Moving On

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” ― C. JoyBell C.

It has been one hell of a year, hasn’t it? In a little more than a month, it will be a year since my sister passed away. Just beyond that is the one year anniversary of my failed marriage. So, what have I learned during this year of loss? I’ve learned when to let go and when to hold on.

I hold tightly to the memories of my beautiful sister, and I see her reflected through the faces and actions of her children. I loved her very much, and there will always be an emptiness in our family without her. But, being able to put down the mantle of grief, and move forward, trying to ensure this tragedy doesn’t happen to others…that is how I am making my way through the sadness of this loss every day. I will never forget her. I will never stop missing her. I will never stop loving her. I will always hold on to her memory.

Now, let’s move on to the things to let go, the things that I do not need to be sentimental about — namely, my soon-to-be ex-husband. This is someone who clung to me with every fiber of his being. Without me, he had no money, no home, etc. This is someone I had to completely cut loose to begin moving forward. But, since I made those cuts, I am happier. I feel lighter than ever before.

While letting go can be scary, because it means change, it also opens you up to an entire world of possibilities. Recently, I’ve even gotten back out into the dating world and met someone. It’s way too early to speculate what may happen between us, but finding evidence that nice, respectful men actually exist? Well, that is starting to restore my faith in humanity.  And just having the possibility of being able to find my person one day? That possibility is delicious and exciting.

It really gives me hope. :)

 

Changing the Game

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” ― Joseph Campbell

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You know, I have spent many years wishing I was a thinner, happier woman. I always thought that if I was a size 2, I would magically be happy. Entering my 35th year of life, I realize that is a crock of shit (pardon my language). While it may be hard to support the Health at Every Size idea (because being extremely morbidly obese or extremely underweight is not healthy, I’m sorry), I think that I can support the idea of Happiness at Every Size. So, that is my goal for the new year — Happiness every day. I want to spend every day doing what I can to improve my life, and here are a few of the ways I am going to start:

1. Having a set work schedule, so I am not working every single day

2. Spending more time with my kids in the evenings and on weekends, instead of all of us scattering when we’re in the house

3. Only eating take out twice a month – giving me more money to spend/save and allowing me to cook healthier for all of us

4. This is the year without soda – in the year 2015, I will not buy soda, and I will not have any soda in my house. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again

5. Taking a break from dating sites for at least six months – There is no point, and I have too many other things in my life right now. Sorry boys!

6. Never speaking the name of or bringing up the ex again. I will get my last name back in 2015, and there is no reason to disgrace any conversation with his name again

7. Taking time for myself – whether it is 4 days a week at the gym, my excursion to Texas in June, or just an hour to read a book, I want to take time to do something that is not related to typing on this computer or taking care of day-to-day responsibilities

8. Cutting the cord on people who are no longer relevant to my life – not bad people, just no longer relevant

9. Spending at least one evening a week with a friend or loved one (other than my kids)

10. Being more open to ideas that I may not fully understand

Day One

Changing the Game; Day One – Tabs, 11:32pm, 12.31.2014

I think that is the main list for now. Some of these may sound odd to you, but I know they are the best ways for me to really begin airing out my life and starting over the way I need to. 2014 has been a craptastic year for me. There are very few things that could have made it worse. I am entering 2015 with perfect love, free of the negativity that has been burying me.

Am I doing the whole “Weight Loss” goal thing this year? Of course I am, but you can read about that on my weight loss blog, From Flabby Tabby to Fab Tabs. But honestly, it’s not about the pounds that are gone or the pounds I still have. It is about being happy. It is time to change the game, and really start the life I was meant to live.

Paralleling Little Women

We’ll always fight, but we’ll always make up as well. That’s what sisters do: we argue, we point out each other’s frailties, mistakes, and bad judgment, we flash the insecurities we’ve had since childhood, and then we come back together. Until the next time. ”
― Lisa See, Shanghai Girls

2011

See those girls up there? That’s us — Me (the fluffy one on the left side) and my three beautiful sisters. In this picture, we are arranged by birth order, from left to right. I am the oldest in our clan, and I am not even close to being the mature one. I guess that means I am older in chronology alone. That beautiful lady next to me is Jen, or Jen-Jen, as she was known when we were little. It was even on the back of her little lavender and white ride-along toy she had as a toddler. The next beaming graduate in the picture is Becky, my sister who passed away in May. Becky was one of the middle children, silly and yet serious in her own way. I think that she and Jennifer both had a seriousness about them all through their lives because they were middle children. I was the quirky one, Jen and Becky were the serious ones, but, they still knew how to cut loose. Then comes Kimmy — the baby of the group, with her adorable pose. I really do think she is the prettiest sister I have, which sometimes makes me green with envy (I wish I was that photogenic!!)…but of course I still love her! ;)

As I get older, memories of my childhood with these wonderful women keep slipping away, and I fear that one day they will be gone. I remember how we used to sit around and sing, sometimes with mom and sometimes by ourselves, and we would record it. We even used to have a “radio show,” and my DJ name was “Flabby Tabby,” which we all still laugh about even now. Honestly, if I ever went into radio, I think that would be a great name.

Another thing I remember is that we all adored the remake of the movie Little Women, the one with Winona Ryder. It was funny, but even back then, I always likened the four of us to the March sisters, except I changed the order around a bit. Jennifer, though younger than me by four years, has always been the older, more mature sister, and my protector, so my mind always cast her as Meg. I, as a writer, of course saw myself in Jo March, while Becky was similar to Beth in her generosity and love for her family, and Kimmy was a ringer for Amy. I remember that after seeing that movie the first time in 1991, I really wanted us to organize our own little newspaper, much like the Pickwick Papers, but we never really got it off the ground.

We had a lot of ambitions back then. But, in a few years, I started going to high school and hanging out with my younger sisters less and less. When I moved away from Marion in August 1999, Jennifer was 15, Becky was 13 and Kimmy was 11. I missed the bulk of their teen years, and when I returned to Ohio for good in November 2005, they were grown women. It never felt the same as it did when we were kids, though I don’t know if it ever does. I think sisters are great because you have all of these women with different personalities who are thrust together by blood lines and a little bit of chance – women who probably would not be friends if they were not related. And yet, at least in our case, we love each other unconditionally. Do we fight? No doubt. Do we get annoyed with each other? Yep. Do we talk about each other to Momma? Oh you have no idea! But, we always come back together when we need to — when times get really hard.

It wasn’t until I sat in that hospital room with Becky seven months ago that I realize how much our lives resembled that of the March sisters. I thought of a scene from the movie we loved so much as I stood there by her bed:

Beth: If God wants me with Him, there is none who will stop Him. I don’t mind. I was never like the rest of you… making plans about the great things I’d do. I never saw myself as anything much. Not a great writer like you.

Jo: Beth, I’m not a great writer.

Beth: But you will be. Oh, Jo, I’ve missed you so. Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home. But I don’t like being left behind. Now I am the one going ahead. I am not afraid. I can be brave like you.

That was Becky, except she did make great plans, and she worked to follow through with many of them. But, she loved being at home, and I believe she resides there still in some ways. She loved her sisters, and she believed in our dreams as well. I think she knew that if I worked at it, I would someday be a great writer (I’m still working on it). She knew Jen and Kim could accomplish their dreams and goals as well. We loved (and still love) her very much. I think we will always feel that loss because she has went on ahead of us, quite a bit sooner than she should have, leaving us with a hole in our sister pictures and our hearts. There has always been four, and even though she has gone ahead of us, we will one day catch up to her, and we will become four again.

I dedicate this blog to Jenny, Becky and Kimmy – three women I never got to choose, but wouldn’t trade for anything. I love you very much!

Looking Forward Without Fear

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked.” — Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

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Fear has guided my life for far longer than I ever imagined it would. From the time I was a child, until well into my teen years, I feared my mother. Don’t get me wrong, my mother loves me. She is a kind, generous soul, and she would never harm me. I didn’t physically fear her. I feared disappointing her. I feared her finding out I wasn’t the perfect child she once saw when I was little. This fear was best demonstrated in my inability to curse until I was an adult. To this day, I do not curse around my mother, though I no longer fear her knowing that I do occasionally let one fly.

Fear has shaped my love life as well. When I met my first husband, we were teenage kids, but it felt like the love was real. He proposed the summer after we graduated high school, and then, a little over a month later, I found out I was pregnant. He left for boot camp, and I thought things were going to be perfect. However, while he was gone, fear started to seep into my mind. I didn’t know if I wanted to marry him anymore. I didn’t know if I loved him. But, I feared being alone, being wrong and having to raise a baby by myself. So, I went through with the wedding and stayed married for several years, even though we were both unhappy, because I was afraid to leave.

Once I did leave, I move back in with my parents and started to take dead-end jobs. I never thought I’d be able to go back to school. I feared rejection. But, one day, I sent in the application, and I was accepted to The Ohio State University. My first quarter was a little tough, but after that, I took off. I got A after A in my classes, and I graduated with magna cum laude, with research distinction and several awards. I decided that I would never let fear control my life again.

I took a job at the local newspaper, and then I was offered another job at a NC publication, so I packed up and moved to NC. When I moved, I started dating, and in a short amount of time, I went out with several men, only to realize that they were only after one thing — and it wasn’t commitment. So, when I met my current husband, I latched onto him like a mollusk. I loved him, but I always had reservations because he had a sketchy past, no discernible work history, and twisted logic. But, I shoved all of that aside out of love, but also out of fear. After seven years as a single woman, I was afraid that this was it for me. So, I forced away all of the bad, and focused on the little good that rose to the surface, determined to make the relationship work.

If you’re read my blogs, you know how all that turned out. I was afraid to tell anyone about the name-calling. I was afraid to tell anyone about the holes in the walls. I was afraid to tell anyone about anything that was going on in our marriage. I didn’t want people to judge him. And, I wanted to make this work — I was afraid of letting my mother and my family down again.

When I finally did make him leave, fear rushed in again, but not in the form you would think. I was left a victim, and I do occasionally still fear what would happen if he decided to make that trip back. But that is not the fear that took over. The fear I have now is fear of the future, and I’m sick of feeling this way. I had an epiphany today – Fear has been linked to every bad decision I have made in my life. Fear does not keep something from happening. The fear of being alone did not keep me from where I am right now — sitting in a house alone, facing another divorce. Fear of disappointing my family did not keep me from doing just that as I let my ex come back again and again despite all he had done. Fear of my sister dying did not keep her from passing away on May 30 of this year. Instead, it that fear just got in the way of enjoying the time I got to spend with her before she passed.

That is what the pain of this year has taught me. Of all the emotions in my brain, fear is the one that is useless. Sure, there are legitimate things that you can attribute to fear — like locking your doors at night because you have a fear of someone breaking in. Fear for our lives and livelihoods is what keeps us safe in our day-to-day lives. But, that is not the fear that I am talking about.

I have done nothing but fear the world and the future my entire life. In return, that fear hindered me and kept me from making positive decisions throughout my last two decades. So, instead of being fearful about the coming year, I instead look at 2015 as a year of transformation and hope — a year where maybe, just maybe, everything is going to start turning around. I will walk into 2015 with no fear, a new sense of freedom and an open heart. I hope that you can do the same.

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All Twisted Up

“I’ve crossed some kind of invisible line. I feel as if I’ve come to a place I never thought I’d have to come to. And I don’t know how I got here. It’s a strange place.” – Raymond Carver

People who have never experienced domestic violence do not understand the twisted emotions that accompany it. Period.

Do not tell me what you would have done in my situation. Do not tell me how you would have handled it differently. Do not question when I miss him, or when I say I still love him. Because you do not understand.

Survivors of domestic violence return to their abusers an average of seven times before they leave the situation for good. It is a merry-go-round of abuse that is extremely difficult to leave. You love the person who is hurting you. You love them more than you love any other person in this world. They become everything to you. At the same time, because of the abuse, you become nothing to yourself, so they are really all you have in your life. You can’t imagine leaving them. Then, when you do leave them, they become the perfect person you always wanted them to be again, and you go back. The cycle continues. Again. And again.

It is a form of addiction. I recently got a protection order against my husband. Do you how what my first thought was leaving the courthouse? I thought, “I want to call my husband.” Yes. I wanted to call the man who scared me enough to force me to get a protection order. Why? Because I want to know that I still matter to him. I want him to still love me. I still love him.

Confusing? You have no idea how bad I am twisted up inside. I know that we are no good for each other. We hurt each other. I know I have to protect myself and my children against someone who is fighting mental health issues and can become completely unstable in a really stressful situation. That doesn’t mean that heart has flipped a switch and I no longer love him.

I know it doesn’t make sense to you. And if you’re confused, how do you think I feel?

Here are the things I know: I know that I cannot get back together with my soon to be ex husband. I know that we are both broken individuals who are toxic when put together. I know that I have been selfish and self-destructive over the last few months, going back and forth with my husband, and it has been damaging to my children. I am done being selfish. My life is about them now.

Am I ready to go through with the divorce? Not yet. Right now, I’m taking baby steps to move forward. I’ll get there. It will just take time. Right now, I’m more focused on healing my family and getting us the help we need.

To all of the women who are currently dealing with domestic violence, or to those who are survivors, I want you to know that it is not your fault. I tell myself that every day. It was not my fault. It is not my fault. I can’t control another person’s actions. I am not responsible for another person’s actions. I am only responsible for my own.

If you or a loved one are in need of help, please visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline at TheHotline.org or call 1-800-799-7233.

The Monster

The Monster

I hear him, scratching, trying his best
to get in here. He’s rustling things
this way and that, and I can feel the frigid
steam that comes from his mouth

Let him in…

He left in physical form months
and months ago, but the hair
on the back of my neck doesn’t relax
…will never relax

The monster wants in…

The creak, that slam, that settling house
are really his movements, I know it
and no matter how hard to he tries to hide,
I know he is behind every shadow and my eyes

He’ll force his way in…

But it’s not really him…it’s never him
Instead it is whispers and guffaws laced with
“paranoid” and “drama queen”
They’ll never understand
my invisible monster.

Thankful for What I No Longer Have

There are several things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving Day, but this year has a bit of a twist: I am most thankful for something I don’t have.

When I was a little girl, I had a cookie cutter idea of what love was supposed to be — You grow up, meet Prince Charming, have children and live happily ever after. Three decades and two defective Prince Charmings later, I realized that the dreams of a little girl do not always translate to the realities of an adult woman.

So, this year, I am most thankful that the disease that infected mine and my family’s life for two years has been cured. He is gone, banished to another land where he can no longer cause harm to anyone that I love.

Now, let’s move on to the things I am thankful to have this year:

  • I am thankful for my children. My kids are the greatest human beings in my life. They drive me absolutely crazy, and they turn my heart to mush — all in the same day. They have stood beside me during my highest highs and my lowest lows, always checking to make sure Mom is okay, and helping out in any way they can. We do what we can to support each other, and I would give them the world if I could. I am thankful that my teenagers still care enough about their mom to hug me on occasion and spend time with me as much as possible. They are not just dependent on me — my life depends on them as well.
  • I am thankful for my family. Without my mom and dad, without my sisters, brother-in-laws, niece and nephews, I wouldn’t be here today. They have supported me financially and emotionally throughout the years. This year, we have lost one member of that mighty crew. My sister, Becky, went home to be with God on May 30th. I think about her every single day of my life. While her passing has left a huge hole in our hearts and lives, I am thankful that she is no longer living life in pain. That being said, I am a selfish person, and I would rather have her here with us today and always. I love you Becky, and I wish we could have had just a little more time with you.
  • I am thankful for the ladies I call my Power Trio. These amazing women know who they are, and without them, I think I would still be going down a terrible road with a person who dragged me down. They have given me something that few people have been able to give: their time. They have children, husbands and their own lives and struggles. But, they never cease to drop everything to give me 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour, to ramble on, self-centered and selfish, airing out my problems and begging for advice. They help me dry my eyes and see the good that still exists in the world. I love them, and I hope they love me. I also hope that I can return the love they have shown me at some point in the future.
  • I am thankful for my career. There are very few people I know who are writers and are able to spin their abilities into a lucrative career. I have, somehow, been able to do just that. I hope that I am able to keep my freelance journey going for many years to come.

I’m thankful for what I do have. I am thankful for what I don’t have. And, I am ready to see what the future and the next year of my life will hold. Happy Thanksgiving!