two lessons i’ve learned during the ‘big d’ #2

Almost 12 months ago, I found out that my ex was cheating on me and at the time, I felt like the world stopped and wouldn’t start again. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t figure out what to do, I couldn’t see what was really standing in front of me – a pathetic excuse for a man.

Today though, I see this man in a slightly different light. I’m actually thankful that he did what he did. I hate his actions and choices and don’t condone them but I have chosen to forgive him for things he did to me and for how his actions affected my kids. I can’t say that I don’t have moments where I have to talk myself down from huge amounts of anger that I have toward his continued poor choices, but I’ve had to make the decision to let God deal with him and also to make the choice to allow God to grow positive things in my life by just letting a lot of things go. (And please don’t think that it’s easy to do this…I have to make a conscious decision to do this every darn day.)

And what a difference 12 months can make.

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Lesson #1: I had to grow my little Mommy and Me Gang.

My kids have grown so much, emotionally, in a positive way. I didn’t fully realize the negative impact my soon-to-be-ex really had on them and shame on me for not realizing it. I’ve really beaten myself up over some of the things that they’ve shared with me now, that they felt they just ‘had to deal with’ because they knew I loved their stepdad.

Now though, my little family of four is so solid and I can honestly say that had I been with my ex still, I think my family-unit with my three kids would have suffered even more because they were silently struggling with my ex. Now that he’s gone, I’ve watched my second son really open up to me about everything that he’s feeling because he feels supported and heard; I’ve watched my oldest son learn empathy, sympathy, and how to care for others; and my little lady…well, she’s learning how to drive her brothers insane but that’s what two-year old little sisters are supposed to do.

I’ve learned how to connect with them and we have this weird gang-like mentality – that to get past one of us, you have to get past all of us. And without my ex making his poor choices, I wouldn’t have had that. I didn’t have this before my ex and I got together but I’ve had the last 10-12 months to build that relationship and it’s the most incredible experience. They are fully aware that they come first, before any man in my life, or anything else.

As my best friend told me a looooong time ago, give yourself time, if you’re getting divorced, to build a bond with your kids that is impenetrable. I didn’t…I thought I had, but I didn’t give it enough time before being in a serious relationship and it prevented me from seeing exactly what they were experiencing because we weren’t impenetrable yet and they just wanted me to be happy so they avoided sharing how they were feeling about my ex…sadly, I don’t think that they felt that they had a choice. Today, they know that they get to pull the kill-switch if they have issues with someone that I am dating.

My advice – wait until you are on solid ground with the kiddos before you introduce a serious relationship to the kids. I would even recommend waiting until your relationship is solid with your kids before jumping into a serious relationship yourself.

Lesson #2: Don’t expect your relationships to change until you change your habits.

Basically, if you don’t change anything, you’ll find yourself in the same types of relationships over and over and over…until you change something.

I like to serve others and make them happy. It’s who I am and it makes me happy to know that I was the one that put a smile on someone else’s face. The only problem with that is that I’ve only focused on being the support for someone else I’m in a relationship with instead of making sure that my needs were also being met. In a way – I needed to learn how to serve myself.

About nine months before I found out that my ex had been cheating on me, I left my job, my career, of 17 years so that I could help him with his business and support our household needs while he built his business. While it was the dumbest decision I could have agreed to, in the end I think I may end up thanking him. I’m working my tail off to build my own business so that I can create and maintain the same lifestyle that my kids have always been used to and so that I get to use my brain every day doing the things that I love – being creative and being there for them as their mother and support system.

Had I not left my job, I wouldn’t have been in a situation that forced me out of my comfort zone to create my own little world in which I allowed myself to fully do things my way. I had to make myself become a little selfish and to choose to do things that I’ve always wanted to do but was never given the chance to do because my spouse didn’t want to do them…like make my kids Matzo Ball soup whenever they wanted or choose a restaurant other than Ale House if I was going out to eat for dinner. (It’s the little things that make me happy.)

I’ve really had to self-reflect over and over and truly learn what I’m worth and how strong I really can be and I’ve learned how to serve myself. It may sound extremely selfish but I needed to be forced to do that because otherwise, I likely would end up with another man that took and took and took from me, because I like to serve, without the guy giving back to me or serving me. And I’m not high-maintenance…I promise. I don’t expect much more than thoughtful attention, learning my coffee order, and giving me the time I need to watch any of The Real Housewives.

And then…

…when I least expected it, someone really important entered in my life. And because I was more solid within my own expectations of myself and my behavior, I knew what I was willing to allow into my life and into my kids lives and how much I would allow myself to serve without being served in return.

The beginning of a new relationship is fun and exciting and you want to do everything for that person to not only impress them but to make them happy. My fatal flaw in relationships is that I have always misinterpreted the happiness that I feel, after serving someone, as happiness, that the person I’m with, is returning to me.

The reality is that the happiness that I felt in past relationships, in the beginning, I had created on my own and that’s not healthy. You should be with someone that gives as much as you give.

And with this guy, I have this. Had I not learned to focus on making myself a priority and how to appreciate ‘how I’m wired’, I could easily have gotten lost in a new relationship. I appreciate my quirks now and won’t let myself be in a relationship unless that person appreciates them as well.

Thanks to my ex, I was forced to take a hard look at myself and the personality traits (from the people I was with) that I had been allowing in my life. I wasn’t questioning myself about what I had done wrong in my marriage, because no one should take blame for my divorce except the cheater and abuser, but I was quizzing myself about the type of person I would ever again allow in my life or my kids lives. And I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process.

My advice – reflect upon your past in order to know what behavior contributed to the divorce and then work your tail off in order to not repeat that behavior, whether that is allowing it in your life or determining that it’s your behavior that needs to change.

The key, though, is to give yourself time to make these changes and not to rush things or allow others to tell you what your timeline should be. You’ll know when you are ready for your next step in life.

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sleeping in the middle of the bed

Last night I did something that I’ve never done before…or at least in the last 13 years. I slept in the middle of my bed. That may not sound like a big deal to some but to a girl getting ready to go through a divorce that she doesn’t want…it was a big deal because I enjoyed every second of it and it was something that only I was able to enjoy.

My Bed

I have an incredible bed – it’s very cozy and the duvet makes it that much more luxurious to climb into each night. My husband and I picked the bed out about 18 months ago and I can say it’s one of my favorite purchases that I’ve ever made.

When two people sleep in a bed, night after night, there are natural indentations that occur over time, which started to happen shortly before my husband moved out. And my OCD self gets annoyed at the ‘ridge’ that has started to form in the center. Maybe I’m too detail oriented but it annoys the heck out of me so last night I decided to start sleeping in the middle of the bed to even it out.

Sleeping in the middle of the bed last night was also after I took a few hours yesterday to pack up all of the Irish Idiot’s stuff that was in our bedroom. I TOOK BACK MY ROOM! It made crawling into my amazing bed that much more glorious.

My Sanctuary

And maybe some of you will understand this and some won’t but I don’t even let the kids in bed with me…because my bed is a sanctuary to me. I love them, but their beds are sufficient, I share everything else I have with them including food off of my plate and bathroom trips (because they can’t wait a minute to ask a question) so keeping my bed to myself is my one way to enjoy peace and solitude…even if that’s just when I’m asleep.

The Irish Idiot’s actions have caused a ripple effect and I’m having a hard time trusting people that make promises to me. Lately, I tend to doubt that promises will be fulfilled and that people will actually step up to the plate. The silver lining is that when people do fulfill their promises, I get even more excited and happy than I would have six months ago. With that said, I know very well that it will be a long time before I want to even think about relationships and marriage and having a husband in that bed; I want to enjoy every penny that I spent on that bed. So I want to even it out and make it ‘mine’, all mine. Because it’s okay to focus on what I, alone, want sometimes, and I’m learning how to do it again.

So when I walked into my bedroom yesterday afternoon, I forced myself to look at the room through different lenses…lenses that focused on my new life. I’m going to make this bed all about me and all about what I want and no one else gets to have an opinion. I get to sleep in the middle of my bed without having to share it with anyone. I get to enjoy the solitude and luxury ALL.ON.MY.OWN. And when I looked at it that way, I was excited to go to bed last night.

For the first time in weeks, I didn’t go to bed with my laptop in bed with me. For the first time in weeks, I didn’t have clothes that I needed to fold, laying on the Irish Idiot’s side of the bed. For the first time in weeks the Irish Idiot’s side of the bed was reclaimed as mine…and no one else’s. This is MY bed. MY life. MY future.

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My New View

Ever since my life spiraled out of control a couple of months ago when I found out I had been cheated on, I’ve been looking at things in my home, heard our favorite songs, drove past restaurants that we went to, remembered places that we enjoyed going to, as tortuous. Things that I will never have again with the one person that I loved with everything that I have. And because he’s gone, I had begun to focus on those great experiences never being in my life again. It’s painful not just because the love of my life is gone but also because I didn’t want it to be gone and I have to come to grips with it and it’s been hard to want to do that.

Last night, though, I made a choice to accept what was gone and look forward to what is coming because I know that it’s going to be great. And I no longer have to share my ‘greatness’ with a selfish idiot that took me for granted.

I get to choose who is in my life, my children’s lives…my ‘bed’, and I don’t have to share any of it with anyone unless I make that choice. That’s a pretty big concept to digest but also a pretty freeing concept to enjoy.

So last night I got to sleep in the middle of my bed. My king-sized bed. All by myself. And I was able to spread out, toss and turn, take all of the covers…all by myself.

It was simply amazing.

I encourage all of you to enjoy doing something today, even something small, for no other reason than YOU want to enjoy it. Whether it’s downloading your favorite song from 1996 and forcing your kids to listen to it in the car simply so you can relive the best summer of your life, or it’s watching an entire Gator football game in a few weeks because that’s your favorite team to cheer on, or putting the kids to bed 15 minutes early so that you can read…do it.

Just do it.

i’m most proud that i…

I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting on my life and my dreams of where I see myself in six months, 12 months, 24 months and so on. My thoughts have been so scattered because my brain works in ‘multi-task’ mode only, so while I’m thinking about my career, for example, I’m also thinking about the load of laundry that I forgot to move to the dryer as well as the three friends that I still need to text or call back and the grocery list and the garbage that I need to put out before they get down the street.

So once again, I’ve leaned on Pinterest to provide me with a few journal prompts that force me to reflect on me…not the kids, not my struggles, not my ex’s, not anything but what I want out of life and I thought I’d share one with you.

Too many times (and I’m guilty of this big time), moms and wives put everyone else’s needs first and we forget to take care of ourselves. We forget that if we show the kids that we are of sound body and mind that we will be better equipped to take care of them and their needs, that they will learn that their future spouse should be taken care of and that they, themselves need to take care of their mental and physical minds and bodies.

Sometimes we (as a human race), and probably even more so women, are so hard on ourselves and we doubt and second guess our decisions so much more than we should. I was talking with a close friend today and she reminded me that I am great at what I do, even though I could tell you 15 reasons why I’m not good enough. Her words though meant so much because I consider her a mentor and second mom. She values me…why don’t I value me as much? Shame on me for not doing that!

Coincidentally, tonight my journal entry prompt was, “I’m most proud that I…”. Without coming across as a boastful person, I want to share with you what my journal entry was…not because I want accolades but because if I don’t do this then I will likely go back and edit my entry so that I don’t feel like I was bragging too much, even to myself. Sometimes you need to brag about accomplishments…no one will be a bigger supporter of you than you.

I’m Most Proud That I…

…am independent and self-sufficient. I really could have completed this statement in sooo many other ways including things about my kids or the fact that I can now kill massive spiders on my own or that I survived finding a frog in my toilet, TWICE, when I was trying to use it (the screams were really loud!) but I need this to be about me because I need to force myself to focus on serious self-reflection about ME and no one else.

My independence could sometimes be described as stubbornness, but I find it endearing. I make a decision and I do it. It may not always be the best decision but it’s MINE and no one else’s.

When I was 19 I decided to move out of my parents home, that I loved and didn’t have to pay a dime for. Why would I do this while I was still in college?? Because I felt the need to take care of myself and live independently, under my own rules. I never have regretted it one bit. It may have put me back a few years in my savings account but I loved being able to be an adult; set my own rules; define my life.

And guess what…my independence has lead to some amazing accomplishments in itself…

* I worked for an amazing company for 17 years and was at the top of my game before I chose to become a stay at home mom.
* I became the youngest Marketing Director and Assistant Vice President they had.
* I supported my family on my income alone for years.
* I experienced life with my family because I made a decision to just do it…to just love what was in front of me, regardless of what consequences may have befallen me later. I lived in the now.
* I didn’t NEED anyone. I got to enjoy everyone. I was able to take care of myself and my responsibilities on my own because of my perseverance and hard work so I was able to appreciate others lives because I didn’t NEED anything from them but to learn from them and what their lives demonstrated.
* Heartbreak…but I know something positive will come out of it because I am determined to show the world and my kids how to end up on top even when faced with a grim reality at the surface.
* Respect. Nothing is more self-esteem boosting than to hear your own sister say that she recognizes your independence (acknowledging what I find to be my biggest strength).

My independence has also become a weakness though. When I’ve really needed the help recently, it’s been harder than hard to accept the help. But I did it and guess what?? It didn’t change the independent feeling I’ve always kept inside because I know that the help will be paid back 10 fold in some way to those that have helped me. I feel more secure in myself now more than ever before because I know that those that have helped are standing with me and standing behind me because they know that I’ve got this!

I’m so lucky. I’m so loved. I have so much to be thankful for. But most of all, I’m proud of myself for being able to stand on my own two feet emotionally, financially and spiritually.

I challenge each of you to ask yourself the same question, and really put it to words either out loud or on paper. Commit to being proud of your accomplishments because YOU reached these goals…no one else. And if you are brave enough, leave your accomplishment(s) in the comments so that we can get excited for you!