Category Archives: lessons learned

Where Are Your Eyes?

I was the Queen of the Pity Party when I was a child. I was always upset that my older sister (by 10 months) got to do things before me. I was upset when life didn’t go my way and I had a strong tendency to wallow in self-pity. My mom would often tell me, “Get your eyes off yourself and go do something for someone else!” Why are moms always so wise?

I remembered that advice when I first got divorced and tended to muck around in the mud puddle of self-pity. I looked for ways to “do something for someone else”. I eventually volunteered with a local refugee resettlement service in teaching those refugees English.

Where are your eyes? Are they on yourself? Are you stuck in the muck of the mud puddle of self-pity? Get your eyes off yourself!

1. Volunteer: There are so many opportunities in one’s community to volunteer – at the local humane society, at the Boys and Girls Club, at a local after school program, etc. Go to https://www.volunteermatch.org to see what’s going on in your community and how you can get involved.

2. Join a local philanthropic organization: There are plenty of philanthropic organizations in your community – Lions Club, Rotary, etc. Google those in your area. Volunteer your time and talents for a cause you believe in.

3. Give: Being newly divorced will most likely leave you with fewer financial resources. That’s okay. Do you sew? Can you teach others a new skill (music, etc.)? Use your talents to help others. There are many people in your community who can benefit from your talents and experience.

It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. After all, divorce is a painful situation to have to endure. However, it is not okay to stay in that place of self-pity! Stand up, dust yourself off and move on! Getting your eyes off yourself and giving to others is one step in your healing journey. One step at a time! Stay tuned. . .

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Medals

One of my siblings lives in San Antonio, TX. Every April, the city celebrates Fiesta San Antonio. Each year, new commemorative medals are issued as part of the festival. There are some people who have been collecting commemorative medals for years. Collecting the medals is like collecting pins from different places and events.

I have my own medals – they are known as wrinkles and gray hair. Yesterday, I went to get my hair trimmed. As the stylist was showing me how much she had trimmed off, she showed me the back of my head. I gasped! There, buried under several strands of dirty dishwater blonde hair was a streak of gray hair! I have gray hairs here and there, but I did not know I had such a big streak. I began to laugh!

I have earned every single one of those gray hairs – three terrible two-year-olds, three teenaged drivers, three children away at college, three weddings, one hard-earned Bachelor’s degree, one $%@# ex, four moves in less than two years and four jobs. Those wrinkles around my eyes and mouth? Laughing with my children and friends, smiling at my grand baby, singing in choirs and praise bands, and loving Cycle Dude with my whole heart.

Am I afraid or ashamed of my gray hair and wrinkles? Heck no! They are reminders that the life I have lived thus far has not be easy and has not always been happy. But I am grateful for these visual reminders that I have not stopped living life, that I am not afraid to share that life with others and that I am grateful to God for this amazing life He has given me. (And yes, I do use sunscreen and always wear a hat when I am outside.)

My wrinkles and gray hair remind me that my life has not been perfect, but I would not trade my ‘medals’ for anything in the world! Stay tuned. . . .

Dogwood Winter

Here in Mytown, we are in the throes of Dogwood Winter. Before June 1 rolls around, we’ll have also gone through Blackberry Winter and several others. What that mean is that it will start to warm up and we’ll all think winter is over. Then, we’ll get into the lower 30’s again for the nighttime lows and not make it out of the 40’s or 50’s for the daytime highs. Eventually, though, winter will finally leave and we’ll enjoy a short spring and a long, humid summer.

Healing after a divorce or other traumatic life event can be like Dogwood Winter. You may find that you are well on your healing journey and may be filling pretty good about life. Then you experience a temporary setback – finances, ex drags you into court again, etc. Life may be blooming all round you, but in your particular neck of the woods, it seems like winter will not let go. What do you do?

1. Don’t put away your winter clothes: In other words, be ready for anything. You know how when the doctor will say of someone, “They’re not out of the woods yet”? Well, you’re not out of the woods yet. Be prepared for anything.

2. Keep your eyes on the forecast: What’s the long-term outlook? Are you in a place where you need to begin to establish your own credit? Do you have a 401K and how much/how often do you contribute to it? Get help in getting a hold of your finances. The long-term forecast is that you need to be in control of your own finances.

3. Adjust your thermostat accordingly: Even though it may be cold for a few more days or weeks, it will eventually warm up and spring will really, truly be here. You may be going through a rough time at the moment. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help. More and more companies have EAPs – Employee Assistance Plans. These plans include mental health and financial services. If your employer has an EAP, take advantage of it! Your employer pays into the services so that you can take advantage of them for free.

4. Protect your tender plants: You’ve made a great deal of headway over the past few months and years. Don’t let a temporary setback freeze out those tender advances you’ve made in your healing journey. If you don’t already, journal so that you can see where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Journal the progress you’ve made in your healing journey. Remind yourself of where you were several weeks ago, several months ago and look where you are now.

Blackberry winter will most likely hit Mytown sometime in mid-May. We’re ready – it happens almost every year. Be prepared for setback in your healing journey. Sometimes, they are the best way to gauge where you are and how strong you’ve become. Stay tuned . . . .

Learning to Walk

I am so excited that I get to see my grandbaby over Easter. I am flying to where my son lives and will spend Easter weekend with him, my daughter-in-law and my grandbaby. My sister also lives in the area, so I will spend time with her and her family as well. The fun thing about having a grandbaby is watching her grow and watching my son and his wife marvel as she reaches her developmental milestones. One of these days, my grandbaby will learn to walk. (Not quite yet, though. She was born in at the end of 2017.)

Learning to walk is a huge milestone for a child. There is so much involved – balance, gross motor skills, muscular and skeletal development, hand-eye coordination, etc. Learning to walk is no small feet (misspelling and pun intended!). Many adults have had to learn to walk again, too. They have had to progress from that infant-like state as well. One must learn to stand before one can walk. And one must learn to walk before one can run. There’s no skipping the proper physiological progression.

Life can  be difficult after a traumatic experience – divorce, an accident, etc. It is tempting to want to curl up in a ball and hide under the covers. We all know that’s not practical. In order to move forward in our lives, to heal and become stronger, we must learn to walk again. What does that look like?

1. Don’t be afraid: When a child is afraid to walk, she will sit down and cry. A child who is eager to walk will pull herself up and walk around the coffee table, then walk as you hold her hands, then she’ll walk to you and then with you. Yes, she will fall, but she keeps trying. Fear kills dreams, adventure and even life. Fear not. Move forward.

2. Don’t look back: The past is the past for a reason – because it’s done and over with. Look forward. Set and achieve goals. Dream big dreams. Laugh at your own silly jokes. Experience the freedom that comes with moving forward.

3. Don’t dwell on it: Whatever “it” is – a divorce, an accident, a death – let it go. We will grieve for that which is lost, but the grief cannot and should not last forever. Grief, despair, depression, anger and bitterness – these are all soul-destroyers. Don’t let the negative emotions and thoughts destroy you. If you are stuck here, seek out professional help.

4. Do stop and take a deep breath: Trauma – whatever it is – saps your energy. From days spent in court to days spent in the hospital or in counseling – you feel drained. Stop. Take a deep breath and know that you will be okay. Give yourself the grace and the time to heal – to renew your energy.

5. Do have a grateful heart: There is always something to be grateful for. Your support group, the medical personnel, your friends – these are all the ‘scaffolding’, if you will, who held you together during the trauma. Be grateful for them. Be grateful for your life.

Sometimes, it hurts to walk. Your muscles may be sore. You may have a misshapen limb. You may have fallen and bruised your knee. Walking is a milestone in your healing journey. It represents months of hard work. Soon, you will be running and will never look back. Life is an adventure! Live it! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Settling In

It didn’t really hit me that I was on my own again and starting over until I moved from a 4 bd, 2 ba home into a 2 bd, 1 ba apartment. The dogs had to get used to being in a smaller place. I had to somehow cram all my junk into a much smaller space. But once I sorted through my stuff, got rid of what I didn’t want (mostly stuff I had with ex), and got used to the idea of being in a smaller space, I was fine.

I enjoyed being on my own – having the things I wanted to have (like dishes and furniture), being able to stay up late, have dinner with friends, and entertain people in my humble abode. Yes, my apartment was small compared to the homes I had lived in, but it was my apartment. It was a new beginning for me.

The first time I really felt settled in was when the dogs and I sat in my big “napping chair” (an estate sale bargain!) and just listened to the peace and quiet. When I first moved into the apartment, I had the furniture from my home with ex – it had become ratty due to dogs chewing on it. I got rid of that and finally got something I wanted. Granted, it was smaller and not brand new, but it was something that did not remind me of ex. My loveseat, napping chair and two (not matching) wingback chairs were estate sale finds. They were cheap enough that I could decorate my home the way I wanted to and not go into debt to do so. Somehow, all the pieces complemented one another.

Once I got beyond the anger and bitterness and began to heal, I began to settle in to my new life. It was scary at times and I would get irritated that I did not have enough money for what I wanted –  travel, new clothes, etc. – but I learned to be content with what I had. I was happy to finally be getting on with my life.

I have lived with Cycle Dude now for almost a year. When I moved in with him last March, I had to get rid of a lot more stuff. I still have the napping chair and the loveseat – they are now his living room furniture – and I also have my bedroom suite (it was my mom and dad’s and is over 50 years old). Cycle Dude has allowed me to settle into his home and make parts of it my own (like my bedroom). We are settled in together now.

Life does move on after a divorce – it has to. One cannot stay in that place of anger, bitterness, depression and sadness for very long. Once the dust has settled, one needs to take a deep breath, assess one’s assets and surroundings and move forward. You will eventually come to a place that feels better and you will discover the new normal for your life. You will come to that place of being comfortable and settled in. Life will once again make sense. Just don’t expect your life to be as it was. Expect it to be better! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Things That Matter

Last January, I bought a new car – a Nissan Versa in gun-metal gray that I named Jet. Jet does not have many bells or whistles – he does not have power windows or locks, heated seats or back seats that fold down or  lot of other things. That’s fine with me. He has what matters – the ability to get me dependably from point A to point B. He does that quite well and doesn’t use a whole lot of gas in the process. In fact, I discovered this morning that he also does quite well on snow and ice.

For me, getting divorced took me from a house full of stuff to an apartment full of half that stuff. The longer I lived in the apartment, the more stuff I got rid of. When I moved in with Cycle Dude, I got rid of tons more stuff. Truth be told, I could probably get rid of even more stuff.

Stuff wasn’t the only thing I got rid of. Friends who knew ex and I together seemed to evaporate. I also got rid of a great deal of anxiety, suspicion, and (eventually) anger. I felt like my life was like an onion, peeling away layer after layer. I finally got down to the things that matter.

I don’t have the latest, greatest and most updatest of everything – I don’t need it. Jet doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I don’t have a walk-in closet full of clothes or shoes – I don’t need it. I don’t have a house full of knick-knacks – I don’t need it.

What do I need and what are the things that matter in my life? My faith, my children, my grandbaby, my sweetheart (Cycle Dude), my pups, my family, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and a job that meets my financial needs. My perspective has changed a great deal over the past seven years. My needs are met with simplicity and my wants are few. I find happiness in relationships, not things. I get to come home each day to three of my favorite people – Cycle Dude, Jack and Shirley. And for that, I am grateful! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Ghosts of the Past

I recently watched a movie entitled, “The Awakening’. Released in 2011, it is a period piece (1921) set in England and billed as a horror movie. I found it be the furthest thing from horror. Movie summary: ‘In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.’ What Florence eventually sees are the ghosts of her past.

 It is my experience that many women, and men as well, tend to dwell on the past when they experience a divorce. I did that, too. It is easy to second guess ourselves and the decisions we made surrounding the divorce. It is easy to give in to the ‘horror’ of the past, to spend our time chasing the ghosts of choice, ignorance, and fear. In the middle of the night, we may be visited upon by the dark specter of regret who leaves us wailing in the terror of disappointment and disgust. We may tremble as we explore the dark recesses of our own motives and shriek when we discover our own hard hearts.

 We cannot dwell in that creaking house of horrors of our past and expect to heal and move forward after a divorce or other traumatic incident in our lives. We must face that which we fear the most – loneliness, guilt, bitterness, victimization – and resolve to break the chains of our fears. There is no monster in the closet or under the bed. There is no evil lurking in the shadows. The monster and the evil is our own fears, our own unwillingness to resolve the past and move forward.

 A counselor I once saw had this statement written on the whiteboard in her office; “The past is the present until it’s resolved.” We will always be haunted by the ghosts of the past unless we determine to resolve that past. It may be painful, terrifying, and heart-stopping – but the past must be resolved in order to move forward.

 At the end of the movie, Florence seems lighter and happier. She has resolved her fears and conquered her ghosts. She is free to move forward and live her life unafraid. It can be difficult to conquer those ghosts of the past. But once we are free of them, we are free indeed. Stay tuned. . . .