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Ready or not…

So many times I hear this phrase and more often than not I think, “Not.”  I’m not ready for the school year to begin.  I’m not ready for my child to be in kindergarten.  I’m not ready to see my students this week.  I’m not ready for…

And the reality is, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt truly ready…for college …my first job …my first kiss …my first…well…you know …my daughter. And while I never feel ready personally, things ALWAYS have a way of working out.  We ALWAYS make it work.  And things ALWAYS go better than I have ever planned.

Reflecting on this is how I know that I’m not in control.  I may not be ready, but Someone is ready for me.  Someone greater than myself has my back.  He’s the one that’s pulling me through the tough days and showing me how to keep moving one step at a time.

Ready or not…God’s got me and all that I entrust to Him.

Failure Philosophy

It’s been a busy two weeks in our house, but I’m slowly finding routine again.  Today’s topic of the class I’m taking: What’s my failure philosophy?

If you’d have asked me in highschool, it would have been something like, “I can’t fail!”  I had to have the grades.  I had to be involved in everything possible to the point of stressing and exhausting myself silly.  I had to get the scholarships to go to college (there was no other path for me in my mind), and I cried when I got my first B.  Failure was not an option, and anything less than perfection was failure!

Then I reached the goal of college graduation and becoming a licensed teacher  and was left wondering, “Now what?”

I had years of doing things I hated, staying in situations that weren’t good for me, hanging on to relationships that were not worth my worry because I still carried around that idea that failure was bad.  If I quit and walked away and pursued my own happiness, it meant that I failed at that situation or relationship or way of doing things…and avoiding failure was more important than my own happiness. Granted…there were good times…but I spent too much of my time worrying over what wasn’t going well to really enjoy what was going right.

Do I still struggle with this?  Absolutely!  But…I am learning that failure doesn’t have to be bad.  Walking away from things and people that are not bringing out my best self are not bad.  I still have to do things I don’t necessarily like…but if it’s truly causing me to lose sleep or be sick, then I have to ask myself what my ultimate goal is.  If it’s that I just don’t want to fail…well…failure in these instances may be just what I need to get to where I’m meant to be.

Failure can not only teach us what NOT to do, but it can help us have to find our creativity again and look for new and more successful ways of reaching our goal.  Failure in friendships/relationships may help us to have to get out and meet new people that will push us forward in life.  Failure in a class or learning pursuit may help us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses.  It may also help us to reflect on our own motivation and effort. Failure to manage money may just be the catalyst we need to learn more about finances, investments, and living simply within our means. Failure to reach a fitness goal may force us to look at what we’re doing and see the other options available. Failure is not bad.

I like to picture failure as a reference point rather than a finish line. If we get to that point and stop and only look back and see what went wrong (which is what many of us–myself included–can find ourselves doing), then failure IS a bad thing.  It becomes that finish line. However…if we can get to that point, look back and see what went wrong, and then TURN AROUND AND LOOK FORWARD—failure can be the most beautiful point on our journey because it is where success really begins.

The hard part of forgiveness

Last week after I wrote several posts in one day, I walked away feeling…inspired? Torn? Guilt? All of the above? The last post I wrote left me feeling a little raw.  I had to take some time to nurture my mind and my soul.  Ultimately, I had to give myself time to forgive the last person I tend to forgive: me.

See, I’m one of those people that can give tons of chances if people only ask.  For example: I have a friend.  I met him through Match.  We went on several dates. Laughed a lot. I thought things were going great.  We went to a college football game together and had a great night out.  Then…he ghosted me.  Gave short responses.  Avoided setting up dates.  I eventually got frustrated and quit trying.  I moved on.  Several months later, after sending out a mass “Happy Easter” text to the contacts in my phone, he responded.  We started talking though text and have continued to do so for the past year and a half.

Then, last week, the conversation went deep.  He told me he felt guiltly for texting me when he’s having a rough day.  When I probed and pushed a little, he finally told me that his reason for ghosting me had nothing to do with me or the fact that I had a child.  He had met someone from his past and opted to date her instead but couldn’t tell me for whatever reason.  She later ghosted him and now he felt guilty for talking to me (the person he pulled the same stunt on).  I had to tell him multiple times that I’d forgiven him or I wouldn’t be willing to text with him.  I also had to remind him that he needed to forgive himself or he was never going to be able to move forward.  After all–I have.

But I get it.  Forgiveness of self is hard.  And yet it’s what we truly have to do if we’re going to move forward with our lives.   I have to forgive myself for not being able to handle my late fiance’s addiction and moving out.  I have to forgive myself for all those nights that I find myself stressed because I have work to do, the house is a mess, and my child is being especially needy and I snap.  I have to forgive myself for my “madmom” moments….because I am human and I am going to make mistakes.

Even my young (kindergarten-aged) daughter has figured out that we are going to make mistakes…though she reveals that by telling me, “I can’t promise I’ll always listen, because sometimes I might not.” Or when I ask her a question about her plans to do something or not, she currently loves responding with, “Maybe.”  The best, though, was a night she got into trouble and we discussed the feeling of guilt.  We talked about how it’s an awful feeling in her belly and how that feeling is trying to teach her to not do those things again.  She told me, “So you’re basically telling me not to sin anymore?  Well, I’m human and that’s impossible.”

She’s right. As humans, we will sin.  We will hurt others (hopefully not intentionally, though). We will make wrong choices.  And we will have moments of weakness.  For those who follow some religious belief systems–there is a God who forgives these moments of weakness.  Regardless of what our beliefs are, though, we can all practice forgiveness–especially of ourselves–by remembering that we are not meant to be perfect, but we are meant to learn.  If we refuse to forgive ourselves, learn from our pasts, and move forward, we become like my friend who has carried around the weight of guilt for 18 months…a weight that was entirely self-imposed.  However, if we choose to forgive ourselves and accept and learn from our weaknesses, we can walk through this life a little bit lighter and a lot happier.

The Guilt of “Relieved”

via Daily Prompt: Relieved

Because I’ve been inspired to write, let’s just say I’m on a roll today and figured I’d take some time to explore new things.  When I came across today’s blogging challenge around “relieved,” my heart clenched and my anxiety rose…a clear indicator that I need to let some things out. So here it goes:

Years ago…what seems like a totally different life now… I was engaged and had a beautiful daughter with a brilliant, stubborn, thoughtful, kind, curious, playful, likewise dirty-minded man.  A man that knew me in elementary school, chased me on the playground, took pictures of me on fieldtrips that I only found out about after we started dating in our mid-20s (creepy stalker that he was…I say this jokingly with love), and moved away after our 7th grade year.  A man I reconnected with later thanks to social media, and fell in love with through long distance conversations that lasted hours into the night.  A man who also was addicted.

I didn’t realize the scope of his addiction until I moved back to be with him.  By then, I was committed and–by God–I was not going to give up on him.  Until those moments when the co-dependent cycle became overwhelming, and I didn’t think I could take it anymore.  I would start to pull away, and he would work at getting better.  I’d take him back in because when things were good, they were great!  To clarify (as I always feel I need to)…he was not the actively abusive type of addict.  He never said mean things.  He never raised a hand to me.  His came in the form of neglect… of himself, his jobs, and us.

It was my daughter’s actions that finally gave me the strength to move out.  At not quite two, she was starting to feel and react to the absense her dad’s drinking left in our lives.  I can remember the heartbreak of picking her up from daycare and her crying because she didn’t want to go home when he’d been virtually passed out on the couch the day before.  I used to be able to keep her in other rooms and entertained, but she had become very mobile and very aware.  I would take her to the park instead.  We’d play until I had to take her home and make her dinner.  I usually asked her dad to go sleep in another room (after I had dug through to make sure no alcohol was hidden there), and then she and I would eat and play until bedtime.  I’d try to check on him. Clean out our house. Double check all the hiding spots to make sure he hadn’t hidden more vodka while I’d been at work, and then I’d try to work…grading papers and making lesson plans…the one normal thing I seemed to have in my life.  It became too much.

I loved him with all I had, but I could no longer live with the uncertainty of who we’d be coming home to…the lively funny man that made gourmet meals…or the person who self-medicated with alcohol to cover the mental illness that I am convinced was never properly diagnosed.  I could no longer take the heartache of watching our daughter be scared to go home.  I could no longer take the stress of living  “normally” to most people around me while hiding the struggles we faced.

When I made the choice to move out…it was really hard.  I found support from my family, close friends, his family, and even him.  We had promised that we’d do as much as a family as we could…but he HAD to follow through on treatment.  No more promises to get help and then backing out because he’d made it a month without drinking.  As long as he was sober, we’d spend every night together that we could. But if he started to relapse, we’d agreed that I’d protect our daughter and try to sheild her from that to my best ability.

Clearly, we did not get the fairy tale where he made it…where he found a treatment plan that worked and stuck with it.  It was about a month after I moved our daughter and me out that his final relapse started.  We called every day.  I told him I loved him. Every day.  Those were my final words to him and his to me.

One day he didn’t answer.  Then his voicemail was full.  I got a call from his mom asking me to call for a well-check since she’d already called in and they wouldn’t go again.  So I did.

And I prayed.

I remember sitting with our daughter at a pool and looking up to the sky and BEGGING God to make this right.

I remember very clearly thinking, “God, if You took him…then I have to believe that he was never going to get better.  That his addiction was only going to destroy us more.  If he had to go now, it was because he was finally at a place where he was willing to accept You and Your love for him…and had You waited, You’ve have lost his soul.”

That night I was informed that he was gone. As my daughter happily ate her broccoli chicken and chatted away, a very kind officer sat with me and talked.  He could tell through our conversation that there was still love in a very frustrating situation. He made sure I called for my own form of backup to get through.

We learned later that it was believed that he died from a seizure while detoxing.  We went into the apartment and took out what we could…putting it into bags and totes for me to go through someday.  The rest that landlord offered to haul off for us (for which I was thankful).

Then came trying to learn a new normal–where it was my daughter and me and no uncertainty and stress brought on by addiction.  Now there are times when it’s brought about by other things…but, truly, life is not as much of a roller coaster as it once was.

And that is where I find myself relieved.  I’m relieved that my daughter (because she was so young) does not have to remember her dad the way he was when he was drinking.  Instead, she gets to watch the videos we took when he was sober, fun, playful, and present in all ways.  I’m relieved that I can truly plan a budget and know that if I go over…it’s my own doing.  I’m relieved that I don’t have to watch him struggle.  I’m releived that we don’t have to hide the life we lived.  And at times the guilt comes…because the relief I feel is a result of his death.

I’m not relieved that he died. I’m just relieved we don’t have the chaos we once did.

Goals and Promises…Because I Said I Would

Like so many in my profession do, I’m currently working on a class this summer.  The funny part about it is that it’s a class about finding balance in our lives.  A friend asked me, “That’s a class?  Seriously?”  Yes. Seriously.  This world has become so connected, that it’s easy to become disconnected.  When my work email is connected to my phone, I find that my evenings are often more connected to my colleagues and my students than they are to my daughter, my boyfriend, and his kids.  I become disconnected from the people around me. I’m trying to change this…and if I have to take a class for me to unlearn the work habits that I’ve developed over the last decade of teaching, then I will.

One excellent thing this class has brought me (along with my awareness of needing to disconnect from technology and connect to the people around me), was an assignment meant to inspire.  Now…because I’m a perfectionist…I couldn’t take the easy way out, search “inpiring educators” and pick the first YouTube video I saw.  No…I spent over a 1/2 hour online watching video after video until I had a meeting.  In that meeting, we started with small talk and I told my friend what I was working on.  He recommended Alex Sheen’s “Becasue I Said I Would” movement.  If you haven’t seen this… please take the time to watch it.

Watching this video gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes…in public…and I hate crying. But it also did what it was meant to do.  It motivated me to make a change.

Previously in my classroom, I asked students to share their “highlight of the weekend” on Mondays.  I’d get anything from “I got to sleep a lot,” to “I didn’t sleep at all,” to winning sports games to spending time with family, to “nothing” (which either meant they had a crap weekend OR they were truly excited that for once they got to relax).

Well…this is going to change.  I want to bring the idea of “Because I Said I Would” to my classroom.  I want to bring it to my students, colleagues, and their families.  Instead of highlighting their weekend, I want us all to write down our promises…our goals…and really work on following through on them.  So much research supports goal setting…and the power of writing them down.  I’m excited to see where this change leads us as a school (and hopefully as a community).

So…here’s my first:  I will write openly and honestly about my life in the hopes that it helps at least one other person at least once a week…because I said I would.

 

Getting rid of “I Can’t”

We all have them…the times we feel so stressed we start to think “I can’t…”

I can’t do this.  I can’t be a good parent AND a teacher.  I’m either one or the other, but never both at the same time.  I can’t fight anymore (though I often don’t know what exactly I’m fighting). I can’t make time for me.  There is no time.  I can’t ask for help. I have to do this on my own. I can’t save money. Something else always comes up that I have to pay.  I can’t date again.  People can’t be trusted to keep their word.  I can’t work out. There’s no time for that.  I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…

I’ve had all of these thoughts and more.  Every. Single. One.  And you know what?  These thoughts have exacerbated my stress.

My dad used to say, “Get rid of ‘I can’t.'”  He comes from the old-school where a man is as good as his word.  Well…if my word is “I can’t,” what does that make me?  It’s taking a lot of years (present tense because I’m still working on this), and counseling, and finding my people, and taking risks to found out that I can.

I can be a good parent and a good teacher–my daugher and students are evidence of this.  I can take life a day (and sometimes a minute) at a time and face what comes my way.  I can ask for help (and people are glad to do it on occasion) and I can take classes to learn more about the things that frustrate me so that they become more managable.  I can live on a budget where my daughet and I find pleasure in the simple things.  I can date again (and find that there is a man who keeps his word and cares for his kids and others around him as much as I do).  I can make time to be healthy with my daughter (by walking to the park…swimming when I can…doing dance workouts with her).  I can make time to do the things I enjoy…like crafting…making necklaces… painting… quilting… cooking… yoga.

When I change my mantra from “I can’t” to “I can,” and I accept that it’s not all going to happen RIGHT NOW…life becomes easier and more enjoyable.  I can breathe…and find joy in that breath.  I can appreciate the world around me.  And, most of all, I can find peace and balance in my life…even in the stressful times.

 

Balancing my life….one day at a time.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it VERY hard to find balance in my life (let alone my checkbook).  I tend to be hot or cold…all in…or all out.  Take yesterday for example.  It was a beautiful day where I could (and probably should) have been outside with my daughter enjoying the weather at a park, or in our courtyard, or at our apartment pool.  Instead, we spent much of the day watching movies (sometimes in separate rooms–her on the iPad and me on the T.V. or on my phone–but mostly together).

I can sit here and yell at myself all day for what I didn’t do: workout, cook a healthy lunch, play games, craft…the list is endless…it was an ALL OUT day.  OR…I can acknowledge that once is a while, it’s okay to take a day and rest.  We went to Mass.  We called the dads in our lives. We spent lots of time snuggling (as my child doesn’t understand the conccept of pesonal space). We ate stirfry and I did later watch her swim (until the cuts on my hand heal from cooking the day before–I’m keeping them out of the pool).  We read stories. We snuggled more.  I said “No” to the voices that told me I need to do more and be busy and get shit done. I said “No” to the voice that said my house was cluttered and needed to be cleaned, and the laundry needed to be washed RIGHT NOW.

I knew today would be busy with classwork.  Today, my daughter would be at daycare so I can continue to take classes and work on becoming a better teacher.  Today would be busy enough.  So yesterday was a gentle day–a “lazy” day.  And THAT’S OKAY!  We all need these once in a while.  And the next day, we pick up and keep moving.  Yesterday was all out.  Today, I’m ALL IN…finding the balance of this day.

First blog post…finally

I’ve said for years that I’ve wanted to blog…to share my story, my life, my insights, my epic victories and my untimely failures that all moms (and humans that aren’t moms) have.  I’ve made blogging a goal every year that I’ve taught and have always pushed it aside.  However, in the soul searching that comes with summer, I’ve decided that it’s time to start.

All I can do is share….me.  I’m a teacher of middle school students. I’m a momma to a sweet/sassy child (because what child isn’t a little sweet and a little sassy). I’m single after my fiance (my daughter’s father) died at the age of 30 from battling addiction.

Faith is a constant journey in my life. Sometimes I get the God highs where I can smile and feel joy even in those difficult moments; and sometimes I’m pissed at God…really pissed…when things haven’t gone the way I’d hoped.  Regardless of where I am in my faith, I’ve always been blessed to know that God is there with me; and, having a child has taught me more about what it means to have child-life faith than ever before.

So, I’m taking this first step. I have a goal to write at least one entry a week–whether it be about parenting moments, single parenting frustrations, faith, living with loss, having lived with addiction, or whatever I’m feeling compelled to write at that moment. I welcome you to join me on this journey…to share your insights and just how connected we all are through experiences.  To show that none of us are truly alone.  Welcome!

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