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 . . . .

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It’s Going to be Okay

Several years ago, I came across a “Survivors Guide for PMS”. I clipped the piece from the paper and put it up on my refrigerator. Some of the tips were things like, “Don’t make any big decisions when you’re PMSing, get plenty of sleep, don’t tackle all the household chores at once”, etc. The one that really caught my attention was for the guys, “Hold her close and tell her everything is going to be okay.”

We all need to be reassured sometimes. When we have that horrible day, when we made that really stupid mistake, when we said the absolute wrong thing at the absolute wrong time, when did something really dumb that we laughed about in others – yup, been there done it all!

A couple of weeks ago I had my review at work –  and the day before was the anniversary of my dad’s death. I cried all the way home that day. When I got home I just went over to Cycle Dude and cried in his arms. He wrapped his arms around me and said, “It will be okay.” Of course, he was right. The next day I was feeling better. But at that moment, his arms and those words were just what I needed.

Do you need to be reassured? Do you need to know that it’s going to be ok? Let me give you a cyber hug and tell you, yes, it really is going to be okay. Your life may not be perfect, but you’ll be okay. Give yourself a hug! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Enough

One of my coworkers shared with me this morning that a family member has cancer and the chemotherapy the doctors are using isn’t working. The doctors want to try another chemotherapy that is three times stronger, but has worse side affects. As my coworker shared this, I thought, “When is it time to say ‘Enough’? We’ve tried everything and it’s okay to let go.”

When my dad was sick with cancer, my mom tried several different things to give him more time. She even traveled halfway across the country to get him into a clinical trial at a famous cancer center. It turns out that my dad didn’t have the genetic markers the doctors were looking for and was ineligible for the clinical trial.

When we go through a rough time in our lives – health issues, a divorce, trauma – when is it time to say, “Enough”? Ex remarried and moved clear across the country – while still owing me over $21K from unpaid alimony. When he was still local, I tried several times to take him back to court in order to collect the money. He ignored my lawyer, his lawyer and the judge. I did not have the money to pursue the matter further, so I had to say, “Enough”.

2 Corinthians 12:9, “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” St. Paul is talking about his ‘thorn in the flesh’ (whatever this weakness is) and his unanswered prayer to have this weakness removed. Christ tells him that He is enough to overcome the temporal weakness.

Christ Tomlin, a Christian singer and songwriter, has written a song called, “Enough”.  The first line of the chorus is, “All of you is more than enough for all of me/ For every thirst and every need.” Christ assures us that He is indeed enough for us – His grace, His strength, His provision, His love. When we are in the midst of terminal cancer, He is enough. When a spouse abandons us or thumbs his nose at the courts, He is enough. When we are down to our last dollar, He is enough. When we say, “enough”, He is there – with unconditional love, with everlasting grace, with boundless mercy.

When in our weakness, we say, “enough”, He is our strength. 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. . . .

 

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Before I was divorced, I remember waking up in the morning, dreading the day and thinking, “What am I going to find out about today?” It seemed that each day brought a discovery of yet another thing ex had done. I was worn out. Then came the decision to divorce. That was not a difficult decision at all. The hard part was getting ex to do anything – sign papers, pay alimony (of which he still has not completed, 7 years later), etc. I guess he thought that if he ignored me, I’d go away.

Life immediately following the divorce was almost as bad as life prior to the divorce. The worst thing was not ex (although he was pretty bad), but the emotional untangling of myself from him. I felt as if I was being ripped apart. His actions didn’t make it any easier. Many days, I just wanted to go hide under my bed until it all went away. But I couldn’t do that.

I knew that I had to keep going, to keep living my life. My daughter was still at home, so I had to keep going for her sake. One day, I read the quote that said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I felt beat down, knowing that my journey had just begun and it was going to be much longer than a thousand miles. Yet, I knew I had to move forward. I knew I had to stand up, take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. I could do this journey one step at a time. I didn’t need to worry about the next 999 plus steps.

My mom often told me to take it one day at a time. There were days when I had to take it one hour at a time. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when we see the big picture, when we see the long road ahead. It feels like we have to cross Death Valley in the middle of July! The journey doesn’t seem to bad if we take it one step at a time. Stay tuned. . . .

 

Early Spring

It’s been rather warm and rainy here in Mytown. That means that anything that can bloom will bloom. And that means allergies are beginning to act up! This has happened in Mytown before – early spring. We’ll have a warm February, then a cold snap comes along in March (or even a blizzard in 1993) and everything that has bloomed ends up freezing.

I’ve discovered that my post divorce life is sometimes like that. A couple of years ago, ex moved out of Mytown. I was so glad I no longer had to worry about running into him and his girlfriend when Cycle Dude and I went downtown for anything. Ah, spring! But then, I found out he had gotten remarried to a woman with a young son – five years old at the time. Drat – cold snap. I didn’t care so much except that one of my children was upset by the marriage and stepson.

We can often find ourselves in places like this – life seems to be going great and we seem to be doing well on our healing journey, but then something happens that stops us dead in our tracks. How do we react? We can be like the wisteria that freezes and looks like it has died. Or we can fight our way back and bloom again.

One of my favorite photos is of a dandelion pushing up between a crack in the sidewalk. That’s how I often felt in the years following my divorce. Ex would flaunt his girlfriend in my face. I would stand strong and show him that I really didn’t care what he did or who he hung out with.  I am my responsibility and I choose to continue to bloom, no matter what life throws at me. Bloom where you are planted, dear one – in spite of the cold snap! Stay tuned. . .

Frog Song

Yesterday morning, when I left for work, I heard a sound I had not expected to hear so soon in the year – the croaking of tree frogs. It was very faint, but I heard it. I heard the frogs again last night. To me, the frog song is a comforting sound because I associate it with spring. I also noticed that the jonquils are starting to push up through the leaf litter in Cycle Dude’s side yard. All signs of spring!

It hasn’t been a particularly nasty winter here in Mystate, but it’s been very wet. That means there will be many, many plants blooming when it begins to get warmer. More plants blooming, more allergies. I fully expect my allergies to be bad this season. But, I digress.

Scientists have found that certain sounds and smells evoke deep memories. For me, the frog song reminds me sitting on the back deck at my house several years ago, enjoying dinner or a glass of wine. The smell of coffee reminds me of traveling with my parents. The smell of bacon and eggs reminds me of my grandma’s house. There are many good memories that accompany these reminders.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative after a divorce. I want to take this opportunity to focus on the positive. What kinds of sounds or smells evoke good memories for you? Focus on how you felt – the happiness, the comfort, the love. The frog song also reminds me of finding a tree frog under a glass table last year on Cycle Dude’s front patio. The memory of laughter and wonder is sweet.

Take time to discover your “frog song” – that sound or smell that brings back sweet memories. Focus on the good things in your life. Life is an adventure. Live it! Stay tuned . . . .