Sunday, November 10, 2019

Trust Yourself

I used to be extremely private. Definitely while going through infertility and even more so when going through fertility treatments. I was also very private about my marriage. There were incompatibilities from the beginning, but I never told anyone or talked about it. It's one of the reasons why I stayed in a marriage that wasn't good for me for so long. I wasn't talking to anyone (not even the awesome therapist I was seeing during infertility) and so, therefore, I wasn't hearing myself. That's something I don't ever want to repeat.

I'm still a private person (except when I'm blogging anonymously on the internet, haha), but lately I've been sharing more. Just venting a little to trusted co-workers and processing with my best friend. I appreciate everyone's support. It's good for me to talk because then I can hear myself and be honest with myself about what I'm thinking and feeling. Then I can take this new knowledge and apply it to changing my life in ways that I need to change. For one, I'm getting better at communicating my needs with others. For another, I'm getting better at not communicating my needs with people who are unable to respect my feelings and boundaries.

However, as great as it is that I'm being more honest and open, I've noticed something over the last several weeks: it's easy for others to play armchair quarterback on your life.

I am so, so glad that I am the age I am with the lessons that I've learned along the way. Younger me had no boundaries, oozed all over the place, looked to others for validation, and always questioned my own decisions. Infertility taught me boundaries. (I mean, nothing taught me that no one else is living my life better than the fact that I'm almost the only adult I know living without children. My life really is different from the majority of my friends and family.) And leaving my husband and getting divorced taught me to trust myself. (Again, no one else is living my life... Even I wasn't living my own life for awhile...)

These lessons are serving me well now.

I was going through some thoughts and feelings and stuff last month. I shared with others. And, just like it was with infertility, everyone had an opinion on what I should do. (Side note: my sister that I've reconnected with told me again recently that she only likes talking to me about her current hard times because I'm the only one that just listens and doesn't ask intrusive questions or offer unsolicited advice.)

I get that that's how people connect, by relating and offering their opinions. And I appreciate that the people I chose to talk to listened to me. But I am also reeeally glad I didn't take anyone's advice. None of it was very good. Ha!

Now that a couple of weeks have passed, the same people that I trusted have trusted me. (Another side note: How nice it is to finally have reciprocal relationships in my life!) And now I know what stressors exist in their lives. And now I understand their advice to me. It's just easier to make the tough calls on OTHER people's lives, especially when you're going through your own crap that you're not ready to change yet.

All this to say... Whatever you are going through right now, trust yourself. Listen to others, but you are your only authority. You know yourself better than anyone else. You don't have to know any answers right now because, even if you don't feel like you do, you've got this. Trust yourself.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cultivating Gratitude

I started a list on one of my white boards in my classroom. It says "30 Days of Gratitude" and I add something to it each day. (Well, I add three things to it on Monday to account for the weekend.) I'm trying to teach my students about cultivating gratitude, about how, no matter how bad things are, there is always something to be thankful for.

Of course, I know that it doesn't always feel that way. There were years where I was thankful for nothing. If pressed for an answer, I could've said I was thankful for my dog (may she rest in peace and playfulness), a roof over my head, and food in my pantry. I have never taken those things for granted. Same thing for electricity and indoor plumbing. But still... I recognize that, while deep in the black hole of grief, gratitude is not something that is easily found. Which is why I want to introduce my students to the concept of cultivating gratitude. They do not have easy lives. At all.

I am back in a state where I can function. I could mostly function for the past couple of years, but that was due to the massive economic and errand-related support from my husband at the time. Although my marriage didn't work out, I will always be grateful for his support during infertility and the acute phase of my recovery from it.

But now I am functioning really well. I work, I pay bills, I run errands, I do laundry, I enjoy my free time, and I even socialize a bit. I am so grateful.

I had to create this new life of mine. I had to devise and execute a completely new existence. But, in order to do all of that, I had to cultivate gratitude first. I had to realize what I did have and where I could go from there.

And I want to keep moving forward. I want to live a full life filled with love, laughter, and service.

I am so grateful.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

TWO Announcements Today

Today was unexpected. As the title of this post suggests... I'll just jump right into it.

I went to work today. It's been tough lately. It is hard to be a teacher. I'm thankful that I like my students and I like my co-workers and I like the building where I work. But it's still hard. Everyone on my team is struggling with this batch of middle schoolers. They don't take initiative and they have no work ethic. It is obvious to all of us that their elementary education was... less than stellar.

Anyway, so we are all trying our best to teach these kids and it is taking everything we have to combat the academic apathy that is rampant in this community.

Today I went into one of the classes because EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students is failing this core class. I will be in that class period for the rest of the semester, helping to re-teach and support my students so hopefully everyone can pull off a passing grade. I'm talking with the classroom teacher of that course. He and I moved here from the same previous state and we can really relate to how different it is here compared to where we came from. And... He just can't contain his excitement. (He's not even what I would describe as an excitable guy.) He tells me, "We found out yesterday that my wife is pregnant! Please don't say anything; we haven't even told our families yet. But you are one of two people that I trust here."

First of all, Wow. He trusts me that much with such an important piece of news. <3

Second of all, Wow. Hearing his news didn't make me flinch. It didn't even sting. At all. I immediately congratulated him and it felt so good to be so genuine in my happiness for him.

Wow.

Then... (Yes, I've already given it away with the title of this post.) I'm texting with my best friend from college. She and I used to talk every day but marriage and careers kinda got in the way of that. Then she had two children while I was going through infertility and unsuccessful fertility treatments. There weren't ever any hurt words said, but we just naturally gave each other space. But we never completely lost touch. So, I'm texting with her today and she tells me that she's pregnant. I read the text and my jaw literally dropped. Again, all I felt was genuine happiness for her. (And, to be quite honest, I was glad it wasn't me... I have no desire to start all of that at this stage of my life.)

WOW.

If you would've told me five years ago that, five years from now, I would hear TWO different pregnancy announcements in one day and not feel a drop of sadness there is NO WAY I would've believed you. Yes, I believe in miracles (just not miracle babies).

WOW.

But wait! There's more!

Tomorrow is Halloween. I already wrote about my feelings on Halloween three years ago. But a co-worker invited me to her house to pass out candy tomorrow evening. Three years ago that would've been a strong Hell No but... Now it is three years later. Like I've written, I now live in a small town and my co-worker says Halloween is really special here, that it's like a movie or something from the past like our childhoods. And you know what? I am totally up for it. I love this co-worker and I'm needing some cheer in my life. (I'm going through yet another rough patch which I will write about later). I am gonna do it! I am gonna celebrate Halloween tomorrow. I am gonna see adorable kids in costumes, pass out candy with my co-worker, and enjoy the festiveness that I could not bear for so many years. It was fine that I avoided this holiday for so long and it is a miracle that I have an interest in it now.

WOW.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

No Special Children in my Life

There are no special children in my life. I hear and read about other people saying how they enjoy being an aunt or having a special relationship with a friend's child. In my experience, that only leads to me getting hurt.

I am an aunt, and I am happy to be an aunt. But my niece and nephew are already grown. When they were children, my older sisters did not include me in their activities together. It was always the four of them: my sisters, my niece, and my nephew. It was never the five of us. In my experience, mothers are very exclusive.

Now my niece and nephew are grown and I do have a good relationship with them, but I am never going to be the person they call to share their good news with. I recently had a milestone birthday and didn't hear from my niece. I heard secondhand that my nephew just moved across the country. It sucks to always feel forgotten. So I keep moving on with my own life, creating joy, meaning, and connections in my own little spot.

When I was married, I was excited to have a chance to be an aunt again. But it was just the same story all over again. My two sisters-in-law would get together with their daughters all of the time for fun outings. I was never invited. At family functions, it almost seemed like they tried to keep their children away from me. After one misunderstanding (my brother-in-law thought I called the police on him for a loud party... uh WHAT, I would never ever do that, not for a party), two of my nieces were no longer allowed to even talk to me. I didn't want to get the girls in trouble with their parents so I kept my distance. To say the least, my ex-in-laws were not nice people and now I never have to see them again.

I thought I would get that special relationship with a friend's daughter. When she called to tell me she was pregnant, I literally screamed with happiness. I was at her baby shower and every single birthday party. Until I wasn't. I think I've written about it before, but nothing hurt me like that instance of being forgotten.

My friend's daughter's sixth birthday was coming up. I had gone to my favorite toy store, one of those kinds that barely exists anymore. Full of stuffed animals, dress up clothes, books, wooden toys, creative games... No commercial characters in sight and hardly any plastic. It was a painful place for me to go except when it made me happy to go there and shop for my friend's daughter. I always had to give myself a budget or else I would've really gone overboard. So I spent some time and carefully selected several different presents to buy. I was excited and went shopping a month before her actual birthday. And then... I saw pictures of the girl's birthday party on social media. I hadn't even been invited. When I looked at the pictures and saw who was in attendance, I quickly realized that everyone at the party was a parent. My friend didn't even think to invite me. I gave one of the presents to a girl I was volunteering with at the time and I threw away the others. I never went to another kid's birthday party again, and I haven't even seen that particular friend in years.

It is not safe for me to get my hopes up and think I am going to have a special relationship with anyone's children. For me, it only leads to pain.

Thank you, infertility, for giving me life's hardest lessons, especially the tough but necessary lessons on maintaining healthy boundaries for myself. I am so unbreakably strong now. Setbacks barely phase me. I have an invincibility that I never asked for. If you ask anyone in my life now, they would probably tell you that I am the happiest, most positive person they know. And it's true. I've earned it.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Haven't Been Asked In A While

Okay, so I'm probably tempting fate with this post, but...

I haven't been asked anything kid-related in a while. I haven't heard "Do you have kids?" in... I don't remember how long. Even with going back to teaching, I haven't had any co-workers or even a single student ask, "Why don't you have any kids?" I was mentally prepared for it because kids will say anything. But it hasn't happened yet.

I remember going on vacation in Las Vegas many years ago and being asked multiple times a day by store employees, waitresses, and bartenders: "Do you have kids?" It was weird. And it bothered me. A lot. I mean, I was in Vegas of all places. Why was I receiving so many questions about whether or not I had children??

And now I live in a new place, a small town at that, and I have a new job and... crickets...
No one has asked anything.

Not that I'm complaining.

It just makes me think. Do I give off a different vibe now? Do I seem more comfortable in my own skin? Do I no longer project that something major is missing in my life?

I don't know the answer; I just think it's weird that when I finally reach the point where I can handle those types of questions I simply don't get them anymore. Has this happened to anyone else?

Of course, now that I'm posting this, I'm sure I'll get a question this week haha. If so, I'll report it in the comments. ;)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Not Knowing/Feeling Lost

I've always known what I wanted to do. Graduate high school. Move out of my parents' house.
Go to college. Get my own apartment without a boyfriend or roommates. Get married. Have kids.

But now I don't know what I want.

If I'd had kids, I'd be busy taking care of them. Making meals, helping with homework, driving them to sports practice or whatever it'd be that they'd be into. But we all know that I didn't have kids. And now, post-divorce, my life is all my own.

And I don't know what I want to do next.

I know I don't want to settle where I currently am, but I don't know where I want to go. I know I don't want to retire from my current position, but I don't know where I want to work next. I'm feeling frustrated with my perceived lack of earning power...

Ok, so I do know one thing: I would like to buy a house and settle somewhere. I just don't know if it's possible. Everything feels so unaffordable.

I'm in a weird mood and a weird place in my life, but I am not complaining. I have a job. I have a place to live. I may not hang out with friends nearly as much as I'd like, but I keep in touch with a handful of people that make me happy. I have a hobby I enjoy. Overall, I have meaning in my life.

I just currently feel at a loss not knowing what I want.

I think I'm feeling a bit hopeless. Current events are awful. Everything is affecting all of us.

But I also know I will get through this. I already survived losing my children and dreams of motherhood. For someone whose lifelong dream was to be a mom, it can't get worse than that.

I'm just ready for this current mood to pass.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Making Plans

To restate the obvious, I planned on having children. It was something I wanted and something I looked forward to. It was my lifelong dream. And then it didn't happen. But it wasn't like not getting a puppy or a promotion. It wasn't even like not making the Olympics after a lifetime of training. It was much more primal and devastating than that.

I understandably fell into a deep depression during my unsuccessful pursuit of motherhood. It came to a point where I knew I could not keep going on unless something changed. But what and how and with what energy, care, and cognitive capacity, I didn't know.

Suddenly, everything was in question. Where did I want to live? What did I want to do for a job? What did I want to DO? And I sat in my recliner and drank my coffee and cried and cried and thought and thought and thought. Over time, I slowly realized some different things and specifics that appealed to me. I considered what all was possible and how to make it happen.

I made an entirely different plan for my life. It involved selling my house, moving, and going back to school to change careers. The mere thought of doing all that overwhelmed and exhausted me so I didn't think about it. I decided to take one step at a time and see what happened.

And then I learned that my new plan sucked. Again, I was at a loss. So I started this blog.

That was three years ago. Since then I've moved to another state, graduated, and gotten divorced. Only two of those three things were planned.

After everything I've been through, you'd think I'd be done with making plans. But I'm not. I still make plans. I just don't expect them to work out how I plan. Not anymore. But I also can't just sit by and let life happen to me. So I make plans, do what I can, and see what happens.

It's time again for me to make new plans. It feels like I am where I am supposed to be right now but not forever. I'm not sure yet what's next and that's fine too. It took a while and it took a lot, but I finally created a life I want to live. Now I want to keep making it better and better...

In the meantime, I'll be quilting. 💚

(Pictured: My 1st Quilt)