taking a risk because we can imagine the outcome? Usually that outcome isn’t in our favor.  I must acknowledge what I’m doing and stop it. My kids do it and I’m trying to teach them not to, but what I have done consistently is a more solid lesson than the possibilities of what we can create when I’m choosing to be intentional.  Being intentional is a choice that needs to be chosen moment to moment when habits are easier to fall into.

An example is when we go shopping and my kids already expect what I will say yes to and what is usually a no.  Anything food related that isn’t too full of sugar or caffeine is usually a yes.  Toys are usually a no, unless it’s one that is reasonably priced.  The rest depends on my budget and how much I want to put up with it.  It’s a mom thing.  We don’t always want the loud toy that requires batteries.  We sometimes prefer quiet time. My consistency means my kids are really hesitant to dream big and ask for what isn’t usually approved.  It’s not something I want to continue teaching them.  I want them to learn to ask for the bigger things.  You don’t know what the possibilities are until you ask and are answered.  Everything in life is negotiable.  You just have to know what to ask.

In the shopping example, my kids limit themselves by thinking about my expected response. They stop themselves before giving me the opportunity to answer and in life, it’s a practice many of us have perfected.  We limit ourselves, not knowing we are often our only limit.

Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In and in her examples, there were many times she encourages women to Lean In.  This means not accepting what has been and pushing for the new thing.  I highly suggest it.  Her prose is easily engaging and her examples relatable.  More than that, her career altering perspective shift is just what is needed for women in the workplace. Sandberg writes about the many times in a career that a woman is likely to not lean in.  Be it starting a career, or jumping into a conversation, they often limit themselves.  Don’t get me wrong.  The glass ceiling and financial disparity in the work place are real and influenced by gender.  That’s a norm all of us get to break together.  At the same time, she points out where women are responsible and offers the authority and power to regain control of how you craft your career with her honest advice.

It’s a practice for me to ask, “what story am I telling myself?”

My big goal for the end of the year is still to take my kids to Canada.  It’s Kid1’s dream and my goal.  I do not yet have the finances, and that is the first story I tell myself. It’s hard to not think of my present financial situation as the only one there is.  It’s hard to not convince myself that the only way to make the money happen is to do what I’ve always done, and that’s going to work and making money.  Earlier this summer I started selling whitening toothpaste.  It’s work, but it’s also sitting on my phone and playing on Facebook.  (You can try it too.  It’s less risky than slanging rocks on a street corner.) Last week I was in a minor car accident with a minor payout to go with it.  Money comes to you in different ways all the time.  Why do I usually believe I won’t have enough if I don’t have a job? Because I’m living in the story I tell myself, and not the possibilities that fall in my lap because they surprise me and I can’t count on their schedule, even if I can count on those opportunities arriving (because they always do). Always doing things one way doesn’t mean I have to keep doing so.  I get to try new tricks.  I get to let the possibilities play themselves out without falling to the limits of a past that may never repeat itself.

The next story I tell myself is about access.  First on my list is to get passports.  I get to fill out forms, wait in an office and pay for them. Once I do, I also have to get permission from their Dad.  There’s also transportation and lodging. The area that limits me the most is having to ask their Dad for permission.  This was something that Kid3 also believes is impossible.  The kids aren’t convinced their Dad would let them go.  I’m not convinced either, but living in possibilities means when the time comes, I get to ask him. I will not just assume I know the answer because in reality I’m only in my own head and not always sure of what my own thoughts are.

The last story I’ll go over for now is the story that it’s not my time.  If I have until the end of the year, I can push my goals, right? I can wait for the right job.  I can wait for the right body shape to wear that outfit.  I can wait until my kids are older.  But then I’m giving the world excuses that I need to put off living my life.  What is so important that I would put it before my desire to live the life I choose to live? Go get your life! No one else gets to live it but you. Putting your life on hold doesn’t serve anyone.  Where’s your urgency?

It’s like lying.  What is so important about someone else’s perception that you can’t stand in the integrity of your word? What is so important about someone else’s feelings that you would choose to invalidate who you are by lying? If you can’t tell the truth as you see it, can you see why you would devalue yourself so much as to make someone else’s perception of you more important than how you see yourself?

So what is your story?

What do you tell yourself and convince yourself of, based on a past that has nothing to do with the future you get to create? What limits do you put on yourself?  What limits do you allow others to put on you? Why do you put these limits on yourself and do you know you really don’t have to?

Go get your life.  We get two. The second starts the moment you decide you only get one, and you won’t get out of it alive.  That’s not how the game is played.  We all die, but there’s no reason to live a dead existence.

 

People Are Not Labels

I love watching a man run, and yes, that is living poetry, but we are not boiled down to a word or phrase.  I might think he’s sexy or even delicious, but he’s probably smart and has complex feelings too. Labels are for jars of canned fruit.  Labels are for pantry items and filing cabinets.  Labels are not for people.

I read an article (maybe it was a blog post) about a mom talking to her kids after her daughter (in a bit of I-want-it-so-I’m-having-a-tantrum-until-I-get-it-and-hurt-you kinda way) told her mother that she was fat.  Her mom informed her daughter that we all have body fat, and we are not defined or identified by something we may have.

That was profound.

We are not identified by a part when we are whole.  Honestly, that’s a literary trope and I am not a synecdoche.  We are not literary phrases.  It was a terrific argument. I wish I had saved that link.

I am not fat but I love my relationship with my marshmallow fluff.  I have a family member with diabetes, but he’s not only diabetic.  Labels like that are for medical professionals to understand how to treat you.  That doesn’t mean you are identified by a term.

My sons are not autistic, though they are on the spectrum.

This is all about relearning language because the words we use to identify us, have a strong influence on our identity.

I know I’ve said this before somewhere, but it’s worth repeating: Labels for disabilities are like labels used in gender studies.  It’s a way to classify a person so other people that can’t empathize can understand them.  Labels serve to identify other people by differences, excusing us from actively looking for similarities. My sons will live in their world the exact same way if they didn’t have a label.  Labels are not for them, but for the people that don’t understand them. We are more than a body or a mind. If I didn’t look for ways to be different from others, I would look for ways that we are the same.  This is where prejudice starts.  

When children are looking for their first friendships, they look for things in common.  When they are older and start looking for alliances in their friendships, they look for differences.  This pattern doesn’t stop unless you are intentional with stopping it.

We are not the sum of our debt or how extravagantly we live.  You are so much more than words used to define you when usually you’re still working out who you are for yourself.  Understanding who I am in this world and in my skin is a life long exploration. There is so much more that makes up who we are and affects how we show up in the world.

The funny thing about defining ourselves in life is that those definitions are meaningless in death.  We pour so much into a career or home.  We want the fancy cars and the designer clothes. No one will care about what you drove or how many bills were piling up.  They won’t care about what you wore or how you wore your hair.  They’ll care about the connection they had to you and how that void will be filled, or if it even needs to be. They’ll worry about how their life will go forward without being able to rely on you.  They’ll be upset that they took for granted the fact of your existence.

At the most connected point of your interaction, that is the part of you that matters in the world.  It’s not when we’re on our phones, swiping or scrolling past a post that is a superficial substitution for a relationship. It’s when we are sharing who we are through stories of what we have been through.  It’s about holding a hand or embracing someone in a hug that is meant to hold someone together.  It’s in sharing the vision of your future and the vivid dreams of your legacy.

You are not the designer clothes you wear.

You can work hard to keep it high, but you are not your FICO score.

You are not a fancy job or the transportation that gets you there.

You are not the depression that visits and holds you down.

You are not the pain of your illness.

You are not the person you are dating, nor are you defined by the connection you have.

You are an amazing and unique person and self love is essential to happiness, but even then, you are who you decide to see yourself as.

You see it, don’t you? It’s the many ways you are a unique and amazing person with exceptional gifts that only you can offer the world.

My point is there is so much to who we are and the ability to laugh and grow that is within us flourishes the most when we connect with others.  Humanity thrives on relational connections. No individual word or the stigma it carries can define who you are.

FB Live – Set Your Intentions or Pray for Miracles, Signs and Wonders

Imagine being able to manifest the life you want by focusing on the outcome you want.  That would be uniquely amazing, right? Maybe a little crazy.  But is it crazy? There’s the book and movie called “The Secret.”  I don’t remember if I read the book but I watched the movie.  I thought there would be a plot but watched several people talking about manifesting the desires of their heart by focusing on them like they’ve already become part of their lives.

I grew up in a Christian home.  We didn’t set our intentions or manifest things.  We prayed.  With just a little faith, we believed our prayers would be answered. With the authority of a son and the acknowledgement of his blood sacrifice, we believed that we could “speak what is not as though it were.” If I grew up Pagan, I would have called that blood magic and necromancy.  It’s syncretism.

Transitions Will Force Change.

A couple of years ago I was a stay at home mom.  I didn’t work for 15 years and for the most part my ex supported us.  I got scholarships and carried babies as a surrogate, but I really didn’t work as a gainfully employed contributing member of society.  Towards the end of the marriage, I was only working part time.  And then he left.  He promised to never support me again, and he’s been good to his word.  I support the kids on my own when I have them just as he supports them on his own when he has them. We’re single parents.

The shock of the transition means I had a lot to figure out very quickly. I was in prayer nonstop at first.  Not so much lately, but the consistent thoughts running through my head are the same.  Call it a prayer, mantra or belief, but I was determined that I would always have just what I need and we would be okay.  We have been. Following are some examples of ways when things worked out so I had exactly what I needed as I told myself we would have enough.

The Car

There were a few times when my car issues were shining examples of having just enough and being carried through on just what I needed.

We were often buying used cars in terrible shape.  We would drive them until we couldn’t anymore and every year we bought another used car that was nearly dead.  Just before Christmas right after the split, I was driving to my sister’s house, about 20 miles away from home.  It wasn’t until I got off the freeway that I noticed my car didn’t sound right.  It was as I was getting closer to her house and turning the corner to find a parking spot that my power steering went out.  I figured I was out of fluids and when I was leaving her house, drove to the nearest gas station, two blocks away.  I got my car parked, and bought fluids only to find my car just wouldn’t start.

My sister met me at the gas station and we walked to the two blocks to her house.  She had a new set of pajamas I could wear.  She found a new toothbrush for me as well.  Her husband wore contacts and I was able to borrow a case and use his solution.  At the time, a friend of her husband’s had been staying in their extra bedroom but was gone for the weekend.  I was so cared for in a comfortable bed that night, when I could have been stranded anywhere else.  I could have been stuck on the freeway well after everyone else I knew was asleep.  It could have happened when I had a car full of kids. The next morning my Dad came out to help me get it towed to my Mom’s house where it got fixed by my cousin.  It was the gears supporting the serpentine belt.

A few weeks later, I was picking up my nephew’s girlfriend for some hang out time.  I was planning to teach her how to make baklava.  I heard the sounds, and dropped her off so I could head to my mom’s house again for my cousin to fix it.  I got her home, then got just far enough to not walk to her house.  I coasted to a stop on the side of the road in a safe spot just in time for the car to die again.  I was able to get my car towed to my mom’s house, for free with my insurance.  When I got to my mom’s house, I learned that her car had been in an accident and it was getting repaired.  Normally my mom would bail me out and let me borrow her car. I had just been at my first temping job for about 3 weeks.  The hours were full time but it was in no way permanent.  I needed to get to work and I had very few options.

My niece drove me to the dealership where I walked in and said I had no down payment and couldn’t afford more than $300 a month.  They let me drive off with payments of $300.03 and a year later the payments became $299 and change.  I love my little car.  It’s not fancy, but it reminds me that I had exactly what I needed. It was a situation where I was safe, but nudged far enough into a new car.  Even the push that got me to the dealership.

Shoes

As a mom – a single mom, it’s so easy to put your family ahead of yourself.  I love retail therapy and one night I didn’t have my kids, but I was shoe shopping.  My shoes weren’t falling apart but I wanted to replace them.  Responsibility won and I walked out of that store without the shoes.

Call it intuition, or if you’re a person of faith, you can call it the Holy Spirit.  Later that week or month, my mom told me she bought a pair of shoes from Big 5 and wanted to know if they would fit.  They were a perfect fit.  I’m a nearly 40 year old woman.  My mom doesn’t usually buy me clothes or shoes anymore.  She hasn’t in about 20 years. The shoes fit me perfectly in a size 10, when my mom wears a size 7.  There was no way she bought them for her and somehow she knew exactly what I needed.  A short while later, my cousin came back from Australia, and brought my sister a pair of Ugg boots.  They were too big for her but fit me perfectly.  I had just what I needed. Twice.

Clothes

I’ve learned that break up depression means I lose quite a bit of weight.  In the first couple of months, I lost about 30 pounds without trying.  My clothes wouldn’t fit at all.  My mom had a friend that was cleaning out her closet.  My Dad had a cousin I saw once and she was cleaning out her closet.  I was so supported in that time, and gifted from both directions to the point that I had so much more than I needed.  Everything fit perfectly and there was so much that I could be picky and pass on a few things.

Words

During that time with my Dad’s cousin, I was given the words I needed to hear.  She saw my posture.  I was still pretty devastated and broken from my husband leaving me.  I was still wearing the weight of the things his girlfriend said to me through his phone.  I was probably still in that space where my oldest had to remind me to take care of them and make dinner because I was too upset to focus on their care.  She was the first person to really ask me if I knew who I was.

She reminded me that her blood ran through my veins.  She reminded me that we come from strong women and generations of tough circumstances.  Prevailing is my birthright . . . it’s in my blood.

There were times when I had just the right words at the right time.  Sometimes it was just the soft breathing of my sister as I wailed and cried on the phone with her. (She knew divorce and what I needed to hear.  She didn’t know miscarriage and she was very present for both.)

In the beginning, when I really wanted to hold onto my marriage, I heard story after story of couples that broke up, had full relationships and were able to reconcile.  I wanted that so desperately and I had story after story of people I knew that did exactly that.

A short while ago I was able to offer that same moment to a stranger.

It was exactly what was needed at the perfect time and it doesn’t always have to be about me.

Money

There were times when I didn’t know how I would feed my kids.  When my ex first got his apartment is when he stopped supporting me entirely.  I went from scraping by and barely having enough, to having nothing at all.

I’ve had several temporary jobs that ended before we got comfortable. My mom helped where she could and I was able to get assistance from the county, but it wasn’t enough.

There were times when I was shocked at the kindness I was offered.  I had people that knew me but weren’t part of my everyday life reach out to support me.  I was offered gas money and groceries, and money to “buy my kids something frivolous for Christmas.” I was visiting with a friend and I assumed her mom didn’t speak English because the whole time she sat quietly as we pieced a puzzle.  She first told me about her reconciliation, then offered me money out of the blue.   I felt so much gratitude for those moments and remembered my prayers . . . chanting . . . mantra, that I would have enough.

There was one day of returns to make and household shopping. I put the cash in my wallet from returns and used my debit card for purchases.  When I was ready to go home, I balanced my checkbook. With my shopping, I ended up overdrawing my account by the exact amount I had from making returns. I was able to make a deposit before heading home. I had just enough.

Grace

I consider grace to be unmerited favor.  I have felt this repeatedly though out the last two years.

Most recently, I had a miscarriage in April.  I was 12 weeks along with twins and very excited to have them.  It was rough at first because it wasn’t a surprise I wanted, but at this point I was bonding with them and excited about the babies.  When we lost them, I expected that the hospital would just do what is normal for “medical waste” and I had no options to say goodbye.  It was surgery.  It was clinical.  It was black and white and there was no space for the loss I couldn’t stop feeling.

My boyfriend had a conversation with his big brother that prompted us to get their remains released to us.  That was a turning moment where we had just what we needed to have.

The next moment came as I was reaching out to the pathology department.  I told the doctor and nurses that I wanted their remains before the procedure, but no one told pathology and they were nearly disposed of.  As I made calls to get them cremated, I was looking at paying several hundred if not thousand dollars to have my babies cremated.  I happened to call the right person in pathology to know I needed to talk to Decedent Affairs.  The person in Decedent Affairs knew who to get me connected to and Natural Grace Funerals took care of my babies, with us only needing to pay for the crematory fees.

Through the right conversations and support along the way, we had our babies cremated and returned to us.  It’s still an impossible situation.  I’d be lying if I said we got through it and we’re not still mourning.  But we had the support we needed to do what we needed to do.  I’m still dreaming about them.  My boyfriend is still feeling the things you are supposed to feel.  But sometimes that’s how we need to address the miracle and the loss.  I’ve been able to get through it with just enough compassion and warmth from my support team.

Sometimes the reason or the “enough” isn’t easy to see until I’m using hindsight.  I still expect to see it.

Even this morning I was in a minor car accident.  I’m okay, but I’m looking for the why of it and the reasons it will be enough of what I need, exactly when I need it.

Set your intention and watch support for that to show up.

The point is we decide what we can expect, and once you choose, you’ll see things fall in place that support your belief.

When I go to the Farmer’s Market or Grocery Store, I just pick up what I want.  For the most part, I don’t need to debate things. Regardless of the cost, if I need eggs, I’m going to buy them.  I made the choice.  I was intentional with putting the eggs in my cart when I put them on my list. Following through is easy after that.

There have been a few times in my current relationship when I was on the fence.  Do we go forward.  Do we walk away? What do I want? Is our status quo serving me more than the cost? I know I want to be with him, but there have been times when I wasn’t choosing.  I was sitting on a fence and being uncomfortable about it.  (Fences aren’t made for sitting on.) Most recently I had a conversation with my ex, and another one with my sister.  It was in those moments when they didn’t argue either case  but gave the perspective they had that I could witness their perspective against my own, and I could see what I wanted.

It’s like a coin toss.  It’s not whether the coin lands on heads or tails, but the result you are hoping for when it’s in the air.  Decide what you want and the support you need shows up because you know to look for it.

What you secretly hope for is what you are choosing.  Stop acting passive about the life you get to live, and choose to live boldly.

For so long I decided I would need just enough.  Now I’m deciding I need so much more.  Dream.  Dream big.  No matter the size of your dream, it’s not here until you make it happen.

Get Help Through Depression

I do collections.  What I’m doing for the company I work at is pretty much collecting payment for what most of the world sees as a luxury.  For the most part, I’m not harassing people that are trying to decide if paying me is going to cost them groceries for the next week.  But there was a call yesterday and it reminded me that I haven’t asked myself, “what’s my contribution?” in a while.

I’m here to encourage you today.  My inspired moment yesterday looked like a poorly planned Facebook Live. I had the sun glaring behind me and forgot to turn off my Waze app that was taking me home.  There were lots of giggles but this is my follow up. Fewer giggles.  Same insane amounts of love for people I may never see.

I get it. Life can be overwhelming and difficult.  Bills pile up and it can be overwhelming.  Relationships can feel one sided or draining. Or they can end before you want them to. Things we hope for or expect can fail us and fall through.  It’s easy to get caught up in what we hoped for not being our reality and it can wear us down.  I can tell you to shift your perspective, but it’s not an easy thing to do and sometimes you have to shift it every couple of minutes.

Who are you?

I want to remind you that you are not your debt. You are not your job.  You are not your relationship.  When you are gone, no one will remember the details of what you did for a living, or how extravagantly you lived.  They’ll remember who you are.  So, who are you?

I’m a brave, courageous, heart-led leader.

I’m a mom who will do whatever it takes for my kids.

I am a woman capable of giving love and one day I will comfortably say I can receive it too. (Battle scars.)

My identity is not tied up in my circumstances.

I am not the jobs that come and go.

I am no longer an abandoned wife.  I’m here for me and I will not leave my side.

When we make regrettable choices in life, it’s so easy to take that moment and wear it as a punishing cloak of identity.  This is a choice you don’t have to make.

I loved being a student, so I’m asking you to take a moment to think of finishing school.  Once you graduate and are no longer a student that education is still able to serve you in knowledge as well as the habits that got you through it.  But you are no longer a student.

It’s like looking at that miniskirt I used to wear in high school.  I have the same legs, but my belly has held enough life to stretch it in ways that leave designers stumped (there really should be a market for c-section belly overhangs that just need a comfy belly bra).  It might look like it could fit, but it really doesn’t and I see it every time I try.  While it’s in my hands and not on my body, I’m imagining what could be, unable to release what doesn’t fit for the yoga pants that do.  Let it go.

You are not alone.

I understand depression.  I understand the inability to see beyond an immediate circumstance that has made me feel worthless.

My first real suicide attempt was when I was 14.  I had to have my stomach pumped and stayed in the hospital for about a week with most of that time in Intensive Care.  This was followed up in therapy. There were several other serious attempts, but I couldn’t give you a number.  I got help though.  I’ve had a therapist through the first event, the baby blues in 2001 and when my husband left me in 2015. I wasn’t counting the lows because it was a series of days that were too dark to see through. The most recent was probably around 2014.  My depression was intense but I got help in the form of a prescription that time.  The point is, I couldn’t handle things on my own and I got help.  Repeatedly.

Get help.

All I can say is I’m here today because I searched for help and didn’t stop searching until I felt I was safe.

I was never the type to tell people I wanted to kill myself.  Not in anger or as a threat. My personality is much too implosive for that.

I’m very self-aware and have always been great at torturing myself with that pain in silence.  But it has also forced me to advocate for myself in getting help.

When I started visualizing self-harm, I asked for help.

When I tried to imagine what death would do to my body, I asked for help.

When I sat alone in the dark, unable to get out of bed, I asked for help.

When insomnia was controlling my life, I asked for help.

When I couldn’t eat anything, or couldn’t’ stop myself from eating everything, I asked for help.

When I started cancelling plans with friends because I didn’t plan to be around, I asked for help.

When I held pills or something sharp in my hand, and couldn’t see myself getting past the next hour, I asked for help.

When my smile was painfully fake but no one could tell, I asked for help.

When I see that same smile on someone else’s face, I now offer help.

You will get through the next minute, hour, day.

You will learn to help yourself through hard days.

I sing out loud.  I dance or walk (endorphins are amazing). I get lots of sunshine for Vitamin D. I write, and when I feel the people I reach out to are making things worse, I step back and know that self-care is not selfish. And I catch a sunset.  Something about nature reminds me that I am tiny and as small as I am, my problems are smaller and just as the world does its thing without me, I don’t need to feel responsible for the world.

You’re not a tree.  You don’t need to stay where you are.  If you hate your job, get another.  If a relationship isn’t working, end it.  You don’t need to put a time goal on your life.  There’s no need for “I’ll give it another couple of months.” Go get your life.  Decide what you want to change or keep and work for it.  Don’t settle for the same circumstances and hope time will fix things.  If it’s meant to be done, you must get it done.  No one can live this life for you.  No one is to blame but you if you choose to settle in misery.

Again, get help.

Ask for help from your doctor.  They have pills and facilities that are made to help you when it’s too much.

Ask for help from your pastor or church.  There are religions built around helping others. Good stuff, really.

Ask for help from a therapist.  They won’t fix you.  They’ll help you learn to shift your perspective, address what is holding you back and break through to the next phase of your healing.

Ask for help from family and friends.  I can’t remember a time I tried to kill myself with an audience.  Don’t be alone if you don’t feel safe.

Know that saving your life is an inside job that no one can do but yourself.

Know that there is no shame in what you feel.

I won’t say you’re wrong in what you feel.

I won’t say you need to help me feel better about what you are going through.

I won’t guilt you for feeling bad.

It’s okay to feel what you do.

If you’re hurting enough to want to hurt yourself or others, you are hurting enough to need support.

Ask for the support you need.  Know you are worthy of a happy and fulfilling life.  Know that depression isn’t a life sentence and there are always options and answers to questions we don’t always know to ask.  Wait and the question will present itself. Help comes when you look for it because it never looks the way we expect it to.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255

Everything Happens the Way It’s Supposed to and It Isn’t Always About You

img_2660-1A couple of weeks ago I was getting a haircut.  I loved the way his work made me feel. I wanted a trim and a dye job.  I have a bit of hair at the nape of my neck bleached, then dyed purple. I wanted it near work in Santa Monica to help me take my time getting home so I could avoid traffic. I found a hairdresser who uses gentle products and was very social.  I loved my time in his chair.

While he worked and the shop began to close, his cleaning man came in to scrub floors and make the place smell chemically clean and sanitized. We chatted about his birthday weekend plans apart from his twin sister.  We chatted about the twins I carried long enough to love. Just as my hair was washed out, a woman came into the shop.

The hairdresser was supporting her with a hug and the benefits of friendship.  She wore a cute black dress that was perfect for work and made me jealous of it until I remembered I rarely sit like a lady in a dress.  She seemed to be holding back with so much pain and emotion.  I asked if she had just endured a long day and my moment of compassion opened her up just enough to be authentic in the pain she felt.

This woman was going through a divorce with a man still intent on making her suffer even though they were no longer together, and she was faced with starting over.  New city, new job, new lower credit score (divorce will do that) and no idea how she was going to get through it. I’ve been there and I’m certain several of my readers have as well.

I gave her encouragement like I got so many times from people who had been divorced.  I told her she was stronger than she knew.  I was told the same thing repeatedly and it was only in the months after I found a new normal that I could see it was true.  I told her there were good times and bad times.  Remember the bad, but cling to the good.  I told her that I acknowledged her for not giving up and getting this job for herself.  She insisted the job was for others and their expectations of her, but I pointed out she was doing it for herself.  I knew because she wasn’t in bed, hiding and quitting life.

The cleaning man stopped to encourage her as well.  He was a man that got to start over after nearly 40 years and and it wasn’t his first choice either.  He also eventually found freedom in starting life over.

What are the odds that I would be in the right time at the right place with another stranger sharing a similar story of getting through the end of a marriage with a woman who needed to borrow our strength?  We were exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

There was another hair appointment that was supposed to be worked in tandem with mine.  She had cancelled and had she been there, we might not have had that same cradle of connection and care that we were able to offer her. Had I decided to go straight home or wait for the weekend to go to a salon near my home, I would have missed her.  We are right where we need to be, when we need to be there, but sometimes we’re meant to be present for someone else.  It’s not always about me, and I get to see how I might help others.  That is a gift.  It is a special honor.

I told her to hold onto that moment.  It was one of the good ones where she openly cried with two strangers and she was met with love and compassion.  One day what we gave her will be needed by someone else. I’m certain she will give and also receive in the act of giving the way I did.

There is a right time and place for everything.  There’s a whole song and bible verse on it if you don’t believe me.  The thing is you get to look at the moment you are in and see what the purpose is.  Maybe you’re there and the reason is you’re meant to support someone else.

Do You Even Know Who You Are?

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I met a woman today and her name is Sarah. Immediately the name conjured feelings of joy and warmth because my niece shares that name. I think of how closely she resembles me when I was younger, and I’m tickled by the looks she gets to look forward to. I hope she finds as much pleasure in her reflection and body that I do. I think of her quiet and snark. I think of her food joy (anything involving potatoes) and I think of her defiance as a little girl looking me in the face as she poured her dark purple grape juice on my cream colored couch. Her name means so much to me that this woman was automatically shaded in relational love.

It’s like a person that has a first, and then second language as my mom once described it. I don’t actually speak any other languages. Not really. My mom learned English in her late teens after speaking Thai first. She once explained that when she hears a conversation in English, she first translates it into Thai, and then her answer in Thai is translated to English and then spoken. It amazes me the way she thinks. My mom is my hero in so many ways, and her intelligence is the greatest source of my admiration. When I hear a person struggle with English, I think of how amazed I am that they can do what she does.

When this new Sarah introduced herself, I had this inspired moment that probably made me look a little crazy. I asked her what “Sarah” means to her. This was after I explained what it means to me, including the bit about Sarah being the biblical mother of many nations and the more intimate idea of it being about my Sarah Barracuda. She told me about Sally being a nickname for Sarah and a song that goes with it that I have already forgotten. But the name and now the face are cemented for me, and shadowed in kindness that was borrowed from a beloved niece.

The greatest part of that conversation was the idea of “who are you?” that I hit her with. I have moments when I am filled with doubt and fear. These moments look like I’m unable to enjoy the present as I’m focused intently on my future. How are my bills getting paid and what has priority? In these moments when I realize the physical toll of my stress, I remember who I am committed to being to my sons.

I am a brave, courageous, heart led leader. I am a daughter and a mother. I’m an estranged wife going through a divorce and (scandal alert) a girlfriend who feels we’ve both been bashed by the lucky stick. I am not an artist and while I love accounting and finance, numbers are not my friends, but I’m great at stringing words together. I embrace the fact that I’m aging because I love this bolt of lightning time has shaped me into. I’m a bit full of marshmallow fluff and it keeps me warm and curvy. I love what I look like. Mainly I’m a woman capable of love and willing to share my love.

It doesn’t matter what I’m called or how my name is said. You could spit it with venom or your soft lips could whisper it as a caress of sound. Your lips could kiss out the sound as an expression of pleasure or joy.

I know who I am, but who are you, and does your name really matter if you don’t know what it means to you to be who you are? I ask again, who are you?